Fridays, and Why They are Special.

Today, my friends, is Friday!! Whoop whoop! For our family, Friday night is when our rest day begins-we observe Shabbat. So Friday is a day of much excitement, of preparation, and of relief. 🙂 Friday night dinner is the highlight. We usually try to set the table special-put on some candles, or maybe place mats. If we’re going all out (or our daughters get involved) we will use a fancy table cloth and goblets and candles and maybe even flowers. But usually, it’s something fairly simple. The meal is usually fairly normal, sometimes I make a dessert or a special dish. Challah bread is a very yummy egg bread that we sometimes have, or other times matza or an artisan loaf from the local grocery is used. 😉 We drink juice at this meal. We do not usually drink juice, so this is a special thing we look forward to. We often share this meal with family or friends. JE’s family and brother’s family also observe Shabbat, and depending on the time of year, we may go to my in law’s house every week for several weeks in a row, or trade off who hosts dinner. It’s very special and fun! The part I must say is my favorite, is the blessings.

At the beginning of the meal, we bless God for providing us with bread and drink. Then each father goes to the members of his household and blesses each one and serves them by pouring their drink. I don’t know about your background or what you believe, but just stop and think about that. What if your dad had spoken a blessing over you each Friday night, praising you for something you did? Powerful, right? JE usually starts by blessing me, and then goes around to each child by age. Each one eagerly awaits what Papa has to say about them-what they did that pleased their Daddy this week. This is also challenging to JE some weeks if we’ve had a particularly rough time with a certain child, and forces him to look past the temporary struggles and encourage them in some way. Like I said, POWERFUL. A Daddy’s blessing is so huge. This is why this time is my favorite. We bless our heavenly Daddy, and our Daddy blesses us.

Then we go on to eat our meal together, all ’round the table. I love meals where all are “present”. No one is looking at their phone, or the computer, or a TV. We are all laughing and engaging one another. There is much to be said for a family meal time. After dinner we might play games, go on a stroll to see the sunset, sing songs together, or watch a movie or sermon. Sometimes we pray together or just talk about what’s going on in our lives. This moment, this chance to just -stop- each week, give thanks, reconnect with our family, and rest, have been such a beautiful gift to us from the Father.  I’m thankful for the gift of Shabbat.


Day 31-Hooray!

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I am so very grateful for this month long journey we’ve been on. It’s stretched and challenged me as a mom and as a writer. The difficult task of trying to settle into a new routine of homeschooling, blog posting, and fixing up our house has been very overwhelming at times. Other moments I feel like I could conquer the world with all that’s been accomplished in the day. Thus is motherhood. Now I promised an update on how turning off my cell phone sounds during school times this week worked. It did help. Even when I forgot to turn the sound off (oops!) just having the awareness that now was not the time really kept me from getting pulled off track. I am thinking a Facebook fast is in order soon. Just to help me re-prioritize my time online. Maybe I’ll do a “No Facebook December”. That sounds good. 😉 But at any rate, overall this challenge made me really dig in and think about the little things about home schooling. Some highlights of this month were:

  • Catching S writing letters by herself just for fun. Some of them even looked good!
  • H doing school at JE’s work and accomplishing a great amount-with no supervision.
  • Planting peas in a jar on our kitchen windowsill. They sprouted the next day, so the girls had fast gratification. 😛
  • Going to a home school group meeting to hear a local musician teach on the science of music.
  • Writing 4 blog posts in one day.
  • H reading to my grandma at baby’s birthday party.

Thanks for keeping up with me this month, and I hope you continue stopping by! My blog is still quite new, so I’ve been very grateful for the learning curve of this challenge. Will you share your favorite moment of the month? I’d appreciate feedback on what I wrote about that most resonated with or helped you the most, or what you enjoyed reading about. 🙂

Day 30-Let the Children Rest

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You may think this post is going to be about letting your child get their sleep out. You would be wrong. 😉 While that is extremely important, this post is about letting those things you wish your child would “hurry up and do” rest sometimes. I’m not wanting to encourage laziness, and I’m certainly not saying to throw the algebra book out of the window. I’ve seen both and it isn’t pretty. No, what I AM saying (lol are you ready for this after all my disclaimers??) is that sometimes our approach to learning needs a break. Needs a “reset” button. Or a perspective shift. Don’t bang your head against the wall! If method A isn’t working, there is no shame in trying methods B, C, D, and so on.

