My boy and his chores

In our home our kids do their chores after each meal. Our after-breakfast chores are the ones I am always in the most hurry about, because we have school to get to and I want things to move along. So our system is that I set the timer and give the kids 20 minutes to accomplish their responsibilities. If they finish in time, they each earn a treat (usually a piece of gum or a few jelly bellies or something) for their quiet times, later in the day.

Isaac's chore for the year has been this:

-Clear off the table (everyone clears off their own dishes; he does the rest)
-Wipe down the table
-Sweep beneath the table
-Help E & I tidy up the living room, if there's time left over

Here's the thing: Isaac rarely finishes his chores in time for the timer. Maybe once a week. I know he can do it; he has done it before in about half that time. I also know he earnestly wants that treat. But he just gets so utterly distracted from the task at hand, several times during the task, that it's as if he can't help himself.

A few mornings ago it was chore time, we were about 10 minutes in, and I found him in the bathroom, playing with a toilet paper roll. There was a pitcher of orange juice on the back of the toilet. (From the table: we don't normally keep orange juice in the bathroom.) The best I can figure it is that he couldn't find a spot on the counter for the pitcher and wandered around to try to find me to ask me where he should put it and.... this is the part I don't get... got sidetracked by seeing an empty toilet paper roll in the bathroom, set the pitcher down, and began to play with the toilet paper roll. And then kept playing until I found him there some minutes later, wondering why on earth he was there, with the pitcher, in the bathroom of all places, when the timer was steadily ticking away.

I get really exasperated with this kind of thing. I try not to, but I often fail. I sighed, told him to get back to work, probably mentioned something about not understanding him or told him that a treat was likely out of the question, and then stewed about it as I washed up some dishes, wondering what I could possibly do to get this boy to begin a job and then work hard until the job is complete.

About this time, Adelia went in and started pestering him and he was a little tearful, trying to finish and getting bothered by his little sister. I asked her to go into the other room and let him finish up. The timer went off, and once again, Isaac was not done.

By the time he finished, I was in the living room folding laundry and still feeling crabby at this boy who takes so long to do his chores and gets so easily distracted. Isaias and Audra had already started their buddy time and Adelia was waiting for him. Then God, in His grace, allowed me to be present and watching while the following happened:

Isaac walked into the room and walked over to Adelia who was running through the room headed in the other direction. He stopped, looked down into her eyes, and kindly said: "I get to be *your* buddy today?" She said yes, and he took her hand and led her out of the room. I heard him talking to her as they walked down the stairs, asking her what she'd like to do. Then he suggested something they had done together before that she had liked, and said, "Oh! Did you want to..." She agreed, and off they went.

It was a gift from God, witnessing that moment. It was like He reminded me who my Isaac was. I sat there on the couch, laundry all around me, and cried for the sweetness and kindness of my boy. Adelia had just been in the kitchen, minutes before, bothering him. He could have been crabby at her and not felt at all like being her buddy. He could have cried and been disappointed that he didn't make it in time for the timer or that he didn't get a treat... again. But he didn't. He lovingly turned to his little sister and smiled at her and delighted in her and went off to play with her.

I was so thankful that God took the time to show me Isaac's character. Of course I knew it already: I know my boy. I know who he is: sweet, loving and kind. But in my irritability about his chore I had forgotten it. I saw only his immaturity. Somehow I knew, then, too, that it would all be okay. He is only seven. He's a child; he will get distracted. He will forget what he's doing and move on to something else. Also: he will grow in maturity in this area of working hard and attending to the task at hand. I am thankful to see, though, that he is attending to the more important things in life.

"Jesus could have done the big thing..."

Sally Clarkson has a great post up today called The Sacrifice of Love. Here's just a portion of it that spoke to me:

"Jesus could have done the big thing, and reached leaders all over the world and brought kings to their knees. But He gave his life to the personal, the love, encouragement, instruction, service of his twelve, the common people, those entrusted into his hands, that they might know and feel the love of God, the touch of God, hear the words of God. He laid down His life in the daily that they might live a life of faith and invest in His kingdom for eternity."

