Friday, June 24, 2016

I have a six-year-old


On the train a week ago a man sat across from me and we began chatting. Ainsleigh was keyed up after our adventure into the city to see Elmo Live so she chattered at him as well. I explained that it was my first time going to see Elmo Live, even though I was not with my first child.

"Oh, really?" he said. "How many do you have?"

Without thinking I replied, "three."

He nodded. "I have four! Your other two must be boys then."

I shook my head. "No. I have a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. 2, 4, 6. It's a bit much," I laughed.

"But you love it," he said.

"Of course," I responded. "Of course."

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT CAME OVER ME!

I lied to a complete stranger about my kids and then the conversation took an awkward turn, because I couldn't keep up with my lie. It was the strangest thing. When B was little I would say I had two sometimes because I couldn't bear not to. But most of the time I have both kids with me so I can't do that anymore. I like to pretend I have a living six-year-old, but if B heard me do it he would call me out quicker than quick and I would look really crazy.

"So," he continued the conversation, "your oldest girl doesn't like Elmo?"

"Ahhh, um, nope. She never was into Elmo. No."

We stopped at two stations then he asked about schooling.

"We love the private school at our church, but we pull our kids out after kindergarten and teach first grade on at home. So we'll do that this year. I mean, we love the school, but we've only ever been through the preschool program. And, well, kinder. Hmmm."

I attended to Ainsleigh for a moment and hoped the loud rattle of the train would disguise my inability to keep track of my own story.

The man congratulated me on my educational efforts and our conversation wandered on from there. 

I can't believe I pretended Charlotte was alive for twenty minutes on a train carrying me away from the city and back to my everyday life. Maybe I did it because I was so outside of my normal routine, and if that train could somehow transport me to the life I crave it would be one where all my children are living, and two were waiting at home for me with their father.

Yesterday I was crying about I don't even know what. It was a hard day, I read a really sad book, and tears came crashing out at the end of the day. And in the middle of the storm I asked myself, "why am I so sad?" and the answer that floated to the surface was, "Charlotte. She's gone."

Since she died her absence has been at the base of every tear and sad emotion, even when it seems as if she should have nothing to do with it. She is my catalyst; a constant thread of sorrow in a beautiful life. Sometimes I need to pretend she is with me because it hurts too much to remember she is gone.

I have three children. I birthed three children. One couldn't stay. Two did. Sometimes that's too much sorrow to share with a stranger.

charlotte


bennett


ainsleigh




lucky find: the no-biggie bunch


I was helping B find books on army tanks at the library, and prying random titles out of Ainsleigh's hands as she tried to shove them in her book bag, when I noticed a book out of the corner of my eye on the bottom shelf. I crouched down and pulled it from the stack.



It was like finding gold.


I don't know why I haven't tried to find books on food allergies before. I guess it hadn't occurred to me .... ? We currently have three no-biggie bunch books checked out from the library. I think we'll eventually own the series. It's so nice for Bennett to read books about kids who have food allergies and need to bring special food with them everywhere.

Now in the book each child has one food allergy, and Bennett has many, but he can still relate! The books have provided many jumping off points for conversations about his allergies and how he feels about them.




          


To buy directly go HERE

I'm not being asked to promote these books, I just really like them!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

when repairmen fall asleep on your kitchen floor


We seem to be in a constant state of mechanical failure of one kind or another.

The car ... I don't know if I can even talk about the car.

We've been having car troubles since last November. That's 8 months! We've been through two mechanics and enough repairs to finance three shops for a while. And guess what we're doing this evening? Dropping the car off at the mechanic for another look over.

Last week the dishwasher broke. We've owned it six months. It was expensive. We bought the better brand, the brand I prefer, and it broke. Expensive appliances should not break after six months of use! We have a warranty so we called the appropriate number to learn what to do. Every suggestion they had was met with, "I tried that," by Jon so they gave us the number of the store that handles broken dishwashers with our particular warranty. 

I had to go to the store we bought the appliance from to get proof of receipt because we lost it. I'm usually very good at keeping track of things like that, but it's gone, in the wind, and there was an easier solution than searching every drawer and corner of the house so I chose that option.

