Friday, December 05, 2008

888 Challenge Progress Report

I tend to put so much pressure on myself that any time I don't make the mark dead in the center of the target, I feel like a failure. One of my dear friends and mentors taught me a saying: "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." Think about it a minute. Now while I do believe that we should try our best to do things worth doing well, does it stand to reason that if we are unsure if we can do it well we shouldn't even attempt it? Well, I did attempt this reading challenge this year, and I didn't read all the books on my list. So what? I still read. I even kept plodding along through some of the books knowing I had set the goal.

On the flip side, I hate that I often set goals and fail to hit them. Obviously it's a little late in the year for me to try to read a couple dozen books. So instead I'm rethinking my challenge for next year. I'm thinking 9 and 9 in '09. Nine non-fiction and nine fiction books. I would LOVE to say I'm going to read 70 or more books for a 999 challenge, but I don't think I will. But 18? I think maybe I could do that. I don't know. Any suggestions?

I just love the idea of challenging myself to read for me!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

End of Quarter Grades

I almost forgot to mention that last week, Josh got his first-ever "report card." (Except the kind Mom gave him when he was little!) He made all A's except for one B in Pre-Algebra (a subject he insists no one should have to learn!). Now, I know that it sounds like I'm bragging about grades, but I'm not. You see, I'm NOT an educational legalist. The current school grading system is only valuable to me in so much as a teacher with 15, 20 or 35 students needs to be able to communicate how a student is doing in her class. I stressed to Josh that most of all I wanted him to learn and to do his best. That is what excites me.

To receive his report card we had to have a conference with the teacher. She just gushed about Josh. I had so many questions going in . . . questions about character, about his relationships to others. And in her comments many of those questions were answered. Josh loves to ask questions and learn more . . . even beyond what is expected. He often knows the answers, but doesn't try to answer every question. He works well with other kids and is an encourager. He doesn't often lose his temper and when he does it is more out of frustration because of his own inabilities and weaknesses. He is a strong leader (well, duh!). He is very logical and communicates well (he was awesome in a class debate they had!).

None of this really surprised me, it's just that doing this parenting thing mostly alone, it was good to hear from someone more or less unbiased. It was especially good to hear in front of the other parents. (Pray for me! Thier "part" in the whole school thing has been hard to bear.)

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed now at where to go in the coming few years. The "others" are pressuring to have him in public school in a accelerated program, but me . . . I tend to like a more gentle approach with less pressure. Not that I'll let that kid get away with doing little or nothing, I just like the idea of him having a more relaxed schedule at home. If I can ONLY find a way to keep him busy socially (without killing myself!). Anyway, lots of decisions to be made. Lots of things to consider.

For now, I'm crazy about this boy! And oh, so proud of him. Even when he picks on his brother or does a lazy kitchen-clean-up job.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fun Fall Stuff

Ahh . . . fall in Florida! This year we are getting exactly what I love: cool weather! So here is our fall celebration so far:

Although we don't celebrate Halloween, we do love to cut up a pun'kin.
Even Josh wanted to do it this year, which was kind of funny-
watching him carve a pumpkin without ever putting his hands into it!

The gooey-er, grosser, or more disgusting, the more Stephen likes it.
He actually tasted the raw pumpkin this year!

Yes, lookout, folks! AJ got to carve his own pumpkin face this year.
And we all know what that means . . . . he's loose with a knife!!!
He sure was proud of his creation though!

Our actually "Halloween Eve" was spent at a great celebration at our church
(the Reformation is very important to us!).

Josh was in a skit.

Stephen and AJ spent the evening pal'ing around with their friends!

Election Amusement

This year it has been amusing to watch election developments. Of course, the amusement ended tonight. It hasn't been the bantering between candidates that has interested me, but the fact that there is someone else in my house interested in election developments. My 14-year-old surprised me this year with a political opinion. I'm not sure where he got it--I tend toward disinterest in most things political. (I take elections very seriously, and do research and vote on an informed opinion, I just don't care much for all the political stuff that goes on.) It has been fun watching Josh go from someone influenced by what others around him thought to someone whose opinions were directed more by what he learned about the candidates and his own beliefs and ideas.

Unfortunately now I have to help pick up the pieces of a very discouraged and disillusioned boy. He can't understand how a candidate who seemed so clearly unqualified and unworthy of being president could be elected. I'm not worried about it--I know this kid will understand more as he learns more that voting your beliefs is not always as clear and easy as it seems when you are 14. I'm trying to encourage him that God is sovereign and knew who would be elected before the U.S. was even a country! Not only that , but our great God will use even a president like Obama to further His cause and purpose. But I'm a grown woman and I still struggle most days to really believe that. How do I help a kid new to politics and to losing politically to understand it?

On the scary side, a thought hit me today as I talked of election things with my younger boys. My 14-year-old will be voting in the next presidential election. Man, I'm getting old!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

B. Family's "Educational" Daffynitions

Ok, so this came to me as we were cleaning at our church's private school the other day.

Home room--"base" when we're playin' tag . . . which is how the day usually begins.
Orientation--the time of year when we get new "school" stuff. The day we look at our books for about an hour, then do fun stuff the rest of the day.
Homework--our punishment when we don't pay attention to mom reading or when we wrestle instead of working on our workbook pages.
Open House--when our work's done and we get to GO OUTSIDE!!! Or maybe when we ditch the regular stuff to have friends come over and play.
Recess--what we're doin' just before mom says,"Hey, where are you guys! You're supposed to be doing school!!!"
Principal--in our house, God. In some of our friends' homes, their dad.
School board--our response when we're asked, "Do you like school?" and we respond, "School? Bored!"
Extracurricular--anything fun that doesn't require mom to tie us in our seats.
Home economics--what mom calls our chores.
Science lab--our kitchen.
Book report--when we chatter on and on about the cool thing happening in the latest book we're reading.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

On Being a Child of God

I often have a hard time trusting God with little things and things that I know are luxuries. It's hard sometimes not to view him as a harsh, demanding ruler who expects me to suck it up and keep marching. I live in a country where so much of what we have is excessive and indulgent, and so when things happen like my air conditioner going out, or having car trouble, I wonder why God would just provide it for me and not make me work myself to death to get it.

The thought struck me yesterday, again, of how God is much more of a Father to us. I provide food, clothes, a place to live, an education for my children because they need them. Their very survival depends upon them. But I LOVE to be able to buy them a coke, take them to a movie, buy them a toy, etc. I love the delight in their eyes over it, even when they aren't very grateful (although I prefer the gratitude). Sure, sometimes when the ask me for something like this I say no. Sometimes I already have a better plan, and sometimes I just know it's not the best thing for them right now. Sometimes I know they need to deal with no occasionally. But often (probably a bit more often than I should), I say yes. I love to say yes.

Why is it so hard for me to believe that God loves to say yes?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Big Kid Gets Bigger

My dearest boy,

Who are you? Who is this young man standing before me each day--no longer a boy, yet not quite a man? Some days I hardly feel like I know you. Your awareness of the world around you is so mature--political humor, fascination with all things entertaining, a social schedule, responsibility. I'm in awe of your thoughtfulness, amused by your humor, grateful for your strength, and annoyed by your independence. You're not my baby, not even my little boy. When did that happen? Can it really have been FOURTEEN years?

My concerns for you grow with each passing year. Will you walk with the Lord faithfully, or will you abandon Him? Will you have to learn lessons the hard way by suffering the pain of poor choices, or will you be an obedient leader who enjoys the blessings of that life? Will you love your family, especially your wife, or will the weaknesses and absences in your upbringing show through there? I am more and more aware of how little time I have left to teach you, train you, counsel you, and guide you. The weight of this realization presses down on me.

