Thursday, October 28, 2010

Order In Our Home-- a short series (part 2)

(part 1)

The tattling was climbing to  a new level.  Either that or at seven months pregnant, my tolerance level was inching downward.  I think it was a little of both, but as I was awoken from a much-needed nap for the third or fourth time on a sweltering hot summer afternoon only to be told, "Mama, he won't play with me," I suspected something needed to change.  Then later when my back was turned, another scuffle broke out.  One said a brother punched him and I knew that no one punched in our as I was trying to sort out stories and dig for the truth, I knew something needed to change. 

Quite by accident, I stumbled on an article about discord among siblings and the Biblical way to solve disagreements.  Within hours, we had started to apply the principles to our own home.  Not only are we applying the teachings of Christ, but the sense of order is welcome in this area!

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (Matthew 18:15)

It works this way: if Gavin offends Owen by taking away a toy or not listening when he talks or bumping into him without saying sorry, Owen is to quietly confront Gavin himself.  He can say, "Gavin, I was playing with that first.  Will you please give it back?" or "Gavin, do you know you just hurt me?"  It must be said in kind voice and it must be said to Gavin, not brought straight to me.  This takes the pressure off of me, keeps me from hearing petty complaints, and builds camaraderie among brothers. 

But if he will not listen, take one or two others along.  (Matthew 18:16)

The "others" in our home setting are Brian and me.  If Owen brings an issue to Gavin and Gavin ignores it or does not make it right, Owen is then allowed to bring his problem to one of us (again, in a non-whiny voice).   Once it is in our hands, we can discipline the offender as needed. 

It is still a work in progress for sure!  Many, many days, I have to walk the kids through each step.  When Maddie runs to me complaining that Benjamin took the stuffed animal she was playing with, I ask, "Did you talk to him about it first?"  I remind her to use a kind voice and not accuse.  And should Benjamin refuse to give back the toy, I remind her to come back to me and explain the problem.

Today one child bumped another child's sore mouth.  The offender did it quite by accident while playing and apologized immediately.  The hurt child mumbled a few words of forgiveness, but the throb in his mouth fueled his desire for revenge.  He decided to tattle to me.  The child whose apology had been shunned ended up in tears, with hurt feelings and fearing a possible punishment.  I explained that sometimes we need to forgive someone even when we don't want to.  I explained that when I ask Jesus to forgive me, He does it unconditionally, even though my sin hurts Him.  It is kept between me (the offender) and Him (the offended).  Jesus will never dig up that sin again later or broadcast what I've done to others. 

It is simply the order of mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Order In Our Home-- a short series (part 1)

Originally I wrote Order In The Home, but I erased that and changed it to Our Home... because really, what works for me might not work for you.  Having five little ones in the house is a true challenge for me.  The oldest is not quite 8 years and the youngest is not quite 8 weeks .  Noise reigns.  I don't like noise. Between the boys who can't seem to speak quietly even when they are sitting beside me and the baby who cries when she is hungry (or wet or tired), some days I walk outside and forbid anyone to join me just so I can get a minute (literally a minute) of quiet. 

But it is not just the noise.  I'm challenged by the simple demands of dressing and feeding and teaching five little ones seven days a week.  I need order. and I think they thrive on it, too, even if they don't realize it.  I love the overall sense of calm that comes when everyone knows what is expected of them.  It is that realization that even when I am overwhelmed (which is daily), there are things which are certain. 

One place where we expect order is the dinner table.  We allow breakfast and lunch to be relaxed, come-and-go meals, but we have a set of standards for our evening meal.  We eat together at the table.  (The only exceptions are when Brian is working late or if someone is sick.)  We participate in conversation together.  No one is allowed to get up until they are excused...and no one is allowed to ask repeatedly to be excused!  Everyone has to eat what is on their plates, though we show grace.  We don't say "yuck" or "gross" at the table...

