Friday, August 31, 2012

A tale of two mothers - part 2

You all crack me up. Clearly, my readership is fixated with dessert. Maybe someday I will write a post on under-appreciated desserts, but for right now I must stick to deserts because otherwise my clothes won't fit and I will still have no lesson plans made. I will share a tip to keep the two words straight that a homeschooling friend shared with me yesterday when we were laughing about this. Dessert has two s's because there are more of them and with dessert you always want more.

I want to go back to the second of the two mothers. This mother of three I came across when I was reading the book about habits. She appears in the chapter about self will because of her horrific gambling addiction, but it is her initial circumstance I want to address. Before she lost everything because to her gambling, she started out as a mother of three who, when her last child went off to school, was so bored and lonely she didn't know what to do with herself. So she went to the local casino once a week, as a treat to herself for getting through the week.

Once again, my heart breaks for this mother. But instead of wanting her to slow down and do a little less, this feels like an example of needing to do a little more. And not a little more about her house, but more for both herself and her community. Nothing cures boredom like serving the needs of others. There are always people who need help getting to the grocery store or housebound adults who would love a visitor. A mother with very young children could always use a hand and schools are always looking for parent volunteers. There is such a dearth of volunteerism these days that just mentioning you had free time to a few people would land you with more possibilities than you could possibly manage.

But maybe the possibility isn't with willingness but with not being connected enough to other people to find the possibilities. This can be tough. It can be hard to meet people and it can feel scary. The trouble is, that this is a problem that only the lonely person can do something about. I grew up with my mother reminding me that to meet people and make friends you have to be the one who is willing to make the first move. You have to be the one to introduce yourself or invite someone to join you in an activity or volunteer to join the committee or group. If you wait to be introduced, asked, or invited you will wait a long time. It doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you, but only that most people are so caught up in what they are doing they don't think to look around for the lonely person.

This is particularly difficult for shy people; I should know, I am one. Thus I can say confidently that even shy people can learn to be not-so-shy. It takes more planning and practice and is more tiring, but it can be done. Once again the trick is to stop thinking about yourself and start focusing on others. If you are more concerned with making others feel comfortable then it is easier to stop worrying about whether you feel comfortable. When J. was in high school, he gave a testimony in church about how being shy is really an act of selfishness.

The other thing this mother can do is to develop her own interests and talents. Even if we have made a choice as mothers to focus on caring for our families, we don't do this to the exclusion of what we need as individuals. In fact, I would say that it is important for our children to see us developing our interests and talents. It is how they will learn to be interesting and fulfilled adults. Plus, I can guarantee that whatever I am currently interested in, chances are at least some of my children will be, too. If I get out my paints, my children want to paint. If I start knitting, they will want to knit. If I'm working in the yard, they will want to work in the yard. Children want to do grown-up activities and they watch us to learn what those things are. Plus, if we have a host of things we enjoy doing, it guards against that time when our children have grown and moved out. We don't wonder what to do with our lives because we have had interests and activities which are not child dependent all along.

M. and I were talking about this the other day... that we both have so many interests and things we would like to do that there is quite possibly not enough time in our lives to ever get to them all. Boredom is not a problem. I made a mental list of all the things I would do if I had more time (though some things I squeeze in every now and then already... that more time-thing is a myth), among the things I included were: volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, write the book about the theology of homemaking that I write notes for every so often, take a class on watercolors so I could actually know what I'm doing, work on a piano method designed for special needs children, paint some of the walls in my house, do research into music therapy, sew more, knit more, read more, etc.

Life can be very rewarding, but to a great extent it is as rewarding as you decide to make it. If you feel lonely and without purpose, don't sit at your kitchen table feeling sorry for yourself. find someone else who need help and help them. And in the process of helping them, you will be helping yourself.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Society for the Promotion of Under-Appreciated Deserts

This is the group that evidently needs to be created. I have created Stonehenge in books on the rug in my kitchen and have spent more than a few hours sitting inside of it and planning our school year. My thought was that we would spend the year studying the deserts of the world. This seemed very easy in my head. I would go to the library and look up deserts and check out of few books. I would bring them home and read them so that I would know which areas needed further research and create our unit study. It sounds like a good plan, huh?

