Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Long, Hard, Slog Called Discipline


It's been one of those days. The kind where only the cockroaches survive. The kind of day that starts off rotten and just gets worse.

"Alright..." Scraping the last of the oatmeal out of the toddler's hair and shoving the stain stick out of sight so the five-year-old won't try to eat it. "Let's get our books out."

"I'm not doing my reading lesson."

"We're doing school."

"Uuunnnghhhh!!!"

"That's rude. Get your book out."

"Uuuuunnnnnnggggghhhhh!!!"

"Fine, then go to your room. You can come out when you're ready to do your reading lesson."

Rolling on the floor in fits of childhood angst: "Uuuuuuuuuunnnnnnggggggghhhhhhh!!!!"

Been there? If you can answer no, consider yourself seriously blessed. (Also, you might not need to read the rest of this post.)

If you answered yes, hurrah! Join the club. I'm making t-shirts just as soon as I can quell my inner rage. We'll wear them and drink margaritas. (Also, you can go ahead and consider yourself blessed, too. God gave you this totally awesome human being to spar with, right? Feel the love!)

So yes. After the third attitude-laden groan, the only creature I was willing to share my home with is the disgusting-but-undeniable-silent-and-attitude-free cockroach. Beware the wrath of a mother scorned. But even worse, a mother sassed. Don't be sassing mama.

Thirty seconds later: "Not scooting on your butt. Get on your feet and go to your room."

Thirty more seconds: "No you may not bring the colored pencils with you. Get in your room."

Thirty...you get the idea: "GO TO YOUR ROOM!!!"

"You POOCHADADADOODA!!!!"

No? Anyone? Maybe that's just my kid. For the record, I've been trying to work out a translation for the last two years. Call me if you know anyone who can translate fluent sass.

Discipline is some tough love. Amen?

But the thing I'm learning, it's not just about the parent administering tough love. It's about God administering tough love to the parent, as well.

I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm lazy and fed-up, pregnant or nursing or postpartum. I have other children. I have obligations. I have dinner to make and a house to clean and toilets to scrub and windows to wash and diapers to change and and and and and...

Inevitably, one of the kids starts acting up when I am elbows deep in any or all of the above. And some days, I just. don't. want. to.

Or, I want to...just not for any of the right reasons. In any case, I'm fed up. I'm mad. I am doing everything in my power to keep from flying off the handle, and why can't they just behave because I am no good at this.

As a Christian, I believe that all discipline stems from God. God set the laws of this big, crazy universe in motion, and being a God of order, He wants us to follow those laws. It's an act of obedience, and it's also an act of love. It's important.

This is why I discipline my children. Yes, I want them to be "good people." I want them to say no to drugs and stay out of prison. I want them to be polite, to know right from wrong. But ultimately, I discipline them so that one day, they will choose to obey Him. Because that's how you stay in love with the Lord.



I take my job seriously. But sometimes, I'm too focused on my job. My job.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw of everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Hebrews 12, my friends.

It's not about my job. It's about Him. I'm running this race for Him with my eyes on Him, because of Him. And that "sin that so easily entangles," it's got no place in this race.

If I'm seeing red, raising my voice, getting my hackles in all sorts of knots, what business do I have doing God's work?

I am always humbled when I think about the holy family. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Remember that one when Jesus is a kid, and he's off on vacay in Jerusalem with his parents, and they're starting back for Nazareth (probably tired out because, I mean, have you ever traveled by caravan with your family? It really takes a lot out of a girl) and there's that total Home Alone moment ("KEVIN!!") where Mary realizes he's not there?

Mom and Dad spend three days--three DAYS--looking for him.

And then they find him, chilling in the temple, like nothing's the matter. I don't know about you, but in my house, there would be some serious upset going on right about now. I mean, yes, relieved beyond belief and overjoyed that he's alive, but really? Jesus, come on! Did you not realize the whole crew was leaving, and instead of trying to catch up, you're just hanging with the rabbis?

"Son, why have you treated us like this?"

