Saturday, January 30, 2010

Muffin Tin School

My oldest boys are both "doing school" with me this year at home. They are 7 and 5 and most of our work spans the kindergarten through 2nd grade range. We regularly cover Bible, math, grammar, handwriting, history, science and geography and when we remember I have them practice piano.

This year marks the beginning, in my mind, of buckling down and doing school more than we don't do school, if that makes sense. And while that may seem like a long list of subjects to tackle each day, I'm thankful to say that it really doesn't take up very much time each day... most of the time.

When the boys were a little younger and I was just beginning to homeschool I envisioned our school day as a morning of activities that could be adjusted to include all of the little people in our home. I guess when the boys were younger there were less little people. And so that's how we did it.

Circle Time together.
History and science read alouds.
A little coloring and a little singing.

But now, as we begin to enter into a different season, I can see my childrens' abilities and interests begin to span a much wider range. We have those who are in school and those who are clearly pre-school.

Both groups need their mommy but in very different ways. It's been a difficult beam to balance as I adjust to the necessary changes that we've made in our day so that more of me is being spread around to those who need it.

Circle Time together is followed by a short session of School Time for the boys while the younger kids play with something special in their own spaces nearby... We are now saving our big chunk of school work for the afternoons when the Littles are resting. That has been the biggest change. No more Rest Time for the big boys and... no more Rest Time for me.

Giving more sacrificially of what I've always considered "my time" has been a challenge but I think it's for the best.


Hmm. I guess I had a lot to say about how things have changed.


What I really came here to share is what my preschoolers do for their "school".

Here is a little activity that has been popular with Mercy and Josiah:

I've had this little bin of toys since Daniel, now 7, was 2 or 3.

Ceramic animals from years of buying Red Rose Tea make a fun sorting activity for Josiah.

Foam sea creatures are sorted by color and counted "one-two-free-foh".

And nuts. These are very popular among our little people. Don't you want your toddlers to recognize every available nut shell known to man in the Pacific Northwest?

I love this self directed, open-ended and occaisionally quiet activity that I can pull out for my preschoolers to do while I'm involved in something they can't readily participate in.

Ultimately, I realize that I can't be everything to each child all the time. Not in the realm of schooling. Even less so in terms of the development of their hearts and minds into godly men and women. I have to remind myself daily to do my best to love them in all of their different ages and stages and to rely on God to complete the fulfillment of their needs.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Welcome to yet another re-cap of a fun week spent on the east side o' the mountains.

After a busy Christmas time, a packed week of remodeling at home and a week of our new and improved school routine at home, Bob and I packed up our family and headed to Cheland to play. An especially exciting addition to this visit east was the anticipation of time with these friends!

This is what it looked like while we were there:

During the winter months, the lake level is quite a bit lower than in the busy summer boating season. A large sand bar emerges and the muddy expanse lends itself to a new kind of beachcombing.

We came with hopes of a little snow play. I was so happy to see that we didn't have to leave the resort for some of our sledding fun.

Mercy treks back up the hill...

Two buddies slide down...

And bite it at the bottom.

Cold and wet weather provided for fun indoor time too. Puzzles, legos, good books, afternoon pool time and several rounds of bingo complete with prizes (!!!) filled the kid portion of our evenings. What fun to be able to tuck in our kids and enjoy some grown up games and treats four nights in a row!

By the end of the week, Bob and I felt like we had been at a refreshing parenting conference. These friends of ours are in a very similar season of life... down to the minute sometimes. We are so thankful to be able to toss ideas and persue God's best for our families together.

Here are some smiling big boys...

And a sweet little boy.

Oh! And the Scavenger Hunt! I can't forget to talk about the Scavenger Hunt.

Here we are, listening as Bob explains the task of each team. I love what's going on in the big boy section of this picture... "I want to be on YOUR team!" It is so neat to watch friendships between these guys grow.

Each team hunted for beach type items... a small fluffy feather, a rock with a stripe in it, a walking stick. And Bob planted a few items ahead of time as well to add to the fun.

It was a cozy week full of the simple rhythms we have come to love for our vacation time; relaxed breakfasts, a morning outside, family lunch time and a nap, a group trip to the indoor pool, ending the day with a meal and a game or two.

We're back home again, schooling and playing and cleaning up and answering this question:

"Mommy, when are going to go to Cheland again?"

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All The Babies OR Mercy's Birthday Post

We have several babies in our home right now.

It's pretty clear to all the kids that James is a baby. And Josiah falls into that category I think as well. He's been described by the older children as the "bigger baby".

And although she doesn't consider herself to be a baby in actuality, Mercy pretends to be one about 75% of the time. She imitates baby speech, walks on her tip toes with her arms way out in front and swaddles herself in blankets. She tells me that her toddler bed is really a crib because there are sides on it so babies can't fall out. Sometimes she drools on purpose.

She walks around with her fingers in her mouth and answers questions with words like "Ma-Ma" and "Eh" or with the most recent sound James has made. When she initiates a conversation it usually begins like this:

"I wish I was a baby because..."

But a new day has come.

Well it came and went last Monday.

It was Mercy's 4th birthday.
And I'm going to do as much as I can to make being the "big girl" that she is seem like the most desirable age to be.

Already she and I have had several conversations about the special privileges of "big girls".
Mercy is going to practice using scissors and help put the soap in the laundry and cook with me more. She may even take a month or two of gymnastics.

All because she is a big girl now.

I'm hoping to curb the baby behavior on this end rather than to continue with the ineffective and somewhat confusing discussions about when it's okay to act like a baby.

And I'm also praying that I will model contentment. How often do I have to stop myself from saying "I wish..."? Whether or not I say it out loud, I know I'm often thinking "I wish..." or "If only..." or "Wouldn't it be better if..."

"Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment..." 1 Timothy 6:6

Happy 4th Birthday, Moose!

I love having you in my life, my shadow, my helper, my big girl!!


...can we come inside now?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Robots! Robots! Half time!

SO I* CAME HOME two days ago and Danny, Mikey, and Mercy were wandering about in a high state of excitement. After a few minutes they congregated at the little table (a kid-sized table) with paper, crayons, and scissors and began industriously working away. From the snatches of conversation I overheard it seemed they were making tickets. Soon, Daniel asked me for tape, so I obliged. He proceeded to make a large banner, of three sheets of paper, with the word RO BO T written across it.

At that point it was time for dinner, so all madness had to cease.

Following dinner and chores and etc. the activity began anew. It had became clear, by this point, that they were making preparations for a play they were going to put on. Which explains the tickets. And the sign near the kitchen table that said "chip bar," made by Mikey.

At this point I** was recruited to play the part of Zed the shepherd. (This perhaps needs a little explanation. Briefly: When the kids play make-believe Star Wars they all assign themselves (or are assigned by Daniel) parts to play. So, Daniel becomes (for example) Darth Vader. Mikey is Luke Skywalker. Mercy is Princess Leia. And Daniel asked me, once, "Who do you want to be, Daddy?" In a fit of goofiness, I proclaimed: "I'm Zed, the shepherd. What? There aren't any shepherds in Star Wars? They gotta eat, don't they? So they need farmers, and shepherds, right?" Hence, forevermore I am Zed when they play Star Wars. And, apparently, when they put on plays.) And Daniel wants me to practice with them. I see, to my surprise, that he has a whole script written out.

However, at this point I become embroiled in a marathon discipline session with Mercy so, despite Daniel's multiple requests, my practice has to wait until much later. When I'm finally able to join them, here's how it went:

Daniel first explains: "I'm Robo, and Michael is Robei." (Pronounced row-bee.)

Then he has us all get up on the fireplace, which is the stage. Then he begins, in a robot voice:
"Hello. We are Robots."

Then Mikey, in his robot voice: "We come to take over the world."

Then Daniel: "You're turn, Daddy."

So I comply, reading from the script, as Zed: "What do you mean, take over the world?"

Then Mikey and Danny, together: "You are about to die!"

Then - the Sound Off. Which, it turns out, is some kind of musical interlude that involves Danny, Mikey, and Mercy (if she can be persuaded) parading around the room chanting, "Robots! Robots!" until Danny decides that there has been enough, then he announces, "Half time!" (=intermission) whereupon we all remove ourselves to the chip bar, where there will be snacks during the performance the next day. Danny reminds us all: "Make sure to let the guests go first."

Then, after an appropriate half time, we return for the second act. It begins,

Danny: "Pistols out!"
Mikey: "It doesn't work!"
Me (as Zed): "Come on men. You're under arrest, Robots!"

And that's the end.

It was pretty awesome. Even more awesome was the fact that the next evening, after enough practice for both boys to memorize (!) their lines, we put on an actual performance (complete with actual snacks - it was hard to tear the boys away from them for the 2nd act) for Mommy, Josiah, James, and Grammy.

It was amazingly impressive - they made tickets, signs, Daniel wrote a script***, set up snacks, rehearsed many times, memorized their lines, and performed it. I'm still in awe.


**Still Bob.

***Here's the complete script. Front:
Robo: Hello. We are robots.
Robei: We come to take over the world.
Zed: What do you mean, take over the world?
Robo @ Robei: You are about to die!

I think the '@' is supposed to be an ampersand. Anyway, back:
Sound off: Robots, Robots! Half time!
Robo: Pistols out!
Robei: It dosen't work!!!??
Zed: Come on men. Your under arrest, Robots!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Waaaay back when...

Sometimes, I just need to be reminded of how things used to be.

Not that long ago.

These pictures were taken just about 4 years ago. Right after Mercy joined our two little boys.

Back then we had two toddler beds. We apparently used a baby monitor (it's in the piano picture) in the living room which is all of 10 feet from our baby room. I think I protected the kids' heads from the fireplace hearth with a giant body pillow.

Some things are the same.

Daniel still has Tee. He still wears that cape. Michael still drums and wants to be where his brother is most of the time. The jammies 18 month old Michael were wearing to bed are still here. Josiah is now zipped inside them for bed. We have a new baby in our home.

And Daddy still reads to everyone. All at once. There are just quite a few more who are looking for a spot in his lap.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Just a little something that Josiah has been doing that I want to remember... because it's funny when your child is afraid of something and obsesses about it.

Well not really. Not funny ha-ha.


We had to go ahead and watch the claymation Rudolph movie a week or so ago despite the proven fact that the " 'Bominable Snowman" will scare any child in our household between the ages of 1 and 4.

Or 1 and 7.

The older kids just won't admit they are scared.

Prior to the viewing of this movie, Josiah had begun to call pretty much every creature depicted in a story or as a toy, a "Ra". I think it began with creatures that might make the sound "Rrrrraaa!" like tigers, bears, ninjas, Lego men with scowls on their faces, GI Joes in the throes of battle, etc.

Josiah didn't seem fearful of any of these Ras.

Josiah plays with a Ra before bedtime

But with the 'Bominable, it was another story.

A few mornings ago, Daniel reported to me that the first thing Josiah said when he woke up was: No Ra.
No Ra?
No Ra.

And when it was time to watch another movie, which we've been doing a little more often while the kids recover from a bad cold, the mere mention of a movie was enough to send Josiah into the corner wimpering, "No, no Ra. No Ra!"

Poor guy.

And his mommy just thinks it's cute and writes up a big old post about it.