Final Fruits: Gentleness & Self-Control

I’ve had so much on my heart and mind this week.  I feel like I have at least 5 topics to write about but everything in me (well, the organizes, control-freak in me) says I NEED to finish writing about the fruit of the Spirit, first!  So here we go!

We finished the fruit of the Spirit with gentleness and self-control.  And now Abby can recite the verses which is awesome! (See link at the end of this post.)

Gentleness is an interesting topic to try to discuss with children.  Because we have a baby in the house, they know exactly what it means to be gentle with their bodies.  They can demonstrate a gentle touch versus a rough one, no problem!  But applying that to their hearts can be a tricky concept for young minds.  I’ve said it before, kids only understand what they understand–it’s futile to try to get them to comprehend something that’s above their mental maturity level.  That’s why I love the verse we used for gentleness–it’s perfect for Abby, my little girly girl.  1 Peter 3:3-4 says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  Abby loves all things jewelry and make-up.  I explained to her that while those things are fine, they shouldn’t be the only thing that make us “beautiful” and that God wants us to have a gentle and quiet spirit (something I struggle with, myself).  This means not getting angry easily, not outbursting over little things.  This is so hard to do!  And we can’t be this way all the time on our own, that’s why we need the Holy Spirit in our lives.  So to help us remember to not outburst when we’re angry, we made stress balls in the shapes of grapes, our representational fruit! (Okay, you have to use your imagination a little.)

They came out pretty cute and the kids enjoyed them for about 5 minutes.  Then Noah bit his and got a mouthful of flour which was unpleasant (but yay for natural consequences) and Abby’s has disappeared. But planting seeds, I’m just planting seeds.  I’m sure in our homeschooling adventures we’ll revisit the fruit of the Spirit and I hope they remember some of these activities which will help the meaning of the verse stick. 🙂

So, self-control.  This is probably the biggest reason I even wanted to do a unit on the fruit of the Spirit!  Like most 5 year old girls, we struggle with controlling our emotions around here.  And like most 3 year old boys, we also struggle with controlling our bodies (especially when we’re angry).  And unfortunately, this fruit sort of fell flat.  Maybe I should’ve started with it since it was one I wanted to emphasize the most, but I think because we saved it until the end, we were just a little “over” the unit.  The verse we used was 2 Timothy 1:7: “God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves.”  I love this verse because it culminates our unit, in a way.  It talks about the Spirit of God helping us to control ourselves, just like it gives us all the other attributes we learned about throughout the unit!  We talked about some of the actions we need to control about ourselves and I also thought it was a good opportunity to talk about impulse control and “wanting” so many toys/things and being envious of others.  I meant to watch the Veggie Tales movie “Madame Blueberry” and talk about how she had to learn to control her spending, but we never did.  Strawberry was our fruit for self-control and I made strawberry smoothies to go with dinner that night!  To wrap up our unit, I started making some homemade play dough which is scented like different fruits.  I’ve only made 2 so far, but we have all winter!  They’re super easy, fun, and smell great!

Here’s the recipe…

In a saucepan over medium heat, mix:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 TB salt
  • 2 TB cream of tartar
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 3 oz pack of Jell-O

Once the mixture comes together, dump it out of the saucepan and knead with extra flour until it forms workable “play” dough!  So easy!  (A little messy, but fun!)

I’m glad we did this unit.  I do hope the activities will be remembered and referenced as Randy and I continue to educate our children.  Now, I think it’s time to focus on just our schoolwork without adding “extra” supplements for a little while.  It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work!  Maybe these posts gave you some ideas of things to do with your own children to help impress God’s Word on their hearts… 🙂

img_20161216_094341481Here’s Abby reciting the fruits of the Spirit:

Fruit of the Spirit video

 

Embracing the Eternal Season in the Midst of the Temporary One

Things have been a bit crazy around the Dattolo household for the past few weeks.  I am tired.  And Randy is tired.  Our kids are even tired, as they’ve been falling asleep almost immediately upon hitting their pillows each night (normally they’re up in their room until between 8:00-9:00).  And I’ve been putting them to bed EARLY!!!  I can’t honestly think of anything specific that we’ve done lately that would tire them out so much, other than that maybe playing outside in the cold might make one more tired than playing outside in comfortable weather?  Or perhaps the sheer tiredness of both their parents has actually worn off on them.  I think we parents affect our kids in more ways than we can ever really understand. Anyway, I’m so tired that even the 2 cups of fully caffeinated coffee I had this afternoon (brewed “richly” by my new Ninja Coffee Bar!–I promise, I’ll write some kind of “ode” to it at a later date–it’s amazing) cannot help keep me awake.  Just glancing at the piles of clean laundry waiting for me to fold is making me yawn.

