Thursday, August 30, 2012

Planning for Peace

I have been trying to sit down and give attention to this blog for several days now... to no avail. I could blame it on having a newborn, but honestly, he hasn't really been the issue. Things have been hectic with all of the normal daily things we need to accomplish, school, fruit harvest and canning/dehydrating/freezing, making decisions on the house we are re-doing, cooking, and whatever else spur-of-the-moment things that tend to frequently pop up unexpectedly.  It seems like we have been off of a "normal" daily routine for weeks now. Maybe this is the new normal... I hope not!

During these super-busy seasons of life, I am more prone to get irritated at inefficiency.  I have noticed that when I have 4 or more of the kids working together on a particular chore, they tend to get distracted easier (especially the 2, 4, and 6 year old). They also have a tendency to not display brotherly affection towards each other (remember our key verse this year: 2 Peter 1:5-8... the 4 oldest kids have this memorized now). So ultimately what happens is that the task which could easily have been done in 15 or so minutes takes an HOUR! With the 7 and 10 year old arrows (children) doing the most work. An example of this would be cleaning up the kitchen after a meal. Actually, it is almost exclusively in this chore where we have had issues.

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy. Proverbs 12:20 (emphasis mine)

During my quiet time several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit really spoke to me through this verse... plan peace! Now this isn't rocket science! In fact, I have been planning peace for years during various activities. When my children are reminded how they are to behave during church, I am planning for peace. When I tell them what is expected of them during grocery shopping, I am planning for peace. When we lovingly, Biblically, discipline them, we are planning for peace. But let's face it, our children are born into sin. We do not have to teach them how to lie, steal, whine, be selfish, etc... they are born that way. We are to train up our children in the way they should go; even when they are old, they are will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Training our children in the way they should go IS planning for peace. Training requires WORK, DILIGENCE, and DISCIPLINE on the part of us as parents. We can not "parent-from-the-couch" and expect the results to be optimal.

So what does it look like to PLAN PEACE? First of all, we need to recognize that "plan" is a verb and requires you to be intentional in order to carry it out. It is an active process, not a passive process. You can not "do nothing" and plan peace. You have to think and plan, and then follow through. Satan will do what he can to prevent you from obeying the Word of God, so the most important step in the process is prayer. I have a list of scriptures and biblical promises written down that I routinely pray through... this scripture is one of them. By doing that, I am enlisting the power of the Holy Spirit to help me plan for peace. He gives me patience, wisdom, energy, and whatever else I may need to glorify God in my parenting each day. Do I regularly fail? Yes... but He does grant me new mercies each morning; and by His grace He lovingly convicts me of my sin, training me each moment so I am better equipped to train my children.

Next, I try to identify areas during the day that aren't peaceful. I will use the example of kitchen cleanup: how can I make that time more peaceful, efficient, and loving? There are several things that can be done here, and what may work for one day, week, month... may not work for the next. Also note that some of the things that work for us may not work for another family.  I have found that reminding my "arrows" of 2 Peter 1:5-8 before beginning the task keeps them focused on acting more loving. (Col. 3:23 (Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord and not for men) and 1 Cor. 14:40 (Let all things be done decently and in order) are other verses that we commonly use. Another thing that we have found is on some tasks, having 2 kids working in an area at a time is more productive than 4 kids. So there have been times where I have a cooking helper (or two) who help with meal prep and clean-up before the meal and the rest of the kids clean up after the meal. If each child has an area they are responsible for, things go smoother too. When we are at "the farm" where there is no dishwasher and the dishes all are done by hand, the kids have a great system worked out with 4 jobs: washer, drier, "hander" who hands dry dishes to the child sitting on the counter, and "put-awayer" who sits on the counter so he/she can reach the cabinets. My kids also tend to be joyful in their work if there is music playing, so turning on the CD player and listening to praise/worship music, Westminster catechism questions set to music, children's hymns, or even Peter and the Wolf will boost everyone's mood (and speed). Making the chore into a game with a time limit can be fun too. I love watching them race the clock and work together to beat the buzzer. (Note: not all of these ideas are implemented at the same time on the same chore...).

Remember that parenting is training... even for the little ones. My just-turned-four year old can fold and put away laundry all by himself. My just-turned-2-year old is also included in these chores. She has been helping with household chores since she could walk. Don't let the little ones off of the hook; they WANT to help. Training them young is planning for peace too. They are able to fold towels/wash clothes, put silverware away, help unload/load the dishwasher, dust, etc... even when they are 1 year old! Yes, it requires more time on your part as the parent, but you are training them up and planning for peace.  Planning for peace does not mean that you sit your kids in front of the TV while you take care of household duties. Sure, it is easier and may be more peaceful for the moment, but did that train your kids in godliness?

Don't forget to praise your kids for a job well done. We tend to point out the negatives and forget to mention the positives. We need to train our kids to have a Godly attitude towards work and each other, and we need to have Godly attitudes as well.

What about planning for peace in your marriage? Do you tell your husband how much you appreciate him when he gets home from work? Do you show him respect that comes from your heart? What are some things you can do to make a peaceful relationship?

