Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ohio and Missouri Collide For A Few Moments

This week has been an exciting one. We were able to spend some time with my Uncle Mick while getting ready for the annual visit of my Nana. On Friday, both events collided for a few hours as Nana arrived before Mick had to leave. We headed down to Mom and Dad's to enjoy the time together. I was reminded once again that Mick doesn't act his age. And when you see my Nana, you realize he comes by it honestly. I won't even comment on my Dad... :)

Here are some pictures of our afternoon:

The boys brought their clubs so Mick tried to teach them a little bit about the mechanics of a good swing... and how he hasn't perfected it yet!




Then Mick got on the scooter and tried to do a trick or two. Here he is maintaining an upright position while sticking his leg in the air...


And Matthew's response...


And Jonathan's attempt to top them both.


They just enjoyed hanging out together, boarding and scooting.



Then Laura had to get in to the picture. I believe "Go Fasser, Mattchew" was heard over and over again.


Jonathan getting his groove on!


And my Nana. She's 90! Can you believe that? And yes, she chose to wear that Cards shirt in to Indians territory... *sigh*


She brought a gift for Laura. Isn't it precious? Laura loves it!


Friday, June 29, 2007

What Did You Get For Me???

It is our homeschool family tradition to visit the library at least once a week. And we enjoy, and look forward to that visit. Especially if we know something our hard-working libarians have found for us is finally ready to be picked up. Last night was no exception. They'd been holding something for me for almost a week and if I didn't get it by last night, it would be heading back to the lending library they had borrowed it from. Needless to say, I couldn't let THAT happen! I planned to stop before we headed to the grocery store to replenish our milk supply. Since the boys were playing ball across the street, just Don, Laura and I went.

As we drove up to the library Laura knew we were going there. Not because she heard us talking about it, but because I had our 'wibwerry' bag with me. Our library bag carries our haul there and back regularly, and is the repository for items that need to be returned. It is a fixture in our family room, right next to the bookcase. And to Laura, it means not only the wibwerry is on our list of stops, but that she'll get to pick some things out herself. And perhaps she'll get to play in their toy corner. Yes, she LOVES our library.

On this trip Don thought I would just run in and drop off and pick up what was waiting and leave. I softly informed him that I'd need to run by the children's section 'quickly' to grab a few videos for Laura and then I'd check out. I think he inwardly groaned. But I knew that if I didn't, Laura would ask over and over again where her books and videos were from the library. She takes her library privileges very seriously. He stated he'd drop me off at the door and find a place to park. He even went so far as to say that perhaps he and Laura could walk around the parking lot while they waited. I smiled and said "I really won't be long, Honey. I'll just run by the new returns and pull some quickly."

As I entered the library I really did move more quickly than I ever have before. Given that the library is one of my absolute favorite places, to whiz through without stopping to browse was neigh on impossible, but I did it. I strolled through the crowds in the children's department, scoring several of Laura's favorites. Then I ran by the new adult returns and scored another hit for the boys. Then I got in line, congratulating myself for not stopping to browse my favorite book sections. It is here that my plan fell apart.

Even though our library serves such a large community, the librarians get to know you. And your computer records don't hurt, either. As I approached the checkout, I handed the librarian my card and said that I had some materials waiting. Because there were so many materials waiting, she had a hard time tracking them all down. Finally, she approached me with a stack and apologized that it took so long. I thanked her for being diligent and she started to check me out. I was getting antsy knowing Don was waiting in the parking lot with an adventurous three year old. But the librarian wasn't through with her customer service. She said "On our spotlight reading table we have a book I know you'll love. Why don't you hurry over and get it. I'll wait." Without hesitation, I ran over and picked that up, too. Score one for Mom!

I finished my checkout, loaded my now bulging library bag and headed out. I smiled to find Don waiting up by the door. I'd been so quick that he hadn't had to find a parking spot. And I think he was amazed at how quickly I'd gotten in and out. It honestly had to be some kind of record for me and the library. :)

As I scrambled in the car Laura started to get all excited. She said "Hi Mom! What did you get for me from the wibwerry?" I just had to laugh. Indeed my daughter knows that everyone gets something from the 'wibwerry' every time we go. Our love of a good book and our joy in watching a good movie certainly isn't lost on her. I reached down and pulled out my treasures and thoroughly enjoyed the reaction from her. I had 'scored'. She loved what I'd picked out. She even wanted to stay up past her bedtime to enjoy them. But I said No.

This morning Laura's first greeting to me wasn't her usual "Good Morning!" or even her regular "Where's Daddy?" No. It was "I wan to wach my moobies from the wibwerry!" and "Where's my new bookts?" :) Since I often forget what was on my mind the night before, she always amazes me with her memory. Indeed she's happily watching and reading away as I type. She's in her element. And she's certainly growing a love for our library. Just like mine. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Don't Know What I Would Have Done...

My uncle is in town on business so Mom and Dad have had a wonderful time visiting with him. Last night we went to spend the evening with them, and my brother and his family joined us as well. There was a lot of the usual 'family stories', and we shared some new ones as well. It was a good time to get caught up in what is happening in other families that belong to us, and a good time to be thankful for the relationships that are so precious to us as you realize not everyone has that privilege.

As we were cleaning up, I had a chance to share with Uncle Mick some of the things we'd been through with Laura. As I shared our first days of sorrow when we were told to prepare for her funeral through several operations, all of her gastro issues, several of the 'almost lost her' times, the discovery of her severe sleep apnea and the dramatic change that came after her operation and so on, he said "Chris, I don't know what I would have done. I don't know that I could have done everything you have." and my response was automatic. I told him he would have because you do what you need to do. You do whatever it takes to help your child. You are their parent. They have no one else to advocate for them. They are yours, lock, stock and disabilities. It isn't a choice. It just is.

As I thought about our conversations, I drifted off to sleep very thankful that the Lord gave us the privilege of parenting Laura. She is ours just for this time. And even though we still have hills and valleys yet to navigate with some of her medical issues, I know that I know that I know that she'll be fine. We just need to prayerfully remember Psalm 23. Verse 4 says:
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
We've definitely had our valleys in the shadow of death with Laura. But we know that he restores our soul and we know that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives and that indeed we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Daddy Fix It!!!

Yesterday I broke a plate. Not our normal pfaltzgraff ones that continue to amaze me with their fortitude. No. Not those. But a melamine one. One probably from the 50's or 60's. Small and orange. Mismatched. Good for children's meals and snacks. You know the kind. Indestructible. Until yesterday. I was pulling out a bowl for Laura's snack and the plate fell. When it hit, the sound wasn't normal. As I looked down, I saw why. There it lay, in two pieces. Split right down the middle. Two perfect halves where not even a crack had been before.

When Laura heard it she came running around the corner. As she saw the plate on the floor, her hands flew to her mouth and she immediately said "My pwate! My pwate! My pwate bwoke!" I quickly picked up the two pieces and tossed them in the trash. Her response was almost immediate. "No Mommy, Daddy fix it!" I informed her that Daddy couldn't fix the plate and that we needed to throw it away because we couldn't use it any more. Her reply became a litany for the day. "No Mommy. Daddy can fix it!" Whenever she'd walk by the trash can, or go to throw something else away, or even if she were reminded of the plate somehow she'd go over to the trash, stand over it looking forlorn at the broken plate and say "No Mommy. Daddy fix it when he get homed."

If only it were that easy.

This morning as I was praying, the Lord brought that plate to mind once again. I smiled as I thought of the growing relationship between Don and Laura, and how much it mirrors the relationship I have with my Dad. And yes, I do honestly think my Dad can fix just about anything. Gently the Lord reminded me that he's in the fixing business, too. But we have to let him. We have to step back and allow the Lord to work without our interference. We have to trust and let go, sitting in the wings, listening for the Lord's direction so we know when we are needed and when to sit quietly and wait.

No, the Lord is not going to fix that plate, no matter how much Laura would like for him intercede. But he surely can fix other things that are burdening my heart. I need only to look up and say "Father, You fix it. I'm going to let go now." And in his time, and in his way, he will.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

School Funding Budget Bill Update from the Ohio Coalition of eSchool Families

Budget Bill Clears Conference Committee Unanimously; Floor Vote Expected Today

After hours of debate, the joint House-Senate conference committee passed the budget bill out of committee 6-0 last night around 8:00pm.

Our voices were heard! Thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly to ensure our eSchools were not harmed over the past four months. We know the budget process is very long and at times we thought we would never see an end. Governor Strickland's budget would have eliminated eSchools and taken away our school choice. But members of the House and Senate stood strong for our families-protecting school choice in Ohio.

