Content Amidst the Chaos

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So he does have fingernails? August 29, 2010

Filed under: S1,S2,S3 — jps23 @ 1:29 pm

Yesterday, we were outside in our backyard trying to take down a tree.  Don’t laugh.  It was only a little dogwood.  The problem we are having with it is A) it’s in the middle of everything, kind of in the way, and B) it had two trunks, with one trunk no longer producing leaves or flowers.

just behind Cowgirl's head, to the left of the swingset

What does this have to do with fingernails?  Well, while we were working on taking down a dogwood with a hand saw (wrong equipment, I know), Picasso asked why God couldn’t just clip His nails so that one could fall out of the sky and chop the tree down.  Yeah, she comes up with stuff like that all the time.  I explained to her that God doesn’t have fingernails.  Jesus was the form of God who came to earth  to live as Man, so He would be the one with the fingernails, not God.  Then we continued to take down the tree.

Fast forward to today, when we were sitting in church.  Now, this is a complex path to follow, so if you’re tired, you might want to come back later when your faculties are in better working order.  Today was Homecoming Sunday, and Family Sunday, which means the elementary kids attend worship with their parents, and because of Homecoming, that would be in the traditional service with hymns and choral presentations.  Now, our contemporary band did a bluegrass mix of hymns, which livened it up a bit, but these kids are used to rockin’ sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind of stuff in their service that goes on each Sunday morning upstairs.  Anyhow, they displayed the words to the music on big screens, and the back drop for one of these screens was a picture of three crosses, like the ones on Calvary.  Cowgirl whispered to me, “Why are there three crosses?”  I told her I’d explain after church.  Then Picasso asked, “Why did Jesus die on a cross?”  I told her the same thing.  I mean, she knows that He died on the cross for our sins and because He loves us, but she didn’t know WHY someone would put Him on a cross to die.

So, after church, we commenced our conversation about the three crosses and why He had to die on one in the first place.  When I explained that Jesus came in the form of man to live on earth, but that He is also God (the Trinity is hard for kids), Picasso replied “So He does have fingernails?”  I just couldn’t help but laugh!  Here were are being all deep and theological about the three crosses and why Jesus was put on one by religious leaders who didn’t believe Him to be the Son of God, and that’s what comes out of her mouth.  She then goes on to ask why the guy who was preaching talked about food in his sermon so close to lunch time.  “Didn’t he know we were all hungry?”  She also asked about the big black speakers that were hanging in the sanctuary, wondering why they couldn’t just put some glitter on them.  These were their Family Sunday reflections!

I laugh, but we also had a very serious conversation about some big things.  Cowgirl wanted to know about the three crosses.  They wanted to understand the process of how someone dies on a cross.  They wanted to understand what would motivate someone to allow a person, especially Jesus Christ, to die that way.  They also realized that though this was a horrific and painful death, that Jesus was willing to do it for us.  That because God the Father loves us, He sent His Son to live and walk among us, and eventually die a painful death on a cross for us, so that we could walk with Him eternally by allowing the Holy Spirit to live within us.

What did you learn at church today?

My little theologians


Days like this (lots of pics) August 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 9:42 pm

We get asked “How do you do it?” a lot.  The first thought that pops in my mind is “frequently”, thus the seven kids.  I jest.  I know they really want to know how we juggle it all.  There are days I want to know how we juggle it all!  We have a lot of days that are tough, and we usually drop something (don’t worry- it’s never a kid).  However, it is the days like today that remind me that it is worth every second of struggle or difficulty.  When I woke up this morning deciding to just be mom today, instead of working on prep for homeschool, housework, home decorator, craft planner, etc., the morning was a much better start to our day.  We decided to meet Superman for lunch because I had to go to the School Box (right near his bank), and I was going to have him help me with the kids.  The plan was McDonald’s with the awesomely huge playground, but when Superman got there to order ahead (one of our out-to-eat strategies), there was no playground.  They had torn it down!  Now, kids don’t do well with “We were going to go to the playground but now we’re not.”  However, today I got no flack from anyone!  Smiley (3) said, in his sweet little voice, “Hey, I have an idea!  Let’s meet Daddy at the Zaxby’s table!”  So we did.  And those perfect little angels grabbed their buddies’ hands and waited for me to unload the baby before crossing the parking lot.  It was a Duggar moment, if we ever had one!  Lunch was pretty calm and uneventful.  I decided to do the School Box without Superman, since our meal plan adjustments took a little extra time.  They were a little chatty, but quiet in their chatter.  Bulldozer put the stuff away that he picked up as we walked past it without me having to pry it out of his hands.  Bonus.  They were patient as I picked out our wall calendar for school, offering their opinions, but not getting upset when I went with something different.  They didn’t beg for me to buy them anything at all.

