Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Circus side shows

I  finished the peaches last night (at 11 pm).  (The tally?  Twenty-one quarts of canned sliced peaches, 11 pints of jam... or peach syrup if you insist that jam must actually be jelled, and 7 pie's worth of frozen peaches in the freezer.  Plus we still have a fruit drawer full of fruit to eat.)  I can now move on to other things.

And those other things?  Pondering why this past weekend's article in the paper about large families annoyed me so much.  It wasn't necessarily a bad article.  The mothers of the families interviewed (one of them Mary, from Owlhaven, a blog I regularly read) were articulate and normal sounding.  There wasn't even the requisite interview in the these types of articles from the 'opposition'.  (In homeschooling articles this view is routinely represented by either an upper level school superintendent type or teacher's union rep and in a large family article it would be either some child psychologist about the dangers of being one of a herd or a more normal (in the eyes of the writer) person with a regular number of children saying something along the lines of, "I just don't know how they can do it.")  Really, the article was fine, and while I've been slicing and slicing and slicing peaches, I've been trying to think through my incredibly negative reaction.

And I've come to two conclusions.  The first is that it seems that large families (and by large, the article was definitely including families with four or more children) have moved into the status of circus side show performer.  The side show was a sad commentary on how society treated people who were outside the mainstream, often through no choice of their own, but because of a physical deformity or genetic disease.  Instead of treating them as just as human as the rest of society, they were relegated to entertainment status; something to stare at and then turn away and go back to 'normal' life without having to seriously consider the moral implications involved. 

It's no secret that large families have moved into a form of entertainment.  Television networks have made buckets of money showing the population the lives of many large families.  And judging from the various comments I've heard about them, many people watch because they are waiting to see a train wreck.  Either the train wreck happens onscreen or they believe that the train wreck must be coming at any moment because there is no way that a family with 19 children can be normal and raise functioning adults... something must give at some point.  The reasoning behind this is:  "If I, who have only 1 or 2 children can barely cope with the one or two that I have, there is no way a woman can possibly manage more.  Something has to give and surely the children are living a deprived and emotionally arid life."

The other reason that I think explains my negative reaction is the sidebar article that accompanied the main one.  The sidebar which began something along the lines of, "Yes they are expensive."  And here is the real crux of my annoyance.  More and more, children are not viewed as human beings who are valuable because they are created in the image of a mighty and loving God, but on economic terms.  How much are they going to cost us?  What losses will we have because we chose to have children?  What will I miss out on buying or what trips will I have to fore go because I have to feed these extra mouths?  And if you are an adoptive parent, I'm sure you know full well the question, "How much did you pay for him?" (Which, by the way, is probably one of the single most insulting things you can say to an adoptive parent.  Just don't do it!)  But it does highlight how society has come to equate children with cost.  Once again we treat children in a way that adults would find highly insulting.  No one wants their value as a person to be calculated with a cost-benefit analysis.

And all of this is based on a false view of economics.  We as believers follow a God who has a very different economy; one that doesn't make sense to our rational human side all the time.  He only gives us what we need when we need it, and often that doesn't come until we have said yes to what He has asked and started to move in the right direction.  God is never late, but He is not early, either.

I'm sure if you were to ask any mother of a large family if she felt capable of parenting many children at the point in time when she just had two, she would laugh and say, "No!"  But at the point we had two children, we didn't have 7 or 8 or 9, so we didn't need that capability.  As we added to our family, our ability to parent grew as well.  Parenting children is a learned skill; one that has to be practiced.  Most large families were not instantaneously made.  Children were added one or two at a time, and as the children were added the competency built.

The amount of work 9 children require as opposed to, say,  three is misunderstood as well.  There is this impression that each time you add a child, the work doubles or trebles or quadruples, etc.  This may be true going from one to two, but it doesn't continue this way.  Many things, such as fixing dinner or cleaning the house, have to happen regardless of how many children I have.  Doubling a recipe and cooking it is really no more work than preparing a single recipe.  I use bigger pans, but I don't double my time.  The house is the same no matter who is living in it.  I probably do less cleaning than a mother of two because I have so many more people to divide the work between.  Many hands make light work and all.

The same is true on the money side of things as well.  There was that figure mentioned in the newspaper article about it costing upwards of $260,000 to raise a child.  It has always baffled me because it can't possibly be accurate... at least not in my universe.  So many things can be reused.  You don't have to buy your children the latest toy or gadget (and probably shouldn't).  Some bills are the same whether it's three people in the house or 12.  Much of it all comes down to how you use your resources and that huge figure must assume that the person spending the money has not been careful at all.

