I Give Up. I’m Just Going to Sit Here and Cry.

I love my kids so fiercely, sometimes I can’t inhale air.

Parenting our four boys is the most difficult, gut-wrenching, frustrating, exhausting, awesome, joyful, incredible, amazing gift.  Watching our boys create music and movies together, play pick-up games of soccer or basketball together, laugh at inside jokes together, work outside with their dad together – really.  I fear that I might explode with love and happiness right here in my chair.

There’s all the other stuff too, so don’t think that I don’t hate every minute of puke and sibling arguments and disobedience.  Daily I have to get on my knees, giving my boys’ future over to God, knowing that as a human parent, I alone do not have what it takes – not even a little bit – to create in their hearts an attitude of Christ.  I hang onto the promise that God has a plan for our kids, and He will work out in them His perfect plan.  In spite of me, with me, without me, on behalf of me – God is working in our kids’ hearts.

I’ll take every bit of the “did I not just tell you three times to put your shoes in the closet?” and endure all the rounds of “mom he keeps touching me but he touched me first please make him stop touching me” and persevere through the “he said this to me I was just kidding no you weren’t” stuff.  If only they would always be magically perfect and work outside with their dad so that watching their precious actions would steal away my breath and overtake my heart with joy.  There’s all that and then there’s all the mud smeared into the rug that nobody claims.  But I’ll take it.  I’ll take it all, and I’ll even appreciate being right here, right now, doing this thing with its grass stains and question marks.

Because here’s the deal.  The six of us?  Matt and me and our four boys in this house?  We’ve spent so many years of our lives together working and schooling and living and laughing and arguing and learning and problem solving and crying and traveling and reading and tripping over shoes that still didn’t get put into the closet.  Our oldest turns 17 in one week.  In the fall?  He will be a senior in high school.

I am full of joy, excitement, and hope for what God has for Asa and all of our family after next year.  I realize life doesn’t end when our oldest graduates.  But the truth is that life as the six of us – the way it is now – changes.  It’ll never be the same, because it’s not supposed to be.  This is all part of the journey.

Today, that makes me cry.  The recent graduation parties we’ve attended for friends has put into perspective that this will be us next year.  Then this morning, I got up at 3:30 to see Asa and 14 others off at the airport as they head to Ecuador to do 10 days of mission work.  Watching his grown up self smile and wave as he went through that gate pretty much did me in.

Here’s our 4:45 am picture, right before he went inside to check on his luggage.  Yes, he does keep getting taller.  No, I did not brush my hair this morning.

asa leaving for ecuador

I’m so proud of that kid, I could cry.  Oh wait.  I am crying.  I decided to give up on holding it in, and just sit here and feel it for a while.  Feel the pride, love, wonder, amazement, excitement, joy…and sadness.  At the same time.

Tears.  They are good.  God.  He is very good.  Because of that, I truly can feel peace about the future of my kids and our family, however it looks.

But when I need to cry, I’m going to cry.  Praise God for tears.  And Kleenex.

Art Supplies, Science Experiment Books – So Many Ideas to Keep the Kid’s Summer Fun and Productive

Preparing For a Great Summer With Your FamilyIf I let them, my younger boys would whittle away the hours and have little to show for it.  They’d dink around, goof off, waste time, and then get bored and pick on each other.  My boys are fun and creative, but they still need some sort of structure during their summer days.

This week is our first official week of summer break.  June and July will be quite full with church camps, family reunions, swimming, and time with cousins.  The month of May is typically our time to play catch up and do some creative learning that we don’t always have time for during our August-April school year.  So right now?  We’re filling our boys’ days with fun productivity.

You might remember the list I posted a few weeks ago, sharing some fun ideas we plan to use to keep our boys busy:

  • Play card and board games
  • Create more music and videos
  • Play games outside
  • Learn more card tricks
  • Learn more cooking/kitchen skills
  • Get together with friends and cousins
  • Help Dad with home improvement projects
  • Read books (maybe offer a summer reading challenge?)
  • Clean out bedroom, boxing up toys they no longer play with
  • Work through a science experiment book
  • Clean out the basement (who knows what treasures will be discovered!)
  • Learn to make homemade ice cream
  • Swim often and improve water skills (while getting Vitamin D – woot!)

