Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mason's Short Story: The Dangerous Dragon

Just last week I was given the opportunity to talk to three mamas who have children who are currently struggling in school, particularly in reading.  When I look back on our own journey with dyslexia, those days of struggles and tears and anger seem like such a distant memory and yet only yesterday.  I really try not to think about those days too often because the hurt and confusion and exasperation and disappointment still feels just as intense today as it did three and four years ago.  But I have nothing but absolute joy and amazement and gratitude for where we are now.  

Having been exactly where those three mamas are, my heart hurts for them because I KNOW.  I know how hard it is, how frustrating it is.  I know what it feels like when there aren't any answers.  I know what it feels like when your child is giving it all he's got and yet the test grade doesn't reflect all of the effort and agony that went into it.  I know what it feels like when the biggest part of your child's life seems to them like failure.

And having been exactly where those three mamas are, I also know that there is a way.  There is an answer.  That struggling reader will one day no longer struggle to read.  That child can and will be successful in school.  It might not seem like it today, Mama, but the day is coming.  You just hang on as tight as you can, and you make sure you love and encourage your child every step of the way.  Don't give up.  Your child CAN do this thing!

That's not to say that everything over here is perfect.  Because it's not.  Mason is killing it in 5th grade this year, but he works darn hard to do so!  There are still some things that are not easy for him (and probably never will be), but he doesn't let that get him down.  He doesn't let that stop him.  I still can't get over what he's reading this year.  Most of his Bible and history tests are essay driven, and I tell you some days I just hold my breath.  Essays, getting those thoughts down on paper in an organized, succinct way (with correct spelling!) literally wears Mason out.  Mentally, physically, totally drains him.  But he's doing it.  And he's doing it well.

On Tuesday he had to write a short story with twelve of his vocabulary words.  His vocabulary words are a combination of words from Bible, history and science so it's a rather eclectic list.  We saved that assignment for last because I was DREADING it.  When I write a story, I like to diagram it first.  I like to draw my big ole circle in the middle of my paper with my main idea.  And then I like to draw my three or four lines out to the side with smaller circles containing my detail points.  A couple of summers ago, I taught this technique to Mason and had him write a couple of stories.  I was really just trying to help him organize his thoughts before putting them into story form.  But this just isn't his thing.  Organizing.  He'd rather just start writing.

I thought long and hard about how to approach his assignment on Tuesday.  Instead of making him diagram on paper, I asked him a couple of questions.  What do you want to write about?  And, of course, his answer made me cringe.  Well, if you write about that, what will your detail points be?  And then he changed the direction of his original idea.  Just like that.  So I told him to just go ahead and write his rough draft, and we'd go from there.  In typical Mason-fashion, he said, "But if it's just a couple of things, I can fix those real quick, and I won't have to write it again."  In other words, he wasn't planning on beginning with a rough draft.  His rough and first draft was going to also be the final draft.  Sigh.

So I walked away and told him to let me know when he was finished.  It didn't take long.  Fifteen minutes, maybe.  He was so proud.  He couldn't wait to read his story to me.  And once I heard it, I couldn't wait to share it with you.  So, here it is.

The Dangerous Dragon
Jerusalem had a king called Lazarus.  He was a strong believer in Christ.  His knights were loyal to the people in Jerusalem.  The king was walking one day and saw a dragon with a really big talon.  So he ran to his knights and told them about the dragon.  So they went to find the dragon.  They had to be very cautious.  The trees were burning.  Smoke was in the atmosphere.  The knights needed oxygen, but they were okay.  The villeins' crops were dying.  The trees were decomposing.  The knights found the dragon.  It was an epic fight.  Even Bethany could see the smoke.  The dragon was visible from the smoke.  A light illuminated the sky.  It was God!  He killed the dragon, and He made everything back to how it was.

And, just in case you're wondering, Mason's Bible lesson was about Lazarus, he's been studying the feudal system of the Middle Ages and atmosphere, oxygen and decomposing are all obviously science words.  Put all of that together with a dangerous dragon, and you have yourselves a story, ladies and gentlemen!

But, more than anything, do you know what immediately struck me about Mason's story?  It bears so many parallels to Revelation!  I mean, I've been studying Revelation since September, but I haven't really talked with the children about it because we've been doing a different Bible study.  

