15 08 2008

Man, i could really use some encouragement today.  Kids fighting, kids sick, house messy, too much work, and my legs are aching.  Less than inspired homeschool day.  Why does my son insist that multiplication problems are unsolvable by man?


A few current events photos

14 08 2008
Does this look comfortable?

Does this look comfortable?

Patrick has a tendency to fall down on the floor when he’s sleepy.  He hates being put in bed, but anywhere the blankie is is OK, apparently.

A couple of local urchins in their VBS headgear.

A couple of local urchins in their VBS headgear.

For some reason, Bren is embarrassed by this picture.  I think it’s cute, don’t you?

Donal's new knife

Donal's new knife.

Donal got his “Totin’ Chip” at scout camp this summer.  Neal promptly took him out and bought him a knife.  Although nervous on behalf of my upholstry, I have been very pleased to see how responsible he’s been with it.  In this picture he’s only pretending to whittle.  He said I was getting too close with the camera (“You’re inside my blood circle, mom,” he said importantly) so this is a dramatic re-enactment.

Snowflake sits on Donal's arm for the first time.

Snowflake sits on Donal's arm for the first time

The parakeet taming is coming along slowly but surely.  It has been difficult for the children to understand that taming an animal proceeds at the animal’s pace, not theirs!   But they are finally seeing the results of their work.  Bluebell sat on my finger a few days ago, and Snowflake, not to be outdone, perched on D’s arm during school today.

Hadassah looking queenly in her favorite place: reclining on my pillows.  I’m curious- with the cat on my bed and the kitten in my rocker… where am I supposed to sit?

Ganging up

14 08 2008

The world is ganging up on me again!

-Van’s compressor burned out spectacularly yesterday.  Is it a bad sign when smoke comes pouring out from under your hood?

-Dryer broke.  Had to call the repair man.

-Driver side window broke on van, so in addition to no air conditioning, I can’t roll my window down.  Praise God for pleasant weather!

-Neal’s motorscooter is up & running, but he still can’t drive it to work.  The vendor forgot to sign the title, so Neal can’t register it and get a plate.  Which means I can’t borrow the truck.

-Ooops!  I thought the mortgage payment had cleared, but it hadn’t.  Now it can’t.  I was wondering why we seemed to have so much money this month.  How many days till payday, again?

-Got the bill for D’s x-rays.  $700 for taking a picture of my son’s internal organs.  Praise God for insurance!

-Doctor sent Neal to the specialist for his elbow.  Can’t wait to get the bill for that.

-Roof still leaks over the blue bathroom.  Roof not covered by home warranty.  Neither is dryer.  Is anything?  The roof hasn’t been a problem for a while due to drought, but last two days of steady rain have not improved the look of the bathroom wall.

-Left the windows down on my car last night to vent stinking plastic compressor smoke.  Of course, I didn’t remember to roll them up when it rainied.  Of course not!

-Despite being very good for the last three days and eating no sweets, my weight hasn’t changed an ounce.  Sigh.

-Two kids are feverish and sick in bed with the flu.

Of course, there have been good things, too.  The little boys and I made cinnamon bread yesterday and enjoyed reading on the couch and listening to the rain.  The dryer turned out NOT to be broken, just sadly overloaded.   Seems a child put two loads of wet clothes in together.  Our school is going well- the children love their books.  Sonlight is still the best, and we’re loving the Teaching Textbooks.  Bren, despite running a fever of 101, sat on the couch yesterday and did her grammar and mathematics bit by bit when she was feeling up to it.  I also read her the first two chapters of Johnny Tremain, and we looked up repousse silver pieces on the internet.  When I was kneeling by my bed and praying last night, Neal actually came and joined me.  This pleased me very much.  Maybe some day we’ll be like those couples in the Christian books who pray together every night?

One more good thing- when we were trying to leave the house (wet and two-fifths feverish) to take the car to the shop, I discovered that D had lied to me AGAIN about doing his chores.  I was furious, and delivered a scorching lecture on lying the whole time we were driving to the shop.  Felt like the Wicked Witch of the East on steroids.  D finally broked down crying in the shop parking lot and asked my forgiveness.  Then (this is the good part) all day yesterday he really exerted himself not to lie, steal food, or break the rules.  I praised him to the high heavens and tried to pay him extra attention to him last night.  It’s the first real breakthrough I’ve seen in his deceptiveness in a while.  Isn’t it amazing how quickly even small sins can become destructive habits?


12 08 2008

I am frittering away my afternoon dipping flowers in scented wax.  Some of Neal’s roses dried beautifully, and before the color fades, I am trying to preserve them.   I have a passion for Glade’s Spiced Rose & Vanilla scented oil candles.  I burn them frequently and keep the spares in my dresser drawers.  I am trying to reach the point where the scent so permeates my room it is like a light haze when you walk in!