In addition, here are some practical lessons we’re teaching the boys this month:

  • Household chores they haven’t learned yet.  Summer break is a great time to focus on teaching cleaning skills like mopping, washing windows, or anything we haven’t taken the time to show them how to do.  The boys are, of course, thrilled to learn these skills.  :)
  • Outdoor games.  The boys received a badminton set for Christmas and can now finally set it up and use it.
  • Music lessons.  A couple of my boys have shown interest in learning to play the guitar.  I’m going to look into this more seriously this summer.
  • Art.  I just found this $40 Darice 80-Piece Deluxe Art Set for just $18.21, and I snatched it up.  My boys really do enjoy learning to create art – I just need to take time to sit down with them and work on it.

darice art set

Regarding the science experiment books in the list above, when I mentioned this idea to my boys, they got pretty excited.  Now to just find a book that will teach them and be fun.  I found the TIME For Kids Big Book of Science Experiments: A step-by-step guide and thought it looked great.  Anyone else have good suggestions for this?

time science

What other great ideas do you have for keeping kids learning and productive in the summer?

This post contains affiliate links.

Preparing For a Great Summer With Your Family

During all the seasons of the year…homemaking is fun.  I love hot chocolate, snow, snuggling up by the fire, and all the fun foods that come with wintertime.  But I’m ready for a break from all of that because I LOVE sunshine!!!!!

Summertime is my very favorite.  I love the time off from schooling, the fun projects, the camps, the garden, the family reunions, the swimming, the cook-outs…and the sunshine!!  (Someone certainly likes her Vitamin D, doesn’t she?)

Preparing For a Great Summer With Your Family

Our family is wrapping up our school year – as in, we’re down to just a few remaining unfinished subjects, and I’m starting to have boys wander around the house looking for something to do to fill the time.  I love this time of year (because the sun is shining!) as we find ourselves with extra time to do the fun projects we’ve not had time to do with a full school schedule.

It is so much fun to see our boys being creative in their downtime.  I’m seeing fun Lego projects appear and new videos created.  I’m hearing new songs on the piano, our synthesizer, and our music software.  I’m seeing games being played that haven’t been pulled off the shelves in months.  I’m watching activity outside, loving that the boys can finally run around in the yard again (and mess up the grass that is trying to grow).

monopoly

I’m also already starting to hear the words, “Mom, I don’t have anything to do.”  Yep, the dreaded sentence.

I never like to follow that sentence up with, “Well, you can go fold laundry” because somehow I feel that my children would then forever and always run far from me when they’re looking for something to do, thus resulting in much wasted time in the long run.  My goal is to come up with ideas for fun projects and activities that will keep them busy and productive.  The laundry?  Oh yes, they can definitely fold that in their spare time – you know, after they’ve cleaned out the dishwasher and gone outside to bury the compost.  ;)

Our boys are ages 9-16 right now, so gone are the days of blowing bubbles and splashing around in a kiddie pool.  Your list of ways to keep your kids busy might differ from mine, based on the ages and interests of your kids.  But here are a few ideas I have for my kids to keep them busy during the next few months:

  • Play card and board games
  • Create more music and videos
  • Play games outside
  • Learn more card tricks
  • Learn more cooking/kitchen skills
  • Get together with friends and cousins
  • Help Dad with home improvement projects
  • Read books (maybe offer a summer reading challenge?)
  • Clean out bedroom, boxing up toys they no longer play with
  • Work through a science experiment book
  • Clean out the basement (who knows what treasures will be discovered!)
  • Learn to make homemade ice cream
  • Swim often and improve water skills (while getting Vitamin D – woot!)

I’d love to hear what ideas you have for making it a great summer with your family.  What do your kids like to do, or what would you like them to learn this summer?

And be sure to check out the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle as a fantastic resource.  (Only 5 more days!)

Homeschoolers Always Never

Homeschoolers are brilliant, hard working, and mature.  They always do well on standardized tests.  They each play at least one musical instrument, beginning at the age of three.  They can each speak at least two languages fluently.  They always graduate early and become neurosurgeons at the age of 22.  They always come from huge families.

