Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Praying in public

My 11 year old boy doesn't often do much that makes me run to my keyboard to type something out.  He's a Steady.  He does what he knows he needs to do and keeps quiet otherwise.  The boy can often be found in his room, playing with Legos, while the other two make up crazy stories about unicorns and knights and ninjas in Imaginary Land.  This morning, the 11 year old built me a Lego banana to put in my breakfast smoothie. 

Anyway, he visited a friend's house yesterday.  They swam for a little while and played for a while longer, and then he called to ask if he could stay for dinner.  I said yes and gave him a time to be home.

When he got home, I asked him how his time was at the friend's house.  "Good."  I asked what he had for dinner.  "Chicken Alfredo."  I asked if it was good.  "Yep."

And then, out of the blue, he volunteered more information.  (Very unlike him.)

"I prayed in my head.  When it was dinner time, I prayed in my head.  I didn't close my eyes; I just did it while we were eating."

I don't check up on these things as a general rule.  I'll remind him that he can pray any time he wants through the day, and I ask him to chat with God at the end of the day as he's nodding off to sleep.  We'll all hold hands and pray together as a family if we're out eating in public.  But I can't remember ever asking him if he prayed in his head at a friend's house.

I gave him a big side hug (his preferred hugging posture) and told him that I would have done that very same thing.  I told him I was glad he still wanted to pray before his dinner and that I was glad he didn't have to feel embarrassed about it.

But most of all, I'm just glad that he knew it was important enough to do, regardless of what those around him were doing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


You know you're doing it right when...

Nine year old daughter:  I can smell that tuna and it smells GOOD!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Screen Time

For the summer we have set in place certain "safeguards" to make sure our boys don't overdose on Wii/computer time.  I give each of the kids seven clothes pins at the beginning of the week.  Each pin is worth half an hour of screen time.  This is the equivalent of half an hour a day.  It includes Nintendo DS, TV, movies, computer, and Wii.  The kids have to budget their screen time if they want to have some left on Saturday.  The clips are refilled on Sunday.

To even be allowed to use a clip, the kids have to do their half hour of piano practice and read at least half an hour.  They are then allowed to use their clips.

When we first started this system, I noticed one boy watching the other boy as he played. I quickly put an end to this by letting the boys know that it's still screen time if they're watching.  As I type, the youngest is using one of his clips to watch the oldest play a computer game.

(I've also given the kids an incentive to get piano practice done in the mornings...  The first to practice only has to do five minutes of scales.  The second does six and the third does seven.  Anyone practicing after lunch does the full ten minutes of scales.  My three kids were all done piano practice by 10:30 this morning.)

The result of all this?  My oldest is reading a lot more.  The younger two are having a blast making up stories and everyone is spending more time outside.  The kids are riding their bikes more, playing board games more, and coming up with some very fun Lego and K'Nex creations.

We don't seem to stick to routines around here for longer than a few months.  Our household seems to work best when we mix it up.  So I don't know how long this will last, but it's working really well for the summer.

The best part?  My kids choose the Wii or computer over the TV so they have no idea what the TV is telling them that they should want!  They are so much more satisfied with what they have this way.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A 4:13 request

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

If you have paid any attention to Bible verses floating around the internet, you've seen this verse popping up lots of places.  I used to say that it was my favourite verse, followed closely by Philippians 4:19.  (My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.)  And then it became so overused and so misused that I stopped using it.

And then I re-read it - in context!  It's amazing what happens when you finally read a verse in context.

If you haven't really read this verse in context before, I'll give you a chance right now.

Philippians 4:10-20 (NLT)
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.  Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.  Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.  I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.

At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.  And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

I really like the way the way the NIV has translated this verse:
"I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

I don't think that Paul is saying that he can do literally anything.  He's saying that he was able to get through this list of struggles (as well as other struggles) because of the love of Jesus and the support system in place through Jesus' church/body.

I'm feeling this verse more these days.  Our little church (when you read "little" think little) is putting on a Vacation Bible School in a couple weeks.  And by "little" I mean, little manpower, little funding, little space.  But we need to do this.  Our church meets in a very low-income neighbourhood.  We need to get out there and meet some of these families so that we can share the love of Jesus with them.  We're not doing that between 10:00 and 12:30 on a Sunday morning.  So we're taking this huge step of faith and putting together a from-scratch Vacation Bible School in a short period of time with few resources, because it's what God is calling us to do.

