Monday, January 28, 2013

ART. therapy.

ART:  therapy.


Yes, that right there is my coffee cup.  Treasured.
Surrounded by chalk-dust.
(..the kind-that-doesn't-wash-out-easily)
And instead of it being a full-up mug of hot java,
It was today, our INSPIRATION.
The boys laughed at me,
because I refused to put marshmallows in my drawing.
I said that my drawing was one of my favorite drinks:  coffee.
And you just can't toss marshies into coffee.
Of course, their imaginations were full of sugary treats,
fluffy marshmallows, and chocolately cocoa.
They drew with delighted abandon.
I will admit,
However, since I've had children?
I'm ashamed to admit, I just feel overwhelmed getting out the art supplies
with them.  Their little excited grabby hands and inability to keep
their sleeves in the right places...the paint brushes flinging everywhere...
the stains!  Oh, the stains.
Oh...the cleanup....
It drives my mother heart a little bit into a pandemic.
And that's EXACTLY why I need art in our days.
I stumbled upon a great book,
A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels.
(available over here, at Hodgepodge)
And as I paged through this neat little E-book,
and their neat little website full of INSPIRATION,
I decided:  art is not optional.
Art is necessary for our souls.
I felt it, as we gathered up our materials--felt the soul sing.
We shared my tiny college-box of soft chalk pastels.
(who woulda thought--back when I bought these...that all these little hands
I had brought into the world would be holding them one day with glee?)
I looked up at Quinn,
who was brimming ear to ear, his tongue hanging out in his classic think-mode,
pastels smudged across his face.
He looked like a chimney sweep straight outta Mary Poppins.
And then Gabe, who is meticulous and hates to get his hands dirty--
he was putting finishing touches on his perfect drink of choice on a cold day:
a peppermint hot cocoa.
Our little souls were as warm as our mugs.
Then came the REAL therapy:  the cleanup.
Would you know, that I left an old rag at the bathroom sink
for my guys to clean up their messy hands with...
and they...forgot?
They used my brand new towel, instead?
The light green one??
That my little chimney sweep
wiped himself clean as a whistle?
A light green towel smudged with ...stains....
Therapy for a momma's heart, to embrace mess
and exchange perfection
for laughter and joy and memories.
And we all know--
Ecover stain stick got that stain right out.
Quinn's sweatshirt though...that thing will never be the same!
And to think.
I am already looking forward to next week's art gathering,
together at our dining room table.
I think we are going to draw mountains.
There's a verse I am working on:
"I tell you the truth.  If you have faith and do not doubt,
not only can you do what was done to the fig tree,
but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself
into the sea,' and it will be done."
Art therapy.  For the soul.
Gabe was so inspired, that he spent his entire quiet time
working on a piece in colored pencil.
He told me that he drew it in honor of the book we just finished
during our evening read-aloud time:  Mountain Born.
A book describing the life of a shepherd,
to help us understand what the Bible means when it describes
Jesus as the "Good Shepherd."
Art is highly infectious!
Planted in the soul by the Great Artist Himself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Logic of English ~ THE WHY.

How the Logic of English has changed our homeschool.
7 year old playing a phonogram game of Dragon (similar to "OLD MAID.")
Guess who has the Dragon??
4 year old working on his cursive J (LOE handwriting program)

