I’ve always maintained that the best way for a child to learn to spell is to read, read, read. The more you read, the more words you are introduced to, the more words you see repeatedly, and the better a speller you will become.
That’s great. Really, it is. And I still believe that. But what do you do in the meantime? Reading, reading, reading, is not something that happens overnight. Becoming introduced to words multiple, hundreds, thousands, of times does not happen in a day. It takes time. And while you are encouraging your child to read, they are still taking spelling tests…and possibly failing.
Once again I come up against the fact that each one of my children is different. The two oldest girls are perfect spellers. And I say “perfect” because they regularly score 100% on their end of the year, Iowa State tests. (In Spelling. Let’s not talk about Math) How did I achieve such fabulous success? Not through any great spelling drills or techniques. No. They just love to read and their spelling improved by itself without any assistance from me. (However I will still happily take credit for it.)
Child number 3 was a little harder. It took him longer to discover how much he loves reading, but in the year that his love grew, he went from a kid who couldn’t spell “the” to being able to take 25 new spelling words a week and get at least 23 of them correct on the Friday test. My method here was simple. Take the 25 words and write them out on a sheet of paper each day. Repetition. So, it’s not the best method, but it really worked for him. Plus, it’s what his sisters had been doing and look at what great spellers they are! (Let’s ignore the fact that if they were to take a test on Monday over the new words they would probably score the same grade as on Friday after 4 days of rewriting them.)
Yay! I think. Evans children are just genetically good spellers. Let’s not mess with the technique. It’s worked (relatively pain free for me) for three children.
Along comes child number 4. He’s two grades behind his brother and therefore has not quite hit that point where he loves to read. He also cannot spell to save his life. Forget words like “the.” He can’t spell “cat.” He also has a slight speech impediment so he consistently mixes up “th” and “sh” because they sound the same to him. Also “f” and “v.”
No fear! Our trusty method of write out the 25 words will have him spelling like his siblings in no time!
What actually happens is that he misspells 24 of the 25 words. I pull out a new technique and have him say the word out loud, spell the word out loud as he writes it, and then say the word again.
That week he only misspells 23 of the words on the test. He’s also taking almost 45 minutes to do his spelling each day.
Back to the drawing board, which is a euphemism for “call Mom.” She gives me a copy of Teach Any Child to Spell. It comes with a workbook. Great! I think. I’ll follow the daily lesson plans and spelling lists and he’ll be spelling like a champ in no time.
Except there are no daily lesson plans. There are no spelling lists. There’s a lot of information on spelling rules and how to incorporate spelling into every day writing and the workbook has blank spaces for creating your own lists of words that follow different spelling rules.
It’s not a cookie-cutter program like some homeschooling curriculum (I won’t say who I’m thinking of right now with their mountains of busy work and neatly segmented daily lessons…), it’s holistic.
I hate it.
I want results fast. I want the book called Teach Your Child to Spell Perfectly in Ten Minutes a Year. (I bet that book would be a best seller!)
Given that my mother is usually right (I live for the day when my own children learn this about me as well!) I give it a try. Instead of a long list of random spelling words. I sit down with my son and his younger sister (one grade level behind him, but probably the same grade level for reading) and we pick a spelling rule. Then we create our own list of words using that rule. Then I dictate sentences to them using the words that we picked.
There’s no fancy list to take a test from. No feeling of accomplishment when I grade a 100% for spelling words like “superfluous” correctly (Honestly, why does a 3rd grader need to know how to spell “superfluous?”). But there are also no tears. No child wailing that they’re stupid and can’t do anything right. No mom pulling out her hair and assigning said child to rewrite ten times the words they just spent the whole week rewriting.
Will it work? Will I have another batch of great spellers on my hands? I don’t know. Because it’s going to take time. Lots, and lots of time.
But that’s kind of the whole point of teaching, isn’t it?
