Read aloud: The Hiding Place (Part 1)

I am reading The Hiding Place aloud to the kids.  Below is one of my favorite passages of the book so far.

Corrie writes about a particular train trip she took with her father, who was a watchmaker:
     Oftentimes I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me, since anything I asked at home was promptly answered by the aunts.  Once--  I must have been ten or eleven-- I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before.  One line had described "a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin."  I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her.  In those days just after the turn of the century sex was never discussed, even at home.
     So the line had stuck in my head.  "Sex," I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and "sin" made Tante Jans very angry, but what the two meant together I could not imagine.  And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sexsin?"
     He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing.  At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
     "Will you carry it off the train, Corrie? he said.
     I stood up and tugged at it.  It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
     "It's too heavy," I said.
     "Yes," he said.  "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load.  It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge.  Some knowledge is too heavy for children.  When you are older and stronger you can bear it.  For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
     And I was satisfied.  More than satisfied-- wonderfully at peace.  There were answers to this and all my hard questions-- for now I was content to leave them in my father's keeping.

What a wise father Casper ten Boom was!  I am going to remember this when my kids ask things that are too heavy for them.  

I love the relationship he and Corrie had.  Corrie trusted her father with her questions, and she was content with his response.  He protected her and she felt secure in that.  This makes me so grateful for the relationships we have built with each of our kids.  I know they trust us with their questions, too. 

And-- did you notice this line?- "He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question".  This was a good encouragement for me.  I need to do more of this: to turn from what I am doing and give my child(ren) my full attention when they are speaking to me.  To turn away from the sink full of dishes, to wipe my hands and kneel down and really listen.  To close the laptop, to set aside whatever project I might be working on, and to turn to my inquiring child, to show them that they are valued and heard.  So often I just toss a response over my shoulder as I am doing something else.  But I am learning this: to take time to give them my full attention.  

Daybook: Saturday, June 22

I am thankful for...  Sixteen years of marriage to Mark.  We celebrated by going away for two nights together.  I keep thinking of God's presence with us throughout these sixteen years- how faithful He has been, how many prayers He has answered, how He has held us and comforted us so many times, how He has transformed us and grown us in so many ways.  I am just so thankful to be married to such a fine man, one who fears God and loves me so well. 

I am thinking about... the chocolate mousse leftover in the fridge.  Last night I made a triple-batch so that we could share our anniversary-dessert with the kids.  I am so having some more tonight.

In the schoolroom... nothing is happening.  Well, we're still doing our read-alouds, but other than that we're doing nothing.  We did get the kids' test results in, though- and of course they're brilliant. 

In the garden... lots of lettuce!  Everything else is looking good and growing as it should.  The rhubarb is winding down.  Our strawberries are happily growing and the kids are munching on them daily.  Our raspberries are just beginning. 

In the kitchen... lots of jam.  We went strawberry picking today as a family, and brought home 25 lbs of strawberries.  We filled four big trays of strawberries to freeze and then bag up (for smoothies) and ended with 14 jars of freezer jam and 10 jars of canned strawberry-rhubarb jam.  We also have a huge bowl of sliced berries in the fridge to eat within the next day or two.  Next up: raspberry jam! (my personal favorite).

I am creating... Well, I'm trying to create a sweater for Ella (by way of knitting it), but I am having a lot of trouble figuring out this new-to-me pattern.  I've lost count of how many times I've had to rip out whatever progress I'd made.  So I'm on a break from creating that for now.  And before I start it up again- (I'm giving it one final go before I search for a different pattern)- I am going to pray over it and ask God to help me see where I've erred in my previous attempts or just miraculously allow me to end up with the correct stitch count on certain rows where I'm not.  ~sigh~ 

I am reading... The Hiding Place to the kids.  Oh, how I love this book!  I am just so encouraged and inspired by the ministry of the ten Boom family and of the wisdom of Father ten Boom.  I love him.   And the kids are loving the book so far, too-- always pleading with me to read just a little more, which is always the sign of a good read-aloud.  

I'm also reading Laying Down the Rails, which is an excellent resource on instilling good habits in your children, Charlotte Mason-style.  One of the goals I have for next year is to choose one habit per child to really work diligently on with them.  (I'm planning to choose one for myself, too!)  I'm also reading Lynn Austin's latest book (fiction) and reading through the book of Matthew right now. 

I am praying... for Cutzi, who is having her baby early- at 33 weeks.  For family and friends who are struggling.  Always for wisdom in parenting, and patience, kindness and a gentle and a quiet spirit, for me.

