Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Merit Badges for Mommys

I saw these over at one of my favorite blogs and am smitten. Here are the badges I have decided I have earned in my 11 years of parenting:

No, not because I throw fabulous themed parties every year. (I don't.) And not even because I have single-handedly created intricate traditions around birthdays in response to the fact that my own childhood birthdays were sadly overlooked. (I have, and they were.) No ... I feel like I can wear the BIRTHDAY badge with honor because Logan and Atticus have birthday that are just two days apart. Many, many hours of bedrest were consumed worrying that my sons would be born on the same day or, worse yet, that the younger brother would celebrate his birthday just days before the older one. You guessed it: Logan celebrates his birthday. We party hardy. Then the entire house is scrubbed free of merry making so that the scene can be set for Atticus to be the center of the universe.

My friends and I jokingly call it the Birthday Blitz. My husband calls it Birthday Overload. Whatever label you slap on it, it's badge worthy.


I've done disposables, and now I'm doing cloth. But what really earns me this badge is the fact that I can change a diaper anywhere. Seriously. I've changed diapers in carseats, truck beds, baseball stadium seats, bleachers, airplane bathrooms, you name it.


Being Logan's mommy has earned me this badge, as well as an assortment of grey hairs. Logan has the pain tolerance of a bull elephant and the common sense of your average six year-old boy. Thanks to my son, I can reset dislocated shoulders without the help of a trained medical professional. (It's all in making sure you tilt your chest just right when you slam into the doorframe. You DID want to know that, didn't you?!?!) I have also had the honor of trying to explain why my son's bruised spleen, fractured ribs and mild concussion probably wouldn't keep him from asking to go to soccer practice. Praise God for an understanding family doctor!

You want to know my shopping secret? I DON'T DO IT!!! Dh is in charge of the bi-weekly grocery shopping. I think I get this badge for finding the most efficient way for a mother to get the shopping done, don't you?

Once upon a time, there was an adorable 2 year-old girl with tiny pigtails, bright eyes and a vocabulary that put many an adult to shame. We'll call her ... Jo. She was smart, she was sweet ... and she could wail like a banshee. Resigned to the fact that her child was possessed by a demon, the child's mother often resorted to sitting outside of the little girl's bedroom door and letting her scream it out. The little girl could go for an hour--face a hot red, eyes pinched, fists balled and mouth wide open. The mother cried and sobbed and prayed. And finally, God had mercy and ended the tantrums.

Not that I know anything about all that or anything.

Eating Out
I feel like I have earned this badge by eating out with other people's children. I am constantly amazed at what passes for decent table manners in public spaces. Kids running around tables, grabbing food from whatever plate they find, screeching at full volume ... not my thing at all! Granted, there are some restaurants that are set up for this kind of thing. When in Rome, eat like animals for all I care. But if you've ever shared a restaurant table with my crew and horrified me (and fellow patrons) by letting your kids conduct their own version of table-to-table trick or treating, don't expect a repeat invitation.

November, 2003: Logan is 18 months old, Atticus is three and a half, Jo has just turned six. I board a plane destined for Atlanta, Georgia with my three little moppets. We will lay over in Atlanta before heading to Lexington, Kentucky. I spend the next eight hours under a microscope as Logan wails, bucks and spits spicy pretzels on my lap. The low point? When the kindly flight attendant comes over to offer Jo and Atticus free headphones to watch the PG-13 rated "Hulk" ... and I gratefully accept.

I have not only invested hours upon hours reading to my children, but have whiled away quite a few afternoons refining the stop-and-go oral narration of three newly-minted readers. "The. b-uh-g. can. guh-oh. He. c-ah-n. ssss-eeee." If this isn't a homeschooling mommy badge, I don't know what is.

If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged. Post YOUR badges for all to see. :-)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pardon me, but your god is broken

Just a note to those who found the entire premise behind the Hadron Collider a little dubious: apparently, the machine that was to prove once and for all that there is no room for God in science is undergoing repairs just weeks after it made its debut. So much for engineering omnipotence, eh?


I have spent the last few days grappling with anxiety. This is not a feeling that I know very well, as I am not by nature a person who dwells on the what if's. The truth is, I am one of those people for whom the many issues of life often loom just large enough so as to be out of my grasp. Surrendering the things that I could not hold onto even if I wanted to usually isn't a leap for me; instead, I am someone whose faith is stretched by the lack of change and forward motion. Many people I know have the opposite problem--they abhor the disturbance of the status quo.

At any rate, I know that the whole issue of anxiety has been heightened by the fact that I've been (unsuccessfully) fighting an infection that finally decided to take up residence and begin making home in my kidneys. I gave in and went to the doctor on Saturday. While I'm not pleased to be on two separate antibiotics, I'm more than happy with the fact that I can now stand up without a wave of nausea. See? Forward motion!

But back to the anxiety. I will be completely transparent and admit that I am finding myself dwelling. Yes, dwelling. Dwelling on what, you ask? Well, for starters, the fact that my grandparents are in need of assistance, and I am 2,500 miles away. The fact that my mother has managed to dig a new hole under the one labelled ROCK BOTTOM and is intent on snuggling in. The fact that my husband's job is linked to the fiscal fortunes of our great nation. The fact that until Oliver's adoption is finalized, we will have to fight tooth and toenail to maintain things exactly as they are, no matter what befalls us. And, oh yes, did I mention that I may just have kidney stones?!?

When you take all of that and factor in the onslaught of bad news that our nation has been subjected to as of late, it's just a recipe for depression, isn't it?

Last night, as I prayed for a restful night that gave me respite from my worries, I struggled to recall my usual favorite verse for dealing with the hard times. Instead, God supplied this one.

Isaiah 41:9-10

I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, 'You are my servant';
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I thought I'd share it, just in case anyone else is feeling the same encroaching darkness in their hearts. God has called us. He carries us. And it's under His wing that we rest.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Jo's thoughts on the debate:

"Obama sounds ... I don't know ... like he is pretty sure he's going to be president. It's as if maybe he's never considered that he might not win? Is that possible? He knows that votes still have to be cast, right? He knows about the electoral college surely?"

Until the debate last night, Jo was a staunch Obama supporter. (Yes, we allow and even encourage political dissent and free thought in our home.) Now she's not so sure. Interesting development.

Friday, September 26, 2008


A couple of years back, Jo discovered this song:

"Shine" was the very first song that she squealed over when she heard the opening notes on the radio. It was the first non-Disney, non-Sunday School song I heard her singing when she thought no one was looking. And it was the first song that she played, ad nauseum, for days on end.

The song is, I believe, older than the girl herself. It's catchy. It's poppy. It's unavoidable. It's ... nothing I would listen to if given my druthers.

