Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Husband, the Archaeologist!

Merry Christmas everyone! (is anyone still reading?!)

I've gotta brag on my dear husband a bit. I had on my Christmas wish list a CD of a tape that we have. The 97 Promise Keeper's tape, The Making of a Godly Man--I loved it & played it over & over in our van. But the van died last summer & of course they don't put tape-players in vehicles these days! I've missed that tape so much.

Dave really wanted to shop locally, but you have to understand our local Christian bookstore. The owner had a system that only she understood. Stacks upon stacks of books everywhere, some on shelves, some on the floor...with just enough room to squeeze past. When you go there, you have to want to dig...or to ask for what you want and hope someone knows where it is. But the owner is now in a nursing home, and her family is left trying to run it or sell it--and there is a back room plus 3 more stories of stacks and boxes from the last few decades.

Now you know why I called him an archaeologist. He went there several days, digging through many boxes of CD's (without even knowing if they might have the one I wanted). Some boxes would start out in alphabetical order and then the order would stop suddenly. The new owners found a place to set up a chair for him and brought box after box...and then he found it!

What a wonderful Christmas present. I don't know what I love more--his persistence and sacrifice of time and energy (and energy is a premium), or the fact that he has this ability this year. I told the kids last week how much we have to thank God for because Daddy is doing so much better than he was a year ago. And this--well, this touched my heart more than any gift I can think of.

Merry Christmas, Everyone! May we all value the life we have, and cherish the friends and family in our lives. In Christ, Merry :-)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Spelling Progress! All About Spelling Review

I have to share about a favorite curriculum!

We've tried several spelling programs here (including making up my own, which I found to be a very involved task!). But never found one we really loved or that "worked" for us. Then last Spring I stumbled across All About Spelling; it was everything I had wanted to create on my own and more.

My son (11) says that it's the most effective curriculum we've used. "It starts out basic and really makes you think about how words are spelled. Then it helps you to know how to spell tricky words. I like writing the words on the white board. It's fun because I like to see what I know and I like the trivia questions! (review cards). I like the time that I get to spend with Mom."

(No, I didn't pay him to say that last part, isn't he sweet?!) I agree that it's effective; every week I am noticing more words that my kids are spelling correctly in their writing that they didn't know how to spell before.

So, here is my All About Spelling review:

The things I like:

The letter tiles--these are similar to what we used in Reading Reflex, only these are laminated and color-coordinated. We use the magnets too and put them on a magnetic white board--this makes the program so user-friendly!



Not sure if you can read what Zach spelled on the board: I'm done with my book! We were both so proud!

The book is open and go, the lessons are all laid out. We work for about 15 minutes & then pick up there again the next day. I spent one day getting ready to teach it by punching out the perforated cards & just glancing at the book. Otherwise there is really no prep time.

Each new step begins with reviewing rules and words that still need reinforcing, then learning some new concepts and building words with the tiles. Later the kids can write words on a white board or on paper (or they can use more tactile methods). I really like that there are phrases and dictation sentences to write too--so the kids don't just memorize a list and then forget it, they have to think how to write words in a sentence. I think this is one reason that what my kids are learning is "sticking."

We can go as quickly or as slowly as we need to through each lesson, so my kids learn at their own pace. Some lessons (called "steps") have taken us 2 days, some have taken a week or so.


Here's Anna after finishing another lesson, with her progress chart. Obviously she loves "sticker day," LOL!

Review is built in so it won't be forgotten, and my kids retain what they are learning. It's completely customizeable--the rules and words are on cards that you keep in a card file, and when your kids have them mastered, you move the cards out of the review section.


Zach and his progress chart, done with Level 2!

It's based on the Orton Gillingham phonics research, and it only teaches rules that really hold true (no rules like "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking," which is only true about 40% of the time.) AAS also used the same research that another favorite book of mine--The ABC's and All Their Tricks--used.

It uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic processes. Works for kids with dyslexia, auditory processing struggles (which we have dealt with) and other issues too.

AAS has a money back guarantee (that tipped the scales for me to try it! And they take paypal too, another plus).

There is a great Resource Center on the site with articles and videos for further help.

There is a jail for words that don't follow the rules!

We added magnets to the "jail" so we could put that on our board too! BTW, the board is 2' X 3' if you're wondering--the angle of this picture may make it look bigger.

AAS is easy to use and to understand. I only wish I had found it several years ago! I really can't think of much I'd change about it, and I've found that the author is very accessible and helpful. It might not be the program for everyone, but if you're looking for a better spelling program, check it out. I decided to become an affiliate because it's helped us so much. If I can answer any questions I'd be glad to. (I've been talking up AAS since before I knew they had an affiliate program because it made my kids enjoy and understand spelling. We're midway through book 2 and will start book 3 later this year.).

God bless, Merry :-)

1/6/09--I thought I'd add an update to this post, and some pictures! My kids still enjoy this, and their writing has improved so much. They can spell more words and if they do make a mistake, usually the mistake makes phonetic sense--no more simply "decorating with vowels" or adding extra letters because the word might need more!

They have a lot more confidence now and both have told me that reading is more fun too. I think AAS has helped with word-attack skills for bigger words, as well as helping with their speed. Zach actually read a huge Indiana Jones novel (with all four books in it). Back in September he told me that the first chapter in one of the books didn't make sense and didn't belong. After discussing how that couldn't be true, he put the book up for awhile and re-read it in November--and told me that now he could read it all and that it DID make sense! Zach is now in Level 3, and Anna is nearing the end of Level 2.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why do some prayers go unanswered?

