Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fun On the Driveway

Here are some pictures of my sweet kiddoes. We've been spending lots of time outside enjoying the beautiful weather. This morning, we had a tea party in our driveway. We have a package of old hats that we borrowed from my mom. Mary Alice chose the "Mary Poppins" hat. Of course, I had to grab the camera. Major didn't wear a hat, but did participate in the party by helping to eat some of the tea party treats.

On Friday, Josh and I took the kids to their first high school football game. I think we picked the wrong game and the wrong teams to watch. The school bands were pretty sad. At one point, during the halftime show, Major looked up at Josh and said, "When will this music stop?" I think we were all looking forward to the end of the halftime show. Another funny thing that Major said about the football players was, "These adults are small!" The only football game that Major had ever seen had been a professional one. Yes Major, those players are quite small compared to the ones in the NFL! Another funny thing... Mary Alice wondered why the cheerleaders weren't wearing any pants with their tops. (HA!)

Even though the game and the halftime show were weak, we had a great time together snuggling under a blanket and drinking hot chocolate. It was so much fun and something that I hope we can do again soon before football season is over.

I love this fall weather! Here are a few pictures of the kids having fun on the driveway. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fall Fun

Today the weather outside is clear and crisp, just the way fall should be. I was so cold in my bed last night that I had to snuggle up next to Josh to stay warm. Our family ate our dinner of chili and cornbread in front of the fireplace the other night. I love it! The fall is finally here. Yesterday I finished putting up my fall decorations. I just couldn't bring myself to do it, when the weather still felt like summer.

The first two pictures on this post are of Mary Alice and Major's morning tradition of waving at their daddy as he leaves for work. They stand out on the fence and wave to him as he drives away. Quite often, Josh will peel out (insert loud screeching noise) just to make them laugh. It is funny, but I sometimes wonder if our neighbors think we have issues.

I have thought of blogging so many times, but have just been so busy! We've had people over for lunch almost every day this week. It has been a real blessing and something that we don't make time for often enough. Josh and I have been talking lately about having people over more often. This is something that I love to do, but nearly every weekend, we find some excuse as to why it is not a good weekend. It really is a shame. I remember when I was growing up, we had company over for lunch all the time, usually on Sunday morning after church. Why don't we do this anymore??? We do go "out" for lunch, but somehow, it isn't quite the same. Anyway, this is something that we've been wanting to do for some time now, so that we can build better relationships with our church family. We'll see how it goes.

I know I am probably boring my few readers with this by now, but I simply can't help it. I continue to listen to Nancy Leigh Demoss's podcasts when I work out. It continues to be such a tool of encouragement to me each day. This has been so beneficial to me. I strongly suggest this as a method of joyboosting and personal revival. Yesterday, I received three of her books in the mail, which I know are going to be incredible. I looked through them and really couldn't put them down last night and can't wait to dive into these amazing looking studies. I have Bible studies to keep me busy for a long time. This woman has such a talent for boldly speaking the truth. God has used her to convict me about many things! If you get the chance, listen to her program. You won't be sorry.

The kids and I have been enjoying school so much. Mary Alice continues to surprise me with her zeal for learning. It is so encouraging. She has been so much fun to teach. I hope she never loses this love for knowledge. For example, we have been learning about plants, flowers, and trees. Seriously, everywhere we go, she recites some fact about something that she read in her Science or History book. I love it! And another thing...Major has even been getting in on the action. He loves to sit and listen to me read to Mary Alice. He even knows some answers to questions that Mary Alice doesn't know. My little man continues to surprise me with how much he understands. I am ever thankful for the blessing of being able to be at home with my kids. They are growing and changing so fast. I can see it happening little by little.

We just finished up the study of Switzerland. Let me tell you... I learned so much. If you see Mary Alice, be sure to ask her to tell you about all things Swiss. Ok, this is funny.... We have a cookbook that tells us how to make all kinds of Swiss recipes. We bought some different foods. Mary Alice has been working on a little menu for her Swiss restaurant. She is calling it "Hedwig's". She made these little menus with Swiss flags on them that say "Hedwig's Swiss Restaurant". She wants to dress up like Hedwig (William Tell's wife). She wants Major to dress up like William Tell. When I asked her what I should come as, she suggested "Gessler", the mean bailiff who is eventually shot through the heart by William Tell. I think I'll just come as myself. I found a Swiss doll for Mary Alice at an estate sale that I visited a few weeks ago and gave it to her as we completed the study. One of these days when we aren't having company over for lunch, we'll open a Swiss restaurant in our home. I'll be sure to post a picture or two of our own Hedwig and William Tell.

