Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? Part 2

Yesterday, I shared some of my thoughts on the problem of commercialism in Christmas. I also mentioned two other arguments I have seen against Christians celebrating the holiday - the date, December 25th and the holiday not being mandated by God. Here are some of my thoughts on why these two arguments have not convinced me to stop celebrating Christmas.

I don't know when I first heard the argument that Christmas was just a "pagan holiday" and that Christ was not actually born in December. It has been years since I first heard that. This year, I actually was researching all the winter holidays that I knew of - Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. In the meantime, I found that these are not the only holidays celebrated, many are just less well-known. In doing this research, though, I learned more about December 25th and actually felt like it was a great reason to keep celebrating.

Yes, both Easter and Christmas have their roots in both timing and symbolism in the pagan festivals of the Romans. Why the change in their calendar, though? Because one man came to believe in Jesus and his life was changed. Here is the account given in the "Christmas Mourning" article by Keith Green from 1979:
In the third century A.D., a wonderful thing happened. Constantine, the Roman emperor, became a Christian. For almost 300 years the Christians had been praying for their emperor's salvation. Nobody believed it was true! But then came the royal decree...Christianity was made the religion of the state. Everyone was strongly urged to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and only deity. At the risk of seeming uncooperative (and believing that it would be safest politically and socially), almost everyone in the empire made "professions of faith" in the new religion. This, of course, delighted Constantine.

After a while there arose a great problem. What were they to do with all their other gods? And what about all the great feasts and celebrations, especially the winter solstice and spring equinox?
Constantine was smart enough to know that not every convert was a true believer of the truth he had embraced. In an effort to keep the peace, he declared two "religious" holidays that fell on the same dates as the original celebrations.

Two things stand out to me in this historical account. First, Constantine was redeemed, saved from hell. His life was so changed, he did not want his pagan gods anymore. There are many areas of the world today that will gladly accept Christ in addition to their other gods, but this man gave up his worship of other gods for his belief in Christ. Second,we will never know, this side of heaven, which of the people in the empire were truly converted, but these two times of year were now focused on Christ. What better times to evangelize and let people know what the emperor's belief was all about. A pagan holiday was turned into a chance for evangelism and spreading of the gospel. It seems to me a great reason to still celebrate. Christ came here to redeem us, not one of us is righteous or holy. Neither is any day, in itself, holy or worthy of celebration. What makes this day worthy of celebration, to me, is that Christ even redeemed it from a focus on pagan gods.

This brings me to the last argument mentioned yesterday, "True Christians" would only celebrate God-given holy days, such as the feast of tabernacles spoken of in the Old Testament. If we look at the word "holiday," we know that it comes from the roots for "holy day." I do not know enough to argue whether Christmas should be considered a "holy" day or not. Even after visiting Wikipedia, it seems that not many others can agree on what should be considered "holy". Even if you look at the definition of the word in the Webster's dictionary, you could use the word to defend either side of the argument. However, Jesus came to fulfill the law, we cannot. We are under his grace because he came as a man and died for our sins. Maybe someday my convictions will change, but I believe that celebrating this truth is a good thing. For this reason, I celebrate Thanksgiving and Easter, even St. Patrick's day makes me celebrate when I see the amazing ways Jesus transformed his life and used his life to the glory of God.

I can certainly understand why someone might feel convicted not to celebrate Christmas, as they may feel that Constantine gave in to political pressure and declared some holidays to appease men. I can also understand why people may not want to celebrate for some of the other reasons I have read about. These are not my convictions, though. Even after reading the articles, arguments, and historical accounts, I still see cause for celebration. Would I define these "holidays" as "holy days"? I don't know. I guess it depends on what definition you use for "holy". I don't think it really matters. There are many people who do not know the day they were born, but they pick a day to celebrate their birth. If God wanted us to know the specific date Christ was born, He would have made it known. As it is not, I think it is fine to choose a fixed day to celebrate the event. When we focus on Jesus and celebrate him, I believe God delights in celebrating with us. I can't see God being disappointed in our recognition of his mighty hand in sending his son.

"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Lord, may my heart stay pure before you as I celebrate the birth of your son. Be ever with me and steer my heart in your truth. "See if there is any wicked way in me" (Psalm 139:24) and help me to celebrate as you would want me to. Thank you for this opportunity to see your hand in history, and for giving me cause for joy as I see the transformed hearts of men throughout history. I surrender my will to you and am willing to make any changes you ask of me in this area of my life. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? - Part 1

This year, I have heard a lot of conflicting ideas about Christmas. Now that the pace has slowed down, I have had some time to reflect on some of them. It seems funny to ask, "Should Christians celebrate Christmas?" but I have read a number of things this year that seem to make the argument that Christmas is not about Christ,one person going so far as to say that Christians should not celebrate the holiday. After all, it really is just a commercial holiday...Christ wasn't even born on December 25th, that was a pagan religious holiday..."True Christians" would only celebrate holidays mandated by God...right?

It seems to me that all of these arguments have something in common with the religious people of Jesus' day - the law. These arguments focus on what we know in our heads - facts and dates. Christmas, for me, is about celebrating what I know about Christ in my heart. I want to celebrate the transforming power Christ brought down to earth and look forward with hope to the day he comes again. As I have considered each of the arguments above, I have made my own conclusions. They are just my thoughts and opinions on each argument, and I know these things may change over time. I thought I would share them, though, in case any of you have wondered about these arguments, as well.

The first argument, "It is just a commercial holiday," certainly looks true in our culture. Just as we have stripped the Bible out of our schools and God out of our wedding ceremonies, our culture has tried to take Jesus out of Christmas. Christians have tried slogans to combat this - everything from "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" to "If you don't believe, you won't receive". I think, though, that this is like fighting a fire with matches - "sales slogans" for a commercial problem. We still tend to treat Christmas as a commercial holiday and just add in our slogans to try to remind people of why this whole tradition started. There are two things that I read this year that are challenging my ideas on how I celebrate Christ's birth. The first is a quote by Keith Green from his article "Christmas Mourning" written in 1979.

"I've seen Christians go in for all the trappings and trimmings. They spend hours, even days, in department stores trying to figure out what to buy for friends and relatives who already have everything they need...And all the while, a world full of starving, deprived people are silently, invisibly looking in through your living room window begging for a scrap of food, a rag to keep them from shivering to death, and an answer to their misery, suffering , and oppression." K. Green
The second challenge, for me, has come from a family that I read about recently. They do not open presents on Christmas morning, but instead spend the advent season choosing presents for Jesus. You can read about it here. It is a challenging thought; and although I don't know if I will ever have a tree with no presents under it, I am definitely planning for some more thought to go into presents for Jesus next year.


So, does this mean that I don't think gift-giving is appropriate and should be stopped altogether? No. I think taking the time to give to those around us is a way to show love to them. Christ told us to love one another, and I think doing that through giving gifts on his birthday is a way we can celebrate his message of love.

There are things that I will not be doing with my children, though. One of the traditions I will not be passing down is the "Wish List". You know the problem, family members need ideas for the kids because they don't know what to get for them. Dad and Mom need to get ideas, too, because they really only planned on what they were going to buy the kids. So, out comes the Sears Wish Book, filled with more ideas and choices than the child ever knew existed. Now, instead of just asking for one toy (or nothing), the child asks for more than they could ever get - and it may be hard for them to even tell you which they want the most. The whole point in advertising is to make you discontent with what you have - it makes you want something you don't need. Now, instead of being happy with whatever they get, they are set up for disappointment about what they didn't get. I am working hard to teach my children to be responsible about money and self-control in their desires. I feel it would be foolish to teach them that all year and then let them loose for one month at the end of the year.

