Monday, January 28, 2013

{Shadow Puppet Shows}

These dark and cold winter nights just beg for some old fashioned fun — snacking on popcorn near a crackling fire, reading stories while sipping hot cider, or hovering over a jigsaw puzzle to press in that final piece. As the winter wears on, however, you might find that you’ve exhausted your resources and could use a new diversion. Why not try a shadow puppet show?

Join me over at The Homeschool Classroom today to continue reading . . .
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

{The Problem With Books}

Is that there are just so many of them! Over Christmas break I decided to re-read Little Women, which caused me to re-read Little Men. So delightful. Definitely one of my all time faves.

Often, when I recommend a book to someone, I think, "Oh, I should read that again! It was so good!" But then I'm torn. My "to read" list is so. very. long. I recently brought this dilemma up on facebook. Sometimes it's fun to re-visit an old book. It's familiar and comfortable. But I catch myself thinking that it's almost a waste of time; I should be getting on with something new! There might be a new favorite just waiting for me!

I'm reminded, though, of the value of re-reading a book. We interact with the text on different levels depending on our season of life. I thoroughly enjoyed Stepping Heavenward as a high schooler. I enjoyed it even more as a young mom. I will likely read it again and gain yet another perspective. Like, when I'm old. Life has a way of doing that.

I think it was L.M. Montgomery, author of the beloved Anne books (definitely worth re-reading) who mentioned in her journals that she had just a handful of books while growing up. But they were good books, classic books. She read and re-read and re-read them, and they became dear and personal and treasured. How much more would I treasure, say, Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice or a Tale of Two Cities if they were the only books I had access to? How well I would know those characters!

Although I just pinned several new books to my list, I do believe that I shall be working my way back through some beloved old stories as well this year. It's been awhile since I've visited with Jane. And I think it's just about time.

What books do you find yourself re-reading? Do share! (Because, of course, I'll be adding them to my list . . .)
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013


There are a few reasons why I really enjoy prayer journaling. One is simply that I love to write. Another is that it keeps my heart focused. My mind has a tendency to wander; the pen keeps me grounded. But I think the greatest joy in journaling is found in looking back and seeing how the Lord has answered prayer.

Anschutz Thomas Pollock

I know the Lord has many ways of showing His love for His children. But the language that really causes me to blush over my Savior's love for me is the answering of the simple, quiet prayers that only He hears. He cares about them and He blesses.

Just recently He's flooded my life with "little nothings" that have made me feel loved, treasured. Some are silly, some are practical and some are "bigger." But all are from His hand.

A couple of weeks ago I was quietly wishing that I had more time to spend with my girlfriends. My mind played tricks on me to the point of thinking that I didn't even have any friends. (Ridiculous! But true.) The Lord heard my quiet heart and the next Sunday Jamie had some extra video work to do at the church. It caused us to stay late, which in turn gave me ample opportunity to catch up with several dear friends. It was just what I needed. The icing on the cake was a request from my brother in Slovenia. "Wanna Skype?" And I spent a delightful hour visiting with Johnny, Brooke and Kinsley. Again, just what my heart needed.

Another need that I've come to acknowledge is one for true rest. One of the problems with homeschooling is that the kids are always, well . . . home. Now, don't get me wrong. I adore my children, and I love homeschooling them. But I'd be lying if I said it was all roses. Sometimes Mama just needs a break. I wrote of this desire while praying one morning. But I was even more specific than "Give me a break!" I wanted rest and quiet . . . but I wanted to be at home. Home is where I feel truly relaxed, truly at peace.

John William Waterhouse

Enter the grandparents. My parents had scheduled a weekend to take the girls tubing at Mt. Hood as part of their Christmas present. I was looking forward to at least half of the quiet when it dawned on me that it would be pretty easy to pawn the boys off on my dear in-laws. They were game (literally -- they spent the whole time watching football, much to Drew's delight) and Jamie and I had 24 hours to ourselves this past weekend.

He totally understood my desire to have a simple, cozy "retreat," and the only thing scheduled was an early dinner out. He took me to a new (to me) restaurant in Portland called Produce Row Cafe. It was fun and yummy and very foggy (which added a lovely element of hushed mystery). The rest of our evening was spent cozily lazing about with movies, a crackling fire and chocolate fondue. He even made me breakfast the next morning. I kept my robe on as long as I wanted to and nursed my mug of tea while gazing -- mesmerized -- out the window at the delicate icy-white frost that had blanketed the yard overnight. I couldn't stop thanking God for this perfect answer to my prayer.

