Category Archives: Ian

Ten weeks into home school

We have just completed our tenth week of our new and improved home school.

The best way to describe what we’ve been up to is to share some thoughts about how each one of us has fared through the last weeks–from my perspective. So, here goes.

Things I am learning about Ian

  • He really likes “couch time.” This is together time, where we sit down and do our main Sonlight stuff–Bible, World History, Geography and reading novels. He especially likes the Usborne Time Traveler and World History books we go through, which are packed with lots of great illustrations and encyclopedic information.
  • The boy needs structure and consistency. It has been helpful for him to see a list each day on the fridge that tells him what will be expected of him in both school and family life. His fits and whining have dramatically decreased.
  • He has a knack for a lot of things–things that surprised me. He has pretty quickly picked up novice piano reading and playing skills, and I didn’t realize he could spell as well as he does. His ability to communicate in writing has improved, too. I think it’s all the reading he’s doing, and the varied subjects that the Sonlight Readers give him.
  • Despite his bad attitude about going to church, he enjoys reading the Bible with me, listening to me explain meaning behind stories, and engaging in conversation. I think he thinks about these things later, at least I know he remembers them. Maybe this is a better way for him to do it than Awana, which we discontinued after last year.

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We’ve been spending many mornings doing couch time in front of a fire. Our woodpile may not last us through the winter.

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Portraying desk work worse than it actually is.

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Piano practice.

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Archeological dig.

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Smaller, indoor archeological dig that ended up bearing more fruit than its outdoor counterpart.

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Ian’s budding rock and treasure collection.

Things I’m learning about Imogen

  • She’s picking up a lot of what Ian is learning–the things that pique her interest. She likes the Bible memory verse songs and the Geography songs. She likes to move to them as she learns.
  • She LOVES Aesop’s Fables. Honestly, many of them can be perplexing and the lessons can be difficult to explain to children. She loves the animals, the older, unique writing style, and the pictures. So we’re going with it.
  • She is excited about learning and I don’t want to dismiss that because I’m busy doing stuff with Ian. She wants to be read to and to have her own library books to look at. She often says, “When I read I’m going to . . .” She’s memorized a Sandra Boynton book she reads to Beatrice.
  • She loves art. Love, love, loves it. I have a love/hate relationship with her doing it because it’s messy. But she feels so loved and inspired when we engage in art activities. I’m excited for her to enroll in the Art class at the HEE next year. I’m ordering her some drawing books to work on for now.
  • She plays well with Beatrice when I’m teaching Ian things she’s not interested in. I am very thankful for that.
  • She loves swimming, and I’m so glad we got her into lessons. She gets to shine, doing her own thing.
  • She’s still doing ballet, but I’m not sure that will be a long-run activity.
  • Doing Pre-K was a good choice for her. I don’t hear her talk a lot about it, but I also don’t hear her complain about going. I think she feels confident in her class. She gets some one-on-one time with her teacher developing skills as one of the oldest in her class.

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We found a great toy store called Toys that Teach. They have a fantastic book collection that clearly Imogen was intrigued by (not to mention I drooled over so many good titles). I’m thinking I may need to create her a quiet corner with a comfy chair.

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Things I’m learning about Beatrice

  • She’s definitely moved into that 2.5-3.5 year-old difficult phase. Hitting, calling names, yelling, throwing fits, being sassy. It’s not so bad yet, but as the youngest she is definitely getting away with more.
  • She talks like she’s a ten-year-old sometimes, complete with attitude and hand gestures. We think it’s cute, but I’m not sure we should encourage it all that much.
  • She really likes being at the HEE. She’s found a favorite toy (a pull along puppy) that she drags all over the place. Don’t tell her, but she’s getting one for Christmas.
  • She doesn’t put caps on markers and it drives me CRAZY.
  • She has picked up French words with more enthusiasm and ease than the other two.
  • She has memorized the Middle East geography song we worked on in our first weeks, and can sing the Alphabet. It’s amazing what little ones can learn through song and the influence of their siblings.
  • She can start doing more household chores, I just need to make an effort to include her and hold her accountable.
  • She was a fantastic potty trainer!

Things I’m learning in this process

  • This gig is like a job. No, it is a job. Depending upon how much one invests in it, it can be part-time or full-time. I like it, but I didn’t think about how it would change my schedule and my relationships with others. I am missing some of my friends and fun activities, and need to consider how to fit those things into our lifestyle.
  • I really love learning, particularly when it comes to history and literature. This isn’t a revelation, but a rediscovery. There’s a reason I got a liberal arts degree in English Literature (I also strongly considered History). Ten years after leaving formal education I am seeing it bear fruit in the parenting and education of my kids. I know this is not for everyone, but I am having fun right now. You can ask me later how I feel when higher-level math and science come onto the scene.
  • I can see that this current endeavor could equip me for something else down the line, though I have no idea what. I like sharing what I know and engaging kids in good conversations. I can ask good questions appropriate to their level and then listen for their answers and personal views. I don’t think is just my kids; this has come naturally to me in nannying and other teaching scenarios.
  • I really love reading out loud. The more I do it, the better I get at it, and the more fun it is for all of us. It’s a bit of acting, of finessing words, and of creating the atmosphere I think the author is intending.
  • I can become a slave to the schedule and the checklist. I’m starting to feel that pressure to keep us on track with what is assigned each day and week. It’s wearing on me. Other Sonlight parents in the Facebook group I’m in warned of this. It is certainly not the intent of the Instructor’s Guide to encourage this. It’s just us Type A types.
  • In light of this, I am going to pick up Teaching from Rest, which has been sitting at my nightstand, waiting for me to come around to it. I’m interested to learn more about schole, the intentional slowing down of learning. This will be a challenge for me, but I think it will prove beneficial to my kids in the long run.
  • I can see myself living vicariously through my kids. Biggest example: I want to teach Ian Grammar (probably too early) because I learned very little when I was a kid. I turned out to be a good writer anyway, but I wonder if it hindered my foreign language learning. I am insecure about it. On the other hand, I don’t want to focus too much focus on Grammar in a way that hinders him from writing freely and outside of the box. Yes, these are the things that home school moms stress about and that I used to roll my eyes at.
  • I am tempted to choose the school stuff over the character building and discipline work. It’s just easier, folks. I’m trying to switch priorities.
  • I’m still hesitant to pick up French because I don’t have a set curriculum or lesson plan. I obviously don’t have the immersion option. With Ian going to Botswana in July it is more motivation to move forward, but this will be a real challenge for my personality. I’m hoping to focus on teaching him essential phrases for his travel experience and not venture too far out from that for now.
  • I’m still a homebody. Getting my kids outside for play is another weak point for me. I am glad they have the HEE and preschool two days a week.

Other things I’m excited about

  • Ian’s piano lessons with Miss Jane. I am thoroughly impressed with her skill and her thoughtfulness in considering the interests and needs of her student. Ian respects her tight ship. At the same time, he’s impressed when he requests songs like the Imperial March and Miss Jane practices it to perform for him at their next lesson. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall when they work together.
  • Usborne books. I’m not a fan of buying anything at full price, but I’ve gotten sucked into these fantastic materials. I’m particularly excited about some of the books I’ve ordered for Imogen that will help her transition into and get started in Kindergarten. (Side note: I have a book lady named Jessie, if you are interested in Usborne, and she did help me get some good deals.) I’ve also gotten a lot of used encyclopedic books from Goodwill I plan to dole out. I will be cracking them open myself in my *mass* of free time.
  • Putting together a centrally located bookshelf of good stuff that the kids will visit regularly (the one in their basement bedroom doesn’t get frequented).
  • How fun the HEE community continues to be, and how helpful and kind the staff is there.
  • Setting goals. I usually hate doing that. It’s like creating a mission statement–you forget it, move on and then feel guilty about how much you clearly didn’t care that much about it in the first place. That being said, the curriculum specialist at the HEE encouraged me to come up with some benchmarks for the school year. That way, I can put possible new endeavors through the checklist and see if they fit into what we are trying to achieve with our kids. This includes not just formal education, but also character traits we want to encourage, and our kids assimilation into being contributing members of our household and society. I really did feel relieved after putting my thoughts on paper, and I look forward to getting Jason’s feedback, so we can hone in on what we’re doing with these kiddos.

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Archeological dig in the backyard.

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First day in our new workspace. It was clean then, but now it’s a mess of scribbled scrap paper, uncapped markers and really dirty carpet. But, we’re making our way through that shelf of books!

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Members of the HEE family (at our new location). These three aren’t official students yet, but they enjoy the space, the people, the regular refills of popcorn, and the lollipops that are given out by the generous Ms. Trudi.

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Weekly preschool carpool with this bunch

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Preschool pumpkin patch visit

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Trick-or-treaters who mean business

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Future homeschooler? Yet to be seen.

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On a sunny day at the HEE, watching the big kids with their remote-controlled truck.

*For those who are interested in the details of our curriculum and materials, Ian is using Sonlight’s Core B&C World History curriculum, Math Mammoth, and Spelling Power. I can’t seem to commit to more Language Arts materials, but we have been trying out Shurley English and Winning with Writing. I’m thinking about starting Rosetta Stone for French.

Imogen is a part of our Sonlight Bible, History and Reading time when she wants to be, she’s doing a few pages a week of a Scholastic Pre-K workbook I got at Costco, and I’m trying to get her books at the library that interest her. She attends Westgate Preschool two days a week and does ballet.

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Ian’s seventh year

I took this photo of Ian back in November, at his seventh birthday party.  I call it “The force is strong with this one.”

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I love this guy so much.

Now here’s a haphazard compilation of my favorite moments/comments/observations from Ian’s seventh year.

