Monday, May 31, 2010

Peaceful May, How I've Loved You

I'm sad to say goodbye to May.

It's been such a wonderful month. Lovely in scenery, relaxed in pace, delightful in activity, it's been absolutely splendid.

Having finished homeschool for this school year in April, we settled into a different daily rhythm in May. A load I didn't even know I was carrying slipped off my shoulders as I put aside the schoolbooks. The boys had plenty of time for self-chosen leisure activities, like painting...
...and having some good old-fashioned country water fun.
Who needs a swimming pool when you can play in a watering trough? :) (Although, we had a blast playing in a real pool today at Daniel and Deborah's house!)

May had very few extracurricular activities; once we finished violin for Josiah, we didn't have to think about lessons and rehearsals and practices at home and getting four boys ready to go somewhere and sit quietly.

May included several trips to the library where we checked out big piles of books to bring home and devour. In May, Josiah discovered the fun of the Cooper Kids Adventure series by Frank Peretti; he even convinced me to read a couple, and I stayed up late reading until the end because I had to find out what happened.

May found me tackling a big organizing project - my kitchen - and making good progress on it.

Most of all, in May, I could definitively say that I had successfully crossed The Mountain. I may be a slow mountain climber; I certainly never expected that Shav would be 10 months old before I would really feel like the adjustment was complete. But each day, as difficult as some of them were, brought us closer to The New Normal that families strive for after a baby is born. And now here we are, a family of six, (mostly) adjusted and functioning smoothly.

Actually, I think everyone else in the family adjusted a long time ago; I was the one who was lagging behind. But here in the month of May, I have felt like an entirely different woman than I did a few months ago. I've had vision and energy to tackle new projects and to dream and plan a little along the way. I've had mental clarity, which is really huge because the fog that drifts through my sleep-deprived, hormonal, new-mom brain is probably the hardest part, for me, of having a baby. I've had the self-discipline to regularly clean up the kitchen entirely before I go to bed. I've had joy. I've had patience. I've had peace in more abundant supply than I've had for a while. I've made my relationship with God a priority and have seen specific growth in that area. I just feel so different than the woman I was during most of the past 10 months.

As we enter into June and July and the pace of life quickens due to some activities the boys will be involved in, I make it my goal to retain the joy, patience, peace, and all the other good stuff I've been blessed with in May. I always want to live like it's May.

Dear, dear May, thank you for being so kind to me. June, I welcome you with the summer violin lessons, soccer camp, VBS, etc. that you bring. July, I know you'll be here before I know it, along with more enjoyable experiences, like the trip to Tennessee that we're looking forward to. And August, I'm already awaiting you with much anticipation, since you are a nearly blank slate. Will you be my second May? Will you be as peaceful and fantastic as this month has been?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Abundance of Rain

~ I took these pictures looking out at the rain from our windows - May 27, 2010 - it is HARD to take good pictures of rain - but even though I'm not entirely pleased with them, it still gives me some kind of visual aid to accompany this powerful verse

I LOVE this verse. The context is a conversation between the prophet Elijah and the wicked king Ahab, which follows immediately after the showdown with the prophets of Baal, which follows a very long drought in the land of Israel. The part that thrills me about Elijah's statement is that it was spoken entirely in the spiritual realm. In the physical, there was no sound of rain: not a trickle, not a sprinkle, not a drizzle, and certainly not an abundance. In fact, after Elijah says this, he goes to the top of Carmel, starts praying, and then instructs his servant to go look for a cloud. There was no cloud. If there was no sight of a cloud from the top of this mountain, there was certainly no sound of abundant rain! Six times, this drama repeated, until finally during the seventh time, the servant sees "a cloud as small as a man's hand" - still no sound of rain though. But the rain comes! Before long, "the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on!" Finally, the sound of the abundant rain is present in the physical that Elijah had already heard in the spiritual.

This reminds me of another verse that I LOVE (but which I couldn't find...I looked all over the Bible, but finally had to ask Jeff to help didn't take him long to track it down...that's why I married him) :). Romans 4:17 says, "...the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were." It takes incredible faith to do this. But that's what God does. That's what Elijah did. And that's what I want to do.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

If You Could Spend an Hour With Anyone in the World...

