Monday, January 30, 2012

Goldfish Promises

We are now the proud owners of three goldfish.  Technically, Marshall is the proud owner of two goldfish.  Eliza is the proud owner of one betta fish. But, I said we are the proud owners because something tells me Eric and I will be doing the really fun chore of cleaning the fish tank. That deserves part ownership for Mom and Dad too.

Marshall and his two new, yet to be named, goldfish.

Eliza and her new fish, Violet.

Violet is already named because it was easy.  Eliza got exactly what she wanted ... a purple betta fish.  We've been reading The Boxcar Children.  Eliza's favorite character in the books is a little girl named Violet.  Convenient since Eliza got a purple fish. Unfortunately, all of the pretty beta fish are male. But, Eliza insists that her fish is a girl. Thus, we have Violet the boy purple betta fish. 

Detour here but I will get back to the fish . . . I've been convicted in recent weeks about keeping my word, in particular to my children.  It all started with a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) Home Training Lesson.  Home Training Lessons are a handout, available each week at BSF, with solid biblical parenting wisdom. They are also known at our house as The Best Parenting Book (that isn't really a book) EVER.

[Side note (yes, a side note within the detour): I have been attending BSF since September of 2004.  God used BSF to change my life. He used BSF to change my family's life. That is really a story for another post. But if you are curious, check out their link on the right. They have (uh-mazing) Bible classes all over the world. If you have ever wanted to read the Bible for yourself -- with analytical questions, discussion and lecture -- this is the place to go. And it is totally free. And they have free children's classes at the same time as the adult classes, where your kids learn what you are learning.]

I want my children to trust me and my word. I know that in some ways they will make a connection between their relationship with their parents and their relationship with Jesus.  Obviously, Eric and I will never be perfect and their heavenly Father is perfect! But, I'm learning to trust God's promises and to rely on Him and believe that He will always follow through on those promises. I want my children to have the best example that I can give them of being able to trust the Lord for His promises. 

My kids make a lot of requests throughout the day, some reasonable and some unreasonable. Some are reasonable but still impossible or impractical for me to meet that day (or maybe ever). And, sometimes I am busy and just don't want to take the time to think it through right that second. I often give a "hopeful" answer like "we'll see" "if we have time" "maybe tomorrow or later this week." I've been reminded that my kiddos might take this as a promise and that I need to be more careful in my choice of words!

So, I'm asking Jesus to make me more aware of the promises I make to my children. I'm asking for Holy Spirit power to be able to reflect God's character of trustworthiness and promise keeper. I'm posting Scripture around the house to remind me of God's character, as faithful promise keeper, to remind me of the importance of keeping my word, in particular to these three little babes. 

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

Above all, my brothers, do not swear -- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. (James 5:12)

I want to be careful about what promises I make.  I want to think carefully before I let the word "Yes" or "No" roll off of my tongue. Maybe something is too expensive, too dangerous, too far away (like Antarctica to see emperor penguins). Maybe it just cannot fit in our schedule. Or maybe my kids just don't need one more toy or treat at the grocery store, even if it is on the Target dollar aisle. But, I want to explain clearly to them that the answer is "no" from the beginning, even when I don't want to disappoint them.  It guards my integrity before them much better than a promise that would go unkept.

And, I want to be more careful in the way I handle broken promises because sometimes things prevent promises from being fulfilled. I need to explain and ask forgiveness. I can always use the opportunity to turn my kids to the cross. Mommy needs Jesus too.

I felt like this was daunting as the Lord first placed it on my heart. I also felt discouraged when I realized how much work I really need in this area of my parenting. But, then I was reminded that "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13). And, I'm thankful that He loves me enough that He isn't leaving me the way that I am. He is using His Word to refine me so that I am "being transformed into His likeness," and then I can better reflect His glory to my children. (2 Corinthians 3:18). PTL!

Back to the goldfish ... Over two years ago, Marshall had to have an emergency appendectomy.  It happened to be on the day of his friend's birthday party.  (This just happens to be the girl that he has already decided that he is going to marry. Love. It. ) And, she was giving out real live goldfish as the party favor. Of course Marshall couldn't go party while he was in surgery, but try explaining that to a four year old!  So, in the midst of all the appendectomy craziness, we promised him a goldfish.  

