Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Starting With Myself

We've been suffering some bad attitudes around here of late. Lots of me-first arguments, raised voices, and harsh tones. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by 9 (AM!). It's funny...I think I often am frustrated by my own expectations of what I think I deserve. Sinful thoughts such as these creep into my mind often: I got up and had my quiet time, so I deserve not to have a bad attitude myself. I pour and pour and pour into my children only to have them be unappreciative. I find it curious that some of the attitudes of ingratitude that I see in them are also found in me.

Today, as I sat down for a moment to pray after a difficult morning with one child in particular, I was asking God what to do. And so loudly, so clearly in my mind, I heard "Start with you." Ouch. But how true it is! How can I expect my little people to cultivate attitudes of gratitude if they hear mommy complaining? How can I expect them to go about their chores in a cheerful manner when I do not?

I have been reading some posts lately at a new (to me) blog called Metro Moms. They have encouraged me to cultivate redemptive speech. Among other things in this particular entry, I read a quote from Jerry Bridges which reminded me that “We tend to exhibit many sins most freely in the context of our own families.” Yep. So, let me start this day anew with fresh resolve to confront those sins in my own life and heart before expecting my children to have mastered them. Let me start with myself.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Me, Lately

Watching Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, and Jon and Kate Plus 8

Reading Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson, 1 Corinthians

Meditating On Matthew 6:25-34

Praying for My brother's family (my sister in law is in treatment for cancer) and hubby's job, my friends (various needs)

Cleaning out my garage and my bedroom closet (ugh!)

Looking forward to golfing with my husband this summer (didn't get to while in England)

Missing the English parks with their lovely spring blooms

Can't wait to plant my flowers

Listening to Michael Buble

Working on less worrying

Cooking lots of muffins lately

Most recent purchase shoes at Payless (it's BOGO, you know!)

Trying to figure out a good way to do family devotions with Dad

Friday, April 25, 2008

Healthy Habits of a Happy Homeschool

I'm not much of a "meme" girl, but this one from Heart of the Matter seemed to be something I could relate to.

One habit that we have with our homeschool philosophy is to attach important things to things you already do. For example, our Bible time always happens during a meal (either breakfast or dinner) and our art study/manners time always occurs during our tea time on Tuesdays. This way, it becomes a habit and we are more likely to do it if it is hooked to something else in our routine.

Tuesday teatime is another habit we've established this year. Please do not read this to be some perfect family time where I make homemade little finger sandwiches while we read classic literature. While that seems wonderful, it is a bit unrealistic for our family at this stage. Still, I wanted to establish the habit of a special relationship building time each week into our routine. And, as mentioned above, I decided to use this time to do our art study and manners instruction, as it was conducive to this type of occasion. The children LOVE this time and are so sad when it is over. Plus, I no longer feel guilty about the desire to do more with art and manners because it is done in such a fun, natural, and regular manner.

Another routine, related to the above manners and art study idea is to start small. Think of something you'd like to add into your routine or curriculum and start small. For example, I used to read about art study and think I would have to create great notebooks, and mimic the styles of artist, etc during the study. Instead of trying to do my ideal art study time, I decided it was more important to start small. So, I chose an artist to focus on(Mary Cassatt), copied some questions from the Hearts and Trees blog, found my prints, and then each week we simply discuss the prints. We compare the prints each week to the other prints. I am astounded how simply 15-20 minutes per week with this routine has produced such joy and appreciation for art in my children. I will never forget when my youngest, who is barely three saw a familiar print in a book at the library and yelled out, "Mommy, look it's Young Muda (Mother )Sewing!" So, start small. Something is better than nothing.

Lastly, I try to have all my oldest's assignments for the week, including chores and special activities such as piano lesson or Spanish class, written out on one piece of paper for the entire week. I use a standard size printer paper, folded into fourths. I use each square for a day of the week, turning it over for Friday. The chores are always listed as "chores" until the day I assign them. Then, when I have the more specific list, I attach that post-it note to the current day. This saves me lots of trouble in explaining. And it makes my big boy more responsible. Now, if I could get him to establish the habit of putting it in the same place each day! ;)

Well, I hope you can use some of these ideas. Check out the Heart of the Matter for more great habit ideas from fellow homeschooling families.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Why, Because of the DS, We Will Never Be On TLC's "How Clean Is Your House?"

"Mom, you might want to go get the...umm...umm...umm...feather duster and go clean off that mower!"

Those first children are a bit an*l retentive now aren't they?

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Wonderful Spring Afternoon

Our pansies are within view as I type, blowing just a bit in the breeze. They sit on my white wicker outside table on our front porch. I have the windows up and I can hear my children outside playing. Little sister says, "Hey, guys! Do you wanna pway "Wing Awound Da Wosie?" And then, of course, the singing and twirling begins. I have witnessed several little accidents today. All involved Miss Middle. In the first, she was the hero. I sent her out earlier this morning to feed the dog. When she did not come back as soon as I'd anticipated, I went out to the garage to find her. I found her in great distress. "Mama!" she wailed, "I was just coming to get you because there is a birdie in our garage. He's trapped! See his little tail feather peeking out from under that box by the window? See, Mama! See?! We've got to help him!" So, we helped the mourning dove escape to fly free outside of our garage. The second two accidents involved Miss Middle as was a falling-off-of-the-monkeybars type of accident, the second was a falling-off-of-the-swing-and-getting-her-feet-caught-in-the-swing-chain type of accident. Never one to miss an opportunity for drama, both of these incidents brought about much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Well, that's all for now, I must go collect my latest gift from the girls...a dandelion bouquet.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Praying for the Job Search

My brother recently sent me a package with two books in it. One was titled, "Worry: Pursuing a Better Path to Peace" and the other "Running Scared". Do you think he's trying to send me a message? I had recently spoken to the sweet man about our family's uncertainty regarding hubby's job. The plant where hubby has worked since getting out of college fifteen years ago is closing in June. We are uncertain as to where God is taking us next. We are waiting expectantly for God to provide a new job for this family.

