Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nature Study

This morning the kids awoke to a scavenger hunt that led them to clues about a special outing: Nature Study at the park. We haven't done that in a while and they were so excited. They quickly did their morning chores, as well as math, reading, and copywork. Then we headed out.

First, a little exercise and exploration. We "did the trail" - Me pushing K.in the stroller, M. & S. on scooters, C. on his bike, and A. running (what else would he do, right?) We were lured by the peaceful gurgling of the creek and found a little waterfall. The Big 3 spent the next 20 minutes floating little stick "boats" down the waterfall while A, K, and I enjoyed the big swings at the senior area.

We found a cool tree by the playground to sketch, and tried in vain to identify it - I wish I had a picture to post. We think it was a "Myrtle Holly" - because of it's many trunks with smooth bark and round, waxy leaves. It is a smallish tree, but still big for a shrub (which is what our field guide calls the myrtle holly) and I think we're a bit north of it's range. But oh, well - S. sketched it anyway and everyone enjoyed climbing it. We didn't get the "lesson" finished b/c it was just too windy and cold to work in their Nature Journals. (What happened to yesterday's mild temps???) We finished it up after lunch at our cozy kitchen table. We read Wonders of the Forest (a wonderful old paperback from Troll Associates) and sketched away...


A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.
-from "Going for Water" by Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tagged!

The past week has been spent obeying the title of this blog! We prepared for and enjoyed a great visit from my brother and his family, which included Medieval Times, IKEA, and of course, American Girl! I spent Monday with a whopping migraine and haven't had much time for blogging. I have four posts in the works, but just can't seem to get them finished. In the meantime, however, Kate tagged me. So here goes:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages.)
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

The nearest book is Grace Based Parenting.

"Cheaters sometimes win. One-dimensional people often end up with more money. Selfishness, cunning, and backstabbing are often the faster tracks to fame."

Boy, that sounds funny out of context! He's talking about "achievement goals" for our children and how, though we want them to be ambitious, we also want them to view glorifying God in the way they achieve as an achievement in itself, even if they don't reach the goal.
(Consider this your review, by the way... it's a good book with sound advice; you should read with discernment, however, since the author seems to inject a little cynicism here and there, apparently from what he would term a "legalistic" background. Overall a decent reminder to pass on the grace of Christ to our children, though Tripp does it better in Shepherding A Child's Heart. If you read only one of those, pick Shepherding. There, end of review!)

Now I tag some of my fellow bookworms:
Jennifer
Janice
Mary
Wendy
my new friend Andrea
my Dad
and anyone else who loves books.

Have fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Athena, Elmo, and Snow

As the title suggests, we've had a busy few days. We went out of town for my sweet niece's 2nd birthday. It was a fun trip, but a lot of work. I won't beat around the bush: travelling with 5 kids (two of which are toddlers) is just plain exhausting, even if it's fun!

We stayed with my sister and it was fun to spend our evenings catching up, even though we were too late getting into bed. We had a fun birthday party with not one, but two Elmo cakes (that's how big my family is when we all get together!) We also took a fun field trip to the Parthenon (and the colossal Athena statue) in Nashville, since we are studying Ancient Greece. But that's for another post.

We came home and enjoyed playing in what was left of the "big" snow event here in Georgia. Now we're trying to quickly get back into routine and get some school work done before my brother and his family arrive for a visit this weekend!

Here are some quotables from the last week:
"And I ate one of his eyes!" 8yo M., telling Daddy which part of the Elmo cake she ate.
"No ... it's my-grain!" 3 yo A., drawing a picture of my "migraine" on the magna doodle on our road trip.
"Mine!!" 20 month old K's new word. We're thrilled.
"Mom, do I have time to check my email?" A sign that we do indeed have a teen in the house! 13 yo. S, wanting to check his inbox before heading to Master's Academy of Fine Arts.
"Look - we're Ice-Boarding!" 11yo C., making the best of what little snow remains - sliding on a piece of cardboard across an ice puddle in the driveway.

That's what's going on here this week. Head on over to Mary's place for more Tiny Talk!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Drop by for a Visit

A few weeks ago, I gave a brief mention of my brother-in-law's new blog, The High Tech Hiker. It was kind of buried in a long post, and I thought I'd extend a formal invitation for you to drop by and welcome one of the blog community's newest members. I think that you hikers, runners, photographers, and nature lovers out there will all find the reflections on his hikes interesting. Go make a new friend!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Goin' Tribal

The tribe dances in a circle, covered in war paint and pounding their chests, chanting unintelligibly. Debris is scattered 360 degrees across the area. Exciting scene from Lord of the Flies? No - the scene with my two little guys in the basement!