I read this question online recently...and oh, how many times I've asked myself the same question.

I wrote on Unanswered Prayers in my newsletter.

Other post I've written that speak to this topic:
Be Stumped
Praying with Perseverance
From Despair to Hope and Rest
The Miracle

There is no short answer to this question. There are some answers...and lots of mystery. There's a whole chapter full of people who did not receive what was promised to them (Hebrews 11). I think on that frequently...as well as the encouragement to pray and not give up, from Luke. When I don't know all the "why's," I meditate on what I do know--the truth of God's character. Circumstances will lie to us about who God is--they don't tell the whole story. So I go back to the Word. Psalms is full of heartache, longing for God's answers...and looking to God's character.

Ps. 13 is a favorite of mine because it expresses the torment so eloquently, and also what I want my mind and eyes to focus on as I wait for the Lord.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

God bless, Merry

Friday, August 22, 2008

Want to see our "School Room?"

(The correct answer is yes after all the time we spent rearranging, plus finally--after 10 years! getting rid of the old blinds that came with the house & putting up curtains, and also cleaning out all the things that get "lost" under furniture, LOL! I sure sneezed a lot that first day!)

This room doubles as a family room/sitting room, and features our 18 year-old couches! (We found them one day when we went to Walmart for hairspray. Of course, I don't use hairspray, too allergic then & now so is Dave! but it was for an art project. Anyway, go in for hair spray, come out with couches, that's about how my life goes!). They've made it through 5 moves so far, LOL!

Here's what you see when you first come downstairs into this room:

You can see our magnet whiteboard with the All About Spelling tiles peeking out from behind the couch. Sometimes the kids do projects on the table. They used it a lot when they were smaller, it was just their size, LOL!

Looking to the left:

That's my grandpa's fiddle music on the piano stand there, I love it! But I need to find a way to restore it, the pages are all falling out, any ideas? I have some Reddi Roll that I could protect the cover with but I'm more concerned about all the inside pages falling apart.

Turning to the right:
Still need to go through the kids' art portfolios stashed between the book case and the hutch-turned-bookcase/school storage! On top of the bookcase you can see the candle setting from our wedding. We use that for "Tuesday Tea" when we read poetry & eat a snack. The top shelf (dubbed the "shelf of wonder" by Zac) houses our current year's books. We usually do our history and science and Bible reading in this room.

Now turn right again to look at the back of the room:
The kids like to write or eat breakfast here, and that's our buddy Lightning's cage down below (our hamster). The cowboy picture on the left is one Zac did several years ago in an art class. He was 7 I believe, and drew this while looking at a picture, then put black-colored glue on the lines & used oil pastels. That teacher was phenomenal at getting kids to draw!

I know, I need to update our family pictures, I do have a more recent one, I just haven't gotten it up yet--and how could I take down those sweet cherub faces anyway? Sigh. They do grow!

Thanks for visiting our school room! Merry :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'll take that as a compliment

Recently I was asked, "Where is your brother?" Meaning my 11 yo son Zach! How awesome is that?!!! I feel so young :-).

Ok, so I was actually asked, "Wa-yah yo bwudder?" by a 3 or 4 yo neighbor child, but hey, I'm stickin' to my story on this one! Merry :-)

Friday, August 15, 2008

That's just not right!

We've been watching lots of Olympics, and tonight my son wanted help making popcorn. So Dave got up to help him, and Anna said, "While the men are baking, the women will watch TV!" On the way downstairs, Zach whispered to Dave, "That just doesn't sound right!" Dave called up, "It might take longer than normal, this one needs a lecture!" My sweet guys!

Merry :-)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Look what my BABY did at camp!?!?!?!

Gee, I guess it really DOES pay to send those disposable cameras to camp with them. I just got the pics back today & amid the multitude of dark, grainy pictures, I found THIS:



Gives me the shivers, LOL!

I have TOUCHED a snake...but never CUDDLED one!!

Merry :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sighted!

On a church sign in our town:



"Live in such a way that the preacher doesn't have to lie at your funeral."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mini Office--Getting Ready for the School Year!

Well, we've been getting ready for the new school year to start and made these "mini offices." (A mini-office is a specific application of lap-booking, where you put together information they will use throughout the school year for their work). They were a lot of fun! I had the kids fill in their multiplication chart, names of shapes, prime numbers, Roman numerals, names of states etc... It was my sneaky way of doing some summer school ("really, this is a craft...").

Here's Zac's cover...




Anna's cover:


(She says that's a "Rainbow Crystal Cave" on the front of her's.)

Inside when you first open it up are some language arts tips.
(We hid magnets under the "COPS" on the left and the "run-away train" on the right; these hold the flaps closed. I saw something similar on another office online and the kids liked that idea, so we borrowed it!).


"COPS" is our acronym for editing--Capitalization, Organization (neatness etc...), Punctuation, and Spelling. Under that are "rule-breaker" words (We're using All About Spelling; they send rule-breakers to jail!) The right side shows sounds for OUGH, and the jobs of E.