That's it. After three days of searching for her boy, that's Mary's admonishment. No shouting. No "go to your room." No smoke out the ears. Just a question. I imagine her voice is kind. I imagine her arms are open. I imagine she's got her eyes trained right where they should be: She's looking at Jesus.

My kids aren't Jesus. They're not perfect. When I catch up with them, they're not preaching in the temple, they're smearing toothpaste on the mirror or stuffing bath toys in the toilet. (Why is it always the bathroom?) I've got a little more work ahead of me than the Blessed Mother. When sass is in the mix, a simple question is not going to suffice.

But the truth is, it doesn't matter.

See, discipline means learning. It isn't about punishment. It's about learning right. Teaching my children right and wrong, yes. But also about God teaching me how to doll it out.

In discipline, we're all learning.



I'm not here to tell you how to discipline your kids. Permissive, authoritarian, spank, don't spank, spare the rod or wield it. I hold no PhD in child development. I'm not even particularly gifted at this stuff. I'm just a mama in the trenches, like you, trying to figure it all out. You know your kid best. I'll leave the details up to you, but if it's alright, I'd like to share just three things I've learned (so far) along my way.

  1. Right attitude. You want your child's attitude to be right. That's why you're disciplining. But here's the thing, you're teaching more in what you do and in how you say it than in what you say. If your attitude isn't right, they're not learning right. Take a breather if you have to. Step away and pray. The right attitude can make all the difference in the world.

  2. Right reason. Are you disciplining because God put you in authority over your child and you, in love, know that it's important to guide her in understanding and recognizing that authority? Or are you just ticked off because she's undermining your authority? Remember, it's not about me. My job. It's about Him. Loving Him. Obeying Him. Always, always Jesus.

  3. Right away. We don't just want our children to obey. We want them to do it right away, the first time we say it, the right way, and without lip. God expects the same of us.

    "But he was the one smearing toothpaste on the mirror, not me!!" I know, I know. Oh, trust me, I know.

    I will be honest, this one is so, so hard for me. I mean, the other two points are two, but this one--oooh!--this one really gets me. When I am up to my ears in...well, life! The last thing I want to do is stop everything, hunker down, zero in and deal with discipline. I really don't.

    "It's not my fault about the toothpaste!! And anyway, I'm the one who's going to have to clean it up. Now you're telling me I've got to stop and discipline?!

    Here's the thing: God gave me authority as a mother. He expects my children to obey that authority as being from Him. But there's another side to that coin. He expects me to demand that obedience. With the right attitude. For the right reasons. Right away.
Discipline is some seriously tough love. It's tough. It's hard work. But it's also love.

I don't know about you other mamas, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that God made me for this vocation. I can't think of any walk of life that could possibly do more to uncover my sins than marriage and parenthood. I can't think of any gig that would ever give me more opportunities to practice being better than I am. 

Motherhood is my road to sanctification. And discipline is the tough love that keeps me moving.

I know it's not easy. This is no quick-fix jog; it's the long, hard slog. I know I have a lot to learn. I have a lot to teach. I have important work. So I'm working. I'm running.

I'm keeping my eyes on Him.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Cider Mill Schoolhouse: 2014-2015


It's that time, my friends. 

The sun is shining, berries are bursting juicy on the bushes, and the surf is calling it's siren song from the nearest shore. Yes, indeed, it's that most wonderful time of year...

Homeschool Planning Time!!!

Actually, at this point in my homeschooling career, I begin planning for fall in the spring. We school year round, but sometime around early May, my enthusiasm starts to wane, and we go into "school light" mode, spending more time in the sun and gearing up for birthdays. I use this relative downtime to evaluate how the year has gone and get ready for the school year to come.

Many of you have been asking me what I've got planned for this year. For those who aren't familiar with our family, I have a 7-year-old entering 2nd grade, a 5-year-old who will be starting Kindergarten in earnest this year (we did some Kindergarten work throughout the last school year, at his request), a 2-year-old, and a newborn. Phew! 

