Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- Little Jack

*Edit* I wrote this over a month ago, but was never able to get the picture uploaded. Anyway, I just wanted this to be published before Jack actually arrived!

This week, I've been rather reflective and it's made me appreciate my pregnancy even more. That's not very hard for me to do because I love being pregnant! I always have. I love maternity clothes, not worrying about my figure, feeling the baby move, counting down the days, everything! But this week it's been even more special to me. You see, a year ago this month, we lost our fourth baby.

It was a very traumatic time. Since we knew from the beginning that there were issues with the pregnancy, the actual loss was not a surprise. We had to wait around for it to happen though. And, of course, Ryan was out of town at the time, and it hit in a big way! I won't go into details now, but it was one of those momentous life events that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Then it took us five months to conceive, and I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me that caused me to miscarry and then not conceive. But here I am, almost 34 weeks (tomorrow), and little Jack's going to be here very soon.

We've made Jack a part of our lives already, as we have for all of the children. James was not surprised when Evelyn came and they both wondered why we made such a big deal out of Jefferson's birth. After all, we had been speaking of him as being here all along!

We've made the little changes that are necessary -- moving Jefferson's car seat in the van to make room for Jack's, moving Jefferson into James' room next week, etc. But we talk about him all the time. In fact, Jefferson thinks Jack's going to come out playing "baw" (ball)!

I usually want my Thankful Thursday posts to be about everyday happenings -- to find the joy in the mundane and the everyday, but today's post is a little more profound, and we're excited! Only 5 weeks left! (At least, that's our prediction!)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Task List

I need some accountability so I'm counting on some from you, my blog (and facebook) readers! Here is my list that needs to be accomplished before Jack arrives. (Okay, I know that it won't all get done, but I need as much of it done as possible.)

Clean out all closets -- James, Jefferson, Evelyn, Master, 3 hall closets

Paint Evelyn's bedroom

Work on budget

Homeschool Schedule (for 1st 3 months)

Organize and clean out pantry

Clear off the island and rearrange office supplies that are on top

Get out baby clothes

Put clothes back in attic (this is a major task--you have no idea!)

Clean the master bedroom thoroughly

I'm sure that more tasks will be added, but I am looking forward to seeing lines through many of these tasks.

Goals for this week:

Paint Evelyn's bedroom (technically Ryan's job)

Organize and clean out pantry

Clean out James' closet

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- Jefferson

The last two weeks, I've been very aware of just how special Jefferson is.

Last week, we were doing some pretty intensive potty-training sessions, and, at times, I was about to lose my mind. In just one morning, he wet 5 times on the kitchen floor and had one bm on the kitchen floor as well. Nothing in the potty seat! Ahhhhhhhhh! We've taken a little more relaxed approach for this past week.

When I was cooking for him last week and bringing him his food, he grinned at me, and I was overwhelmed by love. He is a lot of work, but he is such a blessing to us as well. I was reminded of what happened a little over a year ago.

I was eating a banana and offering him some of it. He took too big a bite and it became lodged in his throat. After turning him upside down and beating him and then trying to reach my fingers down to pull it up (not a good idea), I screamed for Ryan, who was working from home that day, to get downstairs. He did the heimlich on Jefferson, and it was just enough to dislodge the banana and allow him to swallow it. During that time though, Jefferson had turned blue, his eyes were wide with terror, before rolling back into his head, and he had blood all over his mouth, probably due to my digging in his throat. It's still hard for me to write this and remember it.

With all his disorders/developmental struggles, he struggles with chewing and swallowing. It's not that he can't, it's that he needs to exercise his tongue and jaw more than others and it's not easy for him, so he just swallows food whole. So we get a lot of choking and gagging. Every time he chokes or gags, my heart speeds up and jumps in my throat and I start yelling, "Chew it up, Jefferson. Chew!" Most of the time he will.

This past Tuesday however, he had put so much chicken in his mouth, that he couldn't chew. And, apparently, he doesn't know how to spit it out either. I tried that. Finally I reached in to start pulling out the chicken in front, and then he started throwing it up. He choked, gagged and coughed for about the next 10 minutes, trying to clear his airways. I sat in the rocking chair, holding him and crying -- again.

He is a joy. He is lively and happy. He loves people. He loves his siblings, and he loves his mom and dad. He loves talking on the phone (even though nobody knows what he's saying). Cooking for him is often worse than cooking for the rest of our family, and I cook almost entirely from scratch, so that's saying a lot. But none of us can imagine life without him.

So for this week, I'm so thankful that the Lord has given us Jefferson. He is truly a special gift from God.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Our little daredevil

A few weeks ago, my parents came down on Dad's Harley to visit for the weekend. Evelyn has been wanting a ride on the motorcycle, but my Dad's been really hesitant for safety reasons. Apparently, Evelyn's begging must have worn him down because he finally consented. Watch the video to see how she enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Soccer and Gymnastics


Thankful Thursday -- Teaching Kids to Work

This will be a different Thankful Thursday post. For the last few weeks, I've been working with the children on learning some new jobs and on further mastering the ones they already know. As all of you moms know, this takes incredible patience -- something that I am not known for! This teaching process has made me realize how very much I have to be thankful for.

1) That I have children to teach. There are many people out there, friends that I have, who would love to have children, yet the Lord has not blessed them with any. How often do I complain throughout the daily grind about the ones that I have?

2) That I am able to teach them. This is a multi-faceted one. I am thirty-one weeks pregnant. Many who are at this stage are unable to function on a daily basis because of prescribed bed rest, sickness, tiredness, etc. I am not struggling with these. I have much to be thankful for. Also, ignoring the pregnancy, I am thankful to have my health. With the heart issue that I've had, I've had plenty of opportunity to reflect upon what it could be like. Even though I'd like an occasional break, I wouldn't want to be forced to take it easy all the time or limit my activity. I'm thankful that I'm able to stay home. I wouldn't have any of the time to teach them these skills that I believe are necessary if I wasn't home all day with them. Again, there can be frustrations, but there are frustrations at outside jobs as well. I love being home with my children!

3) That they are able to learn. There was a time when we seriously wondered about Jefferson's health and whether he would be impaired. The Lord has been very, very good to us. All of our children are extremely healthy, are able to work, are able to understand and have the energy and excitement that is necessary in working together as a family.

4) That they're tender-hearted. They are willing to work. Even though they may complain (trust me, they do!), when we explain the reasons that we are having them learn these skills, they jump in with both feet and we all have a good time working together as a family.

For anyone who's interested, here are some of the skills that they are learning/have learned:

James -- make his bed, empty the trash, empty the dishwasher, fold towels, learning to fold the large bath towels, peel carrots and potatoes, help me cook asparagus for Jefferson (see picture), spread butter on toast, set the table, clean up both his toys and sibling's toys if asked, load the washer, transfer to the dryer, fold his own clothes and put them away, help me fold Jefferson's clothes, sweep the kitchen floor after meals, rinse his own dishes after every meal and put them in the dishwasher.

Evelyn -- make her bed, put the silverware away, fold washcloths, dust cloths and hand towels, throw cut up veggies in soups or casseroles, set the table, clean up her toys and sibling's toys when asked, help James load the washer and transfer to the dryer, fold most of her own clothes and put them away, use the dustpan to clean the piles that James swept up, rinse her own dishes after every meal and put them in the dishwasher.

Jefferson -- picking up his own toys and helping pick up sibling's toys when asked. He's also learning to put books away. He loves to be with me all the time, so he's constantly observing and trying new things. It will be quite interesting to see what he ends up learning just by observing!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- Teamwork and Learning from Nature

Well, since I obviously have not updated for quite awhile, I'll give you two for the price of one!

A few weeks ago, Jefferson started having nasty diapers. I could not pinpoint the source for awhile, but I think that I have it nailed down now! His two-year molars are coming in! Unfortunately, I think it's going to be awhile before they are completely in. We've been struggling with respiratory problems and diaper problems for about three weeks now, and I've been rather perplexed as to the cause. Now I know and knowing is half the battle! (Okay, I've just dated myself. Don't worry if you don't get it!)

Back to Thankful Thursday, we were about five minutes from leaving for Evelyn's tumbling class, and Jefferson walks out of the playroom, holding his diaper and saying, "Uck, Mama, uck." That's never what a Mom wants to hear, especially when I looked at him and saw that many brown things were dripping out as he was walking toward me! Can we say panic mode?

I grabbed him and started yelling for the kids to come to me in the kitchen without stepping through the mess that was made. I had no idea how far back the mess extended. Since the kitchen floor is easily cleaned (more easily than carpet), I decided that was the ideal place to change him.

Here's where teamwork fit in. I asked James to walk carefully out to the van and get his diaper bag and then go upstairs and get the refill bag of wipes. (I knew there were not enough wipes in the diaper bag to deal with this mess!) I asked James to hand Evelyn the wipes and asked him to go get a bag to put all of the garbage in. Then I got to work.

I cleaned up Jefferson with Evelyn handing me wipe after wipe and James dutifully holding out "the bag" as I kept taking from Evelyn and giving to James. It really was cleaned up in record time. James took "the bag" out to the trash. I then (carefully) took the kids out to the van and then I came back in and cleaned the carpet before we left. The mess did extend into the playroom. With all of that, we were only 15 minutes late to tumbling! What teamwork!

Now, for the Learning from Nature. We have been reading Bible Animals and the Lessons Taught by them for Children during our homeschool Bible time. Richard Newton was called the prince of preachers for children and, I have to say, this book has been a hit with the kids! In each lesson, we look at a particular animal and a story is told about that animal which is then applied to our own lives.

Last week, I was listening to this podcast about family worship. In it, the question was asked about what to do if you failed. The answer was given that the godly man falleth seven times and riseth again (Proverbs 24:16). James was sitting at the table, watching a beetle in a jar that we'd collected for nature study. This beetle kept trying to climb up the side of the jar and failed every time. The beetle was not to be defeated. He kept trying and trying and trying. James said, "It sounds like that man (on the podcast) is saying, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.' That's exactly what this poor beetle is doing. Could we please let it go, Mommy?"

I laughed and laughed but was pleased that James was picking up on the concept that all of God's creation brings glory to His name and that we can learn, from His creatures, principles that we are to follow.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise"
-- Proverbs 6:6

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homeschool Report Card: Week 1

This past Friday we finished up our first week of homeschooling. We had actually started the previous Thursday with the intent of covering five days worth of material in seven! We added several new adventures this past week, including James' soccer and Evelyn's tumbling class. Both are big hits -- thankfully! We were a little worried about the soccer.

I didn't accomplish everything that I wanted (do I ever?), but we accomplished quite a bit, and I've been excited to see both James' and Evelyn's enthusiasm. We are following the Charlotte Mason method, give or take, and I'm adding in other things that I feel are important to include. I would like to give an update each week on what we accomplish, and also, as time allows, give you some insight into each subject that we're covering and how we do it.

Two subjects that we've added this year are art (which I despise -- sorry for those of you artists who are reading this) and nature study (which I have a hard time being excited about). Technically, the nature study is science, but we've added in another science curriculum as well. This is really a sacrifice on my part because I don't like the outdoors very much, and I've never enjoyed science. However, James LOVED our science program last year and enjoyed doing the experiments and so I ordered the next level up. So far, it's a big hit, even with Evelyn. We finished the first science book and she reads it during her nap/rest time!

With nature study, all that we've done so far is collect insects and identify them with field guides that I purchased, and I also had James do a drawing of a dead grasshopper that we found. He did better at the drawing than I had thought, so that was a pleasant surprise.

We're studying one artist per term (3 a year), and our current artist is Botticelli. I've had to be somewhat selective in what he views since there is some nudity, but they've both enjoyed this study as well. (As you might be able to tell, Evelyn sits in on a lot of school!) So far, their favorite picture is Mars and Venus. James thinks the fauns wearing Mars' armor and sneaking up to scare him while he's sleeping is hilarious! (Do you think he's done some of that himself?) Evelyn even knew what the pesky little fauns were from our listening of The Chronicles of Narnia! I was really surprised that she knew just from looking at them what they were.

Since I despise art (I really do), I opted for a fairly easy art curriculum this year. I have some desire to read Drawing with Children (recommended by Catherine), but I'm not sure I'm ready for it. ARTistic Pursuits teaches the children to observe and then create their own art using different materials that are recommended for them. I purchased this at the homeschool convention and it came with all the materials needed (bonus for me!). His first drawing was to be of something that he observed recently in the course of a day. He's not a great artist (neither am I), but he did well, and he didn't complain. He drew a trip that we made to McAlister's Deli. My favorite part of it is Jack peeking out of my belly! Ryan looked at it and said that James would be a good storyboarder. (Don't worry. I didn't know what that was either.)
Oh, and in case you wondered what Evelyn and Jefferson do during school time, I'll show you a couple of pictures. I've put together some boxes of toys/crafts for them to do and one of them is a water box (it will probably change to a beans/rice box for winter). Thanks, Elizabeth! These pictures are when James finished and he went outside to join in the fun!

So there's my update for this past week. Hopefully, I'll be able to post a little more frequently this week, but no promises!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- child-like faith

This week, I am thankful for my children because of what they teach me. Two nights ago, I was reminded of the sweet things that children have to teach us. Evelyn woke up crying and petrified at 1:40 in the morning. As I went running into her room, I was scared myself. We've been dealing with sickness in our household. I had placed a vaporizer in her room that evening hoping to help with her coughing and congestion. With Evelyn, there's no telling what had happened.

As I entered, she was sitting in bed, still covered with her blanket but with tears streaming down her face. She told me that she was scared of the dark. She's never mentioned this before, so I thought it was odd. Then I pointed out that she had not only a nightlight but also the light from the vaporizer. I told her that she knew what was in her room during the day and that that had not changed because the sun had gone down. Then we reviewed Psalm 56:3 -- When I am afraid, I will trust in thee. The children have really enjoyed the dvd's Hide 'Em in Your Heart and one of the videos is about a girl and her brother in the midst of a thunderstorm. They read their Bible and pray and then drop back off to sleep. The song is Psalm 56:3, and the kids enjoy singing it. So, Evelyn and I sang it and then we prayed. She went immediately back to sleep, almost before I had left the room. The next morning, I asked if she remembered waking up and what we talked about. She did, and she gave me a big hug and rewarded me with a winning smile!

I have been listening to an apologetic for reading the Chronicles of Narnia by R.C. Sproul, Jr. He points out in Prince Caspian how Lucy is the only one who can see Aslan. He also refers back to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the fact of Lucy's trust in Aslan. He also mentions the professor's faith in Narnia. One aspect that he brought out in his analysis is that there are not two kinds of faith -- child-like and mature. Many people act as if child-like faith is fine for children, but then we mature and we need a more logical, carefully-thought-out faith. Matthew 18:3 -- Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Do I see things as simply as Evelyn did? When I struggle with trouble or problems or worry, do I cast all my cares upon Him because He cares for me? (I Peter 5:7) Is it enough to read the Bible and trust God for His will because His Word is truth? (John 17:17) I pray that God would help me to have a child-like trust in His sovereignty and His goodness to His people, knowing that "all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thankful Thursday -- Working Together

Well, I'm sorry that I skipped my Thankful Thursday post last week. We were on vacation in beautiful Ludington, MI. The weather was perfect and a great time was had by all. Hopefully, I'll get a few pictures posted on my blog soon. If you're a facebook friend, just check out my album! Since we vacationed with my parents, sister and two nieces, time wasn't available for blogging or doing much else than the beach, ice cream parlor, eating and managing children! Poor us, huh?

On to Thankful Thursday.

One thing that has been wonderful to watch in my children is that they are learning to work together. I think this is a blessing that homeschooling affords in a very special way. Just this morning, as I came downstairs from helping Evelyn get ready, James called to me, "Look, Mommy! Jefferson's helping me with the dishwasher!" I was so thrilled that James took the time to include Jefferson in his chores. Jefferson loves to help, and James would point to a cupboard/drawer and ask Jefferson to open it/close it. Jefferson was so happy to help his big brother! In fact, one time, James asked him to close a cupboard and Jefferson shook his head and pointed to another item in the dishwasher that belonged in the cupboard. James said, "Oh, wow! Good job, Jefferson! You're right!" Jefferson just beams when his brother praises him like that.

