Archives for March 2012

Giveaway: Gobblet Gobblers

Today I’m giving away another fun game from the folks at Blue-Orange.  This one is called Gobblet Gobblers.  It is a game for 2 people and is similar to tic-tac-toe.  In this version, though, you can place pieces on TOP of another person’s piece of a smaller size, which means it requires a bit more thinking skill than your average tic-tac-toe.  Although the box says it is for ages 5 and up, I think a 3 or 4 year old could play this too. This is a high quality all wood game, and the pieces are a pleasure to use.

If you’d like to win this game, comment below and tell me a game you enjoyed playing as a child.  I remember enjoying checkers and Uno, and I also liked Kings in the Corner.  How about you?   For an additional entry, share or like the link to this post on facebook or twitter using the buttons below this post, then come back and comment again to tell me where you shared it. I’ll be announcing a winner on Tuesday. Good luck!

(My review policy)

Still running…

I’m still chugging along running a couple miles at a time, 2 or 3 times a week, usually somewhere around an 11 min/mile pace. Running more often seems to result in injury, so in addition to my 2 or 3 runs a week, I also spend an hour twice a week on the elliptical machine at the rec center.

If I lost more weight, running would be easier on my body, I’m sure.  But that would involve less eating– yikes.  I keep thinking I oughta do that, but in truth I’m not quite willing to go there.  I’ve been doing decently at maintaining where I am– 20+ pounds less than I was a couple years ago and at the top end of ‘normal’ weight for my height.  It is also the first time in years that I’ve actually weighed less than what my driver’s license says.  So for the time being, I’m reasonably content with where I am.

What is most delightful about this whole running/weight loss thing is how much better I feel doing even simple things.  Running up a flight of stairs, getting up off the floor, climbing into our big van–  all those things are so much easier than they used to be.  You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but every single day I notice that increased ease. The lines on my face may show I am getting older, but weight loss and exercise has made me physically feel most decidedly younger.  It is a very good thing.  My goal is to continue to keep a good balance between running and avoiding injury, because I hope to continue running for a good long time.

Worth reading

Here are some highlights from blogs I’ve read recently.

Seven Strategies for Dinner with Barbarians— (aka children) Excellent child-civilizing hints here.
Society’s Best-Respected Sin-a good reminder of the importance of balance in life
Lessons from the Community of Disability–my fave insight: “conforming them into the image of my son…”
Privileges for Teens from Hard Places — It can be incredibly hard to decide which privileges can be granted to a teen whose behavior doesn’t seem to warrant any.
Praying in Blessings – This post reminds me of the time my daughter wished we had chopsticks to use at dinner sometimes.  We were going yard-sale-shopping that morning, and on impulse I prayed aloud with her, for chopstick.  Guess what we found at the very first yard sale?  Yep.  Six pairs, enough for our whole family at that time.


Teeny tiny marshmallow roast

Veggie Tales Winner: Tina
Quite a few years ago when our older daughter were having friends over for a sleepover one night, we hit upon the idea of having a tiny marshmallow roast using mini marshmallows, skewers, and votive candles.  These days our younger girls enjoy doing this too.



Here are some other tiny little-girl ideas I’ve found on Pinterest recently. I hope some of them delight the little girls in your life.

How to make a tiny story book


How to make tiny Kisses for dollies


Bouquets in Eggshells



Elf Donuts


Tiny trees



Bottlecap Pincushions



Tiny teddy bear in a tin



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The day I became a mother

Somehow I’ve been blogging for six years without ever blogging any of my birth stories. But celebrating our oldest daughter’s birthday a few weeks ago, and then being with our second daughter when she gave birth, got me thinking of my first birth experience. I wish I’d written more back then; I’m sure I’ve forgotten so many details. But here is what I remember about the birth of our Amanda, the beautiful now-grown girl who first made me a mother, and who is expecting her own baby very soon.

She was due in late January and we planned to have her at the birthing center where my mother worked as an OB nurse. Thanks to my mom, I already knew a bit about childbirth.  For much of my childhood, my mother taught childbirth classes in our basement family room, and often I’d sit just around the corner on the stairs to listen in on the class.  Before I was 16, I’d read most of the books in her childbirth library.  I’d also been present when my mom gave birth to my three youngest siblings at home.

When it came close to time to deliver my own baby, I don’t remember being especially nervous.  Curious, eager to do this thing, and incredibly excited to see our baby, but not really nervous.  The childbirth classes that John and I took with a bunch of other first time parents were interesting, and we dutifully practiced the breathing.

My due date came and went.  A week passed.  And another.  When I was two weeks overdue, we went in for an appointment and the doctor decided it was time to break my water. He did so, and sent us home to wait for contractions. It was Monday afternoon.

