Thursday, January 31, 2013

Handicrafts class...

Every week I have a few families over for either art or handicrafts. This week was handicrafts, and for months and months we have been working on hand sewing. The boys have been content to work alongside the girls but I have really wanted to be able to start the girls on their project and split the boys off to do something more manly.

During the Fall we did a different activity every time we met, honing skills but having short projects that the kids could use and keep so they would be enthusiastic about class. However, this Spring I have shifted gears and we are working on a longer project that we will give away. The girls will be working on hand sewing a quilt which we will then turn into a baby blanket to give away to a baby in the NICU (helps to have a dad of some of the students who is a Neonatologist). I read a book about a quiltmaker, The Quiltmaker's Gift, and the girls started working.

The boys were taken to the dining room and we started the first ever manly craft - Paracord Survival Keychains. I had all the boys' attention as I showed them how to measure, cut and burn the ends to prevent unraveling. What boy doesn't love seeing things burn?!?! (Of course, we discussed that children should never play with fire... without a parent close by anyway.) Once each boy had chosen their color, the knotting began. And here was the result...

The girls are begging me to teach them. I told them no. I have really struggled to find handicrafts for the boys. The girls have knitting, crocheting, embroidery, hand sewing, machine sewing, beading, etc. The boys have whittling and now this. I told one near-teary girl that I would show her how to make something like this with hemp and beads, but I am saving the paracord for the boys. I said I would buy pink and purple and let their brothers make them gifts. :)

Each of these can be unraveled and the cord is rated to hold 550lbs of pressure. One of the boys said they were going to ask their dad to fall into a ditch so they could rescue him. Of course, one of my boys wanted to use it for a whip. I vetoed that idea. I was excited that they seemed to enjoy themselves so much. Next time we meet (if I can find the clips) we will be making two-color survival bracelets.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A little project...

When our kids play, they play hard. It is a joy to watch them live life to the full. So full, they usually end up wearing holes in the knees of their pants from seam to seam. Usually I groan at the thought that new jeans will have to be purchased. If it is summer we might cut them off at the hole and let them have some shorts for the warmer weather. But holes in winter aren't conducive for staying warm.

So, one week as I was folding laundry after bedtime, I decided to pull out the worn out pants. I got this idea to deconstruct the jeans, keeping the intact portions to use for a quilting project. Now, don't be impressed, I don't actually know how to quilt, but I thought it might make a fun, sturdy, family picnic blanket and it would preserve a little bit of our kids' childhood... Or at least some of their clothes.

The last few nights I have been taking jeans apart, cutting them along the seams. As soon as I am done with my little stack, I will tackle the next part... Learning how to quilt. This should be fun...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It all began with chalkboards...

Years and years and years ago, my friend's husband and his little sister had come up with this really cool project to help raise money for the youngest sibling's college fund. Somewhere a large pile of old cabinet fronts was found, then a big can of chalkboard paint was purchased, and a small, family-run enterprise was born. Ok, not really, but they made a ton of chalkboards and did sell some. I had always wanted to buy one but could figure out where I would put it, or what size I would need, or if I would actually ever use it because of all the chalk dust... so, I never did anything about it.

Years have passed, enough for my friend's youngest sister-in-law to complete college and be out in "the real world" for a couple more too. And I am still thinking about those chalkboards... yes, really, still. So, I sheepishly ask if she has any. I probably would have never asked, but she posted a picture of her shed on her blog with comments about clearing stuff out. And she had some. And she wanted to get rid of them. I was giddy! So we picked a day for the pick-up.

Between us, we have 9 children. So, the inevitable happened and our scheduled pick-up date was rescheduled due to the busyness of life, and childhood communicable diseases. In fact, I think we had exchanged a number of texts about it, coming to no real arrangement. Then, last week as I was driving to the hospital to hang out with my new-baby-having-friend, I realized I would be driving right past my chalkboard-friend's house on my way back home later and asked if I could stop in.

Me: Just curious... are you going to be home this afternoon?
Friend: Yes. Do you want to peek at the chalkboards? FYI - pink eye is moving through the kids
Me: (long pause and deep breaths, reminding myself of God's Sovereignty over bacteria) Chalkboards - yes! And since I am kid-free the pink eye doesn't scare me as badly. :)

When I left the hospital, I sent a note that I was on my way. I expected a short stop, so I let the kids (and my mother-in-law) know I was headed home. Imagine my surprise when I knocked on the door and was greeted by friends who are missionaries in Mexico City (they are related to my chalkboard-friend)! My friend is saying, "I just love surprises!" while I reeled in shock and tried to catch up on two years in under 10 minutes. They had made an impromptu trip to town for some legal paperwork and from landing to leaving were here for a total of like 36 hours.  Upon hearing this, I began thanking the Lord for keeping me from overreacting about the pink eye and missing such a sweet time!

You see, both these friends inspire me to live for Jesus right where I am... their photography inspires me to not forget to capture the moments and not just the portraits... I love listening to them as they transparently shares joys and struggles... these are friends who can make you feel like you are the only person in the room...

So, after a whirlwind catch-up, I get back down to business about gathering the chalkboards. As we traverse through the shed, we soon come to realize that most of the chalkboards that are left were used when one of the sisters in this awesome family got married a couple of years ago. I was suddenly inspired to make my missionary friends pose with their sign before I got it home and erased a small piece of their family history.

A little more fellowship, a coffee made to go, and I was on my way. The whole time we were visiting my missionary friend was snapping photos of life as it happened all around. I tend to avoid being captured on film, but made an impulsive decision to not let this little moment slip away undocumented just because I have never lost that 40lbs. So, a few quick shots just to remember the day and goodbyes...


So, starting my drive home after my surprise delay, I get a call from my husband who is almost home. Apparently, everyone at home was growing concerned that I had not yet reached home. I looked at the clock and couldn't believe all that had passed in only 30 minutes. I apologized for not letting them know of the delay and promised they would be happy with the reason. And they were as they passed around my phone to see the photos. :)

For a week the chalkboards sat...

Until today. Now all I need is chalk...

Noah writes a poem...

The Setting Sun 
by: Noah Franklin

The setting sun
shows that you've had fun,
and the day is ending,
maybe you've been climbing
or reading,
maybe even doing crafts.
But the day is done,
and you've had fun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Not just good coffee...

... pretty coffee...

Fire-breathing Dragon for E... Chocolate Flower Blossom for Me
Want your own latte art? Go here:

Gruene Grind Coffee Co.
2348 Gruene Lake Dr. Ste. B
New Braunfels, TX 78130

A flock of little birdies...

Two years of teaching a little art class... and this is probably one of the first times I have remembered to actually take photos of the final projects... here they are...

Faith (L) and Hannah (R) - Perfect color selections to use as decorations in their rooms.
Grace (L) and Caleb (R) - this was huge for Caleb, he sat attentively and worked so hard on his bird. He forgot to outline it in Sharpie pen so it ended up lost under the water color, but I was just THRILLED that he was participating happily!
Micah (L) and Noah (R) - Micah just painted over one I had drawn in pencil... he started painting before I could help him outline it. He was happy and busy, so it was perfect.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A little birdie...

Tomorrow afternoon my little art class will meet. I am sometimes a little last minute in getting around to planning my lessons. This time, I had been inspired by a post at Art Projects for Kids and knew what I wanted to do. I am going to have the kids play "follow the leader" and they will need to complete each step as I reveal it.