And really, even if it did cost that much, what does it really matter?  These are human beings we are talking about.  Children who will add to our lives in ways that are beyond solely dollar signs.  It's why the visa commercial works so well.  There truly are things in this world that are priceless and children are one of them.  Talk to older people.  Those who raised large families see mine and tell me proudly how many children they had and that they would do it again in a heartbeat... even though sometimes it was hard.  I have also heard from other people, who sadly comment that they always thought about having more and now they wished they had.  (Grocery stores are interesting places aren't they?  It's as if there is some truth filter people go through when they enter and find themselves saying things they never would in the real world.)

So, laundry?  Yes, daily.
Fancy trips?  No, not so much.
Many hands to hold around the dinner table?  Priceless.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peaches, peaches everywhere

So when you bring home three bushels of peaches, you then must do something with them before they all rot.  So that is what we are doing today... and probably tomorrow.  If I get the peaches under control, I'll sit down and write something.  I have a lovely rant running around my head about the most recent article on large families that was in the Sunday Chicago Tribune.  But, you'll just have to wait for it.  Rants can wait, peaches can't!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peaches

We drove into SW Michigan yesterday to go peach picking with some friends. 

L. in the red hat and G. in the pink

P.

K. ... they were tasty peaches

L. and A. -- We have 3 bushels.  That means 6 of these bags.

G.
It was a lovely day... beautiful weather... easy picking... good company.  We went the same place where we go apple picking.  It's a very nice farm that is not very crowded.  That is one of it's benefits in my book, so I am a little hesitant to share the name.  (I don't like crowds.)  But, since I want them to stay in business, I will.  We were at Shafer Orchards in Baroda, Michigan.  If you're close, I highly recommend them.  (They have really good prices, too.  $15/half bushel.)  There were still a lot of peaches, so you haven't missed them.  Don't you want to spend all next week processing peaches, too?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hard decisions

Sometimes being the grown-up means making the hard decisions.  As I have mentioned before, J. has started an intensive 3-year doctoral program on which he is working on top of his regular full-time job.  This is the right career move for him at this time and he is really liking the program and faculty and fellow students.  That said, it is also a serious time commitment.  He will be gone one Saturday a month as well as having to work on papers and assignments during the week.  We got a real taste of what life is going to look like for a while a couple of weeks ago when he had two fairly long papers due back-to-back.  I wish I could say I sailed through those two weeks effortlessly and was completely supportive of my husband and what he needed to got done.  The truth is not so pretty... or flattering.

One positive thing that happened was that it made me stop and re-examine what my priorities were and what my schedule was looking like.  It became clear that if I was serious about supporting my husband in this venture and being committed to keeping our children's home life sane, then something was going to have to change.  As a result, I have decided to step back from my volunteer efforts at church for the next several years, the biggest part of that being my job as children's choir director.  (I'm sorry if some people are hearing this news for the first time by reading this.  Reading about something instead of personally being told can be icky.)  I will miss working with the children.  Directing the choir is something I ended up enjoying far more than I thought I would when I first began 14 years ago.  There is a small part of me that feels as though I am letting people down.  I keep reminding myself that I'm not indispensable and don't want to be.  I feel very at peace with my decision and know that it is the right one for our family now. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preschool battle plan... or don't stand still too long or Mommy may laminate you!

Sorry for the whiplash I may have inflicted on my readers... college one day, preschool the next.  Welcome to my world.  I promised you my plans as to what I'm doing with my three youngest during the school year.  At this point, knowing the chaos of which the three of them are capable it really does feel like a battle plan for getting through the morning.  My first line of defense is to put them at the top of the list for my time each day.  G. and L. will be first, followed by K.  I have found (and I hope it continues to be true) that by spending time with my youngest first, they will be happier to plan and entertain themselves while I work with the olders.  The second item on my plan is containment and distraction.  I will keep them inside the barricade with me and I have a schedule for bringing out a different "big" toy each day that can only be played with during "school".  (These would include Duplo, Playmobile 123, wooden trains, etc.)  And my third line of defense is flexibility.  I have scheduled our time loosely so that is a small person needs me, it doesn't throw the whole thing out-of-whack to attend to them.  I am also prepared to let the littles join us in our group projects.  In theory it should work.

Here is some of what I'm going to use (mainly with K.) during our time together.  (For G. and L., I will bring out some suitable preschool boxes and coloring things, but we will mostly be reading stories and singing songs.  You know, all those things I mean to do with my children, but never get to.)  The preschool boxes will be in rotation, but I have made some new things for him as well.  I was inspired by a preschool workshop that I attended at the homeschool conference last spring to tie more of my preschooler's activities into what the rest of us are doing.  I also (finally) invested in a laminator.  (I reviewed and commented on a cleft publication earlier this summer and earned a little spending money.) 

I've made four different folders, all filled with cool laminated stuff.


One is a book of animal pictures, from a set of postcards my parents gave us from the San Diego Zoo.  These have been sitting around here for a couple of months, but through the magic of lamination, everyone is suddenly very, very interested in looking at them.  K. and I (and probably G. and L. will use these as well) will learn animal names, sort, match and categorize.