Not that it is all bad. You have your faults, and most days drive me nuts, but I do so enjoy you! You are fun, and funny. You are opinionated, and I love to debate issues with you now. You show so much wisdom one moment, and act like a foolish young man (which you are entitled to do!) the next. I love it that you talk to me. You tell me when you are mad, when you are irritated, you can tell me you love me even when your anger is justified. You are sensitive to my feelings (sometimes). You are in some ways protective of me, although it is my prayer that you know you are not fully responsible for me.

Another thing that has been fun is to see your unique interests develop. You love music, especially fast music, but it has to have a melody. You love drama and acting. You love being with friends, even if they want to do something you don't exactly love doing (you camped at the beach for a friend you really like!).

I worry about you son, because I am your mom. I have invested so much in you, and I love you so very much. At the same time, you are a great kid. You can work very hard, and do a great job at whatever you take on.

I hope you know how treasured you are. I hope you have a wonderful day today.

Happy birthday.
Love, Mom

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Different Kind of Year

School is starting again. In some ways it is like most other years, or at least the last few years. I'm not completely ready to begin. The boys are excited about the first day, but eager to shed that excitement since they know that work and routine follow it. The major difference this year is that Josh is going to school. Not doing school, but going--to the private school our church runs.

I had already planned out in my head most of what I wanted him to do this year, but after he was in the play, he started asking about maybe going to school there. Oddly, it didn't even make me flinch. I know so many of the teachers there, and am involved in the school even though I don't have kids attending. I told Josh he needed to make a firm decision, and that we would begin the process, trusting that God would make clear to us what He wanted for Josh.

At the time we applied, there wasn't even an opening in the 8th grade class. I assumed we had our answer, even though in the back of my mind I knew God could easily still indicate differently. But part way through summer, I got a call saying they had decided to open another class. I quickly scrambled to get some financial records completed, meanwhile the administration was very gracious with me and understanding of my financial situation. (Summer was hard because I wasn't working one of my part-time jobs--a serious decrease in income!) One thing after another fell into place, and here we are, finishing the first week of school with Josh away during the day.

Emotionally I have had mixed feelings. It is still hard to school the younger two boys. Both are still easily distracted (AJ got distracted during reading lessons this morning by a hang nail on MY finger!), but we don't have Josh home to add to the confusion and busyness. I miss him terribly during the day, and miss knowing the details of his day, but there is a certain sense of relief that this year it is not my responsibility.

My goals this year are to really get things going and to help the boys find the environments that best suit their learning needs. I've always felt too pulled apart to work on that. I also must get AJ reading. He is having a terrible time, and I am fearful that someone will finally blame me (even though I know it is learning difficulties, and I am doing what my financial situation and resources will allow). I'm very slowly working on establishing a little more order in the house.

Josh isn't thrilled with attending school, but he likes it. He says it is still school. He likes the order and schedule, and being with his friends, of course. He likes the teachers he has. I think he's even going to like the classes, and I'm not expecting him to feel overwhelmed with the work load (although having to come home and do it after a whole day at school may be a bother).

Most of all, I feel like for this year, this is where God wants us. I'm pleased with it . . . a little anxious about the financial demands, but trusting God who has provided for us thus far.

Then again, we'll see in a month how at peace I am with 7am mornings and kids who won't get up!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Andrew's Vacation

Andrew loved everything about our vacation. He was so much fun to watch! I think the thing he most enjoyed was having a constant playmate--his cousin Lilly, who is so much like him. Lilly is six months younger than AJ. They enjoyed doing many of the same things. The days we were at Nana and Papa's, Lilly and AJ played with stuffed animals and Littlest Pet Shop bobble heads. They colored and watched Pink Panther together. They played outside in the wading pool and on the trampoline together.

While we were in the mountains, they were thick as thieves! Every morning they headed outside first thing, and spent most of their spare time there playing on the hiking path right behind our cabin. It was so humorous to watch them go from new playmates who loved doing everything together, to almost-siblings who argued constantly. The great thing for AJ was that Lilly was much more similar to him, so arguments were more equally win-able. Sometimes I forget how great a difference there is between Josh and AJ, and how hard that is for him, so it was great for him to be with someone his own age.

As far as the "fun stuff," I'm not sure I could even pick a "favorite" for AJ. He LOVED the outdoors stuff--Rock climbing and riding go-carts with Papa and lots of hikes in the campground. He loved the Aquarium, especially at the end of our second afternoon their when Mom let him get all wet in the outdoor water playground (even without a swimsuit . . . and in jeans!). He really wanted to go swimming, which oddly was never available to us, but I think he kept busy enough to not think about it too much. He was really looking forward to playing Risk with Papa, and after relinquishing the game (much harder than he thought), he'd had his fill. He collected sticks and rocks aplenty, and came home with a huge "walking stick" that he found, another that Papa bought him, and a pair of stuffed penguins, among other treasures!

Mom loved it that she didn't have to constantly wonder what AJ was up to--she had Lilly to keep her apprised and two other adults to help keep an eye on him. I think AJ's ready to take another vacation soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


The boys and I have spent the last week in the N.Ga. mountains with Nana and Grandpa. We stayed in a cabin in Cloudland Canyon State Park, and we had such a great time. We did some of the touristy things-visited Rock City and Ruby Falls, went to the Chattanooga Aquarium and the Zoo. But mostly we just rested and played together. We played games. Mom and I planned school for next year. It was just plain fun. All three of the boys raved about it, so I'm raving too. As with all vacations, the only problem with it was that it was too short!

More details later.

Stephen on a climbing wall at the TOP of Lookout Mountain.

A teenager daydreaming as he watches the fish.

AJ and Lilly found a snail and watched it crawl along for the longest time.

Kings (and queen) of the mountain!

Grandpa Andy (Papa) and the kids petting fish at the aquarium.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Summer (Not So) Fun

OK. So here's what our summer has entailed so far:

To start off June we had a week off, then Andrew went back and forth to Cub Scout Day camp while the boys and I bounced between loafing and working around the house (although you can hardly tell now!). Then we had a wild and crazy week of Vacation Bible School, followed by a partial week of recovery (read: sleeping late and laying around). Then Andrew was off to visit with his Mimi and Pawpaw in St. Augustine, and the older boys headed off to Jr. High camp. Now we're recovering again, and next week will head off on vacation with the grandparents in metro-Atlanta. Then it's home for about two weeks before we start school again.

What is the purpose of summer again?

Technology Makes My Head Hurt

OK, yes. Sometimes I find technology very exciting--like when I get a brand new computer (hasn't happened too many times), and I get to dive into all the things it can do. Or when my camera can capture color, black and white, or any other color photos, and I can see them, and I can zoom into any area immediately. That's just too cool. But most of the time, technology is like the cute little fuzzy Gremlins in the movie that came out when I was a kid. Add just the right thing and it turns mean and consumes your time, energy, emotions, and often money!

I'm not even trying to do something hard right now--just faxing on my handy little print/fax/copy machine. I've never faxed anything before. I keep getting error messages . . . and right now it keeps telling me the line is busy. Did I put the number in wrong? Is is hooked up wrong? Am I supposed to add a "1" before dialing the number? I just don't know.

Invariably this always happens to me, some Snafu that makes that thing the technology was SUPPOSED to save me time doing take about 100 times longer to do!!!

I'd throw the printer/faz/copy machine, except I've finally figured out how to print and copy with it.

Ah. Guess what? You have to add a "1" before you dial in the number. Couldn't someone have told me that? Ughh.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Papa, We LOVE You!

