He fills the longing soul with good things. Ps. 107:9



From the Shelf :: "Just So Stories"

By Rudyard Kipling


Absolutely Delightful, O Best Beloved!

This is our current read-aloud.  We have read bits and pieces - especially "The Elephant's Child" before.  But this time we are reading it through - one whimsical story at a time - and are thoroughly enjoying it.   It is music to my ears to hear the kids beg for more.

These stories are not deep moral lessons or rich tales of history.  They are sheer silliness.  But written in some of the most delightful prose that has ever rolled off my tongue.  They are a blast to read aloud.  The words are so much fun, sometimes Rudyard him self will stop and revel in them.
("Aren't those beautiful words, Best Beloved?" p. 74)

Even if you don't have kids or your kids are too cool for reading, I dare you to get this cheap little book and read it aloud to yourself.  If you have any appreciation for wordcraft whatsoever, you will simply be compelled to be delighted.

Kayla is now seven, and has the most fantastic sense of humor.  She understands sarcasm and dry humor and she and I have a blast laughing at things th  at fly right over Karissa's prissy little head.

The tongue-and-brain-tangling of "The Beginning of the Armadillos" would be a delightful skit. My very-most favorite line:

"Well, suppose you say that I said that she said something quite different.  I don't see that it makes any difference; because if she said what you said I said she said, it's just the same as if I said what she said she said.  On the other hand, if you think she said that you were to uncoil me with a scoop, instead of pawing me into drops with a  shell, I can't help that, can I? (p. 54)"

Tonight we read "How the First Letter Was Written."  When we got to the end, where
"Nobody said anything at all for a long time, till the Head Chief laughed; then the Stranger-man (who was at least a Tewara) laughed; then Tegumai laughed till he fell down flat on the bank; then all the tribe laughed more and worse and louder. "

And mercy, we laughed too. 

I would like to have had lunch with Mr. Kipling, I should think.

a word on reading with your kids:

Have you ever noticed the difference  - when you have  conversation with  kids or teenagers - between those who seem a bit flat or one-dimensional and those who seem to understand and communicate in deeper shades?  I don't mean kids who try to sound grown-up.  I mean kids who can have a reasonable conversation with a grown-up about whatever and think for themselves and put words together in meaningful ways. I firmly believe that reading is the window to the world for kids.
"“The question is not—how much does the youth know when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” "

                                       — Charlotte Mason

The goal of education is to "set your children's feet in a large room."  You can train kids to regurgitate anything....times tables, history dates, theological facts.  But if you instill into a child a love for reading, a hunger for knowledge, and eyes of wonder....there are no limits to where that child can grow. And talk about a capacity for worship....!

Plus...it's just really really fun and cool and special to have the general habit of curling up with your kids and sharing books full of silly nonsense and fantastic bugs and humongous dinosaurs and car-crushing trucks and colorful places and children and ideas. 

Sometimes I think we understimate the power of seeing and hearing words from a very young age.  It sets the groundwork for their language and learning.  There are fancy educational names for all that, by the way, but I can't remember one of them.  You'll have to ask my sister-in-law Crystal or my mom or some other child-development-education-and-literature expert.  But I do know that if I had to make a very short list of things to give to my children....reading together would be on it!

Slight disclaimer:  Sometimes the silliness gets a little scandalous:  The elephant's child "spanks" all his relatives (we, of course, don't encourage children in spanking their parents and aunts) and the Neolithic ladies "were very polite to all their husbands, and said 'idiot' ever so often."  Good, light chance for training your kids to read with a sifter.  My kids were all over it when they heard the Neolithic ladies say idiot.  They KNOW that's a bad word!  : )


Wednesday with the WORD :: Proverbs 17:27-28

He who has knowledge spares his words,

And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.

Even a fool is counted wise
when he holds his peace:
When he shuts his lips,
he is considered perceptive.

:: Proverbs 17:27-28 ::

Photos :: The Word, gifted at highschool graduation 14 years ago.
Walking the streets of Indy alone on a drizzly night.  Quiet Alone-Time carved out.

