Friday, April 30, 2010


Every day this week (except Sunday, of course) I have opened my mailbox and seen a package or two sitting inside (or once, perched, balancing, atop the mailbox because my Dad, who usually delivers our mail and always brings the too-big packages directly to my door, was adventuring (and ministering) in the rainforests of Brazil). It's a highlight to any day to open the mailbox and see a package squatting inside. It always makes my heart leap a little, wondering what it is, even when it's something I myself have ordered just a few days ago.
In this case, the packages contained books, the very best thing a package could hold. Books piling up in a stack on my bedroom floor.
That stack of books is the gate to the world of First Grade.
Part of me wants to haul Christopher Robin into my lap today and begin reading the first chapter of The Story of the World and give him his All About Spelling beginning assessment. But we thrive on a little structure, and I want to start well, so I will collect all the books, and form a plan for our days, and then, at the right time, we will start. I want the excitement of new books and new subjects to help provide the momentum to establish a routine for our days that will keep us going strong all year.
I bought some books for Peanut Butter, too. His very own handwriting book, because he likes to trace letters, and I figure if he likes to, I'll let him learn. And I think I'll order him a meeting book for Saxon K math. That begins in September, and the program is so simple, really far beneath Christopher Robin's ability (though we'll stick it out and finish it through June because he has learned things from it) that I feel like it'll be about right for Peanut Butter at the age of 4.
For Christopher Robin I have A Beka math, Zaner-Bloser handwriting, English for the Thoughtful Child, All About Spelling, Story of the World: Ancient Times, and for science The Usborne Illustrated Encycopedia of the Natural World, The Human Body, and other books I plan to gather as needed from the library. I also need a decent globe, a world map, and a map of the United States. I'm not sure where to put them, though. Do I really need to dedicate a wall of my house to a map / maps? On the other hand, I love maps, and love how handy wall maps are, because you can see the big picture but also stand close to see small details. I'll be mulling over this for a while...
Peanut Butter has been learning his letters and what sounds they make this year. Just last week he read his first book. Since then, he's been reading a page at a time, not usually enthusiastically, but capably. It's a lot like Christopher Robin started...excitedly finishing a whole book the first time, but then not excited to tackle new ones. I remember for Christopher Robin, reading was exhausting mental effort when he was three. I didn't push it, but brought the books out from time to time to help him practice. He was four when he read through all the Bob books we had, and I ordered more sets for him, and more sets until we had finished them all. By that time, reading was easy for him, and he started reading everything. Remembering that, I've been doing one page at a time with Peanut Butter. One or two words. Eventually it will click and feel easy, and then he'll be unstoppable.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Unprocessed Scripture

Processed foods are natural foods (mostly corn and soybeans, since those are what our agricultural system is set up (and encouraged through government subsidies) to produce in vast quantities) broken down, separated, and put back together into thousands of different (and far less nutritious, largely because of the lack of variety in the foods we eat, since so much comes from those two kinds of plants, and also because of all the added fat and sugar in processed food) shapes and kinds of foods that line our grocery store shelves. So I understand based on Michael Pollan's books The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and I keep hearing echos of those ideas from sources all around me. The solution? Eat real food. Buy things that don't come in a package or from a factory, but from a garden or field. Even meat should come from pastures and wild waters rather than feed lots or fish farms. Garden. Shop farmer's markets and local farms. Find sources nearby for food that doesn't go through restructuring or human manipulation before it comes into your home.

