Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

March For Life

I am so proud of Night Owl who was at the March For Life in Washington DC yesterday.  He'll be traveling home by bus tonight.  Please pray for a peaceful trip for all who traveled to be a voice for the unborn.


Guess what we made yesterday?!  Mozzerella Cheese!  It was fun!  A friend came over and taught Social Butterfly and I how to do it.  I was surprised at how easy it was, and it only took about an hour.  My friend gets all her supplies from cheesemaking.com .  I should have taken a picture, but I forgot, and now the cheese is about gone.  We ate some of it just plain, and the rest went on top of baked ziti which we had for dinner.  Yum!  This is definitely something we could get used to!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Prayer Chair" and other peaceful changes for 2010

Here it is.  The famed "prayer chair".  Not much to look at is it? 

Not that comfortable either.  But, every day, three times a day, the peacefulness of this household was torn asunder by 4 children yelling "Prayer Chair!" as they raced to the sunroom.  (Well, actually three were yelling, the fourth was just running along with the others, babbling whatever, delighted to be part of this fun game!)  Let me tell you, nothing kills the serenity of family prayer time like a "knock 'em down, drag 'em out" over who gets to sit in this chair.  It sort of reminds me of the days when my brothers and I would all go running to the car yelling "Shot Gun!" in hopes of being the one to get the front seat.  So, I finally came to my senses and created, can you guess?... a schedule for the prayer chair.  So now, on Monday and Thursday, Social Butterfly gets the chair. 
On Tuesday and Friday, Jetter gets the chair,

and on Wednesday and Saturday, Builder gets the chair.  (Beany enjoys sharing the chair with whomever happens to be sitting in it.)

Along with the priveledge of the chair comes responsibility too.  He who sits in the chair is also responsible for the dog that day, and the lunch boxes.  So, on Mondays, Social Butterfly puts the dog out and feeds her and, after lunch, she collects the lunch boxes and returns them to the cupboard.  On Tuesday, Jetter does the same, and so on.

Which brings me to another change for the new year that has brought some peace.  Lunchboxes!  Night Owl goes to highschool and takes a sack lunch every day.  My other children have been very jealous of this because taking the sack lunch means some sort of treat (usually a power bar since Night Owl is all about beefing up for football these days.)  Anyway, in response to their whining about Night Owl getting something better I said, "O.K., if you want a treat every day at lunch, you have to do what Night Owl does which is basically eat the same thing every day for lunch - a sandwich, chips, and the treat. Which, I might add seems so boring compared to the hot lunches you kids usually get.  Night Owl would love macaroni and cheese for lunch, or leftover barbecued chicken, or hamburgers!"  I was trying to convince them that they really had the better deal, but no, they still wanted that "treat" at all cost.  So, I rummaged around and found four lunch boxes, all of them from Night Owl's early years in grade school, all of them with his name written on them somewhere.  They each picked the one they liked and now each of the kids has a lunch box. So, every morning, when I make Night Owl's lunch, I make a lunch for the other 4 as well.  I have to admit, while I was resistant at first, this has made our afternoon lunch time so much more peaceful!  Instead of the kids running off to play while I cook something, then coming back to eat while I clean up the mess from the cooking, they just grab their bags, sit at the table and eat, and I read to them!  It's a beautiful thing.  AND, there's very little clean up.  The "prayer chair person" collects all the empty bags and puts them in the cupboard and everybody is responsible to throw away their own trash.  Wow, why did I resist this for so long?!

The third peace bringing change has been the restoration of our afternoon prayer time, and with that, quiet time.  This has always been just a normal part of our day until this year.  For some reason (probably several) I just couldn't make it work.  I finally decided this was a matter of the will, not the circumstances.  So, I told the kids that everyday, after their after-lunch time to play (we don't call it recess, but that's what it is) we will  come back to the sunroom and pray.  Period.  So, we did!  Once again, it's a beautiful thing.  After our prayer is the perfect time to send them off to seperate rooms for some quiet time.  The point of quiet time is that they read, or catch up on school work that they didn't finish that morning.  I have to admit, I think Jetter spends most of his time drawing and Social Butterfly will often organize something in her room.  But it's apparent that this is good anyway because the kids are so much more kind to each other when they return.  It's like morning when they are actually happy to be in each other's company.  It's good for me too.  I would like to say I get all sorts of reading done at this time, but since Beany is resisiting his naps, I usually spend the time with him.  This is a great time, when the rest of the house is quiet, to read to Beany, which he loves.  We also work on his speech a little, but very little.  When he turns 3, if he's still not talking we will get more intensive with that.