Since nothing was happening at first, my mom encouraged me to take a nap.  I tried, but I was too excited, and too intent on waiting to feel those first twinges of labor.  Around  9 PM Monday evening I started having contractions, and within a couple hours they were hard.  I remember walking around the living room in between contractions, then kneeling during contractions on the green shag carpet and leaning on a little stool, rocking and breathing.

Mom talked to me on the phone a few times, then around midnight came to see how things were going. When she checked, I was disappointed to find that I was still 2-3 centimeters, about the same that I’d been when the doctor broke my water earlier in the day. This might take awhile.

My mom had always had slow labors. Twenty-four hours or so was normal for her, even after she’d had multiple kids.  She encouraged me to save my energy and rest in between contractions.  I remember her settling me on my side in bed with a cocoon of pillows around me, then later moving me to the couch and settling me in there. John and mom both dozed during the night too. But with contractions every 5 minutes or so, none of us slept much.

By the time the sun came up on Tuesday morning I was nauseated and vomiting, still having contractions steadily, still not progressing much.  I remember watching the grey February daylight growing in our living room, and thinking that today, certainly, our baby would be born.

Mom went home to sleep for a few hours. John hung in there with me, dozing between contractions, and waking to breathe with me during each contraction.  By late morning I was tired of laboring at home, and still vomiting. Mom decided maybe it would be good to go to the birthing center  and get some IV fluids for hydration.

On the way to the birthing center, our little Chevy Luv died.  Just quit, about half a mile away from the birthing center.  There was snow on the ground. My contractions were clicking right along still, and when John got out of the car to use a neighbor’s phone, I felt a surge of panic, which grew as he stood chatting with the person for what seemed like forever after using their phone.

Not long after that, mom came to get us, and we left the truck there to be dealt with later.  Once we got to the birthing center, Mom started my IV and then checked to see if I was dilated.  By then I’d made it to 4 centimeters or so.  I sat in the rocking chair that I’d brought from home and rocked, trying to distract myself.  Mom and John sat on either side of me talking quietly, and then breathing with me though contractions.  During one contraction I got irritated with the conversation and told them to be quiet.  Later I felt apologetic about being cranky, but at the time that talking I was tired, and felt emotionally done with this. It was a good thing that I didn’t know how much longer I still had to go.

The birthing center had a nice shower with a seat in it.  Several times during the next hours I went and sat in the shower, which helped a lot with the pain.  Until the water ran cold, anyway. As Tuesday evening turned into Tuesday night, the contractions got harder. John and my mom took turns putting pressure on my back, which helped a lot with the pain. I remember John sitting in a chair next to my bed, and laying his head down on the bed to doze between contractions. Sometimes he’d keep sleeping through the start of a contraction, and I’d wake him in a panic, needing him to press on my back again.

As long and hard as my labor was, I don’t think I ever thought of pain medication. I was miserable and wanted to be done, but I’d decided long before to have an unmedicated birth, and I never wavered from that choice, not even in my head.

Late Tuesday evening, finally, I was starting to progress, maybe a centimeter every two hours.  Still slow, but better than the previous night.  I moved to the ‘hee-hee-hoo’ (late-labor) breathing many hours before I actually hit transition.  But the other option– slow mellow breathing– didn’t work for me.  I was not feeling slow or mellow, despite my pokey progress.

After a long night of labor, finally, finally around 6:00 Wednesday morning, it was time to push.  That was hard work too, but an incredibly tremendous relief.  Finally I could do something to hurry this along. It suited me much better than what I’d been doing for the last 33 hours.  Amanda was born at 7:04 AM, and surprised the doctor by weighing a very respectable 8 pounds 8 ounces.  (He’d been expecting me to have a 7 pound baby.)

John, who’d been hoping for a boy, took exactly 5 seconds to fall completely in love with his little girl.  And as for me, I’d been hoping for a girl all along.  She had tons of black hair, and chubby cheeks and arms.  She was completely gorgeous in every way, and utterly worth every minute of labor.  We couldn’t take our eyes off her. What a blessing. What a gift. What an amazing day.


Veggie Tales giveaway

Today I’m giving away a new DVD from Veggie tales called Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men.  I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for Veggie Tales.  I’ve been watching them ever since our big kids were in elementary school. The pure silliness appeals to kids, and the message at the end of the movie leaves me feeling like the screen time was not a waste.

If’ you’d like to enter this drawing, comment below and tell me your favorite Veggie Tale movie.   Mine, always and forever, is the one featuring Madame Blueberry and Stuffmart. What is that one called, anyway?  I forget.  Anyway, tell me your favorites and I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday!

Homeschooling: what I wish I’d known

A post about what not to tell a new homeschooling mama got me thinking about my first year of homeschooling, what I did wrong, and what advice I’d give new homeschooling families.

