Thursday, January 29, 2009

Month of Meals Giveaway

Thrifty Thursday

Looking for a good resource for planning healthy meals. Simple Mom is giving away a copy of the e-book "A Month of Meals" to ten readers. To enter, you only need to leave a comment. There are ways to earn additional entries if you like. This book is currently on sale for $6.95. Normal price is $19.95. Deadline to enter is Friday.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Math Time, Story Time

Teaching Tip Tuesday

I have highly verbal boys. They like to read, write and TALK! Nothing makes them as happy as a good story. On the other hand, numbers just don't "move" them. They are not math phobic but they don't have an intrinsic motivation in this area.

I am a die-hard believer in teaching math concepts before drilling facts. It is sooooo important that kids understand what is happening in mathematical operations. By knowing what is "going on", they are better prepared for higher levels of math and problem solving and are more likely to retain the facts (like multiplication tables) that we want them to know. In order to keep my boys engaged and to lay a good foundation, I begin the teaching of each new math "segment" with manipulatives coupled with good stories. Here is my favorite example....

After my students have a good handle on place value, I use a chart like this:

First I have them write in the minuend and then create it with the units, rods and flats:

Then I demonstrate on the board how to write in the subtrahend while they copy it to their charts:

Next we discuss what happens in a subtraction problem (taking away) and I tell the following story while I demonstrate the subtraction procedures on the board and they work out the problem on the chart in front of them:

On your chart there are three houses, a ones house (I have them draw a rooftop over the ones column), a tens house (draw roof top over tens) and a hundreds house (rooftop over hundreds). In each house everything is placed in groups. In the ones house everything is in groups of one. (I give a few examples and relate it to the unit blocks). In the tens house everything is in groups of ten. (Once again I give a few examples and relate to the rods). In the hundreds house everything is in groups of one hundred (examples, relate to the flats).

Today, the mom of the ones house, Mrs. Ones, wants to bake a cake. She has four cups of sugar and needs seven cups to bake her cake (explain how this relates to the numbers on the chart and the manipulatives; demonstrate how four is insufficient). Since she does not have enough sugar, she decides to visit her next door neighbor, the tens mom, and ask to borrow some (I move my fingers as if walking on the board from the ones column to the tens then knock on the board). KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK!! Excuse me Mrs. Tens, could I please borrow some sugar for my cake? Does Mrs. Tens have enough sugar to loan Mrs. Ones? (Here's where the story goes in one of two directions.)

(If there is at least one in the tens place, lead the students to understand that Mrs. Tens can loan the sugar.) However, everything in the tens house comes in groups of ten. Mrs. Tens does not have one cup of sugar to loan but ten. (Have the students pick up one rod from the tens column and move it to the ones. Remind them that everything in the ones house must be in groups of one. Have them exchange the one rod for 10 units and replace them in the ones column) Now, Mrs. Ones has fourteen cups of sugar! She has enough to bake her cake. (Demonstrate on the board how to write the regrouped ten and then how to subtract.)

This chart shows the regrouping from tens to ones:

This chart shows the subtraction process:

This chart shows the ones place difference:

(The story continues with Mrs. Ten needing 30 cups of sugar to bake a cake the next day.) Because Mrs. Tens loaned ten cups to Mrs. Ones, she only has 20 cups. She cannot go to Mrs. Ones' house and ask her to return some of the sugar because that would be rude. Besides, Mrs. Ones already broke the ten into ones so they cannot return to her tens house. She decides to visit Mrs. Hundreds and ask her for some sugar. (Act out the same scenario with Mrs. Tens visiting Mrs. Hundreds. Demonstrate with manipulatives and the notation on the board. Complete the story with Mrs. Hundreds baking her cake and using the amount of sugar in the subtrahend's hundreds place.)

This chart shows the regrouping from hundreds to tens:

This chart shows the subtracted tens and the difference in the tens place:

This chart shows the subtracted hundreds and the difference:

Now, think back to when Mrs. Ones asks Mrs. Tens to loan her a cup of sugar. If there is a zero in the tens place then Mrs. Tens cannot loan any to her. What is Mrs. Ones to do? She cannot return home, so she decides to visit Mrs. Hundreds. (act out the moving and knocking on the board) Does Mrs. Hundreds have sugar to loan? Yes! She has five hundred cups. Remember, everything is grouped in hundreds and so she must loan it out in hundreds. She gives one hundred cups of sugar to Mrs. Ones.

