October 31, 2010

Things I've learned from this bout of illness

After my stint with pneumonia I had two days of good health and then I caught a cold that has hung on for over two weeks with no real sign of leaving any time soon.  Two of my four sons have the same cold.  Here are the things I've learned recently about colds.

1.  Essential oils work to stop the coughing.  I use doTerra oils (and sell them if you're interested).  We used Breathe and Eucalyptus with great success.  They'd be hacking up a lung at night and I'd go in, oil their feet and throats and they'd sleep quietly the rest of the night.

2.  Eating raw garlic burns.

3.  Placing raw garlic cloves between each of your toes and trying to sleep is rather painful.  I made a valiant effort and woke up at 1:30am with aching toes.  Once I pulled out the garlic my feet felt much better.

4.  Eating raw garlic mixed with butter on bread only prolongs the pain.  It still burns, only you get to enjoy each bite with the burn.

5.  Even if you've lost all sense of smell and taste, raw garlic burns your mouth.

6.  Even if you've lost all sense of smell and taste, others around you have not and they will think your breath is stinky.  They'll even tell you to your face.  And pretend to faint every time you walk by.

7.  Warm apple cider with a whole lemon squeezed in and a plop of raw honey feels wonderful on sore throats.

8.  Steam showers work for calming coughs and unclogging noses.  So do steam baths with essential oils added.

9.  Hot and Sour soup has wonderful healing properties.  So does Chicken Noodle soup.  It's been scientifically proven.  Really.  I alternate between the two.  Although I have to get the Hot and Sour from a restaurant.  Does anyone have a good recipe for making it at home?

10.  Warm apple cider with a whole lemon squeezed in AND some ginger tea (make by boiling water and shredded ginger together) with honey also feels really good.  It's a little spicier though.

11.  Add cayenne to your chicken noodle soup for some extra healing power.  If you have lost your sense of taste and smell you can add quite a bit.  You know you've added too much when your tongue starts to burn.

12.  You can keep your other kids healthy by making them do all the stuff the sick people have to do - eat the soups, put on the oils, go to bed early, etc.

13.  Using On Guard (from doTerra) on the healthy boys feet seems to have helped in keeping them healthy since they are still healthy.

14.  Drinking On Guard is truly disgusting.  Peppermint oil though is great and eases the congestion.

15.  Eating On Guard on crackers with honey and butter is even worse.  I made my kids promise me that if I ever tried to get them to eat On Guard they were to run screaming.

16.  You can make garlic oil to put on your feet and chest by cutting up some garlic and just barely covering it with extra-virgin olive oil.  Let it sit for at least 2 hours, or a few days if possible.  Cover the bottoms of your feet (and the top, right where the toes join the foot) and put on some socks.  You can also spread it on your chest and throat, but your clothes might get greasy.  Then pretend you live in an Italian restaurant because everything will smell all garlicy.  Do not, however, lick anyone's garlic feet.

17.  Sleep as much as possible.

18.  You'll get better faster, or not even get sick in the first place, if you eat healthier.  If you do get sick and start feeding your kids (and yourself) cold cereal for breakfast and lunch, they will get sick too.  If your husband goes out for burgers or pizza or other such sundries every night because you're sick, and you, the sick person, eat it, you won't get better anytime soon.  And everyone else will get sick.  Don't fall back on junk food when you're sick.

19.  Pray.

20.  Pray some more.

October 20, 2010

Things they say outloud

We babysat my friend's two little boys Monday night while she was having her baby.  Tuesday morning she came by (with her husband) to pick them up and brought her one-day-old daughter.  And I got to hold her!!!!

My 4-year-old was sitting on the couch between us and he looked from the baby to my friend to the baby to my friend and back and forth for a bit.  Then he looked at me with great confusion, "If _____'s baby is out, why is her tummy still fat?"

He looks at me and continues, "Are you SURE you don't have a baby sister in your tummy, mom?  You're fat too."