There are a few things that we do to get ideas, though. I keep a list throughout the year of things that catch their eye (or mine!). We also take them along when shopping for others (for Operation Christmas Child, or for our sponsored children). We just try to pay attention to the things they are drawn to. It may seem that they are being exposed to an awful lot of advertising this way, but their focus is different. They are thinking of the other children they are buying for. I think this gives them an opportunity to practice correct responses to the overwhelming about of STUFF that is out there.


For this argument against Christmas, I think I want to be intentional about keeping Christ at the center. I want to keep doing advent with my kids, using the time leading up to Christmas as a reminder of the MIRACLE of his birth. I want to keep adding ways we can reach out to the "least of these" at Christmas and throughout the year. I want to teach my children the TRUTH about Santa; Saint Nicholas was a man transformed. I think having this holiday is a great way to remember again what Christ gave up for us - Not just his life for our sins, but coming here in human form in the first place. I don't think we fully grasp how much he gave up when he gave up his heavenly form to become a man; and that sacrifice is eternal. This argument does not seem to outweigh that sacrifice.

Tomorrow, I will let you know some of my thoughts on the other two arguments.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Thoughts - Advent

I didn't really grow up with Advent. I sometimes got one of those little cardboard things with the cutouts for each day and a piece of chocolate inside, but I didn't even know what Advent was. I think it was when I was pregnant with Princess that our church did an Advent wreath. They would light a candle each Sunday of Advent and talk about what that week was celebrating. It was then that I began to think more about the season. Then last year, I was challenged through Homemaker's By Choice to build traditions into the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. They asked Moms to think about traditions from when they were children and told us to ask our husbands what traditions they remembered. Each week, they would talk about the focus area of the week. I took the explanations, below, from the advent wreath I hope to get soon, and each week is as follows:

The 1st Sunday Symbolizes Hope with the Prophet’s Candle – Jesus is coming.
The 2nd Sunday Symbolizes Faith with the Bethlehem Candle – Mary & Joseph journey to Bethlehem.
The 3rd Sunday Symbolizes Joy with the Shepherd’s Candle – Joy at the coming birth of Jesus.
The 4th Sunday Symbolizes Peace with the Angel’s Candle – The Message of the Angels “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men"

Last year, I talked to Ryan about traditions I had always enjoyed as a kid, and what things I wanted to build into our traditions for our kids. I found a list of ideas at Homemaker's By Choice, and searched on the internet for other ideas. Then, after my husband had a heart attack got over the price tag, we bought a wooden Advent Calendar that we could add to ourselves with the activities we chose for that year.

This is our Advent Calendar:




Every day the kids get to open one of the doors and they see three M&M's (one for each of them) along with two other items...




The first is the magnet that they get to put up that day. By the end of the Advent season, we will have the whole nativity scene on the board above. The other little thing there is a scroll with the advent activity of the day. This is where I am hoping to build more tradition into our Christmas. Our kids are young, so we are really trying to balance the fun celebration of the season with knowing why we are celebrating. Some of our activities focus just on the fun of the season - sleepovers, surprise gifts, no chores - while the other activities focus on Jesus coming and the eternal gift that that is to us. The first week of this year's calendar we used "What God Wants for Christmas" and the kids got to open one box each day.  I thought it would be good to start the season with a focus on Jesus.

I hope to add a new tradition each year. I am sure some will last through the years, and others will either be outgrown or never really work. I am hoping to add an advent wreath for the four Sundays next year. For now, here is the list of things we chose for this year.

Activities
  1. Set Up Advent Magnet Board
  2. What God Wants For Christmas Box 1
  3. What God Wants for Christmas Box 2
  4. What God Wants for Christmas Box 3
  5. What God Wants for Christmas Box 4
  6. What God Wants for Christmas Box 5
  7. What God Wants for Christmas Box 6
  8. What God Wants for Christmas Box 7
  9. Library Trip for Christmas Books
  10. No TV Tonight...We are playing games!
  11. Taryn sleepover in Evan's Room Tonight!
  12. We are Going Bowling!
  13. Here are some gifts you can share... - We gave them some Christmas Books with CDs.
  14. Evan Sleepover in Taryn's Room Tonight!
  15. A Dollar for You, a Dollar for Them! - Go to the Dollar store and purchase a toy for you and for Toys for Tots.
  16. Ice Cream for Dinner tonight!
  17. No Chores Today!
  18. Help to Feed the Hungry today! - Go to the Grocery Store and pick out food for the Food Bank.
  19. Grab Your Cup of Cocoa tonight for a drive to see the Lights! - Our neighborhood lines the streets with luminaries, so we drive around enjoying the displays at people's houses and the candle lit streets.
  20. Christmas Present for the neighbors.
  21. No Chores Today!
  22. Finish Putting Up Your Magnets...Travel Day tomorrow! - We are also going to let them open some cards they have received already.  =0)

Whatever your traditions are, I know that they build a family up. So, I encourage you to find some fun things you can do in your family that will serve as a lasting bond. One of the things I STILL love to do is put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving to the tunes of Bing Crosby. Man! Even the thought brings back memories of childhood. I just can't wait to hear what things my kids remember from their Christmases while they were growing up!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

This is a little late, as the internet was down last night on my actual birthday, but I decided to post it anyway!  =0)

Many years, on my birthday, I have received "presents" from God.  For example, one year I was really upset because it was evening and my birthday had passed with no real celebration.  I had prayed before my birthday that the night would be clear, because I had fallen in love with the starry skies of Texas and I missed them.  I thought it would be neat to look up at a starry sky for my birthday, even though it would be a much smaller bit of sky.  Instead, it had been a cold, rainy and uneventful day.  I was getting ready to go to bed for the night, and was quite upset.  My mother came to my door and asked if I wanted to go out for ice cream.  I thought it might be a way of cheering up, so I agreed to go.  When we got outside, the skies were totally clear and full of stars.  Isn’t that just like God?  He answered my prayer when I least expected it.

I have often prayed that God would give me something special for my birthday, something just between me and Him.  This year, I asked a little late, but realized that I had a really cool present from him this year.

Did you know that today is the first Sunday of Advent?  Yep, it is early this year because Christmas is on a Saturday.  Up until last year, I don’t think I would have known anything about that, but Advent has come to be really special to me.  I heard a podcast series last year from Homemaker’s by Choice that was helping Moms create traditions with their families that helped to keep Christ at the center of Christmas.  I got some books on Advent and got a few things to help us begin building traditions together.  The one thing I liked that I didn’t get was an advent wreath.  It was decorated in each section to announce what that week of Advent was to celebrate.   I was so excited to learn that the first Sunday of Advent was on my birthday that I hadn’t thought until yesterday to look and see which area it was supposed to focus on.  I decided to look for the advent wreath and see if I could find out.  Well I did find it, and the focus for week one is on the Prophecies and promise of Christ coming, the Hope of his birth.  That made this “present” from God even more special.  I have struggled at times with believing Him with hope and expectation.  How cool is it that I learned so much about advent last year?  It is almost like it was preparing me to be able to enjoy this gift from God.  The fact that it involves hope and expectation is so encouraging to me.  I really want to believe Him with hopeful expectation at all times, and it is so nice to have this day of my birth celebrated with this reminder of hope that comes from the day of His birth.  What a gift!


Some other fun stuff from my birthday:
Pookie – “I yike (s)prinkles!”

Princess - I'm the love! – Little Man was talking with Ryan about being the “We” on the cake, not the “Mom.”  Princess decided she was the heart.

Little Man – “Gazumpa!” trying to say “gesundheit”

Ryan said he was proud of the cake he made.  Princess said, “It was the best you ever made because of my help.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Marriage - What I am Reading

Well, my computer has been having issues...my wonderful husband has been trying to help me, and I think everything is good, but we will just have to wait and see.  So, since I have not been able to get in here, I have not been able to schedule my posts for this week, as I did last week.  (I know...you were wondering how I was so good about writing last week, huh?  I love this scheduling thing!)

So, for today, I thought I would share a few posts I have read recently because I love what they had to say about marriage.  I have been thinking of writing some posts on marriage, but I have read two really good ones this week.  These women have had very different experiences than I have, but I thought it would be good to share their thoughts as I get some of mine worked out.  I learned a thing or two from each of them.  I hope you read them!

From Courtney over at Storing Up Treasures:
Talking about the M Word - Part 2

From mckmama at My Charming Kids.net:
Faking It

Friday, November 19, 2010

Creativity and Inspiration

Thanks to Jessica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler, I found a "blog hop" the other day where the Jessica Sprague Art of Digital Design Alumni were sharing the backgrounds and clipart-type images that they made as a showcase of what they have learned.  They each had a few elements you could download for free, but they all kept to the same color palette so it would be interchangeable.  Here are two images they used to show some of the elements:



The people from Jessica's classes came up with amazing images.  These backgrounds and images are used for "Digi-Scrapping" which is like scrapbooking, but you use digital images to put your layout together instead of physical papers, brads, etc.  I did this last few years for our Christmas Cards.  Here is last year's card:



When I visited the Jessica Sprague site, I was delighted!  They have so many classes that you can take on everything from digital photography and Digi-scrapping to Digital design.  They also sell their work, which you can then use to create with.  Even if you scrapbook with paper, you can print out some of the images or background papers and use them.  On the blog, they also have days where they share layouts and such for inspiration, which you can use for anything from Scrapbooking to Cardmaking to Blog design.

I am over-the-moon excited!  I can't wait to use some of the free stuff I got from the blog hop the other day to make our Christmas Cards for this year, and I am already adding classes to my "wishlist" that I am hoping to do after the Christmas season is over.  I have always liked the blog layout over at Confessions of a Homeschooler, and have been looking for some way of updating my layout in the future.  I even have a theme I have been thinking about.  I had already made the background and header that I currently use, but I used images that were available to me.  I have never made my own image before and I was not sure how I would get the logo to look like what I see in my head.  I was thinking I would have to hire someone at some point.  Maybe if I take some classes, I will have enough design experience to make my own little logo.  I can dream, right?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's in the Suitcase? - Part 1

One of the things I hear all the time is, "They are going to (hear, see, experience) it at some point.  You can't protect them forever."  It can be anything from bad language or behavior to outright evil acts.  I know myself and if I had no other influences then I would shield my children from any negativity in life.  However, I have also seen the results of some of this kind of "protection" - children who are thrust into adulthood never having learned to cope with the realities of the disappointments, pain and sin that are realities in our world.  I am, therefore, thankful for a husband who thinks differently than I do.  I am also thankful that there are many people who question my "overprotective" tendencies because it makes me think through WHY I am protecting my kids, and WHAT I want to protect them from.  I don't have that all figured out, yet.  But here are some thoughts I have had about it.

"What is sex sin?" - Thankfully, this is not a question I have been asked, yet.  I am thankful to have read the response of a very wise father whose answer really frames my philosophy on protecting my kids and is an example of how I want to relate with them.  The question was asked by a young (somewhere around 5 or 7 years old) Corrie Ten Boom.  Here is how she describes the situation in her book, "The Hiding Place."

"And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sex sin?"
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
“It's too heavy," I said.
“Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
His last statement frames my beliefs on children and knowledge.  There are things that they just are not able to handle, yet.  As they get older, they will be able to handle more and it is part of my job to decide when they are able to handle different subjects and how much detail should really be shared in my answers to them.

There are other things I like about the wisdom her father showed, but that will have to wait for another post!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Kitchen Sink

Well, my mother in law had asked how the cleaning was going when I saw her in October, and I have said here that I am trying to keep my priorities straight, so I thought I would share this with you.

Isn't this a beautiful thing?



(Well, ignoring the orange countertop and all...there are no dirty dishes and the stove is clean, too!)


Want to see something even more beautiful???



Isn't that great? My wonderful husband has been helping me out with getting things cleaned up, which is why I have been able to get a few posts done.  There are a few more I am working on, so I hope to post more soon.

Thanks for the help, honey!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Treehouse News - Wedding Week Memories

I can't believe it has been a month since Princess walked down the aisle as the flower girl for her Uncle's wedding. I don't think I was prepared for how much it made me think of her actually walking down an aisle for her own wedding! Maybe it was the white dress, maybe the pretty flowers or the beautiful hair (thanks Kim!) but, something just made me sad watching her walk away from me down the aisle. I was standing with the wedding party at the back of the church so that I could tell her when she was supposed to walk, and to be there in case she decided she just couldn't go by herself. She was a trooper, though. It was a l-o-n-g aisle, but she picked up her head and determined to go by herself...without me. I was so proud of her! It was bittersweet, though. Just another reminder of how big my little lady is getting.

I want to remember so many things from that day, and I know I am probably already starting to forget, but here are some of the things I wrote down that I wanted to remember:

Princess:
Enjoying some TV before "showtime"
"Mom, someday, you might disobey the GPS." - We had made it to the salon fine using the GPS, but we had followed some advice to follow a different route at the start of the trip.  I was fumbling with the GPS maps trying to figure out how we were supposed to get back to the road we started on when Princess made this comment.

Princess is definitely not used to getting attention and it usually takes her a little while to warm up in a crowd.  When we got to the salon, she was a little overwhelmed by all the women in there.  She sat in the chair without cracking a smile until they started curling the front parts of her hair that she could see.  From then on, she giggled every time she watched the curl coming off the curling iron.

Princess was also given her flower girl gift by the bride at the salon.  She did not really give a reaction when she opened it, so we were not sure what she was thinking.  Rest assured, Julie, she loves it.  Here are two things she said in the next few hours that express her gratitude:  "I'll keep this forever!" and "I love it, it's my favorite thing!"

Little Man:
A happy boy who earned his slide time
The wedding day was hard for my Little Man.  He had to wait, sit and be quiet most of the day, with a lot of controlling done by his mama.  At one point, he was very upset that I was "mad" at him.  We had to have a little talk at that point to encourage him.  He did have some fun, too, though.

When we got to the photo location, we parked right next to a playground...that we had to tell the kids they could not go on.  Little Man had just woken up to the exciting view of a playground, and then was told he could not go on anything.  He was bawling...loudly...by the time we were supposed to take pictures.  This is when Ryan decided that bribery was the best option..."If you smile for the pictures, I will let you go on the slide."  As you can see, he enjoyed it!


"I promise, I will give you a hug." - When we were all seated at the reception, Little Man leaned over and said this to me.  He then leaned over and gave me a big hug.  Apparently, they have been talking about promises in his Bible Club group, and he wanted to make me a promise. It was really sweet.

"That was a good one!" - After Ryan's prayer at the reception, half the reception hall heard Little Man's praise for his father's accomplishment.  Poor Ryan was left wondering why people were laughing at him when he was done praying. =0)

Pookie:
Enjoying some spinning on the dance floor
"My potty...(we) forgot it." - We told Pookie at the beginning of her trip that she could not use the potty because we forgot it at home.  Toward the end of our trip, we heard her talking to herself in the back seat about the missing potty.


Spinning in her dress. - From the moment we first tried her dress on her, Pookie started spinning around in it.  She absolutely loves to dance, and was not going to miss the opportunity to twirl that skirt!