What is Mrs. Ones to do with all of that sugar? She decides to be a good neighbor and give some to Mrs. Tens on the way home. (demonstrate on board and with manipulatives as you finish out the story) She must give the sugar to Mrs. Tens in groups of ten so she breaks the one hundred into ten groups of ten. Then Mrs. Tens gives one group of ten to Mrs. Ones. Mrs. Tens is left with ninety cups of sugar while Mrs. Ones takes ten home, giving her enough to bake her cake. (finish by demonstrating the subtraction steps)

This has been a hit in our home and at the school where I taught. May you have much success as you instruct your dear ones!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bronchitis Blues

Well, the colds we fought over Christmas break just would not let go of me. Last week, I had to go to the doctor once again. I had an upper respiratory infection and bronchitis. What a cold season it has been!

I realized today that I have not posted in a week. This is because I have been too weary to do much thinking or typing. I spent the weekend in bed and tried to take my laptop with me and pound out something. I have a few posts in the works but just could not get any of them publishable (not that that has stopped me before!).

Today I felt much better. I still have a regular cough but am feeling more myself and was able to follow my normal routine. Though there is not much substance to this post, I thought I should check in and let those of you who read regularly know that I am alive and well... okay, alive at least.

Lord willing, tomorrow I will have a teaching tip posted. I think it's a good one too. One of my favs.

Until next time... "Rejoice always (even when weary). Pray without ceasing (even when coughing excessively). Give thanks in everything (even bronchitis) for this is God's will concerning you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thes 5:16-18

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Whole Bunch of Christmas Stuff

Milestone Monday

Having colds did not keep us from having a good time over the holidays. Here is what happened on the days we weren't sick.

Christmas Eve: Each year we have a family dinner with my parents on this night. This year we also had their ruby anniversary celebration. Michael finished the evening with our last Advent devotion.

The Ruby Anniversary Celebration

Peppermint Sundaes for Dessert
A Ruby Cardinal by Wilber

Finishing Our Advent Season
Christmas Day: We started with sweet rolls for breakfast and then opened presents.

After the presents were opened, we went to Papaw's and Nohnie's house for a lunch of finger foods. The boys thought that there were no more presents because Mom and Dad had brought a couple of small presents to our house for them. After lunch, Papaw raised the blinds in the kitchen to reveal a new trampoline!

While they were jumping, Nohnie placed two more presents under the tree. We called them inside, and Orville said, "Hey look! Somebody forgot to open a present!" He looked at the tags and prompted Wilber to come to the tree so they could open these last two presents. Inside each box was a new bicycle helmet.

They both looked at Papaw and explained that they had outgrown their bikes. They were so nice and politely explained that they could not use them. Papaw said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize. We'll just have to go to Wal Mart and exchanged them."

I played along and said, "You know, Wal Mart is open now. Let's go get in your van and drive to Wal Mart to exchange them." We led the boys to the garage. They completely believed us and thought we were going to get in the van. Sitting behind the van were two new bikes. Wilber looked at them, eyes wide and mouths agape, and asked, "You bought us bicycles, too?" Precious!

Following Monday: We headed toward Michael's sister's house to visit with his side of the family. En route, we met our friends from college, Heather and Dan, at Denny's. Our boys enjoyed visiting with their daughters while we parents enjoyed each other's company. We hadn't seen each other in years, but it was as if we hadn't missed a day. I was so excited to see my dear friends that I forgot to take a picture!

Orville's Drawing of the Two Families at Denny's
That evening we went to visit more friends, Roger and Amy. They are also friends of ours from college. In fact, Roger and Amy, Dan and Heather, and Michael and I all met at our alma mater's BSU. Amy cooked us a wonderful dinner and we had so much fun talking and reminiscing. Orville and Wilber got to make another new friend and enjoyed playing with their son. Once again, I was too busy enjoying myself to think to take a picture. Bad me!!

Orville's Drawing of Dinner with Our Friends
Tuesday and Wednesday (New Year's Eve): Michael's sister hosted our second Christmas celebration. The cousins had so much fun playing together. We exchanged gift baskets, and all the grandkids opened their gifts from their paternal grandparents. Kristi (Michael's sis) was the hostess with the mostest! She prepared a wonderful celebration, and a good time was had by all. We left late in the day on New Year's Eve and saw fireworks several times on the way home. It was beautiful!
Wilbur Opening His Grandparents' Present
Orville Opening His Grandparents' Present

Our Nieces Enjoying Lunch

Orville, Wilbur and Their Older Boy Cousins Enjoying Lunch

Our Twin Niece and Nephew

Uncle Michael with Our Newborn Nephew

Wilbur's Drawing of the Fireworks

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Trail

Farewell Friday

The boys finished their unit on the Oregon Trail just before Christmas break. Their final project was to write a fiction story in the style of Bound for Oregon by Van Leeuwen. Plush toys seem to find their way into most of their projects, so the main characters are Pioneer Piggy, of course, and a band of dogs, pigs and birds.

