Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mastering Sin

Thanksgiving is nearly here. And as I begin trying to rid myself of the thanklessness that often overshadows the blessings, I find myself growing in self control, and joy, and peace.

This week in our Sunday school class, the teens walked through the story of Cain and Abel. A story which I have known for years, but settled into my heart this week.

As Cain struggles with feelings of jealousy and anger, God comes to him. Speaks to him directly, though we don't have details, I can imagine it vividly. Cain is feeling rejected, jealous of God's favor towards his brother. I'd guess that there are deeper rooted issues, though I'm certainly adding my own back story here, but given Cain's enormous reaction, this probably isn't the first time Cain has felt slighted.

But God doesn't walk away, leaving him to seethe in his frustration. He comes to Cain. While Cain is angry, God speaks to him gently, lovingly. "Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?"  I don't imagine these words are spoken in anger, but love, from a God who fully knows Cain. Knows Cain's next move already.

The Lord warns him, "if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Cain says nothing. In his heart, he is already rebelling against the God who loves him enough to come warn him personally. A God who doesn't reject Cain, even knowing the anger and murder that is already in his heart. So Cain hides his thoughts, nurses the pain.

So many times, I have set down a path knowing the road leads to destruction. But I begin down it anyways. Slowly, at first. Maybe it's just an angry word. A resentful heart. I feel God's Spirit stirring in me, warning me. But, like Eve, Cain, David... I continue, justifying my actions. I ignore the stirring. I ignore God pleading with me "sin is crouching at your door." I feed it, scraps, like a pet sitting under my table. I become attached to the hurt, the jealousy. Every time I feed it, it grows a little larger, begging to be fed again and again.

I keep telling myself my feelings are justified. And the sin grows larger, controlling more of my thoughts.

But God is still there. He is there beside me, just like He was in the garden, asking Adam and Eve where they were hiding. Asking Cain, "Where is your brother?"

It's me who is hiding. Trying to keep the sin hidden under the table.

God tells us, "you must master it." The more you deny it, the less power it has. Sin desires you. It desires to control your life, to control your relationship with God.

Either you are mastering your sin, or it's mastering you.

Every time we give in to an angry, resentful, jealous spirit, we try to hide a little more of ourselves from an all knowing, all powerful, personal God who fully knows you.

God pleads with us to do what is right. To master our anger. He gives us his Spirit to help guide us. He wants us to be in constant communication with Him so that we can know His perfect will for our lives. Not hide from Him. Not set on a path that leads to pain.

This week, I am beginning to physically count my blessings. I began a list in my kitchen. When I feel myself nursing a feeling of exhaustion, anger or hurt, I force myself to think of the blessing in it and write it down. This morning, for example, as D had an emotional period and found himself in tears over something, I wrote, I am so grateful that God has given me this child and allowed me to stay home with him, where his feelings are safe. Where he doesn't have to hide them, where he doesn't suffer from anxiety or fear of retribution.

I am thankful that God has washed me clean. That he comes to me even in my sin and pleads with me to master my sin. That he quietly invites me into conversation with him. I am thankful that I have the freedom to choose my path. Even more thankful that as I know Him better, His perfect will for me becomes more evident, and my path becomes more even.

Are you hiding anything from God today? Are you nursing anger? Resentment? Are you angry with your spouse, do you feel unappreciated? Are you exhausted and feel like there is no rest in sight?

I would challenge you to begin this with me. This week, today, right now, as you read this. Start a list. As you focus on the blessings, your feelings of anger lose power over you. You begin to master your flesh.You're free from the control of sin, and joy and peace begin blossoming in your heart.

From my family to yours. Happy Thanks-giving.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ancient Greece

There is so much fascinating history during the Ancient Greek period. D loved this period in history and we spent a solid two weeks on it, and I bet we revisit this in two-three years and add a LOT of information!