But as my daughter has grown I have discovered exactly what it is about this song that she is so attracted to. You see, Jo shines.

dull as dirt
you can´t assert the kind of light
that might persuade
a strict dictator to retire
fire the army
teach the poor origami
the truth is in
the proof is when
you hear your heart start asking,
"What´s my motivation?"

Jo is anything but dull as dirt. Her affection for Converse All-Stars is widely known; her preference for wearing mismatched Converse All-Stars is probably even more widely known. Her fashion sense is one part tweener, one part pretty and a huge
(inherited) helping of punk rock. Need someone to star in your play? Jo's on the job. Hear a voice chattering above all the others? Probably Jo. She gives unabashedly real hugs to those that she loves--and frankly, she loves just about everyone she meets. She carts around toddlers and dances with preschoolers, no matter who's looking. And why does she do all of these things? To draw attention to herself? No. Jo is just one of those people whose personality bubbles to the top and froths over. Her motivation is joy, nothing more.

when you let it shine
you will inspire
the kind of entire turnaround
that would make a bouncer take ballet
(even bouncers who aren't happy)
but out of the glare
with nowhere to turn
you ain´t gonna learn it on "What´s My Line?"

Jo's joy and enthusiasm for life does inspire people to take note. She has the kind of magnetism that draws crowds in her direction. She is a born leader, not just because of her birth order habits, but because people genuinely like her. They want her to like them. They want to bask in her glow.

make ´em wonder what you´ve got
make ´em wish that they were not
on the outside looking bored
let it shine before all men
let´em see good works, and then
let ´em glorify the Lord

My baby girl makes following Christ look good. She is honest. She is trustworthy. She loves God. She serves others. Her willingness to share His blessings in her life leaves those who don't know her well wondering how in the world dh and I got so lucky as to have such a great daughter. Of course, the answer is that dh and I have had very little to do with it.

Jo just shines.

Happy 11 years of glorifying the Lord, Jo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And then there was Jo

Jo, 9-08

Jo's birthday is tomorrow. Every year, facing her birthday unleashes in me a torrent of emotions that catches me off guard. I admit, it's largely a self-centered thing: Jo's beginning marks the end of one era in my life and the genesis of a new one. I can't seem to throw myself into the joy that is my daughter's birthday without first taking a long look at how far I've come, how much I've learned, how changed my own heart is.

Life before Jo was really all I had imagined it would be. I barreled through my college career with a handful of goals in mind, and met them all in June of 1996. In four weeks' time, I graduated, got married, and landed my dream job with a publication spearheaded by a politician whose career seemed to be rooted in the stuff that makes for staying power.

My new husband and I rented one of those resort-style apartments, bought a new car and settled into a life that seemed destined for travel, entertainment, a new home ... you know, the things everyone says you do before you have kids. "We want to live a little before we get tied down." That was our mantra.

God's plan for us was entirely different. In the blink of an eye, June of 1996 was September of 1997.

Jo and I, 9-97

The job had disappeared in a spectacular twist of political disfavor. The apartment had given way to a tiny 2-bedroom house built in the 40s. The impracticality of driving a stick shift had gotten old. And me? I was a mother.

I had always wanted to be a mother. I knew that some day, I'd cradle a child in my arms and feel that love that everyone told me was so intoxicating. Life-changing love, that's what everyone called it. And that was precisely why I wanted to wait a few years before I experienced it for myself. But it wasn't to be.

God's plan called for me to leave behind the pit-of-your-stomach adrenaline rush of campaigns and posturing for the seat-of-your pants judgement calls of parenting. There are days when I truly wish I could go back and be a fly on the wall during my early days of motherhood. Would you believe that someone who knew exactly who to call in to provide background in support of any given House bill usually called her cousin to see if she thought any particular concern was worth bothering the pediatrician over? Wouldn't you like to see that in action? I know I would.

Through God's grace, I learned a few things about parenting. My heart would now walk around outside of my body, and I came to understand that as both a liability and a privilege. I put my feet firmly to the path of parenting and rarely look back.

I say rarely because each year, around Jo's birthday, I muse over the would have/could have. There is never a hint of should have. I relish my role of full-time mother and know that ultimately, this was the job God was preparing me for all along. I have been blessed to be softened and sculpted by the ongoing process of nurturing my little brood; I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I think about the life I wanted and compare it to the life I have knowing that the things I felt would satisfy were fleeting confections that would have left me hungry again as soon as the thrill had faded. What I have is real and lasting.
I wanted the dessert, but I got the entree.

Today, it is the thrill of watching my girl take steps into the world and come back, glowing, to tell me each detail that makes me smile. It is the pain of knowing that the days of physical need are gone, but that the years of emotional need are truly just beginning that set my days spinning.

It is life.
Motherhood is all this ... and more.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You know you've lost newbie status when

there's a social worker due on your doorstep in 30 minutes and you're reading blogs instead of folding the load of towels on your couch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So, honey, what did you do today?

1 load of towels

1 load of darks

1 load of diapers

taught three children the basics, nothing more

talked to benny on the phone

took temperatures 4 times

directed children through their chores

dispensed two rounds of tylenol

called to confirm social worker visit tomorrow

pulled together a grocery list for dh


wiped down two bathrooms

made an elaborate snack

served three (semi)nutritious meals

pulled three Lincoln Logs from the toilet

plunged said toilet

answered these random questions with the help of the internet:
"What's inside an Etch-A-Sketch?"
"When did the Wiggles start making videos?"
"Can you still take a ship around Cape Horn?"
"How long is a bushbaby pregnant?"

And now ... I will sleep.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I ought to be in church right now, but I am not. Oliver decided to wake up at 5 a.m., burn bright and happy for three hours and then crash spectacularly at 8:15 this morning. I am fairly certain that I've never put any child down for a nap before 10 a.m., so you can bet my Mommy Radar is in high gear, ferreting out what potential infections are probably brewing in his little system.

Jo is sidelined (literally) with a cold. Watching the rain pour from the grey sky this morning, dh and I decided that the last thing our coughing girl--who is predisposed to lingering airway issues--needed was a nice, long stint inhaling rain and mud on the soccer field. She is currently shuffling a deck of Quiddler cards and looking for a victim.

So I am not in church. Instead, I am at home, pondering (yet again) the purpose of church.

I have reread the book of Acts twice in the past two weeks. For some reason "church," as a concept, is weighing heavy on my heart. I suspect that it is because my family has been through some major upheavals in our Christ-following thinking over the past year.

Nearly two years ago, my family embarked on a journey to begin piecing together a church plant. Anyone who has participated in a church planting process knows that I speak the truth when I say it is a labor of love that consumes much time, many resources and massive amounts of energy. We gave all three eagerly.

We are no longer with the church plant. While it is still serving the area, we have returned to our sending church. There was no fantastical drama, no explosive blow-up. Just ... silence. Just a clear leading that this was no longer the place where we could serve effectively.