Then we didn't get him one.  But, we kept saying we would.  Oh, he didn't forget.  Every once in awhile he'd remind us of the promised fish.  I don't even really know why we didn't get one for so long.  It just kept being put off.  

As I have asked God to help me to consistently keep my promises He brought the goldfish to mind. So, this weekend we went to Wal-mart to finally keep our promise and get goldfish. They were OUT of goldfish because their tank has a leak. No joke. But, I did get really awesome cheap Valentine's decor -- which was a good reward for braving Super Wally World. Then we went to PetCo at Keizer Station so we could avoid Lancaster. And, their fish were under observation and not for sale.  Yes, seriously. We finally ended up on Lancaster at PetSmart. And left PetSmart with three fish and two incredibly proud fish owners.

Welcome to the family, Violet and ComptonFish#1 and ComptonFish#2!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Toss the M&Ms

So, if you're home today with your kids and looking for a fun educational activity, that may or may not induce a sugar-high, here's an idea.  My kids have named it "Toss the M&Ms, Read the Words." Creative huh?

The supplies you need are a muffin tin, paper and pen, safety scissors and either M&Ms or pennies. Oh and something to be a line on the floor.

So, you print out or handwrite a list of words your kids are working on reading.  Then, you employ them as slave-labor to cut the words into strips of paper.  No really, it's good cutting skills practice for them to cut the paper themselves.

Then you put one strip of paper into each cup of the muffin tin.

Your kids stand behind some type of line.  A rope works, tape, or a light saber.  You know, whatever you have on hand. Each kiddo throws either an M&M or a penny into the muffin tin.

Whichever cup their M&M or penny lands in, they pick up that strip of paper and if they can read that word they get to keep the M&M or the penny.  This is where you can choose sugar-high or no sugar-high at your house. This is also where I discovered that Marshall really does know how to read a lot of words ... way more than he lets on during "reading time" for school.  Apparently chocolate is a major motivator for this guy.

Our littlest Jedi.  This guy has some serious light saber fighting skills already.

Have you noticed that my kids are in their pajamas a lot when we are home?  Marshall doesn't believe in wearing clothes.  I mean, pajamas are a step up from where he was awhile back.  It used to be underwear whenever we were home.  The minute we'd walk in the door from anywhere Marshall would strip down to his Lego Star Wars underroos.  There would almost always be a pile of size 6 boys clothes by the door to the garage or at the bottom of the stairs. Oh the things I want to remember to tell him when he is grown-up someday.

I have to give credit for this game to Bethany (yes, again) and she thinks that credit goes to My Father's World.  Anyway - I think you could do this game with spelling too, where you read the word that they land on and they have to spell it.  You could also do it with shapes, colors, math problems.  Lots of options.

Happy Friday!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Compton Photo Gallery

As promised . . . pictures of our latest project. I know you've all been on the edge of your seat, anxious to see them - ha!  Well, we are excited to finally have it finished. This post has just been sitting and waiting for me to drop the last picture in and hit "publish." Yesterday I got a phone call that our picture was framed and ready to pick up.  So, I piled everyone in the car and off we went to the framing store, with a convenient stop at Great Harvest (only because it's across the street, of course) on the way.

Now, this project might not look that big.  You might be thinking that it's just a hallway of pictures. How hard could it be? Well, when you are as OCD as we (Eric) are about straight lines, projects like this take awhile. It doesn't help that we had a ton of pictures to choose from, and I have ideas about what pictures I want to use to depict certain aspects of our life.

This is the hallway space that we have looked at a million times over the last five and a half years. Sixteen feet of gloriously blank and boring relaxed-khaki-colored wall.  When we first bought this house we envisioned filling this entire wall with pics of our family.

