Friday, September 18, 2009

Sorry so absent...

Things have really started to get busy around here.


And, as it always does when things get busier, the house is getting dirtier.


You could almost say, as we read in one of this morning's chapters in The Willoughbys, that we are living in squalor.




On another note, when the girls asked where they should put their new toothbrushes, I answered, "Just stick them on the sink for now."


So they did.



Saturday, September 12, 2009

Free Homeschooling E-book

I just wanted to point out a link to a free e-book on the sidebar. It's from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and it looks like this:



Get this FREE!


Just click on the above (or on the sidebar) and you'll be redirected to a free e-book - no strings attached! It's called The New School Year: Planning Your Course and Letting the Lord Determine Your Steps.


Check it out!



Friday, September 11, 2009

A View I Love


Five of my kiddos (can you spot them all?) walking with their Papa back from the park in Missoula to the van, where the sixth child (sleeping) and I wait.


It's not often I allow myself to just enjoy the view: my husband and our brood. Nine years ago, I was a very fresh newlywed with a hunk of a husband and nary a thought about children. I even wore a two-piece swimsuit! Now, any thoughts NOT dealing with children have to be squeezed in between diaper changes, filling sippy cups, and explaining how to set up a slide of a cricket's leg for the microscope; and the only value I see in a bikini is for the two-year old who can make a 30-min. YMCA swim involve THREE potty breaks (you ever tried to pull down -- and then back up -- a wet swimsuit on a pudgy 2-yr. old?).


I'm older now and rounder and less inclined to giggle. Now I groan more ... both in getting up and in listening to my children's always oral musings.


But sometimes something makes me STOP and just absorb. We have a mess of children ... and they're messy. Their rooms, their hair, their noses, their bottoms, their incessant forgetting we "don't grab things out of anyone else's hands, even if it's yours," their constant spilling of the cups at the table.


Sometimes I forget with all the cleaning up of messes that we are more than this. I forget that we are more than just a group of people who make our individual messes under the same roof. That with all the wiping and scrubbing and soaking I can never truly clean anything worthwhile. That all my work will have to be redone - the snot and the crumbs and the mud and the filth will be back.


But we are more than that.


We are a glorious mess. To mangle a Woody Guthrie lyric, This Mess Is Bound for Glory. I can clean and sort and declutter and polish, but only HE can perfect.


And the work He has done means that my forever wiping is only temporary. There will be a day when we will meet Him face to face and see Him clearly - no smudges or smears or nagging sense of "I missed a spot." And even today, because of His work, I can boldly approach the throne of God - without adjusting any priestly garments or arranging tinkling bells or fearing death.


And THAT is beautiful. 


The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.


I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.


Ps. 16:5-8, ESV


And as I sit and watch my children run and skip and dawdle and holler and sing back to the van with their Papa, I do think about this. For a second, I forget the disgusting state of the floor of the van and think only how blessed I am.


And man, that man is still a hunk.



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Littles in Church Part One: What and Why

Four years ago, our then-church was constructing its first building. Our pastor asked the ladies of the church for input concerning a church nursery. None of our temporary meeting places had allowed for such a room, and the Building Committee needed to know the best way to meet the needs of mothers in the church.


I recently re-read my response to his question. At the time, we had four children: a 4-yr. old, a 2-yr. old, and two 8-mos. olds. I sat with my husband every Sunday, my entire family attended the same church, and there were many other like-minded young families.


Today, almost four years later, much has changed. We now have a 7-yr. old, a 5-yr. old, two 4-yr. olds, a 2-yr. old, a 14-mos. old, and two newborns on the way. We worship 2000+ miles from any family members, the only other child in our church is 11, and I never sit with my husband during the service (he is usually occupied elsewhere – namely, the pulpit).


But my views on children in worship have not changed.


I think an important first step when trying to do anything is to determine WHAT you’re trying to do and WHY you’re trying to do it. For instance, I think it would be near impossible to stay committed to breastfeeding twins (TRUST ME!!) if you didn't know what you were doing (and trust me, there is a big WHAT with twins) and weren’t first convinced that it was the best and cheapest source of nourishment for them.


I’m not saying being armed with conviction makes it easy, just possible.


I feel the same way about worshiping with children. If we don’t really know WHAT we’re trying to do with the worship or WHY we’re trying to do it, we might as well just give up.


These were my comments four years ago. I still feel the same way. There are differences now in HOW we practice worship with children, but these things are still the same:


In response to your question about nursery, here are my thoughts:


I personally don't like the idea of a "nursery worker" (even if it is on a rotating schedule) as I have seen too often how this morphs into a full-fledged nursery. As a covenant family, we rejoice in having our children participate in worship; and we rejoice to see other children participating as well. Sometimes the "participation" is inappropriate and distracting and calls for removal and/or discipline, but I don't think it calls for removing them totally from one of the means of grace (the preaching of the Word) for an extended amount of time, multiple Sundays on end.