Almost every day, James asks if he can get the mail for me. It's a favorite job of his. About a year ago, he began to hold Evelyn's hand as they crossed the street together to the mailbox. Just this past summer, Jefferson joined the crew and now all three of my children get my mail for me! James distributes the mail and they each hold something as they come back across the street. (Don't worry. I'm always watching from my front door for safety's sake.) My neighbor who has a two-month old watched this one day and commented that he looked forward to the day when his son could do that. It is a joy to watch.

The week before vacation, Ryan trimmed the hedges. He was unable to clean up the debris that fell as we were in a hurry. So he asked me to have the children clean it up. While this task did not go without bumps ("Mommy, he's not holding the bag wide enough!", "Mommy, she's playing and not working!", Mommy, he just spilled it all!"), training was being done and, in the end, the job was accomplished. Through it all, they're all learning that working and working together as a family is non-negotiable.

I was reminded, sadly, of those who do not have this blessing. That's right. Even all the whining and complaining is a blessing because they're learning. Who's to say that James did not learn to encourage Jefferson this morning from cleaning up the hedges two weeks before? I was instructing them to encourage one another instead of tearing each other down. The hand-holding that is expected crossing the street also comes in handy when we're running errands and traversing large parking lots. I fully plan to put James in charge of little Jack in the umbrella stroller once Jack can sit up and hold up his head. James is looking forward to the responsibility.

But, as I was saying, I was reminded of those who do not have this blessing. This week, I had to finish calling all of my students to inform them that I am no longer teaching for an indefinite period of time. One of the parents is a single mom of an early teenager (almost 13). This mom has gone through a lot in the past year, and we've tried to help wherever possible. She was telling me that she got a new puppy this past summer, in addition to the one they got the summer before. She told me that she was crazy, but was looking forward to the puppies growing up together and watching their interaction. She told me that she was never able to enjoy watching interaction with her human children (as they're all so spread apart and other circumstances), but she was looking forward to watching her puppies grow close together.

I was so saddened by that. Here's a woman who's been through a lot in life, but was trying to recreate something in her animals that many of us get frustrated with on a daily basis -- teaching our children to interact together in a kind, loving and fun way. I want to encourage any young moms who are reading this to keep on persevering in your training efforts. It will pay off. I'm already reaping the benefits!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Conversation with Evelyn

We allow the children to listen to audio books/cd's during their afternoon rest time. Evelyn has been enjoying The Wise Man Built His House during the last week or two. She is really enjoying it. This is the conversation that took place after her rest time today.

Evelyn (E): Mommy, the wise man's house stood firm.
Me (M): Yes. Why did his house stand firm?
E: It was built on a rock.
M: Who is our Rock?
E: Jesus.
M: So, if we build our lives on Jesus, will we stand firm?
E: Yes. But if we build our lives on Satan, we will be foolish.

Matthew 18:3 "And [He] said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Ryan and I praise the Lord for these evidences of grace in the lives of our children!

Learning to be like Daddy

State Fair 2008 - 3

We participated in "Little Hands on the Farm" where the children each get an apron and basket and gather eggs, fruit, plant vegetables, "milk" a cow, etc. to experience the goings-on of a farm.
Here's James driving his tractor.
Here's Evelyn getting some help from Nana!
We were able to watch a tiger show.
Nana and Papa graciously paid $6 per child for them to ride the elephant. They really enjoyed this and still talk about it! (We don't know the other people in the photo. They just put the kids on where they would fit.)
Jefferson taking a snooze!
James and Evelyn found a place to refresh themselves!
They were each able to ride a kiddie roller coaster.
I wish that you all could have seen Evelyn's face. She had the best time!
James was also able to go down the big slide!
Jefferson before going to church on Sunday evening. Ryan loved this shirt on James, and he likes it on Jefferson too!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thankful Thursday--Sibling Relationships

Well, time for another Thankful Thursday post. I've been grateful for these posts this week, as I've had to remind myself many times that there is much for which to be thankful. I am going to focus on Evelyn this week.

She is our energetic, loving, "wild" child! As many of you know, when a child has energy, that energy must be focused. Focusing is not a strong point of Evelyn's in any situation. So this week has been focused on trying to get her to focus!

All that said, I could never ask for a more loving, caring child than Evelyn. She is the first one to come running with band-aids and peroxide when anybody is hurt. She's the first to bring toys or to give out hugs when another sibling has been hurt physically or emotionally. But, during Ryan's trip to SC with Evelyn, we realized how deep the love between siblings runs.