On the middle panel, I remind them to "Spell with their ears (ie listen to the sounds/write the sounds) and Check with their eyes (did they choose the right phonogram for that word etc...)" I also had vowel sounds, which I thought might be a handy reference, but found them unnecessary after they learned them in AAS. 

The whole middle page flips up too, here's the inside fully opened:



I had the kids label all the states, and then in the middle is a place for them to record spelling, capitalization, and punctuation rules, plus samples of cursive letters, both caps and small letters.

The left flap has an additional tab that opens to show more "rule-breaker" words. The tab covers these up and has a place to put "this week's list" so they can study words that don't follow phonetic rules each week. I was going to make this a pocket on the flap, but then I saw that a dry-erase marker can write on and wipe off of the laminate, so we're going to try that instead. (This is another aspect we didn't end up needing to use).

This is the back:



I didn't take a pic of it fully opened, but all of the math concepts are on the back of the folder--so the items you saw on the cover picture show on the same side as the back when it's opened.

The kids had a lot of fun doing these and have thanked me about a zillion times, so I hope they'll be helpful this year! Both kids have already taken them to their own desks in their rooms, so I also hope they won't be lost before the school year starts, LOL!

Update: The math facts and how to spell math words ended up being the most used aspect of the mini-office for us. My daughter referred to hers for several years, actually.





















Monday, July 7, 2008

My testimony

Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household…My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart. —Job 17:11

My church asked for testimonies, and I refrained for awhile from writing mine. In many ways I wonder, what do I have to offer? What is my testimony? Eight years ago this June—after a 3-year battle to find answers for my husband’s headaches, confusion, chemical sensitivities, memory loss, joint pain, anxiety and depression—Dave had to leave his position as children’s pastor at our church. Eight years of praying for Dave’s healing—have our tears fallen on deaf ears?

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me?How long must I wrestle with my thoughtsand every day have sorrow in my heart?How long will my enemy triumph over me?” —Ps 13:1-2
The God who sees, who hears, who—dare I say cares?—has given no answer to our fervent pleas.

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?— Ps 10:1

Where is the healing that walked the earth 2000 years ago? Surely God isn’t dead? Isn’t impotent? Hasn’t turned a blind eye?

Why are you so far from saving me,so far from the words of my groaning?O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,by night, and am not silent. — Ps 22:1b-2
Every fiber of my being cries out with Psalm 13, How Long, O Lord? We live a lament. And I know we are not alone—so I write this for you who need to hear.

What is my testimony? After all this, eight years of Lyme Disease, of Dave unable to work, sometimes coherent, sometimes confused, pain, anger, anguish, despair, feelings of abandonment, rage and bitterness trying to force their way in and take over—after all this—I love the Lord. And that is a bigger miracle than the one we seek.

But for the Lord who gives us life and breath and everything else, who holds us in the very palm of His hand, who weeps when we weep—But for Christ who intercedes for us continuously—But for the Lord I would surely turn away in bitterness and frustration and lack of faith.

But for the Lord who envelopes us in love from practical to spiritual through many at our church—the men who have sought to befriend Dave and minister to him, the women who are my dear friends, the pay Dave received while waiting for disability to kick in that enabled us to keep our house and make it here, the many other gifts and remembrances—But for the Lord, I would not have blessings to count in the midst of this horror—the good days with Dave, our encouraging children, the comfort of home, the joy of seeing green after a long winter.

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. —Heb 5:7
The One who could save Jesus from death heard His prayers yet did not spare Him…if we have the same response from God that Jesus did, all is still well.

“The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” — Job 1:21
My testimony is nothing flashy. I’m a mom raising her kids with the husband I love, for better or for worse. My testimony is just the basics, the things I go back to when Satan fills me with worry and fear: God is good. God is sovereign. God loves me. He will never leave us nor forsake us. And we are safe in His hands—even when everything in our lives screams we are not.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Rom 8:38-39
In His Hands,
Merry

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sometimes the Night is Beautiful...

Rich Mullins. Love this song. It takes me back to the days when Dave was a youth pastor & we were leading a mission trip. Sometimes it was so hot! And there was so much we wanted to do... but then it all ended for Dave.

We talked of Abraham and Sarah when we moved here, of what a true patriarch is, of going on a pilgrimage and not knowing where God was leading...

Tonight I saw the fireworks--we could almost touch the sky, Zac, Anna, and I.

I remember a fireworks long ago, before the kids, just Dave and I--it was the first time I ever saw fireworks to music, at the big racetrack in Arlington Heights. There were thousands there, and I had wondered why Dave wanted to drag me to such a crowd, until I heard the music in my bones and touched the sky with him, they were so close...and we were so real then. I cherish that he took me.

Sometimes the night is beautiful.

Merry

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Annoying little sisters...

Kids!

Hubby and I were laying down this evening (I wasn't feeling the best) and of course there was a ruckus in the livingroom. So I went to see what was going on, and found dd crying & ds lecturing.

Me: So what's going on here?

Zach: I admit it, it was my fault. Anna was calling me mommy over and over and it annoyed me so I hit her with a pillow & hurt her nose.

Me: [thinking hmmm, not quite as annoying as the perfume I used to spray my brother with, but still, a great way to get a brother's goat!] Anna, is that what happened?

Anna: He also hit me on the head with his hand. And I hit his hand.

Me: So...why were you calling your brother 'mommy?'

