Friday, February 24, 2012

Homework and Skills

The next two headings on our family responsiblity chart are Homework and Skills.

Homework needs no explanation. I will say though that I love Margaret's Pre-K teachers for sending "assignments" home with her. She sits at the island and works away while Andrew does his work each evening.

I created Skills when Tanner started coming home without any homework. I thought that he still needed to review some basics each evening. For us "Skills" includes spelling words, math practice and reading. It is just a quick review of the essentials. Plus it is good for me. It helps me stay on top of current spelling words and math topics. With Tanner not bringing home assignments it would be possible for me to have no idea he was struggling a little with a topic, like, say, long division, until I got graded work home at the end of the week. Reading is 20 minutes, kids choice. I like to think that is just a minimum to get them started, and that they will just read and read because they want to. While that does happen some evenings, and I love when it does, other times those 20 minutes are all the reading they get in.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's on your Counter?

I suppose it would sound more professional of me to ask, "What is on your desk?" or "What is on your iphone right now?" But let's face it, the comings and goings of this family are evidenced by what is on our countertops. There is always a pile or two of school papers, file folders containing the details of whatever project I am in the middle of, and all too often an overdue library book or two.

Before you picture my kitchen as a absolute mess though, I have to clarify. Yes, there are ALWAYS piles, but at least they CHANGE from day to day. One day I will have 200 homework pages to sift through and the next day I will be eye deep in books, plans and papers for our "Summer Skills" projects.

And I DO attempt to clear every thing away once a day. However,those piles have a sneaky way of creeping back in as soon as my kids come home from school and empty their folders and lunch boxes.

Amid the paper shuffling are the occassional treasures though. Like this morning when I asked what was in Andrew's crumpled up brown paper towel that I saw him dump from his back pack and quickly stash on the countertop last night. He sheepishly smiled and said, "Can I show you?" I am sure he meant, "Can you slow down for a second and pay attention to this."

"Yes." I replied after determining that we were only going to miss the first bell at school, not the second one.

He carefully unwrapped his paper towel to reveal a handful of rocks. "My friends and I were looking for fossils in the new rocks at school."

"That's neat, buddy." I answered him. My mind still distracted and elsewhere.

"Are they real Mom?" Andrew asked intently. "Are they really fossils."

His direct question finally pulled me into the present. And do you know what? When I took the time to really look at his smuggled rocks, there were three actual fossils in the bunch. He was so proud when I pointed them out. He promised he would put them away in a safe place in his room (most likely under his bed)as soon as he got home from school today.

So they have sat here all day. I haven't trashed them, threw them out on the driveway, or even disturbed them to clean under that tattered brown towel. They have been sitting here reminding me of all the reasons why I have so many piles on my counters. My kids, my projects, my family. They are what keep me so busy and crazy, but also so fulfilled.

I am grateful for the papers I need to sign, lunches to pack and rocks to examine. I am so grateful to have those piles in my life, and on my countertops too!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The first heading on our family's Responsibility Chart is S.S.P. It stands for Song, Scripture and Prayer, and that is exactly what the kids and I do together every morning before we leave the house for school each day. Jason joins us when we remember to have S.S.P. on the weekends, but I admit that we are really hit and miss on mornings when we sleep in.

I can not claim creative license on this one. But I am so grateful that when Tanner first began Kindergarten, I remembered that when I was young, we had friends who had this tradition in their home. I was really wondering how to incorporate a quick, positive spiritual element into our changing mornings, when the idea of S.S.P. hit me like a ton of bricks. It was inspiration, and having this routine has certainly blessed us. We are now in our 5th year of keeping this tradition.

I have tweaked it just a little since we began:

  • We sing the song that primary is learning each month. Since I am the song leader for primary at church, this is a great review for me too. If it is an easy one, we might change to a hymn half way through the month.