Papa came down last weekend and while he was here to see his dad, he stayed with us for a night. It was so good to be with him. He takes such good care of us (Nana too!). He is counting down the days until our vacation near Chatanooga when he gets to be with ALL of his kids!

The boys and "Papa" or "Grandpa Andy" to us.

While he was here, Andrew had his Daycamp closing program, so Papa went with us. I think he had a lot of fun reminiscing about his days as a scout. AJ was thrilled to have someone besides Mom taking pride in his activities. Notice how DIRTY that shirt is. I've washed it and it still doesn't look clean!

Top Ten Reasons I Want to Marry McGyver

The boys and I've been watching re-runs of my old favorites. I had forgotten how impressive this guy is . . . even more so than he is in Stargate SG-1. So here are my reasons:

  1. He's always a gentleman!
  2. Kiss goodbye to stressing over all the stuff breaking down around my house.
  3. He'd keep Stephen busy for hours with all the science stuff
  4. He knows about every country in the world--even the little ones!
  5. My spontaneous, impulsive nature would clearly not be a problem for him.
  6. He likes kids and can talk to them!
  7. I'd never have to worry about that tool I misplaced--he can use a pocket knife, twist ties, and paper clips!
  8. Oh, how I've missed that 80's hair cut!
  9. The never-a-dull-moment pace of my house wouldn't bother him.
  10. The boys would have someone to blow things up with!
The only thing that would have to go is that 80's synthesized music. What WAS it with that? Did people really like it?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Needing the Rock Today

So often I am made aware that I need a rock. I don’t know why I am still so thrown for a loop when I discover how unpredictable life is . . . and unpredictably hard. Big trials and little stresses are so common that they are . . . well . . . predictable, and yet they still catch me unaware. All of us live on a rough sea of raging waves. I am seasick, and I need a rock.

Rock of Ages cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Let the waters and the blood
From Thy wounded side which flowed
Be for sin a double cure
Save from wrath and make me pure.

The thought of hiding in the crevice of a rock is warming to me—the security it affords is what my heart craves. Unlike a ship, caught unexpectedly on a wild sea in a storm, my raging sea is one of my own making. Daily . . . hourly, I am reminded of my duplicitous heart, driven by pride and selfishness. I am capable of every evil known to man. Even on my worst day, if I try I can feel God’s restraining power preventing me from being the worst I could be. I deserve judgment and death. I am ever conscious that I have no merit with which to enter His presence. And then . . . I remember the blood which washed me clean. I remember the righteous acts of Christ that were credited to me. I recall the continued cleansing of the water of the Holy Spirit. Justified and being sanctified. I can enter the presence of the Most High God.

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy laws demands
Could my zeal no respite know
Could my tears forever flow
All for sin could not atone
Thou must save, and Thou alone

Nothing. That is what I have to offer God which He needs. I watched the shock wash over the faces of some ladies in a Sunday School class when the lecturer on the CD reminded us that God really doesn’t need us for anything. We like to think He does. But the truth is, my work couldn’t save me. How could it possibly be required by Him to build a kingdom? There is also no catalyst that makes that work more effective so that it will be effective enough to save me or serve Him. I am aware often that I am unable to be pure in my motives, but even if I could be zealous enough in my devotion to God, it wouldn’t be enough. Neither could penitence make my works more acceptable to Him. Yet He longs for me to be a part of His work. So He saves. He saves me. I was dead and rotting . . . . He gave me life and made me useful.

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Naked come to Thee for dress
Helpless look to Thee for grace
Foul I to the fountain fly
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Finally I realize it . . . again and again. I’ve tried to earn it again. I’ve tried to pay Him back. I’ve tried to prove my worthiness to Him. And I’ve failed . . . again and again. There I stand again, just like I did the day He saved me the first time, with nothing to offer. I grab hold of the Gospel, and for a moment cling with all my might. I watch for just a second as He again puts beautiful garments on me. For one minute, I am aware of my weakness—of my labored breathing, the fatigue of my spiritual muscles, the distraction of my mind, the fickleness of my affections. In that moment, I look to Him for help. And suddenly, His glory is blinding to me. And I glimpse others beholding it because He is using me, His weak and frail vessel, His lifeless tool now animated.

While I draw this fleeting breath
When my eyes shall close in death
When I soar to worlds unknown
See Thee on Thy judgment throne
Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Today I hide . . . again. Not out of hopelessness or self-loathing. I hide because the rock is safer and more predictable than the sea. Out there, I work and work, yet if I get anywhere I can’t even see my progress. Here I cannot see progress either, but I can see Him. And I know He isn’t going anywhere. I am safe. I can rest.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Review-Piecing Together the High School Puzzle

Homeschooling into high school is remnant to me of anticipating teaching my first son to read. I knew I knew how to read, I just didn't know where to begin in passing along that knowledge. High school is worse. I remember what things were like when I went to high school . . . but everything seems different now. One of my goals for the next year has been to begin training myself for the record-keeping required for high school. So I bought Piecing Together the High School Puzzle by my friend Joanne Mastrioncola to get an idea of what is going to be required.

This book is intended to be specific to Florida high school students, which is OK with me. It walks you through the different high school plans, how to keep records, where to find more information, and even what fun things are available for high school seniors (Didn't know that homeschool seniors could go to grad night!). It explains grade point averages, different kinds of tests, and how to apply for college and scholarships. The book also includes reproducible worksheets and samples for record keeping. It even has checklists of what needs to be done during the students junior and senior years!

This book was straight to the point, yet well-communicated. It comes in a binder, which is great for making copies of the reproducibles. Of course, I was pre-disposed to liking this book because I know that Joanne has a heart for helping others along in their homeschool journey.

After reading this book, I don't feel so intimidated now about homeschooling through high school, if that is what the Lord has planned for us. Now if I could just find a cheap way to keep all those records without putting much time into it . . . .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Homeschooling the Challenging Child

Hooray!!! I've finished another book on my list. (Still have a lot of reading to do this summer.)

Homeschooling the Challenging Child, by Christine Field is an extremely helpful book for anyone who wonders if their homeschooled child might be facing some kind of behavioral or learning disabilities. Although the struggles my youngest two children face are mild, it was helpful to read this book, and the book itself gave me lots of ideas to try with him. It is a book full of encouragement when you begin to wonder if homeschooling a "special needs" child is worth it--when you wonder if they would be better off in school with a "professional." It is also full of helpful resource links, a walk-through on the process of having a special needs child evaluated, as well as many other thoughts and advice that Ms. Field learned through experience.

Although this book covers technical material, it is very readable.

Monday, June 02, 2008

My 888 Challenge

OK. I added Shelfari to my blog tonight, and in doing so reviewed my reading list for this year. Not doing so well. Sooo . . .

  • Less TV. I gotta turn that thing off.
  • Keep my list in front of me. Concentrate my reading on the books I've listed, even if it means changing the list a little as I go.
  • Carry it with me. Remember I have it.
Today is Monday. By the end of the week I want to have made progress on one I want to read aloud, and I want to have finished ONE of my books. (I'm close to finishing a couple of them.)

Next year I'm doing my 9-9-9 Diet List.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Life Lessons

One of the things I love about living life is the occasional peek it gives me into the divine. I have often pondered the relationship between faith and works. It almost boggles my mind sometimes to try to tease apart the motivation for works--that they shouldn't come from obligation or an attempt to earn God's love or favor, but out of love for Him and a desire to do what He delights in. Still . . . everything I know, the way the world I live in is so driven by what I do and what I earn . . . it is so hard to live without a works motivation.

