January 23, 2009

Good-Bye Mr. President

I like this and wanted to share it. I certainly don't think he was perfect in office, but I sure don't want to ever sit in that chair!!

January 22, 2009

Just a quick post to say

Just a quick post to say that I will still blog in the future!!

We had taken our house off the market for a break over the holidays. We had a meeting with our realtors last week and they felt pretty strongly that we need to paint our house to neutralize it (makes it sound like a combat zone!! Ha!). So, that's no small task in a house this size! We will have painted 10 rooms when all is said and done, hopefully Saturday. We've gone from greens, red, and blues to khaki, khaki, and oh! khaki! (Think "stone" khaki, not taupe.) Honestly, I think it's boring and stripped of all personality, but I guess that's what people want these days. I will say that I believe this about MY house right now... no one take that personally if your house is khaki! It's probably extra boring right now because I have nothing on my walls, so stripped of personality is not an understatement! And 5400 square feet is a LOT of khaki! Jacob has said many times, "It's so dull. I liked it better when it was colorful."

I do have to say what an enormous help Robert has been through this! Typically painting has been my project in the past. (In the past I didn't have 2 children!) I enjoy it and he doesn't really. But he has not left it to me at ALL! Last night he even painted the kitchen's second coat to surprise me while I was at choir practice! :) I was a very happy camper!

My other "staging" plans involve new white down alternative comforters (excited about this!) that we can/will use whenever we end up in a new place. (I'm trying to say "when" instead of "if.) I'll just order the duvet covers that we want and we'll be good to go! And I'll use some colored throw pillows to add a splash of color so our house doesn't look like an institution. In the kids room I'm going to have Jacob color some pictures with some special crayons that we have, frame them in some red frames that I have and re-hang their red/white gingham valances so it's still cute and they'll like it. In our room, I haven't a clue what to put on the walls! In the living room, I'm decluttering as much as I can, packing up books and taking down the barrister bookshelf. The realtors suggested packing up some of the children's books as well, but I'm rebelling. Don't mess with my children's books. (She clearly did not home school!) Anyway, I have thrown away papers and junk that I haven't looked at for a long time, kids toys that just end up spread all over the floor, and random things I thought I would get to.

Lastly, we have a large section of our house that is dark paneling and dark stained doors/windows that we're looking in to getting painted... Actually, one guy was supposed to come by today and measure for a quote. He didn't show or call. NOT a good way to drum up business if you ask me! This area includes 16 doors and windows, not counting the 9 foot slider. A bit too much for me to handle because of the oil based primer. The kids will have to be gone when it's being done and I just don't know I could swing that! Last I heard they frown on leaving your children at Chick Fil A unattended for several days.

I'll post some before/after pics when we're all done. For now, I need to go clean up a bit more before I crash! I'm feeling guilty because Robert is upstairs still working...

January 14, 2009

Gramma Lil

I found another writing I thought I'd share... Just for a bit of background info: My mom's mother was Helga. After she died, Grampa married her little sister, Lil. They had been great friends and wanted to care for each other. They got married at our family reunion when I was 12 and she was quickly Gramma Lil to all of us.

This is what I shared at Gramma Lil's funeral. It's interesting to read now after some of the things I've written about just recently, before I found this.

My mom and Gramma Lil

I have struggled this week as I've been unsuccessfully explaining to my co-workers what a wonderful woman Gramma Lil was. I have also struggled with the task of putting it down on paper. I have struggled because it is difficult to express with words. Her spirit was unique and not something that can be explained. I was priveleged enough to experience it.

As I think over the years I've been blessed to spend with her, I remember so many times. I remember escorting her to Wisconson in the Spring of '98 to visit Kathy [her daughter who had special needs and lived in an assisted living center out there]. I remember her requesting my help in organizing her pantry when I was visiting the summer I was 15. I remember the butterfly bathtub grippie stickers she put on her screen door so she wouldn't walk into it! And I remember her bridal shower when she married Grampa. I remember introducing her to Robert last year. After they met, He left the room and she quickly said, "He's cute!" (She caught me off guard with that one!!) I remember doing her hair and trying to teach her how to use her new curling iron... we finally gave up. I remember surprising her for her birthday and meeting long-time friends of hers who remembered praying for me more than 20 years earlier after I had been run over by a car! And I remember her commitment to pray for Robert and I on our trip to Russia, then telling her about the trip only six days ago. I also remember bawling my eyes out the morning I was getting married because she couldn't come to our wedding!!