The boys worked together on the pre-writing aspects. Orville did the majority of the writing. All three of us contributed to the editing. In the publishing phase, Orville typed and formatted, and Wilber added the illustrations.

The Trail
by Orville and Wilber

Once upon a time, a group of animals went on an adventure on the Oregon Trail.
They started in Independence, Missouri. They needed a lot of supplies because the trail was 2000 miles long. Their names were Piggy, Scruffy, Puppy, Quill, Love, Kiss, Lovie and Friendly. So they got their supplies and took off across the country.
Little were they aware that there were a lot of dangers on the trail.

They made 15 miles the first day. They reached Fort McKinley on the 4th of July, which was a very special day. They left after the historical celebration.

But right after that, Kiss got the cholera, a very bad disease. “No! No!” was all Friendly could say about Kiss. Although he did stop so she could get well. Finally she got well and they moved out.

Sometimes Friendly and Lovie went to play hopscotch.
Love and Kiss gathered, Puppy fished, and Scruffy hunted. It was a lot of work but it was worth it. If they wanted to survive, they had to do the work. They had traveled 1123 miles. Now they were at Chimney Rock. They stayed there for 2 days. They enjoyed the sites for while and moved on. 1500 miles... 1600 miles... 1700 miles... OH NO!

It’s winter and there‘s one more mountain to cross, Mt. Hood. The hardest mountain to cross. “We must persevere and conquer that there hill” said Scruffy. “Yes, Grandpa,” said Friendly. PULL, PULL, PULL! “HOORAY!” they all shouted. Then they used the rope to pull the wagon along way down hill. Yippee!! It's down!!! 1800... 1900... 1950... 2000 miles! THEY MADE IT!! “OREGON!!” They all shouted. Now, they live peacefully in Oregon City, Oregon.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Job Jar

Thrifty Thursday

Yesterday, I held an emergency house cleaning day. After getting hit with three rounds of sickness over the holidays, it is putting it mildly to say that my house was a mess.

I hate to let things get out-of-control because I then have to fight that where-do-I-start mindset. When I look around and see all that needs to be done, I feel overwhelmed. I get that one-foot-nailed-to-the-floor sensation and just don't know where to start.

I have to admit that I have always approached those times with an individualist's mind-set. I send the boys to do some independent school work and then allow them to play while I tackle the mess all alone. In part I have always done it that way because the boys were too little to do many of the tasks. They could only reach so high, couldn't be trusted with cleaning products and couldn't maneuver equipment like the vacuum cleaner. But, they're big boys now, so I decided that it was time for a new approach.

The day started with a family meeting in the living room. I explained to them that most of the time, I am pleased with how the house looks and with how they complete their regular chores. However, when a season comes like what we experienced over the past three weeks (holidays, travel, sickness, sickness and more sickness), we all neglect many of our chores and we all suffer the consequence of a messy house.

This is when I pulled out the "job jar". In this jar, I had placed over fifty index cards. On each card I had written a very specific chore to complete (i.e. dust the computer desk, clean the bath sink, and vacuum the hallway). I had also assigned each job an amount of money that could be earned for properly completing the task. Some jobs were valued at a penny; others at twenty-five cents; most somewhere in between. I told them that in a crisis situation, I would call for "all hands on deck," and everyone, including me, would have to draw a job from the jar and complete it.

It made the work fun. Each of us wondered which job he or she would get next. The boys wanted to complete each task quickly. They did not want to let me pull more jobs from the jar than they did and lose that money. However, I did check each job as it was completed and approved the work before allowing the worker to move to a new task. I did not want him to rush through the work so quickly that the work was done poorly. There were less complaints than usual, too. If someone did complain about a job, I deducted 10% from that job's value. I only had to do that once. I didn't have to wonder where to start either. The cards guided us through the entire cleaning process.

This worked so well that I am going to take out the cards that assign what I would call "deep cleaning" jobs- the things that need to be done once per month. I will keep in the things that need to be done weekly. Each day, we are going to have a job jar time in which we each pull out 2-4 jobs and complete them. On the Monday of the last full week of a month, I will return the "deep clean" cards and we will tackle a few more chores each day that week.

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Kim who suggested this at our most recent homeschool association meeting. This was a good one, Kim. I appreciate it! I hope my readers will, too.


  • For larger families, use colored index cards. Write tasks for teens on one color, middle-aged children on second color, and littles on a third color. Place them all in the same jar but instruct children to draw only the cards of their particular color.

  • Glue a picture symbol for each task on its coresponding card for non-readers.

  • Create an Outdoor Job Jar. Include tasks such as wash the dog, sweep the walkway and fill the bird feeders.

  • Any other ideas? Feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shocking News from Subway

Wisdom Wednesday
If you have been following my Christian testimony series, this is the next installment. Enjoy!