Sundays are not my day for a "break" from my children, welcome though that may be. They are a day for me to worship God with the covenant community. My children are part of that community. I want them to learn how blessed is this time. I want them to learn to look forward to it. I want them to see that we want them in there worshiping, that we are doing something too important to be missed. Even my 8-mos. olds can pick up on this excitement; and who knows how the Holy Spirit will apply God's Word to their small lives?


I am not denying that it is hard WORK to listen to the sermon while listening to one child ask to go to the bathroom, pulling the dress down on another, retrieving my watch which has been flung by a third, and catching the wrinkled nose of my husband at the suspicious smell of a fourth. But this is part of my part of teaching my children about glorifying and enjoying God. I want them to view the preaching of God's Word as a necessary and enjoyable part of Christian life. I want their first songs to be songs of the faith. I want them to recognize the people in our congregation, so that when we say we are praying for so-and-so, that will mean something to them.


An even stronger argument for us in our family has been that this seems to be the biblical precedent. In both the Old and New Testaments, children are part of the worship service.


For me, I think it is much more helpful to have someone who is willing to help me keep my children IN the service -- sitting with those who are staying while I take others out for correction or a diaper change, or walking a restless baby in the back or foyer area.


The question: "But what about visitors?" is always brought up in these discussions, and I don't think it's a huge question. Most of the visitors we have had seem to want their children with them, anyway. And with the very few who have asked about a nursery -- I can remember three instances that I was aware of -- their needs were taken care of either by mothers who were already in the “nursery” or by someone in the service who noticed them struggling. It's not like we don't know when we have visitors! But personally, the most offensive thing for me to hear when I am visiting a church is, "We have a nursery down the hall if you'd like to drop your children off there" as if they were a piece of outerwear and NOT a valid part of the covenant community. As a Reformed congregation, I think the most consistent attitude with our doctrine (and the Bible)  is one of embracing children in the worship, even if this takes some discipline on the part of OTHER members of the congregation as well ("I will NOT be distracted by baby noise; I will work HARD at listening and worshiping").


My (turning out to be very lengthy, I guess) opinion is that it is good to have a place to nurse, change diapers, and play during Sunday School; but for the worship service, I prefer to have the children in the service.






(our six waiting for the start of worship a few months back --

this picture is much quieter than the real thing!)


Some articles that have been helpful to us:

Karl Hubenthal's "Children and Worship"

Paul and Judi English's "Teaching Children to Worship"



Monday, September 7, 2009


Probably the most derogative term we use around here is "pickle," as in "You're being a real pickle." (Actually, come to think of it, the most most most derogative term is probably "semi-Pelagian," but this is a G-rated blog.)  It started long before the children were born, before Ethan and I were even married. In fact, I grew up being called a pickle when I was ornery (that's when I wasn't being called a cactus for resisting parental hugs/kisses).


Ethan and I just naturally started calling each other pickles when we were in mild disagreement, or slightly irritated, or even on all-out opposite sides of an issue (like which side should face out when you hang a new toilet paper roll -- we CANNOT agree on this. But I am right.).


But Sunday brought a new twist to the name-calling. We noticed the outside light to Ethan's study (off the garage) was on. Ethan asked, "All right, who was peeking in my study?"


Miriam (4) answered, "Probably Abraham, because his shirt was all wet the other day."


It took me a second before I realized what she was talking about, and then it hit me. "No, Papa said, 'Who was PEEKING in my study?' not 'Who was PEEING in my study?' " (Just a note: Abraham was not peeing in Ethan's study, either. Remember, this is his twin taking advantage of a chance for him to get in trouble.)


"OHHHHH," she said.



But Miriam hates to be wrong, and she fumed for a while before she came up with the just-right slight for me, the one who had corrected her.


"Mama! You're such a pickle! You're just a ... just a ... just a SIN pickle! You're a BLOOD pickle!"


I don't know what to do about this. She has raised the insulting to another level by creating a whole new category.


The Lord's Day Insult.





Friday, September 4, 2009

Reading Lesson

The other day, Lily (5) and I were doing her reading lesson. We use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which I love but which is also perhaps a misnomer. Some days are "easier" than others. (For a hilarious recap of what the daily lessons look like in reality, visit Smockity Frocks here. She nailed it.)


But one thing I have noticed with both Ben (now 7) and Lily is that their speech starts to clear up when they begin reading. They notice that there is an "s" at the beginning of that word or that the "t" in this word is really a "c."


I'm not sure how much this was really sinking in with Lily on Wednesday, though. She came to the word with and said, "Oh, that's kind of like the word withard."


I would love to pretend she was talking about withered, but I know better. "No," I corrected, "that word is wiZZZZZZZZard. This word is with, you know, like 'Would you like to play outside WITH Benjamin?'."


She paused a bit with a suspicious look on her face before she countered, "That doesn't sound anything like the word WIFF!"


And you know? She's right.


Sort of.



Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm Not in a Very Good Mood Today


Last night, at 9 PM, my husband received a phone call from a Realtor asking if she could show the house at 2 this afternoon. My husband is nice, so he moved the time to 2:30 and said that would be fine.