I've been homeschooling now for 4 years, and while I've got things pretty "down" in the Pre-K and Kindergarten department as far as what I like, my oldest remains (and will likely always remain) my guinea pig.

That said, here's what we've got cooking for the coming school year.

KINDERGARTEN

READINGTeach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons; early readers, such as the Little Bear and Frog and Toad books

MATH: Math-U-See Primer

HANDWRITING: Handwriting Without Tears: master all capital and lowercase letters and numerals

CIRCLE TIME: This is a special "class" I've created for my toddler, Pre-K, and Kindergarten children. To be honest, though, at age 7, Sophia still loves participating, too! It's a time when we gather to sing, do fingerplays and movement exercises, and I try my hand at a little formal storytelling. We cycle through songs and other exercises monthly and stories weekly. I've been working on crafting this part of my Pre-K curriculum throughout the past year, and I'm hoping to get the whole curriculum posted as soon as possible.

James will also be attending a STORY DRAMA class at our local co-op.

2ND GRADE

MATH: Math-U-See Beta

GRAMMAR & SPELLING: Evan-Moor Grammar & Punctuation Grade 3; Evan-Moor Paragraph writing; DOLCH sight words, grades 2 and 3; Evan-Moor Building Spelling Skills Grade 3

WRITING: Sophia loves to write! Because writing happens organically for her (she usually writes and illustrates at least 2 stories a week), I prefer a very informal approach to this subject. I want her to maintain ownership of this art that she loves. Basically, I pick some of her better stories as they come along and work with her on editing and "publishing" her work. We talk about story structure, voice, sentence structure, and word choice as it pertains to a story that is already her own. This year, I'm also challenging her to write one informative/research piece on a topic of her choice. (I'm guessing it will have something to do with either rabbits or horses--her favorite animals.)

HANDWRITING: Catholic Heritage Curriculum Handwriting, Grade 2; St. Anne's Helper Self-Study Catechism First Communion Manuscript and Cursive Copybook

READING: Sophia will be keeping a weekly log of books she reads, as well as doing an in-depth guided analysis for one book (chosen by me) each month. This monthly reading list includes Black Beauty, The Courage of Sarah Noble, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Little Mermaid, Little Pear, Charlotte's Web, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Sarah, Plain and Tall, A Little Princess, Josefina book of her choice, a Kirsten book of her choice, and Anne of Green Gables.

* Please note that while Sophia is at grade-level in most of her subjects, she is a bit advanced in reading, so these may not be suitable choices for some second graders.

MUSIC: Daddy teaches this one! Sophia will be learning to play the pentatonic flute this year, utilizing songs from Music Through the Grades.

BAKING AND COOKING: Sophia will be starting her very own recipe binder as I teach her to master making two snacks, breakfasts, and lunches, and one dinner.

GEOGRAPHY: Take It to Your Seat Geography Center, Grades 2-3

Sophia will also be taking DRAMA and PHYSICS at our local co-op and SPANISH at the local elementary school.

CLASSES WE DO TOGETHER
While I'm passionate about individualized education, the truth is that I'm a mama of four young children, and sometimes, you just need to keep things simple. To that effect, I've done my best to teach the whole crew together whenever possible. As Sophia gets older, I will give her additional assignments

SCRIPTURE: Daily Gospel reading (and Mass readings on Saturday Night); Through the Bible With My Child*

*Note: This is a Protestant resource.

CHARACTER BUILDING: Devotional Stories for Little Folks; Devotional Stories for Little Folks Too; Building Good Character (we try to implement and track one new virtue every two weeks)  

HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY: Story of the World, Volume 3 - I started out with this series two years ago, reading the book aloud, but my kids love the audio CDs so much that we've switched to listening to them in the car on the way to co-op. On the way home, I ask questions and we discuss the chapter we listened to earlier. Later in the week, we use our world map and globe to study the places we are learning about. Sophia also does mapwork from the accompanying activity book.

LITERATURE: This is basically our daily family read-aloud selection. I try to have one book for every month, and if we finish ahead of schedule, then I add a second one.

