Sunday, November 30, 2008

Taking a Break

I'm not going to be around much for a few weeks in terms of blogging. There are some things I need to attend to before the end of the year. But more than that, I'm in need of a time of "fasting" from this blog. I'm seeking some perspective as to where it should fit into my life. It's become quite a hobby for me and I fear it is taking priority over the relationships within my own home. And as all things go with me, it is becoming a place of comparison. So that being said, I need to step away for a while. But for those few readers of mine, I'll be back. See ya then.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Crunch

I normally work 4-12 hours a week as a nurse at a nearby hospital. I've been there for almost nine years. Not only do I enjoy it, but it's nice to add a little cushion to the budget as well. Well, it appears that the recession has even hit the medical industry. Due to being grossly over budget on our unit, prn employees, like myself, are no longer being guaranteed the hours that are scheduled. For me this has translated into working only 4 hours in the last two weeks.

When I got the 4:30am call that my 12 hour shift had been canceled I had a bit of trouble going back to sleep. I found myself praying for those heads of households that are no longer working and the frustration they must feel. I thought of the people all over our country who are waiting for the phone to ring with news of a job opportunity. I was praying that God would use these hard times to draw people to Him, to know a Peace that is not circumstantial.

Once I did arise I set my mind to letting Sean work as undisturbed as possible on his freelance writing and purposed to "earn money" for my family in a different way. I took stock of the pantry (thankful for the leftover turkey) and printed off a few coupons for shopping.

With a trip to Kroger and Target I walked away with all of this for $34.67 and a savings of $52.48. Most of the money was saved with $1 off broccoli/cauliflower Target coupons making those $.33 a piece. Almost all the Kroger items were damaged/dented making them half off.


When I examined my receipt and discovered I had been charged $4.00 more than the advertised store tags, I debated about going back in. But since I had no kids in tow and my mission was to save money, I took the receipt to the customer service desk and received a 100% refund. I was just expecting to be refunded the difference.

And if that weren't enough, I learned that I earn 20 minutes on my cell phone for every $100 spent! Could I love this store any more?!

I spent the rest of the day steaming the vegetables and and making meals for the freezer. Whew! In the near future we'll be eating these meals:
(I'll have to space these out lest my family learn to despise turkey.)

Wild rice and turkey soup
Turkey and stuffing casserole
Italian chicken and white rice
Turkey Tetrazinni
Easy turkey pot pie
Banana Chocolate Chip muffins
Pumpkin rolls

I'll be posting some of these recipes this week on The Full Table if you are interested in what you might make from your leftover turkey.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's a Bird...It's a plane... It's....

...our very own Math Hero!!

Sean just received news of an award naming him as one of Raytheon's Math Heroes.

We had such a fun time breaking the good news to him. We only had about half an hour, but the kids were so excited and creative to pull something special together.

First there was the practice....

video

Then there was the grand announcement....

video


after which much dancing ensued....

video

along with some general superhero revelry.

video


A few years ago Sean sported a Mr. Incredible getup for spirit day at school. I couldn't find the picture, but I did find a related email from 2005:

Subject: Dear Mr. Incredible... You are my hero. You are such a strong man who can carry two children on your legs and one on your back all in a single bound!! You ride your bike faster than a car sitting in rush hour traffic. The only man who can contain 8 oz of water in his mouth before swallowing. A superbrain who teaches physics and math in his sleep. You are MR. INCREDIBLE!!!!

Be a Reader

As you can see, I've changed the look of my blog. However, in the process I dispensed unknowingly of my sidebar. All that information is gone. I'll be working on my blog roll soon, but thought some of you might like to meet each other by joining the reader's list to the left.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giving Thanks 2008

Thanksgiving 2008
Dear Friends and Family,

We’ve been learning in school this year the history of America. It is recorded that the Pilgrims sang Psalms in worship and particularly found Psalm 107 to be a comfort during their difficult travels and settling. No don’t doubt this was also part of the praise they offered up on that first Thanksgiving:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say this—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,

those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.

They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men,

for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things. –Psalm 107:1-9


We have had an encouraging time today focusing on Lord’s faithfulness and goodness during the past year. As we share in thanksgiving, we hope that you, too, are reminded of God’s many works and are prompted to share it with others.


What has God done? How has He helped you?

Sean - According to the glorious riches that are in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19), several school related blessings have been provided.

Monica - Being a mom, though never truly alone, can be isolating at times. I have been praying for several years for some closer relationships and for balance in how this would realistically fit into my life. This year God blessed me with several new friends while deepening relationships that were already dear to me. Being known and loved by other sisters in Christ has been an incredible encouragement to me this past year.

