Friday, April 28, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Two "Problems:" Extra Days and Hannah

With CC ending and Memory Masters being completed, this week felt wide open.  We are usually gone all day on Wednesday, and a good bit of Tuesday is taken with getting ready for CC. When I was planning my week last weekend, I wasn't sure what to do with those two days since they were basically empty from my usual tasks!  A very nice "problem"!

Another "problem" I've had this week is Hannah.  She's at that stage where she is quite mobile, though not walking, and she can open cabinets to play with what is inside them.  That's not a good combination when considering what kinds of things are usually kept in cabinets.  I was complaining to discussing with my mother about this, and she offered a solution.  (My mother seems to get wiser as I get older; how does that happen?)  She suggested I give Hannah one cabinet to play in, so that hopefully she will leave the rest alone.  So I pulled all of our school books out of a cabinet, the cabinet where I also keep the plastic plates and cups for my children so that she can play in there.  But where was I to put the school books?  In the laundry room!  But you saw what a mess it was in there, so I had to clean it out first.  That's how I've spent my extra time this week!  Cleaning out the laundry room.  But I'm pleased with the results, and I hope it will last -- for more than a week.  :)

Here are a few other things I've enjoyed this week:
  • A shorter school day.  With no CC, school takes less time which is lovely since we're counting down the days until summer break!
  • Discovering that Sarah Beth and Daniel are on lesson 96 instead of 86 in math which means that we'll be done with school a little bit sooner than I expected.  Hooray!
  • A baby gate!  Hannah is determined to climb the stairs, and my jerry-rigged attempts to keep her off of them haven't been working.  We finally invested in a baby gate, and so far it's working great!  (Knock on wood and cross my fingers.)
  • Daniel and John feeling better.  They had to cut short their camping trip to Big Bend last weekend because they were sick.  :(
  • Running a few errands yesterday afternoon by myself, getting some things done that are hard to do with five children in tow.  :)
Tonight we have our end of the year program for CC, and tomorrow we have the last soccer games for Daniel and Mary.  After that is John's annual family work party which is great fun for the kids; they look forward to it all year long!

What about you?  What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Harbingers Cycle One: Invitation

Four people with special powers, not really super powers, are brought together by fate to help defend others against supernatural evil.  The Professor relies entirely on logic to make decisions and deductions.  Andi, his assistant, can see patterns that others miss.  Brenda, a tattoo artist, occasionally sees pictures of events before they happen.  And Tank, a college football player, has the ability sometimes to heal others; he is also the only Christian on this "team."  Using their combined gifts, they are able to keep evil forces from hurting some defenseless people.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book since I've never read anything by these authors, and actually I've only heard of Frank Peretti.  In the introduction, they tell the rules of this book:  each author would write one short story in this book (as opposed to all of them writing together), and he would write it from the point of view of one of the characters.  It's supposed to work like a tv series, and it does.  Each novella is a different episode that builds on the ones before it.

I enjoyed each of the stories, even though they were a little crazy and strange.  Obviously, occult supernatural forces are at work in the stories -- as they are in real life.  But only Tank can see the obvious, that what they experience is the battle between good and evil, between God and Satan.  I was disappointed that none of the other characters became Christians in the book, but maybe they will in a future one.  Given the opportunity, I would probably read more in this series and will probably check out some other books by these authors.

I want to thank Bethany House Publishers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection

We enjoy the Berenstain Bears in our family, and I appreciate having five stories combined into one volume, a hardback book which should last longer.  Since we did not enjoy the stories equally, I thought I would treat each one separately.
  1. The Perfect Fishing Spot.  I did not like this story.  After Mama Bear tells Papa Bear that he should just buy some fish for their supper, he goes on a bumbling trip around the countryside trying to find somewhere to catch some fish.  He keeps getting into troubles and scrapes until he finally follows Mama's advice and just buys some fish.  The moral of the story seems to be that husbands should just do what their wives tell them to.  In our world where man are made fun of and treated like idiots in movies and on tv, we don't need to add to this disrespect by reading such stories to our children.
  2. Reap the Harvest.  Brother and Sister don't know what to do with their summer until they see Farmer Ben's "Help Wanted" sign.  He agrees to hire them but will only pay them at the end of the summer via his cash crop.  He won't know how much he earns, and therefore how much he can pay them, until the corn is harvested.  The cubs work hard all summer and earn a nice paycheck at the end.  They learn about hard work and how rewards often don't come until it's all over.
  3. Faithful Friends.  Sister has a disagreement with one of her friends because she's been spending a lot of time with a different friend.  Brother shows Sister how maybe her friend is jealous because she thinks Sister has forgotten her, and he encourages her to do things with all of her friends.  The girls make up and appreciate their friendship even more.
  4. Kindness Counts.  Brother Bear loves putting together model airplanes, and a younger cub would like to help him.  Brother remembers how Papa let him help when he didn't know how, so he lets this other cub help.  Brother learns that what goes around often comes around, especially with kindness.
  5. God Made You Special.  This story is my favorite.  The Bear family has friends come visit, and they bring a cub who doesn't act like the other cubs.  It seems like he has Down's syndrome or something similar.  Mama Bear explains to Sister that God made everyone special, even people who are different.  The other mother bear adds that maybe God uses these people to teach us something.
As you can see, we enjoyed four of the five tales in this book.  I plan to keep it and read them often, just omitting the first one.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What I've Enjoyed This Week: Memory Masters! and Two Finished Blankets

Sarah Beth and Daniel did it!  They passed all four of their testings for Memory Masters!  I'm so proud of them!  I just wish I had taken a picture of them.  :(

I also finished these two blankets.  The purple one I actually finished last month except for weaving in the ends.  I enjoyed working on the blue one:  it was a new pattern which I found intriguing.  It started in one corner and each row increased stitches until it was time to start decreasing stitches, ending up in the opposite corner.  It also did not require too much mental energy which was good because I don't have much of that right now with all of the prep work for Memory Masters.  :)  The color didn't show up very well, but it's a very light blue:  not baby blue, more of a sky blue.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed:
  • My birthday was last Friday, and we had a nice, quiet day at home.  Then we went out for supper which was lovely since I didn't have to prepare or clean up after a meal.  :)  And I had a delicious store-bought cake!
  • Sarah Beth made the swim team!  Daniel decided he wasn't interested.
  • A few days off school.  Several of the children have been sick with colds, but they're getting better.  And we've all enjoyed a break!
  • Getting caught up on some neglected chores since we didn't have school.  Well, doing the chores wasn't much fun, but knowing that they're done feels pretty good!
I'm not sure why, but we don't have soccer games this weekend.  We don't really have anything planned, so we should have a nice, quiet weekend.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why You are the Perfect Mother for Your Children, Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about how you are the perfect mother for your children.  How can I be so sure about this?  God gave my children to me and  your children to you, and He does not make mistakes.

Of course, this fact is all well and good as long as you and your child are similar, when you both love to read or when neither of you enjoys going to parties.  But what happens when you are different?

What if your child craves being around people and you crave time alone?  What if your child doesn't want to nurse as long you had planned?  What if you would just prefer to do all the chores yourself because it's easier than taking the time and effort to teach your children?  What if you are just different?  Did God make a mistake then?  Of course not!  God doesn't make mistakes.  Should we continue in our own personalities and temperaments and let things end up however they will?  No!

God can use our differences to help us grow.  And these examples come straight from my relationships with my children, so I can speak to them directly.  I hope that you can extrapolate from my experiences to you and your children.

I have a child who loves to be around people.  Her love language is quality time, and she needs attention from me.  However, I crave time alone.  As a matter of fact, that's what I asked for for Christmas.  :)  What are we to do?  Well, I look for ways to spend time with her that I enjoy as well, so we end up reading lots of books.  I also make a point to listen to her and speak with her when she's trying to carry on a conversation with me.  I've had to change and to give up some of what I want in order to nurture her.  I'm learning to make sacrifices, and that's a good thing.  Didn't God the Father give the ultimate sacrifice when He sent Jesus to die on the cross?  Isn't it a good thing for me to emulate the Son?  So I work on it.  :)

As for the baby weaning herself before I was ready, well, I had to learn to be flexible.  I had things all planned out for how long I would nurse her, when I would wean her, and how long I would take.  But my child decided one morning that she was done with me; she just wanted a bottle.  I had to learn to roll with the punches, so to speak, and that's also an excellent thing to know.