We do life and learning just a little bit different than most folks.
If it's not wicked silly,
and crazy fun...
it just doesn't find a permanent home in our homeschool.
I like to use laughter as the vehicle of learning.
Mainly, because I love to laugh myself.
And I REALLY am addicted to hearing the belly-giggles
of my little guys.
And serious is fine,
but passion is not fueled by constant furrowed brows.
We get silly, we get hands-on,
and we get serious lasting learning done.
Self-education is the only possible education;
 the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature.
~Charlotte Mason.
It wasn't always this way around here!
I bought into the lie that certain subjects just have to be TACKLED.
And wrestled to the ground.
Like English and spelling.
Then I realized that our English and spelling
in my son's head.
And I attended a local homeschool conference where I sat
in on a lecture that changed our homeschool life.
Fun and laughter and passion in spelling and English? INDEED!
After attending the lecture, I knew it would fit us well.
It took me awhile to come to grips with setting aside our
already purchased-and-paid-for-drill-and-kill-failure-english/spelling-style.
But one day, I had had quite enough of the wrestling and sad,
and I made the best decision ever.
Meet our English and spelling of choice:
Did you know that teaching your child,
"when 2 vowels go a-walkin' the first one does the talking"
is really misleading?
Well, blah.  I taught that to my very logical-thinking kid
and then wondered why I would watch him spell things all wrong.
Spell things all wrong:  with the very tools I had taught him.
I got exhausted saying, "You're right to think that way...
but this word is an exception to the rules..."
Or..."This word is a SIGHT word...we memorize it b/c it breaks all the rules..."
I would just get this sad, blank stare back at me...and I started to wonder myself...
just what kind of CRAZY mixed up language IS English, anyway?
And how on earth did I ever learn it??
I almost jumped up and down when I sat through the Logic of English
presentation.  It totally grabbed my logical-mind and
I went straight to the vendor hall and bought Denise Eide's book:
Uncovering the Logic of English.
This little, well-thought out book explained everything to me.
There ARE rules that apply to English.
But when we teach our children "funny phonics" like
"the E at the end of a word makes the vowel say its name,"
we are creating the myth that these rules apply on a consistent basis.
And when those funny rules DON'T apply--
it creates a great deal of discouragement.
The Logic of English has a set of consistent, reliable rules.
Children memorize:
30 spelling rules
and 74 phonograms (these 74 include A-Z)
That's it.
104 tools, total.
All the tools needed to decode 98% of the English language.
A language that boasts between one and two MILLION words in its lexicon.
A well-trained mind has up to 200,000 words in its memory bank.
THAT is a lot of memorizing without tools.
The BEST part??
These 104 "tools" are delivered via my favorite vehicle:  laughter.
We play games and learn our way right into the
very MEAT of the English language!
I bought this curriculum for my seven year old,
but the most amazing thing is: 
I have watched my 4 year old memorize spelling rules,
and memorize every-single-phonogram-I've-introduced-thus-far.
Which is somewhere around 50.
The other day he did our spelling list right alongside,
and my jaw dropped as he spelled "clock."
Now--tell me--what 4 year old knows that clock is clock and not klok?
The kid who learned,
"ck is used ONLY after a single vowel that says its short sound."
Then he spelled "human."
Because he learned that A,E,O, and U "usually say their names at the END
of a syllable."
4-year-old-man also knows ALL the sounds that A-Z make.
(Did you know that A says three sounds??  I didn't either, until LOE!)
And the thing is--my 4 year old is NOT required to sit in on our English or spelling lessons.
He does it for the pure JOY of it, it is THAT fun!
I will be posting more about our journey with the Logic of English.
But for now--if you are curious,
it all starts with Denise Eide's book:
Uncovering the Logic of English.
I have a copy on my shelf--it is priceless.
I only purchase books that I cannot live without.
This is one:  I cannot live without as a homeschool mother.
The book changed my heart and revolutionized our homeschool
I will post more on what our days are like with LOE,
in case it is helpful to any other families out there
looking to bring the logic and JOY
back into English and spelling!
the book: 
the curriculum:
the presentation:
***I am not affiliated in ANY way with The Logic of English.  I did NOT receieve any
free curriculum or incentives to write this review.  I do NOT know the author.  I purchased
all of our Logic of English material with my own money.
Yes, it is that good.*** 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A life lived well.

What we are called to?
This weekend, on Saturday,
my Great-Aunt Marion passed from this earth.
She was 99 years old.
I remember when my grandmother passed, at the age of 92,
many well-intentioned folks made mention that 92 years was
"at least a long, full life."
The thing is,
it's just never long enough.
92 years is not long enough when you have to say goodbye to a
grandmother whose soft lips you will never feel give you a kiss again.
It's not long enough when you find yourself having to really focus
and remember the sound of your grandmother's laugh.
It's just never, never long enough.
It's always too soon to say goodbye to a loved one.
There are always things you wish you'd have said,
There are still things you wish you could have learned from them.
Stories you wished you'd have asked them to tell.
Crochet hooks that you long for them to show you to hold.
You know?
Death comes too soon.
God knows.
He knows that for us death is a thief,
coming at an hour unknown and always unwanted.
Jesus experienced the death of the-one-he-loved, Lazarus.
Seeing the grief of Lazarus' family and friends,
He wept.
The God-Man who had come from heaven and was here with us,
on this broken-twisted-grieving-planet:
Immanuel--He wept.
He knew his friend Lazarus was in heaven.
Still, He wept.
He knew that He would raise Lazarus within minutes.
To God's great glory, to prove the Truth of Himself.
Still, He wept.
He wept,
and then He up and raised Lazarus.
A beautiful reminder that there is grief in the mourning of this moment,
but joy in the temporal state of death's earthly goodbye.
Jesus later laid down His life, nailed to a cross.
And ripped the sting right out of death.
In our honor.
Death is now but a waiting.
Sometimes a long waiting.
But I'll take waiting.
I'll take waiting to hear her throw-back-her-head-and-laugh again,
over a forever goodbye grave.