Many of the provisions we were concerned about, namely the "percentage of total learning opportunities" and penalties for errand reporting were amended. In addition, the conference committee added-back the "flagging" provision that was added in the House.

This provision requires the school district, not the community school, to prove that a child is not attending the community school. Previously, a school district could withhold funding from a community school until the community school provided documentation that they were educating the student. This amendment puts the burden of proof on the school district.

The budget bill must be voted on in its current form on the floor of the House and the Senate--amendments cannot be added in either chamber.

The House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget bill at 1:30pm this afternoon (Wednesday) during Session. I'll update you as I know.

Nurture vs. Nature

Sometimes I look at my kids and wonder just where they came from. At the moment, the boys usually form that question in my mind because they are busy testing the limits of something or failing to think at all before they do something. Like whacking the landscaping with their golf clubs 'just because' and completely ignoring the poor plants plight after they are done plundering. Or perhaps when they are told dinner is in an hour and they proceed to inhale enough food to fill the entire teenage population of our neighborhood and then say "you didn't tell me dinner was almost ready?" even though they stood there watching me make it. You get the drift.

But for Laura, I spend time wondering where she gets her "Mommy tendencies". When Laura was little we spent an awful lot of time with her plastered to our shoulders. She couldn't lay flat due to several health issues, and we couldn't put her on our hips easily due to the treatment for her clubfeet, so over the shoulder she went. She still prefers that to this day, especially when she's tired or doesn't feel good. So where does she get the idea that she needs to cradle her babies in her arms? Where does she see the little tender tending of these wee ones? Why is it that she cuddles them in her arms with the understanding that comes from years of having been there herself? I don't know.

I do know, however, that she's very good at it. She can dig out her latest favorite baby, cradle it in her arms, speak to it softly and tenderly, and even with one hand, dig up something to use as a bottle and feed her baby while keeping up all of this wonderful mothering chatter. She'll even read books to them and feed them in the high chair, take them for walks around the house in their stroller and oh so many other things that we weren't able to do with Laura herself. As though she knows this is what you do. As though she's had a personal experience.

There certainly is something to the concept of nurture. When children are raised in a loving home with boundaries, it shows. When they are raised with certain rules and expectations, they tend to rise to meet them. Laura and the boys are perfect examples of that. But the Lord certainly did a lot with nature, too. The boys ability to turn everything in to a gun surely is a prime example. And Laura's loving care of her babies, cuddled in her arms and not thrown over her shoulder certainly says something about that as well. He definitely made boys and girls differently.

Then again, maybe not so much. I just looked over at Laura, who only moments ago was cradling her current favorite baby and tenderly feeding her. Now she's hanging upside down by her feet, swinging her around. Then again, maybe this is Laura's cure for her baby's reflux... :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Think It Will Catch On???

It seems that Laura is quite the inventor. Apparently she didn't like what I'd given her to use so she came up with her own...


Did you see it? Look closely! Yes... there they are. Her crayons. She didn't want to use the container I'd delegated. So she made up her own. Think she'll be able to market it? :)

And So Are The Nights of Our Lives...

Mommy's Log.

9:00 PM. Attempted to put Laura to bed with the window open, the fan on and the door ajar for air. So far, so good.

9:03 PM Laura screaming "No! No! I don't want the window open!" I go down and close it all but a few inches. I am two feet down the hall when...

9:04 PM Laura screams once again. "No! I don't want the fan on! No, Mom! Turn off the fan! No fan!" I return to totally close up her room from any chance of fresh, moving air. She is happy and settles down to sleep.

9:50 PM The boys are late getting ready for bed but they manage to get their teeth done while listening to Laura sing her version of 'There are seven days, There are seven days, There are seven days of the week'. It sounds like "Der are seben days, Der are seben days, Der are seben days to the weeK" and she sings it to the same melody over and over again. We all gather around the monitor and smile to ourselves. I realize she's not sleeping yet and start to dream of getting another half hour of sleep in the morning as she makes up for it.

10:00 PM I kiss Jonathan and send him off to bed. And I start the conversation once more with Matthew about how a Mommy goodnight kiss is a fact of life and he has no choice in the matter.

10:03 PM Matthew is kissed and headed to bed.

10:05 PM Don begins fiddling with the ceiling fan after having opened all but Laura's window on the second floor in order to get some cooler air flowing in to the house. The boys room is nice already. Ours is steaming.

10:30 PM I turn the lights out and roll over. There is a large puddle where I've just been. I realize it's going to be a long night.

11:20 PM I am still awake despite several melatonin. The heat is beginning to feel oppressive. I begin planning the July 4th menu. It's something to do.

12:12 AM I have moved away from so many puddles of sweat in my bed I'm beginning to think sleeping on the floor might be better. Don is sleeping peacefully. I decide to be thankful for that. I move on to planning clutter removal.

1:25 AM I have lots of ideas for getting rid of clutter and have a mental list of things we need to either find in our plethora of stuff or purchase. Life will be better soon. Meanwhile, moving to the basement where the temperature is always cooler seems a virtual guarantee. The bonus is that the million Lego's we own will all be on one floor. I begin wondering if the boys will go for it and plot my strategy.

2:12 AM I get up to find a cool drink and some Tylenol. I scout possible sleeping spots and realize nowhere is as comfy as my bed but anywhere it is cooler and I have to sit up would be better than laying down in what I'm thinking is my very own 'death valley'. I open a few windows on the first floor and just stand in front of them cooling off. I contemplate sleeping on the deck and realize I'm not fond enough of ants to do that so I close up and head back upstairs.

2:40 AM I am standing in my bedroom, dreading the return to death valley of sweat. I realize there is a spare bed just a few feet away. I sit on the edge of it to discover cool breezes washing over me. Ahhhh! Heaven! I grab a pillow and lay down to watch the stars twinkle.

3:14 AM I have been watching this point of light in the sky. It isn't moving towards me or away from me and it isn't moving across the sky, either. It appears to be bobbing up and down now and then. I begin to think I've discovered an UFO. Then I realize I must be suffering from heat stroke and I close my eyes.

4:51 AM I wake up... slightly cold! How wonderful! I know Don will be waking up momentarily and he'll wonder where I am so I get up and head back to 'the valley'. As I walk in the room he asks where I've been. I guess he doesn't need the alarm this morning. We cuddle for a few minutes before he gets up to get ready for work. I settle in to sleep knowing it will be at least two hours before I need to get up again.

5:13 AM "Mommy! I awake! Mommy! The sun is coming up! Mommy! I awake! I ready to get up, Mommy!" And so my day begins...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gracefully Aging? I think NOT!

Jonathan is so very good about reminding us of our age. In fact, I think he actually revels in the responses he gets so we are trying, ever so gently, to break him of the habit by not giving him any satisfaction. It isn't easy for us. I think he misses it. So this weekend he set his sights on a new victim. I mean, he decided to work a new crowd. Er, he decide to drive Auntie Diane nuts instead of us. She took the boys to her company picnic, the day after her birthday. Normally that wouldn't be an issue. But alas, every time someone asked her if she'd had a nice birthday, Jonathan would have to pipe up and say "Did you know she turned 50?" I can just hear the disbelief in his voice as he said it. As if to say "can you believe she's still standing on her own two feet, breathing without help and able to actually drive at that age???". Her saving grace was Matthew. It seems he managed to state that he didn't think she was a day over 30. Auntie Diane thinks he's angling for a great Christmas gift this year. He just might get it, too!

Age is a funny thing. As I get older I insist on coloring my hair. Not so frequently that you don't ever know I have gray hair, but often enough that I still look younger than my hair would lead you to believe if I didn't ever do it. Jonathan, surely one of the reasons my hair is so gray to begin with, insists on constantly reminding me that I'm moving ever closer to Auntie Diane's latest half century mark. He says things like "when you were playing with your pet dinosaur" and "must be hard for someone as old as you to _________", and it can be hard to resist the urge to slap him silly. Especially when you are feeling every bit of your age at that moment. And Don. He must endure the "geezer" comments every now and then. But then he's 51.

Aging means you sag in places you never sagged before, you gray in places you never dreamed (who knew your eyebrows would go gray????), your skin and hair goes all dry and obnoxious when you are used to an oily mess, and you lose the ability to read up close just when you find that you once again have the time in your life to actually read something! *sigh* Aging. The Lord indeed does have a sense of humor, doesn't he?

