Monday, 31 March 2014

Mother's Day {it's every day}

Yesterday, here in the UK, it was "Mother's Day".

Imagine visions of mother getting a lie in, breakfast in bed, flowers, cards, gifts aplenty. Having a relaxing day without a care in the world.

What?

No?

No, I didn't have a day like that.  Yet, the world has put in people's minds that that is the day we DESERVE - that we SHOULD get.  If we don't someone is failing in some way - husband, children, or even you.

No, no, NO!!!

Now, I am not saying that showing your mother love and kindness - appreciation for what they do - is bad.  I gave my own Mum a card, and a gift. I appreciate all she has done, and what she still does.  I have a problem with it being expected, or forced upon you.

Yesterday, I had 2 lovely cards. One from Robert, thanking me for being a mother to our children.  One from the children, thanking me for being their mother.  I had my dinner made for me, and I got a packet of Rolos from Robert, in memory of our early courting days when I sent him "my last Rolo" at one stage! (Not everyone will understand that....some will).

I still had a wonderful day, because I filled my heart with the things that matter most - that should matter EVERY day.

The thing that matters most is that I give thanks to God.  That I give thanks EVERY DAY, for my blessings.  God gave them to ME - to US. It quite clearly states in the Bible that God gives life. I am so incredibly thankful for the lives He gave me, that MAKE me a mother.  I gave thanks for the good times - I gave thanks for the hard times.  "In EVERYTHING give thanks". There is always something to be thankful for, in every situation.  Even yesterday, I had a poorly little boy, with a raised temperature and very clingy.  I gave thanks that I had the chance to sit down and just cuddle him, because it was the Lord's Day, a day of rest. That the older children were doing jobs, so that I could be free to sit down with him.  That it meant I had a nap, because he napped on me. The boy who never naps!

I gave thanks to God for the blessings I have been given, in all eight of our children.  I pondered their individualities, and their precious characteristics. Eight of them - every one different.  All with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

I am thankful for my expanded, stretch-mark filled, flabby tummy, which bore every one of them.

I am thankful for the father of my children, who loves them all very much, and cares for us all so well. I am thankful that he still finds me beautiful, after all that my body has been through to bear our children!

I didn't need presents from them - just their PRESENCE is a gift enough for me. Every moment, of every day, is a gift. It's so easy to get caught up in the hard moments, and forget that every moment is a joy, and gift to be treasured.  We don't even have tomorrows to take joy in - we have NO idea what tomorrow holds.  Just today.  As each day is given, with our children in it, we must give thanks, and take joy in that gift.


Dismiss the pressures from the world to think that cards and gift-giving matter most.  You HAVE the gift, the gift of your children.

That is all that matters.




Oldest girls, in their new "Sunday best", which they get new every spring.




Boys, in their new clothes, too.




Tabitha - in her new hat! (I crocheted it on the way to a wedding the other day, when I realised she had no hat to match her outfit!!  Not at all essential, but it kept me busy in the car, and my mind less upon the fact we were delayed and very late!)



My sleeping Simeon, yesterday.







Friday, 28 March 2014

Trying Toddlers {how to get school done at the same time}

I had a message from a friend recently, asking for advice about how to keep a "non-school age" child amused, whilst still getting school done with the older children.  As I have more children, and have been homeschooling for longer, she thought I would have some good suggestions.

Do you know what?  I was trying to find out the same thing as she was!!! I have a Simeon. A very mischievous, high-maintenance Simeon.  No other children were like Simeon. Well, Joshua may have been, but I had no older children who I was trying to educate at the same time!  THAT adds a whole extra dimension into life. I am finding life with Simeon rather, erm, testing.

I thought I had things pretty "sorted" before Simeon. The younger "non-school" children usually played nicely together, allowing me to get on with helping the older ones with few interruptions.

Yes, well.... bang goes THAT theory.

Simeon wants to be with me ALL the time.  Not just with me, sitting quietly, and still. No, no. Sitting on my knee, fidgeting, touching things, making noise, being a distraction. Generally hard work.

I realised I was going to have to try a different approach.  He was just plain different from the others.  nothing in our life had changed - just that God had made him different to his siblings.  He didn't need to change, on the whole, it was more that I needed to adapt and survive.  The rate I was going, my stress levels were going to push me to distraction!

So, where did I turn?

My wonderful Tapestry of Grace ladies, who have decades, and centuries of experience between them all!

So, today I am going to share what they told me, and then tell you what worked for me.  Well, what  is working just now...



"try to keep a sense of humour and perspective. If things get out of control with littles then adapt your plan."

I reckon this is one of THE most important pieces of advice that was shared.  This doesn't just apply to little children - it applies to ANY change in your children.   A child struggling with a subject - ill health - a new baby in the house - moving house.   Basically anything that throws the "norm" out of sync.  In the past I used to get myself in a fankle because we weren't doing things "right".  I forgot that even with slight delays or adaptations, they are still gaining SO much by being at home, and learning happens in more ways than bookwork.  Going out to co-op is just as important as doing maths.  Going for a walk is as important as grammar.  Taking a day off to visit family you rarely see is as important as writing. 

With little ones, you need to just remember that dealing with them, and giving them time and attention, matters too.  If you leave them to run wild, or to get in a stress, or to have temper tantrums because they feel neglected, then you are not teaching them things that are just as important as doing maths with a 12 year old.  Maye MORE important!

Perspective.  That's what it is.

The older ones are probably better able to cope with change in routine than the little ones are able to deal with being neglected.




Oh and I don't mean to give-up on your curriculum but rather do you need to have a lighter time of it

This was further advice from the same lady.  She was pointing out that you don't have to ditch everything you do with the older ones - you have to adapt what and how you do, more than anything else.  Look at the big picture, and see how you can make things less intense, whilst still covering the work you need to do.  More reading, and less writing.  More oral reports and fewer written reports.  More educational DVDs, perhaps, with a fun report or picture to follow it up.


I loved towel time with my 3rd when he was 3.

