Parenting lessons (for me)

Oh, wow.  Rough morning, here. 

There was a bit of sunshine today, so I decided that after breakfast, chores, and our history read-aloud, we would head out for a walk before we moved on to our other school work for the day.

My announcement was met with cheers from the kids and we readied ourselves to get out the door.  The kids were all outside, waiting on the porch swing, when I made one last sweep through the house to lock the back door and get my hat, keys, and phone.  As I passed through the kitchen I saw the cup of water (w/ medicine) that my five-year-old was supposed to take with breakfast.  I'd told her numerous times to drink it but didn't see it through.  Apparently she'd decided not to drink it and instead placed it on the counter, hoping I wouldn't notice.  I promptly picked it up, brought it outside, set it on the porch and said, "Drink this up and then you can come with us." And the rest of us began our walk down the sidewalk.

I naively thought she would pick it up, drink it down and scramble to catch up with us, but when I glanced back at our house from about a half-block away, she hadn't moved and the cup remained untouched. 


That was just the beginning of the battle with my girl.  She wouldn't drink her medicine.  She refused to walk.   I tried to get her into the stroller so that I could just push her and the rest of us could go for our walk, but failed in that attempt.  When she finally joined us for our walk, she walked as sloooooooooowly as she possibly could- remaining at least a half-block behind the rest of us, stubbornly taking tiny steps.  I was at my wits end:  I felt sorry for the other four who just wanted to get to the trail and walk.  I felt powerless and yet didn't want to let her control the morning/whether or not we walked.  It seriously took us about 20 minutes to make it a block and a half from our house with her baby steps.  It was awful.  And the whole battle had been going on for nearly an hour.

So I called in for back-up.  Mark was leaving the post office and heading out to his route so I asked if he could show up on our walk and have a little pep-talk with his daughter.  He pulled up and I started crying.  He gave me a hug and told me to go on with the other kids; that he and Adelia would catch up with us. 

Daddy spoke some magic words (in reality, he just possesses some magic authority as a daddy that I, as mommy, do not have.  Thank God for daddies.) They came running down the trail toward us just minutes later.  Mark and I chatted briefly and then he headed back to work and I was on my own again, with the kids- and truly wondering what I would possibly do if she refused to walk again.  But apparently she'd forgotten her earlier attitude, because she was running and playing and seemed just fine.

I, however, was not fine.  I was tearful and frustrated and crabby.  I held back tears and prayed.  And as we walked, God reminded me of these verses, in Proverbs:

He who covers over an offense promotes love (17:9)

A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (19:11)

At the time I didn't recall those words verbatim, but I remembered the general idea of "love overlooks an offense", and prayed toward that end; that God would help me to let go of my anger and resentment; that I wouldn't treat her differently because of her earlier behavior; that I would be merciful, etc.

She came to me a couple minutes later and asked me, impatiently, to tie her shoe.  I wanted to make some smart remark about how maybe what she SHOULD be saying was sorry, but- by a complete act of God I was able to hold my tongue and knelt down to tie her shoe. 

By the time we were on our way home, she was holding my hand and I was holding my tongue (not entirely, I was speaking, just not about her earlier attitude).  As we neared our house she began chattering about the video she wanted to watch when the big kids did school (she loves videos) and I wanted to take that privilege away from her, too- because I was still crabby.  But I didn't.  Because I was overlooking the offense.

When we arrived home, she was off to choose a video while the other kids began their book work and I stopped her and said, "I'd like to talk to you first, actually..." and so she followed me into my room and sat across from me on my bed.  It was then that I was going to "let her have it", so to speak: to remind her of her disobedience, tell her that she should say sorry to me, and then either remove her movie privilege or notify her that I was being gracious to allow her to watch it.  [I'm just being perfectly honest, here.]  But again- I couldn't.  I kept remembering that verse, and even thought I wanted to let her have it, I chose another route:  What I said was, "Adelia?  Thank you so much for changing your attitude on our walk.  I'm so proud of you for doing that.  It was a fun walk, wasn't it?"  And then I gave her a hug.  She hugged me back and scurried off and I again thought: "Huh.  I don't know, but wasn't that PRIME opportunity for her to say sorry?"  Grr.  And I went and put a video on for her. 

