Content Amidst the Chaos

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I love learning! April 25, 2010

Filed under: family size,homeschooling,S3,Superman — jps23 @ 11:22 pm

Let it be said that I have NONE desire to go back to school (that is the way Mary Lou says “no” in reference to how much she has or doesn’t have of something in particular- I know it’s improper English, but hey, it’s cute).

Tipper and Mary Lou

That being said, I love learning.  I love to browse Barnes and Noble or amazon.com for books on topics that hold my interest.  You’d think that with all the books I have on organizing, I’d be a pro and my house would always stay clean.  The problem is, no one else reads them!  But I digress…

The reason I share this with you is twofold.  Tonight, we started this amazing small group with some friends, Preacher and her hubby.  I never told her story (she is my kids’ minister at church, one of my dearest friends, and a 2010 graduate of our local college about to begin her seminary degree this summer), but part of it includes her finishing a degree she started 18 years ago at a Bible college in Arkansas.  Her father had heart problems that brought her back home and left her without a completed degree.  Fast forward to today, and she is completing that degree at the Bible college where Superman was just offered an opportunity to teach.  I must say that I think she is doing something now she might not have done before, and that God has her right where He wants her.  I can’t wait to see where He is taking her!  Anyhow, she has learned some amazing stuff in completing her degree, and fortunately, she shares a lot of it with me.  One of her professors has introduced her to the idea of forming very small groups called DNA groups, which refers to the fact that with Christ living in us, we carry His DNA.  It is also an acronym for something, but I don’t remember exactly what that is.  I know that ‘nurture’ is the N, though.  The idea is to meet with this really small group and, hold onto your hats, read the Bible.  That’s it.  No books.  No study guides.  No one’s interpretation of the Bible.  Just placing yourselves under scripture and discussing it.  You eventually break off and start new small groups, avoiding the possibility of getting too comfortable and allowing the chance to spread the DNA of Christ.  You assign a few chapters a week from a particular book in the Bible, chosen by your group, and you read it throughout the week in preparation for your discussion.  If all haven’t read, you just discuss but do not move forward until everyone is caught up.  Our group is made up of Preacher, her hubby, Superman, and me.  The best part is that our kids are just playing with each other while we study, and they see us in the Word together and know that it is important!  What an awesome thing for them to share and experience!  Picasso was even eavesdropping tonight because she was so curious as to what could be so interesting.  We are going to start with Matthew, and we’re reading chapters 1 through 4 for next week’s discussion.  Tonight, we just talked about the group approach and why it is a needed change.  We’ve gotten so product driven in Western churches that we are being pulled away from the scripture and the truths that they hold.  I am so excited to take such a simple approach to learning more about Jesus.

My other reason for visiting my love of learning involves homeschooling.  This year, we’ve participated in a homeschool co-op, which was really just a resting place for many of the local parents who were waiting on a charter school to open up in our area.  Needless to say, I’m not teaching homeschoolers at heart, and my girls aren’t being homeschooled because the goal of this co-op was really more about preparing these kids for a public-ed classroom.  Charter schools seem to be a great idea, but they are still public schools.  Now, before you take great offense at my “still public schools” statement, I don’t mean that in any ugly way.  That just isn’t the educational choice for our family.  So, my girls didn’t get the experience this year that they would have gotten at home, and while some aspects of this year were nice, it just wasn’t what it would have been at home.  If this year has done anything for Superman and me, it has affirmed our desires to homeschool our kids.  There are many reasons, which have been introduced on a small scale, but the whole shebang will have to come in another post.