After calling the appliance repair shop and being promised someone would call me back in 30 minutes I went for a 4 mile walk with my mom and kids and didn't hear 'boo' from the shop. So I called again and they said a technician would be out the following day. I was a little disappointed they were coming on a day when I would be alone because I don't like being alone in the house - aside from a 2 and 4-year-old with repairmen -  but no one was available to come over on the day my mom was there so alone we would be.

The repair technician came around noon. He began working. I put Ainsleigh down for her nap, then told B to stay with me at the kitchen table. We played cards. I noticed the man was really quiet so I peered over the counter to see how things were going.

He was on the floor, curled around the dishwasher, which he had pulled out from the wall, eyes closed.

He wasn't moving.

I began talking to B loudly. I shuffled the cards. I scuffed my feet on the floor. I made a racket, then I checked again. No movement.

"Sir?"

I paused. Raised my voice. "Sir?!"

No movement.

"SIR!!!!" I yelled. He jumped a little and turned to look at me. "Do you need anything?" I asked? cell phone clutched in my hand in case I needed to call 911.

"I'm just listening," he said as he turned back to the dishwasher.

I went back to the table. I posted on Facebook, feeling the need to let the world know there was a very awkward situation unfolding in my kitchen.

Things got very, very quiet. I let the dog in. Isabel sniffed around the man. He was still. I paced back and forth. I checked Facebook to see what others would do. I leaned over the counter and yelled, "DO YOU NEED ANYTHING? ARE YOU ALL RIGHT??"

After I yelled twice he opened his eyes and said, "I'm just listening."

I picked up the receipt from the hardware store that was lying on the counter and said something about how we had a warranty and I wasn't sure if he needed a copy or not ... 

He mumbled something I could not understand. He worked for a while longer, then got up and headed for the door. He had been there for an hour, most of it spent on the kitchen floor napping. He muttered something about a water line, or maybe a plumbing problem, or mmddkh kklmddkd bredkk.

I stared as he walked down the hall. "So, that's it? It's not fixed? When will it be fixed."

He laughed as he opened the door, "I never know that, I just tell them what to order."

And then he was gone.

When I didn't hear anything from the repair shop by Tuesday I called to ask what was going on.

The woman who answered explained that we needed three parts, and that one was coming from Albany, New York so it would be some time before our dishwasher was repaired.

I almost ended the conversation at that point, but then I put my brave pants on and said, "Three parts? Excuse me? I'm confused about what is wrong with the dishwasher and I feel like the communication has been lacking."

She apologized.

Then I took a deep breath and said, "This is really awkward, but I need to request a different technician as well."

The dispatcher said, "Okay, but our secondary technician is on vacation and won't be back until the 1st."

"I don't care. I'm certain the first repairman you sent fell asleep on my kitchen floor. Twice."

She apologized profusely and promised to send someone else out, "hopefully before the 4th."

Hopefully. I love my dishwasher.

As for my car I have no idea what's wrong with it now. Anyone want to buy us a new SUV?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

find your brave {book review}


I initially picked Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In by Holly Wagner from a list of books to review because I saw that it used the story of Paul's shipwreck in Acts 27 to talk about the storms of life and how to handle the trials one faces.




Hey, that will be perfect! I thought. I'm reading through the She Reads Truth Acts study this summer and this book will give me deep insight into one passage.

And then life went sideways all around me. As it does. As it always will. And when this book came in the mail today I tried to set it aside, but I felt like I needed to read it so I picked it up after dinner and burned through it in two hours with a pencil tightly gripped in one hand.

It's one of my 'send a copy to all the people I love' books. It jumped on the list immediately when I thought of four people I wanted to pass it on to - well buy it for, I want to keep my marked up copy for myself - as I began texting quotes to friends.

Holly Wagner uses trials and experiences in her own life - breast cancer, financial hardship, marriage etc. - and the lessons she's learned from them to explore the idea of life storms and how to navigate them with spiritual strength and resources.

Wagner is kind, sympathetic and full of Biblical wisdom, but she is far from gentle in her encouragement to move through the storm and get to the shore - or other side. She expects readers to grow and change, and she provides practical, solid, Biblical advice to get readers through.

