Monthly Archives: January 2008

99 Balloons

A few weeks ago I was at a church leadership retreat, and one of the speakers (Hi, Kathy!) played this video.  I wept.  It is so very powerful, so affirming of life, happy and heartbreaking at the same time.  It set me even further in the resolve I have about every life, even “flawed” life, being of Divine purpose and immense significance.  It’s an extremely well-done video, and appropriate for even kids to watch (preview it first, though).

(To read more of the story of Eliot’s life, visit his dad’s blog, here.)

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Paaahty Girl

Potty girl, actually.  🙂

(Note:  If you’re squeamish, and/or if you have no children, you may not want to read this.)

Good gracious, potty training is time-consuming.  My week was spent — way too much of it — on a small stool in the kids’ bathroom, waiting and waiting and waiting.  And waiting.  Then waiting.

The remainder of my time was spent in the laundry room, washing wee little jeans and Hello Kitty underthings. 

In my “spare” time, I directed the three boys in their school work, but, frankly, we didn’t get done as much this week as we usually do.  More than half, but not much more.

Audrey is only 21 months old, but has had an interest in the whole potty business for quite a while.  So, last Friday, to her great delight, we stocked up on teensy tiny underthings  and a potty seat from Target, and the next day, set to work.

It didn’t go as well as I had envisioned.  Given her great interest, and her seemingly complete grasp of the purpose and process, I thought it’d be a snap.  No such luck, though.  On Tuesday, my resolve was wearing thin, after four days of near-constant accidents, punctuated by squeals and cries, tears and arguments when I would sigh, “I’m going to have to put a diaper on you.”  In other words, Audrey’s heart was willing, but her body wasn’t cooperating.  My stepdad brought some much-needed perspective, calling it simply a “timing issue.”  I decided to persist.

After six days of frustration, yesterday, other than one accident first thing in the morning, Audrey was dry all day.  I put a diaper on her for nap time, and that was even dry upon her waking!  And, now I sit her on the potty, and the wait-time is nil;  she knows how to do her business “on demand.”

However, I was still greatly concerned, because she hadn’t pooped in three days.  I figured it was that she knew she was supposed to go in the potty, but she had “stage fright.”  Or something.  Finally, this morning, I decided I was going to sit with her basically forever, until she decided to go for it.  Now, I’m not a potty slavedriver;  she has a nice padded seat by Munchkin, and I gave her frequent “get down and shake out the legs” breaks, and did as many things as I could think of to change positions so she wouldn’t be too uncomfortable.  Almost two hours into our marathon potty session, she finally let it go, crouched on the regular toilet seat, with me holding her under her armpits.*  Woo-hoo!!  (Two hours was really, really long.  I’m very glad that it wasn’t that she was constipated or something, making her physically unable to poop.  But, I decided that she needed to go;  it had been three days since she had!  Apparently, she wasn’t going to go in her diaper.  And, she kept passing gas, letting me know that one was in there, waiting to come out.  So…  I hope I wasn’t a poop slave-driver.  It did work, and it doesn’t appear to have caused any emotional trauma.  But, two hours of Audrey mostly on the toilet was a really, really long time.)

After Mission Poop Success, we went on errands and to the park, and were gone for over four hours, and didn’t have even one accident.  Granted, we took way more potty breaks than we normally would on a shopping trip, but that’s OK. 

Other than her overnight diaper, she hasn’t had an accident in nearly two days, so I think I can say Audrey’s officially potty trained.  I think.  I hope.  Sometimes little ones regress, but I’m hoping that this is it.

———————- 

 *I learned about two years ago that the non-Western way of going #2, which is basically to just crouch over a hole in the ground, and NOT to sit down as on a chair, is more anatomically efficient for the poop process, putting less strain on all muscles, joints, and tissues involved.

Worship for Kids — update

So.  A while back, I posted a couple of times about how it had been decided that I would lead worship for my church’s 6-12s (SuperChurch) on Sunday mornings, sharing the responsibility equally with the faithful man who’s been doing it for 10+ years, primarily by himself.

