Monday, January 27, 2014

I Will Fear No Wildebeests

So, we are currently working on memorizing Psalm 23.  Each day, we copy the next verse into our Bible journals and discuss its meaning.

Today, of course, was:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

So, we discussed it. The boys copied it. Then I asked them to "illustrate" the verse based on our discussion of it.  Aram (8) drew the Shepherd David killing a bear. Oli (4) drew a bear.

Elon (5) drew a wildebeest. Or, more accurately, a picture of himself, wearing an orange jumpsuit, running and screaming away from a wildebeest, the sky filled with smoke and fire.  Obviously, it's the kid's worst nightmare. (?)  

The orange jumpsuit would be the nightmare for some of us.

In any case... I love homeschooling. Really. I do. It makes me smile every single day.

God bless you... and don't fear the valley of the shadow of death. He is with you.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Peek into Our Cozy School

Brrr!  See this?  According to my clock, it is three below zero outside (bottom right number). 
But, if you will also notice, according the the bottom left number, my kitchen is a toasty 87 degrees.  That's where we're doing school... all three boys on the side of the table with their back to the woodstove!

While I was snapping these photos and moving the SD card to my laptop, I ended up explaining to all my boys how an SD card works.

"So that's how God remembers everything!" exclaimed Oli, (the 4yo).

Have a great day!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Some Days Just Rock!

Today was one of  those days.

First, I was up at 5:30 and able to get  all my things done (shower, prayers, writing, breakfast--this baby growing inside me doesn't wait for the rest of 'em) before I woke the kids at 7:30.

They had a quick breakfast of cereal (because of plans for an early lunch), then we started schoolwork, all of which was done by 11:00 a.m.  ALL. Memory work, Bible Devotion, A Beka, Phonics, Grammar, Penmanship, Reading, Math, Science, Geography, Art.

Oh yeah... did I mention we had the foresight to cheat and do a lot of the chores last night before bed? We woke up to a clean house, so we only had to deal with cereal bowls before school.

Anyway, the  two first-ish-graders (my 4yo and 5yo) finished their science textbook, and we always make it a big deal and celebrate that promotion, getting out the next level book and "ooh-ing" and "ahhh-ing" over it, building a little excitement over starting it tomorrow.

And the 4yo realized he is just two pages away from finishing his Spectrum Phonics Grade 1 workbook. Oh... he's got some big britches now!  So pleased with himself. My little scholar. Cutie. He was just tickled pink.  I pulled out his shiny new Spectrum Phonics Grade 2 and  let him take a peek at it.  Ooooohhh... the excitement!

Then, the art journals were just terrific today.

"Sunflower" by Oli (4), using "How to Draw Flowers"

"Wolf" by Elon (5), using "1-2-3 Draw, Wild Animals"  I LOVE those "sound waves."

"Hippo" by Aram (8), also using  "1-2-3 Draw, Wild Animals"

THEN, we all took off for a surprise play date, meeting our good friends for lunch at Burger King--a huge treat.  'Cept we forgot that the public schools were closed today, so the homeschooler bonus of an empty play room didn't pan out.  Half the kids in town were there. Ear-splitting. But I got some grown-up visit time with my good friend, and the older kids played some games on the Kindle using the free wi-fi, and the littles got some banshee practice (fueled by lots of sugar and artificial colors).

Then, home for naps, and a nice quiet afternoon of play (30 minute Wii turns, alternating putting together puzzles with the 2yo, alternating  Legos).  Then another 10-minutes was all it took to stay on top of the chores.

So now, the 19yo is chauffering the 14yo & 8yo to choir practice, and I'm somehow going to keep the three littles from burning  down the house while I make a simmering pot of venison stew (hubby had to climb a tower today in this cold... got the fire stoked ready to warm him up, with a big mug of steaming hot chocolate, too!).

Looking forward to tonight's read-aloud time, too. Chapter 8 of "The Lion, The Witch, and  The Wardrobe."

