Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections and Resolutions

Breath eight:

As the holiday season comes to an end, I thought I might put down my thoughts on a final blog of the 2012 year.  I hope your holidays were as joyous as ours.  We spent the season visiting with family and friends, crafting creative gifts (this was mostly Jane and I, although Lee and Frederick joined in occasionally), and lazily enjoying one another’s company.  We created a new family tradition of attending the Nutcracker that our very own Bon-bon, Jane participated in.  We renewed old friendships, caroled to our neighbors and friends, baked goodies, took drives admiring Christmas lights, decorated like crazy, built snow forts, went sledding, and wrote and visited Santa.  Yes, we do have the Christmas spirit! This list seems long as I write it, but the hustle and bustle of the season adds to our anticipation and joy of Christmas.  These memories and traditions we create draw us closer together and remind us to celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas.
2012 was a great year.  Here are just a couple of the year’s highlights. (Maybe more of a quick overview really, simply imagine yourself jetting over in an airplane watching a year of our life.)  The kids grew a year older, Lee is now 9, Jane is 7, and Frederick is 4.  They continue to astound me (in a good way!) and make me so proud, I can well-up with emotions at any time (this is not surprising to those who know me well).  They are such big hearted children who exude cheerfulness and joy.  Jason continued to work hard teaching this year.  A job that he often grows weary of, but one he does well, and is vitally important. History education in both of our opinions is a subject which, little respect is given in our society.  This is such a travesty.  For we have much to learn from our past, that can impact our response to the future.  My sister and I went on two road trip adventures with my kids.  We traveled down south to visit relatives and we traveled north to explore Minneapolis. Jane and Lee continued to kick- it on the soccer field this year, while Frederick began preschool and soccer.  My baby is growing, right before my very eyes.  I began an adventure of babysitting busy boy this school year.  James fits right in with our wild and fun family.  And finally, I began to write again.    

13 Resolutions for 2013

With 2013, comes New Year’s resolutions, to be honest something I don’t usually do.  However, I thought I would make some resolutions this year, with you all as my witnesses.  These are listed in no particular order or importance. 

1. Get my crafty on and start a collage journal
2.  Complete reading all the rest of Jane Austen’s books (I’ve read four so far)
3. Organize, organize, organize, and purge (this is a rather large challenge for me)
4. Make family game night a weekly thing
5. Go on walks with my neighborhood pals and take my dog too (it is very therapeutic)
6. Read the Bible regularly
7.  Play with my kids more, both all together, and individually
8. Date Jason more
9. Develop relationships with true friends and, not worrying so much about casual acquaintances
10. Respond to others with kindness, yet honesty
11. Lose my temper less
12. Cook from scratch more, including using food from our garden in the menu
13.  Be more strategic in how I am reusing, reducing, recycling and conserving our planet resources

Both big and small, I promise to try to do them all.  Happy New Year! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To Be Held

Breath seven:
I need to take a breath.  I wasn't going to post anything on last Friday’s horrific event in Connecticut.  I am fantastic at avoidance.  I assured myself that my time was better spent simply praying for the families of the victims. When my mom brought up the subject at our school concert, I told her, “I don’t want to talk about it.”  That day I briefly skimmed over a news article, began to tear up and stopped reading.  While I did pray, I ignored a deep sadness and heaviness that I felt.  I was more preoccupied about how to talk to my children about how 20 children and 8 educators were shot in their school, before someone else told them.   Instead of dealing with what happened, I chose to focus on how to address the tragedy.  I am a Christian, a mother, an educator, and a human being, this should not have been my response to injustice and evil.  I should not have simple answers for my children or anyone, as Tony Campolo's words reminded me.   You may find his blog post and the scriptures he sites helpful as well.
I have had few personal tragedies in my life.  I lost three of my grandparents, whom I miss, and I had a miscarriage.  Each event affected me differently and left me with a hurt that never goes away.  Death is horrible and leaves us forever changed.  After my miscarriage I heard a song by Natalie Grant song that comforted me.  I hope that it comforts you too. 
We live in a broken world filled with sin, evil, and tragedy.  Until Jesus returns, I know he will feel each heart break with us.  I pray that all families hurt by unimaginable tragedies know what it is to, “be held” by Jesus when the sacred is torn from their lives and somehow they survive.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Music of Life

