Thursday, January 27, 2011

A little Homer-schooling morning

No, there's not any official schooling going on around here, as I've mentioned before, but as H3 gets older I'm trying to get her used to the idea. At this point in her life, I'm lucky to get her to sit for 5 minutes at a time. The only time she'll stay quieter is if she is either watching a movie she likes (usually involving Mickey or Baby Signing Time) or reading stories. We typically read 8-10 books during the day, and a few more at night, depending on how energetic she is that day!

This morning, after a breakfast of H3's favorite cereal, Raisin Bran Crunch, I decided to break out some of the preschool-type supplies I have around the house.

First up is a word puzzle set that H3 got from a friend for Christmas. The puzzles are two sided, so 16 words puzzles in total. She sat and played with them for about 10 minutes. With a little guiding, she was able to figure out the 6 that we worked on today. I say "guiding" becuase although she figured out most of the letter shapes on her own, it was hard for her to figure out using an "o", an "a" or an "e" in some places, based on shape. These puzzles are designed to teach basic spelling. Since H3 already knows her alphabet, I figured this is part of the next step as she works on letter sounds at the same time.

Next up, I went to the Fisher Price website and played a game with her. They have a game section designed for infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. I used the toddler page, and found a game on the alphabet. All H3 had to do is push a letter key from my keyboard and the matching letter would come up on the screen, along with an animal that starts with that letter. Sound was included, of course, so the letter was pronounced and the animal made a realistic sound. She realled seemed to like it and has already asked me to play again.

While she watched a few minutes of Super Why from PBS, I printed out some shape coloring pages from the Fisher Price website. She's not real keen on coloring pictures herself yet, so I colored in the shapes for her, then had her tell me the name of the shape and its color.

H3 got several sets of flashcards in her Christmas stocking this year, and I've already used them with her a couple times. First, I spread the entire alphabet in front of her and had her identify each letter. Then, I scrambled the cards and showed them to her one-by-one and had her tell me the letter and the picture.

Last of all, I put up this poster that my father-in-law found for her at Dollar Tree. I thought it was so cute! Though H3 already knows all her letters, she loves having this in her room!

There is no such thing as a school room or even an office in our house, so my kitchen and H3's bedroom are being used for all these activities. If any messes show up in the pictures, I'm sorry! I'm still working on organizing the clutter. When we moved here 3 years ago, we lost over half the house size that we used to own, so it's been a long haul trying to sort through and get rid of things versus storing what we will need later and don't want to purchase again (like a table saw, radial arm saw, scrapbook supplies, sports equipment, etc).

Hope you enjoy as I start to post little schooling days like this!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quoting Obama

I recently realized that I use Obama's campaign slogan on an almost daily reference to changing my daughter's diaper! "It's time for change." I'm sure he would be so thrilled with my usage of his (formerly) favorite phrase. Hahahaha! I think that might be the only useful thing for me about him being in office....

This week has been pretty chilly so far, so H3 and I haven't been taking our usual walks to the Post Office. To help supplement the lack of exercise, I went back to my treadmill. My treadmill and I have a love/hate relationship. I bought it 4 years ago and have certainly used it quite a bit--the belt is wearing out. I walked and jogged about 2 miles daily up until I was 6 months preggo with H3, and then began using it again a week after I had her to help with the preggo pounds. This last year I've been more about walking outside instead, since H3 enjoys walking with me. H3 was pretty interested when I unfolded it and started walking. She stayed next to me, eyeing it the whole time. When I was finished with my routine, I slowed it down to 1mph and put her on it! H1 was there that evening and took some pics while I stood (very closely) behind her and monitored.

Yesterday I made brownies and chocolate chip cookies for H1's middle school basketball team. Though they didn't win tonight, the kids played really well against a tough team. H1 said he was proud of them, and I am too. He has a good group of kids this year. They work hard and most seem to have really good attitudes.

