The Magic Tree House Series

I have been completely remiss in talking about this series by Mary Pope Osborne–I guess because it’s just so popular I assume everyone knows about it.

My 7 year old was reading Eve of the Emperor Penguin out loud to me when I heard a part that I had to share with you all.

For those who don’t know, The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne follows the adventures of a brother-sister team called Jack and Annie as they travel through time around the world in their Magic Tree House.  They are sent on Missions by Morgan Le Fay and Merlin of King Arthur fame and frequently have adventures in Camelot.  They are officially classified as chapter books but the later ones are much longer.

In this book, Jack and Annie are searching for the fourth secret of happiness, which is summarized in the end.  The third secret that spoke to me was this, “Every day he (speaking about Leonardo da Vinci–a previous book) felt happy when he learned something new.”

This is me.  Definitely me.  I’m like a kid in a candy store when I learn something new and every time I read one of these books I learn something.  The time periods are all historically researched and sometimes with real people such as Leonardo da Vinci.  You learn facts in the midst of history.

I guess this is why I love to read historical fiction too.  I like stories with characters that take me back to a period I would have liked to have seen, lived in, and experienced.

I guess this is why Isaiah speaks to me so much: a real person in a historical time.  And combined with God it creates an insatiable appetite within me to know more.

The website is amazing as well.  You can create an account and go on more “Merlin Adventures”, where you are asked questions and facts from the books.  My daughter loves this.  I’m not a fan of computer games but this site I allow my children to use.  I always help them with it but it’s fun, easy, and emphasizes facts from the books.  Learning doesn’t get any better when these elements are combined.

My daughter can’t get enough of this series and as a parent I cannot recommend these highly enough.  We always get the newest one from the library and we also devour the non-fiction Research Guides that accompany the series.

I wish I had these when I was a little kid (amongst many other things!).  Good thing I still get to be one.  This probably explains why I spend hours each day reading kids books with my kids.

“Yeah, Mommy!”

My three-year old son loves to come running up to me and yell, “Yeah, Mommy!”  I grab him up and he will repeat this several times.

Mommy always says, “Yeah, Baby!” and tells him how much I love to be yeahed because Mommy needs to be yeahed sometimes.

No matter what I’m doing or what mood I am in, after I’m “yeahed” I am in the best of moods, I feel incredibly blessed, and my dreary task seems not so dreary anymore.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be “Yeahed!”?

So for all you Mommies (and Daddies–my son also yeahs his Daddy), here’s a “Yeah” for you!

“Yeah, Mommy!”

“Yeah, Daddy!”

My First “Teachable Moment”

All my parenting life, I’ve been hearing about savoring “teachable moments.”  Things like, “Look for teachable moments and make the best of them.”  I had always wondered if I had just missed these before or I’m just haven’t labeled these as such.

Until Friday when I had my first recognizable one with my 7 year old.

Her friends were talking about a birthday party on Friday night and wanted to know if she was going.  She had been invited but I had decided she wasn’t going for a myriad of reasons.  When I told her so, she broke down into tears and wouldn’t talk.  So since we were all in the car, I talked.

I explained to her my reasoning:  the friend wasn’t one of her good friends–just a girl in class.  She gets to do so much else.  We can’t do it all; we have to pick and choose.  Mommy, sister, and brother spend a good amount of time sitting while she gets to do things and this was not one of those times I wanted to sit. Further, we don’t have a lot of money right now to buy a present and to drive to this event (it was a considerable drive from our house).

Essentially, we can’t do everything.  Time is limited.  We have to pick and choose and since she can’t right now, I do.

I asked if she understood and she said yes.  The rest of the ride home was quiet but when we arrived, she went off playing with her brother and sister and I didn’t hear another word about this party all weekend.

I was quite proud of myself actually.  One, for recognizing it as such in the moment.  Two, for explaining my exact thought process.  Three, for her understanding.

I was hoping she’d forget about the party but I think this turned out to be much more valuable in the end.  I think we all learned something about life, priorities, and resources; about not following a crowd and about spending the limited time here on Earth doing what you want to do (which isn’t everything).

I Have a SEVERE Problem

It’s a problem I battle every week.  I tell my kids over and over again, “We’re just getting a few this time.” But every time we leave, we end up with at least 20 and usually closer to 40.  And this is when I’m not homeschooling.

The problem?  Library books!

I usually have about 10 books I’ve placed on hold.  These are good titles from favorite authors I reserve from other libraries or so I don’t have to go and find them or forget to get them myself.  Then the kids and I head to books on tape and then to the Dinosaur section (my son’s favorite) then to easy readers for my 5 year old and then to chapter books for my oldest.

Now, if we stuck to this method we’d be good.  But we don’t.

You see, as we’re walking along, I am constantly grabbing books off the shelves that I think might be good. These are usually picture books but sometimes thicker books.  My kids and I always have a thick book we are working on that’s above their reading level but a kids’ story.

This adds usually about 10-15 extra books.  So, when we leave we are usually close to 40 and I always have library books at home we haven’t finished yet.

As a result, books are strewn about my house everywhere: in all the bedrooms, the living room, the basement.  My husband who was just home is blown away by it.  One whole chair in our living room is inundated with books.  You can’t sit in it.

But he never says anything.  I think his heart is filled with joy just as much as mine is when we walk into a room and my 3 year old and 5 year old are looking at books or my 5 year old or 7 year old is reading to my 3 year old.

I never used the library when I was a kid.  My mother never took me (she was a single mom).  It wasn’t until I started homeschooling last year that I re-discovered the library and it’s a wonderous place especially for kids.  We have read so many more books than we otherwise would not have because of the library.

In fact, we don’t really buy books anymore unless they are ones I think would be worthwhile for posterity. If you’ve ever moved, books are heavy to move and I have quite a collection of adult books already.  But I buy books now for reference purposes and leave the story books for the library.

This is one problem I don’t mind having; one that will foster a love of learning and reading in my kids for a lifetime.

I Felt Empty This Morning…

Every day when I drop my kids off at school, I feel empty.  I don’t want them there.  I want them at home with me.  This feeling increases with every day and I am using all of my power to fight it since my husband wants them to finish out this school year in school.

I used to feel guilty over this.  Am I being selfish wanting my kids with me all the time?  Is it my insecurities?  Probably, yes.

Yet time is so precious.  It is fleeting.  I mean, where did the month of January go?

Then I read Somewhere More Holy. Tony Woodlief described how they homeschooled because they want their kids near them (they lost their first child when she was 3) and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I’m not alone.  And it’s okay to feel that.  They have insecurities and so do we all.

They homeschool for the reasons I told myself I shouldn’t:  selfishness.

“We think they (his kids) are safer when they are near us, or perhaps because we feel less empty when we are near them.” P.142

My babies (who are not babies anymore despite my 3 year old’s insistence he be called a baby) will be gone in a blink of an eye. Once they turn 18, it’s bye-bye if they want.

I think my kids need me and my husband as much as we need them.  It was meant to be that way.  School distances them from us at an early age that I’m not so sure is healthy for a 5 year old.  We constantly say, “You’re a big girl, now” to our kids when they’re not.  I don’t want my kids thinking they can take on the world or they have to–at least not yet.  I get angry when they are taught to do things for themselves, which is good in one sense, but as we’ve learned in Isaiah, self-reliance can turn into pride and push God from the center.

I don’t know.  I have issues.  I’m trying to work through them.  And pray about them.  As you all can tell, I got a lot on my mind these days.  Family.  Friends.  Kids.  Life.  Priorities.  Purpose.  And how it all relates to God.

Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy–Is It Worth It?

At my Bunko group last night, one mom described how she was struggling with her daughter (8 years old) who had recently point-blanked asked her if she was the tooth-fairy and how one of her friends at school keeps telling her daughter that she is Santa Clause.  Yet, she wants to keep up the farce for the sake of her 6 year old who still believes so she continues to deny the truth and enable the farce.  She went on to describe how once they forgot to give the money for the tooth fairy and her daughter was in tears over it.

She asked me my opinion on the matter and I said, “We don’t do Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because I don’t lie to my kids,” I answered.

It’s true.  My husband and I decided before my first child was born we weren’t going to do Halloween, Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or whatever else was made up in this society because it is lying to our children and I think ultimately leads to disappointment and disillusionment once they find out the truth.  Parents think it’s all innocent fun until their kids do get older and they find out the truth–that you did lie to them and sometimes resulted in them looking like fools in front of their friends–something usually unwanted in delicate, developing, impressionable souls.

I tried to keep my mouth shut (believe it or not) because I am so strongly opinionated on most matters that I end up offending people.

It’s more important for me to teach my children they can believe every word that comes out of my mouth than to have pictures of my 4 and 5 year old with Santa Clause at the mall in my scrap book.  These days kids don’t know what to believe any more and their one sanctity should be their parents–not society or the Santa on the street corner holding up a “Buy one pizza Get one free” sign.

I’m curious as to your thoughts and experiences in this matter. Did you do Santa Clause and/or the Tooth Fairy?  If so, how did your kids find out and what were their reactions?  Or did you not do these and why not?

My Baby Doesn’t Want to Grow Up–And Why Should He?

I’m working on potty-training my 2 year old son (almost 3).  Well, I’m working on it; he uses the potty only when it’s convenient for him.  Otherwise, he has no problem pooping in his underwear.

So, I’ve been telling him, “You’re a big boy now.  Big boys use the potty.”

My 2-year old son gets mad when I tell him he’s a big boy.  “No!” he shouts emphatically.  “Me baby.”

Babies and little kids have a pretty good life.  Their every need is met.  If they want something, all they have to do is utter a noise and adults rush to find out what the child wants.  They get to play all day long, eat when hungry, and return to playing.  Pretty simple–and at times–envious life.

We parents are so anxious for our kids to grow up because as they age, they become more and more self-sufficient until they reach adulthood.  But with this attitude, we miss out on the baby stage.  We look back on old photos and think, “Ah, I wish they were still that little.”

We think it will be easier when they are older but it’s not–it’s just different problems.

Society pushes kids to grow up fast too.  There has been many a time I meet a girl whom I’d guess to be around 16 and find out later she’s 12.  The reason for my confusion?  She had on more make-up than I did with a low-cut shirt and revealing shorts.

So society is no help these days.

When my son said he was a baby, I tended to agree with him.  I don’t want him to grow up really.  I want him to always enjoy his carefree life of play and fun.  Adult responsibilities are, well, for adults.  This is why I lose it when my kids’ school puts so much onto them.

So he can be a baby as long as he can manage it (but he still has to use the potty!  After 7 years of diaper duty, I’m done!).  He can cuddle with him mama and act as silly as he wants.  He can run around, a line of destruction in his wake, and all he has to do is smile at me and I melt.

He can be his cute, adorable, effervescent self and I won’t mind.  In fact, I love it.

Soon enough he’ll be big.  But why push it?  Baby hood will be gone in a blink of an eye and he has his whole life to be a “big boy”.  This is his time to be loved unconditionally with the worst thing in the world that can happen to him is a time out.

Ah, wouldn’t that be nice?