 We started by adding this period in history to our giant timeline. I have a timeline that spans almost an entire wall, with pictures of each unit we study, so it's very visual. The end of the timeline is when C was born, so it is large. We also found Greece on the map, and talked about how Ancient Greece was MUCH larger than the land that Greece has now.

 Our library has so many great resources for history, I am just impressed by how well equipped we are to teach our children so much, for free!!! There were at least four books that were "Hands on activities to study Ancient Greece" ! Amazing.

 One of our favorite books to read was Hour of the Olympics, the Magic Tree House book. It covers a lot of information, as well as being a really easy read. D would say his favorite was the true story, comic-book version of Alexander the Great. I do NOT like "graphic novels" but D sat and listened to me read 100 pages of comics in one sitting. And somehow retained it. Crazy.

 And of course, the activities. The activities were AWESOME!

 We had our own version of the "Pentathalon" Olympic event. Our events were: Relay race, jumping, javelin throwing, discus, and Knucklebones (a real game that kids played in Greece!) to replace boxing....


We made our own olympic torch out of a pencil, paper, and a cardboard flame to pass during our relay race.

 This is knuckebones. VERY similar to the game marbles, but you'd use dried out bones or stones. Try to get the closest to the middle circle without getting knocked out!

 Javelin throwing! We used a broom stick. Kids loved this!

 We used a big, heavy ball to throw for discus, kids had a little trouble with that one.....but still begged me to have more olympic games for days afterwards!

We also learned that the Greeks used Mosaics to decorate their floors, so we made our own mosaic pan/coffee cup coasters. We just poured glue into an old lid, and decorated with beads, seeds, and beans. Very fun.

My favorite activity was reading about the story of the Trojan Horse. There are lots of great historical, and fictional accounts of Homer's famous poem. This lent itself to a lot of discussions about what poems are, what legends are, and how they often get fact and fiction mixed up! The boys made up a lot of rhyming poems, which I loved listening to (though they were absolutely ridiculous lol!) and, building our OWN Trojan Horse and re-enacting the story!!! Loved Loved this. This is the reason I homeschool. We used cardboard boxes. Cut a hole out of the bottom, and duct taped it to the wagon. Our garage door served as the wall surrounding Troy. D wanted to be Odysseus, obviously. I was stuck being a poor helpless Trojan who fell asleep. Somehow, I'm always getting stuck as the bad guy! We played this in our authentic costumes of course.

We read about Greek Jewelry making, and made our own stone necklaces using rocks we found, clear nailpolish, and copper wire. The kids then used their jewelry for "trading."

After this, we read a book about the creation of Greek coins to make trading easier! We made our own coins out of clay, and the kids bought a whole lot of treats from my cupboard. Don't worry, I then used all their coins to purchase a warhorse and take over their cities.

They each made their own sword and Greek shields.

Can you see that D painted a bull on his?? He did that all on his own! I was so proud! A Bull stood for strength.

 Yumm... Our Greek snacks. Shortbread cookies with Ricotta Cheese and honey. Greek Yogurt with honey and crushed almonds. A Hit!

After our Greek unit, I asked D if he wanted to take a break to study the ocean (which he is interested in!) to which he replied "No way! I want to keep studying Greece and Rome!"


Ancient Egypt activities

We have had a lot of fun traveling through Ancient Egypt

Our trip through Egypt
We read a fun book about a cave discovery with all sorts of artwork painted on the walls, so this is our version :-)

Homemade chariots! Kids loved this one!

My favorite activity during our Ancient Egypt unit was building sugar cube pyramids! All three kids loved doing this activity. It can be small (beginning with a 6x6 base) or huge (D started with 10x10 base!)
Warning: Sugar cubes are a little tricky to find!

After completion, he asked me to save it so that he can show it at the county fair... so it is still standing in our garage!! Even through a move to a new house!

This was another really fun activity. A lot of the books we read had maps of Ancient Egypt. We also located Egypt on our world map and drew in the Nile River and it's tributaries. So Cookie Dough maps seemed like the perfect activity!! We used premade cookie dough, blue frosting, a variety of candies to decorate. C made a mess, and ate it :) But D really took his time and added a lot of details!

 K LOVED this activity, and promised that she was NOT eating hers :-)

We found a really fantastic book about Hieroglyphs (called Hieroglyphs..) that had a stencil at the end. Each symbol corresponded to an alphabet sound. D wrote his entire name. Plus the word "Cat" and wrote a note to a friend with his name as well!  I was really really impressed!

A study of Egypt really isn't complete without making mummies. I found some dolls at a garage sale to use for this activity, because I really didn't want to touch a raw chicken. I pre-cut and glued sarcophogus' for the mummies, and the kids did the decorating. Then, we wiped down our mummies with oil, sprinkled cinnamon on them, and we used strips of linen (cut up pieces of white pillow cases..) dipped in a flour and water mixture to wrap around the dolls. It was pretty messy, and took 24 hours to dry (and also got moldy after a few days...) but overall, the kids really enjoyed doing it!!! Definitely worth the mess.

Makeup and costumes *of course!*

We also found a lot of great books to read at our library. Pete and Bill go Down the Nile was one of my favorite picture books. Magic School Bus had another great picture book. We also had fun watching a movie about Moses, Prince of Egypt, and learning about the role of God and His people in this influential and fascinating culture.

Greece comin' up next!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So Much More

18 years ago, I thought I was on the brink of being a young woman. I was coming up on a big birthday, and thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I was no longer a baby, a toddler, a preschooler, even a child. I was growing up, and 12 seemed a significant age.

I was a fairly typical (for West Bloomfield) 12 year old girl, and I wanted whatever most of my friends were getting for their birthdays (I think it was a cell phone) Instead, I opened a birthday card from my dad a few weeks early, and saw a gift certificate for a vacation. A vacation. Not what I had asked for. In fact, we went on vacations fairly frequently and truly, I wasn't all that impressed. Never mind that I had an amazing time. Never mind that I learned to surf, and sail, and met people I never would have met otherwise. Never mind that it was WAY better than what I had asked for. I still really wanted that cell phone.

Fast forward 10 years. I'm 21, on the brink of adulthood, and I know exactly what I want (and yes, I already had a cell phone.) I want success, a fulfilling career, money, adventure. But, I was young, and spoiled, and when I read the results of the only test I had ever feared taking, I received a way different life. I saw my present going up in smoke. The long hours studying, the money, the dreams, replaced by diapers and exhaustion and thankless hours of laundry and dishes. I could see nothing beyond my shame, frustration, and anger that life wasn't turning out the way that I wanted.

In my hurt, in my fear, and in one of my darkest hours, I couldn't dream that God could do anything with the mistake that I had made.

But in God's Infinite Wisdom, He turned a mistake into a blessing. He turned the worst decision I could have made into the most life changing, amazing gift I could have received.

I am a mother to three really amazing, loving and funny children (REALLY funny.) I am a wife to a man who is honorable and generous and forgiving (SO forgiving.) I'm homeschooling D, and loving it. But these seven years haven't come without a lot of grumbling, a lot of pain, a lot of still really wanting that cell phone.

Last year, I went through a really dark year. A year of resentment. Towards God, my husband, my children, which I'm ashamed to admit. But in the moment that God opened the door to move to Alexandria, I felt God telling me to leave. To start over, and I really didn't want to. I wanted to hold on to that horrible frustrated feeling of a 12 year old girl, angry about a present she didn't want.

I have learned this year that I really have to lean on and be obedient to God in every moment. I have died to myself so many times in the last 12 months, I have lost count. I have stopped fighting for "what I want" and tried to live my life more generously towards my children and husband. And a funny thing happened, when I stopped fighting for myself, God stepped in. He brought me peace, and joy, and contentment.