We finished school, had lunch and quiet hour.  I sat with my Bible and journal and asked God what I should have done differently.  I didn't come up with much, honestly- but even though things felt undone, I truly didn't feel crabby at my girl anymore, and I trusted that God had led me in my morning interactions.  (As I already mentioned- it is an act of God to get me to hold my tongue.  Truly.  I usually don't.)

I've been praying fairly regularly for the past few years that I would be led by God's Spirit in my correction and discipline of the kids.  I fail, so much more often than not.  And this morning is a great example of what I never would have come up with on my own.  I am so thankful that He is faithful to lead us and that He knows my kids: their needs and their hearts, better than I do.


I thought that was the end of the story. 

I wrote this blog post and got right up to that point but hadn't edited it yet and then one more thing happened. 

Adelia came upstairs from her quiet time and was chatting with me about what she'd been playing: she had dressed up some stuffed animals for swimming.  She'd found some old baby clothes under the bed and there were some summer clothes in there, including two infant swimsuits, and her stuffed lambs were wearing them.  I smiled at that because my girl is obsessed with swimming and she asks almost daily when it's going to be summer so that she can swim.  I imagined her delight when she discovered those tiny swimsuits and how much fun she must have had playing "swimming". 

I was still sitting on my bed with my Bible and journal and I said to her:  "Come here, you."  I pulled back the covers and tucked her and her stuffed animals in with me- facing me- and hugged her and said, "I love you so much."  She hugged me back and she said "I love you, too."  And then, this: "And I'm sorry about all the things I did earlier.  I'm sorry I disobeyed you."  I thanked her with a lump in my throat and off she scurried, on to the next thing.  I was stunned.  It had been *several hours* and I had not said one thing about it to her.  And yet God was working in her little heart all along. 

Grace.  It's a beautiful thing.

Audra's Birthday Letter

Happy Birthday, my dear girl,

I can’t even believe you’re four years old.  You’re our youngest!  And you’re four already?  What am I going to with such a so-big girl?!

You delight me, Audra Joy.  You truly bring so much joy into my life, and I am so very thankful for you. 

You are such a sweet girl, and you could spend the whole day sitting beside me (or on my lap, more like, or in my arms) chatting with me about everything under the sun. 

You have such an active imagination, and on a weekly basis, your daddy and I comment on how very much like your big brother Isaac you are- creative, imaginative, in your own world sometimes- chatting and making up stories.  We often have to repeat things several times to you because you don’t really pay attention since you get so involved in whatever you’re playing.  (Thankfully we have lots of practice with this with your big brother, so we’re much more patient with you than we were with him!) 

You LOVE to color.  And you’re very good at it, too.  I love seeing your precious drawings and hearing all about the people or animals you’ve drawn and your stories to go with them.  You’re so creative.

You also recently learned to write your name.  You had been practicing your A’s and we thought that was good.  And then one night you were drawing and I looked over and noticed that to your A you’d added a U... and then a D... and then another A.  You missed the R but as soon as we showed you how, you’ve been happily writing your name-- everywhere, on every single piece of paper-- since.  I love it. 

You have daddy’s sweet tooth- which means that dessert is *always* a good motivator for you to finish your dinner, which you often would rather not do.

You love to play dollhouse and to have buddy time with your older siblings.  Ella, because she’ll always play house or babies or dollhouse with you; Isaac, because he’s a good builder and will build fun Duplo creations with you; and Isaias, because he builds the best forts.

You are such an affectionate girl: always hugging and snuggling and cuddling.  I love it.  :)

You love to sing, and I love to hear you singing.  You often listen to praise music on your quiet times.  And you love Christmas music.  It’s February, and you’re still singing Christmas songs.  :)   I love holding you in church during worship.  Often I’ll whisper, “Do you want to sing, Audra?”  and you’ll nod.  So I’ll whisper the line of the song in your ear right before we sing it, and then you’ll know the words and sing along with everyone else.  I love hearing your sweet little voice singing to God in worship!