This list certainly is not exhaustive. It contains a few ideas of how our household plans for peace. Do you plan for peace? Have you ever thought of planning peace? What works in your home? There are many aspects that this verse can be applied to: parenting, marriage, work place, friendships, church body... I encourage you to prayerfully evaluate areas in your life that need peace!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Birth Story....

Now that Kaser is a week old, I have finally found time to sit down and write about the birth! We praise God and celebrate this new little life He has blessed us with. Each pregnancy is such a blessing that we do not take for granted. In the last 10 years we have had 11 pregnancies. Five of those pregnancies have resulted in our womb ushering a soul directly into heaven (two being back-to-back prior to child #5) and six of those pregnancies the Lord has seen fit to bless us with the opportunity to parent on this side of eternity.  We praise Him both for the good and the bad. We miscarried just prior to getting pregnant with Kaser, and the Lord used that experience to really speak to us about the preciousness of life. The Spirit enabled me to carry out what James tells us to do: Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds.... Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I surrendered to God's will and used the experience to strengthen my faith knowing that I was becoming more like the image of Christ by not parenting that child than I would have by parenting him/her. That being said, God in His sovereignty opened up our womb shortly thereafter and Kaser's life began.

We found out almost immediately (at 13 weeks) that we were having a boy. I had a sonogram at the Pregnancy Center and yes, at that point in gestation it was pretty obvious...  I was blessed by PSC to have 3 sonos in those first weeks, what a wonderful thing to see his little heart beating when he was too small to physically feel moving around. It gave me great comfort!

The rest of the pregnancy was quite normal and uneventful. Finally on child #6 I got a little more assertive about what I wanted the birth experience to be like. I told my OB that I would like to wear my own clothes (not that horrid hospital gown), I didn't want to be hooked up to an IV, I didn't want a bunch of cords monitoring me because I wanted to be more mobile during labor.  He was very accommodating: my clothes would be fine, he was good with a hep lock IV, he wanted continuous monitoring but they had a cordless monitor we would use... then he said: "I know how you are anyway, you will come in dilated to an 8 and have the baby in minutes..."  Oh yea, did I forget to mention that i wanted to deliver my own baby??????  Guess I forgot to ask him about that point...

I typically deliver at around 37-38 weeks, and true to form, at 37 weeks I started to have strong, regular contractions with a little bleeding. Normally, I would have gone in and they would have broke my water and we would have had a July baby.  But my husband was fairly under the weather battling some weird sickness (possibly from a tick bite since it was responsive to doxycycline) and I didn't want him to feel bad during the birth. So my thoughts were to labor at home possibly overnight and head to the hospital in the morning.  I had regular, strong (but not necessarily painful) contractions all night, but when I got up in the morning they went away.

It was another week before the contractions fell into a regular pattern again. On Tuesday, August 7th, my husband went back west (an hour away) to get some things done with water wells and cattle. (I have figured out the secret to starting labor... forget castor oil, just send my husband an hour away and it is sure to put me into true labor. With child number 5, my neighbor had to drive me to the hospital because Byron was an hour away. He did make it back for number five's birth, though.) Anyway, at about 5 pm I began having contractions. They were strong, regular, but not painful. I called Byron and told him that he might think about heading back, although I did not want to cry "wolf". After about 30 minutes they stopped. Then Kaser kicked and my water broke. I called Byron again, he was about 20 minutes away. I was not having contractions, but I was a bit scared to move around for fear of getting them started up. At this point, I was also really praying for strength for labor as well as for the baby to wait just a bit before being born. I do not take pain meds during labor but for whatever reason, I had been feeling really scared of the whole upcoming process of birth. I know I had people praying for me, but I was still not feeling as capable this time around.

Anyway, as I waited for Byron to arrive, I called the hospital and told them we would be coming in, but it would be close to an hour since my husband wasn't home and we were a 30 minute drive from there. My neighbor came over to stay with the kids until my mom came (she was an hour out too). When Byron got home, we grabbed the few last minute things that the kids hadn't already loaded in the car and were on our way.  Once we got going on our little dirt road, the contractions started to kick in and this time, they were painful. Let me tell you, laboring in a car isn't ideal, but it is better than being on your back in a hospital bed tied up with IV's and monitors.  I'm not sure at what point I came to realize that we weren't going to make it to the hospital. I recall looking at the speedometer and seeing that Byron was driving 90mph. I remember Byron calling the hospital informing them that we probably weren't going to make it in time. The lady told him to come as fast as he could, the cops were very accommodating and would likely escort us if it came to that.... I remember Byron reminding me to get a focal point. I looked up and saw an overpass and thought by the time we get there, this contraction will be over. I don't recall reaching the overpass because at that point it became clear to me that this baby was going to come... now. I debated about whether to take my shorts off yet, (how embarrassing that would be if he really WEREN'T coming). By the next contraction, there was no debating going on... he was coming.  I delivered our 7# 20" son at about 6:30pm, no more than 15 minutes after the painful contractions began (and about 45 minutes after my water broke). Everyone has asked if Byron delivered him... no, Byron was driving. He pulled over shortly after he was born. Byron had called 911 somewhere in the midst of all the excitement and the paramedics met us within a few minutes of pulling over.