Everyone is happy, singing, getting along... you would think we were the Von Trapp family, or something, today. Okay, 'cept for one tiny incident where the 2yo ripped a page out of an "I Spy Book", so I made him "sit" -- where he sits there and yells, "Make me sit! Make me sit!" Which only makes us all giggle. And, oh yeah, I forgot the 2yo soaked--I mean SOAKED his bed at nap time--that little body is not used to soda pop. But in the grand scheme of the day, it really didn't bother me to grab all the bedding and throw it in the washer, and run the steam cleaner over the mattress.

So... it was nice while it lasted. Who knows... maybe we'll keep up the momentum and have a whole week like this!  But, in my 11 years of homeschooling... I can't recall that ever happening.

Hope you had a rockin' day... or have one soon!

God Bless!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Rant Deflected (I will sing a new song!)

I was tempted more than once today to post a rant--a pregnancy rant.  Pregnancy is my number one pet peeve, and I have long lists of things I hate about it, both personal and general. And I'm just about hitting that point, here, at 6 months along, where every minute feels like an eternity.  Because three months is still an eternal amount of time to endure (this is the seventh time I've lived through eternal hell).

Yes. I've heard some women actually enjoy being pregnant.  I want to know what they're on.

Now... don't get me wrong. The time I spend with  my children all day long is what I think is a true foretaste of eternal bliss, true heaven.  Even today, I'm still glowing over the moments of pure joy I had delighting in my children. The second this new babe is placed in my arms, all shall be well. And  perfect. And heavenly. And  blessed. I can't wait. I can't believe God is giving me another beautiful, precious gift!

But, my rant was deflected.  My beautiful childhood friend posted a picture of herself on Facebook--a picture of herself taken not too long ago in the midst of her battle against breast cancer, with a husband to love and two young girls still to raise. Bald, with her face swollen from the medications, she wrote as the caption, "Sometimes I look back to remind myself of the astounding and plentiful blessings I have to be thankful for." 

How could I have this complaining heart? I should be nothing but grateful to be in the midst of a healthy pregnancy! What a blessing, considering this time last year I was still battling for my life, recovering from illness that I should not have survived (doctors don't know how I did).

So instead of my planned rant, I will sing of the goodness of the Lord. I read/prayed this today. It was today's evening prayer of The Divine Office, but I wept as my heart felt the words of it, for I remember how my heart cried these things last year, when I didn't want to say goodbye to my husband or my children, and I begged for Him to rescue me from death:

Psalm 30

I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, I cried to you for help
and you, my God, have healed me.
O Lord, you have raised my soul from the dead,
restored me to life from those who sink into the grave.
Sing psalms to the Lord, you who love him,
give thanks to his holy name.
His anger lasts but a moment;
his favor through life.
At night there are tears,
but joy comes with dawn.
I said to myself in my good fortune:
“Nothing will ever disturb me.”
Your favor had set me on a mountain fastness,
then you hid your face
and I was put to confusion.
To you, Lord, I cried,
to my God I made appeal:
“What profit would my death be,
my going to the grave?
Can dust give you praise or proclaim your truth?”
The Lord listened and had pity.
The Lord came to my help.
For me you have changed my mourning into dancing,
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
So my soul sings psalms to you unceasingly.
O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Goals Update

We're 13 days into the New Year. Many of you have set some goals, and chosen a "word of the year."  How's it going with all that?

I chose the word "Love."  And, it's going. I have noticed an effort to be more patient and loving with the toddler (he's in the "read-me-a-million-books" phase right now, and if not that, "color-with-me-for-hours.").  My prayers have been consistently directed for God to show me how to live out His love and mercy to others, giving Him permission to change my perspective on what that looks like.

If you will recall, I made a commitment to tell my husband every day that I love him... which I have since modified that to mean not always verbally--for the sake of "keeping it real." Right?  Actions speak louder than words, right?

