Thursday, January 25, 2007

Empty Spaces

Last night I stayed up and organized our game closet, and finished arranging our living room. It was so much fun! I am always amazed at the good feeling that comes with getting things in order :-). I must admit to some difficulty keeping things in order, but here are two things I have learned about organizing:

  1. There should be a place for everything - and everything in it's place,theoretically ;-).

  2. Strive to create emptiness, instead of filling it

I suggest creating emptiness for 3 simple reasons.  First, because it makes it easier to use the space for what is needed.  I ask myself questions like:  will I really use this often?  If not, then you have 2 options - give it away or pack it away and label it well.

Secondly, because it is so much easier to clean!  Have you ever tried to keep a countertop clean that is covered with the toaster, mixer & iced tea maker?  Our laundryroom/hall (leading to the garage) used to be littered with laundry, baskets, coats and shoes and various other "droppings".  i.e. papers, used cleaning cloths...etc.  Actually, you'll still find it a mess sometimes, but this is due to the bad habits of certain unnamed individuals, not poor organization :-).  The solution to our dilemna was in lining our rather long hallway with an upper and lower row of hooks, upon which we hang coats, hats, laundry baskets and various bags of things which are headed out the door for some reason (like our egg cartons which we return to the nice family up the road from whom we buy eggs).  Now, when things are kept up well, and the designated cleaner goes into this area to sweep and/or mop, it is far easier of a task than it used to be.

The third reason to create emptiness, and perhaps the most important, is for clarity.  Maybe this is just me, but when I look across a room, it is just easier to focus on the important things when I see less "stuff".  A clean island begs me to get focused on a project.  A clean living room floor invites me to roll around with a toddler.  And when I have an empty shelf in my pantry or cupboard, it is much easier to stay organized, for I have a place ready for something that may need to be stored nearby.

Well, now I need to go and tackle my homeschool desk.  Unfortunately, it is rather a mess, for we ended our homeschool time at lunch today, and I haven't been back.  I need to select new scriptures for them to memorize, also.

I'm very excited, for I am driving to meet my dear friend Jenny in Illinois on Saturday.  She moved from Iowa to Kentucky at the same time we moved from Iowa to Missouri, and periodically we will drive 2 hours to Illinois to have breakfast on Saturday.   I'm hoping to get all of the cleaning and laundry done by tomorrow, so I'd better hustle!

Monday, January 22, 2007

On Molding Merry Hearts

This weekend, after reading a portion of the book The Mother at Home, I had a revelatory moment. (Currently I am re-reading this book with some other ladies over at Candy's site). The lightbulb came on when I realized that I am to be a more active emotional participant in bringing about the good attitude of my child. As opposed to laying all of that burden on the child. To elaborate, consider the following scenarios:

Child Alone
4-year-old Bobby comes into the kitchen, grumpy and irritated. He walks with his head down and shoulders slumped. He kicks a toy into the table, and is obviously dealing with some negative emotions. Mother comes up to Bobby and decides to remedy the situation. "Bobby, stand up straight." Bobby is distracted and agitated. But he straightens up a little. Mother is firm. "Bobby, a joyful heart is good medicine. Smile and let go of your grumpy attitude." Bobby obediently smiles, but it doesn't reach his eyes. He goes into the living room and looks at a picture book while mother works on lunch.

Mother Participates
Bobby comes into the kitchen, grumpy and irritated. He walks with his head down and shoulders slumped. He kicks a toy into the table, and is obviously dealing with some negative emotions. Mother comes up to Bobby and ruffles his hair and rubs his back. Bobby responds immediately to the affection by drawing near to his mother. She looks him in the eye and smiles at him. Then she gets out a number game. They sit and play a few rounds. By the end of the game, Bobby has forgotten whatever was making him grumpy, and his eyes smile up at mother. Soon it is time for lunch, and Bobby, feeling closer to Mom, asks "Mama can I help?" They work together in the kitchen getting lunch.

In the first scenario, the child is expected to do the brunt of the emotional "work". In the second scenario, the child is helped by the mother to become cheerful again. It reminds me of a few scripture verses...

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." -Proverbs 15:1

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." -Psalm 37:23-24

I think it is easy for a mother to respond with aloofness to a child's emotional trauma, as she attempts to be the firm disciplinarian (for some moms, being a brick wall is harder than others :-). Granted, each situation is unique, but responding instead with gentleness, and upholding the child as he gets his "emotional footing" seems to be a much more loving and Biblical position. I think Proverbs 15:1 speaks for more than just "wrath". A gentle answer has the power to turn away all manner of negative stirrings in the heart.

