Thursday, May 26, 2011


I've said before that I resist change.  I like things to stay the same.  Once I get into a comfortable routine, I want it to stay that way.  I like meal times and school times and bed times to be consistent.  I like order and everything in its place.  Since we moved, though, our old routine wasn't working in this new place.  We gave ourselves a few weeks to adjust, but after a few weeks of feeling rushed and stressed and overwhelmed,  Brian and I had a long talk over the weekend and realized that it was time to make some changes.

Change.  {shiver}  

It's not that we were doing anything  wrong, but we realized there were ways to do it all better. (For us.  For now.)

Most of our changes involve being more present with our family.  Our kids rarely are apart from us, but sometimes we are so focused on the rush from schoolwork to naps to dinner to dishes to bedtime (routine, routine, routine) that we don't take the time to stop and simply enjoy being together.  Our first decision was to consciously stop the rush.  Simply stop.  So dinner gets on the table late and the kids go to bed an hour later than planned?  In the long run, who cares? 

We also decided to limit technology.  Our spring TV shows have ended for the season (good-bye, Survivor and The Amazing Race) so our nights are more open to other activities.  Brian talked about closing his Facebook page and I talked about closing mine, but in the end we decided to combine pages and limit our friend list. 

One day last week, Gavin drew a picture of me and I had a laptop in my hand.  I was a little uncomfortable being associated with the computer.  Why didn't he draw me reading a book or cooking dinner? As a result, I've decided to limit my daytime computer use.  During the day, I only go online to check my e-mail or do school research.  It's funny, though, because as I've cut back my daytime use, I find that I don't have much desire for it at night either and I've been reading a lot more.  

I'm overhauling our meal planning, too.  The week before we moved, Brian was too busy to go grocery shopping so I decided to do it for one week.  It was the first time I'd been grocery shopping for more than a few items in about six years!  Well, the next time we needed food, I went again...and then I went the next time, too...and now it seems I'm the primary grocery shopper again, at least for the summer.   Last week I sat down and made a list of about fifty different meals and we plan not to repeat one until we've tried them all.  

All of these changes are our effort to work toward one primary goal:  pouring ourselves into our family.  We were looking through some recent pictures of the kids and realizing that they are growing all too quickly.  What happened to the tiny babies we had yesterday?  How did they get to be talking, thinking, maturing children?  We don't want their memories of homelife to be all rush and strained smiles and hurry-brush-your-teeth and hurry-put-on-your shoes.  We want to take the opportunity to go outside and draw chalk pictures on the concrete.  We want to look into their eyes and connect.  We want to pour all we can into them now so they don't need to look for other places to be filled later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tri-Moms: Coping When Your Husband Works Long Hours

For weeks I've been writing this post in my head. Problem is I've been doing a lot of deleting and scratching out and starting over and I still don't have the words to write.   The title mentions coping and when Brian works long days, sometimes I don't cope.  I mope.  I feel guilty about it because at least he gets to come home at night (unlike the husband of a military mom)...and at least he is off every Sunday (so we know there is a light at the end of every week's tunnel). 

Every spring is the same.  Brian cuts grass and does landscaping for a living so he is off for ten weeks every winter.  I've been asked if it is a pain to have him home so much and I answer a big, "No!  We love it!"  We pack as much family time, fun, relaxation, and projects into those weeks as possible.  It makes March that much harder, though, when I have to make the transition back to full-time home-keeper and caretaker.  April and May are his busiest months of the year and I joke that I feel like a married single mom most of the time.

It is mostly a mental and emotional struggle.  It's not that I can't physically handle the playing and the meal-fixing and the baths and the bedtimes on my own because I can, but I crave the presence of my husband.  We all feel better when he is here.

Rolling down the hill with friends sure beats pulling our hair out!
One Friday in April, Brian knew ahead of time that he needed to work until dark.  The kids and I made plans for the afternoon.  We ended naptime early and drove to the zoo.  I purposely left the camera at home so there were no distractions.  We laughed and we ran and we lived fully in the moment. On the way home, we stopped at Redbox to rent a favorite movie and the kids watched while I threw together an easy dinner. At bedtime, though everyone missed Daddy, we were all still refreshed and when he came home, he came home to a calm house.