Anna: [pause] To annoy him.

At this point I burst out laughing, and eventually both kids started laughing too. My son, who has been trying very hard since his week at camp to not let little things annoy him, let out this huge sigh.

Zach: So THAT's why! Here I thought it was all my fault for getting annoyed, and that was the point!

Oh, I laughed all that much harder! Here the poor boy (who has grown spiritually leaps and bounds lately) thought he just wasn't doing a good enough job of keeping himself from getting annoyed, when she meant it all along!

We had a good talk on communicating what we're really feeling (dd was tired of watching the video & wanted to do something fun together), and how to respond (assume she's annoying him for a reason & ask if she wants some attention instead of hitting as a response).

Whew. Glad that's settled. For today anyway...

Merry (a recovered annoying little sister, but now a sometimes annoying wife and mother...) :-)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Going to school with the queen mother...

Anna, the eternal princess has upped the ante now. Recently she has been seen turning in her assignments on one bended knee, bowing as one would before royalty. "Here you go, my queen!"
"Thank you my princess!"

Sigh. I know some day this stage will end. I hope it's not too soon!

Merry :-)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fly to Jesus

This is copied with permission from today's Grace Gems Newsletter www.gracegems.com

Fly to Jesus!
(Octavius Winslow, "My Times in God's Hand")

Believer, how precious is your soul to Him . . .
who bore all its sins,
who exhausted all its curse,
who travailed for it in ignominy and suffering, and
who ransomed it with His own most precious blood!

Oh! the unutterable blessings that flow from a vital union with the Lord Jesus!
All of your cares are His cares.
All of your sorrows are His sorrows.
All of your needs are His supply.
All of your sicknesses are His cure.

Believer, nothing can . . .
separate you from the love of Jesus,
nor sever you from His care,
nor exclude you from His sympathy,
nor banish you from His heaven of eternal blessedness!

Fly to Jesus in the confidence of a loving Friend.
Reveal to Him your secret sorrow.
Confess to Him your hidden sin.
Acknowledge your backsliding to Him.
Tell Him your needs, your sufferings, your fears.
Tell Him how chilled your affections to Him are.
Tell Him how reserved is your obedience.
Tell Him how imperfect is your service.

Tell Him how you long to . . .
love Him more ardently;
follow Him more closely;
serve Him more devotedly;
and to be more wholly and holily His.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Evaluations part 2--Rough years, goals, and Meta Cognition

Lest anyone get the impression that all of our years are rosy (gee, I don't get to use the word "lest" very often!), we've had rougher evaluation times, and that's ok too. I think it really drew my kids and I closer together to evaluate each year, though we've only done orally in the past. They saw that I was willing to listen and take their thoughts and concerns into consideration.

Sometimes the changes suggested were not doable (No, sorry, we can't just not do math!), but then we were able to work through things and find something at least more palatable. As you can see, my son doesn't love math...but he no longer hates it! He no longer thinks we're using a curriculum that doesn't want children to understand math(he said that at age 6 about Miquon, LOL!). He's not asking to change curriculums--all he wants is for us to read instructions together (which is what I asked if he wanted at the beginning of the year and he said no--and so I've let him go at that).

But that's where trial & error, success & failure come in. I let him try his idea--and he sees now that he struggled with it, and realizes the advantages of doing it with mom. I often let my kids decide something if I can--how to do something or the order--this is their education & my dictating everything seems to stifle them. But in return, they are learning that mom knows some things, and sometimes it might be wise to follow what mom says.

And I am learning that sometimes they have some pretty great ideas, and hey, maybe we could do that. I'm so close to becoming stodgy some days it isn't funny! (ok, maybe a little funny!) They're willing to change things up. So...I go with it if I can. Finding out something won't work doesn't scare me--I think we all need the freedom to fail. And our kids will learn a lot from how we handle a failure, so nothing is wasted.

One thing I'm keeping in mind for next year. This year I went over just one main goal for my son--to make writing easier for him. (That's "kid-speak" for "let's learn how to write paragraph and multiple-paragraph papers this year," but he wouldn't have been interested in that!) He was able to remember that goal and go back and evaluate our year's LA based on that, how cool! So next year I think I might actually write down the goals (or have him write them), and let him be more a part of that process too.

For him to tell me which spelling he thinks will be more effective, and that he thinks he needs something else to memorize his science lessons, shows he's taking ownership of his education. That's what I want! To release my kids more and more to ownership. If homeschooling is something I do *to* my kids, I think we'll be in trouble by high school. This is their journey, and I'm a guide...but it's more and more becoming their journey.It also helps them...and me...learn about their styles, and better serve them as their teacher, and they better serve themselves as learners.

I learned a new term this spring...meta cognition. Basically--thinking about how we think. It's a skill that we can help our children develop that will foster a good education, and helps us focus on how to make things work. So, years ago when my son wanted to just dump math & I said we couldn't do that, but encouraged him that I would walk with him in this journey of finding a way to do math that would work for him--I was really asking him to analyze how he thinks, to begin to identify those things about himself and how he learns. We continue to build on that foundation. It's a good thing!

Friday, May 30, 2008

End-of-year evaluations...by my kids!

On Thursday I had my kids do written evaluations of our school year. We've done discussions like this orally in years past, so they know I take their comments seriously. I asked them to write what they liked, what went well, what they didn't like or was hard, and what they would like to change for next year.

