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I’ve Been Awarded!…with a chain letter

So, have you heard of this Liebster Award that’s been floating around blogs?  I hadn’t until I got “nominated” for it.  Simple Days making for an Exciting Adventure listed me as one of the 9 blogs she recommended others to check out, which basically meant I got this Liebster Award.  It sounded like a chain letter (answer these questions, pass it on to x-number of other bloggers) so I thought I’d do a little Googling.  I mainly found other blogs who had received the “award,” but one lady actually did research and figured out more of what this is and the origins of it.

The result of her research?  Yeah, it’s a chain letter.  There’s no actual award, no judges, no official recognition.  It’s really just a way to spread the word about other blogs that you like.  It apparently started as a recognition for blogs with 3,000 followers or less, but now it’s down to 200 followers or less.  At first, you were supposed to then “nominate” five other blogs, now it’s eleven other blogs.  So, I’m going to go with the fluidity of it and adapt it the way I want to adapt it.  😉

I will say that I did feel honored that the author of Simple Days listed Our Montessori Home as one of her nine blogs.  She’s not someone I know personally and I honestly have never heard of her blog, so it made me feel really good that she liked my blog enough to tell others they should check it out.  Thank you, author of Simple Days!  You made me smile!

I debated whether to continue it on or not, but, hey, why not?

The only problem is that I don’t follow many blogs, and the ones I follow are the giant having-a-book-published type.  So I just looked through some of my pinterest boards and found a few blogs whose ideas I like.  I went with ones that seem to have 400 followers or less.  I haven’t fully read any of these blogs, but I at least like one thing they posted!  🙂

Here are the “rules” of the award.  As I mentioned previously, I’ve adapted some of them.  Because I wanted to.

■When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself
■Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
■Pass the award onto 5 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)
■You write up 5 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
■You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog!

Here we go…

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Random Facts:

1. I pretty much only drink water.  That habit started as a teenager when my mom only gave me about $3 per meal when I went on trips with my youth group.  I pretty much had money for food or a drink, definitely not both.  Food won out, and free water became my staple.

2.  Drinking water is the only healthy thing in my diet.

3.  I’d be perfectly happy eating only chocolate.  Ever.

4.  I just glanced over and noticed that Mr. BANG left his entire bread crust sitting on the table after lunch.

5.  One of my goals in life is to grow a garden.  I’ve made no progress in starting toward that goal.

6.  I probably wouldn’t eat the vegetables even if I grew them.

7.  I fell asleep at the wheel one time.  I totaled my car, but walked away with just some bruises and some airbag burn on my wrists.  No other cars were in any of the three lanes around me.  I really felt God’s amazing presence through that whole experience.

8.  A lady at the police station I went to after my wreck (to wait for my sister to drive across the state and pick me up – I was too young for a rental car) took me out to eat while I was stranded at the police station for hours.  It was just Taco Bell, but it was a huge blessing to me!

9.  I now coincidentally live in the same county where that wreck happened.  I didn’t even realize it until after I moved in and my brother-in-law pointed it out to me.  I lived in another state at the time and never thought I’d live in this state at all, much less in that same county!

10.  My husband was in a wreck this morning.  Thankfully, it was just a fender bender.  His car is fine, but the front of the other car apparently got dinged pretty good.

11.  I realized today that I start many, many sentences with “so.”

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So, do you seriously want to now read answers to 11 questions about me?  Wow, this is very me, me, me…

1. What is your favorite thing to write about?  I guess child development stuff

2. What is your typical goal for blogging-daily, weekly, monthly?  at this point, if I post weekly, I’m doing good!

3. How do you find new blogs to read?  recommendations from friends

4. What has been your favorite book you have read in the past year?  Boundaries with Kids by Townsend and Cloud

5. How do you find time to blog? put off doing more important things

6. What brought you to blogging? putting off washing dishes

7. Do you still blog for the reason above?  haha!  Yes!  What do you think I’m doing right now?

8. Have you ever received an award? or been recognized for something?  um… I was voted Best Personality in high school.  Does that count?

