Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Liking the Daughter You Love


     Raising a girl can be a blessing and a challenge all at once. Girls can be enjoyable and yet so difficult at times. As I think about raising daughters, lines from the song “Maria” in the classic movie The Sound of Music come to mind. “…She is gentle! She is wild! She's a riddle! She's a child! She's a headache! She's an angel! She's a GIRL!” Girls are so lovable and yet not always likable. 

     As a mother of five daughters, I certainly love them all deeply and unconditionally. But it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t necessarily always like them. For instance, one of my girls talks excessively. This little one reminds me of the continued “Maria” lyrics, “When I'm with her I'm confused, out of focus and bemused and I never know exactly where I am…” while another daughter is highly emotional and “Unpredictable as weather, she's as flighty as a feather…” The other three deal with everything from hyperactivity, “how do you make her stay, and listen to all you say…” to overly opinionated, “many a thing you know you ought to tell her…” to stubbornness “…many a think she ought to understand.
    So, assuming there may be another mother out there that has admitted she doesn’t always like her daughter, here are a couple of things that are helping me on this journey of liking my lovables. First off, choose to like her. The story of old “Mr. Jones” comes to mind. After his wife passed away, Mr. Jones needed to move into a nursing facility. Upon arrival, the nurse walked him down the hall on his way to his room. She said, “Mr. Jones, we have prepared the room for you and we will see how things are when you get there.” He answered, “I already like it!” “But you haven’t seen it.” “No, but I have decided that I will like it!” And we can do the same as mothers. We can decide to have the attitude of accepting our children no matter what. This resolve can drive us steadily forward through the challenges that may lie ahead. I am determined to like my girls.
     Secondly, remind yourself how undesirable you have been. I can think of dozens of my behaviors that weren’t what they should have been. I don’t even know how my dear mother made it through all my questions in elementary school, my emotions in junior high, and my dominating attitude in high school. Furthermore, as an adult, I still have moments of less-than-admirable actions. None of us are completely likeable at all times. This very thought causes me to give grace to my daughters. And just as most of us know when we are being unacceptable, our children may be in tune with their own awareness of their behaviors yet may not be mature enough to know how to handle it or stop.     This leads to a third step of taking time to communicate in order to work through issues. While it is necessary to decide to like our girls and beneficial to remind our self of our own shortcomings, this doesn’t mean we just move on and let things go as they are. In fact, this is a prime time to face the issues at hand in order to gain understanding. Listen. Ask questions. Engage with her emotions. Then, share your feelings and thoughts so that she can see how her actions are affecting others and how she can improve. Sometimes we need to confront the unlikeable as we lead our girls. It may take time and several attempts but they are listening and most girls do want to know how they can be the best they can be.
  In fact, my mom and I had a talk like this just a few years. She and I were frustrated with each other. So, we talked it out. It took three hours and many tears to work through how she thought I was controlling and I thought she was careless but it worked. We both ended it feeling understood. And we also knew we both had things to work to improve.
     Finally, when all has been done, think outside your own personality. Sometimes we just don’t like our daughter because she has a different personality. There are some things about girls that are a part of who they are! I am amazed at how my five girls can all be born within seven years and each can be so unique! I have had to accept that while some things need to be changed, there are other things that are just personality.
    For example, one night I burned the rice at dinner but served it anyway to see if anyone noticed. Well, they did. And each one had a comment. My oldest said logically, “Mom, the rice is burnt because you got distracted with laundry.” My second girl responded, “Yes, but its okay because we all make mistakes, mom, and I still love you.” The next one wasted no time and spit out the food while saying, “Yuck! That is terrible!” Her younger sister took note and said, “Thanks for making it mom but I am NOT even going to taste it!” And of course, my toddler just played with the rice happily. It was just a matter of their personalities. Sometimes, it’s just easy and fun celebrating who they are and how they see life!
     Overall, learning to like the daughter you love may feel like the ending words of the “Maria” song that ask, “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” but I believe we can. We can like them as we do all we know to do then simply embrace the fact that, like us, “She’s a GIRL!”