Three years ago we received a whole set of Pottery Barn gallery frames that we planned to fill the space with.  A super-generous Christmas gift from my dad and his wife, Norma.  And the picture frames sat.  Now, they didn't sit for the whole three years in one space.  Every once in awhile they would get in the way, and we would give them a change of scenery.  They moved from the office to the extra bedroom (which became Jameson's room) and then they moved to our room (where we would often trip over them in the middle of the night) and they sat there until this last major house purge.

It wasn't really that we were too lazy to do this project.  It was just that other projects had a higher priority.  And this one seemed big, and time-consuming, and well, daunting.  But, now every other project of more importance was done so we decided to take the plunge and get started.

Step #1:  Spread pictures all over our bed, move some around, add more, take some away and try to choose what we want to frame:

Step #2: Arrange frames on our bedroom floor and figure out how we want the pictures to be arranged on the wall.

Step #3:  Start googling ideas for hallway picture galleries because we are at a loss and finally come up with something we like.

Step #4:  Measure butcher paper to cover the height and length of the space we want to cover.  Then arrange the pictures on the butcher paper.  We chose to make a straight line along the bottom of the top row, and along the top of the bottom row.  That gave us a nice straight focal point for the center of the arrangement and gives us room for various size picture frames and room to build on the arrangement going up or down without needing more perfectly even lines.

Step #5: Make certain to know exactly where we want those pictures.  Outline each of the pictures on the butcher paper.  Measure the location of each hanger on the back of the frames and mark that location on butcher paper as well.  Then take a picture of the arrangement. That picture proves  invaluable in a few minutes.

Step #6: Check on kiddos and see how they've kept themselves busy:

Step #6: Tape butcher paper on the wall.

Step #7: Hammer the nails into the designated markings on the butcher paper.

Step #8:  Check on kids one last time to see what kind of damage they're doing (phew - not much, minus the water damage from Eliza splashing water on the bathroom floor while pretending to be a dolphin):

Step #8:  Tear butcher paper away as each picture is hung up.  Use that picture we took of the arrangement to remember exactly where they belong.

Step #10: Wait for final picture to be done at the framing store.

[Speaking of which, I'm going to give a quick plug for Affordable Framing.  I took a Pottery Barn gallery frame into Affordable Framing as an example of the frame and matte I wanted.  I left with their price list for standard frames that look almost identical to Pottery Barn's gallery frames. They are about half the price of Pottery Barn.  And they put the picture in and finish the frame for you.  And they have a lifetime guarantee.  And they are so kind, helpful and full of good ideas. Also - they accidently scratched one of our pictures.  This might seem horrible.  But the way they handled it was so amazing.  They called me immediately, got the name of our fabulous photographer, Daveen, and called her themselves.  They arranged for the re-order, payment and delivery of the picture.  I didn't have to do anything. Then when I picked up my picture they gave me a $20 gift card because of the accident. And, the project only took 3 days longer than originally expected. Such great service. And they almost always have a 20% off coupon on their website.  Enough said. Check it out.]

Step #11: Make sure that all of the pictures are straight and then enjoy a really amazing wall of memories.

Thanks, Babe.  Such an amazing job on this project.  Love ya!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jedi Training Academy

In October we went to Disneyland.  I still haven't finished posting all of the pictures from our trip.  Um, I guess they might not all get posted on here.  But, I can't go without posting a video of Marshall's highlight.

Marshall is a Star Wars fan.  He has Star Wars Legos, Star Wars bedding, Star Wars pajamas, Star Wars t-shirts, Star Wars books, posters and DVDs.  He has a Yoda stocking cap with Mickey-ears.  He has Star Wars video games.  He has light sabers and trooper blasters. He dressed up as Luke Skywalker for Halloween. His sister was Princess Leia.  This kid just loves Star Wars.

So, when we knew we were going to Disneyland, we started watching videos on YouTube of rides and attractions that we knew the kids would love, but which might be a little overwhelming for them without some prep.  Now this might seem kind of excessive to some of you.  But, don't judge m'kay? Trust me, it makes a huge difference in a trip with pre-school/kindergarten aged kids.