From there, we were supposed to drop by the park, but I could tell they were tired, and I don’t like meltdowns farther than 10 feet from my front door.  I took them home instead, which again, they did not complain about.  I said that we might go later, when Daddy got home, and they were fine with that.  We played outside ALL AFTERNOON, watching the tree guys cut down some trees in our neighbor’s backyard (the house directly behind us, not the mean neighbor, although he finally took down his tacky yellow string divider between our yards).  We came inside just before Daddy was to get off of work, and I knocked out baths with the boys, which Superman normally does at night.  I think I was his favorite person today.  We didn’t go to the park, but they didn’t complain!  If I could sum up the day, I would say that it was a day of contentment in this family, which is a struggle with little kids who have no concept of that sort of thing.  If I could sum it up with pictures, you’d have this…


couldn't get all 7 on at once

Dozer and Smiley

Earnhart, driving something, of course

He kept wanting me to take his picture!

He's not always smiling...

She loves all of them so much.

He thought this was a cool trick.

Popsicle break

Sweet Earnhart was helping Smiley ride his bike.

Even Tipper joined us outside.

Now, I did not get anything done in the arena of preparing for school, besides buying the stuff I needed from the School Box.  And I did punch out the numerous squares that come in the calendar packets.  The house isn’t any cleaner dirtier than it was when we left.  No dinner was fixed for later in the day.  No laundry done.  No floors swept.  However, I was reminded by an old high school friend on Facebook tonight, that what we did today is the stuff that matters.  I don’t remember the moments my parents buzzed around the house “getting things done”, but I have lots of memories of time spent together.  I read a beautiful note on another blog I love, A Holy Experience, that put it beautifully.  (I’ve tried summarizing it and just keep deleting it, so maybe you should read it here.  It’s in the gray box at the end of the post, signed by Anna Margaret of Louisiana.)  I love days like this.


33 and 13 August 18, 2010

Filed under: Superman — jps23 @ 2:41 pm

I’ve always liked the number three.  I think it is mostly because I am one of three children in my immediate family.  So these two milestones that are upon our household are on my mind a little more than usual.  Which milestones, might you ask?  Well, 33 years ago today, my mother-in-law was about to embark on an experience that would change her life forever.  She was about to give birth to her first-born son.  Superman was also the first grandchild in the family on both sides, so a lot of lives were changed by his birth.  A child changes you.  Lots of people like to lie to themselves and say they are the same person they were before having kids.  Whatever.

The second milestone happened just days after that sweet little boy turned 20.  Thirteen years ago on the 23rd (there’s that three again), he took me as his bride.  I was 19 and 1/2.  Yes, we were crazy… in love.  And marriage is something else that changes you.  At least if you want it to last, it does.  This guy won me over at the ripe old age of 15 years old.  We were in band together, and we became really great friends and quickly developed a crush on each other.  I’m not good with dates, but one I do remember is November 1993.  It was the first time we held hands, at a marching band competition, nonetheless.  We sat on the steps between the high school and the middle school, talking about getting married and our “ideal” family (We planned four kids, three years apart, thank you very much.  I know God laughed at us that day).  And we have weathered quite a bit over the past thirteen years.  I love him more than I could have ever imagined.  Never have I thought that I made a mistake marrying my high school sweetheart, that I settled without knowing who or what was out there in this great big world.  I wake up every day grateful that God gave him to me, and that He equipped him to put up with me!  It hasn’t been perfect.  It’s been a learning experience, for sure.  But remember?  We like to learn.  We love each other desperately.  I want my daughters to marry a man just like him.  I want my sons to be men just like him.  And I want to be married to him for many, many years to come.


Back to school! August 4, 2010

Filed under: homeschooling — jps23 @ 4:24 pm

It’s the first week of August, and my nephews and niece started school this week.  My two other nephews start school next week.  Wow.  It’s still in the 90’s here in Georgia and the kids are already back in school.  I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to shift gears between the swimming pool and the cafeteria.