That's it for today! 
Blessings to all of you~

Our day. And some thoughts on Facebook.

It's been a wonderfully productive day, and I am thankful.  Mark recently announced a new summertime assignment: each of the boys is to do one hour of outside work each day.  (He gave some suggestions for these first few days: clean the chicken coop, weed the garden or flower beds, dig up an unwanted stump in the garden, dig up some ivy roots along the fence.)  Ella immediately said she wanted to do it, too, so three hours of outside work was done today, in addition to whatever I accomplished.  The chicken coop was cleaned, the stump is almost out, some ivy was pulled and some weeding was done.  I was thankful.  I concluded that I have two very hard workers and one very good chatter who needed to be reminded several times to stay on task.  :)  I love them, every one.  My chatty child will learn, and this is good training ground. 

I weeded for much of the morning as well as helped the younger girls- mostly Audra- with various requests, and did things like:  find a container to be a home for Audra's new inchworm, then I looked at the inchworm- many times.  I heard all about the inchworm and what it was doing, several times.  I fixed the lid on the inchworm's new home- twice.   I filled the swimming pool for Adelia.  I showed her- again- how to pull weeds, and spent time pointing out what was NOT a weed, and then what was~ all to watch her pull one weed and then abruptly leave the garden.  *smile*  Another year. 

After the older kids were done with their hour, I told them they could have popsicles, and they were all soon a delighted, sticky mess. 

It's been a good day. 

To completely change the subject: I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my time spent online.  It's something I want to be intentional about, always- and mainly: to keep it in moderation.  Last year I deleted my Facebook account and I really didn't miss it.  I honestly didn't think I'd ever be on Facebook again.  There are a lot of things I liked about not being on Facebook, and I was truly reluctant to get back on, but recently- after 8 months away from it- I did.  (The main reason for me doing so is that- like it or not, friends of mine DO communicate on Facebook-- and they will continue to-- and I was missing announcements and new baby pictures and invitations.) 

I am much more fond of reading blogs than checking Facebook.  I have been encouraged so many times through different bloggers over the years- especially in regards to homeschooling.  I have read the blogs of some women since 2006, and by now they feel like friends.  Some of them are friends.  There are about 40 blogs I regularly subscribe to.  While that may sound like a lot- of those 40, only around 10 (I just counted) post on a daily or weekly basis.  (The others are less frequent or rarely ever post, but if they should choose to post again, I want to know when they do and I want it to show up on my blog reader.)  Reading blogs is less noisy for me, somehow- it's like picking up a magazine and reading an article and then closing it.  But it's the article a friend wrote, and it's a source of encouragement to me and I get to comment on that article.

Facebook- it's just noisier.  I don't know why, but it seems to crowd my brain more than reading blogs.  Most of what is posted is snippets of information, and for whatever reason it feels like noisy interruptions to me.  I don't really need or want to know what anyone is thinking or doing every half-hour.  (Trust me, I get regular, minute-by-minute updates of what is going on with my five children.  I cannot handle more.)  But Facebook lures you in, doesn't it?  And if you're like me, you read something and want to respond.  And then before you know it you're ten minutes in and clicking through someone's photo album from three years ago and you barely even know that someone and this is certainly not why you got on the computer in the first place, so what in the world just happened?  Sheesh.

I still don't really like it, but I am adjusting.  A few things I'm doing differently, this time around: 

-I rarely post updates, therefore there is less communication coming my way.  And I'm not adding (much) to the noise.
-I have it set up so that I'm not getting email updates anytime someone likes or comments on something I've liked or commented on.  Gracious.  (See?  NOISY for my brain.)
-I have fewer friends.  I am not friends with every single person I have ever met since I was born.  I am mostly friends with people I regularly see and communicate with in real life (or wish I could- if they lived closer).  So Facebook is a means for me to connect with those friends or family members that already exist OUTSIDE of Facebook.
-I am only on Facebook twice a week.   I am limiting myself to checking Facebook once on Tuesdays and Fridays.  (This is a new one for me, and I'm super thankful to have landed here.)

Anyway- those are my thoughts.  I'm sharing them here because it's something I have to keep re-evaluating.  I want to be intentional with my time, and not fritter it away online.  I want to give my best time to those right here in front of me.  I want to use the computer only as a tool, not turn to it in boredom or as a friend. I want to crowd my mind with words of LIFE- with His Words-- and not clutter it too much with words of others. 

