Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In the early hours...

Saturday night I couldn't sleep.  I woke up around 3, and by 4 I was tired of just laying there, so I headed to the kitchen.  I made a pot of coffee and spent precious time alone ~ only I wasn't alone...

It was pure peace to my soul ~ the quiet, the coffee, and Jesus, sweet time with Jesus.  As I sat there in my dimly lit kitchen in the wee hours of the morning, I poured my heart out to God.  And, after a little while, I scribbled this down in my journal...

This morning...

I will choose freedom and joy.
I will move more slowly and think more deeply.
I will not compare.
I will be content.
I will not hurry my loves.
I will be patient. 
I will focus on each precious child ~ encouraging him, praising him ~ seeing the good, the natural gifting of God in him. And, I will seek to grow these things for God's glory.
I will be mindful and thankful.  I am so blessed.
I will attempt to make learning fun and practical.
I will not look to the left or the right ~ but only look into the eyes of my Savior.

Rainy Day Rambling

Today has been a nice reprieve from the heat and busyness of summer.  I forgot that rain was forcasted, and so my heart skipped a beat when I woke up to a dreary cloudy morning!  I poured my coffee and eased myself into the  peace of the day.  The boys and I are falling into a nice summer routine that allows for both play and work.  I had forgotten how tired summer days make me!  I assume it is a combination of the heat and the hard play that completely exhausts me by day's end.  So, I loved today's indoor card playing weather...

Perhaps, my favorite part of this summer, has been making preparations for our next school year.  I am a total nerd!!  All the books, curriculums, literature, history, oh, they make my head spin with happiness!!!  I am so excited about all that lies ahead!  Some nights I have found it hard to sleep!  Their education has become a huge passion of mine, and I have to continually tell my little manic self to... "Calm down, calm down, one day at a time!  Don't get ahead of yourself!"  But, it isn't just the books and pencils that consume my thoughts these days, it is the planning of how it will all come together ~ the chores, the laundry, the meal planning, the dishes, the loving, cuddling, holding, and nursing of the younger ones.  I am using the summer as a trial period.  I am trying different ways of doing things.  I need to figure out how to do it all minus school, and then I can add the school element back in slowly when August comes.  I am also preparing the two older boys to take on new and bigger responsibilities.  They are making me so proud.

And, these two, well, they just make me proud because, well, they just do!

I have been very convicted lately as I have been so overwhelmingly passionate about the educational aspect of homeschool that I have veered off the path I originally began this journey on.  We began this journey with the firm conviction that with 4 children (at that time) we didn't feel we could give each child all that we wanted to, pour into them the way we feel called to do, in the few hours of the day that we were getting with them.  When you have so many, so small, and only a few hours, it is just hard.  So, we began our journey ready to bathe our boys in Jesus.  But, sometimes, I fear that my excitement over the academic overshadows my first true passion.  

It is my prayer for our home to be a place where they can grow, and thrive, and fall down, and get up, and serve, and be loved and cherished.  A place where they can worship, and walk daily, hand in hand, with their sinful father, mother and brothers, learning to grow in grace and trusting in Christ.  I pray that they will learn from His example to be servant leaders, to be all that He created them to be with their own unique talents and gifts.  And, that they will learn to walk and talk like Him and to see others as He does.  I pray for our home to be a place of warmth where we can learn and grow together in the love, discipline, and grace of Jesus.  

It is hard to believe summer is halfway over!  Where has time gone??  The good news is that the garden is alive and growing tomatoes!!  Yay, for tomatoes!  Fried green tomatoes, tomato sandwiches, tomatoes on this and that and everything!

 We keep getting more and more and more, and I love them sooo much!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Inside the Van...

We have 5 children, and we have a minivan, an Odyssey to be exact.  And, sometimes I wonder if anyone ever sees us driving down the road and wonders what exactly goes on within the steel frame of our vehicle.  If they haven't wondered, they really ought to!  I can assure them that it is never quiet, nor is it ever boring.

Our church friends might wonder if we are quoting scripture from memory or singing hymns and/or praise songs.

Our sweet friends might imagine that we are in some deep and meaningful heartfelt discussion.

Our homeschool friends might assume we are discussing America's involvement in ending the Cold War.

