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!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Carl's 7th Birthday

This year, I turned thirty.  And you know what?  I am really happy about that.  I feel like I have been doing "thirties" stuff for a long time and that I have totally earned the official promotion.  I'm thirty.  It sounds a lot more mature than twenty-nine.  

Although, I'm not sure how "mature" it is to worry about how mature you sound. 

And right on the tails of my big 3 - 0, Carl turned 7.  The jump from six to seven seems almost as huge to me as the jump between twenty and thirty.  Seven is approaching big kid territory--and Carl is totally ready for that.  He's learned so much in the past year.  He can now do chores without being reminded, read, carry his youngest brother, make meals, and drum up his own neighborhood playmates.  This year, he made the transition from being a fully dependent member of our household to being a very helpful contributor.  It's awesome.

To celebrate:

1. His Grandma, Grandpa, and Mother Johnson all came to town!  So he had both sets of grandparents to dote on him, as well as a great-grandparent.  (That used to happen a lot for me when I was a child; I think it's the joy of having an August birthday.)
2. We took him out to Monkey Joe's, of course.  It was actually on the day before his birthday that we did that.  For the first hour, my mom watched them while I took my grandma shoe shopping.  But when I got back, they were still going strong.  All except Leif, who was tired of the toddler area.  He adores Carl and wanted to follow him into the big bouncy houses.  

3. On the morning of Carl's birthday we had his favorite breakfast: pancakes with orange julius!  Since that's actually what we have every Saturday, I made it more special by putting sprinkles in the pancakes.  That was a hit.

4. Before the relatives arrived, I gave him the present from his Dad and I: a new set of headphones with monkey faces on the ears.  He likes to listen to playaways all the time but we have gone through half-a-dozen pairs of cheap headphones in the last year and, at the moment, he didn't have any.  So this nice set was well received.

5. I took him to the store to buy LEGOs with some money Father Duede sent.  The clerk said that he was the most polite and cheerful customer she'd ever had.  So that was the best part of my day.

6. Back at home, he and Soren disappeared into the basement to build.  Then, Grandma came.  She gave Carl some more LEGOs and a new scooter.  Unfortunately, two of the LEGO sets he got that day were missing pieces (really? two of them? and two years in a row?) so we headed back to the store to make an exchange.  And then the big boys disappeared again.

7. There was a primary activity later that morning.  It was a water-themed activity and the kids played games that were both wet and somehow related to My Gospel Standards.  They had a Modesty Relay Race and a Friendly Water Balloon Fight.  And played Musical Sprinkler.  It was actually pretty clever.  At the end of the activity, they had a hot dog lunch with a birthday cake for Carl.  So it was pretty much a birthday party, right?


8. When we came home from the activity, our neighbors were being evicted.  So that's something I will remember about Carl's seventh birthday.

9. In the afternoon, there was a baptism.  Four new kids were baptized into our ward!  Carl was gracious about sharing his birthday with them.  He picked out a giant box of candy for each of them and gave it to them as a "welcome to the ward" gift.

10. My mom made a birthday feast and the missionaries came for dinner.  I made gluten-free shortcake with strawberries (but it was disgusting).  Nan and Poppy came for cake.  They gave Carl is gift card for Amazon, which he spent on ... more LEGOs.  Some things haven't changed!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Midsummer 2016


Oh, how I welcomed Midsummer with open arms this year!  I was ready for summer: no school means time to write, time to plan, time to swim, and time to rest.  The kids went with wide-open eyes into our media fast and I had a plan to teach them lots of skills and chores.  I love that summer is unique in all the year; at least for stay-at-home moms and kids, it is a gift of time large enough to explore different skills and new ways of being.

And, of course, we kicked off summer with our traditional camping trip.  Here's a recap:

1. We went somewhere new this year: Lake Le-Aqua-Na.  It's a man-made lake in Lena, hence the silly name.  I find it ironic that even though I associate Midsummer with the desert, we will probably always camp near water now that we live in Illinois.  The fun thing about choosing a campsite this year was that we made it an item of business for our (newly-formed) family council.  We voted not to return to Apple River, then a sub-committee was formed to research other sites.  Carl and I were the sub-committee and we chose Lake Le-Aqua-Na.  We chose well.

2. As is traditional, we took our 72-hour kits on the camp-out as well as several kinds of summer fruit.  The kids spent the first hour there gorging on cherries, fruit snacks, and granola bars.  I think that next year I will not give them immediate access to the kits but will require them to help with the campsite set-up.  Except for Leif, of course.

3. There was another family camping close by with a little boy and a little girl.  They had brought toys, which made my boys pretty happy.  All the kids played together while Scott got the fire set up.

4. Cheddar wurst: a Midsummer tradition in the making.

5. We went down to the lake just before the sun set and Scott set up the fishing rod on a deserted dock.  He didn't catch anything, though we all saw plenty of silver glimmers jumping from the lake.  There were frogs in the underbrush, too.  I chased Leif up and down the dock, worrying that he would fall in the lake.  In the end, he slipped on a muddy spot along the shore and we headed back to the campsite.

6. The stars were spectacular.  Actually, so was the daytime sky.  I've noticed recently that I look up a lot less now that I am a very busy and important adult.  And that's too bad, because the sky is pretty spectacular.

7. The next morning, after a popular breakfast of oatmeal packets made in tin cups, we went down to Lake Le-Aqua-Na.  There's a big beach area, where the younger boys played for hours in the sand.  I visited with our campsite neighbors, who were also at the beach, while Scott took Carl to go fishing again on the docks.  I made a sandcastle, which impressed Sven.  But after he wrecked my towers, it looked more like a sand lump.

8. There was a group of boys and dads that came canoeing by; they were an LDS cub scout troop.  When they came to play in the water, Soren splashed out to join them.  It made me so happy to see him playing with other boys his own age.  They were throwing around a ball--and Soren actually caught it once!  It reminded me that I really need to try again to contact our local Cub Scouts troop.  We don't have one in our ward but I don't want Soren to miss out on scouting.  After watching him with those boys and leaders, I feel certain that it's something he really needs.

9. After visiting the lake, we packed up and went home.  Every year, I feel bad that we are not serious campers; we hardly ever stay for a full 24 hours.  And we didn't even do a hike this time!  But then I tell myself that some camping is better than none and I head home for a nap and a shower.