But for every great day, there is a equally bad day-- the day like last Saturday when Brian had to work for the sixth day in a row and we were all (him included) running on fumes.  I fussed too much at the kids.  Owen spilled a whole cup of juice on the dining room carpet.  Benjamin hid the batteries to the remote and threw the telephone in the trashcan. (I mean, really now...the trashcan?)   I felt like I could barely keep my head above the water and, while no one thing was wrong, it all felt wrong anyway.  I cried.  They cried.  Right before dinner, I sent them outside to play while I cranked up some music in the kitchen.  When Casting Crowns' song "Voice of Truth" came on, it spoke to me in my moment. 

"Oh,what I would do to have
the kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus is,
And He's holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name
and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
time and time again,
'Boy, you'll never win,
You you'll never win.' "

I was at the end of another one of those long days where I get up in the morning planning to have a cheerful heart but instead end up losing my patience and not holding my tongue, I felt like a failure.  I'd asked my children for forgiveness and I asked Him for more grace, but I wondered, "Will I ever, ever get it right?"

"And the voice of truth says, 'This is for My glory.' "
Home again!
His glory?  Can all those bad days possibly be turned around and redeemed for Him?  Could I, with my biting tongue and the chip on my shoulder, bring Him glory?  Could my heartaches and struggles be the thing that brings me to my knees and throws all the glory on Him? 

Could it be that if all my days were happy and rosy that I would be too confident to remember that He is all I need? 

Brian told me that his schedule is going to be slower in a couple of weeks.  He said, "If we can just get through next week, it will be better," but I don't want to just get through.  I don't want to wake up in a few weeks and realize I coasted through my days in anticipation of better ones.  I want to appreciate each one I'm given.  I know I can't do it on my own.  It takes the Body of Christ: listening ears and arms to hold my own when I no longer have the strength.   It takes mercy and it takes grace and  He offers them both.

: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :

Just when we think we have our schedule figured out, we switch it on you!  I'm hosting the link-up again this week so that Suzanne can host the Beginning Homeschooling post on June 7th.  So...tell us.  How do you cope when your husband has to work late?  Visit the other Tri-Moms, Kathi and Suzanne, to find out how they make it through those long days.  Let's all encourage each other.  Discuss it in the comments or write your own post and come link it up here.  (Take a minute to grab the Tri-Moms button located on my sidebar.) 

Coming Soon:
June 7: Beginning Homeschooling
June 21: Routine
July 5: Bulk Shopping
July 19:
Worshiping At Home

Saturday, May 14, 2011


UPDATE: Not 30 minutes after I posted this lament, my real-life friend, Kristine, e-mail me to say she had a copy of my post in her google reader so she forwarded it to me.  I had planned to remove this post if/when I was able to have the FIAR post restored, but since I had included links to other information, too,  I'll  leave it.  Happy Saturday!

Well, in the Blogger maintenance debacle of this week, my post about our use of Five in a Row was taken down.  Yes, the Five in a Row post that I spent precious naptime writing.  Now don't get me wrong.  It was a fun post and I enjoyed writing it, but still-- it was naptime.  And while other blogs had their posts systematically restored...mine was not.  I did have a few drafts restored twice so I have duplicates of posts I had barely written and not one word of a post I had already published.  Frustrating with a capital F. 

I'm hoping it will slip back in over the weekend and with it, this post can slip back out.  Either way, I'll be back on Tuesday for this week's Tri-Moms topic-- Coping When Your Husband Works Long Hours.  It should be a good one.  I hope you'll think on it, too, and join us with some words of your own. 

Until then, have you been struggling with how to fit everything you want and need to do into each day when there simply isn't enough time.  Me, too!  Take a moment this weekend to read Sleepy Mommies@ Raising Arrows.  

"He gave me 24 hours, and in those 24 hours, He gives me rest."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Five in a Row

After I shared about our most recent school year and some of the resources we used, Allyson said:

"I thought that you had used Before Five in a Row with one of your children. Did you ever continue into Five in a Row? If so, what are your thoughts?"