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Ian killed it at Halloween this year. He was truly the best Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi EVER. I thought it was a bit strange that he insisted he be this version of Luke, which is not common (Pinterest does not give a lot of ideas for six-year-olds who want to be the dark, brooding and intense Luke who almost goes evil). But being the amazing, creative mom that I am, we were able to totally get it together.  He looked awesome! And if you know him, you know Luke in black is a good fit for his personality.

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A few months ago I asked Imogen to sit in Ian’s seat in the van, as we had to rearrange for some reason.  She flipped out and said, “I don’t want to sit back there, it SMELLS SO BAD!!!” I assumed this was just her being weird (she does have an incredibly acute sense of smell and eres on the dramatic side).  The whole ride she kept complaining about how gross it was and that Ian’s “stuff” was back there.

Later, as I was cleaning the van out I realized her wailing was totally legitimate. In and around Ian’s seat were molding apple cores, stale popcorn, trash of various sorts and ages, and a water bottle that was probably nasty inside (I didn’t look or smell for verification). It was like a teenage boy’s bedroom. I will not ask Imogen to sit back there again, and I really should apologize to her for being so dismissive of her concerns.

I can only imagine what Ian’s teenage bedroom will look like. Note to self: If Imogen ever gets into deep, deep trouble as an adolescent use “cleaning Ian’s bedroom” as a consequence.

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I love how Ian’s glasses are too wide for his face and they constantly slip down on his nose.  When he looks up from Legos or a book he peers over his glasses like an old man. And when he’s annoyed or mad, it’s even funnier. I know this is probably terrible for his eyesight, but it’s so amusing I’m not going to do anything about it right now. Plus, I don’t want to pay to go the optometrist.

Speaking of glasses, I think we are on Ian’s third pair this year. Zenni keeps our previous orders on file, so all I do is click “purchase” and a new pair of his trademark red and black specs comes in the mail a week later.

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I love how I have to bug Ian to get up off the library floor and get his books checked out so we can go. And I love how he reads all the way home, and then stays in the van long after everyone else has gone inside, immersed in some Star Wars book.

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If you look closely you can see Ian reading under a book light. This was the first time requested to read in bed. I was thrilled!

Speaking of books, Ian is obsessed with the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary (“Updated and Expanded!” he would say) he received from Vavu and Vava for his birthday. I can’t get the kid to put it down or get it out of my way. Every day he’s telling me “Did you know that in 2011 they made a Republic Frigade, a Battle Nabu Starfighter and Vulture Droid? And in 2012 they made the best set ever–the X-Wing Starfighter!,” No, Ian, I didn’t know that. But now I know. And we can eat dinner. Or do school. Or you can go pick up. Or you can go somewhere else and read that stinkin’ book.

[Side note: As creative research for this post I just asked Ian which Lego Star Wars sets were made in 2011 and 2012 and he listed them all of for me by memory. He’s actually not reading the Star Wars Visual Dictionary at this moment, but this is only because he got a fresh stack of books from the library. He also just read this post and pointed out that “Nabu” is actually spelled “Naboo.” I wouldn’t want to get that wrong.]

On the Legos subject, Ian is absolutely, hands down, the best Master Builder I have ever met. And I’m not just saying of the seven-year-old kind. He comes up with incredible stuff. He will select a new set partially based on what pieces come with it so he can create something else he’s already been thinking about.

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Here’s the display he created for the HEE’s Expo event:

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Ian spent a good portion of his seventh year in this coat. For some reason once he puts it on, he doesn’t take it off, regardless of whether he’s in or outside. And he keeps the hood up a lot of the time.

After it’s second season in use, that coat is really getting too small, which makes him look even more comical.

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Every once in a while Ian asks me to snuggle, usually before bed time. It’s like wrangling a giant, large-footed baby who has every muscle flexed. But I still love it. I call him carpet head because man, that kid has got some thick hair!

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The other day Ian said, in front of both his sisters, “I love Imogen and I love Bebo, but I love Bebo a bit more.” I waited to see if Imogen was offended and she didn’t seem to notice, so I think I just changed the subject.  Then yesterday Ian gave Imogen a big chunk of his chocolate bunny and said, “I’m giving this to you because you’re the best sister ever.” Imogen responded with, “Well, it was mine anyway since I gave it to you as a gift.” I suppose this is a good example of the rise and fall of their affections for one another (and what a typical day of their living and playing together looks like).

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This year has been wonderful as far as chores are concerned. Ian rarely ever whines about emptying the dishwasher, folding his clothes, or picking up. I LOVE IT. He’s not jumping up and down to help out, but I appreciate his logic; if he gets the work done he has more time to play and do what he wants. Fine by me.

What he does whine (and yell) about is doing school.  He’s a great student and he’s super smart. Once he gets to work and applies himself I think he feels encouraged and enjoys learning. But almost every week day I say, “Okay, we’re going to start school now” and he flips out. Like backtalk, sassy, yelling, awful-face reaction. It’s like I’m looking at my angriest self in the mirror.

