Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life of Fred and February Ramblings

When the February snows turn to rain, and outside is a wet, windy, slurry mess, 
staying warm and snug indoors is more than a little appealing. 
 My usual want for time outside is swept under the carpet in trade for naps, tea, and a good book.
  I do love to see the little ones all snuggled up lost in luxurious sleep.  
On those divine days when I get all three in synchronized naps
 I may just succumb to the temptation and join them.
 I have discovered that the older I get, the more tempting a nap is!
However, I am revived by a most wonderful aroma.
Rose is baking banana bread to feed the "locusts" this afternoon.
It is smelling fabulous.

We generally bake something yummy every day to keep the children from wasting away. 
 The more fattening, the better,
for they are thin as pencils,
and pencils are very difficult to dress.
 Our bedtime story of late has been Farmer Boy, and therefore, 
we had to try fried apples and onions one evening for their late night snack. 
 (it was Almanzo's favorite).  
Everyone really liked it, but then, we used so much butter, it could not have possibly been bad! 

Bethany continues to amaze us with her improvisational piano playing. 
   She is 5 years old. 
 I love listening to piano music, hers included.  It is quite nice. 
 Last week when we had dinner guests, I asked Bethany to play for us. 
 The guests thought she was playing some classical romantic just sounded that good,
 most of the time.
I have not figured out how or when to best channel her talent into capable skill.
I'm praying for wisdom there.

New at the lodge, is Olivia's first haircut, making her look like a toddler and less like a baby,
 which is slightly sad, but then, the point is for them to grow up, I remind myself.

And the other new thing here is Life of Fred.

The Life of Fred is a relatively new math curriculum which came highly recommended to us.
So far we have just tried the Algebra 2, but I already know that I want to get more.

 Life of Fred is engaging, and funny, but it doesn't fall short of being all that algebra 2 should be.
  It actually goes further, because (amazingly enough) it has made algebra 2 understandable 
by using logic and reasoning to give perspective and real life application.  
Because of this, there are not pages and pages of the same kind of problem, boring the student,
 but instead, just enough for the student to grasp the concept and figure it out on their own. 
 Rose is enjoying and excelling in Life of Fred. 
 Brian and I both read the first chapter, just for fun, and it was fun.

Brian picked out this curriculum at The Homeschool Book Shop, in nearby Spokane. 
I am so thankful for his involvement with our home schooling.
I never would have looked at yet another math curriculum.  
Math is not my thing and we are doing ok with Teaching Textbooks.
But,  Brian saw the need for our students to be more than mediocre, and while I agree,
I would agree more heartily along the lines of history or something I am actually interested in.
This was a wise and good choice with our math.

Anna and I have been chatting about Rahab, 
since she is the topic of study at Anna's Bible study tonight. 
 I just adore having the time in the middle of the day for good discussions with our children. 
 I truly cannot fathom not having them all home with me. 
 These children are my friends as well as my family. 
 We live together, we learn together, we work together, we serve together. 
 Together we prepare for company, together  we cook and clean, 
together we laugh at the three year old, and we cry together during movies. 
 I like the phrase, "Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much",
 but, if you included "Together We.." it would be perfect.  
There is not a day that I do not feel blessed to have this family.
It is a heap of hard work, and I hit the pillow exhausted every night,
but it is sooooo worth it all.

Together is a wonderful place to be.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of Houses, Wood Cook Stoves, and Shoes

Truly, sometimes I nearly feel guilty for how much our family has been blessed.
  If I were to take you an a tour through our home,
I could tell you story after story of how nearly every piece of furniture
and nearly every decorative item has been given to us.  
I could tell you of times when we asked God to heal 
and he did. 
I could recall times when my flesh was failing and I called out to God for strength,
and He gave it.
  I would remember situations that had me completely stumped so I prayed for wisdom, 
and it was given.

God is a god who cares. 
He cares deeply. 
He cares about the little things.  No matter is too small.

I have a story to tell about how God cares, how He provides. 
This very week, the hand of providence blessed us again...

But really, to tell this story right, I should go back into time about 11 years.
  We had 4 children, with baby number five on the way, 
when my dear husband felt called to become a pastor. 
In our interview with a mission board, we had declared that we were a quiver full family, 
so the question came up of how we expected a church to accommodate a large family,
being that each church in our mission comes with a parsonage.  
My husband bravely answered that should God bless us with a large family, 
we would trust Him to provide for their needs, including adequate housing.
  Little did we know... We could not have possibly imagined.... how God would do that. 
A few years later, with children sleeping on the floor, on the couches, in our bed, 
our little parsonage was bursting at the seams. 
If you haven't read way back on this blog, 
you may not be aware that it was then
that God moved a man in our church to give us several acres of timbered land. 
Our family then began building a large log home on that land.
  We had no idea what we were doing.
We could not get a loan.  
But 7 years later, we moved in.

