Friday, December 17, 2010

Learning to read...

As I began praying and learning about homeschooling, one of my biggest concerns was teaching Esther how to read. I felt (and still feel) inadequate. I don't have a teaching degree, I don't know how to teach phonics etc. So I put a lot of time into researching schools of thought on when and how to teach reading.

I found myself leaning towards the literature based curriculum, Charlotte Mason style learning. I favored the concept that you did not need to push a child to learn reading formally but to begin surrounding them with living books and that reading would stem naturally out of this.

The concept of flashcards, worksheets and three letter work books not only bored me but lacked beauty. It reeked of classroom. And isn't that what I was trying to avoid? I wanted a living, breathing learning experience that was interwoven with a rich daily life.

Now, I am not saying that I have abandoned my ideals, but that it was a shock to the system that my eldest LIKES worksheets, flashcards, workbooks and phonics. Sure, we LOVE to read beautifully illustrated and written living books together, but even though I was not pushing her to read, it seemed, that she was pushing me to teach her formally.

When I read about how bored children get with the above and do much better with informal narration, plays, crafts, it didn't occur to me that this was a general thing and not a rule, and in fact, Esther enjoys these things immensely but actually would rather sit and work on Kindergarten workbook, and wants to finish the creative activity so she could go back to tracing letters, matching patterns and doing mazes.

She learned her letter sounds close to a year ago, but as she was only three, I didn't want to push her and also she was overwhelmed beyond just saying the sound (again, she was the one who chose to learn them, I just followed her lead).

Anyway, jump forward to earlier this week when she pulled Alphaphonics off the bookshelf and asked me about it. I explained what it was and she asked me to do it with her. So, we did! I was amazed that she was putting words together and enjoying it.

On recommendations of lots of friends, I picked up some BOB books from the library. I have to admit, it was a little hard to do, because I had been so excited about literature based learning of reading.

However, I am OVER it. Because today, Esther read a whole book! She is so proud and excited!

Here are some lessons I have learned:

- Every child learns differently and we have to figure out what makes that child tick and figure out what methods work for them. No ones a cookie cutter.

- When a child is ready to learn something, run with it.

- It's all very well to have ideals but whats most important is that the child enjoys the learning and develops a love of learning. If a child begins to hate 'school' because they don't like the phonics lessons and worksheet, try something else. But, if they love the worksheets and phonics, and they are learning and loving it - why fix whats not broken?

- There isn't perhaps a superior way to learning to read, as long as it's done with fun, love and both teacher and student enjoy it and it nurtures a love to read and learn.

- Teaching to read isn't that hard. You can do it! My little girl is READING!!! In less that a week, she is doing amazing. What you need is patience, lots of praise and to follow your child's lead. Don't push before they are ready, it will be tiring and fruitless but if you are paying attention, you'll find that right time and they'll soak it up.

-Finally, I love BOB books. They are not full of eloquent words and beautiful illustrations but, they have given my daughter confidence and a desire to read, read, read! Plus... now, we'll go read some Jan Brett...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Burn the Floor Houston

Late last week I was browsing through my Facebook news feed and came across a post by The Cloth Diaper Foundation that mentioned a give away for Houston moms.

Naturally I was intrigued and excited. So I followed the link to , a blog by Lisa Johnston about healthy living, family, product reviews and giveaways.

The giveaway was for Burn The Floor starring Mark Ballas from Dancing with the Stars.

I remember looking forward to watching Simply Come Dancing with Bruce Forsyth when it came out, I think 7-8 years ago now? The beautiful dresses, the expressiveness of dance that conveys our innermost feelings and desires so elegantly.

What little girl doesn't want to be wearing a long flowing dress, as she is waltzed across the room by a chivalrous prince charming?

I decided to enter the ticket giveaway to see this dance performance fresh from Broadway. I love going to the theaters, watching the skill, talents and choreography. It was a teenage dream to be on broadway, sadly, I never had the dance lessons or the voice, but it was a dream non the less that I slip back into once in a while when watching live performances.

I didn't expect to win. I never win giveaways and competitions! But I did, and it was fantastic! Josh and I went on a much needed date night. Joel slept all the way through in my wrap.

Our favorite part was the swing segment. It's amazing how they do all the lifts, and well, I love the music too!

The icing to the cake was the meet Lisa, owner of 50in8 and manager of The Cloth Diaper Foundation. She was there on a mommy-daughter night. Our seats were on opposite sides of the Mezzanine, so we played Wheres Waldo, resulting with me eventually standing up and waving randomly in the intermission, that did the trick!

