November 29, 2009

Something Different This Year

As we set up our Christmas tree yesterday, I was talking to the kids a bit about Advent and the season of waiting it is.  And I was thinking of ways to really help it not be about presents.  Not that I think it's bad to love the presents... who doesn't love presents??!  But last year Jacob had a really hard time waiting until Christmas day.  He kept talking about how tempting it was and innocently admitting how he just couldn't wait to see what was in all of those wrapped packages under our tree!  After all, he had to look at them and wonder for two or three weeks!!  I actually felt bad for him.  He was just. so. excited! and the waiting was torturous.

So as we looked at our beautiful tree lighting up the living room last night I was ready to go start wrapping all the gifts I have in my closet.  Presents are almost a part of the decor of a tree, and I love seeing them all ready to give, because I know the excitement they'll incite!  But then I looked under the tree and saw the nativity set as Mattie had set it up... every character crowded around to see Jesus.  A small picture of what we're really waiting for.  To be a part of the crowd all tightly gathered to worship the Messiah.  Our Messiah!!  My Immanuel.

And I realized that I knew the perfect way to help it be less about presents.

Leave the space under tree empty until Christmas morning.  Leave the nativity scene right there to represent the Gift we've all been freely given.  And all of those "things" we talk about not focusing on?  Avoid putting the concrete gifts right in front of the kids all the while trying to refocus them on the abstract Gift that they can't really grasp because of their humanness.  And I don't mean "avoid" in some legalistic way, but in a way that provides relief to the kids.  A way that leaves their field of vision undistracted and available to focus on the Christ I'll be presenting this Advent season as we read, wait, and serve.  Then we'll pull out the gifts the day  we celebrate!

Aaaah... I love it when God provides clarity and things like this just make sense all of a sudden.

I finally DID it!!

Yippee!  For quite some time now I've really wanted to change the look of my blog.  I've wanted to add something a bit snazzy but really wasn't sure how.  But tonight I finally figured it out with help from several different sites!  I had to outfit it for Christmas first, but then I worked on the CSS and HTML for more than 4 hours to customize it a bit more.  : )

I think it's quite happy, if I do say so myself.

November 18, 2009

Simple Pleasures

A few simple pleasures in the past week or so:

*telling Mattie that, yes, she can have dancing at her wedding... "singing and lots of dancing," she asked for
*Jacob letting Mattie have his turn to pick music in the van because she had just slammed her finger in the door and he knew she was hurting
*spending time together each night as all four of us snuggle on the couch to read The Hobbit
*Jacob's good humor at his eye "twitching"... he said, "make the google eyes [on my homepage] twitch like me!" and thought it was pretty funny!
*seeing Mattie's delight as she dressed her baby all by herself!
*Jacob's delight at completing his entire design book

*conviction, repentance and the peace that follows
*hearing Jacob gain confidence on the piano and learn that practice really does make perfect!
*sweet fellowship and new relationships developed over time in the Word
*hearing Jacob freely admit that he was wrong

*watching Mattie play for hours-on-end with "lassos" (ropes tied in knots), imaginary friends and bags of random stuff
*two extra hours of kidless quiet time at home b/c I had the birthday party time wrong and my sister-in-law let them stay!! 
*listening to Jacob recite scripture he's memorized

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:1-2

November 13, 2009

Can I just say...

That I hate having to cook around food allergies???  
To cook a food that doesn't bother anyone I have to avoid dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, corn, and sugary and tomato based sauces.  If I'm counting all of the things that bother Jacob somewhat that require rotation... well, I won't even go there!
I'm happy to make healthy meals, but it's so hard to make an interesting meal (meaning one we've not had hundreds of times before!!) without major planning!!  I know I could leave the kids out, and they'd be happy to have peanut butter toast, but I feel like they need well rounded meals for dinner.  Plus, they survive on peanut butter already.  And I'm out of Mattie's bread.  And how do I raise kids who aren't picky if they never eat anything besides kid-friendly because I didn't cook two different meals each dinner??

All of those creamy casseroles and pastas look soooooooo yummy, but I know they'd be gross if I substituted all I'd need to to make them.  I'm just not good at that, though I try.  I wish cooking were my spiritual gift, but then I guess God wouldn't be glorified in my weakness.  I must say, He's not glorified by much of what I create anyway, weakness or otherwise.
It's just a drag sometimes!

But I want to do it and do it well!  Because I love my kids and husband and want them to feel well and be healthy.  I just want it to taste good too.
This is when I think it really wouldn't be bad to live in a kibbutz or some other close knit community.  I'll clean all the bathrooms in the compound, just don't make me cook! 

November 12, 2009

Why was this so difficult?