Throughout this season of uncertainty and waiting I have wrestled with many questions and seen my faith for what it is...and isn't. I now realize that one of the faulty beliefs I've held is that God is always waiting to "teach me a lesson". I have been surprised to learn how very little I trust in God's goodness. Could God actually gift this family with the desires of our heart? That has been tough for me to think, say, even to type here. The key scripture that God keeps taking me back to to confront that faulty thinking is from Matthew 7, "What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf would give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him." Now, that is not to say that the "good gift" that I desire is or is not the will of God in this particular situation, but it is life-giving to know that my Father will provide good gifts for his children, which includes our family. I find it very hard --presumptuous even -- to say and believe that, but I choose to believe based on the truth in this Scripture.

Right now, we are living to enjoy each simple moment in our wonderful life. And, we are simply praying that the God of the Heavens, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, the God who is our Provider will align our will to His. And in that, I know that He will answer our prayer.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thank Goodness God Made Worms Regenerative

A conversation in our driveway this afternoon:

Me to baby girl 3: "Do you still have your worm?"

Baby Girl 3: "Yeah, but I broked him."


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More Real Life Learning -- Cooking With Mom

Another real-life learning experience that we try to incorporate on a regular basis around here is cooking. Each day, I have a "helper of the day" who gets to help with special chores, gets to choose activities, etc. This was borne out of necessity of course, to prevent arguing. But, I'm sure that never happens at your house, right?! Anyway, the helper of the day usually has the opportunity to help out in the kitchen, often helping me to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am quite sure that, yes, it would be easier and quicker to do it without the little hands. But, the skills they learn and the time we spend together working at a common task (read: relationship building!)are well worth the increased time and effort! Today, the my son and I made this for breakfast:

French Toast Casserole
1 loaf of french bread
1/2 c of butter
2/3 c of brown sugar
cinnamon to taste
1 c of milk
1/2 t of salt
3 eggs

Melt butter in 9x9 pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over melted butter. Beat eggs, salt, and milk together in a bowl. Dip slices in egg mix. Place in pan and back at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Turn each slice over at 15 minutes).

We love this recipe and the helper and I decided to top the french toast slices off with peaches. What a hit! I have found so many benefits to having the children helping out in the kitchen this way. I mentioned a few of them above, but I also find that being more independent, more willing to take risks, and eager to help are a few added benefits. And also the children are learning so much about cooking, math, etc. while helping out.

Just another little bit of real life learning in our homeschool!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lifting Hands Blog

I have been so blessed by this site. It is a site where prayers for children, usually taken right from scripture and highly influenced by Stormie O'Martian's work, are written at the beginning of each week. I write these prayers down on my spiral-bound notecards and then put them up in my kitchen to pray for my children as I am reminded throughout the week. I highly encourage you to visit and pray for your children as well through using this wonderful tool.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Real Life Learning

One of the things I love about homeschooling are the opportunities for real life learning. I remember as a school teacher having to teach my second graders about the proper formation of a letter and how to address an envelope. Of course, I wanted this to be a real life experience for them, but often, we ended up using a workbook page or something, just so they could get lots of practice. With homeschooling, these things are learned in the context of real life. This week, my son wanted to write a get-well letter to a friend. He used the inspiration from his Bible reading and drew a lovely picture and put some encouraging words for this friend. Then we put it in an envelope, and in the context of this real experience, he began to learn about the proper way to address an envelope. With this experience, he has a reason to learn. And that is motivating. For student and for mommy!

Spring Has Sprung!

"Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime." ---Martin Luther

I was really looking forward to today because the weather was supposed to be warm and the sun was supposed to be shining. We needed to get some work in the yard done.
Well, the weather turned out to be beautiful. As I type it is sunny and 60 degrees. Last week was rainy and quite chilly most days, so the sun was a welcome visitor! I really hope he decides to stick around.

We did get out into the yard and do some cleaning up. We were excited to get out and do this because we had been gone all last year and some of the trees, bushes, and beds etc. were in need of pruning, sprucing up, and weeding. We finally got all of the beds cleared out of weeds, leaves, etc. and got the trees trimmed. The most frustrating part of the day was cutting the ornamental grass and cleaning it up. My sweet neighbor came over to help out with the trimming with his chain saw! And another frustration became some beastly and persistent vinca vine that had apparently fallen out of a potted plant and into the landscape in a previous year. Who knew that sweet vinca vine that I always add to all my pots could be so pesky in the garden?! Anyway, the beds are cleared, the trees are pruned, and the little buds and perennials are now beginning to peek out from their underground winter homes.

So far, we've seen the beginnings of hostas, irises, lillies, peonies, and japanese fern. I simply love to see the little buds bursting forth from the cold, hard ground as it begins to soften. I am always reminded as I take off the old dead plant growth and see the new green ones of the beauty of new life. I always think of the spiritual life when gardening. The garden has such perfect metaphors for these things I think. We are also planning to plant some pansies and violas in pots for the front porch tomorrow.

I am hoping to plant some vegetables for the first time this year, add to my landscape with perennials and bulbs, and then to plant some sunflowers for the children. I saw in Family Fun magazine a darling sunflower "house" that I would love to attempt, but fear might hold me back, as it seems like such a big project. I recently bought a book that I've gotten from the library several times called "Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots" that I'll be using with the children as we begin to get outside more. It has all kinds of creative ideas for kids in the garden.

What are you doing in the garden this spring?