Randy got a new job recently and it’s stressful on both of us.  He’s now delivering packages for UPS.  Randy and I are wired so differently when it comes to career stuff.  And because it’s hard for me to understand the sudden switch, it makes it hard for me to explain it to others.  So I won’t try just yet.  I will say that I’m very proud of him, supportive, and happy for his happiness–there’s an excitement in his face when he says that this is the first job he’s had that he pictures himself retiring from.  (Wow, when did we get so old??? haha!)  Obviously, retirement is not in our near future, so it IS saying something that he feels like he could have this job from now until retirement, and it’s the first time he’s felt this way.  Because it’s the holiday season, this means several LATE nights for us right now, and early mornings.  For the past few weeks, his average arrival time at night has been around 8:00-8:30 p.m.  Then he has to eat the supper I’ve saved for him, and rush off to his second job, which he has to keep for now.  We’re like ships passing in the night.  Except I’m not passing.  I’m standing still and he’s coming and going.  So maybe that was a poor analogy. But you know what I mean.  This sudden change in our schedules has made us both tired and struggling to figure out how our day-to-days should work.  He’s obviously out working hard, and I’m figuring out how to keep the kids entertained from breakfast through bedtime and debating whether or not I should go “all out” for supper and what we can talk  about over dinner when it’s just been them and me all day long.  It’s exhausting, to say the least.

Randy and I now relish the weekends even more than we did before.  Saturday and Sunday hit and we both feel like we need to absorb as much of each other as we possibly can to last through the long week ahead.  I guess this makes the fact that I’m a very organized planner come in handy.  I actually schedule all of our family time on the weekends–when we’ll do a certain devotional, make cookies, take a walk, have a movie night, etc.  I have to plan it out or else we just sit around feeling exhausted and bored and before we know it, it’s Monday again.  This past weekend felt particularly special because of this.  Last week was the first week Randy had EXTREMELY late nights (like, after 9:30 at night–this has become the “norm” half the time, now) so the weekend together felt so needed!  I mentioned in a previous post what my plans were for December schooling.  We’re doing a devotional from my church which has some family connections (that I happened to write–did I mention that part?) and we’re also doing an abbreviated version of Truth in the Tinsel by Amanda White.  (I really love her!)  The kids and I do the Truth in the Tinsel during the week in place of school, basically.  It’s great, though, because start-to-finish, it takes about 20 minutes of the day!  So it’s definitely a nice break from our normal couple hours of school.

15267848_10158177065380221_7654522769736880644_nSo the family devotional we did this past weekend from Hope Chapel was about Jesus’ name: Immanuel.  We read about it and talked about its meaning.  Then we were supposed to have some family “togetherness” to symbolize being with each other the way God is with us.  We called my mother in law, who lives in Connecticut, just because.  I made Ree Drummond’s amazing broccoli cheddar soup and let it simmer on the stove while we took a family walk in the cold.  And it flurried a little for us!  When we got home, the soup was ready and we had a nice, long, lunch together as a family.  Then we ALL took a nap!  It was the best day.  Not to mention that Randy and I went out that night which was a lot of fun. 🙂

