Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Overheard....

Six year old C has been working on memorizing Psalm 23 as one of his Awana Sparks requirements. We often practice at the table during meals. You may recall that part of it says, "He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

Tonight at the dinner table, Little Man just randomly said, "God has lots of names, and one of them is sake!"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Recent Pics

As you can see, we are all spending lots of time in the kitchen! C is helping me make a stuffed sandwich.




Betcha didn't know that Superman paints with water! It's one of his lesser known abilities.


Daughter G has become quite the accomplished salad maker!

You know you're using a lot of garlic when......

....you push part of the garlic press out with the garlic! I thought I found all the pieces, but our daughter found a part of it in her soup!

Friday, March 27, 2009

My deep cleaning project of the week

Most people I know have a hard time keeping up with their paper pile. I do too. The "standard" paper pile can be bad enough, but when you don't have an office (as our home does not) and you put an entire school room in your kitchen too, it gets 10 times worse. I have had a continuous struggle figuring out how to organize my kitchen/office/schoolroom so that all 3 functions can operate smoothly without the whole room looking like a mess all the time! Though my kitchen has plenty of cupboards for a kitchen, it does not have enough storage to HIDE all the office and schoolroom stuff. When we moved in nearly 8 years ago, I started keeping just a few files and some paper and a pen at the back of the island counter, near the phone. Over the years those files grew into this mess:


As you can see, it threatened to take over the entire counter! Meanwhile, just a few feet away, this narrow little counter started out as our "music center". In the cupboards below this counter was our "craft center", where we kept our craft supplies, crayons, markers, construction paper, etc, which the children had access to pretty much all the time. The low cupboards are still the craft center, but the music center slowly evolved into our junk, "catch all" counter. We don't even have a CD player here anymore since we use the CD changer a few feet away in the family room.


The clutter was really getting to me. So we took Thursday afternoon off school so I could tackle this mess. I sorted, tossed, and organized for several hours. I found several interesting things! I decided to move the "office" function away from the island counter by the phone and over to the narrow counter. Since the narrow counter is partially hidden by our pantry wall, and it was a mess anyway, might as well make it a functional, organized "mess"! I am very, very happy with this part of the project below. It looks like a kitchen again!


I am less thrilled with this part of the project. Though it is very organized, it is still out in the open. I just can't figure out how else to do it though, without a dedicated office room. Believe it or not, I use most of these files on a very regular basis and if I were to keep them downstairs in a file cabinet, I would have a huge messy pile of "to file" papers that I would not be able to keep up with (ask me how I know). At least this way I put the papers where they belong right away. Does anyone have any other ideas?

I am grateful for my counters. I am grateful for my large, sunny kitchen. I am thankful I get to spend all day with my children and that we have the freedom to learn together at home. I'm thankful that we "live" so fully we make messes! And I'm thankful God gave me two strong arms and a healthy body so I can clean up those messes. :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Overheard....

Little Man had a rough day today. Two late nights in a row and no naps makes one very cranky 4 year old. To top it off, he got a spanking during nap time when he was caught OUT of his bed, playing with a car mat. We have a rule that while his music is playing he must stay in bed and try to sleep. If he is still awake when the music stops (79 minutes later!) he may get out of bed and play quietly. Well, the music was still playing and he was out of bed, searching for a specific car that goes with this dollar store car mat one of his siblings gave him for Christmas. The spanking was not averted, the car was not found, and the nap was not taken. Many tears.

At bedtime tonight.....

Me, after being what I thought was quite patient while standing in the doorway listening to him talk about the missing car: "It's time for you to stop talking and go to sleep now. I'm going to close the door, and you need to close your eyes and go to sleep."

Little Man: "But we need to find the car!"

Me: "We'll look for the car tomorrow."

Little Man: "Okay, we can send out a search party."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bittersweet Moment on our life journey with SPD

"But by the grace of God, I am what I am." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:10

I witnessed a very bittersweet moment a few days ago involving our son L who lives with Sensory Processing Disorder. Having SPD go unidentified for the first 7 years of his life led to a certain dynamic among our children where L often got unduly blamed for things, or overly blamed for a minor offense (there have also been moments when he has used this to his advantage, but I have observed him being the "victim" more often than the "perp").