As I considered this, I realized that I desire the same thing from my husband. There are times when I am dealing with some difficult emotions which are hard to just shrug away. I remember telling him, "Nathan, you don't realize what power you have! Just looking in my eyes and giving me a gentle touch is all it will take to melt away the struggle I'm having." Surely my emotional reactions are not the responsibility of my husband; I consider it my duty as a wife to be pleasant and cheerful. Yet learning to be sensitive to one another, to "let our gentleness be evident to all" is something extremely beneficial to any relationship.

About 6 years ago my life was forever changed by a new understanding that I am not a slave to my emotions. God suddenly opened my eyes to the fact that I was being emotionally manipulative at times. It was a huge eye-opener for me and the catalyst to a sweet and precious aspect to my relationship with my husband which continues to this day.

Soon after that, I latched onto a teaching which encourages parents to correct negative emotional patterns in small children. Now as I consider this change, I realize that it was like a swinging pendulum. I was on my guard against the emotional manipulation, and so I adopted a no-nonsense attitude in regard to negative emotions (crying, whining, grumpiness); I believe I was so focused on preventing the bad emotions that many times I forgot to foster the good ones!

Now God is bringing balance, and it is surely His delight :-).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Moses was sick, too...

Right now hubby's computer network is composed of Moses and Aaron. Moses is where our blogs and mail are stored. Unfortunately, our faithful 10-year-old computer is showing signs of going flakey. Maybe we haven't let him talk enough. He's just expressing himself ;-). Anyway, the reason our blogs have been down is because he has been temporarily unconscious; just today Nathan transferred it all out to our hosting service and now we are up and running again!

So who else is sick, you may wonder? The baby is all better, and Joshua, our 3-year-old, is over "it" as well. Tuesday night he was up 3 times vomiting. The first time, the timing was perfect, and I put the plastic bin under his mouth (as he lay in bed) just in time. There was not a sheet to be washed! The second time we weren't so lucky, and I have wondered if this will be the first week I actually never got to start on the regular washing!

Actually, I have gotten at all done, I am happy to report :-). But I am lagging behind in other areas.  Mostly the floors remain unfinished this week...the house has been partially vacuumed and swept, but not mopped for a while, and it's beginning to get under my skin due to the sickness recently.  However, the children are doing well with bathroom cleaning.  My oldest children did a great job cleaning bathrooms this morning :-).

Sacrificing productivity for training pays great dividends!  Yet it remains one of the most challenging things about raising kids.  I always want to do do do and accomplish more.  But I have to hold myself back in order to patiently talk the children through jobs, being committed to redos when necessary.

How did I get to training from sickness, anyway?  I don't know, but it makes sense that being sick makes you realize how important training is ;-).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Mystery of the Creeping Cold???..Brrrrrrr!

Well, it all started Saturday night, with an ice storm that we expected. But for some reason, we didn't expect the power to go out. DJ woke me up at 5am with "Moooooooom!" She was scared because she had gotten up to turn on a hall light which serves as a night light, and none of the lights were working. So, I traipsed down the hall with my pillow, and "slept" between the girls in their big bed for another hour or so. A few hours later baby Jonathan began vomiting, and the washing began to pile up (I am soooo thankful for Oxyclean :-)). After a cold breakfast of cereal and milk, the kids went outside to play in an icy wonderland. At Nathan's insistence, I passed off my sweet sick baby to him, and went outside to check it out.

It was simply magical. It was warmer than we expected, so the sounds of dripping and running water abounded. Yet there was plenty of ice still around (enough to keep us home from church anyway). There was a thick sheet of ice on the front walk, but in the yard each individual blade of grass was covered in ice. It was beautiful. And crunchy :-) The swing-set in front of our house sported dripping icicles as well.

The children played for an hour and came inside cold, dripping and happy. We sat on the couch and read our Bibles. I played some hymns on the piano for awhile. It was a wonderful, peaceful time. Then the baby threw up in his playpen, and I was sucked back into the wonderful world of Mommy :-).

Nathan cooked us a wonderful hot meal of hotdogs on the grill. He also heated water for hot cocoa, and I honestly did not feel like the power outage was a trial. After naptime Nathan and David went to the airport to pick up Benjamin, Nathan's brother who currently lives with us. He had traveled back to Washington state to visit friends. His flight was canceled due to the ice storms and he was returning a day later than planned, without his luggage, which had been lost (stay with me, that's important). They arrived back home around 8pm Sunday night, an hour after the power came back on. Luckily for the kiddos, their camping out in Mom & Dad's room was not spoiled, as they were already ensconced in their sleeping bags when the power came back on. Believe me, they were quite pleased with themselves :-).