Apparently one of the Big 3 forgot to put his pencil box away after school. A and K, who often express their creativity with markers on non-washable surfaces, discover the treasure with glee. I wish I had been there to witness them removing overalls, shoes - everything - and beginning to paint themselves. I'm sure it was a sight.

Instead, My Sweetie discovered them dancing around the office chair, goin' tribal! His very loud, very contagious laugh drew me downstairs, camera in hand. I didn't think it was quite as funny, but since everyone else seemed to, I smiled and captured the moment. My chidren's dignity will not allow me to post pictures of the full effect of this activity ... they were literally covered in marker, top of the head to the tip of the toes. Sigh ... these two are definitely Double Trouble!

As fun as this sideshow was, I am very thankful that the war paint all came off in the bath. I'm sure this is only the beginning of many adventures we'll have with Double Trouble!

Surprise!

Since my other Atlanta friends are posting snow pictures on their blogs, I thought I'd join in. We have not seen the white stuff in this town since we moved here in January of 2005. Unlike Lane's kids, who have never seen snow, mine remember it from our time living in Tennessee and they really miss it. So imagine our delight to discover what we southerners would deem a "blizzard" falling at dinnertime yesterday!

We fired up the Cocoa Latte (one of my very favorite Christmas presents - thanks, Emily!) and enjoyed hot chocolate and big, fluffy flakes while the fun lasted. As Kate says here, it was a nice break from the yo-yo weather we've been having! The kids had a blast making snowballs, "sledding," and creating some very muddy snow angels. They stayed out well past dark and finally came in for dinner around 8pm, when the snow began to change into sleet. So much fun!

A. was a baby for that snowfall in '05, so this is the first snow he remembers. He had fun trying to catch the snowflakes on his tongue!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rapid-fire Book Reviews, part 2: Picture Books

On this blog, I have reviewed several "grown up" books and a couple of children's novels. This time I decided to give children's picture books some time. With two Little Ones in the house, you can imagine that we read our share of these treasures each day. Here are some of our recent favorites.

I'm Dirty! by Kate and Jim McMullan. Isn't that a funny title? We discovered this one quite by accident, but it has become one of A's favorites. For our vacation last fall, we checked out "Mike Mulligan" DVD from the library that had the prequel, I Stink! on it. A (3yo) fell in love with the funny, grumpy, "trashy" book about a garbage truck. When I saw I'm Dirty - about a backhoe loader with an attitude - I just had to buy it for Christmas. We all love it, though Mommy and Daddy are going hoarse from reading it in the tough-guy voice it demands. Cute book with funny illustrations. There are several other titles in this series, and we plan to check out all of them.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman. Another funny title and fun book. Hoberman describes the picky, comical eating habits of one silly family. The illustrations alone tell the story - capturing with humor the essence of a harried mom busy with many children. The author uses rhyming verse to cleverly express each child's preferences. Here's a few lines about Lucy, one of the Silly Seven:
"She hated milk, both cold and hot,
And warm was worst of all. Instead
Whenever Lucy dear was fed,
She bellowed for pink lemonade,
Not from a can...
Oh, no..
Homemade."
A dear friend in my hometown recommended it just before Christmas, and I'm so glad she did. We have read this book as a family countless times already, and we always laugh!

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. Jan Brett's books are favorites in our house. I bought several copies of this one to give as Christmas gifts, and kept one to give to my own little K (19mo.) It is Brett's retelling of the Goldilocks story, set in the Arctic with an Inuit girl and three polar bears. The story is sweet and has the fun, repetitive elements ("somebody's been eating from my bowl...") that makes this tale so fun for preschoolers. The real treasure here is, of course, Jan Brett's rich illustrations and attention to detail. A book to own, not merely check out. A great addition to the family library.

Lost in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams. When we visited the North Georgia Mountains last year, M (8) found the sweetest little plush deer at a gift shop. The clerk told us the little fawn was from a book called Lost in the Woods. We forgot about it for a year, then finally put it on the Christmas list. It is a precious book with gorgeous nature photographs, telling the story of a little lost deer, Tiny Star. Unlike the movie Bambi, however, this one has a happy ending. Gorgeous book, perfect for nature lovers.

