He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

29 June 2012

Pom Pom Push {1 Year Old}

I have had a difficult time finding things for Bean (13 mos) to do. I can find plenty of fun things to do with Mak (2.5) and CJ (almost 4) but one would think that one-year-olds were meant to stare at the wall based on the number of good activities I've been able to find.

I saw this one somewhere on Pinterest and since I already had everything on hand (a plastic container, a pair of scissors, pom poms) I had no excuse not to try.

Bean LOVES it and has cried each time I've moved them or put them away. We even brought them to a friend's house last night to keep her occupied and several older kids ended up playing with them. I can't seem to keep Mak and CJ away either!
From my point of view, you really can't lose here!
Happy Weekend!

28 June 2012

Free Ebooks for Kids

Bethany from No Twiddle Twaddle has compiled a lovely list of free ebooks from Amazon that she considers to be twaddle free. 
In case you're wondering... "twaddle" is defined by Webster as "something insignificant or worthless". Charlotte Mason uses it to describe many different things but in this case, it would be referring to children's books that talk down to children, are dumbed down for easy reading, lack any real content. In a seminar I recently attended, it was defined as such
"If there i a book that your child brings to you regularly and you cringe 
every time they do, it very well may be 'twaddle'".
I am not saying that the list of books Bethany has pulled together are sure fire winners because I haven't read them all myself but 1. they are FREE! and 2. you can always delete the ones you don't like. I have put a few on my phone with future waiting room trips in mind.

The link to Bethany's site can be found here at NoTwiddleTwaddle.com
There is a second, longer list found here on Bethany's Amazon reading list.
{Be sure to check prices as some of them are only temporarily free!}

27 June 2012

In Case You Were Wondering...

I know, I'm taking forever to get to part three of my "Proud to be Mean" series but I have a bit of an interesting interjection to make today...
Check out the New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert's question
Just thought you might appreciate the thoughts on how American kids size up to jungle kids.

26 June 2012

75 Things to do With Your Kids


You may have seen lists like this on Pinterest, blogs, or Facebook but I would bet you haven't seen one as great as this! That's so Cuegly put together a great list of fun activities and experiments to do with your kids of all ages. Some ideas are trip, some are at home, some come with a shopping list, and some are free. This list of 75 was just too good to pass up! 
You can find it all here at That's so Cuegly

22 June 2012

Proud to be Mean {Part II}

In case you need to be caught up, you can check back with Proud to be Mean {Part I} HERE.

So as I was saying... things were not going well with my two or three year olds. I tried to be patient. I tried to be "nice" though sometimes my attempts were fake because all I was doing was masking my true feelings in that moment. I got down to their level, physically, to be eye to eye with them and said things like "you're disobeying right now and you have a choice to obey or get a spank... go to your room... not go swimming... yadda, yadda, yadda..." I wanted to give them all the facts so that they could make informed decisions. You know what I found? The "nicer" and more patient I tried to be the worse it got and the more they whined.
It made no sense to me! I was doing everything I could to fix my kids' behavior, to be nice, to be friendly, everything I could think of to make them WANT to obey.

<Enter John Rosemond>
I was slapped in the face with some cold, hard facts about mistakes I was making.

Within the first few minutes of his seminar Rosemond told us that the problem with today's parents is that "they are looking for formulas when there are none". The problem that modern parents are having today is that their "expectations are not perfectly clear". 
I'm going to make my first stop right here...