Our biggest challenge is keeping the toddler in his seat.  We generally put away the highchair when our kids reach the 16-18 month range and have learned to climb out of the straps.  After that, they are  moved to a regular seat at the table.  They love the freedom, sometimes a little too much! 

Our dinnertime is not a rigid or rule-filled meal.  It is simply a mealtime with the expectation that everyone will be polite (even if they are a bit loud) and put others first.  Isn't that what order is about anyway-- knowing that your place is almost always below someone else? 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

They Know

My kids love each other.  They love being part of big(ger than average) family.  They really do. 

I've had someone comment each time I've been pregnant when the current youngest tries to crawl into my lap-- the lap that must be shared with a big swollen belly.  The comment goes something like, "What is he/she going to do when the little one comes and he/she has to share his mama?"  The comment implies that the current youngest is going to resent having to make room for a new sibling.  It implies that we're going to have a fight on our hands.  And it is never that way.  Sure, there is a time of adjustment with everyone trying to find their new normal, but each time a baby is born, the kids draw the new one into their circle with enthusiastically loving arms!

They know a new babe means they have to help more.  They know it means giving of themselves.  They know having an infant means staying home more and going out less.  They know it may mean we have to leave the playground suddenly because the baby is tired.  They know it means paper plates and instant potatoes and canned fruit at dinner time.  They know...and they love it anyway. 

"Mama,"  Maddie said pointing to the photo collage on the wall.  "You know, if you get another one of those frames, you'll have enough spots for five more babies.  Then you will have ten kids."  They love it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A is for...


...and field trip to the Apple orchard and Apple pie, too!


Friday, October 15, 2010

...and we're off!

I remember a particular incident when I was in high school and I volunteered to help out at a home school event.  Despite my effort to hustle my family along, we arrived late.  Being an on-time person, I was a bit my mom, at arriving late, at not being there when the event started...and another home school mom had a few words for me.  "Just wait," this other mom said.  "When you have your own family and have to get children ready to go in addition to yourself, I bet you won't be on time anymore!"  I smiled, but for years I wondered whether that would turn out to be true! 

Well, fifteen years and five children later, I am still an on-time person.  If I say I'm going to be there at 10, I'm going to be there at 10.  That's just how I am!  I don't relate to the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who runs by singing, "I'm late!  I'm late...for a very important date!"  It doesn't necessarily come easily to me to have everyone out of the house on time, but it is important to me so I make it happen. 

I do most of my preparations the night before.  I lay out clothes for everyone, even the older children who are perfectly capable of dressing themselves.  This ensures that everyone is dressed for the weather, is wearing a matching outfit (something I do not insist on if we are at home), and has socks (in the cooler months).  If we need food, I pack lunches or snacks or water bottles the night before, too.  I make sure the diaper bag is stocked with diapers, wipes, and extra clothes for the baby.  Even if I know I will have time in the morning, it calms my mind to know that it is already taken care of should an unforeseen time-snatcher arise. 

Fifteen minutes before we need to be out the door, playtime is over.  All books are closed, toys  are put away, and the TV is turned off.  We go into leaving-the-house mode.  Everyone makes a visit to the restroom or those wearing diapers are changed.  We keep all shoes in a bin in the coat closet so one person is assigned to get out shoes for the group.  Even though it isn't essential to getting somewhere on time, I also use this fifteen minute blitz to straighten the living area before we walk out.  (Coming home to a tidy house is important to me, too.)

I allow another extra five minutes to load up the car since I am responsible for buckling three seat belts in addition to my own.  (Thankfully, the two oldest kids can do it themselves now!)  As we walk out the door, I give everyone something to carry, whether it be the diaper bag or the lunch bag or a letter to drop in the mailbox on the sidewalk.  Whoever happens to be out the door first holds open the door for the others and we walk to the van.  Seems like a such a simple thing, but the boys used to run to the van and inevitably someone would fall and we would have to go back to the house for a bandage or spend time wiping tears. 

