I had never heard of Mark Shasha’s first picture book before. That’s why I love Five in a Row so much: it introduces us to such beautiful stories! This story is about the author’s childhood in which he helped out at his grandmother’s popular diner during the day, and returned a moonjelly to the deep ocean by night.

The things we added to the curriculum that were super-fun:

1. Making Our Own Diner, of course!


2. Making a sensory bin: (Note to self: it’s really not necessary to add sand to an ocean-themed sensory bin ever, ever again. Your children will have just as much fun with a bin full of shells and glass beads. And you will be much, much happier.)

Posted in FIAR | 4 Comments

Is It Here Yet?!

Mouth wide-open, she juts her lower jaw in my direction.

A row of tiny baby teeth stare up at me. Her eyes are eager for my evaluation. With jaw jutted out, she manages to ask “Is it yoose yet?” she asks excitedly.

I press the tip of my pointer finger to the tip of her tooth and move it back and forth over a firmly rooted pearl. “MaybeI say, hoping it *might* have moved the tiniest bit of a smidgeon today!

Every day, she asks. Once in the morning, and once at night. Without fail, the jaw juts out, “What do you think? Is it any looser??”

I notice that lately, she is mesmerized by the possibility of losing a tooth. When we took our seats at the theater, she took her coat off and promptly commenced in wiggling that tooth. When she washes her hands at the bathroom sink, I peek in and notice that she is smiling oddly at herself, staring intently at her bottom teeth. She grips that tooth and tugs and wiggles, believing the time has truly come to say good-bye. It’s just the waiting that takes so very long.

Whenever she pleads, “Is it loose yet? Is it loose yet?”, I review my entire life, full of seasons in which I’d wonder and wonder…

When will I be pregnant? When will I be pregnant?

And before that, When will I meet my husband? When will I meet my husband?

And before that, When will I graduate? When will I graduate?

And before that, When will I get my license? When will I get my license?

And before that, and before that, until I was a little girl, hoping that I felt the slightest possibility of a tooth wiggling.

As I gently push her tooth back and forth, and gaze into her bright eyes, I realize, “Ah, so this is when it all begins! All the days of hoping, waiting, and expecting the next big thing on the calendar!”

At first, I want to advise her not to obsess. I think to tell her, “Just let nature do its thing. Of course your teeth will fall out soon, it’s just a matter of time. Besides, this is cold season, so don’t put your fingers in your mouth!” But then I reflect on all of the hoping that has consumed my own life, and I’m thankful that I rarely had the courage to defer hope. I’m glad I prayed and prayed and prayed for a baby, and then another one, and then another one, and then another one. I wouldn’t change a thing about the prayer lists that went around the Bible study group, on which I’d jot the same request week after week, “We would love for God to give us another child…” Because, at each stage of life, when the hoping was fulfilled – when a tooth finally letting loose, or a child was born – I received a full dose of life.

(After all, wasn’t it Noah who sent forth one bird, after another, after another, hoping for the dry land – hoping for the fulfillment of the covenant?)

And so, I will check in on that little tooth every day for her, if she asks. And I will let live the hope that is just beginning to exercise itself. For what begins in a 5 1/2 year old will grow, deepen, mature, trust, and wait over a lifetime…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

Posted in All Posts, Character Training, Healthy Living, Motherhood | 3 Comments

Lately, I’ve been rejoicing over the music, books, and movies that inspire sweetness in our daughters. As the keeper of our home, I’m always on the look-out for ways to immerse our them in goodness.

This is where being the keeper of a home gets fun. Who doesn’t prefer a little bright-eyed offensive work some days?

Read the rest, and check out some great recommendation at Raising Homemakers today!

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Letter of the Week

At the turn of the year, I realized I had to rework my homeschooling plans for Lia.

The girl is a serious schoolgirl. She wanted more worksheets, please?? More puzzles? More painting? Please, please please??

At first, I pulled a variety of worksheets and activities from black-and-white workbooks, organizing them in folders. Then, I bipped around the online community and discovered sheer beauty: Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Letter of the Week curriculum.

This has been perfect for Lia. Every week, she focuses on one letter of the alphabet through all kinds of different activities: pushing pins into a bulletin board to outline the letter, pounding do-a-dots out in great, big capitol “E’s” and their baby “e’s”. She sequences elephants, apples, and inchworms from small to large, counts bears and stop-signs, makes patterns, decorates pictures with magnetic puff-balls, matches magnetic letters to real words, and laces around big, colorful pictures.

This $10 curriculum is packed with hands-on, developmentally challenging activities for preschoolers. I can’t say enough about it!

I laminate some of the activities, and insert others into plastic protectors.

Posted in Preschool | 2 Comments

Book Report: A Must Read

I thought I was done crying.

Although we miss Juliette and certain things will catch my heart in my throat, I thought I had endured the depths of mourning and wouldn’t have to cry again, at least not for a while. Then, I read Chapter 1 of Ann’s One Thousand Gifts. When I lay my head on my pillow that night, my prayers circled around what I had read. I knew what I needed to say to Him.

While my words took their time coming out, His words kept rolling through my spirit, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Though I had blessed His name, thanked Him for sustaining us, and praised Him for providing for us, I had not yet thanked Him.

So, in a very practical and obedient way, my mouth spoke the words: Thank you for taking Juliette when you did.

I wasn’t prepared for the way in which this small, quiet sentence was waiting to shake and burst open an entirely different well of emotions. From somewhere deep inside, I sobbed. Like King David’s, my pillow was wet with tears. I don’t even really know what I meant by that “thank you”, but my spirit somehow knew that it helped me to let go of fear, and to rest my weary maternal soul in our Father’s hands.

I hesitate to pull a quotation from Ann’s book, because the whole piece – word by word – works together to establish a relationship with the reader, but the first chapter passage that spoke directly to my heart was:

“Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t: holes, lack, deficiency.”

When I read her description, I knew that loss has injured my vision. My heart has felt so very low, so very guarded since May, when we said good-bye to Juliette. Even with our new gift of pregnancy, I’ve been squinting and straining to see with my former wide-eyed, hope-filled mommy eyes, but they’ve been infected with doubt, wariness, and cynicism. Through Ann’s words and her gentle application of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is healing my soul’s eyes; and the prescription is gratitude.

That is what Ann Voskamp celebrates and teaches in One Thousand Gifts: gratitude to God.

If you already read her blog, A Holy Experience, you know that her writing and her heart are exquisite, daily gifts.

Not surprisingly, her first book is brilliant

I won’t be able to wait long enough to read along with the Bloom book club, but I will certainly be tuning in for the weekly updates with Angie, Jess, and Ann herself. Consider joining us?

Posted in All Posts, Book Reports | 4 Comments

A Brave Day

You might not think much of my bravery, but I’m feeling quite relieved that I had a dose of courage the other day.

I didn’t want to face it, but I finally cleaned bar-b-que sauce out of my purse.

The background: We thought we got away with it on Sunday afternoon. On our way to the Dollar Theater to see the film, Secretariat, we swung by McDonald’s to pick up some lunch. Because we didn’t have time to eat it before the show began, I carefully stacked our items in my purse. We were hoping we’d be the only ones in the theater and no one would ever know, but as it turns out, the place was packed. We found our seats and I began digging around in my purse for each person’s lunch. We were trying to be discreet about the operation, but we definitely smelled and Lia kept asking, “Where are my french fries?”.like McDonald’s. Nevertheless, no one confiscated our burgers or asked us to leave, so we enjoyed the movie, happy, and sinful.

A few days later, our sins found us out when I found myself wondering What is that saucy smell?? When I pulled my cell phone out of my purse, I discovered that the saucy smell following me around all day was an exploded package of bar-b-que sauce from our Sunday matinee. Not wanting to face the problem, I simply cleaned off my phone and zipped up the gooey compartment.  Yuck. I was secretly hoping that I could somehow talk Ryan into cleaning it out for me. (After all, he had happily cleaned up the bird entrails that our cat had left on the porch. Wonderful man.)

My purse waited and waited for me to clean it out. And then, I got a whiff of courage and was able to clean out the tell-tale sauce. And that’s brave!

I removed a mouse-trap from my daughter’s big toe.

This farm girl will not remove a mouse from a trap. I’ll double-bag the entire opperation – mouse and trap – but I will not dig in there! Needless to say, I got some practice the other day. Let me just say, it’s alarmingly disturbing to see a mousetrap dangling from your child’s toe! She was crying in dismay, and I was trying to face the fact that I had to act quickly. I tried to care more about her pain than my instinct that her toe was a mouse. I managed, somehow. So, although I didn’t remove a mouse from a mousetrap, I did remove a toe. And that’s brave.

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Viv requested that we play Nickalodeon Wii Fit games for our Family Fun Friday this week.

It was totally fun.

The best part was watching Ryan win a gold medal in the Dora Extreme Pogo competition. :)

After our fantastic workout, we enjoyed my new pregnancy find: Edy’s Coconut Cream Fruit Bars! Yum and fun.

(By the way, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend the Nickalodean Fit if you have a Wii and a young ‘un. The games are perfect for kids in the 3-7 year old range, who might not be able to play the original Wii games yet. Lots of fun, and lots of activity!)

