Monday, June 11, 2012


Just wanted to let you know...
That We've Found a New Place to Nest!

One year ago, a friend approached me and asked if I would ever consider writing about a variety of topics on my blog (other than our stories of our family life.)  I told her that I had never thought about it, but that I would pray about her suggestion.

Well, after a lot of prayer, procrastination and deliberation, I've decided that maybe it's time to move forward with her proposal.  All Things Bright and Beautiful was a great beginning for our family blog.  Now, we hope that you will join us, as we move on to our new home, 

The new website will cover the topics of homeschooling, health and fitness, all things related to raising boys, Faith life and the home page will include happenings with our family and anything domestic that I care to share such as cooking, fashion, music, products I love, etc.

Please, if you are a current follower of All Things Bright and Beautiful, be sure to jump on over and follow us on Sole Searching!  We welcome your comments, suggestions and stories.  You can leave them on the comment portion of the blog after each post, or contact me via email at

We are very touched by the loyalty and support of all of our readers, and hope that you will find our new site even more enjoyable to read as well as something worth sharing with others!

(Thanks to the The Background Fairy for the image of the bird envelope!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Don't Make Me Smell 'Em!!

There comes a point in every baby boy's life when he crosses over from the realm of perfectly pure yummy baby sweetness and into the big-boy's world of unexplainable gross disgustingness.  Although that very moment is guaranteed to happen, we mothers lovingly attempt to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. Unfortunately, for me, the odds are stacked pretty high.  With five older brother around, Charlie was bound to be taken over by the power of influence sooner than later...
The warning signs came early... 

First, his unmistakable giggle floating down the hallway from the boys' bedroom sounded the alarm. The older four were having a belching contest, and Charlie thought that that was the most hilarious sound his precious little ears had ever heard.  

Next, I caught Andrew schooling Henry in the art of arm pit sound effects. Prancing around and calling himself Mr. Tooty-Pits, Henry was the center of attention. Charlie seemed to think that Henry's arm pit skills also deserved a round of giggles.

Oh, no, I thought to myself, he's only one, and yet he is still instinctively attracted to grossness!! What mysterious chromosome is responsible for their barnyard behavior??

Help me understand this, Lord. PA-Lease!
The event that sealed the deal, the point of no return back to the perfectly pure yummy baby sweetness was when Daddy decided to play "Don't Make Me Smell 'Em!" with Charlie.  
It's a game he's played with all the boys during their early toddler days.  It goes something like this:
Daddy: "Don't make me smell 'em, Charlie.  Don't you do it!"

Charlie: Chuckling, slowly raises his foot right up to Steve's nose.

Daddy:  Big, big sniff.  Loud, loud, "Peee-Yooo!!"

Giggle.  Tickle.  Repeat.
Here's a little video I took of the action.  To be honest, I cannot resist my baby's feet, stinky or not, nor could I resist giggling during this little episode!!
Are you the mother of a boy or boys who can relate to this story with a story or two of your own?  Leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect Plans

Fifteen years ago, I was going to be a missionary teacher somewhere far away, outside of the Nifty Fifty.  To me, this notion was  as certain as the sun rising in the east. Teaching at an all-girls school, that's what I imagined, for at least two or three years. 

Then, I would return home to my beloved U.S.A. and seek out a teaching job in the heart and soul of a big city.  My weekends would be spent traveling, running marathons, eating Thai food and volunteering.

Marriage and babies were chapters to be written in the novel of life later on down the road.  Much later.
And this was what was going through my head last week, on a misty, overcast morning as I trekked a pathway through the knee-high weeds and wild grasses, following my sons out to the corrals to watch them feed their bucket calves.  

With Charlie cooing cheerfully from the heights of the pack on my back, I reached up to touch his soft, chubby hands and wondered why, all of the sudden, I was remembering plans I had made for my life B.C. (before children) and B.S. (before Steve - I know what you're thinking, but the answer is no, I can't come up with anything better than B.S. -this is goin' nowhere, so I'll just get to the point!).

Plans. Aren't they perfectly imperfect??

The missionary pathway plan.  Well, that worked.  I might as well have written my manifesto in Swahili on a napkin and pasted it to a tree during a tornado with a variety of glittery "Awesome Job!" and "Way to Go!" stickers from my stash of teacher supplies.
As I look back at the many well thought-out, perfectly formed plans of life, from birth plans to vacations to financial ventures, if I could go back and tune my ears in a little more closely, I'm sure that I could almost hear God laughing.  

