Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Last-Minute Fashion

We were late for a field trip and I was rushing to get us out the door. Trying to get small children anywhere on time works best when you have a small army assigned to each child, especially if you want said children to have shoes, socks, combed hair, and clean faces. The only army around here consists of my four cute chaos makers. So we were late.

The kids were scurrying for footwear and everyone was feeling the attendant rise in blood pressure as we wondered what shoes would or wouldn't surface as needed.

Then Grace appeared in the hallway looking, uh, like a 3-year-old who dresses herself.
"Look, Mom! I can wear socks with flip flops!"

Yes. Yes, you can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Boy and His Catapult

As part of his homeschooling lineup this year, Jake is taking an Engineering Foundations class that involves building structures with the Engino Simple Machines kit. My mechanically minded little man is in heaven. Recently his assignment was to build a catapult.  
He then spent the afternoon rocketing toy food into a nearby laundry hamper. (Really, we were both grieving the absence of a bag of marshmallows so we could eat our target practice.) Some pieces went right in. Some were over- or under-shot. Some ricocheted around the room.
Give a boy a weapon, and he will have an entertaining afternoon. Teach a boy to build a weapon and you will be living in a war zone.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Gift of Siblings

Last summer I had an interesting conversation with my sister-in-law about family size.  She told me about her best friend from high school--an only child whose world revolved around her. "She had her own bedroom and her own office. When it was time to plan a family vacation, they just went where she wanted." As a teenager my sister-in-law felt a tad envious of her friend's self-centered existence.

I listened and thought. I have known wonderful people who didn't have any siblings. And who wouldn't enjoy a world that revolved around them, especially as a teenager? But I'm not sure this planet needs more people who think they are the center of the universe. For years I have said that one of the nicest things I can do for my kids is give them siblings. A sibling is a childhood playmate and a dear friend for adulthood. Siblings sometimes understand us better than anyone else can.
Large families present other advantages, too. This year we have all had to be sensitive to Emma's extra needs with her glaucoma. It hasn't been easy. But through it all I have hoped and prayed that our children could learn something about compassion and sacrificing to care for another. When you want to raise children who are selfless and look for opportunities to serve others, these sorts of experiences can be an answered prayer.

Then recently I saw this article  that draws a correlation between family size and future marital success. Children who come from families with several children have to learn to deal with multiple personalities and opinions all in the same environment. They gain an understanding of how to roll with the punches--and each additional sibling a child has (up to seven children) increases their future chances for marital success:

“In terms of some social outcomes, kids from large families are more likely to flourish,” said Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project. “They’re less likely to get divorced. It might be the experience early in life of learning to share so much and live with the exceptional stress of having all those different personalities to deal with.”
Ohio State University research suggests that only children are the least likely to marry and most at risk of divorcing, while people with four to seven siblings have markedly lower rates of divorce.
Maybe people from big families grow up knowing that they’re not going to win every battle. Maybe they understand from birth that they’re not alone in life. Or maybe they learn early on to play well with others.
“All those life experiences may have prepared them better for marriage,” Wilcox said.
Read more here:
Some people don't understand why I would choose to have so many kids. But I know that I am trying to sacrifice for a future outcome that will take decades to unfold. A little extra work for us right now means more joy in a few more years--for us, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.
So perhaps the next time I encourage my children to share a toy, wait patiently for each other, or help each other, I will remind myself that I am increasing their chances for a happy marriage.

When you give a child a sibling, you are giving them a gift that lasts forever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cute Little Pumpkin-Shaped Bread Bowls

I've blogged before about how much I love family traditions. I love looking for recipes and experiences that are meaningful and that our family can look forward to each year. A couple years ago I was looking for a good traditional Halloween dinner and I came across an idea for pumpkin-shaped bread bowls. So here is my rendition. I used a basic, flexible bread dough recipe I had and made a few minor tweaks. This will yield six good-sized bread bowls.

2 T. yeast
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. sugar (or honey)
4 t. salt
2 c. warm water
4-1/2 c. flour

Technically you can dump all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them, and let them rise for a half hour. I like to let the yeast proof in the water and honey first. But do what you want. It's pretty flexible. If your dough is too wet, add more flour.

