Friday, December 31, 2010

My friend Jessica is about to have a baby any day now! She's asked me to be her birthing partner (along with her husband, of course). So, I've got my scrubs ready, along with everything else. It's all laid out for when I get the call. She wants to have a natural birth, so I am studying up on my breathing techniques and comfort measures. I didn't even study this hard for my own natural births! Mostly, I just depended on my doulas to give me ideas for handling the pain. But, now that I am the doula, I really need to know my stuff! I am also praying constantly, meditating on Scripture and asking God to empower me to be a blessing to my friend. It's exciting. I can't wait to witness the miracle of birth from this perspective. I'll post pictures of her precious little baby Ebenezer or "Eben" when I have them.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I think God answers prayers we aren't even conscious of praying sometimes. That's the only way for me to explain how often I feel like I am walking straight into destiny. My new friend is truly a blessing to me. And, only God could have worked out the details so perfectly. She also home schools, her kids are also young like mine, she also wants to attend to Walnut Hill-Greater Waterbury, and she also just happens to live like five houses down the street from me. I don't think I will be afraid to pray for anything I may want or need after receiving the gift of such a friend! God is good and He is the king of destiny (even for mere housewives).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This photo was taken from inside our front window. I knocked and Norah turned and smiled for the camera. All day yesterday, she was in and out, playing the snow (and wind), then coming inside to thaw out again.

Notice: Her snow suit and snow boots are way too small. We got two winter's wear out of this suit, but I don't think it is fair to Norah to try and stretch that to three.

However, I don't really have a choice right now, since I can't seem to find a suit that I like well enough to purchase. Most snow suits are incredibly tacky. (Has anyone else noticed this??!!) They all seem to be so "in style," that they will, no doubt, be noticeably dated in another year or two. I like to try and get suits that are neutral enough for both the girls to wear throughout the years.

But, I suppose this suit is working well enough for now, meaning only part of Norah's shins are exposed to the freezing snow and her feet are so numb from the cold anyway, she doesn't seem to notice that her boots are so tight that blood isn't circulating to her toes.

Here's hoping I find at least one suit available for purchase in her size that doesn't have a bright turquoise, faux fur lining. (Crossing my fingers.)

Avril was none to happy to be left inside. But, I know how it will be. When I took Norah outside in the snow at Avril's size, she just fell face down. I'd laugh and pick her up, but she'd fall right back into the snow again...

I'm too old and practical for that now. Baby girl will just have to wait until she can actually play in the snow to go in the snow, just like she will most likely have to wait till she (and all her siblings to-be) can ride every ride at Disney Land before I am willing to pay for tickets.

So, poor baby was left to cry it out. But, don't worry... Momma held her and gave her comfort and consolation (after I took the picture.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

We're in the middle of a blizzard. The wind and the snow can be frightful at intervals.

We're burning through quite a few fire logs. I often sit in that glider right in front of the fire place. Norah and I have been working on a few Lego houses on the top of that ottoman.

No one was out driving on the streets and the wind was calm for a long stretch, so I let Norah bundle up in all her snow gear and take a batch of homemade candies over to our neighbors after dinner. What else did she have to do with all her energy? She really enjoys these little missions of responsibility, too. They give her quite a thrill. It was a sight for us to stand at the door and see her trudging through the snow holding her little lantern up so high. When she had delivered the goods, the neighbors waved and sent her right back home to thaw out again. After she had taken off her cold, wet outer-clothes, she sat in my chair and put her feet up by the fire for a few moments, thoroughly satisfied with herself.

Daddy played a movie on the corner of his laptop screen for Avril while he took all this free time to organize our computer files, defrag our hard drives, etc.

Avril can be really affectionate throughout the day. She is such a blessing to us in this way. Here, I caught her with her arm around Daddy during her movie.

Norah played with her new Amazin' Hamster on Webkins for hours yesterday. This is one gift she didn't know she was getting and she must have asked for over one hundred times without really expecting it. It was very inexpensive, actually, (but she doesn't know that). It's probably the thing she is enjoying the most right now.

