Seasons

Life has found a peaceful rhythm recently. We’re in a season of (relative) rest. Since January this year we have had more time at home and fewer pressing commitments. It has been a time of strengthening family relationships and finding time to pursue interests and education more fully.

Princess working in the sunshine. Window seat for the win!

Prince and Princess have settled into a routine of waking, personal devotional, Morning High Five, then on to Learning Fun. By the time I finish my own personal time with God and come downstairs they have usually started on their work. They have always been good at working independently, but this season has seen a real step up in this. It seems I have hardly noticed them getting older, and all of sudden they are Big.

Big is good. Big is exciting. I love the people my Littles are becoming. But I have to confess – I really miss the Littles, too.

Our days are a mixture of learning independently and together. We do the hard things together, because it’s so much more friendly with two. We do the fun things together, too – read-alouds, walks, picnics, games, day trips, play-dates, church. But we also have time to work, play and rest independently, completing our own tasks and following our own interests. Our days are rich in love and fun.

Enjoying this season; preparing for the next.

I’ve had more time this season for reading. As some of you know, we had been pursuing the idea of adoption over the past four years. This journey took a twist earlier this year, and we are now part way through fostering training and assessment. This season of rest has allowed me to spend more time learning about how to help the types of children who may come in and out of our family in the future. The reading has also helped me develop skills, understanding and new ways to help Prince and Princess during time of anxiety, sadness and change. My favourite book so far is Building the Bonds of Attachment – a great read for anyone interacting with traumatised or challenged kids on a regular basis.

I don’t know when the next season will come, or what it will bring. I suspect it will be much fuller – in both trials and joys. But for now we are soaking up this season, full of its own beauties and blessings.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Piles of washing and mountains of love

DSC_1595

Piles of washing, still waiting.

I probably should have spent the morning at home. There are dirty dishes in the kitchen and piles of washing waiting to be put away on my bed. I haven’t even finished unpacking from our mini holiday last weekend. But this morning called us to something better.

Over the years our homeschool life has gradually grown from a very free, natural learning style to a more structured approach. This has suited our family well, and helped us continue to love learning whilst also maintain a forward momentum. We have a rough plan, which involves Prince and Princess completing all the work on their ‘learning fun’ chart each day, preferably in the morning. This is mainly self-directed work, allowing me to get housework and other chores done as well as encouraging Prince and Princess towards autonomous learning.

This structure and set work has many benefits. Even though it isn’t always as ‘fun’ as I’d like to believe, the kids both work at it with very little complaining. It is good for us all to have some discipline and work ethic, and I wouldn’t want to drop it all together at this stage of our lives. But at the same time I never want our homeschool to be school at home. In the midst of structure, we still have space for freedom and flexibility. We have the blessing of being able to look at a sunny spring day and throw everything else aside to delight in it! And because we can, we did.

As we walked around Nymans with friends this morning, I smiled. “No one ever regrets spending ‘too much’ time with their children – only too little,” I said.

Prince’s drawing of him and me; mountains of love.

We all know that children grow up fast. Way too fast.

So sometimes it’s best to leave the piles of washing and bask in the mountains of love we share on our journey, together.

It’s so much more friendly with two

Have you ever faced a challenge alone? Gone somewhere new for the first time? Tried to learn something complicated without help? Gone on a long journey with no companion?

It's so much more friendly with two.

It’s so much more friendly with two.

Being alone can be adventurous, at times. But when you are facing something difficult, something scary, something big – being alone can be daunting.

Life has many daunting moments for our children. The world is full of amazing possibilities, but getting to them can mean facing some tough challenges first. Challenges which can seem so big to their little minds. The dark feels frightening; sharing with friends seems impossible; the new class looks impenetrable; maths work feels lonely. If we leave our children to face these challenges alone, they can become overwhelmed.

The symptoms of an overwhelmed child are varied. Maybe he cries when maths is suggested. Perhaps she throws a tantrum at bedtime. He may be shy and clingy. She might become withdrawn around peers. The important thing is that when we see symptoms of an overwhelmed child, we don’t ignore them. They are a cry for help – and aren’t we our children’s primary helpers? We need to walk through the hard things with them, not leave them to flounder.

It doesn’t always take much. Often just a friendly smile can make the challenge seem smaller. Sitting with your son while he does that hard homework.  Holding your daughter’s hand while she stands up for what is right.  Encouraging words can give strength. A hug, a wink, a squeeze of the hand – just to let them know they are not alone, that we’ve got their back. Sometimes it takes more from us; issues can be deep-rooted and need long term understanding, care and encouragement before they can be conquered.

