Monthly Archives: March 2007

On Realtors And Preschool

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This has been quite a week!  The girls have gotten very little naptime sleep due to realtors coming at awkward times or with little notice.  We’ve spent lots of time in the car driving by the river, or to a park until we can return home.  I’ve been thankful that we’re "tidiers" by nature, so it’s not usually any problem to instantly tidy the home.  But there is quite a sprint involved in running through a 3300 square foot house (SO thankful to be downsizing), turning on all the lights, making sure toilets are flushed (I do have toddlers!), then getting four toddlers to the car or stroller for those last minute showings. I will be very happy when we receive a solid offer, so my little ones can go back to sleeping at their normal times.   Thankfully our open house on Sunday seemed to be quite successful – there were fifteen couples who toured the home, and a few of them seem very interested. There have also been quite a few showings this week.  I have challenged myself to read and pray through Philippians 4:4-9 every day (to help me learn not to be anxious about selling this house): 

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. "

God has truly been faithful to His word.  I have felt very peaceful throughout this process, though I realize it is still the beginning of it. On days like today when it is a bit more stressful to our daily life, I pray God is teaching me patience, trust in Him, and joyful flexibility in my daily plans.  And I am thankful that although naps seem to be often interrupted, the girls have been total troopers and easily gone with the flow (especially Hannah, who’s been so cheerful in the midst of a cold!) 

We have been able to have pretty consistent school times as well, even in the midst of realtor showings.  We have a great new set up that’s working really well for us: two blankets on the floor with a "preschool" toy and book on each, one stepstool/mini art table with a little chair for Isabelle to draw and write while I read, one couch, one mommy to snuggle, one stack of books, one cup of cocoa-coffee for mommy – ah, what could be better???  It’s been a very good way to get back into the discipline of set apart reading/school times – the little ones are relearning to stay within a boundary and play quietly, but still have the freedom to change toys and choose between snuggling and playing. This is particularly helpful for Naomi, as she’s usually much more content playing quietly while I read than sitting and looking at the book.

This is kind of a change of subject, but it is amazing to me how much little ones learn as they grow.  I’ve become more and more convinced of how effective "informal" schooling is – meaning Isabelle seems to learn so much each day that I’m not trying to teach her!  I slowed down quite a bit with teaching her to read, as I just felt she’d "officially" learned as much as she was ready for, and I wanted to wait till she was older to do more.  She could read three letter, short-vowel words and was getting more coordinated with tracing my dot letters. We pretty much left it at that and took a break from practicing these things over the last couple of months. Since I was trying to get through my first trimester, we had much less "school" time, and spent it all just reading aloud. While we rarely reviewed the more formal phongrams I had taught her, she’s just amazed me lately!  She found her penny primer the other day and effortlessly read to me some of the four letter words which had so stumped her before: last, salt, etc.   She’s been reading her little Bob books to me and her sisters and is often able to sound out words much more quickly than before.  Many words such as "the" seem to have become sight words for her.  And her writing is amazing me as well.  She can actually do (and loves to  do) copywork now.  I wrote down two sentences for her today, and she was just as happy as I was at how well she copied them.  She loves to write anything I suggest to her.  I usually suggest words I know she can sound out on her own (the dog has a hat, etc), and she does wonderfully with those.  But she has also been writing (and trying to write) so much on her own.  It’s very cute and always brings a smile to my face. She’s brought me papers which read (and had to be translated by her in order to make sense): "God is gd" – God is good; "tef" – teeth; "dade" – daddy, "pone" – pony and many more.  I get so excited each time she brings these to me, and then of course she gets equally excited.  We save them all for daddy, and send them to the grandmas.  It is such a delight to me to watch her learn!  I am truly thankful that it is me and Matt, as her parents, who have the joy of watching her blossom each day as she understands more and more. I can’t even imagine if some daycare or preschool worker had to tell me these things.  There is so much I would miss if we were not the ones teaching her, especially at this young age!  What a gift it is to school our children at home.  What a reminder of the blessing they are to us!  What a delight to know they want to show us more than anyone else. And all this at the very beginning of the journey . . .

