Sunday, September 30, 2007

What Makes Me Smile, You Ask?

Here they are, in no particular order. Well, OK, in the order they pop into my head.

10. The sound of my husband laughing.
9. Two words: back rub. Or better yet: hour long massage.
8. A clean house!
7. Waking up and realizing it's Saturday.
6. Compliments.
5. My children, especially when they are cracking up laughing about something together.
4. Going out to eat (no cooking, no messy kitchen, it's all good.)
3. Positive pregnancy tests. (Not that I've had one in a while...don't get all excited, Kathy!)
2. When something good happens to someone I love.
1. Counting my many, many blessings.

There you go, Terry. Thanks for the tag. I am tagging Lisa @ My Surviving Thoughts. Maybe that will get her to post more than twice a month. (I mean, what does she have to do besides raise kids, keep house, go to work, and get settled in her new house? Sheesh!)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Pssst! Pass It On!

I have an assignment for you! If you are a homeschooler, or have friends who are, please pass this question on to them. I would love to gather as many ideas in the comments as I can. (And by that I mean numbers in the double digits--which would be a first here at The Family Revised!!! Whoo Hoo!)

I remembered we had a Scrabble Junior game yesterday. I thought, "Wow. That would be a great way to sneak some spelling in with Sweetheart (2nd grade) and have fun, too!" So here's my question:

What ways do you sneak learning in?

And just for the record, I'm not talking about that rationalizing we all joke about. You know where we say to ourselves, "Sorting laundry is TOO math!" :) I'm kidding. (I mean, it is math for my 3 year old, but not so much by say, 5th grade?!)

So how about it? What wonderful ways have you found to get your kids involved with learning before they have a chance to figure out it's really "school." I need some help from the veterans here!!!

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Really Matters...

This is a conclusion to the post The Things That Really Matter. Click here to read the first part.

Before school started each year, the teachers in the district where I taught had to undergo 7 days of torture, otherwise known as teacher inservice. We would sit through about 5 days of meetings, and then have 2 days to work in our classrooms. Our principals' hands were tied, but they tried to make those 5 meeting days as interesting as possible.

One year we had an inspirational speaker. He was a really good speaker and very entertaining. Our school was about 95% Hispanic and he was of the same origins as many of our students. He told about growing up in a household where there wasn't much money and lots of hilarious stories about his mama. Then he went on to tell how he finished pharmacy school and fell in love. His new bride and he decided they wanted a large family. I can't remember all the details but after having a child of their own, they soon began adopting. They adopted almost all of their children from foster care. He told about a little 3 or 4 year old girl they adopted who wanted to be held all the time. While her older siblings were acting out or destroying toys to vent their feelings, this little one just wanted to be held. All. The. Time. After being in foster care, most children would get nervous whenever the family started to load up in the van to go to church, or to a bar-b-que at a friend's house. "Where are you taking us?" they would ask. It took lots of reassuring that they were not going to be dropped off anywhere, but instead the whole family was going somewhere together and then coming right back home--together. So, he understood there were a lot of security issues with these children. He made a decision about his little 3 or 4 year old hanger-on. He told himself, "I will not put her down until she is ready." Every day when he got home from work, she ran to him to be held and he held her all night until bedtime. Whether he was eating dinner, unloading the dishwasher, talking on the phone, or watching TV, all was done with his new little girl attached to his hip.

It took 4 months. One day, finally, she said, "Daddy, I want to go play." And he VERY happily sent her on her way. I was just riveted by this story. Wow. What a family! He told us that he was getting worried because his wife saw a picture of a sibling group that needed a home and their 15 passenger van was going to need to be replaced with a small tour bus. We laughed.

Then he told us, "The last 3 children we adopted came from this district. Who had Stephanie in their class?"

With goosebumps, my partner teacher and I raised our hands. He told us "thank you." I cannot even begin to tell you how I felt at that moment. This was the family Stephanie had gone to? (His wife, whom we had met, was not Hispanic and for some reason I just didn't put it all together--and it had been several years.) I was so glad and full of joy that people like this family existed. The little girl in his story had been Stephanie's little sister, by the way.

After the meeting, he stopped by our classroom to give us an update on Stephanie. He said she was reading on grade level, loved to read, was on grade level in all other areas, and was taking ballet classes. She smiled all the time and was doing great. I couldn't help but be reminded of what his wife had asked us: "Don't you think self-esteem has so much to do with it?" I admitted to him that at the time I had agreed with her, but had my doubts as to how much success Stephanie would really see in her future.