Passing time with Mommy - At the reception, it was difficult to keep an overtired toddler entertained at the table.  I tried walking with her, hoping that she would be able to fall asleep.  That didn't happen, so we went into the next room and she spun around and ran around until I thought she would hurt herself.  Then, we started going around the room counting everything from plates in a curio cabinet to the shades on the windows.  She did so well, considering how tired she was.

All three of the kids enjoyed dancing to the music just before we left for the night.  It was great because they really had the dance floor to themselves.  They had such a fun time!

They also loved walking back to the car, and I was thankful we could get to the parking garage through indoor tunnels.



The final fun quote, though, comes from about a week after we got home.  Princess was getting ready for dance class, and Little Man saw her putting on tights and a skirt...he sighed and said, "Are we going to another wedding??? (ugh!)"  He was pretty happy to learn our trip was going to be much shorter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Festive Stars

Can any of you guess what these festive stars are decorating the railing for?

"HBM"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Piece of Paper

It has been a long time since I have blogged and I can't tell you how many times I have thought of my next entry beginning with, "I am a lazy blogger..." However, as I thought about it, I realized that the statement is not true. I actually have just been reevaluating my priorities, and this one has been placed right where it needs to be.

A while back, I wrote this post about doing what needs to be done, even when I didn't feel like it. Many times, when the housework was overwhelming to look at, I would escape to the computer. (In fact, while typing this, I realized I was doing that and left to finish the dishes before typing again...)  Usually, at those times, I am tired, so I didn't feel like trying to make sense of my thoughts.  Because of that, I would not blog a whole lot until blogging would become the thing on my to-do list that made me feel most guilty. One night, I realized - "This blog is for me - first and foremost - then for the people reading it." I had been so worried about the people who might want to be catching up on the goings-on here that I began to feel pressured. Nothing closes me up in communication more than that kind of pressure! I was paralyzing myself.

Really my lack of writing has been a return to my purpose - write about what is important to me at any given moment - and a return to my priorities - I have been following through on projects that have needed to be done for years. In the time I have been "gone," I have been more committed to keeping things tidy, cleaned out my kitchen, clothes closets and drawers, and gotten into a more comfortable rhythm in our homeschool. These real daily-living priorities have to come first; writing about all the memories along the way is secondary.

I have also discovered something else about myself...I am a paper kind of girl. In our ever-increasing "paperless" (yeah, right!) society, I actually like putting pen to paper to write out my ideas. (If I had realized that over the last few months, there would be more here. My computer was in need of repair and there was no way I was texting all of my thoughts into my iPod!) I think there are two reasons I like paper. First, when I turn on the computer, it is like sitting in the middle of my house and trying not to notice all the stuff that needs to be done. There are so. many. distractions. "I have to check my email...oh, yeah, did that bill get paid?...Hey, I wonder what (insert blogger here) wrote about today.  Add to this that I always am on the computer in the middle of the house, and there are a million other distractions...background noise, messes I *should* be cleaning, projects I could be working on...It is really hard to focus on making a clear sentence in that environment.

Second, there is something so clean and fresh and personal about writing out thoughts on a blank sheet of paper. It is like the quote from Anne of Green Gables, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it."  That is what an empty piece of paper feels like.  There is nothing distracting there. No demands are made on me there. The words flow out in my own handwriting, instead of one of the seven fonts I can choose from here.  (Actually, it is probably good there are only seven...I easily spend hours finding the right font for invitations and such - I even made a spreadsheet that allows me to type a word and see it in 125 different fonts...I still sometimes look for a new one!  How much time would I waste here???)  It is so nice to not have to think about typos or making the writing sound right...I can worry about that when I type it up.  With my tendency to "rabbit trail," it is nice to just be able to flip the page and write a quick thought for later, and not really miss a beat on writing my current thoughts.

There are a lot of things running through my head that I will likely share at some point.  I am not going to worry about when.  I am not going to worry about how long or short of a post I write.  I will write about what I am thinking about and, hopefully, it will be something my friends and family will enjoy reading.  In the meantime, you can rest assured that my ideas will be written out somewhere on a piece of paper way before you see them here, and my kitchen will likely be clean.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Treehouse News

Things have been much busier around here than I expected them to be.  I knew that starting home school would be a big undertaking, but was not thinking of all the other things that would be going on.  We have started our homeschool year, Preschool for Little Man, had a birthday party for Pookie and Princess and have been cleaning out at the house - both inside and out.  It has been a crazy time.

I have been saving quotes for a few weeks now and I  keep thinking that I need to get them up here, so I am finally getting to that.  I also have a blog post I started over a month ago that was supposed to be about our first week of school - ha!  We are now in week six, and will have to just get an overview of the last month and a half (or two months, if it takes me that long to get to it!).

Princess

Princess is officially 6 years old.  She is very excited to be so grown up.  She is a big first grader, who is about to lose her first tooth.  I cannot believe how big she is!

Here are some of the things she has been saying and doing:

Prayer:  "Lord, I do love you but, sometimes you freak me out because you tell me what to do.  Amen."
"I am only suspicious on Sunday." - I am not sure what that was about!

We have been coloring some pictures for Little Man's preschool curriculum at home - they often have stick figures of children or families.  Princess has been drawing in an extra stick figure when there is not enough to represent Pookie.
The kids were trying to guess at something, Little Man asked, "Is it Chocolate?"  I answered, "No."  Princess asked, "Is it a food product?"  I was surprised at her for the wording, but also that she picked an appropriately broad grouping to start her guesswork.

Princess and I have been working a lot on her handwriting, lately.  One of the things she has a hard time with is getting her letters to "sit" on the line.  As we reviewed her handwriting page one day, I pointed out this problem from the day's writing.  She said, "Sit right, you horrid things!"  in mock indignation at their inappropriate placement.  It was so funny!
Princess has been announcing every so often that it is, "Just because I love you day" and giving gifts and drawings out to others on that day for no particular reason.
Not sure which one was funnier, Princess or Pookie, but they had a bit of a role reversal one morning.  I heard them playing baby and Mommy in their room in the morning - only Princess was being the baby, and Pookie was being the Mommy!
"The milky things are on my palm tree." -  "What?" was my response to that!  Then, she said, "You know, the things with milk in them."  Ah!  She meant the coconuts!

Little Man

The biggest news for Little Man is his new year of Preschool.  He has been working at home with me on a preschool curriculum, but also attends the same Preschool that Princess did, and I hope Pookie will, as well.  He loves it all!  He is growing in his ability to read at home, and has a favorite friend at school.  He loves his teachers, and even wrote them a note to tell them so - he brought it with him to his first day of school.  

Here are some of the things he has been saying and doing:

 Getting ready for church one morning, DH had put a dress on Pookie.  I said, "Do we need a diaper cover for her, too?"  Little Man responded, "Mom, it's called a 'pull-up'"  While trying to continue my conversation with DH, I responded to Little Man, "Not that, the thing that goes over the pull-up."  DH had responded that we did need one, but Little Man didn't think so, "No, we don't need that..."  He was not done his sentence when I started putting it on her, and he responded to my action in an exasperated tone, "Well, I guess we can put it on."

Little Man is quieter than the girls, but he has a few key phrases he has been using, lately.

"No Kerplaimo" - This is supposed to be "No problemo" which he sometimes says correctly.  But, if I try to correct his own special pronunciation, he repeats his own.
"In a jippy" - This should be "In a jiffy," but he has flat out refused to say it that way.
"You Bet!" - This is his answer to anything that he thinks is a good idea.

Also, on his first day of school, we looked in his box to find one of his first art projects.  It was clearly made for Princess.  It had her name on it in pink letters, and a pink flower sticker on it.  I thought it was so awesome that one of the first things he did at school was to make a present for his sister.