I love when readers ask me questions and I'm always up for a little curriculum talk so this is right up my alley!

Yes, we did use Before Five in a Row...twice!  I used it the first time when Gavin was four and Maddie was two and the second time when Maddie was four and Owen was two.  Before Five in a Row is recommended for children ages two through four.  Each week, you choose a different book from the book list, in no particular order.  Each of the five days of the week, you read the book aloud and choose from the variety of activities to go along with the selection.  Five in a row is the idea, but sometimes (especially with the second go-round when I was also homeschooling a first grader) we would only have preschool time four or even three days of the week...and that was okay.  Some books were more enjoyable than others, too, and we choose to read those more often.  That was okay, too.  Preschool equals flexibility which equals fun. 

But Allyson asked about Five in a Row (FIAR), which is for older children, ages four through eight.  This was written in the same concept as Before Five in a Row, but the book selections  and the activities are more advanced.  Also because it is meant for grade school children, it covers aspects of social studies, science, art, music,  and math.  We used FIAR when Gavin was in kindergarten, though Maddie read most of the books along with us.  I loved that I could teach him by doing something that we would be doing anyway-- reading story books!  I also loved that since I borrowed the FIAR manual and the books were either already in our collection or borrowed from the library, this was a free or at least very cheap program.  Some of our favorite books were discovered when we meandered through Volume 1 and part of Volume 2 that school year...The Story of Ping, Cranberry Thanksgiving, A Pair of Red Clogs... delightful! 

I expected to continue through the rest of Volume 2 and move on to Volume 3 when Gavin moved into first grade, but we didn't.  You want to know why?  For no other reason than that I grew a little tired of it.  The kids still loved it, but I was ready for something different.  (I also knew Gavin could handle meatier fare and I knew he would enjoy the adventuresome beginnings of our country's history so we moved on from the literature-unit study approach of FIAR to the literature-history approach of TruthQuest For Young Students.)

Though we loved FIAR, there were also a few cons for me.  Number one: though I am an planner and an organizer, when it comes to school, I don't like to feel confined.  I don't make lesson plans because I like to have the freedom to take one day at a time.  With FIAR I felt as though if I skipped a day of reading or skipped a day of activities, I had to make it up and I didn't like that.  I wanted the ability to pick up again tomorrow without feeling like we were behind.  Secondly, I thought some of the activities were too structured and took away from the enjoyment of the great literature. By the time we got done looking at the shading of the artwork or defined a list of words, we sometimes forgot what a great story we had just read!  These things may not be an issue for you at all, but they were a factor for me. 

One activity that we all loved was the story disks.  For each story, there was a coin-sized circle with a tiny picture.  For Madeline, it was the Eiffel Tower.  For The Story of Ferdinand, it was a bull.  After one of the kids colored it in, we discussed where the story had taken place and taped it to that spot on the map. This fostered a love for geography in all of my children.  Even though we've left FIAR far behind, they still ask to tape pictures and faces to our wall map. 

Allyson also asked where she could purchase her own Five in a Row manual.  Rainbow Resource Center currently is the distributor of Five in a Row products.  Each volume is $35, but if you consider that the story books will be free from the library and most of the activities use materials you have at home, it is an affordable curriculum.  Ebay is an excellent source of used manuals, though!  On a quick browse today, I found Volume 1 ranging in price from $4.24 to $22-- a significant savings. 

Remember, I love some good curriculum talk so if you have any questions about this or another program I've used, fill the comments! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Children's Book...Tuesday?

In her Children's Book Monday post this week, Elise shared a list of books that are comforts to her family, books that soothe on dark days.  She asked her readers to contemplate this week if they had any such "comfort" books on their shelves...and though it is more giggly than warm and fuzzy, The Two Sillies by Mary Ann Hoberman immediately came to my  mind because of the memories it holds between its pages.

When Brian and I were parents of only two children (with a little less money but a little more time) we would visit the Goodwill on Saturday afternoons to scour their shelves for books.  We amassed quite a  collection on those  hunts, perhaps a key reason why today we have more books than will fit on our shelves.  We brought this one home one weekend and after reading it to my two, I impulsively scribbled a personal inscription on the inside front cover. 

