Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pausing for Reflection

I've read these verses dozens of times, but I've been reflecting on them in a new light. (Isn't that a beautiful thing about Scripture? The Lord is always revealing new truths about Himself. His Word is living and active!) The Romans verse is about Abraham, and how he clung to the promises of God even when he was old and it seemed there was no way for God to make his family into a great nation. While the promise was yet unfulfilled, Abraham's faith grew strong as he glorified the Lord for what He was yet to do. The Isaiah verse is a familiar one, but as I was reading it I stopped for a while to be thankful that I do not carry my griefs and sorrows alone. Jesus Himself carries them. That's the beauty of Christmas: God is here and He is with us. O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom us from our captivity in this broken place.

Romans 4:20
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.

Isaiah 53:4
Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mommy and Me Ballet

Nora has been wanting to take ballet like her big sisters since she could form the sentences to ask. She can't take a class on her own until the fall after she turns three, but she was elated to try a Mommy and Me class. She was adorable and she loved being a ballerina so much.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

We hosted Thanksgiving this year and were so thankful for our family joining us and for our new kitchen to cook in! Annie helped me make the rolls. The cousins were quite adorable together, as usual (although you can't see sweet baby Chloe in these pictures). Honey, Poppa, Mama Rita, Papa Gene, Aunt Linda, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Tyler, Aunt Kayla, Lilly, and Chloe joined us for the feast.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Favorite Resources for School

I think I’ve mentioned all of these before, but just in case, here are some of my very favorite school resources!
The Homegrown Preschooler, Kathy H. Lee and Lesli Richards
Honey for a Child’s Heart, Gladys Hunt
God’s Creation from A to Z, My Father’s World
The Well-Trained Mind, Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
The Nature Connection, Clare Walker Leslie
The Story of the World, Susan Wise Bauer
Right Start Mathematics, Joan Cotter

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Every Moment Holy

Thankful for a sweet Thanksgiving with our family today. We enjoyed hosting in our new kitchen, and starting a new tradition with a new liturgy. Have you heard of Every Moment Holy? It is a just-released liturgy for the everyday and special moments of life. Today we shared these words around our table:

A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends

Beautiful words to remember that as we feast together we are looking forward to the Feast of Heaven, where death and darkness will never triumph! You can order the book here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Kitchen Reno!

Just in time to host Thanksgiving, our kitchen update is complete! We have been wanting to tackle the kitchen since we bought our house six years ago, but we were saving to do a total makeover and kept getting waylaid by things like flooded basements and failing retaining walls. We've been making do just fine but I have never liked our kitchen...especially the awful tumbled tile countertops that I could not keep clean. We have updated the rest of the house, and we wanted to do something with the kitchen before we list the house in the spring. We decided on a minor renovation and I think it turned out beautifully!
Here's a before picture and an after picture from the back door:














We changed out the light fixtures and cabinet hardware, put in new appliances, ocean black granite countertops, and took out the peninsula that took up so much floor space and made the small space even smaller. Then I put in a lot of elbow grease cleaning and painting and caulking. I just love the way it turned out and I'm excited to host our family Thanksgiving in two days!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Someday

About 15 years ago I started a “Someday” journal, a bucket list/wish list of sorts. It was mostly a list of places to travel and skills to master, with a few other things thrown in. I came across this little journal when I was cleaning out a few weeks ago. It was an interesting exercise to glance back through it, and see what dreams have come to fruition and what dreams have changed. And for my check-things-off-the-list and if-it-is-written-down-I-must-follow-through personality to realize it is okay for your dreams to change. To a great extent, many things in my life have gone the way I expected they would. I hoped I would meet my husband in college, work for a few years, and then have precious babies and stay home to teach them and watch them grow. Those things have and are happening and they are my greatest blessings. Along the way, of course, has been much unanticipated joy and anguish. And some of those dreams have changed. I wanted to adopt a little girl, but God sent us Jacob and what would our family be like without this precious son? Through it all I’ve seen our gracious Lord’s hand. He is so good to us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Key Biscayne

A few weeks ago the Gent had a work trip to Key Biscayne, south of Miami. I was only too happy to tag along. ;) I took very few pictures, as I was busy lounging on my beach chair reading while he worked. I also finished my bikini body workout plan right before our trip ended. I got back in shape and am tons stronger--unfortunately I messed up my hip while doing so but thanks to physical therapy I'm almost back to "normal" now. Always something. Thankful for this respite trip in a busy fall.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Halloween 2017

Each year our neighbor hosts a dinner for the families on our street, and then the kids go out trick or treating. We always have a great time and look forward to this each year! This year all the kids chose their own costumes. Annie was Little Red Riding Hood, Jacob was Spiderman, Sophie was Cinderella, and Nora was a ballerina. The highlight of the night was my kids' indignation (and follow-up interrogations with teenagers we came across) that some older-children-who-should-know-better stole all the Halloween candy from the bowl we left on the porch (all our neighbors do this when they are at the party, and it has never been a problem before).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Bible Study this Year

The past four years I have studied a book of the Bible through Bible Study Fellowship. But with homeschooling taking off in full swing this year, I wasn’t able to participate in the weekly morning class anymore. And our family struggles with evening obligations. It is just hard to be out at night with kids, or for the Gent to be able to come home early consistently. BSF wasn’t something I could commit to this year. And the women’s studies at our church were all during the daytime, too.