John William Waterhouse

The 24 hours were up, but the Lord still had one more little gift in mind. While meeting my parents to pick up the girls, my mom handed me a brown paper bag. "Light bulbs! For the projector!" I laughed. A friend, who is a teacher, had mentioned that her school is phasing out the overhead projectors. She read my recent post and started stockpiling. I love it.

As I was journaling that morning, I found myself in the Psalms. I felt as though Psalm 10:17 was a sweet reminder that God does care about my needs, no matter how small. And He meets them.

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.

Although I didn't exactly feel "afflicted" and I wasn't quite crying out for help, He still heard and He still encouraged. As my grandma would say, "It was so dear of the Lord to do that for me." Wasn't it?    
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

{When Aidan Texts}

Because Wednesday is our busy day, I tend to get a lot of texts from the kids. Today Aidan wins the award for most diverting texts. The first one appeared when I was dropping Jamie off at the office. I was so proud of myself for having left a nice breakfast for the kids. Or so I thought.

"The bottom of the baked oatmeal is slightly burnt. Not to whine, I'm just saying. aidan."

Well. Glad it wasn't a whine. (You'll notice the tactful adverb, "slightly.") For the sake of frugality, I suggested that he might scrape off the bottom of the oatmeal.

"Oh, never! It's really yummy!"

I didn't see that one coming, but I was thankful. It was also a sweet glimpse into Aidan's personality. I guess he really meant it when he said, "Not to whine."

A couple of hours later, I had dropped Little Miss off at her art class when I received an urgent request. (The urgency was suggested by the use of all caps.)


I didn't relish the thought of texting math instructions and suggested that perhaps big brother could assist him. Alas,

"No. He's too busy."

Aidan, however was not too busy. Indeed, he had even PRACTICED MY PIANO. My phone rang out:

"The problem is this: Every fourth bead on Mary's necklace is red there are 164 beads in all. How many beads are red?"

He typed the whole problem. I certainly did not intend to text the method back and sent back a succinct reply:

"Call me."

He finally texted, "41 beads are red!" while I was zipping through Trader Joe's, followed by the request, "Hey, can i have peach yogurt? That was aidan." In case I'd forgotten who was texting me.

His last, lyrical text suggested that he was looking for a treat to reward himself for completing his math assignment:

"Oh where, oh where have the chocolate chips gone?
Oh where, oh where can they be?"

I thumbed a (pathetic) lyrical reply,

"They're all in the scones,
but, dear, worry not --
You may eat one says your Marmee!"

To which he replied with the endearing cheer, "Yipee, marmee."

On days like today, which ring with these quirky little communications from my kids, I feel like "Yippee" and "Marmee" do go hand in hand. But not yippee for me. Yippee because I love it that I get to be a Marmee. Burnt oatmeal, math questions, missing chocolate chips and all.  

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

{Reminiscing: The Day I Was a Dork}

The light bulb in the overhead projector finally burned out. It lasted at least four years, although I don't know for sure when it was first put in since we got it from a forklift driver. Our tiny little classroom has had quite a bit of fun with that projector.

(Liesl receiving a telegram from Rolfe, of course.)

When it gave out today, my mind wandered back a few years to when it first came into our home. We were living in Camas at the time, and I had written the account to my family to share about that glorious day. The day when I was a dork. Maybe you'd like to hear about it, too.

March, 2009 

Today the kids were watching the action across the street at the paper mill warehouse -- a welcome diversion after several monotonous days of fighting a virus. There's usually a forklift doing something or other over there, and today was no different. They were dropping impressively large pieces of office equipment into the dumpster. It started out with loud crashes, bumps and bangs, which of course attracted the kids' attention.

Then, I noticed they were throwing away perfectly good things, which, of course, attracted my attention. When I saw a chalkboard go in, I knew something had to be done. On went my coat and shoes. The kids' eyes widened in horror. Drew tried to reason with me. "Mom, are you really going over there? To the dumpster?" His appeal failed. I brushed past the blushing children and marched across the street. When the forklift man noticed me, I, The Dork, approached him. I asked if perhaps there was a chalkboard up for grabs.

Thankfully, the workers did not address me as Mrs. Dork, but actually felt that it was a waste to be throwing all of these things away. It was simply their job -- the place needed to be cleared so it could be put up for sale. They would gladly give me the three chalkboards . . . . would I also like five giant pads of paper? How about a huge whiteboard? Knowing the whiteboard would be great for Jamie's business, I accepted, and Mr. Forklift and I walked back across the street with three chalkboards and the monster paper under our arms. Mr. Forklift said he'd return shortly with the whiteboard.