My point…next weekend is homeschool convention weekend, and the bonus is that it is hosted merely 15 minutes away from our house!  The sitters are lined up, the registration has been submitted, and we are filling out our conference planning sheets.  I’m a little bit nervous because it is time to make some serious curriculum choices.  When we were just getting started, it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming because they are little, and well, the best curriculum for little ones involves lots of play.  Now we are at a point where the girls can read independently, which is super helpful, but we are also dealing with three totally different types of learners!  Mary Lou could do workbooks and worksheets, which I’m not a huge fan of, until her little heart is content.  She’s learned very well that way this year, however, this method is the farthest from the best option for the other two.  Cowgirl is very literal, which is very common with autistic children, and she gets bored out of her mind with worksheets.  She would probably do best with a lapbooking/notebooking approach, and even then, it will have to be done in small spurts.  She hates to write, and she lets that get in the way.  If she could dictate to me all day, there would be very little holding her back.  I have to figure out the balance in this.  Learning is the point, but eventually, the girl is going to have to write, so I’m still figuring out this plan.  She also loves nature.  She’s obsessed with animals.  She learns best in this environment, whose only connection to workbooks is that you have to chop down a tree to make a workbook.  Then there is Picasso, my sweet, dreamer child.  Art is her thing.  She’s also so introspective, always searching for meaning in EVERYTHING.  Learning with her is an adventure with few limitations, but a worksheet is the last place she cares to share those thoughts and observations.  I think notebooking is more up her alley, which is kind of a scrapbook of what you’ve learned, because it allows her to be artistic and creative.

Any way you describe them, the only word that works with all three is “different.”  Now, they all three love Jesus, so that’s a start.  All three of them can be flexible (some more than others, of course).  So, I know we’ll survive these differences.  I’m just nervous about honoring and addressing their differences while still being mindful to raise and train them to be well-rounded learners.  Oh, and did I mention that I have four, yes four, boys ages four and under to educate/entertain next year, as well?  I know, I know.  I don’t have to keep them home, and some of you are thinking that if I choose to, I have no right to complain about how hard or tricky it may be to do it all.  I’m just sticking my tongue out at you right now.  Yeah, this is going to be hard, but God wants us to do hard things.  We are never promised an easy, cushy ride.  And if you think that’s hard, examine how hard it is to un-teach certain words and actions picked up from other kids at preschool.  Think about how hard it is to get a sick one to the doctor while keeping the other six from catching what the sick one has.  That puts a large family out of public life for at least two weeks!  Am I complaining?  No, just stating facts.  However, if I wanted to complain, it’s my bloggy and I’ll cry if I want to!  I try not to, as my blog name is Content Amidst the Chaos for a reason.  Digressing again.  Ugh.

Only a portion of the massive exhibit hall

I am not complaining.  I am excited!  I can’t wait for conference this year.  I love the workshops with all the different speakers sharing their experience.  The exhibit hall can be overwhelming, but the great thing is that I don’t have to buy one thing (which is not what will happen, but at least I know that I don’t HAVE TO).  Even the stereotypical homeschool musical family group is a delight to see.  The diverse group of people that gather at the convention seeking the best educational options for their children are different indeed, but with one common goal and mission, causing you to care less that they are wearing a denim jumper made by their 9 yr old daughter and matching their six other daughters.  Endless chess games, overpriced food, the brand new RV parked in the exhibit hall that VERY FEW homeschool families can even afford, the nursing babies, and the smiling vendors.  Ah yeah, it’s conference time!

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She’s doing such a great job, so why do I cry? April 19, 2010

Filed under: S2 — jps23 @ 7:32 pm

My cowgirl makes me cry EVERY LESSON.  She’s been taking riding lessons for about two months.  She has made amazing progress that blows my mind.  She does things on that horse that are a struggle for her to do anywhere else.  Why?  Some might say that she likes horses and it’s stuff she wants to do, but I can assure you that it isn’t that simple.

Our cowgirl is special.  Yes, all our children are special, but when I say she is special, I am referring to the paperwork that says so.  When she was just 21-months old, she was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Really?  Yep.  We were having some struggles with our sweet little second-born, and she seemed to be delayed in many areas.  The one that got the pediatrician’s attention was the language.  I wrote it off to kids developing at their own pace and maybe Picasso moved fast because she was the first and had all our attention.  At 16 months, Cowgirl only had three words, and even then, they weren’t used consistently or with meaning attached to them.  So, we began a process of testing to see what was going on.  We evaluated with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and it was determined that she had a significant delay.  Duh.  However, since they are so amazing, effective, and well regarded, they had a long waiting list.  In the meantime, we were referred for a hearing test and we were briefly introduced to a program called Babies Can’t Wait, for the time while we were waiting.  She passed the hearing test, so we were left with the Babies Can’t Wait people and the CHOA waiting list that seemed forever away.