I've also made a folder of Egyptian art, also by laminating a post cart set.  We will use these in much the same way we are using the animal cards.


I have also made an activity folder for K., using a Cars theme.  (Since he learned his colors by associating them with Cars characters, I'm hoping they will do the same things for letters and numbers.  I found this set at 1+1+1=1.  (She has a lot of different preschool printables on her site and it is worth a look.)


The last folder is all about lighthouses.  I ordered a copy of the charming children's book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, which we will read.  Then I photocopied, cut-out, and laminated pictures from the story so that K. can use them to act out the story.


Also in the folder are lighthouse taxonomy cards (based the Montessori idea).  Using clip art, the printer, and laminator, they were pretty easy to make.  The idea is the child first matches the picture cards (there are more than these), then moves on to matching the words to the card.


There you go... preschool in a post.  I wonder what else I can find to laminate...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

All moved in

This morning we all got up bright and early and drove M. down to her new college campus and moved her into her dorm room.  A momentous occasion for both child and parents.  (How on earth are we old enough to have a daughter in college?  Didn't I just leave my 20's?) 

Here's the whole crew inside M.'s dorm room:


Evidently, M. is the only college freshman who has so many younger brothers and sisters.  Or she was the only one crazy enough to bring them along.  Either way, ours were about the only young children around.  I figured we were doing M. and her roommate a public service, because after you've had 10 extra people in your room, even the smallest of dorm rooms feels roomy.

Since it was a little chaotic with the three littles, J. took the boys and little girls to find some food.  (Even though it was only 10:30am... I said we woke up early.)  A. and P. stayed with me and M. and helped unpack M.'s things.  We did pretty well and got everything unpacked and stowed away.  Whether M. will ever find everything after our help is still up in the air, but it all has a spot at the moment.  Here's my girl in her newly organized room:



We the joined the boys for a little lunch which we ate outside while the littles ran up and around these stairs over and over and over...


I brought everyone home to rest while M. goes to various orientations and J. heads to his office to try to do some work.  I will return with everyone so we can eat at the welcome picnic together and then it's officially good-bye.  But just for a while.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two years, three months

G. and L. turned 2 years, three months old this month.  Now, to most people, this is not normally a milestone, but around here it's a big deal.  That's because K. was this age when we brought him home from Vietnam and to compare him at that age with the girls right now is eye-opening.

It's probably a good thing that even though I had already raised 5 two-year-olds, that I had forgotten what they were able to do.  It was disturbing enough to see his state and functional level without being fully aware of exactly how delayed he was. And watching the girls now, he was very, very delayed.  I can't help thinking about K. while I watch G. and L. these days.

K. could sit, but only with his back curved into a 'C', and could walk.  G. and L. run and jump (with both feet leaving the ground) and climb and ride their tricycle and can almost do somersaults.  K. didn't talk... or even babble.  G. and L. talk (and talk and talk) in sentences, have huge vocabularies, have an awareness of letters, G. counts to 11 and L. can tell you whether there is one or two of something.  I'm not sure K. had ever seen a book.  G. and L. love books, look at them independently, know which way is right-side-up, and know that Mommy can't read if you put your hand over the words.  K. didn't cry, even when he got hurt, because he had learned there was no point.  G. and L. are entirely appropriate in their need to explore, but with quick hugs and checking that Mommy is still around, and the minute they get hurt, they run straight to Mommy demanding band-aids.  K. had only ever eaten thin rice cereal out of a bottle.  G. and L. eat just about everything.  We won't even talk about size and weight.

I am constantly amazed at what is learned in the first two years of life in a normal environment.  It is truly a huge amount.  There has been much written about how the first years of life are crucial to a child's development which confirms my observations, but I find much of it to be from an all-or-nothing approach.  It seems to say that if a child has missed this window, that's it.  They've lost out, there is no hope for them.

I don't think this is always the case.  While K. may have life-long effects from his first two years, there is no reason to write him off because he spent his first two years as essentially an infant.  He has been catching up.  God has been gracious to K. and I believe has planned things for him to make the most of his potential.  And I think that G. and L. have (and will have) a huge role in this healing.  Not only have J. and I been blessed to have these two little girls, but more and more I see that their being here is also benefiting K.  They help him in a couple of ways.  First, I think that their infancy has helped show him how to be a baby and young child in nurturing environment.  K. watches them and often copies them.  They are his role models for healthy development and I'm sure he's caught some of what he missed the first time around as a result.  They also spur him on to the next milestone as well.  He knows they are younger than he, and like any child, does not want someone younger to pass him up.  With G. and L. developing normally, they sometimes come pretty close to doing just that.  It seems to be the spur that K. needs to hit the next milestone and keep ahead.