Pookie
This little lady's vocabulary and ability to communicate continues to explode in little bursts.  Sometimes, I am not sure why she is saying something, but I know what she is saying.

"Ow, Kiss!" - She was mooning me when she said this.
"Mom.  Check On.  (Little Man)" - She said this when she was about to cross a bridge at our friends house to go see Little Man.
"Superfast!  Tickle, tickle." - This was followed by trying to tickle my lips.  Not sure why...
"Nackup" = Napkin
"Pooh-boo" = Pooh Bear
"(gasp) A-prise me!" - She had been shouting for me to come get her, and when I opened the door, she gasped and said I surprised her.
"Mmmhmmm.  it's true." - Princess was trying to convince me of something in the car, when Pookie added her convincing endorsement.
"Pin, Pin a-den.  You busy?" - Translation, "Spin, Spin again.  Are you dizzy?"
I left Pookie in bed after reading some nursery rhymes, when I realized I forgot to get something for Princess before I left the room.  Upon reentering the room, I found Pookie, foot in hand, doing "This little piggy" to herself.
"Talk your mouth!" - "No talking with your mouth full!"
"Pick a you lou" - "Peek a boo"
"Piggy Head" - This means she wants a shoulder ride...a Piggy back, only higher...


I love that each of my kids makes me smile so much.  There are so many more things they do and say that I forget to write down.  I am just glad I get to save some of them and share them with you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Energy

One night last week, as I was finishing up putting the kids to bed, I looked around the house...Ugh! There was still so much to do! I thought, "I can't do it tonight! I just don't have the energy." I figured I would catch up on my work "tomorrow." All of a sudden, I had this thought, "Who said I had to have energy to do this? It may take me longer, but I can still do it." It was like a strange, and unwanted, revelation. However, I realized that I had been shirking my responsibilities all too often because I just "didn't have the energy." I decided to get to work. Yes, it did take me longer, but that is okay. The reality is, there probably would never have been a time that I was energetic and happy to do the work that needed to be done. Work is just that...WORK. You can't just call in to your career job and say, "Well, you know...I am just not feelin' it today. I'll be back in tomorrow, though, for payday..."

It is times like this that I start to feel like it really does matter what you are watching, reading and listening to. What was I reading at the time? "In the Presence of My Enemies" by Gracia Burnham and "Missionary Stories with the Millers" by M. Martin. These stories are full of TRULY harrowing situations that people lived in. The Burnhams were on the verge of starvation, yet they still had to run through jungles and climb mountains in the bush. In one of the missionary stories, a mother had to leave her two young daughters in a field on a pitch black night with jaguars prowling around so that she could run blindly in the dark trying to find help. She was exhausted, too. Was she going to leave that undone? Boy did that put my situation in a more adequate light!

What if I had been reading one of the "Mothers need 'me time'" articles? I can guarantee you I would not have finished the work that night. =0) There would have been something missing, though - I would not have felt any sense of accomplishment. I would have gotten up the next morning with more to do. Because I was able to plow through and get it done, I actually had that sense of accomplishment and an opportunity to get ahead the next day.

Do I think moms need "me time"? Yes, I do. However, I think we have to be careful how much indulgence we allow ourselves for that. If we let ourselves think that too much, we will tire ourselves out MORE. Think about it, when you have been lazy with your body, what do you need to do to get more energy? Work out! By not working your muscles enough, you have made yourself more tired. Doesn't it work the same way with responsibilities...or any other thing that requires discipline? The more we do what we should, the easier it gets to do it. The less we do what we should, the harder it gets and the less we want to do it.

Since I had this little thought, I have been trying to do my responsibilities more often...tired or not. I don't always do it...it is so much easier to go online and "work" on things here. However, I am finding that when I do the other work first, there is always time to get my computer time in, or read that book or blog. Not so true the other way around. Another thing I read recently, that I believe encouraged me in this area was a blog entry on Discipline by Amy at RaisingArrows.net. She describes on that post her own convictions about her late morning routines. That blog post described me perfectly. I think my mornings might be the next thing on the "learning discipline" roster! Hopefully, I will be able to get to a point where it no longer feels like work, but just feels like the routine.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just for Fun

Okay, my friend Kathy tagged me in her "Just for fun" post, here are the questions she asked:

1. As a Mom, how do you find time for exercise?  I wish I had a great answer for this one!  I didn't actually exercise much for the summer, but I am looking forward to starting my Pilates class again, which I get to do because it is at night when my husband can watch the kids.

2. What type of exercise {if any} do you make time to do?  Other than the Pilates, I haven't done much.  However, I am looking at some books on Physical fitness in your homeschool hoping to get some ideas for getting my kids active, too!

3. What is your favorite healthy snack?  Argh!  Health and fitness questions...I am so bad at these...Okay, not sure if it is healthy or not, but I love Wallaby Lowfat Yogurt and some crackers for a snack.

4. What is your favorite 'splurge' snack? Chocolate Almonds, for sure, are my favorite right now.  (Really...I am addicted!)

5. What fall TV show{s} are you looking forward to watching?  I don't know!  I stopped watching most shows, and honestly don't know which ones that I do watch start in the fall 'til they show up on my Tivo.  I like 19 kids and counting, but that has already been going for a while now.

6. What activities do your children participate in?   We are just now trying to decide.  Dance for Princess, definitely, maybe soccer for one or both of the older two, and I would love to get them involved in some art classes.  We also joined a homeschool co-op and will be joining some of their activities as well.

7. What do you love most about Fall? I like that I can comfortably take walks again.  The crisp air, clear skies, and beautiful colors make it all the more enjoyable!

8. What book are you currently reading? I just finished "In the Presence of My Enemies" by Gracia Burnham and started listening to "Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom.

Now, I can't wait to go back and read what her other friends answered for the Health related questions! 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Overwhelmed

I have seen this word on blogs and facebook updates a lot lately, and I feel that way right now. I have been reminded of a saying, “It’s not what you do that makes you tired, but what you don’t do” (Donna Otto.) There is a lot I haven’t been doing lately: planning, prioritizing, focusing, eating, sleeping…these things really are exhausting me. After I posted last week, I was out of commission for a few days as a result of an inner ear infection, complete with flu-like symptoms combined with feelings of vertigo. Not fun. I am just trying to get back to my normal self now.

I am also trying to get a handle on exactly what NEEDS to happen, and what I am just wasting my time on. We shall see how that unfolds in the weeks to come. For now, I think I am going to kick back, relax, and wade through the mountains of paper in my office so that my space can be a little more organized for all the other stuff I need to do in here. Hopefully, I will then be able to finally post all the wonderful things that have been going on with school the last few weeks. It really has been wonderful…and I have some great quotes from the kids I have been saving up, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our "Workboxes"

I have been looking at some homeschool blogs where they talk about "Work boxes." I thought this would really benefit our family and help us to be organized and help me to be accountable to not skip the activities that take more preparation. So, I looked into them, but wasn't sure I wanted to buy any of the supplies I saw others using - I felt it was too much money if we found out the system wouldn't work for us. Then I saw this type of set-up on The Homeschool Classroom blog.



I loved it! It is the perfect way for us to see how this system works for us, and it was less expensive to try. (A few hours after this picture was taken, the 3M hooks I was using gave way...so, I ended up moving them to our office and hung them with picture hangers instead.)

Last week, in preparation for our first week of school, we decorated some folders for each subject. I still need to label them...don't know what is taking me so long! I keep having to look to see which one is Princess' and which is Little Man's.



I will post more about our first week of school at the end of the week. Hopefully, I will actually have some pictures of some of our activities. As of right now, I have been finding my bearings and have not had the camera on hand. Maybe I should get that ready tonight! =0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The (hopefully) before pictures...

My editor (DH) suggested that I should tone down the language of this post to protect the innocent. So, here we go. I thought we had the ugliest bathroom, until I saw on HGTV that there were people worse off than us. In saying that, though, I would like to submit these pictures of the paint in OUR tiny master bathroom:


And just in case you can't see the sponging detail, here is another shot.



Now, I would like to submit that these colors (Teal, dusty rose, and mauve) were probably "in" at the time the bathroom was done and HGTV probably did not exist. The person probably did not know to mix glaze with the paint, or how to use the sponge to get the effect they wanted. (I can't even tell you what I think of every time I look at the shape on the left...they are everywhere, though.) They probably did this in the bathroom because NO ONE would ever see it, and it was a good place to test it. I would even like to think that it did not turn out as they had expected, and that maybe they, too, thought it was...well, maybe not ugly. They did keep it...

It used to have a border around the middle, too. We took the border off the first week we were in the house, and I was sure this would be one of the first rooms to get a face-lift. That was six years ago. What happened? About a week after we took off the border, the shower was pouring water into the basement. A simple paint job and new fixtures were not going to cut it. So, we took down a wall, called a plumber and were told the pipes were fine, but we could get a whole new bathroom for $$$$$. We did not trust him. But, it was just discouraging enough that we figured we would have to wait until we had money to get the shower fixed before any other work in the room. As I am not one to start a project I can't finish, this is what I have been looking at for the last six years.



I know...we made it worse! The only times I have been sick enough of waiting, and decided I wanted to at LEAST change the paint, I was pregnant. I was not sticking myself in that tiny space with paint fumes. So, it never got done. There is a glimmer of hope, however. See this?




That picture there is the prototype for the low wall we are going to build for our new shower, that will have a glass enclosure. Some paint and new fixtures (did you catch that mirror?) are the only other things standing in the way of me and a new bathroom.

We firmly believe in waiting until we have the money for a project before we start, and there are so many projects we have had to do on this house. The first year here, we found out the coal stove we now owned was a fire hazard, and we needed a new stove. We knew this would make a huge difference in our heating costs, so it got priority. In the subsequent years, we fixed the roof so we wouldn't have shingles flying all over the yard any more, replaced original (1972!) windows, switched to vinyl siding (which DH installed himself!), gave the kitchen a new look (though I dream of a new kitchen...) and FINALLY got rid of the orange carpet in the basement. So, I don't know whether it will be months or years before the bathroom is really finished. I am hoping for the former, but I am just happy to have that little glimmer of hope that SOMETHING is going to happen after all these years!

Then...I think it will be on to the office...(EVERYTHING from the flooring to the molding, to the window, to the walls are the same color blue...not sure WHAT they were thinking. The only thing different is the inside of the closet which is sponged (again!) with primary colors. Although, there are two other bathrooms making their cases for attention, as well. Decisions, decisions! =0)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Treehouse News

No, we are not building a treehouse. As much as we all would love that, it is not in the plan, yet. So, let me explain a little. I wanted to have a design for my blog that would be a little more permanent. In thinking about that, I have gone back to the verse that helped me name this blog, "A longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I am hoping to design something using a tree type theme (more on that another time...) I was also looking for some way to name our updates about the kids so that it was always the same. I figured I would go with the tree theme. I hope that I get around to designing the new look so it will make more sense, but I am going to start naming our posts about the kids stories and quotes as "Treehouse news." Hopefully, this will help the grandparents find their favorite stories. =0) I am also hoping it will help me write them more often.

For now, I will start with our most recent "news". It has been a while, so I will just give some highlights.

Princess

Princess Enjoying TWO books


I have been watching this little lady, of late, and I am amazed at her firstborn tendencies. As a second born child, this is killing me! I have been getting some insight from some of the other firstborn's I know (thanks, Dad!) so, I am learning to see her differently.

Here are some other things she has been up to:
- If I find Princess quiet somewhere, she is either reading or coloring. Her creativity with color is so much fun to watch.
- She loves to wear MY sweater when she is cold. The other day, my DH said, "Don't worry, someday she wont fit into your clothes anymore." Funny...she is only five and I already have to share my clothes with her!
- Everyone she meets is her best friend - From the child who would not LOOK at anyone as a baby, this is a real turn around. She talks to everyone. The other day, we spent an extra five minutes at the checkout so she could finish her story to the cashier.
- Just so you know, her vocabulary is also expanding...I am not even sure where she got this one:
P - "We used to have fires all the time." (In the fireplace.)
Me - "We will again."
P - "When? When winter sets in?" (For the rest of the day, both Princess and Little Man were looking forward to that time when "winter sets in")
- We have been getting books from the "Teach me how to be Good" series. We read the book on being rude, and I often remind the kids that they should not be rude to each other. Here is the response I got one day from Princess: ""That wasn't rude. I read the whole book, and that wasn't in there." Yep...love that comprehension!
- "Mom, you're so sweet, I'm never gonna leave...not even when I am grown up and supposed to."

Little Man

Cooling off by the air conditioner

I have been at a loss with Little Man for the summer. He needs structure and he needs to run around...he hasn't had much of either. Things have been changing around so much that our structured days took a backseat to opportunities for fun. When we have been home, we haven't had much time out because of the heat - and Little Man has a difficult time with the heat. Even when we have gotten out, he is the first one ready to go in.

Here are a few examples of what he likes right now, and a few quotes:
- Solving mysteries - We have been reading some mystery style books lately, and he has really gotten into it. One night, after Pookie's birthday party, I left a cupcake wrapper and candy bar wrapper downstairs. The next morning, he came up to tell DH, "I have a CLUE! Two Clues! A cupcake wrapper...and a candy bar wrapper!" After doing some sleuth work, he discovered who left them. =0)
- Rain Boots - I got rain boots for the kids so they could go out in the rain, and they have REALLY enjoyed jumping in the puddles with them. Little Man, however, does not like getting rained on. So, he is generally in a jacket with his hood on!
- Love for Pookie - He has been writing notes and drawings to tell Pookie that he loves her. It is so sweet!
- This summer dressing up has exploded as an activity in our house. Little Man likes dressing up, but has informed Princess he does NOT want to be the prince! I guess that story line has gone on long enough for him!
- Starting to love books - I love that I am finding him more and more often with an open book quietly looking through it. It is going to be interesting teaching him to read because he guesses correctly so often!
- This is a conversation we had in the car on a day when the kids had been in front of the TV ALL DAY (Confession time for me, I guess...)
LM - Can we watch a show?
DH - No you already had enough shows today from the sound of it.
LM - No, we didn't have that many.
Me - Yes you did. You watched...(I started listing off the titles)
LM - That's only 4.
Me - Oh, then you watched...(I listed two more)
LM - That's only 6. That's not a big number. I want like 10.
DH - Do you know how many shows I watched today?
LM - No.
DH - None.
LM - Oh, well when we get home we can watch a show and then...

I didn't hear the rest of what he said...I was laughing too hard.

Pookie

Pookie after her first bath with "Baby"


This little firecracker has had a wonderful time the last few weeks. She got to celebrate her birthday 4 times the week of her birthday, and now "Happy Birthday" is her favorite song. (It has nothing to do with the singing Pooh Bear balloon I bought her for her party...guaranteed to play at least 50 times! I thought DH was going to lose it!) The picture, above, is her with her new bath time baby doll - she loves it!

