Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Piano mailbox

Here is an excerpt from Sarah's journal that I wrote three years ago, when she had just turned three:

March 31, 2007  I discovered last night that the piano keys were really stiff and hard to push down.  Mike said it's so old it probably has rigormortis.  We took it apart and discovered a stash of paper, books, pennies, envelopes, stickers, etc.  It had Sarah written all over it.  It must have been recent, because there were some library books in there that aren't due yet. We NEVER would have found those.  I didn't accuse Sarah, because I wasn't completely sure, but it didn't take long before I caught her red-handed, stuffing a piece of torn paper "in the mail slot". 

For the past few weeks, every time I played the piano, I noticed that when I pushed the E, then the F and G keys would go down as well.   I had forgotten about Sarah's using the piano as a mailbox, but asked Mike to take apart the piano and see if he could find the problem.  

 Hoping for an easy fix, he started by just opening the top.  The kids are always interested in seeing the inner workings of things, so they gathered around and peered inside.

 Of course, it wasn't an easy fix, so he had to take off the front.  The adults searched all over and couldn't find any problems. Then Noah said, "There's a pen in there!" and sure enough, a pen was wedged deep in the innards of the piano.  It must have been there for three years and finally worked itself into a bothersome position.  

 It took a few tools and a lot of maneuvering, but we were finally able to remove the obstruction.  A CEFCU pen, no less. Mike and I are always commenting about how those things are everywhere, but we never expected to find one buried inside our piano!  Those pens are tough.  Although it's not very pretty anymore, it still works.

The big clean-up

Yesterday I did practically nothing.  Today I paid.
Usually I make my kids work like any regular slave-driving parent.  But once in awhile I try to make it fun and rewarding for them.  Today I got the mail while they were in the tub (because they had gotten muddy AGAIN), and there was something for them in the mailbox.  My wonderful in-laws gave Noah and Sarah a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine.  In the mailbox was an inflatable globe from National Geographic.  That's what inspired me to make a chore treasure hunt.

The muddy door before and after.
The kids were unusually cheerful about doing the work!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It often seems to me that, even though I'm constantly busy, I don't really achieve anything.  I look around at the end of the day and see that everything I've done has been undone or needs doing again already.  Sometimes it's a little hopeless.

Today I had the flu and spent the day going between my bed and the bathroom, while the kids ran around unsupervised doing who knows what.  I'm not sure what they had for breakfast, but I know it at least involved bananas, so that's good. 

After a few hours, I shuffled out to the kitchen to get some water and noticed play clay all over the kitchen table, muddy footprints tracking from the back door to the bathroom, the answering machine flashing, dishwasher full, sink full of dishes, back door propped open, CD player on, dirty clothes in the garage, crumbs everywhere.  I couldn't muster up the energy to care, so I went back to bed.

As I was lying there in misery, it occurred to me that I really do accomplish things around here, things that no one would ever notice unless I stopped doing them.  Thankfully, I married a wonderful man who appreciates and respects me (even when I wear pajamas all day), doesn't expect too much from me, and pretty well got things back in shape when he got home. 

Little girl conversations

I took Sarah to the park to play, and she immediately honed in on a little girl swinging.  Sarah started swinging next to her, and I sat on a bench behind them to listen to their conversation:

Sarah:  Hi! I'm Sarah. I'm 6.
Girl: Oh. I'm only 5.
Sarah: Well I used to be 5.  I've only been 6 for...not very many days.
G: My room is green with stickers.
S: Cool!  My room is pink.
G: I love pink!
S: Me too!  Love love love it!
G: My brother is 16.
S: My brother is 8.  His name's Noah, and he just has a brown room.  My mom's right back there.  Hi, Mom!
[I gave her a wave]
G: I don't like pink.
S: I don't either!

The conversation went on for a long time, and I wish I could remember the rest.  I remember a lot of meaningless jabber that neither of them understood, but it didn't seem to bother either of them.  The girl was telling Sarah about a movie that Sarah had never seen, and then Sarah was telling the girl about a book that she didn't seem to recognize, but they just went right on talking. 


Noah has been interested in Guinness records, so I was showing him a picture of the largest ball of plastic wrap.  He read the caption about how it weighed 281 pounds and was equivalent to 360 regular rolls of plastic wrap.  He said, "Hey, I know how I can get into the Guinness book!  Just buy 361 rolls of plastic wrap and make them into a ball!"