That was almost two years ago now. 

The Lord has been munificent beyond all our biggest hopes and dreams.  
He is a VERY trustworthy, capable loving Father who loves to give good gifts to His children! 
As we put our trust in Him with our family size, with our life, even the small details,  
He has shown us He is faithful. 
There is a long, long list of the ways He has heaped blessings upon us,
furnishing us this life that one reads about here.

The latest of these good gifts to arrive at the lodge 
is a gorgeous Home Comfort wood cook stove in great condition. 
We had always wanted to put in a wood cook stove, for additional heating in the coldest of weather, allowing a savings on propane from our giant Wolf stove for cooking during the winter,
and for general preparedness sake,
but we lacked the ability to purchase one when we put the kitchen together. 
Still, I had hoped and planned a location for it, 
and held on to the idea of some day having a wood cook stove.
Then a few weeks ago I got an email from a friend who had a stove that they wanted to give us,
and they would bring it out to the lodge for us!
(Snoopy dancing)

This stove is yet another testament that God provides, and we can rest in that.  

We can move on it too, like we did when we began building. 
You see, we didn't know how we were going to do it, 
but we started in faith, having a very keen sense that it was God's hand guiding us.  
Sometimes it means waiting for God to do something,
instead of running out and gaining the whatever.  

It is really all about relationship... 
Talking to the Creator who made us and knows every hair on our head,
keeps our every tear in a bottle.

The very first instance of experiencing God in this way that I can remember was nearly 20 years ago when John was about 9 months old. 
I prayed, "You know Lord, we really need to get a pair of shoes for John who just started walking. We trust that in your way and your time, you will provide." 
My next trip to town, I headed for the thrift store, a few dollars in hand, praying all the way.  
I went directly to the children's shoes,
hoping that by some miracle I would find something to fit his fat little feet. 
I remember believing God would supply.  
What I didn't count on, was the shoes being a pair of like new, leather, double E, Stride Rights!
  They were $2.98, and I had in my pocket three dollars and some change.
  Right then and there I knew that this was real. 
This was no fake religion, some crutch, with some false, dead god.
  My God is real.
  My God is living! 
And it floors me to this day to know and see day after day
how He cares about the little things in my life. 
Little things like shoes,
or big heavy things like cook stoves,
or a big house for crazy people with 9 children.

We need to believe God, to trust Him, to go to him with our needs time after time, 
for the big things and the little things.... 
looking to Him for wisdom,
strength for the day.
  He cares. 
He knows our needs. 
He knows our situation.  
He loves to give.

  Sometimes, I think,
He is just waiting for us to ask, and trust.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Quiet Basket and Blanket Time

Here is an old post, worth re visiting.

I don't know about you, but our children are not naturally quiet.
  Therefore, I must take time to teach them to play quietly, a skill that comes in very handy.

Our little ones sit in church with us, and those under 5 yrs old are allowed to entertain themselves,
whereas the older children are expected to listen and take notes, sing, and sit still. 
Also, there are times, like conferences, doctors offices, etc,
that it is well worth my time to have instructed them in playing contentedly for some time. 

 I have constructed what we call the quiet basket, 
which is a basket weave hand bag
full of interesting and secret things that are for special times only.
Everything is oriented towards quiet/silent play. 
Since I have a variety of ages, I am always on the look out for new things to put in my basket. 
I have acquired most of the items at thrift shops, 
but the Learning Store and places like Timberdoodle have made some wonderful exceptions.
 If I have more than my basket can hold, that is great,
because I can shuffle in new items on occasion.
  The children are very intrigued,  and eager to discover what is in the basket, 
so they settle down with delight.
  The way we practice, is by bringing out the basket every once in a while,
like an evening when daddy is gone, and sit quietly on the floor,
possibly on a blanket, so there are boundaries.  
After everyone has sat still for  a few minutes, they are allowed to get an item out and play.