The effect of the church planting experience has rippled throughout our lives together over the past year or so. Every time I think it has culminated--that we will return to the original joy that we felt in our church community prior to beginning the plant, that we will leave behind the disappointment and the sadness--it seems to crest again.

Our sending church no longer feels like home. The foundation is still strong. There is movement and growth and an upswell of the Spirit among the leadership that may just lead this church to experience a near revival-like atmosphere. Yet, as I have sat in service on Sunday mornings, I have seen only a handful of congregants respond.

There is no trickle down. No viral message. No buy-in.

This pains me. And, I admit--it pains me even more deeply to realize that I am among the unmoved.

I love the Lord. My commitment to Christ is strong and feels vibrant. I am still basking in the Truth and longing to share it with others. And yet my community of Brothers and Sisters seems stale and outdated. More over, they seem to not care. There is no joy. No breath of fresh air. And this makes it hard for me to love my church.

Am I simply still reeling from the planting hurt? Am I growing cynical? How can I break this cycle? How can I stop feeding into the problem? What does it mean to participate in the Body of Christ? What are our responsibilities? Is church simply for corporate worship? What are we called to do and be for one another?

I believe that if I can define for myself what the purpose of church is, I will begin to unlock the answers.

Anyone care to chime in?

ETA: I have already received an email asking for some clarification on my denomination. While I don't believe that this is an issue that requires such a disclaimer (and, truth be told, I find such labels to be extremely limiting theologically), I will give a little background. I consider myself to be a nondenominational Christian. I profess that I am a sinner and Christ is my Savior. Titus 3:5 sums up the faith/works issue to my satisfaction. I was raised by a Baptist-converted-to-Catholic mother, agnostic father, atheist grandfather (who has since become a Christian) and Bible-thumping, Southern Missionary Baptist grandmother who grew up Holiness and still refuses to play cards or dance. I have eaten cold fried chicken on the grass near the white clapboards of a country church and I have taken communion while kneeling at the rail of the most beautiful cathedral my eyes have ever taken in. I am a follower of Jesus. What more can I say?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Adventures in Toileting

Ah, yes. Ye Olde Potty Chair. How well I remember thee. The times we hath lingered, lovingly, with a toddler's bum nestled safe in your grasp. There was Jo--gleefully showing off her "big girl" skills at 22 months. Atticus, unsure of the method but more than happy to have the mess somewhere other than his sweet cheeks right at two years. And there was Logan, desperate to be like his older siblings at friend Punky at a wee 19 months, asserting his need to be diaper free and loving it.

And now we have Oliver. Twenty-two months old. Diaper resistant. Slightly clued in to the results, although only toying with the notion of control.

I have been, historically, an early trainer of all things potty. I think that the window of opportunity for the easiest toilet training is before the typical toddlerhood defiance sets in. From the time my kiddos were showing obvious signs of awareness (such as hiding to poop) I've made a game out of ushering them to the "potty place" and helping them fit together the pieces that will eventually make up their understanding of why Momma and Daddy don't walk around in diapers. I realize that this is an incredibly anti-PC approach in this day and age. I'm o.k. with that. I don't have any feelings one way or another as to when, how or why other people choose to introduce their own children to the potty. This is just what works for me and mine.

At any rate, Oliver seems to be rushing headlong into the window of awareness that I've traditionally utilized to my benefit when toilet training. I find myself somewhat reluctant to commit this go 'round. I felt the same way with Logan; I was convinced that 19 mos. was far too early to ditch the diapers. Imagine my shock and surprise to find that my self-motivated little man was actually my easiest and fastest when it came to saying hello to underwear. Two weeks into the process, Logan was accident-free--both during the daytime and nighttime. Talk about ready! Maybe Oliver is more ready than I think, too. Time will tell.

Because I am revisiting my methods and also because I am often asked how I managed to toilet train my kids in a month or less and all before they hit their second birthdays, I offer up some tips here. Your mileage may vary, obviously:

1. Pick a day, and don't look back. Do not be wishy-washy. No "today we sit on the toilet, but tomorrow when I'm making dinner and distracted, it's o.k. to go wherever/whenever." If it sounds like this is a full-time job: you're right! It is. Clear your schedule as much as possible ... or be prepared for some messes on the go.

2. No diapers means no diapers.
Or Pull-Ups. Or anything that remotely resembles a diaper or a Pull-Up during the daylight hours. Period. Not even when you're out and about. Not even when it's completely inconvenient. Seriously. I mean it. Never.

3. Nighttime training is a whole 'nother story. This is the time to draw the line and let those diapers squeak back in---but make it clear that these are "pj pants" or some other label that makes it clear that they are not the same as the thing they were using as a potty a few weeks ago. Change brands if you use disposables, and point out how they're different. Put them on just as your toddler crawls into bed, and take them off ASAP after wake-up.

4. When you're at home, the child is either naked from the waist down, wearing a long shirt with no bottoms or wearing the thinnest underwear you can find. There will be messes. Oh, yes, there will. I am a strong believer in what John Rosemond calls "Naked and $75." Feeling the uncomfortable sensation that occurs when you forget to use the potty is a huge motivator--something that is lost when a Pull-Up comes into play. I'd rather spend $75 on clean carpets than on Pull-Ups, anyway.

5. Encourage with goodies. I've always given my kiddos mini-M&Ms when they are successful on the potty. use whatever works with your child.

6. Kids have accidents. And that's all they are: accidents. Clean it up, calmly point out that they'd be cleaner/more comfortable/able to run around and play instead of standing in the tub/whatever, and move on. It's not about you, honey. It's about learning a new skill.

7. Never leave the house with less than four pairs of training pants and four changes of clothes. Because yep, you'll probably need them.

8. Enlist your other children in the cheer squad. This is the time to let them shout, sing and act crazy giddy. Because what's more exciting than a full potty????

9. Watch that child like a hawk. Some people escort their kiddos to the potty every hour and make them sit. I'm not a huge fan of that method because I feel like it rarely produces results. Personally, I just keep my toddler within arms reach and watch them for signs of impending potty--which, as I said earlier, I'm already fairly cued into. I've heard from some women that my method sounds fairly similar to ec-ing, only for toddlers. If you don't already know your child's signal, picking up a book on the topic may help.

10. Have fun. Really. Keeping your little one this close should be a joy, not a burden. If you look at it from this perspective, the time invested is well worth the effort.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Some people are, truly, too sensible for their own good.

Atticus is struggling to understand why, why, why someone would even attempt to subtract any number from zero. Clearly, to paraphrase Wilbur, you can't have less than nothing. Nothing is, by definition, nothing. It's as clear as night and day--and Atticus is very much into clarity.

So to say that you can, actually, have less than nothing ... well, it hurts my sensible boy's brain.