This week I had just a peek into what pleases God. My best friend has been sick all week, but it steadily progressed until Thursday the decision was made that she just had to go to the doctor. She has six children, so doctors visits and the like have to be carefully planned and orchestrated, but there she was needing to go and needing to do it that very day. She knows I'm here for her, so she called and asked if I could take the kids for the afternoon. As we talked on the phone, it became afternoon and evening, because she hadn't slept much all week and I knew she needed time to rest. Then by the time she dropped them off, I had pretty much decided they should just stay the night, since both she and her husband really did need a good night's sleep. It was a decision I never even considered a burden. Her kids are so much fun, and I love them. I love her. And she and her husband have done so much for me that I wanted to do something for them.

It wasn't about paying them back. I didn't feel I owed it to them, nor did I feel I needed to earn a few favors for the next time I need help. It wasn't about obligation at all. My heart just wanted to do it. I trust them and love them, and I wanted them to have a tangible reminder of my love. Suddenly I realized that this is exactly the motivation God wants for my works. At great cost to Himself, He gave me salvation and reconciled me to Himself asking nothing on my part. My works should be done out of love for Him, with a desire that He see that love. No paybacks. No guilt or obligation. Just love. A relationship where we both desire to delight each other for no other reason than to delight each other.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

To My Precious Blonde Boy


I continue to feel badly that your birthday gets lost in the end-of-year shuffle every year. I'm thankful that we homeschool since having all three of you in school with activities and such would really make it hard to celebrate. I certainly have enough reasons to rejoice over the day you were born! You are such a delight to me. I love talking to you and seeing the energy and excitement on your face when you tell me something. I can hardly resist your creativity and your imagination. I hope that the way I celebrate having you every day helps make up a little for the way I tend to lose track of your special day each year. At least this year you didn't have to wait until December to have your birthday!

Ah, Stephen! Looking at old pictures of you brings back so many memories. You were such a fun baby and little boy! We never knew what new thing you would become, you dressed up so much. You were always surprising us with your mood too, and even now you can go from storm clouds to sunshine or the other way in a flash.

I feel sorry sometimes that you have inheirited some of my worst traits, but on the other hand, they come with so many wonderful strengths. You are a loyal friend, and it astounds me how long you and Matthias have been best buds. You are very sensitive to the feelings other people have, and you try to comfort them. You are always creating, lost in your own imaginary world.

One thing that amazes me is how you have changed. You used to be so bothered by little things--the texture of foods, sand on your feet, being hungry or tired. Now you tend to roll with the flow more. Of course, when you become emotional, it is hard to get you to calm down and think it through, but fortunately you can also be gracious and forgiving, and you like to be at peace with those around you.

You are still such a tough guy. You have always been the stereotypical boy--loving cars, balls, and "manly" things. You still love to be flying down the street on your bike or skateboard, and you are pretty daring. I think you have enough scars now that your modeling career is pretty much trashed, but you told me today (when you cut your head) that you'd rather have scars than stitches.

It's kind of funny watching you begin to grow into your own person. Lately you have developed a love for camera work, especially video and animation. You are quite a good artist, and you love to draw. You have decided you want to grow your hair out, which I have agreed to let you do.
You can't stand being cooped up all day inside, and you need to move frequently.

Stephen I love you so much. I'm so grateful that God chose to make me your mom. You might be the middle child, but your value and worth are certainly not less because of that. Please know that I love you and that I am eagerly awaiting to see how God continues to mold and shape you.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Love, Mom

Convention Encouragement

One thing I forgot to mention was a great blessing the Lord gave my friend and I at the convention last weekend. She was invited to have coffee with author Sally Clarkson, and she very graciously invited me to come along. I tried hard to think of those difficult questions I always have--the ones I just want someone to give me advice on, but none of them came to me. Instead, we just shared our stories, the things we find hard in daily life, and Sally encouraged this friend and I who share the reality of life being hard even though our challenges are different in many ways. I'm dying now to get into some of Sally's books, and maybe even to do her new video series "Seasons of a Mother's Heart." She has incredible wisdom to share, and great compassion for the difficulties and suffering that we experience in the fallen world.

Check out the intro to this series here:

Watch Out Copola! There's a New Director in Town!

Last week the boys and I went to the two-day state homeschool convention in Orlando. (Thanks Mom!) Josh attended a teen conference run by Summit Ministries. I was eager for him to go and hear teaching on worldviews done by some of the most respected trainers of teens in the country. Stephen and AJ went with me to the convention, but the second day AJ decided to stay with the friends we spent the weekend with and play with their kids. Stephen and I had so much fun looking at stuff together, but I knew I was in trouble when he found a stop-motion video animation kit. It came with the camera for the computer and a very complete manual for a very economical price.

I ended up splitting the cost with him, and he made his first video today. He has already added narration and is hoping to add sound effects, but I need to help him do a little more research to be able to post the Windows Movie Maker version here. It is my hope that this summer he will begin learning more about movie-making. Several weeks ago he bought a low-end video/digital camera with money he had saved, and I'm beginning to think that with his interest in artwork and video, he has found a creative hobby that he could pursue further.

Notice that his video includes lots of car chases and fights. And yes, Doc Ock's head and hair did come off at the end. You'll probably see much more of this kind of stuff!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Economic Power of the Church

I had several interesting conversations last weekend while I visited with friends--things I have thought about for a long time now, but have been unsure how to communicate. As I put these several conversations together, I realized that I think the universal church fails to realize both its potential and its mission when it comes to economic power. Too often we concentrate on using our dollar to try to influence the world to be something it's not, and we neglect using our dollars to build what is eternal.

I often get e-mails encouraging me to boycott this company or that because of their stand against a moral issue or their support of an immoral one. I am not against boycotting per se, I just am not sure it always does what is intended. When it is used carelessly or too frequently, I fear we Christians turn ourselves into just another political cause instead of people called to live life differently and to make lasting changes in our culture. I am concerned about our testimony to the world when we expect it to believe and live as anything other than the spiritually dead, fallen reprobates that they are (and which we all were!). Even if we compelled unbelievers to live moral lives, they would still be just as immoral inside, and in fact might be farther away from seeing how much they need to be saved from themselves. If we expect them to live by the law, and they do, why do they need Jesus? Isn't it in fact greater evidence for the global need of a different way that every free culture, regardless of their form of government, religion, or philosophy, has ended up leaving its individuals, families, and economy (and nearly everything else) a broken mess? While I am not at all saying that as believers we should be silent about what scripture teaches or watch indifferently as the world steadfastly marches itself into destruction, I'm not always sure that using worldly methods like boycotts and petitions is the most effective way of causing change.

Don't misunderstand me, we are supposed to be causing change in our culture. But as I look at scripture and church history, it seems to me that change was brought about personally, deliberately, and sacrificially. The early church rocked Roman culture by caring for widowsm rescuing orphans, and worshipping God at great personal cost. Revival was brought about by individuals leaving the comforts of their homes and living as friends among native cultures, imitating more of their ways than criticizing or correcting them. Christianity is sweeping China because of the determination of believers to worship the living God even if they cannot sway their government to allow it. Part of the disadvantage of living in an extremely wealthy, techno-informational age is that I can transfer a little money by computer to my favorite charity, return to my cyber-game (or blog . . . heh), and feel good that I've done something to make the world a better place. I can pass along a handful of critical chain letters and petitions no one will really ever see by e-mail, and make myself feel like I've engaged the culture. The truth is, culture is at my front door, waiting for me to open up and let them into my messy life that has found hope in Jesus.