Bacon hallucination

I went in to Sarah's room when she first woke up in the morning.  As usual, I had nothing with me, but she peered at my hand and said, "What's in your hand...bacon?"  I told her there was nothing in my hand, and she said, "My eyes are a little foggy from sleeping."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paying it forward

Chilly, windy, rainy days always make me want to make soup.  I thought today might be one of my last opportunities until fall, so I got out the soup pot. The kids also like making soup, and they wanted to help. Sometimes they actually do help (Sarah makes the trip to the basement to get onions and potatoes; Noah peels the potatoes like a professional; Sarah washes the vegetables), but overall, their "help" takes twice as long and makes at least twice the mess as just doing it myself.  Also, a jail cell is twice the width of my kitchen, so adding kids and their stepstools in the kitchen leaves zero room for me to maneuver.  But I want them to know how to cook, and some good math and science lessons always happen in the kitchen, so I just start early, muster up all the patience I can, and keep a sink full of soapy water.

Sarah wanted to chop the carrots, and of course she wanted to use my favorite knife, so I used the inferior knife to chop the onions while she did the carrots.  I explained to her that all the carrot pieces needed to be roughly the same size, or else the little ones would turn to mush while the big ones were still hard.  She said, "OK, Mom" and proceeded to cut some chunks that were two inches long and some tiny little shavings.  It took me way longer to even them out than it would have if I had just chopped them myself from the beginning.

Noah wanted to chop the potatoes with my best knife, so I gave it to him while I used the inferior one to chop celery.  I gave him the same lesson about chopping equal, bite-sized chunks.  He is older, has had more practice, and is a much better listener, so I didn't even supervise him as he chopped all the potatoes and dumped them into the pot with all the other vegetables.

Sarah wanted something to do, so just to keep her busy, I told her to add some water to the pot and stir it.  I looked in the pot and saw huge chunks of potatoes swirling around with pea-sized potatoes.  I spent a long time fishing out the big chunks and paring them down to a manageable size.  I took a step and felt vegetables crunch under my feet.  I looked down and saw that there was more food on the floor than in the pot.

Despite my patience-mustering, I was annoyed by all the extra time, effort, and mess.  I thought, "I've been training these people for so many years, and I'm not seeing a lot of progress.  By the time they're more of a help than a hindrance, they'll be ready to leave and start their own families."  That's when it occurred to me that raising children is all about paying it forward.  You teach and train, plant and sow, all for someone else to eventually reap the harvest.  Then I realized that I'm reaping the benefits of my in-laws' training, because they raised my husband to be a fine man.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Bosses

Conversation on the way home from ballet:

Noah: When we get home, I'm going to be Anakin Skywalker. Sarah, you can be Princess Leia.
Sarah: No, I'm going to be Jessica (from Electric Company).
N: OK, you can be Jessica, and I'll be Anakin.
S: No, you have to be someone from Electric Company.  You be Hector.
N: OK, I'll be Hector, but I get to be the boss.
S: No, I'm the boss.
N: You can't get everything!  Either we're Star Wars characters and you're the boss, or we're Electric Company characters and I'm the boss. That's called compromise.
S: I'm Jessica. You're Hector. I'm the boss.
N: OK, we'll both be bosses!
S: No. There can only be one boss.
N: No, there can be two.  Like Mom and Dad are both bosses of us.
S: No, Dad's the boss.
N: I know, but when Dad's gone, Mom's the boss.  See?  Two bosses.
S: And when Mom and Dad are both gone, you're the boss. 
N: Mom, can you go somewhere so I can be the boss? 

I think I'll go to Hawaii and leave them to boss each other around to infinity. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Healthy lemonade

I made lemonade for Sarah's birthday party, and we have some left.  The kids wanted some at lunch, so I gave them each a small glass of it.  When Noah asked to be excused, I asked him if he had eaten any apple slices, and he said, "No, but I ate a lot of carrots, and I had lemonade, so that's my fruit and vegetables right there."  I informed him that there was no actual lemon in the lemonade, just lemon flavoring and sugar and no nutritional value at all.  He said, "How do they make the lemon flavoring?"  That gave me pause.  I have no idea how it's made, nor have I ever cared.  I ended up telling him that I doubted there was any actual lemon involved, and even if there was, it certainly wouldn't be enough to qualify as a serving of fruit. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pet Kindergarten


Sarah was teaching a kindergarten class consisting of her pets and blankets.

When Noah found out, he brought his pets to her school too.
In this picture, a guest teacher is teaching flight lessons.


One of the students was not paying attention during the lesson, so Teacher Sarah sent him to the corner.
(Hmm, where would she get such an idea?)  


After his time in the corner, Sarah sent Curl home with this note to his mother.


The teacher giving a lesson on letters (notice her own "K" is backwards).   

Recess time!


Nap time for the kindergarteners.  