If there is anything that I have learned from the last two years of teaching this little art class, it is that children need to see an example of what they are going to be doing. So, as I gathered supplies, I also made an example. I hope the children think it is as fun tomorrow as I thought it was tonight.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A morning well spent...

Two years ago we were studying Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Apologia Elementary Science Series) and we joined some friends who were in a Young Birder's Club to be a hands-on application for learning. We ended up falling in love with being out in God's Creation and learning about the fascinating study of birds - the verses from the Bible about God's care for the birds, and more so us, come rushing into my mind every time we go on a bird walk. Long since we finished our year studying all things that fly, we have remained in the birding group and spent one Saturday morning a month with our birding people.

Our official meeting was last week, and it was fun. However, not everyone in our family is old enough for the actual meeting, so the two little boys stayed at home for some Daddy time. Noah has been complaining lately, saying he hates birding and that it is boring. I prayed about it, because I don't want him to discount an activity all together just because it stretches him, but once I considered that he had attended two years worth of meetings with a relatively good attitude, I decided that when Elliott could be home I wouldn't make him go. He was thrilled to have a morning with Dad and his brothers in place of little feathered friends.

If I had to guess, and I am sure if I asked Noah for specifics, Noah's dislike is not about the birds themselves. He actually gets just as excited about a new find as the rest of us. What bothers him is the being quiet. Since his early days of life, quiet has never been a word to describe him. At 3 years old, we actually were concerned he was deaf because he was so loud, we thought maybe he couldn't hear and was compensating with volume. The walks are also slow. You take your time, usually discussing habitats or things to look for and field markings on what we have seen. Noah doesn't do slow. He is happiest when he is blazing down our street standing on his bike or running laps in the backyard. He enjoys roller coasters that make your stomach flip, they make life go at his speed. When you consider that the expected behavior for birding is quiet and slow, you can imagine his misery.

So, last week was the first time Noah stayed home from a YBC meeting. The girls and I were excited to go and we rode with friends. Once we were there and we met the guest speaker/teacher for this month's meeting I just had to laugh. Mr. Craig is the park interpreter for Guadalupe River State Park, he is a naturalist and really loves birds (he actually has a very special license to band them). And he is loud. And when he goes on bird walks, he moves fast, he even ran up to a little clump of trees at one point, bounding off with excitement at what he saw. One of my friend's girls even said, "We sure are being loud today!" Noah would have loved it!

So, I talked with Craig a little, mentioning my son's aversion to the quiet and slow birding. I couldn't help but smile when he said, "Most real birders don't really like my style, but whoever goes on bird walks with me usually has fun!" I decided that Noah really needed to meet this man! Mr. Craig had done a special bird banding day for our YBC, but this past Saturday was a regular banding event that he does once a month. When I told Elliott about Craig and how I think it would be good for Noah to meet him we decided to make our Saturday morning excursion to attend "A Bird in the Hand".

Noah was first to release a bird. Can you see his smile?
I think he exact words were, "That was awesome!"
Caleb's first bird release, he flew off fast!
Faith has a way with birds... three birds she was able to release, all had to be convinced to leave her hand.
Grace's bird escaped quite quickly...
The teeny-tiny "coffee drinking bird" - a Ruby Crowned Kinglet - one of my favorite birds, a surprise catch in the whisper nets.
Micah got to release my favorite little bird, the bird wanted to stay... I think he wanted to come home with us, he must have heard about our coffee...
Elliott released a Vesper Sparrow
We each got to hear the heartbeat of a little Savannah Sparrow
Craig let Noah put on his little magnifiers to look at some details on the wing... Noah was hooked after this, said he wanted to come every time they do this!
This guy was a freelance photojournalist working on an article for the SA Express News. Craig asked Noah to hand him the White Crowned Sparrow to release.
We had a wonderful family morning together. I was thrilled to see Noah enjoying God's Creation, and I was thankful for God sending Craig to spark an interest in Noah, he was super excited to meet this "loud" birder. And just for fun, the photojournalist took a liking to our little family and interviewed Hannah and I... I can't wait to see his photos.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gonna try...

... to catch up on laundry (having a broken dryer is really impacting my efficiency in this area)...

... to do a better job of photographically chronicling our life (and not just our birding trips)...

... to spend more time out in the front yard with the kids engaging my neighbors (instead of hunkering down on my cozy couch with my yummy coffee)...

... to say yes more to my children's requests to play, read, create (versus coveting a clean floor or a quiet moment)...

... to wake up earlier (which means I will need to go to bed earlier)...

... post at least one photo per blog (a friend sort of challenged me on this, you know who you are)...

... to pray more consistently for Gospel opportunities (like every time I get in my car to go somewhere)...

... to be more real and not let people think I have it all together (for this you may need to show up unannounced and ask to borrow my hallway bathroom, the reality of that room is rather alarming)...

And how is this for real? This is all from one night where all the children bathed...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day ten...

I can hardly believe that the last day of this little challenge is here. And over. I stayed up too late last night, stress and coffee, so I slept in until all the children were up. I had Hannah serve breakfast while I hopped in the shower. My mother-in-law came today to oversee school because my friend needed someone to hang out with her at the hospital while her hubby got some business taken care of.

As soon as I got the children going on their school work I headed out to the hospital. I stopped for a coffee and grabbed a salad for lunch, not knowing the timing of the day ahead. Our kids don't have a cell phone, but my techie husband has my old iPhone set up through a Google number so that the kids can text me over wifi. While we do have a house phone, I have found that questions asked over text seem to get to the point faster, if they call me it takes twenty minutes to get off the phone because everyone wants to talk to me.

I got settled in my friend's room and her husband went off to do his errands and we chatted. And played with baby. We shared life, and we laughed as I received texts from my kids about what lessons they had finished and what they were going to work on next. I was impressed that my children used proper spelling and good punctuation on their texts. Makes a Momma proud. :)

After lunch came for my friend, I pulled the salad I had stowed away in my purse and began a new text-a-thon about lunch plans for home. My mother-in-law was making the kids leftovers in a new way, she really is Super Woman. And she gave them fruit snacks in the afternoon, the children were sufficiently Grandma spoiled. I am so glad she could come, the kids have missed her.

When my bedside friend services were not longer needed (a.k.a. my friend's husband returned) it was late in the afternoon. I said goodbye, and laid the baby down to sleep. As I walked to the shuttle for the parking garage, I texted a friend and asked if I could make a pit stop at her house. We had been trying to connect for a few weeks, she has some chalkboards her husband made out of old cabinet doors years and years ago, and I was wanting to take them off her hands. They were home, and just two blocks off the highway on my way back to my house.

What I thought would be a quick stop in turned into an absolutely unexpected precious visit with friends from far away... but that is for another post. :) Eventually, I gathered up my newly acquired chalkboards and headed home way later than I planned. I learned later that I made my kids worry by not telling them of my unexpected delay. Bad Mommy. However, when I got home and shared with them the reason for the delay there were squeals of joy and my iPhone was passed around for proof while they scrolled through the photos.

The kids showed me their schoolwork (which I have yet to catch up on grading), they also showed me some new tricks in the backyard. I realized that I had not been in the backyard recently, so I declared a doggie poopy pick-up for all the children. I should have been more specific with what to do with their gatherings because once they finished they all paraded their full bags into my living room to show me what a great job they did. I quickly sent them back out and we discovered someone's bag had a hole in it. Sigh. We had an indoor version of the pick-up project and then held a hand washing party.