I don't know why this has been so difficult for me.  For a long time I've felt like I needed to have some sort of written "proof" that we studied something.  For lots of inane reasons, probably, but also so we could go back and reference it for review.  Much of what we do in our literature based studies is converse based on books we read.  That's a great fit for us! but it assumes the student will remember a conversation without any reinforcement or review.  And that has always been a hang up of mine.  Mostly because this is a way that is very effective for Jacob to learn.

Lapbooking does not seem to be for Jacob... too much cutting, pasting and putting together.  Not enough "just the facts" please.  And in the end, stacks of stuff waiting to be put together into a finished product.  (I have no doubt it will be right up Mattie's alley, but she'll actually want to do the crafting part of it!)

Worksheets are more what I was looking for, but were sometimes a lot of information that wasn't important or wasn't what we studied.

Self created worksheets would have worked as they would have been customized, but I didn't always think of the questions at one time and really didn't want to waste the time at the computer formatting and making it look pretty, so I never did that either.  I needed something I could produce on the spot.

But I had a revelation of sorts.  I cold actually just use a pen and create my own worksheet!  I could add one question at a time, choose questions relevant to the information I wanted Jacob to remember, draw relevant diagrams to label, make questions in whichever format I preferred at any given moment!   

Why in the world did it take me 3 years to think of this?!??!??!

Thankfully, at least I thought of it now. 

*I create the questions as I think of them and he completes them usually several at a time. 
*If he has to look up the information, I put a page number as a hint to the left so he knows where to look.  *They are different colors, as we are traveling Around the World for now.  Each color is for a continent.
*Every now and then, we'll do a review week.  During that week, we'll cut the questions from the pages (b/c there are things I've scribbled out that I messed up) and put them on 3 hold punched cardstock with pictures we colored or photos of activities we did.  But I still know if we never get to that, I still have an organized place where he can keep his work.  (His notebook has music/art and science sections too.)

Here are three of the "worksheets" Jacob has in his notebook.  There are some spelling errors, but he's such a perfectionist that I don't always go back and correct those things after he's finished.  He's hard enough on himself!

You've probably noticed recently I'mposting a lot about our home school and what's working for us.  It seems like we've found a groove this year, and I'm really thankful for it!

November 11, 2009

We've Started Workboxes

There is a new wave among homeschooling methods.  Imagine that!  It's come from Sue Patrick's Workbox System.  I have not read her book, but I thought I ought to give credit where credit is due.  (I have to say this idea is not a new one, as I used it with preschoolers in a classroom when I was 17.)  I should also say that I know I'm not doing it like she suggest to do it.  I'm doing the basic idea and have made it all work for us.

Here's how it works:

 I fill these boxes with work for the day.
The top three are Mattie's... of course she doesn't have to do any of them, but she wants to "do school," so I indulge her!  The bottom nine are Jacob's, but we've never gotten to that many and probably won't anytime soon.  (I'll probably just switch to six and six and use Mattie's to switch up fun activities for her to notice as she walks by.)  One of the benefits of Jacob's medicine has been that we can do stuff on such a deeper level, so it takes longer, but I'm still learning what is a good amount of stuff.  He's also very careful about neatness, so that takes him longer now too.  :) 

After Jacob has completed whatever is in the box, he moves the box to this stack. (I think I'm actually going to put cards that say "FINISHED" on one end so he can just return the box with that end sticking out.  It serves the same purpose without the awkwardness of a lopsided stack.)

In his boxes I put his essentials and just for fun things.  I add in trampoline time and structured "play" that he might not otherwise choose.  I put in a game to play with me or an activity to do with Mattie.  And I choose activities that we never got to during a certain week, but that provide a great review two weeks late!

The purposes this system is serving in our home school:
*It provides Jacob with a very clear visual as to what is expected of him that day.  He gets much less frustrated than when I say, "Now the next thing to do is..."  Now there is no doubt when he is finished!
*It provides variety as I can switch up the order of his activities.
*It provides accountability for me as I need to fill them each night.  (I have seen that 10 minutes of planning in the evening saves me much more time than that the next day.)
*It provides an opportunity for independence as Jacob can just go to the next activity without requiring me to tell him what is next.
*It provides a routine.  Even though the boxes are full of different things or in a different order each day, the fact that his work is in the boxes is the same, and that works for him.
*It encourages me to add fun review by adding "just for fun" things to the boxes.  They serve a purpose in my mind, but he doesn't see them that way.
*Because the boxes are three dimensional, it challenges me to include three dimensional learning opportunities.  (It's not workbook stuff of which we do too much, just hands on stuff of which we don't do enough.)

