Pinterest and a Revelation

It’s been a few months since my last post, but I’m just going to pick up from the current week and move on. Life gets busy, you know?!

Gabe's Selfie 3

Gabe’s Selfie 1

This week brought warm temperatures and sunshine quickly followed by icy roads and frozen locks on the car! What a swing! I don’t mind the winter weather settling in now though. I loved looking out the window this morning to see the grass positively sparkling.

For my readers who haven’t heard the news yet, we are expecting baby #5 in May! The first 3 months were rough for me, dealing with morning sickness, hence one reason for the silence on this blog. But now that my appetite and energy have returned, our family is rejoicing in the anticipated blessing.

On Saturday, my big boy marched in our town’s Christmas parade. He was walking with his Cub Scout Pack and attracted plenty of attention sporting a curly orange wig, and fake elf ears! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures! Our family needs to assign a new historian…

The children are preparing to be in a Christmas Cantata this Sunday at church. They have been practicing their songs all week. It is wonderful to hear their sweet young voices praising the newborn King Jesus, even if they don’t quite yet understand the meaning.

Gabe's Selfie 2

Gabe’s Selfie 2

The Christmas tree in our living room is shining with ornaments both old and new. Once darkness begins to fall each evening, the kids scramble to turn the lights on so we can all enjoy its beauty. It seems the Christmas Spirit has hit us!

Gabe's Selfie 1

Gabe’s Selfie 3

Speaking of Christmas Spirit, it seems that I’m on a quest for excellence. OK, I have to admit, it’s not just at Christmas time. I am always pushing myself, striving to do better, do more, be the best, putting greatness into everything my hands find to do. As a homeschooler, I tend to be constantly on the lookout for the right curriculum, the most outstanding instructors for my children’s extracurricular activities. I desire to have the cleanest car, most organized home, the freshest smelling laundry, the tastiest gourmet dinners, and the happiest pets. But I recently had a revelation – Its impossible! There will always be someone with more talent, nicer things, smarter kids, funnier, prettier, more thoughtful, etc., etc. Analyzing my role in all these areas could make me go crazy! And it is okay. I am not Martha Stewart, Nancy Drew, or some other character, either real or fictitious, everyone deems to be perfect. I was not created to be the champion every moment of every activity I pursue. God has not called me to be top-notch housekeeper or illustrious hash slinger. This is the exact time of year I needed this epiphany, for it is the Christmas season when I most often visit, ahem, Pinterest! You know what that means, right? Where’re my Pinterest peeps at? There are so many cute cookies, crafts, recipes, decorations…I could go nuts trying to pluck  all those charming pleasantries off my computer screen and recreate them in my not-so-charmingly-decorated home. No, instead, God has called me to respond appropriately to the interruptions that present themselves throughout the day. He has called me to mentor and disciple my children in a Biblical fashion. He has called me to be a steadfast helper to my husband. He has called me into a relationship with Him that supersedes all other relationships! And that is the most excellent quest.

 

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A Very Present Mama

photoSociety bombards caring moms with so much information it sometimes  feels impossible to sift through it all. Enhance this development, follow this safety rule, buy this learning tool, don’t buy this toy, feed your kid this, worry about this illness, and so on. Over time I have learned to review and either keep or toss the info in a pretty efficient manner, thus reducing my stress levels and still maintaining the well-being of my children. However, how does said caring mom sift through all the information her kids bombard her with? For example, I now know more about a certain princess/elf-themed handheld video game than I ever needed or desired   to know. I find myself saying, “That’s totally random,” in a Valley Girl accent. I know the names and evolutions of various Pokemon characters. I’m trying  to listen and smile and be kind when my young ones want to share their interests with me, but, come on, fellow Mamas, I’ll be the first to admit, most of the time I just DON’T CARE! I actually try to NOT allow this propaganda into my brain, but somehow it has crept its way in and there is no delete button. It particularly makes me sad when the kids are in bed and I’m with my handsome hubby and what is playing through my mind? All the words I know to many of the parody Minecraft songs on YouTube! Now this is not a new phenomenon. I have been a victim of involuntary kid pop culture brain abduction since my eldest was a tiny tot. I would often be going about my daily duties humming the theme to Backyardigans or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. By the time I realized what I was doing, the catchy melody was so ingrained in my gray matter that I would never be able to forget it no matter how hard I tried. But here’s the kicker…along with the bad, the ugly, and the irritating comes the good too. Yes, I’m with my children 24/7. Yes, I’m exhausted at the end of every day. Yes, I know all the plots to every Lego Bionicle story ever written. But I don’t miss a thing! Get it? I don’t miss OUT on any of the good stuff because I’m there! Once the fog of childish nonsense has cleared, I see the bright sunshine of their smiles. I get to participate in building the tents out of sheets, finger-painting on rainy afternoons, the hugs and kisses, sweet baby babble, and handfuls of dandelion bouquets. Being with my kids is not as commendable as being fully present with them. When I put down my iPod, book, or latest sewing project and really pay attention, I find joy because I’m looking for it. Its always there. Even if it means I have to memorize a few more silly jokes.