img_0969Yes, this is a stressful time, which is why it’s so important for me (us) to cherish these quaint, family moments.  Whenever I’m tempted to talk about this time of life being a “season” of this or that, I’m reminded of something I recently learned in a Bible study… the author was cautioning us not to think of life in terms of different seasons because the truth is, Christians are in an eternal season of life.  And this life on earth, knowing Christ, is its own season that should impact every temporary “season” of life we will ever experience.  So even though I’m tempted to dwell on the stress of this time and give myself the excuse that it’s just temporary, or seasonal, it’s no excuse to lay down.  I can rest, as long as I rest in Him.  But I can never stop living the life that God has given me or ministering to others (ahem, my husband, children, family, and friends) with the tools which He’s equipped me.  So I’ll continue to plan our family events so we can capitalize our time together.  I’ll continue to wait up for my husband and sit with him while he eats dinner at 9:30 at night and take care of the household chores so he has one less thing to worry about.  And I’ll continue to entertain, care for, and witness to my children.  And I’ll continue making broccoli soup, which we all decided is our new favorite (actually, it was always one of Randy’s favorites, which is why I made it). 💜 So that, my friends, is what’s up with me.  I was going to write about how we talked about our next fruit of the Spirit, recently–gentleness, but I’ll save that for my next post.  How’s your December going?

Faithfulness and December

On the day before Thanksgiving, I’m trying to cram in one more blogpost.  It’s going to be hard, since there are a million homeschool/holiday/parenting things on my mind right now!  Where do I begin?

Let’s start with our next fruit of the Spirit: faithfulness.  For faithfulness, we used a lemon.  I didn’t schedule any official school this week so we were able to focus on faithfulness and our Thanksgiving preparations (kind of–we also had doctor’s appointments and Monday was completely consumed by OCC drop-off.  We delivered 1660 boxes!!!).  I found “faithfulness” to be a kind of tricky concept to teach the kids.  I started with the story of Noah.  We read it and I talked about how Noah was faithful to God in that he stuck with building the ark even though it took him a long time, and he obeyed every command God gave him.  Then, God was faithful to Noah by doing what He said He was going to do. We listed some things that are faithful in our lives; things we can count on, like Daddy coming home from work every night (therefore he is faithful to us) and Mommy making breakfast, lunch, and dinner (therefore I am faithful by providing meals). We talked about how God wants us to be faithful to Him by obeying Him, and to others by doing what we say we’re going to do.  That night I made my chicken piccata, which is a lemony dish and the kids helped!

The verse I used as our key verse is Psalm 51:10.  It talks about having a faithful spirit and a pure heart, so at first I wanted to do a heart project, but we already did one with “love.”  So I decided to incorporate the “lemon” part of our theme and make paper lemonade glasses.  On each lemon in the glass, we wrote an example of how we can be faithful to God and others.  We made sponge-paint ice cubes, then glued straws to the glasses.

img_0776Today was definitely “cute craft” day because we also made these adorable turkey cookies for Thanksgiving, tomorrow!  Don’t you just want to gobble one up?! 😉

So I’ve been thinking about what our December will look like this year.  It’s a pretty common thing for homeschooling families to take the whole month of December off from school (and usually not take a February or April vacation) in order to make time for all the baking, events, craft projects, and Christmas units.  It’s one of the many benefits to homeschooling–to actually get to enjoy the Christmas season at a slower pace than usual!    This year I had a small part in putting together our church’s advent devotional readings.  The theme is 25 Names of Jesus and I wrote 5 of them and included a family connection and activity for families with children.  So, obviously we’ll be doing that, and I’m looking forward to it!  That’s only 5 family devotionals/activities, however, so I was feeling a little guilty (because I’m a mom, so of course) about taking a whole month off from school and not doing something a little more in-depth for Christmas.  Then I contemplated doing The Truth in the Tinsel from ohamanda.com but that seemed a little too in-depth.  So I think we might do an abbreviated version of it, which includes a piece on the different names of Jesus, so it will tie in nicely with the series we’re doing with church.  I have to admit that although I like the December plan, I don’t love it.  😉  But it’s the plan for now and I’ll keep you posted!  If you want to do the 25 Names of Jesus this advent season with us, you can find the readings (for free) here: http://www.hopechapelsterling.org/advent-readings-2016/  (Advent starts Sunday, November 27 and you don’t have to have kids to do it, the 25 main devotions are for adults!)  If you’re interested in doing the Truth in the Tinsel, you can find it on ohamanda.com.  You do have to pay for the ebook.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you’re in the same homeschool boat as me, have a wonderfully relaxing December and let me know what your plan is!  (I might want to steal it!) 😉

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Our fruit this past week was goodness and we used a lime for representation.  Don’t ask me why.