Hannah - “God has helped me with my school work.”

Lydia - “He has given us a house to live in and protected it while we were away. A big storm caused a big tree in our backyard to be struck by lightening, but our house was not harmed.”

Miriam - “God was with us when we traveled. It took a long time.”

Elizabeth - “God protected us in storms. There was tornado a couple of blocks away.”

Joseph - “He made the trees grow.”

Rebekah - “Helps me when I get an ouchy.”

John - Delivered me from my crib


What has God taught you?

Sean - “For a guy who likes to work hard, I had a delightful time getting to rest and learn this summer. Since the beginning of this school year I’ve been thankful for an extra freelance writing job, but never had as much stress in my life. I’m learning how to trust in God through this and not be filled with anxiety. Even though the amount of work hasn’t decreased, nor have the deadlines, I’m thankful for the peace that God provides.”

Monica - “God has taught me a lot about stewardship. About a year ago I felt convicted that we needed to be more intentional with our resources and really praying and asking for His best. I’ve been amazed at the many wonderful ways He has seen fit to provide for us this year. Sometimes it’s the smallest things, like the milk we drink, that gives me reason to praise. Now that the economy has declined, I see in hindsight more of His care for our family in preparing us and allow us to practice now for whatever the future may hold.”

Hannah - “To be more patient with the little kids and take time to listen to them even when it’s hard.”

Lydia - “God has taught me how to spell. Last year every single word I wrote down was incorrect, but now when I’m doing my spelling in school I spell twenty right and only five wrong!”

Miriam -“To knit and to be able to use my own hands to make something for someone else.”

Elizabeth - “How to do art in art class.”

Joseph - “I am making an engine right now, but it’s upstairs, because I’m going to make a car. God shows me how to invent.”

Rebekah - To be a big helper to mommy.

John - To be gentle (in process : )


What is your favorite memory of this past year?

(As you will read, many of the memories mentioned involve the time we spent in Florida in June. Sean was the recipient of a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship Award which sent us for an extended stay in Cape Canaveral.)

Sean – “My weekend away with Monica this Fall which included some training with other regional instructors, speaking at the conference and watching Calculus the Musical with my wife laughing hysterically.”

Monica - “Having a month to just rest and be with my family. I’ll cherish it always. Oh, and witnessing a sea turtle nesting on the shore at night was amazing!”

Hannah -“Seeing the dolphins and manatees swimming around my kayak.”

Lydia - “Walking down the sidewalk to get to the beach and feeling the hot sand on my feet.”

Miriam - “Touring the South Bend Chocolate Factory.”

Elizabeth - “Watching the kid’s play, ‘Mission to Mars’”

Joseph - “Seeing the rocket launch and the smoke going all the way up in the sky!!!”

Rebekah - “Seeing Pooh Bear at Disney World.”

John - Getting a HUGE box of Lego’s this summer at a garage sale. (He’s been busy ever since.)

There are many, many more stories to tell of our Great God’s goodness. Yes, there have been hard times and struggles along the way, but He has seen fit to sustain and uphold us. We know that there are many of you as well who have your own reasons to praise. We’d love to hear from you!

Many Blessings,


The Bird Family

Friday, November 21, 2008

Seven Quick Takes

I think this would be a great way to chronicle the randomness of my life. So here goes.

1. It's cold.
It's cold and it's truly a wonder to me that our advertised newer, energy efficient home is so very cold. Seriously, I lay in bed at night and my nose feels like I've been out sledding. We had our favorite furnace guy check it out and he said that it's just a bad design. Our room will never be really warm unless it's summer and the sun is blazing through the bay window. Then it's 102 degrees. I went to Lowe's and hope to use a hair dyer and apply some plastic over the windows this weekend. It can't hurt, that's for sure.

2. Tonight our homeschool group is have our annual Thanksgiving Feast.
There will be a pitch in and a short program. This year there will be over 150 in attendance and somehow I managed to become the coordinator of this event. No stress.

3. I love my family.
We haven't all been in one place since July and I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone. Though some of us live close, our lives are going in different directions. I look forward to some giving thanks together this week. We usually get all sappy and have a good cry. Sorry guys- you know it's inevitable.

4. We had a lice scare this week.
It's been going around and then at work there was a poster displayed in the bathroom with pictures of lice and nits. Gross. Yesterday when I was serving lunch I noticed at the top of Joseph's hair a bunch of white stuff on the crown of his head. Ahh!! Can you imagine lice in this house with the amount of hair? I called my friend who has had some experience and she assured me that it was just dandruff. Whew! I've never been happier that my five year old's hair forgot to get rinsed.

