Saturday, March 24, 2012

53. " Words that aren’t seasoned with grace, don’t make souls stronger."

Bubbe, you started karate in June of 2011. You have always been open to trying new sports and Sweet Daddy and I thought it would be a good addition to our summer. We signed you up for the six week summer class.

You loved it.

Sweet Daddy loved it for you.

And, now here we are - many months later. This week you took your belt test for your purple belt.

During your belt test, Master Long tests both physical abilities and character traits.

He listens for you to say "yes, sir" or "no, sir" when you are spoken to. He watches to see if you follow directions.

He also shares wisdom.

I was thinking this week how when he shares his wisdom, it comes from a place of grace.

Master Long focuses on the positive. He shares that you must have a positive mental attitude and attention to detail in order to be successful.

I like those two traits he's chosen to focus on lately. The first is one that Sweet Daddy and I have been really working with you on.

The second happens to be one of your natural gifts.

Remember as you get older, to share your wisdom with others in the same manner that Master Long shares his with you. From a place of love and concern.

Words seasoned with grace.

52. "Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world."

Dancing is moving to the music without stepping on anyone's toes, pretty much the same as life.  ~Robert Brault

  You, my Pumpkin, know how to dress for a party.

You picked out your dress, shoes, and accessories WEEKS before this party. In fact, you chose them the day you got the invitation. 

You chose those high heel red shoes. 

Not because they matched.

Not because they were comfortable (which is how I choose my shoes).

But, no. 

You chose them because you loved them. 

You wore them with great pride, with a huge smile across your face. 

There's something about your favorite pair of shoes. 

Mine, currently, are a grey pair of converse tennis shoes. I smile everytime I wear them. I love them.

For me, they bring back memories. I had the same pair of tennis shoes in the 8th grade. They remind me of friends that have come and gone. They remind me of the day I bought them - on the same trip as we bought Bubbe's most interesting cowboy/motorcycle boots complete with chains. 

This picture makes me smile because as soon as Cinderella began to dance with the prince at the ball - you all stood up and danced with your baby dolls.

I can assure you that there wasn't a mother in the room who wasn't thinking there aren't many more years before you will be dancing with your prince at your own wedding. 

But for now, my dear princess, dance away with your sweet dolls.

And never quit dancing with your daddy.

For with the right shoes, you can dance anywhere! 

51. Surround yourself with smart people.

We should not only use the brains we have, but all that we can borrow.  ~Woodrow Wilson

I look at this picture, taken in our classroom, and smile. 

You are working hard at your spelling - using your magnetic tiles to spell new words. I like to watch you as you carefully decide which sounds make up a new word. 

We established long ago that you are my thinker boy. One of my favorite stories was one afternoon we were in your room, doing one of the many decluttering clean outs that occur in your room.

Bubbe: "Mommy - We could divide my toys into boxes. And put pictures on those boxes of what is inside. Then, I could clean up my toys and keep them all organized."

Me: "What a great idea. I'll get you some boxes and you can get started."

Bubbe: "Mommy - I'm really more of a thinker boy, not a doer boy. I like to come up with the good ideas, not actually do them."

I try to nurture your natural curiosity. We make weekly trips to the library so you can get books on whatever the phase of the week is. This week - it's lego ideas books. You are fascinated with all the people that have written ideas for making things with legos. A few months ago, it was baseball. 

As you grow older, and begin to choose your friends more independently from me, I hope you choose thinker boys and girls.

If you ever want to get anything done, or go anywhere, perhaps include at least one doer boy or girl too!

50. Don't be afraid to strike out.


Don't forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball.  ~Woodie Held

Today you came up to bat twice, and you struck out twice.

You were massively disappointed.

So much so that it almost ruined the game for you. You became grumpy and unpleasant. I had to remind you that you are allowed to be disappointed, and disappointed in yourself, however, you are not allowed to infringe on other people's good day in the process. You are part of a team - and even after you hit, you still have to play the field.

You see Bubbe, you can't hit a ball if you aren't willing to strike out. To hit a ball, you have to swing. You wait for the right pitch, but you have to swing. 

Babe Ruth struck out twice as many times as he hit home runs. TWICE as many! 

What made Babe Ruth a great hitter? He wasn't afraid of striking out. He wasn't afraid of trying.

I'm learning that much of baseball is like life. Some say the sin of of not doing is the largest sin of all. Not giving your best. Not using your talents and gifts to glorify God. The sin of not trying. 

God expects us to do our best - to give our best, in all we do, every day. And to do so with a joyful spirit. To be thankful that you are healthy and you can play baseball. To be grateful for a coach who dedicates his time to teach you and coach you. To be humbled that so many love you and come out to see you play. 

Sweet Daddy and I want you to be a good ball player. To us, that doesn't mean that you hit every time you come up to bat, or perfectly execute every play in the field. It means you are a coachable kid. A likeable kid. A kid who is grateful for the opportunity to play, and enjoys playing. A kid who lets his light shine even on the baseball field. Especially on the baseball field.

Don't be afraid to strike out. 

Some of those swings will be hits! 


49. Always wear a helmet. Bike helmet. Batting helmet. Catcher's helmet. Helmets. Good stuff.


When they start the game, they don't yell, "Work ball." They say, "Play ball." ~Willie Stargell, 1981

Last fall you moved up to 7 - 8 baseball. In 7 - 8 baseball, you have a kid catcher and a kid pitcher. As you soon as you heard that kids could be catchers - you wanted to be catcher!

You envisioned being the next Brian McCann.

I think you look so cute in all your catcher's gear - so grown.

There is very little of you that I can see when you have all that gear on, but I love it! I sit right behind home plate in every game - so I can have the best view of you.

When you first started playing catcher, you wanted to pop up and throw that catcher's helmet off every time a ball was hit. Sweet Daddy and I convinced you that, for now, you need to keep that helmet on. At 7 to 8, kids are often a tad crazy with the bat or with their throws.

For you see, sweet Bubbe, I'm just a tad attached to that sweet head of yours.

I can remember the day you were born - all 9 pounds 9 ounces of you. I can remember Dr. Lowman delivering your head and hearing you cry. I can remember asking "do we have a boy or a girl?" and her answering "we're not sure yet." For you, my sweet son, were a big baby.

In delivering your shoulders, and thus the rest of you, you broke your collarbone. You were were that big!

Still pushing the 100th percentile each time I take you to the doctor, I'm reminded - you were never small for your age. Even as a newborn.

So, sweet Bubbe, for me, and for you, always wear a helmet.

Biking helmets. Batting helmets. Catcher's helmet.

All good stuff.

Friday, March 23, 2012

48. Let your light shine so that others may see the good that you do and praise your father in Heaven. Matthew 5:16

Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?
Benjamin Franklin

For weeks you researched Louisa May Alcott. You read everything she wrote that we could find. You read everything the library had to offer that was written about her - from biographies to diaries. We watched Little Women and Little Men after you completed the books.

You were fascinated - with this woman who, "in a time when women were to be seen and not heard, gave women a voice." 

Today, I share your final paper - I am so PROUD of you - proud of not only the writer you have become, but the the poise and character with which you presented this paper. 

Inspired Voices
            Women of the 1800s had very few rights. They were expected to be seen, not heard. Their main purpose was to do housework. Louisa May Alcott’s family lived during the time of the Civil War. This was a time of great unrest in our country. The Alcott family was against slavery. They felt that all people should be allowed to live freely and be educated. In addition to advocating for rights for African Americans, Louisa May Alcott also felt that women should have the same rights as men. In a time where women could not even vote, Louisa May Alcott gave women a voice. She inspired women everywhere to tell their story by becoming writers.
Louisa May Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on November 29, 1832 to Bronson and Abigail May Alcott. She was very lively even as a baby.  She loved to be on the go, which is a good thing since the Alcott family moved 29 times during the first 28 years of her life. Louisa May Alcott was very generous. One of her most memorable lessons was during her fourth birthday party where she was allowed to pass out the little plum cakes she made for the party. She knew if she took one for herself, one of the other children would not get one. So, she unselfishly gave one to her friend as she was taught to always be giving. Louisa May Alcott also was very creative. As a child she enjoyed sewing and reading. She loved to play with the books in her father’s study – building forts, pretending to read until she learned how, or scribbling on blank pages. Curiously, she often got lost in the adventures and scenes from her favorite poems and stories such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Louisa May Alcott was not all flowers and lace for she was a tomboy at heart. "No boy could be my friend till I had beaten him in a race," she claimed, "and no girl if she refused to climb trees.”
            Education was very important to the Alcott family. Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson, who was a philosopher and a teacher, taught his children the importance of equality for everyone and unlike many in his time believed that slavery was wrong. He felt all people should be allowed to be educated. One of her father’s favorite texts that he typically read to her was Pilgrim’s Progress.  Alcott was homeschooled by her father focusing largely on reading and writing. He introduced her to a new range of wonderful authors. As a young adult, she moved by herself to Boston to try to find work. Almost as soon as she found her first job, her sister, Beth, got very sick. She rushed home to be with her sister as soon she got the news. Shortly after she got there, Beth died. During this time, the Civil War began, and she found work as a nurse. Unfortunately, her career as a nurse was short as she became sick and had to return home. This was a sad time for the patients for they loved her very much.
While Louisa May Alcott, who was very loving, enjoyed her family, she also liked to be alone. She placed her desk by the window so she could look out into the garden as she wrote. She loved to write, but she had no idea that she would eventually write a famous novel. Alcott enjoyed writing. She created brilliant dramas that she and her sisters would act out for friends and family. She incorporated writing into all aspects of her life. While she was nurse, she wrote Hospital Sketches about her times in the hospital so that the people who read them would know of the happy times. During her days as a teacher, she wrote Flower Fables which she read to one of her students to entertain her. As her father was working, he found one of her Flower Fables. Joyfully, he sent it to a publisher who later published it. This was the beginning of her career. She would later write one of her most famous works, Little Women, which is about her childhood. Throughout her career, she published over 30 books and short story collections.
People were very curious about whether the story of Little Women was true or a work of fiction. Louisa May Alcott was invited to speak at many events, including schools. Children were specifically interested in the more silly elements of the story such as the lively pillow fights between the sisters and their father. She received many letters from adults and children alike, curious about the details of the story. Louisa May Alcott, who diligently answered the letters, assured her readers that most of the things she wrote about were true. Her stories were easy to relate to as people could feel emotions from the sadness of Beth’s death to the joy of Meg’s marriage. Louisa May Alcott had always generously dreamed of making her family feel comfortable by being able to provide for them by earning money through writing. She was able to provide them with luxuries that gave her great joy. Through time, the story of Little Women is enjoyed everywhere as a timeless classic because it is about a real family. Amazingly even today, readers can still relate to the themes of the story.
Once you are inspired, you can do anything. Some say writers are born not made, but once the magnificent Louisa May Alcott was inspired in her writing, she could have done anything. Ultimately, her education and loyalty to family and friends helped her get the inspiration she needed to write Little Women. She could have written fantastic fairytales or adventure stories, science fiction or nonfiction. You can write too, once you are inspired.

47. If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.

I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Homeschooling the two of you has been the grandest adventure of my life so far.

Funny how God prepares you for these paths. For these paths that you never think you will be walking.

I started out a pre-law major - I really wanted to be a lawyer. I took classes toward that goal for my first two years of college - and then, it just didn't sit right. I have loved to teach since I was in elementary school - lining up all my dolls for daily classes. 

So, I changed my major to education. I majored in middle grades education. Throughout college I worked as a nanny - helping other people raise their children. From those experiences I learned about balancing - the value of hearing someone's first word or seeing their first step. It was those experiences that led me to wanting to stay home with the two of you during your early years. 

My first teaching job was in an elementary school teaching 6th grade. I also worked in the after school program supervising children from pre-k to 6th grade every afternoon. These afternoons taught me about teaching younger grades as I helped the children daily with their homework and remediation. 

We moved out to this rural area the year Sweet Daddy and I were married, and the following year Sweet Daddy and  I started teaching locally. We wanted to be a part of the school systems that future children of ours would attend. 

Then you, my dear Pumpkin, were born. I could never imagine being away from you. I literally held you for a year. And, no, I don't advise that! And after Pumpkin, came Bubbe. 

Then came years that were a blur - there were diapers, and crying, learning your alphabet, and crying, stroller rides and crying. Yes, there was a lot of crying those first few years. But also lots of joy. 

And, then God took us through many turns to get us to this homeschooling journey. 

I thought I would share with each of you what I wrote on July 20th, 2009 -  about hearing God laugh......

I love the old saying "If you wanna hear God laugh, tell Him your plans."

I love it, until it applies to me.

The 2009 - 2010 school year was going to be the year for ME. I was considering applying for a college position (would love to teach those remedial math classes....). M was going to be away at school all day again. X was going to kindergarten - four, four hour days - the most anyone has ever been away from home. I was retiring from in home childcare. My days were going to be filled with volunteering, answering my posts with a cup of hot tea in silence, walks with friends, did I mention silence?

In the spring, DH and I began to think about school decisions for the fall. While M had a great year in many aspects.....we just weren't sure that public school would be the right fit for her for second grade.

She had made great strides in first grade and had a great teacher.

One day as we were swimming in the pool (love SUMMER!), we had this conversation:

Me: "How did you like VBS today at church?"

M: "It was great."

Me: "What was your favorite part?"

M: "I LOVED the science experiments."

Me: "So is science your favorite subject at school?"

M: "It's going to be in 3rd grade when it is on the CRCT. That is when we get to do it a lot."


Perhaps if her mother had not written a 30+ page paper on the evils of standardized testing as her master's thesis - these comments might go unnoticed.

Throughout the summer as DH and I prayed about what decision to make for her this fall, she continued to make comments about how important the state standardized test is.

M: "X - when you are in first grade you are going to take the CRCT. You will learn a lot of math for it."

She also expressed concerns about going back to school. She was nervous.

As we were praying, and considering homeschooling her (as our checkbook only allows for free education), God kept throwing people in my path who home school. We met two families at a birthday, dined next to a homeschooling family at Moe's, learned about groups from a woman at scrapbooking, .......God is persistent.

We began to think about our family - its schedule, and what would be best for us as a whole. I realized that this summer we were so much calmer, connected.

For me, the biggest concern was how disconnected we had become from M during her year at public school. Her world was new place. I volunteered weekly, lunched often, attended any event that they would let me. I knew her world. I still felt disconnected - from my own little girl.

I kept thinking we would try public school one more year. Then, pull her before 3rd grade (a great testing year - two big tests in the same year).

God laughed.

and laughed.

and was persistent continually dropping those breadcrumbs.

My other big concern was that I wanted her to a regular kid - have a great childhood filled with all things make being a kid fun. If we chose to keep her home and educate her here, would she miss out on recess, lunch in the cafeteria, field day, father/daughter dances, yearbooks and more? Would we be choosing her education over her childhood?

I finally realized (thank you dear friends who listen to me ramble) that I was at peace with keeping her home, but not at peace with sending her to school next year. Hello .....there's your sign!

I also finally realized that she is more of a kid here at home than at school in a desk.

So, for now, we have decided that we will pray each year, about each child - and listen.

For this year, it means that M will be home schooled, and X will go to kindergarten at the church.

and for this year, I will *TRY* not to tell God my plans....and listen for His.

46. Search others for their virtues and yourself for your vices.

The friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.  ~Elbert Hubbard, The Notebook, 1927

I laugh every time I see this picture.

 You waited forever for this play date with your dear friend. You had grandiose plans that could have kept the two of you busy for a month!

What did you end up doing?

Science experiments.

I was so proud of you - you let your friend explore and try out your snap circuits kit. You gave suggestions and guidance but you didn't take over. 

We are really working on you being a good host - allowing your guest to make choices of what they want to do. 

We are also working on you rising and being the better person. Perhaps someone else doesn't play fair or plays differently than you are used to, then you don't over react. You rise, and remember it's about spending the time together not about what you are doing. 

Search others for their virtues and yourself for your vices.

45. Embrace your inner rockstar.

Music is what feelings sound like.  ~Author Unknown

This scene is a regular occurrence at our house.

Bubbe, I love how you tap those drumsticks above your head and count "one, two, one two three four" and then you start banging away.

Pumpkin, you sing with such deep expression.

Never be afraid to enjoy yourself because you worry about what others might think. I love that you both enjoy this activity regardless of who is at our house.

Embrace your inner rockstar.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

44. The best way to show thanks for a gift is to wear it. Even if you only wear it once.

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.  ~Oscar Wilde

I adore this photo - this is you, holding your newest cousin, Jordan. Jordan is just a few weeks old.

We had gone to Athens to have lunch with your Aunt Ashleigh for her big 3-0 birthday! Your Aunt Nikki joined us with her three children.

I was touched at how kind you were to those younger than you. You must have asked 10 times during lunch when it would be your turn to hold the baby! 

I also noticed that you have your new baseball shirt in this photo - a gift to you. 

When you get a gift that is clothing, the best way to say thank you is to wear it. And wear it so the person who  gave it to you can see it (either in person or in a picture!). It brings joy to the person who got the gift for you - and who knows you just mind end up liking it!

You happen to love this t-shirt, and would wear it daily if I could keep it clean!

43. When you give a gift, it's the card that matters. Write something that's worthy of keeping.

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.  ~Lord Byron

On our last morning, as pulled out to head toward home, you and Daddy went souvenir shopping. 

 You see - the two of you are so alike. You both look at everything all week. And throughout the week you change what you are "definitely going to buy" at least once daily. Most likely twice. And then, on our final morning - you are still not sure. You think you know - you do one last walk around the shopping area, and then decide.

This year, you both chose to build your own remote control cars at RideMakerz. The process was neat and you were both so excited to choose each step of the way. 

When I look at this picture though, what I remember is what happened when we got home.

This year we started making Sweet Daddy's lunches - as  a service to him. You and Pumpkin take turns. Whoever makes his lunch also makes him a short note, card or picture to brighten his day. 

That first day we made Sweet Daddy lunches - you drew a picture of you and Daddy playing with your new cars and wrote the sweetest note. 

Your cards are always funny - on that one you included Daddy saying "Xman Rocks!" 

Daddy and I treasure these momentos - when you give someone gift, always take the time to write a thoughtful note in their card. Years later when the item is gone - the card will remain.

42. You're never too old to have your picture taken with Mickey.

"The magic is as wide as a smile and as narrow as a wink, loud as laughter and quiet as a tear, tall as a tale and deep as emotion.   So strong, it can lift the spirit. So gentle, it can touch the heart.  It is the magic that begins the happily ever after."

This marks the 3rd time we have taken you two to Disney World.

The first trip, Bubbe was 4 and Pumpkin was 6.  On that trip, Pumpkin loved all the disney magic - wanted to meet every character, dance with every princess, and dine in the grandest of castles. Bubbe - not so much. The characters were a tad much and the long days made him one tired 4 year old!

On our second trip, just a year later at 5 and 7, Pumpkin was huge into the rides. Riding everything she was tall enough to get on. A few autographs here and there - for those characters she had not met before. Bubbe, it was finally his trip. With much excitement we waited in line to meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Cars characters, and the Fabulous 5.

On this trip, several years later at 7 and 9 (though closer to 8 and 10), we never opened an autograph book. No one wanted to wait in line to meet characters. On this, our last night at the Magic Kingdom, I persuaded you both to meet Mickey and Minnie with me - just this one. 

You both grumbled a complaint or two, but into the line we went. 

When it was our turn, you both happily went to have your picture taken.

For you see, my children, you are never too old to have your picture taken with Mickey.

You are never too old for the magic.

41. The best way to ruin an apology is with an explanation.

Never ruin an apology with an excuse.  ~Kimberly Johnson

While this picture is the end of a successful, fun ride -  when I look at it I remember the ride before this one.

When you and I rode Buzz Lightyear together. 

To say that you are competitive would understatement at best. 

I had scored more points than you - and you had an impressive tantrum. 

I explained to you that winning isn't everything - we had a good time on the ride, we enjoyed each other's company, we were blessed with this experience.

You said "sorry."

But you didn't stop there - "sorry - I was JUST."

Just making an excuse, trying to explain away your actions. That my dear child, is not an apology.

An apology is heartfelt - when you apologize, you are truly sorry and you change your behavior. You do not repeat the offense again. 

It is better to be simple - "I'm sorry." 

Leave it at that.

The best way to ruin an apology is with an explanation.