Last week was a tough week.  It started out joyously as we moved into our new home.  Monday was busy and full with unpacking boxes and arranging bedrooms.  Tuesday was hot and sunny and the children got to test out their new wading pool.  The backyard echoed with squeals and splashes.  Then came Wednesday.  Rain came down in buckets and  the air was twenty degrees cooler plus we needed to go grocery shopping.  Because of the rain, Brian had to work late the rest of the week and work Saturday.  I was frazzled, the kids were tired, Brian was frustrated with working long days with no time to see his family. 

After one particularly gray day, I gathered with the kids on the floor and asked each of them to bring me a book to read.  As they laid their books in front of me, I noticed someone slapped down The Two Sillies. It had been hidden for awhile, first on an upstairs shelf and then in a moving box so it had been months since we'd read it, but it was the perfect cheery counterpart to my not-so-cheery mood.  I took a moment to read the words I had penned on the jacket, "To Gavin and Maddie, our 2 silly sweet babies...and to all the other silly little babies yet to come.  Love, Daddy and Mama, September 10, 2005." 

Here I sat five years later and three silly little babies richer!  

As I read the rhyming poem of Lilly and Sammy and their cats and cows and mice and barns, a calm washed over me.  It didn't erase the bad week or wash away the disappointments.  It didn't make everything better or find my lost tweezers, but it made me more aware of the blessings I have in spite of the string of days that felt out of sorts.  

It was my comfort book.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Winding Down

It's always been my August tradition to share what we plan to use in our coming school year.  Michelle suggested that it might be helpful to her (and maybe others) to have an end-of-the-year wrap-up, discussing what worked and didn't work for us.  For the first time in our four years of formal schooling, I felt like we hit our stride this year.  I had been worried that the year would be crazy with the addition of Alaine  in  early fall, but  home-life became no louder or crazier than it already was! 

(Before proceeding, perhaps you should first read the plans I had made for this school year.)
We continued using TruthQuest: American History for Young Students.  What I love most about TruthQuest is that it is essentially a large booklist of chronological topics in history.  I choose the topics, I read the books aloud, and we all learn history together.  No grade level segregation.  Before our school year began, I mapped out a list of topics I wanted to cover in the following nine months and found out what books were available at my library. When we began in August, I essentially had the entire year in pencil. I do. not. make daily lesson plans, but I had an order to the year.  We did not read TruthQuest's brief commentary.  We only used it as a resource for books.  I'm finding that as we move chronologically closer to the present that it is harder to find quality books to go along with our subject matter.  It seems our library is simply not keeping the older, meatier books, but trading them in for newer, watered-down selections. 

I started using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for Maddie last summer.   We loved it until about three-quarters of the way through when it became tedious for her.  She is now working through a cheapy phonics workbook from Target and is thriving!  Gavin began the year with Explode the Code 5, but over winter vacation when we were taking an extended school break, reading suddenly clicked for him and we were able to shelve the phonics books for good.  Makes me a little ticked off  (not really!) that I worked with him on reading for 4 years and he finally gets in when we are not in school. 

Math was a roller coaster this year.  You see, we have always used Making Math Meaningful and I thought I liked it.  I liked that it was very hands-on.  I liked that it focused on understanding concepts before  learning to compute them.   However, it wasn't meeting our needs anymore.  We had trouble with the second grade book last year, but we powered through.  We did okay with the beginning of the third grade book, but then we hit a wall.  When we got to the multiplication chapter, Gavin was frustrated and I was frustrated and we both dreaded math every day.  Gavin loves math, but he didn't love this.  After trying to power through again, I decided that it was silly to stick with something that wasn't meeting our needs.  After talking to other moms and sending out a plea on Facebook and doing  multiple online searches, I settled on Kumon Math Workbooks.  We began mid-year.  They fit our budget and they have proved perfect for us.