I know K. would continue to develop and make gains even if he didn't have two busy little sisters, but I don't think they would have been as great.  We are all blessed by these two little girls.  God truly does know what is best for our families.  How much more impoverished our lives would be (and we wouldn't even know it) if we thought we knew better than God.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Homeschool schedules

Not Back to School Blog Hop
I have a love/hate relationship with schedules in that I love creating them, but I'm not always so fond of following them.  Every year I think that I have found the key to homeschooling perfection, only to discover I was wrong.  Seeing as how this is our 14th year of homeschooling, that's 13 years of being wrong.  (And I so don't like to be wrong. [Quite possible that is the single greatest understatement I have ever written on this blog.])  Anyway, in the face of starting another year, I've done some hard thinking about this whole schedule-thing, and I have come to some startlingly obvious conclusions which leaves my scratching my head as to why I didn't come to them before.

First, I just have to face up to the fact that there is no perfect schedule.  Life will always get in the way and that's OK  Being the perfectionist that I am, I just have to learn that my beautiful and thoughtfully crafted schedule is never going to be followed perfectly.  Second, I'm allowed to change the schedule.  Even if I spent hours putting it together, it may not work as I thought it would and I can do something about it.  (As opposed to my first response which is to ditch it altogether.)  Third, I have been going about constructing my schedules all wrong.  In the past, I would figure out times and who was going to be occupied when and then fit the content into the slots.  I have realized that the whole process works better, makes more sense, and will ultimately be more doable if I focus on content first and then divide it up into a workable time frame.  This has been a huge idea shift for me and it makes so much more sense that I want to slap myself upside the head.  And last, I have to admit that we get more done when I have it all planned out.  Last fall I did take the time to plan out what we were doing when and though we didn't follow it completely faithfully, upon looking back I was amazed at how much we covered.  My idea was to do the second semester over Christmas, but you can imagine how well that worked.  Or didn't.  We still learned things, but my illusions that I function better improvising through my days were dashed.  It took too much thinking on the spur of the moment which I just am not as good at as I think I am.

So, after all that, what are our days going to look like?  First thing after breakfast, all the school-age types will begin their work.  B. and A. work independently for all or most of the morning and P., D., and TM have the first hour to do their independent work.  During that time, I will have time with the three littles.  Even for this age (or especially for this age because they are the most likely to be missed), I have activities planned out as well as special toys to be brought out on a rotating schedule.  It feels more like a battle plan than anything.  These three are busy, busy people and unless I am very purposeful about how to keep them occupied, life will quickly descend into chaos.  I've put together some new preschool activities that I will blog about later in the week.

The next hour is for me to work with those who need individual help and to correct work.  Would you believe that for the first time ever I have actually scheduled in time to correct work?  No wonder it would pile up and I would spend an hour correcting endless math pages.  While I'm doing that, the middles will either have free time, work on other projects, or play with a chosen activity from the resource area.  The three youngest will be gated into the kitchen with me and given their toy bin for the day.

The last hour of the morning is for our group work.  Two days a week we will study ancient Egypt and the other two days will be lighthouses in the fall and the California gold rush in the winter.  I have purposefully left the spring empty because we will be travelling to bring H. home at some point and will probably need it for catch-up.  (Fridays are our history co-op days, so I don't have anything scheduled.)  At lunch, I read from the chapter book we are currently on and afternoons are either free time or other outside activities, such as theater.

My two compulsive weeks of thinking about all this have paid-off.  I now have a folder for each child, complete with his or her own schedule, list of readings and assignments, and any big projects or writing assignments that will be worked on.  For myself, I have each child's schedule, plus a list of readings and projects for our group work, and the preschool and toy rotation schedule.  My goal is to not have to think when we begin school each morning.  I've already done the hard work of how things fit together and match up, of when we will schedule a day off to play games, and when we will watch a movie as it fits in with our lessons.  Instead of scrambling each morning, I'll open up my folder, see what we need to do, and proceed in quiet serenity.  Really.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In which we go on a field trip and I continue to tilt at windmills

We went spent the day with friends yesterday.  We took walks.

(L. on left and G. on right)

Played in the pond.

K.

D.

P. with G.

And the stream.

L. on left, G. on right --they liked the stream much better

Had lunch and let M. rest.


Looked at flowers.

Picture by A.

Enjoyed trees...

TM

and being outdoors.


It was a lovely, if warm, day at the Morton Arboretum.  We were guests of our friends and had such a nice time that I looked into buying a family membership.  (I know my children would love to go back and spend a loooong time in the children's area.)  Well, here is where the tilting comes in.

You are familiar with my personal crusade for the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium to change their "family" membership policies to not dictate family size.  Well, sadly, I now have another institution to add to my list.  Here is a copy of the email I sent yesterday:

I just visited the arboretum today with my children, thanks to a friend whose membership allows her to bring guests. My family had a wonderful time and would like to be able to come back more often. I am very saddened to realize that we will not be able to do this. I am willing to purchase a family membership, but on looking at your website, I realize that it would not be worth it for us. You see, we have 9 children, and your family membership would only allow me to bring three of them with me (two, if my husband was able to join us). Since I am not willing to leave most of my family home from a family outing, and because I cannot afford to pay $25/$30 per visit on top of the membership fee, I am afraid that we will have to choose to not come at all.

