Thursday, September 25, 2014

Learning their rhythm...

I remember when my kids were babies and I couldn't fathom the idea of scheduling them. I didn't think I was the best person for telling them when they were hungry or tired. Instead, I looked for clues in their behavior, like rubbing their eyes and yawning or searching frantically about while smacking their lips. Eventually, I noticed they would fall into a rhythm, feeding at pretty well dependable times (excluding growth spurts) and napping at regular intervals. We learned we could push the "schedule" earlier or later without causing much distress, simply by keeping the routine around the eating or sleeping predictable.

And while that always worked with my babies, somehow as kids have grown, I have relied more on the arbitrary decisiveness of a written down schedule and the ticking of the clock to determine when we eat, sleep, play or school. The very thing I never would have imagined doing for my babies is the very root of our daily struggle... staying on and finishing the schedule. And it isn't for lack of trying to clearly think through the day, I have thought and pondered and scribbled and formatted our schedule a million different ways in the last 10 years. Yet, we still haven't been able to find the ever-illusive "well planned day".

The last few days I have watched my kids specifically looking for ways to streamline our schedule. I noticed a few things. Some wake up easy and early. Others wake up slowly and later. When the early ones have to wait on the later ones, we lose their most productive time. When the laters are needing to slowly wake up, the earlies are rushing them because of how long they have awaited their downstairs arrival. Compounded in this observation is that this year we started trying to wake everyone up at the same time, 7am. Those later sleeping kids tried really hard to comply but began  struggling to maintain a happy attitude in the afternoons and were found falling asleep during any car ride after 3pm. And 7am was never early enough for the early kids.

I also noticed that when everyone is fresh and cheerful at the beginning of the day, they play more sweetly together and they really seem to relish being with one another. Yet, by the time the afternoon rolls around (when I have scheduled them to enjoy happy playing with their siblings), they are full of "being with people" and need a break. I can't really complain, that is something I feel too. Then the evening comes, which we have designed to be family time, can be overwhelming to those kids who are full of "together" time and would rather look for a closet to hide in and get away for some time alone than play a game.

And then, I had an "ah-ha" moment. It was an alarming idea to my Type-A self, but I decided to try an experiment with our schedule. I shared my idea with the kids and we are experimenting with it a little this week and officially will adopt it for the month of October next week.

Bedtime isn't changing, everyone will be in bed with the lights out by 9pm. However, I am not waking anyone up anymore. If I felt we had a child who struggled with being motivated to get out of bed, I might not be able to do this, but none of my children have proven to be sluggards, some just need more sleep than others.

Breakfast will no longer be scheduled, and we won't wait on one another before anyone can eat. Instead, it will be self serve upon waking, and to my children's shock, they may come down and eat before room chores lest they wake a sleeping sibling. Following breakfast, they will have their personal devotion and time in God's Word. Then, each child will work on their independent studies (handwriting, copywork, vocabulary, math, etc).

After completing their independent work, they will have free time, the more efficient they are with their time, the more free time they will have. This has been the plan before, but somehow, the free time being all the way in the afternoon was not a motivation. My hope is that the children who need to learn how to be more inwardly motivated will flourish under this schedule. So far, the last couple of days have been promising.

They aren't free forever, though. I call them up to do their room chores at 10am, and we have family Bible study at 10:30am. Then we have a little workout and stretching (honestly, I am trying to tire them out so they can sit more easily during our family school time). Family school follows, which is where I read aloud from history or geography or literature selections and the kids narrate back, or draw, or write reports.

Daily chores start happening while I make lunch, and we all sit down to read the "Proverbs of the Date" as we call it. We bless the meal and while we eat, we listen to some Lamplighter Theatre, lunch is a delightful time now, and since I am not reading and children aren't all talking at the same time, it is relaxing and refreshing as well.

After school we finish up with Mommy-led lessons, pull out the computers for typing and math practice, and finish up everything that looks, smells or tastes of school. The afternoon is free for the children, I make a coffee and prepare for dinner.

Our new schedule may seem long and draw out, but the last few days have truly been delightful, and we are having less conflict with better rested children. We are doing a better job at finishing school at a reasonable hour, and because of my mornings being free from teaching, I have gotten a couple of days of much neglected weed pulling done.

One challenge for me, and my Type-A-ness, is trying to find a succinct way to make this new, more flowing schedule into a cute chart for the refrigerator. But I have not doubt I will figure it out. :)

How do you creatively address scheduling challenges?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Every day...

