Thursday, April 28, 2011


One of our children is really struggling with feeling as if they don't belong in the family. He is obsessed with asking if he is adopted, deeply troubled with any perceived conflict or argument among his siblings, and thinks often of running away. And this is not the running-away-to-get-attention type of running away, that is easily handled with, "okay, I'll help you pack." This is a deep cry of "please tell me you need me here and I really do belong."

Have any of you dealt with this? Do you have any words of wisdom?

We have had several heart to heart conversations, another one just this morning. He wanted to know (again) why God didn't just make people always obey, why do people have to choose to do wrong? Why does satan tempt us to do bad things? Why is there bad stuff in the world, anyway? Why is he so bothered by conflict? Why does he feel so badly much of the time? He doesn't like to argue and his brothers do, therefore he must not belong in this family. He must belong to some peace loving family somewhere (okay, this is a serious subject, but that line of thought did make me smile ~ oh, if only there were any argument free families anywhere in the world!).

I told him that God had made him a peacemaker. God was using our family to teach him how to handle problems and conflicts with other people, because, unfortunately, that is part of living in a sinful world. I told him that being adopted or not wasn't the issue ~ God had picked him for our family regardless of how he got here. During our conversation I asked him if he'd ever thought that maybe his feelings were not the truth, and that satan was tempting him away from the truth? He said he had not thought about that. So we talked about what is true and what is not. The difference between what we know and what we feel. We talked about spiritual warfare, and how to fight satan. We prayed together. We sat and just "were" together for a long time. He said he felt better.

Please pray for our sweet boy. For me to have the wisdom I need, and for him to have the reassurance he needs. And that he will learn how to cling to the truth when his feelings are so powerfully telling him something else. Thanks, friends.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More 14th Birthday Fun

This was daughter G's year for a family party (we switch off every other year with a family party and a friend party - though the birthday person does get to invite one friend to a family party). During dinner we played several rounds of "Telephone", here son G is starting one off by whispering a phrase in Uncle Brian's ear.

Here's where it got really funny! My dear father-in-law is quite hard of hearing, but he really wanted to participate too, so we all hummed loudly and stuck our fingers in our ears while my mother in law whisper-shouted the phrase to him.

It completely fell apart at this point, ending up sounding nothing like the original! We had some good belly laughs during this game.

On to the presents...... thanks Grandpa Dean and Grandma B! The sweater fits!

Canvases and paints from her friend.

Art/light desk from hubby and me.

We also gave her a room makeover, which will happen in June once school is out for the summer.

Happy, happy birthday G! You are a constant joy and delight to us. We are so grateful God made you, and made us your parents. We thought it was one of the happiest moments of our lives when you were born, but since then you have given us many more happy moments. We rejoice to know that you have trusted Christ as your Savior and your heart's desire is to live for Him. We love you, and pray for you daily, sweet girl.

The birthday kids: My father in law, 93. Our daughter, 14!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy 14th Birthday Beautiful Daughter!

I can hardly believe our kind, sweet, beautiful daughter is 14! The years have flown by. But though I may glance back now and then with a grateful pang, I truly am looking ahead. With her. Looking to see what God has in store. How will He develop and use her gifts? How will he shape and mold her? What will her high school years be like? I am excited to see what God has in store for our sweet girl, who has brought us so much joy these last 14 years.

Happy, happy birthday daughter G! I am blessed and grateful to be your mom!

And Here's the "Real" Easter 2011 Family Picture

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Twist on the Workbox System

We have been using Sue Patrick's Workbox System for two years now with good results. It is a way to organize daily school work that fosters motivation and independence in your students (click here for a description of how we used workboxes originally). In order to make it work most effectively, however, I have to spend time each evening re-ordering the work in the workboxes, at least those few items that do change from day to day. And in our case, we have one schedule Monday through Wednesday, a different schedule on Thursday and yet another schedule (lighter) on Fridays when we have co-op, so on Wednesday and Thursday nights I was having to take a bunch of work OUT of the workboxes completely and store it somewhere, so only the items left was the work to be done the next day.