When CJ was 4 months old Hubs and I began to use our own version of Babywise with our kids. The most memorable thing I took away from the series was a phrase "Start as you mean to go on." (Coincidentally, the only piece of marital advice that I remember being given was just about the same. "Don't do anything at the beginning of marriage that you don't plan to do for the rest of it {namely, breakfast in bed}.") In other words, the best way to be successful in your venture is to take the time to sit down and figure out what you want the end result to look like and make all of your decisions based on achieving that goal.
Hubs and I did this a long time ago. We discussed what values we believed are important to instill in our kids, how we want them to view and interact with others, and how we hope they will view God. What we didn't think to discuss was how we wanted them to view us; their parents.
Both of us came from homes with "tough" parents. I consider my parent's methods to be a bit more legalistic and "strict" than his but they appear to have been similar. My parents had anywhere from 4-8 kids in the home at a time, due to a previous marriage, and I have a younger brother {"Booger"} who was born with Cerebral Palsy who needed much of the family's time and attention. Hubs was raised in a home with just one younger sister so my upbringing had some natural restrictions and expectations that his did not. Obedience was not an option because there was no time for discussion and I heard the words "because I said so" more than I cared to.
I believe I came to our marriage and parenthood with a bias towards being "mean" but early on I was unable to explain why I had the expectations of obedience and respect other than "that's how I was raised" which made me an easy target for critics who thought I was unnecessarily mean, strict, abrupt, lacking compassion, etc.
I think it is because of the lack of clarity that I had that I began to slip into the idea of being our kids' friend. 
I heard and saw it everywhere. Moms all around me would get down to eye level with their kids and sweetly explain why Junior needed to "listen to mommy right now because that was the nice thing to do. Okay?" I slowly began to think that I needed to create a friendship built on love and mutual respect with our kids and that if my kids liked how I parented they would want obey, respect, and maybe even like me in return.
Looking back, I can think of a clear reason I should have known better...

Think back to your favorite teachers in school. 
Were they the ones who talked slowly and "below you" to be sure you understood? Did they repeat things several times in case you weren't paying attention or held your hand through the class all while trying to be "cool" by using your language and hanging out with you outside of class? 
My favorite teachers were ALWAYS the ones who expected the most of me and didn't let me take the easy way out. Thank you, Susan MacLeod, Kathryn Kay, Janice DeLong and Carolyn Towles! These women always held me to the highest standards not just in the classroom but in life. They simply did not accept "status quo" from me because they knew I was capable of more. These women did not hold my hand. They did not give me extra credit based on how hard I "tried". They did not curve my test scores so that I wouldn't feel bad. They gave me the scores I deserved and they were always willing to work with me if I came to them of my own accord. They always had time for me but they didn't do the work for me. I don't believe I will ever forget these women. 

As a parent, my job is not to be my kids' friend. God did not entrust these children into Hub's and my hands so that we could make them feel good about themselves or have high self esteem. God didn't even loan us these kids so that we could make them happy. NO! God gave us these precious lives to love, discipline, nurture, refine, mold, and shape so they could become Godly men and women who love God first and others second. He placed them into our care so we could train them how to be Godly husbands, wives, friends, sisters, brothers, neighbors, employees, bosses, and parents. The process of refining precious metals involves intense heat to remove impurities and the process of pottery involves "throwing", squeezing, pinching, and kneading to make the piece strong and useful. Why did I expect parenting a human being would be any simpler?

The problem was that I had slipped into the silliness that said that if I didn't make my kid happy or feel good about themselves then I was a bad mom. It wasn't a purposeful fall. It was a slow drifting away and what I was accomplishing was the opposite of what Hubs and I had set out to. My kids weren't happy because I wasn't expecting anything of them and I was getting angry a lot. Hubs was becoming stressed because I was stressed and coming home after work wasn't a treat, it was a chore. As for me... I was slowly losing my mind and feeling guilty.

* A note on how this affected Hubs and I...
Rosemond said something that cut deep about what is happening to modern-day marriages and why. I thought I was above this and immune but the following hits home...
Today's parents have become preoccupied with how their kids feel. (How happy they are. Their level of self-esteem.) This is how women have begun to take over their homes. If it is all about how our children feel about themselves then clearly women have the advantage over men because women work with a "box of 64 shades of emotions" while men are working from a "box of 8 and oftentimes more than one of those 8 'tips' have been left unused". This leads women/moms to become overwhelmed and in an attempt to "maintain control" they begin to micromanage their children AND their husbands. Sadly, men often respond by "rolling over" because it's not worth the daily battles and try to be their kids' buddies instead. 