Story time.


The gym teacher demonstrating a back bend...


...and helping a student do a back bend.

Full Circle

Shopping with the kids at Kroger.  Against my better judgment, I let Sarah push the cart.  It's not long before she rams it into the back of my ankles.  As I whirl around and snap at her, a memory suddenly flashes in my mind.  I was pushing the cart behind my mom in the grocery store, and I rammed it into the back of her ankles.  It was one of the few times that she snapped at me.  So I told my kids that story right there in Kroger, and they both said, "Really?  Grandma got mad?"  and Noah wanted to know more times when Grandma got mad.  I told them another tale involving a grocery store incident (which my mom wouldn't want me to post here), but there's one more that I'm keeping to myself, at least until they're teenagers.

kitchen injuries :(

I cut my finger AND burned my arm making dinner, if anyone cares.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Double criers

It's been several years since both of my kids have broken into hysterical crying at the same time.  I was downstairs when I heard a ruckus upstairs, followed by some screaming and yelling, and then both kids crying.  I met Noah on the stairs who sobbed out his version.  Apparently, Sarah had gone in his room and found where he had hidden her birthday present.  He freaked out and yelled at her to get out of his room.  He was upset because she ruined his surprise.  I went upstairs and found Sarah in a heap outside Noah's door, blubbering about how Noah was mean to her and hurt her feelings.  I took her in her room and explained to her why he was upset, and the crocodile tears dried up immediately. 


I was standing at the stove, stirring tapioca pudding and feeling discouraged.  I picked up the Homeschool Enrichment magazine on the counter next to me and asked God to use it to give me some encouragement.  The first thing I read was an article from the editors, talking about how there are seasons of homeschooling, just as there are seasons in nature. 

The author must have been peeking in my window when she wrote this:  "When homeschooling is difficult, God's mercies are new every morning.  When concepts aren't clicking, relationships are strained, and the character we're trying to develop in our children seems in short supply, God's compassions are fresh with the dawning of another day."  It's definitely been winter lately in this homeschool, but I'm thankful that God used that article to give me just the encouragement I needed to make it till spring.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My last week

If I knew I had only one week left to live, I would do all those things you're supposed to do (like make sure your family and friends know you love them, tell people about Jesus, etc.), but there's more.  I would eat bacon, and lots of it, every day.  And cheese, ice cream, all kinds of fried foods and sugary desserts.  I would also put on shorts and a tshirt and go outside with no sunscreen and just bask in the warmth of the sun on my skin. 
What would you do?

Monday, March 1, 2010

TV Fast

God has woken me up way too early the last several mornings, and I have tried to ignore Him and go back to sleep, which hasn't worked.  So when He woke me up again this morning, I finally asked Him what He wanted.  He immediately told me to fast from the TV today.  Not just me, but the kids too.  I argued with Him a little, but He was persistent, so I started developing a plan.

Our mornings usually begin with snuggling in the bed together, watching TV.  How would the kids react when I told them there would be no TV?  What would we do instead?  God was right (duh!).  We've been depending on the TV too much lately.  I started making a list of alternative activities, and I started actually looking forward to it.  But I had had awhile to wrap my mind around the idea.  The kids would be shocked and upset, I predicted, with no chance to get used to the thought.

Noah was the first one up, and he crawled into bed next to me and reached for the remote.  I said, "Oh, wait! We're going to do something exciting today!"  When I told him about it, I was totally unprepared for his reaction: he smiled!  Then he said, "Can we just stare at the blank screen?"

A few minutes later, Sarah woke up and started heading for the TV.  When I broke the news to her, she yelled, "NO!", but I told her that it was God's idea and that you can't say no to God.  She said, "Can the boys play Wii?"  When I said no, she looked pleased and said, "Good."

We all ate breakfast together, which never happens, and I gave quiz questions from Noah's Star Wars book.  He was delighted that he did better than his dad.  Mike left for work, and we played dictionary detective.  I read a definition of a word from a children's dictionary, and they had to guess the word.  Then we played food charades, where one of us acted out eating a food, and the others had to guess which food it was.  That was kind of a flop, because Sarah just chewed and chewed, no other clues. Then she was mad that we couldn't figure out what she was pretending to eat.

We played Star Wars and Fetch for a long time, had a snack, had a peanut-shelling contest, folded laundry, looked for hidden pictures in a Highlights magazine, set up DVD cases and tried to shoot them down with Nerf darts, etc.  We had lunch (while discussing our favorite TV shows) and read books, and now it's quiet time.  After this, we have a Kroger and library trip planned.   The kids are handling it better than I thought.  Maybe we should continue it!