Elliott orchestrated the kids making individual pizzas for dinner. I started working on the lesson plans for our preschool church time for Sunday. Kids showered. Dinner eaten. We all sat down to watch Undercover Boss, and by the end we were all sobbing. Kids played. I kept working on the preschool lesson. Bedtime routine. Back to preschool lesson. Elliott and I firmed up our plans for the weekend.

And that is it... two weeks of how we school in the moment-to-moment. Admittedly, this last week was unusual in some ways, but not in others... unusual that so many things collided into just a handful of days, but not unusual for us to drop our plans to help our friends in need, which is one of my favorite things about homeschooling. Looking ahead to next week, our schedule looks pretty normal... we shall see what Providence brings. :)

Day nine...

I am starting to feel like I haven't really done justice to this 10-day challenge to share about how we homeschool as this week has found us not doing much schooling, and instead walking through life together... and maybe that is the point.

Today I actually woke up before any of the children (which is a goal and huge accomplishment), however it was not because I put forth any effort, it was because the dryer repairman called to say he would be at my house in 20 minutes. All the children promptly woke up when the repairman rang the doorbell because of the greeting from my two mini-dogs, Mocha and Cinnamon, barking like crazy to protect us from this intruder. The dryer can be fixed. The parts will be here in a week. I took a deep breath and calculated that I will have at least three more Mondays before I get my dryer back. That realization drove me to make coffee.

The kids had breakfast and we talked about our plans for the day... go up the street for Bible study, home to lunch, then to the park for a play date. Elliott was going to meet me at the park to take the kids home so I could go visit my friend in the hospital who had a baby on Wednesday and then go to coffee with a friend. On the books it looked like it would be one of the more simple of our week to this point. And then my phone rang...

My friend who had her baby on Wednesday was on the phone telling that she had experienced a setback in her recovery that morning and wanted me to contact a few people from church for prayer and to let the folks from Sunday School class know. We chatted for a while, the children were playing loudly in the hallway so I went and hid in my bathroom for the phone call. We reminded each other of God's providence and sovereignty as I held back tears and choked back others. The kids were wandering in trying to find out when we were leaving for Bible study, and we did eventually leave but I was in a fog and making more phone calls.

The older kids were tasked with helping keep the youngest kids occupied during the Women's Bible study and we only had a few escapees during the whole two hours, so I consider that a success. I was tending to many texts about my friend as we discussed the topics we would be covering in the coming weeks. I was (and am) really excited about digging into God's Word together, though I was thoroughly distracted about my friend. At the end of Bible study, as we were all gathering children to head home, I got a text that my friend was having more trouble. A gasp and tears escaped me, composing myself enough to drive home, I was praying through every breath.

Lunch I threw in a bag to take to the park. Some days, in the moments of uncertainty, just keeping moving is the best thing. I already knew that I was going to be able to go to the hospital in a few hours, and that other friends were going to be there in the gap, so I felt I needed to keep this commitment for my children. The time at the park was fun for the children, and I had a precious time with the mom. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the park was a perfect break in the day.

Right before Elliott came to pick up the children, so I could go to the hospital, my friend called and I was so happy to hear her voice. She filled me in on the events of the morning and I took her order for coffee that I would soon be delivering. Kids finished playing. Friends said goodbyes. And dad took the kids home for dinner, and Bible time, and bed (from the heaps of laundry on the bathroom floor I am assuming there were also baths).

I had the opportunity to sit with my friend, too sick to hold her baby, and love on her little one. I felt honored to share these early moments with her, and I spent time in silent prayer thanking the Lord for her friendship. I got to feed the baby, change the baby, cuddle the baby; it was a sweet time of fellowship as I stood in the gap until her husband was able to come for the evening.

I checked in at home via text as I left the hospital. All well at home, I moved on to my evening plans of coffee with a friend. I had already rescheduled last week when I thought I was sick (and was actually just crazy exhausted), and was glad to hear she was willing to wait for me. We shared about our days, our weeks, our successes and our struggles. The time was such a blessing, iron sharpening iron, encouraging each other, and remembering the mighty works of the Lord. We got kicked out of Starbucks and shivered in the parking lot for a while before finally parting, though we probably could have filled a few more hours.

And now home, the day's events still swirling in my mind, recalling the many ways that the Lord showed Himself in the details of the day. In the midst of a week that was already reminding me that while man plans his steps, the Lord directs his paths, today was the exclamation point. I am going to bed praying for my friend, and thanking Him for His protection of her. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day eight...

No formal schooling was done today. And it was perfect. It was busy, but the busyness was profitable and would have been impossible without our choice to homeschool.

At 5:45am I welcome my friends and their two children to come in. My dear, sweet friend is having her 3rd child (via a c-section) this morning and I asked to keep the kids so that both moms can be there to be grandmas instead of babysitters. We chat a few minutes, then I usher them out for their drive to the hospital, get their two littles tucked in on the couch and go snuggle back in bed for an hour.

We had the Symphony today, so we needed to be dressed, fed and out of the house by 8:15am at the latest. We had a few delays, people not wanting to sit where they were told to sit, so we finally began driving up the street at 8:20am. Traffic was unusually bad which was causing me a tad bit of stress because I coordinate our homeschool group's attendance at the Symphony, so I try to be there early enough to greet folks. We prayed for a good parking space, one that would save me from walking 8 children ages 11 to 3 across two major roads... God answered our prayers and we got a super close spot under the building we were needing to be in! The symphony was wonderful as always, the San Antonio Symphony does an amazing job with their Young People's Concert Series, we have been going for 10 years and I plan on taking my grandkids someday. No, really, I do. :)

Once we get back out onto the road I check in with my friend, and the baby has arrived and all are doing well! The name revealed, there are cheers and excitement is in the air. When I pull into the Zoo parking lot and announce a short trip in for a lovely picnic, there are more cheers. We eat, I laugh at how many strange looks I am getting and how I can see people actually counting up the children, no one dares to ask if they are all mine... funny, today I could have said no. Ha! We traipse through the Reptile House after we finish eating and load back into the car.

A couple of phone calls later, my friend hasn't made it into her own room yet, so I am keeping her kids a little while longer. Next stop, the grocery store... with 8 children... when I never even take all 6 of my own if I can help it. I give rather detailed instructions before we exit the vehicle, and I load one basket full of children who I would rather not trust to walk through the store and give Hannah my trust to steer them safely. I don't think I have ever shopped so fast, the kids are doing great but I keep noticing people counting the children and deciding to go down a different isle, I can't help but laugh. We pull up to check out and a chorus of "I need to go potty" begins, so I send the children off under the guide and protection of the oldest two (and I can see the doors from the checkout line). I chat with the cashier. I try to check out with the same person each week. I am trying to establish a testimony with her, I am praying about gospel opportunities... she is having a baby in the next few months, I think I am going to make her something and give it to her soon... how do you open the door to gospel conversations in a 2 minute window a week?

Back into the car, plans have been made for a hand-off of our loaned kids to a grandma and we proceed to the designated parking lot a few miles away. Once my friend's kids are snuggled into their grandma's car we head home. Thankfully I remember I need to go to the bank about 30 seconds before the exit, exit and make the deposit. Now, we really head home. The dogs are happy to see us, and the weather warming above 40F has found for many children happy to run outside while I put away groceries. Putting away groceries makes me realize how messy the panty has become. Noticing the mess makes me feel compelled to do something about it, so I begin pulling everything out of it and reorganizing. One look at the clock reminds me I have gotten off track and need to be making dinner so I can leave to meet with a friend for dinner.