I imagine that he saves his big, jovial belly laughs for  little souls such as mine, because I'm the planner, a bit of an idealist, a closet control addict.  I think I can hear Him now, His loving little chuckle winding up, almost audible over the slurping of milking and playful moos and grunts of our nursing trio.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not being even the least bit sarcastic here.  I'm just being honest. Our Father doesn't laugh at us, He laughs in spite of us. (And, he hopes we will laugh with Him!)  In spite of all the dreams and plans that we believe are bigger than the ones He has for us.  

Those pathways we pave to "Happy Land."  Those can be really funny.  Just when we think our vision of perfection is coming together - it's right about then that He scoops us up (if we let Him) into His merciful arms and gently sets us down somewhere unexpected.  Somewhere we really need to be.
Like in the arms of a farmer, and at the edge of a fence with a camera in my hand, and the beautiful expressive eyes of my mini-men and their pure-bred ensemble staring back at me.
I don't dream of being a missionary anymore - I dream of our entire family going on mission trips together!
Thoughts of Thai food still makes my mouth water, but for now I'm content to have six hungry tummies arrive at my table heaped high with pot roast and apple pie.
I may not have time to train for marathons, but chasing five energetic boys around a farm will keep any girl in shape!
As for teaching at an all-girls academy?? Actually, homeschooling all of the boys has proven to be a providential adventure.  Although, they know that girls are welcome at any time (no, that is not an announcement!).

Well, that's probably enough reflection on the 7:00 a.m., one cup of coffee, random thoughts, calf-feeding morning.  Would you like to meet our new friends?
Benedict and Blake

Don't even get me started on animal names.  I'm such a dramatic romantic.  I tried to impose my ideas, my plans rather, on the boys. I suggested that they give their calves names with true meaning, such as names of valiant or hilarious characters from books they had read, or maybe Roman or Greek Gods or even biblical figures.  This is how my plan went down (in flames):

"So, Ben, why did you name your calf Blake?" 
"Just 'cuz.  I like the name Blake."
 Okay, well, I've got two more tries.

Andrew and Billy. 

 "Billy, huh?"
"Yep.  It's the perfect name for him. Do you like it, Mom?"
"Mmm-Hmm, sure do!" (Strike 2)
C'mon George, give me anything.  Aristotle, Babe Ruth, E.T.???...

George and Blaze
"So, you like Blaze, eh?"
"Did you name him after any Blaze in particular?"
"Nope, the other boys gave their calves "B" names, so I came up with Blaze."
Uugh. Conformist. 
"Oh, okay. Well, then, Blaze it is!"

Then, walking away, I stepped in poo.  Poo seems to go perfectly with my plans.  

Then I heard it: Big. Fat. Belly. Laugh.

For I know the plans I have for you, 
says the LORD
plans for GOOD and not for evil, 
to give you a FUTURE and a HOPE.
Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

For Your Quote Book...

Sometimes the most poignant messages
are the ones that are expressed 
in only a few words.

I discovered this quote, posted by the very talented ladies at Shabby Blogs, and thought I would share it with you....

Courtesy of Alisa Holland, contributed for Shabby Blogs

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring Chicks

When we decided to move across Kansas to the farm from Kansas City, our friends were a little surprised.  They would say things like, "You're going to live on a farm?  Like, with horses and cows and pigs and goats and sheep and chickens and.....???"  Well, no, not quite.  We're moving to a crop-based farm, but we have a dog.  Does that count?
I think it's safe to say that when most people think of farm life, they envision something like the Zuckerman's Family Farm from Charlotte's Web: rolling fields of green and gold, a big red barn filled with a variety of spunky animals living beneath a loft of hay, fluffy and spilling out from the rafters.

Rural life is nostalgic, wholesome, beautiful.  After we had Charlie, I decided that I wanted some of that nostalgia.  And, since the big red barn wasn't in the foreseeable future, I thought that surely we could handle a few animals.

Thankfully, Grandpa Bob was already on top of the situation - he aquired a small heard of Red Angus and let the boys choose thier bucket calves for 4-H.  We (I) decided that having a small flock of chickens would also be a great addition to the farm, and it would offer the boys an additional educational experience.
Naturally, since we homeschool, I thought we would order the eggs for incubation and do a full-blown study on chickens.  I might have been a little over ambitious, but we had to give it a shot.  After spending hours researching and planning the entire project, I finally jumped in and ordered eggs of three different breeds from Stromberg's Chickens.  All three varieties were typically cold hardy, good layers and docile in nature.  A perfect fit for us.