I am really looking forward to going to the Christian Heritage Home school Conference
in Seattle again this year. 
It has been a lot of fun stockpiling the quiet basket with new surprises for the conference.
  With little more than a month left before we head west
to enjoy Ken Ham and all the other great speakers,
I just have a few more things to add to the basket.  
Here are some items which our basket contains:  
Various activity and coloring books, 
chenille pipe cleaners,
lacing shapes,
magnetic puzzles,
small felt board, 
sticker books, 
children magazines, like Ranger Rick, Highlights, and Nature Friend.  
An MP3 with various audio books and kid music, like Go Fish!

We have always wanted our babies to sit quietly, on our lap, or on a blanket. 
Since we seem to produce wiggly/adhd type children, 
this meant that we blanket train the baby.  
How we did this was the same way we trained the puppy.  
A few minutes on the blanket at a time,
every day,
with incremental increases in the amount of time per day.  
Review is often necessary, especially when the baby starts being mobile.

When our first child was about a year old, we had a horse disaster,
which occupied both Brian and I for some time.  
We had carefully blanket trained John months before.
Now it would really pay off,
not to mention all the church services wherein he sat contentedly, as well as the dr. offices.
I was confident that he would not leave the blanket,
so I set John on a blanket under a tree within view, and cared for the injured horse.  
He never left the blanket, and the horse was tended to and eventually mended, 
meanwhile the toddler was safe and content. 

Since then, I have always thought it a most necessary training,
being the preparedness minded mama that I am. 

I have never considered it anything other than time well spent.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Theology of Preschoolers

My husband and I were casually browsing through a gift store, something we like to do together, when all of the sudden I laughed out loud.  On the wall in front of me was a sign that read, "boy: a sound with dirt on it."  Now, I do not take myself so seriously that I could not laugh at the sign, but, the truth is that this is bad theology.  To think of small children as less than eternal souls, blessings from God, and sweet munchkins is to lose sight of a biblical World view and, even for a moment, embrace the world's philosophy that children are a burden, a pain,  disposable, and anything but a blessing.  For this reason I dislike terms like rugrats, kids, brats, imps, or any such deplorable brand. 

Biblical theology of little ones means that first we believe what the Bible says about small children, and then we act on that belief.  It also means that we understand how God parents us, and we follow His example.
Psalm 127:3 tells us that children are a blessing.  Websters defines a blessing as something that contributes to our happiness and prosperity. Two-year-olds are a blessing.  In fact, they are hilarious.  I think everyone should have one.  What other age child thinks up the things a two year old does, and does them so cutely, with still chubby cheeks and words that are not perfect?  Even if a four year old thought up putting the tambourine around their middle  to wear like a hoola hoop and dancing through the house joyfully singing, it just wouldn't be the same.  Two-year-olds take the cake in my book.

Psalm 127:5  Happy is the man who has a lot of children. Notice here that it does not say he is bedraggled, gritting his teeth and losing his hair.  It says he is happy.  The normal biblical product of lots of children, even multiple preschoolers, is happiness.  If this is not the case then, something is out of order.
So we understand that little children are a good thing.  Having three children under the age of three is good. Having four children under the age of 5 is a good thing!  Having lots of children is good, good, good. If you find yourself surrounded by little dimpled hands, little diapered bottoms and not so little disasters all over the house, you know for sure that you are living the good life.

Before you quit reading, let me remind you that I have had at least two preschoolers consecutively for 18 years.  I am speaking from belief and experience.
If you come to me and say, in an exasperated, mournful way, "I have four children, ages 5 and under!"  I will reply by enthusiastically proclaiming, "Congratulations, you are truly blessed."  You see, we first need to look at our circumstances through biblical lenses.  It helps our perspective, which helps our attitude, which helps our behavior.
Once we recognize and embrace the idea that our little ones are precious gifts from the Lord, we will be better able to not just cope with, but enjoy and love life in the little years.