Their responses just tickled me pink! Especially because they put time and thought in them. Anna took 45 minutes! (Note, I did not have them edit for spelling, they might have caught some of these if I had, but oh well, they're cute!).

Anna wrote:

I think that handriting is my favorit subjet.

wy?
1- Becas it is sumtimes short.
2- it is Bible versis
3- it is cersiv

My 2end favorit is math.

wy?
1-it is sumtimes esy
2-it is fun
3-I can do it werever I want. (later she expounded orally, "in the livingroom, in my room, downstairs, in the screen porch, on the swings..." LOL, I guess she really has done math in a lot of places!)

My 3rd favorit is spellin (LOL, we're working on it!)

wy?
1-we get to do it as a famly
2-the magnit letters
3-the magnit wite bord.

And everything is the same (I asked what this meant--everything else she likes the same.)

I [great big huge heart] scool!

As we were talking, she said school is fun and I said "I think so too, you make it fun for me too." (she does, most of the time!) Then she said she'd been thinking about how hard I work to make it fun & that she wants to make a "teacher gift" to thank me. What a sweetie! She also had nothing to change.

***

Zac wrote:

Things that went well
Bible
History
Reeding
Speling
Langwige Arts
Guitar

Things that didn't go so well

Sience-I forget lessons sometimes

Handwriteing-Hard to understand.

Math-confousing lessons sometimes

[insert a detailed drawing of one of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles here]

Math-Maybe reed instrucshens together and talk about what it meens. (Now that's funny--at the beginning of the year I offered to do that & he wanted to read them on his own! But good for him, he's thinking about how he learns!).

Handwriteing-help me understand reeding cursive

Sience-Make it easier to memorize lessons

As we talked later, he filled in some details--for science he wishes we had a 3-d model of the brain that he could take apart & put back together & memorize all of the parts (we're studying the body right now). But then we discussed what we'll be studying next year & how in 7th grade I'll split he & Anna for science & he'd be doing his own reading & writing for that--he was very excited about that. He actually said, "I figured this was just preparation for us and you would be splitting us up soon." Sometimes kids' thought processes just amaze me!

We also talked about getting more "gadgets" for him to take apart & make--things with motors or rubber-band powered (he said he could play with something rubber-band powered all day, LOL!). I asked about language arts and he said that now he likes writing! (just yesterday he used the words, "I don't mind writing," now he actually said likes! warmed this momma's heart). We're getting somewhere! That was one of our main goals this year--just to make writing easier.

Then I asked which spelling he liked (He's done Apples since January & All About Spelling the last 2 weeks). He said he liked both but thinks the "board" method (AAS uses a big magnet white board) will be more effective. I can't believe he thought that through, I'm impressed.

Well, try some evaluations with your kids and see what they say! Don't worry if it's not all positive--I'll post on that next.

Merry :-)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kids Say...

The kids did some freewriting today on the topic, "What would you do if you found a magic wand?" (This was from the blog at http://www.bravewriter.com/). They had so much fun with these!

Zac's is ALL boy! He wrote:

I found a magic wand. I made 8 of every Nerf gun there is. Then I made 8 bikes that turn into speeders. I went to my friend's house and we had a dart gun fight. The darts flew through the air! Then more friends came and we teamed up and did what boys do best: fight fight and fight fight fight with dart guns. Then we had races again and again. And it was the Best day ever!

Anna wrote:

Where am I? There is so much sand here. I must be in the desert. I walked for miles and miles; then I saw it. It looked like the city of Egypt. I went inside the walls and saw a magic wand. It said, "make a wish and it will come true," so I made a wish: "I want to go home." And then I was home. And then I said, "Take away my Daddy's Lyme Disease." And after that I lived happily ever after. The end.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Loving our kids

Several years back I did something that was more transformational in my parenting--and my relationship with my husband--than almost anything else I can think of. I decided (really it was a God-thing, I think) to pray through I Corinthians 13:4-7 for that year. And since someone reminded me of that today, I thought I'd blog about some of my meditations during the months I prayed through this. As I recall, I prayed until September, but I decided to break it down a little further here:

In January I prayed through "Love is patient." Three little words...one huge task! "God, help me be patient when my kids are driving me nuts, when my husband is feeling sick and all I want is 5 minutes to myself." "God, am I patient? Show me where I am not patient, open my eyes that I can repent and submit that to you." Now, just so you know, if you pray for God to show you your weaknesses, He will! But He is the Father of all things Love, and if we need patience, he is the one to go to. "God, I'm out of patience--give me your patience so I can love my family."

February came, and I moved on: "Love is Kind." Are my words, my tone, my actions kind? Am I modelling the kind of kindness I hope my children will learn? God says that his kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Does my kindness lead my children to repentance, does it inspire them to want to obey? And kindness is not doormat--sometimes the kindest thing to do for a child is to establish and enforce boundaries--if it is done with kindness, compassion, love, a desire to not just have things easy, but to do what's best for our family and for that child. "God, help me to be kind. That tone I used today--oh Lord it was full of selfishness, of me--it was not kind. Help me to do better."