Babies Can’t Wait is a social program set up to aid babies with developmental issues.  This is where I struggle with politics.  I can’t complain about social programming when my child was unlocked from her prison with the help of some amazing people in this program.  You can knock social programming all you want, but wait until your child is in this place and all testing and evaluation, if you can even figure the system out, is way out of your budget and/or means.  We were called and evaluated, set up with testing and starting a specific program for her all before we were ever reached on the CHOA waiting list.  BCW is a program that works on behalf of babies up to the age of three under the guise that their brain can be remapped (neuron connections and so forth) if you work with them early enough.  AND, they come to your house!  So out comes the team of evaluators: my service coordinator, a special instructor, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist.  They observe Cowgirl and me interacting in a natural play environment and take notes.  I just want to know what’s going on, so I’m not nervous or threatened at all, and amazingly, Cowgirl seems to be able to tune them out pretty well.  (I find out later that her reaction to them wasn’t necessarily “amazing”, but typical of kids with this disorder.)  They observe, we chat about symptoms, signs, and peculiarities, and they ask me “Have you ever thought she might have autism?”  Uh. No.  My only interaction with autism was a girl I went to elementary school with whose brother had autism and was so severe that he was without language and did a lot of grunting.  That’s not my daughter.  So I told them no, that I didn’t know much about autism, and they pointed out the red flags they saw in her or found in some of my statements regarding her behaviors.

  • limited eye contact
  • delayed language
  • inability to calm herself when upset (intensity)
  • lining up like items (not a red flag, but an oddity common in autistics)
  • perseverance (obsession) on particular items, objects, or toys
  • sensory sensitivities

So we set out on a path of therapy with our team, and I jumped in head first to books, articles, and information on the Web regarding autism.  Will she talk?  Will she relate to others?  Will she ever say, “I love you, Mommy”?  What did this mean for her and for us as a family?  Those days were so hard and exhausting, but I had an amazing team helping me through it and a supportive husband holding me up.  I also had an enormous God who knew what He was doing when He made her.  It might be an obstacle, but He makes no mistakes.

And these days, it’s hard sometimes to even see it in her.  We still have days, and every day there’s a little piece of her autism that shows itself, but it isn’t always a negative thing.  She loves animals, and she has had an obsession with one type or another ever since she could hug one.  We started with elephants, which she still loves.  Then we moved to butterflies.  We spent one day going to six, yes six, different stores to find a bathing suit with butterflies before going swimming because my MIL had kept hers to wash.  She could not even think about wearing a suit that didn’t have a butterfly on it.

After butterflies, it was whales, and after whales, it was, and IS, horses.  You also will often see her perseverations in relationships.  If you are her friend, you are her BEST friend!  It doesn’t matter your age, either.  She wants to be with you always, hug you, and make sure you know how much she loves you.  This sounds sweet, but it can freak out some people.  She can also perseverate on things like how she forms a letter or whether or not her numbers in a math problem line up just right.  She can get extremely upset if things don’t go just so, and she has a very difficult time bringing herself back down.  It’s easier now that she understands her stuff better and she can vocalize her sense of overwhelm, but it’s still hard when she is so upset that she screams so loud and intensely that she loses her voice.

The sensory side of her autism is tricky.  She is what you would call an “avoider”.  She can’t stand certain touches, textures, sounds, and smells.  Socks were a big deal for her.  She HATED the seams to the point that she couldn’t wear them unless they were seamless.  She also likes to wear as little as possible, because that means less is touching her skin.  She can’t wear loose clothing, like baby doll shirts, and she says it’s too wiggly.  Her shoes, jeans or pants, and even her underwear have to be very tight.  She was always so loud as a little person, but we learned that it was her coping mechanism for drowning out the excess noise she couldn’t handle.  This past Thanksgiving, a person in the neighborhood behind us was cutting their grass, and she couldn’t handle hearing it.  Some days she can, but we had family over, and when there is a lot going on, it’s hard on her.  The great part was that she has learned how to handle it.  She simply told me that she needed to go inside and lay down on my bed because she needed a break.