I should be folding laundry, doing dishes, teaching spelling, and disciplining children.  Instead I am floating around my bedroom as dreamily as the Lady of Shallott, and my children are watching something on television.  I hope it is educational, but am not prepared to go find out.

The weather is lovely again today.  I have all the windows open and hung freshly washed sheer curtains in the living room just so I could see the breeze lifting and releasing them in long white billows.    I forced my eldest son to help me pull the trunk into my room yesterday.  It’s sitting at the foot of my bed now with my grandmother’s quilt folded on it looking lovely and nostalgic.  I also hung the cross stitch of 1Corinthians 13 beside my bed.  It is taking a good deal of self-restraint not to get on line immediately and order the curtains I have picked out for my room.  They’re Victorian reproductions in a pattern called “floret” and they’re dainty and beautiful.

I suppose I should go do something busy and improving, or at least pray, but all I seem to be capable of these last two days is wandering around fluffing my house.  Lord knows it needs it.  I probably vacuumed miles of spider webs out of the windows yesterday.  I have never lived in a home so infested with tunnel web spiders!

Lisa 2 (Janeofalltrades) commented yesterday that I shouldn’t let my children tell me what to do (by which I presume she means order me out of bed and drag me blueberry picking at 7a.m.)and that I should remind them who God’s delegated authority in our home is.  The problem is that I am generally so taffy-headed that the children need to tell me what to do.  They are quite used to asking things like, “Mom, isn’t that where we were supposed to turn?” and “Mom, didn’t we forget to do history today?” and  “Aren’t we supposed to be going to dance lessons tonight?”

The keyword to every discipline system I have ever read about is “consistency.”  Everyone on earth, it seems, knows that consistency is the way to raise well-behaved mentally healthy children.  I have tried to be consistent, but only in the most inconsistent way!  I will occasionally announce, with great gravity, that we will from now on do thus and such.  My children slink away knowing that if they behave well for a day or two, I’ll forget the whole thing. And I do, very consistently!

I am not, and have never been, a consistent person.  I do things in great feverish rushes.  I become infected with cleanliness and clean passionately for several hours.  Then, for the next three days, I barely lift a hand.  I do great masses of laundry one day, spend the next day reading three books and practicing piano, pay all the bills at midnight, wake up miserable and tired so I take the children shopping and we buy a weeks worth of food and new socks and underwear for anyone who needs it and fix an enormous supper.  The next day we all do research projects and lots of math… at which point I realized the house is filthy and clean passionately for several hours.

It’s not a well-regulated life, I can see that.  And I can certainly see where we would all benefit from more method and constant application.  I am simply unable to do it.  My mother tried for eighteen years to straighten me out, and if I have managed to arrive at the age of 35 without being straightened, well, I’m afraid I’m hopelessly crooked.  My children, like theater children, will just have to scramble up as best they can on irregular hours, famine or feast, and inconsistencies of every kind.

Fortunately the little wretches seem to thrive on it.  This is possibly due to another bit of child-rearing advice I did take very much to heart.  One child-raising book I read said that when dealing with toddlers you should try to say “Yes” as much as possible.  If the child wants to blow bubbles, you shouldn’t say “No, not right now,” you should say, “Yes, as soon as we finish picking up.”  Or if they ask for a cookie, instead of “No, it’s 6 a.m.!  Have some eggs!”  you should say, “Yes, you can have one right after lunch.”  Of course, there are times you simply must say no, and I do.  But whenever possible, I try to say yes.  I started this when Donal was two, and nine years later I think I just forgot to quit.

If my child wants to fingerpaint, my son wants to research Koalas on the internet, my daughter wants to braid my hair, my two-year-old wants to blow bubbles in the bath, my 5-year-old wants some rubber bands, my husband wants to buy a motorscooter, my mom wants me to come see her, my friend wants to meet for a playdate, my daughter wants a slumber party, my children decide it would be fun to hold a back yard fair… I try not to reflexively yell “NO!!!”  I stop and think.  Would it hurt anyone?  Or interrupt something critical?  Or would it just be a little messy, troublesome, and not quite what I had planned?  If it’s the latter, I try to be flexible.  I say yes when I might want to say no.  And most of the time, it turns out to be fun.

So yes, between me wandering around with my head in the clouds, to use my mom’s phrase, and the kids feeling free to try and start their own projects going, I guess our house is a little messy and strange. My children have now turned off the TV.  Brenna and Michael are making musical instruments with tupperware containers and rubber bands.  Patrick has gotten out a roll of sewing ribbon and is experimenting threading it through the hinges and latches of the sewing cabinet door, and Donal is watching his lava lamp and working on a detective story he’s writing about a dog named Holmes.  Meanwhile, I have finished my roses.  They turned out well.