And just because... here is a picture of me and Joel 'dancing under the stars' outside afterward...

What We Tell Our Kids About Santa...

Every Christian parent struggles with the dilemma: What do we tell our children about Christmas?

I ran across this post by Pastor Mark Driscoll on the Mars Hill website. It provides some interesting insights and helpful histories.

I was glad for some perspective, as tonight we went to our apartment complex party which had a Santa. I wasn't sure what to tell the children but also wanted to go to the party in order to join in with our community.

What We Tell Our Kids About Santa | Pastor Mark for the Washington Post | The Mars Hill Blog

I also want to clarify, on a general basis, that when I post articles written by other authors, I have read with discernment and found some or most of the information helpful. This does not mean I endorse every statement in the article or everything the individual says, writes or stands for. Remember - Do the research and make prayerful decisions.

The life of Joel (1 month old!)

With Every new baby, you learn something new. For example, Esther never spit up, so I guess I thought it all the comments of leaving the house covered in spit up or needing lots of burp rags were over exaggerated.

Esther never slept more than 20 minute stretches unless we were driving or she was being held. So when Rachel came out spitting up ALL the time, reflux etc it was quite a surprise. Also, when at just a week old she was sleeping 5 hour stretches, we were in shock, we didn't know that babies did that!

So, what have we learned about Joel so far?

Joel does not like to have his diaper wet at all. Esther and Rachel couldn't care less. So up until now, the whole 'babies cry to let you know if their diaper needs changing' was irrelevant, because the girls didn't. Yeah. Joel will wake up from a deep sleep to let us know... mommy, I need a new diaper!

He loves being on the changing table. This is where he smiles and vocalises the most. This is a new thing, since the girls didn't like having clothes and diapers changed. Joel will go from being fussy to big grins, simply by placing him on the changing table. (Esther and Rachel did not like being changed)

Joel loves baths! Esther hated being bathed, Rachel tolerated it but Joel gets so excited! He loves having his head rubbed while being shampooed and he loves having warm water poured on him.

Joel loves to sleep on his mommies chest. Again, the the girls didn't. But for Joel, he loves lying on his tummy on his mommy and having his head rubbed.

He loves his silly sisters who 'mother' him. They really are wonderful with him. He loves being worn and drinking lots and lots and lots of mommy's milk (Now that it's dairy and wheat free that is!).

We have also discovered, he loves listening to singing. He smiles so big when we sing him a Christmas carol and in the car, if we are driving and he is a little fussy, a song will settle him down fast. Rachel is always singing to him, its adorable!

Every baby is a new, wonderful adventure!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

A couple of weeks ago, we put up our tree! Can I just say, it gets more fun every year as the children older and can participate more. Here are some pictures from our night... Christmas music, dancing, hot chocolate, gingerbread, paper chain making and decoration making!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crocodiles, make believe and figuring out morality in childhood...

My girls have a bizarre obsession with crocodiles. Everyday, the subject comes up in conversations, games, drawings. Especially funny is the make believe scenarios that they come up with. Usually they involve Rachel being the mean crocodile that wants to eat Esther, the beautiful princess.

Esther is always, in these games, a beautiful damsel in distress, full of grace and gentleness. Rachel is always the 'bad guy'. In fact, she enjoys it. What toddler wouldn't love roaring, stomping and pouncing? Her character generally starts with the name 'mean'. 'Mean rabbit, mean frog, mean crocodile...

I have to admit, that I was somewhat bothered at first that she found so much delight in being the baddy. As any overly worrisome, hormonal-after-having-new-baby mother might me.

I carefully observed however, that she was always happy for the mean creature to be defeated and for good to triumph. It would not do at all for the mean creature to win.
Both of the girls seemed to agree, in what was good, bad etc.

Next, I began to worry about some of the gruesome aspects of the play.. the mean creature falling into fires, falling of a cliff and dying, the prince killing the mean creature and then celebrating his glorious victory. Or the crocodiles head being cut off and them rejoicing.

It dawned on me that it was not unhealthy, but simply a natural expression of what any moral human being should feel - joy and relief that they are free from evil and persecution. That all is now right in the world.

It's phenomenal that even a small child desires justice and seeks to bring balance between good and evil in their simple play. For we are made in the image of God whose very nature is justice. Throughout the Bible we see God fighting the immoral and unjust whom harm the innocent and weak.

We cannot forget the importance of play and make believe in developing a child's sense of morality. Imaginative play is how children wrestle with the world around them and find out where they fit into it all.