Also published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Goals for Ages 3-5 yrs old.

          When we had the first four children in four years, my mind was always racing to remember which child needed to learn what thing. It was mindboggling to keep track only to realize one had not learned something they should have by a certain point. With all the training and teaching going on, I was just happy they were fed and clean by the end of most days. But there is more that needs to be learned in those first five years.

      So as some of you have asked, we are sharing the list of important things we wanted our girls to know and do between the ages of 3-5. This list allowed me to keep track of where each girl was and who needed to learn other things. 

     They are divided into 5 Categories that we implement every day for some through guided life learning and other days when we do "school time" which is approximately 3-4 days a week. 

 All these goals can be taught through basic simple teaching, games, books, dvds, car rides, Cds, and lots of talking. Plus, depending on when you start kindergarten, you have two to three years to teach it all so that takes the stress off of cramming it in their little heads in a year.

      On that noteconsider starting kindergarten as close to age 6 as possible. I say this for a couple of crucial reasons. First, when they enter kindergarten closer to age 6 they have had more time to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

     When they are on the "older side" of kids in the class they can have the experience of leadership to the classmates because they are ahead. Just think of the joy of being one of the first kindergarten kids to lose a tooth, or to be a fifth grader with cool braces, a junior high sports boy with a year ahead in height and strength, a mature freshman girl that is out of the awkward stage, or being one of the first friends to drive and have a job. In addition, their hearts have had time to grow in the Lord and they are able to make solid decisions with wisdom and knowledge that time gives.

     Secondly, when you start later, the child is home longer on the back end of high school before leaving for work, college, or marriage. A year can make a difference when entering the adult world. And by those years we want every second we can get with our kids before they are grown and gone!

     Although a child may be ready for kindergarten schoolwork that doesn't mean you have to send them. Go ahead and have them do some older work at home but consider waiting to place them in kindergarten at church class or school class until closer to age 6. This is a precious time to bond and enjoy a stage with your child as much as possible. Honestly, I would rather have my toddlers go to preschool a few times a week than my 5-6 year olds leave. They are easier and so much fun to do everyday life with by the time they are out of the "I walk around and get into stuff in dangerous ways" stage!

     And if you have already started your little one and this info is too late, perhaps the Lord will lead you to make the courageous decision to hold your child back a year to repeat or to just take a year off. My mom had to make this choice with my brother when he was in the second grade. He turned 7 in September and started second grade but she felt it was best to hold him back. He thrived socially and academically far better than the year before which kept on through his high school years.

     For us, our Allison turned 6 in June and we started her in Kindergarten then. She will be 7 in June and starting first grade more mature than those younger students entering that are perhaps just turning 6.

     Just something to think about but God will lead you for what your child needs and it may be different.

     So, back to some ideas to follow as you guide your 3-5 year olds. Here is what we have researched and used in our children: 

1. God -
His love for us, He does good, and He is good. You can learn these through Bible stories (read from Story Bible book, Dan and Louie Cds), prayer (for anything, anytime, anywhere) and scripture memory. (Steve Green's Hide 'Em in My Heart Cds or otherwise)

2. Others - Receiving love, showing love, manners such as personal hygeine, phone skills, doorbell responses, key phrases (thank you, bless you, you're welcome, please), how to behave in quiet settings (such as weddings, meetings, church). 

3. Play -
Lots of open imagination time, some directed time, playing with others

4. Work -
Why we work (to carry out God's purposes on earth) and how we work (with excellence unto the Lord)

5. Education - Safety Skills (calling 911, what to do when lost, water safety, strangers), 7 Keys to Health (Water, Rest, Exercise, Vitamins, Healthy food, Massage, and Clean Hands away from the face), Personal Information (names of family members, phone numbers, address), Colors, Shapes, Letters  Counting to 100, Parts of the Body, Handwriting (letter formation, name, upper and lower case, keeping it in a straight line, and spacing), Calendars (days, months, seasons), Workbook Pages (fun books from local store with some cognitive work pages).