This is probably the concept from Sally's books I have most cherished: that just as Jesus had his group, his twelve that he poured his life into while he was here on earth, we as mothers have our own little group to instruct-- numbered by however many children God has entrusted to us. I have five lives to pour into, day after day after day... to serve, love, instruct, build relationships with, listen to, answer questions, tell stories to, explain, eat with, laugh, discuss, admonish, work alongside of, pray with, correct....

It may not seem like a big thing. It may seem insignificant or ordinary. But look at the difference those twelve ordinary men made in the world. If we could only see our role as mothers in that way! If we purpose to invest in the lives of our children the way Jesus did with his disciples, imagine the impact our own children will have as they grow into maturity.

I think of this often as I think of the own legacy of my own grandma. My grandma was a faithful mother of eight: four sons and four daughters. She stayed home, serving her husband and raising her children. She made meals, she cleaned the house, she did the laundry. She had a garden and harvested from it. She mediated squabbles between her children. She taught them about Jesus. She prayed for them. She served them, laying down her life for them, year after year after year.

All eight children grew, got married, and raised their own children. Their children had children. Do you see the impact that "ordinary" woman had? Her life, laid down for her children, who grew to love and serve God and raise their own families to love and serve God... and on it goes.

Motherhood is such a worthy investment, dear readers. Blessings to you for pouring out your lives for your children: for doing the difficult but significant work of laying down your life for the children God has entrusted to you. He is faithful to strengthen and equip us for those He has given us. He is faithful to give you what you need. As you're wiping that runny nose, changing the four-hundredth diaper, getting your weary body out of bed to tend to a child in the dark of night, answering the endless questions of inquisitive minds, praying earnestly for their hearts, putting in the next load of laundry, or preparing another meal to put on the table... may you see all of these things as an offering of love to God.

Blessings to you today!

Honoring daddy

This morning we decided to take our theme verse* and run with it.

Our verse is:
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
I told the kids that we were going to choose one person today and we would all think of one thing to do to honor that person. We chose daddy, and each of the kids listed off what they were going to do to bless daddy today.

Ella is going to make a card for him. She's going to draw birds and write I love you on the card.

is going to rub daddy's feet when he comes home from work. He also wants to scratch his back and tell him he loves him.

Isaias is going to greet him when he comes home with a hug and ask him how his day is going, and then snuggle with him.

They came up with those ideas on their own, and I helped Adelia by suggesting that she could either:
a) go potty in the toilet because daddy would be SO blessed by that (he truly would) or
b) be a cheerful obey-er today when daddy asks her to do something, to say, "Okay, daddy!" and run off to do it right away.

She of course agreed to do both, but she may need some reminders.

Mark stopped in for coffee a few minutes ago and the kids all flocked to the door to give hugs and kisses and ask him how he is and tell him how much they love him. It was very sweet. They are usually very loving but they were definitely doling it out *extra* today. :)

Next week we'll choose someone else. :)

{this photo is from another day when Ella honored us by surprising us
with sweet notes on our pillows!
Mark's note says: "Daddy, I love you. Your handsome and your fun."
Mine says: "Mommy, I love you. Your beautiful and your cute."}

*You can read more about our theme verse here.

Books we're reading

I always like to hear what people are reading. I'm always reading something, and it's been awhile since I've posted a list. Here's what we're currently reading at our house:

I'm reading through the Bible this year, and am on week 12 and am not even behind in my reading! (which never ever has happened when I've tried to do this in the past, so I'm quite happy about it!) I have this trusty little sheet in the back of my journal with all these rows of boxes to check off and I love filling in the little boxes. It's a good system. Generally when I read the Bible, I tend to "camp out" in one portion of Scripture for a length of time, so I found it challenging at first to be skipping around so much. Now that I have settled in, though, I'm really enjoying it. Because I just really love God's Word!

I've just finished reading Wendell Berry's Hannah Coulter and thoroughly enjoyed it. Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but *totally* mine. I kept reading aloud portions to Mark~ about love, home, community, work, family, children and the land. So good. I'll be reading more of his books in the near future.

I'm almost finished with Nancy Leigh DeMoss' book Brokenness, Surrender, Holiness: A Revive Our Hearts Trilogy and I have really enjoyed it. I've never read anything by DeMoss before, but after reading this book I have the utmost respect for her and her relationship with God. I highly recommend this book.