Dinner preparations started... I question myself every time I decide to roast broccoli and cauliflower... it just takes forever to cut the little darlings up into bite-sized pieces... and then on to the salad... and finally remembering to start heating up the prepared beef tips I pulled out of the freezer. My phone rings and it is Elliott telling me an emergency meeting was called, he would be home late. My friend texts as the very same moment and asks if we are still on. A short text-a-thon ensues resulting in the rescheduling of our time and I lay down on the couch. It is at this very moment that I really feel the effects of my going the entire day without coffee. I am tempted to go to bed right then, but a 3yo and 5yo start jumping on me, and I decide to go finish making dinner out of self defense.

Kids played happily. Dinner was a success. I went out for a post-bedtime coffee with a friend. It was a crazy day, but it was a good day. Thinking ahead to the rest of the week, I think there is a small chance we will have a "normal" day Friday... tomorrow will we do our best to creatively get some schooling done... moment-by-moment...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day seven...

Following the events of yesterday, I would have just loved to huddle up and stay home. However, when I had planned my week, I knew that Tuesday and Wednesday were going to be crazy busy. This morning began rather normally, with waking up kids, morning room chores, breakfast, a little picking up, family devotions and the older children starting their lessons.

Around 10:45am a friend stopped by to "borrow" my two youngest boys for a play date. My two boys were bouncing off the wall with excitement at the prospect and squealed with joy to see my friend's car pull in the driveway to whisk them away to a fun day at the farm. As soon as they left we settled back into our normal routine.

Noon brought a short visit from our neighbors, coffee for the moms and playing for the kids. It was a welcomed break from academic pursuits and the time went by too quickly. Lunch was made and eaten, then time to leave for the afternoon adventures. As I contemplated that the next couple of hours would be spent driving in the car, I was exceedingly grateful for my two littlest (and loudest) having an away play date.

The last six months our oldest two kiddos have been taking guitar lessons from a great young man from our old church. Until recently, our teacher has come to us (via his mom) but this week we started making the trek to his home for lessons. Today, I also had the added task of picking up my mom from the airport after coming home from a little vacation. In a perfect world, I would have been able to drop of the kids, drive to the airport, pick up my mom and drive back to get the kids. Airports aren't perfect however, so the twins and I made at least 10 laps around the airport... my mom having gotten rid of her cell phone, we just had to trust that she was eventually going to come out. Thankfully, she did, on lap number 11 or 12 or 13...

Since the twins and I were sufficiently chilled from our 40 minutes of circling the airport, we swung through the Starbucks drive-thru and then went to pick up the kids from guitar. The guy from the auto repair shop called me and while my car would be done today, it wouldn't be done until later... that perfect world scenario I mentioned earlier also included being able to have my mom drop me off at the car repair place to pick up my car. Since the timing on that didn't work out, I paid for my car over the phone and asked them to leave it in front of the shop with the keys locked inside.

Elliott had an after-work meeting and the two littlest were being returned home, so we got home and began working on more school. The boys came home and the decibel level increased three fold, as well as the number of things that were being propelled through the air. It was entertaining to have them back. :)

Our evening consisted of getting back in the car and going across town to pick up my car from the shop, eating out, getting home and picking up. We have the San Antonio Symphony Young People's Concert Series performance to attend tomorrow, so I ushered the kids into bed a little early and asked Elliott to make bread so we could have sandwiches tomorrow. And now for bed...

Day six...

Could it be? Another week of school begun?!?!? Where did the weekend go? Alas, our day began...

7:00am - I wake up and realize I have a cold toed 3yo crawling into my bed. I listen for a moment, no other stirring noises, not even the puppies... so I cuddle up with Mr. Ice Cube Feet and fall back asleep until...

7:15am - Why, oh why, did I think it was a good idea to set an alarm on my iPhone to "Wake UP!!!!!!" as it says? No worries, with one swipe of my index finger it was silenced. :)

8:00am - Micah (toes now warmed) has begun squirming but every time I look at him he squeezes his eyes shut and pretends to sleep. I am now sufficiently awake and check email on my phone before getting up... and I send the bouncy wee one up to dress and wake all his sleeping siblings.

8:30am - I have called upstairs a few times now to encourage (at varying levels of volume...) the children to do their morning responsibilities with a happy heart. They finally come down to breakfast, chocolate chip zucchini bread and oranges.

9:00am - I read aloud our poetry selection for today, some poems from William Wordsworth. My children think his name is clever... "My, his words must be expensive, being that his name is WordsWORTH"... there is much laughter as we are still in the knock-knock phase of jokes, and word play is a favorite activity. We enjoy his poem "The Sun Has Long Been Set" so much we read it three times, then I snap a photo of it and text it to our friend up the street to share with her kids. Table chores commence. Laundry is started.

9:30am - We begin to assemble in the living room for Family Devotions. Sing a hymn, go through Training Hearts, Training Minds, family Bible memory for the week (2 Timothy 3:16-17), family prayers for Missionary Monday (we have themed days for family prayer so I don't forget to pray for any major area...).

10:00am - School officially begins with my reading aloud from our Historical read aloud which the children do their quiet activities, the four oldest start on handwriting, and continue on with Explode the Code or Wordly Wise. I begin to question myself regarding asking the youngest two to play quietly with Duplos nearby. Is that possible? I will give them credit, they seemed to try very hard to make their car noises less loudly than normal.

10:15am - The washing machine dings that it is finished. Our dryer decided to stop working yesterday, so I planned to run load of wet laundry to my mom's house every hour or two for drying (my mom lives around the corner). I flip through a couple of pages and decide to finish the chapter we are on.

10:25am - I am still reading our Historical read aloud and have discovered that what I thought was the end of the chapter was really just a break in the page with a picture, the end of the chapter is twenty pages away. I decide to stop reading as the olders have run out of quiet work and the youngers have ceased trying to be quiet. Time for a laundry run.

10:30am - I remember my car is in the shop and it is 40F and windy. So, I throw on my coat and tell the kids I will be right back, I am walking to my mom's to borrow her car to shuttle my clothes back and forth to her dryer. No one wanted to go, so I started up the street with my head buried in my coat walking fast. I turn at the sound of shrieking children to find the two littlest boys running up the street after me with no shoes or jackets on, apparently they are planning to join me after all... so we go back to the house to get them shoes and jackets and head out again. Wet load out and in a basket by the door while another load of laundry goes in.

10:45am - Finally make it to my mom's house and go to get the clothes out of the dryer that I threw in last night (after discovering my dryer had broken). Still wet. An audible groan escaped me as I remembered to be thankful in all circumstances. I decided to be thankful that they weren't as wet as when they went in. I reset the dryer and grabbed the keys to my mom's car to drive home.

10:50am - Car won't start.
10:50.30am - Car won't start. Say a silent prayer. Mind spinning as I consider having to carry a wet load of laundry up a block and a half and back seven more times today if this car doesn't start.
10:51am - Car won't start. I realize that the car sounds like it is going to start, and all the lights and radio come on, so I know the battery is fine. Then I remember that my mom left money for gas before she went on her trip, so I look at the gas gauge and see it is empty. Combined with the steep incline of my mom's driveway, I conclude that the gas probably can't get to the intake. Say another prayer because I decide to do something a little crazy.
10:51.30am - Car still not starting. I decided to back the car out of the driveway in hopes that on more level ground the fuel will reach the intake and start. I have no reason to believe anything major is wrong and I am hopeful enough to try it, though the idea of blocking the street if I am wrong crosses my mind and I choose to ignore it.
10:52am - I discover that the car drives differently when there is no power, I am suddenly concerned that stopping the car or turning the car to avoid hitting the car parked across the street is not going to happen easily without power steering and braking.
10:52.30am - Another prayer is said as the key is turned in the ignition while the car is stopped 2/3 of the way into the street. The car starts, I can now breathe again. I drive home.