Women, do not underestimate your power to emasculate your husband and take leadership of your home!

Part III is up next... I have given you the "What" and the "Why"... next is the "How"
 
Happy Weekend!

21 June 2012

Proud to be Mean {Part I}

As I've said a couple of times already, the homeschool convention experience was exactly what I needed and it came exactly when I needed it!
God is good like that.
As I have also said, there's a great chance that the convention nearest you isn't just for homeschooling mom's but if you're a mom who ever...
- gets tired
- becomes frustrated
- feels overwhelmed
- feels inadequate
- compares herself to others
- feels pressure to keep up with the Jones'
- gets stressed
- micromanages their children and husbands
well then it just might be for you!

I want to share with you my current experiment that started from some advice I was given through a seminar by John Rosemond, author of Parenting by the Book and The Well-Behaved Child. I realize that if you've heard of him you may immediately think of what a ... well, let's just say "stickler" he can be because some of the adjectives passed around our house for him are a bit unflattering. In his writing and, as I recently experienced, in his classes, he can come across as a bit cold and unfeeling... "a typical, out-of-touch, male." However, despite how he sounds, his message is still well worth a listen and, to be honest, I agree with almost everything he says. {If you're tempted to write me off already and wait it out for another "how to" post, I ask that you just hear me out first.}

I must give you a bit of history in order for you to understand where I'm coming from today.
It was not long ago, maybe 9 months ago, that I considered myself a mean mom. I would define "mean" as in I was the type of mom who expected my son to do what I told without question and if I didn't feel like explaining to him why I wanted him to pick up his toys, then I didn't. We were often told that we had great kids and regularly overheard others talking about how well behaved our munchkins were, especially in restaurants. {I don't say that to brag. By no means! I simply mean to say that a year ago, that's how things went.}

About six months ago, I noticed changes and maturity in CJ that made it clear that he was able to understand concepts and comprehend ideas. He was beginning to connect ideas to get to the "why" and not just he "how" or "what" like before. I took this as my cue to begin explaining more to CJ because I thought he would benefit from understanding as he was absorbing everything like a sponge. I began to get caught up in making sure CJ understood EVERYTHING and this is where I made my mistake.
See... it sounds good. Teaching your curious three year old about butterflies and growing grass and seasons all sounds good. And it is. But when I say I helped him to understand EVERYTHING, that included things like "Why he should doesn't tell Mommy, 'No'.". "Why he has to go to his room until dinner." "Why he needs to pick up his toys when I tell him to". And you know what I began to do a lot of with him? Talk! I talked so much that I sometimes annoyed myself! He understood the concepts, alright. He understood what I wanted from him without problem. Still, that all sounds good, even to me, but what I also did was open the door for him to add his two cents in as well and THAT is where things started to fall apart for me.
His behavior around others, whether I was present or not, continued to be good. I have not once in his life had a complaint about his behavior. {Again, this is not to brag. It is to explain our situation with which we were working.} I noticed changes at home though. He would not listen as readily as he once did. He would question my reasons for telling him to pick up his toys and inform me that he did not want to with a constant string of "NO! No, no, no, no, NO!"s. He would whine constantly and for long stretches of time. He would collapse right then and there if he did not like what I told him, refuse to stand, scream, cry, and tell me "I don't want to!"

So clearly things weren't going well. My once well behaved kiddo was melting down daily and I, a usually cool-headed, got-it-together-momma was constantly fighting headaches (literal ones), annoyance, and anger towards CJ. To be frank, I just didn't like him. He was not enjoyable, he was not kind, and he was not pleasant. I blamed him, saying that his and my personalities were just too different. "He's just like his father", I would say in a matter-of-fact tone.

I tried to keep it together on the outside, lamenting with other moms about the "phase" that CJ was going through but inside I knew something was falling apart. Even Miss Mak was unhappier than usual and though it was easy to place blame on the kids I knew, deep down, it was more to do with me but I had no idea what that was.

Are you still with me? Are you feeling lost in parenting like I did?
You can read more about it in Part II HERE

I must remind you that this is all based on my personal experience so if you want technical explanations as to why this makes sense to me, pick up a copy of The Well Behaved Child, or borrow mine, where Rosemond does a bang-up job of clarifying.  



20 June 2012

Business as Usual

I'm taking it easy this week cause Gram and Pap are in town!
Meanwhile THEY are getting the workout of their lives. 
video

Ah... the good life!
{P.S. Yes, I know my son screams like a girl. We're working on that.}
Happy Wednesday!

17 June 2012

Tales of a Homeschool Convention Virgin {What Surprised Me}

As I mentioned last week, I attended a home school convention in Hartford, CT this weekend. If you're keeping track, CJ is going to be 4 in August. We sent him to preschool at the Christian school which I grew up in and have enrolled him in preschool again for this coming year. So why did I go? We are intending to start homeschooling CJ in kindergarten and I am a planner by nature and figure a sneak peak can't hurt. The main reason, though, is that the homeschooling world, if you are unfamiliar with it like me, is incredibly confusing! Words like "Living Books", "Sonlight", "classical education", and "unit studies" are passed around and are completely confounding even to a newbie like me with an degree in elementary education.
Imagine standing before an empty table and thirty-seven complete strangers come up to you with arms full of notebooks written in Mandarin and pile those books on the table and your only instruction is to pick out the notebooks you want to use to shape and mold the minds and hearts of your family for the rest of their lives.
Yeah, it feels something like that.
So that's why I decided to bring you along for the ride. If you are new to homeschooling, FANTASTIC!, so am I! I will share with you what I'm learning and hopefully alleviate some of the "overwhelming-ness" that makes you want to cry and quit before you even get started.

So, if all of that already has you quivering a little, I'll take it easy on you and just tell you of the reasons I was blessed and am incredibly thankful that I was able to attend this convention...

1. I didn't realize how much I have missed ongoing education. This was my favorite surprise of all. I noticed immediately that I was absorbing everything I saw, heard, and read like one of those sponges you buy at the store that quadruples in size when you wet it. I was so thirsty for knowledge...
real. applicable. knowledge.
I had no idea how badly I missed it because I have never been a brilliant student. I have always been average and completely underestimated my love of learning. I was a student once again and suddenly missed my college days not because they were the epitome of freedom and fun for me but because I was learning things that interested me from people who are experts in the field in one convenient location.
I no longer think that continuing education is just "nice" and "noble". I believe that it's beneficial and necessary.

2. I didn't realize that a lot of the seminars aimed at homeschooling moms are applicable to all moms and I dare say that I recommend that stay at home moms and working moms alike could glean something beneficial from this experience. My first handful of classes had tiles like "Exploding Supermom Myths" and "Lies Home School Moms Believe". I assumed those classes would be little support groups for homeschoolers but in reality they were reminders about keeping your marriage first and keeping the reality of being a mom in perspective. There were also classes on discipline like the one given by John Rosemond on "The Well Behaved Child" which had nothing to do with homeschooling at all. I urge you to look into conferences around you and to browse over their class schedule. I have yet to encounter any "Mom Conventions" so this may be a great chance for you if you need a time of refreshment

3. I didn't anticipate how honest everyone would be about what you're in for. For some very strange reason, it seems that the work of a homeschool mom is underestimated. Stay-at-home mom's may understand this too. Ever dealt with the lie that "if you don't work outside of the home you don't actually have a job" or how about the pressure and guilt that comes with staying at home and not having a spotless home with perfectly behaved children, always clean laundry, and no dishes in the sink? I mean seriously, whose reality is this?! Cause it certainly isn't ours! Moms, we have our days where it feels like it's all coming together but once you have been doing it long enough you know that you need to enjoy it but not get too excited over it because tomorrow is a new day and the mess will, inevitably, return! What everyone was very honest about is how homeschooling is a simple math problem...

take the occasional (or everyday) mess and chaos you may already have at home
ADD the weight and time of educating your child in the areas of math, science, reading, writing, history, geography, literature, and Bible... You know what that equals, right? LESS time, MORE mess, MORE personal sacrifice as a parent to make it happen. 

