Showing posts with label blessings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blessings. Show all posts

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Mom, I'm Bored"

I've probably written this theme into the ground this week, but this is a place for me to process my thoughts along our educational journey, and boredom is what we're learning about.

I'm learning to be comfortable with letting my kids get bored.

Way back before I had kids, my good friend had a couple, and she earned a little pocked money by babysitting a couple more.  She said that the kids she watched were exhausting to be around all day not because they were bad kids--they weren't--but because they were used to having their every moment planned and they had no idea how to entertain themselves.  My friend told me that she cultivated boredom in her kids so that they would learn how to make good choices and know how to use the time God gives us all.

I've always remembered that bit of good advice.

But it hasn't always been easy to follow.  When the kids say, "Mom, I'm bored!" I always answer that I have a chore that needs to be done, and the kids scatter like the wind and find something to do, but I wonder if I'm doing a disservice because we aren't signed up for the library reading program, swimming lessons, summer craft camp, VBS, or enrichment classes.  I kind of wonder if I'm a bad mom when my kids are bored.  Shouldn't I be giving them more of my time?

Last night I was talking to a fellow mom at a church social.  This mom LOVES her kids.  This mom cares about motherhood.  This mom is a good mom.  Her kids are kids I'm glad mine have as friends.  We seek their company and are better for it.  I admire her in many, many ways. 

Last night she said, "I feel as if this summer is the busiest season of my life.  It's my own fault.  I'm running here, running there, taking the kids out and about, trying to keep them from getting bored."

Something in me suddenly felt so thankful for our own boring summer, and I answered gently, "I intentionally let the kids get bored so that they know how to solve the problem of their own boredom."

"But my kids fight when they're bored . . . " she said, trailing off as she answered the call of her 2 year old and I answered mine.

We let the conversation drop, but I turned away grateful that  my kids are their own best friends.  Yes, E14 took M12's favorite jeans without permission on Monday, and S12 said some spiteful things to H4 yesterday.  Yes, A7 and H4 sometimes hide from I2 so that they can play a game in peace, and he comes to me in tears after being abandoned by his favorite people in the world.  Yes J10 sometimes sighs and says, "I don't want to play with my sisters anymore!"  Yes, sometimes I send the kids to their rooms because the bickering is making my head spin off, but that is truly only a small percentage of the time.  For the most part they are absolutely best friends.

A7 and H4 play for hours with I2--games of make believe adventure.  J10 has been I2's best friend this week; she's been playing some made up version of Clue.  It is hilarious to hear him call out, "Colonel Mustard, yibrary, bobby pin!"  (we lost the lead pipe, so we use a bobby pin.)  M12 does S12's and J10's hair.  S12 and J10 play Barbies.  E14 does makeovers on all of her sisters.  They take turns painting each other's nails. 

When they need time apart from one another they develop talents and skills. 

E14 is clearing brush along our little creek so that they can follow the creek from the street in front of our house all the way down to the street behind our house.  It's not far, but it feels like an adventure because the woods and brush are so thick.  Apparently there's also a small clearing along the way in which she's hoping to build a tree house.  Daddy bought her some lumber and has given her permission to use his tools. 

M12 sits at the piano for hours at a time.  She's really learning to play--so much so that she's accompanying the hymn singing for the other girls in the church youth group.  She also sewed a dress for H4.  She's working on a dress for A7.

S12 made me a cake on Wednesday when she was bored.  She'd never made a cake by herself before.  It's delicious, and she's so proud of herself.  She's also learned to make quesadillas for a crowd and has made piles of sandwiches for us all.  She's service-minded, so when she's bored she looks for ways to help; yesterday I found her voluntarily cleaning up dog-poop in the yard.  She's my hero right now.

J10 came to me with a recipe for muffins she found in a magazine.  Once she helped me tidy up the kitchen she had free reign there for over an hour.  The muffins are fabulous!  Cinnamon-nut.  Even the non-nut-eaters in the family are eating them eagerly.  And last night J10 learned how to make popcorn on the stove--she popped 3 batches for us to take to the social. 

A7 picks up her scriptures when she's bored.  She's reads intensely--so much so that I2 picked up a set of scriptures he found lying on a table, marched into the kitchen and announced, "I read dese myself!"  Then he marched out to the couch, plunked himself down next to A7, opened the scriptures at random, and proceeded to stare intently at the pages.  A7 is influencing our family for good.

The little guys play, draw, color, wheedle big people into reading stories to them, and soak up everything they can.  H4 has learned to hula hoop.  I2 has learned how to wash his own hands--he even turns off the water when he's done! 

I've struggled this summer with being so "out of it" with this pregnancy.  I've felt that I've done my family a disservice by lying on the couch and failing to give them a summer full of care free memories of spending long hours in the sun.  I've wept more than once with fear that my pregnancy and a new baby are not blessings but curses I've brought on my kids' heads.  I've feared that I'm just not competent enough.

I keep writing and writing about my fears and sense of failure.  I keep writing and writing about how great I think my kids are . . . not to boast, but to increase my own awareness.  I write to help me see more clearly.  I can see better that I am not failing them; if anything my fatigue and illness have been a gift to them.  They are free to be bored.  They are free to solve their own problems.  They are free to grow in ways that they might not if I were on top of my game and managing our every moment. 

