An Oft-Asked Question

For the last, oh, nine years or so, I’ve often been asked a variation on the same question when I’m out and about with the children: “Are they twins?”

Obviously, this question was first directed toward Turkey and Bunny, and it’s understandable…I often call them my “almost twins,” even though they were born 16 months apart. The question has gotten more complicated over the years, however, as we’ve added more children, and they’ve all gotten bigger. While it’s still most often Turkey and Bunny that people wonder about, I have also heard it about Bunny and Moose, and Moose and Ladybug. Once, I was even inexplicably asked if the oldest three were triplets!

Most often now, people are vague, and just ask, “Any twins in your bunch?” And people are still usually surprised by my answer of “no.” They usually follow up their initial question by grilling me and/or the children on their ages. To be fair, all of our children have a very similar look, and the heights they’re at right now make it difficult to discern their birth order just by looking, especially for the oldest three. At any rate, after a nosey individual finds out the children’s ages, I get the standard, “Wow, you have your hands full!” or “You must be busy!” responses (and those are the nice things people have said to me!).

I guess Chickadee is the lucky one…no one could mistake her for being anyone’s twin!

The Jesus Tree–Day Ten

Today’s readings focused on Jesus blessing the children. We read the accounts from Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, and Luke 18:15-17. The children liked the Luke reading best, because it specifically mentioned infants, and they liked the image of Jesus blessing even someone so tiny as Chickadee. Interestingly, The Story Bible combined Mark 9 and 10 into one story for our evening reading, which actually worked out well, but required a little extra explaining, since there was more information in the story than the children were expecting to hear.

A Proud Moment

Warning: Mommy brag ahead!

When we went to lunch earlier today, we were seated immediately next to a table of three older adults. As we took our seats, I saw “the look.” Parents, you know what I mean. The look where you realize they would rather sit next to a hungry lion than a table full of children. The look that says that they have been subjected to poorly behaved children in such a setting in the past, and are certain it’s going to happen again.

Now, our children are usually well-behaved when we go out to eat. They’ve been taught to speak quietly, stay in their seats, say “please” and “thank you”–all the basics of dining out. But since we had been out in the heat all day, at different parks, and since it was almost two hours past their normal lunchtime, I was a little worried. Surely if there was a time that there was going to be an embarrassing restaurant meltdown, it was when we were seated next to people who obviously wish the host had seated us anywhere but there.

I shouldn’t have worried. The children behaved as they usually do in public. They weren’t loud, they weren’t getting out of their seats, they were polite–Ladybug even only dropped her restaurant-provided crayons once, and didn’t make a big production out of retrieving them. So I was relieved–surely these people couldn’t find anything to complain about with our family!

I was right. On their way out, one of the older women stopped by our table and put her hand on my shoulder. She leaned down to me, and in a quiet voice said, “You have very well-behaved children.”

It was just one of those moments where, not only did the worst case scenario not happen, but someone actually recognized the hard work that has gone into teaching our children how to behave properly at a restaurant. And what more can a mother really ask for?

Shopping with Children

No, this isn’t a “I can’t believe how my children acted in the store; I’m never leaving the house again” story. It’s more of a “Taking a child shopping can be one of the greatest things about being a parent,” kind of tale.

I took Turkey to Target today to help him buy his sister a birthday present. This is one of the things I like doing the most–watching one of my children select a present for one of their siblings.

It’s so much fun to watch Turkey shop. First, is how carefully he selects his gift. He started at the dollar spot, moved on to toys, and then looked at books. He takes different things into consideration as he shops: “Will she like it?  Can it break easily? Does it look fun?” I love that he’s such a considerate gift-giver!

Then there’s the issue of generosity. He doesn’t try to buy the cheapest thing possible. As a matter of fact, he’s usually annoyed with himself that he hasn’t saved enough money, (in his opinion), to get something really special. He recently started saving money for a new Lego set that he wants; he didn’t bat an eyelash when the gift he chose to buy for his sister took up about 2/3 of his savings. All he cared about was buying a good gift.

