Sunday, November 21

Less is More 2010

This Friday is Make Something Day at our house.  We've observed this day for three years now and we all enjoy knowing that we don't have to do anything the day after Thanksgiving except make Christmas gifts for our family.  We have most of our supplies ready to go.  I can't let you in on what we're making this year, but I can tell you what we made last year.

Our homeschool group had a co-op day in December where we assembled bath products with essential oils.  The host had the pretty tins, bags and tags all ready to go.  These were the gifts the boys gave their Friday school teachers.

As a newbie at high altitude I don't know what possessed me to try giving baked gifts, but I think it all turned out okay. We iced some ring cakes like the one on the right and gave them to dh's co-workers.  We ate everything else you see here.

For friends far away we make a little photo album every year with one or two pictures from every month so they can see how the boys are growing. This little album was just 4"x4".

B loved this project.  He grated up several bars of soap (it made for a couple quiet hours), we mixed the shavings with a little bit of water and then pressed them into cookie cutters and let them dry.  He packaged them into clear cellophane bags for his cousin, uncles and grandparents.

This was B's other big project.  He wanted a sewing project. This kit we bought at the craft store made six cute silverware holders for his grandma's Christmas table.  He did get tired of the detail work toward the end, but most of it was his own work.

J's gift turned out really cute.  These are little throw pillows we made using a freezer paper stencil that he drew, cut out, ironed on the fabric and painted with fabric paint.  We borrowed a friend's sewing machine to put them together. Then he stuffed them and hand sewed the opening.  Two grandmas and two aunts enjoyed the results.

This was my project.  Post-it note booklets and magnetic refrigerator pads with very small pencils. 

S painted some wooden ornaments but I didn't get photos of them. If you're interested, you can google all of these projects and find out how to make them.  None of these ideas are original to me.  If you want to see what we did the year before you can see that post here

Here are some other sites I've enjoyed looking at to get ideas for this year:

Thursday, November 18

I'm Reading Some More

I can't really pinpoint what it is that has inspired me plow through nine books in the past seven weeks.  There have been full years when I didn't complete half as many.  It's been a lot of quiet nights at home, but definitely a good time.

I recently finished I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth by Brenda Peterson. I had to read it. She, too, was raised as a Southern Baptist with a Forest Service employed father and for a time lived in the Bay Area.  It was like picking the brain of a cousin.  And it made me think.  Though I haven't landed in the same place spiritually, I resonated with her frustration with the fundamentalists that discard this present world just because there's something better on the other side.  It was a good read.  If you're a recovering Southern Baptist with a heart for creation as it currently operates, you might pick it up.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Here's more for the list to get through by Christmas:
Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A DifferenceThe Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's MemoirThe Book Group Book: A Thoughtful Guide to Forming and Enjoying a Stimulating Book Discussion GroupPermission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace

I actually just finished the Lucado book last night.  Someone in the blogosphere said it was the best book they'd read this year, so I requested it from the library.  Turns out, it reads just like a Lucado book. ;-)  Lots of stories, great metaphors and fleshing the scripture out into "what if it happened a little like this?" scenarios.  A good chunk of the back of the book, however, is what I'm most excited about. It has a host of reflection questions and suggested action points that I'm going to peruse with seriousness during my day of silence and solitude on Saturday.

The Kenison book is one that I'm curious about and was also another gift from the library. It just came in so I'm pushing that to the front of my list to read before it's due back.  I'm making some slower headway  through Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith by Richard Foster so this might be a good one to read at the same time that I'm chewing on Foster.

The Slezak book was a .50 purchase last week.  A friend and I are considering starting a sort of a book group and getting some insight for .50 seemed like a good idea.

And finally, when Barnes and Noble gave me 25% off anything, I broke down and bought Anne Jackson's newest book.  So many conversations lately have touched on this topic of "Why doesn't the church talk about x & y?" that it seemed I could justify the expense.  And if my intution serves me well, it may be the best topic for the aforementioned book group.  Want to come?

Tuesday, November 16

He's Doing It

B is dyslexic.  One of my hopes for sending J to a charter this year, was to free up some space to get B some reading help.  However, financially, I am completely unable to get him outside help from a reading specialist.  So, it's just B and I working through auditory skills together.  I'm continually educating myself on what works for him and what doesn't.