I have to be honest.  Most of the time, I prefer to do the household chores myself.  It's a little bit of selfishness, a little bit of efficiency, and a little bit of laziness.  I can do things better and quicker than my children can, so it's just easier for me to do it all.  But if I don't teach them how to do things themselves, they will have a harder time when they move out and have their own places.  I need to teach them now how to do things, how to work hard, so they will be better prepared for life when they leave my house.

Am I a perfect mother?  Of course not!  But I am a work in progress, and I pray that God will continue to use me to teach my children more about Him -- as He uses them to teach me more about Him.

How are you different from your child(ren)?  How have you handled it?

Friday, April 14, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Memory Masters, a Medal, My Birthday, and First Steps

First of all, I don't want to forget to mention that it's Good Friday, the day that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for our sins.  What a wonderful gift that He gave us that day, and I don't ever want to forget it.  The only thing that is better than Him dying on the cross was that He rose from the grave three days later.  Hallelujah!

Sarah Beth, Daniel and I have been busy the last few weeks with getting ready for and testing for their Memory Masters.  We started last weekend with my testing both of them, and they did wonderfully.  Sarah Beth forgot the name of the Netherlands, and Daniel got Cambodia and Thailand mixed up.  Those kinds of things are what they're being tested on.   Daniel had his second testing with another adult yesterday, and he did great.  He just forgot one out of a list of twenty-seven indefinite pronouns (all, another, any, some, several, etc.).  Sarah Beth has her second testing this afternoon.  Then they have another testing with a CC tutor on Monday, and an abbreviated testing with our director on Wednesday.

Remember that 5K I ran a couple of weeks ago?  I received an interesting email last Saturday:  it turns out that I won my age division.  Can you believe it?  I certainly couldn't!  Honestly, I'm such a slow jogger that I must have been the only one in my age group who ran; there were lots of people who walked the whole thing.

Lastly, today is my birthday!  My children kept asking me what I wanted, and I just couldn't think of anything.  But I kept pondering and pondering, and it finally came to me:  I want someone else to do my job for me on my birthday.  I want someone else to get up early with the children.  I want someone else to make sure the dishes are put in the dishwasher and the table wiped off.  I want someone else to change any diapers that need to be changed and make sure the baby is fed.  I want a day off from my responsibilities.  :)  There's the incentive I need to keep training my children, so that one day I will get my birthday wish -- and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future.  :)

Hannah gave me a lovely birthday gift a day early:  she took her first steps!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Our last day of CC.  It's bittersweet, really, because we'll miss our friends, but it will be nice to stay home instead of heading off to class once a week.
  • Swim clinic.  Daniel wanted to attend the swim clinic which the swim team puts on before try-outs, so I took him.  And then Sarah Beth decided she wanted to do it, too.  They're having a great time and learning better how to swim.
  • Rain.  We had a couple of rainy days which was wonderful since it's been so dry lately.
  • No soccer practice.  Since it's Easter weekend and the kids don't have soccer games, their coaches cancelled practice all week.  Hooray!  (But don't tell my children I said that.  :)
  • A mixed-up date.  We thought something important was next Saturday, but it's actually the Saturday after that.  So we thought we were going to miss a couple of things, but now we're not!
This afternoon, Sarah Beth has her second Memory Master testing, and we're going out to eat to celebrate my birthday!  Tomorrow, I'm taking Rachel and Mary to an Easter egg hunt which should be easy-peasy since I will only have two children!  Then a relatively quiet weekend, celebrating Resurrection Day.

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Why You are the Perfect Mother for Your Children

I've been thinking about this post for a couple of months now, and I was finally inspired to write it after I read (un)Natural Mom by Hettie Brittz.  We mothers tend to compare ourselves to other mothers, wondering why we can't do the wonderful things they do.  Why can't we throw such memory-making birthday parties?  Why don't we enjoy co-sleeping?

I will tell you why:  God made us all differently, and He gave our children to us on purpose.  He uses our gifts and our weaknesses to develop our children.  He can also use our natural tendencies to protect our children.  Brittz has a great story in her book about why it was a wonderful thing that her children sleep independently in their own rooms.  But she also has a great reason why other mothers would be better having their children sleep with them.  God knows these things when He gives us our children and the circumstances in which we raise them.

Do you enjoy doing crafts with your children?  I don't.  But I do love to read to my children.  While your children develop their artistic sides, my children develop a love of books.  Both are wonderful!  Neither are bad.