I like that Find Your Brave can be blazed through - as I did - and then referred to as storms arise, because as Wagner points out, getting through one storm does not mean the horizon is clear of storms for the remainder of one's days, or read and absorbed slowly. I know I did not gain all the knowledge this book has to offer. I will definitely read it again.

Wagner encourages readers to be anchored in faith, to find hope and courage, to be strong and refuse to quit. Every chapter applies to my life and what I am experiencing right now. And as I face a time when I don't know exactly how to proceed reading Find Your Brave gave me insight on how to move forward: basically the opposite of how my emotions were telling me to proceed. Of course.

Find Your Brave offers wisdom, insight, compassion, and strong Biblical references to support every recommendation and encouragement. I wish someone had put this book in my hands after Charlotte died, because it would have encouraged me and helped me to get through. I would have loved to read about how the purpose of getting through a storm is to get to the shore and help others who are hurting. I figured out that was some of the purpose - though not the reason - behind Charlotte's death eventually, but it took time.

About getting to the other side Wagner writes, "There are people on your shore as well, who need the life and presence of God that is in you. They need to find their brave. God is not looking down at you and me in our storms and feeling sorry for us. No! He is looking way down the road He has called us to travel. He sees a whole bunch of people He needs us to touch with His love. After all, we are His hands. So maybe you feel a bit weak and overwhelmed by all you've encountered (we've all been there), or maybe you think the storm has knocked you off course. Nope. You are in His hands. If you open your eyes, you will see lots of people around you - they are waiting for you to get up. You have made it through a tremendous storm, and other women out there need to know how you did it."

I think what I needed the most from this book tonight was the reminder that I am not in control of life - God is. He sees a bigger, better plan for my life than I can fathom. I'm a little bit stuck on the tiny bit of map I can see right now, but He holds the entirety of my life and the world's life expectancy in His hands and He knows exactly what He is doing. I can rest in the knowledge that I am His daughter and He will not fail me.

Find Your Brave is worth a read. It's worth ten reads. I loved this book.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

monkey moon and other picture book favorites


When we walk in the library everyone at the front desk cringes. I have to bring the stroller just to get all of our selves and books in the door. I bring two huge bags my mom found on clearance at Target when B was in the NICU and we were desperate for clothes and something to store them in. Blue for me, white for the kids. Then we stuff them full of as many books as they can hold, and sometimes more. I've been known to leave the library with two bags full, the stroller top stacked high, and the kids arms full of precarious stacks.

I had to open up a library account for B because we kept maxing out my card. With a 100 book limit we haven't had any problems, but Ainsleigh doesn't have a card yet, so there's the option to stretch our limit to 150 titles if we really get crazy. I'm already trying to figure out how we'll manage when it no longer makes sense to bring a stroller. Everyone brings their own rolling suitcase? Or wagon? Or laundry basket?

On our last library trip I managed to navigate the two bags, two children, two library cards circus without completely embarrassing myself or exasperating the staff, which was a nice change from the usual disastrous check out routine. I've asked the staff to build a corral area with lockable gate around each checkout station, but they haven't complied yet. Perhaps they could just create a small children check out booth that locks. That would be VERY helpful. I'll take carry out service as well. That would greatly improve my library experience. Imagine the possibilities if I was allowed a staff member and rolling cart on every library trip!

Out of the heaps and piles of books we own and borrow here are the ones the kids love/can't get enough of/return to again and again (this week):



We have all five bear and mouse books. I love them, Jon loves them, the kids love them. They're funny, heartwarming, and have a gentle lesson about friendship included in each one. They're great for read aloud, especially with one person reading Bear's lines while another tackles Mouse's. I relate to Bear in many ways. Read the books and you'll see why.




















We discovered this treasure at the library last week. We are all besotted. I love that the story focuses on a father and son going on an after dark adventure to find a beloved stuffed animal. There's some tension and a little bit of worry as Michael searches and searches for his Monkey Moon, but the book isn't scary. And the author presents the search as an adventurous journey which makes the finding of Monkey Moon all the more exciting. I think a big part of my love for this book is how sweet my daughter sounds when she says, "Monkey Moon?" as we read the book.