We’ve had ups and downs, but I’m happy to report that things are going mostly-well.  I have learned a whole lot, and have had it confirmed to me, many times over, that I have a lot more to learn.  But, I’m really enjoying all of it.

I think something that has led to my enjoyment of this “job” is the children’s pastor, Heidie.  Funny — we knew each other in grade school, and she didn’t like me one bit.  I was too weird.  😀  However, she is a fabulous children’s pastor.  We had a phone conversation today, and I told her so.  She is very proactive;  always seeking to do better;  to serve the kids better;  to better get across the message of Jesus;  to create a better, more welcoming environment for the Holy Spirit;  to better reach the kids’ hearts, and so on.  She stays so on-top of things, without seeming to weary.  She’s also quite diplomatic without being wishy-washy, which I always appreciate.  She’s kind, but firm.  That’s what kids need, and, apparently, that’s what I need, too.

I still have the same team:  11yo Maggie on electric guitar, 20yo Cassie on drums, three vocalists — Addie, Casey, and Katie (all aged 10-12), and myself on vocals and acoustic guitar.  I have *really* enjoyed leading them, encouraging them, challenging them, shepherding them…  It’s a joy to see them flourish, and feel like a valuable part of the leadership in SuperChurch. 

The SuperChurch crowd can be really boisterous.  Not only are they just kids, there’s a lot of them.  This past Sunday, I was thinking, “The crowd’s not so big this week!” and I found out today that there were 85.  Due to an active bus ministry, many of the kids are unchurched, and from really… unstructured home environments.  So.  Given the number of kids and their background, and the fact that this isn’t just some social get-together, but church, there are a lot of challenges.  It’s an effort to establish some order and discipline without seeming too bossy/authoritarian;  to create an environment for actual, free worship without things devolving into unruly craziness;  to teach the principles of Jesus and still make it relevant and interesting…  It’s a real challenge.  And finding something that works one week is no guarantee that it’s going to work the next week.

Some things that I have learned are

  • It helps if, while I’m up front, I’m firm, but I’m not the enforcer.  (Erin noted that on a recent blog-post-comment; it’s so true.)
  • The kids like new songs, but not too many of them.  They like things to be new and interesting, but they also need the older, well-known songs that they can really sing with gusto.
  • They like having a “job.”  Personally, I’m not really big on hand-motions to songs.  I love dance, but a lot of the “choreography” for kids’ worship songs just seems trite.  Also, for most kids, the song then becomes about the movements, and not about the song itself.  As well, given the age-range of the kids I’m working with, what’s cool and fun for a 7yo isn’t necessarily so for an 11yo.  BUT — having some sort of action or reason for participation in a song helps keep them engaged.
  • Kids — even fairly small ones — can understand the concepts of worship, when it’s simply explained. 
  • I have to stay encouraged about the small successes, and not grow weary with the challenges and setbacks.

This past Sunday was really successful.  I took a risk and told the kids that while God wants us to worship Him, He doesn’t force us to, and neither was I.  But, those who didn’t want to worship needed to go stand quietly against the wall towards the back of the room to allow those who wanted to worship to do so.  I didn’t know how many kids would go, and breathed a little sigh of relief when only five or seven did so.  I reminded them that their two options were:  1) participating in worship, or 2) standing against the wall — no talking, shoving, or other craziness.  To my surprise and relief, they seemed to all take it to heart, and there was, I think, the best level of participation we’ve ever had during worship.  I made sure to call out some kids by name and thank them and encourage them.  Really, it made tears in my eyes, I was so thrilled to see even our hard-core talkers/disrupters enter into worship.