9. If yes, for what?  answered in #8

10. What are two things that have influenced your adult life?  1) Gateway Community Church gave me a whole new understanding of what church can be.  2) Montessori Institute of Atlanta gave me a new understanding of child development and appropriate expectations for different ages

11. What is your favorite day to celebrate?  Saturday – a day for the whole family to be together!  (or for the hubby to take the kids while I have a couple hours that I don’t have to act out whatever character role!  I’m Captain Hook this week – after he learned to be nice)

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Questions for my nominated bloggers:

1.  Has there been a teacher/mentor who has been meaningful in your life?  In what way?

2.  Has there been a special friend who has been meaningful in your life?  In what way?

3.  Do you have any special projects you’re working on?  What are they?

4.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

5.  Are you a refrigerator-covered-with-magnets-and-kid-artwork kind of person or a refrigerator-should-be-clean-and-tidy kind of person?

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And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

The blogs nominated for the highly coveted Liebster Award are:

*Maybe Montessori!

*Peace Starts At Home!

*We Don’t Need No Education!

*Making Montessori Ours!

*Tot Treasures!

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Enjoy checking out these blogs!

And please let me know what other small-readership blogs I should be checking out!

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Living in the Real World

Do you ever feel like you were born into the wrong time period?  I totally do.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love being able to wear blue jeans every day, and I really would not want to trade that for long, heavy dresses and corsets.  And I’m all about having a shower with hot water and a washing machine that takes care of my kids urine-soaked and paint-splattered clothes.  BUT…this whole virtual world thing, where we keep in touch with everyone we’ve ever known by means of very shallow interactions through a flat screen and some buttons that we push to express our words…that’s not what I want.  We even try to express our emotions through those same buttons.  🙂     😦     :*-(     :-/     😛     😉

Even the people around us, who we see casually on a regular basis, are also virtual friends.  We run into someone while picking up a new jar of natural peanut butter, and suddenly have to race through mental images of facebook screens:  “She just said something important on fb, what was it?!”  Or we get moderately irritated because we have to explain something to a fellow facebooker that we already explained on facebook.

It seems like we don’t even expect to develop deep relationships where we really share our lives with each other.  We’re too busy keeping up with everyone to focus on a few real relationships with people currently surrounding us.

I think I would fit much better in a time period when the people in your life were the people who lived right there with you.  I love the idea of being fully present with the people in my own community.  Right now, I can see out the window to my neighbor’s house.  We’ve been to their house and they’ve been to ours, and we talk in the yard sometimes, but you know where the majority of our interaction is?  Facebook.  How strange!

I also don’t fit in a world with all this crazy computer technology stuff.  Albeit, my house, clothes, and food are provided by that crazy computer technology stuff because my husband’s job involves him typing stuff into a computer in languages I could never dream to comprehend.  But all these things like iPhones, iPads, Nooks…is there something called a Nano?  Oh, I just don’t get all those!  I’m only 33, but I’m such an old grandma when it comes to those things.  Actually, that’s not fair to say – my 70 year MIL is more up-to-date on these things than I am.  The Brain from time to time offers to buy me some new something-or-other for birthday or Christmas.  I pretty much always turn him down.  I don’t need some expensive gadget that I don’t even understand!

So, really, all of that is to explain part of the reason this blog has been silent for the last month.  I spent a mainly-computer-free week at my parents’ house between Christmas and New Year’s.  It was wonderful!  When I got back home, I did of course make use of the computer some, but I just haven’t had that same desire to reach out to that world of people that exist beyond my screen somewhere.  It is so much nicer to be available to play games and read books with my little active, imaginative munchkins.  Our homeschool preschool has been better this month than it ever has been, because I’ve been more invested in it.  We have been having SUCH a great preschool experience!