And as our pastor, Steve, was discussing the Vacation Bible School on Sunday morning, he used Philippians 4:13 to say that we can do it.  And we CAN do it, but we're going to need some prayer support from the church that Jesus has set in place.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  (And likely will again, in the future.)

Cover us!  We're going in!

We can do this, through Christ, who gives us strength.

So please, say a prayer for us.  We're going to need it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hitting reset on a no-good, very bad day

(This is another post written so that I can read it over again and again.  It's stuff I need to hear.)

I've enjoyed reading a few friends' blogs over the last few days.  As I read, I often feel a range of emotions:

Joy - I am truly happy for what's happening in their life
Sorrow - When friends write of sad things it, obviously, makes me sad for them
Encouragement - I love being encouraged when I read of ways I can improve.

And then there's:
Jealousy - I admit that I sometimes find myself wishing I could have the experience that I'm reading about.  Whether it's a deep spiritual thought or a fun family activity or a conversation between good friends, I wish, just for a brief moment, that the experience were mine.

And then I smack myself upside the head, figuratively (and sometimes literally) for being so ridiculous.  And then I remind myself that I only read the highlights.

To keep it real on my blog (since I'm all about keeping it real), let me tell you about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day I had recently.  There were a few things that happened that, by themselves, would not have made much negative impact on my day.  But one thing piled on top of another and many times through the day I found myself apologizing to the kids for my behaviour.

I had made promises about how the day would go that just didn't happen.  Circumstances were out of my control, but kids expect promises to be kept all the same.  I barked at them and they lost their tempers with each other.  I told the kids that I was trying.

I know that it could have been worse.  I was trying to exercise self-control.  I didn't yell a whole lot.  It was more an inner frustration at things just not going as planned.

We finally all sat down to dinner together and chatted about our day.  It was time to hit the "Reset" button on our day.  After dinner we spent about three hours just having fun together.  By bed time we were all smiling and looking forward to the fun we would have tomorrow.

I'd had it up to "Here" with my awful day.
I'm trying to be very purposeful in my parenting.  I am (trying to be) purposeful in not taking out my frustrations on the kids.  I am (trying to be) purposeful about looking at the kids and really listening to them.  I am (trying to be) purposeful about doing what I say I'm going to do.  Being an imperfect human is tough!  I am so glad to know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."  Galatians 5:22-23

Without that fruit, I'd be a mess.  And the more I submit to the leading of God's spirit in my life, the more fruity I get.  Oh, I still have some rotten fruit that doesn't come from the Spirit.  Otherwise I wouldn't have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  But I am so thankful for God's grace, which lets me hit the reset button on those days and start over with a different attitude.  Because a God-directed, Spirit-led day is so much better than the alternative, even in Australia.

(Sidenote:  "Fruit of the loom" is googled more often than "Fruit of the Spirit".  Not surprising, I suppose.)
(Sidenote #2: I do have Gal 5:22-23 memorized but it's easier to copy and paste it than to type it.  Ironically, I ended up typing a lot more just to write these two sidenotes about looking it up.)

A teacher is a teacher

As I was shopping at Staples today I had this conversation with three customer service folks.

Me: Is there a discount for teachers?

Lady 1: We have Teacher Appreciation Day on August 17.

Me: Do  homeschooling parents get the same rewards as teachers on that day?

Lady 1: No.

Me:  Even if we're registered with a homeschooling association?

Lady 1 defers to Lady 2.

Lady 2: I don't know.  Maybe if you have a card.

Lady 2 calls Man 1 over.

Lady 2: Do homeschooling parents get the teacher rewards if they have a card or something that says they homeschool?

Man 1:  I don't see why not.  A teacher is a teacher.  They're teaching, aren't they?

I said a big "Thank You" to that young gentleman, flashed them all a big smile and left, planning to return on August 17.

Friday, July 12, 2013


My oldest, 6 years old at the time, came up to me one morning and said, "Mom, she (the nearly five year old) said a bad word."

As has always been our custom I asked, "Okay, what letter does it start with and what does it rhyme with?"

The boy thought for a minute, "Well, it was actually two words and they start with 'B' and 'S.'"

I nearly fell over before I realized that there's no way my little girl would know those two really bad words that start with "B.S." So, wondering, I asked what the words were.

The boy continued, "Stinky Bum."

Oh, that they would always be that innocent.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Juggling and Milk

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, 
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
Proverbs 10:17

My boys are trying to teach themselves how to juggle.  We found some online instructions, complete with animated pictures.  I explained about practice and persistence, read the first few instructions to them, and set them to practicing Step Two: Two Balls.

