Thursday, May 31, 2007

This Spontaneity Thing

Today did not start out well. At all. It was my fault, really--I decided to shake up the routine a bit by having all of my children sit at the kitchen table and do school together. This meant no one-on-one time as usual...just instruction together at three different levels. It used to work in the schoolhouses in the olden days, right? Not so much in this school house. Jacob decided he wanted to silent read a book, one that was a little over his head, so he got frustrated; Michael refused to sound out a simple word he was completely capable of sounding out; Alex was jabbering on about something when she was supposed to be doing her work; Audrey was alright until she dropped a crayon and had a small fit, and it was then that Michael decided to amuse himself by teasing her with a toy. All of this because I thought I would do some baking WHILE schooling. Two things at once. I can usually handle that. But amid all of this chaos, I couldn't remember if I'd put in 1 cup or 2. And did I already put the baking powder in?


I wanted to get the baking done because we had plans tonight for a fellow Married Single Mom to come over for dinner with her two kids. But I could already tell that if I had to spend the whole day with this wild crew (I'm talking about mine, not hers), someone would be killed or I might just run away. So...I decided to be spontaneous again! What is that--twice in the same number of weeks? I called Marianna, my MSM who was to come for dinner, to see if she wanted to head over to Helen for the afternoon. She, being spontaneous already, didn't hesitate.


We left here about 1:30 and headed north. When we got to Cleveland (Georgia, that is), the girls were very excited because they realized we were in the birth town of the Cabbage Patch Kids. We discussed stopping on the way back, but when we saw that it closed at 5:00, we discussed stopping then. I hedged a bit. This was NOT in the plan. But we stopped. Although the boys were a bit hesitant at first, even they had a good time visiting the birth place of the very expensive dolls ($170 if you adopt a unique one--are you kidding me???).


Then it was on to Helen. Our first stop, of course, was to get funnel cakes because one cannot visit Helen without getting a funnel cake. Tell that to my eldest daughter, though--she won't touch a funnel cake. After funnel cakes, we headed across the street to greet the horses who were waiting for carriage passengers. Once we found out one carriage could take all of us, we decided to give it a go. The kids were thrilled! Our horse was Samsom. Yes, Samsom, with two M's. Have you ever met someone whose name is almost familiar but not quite and you just know their parents were probably never Spelling Bee winners? And, yes, it took all of my willpower not to edit the poor horse's name on the permit posted in the carriage. Anyway, I digress...Samsom may have been a very nice horse (though smelly at some points), but he was very slow. The better to get our money's worth, I suppose. (Of course, I would trudge through life too if my name was misspelled). The kids enjoyed a fantastic, leisurely trot past all of the sights and even got to feed Samsom carrots after the ride.


Following our ride around the block, we stopped briefly at the glass blowing shop, managed to escape having to pay no damages, and then headed to the riverbank. There were a lot of people tubing down the Chattahoochee today, and we were lucky to find a perfect spot on the bank where we could get down near the water. It wasn't long before the first of the kids went from wading to dipping to splashing to getting soaking wet. (Please note that this was not part of the plan either so there were no changes of clothes).



Marianna and I were a little hesitant to call time because we knew everyone was soaking wet and dirty. As luck would have it, as we were packing up to go, I discovered a forgotten bag of Audrey's baby towels waiting for delivery to Goodwill. What a find! And how perfect for wet little bottoms and muddy feet! So now we were all set to go back home to a spaghetti dinner (the sauce had simmered in the crockpot all day).


It was a great day. The kids had so much fun. And I had fun. This spontaneity thing? It's alright. I might even get used to it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Angel Mail

God promises in the Bible that He sends angels to protect us. We don't always see them, but I know of one who lives in Washington state. I met her in cyberspace through one of my Homeschool discussion groups. She began An Angel's Touch Mail, a group which commits to sending notes of cheer to people who are seriously ill.


I knew this group would touch the heart of my compassionate child, Alex, so we joined. This will undoubtedly become a project near and dear to our hearts as we continue to pray for Alex's Aunt Jennie who still faces more chemo.


Today we had our first angel assignment: a 7-year-old girl in Michigan who has a tumor behind her right eye as well as neurofibromatosis. We did a little shopping this morning to pick up some flat items for mailing, and Alex made a nice card. We'll send the package off tomorrow in hopes that it reaches a little girl in good spirits with the strength to endure the chemo and other treatment that lies ahead. In the meantime, we've added Tiarra to our prayer journal.


(If you want to know more about An Angel's Touch Mail, email me and I'll make sure the angel in Washington gets in touch with you.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Update on the Princess and the Pool

First the Princess…it’s been 4 days since her injury, and she’s doing well; she even attempted clapping today. Despite her discomfort, I have to admit that she is an absolutely adorable invalid (But then she’s pretty much absolutely adorable no matter what she’s doing!). Her little bandaged hand looks like a cast, and she holds it up and out to the side. She is especially cute when she does her new trick—the kids will ask her a question like, “Who’s cute in this family?” and she’ll raise her little bandaged hand and yell, “ME!” That’s about the most movement she gives her injured hand up to this point, though. She had left-handed tendencies before her injury, and we’ve decided that this experience will dictate her definitive left-handedness since she is using it for everything.