These are not just words I hold to, for comfort.
I am a realist.
I believe that the evidence for Jesus
is astounding.
And if you always have thought Jesus a fairytale,
a "nice story" that the weak hold to,
to explain the profound and the sad ~
I assure you that Christ followers of history are not weak,
but crazy-life-giving-fanatics who died for what they saw.
If you want to weigh the evidence for yourself,
Here's a link to one of my all-time fav podcasts/blogs,
weighing the evidence for this
grave-defeating Jesus.

The Please Convince Me podcast is by a former athiest: 
Jim Wallace.
He thought Christians to be simple minded goofs,
until one day he studied the evidence for Jesus.
And turned his life right inside out.
He is a cold case homicide detective who found the truth of Jesus
to be overhwhelmingly accurate, able to stand trial,
and he started this ministry to
point others toward the truth of Jesus.
He accepts zero donations.
It's all heart, and his own personal donated time.
His ministry is funded entirely by himself and a few friends
who believe in His mission.
He approachs Christ as a cold-case detective, zero fluff.
I love it.

When I read Great-Aunt Marion's obituary, I sobbed like a child.
Huge, water droplets spilling from my face onto the keyboard,
onto my chin.
Onto my sweatshirt.
I was transported to my own death.
To the overwhelming place of overviewing one's own life.
Every minute and hour spent,
and what would be said of the sum total.
Great Aunt Marion married when she was 35.
She had one son, and it filled her with joy.
She poured her life into her family.
Her obituary says that she NEVER raised her voice.
If someone read that in my eulogy, I'm pretty sure that Quinn
would stand straight up in his pew and raise his hand to correct the typo.
I remember my Great Aunt with fondness.
She was always smiling.  Always.
A truly gentle, loving soul.
Smiling, and laughing.
I am thinking about my week,
about my month.
How it has all been covered in laughter.
In smiling.
And I wonder if that laughter runs-in-my-ancestoral-veins?
Laughter covers our homeschool.
Literally, if it does not make us laugh --
we just find a way to learn, that WILL.
We play and laugh our way right through our days.
(and yes, the laughter fades at times, and we fatigue,
but in an overarching way, laughter and joy mark our days
and carry us right through the hard places, and heal us.)
I was at a dinner gathering not long ago,
and the moms were gathered up, chatting.
Suddenly a dear mom just opened her soul and shared:
"I just have been loving time with my kids this week.
I just love being with them.
I love the time that we've spent and I'm thankful."
And I was touched, deep.
Because I feel that, too.
The thankfulness of gathering my kids around me
and doing life with them.
Touched also at how quickly I forget this.
Just that day I had YELLED (in my yelling voice?)
at my husband for not giving me UN-interrupted
workout time without my kids.
The baby was crying, which I could hear during my workout,
and I was distracted and unfocused and angry that
Out of breath, in-a-crank,
I came barrelling up the stairs and just unleashed a nasty sentence
upon my resting husband.
My hard-working, resting husband.
I get tired, I get cranky,
and I forget:  what it IS that I am called to?
Motherhood is the grandest journey of turning one's soul inside out.
Of pouring out.
How quickly I forget the joy of it.
Forget to laugh.
I get mySELF right up in front and am blinded by MEaness.
And then I am asking forgiveness,
and tucking it around healing laughter.
Hoping and praying that the laughter
outweighs all my shortcomings.
Smothers my lack of mother-nice.
Thankful that God's mercies are new every morning MINUTE.
I am blessed by those who have gone before me,
who have done this "life" thing well.
My Great-Aunt Marion's life-story is tucked securely
in the back of my Bible.
Her picture there, smiling still.
The words "her husband won the prize for best wife,"
reverberating in my soul.
A reminder of what I aspire to.
A reminder not to chasten the little laugh lines that creep
up in the laughter places upon my face.
But to welcome them as time-worn marks of
a life lived smiling, in laughter.
A reminder that I am not called to "perfection,"
but to aspire after holiness.
That maybe God gave us laughter,
knowing we would need a glorious blanket
to cover our shortcomings with.
A reminder that this Bible book holds my map.
Pour in more of you, Jesus?
And empty me right out.

In honor of a great lady, Great Aunt Marion.
I invite you to read her obituary, it will warm you on this chilly January morn!
Her spirit will be missed here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

In honor of Nellie and baby cubby.