I went on a Ladies' Retreat with our church a couple of weeks ago. I went with the express purpose of getting to know some of the ladies outside of my age group. I was pleasantly surprised. I met several older Christians as well as some singles. I had considered not going, for several reasons, but am glad that I decided to go. It was a blessing in many ways. I had the most fun playing a middle of the night game of Catchphrase with a group of ladies of all ages. It was without a doubt the most fun I've ever had playing a game in my life. I love to play games, so this is saying quite a bit. We played it the normal way at first. Then one of the singles suggested that we play it a different way. We had to play without showing our teeth. It was the most hilarious thing I've seen in a long time. Of course, just about everything seems hilarious at 3 in the morning. :) All in all, it was wonderful. I made several friends, one of whom is coming over for lunch tomorrow.

I know that there is more that has happened in the past few weeks. I'll try to post again soon.

Here are some pictures from the fall festival that my kids went to at my parents' church last week. Recognize the costumes? Yes, they are leftovers from Mary Alice's Wizard of Oz's birthday party. There is a twist, though. My mom was doing the face painting. Major was turned into a Spider-Tin Man. I had to post these pictures of him shooting his webs. They reminded me so much of our friend sweet Benjamin Perkinson at the same age at Mary Alice's fourth birthday party. Too cute! I had to resist the urge not to turn the kids into something else, as I do so love costumes.. Oh well, I'll get my chance when the Swiss Restaurant is open for business.... Have a great week!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pioneer Field Trip

This morning, the kids and I planned on going to a local pumpkin patch. We decided to do something else instead. We packed a lunch and headed out to a local museum. I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting and well run the museum was, especially considering the fact that it was so inexpensive. The museum was a miniature log cabin town and was made up of restored buildings from the time of the pioneers. Each cabin had its own little tour guide who was knowledgeable about their particular cabin. I would compare the museum to Colonial Williamsburg, except for on a smaller scale. Each cabin was furnished with antiques from that time period (around the 1850's) and was made to look as it did when the original owners lived there.

Some highlights of our trip were our visit to the the blacksmith, a grist mill, a candle maker and a one room schoolhouse. The kids favorite exhibit was a neat little cabin that had been equipped with all sorts of time period things with which the kids could play. Mary Alice churned butter, cooked over a pretend fire, layed on a feather bed, spun thread on a loom, dressed up in play clothes and cooked a pretend pioneer meal. Thankfully, we chose a day with not only great weather, but no school groups!!! We had the whole place almost entirely to ourselves! The kids had their own personal tour guides at each and every stop. It was like the whole town had been set up for just our family. We were especially appreciative of the super sweet lady in the play-and-pretend cabin who encouraged the kids to touch anything and everything and answered each one of the dozens of questions that they asked her. We had that play cabin (and our sweet tour guide) all to ourselves for about an hour and a half! It was awesome! The kids were genuinely interested and learned so much. They had a nice picnic area where we ate our lunch under the trees. We finished the day with a trip to the general store to buy some stick candy. We will definitely be visiting this museum again. I was advised by our friend in the pretend play area to call ahead and make sure that no school groups were there so that we could have the same wonderful experience.

I had to include this picture. Here is Major with his typical "thumbs up" pose. I have no idea what that is all about.

The kids spied a caterpillar after lunch. Mary Alice saw it first. They both started singing some song about a Fuzzy Caterpillar that they learned in Bible class. They were cracking me up!

Monday, October 08, 2007

More Than A Box of Doughnuts

Thanks to so many of you who wrote comments or sent me an e-mail with advice concerning my kids. I have so many good friends and love to hear others' wisdom/experiences regarding these difficult parenting dilemmas. I am happy to report that Mary Alice pretty much forgot about the "mean girl" incident the moment she left the classroom. It was definitely harder on me, as I tend to hang on to things for a little bit longer than that. :)

As for Major... Thanks for all of your great suggestions. I found them very helpful. I think I have a few new ideas to work with now and will let you all know how that goes. Parenting can be challenging at times.

I just wanted to share a new little something that I've been doing that has really been brightening my day. Maybe some of you do this already? I started downloading various podcasts from the Christian radio station onto my IPod and listening to them throughout the day,(during the kids' nap, at the gym, etc.) I was inspired by my friend Susan to start listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss from Revive Our Hearts. This woman is truly inspirational! Much of the time, I struggle with discouragement, especially regarding church issues. I feel that I am often pointing the finger at others, thinking that "if only they would change...Oh how things could be better..." Nancy has been helping me to see so many of my own sinful heart attitudes and how prideful my thinking has been. I have heard her before on the radio, but only at random times. The lessons that I have been listening to recently have stressed the need for Christians to earnestly pray for revival. I am amazed at how encouraging the thought of a revival among Christians is to me, that it could actually happen, that it has happened before and could happen again. The revival must first begin with me, though. I think God is working to change my heart on this one. I would encourage any woman to listen to a speaker who is as passionate and honest as this woman. If anyone knows anything about Nancy, do you know anything about her study called "Seeking Him?" Just wondering if anyone has any experience with this study?