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One day was particularly bad and so his journal entry topic was selected for him: to apologize to his mom and explain how he thinks it made her feel when he yelled at her. He begrudgingly went about his work, but less than ten minutes later he approached me with this:

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In case you have trouble reading this, I will translate. It says, “I’m sorry I yelled at you Mom. I think it made you sad. Do you forgive me? Are you ok?”

I asked him to read it to me and when he got to the end he choked up. And then he got made because somehow he’s learned that being tender and vulnerable is not a good thing (maybe from me? just a thought . . .) Anyway, I snagged a hug and told him I loved him before he ran off.

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Ian has become an even better gift giver than he was last year.  His Christmas gifts for others were so perfect.

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I can’t help but comment that Jason looks like a crazed lunatic in this pic.  And there’s Ian’s old-man glasses!

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And lastly, Bebo with the lamby Ian got her with his Awana bucks.

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I think I may have mentioned before that we sponsor a seven-year-old boy from Haiti named Gregory through Compassion International. We do this, in part, so Ian can connect with another child his age who lives somewhere vastly different, and who needs God’s love in some very specific ways.

Ian has participated over the last few years in writing letters, drawing pictures, and sending little gifts to Gregory. But a month ago we received a letter that Gregory’s father had died. Because his mom died several years ago, he is now a complete orphan. When I told Ian he got overwhelmed and started to cry. Then he pulled himself together and ran off with a sense of resolve. He grabbed all of his saving and giving money and wanted to give it to Gregory so he “can be happy again.”

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Ian sending his letter off to Gregory.

We called Compassion that day and made a special donation, and Ian and I prayed with the customer service rep on the phone. I asked Ian, “Are there any bible verses that you think would encourage Gregory right now?” He shrugged at first, but then decided on Psalm 23, since he had just memorized it. So I wrote it out on a piece of paper and Ian colored on it. The Compassion rep confirmed with me that it will be translated so Gregory can read it himself.

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Speaking of Psalm 23, here is how I haphazardly tried to explain it to Ian when he was memorizing it several months ago. It was a fun conversation. Having to explain life in simple terms is really good for my soul, and I hope it’s good for him, too.

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It’s been a smattering of things, and I wish I had some heartfelt, God-inspired words directly for Ian this year, but I don’t. I’ll just say I’m so very happy to be his mom and to have shared another year with him.

I love you, Ian bo bee-an. Here’s some more great pics of you this last year. You’re still pretty cute, even though you’re so old now.

(In chronological order, starting with Ian’s 6th birthday and ending with his 7th.)

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Painting by Elizabeth VanSnellenberg

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Ian at age six, and a letter to him

The other day I was having a conversation with Ian, one that we have several times a day.  He had emerged from a timeout for some misbehavior that I can’t remember and I guess you could say I was giving him a lecture.

At the end I made a point to say, “Ian, I know you can obey.  I know God can give you the power to do it.  I just know it!”

Half the time in these sort of situations he’s barely making eye contact with me and I wonder if all the effort I am putting into parenting him is only going to amount to me getting wrinkles and having a nervous breakdown.

But this time Ian did something unusual.  His face formed into a grimace, what I affectionately like to call the stink eye.  He raised his fist up close to his face and started shaking it.

I assumed this was just pushback and I retorted, “Ian, why are you angry again?”

He said, “NO, MOM!!! This is me telling myself that I CAN DO IT! I CAN OBEY!”

Oh, Ian. There is no one else in the whole world like you.

I’ve thought about you in your sixth year and what I would like to say to you and to say to the world about you.  And so here I go, I’ll say it as best I can.

First, all the emotion inside you, including that display of such passionate determination I just mentioned, is going to amount to something pretty incredible someday. Your dad and I’s goal is to help you channel it.

Being an emotional person means, for you, being angry a lot. And when you’re angry, everyone knows it. You give us that stink eye, and a growl, and stomp off.  Sometimes you try to punish us by saying you are going to stay in your timeout FOREVER so that we’ll miss you terribly.  Sometimes you try to argue and sometimes all you can do is just yell (believe me, I get that).

Sometimes that anger is just plain anger because you’re a sinner like the rest of us.  But sometimes what’s underneath is sadness and a deep sense of injustice. On rare occasions, if I prod and dig a little, you will show me your tears, which I consider a precious gift.  Sometimes after a showdown, if I’m calm enough myself, I’ll crawl up into your bed and try to help you unfurl all the emotions that are going on inside you.  I’m not sure if that’s working, I suppose time will tell.

Though you give push back and hesitate to commit yourself to a lot of things, when you do, there is a great sense of loyalty and devotion you give out. I saw this when Beatrice was born.  Admittedly, you were quite disappointed she was a girl.  You hid in the hallway and wouldn’t come in to meet her.