It seems pretty obvious, I’m sure, but I just had to use the parable of the Good Samaritan for our Bible story.  I had to explain to the kids that Jesus was saying that EVERYONE is our neighbor and we are to love and “be good/do good deeds” for our neighbors, i.e. everyone.  They didn’t quite get the geography or culture of it all in context, but they definitely understood that the Samaritan was the one who did the right thing and the other two men did the wrong thing by passing by and not helping the wounded man.

My kids love seltzer water.  So during lunch, we drank seltzer and I had them try it plain first.  Then I said, “You know what will make this seltzer really GOOD?  Let’s squeeze a lime into it!”  So cheesy, I know.  But the craft we were supposed to do was a sun-catcher which would go with our verse for the week and a lime slice could make a cute little sun-catcher which is maybe why the two correlate.  I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to do the craft, so I had to just make it work.  (Emmalyn tried some lime, too.  You can see how that went over…)

Our verse for the week was Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine in front of others.  Then they will see the good things you do.  And they will praise your Father who is in Heaven.”  (See how the sun-catcher craft would’ve been perfect?  Oh well, you can’t do everything.) 😉  When I introduced this verse, I asked the kids what the Good Samaritan did as his “good deeds.”  Then we made a list of what good things we can do for others, which led to a conversation about the difference between “good” things and “kind” things.  My kids seem to think that coloring a picture for someone cures all and is really the only thing they need to do for anyone. After some gentle prompting, our list grew and went in the right direction. 😉  Oh yeah, here’s some proof that I do actually teach my kids… (I’m not one to be in front of the camera much!)

Speaking of good deeds, did you pack an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoebox this year???  We were able to pack two: one by Abby and one by Noah.  We included letters and pictures in them and are hoping we might get to hear back from the child who receives the boxes, but who knows.  Either way, it was a fun process!  I was able to be a volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse this year as a relay center coordinator which was fun and a lot of work!  We’ve been counting boxes, packing boxes, and praying hard over the boxes!  If you’ve never heard of OCC or Samaritan’s Purse, check out their program! www.samaritanspurse.org/occ

img_0738I wanted to share one more GOOD thing with you!  We had another Saturday brunch this weekend (it’s seriously one of our favorite things to do with friends) and I made sheet-pan sausage that was amazing!  I got the recipe from my Food Network magazine and you can find it here.  It’s really not labor-intensive, though it might look it by first glance.  And the sage that’s in it made the house smell just like Thanksgiving!  I’ll definitely be making it again sometime soon! 🙂  It also makes several portions–hello, leftovers! 🙂

More Kindness, Less Planning

If you know me, then you know that I like to have a plan!  I need to be able to see where I’m going before I start heading there.  As a crafty person, I never take on a project without having a purpose for it in the end. (Some people like to craft or make things “just because” but I’ve never been able to do that.) Maybe this is why cooking appeals to me so much–I can visualize the outcome.  I always know exactly what I want to serve and I have fun making it happen.  And perhaps this is why homeschooling is so scary.  I don’t know how long we’ll do it for, God hasn’t shown me the long-term picture yet.  He is teaching me to trust Him and let Him lead completely which is not easy for this over-planner!

So my “plan” when starting our fruit of the Spirit unit was to do a trait a week.  9 weeks certainly seemed long enough for a unit like this!  It’s not easy to balance our regular curriculum with this supplement, plus everything else we have going on in life!  Well, in week number 5 we hit a snag.  Things just caught up with us and I had to decide whether or not to rush through KINDNESS to the point of practically skipping it, or make it run into 2 weeks.  The Lord is doing a work in me, friends, because it wasn’t as hard as usual to step back, slow it down, and throw the “plan” out the window.  (Okay, so adding a week isn’t exactly throwing the plan out the window, but for someone like me, it feels pretty close!)  So kindness took 2 weeks and we did a little review of our fruits up to this point.

img_0719Our fruit was orange and I’m not sure what the correlation is, but the good thing is that with young kids, it doesn’t matter!  Neither one asked me “why” an orange stood for kindness.  They just accepted it and asked when they would get their orange-flavored chapstick and scented marker.  (Ok, I may be losing them a little to the glimmer of the “gifts” rather than the point of these lessons…) 😦

Colossians 3:12 basically says to put on kindness like you put on your clothes.  Made me think about doing an armor of God unit at some point… in the distant future. 😉  So Abby and Noah flipped through magazines looking for pictures of clothes to glue to our KINDNESS poster.  Then I hung it on the wall by their bureau as a reminder when they’re getting dressed every morning to “put on kindness.”  For our Bible story, I read the story of Ruth and the kindness she showed Naomi, which was returned to her by Boaz.  Then we made a list of the ways we can show kindness to the people around us.  I like to try to name actual people in our lives and real-life scenarios when we do this.  Then we try to remember when we’re about to enter that scenario.  For instance, before dropping them off at a friend’s house, I’ll ask, “What if your friend doesn’t want to play the same thing that you want to play?  How can you still show kindness?”  (Hmm… what if your friend didn’t vote for the same person you voted for?  How can you still show kindness???  Not sure why that question just popped into my head!) 😉

There’s a Veggie Tales video called “Lyle, the Kindly Viking” which we watched (along with about 2-3 other Veggie Tales that night).  I had hopes of making orange-cranberry scones but that didn’t happen.  Instead, we ate oranges for snacks several times and just kept talking about ways to show kindness and even role-played using kind words (maybe another activity for some adults in light of recent events?).  We made a card for a sick family member and practiced other little “kind” things.  This whole unit has been filled with “little” things we do in an attempt to drive home what it means to live out the fruit of the Spirit.  I’m not naive enough to believe that in the end, I’m going to turn out a completely changed 5 year old and 3 year old.  But I do believe I’m planting seeds and can only pray that God takes it from here…

So what kind thing have you done or said today? 😉

Peace and Patience

So I really wanted to go to the MFA today to do their morning homeschool art class.  It’s only $9 per child, both Noah and Abby are eligible and would be in the same class, and it’s a whole hour and a half and includes a tour of the museum!  And the accompanying adult is FREE!  Talk about a great deal.  Did I mention they do this almost every Friday, TWICE a day???  I wish we lived closer to Boston.  I’d totally be there every Friday.  But since this wasn’t something I had planned on, but rather stumbled upon this week and even though today they happened to be focusing on our particular art focus right now, we didn’t go.  One thing I’m really trying to stick to during this homeschool journey is staying home at least one day every week.  That means, not even going to the grocery store.  It’s for all of our sanity.  To have one day each week that we just. stay. in.  Even going to the library with all three kids is more complicated than it sounds.  So we all need just one day (if not more, depending on the week) where we just stay home and be.  We play with play dough, play outside or go for a walk if the weather is nice and just hang out together.  Today was that day.  And yes, though I am a little disappointed that we didn’t go to the museum, I’m very grateful to be sitting on the couch in my yoga pants right now and feeling relaxed because we didn’t rush through anything today.  We played some reading games, played with play dough, had snack and lunch when we wanted and talked about patience (which I’m sure I wouldn’t have had much of had we ventured into Boston).

img_0667Which brings me to the point of this post, PEACE and PATIENCE.  I figured I’d lump them both in the same post since they both begin with “p” and I wanted to catch up. 😉  Last week we talked about peace and our corresponding fruit was peaches.  (Not exactly in season, but it worked.)  We read the story about Jesus calming the storm with the disciples in the boat a couple times and even acted it out.  It’s fun to role play every now and then.  Meaningful activities don’t always HAVE to be crafty and involve crayons, scissors, and glue. Yes, we do other things, too! 😉  What I really wanted the kids to pull away from the story and our week was that peace comes from God (Jesus).  Once we talked about the source of peace and what it is, we read and memorized the second part of 1 Peter 3:11 which says, “Look for peace, and go after it.”  To accompany this sentiment, we played “find the peach” and I hid all 5 peaches we had in the living room and the kids had to find them.  I kept telling them to “look for peace and go after it.”  We also had peach smoothies with lunch one day and them painted the peach pits the next day to look like jewels for necklaces.  Daddy says he will drill holes in them so we can peace peach necklaces. 🙂

This week our fruit was PATIENCE.  I usually introduce the fruit in the beginning of the week, maybe read a verse or two, and then we do more of our focus activities on Thursday or Friday of that week.  This week our verse was from Proverbs: “Anyone who is patient has great understanding. But anyone who gets angry quickly shows how foolish he is.” Proverbs 14:29.  I made a poster of the verse and put all of our names in it so it would become more personal.  (Another idea from the blog I follow.  She’s really awesome, so if you haven’t yet, check her out!)  Our Bible story was the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and how long he had to wait to have the son God promised him!  The fruit was kiwi–rough on the outside, but sweet on the inside.  Kind of represents the contrast we find in our verse–the difference between being patient or getting angry quickly.

img_0668To practice patience, I had the kids try to remove as many of the little black kiwi seeds they could from a slice of kiwi.  Can’t take credit for that idea, though, it comes directly from my good friend, Lindsey, who gave it to me when I told her I was lacking in the activity department for this week.  Abby had the patience to remove 27 seeds with tweezers.  Noah removed 14.  Then they were done.  haha!  Not a whole lot of patience runs in this family.  Daddy probably has the majority of it.  Noah was quick to point out that Emmalyn is NOT patient at all, so I explained to him that since she’s a baby, she HAS to cry for things in order to get her needs met.  I don’t know if he understood that, though.  haha!

To come back around to our art lessons for the week, I had Abby work on a couple self-portraits so we would write about how patient and wise she is.  This was a fun focus!  Now I must go tend to my (apparently very impatient) 10-month-old who always seems to test MY patience right around dinnertime. 😉 Tonight we’re carving a pumpkin so I bet we’ll need a bit of patience for that activity, too!  Peace and patience, peace and patience I bid to you, everyone!

img_0666

I’ve got the JOY, JOY, JOY, JOY down in my heart!

I’m really trying to not get so behind on these Fruit of the Spirit posts.  And I feel we’re entering a crazy season of busy weeks and weekends; lots of get togethers and “holiday” parties are on the horizon.  I’m doing my best to stay current and not forget anything, so bear with me!

Last week we talked about JOY, our second fruit.  Amanda used bananas for joy, and I’m using the same fruit she picked.  The bananas make cute smiley faces!

img_0588Our LOVE week was jam-packed with activities, check out the post to see them, they’re great!  But joy was a little more low-key.  I like that because I don’t think I could handle having back-to-back activity-intense weeks in addition to our regular school curriculum, which is picking up intensity by itself.  So to introduce the unit, I read Nehemiah 8:10 “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”  We talked about what joy IS and where it comes from.  We read John 15:1-11 and discussed again how Jesus is the vine (or tree) and we are the branches that are to bear fruit, which is why we’re talking about the fruit of the spirit in the first place!  But it also emphasizes that if we remain in Jesus, our JOY will be complete. We sang and danced (and Daddy joined in) to the Veggie Tales singing “Down in my Heart.”  How joyful!

img_0585I have to remind myself sometimes that what I’m doing with my kids now is planting seeds.  I shouldn’t expect them to walk away from a mini-lesson or discussion completely changed.  But I hope and pray that I’ve planted a little seed that will grow with them as they grow and learn.  This means I can tell my kids that their joy should come from the Lord but that doesn’t mean that they’ll never get upset when a toy is taken or they don’t get their way (just as we adults don’t learn that quickly, either).  Hopefully they’ll remember these lessons and discussions and I can build on them more easily as they get older.  So we did make a list of the things that make us joyful and then talked about things that make us upset and how we can try to remember to find our joy in God and not in things.

And finally, of course, we made banana crunch muffins! (Another Ina Garten recipe.) No pictures of those, though, because I made them “jumbo” and they fell apart.  haha!  But we had a picnic in the living room while we read our Bible verses and Abby colored the JOY on our poster with a banana scented marker (for Noah) and she got her chapstick.  It was a good week!  PEACE is next!