So, this morning, it backfired.  I saw my opportunity.  He was frying himself some eggs--trying to make that perfect "over-easy."  I went up behind him and put my arms around him, and stood on tip-toe trying to smooch his neck.  I told him, "This is payback for all the times you try to hug me when I'm trying to fry eggs (which is one of my pet peeves--it drives me CRAZY because I'm a perfectionist about how I cook).  You know what he did--before I even got those words out of my mouth?  He, smiled,  turned off the burner and set the skillet to the side, and responded, "Doesn't bother me!" and took time to enjoy  my hugs and kisses, and hugged me back--letting me know the eggs totally didn't matter.  He totally upstaged me.

What a show-off.

Also, for 2014, I committed to faith building.  So as an initial step, not knowing what else to do, I started praying, to the best of my ability, The Divine Office--a schedule of prayer used by monks, priests, devout Catholics, from the time of early church history, based on Jewish prayer time traditions.  I have, for the past several months, been studying early church history, and the testimony and doctrine of this type of prayer was eye-opening.  (You can read more about it here, where they explain it and also post the prayers, Psalms, and other readings for the different times of day).

This is  new territory for me, but I realized that Daniel prayed this way--at set times every day. And then I realized that when I pray only when I feel like it or need it, with only my words, then my prayers are only me-centered.  That's not conducive to much spiritual growth. That's a commitment to ME, not to God.  So, as a step of faith, I committed to this new prayer life, to honor God, to make an act of faith.  To see what would happen. And the beautiful words of the Psalms and Scriptures have replaced my selfish, me-centered prayers. And when I go to add in my personal prayers during this time, I find they are more aligned to who God is, and His will, and matters bigger than lil' ol' me. I found these past few days that when I was asking for my personal requests, I was now not asking for ME, but for HIS glory.  I would try to explain more, but words just fail me. The experience has just been mind-boggling. So, let's just say, yes, my faith is building. I'm going to keep this up, in faith. I've also consistently reached for my Bible or Bible study books instead of my computer. Plan to keep improving on that.

And as for REST...  we'll just have to see, when this baby gets here! But today, remembering the word "Rest, " I didn't freak out when my littles just couldn't. get. going. It took TWO HOURS just to get through memory work, Bible, and maybe one other thing.  On a good day we can do EVERYTHING in less than two hours.  But I just smiled, and stayed calm, and in that rest, recognized that they were just tired. So, I let them off the hook, gave them a nice lunch, and sent them to BED. Now just waiting for the 4yo to wake up and we'll try again.

Blessings on your year, dear sisters.

Read Aloud and Memory Work Update

This morning, we started our second week of school after the new year. We are still finishing up memorizing "The Lord's Prayer."  All three boys can say it beautifully together, but individually, the little ones still struggle a bit with the last few lines.  However, that should be fine by the end of the week. So next week, we move on to Psalm 23.

I fixed one "glitch" today:  told my 8yo that the Lord's name is "Hallowed," not "Hollowed " which means "empty." Thankfully, the "jinxing" has stopped, and even the uncontrollable urge to do so has subsided--which they heroically kept in check after I forbid it. I think I've only  heard one whispered "Jinx!" during memory work since we started school back up last week.

As for read-aloud, last semester we finished "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Charlotte's Web" with huge success and improvement in reading skills for all three boys. They loved the stories.  Just before Christmas, we tried "Little House in the Big Woods."  That did not work. Those boys need action and adventure.... or something.

Anyway, for Advent, we read Christmas books, and after some consideration, we started school last week reading aloud "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe."

Bingo.  It's a hit.

And I thought, that with C.S. Lewis, I would get a break from my 8yo "fallacy detective" who likes to interrupt with any fallacies or inconsistencies he instantly recognizes in the story.

Nope. Not even C.S. Lewis can escape this boy.

We read in chapter four, the scene where Lucy finds Edmund in Narnia, and they both walk together back to the spare room.