Read Aloud Bible Stories, vol. 1 by Ella K. Lindvall. I have wanted these for years and finally, thanks to my dear sis-in-law, got volume 1 for Christmas. It is a large-sized hardcover book with bold, simple illustrations - easy for preschoolers to see, even if in a group. The stories are geared toward the younger set with repetitive language, rhyming, and sound effects. As the title hints, these stories are meant to be read aloud. Ms. Lindvall cleverly works in a little theology along with the stories - on an age-appropriate level. For example, we learn about the omniscience of God in the story of Zacchaeus (Jesus knew Zacchaeus was in that tree and He knew his name!) We learn about the omnipotence of God in the story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves. (Jesus has power over storms. He can take care of us.) Wonderful faith-building books. I hope to add the other three volumes to our collection as well.

I'm hoping the next reviews on this blog will be from my sons. We're working on writing skills and I'm going to have them review their current favorites. Until then, Happy Reading!

Rapid-fire Book Reviews, part 1

Since reading is my absolute favorite hobby, I have several books going at any given time. Books for fun; books to inspire me as a homemaker; books to grow me in my faith; and books to stretch my brain. I wrapped up several books in the last few weeks and decided to share a few thoughts from each. So here goes...

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I've been a longtime fan of Austen's works, but had somehow never read this one. Since I absolutely love the film version (the one directed by Ang Lee, starring Emma Thompson) I decided it was high time I read the novel. All of my favorite Austen elements are there: witty dialogue, clever prose, humor, good characterization (especially Elinor, who you can see from my sidebar reminds me of myself,) true love that almost escapes. However, while S & S was a very enjoyable read, Pride & Prejudice remains my favorite of Miss Austen's novels. I can read P & P over and over again.

Gold Cord: The Story of a Fellowship by Amy Carmichael. There is no doubt that Amy is one of my biggest heroes in the faith. I have read 2 separate biographies of her (Elisabeth Elliot's A Chance to Die is the best) and many of Amy's own works. In Gold Cord (first published in 1932,) Amy is telling the story of the first few years of Donhavur Fellowship. Donhavur is the name of the ministry that began as an outreach to girls who had been sold to pros.ti.tution at the temples in southern India. Amy and her colleagues rescued these girls, shared the gospel with them, and gave them a place to live. Donhavur quickly added hospital facilities, nurseries, and a school, since many of the "girls" were with child or had children when rescued. It took me a year to finish this book, as I read it only a little at a time, then put it aside. Amy is somewhat old-fashioned in her language and modest in her descriptions of people and events, so it can be challenging to follow the story at times. But there are many jewels to be found here and I highly recommend it.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I have read portions of this book before and thought it was time for a refresher. The premise is that each of us is wired to show love (and "feel loved") in a specific way. I returned to this book in order to rejuvenate my efforts to show love to my husband and children in ways that would bless them individually. Chapman says children have a "love tank" that, when full, allows them to develop normally and feel secure. When the tank is low, they tend to act out more and misbehave. The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation; Quality Time; Receiving Gifts; Acts of Service; and Physical Touch. If you pay attention to how an individual tends to show love, then you can know how he or she needs to receive it. A very helpful book not only for our marriages and families, but relationships in general.

Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon. This is book eight in the Mitford Years series. Still trying to catch up with My Sweetie, who has already nearly finished Home to Holly Springs. I love Mitford novels and this book is no different. I commented to My Sweetie that whenever I am in a grumpy mood, he should just send me off for 30 minutes with a Mitford book and I will come back a changed woman! This book is set at Christmas time and centers around Father Tim's restoration of a badly neglected European nativity set. It was a joy, as always! If you haven't read the Mitford books yet, you don't know what you're missing!

That's it for part 1 of Rapid-fire reviews. Stay tuned for part 2: Children's Books!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Overheard

A fly on the wall at our house this week might have heard...

