Say, “Thank You, Hon.”

I woke up to a husband who called me to his bedside just to tell me, “I appreciate you, hon. All you do as a wife and mother. If I don’t tell you enough I want you to know that I am so blessed by you.”

Wow! What an unexpected surprise! It certainly set the tone for the rest of my Sunday.

Edric knows that I am a words kind of gal. Encouragement makes me feel loved. Really loved.

The great thing about positive words is it’s the EASIEST way to communicate to your spouse that they are important to you, that they are special and appreciated. You don’t have to exert physical effort to say I love you or I appreciate you. You don’t have to spend money to speak life-giving statements.

You do, however, have to notice and pay attention. My mom used to say, “have a detective’s eye for praise-worthy character in your children.” This is applicable in marriage, too.

Edric told me he noticed that I woke up to attend to Catalina last night, that I inconvenienced myself to get out of bed when I heard her coughing. Nobody has to call out this sort of sacrifice. I don’t wake myself up to check on Catalina and feed her in the hopes that someone in my family will give me a pat on the back for effort. Like all other moms, that’s what we do. But when Edric or the kids interrupt my autopilot mom-mode to say thank you, it feels pretty incredible! Duty turns into inspiration!

Even husbands can benefit from our words of praise. When we were in the U.S. for a month Edric helped me with chores and the kids. It was a matter of survival! We couldn’t leave poop in a diaper! We couldn’t ignore big bags of trash inside the house!

Up until that point, I had never seen my husband hold a broom and dustpan so many times in his life, get out of bed to help me catch Catalina’s vomit, marshall the kids to do their responsibilities, vacuum the car, haul trash, fix the bed, carry Catalina…I could go on.

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Do we notice the wise choices, the acts of service, or the sacrifices our spouses make or do we treat these as a given? No applause needed because they are supposed to be doing these things? When was the last time we said, Thank you, hon?

So many of us fail to say thank you and I appreciate you enough. If you are living with an approbation-starved spouse, revive them today with your appreciation. Make them eager and excited to fulfill their role as husband/father or wife/mother. And, hey, if you are feeling extra gracious, do something sweet and give them
a “trophy.”

Edric and the kids got me these magnetic mini-Oscars for my birthday two weeks ago. Pretty cute, huh? These are the best thank you awards I have ever received!

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Four Weeks As a REAL Housewife

I get it now. Being a home maker is backbreaking work. I mean, a homemaker in North America. By the end of the day, my idea of a reward is a hot shower or sitting on a couch to watch some mindless movie to fall asleep to. There’s hardly anything left in me to give to Edric or my kids because I am tired.

It hasn’t been stressful cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry. But it has been physically exhausting. I suppose this is why I have taken long pauses from writing as of late. Plus it isn’t very inspiring to talk about house chores. Who wants to know about how I sort dark and light clothing? It’s somewhere in between maddening and necessary. Everyday I look at the pile of laundry that the kids throw into the hamper and I am like, “You’ve got to be kidding! Do we go through that many clothes?!” Well, we do. We are 7 x 2 outfits a day. So when the kids don’t leave the house, I let them wear their pajamas morning to night. And if they don’t get sweaty, they can postpone their shower to the next day (and wear the same pjs!)

Then, there’s the kitchen. It’s a full-time preoccupation cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Now I understand why cereal is so popular. Heck, why not eat it three times a day! The kids went through an uncountable number of cereal boxes this vacation. I am ashamed to admit they survived on Lucky Charms and Cheerios.

In a few days I will have my unrealistic life back — the one that comes with household help. I finally understand why it is a luxury to be able to pay people to wash the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals, etc. America, for all its conveniences and efficiencies, is wonderful and I am glad to be part American.

However, I still prefer living in the Philippines. The kids do, too. They are looking forward to seeing their Siamese cats, toys, own beds, and getting back into the rhythm of our lives in Manila.

Manila doesn’t have the cleanest air or streets. It can get miserably hot. Life is crazy busy for us with homeschooling, business and ministry. But that’s where we are serving God and investing in the lives of others.

I will miss the cold weather, the traffic-less freeways, the quieter life where the extent of your social obligations are four or five good friends, the groceries (oh, the groceries with thirty options for butter!), the steak (I love a good steak), and the nobody-knows-you kind of anonymity that an introvert like myself can really get used to.

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But anywhere is home where I am with Edric and the kids. This past month has felt like we have been “at home.” However, I am so thankful to the Lord that at present, our mailing address is in Manila, Philippines. I am looking forward to a decent night’s sleep and breakfast that includes rice and comes with a clean up crew!

Some of the things I learned as a happily desperate housewife on vacation this past month:

1. Buy lots of cereal, milk, eggs, fruit, and cheese, and make these accessible throughout the day.

2. Invest in a ton of wet wipes and bring them everywhere!

3. Breastfeed your infant. It’s the simplest, easiest way to make sure she gets the nourishment she needs. Catalina cut back on the solids because she prefers the soupy, home cooked meals our yayas make for her. Thankfully she breastfed a lot so she was fine during this vacation.

4. Use one bag that can double as a diaper bag and purse. Forget about looking stylish. It’s the practicality you are after.

5. Let the older kids bathe, dress, feed, and clean up after themselves.

6. Have an IPad available to entertain a carseat-restrained infant. I gave in and let Catalina be distracted by hours of YouVersion’s Bible App (for kids) so she wouldn’t cry like a screaming banshee.

7. Give the kids vitamins and extra vitamin C everyday.

8. Take your vitamins and overdose on vitamin C everyday.

9. Encourage the older kids to babysit the younger ones.

10. Dress up and look nice even if you feel tired and want to wear pajamas all day. Only your children are allowed to do that!

11. Teach your 16 month old survival skills like feeding herself or going up and down the stairs so she has the freedom to go around the house without you worrying about her constantly. (Catalina learned to scoot down the carpeted stairs backwards very effectively.)

12. Enjoy the moment even if you are sick and tired of the mess, the amount of effort it takes to mind the whereabouts of five children, or preoccupied by thoughts about what you have to do next.

13. Appreciate the effort your husband makes to sweep the floor, clean out the car, and organize the children so you don’t feel irritated when he says he can’t hold the baby for longer than ten minutes.

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14. Train your 16 month old to obey. Catalina was hitting her younger cousin several times a day, every day, and throwing tantrums when she didn’t get her way. We finally started disciplining her by spanking her for disobedience and defiance. Praise God she improved significantly and made the connection — hitting is a no-no, and throwing herself on the floor while rolling around wailing is a no-no, too. Here she is hugging the cousin she used to bully…

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15. Saturate your mind with thoughts about God. I downloaded a lot of uplifting music on my Spotify account so I could meditate on the Lord, especially during long drives.

16. Find ways to recharge — nap times while you breastfeed, hot showers, short shopping trips, a fun movie, a chocolate chip cookie (or two or three. You will burn it off with keeping house and breastfeeding.)…Yes, I still managed to sneak in some me-time during this chore-ridden vacation.

17. Serve others with a joyful attitude without grumbling or thinking “you-owe-me.” Several times I was tempted to be irritated at every single person in my family for all the chores I had to do while they got to play or enjoy themselves. But God reminded me to work for Him.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

The kitchen crew…

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Eating Issues?

Is it a challenge to inspire your kids to eat? Are you running out of ideas that are healthy and reasonably simple to prepare?

I was sent a copy of Yummy Mommy a week before we left for the US. Although I haven’t gotten a chance to try the recipes yet I am excited to when I get back to Manila. Even my second son, Edan, picked some of the ideas he would like me to cook or bake in the kitchen. It is such a great book for moms who want to offer kid-friendly meals to their children. I am sure all moms can relate to eating-related issues with their kids and a lot of recipe books ala sneaky chef style don’t always recommend ingredients that are locally available. This one does.

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Here is Anvil Publishing’s write up on their book…

Anvil Publishing releases Yummy Mommy by Tricel De Guzman, a full-time mother and dedicated homemaker, who collected favorite recipes of dishes of her daughter who is a picky eater. Aside from the delicious recipes, Tricel shares tips on food preparation and proper feeding Celebrity Mommy Cheska Garcia-Kramer tried cooking these yummy recipes for her picky eater Kendra and raved about it on Instagram! What’s more, all the dishes can be enjoyed by other family members.

Mommies can try mouthwatering dishes like, Spinach Rice with Tofu and Kiwi, Nice and Gooey Chicken Wings, Popcorn Shrimp with Orange Dip, Salmon Broccoli Rice Bake. Make kids enjoy merienda with Banana Fritters with Cream Cheese Sauce, Jam and Cheese Grilled Sandwich, Fruit Sticks with Milo Dip. For busy working moms, the No-bake desserts such as Banana Ice Cream Burrito, Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar, Milk Flan with Honey Prune Sauce, and Mango-Ginger Parfait are perfect meal enders.

Yummy Mommy is now in the BESTSELLER list of National Book Store and Powerbooks nationwide.

Asthma?!

At 2:30 AM yesterday morning, Catalina’s labored, fast breathing, and wheezing troubled me. Concerned, I nudged Edric to verify my observations. He noticed that she was struggling but wasn’t as panicky as I was.

I’ve never had a child with asthma so I didn’t know that this was characteristic of children who have it. Since she was able to fall back to sleep, I waited until 6 am to suggest that we take her to the village clinic. (We have a 24 hour clinic in the village since there aren’t too many hospitals close by.) The nurse who attended to her suggested we consult with the general practitioner who was scheduled to arrive at 9 AM. Catalina seemed to be managing so I waited until early afternoon to see our ever reliable pediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Sy.

She noticed that Catalina’s diaphragm heaved in and out strenuously, and her shoulders rose and fell like she was compensating for the lack of air. So she called her doctors in the ER and had them take her vitals to get a baseline reading. Catalina was doing nearly 60 breaths per minute which is too many for a one year old. (Normal is 30 to 40 per minute.)

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After three rounds of nebulization her breathing stabilized, and her oxygen levels rose closer to 100%. She was treated as an asthma case which surprised me because neither Edric or I are asthmatic. Edric used to have eczema which can be connected to asthma but he never experienced difficulty breathing.

Her breaths normalized to a count of forty or so, and the wheezing stopped. The stethoscope revealed bibasal crackles in her lungs (probably due to phlegm from a cough she has), but since she lacked the appearance of malaise and had no fever, she was permitted to go home. We were prescribed a schedule for nebulizing with two medicines. One every four hours and the other every eight hours.

We were out of the ER after two hours with Catalina waving goodbye and insisting on leaving. “Go! Go!” She said, pointing towards the door that led to the reception area. She was back to herself. Praise God!

Whenever my kids get sick, I get my own form of spiritual asthma! My tendency is to worry and fret about their well-being. It’s only when I look to Him, thanking and praising Him in faith that I am calmed by the rest and peace he affords. The spiritual gasping stops.

God doesn’t lose a foothold of control, nor is he caught off guard by the problems that beset us. He remains sovereign and present, willing all things for his good purpose. Unless we embrace this truth it’s not easy to breathe easy as a mother.

Let God be our oxygen when we are tempted to panic. And the best way to receive his life-giving, panic-eliminating air is to maintain a disposition of dependence on Him, on our knees, praying faithfully for our children and entrusting them into his hands.

Exocus 33:14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

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It’s Your Mess: Deal with It Darling

By the end of our homeschooling morning, our “classroom” usually looks like someone threw a grenade into it. I’ve tried to manage the mess by cleaning up as we go along, but there’s no better way to keep this room straight than to have the kids take responsibility for it.

Today they wanted to dye eggs as an art activity, but I told them, “If you want to do art, you have to clean up the room.” So they pulled out a broom from the hallway closet, picked up markers and colored pencils, and wiped the paint off the floor.

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My kids can get presumptuous about our househelp cleaning up after them so I have to remind them to straighten their own rooms, organize their toys, and mop their spills. They aren’t always motivated but a helpful trick is to tell them they can’t move on to the next activity until they straighten up their clutter.

Yesterday, they wanted to watch the Muppets movie. They were all plopped in front of the television enjoying themselves when I went upstairs to check on their rooms. Titus and Tiana had pulled out blankets and re-arranged furniture. They also had stuffed animals thrown around. Elijah and Edan had played with Citiblocks and constructed “trees”.

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I went back down, turned off the television and told them that their rooms had to be spotless if they wanted to continue watching the movie. They complied and got to work. After ten minutes, Elijah and Edan bounded back down the stairs. Titus and Tiana struggled to restore the girls’ room to what it looked like before they messed it up. I told them they were responsible for the disorder and had to fix it.

Elijah, Edan, and I finished the movie but Titus and Tiana never came down. I went looking for them, wondering what ever became of their commitment to put their mess away. And I found them lying on the couch in the study room, ASLEEP! They must have gotten tired trying to figure out what to do.

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Well, they resumed their clean up duties and got the job done after they woke up.

I want my kids to understand that they are responsible for their things. It’s easy to make a mess. In fact, it’s pretty fun to do so. But if my kids get into the habit of letting others inherit their mess, it’s going to have a negative effect on their character. They have to learn faithfulness in the small areas, like putting away toys or wiping up spills, so it will carry over to bigger areas in the future. If they “mess” up relationships, or make wrong decisions, they need to own up to the consequences and do what is honorable – deal with the mess and do their best to fix what they can.

What Homeschooling Is Really About

I talk a lot about homeschooling, but I want you to know that my children aren’t always cooperative, there are days when I don’t feel like teaching, and sometimes I am the less than perfect mother who gets annoyed with her kids.

Two days ago, I was teaching Titus from his Singapore Math book and he couldn’t get subtraction using number bonds. I could tell he was guessing so I elevated my pitch and my tone was agitated. As I explained to him the concept of regrouping by 10, subtracting the ones from each other, and adding what was left, he was confused. I probably did a bad job of communicating this process and I expected it to click in his head right away. Well, it didn’t. I gripped the pencil he was holding and circled and scratched on his book for emphasis as I went over each problem.

Titus began to tear. I thought, Why can’t he get it?! Is there something wrong with him?! It’s not complicated! 

Well, there was something wrong with me. I was making homeschooling about me. What I wanted…my desired outcome…my teaching…my time…my effort…my way…my disappointment…OH, MY!

When I saw him struggling to stay composed, I felt horrible. Immediately, I apologized to him and hugged him, asking for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for being irritated? Mommy was wrong.” He readily accepted my apology and we pressed on. By the end of the session he figured out how to approach his math problems with confidence.

As for me, I was reminded that I am prone to reactiveness and impatience when my heart is in the wrong place. The key is to remember why I am homeschooling, to keep sight of the goal, which is to teach my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

While teaching a subject like mathematics may be important, this is really a minute aspect of the real objective. Edric and I share a daily responsibility to nurture, encourage, and meet the needs of our children to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. (Luke 2:52) Therefore, our homeschooling isn’t about 4 hours of the day when they are seated in our study room for lessons. It’s a lifestyle that ministers to our children’s spiritual, social, mental, and physical persons.

 

SPIRITUAL

Homeschooling is discipleship. While academics have a place, the greater emphasis is teaching our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus, love God’s word, submit to authority, and develop Christ-like character.

When our second son was little, he was nicknamed the “chairman” for being a very serious and grumpy boy who would often say no. Edric and I talked about his attitude and realized we had failed to be intentional about sharing the gospel to him. A few weeks after Edric did so, our son was a transformed child. His heart became malleable and teachable. He would even tell me, “Jesus is my best friend.” More importantly, he became a kinder, more considerate boy.

Today, Edan initiates reaching out to other children, organizing activities and games for them, and he is also assistant teacher to my younger kids. While he still has character issues from time to time, I can see the fruit of God’s work in his life.

Discipleship is the key to homeschooling. It’s impossible to teach a child who doesn’t want to listen. When my children don’t have the right attitudes there’s no point in proceeding with lesson time unless I address their attitudes first. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the wills between my children and me.

There have been instances when I have asked my older children to excuse themselves from our study room so they can have a moment to prayerfully consider their heart issues. While I don’t believe in asking little kids to stand in a corner for “time outs,” I do believe in asking older children who have a relationship with Christ to take the time to think through their feelings and actions in light of God’s Word.

Are they acting and behaving in a way that pleases God? How can they change and improve if they aren’t?

I prefer to proceed when they are spiritually ready, when they have returned to me after the Holy Spirit has ministered to them. Almost always, he convicts them about the wrongfulness of their responses to the task at hand, to me, or to others. It is amazing how a moment of purposeful reflection leads them to God-honoring conclusions. (Of course I also pray that they will be attentive to what God has to say to them during that period of pause.)

 

SOCIAL

Parents’ apprehensions about homeschooling often center around the socialization question. “What about their socialization?” I’d like to quote Elijah, my eldest. Once upon a time, a friend suggested he should go to school so he could have friends. His spontaneous relply: “I have so many friends, I can’t even count them!” He wasn’t exaggerating. Like my other kids, they aren’t friend-starved.

While we don’t focus on making friends, we do focus on how to be a friend. The emphasis is on social development — training our children to look beyond their insecurities and comfort zones so they can be a blessing and channel of Christ’s love. Furthremore, in the context of family, there are numerous opportunities to practice relationship principles like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In fact, the family is often the hardest place to apply these principles! As much as we all love one another in our family, there are days when we don’t like each other. The challenge is to transcend this feeling by availing of the grace that Christ supplies.

Social development happens most naturally at home. Between a husband and wife, siblings, parent and child, each member of a family must die daily to selfishness and self-centeredness. They must choose to love, forgive, make sincere apologies, and grow in their understanding of one another. A child who can relate to others in this manner will not be in want of good company.

Furthermore, a child who has received love, appreciation, who is accepted for who he or she is, and allowed to fail and make mistakes will be inspired to learn. I remember an instance when Titus came to me in fear. His face was half-visible behind the sliding glass door that separated the room from the bathroom.

“Mom I did something.”

“What is it?” I asked. He was hesitant to confess his deed at first, but then I prodded him to do so.

“I hit the shuttlecock into our neighbor’s yard.”

That’s it?! I thought. Why couldn’t he tell me that right away?!

“It’s okay. I forgive you. It was an accident.” I said reassuringly.

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

“Do I get mad a lot?” (I had to check.)

“No.”

“Well, I want you to know something. I love you no matter what and I will always forgive you.” I repeated it again until I was sure he internalized this.

He flashed a big smile and then ran off to play again.

I may not lose my temper with my kids and yell at them, but I do get irritated from time to time. So I have to be careful and mindful of the way I relate to them. I need to ask myself this question: Am I cultivating a relational climate that gives my children the liberty to express their heartfelt longings, fears, ideas, or confess their mistakes? The relationship I have with my kids impacts my ability to instruct their hearts and their minds. If they can trust me with who they are, they can trust me to teach them who they should become.

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

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On Wednesdays, we get together with other homeschool families. A good number of ladies in my discipleship group are homeschooling their kids and they have women in their groups who are also homeschooling. Wednesdays is the day we have designated to hold classes so our kids can interact and work with other kids. I’m so blessed by the moms in this group who lend their expertise and creativity to teach art, music, bible, character, science, etc. We also asked an awesome physical trainer to teach our kids sports and fitness.

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When my kids and I are at home, our lessons happen around a large table. I assign tasks to my children and act the part of a facilitator. Elijah and Edan can do a lot of work on their own. Titus and Tiana need more attention from me. Catalina is “exiled” so we can focus. She is entertained by our househelp. (Praise God for househelp!)

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Ideally, it would be nice if all my kids sat around the table and stayed put, but I’m a pretty laid-back homeschooling mom. They can do some work on the floor or on the couch. They can even migrate to different rooms if this will help them accomplish their tasks. Sometimes, we even homeschool in the car if I absolutely have to do an errand in the morning!

My philosophy when it comes to teaching is simple: a child needs to master the essentials so he will become a self-directed learner. I am more particular about skills like math, reading, comprehension, logic and reasoning, rather than science, history, Filipino, social studies, etc. If my kids are confident with the essentials, they will have the building blocks to learn whatever they want to. I don’t want them to be held back by me. As much as possible, I try not to hover around them all the time. In fact, I tell them, “you can figure it out.” (Sometimes I have to say this because I don’t know how to explain it either!)

Unless they are really stumped, I encourage my kids to rise up to the challenge of a difficult task. This is one of the reasons why my boys are turning out to be good at math even if I’m terrible at it! I also encourage them to study what they are interested in, beyond what we are covering during their lessons. Since I don’t canabilize the day with instruction, they have a lot of free hours to pursue topics that are meaningful to them. Instead of burdening myself with the responsibility of teaching them EVERYTHING, I zone in on the basics and point them in the right direction by giving them access to a multitudinous number of books, and supplementing their learning with educational apps and internet sites that are pre-approved.

For example, some months ago my older sons memorized the periodic table of elements, just for fun. It wasn’t part of their science requirements to do so, but they were fascinated by it. So I let them use an app (Toca Lab) that helped them to understand all the elements and their abbreviations. When they weren’t using the app, they would play a game where they named all the elements and gave the symbols to match them. I don’t even know the periodic table of elements! I kept getting the symbol for Iron wrong when they would “quiz” me! It’s Se right?!

The point is I am very aware that I have cognitive limitations as their teacher so I don’t pressure myself to be the expert. If they want to learn about a topic that I’m not familiar with, I find out what resources I can connect my children with or to so they can become the experts.

 

PHYSICAL

The physical aspect of homeschooling has to do with developing our children’s talents, inspiring productive hobbies, giving them lots of play time to explore, build, create, and making sure they get adequate exercise and rest. Our children are enjoying a “relaxed” childhood. They don’t have to rush off to school, spend hours in traffic, or come home exhausted only to do more work.

 

CHECKLIST

We evaluate our children’s progress and growth by asking these questions:

IS MY CHILD…

  • Living a transformed life because of his/her relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • Developing a love for God’s Word?
  • Rooted in God’s Word?
  • Submitting to my authority with an attitude of respect?
  • Growing in Christ-like character?
  • Secure in my love for him/her?
  • Loving others, especially his/her siblings?
  • Thinking of others as more important than his/her self?
  • Mastering essential skills that will enable him/her to reason and defend his/her faith, and effectively communicate the gospel truth?
  • Developing his/her talents?
  • Playing and enjoying his/her childhood?
  • Pursuing productive interests and hobbies?
  • Getting enough exercise and rest?

Edric and I keep these questions in mind as we homeschool our kids so we know if we are pointing them in the right direction. When we sense that they are off-course, we re-evaluate and re-calibrate so we can correct where they are headed. We also look at our own lives and examine if we are exemplifying the values and principles we want them to internalize.

Like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. It can be challenging and tiring to keep training and teaching our children. It can be discouraging when we fail as parents. However, I am constantly amazed at the daily grace God provides to keep us going.

I remember an instance when I was stressed about homeschooling, and my older son, Elijah, commented, “You know John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had 19 children.” In other words…mom, if she could do it then so can you. You’ve got it pretty easy with just five! More importantly, Susanna Wesley was a woman of faith and spiritual excellence. If I want to raise children who will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, I have to love God with all that I am first. That’s the secret to successful homeschooling.

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READ ABOUT SUSANNA WESLEY HERE: http://susanpellowe.com/susanna-wesley.htm

 

 

Halloween Hullabaloo

“Mom…don’t fight. You tell us not to fight, right? You and daddy shouldn’t fight.” Titus Mendoza.

We weren’t really fighting, but we were engaged in a debate over Halloween. Should the kids go around and get candy or should we ignore this festivity all together?

For the first time, Edric was open to the idea of our children participating in our village’s Halloween activities. Every house that is decorated signifies that they give out candy. We didn’t decorate because our family has never celebrated Halloween. So I assumed that Edric and I were on the same page. However, he had a recent encounter with someone who said, “So you don’t do Halloween because you are Christians, right?” It got him thinking about the real reasons why our family doesn’t get dressed up and traipse from door to door like most families do on this day.

Over breakfast, Edric invited the children to join our discussion and share their thoughts. The intention was good but the process was a little bit tense. Sure, we were having a “discussion,” but I must admit that it was fueled by irritation on my part. What had tripped the wires in my husband’s brain so that we suddenly didn’t see eye to eye?

He asked the kids, “Do you want to go around and get candy from the neighbors?” I didn’t think the question was worded accurately. So I interjected with my own version. “Kids, do you want to go begging for candy in silly outfits on a day that was born out of demonic origins?” (Kids representing 6 and below didn’t understand what I was talking about.)

“Okay, if that’s your perspective then why celebrate Christmas either?” Edric’s counter-statement was “it’s also pagan in origin.”

I didn’t have a credible defense. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I didn’t want to give that up. Plus, in my mind, celebrating Christ’s birth (even if it isn’t the exact date) seemed vastly different than joining in on a day that patronizes ghouls, ghosts, gore, and ghastly things. It wasn’t a sound argument by any measure, but I was getting increasingly annoyed so I added that into the discussion.

This began to look and sound like a fight to our kids. Titus even added, “You should be kind to your husband.” Edric got all excited when Titus said this and thought he had an ally. Then he discovered that “wife” was what Titus meant by “husband.”

“Who is the husband?” Edric asked. Titus chimed in, “Mommy!” The other kids cracked up and suggested that be kind to your wife was what he wanted to say.

I need to add that Titus had the sweetest way of correcting us. When he made the first comment about “not fighting,” there was a melody to his tone of voice and a big smile on his face. It was the same with his appeal for us to be kind to one another. Who could resist him? It certainly made Edric and I more conscious of our passionate dialoguing. So Edric said, “Mommy and I will continue this later,” assuring the children that we would resolve it in private.

While it isn’t morally wrong to collect candy on Halloween, we finally decided that it wasn’t of eternal benefit to our children or to us to perpetuate the celebration of a day that represented what is dark, evil, and ugly. Just look at the décor. Is it uplifting and edifying?

The other day I was at the toy store and they were selling decapitated heads, bloody arms and bodies, and hideous looking masks and faces. My daughter’s reaction, which was to run away, is exactly what I’m trying to emphasize. There’s something macabre about this day.

If a family wants to get dressed up in more wholesome outfits instead of witches and dead people…if they want to decorate their homes’ facades with cute pumpkins, that’s their call. Edric’s mom dressed him up like a carrot when he was little. I would have loved to see that! My friends came up with a good alternative. They planned a candy night at one of their houses so a bunch of families can still do the costumes and get their candy. We would have joined them except that we had other plans.

Fortunately, my kids don’t care too much about costumes or candy. They don’t feel like they are missing out on some glorious part of their childhood by not participating in Halloween. Since they don’t go to school, they aren’t aware of how big a deal it is either.

Here’s what they did today…

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I don’t want to go around making a doctrinal issue out of Halloween and judging families who allow their children to dress up, play make-believe, and fill their pumpkins with candy. I know a lot of people who enjoy the costume aspect of Halloween and they don’t cast spells or drink blood. Some are friends, others are family. Like my dad used to say, “There are things worth debating and there are things worth dying for.” I won’t die for the Halloween issue. I will die for the gospel.

However, I do think that we should all evaluate why we participate in certain festivities. It wasn’t until we started having kids that Edric and I began to rethink why we do what we do. What sort of values and precedents are we inculcating in our children? Just because an occasion is cultural and fun doesn’t mean our family has to give hearty approval to it. We can choose to celebrate the activities that are meaningful and profitable to us.

At the same time, we don’t want to raise little legalists. We don’t want our children to have this “holier than thou” image of themselves that turns people off to Christ. So we processed the conclusion with them. The kids were like, “Great! We didn’t want to get candy anyway!” (I also apologized for my tone of voice and irritation towards Edric.  Titus ran up to me and gave me a big hug.) Edric explained that this was a family decision and not a doctrine stated in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t dress up in costumes and collect candy from nice neighbors on Halloween.”

However, for those who won’t be popping in those vampire fangs for their costume tonight, here’s something you might like to chew on…

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭8-17‬ NLT)

Here is a well-written piece from John MacArthur’s ministry that is worth reading. I like the idea of using this popular holiday to give out gospel tracks!: Christians and Halloween

Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.

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I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.

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If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!

Beware Of the Bladderwort Woman

Deceitfully beautiful yellow flowers, that’s a Bladderwort.

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(Photo source: www.fs.fed.us)

My sons and I have been reading about carnivorous plants. Edan and Titus love this part of their Botany. Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, Pitcher Plants and Bladderworts. We spent an extended time discussing Bladderworts because I made an analogy between carnivorous plants of this nature and women they should avoid in future. (When you are the teacher, you can insert all kinds of discussions that you deem important.)

These yellow flowers grow above water but devour creatures by sucking them into bladder-like cases in their roots. Like other carnivorous plants, Bladderworts don’t kill creatures to eat them. They take their nitrogen (which plants normally get from the soil). When animals get up close they are vacuumed in and digested. Most carnivorous plants also leave the exoskeleton of an animal behind.

Hmm…as I was reading this, I had a moment’s epiphany and thought about connecting this topic to a short lesson on the opposite sex. I explained to my sons that they need to avoid Bladderwort women.

This lead to an even livelier discussion which had my boys laughing aloud. But I was serious. I reminded them that in the future they need to look for women with genuine substance, who are beautiful inside and out — who love God above all. I warned them that there are women out there who will look very attractive but, like Bladderworts, these women will lead to their demise and ruin. In fact, this breed of woman can turn them into a skeletal version of the men God intends for them to be (in the spiritual sense).

“Beware the Bladderworts, boys! Someday, when you meet someone you think is pretty, I am going to ask you, ‘Is she a bladderwort?’ just to check.”

We had another round of guffaws! They liked that one. Bladderwort is such a cool name for a bad woman. It sounds so much like a wart.

My sons are young but I want them to have an internalized checklist of what to look for and avoid in a woman, way before their curiosity in girls is piqued. They are already aware of the affections that naturally develop between a man and a woman. This dynamic is evident everywhere, even in cartoons (sometimes unfortunately so.) They also observe Edric and I as we relate to one another as husband and wife. But romance hasn’t been awakened in them yet. Whew. They are too preoccupied with being boys which is wonderful because it is the best time to pass on principles on courtship (in manageable doses of course!).

Preventive is better than prescriptive. I don’t want to talk about these things when they have already given their hearts away.

So here we go…

“Carnivorous” women use men in the same way actual carnivorous plants do. They tend to be takers who knowingly or even unknowingly look to a man to fill a lack in themselves. If a woman NEEDS a man to live, to feel complete, to project a certain image of herself, or to feel happy, she becomes a life sucker. This is the opposite of what God designed women to be — lifegivers. (A term used by author John Eldredge for the Hebrew word “helpmate” in Genesis.)

In contrast to carnivorous plants, GOOD FLOWERS are life-giving to bees, butterflies, and other critters that are drawn to their nectar. But carnivorous plants ensnare hapless creatures with their sweet smell so they can trap them. They use their “attractiveness” for selfish reasons.

This sounds similar to women who put much emphasis on external appearances to feed their sense of security or worth. I can be guilty of this. Sometimes my motivations for dressing up are totally self-centered. I want to hear compliments about the way I look to butter up my ego. So I praise God for a year of feeling unattractive with braces, hormonal skin breakouts, and my post-pregnancy body!

Proverbs 31 says, “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.”

It’s not wrong to be fashionable and make the effort to stay fit and healthy. However, it goes back to motivation and purpose. Are we trying to attract people to ourselves or to Christ? How much time, effort and money do we spend on our looks?

Interestingly, carnivorous plants also grow in swampy areas and places without much soil. My encouragement to the men…do your research! Check the “surroundings” — who does this woman hang out with? Who are the ladies that belong to her inner circle of friends and confidants? Are they the type that nourish her spiritually and emotionally like good soil to a plant? What’s her background? Does it smell “swampy” or do others speak highly of her virtues?

20140927-194627-71187112.jpgMoms, as we educate our sons on character traits to look for and avoid in a woman, let’s model the right ones for them, too. We are very often the benchmark for our sons’ concept of a woman. But sometimes we can be Bladderworts to our husbands and children and suck the life right out of them! So the secret is to root our identity in Jesus Christ; be nourished by his love; and reflect the glory of his light.

I like how Edan put it, “Women should be Sunflowers.” You got it, kiddo! A-sunflower-kind-of-woman has her face turned toward the Son (Christ) and she radiates Him. That’s real beauty. (‭Psalms‬ ‭34‬:‭5‬ NASB) May our sons have the wisdom to discern this!

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET!

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car?

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.

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We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭24‬ NASB)

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. <em>What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car? </em>

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.
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We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭24‬ NASB)

Caught On Camera

This past week, homeschooling solutions asked me to take video answers to questions posited by other homeschoolers or would-be homeschoolers. Since my week was pretty hectic, I had to find time to get the videos done at home and then send them so they could be uploaded for the launch of their site.

I asked Elijah to help me out because he is my go-to person for tech-related concerns at home. He set up the camera and positioned it for the light using a chair and books. And then he told me what hand signals he was going to use to let me know when to start talking and stop talking.

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It took a couple of takes to figure out what worked and how to eliminate unnecessary noise. But since it was done by amateurs like us, the videos came out very “home-made” in their feel.

At first we were laughing and having fun as we did this project together. But after a while I began to feel really tired. We had to tape 10 answers. And more often than not, each time we did one, we had to retake. So I began to feel agitated and impatient. When Elijah would make a mistake, like knock the camera or accidentally delete a previous take, I would complain.

But when I viewed a couple of the takes where I switched from interview mode to correcting Elijah, I watched my facial expressions and tone, and I was like, “yikes!” Is that what I sound like and look like when I am irritated?! My poor kids!”

I am glad I got to see myself in action because I didn’t realize how my smallest gestures of negativity get magnified when they are captured on camera. Afterwards, I was more mindful about being patient as we finished the remaining taping sessions.

Lately I have wondered why my kids use a harsh tone with one another when they are upset. They don’t shout but I can hear the annoyance in their voices and it has surprised me. Well, now I know why. My kids speak to one another using the same mannerisms they see in me!

I remember a story of a mom who was upset that her daughter yelled at her. When she was asked if she also screamed at her daughter, the mom replied, “Yes, but that’s different. I am the mom.” (Hmm…it’s not different.)

If we want our children to respect us and respect others, they need to see us demonstrating the same thing, especially to them. We all have habits or reactions that seem harmless until they are caught on film. How much more thoughtful we would be about what we say and do if we knew people could watch the highlight reel of our ugly parenting moments on national television!

Here’s a noteworthy consideration: The Bible tells us that people will “give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

It also tells us we must correct one another with a “spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1

On a side note, Elijah didn’t even use his glasses while he was helping me because they were broken. (I was the one who accidentally hit them in the car a few days ago.) So he was straining his eyes to look at the camera screen just to help me. What a sweetheart! I took a photo of him today with his glasses. He wore them to an event this morning because they were his only option but they sat crookedly on his nose since one side of the glasses popped off when they broke. And he had to tilt his head to one side to keep them from falling off! He didn’t even complain. He was his usual jolly self. Sigh. It’s images like this that inspire me to be more loving, more patient, more spirit-filled. Children are so tender… (And we will be getting new glasses tomorrow!)

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