But then, on your own, when no one was paying attention, you ran down to your room and brought up a doll bed to lay her in and blankets to wrap her up in.  You’ve been her favorite ever since.  I would think her armpits would hurt from being carried around by you, with your arms wrapped around her chest and her feet dangling.  She doesn’t seem to mind, and you haven’t dropped her yet.

As for your other sister, there have been times I’ve wondered if you have much empathy for Imogen.  She is a dependable and constant playmate, but also one of your biggest annoyances. Empathy is one of those things your dad and I really want for you guys.  It’s the kind of thing that only God can grow in a person, which of course makes me feel totally helpless and occasionally terrified.

But just as sometimes you give me the gift of your tears, you also give us glimpses of the deep love you have for people, and Imogen in particular.  I will never forget the time you and Immy were careening down the hill in front of our house on your bikes and she crashed into the ground.  I saw it from far off and it looked awful, her body hit the pavement and saumersalted.  Your dad started sprinting down the street toward her.

You were right there and you stopped your bike immediately. Knowing nothing else to do, you took off your sweatshirt and laid it over her body as she screamed.  I saw you do it; it was completely instinctual.  I wonder how you must have felt in that moment.  You are a kid now and what you can do is limited, but when you grow up and become a man, you will have the opportunity to help many hurting people with your love. It may feel like helplessness to you even then, but it won’t be.  I hold onto that memory of Imogen, a small little thing far off, covered in your favorite green sweatshirt.  It helps me on the hard days because, Ian Haggard, parenting you can be hard sometimes.

Part of the reason why it’s hard is because you and I are cut from the same cloth.  Your dad reminds me of this pretty much every day.  He usually does it when you are angry or disobedient, which frustrates me.  But he would also admit you get some pretty special character traits from me, too.  I hesitate to even make the comparison between us because I don’t want you to feel that you are living in anyone’s shadow.  And I can, at times, have a big, monstrous shadow.

Do know that because we are so alike, I will remain one of your greatest cheerleaders.  When I see you a ball of anger, feeling as if the whole world is against you, inside I’m saying to you “I KNOW! I GET IT, IAN!” When you refuse a bite of dessert because you can’t have the whole thing, I understand.  When you self-sabotage the best of situations, I know how much you’re missing because I’ve missed out, too–too many times to count.

And so there is this empathy I have for you in the sins you struggle with, coupled with the deep devotion I have to parenting you to the best of my ability (because just like you, when I’m in, I’m ALL IN, baby!).  Admittedly, I don’t want you to turn out like the worst parts of me.  I fuddle through parenting you and ask God to help me; saying no when it’s needed, creating boundaries, doling out consequences and explaining to you how life works. I want you to enjoy all the blessings that come with obedience to the Lord.  I want all that still needs to be shaped for God’s glory, to be malleable. Also, I don’t want you to be that kid throwing a tantrum on the football field or in the work place or with your wife.

One of the things I really admire about you is your desire for quality time with those you love. You are completely engaged when with the special people you consider in your inner circle and you are constantly inviting us into your world. I have to remember that invitation is a gift and not an annoyance. I admit there are many times I say no to you because of my own agenda.  But there will come a day when you will stop inviting me because you’ll be growing up (as you should).  And I won’t be able to enter into your little world of Lego spaceships equipped with missiles and guns, robotic dancing to loud, fast-moving music, silly chasing with your sister, and quiet times sitting on the couch, shooting the breeze as only 6-year-old boy can do.

I hope that in the coming years I give you so many more emphatic “yes”s when you request quality time with me.  Despite this being a weakness of mine, God has still inserted some wonderful memories into our life together as mother and son.  There are two in particular that I will always remember.

The first was back in March.  I was finally to the point of emerging from weeks of postpartum recovery after Beatrice was born.  Miss Sarah was watching the girls one afternoon and I had a burst of energy, so you and I set out for a walk.

When I spend time with you doing whatever it is that you want to do, I learn all kinds of things about you – what you’re thinking about, the memories you have stored up in your brain, your musings about your surroundings.  This day wasn’t any different, but it was especially delightful because it had been so long since I had zeroed in on you and you alone.

We ended up in the woods behind the HEE where we found the beginnings of what we made into a really awesome fort.  It was a completely spontaneous effort and I had so much fun. We dragged and carried lots of tree limbs that had been knocked down from a recent windstorm to our special spot. This is what we created:

I’ve built a lot of forts in my day; this was definitely the best! And look at the delight on your face, a reflection of a full heart.

Another memory I hold close is the time we went on a family outing to Richmond Beach.  It was the end of summer and the days were getting cooler.  You had been asking and insisting that we go to this particular spot for a few weeks and each time I had vaguely committed and then bailed out.  But you really wanted this.  So we all eventually went, including Grandma T.

We had a lovely time, sitting on the beach eating snacks in the early evening, playing in the water and building a sand castle.  As we walked back to the car you pronounced loudly and with a deep sense of gratitude, “That was the best trip to the beach EVER! Thank you for taking me!”  Grandma laughed with amusement and surprise. I stopped and recognized that moment for what it was, so I could keep it with me and not forget it.  You kept expressing your thanks all the way home.   You really do feel most happy and alive when spending special time with those you love and who love you.