He shared with me what he had seen over and over again at his own house: when children feel loved and secure--they learn, they grow, they blossom. I just could not get over it--how could the sad little girl I had seen struggling to write the date on her paper be replaced in my mind with a happy, smiling ballerina?

And so I thought of Stephanie yesterday when I was wondering (again) if we had done "enough" school. My children are already at a HUGE learning advantage simply because they are home. They may never have to know the insecurities of middle school, of being compared to classmates who do better, of "falling behind" the state's standards. They are loved, they are secure--they will learn, grow, and blossom.

I realize not all homes are ideal environments for children. Our principal used to remind us that for some children school was the best place to be because there was air conditioning, people smiled at them, they were going to have plenty to eat, there were books to read, and they were safe. Having been on some home visits, I would agree. Money does not make an ideal learning environment--love does. If my daughters feel safe and loved--they have already met half the battle. The best programs and materials and personnel money could buy was not going to help Stephanie, until she had the other. Those things that matter most.

So, instead of worrying about not doing enough and tearing out another page for Sweetheart to do, I think we will cuddle up with a book. We will have hugs and math practice together. She will learn--and I will remember what matters most.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Things That Really Matter

Constantly after we have finished "school" for the day here at our house, I wonder in my head if I did enough. Each day I pray for the Lord's help for me to figure out the proper balance of work and play with my children. Yes, they need to learn to do things that are not particularly enjoyable. I cannot let their will dictate our day, for they are young and unwise and they don't know what they need. AND YET, they need to play and be children and not sit at the table too long doing school work. It's not the only way they learn and I know that.

Today I was reminded of a former student. I truly cannot remember her name because she was only in our classroom for a few months. We'll call her Stephanie. Stephanie came to our classroom (I shared the class with another teacher) in the spring of first grade. She moved here from another school where she had been with a different foster family. Stephanie had many brothers and sisters, but 3 of them had travelled together. Her older brother was next door at the middle school and her little sister was at home, with their new foster family. She was a sad little girl and she could not read very much at all. She could barely write. Oh boy, I thought. What are we going to do to get this little girl being successful by May? My partner teacher and I were both trained in Reading Recovery through Ohio State University. Taking on non-reading 1st graders is what we did. Obviously, Stephanie was going to be our next student in the program, which worked one-on-one with students intensely and daily.

But then I checked her folder. Uh oh. She had already been through a full program of Reading Recovery at her other school. And this was as far as she got? I called her former RR teacher and chatted for a while. She just wasn't making progress. This was looking bad. Stephanie had already undergone some of the most intense programming available in public school and she still wasn't keeping up. In fact, to be perfectly honest, if she had been starting first grade instead of finishing first grade, she might have been OK.

We didn't give up on her by any means. She saw the counselor regularly, we encouraged her, we worked with her. But in the back of everyone's mind...we knew her future. Either she would be retained in first grade, or she would be tested for special education. Those were the choices in her future.

But God had other plans.

A month or so after Stephanie arrived in our classroom, we were called for a parent conference. The lady who sat in front of us introduced herself and wanted to talk about Stephanie. She and her husband had 11 children (both homemade and adopted) and were planning to adopt Stephanie and her other 2 siblings that were with her. What good news! we said. This lady was so nice and sweet and we were so excited for this little girl whom we did not know very well. The lady explained that they homeschooled their other children, but since Stephanie and her siblings would not be officially theirs for a while, they would have to be in public school a while longer. So, she wanted to know, how was Stephanie doing in school?

Gently, gently we explained the situation. Almost everything has already been tried. We told her what had been done at the other school, showed her samples of the work from our classroom, and tried to focus on the positive, while painting a very real picture of where Stephanie should be right now (according to the state). Honestly, we told her, if she were to remain at this school, she would either be retained or tested next year.

Her soon-to-be-new mom didn't seem the least bit ruffled. She asked us one question:

Don't you think self-esteem has so much to do with it?

Of course it does, we agreed! Of course when a child believes they can do it, they are more successful. Of course Stephanie's home situation is affecting her performance in school. Of course it is. Unfortunately, schools are not allowed to take that kind of information into consideration when reviewing a student's progress. They just either can or can't. There is no chance to put a post-it note on the report card saying, "I really think she's capable, but there was just so much going on at home..."

So Stephanie ended the year and went off to live with her new family. Our thoughts and prayers went with her and I thought that was the end of the story.