I don't mind working hard for my kids, but there is a limit to my time and energy, and this became really cumbersome. So last week I enlisted the help of daughter G, who is very organizationally gifted. I asked her to help me think of a way to tweak the system and make it more flexible for us. I told her what my two goals were, 1) to make it easier on me to change the order of work, or the amount of work, and 2) to make it very clear to the boys what they were to do each day so that they could do it independently without asking me what came next.

Daughter G thought about it for all of 3 seconds and suggested that I write the subjects on the little velcro squares rather than numbers. Brilliant! I made new little squares of cardstock in each boy's color, wrote subjects on them, and put little pieces of velcro on the back. These went on the cardstock squares we were already using for "done" work and became, essentially, our new assignment charts. Here is son L's assignment chart for one day this week (click on photo to enlarge):

(By the way, "activity table" is a table in the back of our schoolroom that has history or science activities on it. The activities change week to week. Currently there are Ancient Rome activities on it.)

I also made a second cardstock square to move all the little subject squares to as they were finished. This is the "done" chart. So now all I need to do to rearrange work is to move the little subject squares around, or take some off and put other ones on (for those things we only do once a week, etc). Super easy!

I put the two cards together on a ring so they are easy to hang or take anywhere. This picture shows son L's assignment chart in front and his "done" chart hanging behind, while son G's green "done" chart is hanging in front and his assignment chart is hanging behind.

So we did away with the plastic tubs and our workbox racks are now just a place to store our notebooks and workbooks in any order. This summer, when our schoolroom is, Lord willing, completed, the workbox racks will probably go away for good.

We have used this new system all this week so far, and we all LOVE it! The boys have finished their work in record time, and I have been able to spend a good portion of each morning working on reading with Little Man (more on that later) while the older ones progressed through their assignment charts independently. This is easy to manage, flexible for our needs, while still being effective as a motivational and independence-fostering tool. Thank you daughter G!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday

We came home from church yesterday with all the extra palm branches leftover from the preschool department (of course!), so Little Man decorated our stair case! This is the donkey he made in his kindergarten Sunday School class, and he added the Jesus figure at home. The branches will come down soon, but until then, a great reminder to rejoice in Jesus' obedience.

That Jesus came to Jerusalem, knowing He would be crucified, and willingly followed through with God's plan for redeeming us to Himself, is something for which I don't think I can fully express my gratitude until I get to heaven. I need my new heavenly body, and my new heavenly voice, and my new heavenly vocabulary!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Special Time with C and Little Man

What did sons C and Little Man and I do during the week that the other three were doing SAT testing?

We went to the library, just the three of us, and checked out lots of books. I have used various children's book anthologies over the years to help me choose the best of the best books to read to my children, but what I have been doing recently is using the 1000 Good Books List. I printed out a copy of this list and keep it in our library book bag. By and large, these are generally considered "classic" children's books, that have continued to delight over the course of several generations (and yes, there really are 1000! ~ for all different ages).

I read to both boys, and C read to Little Man!

Three of the five days we baked something together. Son C in particular loves to bake! On this day he made brownies almost completely by himself. The whole family enjoyed them for dessert after dinner that night.

Another day we made two kinds of cookies. Son C made chocolate chip, and Little Man made peanut butter.

I had C do some peer teaching. Using this tub of magnetic pictures, he helped Little Man recognize the beginning sound of each picture and place it appropriately on the white board. Little Man is still working on all the letter sounds, and this was fun to have his older brother help practice with him.

We missed the older siblings while they were SAT testing, but I'm thankful for the fun I was able to have with just C and Little Man! (a rare treat to be with just two!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Observation (and foot update)

I have been going to physical therapy four weeks already (and was just approved for 4 more weeks). As I am there about two hours each time, two days per week, I have seen a lot of other people come and go through the PT clinic. Some of them are on crutches or using walkers, obviously injured or recovering from surgery. Others walk in straight from work, nicely dressed, and it's hard to find anything obviously "wrong" with them. Do they ever wonder why *I* am there? Limping is unusual for me now, so my issue is less obvious than it used to be.