We sit in coffee houses, courts, committees and debate what is right or wrong. Children have a hero and an bad guy. There is no gray, only black and white.

Most certainly it is important that we monitor our children's play with simple directions, challenging them to be just yet merciful, to demonstrates God's mercy, grace and love as they learn. To daily talk with them about their choices. To gently address areas of concern.

As GK Chesterton famously said:

"Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

To my son, here, asleep on my lap...

I pray, with tears in my eyes that you become a strong, Godly man like your Father who will know true love in the form of Christ...

Reflections on Mary

What great lessons of servanthood and love we can learn from the Mother of Christ! I simply want to share a segment from the gospel of Luke and also a song dear to my heart, so that you may too reflect on it prayerfully and be brought to joyful tears!

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Let it be done unto me - Danielle Rose

The Lord sent me to Mary
As she was praying in the sun
I said, "Hail, Mary, favored one, the Lord is with you
Mary, it is true."

She did not understand
She said, "Shall I touch the sky with these small hands?"
A peasant girl from Galilee
destined to become
the Queen of Peace

And all the heavens and the earth stand still in silence
waiting for her soul to reply
She is free to choose
God will never abuse
the sacred yes. She cannot be denied

Let it be done unto me
With one small yes, the world will be redeemed
What was impossible is now a possibility
Let it be done unto me

Mary, do not be afraid
Behold, you will conceive a son through whom the world is saved
Humility will be your throne
And in your womb our God
our God will find a home

Oh, Lord, how can this be?
I have not given any man my body's purity
The Spirit will come down,
like once barren Elizabeth can now a child be found

She said yes to the Father
Yes to the unborn
Yes with all her strength
Yes to God alone
The First Holy Communion took place that blessed day
Christ came into her body
when Mary chose to say
when Mary chose to say...

Let it be done unto me

Establishing our family Christmas traditions.

I have been wanting to begin a Jesse Tree tradition in our homes for several years and this year, we finally got things together in time. When I say that, however, I was very nearly deterred.

I had hope of a majestic branch with beautiful handcrafted decorations but our budget didn't allow for this. I was at a loss, I wanted to begin the tradition but also wanted to bring beauty into the home with it.

After praying about it, I realised - The beauty is in the reading of the scriptures, in being reminded of God's promises, writing in our family's hearts and minds the greatest act of love - God becoming man in the form of a newborn child, so that He may die on the cross and save the world, whom He so loves.

This was the beauty I wanted to bring into our home, not just a pretty tree. It really didn't matter how I made the tree or what it looked like. I desire the meaning of Christmas to penetrate our very souls everyday. Such a wonderful way to add to the advent season!

So, I pulled out an old cardboard box and drew a tree. We painted it with green poster paint. The girls were so excited. Next, I found a pile of colored craft foam. I've been slowly making the symbols for each day. My cutting skills, as someone both left handed and with bad coordination are somewhat lacking. Josh say's my ornaments look cute and childlike, yes - they look like a talented elementary school kid made them, not mommy! hehe

It was so fun to be industrious and use the resources I had lying around to make my hope of beginning our tradition a reality.

Every morning when we have finished breakfast, we pull out the cardboard tree. We pray, we read the relevant scriptures, glue our little foam symbol on the tree, sing a relevant song if we can think of one and then do a little craft or activity together.

What a wonderful 'tradition' it already has become. I love how the girls jump up and down cheering when it's Jesse Tree time. I adore how it sets the tone and focus of the whole day, the conversation it creates.

In the evenings, we have also added a tradition, a modification to our evening Bible study.. We turn off the lights and leave just the Christmas tree lights on. We sit by the tree light, with hot milk, in pajamas and sing Christmas hymns.

We went to the library and found several beautifully illustrated books about the Nativity and the meaning of Christmas that we have in a basket by the tree. We pick one to read together then close with family prayers before bed.

I love the how these traditions are drawing us closer together in love, prayer and unity as a family and how they are teaching us more about God's promises and of Christ.

It is, the most wonderful time of the year!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Daybook! (Haven't done one of these for a long time!)

Outside my window... A not cold enough to be winter, gray day with a gentle southern breeze

I am thinking... about little Joel. I have been worried about him. Hopefully we'll get him to see the doc soon but in the meanwhile, I'm gearing up to begin the Sears Elimination Diet again, as I did with Rachel, who turned out to be lactose intolerant. I hope it is just an intolerance/allergy that can easily be eliminated from my diet.