But God was going to give me an update one day.

Click here for the conclusion.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Random Ministry is Not Enough

So, I can't agree with the idea that we are to just go around scattering the seeds of God's love and hitting them with whoever happens to cross our path AND praying that it's enough. (Read the first post here). I think we need to be more purposeful than that.

Even though my family is my primary and first ministry, I cannot ONLY minister to my family and leave the lost to find their own way. I have Good News, and it needs to be shared. So how can this be done, if not soley by "random acts of God's love"?

We have some friends whose son is autistic. Even though they would NEVER choose to have things as they are, they admit they have found a group of people (parents of children with disabilities) who need ministering to. And for reasons they could not have forseen, they find themselves able to do the ministering. For the last few years my husband has served as "part-time" youth minister at our church. So, for us, our other ministry was also clear. I know people who make it their ministry to reach out to other mothers while waiting for preschool to let out. They purposefully speak to and listen to these moms who are also waiting for their children. I know couples who take a younger couple under their wing--inviting them over for dinner and spending time with them, perhaps even leading into Bible study.

The point is, we must be aware of the different ways we can minister--and plan accordingly. I read on an old post at this blog about how she intended to get out the crock pot before Sunday church so she could be ready at a moment's notice to invite a new family over for lunch after services. This is what I'm talking about: being ready to minister, really minister to others. And teaching our children to do the same.

Do unplanned ministry moments happen? Of course! They can be a huge blessing. My daughters and I are FOREVER helping lost children find their parents. I don't know why this always happens to me. I seem to notice lost children everywhere we go. But that's not exactly the "helping the lost" I'm talking about!

Now that we are not actively helping my husband in youth ministry, what will our ministry be? Who could I reach out to? How could I do that?

What type of ministry are you involved in?

Random Ministry

Over the last 2 years or so I have really come to understand a few things. I know that I am my husband's helper. I know that it is a terribly important job and encompasses much more than being his servant. (And that's not a bad word!) I keep our house, managing and running things here so he can concentrate on his job, etc. I raise and teach our daughters, under his guidance. My goals are NOT to have a career, to enjoy all my favorite hobbies, and to do whatever I feel like. I am so thankful that I no longer have to work outside of the home because it does complicate things a bit. It's easier to concentrate on your husband, children, and home when you are here and not there. But anyway...

I'm starting out saying all this because I want you to know that I undestand my family is my ministry.

And yet, I can't stay closed up in this house day after day. Neither can I go out into the world (well, the library and Wal-Mart anyway) and NOT share God's love and the good news with others.

So that brings us to Matthew and the "great commission." I have heard it said that Jesus was speaking to his disciples, not to us. I have heard others who hang their whole lives on these verses. And every place in between. But we were discussing these verses in Bible class the other day and I noticed that it says "make disciples of..." Hmmm.

That is a little different than what I usually hear these days. This book talks about paying for the person's meal behind you in line at the drive-through. Or helping someone carrry their groceries. Or buying someone a coke.

Wheeeee!!!! Here we go spreading random acts of God's love all over the world! See me tossing the seeds of God's love out there as I go about MY daily tasks? Wow! This isn't so hard after all! Going to the dry cleaners? BAM! Pay for next customer's order. Leave a card that says, "God love you and so do I!" Wow! This IS easy!

I think there is a need to be more purposeful and less random in our ministry to the lost. (NOT forgetting our ministry to our families and to the saints!!!) Scattering seeds of God's love is important. You could be the only person who has smiled at someone that day. You could do an act of love for someone who was contemplating taking their life later that day. You just never know. And God's love is powerful, because we forget ourselves and love with His love. (Love is not self-seeking...etc.) So is there a place for this? Absolutely.
But making disciples calls for relationships with people. What does this look like? Well, immediately I think of having people over to our homes for Bible study. Of taking a meal to a new mom and staying to visit a few minutes and then following up on that relationship. I'm sure there are many other ways. My point is, I think we have to think these things out.
If I leave my house every day with my to do list in hand it is very easy to forget to shower God's love as I go. Because on the way to the library to turn in those books, someone in the back seat spills an entire bag of Goldfish crackers and that starts a fight while I try to mediate from the front seat while driving and paying attention to traffic and when we get to the library someone else falls out of the car and skins their knee and when we hit the door of the library my only prayer is "Please God help me get through this errand!" Our days take over if we are not careful. be continued

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Coming Home

My husband works hard. He has always been a hard worker. That is one thing I like and admire about him--he's not afraid to get his hands dirty and dig in to do hard work. I have known some truly lazy people in my life and they are so hard to respect.