I could go on and on with stories that make our hearts smile, but the time I remember most is the few weeks in the winter of '94 when we were in Princeton together. I had decided to spend my Christmas vacation there with Gramma Lil and Grampa in order to help Lil take care of him. That was when I realized what a treasure she was... She not only bathed, fed, dressed, lifted, pushed, chauffeured and prayed for him. She cared for him. She loved him, no matter what he gave back.

After Grampa died, I went through a period of questioning God's plan. I didn't understand why He would choose her to suffer through the loss of two husbands dying of cancer. I didn't think it was fair, because she was such a treasure. She had such a great attitude. I never heard her speak ill of another or utter a cross word at anyone. Even when she was scolding she sounded nice! She always had something positive to say. Surely God wasn't trying to teach her anything. After all, she was such a good woman. She didn't need that stretching, or so I thought.

After several months of this spiritually immature thinking and prayer for wisdom, God gave me a small understanding of His will for His people.

God doesn't exempt us from suffering because we are kind or gentle or precious. God uses that suffering to make us more kind, more gentle, more precious, and ultimately, more like Him.

Each time I have read through the book of Ruth, I have thought of Gramma Lil and her faithfulness to people. She gave so much energy and love to Grampa after Gramma [Helga] died and so much more when he was sick years later. She adopted us all as her own grandchildren and shared her heart with us. She loved us and opened her heart to us because God has given her a heart for Him. It is through her suffering that God has developed that heart. And I am so thankful that God has allowed me to be blessed by a relationship with her. I only wish I had discovered that treasure earlier.

As I strive to be a Godly woman with a gentle spirit, and realize how very far I have to go, I often think of Gramma Lil. She was not perfect I understand, but I feel strongly that she is most accurately described by these verses which are often the focus of my prayer for Godliness:

1 Peter 3:3,4 "Your adornment must not be merely external: braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God."

Written August 2000, I think! She was a treasure, and I feel very fortunate to have known her. Many of us miss out on the treasure of a wonderful grandparent, and I was fortunate enough to have several.

January 12, 2009

The Wood Shop

Rushmore Bradley Barnes

My Grandpa (my Mom's dad) had a work shop in his basement. He was a remarkably skilled carpenter by trade, but created many things as a hobby as well.

He was a gruff man, but lovable in his own way. And I got along well with him, so I think I missed most of the personality problems! He had prostate cancer while I was in my freshman year in college. He was having complications from the cancer, and spent some time at a clinic specializing in lymphodema in December and January of that time. Because they were away from home, my Gramma needed some help lifting the wheelchair in and out of the car and driving and things. I was privileged to be able to spend two of my weeks of Christmas vacation with them that year. That is time I'll never regret. I felt pretty strongly when I drove away at the end of that time that it was our last good bye. He died less than a week later.

When I was up there for Christmas that year, I went down to his wood shop and wrote this. He never got back down there.

The Wood Shop

The Wood Shop
The lights still turn on, the radio still sings,
the clock still ticks, the phone still rings.

The saw still severs, the machines still hum,
the hammer still nails, the drill presses on.

His handwriting is here, his smell is too.

His spirit is here in his handcrafted "I Love You."

His ruggedness is here, it's seen loud and clear,

his masked gentleness whispers right here in my ear.

He left himself here in his ticking clock,

the pictures, the tools - the list never stops -

the flag in the corner, his tool belt on the hook.

He seemed to reauthor the construction book.

The nails are unused, the hat is still hung,
the table is dusty, but his song is still sung.

It's a song of skill, of simple perfection,

the evidence is here, it need not be questioned.

The spark in his eyes, the strength in his touch,

the way he said "Be good for me." It meant so much.

I wish he still said it, but I'll have to remember,

because the wood shop was closed when he left in December.

by Melissa (Magee) Crabtree
December 1993

Just a note, I'm not putting this here because it's publishable writing! I was a young 18. But I knew my family would enjoy reading it and remembering.

