27 February 2015

Amelia's Half Birthday

My Sweet Six Month Old

I can't believe I spent even one second worrying about this fourth pregnancy.  Now that Amelia is here we cannot imagine one moment without her big blue eyes, chubby cheeks, ropy poly thighs or sweet lips.

From the top of her silky brown hair, to the bottom of her sweet pudgy toes, she completes Team Mac in every way! She is Julia's bookend.  She is Daddy's girl.  She is the apple of big brother Mark's eyes (all future love interests watch out!).  And Micah's playmate, I'm sure Micah and Mia will grow up twin-like the way Julia and Mark are.  And Amelia is my sweet sweet baby love.  Words don't begin to explain the joy she brings to my heart.

I love that she can play, sit up, coo, eat, and really communicate what she wants.  Six months is such a big month for babies.  And it's a big month for mommies too.  I feel such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  We survived the newborn phase.  We are sleeping through the night.  The kids are enjoying her as much as we are, and she is just one of us now, instead of this new, demanding little person, she is now officially a Mac-nugget.

You can see how much she resembles Julia (which I love) and I can tell that Julia is going to be such a great big sister.  She isn't jealous of Amelia at all (Julia knows that she is my favorite first born daughter) and (Amelia will know she is my favorite last born daughter).  These two will grow up giggling together, shopping together, sharing together, and playing in each other's rooms.  I'm so excited for these next few months when she will start crawling and can just go right next door to see what Julia is up to!

And let's be honest...

With this face....

Thank goodness she has TWO BIG BROTHERS who will most certainly have martial arts training in preparation for the "dating years."

Oh gosh...

I don't even want to think about "the dating years yet"...

I'm totally content with these fun baby years!

Happy Birthday baby cakes...in a few short months we will be celebrating 1 year, and you will experience...CAKE!


18 February 2015

Teaching Them To Serve

Faithful.  In. Serving. Him.

This year our homeschool theme is FISH: Faithful in Serving Him.

1 Peter 4:10New International Version (NIV)10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

But the truth of the matter is teaching kids to serve others is so difficult.  Especially in our world today where children think the world revolves around them and the things that make them happy.

Sometimes when we are about to go to church to teach sunday school, or do some type of ministry, sometimes I am tempted to hurry up and do the ministry without my children.  It's faster, it's easier and I don't have to hear whining or listen to 50 questions about why we are doing what we are doing.

And it always reminds me that God doesn't need ME either.  He doesn't need me to serve.  He is doing just fine without me.  However, God loves to involve us in His love ministry of blessing others.  He loves to give us opportunities to minister to others.  He loves watching us get messy and involved in the lives of people.  He doesn't need our help but he loves to have us help and he blesses us all along the way.

So it is with my children.  I don't need their help in ministry or in my daily ministering to others.  In fact I could get a lot done faster without them.  But how else will they learn?  Who else will teach them?  And how dare I try to steal their joy and blessing as they serve others!?

I love the passage in Matthew 25: 35-40 that talks about how when we serve others it is as if we are actually serving/honoring Jesus.  

Matthew 25:35-40English Standard Version (ESV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

Last month we brought our children to a nursing home for the specific purpose of serving others.  At first just I was going to go, but then Micah my almost 2 year old got sick.  So, John had to go and I thought he would quickly go, stay for an hour and come back home to help me.  But he had other plans.  "I want to take Julia and Mark.  I think this will be good for them to see and learn how to be a blessing to the elderly."

Oh geez, I thought to myself, how is that going to go? But John had his mind made up and I was not going to get in his way.

So the whole morning Julia kept peppering me with questions:

"Well, what are we going to do there?"
"Who are we going to see?"
"Are we going to do anything fun?"
"Are we going to get dessert?"
"Will there be games?"

I wanted to yell, "Julia, this is not about YOU!"  I wanted to say, "Julia, you are going there to be a blessing to these people."

But instead John said, "Julia these people are very old, and some of them have no family near by.  We are going there to make them smile.  We want to help them to have a good day."

How does he always know how to say exactly what she needs to hear without being harsh?  And why is it that Mark was just happy to go with his Dad while Julia had 9 million questions about the two hour period she would be at the nursing home?

