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Showing posts from 2009

Big Yellow Rain Boots

Charlie snuck out to the forbidden boxes in the garage, the ones holding the off-season clothes, the shoes, and his favorite, the boot box. "Charlie, put those back! You don't need them!"

He lifted his serious chocolate eyes to my stern face, "But I do need them, Mom." And I gave in until he peeled them off his feet and slam dunked them down in the back hall. Then I pounced and returned them righteously to their allotted storage box. We played this sneaking/pouncing game for weeks. Charlie won. The garage is a long way from the shoe shelf in the back hall. Plus, Charlie was right; he did need those boots. Turns out they are an integral part of his vivid imagination.





Charlie as Boromir.



Charlie as Paddington Bear.

Charlie as The Knight Whose Boots Always Squeak



Yellow boots are for bunnies too. This is Charlie's newest stuffed animal, Peter. No, not Peter Rabbit. Peter Jackson. So how 'bout you? Do you have a kid with a vivid imagination and a great prop or tw…

Moth to Flame

Stuart is in and out these days. New job. Lots of travel. I am intentional about enjoying the time while it passes instead of counting the minutes. We look for shooting stars, go to the movies, camp in the backyard. Six of us in a four man tent. I read aloud by flashlight and a moth flutters to the light. Faith flutters to the moth, tripping over heads and legs, a hypnotic look in her eye. She falls down laughing. We laugh too.

And the next morning, we sit in a row, new Bibles in our laps, highlighters in hand outlining the Roman road. Good for the kids to know the verses that define their faith. But the reason for this? Next week we are to take these shiny Bibles and hit the streets during the church hour... ring doorbells and flash highlighted words at unsuspecting residents. A sneaky plan. Who would suspect a Baptist at their door on a Sunday during the church hour? We shift in our chairs and squirm through the altar call and bolt for the door at the last amen.

The weather declares…

Life After Death

A hot breeze blows in the shade under the maple tree where I sand away the stain and varnish from Stuart's boyhood bed. Bits blow and stick and soon I'm covered with reddish dust. It's a good day for dust. I work and listen for the sound of Stuart's tires in the driveway. Dread hearing tires. Dread where they will take me in an hour.

Charlie chatters while I sand. His words come dimly. "How old is this bed, Mama?"

I push away black cloud. "It's old, Charlie. It was your papa's bed when he was a boy."

"How old is your car?"

"Old as far as cars go. About as old as Lauren." I sand until tires crunch gravel and then I put the bed back in the garage and rinse off dust and switch shorts for dress. The tires carry us away.

And too soon I stand in front of the husk of a girl. Young, not old. Younger than our car. A smidge younger than Lauren. A beautiful, beautiful girl... in spirit and in body. I hold her Mama hard and the tears come…

Impossibilities

Come. I've moved aside some selfishness to make a bit of room for You, here in my heart.Come. Join us at the breakfast table. When I remember You, we'll crack open your Word and search for treasure. When I remember.I remember until a fork clatters to a stop in front of me and then I forget. YOU DO NOT THROW SILVERWARE! SET THIS TABLE LIKE A LADY! I toss the fork back and it hits a water glass, and water and ice cubes spill out.The silverware tosser bursts into tears and loud cries, and I hear the words of my heart voice, Your voice, "That's not My way." And it's not. I dry tears and mop water and fill the glass again.Come, heart dweller. Sit with me on the sofa. Feel the press of a warm, wiggly little boy body. Listen to the story sounds and the giggles and the "Read Move Over Rover again, Mama."Hear the interruption, "I can't find my spelling book."And my irritation, "I am tired of looking for your school books! When you are done…

The Transformation of John: Part One

One cannot come face to face with Jesus without either yielding to him or rejecting him. When one chooses to yield, transformation takes place. Paul offers the flashiest example of transformation in the New Testament but all who believe in Jesus are changed. I was looking for this as I read through John’s Gospel. I kept wondering, How did a fisherman learn to write like this? Why did God choose him? Who was this man? How did his encounter with Jesus change John? And because I wondered I searched for answers.
THE BAD NEWS: JOHN’S ORIGINAL NATURE

AMBITIOUS: This story found in Matthew 20 reveals that John was ambitious to be a prominent figure in Jesus’ kingdom. It also reveals that his idea of God’s kingdom and reality were entirely different.

Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. "What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at y…

Day One: Charlie's Comfort

Part One: Calico Boy

At the last minute, I thought to dash back into the house to grab a pillow and blanket and this turned out to be providential.

Charlie rode to the pediatricians propped on John's shoulder, blanket in his lap. In the waiting room, he lay over two chairs, pillow under head, warm and cozy. The blanket covered all of him on the examining table except for one arm. This he had to expose to the vampires. "Don't hurt me. Don't pinch me! Don't!" Two pinches later, they had a small teaspoon of my son.

He rested, head on pillow, and looked over my shoulder at the pages of Frog and Toad while we waited for the results. White count quite elevated. Strep...negative. Mono...negative. Leukemia...possible but unlikely. He needs anibiotics via i.v. Take these admission papers; the hospital is waiting for him.

Blanket protected Charlie from drenching sky as I carried him to the car. One of the girls carried his pillow. Quick phone call to Stuart. "Meet us.…

More, Please?...Here You Go

So you want to know about the fairy house?  I noted your curiosity and dashed into the rain, camera in hand, to shoot another photo minus the cat.  See the sweet little walkway of tiny stones that the girls laid out?  The tiny lantern has a solar powered battery so it gives a wee glow when the sun goes down. 


Faith had her birthday all planned out, "Binoculars and an alarm clock, please."  We purchased and wrapped and were good to go when one morning I was flipping through the Plow and Hearth Catalog and spied these fairy accessories.  A bit of internal tug of war...  We already have her presents.  She doesn't really need this.  It's not like she can play with it... but  fifteen minutes later the goods were on their way to our front door.  Faith LOVES fairies.  She still plays the fairy game.  Now she has a door to deposit her minature delicacies at.  (No matter that we see the cat walking away licking her whiskers.)

We are on the hunt for tiny shade loving plants t…

The Backyard

The gorgeous weather draws us out of our cave. We wile away the hours in our backyard...


...sunning...
(Allegra stretches out in front of Faith's birthday present.)

... playing...
(This photo shows only a fraction of the graffiti explosion on our back patio.)

...working...
(Lauren and John dump six hundred pounds of salt into the pool.)

...working and playing?!
(Kaya is all the rage with the younger set.)

Bad Theology

We had to backpedal and find an easier children's Bible for Charlie because the Children's Story Bible is beyond his depth and breadth of knowledge. Still, he listens in when I read to Claire and Faith, "I know about those, Mama," he tells me as I read the story of the pillar of cloud and fire. "A firepillar is like a firefly."

Right...like this firepillar?


And for his own Bible time with his easy Bible story book, I point to Adam and Eve and ask, "Who are these people?" to which I receive this confident reply:

"That's Adam and Jamie "

10:30 Tuesday Night

It's almost summer.  Or maybe it already is summer because the kids have been swimming every day this week.  Time for school to wind down?  Not for us.  We're picking up the pace and buckling down.  For some reason we always get more school done in the summer than we do any other time of the year.

The kids have been busy with a new language arts program and a new approach to handwriting.  (More on these soon.)  Lauren is obsessedwith biology.  We work in the gardens and she holds out specimens to the girls, "Look!  It's a gastropod."  Or, "Come see this wood louse!"


 I introduced Claire and Faith to long division this afternoon.  This evening the children worked on art projects and played with a pile of hand-me-down stuffed animals while I read Great Expectations aloud to them. 

At ten I closed the book and after a quick candlelight question, sent the children off to bed.  At 10:15 Lauren came to get me so I could correct her science test.  She was too…

The Milk Safari

At our house, at any given time, we are either almost out of milk or all out of milk. Lauren phoned during the appetizer portion of Stuart's birthday date to let us know that the current milk status was nil. After we finished up dinner, Stuart and I went, hand in hand, on the milk safari.