How many times have I said in the past week: "Atticus, honey ... you cannot just flip the problem. You can't. The top number has to stay on top."

Countless times.

Hasn't mattered one. iota. Atticus still refuses to acknowledge that something can, in fact, be less than nothing.

Finally, I went back to the old object lesson. "See, son? You have five dollars. I take all that you have and ask for one more. So you owe me one. You have one less than zero dollars."

Indignant, Atticus sniffed: "I wouldn't give you any. It's not right."

"Why?" I asked, exasperated.

"I'm not going to spend money I don't have, Mom. What kind of person does that?"

Now who's the sensible one?

A public thank you

Tell me this--

If you'd actually spent, I dunno, call it
twenty minutes in the presence of someone ... would you expect them to call you and spread some sunshine your way?

Nah. I didn't think so.

But aren't you glad that some people defy expectations?

Thanks, Angi.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tag, I'm it

O.k., Miss Sprinkles, you asked for it.

The "rules" of the game are as follows:
1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write 6 random things about yourself
3. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
4. If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag

1. I got married in 1996. Jo was born in 1997. You would be amazed at how many people ask me if I was pregnant when I got married. For the record, she was born 15 months after my wedding. I clearly was not pregnant. But still. What kind of person actually asks that?

2. I really like hot fudge.

3. I read The Bridges of Madison County and hated it.

4. I published my first story at 14. It was about a girl whose parents were divorcing. My own parents divorced a year later.

5. I toyed with the idea of taking the GED test so that I could begin college a year early, but I didn' do it. While I don't regret the timing in going to college (which was where I met dh), I do feel like most of my high school career was a complete and utter waste of time.

6. Grasshoppers scare me. They're just so ... hoppy. The only good grasshopper is an ee cummings grasshopper.

O.k. Onto the tagging.
1. Kindred Blessings, because I want her to write.
2. Gayle because she's hilarious and will truly stretch the "random" concept.
3. Liz because I'd like to get to know her better.
4. Benny because randomness suits a mother of four kiddos six and under.
5. Paula because I want her to update her blog, too.
6. Sarah, because she has so much time on her hands right now with a new baby and all.

I ((heart)) 6 year old boys

First, I have to say: I really, really love little boys. Many people seem to simply endure the presence of little boys, let alone the actual parenting of them. For whatever reason, I thrive on it. Little boys are brutal honesty, high-definition activity, boundless love and utter carelessness all bound up in a package of big eyes and bruised shins that just melts my heart. I'll say it again: I love little boys. I love their passionate natures, their frenetic need to find something to do, the curiosity that--if not directed in a healthy direction--might very well kill a cat or two.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Jo. And I certainly wouldn't say no to adding another girl to our family. I enjoy (almost) every minute of the mother/daughter experience and am so grateful that the Lord knew I had it in me to parent a girl even when I would have sworn up and down that I absolutely could not. Girls are their own brand of joy, whether packaged in overalls or pink dresses.

But little boys make my heart sing.

And six year-old boys? Oh, my. It's the crowning moment of boyhood, when all of those magical ingredients that we can never put our fingers on gel into a sublime little person who embodies everything good with the world.

Logan is right smack-dab in the middle of this magic season. After putting his daddy and I through what I can only describe as the wringer that was his toddlerhood, this emerging boy we see before our eyes is most welcome.

Logan has become a boy with compassion. With a true heart for others. With remorse for injustice--even when he perpetuates said injustices. He has developed a real and tangible interest in the lives of others. A sweetness. A softness under his rugged, devil-may-care persona.

And ohmygoodness, is he cute! As Logan's body has shifted out of still-soft preschoolerhood and into young boyhood, he has become a stunner (in my book, at least). His dirty blond hair has gone curly and his chin is set in that semi-cocky way that--let's be honest--we girls all love. Yes: my boy has a decided James Dean flair going on. I am smitten.

Lately, I've been making a massive effort to squeeze in every ounce of Logan time I can muster. With the dawning realization that his youngest days are slipping by me faster and faster, I feel an increased need to scoop him up and enjoy him for who he is as an individual. This desire is coinciding nicely with his renewed interest in being my shadow. Right now, as I write this, Logan has opted to take his afternoon rest on the floor by my desk. He is happily stretched just beyond the reach of my toes, drawing Transformers with the help of a book from the library. He looks exactly like a six year-old boy engrossed in his favorite hobby should: all concentration, seriousness, and swinging feet. If I could see his face right now, I know his tongue would be cocked in the right corner of his mouth, helping him focus that much more.

Home educating a six year-old boy is a profound labor of love. They are interested in everything and nothing, and their brains work much faster than we think they do. Just when you think you have them pegged, biology overrules you and they have taken another giant leap towards the men they will become. And let us not forget the messes. A six year-old boy will, I have learned, tote an entire forest into your dining room, explore it with a magnifying glass on your just-cleaned table, and then wander off to dismantle the old cell phone you gave him three days ago. This whole process could take either four hours or ten minutes, depending on the six year-old's mood on any given day.

Earlier this week, I began reading Charlotte's Web to Logan. This was always one of my favorite children's books. I read it to Jo when she was three and set off a lifelong love of pigs (but not spiders). For the next few years we revisited the tale constantly--so often, in fact, that I began to tire of the story. We moved on to the battles of Narnia and the history of our country. Charlotte's Web has been out of our rotation for so long that I actually had to go looking for our worn copy of the book. The first night we began reading it, I settled in to our special chair and pulled Logan onto my lap.

"This is a special book, just for you and I to read together," I told him.

"Not Oliver?"he asked suspiciously. Beside the chair was a stack of picture books he'd heard thousands of times thanks to big brotherhood.

"Oh, no. He's too little," I said, remembering the many times I had nursed him as a little one and been reading from these same pages.

"Not Atticus?"

"No. He's heard it before," I nodded towards my leggy 8 year-old, who was splayed on the couch with his nose stuck deep into Eragon.

"Just us?"

"Just us."

I started to read. Fern fought injustice. Avery was late to breakfast. Wilbur rode in the baby carriage. Bottles were made and served. Wilbur moved to the barn. The goose instigated an escape. Templeton was rude. And, at long last, Charlotte made her debut.

I left him with a cliffhanger. His face was full of the bright, eager hunger of a child deep in the throes of one of the best stories ever written.

"I do like this book!" he declared, wriggling his warm body deeper into my arms. "I'm not too old for it, and I'm not too young for it. It fits me just perfect!"

And that is the beauty of a six year-old boy. They fit, just perfectly, the definition of "boy." Two years ago, they were half-grown babies unaware of their own limits or potential. Two years from now, they will be all angles and gawkiness, trying on adolescence and failing miserably through tears of frustration. But for now, they are simply content to be right where they are: boyhood. Neither large babies nor little men. Simply ... boys.

Review: Free online spelling games!