We’ve developed quite a routine for changing her bandages, although that routine was disrupted today when Mark left. She normally cries and fights us when we change her together, but tonight she was a perfect angel when I went solo. Mark had suggested before he left that I put her in her seat at the table. I did so and gave her some candy to hold with her good hand. Then we chatted about the birds and the dog and before she knew it, she had a clean bandage on. Then came the most important part of the routine: The first time she had her bandages changed, it was so traumatic, I took her outside afterwards to calm her down. Now she expects that we will go on a little walk down to the mailbox and back each time she has her dressing changed. She’s quite the little character!



As for the pool, it’s coming along nicely. The crew was here today putting on the coping after having installed the tile last week. Next will be the decking which will happen sometime this week as well. According to our contractor, we may possibly be in our pool weekend after next! It has certainly been a quicker process than anticipated, although I’ve had about enough of the dirt everywhere!



Mark spent some time working in the back yesterday. My genius Handyman Husband ran a gas line to the far corner of the lower end of our yard where our grilling area will be. He also ran electricity to meet any needs we will have when we transform that space into a seating area. In addition, we plan to have a lamppost to which he ran an electrical wire as well. As the days get warmer, I’m looking more and more forward to being able to jump in!



The kids have enjoyed the pool already—exploring the concrete depths of it, that is. Audrey spent a long time yesterday collecting leaves. She would toddle down to the deep end—her little feet padding against the concrete, her injured hand up in the air—pick up a leaf, pad back to me, add the leaf to her pile on the steps, and then return for another one. She was quite proud of her accomplishment and protested loudly when it was time to go in.


Julius Caesar Eats S'Mores in a Tent

Last week we heard about Julius Caesar’s hunger for power over all of Rome. We also contrasted him with Cincinnatus, a strong warrior who led the Romans to victory but then returned to his farming rather than answering the call to lead a kingdom. This week we heard more about Julius Caesar’s quest for power, and I was happy with Alex’s understanding about how such a strong hunger for power can lead to many unfortunate events and how many people cover up mistakes and go to great lengths just to acquire power. And what do they get in the end? Death by stabbing: Et tu, Brute?



After reading about Caesar, Michael read a story for us called “Fun with a Sheet.” He’s just begun reading two stories a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We do this for added practice but really mostly so he can advance more quickly up his reading chart ladder toward the end goal: an ice cream party. Anyway, he read his second story to not only me, but also his brother and sister. I had promised a special snack to them that had something to do with the story. Since the two girls in the story made a tent out of their sheet, Alex immediately guessed that we were making S’Mores.



Although they were microwaved, the kids enjoyed their S’Mores and the ooey, gooey mess that accompanied them. And they were thrilled after snacktime when I handed them a stack of sheets and told them to build a tent. With some adult help in safety pinning some of the sheets together (for added height), they completed their two-room tent. I promised they could sleep in their tent, so they have already laid out their pajamas, and Alex has packed a toiletry kit in her Six Flags souvenir lunchbox. Now we just have one dilemma: I forgot to get the noisy pair of Budgies out of the room BEFORE the tent went up. Guess who pointed this unfortunate fact out to me? Yes, it was Alex.



Note that this tent spans the room, so if you need me tonight, I’ll be slithering under a tent of sheets toting a bird cage. Ah, but Caesar could only dream of possessing such prowess in his army!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Encounters with Exercise Equipment

Alex was such a brave girl yesterday, despite her injury. Around dinnertime, we were feeling a little restless and needed to get out of the house, so we went to the mall. It was surprisingly empty for a Friday night—probably because everyone was headed out of town for the long weekend—so we enjoyed a relaxing dinner, at least as relaxing as eating fast food in the food court can be. Then we wandered the mall a bit and finally ended up in one of our favorite places to visit: Dick’s Sporting Goods. The kids love exploring the camping gear and gadgets, the sports equipment, and the exercise machines. Alex was particularly anxious to try out one of the “bikes you pedal but they don't go anywhere.” She tried one of those out and then decided to give a stairmaster a try. I wasn’t watching when it happened, so I’m not sure exactly how she hurt herself, but somehow she slipped and her ankle got caught in a part of the machine. She was in tears, and after comforting her, we left with me carrying the baby and Alex in the stroller.


 


Her ankle looked pretty bad—already black and blue—and I thought she would probably suffer for a few days with it. I promised her an ice pack when we got home and even offered to carry her from the car into the house. But she just hopped out like normal and said it felt a little “weird” but was fine. This morning she seems perfectly normal and hasn’t complained a bit. Not so with my little princess…


 


Mark and I decided to work out together this morning. I started on the treadmill and he on the gym. Our kids are normally real great about being careful around the equipment, Audrey included. Again, I didn’t see what happened; the treadmill just suddenly started making a strange noise, so I pulled the emergency stop. I turned around to see Audrey with her hand stuck in the end where the belt turns. As Mark and I rushed to rescue her, a terrible image of my sweet baby’s fingers dangling by a thread on to her adorable, soft, pudgy hands flickered through my mind. Thankfully, although her hand is pretty torn up with a layer of skin missing from the palm, her precious little fingers are still intact.