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A Day in Nature

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This day, this beautiful, magical day on the river…this is the stuff of life that energizes, that brings a song into my heart.

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Reveling in the beauty of nature and delighting in the curious wonder of a child helps make the tough moments easier.

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I am so grateful for the memories we are making together.

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And being that we are a homeschool family, I cannot let a day on the river go without a botany lesson, spouting cheerful facts about buoyancy, or observing the dragonfly flight patterns. I certainly wasn’t going to let that crew from the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps pass through our midst without chatting with them regarding their project for removal of the invasive alligator weed. And I most definitely could not have left the state park without hiking the trail that included a suspension bridge, deer tracks in the mud, and of course, a picnic under a shady old tree. 

The Habit of Kindness

I have recently begun reading Laying Down the Rails by Sonya Shafer. This delightfully challenging book outlines some of the writings of Charlotte Mason, a turn of the century British educator who is probably best known for her teaching methods that consisted of using living books, narration, short lessons, and well-rounded habits. Miss Mason wrote stout volumes on her theories behind how children learn and how to teach them, or rather, guide them into a love of learning. Mrs. Shafer’s book focuses on the habits portion of Charlotte Mason’s lengthy and “Victorian-esque” publications. As a result of my reading, I decided to begin concentrating on the habit of kindness with my children. What mother wouldn’t want her days full of the peace brought on by the unending kindness vibes flowing about the homestead? My four offspring listened attentively as I spouted Scripture verses compelling us as to the whys of being kind. I even gave examples of how this sort of magnanimity could look in an everyday interaction and they all nodded their little heads that yes, indeed, they felt they could be a bit more benevolent to one another. Together we set out on our bold venture to conquer the meanness monster and reverse his course or at the very least, tame him. Image

Charlotte Mason encouraged parents and teachers to instill the habit of kindness in their children and students using the 5 following thoughts (which, of course, are followed by my recollections of how my children have responded to such thoughts…in the past…before this new habit training began…good gracious, will they ever grow up?!):

1. Encourage your child to think the best of other people.

Oh, like when Adrian decided to draw a mustache on the face of every family member with a permanent marker in the middle of the night? I don’t think he had anyone’s best interest at heart that night. Pranks are sometimes just plain unkind.  

2. Teach your child not to assume that others will laugh at him for being kind.

 Adrian recently acquired a pet fish and offered to buy his sister one. That way his fish would have a friend. Felicity initially countered with something like, “I don’t want a fish and if you really loved me you would buy me a hamster.” My big boy’s propensity toward  being kind to her temporarily shrunk after that encounter.

3. Encourage your child to defend another’s character, even in that person’s absence, rather than malign him behind his back.

Moms of more than 2 kids often get those comments at the grocery store and other public places such as,”You sure have your hands full!” or “You must be so patient!” On one occasion, my loving daughter responded to the latter, “Well, she does yell a lot.” Thanks for throwing me under the bus there, kiddo!  