- Potty training - I can't believe how well Pookie is potty training. She has had two or three accidents all week. We did go out a few times with pull-ups on, and she did need them. At home, though, she has done wonderful. Today, in the car, she told us she needed to go. We were a few minutes from home, but when we arrived she was still dry and went on the potty. You go girl!!! We had an awful time finding panties that would fit her, though. Size 18m just doesn't seem to exist. Luckily, we found some really narrow 2t/3t. They seem to fit her okay. We will be trying them out this week.
- Singing, dancing, dressing up - I can tell how much she adores her brother and sister because she wants to be where they are and doing what they are doing. She is ALWAYS singing, and if she has a dress on there is dancing to go along with it.
- Quotes -
- I dropped a towel going from the washer to the dryer. I said, "Whoops." She responded by picking it up and saying, "Tain choo, wackum". (thank you, you're welcome) and then throwing it in the dryer for me.
- I asked, "Do you want me to carry you?" "Umm-hmm, carry me." I find it interesting that she used the correct "me" instead of "you."
- "Watch me mom!"
- Dictionary of terms: Cuckoos=Blues Clues
Tepup=ketchup
Fa-fish=goldfish
Yam=lamb

I hope you enjoyed our long update here. Hopefully, I can keep up with their news a little better so I don't feel like I need to tell you everything that they have been doing. I am so proud of them, and how they are growing. I hope you have enjoyed some of their stories, too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Travel Checklist

Okay, so we have taken about a trip a month since the beginning of the year, and I have gotten really good at packing for all of us. One of the best tools I have found for this is my Traveling Checklist. I found the original list in the book "Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time" by Donna Otto.

I liked the idea of the list, but it was not practical for me. There is no color coordination of my "uniform"...namely jeans and a t-shirt. I didn't need to remember pantyhose or tennis clothes. However, I did need to remember to bring the kid's special sleeping items EVERY TIME. There is no forgetting bedtime buddies. Well, there sometimes is forgetting of them, but there will not be as much sleep. So, I tweaked the list to be more in line with what we need, and thought there might be other moms that could benefit from my version of a packing list. Every time we have traveled, we have added to the list. This last time, we did not forget anything we needed.

Here is a look at the list:


For clothes, I just think about how long the trip is and list the number of each item I need in the column for each type of clothing. Then as I fill each person's quota, I check them off. My favorite thing about this list is that I added a "Which Bag" column. For all the items other than clothing, I list where I packed everything so that we can find it easily. It also makes it easier when re-packing (for the trip home) to remember where everything fits!

The other thing I think is great about this list is that if it is a long time between trips, and I am no longer so used to packing, I will still know what we need to bring with us. I hope you get your own list together to help you in this process, too. If you are interested in the excel version of the list, email me and I can send it to you. =0)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Above Average

I have read that most parents think that their child is above average compared to other children their age. By definition, "above average" cannot be the status of the majority of children. Most of us have average children; average, individual, special, precious children who have been given the skills they need to achieve their purpose in life. I think we see them as so advanced because we get to watch them as they discover about life and explode into new areas of knowledge that we know are new to them. It is amazing to watch. Because of this, I think it is good to gain some perspective on what an average child of our child's age is learning or knows.

Proverbs 1:8 "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."
Whether children are in private school, public school, home schooled or even UN-schooled, I firmly believe that their education is ultimately the responsibility of their parents. We are the only ones with the unique knowledge and perspective of our children to know their strengths and weaknesses. We are the ones God entrusted with their little hearts for this season, and we have a responsibility to them. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 31:26, Eph 6:4, 2 Tim 4:2) How well do we know what they should be learning, though? What kinds of things are they learning in school, and what kinds of things will they learn only at home?

I think, as a society, we have assumed that if we send our children to school they will learn all they need to know. How many parents in the past have thought that their child was learning because they were progressing through the school system, only to learn that their child can't even read? Nowadays, I think that is less common. However, all of the children I know that do the best in school have their parents backing them up, checking up on them and making sure that they learn the work habits they need to succeed in school and in life. We, as parents, should know what they are learning in school and supplement whatever else we know they need to be learning.

Prior to our decision to homeschool, I was concerned about character development - how to know what to expect at different ages. I knew they would not be taught about character in school, but I also felt I had no clue what was even age appropriate for their school room learning. How was I supposed to know what "reading at a second-grade level" meant? I have found two resources that I hope will really help as I move forward in teaching my children in character development and academics at home.

"What Every Child Should Know Along the Way" - Gail Martin

I first Heard about this book on the Homemaker's By Choice podcast that I listen to. In one episode of their podcast, they had talked about developing your children's character and other skills. They mentioned that this book by Gail Martin included lists of what you should expect from children of different ages in different character and skill areas. I was excited to hear about a book that would address some of these concerns of mine. When I went to look for it on Amazon.com, it was listed for anywhere from $25 used to $375 new (OUCH!). I decided to wait until I could research it more and see if I could find it cheaper. I just found it and bought it on sale for $4.70 from the ministry that apparently originally worked on it (the foreword in the book is by one of the people from this ministry.) The name of the ministry is Growing Families International, and I found the book in their store, here. It looks like they might have more parenting and family resources, so I plan to check them out more later.

"Evaluating for Excellence" by Teresa Moon:
I have read a few posts about this, but I like this one best from The Homeschool Classroom, it was written by Brenda who blogs at Ties that Bind Us. For those of you not interested in reading the post, let me just give you an excerpt:

When I found this book, Evaluating for Excellence: A Handbook for Evaluating Student Progress, in 2004, I didn’t know what a gold mine I had hit. This book is better then year-end evaluations and it helps me plan our following year more effectively. It is full of tools to evaluate your children and yourself and it tells you how to use them. My favorite one is the Character Qualities Review. It has qualities listed such as: attentiveness, brotherly love, contentment, courtesy, cooperation etc… You evaluate your child by checking off weak, improving, satisfactory and excellent. When you place 2 or 3 years worth of this evaluation side by side you can really get a picture of the type of character your child is heading towards. It tells you where to put your focus.
After that, I was ready to read the book. The introduction of the book had me laughing so hard because of the similarities of my experiences to hers. (She contrasted a day when her son got stitches to a day out for a Mocha...my baby just got stitches and I LOVE my mochas!) Her point was this: how we feel about what we are doing changes with our circumstances, but we cannot judge our progress (or our children's) by how we feel. We need to have a better measuring stick than that. Here are some areas that this book can help you evaluate in your child's life:
  • Character Development
  • Student Inventory (overall assessment of every subject)
  • Diagnostic Writing Checklist (to track writing progress)
  • Family’s Approved Book list
  • Reading Genres
  • Physical education
  • Student Assignment Sheet
One of my favorite forms, so far, is an evaluation for me as a Homeschooling Mom - How am I doing? Do I need outside help on anything? I need to be aware of these things so I can make wise decisions for my kids.

Your child may be in a GREAT school. They may be really smart and getting great grades. I think it is wise to consider if there are things you might want to focus on with them, too, though. Are they learning more or do they just already know what is expected in their grade level? Are they being challenged or are they bored? Do they have a lot of academic opportunities, but not social ones? Are a lot of physical activities offered, but not many spiritual ones? Are they given lots of experiments, but not enough artistic expression? There are so many areas of education, and we need to be aware of how our children are growing in these areas. One of the reasons I think homeschooling is so great is that I can tailor their education to their strengths and weaknesses. I can give them opportunities to excel at their strengths and give special attention to their weaknesses. Even without homeschooling, though, I believe you can supplement their education so they are given those extra opportunities or the extra help they need.

I will be looking more at these two books, and maybe I will do more of a review after I have finished them. I like what I see so far!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm Sorry...I Forgive You

"What is the secret to a long and happy marriage?"
"I'm Sorry. I forgive you."

I am pretty sure it was while watching the Duggars on TLC (I don't know if they had 17, 18 or 19 kids at that point!) that I heard the above quote, but I loved it. Jim Bob Duggar had asked an Amish man the question, and that was his response. It is so simple, but so true.