We're really grateful for all this down time. My heart is so full of peace and joy it's hard to contain it all and impossible to express with words.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our house is still a mess after opening gifts yesterday morning, but it's a lovely mess. I don't mind the stuff lying all around right now. We're enjoying the time spent together helping the kids play with their new toys.

Norah got a Bible that she will be able to read herself, a hamster for her Webkins and thanks to financial gifts sent weeks ago from her uncle, aunt and grandparents, Norah also got several Legos sets. (Thanks, Family!)

Avril got a large Aqua Doodle pad and several Little People toys. The Little People were a gift to us from our friend Kim and her daughter Sophie who had decided she had outgrown them. They were given to us just a few days ago, so we kept them aside from Avril, wrapped them up and let her enjoy the thrill of tearing the paper off the big boxes and beginning to play with them for the first time today. The "grand neighbors" also bought the girls several presents including magnetic dress up dolls, gloves and clothes.

Dwayne gave me a car dock for my cell phone, a few very nice kitchen utensils and two very, very nice new pans. Dwayne has yet to decide what he will get for himself. Note: I don't even try to buy him gifts anymore. He's too tech-savvy and particular about said technology for me to even try. But, I think he's thinking hard about a television or some fancy tablet/computer thingy.

We baked our ham, made green bean casserole and used our Vermont cheddar in a homemade mac and cheese today. And, we shared this dinner with a single friend from church. She stayed to visit after the meal and helped Norah build one of her new Lego houses.

I feel very blessed and content. This is the first year I feel free of the greed that so easily tempts me this time of year. I am keeping the worship music on and the fire going. I've been getting up early making hearty breakfasts, then later, napping on the couch under a quilt with my feet warmed by the fire.

We're supposed to have a blizzard. And, I sincerely hope the weather is so bad that we get stuck at home tomorrow. In my spirit, I'm not finished enjoying this holiday yet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here's a collection of photos I took throughout the day yesterday, Christmas Eve 2010.

Avril woke up first, so she got Daddy to herself until Norah woke up, too.

The girls in their matching outfits they wore to church.

Norah was Mary in the Christmas skit during the service.

The girls in their matching pajamas for Christmas.

Silly faces.

Reading our Advent book before bed.

I'll post pictures of Christmas Day tomorrow night.

Friday, December 24, 2010

For those of you interested in this kind of thing, this is a picture of Norah's most recent math test.

You may notice that there are no marks on this paper. (That's mainly because Norah didn't get anything wrong.) But, even if she had gotten something wrong, I probably wouldn't have marked her paper. I probably would have just made her go back and erase the problem she missed and do it over.

I have been surprised to find that grades are almost entirely meaningless in this world of home school. I mean, really, why would we mark a problem wrong and just leave it wrong when she has the time to go back and fix it?

I've discovered that there is no reason for Norah's tests to be graded, at least, not "graded" in the traditional sense. Grades exist in school as a way for teachers to communicate with parents and students that they don't have enough time to talk to about how well students are mastering the course material.

But, since I am the parent and the teacher, I don't really need to communicate with myself by grading Norah. Tests serve, more than anything, to confirm to me that what I thought about Norah is true. She "get's it" and we can move on to the next level.

And, since "learning" in a home school environment is just Norah confronting the material she has been given to master, she doesn't need a grade to know whether or not she "gets it." There's no way for her to "fake it," even to herself. There's nothing, including the kid who sits in front of her, for her to "hide behind." There's no motivation to cheat or mislead me as to how well she is really doing. She never has the option of just going through the motions. She just learns what it is she needs to learn next, takes as much time as she needs to learn it (even if extra time is added due to a lack of diligence and interest on her part). But, only once she's mastered something, then she moves on.

So, as it happens, Norah never does poorly on tests. This is because I don't even give them to her unless I think she's ready for them. I'm not sure what the purpose of a failing a test would be in a home school environment like ours. I understand the purpose they serve in a formal school environment. But, when the goal is simply for one individual, Norah, to actually learn the material in front of her, there is no purpose for her to get failing grades followed by more failing grades followed by more failing grades. In Norah's learning environment, there is only plenty of time for success followed by further success followed by even further success.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We've started first grade history. As our main text, we are using The Story of the World, Volume One: Ancient History. We don't actually have a text book, though. We downloaded the audio version of the book, so I've made a cd and we just listen to the chapters we're studying. I do so much reading already, it's nice to have a break.