I am convinced that A.A. Milne knew what he was talking about.  It’s so much more friendly with two.

Little secrets

I sat there reading Little Lord Fauntlery aloud. Prince and Princess were listening quietly, and all thoughts seemed to be on the story. Suddenly, Prince interrupted. ‘Mommy – it seems to me that Francis Hodgeson Burnett wanted to make Cedric like a perfect boy. But…’ his voice took a crestfallen tone, ‘nobody can be perfect.’

I was struck.

Walking and talking together - what a blessing!

Walking and talking together – what a blessing!

It was the smallest of moments, but it contained a world of meaning. It was a glimpse into the heart of my boy; a revelation of something I had never noticed before. My Prince struggled with guilt? Suddenly several tiny moments of revelation over the past few months made sense, and I had become privy to a secret. A secret that Prince himself probably couldn’t even articulate and define, but which was causing inner distress. A secret which, now I knew, I could gently and lovingly resolve.

Knowing, is the key thing. If we don’t know a problem exists, we might never solve it. Even worse, we might exacerbate it. How easy it could have been to miss this vital insight. If we never took time to read together, I would have missed it. If I always simply told him off without allowing him to discuss mistakes with me, I would have missed it. If I frequently missed our morning snuggle time, or rushed through it with no chance to chat, I would have missed it. All these little opportunities throughout the days and weeks could so easily have been wasted. Thank God they were not.

We have our children for such a short, precious time. I am so thankful for the chance to see their hurts and struggles, and minister to their particular needs. I am so thankful for time to reassure, build up, encourage when they are down. I am so privileged to spur on, inspire and watch as they pursue their passions.

All it takes is time – the gift of our time.

Lessons from my son

With thanks to my dear friend Monique for writing her second guest post here at Writing on the Doorposts!

I became a mom two and a half years ago and I remember thinking, ‘I have so much to teach my baby boy.’ The thought was rather overwhelming at the time. Actually to be honest, I was scared of such a responsibility. My prayers increased as I cradled, fed, nurtured, burped, and changed him. Now that two and a half years have passed, God has shown me something amazing. While I am training up my child Thaddeus, he is, at the same time, teaching me life-changing lessons. There are several lessons I have learned, but here I will list three.

Beauty

“While I am training up my child Thaddeus, he is, at the same time, teaching me life-changing lessons.”

Open your eyes. My son Thaddeus has taught me to open my eyes to my surroundings. His curious nature allows him to point and say, “Look Mama, ant!” I can tell you that without my two year old’s keen vision I would have missed the opportunity to see the busy ant walking back and forth to its anthill (Proverbs 30:24-25).  Another example is when I’m carrying Thaddeus and he waves to the person behind us in the checkout line at the store. Without him doing that, I might have easily forged ahead with my errands and not stopped to speak to the person behind me in line.

Enjoy the moment. Thaddeus loves life! He is full of energy and doesn’t let things wear him down. As an adult, I get caught up in the worries of this life, such as paying bills. It is important, as an adult, to be responsible and take care of what God has given us, but we must also enjoy each breath God has blessed us with and live for each moment.

Keep looking up. Thaddeus looks up a lot searching for airplanes in the sky. When he sees one, he shouts with glee, “Airdplan!” This has reminded me to look up more, figuratively speaking. My Heavenly Father is up in Heaven and my life here should consist of “ups.” I should be living my life in such a way that people will want to look up and know more of my Father. My desire is to live one day in my heavenly home with my God.

I am so thankful to have been blessed with the role of “mom” in this life. It’s a beautiful thing to see life through the eyes of a child.

To my daughter


To My Daughter

 

Delicate dancing girl

you spin your silk around my heart

and twist your

baby fingers

around its chords

 

Floating fairy girl

you sprinkle smiles around the house

and leave your

laughter lines

in every room

 

Little Leora girl

you shine your light into my life

and sparkle

boundless joy

into my days

Loving discipline

I recently wrote about the necessity of both grace and discipline in effective parenting. As a follow up on this I thought I’d share ways we have implemented this in our own family, in the hopes that what works for us might be helpful to you too.