Posted in Family Fun Friday! | 1 Comment

As if it were in our lesson plans, the snow fell peacefully just in time for Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

1.Decorate a Tree for the Birds

We were about to haul our Christmas Tree out to the burn pile, when Ryan thought of a brilliant idea: “Let’s sit it out on the porch, fill it with birdseed, and the girls can watch the birds from the kitchen table.”

Feeding the birds correlated well with Susan Jeffers’ illustrations.

One night, after dinner, when the snow was falling and falling, we bundled the girls up and went outside to decorate the tree with our feeders. I don’t know why we thought they wouldn’t need their snow pants…

Then, the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, we enjoyed the company of chickadees and cardinals and sparrows…

2. Create an illustrated version of the poem.

This was fantastic practice in illustrating, and creating a book. We divided the poem into scenes, and planned poses that would communicate each stanza. Then we found an appropriate font and style for the book. Vivienne and I worked together every step of the way. Lia was in charge of props. She made the jingle-bell harness for the horse, and helped to dress the horse and the doll. Overall, this was a wonderful project!

BUT do not be deceived by these peaceful photos. When we brought Vivienne’s prized doll and horse out in the snow, we tried so hard to keep them dry, but the snow was GUSTING at us like a blizzard. Not to mention, Lia’s boot came off when she was knee-deep in snow, the doll and the horse landed face-down in the snow, and I lost my temper when Vivienne accidentally dumped snow on my head instead of sprinkling snow in front of the doll to create the “snowy day effect” we had talked about. When we came in, wet and grumpy, I apologized my heart out. Then, we took a deep breath, ordered the photos, and got to work putting the book together. The finished project was well worth the effort… and the forgiveness!

Whose woods these are I think I know; His house is in the village though.

He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near…

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sounds the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.


Posted in Early Elementary Education, FIAR | 3 Comments

Cravings

Years ago, we watched a television series called “Life Goes On”. ‘Remember Paige? And Corky? At any rate, during the opening song, beautiful Paige opens the refrigerator and drinks directly out of the large orange juice carton before rushing off to her welding job. I winced every time she did that. It was gross! And bad. I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever, ever imitated such behavior…

…until something about this pregnancy awoke a sincere and deep love for Chocolate Almond Milk.

The other day, the girls were enjoying a field trip tour of the grocery store when I spotted a great big gallon of Silk Dark Chocolate Pure Almond Milk in the dairy department. Needless to say, that’s all I could think about during the rest of the field trip. Must have Chocolate Almond Milk… Afterward, I bought that container of milk and, as soon as we loaded into the car, I drank straight out of that container. Of course, I furtively glanced around the parking lot first to see if anyone was looking as I guzzled from the large cardboard container. It was delicious.

The best news is that I found a COUPON for it! Now you can see for yourself what I mean. Maybe you’ll be drinking from the carton, too!


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Meet Sally Clarkson Tonight!

My notebook is packed with excerpts from Sally Clarkson’s books on mothering and homeschooling.

She has become one of the most influential voices in my aspirations in womanhood and motherhood. If you’ve ever read one of her books, you know what I mean. Her writing is full of Scripture, encouragement, inspiration, and grace. She establishes an example of gentle motherhood that is vigorous, transparent, and reliant on God’s grace. When I read Sally’s books, I get the feeling, “I could do that!” instead of, “I should do that” or “I’ll never be able to do all that.”

Her blog, I Take Joy, is one of the few that I read on a regular basis, jotting down her recipes and being stirred up by her love for the Lord.

I met her in person at the Relevant 10 conference, where she was a key note speaker. All of us sat in her sessions with tears streaming down our faces and pens jotting down everything she said. She is gracious, classy, and very very real, and yet the quality I love most is that she focuses my heart away from myself and onto God.

I highly recommend that you read her books, including Educating the WholeHearted Child, The Mission of Motherhood, and The Ministry of Motherhood.

I also highly recommend Sally’s MomHeart conferences. If I lived out West, I’d be there in a snap! If you are able, please, oh please, go for the both of us! You will be so full of inspiration and encouragement in your calling as a mother.

Actually, you can get to know Sally Clarkson a little bit better TONIGHT.

Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae are hosting a Twitter chat TONIGHT (Tuesday, Jan. 18th) from 9-10pm EST where we can ask Sally questions and engage with her. She’ll be talking about her upcoming MomHeart conferences, and giving out prizes, including a full conference pass!

Details:

Follow: @sarahmaewrites and @Sally_Clarkson

Hashtag: #momheart

Date: Tuesday, January 18th

Time: 9-10pm EST

Where: Twitter

Recommended Way to Tweet: Tweet Chat

*If you do not already have a Twitter account, you can sign up for one for free at Twitter.com. If you would like further help on navigating through a Twitter chat, read this wonderfully helpful how-to post.

Posted in All Posts, Motherhood | 1 Comment