Stop the Race. Look Up.

A nature loving mom with nature loving children means a homeschool brimming with nature projects.

Some simple peanut garlands hanging just outside our back door provide nourishment for the squirrels and much entertainment as we watch the animals bustle around gathering the nuts.

My soft-hearted, nature loving daughter can’t stand to leave the peanut garlands in an area where the squirrels have to work for it. She attempts to give them a challenge but usually within minutes she’s lowering one of the tasty treats to an area where the squirrels can have a heyday with it.

It’s like watching a nature documentary right outside our door. We watch as two squirrels fight over the peanuts. Who can get there first? Who’s quicker? Who’s stronger? Who is more nimble? Who can find the best hiding place for their peanut?

Their movements are fast. Frantic. My heart begins to race just watching them in their haste. And then I remember. As I watch one of the squirrels dash across the yard my eyes raise a bit and I remember the peanut garlands my daughter has yet to move still hanging from the trellis. Just above these frantic squirrels heads, peacefully resting there, are two long garlands of peanuts. The squirrels race around in their stress, capturing their prized peanuts. greed overcoming them. All the while an abundance of what they treasure hangs just above their heads.

Do they know? If they did know, would they rest a little? Would they slow down and enjoy the process a little more? Would they be more apt to share with the other squirrels in the yard?


Oh, do I ever see myself in these squirrels. The way I get so wrapped up in my own needs and the needs of my family. The way I bustle about in a frantic pace when I act as if our lives depend on my ability to move fast. The way I so quickly forget my Provider. The One that meets my needs for each day. The way I forget to look up and remember the Giver of great gifts, holds in abundance everything I need, ready for me just when I need it.

Can we all just slow down a bit today? Can we stop the race we find ourselves in and instead look up and remember the One that knows our true needs?

Just as the squirrels in our yard rush about completely unaware of the blessings hanging just above their heads, we too, rush about, missing the blessings and the provisions the Lord has for us.

But, if we’d just slow down. Stop. Look up. Commune with the Creator and stop the race. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

 

 

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

tulip path

What We Read This Month:

Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson–A beautiful compilation of delightful short stories of the creatures living in the forest.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley–as we have been on a healing journey this school year, healing from past trauma, this was a wonderful, short book to solidifiy some of our learning about the parts of the brain, their function, and amazing ways in which it heals.

My Reading This Month: 

The Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman—great book with helpful exercises to strengthen any marriage.

Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro—interesting book describing the principles of EMDR therapy and how you can apply those some principles to your own life.

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen—I am not quite done with this book, but I have found it very interesting. I enjoy how it has practical  yet powerful ways to change your thoughts and thus improve your overall life.

My Learning This Month:

“The Yes Basket”: I learned this idea here: The Yes Jar. I love the Empowered to Connect website and podcast. I have learned many helpful tips there.

The Yes Basket has helped our family with problems such as stealing gum or treats, boredom causing “bugging behavior”, difficulty with waiting for someone to be available to play or help, and the general feeling of deprivation.

How it Works: We have a small basket on our family room coffee table labled YES. I place individually wrapped gum and Hershey Kisses. Other ideas are lollipops, small toys, fidget toys, bubbles to blow, etc. But, my kids are content with gum and Kisses. I like to keep things simple! I usually place 1 or 2 pieces of gum and 1 or 2 Kisses per kid per day.

Rules: They must ask to have something, but I always get to say, “Yes!” They have to keep it equal…no taking more than their share. They must throw away their wrappers. If they do not follow these rules, the Yes Basket is closed the following day.

Feel free to try the Yes Basket in your family and let me know how it goes!

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What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

March path

What We Read This Month:

Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Delightfully Illustrated and Arranged for Children by  Hannah Hurnard and JoAnn Edington (I cannot recommend this book enough! Even if you have never read the original version, both kids and adults will love this book. It is an allegory of how God transforms our fears and weaknesses when we fully surrender to him. My children and I love it and want to read more and more each day.)

Indescribable by Louie Giglio (We continue to enjoy reading this devotional each morning. My 10 and 12-year-old enjoy how Giglio combines science and Biblical truth.)

My Reading This Month:

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland (This is the book version of the movie which is in theaters right now. The book is a more complete telling of Bart’s life story.)

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

My Learning This Month: 

Passport to Purity: My oldest daughter and I went away for a weekend, just the two of us. We brought along the Passport to Purity curriculum which includes, audio CD’s, parent guide, and a journal for the daughter to follow along in and answer questions. This curriculum includes learning about peer pressure, choosing friends, puberty, dating, love, and sex. We found it to be very well done. There were moments of awkwardness, which we needed to work through. Overall, I was so thankful to have the structure and framework the curriculum provided so that we could get through all the important information. Biblical truths were the base for the entire weekend. I would definitely recommend Passport to Purity for all famililies with kids around the ages 11-13.