Summer is here and we are out of school. I find myself repeating the phrase that my mother would always say, “Find something to do or I will find something for you to do.” We were off for a total of two days before I started thinking about starting school again. Living in Florida, I have the same thought every year. Why do we take the summer off instead of the winter? It’s a million degrees outside. We don’t have a pool. No one wants to go outside and play. Which means that 8 little people are bouncing off the walls inside.
The temptation is to let the TV be their babysitter. My kids will happily sit in front of a screen until their brains turn to mush and drip out of their ears. I could have peace and quiet, but at what cost? So, when I found myself letting us eat more meals in front of the TV instead of at the table, I decided to make a change. I instigated “Family Fun Night.”
I had each child come up with an idea of something they thought would be a fun evening activity. We put those ideas on little pieces of paper into a hat and each week had the toddler (since he can’t read and thus can’t cheat) pick a slip of paper.
We’ve had a puzzle game night, a water balloon fight, a backyard play night, and gone out for ice cream. I’d like to say that these nights have been totally and completely fun. That’s what we envision as parents, right? All our children happily playing and loving together. The memories they will build as they cement their friendships and journey peacefully through life together. I’d really like to say that’s what has happened.
Puzzle game night was first. It had been my suggestion and there was great moaning and complaining when it was the first slip of paper picked. I pulled out a huge, floor puzzle of the United States and we all sat on the floor and put it together. There was fussing and accusing people of being in the way, and one child hid a puzzle piece and let everyone spend five minutes looking for it before he produced it from his pocket.
Water balloon night went a little better. I’d bought some of those new water balloons on Wish.com. The kind that attach to the hose and you fill up thirty balloons at one time. They worked great and I quickly had a large tub filled with water balloons. I had them start with water balloon duels and then played water balloon toss in order to slow down the enjoyment. Seven children can throw 120 water balloons in under two minutes. The balloon toss turned into an all out war and we were all soaked and laughing and muddy. All except child #5 who was sitting on the porch and crying because someone had thrown a balloon at her face and her clothes were wet.
Backyard play was also met with derision, but running around after dinner was not usually something we have time for and everyone was having a good time. At least, until I went to heat up the baby’s food for dinner and the four year old jumped up on the counter and grabbed the boiling cup of water I’d just pulled out of the microwave. Backyard fun night turned into trip to the Walk-in Clinic night.
Going out for ice cream was met with loud cheers of excitement. This was the one they’d been waiting for! It was the hardest one, in my opinion, because it meant leaving the house with 8 kids, but it was in the hat and had been chosen fair and square. I loaded everyone up, called my brother and sister to come with us for crowd control and we arrived at a local ice cream shop that had outside seating. We even took the puppy.
It was like herding cats. They wandered everywhere, weren’t listening, fell off the curb and skinned their knees, dropped half their cone into the dirt, and one cried for twenty minutes because she hadn’t gotten to give her uncle a “high five” when we’d dropped him off.
Then I still had to give baths and brush teeth and hustle tired, over sugared children into bed. I was exhausted and beginning to wonder whether “fun” should be part of the “Family Fun Night” title.
That’s when my 7 year old (the child who had complained that “movie night” would be more fun than doing “boring stuff”) gave me a big hug and said, “Mom, that was the best night ever. I love Family Fun Night!”
I’m hoping that in ten years the tears and fighting and yelling will be forgotten and all we will remember is the fun.
As parents, we tell our children the same things over and over and over again. “Be nice to your brother.” “Don’t flood the bathroom.” “Quit riding your bike down the stairs.” “Don’t draw on your sister with permanent marker.” You know, the usual. We tell them these things repeatedly in the hopes that one day they will listen. So far, I’m still waiting. At least, with my little ones. But this week I had my eldest daughter give me the same lecture that I had given her just a few days previous. I wish I could say it was nice, but at least it proved she’d been listening.
It all started when she had to write a research paper for her language class. Currently, she is taking a video class, which means that I have not been very involved in her school (a situation which will need to change next year. It helped us survive this year, but I’m not too happy with it.). She picked a topic all by herself. I did at least help her get books from the library, but I didn’t supervise the writing of the paper in any way. Which meant that her topic was WAY too broad. For some reason she understood her teacher to say that she needed to write her outline before she finished reading her books, and she didn’t write her topic sentence until AFTER her outline.