I'm also still in the midst of Ann's book One Thousand Gifts. Her book, like her blog, has encouraged me to stop hurrying around already, to slow down, to savor *this* moment, every one of them (even the difficult ones), and to be grateful.

The kids and I just finished the missionary biography Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime and we were amazed together at Aylward's tenacity. We love reading missionary biographies together, and the kids kept requesting "just one more chapter, please?" Music to my ears. :)

Mark just finished up a book with the kids and they're moving on to The Wind in the Willows next. Mark started reading it awhile back and then set it down for something a little more, um- riveting, (or maybe it was because I groaned every time he picked it up. Ugh. I have never personally understood the attraction to that book.) Isaac has reminded us for several months that we never finished it and that he wants to, so... I will contain myself.

The little girls adore all books. Audra especially wants to read any book that contains a lot of kitties within its pages, so that she can exclaim over each and every one.

Adelia is no longer content with me paraphrasing the words of each book. I often do that for the little ones, largely because I know they will not sit through all the words before they'll want to turn to the next page, so rather than get cut off in the middle of each page, I just paraphrase. Recently Adelia has begun saying: "Mommy. Are you reading that? Read that. What does it say?" Okay, then. My days of paraphrasing are officially over.

What are you reading at your house these days?

Birthday letter to Audra: two!

My sweet Audra,

Happy two years old to you! You are pure delight, my dear girl.

Let's see... what do you love right now?

You love your baby and make-believe and chocolate and cuddles and your sisters and your brothers and playing silly games with your daddy (like his finger being a worm that peeks up around the blankets) and dancing and dresses and books ("You read *this one*, mommy?").

You love singing and dollhouse and forts Isaias has made for you and pulling daddy's CDs off the shelf and outside and "Dee-ya" (Adelia) and playing with your food like Isaac always has and the chickens and birdies and KITTIES (oh, you love kitties!) and doggies and basically, anything that moves outside, and mama's bed and "Baa-ma's house" (Grandma) and Jesus Loves Me and Amazing Grace and Who's My Pretty Baby? and "Songs, Ella, more songs!" (at bedtime when you'd like your big sister to sing you to sleep).

You love Isaac being your buddy and swinging and Elmo and Maisy and nursing and coloring and helping mommy in the kitchen by using the mixer and getting all wet washing dishes and being tickled under your chin and your friend 'Gitu and- did I mention dresses?- and treats and getting all ready to go somewhere, anywhere~ shoes, coat: "I'm ready!"

You are such a good talker, Audra. You say so many things and say them so well. And you have the cutest little voice and expression. :)

You are full of snuggles and affection and tell everyone in this house, every single day: "I yuv you so much!" with your arms tightly squeezed around us.

You stand at the top of the stairs and boss your brothers around, and love it: "Boys! Come u--uup. Time to e--eaaat!"

I love it that when I'm cleaning you up after meals with a wet washcloth~ your fingers and then your face~ you frequently say: "My feets! My feets!" because you want me to wipe your feet, too- just for the pure delight of being tickled. (And sometimes, too~ "My yegs! My yegs!")

You are just adorable and delightful and your middle name "Joy" suits you so well. You bring so much of that into our home.

Happy birthday, dear girl!

Your mama

Blog stuff

Dear readers,

A couple blog-details:

1. I had some time today to respond to your recent comments. [Thank you to those of you who do so... I appreciate each comment!] I really try to be faithful in replying back to you in the comments section, because I truly love "chatting" with you that way, but I have neglected to do so on recent posts... until today!

So... if you remember commenting on any of the following five posts, you can click on the link below and my reply to you will show up in the comments section:

Birthday Letter to Adelia: three!

Refilling the Copywork Jar: Quotes and Poems

Grateful: Monday, March 7

Something I love today:

Two years ago today...

2. Also, I'm curious to know how many of you read through a reader versus through a link from Facebook? Is it helpful to anyone to have me linking here from Facebook? (I've only recently been linking via Facebook, but if it's not necessary, it's one less step for me!) I'd appreciate your thoughts on this!

Thanks for taking the time to read here today!

Hope you've had a wonderful day!


Two years ago today...

...this was us. (Audra is tucked into the Moby wrap, sleeping, and I'm feeding Adelia (my other baby!) her bottle.) Those were crazy days!