It says, "By this time, they had walked a good way. Then suddenly, they felt coats around them instead of branches, and the next moment they were both standing outside the wardrobe in the empty room."

Aram interrupts and says, "But that doesn't make sense. Edmund SHUT the wardrobe door, remember? How did they get out so easily."

And he had a point. Lewis did make a big deal, several times in the book, of saying how foolish it is to shut one's self into a wardrobe, so it is glaringly clear when he mentions Edmund is foolish enough to shut the door completely when he goes in.

I've never had a kid who thinks like this.  What will it mean for his future?  Lawyer?

As an aside, I have learned that having him do something artistic and creative every day keeps him from having "Logic freak-outs."  He used to just freeze, and then start convulsing if, in the course of his schoolwork, we came to a subjective/creative question like, "Pretend you are a snail. What do you see?"  He's not a snail. He never will be. Why in the world should he even think about something like that? Seizures. Literally.

But he has learned to deal... sometimes in his own nerdy way.  Today, for his Art Journal, he is drawing his "Etch-a-Sketch." He drew a picture on the Etch-a-Sketch first, so he would have something to draw in his art journal. But he entertained himself mentally for quite some time, imagining himself drawing an eternal Etch-a-Sketch picture.... you know, a drawing of an Etch-a-Sketch that has a drawing of an Etch-a-Sketch, that has a drawing of an Etch-a-Sketch... and so on.

I am so excited to watch this boy grow up!  But I have enough fun just watching him each day!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

To Hopeful Organistas: DO IT!

This past week, I've stumbled across many blog and facebook posts where ladies have let it be known that their true heart's desire for this new year is to become more organized.

I really do believe there is a true "organista" in the heart of every woman, longing to thrive in the land of perfect order--of her own creation and management. It's why we watch the shows, buy the books, read the magazines, shop at "The Container Store," and buy notebooks and binders.

I just want to tell you all:  Go for it. It CAN be done.  I debated about sharing my testimony in this area. Because I am a true "organista" now. I don't want to brag, or gloat. That is not how I feel about this. I want other women to experience the deep peace and joy and satisfaction of good organization habits.

So, I recall that it was reading the testimonies and seeing/hearing the example of other women that inspired me, helped me get a vision, and helped me develop the methods that work for me--and helped me keep at it.  And, let me tell you also, my journey from disorganized, cluttered, chaotic, stressed mess (and that is an understatement, friends) to "Organista" is all God's work. For sure.  So I want to share--because I want to encourage. I want others to experience the joy and peace and rest that comes with becoming more organized. (It's kind of addicting, actually).

And my other dilemma is, how to condense my 10-year transformation into a not-too-long blog post?  I'll try.

I started the journey into organized bliss about 10 years ago. I was encouraged by a godly woman who gave me the "15 minutes a day" rule.  One drawer, one cabinet, one closet, one bin... anything. Just 15 minutes a day.

Which I found, when I committed to that, it often "got me started on a roll" and sometimes I spent an hour, or two, or three.

But sometimes just a drawer.

Every day, as much as possible.

Because I knew it was the desire of my heart, to be queen of my domain, and rule in perfect order. I knew it was the desire of my heart to honor my husband and all that he provided for me and our family.  It was the desire of my heart to be a good steward of my time, my husband's (God's) money, our things (God's things).  It was the desire of my heart to do anything that would increase my SANITY, and REDUCE STRESS, and bring REST, and CALM, and PEACE to my home for the sake of my whole family. It was the desire of my heart to be a good mother, to set a good example, to teach my children how to keep things organized, to be organized, to be good stewards, and to care for their things. It was the desire of my heart to never have to panic when the doorbell rang--Oh! To be able to invite people inside my home at any given moment--like June Cleaver could! I longed to lie down to sleep at night in a magazine-perfect bedroom--like a model home. Pretty and all put away.