 


I slathered her hand in Neosporin and bandaged it up. The poor little thing is so pitiful, and I feel so badly for her. I think she’s more scared than anything. She’s been a trooper, though, and we even got some smiles out of her when we went for pizza.



 






We never got the third doctor’s visit I was expecting since “they” say things come in threes. Here’s hoping we won’t have a third encounter with evil exercise equipment.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Homeschool Blahs, Pt. II

HB has still got me down; however, there were three small events today that have contributed to my ongoing recovery. The first occurred this morning as Michael and I were tackling math facts. We’ve been learning our +1s and our doubles, and while oral recitation of the facts has sufficed to this point, the curriculum now calls for completion of a “fact sheet.” I’ve hesitated…I know my Michael and I can imagine him heaving a big, dramatic sigh and then telling me he’s too tired or something. So I reluctantly pulled out the fact sheet, put on an over-confident grin and said, “Look, Michael, you get to do a fact sheet…just like Alex does!” Those sparkly eyes lit up even more, a grin spread across his face, he almost reverently took the sheet from me, and then he gleefully took off to complete it as “independent work.”


 


Within minutes, Michael was back still all grins and with his completed paper. I made a huge deal over his work and how neat it was.  Of course, Miss Academic said, “Let me see it and I’ll circle the ones that are wrong.” Sorry, my little Teacher, but not a one was wrong! Then…my son asked for another fact sheet! So I gave him tomorrow’s fact sheet which he promptly returned…neat and 100% accurate! As he handed his second sheet to me, he exclaimed, “Tomorrow I want to do TEN of these!” (As an added note, he did complete TWO more of them later on in the day!!)


 


My second bright spot of the day was the three hours I was out shopping solo. My sister-in-law who is a missionary in Jordan asked me to purchase a suitcase full of little baby girl stuff for a friend. Spend the afternoon out on my own? Spend someone else’s money? Why, yes, I can do that! Sign me up!


 


When I got home, my third treasure was waiting for me…from Michael again. I could see him in the dining room window watching me drive up. He was very busy with something, and I was so proud when he met me at the door with the product of his hard labor: a poem! He has not to this point had the confidence to write anything unless I spell everything out for him. Using a journal, I’ve been trying to encourage him to write inventively, but he just hasn’t been comfortable with it…until today!


 


My Me Time and a couple of glimpses into the fruits of my labor with Michael have helped me begin the road to recovery from my Homeschool Blahs. I know God knew I needed those three sunny spots to break up my gray days. I’m excited about my time with Michael tomorrow. One day at a time, right?


 



 


(I suppose his commentary on a day spent at home could be considered a fourth treasure, couldn’t it?)

Homeschool Blahs

I have the Homeschool Blahs. I’ve had them before on many an occasion but never so severely and never for such a prolonged period of time. I’ve spent many moments over the last couple of weeks daydreaming about backpacks, school lunches, PTA meetings, and homework. Then the other night Alex, after having spent some time with the neighbor kid, asks me, “Does school end for us on Friday like it does in REAL school?” Without addressing the inaccurate assumption she has that she’s somehow receiving a fake education, I explain to her that since we’ve had extended vacations, countless Free Fridays, and many other days off in between, we will be well into June before we finish. Doesn’t she complain of being bored on days we don’t have school anyway?



I hear so many homeschoolers say they felt “called” to Homeschool. I’ve never felt called to Homeschool; however, I’ve never felt called to send the kids to public school either. Maybe I have too much wax in my ear, and I’m just not hearing the calling. God knows about my wax build-up…I’m thinking He needs to send me a burning bush. Yes, I’m the kind of person who needs strong kicks in the pants like that. Then I would know for sure I had been “called” one way or the other.



The cause of my Homeschool Blahs is easy to diagnose: selfishness. Some days I would like nothing more than to be a princess and just send the kids to school and sit at home all day BY MYSELF in SILENCE if I so choose. I guess I’m just feeling I need a break. The cause does go a little deeper, however, than my shallow selfishness: I want the kids to experience “school.” It was a great experience for me, and I wouldn’t want them to miss out: seeing friends daily, learning responsibility in completing work, school spirit, wondering if that boy you have a crush on will look at you during lunch…



On the other hand, I know all of these experiences can be negative as well. And if they were away at school, I would miss hearing the sweet princess voice calling “Mama?” from her crib as she wakes up at her leisure; I would miss being able to spend quality time one-on-one with each child daily; I would miss being a part of the learning process for each one of my children in each subject; I would miss having the freedom to head off to the zoo because we’re studying animals, or to Washington D.C. because we’re studying government; I would miss being a part of something so important as helping my children learn what they need to know in order to grow spiritually, physically, academically, and personally…and letting them learn at a pace that is comfortable and suitable for them.



So what is the cure for the HB? Well, besides prayer, I have to consider the question that non-homeschoolers are so obsessed with: How long are you going to Homeschool? I always tell them we’ll Homeschool until it doesn’t work anymore and that we take it a day at a time. Taking it a day at a time is the best remedy, I think. And so I plod on…today. And speaking of today, today we have Phonics, Reading, Math, and Science to get to…

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spontaneity


I know spontaneous people. Sometimes they appear a little disorganized to me, but my judgment probably just stems from jealousy because spontaneous people always seem to have so much fun. I am not spontaneous. I plan most things at least a week or two out…right down to the last detail. Spontaneous to me is planning something a couple of days prior to the event.