Homeschoolers never get enough social interaction.  They never have opportunities to participate in group projects or have class parties.  They never eat Doritos.

Homeschoolers Always Never

I always cringe inside and I never feel like conversations like this build anyone up or glorify God.  So can we stop with stereotypes and generalities already?  Statements about what homeschooled kids always or never do is painful, ignorant, and downright silly.  I’m not just talking about what those who ”don’t get homeschooling” say.  I’ve heard some of these statements from homeschooling families too.

Is it true that public schoolers always get into trouble, do drugs, disrespect their teachers, and slough off during high school?  Of course not.  Just like there are all varieties of students in the public school – ranging from scholarly to bully to godly to needy to athletic to healthy to highly intelligent to drama queen – so it is with homeschoolers.

Can I tell you a homeschooling truth?  Some students are only “average” (which, for the record, is defined as normal, typical, and common – and therefore nothing to be ashamed of).  Some of them struggle to read and write.  Some knock the socks off the ACT and other standardized tests, but some do not.  Some are musically inclined, while some are completely tone deaf.  Some love learning foreign languages and some barely master speaking the English language using complete sentences.  (Like, yeah. I know right? Totally.)

Homeschooling does not ensure that kids will grow up to follow the Lord.  Public schooling does not turn out robots.  Homeschooling does not make kids anti-social.  Public schooling does not provide more opportunities.  Raising kids, no matter how you choose to do it, takes work, patience, and an immense trust and reliance on God - the One who created all of us uniquely for His glory.  I am raising four boys in the same house, feeding them the same food, passing down jeans from one boy to the next, reading them the same books, teaching them the same math, and talking the same talk daily to all of them at the same time.  Would you believe that all four of them are all very different in their talents, interests, learning styles, and personalities?  I’m fairly certain that none of them have any interest in becoming a French speaking, cello playing, neurosurgeon.  Thankfully, I realize that this doesn’t mean I have failed as a homeschool mom.  I see their God-given talents shining in other ways.

Homeschoolers, public schoolers, private schoolers, adults, children, men, and women are individuals with unique talents, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.  Each one of us is always never anything less than God created us to be.  Let us never make a generalized statement that might belittle that truth.

P.S.  I thought it may be of interest to note that last night, our family ate a meal with a group of homeschoolers.  We all shared a bag of Doritos.

101 Pre-School Projects – Free Download!

It’s warm, it’s cold, it’s windy, it’s raining, it’s cloudy…yes indeed:  It’s March.

I’ve had fun this week pulling out some project ideas that have been buried throughout my website.  Did you make some Homemade Bubble Bath?  That’s a super simple idea your kids can have fun making with you.

In an effort to shed some sunshine upon all of us struggling with a touch of spring fever, I opened up a freebie I had put together a few years ago, tweaked a few things, and redesigned the cover to make it available to you again.  If you and your kids are going stir-crazy, I believe you’ll find an activity or twelve to do together in this free eBook.

101 Preschool Projects Free Download

Yep, there are over 100 ideas, recipes, games, and activities for you to read through and pick from.  Kids older than pre-school age are sure to have fun with these ideas too.  These ideas came from moms and grandmothers – all Heavenly Homemaker Readers.  All of you are so creative, which is what makes this eBook so much fun!

You’ll be able to use this eBook year round, as it has fun ideas for outdoors too.  Help yourself to this fun, free eBook.  Spread the word to your friends so that they can come get their free eBook too!  Together, we will survive this crazy weather!

Download 101 Preschool Projects eBook Here

I Love Being a Mom! It’s Being a Parent That Knocks Me Flat.

Oh, my boys.  Sometimes at night, I tip-toe into their room and watch them all sleeping like angels.  My heart swells, I forget to breathe, and I wonder at a God who could be so amazing as to bless us with such perfect gifts.

When we all play games together, we laugh and hoot and participate in all varieties of crazy antics which means that we’re making memories that we will all hold dear (and will likely bring up during their wedding rehearsal dinners).  When we pray together and I hear how they are growing in the Lord, I marvel at their faith.  Like Mary, I treasure these things up in my heart.

