Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting to the heart of the matter

Like everyone else we struggle with discipline. We want those joyful days when the children play without fighting, obey us without complaining and with immediacy, and to lay down at night feeling that we are able to parent our crew with success. It is not that our children are terrible. Its is simply that there are four of them and two of us and we are all trying to learn. I think when we are reading and studying about parenting we do a better job. I DO NOT believe there is a perfect parenting book. Every one I have read includes parts I disagree with. When I get to heaven I plan to ask God why he didn't include a book on parenting in His Book. Thou shalt handle sibling rivalry by...., When they tattle tell them....., When one child strikes another thou should.... It would help me a lot. My guess is he will reply "I gave you all you needed, didn't you see how to apply it to raising kids? Maybe you should have studied more, my child." So I will study more. I will look to His Word in the instruction of my children. I will also share the imperfect books that have helped us along the way. I appreciate other's recommendations, so here are mine. I emphasize the most recent because they focus on God's plan for discipline.

The Best Baby on the Block got us through colic and taught us about why a newborn does the things they do, Positive Parenting by Glenn Latham was recommended by a friend and helped us with preparing ahead of time for expected behaviors and the importance of praise (which was not one of my gifts) and communication. Most recently a new study with our homeschool group has focused us on their hearts instead of their behavior. The inappropriate behavior isn't the true problem, but it often gets our attention. Whether or not we can get a kid to act a certain way is not the aim of our parenting, but too often it has been the focus. We want Godly children who love Him more than anything else and know the joy that comes through Jesus' sacrifice on their behalf. Having their heart overflow with the fruit of a Godly spirit will bring all the good behaviors we seek on its own. Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp brought this to our attention and a video series loaned to us by a friend has echoed our need for this to be our focus. So we are trying to consistently implement Godly discipline and instruction. For Instruction in Righteousness by Doorposts has helped us target specific behaviors and study about them with the children. If you are like us and caught up in the behavior issues, step back and check out their heart. What is going on with them really- what is the sin you are dealing with? When you do this I will warn you that you will have to look at yourself, too. You might not like what you see, I certainly didn't relish the reflection. However, in the end, if your experience is like what we are beginning to see- everyone will be better for it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We needed a jump, AGAIN!

We have had a continual problem with our van and it makes me crazy every time it happens. I was warned about this before we bought it by a friend who owned one. Leave an interior light on in a Honda Odyssey and the battery will be dead before you know it. For this reason I have the interior light switch set to "off". However, when a small member of the household (which small one has yet to be determined) goes out to the car and turns it to the "on" position and leaves it, the next time we venture out we are stranded. It is an easy mistake- you can't tell the lights are on in the van when the lights inside the gargage are on as well. We usually catch it, but not always. A few months ago it was dead and friends loaned us a charger. Last week a neighbor rescued me with a portable jump starter. Today we were stranded. Laurel, Matthew, and I managed to push the van out of the garage. I had figured out a way to get the truck to it, but guess what- the truck was dead, too. We had plans to eat with Daddy at the university (see the Easter post), but we were stuck. Tim came home and we made it back to MSU in time to eat. It all worked out, but for a Mom who is trying to get life back on track after being sick it was an aggravation that wasn't needed (picture a house in chaos and costumes for an upcoming dinner not nearly as far along as they should be!). Tim says he'll get us a portable jump starter so I won't be stuck (which translates into an immediate call to him in frustration). So a solution is found. All is well. The perpetrator goes unknown, but all small children experienced punishment as they had to wait in fear that we wouldn't make it to eat. Cereal, ice cream, and chocolate milk hung in the balance. Dad was a hero, his boys saw him come to the rescue. Tonight they sleep happy after waffle cones, jello, and Trix. The house is a wreck, there are 5 tunics and 1 chemise to be made, but the van lights are OFF!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter and a sick Mom

I woke up Easter morning with a sore throat. I am still suffering with a cold, but wanted to share our last few days. I'll try to get it together to post a picture in the next few days.

Easter morning- We were awakened at daybreak by the children eager to claim their candy. We gave them their baskets and they devoured several pieces each-breakfast of champions. I went ahead to church because the children had been anticipating the special service and I didn't want them to miss out because Mom was sick. The service was very nice-even when viewed through a Benedryl haze. We came home, ate, and Mom went to bed. Katey went to nap. Dad was supervising, but dozed off mid-egg hunt. Not fully asleep, but not fully awake. The children seized the moment and consumed their entire baskets of candy. Not enough to make them sick, but much more than we would have allowed had we been fully awake. They also gave up on Mom getting up to dye eggs and painted them themselves (Daddy had already hard boiled them thankfully!). They did a great job. They got out the watercolors and painted the eggs. Some of the prettiest I have seen. They were high on sugar, but creative. So, when Mom is sick you can paint, have an egg hunt, and consume massive amounts of candy. They may pray less earnestly for my health in the future.