Observing so many people who are all coming in because they are in pain has reminded me that we just never know the hurt someone is experiencing. They may look fine to us, but actually be in a lot of pain (I got really good at hiding mine). The same is true for soul wounds. People can be functioning on the outside, but be in tremendous pain and turmoil on the inside. I'm thankful for the reminder to pray for each person I come in contact with, because they are probably dealing with all kinds of things I know nothing about. I'm also thankful that God does know. And that He cares deeply for everything that concerns us. (I Peter 5:7)

Regarding my foot.... I have made significant improvement in several areas, and my pain has definitely decreased, but I have quite a ways to go yet. I had a very frank discussion with my PT yesterday about the probability of ever running again, and meeting my life goal to run a 5K before I turn 50 (only 10 months away!). I really appreciated her honesty. She told me that if I am to run again, pain free, I need to lose weight. The extra weight I am carrying around is significantly contributing to the pain I feel, because it all ends up being carried around on my feet. I have known for a long time that weight loss would make a healthier me, but I don't think I directly connected weight loss specifically to the health of my feet.

The good news is that even a modest weight loss would be FANTASTIC for my feet. My PT told me that 10 pounds off the body is like 50 pounds off the feet. Isn't that amazing? I cannot do any exercise that puts weight or pounding on my feet, but I can do anything else. Which means I can bike. She said I can push myself to bike as much as I can. So, I am biking now for exercise. I started today. And I started working a diet plan yesterday ("diet" in the broad sense of the word, meaning what you eat) that mainly involves smaller portions and no eating after 8:00 p.m. I am hoping that these things combined will help me to lose weight so that, ultimately, I will be able to walk and run for exercise once again. My short term goal is to be 5 pounds lighter by the end of April. I think I can do it!

If I am not able to run pain free by the end of summer, I will change my 5K run goal to a 10K bike goal. For me, it's all about managing expectations. :-)

If you think of it, please pray that I can maintain motivation and consistency!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


11 year old son G: "Bad things still happen, but if you're a christian and you know Jesus, you can get through them."

After church last Sunday, daughter G leaned over to me and whispered with a tremor in her voice, "I really sensed the Presence of God in the service today."

When I shared this with my friend Emma, she said, "doesn't that just warm the cockles of your heart?" (not sure how to spell cockles ~ but yes, it did!)

6 year old Little Man: "F - O - R spells for!"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Year 1, Unit 2 and 3 Celebration!

It finally happened! Last night we had a combined celebration for units 2 and 3 of Tapestry of Grace, Year 1. That covered the time period from shortly after creation to 323 B.C., when Alexander the Great died and the Greek empire was split into three kingdoms. Note to self, that is a LOT of time to cover in one night! Try to do single unit celebrations whenever possible. :-)

We also had to wait on some food and did not start as early as I had hoped, but we had a great time, regardless. I heard from someone else about a really great idea to make passports for our young guests, with places for stickers as they heard/learned about various places throughout the evening. When I suggested it to daughter G, she took the idea and totally ran with it! These are the passports she made. Click on picture to enlarge.

Inside were several pages marked off with squares, one square for each country or civilization we mentioned.

Little Man was our first presenter. I read a short report about Ancient China, and he stood there looking as Chinese as possible. ;-) This is the little jacket I mentioned in my previous post, that I made the pattern for all by myself! I don't think it's authentic to the ancient time period, but I'm pleased with it, and he loves it! (it was nicely pressed prior to the celebration, but he wore it so much around the house it got horribly wrinkled ~ wrinkles on costumes I can live with!)

We had a member of our audience read a "fact card" about the ancient civilization in the Indus Valley (what is now Pakistan and part of Afghanistan). And then we ate. We had chicken fried rice (from the local Chinese carry out restaurant), and chicken tenders cooked in the crockpot with sesame ginger sauce. These foods represented China. We also had a selection of different types of olives, to represent Greece, as well as Greek bread and hummus. Since ancient Greeks did not use a table and chairs for their meals, many of the children ate on the floor!

After eating, we had a visit from a Mayan chief, who told us about life in the ancient Mayan civilization in what is now southern Mexico and Central America.

We then turned our attention to the Archaic period of Ancient Greece. Daughter G portrayed Penelope, long suffering wife of Odysseus, who fought for ten years in the Trojan War and then had a series of mishaps on his voyage home so that the return trip took another ten years! She read an essay she had written in writing class about Penelope.

After hearing from Penelope, we got to hear from Odysseus himself!

We moved our attention to Israel and what was happening with the Hebrews. The Philistine Goliath, of David and Goliath fame, gave a report on his people.