ART: Seasonal and liturgical crafts during our Family Nights; Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection

HANDWORK: This is purely student-led, but I'm planning on helping the children with fingerknitting projects, as well as teaching them to needle-knit or crochet. Daddy will likely take them under his wing for the occasional home improvement project and is hoping to do some woodworking with them this year!


That's all for now! 

Don't worry, though, I haven't forgotten about that Pre-K curriculum I promised. I'm working hard to make sure it's in tip-top shape first, which (let's be honest) is taking about a bazillion times longer than I had planned. Bazillion. It's a thing.

I really and truly am hoping to have it up as soon as possible, but I don't expect it will happen by September. Just too much life going on! Hope you understand - but if you're anxious to get it sooner, keep the project in your prayers. Every little bit helps!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Birthday Jimmie Rolls



Where I'm from, we call them jimmies. Those colorful sprinkles you get on ice cream cones. As opposed to the sugar crystal sprinkles that we actually call "sprinkles."

Most people just go ahead and call both sprinkles, but I think it's worth it to differentiate. There's something magical about jimmies.

And magic is what birthdays are all about!

There's nothing particularly fancy about these rolls, but they sure do light up a little one's eyes! 

Your favorite cinnamon roll recipe can fill in (or even those canned Pillsbury ones), but you're welcome to borrow mine. The trick is to use plenty of your favorite jimmies in celebratory colors.

You can adapt the recipe for Christmas, Fourth of July, any holiday that comes with appropriately-colored jimmies!

And the best part? You can make the rolls ahead of time (even freeze them!) and save yourself all the hassle on the morning of the big day.

Cinnamon swirls, ooey-gooey icing, and colorful sprinkles jimmies - nothing says happy birthday like these! 

(And nothing says "Happy Birthing Day" to mama like a low-key morning and low-stress breakfast prep. I should know.)

Birthday Jimmie Rolls
Makes 16 rolls

INGREDIENTS

For Dough
6 1/4 c. flour (all-purpose or whole wheat)
2 t. salt
6 T sugar
5 t. instant yeast
2 c. lukewarm whole milk (2 1/4 c. if using whole wheat flour)
1/2 c. vegetable oil or melted butter

For Filling
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
2 T cinnamon
1/2 c. raisins (optional)

For Icing and Decoration
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. cream cheese, softened
1-2 c. confectioners' sugar (depending on how sweet you like 'em)
1/2 t. vanilla
rainbow (or other colored) jimmies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all dough ingredients in large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with hook attachment. Mix on medium-low speed for 6 minutes. 
  2. Remove dough from mixer. Oil bowl liberally. Return dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in warm place until doubled.
  3. While dough is rising, grease 2 round 9'' cake pans. Set aside.
  4. Divide dough in half. Roll each half out in 9x13 rectangle. Spread each rectangle with 1/4 c. softened butter. Combine 1 c. brown sugar with 2 T cinnamon in small dish and sprinkle over butter, leaving 1/2'' gap on one of the long sides of the rectangle. Top with 1/2 c. raisins, if desired. (We do!) 
  5. Roll, beginning at the long end that has the cinnamon-sugar mixture all the way up to the edge. Use the clean long end to seal the rolls shut. Slice each rectangle into 8 thick slices. Place in prepared pans. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. At this point, you may wrap the rolls in a second layer of plastic wrap and slip into a large zip-top baggie to freeze. Can be frozen for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in refrigerator two nights or one full day before you plan to use them. If your home is cool at night, place out on counter the night before you will be baking. Otherwise, you can set them out to warm 1-2 hours before planning to bake.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F.
  7. Bake rolls in center of oven for 15-25 minutes (cooking time will depend greatly on what pan you use - glass will back faster than metal, and aluminum disposable pans will take the longest) until golden brown on top.
  8. While rolls are baking, mix the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. (This is important. Don't try to do it by hand with a whisk; you'll get lumps.) Incorporate confectioners' sugar and vanilla at low speed with mixer.
  9. Cool rolls for 10 minutes. Spread with icing. Sprinkle with jimmies. Enjoy!