I remember meeting them for the first time, trying their chosen name on for size, watching them dream.  I look back at their baby pictures and can still feel their silky skin and downy hair on my cheek.  I revel in the memory.   Ooh, baby, I love being a mom.

Yes.  Being a mom is glorious.  But being a parent?  It’s challenging enough to make a no-nonsense military commander pass out cold.

family_4_sm

Ahhhh, motherhood bliss.
As this picture clearly shows, my life as a mom is free of issues such as
sibling arguments, vomit, rules declared to be unfair, and head lice.

Parenting involves so much more than simply being a mom (or a dad).  If only it was all about picking out cute little clothes for a baby, giggling with a precious chunky toddler, and snuggling with a little guy who is first learning to read.  Those mommy moments are delicious.  But teaching a child to obey, training a child to be respectful and to listen, disciplining in love, gracefully handling differences and arguments, being consistent, and growing a child up in the Lord?  That takes more work, energy, effort, and ambition than building an ark.  Not that I’ve ever built an ark.  I mean, how could I?  I’ve been too busy trying to parent my kids.

I didn’t quite know what I was signing up for when I became a mom.  This parenting gig is hard.  Walking our kids through relationships, loving them through heartbreaks, cheering them on through losses, and taking time to listen when we’re so tired we can’t think straight?  It’s hard.  Developing their character, teaching them to manage money, preparing them to be independent, and having patience with them when we are correcting them again for the same thing we just corrected them for five minutes ago?  It’s hard.

It’s much easier to plop the kid in front of the TV to watch shows all day to avoid having to deal with being a parent.  It’s much easier to ignore the defiance and bad attitudes so that we don’t actually have to come up with an appropriate discipline for the behavior.  Or is it?

Our parenting years are hard, but so is anything else that is worth doing right.  The truth is, we’re much more capable of rocking this job than we think we are.  After all, God has equipped us.  He continues to equip us.

So stand tall.  Sit up straight.  Muscle up, and put on a confident smile.   Our most important role as parents is to surrender ourselves and let God work through us.

And never forget to tip-toe into their rooms at night to admire their adorable sleeping faces.  God gave them those faces because He knew how much we’d need the heart-melting reminders of our love for them after we see boogers smeared across the wall above their beds.

Books We’re Reading this Year

Books, books, the magical fruit.  The more you read, the more you…

Oh wait.  Wrong poem.  Sometimes I get confused.  Although I’m sure if I threw that poem starter out to my boys, they’d be sure to finish it with something creative.  And by creative, I mean gross.

I am excited to share that all four of our boys are now all independent readers.  It was a little slow in coming for our youngest, who is now a 3rd grader.  But late this summer, it all clicked for him.  He now loves reading!  Last week he said, “I can’t believe math used to be my favorite.  Now reading is so much fun!”  Awesome - just what I love to hear.  (Although you still have to do your math, Buddy.)

malachi_reading

Here are some of the books currently at the top of our reading list for the year:

Boxcar Children Books
These books were some of my favorites when I was little.  (You know I had my very own boxcar, right?  Okay, it wasn’t my very own.  I shared it with my cousins.)  All of our boys have loved the Boxcar Children books, and now I am reading them to Malachi (age 8).  Elias (age 11) has already read most of these books, but sits in to listen when he can, because who can resist?

boxcar_children

Ralph Moody Books

We read through most of the books in this series (as a family) a year ago, and now I’m having my two older boys read the last few on their own.  What I love most about these books is that they show how important it is to be a hard worker, how much fun it can be to work together as a family, and how if you put your mind to it – you can always find a way to provide.  I am so inspired by these books, and my boys love the adventure aspect they include.