Something I love today:

Isaac's math pages

...his little notes to me found on the pages of his book when I go to correct,

...and the way he makes his numbers~ all wobbly and backwards.

I think it's the cutest.

Grateful: Monday, March 7

I've had a rough couple of weeks. Audra has been sick, I have been sick, and Adelia has been sick. We've all been getting very little sleep, what with all the middle-of-the-night wake-ups with the two little girls...

This morning was especially challenging. Adelia intentionally dumped her bowl of oatmeal on the floor, and I asked her to pick it up. Audra and I were at the sink, doing dishes-- my distraction for her unceasing "Hold you, mommy?" these days-- and it was working, this distraction. I was washing glasses and whispering prayers for wisdom of how to handle my defiant three-year old, who was hollering that she didn't want to pick up her oatmeal, because, of course-- who wants to do that?, and she proceeded to scream at me to express how very much she did not want to do that. I went over to her and gently but firmly told her that I wanted her to pick up the oatmeal, and she could take however long she wanted to, but she would be doing it. She continued screaming (and not picking up the oatmeal). I turned to ask Ella to do something, and she proceeded to tell me why she'd like to do that later, not now... and so I was explaining why it had to be done, now, please, when Audra grabbed a glass and it shattered in our sink. (Oh, and did I mention that Adelia was still screaming?) I snapped, and hollered at Ella and said something to the effect of, "If you would have just done what I asked you and not argued with me, this wouldn't have happened!" Ella burst into tears, feeling responsible, now, for the broken glass, and went to do the thing I'd asked her to do earlier. Audra was trying to pick up the glass (lovely), Adelia was still screaming, I had a headache and was near tears myself, and now I had wronged my sweet Ella, and had to make things right with her. Sigh. I couldn't even think straight with all the screaming we were all enduring, and we couldn't start school at the table until she was done with the oatmeal, which had not yet been touched and... arghh. I was fully overwhelmed.

Twenty minutes later I had cleaned up the glass, apologized to Ella, and Adelia had finally picked up the oatmeal off the floor (The screaming had stopped, and I sat with her and watched until she did what I'd asked; then helped her with the last few clumps.) Mark called and I briefly detailed our morning (which included some things with the boys that had ocurred before even these events) and told him, "I can't do this. I am failing. I am doing nothing right. I am critical, impatient and too quick to anger. I am so overwhelmed and feel like I am suffocating under the demands of these five kids." (Yes- I do tend to have a flair for the dramatic.)

When Ella was at the table doing her schoolwork and the boys were each doing their "buddy time" with the little girls, I retreated to my room to change our sheets and prayed for help, and tried to remind myself that I could do this, with God's strength, and that His mercies for me were great and that He was my Helper and then, I was reminded of this verse, from 1 Thessalonians: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

So, as soon as I was able, and with the help of a carefully timed video for the younger four kids, I grabbed my journal and pen and sat down to write down my thanks. Following are some snippets from my list:

1433... a double batch of lasagna sauce, simmering on the stove for dinner
1435... a plan for dinner
1437... warm, soapy water in the sink to wash glasses with
1438... a tight hug from Ella, after I said sorry to her
1439... the forgiveness of children- how quick they are to move on and *forget* the incident every even happened
1440... clean sheets on our bed
1441... our down comforter, freshly fluffed
1442... tissue for runny noses
1443... children who know how to blow those noses
1448... the patch of sunlight coming through the window, falling on the love seat... the very spot that I'm now sitting
1450... the grace You bestow on me, Lord, for all my sins

I know why He says to give thanks.

It is good for the soul, this.

Counting up those endless gifts...

Refilling the Copywork Jar: quotes and poems

Ella's Copywork Jar is just about empty, and she's already gone through the "No copywork today!" and "Mommy will do your copywork for you today!" slips of paper I added to buy me some time... ;)

I've spent the evening refilling it, and here are some of my favorite contributions:

"It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will."
~L.M. Montgomery

"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet."
~L.M. Montgomery

"A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.
~A.A. Milne

Oh! But my *favorite* A.A. Milne quote I found tonight was this one:

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?"
(Winnie the Pooh)

And this, a poem Mark found:


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~Joyce Kilmer

And this one:

Morning Prayer

Now another day is breaking,
Sleep was sweet and so is waking.
Dear Lord, I promised you last night
Never again to sulk or fight.
Such vows are easier to keep
When a child is sound asleep.
Today, O Lord, for your sake,
I'll try to keep them when awake.