The dragon - Satan - wants nothing more than to destroy peoples' lives.  We see the effects of sin all around us.  Everyday.  And there will most definitely be an epic battle one day!  The Lord Jesus Christ is going to kick that dragon - Satan - into the lake of eternal burning fire, and He is going to make a new heaven and a new earth in which His bride will dwell with Him forever.  That's Revelation chapters 19, 20, 21 and 22.  Seriously, I'm still in amazement.  I haven't gone there yet, but I can't wait to share with Mason those last four chapters in God's Word and see if he picks up on the similarities, too.

It might seem so small to most, but this little story right here is a BIG deal to us.  I'm still convinced that my little guy is destined for greatness.  

Y'all know what?  He even reads the dictionary now.  For fun.
I'm totally kidding.  He was, in fact, reading the dictionary the other night.  But that's another story for another day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What's Up? A little construction project and a whole lot of painting . . .

I just have to say . . . I'm really glad February is almost over!  No reason in particular.  I'm just thinking it's time to move on.  It's been a busy month.  It's been a good month.  There's nothing that stands out as extraordinary except just a whole lot of ordinary days learning and mommying and homeschooling and studying and watching these children of mine grow up before my very eyes.  Because I hope I never forget how extraordinary that truly is!

So here we go. 

Tonight we had salads and loaded baked potatoes.  And they were so pretty . . . all the colors of the rainbow on my plate and in my bowl!  I should've taken a picture.  But I didn't.  Last night we had chicken spaghetti, and Monday night we had red beans and rice because I needed a crockpot meal, and that was next in the rotation.  Last weekend we had cedar plank grilled redfish.  I should've taken a picture of that, too!  But I didn't.  Tomorrow night it will be BBQ sliders.

I've thought a lot this month about my family.  The family I was born into.  And my friends.  My Georgia friends.  Facebook is hard.  Remember back at the beginning of the month when they declared it to be "friend day," and you could click a button and see a slideshow of your "moments with friends."  I didn't click on the button.  Yeah, I had to step away from that for awhile.  I see pictures in my newsfeed and think, "I should've been there."  Or I read snippets of days and get-togethers and parties and such and think, "I should've been there."  I can't believe I've been gone nearly 16 years.  It seems like only yesterday yet so long ago.  I always wonder what it would be like if I lived there.  Where would I live?  Would I work, or would I be a stay-at-home mom?  Would I homeschool the children?  Who would my kids' friends be?  How would we spend our weekends?  Where would we go to church?  What would I do on girls' night, and who would my girls be?  I mean, I could have a mommy daughter day with my mom!  I really can't even imagine what it would be like to live there.  Not that that's a good thing or a bad thing.  I've just thought about it a lot lately.

It feels like February today!  I wore a scarf today.  Seriously.  Hannah Kate has been graphing the temperature each day this month, and, with the exception of maybe four or five days, it's been in the 70s everyday!  Don't get me wrong.  The 70s are lovely.  In April or May!  But this is February.  I was really looking forward to this "winter" because I thought it was going to be a rainy, cold one.  But it hasn't been.  My FIL even commented last weekend that he hasn't even been through half of his firewood this year and that it's the warmest winter he remembers in a long time.  But today was chilly and windy, and I loved it!

I'm also loving my BSF study in the book of Revelation and homemade blue cheese dressing and presidential election debates.  

I always love election years, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the election.  I'm just fascinated by the people, by the entire process.  I so vividly remember the presidential election when I was in 5th grade.  I was in Mrs. Williams' class, and we had a mock election in class.  We researched the candidates and the issues and elected two people in our class to be the candidates so we could have our own in-class debate.  I recorded the "debate" with the school's big ole VCR camcorder.  I know.  I'm such a nerd.  I've tried to read as much as I can about this year's election and the candidates and their families and their backgrounds, but I don't watch TV because I don't have time.  Seth has lately been DVRing the debates for me so I can go back and watch them.  I just can't get enough of it!  I know.  Nerd status.

Our big project this month was a little renovation.  Two weeks ago (Mardi Gras break) I switched Mason's and Hannah Kate's rooms, which meant I had to paint.  That took a couple of days, and I also spent a day painting all of the downstairs window and door casings.  I really don't want to paint ever again for the rest of my life.  But it looks like I'll be painting again in a couple of days.

Last Monday my FIL began working on Ellie's new room.  The walls went up last Monday and Tuesday.  Last Wednesday he and Seth hung sheetrock.  
And then my FIL spent a couple of days floating and taping.  Today he and a friend from church sprayed the wall so it should be ready to paint Friday afternoon.  As soon as that's done, my FIL will come back and hang the door and finish the crown and baseboards.  He has worked really hard, and we so appreciate it!  I'll be so excited once it's finished.  I don't particularly care for living in the midst of a construction project, but it hasn't been that bad.  Ellie is really excited, too.