Now, the good side is that she loves more deeply, appreciates more greatly, and tries harder than most.  The last one is hard because it doesn’t seem fair that everything is harder for her, but she knows that pushing through is the only way she will experience life in a memorable way.  I’ll leave you with a great little story that explains what it is like to be her mom (and dad):

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.                               Welcome to Holland, by Emily Perl Kingsley

 

Funny how God works April 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 7:40 pm

Superman is smart.  There ain’t no other way to say it.  He was a nerd in school, making honor roll and graduating at the top of his class, and he continued that success in college, graduating with a Bachelors in Business Administration, with an emphasis in accounting, and a Masters degree in Accounting , still near the top of his class, Summa Cum Laude.  Did I mention he was married for part of that time?  We married after his sophomore, my freshmen, year in college.  I think he is just brilliant.  Apparently, his teachers and professors agreed.  He also landed a CFO position at a community bank with his only experience being auditing banks for a medium-sized accounting firm.  The boy is good.  I say all this so that you understand my dear one’s love of learning.  I love learning, as well, but he loves being in a classroom.  I only want to be in a classroom if I’m the teacher!

Early in our marriage, just after graduating but before we had kids, Superman expressed a desire to become a college professor, which as far as we understood, would require a PhD.  Folks, that’s more school, and money, that we didn’t have.  So, we talked about “one day”.  Then we had a daughter.  He fell in love head over heels with that girl.  And when we were surprised just four months after her birth with another pregnancy, he was the voice of reason and understanding.  “One day” would just have to wait a little longer.  Then God revealed to us this crazy plan to let Him decide how many babies we should have and when we should have them, and we thought the idea of teaching one day was gone.  It wasn’t His plan.  My husband is my mentor in accepting God’s plan for our life without complaining or questioning when it doesn’t line up with our own.  So he did just that.  We spoke of it for days of retirement, but he pretty much accepted it wasn’t going to happen.

Then, we moved.  We now live six houses down from a Christian college.  It has strong ties with our church, and we are a bit connected.  We joked that maybe he could pick up teaching a class or two one day, but we never really thought much more about it.  It turns out, though, that the president of the college is our former babysitter’s father, and his youngest daughter is a part of our children’s ministry alongside our daughters.  One day, while waiting to pick said daughters up from choir, they began chatting.  Turns out, our local Christian college is in need of an adjunct accounting professor.  Yep, the same college that is six doors down from our house, within walking distance.  AND, their requirements for being an adjunct professor includes holding a Masters degree, which it turns out Superman already has!  So, a transcript request, an application, and an interview later, Superman is going to be teaching a college course.  It may not be the path we envisioned, but it is His path.  Our path would have possibly put us in another state pursuing a PhD, not having our seven precious children, and winding up somewhere away from our family, which is hugely important to us.  It’s crazy, though.  Already, three times in our lives where we faced major decisions that we decided to release to Him and follow His lead, being content with right now, He has delivered in ways we never could have imagined!  Funny how God works when you step out of the way and let Him do His thing.  Yes, He can do it anyway, but He loves it so much more when we trust and follow His lead.

 

25 things April 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 4:10 pm

I love reading these lists about other people, and since two people I know have recently done something like this, I’m itching to do the same.  Here are 25 things you may or may not know about me…