Some old things I found

In my major reorganization and de-cluttering of the weekend, I found a bunch of books that had gotten wet! I had them in our cubby built into the bricks that's made to hold wood for the fireplace. I never thought it would get wet! Somehow it did, and we had a bunch of things get ruined. Thankfully, they were the things I already had in my mind to pitch anyway. There was a stack of Jacob's school papers that had to be trashed, but thankfully I'd already scanned in the most creative or notable things to save. And from now on it will only hold toys in plastic containers!

One of the things I came across was an old 3 ring binder I've had since college. In it I had kept poems, reports, papers, or other inspirational things I wanted to hang on to... they're all printed on paper ya' know, so you have to save the copy of it instead of just putting it on my hard drive! Anyway, the section in the back was of things I'd written and saved. I'd like to type them into my computer, so I thought I'd share a few of them here. So beware, Mom... a couple of tearjerkers ahead.

It was interesting to go back and read these things. Pretty therapeutic, actually! While I have no trouble getting my thoughts out verbally (no snickering), I do not share my soul in conversation. I am one who likes to keep the treasure of my soul locked up and protected. And I suppose I feel like if bear it through the written word I won't be hurt by one's reaction, so it's safer. And maybe in some weird way I can pretend I never bore it.

So keep your eye out for a small portion of my soul.

I think I need a therapist.

January 09, 2009

Jacob's Love Language

I have asked the Lord for wisdom with my kids. One of the specific things I've asked for is to know what really makes Jacob "tick." What motivates him and what he loves. He is so much like me, this shouldn't have been difficult! Next time I should just ask myself.

For the past month or 6 weeks we have been writing notes to each other, Jacob, Robert, and I. Jacob wrote and I Love U. note and put it in the kitchen window by the sink. Then I wrote one and put it on his bed railing where he'd see it first thing in the mornings. We've gone on like this and part of the game is the surprise of it, it seems. And any game is good for us too, as I'm not a very fun mama by nature! It has been a sweet time for us and seems to be building him up, which is always good for a perfectionist who feels like he's a constant failure (despite my efforts at positive affirmation). That's actually the reason I began praying specifically for wisdom here. So "written affirmation" is something I need to remember for him! That is totally it for me too. There's something different about it somehow.

Anyway, the other day he made these cards for Robert and I and put them on our pillows.

This was the front of both of them.

January 08, 2009

This is always good to know!

One of the things I'm always wondering with Jacob is if we're covering what we should be. Jane Claire Lambert, when she wrote Five in a Row, used an elementary scope and sequence to develop the lessons in order to be sure that she covered what needed to be covered. But, by way of design, we could choose to not cover important stuff! Some weeks there are 5 science lessons offered in the manual, some weeks there are none. And I just choose to do whatever lessons I want to do that week. Sometimes I choose none, sometimes we do all of them.

The other day I was at a friend's house all day. Their family home schools but they use a DVD/textbook approach (one used in many Christian schools) which is basically the opposite of how we school, using unit studies. I certainly have no issue with how they school, it's just not how we do it. (I won't say I haven't thought of it! I think it would be easier on my part because it would eliminate all of my planning which is very attractive!)

Well, while I was there we were talking about our curricula, and I glanced over the table of contents of this second grade curriculum. And then when I came home I glanced at the kindergarten and first grade ones as well. And I was very pleased to find out that Jacob has a very good grasp of every single concept they present in that curriculum!!! (And many more concepts, actually.) :) Which just tells me that I'm doing something right. And I must be choosing enough of the right things to study.

We're not using textbooks (except for Math), and we may not have much proof of what we do because much of our learning is conversational, but I know he's learning. And it was just good to know that he could go into any typical 2nd grade classroom and hold his own... well, academically speaking. Sitting quietly is an entirely different story!

We love Five in a Row!

January 04, 2009

1 Peter 3 for Melissa

So tonight I was writing in my journal and praying for my relationship with Robert. Specifically how I can meet Robert's needs because Robert won't ever tell me! (The jury's still out on whether he's really that laid back or just afraid to answer when I ask.) And today I've been wrestling with a whole bunch of selfish feelings and their correct opposites flying around my head... picture New York City interchange at 7 AM. It's exhausting. So I thought I'd type it all out here as that often helps me think through it all more clearly.