4. Help siblings respond kindly to each other, even when faced with a brother’s temper or personal injury.

Like when Gabe tore down Felicity’s couch cushion fort when she paused from her imaginative play to use the potty…yeah, she responded with plenty of yelling and foot stomping.

5. Motivate your child with the idea that he might hold the happiness of others in his hands.

They seem to enjoy violently, un-apologetically ripping their siblings’ happiness away. How do such short people hold such great power?

I have concluded that guiding my children into being kind to one another is going to take far more than a nice little Bible story or a few role-playing activities. Raising them to have kindness be an automatic response will be a long journey for all of us. That being said, I now realize how often I am unkind to aforementioned beloved children. Not looking into their eyes when listening or speaking to them, using “that” tone of voice (oh, come on, you know the one!), huffing and showing my impatience with their childishness…all areas where I could stand a tune-up on the sweetness generator of my own heart. I’ll admit that sometimes I am just plain lazy and don’t “feel” like being kind to them! The training that was meant to be for them has now become an opportunity for ME to practice kindness! I can’t be perfect at this all by myself. I thank God he gives us His Spirit to comfort and guide us.

Little Girls

Sugar and spice and everything nice…I love having girls! My two beautiful daughters bring such joy to my day. Felicity is seven years old and is enthusiastic about everything. Right now she is really into horses and reading. She has been attending horse camp this summer and I overheard the following conversation tonight between Felicity and her dad:

F: Guess which horse I rode today, Daddy?

D: I don’t know. Which one?

F: Her name is something Rose.

D: Something gross? Okay. Um, Booger.

F: No! Red Rose. Guess what color she is?

She continued chatting cheerfully about the horses and all that she has been learning but I stopped listening to her and started watching the face of my brown-eyed gentlemen. I could tell that he too LOVES having little girls! 🙂

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Spring and Sourdough

Isn’t life funny? It is cyclical with seasons and rhythms of sleep, wake, study, work, play, repeated over and over. Then it’s random with events and projects, people we encounter, situations that play out unexpectedly, etc. I thrive on routine but quickly get bored with it and long for the exciting and spontaneous.

Spring has arrived in our neck of the woods. The pear trees are blossoming, the daffodils have turned their bright yellow petals toward the sky and the children have been busying themselves with games of whiffle ball and badminton and unsuccessful attempts at flying kites. Our little seedlings are getting bigger and stronger and will soon make their way outdoors to face the elements.  This season also means Easter and celebration of new life. The rabbits are having babies in the brush and the birds are scurrying to find bits of string and twigs for their nests. Spring also means TAXES, which is not as fun as watching nature.

My brown-eyed gentleman has been very hard at work over the last several weeks. The deadline for his firm’s big project is approaching and many sleepless nights have left him and his bleary-eyed co-workers with a little less energy than usual with which to greet these gorgeous spring days. I’ve caught up on my crocheting projects and read two novels since I have had no one to chat with in the evenings. He is such a talented architect and is amazingly loyal to his team. I hope they know what a gem they have!

A great friend came to visit a few weeks ago. Her son and Adrian have been excellent playmates for about 3 years. The boys romped and frolicked until their faces were red. They roasted marshmallows in the fire pit. They played Legos for hours and told silly jokes and went on a treasure hunt. It is so good to have friends that even though you don’t see each other for a long time, when you are reunited, you pick up where you left off, and it feels as natural as if you never were apart.

My muscles are screaming at me right now. I have been going to ballet classes and loving it but suffering the consequences of letting myself get so out of shape over the years. Dance is in me though. It’s deep in my soul and has not left me, just laid dormant during pregnancies and the other busyness of life. I love the reawakening, no matter how painful! I relish walking up the decades-old, creaky staircase to the studio on Saturday mornings. The view from the second floor studio window is fascinating. One can watch people bustling about the downtown area instead of watching the teacher, thereby not being prepared when the music plays and turning the wrong direction and bumping into a 6’4” sweaty muscular guy wearing spandex.