We made it safely past the patio furniture and the tiki bar and the summer dishware to the farthest corner of the store. Two gallons of milk in hand, we made the trek back through the financial death traps, cursing store planners and their wily skills. We almost made it out of Kroger's with just the milk when I spotted the Butterfinger eight pack.

The self-checkout aisle beckoned and because Stuart was with me and doesn't have the same issues with self-checkout bagging that I seem to have, we sallied forth to make our purchase.


I scanned the first gallon.

"Please place your item in the bagging area." Cinderella's stepmother spoke to us in her pleasant yet condescending tone.


History Repeats Itself

Once there was a little boy. A mischievous little boy with a wind-up car. He took that car, wound it up and drove it into his sister's hair.

The little boy grew up and had a girl and he told her the story about the car and the hair. "That car turned your Aunt Ellen's hair into a rat's nest. A regular rat's nest your granny would say. I made a hell of a mess! They had to cut that car out of her hair."

The girl grew up and had a little boy. A mischievous little boy with a wind-up car. He took that car, wound it up and drove it into his sister's hair...

Mr. Morse and Mr. Gilbreth

Stuart rang this morning, "Have you seen the Google homepage yet?"

We had. John did a little Gollum dance in front of the computer to let us know. "Come quick! Hurry!"



Morse code. The kids all joined John in his little Gollum dance to celebrate their new favorite form of communication.

We read Cheaper by the Dozen a few years ago when the little ones were too little so, my chore time pep talks, "Frank Gilbreth would roll over in his grave if he saw you clearing that table one plate at a time," only generated blank stares. Finally, after Mr. Gilbreth came up for the twentieth time Faith got curious. "WHO is Frank Gilbreth and WHY do you keep talking about him?"

Out came Cheaper by the Dozen . We rolled our way through the chapters, holding our sides. A story of a motion study pioneer who practiced his techniques on himself and his supersized family with hilarious results. A born teacher, a man who made the most of his time. We were spellbound. When w…

Peppers and Pigeons

They stand, the one born in 2000 and the one born in 2001, side by side at the kitchen counter chopping up peppers for the freezer. This is new for these young hands and the work goes slowly. To pass the time they discuss their favorite subject, science. Tonight extinct birds are on the menu.



"Mom, did you know that there used to be such a thing as dodo bird?"

"Yes, but now they are extinct."

"Yeah and there is a kind of pigeon that is extinct too."

"You're thinking of passenger pigeons."

"Yeah, passenger pigeons. The last one was shot by a fourteen year old boy and now it is in a museum." Claire slices methodically.

"Oh, I didn't know that." I say while corraling chopped bits of pepper in plastic wrap.

"Yup. A kid the same age as John killed it. I wonder if he went to jail?"

Faith wields her knife like a sword. I try not to look. "The last pigeon died a long time ago. A long, long time ago. Like in the…

A Chompo Bar for Lauren

Charlie and I went to the book store to get Lauren a study Bible for her twelfth birthday. I laid the Bible on the checkout counter when Charlie came to a realization, "That present is from you and Papa. I want to get Lauren a present from me!" Perhaps the array of candy right at his eye level helped his line of thinking but at any rate I could tell by the enthusiasm in Charlie's voice that we could not leave without a present just from him.

"OK. What do you think Lauren would like?"

"How 'bout these chocolates?"

"Lauren doesn't really like chocolate."

"How 'bout these chocolates?"

"I repeat, Lauren doesn't like chocolate."

"Oh. Then these. What are these?"

"Cinnamon candies. I think they might be too spicy. How about this?" I held up a roll of Orange Creme Life Savers."

He studied the wrapper with great deliberation. "That's not shareable. I want to get something to share."

&…

Spelling Wisdom

One day while skipping around the internet, I came across these:




And when I clicked on the sample, I knew we had to change spelling curriculums. Again. Goodbye Spelling Power and MacMillan and Sequential Spelling! We've found our true love.

The problem with the afore mentioned curricula is sheer boredom. Memorizing lists of words is mind numbing and as my children don't like their school work to lull them to sleep, they often push spelling to the side in favor of more exciting lessons.