So after praying for a bit and confessing all sorts of fleshly yuckiness, better known as SIN, I felt led to search my Bible for scriptures specifically speaking of a wife's behavior toward her husband. The first one I thought of was 1 Peter 3: 3-4. I've had it memorized for a long time.

Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

That's a beautiful passage, and certainly one to remember and strive toward.

So if that wasn't enough for one evening, I decided to pull out Robert's Key Word Study Bible (love this Bible!!) and dig in a bit. After all my defining, here's what I came up with:

submissive - submit oneself unto
disobedient - disbelieving of
chaste - clean, pure
adornment - orderly arrangement
heart - thoughts, feelings
gentle - humble, meek
quiet - keeping one's seat, sedentary, still, peaceable
spirit - rational soul, mental disposition

My paraphrase of 1 Peter 3:1-4:
---you Melissa, submit yourself unto Robert, so that if he is disbelieving of the word, he may be won over without a word by your behavior as his wife, as he observes your pure and respectful behavior. Your orderly arrangement must not be merely external - braiding the hair and wearing gold jewelry and putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of your thoughts and feelings, with the imperishable quality of a humble, meek, sedentary, still, peaceable mental disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.

So I totally confess that my thoughts and feelings at this juncture are not sedentary or still, let alone humble and meek! ("Meek" is kind of an enigma to me anyway.) I was already trying to be a good, supportive, loving, serving wife. But boy, do I have a long way to go. I thought that by keeping it all in my head, I was doing okay. But I was way off. My thoughts swirling around like a blizzard are sin, even if they're not bad thoughts. They're a far cry from a still, sedentary (are you kidding?!?), mental disposition.

Change me, God, and make me more like You. And thank You for not leaving me in the dust.

Candy Cane, Candy Cane

Candy cane candy cane.
You have red and white
red is for the blood that Jesus had shed
white for pure like snow.
It's a candy cane poem you know.

I've been encouraging more creative writing lately and Jacob wrote a cute candy cane poem I thought I'd share. There are obviously some mechanics issues, but that's not my focus right now. We'll worry about that later.

Christmas 2008

Here are the kids all ready to go! We left Tuesday evening after Robert got home from work.

Jacob was just a little excited!

Jacob got to go shopping and buy gifts for Nate and Ali with his own $2 he got for his tooth! He was very excited to wrap and label them himself. And they both seemed to like their gifts!

Superman's muscles Christmas Eve.

Mattie taking Jacob down Christmas Eve.

So Mattie woke up around 1 AM early Christmas morning. She was pitching such a fit that she woke Jacob up. So at 5:00 Christmas morning, Jacob was still wide awake!! I said, "Jacob, you HAVE to go to sleep!!" He said, "I'm trying so hard, Mom! I just can't stop thinking about all those presents!" :) I think he finally fell asleep around 5:30.

The dinosaurs with Uncle Matt.

Are these not the cutest? She loves them!

Mom's Lego gifts was the huge hit I thought it would be! They have played for hours already.

And Mattie thoroughly enjoyed cutting open each little package they came in. Something I'm goign to remember... I can handle loading up ziploc bags full of treasure.

This was Jacob's big gift. I asked him what he wanted if he could have one thing for Christmas, and this was what he said. I found it on a great sale on Black Friday, so he got it. It's the last major Thomas and Friends piece he'll get and he was pretty stoked!

These were in the dollar bin at Target! I got several for our dress up box.

Robert enjoyed his new bathrobe and Jacob's new cap gun... and some silver teeth.

Entertainment for the early risers in the only empty room of the house!

And we enjoyed much snuggling time with Kjirstin's little guy, Logan!

Five in a Row Schedule

So here are the books that remain in Volumes 1-3 for us to "row." I've saved the ones that have deeper topics (like war, slavery, immigration, etc) on purpose, so some of the more mature ones are the ones we have left. We will not have rowed every single Five in a Row book after we complete this list, but the ones I've chosen for us to do.