I am thankful for... The family 'date' night we had last night. Thai pineapple curry, Pearland Festival and home for hot chocolate!

From the kitchen... For the first time I have really gotten into Christmas baking! Pumpkin pies, gingerbread, snickerdoodles! It's more fun with little girls to bake with and help eat the spoils!

I am wearing... My PJ's, it's a lazy saturday morning. I've had my busiest week since Joel was born and Josh decided I needed to rest, I'm not arguing!

I am creating... Christmas decorations of all kinds! Josh came home with a 6 1/2 foot tree, we've never had one bigger than 4ft before and so didn't have nearly enough decorations.

I am going... to iMMERGENT and am looking forward to seeing everyone!

I am reading... a few things, The imitation of Christ, Psalms, Joshua

I am hoping... That Josh get's a start date for his new job soon

I am hearing... Daddy reading to his little girls and Joel guzzling mommy's milk.

Around the house... I plan to finish organising closets and rearrange the girls room.

One of my favorite things... being productive! I am ready for productivity, creativity and order after several months of transition and change.

I am praying... For so many SLAVES here in America. Also for the homeless, hurting, hungry, ill and lonely.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Story times at Pearland Library, Playdate @ Adair Park! We are 'new friend' searching for Esther.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Birth of Joel Athanasius

Joel was taking his time coming. It was 11 days after my 'due date' and for weeks I had been having prodromal labor. Every day, I had hours of contractions that never turned into full labor and every week, we discovered I had dilated more. Indeed, at 38 weeks, I was 2-3cm and at my 41 week appointment was 6cm.

It was very tiring but also a special time. The contractions reminded me that my body was preparing for our new baby to enter the world and it made me bond more with him while still in utero. On the other hand, it encouraged me to spend special time with my girls, to enjoy them and love on them before their worlds changed and they had to adjust to a new baby.

Additionally, after being so focused on the big move down here to Pearland, it gave me time to prepare emotionally and spiritually for the birth. I had not put too much thought into my hopes for Joel's birth, since I had been more focused on getting here and getting settled in. Not to say I wasn't very excited, I just felt like I needed my 'nest' ready before I could focus on the big day!

Josh said that I became OCD, I had to have everything in the house tidy and clean every second of the day. If I didn't I felt stressed because the house had to be PERFECT for labor. I washed the floors nearly everyday, cleaned baseboards, inside cupboards, organised...

The last 5 nights before Joel arrived, consistently around 4/5pm, I would start having contractions 3-11 minutes apart right up until around midnight when they would stop. They were more painful that the last few weeks but also I could quietly sit through them and enjoy conversation, do chores etc.

By thursday 11th, I was feeling a lot of tension. I had family here waiting on me to have the baby, since they had been sure he would be here already and they needed to get home, phone calls constantly and then news that if I hadn't gone into labor before sunday (14 days 'late'), I would have to be transferred out of the care of my midwife and to an OB. I spent most the morning crying and feeling overwhelmed, I was so tired of everyone wanting my baby to come. I just wanted to relax and enjoy the wait but instead I felt like every morning I woke up without a baby, or a day went by without labor beginning that I was failing everyone and letting people down. He would come when he was ready but the 'cut off' was getting closer and closer.

We began to try so much to get labor going, every old wives tail in the book! Except castor oil. My midwife wanted me to try it and to be honest, I was terrified but I feared pitocin and an epidural more and also trusted her judgement! So, we formulated a plan - a root beer-castor oil float, castor oil massaged into my stomach and covered in hot towels and a strong red raspberry leaf cup of tea with 6 teabags. I sat on the sofa with my tea, my belly covered in towels and watched chick-flicks on the laptop. The girls were with Pammy and Stina out having fun, so it was a nice time at home with Josh, him taking care of me, chatting to each other.

I was scheduled to go in around 4:30 to have my membranes swept. So at 4 we got in the car, seemingly the above plan had not done anything. No awful pain and hours on the toilet, no contractions, in fact I was rested and in good spirits.

On the way I began to feel nauseated but just shrugged it off. We got to the office around 4:30 and as usual my contractions had picked up. Like every night! My midwife checked me and I was 7cm. She decided against the sweep and told me that she had never checked a woman who was 7cm and not in labor and she thought that I was.She said that she had an appointment after me but that she would be on stand by to come asap.

I however was very skeptical. For me, these contractions were no different than sooo many nights before. I was hungry, so on the way home we stopped at the Kroger, I wanted steak so much, but once there, I saw some popcorn chicken that was hot and ready to eat, so I opted for instant gratification.