This next concept I have heard of before, as blanket time.  The principle is to train a child, from a young age, to sit on a blanket or a towel, and have certain activities they do whilst sitting still in one spot.  I am going to be honest here.  I have tried this in the past.  Unfortunately, like so many parenting issues, it's a PARENTing issue.  You need to stick at it, and be persistent, for it to work.  I didn't.  Perhaps I need to try it again?  It's certainly worth trying from when a child is small, and probably a bit harder to implement if they are a lot older. 



 
I would have one older child play with the toddlers or babies while I was working with another older child, and vice versa. My babies loved to have one on one attention!

This next suggestion is where I plunked.  I have the ideal situation of having several older children now, who are able to help me.  I have come up with a loose schedule, in that the older ones take it in turns, for 20 minutes at a time, to look after the younger children.  Thankfully, Tabitha generally has a long sleep in the morning, so it's just Elijah (nearly 4) and Simeon (nearly 2) to work with.  I have toys which we rotate (see the tip below) that they play with.  I also have some drawers with puzzles, but they need a sort out.  Once they are sorted there would be a tray for each school day, with peg puzzles, etc.  I have other games like pairs, and lacing cards.  I will do a separate post about some of my favourite activities for pre-schoolers.  I also have books for the younger children, and the older ones read those with them, too.  It's such a blessing to have their help, and although it means they take time away from bookwork to do it, over all, with the fewer distractions, they still get done quicker! Yay!


 
I keep "school room" toys & crafts off limits unless we are doing school. I try to rotate them a lot.


As I mentioned above, we work with a similar principle.  I don't keep them exclusively for that time of the day, but we certainly only bring them out when school starts, and stick to one main play thing a day.  Rotation is certainly a good principle, so they don't get fed up.  I also try and make the toys into an educational experience.  Again, I will go into that more in another post.

.

I made a special box that was all theirs to play with during school time. It was special and unique to them and they loved it.

The next idea is one I like.  I have a 4 year old who has certain things he loves.  He really LOVES drawing and colouring just now, so I am planning on getting him his very own set of pencils in a pencil case, so they are HIS to enjoy.  Maybe even a special box or file to keep everything in, so he can get it out and do "school", too.  I don't want to rush anything too formal, but just to let him have something that is "special" more than anything else

I think i could equally do this for Simeon, but currently he isn't quite at the stage to be particularly fascinated with any one thing, so I may need to apply my mind to that a bit more!
!

 I instituted "Quiet Book Time" right after lunch once naps weren't taken anymore. My kids are older now and just was reminiscing about QBT and how much they loved it. The younger ones loved copying the older ones by "reading" chapter books. Another thing I did was make up preschool activity bags (2 moms wrote a book on how to assemble them).


This next suggestion is something we do, in one sense.  It doesn't really help to keep the little ones occupied during school time, but it may free you up to help just one child that needs extra assistance, perhaps?  We have room time after lunch, which includes book time.  We have had times when adults have visited and queried at how quiet the house was (I remember one time the midwife asked!), and I just explained it was room time.  Admittedly, I have got a bit lax with it, as I am getting younger ones pestering the older ones trying to do things, or vice versa, so I need to reinforce the importance of working together with the right attitudes.  It's a great opportunity to teach character!

I have also heard of the pre-school activity bags.  I have something similar, in that we have pre-school activities that I have in ziplock bags, which they can do.  There are some websites with free printables, that are great for little children.  Also great ideas to occupy them, only using everyday household items like dried pasta, or mixing bowls.



My younger children also enjoyed colouring and I would gear them towards colouring if they started getting loud.

Colouring is a hit and miss in this house.  Well, more that some children love it, and others are not at all interested! My 5 year old does NOT really enjoy colouring, and one of my older ones hated it, too.  It was like torture for them! Elijah, on the other hand, would draw and colour all day, given the chance.  It's certainly worth trying, as a set activity, and maybe even putting a younger child in the high chair, so they are contained whilst doing it.




 I love Kumon preschool books which help keep the little one busy, but also help start those fundamental skills like cutting, staying inside the lines, etc. A HUGE help these days!! Wish I had known of them with all my other kids! 





Now, this idea is one I have only looked up today, and I must say I am itching for my bank funds to build up, so I can buy some of these!  They look FAB!  Books filled with cutting activities, mazes, colouring, tracing, folding, sticking.  LOADS of fun things for pre-schoolers to keep them occupied.   Amazon seem to have them competitively priced, and I think I may suggest them for Elijah's birthday at the end of next month!





Save the most mommy-intensive subjects for nap-time. I can do math, spelling, handwriting, even science & social studies while entertaining the little guy, but reading instruction, especially for my requires my full attention, so it's a nap-time subject. (my little boy) knows that if nap-time changes, reading time changes - he has to be flexible, and most times he manages ok.

Now, NAP TIME?? WHAT is that?? *sigh* I have a toddler who DOESN'T NAP!

ARGGGGGGGGGH!

If he naps, he does NOT settle to sleep at night.  He was one of my earliest to ditch naps, and it's hard not to have that time.  This suggestion is ideal if your child DOES nap.  It's certainly what I do whilst Tabitha is sleeping in the morning. I get literacy and numeracy done, whilst she sleeps, and I do all my 5 year old's one-to-one done, as well.  Afternoons are when we do subjects that I can leave them to do more on their own, with me popping in to see how they are doing, and helping with babe in arms, if need be.

SO, there are some fabulous suggestions for occupying little ones.  If you have any more suggestions, PLEASE share them in the comments below, or share a link to your own blog, or a website you love which would be of help to other Mum's in this area.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Give me unction in my gumption {help me function}

First off, let me tell you about an awesome discovery.

I discovered a children's internet radio station, which you can pick up on your iPod, or through iTunes on your computer. It's called "Abiding Radio Kids".  It's a 24 hour station, playing scripture based and character building songs.  It includes Patch the Pirate, which I grew up with and still love! I often turn it on when we are doing jobs in the kitchen, and nearly every morning whilst they eat breakfast, as a good start to the day.