Number 4 is "No Work No Eat".  Doesn't that sound mean?  Don't worry, my kids aren't in danger of starving and they never go without a meal.  The reason for starting this is that they were all becoming a bit sluggish about helping around here, or even picking up after themselves.  When four kids are home all day, eating, playing, learning, etc., a house can get really messy really fast if no one but Mom is cleaning.  So, I simply started saying things like "when you're beds are made and bedrooms tidied, you may have breakfast", and, "when you've all finished your afternoon chores we will have our tea time snack".  Works like a charm!  I suppose I should prepare myself for the child that says "I don't want a snack" because I'm sure it will come.  I think though, that waiting from lunch all the way until dinner without a snack will be more difficult than they think.  I'm guessing, after having to wait one time, they will probably do their chores readily the next time. 

Number 5 was nothing I did on my own, but it's been an unexpected blessing.  First I should give some background...  Our relationship with the TV has been a love-hate thing for a long time.  My husband and I enjoy sitting down, after the kids are asleep to watch a show together, or, in the fall, a Steelers football game.  But during the day that black box continues to yell to my kids "come watch me"!  All day, I hear things like "I'm done with my Math can I take a break and watch ___ (insert name of some silly show).  Or, when I really think they should be playing outside in the afternoon when school is over I hear "But Mom, Cyber Chase is on" (or some other show).  It drives me crazy.  I have to be very stern with my "no" or I am badgered endlessly.  Worse is when I allow them to watch what looks like an okay show and then some commercial pops up enticing them to buy some sort of toy that they don't need or we can't afford.  Then they start feeling sorry for themselves because they have "no toys".  Oh Puh-leasssssse!  So, I've been praying about this.  It seemed kind of extreme to get rid of the TV completely.  There are good things on and on snowy mornings, it's the quickest way to find out about school closings.  I could just say "no TV" and that's that ... but I'm weak.  Well, God answered our prayer and the Cable Company did the work.  All of a sudden we only get a few channels.  The only channels for the kids at all are PBS channels!  Wow, life is okay without Dora!  The kids don't even turn it on now, except for the hours just before dinner when it's dark outside.  And that's okay!

So 5 things that really didn't take all that much effort and we have so much more peace in our day.  I'm always about "big plans" and "huge projects" that I never get to.  These are just minor changes that have made some major differences around here.  I am truly thankful!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


`So, what do you do when God has blessed you with four brothers and no sisters?  Dress up the littlest one, of course ... That is, until big brother comes to rescue him!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reading for the New Year

As usual, some of the gifts under the Christmas tree were books this year.  Even Beany has enjoyed lift the flap books and being read to by Social Butterfly.  I thought I'd write a post about what we're reading and our thoughts about the books.

As I said, Beany is enjoying his "lift the flap books".  Jetter was always very interested in these at this age too.  Beany is also quite content to sit in my lap, or that of his older sister's, and listen to book after book though.  He reminds me of Night Owl in that regard. 
Beany also received a pretty nifty gift for Christmas that involves "reading".  We got it for him because he is slow to talk and we're hoping to enrich his environment with more language resources.  Of course, all you have to do is visit for a day and you'll think this is ridiculous since there is talking going on here all the time!  But anyway, this is his special "talking toy" and he really enjoys using it.  It's made by Leap Frog and it's called a Tag Junior.  In the picture above you can see the little device he uses.  I just sync this device on line with any new Tag Junior Books he receives and the little "guy" as we call it reads the book to Beany.  If he puts it on a picture instead of the words of the story, it will tell him about the picture or make the sound of that animal or character.  To go with it, we also got him the Leap Frog letter factory DVD.  He enjoys watching it and tries to say the names of the letters, which is the whole point.

Builder received books about Castles and a couple of Magic Schoolbus Books.  He enjoys looking at the pictures and being read to.  He is doing a great job at learning to read, and in fact is a bit ahead of schedule, but his interests aren't usually covered in the "easy reader" books we have.  It wont be long and he'll be reading these Magic Schoolbus books though.

Jetter is coming along with his reading as well.  He's now into the easy chapter books.  For Christmas, we got him a set of the Magic Treehouse Books.  He's currently enjoying the first one, "Dinosaurs Before Dark".  After that he will read "The Knight at Dawn", "Pirates Past Noon", and "Night of the Ninjas".  All of these titles are quite "Jetter appealing" so he is encouraged to keep reading!

Social Butterfly has decided that her new favorite genre is mystery.  She received an Encyclopedia Brown book, which she finished Christmas day.  She also was given the first two Nancy Drew books, "The Secret of the Old Clock", and "The Hidden Staircase".  She really enjoys the Nancy Drew books and informs me she'll need to go to the library soon to get some more.

While I don't have a recent picture of him reading, Night Owl is seldom without a book.  His homework keeps him from reading as much as he would like, but he manages to read quite a bit anyway.  He's currently working through all the books written my Louis LaMour.  He and my husband both enjoy these as "easy reads" and they both received a couple for Christmas.  I carry a list in my purse of the many books written by this author and as they finish one they cross it off.  That way, when it's time to get them a gift, or if I'm at the library, I know which ones they've already read.  Night Owl also enjoys books by Zane Grey and anything history related, especially regarding World War II.