October 15, 2010

My favorite things for teaching reading

I am by no means a reading expert, although I do like to read.  And I've taught 2 of my 4 children to read - the 3rd taught himself when he was 4 so I'm not sure he counts in the total.  Anyway.....

I have tried a number of reading programs/books and have finally found the ones I like best, the ones that work for my kids (all of them!) and the ones that are easiest for me to wrap my brain around.

1.  Happy Phonics.  This program contains mostly games.  It follows a logical sequence and has a great little teacher's guide to help you understand which order to do things.  My kids LOVE the games.  Even after they have "graduated" from a game, they will go back years later and play them.  The older boys are asking if they can play with the younger ones.  Not only does the program work, the kids have good memories of it!

One of the things I like best is that because they are games, struggling readers are more willing to practice over and over.  Reading (well, language in general) is very hard for one of my 10-yr-olds and Happy Phonics worked marvelously for him.  We could go over the same sounds, in the game, over and over again and he wouldn't complain one little bit.

I did cut out and laminate all the cards so that the program would last longer...that took a while!  But it has lasted for over 5 years now with one more boy to go.

2.  Now I'm Reading Series by Nora Gaydos.  These books work PERFECTLY with Happy Phonics.   Each book focuses on a specific sound, or combination of them.  The illustrations are fun and the text is silly.  My boys love them and I don't mind hearing them read them over and over and over again.

I have used Levels 1, 2 and 3.  By 3 a child could most likely start reading "easy readers" but Level 3 was specifically requested by my 6-yr-old so we're using them.

Each time the child reads a book they get to put a sticker in the front.  Sadly, there are only 4 stickers per book and we've read them more than that.  And now my youngest son won't have the coordinated stickers.  I do wish you could order additional stickers.

The books (10 in a set) are kept in individual plastic sleeves, housed in a hardbound book.  They are excellent for keeping all those small books together.

Updated to add:  I love how the books build on words.  For example, the first page might read, "A cat."  The next page will be "A tan cat."  The next will read "A tan cat sat."  And it builds from there.  It has really helped my boys with their confidence because they can read faster and they remember the words better.

I just read through Snack Attack with my 4-yr-old this morning and I noticed 2 of the books have characters that steal things and there is no remorse, repentance, punishment, nothing.  Not so cool with that.  I might have to go in and edit the book.  Or pull them out.  I haven't had that problem with the other books.

I'm working on a list of how Now I'm Reading correlates with Happy Phonics.  I'll post that soon.

3.  Starfall.  It's an online program and it's free.  I use this mainly when they are younger to help learn their letters and the sounds.  As they progress there are some fun little videos and short games they can play.  I consider this more of a supplement than an actual program, but it is well loved in this home.

4.  Explode the Code workbooks.  My kids will say they don't love these, but they do work.  I wouldn't say this is "my favorite" but we keep using them because they have really helped them understand the language better.

And in case you are interested I tried the following without much success:

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Phonics Pathways
Progressive Phonics
The Reading Lesson
various levels of Bob Books

Well, I should say we had success with one boy, and not much with the other.  In every one of the above mentioned programs/books he hit a wall and couldn't get around it until Happy Phonics.  I'm sure any of these books would have worked for the now 6-yr-old, but he heard us doing Happy Phonics so often that he learned to read on his own.

October 11, 2010

Defending the size of my family

Do you often feel like you need to "defend" the size of your family?  I do.  And there aren't that many of us!

Either I'm dealing with nasty looks or comments like "Oh, you're having ANOTHER one" (said when pregnant with my 3rd) when I'm out and about with my four boys or I'm trying to explain why I ONLY have four kids.  I either have too many or not enough.  I can't win!

I wonder sometimes why I feel like I have to defend my choices.  I also wonder why people ask the most impertinent questions and seem to feel entitled to very personal information.  In asking questions about my adoption one woman asked if I was raising my husband's illegitimate son from an affair he had had.  Uh, NO.  There was no affair.  Just an adoption.  Why jump to such crazy conclusions?????