I did not think I was in labor in Kroger, but in retrospect, I clearly was, as I was swaying through contractions as I waiting for the lady in front of me, who was making the biggest order on earth, while all I wanted was the lone cup of chicken popcorn staring at me from the other side of the glass.

At home, I went to my bedroom, my sanctuary and snuggled up and started to watch another chick flick. I tried to time my contractions on an app on my ipod but gave up. Same as always, irregular, 3-11 minutes apart and no more than menstrual cramps. So laid in bed watching 10 things I hate about you and eating my chicken.

All of a suddenly I had one HUGE contraction and promptly threw up. I didn't question that it was time. I looked at the clock, it was 6:38pm. I called my lovely midwife who happened to be close by (Praise God!).

I informed Josh that I had called and she was on her way. He left me in the bedroom and said he would put the girls to bed then join me. Contractions were coming strong and hard by this point, barely a minute or two in between. So I walked into the front room and said ' I need you now' and went back to the bedroom and got on the bed on the birth ball, rocking through each contraction and trying to focus on relaxing. I decided to focus on God, and just began praying, praying, praying for strength, peace and joy as my body did what He had made it for.

Josh was trying to put some relaxing music on but the music was just annoying me, so I had him turn it off! This was nothing like my labor with Rachel. With her, my water has broke in the night, I was relaxed, everything happened gradually etc, but I was in bed watching a movie one minute and in hard labor within minutes. Trying to make calls, get things ready, and being alone at first all made me feel stressed. So on the bed I was trying to relax. My midwife arrived at 7pm. A little after, I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I did not realise at this point that I was probably ready to push.

I went to the bathroom and didn't need to go, but then I started to have one LONG contraction and had Josh bring the birth ball to me. He was doing what worked with Rachel - rubbing my back and speaking encouragement but I didn't want touching or to hear anything. I was quite surprised by this!

Anyhow, during this LONG contraction I started crying and felt frustrated that I was having a hard time handling the pain, I felt weak. It didn't compute how far into labor I was, I thought I still had a long way to go but in fact, the reason it hurt so much was because my body wanted me to PUSH!!!

So I started to push a little and it felt so good but I was still in shock. With the next little push my water literally exploded with a loud POP!, and I felt Joel move done even more. I didn't push with contractions, I just pushed a little, paused and pushed a little more. Before I knew it, Christine said - "Reach back and feel his head!" I did and was flooded with joy and relief. It all made so much sense now and I felt his warm, soft lovely head and gave one more push and he was out! The last 2 times I had pushed for a long time reclined on my back, 1 1/2 hours with Esther and 40 minutes for Rachel, so this I was so amazed how fast he came out, can't have been more than a few pushes! I had thought a lot before hand about trying a different position, so I was thankful how it happened naturally.

I really enjoyed how at no point in labor anyone told me what to do, where to be, when to push but just let me follow my natural instincts. The same way as your body tells you when to eat or sleep - it tells you how to birth your baby!

I had been on my knees draped over the birth ball the whole time (this position was great for me pushing!), so I sat up and she passed him between my legs to me.

A lovely, beautiful big boy, with lots of hair came into this world at 7:15pm on November 11th, weighing 8lbs 5oz (My biggest baby!) and 20 1/2 inches. He arrived hungry and ready to nurse, just 37 minutes after my first 'THIS IS REAL LABOR!' contraction. Jamie, who was assisting didn't make it in time!

It turns out I subscribed to labor on the installment plan. I did all the ground work before hand and went straight into transition.

This labor was very different than my last, the only thing that happened the same was that I used the birth ball. But, it was wonderful and I have a beautiful baby boy!

Now, a lot of you know that I was transferred to the hospital very quickly after birth, but I have decided to dwell on the wonderful, marvelous delivery of our new little blessing rather than on the complications.

This labor was very different from Rachel's - In many ways, it was a lot harder and wasn't my 'dream' birth, it all seemed very chaotic and I never really felt much peace because of how fast it all went and the things that happened after. However, the more I process it all, I see God's provision, love and grace in all aspects.

I am so thankful to my midwife, she was amazing the whole time. I praise God for such a wonderful lady. I was so worried about finding a lovely midwife after moving from Fort Worth to Pearland at 36 weeks.

I am also so thankful to my fantastic husband who is the model of love, gentleness and compassion. I so beyond blessed by his overwhelming love for me.

Welcome little Joel!

PS. For those interested, here is my birth story from when Rachel was born!