Moving on... This past weekend we had a great little getaway with Josh's family. Josh's parents have some good friends who were kind enough to share their amazing lake house with us. Our family went out on Friday night and spent some time with Josh's parents, and Chad and Miranda. It was great to see them again. We don't see them often enough. The guys spent the day golfing. Nonnie and Miranda took the kids jet skiing while I watched. We spent lots of time talking and relaxing together. It was great. I am including a few pictures from that.

Pictures of lake house fun that I am not including:

Josh dragging Chad behind the jet ski...He was holding on to the rope with no water skis, wake board...simply Chad and his life jacket (and his swimming suit of course!)

Major doing the hiney dance (AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN...),

Nonnie and Mary Alice running out of gas on their jet ski,

Miranda running her jet ski into a tree trying to rescue them,

Major's bloody nose at the clubhouse,

Major pouting because he had to come inside for a nap instead of continuing to golf with the guys,

and last but not least....Grumpy bragging about his golf game (I had quite a few opportunities to snap a picture of this last one!)

We really had a great time and hope that we continue to have lake house fun for many more years!

Tonight we had a little birthday celebration to celebrate my Dad. He and Mom came over to the house for dinner. He is the best Dad ever. Seriously. None can compare. There are so many reasons why I love him and look up to him. One of the things that I admire the most about my Dad is how unselfish he is. He always puts everyone else ahead of himself and his wants or needs. He has always been that way. He is generous to a fault, never thinking of himself, but only of others. He does this with his time and money. No matter how busy he is, he is always ready to help someone else. I'll write about just one example of a time that my dad was really over the top with his giving. On one occasion, when I was living at home, there was certain widow lady who needed some help around her house. This particular woman needed her house to be painted. Her house was an older home, all wood siding, two story. I remember that my dad went to her and asked her to pick out a paint color. She picked out a color and dad went straight to work. He purchased the paint and proceeded to paint the woman's entire two story house all by himself! This took him quite a while, as you can imagine! When he was finished with the entire house, the woman took one look at it and said, "Actually, I think I'd like you to paint it a shade lighter." I'm sure this must have greatly annoyed my dad. After all, who doesn't like to be appreciated for their work? He mentioned that he was going to buy another shade of the same color, because the woman wasn't happy with the original shade (that she had picked!!). I remember blowing up and being extremely angry with the woman and thinking, "I'll show her a thing or two! How dare she be so ungrateful!" I was SO ANGRY with this unthankful woman and her rude attitude. I knew just how hard he'd worked to finish that job, how he had worked for days after work and on his weekends off! Instead of following my suggestions of rude retorts, my dad just headed down to the paint store, purchased the shade that the woman requested, and REPAINTED THE ENTIRE HOUSE all by himself AGAIN!!! This story shows the kind of a man that my dad is, generous to a fault.

I have always loved my dad's sense of humor and how he uses it to make things just a little bit more special. He has several (and I mean several) silly jokes that I have heard dozens of times. His jokes continue to make me laugh wholeheartedly every time! He has a way with words. There were so many words that my dad just made up, "Dadisms", if you will. He is very creative with his words. My love for words definitely came from him. My dad is like me in that we both prefer to give (and receive) lots and lots of details. I have many memories of long discussions with my dad. He spent lots of time with me. Lots of time... I remember one trip that we took to Eastland. I was very young, probably eight or nine. He took me to work with him for the day. I don't know why it sticks out in my mind, perhaps it was the seriousness with which he said it, when he talked with me about the importance of dating only committed Christians, how you end up marrying the people that you date. Although I dated a dud or two, I eventually came around to following his advice. :) He also made lots of "one on one" time with me, usually taking me out for breakfast. He made it a point to study the Bible with me, and MADE ME STUDY THE BIBLE. I'll have to admit, I didn't want to... How easy it would have been for him to have just said, "Alright, you don't have to do Bible bowl." Not only did he MAKE me do it, but he did it with me!