A few months before Orville was born, Michael and I made the move from Memphis to a nearby rural area. Michael had been teaching elementary Spanish at a school that was around the corner from our dream house. The year previous to our move that program had been phased out, and he was transferred to an inner-city high school. It was rough. That stuff you see in movies about inner-city high schools is fairly true-to-life. At the end of that school year, right in the middle of my pregnancy with Orville, Michael decided that he had to make a change. We put the dream house up for sale, thinking it would take some time to find a buyer. It was sold within a month of our listing by owner. My parents lived in the county next door and offered to let us move in with them for a few months until Michael could get settled in a new job and we could find another place to live.

My great-grandparents lived next door to my parents. Grandma was 91, and Grandpa was 101. It was a joy to be near them, especially because it was their last few months with us. Two weeks after Orville was born, Grandpa died. Grandma passed shortly after Grandpa. Michael had settled in his new job, teaching Spanish at the high school in our new county of residence, and Dad, who had inherited my grandparents' home, offered to let us live there. I spent several weeks cleaning out the house, transitioning it from my grandparents' final earthly dwelling to the first real home that my sweet baby would know.

Grandma and Grandpa married in 1929. Starting their lives together at the onset of the Great Depression built such character in them. It also created in them a habit of storing for the future, maybe a little too well. I sorted through 70 years worth of payment stubs, receipts, toothpaste boxes, coffee canisters and aluminum foil scraps. The nice part was I found at least one hundred years worth of newspaper clippings and documentation of my family history. I also found my prize possession of a photograph of my great-great grandparents taken in front of their farmhouse in North Dakota shortly after they immigrated from Denmark in the late 19th Century. Priceless.

Soon history moved forward. Antique furniture made way for a crib. Grandma's pretty rose-colored walls were painted baby blue. Reader's Digests and magnifying glasses were replaced with board books and finger puppets. The sound of The Wheel of Fortune blaring from the t.v. at a volume the neighbors could hear was replaced with sounds of gurgles and coos. And crying… a lot of crying!

Orville was a colicky a little guy. He almost never stopped screaming! He screamed in the crib. He screamed in the carrier. He screamed in the bassinet. He even screamed when he was held. The only place he was content was in his baby swing. We tried everything. Here's where I could insert a huge list of things we tried, but I'll spare you. Just trust me on this, we did everything in the book. It was a trying time, and the fact that nothing that was supposed to work ever did made me feel like the worst mother in the world.

When Orville was five months old (and still colicky), I realized (in spite of my sleep-deprived delirium) that a visitor had not arrived. This visitor was supposed to show up at a particular time each month and had not shown herself in almost six weeks.

Oh no! No! NO! NOOOO!!!!

"This can't be," I thought. "How in the world can I handle a pregnancy, NOW?!!"

I recalled my pregnancy with Orville. I hadn't had first-trimester morning sickness. I had around-the-clock sickness the entire pregnancy. How could I manage that again, so soon? And with a little screamer, ur… baby, to care for?!?!

As I mentioned earlier, we lived in a RURAL area. Our house was about fifteen minutes from the nearest town. This "town" had one traffic light, two gas stations, a Fred's and a Subway. That was about it. I decided I had to know if a baby was on board, ASAP. I drove to Fred's, bought a pregnancy test and decided I couldn't take the time to drive back home. I went to Subway and took the test in the bathroom there, with a crying Orville in my arms, mind you. I had to wait a few minutes for the results so I bought a sandwich, sat down to eat and gave Orville a bottle. After a few bites, I looked in my purse (where I had stored the test) and saw two pink lines.


I decided to go to the high school and tell Michael. I couldn't hold onto this news all day. I drove to the school, shaking and crying and found Michael on his lunch break. He knew something was up the minute he saw me. I think he feared I had finally endured all the screaming I could handle and had flipped out. I nearly hyperventilated while telling him the news.

"Oh, is that all?" he asked.

IS THAT ALL?!?!? Are you kidding me?

"Michael," I said. "Do you remember how sick I was during my Orville pregnancy? Do you realize that Orville will only be a year old when this baby arrives? Do you understand that this one could be a screamer, too? We may never sleep again!"

"Dawn," he replied. "It will be alright. God made this baby."

During the drive home, I thought about that. God had indeed made this baby. We live in an era in which we have been taught that we are in control of such things. That we decide when a child will be formed. That we decide if and when our children will have life. We had "tried" for four years and had no baby to show for it. Then we "decided" to give up, and God gave us Orville. Now, we had tried to prevent pregnancy, but Wilber was in my womb anyway.

I could not help but reflect on Psalm 139: 13-14 as I drove. "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." This child was woven within me by God. He was fearfully and wonderfully made. Why was I so upset? How could I have lived through miscarriages and said "blessed be the name of the Lord"? But now I had what I had always wanted and was anxious! I would NEVER consider having an abortion, but my attitude toward this precious human being was not very different from the mother who considers it her right to choose when pregnancy is or is not convenient for her. Convenient or not, this child was God's beautiful workmanship and I prayed for the grace to savor every wonderful moment with him.

Just so you'll know, my pregnancy with Wilber was not too hard. God's grace was once again sufficient. Wilber was not a screamer, a snorer, but not a screamer. I did get a lot of weird looks carrying around a one-year-old and a new-born. In our day of Planned Parenthood, I did not make the grade. I often was asked if Wilber was a "mistake" or an "accident".

"No," I always answered emphatically. "He is neither a mistake nor an accident. He is, however, my precious little surprise fashioned by the hand of God." What a nice surprise he turned out to be!

Monday, January 12, 2009


When Orville was 2 and Wilbur was one, my husband, Michael, and I moved Orville to the "big boy" bed, while Wilbur stayed in the crib. Orville loved this change because it gave him the freedom to move around while his little brother had no choice but to watch him perform from the crib. Wilbur was literally a captive audience but enjoyed watching these shows as much as Orville enjoyed putting them on.

I knew when nap time was over each day because invariably the sounds of Orville bouncing about, followed by cackles from the crib would resound down the hallway. One day this we're-up-now-Mommy announcement came in a very unusual way. I heard Orville yelling something, then a loud THUMP, followed by Wilbur's cackle. It scared me at first, and I took off for their room as fast as I could.

I put my ear to the door and determined that everyone sounded okay, so I gently cracked the door and peaked inside, careful not to be seen. I wanted to catch Orville in the act of whatever it was he was doing.

What I saw cracked me up!

Orville had an open book on the floor in front of him. He looked at the book sternly, positioned his fists on his hips, and proclaimed, "Boo cadoo! I cun do!" With much anticipation, he jumped onto the open pages of the book, only to shake his head in frustration when he landed on top of the book and not within the world of the illustrations.

Those of you familiar with the show Blue Clues understand what he was doing. There is a segment in each episode in which Blue and Steve sing, "Blue skidoo... we can too." Then they jump into a book or painting and explore the drawings up close and personal. Orville just knew that if he persisted he could "cadoo" just like "Boo."

This is one of those mom stories that I will always cherish for its cuteness, but there is a lesson for us in there, too. We ladies have so many temptations to skidoo set before us. Our generation has been bombarded by unbiblical teachings, and it is so easy to live by one of many skewed definitions of womanhood prevalent today. We have been taught to be independent and self-reliant and that when things get tough, we need to "get away from it all" and take a little "me time". Or we need to get our act together and get things done. Don't be a wimp. Find what's at the heart of your problem and fix it.

I fought the skidooing temptation hard this past fall. It was a crazy time in the life of the Olive Plants family. There was a lot of stuff going on, and I wanted to skidoo into the realm of "me time" on a daily, maybe hourly, basis.

There was the mom stuff.

My regular readers are familiar with my boys' better qualities. You know about Orville's remarkable memory and Wilbur's artistic abilities. The Lord has blessed them and through His goodness, they have accomplished some interesting things. But, don't get the wrong idea about us. My boys have sin problems. I have sin problems. Sometimes my sin problems bump into their sin problems, and it isn't a pretty sight. There are times they argue. There are times they talk back. There are times they make glue mounds on their school desks and the hardwood floor under the guise of a "science experiment". Discipline is an on-going and often exhausting process.

There was the school stuff, too.

As you all well know, lesson plans don't write themselves. Teaching and grading take up most of my days. Record keeping and preparing materials for the upcoming week takes up most of my Saturdays. Homeschooling is a full-time job in and of itself.

There was also the wife stuff.

Michael had a challenging semester as a high school teacher. It is a well recognized fact in our home that he is the head and I am the heart. One of my roles as helpmeet is to be his counselor. When the going gets tough, I have a lot of listening to do. Sometimes hearing how students or parents talk to him is distressing. It can be so hard sometimes to see him pour himself into the lives of his students only to receive angry phone calls from parents who want their kids to get something for nothing while he does his job for a lot less compensation than professionals in other fields with comparable qualifications and experience.

Then, there was the extended family stuff.

My parents moved from TN to GA just before school started. This was a happy move for them and for me, but, it took a lot of work and help from their only child. Also, both Michael's and my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversaries this year, a milestone for which I rejoice greatly. With that rejoicing also came the distinct honor of planning not one, but two celebrations.

There was the irritating stuff.

The driver's side window on my car broke, not once, not twice, but three times, my friends. It's actually still not fixed completely right. I was without my car for a total of 2 and 1/2 weeks. Meanwhile, faucets broke. Appliances broke. The computer died. Vandals tore up the mailbox... twice. The dog got loose and stole the same pair of shoes from the neighbors more times than I can count on my fingers and toes.