Last night I got a lesson in spontaneity. One of my friends, a Married Single Mom like me, was over for dinner. Her two kids are the same age as my three, so they had a great time playing. After dinner, the kids decided to play in the big dustbowl the pool people have created. Please note this is not sand or nice, brown dirt. This is Georgia red clay. The kids had a blast burying their feet in it, building volcanoes, and tossing it in the air to see it fly. Since it hasn’t rained in forever, it flew rather well…into hair, onto clothes. Normally, my uptight self would not allow the children to have such fun at my expense (I say my expense because I’m the one who cleans up!). But since we had friends over, I let them carry on. This is probably the most fun they’ve had in awhile. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures because it really was quite a clean-up afterwards. I did, however, vow to be more spontaneous in order to add a little flavor to our lives.



This morning in the shower I “planned” my first spontaneous outing: we’d hurry through our schoolwork and head to a park that has a fountain. I didn’t tell the kids where we were going, and the surprise added to the fun. Until I told them to get their swimsuits on, they were sure I was treating them to Shrek the Third. I attempted to keep that guess alive by trying to convince them that there was a new underwater theater, but they didn’t buy it. All the way there, they theorized about our destination, and until we pulled into the park, they were sure they were going to their friends’ pool.



The kids were thrilled to be there and even more excited to be joined by Theo and Leah and by Grace and Jack. We moms had a good time chatting, and the kids were lost to us for a couple of hours. What a great way to spend an afternoon. I really must try this spontaneous thing more often!


Our Very Own Adrian Monk

If you've ever watched the USA Network, you are probably acquainted with Adrian Monk...the OCD detective who, though often only focusing on the uncleanliness and disorderliness of a crime scene efficiently solves the crime because no detail goes unnoticed. Michael has a bit of Adrian Monk in him. Lately, I've begun to think that he has A LOT of Adrian Monk in him! Here are some recent examples:


On the way home from Athens the other day, he decided he REALLY liked the Matt Redman song "Never Let Go." He requested it over and over. I obliged a few times and finally said, "OK, but this is the last time." "No, Mommy, just one more time after that so it can be an even number!" A comment like that is a little alarming, but it is nice to know I've been able to teach him odd and even numbers this year, isn't it?


On some of Michael's A Beka Phonics workbook pages, he has to circle the picture that the word describes. This should not take long, right? Well, it does if you have to draw a perfect circle around the word, create a "knot" for the circle, and then discuss your reasoning for the "knot": I'll just tie this tub so the water doesn't drain out." "Let me tie this tree so the leaves don't fall off." "If I tie the sun, I won't get a sunburn." And don't get me started on the exercises where he has to fill in a bubble! We're doomed when it comes time for him to take a state test!


Last night while the boys were brushing their teeth, Michael informed me that he had cleaned his bathroom. He proudly pointed out everything he cleaned, including the toilet. He grinned when he told me how much fun he had had cleaning the bathroom. "What did you use to clean the toilet, Michael?" "Oh, these towels, and then I pulled the stool over so I could reach to hang them back up." Time to do some laundry!! Then he began to organize the two drawers that flank each end of the vanity. He opened the first drawer and assigned it to Jacob. It had a few dinosaur flosser things in it, two bottles of vitamins, and several of those plastic safety plugs for outlets. He began to divvy everything up. "OK, 2 dinosaurs for me and 2 for Jacob, 1 bottle of pills for me, 1 for Jacob." Then he got to the safety plugs which flustered him for a minute. Finally, he tossed one in the trash, saying under this breath, "I'll just throw this one away so it's even." Good thing he wasn't dividing up diamonds or hundred dollar bills!


So I wonder if this OCD thing is a growing thing or if we will just continue to get glimpses of Adrian Monk throughout Michael's life. I suppose if the engineering thing doesn't work out, he can always become a psychotic--but loveable--detective.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Eavesdropping

Speaker: Jacob


Audience: Michael and Alex


Context of Conversation: unknown


"See my belly (bewee)? There's a baby in it. I can't WAIT 'til it hatches!"

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Little Engineer

After the park today, we spent some time at another of our hang-outs (it doesn't rank as a "favorite", however): Wal-Mart. We returned one of Jacob's presents, and he was excited to choose a replacement. Surprisingly, the decision process did not even drag out as long as the process was the other day when we turned in our Chuck E. Cheese tickets for cheap little trinkets. Thankfully, we didn't add another cheap trinket to our Cheap Trinket Collection at home because Jacob found a racecar track that he particularly liked.


When we got home, I knew that there would be some assembly, but I didn't know the instructions would look as complicated as the 99-step directions we had to follow for setting up the playground in the backyard. With dinner to cook and a baby princess to bathe and get in bed, I really wasn't able to help, nor would I have been all that helpful with that sort of thing; assembling monsters, Spider-Man car shooters, train tracks and racecar tracks is really Mark's forte.


All evening, it was very quiet in the house, especially in the boys' room. I finally was able to check their progress. With pride oozing from every little bone in his body, Michael showed me the track he had assembled. Apparently at some point, the princess made off with one important piece, but the boys seemed no worse for wear, and Michael had rigged something with some sort of widget to replace the missing piece. He's quite a little engineer!