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is the beautiful necklace Cate Florey designed for my girl so she could always remember our special weekend together! Check out her beautiful work here:  Cate Florey Studio

Thought Journaling: A counselor taught us about this helpful process she calls Thought Journaling. This process is a way of looking at how the thoughts we think and the messages we send ourselves cause us to react in positive or negative ways. Negative self-talk seems to just sneak right in. In becoming more aware of our reactions whether internally or externally, we can begin to see how false messages are sabotaging us. Or, the reverse is also true. When we send ourselves positive messages or quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s loving voice, we react in love, peace, and compassion.

thought journal page

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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What I Learned in January

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

IMG_0206

What We Read This Month:

My Father’s Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Robert Serva

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

Indescribable by Louis Giglio

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

What I Read or Listened to This Month:

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado (I love Max Lucado. This book will not disappoint!)

Your Teenager is Not Crazy by Jeramy Clark (When your almost teen recommends you read a book she heard about, it’s usually a good idea to listen to her!)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp (This has quickly became my favorite devotional, ever!)

Launch (a podcast on iTunes about an author going through the steps of writing and publishing a book series)

My Learning This Month:

Bracelets = Time Together

Exactly a year ago, God began working in me to establish one on one time with my girls. I wrote a blog post called, Talk Time. Almost immediately after implementing Talk Time with my girls, I saw benefits: more peace between my children, more peace between me and my kids, more compliance from my kids, a greater knowledge of my kids’ interests, and an overall smoother running home. So why in the world would a mom ever fall away from this wonderful solution? My kids didn’t stop wanting this time with me. We didn’t stop enjoying this time together. We never saw the benefits of this time together diminish. But, one day, our schedule was full…too full, and Talk Time got pushed aside. Then, 2 days passed and still no Talk Time. Then stress and tension began to creep back into our home, and suddenly time together was the last thing anyone of us wanted.

Fast forward a year and we are back to the beginning of January 2018. Much learning and growth has occurred in our family in the last few months with the help of an amazing adoption parent coach. But, my one on one time with the girls was NOT happening regularly. The parent coach shared with me the idea of using bracelets for the girls to exchange for time with me

This is how this works: Each morning, I place three rubber bracelets on the breakfast table at each girls spot, along with their daily vitamins. They place the bracelets on their wrist. When they want time with me, they are to come to me and request time with me and hand me a bracelet. Each bracelet equals 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with me doing something of their choice. They may even choose to use all 3 bracelets at once, equaling 30 minutes of time with me. The key is that it is just me and the child, it’s their choice of activity, and they must request it. So, when we have family game night, they would not need to use their bracelets for that. Also, going over to the park as a family, would not count.

bracelets

So rather than just setting the good intention of having Talk Time, we now have the visual, tangible reminder of the bracelets right on the girls wrists. As well as the plan for them to initiate and take the risk of asking me for time. I do enjoy this time, but I have to admit that when I am about to start the laundry and one child comes to me and says I want to use a bracelet now, I do struggle at times. But, what I have found is that 10, 20, or even 30 minutes of time goes quickly! I am able to pick back up what I was doing, or what I was doing gets pushed aside, while time with my girls does not get pushed aside.

A wise, good friend, has encouraged me several times with the phrase, “You will never regret time with your kids. You will never look back and regret the energy you put into your kids.”

Is sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home? Are you having a hard time remembering the last time you had individual time with your child? Is your schedule so hectic it seems impossible to carve out time with your children? I encourage you to implement the bracelet plan.

Let us remember our children are gifts from the Lord!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

 

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What I Learned in December

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

December pathWrapping up another month and the end of 2017, I am reflective. It’s been a month of celebrating, growing, and rejoicing. 2017 has been a year of challenges, eye-opening revelations, and steps toward growth. To end a year a little softer, a little less tense, a little more aware, and still clinging to the Lord, is just where I want to be. Thank you, Lord!

Our Reading from the Month: 

A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy A beautiful book which kept our attention and stirred great conversation.

A Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling We are using this for narration, reading it slowly, one chapter per day.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet We are reading the whole trilogy but have only finished book one so far. We plan to see the play in Bellingham in February.

My Reading this Month:

Cure Your Child with Food by Kelly Dorfman Very interesting book addressing so many common issues: anxiety, constipation, picky eating, ADHD, hyperactivity, poor sleep, stomach aches, etc.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk Insightful book. I am only able to read a little at a time as it’s quite heavy at times. I definitely recommend this book to anyone with past trauma or working with kids who have experienced trauma.

