Friday, October 31, 2008

A Special Day

Today was Halloween.  My boys begin talking about their costumes in the Summer.  They have always loved to dress-up in costumes.  For many years we had a costume box and our youngest, T-bone, was someone different every day.  I used to say that I knew who he was by who he called me.  If he called me, "Wois" (Lois Lane) then he was Superman.  If he called me, "Vicki" (Vicki Vale) then he was Batman.  "Mary Jane" meant he was spider man and "Jessie" meant he was Buzz Lightyear.  One year we were visiting my sister's church.  Our T-bone stayed in the nursery during the worship service.  Partly through the service, one of the nursery workers found me and said, "Your son, Buzz Lightyear, needs his diaper changed.  He won't let anyone do it."  He also would only let the nursery workers call him Buzz!

Halloween is not my favorite day of the year.  I understand the aversion many Christians have to this holiday.  Our boys have read all of the tracts against Halloween and they understand its origins.  We know that God knows our hearts and for our boys, it's purely about dressing up in fun costumes...oh...and eatting candy, lots and lots of candy.  

Today, I took a cue from and made a few special treats in honor of the day for our lunch and supper.  It made the day a little more fun than your average Friday and the boys enjoyed it.

For lunch we had coffin sandwiches and carrot fingers:

For supper, we had mummy hotdogs and tomato soup with bats in it:

Our oldest son, Big Mac, took the left over cheese pieces from the bats that floated in our soup and made this very creative scene:

We finished the evening trick or treating in a small town a few minutes from our country home.  We can cover the entire town in about 30 minutes and several families from our church live there.  It was a warm evening and many of the people were sitting outside on their porches to greet the trick or treaters.

When it comes to candy, I've borrowed my parenting philosophy from my sister.  I let them eat it until it's gone.  The first night the boys hit the candy pretty hard, but they quickly lose interest and I will throw away what's left in a few days.  No one is ever the wiser.

So now, my guys are in the bathtub after another day's adventure.  This time, they're treating themselves to a few treats while they soak.  Soon they're off to bed to gear up for another adventure tomorrow.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homeschooling boys? Try war games!

We use Saxon Math.  My oldest son, Big Mac, is finishing up Saxon 7/6 from last year.  Periodically in this book we have "Investigations."  We do these all together, including my youngest son, T-bone, who is finishing Saxon 6/5.  It gives T-bone a break from the usual and we all work together and enjoy these investigations.


Today's investigation was called "Sign Wars."  It was a game where you make cards with + and - signs.  A + cancels a -.  You keep marking off the signs that cancel each other until you are left with all one sign or just one sign.  That is the sign that "wins."  Level 1 was just + and - signs on the card.  We did four of these.  Level 2 had numbers with the + or - signs.  So the boys had to figure out the math as well as the sign.  Level 3 had "disguises."  Sometimes the numbers had no sign, so they had to know that that meant it was positive.  Sometimes there were two negative signs in front of a number and they had to know that a negative and a negative equals a positive.  There were also parentheses in this level, so it made the math more complicated.


The boys, however, rose to the occasion on every level and really enjoyed this activity.  After we did twelve of these cards, four for each level.  I gave them several practice problems from the book that just showed the numbers on one line, not randomly placed on a card.  These were regular math problems using 4-6 numbers all with varying positive and negative signs.  Again, because it was all a game, they loved doing these problems.


While working the practice problems at the end, Big Mac said to T-bone, "Who are you for?"  T-bone replied, "The positives."  "Me too."


It was math, but to them it was WAR.  And war meant choosing a side.  And they were rooting for the positives, the plus signs!


Being a girl, raising boys can be a mystery to me.  I am grateful for the return of my manly-husband in the evening to give me some insight to how these boys think.  But today, God gave me a glimpse of what happens in those mini-manly hearts and minds.  If you want to make the lessons a little more enjoyable...turn it into a war!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Things I Can't Live Without: my label maker

As I think of things, I'm going to blog about some things I can't live without.  Some of these things will be home related, some home school related.  This first one works in both places.  It is my label maker and I love it!