One last thing: this is me.  I am different than you.  This is not a prescription for what you ought to do.   This is not a judgement upon you if your choices are different.   If you have 700 Facebook friends, great!  Have at it.  If you read 400 blogs, more power to ya.  :) 

Book list for an eight or nine-year-old boy

I pulled Isaac's "Books I've Read" binder in order to post this reading list, and I had to chuckle when I looked at his entries.  You can easily see what he was into this year as you glance at the list below.  I asked him, "Bud- is this all you read?  Did you forget to write down some other titles?"  He says he probably did, and I think that's true. Oh well.  Here's what we do have:

[Again, these are the books he chose to read this year, in addition to what I assigned for him.  (His Assigned Reading list is posted here.)]

Ben and Me, Robert Lawson
Redwall, Brian Jacques
Mossflower, Brian Jacques
Mattimeo, Brian Jacques
Mariel of Redwall, Brian Jacques
Salamandastron, Brian Jacques
Martin the Warrior, Brian Jacques
The Bellmaker, Brian Jacques
Outcast of Redwall, Brian Jacques
Pearls of Lutra, Brian Jacques
The Long Patrol, Brian Jacques
(oh, look!  something different!The Mystery at the Alamo, Gertrude Chandler Warner (Boxcar)
The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom, Margaret Davidson
Friday the Arapaho Indian, A.M. Anderson
Marlfox, Brian Jacques
Bull Run, Paul Fleischman
The Legend of Luke, Brian Jacques

I have not read a single Brian Jacques title (nor do I particularly desire to), but Mark did read the first book to proof it before Isaac read it, and we've had several friends (and my two brothers) recommend them to us.   My personal favorite from his list is The Silver Sword- one we've read before as a read-aloud but one he decided to read on his own, too.  It has been republished with the new title Escape from Warsaw if you're unable to track it down by the original title.

I asked Isaac which Redwall book was his favorite and he said: "the two that are really my favorites are The Pearls of Lutra and Salamandastron."  The reason he likes The Pearls of Lutra is that "there are a lot of riddles in the story to figure out."  Salamanastron was a favorite because he really liked some of the characters.  I asked him to describe what the books are about for boys (or parents) who may not be familiar with them.  He said, "Redwall is an abbey that has squirrels and mice and voles and shrews and otters and hedgehogs and there is usually a badger or two.  Usually in the book there's a bad guy (usually a rat, ferret, stote, weasel or wildcat) and he attacks the abbey or sometimes he (Brian Jacques) makes it far away and the "people" of Redwall have to travel to get there and defeat the bad guy."  So, sort of a good versus evil, animals-that-talk type of book, from what I gather.  Lots of adventure and suspense. 


[written last week, but I forgot to post it!]

-We finished our standardized testing today.  I am so relieved.  One of my testers got a little weepy every time he came to a problem that was challenging, so it was a little rough.  I think the whole idea of testing stresses my kids out.  They are never tested until standardized testing rolls around, and then suddenly they feel all this pressure to  Quite frankly, I don't put much stock in it.  I do it because we have to.  But- truly: I know my kids are doing just fine.  I think they're smart.  And if my son doesn't know how to do division yet?  That's perfectly fine with me.  He will.  He will learn it eventually.

-Now we're officially on summer vacation. 

-I am exhausted.  I began the month of May (or maybe it was even April?) with my normal end-of-the-year zeal to plan for next year: I started making lists, reading, talking with Mark, and praying through ideas-for-next-year.... but in the past few weeks I have completely lost ALL motivation to do anything school-planning related (or meal-planning related, or house-cleaning related...).  I just need rest.  I know I'll get there eventually, but right now I just can't.  I am tired.  Mentally and emotionally, I feel weary. 

-That reminds me of a post I read recently by Jen Hatmaker that was hilarious.  If you're weary at the end of your school year, then go read this: Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.  I was in tears.  It is that funny.

-Last night I printed off this Bible Reading Checklist for Isaac, 9.  I think he'll use it.  He doesn't like to follow a plan.  He'd rather read what he likes when he likes. This is simply a checklist.  Each book and chapter of the Bible is listed, and when you read something, you check it off. 
(HT: Mystie)

-This is also completely random, but since Google reader is closing down as of July 1 and that's the site I've been reading blogs through, I've switched to feedly  and I like it very much.  Just in case anyone else is trying to figure out an alternative to Google reader.

Okay.  That's it.  I hope you're all doing well as you end the school year!