Breath six:
This time of year, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is playing nonstop on the radio, in stores, and in my home.  In fact, this evening our family sang it as a finale to our evening Christmas carols in the living room.  While we love to sing at Christmas time, music really fills our daily lives, like a daily dose of medicine. 
Don’t you love to see people rockin’ out to music in the car?  Yep, I am singing in that car. Jason is too.  Perhaps you heard him turn down our street?   Sometimes I’m singing to children’s music and sometimes I’m belting out my own selection.   Music can make me cry, get up and dance, reminisce on days gone by, and bring me peace.  As a child, we listened to records during dinner, sang songs at bedtime, and Dad always turned up the volume in the car.  My parents took us to concerts of their favorite artists, signed us up for piano lessons, violin lessons, encouraged me to participate in orchestra, choir, and attended endless concerts of their budding musicians.  Bless their hearts!  We all know what those concerts sound like with the squeaky violins off key.  My parents, however, also utilized music as a teaching tool.  They chose music to teach us lessons on behavior- my favorite childhood song to pass down to my children is a song called, “Be Patient.”  Music helps to teach of Jesus’ forever love for me.  My sister and I even learned our address through a song.  I sang in the shower, in church, in choir, at my grandpa’s and grandma’s funeral with my sister and cousins, and on long road trips to Missouri and Oklahoma.  Music has, and continues, to inspire me. 
I miss playing the violin, and singing in choirs; however, I still get to sing daily to my children and of course for my own pleasure.  Many of us even develop musical identities.  We connect with our friends over music and singing iconic lyrics together.  In our own family we now continue the musical tradition.  Jason, also a lover of music, is often found singing in the living room, the kitchen, and definitely in the car.  We have had conversations about children’s delicate ear drums at times.   He shares songs with me on Youtube and downloads songs to his iPod constantly.  He has introduced me to completely new genres of music.  In our home, we sing bedtime songs, we sing bath time songs, we sing at each meal and snack time, we sing as we play and as we go places.  We sing walking to school, groove to dance parties in the kitchen and living room, and race to and grab instruments for marching band parades.   When Lee is strumming the air guitar, Jane singing, and Frederick beating on the drum, they are developing a life-long love and connection to music and our family memories.   These are the moments I want to create for our children, and also for Jason and me.  I personally use music to calm me when I am stressed out with children screaming.  Yep, I turn it up and tune them out.  I use music to lift me up when I feel depressed, and I use music to help celebrate, and set the mood.  I recently started watching a one year old little boy who now demands and expects music every time he is in the high chair.  He even invented baby sign of swaying to music to remind me when I forget to turn on the music.   Music is like daily nutrition for our children.  Music arms our children for school and success.
 Here are some ways music positively impacts our children:
 1.  Music can introduce new and rich vocabulary to our children.  Be careful what vocabulary you teach though.
2.  Music can teach and introduce topics for further discussion.   We love the science album by They Might Be Giants, Veggie Tales, and World Playground/Folk Playground/Animal Playground CD’s to name just a few.
3.  Music introduces rhythm to children and is a building block for math.  For example, we sing fast and slow tempos.  We thump on drums and shake rattles and egg shakers to the beat.  We sing number songs, counting songs forwards and backwards, and we sing at various pitches, both high and low for variations.
4.  Music introduces rhymes and can be a building block to reading.  While we sing simplistic nursery songs, I also make up rhymes and songs for tasks around the house or rhymes with their names. 
5.  Music develops fluency.  The flow of language from music provides opportunity for children to hear and develop natural fluency.
6. Music encourages movement and dance, essential to children’s growth and development.  Our kitchen and living room get the most dance action.
7.  Music can relax, and energize children.  Singing songs and listening to music on the way to school pumps my kids up.  While our bedtime lullabies promptly create sleepy children on a good night.  
8. Music creates pleasure and shared memories with family and friends- concerts, musicals, sing-a-longs, and more.     
9. Music lights up neurons in the brain, encouraging brain cells to connect and neural networks to form (see the following article). 
10. Music creates community and a sense of belonging, whether it is in a classroom, or in your home.  You create traditions and the unique culture of your family through music. 