10:53am - Return home. Text my neighbor who says I can use her drier since my mom's seems to be drying at a slower rate than my clothes seems to be washing.

11:00am - I check in with each of the older four and make sure they are on task. The younger boys settle in to playing and I run up the street to put the load a load of wet clothes into my friend's dryer. Short visit, they are also doing school, so I rush back out.

11:15am - Back home. Ground coffee beans, make french press, check school progress, calculate when the next load will be done washing. I text a friend quizzing her on Tapestry of Grace and she says she will call in a minute.

11:30am - Twins come with big smiles and their phonics books. One goes to read a chapter of the Amish readers we use. The other sits down and goes through her lesson with me. Switch. I am kind of distracted as I am thinking my phone will ring any minute. I ask Hannah to prep lunch (baked potatoes).

11:45am - Washing machine finishes another load. I am hoping the load is done at my mom's house, but suddenly remember that my mom's car has no gas, so I will need to leave my neighorhood and go to the gas station before I can make another laundry run. I get all four of the youngest and all their booster seats and put take them with me, leaving the oldest two home to keep working. Another load of laundry gets started.

11:50am - My phone rings as we are driving out of the neighborhood, my long awaited phone call. We start chatting about large families and schooling and co-ops and curriculum and schedules.

11:55am - I pull into the gas station and break all the rules by continuing to talk on the phone while I pump gas.

12:05pm - Back to my mom's. Laundry is dry this time so I get it out and put in the new, wet load. Back in the car with clean, dry laundry and back home.

12:10pm - Still talking to my friend about co-ops, looking up prices on the internet. Calculating the costs of Classical Conversations for next year versus Tapestry of Grace and the ToG co-op. Stressing a little. A lot. My friend playing basketball in Turkey sends a text which vibrates loudly in my ear, so I answer on the iPad near by while I continue talking to my friend. At some point, our collective 15 children find where we have been hiding and need us, so we say our goodbyes.

12:30pm - My neighbor texts that her dryer has beeped and my laundry is dry. Yea! Our baked potatoes are done too, so I say I will be up in a few minutes and attend to the final lunch preparations.

12:45pm - Lunch. I try to ask for the children to eat quietly for a while before talking to one another which only seem to result in sparking a rather lengthy discussion about how long they should eat before talking, all the while not eating so the topic could be discussed. I am mentally checked out because I am busy trying to remember where the laundry is supposed to go. The repair folks call and schedule for my dryer to be looked at on Thursday.

1:00pm - The washer buzzes. I am done eating so I get up to make another laundry run to my neighbor's house. The youngest flings himself from the table to join me, covered in baked potato remnants. I make mention of his messiness and start to suggest he wash his hands when he quickly rubs his hands up and down his pants and declares himself clean. Sounds good to me. I request that the last load of the day be started as I head out the door.

1:15pm - Short visit with my friend as I gather my laundry and put in a new load of laundry to dry. We make reference to needing to have a coffee together once the kids finish school, I figure a good time will be about the time the new load is finished drying. Back home.

1:30pm - I realize that the children appeared to be working diligently today on their school work but I have no idea what they have done. I call to check on my car, the auto shop hasn't looked at it yet. I start crunching numbers on our co-op choices for next year... freak out again as the totals for CC begin to equal a large car payment. While Tapestry of Grace has intimidated me for several years, I begin to reflect on the fact that my two close friends with similarly aged children both use ToG, while my close friends with 3 of fewer kids use Classical Conversations... then, my ToG friend texts to tell me their may be a mid-semester opening at their co-op, I could possibly try it out for a 9-week term before next year, very enticing.

2:00pm - Where has the day gone?!?!? It is time to go to the farm. We don't have time to stay and work, but I need to return something to my friend and talk about changing the schedule a little. The washer buzzes, last load washed... I wrangle the kids out of the house, stop by my mom's to get the load from the dryer, and put a new load in... head to the farm and start to think of calling to cancel but then remember I need to return that thing.

2:45pm - My friend is surprised to see us, probably because no one is dressed for farm work in 50F weather, so we just go inside for a little visit. I don't think the kids have ever been in his home except to use the bathroom (we usually work the gardens, feed the stock, milk the cow, chase the chickens, etc.), so they were having a great time as he told them stories about his artifacts from all over the world. We work out a new schedule for coming to help at the farm.

3:30pm - Leaving the farm I realize we were gone long enough that the laundry at my mom's should be dry and my neighbor texted that my load finished at her house. I get excited at the thought that all my laundry will be done. I stop first at my mom's house only to discover that the load isn't fully dry, so I start the dryer again and head to my friend's. I gather my laundry and start to invite them for coffee when I realize that her husband is already home, coffee will have to wait until tomorrow.

3:45pm - Kids settle back in and are finishing up school work, I chat with the auto repair shop and learn my car will be ready tomorrow. I catch a glimpse of my couch loaded down with five baskets of unfolded laundry and call the children in to fold clothes while I read aloud from our Literature read aloud, Little Town on the Prairie.

4:40pm - I am still reading, the kids still folding. Micah has fallen asleep on the floor. Elliott is texting me that he will be home late. We work out a way for me to leave for my meeting. I go back to reading to the kids.

5:15pm - I finish reading once the laundry is folded, I set up the DVD player for the kids to watch Drive Thru History and give a few final instructions.

These nights are rare, but they happen... I left for errands before a meeting I had and Elliott came home a few minutes later. We didn't get to visit or catch up until I got home at 10pm. I also didn't get dinner until then. And then I sat down to reflect on my day. I should go grade school work, but I don't really want to. I will do it in the morning.

How was your Monday?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A bird in the hand...

There is the old saying, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", but seriously, that saying is way off, holding a bird in your hands is simply AMAZING!

Our Young Birder's Club met today at the Guadalupe River State Park, this month the theme of the meeting was "A Bird in the Hand". We learned the process for banding birds (you must have a very special license to do this) and were able to participate in holding them after they were taken out of the whisper nets, and then after they were banded, the kids were able to release them back into the wild. The bird banding is completely safe for the birds, and the information that is captured is very helpful to Ornithologists who keep tabs on them.

Here are two photos I was able to snap with my iPhone of a Black Crested Titmouse and a Northern Cardinal that I had the opportunity to hold...

And here are a couple of photos I was able to take on my Nikon...


And a special treat after our meeting, "The Eagle Lady" gave a presentation about birds of prey and brought two of her owls to show us and teach us appreciation for some of God's precious creation.


 Who wouldn't want to become a birder with a face like that to look into?!?!?!?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Day five...

After going to bed before 10pm last night and waking up this morning at 8am, I felt like a new person! I definitely had overdone it the last couple of weeks and my late nights caught up with me... sigh. Once again, humbled by my age and need for more regular sleep, we started our little day.

For the last four months our Fridays have been spent hosting a little co-op at our home. We typically spent the mornings picking up and setting up the 30 chairs upstairs for choir, then I would finish my preparations for the art and handicrafts class I taught, and the kids would rush about to finish their homework for the book club one of my friends led. The last few weeks we haven't had that, so this morning everyone seemed to meander about aimlessly.