Enjoying Nature at a Favorite Stop


There are two places we visit in Athens: my parents' house and Memorial Park. We rarely make the trip to Athens without visiting both (and certainly, I'd be in trouble if I visited the latter without visiting the former!). Memorial Park is this marvelous sanctuary smack in the middle of a residential area of the college town.



The grounds of the park surround two large ponds. Today the population of geese seemed quite high as did the number of turtles sunning on rocks or poking their little noses out of the water. A lovely trail follows the edge of both ponds, transected by a bridge which offers a perfect vantage from which to watch and feed the geese. The kids love watching the geese descend upon the area when they begin throwing crumbs into the water. And they are fascinated as they watch the fish and turtles fight for their share of crumbs as well.



Picnic tables dot the landscape around the trail, and at one end a picnic pavilion is backdrop to a playground, a favorite spot for the kids. I remind them that we have a playground at home so we can spend more time doing other things while we're at the park, but of course it's always fun to play on a different playground.



The most unique part of Memorial Park lies just up the hill from the pond. A small zoo of all things is practically hidden among the trees. Sponsored by a university program, you can't beat the price of the zoo: it's free! There are various birds: owls, hawks, and a bald eagle. The highlight of the park is the bears, although unfortunately today they were taking a mid-morning siesta. At least the big cat let us in on his nap! The most fun animals there are probably the otters. They're playful and love to flirt with a crowd. Today one of the pair came up to the fence and stood on his hind legs to get a better look at us. Who came to see whom anyway?


Definition of a Q-Tip

Last night the kids were creating “First Aid Kits,” and Michael asked, “Mom, can I please have 2 ear wax pickers like Jacob has in his bag?”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Parties, Parties, and Parties (Oh My!)

Jacob is convinced he’s set the record for birthday parties. After the very exciting Chuck E. Cheese fake birthday which he had anticipated for weeks, Jacob had a surprise fake birthday party yesterday when we went to visit Mark’s parents. Dana and Papa had gifts for him, and the kids enjoyed a festive party out on the patio under the beautiful blue sky. All four of them greedily dug into the cupcake cake and other goodies Dana set before them.



This morning the boys woke up to streamers criss crossing their room, a banner strung across one wall, and 5 balloons taped randomly here and there. Last night after they fell asleep, I snuck in to do the redecorating, and hopefully in the process, we started a new tradition.


Jacob headed downstairs to a pile of presents and a musical card, which he thought was way Kool (it featured a Kool and the Gang song, so I couldn’t help myself). After tearing into those presents, we sent him on a treasure hunt for the final present, which was a coveted Spider-Man/Sandman playset. It was difficult to pull the kids away from the gifts for breakfast, but Jacob had more candles to blow out…this time atop a birthday coffee cake.



After church, Jacob chose Macaroni Grill for lunch where he hoped to be serenaded by one of the restaurant’s signature singers, but none of them were in, so he settled quite amiably with a very large piece of chocolate cake drizzled with chocolate fudge icing. He had another candle to blow out (he did point out that he is 5, not 1 as the lone candle would indicate) and shared the cake with a smile on his face.



I suppose you could count Macaroni Grill as sort of a second REAL birthday party bringing the total count to Fake Birthdays: 2, Real Birthdays: 1 ½. Maybe he did set a record!

Dear Jacob

Five years and almost 1 hour ago, we welcomed you into our lives and hearts. Five years have gone by so quickly, yet we don’t remember, nor could we ever imagine life without you! You are our sweet, tender-hearted boy who makes us feel so special because you let us in on the real Jacob! You are shy, quiet, and gentle around others. With us, you are giggly, witty, and you punch and tumble with the best of ‘em.


 


You have grown so much this year, Jacob! Your confidence in yourself and in your dealing with the world around you has greatly matured. Last year it was still tough for you to leave us for Sunday School and AWANA. You would cry and hold on to us so tightly, we would have to pry you off as we ran out the door! Now you love going to your class, and in fact, you choose your class over being with Mommy and Daddy!


 


This year you have given up Pull-Ups…even at night. You have learned how to write your letters. You are also learning how to read, and you are so good at it. Your ambition and perseverance has brought much improvement to your reading. You enjoy school and love to be a part of everything.


 


Your serving, tender heart is so very precious to us. You are always the first one to help me out by clearing your dishes or putting your dirty clothes away. Your conscientiousness about things like that is amazing. And your servant attitude shows through your tenderness in the way you deal with your baby sister. You are very sweet to her. I have this picture in my mind from a couple of weeks ago when you gently lead Audrey to her swing. Guiding her with your hand on the small of her back, you walked patiently with her up the hill. Then with your big, strong muscles, you lifted her up into the swing and not only pushed her, but also played a game of Peek-a-Boo with her!


 


Jacob, you are such a big boy now, and we have so many dreams for you as you grow. We pray that you will learn more this year about God and how He can be your personal Father. We pray that this year will bring growth spiritually, physically, personally, and academically and that this growth will be healthy in mind, body, and spirit.


 


We love you and are so proud you are ours!


Daddy and Mommy

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Doctor's Visits

They say things come in threes, so does this mean we have another doctor's visit awaiting us in the next couple of days? Yesterday it was me: I've been feeling kind of lousy and stuffy for 3 months; not a big deal, really, but I thought I'd just see if we couldn't get a handle on this. After all, it would be nice to breathe again. Turns out I have sinusitis, plus the doctor asked me if my ears were hurting or popping a lot. With all the noise around me, I suppose they pop a lot and maybe hurt some. I don't know. Hasn't really been on my mind. Why? Turns out there's a big fluid build-up in there. Hmmmm....could be why I've been saying "Huh? What did you say?" a lot. I mean a lot. Even Mark has commented on my near-deaf condition.


This morning it was Audrey's turn. She's had a fever for two days. That, coupled with the snotty nose and grumpies, spurred the decision to take her in on a Saturday. Not to mention the fact that Mark leaves on Monday, which would mean that I'd end up having to go in with all four...not fun. Of course Audrey, having received a dose of Motrin prior to the visit is all giggles and smiles when we get there. When the doctor walks in, Audrey flashes her one of her best adorable, charming, princess-like smiles. The doc looks at me skeptically. "She's sick, she really is," I insist as Audrey points at one of the comic frogs on the wall, babbles about something, and laughs. Otherwise I wouldn't be wasting your Saturday or my $20, now would I? Thankfully, she has an ear infection. Yes, I said thankfully because the diagnosis makes the visit and the $20 worth it. Most importantly, it confirms that as a mother I know when something is wrong with my baby. See, Doc? Told ya she was sick!


On the trip back, my mind wanders to our last doctor's trip back in February. It was pouring down rain that day. I had all four kids. Two of them had regular check-ups. I think the rain just threw me off because I made two crucial mistakes that day; well, actually, 3, but one was a mistake I had apparently been making all year. The first mistake I made was that I forgot to review with the kids the Rules and Regulations for Entering a Public Place. Before we go to a store, a restaurant, or someone's house, we always review these rules, you see. Generally, I ask, "Now how are we supposed to act when we are in (place)?" They are not allowed to just say "Good." They must define good, and then I expect them to be the definition of good in said (place). Well, I forgot to do that. They were wild, especially my energetic one (you know who it is)! I'm sure the doctor was about to call DFCS.


And it didn't help when the doctor asked the question that highlighted the mistake I had apparently made from the get-go. "So, Michael, what grade are you in?" Michael gives him a blank stare. Oops! Did I never teach him that he's in Kindergarten this year? Say something! Alex jumps in with, "We don't go to school." Oh no! "We're homeschooled," she quickly adds. That helped, but I needed to say something, so I come up with, "He knows how to read!" And I have a degree in Education, I want to add, but that would just sound odd. The moment passes, although the kids don't settle down at all.


And it gets worse. My third mistake. I promised Michael with all my heart that he would not get a shot at this visit. I forgot...about the finger prick. I tried to reason with Michael and explain all of the very scientific differences between a shot and a finger prick. See? It doesn't even really have a needle. But a needle is a needle, and if it has a needle, it's a shot. He felt betrayed by his own mother. Plus now he had to have a "shot". He screamed. I don't mean a few tears, I mean all out screaming. After the nurse and I finally wrestled him on to the table, the finger prick was over in a matter of seconds. His screaming was not, however. After the paperwork was delivered and I was told the appointment was over, I stayed in the little exam room, screams echoing off the little walls and tried to wait him out a bit. I didn't want to spank him in the doctor's office (they really could sic DFCS on me, you know). He didn't stop, so I finally just sucked it up and walked right out to pay, head hung low and apologizing to everyone in the waiting room who was witness to this fiasco.


Should I change doctors? Well, hopefully, Dr. Onal won't remember us when he sees us again. Either way, though, you better believe that Drama Boy will get a serious talking to before the next appointment! AND he will certainly know what grade he's in!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

Not too long ago, Mark and I rented the Will Ferrell movie Stranger Than Fiction. In it, a washed-out novelist unknowingly casts an actual, live person in her latest book. As she writes, the main character, an anal retentive IRS agent, begins to hear the author’s narration. No one else can hear the “voice”, and although he fears he may be going crazy, the IRS agent sets out to find the writer. His quest becomes ever more desperate when he hears the narrator say, “Little did he know that his death was imminent.”


After the movie, I admitted for the first time to my husband that I on occasion have a narrator in my head. Generally, my narrator is the voice of worry. You know: Mark calls to say that he’s gotten an earlier flight and the narrator says, “Little did they know that this change of flight plans would bring tragedy to their lives.” Then my mind wanders to the tragic point of the novel in my head where the plane that he wasn’t supposed to even be on crashes.


Lately, my narrator has been commenting on the pool and all of the potential dangers that come with it. And so we’ve armed the doors with loud, obnoxious alarms that, coupled with the beep that the original security system guys installed, ought to alert the neighborhood if one of my children walks out the door without permission. I also take every opportunity to preach to the kids about pool safety and never, ever going out without Mom or Dad.


Although I’m a pessimist by nature (I prefer to use the term realist), I do try to make a concerted effort to offset the negativity of my narrator. You know, change the series of events by making a few changes in the plot: “Little did they know that he saved his life by getting on an earlier flight” or ”Little did they know that this pool would become a great source of joy and quality family time.”