The content in this book is excellent. Most of it is beyond the kids, but reading through it and solving the math myself exposes them to numbers and math in a fun way. It covers everything from basic counting to division with some shapes thrown in at the end. I love the illustrations as well.




I need to buy a copy of this book. We check it out from the library regularly. I love the story, the illustrations, and the sweetness of this book.




I just discovered the Crinkleroot series. I love it! Easy for kids to understand, with solid facts and interesting information. The kids are really into identifying birds and trees right now so these are great to have on hand. The bird guide is currently overdue at the library. We need to give it back and buy a copy!




What picture books are you enjoying with your little ones right now?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

schooling {a few thoughts on the well-trained mind}


I think every parent struggles with where to send their child to school. Public school might seem like an easy option because it's what most people do, but just because it's the most common doesn't mean parents don't worry about the curriculum, the teachers, or the school district. Choosing a school for your child is hard. I've spent the last few years trying to figure out what to do for my kids, and I still can't fully commit to what we've planned!

This weekend I set up a binder and began collecting all of my notes on curriculum and schooling styles. I like the book The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, but it's a little intense. Like if you watch more than 30 minutes of Mister Rogers a day they will find you and tell you to turn off that TV, pick up a book, and read to your child!




I like the overall structure they suggest, but I think we'll have to make a few adjustments so it fits our needs and style. It is nice to have a plan with suggested curriculum all laid out. Especially since it's a plan for classical education and I love the idea of teaching in that style! It's a lesson plan rich in language and heavy on reading, which works really well for me!

I've been reading a lot about Charlotte Mason and her style of education as well. I'm trying to figure out how to meld her plans with the ideas from A Well-Trained Mind to make a cohesive education plan.




I think one of the things I'm in danger of is doing too much. Over-planning, over-teaching, over-reaching. And that's a surefire way to burn both Bennett and I out. I want to be aware of that now so I can try to avoid it when we actually begin schooling at home.

I've gone back and forth about teaching the kids at home, but when Jon and I were talking about it about a month ago I admitted that a big part of my reluctance to do so was selfish and me based. I'm sure I've written about this before. I like having time to myself while Bennett is at preschool. And maybe I could go back to work if he was in school full time. I don' t know if I want to work, but the opportunity would be there if both kids went to school full time. But then Jon mentioned that giving up time now might mean having more time in the future. Pouring into the kids now may mean we won't have a 24-year-old living in our basement 20 years from now!

On a more serious note - education is really important to me. I keep seeking out resources, and reading books about different types and styles of education, and trying to learn what works best for children, and I think all of that effort is pointing me towards the truth: I want to try schooling at home for at least a year and see how we fare. I still have two years to waffle about this since we're going to keep Bennett in private school until he finishes the kindergarten program. If he'll go, that is. He's still putting his foot down about starting the 4's program in the fall!

If you school at home throw your thoughts and ideas my way! What curriculum do you use? Do you have to put your kids through state testing? Is the organizational side of it overwhelming? What do you love about it? What do you dislike about it? How much chocolate do you need to survive hard schooling days??


Saturday, June 18, 2016

adventures with ainsleigh: sesame street live


Ainsleigh girl LOVES Sesame Street. When we went to the library this week she couldn't find any Elmo books so she walked up to the desk and said, Elmo?" to a librarian, who quickly stood up to help her. And she's already planning an ElmoAbbyZoe birthday party.


I assumed our family would all go to Sesame Street Live together, but B refused to participate so I took Ainsleigh by myself. I was not looking forward to going to Portland by myself on a Friday evening, but I knew Ainsleigh would love the show so I bought the tickets.

Getting to the show was a bit of a disaster, but we made it! I feel so bad for Jon when he has to deal with the completely confused, slightly hysterical wife who isn't exactly sure where she is and calls in a panic to make sure she is in the right place. Maybe I should've called my dad instead. He's used to the hysterical daughter's lost in Portland phone calls; he's been receiving them for years from my sisters and I.

The problem with a trip like last night's is that I don't like doing it at ALL. It's far out of my comfort zone, it involves a lot of anxiety for me, and I have to pray constantly so I make it through without losing my mind.