Here you are, with the sand castle you built with Dad. You look like a younger version of yourself in this photo, like a little boy, and I love it!

You are now officially six years old, after having a really nice birthday and an awesome Lego birthday party.  Over the course of the last year, you covered a lot of ground. You acquired another sister.  You said goodbye to Miss Sarah and hello to Miss Laurel.  You started kindergarten, both at home and in your classes at the HEE. You saw your first movie in a movie theater. You caught your first fish.  You got glasses and you lost your first tooth.  You’re starting to read and we’ve discovered you’re pretty darn good with numbers (which your dad takes credit for, of course).

You’re a pretty amazing, Ian Haggard.  With that emotion and intelligence, and with God, of course, you’re going to do some great things in this world.  Have fun keep going, even when it’s hard. I will be cheering you on. I’ll probably be crying on the sidelines and yelling, of course, because I’m just as emotional as you are.

Love, Mom

Ian through his fifth year

I will have to say this year has been one of my favorite with Ian.  The last few years have been difficult for us all, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I much I really enjoy my son.  He is blossoming in so many ways and it’s so fun to be a part of his life.

This year Ian:

  1. learned to ride his two-wheeler
  2. was baptized (which he did NOT like)
  3. went from Spiderman to Batman
  4. started going to preschool mid-year (and did so very well)
  5. got a terrible stomach flu while in New York visiting Jordan & Elysia (which he still talks about to this day)
  6. picked me A LOT of dandelions throughout the summer
  7. got the bunk bed he’s dreamed of
  8. has been able to truly play with his sister, now that she’s old enough to chase and be chased
  9. confirmed to me that his love language is quality time
  10. has been so empathetic when he sees me hurting (just this last week when I had the stomach flu he brought me my Juice Plus, a glass of club soda, and my bible because he says that’s what you need when you feel bad)
  11. found out he was having another sibling and was VERY excited upon finding out (and still is)
  12. developed a few new dance moves
  13. remained the best person in the house to find anything that’s lost
  14. had a several-month visit with Grandpa Bill & Grandma Becky and a month-long stay at Grandma T’s during the summer
  15. transitioned to his new house and new preschool very well
  16. started being more consistently and firmly disciplined (results following)
  17. went from more sullen and angry to a lot more cheerful and helpful
  18. adjusted well to having our new helper, Sarah, around to care for he and Imogen
  19. became more snuggly (yay!)
  20. blossomed into quite the artist and letter-writer
  21. continued his mad Lego-engineering skills
  22. made some new friends (though he swore he didn’t need them, he said liked his old ones just fine)
  23. had a two-night hospital visit for a nasty case of croup (he’s so stinkin’ cute and sweet when he’s sick)
  24. became very interested in space and animals, which he will tell you about at length, and in detail
  25. made his first fire in our fireplace
  26. remained incredibly photogenic (beware: you will be inundated below)

Fourth birthday party

First day of preschool in Seattle

Riding his two-wheeler

Spiderman phase

Zip-lining in the backyard

Mother’s Day Party at preschool

Riding the trailgator with Dad

End of first year of preschool (Feb-May)

4th of July Parade

First day of Pre-K in Shoreline (which wasn’t as bad as the picture implies)

Feeling crummy during his hospital stay

Batman at Halloween

Enjoying his birthday with us and Batman

Pre-K school photo

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Sadly Ian came down with a stomach bug the night before his birthday party this year, but still enjoyed himself by celebrating with Grandpa Brad and Nana Linda–and a few birthday presents, too.

Thanks to everyone who has loved him so well this year, he has so many special people in his life, and for that we are thankful.

Ian is a great kid! We love him so much.  And I look forward to seeing more of God’s ways in his life in the coming year.

A chip off the old block

Ian started preschool the beginning of February.  To be honest, I just wanted and needed some cheap childcare (can I get an amen from any other parents on this one?)  I wanted someplace else Ian could go where there was a wholesome, pleasant atmosphere, where he could show & tell his stuff, obey adults, be nice to other kids, run around, and get his craft on.  And, I could be with one less kid for a few hours.

Many of you saw the photo on facebook the photo that confirms to the world that Ian loves preschool (and that picture was taken before he even got there on his first day!). I figured he would.  I think he was getting a little bored around our house.

I don’t care, at least at this point, about academic rigor, but he is learning some things, particularly about letters and their sounds.  And word around preschool town (and from Grandma Becky who’s got the direct line to other grandchildren) that four-year-olds have the ability to write their own name.

Well, Ian doesn’t do that, at least he didn’t (*spoiler alert*).  I’ve haven’t cared.   I’ve read those lists on Pinterest, the “Everything Your Kids Should Be Able to Do Before They Get to Kindergarten” ones and my half-hearted response has been “Whatever, he’ll get to it.”  It’s so shocking hear myself saying this, but this is something I don’t worry about (this category runs small for me).