Well, if the books existed it would be a good idea. There are a couple of books about deserts and they served their purpose of helping me define the parameters of our unit study, but the problem came when I went to do more in-depth research. There just are not a lot of books on the individual deserts of the world. I can find enough material on the Sahara and the Sonora (plus, I grew up in the Sonora desert, so that's easy), but the other deserts? Not so much. Or more accurately, none at all. 

You would think I could type in "Gobi desert" into a search engine and several books, at least one or two aimed at the juvenile market, would pop up. Unless I'm doing something terribly wrong, it just doesn't happen. I get a couple of dinosaur books, but nothing about the actual desert. It seems to be a big hole in the juvenile non-fiction market.

And it's a shame, because as I research these deserts, there are some really interesting things about each of them. (And there's more than a few... there are over 10 major deserts in the world.) It's going to be a really interesting study, but it's just taking a whole lot more work than I anticipated. I mean, what's not to like about learning about camels, how sand moves like waves, mirages and refraction, date palms and oases, caravans, the Silk Road, nomads, a whole list of interesting animals, salt, and oil? This is just some of what is on my list, and doesn't even start to include the polar regions which we will also be covering because they are also deserts. (The only deserts we won't be covering in depth will be those in Australia because we studied Australia last year.)

Time to head back to the library... again... and continue with my research. My high school and junior high students' years are all planned. They were the easy ones. I know my life would probably be easier if I could just use something already created, but I know myself well enough that I would just redo it all anyway, so it's better to just start that way and create the study I actually want.

I'll get back to the second mother in my story tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A tale of two mothers - part 1

I'm feeling much better today, but since I've had a lot of time to just sit and read over the past few days, I have a lot of thoughts to share. In my reading, I came across the stories of two mothers, each with three children, and both in places where they are miserable. I believe they are two sides of the same coin and wanted to reply to each of them. So, one today and one later.

The first woman responded to an advice columnist who published a letter about another woman who wanted to be a mother. (Confused yet?) In her (the mother's) letter, she felt as though the advice columnist hadn't done due diligence in her reply because the woman felt that motherhood wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. She had three children and she felt tired, overwhelmed, and pretty much a slave, chauffeur, and maid to her family. It wasn't what she had signed up for. The advice columnist's response was along the lines of, thanks for giving the whole story.

I wish the columnist had responded differently because my heart broke for this woman. While I admit that parenting can sometimes be hard and overwhelming and monotonous, it does not have to be this way all the time. (And, frankly, these descriptors can be applied to all of life, whether you have children or not, they are life issues and not specifically parenting issues.) I wished I could have invited this woman over for coffee and given her the support and encouragement she so desperately needs. And what would I have shared with her?

First, I would tell her that mother and maid are not synonymous words. If you are a mother and are feeling like a maid it is a sign that something is askew in your household. Of course, how much you do for your children is in direct correlation to their ages. Small babies and toddlers obviously need more care than older children do, but this is a very small window of life (which depending on the day can seem endlessly long). As the children get older they can, and should, be enlisted to learn how to be a contributing member of the household. Even little toddlers can be taught how to pick up their toys and by the time they reach high school, each child should be able to pretty much run the household by themselves if necessary. (Blessings on A. and B. who have made dinner two days in a row because I just didn't have the energy to do it.) It is probably a good idea to think of yourself as more of a life skills trainer than anything else. You are working toward the goal of self-sufficient children who will be able to function on their own in society. It will take time and energy, but there is purpose to it.

Second, I would ask her why she is driving her children hither and yon to the point of exhaustion. Do they really need to do all those activities? Has she thought about why she has signed them up? I think it's fair to say that many parents sign their children up for activities because of fear. Fear that they will stunt their child's development or they won't get into the right college or that they will be considered bad parents or (horror!) their children might be bored if they don't. It's crazy. Free time to dream and learn to occupy oneself and yes, do work around the house are just, if not more, important than endless activities. If the activities are making for a cross mother or cutting into family time, they are not worth it. Just stop! Really, the world won't stop spinning if you drop an activity and it may even produce a happier, more relaxed family.

Third, I would ask if she has a support network. Does she have friends who are parenting at the same stage so they can support each other? I'm not talking just complaining to each other, but also encouragement in the tough spots and rejoicing in the positive ones. We all need friends with us along the way to help us keep going. Does she have friends who can act as mentors? Having women in your life who are past your current parenting stage are a huge blessing. I have learned so much my friends who are a little further down the road than I am and I would be a much poorer parent without them. They can offer perspective and advice that is much different from a peer who is in the trenches with you. Having friends makes the journey more pleasant.

Last, I would remind her of the important work she is doing. It may not feel important at that moment. Doing the dishes (again!), asking the child to pick up her socks (again!), putting in another load of laundry (again!) do feel monotonous and unimportant, but we have to look at the bigger picture. All of these things are needed to raise children to adulthood. We are training the world's future generation and we have no idea the impact they will have. We parents can be the single biggest influence on our children's lives. By teaching our children responsibility and kindness and generosity and patience we are affecting the lives of possibly thousands of others because of who our children will influence. This is no small task. It is an important thing we do and, in my opinion, there is no better way for me to spend my time.

And I would tell this mother one more thing, before she left to go home, I would remind her of the fleetingness of childhood. It is not so many years that we have with our children and it would be a shame to waste them in focusing on the frustrations instead of the joys. Soak up and cherish every story read together, every hug, every kiss, every funny expression, and even every tantrum, because they will not come again. Do not send your last child out of the door and regret that you focused on the wrong things.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Habits

I'm still trying to fight this cold and have not been overly productive. For instance, on Sunday I pretty much sat around and read which explains why I was able to finish The Power of Habit: why we do what we do in life and in business by Charles Duhigg. It is a fascinating book all about how habits influence our lives and how they can be changed (or not). What I find the most interesting is how one seemingly small habit can affect the rest of our lives in a huge way. And of course, I love reading a paragraph such as this:

"Studies have documented that families who habitually eat dinner together seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades greater emotional control, and more confidence. Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It's not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold." (p.109)

It has made me much more aware of things I do out of habit and am not really thinking about. It also explains why I sometimes try to take out my contacts at night even though they are already out. (It's a far better explanation than creeping senility.) I've also been doing some thinking about what habits I may have inadvertently created in my children. I don't have any great revelations on that front yet, but it is interesting to think about.

My one quibble with the book is that the author is very clearly not a believer in anything spiritual, yet does write about faith issues more than once. The trouble is, he (and the researchers he writes about) are forced by their own belief systems to explain spiritual matters in non-spiritual terms. Since B. is currently reading it, you can bet that we will have some discussions about those sections.

It is also a little frustrating to read it while sick. It does motivate you to start working on all these wonderful habits which will transform your life, habits which are difficult to begin when you haven't had your contacts in for two days and sitting is about the sum total of what you're capable of.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Frugal large family meals: chicken noodle soup

I'm not feeling well and have been eating the chicken noodle soup I made over the weekend and really counting on its curative affects. I wasn't going to share the recipe (such as it is) with you at first because it seemed like such an obvious thing, but it has been pointed out to me more than once that what seems obvious to me isn't necessarily obvious to anyone else.

So, here is how I make chicken noodle soup. (It isn't going to look like a recipe, though, because I'm going to describe how I make it.) Chicken soup is a very frugal meal, especially if you have saved the carcasses from one or two roast chickens. (You can freeze them if you know you aren't going to use them right away or if you want to save up until you have a couple.) If you don't think there is enough meat left on them to be enough for soup, you can always buy a small package of chicken legs and use them as well.

At some point in the early to middle afternoon I will start the stock. In a large pot, put in your chicken (it can go in frozen) a couple of carrots, a couple of sticks of celery, and an onion, cut in half. Cover with water (it is going to evaporate, so I always put in more than I think I want) and put on the stove. Bring to a simmer and simmer for several hours. I often will partially cover the pot with a lid to keep the moisture in. You can spend the rest of the afternoon feeling virtuous and enjoying the smell of the cooking soup. I find my children find it comforting to smell dinner cooking. They've never missed a meal, but you would think they had based on their need to know what is for dinner and when it's going to be done.

About 45 minutes before you want to eat, take the bones and the vegetables out of the stock. The vegetables you can discard, but set the bones aside to cool for a bit. Lots of recipes will tell you to strain the soup through cheesecloth at that this point. I don't do that anymore. I just can't figure out how to do that with the size of pot I currently use. Instead, I take a mesh strainer and use it to scoop anything I might have missed out of the pot. Sometimes a stray bone will get missed, but it works just fine... and it's easier than straining through cheesecloth.