I've decided, that at least for the time being, I'll fight back for awhile. As previously stated, I color my hair. I'd hate for the kids to think their grandmother has come to live with them instead of their mother! I take vitamins(some to help with aging but we won't mention that), drink lots of water, and pray other areas stay nice and young-looking. I'm trying to eat more 'raw foods', and I actually take care of my skin better than I ever have. Not bad for a Mom who is finally taking stock of what good things she has left... I can only wonder what I'd look like if I decided to do these things as a preventative measure instead of a 'Hail Mary'.

But what I do know is that I've fallen in love with shampoo bars. Yes, I just said that. Shampoo BARS. All natural things. Lots of good, nourishing stuff and nothing I can't pronounce in them. After some research along with trial and error, I've discovered Ida at www.chagrinvalleysoapandcraft.com. She's a gem. And her products are, too. They may not be able to withstand Jonathan's barrage of comments, but they do help me feel like I'm doing what I can to take care of myself a bit better. After all, my hair has never looked better, and my skin isn't bad, either! Score one against aging!!!

Now, where did I put those reading glasses???

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Salon of Mom

This evening we had a new adventure for Family Night. Jonathan visited the "Salon of Mom". Included in this no expense spared visit was a totally inexperienced hair cutter using nonprofessional tools of the trade, a kibitzer who spent his time fluctuating between encouraging the cutter and making light of the cuttee, and of course the most essential element, the sucker...er...the hair vacuum dude!

I won't kid you. To get Jonathan to even enter the Salon of Mom was an effort in parenting not previously known in this household. No threats were made, but the chase down the street to even get him close to the stool surely broke family records! Once within the proximity of the stool, Jonathan knew his hair, er time was up and he sat down with something akin to barely willing. After prying his hands off of his head, the 'master of the clippers' went to work. No, it isn't a buzz cut. Not even close. But if if weren't for the guide on the clippers, it could have been. It took great determination, and some talent I might add, to keep prying fingers away from the hair while wielding clippers in the on position, but apparently Moms are natural born creative clipperers as I became a pro quickly.

Throughout the effort, there was a constant patter of encouragement mixed with attempts at jokes, periodic uh-ohs said with too much of a smile in the voice, and of course the ever present kibitzing on where it needed to be trimmed so it would be even with the other side. Yes, Don was in his element. And Jonathan tolerated it well.

Then there was the head sucker, er brother with a vacuum. Matthew played a key role that moved between vacuuming up the hair as it fell and keeping Jonathan's mind off what might be happening on his head with tremendous talent. There were those few rumors that indicate sucking snot out of their noses was, to them, an acceptable activity but I won't confirm or deny that. However, it is Matthew's first job in the morning to detach the vacuum hose and disinfect it before we use it again. :)

All in all, our first return to the Salon of Mom in more than 10 years went well. I'll be happy to post pictures as soon as I get some taken. Meanwhile, Jonathan hesitantly indicated that perhaps the Salon of Mom could fill in between Lou visits. We'll see what Lou thinks the next time he comes to cut hair...

Homeschooling and Socialization: Myths That Need to be Busted!

As a Mom who is schooling at home, I find that there are generally three camps we must navigate when others first learn why my 13 and 9 year old are out with me during the day. First there are the 'OhWow' campers. They admire you but say they never could do that themselves. Then there are the 'OhHowDoI' tent pitchers. They not only admire you, they have periodically thought about it but dismissed if for one reason or other. They'd like to know why you did it and perhaps how so they can either seriously reconsider or confirm that they have made the right decision to keep sending their children out to school. These two camps are, thankfully, the most common folks I meet. Well, I'm sure there are those that respond in one of these ways and really falls in to the third camp, but I'm willing to live in my own reality for now. :)

The last campers are those naysayers. Those who think you have totally lost whatever sense you might have had because how in the world are my kids going to be ready for the 'real world' if I don't send them to school so they can learn how to get along with bullies. Well, I'm here to tell you that school IS SO NOT the real world that it pains me to think that so many other adults are so narrowly focused that they can't step away from the common norm, no matter how wrong it might be for someone, and view things from a different perspective. I know that I've made the right decision for my children. I only need to listen to what is going on just outside my front door to know that my teen is already different from his peers. He is a much calmer, more focused, pleasant young man who can actually carry on a conversation with an adult that is not centered on the latest fad or full of nasty language. And he's not much different than most of the other homeschooled teens I know. Oh sure, they aren't perfect either. But they are getting a leg up on life that many of their peers won't have. And I'm thrilled I can be here for my children.

Here in Ohio the debate has centered on money. Money that the public schools say we are taking away from them. Money they say they need to educate children more effectively. But the debate regarding homeschooling is certainly a national issue even though it is legal in all 50 states. Recently, it became an international one as we watched the right of parents in Germany taken away along with their daughter who was being homeschooled. Here in America, schooling at home is growing. It is something we all need to know more about in order to make better choices when electing our public officials. I read an article on CBNNews.com that speaks to so many of the issues we that school at home face when out amongst the crowd. I encourage you to read it, either to better understand our choice, or to perhaps reconsider your own.

Socialization: Homeschooling vs. Schools
By Michael F. Haverluck
CBNNews.com
May 2, 2007


CBNNews.com - It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

Many homeschoolers share this sentiment when it comes to public schools, believing that the moral relativism, violence, peer pressure, drugs and promiscuity found inside their gates provide an inadequate setting to properly socialize their children.

CBN NEWS:
States Get Graded on School Performance
Yet 92 percent of superintendents believe that home learners are emotionally unstable, deprived of proper social development and too judgmental of the world around them, according to a California study by researcher Dr. Brian Ray .

What makes homeschool socialization such a hot topic?

With approximately 4 million children currently being homeschooled in the U.S., along with a 15- to 20-percent yearly growth rate, many professional educators and school boards are concerned that this exodus will keep funds from entering the public education system.

Many teachers also believe that successful home instruction by uncredentialed parents undermines their expertise and jeopardizes their jobs.

CBN NEWS:
State Strives to Recapture Homeschoolers
Questions about inadequate socialization are often brought up as a means to disqualify homeschooling as a viable alternative form of education, but are the arguments valid?

A look at the research on this socialization debate shines further light on the issue.

There's no place like home

Why is there such a dichotomy in the socialization experienced between homeschoolers and conventional students? It all has to do with the learning environment.

The National Home Education Research Institute disclosed that the 36 to 54 hours that students spend in school-related weekly activities make peers and adults outside of the home the primary influences in children's lives - not the parents.

Realizing the harm that this constant exposure can produce, especially if it's not countered by involved parenting, most homeschoolers are well aware of their children's need for close one-to-one contact throughout the education process.

Jesus understood the importance of continual intimate contact with His students, as He ate, slept and fellowshipped with His disciples 24 hours a day. It is unlikely that Jesus would have entrusted their training to strangers.

So how do these different settings affect children? Dr. Thomas Smedley believes that homeschoolers have superior socialization skills, and his research supports this claim. He conducted a study in which he administered the Vineyard Adaptive Behavior Scales test to identify mature and well-adapted behaviors in children. Home learners ranked in the 84th percentile, compared to publicly schooled students, who were drastically lower in the 23rd.

Welcome to the real world

Many school socialization advocates argue that homeschooling precludes children from experiencing real life.

Instead of being locked behind school gates in what some would consider an artificial setting characterized by bells, forced silence and age-segregation, homeschoolers frequently extend their everyday classroom to fire departments, hospitals, museums, repair shops, city halls, national parks, churches and colleges, where real community interaction and contacts are made.

Dismantling the stereotype that home learners spend their days isolated from society at kitchen tables with workbooks in hand, NHERI reports that they actually participate in approximately five different social activities outside the home on a regular basis.

Furthermore, researcher Dr. Linda Montgomery found that 78 percent of high school home learners were employed with paying jobs, while a majority engaged in volunteering and community service.

Research presented at the National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference divulged that homeschool graduates far exceeded their public and private school counterparts in college by ranking the highest in 42 of 63 indicators of collegiate success. They were also ranked as being superior in four out of five achievement categories, including socialization, as they were assessed as being the most charismatic and influential.

Biblical or worldly socialization?

When most home educators and school administrators speak of successful socialization, are they referring to the same thing?

Education researcher Dr. Michael Mitchell found that being popular, aggressively competitive, materialistically driven and self-confident are traits promoted in conventional schools.

His study shows that these campus ideals are discouraged by Christian home educators in favor of building their children's character and dismantling selfish ambitions. Integrity, responsibility, respect for others, trust in God, biblical soundness and an amiable disposition topped the ideal social qualities they desired their youth to embody.