...who would it be?

I've heard that question many times; who hasn't? But recently, I heard (actually, read it, although I can't remember anything about where it was or who wrote it) it again, and took some time to ponder it. I never can figure out what answer to give. Sure, there are people that would be interesting to meet - any of the First Ladies, former or current, come to mind - Elisabeth Elliot is another lady whom I greatly admire and would enjoy spending time with - but I don't think I would choose any of them.

For one thing, I'm not much of a groupie. I don't belong to anybody's fan club. I haven't signed up for Tweets from anyone. I don't follow any series - reality or otherwise - on TV. Even my blog list on my sidebar shows my lack of attention to the biggies: the famous bloggers. I'd rather know what Morning in Australia is doing than what...well, I'm not going to name any names because that wouldn't be uplifting. But the point is that, especially recently, fame has seemed so empty to me. Popularity is so very fleeting; and if I were going to spend time with someone, I would want it to be for a deeper reason than because they are famous.

So, with all that in mind, I finally decided who I would choose to spend time with, if I could select anyone in the world. It would be our friends Aldo and Maggie in San Diego. It wouldn't be just them, but we would be at their house, eating some carne asade, swimming in their pool, playing games, and then a bunch of our other friends would start dropping by: Rob and Lib, Tim and Jeanne, Eugene and Jacqueline, and more and more and more. Actually, I don't think we would fit in their house, if everybody came that I'd like to see. :)

I don't know why they've been so heavy on my mind today. Maybe because it's hot here, and I'd love to cool off in somebody's pool. :) Maybe because last May, we were in San Diego, doing all of those things I mentioned at Aldo and Maggie's house. Maybe because I just miss our CA friends, and I don't know when we'll get to see them again.

But for tonight anyway, if I could choose anyone in the world to spend time with, it would be them.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Not much time for blogging today, since we're expecting a bunch of people for our fellowship potluck tonight. There's a cake to be iced, a table to be stretched, chairs to be placed around, bathrooms to be inspected, lemonade to be made, baked spaghetti to be...well...baked - lots of good stuff.

In lieu of actual words and thoughts and effort, here are some pictures taken by notable photographer David Fisher. These are all Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC, for those unfamiliar with photographer lingo...SOOC, by the way, is probably the only bit of photographer lingo I understand). Along with these interesting shots, there were probably 20 blurry pictures of pepper plants in our garden, as well as blurry shots of other items around our yard and in our pasture. All I can say is, "I'm so glad for a digital camera...and for the 'Delete' button!" :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seven Tidbits

Long ago, as I was putting away our Christmas decorations, I snapped these pictures and intended to post them right away. It, like so many other things I plan, never happened. But it's not too late to show the dangers of putting a nativity set where little hands can reach it.
Did you notice what happened to Jesus? His left hand got amputated! Oh, no!
Poor Jesus. We'll try to take better care of Him next year. Although I LOVE having a wooden set that our boys can set up and rearrange and get up close and personal with (like they did in this video from December), it obviously has its disadvantages. And here I thought wood pieces would be unbreakable...


My knees are noisy. Every time I go up or down steps, they creak audibly. I wouldn't do a very good job of sneaking up on someone if I had to ascend or descend stairs to do so.


My allergies have been bothering me recently, so last night, in the middle of the night, I got up and used some nasal spray to try to calm them down. Nasal spray doesn't bother me at all. Putting eye drops in my eyes is very difficult for me, however. Jeff is just the opposite: he regularly puts eye drops in his eyes, since he wears contacts; but he doesn't like nasal sprays one bit. I think nasal spray is easier. ;)


Another thing I wanted to write about, back in the cold, snowy days of January, was the Harmonia Sacra singing that I went to on New Years Day. Attending that singing has become a much-loved tradition for me. The thought that stood out to me the most this past time was how those very same songs have been sung for over 200 years. If I stop for a moment and let my mind try to grasp the people - the real, flesh-and-blood, loving-God, struggling-against-sin, working-in-the-fields-or-the-shops, baking-biscuits, nursing-babies, tickling-children, going-for-evening-walks people - it's so encouraging to think of being part of the great procession of the faithful. In every time, God has His people. We are not the first to burst on the scene with new revelations or zeal like the world has never known. We continue the line. We are links in the chain, a chain which extends from Adam and Eve until the end of time when the faithful are together forever with God and each other in heaven. Wow!