I'm realising there may be parallels here with feeding myself and my children on God's Word. I have felt real hesitation and intimidation trying to explain God and his ways to my kids. I don't understand Him, and when they start asking me questions, I realise I understand Him even less than I feel like I do. The simple teaching "God made everything" becomes complicated and muddled when Christopher Robin attributes an imperfect dust pan to God ("No one can make a perfectly straight dust pan, but God made this one pretty good," he said today as he swept up crumbs from under the table). Part of my hesitation is that I don't want to pass on my own misunderstandings to them. I know I have biases and blind spots in my faith, and I wish they could grow up without inheriting them from me and being hampered by the same wrong perspectives. Part of it is that my own love for and passion for God is/was dulled by always hearing about it growing up. Maybe not from hearing real truth, but certainly by moralising Sunday School stories that were essentially the same week after week in the Sunday School papers...hearing the same things retold and retold, especially watered-down versions that didn't hold much inspiring substance to begin with. Most of scripture seems so far above my 5 and 3 year old boys' understandings, but I'm always afraid that by simplifying things to try to make it more on their level, I'm leaving out things that are important. I picked up a children's Bible story book in Walmart, and it had some nice stories and mentioned Jesus, but it didn't even tell about Jesus' death and resurrection. I guess that seems like "processing" God's Word to make it more palatable. I've read the story of David and Goliath from I Samuel 17 to my boys probably 50 times (because they ask for it over and over), and it's inspiring to me almost every time I read it. And it's gory. It ends with David taking Goliath's sword and using it to kill him and cut off his head. But I feel a lot of confidence reading straight from the Bible to my kids. It feels healthy, like feeding them an apple. Maybe reading God's Word to my kids is like feeding them whole, real food.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Changing me

Life is never as simple as following a formula.

I held Peanut Butter this morning for a little while, talking to him, keeping him warm in his blanket, enjoying him and filling his love tank.

The rest of the morning did not go smoothly. He cried and begged for help with his one daily chore, emptying the silverware from the dishwasher.
He begged me to sit and hold him during breakfast. I had already eaten and had my own list of things pressing to get done.
He cried about getting dressed, even though I helped him with all of it and then wrapped him in his cozy blanket again. He sat at the table in front of his untouched breakfast and cried.

It was a rough start to the morning.

Still, I tried to find ways to connect with him and times to hold him throughout the day, and by the end of it I'm feeling like things are better between us. I should have known it wouldn't be a simple, one-step fix, and maybe really not a fix at all, just an improvement in the relationship between mother and son, better, more understanding and loving responses on my part to his emotional meltdowns and loud demands, a development of self-control, patient endurance, and godliness in this mother, who can then model those things for her kids, and maybe help them more easily believe in Jesus.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Melting Peanut Butter

He lost us at church yesterday, my second boy, middle child, the one with loudest cry and strongest passions and most demands. I signed the two boys into their class, even though they begin the service in the auditorium where I am, up front in a cluster of their classmates to sing with us a few songs before they leave for their own stories and activities. Then I headed to the nursery across the room to deposit Raindrop with the babies. Christopher Robin followed me in and helped put the numbered tag on her diaper bag, then we went out to collect Peanut Butter and head for the auditorium. He was where I had left him, face in hands, bent over a bench, crying. Quietly, because, passionate as he is, he is closed, silent, and reserved around strangers. I knelt and pulled his hands from his tear streaked cheeks and hugged and listened while he told me he didn't want Christopher Robin to leave him there alone, and I apologized and told him we were just through the door in the nursery, and lifted his sturdy three year old body and took him to the front row of the auditorium where the kids all collect, set him beside Christopher Robin in a seat, showed him where I would be at the front, singing, and asked Christopher Robin to please hold his hand on the way back to their class when the time came, just for a little added comfort and security.
It was most of the way through the third song that I heard Peanut Butter's wail and realized that the tears of a little while ago had returned and taken over and washed his self-possession away. I saw one of his teachers pick him up and lead all the children back towards their class area. Songs ended, I found a seat in the back next to My Hero, who was manning the screen for the service. They came and got me then, to rescue my puddled three year old, who was still beyond recovery. He sighed with relief to be held in my arms, and when I promised to hold him in my arms through the service if he could quiet his sobbing, he swallowed again and again and held his peace. As I listened to our pastor explain the Holy Spirit as our guarantee of salvation, I thought about Peanut Butter's emotional instability and the rushing of getting ready for church on Sunday morning and the many sleepy mornings when he just wants me to hold him and I nudge him to make his bed and empty the silverware tray of the dishwasher and eat breakfast and get dressed. I think of the 5 love languages and wonder if his is touch or quality time... And I wonder how much it would help him want to do what's right, how much it would help my relationship with him, if I took the time to hold him and snuggle with him for a few minutes in the mornings to let him know he's important to me and that I love him. Too often these days I see him look at me with challenge and rebellion, even dislike, and I know that will happen sometimes, that he doesn't like the rules I lay down or the consequences I apply, but I sense an imbalance... like maybe he isn't as sure about my unconditional love for him as he should be. Like he needs to know I'm on his team and I'm cheering for him and the things he does matter because I love him so much.
I wonder if some time on my lap wrapped in a blanket reading a book or talking in the morning might have helped prevent yesterday's meltdown.