You have a sensitive spirit and feel very sad when others are sad, or when you've hurt others.  You can be corrected with just a serious look or a frown- you often dissolve into sorry tears just knowing you've done something wrong.  If you've been disobedient to mama and I point it out, you will sometimes stalk into your room in tears, and then when I go in to talk with you, you will right away tell me you're sorry and crawl into my lap, tearfully confessing and making sure things are right between us.  I'm so thankful for that in you.

You like kitties and babies and playing dollhouse, going for walks and being outside: exploring and crouching down to examine things.  You like going to grandma's house, wearing dresses, and all sorts of pretty shoes.  You went through this layering phase this year when you dressed yourself: you would start with shorts and a tank top, and then add a skirt ("tutu", as you call them), and then put on a couple of dresses on over top of that.  We would laugh because you were so puffy!

You are so articulate, and you have a great vocabulary--  you’re always surprising us with the words you know and the things you say.  But I *especially* love it when I hear you say things incorrectly--because it reminds me that you’re still little, I suppose- and I want to hold onto those moments.  For example, you always say “th” in place of the “f” sound, so when you say family it actually sounds like “thamily”, and when you say flower you say “thlower”.  You also say "pocka does" instead of "polka dots", and I love that.  I ADORE listening to your little self mispronounce things, and I don’t dare let the older kids correct you because I treasure the little girl still in you.

You are so precious to me, Audra Joy!

I am so thankful God gave you to us.  Thank you for being my sweet and cuddly girl.  I pray that you will grow up to love Jesus and that your character will reflect His character more with each year He gives you. 

I love you.

~Your mommy

Birthday letter to Adelia

My dear birthday girl,

Five years ago today you were born: a tiny, “failure-to-thrive” girl.  I am tearful today as I think of you then: so fragile and alone and vulnerable and yet: held by God.  He had plans for you.  Plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future.  Somehow He saw fit to add your daddy and me into His plans for your life, and for that we are so grateful.  We see you today, proudly five- and oh-so thriving, and we cannot help but give thanks to God for your life, and for God’s great love for you and His generosity to let us witness how He’ll grow you and unfold His plan for you.

Happy day, our Adelia Hope.  You are such a blessing to us.  You are SO MUCH FUN.  You are exuberant and expressive and active and noisy and curious and funny and tenacious and smart and busy and stubborn and talkative and playful and fearless and outgoing and generous.

You love helping mommy in the kitchen- especially washing dishes and using the hand mixer.  You crack me up with that mixer in hand-- zipping it around the bowl furiously and completely capable.  :) 

You still like to be snuggly in the mornings when you get up: especially if you can curl up with daddy and have him all to yourself. 

You love books.  You love to be read to and you love to pull a stack of books onto the couch with you and read yourself. 

You love to ride your bike.  You are our earliest bike-rider.  You wanted to ride bikes like the “big kids”, so- at age four- you got on your bike and tried.  You’d fall down and get right back on your bike and try again.  Daddy and mommy helped a bit, initially: pushing you through the yard and trying to help you not wobble so much.  And then Isaac took over.  He patiently assisted you and encouraged you and before we knew it, you were proudly riding around all by yourself. 

You love music.  Often you’ll go into your room, put on a CD at a VERY high volume, and sing and dance.  And often, on your quiet time: you’ll stand on the bed and sing at the top of your lungs.  (Which isn’t really so quiet and sometimes it isn’t so delightful but I love that part of you that is happy and boisterous.)

You love watching videos.  It’s one of your favorite things.

You want to be big and grown up and you correct me every time I refer to you and Audra as the "little girls", because you are NOT little, you are BIG.

You love to play games and it’s so much fun that you’re able to play more games now.  :)  You like Old Maid, Sequence, Apples to Apples and UNO.

You love to make us laugh.  You are so happy when you say something funny and your siblings giggle.  :)

You love swimming, and talk often about when it’s going to be summer so that you can swim.  You’d wear your swimsuit every day if I let you.  (And you did wear it every single day until mommy hid it in my closet because it is winter and it’s not really cold-weather apparel.)

You love “cappuccinos”- and by that you actually mean “Cheetos”.  You love most chips and crackers and chex mix and popcorn.  You love bacon.  You like donuts and “panpakes” and fruit snacks and spaghetti and pizza.