I would suggest that you rename your so-called family membership, because that is not what it is. A family membership would allow parents to bring all of their children with them, and not be penalized because the number of children does not match some imagined, acceptable number. I cannot believe that letting in all my children will cause such wear and tear on your facility that we must have to pay more. And in our not bringing our family because of the exorbitant costs, you are losing out as well. First, you hinder your mission, which I imagine goes something along the lines of educating the public and helping to raise a new generation of children who care about the environment. If a child cannot visit your garden because they happen to be #9 in a family, then they are not exposed to what you have to share. Also, often when we take our children places, we will purchase snacks or other things for them. Our family size works to your advantage since we have to buy more than the average number of things. I would think you would want to take advantage of this. As it is, you lose out on any moneys we may have spent inside the gates, since we won't be there at all.

I am sorry that you have decided that only two-child families are acceptable. Our children bring a richness to our lives that far outweighs the irritations of being told we have too many.

Friday, August 19, 2011

No words

Sometimes I read or hear about something that leaves me speechless, which, admittedly, doesn't happen very often.  This is one of those times.

Please go read No Greater Joy Mom right now.  (For the less computer-savvy among you, all you have to do is click on the underlined phrase.)  I'm not even asking you to give money.  All the money has been raised, for this little girl at least.  But ever since I read this, I have been praying for God to deliver these children.  Please join me in storming the gates of Heaven on their behalf. 

And maybe, just maybe, one of you will discover that you are one of these precious children's parents.  If any child needed a parent's protecting and loving arms, it is one of these.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Art lesson by way of Australia

We spent some time yesterday looking at Australian Aboriginal art and listening to didgeridoo music.  Much Aboriginal art is made by dots forming animals or swirling patterns.  It is very cool looking, so we decided to try our hand at it.

I got out the acrylic paint (a rare treat), some mat boards (cut to reasonable sizes), and cotton swabs (for making the dots).  Some painters chose to sketch their design first and then paint, and others dove right in.  Even if you are not studying Australia, I highly recommend this activity.  I gave the instructions that the entire board needed to be filled in, and everyone was so taken with the method that it kept them busy for at least an hour... some significantly more.  We used the back of the mat board and it turned out to be the perfect surface... mainly because it was stiff enough to hold all the paint that was applied.

Here are a couple of the painters at work:



And the results.  These are TM's at the top, D.'s in the middle, and K.'s on the bottom.  The boys were going for the method and feeling of the project rather than trying to copy Aboriginal art exactly... as you can see.  This was also a huge success for K.  It was the first project he has done where he has been able to follow the directions (more or less), and also worked at it for more than a couple of minutes.  I rather like his painting.


Here is P.'s:


And A.'s (M. wants to take it to school if A. decides she doesn't want it):


I did one, too.  I find it always helps the inspire the children to see me doing a project as well.  Don't look at it too long, or it may make you dizzy.  B. suggested it looked like monkey tails sticking out of the sand.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The invalids are growing restless

Yes, I'm aware that the subject of my title is plural.  That is because not only is M. recovering from surgery, but A. is not quite up to full speed, either.  On Monday, she accidentally got hit across the top of the base of her thumb during a freak plastic sword fighting incident.  It sent her into spasms of pain and she couldn't move it.  After icing it for a while, the pain was less, but it was still immovable.  It was that non-moving part that caused me to call the doctor.  We took her in, had an x-ray taken, and had the doctor (not our usual) tell us, "I don't know what's wrong, we'll call."  So, here's the scoop:  It is not broken, but they aren't sure what is going on with it.  If it is not better in a few days (or gets worse), we are to take her back in.  She was able to move it a little more yesterday, but you still couldn't consider her having an actual opposable thumb on her right hand.

So, now I have M. who is tired of being cooped-up and A. who wants to use her right hand, not feeling entirely happy.  I found them yesterday snuggled together in the guest room bed watching sometime on M.'s computer.  It was a sweet moment of sisterly togetherness if you can overlook their combined injuries.

M., despite her frustration, is doing quite well.  She is up and about, using just one crutch, and can hobble without if needed.  I think by next week, when she moves into the dorm, she will be functional enough to make it work.  Do pray for A., though.  I don't know quite else what to do, and boy, it would be wonderful if it could be fixed without involving more doctors!

Monday, August 15, 2011

History co-op kick-off feast

Last night our history co-op had a long postponed feast.  We went the path of least resistance and everyone dressed in whatever costumes, from whatever time period we all happened to have. 