After waiting and waiting, candling and candling some more, of the 30 eggs, only 6 appeared to be viable.  I was beginning to have my doubts about this venture, and wondered if I was only capable of bringing forth human life! 
Then, one morning, I went to the incubator to turn the eggs and what should I see but this little wonder looking back at me!  Our sweet little Golden Laced Wyandotte chick had found it's way into the world!

I'll just be honest, I jumped back screaming with excitement.  (Literally like Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he successfully ignites a fire, I mean FI-YAR!!  Just. Like. That. Except I had clothes on and didn't beat my chest.)

It worked! The incubator worked, the eggs worked, the chick worked it's way out of the shell. Behold!!  I can (help) bring non-human life into the world!  Yahoo!!
Next, we had to find a place to keep the chicks safe and warm, away from Stella, our Golden Retriever.  I found on Backyard Chickens (our new favorite website), a suggestion to keep the baby chicks in a large kennel until they are ready to be put outside.  We have found this to work perfectly!  With a infrared heat lamp, a bed of wood chips and fresh food and water, it's practially the Hilton!
The two chicks, behind the Wyandotte, are Black Austrolopes.  We still have three eggs left, of the third variety which are Welsummers. I'm not sure if they're going to hatch, but we're keeping our fingers crossed! We keep joking about how the infrared light make the chicks look sunburned.  
By far the best part of this adventure has been seeing George, a boy with a very sensitive, creative and thoughtful nature take such delight in caring for our new friends.  Everyday he runs out to the shed several times to check that the light is set right, their water is fresh and the food is abundant.  
It's amazing how animals have a unique way of bringing out the best in your kids.  George immediately displays more confidence after he's taken care of his calf and the chicks. And when I pay him compliments on how well he is doing with our little projects, his grin is filled with pride and joy.  I just love it!
Now, we just have to come up with names for the sweet creatures.  Steve, who is a shade less than enthusiastic about this endeavor expressed his opinion, "I think we should name them Tyson, Kentucky and Nugget."  Burst of laughter from the male population of my home.  "Well, I think we should name them after flowers, since I love flowers. How about Petunia, Daisy and Marigold?? Or, Iris, Rose, Buttercup or Lilly?? Silence.  Total Silence.
Maybe we'll just wait and see if they turn out to be hens or roosters.  Watch them all be roosters.  Wouldn't that just be my luck??  BUT!!! If they are hens, I'm thinking of an upgrade.  I found this photo and plans for the coop on the Backyard Chickens community page.  Isn't it lovely??

Friday, May 18, 2012

Living the High Life

I remember an old commercial from my childhood.  Get ready for this one: It's a beer commercial.  Impressive, huh?  Ranks right up there with Loreal's "Because I'm worth it." and the famous Oscar Meyer hotdog jingle. (Just for the record I'm not a big fan of TV, but I sure wasted plenty of time watching it growing up.)

Actually, all I remember from the commercial is the motto: 
"It's Miller Time."
Oh, the childhood memories ~ friends, school, Mr. Rogers and Miller Beer.  

When my dad would work outside during the hot days of summer, I used to run out before supper and ask him, "Is it Miller Time, Dad?"  (Quality conversation, I know.  I'm just keepin' it real here.)

Of course, he always said, "Yes!" because he's Czech and he's cool, and I love him, and I love to work outside and drink beer too.  Our gene pool rocks!

I would run into the house and smuggle a nice cold can of Miller genuine draft beer from the fridge for him.  Oh, the High Life!!
Well, my boys are no strangers to chores, and they are asked to do a lot around here to help keep this ship a float.  And, that includes yard work, caring for their animals, and any other laborious job that dad hates to do himself needs an extra hand with.  A couple of weeks ago, proud of their hard work and cooperation,  I made some lemonade to take out to them, and snapped this picture.

My mind was suddenly filled with images of the four of them 10 or 15 years from now, or (holy crap) their college years where a hard days work is celebrated amongst the crew with, oh no, NOT lemonade but some brew. They will have their own Miller Time.  Dear me.