My Learning this Month:

More structure/routine equals less decision making and less stress.

In the last several months, we have adopted more structure and routine into our daily lives. I have always considered myself a structured person, but often that structure was in my own mind. I followed the structure, but I didn’t clearly communicate it to my children. I am the type of person that can become quickly overwhelmed by rapid fire questions and demands being made at me. Creating more clearly communicated structure and routine in our day-to-day to life has drastically cut down on the amount of on the spot decisions and questions I need to field. Whew! What an unexpected blessing this has been!

Example: dinner menu hung on the kitchen cabinet. Each weekend, I sit down and create a very basic dinner menu plan for the week. Result: kids have more time to process and deal with dinners coming up in the week that are not their favorite, I refer them to the menu each time they ask, “what’s for dinner?”, I am aware of what ingredients I will need for the week, and there is one less day-to-day decision I have to make. This has been a win/win for all of us.

dinner menu

Helping My Kids Respect Time/”Owed Time”

“Kids can’t regulate on their own so the parent has to be the regulator,” therapist and adoptive dad, Lynn Owens.

The above quote helped to motivate me to become more structured and diligent about helping my kids move toward greater self-control, including time management.

In practical terms this looks like stating a specific time they will be required to be at the table in the morning to begin school, or in the car to leave, or at the table for a meal, and then keeping track of each minute they are late. Each minute they are late gets doubled and becomes their “owed time”. Owed time equals time spent sitting at the table in the kitchen doing absolutely nothing for the entire time they owe. The first time one precious daughter of mine earned 6 minutes of “owed time” for being 3 minutes late for school, she panicked. She quickly began bargaining. “Mom, I will do 6 extra chores for those 6 minutes! I will make dinner tonight! Just don’t make me do nothing!” I realized we were really on to something. My kids need to practice being quiet. They need time to just be still. They need to begin to see that it is actually possible for them to do nothing at all without dying.

My husband commented that he has never seen one particular daughter act motivated to be on time until we implemented this strategy.

Most days they are on time now. If they owe time, it’s typically 2-6 minutes. Their future spouses, friends, and employers will be thanking us someday for putting up with the current drama when we inform them of their “owed time”!

Let us begin this new month, this new year, remembering our newness in Christ. Our rebirth. Renewal. Rejoicing in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

What I Learned in October

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.October path
What We Are Reading:
The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
The Pond People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Don’t let this list intimidate. We usually just read one chapter a day. Slowly reading the books, narrating back the reading for the day, and short discussions, have richly enhanced our learning.
Living Education
Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I am new to Charlotte Mason. Well, this is not entirely true. The first friend to take the time to sit me down and explain how she homeschooled her children explained Charlotte Mason and her methods to me. But, I am new to understanding and taking hold of the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.
Upon hearing about Charlotte Mason, I was immediately drawn to the idea. Being a lover of the written word and high quality literature, I was hooked.
But, just as the seed in Mark 4 became choked out by thorns, my instant draw to the lovely way to educate according to Charlotte Mason became choked out by the idea that I needed to do more. Longer lessons. Complete more. Produce, produce, produce.
Charlotte Mason was a 19th century educator who believed in using Living Books (books said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit) in order to educate the whole child. There is much more to learn about Charlotte Mason and you could begin here: Simply Charlotte Mason if you would like to learn more.
This Charlotte Mason philosophy brings me a sense of freedom and peace in educating my girls.
Rather than working against the natural way in which my children and I were created, we are now working our way back to the way in which we were designed to learn and live.
We are reading and learning from Living Books. We are spending regular time observing and learning in nature. We are learning and practicing the skill of narration: retelling stories or portions of literature from memory.  We are looking at art and reading poetry.
I am lessening my words with each passing day and allowing my children to process, think, create images, connect ideas and be led by the Spirit.
We are filling our minds with the lovely. We are dwelling on beautiful ideas. We are keeping our lessons short and we are wanting more. We are being led by the Spirit and our homeschool is alive again.
Nature Study
Nature study is one of my most favorite parts of the week. We get outside. We use all of our senses. We observe. We learn. We laugh. We get excited about the beauty of the Lord all around us.
We are using the book, Exploring Nature with Children to help focus our learning. This book has a weekly nature walk activity, a nature journal activity, a poem, and a piece of artwork to study.
Enjoy our photos of our nature study.
What did you learn this month? What books are you reading? Please share your learning in the comments! I’d love to read it!

