Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Super stealth baby...

Today while I was inside working on phonics and reading with Christopher, Martha (Nana) was out in the backyard with the girls as they were splashing around in the wading pool. Martha told me that she had no sooner looked up when suddenly Hannah was standing on top of the sliding board! It doesn't surprise me at all that Hannah got herself in a precarious position while no one was looking because she's just sneaky like that. What does surprise me is that she was able to climb up the ladder to the slide all by herself. Not only is she a whole lot younger than Christopher or Sarah were before they started climbing ladders, but she's also a lot smaller than they were! She's only 17 months old...the same age that Christopher was when he started walking. While Christopher may excel in academics, he has never and continues not to excel in the athletic department; he is his father's son, for sure. Sarah was definitely my climber as a baby and toddler and continues to demonstrate balance, strength and agility. I've known for a while now that Hannah was going to follow Sarah's lead in motor skills because I'm constantly finding her in high and dangerous places. Right after lunch today, I found her standing in my kitchen chair at the table trying to cut something with an incredibly sharp paring knife! I mean, I had JUST gotten up from the table and turned around to find her there. That's when you have to resist freaking out and calmly say, "Oh Hannah, give the knife to Mommy...thank you." I was able to do that, but my heart was pounding in the process.

When Sarah was born, Christopher was only 19 1/2 months old. It was definitely challenging because he was still very needy, but he never put himself into such danger. When Sarah started to become more mobile, I remember thinking several times, 'I thought my house was already childproofed...Christopher just never did this!' I'll have to look up how old Sarah was before she started climbing, but it seems as if Hannah is much more of a dare-devil than she was. Hannah will be about 17 1/2 months old when baby #4 arrives and I already foresee myself grabbing her down from a high place with one arm while I nurse the baby with the other. Who says being a full-time, stay-at-home mom is not exciting?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lest I become prideful...

...the second day of homeschooling did not go as smoothly or easily as the first day. It was almost as if the Lord gave me an easy first day in order to calm my anxieties and fears about homeschooling, and then gave me a more challenging second day in order to keep me from pride. The Lord is indeed wise, for both strategies worked.

Christopher was still eager to learn but became very easily frustrated when I drilled him on certain facts. Sarah wanted to draw on all of the flash cards that I had made. Hannah kept bringing me her board books to read to her (i.e. she gave us no peace unless I picked her up and held her in my lap while she flipped through the books). I remember thinking to myself, 'It's only the second day... has the novelty worn off already?!?'

Having said that, the beauty of being at home is that I could stop the lesson and deal with the heart issues behind Christopher's anger and frustration. While he had some time to think about these issues, I was able to give Hannah and Sarah a little attention before resuming school. When Christopher returned to the table, he was more than eager to get back to learning. And my very helpful Sarah picked up Hannah and carried her to the toy room where they happily played together for the remainder of the lesson. We still got a lot accomplished today, but it was not nearly as easy, smooth or joyful as the first day!

One of the things I told John yesterday was that having a structured and scheduled lesson is a most welcome break from talking incessantly about dinosaurs, which is Christopher's default activity if we don't have anything else planned for him. Regardless of the lesson, he will still find ways to sneak in the topic (i.e. yesterday he insisted that I write "Quaternary" and "Quetzalcoatlus" on the back of the "qu" flashcard). It became very frustrating today when during our math lesson he continually wanted to divert to his "guess which shape of dinosaur I am" game (a highly frustrating game when the 5 year old doing the charades is pretending to be a dinosaur that you've never even heard of). I had to remind him several times that I am the teacher, he is the student and the teacher is the one who decides the lesson plan while the student obediently follows it. As I was writing down "kept" and "wept" as examples of words containing the "pt" blend, he looked at me and said, "Yes, and Archaeopteryx is another word that has 'pt' in it." After thinking about it I realized he was right and had to write that blessed word on the back of the "pt" flashcard. Good grief.

So today was a good dose of reality. Obviously I'm still committed to educating my kids at home, but I'm also not blind to the challenges that will accompany this very demanding task. I must say that in the midst of the challenges, it certainly is a joy to watch my children's growth in learning and hear the funny things that come out of their little brains. I think back to my teaching days at Covenant when I would write down or try to remember the funny things that my students said or did so I could tell their parents. What a privilege it is to witness these things firsthand from my own children! I'll try to keep that in mind especially on the more challenging and humbling days...