At one point over the last 4 years, my husband was working not 1, not 2, but 3 jobs all at once. That was a crazy time in our life! He had his "regular" job, a lawn service "on the side", and he was the "part-time" youth minister at our church. There were times the girls didn't even see him before they went to bed. I have always appreciated him taking care of our family so well, but 3 jobs was a little much.

One of those jobs, youth minister, was not taken for the income since there really wasn't any for a long time. This was pure ministry. He loved it and I was glad he was getting to serve in a way he had always wanted to. He took his role very seriously and was so good and so present in that position that people often forgot he had a "regular" job to work at all week long. The summers were especially hard with youth ministry. Sunday nights--youth event. Monday nights--area youth event. Tuesday--stay late at his "real" job to catch up on things. Wednesday--church and then minister's meetings afterward. Thursday--come home after work and actually see family! Friday and Saturday--catch up on all the things that need to be done at home or youth events.

It was during this time that we began to question how church activities affect families. It wasn't just that my husband was away from us, because truthfully we tried to be with him doing whatever the youth group was doing just so our family would be together. Having tons of church activities also affects other families. Youth are split off from their parents and other adults in the church constantly. Well, sometimes they need to be. And yet...

So, we had some good discussions about church and all things churchy. For a lot of reasons, my husband is stepping down from "part-time" youth ministry this month. We have seen a lot more of him and that has been nice. He has had time for actual recreation (golf!) for the first time in 4-5 years. Why? Why would someone work so hard that they don't even have time for doing fun things? Well, we were working for the Lord! It was a ministry and we took it seriously. I know some good, no great seeds were planted and our teens at church received good, no great teaching every week. Families were affected for the Lord. Wonderful things have happened over these last 3 years.

But I am very glad he is home. And I am looking forward to the great things that will happen in our family.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Homemaking: Clear Your Mind!

Some people cannot function in a messy space. I have always prided myself on being able to handle a high level of chaos. Interruptions, for the most part, don't bother me. I think they make the day exciting. When I was a teacher I was always given the "special" children who needed an understanding teacher. I had the boy with fetal alchohol syndrome. I had the girl with epilepsy. I had the ones who couldn't sit still. I visited rooms where all the children sat in their desks in complete silence and did their work. They teacher sat calmly at her desk grading papers. That was never my room! Our principal knew that getting a teacher with those expectations would be a death sentence to some kids. So, they ended up in my room. My class was an exciting bunch of craziness. Nothing was out of control--but it was "busy" in our room. :)

Not everyone was made to be able to handle a bit of organized chaos. But, I wouldn't want to be the kind of person who is just paralyed by a bit of mess. Hear me right: I wish I were more organized. Of COURSE it's more pleasant to work in an organized space than a messy one! Have you ever seen someone volunteer to take a job and before they can even begin they have to "make the space like they like it?" It could be in a kitchen, at a desk, wherever. Others just push aside what's in their way and start working-adapting to the circumstances as they go. Truly we are all different!

But organized and cleaned up is always so nice. So this morning before we began school (which has it's own brand of messiness with it!) we had a job fair. Aren't I clever with that name? :) I made a list of jobs and the price I would pay for them (in quarters). I let Sweetheart pick the jobs she wanted to do and set the timer for 1 hour. I worked along beside her on my own jobs and at the end of an hour she had racked up a few dollars for her piggy bank and we had a much nicer looking home! She got some energy out and was ready to start school. Since I wasn't worried and distracted about all the housekeeping that needed to be done we had a much more pleasant morning in school. We worked for almost 2 hours on school before we took a break for recess.

I know school is important. Reading to your kids is important. Talking with your husband in the evening is important. Lots of things are important. But sometimes it's easier to get those important things done when you concentrate on the housework first!

Anyway, I'm thinking the next time we are all snippy at each other and there is whining about schoolwork--we may just take a job fair break. It gets out some energy, the results put everyone in a better mood, and then we can concentrate. Just a thought.