This morning, it was just me, a kitchen to clean, and the radio.  I was enjoying having it play in the background, then a family favourite came on. "Give me oil in my lamp". We sing that a LOT, as it is a favourite of our Susie. She doesn't hear the best, and she always thought we were singing "Sing SUSANNA", so now we DO sing it that, one of the repeats! Anyway, it did a few different "verses", like the "Joy in my heart" one. Then, there was one I hadn't heard before.

"Give me unction in my gumption, help me function"!!!

I laughed! I SO "got" the sentiment of that, although I am sure that parents need that more than children.

I googled the actual defintion of each of those words.




Unction - "the action of anointing someone with oil or ointment as a religious rite or as a symbol of investiture as a monarch."

Gumtpion - "shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness."

Function - "work or operate in a proper or particular way."



What does it mean, then?

We all have jobs we need to do - things that we need to be ale to "function" to get done.

We need the Holy Spirit, to give us everything we need, to get our jobs done.

We NEED it.

WE RELY on it.

Best of all - HE CAN GIVE IT!!!

I have SO many days, when my energy is low, and I seem to have so much to do.  There are even days where I am tired enough to wonder how I can function in a basic way. Like, be awake and breathing!

Do you have days like that?

Hey, who am I kidding?  WE ALL DO! We all have days when we wonder how we can get it all done, but all we need is prayer.

I know ladies, right now, who are going through HARD days - pregnancy sickness, fatigue, illness, stress and pressure in work. Their days are WAY harder than mine.

"give me...." is how those words of that song began. We are ASKING God to give us all we need.  WE are raising our voice, in simple prayer, to ask for the needed strength for the day.

It's a new week, with lots ahead of us, I am sure.  Maybe it seems daunting.  Maybe it seems like too much to handle.  Maybe you are just plain tired out, before you even start.

Do you need some unction in your gumption to function?

JUST ASK!  He'll provide.



Saturday, 22 March 2014

Crochet Creations {South Bay Shawlette}

It's been a few weeks since I shared something crochet related, so here I am sharing!

Today, I will share about my new love for shawls.

Yes, shawls.

I thought shawls were for old biddies in the 19th century, but they are, in fact, a thing of beauty, and quite versatile.  They can be worn in a traditional way, or asymmetrically over the shoulder, or "back to front".














I am a personal fan of the "back to front", but the other two ways to wear it would be great for a wedding. I think it would also be nice with a light jacket in the spring and autumn, or to keep you neck warm in the winter, with a slightly thicker yarn. Hmmm,  I think I need to work on making myself one....

This shawl is SO simple to make. It's called "South Bay", and it's FREE!!!! You can find it here.

This was my first crocheted item which I used a chart more than a written pattern.  



Due to the simple nature of this pattern, and because it is a 2 row repeat, the picture pattern is nice to follow.  If you have never tried doing it this way, this would be the perfect start to understanding them.  Read through the written one, whilst looking at the picture pattern, and you will quickly pick up how it works.  This pattern is so simple, I can now do it without looking at the pattern at all. It doesn't make me clever, it just means it is VERY easy!

So, let me show you mine.



This is it pinned out on the bed (I will explain in a moment...)


This is a close up of the detail in the pattern.

When you hook up this pattern, it will all be kind of "squished", with the detail not very clear.  By blocking, you open up the pattern, by stretching it all out.  You can leave it unblocked, and it would still look lovely, particularly with slightly chunkier yarns.  This, however, was a lovely merino/nylon sock weight (fingering), and lent itself to being blocked.  It looks beautiful, and web-like, I think?

I will also add, about the yarn, that it was a custom dyed yarn, from Felt Fusion. You can find Shadow's page on Facebook, and she also has an Etsy shop. This was EXACTLY what I asked for - black, with a splash of red and purple. It's turned out better than I even imagined.  So, thank-you to Shadow.  Hand-dyed yarn IS more expensive than other "pick it up off the shelf" yarn, but, especially for gifts, it is TOTALLY worth it! 

So, blocking.  I can only share, at this time, how you block an item like this.  I know you can do it for individual blocks, say, in a granny blanket, to make them all the same size.  However, I cannot speak of this from experience, so will leave that particular angle for just now.  I am guessing the general principle is the same?

You need a large area to block on.  In this instance, I used the spare room bed.  Perfect for something big like a shawl.  You can also use those foam mats that are for children to play on - you can get hopscotch ones, and alphabet ones?  Anything that is soft, and that you can push pins into, basically. You will also need, then, pins.  Decent, sturdy ones.  

The next part depends on the  yarn you are blocking.  Certain fibres can tolerate steam blocking.  Certain ones are better to use a technique where you spritz it with water then let it dry.  I have used both, but as this one was a nylon/merino blend, I did the spritzting method.

I got my shawl, and spread it on the bed.  Starting in the top corner, I pinned it into the mattress. I found that you need to put them in angled inwards as you push them in, if that makes sense? They anchor more securely.  I worked my way along the top of the shawl to the other corner, pinning at regular intervals.  I then pinned the bottom point, and then worked up the diagonal edge, one side at once. This particular pattern I had added a picot edging, so I pinned at the tip of each picot. Then, I spritzed the whole thing with water, until it was damp all over.  Next, I went around the whole shawl again, pulling it all out even further.  You can pull it out as much or as little as you want, within the limits of the fibres.  The "harder" you block, the more stretched out it will be.  After you have stretched it out to where you want it to be, you just leave it to dry.  If you have a nice warm spare room like mine, it won't take long.

You can also block by soaking the whole item, and then pinning it, before it dries.  You can also pin it out, then use an iron on steam setting, and holding it ABOVE the work, making it damp all over.  As I said, you can't do that with ever fibre.  If you look here, you will see a nice overview of the ways to block, for the different fibre types.

Once it's dry, just remove the pins, and you are good to go.

I would also recommend, having done it today, that when you "weave" in your ends, that you use a sharp darning needle, and actually work INTO the fibre in the item, with the end of yarn, so it pretty much becomes the same strand of yarn you are weaving into. It seems to look good and you can't see where you have woven it in.

So, there you have it - the South Bay shawlette.