Our sports friends might think we are discussing the NBA draft or the upcoming SEC football season.

But, the truth is, they would all be wrong.  This, my friends, this is what goes on behind the steel frame of our family van... 

Five Little Monkeys... How perfectly appropriate!!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer So Far...


I've always loved the sparkle of evening fireflies and the song of the whippoorwill. But, now I have come to adore what this season does to my little boys ~ their sweaty faces hot and red from hard play, the blond streaks in their hair and the freshly scattered freckles on their sun-kissed skin.

Images of our summer so far...

Birds nesting on the front porch...

An afternoon thunderstorm...
 Slip and Slide...

 Always hoops...
 Baseball buddies inside and...
outside the dugout...

 Camping out in the family room...
 Best friends...
 New outdoor decor...
 And, more lilies...
 And, nothing beats sitting by the pool listening to little boys laugh, splash, and play....

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What Works For Us...

We've been homeschooling for a year now, and I am by no means an expert.  I am always trying to learn from more experienced moms.  But, I thought that today I'd share some of the novice ideas I came up with over the course of our first year.  Every day is different, and I know every year will be different, too.  Some of these things may not work for us next year, but this year they helped! They are the things that made the days run more smoothly and allowed us to have some fun, too!
All of these things really worked for us...  

1.)  Breakfast with Dad ~ Erik eats breakfast with the three older boys before heading off to work.  He even has a theme song he sings while he makes eggs, toast, bagels, cereal, or whatever he decides to make each morning.  He sits with them, reads to them,  prays, and then leaves for work.  I love that the boys start their day with Dad.  (They get enough of me all day long! :-) And, it frees me up to start laundry, look at my calendar, set up the school room, and get ready to start the day!! :-)  

2.)  Prayer List & Scripture Memory ~ After Daddy leaves the boys and I sit together and go over our prayer list. . .

Each of the boys chooses two or three people from the list and prays for them, then I close.  I love the prayer list because it reminds me to pray for those around us who have needs.  It is great accountability!! After we pray I review the boys on our scripture memory.  This year the boys memorized Ephesians 6:10-18.  I thought these were great verses for little boys to memorize!

3.)  Journals ~ I decided to do the journals for several reasons.  The main reason being that I have had a journal since I was old enough to write down thoughts, and I love journals!!!!

For Elijah the journal is simply a place to practice writing letters and to draw.

For JCT the journal is a place to learn to write dates correctly, to learn our address, phone number, and cell phone numbers, to practice writing sentences correctly, and to draw.

I began the year writing sentences for him to copy.  This was fun!!  Many times I surprised them with fun information in their journals.  For example, he might open his journal and find these sentences to copy: "Nana is coming today!  She will be here after lunch.  Today is her birthday.  We will sing to her!"

By the end of the year, I began to give him the freedom to write as he pleased.

I loved watching him grow as a writer this year.  One of the moms at our homeschool co-op has written several books, and now she edits books for a living.  She is my go-to girl for writing advice for the boys.  She suggested the boys have a place to write freely ~ where I did not get out the red pen.  Their journal is this place.

For Joshua the journal is a place to write and draw freely.  I don't give him a topic.  I just let him write freely, and nothing is more fun to me than reading what he writes.

I loved beginning our school day this way every morning! It sort of eased the boys into their work.  They enjoyed the writing and the drawing, and it left me with a book of treasures to keep forever!! :-)

4.)  Mommy's helper ~ Monday is Joshua's day. Tuesday is JCT's day.  Wednesday is Elijah's day, and Thursday is Erik Daniel's day.  They get to wear this around their neck....

My helper helps me make lunch, pass out paper, sort laundry, etc.  The boys all love to be the helper of the day!

5.)  Happy Tokens ~

I came up with this because I wanted a reward system that didn't involve money or candy!  I cut out circles and let the boys draw happy faces on each circle.  This took a while!  We have tons of happy tokens ~ more than we could ever use.  Sharing with a brother or any selfless act is rewarded with a happy token in your cup!  But, happy tokens can be taken away for selfish acts or unkind behavior.  When you have lots of boys, any competition becomes central.  At the end of the week, we would count and see who won!  I haven't kept it up this summer, and I kind of miss it!

