Archives for November 2011

Words spoken this morning

I am NOT a morning person, but the day doesn’t tend to wait for me to wake up.  Of course it would also help if I didn’t stay up so late every night.  Thus the need for multiple cups of coffee most mornings. (The mug below gave me a chuckle.) Below is probably about 20% of what I actually said during the first 2 hours of the day.

  • “OK, everyone come cook your own eggs.”
  • “_____, can you slice the bread?”
  • “_____, you make juice.  Since we hardly have any orange, let’s juice some carrots and apples and add 2 quarts of grape juice.”
  • “Every rule reminder today costs you 5 kisses. Maybe I’ll get a lot of kisses today!” (not minding the idea of kisses, but expecting that the teenagers will prefer to do what they’re supposed to do instead of having to kiss mom.)
  • “No, the grape juice doesn’t need sugar.  It’s already insanely sweet. Remember, we picked the grapes after the frost this year, so that made them really sweet.”
  • “Could we please not play basketball during breakfast?”
  • “Everyone get a piece of toast.”
  • (to 7yo running around with her cup wary of mom’s crazy-juice mixture) “Put your cup by momma’s and let [brother] give you juice.”
  • “Everyone have your Bible?  What chapter on we on today? My brain is not awake.”
  • “Yes, you need an egg.”
  • “Oh, yay, I get 5 kisses.”
  • (10 minute discussion about the mega-fire in Daniel 3, the highlights being how great is the power of our God and how the details given in the story showed that so incredibly clearly.  Good stuff and just what this momma needed to hear this morning.)
  • “OK, thanks everyone.  Let’s get going on cleanups and your first subjects.”
  • “Oh, yay, I get 5 more kisses.  And I get to kiss you too.” (7yo goes away grinning hugely.)
  • “Are you supposed to be talking or cleaning the kitchen?  Remember not to disturb people working.”
  • (after a crash in the kitchen) “Please be careful.”
  • (5 seconds later, second crash, different child) “Please be careful!”
  • (to 1st grader:) If you have one cookie and you give away zero cookies, how many do you have left?”
  • (to guitar players:) “OK, that’s enough tuning.  Now play.”
  • “How much is 7 10’s?  70.  Write it here.”
  • “Thanks for bringing scraps to chickens, ______.”
  • “The kitchen looks good.  Thanks!”
  • “No, you may not do your math outside.  It’s 30 degrees.”
  • “Let me check the answer key.  No, the answer is supposed to be in yards cubed.”
  • “You need to do some more thinking.”
  • “No, thinking is not a waste of time. Let’s see the index.  Look for volume.  See, chapter 47.  Read it and then listen to it on your Jump CD.”
  • “Sound it out.  ‘t-h’ says?  Right.  ‘i-r’ says?  Yeah. Good!!”
  • (to self) “OK, no more computer this morning.”

Add about 100 other sentences and 3 more sets of kisses and that’s what went on during the first 2 hours of my day.  No wonder I am tired of the sound of my voice by noon.  Now I’m off to cut out more baby diapers while I listen to several sets of kids read to me.  Have a great day, y’all!

PS– What’s the craziest sentence you’ve spoken so far today?

When regret weighs heavy

Yesterday was full of regret for me, moments of handling rudeness with sharp words instead of patience, of losing my cool so entirely over repetitive but minor disobedience that even after apologizing I went to bed just wanting to push the ‘forget’ button.

I woke still heavy with frustration, both with myself and the one with whom it feels I’m sometimes making no headway. I tossed on my running clothes and went for a run. Away.

Onto my mp3 player came ‘No Better‘ by Shaun Groves. “Lay me down the with the liars, brawlers, thieves and back-biters… because I’m no better…” Basically the song is a brutal assessment of himself, and wow, that jived with my feelings at that moment.

But as the last notes faded, I was longing to hear grace. I knew it was there, but I’d been focused so intent on my failures that I wasn’t giving myself permission to see it. Then came ‘Reach’ by Peter Furler.

You hold the weight of the world
Still I don’t slip through Your hands
Your love is bigger than just an ocean built by man
I fall again and again but You whisper, “You’re still mine”
You feel the pain of the world but You never push mine aside

Yep. That’s exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Maybe some of you do too.  And come to think of it, it’s probably what that frustrating but much-loved child of mine needs to hear too.  Because as I freshly discovered this morning, grace is sweetest when you least deserve it.