There was the house stuff.

Oh, there was the house stuff! In part I mean the cleaning and upkeep, the cooking and washing and all of the stuff that no matter what else is going on, it must get done. I am also referring to our trying to sell our house in this lousy market and in the process finding out that it is need of costly repairs. With that has come the time consuming process of acquiring a loan, getting estimates and buying as much of the materials needed for a complete remodel ourselves to save as much money as possible.

There was the national stuff.

I voted in a presidential election in which I didn't really care for any of the candidates. I worried about the ramifications of a liberally controlled federal government. Will we suddenly face federal challenges to our rights as parents? As I mourned over the lack of godly leadership in our country, I also felt the blows of a troubled economy. I have had many moments in which I have worried and thought, "What is happening to America?"

Unfortunately, there was the heart-breaking stuff.

Recently, unchecked sin took root in the life of a family member and has destroyed one branch of our family tree. This branch was very closely positioned to Michael's and mine and has hurt us deeply.

There was the scary stuff.

I turned 35 last year and so it was time for my first routine mammogram. It detected a cyst. I had to schedule an ultrasound to determine whether or not it was cancerous. I would have to wait two weeks for the exam and another week for the results. Three long weeks to wait and wonder. Just one year previously, I had to have a complete hysterectomy. I had lived with chronic pain for a long time and have had multiple miscarriages. My reproductive system had been in such a mess for so long that I really don't even know how many miscarriages I had in all. Last year, these problems all came to a head. My OBGYN ran a pre-op biopsy. I had an MRI run to rule out a spinal tumor. Then came the endoscopy. My reproductive system was completely covered in cysts and a full hysterectomy had to be done so it could be biopsied. There was no cancer but a disease called adenomyosis. The hysterectomy cured that. But, here I was a year later, hearing that dreaded "c" word again, wondering if I would loose the rest of what makes me feel female. Thankfully I finally got the results, and it wasn't cancer but a benign little pocket of fluid.

Last, but not least, there was the viral stuff.

Just as Christmas break started, a break I really needed, a stomach virus hit our house. It came in two waves, and we were all pretty sick during most of the break. The Saturday before school was to start back, we had just gotten over the stomach thing, when Wilbur started sneezing and coughing. Soon, he had a fever, and the cough was relentless. Michael was next. Then, Orville.

Then me.

That's when I found myself in the same posture I had found my skidooing Orville. I was frustrated because things were not going my way and I wanted to skidoo.

Skidooing can take on many different forms. Trying to rework the schedule in hopes of making life easier. Searching for a better curriculum that will solve all my problems. Taking more "me time" in hopes of feeling more at ease. Sometimes skidooing isn't so much what I do as it is what I think.

If only we could get the house sold.

If only I could lose more weight.

If only I could get away from it all, just for a little while.

I suppose the ultimate skidoo would be giving up on homeschooling altogether and enrolling my kids in public school.

I am not suggesting that any of these are wrong in and of themselves. There is a time to assess and make changes or to take a break. There is even a time for God-fearing parents to transition from homeschooling to other options.

However, I am talking about the times that I try to use these things as quick fixes. I do these things hastily, not prayerfully. I do them in hopes that they will magically cure life's frustrations. It's when the hope of something better causes discontentment in my life. The problem is that skidooing never works because it does not get to the root of the problem.

In fact, skidooing usually compounds the problem because the root is selfishness. I can never cure my selfishness by doing selfish things.

So what is the cure?

How do I fight the temptation to skidoo?

First, I have to stop idealizing.

Think back to my story of Orville attempting to skidoo. What was his core problem? He was trying to do the impossible. I think one root of discouragement in my life is trying to do the impossible by being a perfectionist. In our society of experts, there is always someone telling us how we should cook, eat, dress, exercise, love our husbands, discipline our children, teach, fix our hair, wear our make up, decorate our homes, feel, think and live.

Advice is great and necessary, but too much can only fuel perfectionism. I have to exercise discernment and only accept the advice of those who do not contradict or place demands on me that exceed what the Lord requires.

I have to admit that sometimes I even get frustrated in trying to live up to what I perceive is the standard of Proverbs 31.

Being a Proverbs 31 woman isn't about mimicking Martha Stewart or living up to the standards of Better Homes and Gardens. The beauty of the Proverbs 31 example is that the work she does is unto the Lord and for the benefit of her family and God's Kingdom. The Lord, her husband and her children are at the heart of all she does.