The last couple of days have been spent doing school in between Mom's trips to blow her nose and laying around the house. The children have been kind, obedient, and understanding. Tim has helped out. However, I have a deadline issued by Laurel. Wednesday is dinner at the university with Daddy's residential college in the dining hall. A highlight of the month for them. They fully expect Mom well by then. Cereal for dessert or ice cream in freshly made waffle cones, mulitiple food choices, and chocolate milk to drink. An event not to be missed, so Mom must be on the mend. They are keeping track, making sure I am improving.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Do all kids make this much mess?

My kids are messy. There is four of them, that roughly equates to an F4 tornado striking our home daily. They are doing better. They recently kept the basement picked up for a month on their own. It was great. But as I hastily grabbed a toboggan as it was being flushed down the toilet tonight I had to wonder- are my kids worse than others? Here is today's list of the kids' messes that required cleaning up:
  1. Coca-cola from the floors and counter (left over from Bible study on Sunday-I knew I should have given that away!! Temptation got the best of Laurel who couldn't resist an early morning drink)
  2. Carter's bedding. All of it. Too much water before bed last night, you get the picture.
  3. Pancakes (Katey through hers in the floor when she was finished crumbling them into pieces)
  4. Bingo chips from a phonics bingo game (twice!)
  5. Construction paper and school supplies. The downstairs cabinet contents mysteriously found their way out of the cabinet. This one was handled by the children who didn't have an explanation for this strange phenomenon.
  6. Instant rice- 1/2 box dumped and then spread all over the kitchen by a gleeful two year old.
  7. Katey- the entire child- covered in peanut butter and jelly. Apparently she preferred it as a body treatment instead of lunch. Immediate trip to the tub required.
  8. Water on the basement floor. Matthew's attempt at cleaning an outside toy to make it an inside one. (Yes, I made him help in the clean up. I was pleased he was actually cleaning something on his own.)
  9. Banana. Whole in peel. Left on the floor under the counter stools until I discovered it. Apparently no one felt like picking it up, but didn't mind stepping on it.
  10. The toboggan. The reason for this post. As Carter was flushing his daily "business" down the toilet it fell from his head. Luckily Mom was nearby to grab it before it was sucked down. Call to the plumber avoided, Mom thoroughly grossed out. Thus this post.
  11. All the other clothes, dishes, toys, that are a normal part of their day. Many of which aren't completely cleaned up at this moment.
Does everyone experience this? Does anyone else wish they could do something else with their time besides clean up a mess? Some days are better than others. Today I was pushed over the edge by a well knit hat.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fat feet

I have cursed my children. You see in the Mullins family line (my father's side) there are generations of fat feet. We are talking flintstones, people. I have them and always hated it. You won't see me in a dainty pair of sandals. No tiny straps showing off beautiful toes here. I have come to terms with it in recent years. My brother in law claims the beautiful feet award in our family. He is pretty proud of it actually. However, pity my children. Tonight we shoe shopped for Easter. No ballet style white shoes for Laurel or Katey- too narrow. Sandals for the boys-not a single pair fit. Two stores, all styles-no luck. Cursed with bad genes. It will be flip flops and tennis shoes for the Johnston kids on Easter Sunday. Its okay. Mom will probably wear jeans. We'll turn Easter Sunday tradition on its head. Hey, maybe we'll focus on worship instead of "wear"! A novel idea.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Upward Basketball

The kids played Upward basketball for the first time this year and have just finished their season. They began not knowing how to dribble and they have come a long way. They both now say that basketball is their favorite sport. We bought a portable hoop for the patio and they are enjoying playing at home. Burn that energy!!! The Christian atomosphere that is a part of the Upward program was a blessing to them as well. Below is a link to a video clip of the kids playing, so check it out. Its the product of my four hour attempt to use our software for the video camera-let's hope I get a little better at it! Also, those of you who know Matthew Crabb- he is playing on our Matthew's opposing team, so look for him as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A lesson in advertising

Today Laurel learned a lesson. The kids have been asking for new webkinz for their end of school "celebration". I am trying to teach (and learn) a little patience and less emphasis on "things" but we got a flier in the mail about a consignment sale in town with webkinz for $5. That is really cheap. The bargain shopper in me came alive. I told them we would go ahead and check it out. So, this afternoon we headed out to the sale-everybody is getting a treat. Carter was excited to get in on the action. We arrived and found out they had only had a few. It was one of those fliers that was designed to get you in the door. Limited quantities. Sold out before the sale even is open to the public. Not that surprising after I thought about it. Maybe the flier said something about this, I really didn't look that close. Laurel brought it to me and asked if we could go. However, she was the most disappointed of the crew and not because she didn't get a webkinz. She was discouraged because "they said they would have webkinz for $5". A lesson in advertising and the need to read the fine print. I explained to her that businesses will offer something really cheap and only sell a few just to get you to come in and buy something else. We fell for it this time, but we didn't shop. We actually left immediately. I didn't even check out the boys shorts as I had planned. It was a good lesson. Laurel learned that advertisements are designed to get you in the door. The consignment sale sponsor learned that a woman with four kids in tow will leave without shopping if you disappoint her kids.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I love the Magic Eraser