While the chicken bones cool, peel and chop some carrots and celery. Add them to the stock and add enough water to make the amount of soup you want. Bring it back to a simmer. While the vegetables cook, pick over the bones and add back in the meat. Add seasonings to the soup.... I usually just use salt, pepper, and parsley. Taste to be sure you have enough salt. Right before serving add the egg noodles and cook for four minutes.

If you are going to have biscuits along with this, I would make them before you put the vegetables in and then bake them right before serving.

Now I'm going to go back to trying to feel better.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cookie Monster

You had L. as Superman a while ago, and my mom requested pictures of G., so now you have G. as Cookie Monster.  (Pictures by B.) Perhaps there will be some real content next week.









Friday, August 24, 2012

Still summer

We're still very much in summer mode around here. We are enjoying the nice weather and the relaxed schedules and taking advantage of fun things to do in the area. Tuesday we spent a good part of the afternoon at the Lincoln Park Zoo. 

H.

K.

We have a membership, and this year the membership came with a punch card for free rides on the endangered species carousel. (Something we don't normally ride on.) This was a treat for everyone.

H., L., and G.

TM

D.

K. and P.

We realized that it was the first carousel ride for G. and L. They LOVED it. They loved it so much they didn't want it to stop. When the ride slowed down and the stopped, G. looked hopefully at A., who was standing next to her, and asked, "It go again, right?" When A. said that it didn't, G. crumpled up into a ball of despair while L. went into full offensive mode and decided that no one could make her get off the carousel. She was grabbing on so tightly it took two people to pry her off. Add the appropriate volume as you imagine the scene.

Yesterday, we joined the H-S family and drove out to Blackberry Farm, a historical farm to the far west of Chicago. (So far west, I'm pretty sure if we looked hard enough we could have seen Iowa.) It was their free day, so the fact that it was not as much farm or historical as we imagined didn't matter as much as it might of.

The smaller people did enjoy the carousel (minus the drama this time), the train, and the tractor-pulled wagon. And just ignore the smudge which I discovered on my camera lens... I couldn't fix it because my lens cloth was at home.

H.

There was a replica of a one-room schoolhouse which had a (sort-of) interpreter in. The little girls were so cute sitting in the great big desks that I took a lot of pictures of them.

G. 

L.

The whole crew:

_____________________
And for those of you who have been following H.'s journey, I thought you might be interested in a story about the plastic surgeon she is seeing. It is really about a little boy who was born with such a significant facial tumor that H.'s pales in comparison. I am amazed at the work the doctor has done and gives me great hope for H.  Click the link: North Shore University Health Systems. When you arrive at the page, choose Summer 2012 from the list under Connections.  It takes a while for the .pdf to load, but once you are there, scroll down to the story:  Crafting a New Face for Teo. It is so amazing that it is really worth the effort to get to.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My big blank wall

I realize that when I shared about organizing our craft supplies that I never showed you my solution to the big blank wall in the kitchen. Here is what it looks like now (ignore the piles on the white cupboard... some of it is school stuff that I'm ignoring for the moment):


These are three long wires that are strung in different lengths across the wall. They are from IKEA and the wires have mounts that go into the wall and which are used to tighten the wires. I also picked up the clip sets so that all we have to do is clip the artwork to the wires. The bottom wires have a rotating display of the children's various artwork and across the top is a long piece of paper (supplied by a good friend) with a Scripture verse. This is Hosea 1:7.

I wrote out the verse in pencil and then let everyone 9 and up go to town. They colored, they traced, the added pictures. I love how it looks. And there is absolutely no permanent commitment which is what I was avoiding for the past four years.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Worship notebooks

A while back, I did a short class on how our family uses worship notebooks to help our children during the 'long parts' of the weekly worship service. I thought perhaps you, my blog readers, might be interested in the topic as well. We have long been proponents of families worshiping together, through the whole service, as opposed to sending them out for part of it. I know this puts us in the minority of North American, white, evangelical worshipers, but I'm OK with that. I have written several posts about this before which, if you're new, you might find interesting. Here are the links:  Worship; Unintended consequences; Worship revisited; and Expecting too much of our children?

But back to the worship notebooks.  I must say up front that we have been heavily influenced by Edith Schaeffer in The Hidden Art of Homemaking and by Robbie Castleman in Parenting in the Pew in how we go about doing worship with our children. So, as much as I would like to take credit for what we do, it's really just our version of other people's ideas.

First let's talk about what worship notebooks are not. They are not child distractors. That is, it would be easy to see them as something to occupy young, wiggly children while the sermon is going on. (And it's the sermon we're talking about, really.) We do not hand them to our children with a pen and let them doodle and draw without any interaction or awareness of what is happening around them in the service. Our purpose is not to distract our children from what is happening, but to help them engage with it. In order to keep the worship notebooks special, we also only allow them to come out during the sermon.

Learning to use worship notebooks is much more of a learning curve for the parents than it is for the children, because what J. and I are essentially doing during the sermon is using the notebooks to illustrate or translate the sermon for our children so that they can understand it. It involves a lot of stick figures and is not great art, but it gets the message across. Frankly it is easier with just a couple of children, so that one child is sitting next to one adult, but as our family has grown we have adapted how we do this.

Before, when we had just a couple of children sitting in church with us, we would each take a child and we would do all the drawing, with whispered comments along the way, to clarify or ask and answer questions. We were able to manage this way for a while, because as M. got older, we graduated her to practicing her note-taking skills in her notebook and J. and I still had a child a piece. Once we were out-numbered, things got a little more tricky.

Currently, our older children (high school age) listen to the sermon. P. is now learning to take notes, so that is what she does... more or less. And J. and I each have two children sitting next to us. (G. and L. start church with us and then we do take them to the childcare room. If we had more hands we might reconsider, but I know our limitations. Once we have a couple more people who can attend independently, we will keep them in the service with us.) We try to spread it out so we each have a reader and non-reader, but it doesn't always work that way and one parent ends up doing a bit more work in the drawing department, interpreting the sermon into pictures for two. What usually happens (at least how I do it), is I draw/write a bit based on what the pastor has said and then ask them for a response... picture, words, something based on what I've written. For instance, last Sunday, the text was Jesus calming the storm. As the pastor went through the passage, I had D. draw a picture of the storm and the disciples being scared and Jesus asleep. While he was drawing that, I was working with TM. Then I give TM something to draw and work with D., or whichever pair I end up with that Sunday.

Is this the easy road? Certainly not! But it is well worth it in the long run. My older children have never felt as though the service had nothing to offer them as grew older because at a young age they were learning along side their parents and families what worship is and how to do it. Because we always assumed that they could understand (with help) what was happening in the service, as they grew older they continued to assume there was something of value there even if it required some mental effort. Worship has never not been relevant to my older children.

Yes, J. and I sometimes miss parts of the sermon. Yes, it can be difficult to manage an uncooperative child in the pew. (J. or I have probably taken out every single child from the service at one point or another. Poor behavior in church is not a Sunday, the service is too long problem, but has its roots elsewhere.) No, relaxing is not a word to describe our typical worship experience.

But, I'll share a story with you. About a year ago, due to various reasons, I had the unusual experience of worshiping without a single child sitting next to me. I was actually kind of excited about it, thinking how relaxing and refreshing it would be to be able to attend to the service and sermon without interruptions. I really did think it would be a very positive experience. I have rarely been so wrong. Instead of being refreshing and satisfying, it was the exact opposite. Without my children with me it felt very lonely. Without the necessity of illustrating the sermon to a small person, my mind wandered and I left the service not being really able to tell you what the sermon was about. The whole experience felt empty.

And isn't this usually the case? God asks us to sacrifice ourselves for Him and He promises to bless us. In this case, we, as parents, are sacrificing our comfort and ease in order to bring our children before our Lord and teach them to worship Him. And while our children benefit from this, in the end, it turns out that God really does know what He is doing and the things that we think are sacrifices are actually the very things that God uses to bless us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Resorting to bullet points

I'm finding it really difficult to top yesterday's post about Superman (go ahead, you know you want to look at the cute L. pictures again), so, I'm going to stop trying and just bore you all with some humdrum family items.