6.)  My lesson plan ~ I found this last summer at Donna Young's website.  I used the same plan all year, and I loved it!  I plan each week a week in advance over a cup of coffee.  It is one of my absolute favorite things to do!!  I love sitting down and making our plans.  I had one sheet for Joshua and one for JCT.  This is one of Joshua's plans...

I love checking the box when we have completed our work!!  Ahhh... the feeling of accomplishment.  Also, if we didn't get to something on Tuesday, it reminds me to pick it up and finish it on Wednesday!  I love checklists!!

7.) Check-lists for my boys ~ I love the feeling of checking things off so much that I made checklists for the boys.  I laminated them, and they used dry erase markers to check off the subjects throughout the day each day!  They really, really, really enjoyed this!  If we weren't going to do, for example, art/music and geography, that day, I'd cross it off first thing in the morning.  This way, at the end of the day, their entire list is crossed off!!  Accomplishment!!

Joshua crossed off the title with 2nd grade in it on the last day of school!! Ha! :-)  He thought that it was soooo clever!! :-)

8.)  Thinking cap ~ When this idea came to me, I had no idea if they even made one.  So, I did a google search, and there are tons of "thinking caps"out there!!  This was my favorite!

I used it for the first time last fall when I introduced Joshua to multiplication!  I only pull it out, and pop it on their cute little head when I feel that the lesson is monumental or if they are struggling to grasp a new concept and on the verge of giving up!  It is simply for fun, and I think they enjoy it!!

9.)  Using the big to teach the little ~ I love this!  It makes mama's heart smile when big brother sits patiently and listens to little brother read or does flash cards of phonograms with little brother.  It teaches Joshua to be patient and to teach, and it is also great review for him!  It also helps me so much!  Many times I leave Joshua to read or do flash cards with JCT while I put Eriky to bed.  It is a win-win plan!  JCT, also, helps go over letters and sounds with Elijah!  It trickles down...  God is so sweet!

10.)  Special days ~

Any ordinary day can be a holiday!  Sometimes the special days have to do with what the boys are learning or what is going on around us ~ wild west day when they studied western expansion or jersey day during March Madness. Other times it is whatever strikes us ~ pj day, superhero day, dress up day, crazy hair day, etc.  Joshua loves this, and he has a plethera of ideas.  I think he could fill the calendar with a different special day for every day!! Ha!  I love having children who are all still young enough for this to be fun!!  It just spices things up and makes things a little more interesting!

Also, it is fun to bake them treats to celebrate things like...

And, this day they decorated cupcakes to look like themselves!  Ha!  Can you guess who this is??

Erik Daniel, of course!  He is my only brown eyed baby!! Celebrating simple things can be so much fun!!

11.)  Getting Outdoors ~ We have boys, so this is very important to me.  I want my boys to have memories upon memories of outdoor play.  I want them to remember romping through the woods ~ sometimes they pretend to be nature explorers looking for wild animals and sometimes they play that they are soldiers hiding in the wilderness and fighting the enemy.  I want them to remember hours of bike riding, swimming, and playing sports.  So, we take a nice long recess midday and finish everything in time for them to play for an hour or two before evening activities begin.  I, also, like to take school outside on pretty days (without wind :-)).  Doing school work in the sunshine just makes everybody feel happier.  Plus, this helps occupy the little ones.  They ride on their riding toys, play in the sandbox, or write with sidewalk chalk while the big boys work and that is nice for everyone!

12.)  Fun Lunches ~ About once a month, I enjoyed surprising the boys with lunch from a restaurant!  We'd either bring food in, have a pizza delivered, or drive thru some place quick.  I usually chose to do this on the spur of the moment when we were having a hard day.  Some days are just yucky!! :-( Sometimes the work seems too much or too hard or maybe the little boys are being too loud and distracting and frustrating the big boys...  Whatever the problem, sometimes getting out of the house, driving with windows rolled down, music playing loud, singing at the top of our lungs, and getting Mexican food midday just seems to help everyone ~ especially Mom!!!! :-)  Other days, we try to make lunch fun by taking it outside.  During the spring and fall we eat outside almost every day.  Sometimes we picnic in the grass.  Sometimes we sit at the table on the back porch or our picnic table.  We've eaten lunch in the house part of our swing set, and we've eaten in our tee pee.  As long as we are outside, that is all that matters!