One of my sisters is unable to have children of her own.  She has endured years of people asking hurtful, personal, unthinking questions.  Why do we do this to each other?  Why do I feel like I have to tell everyone I can't have more children for medical reasons?  Why can't I just be content and tell people to mind their own business?  Why don't they mind their own business?  Why don't I?

One of the things I struggle with in defending my "large" family is the question of courtesy.  Let's say we want to buy a snack.  We go and stand in line and wait 10 minutes or so.  We finally get to the front and there is a single person behind us.  Do we let them go first?  Do we order and make them wait?  How about at the grocery store when I have my cart LOADED with two weeks worth of groceries and I'm about to put them on the conveyor belt.  I notice a person behind me with half a cart.  Should I let them go first?

My husband and I debate this all the time.  He calls it courtesy to let the single person (or several single persons or smaller families) go first.  I claim that if I stood in line and have "done my time" I should not feel pressured to stand aside.  I also don't want my children feeling like we have to apologize for having four kids.  That because we 'have so many people' in our family that we need to feel like we're a burden and thus let others go first.  I constantly wrestle with being 'thoughtful' to those around me and helping my children feel that they are just as valued and important as those with fewer (or no) kids.

Am I even making sense?  For the record I like to let old people and pregnant women go ahead of me in almost any situation.  But what is the proper thing to do in other situations?  Why is buying a Slurpee such a moral dilemma????????

Washington's Rules of Civility #2 - Modern Interpretation

Washington's Second Rule of Civility:

2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.

Modern interpretation by two 10-year-olds and a 6-year-old:

Don't touch your privates or do anything gross with your body like pick your nose.  You shouldn't touch parts of your body which are covered by clothes when you're in public - pick your toes, scratch stuff, things like that.

October 4, 2010

The State of Our Union

Last month I posted that I had taken away our various sources of online movies and movie clubs.  I also decided to put the TV in the closet.  And the Wii went with it.  It's been a month now....this is the State of the Union.

1.  The kids were rather put out the first few days and there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  After that they rarely talked about it.

2.  The house is cleaner because we have more time to clean and because they earn the privilege of cleaning if they complain about the lack of TV or Wii.

3.  The boys are reading more.  A lot more.  One of the 10-year-olds is reading huge, gigantic books.  700+ page books in 2 days.  The other 10-year-old who HATES reading (what happened there?) is actually sitting down and reading books of his own free will.  He even told me the other day, "Since we don't have TV now I'm finding lots of great books to read."  

And the 6-year-old has discovered that HE can read books on his own.  He actually taught himself to read at 4, but has only read during the times we sit down with the express intent to read.  Lately he's been picking up books and reading them to himself.  But even better, he's asking his 4-year-old brother if he can read a book to him.  I find the two of them curled up on the couch many times during the day, with the older one reading to the younger.  How precious is that?????

4.  There is less fighting.  We used to have major fights many times a day.  I thought this was probably normal, having four boys and all.  Well, since the TV has been off we haven't had more than 3 or so fights for the month, and even those were little.

5.  Everyone is playing together.  Nicely.  It's been incredible to see them all playing together, including each other, helping each other.  The older boys are more patient with the younger ones and they do EVERYTHING together now.

6.  The house is quieter.  In a good way.  There is a feeling of peace and serenity now, instead of noise and confusion and loudness.  

7.  They do their schoolwork cheerfully.  In fact, they CHEER when I say it's time to do school.  It's a treat, a privilege, something to be valued now.

8.  They are much less anxious and stressed.  They used to hurry through their day, complain during school, worry about when they would be able to watch a movie or play the Wii.  It consumed their every waking thought and they were constantly asking when they could play, or planning what they would play, or acting out what they would play.  Now they just play, read, laugh, and don't worry.  It's like a huge load of concern/stress/worry has been lifted off their shoulders.

9.  We have had almost no behavior problems during the month.  One of our sons is famous for digging in his heels and refusing to do pretty much anything without a huge fight.  We've had one incident thus far.  They all are much more willing to help with chores, have better attitudes, are kinder to each other - pretty much any good thing  you can think of for "good behavior" and we've seen it.