*By the way, I did not pay for cleaning her room as this is an expected chore. These were extra jobs she doesn't normally do and very worth the quarters I lost! And did I mention all the benefits of practicing counting that money? And how Little Bit was learning not to call everything a nickel? (I gave her some pennies when she did a little helping. She has a cold today and didn't feel like doing big jobs.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Wonderful Treasure at the Library

I have rediscovered an old friend lately. Sweetheart and I enjoyed the read-aloud Beezus and Ramona a few weeks ago. I just knew that she would understand how Beezus, being the older sister, always felt about having Ramona (or Little Bit) as a little sister. When I was growing up, I always understood Ramona so well, because I was the little sister to a big sister who seemed to do absolutlely everything right. I was right--she did relate to Beezus AND thought Ramona was hilarious. I think the book went a long way towards helping her see she isn't the only one in the world with a little sister who can be exasperating. We enjoyed that book so much we just finished Ramona the Pest. We can't wait to get the next one. For me, it's like sharing a treasure with her. I LOVED these books growing up and I feel so blessed to have time to be reading them to my daughter now. In fact, I SO remember feeling how Ramona feels when I was little I have caught myself almost tearing up in a few parts. How sad is that? Books are connected to parts of our life, that's for sure!

Speaking of treasures--we had the best time yesterday at our city's groundbreaking for the new library additions. There was a special story time for the kids featuring a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator who did a really great job! Even though my kids have not seen the Pirates of the Carribean movies, they really enjoyed all the pirate stuff. Sweetheart got called up to be a helper twice during his show. They were filming it and it will air on our city's cable channel next week. Of course, Sweetheart is sure she is going to be famous! After that, all the kids got to go outside with shovels and help with the groundbreaking and dig for buried treasure too. What a fun day.

Of course the girls have been inspired and this morning they are dressed as pirates, making treaure maps, and stalking around the house with serving spoons looking for buried treasure. I guess school can wait until they come back ashore.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Homemaking: A Letter to My House

Dear House,

I am sorry. You deserve better than this. Couch, I will get that laundry off of you today. Hey, at least it was clean laundry, right? Fireplace, where are you? I will find you today under all the library books, shoes, and mail. I don't know why they are there either. Kitchen table--did you enjoy the apple experiment today? How about the clay pots we made earlier in the week? If you hadn't noticed, you aren't just for eating anymore. We've seen a whole lot of you lately. I hope you are enjoying the company. You are just the best place to spread out with art or other projects. Bathroom floors, I don't know what to say. I am sorry.

And classroom? Please forgive me. I really thought we would use you more. You do look so nice! I hope you don't mind that we only run in and out a few times a day to grab things or drop off supplies when we are through with them. You are a very useful room, even if we don't give you the company I promised you at the beginning of the year.

And T.V.? I know you aren't used to being turned off this much. Get used to it.


A homemaker who seriously needs to get busy

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In the Fall, I'm a Better Cook

I LOVE fall and winter cooking. Anything that can be completed in one pot is a winner in my book. Can we just serve soup every night?

Well, thanks to Leslie @ Lux Venit, now you can. She's hosting a Recipe Round-Up, so head over there and find some new recipes for the upcoming season. Here's my ULTRA-GOURMET contribution. Seriously, this recipe is one of my most requested. (YES, people have requested my recipes, which never fails to amuse me.) Why? Because you can keep the ingredients in your pantry for those nights when you have absolutely no time to cook anything. You can make it without meat, so there is no thinking ahead or "Shoot! I forgot to get the meat out of the freezer this morning!" regret. This one was a really big hit among my co-workers when I worked full-time. I have literally had people call my house around 5:00pm asking about "my soup" because they had no time to do anything else for supper and remembered that I had this little winner up my sleeve.

Enough talking--thanks to my Aunt Lou for this recipe, although she did not write it.

Soup for a Group (otherwise known as 1-2-3 Soup)

3 cans your favorite brand Minestrone soup (I used Campbell's Select)
2 cans tomatoes (I use 1 can plain diced tomatoes and 1 can of Ro-Tel Milder because I HATE those big blobs of stewed tomatoes in my soup)
1 can Ranch Style Beans

Heat and serve. I am not kidding. Did I tell you it's easy? It tastes SO good, too. You can brown 1 pound of meat and toss it in too if you are way ahead of yourself that day.

Now head over to Leslie's blog and get some REAL recipes. I've given you all I have.

It's a Mini-Postapalooza!!!

Ever figure out what you're going to blog about and then you read your daily blogs only to decide you have something to say about what you read? And then you think of something else you want to blog about, but nothing is really long enough for one big, good post?

Yeah, welcome to my mini-postapalooza. It is too a word because I like it.