Thinking of all of this I nearly passed out.  All because of a dang commercial and a childhood memory. Medicating my emotional tantrum with a cold one seemed to be the only reasonable way to handle things (oh, and a few more hours on my knees, of course).  Can you blame me?
Now, go find your koozie and

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day Surprises 2012

Image is from Picard Creative on
For my very first Mother's Day, Steve (and my little baby Benedict) gave me a card with an Almond Joy candy bar taped to it.  Now, I am not one to slap the hand that feeds me chocolate, but I have to admit that I was hoping for just a skosh more.  I mean, after all, it was my first Mother's Day, a day I had truly looked forward to it since the very moment that little pink stick read +.  If the perfectly pudgy rosy cheeked result of 26 agonizing hours of drug free labor and delivery isn't enough to celebrate motherhood (thank God the details on that one are a little fuzzy), I don't know what is!  

Now, I'm not a gift snob, I promise. Trust me, I wolfed that candy bar down as if my life depended on it.  But, I had to wonder, what would next year bring? Twix? Kit-Kat? Pay-Day?

Sunday was my 11th Mother's Day.  I must say that over the years, while I never questioned the sentiment of love from my family on this day, the expression of it has needed a little tweaking.  But not this year....

This year, I came home from my annual weekend retreat in Chicago to find four happy baskets of beautiful blooms waiting just for me!  Amazed and surprised are not descriptive of how I felt.  My eyes are still bulging!
Lately, I've been a teachin' and preachin' the acronym for FAMILY in our home - 
Forget About Me I Love You!
I really felt those words expressed with great understanding in the bouquets of love hanging from our deck.
If you haven't read the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, you need to put the beverage down right now and run out and buy it.  Or, if you live 250 miles from a bookstore like me, mosey on over to Amazon.

I remember reading it in college, and being so touched by the expressions of selflessness demonstrated by the two romantic characters in the book.  Initially, though very much drawn to one another, they had very separate interests. Yet, both desired to learn about the other's pastimes and amusements in order to become closer through the gift of appreciation.

Teaching the boys how to extend themselves to think of others in this way is difficult, because they are all so closely connected to Steve and to one another through the common bonds of sports, farming, Legos, being gross etc., etc.  And, though I'm not one to back away from a one-on-one hoop session, going fishing, talking tractors or shooting a gun, there are other things I would rather do, other interests that don't necessarily appeal to a house full of boys.  The fact that they've never had to play with a sister who's every day language includes words like Barbie and dress up, isn't helping my situation either.

Horticulture is one of my favorite areas of study and application.  Since I was gone on Sunday, and Sundays in our house tend to lean toward masculine hobbies (sports, hunting, action flicks, etc.), I believe it was a stretch for them to spend their afternoon shopping for and planting those baskets of beautiful flowers.  Though digging in the dirt did help ease the suffering (smile)!  

What I first realized when I received their gift was that what was even more beautiful than the blooms was the fact that they were aware of the likes and interests of someone outside of themselves. Even though they do not share in my passion, they chose to honor it, and to honor me through the gift of giving of themselves.  Witnessing this character in your children is a beautiful experience!

Should any of my boys happen to marry and have their own family one day, on Mother's Day I will be sitting by the phone, waiting for my daughter-in-law to call with ecstatic joy over her husband's unwavering adoration and thoughtfulness.  Then I'll pull an Almond Joy out of my chocolate stash and celebrate right along with her.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!!

For the past 11 years of my life, coffee shop conversations and after church chats have always centered around the topic of children.  We can't help it, us moms.  Our tribe is our 24/7.  What else would we talk about?? Inevitably, another mother will often share such things as, "I've known forever that I wanted to be a mom" or "I could never see myself doing anything else but being a mom."

You can't quote me saying those words.  The thought of being a mother didn't cross my mind until my early 20's.  As a young college student, my pea-brain was a bit consumed with thoughts and ideas about studies, traveling, friends and a future career.   And, my heart was closely tied to those things that I thought were oh-so-important.  Looking back on that period of my life, I must have just thought that I would wake up one day and hear the voice of God streaming in through the window with the sunshine announcing my vocation to me. So, there was no need to ponder it all.  Pea brain, pea brain.