Well, I try at least. Mark? He still just looks at me like I’m crazy. Maybe I am a little crazy, but don’t other people have a narrator too? Come on, admit it!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Her Royal Highness on the Throne

She doesn't say more than 3 or 4 words. But she understands everything. And, if it weren't for the fact that I'm more than willing to admit that sometimes diapers are just easier, I'd have her potty trained by now. Audrey has for weeks now been very cognizant of what's in her diaper. As soon as the deed is done, she pats her bottom and mumbles something to me that is a cross between "diaper" and "poop." She immediately wants to be changed and will obediently march into the family room where her diapers are, hand one to me, and lie down.


One day a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in my room reading. Audrey was playing her daily game of Pull Piglet off of the Winnie-the-Pooh Lamp. Suddenly she stopped for a few minutes. I could tell it was going to be a stinky one, and I waited momentarily for the customary bottom pat and Audrey-speak. But she turned around and marched out of my room. I resumed reading knowing from having had three in diapers at once that it's really OK if they sit in it for a few minutes. I looked up again when I heard her little feet padding up to my door. And suddenly there she stood gripping the wipes box in one hand and clutching a diaper in the other. She was all smiles and pride.


Most recently, her pottty escapades have put her on the actual potty; well, not the actual potty, but the mini-potty. She gets so tickled with herself when she's on her mini-throne, and she'd like the whole world to come in and admire the show. As soon as she sat down tonight, she pointed to the door and said, "Da-da?" indicating that she'd be much obliged if I would page her Daddy so he could voice his pride in his little princess as well.


As soon as the show was over (and it was truly a show since there was no output), she got up and climbed up on the stool to admire herself in the mirror. And that's when she went...

The Final Countdown

"How many days 'til my fake birthday?"


"Six."


"How many days is six?"


"It's six. It's just six days."


"But how many days is six days?"


"You will go to bed and then wake up six times."


"How many days 'til my real birthday?"


And so it has gone for days now: the countdown to Jacob's "fake" birthday as he has dubbed the birthday party day and to the "real" day celebrating five years. And today the day finally arrived for the fake birthday, a festive meeting of 11 little children, 4 grown-ups, 1 smiley car, and 1 large mouse. Yes, today the paths of Lightening McQueen and Chuck E. Cheese collided.


Jacob chose Cars for his fake birthday theme long ago. And, while I pushed for an intimate family affair, my shy little birthday boy specifically requested the presence of 4 of his buddies: Jack, Theo, Nelson, and Carter. Unfortunately, Nelson and Theo's families couldn't make it, but everyone else had a great time at Chuck E. Cheese. As far as intimate family affairs go, I think that may happen on Jacob's real birthday, the day on which we've promised to shower him with gifts. He waits expectantly for the second countdown to reach zero.

Tea for Two Plus Two More

The kids all had a minor giggle fit when I told them we were studying Confucius today. I threatened to name the new kitten thusly, but the general consensus was that we’ll just stick with Stitch. There wasn’t much of a craft we could do with Confucius, so I told the Legend of Tea and the three kids and I had a tea party while the Princess got her afternoon beauty sleep. The kids absolutely love having tea parties, and to them a tea party consists of glass dishes, junk food and iced tea. I also fold a napkin all fancy for them, and they love that. Of course we focus on good manners and just have a gay ol’ time at our “tea parties.” For added fun at this tea party, we dissected a tea bag so they could see the leaves. They thought the Earl Grey tea leaves smelled pretty disgusting!



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

God's To-Do List

I remember reading in The Lies Women Believe about the idea we women have that there is just too much to do in a day. The author’s argument with this was that our only job to do during the day is what God asks us to get done that day. No more, no less. That really struck a chord in me and in fact was one of the factors that led to us bringing Alex home to Homeschool. After reading this, I began a concerted effort to spend more time focusing on the kids. After all, right now, they are my primary concern and, as a stay-at-home mom, my primary “job”. I remember about a week after taking this important message to heart, I was talking to Mark on the phone and telling him, “You know what? When you really spend real, quality, prolonged time with the kids, they are a lot of fun! They are really neat kids!”


So what was the problem? Well, there were a lot of things going on during the day that served as distractions from my primary job, yet they were things that I could easily rationalize: An hour of TV – after all I do, I deserve a break; a couple hours surfing the web – I’m researching homeschooling topics in order to better challenge the kids academically; hours of household chores – come on, all these chores are part of my job as a stay-at-home mom; hours spent scrapbooking – well, now, you can’t argue with that since I’m putting precious memories into albums! And so on. But with all of these extra things going on, the kids were being ignored. Moreover, when these important tasks of mine were interrupted, I would fly off the handle. And anyway how exactly do a spotless house, intriguing lesson plans, and beautiful scrapbooks reflect if the kids are unhappy and feel less than important?


Now more than a year later, I’m finding myself indulging in a lot of the same old habits. And, of course, there are new habits, namely writing curriculum in order to contribute financially to this family. I had a moment of enlightenment last night lying in bed; actually, I should just admit it was certainly the Holy Spirit showing me that I really haven’t been sticking to God’s To-Do List lately but rather making my own and then stumbling through the day. When you make your own, you go from task to task never feeling completely satisfied at the results. Then suddenly the day is gone and all you can do is gaze at your sweet, precious sleeping kids and pray that you’ll do better tomorrow.


