Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Where Bad Days Don't Exist

We have all read the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Alexander seems to have had everything wrong possible happen to him- at least in his school-aged mind, and he has determined that it is the worst day ever. Saying that you are having a "bad day" is almost a defeatist attitude.

I personally do not allow that phrase in my house, mostly because if we have already defined the day as bad, it must continue to be bad. In close quarters, if one of six of us is having a bad day, all six of us are affected. That makes life miserable for me. Therefore, no bad days are allowed.

Bad experience? Sure. Bad moments? Certainly. Bad attitudes? You bet. These things can be turned around. But saying it is a bad day at 10:00am is a recipe for disaster.

This morning we discussed Paul's appeal to Caesar and his travels, where there seemed to be a trail of disasters. After being shipwrecked at Malta, a viper fastened on to his hand, so Paul shook it off and went on with his work. The natives expected him to swell up and fall down, but nothing happened, so they thought he was a god.

Our morning discussions are quite interesting and unplanned, and this one in particular had me thinking. I said, "What if we could just shake off anything bad that happens to us? What would life look like?"

I have to take a break here and explain- I am not saying that anything of the sort is simple. But if we study and believe what the Bible says, I think it is very clear that it is possible. In fact, it is how God wants us to live, in complete trust of His protection. So, I am not teaching my children that is how I expect them to live, but suggesting the idea of it and imagining what that would be like. That is where we begin.

The children looked skeptical, maybe even confused. So I asked, "Did Jesus ever have a bad day?"

"Yeah, the day he died!"
"The day he died was the day he made a sacrifice for all of our sins, allowing us to have salvation. Is that a bad day?"

"The day Lazarus died?"
"That day allowed Him to show His resurrection power to the people, and Lazarus was eventually raised from the dead.  Was that really a bad day?"

"The day John the Baptist had his head cut off?"
"That was the day Jesus fed 5000."

Bad things happened to Jesus, and yes, he cried. However, he was never defeated.

That attitude is something I'd love to see develop in my children.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Glory of the Ordinary

It was a normal day. Just me and the kids. Piles of laundry, endless dishes, math to learn, bills to pay.

A normal day in January.

The thing that I have noticed is that circumstances don't have to determine my mood, though they try. Nothing big happened, but I determined to enjoy it.

I was even out of coffee.

I didn't need to brag about my domestic skills.
I didn't need to debate any stance.
I didn't need to prove my competence.
I didn't need to make my kids smart to avoid judgment.
I didn't need to feed into perfection.
I got to watch them play.
I was able to dictate the stories they wrote.
I was pampered with undercooked omelets.
I witnessed childhood bliss.
I rejoiced at their knowledge of fractions.

I hugged. I took it all in. I saw the glory of the ordinary.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." -Romans 8:15

Monday, January 12, 2015

Soup Math

Let's face it. Some kids are just better students than others. I was one that was an "other". It amazes me that out of four, only one of my own children struggles with reading and math worksheets as much as I did.

Ironically, I love to read and do math now. Makes me wonder if it wasn't the reading and math that was the problem. At any rate, I am sure that I was a classroom teacher's thorn in the flesh.

With this in mind, I decided that maybe the problem wasn't my student, but the teacher. I have always felt that a good photographer can take a picture of a trash heap and make it look beautiful. In the same way, a good teacher can take a struggling student and make them feel accomplished.

I am not saying that I have succeeded entirely, but I am making the effort. Where does this student shine? The kitchen, no doubt. Worksheets and math drills frustrate her to no end, but in the kitchen, everything she touches turns to.. well, something yummy.

The kitchen is our classroom, and soup is our lesson. I took one of our go-to soup recipes of which I have not taken a look at the recipe in years. I simply dump everything together. Her assignment was to write the recipe with measurements. Here are the steps we took:

1. I handed her a pot for soup and told her to measure the water that we would start with. The pot would be about 2/3 full.

2. We had three potatoes, all about the same size. We weighed each potato and discovered that they were all within one ounce of each other in weight.

3. I explained what AP (as purchased) and EP (edible portion) meant. We weighed one onion straight from the onion sack. Then, I cut up the onion and we weighed it one more time. We discovered that the onion lost 1 ounce of weight after the skin was shed.

4. We had two frozen bags of green beans. Each weighed one pound as stated on the bag, so we did a quick calculation of what 2 bags would weigh.

4. She cut up a ham into cubes and weighed the total amount that was to be put in the soup.

5. We estimated the amount of spices that we would put in, keeping in mind that we would taste test after simmering and add more if needed. In the end, did not feel that was necessary.

6. Then, I had her take her notes and write out the recipe. I figured since this was the first time, I would just see how she did, then when we do this next time I would encourage her to add detail. This is her recipe:

3 and 1/4 quarts water in a large pot. Let it boil, and then put in 3 11 or 12 ounce potatoes and a 4 ounce (EP) onion. Let it cook for 5 minutes. Then, put in 1 pound and 2 ounces of ham and 2 pounds of green beans. After that, put in one tsp pepper and one tsp salt. And one tbsp. ground savory. Let it simmer.