Here are all 27 children in a variety of costumes... from Rome all the way to modern times:



The more ancient end of the spectrum.  K. should have been further down the line with the more colonial American types, but he really wanted to stand next to his best-buddy, P4, who was a crusader.


The 18th/19th century types:


Heading on into the 20th/21st century... I think the ones on the end did a fabulous job imitating the teenage dress of the 21st century, don't you?


And because it's cute, here are the four littlest.  (L. is in red and G. is in purple):



The mothers didn't particularly want to pose for pictures, so they were taken on the sly.


And just because.  Here is L.  She had 'pokey-tails' earlier in the day, but pulled them out.  This picture gives you a sense of her personality.



And G.  Her dress was a little long even after hemming, but by the end of the evening she was good about holding her skirts up as she walked.  It was pretty cute.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Singleminded

That's me.  It's a nicer way of saying completely compulsive.  I have discovered about myself that when I get involved in a project, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else... laundry for instance.  My current project is to plan out our school year with what we're reading when and what projects we will be doing.  I have spent the past couple of days holed up on the floor surrounded by books.  (And barricaded by chairs.)  It's the only place I have room to spread out where I don't have to move my piles and where someone won't either walk away with an interesting book or color in one.  Sad, but true.

So, I will continue on with my quest to get the year down on paper with the goal that one week of non-stop thinking will enable me to not have to think much (at least about school plans) for the rest of the year.  But don't feel too badly for me.  I actually enjoy doing projects like this.  I would enjoy them more if the rest of life could be put on hold while I indulge myself.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Some links so that I can let others do the writing

The Australia library books are due and I can't renew them again, so we will be spending the day finishing them.  For your reading enjoyment, I giving you a few links to take a look at.

First up is a link that my real-life, fellow VN adoptive mom over at The Adventures of Law Mommy shared with me.  It is for a blog all about books called, in so many words... .  I think I may have reading material to keep me set for at least a couple of years.  I'm excited because I felt as though I was in a fiction drought and reading only non-fiction can get tiring.

Next, a while back I pleaded for help locating books on Australia.  Christine, who happens to live in Tasmania, was a huge help (thank you!) and steered me toward the Australian bush poets.  I had never heard of the bush poets and I am so glad that I do now.  Next week we will start in on doing the art section of our Australia unit study and the poetry of Banjo Paterson will be part of it.  I particularly like the poem Mulga Bill's Bicycle.

Now, with all those books and poems to read, what is needed now is something chocolate.  I came across a recipe for Roasted Cherry Brownies over at Annie's Eats.  With a pan full of these delicious-looking things, a big mug of tea, and several of the books and poems, I could easily be set for several days.  Of course the uninterrupted time could prove difficult, but one can dream.  When all my children are a little older and less prone to wander aimlessly leaving havoc in their wake, I think I'm going to institute a once-a-month family reading day.  It will be the day we all dress in comfortable clothes and lounge in comfortable chairs while we read good books all day long.  Sounds lovely, huh?  I figure we can begin in say, oh, about 6 more years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Worship revisited

I have written about worshipping with our children before, but as our church is moving into a new model for Sunday mornings (an education hour in between two worship services... all education will occur in the middle hour and families will worship together at either of the two services), it has got me thinking about it all over again.  We are pleased with this new model, but other than it suiting our family's needs, I have felt the need to ask myself why this is so.  It is one thing to like something for convenience, it's another to like something because it is Scriptural.  They don't always go hand in hand, so I try to be careful to hold my beliefs up to Scripture and constantly ask if I'm correct in my thinking.

When I go through this process, there are times when reading Scripture has forced me to readjust some assumptions, but not this time.  If anything, it has caused me to readjust my view on worship to one that is more strongly held.  Worship should be our first response to God at all times.  When we are confronted with the greatness and glory of God, the only thing that can be done is worship.  If worship isn't our natural state, then perhaps we don't fully understand how truly great God is.  I certainly don't live this out.  Sadly, I know that I can go through a whole day and not worship my creator.

This is why weekly corporate worship is so important.  It is a time we purposefully set aside to do what we are supposed to.  We are to:

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the LORD in the
splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! (Psalm 96:7-9, ESV)

I love Psalm 96.  The entire song tells us to worship and praise God because of who he is and what he has done.  I think this small section of Scripture tells us a lot about our worship of God and what should be happening at our corporate worship services.  Notice that the first line does not tell us that the adults should be worshipping, but the families of the people of God.  This is a family affair.  If we truly think that God is so wonderful that our only response is to worship him, how can we deny our children this response.  They belong in worship with us.  Our children need to see us worshipping so that they can learn to worship as well.  And, often we can end up learning to worship from them as well.  We are to become like little children and follow Jesus.  Children sometimes intuitively 'get' what adults don't.  We need them in our worship services to remind us how to become like them before our God.