Let's Talk.... "The Law of Kindness"

I was going to blog about the 18-list for today. But it must wait. My heart is being pricked and I feel compelled to share my misery.....

A Bad Morning Story

It is a cold and rainy Monday morning. I wake up with a whole family of 6 sleeping in my room. It is impossible to walk to the bathroom without stepping on child-sized appendages. Three of four kids are sick (now: make that 4 of 4 plus mommy). I hadn’t planned to send the girls to school. But this sickness isn’t the raging-fever kind. It’s more of the red, leaky noses and sick, droopy eyes kind. The kind that make it hard to decide whether they should go to school. But the more I thought about a kindergartner with low grades on her phonics tests and a 2nd grader with parts to memorize for the Christmas play, the more I thought maybe I should make them rough it, droopy noses and eyes and all.

So the day begins.

Handsome husband, calm, rested & smooth, takes a long hot shower. Crisp hair. Crisp clothes. Smooth jaw. Eats his cereal while reading the news. Leaves promptly at 7:30....the usual time....without the girls. They are not ready at the usual time because of the whole sickness-indecision-thing. But he thinks they should go to school because they’ve missed a lot. (My mommy-gut disagrees, but I go on...)

So Then there’s me...braid hanging. Skirt and shirt that don’t match. Ugly eyes propped open with toothpicks after yet another night chopped with baby feedings, wet beds, lost pacifiers, restless sleepers. I begin the delightful process of dressing, feeding, managing four with very few minutes to get out the door.

Karissa’s sock line won’t line up and there’s a BUMP on the corner of her sock!!! Her shoe hurts. She absolutely cannot eat her cereal unless she is sitting by baby Corin.

Kayla is lost in wonder-world somewhere as she moves to the rhythm of her own cabassa. And she INSISTS those are not the socks she laid out last night. The socks she laid out did NOT have a flower on them!

Caiden (happy, dancing, love-giving boy) is a TERROR! His nose is “stuck.” Two of his favorite blankies are peed-on. He had a rough night. He is Not. A. Happy. Camper.

Corin is beginning the twist-and-grunt routine that means the starving-baby screaming is about to begin.

Thank goodness for the nightly habit of laying out clothes and planning lunches. We manage school uniforms and cereal bowls and phonics practice and long hair and hungry babies. Me getting to the end-of-my-rope-very-quickly. Me barking orders. Me starting to feel frustration mount. Me feeling resentful of smooth-and-handsome-husband who drove to school alone this morning. (Although he did deal with necessary discipline of sin-born 3-year-old boy before leaving.)

Grab 50-pound-carseat with 30-pound infant. Open the door and realize there is an icy-cold rain. Sigh. Zip coats. Worry about asthma girl. This day is an asthma attack waiting to happen. (And we all know that 7-year-old girls with asthma are at the top of the H1N1 high-risk list.) Hoods up. Hand car keys to kids.

Then the inevitable. Caiden’s bones turn to mush. He is now a screaming mess of boneless 3-year-old tissue writhing on my kitchen floor. I get baby and girls to car. And return to administer necessary discipline to boneless screaming boy.

Then the convicting quiet of the rainy 3-minute drive to school. I urge the girls to “GET. OUT. OF. THE. VAN!” a little too forcefully. Feel guilty for not writing tardy note for office. Refuse to go into school with mismatched clothes and toothpick eyes. Drive home while 3-year-old cries that he wants to go to Grandmas. He doesn’t want to be with me, he wants to be with grandma, he says. Repeatedly.

Tears squeeze out of my tired, ugly toothpick-propped eyes and onto my unmatched shirt.

And the WORD, living in me even when it hurts, reminds me of one of my favorite passages and life-goal.

"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."  Proverbs 31:26

Shoulders sag with reality and conviction. There may have been law on my lips this morning. But I’m not sure I heard much kindness.

This conviction is not just that of a rushed and frustrating morning. Our mornings are not always like that. Most mornings the girls walk out the door at 7:30 with uniforms and hair and smiles and the boys and I quietly begin our day.

But this law of kindness thing has been working on me.