A few months into the year, we developed an unofficial schedule for the "extra subjects" :
Monday, poetry
Tuesday, art
Wednesday, nature
Thursday, music
Friday, worldview
And if we had to miss school one day of the week?  We doubled up or talked about it in the van or skipped it for that week.  No biggie. No stress.

It is only May and I'm already thinking of and planning our next school year.  What did you use this year that was wonderful?  Or what did you have to scrap?  I'm making my list and I've love to have your input.

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In The Interest of Full Disclosure

When I put away Brian's laundry, I hang his shirts in the closet by color.  Can you say organizational freak?  I eat my M&Ms the same way.  I always eat the brown ones first and then whatever color has the least amount until I'm left with the color with the largest amount.  Tonight it was orange. 

I've had the same library card for 23 years.  I don't mean the same account.  I mean the same plastic card. 

I met my friend, Jamie, 24 years ago when we were in the first grade. We still keep in touch (though not nearly enough).  I also keep in contact with my penpal, Lauren.  We started writing 16 years ago! 

I shave my legs every day, summer and winter.

Even though it goes against "expert" advice, I've nursed every one of  my babies to sleep.  And neither of my children has consistently slept through the night until at least 18 months old.  They've all slept in my bed, too.  Some mornings I wake up and think, "I wish I had slept a little better last night," and there are mornings when I grumble, "I can't wait until I can sleep for more than 4 ( or even 2) hours without someone needing me," but I know it won't last.  I have an 8-year-old who doesn't want to hold my hand to cross the street anymore and I miss that.

As much as I love this new house, I am having a hard time adjusting to a new place and a new routine.  Instead of a dryer in the middle of my kitchen, we have a separate laundry room now  and I keep forgetting to fold the laundry.  I don't feel myself yet because I don't even know where to find everything I need.  Where did I put those tweezers? I cried when I unloaded the dishwasher and half of the dishes were still dirty.  I'll feel better once everything is put away and we establish a new normal. 

I still love my life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tri-Moms: Baby Weight Loss

Lest you came expecting no-fail weight loss tips, I warn you now that they aren't here. My philosophy for eating and living in the postpartum period is similar to my philosophy on many things.  I tend to go the natural route.  I let my babies nurse and eat and wean at their own pace.  I potty train when my children show signs of readiness.  I don't push learning to read at any magic age.  And I let the baby weight come off when my body is ready. (That is what I do.  I didn't say that I don't stress about it anyway.)

I believe that God gave us food to eat and to enjoy.  I believe that most foods in moderation should be enjoyed without guilt.  The key, of course, is moderation.  I do not avoid butter or salt or all carbs or even chocolate cake because I know that an overall healthy lifestyle is what is important, not the exact number of calories I consume.  

Instead of focusing on the scale (which I got rid of), I focus on healthy habits.  I drink lots of water.  I aim for 1 large glass at each meal and at least 2 more throughout the day.  I allow myself one soda on the weekend.  (Moderation.)  During the day I (try to) snack on fruit or nuts or a granola bar.  I enjoy dinner, limiting seconds as a general, but not strict, rule. I focus on eating a fruit or vegetable or both at every meal. In the evenings, I look forward to my special snack.  (I buy M&Ms in bulk.  No joke.)   I eat when I am hungry.  That is important while nursing because losing weight is not worth it at the expense of compromising my milk supply.

Why is it that chubby baby cheeks are so much cuter than chubby Mama cheeks?
If I find I have abandoned my healthy habits, I go back to them one at a time.   One week I might focus on guzzling the water again.  (If you don't already drink a lot of water, try upping your intake to get a quick weight-loss boost as your body loses fluid build-up.)  The next week, I may work on cutting back on excess snacking.  The next week, I tackle another area until I'm back to where I want to be health-wise.

After Gavin was born, I did not lose weight quickly.  I had heard that breastfeeding made weight loss easier, but it didn't work for me that first time.  By the time I was pregnant with Maddie, I was still holding on to at least fifteen extra pounds, but after she was born (and I was nursing both a toddler and a baby), the weight melted off with no effort whatsoever.  Each subsequent postpartum time was a little different.  After Alaine was born, I had the normal weight loss immediately following the birth, but then I lost nothing for months!  Not until she reached six months or so (and was still exclusively breastfeeding) did I begin to lose again.  If I know that I am eating well, I content myself with my current size because a healthy lifestyle is better than a skinny body. 