Psalm 96 also tells us to bring an offering with us when we come into God's gates.  All through the Old Testament, this offering is a sacrifice.  Back then it was an actual object or animal which was physically sacrificed on the altar.  Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice with his life, so what is our sacrifice that we bring to God's gates today?  I think it is our attitudes and behaviors.  Somewhere along the line, it seems we have gotten a bit confused about the purpose of a worship service.  Instead of being all about God, it has become all about us... a sort-of spiritual spa day where we enter tired and haggard and after an hour's time of peace and reflection come out rested and ready to face the week.  No wonder people don't want their children in the service; who brings their children to the spa?  But often our sacrifice as parents is to bring our children into our heavenly Father's presence.  On some days, just getting everyone ready and to the church is our sacrifice for all the good that it seems to be doing.  I believe that God delights in our efforts to introduce our children to himself, even if they seem a pathetic attempt on our part.

The sacrifice of  our attitudes in worship doesn't begin and end with children, though.  If the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves, we need to apply this in our worship services.  Nothing can bring out strongly held opinions like changes to a worship service... wrong music, wrong music style, prayers too long, prayers too short, sermon too long, sermon too short, sermon too topical and folksy, sermon too exegetical and academic, etc, etc.  I am a big offender here as well.  Just ask my husband what my immediate action is when a hymn's words have been changed from what I'm used to.  But what if each of these things that so irk us as individuals speak mightily and have a lasting effect on our neighbor down the pew?  If I think about it in these terms, I can sacrifice my own enjoyment for my brother or sister who is being spiritually fed.  I like to imagine what would happen to the 'worship wars' if all of us started to actually obey Jesus' second greatest commandment.

Begin to think of worship as sacrifice.  Sacrificing our own comfort and ease for the teaching and joy of others.  This is a sacrifice pleasing to God and a true act of worship.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Surgery is over and we're all home

M. is now resting in our downstairs guestroom where she will be camping out for a while.  (Not only is her bedroom on the second floor, but she has a loft bed... not a good combination when your knee is out of commission.)  The surgery went well and we are all glad it is over with.  She has felt better, but was able to navigate the car ride and get into the house, but really all she want to do is rest.

The day has felt like a marathon.  We arrived at the hospital at 7am (after I spent the whole night dreaming that we were late) and the surgery was scheduled for 8:30.  It started right on time and J. and I headed to the waiting room where we kept ourselves busy.  The first hour passed quickly and since I thought we would be hearing news soon, I busied myself with some knitting.  When I got to the end of what I could do on my project I looked at the time and realized that she had been in the operating room for 2  1/2 hours.  At this point I started to get concerned since the surgery was only scheduled for one hour.  The last half an hour seemed very long indeed.  Finally the surgeon came out to tell us everything was fine.  The reason it lasted longer than anticipated was that he had difficulty locating the loose (17cm) cartilage.  It had floated to the back of M.'s knee where it was difficult to see with the scope.  He did manage to remove it.  She also has a nice new ligament to help keep her kneecap in place.  We hope that after she has recovered, she will be able to bend her knee without physically guiding her kneecap.

J. and I then went to get some lunch since we were told it would be at least another hour and half before we could see her.  After lunch we headed back to the waiting room to wait.  (Boy, I wish I had a kindle.)  All of a sudden an alarm starts to go off and a huge fan-like noise start.  We (and everyone else in the waiting room) look around to see if we can see what is going on, but we stay put since no hospital staff seemed overly concerned.  We then hear an announcement over the PA system telling us that there is a 'Code Red' in the third floor lobby.  We look around again since we are in the third floor lobby.  Either we are missing something or 'Code Red' does not mean what we think.  Various official-looking types start walking around and someone then points out that there is a helium balloon on the (very high) ceiling.  It appears that the balloon triggered the fire alarm.  The official-looking types then appear very relieved and start laughing, bring in a ladder, and retrieve the balloon.  I am still left with my question of what happens if a real fire, causing evacuation, happens in a hospital.  Surgeries are going on all the time.  The whole incident was more amusing since I knew M. was out of surgery than it would have been two hours earlier.

After spending several hours in the recovery room, M. felt up to trying to make the trip home.  I have a feeling we will be laying pretty low for the next few days.  It is at this point I have to remind myself why she needed surgery in the first place, because I don't like to see my girl uncomfortable or in pain.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Lovely weddings

Over the past year, there have been three weddings at our church that we (either our whole family, or M. and B.) have been invited to.  Each of these weddings have been lovely.  And they were lovely because they weren't over-the-top.  These weren't small weddings; many, many people were invited, but they also didn't fall into the 'princess-for-a-day' error.  I am so glad that it is these weddings that my daughters have been witnessing. 

What did I find so refreshing about them?  Well, the biggest part was that the wedding ceremonies were worship services.  The focus of each wedding was that these two people were making a pledge before God that they were now going to become one entity.  A new family.  These services reminded the congregation that marriage is indeed a sacrament.