I love free online games. I'm a big proponent of games as educational tools in general, and free ones that don't take up space in my house just up the ante as far as I'm concerned. I recently found through a fellow bloggers links and tucked it away for Atticus. He gave it a go this morning and enjoyed it. HangMouse was his favorite game; Atticus has a fascination with mice in general (Redwall, Mouse Guard), so this one made his day. All I had to do was type in his missed words from Spelling Power and let him select the games he wanted to play. Fun, low-pressure practice. Love it!

Call number 3

For the third time in seven days, I have been called about placement of a newborn. All three looked like they were fast-track to adoption. Two I turned down and one I didn't call back about fast enough. At any rate ... just letting you know that yes, you can be placed with a newborn for foster-adoption.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Georgie Says

I met Oliver's state social worker yesterday. This is a really special treat, since she's only been on his case for ... oh, four months. Wasn't it sweet of her to come out and meet him since she's, I don't know ... in charge of the paperwork that controls his entire life at this point?

The worker--we'll call her Georgie--was actually quite nice. She seemed to genuinely adore Oli, which, of course, endears her to me that much more. And Oliver was quite a little charmer. I tell you what--he knows his audience. Detecting that this particular lady was keen on the "I'll throw a ball, you go get it and bring it back" game, he kept at it for a solid forty-five minutes. In between jaunts to find the ball, he managed to giggle, laugh, shout, dance ... pretty much pull off any cutesy two-ish trick in the book. It was edibly cute. Far cuter, actually, than the screaming fit he'd thrown for me as I tried to squeeze him into a pair of shorts that morning. But who's counting?

Georgie says that Oliver's case is very clearly cut and dry. Georgie says that she will be moving for TPR in November. Georgie says that she is going to try to convince Bio Mom that best-case scenario for her at this point is relinquishment. Georgie says that Oliver fits our family perfectly and clearly loves his mommy and daddy and brothers and sister.

Georgie says this will all be over soon.

This is what Georgie says, but I have heard too many social worker tales to believe Georgie fully. So I am still praying, fervently, without ceasing. Because the fact is, Georgie can SAY whatever she wants. It's what Georgie DOES that impresses me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meal Plan Monday

I don't normally participate in any of the standards--you know, meal plan Monday, Wordless Wednesday, etc. But as I sat here putting together my two-week menu I thought, what the heck. I'll post it. Why not???

Monday--black beans and rice (a staple at my house)
Tuesday--Mexican Pasta Bake
Wednesday--Sirloin and Black Bean Chili (every once in a while, I have to throw a cow in Logan's direction or he will mutiny)
Thursday--Spiced Corn Melangé
Friday--hubby's bday ... I'm still waiting to hear what he wants
Saturday--Fried Rice
Sunday--Three Bean Pilaf

Things you will notice immediately about the MG meal-plan:

1. We are about 95% vegetarian. Any meat called for in a recipe is generally substituted or ignored--unless I am making a concession for Logan's desire to consume flesh. In which case, the rest of us just smile and act like we can stand it so that he enjoys his experience.

2. I am a one-dish wonder cooker. Somewhere along the way, I abandoned the entree and side dish routine. No one here seems to care, and it sure saves on time, I can tell you that!

3. We eat a lot of beans. Yes, we do. I buy them dry and in bulk and they are a main food group around here. Thankfully, they are enjoyed by all. Otherwise, I'd have a problem!

Beco Butterfly Contest

Win a Beco Butterfly Baby Carrier and Beco Toy Carrier from Along for the Ride.

Click to enter one of these adorable baby carriers!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rural thinking, suburban Momma

Sad news at our house--

The rabbit that Jo and Atticus co-owned passed away yesterday afternoon.

Unfortunately, Jo was the one who discovered "Weed" (as he was named by the breeder they purchased him from). He was stretched out in a corner of his hutch and (gross out alert!) stiff as a board. Jo immediately began screaming as if ... well, as if she has just had her first encounter with the death of someone or something that she deeply loved.

Times like this are always where I seem to prove myself just a little out of step with suburban family life. Remember the kindling drama of last year, where I ended up playing midwife to a four pound mini-rex rabbit in the floor of my school room? The one where I found my Papaw's farm mentality completely overruling my own instincts as I pulled a stuck baby bunny from its mother's birth canal? Well, I've since had quite a few parents (fellow 4-H parents, even) ask me what in the world I was thinking, and why didn't I just call a vet?

Rural thinking, that's why. This is the phrase my dh has coined for my easily snapped off affection for animals that allows me to deal with emergency situations in a very practical way. It is this mindset that allowed my grandparents to raise and slaughter 50 or more head of cattle each season. It is this mentality that makes chickens scratching in the yard living foodstuffs instead of pets. It is survival mode.

This is what rural thinking says when faced with a clearly unconscious rabbit in the floor of a hutch:

I calmly instructed Jo and dh to do the only thing I know to do for a seemingly dead animal--submerge it in the coldest water you can find and massage it's chest. Dh reluctantly took on the task while I tried (unsuccessfully) to calm three howling children (Jo, Atticus and Oliver, who really, really wanted a cracker).

"Any luck?" I called out the slider.

"Ummm ... it's stiff. I can't get it in the bucket all the way." He was right. It looked like the rabbit was standing in the bucket with his front paws held by his face. This rabbit was not mostly dead ... it was dead dead.

Fresh howls from the older two children. I ushered them away from the door so that they took in as little of the view as possible.

"Well, you know what to do then," I said.

Dh eyed me quizzically. Clearly, he did not know what to do.

"Bury it, hun."

You can imagine the shrieks of horror that followed. What will probably surprise you is that my husband joined in the fray.

Apparently, this is not suburban thinking. I really don't know what a good suburban housewife is supposed to do with her children's dead bunny. Benny, when consulted, suggested a burial at sea. A neighbor said that they take their pets to be cremated and scatter the ashes. Another friend passed on the number for the cemetary where their pet terrier is buried. I guess these options are far more civilized than digging hole in the backyard and setting Weed to rest there, but that was the route we took. The three older kids gathered round and said goodbye, and we carefully covered him with earth. It was a very quiet, respectful, personal thing. It was free.

Readers, take note: this is what happens when you're basically a country girl forced to live in a townhouse in WA. But, hey ... at least I didn't suggest trying to eat it. I may think rural, but I'm not a barbarian.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cloth diapering update

I realized that I haven't shared our cloth diapering experiences in a little while. Since that's one of the top five keyword searches that lead folks to this blog (the others being "homeschooling," "adoption," "writing," and "foster-adoption," in that order) I should do my readers the courtesy of passing along the fact that we are, indeed, happily still CDing Oliver. I mainly use the BumGenius 3.0s at this point, saving the pre-folds for back-ups. We have a dozen BG's, and I rarely run out. I do a load of diapers every other evening, and that keeps things moving enough to generally have a BG on hand. The pre-folds and Bummis, I've found, are great for certain times of the day, though. Nap times are primarily pre-folds. Don't know why, but they seem to handle that time period better. Overnight I use a BG with a doubler, just in case, though we've only had one night that he leaked.