  1. I married my high school sweetheart when I was 19 and he had been 20 for one week.  I regret some financial  decisions we made, but I do not regret marrying him so young.  A small wedding and free honeymoon (his aunt’s lake cottage) were worth it if it meant we could start our life together.
  2. I always wanted to be a teacher until I had kids, and then I wanted to stay home with my children.  Our moms gave us that gift, and when I was dating Superman, he and I knew that we wanted our kids to have the same thing.  Deciding to homeschool our children has allowed me to be both the stay home mom and a teacher, and I love it!
  3. I am a middle child and fit the typical description of one for many years!  I love my siblings dearly, and I am more vulnerable with them than anyone on this earth.  No one can pull the emotional side of me out, good and bad, like they can.
  4. I am a rule follower.  I can’t even drive in the wrong way in our church parking lot without feeling rotten.
  5. I have never understood the obsession with labels and name brands, although I love me a good pair of Clarks!
  6. My house is a wreck, and I think it would be even if I only had two kids.  I’m a messy, creative, disorganized soul, and no matter how hard I have tried or how many books I have bought on the topic, I cannot get organized.
  7. My parents are my earthly heroes.  I don’t think they are perfect, but I have so much respect for them.  I don’t think my dad will ever know how proud I am of him in his career path as a truck driver, which he is now retired from.  And my mom has this thing for dealing with kids that even folks with a degree in some child friendly career can’t even touch.  They are amazingly talented people.
  8. I love my church.  I wish everyone had a church they love as much as I love mine.
  9. I don’t know where I would be in my faith walk without the small group Bible studies I’ve done over the years through our church.  There is so much you can learn from others that have walked before you, along side you, and even those behind you.
  10. I prefer the toilet paper to roll off of the top of the roll, thanks to working at Chick-Fil-A as a teenager.
  11. I think I would have been placed on the high end of the autism spectrum as a child if they knew then what we know now.  I have many sensory issues and similarities with Cowgirl that make me think that apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
  12. I don’t want to be pregnant right now, and I’m not looking to reach a magic number.  I DO want to be a follower of God’s will for our lives, even if that means being pregnant right now.
  13. I prefer flip-flops, but I am supposed to wear tennis shoes with prescription arch supports for flat feet.
  14. I think true, sincere friendships are hard, but my three babes are totally worth it.
  15. Buying a brand new truck right out of college was the STUPIDEST thing I we ever did.
  16. Buying our first home was probably the second stupidest thing we ever did.
  17. I’m so glad I went to college and got my degree, but I have no desire for further formal learning.  I do, however, love reading books and researching all kinds of stuff.
  18. I let my teaching certificate expire, but I still think I can be the best teacher for my children.
  19. I have the best husband for me, and I’m so glad he’s mine.
  20. Raising boys is so much fun!  The girls are more of a challenge to me, but I think it’s because I feel the weight of getting it right with them more than I do with the boys.  Their daddy gets that weight.
  21. I want to raise my children to love God above everything else.  If they do that, He will work out the other stuff.
  22. I’m a problem solver.  I used to take it upon myself to be a solution to any problem that crossed my path.  I have to remind myself that God doesn’t need a side-kick in me and He has specific plans for me that are more important than being Oprah to everyone.
  23. I have way more days that I am overwhelmed with the blessings of a large family than I do days that I am overwhelmed by the laundry they produce.
  24. I taught myself how to sew, french braid hair, cut hair, and a few other things.  I feel a bit like a McGyver.
  25. I love the Andy Capp hot fries, but since they are too hot for me (yes, I’m a wimp), I prefer the Cheddar Cheese fries, which are hard to find.  I was so happy to find them at the Dollar Tree the other day!
 

The road to a friend’s house, well… April 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 3:21 pm

You’ve heard the saying, “The road to a friend’s house is never long”?  Well, whoever came up with that never traveled to my friend’s house in Virginia in a 15-passenger van with six children!  Hee-hee!  In all seriousness, the trip was worth it, no matter how long it turned out to be.  The plan was to head up to our friend’s house with five of our children while Dozer and Smiley stayed home with grandmothers.  We were going to head out after dinner with Smiley on Wednesday, since it was his birthday.  However, Superman’s mother came down with the viral bug that’s been going around, and I didn’t want to overwhelm my mother or take the risk of getting Smiley sick, so we took him along.  This meant taking the “many” van instead of the “mini” van, which we were a bit nervous about.  However, our mechanic said “Go for it, but take it easy” and off we went.

We departed at 12:15 am on Thursday morning, which was later than we had hoped.  We didn’t plan the packing part as well as we would have liked, so it delayed our leaving, along with the hiccup the change of plans caused.  The kids slept all the way up, waking at around 7:00 am, around the exit to Elon.  We stopped for CFA for breakfast and some playtime, and then we headed back out.  The kids kept asking “When are we going to be in Virginia?”  It was incessant!!!  Little did they know that her city is at the top of the state, and crossing the state line simply meant a few more hours of driving.  Fortunately for them, though, the welcome center had a little playground.  More leg stretching!

So, we get closer to our destination city, and traffic is awful.  Backed up due to road construction.  We decide to purchase a map and find an alternative route, which was a mistake.  Apparently, there are two cities in Virginia by the name of Springfield, and only one is on the map…AND, you guessed it, it wasn’t ours.  So we had a detour, which was a great place for the kids to get out and stretch their legs.  We packed bikes and ride-ons, so they got out and rode.  Unfortunately, when Superman packed up our bikes, he forgot the window in the back of the bus and put a handlebar through it.  Needless to say, he wasn’t happy about that.  The good news?  Our insurance will cover it.  If stress on the window created the break, it’s covered.  Superman said, “There was certainly some stress- MINE!”