At this season of motherhood, I have chosen to stay home more than I maybe would if I had only one or two children.  We do a lot of family outings on the weekends because it is amazing how much one extra set of adult hands can contribute!  I used to feel bad about that and wonder if my kids wished they could get out more, but I've had to tell myself that this is okay.  There will be coming years where we can more easily leave home without such a big production!  And I'll be okay with that, too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Delicious Autumn

Delicious autumn!
My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
~George Eliot~

While pregnant with Alaine, I imagined her to be my little pumpkin.  She was due in September, after all, and with temperatures soaring into the hundreds all. summer. long...well, September and autumn and sweaters and pumpkins just seemed so appealing and wonderful!  Of course, Alaine decided to come a little early, and though she was born in September (just barely), the day she was born was a steamy 95 degrees and hardly a day for pumpkins. 

Still, September means pumpkins for me, so on the first day of fall, I gave myself permission to begin baking with pumpkin.  We started with pumpkin cookies.  One day during nap time, I mixed and rolled and baked and tasted.  Even my picky Owen devoured the (slightly healthy) cookies!  So what was I (I, who between teaching and diaper changing and nursing and vacuuming have very little free time) to bake next to fill the air with pumpkin goodness? 

Enter Amanda and her offer to allow me to do a review of her Wildtree products for my blog.  Wildtree products have no additives, preservatives, MSG, or food dyes so when I gathered everyone (including our extra house guest) to the dining room table for a cooking session, I felt good with the day's plan to move beyond our standard from-scratch goodies and out of the cabinet came a box of pumpkin bread mix.

When we finished off the loaf (less than 24 hours later), Gavin said, "Oh no.  There is not a crumb left.  Not even half of a crumb.  Not even a crumb of a crumb." 

Fast forward four days.  Alaine was still in bed... and the older kids were eating breakfast... and I needed to come up with a dessert to bring to Sunday dinner.  Out came the Wildtree again!  With my helpers otherwise engaged, this time I worked alone and used the pumpkin pie cheesecake blend to whip up a pie quickly before Alaine awoke for the day and needed my attention. Many hours and many nursing sessions and diaper changes later, we sat down to the dessert I had made in the morning.   I was a little disappointed that the flavor and color were not more "pumpkin-y", but we dubbed it autumn spice pie instead, ate it off of pumpkin-orange plates and enjoyed it anyway! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Will

Because I never want to come across as a know-it-all, I tend to avoid giving advice on my blog.  Goodness knows I do not have it all figured out when it comes to raising my children or teaching them to obey.

There are days like last Saturday when the younger kids and I were watching Gavin and Maddie's soccer game.  I was nursing Alaine in a lawn chair and Benjamin was clinging to my leg, loudly wailing about walking to the swing set .  Brian is the team's assistant coach and, though he could hear Benjamin from his position on the field, he couldn't come to my rescue.  It got so embarrassing that I ended up taking Alaine and Benjamin and innocent Owen to the van, but Benjamin kept crying and drooling and throwing a great big fit.  When we returned to the sidelines, he continued whining for the remainder of the game time!  I was ready to pull my hair out...or go hide. 

One of the most profound ideas I've heard came from 20th century English educator, Charlotte Mason.  She said that the so-called strong-willed child is not strong-willed at all, but rather weak-willed!  And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced it is true.  When my toddler refuses to do what he is asked (or relentlessly begs to play on the swings after I've told him no), it is not that he is not displaying a strong will but rather a weak one that has not learned to reign itself in.  The weak will must be trained to control itself and become strong against the need to demand its own way. 

All children must be taught self-control and two of my children have been particularly weak-willed, so what have I done to train them?

1) Mean what I say.  If I say, "No, we cannot go to the swings right now,"  I don't back down even if he whines, kicks, squeals, lays on the ground, etc.  I don't allow that ugly behavior and I don't give in to it either.

2) Be consistent.  I mean what I say every time.  I don't allow my child an unacceptable action one day and then correct it the next.  I have a tough time with this when I have a nursing infant because it is so much easier to give in when I am glued to the couch, but I try to be consistent because the end result is so worth it!

