Now That’s a Nice Curriculum

We went to a Christmas party tonight, where we got to watch the pod race from the Star Wars (I) movie in the movie room: widescreen, 3D TV with surround sound speakers making it impossible to hear anything else.

Elisha wandered in partway through and couldn’t move for watching (I scooped him up and brought him to my lap on the couch).

On the way home Jay made a comment about reminding himself not to be jealous; that he had plenty of nice things that he liked, and he just chose to spend his money differently.

From the backseat Natasha piped with a surety that convinced me she’d picked it up at Sunday School: “Some things God chooses not to give us and we should be content with what we have.”

Jay didn’t hear her and asked Natasha to repeat herself, which she did, word-for-word, adding shyly, “I memorized it from my science book.”

Opening 2010. Lots going on.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written here.

A lot’s been going on, but I’ve waited because none of it “stable” enough for me to write about it; to set in stone as “reality.”

But now I figure if I wait till it’s all at that level I might not remember enough to record a bunch of the neat things that God has provided recently.

While Jay was home over the holidays we made a major effort to pull the house together and (since then) to maintain it on a daily basis.  Two weeks now we’ve maintained the house at what I would call a company-ready level. (A *major* accomplishment for us.)

We have two or three “clean-up sessions” a day: one after breakfast, a sweep somewhere between lunch and Jay coming home and sometimes a third before bedtime.  The kids are getting a little better at responding to the daily (small) tidying, but they’re still not fully on board when it comes to the bigger work days (e.g., when there are 6 baskets of laundry to fold and put away).

They are nearly perfect on their morning staples though: beds made, breakfast cleared, jammies away after getting dressed.  I’m relieved at least one set of jobs is becoming automatic.  I use it as hope for the future, that there will come a time when even more things will happen un- (or minimally-) prompted.

A few days before the end of the year Jay initiated family bible reading.

Our church is following the M’Chayne bible-in-a-year reading plan for the second time this year, and Jay began before the year ended with the assignments for those days.  We read two chapters a day “privately” and two Jay reads aloud to everyone.

It’s a total of four chapters a day, a pace I’ve never been able to maintain before, but reading two per morning and snuggling the kids a bit later while Jay reads us the rest; that’s been quite comfortable.  Morning reading works especially well for us because the children are already inclined to be still and snuggly when they first wake, and having scripture be one of the first things they hear in the day seems very appropriate.

Jay started reading to us from the version he reads from (ESV) but now we’re reading from the NIrV, an adaptation of the NIV to a 3rd-grade reading level.

At the beginning of the year I pulled out my cardfile boxes (the only chore system I’ve ever attempted/maintained with a measure of success) and set it up between what I remembered the “guidelines” being and what I felt I needed to maintain.

The original system (that I maintained between Melody’s and Elisha’s births) divided card color based on chore frequency (yellow was daily, blue weekly, green monthly, etc.).  My current system is divided by assignment, and it works very well for us, allowing for a single (mom-maintained) box that everyone–sans Jay– can work from: Blue are mom’s jobs, yellow the kids and pink are school.

Frequency is listed on the top right corner, and as each job is completed (or day ended) the cards are moved to the next day that assignment is scheduled for, allowing for a perpetually renewed to-do list that requires no additional set up on the day of working.

This in intensely useful in two ways:

  • I don’t have to discover/find/remember what needs to be done in a particular day; it’s already laid out.
    • The biggest thing I learned form my exercise in scheduling last year is that anything already settled doesn’t require further energy from me.
  • I know when I’m *DONE*
    • Everybody reading this knows that housework is never finished, that there is always more to do, and if I ever feel discouraged “at home” it is usually for that reason.  With this system I know that I’ve already planned for the proper time/intervals to accomplish everything that needs to be done, so I only need to wait until the next assigned day comes around.

It was toward the end of our first full week of maintaining this system (and the rest of the house, as I mentioned before; the card system helped with that), that I saw some unexpected maturity bumps (as in, leveling up) in both Melody and me.

Actually, all the children seem more level and “secure” to me, and I’ve had (overall) more patience and perspective in parenting as we’ve been closing our days.  There are more factors and elements than the cardfile, of course, but having the clear plan to work with each morning has helped all of those areas.  I pray now that this will continue to be an effective tool.