It's a little late to start first grade history considering Norah started first grade math several months ago and first grade reading several years ago. But, we home school, so those formal starting and finish lines for each subject often get blurred for us. We just keep on learning. In reality, Norah is six, so it's just about the right time to start a chronological study of history. It is also the end of the year/ the beginning of the next, so I can use the next twelve months to cover Volume One: Ancient History before we move on to the next book Volume Two: The Middle Ages.

We use The Story of the World's Activity Book for more ideas to go along with the chapters. That's where I got the coloring pages and the map you will see below. I also downloaded the digital version of this book and I just keep it on my desktop and print any pages I need from my computer.

So far, Norah has colored "A Farmer Using a Shaduf" from Chapter One. She has also colored the map of the Fertile Crescent. Once we have quite a few of these history pages, we will collect them in a notebook.

One of the suggested activities that go along with chapter one was cave drawings. The activity book suggests letting kids paint on brown paper with neutral colors like early cultures would have used.

I taped the brown paper to the underside of our dining room table and let the girls build a "cave" around the table to make the experience more authentic and fun. I told Norah she had to paint with her fingers and in the dark. She even decided to put on her Native American costume from last Halloween. She had a blast with this.

At first, I told Norah to just leave her cave painting under the table to dry, but after a few days and once it was dry, we decided we will actually try and leave it there for good. It will be fun to see if we end up forgetting it's there and someday, rediscovering it like some of the ancient cave paintings have been rediscovered in more modern times.

Norah says she drew a deer with an arrow in it, a robin, a tee pee, a man with a spear, a bunny... and I can't remember what else.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When Dude-lady got back to her place, she kicked Dude-man and his friends out. She took a long, hot shower... Well, it was more like a long, lukewarm shower because the hot water wasn't working right.

Then, she watched G.I. Jane and Fried Green Tomatoes before going to bed.

She called her landlord and left a voice mail about her hot water. So, later that week, Dude-lady came home on her lunch hour to find Guss, the maintence man (who also moonlights as Santa at the Super-Walmart during the holidays), in her bathroom. He said he had fixed her hot water, explained that it was just a broken faucet and that was fine...

But why was Guss holding her back brush?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here's a peek at our cookie baking "lessons."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Signs of the season:

We'd been up less than five minutes, but Avril had already climbed to the middle of the table, stole a cookie, climbed back down, settled back into a seat on the couch and started eating it.

Dwayne's company sends our Christmas ham and other rich, authentic goodies every December.

The mess of baking sugar cookies.

The crumbs from all the cookies.

Dwayne's company also sends delicious citrus every December. This is another treat we really look forward to.


Cookie decorating made simple enough for a six year old.

Cookies, cookies everywhere!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dude-lady came to Guy's house to spill the beans about the woodpile and confide in him over Dude-man's rage issues, but Guy didn't answer the door of his apartment. Instead, his "business associate" answered the door. She said her name was Galina and told Dude-lady in broken English through puckered lips that Guy was currently "own-a-bail-able."

Aside from Galina's Vader-like hair style, Dude-lady had to confess that she was quite fabulous. Standing there with so much synthetic fiber, silicone and mascara towering over her, Dude-lady wondered if this Galina owned any piece of clothing made of cotton...

Dude-lady shook herself back to reality and excused herself before Guy came to the door. But, before she turned to leave, she glanced over Galina's shoulder and confronted some real evidence that Guy was a player. As she walked home, she wondered if Galina knew that Guy chopped wood.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This video shows how I taught Norah to hold her pencil correctly and how I am now teaching Avril.

I will often hear moms of older kids complain that their kids aren't learning how to write their letters because their kids don't want to re-learn proper pencil hold. But, if moms teach kids early, before their kids form their own habits, before they even know they are being "taught," holding a pencil correctly will become second-nature to them.