So, yeah. Basically the worst possible way to try to write a research paper, and her paper was pretty awful. And yes, I told her that as I graded it. She was understandably upset (she’s a little bit of a perfectionist, I don’t know where she gets that from) but I also told her that it was partly my fault for not guiding her. And more importantly, I told her that doing things wrong is how we learn to do things right. If we do something right the first time without understanding why it is right, we don’t really learn anything. But if we make a mistake and fail, then we learn from our mistakes and know how to try better the next time. I also sang her a few lines from Disney’s Frozen, just to drive the point home.
Such insightful words I am able to dispense! Tiny pearls of knowledge just dripping from my lips! Sometimes I feel like an ancient guru sitting on top of my mountain, blessing supplicants with my incredible wisdom. Too bad I rarely listen to my own advice.
It was ironically fitting that a few days later I was on the receiving end of that same lecture. Our puppy, Po, is (or should I say “was”?) an almost completely round ball of wooly fluff. He’s adorable. He was also getting hard to comb and the fur around his legs was starting to get matted.
In all my wisdom and perspicacity, I decided that paying $50 to take him to the groomers was poor stewardship. Why pay that kind of money when you could buy a set of dog clippers for $70 and do it yourself? Now, we all know that math is not my strong suit, but even I could calculate the savings! Plus, if I hated clipping him, I only had to try it twice before the clippers paid themselves off and I would be no more out of pocket than if I had taken him to the groomers.
I watched dog grooming videos online. I read dog grooming articles. I looked at pictures of how to properly clip a dog. Looking back, I can see where I went wrong. I was researching dog grooming. I should have been researching how to clip a whirling dervish.
My second mistake was in choosing which length of clipper guard to use. I tried the longest one first, of course, but I didn’t really have the hang of it yet, and jumped to the assumption that it was too long. So, I went two guards shorter. After all, if a number 4 was too long, what was the point of going to a number 3? Yes, now I can see why that was stupid.
Long story short, just like Po’s fur.
In other places it is more medium length. And in a few places it’s still long.
Cute, round, fur ball now looks like he has mange.
My daughters were upset. Even though they had been the ones holding him still (or rather, not holding him still while I yelled at everyone) they felt that it was my fault that he looked awful. After some tears and the growing realization that this was probably what my husband calls a “Four-week haircut” (as in, it will take that long before it grows out enough to look ok), I was feeling very, very blue.
Also, regretful. In hindsight I could easily spot the three or four fallacies in my reasoning that led us to this unhappy moment. I pointed them out again and again in the hopes that somehow I could rewind time and do it all over again.
Which was when my daughter told me that it was ok. She said that clipping Po’s fur well will take practice. Now that we’ve done it poorly, we know how to do it better the next time (Next time!?), and the more we try, the better we will get at it. She told me to quit obsessing over what went wrong and focus on not making the same mistakes in the future. Where did she learn such wisdom? (I’ll be honest, I liked this lecture a whole lot more when I was the one giving it, especially when she sang “Let it Go,” at me.)
But, hey! Bonus points for me that my daughter was listening.
And I really need those parenting points because I’m going to be mortified the first time anyone outside the family sees our dog!
When I was pregnant, I would sit in the rocking chair in my new nursery and dream of what the future would be like. I envisioned her sweet face, her first toddling steps, the way her little hand would fit in mine. I imagined being the one who cuddled her at night, who kissed her skinned knees, who carried her piggyback around the house.
Yes, all those things are wonderful parts of motherhood. But now, as a more experienced parent, I know what kids are really meant for: Braving the cockroaches in the garage.
Years ago, my husband wanted to “rescue” two bearded dragons (they were owned by a lady who had no idea how to care for them and wanted to get rid of them). I’m not a big herpetologist, but my husband loves all things scaly and reptilian, so I said, “sure.” (Plus, I was saving spouse points up for when I wanted to get a dog.) What I didn’t know about bearded dragons is that they eat gross things. Meal worms are not that awful. Crickets however are one of the most annoying creatures on the planet. They chirp All. Night. Long. And then, when you complain to your husband that either the crickets have to go or you will, he rips all the wings off of them so they can’t make any more noise.