You are generous-- even with your favorite things.  You’ll get some candy or chips and immediately offer some to everyone else in the family.  You’ll start telling us something and then Audra will want to talk at the same time and we’ll tell her that it’s Adelia's turn right now and she can wait, and you’ll say, “Go ahead, Audra.  You can talk now.

No one is a stranger to you.  You will say hi to anyone and introduce yourself and start talking about whatever is on your mind (sometimes embarrassingly so- like the time we were in the theater watching a dance performance and you announced loudly to the older couple sitting near us that you were wearing your big-girl panties.  And then you promptly asked them if they were wearing their big-girl panties, too!)  You’re the little girl at the park who will walk up to another child you’ve never met and say hi and start playing.  Your brothers and sisters aren’t like this at all, so this is new to me and it blesses me.  You are a friend to everyone, and it’s a sweet thing to see. 

You have a great memory.  You remember conversations and events and promises and you remind us often.  Grandpa and Grandma were going to take us all to a baseball game one time and the morning we were going to go, you got sick and you and I had to stay home.  Grandma told you then that they’d take you again sometime, and you reminded her every.single.time you saw her, until they took you!  You love to talk about what we’ve done and where we’ve gone and what you’ve seen and heard. 

You are game for everything.  You want to try everything, and you aren’t afraid.  If the uncles are playing a game of football, you’re right in there, ready to play.  No matter that everyone is bigger than you and you don’t know exactly what you’re doing: you’re IN.  (This is something else your siblings aren’t, and I love to see this in you!)

God has taught me two practical things in parenting you, my girl.  The first thing is that silliness goes a long way with you.  You can be grumpy or out of sorts and I’ll just be silly: like climbing into your bed with you and pretending that your tummy is my nice, soft pillow.   Or tickling you, or hiding from you, or making silly faces at you-- and your grumpiness is instantly forgotten and you are giggling and reveling in the silliness.  The second thing I’ve learned is this: a gentle answer does turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).  You can be very stubborn and angry with me at times, and I have learned (well, am learning) to return your anger with gentle words and expressions of my love for you, and that goes a long way in softening your heart.

I love you so much, Adelia Hope.  You are a gift, and I am so very thankful for you. 

Happy five years, sweet and beautiful girl!
~Your mommy

Soup: Mexican Chicken Stew

In my opinion, winter is the easiest time of the year to plan meals because we can eat soup. [Ha! I'm sure Mark would like to know, then, why so often lately he comes home from work and I wearily look at him and say: "Um... I have nothing going for dinner tonight, honey."] :)

But when I *do*, it's often SOUP!  I love making a big pot of soup and it's so easy to pair it with biscuits or muffins or a salad or fruit or crackers or whatever you have on hand- and call it dinner.

I'm going to share one of our favorite soups with you today. It's a great soup because it's quick to throw together and you usually have everything on hand (and if you don't now you will soon- on a regular basis- because it is THAT good.) You can also freeze it!

I'll give you the official recipe, below.  (Then I'll tell you how I usually do the chicken, which is a bit different than the recipe).

Mexican Chicken Stew (the chicken hasn't been added, yet)

Mexican Chicken Stew   *I double this recipe for our family

1 T olive oil
1 lb chicken breast, cubed (2-3)
1 cup chicken broth
1 4oz can mild green chilies
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup green onion

Heat oil in a large kettle over med-high heat.  Add chicken and cook 5-7 minutes.  Stir often.  Add all ingredients except green onions.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook 10 minutes.  Stir in green onions (or- if you don't have any, just skip this step, which is usually what I do).  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.  

Okay, this is how I do the chicken and stock:  
This morning I put a whole chicken in the crockpot with a few cups of water, an onion & some garlic cloves (chopped but with the skins still on), carrots, thyme, salt and pepper.  I cooked it on low for most of the day. The picture below was taken right after I spooned out the chicken pieces to cool before I take out the bones and cut up the chicken.