          This is a list to plan for and give guidance but don't stress when its not all done perfectly. If you do a bit by bit over the 3,4,5 years it will all come together! I hope that this list is a help to you as you lead your little ones in the way and timing the Lord tells you is best for your family!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What We Use for School

     After much, I mean MUCH, research, this is the easy-breezy, bottom line, thorough direction we have chosen to follow for our curriculum. One of the outstanding things about home educating is that we can pick what we feel is the best for our children according to their needs and our direction as a family.

     So, we use different things to teach our children including life experiences such as trips, church, extended family, hospitality, events etc. That is why we chose to name our home school "Liberty Classical...Free to Learn, Free to Live." We can totally decide what we want to do. Side note, most home school families do name their family school for organizational and record purposes, plus my girls thought it is fun to have an official name. (They also think its fun to wear a uniform to Wal-mart and march in a line like they are in the Madeline Movie! ha)

     Anyway, we have chosen some curriculum in book form, some in DVD, some in Audio, some in a teacher/classroom setting, and some online. This format has allowed our girls to flourish in education given in many forms.

In addition, something else we do that is unique but beneficial is that we send our girls to 6 weeks of public school at the end of the year. This has been worthy of doing for the experience (MAP testing, field trips, outdoor skills day and to see how other children live and learn) personal discipleship (by way of witnessing and being challenged by the world against their faith), and a change in pace of the flow of how we do life. This also gives me a little vacation and makes them appreciate home education the rest of the year! It truly does show them the pros and cons first hand rather than us always explaining why we do what we do the rest of the year.

    All that being said, I have listed the curriculum we use the rest of the year.  When you read below, you will see that we use much of the Classical Conversations material and school group. It's extremely inexpensive compared to private classical school and you will know your children are actually learning everything they need to know. This takes the pressure off of my mind wondering if we are doing what we are supposed to do as well as keeps me on schedule weekly.

     Classical Conversations is an awesome co-op (most likely there is one near you) where you don't have to teach. Hooray. And, it meets once a week and your children get many of the benefits of a school (recess, backpacks, classroom setting, field trips, school parties, year book, friends, teachers) without having to go every day.

     As stated previously, we use many methods and materials. The following is our list:

There is a checklist I have composed of all things needed by the end of the child's fifth year. Check posts for this list.

Kindergarten - 1st Grade
Geography, latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading and handwriting

Math - my own teachings from random workbooks at the store of basic addition, subtraction, clocks, and money

2nd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Abeka for reading, handwriting and grammar

Math - Math-U-See DVD program

3rd Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Phonetic Zoo Audio for Spelling, Abeka for Grammar and Cursive

Math - Teaching Textbooks Math Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

4th Grade-6th Grade
Geography, Latin, science, public speaking, history - Classical Conversations

English - Classical Conversations which teaches the grammar, writing, and vocab using the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing), and Phonetic Zoo audio for Spelling

Math - Teaching Text Books Math Program

Spanish - Rosetta Stone in the summer only

7th Grade - 12th Grade
All Subjects are Classical Conversations ... but I haven't been to this point in school yet with my girls so this may change. Otherwise, this is my plan.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chic Chat Chocolate!

Remember girl chats? Those heart to hearts at camp mini-group, college, Life Groups or at a sleepover? Those times are impacting memories for anyone who has experienced them. And if you haven't had a time like that, it's okay. You can start now. Times like these create moments of learning and talking  that make a lasting impression. And as a mother, I decided our girls needed some times like that not just at camp or at church but at home.