The 11 year old (Doc) threw the balls around for a while, slowly getting better and better, staying with it and laughing when he messed up (which was still fairly regularly.)

The seven year old (Grumpy) threw the balls, told me he was an expert and asked to see the next step.  When I told him he needed to keep practicing he harrumphed and whined.  A few minutes into it he told me he could do it.  I turned to see him throwing one ball high in the air while placing the other ball in the vacant hand.  I corrected him by showing him that he needed to actually throw the second ball.  More whining.

I think this is what his teacher was talking about when she said that he wasn't always teachable.

You think?

So we're going to work on being teachable.  All of us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once upon a time there was a parent who told the child that there wasn't very much milk left so the child should have toast for breakfast instead of cereal.

What should the child's response be?
A: The child should eat toast for breakfast.
B: The child should look for milk anyway.

a) If the child eats toast, all is right with the world.
b) If the child looks for milk, this conversation might happen:

Parent - What are you doing?
Child - Looking for milk.

Parent - I just told you there wasn't any.  Don't you believe me?
Child - Well, I just wanted to make sure.

Parent - I already told you there wasn't any more.  Just have toast.

Frustration for two people. Child eats toast.

Later, someone discovered that there was, in fact, *more milk in the fridge.  Enough milk for a couple days of cereal for the whole family.  Parent feels shame at reacting that way to the child.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

*If you live in Canada and drink milk from a bag, it is very possible to lose a couple bags of milk under the cheese drawer.
Milk comes from a bag in Canada.  Three of these bags makes one gallon.  It's just what we do.

That didn't happen.  The child ate toast without bothering to look for the milk.

I appreciate that my children are well-behaved and able to obey instructions, but it bothers me that they don't feel that they can question something innocent like this.  I would love to have discovered that there was in fact, milk in the bottom of the fridge.  We now have an extra gallon of milk that is taking up room in our fridge.

But more importantly, my child is being taught to follow orders without questioning.  It doesn't matter too much when it comes to milk, but it can make a world of difference later on in life.

In my own desire to be teachable, I realize that I need to change the way I parent/interact so that my children are not turned into little Yes-robots.  I need to watch for those conversations, the ones where I need to change my behaviour, and let myself learn from them.  I need to be teachable, just as I expect my children to be teachable.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, 
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
Proverbs 10:17

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Homeschooling 101

I don't want to turn this blog into a homeschooling blog, but every so often the topic will creep in.  I'll warn you first so you can avert your eyes if you want to avoid reading about it.

So, here's the disclaimer: This is about homeschooling.

Whew.  That wasn't so bad.

Still with me?  Good!

I've had many conversations, some with families who have been homeschooling for a while and others with families who are just starting out on this fun family adventure. As I typed out a message to another friend earlier this week, with some of the advice I've gathered, I thought that it was great info to share with others.  So, if you're new to homeschooling, what follows are some things I've learned.

1.  Take some time to look at your family
Don't jump into decision-making mode right away, and don't stress yourself out over the decisions you're currently making.  You've already made a monumental decision, the decision to homeschool.  Take some time to figure out how you want to proceed.  In the meantime, get to know your kids and what they're interested in (if you don't already).  The more time you spend together, the more you will know what's best for them.

2.  Start small
My homeschooling friends have all said that it's better to start small when making curriculum purchases than to buy everything all at once.  Get what you consider to be the essentials and then add in more later if you find you're ready for it.  It's less stressful to start this with a few books instead of 10 different books.

3.  Consult others
Even after reading Cathy Duffy's book, 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum, I still felt overwhelmed at all the choices.  I didn't really know what would work for my family until I sat down with some veteran homeschoolers and looked at what they used (past and present) and asked what worked, what didn't work, and why.  Since their families are different from mine, some of the products that worked for them would not work for us, and vice versa.  But I felt like I had enough info to make an informed decision.  Going to a curriculum fair at a homeschooling convention also helped.  It probably gave me more for my future wish list, but I at least had a chance to see what is out there.

4.  Price it out
It's best to know what you're spending right up front, so as you look at your curriculum, it's good to start pricing it out.  I've already decided that the cheapest way to do this is to buy a copier so that I can use "consumables" (workbooks that will get printed in) for all three of my kids instead of just one.  I'll save at least $50-$70 in the first year by doing this.  Beyond that, I've decided which subjects are priorities for us, so I'm spending money on the curriculum that I think will suit our family best for those subjects.