And today, I accepted a position to be the director of The Windmill Project, a small nonprofit organization that connects and supports families of children with disabilities, that will allow me to work part time, from my own home. I am shocked by the opportunity and faith the community has in me, and know that it has been God's hand *alone* that has brought me here. I didn't go out searching for this job, I didn't fight my husband's wishes to accept this job, I didn't fight against God because I wanted this job, rather I kept stepping out in faith, praying continually, and found myself hired despite my stumbling.

I am telling this story to tell you. Whatever you are going through, whatever you have went through. God has such a better story to write for you than you can imagine for yourself, if you only let Him.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you" 1 Peter 5:6

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Week 1 of Homeschooling

Instead of beginning with Egypt, we decided to start at the very, very beginning.

We started with creation. The book that we read was really quite pretty with great illustrations. And on one of the pages (the day God created the animals) there was a great picture of a frog! So I thought it would be great to tie in our own awesome frogs, the creek filled with frogs, and lots of fun games derived from there....

Then, we read the story of Adam and Eve (also a retelling in the same book) and in Usborne's 50 things to make and do, I found a fun (and easy, and cheap) idea to make a Shadow Puppet to re-tell the story we read.

Here's K telling the story (the shadow puppet is a snake.... kind of...)

So if you know your book of Genesis, we are now at Noah's Ark.

We spent two days on this story, because my kids had so, so, so many questions on this (where did the animal poo go? was my favorite) We re-enacted the story. D was Noah (of course) and C was one of his sons, K was a wife, and I was God. Sweeeeeet! It was really quite amusing. Don't worry I have it on video.

Every day, we have to incorporate some type of "experiment" because D LOVES experiments.

This was our experiment of the day, also from the Usborne book. You take paper, fold it up and cut it like a flower. Then cut out a little animal to place inside of the flower. When you put it in water, the paper absorbs the water and expands, and like magic, the petals open up to reveal your little animal inside. My kids were **AMAZED***  D chose this one out of our book because he thought it went well with the story of Noah's Ark.

We also had fun creating a lego city in the bathtub and flooding it. Don't worry, Noah and his family survived in our popcorn bowl... er, Ark.

This picture is actually pretty adorable. After the flood waters receded, D actually took Noah out of the Ark and made an altar, and sacrificed ("Mom, what smells better to God, a sheep or a goat on the altar?") a sheep to God to thank Him.

And since my children LOVE experiments, we also did a water/oil experiment that is a little different than the normal one. We first added food coloring to plain water and made observations. Then we added food coloring to oil and made observations. THEN, we took syringes and added the food coloring + oil mixed together, into the clear water. What happens is that the oil protects the food coloring for several minutes and then you see little "fireworks" of bursting color happen.

"Look mom! It's diffusing!" (that is a direct quote from my 3 year old)

D's drawing in his journal

K's science journal
There were other fun activities that we did this week too, and I can't say enough good things about the math curriculum we are using (Math U See)  But for now, I'll sign out.  After all, I am supposed to be cleaning today!! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our Semester Plans

I am SO excited to be getting ready for our first homeschooling year. It literally gets my heart beating faster when planning it out. D asked me this week "When do we get to begin our unit on Ancient Egypt because I really want to make K's Barbie into a mummy!"

This year, I am doing a hodgepodge of things, pulling together from lots of different sources, and since it's kindergarten, there is a lot of room for my own planning based on D's interests.

I really need to come up with more clever names for my children on here... that will come in the next blog :-)

This year we are using Math U See for math, which is a very visual, hands on program. I know that my kindergartener is quite ahead in this area, so it's likely that we'll move along at pretty quick pace.

We are also beginning formal "reading" lessons with a book recommended by lots of friends, 100 lessons to teach your child to read. D already knows all of his letter sounds and understands putting them together to read basic words, so this will mostly be practicing and learning a lot of the weird English rules.

We are only planning on spending 40 minutes a day, tops, on those two areas. This was SHOCKING to my husband, and a lot of other non-homeschooling families that feel like the longer the formal learning, the more that is learned. I don't personally subscribe to this, and my philosophy at this age is more "as long as he is engaged and learning, we'll learn in a formal setting", otherwise I will adapt.