  • Yesterday H. had a sedated MRI done. It meant that she and I had to be at the hospital by 6am. It's not an hour I normally like to be up and about, but we made it. H. was a trooper and did very well. Because the MRI was going to be longer than usual because the types of imaging they were doing we opted for sedation. I also (on the advice of a friend) had them put Versed in the IV just so she wouldn't remember anything unpleasant. We have too many more medical procedures to go to start having stress about them now. She handled the anesthetic very well, though it seems that when she is first coming out of it she is a real grump. It was a little odd to see her in this mood since she is normally very cheerful. I knew she was fully awake when the cheerful H. showed up.
  • M. moves back to campus on Saturday where she will be living in a campus apartment with three other young women. She will not have a meal plan, but will be cooking for herself. I think this will work out well since she didn't really care for the dorm food. (This is a huge understatement, actually.) Because of campus jobs her other roommate have moved in already and she is just a little put-out that she hasn't moved in as well. It has been wonderful to have her around this summer, but I think she's ready for a new school year.
  • B. is also going to be spending more than a little time down at the campus this year. He is all signed up to take beginning Italian as an introduction to college level classes. M. is thrilled and can't wait to see him more since he will be there three mornings a week. He will ride to school with J. and then take the bus home. This is what M. did her senior year of high school as well.
  • Everyone (my children, nurses at the hospital, neighbors, people on the street) is starting to ask me when we are starting school. Does sometime after Labor Day count as an answer? My brain is still on summer vacation and I just don't want to think about it at the moment. In the meantime the following activities have been observed among the masses: reading (lots and lots of reading), beading, hand sewing, drawing, listening to audio stories, piano playing, Lego building, beach going, playing with friends, costume creating, writing, tree climbing, and did I mention reading? I think they'll be fine for a bit longer while my brain gets a needed rest.
  • The costume creating was a result of A. being invited to a 20's themed murder mystery party. We found her a flapper-like dress and a friend did her hair.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Superman

Even though the little girls still look pretty much alike, they are very different personalities. G. still love to talk and will talk and talk and talk and sing songs and talk some more. L., while she does talk, is more of an action kind of girl. For some reason, she has taken a very strong liking to a Superman costume we have and wears is nearly every single day. Her own touch is the boots. And you can't call her L., while she is dressed up, because she is Superman and must be addressed accordingly. Well, she calls herself "Doo Doo Man", because she still has a bit of trouble with the 's' sound. 

She very nicely posed for some pictures last week. Our very own little super hero:







Saturday, August 18, 2012

Finally, a good recorded book

And then it was time to go home. We said our good-byes...

D. and his cousin who have kind of an identical cousin-thing going on.


and spent a little more time with our baby nephew who will be much bigger the next time we see him...

and drove home. No one really wanted to leave, but it's probably better to leave while everyone still wants to be there (and your hosts still want you there!)

The trip home was pretty uneventful, but the constant question-asking was absent because we finally found a good book to listen to. I heartily recommend Stowaway by Karen Hesse. It is a fictionalized account of Captain James Cook's voyage on the Endeavor when he circumnavigated the globe. It was very well done and the author kept as much historical accuracy as possible. It was one of the rare books that held everyone's attention (OK, not the 3 year olds or the new English speaker, but they also tend not to talk when something is being read). The college student enjoyed it just as much as the grade schoolers. 

We are all now a little bit obsessed with the Endeavor and its voyage. Good thing we went to the library yesterday. I found a great book called, The Ship: Retracing Cook's Endeavor Voyage by Simon Baker, which is all about the trip a group of people took on a replica of the Endeavor retracing Cook's route. It has pictures of the modern trip, but also lots of photographs of the people and the journals from the first trip. It really helped to fill in a lot of questions we had after listening to the story. Plus, it's always nice to see what the actual people looked like once you feel as though you know them. The trip was also a BBC series, which I can only find reference to. Evidently it is not available on DVD, which is most disappointing.

So we're now all back at home and nearly unpacked. It was a great week and I suppose I have to start thinking about the upcoming school year. I even broke down and bought a calendar, so September will actually occur now.

Thanks so much to the other Currys for hosting us! It's no small thing to have 12 people descend upon you for multiple days. We had a wonderful time and wish very much you lived closer... or we lived closer to you. (You do have the better scenery!)
_____________________
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Friday, August 17, 2012

By the sea

Back to our trip... On our last full day in New Hampshire we decided to drive the seashore. (It's just an hour away, too.) We got there in time to eat our picnic lunch. We stopped at a spot right next to an old WWII bunker which thrilled some of the boys, especially B., our WWII buff.