And the rest of Monday?  Was pleasant and good and enjoyable between my young one and me.  Thanks in part to the beneficial effects of a sleep and a run, but probably mostly compliments of the One whose grace is new every morning. May His name be praised.


The peace that passes understanding is my song…

Good running form

Over Thanksgiving I found myself talking about running quite often with family members who wanted to know how my running was going. (Short answer: great, but I’m easing into my new minimalist shoes SLOWLY.) Most were surprised to hear that after foot injury I’d decided to switch to LESS shoe rather than one with more padding. Why use barefoot-type shoes?  Because they encourage better running form.  Here’s a great article explaining why good form makes a difference.

After you’ve read the article, just for fun come back and look at the picture above again and tell me if you notice anything new. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) I’m not an expert, and I’m certainly not claiming a single snapshot can distinguish between good and bad form.  But the more I learn, the more fascinated I become with pictures of people running.


I am most thankful this Thanksgiving for family, and today am especially thinking of the generations who’ve gone before us. They taught us to work hard. They taught us to be honest, to be kind, to love each other, to value life. And they taught us to trust and serve God.

I had a dad who got tears in his eyes at the sight of a new baby. I had a grandmother who prayed for me every day right up to the last days of her life. Many other precious ones blessed my life before I was ever born, in ways I often take for granted.

I think of the way my husband works hard even if a job is not easy. The way my mother always finds a way to be calm, even in a storm. They bless me with these virtues because someone taught them those virtues. Today I am grateful for the folks who faithfully did the job God set before them, even when they were weary and the job was not easy. I pray that I can leave a similar legacy with my own life.

Photocredit: Avalanche Photography

Do you shop on Black Friday?

I’m usually one of those crazy people who enjoys shopping on Black Friday  (you can read my Black Friday shopping strategies here.)  But this year I’m still on the fence. I’ve got some shopping done already, some other things planned to make, and a variety of things on kids’ lists that don’t seem to be showing up in sales ads.  I’m not quite feeling that shopping mojo yet.

The only thing that I’m somewhat interested in this year is the $1.50/yard flannel at JoAnns. I am expecting TWO grandbabies next year, people, and both my daughters are interested in trying cloth diapers.  So I’ve been wondering about braving the crowds.  It would definitely take bravery.  Our JoAnn’s is in my humble experience THE worst place to be in the universe on Black Friday.  For starters, you have to wait twice –once to get your fabric cut and then again to actually pay. I once stood in a line so long that by the time I got to the check-out, the lady in front of me and I knew secrets about each other that we hadn’t told our own mothers.  I think it’s called trauma bonding.

It does help to go with a buddy, however.  One person can shop while the other waits in the cutting line, and then you can trade off.  Once you’ve both shopped and have everything to the cut counter, the second person can go stand in the checkout line.  With good luck, the cutting will be done before you get to the front of the payment line.  If not, you can always let a person at a time go ahead of you and pay while you wait for your buddy to show up with the cut fabric.

A few more strategy points-

  • Though the fabric bolts are bulky to handle, I’ve found it best to skip the cart.  It is just too hard to squeeze through crowded spots with your cart AND yourself.  (You can usually bring a large empty tote into the store to help corral the goodies you grab before paying.)
  • If you know you’ll eventually use a whole 10-yard bolt  (for example, if you were a mom planning to make your whole family matching PJ pants for Christmas) you might just want to grab a few whole, unopened bolts and completely bypass the cutting line.

And just in case you’re wondering about the picture above, these diapers are ones I made today. They will eventually have snaps on them so they’ll be easy to use.  Aren’t they sweet?   I can’t wait to see the little guy that I made them for!!  (Did I tell you already?  Erika and her husband are expecting a boy!)  I fully expect that by the time he and his little cousin arrive next year, they will have a good selection of cute diapers to wear.  Especially if I get to that flannel sale on Friday.  Oh, the fun!


My baby is 7

Here she is in her first days with mommy and daddy







And here she is celebrating her 7th birthday this weekend.










Happy birthday, sweet girl! We love you!

Homeschooling ESL children

We’ve been a homeschooling family since 1995, which would lead some folks to call me a veteran and assume I have all the answers figured out.  Last week it mostly felt like I’m exceedingly tired of correcting math.  I’m scheming a bonfire of math answer keys on the day that I retire from homeschooling a decade or so from now. (Though it’s more likely that my practical side will kick in and I’ll try to sell the tattered things on ebay.)