Counting My Blessings
I have so many things to be thankful for. My husband and daughters, my parents, my sisters, our church that we can drive to every week with no fear, the fact that God made it possible for me to come home and homeschool our girls, the laundry that is going right now because we have a working washer and dryer and clothes to wear and wash, the dirty dishes in the kitchen because we have food to eat, the furniture we have to sit on, the books we have to read, really simple things. We take so much for granted. I have been abundantly blessed. God deserves all the praise! May I teach my daughters to be thankful.

Whining? Already?
Yesterday Sweetheart was complaining that her little sister got to "just play all day" while she had to do schoolwork. Now mind you, what we were doing was fun and neat and she did enjoy it. It's just that she couldn't run down to Grandma and Grandpa's house right then and her sister could. It just wasn't fair. And she just didn't feel like reading that day, she wanted to play with her dollhouse. And whine, whine, whine. I just couldn't believe it!!! Not because she's not allowed to be in the mood to play instead of work---but because the alternative should be so fresh in her memory!!! Would you rather be sitting in class all day, away from home with no breaks, having more homework to do when you get home, etc. etc.? No, she admitted. Being home was much better.
But how often do I complain and whine, when I have been offered the gift of salvation? Don't I remember what I was saved from? And how I do not deserve God's grace? What do I have to whine about? Don't I remember the alternative I was facing?

Back to My Senses
Thanks to God and Grafted Branch (or God speaking through Grafted Branch!?), I came to my senses last weekend. I took a break on Friday to re-think our schedule and lessons. I could sit here and explain my thinking when I took the path I did. It was well-thought out, after all. I had good reasons. But planning to homeschool and actually homeschooling are 2 very different things. After I got a taste those first 2 short weeks, it occurred to me that things weren't working out the way I had them pictured in my head. (Does anything?) So I spent the weekend praying and mulling over G.B.'s comment on my blog and have felt such joy and peace about homeschooling now. I want to always refer to it as: home(schooling) because home is much more important and schooling happens within that context.
Having said all that, I have a tub of teaching stuff that is HUGE! (And I gave a LOT away already.) My husband drug it in the house for me last night. Therein lies all manner of fun stuff for us to discover together. Stuff they apparently don't even use in schools anymore. Sweetheart asked me Sunday what we were going to learn about this week and I told her, "Johnny Appleseed." "Who is that? Was he important, Mommy?" "Um, you've never heard of Johnny Appleseed?" "No."

How do you attend Kindergarten and first grade (2 times!) and NEVER even hear about Johnny Appleseed? (Not that knowing about him is the pinnacle of knowledge...) Oh, I know how. Because after you finish worksheet #17, it's time for worksheet #18. That's how. I think we are on a better road now.

Feeling Behind
I have never been much of a homemaker. I've told you that before. But lately I am intrigued by this idea of having time to make your home lovely. It's so true that you CAN keep up with housework and work full-time. It can be done. But there just never seems to be time to do anything special for your family. The basics (food, clothing, cleaning) suck all your extra time away in a hurry. I want to learn how to "make" my home--not just clean it. I want to have time to do little special things for my husband and children. After 14 years of marriage and 8 years of parenting--I'm just now having these thoughts? OK, so I'm a little behind. I'm reading the book Homemaking right now and I am struck by the perfect clarity of the ideas that completely fit my life even though they were written about 100 years before we even got married!!! I am really trying to re-think how I approach this thing called my life!

I guess that's all for now. I so enjoy reading all of your blogs (for those who have one!) and I appreciate you stopping by mine. What encouragement to know there are Christian women out there to lean on and learn from!

Have a great day! (And by the way....I thought my hair was dark!?)

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Higher Standard

When we were first married, I made a Halloween wreath to hang on our apartment door. I loved doing crafts and I must say, it was quite cute. My husband told me he didn't like it, didn't like Halloween, but I could hang it if I wanted to. I think I did hang it up, but threw it away later. I have to admit, though, I thought that he was a little crazy. Who cared that it's "origins" were evil? That's not what I was celebrating! It was all innocent. Just some costumes and candy. Puhleeze!
In my classroom, I always decorated for Halloween. Everyone did. I just made sure all the little ghosts, black cats, witches, and pumpkins were cute and smily. Halloween was for kids and it was for fun. What was the harm? It's not like we were worshipping Satan. (These were my thoughts.)