So, turn it up. Let loose for a moment- it’s good for you and your children! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Homework Debate

Breath Five:
This post is dedicated to my former editors, my parents and my current editor, Jason. 
Our last PTO meeting initiated an interesting discussion on children and their homework.  Our school adopted a no-homework policy expect for nightly reading.   The homework debate continued on Facebook.  Some posed that homework developed work and study habits, while others took the stance that homework is usually useless busy work.  Further perspectives were presented in conversation on the playground, as parents chatted at pick-up. 
This homework topic has been a passionate topic of mine personally and professionally.  Jason and I have held many conversations on the usefulness of homework and whether it is helpful or harmful.  His perspective as a high school history teacher and mine as an English Language Learner teacher in an elementary school have often landed us on opposite sides of the discussion.  Furthermore, our personal experiences with homework have influenced our thinking.  Jason is and always has been a very intelligent and book-smart guy.  Once he applies himself to an academic task, he breezes through it.  He reads at remarkable rates, and his memory astonishes me.  He excelled in school. 
I, on the other hand, worked for hours on homework only to receive C’s and B’s. I remember my parents working tirelessly with flash cards while the pile of missed math facts and vocabulary words never grew smaller.  I recall working in my bedroom on homework as my younger sister completed hers in record time. I would read and reread science texts and math sheets, realizing that I could not remember what I had just read.  Somehow I fumbled my way through the education system, with determination, resilience, and the help of my parents who egged me on, helping me with projects and studying even as I continued to failed quizzes and tests throughout high school.  Believe me, I did my homework.  Throughout my educational experience I felt as though I was scrambling to keep up.  With grit and determination I eventually developed personal strategies that worked for me.  Unfortunately, I might have developed more efficient strategies, had teachers understood me as a learner.  Had I been taught with individualized instruction methods now implemented in our schools to teach math and reading, I could have had success.  Had teachers recognized that a quiet hard worker does not equal comprehension, I could have been a confident student.  Had teachers recognized a learning disability before high school, I might have tasted more success. I waffled my way through quizzes, tests, and more traditional methods of education employed at that time; however, my curiosity, love of reading, and writing enabled me small victories.   Teachers are now trained to recognize learning disabilities, and utilize strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners in their classrooms.  They now teach to the individual student and not to the whole class.  I simply did not need to complete hours of homework that I could not remember.  I did not need repetitive flashcards where numbers changed before my eyes. I did not need comprehension handouts and worksheets.  Those homework assignments did not assist me in my eventual success in the education system.  In fact, I believe that despite the countless hours of trivial homework assignment, I retained and learned very little, they solidified feelings of self-doubt.  Even now, I occasionally feel as if I hoodwinked the system. I obtained my first set of straight A’s in college, received my diploma and a license to teach.  However, my insecurities still surface from time to time.  Did homework help me?  No, friends, it did not. 
The following are a few thoughts against homework:
1.) Homework results in a loss of time to do other enriching activities, such as the arts, sports, family adventures/events, and hobbies.
2.) The struggle between parents and children creates added stress to the relationship, whether it’s motivating students to do their homework, or difficulty understanding assignments by both sides. The level of parents’ education, language spoken at home, time that parents have to help adds additional stress as well.
3.) Most homework is not individualized.  It is often in the form of a handout that the whole class receives, leaving some children behind because it is too hard, or for others entirely too easy.   
4.) Children work for most of the day; therefore, they should not devote their time to working at home. Isn’t this what adults do?  Children are not mini-adults. Children need a childhood.
5.) The studies that show how homework affects our children’s learning is based on how children are performing on standardized tests.  Do we value those tests?  Do those tests truly show what a child has learned?  My answer is no.  Does society value those results and tests?  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  Think about No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top as examples. 
6.)   Children are overloaded with homework in some districts and grade levels.  They are so overloaded and stressed that they develop anxiety and other issues. 
7. Studies show that homework is not beneficial to student learning.   See the following for more information.

