Friday, January 27, 2006

Update on Princess Crab-Apple

The crabby-baby syndrome disappeared with the outbreak of a rash on my sweet little girl's hairline, head, neck and tummy...she had roseola. She's better now!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Something all too Common

My heart has been heavy all day with the news that the boy shot in Florida by a police officer is now dead. I am the mother of a son and a daughter. There is no thought more terrible to me in this world than something happening to either of them, that they should lose their lives. My heart is broken for this boy's parents, whoever they are and whatever kind of parents they were.

Patrick Lafferty, a 15-year-old neighbor who has known Penley about six years, said he wasn't surprised by what happened. He said Penley was a loner who "told me he wanted to kill himself dozens of times."

"He would put his headphones on and walk up and down the street and he would work out a lot," preferring to keep to himself, Lafferty said.

Kelly Swofford, a family spokeswoman and neighbor of the boy's parents, said the boy had run away from home several times. Her 11-year-old son, Jeffery Swofford, said Penley had said he had something planned.

"He said 'I hope I die today because I don't really like my life,'" Jeffery Swofford said.


I have hopes and dreams for my children. I think every loving, normal parent does. However, my greatest, deepest, and most motivating desire for them both is that they know deep within their hearts that they are loved, first and foremost by God and secondly by us, and thirdly by each other. I want them to have such a strong sense of family that they would never feel the need to behave in this way or despair in such a way that they lose the desire to live.

It is so hard to write about this because I don't want to sound preachy or judgemental or freakishly reactionary. What I mean is that in no way am I making a statement about this boy or his parents and who they are or how they lived--I know nothing more than what I have seen in news reports. The facts are that a middle-school boy brought a pellet gun to school, wielded it at a cop, and now he is dead. I know nothing of his motives and nothing of his life except its end, but I have to ask myself, "what on earth could have prevented this?"

My head has been racing all day with past news reports and flashbacks of visuals that began with Columbine High School and incidents that continue even to this day. It's not like there is one school in this country that is impervious to this kind of thing--anywhere there is a school there will be bullies, loners, freaks and geeks, preps and jocks, in crowds and outcasts. There are experiences that children have in school that they never tell their parents, and they are harbored in the heart and carried for life. Schools are a world unto themselves, and no amount of PTA involvement can completely eradicate the weirdness of the situation--hundreds of children to handfuls of adults, and they are expected to thrive. Many do. I wonder, though, if any of them thrive without ever having an experience that they would gladly trade away if they could.

The more I learn about parenting and the more I pray for my children, the more I become convinced that these situations do not need to happen. I believe in a few principles of parenting that reach the heart of a child, and it is my prayer that by practicing these things, my son will never harbor hurts so deep in his heart that he hates his life. These principles are:
  1. Quantity of time spent with a child matters as much as the quality of time.
  2. Preventive maintenance in discipline is just as important as correcting wrong behaviors (see #1), and this can be done by listening, talking, praying, and playing together.
  3. A child needs to feel welcome and at home in his own house. If there are too many "no's" and not enough acceptance of who he is and what he likes to do, he will want to be elsewhere.
  4. Gender roles are important and should be modeled by a child's parents to the greatest extent possible, not a substitute.
  5. Kindness in a home must prevail. Where there is unkindness, bitterness develops.
I realize that many, many children do not have homes that can even begin to embrace all, or even some of these ideals. Thus it becomes our mission to teach others at every opportunity, by word and more importantly, by example, how to be for our children what they need. Otherwise, children being shot in school will continue to be something common, though I doubt we'll ever get used to it.

When it Rains the Cat's Away...

And the day that Daddy leaves for a business trip, all the tea in China hits the proverbial fan.

wait...I'm tired.

Tuesday, before he left, husband was in a car accident.
Wednesday we made a major purchase (cost more than $1000 and required more than one male to bring the thing home)
Thursday we had a hearing over a silly lawsuit.
Friday husband left for the opposite coast.
Friday Mom decides to take children to the museum to divert our attention from Daddy's absence. Boy catches stomach virus and throws up on the capital mall in D.C.
Mommy tends to boy for three days.
Baby girl starts teething (OR SOMETHING! I'm still not sure why she's been so crabby) and cries for the better part of four days and won't sleep.
Long-anticipated play date gets cancelled.
Baby is still crabby--won't sleep. Mommy doesn't sleep as a result.
Five days later Husband comes home. Baby falls asleep on his shoulder and goes to bed without a peep. Boy sleeps happily in his own bed. Dinner is served and cleaned up and put away.
Mommy has a beer.
Mommy is going to bed.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My heart has been heavy all day with the news that the boy shot in Florida by a police officer is now dead. I am the mother of a son and a daughter. There is no thought more terrible to me in this world than something happening to either of them, that they should lose their lives. My heart is broken for this boy's parents, whoever they are and whatever kind of parents they were.

Patrick Lafferty, a 15-year-old neighbor who has known Penley about six years, said he wasn't surprised by what happened. He said Penley was a loner who "told me he wanted to kill himself dozens of times."

"He would put his headphones on and walk up and down the street and he would work out a lot," preferring to keep to himself, Lafferty said.

Kelly Swofford, a family spokeswoman and neighbor of the boy's parents, said the boy had run away from home several times. Her 11-year-old son, Jeffery Swofford, said Penley had said he had something planned.

"He said 'I hope I die today because I don't really like my life,'" Jeffery Swofford said.


I have hopes and dreams for my children. I think every loving, normal parent does. However, my greatest, deepest, and most motivating desire for them both is that they know deep within their hearts that they are loved, first and foremost by God and secondly by us, and thirdly by each other. I want them to have such a strong sense of family that they would never feel the need to behave in this way or despair in such a way that they lose the desire to live.

It is so hard to write about this because I don't want to sound preachy or judgemental or freakishly reactionary. What I mean is that in no way am I making a statement about this boy or his parents and who they are or how they lived--I know nothing more than what I have seen in news reports. The facts are that a middle-school boy brought a pellet gun to school, wielded it at a cop, and now he is dead. I know nothing of his motives and nothing of his life except its end, but I have to ask myself, "what on earth could have prevented this?"

My head has been racing all day with past news reports and flashbacks of visuals that began with Columbine High School and incidents that continue even to this day. It's not like there is one school in this country that is impervious to this kind of thing--anywhere there is a school there will be bullies, loners, freaks and geeks, preps and jocks, in crowds and outcasts. There are experiences that children have in school that they never tell their parents, and they are harbored in the heart and carried for life. Schools are a world unto themselves, and no amount of PTA involvement can completely eradicate the weirdness of the situation--hundreds of children to handfuls of adults, and they are expected to thrive. Many do. I wonder, though, if any of them thrive without ever having an experience that they would gladly trade away if they could.

The more I learn about parenting and the more I pray for my children, the more I become convinced that these situations do not need to happen. I believe in a few principles of parenting that reach the heart of a child, and it is my prayer that by practicing these things, my son will never harbor hurts so deep in his heart that he hates his life. These principles are:
  1. Quantity of time spent with a child matters as much as the quality of time.
  2. Preventive maintenance in discipline is just as important as correcting wrong behaviors (see #1), and this can be done by listening, talking, praying, and playing together.
  3. A child needs to feel welcome and at home in his own house. If there are too many "no's" and not enough acceptance of who he is and what he likes to do, he will want to be elsewhere.
  4. Gender roles are important and should be modeled by a child's parents to the greatest extent possible, not a substitute.
  5. Kindness in a home must prevail. Where there is unkindness, bitterness develops.
I realize that many, many children do not have homes that can even begin to embrace all, or even some of these ideals. Thus it becomes our mission to teach others at every opportunity, by word and more importantly, by example, how to be for our children what they need. Otherwise, children being shot in school will continue to be something common, though I doubt we'll ever get used to it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dumber than Taxes

There's been a lot of buzz about John Stossel's Stupid in America report in the blogosphere. I have read the article, but I didn't see the program, because we don't have any t.v. reception anymore. Even so, my husband and I were discussing this very issue just the other night. We figured that, with the $6,000-8,000 of our tax monies that are spent on each individual student in the public schools (and sometimes more if that school needs "help" raising test scores and what-not) they should be virtual geniuses. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I COULD DO WITH $6,000????!!! Books, field trips, computer programs, music and art lessons, sports activities...The fact is that I pay my taxes for someone else to get all of these things and then will probably spend that much and more for my own child's education, as well, just as if I were paying private school tuition.

The NEA vehemently opposes school vouchers and competition. Why? They might actually have to work a little harder, or consider their students' real needs...freedom of choice, for starters.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Entering Narnia, Part 2

It was to my delirious delight that my son was eager to read The Chronicles, but what's more, he craves them.

The actual wardrobe that is said to to have inspired the story that C.S. Lewis wrote is housed in a special collection at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. When I told him that I had seen the real wardrobe, he said without hesitation, "Oh Mommy I want to go there!" I cannot wait to take him!

I never believed in Santa, and no TV show has ever had the impact on me that The Chronicles of Narnia had as a child. I can believe in Narnia. It is so real, and so tangible, and no one has ever proven that it doesn't exist. I still believe in it, actually. The grave disappointment for me however, came the day I reached into that wardrobe and knocked on the back of it and felt--a wood panel back...no pine trees, no soft glow from the lamp post. The professor did say that it would not be through the wardrobe that the children would find Narnia again, so what did I expect, really? Even so, the sign on the door is rightly posted, "please do not climb into the wardrobe." It is a strange, magical pull that one feels to hide in there and close the door, but not all the way. It's a foolish thing to close oneself up in a wardrobe, as all the Pevensies remembered except for Edmund...

Unschooling? Classical? Charlotte Mason?

I found this Carnival of Unschooling while checking my favorite blog. It answers a lot of questions about unschooling from people who actually practice it. I always believed it to be the sort of thing that people only talked about, but didn't actually do. I only ever met one person who really used an uschooling approach, but I thought, "she doesn't count--she's weird, she's a braggart, and I don't like her." Okay, I admit, it's a terrible thought, but it was a strong first impression that I was getting, and I never saw the woman again, so it's just that--a first impression. I'm sure she's a fine person.

I hope to avoid any kind of classification in our home-centered education journey. I think I'm a classical educator, but also I subscribe to the Charlotte Mason philosphy, and strangely, I find myself to be a bit of an unschooler at the same time. My son is only four, and my daughter is a dear, tiny, innocent eight months (today in fact!) with not a hint of knowledge about what Mommy and Daddy have in store for her (just you wait little girl...it's going to be amazing!).

I had no idea that "preschool" with my four-year-old would turn out to be part kindergarten, part Narnia, part Star Wars (we battle with light sabers on a regular basis--I'm learning some pretty amazing moves--and sound effects!), and part--but mostly--hugging and kissing and cooking and eating and bathing and visiting and playing.

How then can I say that from one year to the next I'm going to follow this-or-that curriculum or system? How can I determine from one year to the next what we'll want, need, or even be interested in? I can't deny that Disney is partly responsible for my reinvigorated interest and delight in Narnia. Who knows what the Olympics will bring about? Or the next election? I'm going to keep my options open and take it year by year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Entering Narnia with a Four Year Old Boy

I have to admit that I was both thrilled and disappointed when I learned that a movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia was to be made. I couldn't wait to see it, but was dreading the desecration of what is a perfectly constructed work of art in its own right. My husband and I went to see it, and other than being too close to the screen in the sold-out theatre, we enjoyed the movie very much. I was pleasantly suprised. I won't spoil it for you but I will say this much:

It was beautifully done.

I wouldn't take my son to see it until he's a little older--maybe 7 or 8 (He's 4 now).

I decided to refresh my own memory of the stories that I read first as a girl of about 9 or 10, and then again later on as an adult. I think I've read the whole series three times, not including this reading. I started reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to my son, not knowing if he would be able to listen that much. I now feel guilty for underestimating him. He absolutely loved it. At different points in the story he actually got so scared (in a good way) that he would jump and hide behind me, or start jumping around with relief at the outcome of and exciting moment.

At the conclusion of that story, he was practically begging me to start Prince Caspian immediately. We are now reading that, and he would have me read it at every free moment.

I decided to help his listening comprehension with a project, and we started it yesterday. He is enthusiastically making a picture book of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

It's an easy project. You can put absolutely anything in the book--we cut out winter scenes, pictures of coats, and a beautiful spring landscape picture from catalogs and magazines. Then I "Googled" whatever I wanted a coloring sheet of. For instance, I typed in "faun coloring sheets" and wham-o! I had my choice of coloring pages of fauns. We are now coloring the pictures of all of the different characters that we printed out--a lion of course, a faun, a minotaur, a centaur (he's especially interested in the armies), beavers, a castle that can be Cair Paravel, and we'll probably cut out photos of boys and girls from magazines to be the children. He will then tell me the story in his own words and I'll write it down just as he tells me, and we'll put the pictures and story together.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Things of Which I am Convinced

God is good. When I say this, I don’t mean it in a trite, fluffy way. I mean it in my bones. He is so all-emcompassing and complete, that I am convinced of my dependence on Him for my very next breath.

Sleep is essential. For every member—from the toughest, most enduring Daddy to the little baby who can’t eat her dinner because she missed her nap and is too fussy. Sleep is a gift from God and if we neglect it, we cannot function at the fullest capacity of usefulness for His kingdom. At the times we need to miss sleep for extentuating circumstances, we are afforded the opportunity to rely more heavily on God’s grace and strength.

Food is deeper than mere sustenance. Family meals centered on homecooked favorites and fun experimental failures are the heart of bonding, and every member should participate as often as possible. A great deal of corporate laughter happens around our table, as do many frustrating moments fraught with fidgeting bodies, messy slops and noisy chewing, but we’re together, and we work it all out together. This is where manners are taught and conversation is mastered. If home is where the heart is, then the heart is where dinner is served.

TV is very unnecessary. Completely unnecessary, in fact. Life is full enough, so why waste it watching other people whose lives are mostly trainwrecks?

Friends and companions are necessary. They must be chosen carefully. Then once chosen they must not be neglected, but tended to carefully, like a garden.

Children are a gift. Wondeful, sweet, tender, and innocent, they remind us of our own beginnings and carry us through to our ends. Above all, they turn our eyes to our own Heavenly Father to remind us that He is good, and that we need him more than anything.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Teaching a Bird to Read

Have you ever watched a bird for any period of time? Ever notice how they don't hold still even for a moment? Something is always twitching, their heads are constantly looking this way, then that.

That is what it is like to teach a four-year-old boy to read. He is ready. He knows all his sounds and all of his letters, and makes up his own reading games and letter hunts. He wants to read and tries...but when the time comes to sit down and do a lesson (we're doing Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons)I feel as if I have a bird sitting beside me, and it is my job to get that bird to focus on the page of the book for more than one second at a time.

If the bird were a chicken, I think I would have wrung its neck and had it for dinner by now, but since it is a lovely bird, and something I cherish tremendously, I think I'll try to teach it to read.