5. Hilarious.
Some friends and I almost wet our pants reading this blog together this week.

6. I'm pondering what the next step is for my nursing career.
Some of you may not know this, but I work as a nurse prn at a local hospital. I'm a lactation counselor and a postpartum nurse. I don't have any complaints about the job itself. My heart is just not there. I normally stay home more during the school year and then really pick up the hours in the summer when Sean is home. I'm feeling disconnected from my work and praying for wisdom. Maybe a different direction?

7. I'm so thankful for my children and how they help each other.
It does my heart good to see them relating to eachother in helpful ways. It could be chores, getting a bath (hence, the unrinsed shampoo), picking out an outfit, changing a diaper, school work, reading.... The other day Sean and I were cuddling on the couch watching them interact in these ways and it really does do my heart good.

Read other quick takes or submit your own at Conversation Diary.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Resting and Reading

Our culture is visually saturated and we are doing are best to raise some bookworms in the midst of this. It is so much easier to put in a DVD to quiet things down. Sometimes this is exactly what we do. But for the most part, we try to encourage the kids to wind down by "resting and reading time". This is usually an hour in midafternoon. They have found this to be the highlight of the day. It's a rare chance to be still and let the imagination soar or the mind be engaged or the spirit be renewed.

Here are some intentional steps we have taken to foster our childrens' hunger for reading even from a young age.

1. Provide low, accessible bookshelves with a wide variety of children's books. Amazing books can be found at garage sales for pennies. I used to get upset when the books were all over the floor, but then realized that love of reading and tidiness aren't even comparable. We just pick them up together at another time.

2. Go to the library often and ask the child what he/she would like to learn about. I'm often surprised by the answers I get and more surprised about their excitement to see a whole shelf of books on the topic.

3. Read exciting chapter books with an understandable plot. A book like this may take a while to get through, but it creates a thirst for more and the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a longer book.

4. Read with an accent. Sean has a English/Scottish/Irish accent that comes out ever so often and really engages the children. Kermit the frog also makes an appearance over the kitchen's half wall for some reading after dinner:)

5. Invest in a few quality picture books. Usborne books has some large, well illustrated and captioned books on history and science. The younger kids and beginning readers can spend a good hour looking through these and studying the pictures. These books are made for little hands and can withstand quite a bit of use.

6. When watching TV or a DVD turn on closed captioning. Seeing the words and hearing them at the same time is good for the brain and an easy way for our struggling readers to get some practice without knowing it.

6. Don't avoid older books or those with a deep vocabulary. Our favorites are Lamplighter books, quality moral literature from the 1700-early 1900s. These have been edited well and really are easy for an adult to read aloud. Hearing these more difficult words will hopefully allow the children to not be overwhelmed by these types of books in the future.

7. Read chapters of the Bible aloud and encourage the children to read it to one another. Modeling the reading of God's word in larger portions is a good reminder to us all that Scripture is a whole book, not just a collection of stories and antidotes. This really is the only book we need and God's gift to us.

I have to admit that Sean is much more consistent at bringing books to center stage in our house. I do implement "resting and reading time" mostly for my own sanity. I make regular trips to the library shushing seven children and sporting a laundry basket in a double stroller. He is the one who is intentional about reading to the children individually or as a family, which is much appreciated. I guess I'll have my turn someday when I have grandchildren.

What are some of your favorite ways to bring literature into your family's life? Better yet, what are some of your family's favorite books?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's good to get away

Last weekend Sean took me along with him to St. Louis for the weekend. He is a T^3 Regional Instructor now. He was attending a meeting and speaking at a conference while I was making use of the free hotel accommodations.

The timing could not have been better. I've been feeling like I'm losing traction with homeschooling and have been slowly winding down on my energy. With the change of time the sun sets now around 5:45 and there really feels like there are not enough hours in the day for this mama. Also, I have been longing for some alone time to pray for my kids and consider their ongoing, yet changing needs. I was able to get some helpful books from the library to stir my thinking on these matters. More than anything, I needed to step away to get some perspective.

It had been a year since Sean and I had been away for some time together. Just having eight hours in the car to talk is a refreshment to me. It's good to hear his voice without interruption. It's a blessing to have the time to just share without the expectations of the everyday. After fourteen years, Sean continues to fascinate me.

You want to know the best part of my weekend? On Friday afternoon I was reading in the hotel lobby and overhead a conversation between two important people. They were talking about Sean. I seriously was not trying to ease drop, but there they weren't talking quietly and my little ears heard it all. They used words like, "Visionary. Hard working. Brilliant. Up and coming." By the time they were done I was sure that they would notice the smile on my face and realize something was up. They did not.