One of the shows we watched videos for was Jedi Training Academy.  I knew Marshall would love it.  But, I also was fairly certain that if we just showed up at the show at Disneyland and he wasn't prepared, there was little chance that he would be brave enough to do it.

Jedi Training Academy shows maybe a half-dozen times a day.  There is a Jedi trainer and his assistants, all dressed as Jedis.  The trainer looks like Mace Windu - yes, I know who that is, do you? The trainer chooses about a half-dozen kiddos from the crowd to participate in the Academy.  Each of the kids gets a Jedi robe and a light saber.

Then, the kids are "trained" in the ways of the Jedi and secrets of the Force.  Soon, the "real" Darth Vader and Darth Maul make their appearance joined by Storm Troopers.  Finally, each of the kiddos gets the chance to actually fight Darth Vader or Darth Maul.  It is amazing. The coolest thing ever when you are six.

So, here's our Jedi in action.  We are so proud of our little padawan. (do you know what that is? google it if you don't). A few years ago Marshall was so shy - there was no way that he would have done this.  But, as he has grown up, his confidence has skyrocketed and he was determined to be picked.  He wore his favorite Star Wars shirt and jumped up and down holding a sign and yelling "pick me!"  [Yes, I am the awesome (slightly dorky) mom who read up on tips for getting picked at Jedi Training Academy.  Hey - Marshall was determined to do it. He watched the YouTube video a hundred times and practiced the routine at home. It was adorable.] And, he fought the heck out of Darth Maul.

Marshall is so proud because he's no longer a padawan. Check out our red-haired fully trained Jedi in the Star Wars shirt.  He has a REAL certificate hanging up in his room proving that he completed the Academy and is a TRUE Jedi.  Forget the ADT security system sign in our front yard. Beware of the Comptons - the Force is with us.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We Play Uno

It is raining in Oregon.  A lot. Specifically in Salem - the day before yesterday we had over six inches of rain in 48 hours.  There is flooding going on and schools are closed.  Our house is at a high elevation and we aren't having any problems with flooding at our house specifically.  But, our hearts go out to those who are being affected by all of the floods.

In the midst of the rain, the kids have had some serious cabin fever.  For a series of days like this, where playing outside isn't so appealing, I try to keep some new games, puzzles, and crafts on hand.  And, I just happened to have a brand new pack of UNO cards in our kid cupboard.  Marshall and Eliza have played Disney UNO before but it's a little different.  They felt so grown-up when I told them it was "adult UNO."  It's definitely the little things when you are 6 and 4.

The best part about playing card games with these two is that they just can't grasp the concept of hiding your cards from other players.  This is a totally foreign concept to me, since I grew up in a home with parents who were members of the American Contract Bridge League (bet you didn't know that existed!).  For years, I thought that everyone's parents played bridge multiple nights a week.  And that everyone had family vacations centered around traveling to a national bridge tournament. My dad is a crazy-smart amazing bridge player by the way - seriously.  It's awesome and one of my favorite things about him.

My first job was working as a caddy at the Salem Bridge Tournament.  It was a happenin' place - upstairs at the Black Angus restaurant.  I got paid to sit in a room with hundreds of people silently playing cards and to move boards of cards between tables.  I think the only thing my parents didn't anticipate in having me work there is that it would cause me to never want to play bridge. Their dreams of family bridge nights were destroyed. As a kiddo I had very little (no) appreciation for the insane intelligence of people who could play bridge at this level and I just thought they were weird.

All that to say, I don't play bridge. But, by Marshall's age I was very adept at the imperative life skill of shuffling a deck of cards and holding a fan of cards that was sorted by suit and number. My kids are clueless.  It makes it super easy for me to either win, or let them win, depending on the day!

Of course, Jameson doesn't play with us :)  So, he's left to entertain himself.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reading Games

I know that a lot of people are more nervous about making a mistake in teaching their child to read than almost any other portion of homeschooling. So, imagine my delight when Eliza taught herself to read.  I can take no credit for the fact that my four-year-old daughter can read at a second grade level.  Well, I did let her watch the Leapfrog Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory DVDs a lot when she was little.  My good friend, Meredith, told me to let my kiddos start watching those DVDs at 18 months and they would learn how to read in no time.  Umm . . . it worked.  Eliza's little brain just clicks when it comes to smushing those letters together and making words.