Take it SLOW

That first year of homeschooling our oldest daughter was in second grade and our next daughter was in kindergarten.  We also had a 3 year old and a 1 year old.  I went into it gang-busters, feeling like I needed to cover every single subject there was.  Science, history, geography, reading, handwriting, math– not to mention field trips all over the countryside.

The first month or two I valiantly tried to keep up with what I thought I had to get done.  The third and fourth month was spent frustrated because I *still* wasn’t getting everything done that I thought I should.  It wasn’t until the second year, really, that I faced my abilities and limitations more honestly and decided to major in the majors.

For us, that’s reading, writing and math, with history covered via good story books at bedtime, and a bit of science once or twice a week.  The end. That’s plenty enough for elementary school.  There will be time later to add more subjects for older kids.  And even if you are BEGINNING homeschooling during high school, don’t expect too much of yourself and your kid at first.  It takes awhile to find your groove, and that’s OK.

It doesn’t have to look like ‘School’

I began by making a traditional school right in our house.  We bought school desks.  We painted ourselves a chalk board.  We had a map and a clock and a cursive handwriting poster on the wall and a flag for Pledge of Allegiance.  But when the kids were side by side at their desks, they distracted each other.   They chattered.  The little boys got into things.  And stuck there in the family room classroom supervising everyone, it was pretty darned hard to make lunch.

Relatively soon I discovered that our oldest daughter got her math done quickest lying on her bedroom floor.  Our second daughter was perfectly happy to work at the kitchen table while I cooked.  And it was much easier to keep the little guys occupied in the midst of their toys instead of in ‘the classroom’.

These days we still call the family room ‘the classroom’.  But rarely does more than one child at once occupy it during school hours.  For us school happens all over the house in the middle of life.  Sometimes kids read to me while I am at the sewing machine, sometimes while I am making lunch.  There are times when kittens ‘help’ little girls with handwriting. On really wonderful spring days we’ve even been known to spread a quilt and let a kid or two do math outside.  That’s one of the true beauties of homeschooling.  So enjoy it!

Don’t skip character training

When a child is away at school all day it is sometimes easy to not notice subtle disobedience.  But when you bring your child home and you’re suddenly spending all day eyeball to eyeball, don’t be surprised if your eyes are opened to issues with your child’s character.  (Maybe in yours too.  Homeschooling grows parents as well as kids– but that’s a whole nother post.)   If kids haven’t learned to obey, it can be hard to get them to do their math.   Sometimes kids outright refuse to do what you ask.  Other times their resistance comes in the form of s.l.o.w. work.

Expect it to take a little while for your kids to acclimate to the new way of learning. If you’re meeting resistance, of course be sure that they understand the work.  But often it takes a few months of slow work and inefficiency for a kid to realize that the only way out is through, that this is for real and the school work is not going to leave just because he doesn’t want to do it.  So don’t give up!

Enjoy experimenting with books and teaching methods

Don’t purchase too much in the beginning.  That way you’re not out lots of money if something doesn’t work.  And don’t be afraid to QUIT a book if it isn’t working for you or your kid- you’re ALLOWED to do that when you homeschool!  I had to try and discard a variety of books and learning methods that didn’t end up being my cup of tea. Unit studies are wonderful for many moms, but they take pre-planning and library trips and trips the the craft store for odds and ends.  Complete curriculum packages are a God-send for lots of moms, but I’m independent and want to decide things for myself.  I ended up with more of a DIY approach. [Our curriculum]

Read, read, read!

The very best thing you can do for your children is to read to them.  This applies even as they get older.  My husband has read every evening with all our kids since they were tiny, and he still reads to everyone now, even though five of them are teenagers.  It is a time of warmth and connection and easy effortless learning.  If you have twitchy kids, it’s fine to let them build with Legos or draw pictures while you read.  That way they can get the benefit of hearing the story without being restless.

I found my first year of homeschooling to be hard, and my second was quite a bit easier.  By the third year I pretty much knew what worked for me and for my kids.  And believe me, both factors are equally important!  School became much less stressful and we really began to see the rewards.  So be flexible, be relaxed, and don’t give up during that first year!  You can do it.


More like this

School planning:  a sample school schedule

Teaching multiple children at once

Homeschooling with preschoolers

Essay-writing made easy


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Hunger Games: my view

There’s been so much hoopla about The Hunger Games. Some of our kids’ friends have read the books and are talking about seeing the movie. Our kids are understandably intrigued. OK, more than intrigued. They’ve listened avidly and pored over newspaper articles and want to know what the excitement is about.

John and I try to make wise choices with what we allow our kids to read and see. We aren’t exceedingly conservative: our 13 year old kids have seen the Bourne movies, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  I’ve even made an ill-informed book purchase or two for teens that they’ve brought to me with eyebrows raised, and which I immediately tossed into the trash.  But we’ve opted to skip most pop culture things like Twilight and Harry Potter.

