Archive for January, 2011

The Benefit of Perspective

I passed by some writing on the wall today, not of the figurative kind, but of the literal kind.  One of my youngest daughters, who is just learning to print, had printed her name, one of her sister’s names, and my name, “mommy”, on the wall in pencil and drawn a heart.  Many years ago, when my oldest sons were little boys, this would have upset me.  I probably would have lectured the culprit about writing on paper, not on walls or furniture, and would have made him erase it or wash it off.  Today, it upset me for different reasons.  It upset me because this might be the last time an early printer practices proudly on my wall.

I remember when my oldest sons, who are now teens used to leave me things like this to find; crayon drawings on night tables, army stick men pencilled on my bedroom wall, scribbles in permanent marker on my wedding photo, and brightly coloured stickers on my van windows.  It used to anger and frustrate me, and now, I miss their little fingerprints on the coffee table.

Experience and age bring a perspective I wish I had had when my older kids were little.  My youngest daughters may be our last children and there likely will be no more crudely sketched hearts once these ones are erased.  I took a good look at the markings on the wall and tried to cement them in my memory.  My heart swelled as I thought of the love this little one felt for me when she carefully printed my name and hers next to the heart she drew.  As I continued down the hall, I felt regret for not fully appreciating the tender hearts of young children when my boys were younger.  Now I know that the time goes by so quickly…



Hard Questions

This morning, I was blindsided with some unbelievably hard questions from a distraught Sedaya, who is six years old.  She had asked for a drink of water and I had said yes, but asked her to wait a few minutes while we finished up our history lesson.  I don’t know if this having to wait triggered something for her (in our house the kids obviously can have water whenever they want, but she needed help to reach the cups).

Well after homeschool was done, she came to me and asked if she could talk to me.  She sat down and said, “mommy, the people they don’t have water or food and they die.  Maybe they don’t know Jesus.”  Ugh.  “Normal” kids don’t really think too much about people dying of starvation or from unclean water, but Sedaya knows all too well that it happens.  Here she is, in her little mind, thinking about the salvation of these people and worrying about them.  We talked about that a little bit and then she looked at me and said, “when you little girl, your mommy have food?”  Tears sprung to my eyes immediately and I felt the weight of this precious girl’s early years and the impact hunger will always have for her.  I explained to her that when I was a little girl, my mommy had enough food for us to eat, to which she replied, “and her can eat too?”  More tears.

I cannot imagine as a mother having to choose which of my kids to feed because there wasn’t enough to go around or feeding my kids tiny amounts and trying to hide from them that I was not eating myself to try to save them.  I cannot imagine as a mother knowing that my kids were going to bed with empty tummies and knowing that there was nothing I could do about it.  My heart aches for all the mothers around the world who are faced with this reality today.

Later, we talked a bit about how her first mommy loved Jesus and how I love Jesus and how Sedaya loves Jesus and how someday, she will be with both her mommies in Heaven.  She was happy about that, but it still was weighing heavily on her that other people who have no food don’t know Jesus.  She asked if we could add that into our homeschool prayer every morning.  I feel humbled that my six year old is asking me if we can pray for the people who don’t have food and water to find out about Jesus and to get food and clean water.

She told me some other things about her life back in Ethiopia and I mostly just cried.  She asked me why we have so much food in Canada when there is not enough food in Africa.  She cried about her mom.  She cried about her older brother, who at one point had saved her life.  She said to me, “I forgot to say thank you” and all I could say was, “he knows honey, he knows.”

I am glad that my kids have compassion for others.  I wish these hard questions had easy answers though.  I wish it were as simple as just sending some of our excess from Canada to Africa.  I wish it were as simple as the prayer of a child.  And maybe it is.  Or at least maybe someday it will be.

Spanish School Dropout

It’s official…I’m a dropout!  This year, Mark and I started taking weekly Spanish classes held at his brother’s house.  I have always wanted to learn Spanish.  I pick up languages fairly easily and I like the sounds of Spanish and think that as languages go, it is one of the more useful ones out there, so I was pretty excited.  I was less excited when at the first class, I realized that I was by far the person with the least experience in the class and felt a bit like I was holding the rest of the class up.

When leaving, I had every intention of studying and even pulling out our Rosetta Stone Spanish program, but I found that at this time in my life, I was busy with other priorities.  I have been putting a big emphasis on homeschooling this year and that has taken up hours every day.  I have been putting in about two hours a day with my writing.  I also have been working on a new project that I will tell you about once it is ready to unveil.  I am putting in time in the world of adoption still and am passionate about that work.  Then of course, there is the parenting 7 kids bit!  I found that I just wasn’t making the time for the Spanish homework.  To do so would have taken away from something that I really want to be doing right now.  Learning Spanish was one of those things that I wanted to do “someday”.  I still would like to learn it when the timing is right and when a trip is approaching to a location where I could put it into practise, but for now,

I am a Spanish school dropout!

Red Carpet Premiere Family Fun

For our most recent Family Fun Night, we did a theatre theme.  Some of the kids even dressed up and pretended to be stars going to a Hollywood Premiere!  Anyway, I don’t have the best pictures, but you’ll get the general idea.  The theme idea came from Karen, who also does Family Fun Nights with her family.  (thanks Karen!)

I decorated with movie themed tablecloth, cups, napkins, and skewers and used the extra paper popcorn boxes as more decorations.  We had a make-your-own nachos bar for supper with blue and white tortilla chips, cheeses, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos.  The kids all assembled their own and then I cooked them.

After a nutritious supper of nachos (!), the kids were each given a ticket that they could redeem at the “concession”.