The summer before my sophomore year at K-State, my brother Steve and his wife Julie had a baby girl.  They named her Lauryn.  The anticipation of her birth brought about feelings of excitement that I had never experienced before.  Feelings that resonated so deep in my soul that they were like ribbons wrapped around my heart pulling me toward this new little life.  It was then that I recognized that I wanted to be a mother.  The first moment I held Lauryn God spoke to my heart and I knew that one day I would hold my own first born....
Fast forward 15 years, and I am immersed in the miracle of 5 precious living breathing (booger picking, dirt digging, sports crazed, and very strange noise-making) souls.  They are the tangible reality of that moment that I experienced years ago, the moment I felt God breathe motherhood into my very being.  (Thank goodness he spared me visions of the nitty-gritty or I would not be typing this or come running to the name Mommy.)
Every day, I am in awe of the love and strength God has woven into the nature of mothers.  Because I realize how very weak my will can be and how narrow my understanding is of God's great design for our family, it is only by grace that I am able to love, to give of myself, and to recognize the beauty - even in the imperfections - of our family.  Isn't it funny how the sweetness of messy hair mornings in jammies wrinkled warm and rosie cheeks can cast a shadow of forgetfulness over yesterday's boxing matches, broken vases, muddy boots and other mishaps? 
St. Catherine of Sienna once said:

"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

We all know that it takes but the smallest spark to ignite the biggest fire.  While sometimes I feel that my flame is very small, the fire I hope to create is one of love.  And I desire for that fire of love to burn brightly in my children, because when I look at them, I not only see our Lord, I see a marvelous vision of the light they will be for the world - not a distant glow, but a brilliant fire of God's love.
To all the mom's out there who may be reading this - no matter who you are, where you've been or hope to be, take heart in knowing, in believing, that God, who has done a great work in you will see it to completion! I will offer prayers for you this Mother's Day, prayers for continued strength to keep up with your tribes, good health, fortitude in difficulties, and peace in your hearts and in your home. May you be blessed beyond measure!

 Happy  Mother's  Day!! 
One of my favorite songs about motherhood:
You Cannot Lose My Love
Sara Groves

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thoughts on Self-Forgiveness & Self-Esteem

There are five precious little men who dwell under my roof and deep in my heart.  Each with their own distinct gifts, personalities and dispositions.  Today, there is one, in particular who is occupying my thoughts...

Oh, how this one loves, loves, loves others.  But, there are times when I can see that he struggles to love himself.

And, the ache I feel for him in this particular struggle is indescribable.  I know that you understand what I'm saying if you are a parent and are reading this.

For me, one of the most humbling responsibilities of parenting is correcting our children.  How terribly necessary it is to take seriously the formation of a child's conscience.  For without doing so, they may indeed walk through the terrors of the world without having one to exercise.

And yet, how fragile the duty is, how easily a spirit can be broken.  Broken under the weight of constant criticism, correction, expression of disappointment, lack of or loss of patience. Oh, my, the lack of patience - I'm terribly guilty of this.

Finer than fine is that balance between living the letter of the law, the letter of life and the spirit of the law, the spirit of life.  Of taking the job seriously because we love our children and want to help them do their best and be their best, because deep down we know that there is freedom in living a virtuous life.  But, take the job too seriously and it's easy to lose perspective.  Their mistakes become our mistakes they must be failing because we are failing. And what if there is truth in the reality that often times it is our mistakes that become their mistakes....our very own personal sins become visible in them?

Stops me dead in my tracks every time.  No, no, no, Lord! These are my problems, not theirs! Why is sin generational - why, why, why?? How is it that my baggage has become their baggage. They carry it around, unaware, on their petite little shoulders. I don't want them to struggle with such things. I want them to be free and good and happy and perfect. Yep, perfect.  Easier for them.....and yes, for me too. 

I can recall with great clarity the interior feeling of desire that I had to be good as a child.  Partially because I wanted to be like my older sister. In my eyes no one was better than her.  The other part was to please my parents.  So many good feelings came with pleasing those around me, and being recognized and praised for it. But, falling short of the mark brought the opposite emotions. Personal mistakes and failures were then (and at times still are) nearly overwhelming for me.  To say that I felt consumed by feelings of failure and worthlessness would not be an exaggeration.  That is a lonely place to be, as a child and as an adult.

When I see that a child of my own may at times experience those same feelings, I cannot express the depth of my desire to rescue him from such a place.  I wanted so much to be like "those other kids" who could brush things off so easily and just move on with life, full of confidence, seemingly carefree and unaffected by their faults and failures.  Maybe it was all appearances, smoke and mirrors, I didn't care, I still wanted to be like them.  I wanted, "It's no big deal" to be my motto too.

Now you know that I wasn't like those other kids then and I'm not like them now.  And, I have a son who might just feel the same way.  Intellectually I know that if I scrub and scour every Christian parenting and child psychology book I will find some answers, some approaches to all of this (and I have - The Optimistic Child and several works by Dr. Conrad Baars have helped tremendously).

Yet, deep down I know that this is the one small truth that sits deep in the heart of the matter:
Our desire to be good and to do good must come FIRST and PRIMARILY as an act and expression of LOVE for God the Father.  He who first loved us, who will never stop loving us, who will help us to love ourselves, is our perfect parent.  Longing to please those closest to us, caring too much about what others think, and frankly caring too much about what I think of myself - as if one day I expect to wake up and be happy because I can say, "Yes, I am good now!" - will never bear any fruit in my own life nor in the lives of my children.

Nurturing a life of love for our Lord in our children not only helps them to set their hearts upon something (Someone) everlasting, but it gives them a point of reference called RELATIONALITY.  The child's desire to do good and to be good becomes a connection, a relation between themselves and the Lord. This connection is not an end in and of itself, it extends into the lives of others.  We love because he first loved us.  We love others, and we love ourselves because of Him.  In this way, when the children's minds and hearts are set upon particular achievements in life, including interior spiritual achievements, they are motivated by Love and not prideful or self-centered reasons.

How tempting it is to choose the pathway of permissiveness as a parent.  To let everything slide, to ignore the wrongdoings, to make excuses for poor behavior is the easy approach.  While we think that they simply cannot handle being "caught and taught" because they are too fragile, or we don't want them to be unhappy or dislike us, we are simply taking a pass for ourselves on parenting, either because we don't want to face the fact that we might be correcting our children for a sin that we too struggle with and fear being called a hypocrite, or else we are delusional, thinking that sins are simply phases of life and will pass.  In the end, no one wins with that approach and no one is happy.

Happiness, by and large, is not the greatest goal for our children.  Yes, we want them to be happy, but better yet, we should want them to be free.  Free to forgive themselves and others, free to love and free to live a life that is directed toward something greater than themselves.

What I have learned and am still learning about relating to and guiding a child whose temperament can tend toward being overly self-critical and self-doubting, who struggles (at times) with low self-esteem is this:

1.  Example is the best teacher.  Their eyes are upon us.  While none of us are perfect parents, we have to be aware of the impression we make upon our children by our own example.  "Do as I say, not as I do" just isn't going to fly.  Modeling the behavior we desire to see in our children isn't easy, we must ask for their forgiveness when we fall, receive their forgiveness cheerfully and begin again.

2.  When the child is in need of correction, it is important that the firmness is always followed by affection and encouragement. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut with discipline and feel weary of constantly correcting, try something new. Create an opportunity for quality one-on-one time with your child. Finding that time isn't always easy, but may be just what your child needs to gain a little self-confidence, and the assurance that you love them and truly are here to help them with their struggles.  Think of it as time for connection instead of correction.

3.  I believe that it helps children to know that as parents we too are working on our own defects.  For example, I have expressed to the children that I struggle with a lack of patience, and that I want to become a more patient person for the good of the family, for my own well-being and because it pleases the Lord.  We cannot demand a particular behavior from our children and follow it with the phrase, "do it because I said so!"  Sharing a purposeful explanation with the child will appeal to their sensitive nature and provide a reasonable motivation for them as well.

4.  In the evenings we help our children examine their consciences.  We pause to consider the good things we did for the day as well as the bad.  This provides us as parents the opportunity to praise our children for their specific good behavior, to ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoing, and to pray for the grace to press on toward the good.  It's amazing how loved children feel when you pray with them.

6.  Help your children see their struggles in light of temptation.  For example, I shared these thoughts with my sensitive one: When you make a mistake and are corrected, you might be tempted to be angry with yourself for such a period of time that it leads to internal frustration and withdrawal from others because you feel so upset with yourself.  The devil wants you to react in this way, because when you feel hopeless and do not trust in God's mercy and grace to do better next time you cannot be a light for Christ in the world.  Satan is real, and he wants to take you out of the game.  When all you can see and think about is yourself, you take your eyes off of Christ, and Satan wins.

7.  At the end of the day, the very best that we can give our kids is a dedicated time of prayer for them.  I am just learning about praying very specifically for each of my children in a way that is especially personal and specific to their needs, their future and their present lives at this time.  The desire to pray in such a way has always been in my heart, but finding depth in the prayer has not been easy. I have discovered that using a specific outline can be very helpful. You can find an example of it here.