Side story/confession:  last year John and I went to the movie theater without having picked a movie to see.  After viewing the offerings, we impulsively bought tickets to the most recent Harry Potter movie, curious to see what the hoopla was about. We lasted 6 minutes before we walked out of the theater, stomachs churning, asking for our money back.

There are times when I’m sure we’re too lax and have scarred our kids’ impressionable minds with too many gun fights and car chases. Other times I fear we’re inciting rebellion by being too restrictive. But we are doing our human best to make wise choices.

When investigating The Hunger Games, I got a bad vibe right from the start. The premise of kids fighting other kids to the death was immediately repulsive to me. Why did so many folks seemed to love the books? I spoke with my son-in-law Ben and our 20-yr-old son Jared after they each read the first book in the series, along with several other folks whom I respect. They all agreed that it was compelling and well written, and that there was nobility in the way that some characters responded to the terrible happenings in the book. But several of the folks I trusted the most felt that the violence was unnecessarily detailed and sickly creative.

Just today I read this post from my friend Carrien describing the character of Katniss.   This post on another website also has a great discussion going.   After a lot of reading and talking, John and I ended up feeling peaceful about not letting our kids under 18 read these books or watch the movie. (The ones affected are 17, 16, 14, 14, and 13.) Our 17 year old son will be 18 soon, and goes to college in the fall.  That’s soon enough for him to read the books, if he wishes.  But we’d rather not have the books in our house right now, especially with so many young teens wildly interested.

I’ve thought of carving out some time to read the books myself.  If I do, and end up feeling OK about the content, maybe we will consider letting kids younger than 18 read the books. Maybe. But for now we are content to listen to the viewpoint of folks we trust, and to steer young teens in other directions.  Their lives will not be over if they don’t get to read these books for a few years.

Do I think Hunger Games books are the worst books ever, or that they will lead our kids on a murder spree? Most emphatically not.  I know that the author intended the books partially as a commentary on evil, and the need to speak out and take a stand against it. But I know there are better things out there to read in the early teen years, better books to remember, better books to mull over and be influenced by their whole lives.

What we read as children has a powerful effect on us. I still remember characters from books I adored. My favorites were headstrong impulsive types like Kit and Caddie and Laura and Jo, girls who struggled but ended up being true and honorable and strong in the end.  I think that part of their success came from the fact that  they lived in worlds where beauty and good did still exist, where friends and/or family came alongside them in their struggles.

I also read The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank– stories of  people struggling to maintain humanity and love and faith in the midst of terrible evil.  I’ve begun reading The Hiding Place with one of my girls, and the others will have read both books by high school graduation as well.

We’ve talked frankly with our teens about The Hunger Games, explaining our concerns with the book at this point in their lives.  After this discussion, one of the girls asked me why the author would write a story like this for kids.  We talked about some of the reasons. Some of the kids ended up being OK with our choice.  Others weren’t thrilled.

John and I understand that other parents have made different decisions about these books.  That’s fine.  We respect the right of each family to make choices that  take their own children into consideration.

One of our own considerations was that we have many teens at different developmental stages with different life experiences that are similar chronological ages.  Some might be ready.  Some are definitely not.  A blanket ‘no’ felt more fair to us than selective approval for a few kids.

We’re also aware that our kids will eventually have the freedom and the right to read what they want.  We’re fine with that too.  But before they get that freedom we want our younger kids to first get to the place that our grown kids are:  a place of mature discernment, bolstered and nurtured by many years of reading good stuff.  Speaking of good stuff, here’s one great guide that has come to my mind over and over as we’ve thought through this choice.  It’s from Philippians 4:8:

” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Yeah. That.

That’s what we want for our kids.  And we trust that God who knows our hearts will redeem our well-intentioned choices, both right and wrong, for His glory in their lives.


Reading the thoughts of others really helped clarify John’s and my choice on this matter.  And we know there are good parents who have thought this thing through and come up with a decision different than ours.  I’d love to hear some respectful thoughts on both sides of this issue. How old are your kids? Will you let them read the books and/or watch this movie?  Why or why not?

My take on the Hunger Games after reading the series

Why Hunger Games is Flawed by Trevin Wax


My take on other parenting issues

Gratuitous baby picture post

The winners of the Amazon card and The Homeschool Experiment are commenter #160-Alea, and #66- Julee. Email me your addresses, gals, and I will get your loot sent your way!


I just had to share pictures of our sweet Zechariah Ranger that we took over the weekend. He’s not yet two weeks old and he already weighs 9 pounds 13 ounces. I think he’s doing well. And as you can see by the pictures below, he is already exceedingly well loved.