I was half tempted to do school today... and maybe we ought to have, but I was feeling grumpy and wanted to get out of the house. I decided to run some errands, then come home and have lunch and spend the afternoon listening to a new audio book and working on handicrafts. The errands went well, lunch was easy, Micah actually napped and the rest of us gathered in the living room.

Hannah was knitting a bear for one of my friends having a baby next week, Grace started crocheting a little cat, Faith was reluctant to work on anything she knew how to do because what she really wanted to do was whittle like Noah and Caleb. Since the girls have quite a few handicraft skills (crocheting, knitting, embroidery, hand sewing) and the boys don't, I made a decision to not let the girls whittle, at least for awhile. This hasn't been the most popular of decisions from the girls' point of view, but I feel for the boys not having many masculine "quiet activities" and have decided to save this one for them. Of course there is wood working, but that can be a tad loud for read aloud times, not to mention, power tools need supervision and probably aren't the best fit for a 9yo and 5yo. Once it was accepted that I was not budging, and that everyone needed to do something they could do without my help (because I actually wanted to crochet too), we had an enjoyable time listening to the unabridged Winnie the Pooh and working.

Laundry was finished and put away. Dishes were loaded and unloaded throughout the day. The hallway bathroom was cleaned due to the discovery of a mysterious yellow liquid on the floor. We ate dinner and then welcomed a surprise visit from friends looking to buy a house in our neighborhood (and just around the corner). The adults had lattes, the kids all played and later asked to put in a documentary about birds and volcanoes. They are looking at a home that has the same floorplan as our home, so we gave a tour and answered questions about construction.

We finished up the night with a little cleaning up (messes discovered during the tour), vitamins, family worship and discussions of plans for tomorrow morning's birding trip. Overall, we had a nice week, though I feel a burden to be better prepared for next week. This week we stayed on our "ideal" schedule one day. Maybe next week we will have two "normal" days. Ha! We'll see...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day four...

So, I have this problem. The colloquialism that best describes my bad habit is, "burning the candle at both ends". And every once in a while, when I have been experiencing an extended season of late nights and busy days, I hit a wall, and sometimes the wall falls on me. So, good news is, I am not sick and I have been reminded of the weakness of my flesh (I might also be realizing that wasn't a great idea the last two weeks to stay up until 2am each day to catch up on Downton Abbey episodes on Amazon Prime so I could be ready for the season 3 premier this past week... just maybe...).

 All that to say, I have no idea what time my children got up this morning or what they did. Elliott worked from home so I could sleep in and try to recoup and/or decide if I needed to go to the doctor. I woke up a little before noon to breakfast (and lunch) in bed, served with a piping hot Cinnamon Roll Latte made by my husband and children. I still felt super sluggish and would have probably tried to go back to sleep if it were not for the loud dispute over whose turn it was to work on the Math Rider game on my laptop. I decided I should probably get up and moving, so I took a shower.

When I finally came out I asked if everyone had done their school work, I was pretty sure the answer would be "no" and it was. The children had shocked looks on their faces when I insisted they get their books out, I think they were looking for a free pass from lessons. I never had checked their work for the week up to this point, so I started working on that, calling children over when explanation was needed or to reteach some concept that was not understood. The two littlest boys, who are our biggest distraction from completing our normal schedule were happily playing on the floor in the living room, now if they could only do that when I was trying to read aloud history or science, or trying to teach phonics. :)

Children randomly finished their studies and meandered off, the afternoon found us out in the front yard with the neighbors and enjoying the warm weather (bright and clear and in the 60's), especially since Sunday we will dip back down into the 30's and 40's. At one point it seemed like the whole neighborhood turned out, parents dotting the driveways and visiting with each other. It was nice and nostalgic. We keep praying for opportunities with our neighbors, and being outside as we laugh at our children's wild bike and scooter riding antics is an answer to prayer.

I wish I had more details of my day, but it sort of blurred past and I am counting the moments until I can fall back into bed. I am hoping that I perk up after another good night's sleep. Tomorrow may find us on a little field trip, trying to soak up the good weather before it nose-dives down over the weekend, we shall see how I wake up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day three...

This morning we planned to visit our close friends and neighbors up the street, they have been out of town for almost two weeks and our children were really missing each other, so we ate a simple breakfast of yogurt, almonds and berries and got ready to go. After stripping beds and starting a load of wash we drove up to our friend's house. (It is only a 13-house walk up the hill but it has been raining for two days straight and I didn't want to get caught in a downpour.) The kids played and caught up on every moment since they last saw each other, and I had coffee with my dear friend.

We made plans for the Spring semester of a little co-op we do together, I teach Art and Handicrafts and she lead a Book Club teaching literary elements to the children. We also discussed starting a Bible study with the women in our church plant, so that we can encourage each other and be encouraged by God's Word together. We also chatted about plans for the weekend, both our families are looking forward to our Young Birder's Club meeting this weekend - "A Bird in the Hand" - we will be observing/helping with tagging and releasing birds at Guadalupe River State Park come rain or shine.

After what only seemed like moments the entire morning had slipped away and we headed home for lunch. I had hoped that Micah would take a nap so that I could slip away to the grocery story while the older four worked on lessons and Caleb played. Alas, Micah would not nap, so we gathered up lessons and everyone piled into the car. There is a little cafe at the grocery store I go to every Wednesday, so I had the four oldest sit in a booth and work on their studies. Meanwhile, I pushed one basket containing my reusable bags, purse and one preschool child and pulled the other basket containing the food I was buying and the other preschool child. Besides trying to reach over the baskets to touch each other the entire time I shopped, the two youngest were actually quite well behaved, even garnering some positive attention from a few shoppers. All the children were rewarded with a lollipop at the conclusion of the shopping trip.

Driving to the grocery store we saw the most amazing thing, a Red Tailed Hawk swooped down across the highway in front of us and landed in the median. He had made a successful catch, of what I can only imagine was likely a field mouse in the tall grass, and there were whoops of excitement as we saw him fly back off with his prey in his claws. Science for today... check! The drive home was much less exciting, and quiet (thanks to the lollipops). :)

Once home, kids finished lessons and I unloaded our fruits and veggies for the week. I just acquired a pretty basket for my counter to put all our goodies in, I love how it brightens up my kitchen to have so much yummy fruit around.

The kids were a little more energetic than usual, it was easy to tell they have been cooped up by the rain, so when they reported that our neighbors were out riding bikes it was decided that we should join them. I made a quick french press and held the dogs on leashes while the children rode bikes for almost two hours. Dinner was simple, leftovers with a fresh salad. Baths, new handicrafts started, reading and bed. The only thing missing today was piano lessons, our teacher decided to avoid our potential ickiness and postponed our lesson... can't say as I blame her. 

At some point I should likely check the children's school work for this week, but around dinner I started feeling warm and icky myself. So, I think I will just go to bed and see how I feel about things in the morning. Elliott is planning to work from home in the morning until it is determined whether or not I should get into the doctor or if I am just imagining these symptoms because I have sick kids around me, which is totally possible. I wonder if I can talk him into cooking breakfast either way... And I am so hoping that I wake up not sick.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day two...