I got to have another completely computer-free experience for most of this week.  We spent the time at my dear friend’s house, and it was such a refreshing blessing.  She and her husband have five children under the age of 8, and they are the most incredible kids I have ever had the opportunity to know.  Normally with that many young children (my two were also thrown in the mix, of course) there’s a fair amount of chaos and loudness and resulting headaches.  Not with this crew.  Not at all.  They have a fabulous time playing together, but somehow manage to do so without getting out of control.  There are many reasons for that, of course, but I think two main aspects of it are that their mom is fully present (she’s not half-listening/half-computering), and that t.v. is, for the most part, not a part of the kids’ daily lives.  They fully live in the present.  Now, they do have their own detailed imaginary world that all four of the older ones play together, but it’s from their imaginations!  There is no virtual world for them, other than the imaginary one they themselves create with their own minds, and they pull visiting friends right into that one.  They don’t copy inappropriate phrases or actions from t.v. or movie characters.  They are fully themselves, confident in their own thoughts and opinions, and respectful of the opinions and desires of others.  I truly love being around these kids!

So what does this have to do with anything?  I don’t know.  I’m rambling-typing on a computer instead of taking care of some personal e-mails that are waiting for responses.  I could just call those people.  But I’ll stick with the virtual interactions for now.

I did pull up the blog today specifically for a Montessori/Mason compare and contrast post, based on some reading I’ve been doing.  I don’t seem to have made it to that.  (shrug) I’ll get to it sometime.  You know, Montessori and Mason both lived prior to t.v. and computers.  Maybe that’s why I like them.  🙂

Disclaimer:  This whole post may be a result of reading the Little House books way too many times over the past few months.  I want to be in that family.  Although, I’d probably be Mary, who is significantly less cool than Laura.

Disclaimer #2:  I actually wrote this a week or two ago, whenever it was that I got home from Corrie’s house.  I’m a bit slow in posting.

Disclaimer #3:  I kinda feel like I should put some pics on the blog to make it a little more visually appealing.   But…I think I won’t bother with that.  Sorry.  Again, I’m Mary, the boring one.

Why We Don’t Do Santa

I’ve been planning to write a post on why we don’t do the “Santa thing.”  I was going to explain that Drama Queen and Mr. BANG are very interested in differentiating reality from make believe.  For every book we read, every story I tell, every show we watch, they ask at least once, “Is this real?”  They also love pointing out make-believe things themselves, with the joy of being able to show that they know it isn’t real.  It would be rather odd to then convince them that this fictional gift-giving magical man (and his colorful, short, toy-making helpers) are real.

I was going to describe that we don’t ignore the Santa items all around during the Christmas season.  I have cheerfully pointed out to them the enormous inflatable Santa that we regularly drive past.  We read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as well a few other stories involving Santa.  (Given to my kids by others, incidentally.)  When Drama Queen and I were in a mall recently, she asked “What’s that?” as we passed the “sit in Santa’s lap” area.  I said with enthusiasm, “Oh!  It’s a man in a Santa costume!  Children are taking turns sitting in his lap and talking to him.  Would you like to go sit in his lap and talk to him?”  Not surprisingly, she answered, “No.”  Sitting in the lap of a strange man who isn’t a friend of Mommy’s or Daddy’s?  Awkward.

(Can I add a little side-note here on behalf of young children?  Forcing children to sit in Santa’s lap when they don’t want to is quite selfish.  Just because a parent cherishes this annual cutesy photo, even thinking it’s funny when the child is crying in it, she demands that her young child sit in a stranger’s lap when he wants the comfort and security of Mommy.  I encourage you to please think about it from the child’s perspective.  And, yes, the child’s perspective does matter.  Even at one year old.  But I digress.)

I was going to share that, as a Christian, I really want to keep Jesus’ birth at the center of all the fun and celebration of Christmas.  We read about his birth daily and the children repeatedly act out the story with our nativity set.

    

As God generously gave by allowing His Son to leave the wonders of heaven to come down to our screwed-up world for the sake of us, I teach Mr. BANG and Drama Queen to be givers.  They’re continuing to pile up toys to give to other children.  They’ve been making Christmas cards and ornaments to take to a local retirement home on Christmas Eve day.  They’re practicing wrapping presents, and excitedly declaring who each one is for.