Showers of love

I am a great believer in showering children with love. Obviously this takes many different forms, but some of the things you would see everyday in our house are:

  • Lots and lots and LOTS of hugs, kisses, snuggles, high-fives, lap-time, and other positive physical contact.
  • Praying for each other, thanking God for the gift of family and asking God to help each child when they are struggling.
  • Random exclamations of “I love you SO much!”, “I love spending my days with you.”, “You are so precious.” etc.
  • Praise and encouragement, for little and big things.
  • Speaking gently and gracefully.
  • Doing things together – especially if this is a child’s love language.
  • Listening to children.
  • Laughing and joking together.

There are many more ways to express love to our children, but the important thing is that it IS expressed. This constant outpouring of love develops security in the parent-child relationship which is essential for discipline to have the right effect (heart-changing rather than simply behaviour-changing).

Firm boundaries

I love the journey of parenthood with these two blessings.

I love the journey of parenthood with these two blessings.

In my experience it is vital to set the expectation of obedience early on. Children need to know that the parent is in charge, and that they must respect that authority. In our house we often talk about the chain of command: children must submit to parents and parents must submit to God. This has two implications: Firstly, children should obey parents because God said so. Secondly, parents are responsible to God for parenting in obedience to His will. Some of the ways we set firm boundaries in our house are:

  • Zero tolerance for disrespect. Lack of respect for others – especially authority – is one of the biggest problems I see in children and youth today. It is also a heart issue, which is why we place such importance on it. In my experience dealing with this effectively makes every other discipline issue easier to resolve.
  • No time for ‘one, two, three’. I know parents who believe the counting technique is a good and helpful way to help a child obey. To my mind, however, this teaches children two problematic ideas: One, that obedience should only be done at the last possible moment, rather than as a response of a heart which delights to obey. Two, that obedience is only required to avoid punishment. This second idea is the most damaging, as it subtly undermines the principle of saving grace. However, I do think there is a difference between “We’re going. Get off that swing now!  One, two, three..” and “We need to leave, darling – I’ll give you five more seconds on the swing and then we’ll go. One, two, three, four, five.” The first teaches that ‘now’ doesn’t mean ‘now’.  The second shows consideration for the child’s feelings and gives time for them to move from one task to the next whilst still requiring obedience at the time it is required.
  • Careful use of ‘no’. Sometimes it’s easy to say ‘no’ without thinking. Sometimes it’s hard to say no when it’s necessary. A carefully considered balance is what is required. If a child hears ‘no’ too frequently they can become frustrated, so we try to say ‘yes’ often. However, it is also vital that children learn to deal with ‘no’ appropriately, so on issues of importance we must be brave to say ‘no’ even if it means tears in the middle of the store. A child’s character development is more important than our own embarrassment.

As with everything, the grace-discipline balance is something we are constantly fine-tuning. And in our turn we are shown both grace and discipline from God. I find myself frequently praying for wisdom to teach Prince and Princess how to live in His ways whilst dependent on His grace. But as they are growing we have begun to see the fruit of firm discipline blended with grace-filled love, and I can tell you – it is SO sweet. I am humbled and delighted by the joyful obedience my children show every day, and I thank God for the love which fills our home.

I will leave you with this encouragement from the book of Proverbs, and pray you will all be filled with delight in the children God has blessed you with.

“Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
Punish them with the rod
and save them from death.

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad indeed;
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.

Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.

Listen, my son, and be wise,
and set your heart on the right path:
Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
The father of a righteous child has great joy;
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!”

Proverbs 23:12-25

Just a little something

A few days after my Prince was born, and my life was changed forever.

A few days after my Prince was born, and my life was changed forever.

This week is pretty jam-packed busy for me. We’ve got cousins visiting from Wales, so all the family is together most the week. That’s ten children, three sets of parents and a grandmother or two. Totally fun!

As I don’t have time to write I thought I’d just share a poem I wrote recently in my Open University ‘Creative Writing’ course.

 

To My Son


I thought I knew love:

How it sparks, ignites, alights

consumes the mettle of your soul

till vaporous you float,

like a firefly drunk on nectar.

 

I thought I knew what loving meant:

To give yourself entire,

tsunami of selfless devotion

rising high, empowered

by a deeper force within.

 

But when you held me in your heart the day we met

I knew nothing.

I was breathless, drowning in unknown waters.

Then you caught me, filled me, taught me:

Incomprehensible mother-love.

My Homeschool Day in the Life with a 5 and 7 year old

I love hearing how other people construct their homeschool days. I like to find new ways of doing things, ideas I can incorporate and lessons I can learn from. Recently Simple Homeschool ran a ‘day in the life’ series and ended it by inviting readers to share their own days – so I am! I hope you enjoy this peek into our life as much as I enjoy living it!

Friday 14th, 2014 – Valentine’s day!

7:30 am

Wake up! I don’t always get up at 7:30, as I don’t like to set an alarm. I usually wake when the kids climb into bed for morning snuggles, but today they stay in their room playing quietly so I wake on my own. Not sure what time they got up… probably 7ish, as normal. Once I’m up I tell the kids it’s time for ‘Morning High Five’, a fantastic idea I found on this blog recently. I adjusted the download from there to suit our own needs and ended up with this Morning High Five poster – feel free to print and use, but please keep the original copyright info so the right person gets the credit 🙂

How we do morning 'stuff'.

How we do morning ‘stuff’.

We normally complete this list of morning jobs and end with a super excited high-five. Today, though, we have swimming lessons so we skip the chores and get ready to go out quickly.

8:00 am

Princess & I finish getting ready for swimming while Prince, who has finished everything he needs to do, catches a few mins to read some Magic School Bus in his Book Nook.

8:15 am

It’s time to leave for swimming. We are blessed to have private swimming lessons funded by Grandma, so the kids get detailed attention from their teacher and are able to progress quickly and effectively.

10:15 am

We’re back from swimming now.  I get a snack sorted (brownies made with spelt flour and muscovado sugar – that’s healthy, right?!). Prince sets up our next activity (Bible Study) while Princess gets out the abacus and does some counting.

10:30 am

Friday is our Bible Study day (we have a rota of different types of Bible/worship/devotional sessions that we go through each week). We’re in John currently, and read a bit of chapter 2 today while eating our snack. After talking about it a bit we pick a memory verse and have a short prayer time.

11:00 am

We move into ‘Learning Fun’ now. Prince decides to read the Usborne First Illustrated Science Dictionary while Princess writes out our memory verse, taking extra time to get her letters formed right, and everything spelled and punctuated correctly. In between helping Princess and responding to Prince’s frequent calls of “Mommy – LOOK AT THIS!!!” I practice some French on my Duolingo account.

Learning Fun!

Learning Fun!

11:30 am

I call the kids together and tell them we’re going to do some science. Although this is technically a ‘lesson’ we all see it as great fun and more like an investigative game. Today we learn about air as a real substance, and how to demonstrate that it – along with all matter – has weight (technically mass, but we’re not that far yet) and takes up space.

12:15 pm

We finish our science lesson and I switch on Classic FM for some background music. Princess plays around with a left over balloon from the lesson, while Prince goes back to reading his science dictionary. I get online to check emails, catch up with Facebook, and work on my blog – frequently punctuated by exclamations of interest from Prince and calls that I “must” come see some thing or other. Love it!

12:30 pm

I grab the kids a piece of fruit each and we snuggle up on the couch to read a bit of the poetry book we are going through: Where my Wellies Take Me by Michael Morpurgo. I love this book – it has quality illustrations, a good selection of poetry and a delightful nature-centered story line.

12:45 pm

I get ready to make lunch, and Princess decides to help me. Together we mix up a yummy-scrummy scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and fresh basil. Meanwhile, Prince signs into his Duolingo account and does half a lesson of French.

My Princess mixing the eggs.

My Princess mixing the eggs.

1:15 pm

Lunch is ready! The kids settle down to eat while they watch a nature documentary – ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ today. I eat at the computer to catch up with some more online stuff, then unpack my Book People order which arrived earlier in the morning.

1:45 pm

Princess has finished eating, and although the nature documentary is still on, she has had enough of it. Now she moves to the table and makes nature pictures for “sick people” – her aunt, her great-uncle, and her special friend, a girl we support through Gospel for Asia. I sit with her and wrap my husband’s valentines present (‘The King’s Speech’) and make him a card. At 2:00 pm Prince finishes watching ‘Life in the Undergrowth’ and joins us at the table.  He wraps his cousin’s birthday present ready for her party tomorrow.

2:30 pm

We now have a couple of hours just moving from one thing to another. This time is filled with reading some of the new books, maths on computer, more Duolingo, unpacking the dishwasher, and Skyping with Grandma.

Enjoying the new books.

Enjoying the new books.

