Friday, November 30, 2007

Why are you making us do this?

Last night we finished reading Johnny Tremain (don't worry, no spoilers!). The ending was appropriate...but not satisfying to my kids. "It can't end there!" "Is there a Johnny Tremain Two?" I often hear this at the end of books. Ending a book is like saying goodbye to your friends.

So today I decided to depart from our usual language arts, and told the kids to get paper and pencil. "Did we do something wrong? Why are you making us do this?" Hm, not the response I want for a writing assignment! True, I did recently make them copy I Corinthians 13:4-7 (the Love is patient...verses--very worthwhile!). Suddenly that translates into torture?

"No. You're going to write for 20 minutes, What happened next in Johnny Tremain?" After a few, "I can't do that!" and, "We'll die!" type responses (that's right, homeschool mom's sinister plan...death by writing!), they got excited about the idea and started writing.

Zac, the resident statistician, set his watch timer for the promised 20 minute maximum. The alarm went off to wails of, "I'm not done yet!" and "I think I need another piece of paper." Say WHAT? Ah, music to this mother's ears after years of wondering if they would ever enjoy writing! We focused more on copywork and dictation this year, and it has really increased their confidence.

They each took another 20 minutes to finish, and then we sat at the table and drank hot cocoa while they read their stories out loud. Zac even used a metaphor! Very cool. Persevere, my friends!

Merry :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whose plan was this, anyway?

You know, I just wanted to get up and get school done today. We have an appointment at 2, and then AWANA tonight--we can't start late today. Can't things run like clockwork just because I want it?! (Ironically, when we DID finally get to school, we read Can't You Make Them Behave, King George, about George the Third and his trouble with America. He couldn't make the Americans fit into his neat and orderly plan either!)

So what was it that landed my daughter in tears (leading to lesson # 47 on women for my son--"was it something I said?" "No dear, sometimes girls are going to cry and you can't do anything about it, just make sure your words and actions are kind." This wasn't in MY curriculum today! But an important life lesson, I suppose, worth the digression).

The issue at hand? The top of our Christmas Tree. The one waiting in the closet to be put up. (The kids want it up yesterday, I want the leaves raked & some things done around the house first...) Since about September, Anna has been drawing stars in the margins of her math papers. Nighttime stars, Christmas trees with stars... "Stars, yay! Angels boo." It's not that she doesn't like angels--she just wants a star on the top of the Christmas tree.

I can relate. I grew up with a star on top of the tree. Something about a star on top seems right to me. Zac likes our angel. I made that angel before he was born. It's lovingly wrapped in tissue and placed in its own box each year to keep it fresh-looking. Zac likes to think that Mom made that angel. He likes tradition (hm...things to run like clockwork?). He likes angels and thinking about them protecting us. He likes the angel on top of our tree, and doesn't want a star.

This morning, instead of eating breakfast, the kids cut up a cardboard box. Zac was drawing a nativity scene. With a very large angel. Anna was perfecting her star. Scientifically mapping out how to make the sides exactly even, the lines straight. Planning how to cover it to make it shiny. Wondering how to attach it to the tree. And the tension was building.

Where's the wisdom of Solomon when you need it? Somehow I didn't think half a star & half an angel on top of the tree was going to solve this one. Put the angel on top & mount the star from the ceiling? Maybe. Put my foot down, say enough, we'll just keep the angel? No, that would seem like I'm choosing sides I could hear them arguing as I put laundry in the dryer. I said a quick prayer and returned to the craft-works kitchen.

Slowly, and quietly I said, "I have to talk to you children. I don't know what we're going to do about this Christmas tree topper. But we can't have this fighting. I'd rather not put up the tree than turn our Christmas season, which is supposed to be about peace and remembering why Jesus came to us, and love, and joy--into a season of fighting. Someone is going to have to give in, and not just outwardly, begrudgingly, but truly in their heart, give in and be happy about it."

That's when Anna's eyes filled with tears and she left the room. Oh yeah, we'll be getting to school REAL soon today! Were these heartbroken tears? Manipulative tears? I wasn't sure. After my little talk about women with Zac, he paused and asked, "Can I make a star for the tree too?"

ARGH! Is that what this was about?! "If you are feeling left out because Anna isn't including you in her plans to make a star, then you need to talk to her about that." Lightbulb. "I guess that IS what's bothering me about this." "Ok, well...go talk to her. You have 10 minutes and then we REALLY need to start school!"

They worked it out, the kids got breakfast, school got done, and they all lived happily ever after ...until Mom's next mental breakdown...

Merry :-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Introducing the Dustbunny Chronicles

Hi, Benjamin T. Dustbunny here, filling in. Mom really needs to clean this house! (Don't tell her I said that!)

Well, did you all have a nice Thanksgiving? I sure did, and I can tell you, after seeing what I saw last week, I am thankful that I'm a dustbunny and NOT a turkey!!

Although, my cousin Buster DB just came in from the garage, and he says it's not safe out there either--Mom's gettin' ready for winter and the dust is a-flyin'!

By the way, do you like my portrait? My human, Anna made it for me. You can see the clever paper-clip joints she made at the neck and elbow so I can eat that carrot. He-he-hee, what an imagination she has. Me, eating a carrot!

Actually she doesn't know that I watch her sometimes, but I do. (Dustbunnies are sneaky that way). She has a tender heart. I saw a paper in her room this weekend. It's a note she wrote to her mom a few weeks ago after lying, saying what she thought her consequence should be. I know Mom said she could get rid of it now. But she wants to keep it, to help her remember to tell the truth even when it's hard. Mom got tears in her eyes when Anna said that, and they hugged.

Well, Buster says the broom is coming my way, I'd better get hoppin'! 'Till next time, bdb.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

So beautiful, it was a song

So beautiful, it was a song

Saturday night,
Above a wispy, tree-lined horizon
The soft pink moon awoke,
Pillowed in periwinkle blue.
The gentle giant, twice normal size, beckoned us forward
As we drove home after our goodbyes-for-now.

Sing the moments, sing the days
Sing His glory and His praise
Remember Him in all your ways

The night before,
Dave felt great
And we all stayed up into the wee hours
Playing cards (Hand and Foot), enjoying
As we should, together
Guacamole, laughter, and more guacamole
Together...a rare treat...

Sing the moments, sing the days
Sing His glory and His praise
Remember Him in all your ways

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard. (Ps 19:1-3)

"Look at the moon, kids!"
And we marveled as we drove
Marveled as we should
At laughter, love, creation
Moments caught with family
Before the kids are all grown.

Sing the moments, sing the days
Sing His glory and His praise
Remember Him in all your ways

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Several months ago, my son Zac said to me, "Mom, sometimes I think God let Daddy be sick so I could learn compassion and love." When I told Dave, he said, "That would make all this worth it."

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my husband who, though he wasn't given a choice, would have willingly given up his health to help his son. He is a true example of Christ to me.

I'm thankful for my son, who wants to follow Christ and learn how to love others, even when it hurts.

I'm thankful for my daughter, whose smile and desire to help me cook warms my heart.

I'm thankful for the best stuffing on earth (my SIL's!).

And for my SIL who makes it and welcomes us into her home with fun and love.

For our beloved parents.

For family to laugh and cry with.

For friends and our church.

For a roof over our heads and enough food to eat.

For the trial of Dave's Lyme disease--which has brought us much heartache, but has also taught me how to love, and has drawn me closer to my family and to God.

And I'm thankful for my Lord, who has carried us through many difficult years. "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."

May God grant you many things to be thankful for, whether in abundance or the lack of it, as you trust in Him.

Happy Thanksgiving! Merry :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

What is Farkle?

"I fixed your blog for you," my dh said this morning.

"Oh? What was wrong with it?" I asked, feeling a bit scared.
"It said you live in Afghanistan!"

Oops. I guess that's the first-on-the-list default choice, LOL! I wonder how many of the Afghani bloggers are really from somewhere else?!