Focus for today: Make sure my kids know how much they are loved.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

learning flowers

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.
Proverbs 19:2
My friends and I have been reading the book of Proverbs for our LTG these last two weeks, and one of my friends laughingly mentioned the verse above in relation to her family's current (and very first) experience with buying and fixing up a house.
The same applies to me and my gardening. Although I have to say, of all my mistakes, haste has not been the was several years of planning and dreaming and waiting for the money and missing the cut-off date for ordering bulbs and deciding to prepare the beds better by letting them cook under weed barrier cloth all summer to kill all the weeds and planning some more before I finally took the plunge last fall and bought plants to fill the flower beds in front of my house. I have done reading and learning and planning and soaking myself in lovely pictures of flower gardens from Better Homes and Gardens magazines, but I still feel as though I know very little, really, about what it takes to make a beautiful flower garden. Last fall we filled the van with pots of mostly brown, dying plants from a local nursery and I lovingly planted them spaced according to the directions into the prepared dirt. A few were still blooming bursts of color, but mostly it looked like I had filled the space with ugly, dying plants few and far between. I dug holes and put clusters of bulbs in empty spots, and watched as cold weather came and browned the remaining green leaves, and snow came and flattened the stems and leaves as if they had been stepped on, and waited full of hope for spring. They tell me, I've read, been reassured, that spring will bring these lifeless twigs to life again, and in my imagination, the house is adorned by a necklace of pinks and blues and lavender.
Spring is here, and life is evident at the base of nearly all my plants, and the beds pull me towards them like magnets whenever I step outside, and I have to check, peeping at the base of dead brown for sights of fuzzy gray/green shoots, smiling with satisfaction at the green buds unfurling leaves on the wild rose bushes I had transplanted from the edge of my grandfather's field, the ones I had watched turn brown and die in the weeks after the transplant, and with them my expectations of them bearing for me their pretty pink buds in early summer died too. But this spring they surprised me with enthusiastic life, and tulips burst up from underground hybernation, and I watch with fascination the slow, steady changes to all the different types of flowering plants in those beds.
Still the beds aren't much to look at, and I expect every year I'll find things to add and tweak and move around before I really like the way it looks. Most of the plants are ones I haven't actually seen in real life, just read descriptions and saw pictures in books or on the tags in their pots. So I feel as though I am rich in enthusiasm and still very poor in knowledge. But I'm highly optimistic that in...five, maybe ten years I will have a well-loved and familiar flower garden at either side of my front door.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just more things I'm glad about...

282. My sister who comes and spends evenings with me (and plays with my kids and helps put away supper dishes)

283. My sister who is coming from Chicago on Saturday and bringing my dear little niece

284. 70 degree weather day after day at the beginning of April

285. Perennials planted last fall that withered and died and now are coming to life again to fill the long dreamed of and carefully planned flower beds in front of my house

286. Two new nephews, four days apart, my own two brothers' firstborn sons

287. Morning run, outside, cool fresh air, stillness, cows beside me just behind the fence watching with their round staring eyes, birds chirping excitedly ("can you believe the days are this warm in April??")

288. Picnic lunch by a waterfall

289. Enthusiastic boys too unafraid of the danger of falling off the rocks into the raging rapids ("Can we jump across to the other side, Mom?" "No, it's too far. Not even Daddy could do that." "Then, can you throw us across?")

290. Cinnamon rolls premade for breakfast tomorrow

291. Early bedtime...not for the kids, but for the parents