Is it daunting and easy to quit right here? You bet! Does God give you the grace to handle it if you let go of control, let go of the insignificant, and trust that you need to be carried, trained, taught, and disciplined by God just like your little ones will be by you? Absolutely!

4. I didn't anticipate feeling as spiritually refreshed as I did.  I went with one expectation... to answer at least one of my questions about homeschooling. I didn't even matter which one, just as long as I walked away from the weekend a little smarter than I started. I not only had questions answered that I didn't even know to ask, I was spiritually renewed in a way that I didn't realize I needed. Part of that may have been because I went "sans kiddos" and "sans friends". For the first time in ages I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, and I was free to change my mind whenever I wanted. Boy, have I missed that! Also, like it or not, homeschooling is done by a lot of Christians and so Biblical encouragement is everywhere. {I say this with some confidence because I live in Connecticut where Jesus isn't a popular guy but even here, I heard the truths of God spoken at every turn.} God permeated the meetings and the people and it was beautiful.


5. I didn't realize the potential need to rent a Uhaul. Naturally, someone interested in homeschooling will be excited by the "one-stop-shopping" in the exhibit hall of a conference like this but the number of empty suitcases, rolling carts, and yes, Radio Flyer wagons may catch you off guard. I figured I'd be safe with my backpack but sure enough I walked out with two canvas bags that were given to me out of pity because a man saw me struggling with my arms full of books. 

6. The parking garage was packed with minivans but the denim jumpers and Keds were scarce. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of "normal" people I saw and met. {I thought for sure I would be the coolest person there due to the fact that I almost always wear jeans/shorts and am sporting a nose ring.} Sure, there were some skirts but heck, I wore one one day because it was more comfortable. I saw a few head coverings but in those three days and amongst the hundreds of people I passed, there may have been five total. I encountered real moms, real people, who came from all over New England, and they were normal, REAL people who like Starbucks just like me! {This goes for the speakers too.}

See... that wasn't so bad... YET!




14 June 2012

Thursday

It's been one of THOSE past seven days.
The kind where I overbook myself and don't realize it until it's too late.
The kind where it hit me that I have a ridiculous number of children crazy-close together!
The kind where I don't feel like I can get a grip on our household and all the noise and messiness that happens here.
The kind where my 3 year old decides he's going to whine like it's his job and inform me of how "that's not fair" and "I don't want to" all while piling toys in front of the basement bathroom in an attempt to block my path to the laundry room because "I don't like you, mom". {But if you notice I'm making progress on removing the wallpaper... which is nice.}
The kind where my 2 year old cries over every little thing...
The kind where my 1 year old gets the fever that her siblings had and doesn't seem to be handling it as well as the other two did.
And this weekend is my very first home school convention...
you know... the place you go to learn about all the more work that you're gonna be taking on on top of the work you already do in your home!
Amazingly... it's also the place you go to learn that you're not alone in this world and you don't have to  be supermom because, quite frankly, supermom "isn't real!" 
I snuck away for a few hours to sit it on some classes this afternoon and I cannot explain the rest I found there. I attended three seminars and, until 3:30 this afternoon, I somehow I missed how this was a Christian convention of sorts and was so refreshed by the Word of God being spoken along with state legal requirements and organizing your time.
The body of Christ is so beautiful and I am genuinely sad for those who miss out on the sheer sweetness of it all.
I already have a few notes that I want to share with on what I've heard {hopefully sooner rather than later}.
I am already feeling renewed and for that, especially right now, I am incredibly grateful. God is good.

