Dancing With the Voices

My writing, in many ways, is a Pandora’s Box. A padlocked time capsule, if you will, brim-full of temptation, obsession, and magic. A time capsule, because I’ve often argued with God, wondering why He’s gifted me with this burden now rather than fifteen years from now. By then, it surely would be a more convenient discovery, a more rewarding and less-guilt inducing one. Why now, as a busy wife and mother? Is it a test? To see if I’ll stay the course of wife and motherhood that to me, has always been the ultimate career choice?

 

I’ve struggled with this since May. My inner conflict rivals that of my novel’s heroine, yet would bore most readers to death. God’s given me a need to express myself by way of the written word, and for three months I expressed, bobbing and bubbling, swept away by one of the strongest currents of my life. The current of writing contemporary women’s fiction.

 

Last December, I gave into the impulse and the simmering story within became a 120,000 word novel. Five weeks of the most exciting chair-time I’m ever likely to have and I couldn’t stop! Another five weeks later, I had yet another 120,000 word novel—a sequel to the first. And during that same time period, I’d braked in the middle of novel #2 and got 5 chapters into the last of the series. Three books, three months swallowed by the madness.

 

It scared me into unplugging my creativity. My writing had become an addiction. Deep down, I realized I didn’t have the balance to support the pull of writing with the pull of the most important people of my life—my family. During it all, my husband couldn’t have been more supportive. He even got excited with me, helping me with the logistics of writing an apartment fire, drawing diagrams and brainstorming scenarios. And in this recent time of silence, I’ve almost felt his disappointment. He wants my dreams to come true, even more than I do.

 

Yet five months passed and here I am. A month ago, I started praying for wisdom. Praying for some critique partners. There’s nothing like knowing Someone is out there keeping you accountable. I started letting myself think about my book again. A few days ago, I happened upon two ladies who write such similar stuff to mine, who seem to have so much in common with me, and who want to form a critique group with me. And I’m feeling that familiar rush again.

 

Writing has added in so many ways to the prisms of my existence. It confirmed my belief that one is never too old to learn new things. I suddenly want to scale cliffs, hike mountains, and soar down a zip line. I not only want to see new places, I feel sure I will someday. A life of wishful thinking, of putting off dreams, has become a life not to be wasted. I’ve learned so much in researching for my storylines. The best part…I’ll never learn it all.

 

So today, I popped in the CD of Christian music that drove me as I wrote my first novel. It transported me to a hay loft, soft with white Christmas lights…sweetened with past heartache and present joy. The first scene of my book that really flowed as I discovered my voice.

 

I smell the snow-wet barn wood, and I know that the time is right. I can go back. I can get it right. Praise God.

For more of the very first ever Carnival of Christian Writers please visit Writer…Interrupted for the whole line-up…

Sunday School Every Day

This morning, my six year old revived an old activity, one that’s near and dear to my heart. You see, when she was a toddler, my oldest would play “Sunday School” with her. They’d read a Bible story together, sing Wee-Sing type songs, and do a craft. All on their own with no help from yours truly!

So today, six yo kept two and a half yo happy for over an hour doing the above. She chose to tell her about Jonah (her all time favorite Bible story), taught her some spontaneously made-up hand motions to “Who Did?” (Who did swallow Jonah…), and then got out the construction paper, scissors and stickers. Together, they created a collage of water, palm trees and a huge fish flap, behind which Jonah conveniently stood—in sand or inside the whale—your choice.

It got me to thinking of what a great activity this would be for any young children…to play “Sunday School” with their little siblings. For one thing, my oldest and I got a ton of uninterrupted schoolwork accomplished, and for another, this structured activity pretty much guarantees the promotion of Godly character in both the young instructor and their preschool students! 

As you know, we’ve a houseful of girls, but I was thinking this would be a great activity for those 4-6 year old boys out there also. Start them out young teaching God’s word to a (hopefully) willing audience and maybe it’ll enhance that Biblical leadership that God wants all males to exhibit in their families and churches.

A conversation yesterday really brings home the importance of instilling Godliness into young hearts. I shared with someone a bit of advice my dad had given me. He’d said, “When your mom and I are losing it mentally, read the Bible to us. Sing hymns to us.” Dad had good reason to bring this up.

In his last years, my grandpa suffered from Alzheimer’s. His recall of childhood was amazing, but he rarely recognized his own children. His confusion made the world an uncertain and baffling place.

But Grandpa could quote Psalm 1 word perfect, and his lifelong faith in the Lord never failed him. In the blur, he found solace in God. If that’s not amazing grace, then what is?

So keep that in mind as you train up your little ones. Grow them like that tree in Psalm 1:3,

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

You can’t start too young developing this kind of root system in your children. And when you’re the old one, seeing the world from your armchair, that strangely familiar adult (your child?) may be your main tie to that sanity that only comes from God.