So, I started my daughters on the path when they weren't even old enough to hold up their heads. Oh, we never made a big deal mind you. A cute little orange outfit that said "Mom's Lil' Pumpkin," or a cute little chicken costume. Not a jack-o-lantern to put the candy in, but a cute little Tigger head instead. Much nicer. Nothing scary. It's for fun, right? Look! Candy, games, a carnival at a church. This is all just great. NO one in their right mind would go trick-or-treating these days, right? We'll just trick or treat at grandma's house. And a few people from church. Just so they can wear their little costume a while.

I had really never heard of people who didn't celebrate Halloween at all. However, most Christians that I knew felt there was need of an "alternative." Why? Why do we need an alternative if there is nothing wrong with the real thing?

Now this post was really not meant to be about Halloween. I'm just using that as an example. I never gave it much thought. Everyone did it, and so did I. I never gave a lot of things much thought when I was getting married and starting a family. I could say, "well, we didn't have any good examples around us to show us any different!"

But we did own Bibles at that time. And I'm fairly certain I could have prayed for just never occured to me to do so.

This is just an example of how radical I have been willing to become for the Lord lately. Letting go of Halloween? OK. I'll do it. I want our family to be different. I don't want to do the things the world (or even other Christians) do just because....I don't know why. I want to be a godly wife, mother, and woman. I want to raise godly children. I'm not talking about becoming an "anti" everything person, either. I'm just saying I'm willing to re-look at everything we do and find out what pleases the Lord. How I envy young mothers who have thought these things out ahead of time!!! It's much easier than switching gears part-way in.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I've Called a Teacher Inservice Day

OK, we have now sucessfully completed 2 weeks (8 days) of homeschooling. I love it. I love the freedom of it. I love that we get done so early in the day and have time for other things. I love having my children with me all day. I love enjoying things with them.

But I do not love our schedule. And I do not love the way all the lessons are written.

I like our curriculum. However, this beginning-of-the-year review is killing us! Sweetheart is bored by a lot of it and even though I think review is good---too much is not. So, last night I talked to my husband and did some thinking about how much of the curriculum to follow and how much common sense I can use and what I can skip. I've got to finish thinking through all that today.
And then there were the tears from Sweetheart yesterday as she told me she missed doing fun stuff. "What do you mean 'fun'?" I asked her. It turns out she wants to do some of the preschool things that Little Bit gets to do while she suffers through boring review. OK, time to re-think a few things. I don't think it's the preschool stuff that really appeals to her as much as her lessons are NOT appealing to her. Sigh. Time to quit going to bed saying, "The lesson plans are already written for me for the whole year." Instead it's time to brush off my teacher's hat and customize those babies to appeal to her.

AND, it turns out that Little Bit could care less about all the cute little activities I made for her to pull of the shelf and be entertained and educated with while I work with her sister. The Montessori-type stuff is not appealing to her AT ALL. (Except the big tub of rice--that was a hit!) Come to think of it, she is just far too relational to be happy with that kind of stuff for long. So, I found a great preschool curriculum online and I'm trying to re-write our schedule where we can spend 30 or 45 minutes on preschool lessons each morning, with Sweetheart involved too. And now that I've decided to chunk some of the lesson plans...there should be time.

Yes, morale is low around here among the short people.

So, we're are covering the basics around here today...reading, math, phonics, hide-n-seek, etc. while Mommy tries to revamp our schedule to work better. Now that I'm all experienced at this homeschool thing.


We'll start up again on Monday, after I pray and think, and work on making this whole school thing even more wonderful. Because it's going to be. We REALLY love being together. We just need a little work to make it all better.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Serving our Children or The Post Formerly Known as "Comment"

There are some comments that just grow ridiculously long. This is one of those comments. Thankfully, I figured that out before I started typing it as a comment and decided to write a post instead. I hate all that deleting.

Yesterday Andrea posed a question about serving our teens. (But Brenda, you don't have a teen!) I know, I know. I have watched my sister deal with this same thing. Her son is also 7 years older than his next sibling, just like Andrea said. He is 14 this year. Behind him there is a second grader and a preschooler. Since he is the oldest one, he has much more responsibilities than his sisters. My sister has also felt the pressure of ONLY FOUR MORE YEARS until he leaves home. Is he ready? Has she taught him all the things he needs to know? Thinking like that can make you pile more responsiblities on a child. And with good reason.

Andrea's question, though, was how do we still serve our teens (or children) WHILE teaching them to be responsible at the same time?

It got me thinking about a workshop I attended a few years ago on the book The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman. This book is not a Bible study, and it has been very marketed with lots of sequels to the success, but it still had good stuff to say. The main point I got from all of it is that children feel loved in different ways.