But what to do instead?! I’ve been keeping up with my daily Bible reading. This year I have been reading through the New Testament. Did you know if you read one chapter a day, Monday through Friday, you’ll read all the NT in a year with a few days to spare? I’ve also been continuing in Nancy Guthrie’s One Year Book of Hope.

Now that our school year is in a good pattern, I’ve added a bit more in-depth study. Nancy Guthrie’s Holding on to Hope includes a study on the book of Job that I’ve started walking through. And I also have Ann Voskamp’s Broken Way study guide. I plan to tackle one at a time. Then after that I’m going to use my concordance to read through what the New Testament says about prayer. I plan to go slowly through this, with my journal, and really study for myself what God’s Word has to say about prayer. I’ve heard plenty of sermons on prayer and ready plenty of books about it, but after our journey with David, I just find prayer mystifying and confusing and sometimes futile. I pray for my family and Compassion kids and the needs I know of in our church and community group and elsewhere, but I don’t really know why I’m doing it or what I’m supposed to be accomplishing. I need to cut out the chatter from others and study and listen for myself to what the Lord really teaches about prayer in His Word. I’m excited to dive in to this and see what truths He has to teach me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Birds and the Bees

Last week I explained how babies are made to all my kiddos. We had read about salmon and how the eggs have to be fertilized or the baby fish won’t grow, and there were lots of questions about that. So I explained sex. Annie and Jacob were very interested, Sophie listened as she played next to us, and I don’t think Nora cared at all.

The Gent and I have had an ongoing discussion of how we wanted to explain the “birds and the bees” for the past few years. When I was pregnant with Nora there were lots of questions about “how is the baby going to get out, Mama?” We read a sweet book together called The Story of Me by Brenna and Stan Jones (God’s Design for Sex, book 1). I’d say it is appropriate for 3 year olds and up. It is gentle but direct. It touches very, very briefly on conception (along the lines of: a tiny part of Daddy and a tiny part of Mommy come together to make a baby) and focuses more on how the baby grows, how the baby gets food and oxygen, how the baby is born (covers vaginal and cesarean births), how a baby nurses, what makes a boy or a girl and the names of private parts, and that private parts are private. At age 3, I felt like it covered everything I wanted my kids to know and gave us a launching pad to answer their questions. The Gent and I have addressed other questions they’ve had as they have come up. Around this time we also read The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers, which went over--in a non-threatening way--“stranger danger.”

This summer, the Gent and I did a training session on protecting your kids in the digital world we live in. There’s so much out there that we never had to deal with growing up. And you do need to establish safeguards for your kids online (check out Circle and Circle Go), but you can’t keep them from everything.

What do we want to communicate to our kids? We want them to remember God’s story for sex. He created it! And we want to teach a narrative that’s bigger than what the world says. We want our kids to know that sex is a good gift from God, intended for marriage. We want them to understand that sex is powerful, but that power can be a positive one. It reflects our covenant relationship with God. Their bodies are made in the image of God. Stop and think about it. That is an amazing truth! I want my children to know that their bodies are good and beautiful and are to be treasured because they are made in the image of Almighty God.

Around here, we don’t talk about diets and clothes not fitting. I don’t think my kids have ever heard me say anything negative about my body. We talk about exercise and keeping our bodies healthy, and that food is fuel for our bodies. Some foods make us feel better than others, and our bodies need certain foods to stay healthy and grow strong. There’s another book we love called God Made All of Me, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. It talks to kids about how wonderful their bodies are, and also covers gender differences, body part names, and unwanted touch. I appreciated that it showed kids how to set boundaries around their bodies, and let them know they aren’t being rude if they don’t want to give a hug (give a high five instead, or just say hello). In the South, especially, I think we pressure our kids to behave a certain way and we need to let them set the boundaries for their bodies and teach others that they must respect those boundaries.

In our class, we also talked about pornography and its far-reaching and dangerous grasp into this world we live in. We read another book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures JR (we have Good Pictures Bad Pictures, too, but I think it is more for 7 and up, we aren’t quite there yet). It teaches kids what to do if they see a bad picture, and lets them know they can always go to an adult they trust for help. We don’t want to scare our kids, but we do want to prepare them for difficult things they will likely face. And if we set ourselves up as the expert in sex and all these related things, we hope they will know that they can always come to us with their questions and things they’ve overheard and we will tell them the truth.