I did, finally, figure out the snappi, too.
That was a lifesaver once Oli started walking, as the fold I'd been using caused too much bulk in the front for a walker to really, you know ... walk. So I switched to a twist-fold and use a snappi to secure it before Velcroing on the Bummi wrap.

All of our diapers still look pretty much brand new as far as I'm concerned. The BG inserts have some staining, but I've yet to try the sunning it out procedure. The velcro tabs are holding up nicely, and I've only had some slight curling on the edges of the Bummi tabs. That's after months of constant use and washing.

Follow along with me now

I really dig this whole "follow this blog" concept that blogger has going on now. I added most of my favorites (except for those of you who haven't set up feeds yet ... BAD BLOGGERS!!!) and now I can just see new posts on my dashboard every time I log in. Cool! Since I had never mastered the whole feed thing prior to this, I feel like the technology has finally caught up to my ineptitude. Got to love that.

Anyhow, if you'd like to follow this blog, scroll down until you see the "Followers" box on the right hand side. Click "Follow this blog" and watch as you're updated on all the happenings here at Books and Bairns ... with no effort on your part.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Because someone has actually asked ... repeatedly

O.k. SOMEBODY wants to know what I use for Language Arts with my little brood. Again. Why? I can't imagine. O.k., wait ... I can. There are definitely bloggers whose selections I take an interest in. I just don't see myself as one of those worthy individuals. Who knew?

Anyhow, you asked ... I'm telling.

Jo-My not-quite 11 year-old has always excelled in Language Arts. I pounded phonics rules into her head in K, but since coming to my senses I have taken a more eclectic and personalized approach. Here are the resources I am currently using with her in this area:

I believe that the main function of teaching grammar is to become a writer capable of self-editing. To that end, I've selected two titles (The Chortling Bard and Editor in Chief) that allow for the honing of that particular skill.

Jo is also required to select a weekly topic, research it and present me a short explanation of some interesting element each Thursday. This can be anything, and I do mean ANYTHING. One week she spent her weekly library time (3 hour block) reading about iambic pentameter and ended the session by handing me a poem she'd written. That counts, as far as I'm concerned.

Atticus--Still in the more "I have to teach you this" stage, 8 year-old Atticus gets some booooooorrring stuff thrown his way, as he will tell you. Selections for Atticus this year are:

He is particularly lukewarm to ABeka Language 3. Say what you will, this program is
thorough. If you use it through God's Gift of Language A, I believe that you'll have covered just about any topic your child might actually come up against in real world language. But hey, that's just my two cents.

Atticus also uses Editor in Chief, for editing & application. He likes this far better than the ABeka.

Atticus still does spelling as a curriculum component, as well as cursive writing. Go ahead and laugh--I finally decided that I need to do something about the kid's handwriting. It is atrocious. Not just in a "What does that say?" kind of way, but in a "you're homeschooled?!?!" kind of way ... which I figure is not what the homeschooling community at large needs, based upon the horrified glances I've gotten from Sunday School teachers.

Atticus also writes a brief report for me each week. Again, he gets to select the topic. Because of his personality
("Tell me how much I have to write, and I'll write exactly that much!)" he is required to give me two complete paragraphs. We edit it together and he rewrites it.

Logan--I've mentioned before that Logan is behind where my other children were at this age in the area of language and reading. We've focused on the whole Headsprout thing for the past few weeks, and have finished up (finally!!!) his ABeka Sounds and Letters K. He's ready to move on, and next week will find him digging in to A Beka Language 1. Logan will continue to work through the later episodes of Headsprout, read to me daily, and have plenty of spelling and writing games on hand.

All together now--All three kiddos have daily reading; for Jo & Atticus, it's their SL readers. For Logan, it's something I've pulled to entice him along.

As a group, we

•study etymology

•play games that expand our skills:
Quiddler (hit the link for an online version, but we love the real one, too)
Paint By Idioms
Rooting Out Words

•tell lots and lots and lots of stories

•and use various means to work on analogies, which I consider part of LA, for some reason.

Finally, all three children continue to publish our family's own private newspaper. This grew out of their own interest in journalism and has flourished into a neat hobby and keepsake all in one. As they've matured, we'll taken the newspaper to different levels. This year, I'll be teaching them how to use a desktop publishing program to make their end product that much more appealing.

So there you have it ... Language Arts a 'la MG. Hope it's not disappointing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Peach Jam

A single jar of jam sitting in my window

My grandmother was released from the hospital this a.m. In talking with her, I shared that I'd just finished my first batch of peach jam this season the other night. There was a long pause.

"Baby, why on earth do you fool with all that mess?"

It was my turn for a long pause as I remembered unbearably hot days sitting at her kitchen table spent breaking beans, scalding beets and yes, slicing peaches. Those were happy times: Mamaw belting out church hymns, the constant hum of the box fan propped in the window, the smell of sugar being liquefied on the stove, the sting of tomato juice on my elbows. My Mamaw would can anything that stood still long enough to be blanched and pressure cooked, and I was right by her side, an apprentice basking in the glow of a Master.

I was caught off guard, so I took the practical approach.

"Wellllll .... so that we can have jam in the winter, Mamaw."

She called me on my bluff.

"A jar of jelly down at the Wal-Mart is cheap. It don't pay to make your own anymore."

I fumbled around with words like recession, economy, fuel costs and cost of living.

"Let me tell you something, Baby. You ain't never had no hard times. A dozen or two jars of peach jam don't put a dent in real hard times."

I know that this is truth, and I know that the mouth that wisdom came from has tasted the bitterness of times so harsh as to leave behind a memory that resonates half a century later. But I also know that seeing a few dozen jars of jam that I have coaxed, with my own hands, out of ripe, fragrant peaches glowing in the sunlight sets my heart singing in a way that few other things can.

I came clean.

"I guess I do it for love, Mamaw. I love that my kids love it. I love that my husband loves it. And it makes me think of you and me, and how much I love you."

A third long pause, this one almost epic in its length.

"You go on and make your jelly. I ain't leavin' you yet, youngin'. Good Lord willing, I ain't leavin' you yet."

And those words are far, far sweeter than all of the jam in the world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


If you haven't already figured it out, I unabashedly adore the curriculum that we use. There are other companies out there that fill a similar niche ... but they just don't compare, in my experience. No--Sonlight is an original. Using Sonlight, I've been able to provide my children with an astoundingly well-rounded education that continues to stretch and challenge our entire family. Could I do this on my own? Yeah, probably. I have access to TWO world-class library systems, the ever-handy internet and a network of adults whose areas of expertise are vast and varied. My resources are about as broad as I want them to be at this point--and I do call on them when I choose to do so. But ... I don't have to. I can spend my time, instead, enjoying the process. Learning alongside my children. And building relationships with our family.