This is a Turkey story, but the same can be said for Bunny. She also loves choosing the right thing, and is generous to a fault. Watching their kind and giving natures at work is one of the best things about being a mommy!

Early Catechesis

Turkey and Bunny recently began catechesis at our church. Watching their reactions to this process has caused me to reflect on my own confirmation experience, and I have to say, I like the way they’re doing it better. In fact, I’m coming to believe that younger catechesis, perhaps beginning somewhere between second and fourth grade, is better overall. I really like that our church, catechesis isn’t age-based; it’s on an individual basis, when the pastor, parents and child think the time is right. But I realize that not every church (especially larger congregations) can do everything on a one-on-one level, so I think it would be beneficial for more congregations to look into starting the catechesis process at an earlier age, for several reasons.

  • First, is the obvious reason–not linking confirmation to graduation, which is a problem many churches, especially churches with attached dayschools, face. It’s quite tempting for a child to think that because a stage of their life is ending with a school, and their work at that particular institution is complete, the same must be true of church. This can end with children grudgingly attending church with their families, or refusing to go at all. Of course, the parents play a huge role here, but it makes the parents’ job easier if their children haven’t equated confirmation with graduation in the first place.
  • Second, at a younger age, children are less likely to see classes at church as a chore. I remember when I was in confirmation class, my friends and I would pretty much have rather been anywhere else than at church. Maybe that’s simply a testament to my own immaturity at the time, but I think it’s fairly typical of junior high age children. They have so many commitments at that age, and school work takes up so much of their time, that the last thing they want to do is attend another class. Yes, they need to learn to make church a priority, no matter what else they have going on, but trying to emphasize that point at a tumultuous time in their lives when they’re feeling naturally rebellious is not the best way to accomplish that goal. But younger children aren’t that cynical yet–they still view learning as exciting, regardless of the subject material, and church is no different.
  • Children are also more amenable to memorization at a younger age. Just like their excitement about learning, they tend to enjoy seeing just how much they can remember. Memorization is also easier for a younger child, because of the sponge-like nature of the child’s brain. It can be intimidating for young children to see how much memory work they have to do, but once they realize that they *can* do it, it’s been my experience that they approach memorization with an enthusiasm that isn’t usually seen in older children or adults.
  • Younger children are also more likely to talk to their parents about what they’ve learned in catechesis, answer questions about what they’ve learned, and ask questions they may have. We all know how much junior high children like being in the same room with their parents, much less talking to them, but younger children haven’t yet felt that embarrassment, and they like to talk and share. This is a great opportunity for catechesis to enter the home, and involve the whole family in conversation and learning.
  • It’s also beneficial to catch children before the hormone-filled years of junior high settle in. When trying to teach a group of junior high children, you realize that their focus is on who likes whom, what the latest fashions and hair styles are, and who has the most status. The changes that each child is experiencing can also wreak havoc on their ability to concentrate, make them self-conscious about asking or answering questions, and cause conflicts in relationships with other students in the class. Younger children don’t face as many of these problems, and are better able to focus on the true reason they are in class.
  • Younger catechesis also helps children to see their role in their congregation from a young age, which in turn helps them to realize that belonging to a church is a life-long process, with every member of the body needed in order for the church to function. The longer you make children wait to become active in congregational life (even if it’s simple things like being an acolyte), the less likely they are to stay involved following confirmation. People, including children, need to know that they are needed in their church, and we should strive to encourage the fact that they are just as important to the body of Christ, and their individual church, as anybody else is, including adults.
  • Beginning catechesis at a younger age also gives children an opportunity to get to know their pastor, other church workers, and possibly even elders and board members from early on. This helps them build relationships with trusted adults in the church, and again emphasizes that church is for people of *all* ages, and that there are many different ways they can serve in the church, whether they decide they would like to be on a board or committee someday, or if they realize that they themselves are being called to a career in church work.
  • Finally, and most importantly, children should not be denied the opportunity to go through the catechesis process, and ultimately receive the Sacrament, simply because of their age. This goes back to my preference for catechesis on a case-by-case basis, but I think that if a child is ready to go through the classes at a young age, can understand the material, and complete the requirements, than he or she should absolutely be allowed to become a catechumen, regardless of age. As Lutherans we know that the Sacrament is all about what God does for us, anyway, so making restrictions on it based on age, rather than faith, seems completely contradictory to me. We should rejoice when a young child realizes his or her sins, and wants to receive the forgiveness that we as adults experience in the Lord’s Supper, rather than patting him on the head and telling him that he needs to wait until he is old enough.