Clean, clean, clean

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I was kind of dreading my cleaning day today.  I needed to make the house sparkle even more than normal in preparation for our real estate open house on Sunday.  And I’ve never been especially good at deep cleaning alongside my four toddlers anyway!  But thankfully this day went so smoothly overall, my house is very clean and fresh, and all four toddlers are happy and well.  I shall tell you part of the reason: I have discovered that one can make their own cleaners, thus saving numerous pennies as well as cleaning with safe formulas.  A friend from church loaned me a book called "Clean House, Clean Planet" with tons of homemade cleaner recipes.  It has everything from furniture polish to disinfectants, to recipes that replace standard Ajax, 409, etc.  I tried out the disinfectant spray, the all purpose cleaner, and the window cleaner.  It took a few more minutes out of my month to mix up a few bottles of these, but not that many considering the only ingredients are vinegar, water, baking soda, borax, and a couple others.  I was so happy with the results!  I was able to clean the whole house without choking and gagging (my pregnant nose tends to have a hard time with strong smells – especially those which my be harmful to my baby, and I never know which ones those are).  The strongest smell I used was the tea tree disinfectant mix, and I know tea tree oil is safe.  The girls played well together for awhile (except Juliette who was fussy and hung out in the ergo). Then for the first time, all three of my older girls were able to help out for a bit. Isabelle was proud to have her own bottle of real cleaner (the replacement for Windex is pure club soda – or perrier water in my case.  Works just as well and obviously totally safe for the girls), and was responsible for squirting her sisters’ cleaning rags when they dried out. They all "cleaned" walls, cupboard doors and knobs.  I did still pop them in front of a singing movie while I mopped, but hey, that tends to prevent clumsy little ones from slipping all over the place and cracking their heads!  All in all I’m a bit weary, but surrounded by a house full of clean smells (which I now have at least week before I have to clean again), happy girls, and homemade cleaners in pretty flower squirt bottles.  The things that make you smile when you’re a stay at home mom. . .

Happy Spring!

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Well, we’re thrilled that Spring is officially here! Flowers are blooming and gracing the cute little ponytails on my daughters’ heads.  We are reveling in playing outside on the days with warmer weather.  And to top it all off, today we had a lovely treat of peeking (via ultrasound) inside my womb and seeing who our baby is.  Of course, as our kind ultrasonographer reminded me, it’s never 100% till the baby comes out, but she was pretty certain of who this baby is.  Care for me to share???  Here’s what we wrote to Matt’s brother and his wife today:  We are having (drumroll, please) a little boy. . . he, he, he. . . . just kidding, we’re apparently sticking with our proven talent of making little girls.  Our ultrasonographer was 90% sure it’s a little girly in there, so we’re very happy and already have plenty of pink stuff about! We’re working on making our own little ballet troupe! We’re so thankful to God for allowing us to see the baby in there – all healthy and strong, and of course wiggling like crazy!

St. Patrick's Day

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I know this is a few days late (I misplaced my copy of the article), but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to post an article from the Veritas Epistula which I really enjoyed. The song is one of my favorite hymns, and I loved learning more about the man we know as Saint Patrick. Hope you all enjoy it, too!

St. Patrick’s Breastplate
 
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
 
I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.
 
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.
 
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.
 
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
 
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.
 
Against all Satan’s spells and whiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
 
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
 
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

St Patrick’s breastplate is a remarkable hymn. It is a tremendous call to follow Paul’s exhortation to "put on the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10 – 18). Patrick put on this Trinitarian armor in the face of human-sacrificing Druids, wizards, deadly tyrants, and worst of all, "the heart’s idolatry." Despite its nine verse length, it is worthy of congregational singing. My congregation, All Saints Presbyterian, sings it with vigor. When we sing it, we sing verses 1-7 as our opening hymn and then close with verses 8-9 as the benediction hymn. We end our service singing, "Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me…"

This article was reprinted with permission from Veritas Epistula, March 2007

 

This magnificent hymn reflects the life and faith of Patrick. The original hymn, the Lorica of St. Patrick (meaning breastplate or armor) is found in the Book of Armagh. Historian Philip Schaff says it is "called S. Patricii Canticum Scotticum, which Patrick is said to have written when he was about to convert the chief monarch of the island (Laoghaire or Loegaire)" (Schaff, History of the Christian Church IV, 49). The metrical hymn version is a translation of the ancient Irish hymn by Mrs. Cecil Francis Alexander, wife of the Anglican Bishop of Londenderry, Ireland (1889).

It is helpful to know more about Patrick to appreciate some of the lyrics of this masterful hymn.

The exact dates of his life are not certain, but about 390 – 461. His day has been memorialized as a Feast Day in the West on March 17. We know of the revelry of this green day, but we should know more of the Patron Saint of Ireland.

He was the son of a Romano-British Christian kidnapped from his home in Scotland at 16 to be a slave in Ireland.  He escaped to Gaul where he became a monk and then devoted his life to go back to the place of his captivity to bring them the gospel. 