We'll also have quiet reading times, and some writing thrown in there. A co-op where I am teaching a science class ("science class"= 24 experiments with creepy creatures like bugs and worms") and a kindermusik class.

But, the part I am EXCITED about, and the part HE is most excited about, is the history curriculum I've pieced together. I've taken a cue from what he loves, and what I love, and found lots of resources on various websites and blogs.

We are going to spend a few weeks studying Ancient Egypt (3000BC), then Ancient Rome (300BC-ish), the Middle Ages (1000 AD), Native Americans (1400), and then Early US History with units on the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII (can you tell that D is very interested in war?!)

We'll have a huge, wall size timeline going through our learning room that we will mark time periods along, as well as pictures of people or places we study to remind us of the adventures we have went on throughout history.

We also plan on printing off a huge world map to hang on the wall. I currently have a large 18"x18" map of America on our wall, and found a great free website to print these. Then, we can also mark places we have studied.

I found an amazing website. Counterculturalschool.com, that I have gained tremendous hands on activities from. LOVE this website.

In addition to all of these awesome things that I am excited about, I also made a list of the books that I want to read with D for our Ancient Egypt unit. AND I found them *ALL* for free in our MN link library system. SCORE!

ccs public domain Han_Tomb_Mural,_Horses_and_Carts

So for those homeschooling moms who want more details, I will add them in here :-)
Book List:
Egypt, Stephen Krensky
Usborne Ancient Egypt
Mummies in the Morning (Tree House)
Ms Frizzles Adventures: Ancient Egypt
Hieroglyphs, Joyce Milton
Mummies Made in Egypt
DK Eyewitness Books- Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt- A First Look at People of the Nile
I also found a Reading Rainbow video of traveling to Egypt and visiting King Tut's tomb.

Cookie dough map of Ancient Egypt
Traditional Egyptian Feast
Costumes made with old pillowcases and sheets
Doll Mummies
Sugar Cube Pyramids
Tomb Paintings on large moving box
Hieroglyphics treasure hunt

I will obviously update this with pictures and reviews of how these go over!

What is your family doing this year that you are most excited about???

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Redefining Values

One of the more appealing things about homeschooling is that I will have the ability to help shape and define my children's values, more so than an influential teacher, more than a group of peers, more than the culture we live in.

Our faith will be defined as more than just attending church on Sunday. Our compassion can be learned with hands on service. Our patriotism will be redefined as a love of values, and love of man, rather than a simple love of country.

Patriotism is one of the things that I struggle the most with. I love that I was born in the United States, I am grateful for it, and grateful for the freedom it has allowed me. But, I think there are better ways of doing things. I see problems with the values that our country is focusing on. I see challenges to overcome with our social systems, education, and government. To be truthful, I see more that needs to be improved on than I see should be modeled and reproduced.

To me, being a Christian is loving the world. Loving people regardless of their culture, their country, their skin color. Not thinking we are better than others, not thinking that America is a place that should be safeguarded from the influences of other cultures. And this is the patriotism that I want to pass on to my children. Loving your country doesn't mean blindly following it on a path that you don't agree with. It doesn't mean thinking we are better than others just because we were born in a country that prides itself on its pride.

I think loving your country means loving it enough to try to change it. To try to use whatever influence you have to make it better. The biggest influence I have is in my own home, with our next generation. And I plan on using it to make our country just a little bit better.

After all, as someone far more influential than me once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Immortal Legacy

Dreams are a funny thing. If you grew up in a good home, you were probably told things like "the sky is the limit!" "Dream big!" (maybe that was just my dad?!) And it's frustrating when your dreams become tangled up in diapers, dishes, and dirty laundry.

The idea of losing yourself admist the daily grind is scary. I think this has always been my biggest fear. That my children will grow up, and I will have nothing of myself left. I will have given 100% of myself to them, and they will just grow up, and go on to live their own lives, and I'll have nothing to show for those 20 years.