 

 

Geography Fun

I shared a while back that my daughter has been studying up on the states. She loves this, and actually counted her words on the last state report,
Hawaii. Her tally~around 300! Here’s her self-determined method: She outlines the shape of the state and fills it in with colored pencils. Usually she illustrates the state bird and flower, and photocopies a couple of other pictures that spark her interest. Then she reads a couple books on the state and writes a report of all the interesting tidbits, history/scenery/famous peoples.

 

We’re in the process of transferring all these reports into a photo album…it’s been a great project for her, not only for art and geography but handwriting practice as well! Then the other day, my aunt forwarded a link to a highly addictive geography game for third graders…you drag and click the state names to their place on the map and have only a certain amount of time. It’s a blast, go check it out. (Yeah, you don’t have to be in third grade to enjoy it…) 

 

 Keep it fun!

Homeschoolers and Fourth Amendment Rights

You can read all about my personal take on it at MInTheGap. Even if you don’t homeschool, you should be up on your fourth amendment rights. Child Protective Services can be pretty aggressive from what I hear, threatening to take your children from an anonymous tip alone.

Imagine a ticked off neighbor out for revenge. Now imagine her anonymous tip resulting in a humiliating strip search of all your children for bruises. Uh-uh. Go read my article.

Homeschoolers and Fourth Amendment Rights. Use ’em or lose ’em.

Texas-style Lasagna and Mid-western Hospitality

In the two weeks following the birth of my second daughter, we were blessed every other day by friends bearing home-cooked meals. Out of these meals sprang two new family favorites: Smothered steaks and Texas-style Lasagna. Believe me, you cannot go wrong with this recipe. I’ve been asked for it time and again. Definite keeper. 

Why not make two and bless someone else in your circle of friendship?

Texas-style Lasagna

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef, browned with grease drained
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use garlic powder to taste)
  • 1 (1.25) oz pkg taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4 oz) can green chilies, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups small curd cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 12 flour tortillas (6″) torn into fourths (can also use corn tortillas)
  • 3.5-4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  1. In large skillet brown meat; drain and add seasonings, tomato sauce, tomatoes, and chilies; mix well. Simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Combine cottage cheese and eggs
  3. In a greased 9×13″ baking dish, layer half of meat sauce, half of tortillas, half of cottage cheese mixture and half of M.J. cheese.  Repeat layers.
  4. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Variation on Twice Baked Potatoes

What’s for supper? A question I often call and ask my big sis when toying with the possibilities. (See why I function so much better with meals in the freezer?) Last night I asked her her opinion of Sloppy Joes, and we both agreed: highly overrated. Yuck. I ended up making Pop-up Pizza…essentially an upside down pizza with the dough on top and cheese in the middle. Loved it!

Cream-cheese frosted cinnabuns are cooling on my counter currently. Nothing better on a frigid Sunday afternoon, or more guaranteed to ruin your appetite for supper…

So to keep it light, I’ve got potatoes baking in the oven. Once they’re roasted, I’ll halve them, brush on a mixture of melted butter/taco seasonings and sprinkle shredded Colby-Jack cheese on top. Back into the oven to sizzle and melt and then out to enjoy with fresh fruit and sweet rolls.

If you like this idea and want to go the whole she-bang rather than my “quick and easy version”, scoop out the potato “pulps” into a bowl, add a little sour cream, melted butter and flavor with a bit of taco seasonings (or bacon!). Beat it all together till smooth and refill the empty halved skins. Top with grated cheese and return to oven for ten minutes.

Did you know you could freeze twice baked potatoes? I have, with great success. Let the refilled potatoes cool, package them and freeze. When needed, stick the frozen potatoes into the preheated oven and bake. If I remember right, they only took around 25 minutes to heat up nicely, even from frozen.

What are you having for supper tonight?

Hysterectomy Support

In researching for one of my novels, I came upon this wonderful site: Hyster Sisters. What a great source of information and support not only for the woman undergoing the procedure, but also for her daughters, her husband and any other family member who wants to know what to expect and how best to help from the initial diagnosis all the way through the recovery process.

This website has everything. It’s visually attractive, has message boards, book recommendations, health supplement recommendations, articles, and a very gracious peaceful atmosphere. If my mom or sister or friend were undergoing a hysterectomy, this site would be invaluable in my opinion.

My heart goes out to anyone facing this procedure. Big sigh. My heroine faces ovarian cancer, thus the research into hysterectomies. Though second-hand is nothing to actual experience,  writing these chapters was feeling the heart-stopping, mind-reeling, lung-gasping reaction to two certain buzzwords: cancer and hysterectomy. (It also made me very aware of how silent a killer ovarian cancer is. It’s hardly ever caught in time, and reaches quite a span of women from teens to the elderly.)

And yet, hysterectomies are not always necessary. For instance, if you’re suffering from a pelvic organ prolapse, there are other alternatives.  Please, don’t rely soley on your medical dr’s opinion. Do your own research. You may still end up going the hysterectomy route, but at least you’ll feel good about your decision being the right one.

Find out what a “swelly belly band” is and why you want one before surgery. Buy yourself or your loved one The Princess Package complete with nightshirt, the Hyster Sisters book, mug and crown…

And for the one out there with an appointment next week, my prayers are with you! Hugs!

Up to my elbows in pears…and migraines.

Well, nearly my elbows. Five hours of pears, two pies, several pints of pearsauce later…oh, and a pan of oatmeal bars for dh…you get the picture.

It was a really sweet picture by the way. My two older daughters were such a great help. We peeled, cored, and chopped till our hands were brown (why do pears do this?) and pear juice was pretty much…everywhere! I asked at the beginning if I should put on some background music and my oldest said, “No, let’s just talk.” (Warm fuzzies anyone?)

I let them both make their own batch of pie pastry, which just tickled them to pieces, because they knew they’d each have a big hunk of dough leftover to create special little treats…out came the cinnamon-sugar, the sprinkles, the miniature heart-shaped pans…the powdered sugar/milk icing…

By the way, if you want a delicious recipe for pear pie, Taste of Home has a great one: Fall Pear Pie. These pies are plumped up with 8 cups of pears (we used ten cups each pie). If you try this recipe, add a dash of cloves or allspice…mmm, yummy! That was Wednesday.

Yesterday afternoon, I had my first migraine in months. Migraines just kill me off for several hours, and this one lasted from 5 P.M.-3 A.M. Nausea, vomiting…misery–all headache induced. My girls were heroic. Hubby had to work late, and they kept toddler happy, made cookies (yeah, guess we didn’t have enough sweets in the house. Rolling my eyes.), made supper (scrambled eggs, apple slices and green beans anyone?) and kept me supplied with cold wet washcloths and sweetness in the form of homemade cards and kisses.

Then my hubby, wonderful man, arrived home to a worthless wife retching on the hide-a-bed (into a bucket–not on the couch! You wondered didn’t you?) covered up with several of our warmest blankets…he built up the roaring-est fire in the fireplace and got everyone put to bed, kept shushing them. He’s so thoughtful, making sure the lights were out or dimmed and that everyone tip-toed around me…he truly hurts when I hurt.

So that’s what’s been going on around here the past day and a half…

Fun Learning With Preschoolers

3-5 year olds are so much fun! Their interest in life and learning seems never-ebbing, their enthusiasm inspires and exhausts those around them…so let’s explore a few of the endless activities that abound to encourage this age group.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Terri Camp’s  Ignite the Fire: Freedom Is Real EducationTerri likens fire to the passion for learning, and just as fire needs oxygen, kindling, and logs to keep fueling itself, it also needs sparked to begin with. And, if you the parent aren’t careful, you can easily extinguish that fiery (yes it’s a word) love for learning.

William Butler Yeats said,

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”

And in my opinion, the preschool years are the best for sparking that love of learning. Here are some of the ways I prepared my 3, 4’s and 5’s for Kindergarten.

Use that time in the car for word games and story problems:

  • Play the syllable game. Give them words and have them break them into syllables, telling you how many syllables each one has. My girls loved this game, and being able to distinguish syllables is one of the first steps in being able to read and spell. If it helps, have your child “clap” the syllables out as they repeat the word. They’ll catch on in no time.
  • Make up short poems; kids love to rhyme and this game will be full of hilarity. Everyone gets a turn thinking up a line.
  • Glue and unglue three letter words. This is great exposure to the sounds that letters make. Say the word “cat” and then help your child sound it out (ungluing it) /c/-/a/-/t/.
  • Explore homonyms. My middle child couldn’t get enough of this activity for some reason. (strange child!) She still likes to “collect homonyms”. (words that sound the same but are spelled different: reign, rain, rein)
  • Play the “Minister’s Cat” (“the minister’s cat is an adorable, bratty, calico cat…and so on taking turns and repeating each adjective all the way through the alphabet) or the “ABC” game (take turns naming and claiming in order the alphabet letters seen on road signs, billboards and license plates)
  • Use nature to come up with math story problems. This is great for the contextual learner. If there are 5 horses in that pasture, and 4 in the next, how many all together? What if 3 wandered off and got lost? How many then? (We used to count antelope on family vacations to Wyoming…hundreds and hundreds of antelope…)
  • Quiz them about what numbers they should call in an emergency (Grandma, daddy’s cell, 911) (my girls at three years old could recite our bank account number!)
  • Quiz them on their phone number and address.
  • Give them paper and pencil and see how many times they can write their name in one minute.

At home: 

  • Dot to dots are really fun for three and four year olds, and it’s a great way for them to learn the coordination needed for writing. Most dot to dots are numbered or alphabetized which gives that added exposure/practice.
  • Anything math is made more fun with small candies such as m&m’s. We’ve woven elaborate stories, illustrated even, of a bag of m&m’s and its trip around the neighborhood as it’s divvied up with all the children on the block. These candies are great for sorting and charting, and your preschoolers won’t even know they’re learning math! Until you proudly tell them and watch them beam from ear to ear!
  • Teach them games like tic-tac-toe, and rock-paper- scissors. Talk about “critical thinking”. Especially when they ask questions with obvious answers. :O) (Please don’t tell me your kids don’t do this!)
  • Put shaving cream on a cookie sheet and have fun “drawing” numbers and letters in it. (chocolate pudding works good for this too, but my dh forbids us from playing with food…yeah, no edible play-dough for our family)
  • Give them a bucket of water and a paintbrush and have them paint their abc’s on the driveway or sidewalks.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to draw a numbered clock face on the driveway and practice running “clockwise” and “counter clockwise”, telling them to stop on certain “times”
  • All the science you need for this age is outdoors. Make bark rubbings, wormeries, collect two or three caterpillars and put them in a glass jar with a hole punched lid and a twig with leaves on it…a few months later you’ll have a moth or butterfly! Make sure you take advantage of the time nature-walking to talk about all that was created for our enjoyment.
  • If you want to play science while indoors, experiment with the 5 senses. Blindfold your children, and have them guess what certain smells are (vinegar, lemon, banana, mom’s perfume), distinguish between the sours/sweets/salts of various foods (still blindfolded!), have them feel around in a bag of items and tell you what they’re touching.
  • Sing. A lot.
  • And don’t forget reading. Of all the above, reading is my favorite way to “teach”. Good books are good friends, and a great way to engage the mind. As are magazines like Your Big Backyard, Clubhouse Junior, and Highlights.

In my last post on preschoolers, First Things First, I wanted to stress that in addition to Biblical training, children need play time. Time to expand their imaginations, to pretend, to draw, to play outside and explore nature. Not time in front of the tv or computer, if that’s what they’re going to be doing, then by all means, enroll them in gymnastics or tee-ball or piano lessons. Yet, I think children come to depend upon being entertained, and they forget how to exist by themselves happily.  Many adults cannot stand to be alone. They’ll leave the tv on, or music, anything to avoid a quiet house. So be alert and try to instill a sense of quiet into your child’s life.

The preschool years are magical. They shape your child’s personality, character, and interests. Don’t take them for granted.

Expanding horizons…here we come!

Preschoolers: First Things First

I heartily endorse the message found here…an article titled Doctors urge more playtime for children. (Thanks go to MInTheGap for the link.)

We’re bombarded everywhere with programs for our preschoolers. Driven almost by fear that our children won’t measure up with their peers, we enroll them in all kinds of structured enrichment activities…bombarding them with academics before they’re even school age. And we homeschoolers are no different.

What skills do children need before Kindergarten? Honestly, I wonder which teachers would find more helpful…children who know their numbers, abc’s and the basics of reading, or children who have good listening skills, fine motor skills, and respect for authority?

It’s kind of like the philosophy: Spread the gospel in India and you’ll solve their hunger problems. (no more sacred cows=plenty of meat for all).

It’s SO important to teach your littles about God their Father, and His plan for their lives. It’s not just about reading Bible stories, it’s about applying them in real time…talking about the heroes of the Bible and how we can apply God’s truth in our everyday lives. Go for their hearts, not just their heads.

Attitude is key to getting a good education.  And teaching your children about God while they’re young, is key to them following Him all their lives. (Look at the Catholic church and how they take the first and most formative 7 years and with their religion classes produce lifelong commitment) As a homeschooling mother, believe me, you will be way ahead of the game if you spend the preschool years working on obedience, cheerfulness, and cooperation…

Well, you say, my 3&4’s are ready, they get whiney and bored without fun workbooks to accomplish, etc.  Excuse me? Whiney and bored? These are character issues that need to be dealt with, and not by thwacking another worksheet down on the table!

Let “kindergarten” be your “school readiness program”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for stimulating learning through environment and activities, just don’t steal that joy of childhood by starting too early on the regimentation of requiring this kind of “success” from your 3 and 4 year olds. (I’m picturing a parent sitting with a child for two hours at the table, trying to complete a ‘curriculum’ and getting frustrated with their squirming child. Please don’t make them feel stupid before they’re even six years old!)

Let them stress when they’re old enough to handle it. For now, let them play. Let them learn what they were created for. Teach the important stuff.

There’s plenty of time for the other.

P.S. For all you moms/dads who’ve made the decision to homeschool and are raring to jump in with both feet…wanting structure and achievement, why not spend this “waiting period” on enriching your own education? Your love of learning will spill over, and everyone will benefit from it.