Let me explain my journey so you can understand why I dread things like this: Last night I had to get to a transit station (over an hour and a half drive in heavy traffic) get on the train, get off at the correct station (nope, didn't manage this one), get us dinner, find the show, get on the correct train back to the transit center, locate our car and drive an hour home. That's a LOT for me to handle on my own with a two-year-old.

It was intense.

But I don't want my kids to think we don't do things simply because they scare us or are out of our comfort zones. I already see a lot of those tendencies in B. And while I want him to be comfortable and feel safe, I also want him to understand that sometimes we have to stretch ourselves and do things that feel hard.

We had our dinner, we made it to the show after wandering around for a bit, and we were there with plenty of time to make ourselves comfortable and sit for a minute before the show began. Of course Ainsleigh loved the show. She danced and she yelled for her favorite characters; any time the stage was minus a character or two she yelled for them by name until they came back out. She wanted the entire cast on the stage at all times! We bought tickets via Groupon and our seats were excellent (no one wants to drag their kid out at 6:30 on a Friday night - why?!) so Ainsleigh even got to shake hands with a couple of characters. She had a blast. And that's what made me step outside of my comfort zone and take her to the show. I knew she would enjoy it and that it would be a happy memory for her (until her brain ditches the memory in favor of something more pertinent!).

One of the most challenging moments was getting out of the building after the show. Toddlers were throwing themselves on the ground left and right as they faced the prospect of leaving their friends behind. Every child - including the ones whose parents spent $150 on food and souvenirs - flipped out over the confetti and streamers that shot out of the confetti guns at the end of the show, so there were hoards of over-stimulated children dragging streamers behind them as they trailed their parents out of the arena, crying, whining, and begging for food. I stepped on at least three streamers  dangling from toddler hands while I tried to find a restroom and get us to the exit closest to the train stop we needed. Word of advice: do not wreck an overtired toddler's streamer. Do everything in your power to avoid stepping on or near it.

On our way home we had to stop at a transit station for a fare check. As the transit police poured on the train to check everyone's tickets, and haul a few people off, a man sat down across from me and struck up a conversation. We talked most of the way back to the station. He attends a church I went to a few times in college. We both have four-year-old boys. Neither of us are very good at navigating train systems in the city. Chatting with him was a nice break from the crazy pace of our trip. And he wasn't a total creeper, which is so often the case with guys who strike up conversations on city trains. When the train arrived at our transit station he hopped off and rushed ahead to help a woman with the boxes she was struggling to carry. He was a nice guy, and it was reassuring to know he was nearby as I hurried to the car and changed Ainsleigh into her pajamas in preparation for the inevitable knockout on the way home (she was asleep three seconds after I started the car).

As I drove home I thought about how lucky I am that getting to a Sesame Street Live show is one of the hardest things I have to do. We live in a safe city, we traveled to a safe city to attend a fun show, and while there I wasn't worried about being out and about in the city by myself with my daughter. We are so lucky to have the means to do extra things with our kids, and buy special dinners, and a couple souvenirs to remember the day. When I get overwhelmed I try to take myself back to a place of gratefulness. Anxiety makes my problems feel huge, but I find that calling up thankfulness helps me center myself and it reminds me that in a global sense my problems are small and manageable.

I don't just want Ainsleigh to remember the show. I want her to remember the people I asked for help, and how nice they all were, and how I wasn't afraid to approach anyone for help even though some of them didn't look like we do. How I get by in unfamiliar situations is to ask questions of those around me, and I want my kids to learn they can do the same thing. I know the kids are too young to remember me asking directions as we wander around Portland, but I hope as they observe me they begin to understand that help doesn't just look like us and that we can be friendly to all people. We don't live in a very diverse area, and I think that makes our trips into Portland even more important. I don't enjoy the trip, but I hope by making the trek a few times a year my kids will begin to grasp that the world is wide and they can venture out into it even if they are scared because there are kind people everywhere, and they don't have to look, act, or speak a certain way to be kind.

I'm pretty sure we'll be back next year for Sesame Street Live, and we won't get lost because I know exactly what to do now! And there's another life lesson I want my kids to learn: doing things out of your comfort zone builds confidence, and when you believe in yourself and your abilities you can do anything you set your mind to.

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