I believe in parental authority. Obedience is necessary, we say around here. And our kids were born with sinful tendencies. It is my job to train them. (The NIV translation of Proverbs 31:26 says "faithful instruction is on her tongue.)

But sometimes I have noticed that when I instruct.  And when they disobey. When they create a delightful disaster zone in the living room and whine obnoxiously as they pick up the mess. I don’t always have a gentle tongue.

As my tongue trains, it sometimes sounds more angry or hard than it needs to.

I understand there is a delicate balance here. There are times when this brood of kids needs to be disciplined and instructed very strongly. And I’m a high-energy mom with high-energy kids. We talk and move and play and work with high energy. But sometimes I cross the line.

I have been convicted that necessary training and discipline does not give me license to talk harshly. I must be firm. But gentle. I long for authority and kindness at once.

I’m not talking about raging, screaming, abusive fits. I’m talking about the exact edge I put into my tone and my face when things get really crazy. Letting my face say, “I’m frustrated and angry.” Instead of: “You must abide by the standards of God’s Word and this home and I’m here to help you do that.”

Bottom line: I must have the law of kindness in my tongue. Always. Every day. Especially on cold, rainy, sick-kid, sick-baby sick-mommy  mornings.

This isn’t rocket science. But I long for God to grow me up even more. This law applies to dinner-table talk and husband-wife talk and every other kind of talk.

I will never be a honey-dripping, quiet-faced, never-ruffled mother. But Oh, Dear Father, forgive me.  And please don’t quit reminding me and reproving me when my tongue edges away from kindness.

So Caiden and I curled up on the couch, sang a Christmas-song book that he chose, and then took a nap together. (Did you know that naps help tongues and faces of tired, sick mommies?)

Post Script :: The end of this story is not a fairy tale.  I did not blog and confess and walk away magically more patient and perfect.  Last night was one of the worst parenting nights I can recall.  But my heart is fixed.  My ear is turned.  My spirit is open for His refining power in my life. And my kids are good at reminding me, too - in their own ways.  Some of this is heart work.  Some of it is grunt work.  The Word speaks light.... the Spirit instructs, then expects me to apply discipline to instruction.  Thank God for new days. And thank You, merciful Father, for accepting my tears of repentance.


So...what spankings have you gotten lately? Where is the Holy Spirit growing you up and Into Him? Care to share?

1. Write about your Up-Growing on your blog.
2. Put the direct link to that post into the next number below.
3 . Let us come and learn from what you’re learning!

Mommy Monday :: "Managers of their Chores"

This book is from the same website and family who wrote the book I talked about last week (Managers of Their Homes).  I did not read this book cover to cover, but used it more as a reference & idea guide.  I also enjoyed the online software available to book owners.

We already had a simple chore system in place, incorporating Dave Ramsey's budgeting suggestions for kids.  Most Saturdays (except when I can't oversee it), the kids do weekly chores.  They do work on other days, but for Saturdays they have 5 basic chores. Then they get paid $5.00 commission.  The have envelopes to budget their income....$2 savings, $2 spending, $1 tithe/giving. 

I do NOT agonize over these chores.  I keep them short and sweet and I do not pick the kids to death.  There are some basic guidelines, like you have to put your cleaning supplies and rags away when you're done, but I have kept it very light and even the tiniest hint of fun. There is no white-glove inspection, but ongoing training and suggestions.  (But if you whine, you don't get commission for that chore.)  Sometimes I even have to make Karissa (5 yrs) stop cleaning and move on to the next chore or she'll keep going.  Last time, she was mopping the bathroom floor.  I found her some time later in my bedroom (attached to the bathroom).  She was mopping my floor too, and had pulled back the rug and was mopping under the rug!  I had to make her stop.  What a strange child. Sometimes she'll scrub and scrub until I make her stop.

Anyway...I got some good tips from this book to refine our process and to help me when I feel it is time to expand their chores. 

The coolest thing from this book is the chore pack

Included with the book are plastic name-tag-type thingys that have a clip.  You print out core cards and put them in the pocket.  They clip the chore pack on their clothes and work through their chores one at a time until the chore pack is completed.  My kids are so young, I actually have them put the chore card in our chore basket when they finish it.  This keeps it clear where they are in their chore process and I can check on what chores they have finished. 