My husband and I don't have as much time to read as the kids do, but we squeeze it in whenever we have a few minutes of quiet.  As I mentioned, he and Night Owl always have a Louis LaMour book they are reading.  But he is also currently reading "The Complete Fr. Brown" by G.K, Chesterton and a couple of books put out by the Arbringer Institute.  He is reading the Arbringer Institute books for work and is finding them quite interesting.  He's added one to my book basket to read as well.  Which brings me to ....

My very over crowded basket of books.  As I mentioned, my reading comes in the little snippets of time when all is quiet.  This is usually in the early morning, while the kids still sleep.  I also find time to read during our afternoon quiet time.  This is when the kids all go to their rooms with a book or two and read quietly for 30 minutes.  I don't always get much reading done at this time since Beany seems to be growing out of his naps already, but every now and then I do.  I also like to read in the evenings when the kids go to bed.  But, here again, my reading is often set aside for things like laundry folding or watching a football game on TV with my husband.  (After 20 years of marriage I've finally learned to like watching football on TV - but only if it is a "favorite" team like the Steelers!)  So, what's in the basket?

As I unpack my books, it seems that each one fits into one of my "life categories".  Some years ago I read Holly Peirlot's "A Mother's Rule of Life".  The information in this book has stayed with me and become part of my life.  The thing that I really took home from the book is the idea of organizing your life by your priorities.  She calls them the 5P's and claims we all have them.  They are Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider.  When everything seems to be falling apart around here, I take a look at my priorities and get things back in order.  It really does work.  The books I am reading often overlap in different priority categories, but I'll divide them this way for order's sake.
P1 - Prayer - In this category, I am currently reading The Saints and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland.  I actually started reading the book just to skim it before reading it to the kids, but I'm finding the information to be so helpful to me personally.  I am also reading Splendor in the Ordinary by Thomas Howard.  I haven't been able to truly get into this book but I think it requires more time to ponder than I am allowing.
P2 - Person - Actually, all this reading is good for my person since I find it enjoyable.  Much of it is educational for me.  I know that getting out to take a good walk would also be good for my person and that's something I am working on.  But, the book I would put in this category is Mrs. Sharp's Traditions by Sarah Breathnachs.  For me, this book is just fun.  The pictures are lovely, and I enjoy reading about traditions of the Victorian Period.
P3 - Partner - Under this category, I would put The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute.  This is a book that my husband and the people he works with are reading.  He thought it to be quite interesting so he has asked my to read it.  It makes great food for conversation.
P4 - Parent - It seems that my book basket always has some sort of homeschool book in it!  This is a subject that is of extreme importance around here since much of my day is consumed with the education of our children.  In the past, I would have put books in this category that dealt with ADHD and learning disabilities as well, but for now I just have one.  Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a book that I read 8 years ago when we first started homeschooling.  I had borrowed it from a friend, but at that time I was so overwhelmed with reading materials about this new adventure that I  just skimmed it.  Now, I have my own copy, bought used for just a couple of dollars, and I'm able to actually read it and incorporate some of the ideas of the authors.  I'm finding it inspiring as we head back into school after a nice Christmas break!
P5 - Provider - The "Provider" category covers all those things I do for my family.  If I worked outside the home, it would include my job and my financial contribution to the family.  Because I am a stay-at-home-mom, this category includes all the things that go with keeping a home and raising children.  One of the books I am currently reading is Graced and Gifted by Kimberly Hahn.  Since this book also incorporates scripture, I could have put it up in the P1 category.  But since the book's focus is the "homemaker's heart" I will put it here.  I've only just started this book so I don't have much to say here, but I think I'm really going to enjoy it.  I find the books that I read by Kimberly Hahn or her husband Scott Hahn are packed with truth and inspiration.
Also in the P5 category, I am reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  This book was recommended to me by a friend and I'm really enjoying it.  The UPS man just brought it yesterday, so once again I'm not far into it, but what I've read so far is intriguing.  It seems that so much of the "Provider" part of my life is about food!  With Beany not able to eat gluten and our decision to keep things like high fructose corn syrup as far from our kid's diets as possible, putting meals on the table really takes alot of thought and energy.  I don't mind because I find it all interesting and cooking is something I've always enjoyed.  This actually brings me to another post I am planning about my drive for simplicity.  So much of life is hectic and I have such a desire to let go of some of the "stuff" and get back to more of the basics.  I'm not going to give up electricity and go live in a log cabin in the woods (although that sounds like a nice vacation to me!).  But there is alot about what we eat and how it's prepared that has actually made our life more stressful.  More about that in another post though!
I'd like to say I'm off to read a good book, but there are breakfast dishes to wash and children who need to start their school work!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wow, am I behind!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We've been busy, busy busy.  I've had no time to even update the blog.  Updates are coming soon though!