"Acts of service" is one of the ways you can "speak" love to your child. Making their bed for them, doing a chore they hate, etc. This is what Andrea was talking about--don't forget that even though they are responsible for more, they still might like it if Mama did some things for them every now and then. If it were me, I would choose chores that they consistently did themselves. That way they wouldn't keep "forgetting" to do a chore hoping that mom will do it for them again!

There are other ways to show love to our children that we need to remember as well. One of the love languges talked about in the book is "gifts." These children keep every little thing, remember who gave it to them, and take care of things--lovingly displaying them in their room. For this child, pick up a new color of nail polish and wrap it in a little gift bag to leave on their bed. Acts like this remind them you love them and were thinking about them. That might not mean a thing to another teen, but if your child's main love language is gifts, then it would.

For me, I'm afraid I have two children with the same love language. (All children feel love in a variety of ways, but the book's premise is that everyone has a "main" language that speaks to them.) My girls both value quality time above all else. They want time with me all to themselves. Being asked to run to the store with me while her sister stays home is a delight to Little Bit. Inviting her to cuddle up with a book and read while little sister is asleep makes Sweetheart's day. If we have been too busy, they feel neglected and they let me know. They need time with me looking into their face, paying complete attention to them every day.

You know, grownups have love languages too. There is also a book for that one. I know for me, I would much rather my husband take me out to eat or help me clean the house than I would like for him to bring me a present. The trick is...figuring out how to show love to each person in your family. Not the way YOU would want love shown to you, but the way that speaks to them the most.

I think this is a very important thing to remember as we go about our days--especially as our children get older--that we do not forget to show love in little ways each day. What special things do you do for those you love?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Can You Link a Link?

Well, I'm going to. One of my daily reads is Andrea's blog, The Flourishing Mother. This morning I followed a link she recommended and BOY am I glad I did!!! This one will surely change your day if not the rest of your days! I need to print it out and hang it up where I can see it all the time.

If you struggle with meeting everyone's needs in your family and seem to always get interrupted by someone needing something every time you try to finish a task--this read is for you.

Here's the post that Andrea and I both approve and recommend! Thanks Katherine from Raising Five!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What They See

Before my daughters get up, I blog. I do that because, obviously, I can read and write better without two little girls asking me 20 questions a minute. I also do that because I don't want to spend time while they are awake with my back to them at the computer.

And while they are awake what do they see? They see me cook and clean up 3 meals a day, transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer, fold and put away clothes, vacuum, do other household chores, teach them during school time, check on their chore progress, iron clothes, run errands, talk on the phone, pay bills, bathe them, read to them, etc. All the typical mom stuff that eats up our days.

But they do not see me read my Bible. They do not see me pray.

Why? Because, just like the computer, I can concentrate better after they are in bed.

Now, thanks to homeschooling, they do hear me read from the Bible and we always pray together at meals. But that is not the same thing as seeing mom study the Bible and pray on my own each day. I do remember one time I was reading my Bible on the couch. Sweetheart wandered over and asked what I was reading. I told her and we got into the lengthiest discussion on the passage. Later I heard her explain the whole thing to her dolls while she was playing and she really understood it. I thought to myself how important it was for her to see me reading my Bible, even if it did not always result in a great spontaneous lesson. But I didn't do anything about it.

I've heard the same thing about bill paying. Many parents pay bills at work or after the kids go to bed, for obvious reasons. Some believe that is a contributing factor in why we have teenagers leaving high school with no concept of money or what things cost. Having your older children sit down and help pay bills (they can stuff the envelopes and stick on the return address and stamp, assuming you still pay bills the old fashioned way!) gives them a real idea of where mom and dad's money goes. How can they learn to budget if they've never even viewed the process of handling money at home?

I guess you can see where this is can they understand what day-to-day faith looks like if they don't see it in action? Yes, I know there are hundreds of little ways we can talk about God throughout our day. And our children do see how we react to things that go on in life. But how powerful for them to have an example of a mother who daily reads her Bible and prays! Your children may very well have that...but are they seeing it? (mine arent!)

Now I know that the mother of preschoolers and babies dare not close her eyes for an extended length of time because she will a.) fall asleep or b.) hear the toilet flush and her children screaming and clapping and she will never, EVER, figure out what went down the crapper that day.

But if they can see us watch TV, sit at the computer, talk on the phone, and any other number of activities...can't they see us talking to God and reading his Word, too? I'm talking to myself here, too. What do you think? When do you read your Bible?