She does not eat the bread of idleness, meaning in part that she works hard and at many tasks, but meaning also that she does not feed her mind on the idleness of worldly thinking. Her sustenance comes from God's Word. The work she does is not rooted in pride. Although she is put forth as the perfect example, she is not a perfectionist. She is fueled by love... love for God and His Kingdom, love for her husband, and love for her children. I must remember that the purpose of Proverbs 31 is not to give me a check-list of things to accomplish but a solid reminder that she who fears the Lord is worthy to be praised.

Secondly, I have to remember that I live in a fallen world.

There is no picture perfect place here on earth for me to skidoo to. My children will sin. My husband will have difficulties as he works to support our family. Messes will happen. Things will break. Others will disappoint me. And, yes, people, including me, will get sick.

My blessing as a Christian isn't that I will escape the trials and tribulations of this present life. The blessing is that the Lord will be faithful. He will continue to make me the fruitful vine written about in Psalm 128 not in spite of adversity but through it.

Remember Rom 8:28? "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose." The good spoken of in this verse is explained in more detail later in the same chapter. Verses 35-37 state, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." The Lord has conquered sin and will continue to help us die to self and to conform to His image. This is how we produce good fruit.

That list of "stuff" I shared earlier probably sounded like a big list of complaints. Without Christ, that's all they would be. However, the Lord has worked each of those events to my benefit. Along with each problem or headache, I could also give testimony of one or more ways that the Lord has provided or that He has shown me the error of my ways and led me to repent. If we could skidoo out of adversity, think of what we would miss.

Thirdly, I must rely entirely on the Lord.

Remember what Orville did each time his skidooing attempt failed? He regrouped, demonstrated his determination and proclaimed "I CUN DO!!"

I. Can. Do.

It's a subtle little lie that has saturated our postmodern culture.

The religion of the hour is humanism (actually it's been the enemy's lie since the garden), and the world has taught us that if we think it, believe it and try it, we can do it! Or as the enemy said to Eve, "Ye shall be as gods." 2 Cor 12:9 says, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. " The Lord is not glorified by our ability to do whatever we set our minds to do but rather in our weakness and our total reliance upon Him.

I know you remember Martha from Luke 10. She had her mind set on doing many things for Jesus that day. Verse 40 says that she was "angered because she had so much work to do." Is it possible that Martha had put more on herself that day than was necessary? Did she in her zeal to make the meal the best it could be, give herself and those around her too large a burden?

Meanwhile, Mary had chosen the right thing. Jesus said it would never be taken from her. She had chosen to sit as His feet and receive from Him. He says His grace is sufficient. We cannot attain this grace by striving or by doing. Rather, we receive it by asking. "Ask", the Lord says, "and it shall be given unto you". (Matt 7:7)

Finally, when I am discouraged and tempted to skidoo I must immediately look to Christ.

When I remember that He left the riches and glory of heaven and endured the cross and the wrath that I deserve, I realize that putting aside my plans for His will pales in comparison.

When I reflect on his body that was broken and blood that was poured out, I know that my responsibilities at home are just not that hard.

When I contemplate his agony, I become aware of how small my present suffering really is.

When I remember the price Jesus paid for me, I come face to face with just how sinful skidooing is and am led to repent. It is only then that I feel that peace that passes understanding and I am encouraged in the knowledge that I have a loving, forgiving God who is pleased by my service at home and who continually gives me the grace each day to be more and more satisfied in Him.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Michael!

Today is my dh's 38th birthday.
This is our engagement picture. He was 24 when it was taken.
What a cutie!!
This is his most recent photograph.
A little older.
A little wiser.
Just as handsome.

Feliz cumpleanos, Roget. Te amo.
Aurora, tu Carina

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oh, Be Careful Little Mom What You Post

Teaching Tip Tuesday

I am sure you have heard the expression "be careful what you pray for, lest you get it." Here's a similar word to the wise, fellow bloggers. Be careful what you post, for surely you will be put to the test.

I had just pressed "publish post" on 100th Post: A New Name when Wilbur approached me with watery eyes, a runny nose, a hacking cough and the words, "Mommy, I don't feel so good."

That was not my outward reaction toward Wilbur. But, tucked away in the back of my mind was a selfish, sinful thought. "We are supposed to start school Monday. I just don't have time for this. We're supposed to go to the library and start our research on Mexico. We're going to launch the new blog, and the boys are supposed to write their first post. We have a field trip on Wednesday and we're supposed to do x and do y and z. There goes everything I have worked so hard to put together."

A couple hours later, here came Orville. "Mommmm!!! My ears hurt." By Monday morning, we were all soooo sick, and it was obvious I needed to take the boys to the doctor. So instead of the great morning at the library, we started the day at the pediatrician's office.