Obviously, my own educational experience proved to be powerful, yet I never lost my thirst to learn.  It shaped me, inspired me to become a teacher.  I want children to persevere.  I want to ensure children are encouraged, not discouraged.  My educational experiences influence how I parent, and my stance on how I allow homework to impact my family.  While our school currently has a policy of reading-only homework, I know this will not always be the case.  I want to support my children’s school and teachers while also honoring our family and my children.  I went to school to be a teacher, but I want to be a mother first.  I struggle with balancing structured time, homework, activities, and with free-play.  After school my children are exhausted. They have had to work hard for the entire day focusing, following rules, sharing space with children, dealing with conflicts independently away from their safety net called home.  Most days Lee does not want to sit down and do writing, handouts, or flash cards. Thankfully, he is fine with reading.   So how can I create and implement a balance of structure and play with regards to homework, when I don’t even believe in homework?   I do not want my children to struggle the way that I did. 
I know that children learn through play so here are some ideas to play and learn with your children:
1.) Sight word practice: Sticky post-it notes hidden through-out the house as a word scavenger hunt
2.)  Spelling and math fact practice: play horse with a basketball outside.  This can also be done with soccer and shooting at the goal or simply passing the ball back and forth.
3.)  Math story problems: pull from real life and create problems that you have in your home with sorting toys or sharing with siblings, snack, army guys etc.  Have your child create their own story problem to solve.  Children love to tell stories.
4.)  Math card games: Salute, Top-it, Memory, dice games, board games too.
5.) Instead of timing children by counting by one’s, choose to count by two’s, three’s, five’s etc.
6.)  Reading homework: Read every other page together.  Choose to read in silly voices, for example in a whisper voice. I do this when my children start to get distracted. 
7.) Writing homework:  Write notes back and forth to one another about the day, start a story and have your child continue it and then pass it back and forth. Get a special notebook for writing.  We have large, small, and tiny. 
8.) Change the homework location.  We sometimes do math facts or story problems on the wall in the bathtub or in the car. 
9.) I don’t call it homework, I call it brain exercises and I let them know that only children who are interested in growing their brain should participate.  I also make missions with messages, codes to uncover. 
10.) I don’t usually force them to do an activity.  If they are upset because they don’t get a math story problem we use manipulative, draw pictures, talk about it and say let’s try tomorrow.  Lee, who has had more homework than Jane, has been so discouraged by spelling that he has cried when he did not know how to spell a word.  We have conversations about not to let a letter of the alphabet get us upset.  (I did enough crying for the both of us.) 

Finally, I am not against promoting reading, writing, or engaging projects at home.  We actively model this in our home.  We read nightly, write frequently, and Jason has projects galore.  That is the culture of our home.  We call that living and learning, not homework.  But with regards to assigned homework, I say…
it’s okay if your dog ate your homework; let it, and go play. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Calm, Cool, and Collected