On a less lofty note, I tried Meredith's recipe for Cream Cheese Pound Cake for strawberry shortcake last night for supper. Our neighbors across the way are growing strawberries to sell this year, so we are blessed with an abundant, fresh supply. I was happy to fork over my $15.75 for a gallon of beautiful red berries last evening, and I thought Meredith's recipe was scrumptious! The recipe we always used for shortcake when I was a girl is less sweet and more like a biscuit; we would pour milk over the whole thing and eat it that way...the country way. :) Jeff was more accustomed to a sweet cake, and his family would put whipped cream on the top. No milk. :) When I spotted Meredith's recipe, I realized it would be more similar to what Jeff would like, so I decided to make it, and I'm so glad I did. I think I've found our family's new favorite way to make shortcake. And what is the month of May without homemade strawberry shortcake?!

Another new recipe we've loved is Brittany's Asian Coleslaw Salad. In fact, I'm making it again tomorrow evening for our fellowship potluck.


Shav is now a working man.

Yesterday he earned his first $20, just for being part of a research study at our local university. They are studying the way babies, deaf and hearing, learn language, particularly the similarities and differences between their reaction to sign language. Shav sat on my lap, did great, and got some money to put in his savings account. Not bad for about a half hour of his time.

If any of you locals have babies that are younger than 11 months and are interested in having them participate in a study (there are several going on), you can contact me and I can give you more info about it.


I've saved the best for last. :)

The other big part of Shav's day yesterday was a photo shoot with Misty. She needed some more baby boy pictures for her portfolio, she said, so she asked if she could please come and take some pictures of him. Well, of course, she could! Anytime! Really! We'll volunteer for that duty any day!!!

She emailed last night and said over the next few days, she'll be putting some of the pictures on her blog. You know I'll be checking it frequently. :)

Here's the first picture:
I'm pretty sure, even if I wasn't his mom, I would think he was absolutely, positively, undeniably, 100%...


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You Might Be a Mother of Boys If... (Part Two)

...while doing laundry, you discover small pieces of broken stick in the pocket of your son's shorts...
...and you KNOW that, if you throw them away, you'll be reprimanded for depriving some poor soldier of his needed ammunition.
These are not sticks, after all, but bullets. Any mother of boys could tell you that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This Is the Spring in Which...

...Josiah learns to ride a bike...
...without training wheels.
He basically taught himself how to do this. One evening, the neighbor girls brought over one of their bikes that doesn't have training wheels; and when Josiah came in from playing that night, he announced that he now knew how to ride without training wheels! "Oh, really? You do?" was my slightly skeptical thought; but sure enough, he did. When children are ready for a new skill, they almost teach themselves. It really can be that simple, I've learned.

This is also the spring in which David gets good at standing up while he's swinging.
No longer content for the mild version of swinging, he's turned it up a notch to the hot version. He doesn't sit; he stands. He doesn't just want a twisty; he wants a twisty that goes back and forth, too (he calls it a roller coaster, and I would imagine that it does make his tummy do flip-flops). And underdogs? It's a given that this boy can take it as high as I can push it.

That blurb I just wrote about children teaching themselves when they're ready? It applies here, too. This is the spring in which Tobin taught himself to ride "David's" tricycle (maybe it needs a new name?).
He kept hopping on it and making more and more progress until now, he smoothly rides around the "racetrack" formed by our kitchen and living room. Not only can he do it on the small red tricycle, but also on "Josiah's" tricycle, too, which is larger and consequently a little harder for Tobin to reach the pedals. But he stretches, and manages. And nobody taught him that. When I need Tobin to be happily occupied by himself for a little while, the two activities I can count on are riding the tricycle and standing on a chair at the kitchen sink to play with water.
This is also the spring in which Tobin graduated from our baby swing to a regular swing.
He's only fallen off once (and that was a gentle fall that caused no lingering damage); but now, he looks like he's been swinging this way all his life.
Whenever he hears one of the other boys ask for an underdog or a twisty, he pipes up and wants the exact same thing. I grant his wishes, but take it easy while doing so...just in case he gets so excited that he forgets to hang on.