We don't have to go half-way around the world to impact it for Christ. Churches are filled with widows longing to invest the wisdom they have learned through suffering in the next generation of believers but are hindered in doing so because they are forced economically into the busy pace of the workplace. Fatherless children become virtual orphans as their already exhausted mothers work all day to provide financially and all night to provide everything else. How many times have I moaned and complained about my "difficult" life while standing next to someone who wonders how they will even make it through the next day, much less the next week? Even within our churches, culture is waiting at the door. To spread the kingdom of God throughout the world, we should be giving them snapshots of the difference He makes in our relationships, finances, families, etc. instead of giving them lectures of how to be good.

And I'm back to our economic power. We willingly give money to spread the Gospel to a few Muslim souls at a time but send single moms back to work and their children to the influence of government schools and child care. (Sorry to keep banging this one on the head, but it's a soft-spot for me!) We compassionately share to provide abused orphans secure homes, leaving recent widows struggling through grief and lonliness alone once the funeral is over and life resumes. We buy ourselves more Christian self-help books, when helping ourselves might best be done by cleaning house for elderly couples, taking time to help provide care for belivers in retirement homes and hospitals, and taking bags of groceries to the family who just lost their job. We have to begin bringing the broken, hurting believer right next to us in the pew into our lives and families. Then we should look for ways to do it all over again for the rest of the world.

I know that part of what holds us back is the monumental cost that seems to linger under caring for so many needs, but all we really need is a lot or prayer, a bit of creativity and a willingness to show grace and love. Hire the widow to provide housecleaning or daycare for your children instead of outsourcing that. Teach the single mother to perform a job she can do from home, or mentor her as she starts her own business. Invite a fatherless boy over to help with chores, then go to his house and help him do them there. Pay a little more for services that keep mothers of school-age children at home so they can be at home to share the Gospel throughout the day with their kids. And begin trusting that as we use what we have wisely, God will pour out on us the means to do even more. We have to stop forcing worldly models for resolving circumstances upon believers (which typically hinder relationships instead of nurturing them), and instead allow grace and show support to one another for the unique vision God gives each of us. Those of us who feel called to live simple lives at home should find ways to use that to serve those of us who are called to the workplace, trusting that God is working to perfect all of us according to His Word. And we need to stop clinging to the Gospel as all our own, and see the work of Christ for the kingdom-expanding work that it is.

Claim everything for the king! And use everything we have to claim it! Until He comes again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Still Miss You, Mom.

I was so young when I lost my mother, just 27. It seems so long ago now. I don't grieve the way many people do--don't visit cemeteries much, don't linger over old photos (kind of weird for a photographer, I know), and for a story-teller, I don't even tell my stories much. I guess my grieving is done deep inside me over a very long period of time. Maybe that's why I stay such a mess . . . why it is taking me so long to heal from all the disappointments and losses in my life.

I miss my mom. I wish she was here to talk to about all the hard stuff. She was always there to listen. Sometimes I think I'm making a mess of my life (Yes, Eva, I know. There's no plan B.), but one thing I love about what she taught me: how to put relationships first. She was so great at that. Sure, she probably drove some of her friends nuts with her type A intense personality, but I remember how much she invested of herself in those around her. Even her perfectionism was aimed at making others comfortable (although raking the shag carpet never did much for me).

I miss hearing my mom read to me. She read to my sister and I long after we could read to ourselves--The Chronicles of Narnia, A Bear Called Paddington, Pippi Longstocking. I tell people now that when I look back, I realize that I was government-schooled AND I was homeschooled. My mom just couldn't stop being a teacher, or a learner, just because we weren't in a classroom.

Mom died just as I became a new mom. I am confident God knew what He was doing, but it has never made much sense to me. Just when I needed someone to tell me how to be a mom, she was gone. Even though I don't think about it much, I still feel like I need her today. I wonder if she would have been proud of what I've done, trying to stay home with my boys like she did with us, trying to take responsibility for raising them and teaching them and loving them. God has faithfully provided me lots of other "moms," some very wonderful and close, but just as one of them told me none have taken her place.

I know that heaven should comfort me, but right now, while I'm here and she's there and I can't see heaven's beauty or know the depth of connection and belonging there, I don't feel enough comfort. I realized that there she won't be my mom, though I think that perhaps that I will feel equally connected to everyone. Am I confusing you? Good, because I don't understand it. Suffice it to say, right now knowing that I will see her again doesn't completely comfort me. I just want my mom here and now, and I'll never have that again.

Ugghhh. I sound like I'm drowning in sadness, but actually I'm grateful. I loved my mom, and I know she loved me. She was my dearest and best friend. So much of what I beleive and love has been impacted by her that I miss not being able to share it with her. At the same time, as I write I realize how much grief I still have over her absence in my life.

I miss you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm SO Not Ready for Teenage Girls!

Today was a first . . . another first . . . and where I was eager for them when the boys were small, I'm not so thrilled with them now. Josh was asked over to a girl friend's house to "hang out." Now we've had playdates with girls before, but this was NOT a playdate. After quickly saying yes, I realized that I needed a little more info. Were her parents home? Or someone to supervise? What did they plan on doing? And so on. I had to have "a talk" with Josh about what was appropriate and what was not, because all the rules have changed now. And although he said he knew all of it, I still feel a bit uncomfortable with this whole realm of hormones and attractions, as well as with how planned out teen girls are compared to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of boys. Mind you, this was not a "date" nor do I think that he and this girl are interested in each other except as friends, but still . . . the potential is now always there. And I've found myself going through moments of panic this afternoon wondering what I don't know yet. Ugh.

They called a few minutes ago, well . . . actually she called (of course) and want me to meet them at Starbuck's to hang out for a while. Guess they still have stuff to discuss. Hmmm . . . this IS kind of funny. And as I consider this . . . there is so much room for fun at my son's expense! I'm going for an hour. Cinnamon Buns!!! Leaving my little boys was so much easier--all I had to do was find a sitter! Now the sitters are the ones with my son, so I have to do the chaperoning!!! Isn't there something I can give Josh to prevent this disease just a little longer?

I really need to find a husband to help me with this.

Yes. More from Me.

Just what I need! A new blog!

After considering the advice from a friend, I have started a new blog: for movie reviews . I will be posting my reviews here as I watch DVD's and movies, TV shows, and the like. Maybe I'll even have some "guest" reviewers (ages 13 and 10--not sure I should have the 8-year-old reviewing yet). My hope is to provide the common man's (or woman's) Chrisitian view on media. I really hate trying to find reviews that take a parent's opinion into account. They either are too picky (understandably, since they are providing everything for consideration) or too approving. So here's my humble take on what's out there.

More Play Stuff

OK. More photos from the play.

I have received lots of compliments on Josh's performance. Quite a few of my friends who know him well have expressed surprise over his ability to deliver such a commanding presence. Not that I'm surprised--he commands a lot around here! (Sometimes when he should be asking instead!)

The interesting twist to his exposure to all of this is that he has asked to go the the Christian academy at our church next year. It would be the last year that he is able to go (they only have grades through Jr. High). We are seeking out the possibility, and praying about it. For now it doesn't look likely--the 8th grade class is full right now, and unless I get a lot of financial help I can't afford it--but I keep telling him that if that is where God wants him, nothing will stand in our way. Please keep us in your prayers as we explore that option. I'm content with either direction--Josh being in school would free things up here a bit so I could work more with the younger two, and would get us on more of a schedule. Him being home is great too since I kind of know in my head what direction I want to take for next year with him.

Sola deo gloria!

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream

What I wish I was having.

Actually, it was the play Josh was in tonight. It was a version edited for Jr. High production, and was very cute. It was also a very difficult play, because it used much of the original Shakespeare. Josh played Oberon, king of the fairies. He was quite good, and really shined in this new venue he loves so much.

