September 30, 2005

Tobin Michael

Whew! I could write a whole book just on Tobin! Let's see...where to start...well, he is just about 3 1/2 years old exactly and looks like a mini-Ted. He definitely has his father's sense of humor and makes silly jokes and statements all the time. Of course, I forget what they are when I am talking with other people! I really need to keep a notepad on the kitchen counter to record some of the funny happenings and sayings from all our children. Anyway, Tobin makes me laugh, and that's a good thing...because just as often he makes me want to scream!

I do try to focus on his good qualities, his strengths and gifts, so I don't get bogged down in the daily muck of dealing with his tantrums, whining, hitting, stealing, lying...oops, here I go again! Time to change direction!

God has blessed Tobin with a how-does-it-work mind--again, just like his father. He loves to take things apart and (sometimes) put them back together (and other times leave them strewn about the floor for me to step on). He finds heroes in everyday situations and is currently obsessed with George, the dishwasher repair man who has visited our house twice and needs to come back at least one more time, to Tobin's delight. Yesterday Tobin strutted around most of the day with his play tools stuffed into his pockets and waistband. He informed me that he was George, and he was here to fix my dishwasher (and later my desk, the sink, the table, the wall, and just about any other surface he felt he could bang on or poke). "George" ate lunch with us, painted a couple of pictures, and then proceeded to pull as much as he could out of the hole the plumber made in the outside wall. I can't leave this boy alone for a minute, it seems!

He does have an active imagination, and he loves to be read to. He takes the facts from the daily Bible stories we read and personalizes or embellishes them to suit his fancy. He has played "Jacob" and "Joseph" (both of whom were dogs). Today we read about Balaam's donkey and the angel, and Tobin decided that if anyone tried to do anything bad to him, his angel would be there with a sword to stop him. At least that idea is biblical!

Tobin has shown much interest in "school time," but I'm still trying to work out exactly what it is he wants and is ready for. He loves playing with the Math-U-See blocks when Charis is doing her math lessons, and he begs to do pages in his Handwriting Without Tears pre-K workbook. I've been excited to see him develop more control with his writing in just the couple of weeks we've been doing pages. The workbook is mostly coloring with big, broad-stroked capital letters throughout. It seems perfect for him, and I have to try to slow him down or else he'd do the whole book in one day! As for math, I think he'll be ready to start something soon--whenever he seems inclined to use a workbook, we'll do something semi-official. He seems to enjoy it, but I don't want to push him by any means. I just want him to have fun learning and exploring, and if he wants to "do math," which he has actually been asking for, then hey, we'll "do math!"

He also listens in on Charis' school stories, currently from the Family Treasury of Little Golden Books, the Real Mother Goose, and the Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book. In fact, he'll sit still for just about any kind of story!

In Maryland we had all but given up on getting him to nap, because it seemed that when he did sleep in the afternoon, he'd be awake until 11 p.m. and up at 6 a.m. With the boys sharing a room in our Las Vegas house, they do tend to keep each other awake later than we might like, but it has definitely gotten more reasonable--more like 9 or 9:30 p.m. rather than 11 or 11:30. Yesterday I tried to see what would happen if I allowed Tobin to play quietly during the afternoon rather than try a nap, since he had napped well on Tuesday and Wednesday both, plus woke up at 8 a.m. Thursday instead of the usual time (6:30 a.m.). Well, I guess I should have known he wouldn't be able to do anything QUIETLY, nor would he be content with one activity/play area for long! So, back to naps we go. Overall he has done fairly well--we put a sleeping bag on our bed, and he curls up with his "Ellie" (the elephant) and blanket that Grandma Keist made. More often than not he does fall asleep, but the days he doesn't, it is a real battle to keep him quiet and still! My stamp room is in the sitting area just off our bedroom, so I usually try to work in there so I can keep an eye on him. I guess I should just be happy that he is napping fairly consistently--I don't know that that ever really happened the whole year we were in Maryland. Sleep issues have abounded with this child, and I'm sure that is much of what contributes to his difficult behavior. He does need a predictable routine, so I have decided that, nap or no, he will at least lie quietly in bed for a rest time. We will not be trying afternoon quiet play time for QUITE awhile!

Tobin is definitely the child who will probably cause me to grow the most spiritually! I pray every day that I will be conformed to Christ, because I cannot be the mother He wants me to be on my own. It is a humbling experience, parenting a strong-willed child, because I see myself in him so often. It makes me realize what a patient and loving Father I have, to put up with my tendency to push for my own agenda instead of His all too often.

Well, nap time approacheth, so it is time to quit here and get ready for naptime stories...