D. in front of the bunker

After we ate we headed for the beach.

The whole group

K.

H. looking at something someone found on the beach

This is the little bay we were exploring... the tide was still fairly low, but on its way in. Tides still baffle my great lakes crew.

But it was the rocks which called to everyone and they needed to go climb on them.


And explore the tide pools.

G., B., and P.

The little girls didn't want to be let out of the fun, so found willing carriers.

G. and B.

I want to stop here for a moment and mention a not-so-small success. You remember my description of helping H. move up and down the mountain a few days ago, right? Well it seems the effort paid off. The shoreline was very rocky, big rocks, small rocks, and everything in between. To get around, you really had to climb over and around the rocks. Well, H. did really well. We even noticed her voluntarily jumping from one rock to another more than once! While there were a couple of times she felt stuck, they were infrequent and she was able to pick her way around and over the obstacles. It felt like a huge success and we could tell H. was very proud of herself.

The bigger people just couldn't stay out of the water and decided to go wading around.

J., M., and B.

B.

The only trouble with this was that the bottom was very slippery and it was difficult to find your footing, as M. discovered.

P. watching J. help M. up.

It was just a lovely afternoon which everyone enjoyed. We came home pleasantly tired and my sister-in-law were happy that we had thrown dinner in the crock pot before we left.  Here are more scenes from the day.

G. and H.

G. (on left) and L.

B. (there was a lot of time spent by many boys skipping many rocks)

J. and his brother

A. found a small crab. (It that little dark thing between her thumb and finger.)

Our newest nephew decided the whole outing was just too tiring.

L., G. and M., who are also looking a little tired.

And did I mention this was just an hour away? Just like the mountains were an hour away? What do we have an hour away? More city. Bah.
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Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 5
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Plus, I have a new article up about Homeschooling and Pajamas.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Family togetherness

I still have a bit more from our trip that I want to share with you, but I'm going to take a break today and do something different. I am going to start doing a blog hop with the people at Hearts at Home. This happens the third Thursday of every month and the topic that each of the bloggers will be writing about will be related to home and family. This month's topic is connecting with your family... how do you make time to stay close?

As children get older and start to be involved in more things outside the home, I find this a bit challenging. It could be so easy for everyone to be so busy with their own schedules that doing things as a family can fall by the wayside. There are a few things we have done to try to mitigate this.

The first, and I know I can sound like a broken record about this, is we eat dinner together as a family every night. It is pretty non-negotiable. Oh every so often a child will have a babysitting job or an activity that takes them away from home during dinner, or J. will have to teach a night class on a certain day of the week for a time, but for the most part we are all together. It means that if there is a class or regular activity that sounds good or someone is interested in and that class meets during dinner, we just don't participate. Dinner together comes first. This hasn't really been a problem with our children. They like eating dinner together and they know what the family rules are, so they rarely ask to do something which would overlap. It is also one of the things M. misses most about being at school, and I think she and her new roommates are going to try to eat dinner together on a somewhat regular basis. It's just nice at the end of the day to be home with people you like and share a meal and discuss the day.

Another thing we do is to schedule in family activities. This has become important as people start to have independent schedules and doubly important if you have a college student. If it isn't scheduled in advance, it probably won't happen. So, if I want everyone to clear their schedules to do something all together, I need to think about it in advance. Take our New Hampshire trip we took last week. At the very beginning of summer, before summer jobs were settled, I had everyone block out that week. I knew we wanted to do something even if the final plans weren't made. I do the same thing at Christmas. If I want everyone to be home to decorate the tree, I put the date on everyone's calendars well in advance of December.

Lastly, since the theme of this seems to have become maintaining family time with older children, is to sometimes do things with just your older children. For us, that means having to pay an occasional sitter to stay with the littles, since all of our babysitting is usually handled 'in-house'. But, the times we have done this have been a lot of fun and really allows for conversation with our older children that just can't happen when there are a lot of little people around. We love the little people, but they can be a bit loud and needful of attention a lot of the time.

Of course, this all assumes that no one person or child in the house has been allowed to over-extend themselves schedule-wise. If a person's schedule is so tight that even planning ahead for things does not allow for flexibility, then I believe you need to take a hard look at what your commitments are and ask yourself if they are really all that important. When you look back at your children's growing up years, are you going to be glad of the time you had together or are you going to regret that you hadn't said no to more activities so that your time was more free to spend together as a family. Activities, classes, committees, good works can all be good things, but often the time spent together as a family is the better thing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A love letter

My Dear Child,

You know, you are not so very different from your son, yet I love you both. The difference is that sometimes you despair for him, yet I never despair for either of you.