The concession was a hit of course!  Even at a real movie theatre, there is no way the kids would be allowed that much junk to eat!

I had closed all the blinds and curtains in the house, trying to make it as dark as possible to make it like a theatre.  As a family, we watched “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” which was perfect as it was appropriate for all the ages.  Later, when the younger five kids had gone to bed, Mark Mackenzie, Jonah, and I watched “The Blind Side”.  It was a great Family Fun Night and the kids all had a blast!


Weekly Wrap-Up

Finally, I am posting another one of these.  I drifted out of the habit, which I regret, but there’s nothing like the start of a new year to spur me on!  This is a recap of our homeschool week.  To read other families’ wrap-ups, check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Our morning devotions and prayer time are still going really well thanks to our handy book, “30 Very Veggie Devos About Honesty”.  I know that a Veggie Tales devotional is below the age level for my kids, but it’s very adaptable to their level and works really well.  We’ve never done any type of family devotions before and this is a great way to start.  We are getting close to being finished the book though.  Does anyone have any suggestions for a good devotional to do next?

We did this simple science experiment Colour Changing Crystals.

The kids continued their memory work with quotes, scripture, and the poem we have been working on forever, “The Tyger” (hope to finish that up soon – I perhaps should have chosen a shorter poem, especially for my kids who have only been speaking English for a year!)

The big thing this week was learning to tell time.  Three of the kids got watches for Christmas and are eager to learn.  The “time” to learn is when your kids are excited and want to learn, so this was the perfect opportunity.  We started by practising counting by 5’s.  I have found that the best way to really instil this in your kids in a way they will remember is to combine it with a physical activity.  This helps to train their brains.  What I have them do for this is to stand up and jump from side to side as we count by 5’s.  This also is great for perking them up in the mornings!!!  So we started each of our telling time sessions by this jumping and counting by 5’s several times and then we used little practise clocks I have where they can move the hands on the clocks and play around.  I had printer worksheets for them.  (I guess I should mention that “them” is my three eight-turning-nine year olds.)  Josiah got the concept quickly and was ready to move past the hour and half hour learning that we started with, but Gracelyn and Elijah are still needing more practise.  We worked on telling time each homeschool day this week (every day but Wednesday) and I think by next week, we will be able to move on to quarter past and quarter to.

We progressed quite a bit through Story of The World this week, getting through The Assyrians, The First Cities of India, and The Mystery of Mohenjo-Daro.  This made for a few really good discussions and the kids completed all the corresponding maps and coloring sheets.

From a great grandma in Saskatchewan the kids received some Christmas money, so I had each of them make her a painting, picture, card, or written letter as a thank you, depending on their age and we mailed them off.

Jonah, (age 13) did a book report, some new Spelling worksheets, devotions, Daily Grams, a study of African slave trading, and began a story written as though he were on a slave trading ship heading for America.  In my de-cluttering of the office, I also managed to find a novel study that he had started and not finished, so he took up where he left off in that.  He also did his usual reading of several novels and spent an afternoon at Galaxyland with some friends and went to a youth group event.

Next week, the kids’ activities start up and Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be jam packed for the next while with drama classes, art classes, cross country ski lessons, and swimming lessons.  That’s about it for this week…hope you all had a good week too!


New Year, New Goals

I just love fresh starts.  I may have mentioned that hundreds of times already in previous posts, but it is so true!  I just love the possibilities that fresh starts bring.  So, of course, I am the sort of person who makes New Year’s Resolutions, though I have gotten better at making them over the years.  I used to write things like “get healthy” or “be better at…”.  Those types of non-specific, non-measurable goals are impossible to attain.  Now, I keep my resolutions more specific and I make a sublist to go along with them to outline how I am going to go about achieving them.  I won’t bore you with all of my goals this year, but there are a few that I will share, including one in which I have put myself “out there” so to speak publicly to increase the chances that I achieve it by being accountable.

One of my goals is to set an alarm on weekdays and wake up before my kids do.  Yuck!!!  I am a night owl.  I have to force myself to go to bed before midnight and mornings are not my friend.  Normally, I drag myself out of bed when the kids get up, which is sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. and more often than not, I lie there wishing I could go back to sleep.  But I know that in order to homeschool the way that I want to, I need to get off to a better start and greet my kids each morning with a cheerful heart so that their days get started in the right way as well.

This morning, I set my alarm for a few minutes before 7 and when it went off, I admit to briefly entertaining thoughts of going back to sleep, but I stuck to my plan and got up, had a shower, and was dressed when the first of my kids started to come into my bathroom.  I was able to greet them with a smile and “good morning” instead of a grumpy, “what time is it?”  Later, while the kids were eating their breakfast at the kitchen table, I brought in our devotions book and read to them while they ate and then we started our day off with a prayer before we went into the homeschool room to start their math and history lesson.  Wow!  What a different way to start the day!!!  Everyone is so much more cheerful than usual today, even still, hours later.  Mornings are generally the time in our house with the most bickering, squabbles over toothpaste and toys, or downright fights between the boys!  This morning, the sounds in the house have been different and that is reward enough for me to be willing to set my alarm again for tomorrow morning.

The public goal I have set is one that I have some trepidation about, both because achieving it overwhelms me and because I am scared that I will fail and also because admitting that I have this problem and being completely real and honest about it is frankly, embarrassing.  I have given myself a Challenge, a De-Cluttering Challenge.  To follow along on my progress and to see the pictures that I so did not want to share, you can check out Day 1 here and Day 2 here.  Now that I have shared those pictures, I want to go and hide, but I can’t because, as you can see, I have work to do!!!

So, what are your goals for 2011?