I have plans to now try a few more different designs of shawl, and I will share with you as and when I do them.  

I will also tell you , you can search on Ravelry according to what item you want, what type of yarn you are using, and what yardage you have.  You can also choose to only look at free ones, of which there are quite a few. I only found this out fairly recently, and it's handy to know you can refine your search like that.

 The other thing to bear in mind, is that many of these patterns you can do with many weights of yarn, by just changing which hook you use. This one, as I said, was sock weight, with a 5mm hook. You can just try it out, and see how it goes.  I also saw some lovely ones, when I was googling images for this post, where people have used several different yarn colours in one shawl - google the South Bay and you will see how many variations you can have for one shawl pattern!



Now, I hope the recipient loves it as much as I do!!! I may even be able to add a picture of her wearing it.... we shall see!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Helping our "seedlings" to grow {5 Days of Spring Life-lessons}

This year, I have finally managed to get around to doing something I have wanted to do for YEARS. Grow my own sweet peas, from seed.

I ADORE sweet peas, as you may have heard me mention before.  Having the house filled with their heady scent, in the summer days, just makes my heart happy.  I want to have a continual, beautifully scented, supply of pretty blooms this year.  I am about to get the ground ready to put them in, and get some kind of gardening supply to train them up to the fence I want to them to grow up.  There is a wall it needs to get past first, and with less to cling onto, they will need some help.  Before they even get that far, I have had to plant them, water them, and transplant them to a bigger pot as they  have grown too big for the propagator.  It's quite a commitment, to even get them to the stage to grow outside, never mind produce the show of flowers I am hoping for!

I COULD have ought them ready grown, but where is the fun in that??

As I was pondering verses about hope, I stumbled upon this one. I am sure I have read it before, but it really struck me with freshness. It made me think about my seedlings that I am growing.


For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:  
That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: 
 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
Psalm 78:5-7



As I mentioned already, we cannot save our children.  Only the saving work of the Holy Spirit can change their hearts from death unto life. However, we need to teach our children, and grow seeds of truth in their hearts. 

As parents, it's so easy to get hung up on things we consider important, whilst neglecting what REALLY matters.

Making sure our children are clothed, fed and cared for physically is important. Their health is important. Their education is important.  The company they keep is important. All these things should matter to us, as we care for our little "seedlings".

Looking at these verses, though, we see what is a more important part of raising our children - one that makes an impact spiritually.  We need to teach them the truths of God's Word.  We need to rise up, and tell them all about God, and His Word.  It says that the next generation will set their hope in Him, not forget what He has done, and keep his commandments.  It's not a promise that every child will be saved, but it is certainly an encouragement that if we teach them what is right, the Lord will use it in their lives.

There are many ways that we can do this on a day to day basis.  Obviously, because I have them at home all day, I have many wonderful opportunities to follow this scriptural directive.  It's one of the reasons why I would suggest home educating is a wonderful thing to do - so we can claim the many moments in a day to teach them about the Lord. Even if your children are not at home, we need to make sure and grasp every way we can to point our children to the Lord, and teach him his truths.

I think that a time of family worship is very important, and gives a perfect opportunity to teach them God's ways.  I want to share with you about the book we are currently using, although we have done many different things through the years, including studying through books such as Proverbs, as a family.

Right now, we are using "Leading Little ones to God", by Marian Schooland.



My copy is older than this.  Why?  My parents used it with US, growing up, and it impacted me so greatly, with happy memories of learning from it, that I bought my own copy before I even married Robert, never mind having any children! 

It is a book which goes through Biblical doctrine and truth, at a child's level.  It has a short portion to read for every topic, with a scripture reading, song suggestions and a "Prayer".   We go through it every morning, as a family, and Robert often thinks of clever little ways to make it memorable for the children. For example, when we were learning about God's holiness, Robert used our table mats to help them remember.  HE set them out on the table, with one different from the others, and the others all "joined together", side by side in a group. Also, he used the imperfect ones as the "group", and a new, unspoilt one as the stand alone one.  He asked them how the mats were set out, and to tell him what they observed about them.  They noted one was separate and set apart. That it was perfect and clean, and the others were flawed. They can still remember what holy means, because of those mats! 

We also sing and fellowship together at the end of the day.  It says in the Psalms "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord and to sing praises unto thy name, O most high, to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning and thy faithfulness every night".  SO, we meet in the morning and at night, remembering how God has been good to us in that day.  Our evening time is less formal, but yet we try and teach them in it, praising together. We love to sing!! 

Although not essential, we also choose to use many curriucula which are Christian ones.  WE feel that if we are going to choose to home educate, to have a positive influence on our children, that we should also choose curriculum that is God-glorifying, too. It's not something to be legalistic about, but we consider it as a "good, better, best" principle.  For us, it's a case of trying to use scripture whenever we can, in all parts of their lives, including school.  I particularly love the new English lessons we are doing, from Rod and Staff.  When they are doing an activity, such as reading through sentences to see which ones are correct, they then write out the correct ones, and you get a little Bible "story"! It's great!!   It's certainly worth considering using as many Bible based subjects as you can, especially the ones which are especially undermined by false teaching, such as science. We use Answers in Genesis material for that, God's Design for Science.  It's great material, with plenty of fun and educational activities, and good for multi-level learning.

Like those plants, which I want to grow, we need to water them, help them grow, and train them up to keep growing in the right direction. We need to water their lives with prayer.  There are some fantastic prayer prompts available, which guide you to pray intelligently for your children.  I will do a separate post about that another day.

Learning scripture with your children is also great - so that God's Word is hidden in their hearts.  I often hear elderly people testifying about how the verses they learnt as a child, came back to them in old age to encourage their hearts.  There is a scripture memory system, a Charlotte Mason system, which I want to do with my children.  I will have a guest poster sharing about how it works, so more of that to come another day soon!