We did take a break for a little fun.  We went to the zoo with some friends.  

In this picture, you can see only Ellie's little pig tail peeking out behind Hannah Kate.  She was in the midst of a meltdown right about this time and refused to show her face for the picture.  Kelly had scooted over behind the pole so you can't see her either.

But Ellie recovered quickly and was more than willing to pose for a picture with Baby Kelly.  She loves her some Baby Kelly.  It's not Kelly.  It's Baby Kelly.  She's even named all of her baby dolls Baby Kelly.  She walked beside Baby Kelly's stroller the whole time holding on to the side of it.

We also went on a field trip with our homeschool group to our favorite museum, the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge.  It highlights Louisiana history and culture.  This is our third time to this particular museum, and I learn something new each time!  It was especially meaningful for Hannah Kate because we just a couple of weeks ago studied the Louisiana Purchase and the statehood of Louisiana in history.

We have dance pictures this weekend.  It just gets kind of crazy sometimes, and I don't particularly care for dance mom crazy.  So while I'm dreading the process, I can't wait to get the girls dressed up in their costumes and have their pictures made.  We're planning to have pictures taken with Abbie, too, this year.  So that will be special.  But.  There's a lot about it I'm not looking forward to.  I mean, now I'm responsible for not only one bun but two buns.  So we've been practicing.

And painting.  I'm dreading that, too.  But I just have to keep reminding myself that I'm almost finished.  I'm also anxious to see how this "hot, hot pink" is going to look.  Ellie is just dying to have her room painted.  Something tells me it's going to be as sassy as she is.  Here she is with her "hot, hot pink" paint sample (or dragon fruit, as Sherwin Williams calls it!).

Baseball season is just around the corner.  Mason is registered, and he was drafted to the Bandits team this year.  He's so excited about it.  But, if I'm being real, I'm kind of dreading it a little bit.  I'm just not a very good boy mom.

So guess what I did?  I actually sewed two of the faux Roman shades for the windows in the breakfast area!  I found the receipt from the purchase of the fabric.  It was dated February 2015.  So, one year later, we have two completed.  I still have two more to do, and I was hoping to have them finished by the end of the month, but did I mention how much painting I've been doing?!

Mason and Hannah Kate are also now both officially registered to attend Sequitur next year!  Sequitur is the classical Christian school that Mason attends on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  We then do all of his school work and projects at home.  This year they started at 5th grade.  But next year they are adding 3rd and 4th grade classes.  I have really enjoyed what I've done with Hannah Kate this year, but I think she's just going to love Sequitur, and I can't wait for her to have that opportunity and experience.  So it feels really good to have our 2016-17 school year planned out!

I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned this.  But I'm excited that February is almost over.  I'm excited about Ellie's new room.  I'm excited (and dreading) dance pictures this weekend.  And while I'm dreading baseball season, I'm excited because it's something Mason really loves and is looking forward to.  So I love that he's about to do something that he's really excited about.  As much as I really wanted a winter and don't look forward to the summer heat and humidity, I'm really trying to get excited about spring.

I was really hoping to spend more time this month reading.  But I've spend so much time (say it with me) PAINTING that I really haven't had time.  I'm currently reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, and I'm loving it!  I'm almost halfway through it, and I'm pretty anxious to find out what's going to happen so I think it's going to move quickly now.  That's the only book I've read this month, except of course the school reading that Mason and I do.  This month it's been Greek Gods.  I've honestly NEVER enjoyed Greek mythology, and it's been a very long time.  But I've actually enjoyed this book, and Mason has liked it, too.

I've got nothing for this one.  Except the laughter and silliness and loudness and occasional arguing of my three children.  I'm tell you, it's non-stop all day every day!

From now on, we're just skipping this one.

Dance pictures.  And painting.  I mean, we're living on the edge over here!

This is easy.  My birthday.  The end.

I think we've covered it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Weekend Review

I wanted to write this post on Monday, but I've been a little busy the past few days.  It's Mardi Gras break for us, but this has been going down at our house:

If you know me well, you know I LOATHE painting!  It all started six years ago when we built our house and decided we would paint the whole entire thing ourselves instead of paying someone else to do it.  We saved $13,000 at the time.  It was, and still is, worth it.  But I hated every. second. of. it.  And all I did were the bedrooms and some of the trim!  Seth and his dad did the rest of it.  I told everyone that they better LOVE their paint color because that was it.  I wasn't going to do it again.  Ever.  And we all know how that turns out around here.  

So for the THIRD time in only six years, I painted Mason's and Hannah Kate's bedrooms.  They switched rooms two years ago because the room Mason was in was better suited to accommodate two beds.  And the girls were sharing a room.  I had to paint because Mason, of course, didn't want a pink room, and Hannah Kate didn't want an alligator green room.  Neither one of them were thrilled with their new rooms, and they'd ask every once in a while if it was possible they'd get their old rooms back.  So, between that and the fact that it's just going to be a whole lot better for everyone if Ellie has her own room, the big kids have their rooms back.  Was it necessary?  Nope.  But I was honestly glad to do it for them.  

I spent Monday and part of yesterday painting their rooms and moving the furniture.  We have the electrical and lighting issues taken care of now, and the crown and baseboards are cut and ready for the new wall that will make Ellie's room.  That wall will begin to go up next week and then I'll be painting again.  If you ask Ellie what color her room is going to be, she'll tell you "hot hot pink."  And that's probably an understatement!  I'm a little nervous about this one, but I'm excited, too.  And she can't wait.

In the meantime, I don't know what got into me.  But I spent the latter part of yesterday and most of today painting all of the trim downstairs.  All of the window and door casings looked horrible because the wood grain had begun to show through the paint.  The kick plates on the stairs were scuffed up pretty badly, too.  I really just couldn't stand it anymore.  It was a project that needed to be done for quite some time, but it was just so overwhelming to me that I couldn't do it.  Until now.  I have a little bit left to do, but I'm actually quite proud of myself.  I also don't plan to paint ever. again.  But, again, we all know how that'll go . . .

So.  Last weekend.

Friday night we went to LSU's gymnastics meet.  We've watched them on TV a bit, and they've done really well the last couple of years.  I've always wanted to go, and I thought the kids would enjoy it.  I should've known better.  It wasn't necessarily that they didn't like it.  Mason complained of being bored the whole time.    

Hannah Kate does not like to tell me when she doesn't like or enjoy something.  But I could tell.  She didn't complain at all.  But she later agreed with Mason.

And Ellie, well, she just wanted to "go home" the whole time!  At least she was cute in her piggie tails!

But I enjoyed it, and I want to go back!  Not only did the LSU girls win, but they set a season high scoring record.  They're also currently in 1st place in the SEC.  Mary Lou Retton's daughter is on the team also so that's pretty neat.

We spent Saturday getting everything ready for the big room swap.  I also cleaned out one of the upstairs closets so Ellie can have her own closet.  During the process of doing that, I got so overwhelmed.  I mean, I thought I did a great job of keeping things cleaned out and organized.  My children know that certain things best stay at MawMaw's house less they end up getting donated.  We "donate" several times throughout the year.  But, obviously, it's still not enough.  A lot of it wasn't something I wanted to take to a thrift store either.  So I decided to do something I've never done before.  A yard sale.  Just the thought of it makes me want to curl up in the fetal position.  But it's necessary.  So I called my friend who does do yard sales and does a great job, and she agreed to help me.  I think the best part is I don't even have to have it at my house!  Another friend volunteered to have it at her house.  I just wanted to put $25 in my pocket and get rid of my stuff!  If you need a glass top table with four chairs or safety rails for a bed or a TV or a bike or some picture frames, I'm your girl!

I had a little fun Saturday night in my kitchen.  I made shrimp corndogs for the kids (big hit, by the way!) and shrimp scampi.  I did something I've never done before.  I served the scampi over zoodles (zucchini noodles)!  And it was really good!  I'm not even kidding!  

And we had even more fun in the kitchen on Sunday night.  There was a big game on in case you didn't hear.  And Super Bowl Sunday calls for Super Bowl food.  We did have church on Sunday night, but afterwards we came home to our own little Super Bowl party.  I made olive salad the day before, and we had our own little version of muffalettas.  I couldn't find the kind of bread I wanted so we had to settle for ciabatta bread.  But they were delish.  We had a little pasta salad, and the kids had wings and left over shrimp corndogs.  Seth fixed my plate.  So that's why you see that wing back there.  

And that was our weekend.  I was pretty overwhelmed when I went to bed on Sunday night.  The playroom was mass chaos, and the entire upstairs was pretty much turned upside down.  But now I have two children who are super excited to have their new old rooms back, one child who can't wait for her walls to go up and the prettiest white window and door casings this house has ever seen in its six years.  And I'm a happy girl.  It's the small things in life.  You know, like fresh paint, shrimp scampi over zoodles, shrimp corndogs and muffalettas!