    

So I was going to write out full descriptions of all that.  Then articles and videos started popping up on my facebook feed.  As I read/watched them, I became increasingly challenged.  Am I really making Christ the focus of the season?  Am I teaching my children to be materialistic?  I’m still sorting through the thoughts that these articles and videos have created in my mind.  I don’t know yet how my own family’s Christmas experiences will be shaped by these people’s experiences.  I haven’t even shared the details of the articles/videos with The Brain yet.  But they’ve definitely got me thinking.  In case you’re interested in taking a fresh look at what the holiday is about and how to express that as a family, I want to also share some of them with you.

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The Rich Family in the Church

Apparently this one has been circulated quite a bit, but I had never read it before.   It’s the story of a widow and her three daughters.  In 1946, despite getting by eating only potatoes for a month and wearing cardboard in shoes to cover the holes, they were told they were poor for the first time.  They had never thought of themselves that way, and it stunned them.  It’s a powerful look at what being “rich” and being “poor” truly mean – and what importance material possessions really hold.  If you decide to read this one, also read “Update on the author’s life” in the blue box on the right.  Amazing!

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When Christmas Gets Radical:  Whose Birthday Is It Really?

(Warning:  this site has continuous music in the background.  If that drives you crazy, as it does me, be ready to push the pause button in the top middle or go ahead and mute your computer now.)

This is from the blog of Ann Voskamp, author of the much-talked-about and incredibly-loved “One Thousand Gifts.”  Which I haven’t read yet.  But I WILL!  I promise, at some point I will!  For now, though, I am absolutely loving her blog.

In this particular post, Ann receives a challenging question from her five-year-old son:  “What does Jesus get for his birthday?…Why don’t we give things up so we can give to Jesus for his birthday?”  From that Christmas on, ten years now, they have given gifts to Jesus instead of each other.  They flip through catalogs, selecting things such as milk, blankets, or mosquito nets for the needy.  “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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The Christmas Conundrum

This blog is by another author, Jen Hatmaker.  I don’t know anything about her books, but I found her ideas to help “pull out of the system” to be very powerful.  Early in the post, she writes, “What happened to Christmas? What on earth happened to it? When did it transform from something simple and beautiful to what it is now? How insidiously did the enemy work to slowly hijack Jesus’ birth and hand it over on a silver platter to Big Marketing, tricking His own followers into financing the confiscation?”

The bulk of the post focuses in on five ideas for making the Christmas season more meaningful.  I’ll share with you the main points of those ideas, and let you read the full explanation on her page:

1)  “We’ve pulled out of the Santa charade.”

2)  “Spending.  Whatintheworld?”

3)  “Let’s MAKE DADGUM SURE the products we do buy don’t come to us courtesy of slave labor.”

4)  “On the other hand, we can do so much good with our dollar!”

5)  “Instead of just pulling old habits off the shelf and leaving a vacuum of void and guilt, let’s replace American practices with – and I mean this in the most sincerest sense – Christian practices.”

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What Mark Driscoll Teaches His Kids About Santa

This article contains historic information about Saint Nicholas and origins of the legends of Santa Claus.  This part in particular was interesting to me:

“In Germany, Martin Luther replaced him [Nicholas] with the Christ child as the object of holiday celebration, or, in German, Christkindl. Over time, the celebration of the Christ child was simply pronounced Kris Kringle and oddly became just another name for Santa Claus.”

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What about you?  What is your approach to the Christmas season?

Surprise Discovery

So, do you remember my ordeal last week on my miserable day when I tried to let the kids watch A Charlie Brown Christmas but it kept not working out?  Well, take a wild guess what I found today…

In my massive collection of about 15 DVDs, there’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Right there.  Still wrapped in cellophane.  Never watched.  Already purchased.  Nice.

Just to make sure you don’t think I have it all together…

First thing this morning, I went to investigate a strange sound.  (It turned out to be a newly closed vent in the living room.)  I went upstairs to see if it was something up there.  In the hallway, I could tell someone had made full use of the potty already.  So imagine my surprise to walk in the bathroom to see one potty with urine and one empty.  I headed into Mr. BANG’s room.  I saw one clump on the floor.  This is a boy who, since he started sitting on the potty at 9 months old, has had maybe ten dirty diapers in all the time since.