You know.  You know.

And knowing it was the desire of my heart, in faith, I knew that God knew it was the desire of my heart, so I knew that if I prayed faithfully every day for Him to help me in this area, He would. (Did you follow that?)

You should see my prayer journals for about four years in a row, starting in 2003.  Every single day, I wrote, "Please help me to  get organized and to manage my home well."  In one form or another.

So every day, to the best of my ability (and mood), and sometimes mustering what felt like heroic, massive, committed effort (for just 15 minutes), I did one thing.

And it grew. And spread.  Eventually, whole rooms were organized. All the cabinets. All the drawers. All the closets. All the shelves.  All the bins.

I think four years of garage sales were a big part of this story! Not to mention the loads to charity.

And soon my "systems" improved, as I quit trying to work with with clutter, and mess, and extra stuff clogging my home-management mechanics.

And then I found, when I went to do my "one thing" each day, those things were done.  I found that fifteen minutes often was enough time to make sure EVERY cabinet in the kitchen was still in perfect order.  And I wasn't even conscious of trying to do "one thing."  I was starting to just keep things organized,  in place and functioning as part of my normal routine. As naturally as breathing. My spice cabinet has been in alphabetical order for YEARS... and I don't even think about it any more.

It's just "the way things are."

Let me share some of the benefits that I enjoy every day. This is just the tip of the iceberg--just enough to give you a vision:

  • Laundry for the 8 (soon to be 9) of us is always caught up. Always. And put away in order in drawers and closets. It is easy, now, to keep it this way. We don't have too many clothes. We don't have extra shoes, things that don't fit, excessive amounts of anything. But, yes, of course, we still have way  more than we need. My husband never gets more than 6 pairs deep into his neatly stacked underwear--I know, TMI, but I literally "shuffle" them so they get even wear.
  • My grocery budget:  In October, I spent $160 for the MONTH for our family of 8, and my normal budget averages $450 per month. That includes toiletries, household products. Everything.  WITHOUT coupons. Without sale papers. Without running around from store to store.  This is the kind of thing that  happens with simplicity, and a well-ordered and managed kitchen (cabinets, fridge, freezer, pantry) and menu plan.  This budget includes "splurging" on many nice and fun things for my family, and many organic things (and all-natural toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.). 
  • My homeschool:  we are often done before noon.  That's two first/second graders, one 4th  grade, one 9th grade, and one 2yo.  Memory work, Devotions, English (all aspects--phonics, penmanship, grammar, writing, word study, etc.), Math, Science, Health, Social Studies, Geography, Art. Spanish, and more. Our school supplies are always in place, pencils sharpened. Markers ready. Erasers. Books in perfect order. There are no stacks or drawers or shelves of stuff I think I'd like to do, or that I hope to get to, or add in. No unused or unnecessary supplies. The plan is simple, firm, final, easy. The materials are complete (including art supplies), effective, and flexible in many ways. The children have simple checklists and can manage much of their own work (according to age). We have time to take field trips, to spend extra time on an activity or subject that the kids get excited about.  We are always ahead. ALWAYS.  "THOSE" days never throw us off at all, and never put us behind. 
  • Our "appetites" are under control.  The church fathers taught "detachment." Monks in monasteries practiced it to the nth degree--that simple life. Detachment is simply not being attached to or "ensared" in stuff (don't get me started).  We have learned not to have too much--and really, of course we still do have way more than we need. But we DON'T have more than we can manage. In all areas. Toys, crafts, hobbies, clothes, books, games...everything has been pared down to what is needful, useful, practical, helpful, and wise for the different needs/interests of our family.
  • Rest and Sanity.  There is a lot of that around here.  Naps every day for me, with the 2yo (I'm recovering from three years of serious health issues, and am also 6 months pregnant). Lots of time to sit and do relaxing  activities: read to the babe, crochet, watch a movie, play board games with my boys, or Scrabble with my daughter, bake a treat for dinner, type a blog post, read, study, enjoy a cup of coffee, call my mom or a friend.  And, just imagine how lovely and restful it is to sit to rest when everything is DONE. There are no lurking, haunting messes, projects, or undone chores--at least nothing overwhelming, and nothing overdue.  There are busy days, sure. We're a busy family of 8. But I don't remember in a long time feeling overwhelmed or behind due to chores, home management, or messes. And, I have the freedom of deciding NOT to do laundry today... because it won't be too behind. I'm sorry... but that's just NICE.
  • I yell a lot less. A LOT less.
  • Nothing  derails us, really. For example, I was in the hospital for pretty much the entire last half of 2012 (and most of 2010, too), and a bed-ridden invalid for the first five months of 2013.  The home did not collapse. The kids did not get behind in school. Good systems and organization were in place, and kids knew how to keep it there. It's actually quite impossible for the home to get out of control. Messy--yes. We live here. But it always cleans up quickly, at any given moment, back to organized, clean, neat spaces.
And "organizing" spreads. And it grows with us, and changes easily as our needs change (like adding a new baby into the mix in a few months--a girl, at that!) It has spread to my children.  For example, my 8yo son has an item on his chore checklist that reads:  "Organize" with the sub-bullets of "School shelf, Book Basket, Baby Toys, Bedroom shelves."  He has learned, if he does this faithfully every day, those four things stay completely organized in less than five minutes per day. Often in less than one minute.  Then, by example, this is the only world the baby knows.  So the baby automatically learns to keep things in place, to put things in place, and to care for his toys. My grown son (19), his room is NEVER out of order. Never. He organizes as easily as he breathes now... because he grew up the past several years in an organized home and I modeled it and taught him.  Granted, my son is naturally an "organizer." Accountant-type.  But, my 14yo daughter is not. But she now, also, organizes and keeps her room "almost" as easily as she breathes. It is how we live here.