One of his struggles involves auditory processing, so although his ears work just fine, he will often not correctly process words he has heard me say ~ when it is a command to all the children the others get mad at him when they obey and he appears not to. He has tended to be easily frustrated and slow to use self control, so these behaviors, coupled with excessive blame by his siblings, have led to many conflicts requiring immediate intervention by me. We are striving to teach the children to treat each other with love and respect, to use words instead of hands, and to practice extending grace to others. Generally speaking, I am encouraged by the children's progress, but they are young. They have a long way to go (me too!). Read that: we are not there yet. There have been and are some very discouraging days, when I grow weary of intervening (we've been practicing this for months, shouldn't they know how to resolve this on their own by now?) , or feel sad at the emotional wounds L may bear. I am SO thankful the children are home with me all day, but nevertheless, there are moments of conflict when I am not present. Increasingly these are handled fairly well, but sometimes they are handled very poorly by the children involved. And since I cannot know which words, which actions are going to be the ones etched in L's memory, it weighs on me at times that a series of harsh responses from one of his siblings or friends (or me!) will inflict a wound he carries into adulthood. How thankful I am that I can trust L's future to God!

When L was "diagnosed" with SPD just over a year ago (I use the word "diagnose" very loosely since it is not yet a recognized diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), we had a talk with our older two children. Trying to strike the balance between not making it a big deal, but understanding where L was coming from, we explained that he had something like a traffic jam in his brain. Messages couldn't get through properly. This was not something that could be "fixed" like fixing a broken traffic light would cause the traffic to flow smoothly again. We explained to them that what we and L would be working on was a detour around the traffic jam. A way to go around the jam and still get the messages through. It would take re-learning on L's part, and patience on our part, and we urged the children to pray for their brother and to have compassion for him, knowing that some of his "L-isms" were things he couldn't necessarily help.

Fast forward to last week. I had been to Sam's Club and had purchased a large box of Quaker Oats breakfast bars. The kind with frosting dribbled on top! These make a convenient food for my husband to eat in the morning while driving 45 minutes to his part time job. They are also irresistible snacks for children who have not had much convenience food lately. :-) Unbeknownst to any of us, L helped himself to 3 of them during a single afternoon. That night he let it slip that he'd had 3 bars that day. The other children began to protest, and one in particular started to really let L have it. I could see L sortof square his shoulders and prepare for the onslaught. I stopped it immediately and explained to the children that L had done nothing wrong! No need to treat him like a criminal. He was hungry and found something to eat, that was all. Then I explained to all of them that from now on these bars were to be reserved for daddy's breakfast and their snack during Friday co-op. On other days we would have other snack food. I addressed L directly and reassured him that he'd done nothing wrong. And I asked him to repeat the new rule about these bars, which he did.

Then, he cried.

Not sobbing, but quiet tears down his face. He was so sure he was going to get in trouble for eating 3 bars, that when he didn't he was overwhelmed. My heart broke knowing that he has come to expect to always be the scapegoat, but also warmed as I watched him experience grace.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

"Lord Jesus, thank you for making our son L just the way You did. Thank you for entrusting him to our care. Please give us wisdom to parent him well, and to justly distribute mercy to all of our children. Give the other children your love for their brother L, and help him to learn how to circumvent his traffic jam. Help us to parent with grace, even when we are sometimes frustrated ourselves. Thank you for always pouring out Your grace on us. You are the perfect parent. I love you. Amen."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kit Kittredge

We saw this movie last Friday during our family movie night. Since both daughter G and myself recently read the books we thought it'd be fun to check out the movie. We really enjoyed the movie, though it differs from the books in a few important ways. Except for one family (mom and son) the boarders they take in are completely different in the movie than they were in the books, though these changes are necessary to support the plot that becomes evident. Kit was very well played by Abigail Breslin, and we enjoyed watching her spunk and creativity! Our boys liked it as much as G and I, and I highly recommend it!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Our Week in Review

My husband and I spent several hours at our annual homeschool book fair today. It is like a mini-convention, with two large rooms of vendor booths, and smaller rooms for seminars. I have gone to this book fair for years, and usually buy the bulk of our daily work for the following year ~ things like grammar and handwriting and phonics and math. This is the first time my husband has come with me, and that was fun! His job was to decide on our daughter's science curriculum for 7th grade next year, and my job was to window shop and talk to friends! :-)

I didn't buy a whole lot this year due to our employment situation, but thanks to a gift I was able to purchase this pile of math books and dvd's, which will see us through the rest of this year and all of next year. We love, love, love Math U See!