I’ll admit. It was rather entertaining to watch the two dragons chase down crickets in their terrarium, but they always were full before they caught them all and then the nocturnal singing would begin. It’s like camping in your own home.
Once I outlawed crickets, my lovely spouse turned to huge green worms that splatted on the sides of the cage when bit. They also cost $2 a worm. Then he discovered some breed of roaches. They have a special name. He assures me that they are not the same as the palmetto bugs that roam about Florida.
I call them cockroaches.
He also tells me that in order to save money, he needs to breed them. He purchases 25 roaches in the mail and creates a special environment for them in a Sterilite tub with paper egg cartons. He promises me that this special breed cannot climb, so the lid isn’t even really necessary. (I insist that it is necessary if he wants to stay married.)
Flash forward a year or two, and we now have a thriving roach metropolis that has grown to TWO tubs, crawling with huge roaches.
Now, since this breed of roaches truly can’t climb, it should be fine. They don’t smell. They eat the kids’ left over apple cores, and they are a free source of food for the dragons.
But, as Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. The neighborhood roaches discover this roach utopia and prowl about the outsides of the tubs, trying to break in. The neighborhood flies discover the endless supply of apple cores and have no trouble fitting in between the cracks on the lids to feast. The neighborhood spiders discover the all-you-can-eat buffet of flies and set up shop all around the tubs.
I am a patient and long suffering woman. I learn to open the door to the garage and turn on the light before stepping in. I yell loudly for “Charlie,” the ginormous roach that lives under the deep freeze, to run and hide before I walk out. We have a truce of sorts, both terrified of each other.
But last night Charlie broke the truce. And he had invited his uncles, and his cousins, and his aunts to come visit. Instead of running to hide, he ran at my feet. I screamed. (It’s a well known fact that when dealing with scary, creepy-crawly things you need to yell. The sound waves batter them and force them to run away.) He finally got collected enough to run back under the deep freeze, but his relatives were not so savvy. I picked up the nearest heavy object and pummeled the closest roach before retreating to the safety of the house.
Panting heavily, I still hadn’t taken the trash out. This was when I realized what I could never have imagined sitting there in my nice clean nursery awaiting the birth of my first child: This is why I have kids!
“Grace!” I scream, “I need you to take the trash out!”
Genius. Pure genius.
Summer is here and I find myself repeating multiple times a day, "Find something to do or I will find you something to do!" So, when they come up with an idea, I am obligated to help them out. My eldest daughter loves making music videos and while shooting them can be a little tense at times, the beauty of editing means that the viewer can't know how many times it took to get a shot or how much screaming and crying went on in the background.
This is our latest video, set to the song "You Might Think" covered by Weezer in Disney's Cars 2 movie.
How do you keep your kids occupied through the summer? Share!
Lately we have been studying the story of Esther and a question came up. Did Esther lie? Mordecai told her to not let anyone know that she was a Jew, but did she lie about it? If someone asked her if she was a Jew did she avoid the question? Or did she just do a great job of convincing everyone that she wasn’t Jewish. Is that lying? Is deliberately leading someone to believe something that is not true, even if you don’t say anything, a lie?
Well, we can’t know for sure about Esther since it doesn’t say in the Bible, but how about something more modern? I’m going to give you a completely hypothetical situation that could happen in any of our homes at any time and see what you think.
Let’s pretend that you are a homeschooling mom. That shouldn’t be too hard to imagine, since if you’re reading this homeschooling blog you are most likely a homeschooler. Let’s also pretend that you are not very good at science. That could be harder for some of you. For the sake of this story let’s imagine that when you attempt to do science experiments with your kids it never turns out the way the directions say.