All during this power outage, we stayed dressed and were relatively warm in the house. However, this morning (2 days later), I awoke to the baby crying at 5:30am or so. I stumbled sleepily in there to nurse him and as I sat there I realized that it was dreadfully cold. I literally felt like I was sitting outside. I wrapped the baby up in some warm blankets and put him back to sleep, then covered all the boys well and checked the windows. Sometimes my son David will get hot and crack a window. I checked the girls room also and covered them well.

Imagine my dismay as I wandered into the foyer and found the front door standing WIDE OPEN! I was very confused, as I remembered locking both locks before scooting off to bed. Had one of the children woken up and sleep walked? Was there an intruder? I was a bit concerned, but nothing seemed amiss, so I went back to my husband-warmed bed, mumbling my concerns to him before dropping off.

Well, it turns out (and I just learned this tonight) that we received a phone call at 3am that night, for which I was apparently asleep (yes - really!). Benjamin answered the phone. The airport wanted to deliver his luggage! At 3am?! Anyway, Benjamin came upstairs to meet the fellow and get his luggage, shut the door without locking it, and went back to bed downstairs in his area. I think he must have forgotten that our door doesn't easily latch, and gives way to the slightest breeze. The slightest COLD breeze! The temperature was in the teens. Hmmm. Benjamin is in his teens. I wonder if they were in cahoots? He-he.

So there you have it. Mystery solved. It was Benjamin, in the foyer, with his luggage. And he didn't even know it :-).

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Last night I stayed up until 3am. And I remembered why I so seldom read fiction books anymore. If I pick one up, it's usually because it's really good, and then I can't put it down. This one was a Ted Dekker novel entitled "Heaven's Wager".

It was the story of a man who lost everything in a situation similar to Job in the Bible. In the story, we are reminded of Satan coming before God to insist that he could make a righteous man curse God. A riveting story is woven together of a new challenge. Satan had come before God again and insisted that he could keep an unrighteous man from responding to God's love (this is actually not revealed until the end). And the author proceeds to write a compelling story of a man who loses everything, just like Job, successfully commits the crime of the century, and then in the end reaches out to receive God's love and his soul is saved. My favorite part is the faith of his mother-in-law, who intercedes for him constantly and obeys God's sometimes unusual requests (to move in with him; to walk 8 hours a day on crippled legs and pray for him).

I am challenged by the story to become a better listener. I want to be listening when the Lord says "go and hug that child" or when He says "get in the car and take the kids to the park". Or when He says "no", or "yes!" or "humble yourself and apologize". It is not enough to be in the Word, going to church and teaching the children. I have to be focused on the Lord; to be leaning into His strength and allowing my burdens to seep away in the mountain of might which is El Elyon, the Lord most high.

"And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." -Isaiah 30:21

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Homeschool Room

Today was our third day having homeschool in our new area. It's going pretty well :-). We just need to wake up a little earlier. I can honestly say that school is certainly much more successful when we separate it from the household. However, the household is, well, let's just say lagging behind.

If you have ever visited a Chucky Cheese and played the child's game where the large plastic pin pops up and you have to hit it with your plastic hammer, then you know just what it can be like sometimes in the homeschooling world. I have hit the homeschooling pin down, only to have some other "pin" pop up and tempt me to divert my attention from my goals. If I'm smart, I'll get another plastic hammer and delegate! Mountain, get thee hence!

Tomorrow is library day and piano lessons, so I'd better get some sleep.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Available: One Homeschool Room

For the last year and a half, I have been homeschooling the children throughout the day in our dining room, living room & yard. It has gone pretty well, all things considered, but the lines between household & homeschool have become somewhat blurred, so I am very excited about the changes which occurred in our house this month. Let me explain.

We own a ranch style home, which has a walk-out basement. Half of which consists of an apartment, and the other half my husband's office, a storage area, a large family-type room and a bathroom. Until just a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law had rights to the apartment (though she lived in another state to care for her ailing father-in-law) and my brother-in-law lived in the family room which had been converted into a bedroom & office for him. Well, after Christmas we moved Benjamin into the apartment and suddenly the other room has become available. Naturally my first thought was: can we convert the space into a schoolroom? :-)

I am happy to report that we have begun the process of doing just that, and we had our first day of "doing school" downstairs on Friday. The entire day was fantastic! And these are my immediate observations about having a separate place to school:

1. It has given me remarkable clarity. I'm the kind of person who has a hard time focusing on what is at hand if other unfinished things are around me. For example, if I have set the children down to do their math worksheets, the laundry on the couch beckons me and the smudged windows call out to me "wash me!" It's all very distracting for one of my particular make-up, and often the children are waiting on me. When I am downstairs, it is all out of my sight, and hence, out of my mind. :-)

2. I am so much more organized! My homeschool books had begun to "invade" my household space. It was kind of embarrassing at Christmas when we had family over and there wasn't room in the pantry for snacks because of my homeschool notebooks. I'm not finished yet, but it will be so nice to have everything cleared out, in it's own place downstairs. Also, it is harder to keep track of each person's activity when they are in separate rooms.