Do you struggle with getting places on time?  Maybe you're more flexible or more hopeful than I am; I'm pretty regimented.  God can use both aspects in our children's lives, as yours learn flexibility and mine learn discipline.  Again, both are great things to know, and neither are bad.  (My husband would probably say that I need to learn some flexibility.  :)

Please, keep these things in mind as you look at other mothers and what they do with their children.  As long as you are doing your best, God will use that to turn your children into the people He wants them to be.

But -- what if your natural temperament works against your child?  What if you crave time alone, and God gave you a child whose love language is quality time?  What if your personality tells you just to do it all yourself because it's too much trouble to teach your children how to do it?

That is a post for next week.  :)

Friday, April 7, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: An Unexpected Visit

Doesn't this look like Hannah?  But it's Mary!

We are working really hard this month finishing up with our CC work.  Next week is our last campus day, our day to meet, and we've got a lot to do.  Sarah Beth needs to finish her last research paper for her Essentials class, and both she and Daniel are working hard to attain the elusive Memory Master title.  So we are spending as much time as possible at home, getting these things done.  I have to admit that I look forward to being done with all of this!  I can't seem to think about much beyond the next two weeks, but it will be worth it when it's all done!

I may not have much down this week, but I have been busy!  :)  Here are a few things I've enjoyed this week:
  • Yesterday, some friends dropped by unexpectedly, and it was wonderful reconnecting with them!
  • Podcasts.  Tracey had an interesting post about listening to podcasts, and I thought that sounded like a great idea -- but I wasn't sure when I would find the time.  Finally, it occurred to me that after lunch when the kids go outside to play, the house is relatively quiet so I can listen to something.  And I usually use that time to clean up after lunch (and maybe breakfast) along with doing any prep work for supper that I can.  It's a wonderful time, and I'm so glad that Tracey suggested it!
  • Music.  When I remember, I stream the Amazon music station with the classical focus.  We get to hear all kinds of classical music, and it continues to play until I turn it off -- which doesn't happen with CDs.  :)  My children don't enjoy it as much as I do; when they have their own homes, they can do whatever they want!
  • While I haven't exactly enjoyed going over CC memory work over and over and over again, I have enjoyed watching Sarah Beth and Daniel get more comfortable with it, as the answers come more easily.
I start the testing process this afternoon with Daniel, and tomorrow I will start with Sarah Beth.  We also have three soccer games in the morning.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March Reading and Review of Goals

I didn't think I had read much this month until I looked at this list.  I felt like I got bogged down in the biography about Drake and just couldn't get anything else read until I finally finished it.  But I didn't do too badly.  :)

Here's what I read:
  • Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith.  This fictionalized  account of Sarah's life is well-written, and I really enjoyed it. Why did she do what she did?  How did she feel about giving Hagar to Abraham?  Of course, we don't know, but this author did a great job supposing!
  • Cherish by Gary Thomas.  You can read my review of this excellent book here.
  • Sir Frances Drake by John Sugden.  After listening to Under Drake's Flag, I was intrigued by Drake and decided to read a biography.  I slogged my way through this one; it was academic and included many trivial details.  However, I did learn a lot about the New World, Spain, Portugal, and England during the late 1500s, and I did appreciate that.
  • The King's Scrolls by Jaye L. Knight.  This book continues the story of Kyrin and Jace as they try to rescue the King's scrolls and the man keeping them before the evil Emperor gets there first.  This book has dragons which was a fun addition, and it kept my treadmill time interesting and feeling shorter than it really was.  :)
  • Fly Away by Lynn Austin.  Mike Dolan and Wilhemina Brewster are complete opposites.  He loves to have fun, and she is very serious.  She's a Christian, and he is not.  But the Lord puts him on her heart, so she tries to find a way to witness to him.  Meanwhile, Mike struggles to help Wilhemina have fun and enjoy life, as he knows the end of his is coming via terminal cancer.  Such a good book, I'm never disappointed by this author!
  • (un)Natural Mom:  Why You are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids by Hettie Brittz.  God places our children with us because we are the perfect mothers for them.  He knows our strengths and weaknesses and pairs them with our children to give them what they need.  No, we don't do things perfectly, but He knows this, too, and can use our mistakes to help our children grow as they should.  None of us does everything that we think every other mother does well.  I don't do crafts with my children, and this book helps me not feel guilty about that.  There are mothers who do lots of crafts with their children, and that's great!  God uses what we have.  There's a neat assessment you can do online (free!) to tell you what kind of mother you are.  I'm a Boxwood, and that chapter described me to a tee.  
We had a busy month in March!  My mother was here for a week, John took the oldest four children camping, and we had at least three soccer games every Saturday along with practice almost every evening.  It makes me tired just thinking about it!  :)  Here's how I did with my yearly goals:
  • I want to run two 5Ks.  I ran the first one in March, so one down, one to go!
  • Fun School Days.  We were supposed to celebrate pi Day, but my mother came into town that day, and we were too excited to see her to celebrate.  :)
  • Hospitality:  having other mothers and children over for games and such.  We were just too busy.
  • Hospitality:  we also used to have families over for supper one night each month, and we need to get back into doing this again, too.  We were too busy this month -- and probably will be again next month.
  • Date night.  It wasn't really date night, but we did go out by ourselves one morning to shoot.
  • Get comfortable enough with my handgun to go shoot by myself.  Getting there.
April looks to be busy, also, as Sarah Beth, Daniel, and I will be spending every spare minute reviewing their CC for memory masters.  Basically, they will have to recite every piece of information they've learned all year at one time, four times.  There are seven subjects and 24 weeks, so you can do the math to see how impressive this feat is!  My goals are:
  • Review and test for Memory Masters.
  • Increase my speed on the treadmill to work toward running my next 5K a little more quickly.
  • Get as much school as possible done, so our summer break can get here faster!  :)
  • Fun School Day.  If I can get my act together, maybe we'll celebrate Jelly Bean Day on the 22nd.  
What have you read lately?  How are you doing with your goals?