I actually asked for a label maker a few Christmases ago.  It was given to me by my husband, The Big Dog, and our two boys, Big Mac and T-Bone.  I use it around the house in many ways.  I use it to label files in my filing cabinet.  I used it recently to make tabs for my new organizer.  I received an empty organizer and I made my own calendar inserts as well as other sections that fit my life.  A purchased organizer would never have fit my life, but this one does.  Once I had all the papers into my new organizer, I needed to make dividers so that I could easily find the sections.  I used some old file folders and cut them so that they would be staggered dividers in my book.  Then I printed the titles for each divider using my label maker and pasted them to the dividers.  It is neat and, excuse the pun, organized!


I used my label maker to mark the boys' drawers.  One says, "Underwear", one "Socks", etc...  And we, Big Dog and I have labels on the plastic bins that hold our unmentionables in our closets, too.  I have labels on the boxes and crates that house our craft supplies. 


We have even used our label-maker to make labels for our timeline books!  When we studied history a few years ago, the boys were too little for a lot of writing, so I would print a label and let them stick it in the correct year spaces.


I love my label maker.  We use it at least once a week around this house.  Although I could probably print labels on the PC or hand-write some stickers, my label maker is portable and neat.  The printed labels make everythiing look orderly, even when, sometimes, things are DEFINITELY not orderly!


Here endenth my first installment of "Things I Can't Live Without."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


About two weeks ago I began a monstrous "To Do" list.  One of my mentors is Cindy Rushton.  (,,  On her writer's nook web site, she said that you can really make a change in your life by writing everything down.  She advised to get a little book and carry it with you.  Everytime you think of something you want to do, you should write it down.  I began doing that.  I'm on page 6!  I have written things I want to do around the house; things I want to do with our little homeschool; projects I want to knit and crochet; and things I want to do for others.  Eventually I will take this giant list, when I feel like my brain has really been dumped, and organize it into specific projects.  I will sort the line items by their categories, such as crafts, homeschool, home repair, etc...   But I am beginning to cross off some of these things with a highlighter even before they are sorted into categories.  I love working from this list.   I am more focused about what I am doing.  I have a few spare minutes in my day and I think, "What can I do to cross something off my list?"  It has made my already-productive days more productive.


Another great dividend of making this list is that as the mundane chore-type projects were dumped onto the list, my mind was freed to dream about the things I really want to do.  The big dreams made their way to my list after a few days of listing chores and home repair.  I can feel the change in my life already by just beginning to dream dreams.  By putting those dreams on paper, I'm really feeling for the first time like they might actually happen!  It's given me a hopeful bublly feeling deep inside.


This week, the items on my list that seem to be glaring at me are the "declutter" items.  I need to clean out/reorganize my closet.  I need to do a purge in the basement.  I need to de-clutter the book shelves and the craft hutch...the list goes on and on.  I began Monday by working in Big Dog's study and clearing books.  I then moved into my bookshelf in our bedroom and got it cleaned and organized.  Each day, as I plan to tackle another area, I pray and ask My Father if this is something He would want me to do.  So, it will come as no surprise what Cindy Rushton's current article is about on her website?  Decluttering!  This morning, I woke up and started my daily to do list.  I added a declutter area to my list and asked My Father if that is what He would want me to do?  Then I checked my email and "The Homeschool Minute" was in my in-box.  Guess what it was about?  Yep, decluttering!!!


I find that The Lord affirms me in many ways.  Sometimes, I don't recognize His affirmation until later.  I want to be so aware of His presence in my life that I see His affirmations as they happen.  As I seek His will for my life, I can see His hand in guiding me.


Last week, He used my email inbox to affirm our parenting choices.  Someone encouraged me to send our boys to a week-long summer camp.  My husband and I have made a decision for our family that we don't want the boys spending long periods of time away from us and certainly not sleep-away periods of time.  We want to be their peer group.  We don't know how we could follow the command in Deuteronomy to teach them "all along the way" when they are not with us.  So we do not send them to sleep-away camps.  As this person encouraged us to send the boys away, I fervrently prayed that The Lord would change my heart if I was wrong in my way of thinking.  I just want to be in the center of His will and if His will is summer camp, then He must change my heart.  A few short days after this summer-camp discussion, I got my copy of Lorri Flemm's ezine in my in-box.  Can you guess what one of her articles was concerning?  Her rule that she doesn't send her children on sleep-away excursions!


Affirmations.  I wrote once, a long time ago, about how My Father continually affirms our little home school.  When I decided, years ago, to study the ocean, a free ocean's unit study landed in my in-box.  When I began reading the book "The Secret Garden" to the boys last Spring, the Monday freebie at was a time-tags project for that book.  He affirms our home school.  He affirms our parenting.  He affirms my to do list! 