Caiden (3 yrs) even got a chore pack and handled it well (except for sheepishly losing his laundry chore card).  His chores are a little different because he is home with me each morning.  His daily "spider man chore" (as he calls it in a deep, brave voice) is to gather the laundry in the morning and bring it to the basement stairs so that I can grab it and go when I'm ready for that part of my schedule. Sometimes it's a little too heavy and he has to have help.  Sometimes he cheats and only gets half the laundry and I have to take him back to be thorough.  But it just gives my mommy heart the strangest little tingly thrill to see him pulling that laundry to its place by the fridge.

Okay.  So my major advice about chores/commissions is this:  Keep it Simple, Stupid!  I tried doing the Dave Ramsey chore system earlier and was trying to get by cheap with quarters or something (don't remember exactly).  But I remember that it shot itself in the foot because it wasn't dirt simple.  If it's simple, you can stick with it.  If it's complicated, everyone will hate it. Especially you.

My goal is not to have 3, 5, and 7-year old kids who can win a cleaning competition.  I'm trying to train MYSELF to be consistent and get them used to the fact that they are valuable contributors to our home.  Some chores they do simply because they live here, by the way.  They don't get commissions every time they blow their nose.  Just those 5 chores.

I keep the chores simple enough that they don't dread them.  I feel this is extremely important at this age.  At these ages,  I would rather do some of my own spiffing after they're done (and not watching) than make them feel like they never-ever do it good enough to please mom.  My general guideline is that I want them to spend at least 5 minutes per chore.  We use timers a lot around here.  When they dust, I don't make them move a million things and dust nooks and crannies.  Then can even use a feather duster if they choose (but they much prefer rag-spraying).    Then, as the grand finale, their 5th chore is usually laundry. They look forward to this one because they get to sit on my bed and watch a video together while they fold. 

So there it is.  The book is a massive resource for chore-building.  Everything you ever could want to know about chores-training is in here.  It's a little more than we need right now, to be honest.  But it is an awesome tool.  And I think it is shaping my thinking so that I can grow their chore productivity in a practical way as they mature. 

Just you wait, in about 10 years I'll head out the door on Saturday mornings for yard saleing or writing at Panera and come home to a sparklingly clean house and glimmering children.  (Did I mention there were opiates hidden in the pages of this book?)  Yes, I know. They'll be teenagers then and they probably won't even be home on Saturdays!


Sabbath Worship :: Father-love

Matthew 7:11
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Romans 8:15
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Galatians 4:6
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

Proverbs 3:12

because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Mark 14:36
"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

John 3:16 (NLT)

 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.


Autumn at Home

It's a place where color abounds in any season

Mom's international herb gardens flourish and pour into hand-laid stone paths

Hundreds of details....character..blowing in the wind and tucked into every corner of this yard my brother calls a park. 

Grandbabies are at home here

We eat mamma's goodness and 4 kinds of vegetables at one meal and then we sit.  Hours and hours we sit and we talk and we laugh and we solve.  Good times.

Did I mention character?

We lay in grass and soak up sun here.  It is quiet.

The last of the prized "knockout" rozes linger past their time.

Dad's massive wood piles stand guard for the slightest hint of cold.....ever-ready for the worst winter could muster.  Never a match for my dad and BIG RED (his massive red pet monster of a wood-burning furnace.)

Josephine was springtime.  But Pippin is now. 

And it is home.


Family Night: K10C Part 1

This part wasn't originally in the plan for our family night last week, but it was such a gorgeous day we decided to eat our family night supper at the park.  By the time we got there the sun had set, so we froze our frannys.  But David and I talked through chattering teeth while the kids played a little.

Why doesn't that girl's mamma teach her not to talk with her mouth full of pizza?

We made a stop at the Dollar Tree for a few supplies (discovered that the ever-brilliant David didn't know that we had a Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General in our little town, nor what the difference was between the 3....)

Then back home for our fun evening. 