Three ways I've simplified it and made it work for us:
*In this basket I keep the things we use regularly.  Because I'm such a visual person, I have to see it for reminders or I'll never think of using it!  So I just flip through this basket to see what is a good fit for the following day and stick it in!  In that magazine file to the right I keep pages I've printed to go with a unit or skill where he needs reinforcement.  (Now I have upcoming units in manila files so it's a bit more organized.  This also gives me a place to put things when I print them.)

*The things Jacob does daily are on these cards.  They usually just stay in the boxes, but often something else will go in the box with the card (like a multiplication drill for Math or a theory assignment for piano).

*I have put index cards on the covers of the books we use most often, and I write his assignment on those cards.  It saves him coming to me to ask more than several times what he is supposed to do, and gives him an item to cross off a list.  He's all about crossing items off a list!  (He comes by it honestly, I must say!)

I am so thankful we have finally gotten this off the ground here!  I bought the shoe rack and shoeboxes right before we moved and knew I would be out of my mind to implement a new system then, but now that we're settled and he's medicated, it's perfect!  :)

I went short again!

So this has been my hair since December or so, a version of it anyway.

And this is my hair as of Monday night!
One advantage of cutting my own hair is that when I get the itch (or a wild hair, haha!), I take care of it right away!  Sometimes I discipline myself to wait, but once I get an idea for a new do, it never goes away.  So I headed up to the bathroom around 9:30 Monday night and this is what I ended up with.  :)

(This photo is credited to Jacob.)
It feels so nice to have it short again!  I had it shorter than this when we got married, but it's been longer since Jacob was born.  The one disadvantage is that this cut will actually require some fixing, which my other one did not at all.  Of well, it feels good.  I suppose I can stand 10 minutes in the bathroom.

I did have an enjoyable time taking these pics... or editing them rather.  Well, maybe enjoyable isn't the word.  Some perspectives just aren't pretty.  And I found some wrinkles I'd never noticed!!!

And just fyi for my family members who might snicker... any matching of my shirt to my background is purely coincidental!

November 09, 2009

Implosion Fun!

This was one of our science experiments we did recently.

We filled a pot of really cold water.
We put about 2T of water in the bottom of an empty soda can.
We put it on a burner until we could hear the water boiling and see steam rising from the can.

We very carefully picked up the can and quickly put it into the pot of cold water.

And it instantly imploded! 
We had to do it three more times just for fun!!

November 08, 2009

Bringing WWII to Life

In our Around the World Travels we've landed in Japan for a few weeks.  And one of the things I've introduced is World War II.  Jacob has really enjoyed it!  I supposed there's not much to not enjoy for a boy... airplanes, weaponry, battles, etc.  It's been fun to see him jump in with both feet!

My grandpa on my mom's side fought in WWII, but we weren't ever allowed to talk about it with or around him, so I honestly have no idea what part he played. (He also died when I was 18.)  I do remember hearing that he had to pretend to be dead as the opposing soldiers came around shooting anyone still breathing among the carnage on a battlefield.

But Candace's grandpa also fought and is alive and well, so we went for a field trip to hear all about it (on a 7 year old's level).

Some photos of the young soldier and his squadron.

 Mr. Rosser looked in his old records and told us what his mission was on November 6, 1944!

 He flew all of these planes.  Mr. Rosser told Jacob when he asked what his favorite plane was to fly, "If you want to show off a little, fly this one. [bottom, middle]  But if you want to come home at night, fly this one [bottom right]."

These were the names of the 4 men (out of 20 in their initial group) who survived.  One of them bought a piece of wood cut from the same log for all of them to have to remember.

 Here they are at a reunion some years ago.

 Mr. Rosser's pilot's license.


 His flight log book... this was fun to read! He wrote how he felt after flying certain aircraft for the first time, flying his first independent mission, practicing landings, etc.

This photograph of his beautiful bride traveled with him on 68 missions.

This flag was attached to the back of a pilot's flight suit.  Each grouping is the same paragraph translated into many languages.

Here is the text in English.  A bit sobering, I thought.

Mr. R did a great job and we really appreciate him sharing with us!  Jacob said he'd like to talk to him some more.  I'd love to hear more too, I enjoyed it.

And what grandpa doesn't like finishing up with a few magic tricks for the kids??

November 05, 2009

So what do you think happens when...

you get 12 kids 8 and under together for a professional photo session??  Just look and see!!

Little boys take the opportunities to show their muscles and brothers tickle their sisters.

Observant little girls decide to clean out the ears of little boy cousins on front of them.

Big brothers of said little girls discreetly try to shoot the photographer.

Some little girls just can't resist the urge to be funny back at the photographer.

Everybody tries to help.