Well, a week or so ago we were coloring at home (Ian had markers, Imogen was designated to colored pencils.  Note: Don’t EVER, EVER give markers to a toddler).  Since we had grandma reinforcements, I was feeling more on the confident side, so I casually mentioned to Ian, “When you’re done with that picture why don’t we work on writing your name?”

He was mildly disinterested but said “okay”.  So I wrote him an “I” and he tried to copy it.  There was a little bit of push back, but it came relatively easy so we went onto “A”.  That’s when the back-peddling started. “Nooooooo! I CAN’T DO IT!”  This was said over and over, with increasing desperation.

You and I know this is not true.  With his duplos, Ian can practically build a miniature-size version of Ludwig’s castle or a Blackbird stealth.  And then he can somehow pull both creations together into one self-entertaining epic storyline (which he whispers to himself – did we all do that as a kid or was that just me and now my offspring?).

Back to the name writing thing.  By this time, we had moved past frustration.  I sensed some tears coming on.  I sensed fear.

“My name is too hard to write!” Ian said.  Too bad that excuse doesn’t work since we gave him the EASIEST name in the world.  When both Grandma and I told him this his response was that he wanted a new name.

I told him he was too young to change his name and besides, Mama had prayed a lot about what his name should be and I felt that God had given Ian his name (it means “God is gracious”).  You can’t argue with God.  But, for fun I said “Alright, Ian, what would you want your name to be?”

He hesitated a moment and then sheepishly said, “Helga.”

I’m sorry, I laughed.  And Grandma laughed.  What the heck – Helga?!  Besides, that has a “G” in it.  If you won’t write a capital “A” good luck writing that one, Ian.

Thankfully, our laughter did not shame him.  It actually put the teeniest, tiniest crack of a smile on his face.

So, Ian mustered up the resolve to try an “A”.  He tried to copy the “A” I wrote and it was not a bad first attempt at all.  It looked a bit more like a crooked, wobbling “H”, but heck, I’d take it.  And I praised him for it.

Well, Ian did not like his “A”.  In fact, he hated it.  He hated that we praised him for it.  “It’s NOT PERFECT!”

This is when I went into my time warp.  I can’t remember how young I was, but it was pretty young, when I started saying this to myself.  And I’ve been saying those words for a long time. I’m still saying them.  It has kept me from doing things in life, or it’s imprisoned me into doing them half-heartedly, or just giving up on them altogether.  And to be honest, I get angry about it, just like Ian does.

In the midst of my self-revelation, I was able to step outside myself for a moment and realize an invisible door was showing up.  As our pastor says, your kids “flash” you, so to speak. They show you what’s really in their heart, past the clenched fists and the evil eye.

I have been told when you see this flash, this invisible door, you leap headlong through it before it shuts in your face. And you pray and hope God shows up and you don’t mess things up.  Parents of older children can correct me if I’m wrong on this one (or least give us newer parents tips on how to successfully get through the door and not create dysfunction once inside).

Well, I went in that door.  It was double doors, because in actuality, this was just as much about me (maybe even more so) than it was about him.  Ian’s resistance shined a bright light; it brought me back to my own fears of things not being perfect.  Things HAVE to be perfect, gosh darnit!

I told Ian how there have been so many times I have been afraid to do things because they are hard.  I am scared, just like him, that I can’t do it.  I thought about all the things I tried as a kid – horseback riding, synchronized swimming, piano lessons, a myriad of art classes, basketball, golf, tennis, choir.  Some of these things I wasn’t good at, but some of them I could have been good at.  Some of them I was actually kinda good at and maybe, with time and practice, I could’ve been really good at them.

I need to make a side note to say that one of the only things I stuck with is writing.  And a degree in English Literature tried to suck that one out of me.  But, here I am, and truth be told, all those papers on literary criticism probably made me a stronger writer (and thinker) about life.

And so there Ian was and he listened to my speech and he understood as much as a four-year-old can about how some new things are scary and hard to try, but that God gives strength, and we can be proud of ourselves for trying and completing them, that practice makes us better at them, etc., etc.

And then he finished writing his name.  He still got angry when Grandma and I praised him for following through.  There were some more protests and slamming of his fists on the table.  But he did it.  This first attempt was written on the outside of a letter to Grandma T, but here is his second version, written underneath a painting of a big boat hooked up to Grandpa Brad’s red truck.

A few days later I was dropping Ian off at preschool and we were making small talk with one of his teachers. I encouraged Ian to tell Ms. Laurie about the new thing he learned how to do.  I had forgotten about the name-writing; I thought he was going to tell her how he’s riding his new two-wheeler (which was a cinch for him to learn), but instead he said “I can write my name now!”