I immediately ran downstairs, told Mr. BANG to put down his camera, and rushed him to the sink to wash hands.  All ten fingernails were completely brown.  He washed, I washed him, then I left him washing more as I ran up to get the fingernail brush from their bath toys.

Once fingernails were clear, I led him to the potty.  When I took off the diaper and started doing a basic clean-up, he started crying – apparently it had caused a rash.

When I got him clean and on the potty, I went up to clean/empty his room.  There were no smears, but at least 15 clumps.  I now have piles in the laundry room and a large plastic bag of toys in the kitchen, waiting to be cleaned.  I’ve disinfected the stair railing and Roomba is working on the hallway, making his way to Mr. BANG’s room.

Drama Queen, of course, the whole time is wanting me to be fully involved in playing Santa.  I have let them watch some of the classic Christmas cartoons for the first time this year, like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  In previous Christmases, I’ve just exposed them to Christmas things that centered on Jesus, so she loved acting out the Nativity and pretending to be baby Jesus.  Now it’s all about me being Santa and her being an elf.

I go downstairs to check on Mr. BANG.  He’s still on the potty, but has ripped his new Thomas book from Katie to shreds.  He wails as he watches me put every piece in the trash.

I go to sit them down in front of the t.v., and buy “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” on Amazon streaming for them to watch and leave me alone to cool down.  I purchased it on my computer; it apparently only shows up on the t.v. if it was purchased on The Brain’s computer.  I decide to pay $20 for the movie and buy it on The Brain’s computer (it’s $10 to buy it once).  I can’t find his wireless keyboard.

They’re now watching Rudolph, one of the ones I don’t want them watching anymore.  (Disclaimer:  no, it’s not a bad movie.  It’s very cute and I loved it as a kid.  I just want them geared back toward focusing on Jesus as the reason for and purpose of Christmas.)

Roomba just fussed at me that he’s hanging off the stairs.  I thought he was supposed to be built to avoid those.

We haven’t had breakfast yet.

I’m thinking I am not in an emotional state to handle the kids in preschool today.  I don’t know what we’re doing instead.  Maybe let them watch bad-for-them movies all day.

Other than that, it’s a fabulous day.

Yes, free play IS more important then those expensive lessons

Did you know that there are conferences now on how to play with your children?  And that books are written on the importance of play for children?  How did we get to a point in our society where free play isn’t just a normal aspect of childhood?  Somehow we’ve gotten way too structured and demanding about young children reaching predetermined levels of accomplishment – even at 3 years old!!

Here are a couple of great articles about the importance of play.

The first is from The Atlantic:

All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed

By Esther Entin

For more than fifty years, children’s free play time has been continually declining, and it’s keeping them from turning into confident adults

The second is from Huff Post:

If We Don’t Let Our Children Play, Who Will Be the Next Steve Jobs?

by Darell Hammond

I love this quote by Jobs:  “School was pretty hard for me at the beginning. My mother taught me how to read before I got to school and so when I got there I really just wanted to do two things. I wanted to read books because I loved reading books and I wanted to go outside and chase butterflies. You know, do the things that five year olds like to do. I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.”

This quote that I saw on facebook fits this topic perfectly:

“Be careful what you teach.  It might interfere with what they are learning.”  -Magda Gerber

Snowflakes on a Red Leaf

When I was a little girl growing up in Small Town, Kentucky, life was like a perfectly formed puzzle.  Not that life was perfect, of course, but all the pieces fit together as they should.  Each piece was unique and fit into one specific spot within the full puzzle.  We had four clear-cut seasons:  winter was cold with bare trees, spring introduced warm sunshine with a vibrant blast of color, summer was hot and involved a lawn that continuously needed mowing, and fall provided cooler temperatures along with fireworks of colors through the leaves before they slowly fluttered to the ground.  Kids went to school and parents went to work.  People only died when they were really old or had been sick a long time.

I wish it was still that way.