We’ve also discussed that God made boys to be boys and girls to be girls, and that you are exactly who God made you to be and God does not make mistakes.

So on to the actual explanation of sex. Well, almost. Along with some mama friends of mine, I went through Mary Flo Ridley’s Birds and Bees workbook (http://www.birds-bees.com) and then the Gent and I discussed it, too. You can listen to a great podcast summary here: http://godcenteredmom.com/2014/05/19/birds-bees-mary-flo-ridley-ep-25/. Mary Flo suggests you start by forming a statement about your family’s beliefs about sex. Hers was “Sex is a gift from God intended for marriage” and the Gent and I appropriated that. Then you teach the appropriate names for private parts. When children express curiosity (or if they don’t, you can say “have you ever wondered?”), you answer their questions in a straightforward way. Usually they start by wanting to know how a baby is born. You tell them the story of the miraculous way they were born! Then you have conversations about seeds and eggs—that all life comes from seeds and eggs. Look at the apple seeds, chickens lay eggs, if we plant these seeds zinnias will grow, etc. At some point, probably in the early elementary years, you answer the question “how did that baby get in there?” And you give a biologically correct answer, which is all young kids are looking for. There don’t have any sexual desires pre-puberty, there’s no need for the “when two people love each other” talk. You just tell them. If you need a minute to gather your thoughts, try “That’s a great question. I’m so glad you asked.” This works for lots of parenting situations. ;)

Here’s what I told Jacob and Annie: “Remember how we talked about seeds and eggs and how all living things come from seeds and eggs? Well, there’s a seed inside the daddy and an egg inside the mommy. They have to meet for a baby to be made. So the husband’s penis goes inside the wife’s vagina and that’s how the seed and the egg meet and the baby gets started. Doctors call this sexual intercourse, but usually people just say sex because sexual intercourse is kind of long to say. Sex is something God created for mommies and daddies who are married. And it is private. Other people don’t watch, and it’s not something we talk about with our friends. If you have questions, you can always come to me or Daddy and we will always tell you the truth. Sometimes other kids think they know what sex is and they like to giggle about it, but now you know how a baby gets made and you know the truth.”

WHEW.

While I was relieved to have this introduction to sex over with, my children seemed to find it perfectly natural. At some point we will read the next book in our God’s Design for Sex book, Before I Was Born. It covers the biological details I just talked with them about, and also introduces puberty and how a girl turns into a woman and a boy turns into a man.

Obviously, we’re in for an ongoing conversation. We began it in the toddler and preschool years, and we’re continuing to build (in an age appropriate way) on that foundation. That’s the way we want it to be. In our family, we follow the Bible, and we can turn to the Bible for questions about anything, even about sex. God’s Word is true and we can trust it. It is the Rock we stand upon.

Friday, October 27, 2017

What's Working Right Now

Here’s a grab bag of things that are working well around our house right now.

Teaching kids about money: Annie and Jacob have been getting an allowance since they turned six. They get $5 a month: $0.50 to tithe, $2 to spend, $1 for short-term savings, $1 to long-term savings, and $0.50 for gifts for others. We keep their money in envelopes in an accordion file. They take their tithe to church and long-term savings goes in their bank savings account when it gets up to $5 or so. Their short-term savings is set aside for a goal. Right now Annie wants a laundry room set for her dollhouse and Jacob is saving for a new cd player (he broke the one he got for Christmas after repeatedly dropping it on the floor, and I told him if he wanted another one he’d have to buy it himself). I encourage them to add their spending money to the short-term savings. I’m trying to show them that spending $1 on potato chips from the vending machine doesn’t leave them with anything to show for it. And I’m also trying to show them how much things actually cost. They have so many toys and clothes they don’t care if something gets lost, broken, or ruined. So we’re trying to instill a sense of responsibility and care for belongings around here.

The “church bag:” Annie and Jacob usually go to the worship service at church with us. Sophie and Nora often ask to go as well, though they have a class they can go to if they choose (we all go to Sunday School/community group after worship). They are expected to participate respectfully in the prayer and singing times, but I don’t expect them to listen intently to the sermon. (Although Jacob and Annie are starting to a bit, yay!). Thus the “church bag.” This is a book bag that hangs by our back door. It has a children’s Bible, Bible coloring book, and special twistables colored pencils for each child. They only get to use them during the sermon time, and they look forward to that each week.

Healthy snacks that keep my eating on track: Kind bars, Greek yogurt, kettle corn popcorn, and La Croix Curate. Yum yum yum yum yum! When I’m hungry or need a little treat, I reach for one of these, and save the ice cream and wine for the weekend.