Volume 1
The Rag Coat
Who Owns the Sun? (This is my favorite book of all of the FIAR ones. It's written by a teenager and is an amazing book!)
Grandfather's Journey
The Giraffe that Walked to Paris (This wasn't one of my favorites, so we might skip it.)

Volume 2
A New Coat for Anna
Mirette on the Highwire
They were Strong and Good
Babar, to Duet or not to Duet
All those Secrets of the World
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
Follow the Drinking Gourd (I love this one too!)
When I was Young in the Mountains
Gramma's Walk
Wild Horses of Sweetbriar

Volume 3
Daniel's Duck
Henry the Castaway
Climbing Kansas Mountains
Little Nino's Pizzeria
Truman's Ant Farm
Salamander Room

Now I just have to research the topics a bit so I can plan my schedule. A trip to New Jersey would afford some great field trips for They were Strong and Good, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, and Grandfather's Journey. Ellis Island is one of my favorite places to go for some odd reason. I'd love to take Jacob there, though he'll be quite a bit older before he'll really get it. And Salamander Room, and Henry the Castaway and some of the others are good during certain seasons, so I have a bit to think about.

I look forward to having a long term plan... it helps me feel like we're getting somewhere! I know too though that things will come up and it will change. It always does!

And then once we're finished with these books, I think we'll move to the Volume 4 ones for what will be Jacob's 3rd grade year. They are more involved and encouraged to study for 2 weeks as opposed to just one. But I have some other ideas brewing as well... we'll see.

I'm back!

Man, it's been a long time since I've sat down to write anything! We were gone for Christmas, and the weeks before that were busy! Plus I've had some competition for the computer that I don't have when Robert's working out of town. :) But I'd prefer computer competition to him being gone.

I sat down the other night and mapped out the remaining Five in a Row Volumes 1-3 books that I want to row with Jacob this year. (Next year we're doing Volume 4 books.) I'm not sure exactly how I'll do them yet, but I want to get them mapped out soon.

We completed our 110th school day right before we took two weeks off for Christmas! So that leaves me 70 official days and 18 weeks or so (4-day weeks)! That worked out perfectly! I started schooling early this year in hopes of moving and/or slowing down during the springtime. When it's nice in April and May it's so hard to keep the kids inside! July 1 will be twelve months from when we started this year, so we have plenty of time to get it all in. Anyway, I'm rambling...

Things are going well with Tyler around. (Remember the little guy I'm babysitting/tutoring?) He's here 3 days each week, though we're going to 2 days soon. He plays beautifully with my kids, though he and Jacob are awfully hard to keep calm most days. I'm having to provide some structure and organized play to manage that, but it's working out. (The fact that it's been raining almost every day he's been here has not helped, nor has the fact that we've been counting down to Christmas!) Tyler requires a schedule that has been really good for Jacob and I too, so we're pretty much done with school by lunchtime each day. Then all the kids can have some quiet bedroom time. And so I can have some quiet time too! In the past we've been pretty lax and just done our school stuff whenever it fits because the kids play so nicely in the mornings, but I like having it done by lunchtime.

Then we all had a minor virus right before we left. Thankfully our calendar was empty except for Mattie's dedication. She threw up about 15 minutes before we were leaving so we scratched that! I'm just thankful it wasn't on the pastor in front of 500 people...

We had a Christmas party with all of our families in our Sunday School class one Sunday afternoon that was great! All of the parents seemed to know the children, but did not know each other. And Darlene and I don't have a real chance to visit when they're just dropping off or picking up, so it was a good opportunity for that, though I think Darlene got in on that more as she was not hosting. The families seemed to really enjoy it and the kids had a blast too. I'd like to do something like it once a quarter or so. It also gave me the idea of trying to get our families to go to Joni and Friends camp together this year (all at the same time), so that's what we're working on now. :)

We went to Maryland for Christmas and stayed at my parents' house. I have many fond memories of Christmases growing up, and I still love to be there! It's a bit crowded with 22 of use in one house (10 are children), but none of us would choose to stay anywhere else either! I'll post some pictures and more about our Christmas in a separate post.

So that's been our December! I like the deviation from our normal school routine, but I'm always so relieved to get back to Five in a Row!