This is the spring in which Shav occupies our baby swing...
...and discovers how grand and glorious it is to be outside.
Josiah and David like to stand in front of him and push him; and as he approaches, they say in a silly voice "Stinky feet!" and he laughs and laughs.

And finally, this is the spring when the Fisher family gets a new...
A beagle, this time, but free, just like our other two have been. Last evening, the boys who live across the street came to our door and asked if we wanted their dog because they are moving and can't take him with them. They had asked many other people and been turned down and were getting desperate. Jeff wasn't home at the time so I said I would have to ask him, but I already knew we would say yes. We did. Molly and Jasper are getting used to the new dog, and I don't think it will take too long until our one sheep, two goats, and three dogs all get along fine.

Welcome to the family, Buddy!

Monday, May 24, 2010

To My Dad, As He Turns 70

Dearest Dad,

Happy 70th birthday!!

I'll admit, 70 used to seem SO OLD. Funny how that's changed, and it no longer seems quite as ancient as I once thought. Maybe my perception is different because you make 70 seem young.

You're not as young as you once were though. Not as young as this handsome guy standing with his father and his younger brother on his wedding day...
And with his beautiful bride...
Walking into a bright future incapable of knowing the joys and challenges that lay ahead...
Smashing Carefully placing wedding cake in each other's mouths...
Opening a pile of gifts on your bride's parents' front lawn (things were done differently back then, weren't they?)...
Leaving amidst a shower of rice in snazzy going-away outfits...
Off into the sunset and a beautiful future together...

How glad I am that, 70 years ago, you were born, and (almost) 47 years ago, you married that lovely lady!

As you know, when I was growing up, I was closer to Mother. I spent a lot of time with her and thought I was SO much like her; and it's true, I did share a lot of interests with her. But it wasn't until we moved back here almost 5 years ago that I realized how much I'm like YOU! Oh, I knew we were both left-handed and that I got my nose from you, but I didn't know that my personality is actually much more like yours than like Mother's. Thanks for being the source of my easy-going, let's-not-worry-about-it, sure-you-can-come-over-for-dinner-even-if-I-haven't-mopped-the-floor-in-weeks outlook on life. You know I didn't get that from my mom. :)

This is a big year for you. Besides this day, another hugely important one is looming: August 31, the day you officially retire after 41 years of practice in our town. You already know that there are many people who are mourning that fact and who can't easily conceive of going to anyone else for their medical care. But I believe the time is right, and I'm so proud of you for making this decision. I remember a few years ago when you were having recurring heart trouble. I think all of us in the family were worried about you and maybe pushed a little too hard for you to retire - simply because we didn't want your health to suffer. After your celebration last year for 40 years in practice, I saw in a new way something that Jeff had been trying to tell me: practicing medicine is not what you do; it's who you are. From that point, I made the decision to never again pressure you to retire. Not that my previous pressuring did any good anyway. :)

I know life will be very different for you come September; but don't worry, it will take you months and months and months to clean out your office, so you won't have too much free time on your hands for a while. :) Plus, your offer to be the second teacher in our homeschool will come in very handy; Josiah's already done about 6 math lessons that you can grade. :) Seriously though, I believe God will continue to use you in many ways to do what you are so good at: caring for people. Retirement is not the end of your service, just a freeing-up from the constraints of regular office hours, hundreds of (sometimes demanding) patients, and insane amounts of paperwork, so that you can focus on other things - and maybe get a little more rest, too. :)

You know we tease you sometimes about your relationship with your phone. Attached at the hip, that's you and it. :) (By the way, that's one aspect of your personality that you did NOT pass on to me). It just goes to show, however, that you are such a people person, able and willing to talk to anyone at any time, giving freely and ceaselessly of your time and energy to help others. I really admire that about you.