And guess what? Supper was done as well!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Writing Therapy

Last night, I worked too late and got too tired and started thinking about the off again- on again stomach aches, runny noses, irritability, and suddenly had an overwhelming fear that we were all dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.  I was dead tired, but couldn't get it off my mind at all until I realized that my fear was so intense it had to be a lie.

Even so, I woke up tired, which means a slow morning. I managed to grab a yogurt and sprinkle some granola on it for breakfast. That was about the time one of my girlies ran to the refrigerator and asked if she could eat the yogurt she had picked out. Oops.

I started working on my Sunday school lesson, but then decided that if I was going to teach my children anything today, I'd better get on it. We started with the Bible lesson, as I often try to do. It was about the time when Jesus sat in the synagogue and read from the prophets, ending in "today this scripture is fulfilled". I looked at my children, half paying attention and said, "You are not getting this!" I so badly wanted them to understand the significance of Jesus revealing that He was the Messiah in his hometown. My brain was saying, "they are 10... ish. Of course they don't get it. But my mouth would not stop. I got my preach on. I should have been standing at a pulpit. By the end, I was almost yelling.

"The people of Nazareth would not believe Him, but others did. WHY?"
One timid response, "because he healed the sick?"
"YES! Because He proved it in His actions! So when you say you are a Christian, can people see it in your actions? In the store, when you are fighting?? ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN??
*timid nods*
"THEN START ACTING LIKE IT!" After a long pause, I decided that should be enough lecture for the day.

Savannah then told us about her Roald Dahl Book where his Priest kept teaching about forgiveness and mercy, but when someone did something wrong, he'd whip them with a cane. She said that the priest was really good at whipping, but I really can't hurt anyone. I told her I'd practice more, then.

We reviewed our root words from yesterday, which included medi, which can make the derivative "mediator".

About then, they told me they were hungry. Pshaw. I wasn't. I'd just finished breakfast.

They made quesadillas while I made a phone call. Of course, they had a knock down drag out fight while I was on the phone. After a while, I came in to talk it out. Then I declared what a great mediator I was.

After lunch, we put skeletons together so we could learn about bones. Our new favorite word is phalanges. After a lot of chaos and several tears shed, the girls each named their skeleton and hung them on the wall. I went to find the camera so I could take a picture with each next to their large skeletons, but I had no idea where the camera is. Sill don't.

More drama, hurt feelings, tears.

Max and I made butter with the mixer, and after I was splattered all over by the buttermilk, I remembered that Savannah had made me an apron for Christmas.

Later, we experimented with popcorn. However, we mis-read the directions and didn't do the prep work correctly so that did not get finished till after supper. We made three batches of popcorn on the stove while I was shaking the wok with five kids crowded around me to watch it pop. Did you know popcorn pops because there is water in it? And did you know that three batches is super painful to the arms?

A quarrel over who gets to blow out the scented candles.

At this point, I am exhausted, I have done two loads of dishes and expecting at least one more when I realize that if we are to eat sandwiches tomorrow, we need bread. Is there really such a thing as a clean kitchen? Please tell me no.

Because I am too distracted to deal with bed time, the kids make up a game called "guess who is in the eggroll", where one person leaves the room and the others roll themselves up in a blanket like an eggroll. When they are done, the first person has to guess who is in which eggroll.

So, we skip my read-aloud time so my already aching arms can knead the bread. What? No Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, you say? No. I work 15 hours a day FOR FREE. I have to save up for new socks.

And as we prepare for bed, one of my darlings said, "Mom, do you remember what you said about acting like Christians? We didn't do so good today."

Secretly, Mom is just excited that something stuck in their heads.

You know, once in a while someone will tell me that their cousin or aunt homeschools and will tack on the end, "but I think it is because she is too lazy to send her kids to school." I guess it is possible, but highly improbable.

In any event, it all is worth it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

All Is Well That Ends Well

I slept in today until 9:30 or so. That means the kids were watching Netflix. I woke up a failure. Yes, I have a cold that has knocked me out except for when I'm supposed to be sleeping so I went to bed at 1:00 last night, but 9:30 never seems justifiable.

We ate lunch at 2. And before that, I had to run to Wal-Mart because there was no food for lunch, so I threw on something clean, which was a red shirt that is a little too tight an a pair of jeans that were a little too big. It was the kind of mismatched outfit that, if one is not careful and gets distracted, the shirt may creep up and the pants might sag down and some belly might show. This might be cute on some people, but not with this for times prego marshmallow-bellied mama. And when one goes shopping with Brooke, one gets distracted. Fail.

We had spaghetti with red sauce, and it sounded like a great idea for Summer to make her famous garlic bread, but the bread turned out to be moldy.

They fought. I mentally escaped to a land where no children existed. I didn't make them do their work because I didn't want to deal with it. Then, I got bitter. Then they got bitter.

I stopped reading in the middle of the bedtime book because the kept interrupting me with tattles. Max got no book. Bedtime was cold.

And after I had settled into my alone time, my youngest daughter exits her room (dangerous move), comes to hug me, and says, "Well, this was a good day. Goodnight."