Whenever illness is in house I tend to take a "let sleeping children lay" approach, figuring that sleep will help their little immune systems fight off whatever ickies have taken hold. So, that is what we did this morning, though I never would have imagined that the wake-up time for most of the children would be 10am! At least everyone woke up fever free! :)

A slow start like this always throws me for a loop as I think about our schedule. Not to mention the existence of Mount Washmore looming in the living room... or the overflowing basket of things to be taken back upstairs making walking down the hallway difficult... or the dining room table covered in spilled iron-on beads... so, I decided for Mommy to have a better chance of walking in a meek and gentle spirit, we needed to restore order and finish our tasks from Monday.

It was raining all day long, which I was thankful for, partly because we live in Texas and any rain is a blessing, but also because the temptation to request dog watching duty (to get out of cleaning up after myself duty) was non-existent. So, children were given jobs and Mommy worked right along side them. There was some grumbling which was met with a reminder that work done when work is due frees one up to play when play time is afforded, but play done when work is due makes for more work later. (They were grumbling because when school work is not finished during the school day, it is assigned as homework to be done when Daddy gets home instead of being able to play.)

While the children worked on some upstairs items, I put together a crockpot with some stew meat I had thawed yesterday but didn't feel like cooking. I planned on making a traditional stew but had no onions. So, I improvised and using tips and tricks learned from Alton Brown over the years, threw something together that has no name and crossed my fingers that in six hours we would have something edible for dinner.

Finally, after three hours of our day was eaten up by the undoneness of Monday, everything was completed, and we had a chat. Each child was asked to acknowledge why we had so much work from Monday to still do, and what we would need to do differently to not repeat this half-day delay. Some children were more willing than others to recognize their part in the process. I was happy that we could go to lunch and come away without disorder abounding. 

Lunch was super exciting, lunchmeat, cheese, apple slices and tortilla chips. Jealous, aren't you. Honestly, I had forgotten about lunch in the midst of putting the crockpot together for dinner. Oh well, with food allergies you learn to have low expectations, and this meal is one of our lowest, but it is generally met without much complaint. I will strive to think more of lunch tomorrow since dinner will be easy now that I have accumulated three dishes to choose from for leftovers. 

Hannah developing strep throat changed many of our plans for the week, including a Mommy Coffee I had scheduled in the evening. Since my evening was freed up, I called a friend having a baby next week and offered to help her with her nursery reorganization project. I gave full disclosure of our ickiness and waited for a response as to whether she wanted me to come over and help "make way for baby".

Following lunch I decided that Hannah was looking a little worn out and the constant drippy rain was making me drowsy, so instead of a read aloud, we opted for a DVD of Drive Thru History: Turkish Delight. No one is studying that time period or area of the world at this moment, but I decided on it because I have a sweet friend who plays professional basketball and she just flew back to Turkey this week to finished out her season there. While we watched the video I texted my friend to tell her I was thinking about her.

Noah was super excited that we were watching a video instead of "doing school" but was distressed to hear that I would still expect some academic work to be done following the video. The youngest two disappeared at some point, apparently bored with the antics of the host, and a search party was sent out for them. Once the DVD ended I assembled all of the children to the breakfast table to work on handwriting (via thank you notes for birthday and Christmas presents). I guess we could also have counted the card writing as original composition too, there really are some things I love about homeschooling. :)

After an academically productive day like yesterday, a day like today can sometimes be a bummer. But it is real life. I guess I could have pushed through with all the clutter and sick kids, but I would have been terribly grumpy and spent most of the day seeking forgiveness. As it was, I spent every few hours checking for temperatures. At one point, right after dinner (which was a surprise success) I checked Micah and saw all these white dots in the back of his throat. I was ready to rush to urgent care. My friend had decided she did want my help that evening, so I called to cancel. As I was getting ready to walk out the door the twins asked if I would look in their throats. While I was checking on the girls (they were fine) I saw Micah eating a tortilla from dinner. I asked him to stop eating and take a few sips of water. I checked his throat again and he had miraculously been healed of his white spots. Sigh, I had overreacted. I called my friend back and headed over.

After I left, Daddy had the kids played Math Rider on my laptop, while some did crafts and others read. I helped clean and rearrange and rethink the adjoining rooms that will be my friend's nursery/girls room and playroom. I love organizing and reorganizing, I love cleaning and creating order and I love helping my friends. We shared Mexican Hot Chocolate and talked about life. I can't wait to meet this new little baby girl in eight days!

And that was our day. I will finish it now by grabbing my Bible and journal. I have been reading in Daniel and emailing a friend about what I glean. I have been chronically a list of gifts, I am striving to see God's gifts in the moment-to-moment of each day, I am seeking to learn what it means to live as one who is truly "counting it all joy".

How was your day?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day one...

Last week a dear friend of mine encouraged me to join her in a blog challenge. She has a friend who had suggested that to benefit other moms who may think that our days of homeschooling are always rosey-posey and that our children always happily obey and never miss a question on their homework, a really honest play-by-play look at 10 consecutive school days might be encouraging. As she put it, the good, the bad and the goofy. So, here it goes... first day back after Christmas break...

We were all pretty wiped out by the weekend apparently... everyone was sleeping at 8am, and a few were finally tripping down the stairs to the grumbling howls of the dogs at 8:30am. The official wake-up call given, children were dressed, beds were made and rooms were cleaned by 9:30am (or so I pretended because I didn't want to go upstairs to double check.) Cereal and fresh blueberries was the breakfast choice of the day, and everyone was satisfied at the end of the meal except for Noah who is a bottomless pit and always hungry. I think he will have to go to work at a young age to offset our costs of feeding him, but I digress.

Table chores started and begun, but not without a little prompting... Monday is Laundry Day around here, so after breakfast the children were given tasks of gathering and sorting laundry from all over the house. Two children "disappeared" during this process which earned them some alone time with Mommy in Daddy's office. After that, they were hard workers, for a few moments at least. The first load finally got started in the washing machine and it was time to crack open the books.

We have a new schedule. I didn't put times on it... only an order. So far, so good. I announced that the oldest four needed to grab their handwriting and sit at the breakfast table while I read aloud a historical account of two boys growing up in the newly opening West (Bud and Me). The two youngest were supposed to play quietly. Instead, Caleb insisted on having some school work to do and Micah dumped out the entire bin of Duplos with a loud crash and a happy squeal. Reading went smoothly for about seven minutes until someone finished their handwriting and wanted me to inspect it, then wondered what they could do next. I have honestly thought that their handwriting would be sufficient to keep them busy, so I lacked an answer but fumbled around until I figured out something quiet they could do. Repeat 4 more times. Thankfully, I finished reading and we could split up into a new endeavor.

Science for all... this is also new... I decided to let each of the younger two pick out a Let's Read And Find Out Science for me to read aloud to them while the older four shared the responsibility of reading to each other from the God's Design for Science. The younger two enjoyed their science time with Mommy except for the three interruptions and pleas for fairness regarding who could answer the discussion questions during the science lesson. After a couple of serious discussions with the older children tasked with sharing the reading of the science lesson, they completed the reading and came to ask me about doing the experiment. I had not planned for the science experiment... so I said no.

The children showed a great deal of interest in the new schedule and kept looking at it to see if we were on track. I explained to them that we were needing to double up on some assignments to catch up from some lost ground this past Fall, they had good attitudes and got to work. Lunch came and went, we cleaned out most of the leftovers, the fridge looks empty now. Following table chores the dishwasher was running for its third time today and the couch was being buried in Mount Washmore because I was allowing children to do their lessons rather than fold laundry as it came out of the dryer... looking back I am somewhat doubting that decision.