Many Christians who homeschool believe that the greatest socialization their children can have is to be trained to emulate Jesus, who is a servant of man. Home educators examined by Mitchell strive to dismantle any selfish ambitions and self-aggrandizement seen in their children, as opposed to cultivating them.

Getting ahead of one's peers is not consistent with Jesus' urging in Matthew 20:25b-28, which calls for Christians to seek a lowly and servile role to those around them. However, this does not mean that Christians are called to underachieve, as Colossians 3:23 exhorts readers to push for peak performance in every endeavor, but for the glory of God rather than for selfish ambition.

Pride is also promoted in the public schools. It is often repackaged as self-esteem in programs such as "Here's Looking at You, 2000," in which education researcher Dr. Amy Binder reports that students are instructed to believe that they are "the most important person in the world."

Many Christian home educators assert that the kind of pride being taught in the schools is discouraged throughout Scripture by Jesus and Paul, who preach against lifting oneself up or putting oneself first in favor of assuming a lowly position among others, as seen in Luke 14:10-11 and Romans 12:3.

They often contend that traditional students are driven to achieve high marks in order to attain lucrative and prestigious jobs that can lead to lives of self-indulgence, while the Bible calls man not to be overcome by material concerns.

Even though God enjoys prospering His children, He also warns us in 1 Timothy 6:10 that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Negative socialization

The mass socialization conducted within schools has brought about a proliferation of delinquent behavior within this nation's youth, reports education researcher, Dr. Michael Slavinski. He notes that student bodies are increasingly riddled with violence, drugs, promiscuity, emotional disorders, crime, contempt for authority, desperate behavior, illiteracy and peer dependency - just to name a few.

Today, parents are not as surprised to see reports of fifth-graders having sex in class; hear about school shootings; find drugs or condoms in backpacks; receive phone calls from the police and principals; or witness defiant, apathetic and unrecognizable tones in their children's voices.

"Live and let learn," say many parents. Most home educators are fine with this, as long as their children's learning comes from mature, seasoned and embracing adults who have the children's best interests at heart - above political or economic agendas. They believe that such training shouldn't come from peers either, which amounts to the blind leading the blind.

When the Direct Observation Form of the Child Behavior Checklist was administered by education researcher Dr. Larry Shyers to identify 97 problematic behaviors in two groups of children, traditionally schooled students exuded eight times as many antisocial traits than their homeschooled counterparts. This lies in direct contrast to claims by public school advocates that exposure to campus life leads to proper socialization.

Light of the world

Many Christian parents are concerned that homeschooling would not allow their children to fulfill the great commission of sharing the gospel with non-believers. They often site Matthew 5:14-16 about being the light of the world.

Some Christian homeschool parents argue that even though young believers are to reach out to the lost, they are not called to immerse themselves daily in a hostile setting that constantly works to influence them in the ways of the world. They recognize that those with strong Christian upbringings are still vulnerable to the ungodly climate of the schools.

In Proverbs 4:11-15, King Solomon realized the vulnerability of his son, proclaiming his responsibility to train him in godly teachings and keep him from stumbling over the vices of this world.

Just as parents know that children are not prepared for war, many Christians believe that youth are not equipped to fend for themselves in the spiritual warfare taking place within schools.

A nationwide survey conducted by The Barna Group shows that 80 percent of Christian families send their children to public schools where their faith is attacked. Based on the study's findings, it appears that their kids are the ones being "evangelized" by the religion of secular humanism. More than half of their Christian teens believe Jesus actually sinned and only nine percent hold to moral absolutes, while 83 percent of children from committed Christian families attending public schools adopt a Marxist-Socialist worldview, reports the group.

For more statistics on Christians in education, visit www.barna.org.

Consistent with these figures, Christian producer and occult expert Caryl Matrisciana reports that 75 percent of public-schooled American youth brought up in Christian households disown their Christian faith by the first year of college. NHERI finds that this is only true for less than four percent of homeschooled youth.

Most home educators would not trade the blessings that homeschooling brings their families and society for the world.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, The Barna Group, NHERI, Dr. Michael Slavinski, Dr. Brian Ray, Dr. Thomas C. Smedley, Dr. Larry E. Shyers, Dr. Michael Mitchell, Dr. Linda Montgomery, Dr. Rhonda A. Galloway, Dr. Amy Binder

Happy Birthday, Auntie Diane!!!!!

Today is indeed a very special day. Not only is it the first full day of summer, but it is the day that Auntie Diane greets her 50th birthday with joy and a sense of accomplishment. Well, perhaps joy is overdoing it a bit. :) But we're thrilled that she's a part of our family and we just wanted to wish her a happy birthday. So in honor of one of Laura's favorite songs...

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Dear Auntie Diane,
Happy Birthday to you!!!

And Laura also wants to add this verse:

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Dear Auntie Diane's wips,
Happy Birthday to you. :)

Have a GREAT Day, Diane. We love you!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

There Are Seven Days, There Are Seven Days...

It seems that I periodically don't give my kids enough credit. They know things and often can do things I think they can't. Well, perhaps it is more that they haven't done it, so I never ask them to do it now. Like Jonathan, who has never done the dishes. I'm quite sure that by the age of nine I was either clearing the table, doing the dishes, or drying and putting them away each and every night unless I could bribe my brother, but not Jonathan. Not yet, anyway. Or perhaps, as in Laura's case, we were told not to expect normal development so I am always amazed at her when she knows something, or learns something quickly. And yet, when she does, I find that I am proud and 'knew it all along' because the Lord certainly has had his hand on her life from the get go.

Like tonight...

We were riding home from Honey and Poppy's and Laura was asking when she was going to get to go back to Honey's house. Don told her that she'd be able to see Honey again in two days. He said phrases like "the day after tomorrow" and "you will have tomorrow and then the next day you will get to see Honey" and so on. Finally it occurred to me that this was a big subject, but she probably could get it. So I said "Tomorrow is Friday. The day after that is Saturday. You will get to see Honey again on Saturday." It was quiet in the car for a moment and I should have left it at that. But did I? No. It seems that in my mind a loop of music started playing, and true to form I opened my mouth and let it out. While that might not seem too terrible, although you shouldn't ask Matthew or Jonathan about my singing, I realized after I started singing that I was in trouble. It was one of those really obnoxious type songs. The kind that plays over and over again in your mind for days even though you quit singing it long ago. The kind with the catchy tune that 3 year olds just love. The kind they sing just because they can remember it. After all, Barney's creators planned it that way!

There are seven days, there are seven days, there are seven days in a week.
There are seven days, there are seven days, there are seven days in a week.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Yes, even as I typed my mind sung the tune. After singing it at least a dozen times on the way home with Laura, how can it not? *sigh* I suppose I should be happy that she'll probably always remember the days of the week from now on. I suppose I should be happy that she's added another song to her growing repertoire of music she knows by heart and sings, just like Mommy does, when she's doing her chores or even singing herself to sleep. But I know what will happen. In a few days my mind will finally let go of the song. It will have exhausted it's repetition beyond comprehension and I will finally have peace, knowing that "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" or "The ABC Song" will once again take it's place as the reel to reel in my mind. And then, from the depths of the monitor in Laura's room I'm sure to hear it. Yes, there it is even now...

Der are sebin days, der are sebin days...

*sigh*

Anyone for "If You're Happy and You Know It"?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What?

It has occurred to me over the course of the past few years that children often think parents are clueless. I mean out and out, fell off the turnip truck this morning, can't see past the end of their noses clueless. In considering what might have caused this, I've come to believe that the Lord created them with this rather large, inept concept, present at birth, in order to give parents a leg up. I suppose it makes up for the lack of a manual that would come with each child, detailing their specific temperament and how best to deal with it as well as a glowing prediction of their future success no matter how much we blow it while raising them. But all things considered, I think I'd prefer the manual. :)

Around here, the word "What?" is one of the main keys to figuring out just where they think we are on the ladder of understanding. I'm sure you all have had experience interpreting the tone of a word so you can get my drift. "What?" said in a matter of fact tone can mean just what it says. But if it is accompanied by a certain blank look, made after much effort but quickly executed in just seconds, you can bet they know exactly 'what' and are hoping you don't. Then there's the oft repeated 'what', said it an increasingly louder cadenced 'what' by those in the preschool set. You can bet they know 'what' as well, they just are reveling in the attention they are receiving as you repeat yourself in to oblivion so they keep asking "What?" just to see how long you'll play along. The eventual grin combined with the pitch is what gives them away. Well, at least when you are in the uninitiated realm. Given that any normal adult will catch on quickly I just mentally say "let the games begin" and play along as I have the time.