Books by Clyde Robert Bulla

These are the first chapter books our boys have read.  We have about eight of them on Malachi’s shelf this year – and he’s made his way through two of them already.  I love that Clyde Robert Bulla keeps his vocabulary simple and easy to read – all while teaching history and making his books fun and intriguing.  When I pulled these books out for Malachi, all three of his brothers said, “Oh, he gets to read those this year?  Malachi, you will love them.”  I love hearing the boys talk together about books they’ve all read.

clyde_robert_bulla

Ramona the Pest Series

Malachi pulled his first Ramona book off the shelf this year, too.  So far he’s loving it, just like his brothers did.  I read this series several times when I was younger.  It’s so much fun re-reading these books with my kids.

ramona_2

Christian Heroes Books

I can’t say enough good about all of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now books by Janet and Geoff Benge.  We’ve actually decided to use about 15 of these books this year to go along with our History/Geography studies with Justus, Elias, and Malachi.  What better way to study the culture and history of a country than to learn about missionaries who worked there?  These books are so well written and inspiring!

I also have to share that as we reach the end of each book, Justus (age 13) likes to point out, “You know Mom, this is the chapter when the missionary dies and you cry.”  Pshaw.  Okay, fine.  So I cry at the end of all of these (and the Ralph Moody Books, and just about every other book I read aloud to the boys).  I can’t help it.

benge

In addition to these sets of books, our three older boys are all reading lots of books from the Sonlight reading lists for their grade level.  Asa (a junior in high school) is reading some Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, The Hiding Place (you MUST read this!), and quite a few others Sonlight recommends.

What books are you and your kids reading these days?  I know I’m not the only mom who cries at the end of a good book.  Help me out here – do you get choked up when you’re reading books to your kids?

Thanks For Letting Me, Mom

Matt had been gone all day with the York College soccer team at an out-of-state game.  The boys and I stayed home to get school work done, can tomatoes, and forget to put our shoes where they go.  (It happens so regularly that I figure I might as well put it on our to-do list.  “Leave shoes in the middle of the living room floor…check.”)

It was late-afternoon, right around Mom’s starting to get really tired and not able to make rational decisions anymore o’clock.  The school work was all finished, the tomatoes were in jars and their lids had said “ping.”  I was finishing some work at the computer and about to get up to start dinner.  That’s when my eight year old asked the question.

“Mom? Can I make a ‘Welcome Home’ sign for Dad and put it on the front door and then can I turn the living room into a Lego Adventure Land by bringing all of my Lego platforms with the Lego guys and the clone bases down and set them up on the big white table in the middle of the floor {by the shoes we didn’t put away} so that when Dad comes home tonight he’ll be so excited and he’ll get to see all of the Lego Adventure stuff we set up and he’ll love it so much!”

With joy, I smiled and grabbed him up in huge bear hug and said that I could think of nothing better so please start bringing down every Lego we own and let’s also get out glitter.

But what I actually did in real life was give him a look which clearly stated, “Did you forget that it is now half past Mom can’t stand the idea of seeing one more mess?”  And then out loud I was able to mutter, “Probably not but let me think about it.” Since that was so very nearly a ”yes” he ran upstairs to start making Lego zip lines.

After dinner, he brought up his idea again, which had now developed into a bigger attraction since his original idea about transforming our living room wasn’t quite big enough and now the kitchen table and countertops needed to be included as well.  Dinner had helped my mental state significantly, but no amount of protein can make me excited about turning 1000 square feet of house into a Lego Adventure two hours before bedtime.

Together we came up with a compromise.  He could make the signs for the door.  I would help.  And he could use the kitchen table if he helped clear it off first and if he promised that I wouldn’t be finding Lego bricks in the butter two weeks from now.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so excited.  Some of his brothers even joined in.  They set up the entire table with a Lego Adventure any dad would be pleased to see after being away from home, on the road, and in the hot sun for 16 hours.

Once the set-up was complete and we were headed to bed, Malachi grabbed me and squeezed the life out of my mid-section saying, “Thank you so much for letting me.  That was so much fun.  Dad is going to love it.”

I am happy to share that not only did saying yes to Malachi’s request bring him much joy, it didn’t even kill me a little bit.  Perhaps I should get past my I love how creative you are but can’t we just this once sit down and read books quietly feelings more often.

The next morning, God and I were able to share our quiet time with no less than 47 Lego guys, some of whom were balancing on one leg even better than my yoga instructor.

legos_with_breakfast

Matt had loved his welcome home – from the sign on the door to the Lego Adventure that made us all hold our breakfast plates in our laps as we ate together that morning.

welcome_dad_sign

Would you look at that.  We forgot the glitter.