3. It is easier to focus on discerning my children's hearts (#1 really). This kind of goes along with other things which are happening in my heart and home, but this has become so important to me. I have realized that motivation is so much more important that outward actions. And my kids are just a little distracted (I wonder why?) and need extra focus from mom to get them back on the right path. Spanking is not always the right answer, and can sometimes cause alienation from God instead of restoration.

These are my initial observations about our new schoolroom. Right now, our schedule is pretty simple:

7:30 Kids wake-up, dress and practice piano while I make breakfast with my 3-year old on the step stool and my baby attached to my front

8:00 Eat breakfast while working on scripture memory verses; read Proverb of the day

8:30 Breakfast chores & make lunch (to be brought downstairs in my WONDERFUL picnic basket - complements of my generous husband ala Christmas). If we don't get done with everything, it's ok :-). Here I have to give myself permission. Actually it has been my wise husband all along who has told me that the cleaning is not important - the children are important.

9:00 Start school! The start time is flexible and the entire schedule is divided into time "blocks" so that I don't become discouraged if we are not "keeping up" with the clock. I'll share the school schedule another day.

2:00-3:00 Afternoon chores, fixing dinner, generally catching-up with household duties. The children know they may play when they are finished with their responsibilities.

I am well aware that all families do not have the luxury of having a separate homeschool room, and I don't believe everyone needs one. But it sure is a blessing for our family and I am so very thankful to the Lord :-).

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Sweeping Class

I have given this "class" twice in the last few days. With some of our chores, inspection has become the rule rather than the occasion. I remember trying to teach them in the same manner when they were younger, but it just didn't sink in as well and it took far too long.

I have learned that it is absolutely vital to make a chore "fun" for the littler ones. And to gradually increase the standard. For example, when my three-year-old washes the counter, I tend to overlook some of the crumbs and shower him with "Joshua, you washed the counter, all by yourself! You're a diligent worker!". But if my eight-year-old leaves the same crumbs, I must send him back to redo the work. Cheerfully :-) It is absolutely amazing to see the difference in the way the children respond. If I call an older child back to redo a chore, and I am irritated, he will respond unwillingly. But if I am cheerful, he is usually sweet about the redo.

Okay, sweeping class. Here is how it happens. I set the child in front of me and get the broom. I dramatically carve out a square with the broom, and begin to demonstrate sweeping the dirt in one direction (we are going in a circle in our house, around the island). Come to think of it, perhaps we should be "'rowing" around the island - this would be truly fun! Wow - writing inspires me :-) Anyway, by the third square or rectangle, the child is in front of me and I am reaching around them to help guide their strokes, and by the last shape, they are doing it themselves. They all know how to use the dustpan, and I have implemented the "zero-crumbs" technique with this class, which is taking a wet napkin and magically erasing all annoying crumbs which would stick to the foot in order to invade another room :-) Arrrgghh!

Right now we are taking a break from our normal routine to plan for homeschool. I have found that it is a wonderful opportunity to focus in on chores which have become sloppy. Hence, sweeping class!

I must get breakfast...

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Linking Verb Rap

Over the holidays we had family staying with us, and Nathan and I took a rare opportunity to get away. We usually end up at Barnes and Noble, drinking coffee and perusing books, and this time was no exception. I was very impressed with the amount of material available for homeschoolers, and I am happy to report that I found a few needed workbooks for the kids, which I purchased with a gift certificate from Benjamin - Thanks Ben! As I was flipping through a book on teaching, I found this song, which I am sharing here (as well as recording for my own future reference :-) ). The song was a teacher's last resort effort to engage students whose attention had waned from the subject matter. The students worked together to create the song. So, without further ado, here is the Linking Verb Rap, the creative endeavor from the students of section 72 in Welsh, Roanoke Jr. High School...

Yo! I have a little somethin'
To teach you.
It's the linking verb rap
And it's easy to do!

A linking verb connects
A subject with a noun
And if you've done it right
You can turn it around.

An adjective can be
In the predicate part.
Know what you're doin'
Then you'll be smart!

Look very carefully
And you will see
Most of the verbs
Are forms of "be"

Am, is, are
Was, were
These are the past
And present of the verb

Learn "seem", "appear",
And "become"
Then you will know
That you are done!

I absolutely LOVE using songs and couplets to learn important concepts in school (as well as scripture memory), so I was immediately taken with this one :-)?? If anyone has any good ones please leave them in the comments!