Just this past weekend I asked Matthew to do something and he declined. Oh, not so you'd notice mind you. He didn't say "no". He just ignored the request. It was a case of hearing of convenience. How did I know? Because as soon as I positioned myself between him and his book and repeated myself, he spent a few seconds gathering himself together, running his options over quickly in his mind. Then he cocked his head ever so slightly, looked up at me with overly innocent eyes and said "What?". I might have thought that perhaps he really hadn't heard me. But then he went for it. He added another "What?", but this time said with more emphasis and an even more innocent tone. So I patiently waited yet again before opening my mouth. I was almost immediately rewarded! Ah parenting. It is the little things, you know? Anyway, after a few more innocent efforts at "what?" without any more input from me, he put down the book and headed to the kitchen to sweep the floor. I guess we should be thankful as parents that we're better at keeping quiet than they are. Otherwise I'd have busted up laughing as I watched his retreating back. Instead I just thanked the Lord that his hearing kicked in even though I wasn't saying anything.

"What?" must skip children because Jonathan hasn't figured it out yet. He just stomps off to do whatever it is he's supposed to be doing when caught 'not listening'. No "What?". No faked innocence. Just annoyance that I, his parent, would insist on obedience. *sigh* I can't wait to see what his kids do to him. :)

Laura, on the other hand, has taken the "What?" concept to a whole new level. When you tell her something she doesn't want to hear, she'll immediately respond "What?". Innocently. Without any effort to hide her selective hearing or making any effort at all to hide her obvious knowledge about whatever it is she's trying to cover up. Given her age, you as a parent feel compelled to repeat yourself so you do. And inevitably you'll hear "What?" once again. Only this time, instead of an honest, questioning tone, the pitch goes a little higher and the word comes out more clipped. And she won't look at you. So just to be sure, you repeat yourself once more. Her head will flip around and she'll look you straight in the eye, and with an ever increasing, higher pitch, she'll repeat "What?" again. Challenging you to play the game. Usually I'll play for a bit and she can join right in, happy to have a gaming companion. And you wouldn't believe how high that pitch can go! Eventually I'll say "You know what" and she'll grin, moving off to do whatever it is she's supposed to do, happy in the knowledge she's taken me for a ride once again.

I've wondered several times where this need for "What?" comes from. Sure, as teens you can see how they'd get it. We spend a greater and greater amount of time looking at them as if they've just sprouted three heads and that "what" look must train them without our knowledge to adopt it for their own use. But toddlers and preschoolers. Where do they get it? I saw it first hand just the other day. I was smiling at a new Mom who was out shopping with her brand new baby. It's tiny cry said it couldn't have been more than a month old, if that. As soon as the little one started to fuss, the Mom reached down and picked them up, starting clucking her tongue in that little sound we make to soothe our children and then said "What? What is it? What's wrong?" It was at that moment that I think I heard angels singing, a whole chorus mind you! It was as if the 2x4 of recognition hit. Yes! That's where they get it! We start training them young! There we are asking "What?" when they fuss while they are wondering why it is we can't see that they are hungry/wet/dirty/lonely/whatever. Yes, that's it. "What?" is taught from birth. We just refine it as we grow.

With Laura, Don and I spent a lot of time in those first two years asking her "What?" and wondering aloud at which of many possibilities it might be that was causing her to cry out in pain and why we couldn't fix it. We said many times that we couldn't wait for her to talk so she could tell us what was wrong. Little did we know that when she did finally start to talk, the "What?" game would be one of her favorites. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blended Families

When Don and I married almost five years ago, I knew that there would be difficult times ahead but I don't think I really understood what those might be. And I'm still a little fuzzy about it all. Yes, twice in the second year or so, apparently after the honeymoon period between the boys and Don wore off, Matthew told him that he wasn't his 'real' Dad so he couldn't tell him what to do, and once, Matthew asked me what "step dad" meant. But we really haven't had other issues with the boys. I'm not sure if I'm just blind, but life in our house has transitioned more easily than I ever hoped.

However, what has been challenging for me has been letting go to let someone else 'parent', too. Letting Don step in and talk with them calmly when I wanted to light in to them with both barrels blazing. Letting Don explain something to them in much more detail than I ever would. Or having to consult with someone else about what might be best for them when I'd made that decision without him for so long. And I won't even try to describe how Don has felt through all of this, parenting from 4 and 8 instead of infancy. But I do ask him every now and then how he's feeling and how he feels about what is happening with his 'new' responsibilities. It seems he is taking it all in stride, growing with us and holding his own.

Every once in awhile something happens that reminds me that we weren't always together even though we feel like we've always been married, and I am reminded of the tremendous blessing it is to live without the stress many blended families seem to deal with. On Saturday, Matthew and I went out shopping for Father's Day. We first headed to Home Depot - a sure bet when shopping for Dads - where we scored a 'Bucket Buddy', and then to Marc's for cards. We had several to select so I let him get the one that would be from all three of them to Don. I hadn't even read the first card I was looking for when he handed me one and said "This is it, Mom. We'll give him this one." I started to protest, telling him he needed to take time to choose the one that fit the best but decided to read it first. It was indeed 'the one'. Matthew had found just what he wanted to say and it was definitely from the heart. What surprised me the most was that it wasn't a 'kid card', but it fit. Perfectly. I put it in the cart and just rubbed his back for a moment before going back to my tasks at hand.

Moments later he was back, another card in hand. It was a 'stepfather' card and I felt my stomach plunge. Immediately I began praying so I would handle the situation correctly both for him and for me, as well as all of the other people who had procrastinated and were shopping at 8:30 PM the night before. I reached out to take the card and read it but Matthew stopped me. He said "I know that my friends would say that this is the card I am supposed to buy. That Dad isn't my real Dad. But I'm glad that I don't have to think of him as my Stepfather. He's just Dad." and with that he took the card and put it back. I would like to think that I was smiling but it was probably more akin to relief. There was no need to explain what being a Dad really meant, no need to talk about how much he loved them, unconditionally, and that he'd chosen them along with me because we came as a package deal and Don knew that upfront. No need to even touch on why I divorced in the first place. Just acceptance because Don is Don, he loves them and he takes care of them. And isn't that what fathers do?

Father's Day With The Family

At least once a month both of our families gather to celebrate and last Sunday was no exception. We celebrate holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and so on whenever we get a chance. It is one of our favorite times of the month. Don's Mom, Diane, her friend Sonny, Scott, Brenda, Mackenzie, Mikayla, Seth, my Mom and Dad, and the five of us gathered at my Mom's house for the day. We had such a nice day together that I didn't want it to end. In fact, I think we subconsciously stretched it out as long as we could. We didn't leave until close to 9. Yes, it was a great day! Here are some pictures I thought I'd share with you. Note that Don and my Dad both wore appropriate shirts for the day. :)

Here's Don and Laura figuring out things in the yard. The boys spent much of their day having squirt gun/hose fights with one of the standard rules being 'No pointing at adults.' And it worked! No wet adults at the end of the day. :)


Here's the kitchen gang. Talking and eating. Two of our favorite things to do when we get together!



Diane brought a new friend for us to meet. Sonny was quiet but helpful, and very attentive to Diane.


Don and I enjoyed talking with the family instead of spending time cleaning up in the kitchen.


Laura is becoming quite the camera aficionado. She poses and smiles right on cue.


And finally, the two cakes. The first was a triple layer homemade chocolate requested by Diane, who celebrated her birthday a week early with us. The second tried to cover more bases by adding Father's Day in to the mix.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Charter School Myths Debunked

In our ongoing fight to keep the current funding for all charter schools in the State of Ohio, and in some cases restore funding to previous levels, the teacher unions have become the cheerleader for those opposing anything but traditional public schools being funded by tax dollars. There has been no recognition by anyone in that camp that the public schools cannot meet every child's needs, or that they have not adequately met the needs of your non-typical student for a long time. Recently, the House and then the Senate passed the budget with no changes for eschools for the coming year. While I realize the fight isn't over as long as Strickland remains Governor of the State of Ohio, it is nice to know that organizations like the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Research are working to keep promoting the truth.

Here is an article that appeared recently in the Akron Beacon Journal. I encourage you to read it. Matthew Carr has done an excellent job debunking the myths promoted by the funding opponents.

Setting record straight on charter schools

By Matthew Carr

The writer is director of education policy at the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Research.

During the current debate over the future of Ohio's fledging charter schools, opponents often rely on myths and distortions to tar a promising educational initiative. It's time to set the record straight.