And some infants (who can't stand on their own) fall over (when the photographer ignores their mama and tries it anyway), pulling their 2 year old support over with them, making it look like the cute little girl behind him is pushing them over!  And the biggest brother again tries to tickle his sister.

But, hey, we do the best we can.

I think they're a good lookin' bunch of kids! 
(Add 5 more kids to this for a grand total of 17 in this generation of Robert's family!)


Photos by Portrait Innovations.

November 02, 2009

A Severe Mercy

This is a fantastic book!  I'm not sure how this book ended up on my bookshelf, but I am quite certain it will end up one of my all-time favorites.


Here's an excerpt I read last night that made me laugh at the truth of it.  Then I read it again and with a much deeper understanding, wholeheartedly agreed.  The author is speaking of himself as he tells of days gone by.

"He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were emotional, girls were weak, emotions- tears- were weakness.  But this morning he was thinking that being a great brain on a tower, nothing but a brain, wouldn't be much fun.  No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky- no feelings at all.  But feelings- feelings are emotions!  He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions.  But then- this was awful!- maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life.  Shattering!  He checked himself: showing one's emotions was not the thing: having them was.  Still, he was dizzy with the revelation.  What is beauty but something that is responded to with emotion?  Courage, at least partly, is emotional.  All the splendor of life.  But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, purest emotions: and that meant joy.  Joy was the highest... If there were a choice- and he suspected there was- a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths...

Since then the years had gone by, and he... had had the love.  And the joy- what joy it had been!  And the sorrow.  He had had- was having- all the sorrow there was.  And yet, the joy was worth the pain." 

Here's a short description from Amazon:

A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, is a heart-rending love story described by its author as "the spiritual autobiography of a love rather than of the lovers." Vanauken chronicles the birth of a powerful pagan love borne out of the relationship he shares with his wife, Davy, and describes the growth of their relationship and the dreams that they share. 
While studying at Oxford, Sheldon and Davy develop a friendship with C.S. Lewis, under whose influence and with much intellectual scrutiny they accept the Christian doctrine. As their devotion to God intensifies, Sheldon realizes that he is no longer Davy's primary love--God is. Within this discovery begins a brewing jealousy.   --Jacque Holthusen

Hurting for You

I listened to this today. 

And wept through every single song.
The words are real, true, painful, hopeful,

Every song is fantastic.

There are so many of you hurting sooooo badly right now,
worse that I can even imagine,
and I cried for each one of you.

I'm so sorry.


If you're actually reading on my blog's site (instead of in an e-mail or RSS feed) you'll notice a new look!  I've been wanting to add a third column for a while now so I can add a few more things, but am always half asleep when I get a chance to mess with it.  But tonight the house was quiet and I was bored, so I went for it and it worked!  :)  So a few things are missing for the time being... my list of other blogs, namely (and my family pictures!).  I will put it back up, I just didn't get to it tonight.  I do miss my Thanksgiving look, but soon enough I'll switch it out to something red and green!

But while I'm taking care of details, anything you'd like to see here on the sidebars for quick access?  Or more posts on a certain topic?  I guess while I'm asking, what are your favorite kinds of posts?


November 01, 2009

tired means exhausted

Me, to Mattie after her fifth time getting out of bed: "I know you're exhausted.  I can tell by looking at you."

Mattie:  "Mom, exhausted means tired and I already told you I'm not tired!"

(Academic) Thanksgiving Plans!

I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already!!  I am excited to have found something unique for our Thanksgiving week this year!  It's nice to do something we haven't done three times already.  I thought I'd share it early in case someone else thought it looked neat too!

This is an online, interactive "research" project for kids. 
It was created this year after the reenactment of the 1621 harvest feast done by the Plimoth Plantation museum, using pictures from the historically accurate reenactment.  It teaches the student what a historian is, then puts them in that position to find out what really happened in 1621 (and how that might be a bit different than all of our cute little Thanksgiving books tell us).  After they do their "research" there is an opportunity to do an online project too!  And it includes a teacher's guide if that's helpful. 
There's more at the home site too!

Here are some of the books we'll read along with our study (Some of these are repeats, and some are new to us.):


Jacob is loving Magic Tree House books right now, so he'll be excited about these!

This last one is one of the Trailblazer series by Dave and Neta Jackson.  We've been learning a lot about different missionaries this year, so this is a great opportunity to learn about William Bradford and his influence on the colonists.

We'll also do a few worksheets from (brush up on our turkey knowledge and Massachusetts map skills), some creative writing and color some pictures according to what we've learned.  I'm trying to find a cool science experiment to do, but not having much luck.  I think I'll just do a fun lesson on spices, it just won't include an experiment.

I'm still working on the rest of it, though that will cover all of our academic stuff.  I'll do a separate post on our favorite just-for-fun things to do.