For me, tomorrow is here and it’s been a good day. You know what? God’s To-Do List today included some light housekeeping, but I still have laundry stacked on the couch. That's OK. And God’s To-Do List no longer includes curriculum writing for me, at least not with such a strict deadline. After all, God gave me a wonderful husband who completely provides above and beyond for his family. Spending quality time with the kids and guiding them in Life is by far a better investment.


God’s To-Do List for me today:


1. spend time with the kids


2. serve the kids and make them feel important


3. pray for the kids


4. pray for my husband who is traveling



Only 4 items on the list? I think I can handle that!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Processes and the Perfectionist

Today has taught me something about myself. Of course I already knew I was a perfectionist. Any psychologist could tell me that without spending any time with me--I am, after all, an only child! So what did I learn today? I hate processes! When I want something, I want to just disappear until the project is completed (perfectly, of course!). This morning at 8:30, our yard looked pristine…OK, well, if you know us, you know pristine is not entirely accurate, but anyway…

By 9:15, it looked like, well, I didn’t snap a picture of the initial mess (I was up to my elbows in waffle batter, 2 babies, and 5 kids; I was babysitting). As of this evening, things do look a bit better…and very different: For all the mess there was, it is actually pretty clean. We have a great contractor for this pool—very conscientious—one I wish did other things besides just pools, so we could use him for other projects as well. Anyway, the pool process is quicker than I anticipated; however, the whole process thing does bother me.


Mark got to leave today. And he wanted to stick around for the process. Of course I do get the unwanted privilege of sticking around to endure the process. But I've got my four, including the Princess. And she is SUCH a princess. She discovered some high heeled dress-up shoes and was absolutely so proud of herself for putting these things on. She pranced around in them a bit, and Alex made a big deal of it. When she saw this reaction, she pointed upstairs where the boys were and indicated through her grunts and gestures that she wanted them to come down and make a big deal over her as well!


As far as the other kids go…school? Isn’t that what’s supposed to be going on right now? Well, there actually hasn’t been a whole lot of that going on around here, but I’ve got the plans laid out to get back on it tomorrow. I’m hoping VBS can count as school or we’ll be well into June before we can break for the summer and begin enjoying the pool fulltime! VBS really is very academic…Bible, music, recess, crafts; it’s better school than you’ll get at the P- Academy for Homeschool (PAHS). Ahhhh, but I do have so many academic aspirations for next year! Hopefully, I’ll have enough sense to work toward those goals. As for today, we’ll chalk it up to Tools and Technology since the kids got to watch the tractors dig the big hole in my backyard.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Matches Made in Heaven

Today is Mother’s Day, and I feel so honored to be Mother to my four. It is such a privilege that God entrusted these four to us!! Are there four children in this world who could have fit together in this family more perfectly? Not a chance!


It’s been a good day…dreaming of the day in a few weeks when we can jump in the pool on a hot, muggy day like today; planning and dreaming up gardens and fun places to create and play in. And…I think Alex has her first crush! She was really hanging around this boy named Jonathan in Sunday School, and he seemed to have a special affinity for her as well. She gets a little crimson colored and giggly when you mention him, so one can only guess. A few minutes ago, she informed me that Jonathan also watches American Idol and America’s Funniest Home Videos. Aaahhh! A match made in heaven!


The ground breaking for the pool will take place tomorrow morning. And we will soon have a landscaper lined up to come finish some things in the yard. Although our budget is small, we will at least get the rest of the backyard finished in matching grass as well as get rid of a lot of trees that are casting unwanted shadows on the pool area. Our pool area at this time is set apart by string, which has been pinned to the ground for the last week just waiting…

Friday, May 11, 2007

Long Skirts and Roller Coasters

It does seem an unlikely combination, but you see both on Homeschool Day at Six Flags! Our day today began at 6:30, an early morning for the kids, but they were so excited they couldn't help themselves! By 8:30, Dana and Papa were here to take over with Audrey for the day, and we were off. Always the efficient driver, Mark found a shortcut around all of the exit traffic and before we knew it, we were finding a parking spot (FREE on Homeschool Day!)


Homeschool Day at Six Flags is certainly very different from any ordinary day at the amusement park. Vulgar, obscenity-laced t-shirts are replaced with church logos, scripture verses, and inspirational messages; everyone is just a little kinder: "You go ahead." "No, you first." "No, really, I insist..."; and the park attendants feel it's their duty, even if they can't carry a tune in a bucket, to sing interactive songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It": this is what passes the time while you wait in shorter than usual lines.


This year, the three older ones all reach the 42" height requirement for a majority of the rides, so we immediately headed to the Mine Train, a favorite with the two tallest from last year. All three concurred that this was a great ride, and so the tone was set for the day. Favorite rides were voted in and ridden twice, and Mom and Dad even got to take turns riding one of the more daring roller coasters--for this ride, there was no line at all!


We headed back home to Dana and Papa and Audrey around 4:00, souvenir lunchboxes in hand and Six Flag maps unfolded and studied. And, yes, we even did a few map skills activities on the way home--now there's a school day!