I am so thankful for that brief conversation I had with my friend last night.  She's a great mom, and her kids are great kids.  I'm glad we're friends.  Though I'd already been working hard to process the idea, she helped open my eyes to the blessings of boredom.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

To Everything There is a Season

I have officially given up my summer plans.

That stack of 50+ library books all about plants--project books, history books, herbals, recipe books, etc.--all returned.

Well, except one.  I still have 2 weeks to hold on to Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany, and I can't quite bring myself to return it early just in case the opportunity to do a lesson or two presents itself.  (It is hard to give up!)

We haven't done one day of sketching.
We've only managed two nature outings.
It turns out that our local lake only allows swimming at a certain beach and only during certain hours of the day, and there's an entry fee--per person!

We're not even going on our blueberry picking outing with Daddy this morning because we had a new church family over for dinner last night, and the evening was so fun that we all stayed up until hours past all of our bedtimes, and we're all exhausted and sleeping in, and it's raining this morning anyway.

We spend our days as if it were 32 degrees and cloudy out instead of 85 degrees and sunny--in the house, reading, playing games, cooking.  The kids don't go out unless I do.  And I'm doing very well just to take care of meals (unless the kids do!), keep up with the laundry, and be available to read stories to small people.

I have to fight the urge to complain.

We are housebound for the very best of reasons.

And I must remember to count my blessings . . . 1, 2,  3 . . . 1,000,004 . . .

This quiet, indoor summer is not what I dreamed of, not what I planned for, not what I wanted.  But it is what we have.  We're growing a baby (we're so hoping to hear a heartbeat tomorrow), we're completing adoption paperwork, we're doing fix-it projects, we're living very quietly after completing one full school year with another one coming up.

And a new month started today. 

Perhaps there are adventures . . . fun ones! . . . right around the corner.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Day in the Life--June

Linking up with Tristan over at Our Busy Homeschool:

I have not a single picture of the day to share . . . only words . . . and even those are hard to come by these days with my energy almost completely focused within on the pregnancy we hope will last until January of next year.

I woke first, as is my goal every day.  If I even get a few minutes of absolute quiet I am better prepared for the day ahead.  I2 had joined me in bed sometime in the night, but he'd gone reasonably easily back to sleep; I am thankful.

Fighting the nausea that is hard when I first wake, I prepared a bowl of raspberries and cold cereal for me to eat while I read my scriptures.  I'm in the book of Alma right now.  I copied a verse into my journal and helped I2 get his favorite morning treat of graham crackers and milk.

I heard the shower running and knew I didn't need to wake E14--she remembered about having to be up and out the door by 8:00 am for her physical exam this morning.  The other kids began waking, getting dressed, and doing their morning chores.

I got on the computer and found via email that our church congregation (ward) is hosting a funeral this weekend.  I signed up to bring watermelon, but it someone beat me to it.  I was shuttled over to a veggie tray; that's fine, too.  After replying to our adoption homestudy worker about a question she answered for me and sending her another question, I got up from the computer and got myself and I2 dressed for the day.

I gave out directions to the 5 kids who were staying home for making and cleaning up breakfast, and then I2, E14 and I left for our very first visit to our new doctor's office.  In truth, I was sick with wondering how the visit would go.  Would this doctor (actually it is a nurse practitioner) tolerate my parenting practices or would I have to endure lectures about how I am endangering my kids' lives?  Would she sign the adoption physical forms saying we are in good health or would she claim we are a danger to the community?  Putting my fears together with my physical nausea left me shaking with the effort it took to arrive at the office. 

E14 was seen first--and on her own as she'd asked me.  She felt quite old enough to not be accompanied by her mother during a physical exam.  I2 and I played in the children's waiting area.  The nurse practitioner came out to ask me several questions about E14's immunizations, and to my relief she took it in stride that I asked for one and refused another based on my lack of personal research.  I began to breathe a little easier.

I2 was next.  He suddenly got afraid.  He stamped his little foot and yelled, "No want to!" when I said it was his turn.  He allowed himself to be convinced, and that's how the whole appointment went--he'd refuse and then I'd cajole/distract him enough to get the exam done.  I give the nurse practitioner much credit for standing back and allowing him time to adjust to each new requirement.  She was kind to him and contributed herself to some of the distracting.  The questioning of parenting practices was far easier than I've experienced in other doctor's offices, and she didn't even bat an eyelash when I said I2 hadn't had any immunizations yet, but that I wanted him to start with polio and only polio.  I stated clearly that we'd do one series at a time and take however long it took to get him through.  She said, "Okay.  Let me check to see if we have polio on its own--lots of times they're combined."

I almost cried with relief. 

She came back with a dose of IPV and did not make me sign 4 different forms stating that I understood I was risking my child's life and under no circumstances was I to blame the doctor's office for my maverick and foolish choices.  In fact she smiled and told us all to have a good day.

If I hadn't been nauseous I'd have jumped for joy.

While we were gone Daddy came home from work, ate, showered, and went to bed for the day.  We came home to find S11 cleaning the kitchen and kids clamoring for snacks.  I passed out cheese sticks, ate one myself, and crashed on the couch. 

Kids did their own thing while I was conscious but only semi-coherent. 

I heard the piano being played;
The little guys got Twister down from the games shelf;
M12 told me she had Personal Progress goals to work on;
S11 kept working on that kitchen--I tried to make sure I thanked her for her service;
I thought E14 and J10 were reading.