10.)  Afternoon Snack Time ~

The boys and I fell into a routine of quizzing over afternoon snacks.  The little boys napped during this time.  And, I would make my big boys a special treat ~ cookies, popcorn, etc.  I'd pull out my little box of cards and quiz them while they ate.  Somedays I would ask questions and let the boys compete to answer them, and somedays I just bounced from Joshua to JCT ~ asking them questions individually.  The boys seemed to enjoy this time of day, and I really did, too.  It was usually a very relaxed, enjoyable review time!  I used this time to make their learning cumulative.  I didn't want them to forget the first semester definitions, etc. during second semester, so we would keep reviewing them.

Okay, so those are a few of the things we did this year to make the days a little more fun!  If anyone out there has any wonderful ideas to share, I would love, love, love to hear them!!!  Leave a comment or email me!  I'd love to know what you do to make your days work best!!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Two Month Old, Jack!

Jack, you are growing little man!  You are losing your newborn look!!  Now you have a cute little double chin and a round face.  Your cheeks are soft and sweet to kiss.  The boys are getting used to you being here.  They still want to touch and kiss you every waking moment!  But, Erik Daniel does not come up to you, grab your sweet little hand in his, and say, "Glad to meet ya!!  Glad to meet ya!!"anymore.  He used to do this at least 15 times a day. I guess he has finally met you enough times! :-)

And, Lije, well, buddy, Lije is completely taken with you!  You are "his" baby.  When people say, "I can't decide who he looks like??"  Lije helps them out and says, "He looks like me!"  Lije comes up to you periodically throughout the day, grabs your little head in his hands, puts his mouth to your ear, and whispers, "You're the best baby ever, Jack.... the best baby ever!"  

You are so strong and pick your head up so high!!  The boys think you are doing push ups!!  You are taking it all in looking around with wide eyes!  You make sweet sounds, and we love to hear them!  We love you little man!

Joshua has been counting your smiles since your birth.  I think the number is somewhere in the 400's now??  I can't keep up!

You love, love, love to be held when you are awake.  You go to sleep easily when I lay you down and give you your paci.  You have been sleeping all night off and on ~ though I feel sure this will not last!!  That would be too good to be true!  When you do wake up at night, you wake up one time, I feed you, and you go back to sleep.  Life is so much easier now than it was a month ago!!  I'm so thankful!!!

You are a joy, little one!!  I can't wait to know you better and better with each passing day!!  I love you!

Our Miss Megan...

We met her when she was just a little girl, and we watched her grow up right before our eyes.  She always smiled and bounced, a happy little doll, cute as a button.  And, we watched her slowly blossom from cute and fun to beautiful and polished.  My husband, early on, thought so much of her, admired her happy heart.  Erik is a great discerner of people, and he recognized in her a genuiness and inner beauty that is rare.  She has always been a favorite of his.

And, when Joshua (my now 8 year old) was only a few months old, the movie Passion of the Christ came out, and I was desperate to see it.  But, I had virtually never left Joshua with anyone before this time.  When I asked our friend, Mrs. Wendy, to watch him and she couldn't, I panicked!  Who else could I leave him with???

Wendy suggested Megan.


But, she was a mere child!!!

And, I was a slightly overprotective first time mom!

Wendy insisted that Meg could do it and I should give her a try.

 I called Erik, and he, of course, thought it was a great idea.  So, I called Megan's sweet mama and asked her opinion.  And, a few hours later Miss Megan bounced up to my backdoor, all smiles, a girl of 13.  And, as I left I thought myself half crazy for leaving my nursed baby with a 13 year old!  Had I lost my mind??

When Erik and I returned home, Meg had Joshua asleep and all his little things neatly stacked just so.  And, we smiled to ourselves, we had found our girl, and then we drove her home...

For the next few years off and on....

we picked her up, and we drove her home.

Then, she learned to drive, my little friend growing up...

Who knew that years later, she'd go off to college and when she came home she'd drop by, pick up a carful of my boys, and take them to get snow cones!