Gabe recently asked, “Mom, do you have any gunpowder?” I replied with a simple “no” as if I have heard this question a thousand times before but I struggled to stifle my curiosity. He darted back to his play and it took me a few moments to recall that Pa in “Little House in the Big Woods” uses gun powder and Gabe was simply emulating his favorite character from the story. I am not sure why he likes Pa so much rather than the children or even the animals depicted in the classic book. It must be all about the weapons. Gabe attended Adrian’s cub scout meeting with us last night, held in a catholic church. Of course, as soon as I was focused on something else, Gabe curiously made his way into one of Imagethe classrooms and returned again wielding a sword in its sheath, and a shield on his left arm. He informed me that he had left the helmet and chest-plate behind so as to remain inconspicuous.

Felicity has become nearly obsessed with playing the piano. She practices daily, although she only knows half of one song that I taught her several weeks ago. I started teaching her to read music but she is a bit impatient and just wishes her fingers would fly across the keys producing melodious patterns. She anticipates starting regular lessons soon. Until then, I will grit my teeth and endure yet another version of “Fur Elise.”

To get out of the boring routine and try something exciting, I’ve been experimenting with a sourdough starter and making my own yogurt. The yogurt is delicious and even better with raspberries and maple syrup! The sourdough…well, it’s more sour than dough. The kids call it “Mom’s Potion” and I think they’re weary of so many jars on the countertop. And I guess I need to come up with a new definition of exciting.

These are my thoughts for tonight and I’m amused.

Bird in Hot Pursuit

My big boy has been so helpful this week. Our washing machine does not work, so until funds magically grow,     we have been taking our soiled items to the laundromat. This young man hauled all the  garbage bags and hampers from the house into the van, from the van into the laundromat, helped sort and load the machines, chased the baby around, served snacks, completed his school assignments, helped fold, carried everything back out to the van and into the house  once we arrived home! What a blessing!

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 We are busy getting to know our new area. So far we have found the grocery store,  the feed store, and the dump (oh, and do my laundry, of course). It is still unclear as  to how I will do my banking, borrow items from the library, or get pedicures. But that’s okay because the beauty of country living is enough to make those long drives into civilization…er…um, I mean downtown, worth it! The mornings are crisp and filled with birds’ songs and gentle lowing from a distant cow. At night, millions of stars are visible from our deck, with no city lights to dim their glory. I love that the kids can be running around outside ALL DAY and not get bored. I’m not worried about them getting hit by a car or someone kidnapping them (not that the kidnapper wouldn’t return them immediately, what with all the nonstop chatter!). We have met one neighbor, one lovely homeschooling mom of four! My son in particular is thrilled with his new friend (the only son of afore mentioned neighbor) and it is indeed nice to have another like-minded family so close by.

Now, the birds. I relish listening to the birds coo and tweet and chirp and I like to see their brightly colored feathers as they flit about on the lawn each morning searching for their creepy crawly breakfast. But I have never before seen one bird pursuing another bird like I’ve been witness to here. It has been 6 mornings in a row now I have watched a mockingbird deliberately chase a blue jay around and up and through the 2 pears trees planted on either side of the stone walkway leading up to the front porch. I assume the mockingbird is simply showing Mr. Blue precisely whose territory it is, but Mr. Blue continues to encroach every day! Perhaps the jay is not very smart or perhaps it is a game in which he takes great pleasure.

My brown-eyed gentleman bought new glasses this weekend, which was a long time in coming and he deserved to go all out with the anti-reflective coating and all the other fancy things they do to glasses these days. He had been wearing the previous pair for nearly 6 years! They held up exceptionally well considering he biked, ran, hiked, constructed, studied, traveled, and even slept with the same spectacles on his handsome face. The green frames were accidentally dropped and stepped upon last summer when we were in Florida on vacation. He bought some epoxy and connected the pieces back together. That quick fix lasted 8 months! I guess you could say he is frugal. The new gray ones are, by his own definition “nerdy and architect-y”, which is, apparently, quite fashionable right now. This is especially lucky for him since he is both a nerd and an architect.

Well, my steaming cup of chai tea is awaiting me and it is close to impossible for me to type and enjoy a hot beverage simultaneously. So I am signing off with these amusing thoughts and I hope you like them too!

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