Should I let these guys choose our curriculum?

This is what we've chosen for our family for this year.  We may change our minds and buy something else if we realize that something really isn't working.  But for now, this is what we're going to use:

(Prices are listed in US dollars and do not include shipping)

For overall planning, to help me see what we're doing and what other kids are learning:
Classical Conversations: Foundations - Curriculum Guide - $60 for a 3 year guide

Math-U-See - $74 x 3 kids (highly recommended by many)

Apologia Press: Jump In - $40 (could purchase two more notebooks for $30 each, but will photocopy instead)

Young Explorer Series: Astronomy - $63 (again, I'll photocopy the notebook for the other two)  I may choose a different topic, but this looks like a great science series to start with.

Mystery of History - $70 (plus extras if we choose)  This series starts at the beginning and goes through history chronologically.  It looks like it takes four years to go through the history of the world.

I'd love to hear what others are using and how different books have worked (or haven't worked) for your families.  Please pass along any favourites and helpful hints to us newbies!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Channeling Count Rugen

Sometimes, after I write something on here (although not too terribly often), I feel kinda, almost, sorta bad that I made you read whatever it was that I just shoved in front of you, you poor unsuspecting soul.

So that's when I go all Count Rugen on you -

...thinking, "I've just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don't know what that would do to you. So, let's just start with what we have. What did this do to you?"

So if this was you, reading my blog...

I'm so sorry.  But tell me... And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?

Vesper Vocabulary with Midnight Math

After waking the 7 year old boy and making him pee, Hubby ushered him back to bed. Always ready to ask a good math question, Hubby asked, “What's 8 squared?”

Bubba: “Nine”

Hubby, somewhat sarcastically: “Good one.”

The boy gets under his covers.

Hubby: “Hey Bubba, what's 8 squared?

Bubba: “Nine”

He's clearly not with it tonight; he usually knows this one in his sleep. It was a busy and late evening.  The boy must be totally out of it. No point in continuing the conversation.

As the boy settled back into his sheets he lets one rip - eliminates some internal gas - cuts the cheese. Hubby cried out, “Woah! Did you hear the big toot that came out of your butt?”

“No, I'm unconscious.”

Hubby to me: “I didn't even know he knew that word.”

... So the boy's not as “out of it” as we thought.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I am not left-handed!

My nine year old girl, brandishing a Lego sword:

"Hello, my name is Inigo Monriley.  You are my mother!  Prepare to be hugged!"

And then she runs up the stairs and plants a big ole hug on me.

"I'm going to do that to Dad when he gets home. Except I'll say you are my father.   Do you think he'll like it?"

Most assuredly.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Culinary Marvels

The 7 year old:  Mom, I made up a new sandwich

Me:  What is it?

The 7 year old:  Um, grilled jam.  I mean, no, not grilled, toasted!  Toasted jam.  A toasted jam sandwich.

You heard it here first folks.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer fun has just begun

A few things I have determined over the last 10 days or so...

1.  I really like giraffes because they remind me of my husband's arms.

2.  I love my little (and big) blonde kids.  And I seem to do it more and more, the more time I spend with them.

3.  I am truly blessed to have as amazing a husband as mine.  He drove while we all slept for a good six hours or so.  And he was tired!

4.  I have wonderful friends all over the place.  I love the feeling of missing so many people all at once, only because it means that they're so special to me.

5.  My kids all got to ride bare-back this weekend.  They were all a little scared and they all rocked it.

6.  I'm already dreaming about what I want to do next summer.  And that's not to say that I won't enjoy this summer, just that I've already got fun ideas for next year, based on this current year's awesomeness.

7.  The world didn't disintegrate because of my lack of internet use.  I am encouraged by this.

8.  Quiddler...  I must add this to my list of games to purchase.  So much fun.

9.  Chatting with other homeschooling moms is my newest fun past-time.  So many great ideas!

10.  Jamie-Grace, Peter Furler, 1 Girl Nation, and tobyMac make for one amazing (and exhausting) concert.

11.  The Ledge of the Sears Willis Tower is worth waiting in line for a few minutes.

One of many photo bombs.

Jeans.  Or Ants in Their Pants.

Lake Michigan

Wrigley Field...  Somewhere

Squinty-eyed at the top of Chicago

Lovely horses.  The kids rode the brown one, bare-back.

Such a fun week!