Here are some scenes from earlier in the week:

(I just love watching my children READ, knowing that I had the privilege of teaching each of them this important, life long skill! As a true book lover, few things warm my heart like this does! And on a side note, even though our couches don't match, isn't it great that we have 4 corners to curl up in?)




Preschool activity time!


Helping make blueberry muffins.




Furiously trying to wash off the crayon marks which he scribbled allover our kitchen floor. I am happy to say that they are finally all off. Our daughter G mopped the kitchen floor today and she did a great job! I was so happy not to have to do it myself, I paid her $2. And you have to admit, those are some pretty great squares Little Man drew!


We started spring classes at co-op on Friday. All of the children love their classes, and I am continuing to enjoy teaching my Zoology classes. It is a bit of work to prepare, but we are loving learning about flying creatures (currently studying insects) all together this year. It is our family's first experience using a science textbook, and I have to say it has been a good one. In fact, we are planning on using Zoology 2 with the boys next year! That one covers swimming creatures, and I'm sure they will love it.

And in case anyone is wondering what my husband chose for our daughter's science, he decided that we'd use Apologia's General Science book. Apologia is the "giant" of science curriculum in the homeschool community. Don't know what their market share is, but I'm sure it's huge. Because they are a distinctly christian science curriculum we wanted to make sure they handled the science well. Sometimes christian science textbooks can be really heavy on the "christian" and not so good on the "textbook". After reading through the general science book for 2 hours, my husband felt that Apologia was very balanced in their approach, while also being very christian in their worldview. I'm relieved that decision has been made.

Tomorrow afternoon I must write lesson plans and menus for the week. I seem to focus more on one than the other at any given time but have a hard time doing both, so wish me luck!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prayer Request

***2nd update*** It finally INSTALLED at 1:30 Saturday morning!! Thank you Lord!! Thank you so much, those of you that have been praying. My husband has been struggling with this all week and now, thanks to your prayers, he can get on with the business of programming. He's not sure what finally made it work, he has tinkered and banged around so much it's hard to say just which combination was the winning one. But I'm convinced it was prayer. :-)

***update*** as of 2 PM Friday it has still not installed. Please keep praying!


For my praying blog readers, would you please pray that SQL server will correctly install on my husband's laptop? (SQL is pronounced sequel) He already had SQL server on his computer but it was an older version, and he needs the new version in order to complete a freelance project he is working on (and we have anticipated using his payment from this project to pay April's mortgage!). He cannot do any more work on this project until this software correctly installs, and it has failed nearly a dozen times. My husband has stayed up late too many nights to count, reading notes from other programmers, trouble shooting, uninstalling things and reinstalling. We thought he'd found a break through last night, but alas, it didn't install again. Please pray that it will correctly install soon. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Love Homeschooling!!! (or, how we spent the afternoon at the park on the first really warm day of the year!)


Yesterday was in the high 60's and sunny. Practically a heat wave for this time of year! We worked very hard at our schoolwork all morning and then after lunch we walked to our neighborhood park to play. We even wore sandals! (yikes! I need to start shaving my legs again!) It was simply glorious. We had a marvelous time!


We watched our neighborhood duck couple frolic in a very large puddle...........


....and then we joined them!




Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Salon Mom

Before:




After:

(one boy is still holding out with long hair for a little while longer) :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Inexpensive Easter Basket Ideas?