H3 is sleeping now. I put her to bed a few minutes early and she was almost asleep before I even got her in her crib. Poor baby. She was up later than usual last night, almost an hour past bedtime since we got home late from a basketball game (a j.v. and varsity game). Today she did pretty well, despite being sleep deprived, but certainly crashed during naptime and tonight! I've mentioned before that H3 likes to use slightly unconventional learning tools. This morning, it was spoons. She went to the silverware drawer and pulled out a bunch of her spoons and laid them out on the kitchen table. She counted them, then rearranged them, and counted again, and repeated for about 15 minutes. I enjoy watching her work. She's so entertaining!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dinner time!

I should have taken pictures tonight, but I didn't. Tonight's dinner was homemade mac n' cheese with steamed broccoli. I just took a blueberry crisp out of the oven a moment ago. It smells heavenly in here! Seriously. Blueberries are one of my favorites, so I'm pretty sure that scent has to be wafting through heaven somewhere!

Today was such a neat day in my Sunday school class. Once a month (the 4th Sunday), I teach a class of 8-11 year olds, mostly boys. This morning we had 5 boys and 2 girls, a small number out of the 14 on our class roster. In November, around Thanksgiving, a 2 ½ year old boy in our community was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family didn’t go to our church, but many knew them. Since there was a 0% chance of recovery, the parents opted to not put little Mark through chemo, since he was already in so much pain and they didn’t want to cause him more. Over the Christmas season, our church raised money to help with his medical expenses, and a couple of the men took over a poinsettia, as a reminder of our prayers for Mark and his family. We prayed for a miracle, but God decided to take this little one home this past Friday. As a mother of a 2 ½ year old myself, my heart just aches for these parents.
This morning I grabbed some of my card making supplies and brought them to my class. After the lesson, which I shortened a bit, I asked the kids if they would be willing to make cards for Mark’s parents. All of them seemed to be happy about the idea and I watched them work for the remaining bit of class time. Picking up the cards afterwards, I was blown away at the tender words of my class. I had to set them aside to dry, since most had used either regular glue or glitter glue somewhere, but our pastor is going to collect them tomorrow and take them to Mark’s parents. I thank God for the sensitive hearts of my children in class. I’ve been teaching them since August, and have grown to love each of them dearly. They make me laugh with stories of life at home, bickering with their siblings, video game trials, and the challenges that come with being that age. I want to cry every time I hear one little boy who consistently, every Sunday, asks me to pray for his dad. These kids are so aware of what is going on around them and without hesitation will share their pain and ask for prayer. God speaks clearly through children, and I am amazed at the beauty and receptiveness of their minds.

I did sorta get a job, though I’ve turned it down because of the commute. It was for a tutoring position in the Norfolk public school system. The pay was certainly good, but the drive was too long to offset the cost. A dear friend has volunteered to watch H3 if a different position comes up, which it may this Spring. I’m hoping so. I would like the opportunity to tutor like this, and it’s only for 1-2 hours a day, 2x a week, so I wouldn’t be away from home much. I just need the tutoring location to be closer! The tutoring company said they would call if another position opened, so it’s just a waiting game.

Spring is approaching, and though it’s still Winter, my thoughts are already there. Spring is the time for job openings. I’m not saying we’re going to move. Only God knows that one. What I do know is that somehow, 2011 in general will have to bring change for us. This Spring closes out 3 years at this school system. They have been a good 3 years, but hard because of the insurance situation, which has continued to rise each year and other benefits have been cut, but no raises to offset the costs. Change has to happen for us this year. I have faith that God will do that. He knows that we cannot financially do another year like this. Something has to give, even if it’s just a complete year of health for all of us. This year has to be different. So as January is almost through, my hope is looking forward.