When I found Spelling Wisdom, I realized what has been missing: an idea, something to engage the mind so that learning the difference between than and then occurs almost incidentally.

Sandra Shaffer uses the writings of famous men and women (Helen Keller, Beethoven, Winston Churchill...), Bible passages and quotes from quality literature...poems and novels (Robinson Crusoe, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, All the World's a Stage...) to teach more than six thousand frequently used word…

Joe

We drive home; groceries spill out of bags; wipers slap raindrops and Kirk Douglas is on stage remembering his father in Before I Forget. He talks slowly, fighting stroke-impaired muscles to transfer thought to voice. (Here I paraphrase.) "My father wasn't around much when I was a boy," he says. "When we moved, he chose not to come along. But once, when I was five, I was in a play and my dad came to see me. He didn't say anything about my performance but after the show was over, he bought me an ice cream cone and that, that was my Oscar."

The wipers slap, a spearmint plant slides off the front seat and I calculate the years. Ninety-two minus five. Eighty-seven years. Eighty-seven years later Kirk Douglas remembers the one time he knew he mattered to his dad. I drive by the Gas and Go where the men loiter with bottles wrapped in paper bags. I drive through the section of town where men sit on porches. All day they sit, play cards. I drive past the school wher…

That I Might Not Sin

"Here, John, take these words, go sit down at the keyboard and see what you can do with them."

We fall short when it comes to scripture memory. The older kids spent a few years competing in Bible Drill...a big event in these parts...but eventually they decided that their accomplishments and trophies were only building up their pride, not their hearts, so we dropped it. And after that we didn't bother to commit anything to heart.

And there is this: I have a battle with my tongue. Sharp, ugly words bubble over at the slightest provocation. Faith has decided to take me on during our prayer times. "Please help Mama not to swear. Please help Mama to use good words." (Nothing like seeing that in black and white!) Something has to be done and since the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart, we tackle the heart of the problem.



John takes the verse and sits down at the keyboard and whips up a tune to go with the words. His work is beautiful! We gather in his bedroom…

Setting the Table

Growing up with seven brothers, a pretty table was only for special occasions so it was a novelty to pull out the placemats and candles for every meal when Stuart and I were first married. Then we had children. Getting dinner on the table became an accomplishment unto itself and the placemats went by the wayside. Spilled milk and sippy cups took their place. Pans went straight from stove to table between the milk jug and ketchup bottle. I didn't mind. We were eating.

But we're well past the sippy cup stage and meal time has remained akin to feeding animals at the zoo and I've felt the need to encourage manners. It's hard to do that when the table looks like a cafeteria so we've made a few changes.
Milk goes from plastic to pitcher. Condiments are served in little glass bowls and the meal is ladled into serving dishes. It feels less like a commercial when the table is word free. Cream looks like art in glass. Much better than in its blue cardboard containe…

Good Books

A few weeks ago I read this statement from a fellow homeschooling blogger, "We have a big stack of Mike Venezia books from the library at the moment and I don’t have to “make” the kids read them; they just do (quite often when they are supposed to be doing something else." This intrigued me. Mike Venezia is the author of several series of books, among them, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists and Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers. We've been busy painting and composing here so I have been feeling like a little art and music history might be in order. And here was an endorsement about books that are so good they magnetically attract children away from other tasks. I had to check them out.

So, I went to the library, the big library, and found the skinny art section. Two books on photography, one on origami, and...and that was all. I did the next best thing, grabbed up my free Amazon coupons and Lauren helped me decide which ten books to …

The Big Snow

John comes into our bedroom after midnight. "It's snowing!"

We have a hard time working up much enthusiasm on account of the late hour and the fact that southern snow is just a tease. We're New Yorkers and haven't seen a good snow in all the years we've lived south of Mr. Mason Dixson. "Go back to bed," Stuart grumbles at John and we scooch together and sleep.

This morning, I feel around the nightstand for glasses and stumble groggy from bedroom past white windows. White. Snow stayed and piled up. Piled up.