L: Crockpot with chicken stock (veggies need to be removed, still) and R: chicken waiting to be deboned

I already took out some stock to add to the soup pot, but I'll add the cooked chicken at the end.  I'll use 1-2 cups of chicken and then save the rest of the chicken in the fridge for another recipe later this week.  When the stock has cooled, I'll remove the veggies and pour it into containers and put it in the freezer for the next time a recipe calls for chicken broth! 

Now I'm off to take the bones out of the chicken and then make some cornbread!


This post made me cry this morning.  In a good- yes- that is so true sort of a way.  I am always so encouraged by Katie's ministry and the stories she shares.

Valentines Day, 2013

I remember one Valentines Day in particular when my mom purchased gifts for me and my sister:  just little gold heart rings, but I treasured that ring and her love expressed to me through that gift.  Usually we didn't receive gifts for Valentines Day so it was extra special.

I thought about that when I was at the store last night and decided to get little gifts for my kids for today, too-- to make it a special day for them, just because I love them.

So I bought each of them one of those giant bubble wands at Target and some chocolates, and I made them each a valentine card.  I set them out on the table so they'd find them in the morning.

Then I decorated a bit.  (Audra has been seeing Valentines decorations up in stores and keeps asking why we haven't decorated.  I don't usually decorate for Valentines Day, but in her 3-year old mind-- just coming out of Christmas season, when we very much DO decorate, she apparently thought we ought to.)  So last night, while Mark was working on a home project, I cut out some hearts from felt in white, pink and red and strung up a little bunting over the mantel.

At breakfast we thanked Jesus for His great love for us- and asked for the grace to love one another because He first loved us. 

Then we delivered a mocha shake and scones to daddy on his route.
Lemon scones
My mom texted this morning to ask if the kids would like to come help her decorate some cookies, (at which point I decided we were skipping school for the day!) Of course they wanted to (!) so off they went, down the street to grandma's house. 

We came home in time for lunch and these pretzels-- but shaped them into hearts.

I've been listening to the Valentines CD Mark made me- and makes me every year (this is the 20th CD he's compiled for me!  The first few he made me were actually cassette tapes.  :))  I'm enjoying that and especially his notes to me on why he chose each song for the CD- because that part is basically a love letter.  I'm so thankful for the husband God has given me in Mark.  Our marriage and our love for one another is such a gift from God and definitely something to celebrate!

What are you up to today?

Happy Valentines Day to YOU!

Cursive: What we do

At the beginning of this year I vacillated on whether or not I should require Isaac to learn cursive.  I mean- yes, he has to learn to write his name in cursive, but is it necessary for boys to learn cursive?  Mark encouraged me to go for it, and I'm glad we did.  The first several letters were fairly painstaking for him, but he actually really likes doing it now, and I think it's been good for him overall. 

I printed out the Alphabet Tracing Guides from this site - one uppercase and one lowercase- and refer to them as a guide.  Each week I present a new letter on the dry erase board and we practice it together.  Isaac has to form at least three good letters and Ella at least five.  (Of course, Ella would happily do forty-five!  :))

We did the letter P today, so we're making good progress through the alphabet!

Isaac's page: I'm so proud of him!
Ella likes me to circle my favorites of her letters.
Ella has beautiful penmanship. 

Assigned reading list, 3rd grade

Assigned reading list for Isaac, 3rd grade: American History

{for History}

o choose a book on Benjamin Franklin, read it, and then tell us about it!
o The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents (Wyatt Blassingame), read about our 2nd, 3rd and 4th Presidents!
o Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too! (Stanley Young)
o Great Inventors and Their Inventions (Frank Bachman) > choose 2 inventions to read about, then do a written narration, with drawings
o Johnny Appleseed (David R. Collins)
o The Story of Davy Crockett (Enid Lamonte Meadowcroft)
o The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents (Wyatt Blassingame), read about James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson
o Sam Houston: The Tallest Texan (William Johnson)
o Tad Lincoln: Abe’s Son (LaVere Anderson)
Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee (Patricia Beatty) OR
    Three Against the Tide (D. Anne Love)
o Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer (G. Clifton Wisler)
Johnny Texas (Carol Hoff)  *we also have the next book: Johnny Texas on the San Antonio Road, if you like the first one!
o Friday the Arapaho Indian (A.M. Anderson)
o The Children Who Stayed Alone (Bonnie Bess Worline)
o Custer’s Last Stand (Quentin Reynolds)

{other “just for fun” books}

o Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Book 3
o The Sign of the Beaver (Elizabeth George Speare)
o Wheel on the School (Meindert DeJong)
o The Sugar Creek Gang (Paul Hutchens)
o Five Children and It (Edith Nesbit)

Assigned reading list, 5th grade

We're studying American History, and following is a list of the books I assigned to Ella for the year.  Turns out she's finished all but three of them, so I may have to do a little more hunting to round out the year, since it's barely February and we school through May.  