Now, Marshall can read too, but it didn't happen overnight like it did with his sister.  It can be tough being a six-year-old boy and having your little sister pass you up.   But, he wants to hurry to get on to something more fun.  And, he doesn't like making mistakes.  He likes to get it right the first time, which means that he doesn't really like sounding out words.  He wants to guess and read them all the fast way. It makes reading tough.

We're working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  We are on Lesson 70 and he is definitely reading at a first grade level when he tries.  This whole week though, I have been at a loss.  Reading had turned into a daily battle with tears and temper tantrums (on his part, not mine, although I've felt like crying more than once).  So, I asked the Lord for fresh ideas.

Having good friends who are homeschooling a couple of years ahead of me has been such a blessing and often the Lord uses them to send me His fresh ideas.  It seems like sometimes they have an idea that can get me/us going again when we've hit a rut.  So I called Bethany to see what she would do. And, I can be honest with her and tell her how much I would love to send this child to school at the moment, to someone who "knows what they're doing" and for whom I know he would behave more cooperatively. Bethany, and other supportive friends like her, are so good to remind me that I know God has called me to do this.  And, He always equips us for what He has called us to. Praise Jesus!

After that reminder, and sympathy because she has been there, this time Bethany gave me fresh ideas for reading.  Set aside what we've been doing that isn't working right now.  Make it different. Make it a game.

So, we did and it was fun.  Marshall smiled and laughed and thought reading was great.

I used textured letters and the kids had to spell words.  Then I made stacks of index cards with various words and the kids had to pick out cards to make silly sentences.  (Thanks for the ideas, Bethany!) And, it was so easy and so fun.  I guess I should admit I wasn't beyond a little bribery . . . notice the (big) bag of M&Ms.

Check out my supplies for reading time today . . . everyone needs a good Storm Trooper Blaster and a Diet Coke.  I admit to drinking it.  I know about all the bad chemicals in it that will do irreparable damage to my body. But sometimes I need some afternoon caffeine.  Because even this drill-sergeant-about-sleep mama has a baby with sleep issues sometimes.  Jameson has decided that it is fun to be up from 4:30-5:30 in his crib.  Just hanging out.  Being loud.

Side note: Baby J started walking yesterday!!!  One of those moments that is super exciting.  But, at the same time I realize how it will turn my house upside down because soon he'll be running.  I missed it because I was at a meeting.  He walked for Eric within 10 minutes of me leaving the house.  Yep, really.  But, it might actually be an explanation for his weird new sleep habit.  Whenever he's about to do something new he seems to have trouble sleeping.  Like he can't turn off his brain or something?

And, Jameson had reading time too.  Haha.  Poor baby-J.  By his age, Marshall and Eliza loved to be read to.  They had favorite books. They would just sit and look at picture books. Let's just say my reading time with Jameson has been lacking.  I'll admit I was a little obsessed about it with Marshall.  When he was three weeks old, I really had no idea what to do with him all day. So he would lay on the floor and I would hold books over his head and read them.

Jameson is totally baffled by what a book is.  He chews on them and occasionally hands me one, but then crawls away.  He likes to use them as steps to climb on. The challenges of being the third child.

The best ending to the day was that when Eric came home from work, the kids had enjoyed reading so much they wanted Eric to get in on it.  And, Eric came up with another new "reading game" that the kids loved.  Homeschool is definitely a joint effort around here!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why My Husband Rocks

There are a million reasons why my husband rocks.  This weekend just seemed to be jam-packed with examples.  Saturday afternoon he didn't care that I went and ran errands by myself.  And that I took a little (from Eric: a lot)  longer than expected because the MAC girls at Nord's looked bored, so I let them do my eye make-up.

He took me out to dinner at Screen Door in Portland with some of our fave friends. Conrad and Kari. Yes, we take pictures of our food. Go ahead.  Covet that dinner.  Best fried chicken ever. We haven't eaten since then. Ha!