When I am really seeking His ways and to be in the center of His will, My Father puts His hand on my back and says, "Walk this way."  I've listed just a few examples of how He's done this recently.  It's exciting to look at these things and give the credit where it is due.  The Father in Heaven is an Affirming God.  I am a grateful girl.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Time Passages

Saturday was a cool Autumn day and we were at one of the boys' last flag-football games for this season.  The man who was the referee for this game was our assistant coach last year.  During the game, he leaned over to us on the sidelines and said, "How old are your boys now?"  We told him that they were 10 and 11.  He said, "My baby's down there on the sidelines today. She's 21."  We all commented about how quicly time passes.

I can't believe that my first born will be 12 in two weeks.  I'm sure I gave birth to him yesterday.  In quiet-panicked moments I think, "Did I treasure it enough?  Have I savored his childhood?"  He's growing so quickly and, now, I can look him in the eye without stooping.

Later that same day, we were shopping in a grocery store.  One light  bulb in the boys' room needed to be replaced and the boys were anxious to replace it with a flourescent bulb.  We have never used these in our house.  The boys have watched the many commercials and news spots about "going green" and they wanted to begin using flourescents in our home.  So, we began to read the packaging and pick our lightbulb.  The bulb we picked had a large endorsement written on the front.  It said, "Guaranteed to work for Nine years!"  Our oldest, Big Mac, picked up the package and said, "When this dies I'll be..."  As he was figuring out the age, a large number 20 flashed in my brain and tears sprung into my eyes.  Right in the middle of the grocery store, I grabbed my boy in a big bear-hug.  He would be 20 when I had to replace that lightbulb.  20 is a man.  20 is not the beautiful dark-eyed, pleasant, loving boy standing before me, although I am confident that he will be all those things and more as a man. 

Time passes to quickly.  This weekend we celebrated our 16th anniversary.  I don't know how 16 years pass so quickly.  My mother turned 75 in September and she often comments on how quickly her life has passed.

So this week, my focus will be on focusing.  I want to be in the moment.  I want to focus on today and enjoy my boys before the flourescent bulb has to be replaced.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Never Read to Your Children

As most homeschool families, we've always got at least one read-aloud going, usually two.  Right now we're reading Tom Sawyer and In His Steps.  I am loving both books and so are my boys.  One morning they woke up and announced that for the entire day they would not be making a decision without asking themselves, "What would Jesus do?"  Inside I was rejoicing!  This is what I want our read alouds to do, inspire the boys.


But then there's Tom Sawyer...last week, after reading the chapter where Tom, Huck, and Joe head across the Mississippi on a raft, our boys spent the entire afternoon building a boat out of scrap wood in the driveway.  They worked until it was too dark to see the nails. 


Then the weekend arrived.  I was away with my mom and sister on a shopping trip.  I came home to two make-shift forts made out of poles and tarps.  And it did not end there!  Last night they were fishing!  Fishing I tell you!  When will this madness end?  Every afternoon the boys race out the back door saying, "I'm Tom!"  "I'm Huck!"


It's like that great children's book, "If you give a Mouse a Cookie."  In that picture book the reader is told that if you give a mouse a cookie it will snow ball and so much more will happen.  (i.e. if you give a mouse a cookie he'll want a glass of milk to go with it.)  Well, let me tell you, if you read a boy "Tom Sawyer" he will want to build a boat.  If you let him build the boat, he will need a fort to go with it.  If he builds the fort, he will want to have a fire pit to cook his supper.  If he has a fire pit, he will want to get his fishing pole out of the basement.  If he gets his fishing pole out of the basement, he will want to go to the creek and catch a fish.  If he goes to the creek and catches a fish, he will want to eat it for breakfast like Tom Sawyer did.  If he eats the fish for breakfast, he will want you to read another chapter of Tom Sawyer while he's eatting.


Yes, this essay is dripping with sarcasm.  How great is it that my 11 year old is not too jaded to imagine himself as Tom Sawyer?  How great is it that a piece of classic fiction can inspire two boys so thoroughly?  How great is it that God has allowed me to be at home with my precious, precious boys to experience this week of Tom Sawyer?  So, yes, I will always be reading to my children.  But I'm definitely not choosing any pirate adventures!!