The other day, I had a chance to practice both parts of that answer, and I realized how hard it can really be. We have had our fair share of apologies in our marriage, but to be honest we don't have a lot of arguments. I think of us as being really happy in our marriage. What I realized the other day, though, is that it can be in the little hurts and offenses that we can lose our connection with each other. We have little bad habits that hurt and frustrate each other - sometimes we are even frustrated with ourselves. It was one of these habits that gave us the chance to practice our ability to be humble and forgiving.

I am NOT a morning person...I hate mornings - especially loud mornings. I like to sleep in, and I like it to be quiet when I do wake up. That doesn't happen - it cannot be expected to happen in a house with three small children. My DH does not necessarily like getting up early, either - but he wakes up earlier than I do. From the beginning of our marriage He would just about ALWAYS get up and be showered and leaving for work by the time I got up. After having children, he kept his normal routine and fed the kids when he would eat breakfast. Now, he is ready and has the kids dressed and fed before I am up. (I KNOW!!! How blessed am I???) This is great in the sense that I have been blessed with such a wonderful husband, but not so great in the sense that I have never built my own routine for the morning with the kids. So, I feel really out of place if I am left to fend for myself in the mornings. It frustrates me that I have not gotten better about getting up early enough to be with my family all together in the morning, and we both have not gotten better about getting to bed at a reasonable time consistently. (If you were one of the ones I talked to at the beginning of the year, when I was getting up before the kids woke up...yeah, that died with all the trips we took. The kids are now consistently getting up WAY earlier, and I am consistently getting to bed way later...and I was doing so well for a while there!)

On the day in question, my DH got upset with me for not being ready for church when I should have been. We had talked the night before about maybe not going - we had had a very long day followed by a long drive that night and the kids were exhausted. Upon waking, I looked at the time and figured that it was late and we were not going that day. My DH, however, was planning on attending. So, he was ready, the kids were ready, and he felt like I had left him to do all the work on his own and I was not even ready so I could go with them. We had a few words, and he decided to go with the kids. I decided that I didn't want to go anywhere.

"Without Faith it is impossible to please God" Hebrews 11:6
What happened next really reminded me of the verse above. I had decided to start my day, but was not planning on attending church. Then, I had the simple thought, "Consider others as better than yourselves." (Phil 2:3) I started to think about that...what does that really mean? Who had I been thinking of that morning? If I were thinking of my husband and children, I would have asked him what he was planning instead of assuming that we were not going. I would have acted differently when we did talk that morning. So, I changed my mind and got to church as quickly as I could. Meanwhile, my DH was having similar thoughts. He was thinking of what he should have been focused on.

I still felt tension when we were together, so I tried to talk to him when we got home, and a few other times, but we didn't really resolve anything and I was hurt that it felt like I was trying to fix things and he didn't care. The next day, I brought it up again - ready to defend myself for the things I felt he took the wrong way. He then said that he realized he needed to apologize to me. It was completely disarming. The things I wanted to defend myself about no longer mattered. That simple and genuine, "I'm Sorry" saved us a long discussion and argument, and reminded me of the things I needed to apologize to him for.

It seems I learned a long time ago that sometimes, even when we are offended or hurt by someone, it may be that we still need to apologize to them for something we have done. It is hard to do that, and humbling. Somewhere along the way I forgot to be aware of that, and to look for what the other person is seeing. I hope the next time we have a misunderstanding that I will remember to look for what I may have done to cause it, instead of automatically being on the defensive.

I believe that a happy marriage pleases God. I believe a broken marriage breaks his heart. I can see how God showed up in our situation because of our faith and enabled us to do the things that would please Him. I am so grateful that God shows up in these everyday ways...I can only imagine what this situation would have looked like if we did not have faith, and did not have God convicting us of our own errors in dealing with each other.

I think that Amish gentleman really had it right. "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" may be the most important words that we say in our marriage.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Playing with Photoshop

I have been interested in Photography for years. I love taking pictures of kids. Before I had my own, I used to sit my neice down and just click away on my camera. When I found out I was pregnant with Princess, I was blessed to be able to take a photography course as on of my last college courses. I have always been grateful for the experience. I learned that I had really good composition, but I was frustrated by my lack of contrast in many of my pics. Though I am still learning more about that, and other actual photography tricks, I have been amazed lately at what Photoshop can do!

My first thoughts about this came from a new blog I have been reading, mycharmingkids.net. This amazing woman has four small children, one on the way, and is a photographer, among other things. The link above goes specifically to the section on "Photography Lessons." Some of the tricks I knew, but I have been learning a lot. One thing I always lamented was that the colors in my photographs were not like I would see online or in magazines, etc. Well, as it turns out, I am not such a bad photographer. I just didn't know I was supposed to change everything in Photoshop. I am still really looking forward to taking better shots straight off the camera, but as "McK Mama" said on her site, "...I just love to take a super photograph straight out of my camera and kick it into high gear so that it becomes a super work of art."

So, I thought I would try a few of the tricks. I chose that photo because I knew it was flat, and I didn't try to make it perfect, but it is pretty cool how much more the photo stands out.

Before

After



While I enjoyed playing with this photo, and learning to work with the color, I was a little shocked later at some before and after photos that I found here. I knew photos in ads and magazines were edited, but I had no idea how much. I think the sad thing to me was how fake some of the people look. While photographers have always played with lighting and color in the dark room, I think the people in some of the photos from that link lost their character. (I especially disliked the cute girl whose freckles were airbrushed out. I like freckles!)

While I think I will play with my photos...fix the lighting, boost the color, etc...I don't ever want to change them so much that they are no longer the photos that I took.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Little Miss Independent

I had alluded to Pookie's tendency to just go ahead and get whatever she wants in my last post about the kids. She is the only one of my children who will go into the closet and grab whatever she wants and start eating it. She did not start out being sneaky about grabbing stuff, but that has evolved as she figured out I would take it away when I found out. *smile* Her tendency to run away with things has expanded to non-food items, as well. After my last post, I decided to start keeping track of the things I have found her with. Here are some of the things I remembered to write down:

  • Raisins - by far her favorite snack! They get stolen more often than anything.
  • Body Spray - Not only did she take it from my room, I found her spraying it on herself frantically to get as much out of the bottle before I took it.
  • iPod - When she knew that I saw her, she ran to try and put it back where she found it.
  • Goldfish - We have the biggest box I could find...she can't even get her arms all the way around it.
  • Scissors - Another thing she knew she wasn't allowed to have...thankfully I got to her before she went running with them.
  • Chocolate Covered Almonds - She doesn't even like them! I think she thought they were the chocolate covered raisins. hehehe
  • Make-up Bag - AGAIN! Thankfully, I found her before anymore red got on her face.
  • My Keys - This one is kind of funny, because I have found the doors to the car open when she played with them before.
  • Chip Bag - At 10am, a little after breakfast, I heard her plop down on the floor with a bag. When I turned around, she already had the clip off and was eating.
Here is an example of what it is like when I catch her in the act (at the end, she is telling me to turn the camera screen so she can see herself...)



Last, but certainly not the least...yesterday, she came up to me with my espresso beans. She had taken the bag out of the box I keep them in, opened it and already had a few in her mouth. She said, "Coffee!" Then, she started to chew them. The look on her face was priceless! She looked like she was confused by why something that mommy likes so much would taste so horrible. I wanted to grab the video camera, but it was downstairs. I asked her if it tasted good, she said "mm-hmm" (yes). A few seconds after I figured out what she had in her mouth, she spit them out. So, I only got a picture of her pointing to them on the floor. Still, I wonder if she has learned anything from this valuable lesson???

Pookie pointing to the beans on the floor
The beans by the bag