Selfishness...yeah...that leads me to March. "It does not envy. It does not boast." Eight words, we're moving up! "But surely, God, I'm not envious, am I?" But every time I compare my kids with other kids in my mind, in creeps either envy or boasting. We look on the surface and think others have it better--or conversely perhaps that we are better--and what fruit do these musings bring? Do we unconsciously model sometimes the very selfishness we are trying to train out of our children? Does love motivate such thinking?

April--"It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking." I guess God thought I needed another month on this theme! Rooting out pride is not easy, from our children, or from ourselves. But God never promised it would be easy. He did promise, He would be with us.

May--"It is not easily angered." I find I am not as easily angered if I keep on top of behavior issues--it's when I get lazy and ignore them and the frustration inside me builds that my anger can flare. I need to pull away, even for 5 minutes, to pray and read and get in the right frame of mind. "God, I know you are not easily angered--though sometimes I fear you will be! Help me to understand your grace and forgiveness towards me, and help me to show this to my children. Help me to train them."

June--"It keeps no record of wrongs." Hm, I remember times when I've said, "You always do this!" Yes, we parents keep records of wrongs!

July--"Love does not delight in evil, but always rejoices with the truth." What kind of a parent delights in evil? you might ask. Sheepishly raising hand. Sometimes I don't want to teach and train and discipline my children. Sometimes they make me downright angry and what I really want is revenge. A friend taught me to put "Mom" in the place of "man" in this verse:
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20 for [Mom's] anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20 (NIV)

August--"It always protects." Do my actions protect my child, or my own interests? Conversely, sometimes the best protection for our children is to let them experience the consequences of their own actions.

September--"Always trusts." One of the most powerful articles I've ever read spoke of parents who believed in their son, and spoke into his life what they believed he could become. They trusted that he wanted to be a man of integrity and character, and they told him, even when he failed, that they knew he could grow up to be that kind of young man. Do we throw failure into our kids faces, or do we build them up by believing in them? Take a chronic sin issue and tell your child, "I believe in you. I know this is a struggle now--and I'm going to walk with you through this time. I know you can grow up to be a man/woman who is honest. Let's pray, and you let me know how I can help you with this."

October--"Always hopes." Do I have hope for my children? Or do I sometimes give up? Sometimes when I'm tempted to give up, I've been neglecting myself--after all, that's what self-sacrificing, "good" moms do, right? No, good moms take care of and invest in their child's most important resources--one of which is the child's mom. Hopelessness is almost a sure sign I'm not getting enough sleep and rest, or I'm not eating right & drinking enough water, or exercising, or spending time with the Lord...

November--"Always perseveres." "Lord give me strength when I want to give up!"

"Love never fails." A fun word-study is to search the Psalms for all the times it mentions God's unfailing love. We will fail--but He never does. Draw on His unending reserves of unfailing love daily, hourly, minute by minute.

May God give you grace and love and wisdom with your children, your husband, and those in your life. Merry :-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bookworm Bookmarks

The kids and I have been playing with yarn! Zac & Anna wanted to learn how to crochet while I read stories, so I got them started on some basic stitches while I worked on these little critters before and after reading aloud. I remember these "bookworms" from when I was a child, they make adorable bookmarks.

This curly critter is as nosy as my kids, trying to read ahead in our book! We started reading Calico Bush yesterday morning, and just as we got to the scary part where the "wild woman" grabs the little girl...the 2nd Midwest earthquake of the day made our couches vibrate and knickknacks rattle! We missed the first one, but the second sure added some excitement to our day!




Crocheting was a nice way to relax after all the commotion





Of course, the kids followed that up with a squirt-gun fight in the rain...



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Random....Kids' say...

My kids have come up with some doozies lately!

Praying for dinner one night, Anna (9) said, "Thank you God for this food which we are about to digest..." It took all of, oh 2 seconds for the rest of us to split a gut laughing!

Then today the car ran over a crooked stick in the road & it made a noise, so she asked what it was. "Just a stick," I replied.

"Oh," says she, "it would have been weird if it was an alien."

"Yes, it would have..." Where DO they come up with these thoughts?

The kicker was my son the other night as I got ready for a meeting.

"I like your hair, Mom."
"Thanks Honey."
"Not too much brown, not too much gray."

LOL! My Mom would disagree as she's much too young to have a daughter with this much gray. As for me, I'm in denial. Those are natural blonde highlights, aren't they?

Merry :-)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

5 minutes until time to go to the Good Friday service at our church. Anna and I are singing in the choir. I'm hurriedly trying to get my hair to curl, put on makeup, pretend I'm 20 lbs. lighter...

And Dave appears at the bathroom door: "I can't go."

sigh.

I know he can't go. But in my oblivion, my strivings at patching the pain, my attempt to go on as if life is normal, I've forgotten that he will want to go. That he will try to go. That he will have to go through the pain, once again, of realizing he can't go with us. The pain of sitting, the dizziness and headaches from all the perfumes, the difficulty concentrating...it's all too much. His wife and daughter in the choir and he is forced to be separated from us. On Easter, I'm also in the orchestra, and he can't hear it.

He hears me practice strains of harmony that hang tenuously in the air. A jazz version of Christ Has Risen, a thread of music that makes no sense without its tapestry. A hymn without the depth of chords and words. The notes mimic our lives and mock his pain, taunting him that he can't see more than a thread of the tapestry God is weaving, and how easily a thread could break...

