Saturday, August 31, 2013

Just a little tune...

Sometimes I am amused by the little ditties that fill my mind during mommy overload moments. Laughter releases a little pressure valve so I don't explode like a malfunctioning pressure cooker. 

So, as I was just wandered aimlessly through my living room trying to remember why I got off the couch, the Tinman's song went skipping through my mind... "If I only had a brain..."

At least once a week, nothing with be going according to plan and Dory's cheerleader "Just keep swimming..." will ring in my ears...

Or when I ask the kids to do some particularly tortuous chore (like cleaning up after themselves), I think of sweet Mary Poppins and "Just a spoonful of sugar..." 

But more than that, I cherish the moments when the Lord places a song in my heart that shows where my true heart lies. When the sadness of loss feels too great to bear, "How Great Thou Art" comforts me. 

When I feel crushed by the weight of my sin, "Amazing Grace" reminds me that I am forgiven in Jesus Christ by no merit of my own. 

As I ready my heart to be with the Church and I prepare myself to be the Church outside of Sunday morning, "O Church Arise" will fill my mind and will ring from my lips. 

What little tunes come to your mind? And when? I wonder if there are some new songs I could learn...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tears of laughter...

I am a reforming perfectionist. I still like all my cans in the pantry facing the same way, but I no longer kill myself over making sure all tomato products are together (ok, I do once or twice a year but then I let it go). I have taught my children the best way to fold towels and match socks, and while they seem to doubt me, I assure them that I have tried out enough methods through my years that they should just trust me and do it my way! I like the vacuuming done in an orderly manner, and I chase down every speck I can see trying to evade a Dyson capture. Clean isn't clean until it feels clean, and because I like it perfect, I sometimes leave things dirty a little too long until I have time to do it "right".

In my early days of mommying, I was paralyzed by my perfectionism. If I couldn't make it perfect, I wouldn't even try. If it made a mess, I avoided it like the plague. Hannah and I read and read and read. I knew how to do that. We colored a lot, because who in their right mind would give a toddler anything as messy as finger paints! Crafts bothered me, not only because of their mess but because they never turned out looking like the thing they were meant to, so I stopped doing them. So we read more books.

Fast forward to starting to homeschool... besides being a perfectionist, I was also clueless. When I am clueless, I tend to fake it until I make it, which generally means I will look around for someone to emulate. I had a sweet friend, she was homeschooling her three little kids, so I just followed along, read what they read, bought what they bought. It didn't occur to me until years later (and much frustration) that in my copying of her I had made no allowance for the fact that her children started at four years older than Hannah! Not realizing anything about gross or fine motor skills, having no clue at all about what was "normal", I was overly exacting for fear of screwing up and proving everyone right (that I couldn't homeschool my kids). The scars of my insisting on perfection (even though I haven't for many years now) remain and I cringe every time I see Hannah or another child's countenance fall when I correct their paper or work. 

I am thankful for how the Lord has transformed my mommying, and our homeschooling. I know that the Lord continues to work in my life, conforming me more and more into His image. I have joked with Hannah in many a tense moment, that God chose her to be the firstborn in our family because she was tough enough to withstand all the mistakes that the Lord knew I would make. I usually tell her to think about how easy she is making growing up for her little sisters and brothers, all my big mistakes will be out of the way. We laugh, but there is a lot of truth in it.

I remain cautious when grading papers, knowing the hurt I have caused, especially with H. I have prayed the prayer of Isaiah, that the Lord would restore the years the locusts had destroyed. And tonight, it seemed like a new blade of grass was growing in a field formerly destroyed by harsh words and demanding expectation.

I love teaching my children, but every once and a while it has been a good investment to "buy" teachers for them (like Steve Demme from Math-U-See on DVD and now Andrew Pudewa from Institute for Excellence in Writing). They latch on to an idea shared from a "professional" more quickly at times than one shared by "just mom". :) Tonight, Hannah and I were going through her IEW paragraphs. In the past, something like this would have resulted in tears. Loud ones too. We have such a track record of ending "check out" sessions with tears that I tend to dread them.

But God showered His grace on me today. It was a hard day, with lots of in-fighting among the children, slowness to do chores, grumbling over responsibilities, and of course, schoolwork. Nearing bedtime Hannah was ready to go over her work. I conjured up a smile to cover up my dread of the inevitable tears and dismay. Hannah had done a great job on the paragraphs, and she didn't mind that I was correcting her spelling, she was even teasing herself a little over some of the real whoppers. And then we got to the last sentence, "I sure am glad that God created the cephalopods, aren't you?"