Breath Four:
I remember when Jane was a baby and Lee was two.  We were in the thick of it at a play date.  I mean, no time to chat and talk with other moms.  I was redirecting and negotiating a very busy Lee while nursing Jane, when a mother who was watching me said, “You are always so calm!”  I think I laughed, I did not feel calm.  I felt as though I could flip out at any moment.  Apparently, I come off as calm to others as well.  I do actually try to remain calm when dealing with my children.
Here are some of the strategies I have used:
1. I take deep breaths,
2. Fake it ‘till I make it,  
3. Remind myself that this is a learning opportunity,
4. Turn up the music… loud.
5. Go somewhere. Get out of the house- you are less likely to blow a gasket in public.
Keeping calm helps my kids talk about their feelings, solve their problems faster and get back to their normal exuberance for life. When I remain calm my children feel secure and safe; I am creating the optimal environment for their learning and growing. 
 Unfortunately, I do not always employ these techniques.  I should since I have extensive training and education in understanding child development.  I have also had the ultimate model of calm, my own mother whom to this day I can’t remember yelling at me.  But I am only human, doing the best I can.  It’s just sometimes, “doing the best you can,” isn’t enough.  I have defiantly blockaded myself in the bathroom for a few moments.  I have yelled at the top of my lungs, and thrown a grown-up rambling fit.  Not my finest moments, and not at all calm.  I find solace in the fact that I always apologize to my children; even grown-ups make mistakes.  At least there’s a lesson in the aftermath of my tantrum. Thankfully, I have never sworn at my children yet.  I have a couple of phrases that I use so that  I do not swear.  They are pretty simple- “I am so mad!” and “I am so tired of this!”  Did you notice the use of, I-statements?  Well ultimately, the yelling never works.  It scares them for a moment (not Frederick though, he just grins much to my chagrin.) I would like to say there’s something to be said for a healthy fear of your parents. You’d better behave or your mom is going to flip.  But really, it’s not how children learn. I guess I’ll resolve myself to being an adult, remaining calm and utilize deep breathing techniques. 
So, when someone compliments me on how together I seem or my parenting, I always feel that I am pulling off a great charade.  I thank them and smile, knowing that underneath I am disheveled, flustered, and anything but calm.  My house is always mess; maybe not the living room, but all the other rooms are.  I have ten loads of laundry at all times, and dishes in the sink, I rarely dust, and there might be a hostile take-over by children in my house at any moment.  Regardless, I love motherhood, and I will always try harder to remain calm, positive, and attempt to pull-off the ultimate deception of a calm, cool, and collected mother to my children. 


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful For Little Things

Breath Three:

I truly am blessed and thankful for the gifts God has given me.  I have a fabulous family, fantastic friends, a comfortable home, and food to eat. However, I’m also thankful for little things, like laughter, so here’s to a good laugh, or at least a small smirk.
Little things I am thankful for in no particular order:
1.) Candles- With the lights out, glowing candlelight almost makes the house look clean.
2.) Coffee- A simple necessity for me to function.
3.) Chocolate- Enough said.
4.) Gum- Refer to previous post.
5.) Wireless internet- We had dial-up until they discontinued WisDial in 2011. We were very high-tech.
6.) When children fall asleep in the van on the way home. Ahhh, who doesn’t love that peace and quiet?
7.) Toilet paper in the bathroom- Children don’t always replace it.
8.) Music- It can change the atmosphere from whiny to cheery. Also, if it’s up loud enough chatter can be tuned out.  You know you do this sometimes!
9.) Morning cartoons- They allow us a few vital minutes of sleep in the morning.
10.) Laundry chutes- Ours conceals mountains of dirty clothes at all times.
11.) Nights when we have no visitors in our bed. The bliss of uninterupted sleep!
13.) Time alone- A rarity in our home.
14.) A basement- Sometimes space is a beautiful thing in a marriage.
15.) Make-up- Tricks people into thinking I’m more awake and together than I really am, maybe.
16.) Curly hair-No one notices if you don’t have time to brush all the way through it. 
17.) Facebook-Where my acquaintances are now my “friends” and I can pretend I’m popular.
18.) Showering without a conflict or an interruption. I think we need a lock on the door!
19.) A fenced in backyard- “Go play outside for a little while, Mommy needs to make dinner.”  Yes, I do shoo them outside. 
20.) Target- The one stop shopping event, where I can get an emergency coffee too.

Remember it’s the little things!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Icky Sticky Bubble Gum

Breath two:
“Icky Sticky Bubble Gum,” a well-known children’s song, sung by my children as a rite of passage through the preschool years, came to life today in the wee hours of the morning.  Really, it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened to Jane prior to this.  Jane tiptoed in our room and whispered in my ear, “Mom, there is gum on my blanket and pajamas!”  I mumble something about going back to bed and dealing with it in the morning.  But when one is up, the others get up.  So, there they were each of my children awake in their beds whispering and watching the minutes pass until 6:00am.  We long ago deemed six o’clock a reasonable time to awaken.  I desperately tried to sneak in a few more minutes of shut-eye.  Six o’clock rolled around way too quickly; we got up and thankfully, we did not have to get gum out of Jane’s curly locks.  Her blanket and pj’s had to wait until we after the children were off at school. 
My children love gum.  They ask to chew it constantly.  Frederick started chewing gum when he was two years old.  He has swallowed his fair share of gum.  He is now interested in refreshing his gum frequently.  I NEVER would have given Lee or Jane gum at the age of two, they had to wait.  I guess with the third child everything goes out the window!  I’ll just call it, parents’ survival instinct.  My mother used to say, “Let the food fill your mouth” at the table when my sister and I were fussing. I suspect she was also looking for a few moments of silence.  We talked a lot!  I now relate to this feeling.  I hope for the same effect with gum chewing.  
While I don’t chew gum that often, I did as a child.  I remember sitting in the living room and learning how to blow bubbles. I like gum.  You can buy sugarless gum in any kind of flavor; it’s a nice alternative to the candies and sweets that children crave.  I also like it because my children tend to be rather oral. Additionally, gum has been shown to help children focus and concentrate.  For three years I have advocated for Lee’s teachers to let him chew gum.  Gum chewing would increase his focus and simply be a way he could move his busy body in classroom congested with children.  Now in his third grade year he finally gets to chew gum.  Lee is ecstatic and keeps a pack of gum in his backpack.    I know he is not the only mover and shaker in his classroom, and it is great that his teacher encourages children to chew gum if they need it.    
People have terrible gum habits.  They smack, pop loud bubbles, crack their gum, chomp like a cow, and even throw gum on the ground.  I have occasionally found gum on the floor at home and definitely found wrappers that missed the trash can.  Whenever this occurs we take breaks from gum chewing.  It is called natural consequences. My children are gum-savers; they put it on the sides of their plates and save it for after dinner.  Do you recall the little girl from the movie, Miracle on 34th Street?  She chewed her gum and saved it for the next day.  Gross.  Lee has been known to forget to throw away his gum, and chew it in his sleep.  I have actually seen him “sleep chew,” an amazing dedication to gum chewing.  But, I still say the benefits outweigh the negatives.  Gum assists in promoting household peace; it helps hold our focus, and keeps our breaths fresh.   
Next time you are in an uncomfortable conversation, a rude confrontation, or about to say something terribly mean, pop in a piece of gum, blow a quick bubble and walk away enjoying the fresh breath. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gasping For Breath