5 minutes until time to go, and I have forgotten our lives have fallen apart, and I have nothing to put them together with, and no time to do it. We remember there's another practice before the service on Sunday. Maybe he can go to that. Maybe.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? The words of a broken Savior, dying on the cross. Words we can understand, relate to, cry with, draw close to God with. And yet, a lonely strain of harmony hangs in the air. By contrast, Jesus was broken for a reason. This life, this thread of suffering...is without tapestry. Satan would have us believe it is woven into the Emporer's New Clothes. A facade, a nothingness. In Christ we become holy, clothed for the first time in our lives--we gain a tapestry we could never weave.

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. --2 Cor 5:4-54

Clinging to the Spirit, for He is all we have, Merry

Friday, February 29, 2008

Here's what you're missing...


I thought I'd dedicate these pictures to my mom, who is someplace warm right now. Don'tcha miss this, Mom?!






We've shoveled a LOT of snow this winter! Here's a picture of a Fort they built earlier this winter.

Right now the kids are out having fun, throwing snowballs at icicles (and the house, and each other, and me until I escaped...) They won't be in for a long time; it's 34 degrees, and they know school awaits them!

Well, this beats the -2 weather we had for awhile!
Merry :-)






Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"I think I'm going to like growing up!"

"I can't believe we walked all around that place!" Zac marvelled to me today, remembering our trip to the Museum of Science & Industry a few weeks ago.

"Well, that's what happens as you get bigger--your legs don't tire out as quickly and you can walk farther."

That's when he gave me that all-boy, all-joy grin and said, "I think I'm going to like growing up!"

Days like this, I like it too.

How about you? Are you getting tired of walking lately? Maybe you need time to rest and grow.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. --Isa 40:27-31

Sometimes I'm still in the stumble and fall category, despite the fact that few call me "young" anymore! But usually I can trace that to trusting in myself or giving up on God, or my impatience leading my feelings away from what I know is true. I know He is with me. I know my cause is not disregarded.

Sometimes I get a taste of soaring--my troubles are in perspective when I see them from up high, completely in the hands of the Everlasting Creator. I soar on the breath of His Spirit. I am carried and comforted and renewed. I marvel at the view of His glory.

I want those days more and more. Yes, I think we're going to like growing up.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

From Despair to Hope and Rest

By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly.  For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, “There is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.” 

—A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner


On the first warm day of spring this year, I went out to my favorite forest preserve for some quiet reflection.  I followed the bark-chip-laden path, winding through the almost bare trees.  Here and there signs of spring dared to poke through the damp brown: a little green on the forest floor, a few buds, and patches of bright, happy blue-bells heralding the coming of warmer days.  I hiked around the bend when the brown gave way to a great grassy expanse that took my breath away: a new, spring green, a fresh-after-the-storm green, a glowing with dew-jewels green.  Draped around it the quiet stream beckoned.  “There is no hurry,” it seemed to whisper.
 It reminded me of Pooh’s river, which draws a beautiful picture of growing up—and also a picture of our faith growing up, of trusting in God, of learning to rest in Him.  But I find many times that I am more like the “little streams higher up in the Forest, [going] this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it [is] too late.”  I fight, I wrestle, I wonder why God doesn’t act sooner.  Often, I reject His rest.  It is not the gift that I want.  I want change!  I want action!  I want it now!  God offers instead the power, the strength to weather the storm, the deep rest of abiding in Him.

Martin Luther said, “it’s not by reading or writing or speculating that one becomes a theologian; it is rather living, dying, and being damned that makes one a theologian.”  

I find in his words someone who understands the constant struggle, the testing of life, the questions that come, and the relief of knowing I’m not the only one.  This is the truth he realized when he read Psalm 22:1, later quoted by Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

When I struggle, I often feel as Paul did, hard pressed on every side.  I read the stories of Jesus healing so many, yet live with a husband God has chosen not to heal.  And then my children—how do you read story after story, “Jesus healed…Jesus healed…” and not feel slammed into the wall by the daily “no” you face when your chronic illness is not healed?  Do you hope God’s answer is “not yet?”  Do you wish for the relief of death?  Do you resignedly accept your “fate,” or do you continue to allow yourself to be emotionally beat up by unanswered prayers, hoping this time…  What kind of hope carries you through, carries you beyond? 

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”   And he wrote this only 3 chapters to the verse after proclaiming in 1:8, “ We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” 

How did Paul go from a deeply despairing man to one who did not despair, who was not crushed, who knew he was not abandoned, and that destruction was not his end?  He continues, “Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers…”

Paul had good reason to despair, who wouldn’t?  He was imprisoned, flogged, and “exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches…”  2 Corinthians 11:23-28. 

He despaired—and then he relied on God, gained strength to go on, and found he did not despair.  This is the comfort we pass on one to another.  When we find a God so reliable, so trustworthy, so unmistakably loving and sovereign that we can turn to Him in the most severe trouble, fix our eyes and our purpose on Him, and believe Him when circumstances deny His existence, then we have found the secret of comfort.  And in our prayers and in our love, we can carry a battle-weary brother or sister into the presence of the God who heals us by His wounds.  

The Psalmist cries out,

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

And Isaiah calls back,

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’?  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” —Isa 40:27-31

You can almost feel the river growing, gaining strength as the Psalmist continues,

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me. —Psalm 13


Winter is sometimes very long.  But spring is coming, and the love of our great and sovereign Lord is unfailing.  We know where we are going.  And there is no hurry when we rest beside the quiet stream, where He restores our souls.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He's Normal!