Talking to our friend, before the breaking of the window

Eighteen hours after leaving our driveway, we arrive at our destination, never happier to be out of a vehicle!  We decide against getting out and trying to do anything, and instead let the kids get acclimated to their surroundings and comfortable with their friends.  Our friend made us dinner and then took Superman and me into the city to get a visual for planning our day the next day.  I slept through most of it, and while SM paid attention, he didn’t remember much because of his exhaustion.  The next day we headed out to DC.  Parking was…interesting.  Our bus wouldn’t fit in any of the parking decks, so we had to park eleven blocks outside of The Mall at the intersection of K and 6th street, which was funny because our friend that we were visiting, Super K, has a name that starts with K and is the mother of six children.  It wasn’t funny because it was 11 blocks away!!! We stopped to eat on the way in at Au Bon Pain, which is a yummy Atlanta Bread Co. type of place, and had some amazing mac & chz.  The kids were great, and we only got a few stares and questions!

Then we finally made it to Air and Space Museum.  Our goal was to hit it and the Natural History museum, which we managed to do.  The bad part of the day was that it was sooo cold, and I packed for warm weather.  Unfortunately, the temperature dipped 30 degrees from the 96 degrees that it was the day we arrived.  Our shorts and short sleeves were not enough to keep us warm.  We all have nice colds as proof.  Earnhart was awful in the museums.  It seems he decided we can’t do much to him to alter his behavior in a room full of people, and we won’t just leave because it means everyone misses out.  We must find a solution to this problem, or he’ll never go anywhere with us again.  Superman also took Picasso to see one of the art museums while the rest of us went to Natural History, but she wasn’t impressed because there were lots of nudes in the museum they picked.  She doesn’t understand why that is art.  To her, it’s just plain gross!  We took a break in between museums and threw the frisbee in the grassy area of the Mall while I fed the baby.  In all honesty, I think that was one of the highlights of the actual DC visit!

I love this picture!

The next day, we attended our friend’s soccer game, which they won, and then we headed out to Mt. Vernon for the afternoon.  It was packed, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  It turns out that George was a really smart fella!  He came up with all kinds of innovative strategies and designs for farming, and he was the first President of our country.  Super K kept saying how cool it was that he came up with all this stuff without an Internet to research it all!  People think I’m smart and creative, but I just know my way around a search engine!

Super "J"

The 16-sided barn he designed for thrashing wheat

My view while nursing Tipper on the front porch of the Mansion

The actual sword used by Washington in the French and Indian War

Washington, age 45, and his trusty horse Blueskin

They had a great learning center for 3-8 year olds. Perfect for us!

We returned home to our friend’s house to pack up and get ready to drive through the night again.  We had a yummy dinner, bathed people, and let the kids play trains a little bit more.  The kids in their family set up the trains for the kids in our family, and my kids absolutely loved it!  The boys were calling little Super J their new best friend the entire time we were there.  They loved him more than the trains!  We had a fun, but busy trip, with the highlight being the time we got to spend with the friends we love so dearly.  We hated to say goodbye, but we also missed Dozer and we were ready to get back to him.  Not to mention, we had a birthday party planned on Sunday afternoon for Dozer and Smiley.  The chaos never ends in our family, even on vacation.  No, make that especially on vacation!

The train city that the Super J kids set up for my kids

 

Easter love April 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 10:23 pm

We are so thankful that God gave us His Son so that we might be freed from our sins.  Wow.  It’s a sacrifice that is beyond words.  Imagine giving your only son or daughter to a world that didn’t even want him/her, a world that fights following that child every single day.  He climbed that hill of Calvary for us, was beaten and bruised and spat upon for us, and ultimately died on the Cross He carried… for us.  How do we thank Him?  How do we let Him know we appreciate that sacrifice?  Dressing in our Sunday best on Easter and attending church?  Sure, that doesn’t hurt, but He wants us to live our thankfulness and appreciation every day.  Are you?  As you ponder this, please enjoy the pictures of our family, celebrating that glorious day that He died so that we may live.

My mom in her happy place

The kids

My precious family

 

Who are these children???