Lunchtime came.  I was still incapable of standing upright.  S11 came and said, "How can I help, Mom?" 

She set out leftover bagel sandwiches from our picnic the day before and leftover quesadillas from dinner a couple of nights ago.  She filled the water pitcher, set out plates and cups, and called everyone to the table.  The kids gathered and prayed and ate . . . all while I continued to lie on the couch.

I was counting my blessings the whole time!

A lull in the rain lured a few kids outside to explore a little.  Otherwise they scattered again to their own pursuits.

Eventually I forced myself upright because I needed to get E14 and M12 to the store to buy a birthday present for a friend.  We also needed dishwasher detergent, diapers, and something that we could have for dinner that wouldn't make me gag too much.  I'd promised to cut up the other half of a watermelon for a snack, too.  But first I had to call the doctor's office to make appointments for the other 7 of us to get our physicals.  It took nearly 45 minutes, but the woman on the phone was unfailingly cheerful and polite to me, and she got all 7 appointments fit into 4 days next week.  That office is going to get to know us very well!

I cut up the watermelon, and E14 showed me a dead baby bird she'd found on our compost pile.  She and the littles dug a grave for it, then came in for their snack.

"Wash your hands with lots of soap!  Wash all the way up to your elbows!" I commanded before allowing them to eat.

I told the older girls to get ready to go shop with me, but then the watermelon in my stomach wreaked havoc and I spent the next couple of hours running to the bathroom.  In between sick sessions I worked on adoption paperwork.  The stack of forms is fully half an inch thick.

At 3:35 it was "now or never" for getting to the store and back before dinner had to be on the table.  E14 and M12 had been waiting patiently and jumped right to their feet.  Suddenly I2 said, "I go wif you!"  His shoes were missing, but some flip flops were close at hand, so we grabbed those and left. 

I sent E14 and M12 over to jewelry and make up to find a present while I steered I2 and the cart over to groceries.  I decided that hot dogs, french fries, and fresh veggies with dip would make the kids happy.  We threw stuff in our cart, figured that  putting together a formal veggie tray for the funeral would be too expensive at this store (Aldi is always cheaper), and then grabbed diapering supplies we needed.  I scooped up the big girls on our way to check out--they'd stayed perfectly within their budget and had found cute stuff on clearance for their friend.

When I got home I realized that I'd forgotten dishwasher detergent.

I also found out that J10 had been using her tablet to play Tiny Castles almost all day--with no timer set and not out in a common room.  Both rules are inflexible in our house.  I had to confiscate the tablet.  She handed it over without fussing.  I feel terrible for being so unaware of her.

S11 stepped right up to help with dinner.

She's been an absolute angel today . . . cleaning, babysitting, helping at every turn . . . and I know it's because she really wants to watch the Harry Potter video she checked out from the library.  I have strict rules about ages and times that those movies can be watched, and it's hard for the kids to get the chance to watch them.  The idea of staying up with my 3 big girls is overwhelming because I'm so tired, but there's no way I can let such consistent and cheerful help go unrewarded.

J10 felt badly for breaking the rules, so she joined S11 and me in the kitchen.   We tidied up, put the fries in the oven, set the table, and fried the hot dogs because I couldn't cope with the grill on my own.  I woke Daddy, and we talked for a few minutes, just the two of us.

I managed to stay upright through dinner, scriptures, and family prayer.  But I crashed again, and the kids cleaned up the kitchen.  There was some fussing about having to do it, but really, they are marvelous, and I found myself counting my blessings again.

After dinner and clean up Daddy left for work and the kids headed outside.  I stayed on the couch.  I could hear them calling and laughing together.

More blessings.

In an hour or so, a few kids came crashing into the house and I called, "Bathtime!"  Before I could struggle to an upright position, and without even being asked, E14 and M12 took care of bathing the littles. 

Blessings unnumbered.

I got up to read to I2 in the big blue rocking chair.  He was so tired.  I checked his leg for signs of tenderness at the polio injection site, but found only smooth, healthy skin.  I paused to pray my gratitude.  I sang for a moment, and he was asleep in my arms.  He's so big!  Only 2 1/2 and he weighs just shy of 40 pounds and stands well over 3 feet tall.  But he's still my baby.  He still curls up in my lap and feels like a baby.  I rocked him quietly for a few more moments, relishing the peace and comfort of being his mother.

Then I was sick again.

I finally came out to the living room to find all 6 girls waiting patiently for me. 
I read 2 chapters of Zooman Sam
I tucked in the little girls.
A7 said as I kissed her good night, "Mom, I'm reading in Mosiah now!"  (She's going to read The Book of Mormon on her own before she turns 8!)
H4 said as I kissed her good night, "Mom, I hope our baby lives."  (The last 4 have not.)
I told the oldest 3 to start their movie. 
They squealed with delight. 

I went downstairs to help J10 choose something to read and to tuck her in.  "Are you okay on your own down here?" I asked.  She smiled and said she was fine.  I hate leaving her out of the older girls' privileges, but she's not 11 yet, and I know that even at 11 the movies will probably still be too scary for her.  She's a sensitive soul, and I don't want to desensitize her.  I kissed her good night and headed upstairs to the older girls.

I had to find something to eat.  I found a half a cup of leftover whipped cream from Family Night on Sunday night, so I poured a cup of raspberries into the bowl and ate raspberries and cream.  It was delicious, and I did not get sick from it. 