Oh, on this week’s agenda? Lots of cookies! I’ve been asked to make ginger snaps and brownies for the school secretaries and the basketball teams (by my hubby and one secretary who said she loves ginger snaps). Baking in my kitchen brings me so much happiness, so I’m already looking forward to this week!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Having fun, day to day

We've been taking each day these last couple weeks one day at a time. Peanut was in the vets at the beginning of these last two weeks and for a couple days there, we couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. He was lethargic, having trouble with his bladder, and had a bloody nose. He looked pathetic and H1 and I discussed having to put him down. The vet though had hope, since Peanut's bloodwork and urine analysis came back normal. After 4 days, he started to improve and now he is back to his sweet, annoying self. This spring he will be 10, as best as we can figure. We rescued him from the Humane Society a couple months before we got married, so Peanut has been in our family since day 1. Granted, he can drive me absoutely crazy, but I'm used to him and there are times I really enjoy his company. H3 loves him and tries to play with him frequently, bringing her toys over to him and arranging them around him. It's really cute.

I finally started on antibiotics for my sinus infection, so I'm feeling much better and have been getting back into our normal rhythym. Friday night I spent at the rescue squad. H1 stayed with H3 and took care of her until I got back at 8:00 Saturday morning. Since it was a long night with little sleep, H1 gave me the luxury of a nap! I awoke to the house smelling amazing. H1 had cooked up some chili, enough to freeze for several days, and a few other meals to freeze for during the week for us and for H3. Talk about a treat! I love having meals ready to go in the freezer, but hadn't done so in a while since we'd been so busy. Sunday, after attending our church, we drove to another town and joined a friend's church for their evening service. H1 and I enjoyed some good adult time, and H3 had a blast with the kids.

During basketball season, H1 and I wash the jerseys for the team. These kids are in 6-8th grade and most don't know how to do their own laundry, or don't have access to laundry facilities at their homes. The first year H1 coached the middle school team, kids were coming to games with dirty or sometimes wet jerseys that had been washed and not dried. We felt sorry for the kids, so he started bringing the jerseys home to be taken care of here. H3 thinks the colors are pretty cool and asked to wear one this week, so here she is!

H1's brother and sister-in-law gave H3 a set of alphabet stacking blocks for Christmas. I've been arranging them on the table and having H3 identify them. She already knows her alphabet, but it's a good refresher. She really enjoyed stacking them too!

Play-doh is also fabulous for learning! In the late afternoons, I take it out while dinner is cooking. H1 usually joins in on the fun when he gets home. We cut out shapes in the play-doh and H3 identifies them. Last week she learned what a hexagon is. Her pronunciation is a little rough, but you can definitely tell what she's saying and she points it out correctly. Here she is enjoying some time with Daddy and her play-doh shapes.

One of the highlights of my week was Saturday night. Every night before dinner, H1 and I hold hands and pray before we eat. We try to hold hands with H3 too, but it's hit-and-miss since she usually doesn't like to hold hands. That night we prayed as usual and then began eating. About halfway through the meal, H3 put down her fork and grabbed H1's thumb, then reached for me. I thought she wanted a toy so I pushed one toward her, but she shoved it aside and grabbed my hand. Then, she bowed her head and started mumbling, ending with an "Amen" and looking up and grinning! It was so adorable. I know she isn't quite aware of what prayer means yet, but it shows that she's watching us closely. It was just a clear reminder that she observes everything I do, how I react to situations, and one day her views of God will be shaped by what she sees in me and in H1. Our little girl is growing up and daily I pray that she will make that choice to walk with Christ.

Life can be hard. I know H3 will see that and there is nothing I can do to shield her from some of it. What I can do is show her what I have learned and trust that God will take care us. Since we've been living here, we have found an amazing church that is incredibly supportive and they have been a family for us here. Other than our church, this has been a hard move for me. God has provided exactly what we need, nothing more, but still I am thankful. I still don't know why we are here though, so here are some of the thoughts I have been working through.