September 28, 2005

Arden Daniel

Before jumping into our home school beginnings, I thought I would take some time to post some fun tidbits about each of the children who will at some point be characters in that narrative. Usually I start with Charis in our updates, but this time I'll begin with our youngest, Arden Daniel, who will be 2 years old on October 18, 2005.

From the beginning Arden was a blissful, happy child. It warmed my heart when he began saying, of his own free will, "Nigh-nigh, lub-boo," (night-night, I love you) when we would tuck him in (around 18 months). His smile of delight and mischievous grin rocked my world. He was so easy going, a true blessing after dealing with our more difficult child, Tobin. I was beginning to think we should have another child...

And then, without warning, changing literally from one day to the next, our sweet little toddler became a Terrible Two, and this at only 20 months! Granted, we were preparing for a major move, and Daddy spent some time away staffing a youth camp In Idaho and then house hunting in Las Vegas, so the family stress may have played a role in the personality change. But we are now fairly well settled into our Nevada home and have been here over a month, with a fairly predictable routine to boot. And the Terrible Two-ness has a death grip on Arden!

The latest battle has been Bib Wearing. For some reason he has decided it is NOT cool to wear a bib. (I can't blame him, I guess, though the tiger bib does have a higher coolness factor than the handmade towel bib). I would gladly yield on this issue if not for the fact that we do wash our clothes instead of replacing them. Still, one can't help but wonder whether it wouldn't be better to scrub jelly and tomato sauce stains rather than struggle with the tantrum that comes when he realizes meal time approaches and he's going to get The Bib put on. At this point it seems to be a matter of principle--obey Mom and Dad and put the bib on, or else forfeit food. This has worked fairly well, since Arden does love to eat. If anyone has any better suggestions, feel free to send them our way.

Other than mealtime struggles, there are the usual toddler screams of "NO!" at any given inappropriate time, the constant pushing of buttons (Mom's included, but I'm mostly referring to anything electronic), and the determination to stand on every piece of furniture in the house. Furthermore, he is also picking up many bad habits (sins) from watching big brother Tobin. All of this makes for a challenging time of training up this child in the way he should go.

But those difficult times, I am pleased to remember, are not the whole of Arden's character. Even though we are daily involved in the struggle for independence, Arden's sweet spirit remains. I love to watch him bow his little head and close his eyes tightly as he grasps our hands in prayer. One of the highlights of my day is singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with him and watching his pudgy hands do the motions as he giggles in delight after singing "all thoo town." (This song was not my choice for nap time and bed time, day after day after day, but it is, at present, the Number One Song on Arden's short list of preferred tunes. Thankfully he doesn't seem to mind if we only do 3-4 verses instead of all 100 zillion. For awhile, when we asked him what song he wanted to sing, he would say, "Uuuhhh, BUS!" as if he had to think about what his first choice was. Now we don't even bother asking.) He loves to snuggle up and read stories, and he so wants to be a helper like Charis and Tobin. (Anyone need some clean silverware put away? Arden is all over that!) He adores hearing Bible stories at lunch time and always begs for more, more!

He loves anything cute and fuzzy, and he has a distinctive way of letting us know he has seen something of that description--he points and cries, "Ahhhhh!" (It's difficult to imagine if you don't have the right inflection...the noise is similar to what an adult would do when cooing over a cute baby, but this is more of a stretched-out grunt of delight.) A couple of weeks ago I heard the familiar I've-spotted-a-cute-critter cry and turned around to see Arden heading for me with a huge (dead) beetle in his hand. Apparently no one told him that bugs are NOT cute and furry. Charis and Tobin have picked up on this sound, so now, as we are driving through town, when we spot a dog, cat, horse, etc., we must listen to a chorus of Uhhhs and Ahhhs. Sometimes it's difficult to tell exactly who has spotted the animal first, because Charis and Tobin do a fabulous Arden impression.

And Arden does his own impressions of big brother and sister as well. He's a regular mimic, sometimes to great comical effect. He adds new words to his vocabulary every day...not that anyone at church ever hears them. Every time we pick him up after a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening service, the workers always ask us, "Does he talk?" He never says a word there! I presume he will begin chattering away if we just give him some more time to get used to the people and environment.