This year, I was still picking up readers from the library easy reader section for him, thinking that if I kept his reading work a level below where he actually was, he'd be encouraged by what he could do and not discouraged by what he couldn't do.  Self-perception is so important and if he begins to believe he's a reader then that will help him push forward. 

He stumbled through them all and read ever so slowly.  I was a tad bit discouraged that they were too hard and looked at the budget again to find a way to eek out a couple hundred dollars a month to bring in more help. It turns out that they may not have been too hard but perhaps too boring and maybe offensively easy.

I tried a different tactic.  I picked up a Magic Treehouse Chapter book. He's been reading them to himself for a few months.  I'm not sure how successfully he's read them but at least he appears to understand them and enjoy them.  He also enjoys the audio versions and this might be the key to his success here.

When I sat down with him to have him read a chapter to me.  He flew through it and because he's reading it faster he's understanding what he's reading a little more.  Because he's already familiar with the characters he gives them a wee bit more expression and because he's reading a chapter book aloud to me he's stinkin' proud of himself.

I'm not afraid to push my dyslexic son anymore.  As long as he's enjoying what he's reading he's willing to do the work to get through it.  He's doing it.

Sunday, November 14

Once and Again

Q: What is the point of this picture?

If your first thought has something to do with Halloween, there'd be some truth in it.  I could write a post about how my views on Halloween have changed gradually over time.  Where I once was adamantly against the ridiculous celebration of all things departed, I have come to a more gracious resolution in its regard.  I still don't put any effort into the day, but my children enjoy it a little and so I was happy to make my littlest son into a raccoon this year -- moreso because it was utilitarian than for any other reason.

The picture could be the starting point for an animal mask tutorial, but that's not my forte. Taking pictures at every step while trying to maintain a cleanliness factor during crafts with young hands is not the kind of plate juggling I'm apt to do. So, that's not it either.

Something in me said, "Take the picture. Remember this."

You see, the mask on the left was made seven years ago, by my first four-year-old son.  As we studied popcorn and read through Raccoons and Ripe Corn we made our own paper plate mask and pretended to be raccoons raiding a cornfield.  We went to the cornfield maze in Penn Valley, California with my not-yet mobile 9 month old and my whisker-embellished preschooler.  We discovered that raccoons would have enjoyed the activity more than young humans because it takes little boys far too long to complete a cornfield maze with no emergency exits.   

The mask on the right was made just a few weeks ago by my current four year old son.  (My middle son, didn't get to do this project when he was four because our library at that location didn't carry the book).  The process was fun for him, but the wearing of the mask was not to his liking.  We did not take it to a cornfield maze.  We attached a tale to a gray sweatsuit and made it his costume for Halloween... because we'd already made the mask and we needed a way to use it.  We discovered that it's really not a lot of fun to wear masks.  Tails on the other hand...

And yet, seeing these projects side by side evokes something.  There are seven years between their creators. A different world for one son than is shaping up for the other.  My youngest is no less us, but he will never know what it was like to live in California like his brothers remember, to fly with less airport security, to have a daddy with ten toes... so many things have changed.  I have changed.  All things considered it's odd that I even pursue these identical moments at home with them -- reusing the same curriculum for the third time now -- when so much of my mentality and circumstance is different from before.  However, I am still moved to teach them the principles and structures that they can hang their curiosities and strengths upon.  These masks say to me, "At the same time in their different lives I was there next to them guiding their explorations and opening a door for learning. The same for one as for the other. No one gets shortchanged." 

In a way this picture represents that no matter where their paths take them, they did start in the same place.  I've sent my oldest son on to middle school now.  I've seen the development of his psyche, his intellect, and his heart.  I've seen that homeschooling works and that the youngest years are the years of absorption.  The boys will only look more and more distinct as time progresses.  But at one time, each was four and was given the same opportunity to fully become himself.  

Tuesday, November 9


"We get to place them
in proximity to the divine
and then let the divine
do the supernatural in their lives. 
It's such an honor.  It really is."  

-- Michelle Anthony,
author of Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today's Families