We did the Robbie Seay Band’s Song of Hope, Awesome is the Lord Most High by Chris Tomlin, and Here I am to Worship by Tim Hughes.  When I had introduced Song of Hope a couple of weeks ago, it was a bit too wordy, and the second chorus became confusing for them, so this time, I just took it out.  Before we did Awesome is the Lord Most High, I gave a little instruction, saying that sometimes, we feel fantastic, and we just want to worship, but other times, worship becomes a choice to honor God even when we don’t really feel like it.  And with that, I told them all to raise their hands during the chorus, where the lyrics are “Raise your hands all you nations/Shout to God all creation/How awesome is the Lord most high.”  And they did it!  I also told them that my personal favorite way to worship is very often on my knees, humbling myself.  So… on the chorus of the last song, where it goes “Here I am to worship/Here I am to bow down/Here I am to say that You’re my God” that they were to kneel.  And they did!  It was a little funny — and touching — to see kids on their knees tugging on the non-kneelers, reminding them. 

Afterwards, a young man (I think he’s 22), Caleb, who is the son of a friend of mine came up to me.  He’s had his ups and downs in relationship with God — sometimes gung-ho, and sometimes really falling away.  Right now, he’s in a coming-back from falling-away phase, and I’ve been praying for him a bit.  He’s been coming into SuperChurch during worship, and I was pretty certain that God was stirring some things in his heart.  He told me that he’d like to start playing electric with my team once or twice a month.  “Coincidentally,” my very dear 11yo electric player, Maggie, had told me just the day before that she’d like to sing instead of play guitar, once or twice a month.  Hm.  So, I told Heidie about all of that, and we’ll see where that goes.  I’d be thrilled for Caleb to play with the team.

All in all, a good report.  Thanks be to God.      

Why I continue to homeschool.

This post isn’t actually about the broad reasons why I homeschool.  (If you’re truly interested, you can find that here.)

And, actually, the truth is I started out for simple reasons:  to teach my kid to read.  Six years (and three reading children) later, though, I keep finding reasons to continue.

Today, doing an experiment with the three boys, I was reflecting on the scientific method.  I don’t know how this happened, but I managed to graduate high school (and even attend some university) without the understanding that a failed experiment is not really a failure.  I came to this realization some years back, as a homeschooling parent.  I think it may have been while reading about Thomas Edison, who was a famous “failure.”  My pastor is also “big” on not letting personal weaknesses and even failure subvert The Mission, and encourages us to look for what God is trying to teach us in our failures.

Experiments that produce what you expect them to, are, indeed, thrilling.  But, what do you do when the results aren’t as predicted by the textbook?  Well, I used to just hang it up and say, “Well, that was a flop.”  Perhaps that lack of persistence is somewhat of a genetic weakness, because that attitude seems to be what comes most readily to my kids.  Somewhere along the line, though, through Edison, my pastor, and probably from my husband, I realized that I need more persistence, and I need to look for the things to be learned from failure.  So, now, I take great care to encourage my children to “try, try again” and to look for the silver lining in the cloud.  I admonish them to look for what we did learn (including learning what doesn’t work), even when the results aren’t the fabulous ones for which we were hoping.

On top of that, I was thinking about how my parents practiced what I semi-jokingly refer to as “low-impact parenting.”  They let my sibs and I sort a lot of things out on our own, acting more as facilitors (somewhat) in our own development, rather than teaching, guiding, molding, directing, showing or helping*.  Whenever some large project or assignment was given, to the best of my recollection, I was always the only child whose parents didn’t help — at all.  They figured, “Well, you were given the assignment, so you have to do it.”  From flour dough topo maps to science fair projects, from age 8 to age 15+, we were completely on our own.  And it showed.  I often felt like I got the short end of the stick when a friend — whose parent had been very involved in a project — took the blue ribbon, while my obviously unprofessional project languished, noticed only for its childish mistakes.