This is #10 from the list of 
31 Ways to Pray For Your Children:
"Lord, help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God's workmanship created in Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 2:10)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chopstick Charlie

Oh, boy, Mommy, I finally made it! 
Ever since I was in your tummy my little ears have been listening to the melodies that rise like magic from this giant black box. 

I heard them still as a newbie, back when you held me in your arms 
all day long...
 then as I grew, and grew and grew, and you toted me around on your hip, I could see that my brothers were making the music.  
When you first sat me down on the floor in the schoolroom I knew that soon I would inch my way over to that big black box, 
reach up with all my might and touch the keys too.
See how I have discovered how to scoot myself between the bench and the piano?  
Up, up, up on my tippie toes I go.  A great big stretch and...TA-DAH!! I can reach!  
Now I can make music too!
How did you know that my wobbly legs would soon get tired?? 

Thank you, Mommy, for rolling my high-chair over for me to sit in!
Now, I think I could play all day!  Oh, what is this? I have an audience? 
Oh my! (Is that a tip on the piano?  It's a sign!  He's my baby Beethoven!)
This is definitely my happy place.  
Isn't it wonderful, Mommy??

Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't Let School Get In the Way of Learning!

What do you think about punctuality, schedules and routines? Boring? Blah? Beautiful? I have to raise my hand on the beautiful.  Especially in this homeschooling home.  Not that I'm over-the-top about it all. It's just that the reality of raising five boys is that they need a little bit 'o that structure as much as I do.  
But, last week, I just couldn't seem to get the punctualized scheduled order harmonized in my home.  Or, in myself for that matter.  My internal clock just seemed to be broken. The swing was there, but the follow through - not so much.

8:30 a.m. That's when I like to ring the bell. Or blow the whistle, or yell really, really loudly that it's time to get the brain waves fired up. Unfortunately, just as I would reach for the bell, a minor set-back would hold things up:

- Fight breaks out between #2 and #3....mommy intervention.... it is now 8:40.
- Charlie has a blow out...more mommy is now 8:45.
- Mommy steps on big banana chunk while cruising through the kitchen.  Really guys? Legos and Cheerios I understand, but a nanner? Okay, minor squishy setback.
- Phone rings, we missed yesterday's dental appointment....mommy apologizes.... it is now 9:00.
- Mommy had too much coffee, regroups in the "library" for 45 seconds, and comes out to find this:
Three boys, creatively cooperating on a mega building project without my assistance or referee skills. (For a moment, I thought I must have been dreaming!) Now this, this is more beautiful than my little polished punctual schedule!

The funny thing is, the night before I had stayed up reviewing the kids curriculum schedules.  I wanted to be sure that I hadn't missed something critical in their lessons, in my planning. This is the time of year when I toss and turn a little bit at night with worry.  My mind just can't shut the little checklist down....Present participles?? Decimals to fractions?? Venn Diagrams?? Latin Roots?? States of Matter??  LMNOP??? 

Maybe it's because I understand the ENORMOUS responsibility I have as a parent who has chosen to homeschool our children.  Or, maybe it's because I need some medication.

The boys' little industrious act, initiated on their own, brought me back to center.  Because, the truth is, sometimes school can get in the way of learning.  There, I said it.  Oh, and P.S. I HATE standardized tests.  And, I feel sorry for all of the amazing teachers out there who have to give up a month of their school year for preparation and administration of the tests.  But, that's another story...feel free to comment.

As I sat back and watched their method for organizing the construction of their neighborhood I was impressed with the logical strategy they used.  First, they brainstormed for a few minutes about what they should construct.  Then, after agreeing to create a Lincoln Log neighborhood, they went about building a model home.  
Andrew suggested that they take an inventory of the pieces used to construct the home.  He then asked Henry to sort the pieces according to size and put them in piles.  The sorted piles made it easy for Andrew to assemble "kits" for George with the necessary pieces needed to build each home. After their neighborhood was built, they used Keva planks to create a neat little fenced border.  
Hmmm....something's missing.  Little feet are sent skipping into the playroom for a plunder through the stash of goods. Henry emerges proudly with his favorite Hot Wheels and adds them as a finishing touch to their display. They were so pleased with their work and had fun playing with it throughout the day!
I sat sat on the floor with Charlie, my cup of coffee and my camera, careful not to interrupt their creativity.  I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of Mr. Chuckles' C-A-UTE chubbiness!  Hey, how did that Play Dough container get mixed in with the Lincoln Logs?? Um, probably the same way a Cheeto mysteriously landed in my make-up case.
This is us, good little citizens, following the government's "No Child Left Behind" standards. (Snicker.)  We elected Charlie as general contractor.  Thank goodness the boys could de-code his bossy babble!
During our 45 minutes of unscooling, the boys' self-innitiated tasks incorporated the following tools:
                                      1.  Mathematics
                              2.  Physics
                              3.  Teamwork
                              4.  Communication
                              5.  Enthusiasm
I know that many of you use curriculum guides as I do, and following those guides with their lesson plans and schedules can offer consistency and a sense of confidence, knowing that we are meeting all of the standards of learning for the particular grades that we are teaching.  HOWEVER, if I may make a few suggestions.....