And it started long ago, just 15 minutes at a time.

The other day, the kids started on this project for fun--doing all the puzzles in the house (we delayed school for one hour to let them finish the next morning). 32 puzzles, ranging from 12 to 100 pieces each.  One missing piece. We threw that puzzle away (it was from the dollar store), but I wanted to make the point. We have way more puzzles than we need. Yes. But we do play with  them all, often. I consider these "healthy" play. We take care of these things, we enjoy them. We put them away carefully. We have enough space to put them away nicely into a storage bench under our school room coat rack.  I help them to do this... that is my job--part of my full time work. It took less than 10 minutes for us to all put these puzzles back away carefully in their place, one at a time.  And the kids know they are there waiting, all in perfect order, with no missing or mixed up pieces, to enjoy whenever they like--which is usually some of these every day at some point.
So, that is the  testimony from someone who used to have to climb over a mountain of dirty laundry to get to her bed (and have to dig through dirty laundry to find clothes to wear). From someone who sometimes just couldn't get the kitchen cleaned for DAYS, and the whole house? Maybe once a month, if we invited someone over. If no company, maybe once every two months.  From someone who used to be too tired to cook dinner, or deal with any sort of cleaning or chores--too stressed.  Whose grocery budget was out.of.control, because I couldn't bother with it or get a grip. Someone too tired to care how the children cared for their things. From someone who had a house full of clothes that didn't fit anyone, books that  didn't get read, toys that were broken or not played with, hidden stashes of who knows what--JUNK.

15 minutes a day.

Do it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

School Starts Today, with an Artistic "Bang!"

Oh, my.  One thing I love to do in our homeschool is have my children illustrate their own lessons in as many subjects as possible.  The result is priceless--always.

Bible lessons for 2nd semester started with "The Life of Christ."  Lesson 1, "The Annunciation."

As illustrated by Elon, age 5.

How's that for a gender-neutral, "clothed in light" (which we did not discuss, BTW--or maybe it's just an open robe?), complete with "Dorito" wings and green eyes?  Love Mary's bare feet, too.