We will be “starting school” in September, right after Labor Day.  What’s with the quotation marks, you ask?  Do you not feel like your school is real school?  Let me explain my quotation marks.  Superman and I are lifelong learners.  I talked a little about that in this post.  Our kids love to learn, too, because learning at home is fun!  They aren’t reading information out of a textbook that they have to turn around and memorize for a test.  They are learning through every day experiences around here and out in the world.  SM and I are intentional in that venture.  “Did you notice that?”  “Do you know why they do it that way?”  “Why do you think it works like that?”  These are all questions we ask, IF they don’t ask first!  So while we aren’t doing structured academic instruction right now, they have been learning.  They sit and write their names or alphabet for fun.  I think Smiley, the three year old, knows how to spell his name because Picasso, the eight year old, loves writing and drawing so much and has worked with him on the letters in his name over the summer.  We love to learn through real life experiences!  Which is why the curriculum list I am about to share with you is not long and overly extensive, like most.  I don’t know how some of these homeschooling mamas keep up with it all!  Anyhow, the following is a list of resources I will be using this school year, starting after Labor Day:

  • Trail Guide to Learning: Paths of Exploration– This is a brand new curriculum that is based on the works of Ruth Beechick and has a very heavy Charlotte Mason element.  It covers history, geography, science, language skills, and art.  It uses nature study, narration and dictation, living books (aka real books vs textbooks), and copywork.  Charlotte Mason encourages the language skills in a more formal manner later, so that learning mechanics doesn’t get in the way of learning content.  Her approach encourages children to learn through reading quality literature with examples of good mechanics.  This curriculum also includes ready-made lesson plans, which I struggled over allowing myself to use.  I have a degree in doing that stuff, so I don’t need to pay someone for that kind of thing.  However, I am at a busy season in life with four young, wild boys in addition to my three creative girls, so I’m letting that one go.  I don’t have to do it all.  The other great thing about this curriculum is that it focuses on teaching critical thinking skills.  It isn’t just cramming our kids’ heads with knowledge.  This curriculum starts with US history and moves into world history next year.  It has a Bible component available, but we ave something for Bible already.
  • My Father’s World (1st grade curriculum)– I purchased this to use with Picasso two years ago, and wound up not using it to its full capacity.  I will be using the Bible element of the curriculum for our Bible instruction.  We will be starting a time line notebook to use throughout our schooling, adding our history from POE to it, as well.
  • Math- This is the area where I am winging it this year.  I looked at two particular curricula that were very hands-on and concrete, which is what Cowgirl needs, especially.  I already have the manipulatives, and the workbooks were simply white sheets of paper with practice problems.  The girls are also in three different places, with one beginning double-digit addition and subtraction, one still mastering that concept, and one that is beginning to understand multiplication.  I have a variety of resources that I will pull together to get them through math this year.  It’s one of my strong subjects, so I’m not real worried about getting it right.  This is an area where I am saying not to $100+ curriculum that does what I can do on my own.
  • We will be starting the year with some music theory to prepare the girls for learning their instruments.  Picasso will be learning violin with The Violin Book, Cowgirl wants to learn (you guessed it) guitar, and Mary Lou wants to learn the recorder in preparation for learning the flute.  I hope for the three of them to also learn piano, but I’m not sure if I will do private lessons or just purchase a curriculum for this.  SM and I are band nerds, but neither of us plays piano.
  • We will do picture study (art), music study (composers), and handicrafts, in keeping with Charlotte Mason’s ideas for learning.  We will also play outside daily for PE, take trips for nature study so we don’t over study our own backyard, and learn skills pertaining to health and self-care on a daily basis.
  • The boys will be doing a few different things.  They’ll attend some of what the girls are doing, especially Bible, and a good deal of their instruction will come from the 1+1+1 blog.  She has wonderful, practical ideas that we started using two years ago.  I also found a great study of the alphabet for free from Confessions of a Homeschooler.  It is AWESOME!  And did I mention it is free???  Earnhart and Smiley already know their letters, upper and lower, and their sounds, so we have a head start, but at this age, repetition is key.  It will help Dozer learn more of his letters (I was surprised the other day to learn that he knows some already), too.  Earnhart is a preschooler by age, so his stuff will be a little more advanced than the other boys’ stuff.

To you non-homeschoolers, this might seem like a lot.  However, visit many hs’ers blogs and you will find a curriculum list a mile long.  No thank you.  That is not for us.  I love the ideas of Charlotte Mason, and all that I am using has a foundation in CM.  I am looking forward to beginning the school year.  The kids ask me on a regular basis when we are going to “start our homeschool”.  It can be overwhelming to think about some days, since my nature does not include the word organized in any way, shape, or form.  I’m working on that, and have been for a while.  But mostly, I’m praying about it because it is going to take an act of God to help me get that way!

The Atlanta Botanical Garden, where I plan to take many nature walks with the kids this year!