I’m a pretty normal new homeschool mom. I want my child to be moving quickly and easily through her school books, and expecting very high standards of achievement with very little effort. My oldest daughter got the full dose of my scholastic excitement, and while I understood she couldn’t move too fast since she was, after all, only 3, I still pressed in to teaching her as quickly and much as possible. She ate it up for the most part. She loved learning quickly! But the parts she didn’t eat up sent me worrying to my mother in law wondering if my H was ok to not get this as quick as everything else, and she quickly set me straight. Back off and give it a rest. Try again later with a different approach when she’s actually ready! H still thrives on the fire hose method, but I have had to adjust my thinking with teaching math to her, specifically.

Let’s talk about my daughter S. She is very smart, a very active little girl with a very thick stubborn streak. Honestly I love this about her. It’s difficult to teach her sometimes, but I love that she has spunk. I really have no idea how to encourage this while also teaching proper submission to authorities. (I’m not just talking school work here either… but general life know how.) But JE and I are trying our hardest and praying quite a bit. She will grow to be a might woman of God.

S is super excited about school work right now. She is beginning to catch on to a few sight words, and last night I caught her writing a letter E that actually had the correct amount of “arms”‘ (Never mind that it was backwards! ;-). But the hard thing for me to figure out, is how to teach with that big independent streak often getting in the way. She wants to do things her own way on her own timing. Which can be fine in the proper context. The problem often arises that she only wants to do school if she can do it her way. She is supposed to only circle the biggest dog? How ludicrous!

Now I hear some saying, oh that’s normal for her age, don’t make it a big deal!

And you would be absolutely right. I know many children her age are the same way. She’s not a freak of nature. At the same time, I don’t want to sit still. She’s growing and moving constantly at some sort of pace. The idea is to figure out where she is and move with her development, building into her character and mind as we go along. With this in mind, I’m moving slowly in encouraging her to follow the directions. First off, I rarely give her a paper that has directions. Hard to rebel against rules that don’t exist. 😉 A great tool with her has been ABC coloring pages. You can’t go wrong with those. Also we bought a book of ABC mazes, and she loves figuring those out. She usually follows each and every path and gets super excited when she finds the end! She is having fun and loves showing me her completed work. Anytime she asks to do school work I try to jump on the opportunity to encourage her in enjoying learning… and to enjoy following the rules!

If your child is struggling with an area of life or learning, sit back and think. Maybe take a break. Try a different approach. Ask people who have been there. Don’t give up, and don’t push your child into fitting your mind’s idea of what they should look like. Get some perspective. It could completely change how you relate to your child and teach them.  One of my children thrives on learning things constantly…. the other seems to want to take life at a different pace. I’m ok with that. And I have a feeling in 15 years I’ll look back at this post and laugh at myself. Because guess what? I’m still learning too. 🙂

Day 29-Fun With Food

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If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s food. I love baking, cooking, and eating. I also love planning GOOD food for my family. Good food doesn’t just happen, you have to think and plan ahead, and commit to spending time to eating healthily.

I want my children to enjoy cooking and eating.

I want food to be a pleasant and positive experience for them. 

After all, you kinda have to have it your whole life. Might as well make it good if you can, right? So here are a few things we have done to make food fun, interesting, and healthy for our kids.

We involve them in the process.