Better when you see the full effect with the written portion of the lesson.

Every day, my children do a page in an art journal. Sometimes we illustrate from our read-aloud. Sometimes they pick something from a how-to-draw book, or something from around the house, or a favorite illustration in a book.  Today, they used Ed Emberley's "Make a World" drawing book (one of their favorites).  Two went for a camel--adding in various details and background. One went for the "horse."  You'll see.

Camel, by Oli, age 4.  Love the third hump.

Horse, by Elon, age 5.  That's a sleeping bag rolled up on the back of the horse, BTW. I love the crossed legs in front showing the "walking action."

Camel, by Aram, 8. He copied the sleeping  roll idea from the  5yo. Love the falling action of the coconut, and his idea of "blending and texture" on the camel's fur. We'll work on that.

Hope you all have a blessed remainder of your school year. How can I not? I get blessed in this manner every single day!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Own Basketball Team?

People always say to me, "You've got five boys! That's great! You've got your own basketball team!"

Ummmm..... I just  don't see it.  What do you think?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Goodbye, Winter Break!

Ahhhh! It was nice.  We started "breaking" for the holidays around November 23, which was when we had family arriving from out-of-state for my son's college graduation party--some of whom stayed through  mid-December for my daughter's choir performance at Holiday Pops (a rehearsal cut). And then... well, you know.

But it was a lovely break.
We celebrated our first Advent, adding handmade ornaments each night to a tree of branches after a Christmas devotion, and then lighting the candles and reading Christmas stories or watching a Christmas movie.

Aram rode a camel, and had his first official "choir" concert.

We had such a fun and blessed Christmas morning.

Things like this started appearing in the house--such like we haven't seen in 15 years:

Easter dress, by Gymboree, size 0-3 months.

New Year's Eve is always fun around here. We've hosted a party at our house for our friends for about six years now.  This year:  26 kids and 12 adults. Italian buffet potluck. Crazy fun!
That's showing half the people in half the room as we gathered in the kitchen to bless the food.
And, something rare in this neck of the woods:  Enough snow with a warm enough temperature for a good sledding day.  The view from my living room window yesterday:

Here's the Youtube of one of the sled runs.

And the week after Christmas, we did the usual sorting out, getting rid, re-organizing everything. We keep it simple any way, so it wasn't too difficult making sure everything had its place--the new toys, clothes, puzzles, games. And we did our "Winter Cleaning."

Today, I pulled down our schoolwork and chore checklists and remade them with some modifications.  This year, since we started school, we've added daily "Memory Work" and "Read Aloud" (Thanks, Sarah).  Here's the tutorial I posted at the beginning  of the school year for these AWESOME magnetic flap schoolwork/chore charts--best we've ever had!)

Ummm, yes, the desk is getting cleaned soon. Worked at it all day to make these charts!
 The chores got a bit of shuffling as we pondered what we had assigned and compared it to how things were actually working.  The kids are giving the new chore charts a trial run right now as I type this.

  God bless your new year!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Four Things in 2014

This year, as I have been praying and meditating upon the coming year, I have come up with  four things.

1. My Word of the Year.  I saw this idea here on Cari Donaldson's blog AFTER it had already been pressed upon my heart. Since, I have seen this over a dozen times on other blogs--and I don't recall ever seeing it before. That is called "confirmation" in my book. My word for the year is:


This is me, loving on my  husband.

Last year my word, unofficially, was "forgiveness." Where I discovered I was not always good at it, and that bothered me, because also last year, I had a desire to be like Christ in this area, who forgives all who believe, who don't even deserve it and did nothing to earn it. And when looking back over the year and pondering at my forgiveness "fail," I realized the missing ingredient was "love."  It is "love" that keeps no record of wrongs. Not my determination or resolution.