"But you don't love me? 3yo A wondering why I won't marry him. I told him I already married Daddy. "Why?" asks he... "because I love him," say I. Get the picture? So cute I could have squished him with a hug!
____________________________
"Viper Viper Viper!!" Again, little A, while listening to the pastor quote John the Baptist calling the Pharisees a "Brood of Vipers." Can I get an "AMEN?"
____________________________
"Mom, we have a business for you to post on your blog!" 13yo S and 11yo C, coming to request some free advertising. By the way, if you are interested in a hand-crafted bow & arrow, made from sticks and rubber bands (like the one carried by Brave Sir Robin at Halloween) they can hook you up!
____________________________
"Has anybody seen my Polly Boy?" Umm... let's define terms... that's M (8yo) looking for the guy to her new Polly Pocket set. Apparently in the Polly world, as in real life, a good man is hard to find.
____________________________
I'm sure there were many other quotable moments this week, but my frazzled brain struggles to recall them. Why don't I write this stuff down?? (Umm - because my hands are full of apple peels, used napkins, math books, and - more often than not - a small person making a large noise! )

Now grab a cup of coffee and head over to Mary's place for more Tiny Talk.

Monday, January 7, 2008

And the Left Wins!!!

No, I'm not talking about presidential politics (whew!) I'm talking about ocular dominance. Yes, for those of you who saw Oprah today, I took the little hole-in-the-paper test for eye dominance. I did it twice, just to be sure, and I came out left-eye dominant both times! Apparently this can be very important in sports like golf, baseball, and bowling, as well as when shoo.ting a g.un. Since I don't play those sports (at least not well enough to care which eye is dominant, LOL) and don't own a fire.arm, I'm not sure what all this means for me. But it was fun to find out!

Now for a shameless plug... if you have not already discovered TLC's show, Jon & Kate Plus 8, then you need to check it out tonight (or next Monday if you're reading this too late.) I cannot recommend this show highly enough!! I have been watching it for several months and absolutely.love.it! It is a hilarious, real-life picture of living with a lot of kids. (Or feeling like you live with a lot of kids!) It will make you feel better about the chaos at your own house. It helps me remember the noise level from our 2 little red-headed fireballs is normal! Tune in to TLC at 9 Eastern.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's Over

After a nail-biting win last week in Indy, securing their spot in Wild Card Weekend, my Tennessee Titans lost to the Chargers today. :( Man!! I don't know if I'm more let down or relieved .... playoff games are so stressful! I'm sure Kate is joining me in my sadness, as her beloved Redskins fell to the Seahawks on Saturday.
My only remaining hope for this year is that somebody - anybody - can take down the puffed-up Patriots! Enough, already! (My apologies to any gentle readers who may be Patriots fans ... you know - hate the sin, but love the sinner! LOL ) Here's to hoping we get a Super Bowl that is actually worth watching for the game and not just the commercials!
Oh, well, there's always next year! Congrats to the Titans for making it this far after a roller-coaster season!

GO TITANS!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Gratitude

The young parents look at the new little bundle with adoring eyes - eyes full of hope, wonder, and anticipation of what the future will bring for their firstborn - a daughter. They are 23 years old and still practically newlyweds. He is just beginning his career as an environmental engineer. She is busy making their first house a home for their little family.

Life is a flurry those first few weeks. Midnight feedings. Inconsolable crying. Anxiety - "are we doing everything right?" Broken toes ... yes, he breaks his toe tripping over the rocking chair while bringing Mommy a bottle in the dark of night. It's amazing that such noise can come from so tiny a person!

It was January 5, 1971. These young parents are my parents. They would spend the next couple of decades showering me with love and raising me with wisdom and the fear of the Lord. So today I would like to say "thank you" to them!

Thank you for valuing life and starting a family during a time of cultural upheaval and "free love." You spent the "golden age" of your youth wiping dirty bot.toms and playing peek-a-boo. You were counter-culture. Though you were not believers yet, the Lord had already named you for Himself and was laying the foundation for a legacy of faith.

Thank you for saying No when it was needed and Yes as often as you could!

Thank you for giving me the best presents in the world - brothers and a sister!

Thank you for cheering me on in sports when I looked like a floppy string-bean. Thank you for making me feel beautiful and important. Thank you for exclaiming over every art project, science experiment, and piano recital - no matter if they were good or bad.

Thanks for being godly role models in your parenting and mentoring me now that I'm a mom.

Thanks for being you!
With Love,
Jennifer

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Not a Resolution...

I used to make long lists of noble Resolutions each year. I also used to break each one by the second week of January! I think New Year's Resolution-making is a practice that's doomed from the start.