The older girls were completely engrossed in their movie.  I lasted for an hour.  I locked up the house, kissed them all goodnight, and told them to turn off the lights and open I2's bedroom door when they were done.  They vaguely agreed, so focused were they on the screen.

I fell into bed. 
I think I brushed my teeth first. 
I read 2 chapters of He Knows Your Heart.
Then I fell asleep.

Monday, June 9, 2014

June Rain

The kids are dancing in the rain at this very moment.

Today A7 found a butterfly that made friends with her.   She built it a habitat and has spent hours studying it.

H4 and I2 followed A7 out of doors and have tagged happily at her heels.

I took the bigger girls shopping with me for items to complete E14's pioneer trek packing list.  Then I came home and sewed for several hours making adjustments here and there so that her clothes look like the genuine article.

Daddy mowed the lawn--for hours and hours today.

M12 practiced the piano and taught herself a new song on the recorder.  Yesterday she even got to play a hymn on the piano for the children to sing along.  She did a really good job!

S11 and J10 pored over the 21 dessert cookbooks they picked up from the library today.  I'd like to let them do some fun kitchen projects.  Maybe we can cut a deal or two . . .

M12 is taking the little ones up to the field right now.  She promises that she'll bring them home at the first sign of thunder or lightning. I trust her.   I can hear happy screams from here in the kitchen.

I am tired.

I am pregnant--7 weeks tomorrow (by my best calculation).  I think this one might stick because the morning sickness has been virulent.  But I've lost babies before even when I've been quite ill. 

We'll see.

I've been sick enough that I've had to tell the kids in order enlist their help.  They also began to ask, "Why are you lying down again, Mom?"

H4 sat on my lap and studied a pregnancy week-by-week website with me this morning.  She's delighted to discover that the baby is the size of a blueberry.  Next week a raspberry.  A7 asked, "How do they know what fruit to compare it to?"  We had quite the talk about cameras and technology . . . and loss.  Then A7, H4, and I2 cackled with glee when I clicked on the weeks in which they were born.  A7 and H4 were "pumpkins."  But I2 howled with delight over being a "watermelon."

Their hope fuels mine.

And the fact that they're dancing in the rain.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homeschool Campout--Spring 2014

I had to take the kids alone to the camp out.  Our daddy had to work.  We didn't stay overnight, because I cannot even imagine how to accomplish what it takes to go camping with 7 children and only 1 adult.  But rather than miss out on all the fun we were day campers.  We packed up our swimsuits and bug repellant, filled the cooler with veggies and sandwich fixings and took off.

Because there was only one of me, I had to say no to some activities.  Kayaking was one of them.  Usually the rules of the families that own the kayaks are:  1.  Wear a life jacket.  2.  Your parent has to watch you.  We absolutely respect those rules.  I told my big kids that I couldn't be in two places at once, so they couldn't kayak because I had to be where the little kids were.

When the kayak owners found out the situation, they volunteered to be the parents on duty in my place.  Other mothers, other fathers gave their time so my kids could go out on the water.

I am so thankful.

My kids LOVE to go out in the kayaks.

I spent several hours at the swimming beach with my little guys (too long it turns out--in spite of faithfully using our favorite sunscreen ever, we got burned!).  We had snacks.  We played in the trees.  We hid under the shelter when a passing raincloud opened itself over us.  We visited.  Every so often I'd see one of my big kids pass by, happily enclosed in a posse of friends.

Then a family of friends to my little guys went down to the kayaks.  My littles wanted to follow.  I took them down with strict instructions that we could not kayak because I could not take one of them out on the water and be on the shore to watch the other two.  I promised we would kayak at the fall camp out when Daddy could come with us.

But my little guys saw their friends and they were tired after so many hours on the beach and in the sun, and their coping skills were almost gone, and they wanted so much to go out on the water.  They did not throw tantrums.  They just pleaded with their tired eyes and their tired voices.

And some moms and dads standing near by said, "We can give them turns when our kids are done."

Again, other mothers, other fathers gave their time so my kids could go out on the water.

H4 went out with a mother-friend of our family.
A7 actually went out with J10, who showed up and said, "Sure I can take her out."

But the moment to remember forever was when a daddy-friend leaned down to I2 and asked, "Do you want to come with me?"  I2 leaned into me and looked uncertain.  I asked, "Do you want to go with (J7's) daddy?  He will take you in the boat if you want to."

I2 nodded his head.

I pulled off his shoes and socks while our friend found a suitable life jacket for I2.  We got properly assembled, and I2 walked happily and squelchily through the mud along the shore to the kayak.  Our daddy-friend lifted him in and settled him, and that's when we all saw I2's face.

He was smiling so hugely that we thought his face would crack in half.  Groans of delight echoed along the shore from all of the parents standing nearby.  And I nearly melted right into the sand.

That was one happy little boy.

I am one happy, grateful mom.

These friends of ours . . . they make our world so very bright.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Family Friday

Yesterday was a joy. 

I woke up with absolutely not one item on my calendar.  Nothing framed our day, not even Daddy's work schedule.  And I milked it for all it was worth.

We didn't even have a proper breakfast.  Instead as soon as kids had their chores done, they were allowed to fix themselves a pancake left over from last night's dinner.  As I made large, whole-grain-apple-and-cinnamon pancakes that the kids piled peanut butter, applesauce, and homemade syrup on top, this was more filling than one might imagine.