Oberon, the king of the fairies, looks for an opportunity to teach Titania, his queen a lesson.

Oberon overhears a conversation between the couple Lysander and Hermia, and Helena.

An attempt to help the mortals in love has gone horribly wrong, so Oberon straightens it all out.

Oberon sets things right with his queen too.

So Exhausted I Can't Sleep

OK. I was in bed. Early for me! It's now 2 am, and I was sort of asleep. The boys were winding down from a whirlwind day watching a movie beside me, but I couldn't make it, and was dozing a half hour into it. But I just woke up feeling a bit queasy and achy. I'm having some anxiety issues again, and I think I've tracked it down to way too much coke and chocolate, fast food (even the at-home kind), and a lack of quiet time with God. I got up to have some saltines and move a bit (usually that helps), and now I'm not sleepy any longer, but I'm dead tired.

This week has been crazy! We're heading into that time of year anyway, but this week Josh is in a play, so we've had final rehearsals on top of our normal activities, cleaning, school, and everything else. The director had an unexpected curve-ball thrown at her today when the main mom helping her with details had a family emergency, so the school called me and asked if I could help. Being the no-inhibited woman I am, I said yes, and we headed out the door at 11 am, not to return until 11 pm. I discovered today that I'm getting too old for long days like this. I don't think we'll go anywhere next week (except maybe to bed).

I'm tired. And I can't sleep.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm a Family Manager!

I'm reading this really great book called Desperate Households. It is a very different perspective on homemaking. Instead of offering a cookie-cutter method to foolproof cleaning, cooking and schduling, this book began by encouraging me to look at my own style. I have always struggled with domestic skills. I want to have an orderly house, to have meals on the table on time, to have chores done regularly, but I just have a hard time giving up my impulsiveness and remembering to DO those things. For years I've beaten myself up for not being disciplined enough, for not finding the system that works, for being myself instead of what I wanted to be. Finally, I'm free from guilt over all that!

Before beginning to make significant changes in the way I approach domestic skills, I have started looking at my style and my priorities. So today I answered these questions:

Why does our family exist?
To glorify God and to expand His kingdom to our children and descendants, and beyond our family into the world. (I really pondered whether I really believe this, or just know it's the "right" answer. I decided I do really believe it, even if living it out has been off track for a while now.)

What are we trying to accomplish?
We are trying to nurture our own relationships with God so that we can each personally glorify and enjoy Him. We are also preparing for and seeking ways to help others develop and enjoy relationships with Him. Accomplishing this includes education, life training, learning scripture, developing holy habits, guarding ourselves against ungodly influences, investing ourselves in each other and in others beyond our family, learning to serve, learning to think about the things that influence us biblically.

What do we stand for; what is the heart and soul of our family, the beliefs upon which we make decisions and take actions?
We believe that God is the sovereign Creator who deserves to be worshipped by everything. We believe that the family is a microcosm of the kingdom composed of God’s elect people, and that the family is the training ground to prepare us for living with the family of God’s people. We believe that the quality of life together is determined by the kind of relationships we have with each other—whether we can enjoy one another and live lives which show love for one another. We believe that God has a plan for us as a family and as individuals, and that He wants us to know and follow His plan for our benefit and His glory, so that we come to know and trust Him better, and reflect that trust in our relationships with each other.

What is our basic approach to achieving our purpose?
Being together and doing things together as much as possible. Where we do things individually or explore individual interests, we gather together again to share those things with each other. Also our family is not closed to others, but looks for ways to bring others in and love and include them as we love each other.

What is the overarching purpose I have as Family Manager?
Coordinating the interests, activities and habits of each family member so that being together is enjoyable and productive. Creating a peaceful environment that nurtures each member and enables them to thrive and grow. Pointing each member to God as the purpose and reason for everything we do.

What would I like my family to say about me when I’m gone? (Specific traits and descriptions)
Still working on this one.

What is really important to me? (List)
Relationships with other people
Remembering people
Making decisions and living life according to what God’s Word teaches
Thinking about things, and not just accepting whatever someone says.
Figuring out and enjoying how the people I love tick.
Enjoying the ways God made us unique
Learning new things
Being free to do the unexpected/Spontaneity
Making people feel loved
Liking your family
Maintaining peace

If I know I only had a year to live, how would I spend my time, and what would I change about the way I run my home and life?
I would get rid of a lot of stuff.
I would spend more time doing fun things with the boys that are memorable and productive.
I would spend a lot of time writing down the things I've learned.
I'd write more notes to the people I love.
I'd scrapbook like crazy.
I'd go out to lunch and for coffee more with friends.
I'd simplify the "work" part of life so I could do it as little as possible.
I'd quit feeling guilty about staying up late with the boys, even when we sleep a little later too.
I'd take time to enjoy each season with all it's changes.
I'd get rid of unnecessary expenses.
I'd smile and laugh a lot more and frown and fuss a lot less.
I'd start dreaming aloud about what heaven will be like.

The next thing I have to do is go from here to writing a mission statement. Oh boy. Like I have the brevity of words for that!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And Then There's Josh . . .

OK, I've just gotta brag on my teenager today.

We are at the beginning of a crazy week. We are taking care of four young children all day for some friends. Today and tomorrow we also had our regular little girl (but only one of the four--the cranky teething baby!). I thought this week was Spring Break, so no cleaning, but I was wrong, so we still have our cleaning and most of our "usual" activities this week. Today was Scout day with back-to-back scout meetings. I honestly didn't know how I would even start cleaning before 8 pm.

But JOSH decided to stay at the church for his play rehearsal (even though he didn't have to be there today), and then to go ahead and start cleaning for us afterward until I could get up there to help. By the time we did get there, he had finished more than half the work. I had maybe an hour's worth to do, and the other boys had nothing. Who is this masked hero? Is this the guy whose secret identity is a couch potato? Hmmmm . . . must be something in the water. I gotta get me some of that water.

Monday, March 24, 2008

One More Book Down

I'd better get to work or plan on reading like crazy this summer!

I did finish one more of the books on my list with AJ. We read The Velveteen Rabbit. I knew he'd really like this story. He has a stuffed rabbit that his grandad gave him. It has seen a lot of action over the years, and I occasionally have referenced it "becoming real." After we finished the book, which AJ really loved, he immediately found his rabbit and carried it around for days.

Anyway, I can knock another one off my list. Now to get to work on some of the longer books!

To My "Baby" Boy:


You aren't a baby anymore. Still, sometimes I am so glad that you occasionally delight in things appropriate for your age. You still love Webkinz and Build-a-Bear. You are still content to play with the little superhero figures that look cute. And I realized tonight that Monopoly is your favorite game. Your jokes are still silly, and your conversation when your brothers aren't around is delightfully immature, and I'm relieved. It's just that you have no idea how much older than you your brothers really are, and you try so hard, so often to be like them. I don't want you to lose these years of being a little boy.

I can't believe all you are doing. Someone told me today how much they enjoyed hearing you talk about the work we are doing each day at the church. You were telling her how hard you have to work, and how fast. It always amazes me how when it's just you and me, you manage to get it done even more quickly, and to do Stephen's jobs too! Of course, it frustrates you that I don't give you as many choices in jobs as your brothers, but I suppose you really can't understand that you are just not as reliable in vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms yet. This year you have learned to add big numbers, read unusual words, ride your bike, take care of your dog, count your allowance and determine if you have enough for a purchase, and so much more! Your favorite place is outside in the back yard, or your bedroom listening to "Hank, the Cowdog" or "Junie B. Jones" stories. It tickles me that your favorite fictional characters: Junie B., Hank, Curious George, and Fudge, are all just like you!