The next thing I found refreshing was that entire families, including young children were invited.  A wedding isn't a show, it is a worship service.  If we say that children belong in worship services with their families, then they belong in the other, sacramental services as well... weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

Last, the receptions were in the church hall with cake and punch.  The guests were able to greet the new couple and enjoy a time of refreshment and fellowship, all the while knowing that the couple (or the parents' of the couple) were not accruing major debt to host the party.

Now, I know the saying about glass houses and all that.  J. and I did have quite a big wedding with a dinner reception afterwards, but I like to think that it wasn't over-the-top either.  (Frankly, I have very few memories of the whole thing... it is a bit of a blur.  I do remember the endless receiving line, though.)  But, I am also realistic and know that there is no way that J. and I could ever afford such an affair for our daughters.  I love that they have had such wonderful examples to witness this past year.
__________
I have a request for all of you.  Would you please keep M. in your prayers tomorrow morning at 8:30 CDT?  She will be having another surgery on her knee to remove the huge piece of loose cartilage and to rebuild a new ligament to that the knee cap will be stabilized.   It is out-patient and assuming all goes well, we will bring her home tomorrow afternoon.  But it is still surgery and she will still be going under and we are all just a bit nervous and will be glad when it is over.  Thank you.  I know I have amazing prayer warriors who read this blog.  I'll update tomorrow when we're home and all is well.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Homeschool resource room

Not Back to School Blog Hop

We've been doing a bit of reorganizing around here this summer.  (I know you're probably all sick of hearing about my binge of cleaning out, but be patient, this is just a lot of pictures.)  It all started because we needed to find a place for H. to sleep.  The room that A., P., G., and L. share was at capacity and was also not ideal as G. and L. are more interested in all of A. and P.'s stuff.  So that combined with the fact that I've never really been happy with the school room and ever since we redid the kitchen we haven't really been using it, we have made a major change.  Now, there is no more school room.  It will become A., P., and H.'s room once we (by we I mean J.) finish the dry walling and painting.  The school room was dismantled and either moved up to the third floor or given away.  This past couple of weeks I have been reorganizing the third floor.  The bulk of it is still a playroom, but I have also carved a limited-access (meaning I have to be with any child who is in it) 'Homeschool Resource Room' out of it.

Here's a tour of what happened with a room full of books and stuff.

First, we head up to the third floor.  On the landing we have moved a couple of the bookcases.  These will hold any books we are currently using, plus a cubby for each child.  This way they have access to their school stuff without having to enter my new room.


Now as we enter the third floor, we'll move around the room to the right.  Inside the doorway, we have moved our school table which now houses the school computer.   (It will work once we have an electrician come and figure out why the outlet we need to use is dead.)  This computer is only for writing and playing the few educational computer games we have that are too old to be used on our newer computer.  The only reason I allow it to be up here is because it has no internet access.  (All devices with internet can only be used in very public locations in our home.)


Continuing on, we come to the costumes and the newly dug out funny little alcove.  Why the previous owners created this is a mystery, but it is great fun for creating hide-outs and forts.


Our row of theater seats and the bay with the train table.


The newly organized block corner.  (Curious about the state of the floor?  That's what happens when many children make use of scooter boards on a pine floor covered in cheap paint.  Not a pretty sight.)


Here you can get a sense of the immenseness of the room.  (And for any concerned, all those windows and doors are covered in hockey-grade Plexiglas... we are really far away from the ground up here.)  You can also see (those of you who know this room well), how much stuff I've cleared out.  It was vanfuls.

(This is D. practicing on the stilts that B. made for his brothers.)

The opposite bay which houses the wooden ship and wooden doll house.  You can also see the school room futon has a new home up here.  It is against the column which houses the chimneys and the remains of an old dumb waiter track.  (Sadly, the dumb waiter had been removed and covered over before we bought the house.  How cool would that have been to have?)  Around the corner are the dolls and doll accessories, I just didn't take a picture of them.


And now we finally come to the part you've been waiting for... my new resource room.  In it are the school room books that were not given away, chapter books (in alphabetical order by author), preschool boxes, and all the toys which are in storage.  (I will make a schedule for bringing out the toys one at a time... one week will be train week, one week playmobile week, etc.  It will help cut down on chaos and prolong the play lives of the toys.)


Inside the room.


The other end.


Everyone has been pretty good about staying out of it... though I have toyed with the idea of a chain link gate, or perhaps one of the those velvet ropes they use in museums to keep people out.

With it so clean, organized, and uncluttered, I find the whole area to be much more restful.  I don't think we'll miss the schoolroom, since for the past two years, everyone has done their work pretty much in the kitchen (or outside if the weather is nice).  The children are all enjoying it as well.  The third floor hasn't seen so much play in a long time.

Next step in getting ready for school?  Working out a reading and learning schedule for everyone.
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