Most of all, I'm grateful for all the ways you've taken care of us, your family, for so many years. As the couple in those wedding photos ages before my eyes and I get to see and be involved in your senior years, I'm so very thankful that you have Mother and she has you. You go together apples and peanut Quick Refresher and Hot Buffalo Wings David's pinky and his little brother's mouth. Like you were meant for each other. And, of course, you were. It's been a precious gift for me through all these years to never have to worry that your marriage was going to end. The security I gained from that has been priceless; thank you for that.

I hope you know today - and will always remember - how loved and respected you are, not just by the numerous patients you've cared for over the years, but by us, your appreciative family.

Happy 70th! I love you very much!

From my heart,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where Moth and Rust Destroy

~ Jeff took this photo at Kings Dominion - May 14, 2010

Back to the Sermon on the Mount I go again this week for another convicting verse. Do you hear the Hammer pounding? Ouch! I think it's almost impossible to read this verse - read it seriously, that is - without having a sense of remorse about money wasted and priorities misplaced.

Thinking about all of this makes me even more excited about an opportunity to give that I read about recently. Courtney at Storing Up Treasures is doing a fundraiser for adoption. If you've ever checked out her blog or read anything she's written, you know that she and her husband are passionate about adoption; they beautifully exemplify God's heart for orphans. She knows firsthand how expensive adoption can be, and so she started this fundraiser to help 26 families who are currently in the middle of adopting get a little boost in their finances so they can bring their children home. If adoption stirs your heart...if you want to practically live out the principle of storing up treasure in heaven...please go check out her site. She's asking for donations of $5 or $10 - not a lot - but when combined, that little amount can do so much. If you give, you'll be entered for a number of giveaways; but the true reward, of course, comes from knowing that, even in a small way, you're being the arms of Jesus that are reaching out to hurting children.

You wouldn't want a moth to eat that $5 bill, would you?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

142 Degrees

For the second* time this year, I'm sick.

* Unless I'm forgetting an illness, but I don't think I am.

The first time occurred way back in January. I mentioned it in this post, but didn't write much about it. To summarize, that was the weekend in which one after another, every member of my family got sick with abdominal stuff. Boom, boom, boom. We were down like dominoes. It nailed us hard, but fortunately it didn't stick around too long. However, in the midst of it, it was so bad that when one of the boys threw up, Jeff and I would look at each other and try to figure out which one of us was strong enough to go to the aid of our son. Neither of us felt like we could do it; but each time, one of us managed to hold ourselves together enough to be of some assistance. I don't think there's ever been a time when both Jeff and I were so sick at the same time, and I hope we never have to deal with that again!

Fortunately, this sickness that we're dealing with now is just a common cold, I think; but I haven't had a cold in so long that I had forgotten how absolutely miserable they can make a person feel. All this past week, I had not been feeling the greatest; but I had chalked it up to allergies. When you know you have allergies and you can literally see the cloud of pollen descend from the branches of the pine tree when it's shaken, it's a safe guess to assume that you might suffer a little. By Thursday, Tobin was dealing with a runny nose, sneezing, waking up in the night with a harsh barking cough, etc. At that point, I realized that he must be getting a cold; but I assumed it would somehow bypass me...until Friday morning when I woke up feeling awful and admitted that it probably wasn't just my allergies that were bothering me. That was the day we were supposed to have people over in the evening for our monthly fellowship potluck - unfortunate timing. It didn't take us too long though to decide to postpone it until next week; and when we did, we heard back from at least four people/families that said that it actually suits them a whole lot better to have it next week. You think that's the reason we got sick?? :)