Back at the house, the kids (still pasted to the window) changed their minds. That paper was bigger than Avery -- how fun! Art projects were immediately under way. Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to have a dork for a mother. They definitely knew this was the case when, a few minutes later, Mr. Forklift actually drove his machine across the street right up to our house to deliver a very large whiteboard, several reams of paper and . . . . 80 rolls of Georgia Pacific toilet paper.

An inspiration seized me. Quickly, I whipped some pants and a sweatshirt onto a mystified Aidan and grabbed my camera. This was definitely a moment to take advantage of, especially for a boy who just had a construction equipment birthday, but didn't actually have one, thanks to the flu. So there, with the snow beginning to fall, Aidan had his picture taken with a forklift. In his own yard.

Well now, it doesn't get much better than that. We even ended up with a forklift-delivered overhead projector, three hole punch, pencil sharpener and several other things to boot. So the kids are now singing a different tune, knowing that their mother, although embarrassing at times, can also make pretty cool things happen.

* * * * *

We no longer live across the street from a warehouse. But we do live within walking distance of three thrift stores. They all stock lovely selections of very inexpensive books -- some of them deliciously vintage. Last week you may have noticed me lugging two bags of books across town. I guess that still makes me a dork. At least my kids are used to it by now. 
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

{Genius Burns}

It's felt good to fall back into a routine again. I spent a lot of time over Christmas break praying, reading and pondering over how to add a bit more zest into the school day for Little Miss as we entered the new year. I want her to love learning, and sometimes that means (A LOT OF) extra work. But it's been so worth it to see her skipping through the house, spontaneously attacking me with hugs and waking up with a smile. (Or at least waking up without glaring at the world.)

Lately she's been interested in veterinarians, saying that she wants to be one when she grows up. As she continued to allude to this desire over break, I began to pull together animal books from around the house. My mind starting bubbling over with ideas, which was truly a blessed answer to prayer. I decided to use James Herriot's delightful stories as a springboard for our lessons over the next few weeks.

This week we're studying cats and making a little lapbook to go along with the poems, stories and facts that we collect along the way. She loves making lapbooks, but she and I have a tendency to . . . butt heads in the process. I frequently find myself telling her how to correctly place things (so the booklets open properly, so that the words fit on the page, so the wrong end doesn't get glued shut, etc.) but she would rather do it all on her own. She became content to do it "my way" when she came up with a plan to make her own book on the side. "I can put things wherever I want!"

Now I just need to encourage her to use paper in a more efficient manner.   

This evening I found the lapbook that's all her own, and was charmed by her work. (Funny how that happens.) She had hastily completed it in one day, but, among other things it included a story and a poem:

The Story of the Girl Who Became a Vet

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Avery who wanted to be a vet. She did mostly animals that she learned about in school, cause she told her mother. She did the James Heriott stories cause the stories are only about animals. today she read Moses the Kitten. it was a black tom kitten. She always wanted a kitten. then she finally got two! she was really happy that she got two whole cats. THE end.

by Avery Lawson

Puppys are cute,
but the problem with them
is that you can't make them mute.

Clearly I have a Jo March on my hands. Genius burns. 

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Friday, January 4, 2013

{A Guide for the New Year}

The boys' room is just beyond the wall where I stand at the kitchen sink to do the dishes. Frequently I'll hear a little knock, knock at bedtime, a little boy beckoning. He can hear me washing, and he likes the secret communication that we share. I like it, too. Indeed, as Dickens said, "It is no small thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us."

My Little Man unwittingly gave me three tips for how I might show my love for him in return. The other night he tapped his bedtime code. When I finally peeled off my dish gloves and peeked through the bedroom door, he had concocted a plan.

"Okay, Mom. One knock means . . ." And he proceeded to give me the meaning of the one, two and three knock summons. Just so I wouldn't forget, he scribbled the code out on a post-it note for me to display near the kitchen sink:

1. Can you come pray with me?
2. I need that cough medicine
3. C'mere

As I smiled and re-read the note, I became thoughtful of what he was really saying. He was telling me what all children tell their parents in some way or another. They need to be loved spiritually. (Come pray!) They need to be loved physically. (I'm coughing! Fix it, Mama!) They need to be loved emotionally. (Come here. I just need to know that you're available.)

I don't usually make sweeping New Year's resolutions. Sure, I often begin January by rethinking some things and reevaluating how to best navigate a new season of life, but I don't tend to attack the year with lists and formulas. However, I might make an exception this time. I like Aidan's list. It's succinct and powerful. It reminds me that my priorities are right in front of me, asking for spiritual, physical and emotional guidance.

May my ears be in tune this year to the gentle knock that beckons. 

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