     Even if you have boys, you can do this. My mom did it with my brother and called "Straight Talk Table Time". They talked calmly and openly about life and the Lord. It was very natural and nurturing.
     Since our precious children are totally born evil, I decided it is imperative that we have some character building time other than prayers at meals/bedtime and church during the week. Of course we still teach and train as we go, but this set aside time of the day with my girls called "Chic Chat Chocolate" (yes, we actually eat chocolate because I am bribing them into maturity) is crucial for guiding my girls from foolishness into wisdom. So we gather together with blankets and pillows along with my Bible and chocolate for some heart to heart time together in the Word.

     In this post, I listed the themes we decided we need to teach. Each theme is for a month so we can make sure we have ample time to discuss the topics. Also, we cover some of the topics again each year as they are foundational to growth and I don't want them to forget them. However, other topics/months I may change from time to time. I use books/stories, re-enactment fun play, dance, pictures, DVD clips, and any creative way I can implement. However, the creative part is minimal because they lose sight sometimes of the point and we walk away not sure what we just learned.

     Also, it will take some loving discipline to remind them to be still and pay attention. It seems like every distraction happens during this time but I am determined that this time with my girls is the CORE of all I do. This time HAS to happen most days of the week. (We do about 4 days). It is like a golden treasure in my heart! Again, we talk things through at other times like bedtime and through the day but these chats are set in our schedule once the toddler is put down for a nap so we can truly focus and make progress. These talks are priceless.

     There is so much to teach and such a small window of time before they are off into life on their own. But just think all the golden nuggets you would have placed in the heart of your children for them to have for years to come! What a blessed mother you will be watching them live it out by God's grace.

     And honestly, if one of my children were to choose another way to live other than God's plan, at least I know I have work hard to do my part. This is why I train them then pray they live it out. And I hold to this verse in 3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth."

January - The Basics (worship, prayer, fasting, scripture memory)

February - Relationships (friends, boys, parents, extended family)

March - Bible Layout (books of the Bible and their basic themes)

April - Evangelism (loving and reaching the lost)

May - Fruit of the Spirit/10 Commandments (how we live these with God's help)

June - Seeking the Lord for extended times in the altar (at home and at church)

July - Attributes of God (His love, grace, compassion, forgiveness etc.)

August - Temptations (examples and how to overcome them)

September through December - Character Building Traits (excellent list from the Duggars online with definition and scriptures. Go to http://www.duggarfamily.com/content/character_qualities

     Feel free to change up the theme of the month based on what your family needs during that time or for a theme perhaps your church is using. The goal is to have open discussion and training with those precious hearts God has given you. Make time for it! Whatever and whenever it can be, do it while you still have them with you. Every minute makes a difference! Enjoy and please share with others :).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The First Five Minutes

     I admit...I am a recovering grumpy morning mom. By the grace of God I have changed over the years. And the changes I have made tremendously influenced how happy I am as well as how happy my children are in the morning. 

     The first thing I do for myself as soon as I wake up is to immediately pray "I love you God! I give you this day. Help me Lord. Strengthen me. This day is Yours..." This is in the first Nano-second or else I automatically wake up on the wrong side every single day. This prayer has been a game-changer for me and only takes about five minutes of my waking time to overcome my evil sin nature that appears every morning.

(Side note, I was beginning to become self-conscious of my need to "kill my flesh" every morning especially after being a Christian for 27 yrs. But my husband comforted me by saying he has to do the same thing every day. So either it's normal for all people or we are just both so sinful we need it just to get out of bed.)

     The other thing that has changed as I have grown as a mother is how I greet my children in the first five minutes. In the past when they woke up I would say after a brief hug, "Hello baby! I need you to get dressed" or "Goodmorning! Oh wow, your hair is crazy" or "Um...its not time to get up yet!" or "Yuck, your diaper is stinky" while not even look at them or truly connecting. But I have learned that this is a prime time to start their day off right. I was missing an influential opportunity.

     So, as each one wakes up or enters the room, I stop to make a heart connection. It could be by hugging them, wrapping them in a blanket, rubbing their back, speaking enouraging words about the day, making eye contact, listening to their dreams from the night, or offering help. Even if we are in a hurry, these few moments have the power to set the day straight.

     These "First Five" minutes are powerful either for the good or for the bad. It is up to you and to me how we start the day and how we lead our children to their start off their day. As a recovering grumpy morning mom, I can honestly say these two changes have transformed me into one happy mama with five happy children.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

More Stuff!

"What do you want for Christmas?" the Santa routinely asked my little girl. I abruptly piped in like only a parent could, "Nothing!!!! She doesn't want anything! She has all she needs and wants! Oh wait, I know what she can have....a professional organizer to help her deal with what she already has! The last thing she needs is MORE STUFF!!!!" 

      Yes, this really happened in my life. Well, I didn't say it out loud, but I certainly thought about it. For many families like ours, Christmas has meant two things: More and Stuff! Stuff for the closet! Stuff for the toy bin! Stuff for the TV hutch! Stuff the garage! Stuff for the areas...with stuff! As a mother of six children between 4mos-12 yrs. old, the last thing I need is more stuff on top of the stuff we have! After all the treats from the school party, costumes from the church performance, clothes and toys from the family-giving, I have felt as if I have a mall in my home entry room. All I can do in December is make a pile in the laundry room and deal with it all after New Years.

       Then there is the More Factor. The innocent children in our lives have this inward understanding that every year the gifts should be bigger and better! The bigger you get, the bigger the presents get. And it better be better, mom, so they think. I thought this as a child and I know my children have had these expectations Seriously, my oldest daughter made the comment a couple years ago of her Christmas gifts being more and more each year. "Just think, Mom! By the time I am 13 I will have a car!" No ho, ho,ho here...because truth is, she was right! There was this unsaid pattern we had been creating as a family every year that there were more gifts and more expensive gifts than the year before.

          Certainly, Christmas is a wonderful time to purchase and receive presents as we rejoice over the ultimate Gift given to the world. And I love it all! But the reality is that it can easily get out of control and our children can become consumed with consuming. And this can lead to frustration in the minds and the home of the parents. For us, we decided to pull the reins back a bit on the sleigh ride for our family so that we aren't overwhelmed with more stuff and yet still have the most wonderful time of the year. We took two easy steps that changed the direction of our whole season:

     1. Give away as much as you can this month before more comes in the door. Since it's a hectic time, don't even separate it yet into those resale/giveaway/trash piles. Just get a box and throw everything you can get rid of in there. Think in terms of clothes, toys, decor, books, DVDs etc. As you gather each item, you will feel a wave of holly jolly come over you, I guarantee. I typically have each of our children gather five legitimate things, not their sibling's items or a small piece of a broken toy, to share. For us, that is 25 items out of the way! Merry Christmas to me!

     2. Explain that each child is loved but the gifts are not always going to be more impressive than the year before. Some years may be a step up from the year before but some years may not, and that is okay. Share with them that the goal is to share the love not increase the greed. The atmosphere, tone and words we use in communicating these steps is for the children is crucial for them to understand and embrace. These changes may be harder for some hearts than others but it's beneficial for all.

      Here is glimpse at what we actually say to our children during December, "Hey it's the most wonderful time of the year! Who is ready to celebrate? Decorate? Bake? Shop? Give?! Go light-seeing?! Here is the plan, kids. First, we are going to start by making room for the blessings that are to come! This way, other children can use what we have had and it keeps the house from being overwhelmed with too much stuff. Secondly, let's keep things in perspective of appreciation for all you will be receiving this year. Each present is given because you are loved. However, every year they will not necessarily be bigger and better, okay? We are blessed and will enjoy this all to the fullest when we have the right heart of gratitude. Who is ready to start?!"