Today I was supposed to go to northern Virginia for the baby shower of one of my dearly-loved college roommates; and although I was doubtful last evening that I would recover sufficiently to make the trip, I still clung to the hope of a miraculous turn-around in my health. Until I woke up at 12:08 AM, that is. Besides the headache and sinus pressure and nasal congestion and all that lovely stuff, I was also freezing cold. I went downstairs to take some medicine; and after I came back to bed, Jeff woke up and went down to get some medicine for himself. When he came back, I told him how cold I was, so he said he would snuggle with me to help me get warm. He did, and immediately said, "You're really hot, probably hotter than I've ever felt you before." It wasn't exactly a compliment, if you know what I mean. ;) After a very short time, he rolled away from me and moved to the far side of the bed, saying, "It's too hot to be close to you. You're 142 degrees!" :) Oh, but I was freezing! At least, until I woke up a while later after the fever broke, sweating, throwing back the covers, and going to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face. Fevers are so strange.

Needless to say, the trip to northern Virginia didn't happen. Instead, I stayed close to home and tried to keep three under-the-weather boys happy (Josiah spent much of the day at the barbershop with Jeff) - a difficult task, especially in my own discomfort. It's been one of those days in which I've constantly had to remind myself: this won't last forever, someday David and Tobin will stop pushing each other's buttons and will be good buddies, someday Tobin will be able to speak everything that he wants to express and will not resort to screaming, someday he will peacefully and happily go to bed and stay there, someday I won't have to change any diapers, someday Shav will consistently sleep through the night, someday my little ones won't require so much hands-on assistance from me but will be fully mobile and verbal all by themselves. Someday...

This too shall pass. It really will. And although I don't want to wish my life away, and I want to be very intentional about enjoying each stage and relishing these fleeting moments, at the end of a day like today, I can't help but say, "Thank You, God, that they will grow up!"


I almost forgot to mention that on Thursday, I posted a recipe on The Foodie Spot - two recipes, actually. And I also included a great quote from Winnie the Pooh. I love that bear!

Friday, May 21, 2010

In the Spring...

...women think about one of three things, said my beloved husband over supper one day recently: getting married, having babies, or cleaning. And he should know, since he's surrounded by females at work and gets to listen to their conversations. :)

Of course, I had to apply his words to myself and determine whether I fit the mold. Getting married? Nope, already did that, and snagged the best husband around. Having babies? Well, I've done that, too; and although I'm not ruling out the possibility of doing it again, I'm not ready for it yet. Cleaning? Absolutely!

The best part about cleaning is not the cleaning part. It's the decluttering, organizing, moving things around, decorating part. That's what makes it so much fun!

Here's my favorite new decoration...
...on a shelf in my room (above my head as I type this), below my maternity pictures and above pictures of my boys, sits this inspiring reminder:
I got it yesterday from my friend Jenny (actually, the twin sister of my friend Becky; but I know Jenny and I would be friends if she lived around here!); she's an amazingly talented lady who does gorgeous things with words. You can check out her work here.

I also got some pretty notecards from her, and she personalized them while I waited.
With a name like Davene, I never find anything personalized, so these are special to me. I'll only send them to Very Special People! :)

Beauty from order springs.
~ William King

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One Step Closer... a finished bathroom.

I noted in this post that one of the projects I still wanted to do for this bathroom was get some material for a curtain for the window. I wanted something simple, not frilly, something that would not block much light...because I LOVE light. This is the result:
I got the material and the ribbon at Patchwork Plus for the whopping sum of $4.99, and our wonderfully talented (and just plain wonderful) neighbors sewed it for me. It was a nice little mother-daughter project for them, and they wouldn't take a cent for it.
One thing I forgot to mention in that original post on our bathroom renovation was all of the things that we didn't replace. Of course, in my ideal world, Home Depot would have been giving away new sinks and vanities and mirrors and... But since they weren't, we stuck to a slim budget and kept our old shower, sink, countertop, medicine cabinet, light fixture, etc. - all of which I would have been glad to replace. The economical way of updating our counter turned out to be painting it and then putting a sealer of some kind on it. From 70's speckled brown, it is now lovely white...except it has some dirt marks in it that I can't scrub out...I guess they got sealed in with the paint. But overall, it is much, much better!

And I love looking at this window now. :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Second Grade - Somehow

We did it! It's over! Finished! Completed! Amen!