After years of genuinely struggling, accepting, praying, and re-cycling through these, I realize that it isn't that I don't feel like I'm accomplishing enough, it's not the accolades of a career that I really want. It's not the paycheck that I need. It's not more adult conversation. It's a legacy. I think that's why a lot of women seek out gratifying careers. They want to feel like they've really done something. Something to show their kids that they have accomplished. A dream fulfilled.

Except, your kids are your legacy. How can this just be really sinking in, when my eldest is seven?! It took me seven years to actually get it. Sure, I've heard sermons about it. Read books even, but it's finally in. I mean really deep down in.

It doesn't always feel like it, not every moment, not even every day, but to every stay at home mother, or any mother working so that she can put food on the table for her children, let me be the one to remind you, you DO have something to show for the days of building castles out of garbage. Of reading the same book five times in 10 minutes. Of playing barbies, again.  You have your children. You will have a lifetime of memories and love and joy.

And also, let me insert here, I've never known a person, ever, that loved their job every day, every moment. That wasn't frustrated by the mundane tasks, bogged down by the stress, or by the daily grind on occasion. That wondered if their work was making a real difference.

At the end of the day, your career can be wiped out by a thousand things, a bad economy, a corporate restructuring, by a new boss who doesn't like you, by a physical ailment that doesn't allow you to continue working. But the time and energy you put into your children, no one can take those moments from you or from them. No one can steal the relationship that you are building with them. The lessons that you are teaching them. The God that you can introduce them to through the slow patience of continual conversation and constant presence.

This is your real legacy.

Matthew 6:20-21 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Impressions of Homeschooling

During the past several years, I have been drawn to people who homeschool. Their values, their passion, their love for their children, their depth of thought and analysis over education and their children's future.

I am not someone who just accepts things the way they are because it's "normal." I am not someone to accept things the way they are because they've always been that way. In fact, I almost despise that method of thought. Things never change with people who think that way. Growth has never occured in the human race because a man sat down and thought, "well, I guess this is as good as it gets!"

The homeschooling community, and of course everything has exceptions, is a group of families who aren't satisfied with doing things just because it's what everyone else does, it's a group of families who are excited about their children's learning, and love of learning. And I LOVE that! I feel like I'm finally not fighting a system, struggling an uphill battle against a teacher who says "I'm sorry, we can't give your child the time, the attention, the love or the challenge that he needs" because of some law made in Washington by a man who probably doesn't even have children.

We've started "homeschooling" recently, even though yes, it is summer, because my children are SO excited to homeschool!  I love their enthusiasm, their excitement, and I love watching them learn.

This morning we did an ice experiment, K practiced her handwriting, D and C mostly just explored, but we had so much fun.

Whether your kids are in daycare today, at a friend's house, or at home enjoying their first few days of summer break, I hope you find a way to learn from them today!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Schooling Choices

For years, I have wrestled with the public school system. Despite passionate teachers who try their hardest to make learning fun, and despite dispassionate teachers who really don't care, the system is broken at a much more fundamental place than individual teachers can fix.

I first wrote about my struggles with schooling here: http://morethanadrift.blogspot.com/search?q=education   which I wrote quite awhile ago! 

Having my eldest boy enter kindergarten this year has been a heavy weight on my heart this year. He is a quick learner, loves investigating, loves new books, digging into new subjects. He is sensitive, very very much so. He has a great attention span when he's interested in something, but a pretty short one when he's not so interested. A few weeks ago, we found out that his kindergarten class is estimated to be 27 students.... Schools are just not cut out for this five year old.

I looked into private schools, a magnet school option, the public school and homeschooling. My dad called my pros and cons lists "Paralysis of Analysis"  funny and totally true! He said that being paralyzed by fear is worse than choosing the "wrong" choice.

I finally approached my husband, begging for his rational guidance and support in this decision.