Another reason I love my dad so much is that he loves my mother and has always been good at letting us know just how much he loves her. My dad has always been supportive of my mother and she of him. They are the perfect team. He has always made it a point to let us know that he will always be committed to my mother no matter what. My dad was always good at making his girls feel like girls, telling us just how special and pretty that we were and making us feel absolutely priceless. As we were growing up, our new clothes had to first withstand dad's critiques before we could wear them out of the house. There were a few times that we were devastated because dad held the opinion that an outfit was immodest. I don't know that I appreciated it back then, but I do now. There was one time when he crossed the line with my sister, Taylor, but we won't discuss that now, on his birthday post. :)

My dad has lots of quirks. I love his quirkiness. He is the best dad I could have ever had. When I was a little girl, I actually remember feeling sorry for the other girls, because their dads didn't seem to be quite as fun or silly as my dad. Isn't that funny? I actually believed that! My dad is definitely where I get my love of silliness. I'll close with this final thought... Happy birthday Dad! I love you more than a box of doughnuts!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mary Alice

I thought that a small group of people might like to know how our schooling is going. If not, sorry to bore you. :)

We have finally settled into a school routine that works for us here at the Smith house. If you read my posts a few months ago, you might remember how stressed I was about choosing "the right" curriculum. I had read many books and done lots of research and had finally settled on a mixture of curriculums that I thought might be the best fit for Mary Alice. It was silly for me to stress so much over this, I know. After all, she's only in Kindergarten, right?

We started off with a bang about a month ago. Almost immediately I knew that something wasn't right. Other than the Math curriculum, I felt like this new super-structured approach was actually a bit of a hindrance to the girl's learning process. It was like, just as she was becoming interested in something it was time to move on to the next subject. It was almost as if she would be learning more if we'd simply not purchased any textbooks and used the library only. I didn't decide to throw out the textbooks, but did have to make some alterations to some of the teachers manuals/textbooks that we were using. Much of the suggestions in the books were, quite frankly, a waste of time. Anyway, we've made a few switches, alterations, additions, and gotten rid of things that weren't working. Now that we did this, I think she will enjoy learning more, as I will enjoy teaching her much much more.

I am still covering all subjects and am sticking with somewhat of a structured approach (completing all subjects daily, etc.) but am now using more common sense. Now that we are rid of the time wasters and rigidity, we have time for more real learning. We are making a trip to the library tomorrow for more resources. I guess I should have known I would do this. I guess changing things up is something that I nearly always have to do.

Right now, the girl is studying basic addition facts through ten. I am in love with her Math curriculum! It is very thorough. We are bumbling through Phonics and Spelling. Lots the activities I consider to be the biggest time wasters. She does love English and is learning some things about sentence structure, etc. She seriously dislikes Handwriting, probably because it is the most difficult for her. She is learning about flowers and plants in science. We are about to begin a study on William Tell and Switzerland for History. This should be fun. I am learning so much!

Don't worry, my blog posts will not become novels about Mary Alice's school activities. This is just what we have going on right now. Figuring out what to do with Major has been a bit of a challenge. He wants to interrupt and begs me (or Mary Alice) to play with him at the most inopportune times! I try to read to him and let him have time with me a little bit, but he has really had quite a rude awakening now that school is in session. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do with Major during school?

The saddest thing happened to me last night at church. Actually, it didn't happen to me, it happened to Mary Alice. It might as well have happened to me. It hurt my heart so badly that I wanted to cry. I witnessed Mary Alice being totally rejected by two little girls. They were being ugly to her, ignoring her completely. I stood by and watched her run after them, trying so hard to be their friend. It was absolutely pitiful. I know that this one incident is really not that big of a deal. I guess the reason it hurt me so badly is that I knew it has already started. By "it" I am referring to the incredible meanness that seems to come over young girls. I, myself, was a mean girl at times in elementary school. I am so ashamed of how I treated some girls back in those days! I certainly did not act as Jesus would've acted during this time in my childhood. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that the girls who were ugly to Mary Alice are mean girls. These girls are sweet girls and will undoubtedly be the best of friends with Mary Alice next week. It was just that I caught a glimpse of a pain that I can hardly bear. Most parents have to watch their child be rejected by their peers at least once. It is absolutely the worst! I talked to my mother about it and we discussed how hard it can be to see your child being rejected and how part of you wants to do anything that you can to make sure that your child doesn't have to feel that pain. We are going to have to make some hard decisions over the next few years. I really hope that we can instill enough confidence in her so that she will not be too badly affected by the rejection that she will undoubtedly face. I pray that she can remember whose she is and not take part in being a mean girl, although I know that she probably will take part in this ugly behavior at some point. Hard stuff.

It seems like the hard stuff is getting your child to sleep through the night when they are babies. When they are toddlers, it gets just a little bit harder as you start worrying about what foods they eat, keeping them out of danger, and potty training. I cried last night because I watched my sweet precious baby get hurt, but really it was because I saw that a new phase of parenting is beginning, and I can see it being even harder than before.