What I Learned in September

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Sept Path

Here we are wrapping up September. This is year 3 of homeschooling for our family and it’s been the smoothest transition thus far. I attribute it to several things. One being that we continued some schoolwork all summer, but never missed anything fun that came up. Two being that it’s year 3 and in my experience year 3 is like a magic year. When I was a public school teacher, I found that year 3 of teaching the same grade level or same curriculum really finally came together for me. And, three, many of the changes we have made to handling discipline in our family, have brought about greater peace for us all. Amen to all of the above!

My Reading this Past Month

  • Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio
  • When Parenting Isn’t Perfect by Jim Daly
  • Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (I try to read this once a year!)

Our Reading this Past Month

  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • What to do When It’s Not Fair by Jacqueline Toner
  • What to do When Mistakes Make You Quake by Jacqueline Toner
  • Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer

Back to school 2017

1-2-3 Magic (123 Magic)

A very wise counselor shared with me the idea of utilizing the 1-2-3 Magic approach for stopping negative behaviors in my children. Think of any lower level behavior you want to stop: arguing, whining, badgering, and complaining, etc. There are many short youtube videos you can watch to learn more about this approach.

Here is how we are using it and finding it successful in our family:

First I set up the plan with the kids. I explained to the kids that we have been allowing behaviors such as arguing and complaining to ruin perfectly good days for us. We want to deal with the behaviors in a quicker way so that we can get back toward whatever God has called us to for that day. I told them that if they argue (complain, whine, badger), I will say, “That’s 1” and hold up 1 finger. They have a choice to make. Stop or continue. If they continue, I will say, “That’s 2” and hold up 2 fingers. If they choose to continue, I will say, “That’s 3” hold up 3 fingers and say (as unemotionally as possible), “It’s time for a break.” I will designate a spot for a break and tell them I will let them know when break is over (5-10) minutes.

After the first explanation of this plan, one little darling almost immediately thought she would test it out! Okay, here we go! Help me, Lord!

Darling child, “Can I have a snack?”

Mom, “No, it’s 30 minutes until dinner.”

Sweet, darling child, “But, I am HUNGRY. I haven’t eaten for 10 minutes! Why can’t I have a snack?”

Mom, “It’s 30 minutes until dinner. And, that’s 1,” holding up 1 finger.

Dear, sweet, darling child, “But, I am so hungry! Why can’t you tell me why?”

Mom, “That’s 2,” holding up 2 fingers.

Lovely, dear, sweet, darling, child, “Oh great! So you can’t even tell me why!? I just want a snack!”

Mom, “That’s 3, time for a break. Please go sit on the stairs. I will tell you when break is over.”

Precious, lovely, dear, sweet, darling, child, “Why did you have to talk to that counselor!” stomping off to the stairs.

I am not worrying about the behavior on the way to the stairs because my goal is to quickly and unemotionally stop the badgering and to reset. We are doing that by taking a break.

I set a timer for 10 minutes and then call to the child, “Break is over.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the child returned in a pleasant mood, ready to find something to do until dinner.

Flash forward to the next morning. Darling child, “Can I make pancakes for breakfast?”

Mom, “That sounds good, but we have to leave in one hour so there just isn’t time today.”

Sweet, darling child, “But, why can’t I make pancakes?”

Mom, “We are leaving soon. And, that’s 1,” holding up 1 finger

Child sulks off grumbling something under her breath, all the while developing self-control.  We move on with our day.

For more serious infractions such as physically hurting someone, damaging property, or aggression, you go straight to 3 and the child takes a break. Usually a more serious infraction also involves some sort of restitution in our house…fixing what they broke, mending the relationship, doing something physical to get the aggressive behavior out appropriately.

Be Your Own Health Advocate

At age 25, when I first became ill with an ultra rare disease, aHUS (atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome), doctors had little idea of what was going on or what to do about it. And, I didn’t know that when a doctor said, “Let’s try XYZ to treat you,” I should say, “Why? Explain this to me.”

I didn’t realize the doctor was not my boss. The doctor is not all-knowing. And my life is not in the doctor’s hands.

In a healthy patient/doctor relationship, the patient is free to ask questions, seek clarification, share about their own research, and discuss concerns. If a doctor does not accept this from you as the patient, you should strongly consider finding a different doctor.

I have had a few wonderful doctors over the years. Besides accepting questions and thoroughly listening to me, the wonderful ones are those that admit when they don’t know something and then they seek to learn.

What about you? What did you learn this month? Is that a tough question to answer? Don’t worry! God has an answer for that. James, 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Need wisdom? Need to learn something? Need to see a breakthrough in a certain situation in your life? Need greater understanding?

ASK GOD, the one who gives it to you liberally!