After I mix the dough I separate out a handful and knead in a few drops of green food coloring. You'll want enough dough here to make six little pumpkin stems. Just use your best judgment. You might have to knead for a minute or two to get the color to mix thoroughly.

Then add several drops of red and yellow food coloring to the remaining dough, turn on your mixer, and let the mixer help you get it to the right color orange. Cover both bowls (the orange main dough and the small bit of green dough) and let them rise for a half hour.

Now grease a 9x13 pan and break your orange dough into six balls. Plop those little pumpkins in your pan. Divide your green dough into six pieces, and form each stem into a cone. If you make them an inch or two tall they'll hold their shape nicely while they finish rising and baking. Place each stem on a little pumpkin.
Let them rise for another half hour, and then bake them at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes.
When they're cooled pop off the stem (and some of the middle), fill them with chili and cheese (or whatever kind of soup you want) and enjoy your bowl of Halloween-dinner goodness. Yum!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life's Little Moments

From Jake’s infancy I have loved putting my kids in slings, wraps, or strollers and walking to the park, the library, the store, or anywhere else within reasonable distance. I love stopping by parks when we are out and about or going on as many summer picnics as we can squeeze in. I love the sunshine, the fresh air, and the exercise. I never realized how much I took that sun-loving lifestyle for granted.

All that had to change this summer. Emma couldn't even handle indoor light till after her fourth surgery. Playing at parks and going on walks was completely out of the question all summer long.

I will always remember Emma’s first time to play on a park swing. She was 10 months old. It was 8 o’clock at night and the sun was setting and not too bright. We slipped Emma into a swing, Grace helped push her, and she laughed and laughed and laughed. And we treasured the opportunity to have our baby play outside.
The last few weeks when the sun hasn't been too bright I have slipped out to the back yard to push Emma on our baby swing and push Grace on another swing. It is one of life’s simple joys that I might not have appreciated quite so much before. But now that simple little experience is a little bit of heaven. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Math vs. the Mower

Wednesday morning, 8:25am. I am wondering where Jake is and thinking I ought to get him started on his math for the day.

I check the garage. Is he at work with Cameron's tools again? Nope.

I check the street. Is he riding his bike? Negative.

I check the backyard. And this is what I find.
He is happily mowing the yard--still wearing his pajamas.( I tell Cameron that I hope when he prays he remembers to thank the Lord for sending him a son who begs and pleads to be able to mow the lawn.)

On second thought, maybe we'll be starting that math lesson at 9 instead of 8:30 this morning.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy

As an English major and writer, sometimes it is embarrassing to admit which books I haven't read. I am always reading something, but there are still plenty of classics I haven't enjoyed yet. Chronicles of Narnia are some of those--I feel kind of sheepish when I say that I haven't read them all. When I was young I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and part of Prince Caspian. But that's as far as I made it.

So recently I decided to start reading them in chronological order, starting with The Magician's Nephew, proceeding to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, then The Horse and His Boy, then  Prince Caspian and the rest of the series. I love Chronicles of Narnia for the Christian symbolism. I'm really not one who generally enjoys fantasy, but for C. S. Lewis we must make exceptions, don't you think?
The Horse and His Boy is the story of a boy named Shasta who is introduced to a talking horse named Bree who was stolen from Narnia. The book is the story of their quest to return to Narnia. As with the other books in the series, I marveled at how deftly Lewis wove the details of the story. I think he blends the perfect amount of plot twists and suspense to make it interesting.

My favorite part of the story took place when Shasta was alone on a journey, lost, cold, and surrounded by fog and darkness. He was beginning to sink into self pity when he became aware that someone or something was next to him.

"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper.

"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep...."Tell me your sorrows."

Shasta unloaded his whole life on the being who walked beside him. And slowly it came out that the being was Aslan (the lion who represents Christ throughout the Narnia series). Aslan explained to Shasta the different times in Shasta's life when Aslan had cared for and comforted him.

"I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

Countless times Aslan had quietly and anonymously worked in Shasta's life and Shasta hadn't even realized it.

How often does Christ work in my life without me realizing it? I am sure that, like Shasta, I am often blind to His careful hand. But this much I do know: Jesus Christ is my Savior. He is the Savior of the whole world. And I rejoice in the knowledge that He is at work in my life and the lives of those around me, whether or not we recognize it. He loves us. And He lives.