During the first plane trip down, Evelyn was reading her books. Ryan overheard her say, "James, I wish you were here. I miss you." When we, as parents, often listen to their bickering, we begin to wonder if truly love each other. Ryan allowed her to call James when they arrived in SC. We laughed because they sounded like two lovers that had been separated for a long time! After they got off the phone, James told me that he wished that Evelyn would hurry up and come home because he missed her.

James and Evelyn each have other friends, but we really try to encourage the relationship between siblings. If that relationship is not solid, we discourage getting together with friends until the sibling relationship is mended. Evelyn is the first to forgive when someone's offended her, the first to initiate hugs and kisses and the first to dive back into playing or functioning as usual. This is even true when we, as parents, need to apologize to her.

So, while it's so easy to focus on the areas that need to be trained (there will always be those areas), join me in focusing on the positive traits that your children exhibit. I don't think it's easy to forgive when I've been wronged, and I hope to continue to encourage Evelyn to be quick to love and forgive and not to hold a grudge.

Related:Elizabeth posted last week on the blessing of friendship between her two boys. I thought it was quite special.

State Fair 2008 - 2

Blogger doesn't seem to be letting me upload anymore pictures, so more State Fair posts will have to wait.

State Fair 2008

I thought that I would post a few highlight pictures from our trip to the State Fair this past Saturday. We've enjoyed going for the last several years, and the kids always look forward to it, as you'll be able to see.
Jefferson pointing to some baby pigs.

The world's largest pig -- weighing in at 1121 lbs.!

The world's 2nd largest pig -- weighing in at 1113 lbs.! This one was actually standing up! I've never seen that!

James and Evelyn petting one of the Belgians. They're huge!

Evelyn really enjoyed watching the harness racing. She wanted a front seat, so she just sat in between two strangers! They didn't seem to mind.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thankful Thursday

Well, today is finally Thankful Thursday! Boy, on this little blog as well as on facebook, I've never had so many comments about any one post! I believe that my friend, Ann, is right. All moms need encouragement. When so many of us are choosing to stay home and care for our children, discouragement can so easily set in. We feel the pressure of shaping their values, training them for life, teaching them the basics (homeschooling), and we constantly wonder if we're up to the task. At least, I do.

We also desire for our children to adopt our worldview and choose to live by the standards by which we live. We yearn to see the Lord do a work in their hearts, and yet, we're fearful that we're not doing our part. Or maybe that we're doing too much and not allowing the Lord to work. I have all these fears and more, and I know that many of you do too.

Today's post is going to focus on James. James is my oldest. He is six years old. I'm starting with him because so many of you have younger children and you feel like you're in the trenches and are not seeing many results. Day in and day out you pour your time and energy into your children, and you don't see the fruit yet. I feel like that with my younger children, so this post is for me as well as for everyone else.

To start with, we've been allowing the older two children to watch the Olympics until 9:00 every night. This allows them to stay up for 30 minutes past their bedtime, and they're allowed to eat ice cream! We've chosen not to allow them to watch the commercials though because some of the content is inappropriate. We always mute the TV and engage them in conversation so that their eyes are turned towards us and away from the TV.

The last few days since my husband has been out of town, I've been juggling several tasks at once -- putting Jefferson to bed, grabbing laundry for the next day, cleaning up the kitchen, putting my piles away, etc., and I haven't always been near the TV the entire time. James loves operating gadgets (what man doesn't?), so I've taught him about the mute button and told him to keep his head turned during commercials. He may glance back every once in awhile to check if the Olympics are back on. He is also permitted to tell Evelyn what is expected of her.

Tonight, I was in the room and putting aways some school supplies for the upcoming year. A commercial came on and he pushed mute and began to talk to me. Evelyn (our challenging child!) said, "But that commercial didn't look bad." I told her that it didn't matter. She must obey what I said. Then I added, "Not all parents have this rule, but Mommy and Daddy think that it's best for you." I said that so that James was not shocked when he talked with his friends about the Olympics (or other TV viewing for that matter) and found out that they did not mute commercials and turn their own heads away. James said, "I think the way that you do it is the right way."