So after church they went.  It was rather quiet in the house while Micah and Amelia napped and I cleaned up the house after lunch.  At around 4:30 John called me from the car.  The kids had a wonderful time!  John had a great time!  The people were so happy they came.  They LOVED seeing the kids.  In fact, they thought Julia and Mark were our friend Rachel's children (Rachel isn't even married yet, but her grandma at the nursing home has alzheimers and doesn't remember this).  

Mark and Julia (especially Mark) were the hit of the nursing home. The women kept telling John how beautiful his children were, and they kept asking Julia and Mark their name and ages.  John said each person literally asked them about 5 times what their names were.  John said the kids were so well behaved and so respectful.  They were able to hand out dessert to the people and play cards and board games and just sit and talk and be company.  They learned how to make someone smile.  They learned how to be sweet and tender and patient with these lovely elderly people.  They learned to care for them.

We plan on going once a month to the same nursing home and bless the same group of men and women (mostly women).  And Julia and Mark WANT to go back.  They had a good time.  And John was right, they were a blessing.  And he reminded the kids that by blessing and serving these people they were also putting a smile on God's heart.

 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.--1 Peter 4:10


13 February 2015

Homeschooling can be difficult when...

Surviving Homeschool with Toddlers

Most parents know how hard it is to have babies in the house.  They are needy and unpredictable and require a lot of one on one attention.

When I tell people I homeschool after they ask me how I feel about socializing my children (that's always everyone's concern) they then say, "How do you do it with a baby?"  And that question is the most difficult to answer because everyday of homeschool for us is different.

My goal everyday is to do at least 3 hours of homeschool with Julia and Mark.  We usually start at 8:30 a.m. and end right around lunch time.  But as you know life with an almost 2 year old and a 6 month old (not to mention the demands of my 5 and 7 year old) is very chaotic, demanding, and intense.

This gets even trickier when you add elements like sickness, snow storms, and sleepless nights.

Homeschool was easier with only 2!!!
Homeschooling is most difficult when you or your child is sick.  Last week and this week we have dealt with 2 sick parents and 2 sick babies.  Julia and Mark have been healthy, but keeping the schedule when everyone else is feeling yucky can be very hard.  Thankfully John stayed home when I was sick and took over my home school duties (and added some extra subjects like Chinese...my poor kids...lol).  But when Dad must go to work, keeping the schedule is almost impossible.

The beauty of homeschool is that we are not confined to the clock and can do school after lunch, after dinner, or after nap time.  But I find it easiest to get the bulk of our school work done between the hours the kids are the most energetic and alert which is 8am til noon.  Then we have time to go on field trips, run errands, or go on play dates, or do chores/responsibilities in the home.

Homeschooling can be difficult during bad weather because the kids get so excited by the snow!  But it can also be a great incentive to finish school work, so one can go sledding or build a snow man. On snow days we still do school (another beauty of home school) and I like to add something fun like baking, or a craft on those days to make them memorable and special.

Homeschooling can be difficult when there are sleepless nights...and when you have a newborn there could be a lot of those.  I have found that 3 cups of coffee does wonders!  I have also found that my children can do a lot of subjects independently.  They can do their math and spelling without my help (except for checking or teaching a new skill).  Reading can be done while I am nursing or they can read to each other or to a younger sibling.

One thing I am still struggling with is keeping Micah (my almost 2 year old) engaged while we do school.  I hate that sometimes I have to revert to putting on a show for him to watch in order to complete a subject.  I never let Julia and Mark watch as much t.v. as I have for Micah...and that kills me.  But I also have to be responsible to get school done, so I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.

In December, I enrolled Micah in a gymnastics class called Ready Set Go and he loves it.  He goes twice a week for 2 and a half hours and he is able to play, do gymnastics, make friends, do crafts, and have his own school time, while mommy does school with the big kids.  It is close to home so I use that time only for schooling.  We also make sure we take Micah to the library once a week for a class time just like I used to do for Julia and Mark.  They do their school work at a table and read books, and he gets to play and interact with kids his age.

My big kids!
Homeschooling has been a roller coaster this year, but yesterday I was proud of how far we've come.  I feel like we have a rhythm and we are even doing extra things this year like Classical Conversations on Wednesdays and the Social Studies Fair is coming up (we are studying China), and prepping for Standardized testing in the spring.  

It isn't always easy, everyday is different, but we are plugging along and doing our best!

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