Charter school opponents typically forward a misleading three-point criticism. They say the schools fail to advance academic achievement. Charters ``drain'' or ``siphon'' scarce resources from traditional public schools. And the schools supposedly lack accountability. All three claims are false.

The first misconception is perhaps the most pervasive in the charter school debate. Charter opponents have repeatedly argued that charter schools are failing academically because their test scores and school ratings are lower than state averages for the traditional public schools. What is not mentioned is that charter schools, by law, can only be opened in failing school districts.

Comparing charter schools to the school districts in which they are allowed to open, one finds that they are in fact doing as well as, and in many cases better than, their peers. In the only rigorous value-added study of charter school proficiency rates in Ohio, charters were found to be making significantly larger gains than the large urban districts. A forthcoming analysis using updated proficiency rates finds that this trend is continuing.

The second criticism leveled at charter schools is that they adversely affect district finances. Specifically, opponents have stated that charter schools are depriving school systems of their local property tax revenues. This is false. Charter schools have absolutely no access to locally raised funds. It may be the case that the loss of students to charter schools means the district has to stretch local dollars further, but claims that such funds are leaving the district simply are not true.

This argument also raises an interesting contradiction. Opponents have stated that the loss of funds to charter schools reduces the ability of school districts to provide a quality education. But it is difficult to reconcile such claims whenever advances in student achievement occur in the large urban districts where charters operate.

Xenia City Schools Superintendent Jeff Lewis recently told his local newspaper that the Dayton schools ``realized $42 million in reductions for charters.'' However, in August, Dayton school officials held a press conference to celebrate their ``Continuous Improvement'' rating, up from ``Academic Emergency'' just a year earlier. This indicates that, if anything, charters are driving the Dayton district to improve. So the question is: Harm for whom? Clearly not students.

The third criticism of the charter program is that such schools are not accountable. Lewis argues that charter schools ``do not have to convince any local group of their need.'' It would seem that there is at least one local group whose support they need -- those parents who choose to send their children to the school.

Moreover, charter schools face the same academic accountability requirements as the traditional public schools. Their students take the same state exams and the results and subsequent ratings are reported in the same manner. Unlike the traditional public schools however, if a charter school receives the lowest rating for three consecutive years it will be closed. Also, unlike traditional public schools, charters that cannot attract enough students are forced to close.

Throughout their existence, charter schools in Ohio have faced a constant uphill battle. The statements of opponents have proven to be, once more, focused on protecting the status quo and closing down competitors rather than an honest attempt to improve what has shown to be a generally effective and efficient reform.

Score Another Parent Badge!

After living through the past few days, I feel like I've earned a few more of those elusive parent badges,and I'm sure I saw the "Sleep Deprivation Survivor" one tattooed on my chest this morning. I thought we'd managed to get all of those for raising Laura in just the first two years of her life, but apparently I was mistaken. It has been a long time since the boys were so small and so sick so I don't remember the specifics much. I do recall being away on business the time Matthew came down with a very light case of the chicken pox, and I know that our wonderful caregiver, Momma Lori, took the boys many times even though they were sick because my priorities were really off and there was some meeting I thought I needed to be at that day. But the 24/7, constant whining of a three year old combined with severe sleep deprivation... no, don't remember that. LOL

In my lacking parental state yesterday, I spent a lot of time just holding Laura through high fevers, many complaints of "my stummy hirts, Mommy" and just the normal need to be held when you are three and not feeling well. I held her through naps on our favorite rocking chair and laid on her floor while she rested in her crib because she didn't want to be alone. I read books over and over again, so many times that I had a few memorized, and I spent a lot of time praying over her hot, bewildered head. Mom's do that kind of thing. I am thankful I was here for it.

When we put her to bed last night after her dose of advil settled in, her fever was 102.8. She started whining periodically after 2 AM or so, and Laura, Don and I didn't get much sleep after that. But when she was finally ready to get up and face the day this morning, her fever was down quite a bit. And although her 'stummy' still hurts her regularly, she's eating some again and has accomplished more this morning than I ever expected after last night's events. The Lord is good. Not worrying about her definitely has its advantages. :)

Sleep deprivation however has it's tremendous disadvantages. I succumbed to the promise that Laura would eat her requested meal and sent Don to McDonald's for all of us last night for supper. Yes, definitely a case of severe sleep deprivation! But we'll survive. Many parents have gone before us, and I'm sure we'll be here again several times before we're done. Survival seems to be a given. I know that I can nap as she does. But Don can't and yet he never complains. I admire him so very much. Every day he gets up and goes to work no matter what has happened during the night, or how tired he is. He just goes because he loves us and he's taking care of us. Our children can't ask for a better provider, or a better example. And neither can I.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rejoicing 'R Us

As Don headed out last night for the first time at 10 or so for meds, I knew it was going to be a long night. However, knowing that up front and then actually living through it are generally two different things. Yes, we're experiencing one of the less joyous times in parenting and yet, I am discovering that it also provides lots of cuddle time that busy, curious, 'look out world, here I come' three year olds don't often stop for.

Laura is sick. Normally stuff like this happens. But when you've had the difficulties she's had, having the stomach flu can take on a whole new meaning. Especially when it is accompanied by a high fever and a rather listless child who refuses to eat much of anything. I know I can be aggressive in getting her the help she needs but I've discovered over time that if the Dr. I'm talking to seems concerned along with me, I really need to take things more seriously. Last night, the Dr. was concerned. This morning when they called me back to check on her I knew she was really concerned. It didn't do much for my psyche after having just a few hours of sleep.

So I figure that I can worry and stew, something I am pretty good at. However, my abilities don't even hold a candle to Don's. He's a pro. But he comes by it honestly so I take that in to consideration. :) Anyway, I can either wear myself out more thinking of all the negative things that, in reality, might happen to someone with a nissen, or I can work really hard at 'casting all my cares upon Him'. In the middle of the night it was more of a 'gee Lord, where the heck are you?' and 'why is she still awake with a fever and not sleeping peacefully with a normal temp?' thing, but in the early morning hours as I read some of the Word and prayed for a bit out of desperation, I realized that I needed to do more of the 'thank you anyway' type of thing. Whatever happens, the Lord created her little being. He loves her more than I ever will, as hard as that is to imagine, and he is in charge. Even of her fevered, upset little tummy.

In my muddled, sleep deprived mind, I will intentionally turn her back over to the Lord again and again today as I cuddle with her, praying over her, and hoping to get a few minutes of sleep along with her. I will be thankful that she is here, alive and having a normal illness. I will rejoice when she drinks something and relax before we've been through the 'take your medicine' battle, er, activity instead of after. I will listen to her cries that her tummy hurts and ask for wisdom in taking care of her. Because she is here. Because she is mine. Because she is a normal three year old.

Parenting definitely isn't for pansies...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Let the Frisbee Fly!

Yesterday while Matthew was home for a few, the boys played with the Frisbee out front while Dad and Laura walked the block for awhile. She loves to push her strollers but tires easily and ends up walking beside them while Daddy pushes them home. :)



Here's the boys playing Frisbee.



And here's Laura's version of Romper Room. She sees Matthew and Jonathan, Daddy and Murphy...



And Poppy, coming in to pick up Matthew, Murphy in tow. :)



Laura and Jonathan play by themselves. Note Jonathan is not impressed with her abilities...



And Laura begging Jonathan to come play again. I think this will be a life long thing...



I just love being outside with the kids!!!

Encounter

Teenagers are a unique breed. Yes, I meant that statement. They really are different from the rest of us. :) They are living through a time of tremendous growth and development. You might even make some comparisons to babies growing in the womb. Both are preparing to enter a place they've never been before. The baby is working to develop all of the pieces and parts they need to survive outside, away from their mother. The teenager is working very hard to develop all of the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful away from the comfort and protection of their family. Both have spurts where growth is rapid and times when it slows down so they can catch their breath. Both endure influences from the outside and must learn to filter or tune in, so to speak, as they continue on their journey. And both that wee little baby and our growing teenage boy must deal with surges of hormones that cause abrupt changes in their equilibrium. It is how they deal with this change that makes or breaks their healthy growth.

Matthew is spending Tuesday through Saturday this week in Encounter. Our Youth Pastor, Pastor Mark or PM as he's known around here, is a wonderful man of God. He created this time each summer to take a group of teens from Middle School through College and provide opportunities to give of themselves. To do mission work right in their own backyards. To make the time to spend with God on an intimate basis. To seek the Lord and listen to what he might have to say to them personally. It's kind of like Camp Week, but they get to go home every night and offer their parents a glimpse inside what is happening to them throughout the week.

