Friday, February 27, 2009

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.


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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.


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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. Until Friday, because the performance is Sunday and suddenly we realize, This thing is a disaster. We can't do this on our own. God, help!

And today. A screaming fit, a little from the children, a lot from me. And suddenly I realize, (at 1:00 pm) I can't muscle these kids to obedience and the praying that I did yesterday isn't going to cut it for today. I can't do this on my own. God help! And right then, midbellow, I change direction and we bow our heads (Well, I don't because I'm driving) and do the thing that should have been done first when our feet hit the floor this morning.

Three hundred sixty-five. The number of times pray shows up when I type it into the keyword search on BibleGateway. Three hundred sixty-five. Pray continually. Pray fervently. Get up and pray.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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.

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"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 that space?"

"The two fits."

"That's right. So is the answer six-two?"

"No, Mama! It's six and two parts of three. Six and two over three. Six and two thirds!" This stuff is easy for Faith.

Claire looks a little confused.

"Do you understand the two thirds part? It's a fraction. Do you remember what a fraction is?"
Confusion still clouds her face. "It is a part of a whole. Remember last night when we had two cookies, two wholes and you broke them into five pieces? You were making fractions."

The clouds lift. She gets it. "And we were making friends, Mama. Fractions and friends."

She does this math lesson better than I. The cookie scene replays in my mind while we work our way through the numbers. Two lonely cookies on a big plate, stale, leftover from Valentine's Day. "Whoever frosted these cookies come and eat them, they are taking up too much real estate on the counter." The children gather, all five, to look. Rightful owners claim the goods. Without a word, they begin breaking apart their creations into equal pieces. Five children share two stale cookies. This part of my children astonishes me. They hold lightly to possessions and share freely, frequently. All are better at fractions than their hoarding mama with her chips. And all are friends.

Friday, February 20, 2009

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.

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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.

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The idea is this: Every time a child wants to remove a book from the shelf, he must first grab a marker. He pulls out the book and inserts his marker in the book's place. He may only read one book at a time and must return his book to the marked place before he can pull out another book.

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Now, instead of the Leaning Tower of Literary, I have a neat basket of color coordinating cards.

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I love ideas that contribute to easy organization and independence and this one is surely a winner!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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.

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"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.
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John and Faith painted with exuberance and speed. They were more into the process than results and happily swirled and spattered.
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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.
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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 spontaneously generate fresh ideas like my Bright Sparks do and art doesn't flow from my finger tips like my Hands On kids but I know an good idea when I see one. These photos are the beginning of a new system that we are incorporating. Details to follow.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

He Loves, He Loves, He Loves

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Valentine Spread
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 friend...or faithful reader...we wish you were here to celebrate this day with us. We love you. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pretty

The daffodils are so restful to look at that they got me thinking about a post my sister wrote a while back about bits of pretty in the midst of swirling activity. Today I pick up my camera and zoom in to obscure art projects, groceries and dirty dishes to bring you little oases of pretty in my living space.

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Nothing I like better than the clean, uncluttered look of a few flowers (albeit artificial) above the kitchen sink. I also love the Willow Tree figurines on the shelf...their peaceful, natural colors and the way emotion is communicated through gesture.

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The kitchen table at five thirty. We always light the oil lamps at dusk and the house settles into the slower evening pace. All day my eyes are drawn to the bright colors in the glass bowl.

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The coffee table has been scattered all winter with a thousand pieces of different puzzles. Our current project....American Maritime History. The kids work as I read aloud. Sometimes I join them. Cozy, all together.

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Another restful spot in the kitchen. Flour and whole grains echo countertop colors.

So what about you? What is pretty where you live?

For the Winter Weary

I feel a bit left out in the winter when bloggers post gorgeous winter pictures.  Smallville gets some cold days but the mound of leaves on the pool cover, the puddle at the end of the driveway... and brown, everywhere brown do not make interesting subjects for the camera.

But spring comes and it is my turn to share beauty as snow slushes in the north. Seventeen last week, seventy this weekend.  Peepers roar from the ponds and the puddles and a warm wind blows.  The forsythia buds ...

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...and the daffodils burst forth through the brown leaves and light a spark in the brown woods.
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Hang on, you who are winter weary...spring is just around the corner.
Daffodils

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Instructions for Water Morons

When we replaced our fridge this summer we deliberately opted out of the water on the door option. The children slop and drop and we end up with our own personal swamp oozing down the door and into a puddle on the floor. We thought we'd forgo that this time around.

Stuart has an affinity for cold water so he set up a two container system in the fridge. For some reason this works. The children can use these without spilling but they still haven't quite got the system down. This bothers John to no end. I'll let the sign he duct taped to the containers explain how it works:

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ATTENTION Lackwits and Laggards! THIS and only THIS water container shall be used until empty. Whoever empties it or notices that it is empty shall move this sign to the other container and then refill the empty container and return it to the refrigerator.
~The Water Nazi