Once everyone was awake I sent the big girls off to do their independent school work while I discusses triple bunk bed plans with Daddy.  We're building the green ones, only switched so the doubles are on the right with the single on the left, and we're modifying them slightly using these plans for inspiration.

H4 asked if she could do school, so we did.  She read her first 4 words--at, fat, mat, rat.  We called Grandma to read them to her over the phone.  H4 read for Daddy, for sisters, for me, for herself.  It was one of those moments when the whole world simply sparkles for joy.

I made some pumpkin bars for a snack and had devotional some time in the middle of the morning.  Once older kids were turning in their school work, I pulled on my work clothes and put another coat of paint over as much of the 2nd basement bedroom as I could before we ran out of paint. 

Then I worked outside.  I'm creating a border along our front walkway.  I'm eventually going to fill it with native flowering plants (and probably a few bulbs), but I'll take my time about it.

I allowed boredom work its wonderful work.  Any child that said, "I'm so bored.  I have nothing to dooooooo," was acknowledged, but not helped. 

There was much complaining for an hour or so. 
A7 fell on the floor in desperation. 
 I stepped over her and went about my work.
E14 followed me around for a while, asking me to solve her boredom problem by taking her somewhere else. 
I just kept on working.

Eventually I noticed that everyone was busy doing things:
--E14 had gathered tools and scrap lumber and was banging away in a tree.
--M12 helped me paint and then bathed the cat.
--S11 pottered about outside and helped M12.
--J10 read books, played board games, and pottered with S11.  She also made quesadillas for us when we got hungry.
--A7 sulked in the hammock until she got up and put on her roller blades.
--H4 helped me dig in the front yard.
--I2 swung on the swingset, dug in the dirt, drew with sidewalk chalk, played Legos, and managed to cross the street into the soccer field without me seeing him even though he was standing right next to me 5 seconds earlier!  (I sent J10 after him.)

Daddy headed to the hardware store to buy wood for the bunk beds and paint for the bedroom walls, then to Aldi to grab take-and-bake pizzas for dinner.  He took the three oldest girls with him. 

I was still working in the yard when they got home, so M12 took the initiative to oversee the pizzas while S11 got the card table out of the garage and took it up to the deck.  We ate out pizza outdoors--the first picnic of spring!

Daddy took everyone but I2 over to the soccer field to play while I bathed a very dirty, very tired, small boy.

As the sky turned purple in the twilight, we gathered together for family reading and went thankfully to bed.

Family days are the happiest days.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Favorite Part of General Conference . . .

 . . . was seeing my children's faces light up in spontaneous recognition of a favorite/memorized scripture and listening to their cries of delight when a story or moment of inspired instruction touched their hearts.

We all loved hearing Elder Aidukaitis tell us, "One should not roam through garbage!"

I think it will be our new family watch-phrase. :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Growing Up With General Conference

--I receive  printables about General Conference in my email inbox every 6 months.

--I stumble across ideas on blogs.
--My kids come home from church with handouts and challenges from their primary leaders/teachers.

All are great ideas.  I have no criticism of them.  I've even printed a few of them out and let my own kids have a go at them.

But I've found that for the most part they are distractions from the real event.

If a kid is playing conference bingo, I'm usually hearing, "Mom, Mom, did he say 'faith?'" instead of hearing the talk about faith.

It's the same for the kid playing conference bingo--listening for isolated words instead of messages.

E14 has received numerous packets encouraging her to use her general conference experience as a Personal Progress value project.  She has successfully ignored every one of them, choosing to nap instead of listen or take notes.

Nevertheless, I've felt faintly guilty over the years for not throwing myself into building tents so that my kids can experience general conference like the people of King Benjamin did ever so long ago, or for not having activity baskets for each child.  I've wondered if I've been denying my children something that would strengthen their love for conference, increase their opportunities to develop faith, and generally make their childhoods joyful and memorable.

Our whole tradition for conference has been: everyone has to stay in the room where conference is on.  Kids may play with quiet toys, draw pictures, take notes, listen, or completely tune out as long as they're in the room.   Mom and Dad watch conference, take occasional notes, and care for whomever is the baby at that time.  When our internet was slow, we dressed up, packed bags of toys and snacks and went to the church.  Now that our internet is fast we stay home.  Either way, we all stay in the same room together.

And I make cinnamon rolls on General Conference Sunday mornings.

That's it.

But not really. 

We've never done fabulous Family Home Evening lessons preparing the kids for conference, but my husband and I have talked openly about how excited we are for conference.  He's made sure to request vacation days if it was possible he might be scheduled to work that weekend.  He and I have pored over the General Conference editions of the Ensign, sharing aloud those words that have touched our hearts.  We've talked around the dinner table about talks that apply to life.  We've made General Conference part of our daily lives, but without any fanfare.

As my kids have napped, played, bickered, drawn, and snacked their way through General Conference year after year, I've looked around the room and wondered, "Have I failed them?  Should I have done more?"

Yesterday I received an answer.

We set up the computer.
We reviewed the rule.
We sat down to watch.