Do you have any ideas for inexpensive items for Easter baskets? I have a few ideas, but would love others. I have a few small things from the dollar store and can make home-made treats for the children's baskets. I am also somewhat of a mean mom because I always give the children a few things that they really need, like socks and underwear. What else?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Our Week in Review

Ah, this week ended well! It was a beautiful sunny day today, not really warm but warm enough to be outside and dream of spring. My daughter and I swept and spruced up the front porch, and finally took down the outside Christmas lights (yes, we're one of those families!). I hung our Easter yard flag and put our "He is Risen" wreath on the front door. My husband and sons worked together on a project in the backyard (pictures below). It felt good to get a few outside things done! I made a goal a few weeks ago to try and work at least 15 minutes a day at organizing and deep cleaning some area of our home that really needs it, and I'm happy to report that a major pile in our bedroom which had been there for well over a year is now GONE! I have one huge garbage bag of stuff to donate, plus one small bag, and a plastic tub full of things to sell at the MOPS sale in May. I also gave 3 of my boys haircuts today ~ they look quite handsome if I do say so myself!

We had a good week in school too. We learned about President Johnson who assumed the office when Lincoln was assassinated, and about the reconstruction era following the Civil War. It is so clear to me now how that ill-handled period paved the way for discrimination and a hundred years of racial tension that was to come. I wonder how history would have been different had Lincoln lived and presided over reconstruction as he had planned it?

Among our school activities this week was finally finishing our model of the Monitor (of "Monitor and Merrimac" fame) out of an empty soy milk container and floating it in our kitchen sink. More on that in another post. Our son G has been fascinated with the famous sea battle between these two ships for several weeks now. I think he has read Battle of the Ironclads about 5 times!


Our daughter G is currently finishing up Tom Sawyer on audio CD, and at the same time devouring this book, a true story of an African princess who is taken under Queen Victoria's wing. Last week she finished reading Behind Rebel Lines, another true story this time of Emma Edmonds, a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. It's so interesting to view history through several different lens!


She read this entire book this week and learned so much about Reconstruction.


Meanwhile I used these books during my history time with the boys. We touched on the transcontinental railroad, reconstruction, carpetbaggars, slavery and the underground railroad, and Laura Ingalls!


It's been a while since I've mentioned our Bible reading. We are currently in Matthew chapter 13, and among our readings this week was the parable of the sower who sowed good seeds, but during the night while everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When harvest time came, the harvesters were told to cut the weeds down first and throw them into a fire, and then to harvest the wheat and bring it into the farmer's barn. Here is son L's picture illustrating this story. In the bottom right corner you can see the enemy, sowing weeds during the night.


And this is son G's picture of the same story. On the left you see the workers sowing good seeds during the day, and on the right you see the enemy coming during the night to sow weeds. The kids are really loving all the parables we're reading right now ~ trying to figure out who or what each element of the parable represents. Jesus explains this parable quite plainly to his disciples after he has spoken it to the crowd. The farmer is God. The wheat seeds are the children of God. The enemy is satan, and the weeds are all those who follow him. Harvest time represents the "end of the age" and the harvesters are God's angels who divide all the people into those who follow satan (the weeds, which are thrown into the fire) and those who follow Christ (the wheat which is harvested and brought into the barn - heaven). The children got that one pretty easily, especially our oldest. Some of the parables are harder to understand.


I just love having a one room schoolhouse and seeing firsthand all the different ages working at their ability level on the same topic. Truly it is thrilling to experience! Here are our daughter G's Abraham Lincoln president pages. She had so much to write about she had to write in some of the picture space. She included many details she had learned about Lincoln's childhood and young adult years, things we read about which are not commonly known.


Here is a close up of part of her picture at the bottom of the page. On the left is "Abe, the rail splitter", and on the right he has been elected president and people are throwing their hats in the air with excitement!


On the other end of the spectrum, here is the same page done by our son C. The only words he wrote himself were "Abraham Lincoln". Then he dictated the rest to me and I wrote for him. He was quite taken with Abe's courtship of Mary Todd, and how she was being courted by two men at the same time and had to choose. For anyone who actually reads his paragraph, I suggested the word "governed" in the last sentence. :-)


And what was Little Man doing during all of this? Practicing cutting...... (I have LOTS of little papers to prove how much he practiced!)


....and being Batman!