Hair care at FIVE: our routine

I just finished putting twists in Adelia's hair.  Nowadays I do twists way more than braids.  They're just quicker.  It took me awhile to figure out how to do them right, but I've got it down now: Take two strands, twist each strand tightly the same way (I go right) and then twist one strand over the other the OPPOSITE way (I twist left).  For a long time I didn't have the opposite part down so my twists looked terrible.

I haven't figured out how to manage the twist-out, yet (taking the twists out and separating the hair so that she can wear it down as a style), but I'm working towards it.

This is a blurry photo, but you get the idea:

This is in between two styles- the top half of her head is in twists, and the bottom half (see the beads?) is still in braids that I will take out soon and switch to twists.  I have a friend who is always trying to talk me into relaxing Adelia's hair, but I just love her natural curls, and it is so a part of who she is and I want her to embrace it and grow into it.  So I persist. 

I am so thankful for video tutorials on caring for natural hair.  Last night I searched for natural hair blogs and found this article that features seventeen women who blog or post videos on youtube about caring for their hair.  I searched some of the women by name and ended up watching several videos.  I'm such a visual learner that I LOVE being able to watch a video that teaches me how to do it!  Mark even watched a few with me.  It is seriously UNREAL the amount of time it takes to care for natural hair.  If you ever see a black woman with natural hair you should compliment her, because- wow-- the WORK

This is my general routine with Adelia's hair, five years in:

1. WASH: approximately once a month, using a natural coconut shampoo that I ordered a long time ago from Cornrows & Co.

2. CONDITION: Lather on leave-in conditioner after washing (lately I've been using Giovanni).  We're talking lots of conditioner, fingering it through her hair, when wet.

3. TOWEL DRY:  Scrunching up the ends of her hair with the towel- not scrubbing the towel on her head to dry.  The water naturally runs down her curls and drips off the ends, so I just scrunch those repeatedly.

4. SECTIONING: I didn't know which step to put first: detangling or sectioning.  I have to detangle it somewhat- mostly with my fingers- before I section it out (with a rat-tail comb), and then I clip each section and work on detangling the individual sections.

5. DETANGLING:  This (and sectioning, above) is everyone's least favorite step.  Ouch.  It hurts Adelia, and it takes forever to detangle and comb out those tight curls.  I use a deep conditioning mix of Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Vitamin E oil and Olive oil.   Recipe here.

6. STYLE: Lately, I alternate between smallish twists like in the photo above (for one month) and then I'll wash, etc (steps 1-5, above) and for the next month, style with bigger, fewer sections: banded at her head and twisted out (fatter twists).  I style a couple hours at a time, over a period of days.  (Before ending Day 1: I'll keep the sections by putting in fat twists or braids.  On Day 2 (which may, in fact, be three days later) I spritz it with water and add more conditioner and detangle it all over again before styling.)

7. TRIM: Prior to washing the next time around, I trim the ends of her hair while they're still in twists. (Often just cutting off the rubber band at the end of the twist and the hair with it.)

What I do not do is moisturize her hair on a daily or even weekly basis.  I should really do this.  But I forget.  Every once in awhile, mid-month, I may rub some jojoba on her scalp or the ends of her hair.

If you're an adoptive mom and have tips on doing your daughters hair, please share.  I love learning more about how to care for Adelia's hair!

A garden walk

One of my favorite things to do each day is to walk around our yard and check on the progress of everything we've planted: to see what looks healthy and happy, what needs watering, what needs propping up, what needs weeding, what flowers need to be deadheaded.

I took my camera with me the past couple of days so here are (some) pictures of our yard:

Just planted: cucumbers and tomatillos, in the galvanized buckets.  Beyond that are our three strawberry beds.

Our happy rhubarb beyond the one strawberry bed, and our vegetable garden beyond that.

Our garden~ freshly weeded (and since this might be the only time it is all weeded in it's entirety: it was definitely photo-worthy.  Ella and Isaac are busy weeding their sections.  Mark put in the trellises for me this year- for the pole beans, peas, and cucumbers (near Isaac)

Our side yard, which was grass and a narrow sidewalk just a couple of months ago.  We put in the path and planted some perennials (and still need to finish the right-hand side, there)

First nasturtium bloom!

The nasturtiums are taking over this little corner area, but I love them! (and happy chickens in the background, there)

These are my sweet peas (flowers).  I am envisioning them climbing all the way up that chicken wire by the end of summer.  On the other side of that short wall are our pumpkins (NOT weeded), and some of our raspberries are growing there in the background. 

Happy gardening to you!