And, as you can see, these "lessons" can be quite fun and interactive for mother and child.

Note: If Avril starts out drawing on her own, she doesn't always hold the marker with the right grip. And, sometimes she switches her grip on the markers as soon as I take my hand off hers. Norah did this, too and it's very normal. But, after several months of "doing swirls" with Mommy, like her big sister, Avril will be holding her marker (or pencil or crayon) correctly all of the time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dude-man found out Dude-lady had dinner with Guy. He got jealous and set Guy's woodpile on fire in the middle of the night. The fire truck came, but they put the flames out before any real damage was done.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dude-lady's cat got out. She was hysterical. She called Dude-man for help, but he was in no condition to be supportive. He was still sleeping off the previous night's X-box marathon. When Dude-lady found her cat, it was in the arms of her new neighbor, Guy.

Guy explained how he had heard the cat mewing in distress, put down his brief case to investigate, followed the sounds around the apartment building up to the third floor where he was able to coax the cat down from a ledge. Dude-lady said she had found a briefcase on the sidewalk while she was frantically searching for her cat. She thought she'd try and return it to it's owner. It was Guy's briefcase. Needless to say, Guy and Dude-lady shared a moment over this happen-stance.

When Dude-lady was getting more acquainted with Guy, she asked, "What do you do?" He said, "I'm in finance." Dude-lady told him she kept the books for local veterinary clinics. That lead to a long and enthusiastic discussion about compound interest.

Guy invited Dude-lady to a fire-lit dinner. She hesitated to go, but felt obligated since he'd been so great about the cat. When she mentioned how nice the fire was in order to make small talk, he explained that he only burns wood he chops himself. "I don't have time to get to the gym with the hours I keep at the office, so chopping keeps me in shape."

Dude-lady almost laughed out loud. She thought he was just trying to impress her. She asked where all this wood was that he supposedly chopped? She'd only seen a small pile on his porch. He explained that he donates at least six cords to the local orphanage every winter. There was an awkward moment of silence because Dude-lady was speechless. She had grown up in foster care and she was uncomfortable with the feelings Guy was provoking inside her. She said, "I have to go" and left in a hurry. When she got back to her apartment, she'd realized that in her panic, she'd left the door unlocked because Dude-man was there, playing X-box with his friends and drinking all her soda because he was out of Mountain Dew at his place.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our home school group had a ginger bread (graham cracker) house building party.

Each kid got their own plate filled with building supplies.

Here's one photo of "the action" in my friend's kitchen. Her living room was also full of moms and kids.

Norah's finished house.

Avril didn't build a house. She is actually very social (just not as obvious about it as Norah). She enjoyed playing with the other kids in the living room and as you can see, she also enjoyed eating as many refreshments as she could get from Mommy (or steal from the plates people sat down low enough for her to reach).

We brought home an extra plate full of graham crackers and candies to make another house, so we may post pictures of the second house tomorrow. (Unless we eat all the supplies before we build it.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"We need to learn how to customize without compromise. Jesus does this so well that he actually is called a drunkard and a friend of sinners. In other words, the company he kept began to redefine him to the religious community. The Lord's going to give us extraordinary love for people that we wouldn't normally even like. To some Christians, they're going to think that we agree with their stances on issues because we love them so much."

-Kris Vallotton, Standing in the Presence of Kings, Part 2

This articulates what has been happening in my life for some time now. God is empowering me to really love people. And, I mean really, really love them, with a supernatural love, not just in word, but in fact. I don't care what these people think about Jesus and I don't care what other Christians think about me for really enjoying people who might not care about Jesus. All I know is I am more effective in my witness than I have ever been and it's in direct proportion to how much I love.

"If I have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging symbol..." 1 Corinthians 13

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Turns out, Dude-lady plays the piano. Dude-man thinks their common interest in music may be something to build upon.

Lego Town's mayor got a private jet with their stimulus money to go with the town's new tractor crane.

And, Dude-lady's cat is picking fights with a dog (or is it a horse?) over a sausage link.