During King Solomon's reign he built a glorious temple in which to worship God. We talked a bit about the daily practice of animal sacrifice for the redemption of sin, and how the priests would blow the shofar (ram's horn) to announce the morning and evening sacrifice, to announce the beginning and end of Sabbath, and to announce or as part of Holy Days and festivals. Thanks to my dear grandpa, now in heaven, who made several trips to Israel during his lifetime, we were able to have a "real" shofar to blow at our celebration! Our two youngest boys can blow it best in our family.

And just fyi, about the costumes.... three of the five children did not have to change clothes completely to portray their second character, they just added something over the first costume. Most of the added pieces were not even sewn! So, super easy.

We learned that Israel split into two kingdoms, and how eventually both kingdoms were conquered by foreign nations. When Judah succumbed to Babylon, a young man by the name of Daniel was exiled to Babylon along with thousands of fellow Hebrews. Daniel told us the story of how he ate only vegetables and drank water for three weeks and ended up being the most healthy looking of all the captives in King Nebuchadnezzar's court!

After Daniel, we were graced by Esther, Queen of Persia, who told us the story of how God used her to help deliver the Jews from annihilation, and how remembering that deliverance is celebrated as the Feast of Purim each year (celebrated on March 20! So we just missed it!). We added a purple poncho over her Greek chiton (pronounced ki-ten) and a long, sheer, purple veil to transform her into Queen Esther.

The Persians later fought against the Greeks. Son G portrayed a Greek soldier from Sparta, during the time of the Peloponnesian Wars (wars between Sparta and Athens).

Son L then portrayed Alexander the Great, who in 12 short years managed to subdue nations and grow a vast empire, spreading Greek culture to every place he conquered. He died in 323 B.C., which is where our studies in Unit 3 ended.

Last but not least, and slightly out of order, we had son C portray the Greek citizen Pythagoras, best known for developing the Pythagorean Theorem (do you remember what that is??). We wanted to portray someone from the Golden Age of Greece, during the height of Greece's philosophical, mathematical, and scientific contributions, and son C choose Pythagoras. His costume required no sewing at all (just folding and cutting, and pins at the shoulders) and the "key" pattern on the bottom edges of his tunic was drawn on with permanent marker. :-)

We displayed just a few of the many books we enjoyed during these two units, as well as some of the children's hands on projects.

Friends and guests!

It was a very fun evening! Unit celebrations make such good memories. If you've never done a unit celebration and have been on the fence, you need to just DO it! It doesn't have to be elaborate or hard. Ours never flow quite as smoothly as I envision them to in my head, but they are fun and the children LOVE them! Our daughter was completely enamored with the costumes this time and said they were the best ones we've had yet.... which is pretty high praise from a teenage girl. :-)

I am thankful for the support of family and friends who always want to come to our unit celebrations, but even if it's just for your own family, you won't regret doing one!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Making Unit Celebration Costumes (Year 1, Units 2 and 3)

We had our unit celebration(s) today!! Pics from that coming soon, but here is a little teaser....

Sculpey clay teeth, made by daughter G, for a Mayan necklace.

Me, sewing! I am *not* a seamstress, but I can sew a seam! I was actually quite pleased with a little Chinese jacket I made for Little Man. I realized I was not a good enough seamstress to make up anything as complicated as having sleeves, without a pattern. As I did not have a pattern small enough for Little Man, I made my own out of tissue paper! A front, a back, and a sleeve piece, and voila'! It worked out GREAT, and turned out to be the most "finished" looking costume of them all.

We needed a couple different shields. For a Philistine shield we covered son G's Captain America shield from last Halloween with tan/leathery fabric....

....and to make a bigger Greek hoplite shield we covered poster board with more of the leathery looking fabric. Daughter G colored the boar emblem on it with permanent markers.

Son G made his Greek hoplite helmet by paper mache-ing a balloon, blown up to slightly larger than the circumference of his head.

He drew his face on the balloon first, so he'd know what not to cover.

When it was dried to just slightly damp and was still pliable, we fit it more exactly to his head. Then we let it dry completely before spray painting it with bronze paint.

Daughter G planned all the accessories for all the costumes, and did a wonderful job helping to make many of them! We had a great time portraying characters from Unit 2 and Unit 3!