3) Lead with a strong will.  I remember a particular incident when Maddie was  two years old.  My sister complimented her on her new pajamas and I asked her to say thank you.  She wouldn't.  I asked her again and she refused.  Though my sister didn't mind not being thanked and I knew it was a minor offense, the major issue at hand was stubbornness and a lack of obedience.  Maddie and I spent over twenty minutes in quiet battle, with me insisting she tell her aunt thank you.  I did not back down and she eventually said thank you! 

4) Speak in love, not anger.  It is so much easier to display my own weak will by getting angry and yelling, but by remaining calm, I set a better example and usually see better results.

Are the  results are worth the frustration and the time?  I have experienced it first hand.   Maddie is truly my strong-willed girl now!  She is feisty and opinionated and strong, but she is also obedient and submissive and a joy and pleasure to be around. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursdays are for...

...hugs and smiles...

 ...trying to get all five children to look at the camera...

...and squinting in the sunshine.

Thursdays are for  looking at the slide instead of Mama...

...and loving the end result!

Read more:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Quiverfull Nursery Rhyme?

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe
She had so many children
She didn't know what to do.

"Well...," says Owen.  "They need to move to a bigger house...and they can buy a bigger car."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Reading to Little Ones

There are joys of reading aloud in every season.  In the winter, we blow our noses and huddle together when we're too sniffly to do anything else.  In the spring, we throw open the windows and read as we listen to the first bird's song.  In the summer, we shut the windows tight again and read until the day has cooled enough to run outside for evening play.  But autumn is such a cozy time for reading.  The dark slips in early and we settle down more quickly after supper.  A chapter or two is read before bed and before the children slip under blankets until morning. 

Elise mentioned that she was interested in hearing of our favorite read-alouds.  I was immediately intimidated.  Elise weekly shares her fabulous book finds for children on her blog's Children's Book Monday.  What could I possibly have to offer that she wouldn't have already discovered and read?  I still don't know. 

But I can share from my meager experience of the books we have loved and drawn to our own hearts, the books that we return to and read again, even though we've memorized the story. 

The books that I share below are appropriate for young children.  We began reading aloud these longer chapter books (in addition to stacks and stacks of picture books) when Gavin was three.  Some children may not be ready for such depth.  Some, like my Owen,  may benefit from a few more years of quality picture books.  Some children may not enjoy the books we love.  Each child and  his individual taste is different.

But I can share from my meager experience of the books we have loved and drawn to our own hearts, the books that we return to and read again, even though we've memorized the story.

I remember I was sitting at the kitchen table one morning when Gavin looked over at the book shelf and a colorful illustration caught his attention.  "Can we read this?"  he asked.  When I glanced at the cover of The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, my first thought was, "This is too old for you.  I'm saving it for later." 

And then I thought, "Why not?" 

We began slowly, reading a chapter while Maddie (then under 2) napped.  Once we got caught up in the story of the little mouse and his adventures in his hotel-home, we slipped in a few readingswhile Maddie was awake and she  latched on to the story, too.  She retrieved her rubber mouse and Gavin searched up a plastic motorcycle and together they relived the story through play.  This experience had me hooked on chapter books!

Young children are often drawn to stories of animals.  Mine are anyway.  As a result, many, many of the books we select feature furry and feathery little creatures.  These are not silly stories, but great works of quality literature. 

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White is such a gem that we have read it again as each child becomes old enough to enjoy it thoroughly.  Several stuffed pigs have played the part of Wilbur and the mouse that was once Ralph has played taken his turn as Templeton, too.   I love to see my children recreate the stories spontaneously in their play. 

One winter we were looking for a special book to read during our month-long break from school and we selected Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  I remember wondering if the story was just a wee bit too advanced for them and being surprised by how much the children loved it.  I remember sitting on the edge of the bunk bed, reading a begged-for one last chapter before bed and the giggles being  infectious as we read about the penguin named Captain Cook who came to live in suburbia. 