Ever used a Magic Eraser? As I understand it its basically a sponge with some sort of cleaning element embedded in it. A friend of mine recommended this to me about this time last year. I have loved it. Clean the tub with it, wipe down walls, clean a fridge, its all purpose (for the frugal- cut them in half so they last longer!). One of its best features is that it will clean crayon off almost anything. This came in very handy today. You see we bought a new computer. We wanted XP back and so we decided to buy while Dell is still offering a choice (see our I hate Vista post in Feb). DHL delivered Wednesday afternoon. Two days ago, 48 hours before now. Moments ago Katey decided to make her mark on it. LITERALLY. Autographed the top. Lovely brown crayon marks. Now you see where I am headed. Wiped it off with water, nothing. A little warm water and dish soap, nope. So, I gave it a try. I was nervous, but it has worked on everything else. Magic Eraser saves the day! I don't have to welcome Tim home with news that another item has been damaged by our children, and this time an expensive one. The magic eraser can damage things, take some paint off the surface, dull a shiny surface, but this time: perfection. So next time you get a mural on the wall you didn't commission, try it. It will likely work.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In my dream world Walmart would have a drive thru

Tonight I needed a few things. Just those one or two urgent items to make it through to the next big grocery trip. Basically it was fish food. The poor frogs and fish haven't eaten since yesterday. They scurry around the fish bowl if I stand nearby. They are hungry. I am out of the carbonated water I like and we are low on milk. Just those things and we can make it until the weekend and the full shopping trip. So out I went with kids to Wendy's and a planned trip to Walmart (Mom doesn't cook when Dad has a night class!). I thought I could do it. I could run in with the kids for those few things. I approached the parking lot and I decided, NO! I will not subject myself and the end of our day to the normal Walmart adventure. I am strangely transformed when I enter this store with my kids. I talk us through the entire store with phrases like "Stop touching that! Don't push your brother! We aren't getting that! Stay with me! Use an inside voice!" I know people think I am a crazy woman. By the time I return to the car I often agree. So not tonight. Tim had already said he would stop on the way home. I hate to ask him to go to Walmart at 9:30, but tonight I will take advantage of having a good husband. He will rescue the fish and I will avoid the screaming crazy woman I turn into inside the retail giant. Why can't they just have a 20 items or less drive thru? Don't they know the value that Moms put on places that you DON'T have to unload the kids? Call in your short list, pick it up in 30 minutes. It would change my life. Yes, I am familiar with the typical level of customer service at Walmart, but I can dream can't I?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dora shoes to the rescue

Nana and Papa bought Katey some Dora "crocs" for her birthday. You see Katey loves shoes, all kinds. Even as a baby she loved to try on shoes in the shoe aisle at Walmart. I would take her in for one pair, find them right away, but we would still have to try on all the others she saw. Payless...well lets just not talk about that. Remember: shop online- free store delivery, less torture. Leave a pair lying around, she will try them out. Hunting for our shoes has become commonplace around our house. As for her new favorite pair, for the last two days she has even worn them to nap. I draw the line at bedtime so at least for a few hours her feet can breathe. Love in a size 8.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sorry! This blog is new to me...

A public apology. I had no idea that in order to leave a comment here you had to give over your firstborn. I have changed the settings to allow anyone to post a comment if you choose. Sorry to anyone who tried to post and was turned away by the settings (I would have been!). This thing is new to me. It really is just my attempt to document our lives for ourselves, friends, and family. Hopefully everyone can laugh along with us. Life is so much more enjoyable that way. Have a good day!

Monday, March 3, 2008

A little reflection makes for a good day

We are finishing up school. By the end of April our year will be done. Its been a crazy one. With the move, homeschooling, and a new job for Tim a lot of things have changed. However, when I look back over what the children have learned this year I am amazed. They have accomplished all the goals I set for them and more. Matthew began the year knowing his letter sounds and is now reading well. Laurel is writing neatly in cursive, finishing up "4th grade" Spelling, and continues to read very well. Both of them are doing well in Math after a curriculum change mid-year. I think I lost track along the way of all they were learning. The day in day out gets so crazy at times it is hard to see the big picture. Today as I sat down to plan out the rest of our year I see how far they have come. Yes, there are things that need review, of course. We'll do that in the coming weeks. It just feels very rewarding to look back and see what we have done together. I truly feel God has blessed us in our school. The progress is an answer to my prayers for them and our work together. I know tomorrow is another day. Tides may turn. It may be one of those days I wonder why God gave them to me when I can't even help them to see how to add double digits or put things in alphabetical order. But for today I feel blessed... I feel like a good Mom so I will enjoy it. Today my son knew that "dog" came before "fix" and my daughter could add 698+76 correctly. A good day!