  • We recite a scripture that we are trying to memorize. For the past 2 or 3 years we simply went along with the monthly scriptures for primary. This year we are attempting to memorize these instead. We are a little stuck on #4 right now. I think that even though Margaret did the first three without a hitch, I may give her a pass on this one. It is a little long and has me wondering how we will do when we get to #13 later this year. :)

  • We also read a scripture. (Well, that is when we are on time and not doing this in the car.) This year we are keeping up with the Sunday School reading schedule by doing a simplified version I found in the January issue of The Friend. If I break up the passages just right, this chart provides for 5 or 6 readings a week. That is the perfect amount for us. Tanner reads a few verses, Andrew usually does 1 or 2 and I help Margaret with 1.

  • Finally, and most importantly, we have a morning prayer. Ideally we take turns throughout the week and remember to pray for challenging things each child may be dealing with. There are mornings though (like this morning if I recall) when I am so busy with last minute details that our prayer is too quick and hurried. But we do not skip this one ever. Even if it means a dreaded tardy. We don't part ways without a morning prayer.

I have always loved the scripture verse in Ephesians that reads "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." And the following verses that teach of having a shield and helmet. And most importantly "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit..."

And 5 years ago, when I first introduced the idea of S.S.P. to my young(er) family, that is how I explained it to them. We do these things as a reminder of what we beleive and to be a protection for us. Now that the tradition is well established with us, I need to remind my children again; WHY? It isn't just about offering a quick prayer and an off-key hymn. I really believe that living by the teachings in the scriptures will shield us everyday. I truly believe that prayer is communication with our Creator. What better way to start the day could there be?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Command Central

I am sure that every home has one of these. When I was growing up, command central was always our kitchen. That is where the all-important family calendar was, our house phone and (later on) the computer too. So when we built our home, I included a little desk in our kitchen and sentimentally nicknamed it "Command Central" a.k.a. the C.I.A., or Central Intelligence Area. I love having it right in the middle of everything. On the nearest wall we have a daily chart of responsibilities and I tell you what, that thing saves me some days. When I get tired of nagging, I simply point to the chart. Instead of explaining for the 5 millioneth time that yes, we must practice the piano everyday, I can just let the chart do the explaining for me.

So in the effort to record our ordinary days, I want to explain our chart in a few different posts. It has the headings of S.S.P; Homework; Skills; Piano; and Daily Duty. Hopefully, years from now, when I no longer have anyone around to nag about daily duties or skills, I will fondly remember our daily routines and be able to look back and be grateful that we struggled through them.

Don't Forget to VOTE!

Heading to the polls anytime soon? Well don't forget to vote for your favorite candidate. Here is an up close look at mine.

Isn't he handsome. Tanner is a candidate for class president at school. He has a campaign team and everything. Today his wonderful teacher arranged for a debate. It was complete with a platform speech about needed changes and a question and answer session. He did a great job of staying composed, which would have been the challenging part for me at that age, and delivering his message.

I was proud of him, of course. But I was proudest when I saw him go over to a classmate after the commotion and talk to him. Tanner could tell that his friend was having a hard day and he tried to make him feel better.

I feel so lucky to be his mom. No, not lucky. I am so blessed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Heart Attack

Last night for Family Home Evening, which we try to have every Monday night, we gave our kitchen a heart attack. We each wrote things we LOVE about each other on hearts and hung them up. I totally remember doing these at youth church activities growing up and then later to friends in high school. They are still fun! This one was made really special when the kids decided to include illustrations on some of them.

Notice the animals in Meg's? I think those are some of her favorite stuffed animals. And who doesn't love a 4 year-old's depiction of her brother holding her hand? But my favorite is Tanner's picture of Dad with muscles!

But the best part was reading them aloud to each other. The smiles could not be contained when the kids heard their siblings listing good things about them. (Hey, I liked it too!)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dreaming of SNOW.

We are having such a warm winter and I am definitely not complaining about it. February is usually a dreary month for me. With it being close to the end of this pregnancy (a time when I tend to be completely impatient anyway), I was really not looking forward to it this year. But it has been so nice to have sunshine and grass that is still green outside. The kids can still go out after school and jump on the trampoline or play soccer when it is not too muddy and I just love that. So this little rhyme, delivered by the oh-so-charming-preschooler in our home, is about as close to building an actual snowman as we can get these days.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The new "do" for Margaret

Looking too grown-up for me, Margaret loves her shorter haircut. I am still going through braid withdrawals.