In a quiet moment I looked around the room:
E14 had a notebook and pencil out--for the first time!  And it was by her own choice.
M12 had her journal and a pen taking copious notes.
S11 had a notebook and pen.
J10 had her tablet--trying to take electronic notes.
A7 had a sketch pad and crayons--she was drawing General Conference scenes.
H4 was cutting and pasting quietly in a new workbook (a recent homeschool conference present).
I2 was playing a matching game on the floor.
I had my scripture journal and a pen.
Daddy had his traditional piece of notebook paper and a pen.

The room was quiet, reverent, busy.  Everyone was engaged in their own way.

I have not failed.

I'm glad there are clever, creative, inventive, fun people who share their ideas for making General Conference a memorable family tradition.  I admire their energy and enthusiasm.

I am not one of them.

But that's okay; it is not necessary to have an in-home laminator to make the most of General Conference.

We have learned and grown in the manner and time appropriate for our family.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Best Moments

This morning, as part of her phonics lesson, H4 and I were supposed to make a silly shopping list for items beginning with the sounds /m/, /f/, and /b/.  We took turns coming up with items.

We laughed.

A7 joined us.

I2 joined us.

S11 joined us.

We all came up with the goofiest items we could imagine buying at a store:  Babies!  Monkeys!  Moms!

Perhaps they're not very goofy, but we laughed and laughed together.

Today I had to do some shopping. 

I hate shopping.  It sucks the life out of me and leaves me more drained than dealing with several crying toddlers (I know this because I'm the nursery leader at church.)

Today's shopping took far longer than planned and left me listless, foggy, and frustrated.

We barely had a proper dinner, and when it was over I simply could not face the kitchen.  I was trying, trying, trying to remember that if I just put one foot in front of the other it would be fine, but I couldn't. 

I asked everyone to help for 5 minutes.

They did!

They were wonderful. 

I felt new life as we worked together.

Tonight the big girls went to the church for activities.  Daddy didn't have to work, so he took them while I stayed home with the littles.  They each chose a stack of picture books, and I read and read and read with small people cuddled close to me. 

One treat was that A7 and H4 each chose to have me read their "special" books--the Shutterfly books I made for each of them about their babyhoods. 

I tucked them in after singing to them and listening to their personal prayers.

Sometimes being the mom is the best.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow Day Indoors

I love being home!
I love being home!
I love being home!

The snow began just as forecasted and fell all day long.

Church activities were cancelled.
We had our groceries.
We had our craft supplies.
Daddy didn't have to work.

The world was silent, cocooned as the snow fell and fell and fell.

No one even asked to go anywhere or complained about being "stuck at home" the way they usually do.

We were content to be at home.

We were lazy getting up.
We did chores slowly.
We ate breakfast rather late.
We moved gently through our school day, accomplishing each item on our list with no thought to deadlines.
We ate homemade bread, fresh from the oven, slathered with melting butter and honey.
We cuddled our sick I2.
We fed the fire.
We read, read, read, read, read!

We went to bed early.

Now we are awake. 
The energy in this house is electric! 
The snow is thick! 
Play clothes await!
The sleds sit idle in the garage!
They must be put to good use!

Yesterday was a rest.
A pause.
A blessing.

I love being home.

For preschool we played 'Q' is for queen.  We made these little puppets with hand prints (minus the thumbs).  I do not know to whom to give credit for this delightful idea, because I found it over a year ago and failed to source it before sticking it in an actual paper file, but I am most sincerely thankful!

I2 made princes instead of queens because what can you do with only queens?

H4 with her queen and 2 princesses.  The queen is the one with the buns, and the princesses have their ages written on their crowns--17 and 19 "because the 19 year old is old enough to dye her hair." 

A6 was practicing the violin with M11 when I had the camera out, but here are her queen and 2 princesses as well.

A close up of the queen.  I love her buns . . . and lips!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Persistence Pays Off

I don't know how to begin to write about yesterday.

 I2 is sick, so I cleared our calendar for the week--cancelling field trips and outings that we had planned.  Then I found out there is a rather large snow expected today, so all of those field trips and outings would have to be cancelled anyway.

I'd settled into a quiet week at home (I was even so proud of myself for checking the older girls' school books early, early in the morning so they were ready) when I found out about the snow.

I took mental stock of our food and supply situation.

It was good enough to get by, but not good enough to be comfortable, not good enough to be easy when there is a sick toddler in the house.

And we're on 'Q' for preschool.  I'd promised to make quesadillas with H4, but we were low on cheese.

I faced a choice between keeping my promise of our afternoon school session or heading to the store while the sun was shining and the roads were relatively dry.

I determined to do both.

I pulled the kids together, told them of the quasi-emergency we were facing and told them that they had a break but not a bye from school.

I raced out the door only to find that every other person in our city was running the same errands I was; the traffic and store lines were desperately long.  It took me 3 hours to run 1 hour's worth of errands.

I was so late coming home.  There was no time to have afternoon school.  There wasn't even time to put a proper dinner together.  How grateful I was for good leftovers that made a mighty fine "Garbage Soup."

But now I2 was complaining that his ears hurt.  We haven't had an ear infection around here in a loooong time, but his symptoms were such that I'm quite confident an ear infection was starting--perhaps even two of them.  And I'd been thinking he was on the mend.

I'd checked our supply of Tylenol and cold remedies, but I'd failed to put them on my list earlier, so I hadn't restocked while I was out.  I faced the dilemma of a sick toddler getting sicker while snow fell and knew that it was now or never for a trip to the drug store.  As soon as scriptures and prayers were over, while my family finished eating, my husband left for work, and a couple of my older girls started cleaning up, I raced out the door again.