4:00 pm

I call the kids to the couch again, and we snuggle together while I read the next chapter of our current read-aloud, ‘Pollyanna’.  I LOVE this book!  If you have a Kindle you can get it for free, which is simply awesome.

4:30 pm

It’s tidy-up time. We always try to tidy up before Daddy gets home. Usually this is when I also make supper, but Friday means Family Night and take-out chips for dinner!

5:15 pm

Daddy’s home! We settle down to watch an episode of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ while we eat our chips. Prince has a slight earache, so I make him up a ‘garlic hearing aid‘ which seems to sort it out.  I love garlic on so many levels.

6:30 pm

We send the kids up to get ready for bed. Daddy helps them, then we all climb onto our bed for Bible reading with Daddy. He’s reading right through the Bible, and tonight we are in Genesis at the battle of four kings against five. At one point Daddy reads something about ‘tar pits’ and stops to check if the kids know what those are. This conversation ensued:

Daddy:  “Do you know what tar pits are?’
Prince:  “No.”
Daddy:  “They are pits which are full of black, sticky, thick, icky, gooey stuff.”
Prince:  “Like tar?”

7:15 pm

After praying with the kids we go down to watch ‘The King’s Speech’. I get foot rubs, which is always one of the best parts of my day.

10:00 pm

Bed! After a super fun day of learning and love it’s time to sleep. What a blessed Momma I am!

Listen – kids are people too

One of the blessings of having a good memory is remembering what it was like to be a kid. I had a great childhood, really – full of love, fun, and Little House on the Prairie with my bestie.

But I also remember some of the frustrations. Most clearly, I remember being frustrated when adults assumed they knew what I had done/was going to say/felt.  I can’t remember any specific instances, but I do remember the feeling of not being heard.  And as I grew up I was determined that my own children should not have this same frustration.

As a mom now, I find this is easier said than done. It is so easy to assume I know what’s going on in my children’s minds; to assume that I know the whole story behind a disagreement between siblings; to assume I know how it feels and the reason why my child is crying when I say ‘no’ to something. But the truth is, I don’t know everything. And so, I make an effort to listen to my children’s explanations and points of view, and I try hard to avoid making assumptions. I don’t do this perfectly, sadly. But I have a story which illustrates so clearly why I am glad I try, and how blessings abound when I succeed.

A couple of years ago Prince and Princess where playing in the lounge. Prince had left some of his toys unused on the table. After a while Princess, sitting on the floor in the middle of a game, needed an extra character, and seeing the unused toys on the table and asked,

“Prince – can I have your penguin?”

Prince look at her uneasily. I pricked up my ears to listen in, wondering if he would take this opportunity to be generous (something he had been struggling with a lot recently).

“Well…” he said, “That’s a very special toy to me. Couldn’t you have one of these instead?” Prince offered her two or three other toys.

I was disappointed. I felt angry, even. He just couldn’t seem to shake this selfishness – he wasn’t even using the toy! But instead of demanding he give her the toy and lecturing him on being kind (which is what I felt like doing), I stopped and thought about how to act. I then asked him a question.

“Prince – why don’t you want Princess to have the penguin? You’re not using it.” I said this simply, not accusationally. I genuinely wanted to know why he wasn’t giving her the penguin. What was stopping him?

Prince looked up at me, slightly teary-eyed. “Well – it’s very special to me. It’s one of my first big-eyed-toys! But…” He hesitated, as if needing my help, “does she want to have it forever?”

Prince and his penguin in their early days.

Prince and his ‘big-eyed’ penguin in their early days.

Suddenly it dawned on me. My prince – my precious, darling, oh-so-literal Prince – heard his sister ask to ‘have’ the toy, and assumed she meant ‘have to keep forever as her own’.

“No, darling,” I explained, “She just wants to use it for this game!”

Prince looked relieved. “Oh!  Okay!” He passed her the penguin immediately.

I was convicted of my anger. Here I was assuming Prince was being selfish, when in actual fact he was being extremely generous. Remember – he chose some of his other own toys to give his sister ‘forever’, as he understood it. I’m so grateful that I chose to ask him to explain his own perspective on the situation. It blessed me, as I saw his generous heart; and it blessed him, as he was not unfairly accused of selfishness.

I think back on this situation often, and use it to remember that kids are people too. They deserve the respect of being listened to and heard. Their understanding, opinions and explanations are not always what we think they will be.

Let’s stop assuming we know it all, and take time to really listen to our children.

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: