Friday, February 25, 2011

Field Trip Friday: The Fire Station!

Last month we had the opportunity to go to the Cranberry Township Fire Station with our homeschool co-op. I was thrilled to have the chance to do a little "fire safety" unit with the kids. Chloe learned about fire safety in preschool, but this was the first time the boys got a good, hands-on lesson about staying away from fire.

The instructors were all volunteer firemen, and their patience and enthusiasm with the kids was awesome!

Learning stop, drop, and roll:

What a fireman would look like coming to save you in a burning house... pretty frightening!!

Max and Sam were firemen last year for Halloween, so they especially loved the hats and learning about all the equipment.

After learning about the importance of staying away from fire and what to do if there is a fire in your house, we all went to the giant garage to learn about the trucks. Needless to say, getting in the trucks was the boys' favorite part of the morning!

It was an awesome trip, and a valuable learning experience! The volunteer firemen are truly selfless, heroic individuals. It was such a blessing to spend the morning with them!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For the Love of a Good Book

 "I choose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people, because they give nothing for nothing. They only help those who help themselves. They never pauperize. They reach the aspiring and open to these chief treasures of the world -- those stored up in books. A taste for reading drives out lower tastes."
Andrew Carnegie

Chloe has begun reading quite well on her own, much to our delight. I took her to her first story hour when she was 9 days old... no joke. It was at the Cranberry Library, and I'll never forget the amused look on the librarian's face when I marched in with my five-and-a-half pound one week old and proudly announced as we went around the circle that her name was Chloe. All of the other babies were at least sitting up and most were toddling about the room, but I was determined that my girl would love libraries and books as much as her mother, so I thought I'd better start young. 

When the rock 'em sock 'em twins came along, I entered into an eighteen-month-long library depression. Chloe and I were by then devoted weekly library enthusiasts, and I stubbornly refused to give that up with her. She had learned that libraries were places to use her quiet voice, to read softly with mommy, and to do more looking and less touching, more listening and less raucous playing. The twins did not cooperate. They were loud, even as babies, crying through story hour and forcing us to leave so we didn't ruin it for others. My sweet, selfless sister would meet us as often as she could at the library before work so that one of us could stay with Chloe while the other walked the restless boys through the library in the stroller. I dragged all three of those kids to the library almost every week and, more often than not, left physically and emotionally exhausted a half hour later, mourning my pre-Sam-and-Max library visits and wondering if I would ever get them back.

Finally, a few months before they turned two, a tiny light flickered at the end of the long tunnel. The boys seemed to be beginning to understand. As we pulled into the parking lot each week I would ask questions about the appropriate behavior that was expected in a library, and they seemed to know all the answers...

Should they knock maniacally on the fish tank?


Should they use only their quiet voices?


Is it okay to climb over the barrier and touch the camel on display in the entry?


Is it okay to look at the camel and discuss what he is wearing and why?


Is it okay to take every book in an entire row off the shelf and throw them on the floor?


Can you choose one and bring it to Mommy to read?


Things weren't always perfect. They still aren't. There are still times when the kids get a little too loud, a little too silly - and when they do, if stern warnings are ignored, we leave.  

I've tried as best I can to teach them that people go to libraries to enjoy books and quiet, not crazy children, and I think that's as it should be. Our community is full of places for kids to play... there should still be some sacred places where children learn to go and be quiet, shouldn't there? 


 Our local library, with only its few old, simple toys and puzzles, is on my kids' top five favorite places to go on a weekly basis, and I am so grateful. Studies show that one of the best ways to encourage a love of learning in children is by bringing them to the library as often as you can.

And that sweet, selfless sister who used to help me at the library?  She's already training her own little reader...

James Paul at four months, edifying himself as Mommy and Aunt LaLa bake Thanksgiving pies.

"The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history."
Carl T. Rowan 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just Another Ordinary Miracle

We are rejoicing over the latest snapshot of our little one. Boy or girl, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our much loved, much hoped for Baby #4.

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
      you formed me in my mother's womb.
   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
      I worship in adoration—what a creation!
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I'd even lived one day."
Psalm 139:13-18

Friday, February 11, 2011

Girls' Day In

A few weeks ago Chloe started asking when she could have her "girlfriends" over for a "girls only playdate." This request caught me off guard... who were her girlfriends??  When did she start calling them that??!!  Turns out she's a chip off the old block... when I'm on my way out to meet a friend for a girl's night, the kids always ask where I'm going and I say "Girl's night out! Mommy's going to hang out with her girlfriends."

Chloe has decided that it's time for her to have her own girl time, so I asked who some of these "girlfriends" might be. "Abigail and Anna Lyn," she announced, referring to her great buddies from dance class. A date was picked, and I was presented with an opportunity to begin to teach Chloe about hospitality.

When you have people over, it's nice to have something planned, I explained.
No problem - the girls would be offered several entertainment choices, all of course being Chloe's favorite things to do: baking cookies, dressing up like princesses, staging a performance in the basement, and doing ballet.

It's really nice to have something to offer your guests to eat and drink, I continued.
No problem - the girls would be offered apple juice, and they can eat the cookies they've baked and decorated!

When they arrive, you want to make sure they feel welcome in our home, I finished.
No problem - both Abigail and Anna Lyn were nearly knocked off their feet when Chloe hugged them hello.

It was a momentous afternoon... we made cutouts, dressed up as princesses, had a tea party, decorated the cookies, practiced the first few moves of the upcoming dance recital, ate the cookies, and played some sort of elaborate game in which Abigail was both the mother and the queen, and Anna Lyn and Chloe were princess sisters. And this was all in about two hours.

What darling little girls. I am so grateful Chloe has these two for friends!

 Friends love through all kinds of weather,
   and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. 
Proverbs 17:17 (The Message)

Monday, February 7, 2011


Sometimes a story catches your eye and then immediately takes your breath away. I woke up about an hour ago with my mind on this week's To Do list and checking up on friends due to have their twin babies this morning in another state. We were all up past our bed time last night cheering on our beloved Steelers in the Superbowl, filled up with good food and good times. Max crawled into our bed sometime early this morning and snuggled in, chatting softly about his love for Steeler balloons and his cousin Drew's toy swords.

I clicked on my computer, checked my email, and got ready to get some work done when I remembered that a little girl with a brain tumor that our family has been praying for was scheduled to have a routine MRI a few days ago. Her name is Kate McRae and none of us know her, but I came across her story through a few blogland friends and I immediately felt burdened to pray for her as if I had know her all my life. Maybe it was the fact that she's the same age as Chloe and has the same big eyes and blond curls. Maybe is was simply God, gathering prayer warriors from all points on the globe as only He can do to intercede together for this desperate family. I prayerfully followed her story for a year as she endured surgery, radiation, and horrendous bouts of chemo, as she spent Christmas in isolation in a hospital ward and her birthday recovering from brain surgery. Last year, she beat the odds and beat the tumor, and I rejoiced with her sweet family. Off to kindergarten she went! She got a puppy and went to Disney World, and I went back to my life. I woke up this morning remembering that her routine MRI had been a week ago, and I wanted to check her family's blog to see how it went. Her mom had mentioned the last time I'd checked in that she had no symptoms. She was feeling fantastic and going to school every day - they'd had a year of clean MRI scans.

This time though, without warning, the tumor was back. Her mother's heartwrenching post on the day of the MRI was almost too hard for me to read. They've already tried the most promising treatment there is for the kind of tumor their daughter has. They need a miracle.

I've just started reading a tremendous book called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. It's an exhortation to live a life of gratitude - a life in which you discipline yourself to constantly see the gracious hand of God in every aspect of your day, whether it's driving to work or teaching your children or folding yet another load of laundry. It's especially easy to do when you are reminded that everything you hold dear can be taken away in one moment.

This morning, I am so grateful to God for His sweet and unending blessings. For children who are healthy, at least for today. For a husband who lives so honorably and loves us so well, who takes care of us and provides for us and guides us. For the fact that I was born in this wonderful country of freedom, where I can make my own choices and raise my children far away from the violence and unrest that is rocking other parts of the world. For the twenty degree weather, and this wonderful home God has provided for us where we will be cozy and warm today. For the sweet kicks and romps and rolls of the 21 week old baby inside of me, reminding me that miracles happen every day. For dogeared books waiting to be picked up from the library shelf this morning, and hot cocoa to warm the tummies of three pink-cheeked children when we get home. For a boy who loves animals and a boy who loves pirates and a girl who loves singing and ballet. For the promise that this life here, with all its joys and sorrows, is but one moment in the span of eternity, and that for those who know Christ and have accepted Him into their hearts, perfection in heaven will some day be a reality. For the promise that God is close to the brokenhearted. That He weeps when we weep. That we will never be alone as we endure our trials. For this and so much more today, I am unspeakably grateful.

Please join me in praying for the McRae Family: