July 26, 2012

Michelle Duggar

As you might or might not know I am immensely inspired by Michelle Duggar. She has 19 children and a TV show documenting their lives. She is a very caring, sweet and religious women. I aspire to many of her parenting choices. Here is an interview I read recently and was so inspired and encouraged by it.

UpClose with Michelle Duggar:
Planning for Serene Chaos
by Melissa Caddell
Talking with Michelle Duggar was both like and unlike having a conversation with any other mom.
She was on her way to a well-child visit for her youngest. We were interrupted by her giving instructions to the driver and then trying to determine which exit was the best choice for lunch. I was struck by how quietly her kids were talking and playing in the background. But the biggest difference I found was that this mom has a lot of experience — and I do mean a lot. Combining her 19 children’s ages gives her 245 years of hands-on mom training!
The Duggar family is featured on TLC’s reality TV show “19 and Counting” (which airs on Tuesdays and is now in its fifth season). This past summer, she and husband, Jim Bob, released their second book, A Love That Multiplies. Here’s a peek into our chat, including answers to reader questions from the MOPS Facebook page.

Family photo: Michelle Duggar and her husband, Jim Bob,
along with their 19 kids, plus their daughter-in-law
and granddaughter. All of their kids’ names begin with “J.”
How do you keep your household running smoothly?  There is usually a planned schedule, but there’s the plan … and then there’s reality. Our home is usually abuzz with what I call serene chaos. Most days do pass happily, busily, and if all goes well, productively. In the midst of this chaos, every child knows what is expected of them and everyone helps out (even the toddlers), practicing a “learning by doing” philosophy and building a strong sense of family. I don’t strive for perfection — either from myself or my children.
What does flexibility look like in your mothering?
Flexibility is a character trait we moms end up developing, especially when our kids become toddlers. We have to set a schedule for our family, but there are so many challenges daily that you just can’t plan for. We mommas can be very hard on ourselves because we don’t measure up to our goals and our schedules, but we can’t take it personally! The stops and the starts of my “to-do” list are the most important — my children!
When I wonder what I have actually accomplished, I remember that I’ve spent time in conversation and snuggling and doing all the stuff that takes so much time and energy and teaches me flexibility. We have a schedule, we have a routine, but some days it’s just emergency mode.
What do you do to help your kids get along so well? 
Early on, I felt like a referee most of the time! When I had six children who were under the age of 5, there was a lot of arguing and tattling and whining. I felt like all I was doing was yelling all day. One day when I was struggling with how to deal with this, God reminded me of conflict resolution instructions in the Bible from Matthew 18 that talks about going to our brother with a problem, not Mommy and Daddy. That became our model for how we try to relate to each other.
How did you teach them this model? 
I sat them all down one day, with the little ones in their highchairs, and I told them that this is how we were going to deal with tattling: 1) You are going to talk sweet to your brother or sister and be kind to them. Instead of running to Mommy, you are going to say, “I had that toy first, can I please have it back? In five minutes, you can have a turn.” And they set a timer. The goal of their heart should not be to get their sibling in trouble. 2) If the sibling won’t give the toy back, then the child can go talk to Mommy, and then I will have a talk with that sibling.
Did it take a long time for them to learn this principle? 
When we first started, they wouldn’t talk sweet. They’d have an angry attitude. I’d stop them and say, “You’re not talking nice to me, did you talk nice to your brother or sister?” I would correct them first and then have them go back to their sibling.
One or two times was all it took. I was amazed that my 4- and 5-year-old could get along! We learn to honor and respect each other this way. As parents, we don’t allow them to talk hatefully to each other or to call each other names. We correct it right then and they have to ask for forgiveness.
How do you foster an attitude of “with us” not “against us” between your children?From the time they are very young, I appeal to their conscience. I try to help them feel what their brother or sister is feeling with questions such as, “How would you feel if someone broke your toy? How do you think your brother feels?” I really try and put them in their sibling’s shoes when they are selfish, do something not nice or try to get someone in trouble. And then they have to make the situation right.
One of my younger girls ate a special treat that an older brother had been saving. I really put her in her brother’s shoes and pulled on her conscience. And she knew she had to apologize and replace the treat. When she did, her brother was sweet and refused to take her treat. But I encouraged him to take the treat so she had the consequence. They learn to treat each other the way they want to be treated.
How did you learn to speak softly to your children, even when you’re angry? 
(Laughs) I haven’t mastered this one yet. Just the other day, several of my boys made a mess in the living room. It was just normal kid stuff, but I got angry and overreacted to the mess.
But I feel that by God’s grace, he is giving me some success over yelling. I remember praying specifically about this years ago and God bringing to mind the verse about a soft answer turning away wrath. When I feel frustration building up, that’s when I need to choose to cry out to God and pray that I don’t lose it. There are times I have to whisper to myself, “I’m not going to lose it. I am going to stay calm.”
Do your kids see you struggle? 
When my boys made the mess in the living room, I didn’t have the right response. All I could see was a big mess on the carpet, and someone needed to clean it up! I was barking this at my boys as they stood there. My 7-year-old didn’t obey me quickly so I sent him to my room to talk to him. He was near tears as he struggled to talk to me. But what he was trying to tell me was that I was getting angry.
My husband and I have given our children permission to tell us when we’re getting angry. They put their hand on our arm and tell us sweetly and respectfully, “Momma, I think you’re getting angry.” They need to do so in a loving way and without an attitude. It’s very humbling and brings about quick repentance. In this instance both my son and I were crying! The saddest part, was that I wasn’t able to talk to the other children before they were in bed. It hung heavy on all our hearts until morning when I asked for their forgiveness for not having a right response and for getting angry.
I can feel myself rebelling at the idea of letting my kids call me on my anger! 
Our anger as a parent can be a wall that comes between us and our children. Anger is such a destroyer. I didn’t know I had a problem with anger until I had children! (Laughs) We tell our children that they have a safe place to share their heart. That we love them and will pray with them and we aren’t going to look down on them or reject them. It is so incredible that we can choose our response! The most helpful thing for me personally is choosing to have a soft voice when I respond.
How do you take care of yourself?  What I really need to re-fuel is alone time with the Lord — though it’s usually not alone as I’m often pregnant or nursing a baby! But I get my second wind late at night, after the kids are in bed. I have some time with my husband and then I read my Bible, devotion or listen to a message.
I love my time in the evenings — no children who need me, no phone calls, no one knocking on the door. And I can continue my quiet time for as long as I want. I try to get to bed around midnight so I can get up most mornings to exercise before 6 on an elliptical machine. I also text with a friend early in the morning to encourage and pray for each other. It‘s a great time for me.
How do you take care of your marriage? 
It’s so important to show your kids that you love your husband, even in little ways throughout the day. I love to hold his hand. The kids see that I love him by staying connected to him and communicating throughout the day. When he gets home, they see us be affectionate and sit beside each other. They see that we enjoy each other. We never put each other down and we don’t argue in front of the children. They see that we are there for each others’ best interests and that we are each other’s best friend.

What do you do to keep a tone of peace in your home? 
I try to build in quiet, peaceful time into our day. We teach our little ones as babies to stay on a blanket on the floor for a few minutes at a time so they learn that they do have the self-control to sit still. I play a CD of harp music that’s very peaceful. When you have that many little ones, you all need to have a time of peace!
OK, but what about with wiggly 5-year-olds and all of those boys?  Sometimes I just have them run off that busy, rambunctious energy! The key is to head it off before they’re about to get into trouble. I try to give them a constructive task to burn off the energy, like picking up the trash in the backyard. I set a timer and tell them to pick up as much as they can. Everything is more fun to kids with a timer, and I use it a lot. Sometimes they just run laps around the house.
Having the TV on as background noise, adds to a feeling of chaos. We have very limited TV time, and I don’t use the TV to occupy my kids — I’ve learned to get them working beside me. Don’t think that you always need to keep your children away from you so you can get work done. They are good helpers! Children need to know they are a part of a family and that they are needed.
Do you have one-on-one time with each child? 
I try to take one kid at a time on errands. I make a point to ask how he or she is doing and ask specific questions. Homeschooling has helped — we spend 24/7 together. I work on school with them one-on-one and have ample chances to encourage them to open up. I have them pray after our time together so I get a sense of their heart. I am always asking them questions about their heart, and they know they have a safe place to share.

July 25, 2012

9 & fine

I can't believe it's been almost a decade! My dearest son....you are the light of my life. You have been a constant source of joy and sweetness, thoughtfulness and love. You are a trickster and are currently specializing in what I sometimes call "annoying noises" but my dear - I love ALL OF YOU!

At our little family party we only had tea lights.....not that you cared when it was the brownie & cookie cake your dad devised (because I forgot the cake part of the day!!!) you were after. It's the little things like this that have been slipping my mind lately.....but that's another topic.

look at your sweet face....

a 9 year old face...

the gang came over & your Auntie, Uncle, Grammy and Grandpa came along to Mountasia for some laser tag, video games and rock climbing.

Char always rocks the house in the rock department

Laura and Fiona happened to be at our house and kinda rolled along into the party with us. Boys only? Not anymore!

Doughnut cakes are all the rage in our family. 

Yes two cakes....one for the family party and one for the friends party. Much to your dad's horror and dismay this is just the way we roll. I think he finally caught on this year as he said to me "I guess I will never be able to keep you to a birthday budget will I?" Aaahahahaha. No way Juan. Thank you for noticing. We laugh because John always says ever year with every kid's birthday "I never had friends or parties....this is crazy" to which I always reply "Well I did, and our kids do.  Sorry your childhood was lacking!" And then he laughs and gets over it - until the next birthday.....

Thanks to a boy scout trip to a rock climbing place you actually did great this year! Go Luke!

Video games + boys = fun. I didn't really have to do anything and my sister and I were kinda weirder out. Usually we double team all my parties - but there we sat. At the table. Sipping water and chatting. Twas lovely.

a few house updates

At the end of my pregnancy I was going a bit crazy with an overwhelming need for some updates on the house. My BFF Calyn came over and put some serious time (all weekend!) in helping me.
Here's part of that project come to fruition....love it!

Next are the bathroom pics of my babies. I have their first bath pictures along with a collection of other good ones.
And then Cristy comes over and listens to me complain about my couch & how I don't want to spend a million dollars on new couches. Enter Urban Hom. The store she got some couches from once. We checked their site and I found ones I loved for $600! We went the next day......not gonna lie.

And ordered my couches. Happiness. But when I got home I realized I needed to do some serious reconfiguring....enter my scale drawing of the Living Room with scale sit outs of the soon to arrive furniture. I moved & switched and moved again & here is what I decided on.
And here it is in real life. Not shabby. Not shabby at all. Once the couches were in it was like a sea of blackness and so a rug was desperately needed. Thank you Target for having the perfect one. And now for throw pillows & art!

and this was just too funny & true. had to share.

July 24, 2012

moments from a love scene

William, you have always loved your sister from the very first time you saw her. 

And it just seems to keep on going (knock on wood).
You are so sweet (when you're sweet) and a little dangerous when you are in a mood...not gonna lie.
But I know how much you love Miss S.

Speaking of love. You love watermelon,

A whole lot.

Speaking of love - get a hold of Miss 3 month old. Missy girl, lady love, Papushketa meta, Mamasita, mi amore, oh how I love you!

Your ponytail is epic.

your face - how it kills me!

I started calling you Latte Lips as you like to froth up some good bubbles.

I mean - COME ON!!!!!! You are too much.

Oh how the sibling love continues.............

Mr. Man - you are so playful. I have to do trick things sometimes to get you to smile for me.
(PS tell your mother you need a haircut)

Like tickle you real fast and pull away to focus the camera and shoot!

Sometimes you are too fast for me.

In focus or not I love this shot. You are one lively little dude. 
I had fun today.

July 22, 2012

Homeschool Conference Vendors & Products

The Budget Beast was furiously unhappy this weekend. I successfully silenced him completely and spent to my hearts content at the Vendor Hall. We bought strategy games, math games, word games, sciene games, stories on CD, etc., etc. I met some really awesome people - my kinda people...people that love education and are finding ways to make it better. It's was paradise.

The first seminar I attended this weekend was by Kathleen Lawler. Her family company RightStart Mathamatics has developed pretty awesome math games. Their promise is that you don't need textbooks, worksheets, tests, or quizzes to successful teach math. Games are to math are books are to reading she says. I dig that! The games keep stress and anxiety about math out of the picture. I was pretty floored by the games she presented and of course visited her in the Vendor Hall and bought one of their kits. As an elementary school teacher I have seen a lot of the road blocks students have at the mathematics level and her games just seemed like the ticket. Thank you Kathleen for giving a great session and sharing your goods.

Lauren and Gary told me I had to go see Nick with Marie's Words. The story goes something like
Nick's sister was studying for her SATs as a junior in high school and was having the hardest time with the vocabulary section. She had the idea to make flashcards that have picture and color clues to the word's definition. Her brother (pictured above) illustrated all 550 of them. And they were a hit with their friends and off they went. They are now 19 and 21 years old and I was thrilled with the demonstration he did with Charlotte.

First he had her pick 5 picture cards she liked best. She chose...
                                           pugnacious                                           ruse
                                       sinuous                                             hedonist

Then he asked her to read each word if she could. Then he had her guess the definition taking clues from the picture. If she couldn't get it, he explained it and showed her the pictorial clues.

He then flipped through the cards and asked her what each word meant - she got them all. He then said "Congratulations Charlotte, you just learned college level words."
I handed over $30 immediately.  550 cards. 550 cool picture clues. Pure genius. Thank you Nick and your sister for these amazing products. Turns out John had visited the booth later without me and was impressed as well. 

Adam Degree is the first Vendor I talked to. He and his family sell products his father developed. First off I wanted to adopt Adam as my younger brother. He is the brightest, clean-cut, well-spoken and sharp 17 year old I have ever met. Yes - he was home schooled. Yes - he REALLY knows his history. Their company The Classical Historian sells incredible products for teaching history to your children. Starting at age three they have rad memory games based on prominent people, places and events in history. They have three of those - Ancient, Medieval and American. The other line I loved were their history card games - again they had three sets - Ancient, Medieval and American decks. Each deck can be played Go Fish style and a few other games. They also have what appears to be an incredibly line of history curricula for 6th grade and up. I can't wait to try it out in a few years. The point is......you can read history or you can play games and have fun while learning. I think I know what is more efficient use of my time.

I had the privilege of seeing three of Jim Weiss's sessions this weekend. I had heard of him before as he is the story teller for the famous line of Classical HIstory books "The Story of the World." Jim's company, Greathall Productions has a whole line of amazing CDs with stories Jim has created or is telling from history. He is a master story teller. And I truly mean master. He is expressive, funny, inspiring and 100% captivating. It was the highlight of my and my children's weekend.

His table of goods was beyond enticing....I bought 10 CDs and could have bought 20 more. A sampling of my purchases:

                                    Greek Myths                      A collection of beloved and funny stories and poems
                                                                                  (btw loving your "show hands" Johnny)


Stories from the Old Testament 
(because I need and want to learn the Bible too!)

The Comic Shop (unfortunately I don't have a picture of these awesome folks!) was Luke's favorite spot to hang all weekend. And I do mean ALL weekend. He played with their strategic games for hours and hours. I knew I was going to buy some games already - but after my son came in each evening with sparks in his eyes and nothing but good news to share about all the games, I knew I needed to invest in his love.
A really cool dice game. I am sure I will learn all about it.

This strategy game has had Luke captivated for hours so far. He can't get enough. You basically have to figure out ways to make the whole snake fit in different ways and move through these levels. 

Next up is Cathedrals. It's similar to Blokus (a family favorite) but wooden....I love wooden things, and using Cathedrals. 

Trantrix really got me. It's a interesting game of having to build completed loops as you add more and more pieces. A bit tricky to explain but addicting.

A HUGE thank you to Comic Shop booth peeps for making my 9 year old exceedingly happy all weekend.