~ ~ ~

Jay put Elisha in underwear all day his last several days at home, hoping the experience would motivate Elisha to use the toilet more.  It didn’t.

This week (Tuesday, actually) I asked Elisha in some exasperation if he wasn’t ready to leave diapers behind.  He said no, and I asked when he would be ready.

“In a week,” he said matter-of-factly.

Staying calm I carefully asked if he was ready to put his last diaper day on the calendar and he agreed.  So we are looking at January 11 being special to Elisha and Natasha both. (I’m very thankful we don’t have many places to go that week. Lord-willing we’ll have several days to solidify things before church and the busier following week.)

January 11 is special to Natasha because she gets both her birthday and party on the same day.

I’m thankful because she agreed peacefully to a very small party (few people) and that excites me as a chance to do interesting stuff (i.e., slightly complicated stuff) with a smaller group, and I think that will make for a more memorable party.

I “picked up” my novel again for the first time in hmmm, 3 months? and cut over 12,000 words in the first go.  I’ve got another perspective on the story and hope working it into reality will both make it better and bring down the word-count significantly.

Just now those words seem like an, “I’ll eat less and exercise more” resolution in its vague meaninglessness, but I’ll try to refine it as I clarify for myself what they look like in reality.

Today was the first in a series of planning meetings for the 2010 Care Net Sonshine Tea that Mom and I co-chaired last year.

We’ve both committed to lead again this year, hoping before we’re done to form a template for whomever comes after us.

Also this week the girls re-started ballet.

Natasha is more enmeshed than ever, moving gracefully through the day (often with sweeping arm-movements), but Melody indicated she might want out.

It was in a tired-but-lucid moment, and I’m praying about how to handle the question.  I’m beginning to sense the beginning of  a desire to differentiate from her sister– something that has not been very strong up to this point.  I want to support her in that (I sometimes imagine I’m a better parent to Melody than Natasha, having grown up the middle kid), but I don’t want her to leave ballet too soon.

And I had my first ESL (English as a second language) class with the two homeschool moms in my group who asked me in December to teach them.

This was amazing, and I wonder if this is the beginning of the more meaningful friendships with women I’ve been praying for.

In all the “class” was simply perfect.  No matter what I talked about it was useful and of relevance.  These are two smart women fluent enough in English to converse with and listen to me, but new enough that specialized words (bias, paraphrase, paradox, extrapolate) still need explanation.

This resulted in a situation where my tendency to fill most of the conversation (and fill it with extensive–if relevant– tangents covering all manner of life and experience) was perfectly suited for the setting.  I pray this interaction continues to be useful and mutually encouraging.

Melody seems to be picking up her interest in reading.

Earlier this week she read to Elisha a book Natasha read to her. Some of it might have been memorized, but we’d just gotten it from the library and if she can recite after one or two hearings she’s a different kind of genius.

Even so, she used her finger under the words with perfect one-to-one correlation, so at lest some of it was word recognition. I’m very excited for her.

Really, I think I was more excited than she was.  My hanging over her shoulder seemed to unnerve her and she asked what a particular line said before she finished the page.

She’s been watching me giving Natasha spelling tests and has asked for her own.  I think we’ll be starting simple 3-letter words on Monday.

This is what I meant by a maturity bump– she seems becoming aware of the world outside herself and beginning to look for her place in it.  By turns I see in her a desire to fit in, stand out, be independent and be catered to.  This is why I’m moving very slowly (for me) in relation to the question about ballet; she’s still learning her own mind, and I want to let it be her mind that is expressed in the conclusion we reach.

In Value Village last night Natasha was cooing over the horse coloring book we found, burbling about the pictures she was going to color first, when a subdued Melody admitted, “I like horses too.” Natasha expressed genuine surprise. “I thought you just liked kittens!” “I didn’t learn I liked horses till just now.  I’m still learning things about myself.” She sounded defensive and confused.

I assured her it was just fine to continue learning new things about one’s self, and that I’m still learning things about myself too.  She seemed surprised and relieved at this and visibly relaxed.

Another first with Melody was a discussion about her appearance, where I was able to tell her exactly what I find beautiful about her and that seemed to be very effective– not to mention God’s good timing.  (I’ve always been reluctant to complement one child at a time– about the same thing– and to complement everyone at the same time, well, I never trusted that kind of complement, since I couldn’t be sure if it came out of fairness rather than full truth.)