He knew the free grace of God which comes through faith in Christ. He wrote in his Confessio,

"I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many…I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people….And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favors and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity."

Ireland was not part of the Roman empire, where the faith spread through the Roman order with significant Roman structures in the Church. "The church-history of Ireland is peculiar. It began with an independent catholicity (or a sort to semi-Protestantism), and ended with Romanism, while other Western countries passed through the reverse order…it was Christianized without bloodshed and independently of Rome…." (Schaff, 43). Patrick’s faith spread more under the auspices of monastic centers, rather than ecclesiastical structures. These monastic communities fostered deep piety, sometimes stringent discipline, but also brilliant learning. Many monks recited the Psalter on a daily basis. In fact the oldest written language discovered in Ireland is found in copies of the Psalter. Thus it was "the isle of saints and scholars" and was used greatly to preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians. Hence, this is How the Irish Saved Civilization (Thomas Cahill).

Many evangelicals, seeing the excesses of St. Patrick’s day and knowing of no psalm-reciting monks, tend to see the pre-Reformation world as dark ages with little gospel light. One can read of Patrick’s own gospel zeal in his own words in the Confessio, filled with over 200 quotations or allusions to the Scriptures. In the four documents attributed to St. Patrick, he never quotes any other source than the Bible, including about 30 citations of the book of Romans. The Confessio ends by saying "…if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God’s good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that as is the perfect truth it was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die." His life was a confession of God’s grace. "For I am very much God’s debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me…" In fact, Patrick baptized thousands and consecrated over 350 ministers.

The milestone event which explains the setting for which the Lorica was written was on the eve of Easter Day in 433. Patrick and a band of believers made their way to the seat of the high Irish king, Laghaire at the Hill of Tara, County Meath. It was the druid practice to put out all fires before a new one was lit at Tara. Patrick set the hill to blazing. This was a daring encounter with paganism. But on Easter Day, Patrick preached to the assembled chieftains using a shamrock to explain by its triune shape the great doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. On that Day of Resurrection, the gospel triumphed and new life came. The king was converted and gave permission for the gospel to be preached throughout the land. On their way to this great watershed confrontation, they chanted, "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity."

Rev. Gregg Strawbridge 

Pastor Strawbridge is the pastor of All Saints’ Presbyterian Church, father of three girls and has a BA in classical guitar.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Veritas Epistula (Veritas Press), March 2007.

Some March Pictures

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If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re moving!  I’m so excited, because this move will take us into the town where our church is, and thus where all of our homeschooling friends are as well.  It will be such a blessing to be living in the community (especially for me, as I’m a terrible driver!)  Matt is just such a wonderful husband, as he came to the decision through prayer and pondering that this will be best for the family, especially me and the girls.  I am so thankful for him!  He takes such good care of us.  Though it seemed impossible for various reasons, God has provided a wonderful little home for us that is quite lovely!  We are very excited, and trying to get ready for the changes the next few months will bring. Anyway, with the decision to move came a million projects to get our home ready to sell.  Matt’s been installing floors, I’ve been painting doors, and we’ve been in general a bit hectic in all things! But I did remember over the last few days to take some new pictures, and here they are:

Hannah is now the proud owner of enough hair for three Penny Ponies:

Juliette’s first official chair time – she liked it!

One of my recent projects which I’m very happy with!  New chair pads for my rocking chair (which was the one my mother in law came home from the hospital to with her first baby). The girls inadvertantly destroyed the old pads. I made these double thick!

This is how you’ll find Juliette half the time – reading a book in this little rocker.  I find it so endearing!

I fully admit I posted this picture mainly for the little look of glee on Juliette’s face – though Hannah looks lovely as well!

This is how you’ll find Juliette the other half of the time: playing "Queen of the Mountain".  I think she’s my biggest climber thus far.

I failed to capture the gleeful grin in time, but her new thing is climbing up onto any high surface she can sneak to before I see her – and she can be fast – kitchen table, school table, end table, etc. Then she stands up, smiles with all her little teeth, and starts wiggling her hips side to side in this very funny (if not very safe) Queen Of The Mountain dance!

Happy little Nao, with a full tummy

Matt installed this gorgeous laminate floor in our entire gigantic downstairs family room. He did such a beautiful job!

Our realtor said our door needed a facelift, so we went with a bold red, at the advice of a great decorator/friend.  I had a very hard time getting used to it, but now that I am, I think I love it!

All of our girls love broccoli and beg for seconds.  But Hannah is the only one who goes so far as to beg for the steamer basket so she can pick off any leftover bits of broccoli and cheese.