Unexpected Joys

Moose has really been trying to talk a lot more lately. Not just single words, not just repeating words we tell him to say, but spontaneously stringing together a few words at a time. I don’t understand what he’s saying half the time, but still! That in and of itself is a great joy. But I’ve discovered that I’ve found joy in something else I wasn’t really expecting.

I’m finally getting an idea of what his voice sounds like! I know to most people, this wouldn’t be a big deal, and for most parents of almost-four-year-olds, it probably wouldn’t even make sense. How can you not know, after all that time, what your own child’s voice sounds like?

But, when all you get is one word at a time, and not on any kind of regular basis, and when even that word is a struggle to get out, you don’t know. You wonder what a normal speaking voice sounds like for your child. Sure, I’m well acquainted with his shrieks, because that’s been his only really way to express negative emotions outside of crying, and I know (kind of) what his babbling voice sounds like. But now I’m learning what his speaking voice sounds like. And I’m even learning that he often purses his lips in a very certain way when he’s really trying to talk. And I’ve found a great deal of joy in these discoveries. As much as I feel like autism has taken from him (and us), I also know I never would have found this kind of elation in something so simple if autism wasn’t a part of our lives.

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and let me tell you, it is a beautiful sound!

Lord, I Love the Habitation of Your House

While it’s true that I love going to church, this isn’t about me–it’s about Moose.

Church is Moose’s favorite place.  Even more than school, which he loves a lot, he loves going to church.  He may not be able to talk much, but he watches intently everything that is going on, he stands and sits (kind of) at the appropriate times, he hums along with the responses, he tries to say the words I know he knows in his heart, he shouts “Amen,” he practically runs to the altar on communion Sundays and, occasionally, he “dings” along with the bell that is rung during the Lord’s prayer.

I thought he was going to explode with joy during Holy Week, when we attended so many services.  He just loves being in God’s house.

Today is a rough day for Moose.  The transmission on our van has decided to die, and since we haven’t figured out where the $3000 to fix it is going to come from (and because they can’t miraculously replace a transmission overnight, anyway), we can’t really drive it.  It *should* be OK for short trips, like taking Moose to school, or Ladybug’s two-year check-up this week, but church is far enough away that we figured we better not risk it.

So, last night, we decided that since Mister is a Sunday school teacher, and Turkey and Bunny are the only two children old enough/able to go to Sunday school, the three of them would go to church and Sunday school together in Mister’s car today (and, thankfully, booster seats are easy to transfer between vehicles, unlike regular car-seats).

Turkey and Bunny got dressed in their church clothes as usual this morning, and I *was* planning on just letting Moose and Ladybug have a “jammies day.”  It’s not like we can go anywhere, anyway.  But, Moose snuck into his closet, and found his church clothes (he got the shirt and pants right, which surprised me), and brought them to me to help him get dressed.  It was important to him, so I let him get into his church clothes, even though I knew he wouldn’t be going anywhere.

And then, while he was looking out the window, he saw Daddy leaving with his two older siblings for church.  It was terrible.  A complete cry of anguish that made me cry right along with him.  He wanted so badly to be going to church.  Dare I say, he needed to be going to church.  But today, that just wasn’t possible (and depending on what happens with the van, I suppose we may have a similar problem next week–we are going to have to do something about it eventually, though).

And people say children don’t get anything out of church and don’t need to be in a service that is “for adults.” Perhaps we’re just underestimating them!  I know without a shadow of a doubt that Moose is getting way more out of church than most people could even imagine.