When we train up a plant, we have to guide it towards the direction it needs to grow.  Our children will not grow up in the things of Christ, if we do not direct them.  It's not enough to hope that the church or Sunday school does the job. It's the responsibility that we, as Christian parents, have.  It's not just a case, either, of telling them all the time, about what not to do.  It's about TRAINING in the RIGHT way. Positive reinforcement and teaching about the character traits that are good and right.  Giving them opportunity to exercise these traits, and rewarding and encouraging for the right behaviours. I may have previously mentioned the Child Training Bible resource I have, which points children to the Bible to see how they have sinned.  They now do a Virtue Training Bible set, which points children to scripture, for 42 virtues to pursue.  I really want to get this set, as I think that positive training like this is so important.  It takes a while to put together, so it would be a it of a project!

Another important thing with my little seedlings, is thinking back to the weeds from the other day.  If you let weeds crowd little seedlings, they will not grow, and can get choked and die.  Spiritually speaking, we need to deal with sin swiftly, and early.  I was speaking to friends recently, who were asking about disciplining small people. I told them that there are some days, when my children are about 2-3 years old, where I just feel I am having to sort out sin and rebellion in their little hearts and lives, ALL DAY LONG. Anyone who doesn't believe in original sin, hasn't had a 2 year old!  No-one TEACHES them to do wrong - they just do it naturally. If you don't weed out those issues - defiance, rebellion, strong-wills, disobedience - when they are little, the roots of those behaviours will go down deep, and they will be far harder to deal with later on.  It's hard work, to be consistent and faithful in our training, but, oh, so important.  I often say it's harder on us, as Mums, than on the children - a test of our own consistency, and faithfulness!

I am sure there is so much I could say, but that will suffice for the time being!

I pray the Lord will help us all to train up our little "seedlings" in His ways.




I am so sorry this 5th part took so long coming, but I had a wonderful visit from my brother and sister in law, who I hadn't seen for nearly 2 years.  Blogging waited!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Day 4 - A time for new beginnings (5 Days of Spring Life-lessons}




I don't think a single person can think of spring without thinking about a newness of life. Lambs jumping about in the fields, new bulbs coming up, blossom on the trees, little shoots pushing up through the soil, cute chicks hatching from their shells.

It's a time of new beginnings.

What better time to think about making some changes, or doing something new?

There are many areas in our lives that we can think about new things.

New habits.  New hobbies.  New schedule.  New curriculum.  New books. New fun things to do.

I am going to fire out a few ideas for all of these topics, just to get you started springing into spring!

New habits

I am going out on a limb here, and suggesting EXERCISE and DIET! I briefly mentioned in another post, about doing whole30.  It's a great way to a) lose weight, b) lose inches,, c)work out if certain foods are not suiting your body and digestion, and d) getting you to think more about what you put in your mouth.  Having just finished my 30 days, I find myself being a lot more careful about what I put in my mouth, and when I did it before it helped me work out I had issues with gluten and dairy.

If you looks at these links here, here and here, it will give you enough info to give it a whirl.  It takes determination to get going, but it reaps dividends!

Then, I started, 7 days ago, as part of an effort to also get my body toned back up, a 30 day challenge for squats, and one for abs exercises.  I got these from this website.






These are the schedules I am following.  If you don't know how to do the different elements, you will find helpful videos on youtube, to make sure you are doing it correctly.

I am on day 8 (a rest! *phew*), and am still struggling to imagine how I will do *250* squats on the last day!

Maybe diet and exercise are not the new habit you need kick start - have a think, and I am sure there will be something you can begin!


New hobbies

OK, so there will be no prizes for guessing my suggestion... CROCHET!!!

It is SO simple to do, and you can make some lovely things.  Best part is, you can make things for OTHER PEOPLE!!! It's a really cost effective, yet lovely, way to make gifts for family and friends, and to pretty up your own home.

It's also great for a home-schooling parent - I can sit and crochet whilst supervising the children's school work, because it's easy to pick up and put down.

If you hop over to my crochet page, you will find links for various hints and tips on how to get started.  Again, Youtube is a great place to watch tutorials on how to do the basic stitches.

I recommend you begin with some simple granny squares, and then you can put them together and make a blanket, or a cushion!

It's quite fulfilling to pick up a new hobby, especially one where you have something you make yourself.


New Schedule

Now, this one I don't want to elaborate on too much, because it's getting its own blog post next week. 
Suffice to say I have started a new schedule with schooling.  It involves how to occupy my little tinkers whilst trying to get school work done.  It took some tweaking and adjusting to make it suit us, but when I saw that changes were needed, a new schedule was what we put in place.

Have a look at how your family operates - are there areas that are not working out how you would like in your family?  Maybe you need a new schedule? Chores?  Schooling?  Computer time? LOADS of things can benefit from having a schedule.


New curriculum

I know it's a bit of an odd time of the year to consider new curriculum.  However, I will briefly tell you again about what we went through, to let you see why I am suggesting it.  We were using a curriculum that literally had us in tears nearly every day. YES! EVERY DAY! I realised that we needed to ditch it and do something else.  the problem was, we were in October.  Not the "ideal" time to start something new, really! What I considered more important, though, was the fact that we were all miserable, and things were not working for us. It needed to end, and I needed to find something else, for the sake of our family's sanity! So, we stopped.  Stopped dead.  We went through a couple of months of doing more fun, relaxed learning, whilst I researched what we would use next.  Yes, the children were still learning.  No they didn't get "behind".  In fact, we all benefited greatly, and learnt a lot, by doing things in this way. There were no tears and tantrums, and we all felt so refreshed - especially ME! After some research, I found Tapestry of Grace, and realised it was perfect for us, as well as finding other curriculum for maths and science.

I have also, over those years, changed or added in other elements when it suited our family - and not always at the "obvious" times.

If you need to make changes now, make changes now! It is far better to change at an odd time, and have a happy homeschool, than to wait, and go through stress and agonies just because it's "not the right time".

Be confident enough to know how your family "ticks", and make changes as you need them.

I obviously highly recommend Tapestry of Grace, and if you want to know more about it, just hop on over to their website, or get in touch.