God has been so good during this whole fix-up time by keeping us in budget.  I nearly had a heart attack when the carpet people quoted our schoolroom.  But a friend suggested (and our realtor agreed) that an area rug would work just as well, since it is a beautiful wood floor that just needs to have paint stains removed and be refinished.  I loved the idea, since I could take the rug with me as a dining room rug in our new home (which has white carpet in the dining room). After becoming totally indecisive as to which rug would look the best, we found this one – the ONLY one out of all the other rugs in town which happened to be on sale for literally one-fourth the cost of all the others.  My wise husband picked it for the price.  I did my best to submit cheerfully, as I didn’t care for it.  But the great thing is that I think God gives us ladies new eyes when we do submit – this rug seems so beautiful to me now that I can’t imagine how I ever disliked it!

More reading girls – I love that this is what my girls do for fun!  Apparently it runs in the family since it’s usually Matt and my first choice . . .

Somehow they all squished together in this very tiny bench for family worship. Well for the first part, anyway. . .

Naomi and Hannah decided it was too *snuggly*.  At the rather crestfallen look on Isabelle’s now lonely face, we decided Juliette could share the bench with her. She did slip off a few times, but it was worth it.

Loving the spring-like weather (on the days when the sun shows itself!)

How Does This Work???

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I love my refrigerator.  It has the little ice/water dispenser thing in the door, which is quite delightful to me.  My girls love to have "ice" tea parties with crushed ice in their little cups while I do dishes (much less messy than water filled teacups).  I also love the fact that the mason jars from which I drink fit perfectly in the dispenser, so I can leave them filling whilst I do other things.  The problem is that I can be rather forgetful, and more times than I would like to admit I have forgotten the mason jar and the water has spilled all over the floor.  I like to tell Matt that it is just my clever way of cleaning under the fridge.  Well I realized a couple of months ago that Isabelle (being the clever and helpful sort) has taken to filling mason jars of water for daddy and me while she unloads the dishes each afternoon.  The scary thing which I realized today is that while I have spilled over more times than I can remember, my four year old completely outdoes me in this – she leaves the jar filling while she continues unloading dishes or setting the table and yet has NEVER let it overflow!!! Somehow she never forgets and always makes it back in time. How is this possible????

Day Two

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After the whole dog/monster episode, I was very happy for a day at home!  I was also happy that I didn’t have to call any realtors, or home inspectors. I didn’t have to paint a door, or find a carpet installer.  This would be our day to read, and attempt to catch up on the lack of order in our home as of late. It was SO nice.  After breakfast, chores and laundry were taken care of we all settled in the living room.  We put duplos and a toy tool set on the floor for Naomi or the other girls to play with if they became weary of sitting together on the couch to read.  The girls each got to pick out three favorite books (which somehow became far more), and I made a nice cup of coffee/cocoa.  We read, and read, and read (and practiced letter sounds)!  I think I read aloud for an hour and a half straight!  Then I just played on the floor with the girls for another half hour.  It’s amazing how well my little ones play together when mommy is playing in their midst.  Yet I rarely seem to *have time* for those floor play times.  Oh, it was so wonderful to just enjoy being together, sharing favorite stories, building towers, etc.  Even Juliette totally impressed me by figuring out how to use some of the "preschool" age toys!  But there was yet another highlight.  After cleaning up all of the books and blocks and such, I put Naomi in for playpen time,  Isabelle and Hannah at the table for table time and Juliette in her high chair with a cracker.  Hannah usually has a very short attention span for this tabletime, so I’m usually constantly reminding her that I would like her to do her project/toy at the table (for the whopping 15 minutes of table time before lunch).  I had made an off-handed suggestion to Isabelle about trying to write the words from her Bob books, so someone else could read them (she usually writes a million unrelated letters).  I didn’t really think she could do this without some help, and I didn’t want to mandate copywork to my four year old, but I gave her the idea to chew on.  Wow, did my two oldest girls surprise me today!  Hannah (who had picked dominoes to play with) was engrossed for the entire table time in building a wall of dominoes.  This is a HUGE feat for her – just to focus on something for that length of time, and to play contentedly at the table with no reminders.  And Isabelle, well she just amazed me!  She took her little Bob book, all by herself, and by the time I realized what she was doing she had copied half the story onto her paper!  I was so excited – we were all high-fiving her and she was, of course, glowing from all the praise!  It’s so fun when my girls do something so well that I didn’t even realize they could do!  I had to a take some pictures of course:

Happy playpen time for Naomi

Hannah’s wall of dominoes

The first part of Isabelle’s copied story

The proud little copy-worker