That said, I do think it's appropriate to spend time at the close of one year and the beginning of another reflecting on my "mission status." How is my walk with the Lord? (could be better...) How well am I nurturing my children? (oh, that's what I'm supposed to be doing!? I thought I was just surviving...) Am I loving and honoring my husband? (um, no comment...)

Life has been very hectic for me over the last 3 years: a state-to-state move; 2 births; one death (precious mother-in-law;) My Sweetie's new business; returning to homeschooling after 2 years in traditional schools. I could add a few more, but you get the idea. In my former life, I was very dependent on rigid schedules and lots and lots of order. But these last couple of years, we have literally lived in survival mode. It was a good exercise for me - helped to tear down my idols of perfectionism. But I'm ready for a little more structure...

So my word for 2008 is: Deliberate. I don't want to slide back into rigid perfectionism. Let's face it, none of us was too happy with that model! No, I think Deliberate is a good balance between legalism and chaos. Let me flesh out my thoughts...

Lately my quiet time with the Lord has been limited to a few stolen moments in the bath.ro.om! I'm not going to try to read the whole Bible in a year, but I want to be more Deliberate about reading a portion of Scripture and praying before I begin each day. That plus my homework for the study in Deuteronomy (the ladies' Bible study I'm attending at my church) ought to help me keep Christ at the center of my day rather than pushed to the fringe.

I don't have the time, energy, or motivation to make "fitness" a part-time job. But I have become very slack with my eating habits and rarely exercise - I could stand to lose a few. I want to be Deliberate about my food choices and making an effort to exercise when I can. Baby steps on this one... but I'm hoping my stress level goes down as I incorporate more exercise .

I can tell my little "students" are tired of flying by the seats of our pants. Yes, we get interrupted often, but I want to be more Deliberate about keeping to a routine (note, I said routine not schedule - there's a difference! I have no desire to be watching the clock constantly and feeling like a slave to it. Routine implies an order to our day that can flex when the need arises. The only thing scheduled is daily "room time" and "nap time" for the toddlers.) There is so much I'm excited about teaching my kids this year, but we've not been good managers of our time. Baby steps, here, too.

I also want to be more Deliberate about spending time with my Little Ones. They grow up so fast - I don't want to wish away these precious days of reading Blueberries for Sal, The Story of Ping, and I'm Dirty every.single.day and playing Lucky Ducks for the thousandth time! I don't want A and K to be neglected just because we homeschool. I want to snuggle, rock, and sing "Jesus Loves Me." I want to do art with macaroni and learn nursery rhymes and finger plays!

Lastly, I want to be more Deliberate about having fun! Doing things for myself that I enjoy (like reading or sewing) is not a luxury I often allow myself. But it does no one any good if Mommy is too stressed from serving her family to cheerfully serve her family! I also need to lighten up in the way I relate to the children. Instead of just sending them out to play, I hope to go out to play with them more!

I guess this almost sounds like a list of resolutions. But really it's a mindset. I want to be a good steward of the many blessings the Lord has given me and I think the time has come to be more Deliberate in all my life. You've heard of the "Do It Now Principle." I'm making this the "Do the Next Thing Principle." Just diligently, Deliberately do what the Lord is calling me to do each day and trust the results to Him. I'm recalling a verse I claimed for this school year back in the fall ... I Thessalonians 4:11, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands."

I'm praying I can be quietly Deliberate in all that I do this year...

Happy New Year!

Well, 2007 is under wraps and 2008 has begun. I am again amazed at how fast time flies by! I have a teenager in the house to remind me that the 19-month-old will grow up and become too big to sit in my lap faster than I would like! But the Lord is good and "the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:6

We had a wonderful Christmas! My parents came down and stayed with us for several days, which was a treat in itself. But it was even more fun to have them here on Christmas morning to share in the kids' excitement. We enjoyed a yummy buffet at a resort in Stone Mountain Park and the whole day was full of happiness and blessings!
Last night, while my oldest was at a youth group party, the rest of us rang in the New Year with sparkling grape juice, fireworks, and chocolate fondue. C and M wanted to stay up to watch the ball drop and we let them. But it was a little anti-climactic because they were so sleepy they almost missed it! It was very cute to watch them insist they were awake enough to make it!

I want to give a shout out to my brother-in-law, Robert. Not only is he an amazing uncle and much adored by my kids, but he has recently become quite the serious hiker and has started a blog about his experiences. Go visit him and say hello here. I can't wait to read about his adventures, a couple of which included his young hiking buddy, C. (10yo)