Let’s say (now remember, this is a hypothetical situation) that almost every science experiment you have tried has failed, from trying to make a cloud in a bottle to making a colored water thermometer. Your fail rate is so high that your kids always sigh and say “Another failed experiment!” like it’s what they’ve come to expect.
Now, in this totally imaginary situation, let’s pretend that you come to a great experiment on the electrical conductivity of salt water. You’re excited! This one seems pretty fool proof. Finally you can show your kids how science is supposed to work! You even have all the items you need to do the experiment. You carefully screw the light bulb into the little round device. You strip an inch of plastic off the ends of the three wires. You clip two of the wires into the bulb thingy and hook up one end to a battery and the third wire to the other end of the battery. Then, you demonstrate how touching the two free wires together makes the light bulb turn on.
Success! Your kids, whose interest has been wandering as they roll their eyes and say “Another failed experiment, Mom,” (“No, it’s not!” you yell. “I’m not finished yet!”), are suddenly refocused. You use the moment to talk about how salt in the water helps conduct electricity and remind them about the electrical eels you taught about the previous day.
Then, you take a cup of water and put the two tips of the wires into the water. Of course, the light bulb doesn’t light up. “Why not?” you ask your class, pleased that, for once, everything is going as planned. “It doesn’t have salt in it!” they answer, making your heart swell with pride that they were actually listening when you thought they were just poking each other and fighting about who got to sit closest to you on the couch while you were reading the science lesson.
Now, it’s time to wrap up the experiment. You pour salt into the cup and reinsert the wires. The light bulb is supposed to light up, showing how salt water conducts electricity better than fresh water.
You pour more salt into the cup.
Still no light.
The kids are starting to snicker again and repeat their favorite phrase, “another failed experiment!” You are getting desperate. (Let me remind you again, this is a hypothetical situation. I’ve just got a very detailed imagination.) You pour in more salt. The water is now more solid than liquid. Still no light. You are really losing them. For the rest of their lives they are going to believe that science doesn’t work. You have to do something!
Now we come back to the original question. If you lead someone to think something that isn’t true, without actually saying anything, is it still a lie?
Remember, you are desperate. You really need this experiment to work. The fate of your children’s entire education is resting on this one moment in time. So, what do you do? Well, what if (still hypothetical), out of sight of your children, you touch the two ends of the wire together under the water? The light bulb turns on!
“See, kids?” you cheer. “The salt water conducts the electricity better than the fresh, allowing the light bulb to turn on!” You touch the wires together under the water a few more times and they all marvel at the joy of science. Their education has been saved!
So, was it actually a lie? You didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. Salt water is supposed to conduct electricity better than fresh. At least, that was what is said in your science book. Was it your fault that the experiment didn’t work? You knew how it was supposed to work, and you just helped it along a bit. Plus, you were getting tired of your kids saying, “another failed experiment.”
I’ll leave the question to you. What would you have done? And please remember, hypothetical situations can also be real, so if I’ve led you to believe that this is a made-up story, well, did I really tell a lie?
Do you ever have those days when you feel like a total homeschooling noob? (In case you are not as up-to-date as me on all the latest slang, a “Noob” is a “Newbie” or someone who is new at something. At least, I think that’s what it means. And I’ve either completely dated myself right now or shown you how cool I am (do people still say “cool”?). I’m betting it’s the latter.) Days when you do something that if someone else had come to you for advice you would have told them to do the exact opposite of what you actually did? I’ve just had one of those moments.
I love reading. I believe that a love of reading is vital to learning to write and spell and think. Encouraging your children to read is one of the best things you can do for their education. If a child can read and understand what they are reading, they can learn anything. (Quick product placement ad: This is why I love Learning Language Arts Through Literature. It focuses on learning to love reading and less on learning to fill in the correct word on a test.) I want my kids to love reading. I try to give them books that will capture their interest.
Now, if you were to come to me and ask, “Erin, how should I get my 2nd grader son to want to read?” I would have told you the following:
“Great advice, Erin!” I’m sure you’re saying right now. None of it is earth-shattering or shocking, it's just plain commonsense (that’s another product placement pun!). So why, when it was my son, did I do the exact opposite?