It all happened so fast and seemed so surreal. After he was born, I remember thinking that I didn't even check if it was a boy or not. So I took a peek: yep, it's a boy!  Is he breathing? Yep, he's breathing. Now what do I do?????? Why weren't we taking pictures at this point????

The paramedics arrived and cut the cord. They assessed both of us and couldn't believe that Byron and I were so calm. (Well, even though it is our first "car" birth, it IS our 6th child and being veterinarians, it isn't like we haven't seen/experienced worse things...) So, yes, we were calm, cool, and collected. They transported Kaser and I in the ambulance to the hospital and Byron followed in the car. It was probably about 7 or shortly thereafter when we got there.
Look at that bruised face? Guess that happens when they come fast.

At least he didn't have a cone head!
At the hospital, they did all of the routine newborn checks. They kept asking me if I wanted pain meds (this line of questioning continued throughout my 24 hour stay at the hospital). OK, I just delivered my own child... without pain meds, mind you. Do you think that I need an ibuprophen?

All in all, the Lord was faithful! Remember how I was feeling anxious about the "labor" part? Well, it all happened so fast, I didn't have time to focus on any weakness I was feeling. This was my favorite labor and delivery and I loved the absence of medical poking and prodding. In 15 minutes the pain came and went and it was over. That's the way to do labor! He was a much easier and less painful delivery than number 5 was even though he was more than a pound bigger.

The whole gang!

Kaser catching some sun while we were hanging up a deer feeder for hunting season.

Look what Great Grammy and Papa Floyd sent us... YUMMY!!!!!
Now that we are all home and settled in, life is returning to the new normal. School has resumed, chores have resumed, and even though we haven't quite settled into the routine I would like yet, each day is a blessing and the Lord grants us new mercies each morning. I have lots of wonderful "helpers" and so many wonderful friends who have provided meals for us. We have truly been blessed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Promised Schedule

I stated earlier in a post that I would share the spreadsheet schedule I made up for this year. I made lots of changes on the template that I was using and this seems like it will work much better for us. I did it on excel, but when I uploaded it to google docs, I converted it to the google docs format. I will enclose the links.  Note that along the bottom of the spreadsheet are different "tabs". The front page is the master schedule, then each child has his/her own pared down version of it. I have other tabs for scheduling field trips, chapter book reading for each kid, and even one to record extra spelling words on.  By that I mean this: it seems like always I am being asked how to spell ________. So if it happens to be a word I feel they should know, I record it on my "spelling" sheet and the word gets added to their list for the next week.  (By the way, we do not use a published spelling curriculum. Instead we use the 1400 most commonly used words in the English language and each kid is working through that list. If anyone is interested in a more indepth explanation of how it works, let me know and I can post about that.....)

Anyway, I will also post a link to a household cleaning schedule. Again, there are tabs at the bottom for different areas of the house and a detailed list of what needs to be done in each area. We focus on one area/week (in addition to the normal cleaning). This is a joint effort between the kids and me.

School Schedule/Planner 2012-2013

Deep Cleaning Checklist

So here is how I am doing the school schedule. I used to type in each week's lesson plans. I have found it easier and more manageable this year to just use the template and write in the weekly plans by hand, that way it is easier to change if something comes up.  I bought a "trapper keeper" type binder (remember those from your school days?) I have used a normal 3 ring binder in previous years, but have found that the "fancy" binder is a lot more useful.

I printed off my master schedule (several copies so I don't have to do it each week) and hole punched it and put it in the binder. I wrote out the lesson plans on it. This is my copy that I keep track of who has completed what.  Then I printed off each of the kids their own copy and placed them in a sheet protector. I use a dry erase marker to write their weekly assignments on it. Then at the end of the week, we wipe off the dry erase sheet and write the next week's assignments.
At the bottom of their sheet I write the weekly cleaning zone as well as the memory verse reference that we are working on. Each kid keeps their own schedule with their school stuff.

My spelling lists, field trip lists, and teacher's manuals are kept in my binder as well so that they are handy and I'm not always trying to track them down.

I also keep the cleaning charts each in a page protector in my fancy binder. The "zone of the week" sheet and its protector gets pulled out each week and posted on our chore chart. We try to spend 15-20 minutes a few times each week in the cleaning zone and as each task gets done, we mark it off. All of the kids help, even the 1 and 3 year old are able to do many tasks. As a bonus, they LOVE to help. It is a good thing to train your children to love God honoring work and to do it with an attitude of joyfulness. Make sure you are presenting that attitude toward your work as well.
So there you have it... the system that is currently working for us! But as with anything, it is subject to change at any moment. Also, the schedule is meant to serve me, I am not a slave to it. It works out on paper and that won't necessarily be the case each day in "real" life! I know this. But it is a handy guide. Feel free to use our methods and adapt them in your household.