Monday, August 18, 2008

1st day of homeschool...

Even though I've been educating my children since birth, I was very apprehensive about beginning 'formal' kindergarten for Christopher at home. I've taught 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th graders, but they all knew how to read, study and take notes. Teaching a child the 'basics' seemed more daunting to me than teaching about DNA transcription and translation. And yet, as I've been studying the various curricula for reading and math over the past few weeks, I've realized that we've been learning the basics with everyday life (i.e. we have 4 people coming over for dinner, how many people will be in our house? how many more chairs do we need?; do you see a letter "c" on the cereal box?; how many syllables does your name have?; and of course, don't forget about everything we're learning about dinosaurs...). Thankfully, I've become less anxious and overwhelmed as I've read through the books instead of more so. That said, the thing that overwhelmed me was having a schedule; a time to sit down and work on the specific rules and content of each subject rather than just teaching on the fly as the opportunity presents itself. And of course, the challenges of sticking to this schedule with 2, soon to be 3 preschoolers running around the house.

I am relieved to say that Day 1 of homeschooling has been fun and a lot easier than I anticipated so far! We began shortly after breakfast and a brief playtime with our Bible lesson and review of catechism questions. Sarah eagerly sat at the table and joined in while Hannah contentedly sat in the family room and flipped through board books. Then we moved on to reading/phonics. Since both kids know their letters and sounds, I started with the letter "Q" and how it is always followed by the letter "u" in words. When I asked which words begin with "qu", Sarah was the first to call out, "queen!" After we went through a few more, Christopher's face lit up and he said, "Quaternary!", as in the period when the woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers lived. After some more phonics and reading exercises, we ended the morning with a math lesson and are now listening to Beethoven as we play.

Christopher just yelled from the other room, "Is that all we're going to learn for today? I want to learn more, Mommy!" I'd better go...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Backing up...Pastor's Summit - Jackson Hole, WY

I realize that we never posted anything about our trip to Jackson Hole, WY in July for our last of 6 meetings with the Pastor's Summit. I think the reason we kept putting it off was because it's next to impossible to summarize in a blog post how life-changing the Pastor's Summit has been for us. As soon as we got home from this past summit meeting I sat down and started typing up my thoughts and reflections from the week. I think I have about 6 single-spaced typed pages so far, plenty more to write about and lots of gaps to fill in. One of the things I shared with the group of pastors and their wives at the end of this last meeting was that this has not been a mere "mountain top experience", no pun intended, where we simply attend a conference or retreat, get all fired up and then go on with life as usual after coming home. These meetings, and especially this group of people that we have been sharing our lives with over the past two years have truly affected and transformed our lives. We have been truly blessed to be a part of this.

So here are just a few pictures from our week in Jackson Hole...

The wild flowers that covered the fields in Grand Teton National Park were so vibrant against the soft green sage that filled the air with its aroma.

Here is a photo of Hidden Falls. We had to hike about a mile up into the park to see this - just gorgeous.

While the scenery was truly breathtaking, what made the trip was being reunited with the 9 other pastors and their wives who have become so dear to us. In addition to gathering with this particular group, John and I also had the added bonus of getting to spend time with Michael and Denise Wichlan, former members of Trinity that we 'sent off' to seminary 4 years ago! Denise has been on staff with Covenant Seminary's Center for Ministry Leadership, which is responsible for spearheading the Pastor's Summit, so it has been a real treat to be reunited with them at most of the meetings.

Pictured here are Josh and Shannon Geiger (in front - serving at Cristo Rey PCA in Dallas), Steve Garber (next to Josh on the left - one of our speaker/facilitators who is the director for the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture), Donald Guthrie (next to Shannon on the right, wrote the grant for the Pastor's Summit as well as a wealth of theological books), and Lisa and Andrew Vander Maas (in the back - serving at Crossroads PCA in St. Louis).

Pictured here are Adam and Liz Brice (in front - served at Christ the King PCA in Conshohoken, PA, but are now planting a church in Lafayette, IN), Chuck and Diane Jacob (in the middle - serve at Knox EPC in Ann Arbor, MI), and Wendell and Priscilla Stoltzfus (in the back - serve at Covenant OPC in Reading, PA).