When I edit, I tend to read out loud. And when I come to a contraction, I tend to read it like it was not one. So, as I read her sentence aloud with Hannah sitting beside me, I read aloud, "I sure am glad that God created the cephalopods, are not you?" Hannah's head snapped around and she said, "Are not you? Where did you get that from?" I reminded her that contractions can be separated into their original words before they were "squished" together and told her that I read that way all the time. She cocked her head, I bowed mine a little, fearing the onslaught of tears thinking I may have offended her. She said in a strange voice, "Are not you?" and then she laughed. I looked up, not sure if I heard right, then she started really laughing and saying it again and again like it was the strangest way of speaking she had ever heard.

At this point I began laughing with her. It did sound funny when read aloud. But not as funny as all the other examples we came up with...
"I am so glad Mom took us to the movies, are not you?"
"I think brownies are the best, do not you?"
"Was not that funny?"
"Did not you clean up your room?"

We both laughed so hard we couldn't talk and E came down to figure out what was wrong with us. He said it didn't sound like we were doing homework at all. Hannah and I finished going through her papers. We were still tearing up and laughing anytime we came across a contraction, poor girl will probably never read a contraction the same way again! And I am praising the Lord for such a silly and sweet time, on any day it would have been wonderful, but especially so today and even more so with Hannah.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some funny things...

Micah asked if he could go to a meeting with Elliott for our HOA. The meeting was going to be at our neighborhood park. I was ready for his question, "Daddy can I please go to the park with you?" But I wasn't ready for his plea, "I promise not to throw anything at you!"

A friend made me the cutest little dry-erase board from a picture frame and some cute scrapbook paper. You write with dry erase marker on the glass and, there you have it, a cute dry-erase board. I had previously written "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name" but it got bumped and messed up so I had to think of something else. I have been inspired by chalkboard art lately, and even though this isn't a chalkboard, I decided to try my hand at a chalkboard-art-inspired little sign. I wrote "what is... true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise... think on these things" from Philippians 4:8. I was making each word in its own different font when I overheard two of our girls, "Why does Mom keep putting those three periods together?" The answer, "That is just what Mom does when she can't remember what to say."

On our wall of chalkboards (my continual thanks to Gab for her donation to my decor) one of the small chalkboards had "Don't Forget Your Table Chores" written right at eye level for the kids. I noticed today that nearly all of it was erased, just a halo of its former self remained. I teased the children that they were hoping I would forget what was on the chalkboard. Hannah blurts out, "What we should have done was erase the N and the T so it would say DO forget your table chores!" Ha ha ha... not so far out of the knock-knock joke stage as I thought! :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Grandma field trip...

We have talked about it for years and never got it worked out to all go together... But finally we did! And we had an awesome time traversing through the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Downtown Austin with Gammy (E's mom). We took the day off from school and hit the road. Here are a few snapshots...

We can't wait to go again... We only saw the first floor! 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

When friends visit...

We were blessed by getting to spend a few days with a sweet friend. I didn't get a photo of our shoe shopping... but here is a small glimpse at our whirlwind visit...

We miss you Meg! 

Late night planning...

The school year is upon us. I am still trying to figure out how the summer evaporated so fast... but since it left behind a mostly renovated house and a swimming pool in the backyard, I guess I can't complain too much. The only problem has been that all my mental energy has gone to house stuff, and school starts Monday with me being completely and totally unprepared! Eek!

God is full of mercy and grace, and because of that, I have some time this weekend to get ready for our new year. We are embarking on a few new adventures with this school year. We are pumping up our academic muscles and jumping on board with a co-op using Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for Writing, and Tapestry of Grace (TOG) for History. We have used Apologia Science in the past, and will again but with a new book, Physics and Chemistry. I keep telling the children that this year we get to blow things up and throw things. They are excited. :)

I don't know how things are going to go. The last two years we did the minimum as we ministered to E's dad during his battle with brain cancer. We are hoping that a more rigorous academic load will help motivate the children to be better stewards of their time (not to mention the promise of a swim following the completion of homework...). 

So now, the big challenge is figuring out how to manage all the spinning plates that will be our daily routine. Chores, and lessons, character training and Bible instruction will be mixed in amongst four teaching levels and tossed between three meals a day. I will be cranking out charts as much for my benefit as for the children.

In the meantime... here are some of our newest finds...

What would you do if you saw something that looked like a pine cone crawling across your driveway? Well, we picked it up and put in it a jar to observe up close, of course.

And this is up close... A naturalist friend of mine told me is it some sort of moth... we are hoping we don't accidentally kill it while we are waiting to find out...
One evening Elliott went outside to lock the cars and found a Red Eared Slider on the driveway by our garage. Not knowing of any ponds nearby, we assumed it was someone's pet. We kept it for almost a week, block walked looking for its owner. Finally, we drove to a creek about twenty minutes away. He happily took to the water and never looked back.

Toad catching is a regular occurrence around here, but usually we don't have a make shift pond for an orphaned turtle set up. But since we did, the children decided to see how well Mr. Toad could swim. He was very tolerant as the children plopped him on the side of the turtle's pool without rocks so they could watch him swim for land.