  • It starts even before you go shopping. Ask them what their favorite meals are. Plan them in on purpose.
  • When you go to the grocery store give young readers the list, or have them help find “Aisle #8”.
  • Compare prices. “This kind of peanut butter is $2.80, and this kind is $3.50. Which is cheaper?”
  • Teach them to compare healthiness of different items. “This cereal has 11 grams of sugar in a serving. We want less than 5. Oh, you think Uber Exciting Fruity Tye Dye Chunks looks yummy? How many grams of sugar does that kind have? 15?!  Is that more or less than 5? Oh well that has too much sugar in it!” 
  • When you pick out fresh fruits and veggies talk about how they grew (On a tree? Bush? Underground?), and what makes a “good” pick (A good tomato is nice and red, slightly soft, with no squishy spots or splits.).
  • When it’s check out time, give them items to put on the belt.
  • At home, have them help unload the groceries and put them away. This way they learn about sorting and where different foods belong. (Cheese in the fridge, apples on the counter, can of beans in the pantry!)
  • When it’s time to cook, give them little jobs. “H, I need a stick of butter.”  “S, give me a big spoon.” “Thanks! Here, put the spoon in this bowl. Would you like to stir?”  
  • Demonstrate how to fix different foods… like how to chop an onion or an avacado. Keep a commentary going! Tell them about why it has a particular kind of skin. “Onions are papery to keep it dry, avacados are thick to protect the soft insides.”
  • Let them lick the spoon. Seriously.
  • Have them help set the table. My girl’s favorite is when we need lots of condiments for burgers. They stack up the mayo, ketchup and mustard into a tower on the table sometimes. It’s hilarious.
  • Eat TOGETHER. We make it a point to sit down together, give thanks for God’s provision together, and have distractions set aside for that little bit of time as much as possible.
  • Clean up together. One child can grab all the spoons, another can put away the bread, and JE or I will put away leftovers into containers for lunches. Delegate out all the little jobs that take 20 trips into the kitchen. Children love to help if it’s fun.

This has been something we do step by step. It sounds like a lot all at once… and some days I JUST WANT TO COOK ALONE. And I do. And that’s ok. But I encourage you, try one or two of these and see how your child’s eyes light up. If the first couple of tries don’t work, you don’t feel like you’re getting through to them, or they are wary of “work”, try having them pick out a special fruit or veggie you’ve never tried before. When you get home, google how to prepare it, and dive in together. You’ll make memories, and maybe, just maybe end up with an end product that is a new favorite! We did this with artichoke recently. I had never cooked one, and they looked pretty weird. But it was letter “A” week and S really wanted to try one. So try one we did! It was a hilarious adventure, and the girls loved it. 🙂 And it wasn’t too complicated! She just asked me this AM if we could get one again sometime. She’s almost 4 and she’s asking for stuff like artichokes. I LOVE it!!

Just for fun, I asked the girls what their favorite foods are… their first responses were “Ice Cream!” so I figured I better get more specific. 😉

S Favorite Foods:
Vegetable: broccoli and tomatoes
Fruit: bananas
Meat: Fish. (She says she loves lamb too. We have it once a year for Passover and she remembers it. It’s special.)
Sweets: Strawberry Ice Cream
Healthy Food: Broccoli
Grossest Food: Eyes

H Favorite Foods:
Vegetable: Corn
Fruit: grapes
Meat: Fish (I bake tilapia once in a great while. She eats more than JE)
Sweets: Vanilla ice cream and cake
Healthy Food: Pizza
Grossest Food: Mouse

So there you have it. 😛

Day 28-Something Special

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This past weekend we had Baby’s birthday party! It was almost a month late, but she didn’t mind. 😉 My Grandma was able to come to the party, and to visit our new home for her first time. It was lovely! But what this post is really about, is H’s reading and my dear Grandma. H read aloud some of little sister’s birthday card, and read a book of poems aloud to Grandma. Now to fully appreciate the significance, you must know: Grandma is a reader. I’m pretty sure my love of reading probably has something to do with her. She spent a lot of time with me when I was ages 3 and under, and until I was 16 we lived less than ten minutes away from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I have many, many fond memories of her reading aloud. My parents aren’t “readers”, as in they don’t just read for the fun of it. Grandma is the one person in my life I can think of who just plain loves reading. There are always stacks of books sitting around her family room, with at least one bookmark or folded tissue tucked inside each book to mark an important spot or her current place. Her Bible is usually open on the couch or table, it’s well loved and bookmarked pages a testament to the heavy reading that has happened over the years. She instructed me in how to turn the pages of a book carefully, “Just like my daddy taught me.” she says. I find myself repeating her instructions to my children, as I want to instill in them a love and care for books, as she did for me. So you can understand how my heart swelled with joy and pride as H gleefully settled in by Grandma and read away a mile a minute from her 2nd grade level book of poems. Grandma looked up at me with surprise and said “Does she have this memorized??”  “No, she has only heard that poem read once before, early this week.” I replied. Grandma grinned. “Honest?! Well I would say she’s reading on a 3rd or 4th grade level from when I was in school, that is amazing.”