It was a Good Idea, Anyway

I was all excited, because I found out that a local church puts on a Boar’s Head Christmas Festival (every year, I’m assuming).  I’ve only ever been to a Boar’s Head festival once, probably eight or nine years ago, but it was the coolest thing, and every Christmas, I’ve remembered it, and wanted to go again.  So, you can imagine my excitement upon finding one, and the idea of taking the children to see it!  All the costumes, the singing, the music–I know they would love it…

The excitement was short-lived.  I was basically told that children aren’t welcome, unless they can be “completely silent” for the entire time.  Maybe the five year old would be OK, *if* he could follow this mandate but the rest…now, the older children especially are pretty well-behaved in church, but I don’t think they’ve ever been “completely silent” unless they were sleeping.

I get that people go to see the pageantry and don’t want to be interrupted.  But I would think that given that my children are used to going to church, and know basically how to behave there, that they could overlook some whispered questions about what’s going on.  I guess maybe I’m just being selfish about wanting them to have that experience.  But I can’t be the only person who wants to take small children to see something so cool–can I?  You’d think with seven or so performances, they could designate one “appropriate” for families with children.

It would have been a good history lesson, not to mention getting to see the telling of Jesus’ birth in a way they never have before.  It’s just another example of a place in church where my children are not wanted. There are entirely too many places in *most* churches where children are not welcome, where they are shuttled off away from the adults, to do their own thing.  And that’s supposed to be a good idea why?  I’m pretty sure people of all ages went to see Jesus (actually I’m certain–suffer the little children unto me, anyone?).  I could easily get despondent about this, but instead, I’m going to comfort myself with the fact that at least they are welcome, and wanted, in our home congregation, which is the best church I have ever attended!

Maybe I can get a DVD version of the Boar’s Head Festival to watch at home?  It’s either that, or wait another four years or so, until they’re all “old enough” to go…

Jerusalem Marketplace

I’m not really talking about Group’s VBS from this year. Honestly. At least not intentionally.

My mom visited us this week, and she brought a DVD she had put together of some videos from my childhood. One of those was some random video from a Vacation Bible School program that my church put on when I was about seven. I was ecstatic to see this, because of all the VBS programs I attended (and even the ones I’ve volunteered at–sadly, even ones in recent memory!) this is the one year I really remember. I can still remember many of the craft projects, and as soon as I saw the video, more came rushing back. I still remember being outside at the church, because almost all of that year’s program was held outside. There were tents set up, just like a marketplace from Bible times, each one with a different purpose or activity. All the volunteers were in costume–mostly “robes” made out of sheets and sandals, but it really lent an air of authenticity. I remember sounds and smells and impressions more strongly than most memories I have from that period of my childhood.

I mention all this because this Vacation Bible School obviously made a huge impact on me. Not in a “make a decision for Jesus” sort of way (I’m a Lutheran; we don’t do that!), but in a “I really learned a lot about Jesus and His life” sort of way.

I have no idea where my church got the program. For all I know, it was put together by church leaders (actually, it was a joint operation between two churches in my old town, so it could have been put together by a lot of people!), or it could have been purchased. From Googling the title, I have discovered one thing–Group Publishing had a VBS kit this year that was very similar to what I remember from my childhood. Did Group buy it from another company that created the one I remember? Who knows. I have a hard time believing that my church would have gotten the program from Group directly in the mid-80s. I know they were around then, but I don’t think they were that well known, and I just can’t really see my church having used them. Did somebody involved in that VBS actually write the program and sell it to Group at some point later? Also possible–I know several people who have sold stuff to Group and/or work for Group, so I can’t discount that possibility. Is it a big coincidence? Also possible, I suppose, although not as likely, because there seem to be just too many things in common for that to be the case.

At any rate, watching the video has reminded me of a lot of the cool things we did that summer, and also either triggered memories or created ideas (sometimes it’s hard to tell between what I actually remember, and what the church worker in me knows is a good idea!) of other things. I would love to someday either re-create this VBS, or rework Group’s version to make it more appropriate (is that the right word?) for my church. Probably not for a few years at least, because I don’t want to undertake anything huge while my children are still so small, but it’s something to ponder for the time being.