Matthew wasn't really sure what he signed up for, and neither was I quite frankly, but if PM is in charge, it has to be good. So he signed up at the last minute. We attended an organizational meeting on Sunday where PM passed out the agenda for each day, gave us the 'get them here on time and pick them up on time' pep talk, and basically laid out their responsibilities for the week. Smart man. Something in those hormones prevents them from 'getting it' easily. He knows you need to give teenagers the basics, in writing as well as verbally. Yeah, he's a Youth Pastor! LOL Anyway, Matthew was to pack his lunch every day, bring his Bible, a notebook, some 3x5 cards and work clothes so he could, in one weeks time, work hard for others, spend time in the Word, and memorize 16 Bible verses that would bring meaning to his life. Matthew was a bit dazed. Mom and I were thrilled.

On Monday, as Matthew shared with is friends where he'd be all week, he was told once again how stupid he was for signing up for something like that. He's been told he was stupid when he offered to help their parents do yard work, pull up tree stumps and so on as well, but he usually lets it roll off his back. Yesterday, he was thinking maybe they were right. Could he really memorize 16 verses of the Bible in a week and write them down? Could he really spend 45 minutes a day in prayer at one time? Could he read the Bible and do the activities they expected, and have fun doing it??? I think he was wondering if his friends were right.

Matthew arrived home for a few hours, before being picked up by Poppy once again, in time for some dinner with us. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was thrilled when I saw the animated, excited, and overall peaceful teen that walked in the door. He told us story after story about their day, regaling us with stories of his strength, his friends jokes and what they accomplished in a widow's yard as well as at the church. He introduced us to the phrase "She's such a Barbie", which will certainly come back to haunt us all over the next few months, and he exclaimed that he felt good having memorized three verses already, realized he could apply a few others to his life at that moment, and enjoyed hard physical labor when done with friends. I'd say the day was a success, wouldn't you?

Matthew and Jonathan spent some time together throwing a frisbee before Poppy picked him up again so he could help mow their lawn. Since Mom is providing the transportation to and from Encounter, he'll be staying with them for a few days. As I watched them play, I couldn't help but wonder what he'll be like when he comes home again. How will he have changed? What will PM and the Lord have done with him in just a few days? Will some of his teenage bluster be gone, replaced by a more mature young man? How will spending intense time in the Word change his choices for a lifetime? What can we do here to continue this new era in his life? How can we support him through this as he changes before our eyes once again? And how will I need to change the way I parent him to account for his changing maturity?

Indeed life will be different. Matthew will have left behind some more of his childhood as he moves on in his growth and development. He will have changed more deeply than I will probably realize for awhile. I suppose what remains to be seen is how I can change with him, moving on to meet his new needs, altering our home even more to embrace the Lord as the center of our home. But I think what I will learn from this week is that I need to allow the Lord to parent him even more than I do. After all, he gave my children to me for a time. A time that he expects I'll instill in them his word. A time that I am to raise them up as strong men, grounded in Him. And then he'll take them and use them to glorify his Kingdom. The Lord saved Matthew's life when he was just a few days old. He has his hand on him. There is a special calling on his life. And this week more than ever before I am asking myself what I am doing to prepare him for that.

Lord, give me wisdom and an even bigger sense of humor. I've got a few more years with him. Let me do it right and have fun along the way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three...

Raising a girl has been different than raising the boys but I've had a hard time figuring out if it is just because I'm home full-time now and was working full-time then, or if it is really because females are inherently different than males. I suppose, 20 years from now, I'll have a more definitive answer, but for now I'm muddling through.

Yesterday, Laura and I were home alone. Don and my Dad were checking out my Mother-In-Laws house to be sure nothing needed fixed as a result of the accident (it didn't), and the boys were off playing with friends. I was busy being domestic, making lunches for Don and Matthew, baking cookies to pack in them, doing the dinner dishes, and so on, so Laura was left without a playmate. She spent some time watching "Princesses" on video and then obviously needed more stimulation.

As I headed outside to the garage for one of my many runs to the frig or freezer for ingredients, I happened to see the security stick we use in the kitchen slider being raised in the air. I said "Laura, put that back." and bent down to get something out of the frig. When I stood back up, I saw a blur of pink rush from the kitchen in to the family room. I knew she was up to something. And it couldn't be good.

To her credit, she was stationed at the far end of the family room, stick in hand, waiting for my reaction. She KNEW she was in trouble and was ready to face it. I calmly told her to put the stick away. Her response: "No". I repeated my request. Her response remained the same. I started to count. She knows she's got to three to finish complying. At 'two' she stomped the stick on the ground and said "NO". By the time I was at 'three' she'd thrown the stick on the ground. I made her pick it up, we walked together to return it, and then I pulled out a chair, pushed it facing a corner, and put her in timeout. Her cries were nothing short of hysteria. Her tears and screams seemed to say "if Daddy were home this wouldn't have happened" and "how dare you?". And it went on for, what in a three year old realm, was a good, long time.

Finally, she got very quiet. I looked over at her and had to stop the smile. She had gotten down from the chair and was quietly pushing it back to the table. I quickly smothered the laugh, put on the firm face, and took the chair and my daughter back to where they started and walked away. After the hysteria settled down once again, I asked her if she was ready to act nice now. She said she was so I knelt down and asked her if she had something to say to me. She said "I sawry, Mommy." We hugged, I told her I loved her very much and wanted her to learn that listening was very important and let her down to put her chair away. She had a wonderful rest of the evening playing nicely.

I don't remember many tantrums from the boys but there must have been some issues because I remember the first time I brought "1, 2, 3, Magic" in to the house. Matthew spent quite awhile in timeout that night but honestly, that was really all he needed. For years after that, all the boys required was a reminder. When teenage hormones hit, we moved from the simple to the more complex "you are in charge of your emotions and your response even if you can't control your hormone surges" thing, but it is really not the constant struggle our culture today would have us believe. However, it isn't the simplistic, 'I want to please you' thing it use to be either.

When did that change? Is it a male vs. female thing? Is it the influence of our culture that causes this? Why do we allow our culture to diminish the influence of sin so much? When did we, as a country, begin to allow the worldly views to overcome our sense of right and wrong? I'm not sure what the answer to all of that is, but I know that daily I pray protection over my children and guidance in leading them to become strong spiritual leaders in their future homes.


We are doing our best to grow them in the Lord. In today's culture that is totally against what everyone else says. While we sometimes feel it is an uphill battle, we know we are really having a much easier time than most at the moment. The boys are beginning to understand they have responsibilities for their choices and that they can make different choices than everyone else. I'm hoping that by the time Laura gets there, she's grounded enough that we can avoid some of this. And yes, I do live somewhat in my own little world. After all, I'm a stay at home Mom. I get to mold my household any way I desire. And frankly, I like my current reality. If it doesn't fit with yours, don't tell me. I am not sure I want to know. After all, my version of reality comes out quite rosy in the end. Hmmm... perhaps I'm finally fitting in to those glasses my parents used to wear. Or is it that rosy outlooks are inherited? I guess we'll find out soon enough!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thankful Doesn't Begin to Cover It

Our weekend was not a normal one. I thought Don's tooth was enough but there was more in store. Saturday evening, my Mother-In-Law called and I happen to answer the phone. She was very upset and it took me a few seconds to calm her down enough that she could tell me what was wrong. It seems a car had just veered off the road and hit her house. OH MY! As the boys were finding Don, I made sure she was unharmed, that the house was still standing and so on, asked if she needed Don to come, and immediately went in to my mental "what can I bake to help her" mode. LOL Yeah, like baked goods would help. :)

When Don got on the phone he assessed the damages with her, listened to the neighbors who were talking in the background and got the lay of the land. She assured him that she was unhurt, the driver was unharmed and the house seemed to be fine as well. We waited awhile and Don called her back to be sure all was well. I went to bed thanking the Lord that she was unharmed and all would be fine.

It seems a young driver lost control and came across the street, up in to the yard, and came to rest against the brick supports for the driveway overhang. While the yard has some damage, caused by the rims of the tires as they were blown hitting the curb, the post seems to have handled the car just fine. Apparently the young man's airbag didn't even deploy. His route across the lawn on his rims must have slowed him down enough that only his poor car suffered from the event. How thankful I am! Everyone, and everything that mattered to my Mother-In-Law was unharmed! It is hard to be upset when you think about how thankful you are, and what might have happened, if...