So what do you do about postpartum baby weight?  Go see what the other Tri-Moms, Suzanne and Kathi have to say this week and link up your own postpartum weight loss ideas with Kathi who is the hostess for this week's linky! 

Up next: Tri-Moms talk Coping With (Hubby) Working Long Days
May 17
Linky Hostess: me!

Coming Soon:
June 7: Beginning Homeschooling
June 21: Routine
July 5:  Bulk Shopping

Sunday, May 1, 2011

God's Provision: Our Home Story, The Conclusion

One morning, my grandmother called and asked if she could stop by to give me something.  This is the grandmother who from the time I was a baby has sent me birthday and Christmas cards with red-haired girls on them.  Never mind that they are a rarity, she can find them and it has long been a joke between us.  When I opened the door, she handed me a dish brush with a painted face and red bristles.  “For your new house,” she said.  “By faith.”

The next morning  we went to see House C.  It was an older 2-story home on a quiet road and situated on 1½ acres of land.  There were three bedrooms and an extra room (den? playroom?) upstairs.  The older couple who owned the home had kept it immaculate, but their daughters who were selling the home wanted more than what the home was worth.  We discussed our options and decided to place an offer below the asking price.  Right there in the living room, though, Sharon said, “Are you still interested in House B?  I know the seller cannot afford to live there much longer and I’m going to attempt to contact her and see if she is interested in selling again?” 

We placed the offer on House C on Saturday morning, and then waited through an agonizing weekend to hear word.  On Monday evening, Sharon called and said the daughters were offended by our low offer and wanted to hold out for the asking price.  (The home is still on the market today.)  But the seller of House B was willing to negotiate again.  We didn’t have time to be disappointed about House C because  things began to move quickly from here.  Sharon talked to the seller and found out what she needed.  We got our income tax refund (putting us in a much better financial state than where we had been in November) and began to talk details with our mortgage broker, Norman. 

When God said yes, there was no doubt as things began to fall into place.  On Monday, February 21st, we all gathered in the real estate office—the seller, Sharon, Brian and me (and Alaine)—and we signed a contract on House B.  The next few months were a crazy conglomeration of days as we had home inspections, signed paperwork for the bank, and set up utilities all while I continued to teach school and keep up with the house…and pack.  Brian started the spring season at work which is the busiest of the year. 

Posing in the side yard (before the lawn was cut!)

We were nervous through the entire process because it was such a huge step.  Whenever we had questions (or I began to panic), Norman was quick to e-mail or return our calls.  He made the process from contract to settlement smooth, and we felt very taken care of.  He and Brian developed a great working relationship as they talked kids almost as much as they talked money.  

We signed the final papers making the house ours on April 18, 2011, exactly eight weeks after we signed the contract and two years after our home search began!  The home and property appraised for over $30,000 more than what we paid, another sign of God’s hand. 

We had the luxury of two weeks between closing and the end of our lease on our townhouse so we moved slowly.  Friends brought dinner to help on those long evenings of moving.  Other friends gave us paper products so I wouldn’t have to wash or unpack dishes.  Different family members took the kids to their houses to play while Brian and I worked to clean the new house or drive over loads of boxes. 

Mowing his own grass!
Last Saturday afternoon, we took a break from moving to eat lunch at McDonald’s.  We ordered, dispersed the food, and prayed before eating.  A few minutes into the meal, a woman walked up to our table.  I was afraid she was going to complain about the kids being loud because we had noticed her watching us.  Instead, she tucked a twenty dollar bill in my hand and said, “The Lord wanted me to give this to you.  When I saw you say the blessing over your food, that was confirmation.”  Then she walked out of the building and drove away. 

We were reminded of the Lord’s provision that day. Looking back we can see the Lord’s provision through every step of this journey—in the choosing of real estate agent and mortgage broker, in saving our home for us until we had enough money saved, in the people surrounding us who helped and encouraged and prayed.  We thank Him today and we thank Him always. 

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