(I'm ever so glad that I went.  I2 had a rough night.  We used the medicines I bought all night long!)

By this time I was frantic.  I'd promised the girls we'd do school, but I needed to attend to I2, the kitchen was untidy, A6 and H4 needed attention, and it was getting late--our evening routines awaited.  

As I sat with I2 in my lap holding a rice sock to his ear and applying garlic-infused olive oil, I took stock.  Would it be so terrible to let go of the schooling considering the circumstances?

And my answer was--yes, it would be.  I'd promised.  I needed to keep that promise. 

We organized.  I took care of I2.  M11 took care of H4 and A6.  S11 emptied the dishwasher.  E13 loaded it and generally tidied up the kitchen.  J10 cleaned and vacuumed the living room.

At 7:09 pm my four big girls and I sat down at the table together and read from the New Testament together.  Then we read a little bit of history.  Not much, just enough to be interesting and for me to keep my promise. 

My children need me to keep my promises.

I'm so thankful for the work they did--pulling together to help me keep my promise and keep our home comfortable.  They work like this every day, but yesterday it was of particular value to me.  I'm so thankful. 

And I told them so.

Our evening routines were necessarily brief, but everything that needed to be taken care of was.  Somehow--and I believe it was one of God's tender mercies--we took care of the errands, the cleaning, the childcare, the food, the school, and the loving of one another all in an intense and compressed time.  I usually am a proponent of removing what is unnecessary in order to fit in what is truly important, but on this day it was all necessary. 

A promise is a promise.

Now the snow can fall (7-10 inches predicted!). 
We can prepare and eat food that nourishes us body and spirit. 
I can cuddle my littles.
I can inspire my big girls. 
We can sit by the fire and dream . . . at least until it is time to tidy the living room again.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thoughts of Faith

I woke up this morning with swirling, churning thoughts.

My personal devotional is continuing my study of faith.

As I read the first scripture on my list I remembered another scripture:
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.  

--Matthew 17:20

Then a story I heard in church recently came to mind.  I do not know who told it, but it goes as follows:
There was a woman of little faith, a skeptic, who encountered a believer.  She was told about this scripture and challenged to try her faith.  There was a hill in front of her house that blocked her view of the countryside.  She prayed for it to be moved so that she could see.  When she woke in the morning she looked out her window.  The hill was still there.  She turned away, disgusted, saying, "I knew it wouldn't work."

I think I have acted like that woman.

We have a mountain to move--getting our old house cleaned up and properly repaired for our tenants while caring for and educating our children.

If we have "faith as a grain of mustard seed" we can move a mountain.

But faith is hard work.  

My husband has been out working hard.  I need to do the same.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More Moving

On Saturday my husband and I worked on cleaning out the "blue room" in the basement.  It is currently our temporary holding place for boxes we've yet to take care of.  Eventually it will be a guest room.  It is a very small, strangely configured room, so we spent several minutes discussing options for its best use.  We finally decided that a hide-a-bed sofa would be wise.

On Monday morning we found an ad on our homeschool forum for a free hide-a-bed sofa.

Not wanting to ignore miracles staring us in the face, we went to work rearranging our day so that we could get the sofa and finish emptying our old house and yard of the odds and ends remaining there.

This means that though we just started school on Monday, on Tuesday we had a sort of break while the older 3 kids helped Daddy.

Sort of. 

Because we accomplished:
*preschool with H4, I2, and A6--they colored pictures of words that start with "n" like nurse, newt, nightingale, and nest
*independent school for the older 4--they just fit it in when they could
*bringing home the couch, picnic table, 6 potted blueberry bushes, the big ladders, more firewood, and other "stuff"
*morning devotional
*family scripture study and prayer
*outdoor play in the snow--the temperature skyrocketed 30 degrees to hover right at freezing.  The sun shone.  The sky was blue, blue, blue.  Perfect sledding weather!  I played, too.
*The older kids went to the church for Tuesday night activities.  Daddy took them, and they started out playing basketball, but were eventually adopted by the scouts to fill out their handball game.  Everyone came home tired, happy, and a little sore from a lot of exercise.
*The littles and I had a quiet evening at home with stories near the fire and going to bed on time.

It was a satisfying day.

Even if it wasn't a "proper school day."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sharing What Works

I've been hard on myself for the shape of our homeschool in 2013.  We've prepared our home to sell (it hasn't, yet), we've searched for and purchased a new home (we close on Nov. 26), and we took a giant vacation to see family and friends whom we haven't seen in 4 years or more.  We still have to actually pack and move!  All of these have sucked the life out of me, and the "good" parts of school have fallen by the way.

Today I read an invitation to share what works.   I'm taking that invitation as one of my Father in Heaven's tender mercies reminding me that I am not a failure.  I should take a moment to review just one thing we're doing well.

Instead of forever focusing on my failings.

What works?

Composition books.

(Image borrowed from here)

We love composition books.  I buy them by the dozen when they are on sale before school starts.  I pass them out liberally to my kids and keep quite a few for my own use. 

One for scripture journaling
One for copywork
One for a reading journal
One for writing
One for math
One for science
One for history
One for . . . anything our hearts desire!

Sometimes we make them fancy with glue and pretty paper.  Sometimes we leave them plain.  But we always fill them up with things we're learning.