Here's the backyard project my men completed today. Mulching on top of the mud under our swings, and re-laying the rubber mats with holes in them that the grass grows through. They really do help to keep the mud layer to a minimum, but it has rained SO much recently that our poor soil just couldn't keep up. Much nicer on the shoes now, and much nicer on my carpet. :-)


Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Huge School Related Blessing!!!!

For my fellow TOGgers, yes you are seeing correctly......

One of my Tapestry of Grace yahoo group sisters blessed us recently with a complete Year 1 redesign year plan, in binders AND page protectors!!!!! This represents a year's worth of history, literature, geography, worldview, and church history studies (as well as government and philosophy for when we get to high school) and is a $225 value if we were to buy it new. This is a HUGE blessing for us, even though we won't get to year 1 until the fall of 2010. Thank you my sweet TOG sister!!! You have blessed us immeasurably!

And now I must decide if I will be a page protector gal or a non page protector gal.......!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Parenting During Difficult Times

Since my husband was laid off in November, it has been interesting/sad/humorous/challenging to realize how the layoff is affecting each of our children differently. They don't really remember the 5 month layoff we experienced 4 years ago. Well, our oldest remembers it a little but the boys don't at all. Little Man was just a week old! Now that they are older, they are experiencing it differently and, from their point of view for the first time. For some of them it has been almost a non-issue, and for others it has been a bigger deal. For this mama, it has been a good reminder to watch, listen, pray, include them in the struggle at a level that is appropriate, share God's provision with them when He supplies what we need, and make sure my own spirit is resting and not fretting so that my worry doesn't spill over to them. The events of the past few months have made me aware, again, how much of a thermometer we moms are! How it goes with us is often how it goes with the whole family. For better or worse, we are the gauge. That is a tremendous amount of responsibility and power!

Little Man is pretty much oblivious to the situation. His life has changed the least. Yay for being young!

C, who is 6, knows that we had to stop tae kwon do (which he wanted to take a break from anyway), and that we don't get Boston Market on Sundays anymore. He also knows that we are eating more ramen for lunch ~ which he loves!! (and at 25 cents per package, it's easy on the budget!) So for him it has been pretty much a positive thing. :-)

Our son G is a very practical, matter of fact, easy going soul, and he has taken this layoff in stride. He prays for his daddy to find a job, but he does not appear overly worried. He does miss tae kwon do, but he seems to grasp that this financial hardship is a season.

8 year old L on the other hand has become very worried that we will lose our house and he will have nowhere to live. He is quite anxious about this. It took me a while to tune in to how much this bothered him, and when I did it made me sad to know his little heart and mind were so troubled. I have had several short talks with him about this (can't give a long mom speech or he tunes out completely!) and we have prayed together. In all honesty I can't tell him that we for sure WON'T lose the house, but I have told him that I don't think we will, and that if we do, God will provide a new place for us to live and He will give us grace to go through that if and when it happens. We don't need that particular grace right now so it has not been given us. We are also very careful to share with all the children when the Lord provides for us through the generosity of others ~ to stop and thank the Lord together and to affirm to them our trust in God's ability to take care of us. We can pray and speak the truth to our children, and we can model for them what faith looks like, but ultimately they must each choose to trust God for themselves. That is something only they can do.

God has done such a cool thing for our daughter G! When we registered for winter classes at co-op, before my husband was laid off, G signed up for a Kit Kittridge class. Kit is one of the characters in the American Girl series, and she happens to be the one whose stories are set during the Great Depression. As part of the class, G had to read all 6 of the Kit books, and I read them too. In fact, I couldn't put them down! They are good! In a nutshell, Kit's father loses his car dealership business and uses up all the family's savings to pay his employees and to pay off his debts. This leaves them with nothing and they are in danger of losing their home. Kit's mother is extremely resourceful and she comes up with the idea of taking in boarders in order to generate income. Kit must move out of her bedroom and up to the attic, which she at first is not happy about. But when she realizes what heavy burdens her parents are carrying, and how the situation is really affecting everyone else more profoundly than her, she changes her attitude. She matures alot throughout the 6 books, and comes to be a (mostly) helpful and energetic assistant to her mom.