One thing that drew me to SL back in 2002 was its focus on non-Western cultures. As our family has become increasingly involved in worldwide missions, I've found this aspect of the curriculum to be an integral part of the process God has orchestrated of opening our eyes, one step at a time. The scope of a SL education takes you to places I never knew existed. Lest you think I crawled out from under a rock at the turn of the century and am delighting in this newfound place called Namibia, let me set your mind at ease and reassure you in the same tone I used on our postmaster yesterday: "Yes, I meet the minimum requirements in this state to homeschool my children. Actually, despite the fact that our state's qualifications are among the strictest in the nation, I actually exceed them. Thanks for asking. Now, can you kindly mail our letter to the country formerly known as South West Africa?"

This big picture view of God's creation has led us on amazing journeys. As we begin our school year with with Core 5 (Eastern Hemisphere) I anticipate nothing less. Sonlight has never let me down. Indeed, it just continues to amaze me.

So I really shouldn't have been shocked when I opened my mailbox the other day and discovered a letter outlining SL's joint venture with Mission India. Talk about timely
(ie, Eastern Hemisphere) ... and real.

Seriously. How many homeschool curriculum providers ask you to come alongside them as they work to fulfill the Great Commission? What kind of a company does that?

The kind I want to give my money to, that's who.

Over the years, Sonlight has given us many, many reasons to feel affirmed in our choice of school materials for our children. Not only have we been blessed with amazing literature and outstanding customer service, we've also been wowed by the little things-like a personal note from Sarita last fall when Logan was recovering from his tonsillectomy. Talk about speaking to a mother's heart! But this newest endeavor warms my heart in ever greater ways. Sonlight shares our goals. It is a company that takes its corporate identity and puts it to work. It's a body of believers moving, like the early church, to create ripples all over the globe. Sonlight is real.

We're all signed up for the rice bag project. We have an ongoing "rice bowl" that we've filled for years in much the same way, allowing the children to take the lead on vetting charities and donating in their own names. This project promises to continue the tradition of learning and doing that we value so much. And who knows? Maybe it will inspire our children to take yet another step. As we watched the Mission India video online this morning, Jo mused that perhaps she ought to let Sonlight know about our nonprofit and see if they would be interested in learning more about the projects we run.

"Have John and Sarita ever been to B*rma?" she asked. "They could use some rice bags!"

Great Commission, here we come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sway, little willow

This is me right now.

O.k., it's not really me. I mean-I have a face. And clothes. But you get the point, right?

The news today has not been good at Casa MG. My grandmother, who has been in the hospital for a week now, is no better off than she was the day she was admitted. Pneumonia has her down for the count ... and it has me on my knees, begging the Lord to save one of the two people in the world that I can honestly say have loved me unconditionally since before I was born.

I also found out that my brother was involved in a serious car accident. He seems to be o.k., but the physical and financial blow scare me for him in the long-term. Like me, he juggles an occasional state of melancholy that can toss him into a tailspin. I'm praying that God holds P. tightly in His hand and protects him from the fall-out of the accident.

And finally, there are a few personal matters crowding my plate that I'd rather not be served right now.

Thank goodness the One who is REALLY carrying the world carries me as well. I don't know how I'd make it through the emotions of a day like today without Him.


Core 5 (+ necessary additions such as math, LA and foreign language) seems to take this family four and a half hours. 270 minutes.

I'm not saying it's not worth it. I mean, hey--if you can spend ten minutes watching hula dances on youtube and call it school, life's not all bad. But ohmygoodnesswe'reonlyonweektwo ... anditwillonlygetmoreinvolved.

Deep breath. Composing myself. O.k. ...

Monday, September 8, 2008


My husband has always been way more interested in our homeschool than most dads seem to be. Few fathers in my circle give more than a passing thought as to what curriculum their wife chooses, what books are being read or what hours are taken up with educational endeavors. I've always counted myself blessed that my dh does, in fact, invest in these things. It's endearing to have a man who takes an interest in the single pursuit that takes up the bulk of your time. And frankly, I really wouldn't want the burden of making all of these potentially large and looming choices by myself. They're our children, after all. Not just mine.

Over the years, dh's role in our homeschool has taken on varying roles according to how much time he can devote to educating the kids alongside me. This, again, is uncommon in my experiences. My dh has always been responsible for reading the SL read-alouds to Jo. This was his first act as a homeschooling dad--claiming that little bit of territory--and he's maintained it throughout the years. Now that Atticus is also able to listen in on many of the read-alouds, he often joins in on the pre-bedtime fun. Poor Logan gets a separate read-aloud with me that is more age-appropriate. He doesn't seem to mind.

Other things that dh has taken on: teaching Jo French. When Jo asserted that she wanted to learn Spanish, French and Portuguese, I was at a loss. Resetta Stone has our back covered on the Spanish end of things, and dh (who is bumblingly semi-fluent in French) swooped to the rescue on the whole French thing. Portuguese ... we'll figure that one out.

There are other things that clearly fall into dh's homeschooling realm. Checker of all things math. Player of many learning games. Builder of many projects. He is the master of many little odds and ends that keep our homeschool exciting and lively.

Dh has always been fairly content with my day-to-day teaching of the children. After helping select the curricula and rallying the troops, he tends to step back and allow me to take the reigns in the educational areas where I generally lead our little army: reading instruction, math drill, geography ... the basics. He asks how it's going. He listens as the kids detail the course of their day. He encourages. He offers a me perspective.

He has his areas. I have mine. And together, we get the job done.

But lately, apparently, he's been worried that I haven't been doing my part to the fullest.

O.k., o.k. Let me say right off the bat that I am glad I have the kind of marriage where my husband can turn to me in the middle of flipping Sunday morning pancakes and ask, "So ... are you getting tired of the whole homeschooling thing?" I mean, if I were actually, growing weary of home education, this would have been a wonderful, gentle opening that allowed me to bow out gracefully. What a man!

But, no. I am not tired of homeschooling. And I thought he knew that. I mean, didn't he know about all of the big plans I was sorting through in my head? Couldn't he see the way I was carefully easing us back in to a semblance of schedule? Wasn't it obvious that I was just waiting to get past this and that and this again, and then we'd be ready for the full swing of fall?

This is what I thought: you can't read my mind? What kind of a man are you?!?

The conversation got long and drawn out, because of course, homeschooling is an emotional thing for me. (Is everyone like this?) The long and short is that what was in my head (see above) looked like this to my husband:

1--I hear her talking about plans, but I don't see any actual evidence that she's doing them.
2--She's been taking things slow for a month. Isn't it time to just get on with it?
3--What is she doing all day anyhow?