A few summers ago we were at a loss for what to read next and I put out a call on Facebook for reading suggestions and someone suggested Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat.  I put the book on hold at the library and when it came in, we began to read almost as soon as we brought it home.  It was such a thin book with such an engaging story.  We were intrigued by the boys who were allowed  to keep owls as pets on their Canadian property.  As a mama of children who have asked for a variety of pets from spiders to dogs to sheep, this was a little scary, too! 

What better way to expose my children to a bit of poetry than to read it from a story about a mouse?  The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires is another thin little volume.  It tells the tale (pun intended!) of a little mouse who shares a room with the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson.  Snippets of poems are interspersed throughout the simple story.

One story that has stuck with my children more than any other is the one of the raccoon named Rascal.  Though there is a full-length version of the story, we were privileged to find an out-of-print copy of Little Rascal
 by the same author, Sterling North.  Both books tell the true story of a young boy who raises a raccoon for a year.  So fun, so touching, so memorable.  (We have several stuffed Rascals who live in the toy box with Ralph and Wilbur.)

A list of our beloved read-alouds wouldn't be complete without a mention of Thornton Burgess.  Brian has done most of the before-bed reading with our kids for several years.  It is our nighttime ritual that while I am getting the youngers ready for bed or nursing a baby, he will tuck the olders in to bed and read them a chapter or two.  We discovered Thornton Burgess's books by accident when my sister cleaned off her bookshelves and passed The Adventures of Bobby Raccoon on to our family.  After devouring the slim novel, the kids asked for more, but a local library search turned up only a few more in the series.  When I discovered that Amazon carried many more for only $2 a book, Brian purchased a small stack for our personal collection and Burgess became the nightly selection for more than a year while they acquainted themselves with Jimmy Skunk and Sammy Jay and Buster Bear and more of their animal friends. 

We do occasionally venture from the land of animals.  Our other most-notable reads are all part of different series of books and all have girls as their main characters, but a good story knows no gender boundaries.  Often I've excluded Gavin from a reading session, thinking he would be uninterested in a girlish book and find that he is sitting on the steps listening anyway. 

Of all the books I've read aloud, perhaps my most favorite of all have been the Grandma's Attic series by Arleta Richardson.  Perhaps that is why we have started reading this delightful series again this fall.  The first four books in the series are groups of growing up stories about the author's grandmother.  What fun to go back in time to the simple days of picnics on the lawn and hoop skirts.  (The last six books in the series are also favorites of mine, but as they are about the author's grandmother as a teenager and young married women, I've not read those aloud yet.)
We spent many days in the late winter and spring reading though the Cobblestreet Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant.  Cynthia Rylant is one of our favorite picture book authors so we knew we would love these picture-filled chapter books, too. 

Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace was written in the 30's and takes place at the turn of the twentieth century.  Betsy and Tacy are five at the beginning of the series, and when Maddie got the first book for her own fifth birthday, we immediately became acquainted with these precious girls and we couldn't stop until we had read through several more books in the series and joined the girls in their growing up adventures.  (Like the Grandma's Attic series, the later books deal with the girls as adolescents and have more mature plot lines so I have not read aloud those stories yet.)  When we got done, we went back and re-read the first book at Maddie's request and relived our initial joy! 

Go now!  Go find something to engage your mind and delight your heart!

Friday, October 1, 2010


I'm not really cut out to be a mama of five. 

I'm not a patient person.  I like routines and schedules.  I thrive on order and neatness. 

To be a mama, I have to be patient.  To be a mama, I have to accept the spontaneity of life with children.  To be a mama, I have to accept a little mess.  To be a mama, I have to come out of myself.  I have to be willing to cry out  praise to Him on the bad days, even if the bad days come one after another after another.  I have to recognize that it is only by His grace that I do what I do.

 I am not really cut out to be a mama, but I'm called to die to me because surely He knew what He was doing when He made me a mother!

God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys

Myself, arch-traitor to myself;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free.

from "Who Shall Deliver Me?"
by Christina Rossetti

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