My kids do their schoolwork in their composition books and then put them on the kitchen counter.  I pick them up from the counter and read what they've done.  I make notes for correction, encouragement, and congratulation in the margins and stack them back up on the counter.  The kids pick them up after breakfast the next morning, and we write again.

We need to do more science experiments.  We need more crafting and building.  We need to pick up our old ways of weekly nature walks.

In the mean time our composition books are keeping us reading and writing and curious.

And I might need to restock our supply when we do add in more of the "good" stuff!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Thing Right

We are in the middle of buying the house I wrote about before.

It is a nightmare of paperwork and hoop-jumping.

School remains minimal--the older 4 are doing their independent math, reading, and writing.  S11 and J9 continue to work on NaNoWriMo.  We attend Explorer's Club meetings, extracurricular lessons, and church activities.  Preschool is nonexistent, and A6 is teaching herself how to write in cursive (M11 gave her some lessons, and I printed a template for her to copy).  The kids read whatever they can get their hands on--E13 recently read The Great Gilly Hopkins and is currently working on The Hero and the Crown.  I read aloud at night; we finished A Wrinkle in Time, read half of The Complete Peterkin Papers before giving up because they were too silly to even be funny, and we're in the middle of Milly-Molly-Mandy for the littles and Mama's Bank Account for us all.

Scripture study and devotionals have fallen by the wayside (except for evening family prayer and Book of Mormon reading) as I've been fielding phone calls and procuring paperwork at all hours of the day and night.

But at least my General Conference issue of the Ensign is here.  I'm reading and writing about one talk a day for my personal study.  After I do that, I read one inspiring quote to the family. 

If nothing else, the words of the prophets and apostles are being read and discussed in our home.

I count that as one thing I'm doing right in spite of the chaos threatening to take over.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Field Work --> Home Works

Today E13 got to spend the day with an adult friend who works as director of a leadership camp.  She runs camps for public school kids both at her facility at on the schools.  I think she offers corporate leadership workshops, too.  But today was all about 8th graders learning to identify their personal strengths and to acknowledge the strengths of their peers.

E13 was there to soak up the philosophy under the guise of being a peer evaluator.  She carried a clipboard and evaluation sheet around with her to "grade" the kids' abilities to follow directions and achieve their goals.  This is supposed to help our friend see where the strengths and weaknesses of this particular camp reside.

I hope that her feedback is helpful.

We asked E13 how she felt about the day.  She answered, "Sister B----- is sure patient.  I know that sometimes I'm immature, but these kids were like 2-year-olds!"

They were her exact public school peers at the exact public school she would attend were we to decide that was the place for her.

She told a lot more stories as the evening wore on, but her first answer really sums it up.

So while we're not sure that we achieved our hoped-for goal of encouraging her to see the best in herself and others, she's feeling more and more thankful for our homeschooling ways.

Sometimes the best benefits are surprises.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almost Too Easy

My oldest said to me, "I'm glad we started school this way.  It's been less . . . I don't know . . . hard."


I agree.

We've started with the bare minimum.  If nothing else, we can do this with our hands tied behind our backs--or on really bad days.

After less than a week we're used to getting up, getting chores done, getting school done.

And we have enough time on our hands to start doing some good stuff.

Now we just have to figure out what that good stuff is going to be.

Friday, February 8, 2013

More Horses!

My precious J9 has only one riding lesson left--the one she's paying for out of her Christmas/birthday money.  The ones that we've paid for are over.

When I watch her with the horses, though, my spirit cries out that this must go on!  I cannot take this nourishment away from my small but growing girl.

I cannot afford it.

It cannot end.

I took my worries to my Heavenly Father . . . tentatively . . . informally . . . just wishfully . . . "I wish (J9) could keep riding . . ."

(That's not how I was taught to pray.)

I decided that one lesson per month cost the same as a month's worth of music or dance lessons, and we'd be willing to pay for those, so if she wanted to, she could continue with one lesson per month.  It would have to do.  It would have to be enough.

J9's beloved riding teacher is the owner of the barn  (What delicious understatement it is that she calls her breathtaking arena and stables and farm "the barn.").  Her daughters are beautiful, successful young women now, and as she cleaned out a few of their childhood possessions she thought that perhaps our family would enjoy giving them new life.  I was so very touched.

Our conversation gave me the courage to bring up my wish for riding lessons to continue, though on a much reduced scale.  I opened the topic with, "I never would have dreamed that horseback riding could be important, but when I look at my girl it is . . ."

And this dear woman said to me, "I've been thinking about that.  I think that (J9) knows how to work.  She has chores and responsibilities at home.  I have chores here at the barn that she could do in exchange for riding, if that would be all right with you."

I can't even type this without weeping . . . 

She was thinking about that? 

If it would be all right with me?

I looked at the shining face of my precious daughter and I swallowed the lump in my throat so that I could accept her offer without blubbering like a baby.  We agreed to email back and forth about the details.  She and J9 turned to head off to the tack room whereupon I stepped quickly outside and did blubber like a baby.

I just prayed and prayed my gratitude.

She gets to ride.  She gets her first job at age 9.  She gets to keep spending time with one of the loveliest women I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  She gets to grow her talents--to be fed and nurtured and mentored beyond anything I can give her.

Heavenly Father answered this smaller than small prayer in a way that is sweeter than sweet.