Rich.  There is a richness that comes with the depth of a relationship that has grown over the years as ours has.  As the years have gone by, we've all grown ~ Miss Megan, the boys, but most of all our friendship.  She has become like family to us.  Last year she kept my little guys every Tuesday morning.  And, I grew to look forward to seeing her smiling face each Tuesday almost as much as my boys did!

We've been through a good bit together ~ friends hurting feelings, homecomings, boys, etc. But, what I remember most is how she was there for me when Erik's parents were hospitalized after the accident, ready and willing to give me a break if needed.  And, she cried with me when Erik's mother passed.  I'll never forget the way she felt our pain.

She is truly beautiful, inside and out.

She has earned our affection, our trust, and our love.

It is sort of amusing to me...

She always tells me or writes to me about how she has learned so much from Erik and I over the years.  But, I have learned so much from her!!!  Her positive attitude and genuine love has encouraged my heart and given me hope time and time again.  She is simply good to the core, and we love her so much!

I'll never forget the night she called us with that special lift in her voice...

Philip had asked...

And, she had accepted.

And, in one fell swoop two of my sons lost the love of their lives!!! :-)

But, seriously, we are so happy for her!!

When she called yesterday to let us know that Philip had been drafted by the Minnesota Twins, Joshua immediately wanted to get online and order all sorts of Twins hats, t-shirts, etc.  He's a fan, not so much of the Twins, but of Miss Megan and Mr. Philip.

And, now, Erik and I look forward to watching Meg marry this Saturday night.  Erik doesn't go to many weddings, but this is one he wouldn't miss!

To our Miss Megan...

When we moved here ten years ago, we watched you skip down the aisle on the arm of your little brother to sit with your parents, and then a few years later we watched you giggle down the aisle on the arm of Anna Kate Goodwin to sit with your friends, and now on Saturday we will watch you walk down the aisle on the arm of your sweet Daddy to take your true love's hand.

Watching you grow and blossom through the years has been a joy and a privilege.

We love you, sweet girl.

And, we will always be here for you....

7 of your biggest fans!!

Now, sweet girl, you will not be our Miss Megan anymore...

Now you will be our Mrs. Megan!!!!

Best Wishes!!

May God bless you BIG!!!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Between the trees...

When I sit at the kitchen table and sip coffee, I look out at a backyard full of trees.  But, the trees closest to the house are two crabapple trees.  They are a bit too bushy, and I'm not crazy about the way they look.  But, they are very much loved by my little boys.  Therefore, they are close to my heart.  

Often I tell the boys that they can go outside and play out back "between the trees."  This way, I can sit at the kitchen table, hold the baby, and watch them play.  They chase each other around the trees. They have climbed one of these trees to the point that the back branches of this particular tree lay almost flat.  They play football with each tree being an end zone.  They play soccer with each tree being a goal.  They even play baseball there "between the trees."  But, my favorite thing they play, they can only play this time of year ~ crabapple wars!  They split up in groups, pick apples, and throw them at one another!!!  It is wild fun to them!

I just sit at the window and take it all in...

the laughter... the strategy... my sweet boys hard at play...

One day I will sit at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a quiet house.  And, I will look out at those bushy trees and remember all the play that happened around them and in them.  Oh, how many one year olds have I chased around those trees??  How many circle 8's have we run around them??  How many handmade bird feeders have the boys hung on those trees??  We've strung up the branches with cranberries and hung peanut butter and bird seed covered pine cones on them. We've had picnic lunches in their shade and afternoon snacks under their low hanging branches.  They have been such a part of the boys' playtime.  And, it has brought me so much joy to watch the boys play and interact there between the trees ~ their little imaginations running wild!!

So many memories made between the trees...
My photo
Hi! I live in a sweet country home overflowing with love, laughter, and little ones. I have been blessed to journey these days beside a man that I love, respect, and admire. He is my soul-mate and best friend. Together we are seeking to raise our seven children to be lovers of God, to be wise and discerning, and to be all that our sweet God created them to be. I am in the goldfish and cheerio stage of life, but I am keenly aware that these days are slipping right through my hands. This blog is my attempt to keep our memories safe for years to come.


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