I had wanted some fresh material for family night,  and I recently ran across Focus on the Family's K10C curriculum (Kid's 10 Commandments).   I originally wanted to buy the Family Fun Pack, but found a wildly cheap deal on the church curriculum, so I went with that.  It includes the full-size board game, the video lesson set, CD soundtrack, reproducible workbook, craft & snack ideas, discussion questions, the works. (Whoever sold this entire brand new curriculum for $25.00 must not have known what they had!)

After it came in the mail, the kids were so excited to dig in.  We weren't disappointed.  My weakness is trying to plan too much, but it was so fun.  The first lesson covered the first 2 commandments (with Christmas coming up, we decided to do the 5-lesson VBS option instead of the 13-lesson Sunday school option.)

Here is David demonstrating what life would be like without guidelines.  Starting with the mess he made of a frozen pizza by not following instructions.  At first the kids thought the sprinkles-chocolate-ketchup pizza mess was cool, but they got the point after tasting the frozen concoction. (Kinda like real life...seems fun 'til you get a taste of the results....)

I cheated on the craft and bought their treasure boxes pre-made at the dollar store.  They decorated them with markers.  Inside they say, "This box is empty becuase my treasure is in heaven."

We made playdoh "idols" to demonstrate the silliness of worshipping anything other than the true God.  David got a little carried away with his idol making.  (Notice Moses poised for tablet-crashing....a dramatic scene on the video.) What a sculpting expert....Is there anything my man can't do?

The animated commandment videos are quality, in my humble opinion.  The kids aren't allowed to watch past commandment 2, so they've watched the first episode over and over.  They're begging for another family night.

We really don't do a big deal like this very often, but the kids love it when we do. Could family devotions be more fun?


From the Shelf: Thanksgiving Stuff!

The season of Thanks is here!  I'm looking forward to some time with my little family & some hot chocolate with cream......focused on God's bounty in our lives with purposeful thanks-giving.

"Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action."  ~W.J. Cameron

I admit it...I'm a resource junkie.  Now I realize that having lots of resources is certainly not necessary in order to practice the habit of gratitude and to fully celebrate Thanksgiving.  But they help me to have a plan for helping to focus our minds, hearts and hands in creative ways.  They save me brain waves.  And most of all.....resources get me excited.  I can't help it.  It's my kid heart, I guess.  And  excitement is contageous.  So books & resources are a shameless priority in our budget over lots of other things.

I think http://www.familylife.com/ resources are the absolute best we've found for making Thanksgiving meaningful.  The first three are new this year and I can't wait to get them in the mail!! You can listen here to programs about some of these resources.  It is easy to rush through the holiday on the way to Christmas and get to the other side wondering if you ever really settled into the meaning. These resources can help get everyone tuned-in weeks in advance .

Growing Together in Gratitude - a family devotional including stories of people who have been grateful even in difficult circumstances. New!

Let's Talk Turkey - printable discussion cards for the table

A Family Prayer of Thankfulness - laminated card for $.99

Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember - Barbara Rainey's classic Thanksgiving resources....available in Audio version, coffee table book & CD of Thanksgiving hymns.

The Legend of Squanto - the story dramatized on CD by Radio Theatre

ThanksLiving Treasures - This is an awesome Thanksgiving kit from Family Life, but they don't make it anymore.  We got it in the used homeschooling section of our Christian Book Store.  There happens to be one for sale NOW on Amazon.com! (Click the orange link.)  I think this may be the first time I've ever found another one for sale - and it says it's new!  Ours includes: a 6-day devotional with stories, scriptures, discussion, application, and activities.  Plus a special section with ideas for Thanksgiving Day celebration.  There are printed art cards illustrating points in the Thanksgiving story, as well as visual pieces to use with the lessons (a replica of the Mayflower, corn, cross, small Bible).  Also: recipes, resources, websites.....It's $20.00, but it's cool! 

We also have a thick red journal that we pass around at Thanksgiving each year and let everyone write their thoughts of gratitude looking back over the year.  It is a treasure.

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." ~W.T. Purkiser

photos :: autumn sunsets from our front yard

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