She is lucky she did not speak to me. Next time, my husband assures me, she will.


Because I am 4 months pregnant with twins. Translation: I look like normal pregnant people look when they're 8 mos. pregnant (except nowhere near as cute) but I feel even worse (because not only are there 2 normal-sized babies in there, there are two placentas, extra amniotic fluid, and all the fat from six previous children) and I am done with the morning sickness so my energy (which is extremely limited) and hormones go elsewhere. They DO NOT go into mega-cleaning the house. They DO go into trying to get the bare minimum of homeschooling done with my children, three meals (if we're lucky) prepared and set on the table, and enough clean laundry that we are all wearing our own underwear.


And if there's ANY energy or ANY hormones left? That goes into telling the Realtor (who's not even the seller's agent) that we have it in writing that we get 24 hours' notice. So if you call my husband's cell phone (and HOW DID YOU GET THAT NUMBER???) at 9 PM, I will say, "I'm sorry, but the earliest you could come is 9 PM tomorrow, and that is too late for us, so we'll have to schedule for the next day." And if you have a problem with that, that's OK. We'll make sure that right before you come, we feed the baby beans, the cats any available houseplants, and we'll leave the dog.


Grrr. I even put a pitcher of apples on the counter and a bowl of lemons on the table.


Life's giving me lemons. Make your own lemonade.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What to Do with Baby

My friend Carol has two little girls: Emily (3 1/2 years old) and Erin (just over a year). She recently asked some questions. I'm giving her my $.02; anyone else have some ideas? I'd love to hear (and implement) them!


I've been looking for some guidance on doing a devotional time with Emily, and your link about Circle Time really steered me in the right direction! Thank you!! I was wondering if you've used the Big Truths for Little Kids book, and if it's appropriate for a 3 1/2 year-old? Amazon says the suggested age is 4-8, so I'm wondering if I should find something else for now and save this book for a bit?


We have used Big Truths for Little Kids, and I think it would be fine for Emily, but not a necessity.  It's basically a way to teach the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children: it introduces a series of catechism questions and then gives a short story to illustrate the meaning of the questions/answers being discussed. Even if you decide NOT to go with this book, I would encourage you to work on the catechism questions and answers. The beginning answers are simple enough for a 2-year old, and it's really fun to watch your child gain in vocabulary and understanding as she progresses. (First Catechism: Teaching Children Biblical Truths is available from Great Commission Publications for $1.50.)


Also, when you do Circle Time, does Jonathan sit in your lap or is he otherwise occupied? I'm wondering if this would be good practice for Erin to learn sitting still and being quiet, or if it's too much to expect. She normally stays in church with us at least until the sermon, but today she only made it about 5 minutes... not good! All advice is welcome!


I think I'll save how we handle church for another post. But for now, during Circle Time, the answer is nooooo, he does NOT sit in my lap. At least not consistently, quietly, or in any kind of orderly manner. Sometimes, when we're singing or I'm reading from the devotional book or the Bible, he'll climb up into my lap. But at other times he dances around, plays with his cars, asks for a drink, etc. I think your attention is going to be too divided if you try to use this time as a teaching time with Emily AND a training time for church for Erin. In church, I assume you want her sitting in your lap quietly.  But what it would take to do this in Circle Time, while you are also trying to work with Emily (you're talking, singing, laughing, asking questions, answering questions, coloring ... whatever it is that the day brings) will be frustrating to you and confusing to Erin. This is NOT what you are doing at church.


As far as training for church, we have never successfully implemented a formal training time (when the children practice sitting quietly at the house while listening to a sermon, etc.) What HAS worked for us is general obedience training, instruction in being quiet, and removal of distractions. I will write more about this later.


So if you are not going to use this time as a "sit still for church" training time, what do you do with the baby? Since your time is going to be short, you could just do it during part of her nap. I save our "hard" stuff for when Jon (14 mos.) is napping.


The other option is to distract her and use this time as a training time for her to learn to play by herself. In that vein, here are some sites I've found helpful:


Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace gives an example of what she expects from her 18-mo. old. You could easily scale this down: you won't need HOURS of the baby being occupied; my guess is that your devotional time with Emily won't take you more than 15-30 minutes. Kendra has some good examples of what to realistically expect. Limited times of confinement (in a high chair, play pen, behind a baby gate, etc.) are GOOD. Children learn how to operate within set restrictions.


Here is a great compilation of preschool activities. You can scroll down and find all sorts of activities to keep Erin occupied (clothespins in a jar are popular around here, as is an oat box with a slit [or bigger hole] cut in the top and various toys or kitchen utensils [spoons] to poke through...).  You will ALSO find some good activities for Emily! These can come in handy as you probably want to have time throughout the day when you can devote your attention to the baby and let your older child practice playing independently.


Hopefully this helps a little. I'll give my thoughts on church with littles later -- just know you are not in the trenches alone!


Anyone else have ideas? I'd love to hear them!




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