Monday, April 3, 2017

How to Homeschool With Five Children, Part 2 -- How to Keep the Little Ones Entertained

I want to start off by saying that I don't feel like an expert in homeschooling.  While this is our sixth year, I certainly don't feel like I have it all together, that I know exactly what we're doing each and every day.  But I do have some experience, and I want to share what I've learned in the hopes that it may help you.

We started homeschooling when Sarah Beth was in kindergarten and I was pregnant with Mary.  So I've always had little ones to deal with while doing school.  I remember working with Sarah Beth (5) while Daniel (3) and Rachel (1) sat with us at the kitchen table working puzzles or coloring.  That was so long ago that I don't remember much about Daniel; he must have sat there patiently during our hour or so of school.  Rachel, however, would get bored, and she would want to get down and do her own thing.  She was not to be trusted loose in the house, though, so I would put her in her bed with some books and toys, and she would be happy long enough for us to finish school.  Whew!

Mary, however, was a different story.  When she was almost a year old and we were starting our second year of homeschooling, this time including Daniel since we had started CC, I remember telling my mother that I wanted to pull my hair out because Mary was such a distraction to our schooling.  If I held her, she pulled the books off the table.  If I put her down, she did stay with us, but again, she pulled the books off the table.  Although my mother did not homeschool us, she had a great solution, one that I tell everyone who asks, one that I plan to use with Hannah starting very soon.  :)

Here are some ways to keep your younger child(ren) occupied while doing school:
  1. Keep it simple.  See my post last week about keeping school short enough not to exasperate your younger children.
  2. Have lots of toys, games, etc. to keep them entertained at the table.   You can see in the picture above that I have two shelves full of things they can do at the table.  I also allow them to bring books to the table and other things, as long as it's not too distracting to those who are actually doing school.
  3. Have older children play with the younger ones.  Sometimes, Rachel will get done with her school before I've finished with Sarah Beth and Daniel, and I will have her play with Hannah.  Sometimes, Mary helps, too, even though she's not technically doing school yet -- other than CC.
  4. When all else fails, here is my best piece of advice for those of you who are homeschooling with little ones underfoot:  make use of your pack-n-play.  Set it up, leave it set up, and keep some toys in it that are only for playing with during school.  My mother gave me this piece of advice, and it worked wonderfully.  The only reason I'm not doing this with Hannah right now is that she still sleeps in her pack-n-play.  Well, that and the fact that she is still relatively happy in her exersaucer.  
I must admit that it's really nice that Mary is old enough to be trustworthy for a little while by herself.  When she's finally had enough, I let her go upstairs to play.

How do you keep your little ones happy, occupied, and out of trouble while you homeschool?  Since I still have a little one, I'm still looking for suggestions!

Do you have any other questions for me about homeschooling?