New Books

I don't think I can recommend a book, when we are thinking about the change of seasons, without it being THIS one.  I read this book just over 4 years ago, and it was just the breath of fresh air I needed, when I was going through so many reconsiderations about how we educated. Sally is superb writer, and is brilliant at getting to the heart of the issues in hand.

This is what the overview is for the book..

"Your life as a mom is a whirlwind of changing seasons that can just as easily exhaust as exhilarate you. Sit down, take a few moments, and allow yourself to be refreshed and encouraged by a few stories, insights, and lessons from a friend. Sally Clarkson opens her heart within the pages of this timeless classic, sharing what she has learned as a homeschooling wife and mother -- about herself, her children, and her Lord. Revised and expanded for today's moms, Seasons of a Mother's Heart includes four all-new essays by Sally, one for each season of a family's life, from the renewal of spring and the response of summer to the resolve of fall and the reflection of winter. So step in out of the whirlwind, pour a cup of tea, and take a deep breath of the Spirit with Sally."




You can purchase it at many mainstream retailers, including Amazon.

Your heart will be encouraged and blessed by reading it.

As a quick aside, if you like fiction, and you like a good storyline with a Christian backbone, try Dee Henderson's books.  I LOVE them, and eagerly get my hands on every new book she releases. Her story lines are great, and her characters are engaging.  You can either start with her stand alone stories, or begin with "The Negotiator", which is book 1 in a series.  Do NOT read her three most recent ones before reading the O'Malley series, though! 


New Fun things to Do

There are endless possibilities here, for you and your family.  I am going to share about a new game we have started playing - Carcassone.



We used to play a lot more board type games, as a couple, before children came along. I thought it had been too long since we played regularly, so splashed out on a new game... 2 YEARS ago!! Only the other week did we get round to LEARNING how to play it.

It has quite a few pages of instructions, but the old truth applies - play it, and you will get the hang of it. It's a game of strategy and endless possibilities.  Due to the game working around the placement of tiles, the way that the game will unfold is totally different each time you play it.  It is a game for 2-5 players, although if you buy expansion packs that can go up to 6 players. The expansion packs also increases the game options.


The game simply has little playing pieces, game tiles, and a scoring board.  Simple, yet such fun.



I have played it with my oldest 3 children, and they were able to take part - they are 8, 10 and 12 - although the 8 year old needed some help.  They would perhaps not be able to play with very advanced tactics, but they could pick them up through practice.

I highly recommend it!

So, there we go - a little inspiration of changes and new things you can start.  Please share any new things you may have started, or can suggest to others.  I am always especially open to ideas for games and books!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Day 3 - Hope springs {5 Days of Spring Life-lessons}

Today, my post will be of particular relevance to my friends across the ocean. I know my American friends feel it is NEVER going to happen, but your snow WILL go... eventually!   Spring still seems like a long way off, I think?? Yet, as it does year after year, the spring will come.

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I find these warmer, sunnier days so positive and full of hope.  I feel energised, and ready to get things done.  Positivism overcomes pessimism.  It doesn't matter how dark those winter days have been, or how gloomy it has seemed, SPRING COMES!

We don't stay in one season forever.  The winter days may seem never-ending, but spring WILL come.

That feeling of hopefulness, seeing the bulbs push up, the weather improve, is just how we can live spiritually.  Changes will come, the hard days will pass, and be replaced with hope.

This Psalm sums things up so well.



 "I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. 
 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 
 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy;"
Psalm 16: 7-11


In verse 7 we think of "night" seasons, which are so like those winter days.  Even in those dark times, our heart and our mind (our "reins") can be learning and teaching us lessons. We bless the Lord, even in those times.  Do you see, though? Having a knowledge of the Lord's presence makes us unmoveable and strong. Our heart is glad, our glory rejoices, we have HOPE! We can move forward into the "day", or the newness of "spring", because we have this hope.  There is life - the path of life - and there is JOY!! We can rejoice as we go forward into a new season.

Have you been struggling in a spiritual "winter" time?  Have things been difficult?  Have you had endless challenges and few encouragements?

So often we can feel like the Psalmist - cast down, and discouraged.  Perhaps we have struggles in our marriage - a husband who doesn't lead, a husband who isn't saved, a husband who is never there. Perhaps we have trials with our children - behaviour or health issues, issues with school, Perhaps we have challenges on a personal level -  struggling with juggling all our responsibilities, battling with submission, poor health or the difficulties of pregnancy.  All these things can make us feel cast down, and many more circumstances beside.

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."


Here is the answer, and how to turn our trials into hope.  We KNOW the Lord will help us  We need to have the spirit that the Psalmist had - praise Him, even in the dark times.  Then we WILL have hope.  When our eyes are turned away from ourselves and fully upon the Lord, we will have hope.  Why?  Simply because our focus will be on the One who is able to do all things, and whatever our need, He can supply it. 

Friend, have HOPE! The Lord is with us, and He will show us paths of LIFE.  We can put the winter days behind us and step forward, with confidence and hope, into spring days.  

The SON is shining!  WE have the light of His countenance upon us, and the warmth of His love beating down on us, spurring us onto growth and new things.




Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Day 2 - Deep roots and Dead shoots {5 Days of Spring Life-lessons}

Today, following on with our "Spiritual lessons from Spring", we are going to look at that nasty old subject of WEEDING! The Lord really spoke to my heart as I worked on this tedious job, last weekend. I trust what I learnt will challenge your heart as it did mine.


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When I got out into my garden at the weekend, I spent most of my time sorting out things that were not "right".  Due to unavoidable neglect, there were plants that needed to be trimmed back, and weeds EVERYWHERE.

Yup, it's the basics of gardening.  Weeding, weeding, weeding -  pruning, pruning, pruning.

It's not the relaxing time you have, when sit out in the garden surrounded by tidy borders, flourishing plants, and general beauty.  Unfortunately, you will not get to do that if you DON'T do the "mundane" jobs.  A garden will not grow when it's overrun with weeds.