Filed under: homeschooling — jps23 @ 10:08 pm

Now, before I even get started on this post, let me say that this observation is in regards to my family.  I’m not saying that this applies to everyone, so please don’t be offended.  Here goes…

Lately, my kids are acting kind of funny.  And when I say lately, I mean since we started going to school.  Now I don’t know if you’ve read earlier blog entries, but our schooling situation is unique this year.  We are a homeschooling family, but this year we are participating in a “homeschool co-op” through our church’s preschool, which I co-teach.  We have only 10 kids in Picasso and Cowgirl’s class, 11 in Mary Lou’s class, and the numbers are just under that for the boys’ rooms.  And these kids are pretty good kids.  No one curses, spits, or puts gum under the table.  They are wildly creative.  However, we have noticed a few things in the time that the kids have been amongst their new friends.  The first is that they don’t seem to value each other as much anymore now that they have “friends” they see daily.  They already had friends, but these are folks they see at church or an occasional get-together.  Having a friend they see four days in a row tends to lessen their “need” to have one another around.  As a result, they don’t treat each other as kindly, and they are not as patient with one another.  This isn’t anything these other children coerced them to do or anything.  They’ve just kind of re-prioritized their relationships with one another.  They got along better before when they spent more time with each other.  Now, after the weekends or a little school break, they do okay, a little more like they used to be, but they fight and fuss with each other like they never had before having these new friends.  The other thing we have noticed is the little things they’ve picked up on, which seem innocent enough, but they are just earlier versions of the really harmful and hurtful words and phrases people use with each other when they get older.  These are phrases that have never been said here, so I know they picked them up at school.  I also know they didn’t pick them up at church because they didn’t start saying these things until after school started.  Things like “You’re a meanie-bo-beanie!” and “You’re not my friend (buddy, cousin, etc) any more!”  And “poo-poo” is about as common as “and” or “the” amongst three-year-old boys, which I have one of, and his brothers like to keep up with him.  The girls don’t say inappropriate things so much, but they taunt one another or say “I don’t want to see/sit with/play with you anymore!”  One of the older girls’ classmates told a story about his dad stabbing a bull in his testicles, while another of their classmates likes to talk about his penis a little more than makes me comfortable.  And guys, I’m the teacher!  I’m right there, and I still can’t protect them from such things.  I know these kids’ parents a little, and they are nice, kind folks, but I don’t know if they use the same discernment in what their kids watch, listen to, or are exposed to.  We highly restrict what we let the kids watch for a reason.  There is so much that kids are exposed to so early now, and we as parents do it sometimes without even realizing what we are allowing to creep into our children’s hearts and minds.  We are old enough and discerning enough to know what to do with such information, but even we can be cast off track by letting too much unhealthy stuff influence our lives.  Now, I know that the kids will not always be perfect loving angels with one another, but we never saw this kind of interaction with each other before starting school, and while they need to be prepared to deal with stuff like this at some level, some day, I don’t want them to have to any earlier than necessary.  They are still very young, and while we are training them to be strong and bold in character, they aren’t quite there yet.

I am counting the days until the school year is over.  It’s been an experience, and we’ve made great friends along the way, but it just isn’t what our family is called to do.  Maybe God wanted us there this year for a special reason that didn’t have anything to do with us, and our presence was just a small part of a bigger picture.  Maybe I felt like I needed to do this to make paying for two houses possible, instead of trusting God to see us through that part since He opened that door for us.  I don’t know if I will ever know.  I do know that this year’s experience has further strengthened our hearts and minds regarding our decision to homeschool.  Yes, our kids learned a decent bit at school this year, but not all of it was good!  And who says they couldn’t have learned that here at home, and a little more?  We are so excited about conference time this year, and we have already signed up for both homeschooling conferences offered in our state!  Superman has decided to play a bigger role in our schooling adventures, and with the girls reading now, we have many different options in regards to curriculum choices.  Working independently is a huge step and a helpful tool in successfully teaching a large group of children on different levels.  Yes, I will still be teaching them, but there is so much kids can figure out on their own if you let them do it in an environment that honors their learning style.  I’m so excited, I can’t stand it!  We’re working on redecorating and rearranging the room we’ll be using as home-base for school, but we certainly will not be limited to learning in that room alone.  We will find ourselves in the kitchen, outside, and many other places for the optimal experience in learning.  There are no limits!!!  I wonder if anyone will say, “Oh, they are so smart!  They have learned so much at home!”  “School” gets all the credit right now.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see…