~Ogden Nash

Birthday letter to Adelia: three!

My beautiful Adelia~

Yesterday you walked through my bedroom and stopped to look at yourself in our full-length mirror. Then you headed out the door into the hallway. I called, "Hey! What were you looking at in mama's mirror?" and you returned to say, very matter-of-factly, and with a slight *you-caught-me* grin: "My pretty hair." (Which was in it's full glory~ no beads or braids.) That's my girl.

I just love you so much, Adelia. You are the most spirited, lively, confident, sassy, stubborn, exuberant, busy, loud, expressive, vibrant, mischievous little girl I've ever known. I want to remember you, right now-- who you are right now~ just days away from being three years old.

You are a girl who knows what she wants, and you are not afraid to express it-- and loudly.

You like books (Owl Babies, anything Maisy, and that naughty little monkey Curious George). And when you read books, you'll often pop your finger into your mouth repeatedly, then pull it out noisily and slurpily~ all so that you can have a wet finger to turn the next page.

You like food- (mmm hmmm is still something we hear, constantly, from you when you're eating a meal). You like to be loud and boisterous-- running and chasing and shrieking and laughing through the rooms of this old house. You love to sing, and do so constantly (lately we hear a lot of the ABC song and various worship songs, as well as a hearty rendition of Go Tell it On the Mountain.) You love to watch movies. Your favorites are Miss Pattycake, Signing Time, and Maisy. But you'll watch anything, and happily.

When you sleep, you still chew on the hands of your baby and pull the blankets over your head. And you snore. Recently, Mark and I have been startled awake by Audra hollering in the middle of the night: "Don't DO THAT!" At first we were puzzled, then we figured out that she must be getting awakened by your snoring. ;)

You won't sit still for longer than 3 seconds. I am so not exaggerating that fact. Unlike your siblings, you do not sit and play anything. You will sit for a book, but you are constantly moving and talking and turning the pages back to talk about something you just saw or to ask me a question.

You like to make silly faces at me when daddy reads at bedtime. I indulge, because it keeps you quiet(ish). You make a face, then I make that face back, and we copy each others' silly faces.

You are affectionate-- when you feel like it ;), but I can always get silly about it or make it a game and get a hug or kiss out of you.

You are a sweet big sister to Audra. Oh, how you adore that girl! :) You are so sweet with her~ your words to her are gentle and kind, and you share so well with her. I love your friendship with your sister. (And I love how you've recently taken to calling her "sweetie"!)

You want to be in on everything the big kids are doing-- helping with chores, doing school and memorizing verses. I love that.

You are a trouble-maker, you. You move from one spot to another, all day long, doing whatever you should NOT do in that particular area of the house. If you happen to walk into the boys' room and you see that Isaac has carefully ordered some baseball cards, all in neat stacks across the floor, you will make it your personal mission to run through the middle of the piles and kick your feet wildly so as to make the most of your mess. If anyone has built any sort of creation (Legos or otherwise), you take it upon yourself to destruct it, and quickly- before anyone should stop you. If someone has colored a pretty picture, you must color on top of it, or rip it up, and quickly- so that you can get the deed done before you get found out. If you are left alone for longer than a minute, I know I can find you hiding somewhere with food, or getting into Ella's chapstick or filling up the bathroom sink to overflowing with water, or pushing Isaias' buttons, or- destructing or disassembling something, somewhere.

So you keep me busy, keeping up with all your messes and correcting you. We talk a lot about kindness and gentleness and love.

I love it that when people ask you what your name is, you tell them "Adelia Hope." No first-name-only basis for you.

You have a confidence that I love. Your brothers and sisters are shy around new people or situations, and you are just... not. You jump into any conversation, boldly telling about everyone and everything. You are willing to try new things, and you do so with remarkable determination.

You say the funniest things- and you love to make your older siblings laugh. If you say something funny (accidentally), and find that it amused everyone, you work hard to keep them laughing at you.

I just love you so much, my Adelia Hope. I cannot wait to see how God develops these lively characteristics in you for His glory!

Happy Birthday to my beautiful three-year old girl.


~Your mommy