Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The decorating bug!

Okay, come on. You can tell me. What have you been up to?? I know I'm not alone in the household jitteries. Christmas was barely over when I started packing all the stuff away. It's so beautiful and fun to decorate...but then it seems to suffocate me and my house. Just too much STUFF. So away it went, back to the attic and shed to await another crisp November day.

And then it happened. I was bit by the decorating bug. "Things must change," the little critter whispered. "Do this." and then "what about that?"

And before I know it I'm painting and modge podging, and the kids are finger-painting and doing block creations, side walk chalk, and sculptures.

I received some beautiful papers for Christmas.

Remember my philosophies regarding my home? "It doesn't have to be perfect to be Beautiful" (from the Nester, of course,) and "Why NOT?" Anything is fair game if I enjoy it. As long as it makes me smile (and my husband can live with it,) then it passes the test. What freedom and fun!!

This is a pic of the counter side, in progress. See all those scuff marks and doodly drawings? Away they went, under cover of whimsy paper.

And here is the finished project. Something sweet, colorful, cheerful...

I modge podge my stuff on, and then spray it with this wonderful stuff:

Spray it on a nice day, so you can open the windows. This stuff is smelly!

Next I went after the kitchen/schoolroom door. The new color plus Nature Man's rocket picture made it perfect!

Then the sewing table at the end of the hall. It was plain white before. Wish I had thought to take "before photos."

Isn't this fun paper?! Ahhhh.... refreshing.

When I ran out of obvious stuff to glue paper to, I began rearranging, and bringing nature treasures in. I love these wild sticks. Mrs. Smiley and I gathered them on a hike the other day. (I still have yours, by the way.)

Some here, some there, some everywhere, even on the lights. :-) That is definitely a smile-inducer for me. I love nature, sunshine, and God's creation is certainly better than anything I could create to go up there!

Oh, and here's a plate I moved. See the new wire birdie that my sis gave me? I know, it's not a great picture. Trust me, the bird is precious.

So, what have you been up to?
Give me some more ideas! :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"I said what I meant and I meant what I said," God is faithful 100% percent

Wow!! It's been a busy week!!!
Last Monday we went to see a presentation by The EquiSpirit Riding Academy in OK. The building was Frrrr-eeee-zing cold, but the kids enjoyed the Clydesdale and Quarter Horse. Nature Man even did some riding.
Then we had a few Christmas celebrations with friends...
Mrs. Smiley and her little boys made the kids paper mache masks, flingers and ammo, and awesome magnetic jars among other things. School among Thorns Teacher was kind enough to include a first-aid kit in my gift. HA! Perfect for me. I don't make it 24 hours without a cut or scrap (miraculously, I have never had stitches!!)

We also visited my grandparents in town. Their house is an odd mix between old people' s home and petting zoo. At least they don't have the goats anymore. There was a dog in the den that kept growling at us. Scared me pretty bad. But the kids enjoyed bunnies, gerbils, hamsters, fish and this freaky cat that has one green eye and one blue eye!
There's also a massive owl collection and license plate collection in that house. I should have taken pictures of that, too.

This is my Dad's dad holding my Little Lad. My baby didn't know who had him for a minute, or he would've been howling. Still, I'm glad I snapped this picture. My grandparents don't get out much, due to her polio, and they love to receive pictures of the kids.

And then there's the in-law Christmas, which we did yesterday morning. Hubby's sisters, nieces, grandma, and his Dad and stepmom were there. We haven't had the one with his mom and stepdad, brother, and two other sisters yet. Life gets a bit crazy with so much family! :-)
It can be hard to remember the REASON for the season when in-laws bicker, and people go crazy tearing into packages.

At our home (and my parents') we always read the passage in Luke before opening gifts, and then one person passes the gifts out. It's not a mad dash for more stuff. Still, there are things I plan to change. Several of my friends have mentioned their 3-gift rule. I like that. Three gifts for each child. It becomes more about finding special things for that person than about just collecting more things to open. There is less money spent, less time wasted, and less clean-up. (Besides, they'll still get plenty from family and friends. ;-)

After the in-law fiasco, we went to Natural Falls. Can you believe this incredible weather???
My Mom took these shots.

Look at that handsome dude. Looks just like his Daddy. The poor boy needs a haircut. I think he may go for a Beatles look, so we can wait on the trim.

Little Lad got VERY unhappy on the hike. He did NOT want to hike...he wanted to stand by the water and chuck the rocks in. And never leave. So my Mom took him up to the playground area while we hiked down to the falls.

You can click on the collages to enlarge.

And, yes, I still plan to post about the Home Management Binder. I'm trying to reinstate it, so I can spend less time doing the urgent, but unimportant things. I need a system in place. There's a part of me, though, that sabotages systems. Argh. God is working on me in that area, I think.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas (over and over and over)

Ahhh, I love Christmas. Or should I say I love the MEANING and JOY of Christmas. It does get exhausting, though, to celebrate SO many times in such a short amount of time. :-) It may take me all weekend to get my house back in order.