You become frustrated when he can't seem to see that he is treated no differently than his brothers and sisters. You think he should be aware when another person is corrected, or asked to do something, or given a punishment, but all he seems to be able to focus on is when that brother or sister gets a reward when he doesn't. You see the equity of your home, yet he only sees the unfairness; what he doesn't have.

Yet how is this really different from you? Don't you do the very same thing? I care for each of my children as they need. I admonish, correct, discipline, and reward those whom I love, yet all you can focus on what I've given others and not you. You focus on what you don't have instead of what you do have. Just as there are things you do not give your son even though he desperately wants them because they would not be good for him, I do the same for you. There are things you think you desperately want, yet I know they would be harmful.

You try to comfort your son when he becomes anxious over many things and wonder why he can't just trust that you will take care of him. Your assurances and past record seem to make no difference and he ties himself up in knots with worry over things he cannot control. You know that if would only relax and let you take care of things his life would be more joyful.

Yet how is this really different from you? Don't you do the same thing? You worry and worry and worry over things which have no control yet I have promised to take care of you. Despite these assurances and a long history of care and provision, you also, tie yourself up in knots. If you could allow yourself to let Me handle things your life would be more joyful. I created the universe, I can handle taking care of you.

You despair that healing for your son will never come. You seem to deal with the same issues over and over and nothing seems to get better. Your bag of tricks is empty and you don't know what to do.

You are no different from your son, yet my response is. You, too, deal with the same issues over and over and over. In this life sin will always stalk you and temptation will ever be at your door. But I do not come up empty; I have already provided the solution. To save you and your son from the effects of sin and its resultant death, I sacrificed my Son. My Son whom I loved and who was perfect. The solution already exists and in the fullness of time you will see what you have been hoping and praying for. But like your son, who wants everything right now, you do, too. You want your son to learn to be patient, to wait for good things, and to trust you for them. I want the same thing for you. Trust Me.

Remember the verse I shared with you this morning, "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him." Nahum 1:7

Love,
Your Father

The day everyone learned to dive

Our second full day in New Hampshire was spent relaxing and just enjoying the company. (Plus, J. had some work he had to do, so he got to do that. Lucky him.) Later in the afternoon we all headed over to a friend of the other Currys and used their pool. Everyone had a great time.


The younger set pretty much stayed on the steps and played in the water.


There was a lot of sliding.


And sometimes a big person would take a little person out into the pool.


The diving board was very popular.


There were two big events of the afternoon. The first was this:


If you scroll back up and look at the first picture, you will notice that H. is sitting with just her feet in the pool. This is how she has approached pools and beaches for the past five months. She is happy to have her feet wet but absolutely refuses to get wet above the knee. As the afternoon progressed, I watched her slowly get wetter and wetter. First she moved slowly down each step until she was a lot wetter than she had been before. Then I noticed that she was starting to get her hair wet by tipping the top of her head into the pool. Then the next thing I knew, she was all the way in the water and having a wonderful time. She stayed in the pool for the rest of the time.

Now, I feel I need to address the seizure-thing. Probably it didn't occur to any of you to wonder at us allowing H. into the water. Before we began our journey into the land of seizures, I wouldn't have either. It's actually a bit dangerous to allow a child with unpredictable seizures to be in water. We were very careful to keep someone next to her at all times so that she could be pulled out of the water immediately. I wouldn't let her swim (or bathe in a bathtub) at this point without a second person to keep watch. But I also don't want her to miss out on things because of the seizures. She has missed out on so much already, I would rather support her as she tries and experiences new things.

The other big event was the spontaneous group diving lesson inspired by the diving board. Only one of our children (B.) could dive before this trip to the pool. M. had steadfastly refused to learn and the others had different swim lessons which didn't emphasize diving. Well, I am happy to report that by the end of the day all of my swimmers (that would be everyone age 9 and up, excluding H.) could do a passable dive. So not only did everyone have fun, exert some energy, they also felt pretty pleased with themselves that they had learned a new skill.
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Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 4 / Part 5
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