I've worried about you this year. I especially worried about your reading. When you were evaluated last year, the teacher placed you a year behind in reading and suggested I hold you back. That seemed silly to me since we were homeschooling, so I started investigating what might be preventing you from learning better. You have been diagnosed with ADHD and the Physician's Assistant also detected some potential auditory processing problems. In spite of all that, you have progressed in reading, and although you are still slow, you are able to read real books now, as well as food labels, signs, magazine covers, and lots more things I don't really want you to read! You love to be read to, but I'm afraid I don't do it enough. I have tried to pick out some "classic" kids books that I think you would like--Charlotte's Web, Mr. Popper's Penguins, various classic picture books, and others, and you have enjoyed them all. Right now we are reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Your friendships still tend to be with your brothers' friends. I have tried to encourage you to play with other boys your own age, but you aren't that interested. Not that you don't enjoy time with boys your age, you just don't yearn for it or consider it often. I figure in time, God will bring into your life a special friend mostly your own.

One of my favorite things about you is your very tender heart. You love people--really love people. You easily see their needs and are quick to pray for them or devise a way to help them. One of the hardest things to teach you has been to wait and ask if you can help, because often your "help" doesn't take into consideration the potential complications it brings to the "helpee." Nevertheless, you have a real gift for ministry, and I love that you are so tender to people.

It is hard to believe you are eight today. You have grown so much. I was watching you sleep last night and thinking how long your legs are. When did they get like that? If Stephen doesn't go through a growth spurt soon, I'm afraid you will catch him in size! Oh, my sweet boy! It is such a privelege to be your mom and to teach you so much. I can't imagine life without you and am grateful for every long day of listening to you chatter on about your interests! I love you so much. I hope you had a wonderful birthday, and I can't wait to see what God is going to do with you this year.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Eight Years Ago . . . .

Eight years ago today, I was about to head for the hospital. Andrew was a couple weeks early, but my water broke anyway. Even though there was no labor, the OB nurse wanted me to get checked out at the hospital. So we went. I was miserable all night. AJ hadn't even dropped all the way, so they wouldn't let me out of bed to prevent the cord from prolapsing. The fetal heart monitor would move every time I did, and a nurse would come in a harrass me to find the heartbeat again. Finally, very early in the morning, the doctor approved me getting up and walking. I hadn't been back in bed an hour when the nurse came in again to harrass me, only this time she couldn't find AJ's heartbeat. Quick decisions were made, and I ended up in the OR; AJ was delivered by emergency C-section. I don't even remember much from that day--except being very irratated that I couldn't see my baby all day (they had trouble getting his temperature up, and I was chained to the stupid bed). I joke that AJ almost killed me (I was bleeding internally and he wasn't getting enough blood).

A friend and I were just musing that our kids have all come into the world in ways consistent with their personalities. Josh was slow and late and took his time, but was very little trouble. Stephen was in a hurry, but came like clockwork. AJ came dangerously and caused a lot more trouble than the others. He has been very worth all the trouble he caused then, and all he's called since then. He brings so much adventure and fun into our lives.

Tomorrow he will be eight. What happened to my baby? Where did he go?

So Much More Than School

I've been beating myself up over school a lot lately. This year our academic efforts aren't going that well. I feel like we're not getting done all I had expected . . . all I had wanted. Then occasionally, I realize how much more my kids are learning by being home with me.

Did I mention we are working now? We are cleaning classrooms at the academy our church runs. It's a tough five-day a week job, but it only takes a couple hours a day if we all pitch in. It was such a blessing to get the job, and it came at a time when I really needed the money. I was really fighting worry over how to pay the bills (still am, but not as much). The great thing is that I pay the boys to help me. I have a pay schedule where they get a certain amount for different jobs. It gives them the opportunity to work different jobs on different days, and to decide whether they really want to work hard to earn a little more or just to get by with minimal work. It also has put them on someone else's schedule, and we have to do this every day whether we feel like it or not. They also don't get paid if I go back and check their work and it's not done correctly, so they are doing a very thorough job. I realized that they won't be teenagers or young men who go to work and don't have a clue how to mop a floor or clean a bathroom, and resent being told what to do by a boss.

We are also still keeping kids a bit. One of my greatest delights is to see my teenager sitting in a corner at a Scout function or at church carrying on a real conversation with a preschooler, or a little kid. He never looks bored with the conversation. He also carries on conversations with grown-ups--more than the obligatory grunts and nods--of course, it's better if that grown up knows a little about Marvel superheroes (Right, Bill?). They are also learning to care for little ones. Often they make our little girl lunch, or help entertain her. Will they be better daddies because of doing this? I hope so.

The one thing I'm not doing so well at is focusing their hearts and minds on God's involvement in our day, and yet I wonder if I'm doing more than I realize. They have prayed with me for income, for the ability to continue homeschooling, for others we love, and they have seen answers.

Anyway, I'm just reminded again that they are learning, even from my failures. They aren't just schooling for the idol of career or success, they are schooling for real life. And I'm reminded that whatever I do wrong, God is soveriegn, and will teach them everything else they need to know. That is where my real hope is.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Yes, even teenagers can say funny things!

"Coroboration: making the truth fit your story. I know that big work 'cause I learned Logic."

He said it with a smile, so I knew there was some humor injected into his "definition."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What Happened to My Little Boy?

What do you do when you realize your little boy is growing up to be a man? I'm not sure. In fact, I don't know if I'll ever figure it out.
June 2005

September 2005

November 2005

January 2006

June 2006

August 2006

December 2006

March 2007

September 2007

November 2007

This weekend, Josh went to the Junior High Mid-Winter Retreat with our church. It was a strange feeling dropping him off. I had done nothing. He packed all of his own things. He made sure I filled out the forms in time. He made sure all of the payments and spending money were taken care of. He did it all. When did it happen? When did my boy grow up?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blessings: God's Answer for a Difficult Life

Psalm 127
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat--
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Psalms 127:1-5 (NIV)

I was just sharing with a friend how this Psalm hit me in a moment of anxiety and stress. I was struck by the progression in it, particularly from the vanity of frantic working, toiling, and going without sleep in an attempt to handle the difficulty of life. Then came the answer—God’s answer: children. Although a number of my friends had urged me to use my little blessings more extensively, it wasn’t until I saw it in this Psalm that I resolved to really hold the boys up to higher expectations of helping around the house (and around life!).

Tonight I went through some commentaries to see if any of the wise men I respect noticed the same thing. I found some interesting and even humorous things in Adam Clarke’s 19th century commentary.

This Psalm may be entitled, "The Soliloquy of the happy Householder: - The
poor man with a large loving family, and in annual expectation of an increase,
because his wife, under the Divine blessing, is fruitful." All are blessed of
the Lord, and his hand is invariably upon them for good.
—Adam Clarke's Commentary

This is his summary. Read on for some of the particulars that I liked.

Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord - That is, To many God gives children in
place of temporal good. To many others he gives houses, lands, and thousands of
gold and silver, and with them the womb that beareth not; and these are their
inheritance. The poor man has from God a number of children, without lands or
money; these are his inheritance; and God shows himself their father, feeding
and supporting them by a chain of miraculous providences. Where is the poor man
who would give up his six children, with the prospect of having more, for the
thousands or millions of him who is the center of his own existence, and has
neither root nor branch but his forlorn solitary self upon the face of the
earth? Let the fruitful family, however poor, lay this to heart; "Children are a
heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward." And he who gave
them will feed them; for it is a fact, and the maxim formed on it has never
failed, "Wherever God sends mouths, he sends meat." "Murmur not," said an Arab
to his friend, "because thy family is large; know that it is for their sakes
that God feeds thee." —Adam Clarke's Commentary

Kind of cute since my best friend happens to have six children. What a rich couple she and her husband are!!! I also love that he seems to agree with my crazy idea that God will feed my boys and I through “a chain of miraculous providences.” Some of those providences might include different types of work, some might include the generosity and love of others, and who knows? Sometimes it might be manna from heaven or flour and oil that never seems to run out!