 This leads  me to the second thought of biblical theology of preschoolers.
I don't believe that having your hands full of preschoolers means your life is an uncontrollable zoo; something to be swallowed like a large vitamin, hoping it goes down quickly.
Jesus said that he came that we may have life and that abundantly.  He has meant for us to enjoy a lavish life, not merely survive until the children are in gradeschool. Living with little ones does not mean that ideals and romance are put on the shelf until everyone is over 10.  There is all kinds of beauty and lovliness to be experienced with your little lambs. This time that they are little goes by very fast, we need to make the most of it.  We as mothers are the ones responsible for the atmosphere. It will be what you make it.  These first years will set the stage for the rest of their lives, so we ought to be sure that we do our utmost to make every moment count, make beautiful memories, make strong, loving relationships with our wee ones that will last all their days.
I remember reading the unabridged Bambi to our first daughter when she was only months old.  She sat on my lap and listened to my words, my voice.  She was early to talk and early to read.  I cannot help but think that those lovely winter days spent reading aloud to her helped shape those first steps. In short, anything that promotes relationship is worth investing in.  I do not regret, ever, rocking a child to sleep.  I do regret letting a baby cry in a room alone for a long period of time.  I do not regret spending the entire afternoon playing with a one year old on the floor, then having nothing but pb and j to eat for dinner.  I do regret times when I have been so absorbed in a project that my little ones suffered for lack of attention from mommy. Living beautifully with your little ones means taking time for them, putting them first.  It means making friends with your one year old, loving their company.  If you have never decorated cookies or made homemade pasta with a bunch of small ones I would venture to say that you are missing out on great, great moments.

When we parent the way God parents, we find much greater joy and fulfillment than the way the world parents.  The world tells us to buy lots of colorful toys, put them in a room and toss in a few little ones, then go do our thing, whether that be the laundry, facebook, cleaning, reading a book, or whatever.  The problem is, the little ones are  bound to get into trouble, make a mess, fight, and use their creativity in all kinds of bad bad ways.  Then the parent comes in and tries to make sense of it, clean it up, stop the fight and figure out what is fair.  This is not good parenting.
When we become children of God, He does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves and just clean up and restore order when needed.  He is with us every step of the way, communicating and talking to us. Even when we mess up, He is patient and loving.  What this tells me about my little ones is that wisdom is bringing them alongside of me as I go throughout the day.  It is all about relationship.  When I wash dishes, I may have the baby in the ergo and the two year old on a chair, helping.  When I fold laundry, we all work together, when the baby naps, I do too.  We read together, We go on walks together, I talk to them along the way, they talk to me, they tell me stories about when they were little, and we have a good time.  When they want to play, I play with them, all the time teaching them how to play nicely, how to share with baby sister, showing her how to stack the cups and rock the dolly, how to put the toys away when we are done with them, thus leaving room for the next thing we want to play with.  Too many times, little ones grow up not knowing how to play.  They go from one thing to the next, leaving a path of terror and destruction behind them. This philosophy doesn't work well with little ones, and it is equally devastating with young people. God does not give us endless freedoms with no instruction or responsibility and let us have at it.  He has provided instruction for every step, he gives us a little responsibility at a time, increasing until we are faithful with much. 
You can tell a wise mama when you see her three year old looking out the window and exclaim, "look, mama, a waxwing!"  Now there's a child who has joy of observing nature and marvels at creation.  This child is conscience of beauty, and sharing it with others.  There's a child who is under good training.  Contrast that with the three year old boy I just met at the hospital the other day.  He was with his dad and they were having a time of it.  Dad would say, "sit here with me, we have to wait."  The boy loudly argued, "but I want a car, a car, a car, car! " Dad says, "when we are done here, we will go to a store and get you a new car."  Boy says, "I want one NOW!  I WANT A CAR!"  I was not feeling any beauty in this situation, nor did I think was the dad.  I can only imagine what life was like at home.  This poor little guy was miserable, even when dad finally went in the gift shop and bought him a toy, the boy was not happy.  One can easily surmise that his parents do not spend any great length of time enjoying him, teaching him, and training him so that he could enjoy life. Don't get me wrong, all children have their moments, as do all mamas.  Those moments are handled very differently and occur at different intervals in nurturing homes than in a typical American homes today. The point is, we were made for relationship.

A child who is lovingly nurtured is settled, happy, and obedient, a joy to be around.  For mothers, this means we must, must, must spend lots of time with our children teaching them, training them, loving them.  It will not do to be merely present in the same room.  We need to engage them, connect with them, and that deeply. In this way, we fill their little love tanks full to the top. Herein are happy, sweet memories of you with your little people made. Here is an abundant life you will not regret. Such memories help us endure those painful moments like the afternoon when the dog got a hold of a dirty diaper and drug it down the stairs at the same moment the five year old poured molasses over his head getting it out of the cupboard, and while cleaning that up you hear the baby crying and realize that the two year old is giving all the stuffed animals baths in the sink with a whole tube of toothpaste.  When you have a bunch of sweet little blessings running around those things really do happen.  But, if our perspective is biblical, our outlook can quickly change from, "O God, I thought you loved me!", to "O God, this is hilarious, thank you for all these little blessings, now please help me clean up after them!"

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