Well, on to Farkle. Some call this game "10,000." Dh and I played in college, it's a fun, fast-paced dice game. I recently taught our kids, and they are hooked! There are several variations on how to play and score points (just google "Farkle rules"), but here are our family rules:

You'll need: 6 dice, a pen and paper.

Play: Each player takes turns rolling the dice. Each time you roll, you have to remove at least one die that is worth points (I'll list the point values below). Then you have to decide whether to score those points or roll the remaining dice, trying to get more points. If you get more points, you can keep rolling, but if your re-rolled dice have no value, you lose all points that you would have earned that round.

Point Values:
3 of a kind (in one roll, not cumulative) = 100 times that number (ie, 3 2's = 200).
4 of a kind = the above points plus 100 (ie, 4 2's = 200 plus 100 = 300)
3 1's is 1000
3 pairs (ie 2 2's, 2 4's & 2 5's for example) = 500 points
6-straight (1-2-3-4-5-6 in ONE roll) = 1500 points
Farkle-no points at all rolled, lose your turn.

Example: Role 6 dice & get 3 5's, a 4 and 2 6's. Set the 3 5's aside, that's 500 points. You can decide to stop and rack up 500 points, or you can gamble and roll the remaining 3 dice. Let's say you roll again, a 1, a 5, and a 2. You pull out the 1, that's 100 points, and the 5, that's 50 points, so now you're up to 650. You decide that's enough & stop, so you now officially add those 650 points to your written score. If you rolled again & got, say, a 2--well, you lose those 650 points, pass the dice to your left, so sad for you.

However--let's say you gamble, roll that last die, and get a 1--now you're up to 750 points, you've used up all 6 dice--you can pick ALL the dice up and roll them all again, and keep adding points!

Additional rule--we play that to get on the score board initially, you have to start with a minimum of 1000 points--so you have to keep rolling until you get 1000 or more for that first score, or until you lose your points & your turn. Once you are on the score board, you can stop at any point value you want.

To win: As you may have guessed by the alternate title, you need 10,000 cumulative points or to win. Once you hit or pass 10,000, everyone else gets one more turn. They have to roll until they can beat your point total (thus winning themselves) or until they don't score & get no points for that round.

This is a really fun way to encourage kids to use their addition skills, as well as teaching them about probability! Plus--it's just plain fun. Enjoy! Merry :-)

Favorite Verses

Ps 46:1-11
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah(NIV)

When our mountains quake and our lives are falling apart, there is a strong temptation to believe God has abandoned us--but He is ever-present and beckons us to Him, to find refuge in Him, to be still and know--know deep within our soul and in our mind and in our hearts--that He is God, and He is with us.

What are you reading in the Word lately? Is there a passage that's really speaking to you?

Merry :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I know what the problem is, Mom!

Here I am, starting my first blog and hoping I've not completely lost my mind. Hold the comments on that thought please! Gee, I can see one has to be VERY careful in how they go about things in blogland!

So, I guess I'll start with a story...about story problems. Yeah, math. Specifically Anna's. They were all wrong yesterday--she added instead of subtracting. So I called her to me and had her read the problems to me. She stumbled a bit on the names & on one other word, but she understood the meaning of the problem. I could tell by the big, "OOOOOOOhhhhh" as she read them.

I encouraged her (after helping her with the names and the word cabbage--why do they do word problems on cabbage? If the word had been chocolate, I'm sure she could have read it!) that she could always come ask me what a word means if she doesn't know it. Then she said, "I know what the problem is mom. I don't ever read the words, I just assume it's adding!" Oh my goodness, I think we laughed for 5 minutes!

Zach was in the room, and he had to chime in, "Yeah, Anna, the words aren't there just to fill up the page and make it look pretty." Hmmm, I wonder who could have put an idea like that in his head?

I think little moments like these are gifts from God--an opportunity to make a connection with our kids. It could just as easily have been a moment of frustration or impatience on my part, and driven a wedge between my daughter and I. But in laughter we can find healing and family-bonding.

What can you do to make a connection with your kids today?

Merry :-)