Enjoy your weekend, friends! 
It looks as though I'm going to be enjoying mine! 

12 June 2012

Lucky Shot


I have tried to have the camera out with me more these days...

You never know when you're going to catch the right moment...

or when you'll capture an normal event that you'll love to relive and share down the road...

I've heard over and over that you should have your camera with you at all times...
I'm so glad I have.

07 June 2012

Thrifty Time

So... funny thing...
I drove nearly an hour to get raw milk today.
It was lunch time so naturally I stopped at Wendy's for lunch.
I should be ashamed!
 
Anyway...
On the way home the kids and I dropped by a thrift store and I found some goodies.
Just wanted to share...
 
 
 
Have a Happy Day!

06 June 2012

Wednesday

It's Miss Mak's turn with the fever.

CJ was at 103 for four days the end of last week. No other symptoms. Strange.

He's feeling better now. 

Needless to say, we've had some down time these days and that usually means that I'm getting bored.
It's a terrible habit to always want/need to be on the move though it's usually helpful in getting projects done around the house.
Hello, play room!
The border and wallpaper aren't for me and I think this room could really use some lightening up which has all but confounded me. 
Lighter, cooler wall color in a high shine finish may help? Maybe some more lighting? 
Managing that on nearly no budget will require creativity. 
Wish me luck! 

I had some time to spend in my embarrassingly untouched craft room. 
 I didn't make anything...
 I just wandered around looking at everything wishing for time and inspiration...
 Maybe someday...

<sigh>



04 June 2012

A Quick Fix Chair Recover

Thankfully my mom likes to redecorate often.
She and dad are trying to make their house a little more Mission Style which means that sometimes we get their old furniture.
Yay, us!
Our most recent adoption was a tall kitchen buffet that we put in our living room as a desk.
The one I sit at to talk to you.
This one.
Right here.

Since it's so high we needed bar stools to sit at it so that we didn't stand awkwardly and uncomfortably for long periods of time like we used to at our library computers in college.
"L-U!"
I bought two chairs from the local Christmas Tree Shop but those were constantly being drug into the kitchen as the kids wanted to join me while I worked.
For a couple of months now I've been on the hunt for new ones and finally found a couple of fun ones at a tag sale down the street.
They're the perfect height and rather comfortable but the seat was kinda ugly and dated so I headed to my fabric stash... because why pay?!... and gussied them up just a pinch.
All it took was a hand held staple gun... (I think it was about $15 from the hardware store, maybe less and I've used it for TONS of projects over the years) and some fabric. I used an upholstery weight so it will last through all our wiggling around. 
First unscrewed the seat cover from the bottom of the chair.
Then I laid the fabric face-down on the floor and laid the cushion face-down over it.
I highly recommend working with larger pieces of fabric at first but if you must buy fabric and need to figure out how much you need, or for some reason must cut it before you staple it into place add 3"-4" excess on all sides because you're going to need to be able to grab and pull the fabric taught as you staple.
The key, I've found, to getting crisp corners is to work with little bits at a time and work from the sides of the corner in towards the middle of it. Just keep grabbing small pieces, pulling them, and stapling them when they are tight to the seat.
You're less likely to regret more staples to don't be stingy cause you will regret it if your fabric starts to come loose.
 Cut the excess fabric off about 1/2"-3/4" from the staples and be sure to uncover the holes to screw the seat back into place.
I have considered painting the chairs but to be honest I really like the wood grain on these guys.
Any thoughts?
Happy Monday!

01 June 2012

Life As We Know It

Another week is over.
It's been semi eventful but I am SO glad it's summer and we can rest when we need to!
For one...
Bean's crawling now.
It took her until she turned one year and a couple weeks to get there but ta da!
video
CJ is on day three of a fever of 103. Waiting for the Dr. to call us back... boo!
Praise God the girls are still okay.
And Miss Mak...
She's fantastic!
Loud, moody, and hilarious as usual!
Have a Happy Weekend!

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