Somewhere around mid-day we got jumbled up on the order but I think we got most of the school work finished... I should have checked, but I decided to clean my bathroom on a whim. I trusted the children to work on their lessons while I was in the other room. There is a long story as to why my shower never looks as clean as it ought, no matter the scrubbing, but eventually that story will result in a demolition project and a new shower stall. The children got out Perler beads while I worked in the bathroom. I had intended to clean my entire bathroom but after an hour and a half, I had to settle for the bottom three feet of my shower.  

Then, the afternoon turned into a blur of texts and phone calls as we found out the transmission of our close friends blew while driving home from a visit on the West Coast. Three hours from home, a group of us were trying to figure out how to go up and get them. Their need to haul their minivan back prompted online searches for hauling limits on various vehicles and my Suburban was selected. I had to go pick up some stuff from our RV so we could haul them back, and then I handed over my car to our pastor to make the drive and help get them home with their car.

Somewhere in the midst of the excitement I was able to throw dinner together. I came home from my little outing to find out that none of the girls wanted to eat, and that Hannah was complaining of not feeling well and was laying on the couch. When I checked her temperature she had a fever of 102.8F and with her other symptoms it was decided that she needed to go to Urgent Care, so back out I went. Strep Throat. And so we went to CVS and then home.

Bedtime routines happened. I scarfed down some moderately warm dinner somewhere in the midst of all the excitement. As the children were settling into bed I found that there were Perler beads throughout the kitchen, assuming Micah was the culprit (and later confirming my suspicions) I got on my hands and knees and began cleaning up the floor so I wouldn't find one in the middle of the night in bare feet.

The house is finally quiet and I am wondering if Micah will wake up in the morning with fever... he was "off" most of the day... if I had been thinking I may have taken him to urgent care as well... but alas, I did not. Looking back on today, it went better than I expected, even with the disruptions. I had asked for a few friends to pray for me, and I pray for God to grant me a love for my children and for Him to give me a joy in this journey of parenting and homeschooling. And He did.

I did notice that I left a few things off the schedule... like Morning Family Devotions and Music Practice... so there will be a revision... but today was a nice start.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I get excited sometimes and start lots of handicraft projects... crocheting, knitting, embroidery, hand sewing... from time to time my life permits me to spend a good amount of time doing such things, and sitting with my girls to work on projects. Then, a season of busyness comes and months may go by and I don't even think about picking up a crochet hook or designing an embroidery project.

I keep a basket by my big red chair, yarn is overflowing it, half-done projects fill it, random knitting needles and crochet hooks are contained within a jar tucked inside. Today, after some friends from church came for lunch one of the girls asked if I could help them finish a project. In my basket I had an identical project to finish, so we worked alongside one another and I was able to finally finish the owl hat I began for Grace over a year ago.

And here it is... only 5 more to go...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

You're so organized...

A few weeks ago, I had a friend over for coffee. She is expecting her first child, and thankfully she had just gotten over her morning sickness which made her nauseated to smell coffee. At some point after watching our little crew and all the chaos that is our normal moment-by-moment life, she commented that she just felt so inspired by how organized everything was. I can't exactly remember, but I think I must have sputtered out my coffee as I blurted out a laugh.

Once I had composed myself, I asked why she thought that. (And no, all the neatly labeled clear plastic boxes could not possibly be influencing her comment...) She said she thought it was neat that I had charts and check off lists posted throughout our home. I assured her they were merely decorations, something that makes me feel like one day we might be organized. :)

A long time ago I used to be organized. Before marriage and kids I had a wonderful organizational system, my Franklin Covey planner was perfectly tidy and there was never a scratch out even though I wrote in pen (I preferred white out tape), all my t-shirts were grouped by color and my DVDs were in alphabetic order. No, I am not kidding.

Fast-forward nearly 13 years of marriage and 6 kids in 11 years... plastic boxes help me contain all the various age-appropriate toys for the spectrum of ages our home shelters. There are charts posted to the wall, but I can't remember the last time I actually looked at them, much less attempted to rally the troops to follow them. I can't keep up with the socks that find themselves strewn throughout the hallway during the day, nor the shards of paper that start on the table but trickle down to the floor and out into the hall after some time spent on papercrafting. Laundry looms on the calender every Monday and Thursday, Mount Washmore, the children fold it (quite begrudgingly some most days) and put each person's clothes into a basket which disappears upstairs with the hopes of staying folded once being crammed into drawers. I have scars on the bottoms of my feet from homeless Legos inconspicuously left on the floor despite the color-sorted bins that so perfectly house the little plastic daggers building tools.

The Lord has used my desire for order and tidiness to sanctify me. Before living with a houseful of messies I didn't realize that I had elevated order and cleanliness to an idol. There were many days when I would grow angry because the children didn't put things in the right bins or even attempt to clean up after themselves. It certainly isn't wrong to desire to teach your children good habits of cleaning and picking up, but it was sin in my heart that I was willing to yell at them because they failed to. Through God's grace, He has humbled me and is showing me to balance my desire for order with a love for the messies in my home. I am still trying to teach them to be more organized, and I am thankful for the growth the Lord has granted me allowing me to be more calm as toys scatter the floor. I still totally flop (like yesterday).

My mind still thinks in charts and lists. My fingers still fly across the keyboard to create Excel spreadsheets that help me keep all my mental notes in little boxes. But most importantly, I am learning that it is more God honoring to have a gentle answer for a little child than it is to have a perfectly clean floor. I know that organizing has its place (it is really nice to know where things are) but it is more important that my children know I love them more than the plastic bins and artificial order.

I am an organized work in progress...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First day...

The first day of the New Year is here. And gone. Elliott was off today and we planned on a nice day at home. The weather being cold, for Texas anyway, kept us tucked away inside our cozy, warm house. Since we allowed the children to stay up until midnight to enjoy the fireworks for New Year's Eve, our day started after 10am with the last of the children trickling in. And that pretty much set the tone for the whole day, relaxed and laid back.

The children were enjoying time spent in different diversions: LEGO, chess, crochet, knitting, marble runs, Playmobil, "camping" in the garage. I caught up on laundry, worked on a plumbing disaster and finally finished addressing the Christmas cards. Elliott played with the children, cooked and helped clean the kitchen.

The day was lovely. I was thankful for the pace, and despite unexpected distractions, I was also thankful for some productive things we were able to squeeze in: putting up a sewing desk, moving the red chair back to the living room, moving the rocking chair back into our bedroom. We had family devotions in the evening, and caught up on some read aloud time as we got close to finishing The Long Winter.

Tomorrow morning I will be seeking the children's forgiveness, as right at bedtime, when I saw the lack of cleaning done following the fun play of the day, I spoke harshly and impatiently about their messes. I keep trying so hard to not lose it, I desire to more like Mary Poppins during "cleaning up the nursery" than Attila the Hun conquering a new land, but today I failed. Sometimes I grieve because I feel like I fail so much, I grow discouraged by how often I fail to speak kindly or cringe at how quick I am with sarcasm.

So, if there is anything I am praying for in 2013, it is this, that I would be more conformed to the image of Christ, especially in regards to my conversations and responses in my home and with my family. I am praying that I will be quick to hear and slow to speak, that I would do better at speaking a soft word to turn away wrath and have less harsh words which stir up anger in my children's hearts. And that I will remember to count it all joy, even the mundane, perhaps especially the mundane, seeing God's mighty hand of blessings moment by moment.

What are you praying for in 2013?