I took this all as a huge wake-up call. I spent the evening last night putting together actual, concrete plans for this week and making them accessible to dh. I woke up this morning, got dressed and got moving. All of those things I was waiting to do have suddenly snapped into focus, and I'm moving forward. It feels strangely good.

Part of dh's concerns, I discovered, stem from the fact that Jo is moving at break-neck speed toward high school and eventual higher education. And just like the anxiety he felt when we first began homeschooling, he's fighting off the niggling fear that what she gets here won't be enough. That a private school could do it better. That without careful attention to detail, we might fail her.

Now, he doesn't really believe that. And I don't, either. But, as the primary parent in thie educational adventure, I have to set his fears to rest. I have to show him that the trains can--and will--run on time. I have to stay focused, to shrug off my own "it'll happen ... someday" mentality and to offer her the opportunities she deserves. A tall order!

But at least I know we'll be working toward that goal together. While dh did chide me with a gentle rebuke, he fully reaffirmed his commitment to homeschooling, as well as his faith in me to get the job done in the areas I've accepted responsibility for. Once again, I'm so glad not to be balancing the entire load on my own shoulders.

So ....

So long, lazy days of summer. So long, casual school. It's time to snap back into routine and to actually, satifactually progress.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Apostle Paul, meet Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd, meet the Apostle Paul.

No doubt you read this post's title and began asking yourself if MG has finally gone so far off her rocker as to be certifiably insane. I regret to inform you that I have actually been certifiable for quite some time, and am now working in my PhD in the area. I'll let you know when the sheepskin arrives.

My children have fallen into a nasty little habit as of late. Of course, I am ashamed to admit that it's gotten to the stage of "habit"; in order for something like that to develop, it has to grow from a tiny little seed, be allowed to blossom and then finally entrench itself. Clearly, I missed quite a few character training moments in this particular area. Most likely, I cruised past the warning signs with my eyes eagerly trained on something I saw as more important. I do that sometimes, I'm sorry to say.

This paticular habit I see my children manifesting is one that's a particular hurt to my mothering heart: tearing Logan down. Igh. Just seeing that in writing makes me cringe. I mean, how do you miss something like that?

The fact is, it's been coming for years. And while I've been trying to navigate the choppy waters of sibling relationships, I'm afraid I completely missed the boat on this one.

The seeds were sewn back when Logan was a toddler. For some reason, each consecutive child in my life has spoken intelligibly at a later date than the one before. Jo was spouting fully-formed, grammatically correct sentences with multiple, appropriate adjectives by one year of age. "Mommy, may I have the fuzzy, yellow duckling, please?" That was Jo. Atticus was somewhat slower to the draw. What set him apart was his vocabulary--apparently, falling asleep to me reading to him from Whitman's Leaves of Grass made an impression. "It's ominous!" he said of an approaching storm one afternoon shortly before his second birthday.

Logan did not speak at one year of age. He muttered little more than his own Logan-speak even as he approached his second birthday. At 30 mos., I sat down with him and made a list of every word he had ever even tried to say. The list stopped at 21 words and consisted mainly of sounds more than words: "duh" for "ball" and the like. I decided to pursue professional evaluation.

After six months of therapy, some intensive home intervention and a little maturing, Logan began to speak with fair intelligibility. It wouldn't be until he turned five, however, that I would say his speech issues became a moot point.

During those first years, his siblings learned that unless Mom was around, understanding Logan was a fairly taxing exercise. As siblings are wont to do, they often decided that this was a little more involved than they really wanted to be, so they began blocking him out altogether. Logan's response? In true Logan fashion, the reasoning came down like this: "Well, if you're not going to listen to me when I'm nice, I'll
make you listen to me when I'm mean!"

I work on this with my older kids to this day. It's not an every day thing at this point, but it's still something I keep my feelers out for. Four years of, "Are you listening to your brother?" Four years of, "Try again, Logan." Four years of, "He's talking to
you, Jo."


So that's where this all started. Logan gets ignored. Which has now been translated into, "What Logan says is probably wrong."

Now this jump I really don't get. I suspect that it comes from the fact that I have one very intelligent, dominant firstborn (that would be Jo) and one super-grandé intelligent oldest male (Atticus). And of course, anything they say is, by definition, right. And the opposite of right is ... (follow along with me here!) WRONG.

So if Logan disagrees, he's wrong. The problem is that Logan is no dummy. He's actually just as full of factoids and general knowledge as Jo, though clearly less obsessively detail-oriented as Atticus. As Logan has come into his own and is now a big old first grader, he not only wants to be heard, he wants to be
HEARD. But what he gets is often this:

Logan: "If the next president serves two terms, I'll be almost 15 when he leaves office."
Jo: "Two terms is eight years."
Atticus: "You'll be 14."
Logan: "I know! I said almost 15, because the inauguration is in January and my birthday's in May."

Did you catch that? It's really subtle to the casual on-looker. Logan must be wrong, because he is
Logan. That's the upshot here.

I know that some people will dismiss this as part and parcel of being a little brother. I'm sorry, but I can't swallow that. It's rude, it's wrong, and above all, it's completely disrespectful. I expect more from my children.

This morning, after hearing the above exchange and watching Logan hunch down in his chair and generally lose a bit of his morning sparkle, I snapped.

"Everyone up!" I announced. The kids looked at me like I was a crazy woman. Didn't I know that there was hot food on the table? This was breakfast time, by golly. A sacred hour in my house. Who gets up at breakfast time?

"Out to the gameroom! I want each of you to build me a Lego wall. Make it 4 big bricks wide and ten bricks tall."

Their eyes still wide, Jo, Atticus and Logan marched out to the gameroom. Ten minutes later, they were back, each carrying a little Lego creation. I instructed them to put the walls in front of their plates and to listen very closely.

"My children, you have fallen into an ugly habit," I began. "The Bible says that a house divided against itself will not stand. And yet, here we are, dividing against ourselves. My children are doing to one another exactly what the world does: pick and pull and hurt. And it's got to stop."

I read to my children from 1 Corinthians 8:
We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. We talked about what we know, what we think we know, and what other people know.

Then we moved on to 1 Thessalonians 5:11:
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up. Which would be where our lovely Lego walls come in: today, whenever someone uses their words to correct someone else in any way that uses their knowledge but is ultimately undermining, they will have to physically remove one of that person's bricks. In other words, the intangible from your lips will be made tangible. You will see how you are breaking others down.

I finished up by pointing out that each one of us really and truly is a little wall of Legos. We are our own little structure ... but at the whim of others. The things that break us down can slide so easily off of the tongue as to be almost unnoticed. And there it goes ... another brick from the wall, leaving us less sound, less sure, and less encouraged.

I'll report back on the results ...