Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sven Speaks

SVEN: We're Mormons and Mormons don't eat with their fingers.

SCOTT:  So when Soren scrapes salad dressing from his plate with his fingers, he's not a Mormon anymore?

SVEN:  No.  That's not the way it works.  He's still a Mormon, he's just not a good Mormon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Soren's 9th birthday

Kids get older.  That is a fact of life.  But it still surprises me every year.  Soren is nine now.

I remember the day he was born: how I pushed for three hours with no idea how to get him out; how Scott got back from a final exam to see me deliver the placenta; how cute our little stranger was after he'd been cleaned up and dressed in a Christmas stocking; how alert he was, with no intention of closing his dark eyes and missing anything.

Now he's a pre-teen.  Whoa.

Here's what we did to celebrate:

1. I got up very early in the morning to buy foods he liked, then I wrapped them up like presents.  For breakfast, he unwrapped a box of fruit and cream instant oatmeal!  (It was Monday and we usually have oatmeal on Monday--usually the plain kind that you make on the stove.)  All the kids were excited about birthday oatmeal.

2. Grandma and Grandpa sent him a guitar.  I told Soren that when he was nine, I would support him in developing his talents by paying for and driving him to one class or lesson.  He chose to learn the guitar.  Grandma and Grandpa Berg sent him a very nice one and he was delighted with it.  I tuned it up for him and he spent a little time experimenting, then we scheduled lessons for January with a teacher.

3. His homeschool workload was lighter and all of his assignments were birthday related.  He wrote out the birthday song for his copywork and then had to play it on the piano.  He got to pick a board game to play then opened a present from Dad with a new computer science text in it!  They started working on that right away.

4. For lunch, he opened another present: a box of "shapes macaroni and cheese".  Everyone was glad to have it but Soren informed me that wrapping up food didn't really make it a present.  Here I thought I was being fun.

5. I gave him a new game for his birthday (Carcassone), which I taught him to play in the afternoon.  Games are my go-to birthday gifts; thankfully, my kids love new games.

6. True to tradition, Soren didn't want a typical birthday cake.  This year, he asked me to make pancakes instead.  Since we had just eaten a giant chocolate cake two days earlier on Scott's birthday, I was very happy to oblige.  I put sprinkles on the pancakes, so they would be festive.  We made a short stack and put candles on it so that we could sing to him.  Soren managed to blow them all out in one go.  The pancakes were yummy, especially with whipped cream and Aunt Rachel's homemade blackberry syrup.

7. After the little kids went to bed, Soren, Scott and I played another round of Carcassone.  I love that Soren is old enough to spend time with in ways we both enjoy.  I am excited to see the man he grows up to be; I'm sure it will come sooner than I expect.

Happy birthday, Soren!

Monday, November 28, 2016

More than Just Making It

Goals for Soren:
* focus on his own schoolwork while Mom is helping other kids
* stay quiet during lessons and adult conversations
* keep his bed dry at night

Goals for Carl:
* obey instructions cheerfully
* play nicely with Sven

Goals for Sven:
* stay in bed at night
* finish potty training
* follow reasonable instructions given by his older brothers

Goals for Leif:
* eat some of what we are having for dinner
* no shrieking!
* regular naptimes and bedtimes

Goals for Carolyn:
* finish writing novel
* pray for missionary opportunities daily

Goals for Mom:
* attend to positive behaviors, reconnect when things are going well
* start school promptly in the morning and don't multi-task
* supervise tooth-brushing morning and night

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Best Things about Soren (at 8 years)

1. He loves a good pun.
2. He can do the dishes.
3. He is curious
4. and makes interesting connections between the things he is learning.
5. He wants to be a peacemaker, both in our home and in the world.
6. He is cheerful
7. and friendly.
8. His handwriting is improving.
9. He is teaching himself computer programming and makes up his own programs.
10. He is passionate about environmental conservation.
11. He makes (and performs) up his own piano music and some of it sounds pretty cool.
12. He also makes up (and sings) accompaniment/harmony/sound-effects for primary songs and hymns.
13. His brown eyes look like Scott's.
14. He can tie his shoes the awesome way.
15. He expresses sincere gratitude whenever he feels it.
16. He has a strong desire to choose the right
17. and help others to do the same.
18. He is learning to play the harp!  (It's more difficult than he thought it would be.)
19. He has a vibrant and active imagination.
20. He talks easily about his ideas and feelings.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Fable: The Good Mother

A certain child was working on a project that he couldn't complete himself.  He felt so frustrated and discouraged that he wailed and cried and beat his fists against the table.

And by chance there came down a certain mother that way, and when she saw him, she passed by on the other side.

And likewise his teacher, when she saw him the next day, came and looked on him but had no time to help.

But a certain family friend, when she came to visit, came to where the child was, and when she heard about his project, she had compassion on him.  She went to him and sat down beside him, pulling the work between them and took the pencil in her own hand and helped him.

And later, when she departed, she told the child that she would love to help him again if he ever needed it.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was mother to that child?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Michaelmas 2016

Yesterday was Michaelmas, the holiday that (as Soren put it) "no one celebrates but us."  I think that's one of the things I love about it.  Since no one I know celebrates Michaelmas, there is no commercial pressure attached to it.  That means that the only expectations are the ones we create ourselves.

I asked the boys in family council on Sunday which traditions were most important to them, so we could be sure to meet their expectations.  Thankfully, no one said "presents!"  So there weren't any.  The traditions that were mentioned were:
   1. checking out dragon books from the library
   2. decorating the house
   3. making dragon bread
   4. sharing the scripture story in Family Home Evening
We did those things so--hooray!  Expectations met.

I have my own personal expectations, of course.  I like to tell my Kindergarten story of St. Michael and the star children.  I like to sing songs about spiritual warfare.  And I always hope there will be time for introspection, for goal-setting, and maybe even for revelation.

In that spirit:  I have been thinking a lot recently about the contribution I am making to the good fight.  What am I doing to combat the ills of the world and the ills within myself?  In my roles as a teacher, neighbor, and mother am I impacting lives for the better?  When I look at the challenges ahead of me, I do feel like I am girding up for a fight.  It's going to be tough and I am going to experience resistance from both within and without.

But Michaelmas is the time to remember that I am never alone.  I have mighty helpers, both seen and unseen.  They stand ready to assist.  In years past, I felt as though I was the allegorical Michael and that I was off to slay my dragon.  But this year, I am struck by the reminder that it is not my fight alone, but the fight of all mankind.  It seems like terrible arrogance to cast myself as the mighty archangel who wins the battle.  That is not my role.  I will not see evil vanquished at my hand.  But it will be vanquished.  I just have to persevere in my little corner of the battlefield and help will come.

Here's how we lived out that promise in our home this year:

1. We spent all day Wednesday preparing.  The kids helped me clean the house and then decorate instead of doing schoolwork.  We got our weaponry and armor from the attic then drew dragon pictures to hang on the wall.  I made a banner; I wish it could have been red but someone gave us a huge pile of blue construction paper and I didn't want it to go to waste.

2. Then we went to pick apples.  And raspberries.  And we ate donuts with cider.  We got two huge buckets of apples, far more than we would need for the feast.  There is still a lot of apple-processing in our future.  We spent all afternoon at the orchard and barely made it home in time for dinner.

3. Even though it wasn't on their "must do" list, the kids reminded me the night before about our "traditional Michaelmas breakfast" (Soren's words) of donuts and apple cider.  So, in spite of the fact that we had just had donuts and cider at the orchard, I went and bought more at the store.  And it was a good thing, too, since Scott didn't come to the orchard with us.  It was only fair, then, that he enjoyed them most of all on Michaelmas morning.

4. I told the dragon bread story, which Carl remembered very well.  He wasn't bored, though.  He seemed to be aglow with the familiar ritual and was very excited to share it with Maddy.  When the dough came together, I cut it into pieces, one for each of us to knead.  We sang songs and then passed our piece at the end of each song, to make sure that each one had a chance to pass through my hands and get properly kneaded.

5. We went to the Oakdale Nature Preserve for an outing and brought all our battle gear.  The kids practiced a skit to perform after dinner, which quickly devolved into their own mock battles.  Sven got a bloody nose when Carl whacked him with a boffer sword and Leif got stung by a bee who wanted to share his apple.

6. After the nature preserve, we came home to work on our lovely bread.  The kids shaped them into dragons, all of which looked suspiciously like my go-to shape.  I will have to be creative next year and shape my dragon differently.

7. After lunch, I set the kids to processing apples.  I realized this year that the kids spend most of their time on Michaelmas working.  Hard.  But they love it!  Maddy got the magical apple processor from her house and the kids took turns using it, making apples for sauce, pie, stuffing, and syrup.  Meanwhile, I did all the baking in the kitchen.  It was Thursday (missionary night), so I made all the usuals plus gluten-free bread and gluten-free crisp for Sister Peterson.

8. The feast was so good.  We used our new tablecloth for the first time.

9. After dinner, Rachel, Ash, and Maddy came to have dessert and the kids did their skit.  Carl was the dragon and he was very dramatic.  His storytelling abilities could transfer well to the stage.  Soren was a knight and he lost to the dragon.  My favorite part was when he said "You burninated my shield!"  Maddy was the princess, who goes on a long and dangerous quest to find a champion that would defeat the dragon.  Sven was the champion and he cried and cried while Maddy took an extra long time to "find" him.  He was eager to fight--and then, suddenly, not so eager.  He thought Carl was scary.  But with encouragement from the crowd, he landed a blow and Carl (like a good sport) fell down dead.  Not too dead, though.  He got up and ran away, saying that he had only "retreated".

10. Before bed, Rachel read Saint George and the Dragon to the kids.  The perfect ending to a busy day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Soren Speaks

SOREN: (cutting across the grass on his bike) My bike is like an ATV!