1.  Don't be afraid to drift away from the guide on occasion.  Doing so may actually make your classroom time more efficient when you come back to the curriculum.

2.  Be confident.  You don't have to have a death grip on the curriculum, and your teaching support group/mentor shouldn't make you feel that way either.  You can still offer your children an enriching educational day or week without the use of your daily texts, tests and workbooks.  Begin by centering school around something that they are interested in.  For example, this is how I followed the boys' lead on a Lincoln Log themed day with a few enrichments:

After thee boys finished their Lincoln Log masterpiece, I sent them outside for a 20 minute recess.  During that time, I wrote down a few ideas to extend the lessons for the day with their creation as the inspiration. 
- MATH: I wrote a few story problems for Andrew and George that were appropriate for their grade level. We also reviewed skip counting, grouping, multiplication and division at the white board. 
- LANGUAGE ARTS: I printed an embellished lined paper from the internet for them to write an essay on about their cabin.  We reviewed words that signal order of events (first, next, then, finally) before they began writing.  Andrew was required to use a certain number of adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.
- ART: We reviewed how to draw with perspective. After practicing at the white board, the boys used the techniques they had learned in a former art lesson to illustrate their essay. 
-  SCIENCE: On You Tube I found an example of an individual who built his own log cabin using only a hand saw, axe, froe, tape measure, level and hammer.  The boys connected this to our visit to Independence, Kansas where we saw a replica of the original Little House on The Prairie. 
- HISTORY:  We read a brief summary about the invention of Lincoln Logs online. 
- READING: I read the boys a book we had on hand about Abraham Lincoln who lived in a log cabin during his youth.  We were finished with school by 12:30 p.m., and the boys loved it!
-  ORAL REPORT:  The boys summarized their school day for Steve at supper time.

3.  Let you children take the lead!  Each one of your children can get involved! Take a one week "vacation" from your normal routine and center all of their subjects around something that they are interested in.  The internet has a wealth of information, printable worksheets, coloring pages and field trip guides.  Don't be afraid to call up the "experts."  Many garden centers, dairies, banks, athletic departments and food specialists such as bakeries are more than happy to give tours to individual families or small groups. 

4. You don't have to create huge projects for everyday.  Choose a couple of "stand-outs" such as a beautiful craft, exciting science experiment or special outing that the kids can look forward to.  Otherwise, supplement your subject matter with library books, music, poetry or coloring/activity pages.  There are a lot of science and craft ideas and links to other websites on Pinterest and No Time For Flash Cards.

5.  You don't have to stray completely from your normal curriculum.  Choose a few subjects that you would like to incorporate into your thematic lessons, and keep the remaining subjects on schedule.

6.  One thing I love to do is to interview my kids about their projects.  They love to hear their voices and/or see themselves on screen (we use Quicktime on our Mac).  It's a great memory-maker for everyone, and can be shared with family and friends.  

7.  Remember, not everyone learns through the textbook, worksheet, take-the-test method.  So, taking a creative approach to learning with more hands-on activities may help your students who resist traditional methods of learning return to the standard curriculum with greater focus.

8.  If your two day weekends are turning into three and four days, you find yourself hiding under the covers from your children, or you are in search of your white flag of surrender, then it may be time to step away from your current routine and try something fresh and new.  

9.  Don't forget to document your new "adventure" if the state you live in requires detailed record keeping.  Photocopy your lessons plans, your children's work, and take a few photographs of your outings, craft projects and/or science experiments.

10.  I feel that having a number 10 here would really round out the list, but I'm out of blogging just pretend that there is something super-instighful written here!