It has been so clear to me how these books have been a means of helping our daughter process our own situation right now. She has often made passing comments, almost like she is thinking outloud, such as, "We had to stop taking tae kwon do lessons just like Kit had to stop taking dancing lessons", or "we're learning how to use up every little piece of food just like Kit's mom did." Or my favorite, "maybe we can keep chickens just like Kit's family did." (we are actually seriously thinking about this one!!) I think reading the books while her own father is looking for work has given her some sort of connection with Kit, and I have to say that reading them now has given me a whole new appreciation for my ancestors who lived through the Great Depression! Comparatively speaking they were worse off than we are now, yet they found ways to survive and thrive during that time. If they could do it, so can we!

Please pray with us that our childrens' young faith will be strengthened during this testing, and that they will remember that God met them and walked with them through this time in their lives. It is hard to watch our hardships become their hardships. This is a much bigger problem than not getting the cereal they wanted for breakfast. And yet bigger problems mean bigger answers. We so want to display God to our children and to point them to Him during this time. Please pray for us as we parent during this layoff!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fun Family Field Trip

On Saturday our family joined the Stockade boys from church on an awesome field trip to a World War II air museum. We learned quite a bit about the B-24, B-25, and B-17. We got to see all these planes up close, though the B-24 is still being re-constructed from scratch, and we even got to go inside the B-17! Both the B-25 and the B-17 are flyable, and they fly each summer in several air shows. This was particularly fascinating for us because my husband's father helped build and maintain the B-24 during the war. It is amazing to have a WWII vet for a father in law! They are becoming such a rarity as the years go by.

Here are C and Little Man standing beside the B-25 propeller. The B-25 is the plane used by Doolittle's crew during the Tokyo raid. If you have seen any war movie involving that raid, you may recall that they had to take off from an aircraft carrier with only 600 feet of runway. These planes were designed to take off on a runway twice that long. Looking at this plane, we could not believe that they were able to do it. Even though it is a medium bomber (as opposed to a heavy bomber) it is BIG!


G and L under the nose of the B-25.


It was seriously cramped inside the B-17! It was designed for 18-20 year old young skinny boys! Sadly, so many of them did not make it home. Here Little Man and I are walking on a narrow walkway across the top of the bomb bay to get from the main part of the fuselage to the front of the plane. When the plane was in flight and the bomb bay doors were open, you would have been able to see straight down several thousand feet. On either side of my shoulders it is just open to the ground. Very freaky!

In front of the B-17.


This made the day unforgettable for Little Man!! He did not want to get out of this toy plane. It fit him perfectly, and he happily pedaled for about half an hour. They keep it at the museum just for little visitors to play in.


G and L sitting in the bombadier's seat in the B-17.


The whole Stockade gang in front of the B-25.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

An Emerging Reader!!

video

Here is our 6 year old son C, reading!!!!!!! We are using "How to teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons" for his daily reading practice, but he got on a kick today reading these little easy readers I purchased a few years ago. He read 6 of them! He felt quite proud that he could read a "whole book". You may have to turn the volume up on your speakers, as he is speaking rather quietly. And you will notice that many words he is still sounding out so this is basically de-coding practice. But is that not the basis of fluency?

Very exciting!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Visit with Cousins!

We had a most wonderful visit with my cousin Janette and her daughter Sarah this week! Sarah is going to college not too far from us, and her mom flew out for her spring break. They drove to our house on Monday and we had the BEST time with them! Sarah has spent a few holidays with us and she is practically a member of the family now. :-)






While we have been able to see Sarah a couple times a year lately, we had not seen my cousin Janette for nearly 3 years, and she instantly fell in love with Little Man. Her youngest child is 13 now, so she had lots of fun doing the preschool thing again!



We gave Janette our bed and hubby and I slept on our pull-out bed in the family room. This became an awesome playplace the next morning! We took the day off school and played all day. I love homeschooling!



Janette and Sarah took all 5 of our children to the grocery store, shopped, and came home to cook a mexican feast for us. I napped the whole time (it was only supposed to be 45 minutes, but no-one woke me up....) :-) This is some of what I awoke to:




It was delicous!! Good work kiddos!


Janette and Sarah, it was such a joy to see you again. We love you!!