       So, gather your small and big elves around the fire, pass out marshmallows and share the family's merry way to celebrate! Keep it short and sweet answering all questions at the end, then implement all month long with expectations of less material chaos and fewer greedy hearts. Everyone can still decorate the house, eat delicious treats, go visit the brightest lights, turn up the Christmas tunes, make traditional crafts and do some shopping for others. But most of all, you will be able to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without everyone wanting more and your home overflowing with stuff.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Time for Myself

     One of the things that shocked me about motherhood is that I am never off the clock. Its eternal. Seriously. Most things end but not mothering. School lets out for the summer and everyday at a certain time. A job has certain hours plus vacation days. But not being a mother. There is no time clock. There is no vacation. There is no stopping point. Ever.

      After much frustration, I have learned I can't compartmentalize my mothering. I literally would say "I am off the clock. Its past 8:00 pm and I am not responding." This didn't really work. First of all because Scotty said it was ridiculous and second of all because my girls didn't stop needing me at bedtime.

      So if you can't beat them, join them. That means that I am in it for life. I have decided that these little people are my new best friends. (Don't worry, I don't mean I won't lead them and fall into some crazy philosophy that children need us to be friends instead of parents.)When I became a parent I became a mother for LIFE. Plus, now that I have accepted the children as a part of life, I have much more joy enjoying them.  

Even though I am very "pro-motherhood" and "pro-be-with-children-more", I also have a plan to maintain some time alone:

     1. I get up before the children do so I can get a good attitude, eat, get dressed, read my Bible, stretch, go to the bathroom (a luxury once they are awake), and write out the schedule on the marker board. If I have a newborn then this plan is out the window and I let other things go in life so I can make it through the first three months.

     2. No one is allowed to get up before 8:00 unless they are capable of not talking, needing anything, and staying out of the way and it better be for a good reason. That is, of course, after I greet them lovingly (which isn't easy but this post may help...

     Otherwise, when they get up before 8 I greet them and send them back to bed to read or play quietly until I come get them. For the toddler that gets up at 7:00, I change a diaper and give a drink while they stay in their bed and it buys me about 20 min. Then, I go in and turn on the light and turn off the noise maker and give books and toys, that buys me another 20 min, and then I send an older sibling in to play for  with them which buys me the last 20 min of time until 8:00. It isn't perfect but it works most of the time.

     3. Everyone takes an hour break in the middle of the day. It doesn't matter if you are 10 yrs old, we are all taking a break. Everyone goes to their own bed or if I am gracious some can rest in the living room with no talking. If you are 4 and under you must sleep. If you are 5 and older and can make it through the day without meltdowns then you can just have quiet time. Books, drawing pads (no markers or crayons), magnet boards, puzzles etc are allowed.

     4. Everyone goes with Daddy at 8:00 pm. Scotty takes over after I do after baths/showers/teeth for the girls. This allows me time alone until we get our couples time at 9:30 and he can bond with the children. There are exceptions like when he travels or has a message to write or is in a pastoring crisis but overall this is what we do.

     5. Date nights, nights at grandparents, and getaways are on our calendar.
(See post Staying Connected at

      These are all the ways I keep my mind and emotions from being overwhelmed and not having time alone. This is crucial especially for those that home school or have multiple little ones. Since you are in this mothering journey for LIFE, you must have a plan to stay fresh so you can be the best mama you can be.

      P.S. We also have a rule of no needing me while I use the restroom unless its an emergency (vomit, blood, danger) and no note-passing under bathroom door asking questions either (believe it or not this is a hard one to break for my girls).

     And if you only have small children then you may just need to plan your potty break around their naps or video time or just take the baby with you in there...they won't remember it. But I don't recommend you going to the bathroom while they are eating in the kitchen because seems like every time I do this someone ironically starts choking or it is so silent I think someone is choking the whole time I am away which leads to being tense while I am away and we all know that's not healthy.
      Yeah, being a mother takes some major planning even for the little things in life like using the restroom!