Those are the moments that I pray happen more often as he gets older, although I have no guarantee of that. But it is so encouraging to see him embracing our choices and way of life. I also realize that every good gift is from the Lord, and I believe that any work of grace that we see in our children's lives comes from the Lord, and we need to give Him the glory and praise for it.

James has also enjoyed writing letters to people lately. He's written two for his daddy and one for me. Catherine will recognize two of these as they were written at her house! Here they are with their interpretation below!
"Dear Daddy, Thank you that you go to work for getting money. I hope you have a good time. I love you. Goodbye."

"Dear Mommy, Thank you for staying home with us. I am so glad that you could. I love you. Goodbye."

"Dear Daddy, Thank you for going to work. Can I know who the man of the blue car is? I love you. Goodbye."

Seeing him write those notes and knowing that he feels the way he does thrills my heart! Realizing that he understands, at least in some small way, the sacrifices that we're making for him and the love that motivates our choices encourages me to continue with what we're doing. Your children will not do the same things as James, but I encourage you to look for the little things that they say either to you or to friends or relatives that indicate their understanding. Maybe you'll see that they recognize the security that you give to them, or that they embrace your standards or that they have a happiness in living their lives the way that you direct. Isn't the Lord good to allow us to see the fruit of our labors? Isn't He good to work in our children's lives? Isn't He good to take an interest in us at all? I encourage you (as well as myself) to thank the Lord for these tokens of good and ask Him to give you eyes with which to see those tokens.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Encouragement from a Stranger

Last Friday, Evelyn was able to ride on her first airplane when she and Ryan went down to SC to attend Uncle Bevan's graduation (with his Ph.D.!) from Clemson. She had been so excited about this trip and was looking forward to some special daddy/daughter time as well.

When we arrived at the airport, there were hugs and kisses to be given all around. We opened both of the van doors, so that Jefferson could see everything that was taking place because we weren't going to get him out. Evelyn gave him a hug, a kiss and an Eskimo kiss (a ritual that we go through constantly!). Jefferson then expected the same from James! James and Evelyn went through the same ritual, and then I did the same with her but held her a bit longer for my hug. Ryan and James had to say goodbye, then I had to say goodbye to Ryan. Did I remember it all?

There was a business man waiting on a bench right behind where our rituals were taking place. He was looking on and smiling, and when I caught his eye, he smiled and said, "I'm sure that you guys know how blessed you are, don't you?" I nodded and thanked him.

For all of you reading this, most of you probably have no idea how encouraging those few words were to me. When I go out to run errands with the kids, I usually get looks of disgust, rude comments or sympathetic glances. This is not because my children are poorly behaved. They do have their moments, but, for the most part, are delightful to be around. I believe that those looks and comments are passed my way when they see that I'm obviously expecting #4. Honestly, by the way that people react to my pregnancy, one would think I'm expecting #14!

Just last week, when I was at the cardiologist, a man said to me, "When I saw you head back with those three children, I really felt sorry for you!" I told him that there was no reason to feel sorry for me because I did not feel sorry for myself. I feel blessed. And I do! At the same office, I had four or five nurses/office workers tell me how well-behaved that my children are. They told me that children usually run screaming around their offices when they come. Now I felt sorry for them!

I have realized that most people expect children to misbehave, and children always rise (or fall) to meet expectations. Again, our children are not perfect, and we've had to deal with our fair share of discipline problems when we've been out in public, but they're expected to act differently. They're expected to act with respect and concern for others. They're expected to be kind to each other. They are expected to obey their parents. Those expectations seem to solve the majority of the problems, and if they don't, effective discipline is delivered to remind them the next time that they don't meet up to expectations.

I have had people say to me, "Why in the world do you want another? You already have a boy and a girl.", or "How are you ever going to do it? I cannot manage with the one (two) that I already have.", or "Did you guys plan this one?", or "You poor thing, you're going to be so busy!" Granted, I think most people are genuinely curious about our choices or saying these things to make conversation. (It is rather obvious that I'm pregnant!) I don't believe that most people intend to be malicious, but there are a few that do.