My 2nd grader is struggling with reading. I’d worry about it, except his older brother did the same thing in 2nd grade. 2nd grade, he couldn’t spell to save his life and reading was painful. 3rd grade, I can’t pry a book out of his hands and his spelling is a grade level ahead. (Ok, who am I kidding? I still worry. It’s what I do best.) I decided, after the New Year, that we would add in an extra reading assignment and I asked him to pick a book from the shelf that looked interesting to him.
He picked The Sign of the Beaver. He thought the picture on the front of a little boy with an Indian looked interesting. He also wanted to find out what sign the beaver was going to hold. Now, if I hadn’t been such a noob, I would have realized that you can’t judge a book by its cover. No matter how cool Indians and bows and arrows are, they do not make a 5-6th grade level book easier to read for a 2nd grader.
Second noob mistake. I was too rushed during the first weeks of school to actually sit with him and I assumed that he would be able to read a chapter a day by himself like his older brother. Three weeks in, I find out that he has no idea what he is reading, can’t understand one word out of five, and is basically completely lost.
No problem, right? Just switch to an easier book! That was what I would have told someone else. But me? No. I jump to the conclusion that since he picked the book he should have to finish it. Thus begins another painful two weeks of sitting with him while he drags through a chapter a day, still not really understanding any of it since by the time he’s finished a sentence he’s forgotten how it started.
After beating my head against the wall like this for a while, I go to my mother. She tells me exactly what I already knew but was ignoring. Switch books. Find one that is just under his reading level. Find one that interests him.
So, the next week I tell him that we are going to give Sign of the Beaver a rest and I pull out a Magic Treehouse book. He loved it. He begged to read more than one chapter a day. He read it easily and laughed at the funny parts. He finished it in a week and wanted to read the next book in the series. Reading is suddenly fun.
Why did I make such a noob mistake? I don’t know. I guess I got so caught up in teaching how to read that I forgot to teach him to love to read. Not my first homeschooling mistake and it definitely won’t be my last. I wish I’d asked for advice right away, but I’m glad I asked for it at all. Sometimes we get so caught up in being independent teachers that we forget the wealth of knowledge that is out there. And sometimes the advice we get is something we already know but have forgotten to do.
I hope all of you either have an experienced homeschooler in your life that you can go to for help, or that you are that person for someone else! We may be alone while we’re teaching each day, but we’re not alone in this journey!
This morning I have a crying 10 year old. It’s Sunday, the day her choir is singing in church. There’s also a church party in the afternoon and she just spent the morning vomiting. Disappointed doesn’t even cover it.
Her older sister is feeling fine and gets to sing both their solos in the choir, and will most likely be going to the party, unless she too begins to throw up. Life just isn’t fair.
“It’s not like it’s a normal Sunday where nothing special is happening,” she says. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. Why couldn’t I have gotten sick last week? It just isn’t fair! Can you keep my sister home this afternoon and not let her go the party either? That would make me feel better.”
So, I sit on the foot of her bed and try to find the right words. It’s hard. There’s no way to fix this and make it better. I can’t wave a magic wand and make her well. (Boy, if I could do that I’d be a millionaire!) I can’t change time or have the choir performance postponed. I can’t move the church party. I can’t do any of the things that we parents all wish we could do. But I can understand.
As I talk with her, I realize that I need to hear the same words I’m telling her. You see, the day before, a young couple I sort of know got married and Facebook was filled with pictures of their beautiful wedding and smiling faces going off on a fabulous honeymoon. And I’m happy for them, truly I am, but I’m also jealous.
My honeymoon was spent in the ER with a 104 degree fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting. My happily ever after involved years of living with an actively alcoholic spouse, and now a baby who has Down Syndrome, intractable epilepsy, severe global delays, and low vision.
At 2 am when this young couple is enjoying their first night together in a nice hotel with room service, my husband and I are changing my two year-old’s sheets for the fifth time because he also can’t stop vomiting. They’re going on a weeklong vacation together and we’ve managed to go on one date this entire year. One.
It’s so easy to have a bitter heart. So easy to look at what could have been, what we think should have been, and be angry. Why did my husband have to start drinking? Why did my baby have to be born this way? Why did I have to get sick the day of the choir performance? Why do I have to be the one to miss the party?
And then, we move from there to being envious of others. Why does she get the nice honeymoon? Why is their baby ok? Why did she get to sing my part in the choir? Why does she get to go to the party? And we think, deep in our hearts, that it would make us feel better if those people suffered too.
And that’s when we need the light of Christ to shine into our dark hearts.
So, what I tried to explain to my daughter (and myself) is this: It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to feel regret. It’s ok to cry. But it’s not ok to be angry. And we stop ourselves from being angry by looking at things the right way.
My husband might have been an active alcoholic, but, by the grace of God, he’s recovering and it’s been almost two years since his last drink. There are many women who have not been so blessed and I am so very grateful that he changed.
My baby boy might have a myriad of health problems, but this week he suddenly stopped needing to be on oxygen support. He might not be able to do anything that a typical one year old can do, but he’s making huge improvements and he smiles every time I pick him up. I am so grateful that I can now carry him around the house without also carrying a heavy oxygen tank. I am so grateful for 112 seizure free days. I am so grateful that I am not in the hospital with him right now.
We’re going to miss out on lots of stuff in life. This world is a fallen place, full of sin and sickness and death, but if we keep a grateful heart, and look forward to when there will be no more tears, or sadness, or missed parties, we can stop that bitterness before it even begins.
I’m not sure if my daughter really heard me, and that’s ok. Because I’m 36 and I need to hear this every day. I think I get it, and then something happens and I start comparing the worst parts of my life to the best parts of other people’s lives.
But maybe each time we preach the truth to ourselves a little bit more of it sticks, and we start to cultivate a heart and perspective of gratitude instead of woe-is-me.
Except for vomiting two-year-olds. I haven’t figured out how to be grateful for that yet…
As I said before, Sunday’s are not my best day. Maybe they’re really the same as every other day, but I always feel like they’re supposed to be quieter, holier, more introspective. Everyone expects to be unclogging a toilet on a Monday. It just seems like things should be more heavenly minded on Sunday.
No matter how well we start the morning, it’s sure to spiral quickly out of control. Like the Sunday my 8 year old came down with his shirt inside out. Then, when told to fix it, he put it on backwards, and when this was pointed out, proceeded to change it to inside out and backwards. Wasn’t fazed a bit. In fact, he was giving me looks like I was some kind of fashionista forcing my avant garde ways on normal people.
(This also explains why I have to do 14 loads of laundry a week. Other moms get upset when people use an extra bowl or plate. I get upset if you change your outfit more than once a day.)
Clothing is not the only thing that suffers on Sunday mornings. Comprehension seems to have a serious dip as well. On a weekday, if we’re in public, I can give an angry laser look or the death whisper and kids will instantly shape up. On Sunday, it’s like I’m speaking a different language.
One Sunday, two of my boys wanted to sit across the aisle with their grandparents. I decided that a reminder to behave was in order (they were starting to wrestle) so I called them over before church began and said, “You guys need to be good. If I have to come over there to lay the smack down it’s going to be a heavy smack.”
“Huh?” they both said.
“Behave or you’ll be in trouble.”
“What do you mean, what?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you behaving and what will happen if you don’t.”
“What’s ‘behaving’?” one asked, sincerely puzzled as if he’d never heard the word before.
“Being quiet. If you’re not quiet you’ll be in trouble,” his sister chimes in.
“What’s ‘trouble’?” the other one asks blankly.
I give up.
But worse than the stress of getting to church in one piece is that horrible feeling of being a total fake. People come up to me and tell me how well behaved my children are, how nice they look, and all I’m thinking is, “Those kids?” The kids I have to arm wrestle into their clothes? The ones who are only wearing matching shoes because I screamed at them? The ones who slapped each other the whole way to church and cried because they dropped their car blankie on the ground and I couldn’t reach it without having a wreck? The ones I just verbally threatened to behave so they didn’t mortify me during the service? Those kids? But I just smile and say thank you.
When the pastor talks about how we are supposed to enjoy coming to church, how it should be the energy charge for the rest of the week, I wonder how much his wife is buffering for him. Maybe it is a relaxing day of worshiping with God’s people for some. But there are those of us who are praying every week that this Sunday will be the day we make it to church without yelling at anyone.
I’ll let you know if it ever happens.
The Sabbath. The Lord’s Day. A day of rest.
When I was a child I thought the Puritan stories of the poor little children having to sit on the parlor sofa in their best clothes and not move all day sounded like torture! Now that I’m grown, and have eight hooligans of my own, I think it sounds divine. Impossible. But still divine.
My husband is the worship leader at our church, so he has to get up early Sunday morning and leave for church in order to set up, run a sound check, and play for the first service. I’m still not convinced that people can actually get to an 8:15 service on time, but my husband assures me that they do. I wouldn’t know. At 8:15 I’m just hustling my two oldest boys out of bed, changing the 4 year old (don’t ask, don’t judge) and the 2 year old’s diapers, and making sure my 5 year old has brushed her hair.
Some mornings I even convince that same 5 year old to pick a different dress to wear than the one she’s worn almost every Sunday this year, but other days I just let it ride. Some Sundays I convince my 2 year old to wear the pants I’ve picked out for him. Other Sundays he goes through more outfit possibilities than a teenage girl.
It seems that whatever can go wrong does on a Sunday. If it were a weekday (any day except Monday. Monday’s are the Devil’s days and should just be skipped all together) no one would have trouble picking clothes to wear, or finding their shoes, or eating breakfast. But on Sunday? Sigh.
One Sunday, after carefully putting a bib on the 2 year old (maybe I should rethink getting them dressed for church before breakfast…) my 8 year old spilled his bowl of cheerios and milk in his lap. I didn’t yell. (It was the Sabbath after all. When your pastor talks about people not acting as holy on Monday as they do on Sunday he’s talking about me.) I didn’t fuss, I just calmly told him to go upstairs and change into a different pair of pants. He came back down with dry clothes and breakfast went on.
Later, as he’s clearing the table, I notice a huge wet spot on the seat of his jeans.
“You didn’t clean up the spilled cereal on your chair before you sat back down?” I ask, possibly rhetorically, although I’m not sure if there is any such thing when you are a parent. Although, to be fair, I hadn’t reminded him to either.
“Umm…” he says.
“Go back upstairs and change again,” I sigh.
Now, all I have to do is clean the kitchen, mix the baby’s special formula. Clean out his G-tube bag, prep a meal for the bag, prep another one in a cooler bag for after church. Check to make sure baby’s oxygen tank is full, change three diapers, make sure everyone is wearing shoes (yes, we have been that family), make sure the girls have brushed their hair, make sure the diaper bags are stocked, and then send the potty trained ones to the bathroom before it’s time to go.
There may or may not be yelling involved in all of this. Hard to say. (I could tell you but then I might lose my Sunday holiness points.)
We’re rushing out the door (is there any other way to exit the house?) and I look at my 8 year old. He’s wearing his little brother’s pants that end about mid-shin, with his white socks and shoes prominently on display underneath. When this is pointed out to him, he explains that his drawers are empty and he has nothing to wear. Now, since I do the laundry, I’m positive that he has another clean pair of jeans; I just have to dig them out of his brother’s drawer.
My older sons have a complicated laundry folding ritual that involves dominance games until the loser is convinced that most of the laundry belongs to him and he has to fold it and put it away. The winner gets to go play which seems like a win until it’s Sunday morning and all his clothes are in his brother’s drawer.
So, I find a clean pair of jeans, I fuss loudly at my son, I yell at the other kids who are doing everything but getting into the car, I threaten several times to pull the car over if people in the backseat don’t stop hitting each other, and arrive at church frazzled, out of breath, and exhausted.
And late. Again.
Where is that Day of Rest?
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!