I don't know if she meant it or if she just said it to make me feel better, but it worked. It ended well.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Creative Genius

I'm just a mom, but I've come up with my own theories based on observation.

#1: Everyone is a genius. That is, in something. Some people's genius congregates in the area of mathematics, some genius hang around in one's musical understanding, and some people in wit. Some people's genius spread all around, with no ability to outshine in one area but compiling what they know in their eclectic mind, enjoying multiple disciplines.

Some people have their genius obviously pegged. Some will live the tragedy of never knowing theirs.

So if my theory is right, and you call someone stupid, or slow, or "special", you are wrong. Dead wrong. And, you have denied yourself the ability to witness a hidden genius- and possibly denied it for them as well.

My children may have been influenced by myself and their father through nature or nurture, but I can assure you that their genius has shown itself in different ways. My oldest is obviously the "smartest"... if you mean "smartest" by understanding her school work and able to get it done efficiently and with excellent results.

My second born, complete opposite. But oh my, you should see her in the kitchen... and if you could only listen to our private talks. Genius, pure genius.

My third born... you either love her or hate her. I love her, of course. She writes her e's backwards and still needs a number line to add. She is off the wall crazy with her thoughts. But when you calm her down and really understand what she is thinking? Can I tell you I just can't wait to see what she will be in 20 years? She said Librarian because she loves to read, but I'm quite sure she could not keep her mouth shut long enough to comply with rules of volume.

#2: Creativity can reveal itself in multiple ways.

There are those that call themselves creative because they are crafty. They like to find the instructions of how to do something and can make it incredibly beautiful- truly gifted in aesthetics. Or they can take a tradition or trending "pins" and make a happy life out of it. These people go hog-wild in creativity within the bounds of what is deemed appropriate by someone else.

Then, there are those that live outside any defined limitations. These are the dreamers and trend setters. They are also the messy, cluttered ones. The ones that are completely unaware of what they really "should" be doing- mostly because they don't care. Most of them are misunderstood... because who can understand why they do what they do?

This is where I live. That is why I hate scrap booking. It is so limiting to me.. I must follow a template with certain colors and stickers already made. Why, when I can make my own? Of course, I don't have time to make my own stickers with homemade puffy paint and glitter, so I don't do it. Not because I am not creative, but because I am creative.

I am so far out of the way people think I am supposed to live- I married the wrong kind of guy and wear the wrong kind of clothes and raise my children in the wrong kind of way... that is, to the crafty Suzie homemaker looking into my life. Yet, I am so happy.

But enough about me. My point is these two theories have enabled me to understand my neighbor better, and hopefully have been a better one. You see, I'm a fixer. Life circumstances have shaped this in me, and at times I have tried to fix people. However, we are not here to fix people, but enhance them. Shine the light on their genius and creativity. And for goodness sakes, learn from them and enjoy them as how they are. How glad we should be to be surrounded by so many creative geniuses! How much more joy we will have when we encourage that in others, especially children!

I have found that the most frustrating thing to me is when people misunderstand me- my intentions, my words, and my genius. It is so confining when we let people heap judgments on us from their limited viewpoint. So why would I want to do that to someone else?

....love your neighbor as yourself...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Trial Addict

The most amazing thing has happened to me... my fingernails are growing. My entire 37 years of life have included flimsy, brittle nails. A large part of those years they were bitten by a nervous child, skeptical about nearly everything. The world never made sense to this introverted juvenile living in an extroverted world.

Geez, I wish I knew that I had it so good.

Suddenly, I noticed that there was a need for me to file my nails down. They're practically indestructible. So the obvious question is, "what's made the difference?"

I really don't know, but they started growing about the same time I decided to stop being a trial addict.

I don't enjoy drama- well, not in real life anyways, but I'm always dealing with things. Trials. Hard times. Victimization. Burdens. Then, one day I realized I didn't have to. It was quick and sudden, like stepping into a threshold of a new world. As I turned and looked back, however, I realized it was a long, troublesome journey there.

God gets you where He wants you, changing you step by step. Revealing one thing here, and one thing there. Oh, where will this journey take me? Only one thing I know: it will turn out good.

You see, that troublesome journey I've taken wasn't that bad, but I was the trouble maker. In my mind, I thought it needed to be tough. I needed to be stronger, I needed to learn more, perfect my faith, or take the role of the martyr.

But that is not it at all. What a tragic life, to be given the most beautiful gifts, and then smearing them ugly with our own negative scum.

The things- painful things around me are still there, but they are not a trial if I don't make it to be. My husband tells me of his childlike perspective as refugees and re-education camps in then newly communist Laos, and for the most part, the stories are light hearted. He was a child, and he trusted that he would be taken care of. The brunt of the pain was not for him.

It is not for us either. We can live above the trials and in the fullness of His glory, no matter what the circumstances are. That is a truth that is too good to keep to myself.

Isaiah 28:12
He who said to them, "Here is rest, give rest to the weary," And, "Here is repose," but they would not listen.
Matthew 11:28-29
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…