... the children wake up.
... the kids expect to be fed three times a day.
... snacks are asked for about twenty minutes after finishing one of those three meals.
... my energy runs out far before I think it should.
... coffee is made to fill in the gaps between my real energy level and my needed one.
... the pile of unfolded laundry mocks me as I rummage through it to find my favorite sweatpants.
... the dishwasher runs two or three times.
... I sneak off to be alone in the bathroom for 3 minutes.
... they find me.
... the kitchen counters beg to be cleaned.
... I ignore the clutter that has crept onto my recently cleaned off bar top.
... the dogs bark like they are going to eat whoever just rang the door bell.
... they jump on and try to lick them to death instead.
... the sun comes up in the morning.
... the sun goes down in the evening.
... I notice how many weeds I need to pull in my flower beds.
... I remind myself not to forget to look for the beauty of the flowers.
... we cheer and welcome Daddy home from work.
... I settle at least 17 disagreements/arguments/brawls by lunch time.
... I am realizing how each of my kids are unique, special, and different from one another.
... we are reading the Proverbs at breakfast and the Psalms at lunch.
... we are speaking to each other with God's wisdom more, and our foolish words less.
... we pray for the people in our Church, at the gym, our neighbors.
... I marvel at the good gifts that God has given us.
... I stay up late grading school work.
... the dogs pile up and sleep together on the couch.
... I seek to show my children the power of the Gospel as we walk through life together.
... the blessings are greater than the trials.
... I thank God for His lovingkindnesses to me. 

What do you do every day?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More yumminess...

Every week I am coming to love our CSA more and more. Each Monday I peek at the website to see what sorts of yummy goodies will be filling my box on Saturday morning. And each Saturday for lunch I find a way to cook up whatever was left over from the previous week. 

Besides eating our goodies raw in salads, or as snacks, my favorite way to prepare most of our veggies is with a simple drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of sea salt. This past Saturday was no different. 

Now, you all know this is by no means a blog about cooking, and I can't recall if a recipe has ever been shared on here before, but I couldn't resist telling you about this simple, easy meal. 

Below is the fruit of a little chopping, tossing and roasting in the oven. Pictured are zuchinni, tricolor carrots, sweet peppers, and onion. 

All the while, we had some chicken on the griddle, and once cooked, I slapped a piece of Applewood bacon and cheddar cheese on top and tossed it in the oven for some melting time. {I was inspired by Outback Steakhouse's Alice Springs Chicken, minus the mushrooms and honey mustard dressing.}

The kids asked for thirds, and what I had hoped would provide for a night off from cooking during week, turned into a leftover lunch for two. I heard one child say, "I am changing what I want for my birthday dinner!" :)

What sorts of simple, yumminess are you cooking up these days? {Thanks in advance for any inspiration you throw my way!}

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Never would have thought...

When I was a young girl, my mom and a neighbor taught me how to do counted cross-stitch. I loved it when I was a kid. I got into middle school and got "busy" with my many activities and lost interest in crafts in general.

When I got pregnant with Hannah, I remember walking through Hobby Lobby with my mom and seeing a counted cross stitch alphabet sampler designed with the Precious Moments figurines. I decided to give it a whirl again. Nine months later, I had a new baby and I dropped off my completed cross stitch back at Hobby Lobby for framing. I pretty much swore off cross stitch ever again. Ever.

After I turned 30 years old, a friend taught me how to do red-work embroidery. Something was kindled inside me, and I wanted to create beautiful things with my own hands, and teach my children to do the same. In the last six years, we have learned at least a little something about embroidery, hand sewing, sewing, watercolor painting, knitting, and crocheting, all in an effort to surround ourselves with beauty and dwell on thoughts of the wonders of creation that God has given us for inspiration.

One thing that I like to do is invite my kids' friends over for these crafting times, offering to teach the children (and the mommas) what little I know. I joke that I teach simply, as I have learned mostly from books designed for kids, nothing fancy, but hopefully fun and inspiring. 

Since the children are now each in their one activity and I am finding myself out of the house more than ever, I have been looking for ways to redeem the time. I have made friends at the gym and it is a highlight of my week to catch up with them and laugh and joke, but I can feel my hands twitching for something to do in the midst of the chatting and laughing. I was knitting at the gym before I met any of the moms, but I can't knit and talk very well. 

School having started back up, I have been encouraging the kids to pull out some handicrafts, especially during Read-Aloud times. The girls brought out their cross stitch projects that we started a year ago and never finished. So I grabbed mine, and started taking it to the gym with me. I made some mistakes, ripped out whole sections, but finally finished. 

Since I was able to cross stitch and visit, I grabbed a new project and kept going. Then one of my fellow moms asked if I ever taught, and I said, "YES!" I brought her a kid-sized project and started teaching her. Then a sister of one of Caleb's teammates grew interested. Then another sister seemed curious. We're making up a little crafting club right there on the bleachers in the balcony of the gym. 

I am praying that the LORD use this little group for His Glory and that opportunities to share about the Gospel come from this endeavor. 

How do you keep your hands busy when you have places to wait?