It's always a challenge for me to find good books for her to read.  I like to post the books we've read so that: 1)I have a list for future reference for our younger kids, and 2)so that those of you who read here have some book recommendations!

{for History}

o choose a book on Benjamin Franklin, read it, and then tell us about it!
o The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents (Wyatt Blassingame), read about our 2nd, 3rd and 4th Presidents!
o Dolly Madison (Jane Mayer)
o Flag Maker (Susan Bartoletti)
o A Little Maid of New Orleans (Alice Turner Curtis)
o Great Inventors and Their Inventions (Frank Bachman) > choose 2 inventions to read about, then do a written narration, with drawings
o Jessica’s First Prayer (Hesba Stretton)
o Johnny Appleseed (David R. Collins)
o The Story of Davy Crockett (Enid Lamonte Meadowcroft)
o The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents (Wyatt Blassingame), read about James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson
o Dorothea Dix, pg. 72 of And Long Remember (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)
o Martha of California (James Otis)
o Personal Correspondence of Hannah Brown and Sarah Smith (Nancy LeSourd), library has it
o Brady (Jean Fritz)
o Tad Lincoln: Abe’s Son (LaVere Anderson)
o Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer (G. Clifton Wisler)
o Turn Homeward, Hannalee (Patricia Beatty)
o Be Ever Hopeful, Hannalee (Patricia Beatty)
o The Children Who Stayed Alone (Bonnie Bess Worline)
o Custer’s Last Stand (Quentin Reynolds)
o The Nickel-Plated Beauty (Patricia Beatty)

{other just for fun books}

o Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Book 4
o Ruby Throat: The Story of a Hummingbird (Robert M. McClung)
o The Borrowers Afield (Mary Norton)
o Saturday Cousins (Rebecca Caudill)
o The Good Master (Kate Seredy) *we also have the sequel, The Singing Tree
o Mary Elizabeth (Eleanor Clark)

I'll also post Isaac's Assigned reading list.

Thinking.... about preschool

Mark and I tried to rent a movie from Redbox last night.  Sheesh.  What is with the fact that probably 80% of the movies that are out these days are in the horror genre?!   ~shudder~

I'll just stick to Downton, thankyouverymuch.  That's much more my genre.

I've been starting to think about doing preschoolish things for the little girls next year.   My plan is to do a letter-of-the-week thing, with projects & crafts, and to do corresponding Bible verses using this resource, again.  I've also been perusing this site for ideas.

At the beginning of this school year I made some workboxes for the girls, and that was a good plan.  Even the older kids will pull them out and play with them from time to time.

Pattern blocks.  My kids (older and younger) love them!
In our boxes: (I've starred the items that get the most use.)

Leap frog ABC letters
*Pipe cleaners + beads
wooden rods
*pattern blocks
*pom-poms + tongs (with an ice cube tray)
*dry beans with pouring cups
Lauri foam ABC letters (upper and lowercase)
Lauri foam number-thing

There are also some things I made: *a scrabble-tile-matching game,  a ribbon with felt shapes to slide over the ribbon with a button secured to the end, and a clothespins/color-matching activity.

Scrabble-tile game

These have been most helpful during read-aloud time.  The girls will often pull out a bin while I'm reading aloud, for their blanket-time. 

What are your favorite preschool resources?

Geography game

I'm filing this idea away to try on the kids soon....

Spin the globe.  One point goes to whoever can name the location where your finger lands.  Extra points for anything they can tell about the country's landscape, history, language, or religion.

They're going to love this!  (Especially if we let daddy play, too.  Extra competition!)