Weeding is NOT easy, though.  The amount of times, the other day, when I audibly sighed, because I didn't get all the root of a weed dug out, are many. Those big, nasty weeds, with long, deep roots.  More often than not, I would manage to snap the root and not get it all out.  I KNOW that weed will be back, because if you don't get all the root, then it will regrow.  Many of the weeds were easy to pull up, as the root hadn't got deep enough. Those types of weeds were numerous, though.

Oh, how this reminded me of my sin!  If you don't get it dug out, and dealt with quickly, the roots go down, and it makes it harder and harder to dig back out of your life! When you *DO* start attacking it, and trying to get rid of it, if you don't get right down to all the root of it, it will just sneak back up again.  The sighing I did over my weeds, is far less than the sighing I do over my sin.

The little weeds of sin also easily crop up, and equally need pulling up and getting rid of. It's a constant thing, and I am reminded that I need to keep going into my garden to pull those weeds up, all through the year, just like I need to go the Lord every day, confessing my sins, and pulling them up out of my life before they take root.

It also serves to remind me of how child-training should be.  It's all about a constant work that we must do, in order to train up our children in the way they should go. We need to nip wrong  behaviour in the bud - consistently and constantly ensuring that we reinforce the truths that we are teaching them.  Like those little weeds, that are everywhere, it's time consuming but vital. It's a hard job for us mothers, in particular. SO often we feel like we spend the whole day reprimanding our children, and Daddy comes in at the end of the day and gets the "fun" part. Don't be weary in well doing, for in due season we SHALL reap if we faint not!!! WE MUST BE CONSISTENT! Trust me, I speak to my own heart first, here. Our job is a privileged one - the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. We have an important job to do, and the Lord is pleased  when we spend time getting those "weeds" pulled up in the lives of our precious children.

Like the deep rooted weeds, there are certain sins that must be sorted very particularly whilst they are young. Disobedience and disrespect, lying, stealing - these all cause major problems as they grow older, because once they take root, they are harder to sort out.

I need to just mention something here, which often seem sot be neglected in many websites, articles and blogs I read - particularly in America. We can NOT save our children, but we still have a serious responsibility to teach them what is right and wrong - disciplining for the wrong and praising the right - because that is that pattern God has set for us. Obviously, unless the Lord works in the hearts of our children, these things will only be done out of respect and obedience to us as parents, and moral duty, rather than being spiritually motivated. If we DO train them, before they are saved, it will make things far easier for them once the Lord works in their hearts, and the Lord can use our faithfulness to challenge them of their need of salvation.  I will deal with this more on Day 5.

Also in my garden, as well as the weeds, there are the dead and straggly shoots which need to be cut back. Ideally, I should have done this job at the end of the growing season, rather than being at the beginning of the new - needs must!

Some of my plants, due to the warm winter, had carried on growing when they normally would die off. As the winter is colder, though, they were simply straggly, rather than bushy and strong.  If I want good growth this year, I needed to cut it all back, to allow for new growth.  Other plants simply had dead stems and flowers, which had to be removed.

Spiritually speaking, there can be things in our life that we need to cut back on, in order for growth to happen. If we look at our life carefully, we may have things that are taking up too much time, or are not a wise use of our time. Maybe it's the company we keep - it may be stopping us from growing closer to the Lord. Perhaps it's even things that are good, but they are just not providing nourishment spiritually, and they need to go. Maybe there are things that are stopping us from fulfilling the duties that we have, and we need to be wiser about how much time we devote to them.  Each of us will have a totally different perspective on this, because our lives are so varied, so I won't give specific examples. We just need to prayerfully consider our lives, and see if anything needs "pruning".  Just like the plants in the garden, often when we cut back on certain things, we will find we grow so much stronger spiritually, and produce more fruit in out lives, as a result.

The same applies to our children. Are we allowing them to spend too much time doing certain activities, which aren't actually doing them much good? Perhaps too much screen time, or too many games - too much reading poor book choices, or the company they keep? They can also have too much "free" time, without enough focus and management of time, leading to bad behaviour. Cutting back can produce a "stronger" child, in their character and behaviour.

It is my desire to take a good hard look at my life and our family, and see if there is some weeding and cutting back that we need to do, to help us all grow.  Digging out those roots, and cutting back the shoots.




Monday, 10 March 2014

Day 1 - All seasons have a purpose {5 days of Spring life-lessons}

I often hear people bemoan the miseries of winter.  Dark days.  Cold.  Rain. Inside more. Bleak.

I have to say, I quite like being tucked up warm inside, with the weather doing its things outdoors.  I like getting up whilst it is still dark, and doing my devotions in the quietness, lamp switched on, feet tucked up.

Having said all that, I ADORE the spring.  What a joy it was, yesterday, to go out for a big long walk with the children, soaking up the unseasonably warm sun, and looking at the signs of spring appearing all around us - blossom on the trees; bulbs blooming all around; the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass; birds singing; sun shining.  It was wonderful!

Over the last few days I have noticed the light afternoons, pushing into the evening, and it will just be a few weeks until the clocks change here in the UK, making it even brighter. I got out into the garden and tidied up things that hadn't been sorted at the end of the last growing season, due to me being in the end of pregnancy, and then having had Tabitha.  Our amazingly mild winter has meant that plants have survived that normally die, and things are already ahead of their growing season.  A total reverse of last year! It was lovely to get out, and see things tidied up, and feel the fresh air on my cheeks.

The Lord has shown me so much, over these last past few days.  I feel very much full of hope and encouragement.  I am seeing things through the eyes of a new season. I am going to share with you some of the lessons I have learnt, all through this week, with a different thought each day.


All seasons have a purpose 

The words of the wise King Solomon are good to remember as the seasons change.


"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"


When we consider that EVERY season is for a purpose, and we take a step back to consider what it might be, it helps us as we walk through it.  Here are just a few that I have learnt just lately.


Contentment

Yesterday, my lovely husband was preaching on this verse, one of my favourites

"for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

You could easily slip the word "season" in there, in place of state.  Our "state" is our circumstances. It's where we are RIGHT NOW.  Where GOD wants us to be.  Whatever season that is, we need to learn contentment, and to see that we are there for a God-given purpose.  We have to stop, and ask "what do you want me to learn here, Lord?".  We need to be able to be satisfied with our circumstances, and to not be looking to be somewhere else, or doing something else.  Not be hankering after a new season, when it's not time to move into it yet.