Many moms have the hardest time during their first couple years of homeschooling as they get settled in and figure out what works for them.  But for me, the last 4 years have been far more challenging.  A fair bit of that challenge has been related to homeschooling older-adopted children for whom English is a second language.

We’re also homeschooling a whole lot of kids these days. This year we have one senior, one 9th grader, three kids in 8th, one in 4th and one in 1st grade. Several need personalized reading help each day. More than half of them are adrift in the land of algebra and most are not happy about that little adventure. Two younger ones also need frequent math help.  Not to mention the 180 or so problems of math I check every day. None of it is easy.

Last week, feeling worn, I decreed Thanksgiving week to be a week of holiday.  Sleeping late and pretending algebra does not exist sounds utterly lovely to me. This decision has given me a few guilt pangs. Especially when I think of our girls who came to America 4 years ago, I wonder if I should be more diligent and get in some more days of school.  But they are just as burned out on school as I am.  Hopefully a week off school will revive and refresh.

The longer I teach our older-adopted girls, the more I realize that my initial expectations were unrealistic.  They came home from Ethiopia at 9 and 11.  They are both smart girls and in general work hard. I honestly thought that within a year or two language would not be an issue, especially given the fact that they get lots of personal attention with homeschooling.

Certainly the girls have learned a tremendous amount since they arrived.  Homeschooling, though difficult, has been good for them.  And at this point their English is good enough that they can communicate very effectively. They’re both doing well in math. But things like spelling and grammar remain mysterious to them.  This difficulty is completely normal — after all, they both spent about a decade speaking an entirely different language.

I’ve read various language acquisition studies suggesting that it takes older kids 4-10 years to become fluent at a second language.  In that same time, their peers who have always spoken English are also learning new vocabulary words at a regular rate, making it unlikely that an ESL student will truly ‘catch up’ to their peers in an academic sense.

We are working systematically through a grammar book and a spelling book.  I am encouraging lots of reading, and lots of dictionary work when words are unknown. I will always be the type of mom to encourage my kids to do their very best, and I think that higher parental expectations in general lead to higher performance in a child.

But working to help the girls ‘catch up’ has opened my eyes to the down side of parental expectations.  A side that has the potential to leave kids feeling like failures if they can’t achieve to the level that their parents imagine. For the good of my children and for my own peace of mind, I’m having to adjust my expectations.  As much as it pains my writer-heart, good spelling and properly put-together written sentences may not happen for all my kids in the time that they have left in our home.

But here’s what I’ve also come to realize: my English-learning girls already possess (or are well on the road to having) a boatload of equally important skills. They  can read and follow instructions.  They notice when someone needs help and they’re not afraid to work hard. They can look up things they don’t know.  They can cook dinner and soothe babies. They know the difference between right and wrong. They can have a conversation about their faith and why they believe what they believe. They’re kind to people around them, and because of that, they are well respected and well liked wherever they go.

Much of my distress in recent years has come when I’ve been focused on areas of weakness. (And we all have them, don’t we?)  But to be a wise encourager of my kids I’m called to focus on them in a much more multidimensional way, to notice and praise the legitimately valuable skills that they already possess. Then they can approach adulthood with a degree of confidence instead of a vague feeling that they don’t measure up.

In allowing me to teach my children, it seems God is sneaking in some home education for me as well.


Other homeschooling posts



My foes are many, they rise against me

But I will hold my ground

I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm

My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Pillow pet

I’ve been meaning to show you the pillow pet I made last week for my sweet little daughter (she turns 7 TOMORROW!) I’ve been planning this project for nearly a year, but kept putting it off because I didn’t quite know how to approach it.  But then the other day when I started talking about sewing baby diapers, she begged me to first make her that pillow pet as I promised.

It is basically a rectangular pillow with a horse head sewn onto it.   Since I designed it myself and I don’t have much experience creating stuffed animals, the head turned out longer and thinner than I envisioned.   But the smile on my little girl’s face probably lets you know what she thinks of my effort.  🙂  It turned out to be a really fun project.

Next:  on to baby diapers!

Other sewing projects I’ve blogged about:

Cloth gift bags with zippers

Stretchy poly-knit headband

Sweet knitted socks

Cute cloth diapers (this one shows my 7-year old at age ONE!)

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