Breakfast shortcuts: I really don’t like my kids to eat a lot of cereal, most of it is just not very nutritious. But my children also wake up SO HUNGRY and GROUCHY until they get something to eat, so they are not going to wait around while I cook a hot breakfast. They have a smoothie almost every day, typically spinach, banana, plain Greek yogurt, and milk. Sometimes I add frozen fruit, blueberries, or peanut butter to mix it up a little. Then once a week or so I bake a breakfast bread, muffin, cookie, or granola bar and freeze it in daily portions. So there’s a collection of breakfast items in the freezer, and I just pull out a bag the night before. I think right now my freezer has several bags of double-oat breakfast cookies, banana bread, applesauce muffins, blueberry muffins, and cinnamon raisin muffins. They do still eat cereal once or twice a week. Sometimes we do oatmeal, eggs, turkey sausage, or turkey bacon, too. Anyway, it’s basically working!

What's not is the way my kids have been speaking to each other, and sometimes to me, too! I've cracked down this week and handed out a lot of time outs. "If it's not helpful and encouraging, you don't need to say it." "We don't speak to each other in that unloving tone of voice." "You are not allowed to speak to Mama in that disrespectful way."

Any tips you want to share?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Favorite Recipes Lately

Here are some recipes we've tried and enjoyed lately--these all made it into my recipe box and the permanent rotation!

Healthy and Delicious Banana Bread

Chocolate-Cherry Granola Bars

Tomato Focaccia Bread This was SO GOOD!!!

Oatmeal Bread Also extremely yummy!

Burrito Bowls It's not like you really need a recipe for these, but I can never remember what all to put in them so I use it as an ingredient list.

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies Delicious. Not particularly nutritious. ;)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Curriculum Choices 2017-2018

As soon as people find out we homeschool, they want to know what curriculum we use and if we are in a co-op and how do I choose what to study and teach?!? My standard answer is that there are so many ways to homeschool. Each family has their own strengths and needs and each child learns in different ways. So explore what is out there and figure out what fits your family, your children, and your teaching style.

I am a strong type-A personality. I don't need help staying on track or being organized, that's where I excel! So for us, a classical education method makes perfect sense. It fits my strengths--and interest--as a teacher. I use The Well-Trained Mind as my "spine." It gives you an overview of education from kindergarten through 12th grade and covers all subjects: math, science, history, language arts (reading, writing, literature, spelling, and grammar), fine arts, languages, logic, and rhetoric. I like WTM because it narrows down my curriculum choices. (As in, here are five math curriculums we like, the learning style they cater to, what they cover, and their strengths and weaknesses.) Here are the books we are using this year:

Right Start Math
First Language Lessons (grammar)
Spelling Workout
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting
Story of the World (history)
Artistic Pursuits (art technique mixed with some art appreciation and art history)

I follow the literature suggestions from WTM. This year we are studying ancient history and the literature of the same time period. We do copywork and poem memorization, too. I am teaching Annie and Jacob piano using My First Piano Adventures. For art appreciation, I found an awesome book by DK called The Arts: A Visual Encyclopedia. It covers painting, sculpture, photography, music, and dance. We read a few pages each Friday, whatever goes along with out history from the week. For science, we are studying biology this year. We started with animals, then we will do the human body and plants in the spring. I have a set of children's science encyclopedias; we choose a topic for the week (penguins, bears, spiders, etc) and read about it in the encyclopedia. Then we get books from the library for further study. Then we try to do some kind of project (observe the tarantula at the library, see the bears at the zoo, watch March of the Penguins) or do a question and answer page about the animal.

Sophie is doing God's Creation from A to Z for 4K. I did this program with Annie and Jacob and it was a really sweet and fun introduction to "school." She already knows so much more than Annie and Jacob did at her age, because she plays alongside us while they do school. I bet when she gets to first grade she's going to say, "Mama, I already know this!"

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Remembering and Feasting

Sunday was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It is a good thing, to remember and reflect. Look back, look forward. A sweet friend reminded me of this song (We Will Feast, Sandra McCracken). The Gent and I listened to it while we held David that night in the hospital. From the garden to the grave . . . until we will feast and weep no more.

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up

In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength

Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom.


Noel. Zion. David. You are remembered, you are loved.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Sad Pictures

I've neglected posting these because they are so sad. But they are part of David's story, too. The first is the a precious reminder of the redemption that's coming: David's footprint over Revelation 21 in my Bible. Then the clothes we buried David in. The drawings the children made and tucked in his casket. The beautiful blessing prayed over his casket before it was shipped to us. And the only picture I have from the funeral. I'm glad we have this one, but I don't want any more.