God may have you in that place to shine the light for one person. God took Philip to meet with an Ethiopian eunuch and explain the Gospel to him (Acts 8:26). God's only purpose for Philip traveling in that direction was to talk to that one man. He is interested in our salvation. He may bring you someplace to reach just one person, and then lead you somewhere else. He may have you stay, even if you have no clue why you are still there. When He says move, you move, but until then, you may have to reach daily for His peace and entrust everything to His care, including the impact on your kids (or kid, singular, in my case). Since I do not believe in coincidence or in chance, my only choice is to believe that my God has me in a specific place, at a specific time, for a specific purpose, and nothing will move until He is through with me here. My steps are ordered. He already knows my future. My tomorrows are His yesterdays and nothing is a surprise. There are days I struggle with doubt and pain, and He already knows that. He already knows the very moments in my future when I will question what He is doing and question what I believe about Him. Sometimes I've learned that my views are wrong and I have to reshape them. Other times my beliefs are reinforced stronger because of my questioning. Always I strive to remember that as much as I love my daughter and am concerned about her well-being and growing up, He is even more so.

So here we are in January, still taking each day at a time and finding joy in the little things!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's January!

We arrived home from our trip to a warm evening. It had been in the 60s earlier that day and H1 and I were sweating by the time we unloaded the van. The last couple days have cooled off considerably and it feels more like winter. No snow though. Apparently we had a foot of snow in VA while our family was gone, but we missed it all.

Trying to get back into the swing of things has been a challenge. The day before we left for our trip (on the 23rd), I woke up with symptoms of a sinus infection. H3 had been sick the previous week and was still coughing and sniffling at that point. She managed to get better during the first leg of our trip, but I was miserable for the first week and spent part of Christmas Eve and Christmas in bed, trying to get rid of this thing. By the end of our trip, I thought it was almost over, but I woke up yesterday with increased sniffles. There're no other symptoms with this other than head congestion and sniffles. It's like walking around in a constant fuzz with a headache. I'm so thankful for Charmin tp right now. I don't buy tissues in the store, so tp is the only option at the house and happily this brand is soft! Probably the biggest challenge, other than energy, is attitude. I don't know about you, but I'm cranky when I'm sick! I prefer to curl up in a hole and hide, but as wife and mommy, that's completely impossible. God and I have been having frequent chats about that. My sweet hubby has been very gracious and helped out big time with the house and H3.

This morning was especially trying. H3 woke up crying and I brought her in our room to snuggle with me while H1 was getting ready for work. She rarely gets to hang out in our room, so it's normally a happy time for her. She snuggled right in and fell asleep for a while. At 7:45 she woke up suddenly and threw up all over me. So gross! We sat in the bathroom and I held her for a while until she seemed to feel better, then cleaned both of us up and went out into the living room. No sooner than I'd gotten her settled on the couch with her morning cup of milk and the dog decided to empty his bladder onto my carpet. H1 had just taken him outside before he left for work at 7:30, so I have no idea why he decided to do this now. He did this several times on our trip too, and it's not normal for him. Peanut has been in a funk during our entire trip and now that we're home it hasn't stopped. He's used to traveling with us, but has never done this before. Maybe it's an age thing? He's just been walking around the house, whining constantly since we've been back. I'm not sure what to do about him and with H3 and I both under the weather, my brain hasn't focused on the dog problems too much yet!

Tonight is the first basketball game in 3 weeks for H1. I'm hoping the kids do well. They were playing really well before the break, and sometimes it's hard to get back in the rythym of things.

Oh. I almost forgot. Between presents we gave her and presents from my in-laws, H3 now has some wonderful pre-school items. I'm looking forward to working with her more and should post some pictures soon of our efforts. Last night we rolled out play-doh and cut it into shapes. H3 is already familiar with squares, hearts, circles, diamonds, and triangles, but right before dinner, H1 taught her something new. A hexagon! It was so cute, listening to her try to pronounce it. After a few attempts, she said it pretty clearly and would ask us to cut one out for her so she could count the sides. When all the shapes were cut and lined up on the table, she pointed and said the name of each shape. My little baby is growing up!

"Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but simply taking God at His word." ~Christmas Evans

"The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." ~George Mueller

Exerpts from my morning reading that are oh so applicable!