I just think it's a sad commentary that the mantra for most people is, "A boy for me, a girl for you, and, praise the Lord, we're all through!" Do I condemn those who have only one or two children? No. Do I judge them? No. But I do expect the same respect from them regarding our choices, and, often, that respect is not given. Could it be that the expectations for children are so low that people don't find joy anymore in the very thing that the Lord calls a blessing? Sure, most people will tell us that there are moments that their children bring them immense joy, but we often hear of the more mundane frustrating moments that occur on a daily basis. Is child rearing hard work? Most definitely. Do the rewards far outweigh the time spent? Most emphatically!

I've been doing a lot of thinking on this for the past several weeks (since I've been receiving a lot of comments from people), and I'm going to start doing a series of posts on what I'm thankful for with our children. I'm going to label it as Thankful Thursdays and it's going to be geared completely towards my relationships, observations and attitudes about my own children. I'm hoping that it will encourage other friends and relatives who have younger children that there is a time just around the corner when the older ones can help out immensely. I'm hoping that it will encourage me to keep track of all of those "little moments" and realize what a treasure I have with me everyday. (Yes, there are times that I forget as well!) I do not want to "despise the day of small things." I'm hoping that it will encourage my children to "continue in the things that they have learned." (James reads my blog after every entry!)

I'm aware that I tried a weekly series almost a year ago that flopped, but I really want this one to survive. I think it's extremely important for our own family to remember and rejoice in the progress that our children are making and to cherish the treasures that we've been given. I may be a day late or miss a post here and there, but my desire is to post weekly and share a specific way that our children have blessed and encouraged us or others.

I'll see you back on Thursday!

P.S. When you see another mother, offer her a word of encouragement or just a smile. Those small words or gestures go a long way towards making someone's day!

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Little Sibling Rivalry?

We've always struggled with getting James to do physical activity. He is an intellectual who is content to sit and read -- for the most part. Even yesterday, when I went outside to play ball with him, he quit after 5 minutes, went and got a chair and sat in the driveway. I laughed and told him that he didn't get to do that until he's a daddy!

Pumping on the swings is one of those things that he refuses to do. He gets quite upset with us when we try to encourage him to do it. I think we've given up.

A few weeks ago, Evelyn learned how to pump on the horse swing, and she's really enjoyed it. She goes really high, and it's very relaxing to her. We can tell because she goes out to the swings to calm down and rest.

Well, look who decided to start pumping on the regular swing on Tuesday?

When I made a big deal about it and took pictures and praised her up and down, James decided to try it. No success yet, but it's a step in the right direction!

A little sibling rivalry is good, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Free Books Again!

I've been wanting to post on my finds from last week's Half-Price Books trip. I was really excited! On my last post, Crystal recommended Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. We've loved Chanticleer and the Fox, so imagined my surprise when I found Miss Rumphius in the clearance section! The clearance section is not organized at all, so it's clearly providential when one finds a great buy. All of the clearance books are marked at $1 though!

Here's what we snagged:

Miss Rumphius for $1

Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield for $1

Wilbur and Orville Wright (Childhood of Famous Americans Series) for $1

Abigail Takes the Wheel for $1.98

Henry and Mudge: The First Book for $1.98

George Washington: Our First President for $1.98

Okay, you caught me! I did spend $3 out of pocket, but I was extremely proud of several of the buys. Miss Rumphius was a recommendation from a respected friend (and it's a really great book). James has really been enjoying biographies of famous early Americans, so I bought those with homeschool in mind. The George Washington is an early reader, so it will be easy for him. Clara Barton is perfect for his reading level, but a little longer than he's used to reading aloud, so it will be good for reading and history. Wilbur and Orville Wright will make a great read-aloud for him to narrate from. Abigail Takes the Wheel was a special favorite as my father-in-law had picked it up last year from his library in New Castle, IN, and James and Evelyn read/listened to it read over and over. It's based on a story from a children's magazine in 1881. It doesn't say whether it's fiction or non-fiction, but it sounds like it could very well be non-fiction. Evelyn has enjoyed having James read the Henry and Mudge books to her. They enjoy the stories of a boy and his dog, Evelyn enjoys the time with James, and James doesn't realize that he's getting practice in reading! See, there's method to my madness!

After receiving our coupons yesterday from Half-Price Books, I'm really excited to see what we bring home the next time we shop. I hope they do this promotion again next year. I think we'll participate all summer long!