And Melody was the first one up so we had a very sweet and meaningful time together where I could focus just on her.

SO there you have it.  The last couple weeks, basically, but mostly the last three days.

Can’t promise I’ll do better with posting in future, but I know I don’t want to forget these steps.  God’s good faithfulness is beyond words.

~ ~ ~

Last Sunday the topic under discussion was Psalm 1.  The question was offered, What is *BLESSING*?

Most answers thrown out were along the lines of “happy” “good” and variations on that theme, sometimes with material implications.

When I hear “blessing” the word seems more like being wrapped in a huge blanket.

It’s nothing small enough to hand to someone or wrap in another single word.

After a few minutes listening I couldn’t sit quiet any more and burst out, “It’s so much more than something you feel or get!”

I felt an unexpected surge of emotion and felt a desperate need to say more; to say something that had meaning to more than me.  My mind was swirling with the hugeness of what God has given me– the tangible, yes, but so much ineffable beyond that that the physical things are just an outward manifestation of.

I knew I didn’t have much time and I fought to keep the emotion out of my voice as I tried to hold the floor long enough for my words to reach the essence of my thought.  I finally lost the first battle as I won the second: “Have you ever had the feeling like falling back into a ball pit and being completely buried?”

You know, those play places with the bins of light, colorful balls are piled in an area almost deep enough to swim in. At least a few people seemed to know what I was talking about.

That‘s what it feels like God is doing for me.  It continually feels unreal; how so many things just work, how the connections happen, and the *joy* that permeates it all.

“How can I keep from singing?”

This week is booked:

Monday: last chance to walk if I want to meet my 4x/week goal before my WW meeting

Tuesday: 3 extra kids from 7:30 – 4:30

Wednesday: my kids visiting friends in a.m. while I work a to-do list for my mom– finish getting her house ready for long-term guests

Thursday: p.m. the long-awaited return to “bonkers” indoor playground for homeschoolers’ get-together

Friday: noon– Ballet classes

Saturday: Guests arrive

It’s Fun when things Stick

A long time ago I wrote about how I was careful to change the way I told Cinderella to clarify that work is not abuse. (I was not going to train any attitudes to a false martyrdom. Yuck.)

Anyway, when we watched the R&H Cinderella last week I was delighted when one of the girls leaned over to the other and said knowingly, “They are unkind not to help her.”

The other nodded knowingly and I just grinned.

This was the exact message I’d been trying to communicate, and I was very pleased they’d internalized it enough that months later they still remembered.

Protective Boy

I wrote about Elisha’s first protective act here, but there have been three more in the last few months that were clearly deliberate, and I want to remember them too.

Back before Jay returned from Antarctica I would send Natasha out with Joule to hold the leash and make sure the dog did its business in the right place.  One of these times the door locked behind her, and she was stuck out back.

I was in the midst of a morning rush, focused on my work and didn’t hear her calling for help.  What I did notice was Elisha stumping first to the back door, then to the entry way for his boots, then to me to ask for help putting them on.  I helped him, only vaguely wondering what prompted this sudden interest in shoes.

We have a hard-and-fast rule that the children cannot enter the garage without something on their feet.

He next tromped to the back door and went into the garage.  I followed to give the “What do you think you’re doing” speech and finally heard Natasha’s frantic yells.  Elisha had already run across the garage and I followed him.  I still don’t remember who opened the door for her, but I was quick to tell Natasha it was Elisha who first heard and came to her rescue.


More recently the children were just finishing the dishwasher and Melody got her finger stuck in the door.

Now, Melody is (currently) my most reactive child, and that causes me to filter every sound she makes and sometimes to discount the significance of her distress.  On this particular day, all three children were standing by the door and has happened before, someone besides Melody initiated the closing of the door.

She has screamed about this before with her hand hanging on the closed door, so I hope anyone will understand when I admit I launched into my “this isn’t how we communicate” lecture.

Through wails that nearly obscured her meaning she finally communicated that her finger was stuck, and before I could cross the room Elisha had stepped forward and pulled the door back open for her.

This was something the girl could have done for herself if she had thought of it, but one of my current frustrations is that she will fixate on a problem to the exclusion of looking for a solution.  This is *very* frustrating to me.