"Did you just call me normal?" Dave asked.
"No, *I* would never call you normal! But these test results say otherwise..." I replied.

Sorry. I have to brag on my hubby for a bit. Back in September, Dave was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His A1c (3-month blood sugar average) was 8.9. That means his average glucose level over the 3 prior months had been above 200. Even his fasting levels were 180-220, which meant his liver was kicking glucose into his system overnight. Definitely not a good thing!

I received the news with all the eagerness of a cat in a tub of soapy water. I was done. After seven years of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, I was not ready to learn about yet another illness. But after I had my little rant I put on my game face and went with him to diabetes education classes. Thankfully they did the classes one on one for us so Dave could avoid perfume exposures from other classmates.

Everything seemed insurmountable to me. I knew I couldn't realistically keep track of what he eats, because one of the problems with Lyme is sleep that refuses to regulate. I can't watch what someone eats while I'm sleeping! With his memory struggles, would he remember what to eat, and when he had eaten, and to track his blood sugar?

While my fears were doing the proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop run in my mind, Dave was taking the bull by the horns and reading labels. Lots of labels. I think he knows every grocery store aisle in town now (especially the 24 hour one, which turns out to be a good place to walk in the winter as well). And walk he does--twice a day many days. He may not go far or fast, but he goes, and he doesn't give up. He's shown incredible discipline in his eating, which for anyone is difficult--but for someone with the struggles of Lyme Disease to overcome, it's downright phenomenal.

I knew he was making good progress when the other day he came out sporting his jeans that hadn't fit for awhile. But neither of us knew how well until his check-up this week. Down 18 pounds since September (35 since summer). Cholesterol down 18 points. And his A1C--a whopping 5.9 now! He's actually in the "normal" range! (That doesn't mean he can stop all the changes though, it means keep up the good work!)

It's funny how what I thought was the last straw to do us in (or at least me!), became the catalyst God used to help Dave make important health changes. We never expected results this positive--the education classes were encouraging him to get to 6.5 or 7. Anyway, I am so proud of Dave's hard work this fall, and we are praising God for seeing us through and enabling Dave to focus on the needed changes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

More than all of these...

Dave took Anna shopping the other night, she loves to wander through the sewing and crafts section, and Dave's so sweet to take her. She oohed and aaahed at all the colors of yarn and thread (she's been wanting some big spools of thread, and doesn't know many await her for her upcoming birthday!). Then she turned to Dave and said, "Do you see all of these beautiful strings? (she calls them string). I wish I could buy them all! But even if I owned every one of them, I would still love you more than all of these."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mascara in one hand...dart gun in the other

We have a rule in this house. If I pick up the darts, there's only one way my son can get them back. Via the gun. I don't really care which one. The single loader. The 6-shooter. The machine-gun-like rapid shooter.

So of course, he shoots at me. Frequently. It's bonding time. The morning after Christmas Day, he caught me full in the tushie with the rapid-shooter. Velcro darts. And I had on my new, softer-than-a-fur-coat baby blue microfiber nightgown. I looked like a porcupine when he was done!

I got him back though, and not with darts. We watched Jurassic Park a few nights ago--he had always wanted to see it. Afterwards while getting ready to read science to the kids, admiring pictures and bookmarking the pages, I saw my opportunity. Imagine the head of a vicious-looking fruit-bat baring it's teeth and looking very similar to a velociraptor peeking it's head around the corner! So I quick flashed the picture at Zac while roaring, and oh my goodness! I wish I had a picture of his face when he jumped back and screamed! Poor kid said I gave him a heart attack! Bad Mommy! Bad Bad Mommy!

Since then he has missed no opportunity to try to get me back--I'm not sure my crime will ever be paid for. That must have led up to this evening's showdown. Even though my oldest is going on 11 years next month, I still don't always have the bathroom to myself. But that was ok; I had the darts. (He shot them at me, giggled, then said "oh crud!" as he dropped the gun and ran for cover). I knew he'd be back. So I got ready for my homeschool group meeting with mascara in my right hand, dart gun in my left. I found out I'm not all that bad a shot with the left hand either!

The mascara, on the other hand, needs some work. But I have years to work on that. With his rapid-fire questions today centering on such "light" topics as whether he'd have to enlist in the army when he grows up, or get married...oh, and what's the proper way to get to know a girl? and what if the government doesn't know who I am? (are you following this conversation?!)...I need all the dart-gun fights with him I can get.

So fire away, my boy, with the darts...or the questions. I'll try to be ready as often as I can.

Merry :-)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Need a Good New Year's Resolution?

It's funny how things coincide sometimes! On Sunday our pastor mentioned some of the resolutions written by 19-year-old Jonathan Edwards, back in 1722-1723. Then today I received a link to all 70 resolutions!

Who was Jonathan Edwards? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian. His work as a whole is an expression of two themes -- the absolute sovereignty of God and the beauty of God's holiness."

Truly, his resolutions are remarkable and inspiring at any age (and at 19, almost unfathomable). I'll post some below, but for the full list, go to http://www.gracegems.org/SERMONS/Resolutions.htm

RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723) Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake. Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.