This is the weekend where we finished - wait, let me restate that - started and finished 99% of one of the biggest projects we've wanted to finish.  It took a good portion of Monday.  Pretty much the whole day. We are waiting for one picture to be done at the framing store. Then this project will be 100%  finished, and I will post photos of the finished project.  Because I know you're all dying to see it.  And you should be.  Because Eric is amazing.  And a little OCD about straight lines, which is why it took the whole day.  But, I'm not complaining because what he did looks incredible, if I do say so myself.

As if finishing one huge project wasn't enough, Eric did more than that.  It was a three day weekend but rather than just veg-ging (how do you spell that?) he worked a lot for me on our house.  He hung at least 30 pictures and Jameson's room is (finally, 14 months later) finished.

Sorry this picture is blurry, but I was stuck with my iPhone.  My camera battery died because I leave the camera on all the time.

And, he roasted a chicken.

I'm not writing this post to make all you wives out there envious of my super-hero hubs.  The thing is, Eric is an awesome guy. a treasure. a true "catch." But, keeping with my recent theme . . . he's not perfect.  And neither am I (working on that perfectionist thing in me.  it's taken me a long time to get comfortable with the fact that I can't be perfect.)

We've faced heartache in our marriage.  Heart break at realizing that we are both sinners.  That we are going to hurt each other.  In ways big and small. And, when we do either (a) our worlds will fall apart or (b) we will press into Jesus and learn the true meaning of faith, hope and love. (eek - sounds like a bad Point of Grace song from the 90's . . . maybe you don't know who Point of Grace is.  I will just embrace my dorkiness and admit to being a Contemporary Christian Music nerd. I can't help it).

Seriously though, I just finished studying First Thessalonians this past week.  Talk about a treasure.  It is one of those little "T" letters in the back of the New Testament that I've skipped over countless times.   
In it, Paul writes to the young church at Thessalonica: "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Thess. 1:3)."  Just like the Thessalonians, our work, labor and endurance (in our marriage and otherwise) are not prompted or rooted in a good heart or being a "good person." They are a direct result of the  faith, hope, and love which are a gift as "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given." (Romans 5:5). He is the one who has convicted of us of our need for Him and drew us to Himself.

When Eric and I got married in 2004, it was the second marriage for both of us.  We both felt like this time we had it right.  We're good this time around.  We're more mature.  We've got it figured out. We've found the right person.  Um, pride issues?  What we've had to learn, especially this past year, is that Jesus is what makes this marriage work.  It's not us having figured things out, or finding the right person, or striving to be the perfect spouse.  "He [Jesus] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17), including each of us individually and our marriage.

When we face hard times, pain caused by each other, it is because of Jesus and his redemptive work on the cross that we can say "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20). It might sound harsh, but there are times when Eric and I hurt each other and we definitely didn't intend it for good.  However, God intends to use even that yuck for good.  And we know "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28).

We've learned to love grief, heartache, and conflict because of the good that is inevitably on the other side. We can forgive each other.  Sometimes it seems crazy to me, the ability to forgive.  I often wonder how it is even possible. But that's because it is impossible.  Humanly impossible, anyway. But, as Jesus has invaded my heart and Eric's, we are given the power to see each other the way Christ sees us and love each other the way Christ does even when we are unworthy of it or have treated each other poorly. (And, Jesus knows full well (and so does Eric - ha!) that I am so unworthy). Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that the Lord would "make (their) love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else." (1 Thess 3:12). I'm learning to pray that same thing for myself - that God would do this in me!

Through this hard year, we've learned how to fight.  I like to fight, I like conflict.  I guess there's a reason I went to law school, eh? Now Eric fights back.  Things get worked through, and the conflict is so good. We've experienced the Gospel in a tangible way. And, Eric leads me and this family to love Jesus better than ever.  He prays with me, he prays with our kids. We treasure and value what we have more than ever.

So, I am thankful for my husband.  He is a true super-hero hubs (super-hero who needs Jesus). I heart him. I mean, check out this cute tush.  What's not to love?

And he makes really cute babies.