My own M.O. is to “manage” any pain or issue by focusing on the solution or the search for one.  I hope this is a difference that we may work out sooner rather than later.


Then, just today (sparking my interest in writing all this down), the children were watching Finding Nemo and Natasha called to me to sit with her for “a scary part” (she’s not truly scared, anymore, but it has become something of a ritual) when I came to her she was leaning against Elisha (who would be half her size except he was sitting on the arm of the loveseat) with his arm around her shoulders.

“He told me, ‘Don’t be afraid, Natasha,’ ” she said, obviously delighted.  “I don’t need you now.”

Adoption Summary

We started Annie with the kids while I was folding clothes last week.

I turned it off after the “We Got Annie!” song, because I was growing more and more convinced now isn’t the right age for that movie.   But it was a terrific up-beat ending for their introduction to the movie, and the girls danced around with their dolls till naptime, replaying that final image:

We’re excited to adopt!

Melody and Natasha created their own versions and variations of songs on that theme, and one of Melody’s seemed particularly insightful (All voiced by her):

A: What do I need?

B: Nothing I don’t have now.

A: What’s wrong?

B: Nothing’s wrong, so Let’s adopt our dollies!

All accompanied by delighted leaps and twirls.

I really don’t know…

Ever since introducing the concept of homonymto my 3- and 4-year-olds last year, discovering new examples has been a source of delight for them.

Knowing a bit more now about the difference between homonym and homophone I’ve considered introducing the new word… but haven’t yet.

Natasha has been experimenting with the idea of heartsick (very sad) yesterday and today.  As we drove home Thursday night she interrupted her latest attempt to use heartsick in a sentence and said, “There’s the heart in your body, and the heart you draw…” I can feel the hope and excitement building.  “Is heart a homonym?”

And I’m sitting there, thinking of her new word all the other ways the word heart is used, and I truely don’t know the answer to that one.


I went and auditioned last night for a play I know next to nothing about.

It felt a bit like an ethical quandary, truly:

Is showing up like an eBay bid, where if you “win” (are selected) you are bound to follow through and roll with whatever’s given you?

I resist being bound, but understand the thinking that would assume this to be basic courtesy.

I did get a “call-back” today.  But it’s for a time-slot I have already committed elsewhere, so I left a message saying so and am waiting to see how it shakes out.

Melody had her first public solo last night.  (that link should take you to YouTube,  The video wasn’t embedding properly, so I changed it to a link)

You’ll probably have to jack your volume, but I was pleased to have any recording.

“I want to do that again next time,” she said as soon as we got back to our seats.  “With different people, though.”

I told her she was very brave to march up there and do it, and asked if she was scared.

“I was nervous when I walked up,” she said, “But singing was exciting.”

Story Prompts (#1)

I have this game I bought a couple years ago to use for the storytelling class I was developing at the time.

Looking for something new to do with the girls (I’m experimenting with letting Melody skip naps) I pulled it out and tried on the fly to see if I could adapt it to their level.

The gist of it is to tell a story using the elements shown on your dealt cards to reach the ending written on your “happily ever after” card.  Complicated to explain, simple enough to do.  With a little practice.

Anyway, I only got so far as to say it’s about telling a story from a card and laying out three “place” cards as examples when Natasha said, “A forest!  I have a story for that one!”  And Melody picked up the Island and said, “I can tell a story from this one!”

So I put away the other cards and came to the computer to write down what they told me.

I couldn’t type nearly fast enough; certainly not enough to catch the inflection and pauses that (seriously!) added so much to the basic stories their words expressed.  But it was only our first time, so I hope we’ll both get better at this.

Natasha’s story:

Once upon a time there was a princess and one day her father who had a beard wanted her to go to the forest.

Now, the princess didn’t quite want to go, but her father insisted because he wanted her to go so she had to go.  But because it was a dangerous place ….he made a good solution they would both go to the forest.

Still the king would protect.

They all loved their educational ride through the forest and one day they soon died from a very bad forest fire from a dragon that burned the whole huge forest.

Melody’s story:

Once upon a time there was a king, an island, who wanted his queen to go to the dangerous land of the deep, deep, deep stream of futures.  And there’s trolls in the water.

So the king went himself and killed all the trolls and then he walked silently through the water until he came to his home again.

The end.

“That’s the short story,” she finished, in her normal voice.