I sort of understand my parents’ motivations — they wanted us to be independent.  They didn’t think it right to do the work for us.  However, an 8yo needs some guidance from her parents.  For all those solo projects, I could have benefitted from having someone to bounce ideas off of.  It would have been helpful for someone to redirect me, when necessary, or to help me think through my decisions.  My parents didn’t do that.  Things were either dictated or left completely alone.  (This parenting style went far beyond simple school projects;  we were left alone on other issues — even really, really heavy and potentially devistating ones — to just “sort through” them on our own.*)

While I do have value for teaching my children to think, and not just expect the answers to be dished to them, I am happy to provide them with help to get them to a place of answers — very often in the form of Socratic questioning.  In other words, there are ways to help a child develop independent thought other than simply leaving them alone.

I had these thoughts, too, during the experiment.  When, on the 5th try, we finally got the expected results, we had a mini-marathon question-and-answer session, regarding what did work, what didn’t, why it did or didn’t, etc.

~giggle~ Homeschool as personal redemption.  Is it wrong?

———————–

*The…. “trauma” I’ve suffered from this (namely, feeling abandoned, left alone, uncared-for, uninterested-in, adrift, etc.) is one reason that I’m NOT a big proponent of unschooling.  Perhaps it can be successful if a parent is a super-facilitator, and very involved, but in general, I’ve experienced first-hand that a child needs actual guidance.  Guidance from adults.  Guidance from adults who love them, who are wiser, who have “been there and done that” and seen its fruitlessness.  (I put “trauma” in quotation marks, because for me, it wasn’t, in the grand scheme of things, the worst kind of trauma.  I’ve recovered.  Mostly.  But other of my siblings, especially my sister, have truly suffered long-term trauma over being forced to “work through” on her own even being a victim of some vicious physical attacks.  Some kind of rescuing can be over-protective and “enabling” things like co-dependency, but leaving a 9yo on her own to “deal with” abuse is just wrong, IMO.)

Song of Hope — Chords in G

Golly.  The world of worship songs needs more women songwriters.  All these guys sing in un-singable keys, like C#.  Until then, I’ll keep transposing*. 

I just thought I’d upload the words and guitar chords to my current fave, Song of Hope by the Robbie Seay Band, which I transposed to G.  It’s a PDF.

——————–

*Well, and I need to keep writing songs myself.  I constantly have ideas and snippets circling ’round my head, and on bits of paper stuck here and there.  But, I don’t often-enough sit down and make an actual song out of the ideas.  And, for anyone who knows me IRL, and who go to my church, and who’s curious about the songs we do there which have both Martin’s name and my name on them as authors — he’s generous.  It usually means that I contributed, oh, 2-10% of the melody and/or 10-30% of the words for a song he’s written.

It pays to be kind!

Because of the positive words I’ve spoken regarding Latina Christiana and Memoria Press, the company contacted me to say that they’d like to send me some free stuff!!  Woo-hoo!! 

Whether I say something kind, or give a negative review of a product, it’s never my intention to get freebies.  However, when they do come, I sure do appreciate them!

Memoria Press is sending me a $40 course, Lingua Angelica.  Cool!!!!

Last night at our dinner table

The scene:  The family dinner table.  Present include the the mom, Ethan (age 10), and Grant (age 8).

Ethan:  Mom, would it be possible to dissect a fly?

Mom:  Yes, I guess it would, but you’d need a microscope or something like that.

Grant (cheerfully piping in):  And some Lilliputian tools!

Mom (laughing, with a bit of awe):  “Lilliputian??”

Grant (matter-of-factly):  Yes.  Have you read that book?

Mom (still laughing):  Why, yes I have.  I’m just surprised at your literary reference.

Grant (still matter-of-factly):  Well, the Lilliputians were tiny, and a fly is tiny, so you’d need tiny tools to dissect them.

To be fair, Grant’s only read the Great Illustrated Classics version of Gulliver’s Travels, and he’d just read Henry Winterfield’s Castaways in Lilliputand he pronounced it “lill-i-POOT-ee-ins” rather than “lill-i-POOSH-‘ns.”  Still.  I think that’s rather impressive for an eight-year-old.