The Living/family/play room August 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jps23 @ 10:21 pm

If you know me well, you know I change things up around the house a bit.  I don’t just rearrange furniture.  I rearrange rooms.  It started out of necessity.  We were an eight-member family living in 1,100 square feet.  In older homes, floor plans are more flexible.  So, the living room had been a bedroom, a bedroom became a family closet, and the kitchen was often a laundry room.  Now we are in a larger home, but an old one still, so there is lots of room for flexibility.  I moved into this house thinking that since it was bigger, I would be able to have what “normal” people have in their house, and I would still have room for the kids.  So we started out with a pretty living room with boring neutral colors.  It is the biggest room upstairs, but it was supposed to be mine and Superman’s space, with the kids’ space being in a room off of the back of the house used as a playroom.  Since it was a playroom, its walls were painted vibrantly, including one “pumpkin spice” colored wall, an almost turquoise wall, a nice earthy green wall, and the brick wall, still unpainted.  It also had a really cool ramp in it from when my grandmother lived here.  The boys loved rolling their cars down it and riding their ride-on toys down it.

before we removed the railing

I would have pretty things in my living room that would not be touched or broken because the kids would not be allowed in there except to watch t.v.- without toys and without food or juice cups.  Yeah.  You are exactly right in  your assumption.  It didn’t work.  Our kids enjoy being with us, and we enjoy being with our kids.  Not to mention, our dining room was small, and once we got a table in there big enough to fit all of us, you couldn’t take a breath too deep or you would crack the plaster wall behind you.  So we changed it.  Because you know what???  We live here.  All nine of us, and ten now, if you count our college friend, Roomie.  The people in the magazine don’t live here, so it doesn’t have to meet their approval.  And while a certain relative of mine pours herself into making her house meet the latest trends and suggestions, she has no one come over to see it.  Ever.  What’s the point?  So this is what we have in our house.  The rooms may not be the same as yours, but that’s okay.  We live here, not in your house, and you live in your house, not in our house.  We have a living/family/play room.  The kids still call it a play room, but it is where we veg on the couch, watch t.v., and just plain play.  It is where we live, although our definition of living is so very different from many others’.  The wall colors are still the same, and we are hoping to paint the brick a bright red to go with the other vibrant colors.  It would match this beautiful fabric from IKEA.

FREDRIKA fabric from IKEA

We have an office in our former dining room.  It has a love seat, two bookshelves, a desk with too many papers piled on top, and a file cabinet.  It is open into the dining/school/music room.  Superman’s great-aunts gave us a large dining room table with eight chairs, and we moved it into the biggest room we had- our former living room.  We could move around the table and just spread out.  The two leaves to the table stay in at all times, and we have extra chairs.  We eat, craft, color, read, draw, play cars, and we will be doing school there in about two weeks, all around the big table.  This room also houses our homeschooling supplies.  It is the home to the player piano that my aunt graciously gave us, which I hope the kids will learn to play someday.  We are also planning to do the majority of our school work in there, and we are hoping to build a nice bench seat in front of the large windows that look straight into the trees.  It would give us somewhere to crawl up with a good book, away from the television.  We’ll also use this room to teach the kids their instruments.  It will be filled with sounds of the violin, recorder, and guitar in a matter of weeks.  We have four rooms currently being used as bedrooms: the girls are downstairs in the biggest room in the house with three loft beds and their very own stage; three of the boys in the room my mom lived in after her sister went away to college, on two cool sets of bunk beds from IKEA; Roomie’s room, which is the room that belonged to my mom before she got her sister’s room; and our bedroom, which is also home to the baby’s bed.  We have a spare room downstairs that is in need of some improvements that we have neither time nor money for right now, and the half of the basement that is unfinished, which houses our laundry and has the potential to become a great playroom one day.  It is also where we store our extra refrigerator, our extra food shelves, and an upright freezer.  Right now, it stores everything else that doesn’t have a home.  We’re working on it.

We also have the potential for three bathrooms.  They are small ones, mind you.  Two upstairs, which work fine, but are ugly old tile and quite cozy, and a third one downstairs, which needs to be completely gutted and renovated.  The two upstairs share a wall with the plumbing for the sink, so my dream is that we move the plumbing and knock that wall out to make one big bathroom.  One day…

We do have a kitchen, which no longer has to be a laundry room, and we are hoping to one day knock out the wall between it and the office to increase our kitchen size and capabilities.  Maybe by then, that spare room downstairs can be renovated and become our office.

You won’t find our house in a magazine, unless it’s a “This house needs a makeover” edition!  But it works for us, and I guess since we are the ones that live here, that’s okay.