A couple weeks ago as I was checking Facebook, I noticed comments that some friends had written on a mutual friend’s wall.  They were condolence-type remarks, stating things such as, “Don’t know what to say.  Just want you to know how devastated I am for you” and, “Just found out and praying for you and the kids, my friend.  We are so terribly sorry.” As I read through some of the dozens of other comments that had been written on her wall over the previous hour, it became suddenly – and shockingly – clear that her husband had passed away.  But…what?!  WHAT?!  That’s not possible!  He’s only 51.  He hasn’t been sick.  He has two teenage children who still need a dad.  This is not a piece that fits in the puzzle!!

I spent the next several days in shock and chaos.  I canceled all plans for the next week and contacted grandparents about keeping Drama Queen and Mr. BANG.  They couldn’t say yes or no until I knew a specific date.  Since I now live 600 miles away, I had to rely on friends to pass on the funeral information as soon as it was announced.  The Brain had to wait until the last minute before deciding if he could go, based on work situations.

A week later, I left The Brain, Drama Queen, and Mr. BANG at home, along with my mother-in-law, and took off on a solo road trip.  The surrealism of the week just continued.  Due to some potentially hazardous car issues, I spent a night in a hotel.  The next morning, I opened my window to heavy snowfall and a solid covering of snow blending everything together.  Mind you, this was a couple days before Halloween.  It was still October.  In Virginia.  Snow in October in Virginia is not a piece that fits in the puzzle.

Driving through snow in a car that potentially had issues (an AutoZone employee had said the battery and alternator were fine, but I was still concerned), I pulled into the church parking lot just five minutes late for the 1:00 funeral service.

Now, I haven’t described Scott at all, but he certainly was a guy who didn’t fit into any standard puzzle.  He was an incredibly talented musician who loved playing in bands and did so regularly from the time he first picked up the guitar as a kid.  He was a guy who was passionate about his love for Jesus, and just couldn’t help but share that with others.  He was a guy who was rarely serious, but was always speaking and acting out of his own quirky sense-of-humor.  He was a guy who frequently was on the edge of inappropriate, and sometimes went right over that edge.  He didn’t fit the stereotype of a “typical” musician or a “typical” Christian.

His funeral fit him perfectly.  This was no small funeral service with weak organ music in a dimly-lit, strange-smelling funeral home.  This was a funeral service in a packed-out church with three full bands that Scott played in:  a Messianic Jewish band (complete with circle dancers), our church band, and his old band from his college days.  I have never before been to a funeral which included songs by both Matt Redmond and The Who.

One song was performed as Scott’s personal testimony, a song which The Brain actually had introduced him to when they were working together.

Every night I stand before you/and please know that I’m so glad you came/ Who am I that you should treat me like a hero/ I am no Superman but just another face

If I had it to do over/ I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same/ Cuz through it all I’ve learned about my God’s forgiveness/ Well I rejoice cuz I can turn to Him and say

I have stolen, cheated, I have lied/ I am prideful and unqualified/ I am broken when I realize/ It’s God’s grace, God’s grace that covers me

(“Unqualified” by Eli)

It was a beautiful ceremony with laughter, tears, both funny and touching stories about Scott through the years, great music, and even some dancing.  (I think one lady actually thought she was at a The Who concert for a few minutes.)  But it shouldn’t have happened.  There shouldn’t have been any funeral service for Scott.  Not for decades.  That doesn’t fit in my puzzle.

Leaving the church two hours later, I couldn’t help but be struck by the peaceful white snowflakes falling against the flaming fall leaves.  Snow isn’t supposed to fall while leaves are still on trees.  People aren’t supposed to die when they’re still healthy and fairly young.

      

I’m back home in Tennessee now.  I’m sitting on my glider rocker with my computer in my lap.  Mr. BANG is peacefully napping while Drama Queen rather noisily is having “rest time” in her room.  The fog and rain are washing over the yard filled with curled up brown leaves.  My puzzle is back to normal.  Every piece is in its proper place.

For Maria, Sofi, and Nate, though, there is no “back to normal.”  Over time, they’ll put a lot of pieces back in place and find new pieces that fit in here and there.  But their puzzle will never be complete.  It will never be the same.