Getting a grip on homeschool scheduling

We’re in our 6th year of homeschooling.  For all but the first year, we’ve done Sonlight.  One of the big bonuses of the Sonlight curriculum is that they schedule out, day-by-day, their program in their invaluable Instructor’s Guides.  However, Sonlight is only part of what we do, and I’ve found that I need to schedule out my oldest son’s work (he’s 10 years old, in 5th grade).  Part of that is so that nothing gets left behind, and part of it is because he does so much of his work independently, and he needs a paper to look at and say, “This is what I need to do today.”

I’ve found it wise to schedule out no more than four weeks at a time.  Invariably, something within those four weeks pops up — he needs more dictionary work; the math that he’s been flying through suddenly screeches to a frustrated halt;  he becomes very interested in a subject, and I decide to have him do a report on it, etc.  In addition, there’s always some subject (or two) in which we fall behind.  “Fall behind,” though, is something of a misnomer, because the only standard to which he falls behind is my own, i.e., the schedule I’ve created for him.  So, at the end of the four weeks’ schedule, we almost always now have two-three weeks of unscheduled work — both extra work, and catching up on the undone assignments from the previous weeks.  So, I end up with weeks 1-4, then weeks 7-11, etc.

In addition to the Sonlight schedule, which I re-do on his personal, weekly schedule, we include

  • Bible Study — currently, a study on Giant Killing, revised from a teaching I received at a recent retreat I attended (this is instead of SL’s suggested daily readings)
  • Latin — Latina Christiana I (w/ the DVDs this year — what a fantastic help that’s been!!) 
  • Trumpet Lessons & Practice — weekly lessons from my stepdad
  • General Music Lessons — all three boys receive weekly general music from my stepdad, a mostly-retired elementary public school teacher 
  • English — Rod and Staff
  • Math — Singapore Math 
  • Science — currently, The Geology Book and study guide, with which we’re almost done

I find it pretty much impossible to keep up with the SL schedule *and* fit in everything else, so I spread the SL a little more thinly than they suggest, taking about three weeks to do two of their weeks.

I’m really happy with the balance we have right now.  Ethan is working hard, but is not overwhelmed.  I used to berate myself that I wasn’t scheduling out every single one of his weeks, i.e., that we needed those two-week interims of unscheduled work.  However, I’ve come to the realization that that really works for us, and I’m totally at peace with it.

Now, if I could just get every other area of my life to a place of contentment, like I feel with our schooling.  8)

Fantastic post by Amy on why NOT to be QF

99% of you out there probably have no idea what “QF” is.  I didn’t, until a few years ago.  I kept seeing the acronym pop up on a homeschool forum I (now only occasionally) visit.  Upon investigation, much to my surprise, I learned that there is a movement afoot, rather like a Protestant take on the official Catholic stance on contraceptives — that is, that there shouldn’t be any.  (“QF” stands for “quiverfull” as in the Bible verses Psalm 127:4-5 “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.”  In other words, as far as children go, more is better.)

Now, I had actually given this some thought, prior to hearing about QF’ers.  I have opinions regarding contraceptives, and from day 1, have used a “blocking” method (or two) that I won’t expound upon here, but suffice it to say that I was (am) not comfortable using any birth control method that allows me to conceive, but makes an unfavorable (or impossible) environment for the newly-formed embryo, causing me to, essentially, abort a day- or two- or three- or whatever-old baby.

Still, seeing how each child of mine has been such an exact, tailored fit to our family, and how valuable each of them are, I find myself wondering who we’ve missed out on meeting by the fact that we’ve blocked their creation.  I still wonder that.  I still think about how my dad was the 5th of 12, and how I wouldn’t be here if my grandparents had your standard, Western view of families and contraception.