Craft Projects

  • Jewelry making–both punched metal (using hammer and nails, I think) and pottery
  • Basket weaving
  • Musical instrument making (the one I remember involved metal bottle caps loosely nailed to wood we painted)
  • Brick making, stamping mud and all!
  • Scroll making
  • Making those yarn cat’s eye things
  • Rope making
  • Making a Dreidel and playing the game
  • Candy making (ours was honey based)

Other Ideas

  • The storyteller (this was the way the day’s Bible story was conveyed–this role happened to be played by my mom, which is probably why I remember it!)
  • Bible stories acted out by the pastoral staff (Seeing two of my childhood pastors on the video re-enacting the Good Samaritan brought this memory back)
  • Copying English and Hebrew translations of a Bible verse (conveniently on the scrolls made in craft time)
  • Jewish dancing
  • Music time, of course
  • Jewish games (see Dreidel game, above)

Just looking at Group’s website, I got some other ideas, but I digress. This is about what I remember from my childhood, not what’s out there now. The point is, because it was all so hands-on (notice the huge amount of crafts–I’m guessing we probably did at least two every day, even though I can’t seem to remember them all right now), it was much more memorable.

Now, I will admit, I don’t remember a lot about the individual Bible stories. Of course, when you go to a Lutheran dayschool, and learn about Jesus at home everyday, it’s kind of hard to separate what you learned where, so I don’t know that I don’t remember the Bible portion because it wasn’t well done. What’s important is that I remember that week at all, and that I learned, and can still remember, what daily life must have been like for Jesus and His family and friends. I just can’t help but think that this is a lot more effective than a lot of the programs that are out there today (sorry CPH!).

My children had a great time at VBS this year, and I loved hearing what they learned about every day and seeing the crafts they made. They’re still singing some of the songs, so it clearly made an impact. But I have to wonder if they’ll remember it over 20 years from now, like I do with the Jerusalem Marketplace, or if it will just become a vague mist in the back of their minds and hearts. I guess as long as we keep teaching them at home, it doesn’t really matter, but what about those children that aren’t getting that kind of reinforcement at home? I hope their VBS experiences are memorable enough that they’ll look back on them as adults, and remember something about Christ’s love for us, and His death and resurrection.

It’s making me absolutely crazy that I’m liking something Group has done for VBS. That’s the Vacation Bible School for lazy people! (I don’t care what anyone says–it’s true! Isn’t their whole selling point that the volunteers don’t have to put in a lot of effort? It’s really too bad that churches are so hard up for volunteers that we have to water down the program to make it easy enough to get people to commit to helping!) I’m going to have to work on coming to terms with this. Very weird.


I have placed my first order with Sonlight! For now, I decided to go with the P 4/5 core, with the K readers and language arts, and K handwriting. I also added Get Ready, Set, Go for the Code from Sonlight, and some extra chapter books and a classical music CD from Amazon. I’ll decide within the next few weeks whether or not I’m going to go ahead and order the K materials as well, to supplement what I ordered tonight, but I wanted to order the stuff I knew I’d be using right away, so I can work on getting our classroom organized.

Some of the books I’m most looking forward to reading with Turkey and Bunny (and Moose and Ladybug, if they want to listen in) are A Family Treasury of LIttle Golden Books (there must be stories in there I remember from my childhood!), The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, Usborne Stories from Around the World, the Children’s Book of Virtues, Family-Time Bible in Pictures, Then & Now, The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature, and The Year at Maple Hill Farm. This is only a small sampling of the books we’ll be reading together in the coming months, but they’re the ones I’m most excited about, whether from reading them myself as a child, or from the way the descriptions in the catalog made them sound!

I don’t know who is more excited about our school year–me or the children. Turkey told me today that he wants to start school in three days! That’s obviously not going to happen, as I’m not ready for it yet, (I have some other shopping left–have to hit the parent-teacher supply store, Target and/or Wal-Mart and CPH, not to mention rearranging and setting up the guest bedroom/classroom) but I don’t know that we’ll make it to my original plan of Labor Day week. At the least, we’ll be doing a special unit that I’m putting together about the Olympics and China, which should be tons of fun. I’m really looking forward to this new adventure that we’re about to embark on together!