At the moment, I am finding this season of change a challenge.  Simeon is such a handful, but it's all a part of him growing, learning and becoming one day, if the Lord wills, a young man.  Shaping and working with his strong will can be so testing, but I KNOW it's just a season.  Already I am seeing changes, and encouragements.  The hard times don't last forever, and I know, based on going through this season 6 times already, there are better days ahead.  I need to simply be content with my circumstances, even when it brings challenges.  It's where God wants me to be right now.

I am sure you have you own set of circumstances. Maybe you have children who are a struggle, too. Maybe it's a health issue.  Perhaps it's finances or employment. Whatever it is, you need to be content as you brave out the "winter" days.  Spring IS coming.

No matter where we are, whatever our situation, we can find a lesson to learn.

Like the weather at this time of year, we can look forward to spring, but there may still be days when the weather suddenly flips, and we feel more like it is winter again. I can remember a random snowy day in late March last year!

Don't be discouraged when this happens in your life.  Spiritually speaking, we need to take those days and learn from them, too.  Take each day as it comes, being thankful, and willing to learn, in each and every day.


Necessity

Winter can be gloomy and dull, but we need it.  In the garden, it gives a rest from the busier times we have in the other seasons.  There is less to be done in the garden, because the cooler weather restricts growth, and gives plants a break. However, things like bulbs are secretly doing growing under the ground, building up energy ready to spring up in the spring.  Colder weather also makes plants stronger and hardier.

Spiritually speaking, it's good to remember that even in the "winter" days, when things seem bleak, cold and dead, that there is still growth happening.  We might not see it until we are into a new a season of life, but it's helping make us stronger, as we rely more upon the Lord through trials or low moments. When we see our weakness, and instead rely on God's strength.

Likewise, we need the spring.  As a Christian, there MUST be growth.  Just like a gardener will tend his plants, we also must tend our spiritual lives. We must not neglect God's Word, and speaking to the Lord in prayer.  Daily, we need to renew our strength and grow up in Christ, desiring the meat of the Word.


Change

Spring is a time of new beginnings. Everything starts to spring to life again, and we see change and growth happening again.  Everything is brighter, cheerier, warmer and more hopeful.

So it is spiritually, when we enter into a season of "spring".  We can see growth, development and encouragements. There is change.  There is hope.

It's also when you put the past behind you.  This is a NEW season.  The old has gone, the new has begun.  We cannot keep dwelling on the dark days, and reliving them.  We need to embrace the new, with thankfulness in our hearts.  All those days with trials and hardships are NOT today.  Today is fresh.  It's new.  We can go forward, learning from the season that's past, to make the new season better.

As we think about this new season this week, and what we can learn from it, I trust you are encouraged, as you face the "new", and spring into spring with me, with a hope-filled heart.




Saturday, 8 March 2014

International Women's Day? {Being thankful for who I am}

I kept hearing bits and pieces today about it being "International Women's Day".

We have a special day, other than Mother's Day?

Well, apparently, yes.

However, most of the news bulletins I heard today involved some feminist or another bemoaning the lack of gender equality and wanting the same position as men in society.

Having googled, the UN does seem to try and highlight many genuine issues facing women on a global scale, which are genuine concerns and issues. Some of them are issues exclusive to women, others are more general and they simply highlight how they affect women.  Fair enough.

I do NOT like, however, the endless mantra of feminists - wanting to be like men. Belittling men in their efforts to promote women.  I hate it with a passion.

Today, and every day, I love being exactly who God made me to be. A woman. I do not consider myself to be less than a man, certainly not in God's eyes. I don't think my life is worth less, or my opinions less valued, or my responsibilities less crucial.  They are just different to a man's.  It's how God made it to be.

I don't want to be a man, or have the responsibilities of a man, or the role of a man. I am not a man, so why would I?

Instead of thinking myself lesser, I consider myself to be perfectly created to fulfil a role which God has set out for me.

Firstly, I am a child of God.  Certainly, in that way, we are all joint-heirs with Jesus - all children of the heavenly King.  There is no "male nor female".  All co-equal with the Lord.  Mind-blowingly "wow".  God does not look on me as lesser, or indeed greater, than anyone else that belongs to Him. All equally loved.  All equally cared for.  All equally saved.

Secondly, I am a wife.  I don't consider myself to be the "lesser" part in our marriage, because I am the wife.  Meekness is not weakness.  Submission does not mean inferiority.  I admire, respect and gladly submit to the authority of my husband.  I wouldn't want to have his role, and the weighty responsibility it brings. I don't always find it easy, but the fall has meant that the struggle will always exist.  However, it's God's plan for a marriage to work that way, and so I embrace it and give thanks for it.  I certainly do not covet the role my husband has. I like to remember the precious analogy - God did not make Eve from Adam's skull, so she could rule over him, not from his foot so he could trample on her, but from his rib, so she would be by his side and near his heart.  The essence of our marriage is a "side to side, near each other's heart" emphasis, with Biblical headship being only an element of that unity.

Thirdly, I am a mother.  A Stay-At-Home-Mother.  A mother who, by God's grace, faithfulness, provision, and goodness, is able, and desiring, to stay at home to care for the children God has given me.   I don't consider this job to be a menial one.  Nor is it done with begrudging or resentment.  I consider it to be the most precious and important thing I could and should be doing, and would not contemplate it being any other way.  It is a joy to see my children learn an grow - to hear them say funny things - to watch them do new things.  It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.  Even childbirth, in all its agonies and groanings, is still an absolutely amazing experience which I would never want to forego.

I am totally content with who I am, where I am and what I am doing.  I joyfully embrace the role that God has given me to fulfil, and pray that He will continue to give me the grace and strength to do it better every day - to take on the challenges with joy, and never with regret or misery.

I am thankful for who I am, and wouldn't want to be anyone else, anywhere else or doing anything else.