I have also been on the listening end of postulations that “we simply can’t afford a baby” — yet observe the RV, the quads, the huge house, etc., of the speaker.  From my perspective, it’s always some sort of sacrifice to willingly have a baby — time, energy, money, focus, priorities — and I have had to rely on the faithfulness of God, many times, to provide when a baby upsets the balance, and I find myself lacking in one or more of those categories.  I think that, likely, a huge percentage of us need to fix our hope upon God’s faithful provision more, and on our circumstances less.

HOWEVER, when the achingly tragic news came out of Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children on my birthday in 2001, there was a part of me that deeply understood her plight.  Reading her history, I have never come close to the disturbed religious, marital, and mental history that she’s had.  But, I could relate to her feeling (being) completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising children.  At the time, I thought (and still do), “There are some families whose desire to have as many children as possible is a detriment to themselves and to their very children they are desperately seeking to create.”  IOW, I just don’t think a one-size-fits-all anti-contraception dogma is right for all families.

Speaking of dogma, I have also observed some QF families be so completely dogmatic about the QF lifestyle that it appears to be a greater burden to them than it would be wise to bear.  But… my observations on that were anecdotal at best — just impressions from reading of and meeting those who subscribe to that ideology.

BUT, reading this absolutely smashing post from Amy, a former QF’er, and mother to seven children, solidifies that for me — that being “quiverfull” just isn’t right for everyone. 

This was supposed to be a short introduction in order to pique your interest, compelling you to read Amy’s post.  It’s ended up longer than I intended, but please, do read about Amy’s decision to no longer be QF, to get a tubal ligation, and the responses (both pro and con) that she’s received from the QF community for her decision. 

Back when the dollar was stronger…

This is certainly not the most important thing going on in my life right now;  more of an annoyance, really. 

There’s this store in the U.K. called KidsCloset.  It’s a new and used boutique kinda shop.  Round about December/January, they have a sale where, to the U.S., shipping is a flat 5 pounds, no matter how much one purchases.  For two consecutive years, starting before Audrey was born, I made a nice, big purchase of high-quality, unique, funky, lovely clothes, most of it new, averaging about $7 each, including shipping.

My best purchase was a little package of two long-sleeved ribbed tees, by IKKS, each with two buttons at one shoulder, one a sort of kelly green, and the other a darker hot-pink color (magenta?).  They came packaged in a little bag/backpack.  They’re size 74 cm, which is 12 months.  I spent less than $20 on the set, which, to my penny-pinching mind, was still rather pricey — nearly $10 each for baby tees.  However, Audrey started wearing them about this time last year, and she’s just starting to outgrow them now, so I figured that, long-term, it was a good deal. 

So… I tried a little search, to see if I could find the same shirts, but in a larger size.  Um, no.  In fact, I found a lot of IKKS tees (not at KidsCloset) for, oh, $36 or $44 EACH.  Good Lord.  If you have $44 to spend on a baby tee, I figure you …  well, maybe I’ll just cut that judgemental thought a bit short.  Suffice it to say, I think $44 for a tee shirt for a adult is excessive, let alone a baby, who will likely outgrow it in the next 6 months or so.

Even at KidsCloset, the deals are hard to come by, especially when the dollar is so weak right now, which means that I have to spend $2 for each one pound.  Bummer.  It’s just totally not cost-effective to buy anything from overseas right now.  😦  No purchases for me this year.

This is cute, though too big for Audrey, and “only” $30 (not from the aforementioned KidsCloset, but it is from IKKS, the same brand as the sought-after tees):

This is an old pic, at Woolaroc with my friend Shellie and her family in April of last year, but it’s Audrey in the green tee:

  AudreyatWoolaroc-1.jpg picture by Karen-Joy  

~sigh~

I promise, I do have important things on my plate right now, but it’s driving me nuts that I can’t find this tee to buy in a larger size.

ETA:  These fantastic tees ARE available at KidsCloset in 6 months size only.  And now, only 5.99 pounds.  (On the Fall/Winter Girls, page 2, second from the last on the page.)  Too small for Audrey, but, really, someone needs to snatch these up.

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