Hopefully the kids will, too.

Early Morning Blueberries

11 08 2008

Michael woke up this morning bright and early, meaning he was very bright and the morning was very early, and came into my room.  His first demand was breakfast, which my wonderful, never-to-be-sufficiently-praised husband supplied.  I took two maximum strength tylenol and went back to bed, because I woke up with a nasty post-chocolate-induced headache this morning.

It really wasn’t my fault- I invited my husband to sit and watch The Mask of Zorro with me last night (the ultimate cheap date- checked the movie out from the library and sent the kids to bed early!) and he went to the grocery store and brought back cookies and ice cream and Fritos for movie snacks.  He was very secretive about this.  He wouldn’t let me help carry in the groceries and told me to set up the living room while he put them away.   During the prison scene, the timer beeped, and a few minutes later he presented me with a plate of hot cookies arranged around a pile of Fritos and accompanied by a small bowl of ice cream.  Who says romance is dead?  Eleven years and he’s still trying to fatten me up.

But how many of you married folk realize that when your husband goes to all that trouble, you do NOT say, “No thanks, honey, I’m on a diet,” or “Ooooh, that looks nice, but there’s too much chocolate in that?”  No way!  You praise him to the high heavens and then eat the treat!  (I did pass some of the cookies to the little boys, who were irresistably drawn from their beds by the aroma of warm baked goods.)

So I woke up this morning with a cookie hangover and a five-year-old who was ready to explore, create, build, and motivate.  Before I had my shower he pushed me into my clothes and shoes.  I stalled him long enough to brush my teeth and get my hair out of my face, but Bren had to feed Patrick his breakfast.   Then Mike and I were out the door with a blueberry basket.  “Come ON mom,” he called impatiently, “we’re running late!”

Forget unmade beds, unwashed clothes, unchanged babies… the morning was beautiful.  I don’t think I’ve been out that early in years.  Too many night feedings, too many nightmares, wet beds, and grumpy morning people to motivate.  When I was a child, I used to love to be the first one up and out of the house.  I used to love seeing the dew still on the leaves, each with a tiny sun hanging brilliantly inside the drops.  Everything smells fresh early on- there was a light, moist breeze through woods that will be scorched and hot later today.  It was lovely.

The blueberries were mostly withered and soft, but we found a scant cupful on some late-bearing bushes.  Michael’s voice ran on as steadily and continuously as a mocking bird’s song, talking about different ways to cook blueberries and which berries were the best and who should carry the basket now and who should pick.  He was serious in his command of the expedition, and made sure that I paid attention to his orders.  Twice he accidentally dumped the basket and we had to pick the blueberries up out of the sand, and a couple times I picked ones he deemed were too red and got a lecture on unripe berries.

I finally lured Michael back to the house.  We set the basket on the counter among all the dirty dishes I need to wash this morning, beside the dining room that needs to be swept and wiped and down the hall from several piles of Monday morning laundry that need to be done.  Patrick ran up to me and demanded (loudly) to have his diaper changed and his shoes put on.  Brenna came in with her face like a thundercloud, tattling on her older brother.  I noticed our recently spayed cat was nauseous again and had upchucked on the floor.

Michael, undismayed by all signs of chaos, immediately pulled out the kitchen stool and said, “OK!  Let’s make some ice cream now.  Who will wash the blueberries?”

It’s going to be a long day.

Stop Hunger Now!

9 08 2008

Tonight was the last night of vacation bible school.  As our missions focus, we participated in a program called Stop Hunger Now!  They brought a truck to the church & the kids got to mix up the meals their donations paid for!  One child held a bag under a funnel.  Others took turns pouring in a measure of TVP (texturized vegetable protein), dehydrated vegetables, chicken flavoring powder & vitamins, and rice.  Each bag fed six for 20 cents a meal.

Our children’s competition was hot & heavy, and we ended up collecting money for about 5,000 meals to go to Haiti.  Brenna was a bag-holder, Michael helped scoop ingredients, Donal manned a scale making sure each bag was the correct weight of rice, and I helped a group of Patrick and five other toddlers get most of the ingredients into 25 bags.  Even with a 1to 1 teacher/toddler ratio, an awful lot of stuff flew into the air or landed on the floor.  The kids loved it.

There were children sealing bags, mixing bags, packing bags in boxes, and loading boxes in the truck.  It was an incredible fund-raising experience for children.  It’s so hard for them to see how giving their money helps someone in a far-away country, but tonight they really experienced what missions is all about.  They even got to try some of the rice meal.  It was good enough that even though the kids were also served cupcakes and juice, some of them asked for seconds.

I am really impressed with our children’s pastor for coming up with this fabulous missions idea.  Go Karen!!

Monday Night

6 08 2008
Michael in a big bubble at bible school

Michael in a big bubble at bible school