So, after consideration, lots and lots of research, and deep considerate prayer, we've decided to homeschool D. I'm not sure if we will continue this for 1 year, or 5 years, or 10 years, I'm not sure yet if I'll school C at home as well, or eventually bring K home. One year at a time. I'm excited to document this next journey in our family. Our struggles, and our many, many joys.  K has already been asking me if I can homeschool her on weekends :-)

My daughter is in 1st grade in the public school and generally, her disposition is pretty happy-go-lucky. She gets lots of opportunities for one on one learning because of her learning disabilities, and a lot of opportunities for practice with peer interaction. So I certainly don't write this to say that no child can grow and benefit from public school. Obviously my husband is another testament that many public schooled kids go on to do wonderfully!

But I will say this. I see a terrifying trend in busy, busy parents. They expect the teachers, the schools, their daycares to raise their children. To love their children. To grow their children. It's scary to me that our culture just assumes that sending your child away for 8 hours each day is healthy and that the parent's influence at the end of the day is very minimally necessary.

Homeschooling can be a great choice. Public schools can be a great choice, and so can private schools.  But they can also be terrible.

Whatever choice your family makes, I strongly believe that every parent should be their child's primary teacher. Their biggest supporter. Their most important influence.  If that's not the case, well, then it really doesn't matter what schooling choice you're making.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Real Man

On Mother's Day, I often have pretty lofty expectations. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I'm a pretty decent mom. I devote most of my energy to my family. Loving on them, growing them, cleaning up after them.

On most Mother's Days, I find myself feeling as though I've earned some accolades, some attention, some extra spoiling even. I think secretly (or not so secretly!) most mothers would agree with that! Sadly, I hear equally as many disappointing Mother's Day stories as I hear great ones. Stories of children who are lost, stories of mothers who are gone, complaints by women who don't think their husbands notice how hard they work. But today, I am consciously choosing a different path. A much more pleasant path, and unfortunately, the road less traveled.

The days that I feel better than decent, the days that I feel great (or at least borderline great) are the days that I am focused on enjoying my kids. These are the days that I hope that they remember. These are the days I choose to meditate on when we are mid-tantrum, or in the middle of a two hour long bedtime process...

And these days are a credit to the man that is always standing beside me. I could not be a mother worth celebrating without him. I would not be a mother that I was proud to have become if not for his encouragement, strength, and steadfastness.

On this Mother's Day, while my husband is off farming, and I am alone with the three kids, I am choosing happiness. I am choosing thankfulness. A person doesn't deserve joy, they choose it. This day is an offering to my husband, who is a real man, and the reason I can be a good mother.

My husband is not perfect, I don't want anyone reading this, rolling their eyes at me, or my family, thinking that I'm living in some sort of alternate universe where my husband rubs my feet and recites poetry to me (he'd literally die before that happened) But he is Godly. He is faithful. He is Loving. He is Steadfast. He is Gentle. These aren't just nice qualities, these are instructions By God himself (1 Timothy 6:11)  And who am I to complain that it isn't enough?? These are not small things. These are everything.

On this Mother's Day, if I am a mother worth celebrating, then I have to take the time to thank my husband for being a real man, for being a man after God's own heart, and for allowing me to be a woman and mother of value.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare

I have this particular Aesop fable on audio. We listen to it in the car while driving to gymnastics lessons, or to drop someone off at school, or to entertain them as I do another of the 20 errands on my list, my kids giggling away in the back seat as the overly confident rabbit dozes off in the afternoon sun...

The very last line in this particular children's version is "And the moral is, slow and steady wins the race."

Slow and Steady.

This story first found it's way into a printed story book in the 1500's. More than 500 years ago, people needed a lesson, a fable to remind them the value of slowing down.

I think "slow and steady" has a biblical name: perseverance. The dictionary defines perseverance as steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty and delay.

The hare obviously was not steadfast.  Though certainly overly confident, I find the hare to be uncomfortable relatable.

Every day, I have my to do list, I have the list of things I want to do, another list of things I hope to do, another list of dreams for the future when the time comes...