People ask how I can think about home schooling when we have the two younger boys. "What do you do with them?" I am asked. First of all, I have to say that we "only" have 3 children; I know other families who are home schooling and have 4, 5, 6, 7, and even more children. So I don't really view myself as some super-home-schooling mother or anything, especially since we are simply doing kindergarten! It's more fun than work! But to answer the question about the younger ones, every morning after breakfast Arden has room time. Actually, today was the first actual Room Time...previously we have been doing Playpen Time, which has worked very well, but as he is nearly 2 years old, I felt he was more than ready to move from the playpen to the room, especially since his preferred play activities (like puzzles and Lincoln Logs) are beginning to take up more space. When isolated (meaning there is no Tobin around to bonk his head), Arden plays very well and has great focusing and attention skills. I put on a CD, sometimes kid music, other times classical, and he plays quite happily for up to an hour or so. This gives me a lot of freedom to work with Charis. I am giving Tobin opportunities to "do school" if he wants to (workbooks, coloring, etc.) or letting him play outside or with some school toys. Then, too, Arden still naps consistently every afternoon, so if need be, we finish school activities then.

Well, thus endeth the Arden update. Tomorrow...or whenever I write again...the Tobinator!

September 27, 2005

Starting Our Blog!

Well, here we go into the world of blogging! Now that I've figured out how to set up our page and type posts, I guess the next step will be to learn how to insert pictures. [Note on October 9: Figured it out! Woohoo!]

So here we are in Las Vegas! We have been here for just over a month. My last family update (sent via email) detailed the adventures of our move from Maryland. We are now just about unpacked--a few more pictures to hang on the wall, a few piles of clutter to sift through and organize, and a few stacks of boxes in the garage to, well, leave lying around, probably, until we have a full Saturday to go through the camping gear, tools, and random extras that haven't found a home anywhere else.

People ask how we like Las Vegas, and our answer is: We love it here! Coming from the East Coast (our last assignment was at Bolling AFB, DC), we feel that people are generally more friendly out west. A broad statement, to be sure, but having been stationed in Texas, Idaho, and Ohio as well as DC and Vegas, it has been our experience that we have made friends more readily out west. The weather here is wonderful, although admittedly we came in at the tail end of the really hot temperatures. We love not having to suffer through sweltering humidity, and it is so pleasant to step outside in the mornings and evenings and feel a coolness in the air. The mountains, though dusty brown and not at all like the lush Rockies that we know and love, still have a rugged beauty all their own, especially at sunrise and sunset. The streets are clean, the neighborhoods (at least where we are) are nice, the parks are colorful. For the first few weeks, every time we got in our van to go somewhere, we would hear a chorus of "Palm trees! Palm trees!" from the children, who were enchanted by the exotic foliage. (Even Arden expressed his delight--"Pahm tees! Pahm tees!"

It's not paradise, obviously. Dust abounds, winds whip, and adult store signs pop out from behind innocent looking advertisements. The newspaper details sad events related to the city's vices, which are taken for granted as a part of life for most people. It is called Sin City for a reason!

But there's hope! The Christian community is thriving and growing. Out of the desert, living water is shared. And we desire to be a part of that, prayerfully seeking where God would have us to serve and share His love with a lost and dying city. We have joined a great church and are excited to see God at work. We have attended there ever since we moved here and see no reason to visit any other churches. Although we were a little intimidated by the size (about 4400 people attend one of four services each weekend), we quickly realized that every person matters here, and our family has been welcomed with open arms.

Charis is a Sparkie! Hopefully most of you are familiar with the amazing AWANA program. Last year Charis was a Cubbie, but the Cubbies were completely full (Tobin is on a waiting list). Because of her age, the leaders told us to try kindergarten Sparks, and she got the LAST open spot! She is so excited to be a big-kid Sparkie now! She passed her entrance booklet in two weeks and has her vest and "real" book now. She is proud that she knows the pledge of allegiance, though she has finally quit spouting it off at random moments throughout the day. She has already paged through her entire handbook, noting the pages that she just can't wait to do. She amazes me with her memorizing skills, though I guess I shouldn't be too surprised...this is a prime time to be hiding God's Word in her heart, and Grandma Keist notes that I was the same way as a kid. I'm just thankful that we have the opportunity to help build a lasting spiritual legacy in her heart.

If you read our previous family update, you know that Charis asked Jesus to be her Savior on August 26, 2005. Ted and I have been thrilled and awed at the way she has already shown spiritual growth. She has a true sensitivity about her that is Spirit-given. We love to listen to her after we tuck her in bed and leave her room--she thinks she's alone, and she sings little prayers to God that are so precious! One of these days we'll figure out how to record her without her knowing!

This is getting to be long already, and I want to check and see if Tobin is asleep yet. I'm hoping to get a nap this afternoon, but I don't dare go to sleep until I am sure he's in dreamland! I will post more later, particularly focusing on our beginning weeks of home schooling. But this should get us started for now!