Pictured here are Drew and Becky Derreth (in front - serve at Hanover Valley Church in Hanover, PA), Janet Burns (on the left - wife of Bob Burns, the director of the Center for Ministry Leadership) and John on the right (if you read our blog, you already know about him).

April and Bob Willetts (currently serving at Trinity PCA in Norfolk, VA).

Andy & Linda Phillips (Harley on the left - serve at Providence PCA in York, PA), and David and Cindy Tate (Harley on the right - serve at Manor PCA in Cochranville, PA).

One of the biggest highlights of this last trip was spending time with and getting to sit under the teaching of Joe and Barb Novenson (both pictured on the right sitting next to Becky and Drew), who serve at Lookout Mountain PCA in TN. John and I both felt like his preaching cut us to the core and spoke to our situation in much needed ways.

As one of the other pastor's wives and I were reflecting on this past summit meeting, the one word that we both walked away with was brokenness. I remember the first time we all gathered together for worship, I was so moved by the heartfelt and emotional singing from these 30 or so pastors and their wives. I thought to myself, 'Boy, nobody sings like a bunch of broken pastors and their wives who are constantly trying to remind themselves of the transforming power of the gospel!' John also pointed out to me later that it was just so refreshing to be able to worship without the worries of the temperature in the room, the timing of the announcements, if the service was going too long, how the sermon was going, etc. etc.

Our times of worship were led by Reggie Kidd, who truly ministered to this group of pastors with his rich knowledge and talent as well as his compassion, heart for the gospel and his heart for pastors. On the last day of the summit, John and I went into the worship service right after an intense meeting with Joe and Barb Novenson over breakfast to talk about life, marriage and ministry. We were deeply encouraged by their own life journey and counsel to us and had much MORE to reflect upon. Now, I am not easily moved to tears but I quickly turned into a puddle on the floor during that last gathering for worship. Reggie had us sing, "Before the Throne of God Above", which happens to be one of my favorite songs but after such an emotionally intense week, it particularly hit me like a ton of bricks - especially the 2nd verse.

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
who made an end to all my sin!
Because the sinless Savior died
my sinful soul is counted free!
For God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me,
to look on Him and pardon me.

Once the tears started, I simply could not stop them. But I soon realized that I was far from being the only one who was so moved. I heard several others from the pastor's summit comment that they were more encouraged by the shared trials, sufferings and brokenness with the other pastors/wives than they were by the shared triumphs. How true it is that Christ's power is made perfect in weakness. "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Big sister Sarah

Every time I talk to my mom on the phone, she asks, "So what cute new things are the kids doing??" I always find that it's easiest to think of Hannah's new things because she is in that rapid growth and development where she's constantly doing adorable new things. With Christopher it's usually something really hilarious that he said to someone. As for his obsessions, he's still stuck on dinosaurs. When she asked me, "What about Sarah?" I had to stop and think for a minute. I started to panic as if I'd somehow been neglecting to notice my middle child! What I realized is that while Sarah seems to follow Christopher's lead in most things (i.e. she's into whatever he's into at the time), she actually acts more like the big sister than the little one. I told my mom that she's very bossy towards Christopher and I will hear my own words come out of her mouth to him (i.e. "Now remember Chridofer, wash your hands wif soap and water!"). At the same time, she's very motherly and nurturing towards Hannah. Whenever Hannah is out and about, Sarah is looking after her, playing with her, giving her toys, making her laugh, sharing food with her, and taking care of her. Whenever we're out in public, she insists on pushing Hannah's stroller or holding Hannah's hand when walking.

Hannah has lately been bringing me books to read to her no matter where I am in the house or what I'm doing. I cannot tell you how many times she wanted to have Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? read to her today. So if I need to do the dishes or get dinner ready, I can always ask Sarah to read Hannah a book and she does it with such cheerfulness and a sense of responsibility! As you can see in the picture above, Hannah will gladly plop down into Sarah's lap just as she does mine or Daddy's and Sarah will make up the story or tell it as best as she can remember it as she flips the pages. She's always doing very adorable things like this, but I can't exactly say that it's her new thing because it has always been in her nature to be so. I'm looking forward to how she will be with TWO little sisters in the house!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Christopher teaches John about dinosaurs

We realize that this is mostly of interest to our own family members in other states. Here is Christopher teaching John about dinosaurs last night.

The link is