On April 30, Josiah did his last assignment for second grade (and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it - oh, well, that's life sometimes - sigh), and then we shut the door on that year of schooling. But first we celebrated, honoring Josiah for all that he has accomplished (particularly his ability to meet the goal he set in early February to finish everything by the end of April), honoring David for the way he's jumped way ahead in his self-initiated learning-to-read progress, and (I was secretly) honoring me for surviving the year!! :)

Of course, our celebration included lots of pictures. In this one, Josiah is doing what I jokingly called his final exam. A big part of our (self-designed) curriculum this year revolved around the 50 states; and the good news is that I finally learned where they all are! Yep, ask me where Nebraska is, and I'll nail it. Rhode Island? No problem. Delaware? Illinois? Wyoming? Piece of cake! Oh, and Josiah knows them all, too. ;)

We took time to take our traditional pictures on the front porch. Looking back at this post from our first day of school this past year makes me realize anew how much my boys are growing up! David was the photographer for this one...
...and then my parents, who were eating lunch and could see us from their kitchen, came up the hill and my dad offered to take a picture of me and my students. :)

All the boys have changed since school began, but Shav! Well, he is so different!
Something about a camera pointed in their direction makes my oldest two boys (especially David - are we surprised? no!) want to make all kinds of goofy faces and poses.
So I let them.
I want to write more about this topic sometime, but this...
...this sibling one of the three main reasons we chose to homeschool.

Time for individual pictures: Josiah, the rising 3rd grader...

David, the rising kindergartener...

Tobin, the rising...uh...something...toddler? preschooler? I'm not sure...

Shav, the adorable baby...his expression in this picture reminds me exactly of the funny look he has in the last picture in this post from August of last year... :)

After all the school work was done and the pictures were taken and the boys were settled for naps/quiet time, the real celebration began.
I ate this Klondike bar. ;)

I think it's accurate to say that this was the hardest year of homeschooling for me. The funny thing, in retrospect, is that for almost the entire year, I had the distinct feeling of "I really need to get going with homeschooling...we're moving at such a snail's pace...I'm not sticking to the schedule like I should...I just really need to get in gear...oh, well, I'll just do what I can for today since I'm still trying to survive this mother-of-four thing...but one of these days, I'm really going to have to get serious about this!" I thought that in September, and October, and November, and every month until April, it seemed. Then I realized that we were almost done. Somehow, sometime, somewhere along the line, we actually were doing all the work and accomplishing things just fine, but I surely didn't realize it until I stood near the finish line and looked back!

The hardest part of this year, besides the fact that I was still adjusting after having had Shav and was sleep-deprived and extra-emotional(!), was Tobin. I love that boy to pieces, and he must love me to pieces back because he would always come and get right in the way when I was trying to focus on Josiah and David. :) I thought I was going to go to pieces! If I could do things over again, I would be more focused on training him on appropriate behavior during homeschooling. I know there are scads of ideas out there for how to constructively occupy a toddler while his older siblings are being educated; but I was seriously operating in survival mode for so long that I didn't feel like I could devote one iota of brain power, time, or preparation to being creative in that area. And so, as a result, we dealt with numerous interruptions from Tobin who apparently thought it was great fun to use Josiah, David, and I as jungle gyms while we were sitting on the couch trying to talk about what pronouns are and where Lewis and Clark went on their expedition and how a wolverine demonstrates the character trait of perseverance. Mildly distracting, to say the least.

The easiest part of this year - or, in other words, the part of this year that was the biggest help - was Josiah's incredible reading ability. He learned to read in kindergarten, made great strides in it during first grade, but this year he was reading EVERYTHING; and so, on days when I felt completely unable to spend the amount of time teaching him that I would have liked, he could read the material and absorb it himself. When mornings got crazy, he would finish his work during afternoon quiet time; and I was grateful for the fact that I didn't have to sit with him and tell him how to do his math work or read his history chapter to him. His ability to read and learn independently was a HUGE blessing this year.