I have a lot of responsibilities, but I consider it my main purpose to support Sean in whatever God has called him to be and do. I'm certainly not perfect at this. Too many times the poor man is looking for clean clothes for work or something for his lunch. Too many times I fail to give words of encouragement, serve him cheerfully or show gratitude. Hearing those words Friday reminded me again that God is working in and through Sean to accomplish His purposes. May God be glorified.

So now I'm back home. No sleeping in until 10am, no bubble bath, no leisurely reading time, no HGTV, no time for reflection, no free breakfast, no exercising on a treadmill with it's own TV or blogging at Panera Bread. But, it's good to be back as a family and begin a new, better week together.
Okay, my other favorite was watching Calculus the Musical with a theater full of hysterical math teachers. Very funny.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cell Phone Dilemma

Living within our means has meant that we have had to give up some of the conveniences of life. There are just too many mouths to be fed and feet that need shoes to add these items into our budget. One of these items is a cell phone. Thankfully, we live close to our places of work and neither one of our jobs requires one. I laughed the other day when I heard on the radio that even people on welfare are provided a cell phone by the government.

At one point we joined onto my sister's cell phone plan and quickly discovered that the extra bill for convenience was somehow hard to meet. When that plan expired, we lived happily without one until last summer. With the grant money for our trip, we purchased two track phones from Kroger so that we could communicate with each other when apart and be able to call family back home. When those minutes expired, we let the phones go.

Recently I've had been pondering the purchase of another Kroger phone due to the fact that we were going out of town and leaving our children behind. I was blessed to discover that Kroger is having a promotion on their phones. $50 will buy a phone, charger, 500 anytime minutes. With this purchase I will be able receive a $20 Kroger gift card at the phone company's website.

So that's $20 in groceries, 500 minutes, no monthly additional monthly bill and no commitment for $50. Granted the phone does look like a kid's toy, but I'll proudly carry it for such a great deal.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brain Drain

"My brain hurts, " Joseph declared during dinner. I thought nothing of it because he did do a lot of thinking today.


He did design Chocolate Factory prototype #12,


ponder why the silver nitrate stopped growing around this coil,



create his very own Wall-e,


work for hours at his computer,



and flip through these science magazines.


Then I touched his head to discover he has a 102.5 temperature. No wonder his brain hurt.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Twelve


Hannah,

Twelve years ago we were getting to know each other for the first time. I had no idea at that moment what a beautiful and precious girl you would be. And now I'm looking at you and see a vibrant and intelligent young lady growing before my eyes. I've enjoyed every moment with you and pray that as God opens doors up doors in your life you will walk through knowing that you are His first and foremost. Your Daddy and I have just have the pleasure of getting to love and guide the special person He created you to be. Some parents dread the teenage years ,which are now closer than ever for you. But you know what? I'm not. I think that if we keep our eyes on the Lord the best times are ahead.

Ever since you were very young you've liked to compare our feet. You've always wanted to be taller than me and wear my shoes. Well, congratulations, sweetie, your feet are officially bigger and I don't doubt that by summer I'll be looking up to you! Just let me borrow some of your cute shoes every once in a while.

Loving you always,
Mom

Smiles

Sometimes the amount of questions and talk in this house can be a bit overwhelming for my ears to handle. But at the end of the day when I realize all the smiles that these words bring me I'm thankful. Here's some smiles from the past week.

Joseph at the dinner table declared, "Dad, do you know how old God is? He's infinity years old!"


Yesterday, I had to take Betsy to the Immediate Care because she poked her eye in the morning and it was still really bothering her in the afternoon. I try to let my kids talk when we go to the doctor and I just sit back a listen. Yesterday she was in rare form and told this story word for word twice. It was all the more entertaining because she has a loose front tooth holding on by a thread that was sticking out. I don't think the nurse or doctor knew what to make of her:)
So, tell me what happened?

Well this morning, I think it was like around 9 o'clock or something, my mom was printing me some pictures of chocolate off the computer. I was making a chocolate treasure hunt for my brothers and sisters. She even found a map that looked like chocolate. Anyway, when I was walking away I tripped or something like that and the edge of the paper, you know the pointy part, stuck me in the eye.

Did it hurt when it happened?


Yes. It made me cry, but I didn't have any feelings so I don't understand why I was crying like that. Then it was better for a while. But later when my mom said we could watch TV it started crying again. Do you think I was watching too much TV? Now about every minute or something it feels like I have a crumb of paper stuck in my eye.

Thankfully her cornea was not scratched. They applied some numbing drops and sent us away with an antibiotic. I think it was just too much TV:)



I don't know if you remember the sugar in the stove incident performed by my lovely daughter. Yesterday she caught me vacuuming the stove pipe trying to remove dried oats. I had placed the bag of oats on the stove while something was in the oven and the plastic melted.