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them - This is generally supposed
to mean his house full of children, as his quiver if full of arrows; but I
submit whether it be not more congenial to the metaphors in the text to consider
it as applying to the wife: "Happy is the man who has a breeding or fruitful
wife;" this is the gravida sagittis pharetra "the quiver pregnant with arrows."
But it may be thought the metaphor is not natural. I think otherwise: and I know
it to be in the Jewish style, and the style of the times of the captivity, when
this Psalm was written—Adam Clarke's Commentary

I LOVE it!!! I know a breeding, fruitful wife, and even though she’s a bit fruity at times, her husband IS a blessed man!

With the enemies in the gate. - "When he shall contend with his adversaries in
the gate of the house of judgment." - Targum. The reference is either to courts
of justice, which were held at the gates of cities, or to robbers who endeavor
to force their way into a house to spoil the inhabitants of their goods. In the
first case a man falsely accused, who has a numerous family, has as many
witnesses in his behalf as he has children. And in the second case he is not
afraid of marauders, because his house is well defended by his active and
vigorous sons. It is, I believe, to this last that the psalmist refers.

Heh, heh, heh. Don’t I know all about this! People comment that I don’t have to fear a burglar because of the German Shepherd guarding our house. Forget the dog! Look out for my little "virgorous and active sons!" They spend HOURS a day practicing the use of their weapons, and would LOVE to practice on living human subjects of the bad-guy kind!

Anyway, these are just thoughts from me. I do love this Psalm. It’s interesting how in our culture we’ve inverted the role of children to being our burden instead of relieving our burden.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review-The Tiger Rising

The Tiger Rising has much of the same flavor as Bridge Over Terebithia. Both focus on children wrestling in contrasting ways with the limitations of their power over their circumstances, and with the decisions of the adults in their lives. Both are stories of redemption. And both stories are expertly crafted to keep the reader's interest, and to explore deeper concepts without compromising a good story.

Ever since the death of his mother, loner Rob Horton is a boy with a lot bottled up inside him. The concurrent discovery of a caged tiger and the aquisition of a new friend begin his journey into the pain of loss and bittersweet memories. His new friend, Sistine Bailey also carries a lot of emotional weight after the divorce of her parents, resulting in separation from her dad. Instead of bottling it up, Sistine is angry at everything, fighting the world. As the two wrestle with the choice of freeing the tiger, they also wrestle with the decisions of freeing their emotions so they can reconcile them. Both of these decisions will lead either to healing or to sealing their emotions inside forever.

I love books with great symbolism--I love to peel back the layers and look for more than the obvious story--and although The Tiger Rising is a quick read, it is rich in depth. True to her other novels, Kate DiCamillo writes vividly, a real treat for me since I live in the region she describes so well. The only objections some might have is the occurence of two uses of the Lord's name in vain. Other than that, there is no mention of faith in this book positively or negatively. I have an idea of writing a literature study to go with this book for children. This novel is appropriate for older elementary students through junior high. It is a great book to use to teach kids about the appropriate dealing with emotions.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Such Tender Memories . . .

OK, book number two read. AJ and I read How Fletcher Was Hatched together today. It's just a simple, old-fashioned story about a dog who feels neglected by his mistress. His friends, an otter and a beaver decide to help him compete with the cute little chicks stealing his attention by building an egg around him. It's nothing flashy, no aspirations of political correctness, just a sweet kids story that I must have read a million times when I was a kid. (Every illustration was etched on my memory as if I had read the book yesterday--it was fun walking through familiar territory!)

So we read the book . . . and I said with a sigh, "I loved this book when I was a kid!"

AJ responded: "Sure mom. Whatever. I'll be outside."

Ah, what treasured memories. (Can you feel the cynicism?) At least I can count another book on my 888 List.

One Down, Fifty-nine to Go!

Today I finished The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo. I'll post a review on it later and link it to my 888 list. It was a great book, and an easy read--a great starting place for my challenge. I'm also planning on reading one to AJ today, so by the end of the day, hopefully I'll be down two!!!

I'll probably do great until I start hitting books I haven't started yet. Therein the challenge really lies!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My 888 List

OK. I've stayed up way too late to do this, but I have my list. Note that it is subject to change on a whim, as I find NEW books to add to it.

8 Books I’d Like to Finish

  1. A Chance to Die (Elliot)
  2. Smart Organizing DONE!
  3. A House for My Name
  4. Peacemaking for Families
  5. Homeschooling the Challenging Child DONE!
  6. Age of Opportunity
  7. Women in the Material World
  8. The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo) DONE!

8 Books by Some of My Favorite Authors

  1. Number the Stars (Lowry)
  2. The Silent Boy (Lowry)
  3. Redeeming Love (Rivers)
  4. The Shofar Blew (Rivers)
  5. Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman (Ortland)
  6. Surprised by Joy (Lewis)
  7. Calico Captive (Speare)
  8. The Tiger Rising (DiCamillo) DONE!

8 Christian Classics (or Destined to Be Classics)

  1. Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life (Whitall Smith)
  2. The Practice of Godliness (Bridges)
  3. The Everlasting (Chesterton)
  4. Orthodoxy (Chesterton)
  5. Let the Nations Be Glad (Piper)
  6. Till We Have Faces (Lewis)
  7. Experiencing God (Blackaby)
  8. Absolute Surrender (Murray)

8 Fiction Books

  1. The Shofar Blew
  2. Fahrenheit 451
  3. Island of the Blue Dolphin
  4. Calico Captive
  5. Across Five Aprils
  6. The Hedge of Thorns
  7. Carry On, Captain Bowditch! DONE!
  8. Sarah, Plain and Tall

8 Books to Make Me a Better Teacher

  1. I Wanna Take Me a Picture
  2. Future Men (Wilson)
  3. Teach Them Dilligently: How to Use Scriptures in Child Training
  4. Minds of Boys
  5. Piecing Together the Highschool Puzzle (Mastrioncola) DONE!
  6. Shaping the Man Inside Teenage Boys (Beausay)
  7. You Can Teach Your Child Successfully (Beechick)
  8. When the Brain Can’t Hear DONE!

8 Books to Read with My Boys

  1. Duncan’s War (Bond)
  2. Tuck Everlasting DONE!
  3. Boy (Dahl) DONE!
  4. The Three Musketeers
  5. The Giant Killer
  6. Who Put the Skunk in the Trunk?: Learning to Laugh When Life Stinks
  7. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever DONE!
  8. Boyhood and Beyond

8 Books I Loved That I Want to Read to My Youngest Son

  1. How Fletcher Was Hatched DONE!
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  3. Prince Caspian
  4. Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  5. Blueberries for Sal DONE!
  6. Little House in the Big Woods
  7. The Velveteen Rabbit DONE!
  8. Amelia Bedelia DONE!

8 Working on Me (a little)

  1. The Heart of Anger
  2. The Universe Next Door
  3. The Power of Words
  4. Desperate Households
  5. How to Win Over Depression
  6. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
  7. Idols of the Heart, Learning to Long for God Alone
  8. Smart Organizing DONE!