A little break from the usual?
My sister sweet is halfway through her first pregnancy,
and I am over an hour from her.
I deeply desire to sit down to nice cups of decaf coffee and chat baby.
But until that happens...
I brewed myself a cup, and am enjoying the silence of a sleeping house.
Watching the clock tick wee late hours...
Joyfully typing as if we were chatting.
This list is in her honor.

The Go-To Gotta-have-it List for New Mommies.
~Great Reads~
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May is nationally known as an expert on all-things-birth, being a highly respected, certified
midwife.  She is not a professed Christ-follower, but she treats birth as the mysterious
miracle that modern medicine in missing.  Her books are full of wisdom and strength, telling
the bare bones of what birth is really like.
Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent
I could not get enough of this book--hard to put down!  Wonderful birth stories told
through the eyes of a midwife.
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by McCutcheon
A great book for pain techniques and learning labor stages, etc.
Not necessarily just for natural childbirth.
MOVIE:  The Business of Being Born, starring Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
Birth is a business.  Hospitals need to turn a profit.  Learn about the
cycle of pitocin, pain, and c-sections that plague American hospitals.
The Vaccine Book by Sears
Babies are given dozens of immunizations in their first year of life.
Learn what each shot is for, if it is necessary or simply convenient, and what
the possible side effects to your child could be.
Our government has a fund set up for children harmed by vaccines.
That should alarm you.
Especially since babies are vaccinated in their first moments of life!
Vaccinated by Offit
Read both sides of the vaccine argument!
This book is pro-vaccine.
Very informative, telling how immunizations were invented.
Includes information on what years to FEAR flu viruses, and what years
to skip the flu vaccine.
Includes information on the use of fetal cells in vaccines.
The No Cry Sleep Solution by Pantley
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Weissbluth
Babies sometimes don't like to sleep?
Great books on sleep techniques, encouragement for overtired parents,
research on how naps develop and change throughout childhood,
colic advice, and sleep charts to determine sleep quantity needs per age group
and how sleep affects learning/development.
I do not agree with all Weissbluth says about techniques for "crying it out,"
although he does offer several alternative options with no-cry solutions.
His book is very choppy reading, not very organized--but the meat
and research it contains is invaluable.

~ Breastfeeding ~
1.  My Brestfriend nursing pillow
superior to the Boppy because it offers back support.
It also buckles on, so you can use it while standing.  Carefully!

2.  Nursing cover
3.  Nursing tank top
these are nice b/c they allow you to breastfeed in public places
without exposing postpartum tummy/back

4.  Lily padz
Great for under t-shirts, as conventional breastpads are bulky
and make you look like you stuff your bra, lol!
Very simple to clean.

5.  Medela breastpump
Often insurance policies will reimburse you for part
of your breastpump cost.
The Medela "swing" is my fav!  Great for occasional pumping,
and simulates the natural rhythm of feeding.
Worth every penny!
(that said, milk storage bags are great, too).

6.  Breast hot/cold packs
When your milk first comes in, or when you are weaning--
and even if you have plugged ducts or other pains,
these are so, so nice!


~ Baby Care ~

These are just a few items I could not live without!

1.  Booty Balm by Lusa Organics
The smell of this reminds me of babyhood.  I always
have it onhand.  GREAT for preventing diaper rash:
slather it on baby's bum every evening before bed.
Safe for cloth diapers.

2.  Triple Paste
Cures bad cases of diaper rash EVERY time!
I keep this and Booty Balm in the changing table at all times.
(Do not use with cloth diapers without a liner.)

3.  Baby soaps:
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castille soap baby mild, unscented
(be careful not to get this into baby's eyes.  We use it at our house,
as an entire family--but the CA baby soap is more gentle on eyes if you
are worried at all about avoiding baby's eye area)
California Baby Super Sensitive baby wash and lotion
Beware of traditional baby soaps, as many contain "fragrance" or sulfates,
and other skin irritants that newborn skin
(or any skin for that matter!) cannot handle.
Skin is the body's largest organ, and it absorbs what
you put on it.

Best shop to get "crunchy" baby products at low prices:
(it also will give me $10 off a future purchase, so thank you!)

4.  Ecover Stain Remover
a natural, eco-friendly stain stick that is AMAZING!
I have tried it on just about everything...
including ground in, old stains.
I am a fanatic!
(I just ordered a --CASE!--)
you can get this on vitacost for a great price.

Best resources:
Baby and cloth diaper supplies/blog:
Breastfeeding support:  La Leche League

~ Enjoy! ~