On my face was a huge smile- my heart full of happiness and pleasure that H was doing so well and met with my Grandma’s approval. My eyes threatened tears-the love of reading has been passed on. I’m so glad grandma got to witness her little great granddaughter loving words and books just as much as she does.

Day 27-Minimizing Mom’s Distractions

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Let’s be real, as young moms it can be hard to set aside time each day to make school happen. We are already wearing the hats of butcher, baker and candlestick maker. (well maybe if you’re seriously crunchy… lol!) But honestly, each mother is cook, housekeeper, launderess, diaper changer, referee, nurse…. you know what you do! It’s a big job. Add on to that list the simple word “teacher” and boy do things get hairy. I have a hard enough time prioritizing if I should comb my hair or fold laundry some days. Just sayin’. (I said I was keeping it real!) Now as if that didn’t make life complicated enough….

the smart phone came on the scene.

We are often at the beck and call of this little device. It hit home to me a couple weeks ago that if I received a text I practically ran to get my phone-but if one of my daughter’s said “Hey mom, will you talk to me?” I would often say “Yeah, just a minute.”

Now before you hand me worst mommy of the year award, this problem developed partly because my children ALWAYS want to talk, and if my husband needs to get a hold of me he will often send me a text and I don’t want to keep him waiting. But still, it’s usually not him. Then I get involved in one conversation after the other. Sometimes these are important conversations, but I must be honest-I use this “tool” way too much. My children’s education is very important. So this week I’m going to try an experiment.

During school times I’m going to turn off my notification sounds.

Earth shattering idea, isn’t it. 😛 I’ll tell my husband so he knows to send me a chat message over the computer. He’s the only one who usually messages me that way, and the computer will ding to let me know he’s talking to me. I’ll let you know at the end of the week how it goes!

Day 26-When Learning Is Hard: Making Tough Questions A Little Easier

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H is the master of asking difficult and complicated questions. Some days I just throw up my hands and say “Oh Lord, I need wisdom and I need it now!”

What is gay? Is killing always wrong? What does abort mean? Why are these people slaves? Where do babies come from? She’s not married and she has a baby… how did that happen? What are d-r-u-g-s? Why is that mommy being so mean to her little girl?

It seems that these questions from H always hit me hard. The responsibility of teaching a child about the world and how to react to it weighs heavily on me some days. A child’s basic world view is largely set up before they are about 8-10 years old. How will I build in to my child’s life and attitude towards others? So usually, when big time questions hit, I take a breath, pray for wisdom and the right words, and dive in. When we teach our children about tough or private issues we try to keep these things in mind:

If they are old enough to ask the question, they are old enough for a honest and age appropriate answer. 

If they are asking us, we should take their query seriously. Usually if kids don’t receive a satisfactory answer they are not afraid to ask again somewhere else or make up their own reasoning. 

Now, if you think about it for a minute, these come out of common sense. Think back to your childhood. Children will either find or make up answers for their big questions. This is why children come up with all sorts of crazy ideas of where babies come from, why the sky is blue, or one of my personal favorites, what the stars are. One of my brothers convinced our two younger siblings the stars were holes in the sky from guns being shot upwards. I’m still unsure if he believed it himself or just made it up to pull their leg! Now while the stars question wasn’t a huge life impacting issue, sometimes a child’s questions can be. For example we could be talking about our child’s sexuality and view on healthy relationships. Again think back on your childhood, and your poor parent’s attempt to share with you about the birds and the bees! How did that affect your view on human sexuality even into adulthood? Some of these questions will require us as parents to stop and think hard about what really is Truth. We may have to be humble and tell our child “I don’t know, honey. Let me think about it.”. Children can see when you’re just making up stuff, and if you do they will be much less likely to ask you more questions later or believe you in the future. Be honest with your children. They will thank you one day.

So, to wrap up:

  • Think ahead about some of life’s big questions and how you would answer your child.
  • Pray, ask for wisdom.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t launch into a dissertation.
  • Don’t make them feel bad for asking. They need to feel secure in asking you the tough and personal questions.
  • Answer in an age appropriate manner.
  • Keep it short. Kids don’t usually want a long lecture, but want their question succinctly answered.
  • Ask them if they have any other questions. Keep the door open.