The most surprising part of this year, by far, was David's desire to read, his persistent requests to be taught, and the solid progress he made in that area. With him being a rather active, hands-on boy, I fully expected reading to be a difficult skill for him to pick up; and I thought I might have to try new ways of teaching that would appeal to his learning style and would help it click for him. But when I tentatively tried our old stand-by Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, I was blown away by how quickly he picked up the concept of sounding out words. I knew he knew the letter sounds; I think he knew them since he was 2 (literally). But the idea of combining them to form words? Well, I wasn't so confident that he was ready for that. He proved me wrong however, and I was delighted. What's more, he even showed me quickly that he actually did a better job than Josiah did when he was first learning to read. Josiah would get so impatient with himself and despised the slow process of sounding things out; he has such a good memory that he would want me to just tell him what the word was so he could memorize it. He might see the word "sand" and would immediately guess, "sat? saddle? sassafras? shoehorn? spectacular? symmetrical? supercalifragilisticexpialadocious?" OK, I'm kidding a little - but only a little. As frustrated as he got about sounding things out, I got equally frustrated at his refusal to sound them out! But now look at him; he's a tremendous reader, so I guess in the long run, it didn't matter that he couldn't sound out "sand." :) But back to David, he did (and does) sound out words beautifully; and it's so much fun to watch him find words that he can read in various places: on cereal boxes, road signs, books that Josiah is reading, etc. I'm so proud of him! We got through 2/3 of the Teach Your Child to Read book, and he's also read a couple of other books - books that he gets to write in his reading record and be paid a dime by Grandpa. A little bit of pocket change can be a powerful incentive. :) When I remember that I wasn't even going to start trying to teach David to read until this coming fall, I'm amazed...and very, very grateful for the unexpected blessing of his love of reading.

As I look ahead to the fall, I immediately think of three things that I want to change to make this coming year more successful and, to put it bluntly, easier. :)

1. As I mentioned previously, I need to find a way to get Tobin occupied with enjoyable, edifying activities while I'm focusing on the older boys. I do not want to wrestle with him every day, just to move him out of the way so my eyes can see the page I'm trying to read! And it's not fair to Josiah and David to have him disrupt their attempted learning. So, I'm planning to actually focus on him when we begin school in the fall. If I get activities set up for him and if I teach him what is and is not OK during school time, I think I'll be able to train him at the beginning of the year and reap the benefits throughout the rest of the year. I know Barbara Curtis has some great ideas in a book she wrote, Small Beginnings (I love that book!); I need to get that out and brush up on those ideas before we start up again.

2. I want to get up earlier - at least, a few minutes before the boys. :) If I could spend some time with God, get dressed, and be alert and ready for the day, I think it would help things go much more smoothly in the morning; and this will, of course, necessitate me going to bed earlier at night. This past year, it was not at all uncommon for us to not get going with school stuff until after I put Shav in bed for his morning nap (usually around 10:00AM). If I could get up earlier, not only would my attitude be more cheerful and less sleepy, but it would also give us more time in the morning to finish more of our work...which leads me to #3.

3. If at all possible, I would like for Josiah to be able to finish his schoolwork in the morning so that his afternoon quiet times could be used for whatever he desires, rather than catch-up on school. During the past few weeks since we finished school, I've observed that the free time in the afternoon has been refreshing for him. Even though he never complained about having to do math (or history or science or whatever) in the afternoons, I could tell that it definitely made life less fun for him, so I really want to make an effort to restore those afternoon hours that he could use for anything he wants. Knowing him, he'll most likely read for a good chunk of the time; but I want him to be able to choose a book just for fun, or Legos to build with, or a game, or other toys, or whatever his sweet little heart wants.

There's more I want to say, but I'll stop now and make myself go to bed. :)

Oh, just one more thing... Even though I have some regrets about this past year that lead me to some different choices I want to make for the future, I give myself loads of grace for how things went. Sometimes survival mode is all you can do. Sometimes good enough really is good enough. Sometimes the guilt about not being better is the very worst thing. So, bottom line: even with a newborn, even with a toddler, even with a preschooler, we still managed to get through second grade. And really? It was so much more than just getting through.

Second grade was fantastic!