10.  I'm spending more time with the boys.  I thought I read a lot to them....but I'm reading even more.  Instead of "checking out" in the afternoon because I was tired or feeling sick, I was "forced" to actually deal with my children, to parent them, instead of saying "Go watch a movie."  We read more, played more games, went outside more often, cooked together, drew pictures together, and just talked more.  We also spent more time organizing, cleaning and getting rid of stuff we don't need.

11.  We're listening to great music more often.  Because there isn't that constant noise in the background (either from fighting or the TV/Wii) I feel "up to" listening to music during our breakfasts and lunches.  Previously I just wanted some QUIET, so I rarely played music.  (Oh, I also go rid of every CD that wasn't classical or church music.  And a few kids songs CDs.  The rest has left the building.)

12.  Our days seemed calmer, less rushed.  We got more things done and had more free-time than we had previously.  It almost felt like we'd been given extra hours in the day.

My husband and I are discussing when and if the TV and Wii ever come back.  I've been so happy with the State of the Union, that I'm ready to get rid of them!!!!  We can always watch a select movie or two on the computer if we REALLY had to.  

And the Wii is just a trouble maker, in my opinion.  We originally got it so they could get some exercise during the scorchingly hot Texas summer days.  But they weren't getting that much exercise.  And if one boy was doing a "workout" while the others did schoolwork, well, those doing schoolwork always ended up in the room with the Wii and then they'd get in trouble, blah, blah, blah.  (The Wii Active workout is AWESOME, but I'm not sure I want to keep the huge TV and the Wii just for that.  All the other garbage comes with it then.)

The thing that concerns me most with the Wii though is how they obsess about when they'll get to play.  They count days, watch the calender, ask repeatedly about when they'll be able to play, plan what they'll play.  It's non-stop.  Instead of reading or playing they talk Wii ALL THE TIME.  It's been wonderful to hear them actually talking about other things, and doing other things.  If we kept the Wii "only for Saturday" they would (and have) spend all week waiting for it.  If the Wii was "once a month" all their time and energy would be spent waiting, planning, discussing, worrying about that one day a month.

So, we're trying to figure out where to go from here.  It's a hard thing to be different from everyone else.  To be the only people around without a TV or a video gaming system.  Peer pressure is an awful way to make decisions for my family....sadly it does play a part though.  

My husband and I are discussing phrases like "intentional parenting", "courageous parenting", "parenting is not a popularity contest", "creating a refuge from the world", "stand for what is right at all times and in all places" and others. 

I'll let you know what we decide.

Washington's Rules of Civility - Modern Day Interpretation - #1

As a family we are going to take George Washington's Rules of Civility and give them a modern day interpretation.  Well, as "interpreted" as 2 ten-year-olds and a 6-year old can get!  Most likely we'll work on one a week.  Here's the first.

1st - Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

Do stuff that's nice. Don't do things unless you're called on.

You should show respect and you should also do what you're asked to do.  You should do what every else is doing (follow their example), unless what they are doing is bad.

You should do what you're supposed to do.  You should treat other people nicely.

October 1, 2010

Cheers, and prayers, for my mom

Today, Friday, my mom is defending her Master's thesis before a panel of professors.  She'll be able to revise it one more time and then SHE IS DONE!!!!!!  It's taken my mom a bazillion years to finish school.  Okay, not quite a bazillion, but close.  I think almost 20????  She's had to work full time while going to school and care for her family and serve in her church.  It's been a hard load.  But she did it and she didn't go crazy like we thought she would.  She even made the Honor Roll every semester.

So, today, I'm praying for my mom that all will go well with her professors.  And I'm so grateful she's finally done.

While I wish the road had been easier for her, and that she hadn't had to do so much, I'm proud of her for doing what she had to do, and doing it with dignity and quiet grace.

I love you mom.  Congratulations!!!!!  Now go get some sleep.