As your parents age you often think, and honestly worry, about how they are doing and what needs they might have in the future. You can't plan for everything and you can't live in fear. The Lord gives us peace, and he meant it. Fear has no part in a life lived for the Lord. I keep working on that. And so far, the Lord's grace has covered our families pretty well. Don lost his Dad years ago, but his Mom is still very healthy. My Dad has had several health issues, but overall, he's doing great and, as we say, he could be dead so we'll live with the limitations he has. My Mom, aside from work stress which she continues to give to the Lord, is healthy as well. We are indeed blessed.

Quiet Strength

I love my husband. He never ceases to amaze me. He's a wonderful husband, he loves our children, he takes care of the house, makes sure the bills are paid, never complains when he has to run the boys somewhere or make a quick trip to the grocery store, and he even sticks to the list when he goes! He is my gift from the Lord. I am extremely blessed. And I get reminders of how blessed when I watch him draw from strength even I never knew he had.

A few weeks ago he casually mentioned that we needed to find a dentist. Okay. I can handle that. No hurry. :)

Wrong.

Last Tuesday he mentions that we really need to find a dentist we can trust because his tooth has just broken off below the gum line. Ummm... I can't even imagine. He goes on to explain that it has been chipping away for a bit and it has finally all come off. Perhaps it is time to see a dentist. PERHAPS??? I begin calling dentists on our insurance, asking for referrals from friends and even our Dr., and learn the difference between a general practitioner, a periodontist, and so on. Finally I find a practice that calmly answers all of my questions and gets him in on Saturday. Don agrees to go.

Neither one of us is thrilled with the concept of dentists. People who like putting their fingers in other people's mouths, who can do their work basically without a check from anyone else, who can take you to the cleaners before you know it and leave you with issues you have to deal with for the rest of your life, aren't high on our list. No, dentists aren't our favorite people. A necessary evil I suppose.

Saturday arrives and Don spends some time in the morning being apprehensive. We head towards the new dentist and spend 30 minutes filling out paperwork. We wait some more. Don starts bouncing his leg. He's nervous. I reach out my hand and tell him it will be okay. He will survive. I'm amazed he's come this far - if my tooth were broken off, I'm sure I wouldn't have handled it as calmly as he did.

Finally he is called back where they evaluate his tooth, determine it is not a candidate for a crown and numb him for removal. After taking x-rays, it is determined they will do a 'root tip extraction' and begin to take his tooth out in pieces. It takes awhile, and a lot of waiting, but he is free to go soon enough and we head out the door.

Surprisingly, he's doing well enough to stop at the grocery store with me. I keep asking him if he's fine. He says he's doing great. I keep waiting for the medicine to wear off, wondering if I'm going to have to carry him home. No. He makes it just fine.

We have a quiet evening and head to bed early. Mom and I plan on how we're going to get everyone to church in the morning if he needs to rest. However, he seems fine when we get up and everyone heads out together. On the way home it hits him. He has an intense headache. After getting everyone home, he manages some applesauce before laying down. He periodically interacts with Laura, who insists on having Daddy involved in her day, but he doesn't leave the bed for hours.

I finally get him up for some dinner before more meds at 8 PM. He eats some soup and tries some new meds. I marvel at his lack of complaining, his willingness to interact with the family when we request it, and his stoic strength. It is not the first time I've seen it, but this time it amazes me. He had a tooth break, oral surgery, an extreme headache and through it all, he's been the steady, lovable husband and father we all have come to depend on. I am not sure where he gets his quiet strength from, but I am blessed that he is mine. I pray that the boys and Laura learn by his example.

Preferred Seating???

Knowing that "George" was about to end, I headed for the family room to redirect Laura for awhile away from the television. This is what I found:




Several things ran through my mind as I grabbed the camera. First, "how funny! Her bucket in a doll couch!" How quickly it moved from that to "oh to have such a small bucket..." LOL Just another reason to stay on WW today!

Whacha Doin?

I smiled to myself as I overheard my children yesterday morning on the way to church. The conversation went something like this:
Laura: Mattchew, whacha doin?
Matthew: Going to church. What are you doing?
Laura: Wanna hold my hand?
Matthew: Sure.
I casually glance back and out of the corner of my eye I see Laura placing Matthew's hand in her other hand, just so, and then looking over at him with one of her looks that says 'you are the most wonderful person in the world and I'm so blessed to be holding your hand'. My Mother's heart is full. Contentment reigns supreme in the car for awhile.

Laura is forever asking "Whacha doin?". Even when she knows the answer. We've learned that she's really trying to figure out how she can put herself in to the middle of what you are doing because she wants to belong. Be involved. Get in on the down and dirty as well as the glory in the end for a job well done. And she enjoys the banter of conversation. The give and take. The involvement in something bigger than herself and her little world at that moment. And more often than not, she wants to 'get up', meaning she wants to be picked up, or she just wants to be connected to someone else by holding your hand. We always oblige.

There is something comforting about having a little hand inside your own. Somehow it makes you realize that you are not alone. You have a companion who loves you unconditionally no matter what might have happened that day, no matter how brilliant, or not, your dinner might have been, or how long it took you to do the basics in the house. You just are wonderful because you are you. And that little, trusting hand says it all.

When a close friend visits, albeit not often enough, her youngest is the same way. There is something about her tiny hand that lets you know are goodness personified, that you are trustworthy and that you have value to even the littlest ones among us. I treasure those moments, wishing they were here more often. And I think about them long after they are gone. Especially when I just need the touch and understanding of a close friend who does not judge and loves me anyway.

Before we pulled in to the parking lot yesterday morning, I realized that I can reach out just like Laura and Lia. No matter when or why. My heavenly Father will be there to grasp my hand, hold me close and let me know that everything will be okay. His hands surrounding mine offer my heart comfort and peace that only he can bring. I find myself amazed at the joy tiny hands bring, and am in awe of the mighty hands of God. Perhaps in making us in his likeness, he knew just how wonderful those precious, small hands would be. And I am forever thankful that he entrusted several pair to me.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Power of Memories

Yesterday's post seemed to produce many more responses than I might have imagined. While it did provide lots of laughs, probably because many of us could relate, it also brought back lots of memories. And memories are a funny thing. We get to see them in any light we choose. We can choose to see them with humor, even if we didn't think they were very funny at the time. Sadness, anger or perhaps regret can also color our memories. But memories that are shared are most likely the best memories of all.

My family spends a lot of time sitting around talking about memories. When my Dad gets together with my Aunt, Uncles and my precious Nana, the laughter is commonly centered around some memory told in stories that make us all wish we were back there again, or at least that we could visit that place in time for awhile. My Mom or Dad will often spend time with Matthew sharing memories of lessons learned in the fields, streams and blocks around their houses from time spent with family and friends. And even Don and I will carry on around the dinner table, sharing memories from our lives with the kids.

We often don't think about how these memories effect those who listen, but I've seen the power they have first hand. As I watch my Nana listening to those around her, she has a certain smile she gets. One that tells me she's enjoying the memories even more than her children are. And then there's the look she gets every once in awhile that tells me they are sharing a memory she knew nothing about, and quite frankly I think that my Dad and his siblings are all probably wise to have kept that memory a secret until much later in life!

I've watched my friends as we gather together, never often enough, and we talk about past memories, both good and bad. There's a sense of melancholy that comes through their stories, as if they wished they could relive some of that again. Whether it is to redo a wrong, or have the absolute best time of their lives again is never discussed. It is just enough that we are sharing, drawing ourselves closer once again through time.

I've watched my husband as he talks about his Dad. His dad has been gone for years now and it is very apparent that he is still a guiding light in my husband's life. As he shares periodic stories with my boys, I watch them mesmerized at every word. The thing that surprises me the most about those particular memories is how the boys, especially Matthew, grows to identify with a man he never met. Since Don and I have only been married for 5 years, none of us ever met his Dad. Yet, there are days that we feel much like I do when my extended family is gathered around - like he is there sharing life with us. And I am even more amazed at what memories can do when I hear Matthew spouting something to his friends about his grandfather. No, not Poppy, but Grandpa Don. As if he heard it first hand and has adopted it as his own. I smile from the bottom of my very soul on those days and thank the Lord for blending our families together so well.

Yes, memories are unique. They have the power to bring us together better than you might ever imagine when you are in the midst of what will become a memory for someone else someday. My brother wrote me a note after reading yesterday's post. He shared even more memories, some that I had forgotten. Those memories brought about even more stories from my past, stories that I'll have to remember to share with the boys some day soon. He ended his email by saying "Thinking back, we had some really great times. Thanks for jogging my memory." We did have some great times. Thanks, Scott. You were a great partner in crime, er, brother. Life was definitely sweet back then. Makes you wonder what our kids will remember, doesn't it?