"Mom, are you going to put that on your blog? If I had a blog, I'd write about that."

Like mother, like daughter.

Elizabeth teaching the others how to count money. They don't really need me:)


Need to smile today? Read over at Mary's about what other kids are saying.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The heavens declare...

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. -Hebrews 11:3


When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him? -Psalm 8:3-4

Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD from the heavens,
praise him in the heights above.

Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for he commanded and they were created.

Psalm 148:1-5


Images taken from Hubble Space Telescope

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Welcoming Winter Weather


Today is the first cold day of many to come. Homeschool group coop has ended for the semester. Basketball doesn't begin for a few more weeks. I'm thankful for a little down time, but the kids are full of energy and ready for some play. They were happy for these new dress ups I picked up at 90% off.

The day ended with a delightful play about a treasure map and a Pilgrim sailor who found himself in China. There he discovered a Chinese Princess who was falling off of a cliff. Good thing that Super Girl showed up just in time to save the day for the dance competition. A repeat performance is promised tomorrow.

Meanwhile, dance lessons are being provided by Betsy free of charge if you can stand to have your arms twisted off by the teacher.
video

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Window Mistreatment Exhibit 2


I was drawn to this material the moment I saw it. I think it was the large print and the color that caught my eye. It goes just perfectly with our brownish green front room and the matchstick shades already in place. I had wait a few weeks for it to go 50% off at JoAnn's. I added a yard to the bottom of the $4 Walmart clearance panels and covered up the difference with some ribbon. All this was accomplished with a hot glue gun.

While I was at it, I changed the screen with a small can of stain and some more clearance fabric. Now that I have the kitchen door mistreated and this one as well, there is only one more to go. I'm still undecided and searching for some clearance drapes that I can customize.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And so are the days of my life....

*I opened up my bedroom door to find 500 (yes, I said 500) sticky foam letters all over the floor.

*I opened up the freezer to get out the Tilapia to find that they freezer has been unplugged. From the smell, it's been likely a few days. Gross and sad.

*To get rid of the smell, I opened up the blinds to find foam letters stuck all over the windows.

*Then, I opened up the trash can to throw away all of our grains and stockpile of fish. Thankfully, trash day is tomorrow.

I think I'm going to stop opening things around here.

The Polls

Yesterday morning at 7:30 am. I got in line at the polling station with three kids in tow. For the next two hours we spent time with our neighbors talking, discussing and learning about one another. I had given Joseph specific instructions not to talk about his political views (which are many). He was only to respond the questions if asked. For the most part, he did well. I thought there might be some trouble because when I told him he could go he was excitedly jumping up and down yelling, "I get to go cheer for John McCain!!"

I love voting for many reasons. I love thinking through the issues with my own family and the discussions that result. I love seeing those people that live around me all in one place. I love the quiet respect that seems to permeate the room for one another. I love imagining what places and circumstances that have brought each person to their current decisions. I love watching people run into old friends. I love showing my kids what it means to be an American and casting a vote. I love pushing that big red button.

Living in the sprawling suburbs doesn't exactly tend toward a community atmosphere. But it did my heart good yesterday to see the people in this section of our town come together with one purpose.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The King's Heart



The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1


Currently I'm involved in the Beth Moore study, "A Heart Like His," with some friends. Once again I am amazed to see how God works out so beautifully His plan for His people. They asked for a king and God gave them Saul. God placed His Spirit in Saul to accomplish His purposes for a time. Then He raised up from among the most unlikely of places a shepherd king, David. God placed His Spirit on him and made an everlasting covenant. From David's line would come the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The Messiah would reign on His everlasting Throne over the kingdoms of men.

I am thankful more than ever this year to have a vote to cast in this historic election. Yes, the times are uncertain, the war seems unending and the financial climate is unstable. We have two very different candidates and agendas to consider.

Personally, when I consider a candidate there are issues which are deal breakers to me. Life. Religious freedoms. Protection of the family. Upholding the Constitution particularly in regards to judicial appointments. Though I may not agree on every point or plan of a candidate, I must choose a leader with a worldview that best reflects what God says to be True. One can say whatever words they wish or make any promise to fit the situation, but a person's worldview determines their actions. We are blessed to live in a nation where the actions of our politicians are made public and accessible. So with the Bible in one hand and the history/voting record of the candidates in the other, I cast my vote.

It's possible that tomorrow my vote won't result in a victory, but I'm at peace because my King is sitting on His throne. He's at the center of it all. He's at work.