As I sat in the exam room, I continued to wrestle with selfishness. I was mad that they were sick. I was mad that I was sick. I thought of the planner I had worked so hard to get in order over Christmas break and how it was already, on the FIRST day, in shambles. Then, in came the nurse. The doctor had ordered a strep test and blood work. The boys were visibly anxious, and so for a moment, I stopped thinking about myself and began coaching my boys.

"Orville, you are soooo brave... a man in the making. I know you can take a little, bitty finger prick."

"Oh no, Wilbur, blood's not gross. It's science."

My spirits were lifted as the nurse took my unintentional cue and discussed with the boys the make up of human blood and other biology factoids. Science class took place, right there in the exam room, taught by someone far more knowledgeable than I. "Not so bad after all," I had to admit to myself.

The doctor came in a few minutes later. No strep, praise the Lord. However, he needed to look in their ears because he suspected ear infections. He pulled out his ear-checker-outer thingy-ma-bob. That's what I call it. I thought that's what everyone calls it, until Orville asked, "Is that your otoscope?"
Say what?!?!

For some unknown reason, he had learned this word and had been waiting to get sick so he could go to the doctor and use it. He and the doctor then had quite the discussion of medical terminology. Hmmm... science, check. Vocabulary, check! The day was not the waste I had assumed it would be, and I was convicted on many levels but mostly for my selfishness earlier in the day.

The Lord has been convicting me regularly of my sin problem of selfishness. Generally, I do not think of myself as selfish. I hope that those of you who know me personally are surprised to read this about me. But, that is the nature of sin. It often runs deeper than we realize ourselves. On a day-to-day basis, I am pretty giving, but when my plans are disrupted, I am sooo tempted with frustration and anger and often act accordingly.

James 3:12-15 says, "Can a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? Does fresh water come from a well full of salt water? Are any of you wise or sensible? Then show it by living right and by being humble and wise in everything you do. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don't brag or lie to cover up the truth. That kind of wisdom doesn't come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself."

I left the doctor's office thinking of my vision statement, convicted. I knew I had not acted like a mom with an "OLIVE vision."

An OLIVE mom is obedient to Christ, particularly when His will does not mesh with her plans.

She loves God and her neighbor, especially her little neighbors who need her more than anyone else.

She possesses ingenuity that she uses at home, or in the doctor's office to grab hold of teachable moments for the benefit of her family.

She is a visionary parent who sees God's providence in all things, including sore throats. She promotes experiential learning by surrounding herself with her olive plants, not pushing them away when their needs interfere with hers. She longs for them to learn profitable lessons, applicable to real-life circumstances, by her example.

She is aware of the influence she has over her little plants and models righteousness, faith and repentance.

My teaching tip this week is really more of a reminder for me. Note to self... don't be frustrated by the interruptions of motherhood. Teachable moments are really God's providence at work. Repent of the sin of selfishness. Pray for the grace to serve the Lord with gladness and nurture my plants with self-sacrificing, God-honoring care.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Introducing a New Blog

I have started a new blog for my sons called "The Write Brothers." If you read my blog often, you know them as BT and Bruster, but starting today, their online monikers will be Orville and Wilber.

Click here to visit their blog and read their first post. I have also posted a link in my sidebar under "My Olive Plants' Blog." They will appreciate your visit.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

100th Post: A New Name

When I started blogging last year, I just could not think of a fitting name. I chose Home School Dawn thinking "well, my blog will be about home and about school and I'm Dawn, so there you go". I just have not felt settled with that name, though. It is so hum-drum and has bugged me to no end. So a couple of months ago, I sat down and started brainstorming.

I knew I wanted a name rooted in scripture. I also wanted something that reflects my family's vision for homeschooling. The Lord brought to mind Psalm 128.

Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.

For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.

The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel.

I think it is such a beautiful image... a God-fearing, hard-working man who eats the labour of his hands. His wife is a fruitful vine, growing, bearing good fruit, bringing life and beauty to his home, and his children, the olive plants, springing up from the healthy, fertile soil of parents blessed by God. Spurgeon wrote of Psalm 128 in his Treasury of David, "Here we have the vine and the olive blended—joy from the fruitful wife, and solid comfort from the growing family; these are the choicest products earth can yield: our families are gardens of the Lord."

So, allow me to reveal my new name... drum roll, please...

Olive Plants by Homeschool Dawn.

With it, I have added a new Vision Statement to my sidebar.

Obedience to Christ

Love for God and neighbor

Ingenuity at home

Visionary parenting

Experiential learning

This is our family's hope for our homeschool. We desire for our home to be a place where father, mother and children learn obedience and love—where we, the parents, invest our talents in the nurturing of our offspring, seeing them as our primary disciples—where our children learn to invest their talents in God's Kingdom—where learning occurs as a regular, everyday part of life.

I hope you enjoy the new name, the new look and the new expression of an old vision. Join me each week as I share from our garden.

*images from Google images