He will always remember when he learned to ride his bike. It will probably be a memory of glorious freedom.  But I think in writing his name (at least I hope) he will remember God gives strength and courage to do new things.  They don’t have to be perfect the first time, or even ever.  And we can start on new things because we know these truths.

And I hope that I sit down at that beautiful piano that was such a wonderful gift to me and I play, even though it scares me.  And I write more and sing my heart out in the choir at church on Easter, and get the sewing machine out more than once a year and make something even if the stitch doesn’t come out absolutely perfect.

Thanks, Ian.  Thank you, God.

Preparing Ian for the woman in his life

A few days ago I had the hankering to try on my wedding dress.  (Is this weird?  I get the compulsion like once a year and/or when I think there is an inkling that I may be able to zip it up).  Anyway, I went into my bedroom to put it on and Ian waited outside the door.

When I came out three minutes later (which is like an hour in 4-year-old time) I said “TA DA!” And, not surprisingly, all I got was Ian’s grumpy face.

Now this face doesn’t mean he doesn’t like something.  I knew he was mad he had to wait outside the door, but I had told him that’s how it works.  Women put on their pretty outfits and men wait outside until it’s time to complement them.  He didn’t understand this and besides he wanted to play with the big white bag with the huge zipper on it.  His sister was nearby and he could’ve put her in it. But no, I had ruined that possibility.

In my presentation, not only did I get the grumpy face, I could tell he thought it was all a little strange.  Considering I had just come out of sweatpants, this is understandable.

I proceeded to sweep myself down the stairs and showed my mom on skype (who was also mildly uninterested).  I acted silly and fun about it (and as you can guess fun is a bit unusual around our house lately) and so Ian decided he was on board with my little game.

This was confirmed the next day when he asked me if I would try on some of my other pretty dresses.  It’s probably hard to believe since I’ve been rattling on about my extremely understated wardrobe as of late, but I consider myself to clean up pretty well, when I want or have to.  And I have quite a few cocktail dress options. (When do I wear these?  Never.) So, I tried on three different outfits for him.

When I got done I said, “So Ian which one did you like best?”

He told me he liked the purple one (a former bridesmaids dress that was the most frilly and foofy of the three).  I think it’s because I did the twirl in it that he requested.

Then I said “What about the first one I tried on, the red one?  I really liked that one.”

No, he liked the purple one best, he said.  And I could tell he was growing more and more disinterested by the millisecond.

Yet, in that moment, I found that small fountain of wisdom inside of me spring up with a tidbit of helpful advice for the 25-year-old version of Ian.

“Ian, when your wife says to you, ‘Does this look good on me? What do you think?” THIS is what you are supposed to say:

“Honey, I really liked outfit A (or B or C), but you looked great in all of them.   You should wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.”

What I didn’t say to him was that maybe one of his wife’s wardrobe selections was sweatpants. Ugh. Hopefully he doesn’t find himself in that situation.

It probably doesn’t matter anyway because my wisdom was nonchalantly dismissed. My guess is his brain was thinking about if he’d had dessert yet today (it was 9am), or if he could watch a video, or if the discipline that would be doled out would be worth messing up the bed I was making at that very moment.

At any rate, he wandered off and has not asked me to put on another pretty dress since.

Something tells me I was given a glimpse into the future:  the scene involves an annoyed woman who is getting no help from her husband in her very urgent outfit crisis.

But, the kid LOVES to give flowers, so I think she’ll forgive him.

Enough about me, here’s my cute kids

You all tell me on a regular basis how stinkin’ cute my kids are, and I agree.  So here’s a bit of a photo recap of the last few months.

At the zoo on Ian’s birthday back in December.

Our first family gingerbread house.  It was very easy and fun.  And, as you can tell it’s a traditional German Hexen Haus (going back to our roots).  Also, my youngest has crazy, wild hair all the time.  Which leads us to the next picture . . .

Imogen’s first haircut.  Here hair’s still pretty wild, though.

My children aren’t all that into actually brushing their teeth, they just play with their toothbrushes, which I find lying in random places around the house (the brushes, not the children).

Just even more proof of which of my children is photogenic and which isn’t.

I’m thankful both of my children are in a snuggling phase.

We got out the antique kitchen again (I watch it like a hawk and if Ian is in any way rough with it goes into the basement cave).  And of course there’s the girl with the wild hair again.

Typical Ian dance/ninja/Spiderman move.  The facial expression can also, at times, express his “I’m being a pill” mood, although that is not what was happening in this artistic moment.

Imogen’s moves.  The bed is her typical dance floor.

Totally unscripted, but so sweet.

Many of you have seen this one on facebook, but it’s worth sharing again – Ian’s first day of preschool.

And because of preschool, Ian’s getting way more into arts and crafts.  Here’s one of his creations.  I also think it’s kinda cute and fitting that the t-shirt he was wearing at the time says “Explore.”

Dress up time.  I promise she was smiling two seconds before this picture was taken.

That’s all, folks.  I will try to keep up on our flickr photostream.