Helping Your Kids Develop Their Talents

Special thanks to 10KtoTalent for sponsoring this post.  Matt and I have been so appreciative of all we have discovered on this site!

This has been on our minds for months.  Our oldest will be a junior in high school in the fall. {gulp}  The questions have already started: “Does he know where he’s going to college?” “What is Asa interested in doing in the future?”  “Has Asa taken the ACT yet?”  It’s enough to make me get out the baby book (that I failed at putting together while in the midst of not sleeping, breastfeeding 25 hours a day, and diaper changing) and wish for those tongue in cheek “simpler years.” 

It’s humbling to realize that we just have two years left to prepare our child for independence.  As Asa seeks direction for his future, we have been praying specifically that God would reveal to him where his passions lie, what he is the most gifted at doing, and where we should be focusing as we develop his school plan through graduation.

10ktotalent

It was in the midst of this that we heard about 10KtoTalent.  It is said that “it takes 10,000 hours of talent development for someone to reach a world class level of performance in any particular field of human endeavor.”  The site 10KtoTalent is a resource that helps you, as a parent, explore this with your kids.  We love this because it is something we should all be intentional about with our families.  Having this site as a guide to walk us through how to do this is so valuable!

We’ve been working our way through the free First 100 Hours Guide that Jonathon Harris, founder of 10KtoTalent has put together.  We definitely don’t plan to only use it with our oldest.  All of our boys will benefit from this – starting now.  What a blessing it will be for us as parents to offer so much guidance and specific focus for our kids as they develop the abilities God has given them!  We are thankful that this resource is available to offer guidance to us, the parents.  :)

The 10KtoTalent free resource First 100 Hours Guide is available to everyone who subscribes to the newsletter.  No matter what your kids’ ages: get this resource.  It’s free, and the newsletter will be a continual service to your family.  You may also want to follow 10KtoTalent on Facebook

Do you feel like your kids are aware of their talents?  (The talents that are in addition to eating a huge stack of pancakes in five minutes and retelling an entire two hour movie in detail…)  How do you help them develop these talents? 

How Much Media Time Do You Allow Your Kids?

It was a topic that came up while several of us were visiting at the Colorado Springs Meet & Greet.  I loved the discussion as it helped me figure out what would work well for our kids this summer!

kids_on_computer

My boys are just like many kids: if given the freedom, they would get on the computer to play games – and never get off…ever.  (I’ve never been able to figure out how they don’t at least need to get up and pee??!  That’s an amazing distraction, the computer.)  We have to set guidelines for our kids – with the main goal of helping our kids set restrictions for themselves when it comes to media time.  After all, it’s one thing for Mom to holler “time’s up!” when someone is on the computer at home, but once they get off on their own, what will they do when Mom isn’t there to help manage their time?  Oh, so much training we must do as a parent… :)

Our kids get plenty of “screen time” during the school year as they do their math, spanish, and a variety of writing or typing projects on the computer each day.  In addition, our boys love to create music and movies (Cake Boys, anyone?), so they use computers often as they write scripts, edit footage, and come up with songs on the special software we got them for this purpose.  We love how the computer gives us so many options and so many educational opportunities!  But after all of that, what about Netflix, computer games, and all the other fun to be had on the computer?

This is subject to change, but for now, each of our boys is given 45 minutes each day for “computer time” to be used however they like.  Obviously, we are very aware of what they are playing or watching on the computer at all times and the computers are out in the open so that we can keep the boys safe.

As for this summer, we’ve told the boys, “No screen time (not even for creating music or movies) until 3:00 in the afternoon.”  That way, they get up and start getting creative, play something active, jump on the trampoline, read, do chores, get together with friends – all sorts of activities! without getting sucked into the computer or TV screen at the beginning of the day.  Often, 3:00 rolls around and they are too busy to notice.

Once their time is up, it is up, and it’s back to other activities.  So far, this plan is working well for us.

I know each family has different ideas to make this work, and I’d love to hear them.  I think it is so helpful to get ideas from all of you for what works for your kids and family’s situation.  What guidelines have you set for your kids when it comes to media?  Do you have limits on computer/TV time?  What works for you!?