Monday, August 19, 2013

How it's going...

In a word, it's bedlam.
I use that word because:
  • I'm packing a house with six children in it.
  • We are doing our best to catch up with people - so many people we love and will miss and want to get with one more time.
  • Toby is working on his pre-course work (or trying to), alongside continuing to work full-time (one more week!), pack a house with six children in it and catch up with people.
  • We celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and Noah's 7th birthday, while 2 children spent the day on the couch with fevers.
  • We are trying to figure out what we can pack and what needs to stay within reach - I accidentally packed all of our microwavable bowls. Whoops.
  • I lost my credit card. Thankfully, it wasn't stolen. Replacement on the way.
  • We are still showing the house. Fortunately, we think we have some tenants, but until the lease is signed, the house keeps showing. It is easier to keep it clean with less junk around...
  • The logistics are messy, or perhaps it's just my memory that's messy. I keep remembering who needs what furniture and to make a date with that person and send the kids to that house and the hundreds of other details that go into a long-distance move, but when it's time to get it all down and make a plan, the thoughts run and hide, much like my children at a playground.

 Having said all that, it's also going well. Really:

  • We've been doing a little at a time for most of the summer, which has helped a lot.
  • We've been the grateful recipients of a lot of help, from child care to packing and cleaning, with promises of continued help, right up to packing the moving truck.
  • We have been encouraged and prayed for, which is huge.
  • All the "to-do"s are getting done, one thing at a time.
  • The kids have been enjoying getting with their friends and celebrating what will probably be their last birthdays in Maryland.
  • They are also more excited about the adventure than sad about leaving, which is much how their parents feel.
I am anticipating the next couple of weeks to continue this roller-coaster pattern, as we tie up loose ends. But you know, that's okay. I'd be a fool if I expected this stuff to be easy - God doesn't promise me that. Here's what He does promise, what I'm placing my hope in:
 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
 Psalm 27:1

Friday, August 9, 2013

Visiting Reptiles

A few weeks ago, a pair of box turtles wandered across my kids' path. What an opportunity to learn something about these handsome creatures!

 Our main interest was in figuring out if we were looking at a "he" or a "she". Wikihow helped us out...

For most box turtles, males have red or orange irises, and the ladies have brown or yellow.

 Males tend to have a concave underside, whereas females have a convex shell (presumably a spot in which to safely carry their eggs).
There were a few more helpful determiners, but these few were enough to get us going.

As it happens, we realized we had both a male and a female, and the fact that they were found together probably meant that they were a "couple".
We named them (Fluffy and Speeder, I believe) and turned them loose to make many more baby turtles. Hopefully the next family who lives here will enjoy them, too!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What do you do at the Farm Fair?

 Well, we poke the pigs... the miniature horse...
...reaffirm the desire to get an alpaca... second place for a baby sweater...

...get faces painted...
...and have an overall good time! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Crayon Candles

One of the ideas on our Summer of Fun board was to make some candles out of sun-melted crayons. As it happens, being a stinking hot summer and all, the sun and accompanying heat was happy to work with us.
 The original idea is here, but I made a couple of adjustments. Rather than mixing lots of different colors, we kept like colors together (for the most part) and put them in baby food jars. Rather than getting proper candle wicking, we went with the suggestion to simply put a birthday cake candle in the middle, which worked just as well.
Each of the kids had fun making one, and it was worth it to me to get rid of some junky old crayons. Getting them to sit there peeling the paper off kept them busy, too.
We had them at the table for dinner and the kids enjoyed having the candles "race" - they don't burn especially well, so it was a competition to see who's would stay lit the longest.
For us, it was a fun afternoon activity when it's too hot to go out. If you wanted to, you could make it a cool solar energy/color combining activity, as well. It was too hot for me to be clever about it, though!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Keeping 'em busy

For a while now, I've been thinking about the idea of keeping kids busy - I've heard the phrase as synonymous with "keep 'em out of trouble". I'm all for keeping 'em out of trouble, my own kids especially, but there was something that kept my brain tinkering with the subject. After all, we've all heard that "idle hands are the devil's toys", and boredom can quickly lead to bickering and trouble. But I've also heard that one of the greatest gifts you can give a child is the opportunity to be bored, for "poverty is the mother of invention". How am I to reconcile these two apparently opposite concepts?
It wasn't so very long ago that this problem wasn't actually a problem at all. There was always something to keep kids of all ages busy. Kids worked with their families, caring for the home, farm, other children or the family business. There wasn't a lot of time for play, but most kids learned what it took to make a home and provide for a family. They learned interpersonal skills by dealing with family members and how to serve in their own family and in the wider community.
Times, as they say, have changed. Nowadays, we sign them up for classes, sports, lessons, enrichment groups and field trips. We buy more toys, more games and more entertainment to fill up more free time. Not to say that I am necessarily against all these opportunities. Not only did I do just about every activity I could, my own children are involved in a fair few, as well. My growing concern, however, is what this constantly busy schedule is teaching my children. Are they learning that their social calendar is more important than our time together as a family? Are they learning that opportunities and things are more important than people? Are they learning that they have to be busy to be valuable?
I'm also concerned about the long term impact of this "training" on their character. It may be easier to allow my kids to retreat behind closed doors and headphones when they don't get along, rather than wade into the mess of teaching them how to love and care for each other, but is that going to serve them when they get into conflict with their spouse? Or I may not feel like schleping them to a service opportunity because I've already run them hither and yon all week and would kind of like a break, but is my desire for comfort and ease communicating that serving isn't really as important as I tell them it is?
Frankly, I would kind of like to go back to the old days. I'd miss my iPhone, but it would be rather simpler. That's not much of an option, though - this is the world we live in, so we'd better figure out how to do it well. And I am grateful for all the opportunities for skills, growth and relationships - they are fun and important!
 So, what to do? Here are some ideas:
  • Make 'em choose. No one can do everything they'd like - I can't and neither can my children. They can grow in prioritization skills my choosing what they give their "extra" time to: ballet or soccer? Drama or scouts? Obviously, we as parents need to guide them as they make these choices; they need our help in weighing the long-term benefit of a skill over the short-term fun of doing what their friends are doing. It would be a great opportunity, though, to see how they enjoy spending their time, see where their interests, gifts, and abilities are - you may be surprised what you learn about them.
  • Say no. It's hard, really hard, to say no to your children sometimes. After a couple of years of going to gymnastics and being told by the instructor that she could go somewhere with it, we decided to pull Abigail out of gymnastics. It wasn't easy, especially since she's good at it and enjoyed it, but we knew that it was not going to fit into the overall family schedule well, and we felt that trying to make it fit was going to be detrimental to the other kids. None of our children exists in a vacuum, and they need to be aware that there are times we need to put the needs of the whole family ahead of one person's personal desires.
  • Think it through. What will happen if they do/don't do this activity? Will they experience a long-term lack? Will it communicate your love and care for them in a special way if you say yes? What are you choosing not to do if you do x? Are you saying no to make your life more comfortable? What else is going to fill that time? Don't put off something for you child so that you don't miss your shows, but don't make unwise financial/time management decisions, either.

My oldest child is not yet 11 years old, so our family hasn't been at this gig as long as many. Any other more experienced mamas out there have any helpful insights to contribute? You are very welcome to the conversation!