So this year, focusing on filling  in the holes--love is my focus. My meditation. My prayer.  My goal is to show love every day in as many ways as possible to those God has placed in my life.  My husband--including a goal to tell him every day that I love him (yes, a no-brainer for many of you, I'm sure, but not for me). My children, including the love of a listening ear and compassionate heart, patience, and loving affirmation. I want my words of love to surpass my words of correction or frustration by a 10 to 1 ratio. My family, my neighbors, my friends. Whomever God puts into my life, I want them to feel loved.

I really want to show some more love to this girl... who will be 15 soon! This is one of my favorite pictures of her, taken when she was 11.  I find it easy to love and smooch  and  cuddle on the  little ones, but more of a challenge figuring out  how to pour love upon my teen daughter. LOVE.
I plan to teach my children love.  This year I will be praying and planning with them about how to live a loving life of charitable works, focusing on finding ways to give of our time, our service, our things. Perhaps culminating in giving away to those in need things we have made or bought with our own earned money--perhaps culminating with an official celebration to honor Saint Nicholas next December. I will be praying and letting  God lead. My older two children (19 and almost 15) are good, wise, loving children. But there is still that selfish grain down deep that I failed to weed out when young--because I spoiled them and fostered pride. I did not focus enough on the greatest of these: Love.

I love how the  photographer caught this moment of my kids all loving on  each other. Back when there were just five of them. See that babe? He's four now, and has a 2yo baby brother, and a new sister due in April! But this picture represents the  LOVE I want my  children to show for each  other  and to others.

The first and greatest commandment. Greater than faith and hope.

LOVE is the word for me to live by, and the theme for my year. The theme in my schoolroom every day.  This is the year of Love.

God is Love, by the way.

2.  FAITH. I see this as a year of faith for me, because God is really answering prayers and leading  me in this direction.  I am working on building my faith this year. Increasing in prayer and devotion. Increasing in a fervent seeking of His face. He is leading  me, and I long to "go."  I plan to "study to show myself approved," and give myself over even more, heart and soul, to My Shepherd.  My prayer is for a full and big measure of faith, finding faith, founding faith, living faith, saving faith. A life characterized by fullness of faith.

3.  REST. Rest in the Lord. This is a small goal I hope to accomplish:  When I welcome our new daughter into the world in late April, I hope my heart is prepared to rest in the Lord.  Part of me wants to be afraid--this 44-year-old tired body of mine, that just barely came through a year of nearly terminal and debilitating illness--how will I ever live through another newborn--my seventh child, and my fifth baby in nine years, to the date (and, if you caught it, that means my fifth baby past the age of 35)?  I am mentally preparing to stop, enter into each moment, enter into His rest, and accept with both arms, literally, what He has given me--which will never be more than I can carry.  I visualize a season of not fretting over lack of sleep, but enjoying the hours of cuddling and sweetness, remembering that often my stress comes from the pressures I put on myself.  I CAN do this--through Christ. I have received lots of encouragement in this area from Sarah's blog, Amongst Lovely Things, where, I just discovered, as I clicked over to link you to her great posts on "Rest," that she has chosen "Rest" as her word of the year!  

Photo: What a perfect day!  Xoxo 
This photo was a turning point last year... taken in August, one month after I was fully walking and finally driving again after recovering from over a year of difficult illness, I met  with my cousin and her boys at the park for a fun-filled day of play, rejoicing in the health   to do so, and also to tell her the news that I had just discovered I was pregnant!

4.  Yoda Speak.  Teach grammar, I will, by having the boys sometimes like Yoda talk.  "Penmanship, you will start." "Shoes, you must put away."  "Kind, you will be."  Re-order his grammar sentences, my 4th grader can, after parts of speech identifying. Paragraphs, he can rewrite, to Yoda, sound like.

Can't be serious all the time--not with my crew.

What's up for your New Year? What is God pressing on your heart? Where is He leading? I'd love to hear, so leave me your link!

Blessings on your New Year.