But, I'm not complaining!! It was great to see so much family, play games, visit with friends, cousins, grandparents, in-laws. And the weather was gorgeous, too!! We even went to a nearby state park today, after another in-law celebration this morning (!!!)

I'm quite backed up with pictures, as you can imagine. So I'll just post one photo collage for now.

Hope you all had a peaceful, relaxing, JOYOUS celebration of our Lord!

(Okay, I can see that this is too small. Phooey. I'm too tired to change it right now. I'll have to switch around some stuff this weekend. Bear with me! :o) If you just can't wait and you desperately want to see more pictures of me, my kids, and all of my extended family, please jump over to my sister's site for all of the fab pictures that she so swiftly and smoothly posted. Yeah, you beat me to it this time, girl. And I think you've been watching too much Kung Fu Panda, Jules!

In the meantime, here are some quickie details you can try to spot from the above collage:

The Artist read the Christmas story this year, for the first time.

There's a picture of me in there with NO make-up on. You may never see one like it again.

Two of my boys got walking sticks for gifts. They tried these out today as weapons and then for a hike.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Very Smiley Christmas

Wondering where your Christmas card is? Don't be alarmed. No, you aren't on my "naughty list." This is the first year EVER that I have not done Christmas cards. I fully intended to, but time just escaped me. I had already purchased some cute cards, with a place for a photo, but my attempts at getting the kids to smile ALL AT THE SAME TIME were unsuccessful this year. I'll show you some of the failed cracks at it when I get a chance to upload them.

I've been seeing these SmileBoxes everywhere. After getting about my 5th one through email, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and make my own. Saves me all the postage, too.

These are just random "happy moment" shots throughout the year. Enjoy.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trail Trek, "boy style"

The weather wasn't too bitter yesterday. In fact, it was downright pleasant in the sun. Mrs. Smiley and I took 5 of our boys for a nature hike. Boys have their own way to do everything.
Here our journey begins...

This is our "official" lookout.

Rock-throwing-- Is there anything better??

Even Mrs. Smiley's baby got in on it.

Deer tracking
Vine swinging, Tarzan-style (by the way, check out Nature Man's shirt. My grandparents ordered it for him from this great site. It says "Super Homeschool Student.")

Climbing...ahh, well he has to get that extra practice somewhere ;-)

Guess who fell in the water? Nope, it wasn't this little guy...
Field-running Nice wide open spaces Heading home as the sun starts to set
Hope you all enjoyed some good weather and got out in the fresh air before it turned bitterly cold again. Ayaya, I hate to be cold. I'm shivering right now, wearing two shirts, a jacket, jeans, and slippers. Brrrrrr.....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas is coming!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just WAIT, Wendy

My week off was exactly what I needed: time to reflect on my goals, methods, and evaluate what we should do in order to get where we're trying to go. It's too easy to lose ourselves in the details. I was getting overwhelmed with busy-ness.
In a word, I'm learning to WAIT.
These are the conclusions that I've reached:

(1) For my first-grader there are three main objectives: First, establishing the habit of spending time with God and with family first. This is the most important thing to establish early on. Second, he will learn Language Arts: phonics, spelling, reading, and writing. Third, he will learn basic arithmetic. By those standards, we are on track. All of the fancy extras that beckon out to me can wait. He doesn't need a history curriculum workbook every day. He doesn't need a science curriculum right now...he's a science man anyway, so he pursues these things for fun.
That's more than enough.
Look at his concentration. :-)

(2) Stories and songs teach better than any other method. At least for us. This is why I so love the Charlotte Mason method. What is education without great literature, or "living books," as she calls them. Stories make it come alive for the kids...it's not just another date and name without background or emotion. We can wait on some heavier material, until the groundwork has been carefully laid. They need the big picture, stone by stone, story by story.

(3) I need better balance with workbooks and hands-on activities. Yes, we do LOTS of fun stuff. I'm all about fun. However, I still get stuck in the "it doesn't count if it's not on paper" mindset. So I've been schooling as if all of my "extra" things like field trips, Konos activities, art and crafts, etc were purely supplemental, instead of a Learning Lifestyle. That mindset quickly becomes exhausting. We're busy ALL the time, trying to cover our bases and fit more in. I have to remember that I'm educating, not just leaving a paper trail!! I want my kids to learn and connect, not just regurgitate information. What am I so worried about anyway? God's in charge. I report to him, no one else. There is a chain of authority involved, and it's not the one I've been focusing on.

When I asked my son to just list 10 nouns and verbs, he shuffled his feet, weary. That's boring review, old stuff. But when I asked him to collect 10 nouns and do 10 verbs...he hopped right to it (literally.)

He was the 10th noun, so he's in the bag! And the picture is of a place. Good boy.

If we read about a toad in a book, it might stick with them for a day. But if we find a toad, look it up, learn how to take care of it, name it...they will never forget. They vividly remember Herbert, more than any other animal we've just read about.

I love this quote by Dorothy Sayers,
"The sole end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain."
(4) We need to resolve (determine once and for all) the goals that will give direction to our homeschool. I don't want to be tossed by the wind.
Francis Schaeffer said,
"We must be consciously preparing the next generation for the new battles they will face."
That's my job. And I intend to do it to the best of my ability. That means we need to focus and keep this task at the forefront of our minds. Too many other concerns can crowd out the goal.

And, along those lines...
(5) The good in our life gets in the way of the best. I need to simplify life. It's only as frustrating and complicated as I make it.
God will always give me enough time to accomplish what
He intends for me to accomplish.

My Papaw has told me this multiple times!

Often God's answer is WAIT. I see a need, hear of an opportunity, and I'm ready to hop up and rush in. God places his hand on my shoulder, pats me, and gently whispers, "wait." It's not my time. That mission, leadership, ministry, field trip is intended for someone else right now. My kids right now are my mission, my ministry. And I need to pick the activities that work towards our goals and interests, not jump into everything that is available.

In the past I've done the childish prayer: "God, I'm planning to do this, so stop me if it's not the right thing." Yeah...like a kid about to cross the street. Apparently I still need one of those kid leashes??
When I should have been praying "God, is this the right path? Is there a different way? Is this the right time?" Like a woman asking for directions and waiting for an accurate map or correct directions. (We all know men don't do this!) Wouldn't that make more sense and lead to a more satisfying and less frustrating journey?? I'm a slow learner, I guess.

Live for the important, not the urgent. And, Wendy, quit making things urgent when they shouldn't even be in your life to begin with. (I can almost hear God sigh sometimes.) I want to live in Quadrant 2!!

(6) This is perhaps the biggest one for me: I am responsible for the atmosphere in my house. Yep, it's me. If the kids fight, I'm still responsible for my response (not reaction) that controls the atmosphere in this house. I can act frustrated, upset, exasperated, tired...or I can take more responsibility than that and remember to be diligent about the emotional climate in my house.

I need to wait on him, and get His strength. Okay, so these aren't exactly new things. I've known them all along, but sometimes I need some quiet time to reflect and reset the direction. We start running on autopilot after awhile, and that doesn't work. Life has to be intentional.

So, is there anything else I'm forgetting? Or anything you've been learning lately that might help me, too??

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Surprise Lobster

Well, my HH (hot hubby) is getting old.

And how better to celebrate than with a true SuRpRiSe party! The Artist and I have been planning it for months. She's such an angel. She even sent out emails reminding people about the time and to "not tell Daddy."

HH thought just our family was eating at Red Lobster. That in itself is a BiG deal since we are fairly broke (4 kids + homeschool/ one income= no money.) And it's always a big thing to take four kids to a restaurant. (They were fabulous, by the way!)

I told the kids that this was a big special event, so we would be dressing fancy. My Nature Man to his sister: "Oh, I know where some 'fancy' dress-up girl clothes are that we can wear!!" Uh, no. Not what I had in mind. Anyway, he is fancy enough with these long lashes of his!!

Little Lad woke up from his nap with his hair like this! So I did what any mom would do, and hair sprayed it before we left!!

When we arrived and all of the family and friends poured in, he truly was surprised. Yea! I had called several days in advance to make sure they could set the 25 of us up together, and in a separate room. Everything went according to plan. In fact, we got an extra treat when a waiter took lobsters out of the tank for the kids to pet. Nice touch!!--literally.

Of course, Nature Man was the first to brave the creature.

It was great to have so much family together at once. Even HH's mom and dad both arrived and got along!
As an extra treat, I got a triple berry sangria. (They don't list the recipe for this one, but I imagine it isn't too different from this recipe, which also sounds delicious.) If you haven't tried one, you are missing out! YUM. Of course, my husband ordered the everything-fried-platter. (ugh) When he got his food, we all sang happy birthday and he blew out the candle that I'd stuck in his mashed potatoes. Fun, fun. I can't sing, but I sure do like to party. :-)

For part of his birthday gift, my folks got HH The Encyclopedia of Immaturity. He loves it. This for a man that can't be serious to save his life.

Laughter really is great medicine.

The weather was fantastic today, so we stopped by a big park on our way home and let the kids work off some of their extra restaurant calories.


I was worried that they'd throw up on the way home, after all of the swinging & spinning (that has happened to us before!!) My HH didn't seem too concerned.

Little Lad tames the wild bronco...er...parrot.

Then home to roast marshmallows and put those calories right back on. Can't beat that.

Here, Daddy, for your "birfday."

Ahhh....what a great day.

Coming soon: "what I learned on my 'week off'," and "home management makes a come-back," and "If Mama ain't happy..."