Breath One:
It is 7:15pm and the house is now quiet from the earlier chaos of three kids and a dog.  There is a quote that I am reminded of as my children sleep. 
“There never was such a lovely child, but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 
I feel deeply connected to this mother.  I love my children.  I cry over their sweetness when sharing a story with my husband, Jason, I blubber over the pictures of yesterday and I weep with frustration at how they or I acted.  I love them with everything I am, but I am always glad to see them sleep.  Finally, I get a little space, a little breathing room.  So, I’ve decided to write a blog.  This will be my breathing room.  It will be my space to reflect, process, take an honest look at the day or my life.  Truth is important to me, it can be uncomfortable, it can hurt, it may not be pretty, but it is the best.  
So, I start with an agenda of honesty.   
Were you shocked to learn my children are in bed asleep by 7:15?  Well, we have early risers and I will refer you to the previous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  We also have a very standard routine.  We find it necessary to have a routine with three children.  Along with the understanding, that children love routine and predictability.   They want to know what will happen next, it gives them a sense of control.  Often children have very little control.  Our routine is as follows:
1. Eat dinner together.  While I love the idea of homemade meals, I do not make them every night and I am not that great of a cook. I go in phases, meal planning for a week, and then scrounge in the cupboards for something to throw together.  I am a last- minute girl, and not so organized.
2.  Every other night is bath night at our house, unless we get really dirty or skip it out of laziness. Come on, they are just kids.  Although, my kids love baths, and it does keep one of them contained for awhile!  The kids take their baths and clean up their rooms or just clean their rooms and put on their pajamas.  This happens only when I am home. 
3. After baths and jammies we started giving them a bedtime snack.  We haven’t always done this, but Lee is hungry ALL of the time. 
4. Then the children brush their teeth, one at a time because spitting is involved and we have a minute bathroom.
5. We always read books together.  Jason and I share the responsibility.  We divide and conquer.  He is currently reading the second Harry Potter book to Lee.  Lee, generally reads it independently first and Jason rereads it to him.  I read with Jane and Frederick.  They currently share a bedroom.  They also read a few books on their bed independently.  For Jane, this means books that are from her school or books that she knows she can read.  For Frederick, this means reading pictures or talking about the books.  Then I read aloud the two books that each of them chose.   
6. Then it is time for lights out!  Only to turn on all night lights and the hallway light for each child.  Then each room has a noise machine which we purchased to try and keep our children in bed as long as possible.  The noise machines are set on babbling brook; this is a vast improvement from the former settings of squawking birds and thumping heartbeat that we have been subjected to in the past. 
7.  Then it is time for prayers, sometimes we say them with interjections from each of the kids and sometimes they pray aloud.  Sometimes they ramble on and tell God about their day, and sometimes they ask for specific things such as help and protection from storms, healing from snotty noses.  What an honor it is to hear our children pray and talk to God. 
8. After prayers we sing to our children and rub their backs.  Jason has specific songs that he chose to sing to each of the children.  Depending on who he is putting to bed he sings their respective songs.  For Lee he sings, “Amarillo by Morning” and “Margaritaville” I know not a kid songs or topics, I tried to tell him this. Oh well, nine years later. He also sings, “Rainbow Connection,” and “Love Without End, Amen”.  To Jane and Frederick he sometimes sings Badger songs at Frederick’s request.  He also sings, “Operator” and “I’ve Got a Name.”  I usually sing the same songs to all of our children.  I sing “ ‘Tis a Gift,” a song my mother sang to me as a little girl. I also sing, “Amazing Grace,” and “Jesus Loves Me,” “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and “You are So Beautiful,” and more.  Then backs are rubbed, Frederick holds my hair, because that is his thing.  I kiss them goodnight and tell them, “Sweet dreams, I love you and goodnight.”
 9. Finally it is sleepy time.  Hallelujah Amen! We pray they stay in their beds until morning. 

We shoot for lights out between 7:00pm and 7:30pm.  This process can be lengthened or shortened depending on the time.  Songs can be cut out or added and books can be shortened or bookmarks used. If the evening is getting crazy, then extra long reading time and songs it is!  We like to be flexible with everything except the time.  We don’t want anyone turning into a pumpkin and having a fit! 
To be perfectly honest this is the ideal.  Usually this routine works and really does happen…but fits happen too, quick songs and prayers happen, “oops I forgot to brush my teeth” happens, “Go to bed, NOW!” happens.  All these things happen as we gasp for breath.