And when I get going, I REALLY go. I can go 100 miles an hour. But I rarely reach the finish line.  I exhaust myself. The cleaning exhausts me. The kids exhaust me.  Life exhausts me before I finish the race.

There's a parable in the book of Luke.  Jesus says, "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering, they produce a good fruit."

The seed in the good soil who hears and retains and perseveres... that seed will produce a good fruit. There is no amount of rushing that will do this seed any good.  It will produce a good fruit by perseverance.

Our life is not meant to be a sprint.  It's not meant to be aimless.  It's meant to be lived with purpose and with perseverance.  The tortoise knew where he was going.  He had the end goal in mind, he wasn't wandering around in circles. But he wasn't sprinting either.  He wasn't going 100 miles an hour, and he won.

God knows our limits.  We are human, in human bodies, with human weaknesses.  He knows your heart, and He knows your dreams.  He wants us to slow down.  Not for His benefit, but for ours.  So that we can win the race.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."  1 Corinthians 9:24

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Week 7

There's only a few days left until we've finished 60 days of pretty intense nearly daily "homework" sessions with K.  We'll see if she lets me "quit" after these 60 days, she *loves* her one on one homework time.

We've made a LOT of math progress this week, so I really want to focus on how we've revamped our math.

As I've mentioned, we use a math kit, "Numicon" which we had ordered online.  It's a math curriculum designed for children who need a more visual way of learning math, and has been proven an effective way to teach kids with special needs.

 This gives you a good idea of what it looks like.  Each shape represents a number, and kids learn to associate an image with each number.  So if you imagine a muffin tin with six muffin spots, that is the shape that is represented by six (two rows of three each, same as on a dice)  In this picture you can see the number 3 (which is yellow) 4 (green) 5 (which is red) and 6 (is blue)

We spent a lot of time just getting used to the set, we place the pegs on the shape pieces, and play games where she just identifies which shape is which number.

I found some heart shape thingys (yes that IS a word) on sale on Target so I thought that would be a fun new manipulative for K.  We use a small muffin tin, because the 18 muffin tray was just too hard for her at this point.  At first, we just were counting.  The next day, I started working on addition and subtraction, making sure to create the same patterns as her numicon shapes.  As an example, if I were to take 2+1, I would make sure that I created the same three-piece shape as the numicon kit uses, which you can see in the first picture, bottom row has two and the top row has one peg.  She picked up on this SO easily!! I was so encouraged because math is usually so frustrating for both of us.

If you have questions about the Numicon kit or are thinking about using it, shoot me an email, I'd be happy to talk more about it.

The other really interesting thing we did this week was a community education event, Art and Music.  The Lakes Area Orchestra played four pieces, and had art stations set up for each of the kids.  As they listened to each piece, they would brainstorm things that the music made them think of.  Then they'd identify colors that could represent the music, and then as the full piece was played again, they painted what they felt the music represented. It was SO cool!  I don't totally get the math-music connection, but there is plenty of research that shows it's legit!

 This first picture she was painting was a pretty dark piece.  And interestingly, it was a symphony piece inspired by a painting of Oxen trodding down a hill in old Russia, and was very heavy sounding.

We also worked on counting by tens.  Each row on this has ten, so it was a good way to visualize what counting by tens actually meant.

Playdoh and music are ways that really appeal to K to learn math as well. This was just a little game that I made up.  She practiced reading the rhyme, and math skills.  And please excuse my horrible play doh skills.  Those are supposed to be  monkeys in the tree.  "Five little monkeys sitting in the tree, teasing Mr Alligator, can't catch me, then along came Mr Alligator quiet as can be, and he snapped that monkey right out of that tree" and so on down to one!

We also did some good reading activities this week: Dr Jean Color Farm activities (check out Dr Jean if you don't know who she is, she is awesome!)  We practiced Edmark reading lessons, and also did "See, Spell, Write" spelling words .

Despite how many math activities that I've tried and failed with K, it was just SO encouraging to make positive progress on math this last week.