"Stuart! Stuart!" I shake him frantically out of sleep. Get the camera! It snowed! I'm going to wake up kids." He looks at me with squinty eyes like I've lost my mind but moves quick for one woken rudely out of sound sleep.

The kids pile out of their beds and put on woefully inadequate snowgear; they wade into snow and troll puddles for it has rained nearly half a foot in the last few days. They forgo breakfast for time is shor…

Pray

There must be more than two hundred of them standing side by side at long padded tables. Children flailing handbells, banging out forte through the mezzo piano section. This side of the room a measure ahead of the other. Eager beavers jumping in a beat too soon, tortoises clanging a beat behind. They forge ahead and eventually music is rung out of chaos. A little music.


Then it is prayer time. Time for prayer because we didn't before and the concert is minutes away.
"Lord, creator of all that is beautiful, it is the desire of our hearts to do our best (Heavy emphasis on the do our best part.) that we may be pleasing to your ears. Help us to be pleasing to your ears."

A rough paraphrase but you get the idea.



And another performance. Play practice, hours on the stage. We push through rehearsals with the tech guys, with missing cast members, dance steps uncertain and lines unsure. We muscle through this gauntlet of misteps and misfortune by sheer willpower and we do not pray.…

Fractions Make Friends

We sit side by side at the table, uncommon fare on our plates, hotdogs and Sun Chips. Stuart's chips are gone. No problem, mine are close at hand. His hand reaches over and he snitches! He snitches just one but just one is not enough so, by and by his hand is back again. And again! I say nothing the first time or the second. What are two chips between husband and wife? But as he reaches for the third chip, I lean my body over to shield my plate. I laugh and he laughs and then he makes off with that third chip. "Get your own!" I gripe and he does, but honestly...How hard would it have been to share?

Today I do math with little girls. Division with fraction remainders.

"How many times does three go into twenty. Use your rods. How many ten rods do you need?"
"Two."
"How many three rods line up under the ten rods."
""Six."
"So does three go into twenty evenly?"
"No, there is a little space left."
"What rod fits in…

For All You Librarian Types

Our books are aranged on set of shelves alphabetically by the author's last name. This is a blessing and a curse, a blessing because I can locate Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel in five seconds and a curse because the books must be returned to their proper place in order for this system to work. It is hard for the little ones to figure out how to reshelve so up 'til now they have taken out books and then returned them to the top of the shelf when they are finished for me to take care of when I have a few minutes.

I grabbed the camera and ran down the hall to record our pile of books to be shelved. Unfortunately, it was not very impressive. Some days I have a towering, leaning stack that threatens to topple and takes forever to put away.


In my forays around the web, I came across an idea from the blog Se7en.org that offered the perfect solution to my dilemma. This is why we painted yesterday. We were making book markers or more accurately book shelf markers.
The idea is this: E…

Creative Minds

The kids and I took a creativity quiz the other day and the results were completely predictable. My artists were crowned Hands On and my "Box? What Box?" thinkers were deemed Bright Sparks.

This comes to mind because today we painted.

"You can only paint on these rectangles of paper and you can only use blue and green. (I'm going through a color coordinating phase.) Other than that, you may paint any way you choose."
Charlie immediately got to work and slopped some paint on his paper. He was fascinated with the way the paint swirled through the water when he rinsed his brush. John and Faith painted with exuberance and speed. They were more into the process than results and happily swirled and spattered. Then they ran off to play chess leaving Lauren and Claire at the table. These two continued with their pencils and brushes for another hour.
And the purpose of all this? That has to do with my results from the creativity test. As an Eyes Wide Open thinker I don't…

He Loves, He Loves, He Loves

How does Godlove? Set aside a few minutes this busy love day and count ways...

ABUNDANTLY: You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you." Psalm 86:5


EXTRAVAGANTLY: Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." Psalm 36:5


SECURELY: How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7


PATIENTLY: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8


FAITHFULLY I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. Psalm 89:2


ETERNALLY: For great is your love toward me, you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. Psalm 86:13


COMPLETELY: Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13


PERFECTLY: A new command I give to you, love one another, even as I have loved you that you love one another. John 13:34



To you who are family...or frie…