Archive for the ‘Siblings’ category

It Gets Easier

September 14, 2012

I know, I know, it didn’t initially seem any easier the second time around as my siblings went off to college.  Sure, this is 3G’s fourth year, so packing him up almost felt like old hat.  (Okay, so I didn’t do much in terms of packing him up, unless you count helping load the minivan!)  But this was Sister’s second year, making it also the second year we’ve gone from five siblings home to three siblings home within a week.

To be honest, the transition this time was easier for me.  I don’t pretend to speak for the rest of the household, although they seem to have settled back into the groove we eventually found last year.  Sure, we miss our college siblings.  Miss them a lot sometimes, but we seem to have remembered how to function as a smaller family again.

And it helps to plan visits.  For instance, I am going tomorrow to visit Sister.  I’ll get to see her new room, meet some friends, and hang out.  Because I’m working full-time, visits to either sibling have been few and far between for me, so this will be a lot of fun.  I’m also planning to attend a concert or two this winter at 3G’s college.  He’s also going with us to the Fall Conference we attend every year.  More about that, hopefully, when it gets closer.

Come to think of it, I guess everything gets easier with practice and familiarity.  Whether you’re learning the ropes at a new job, taking a new class, or adjusting to siblings moving out of the house – even temporarily like mine.

Lord, teach me again that You are enough, no matter what new thing You are teaching me.


Climbing Tree

August 4, 2012

When we moved twelve years ago, Mom and Dad asked 3G, Sister, and me if we had any requests for the new house.  We were not old enough to be involved in the decision making, but they wanted the new home to be reflective of what we wanted to some extent.  After all, we were going to live there too!

The biggest thing on our wishlist was a climbing tree.  While our old house had three trees, none of them had low branches for climbing.  We had to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to climb their tree.  That was fun, but we hoped that we could have a tree of our own that could be climbed on a whim, not just the couple of times a year we went to visit the grandparents instead of them coming to see us.

When God finally led us to our new home, three happy campers were glad to see that the spacious front lawn was home to a beautiful tree – a very climbable maple!  If that tree had had paint on its branches, we would have worn it off the first summer, and we didn’t move in until July.  We loved climbing around, making up stories.  That tree was our ship, fort, and jungle gym all rolled into one.

Some of my favorite memories of the tree, however, are of the times during my mid-teens when I would wander out alone and climb to the top just for the view.  Everything looks a little different from the top of a tree.  Sometimes I would sit on a particular branch and look in one direction as I chewed over some internal issue.  At other times, I would stand on another branch and watch the cars go by on our road or the haying in the field across the way.  Whatever the case, that tree has plenty of memories.

I haven’t done much tree climbing in several years now.  Some of the branches are showing wear from five pairs of feet climbing in it.  New growth has filled in some of the places we used to climb in and out, while patches have taken some damage over the years.  Still, every once in a while, I get the urge for a higher perspective on the world, and I’ll swing up among the leaves and the breezes to see what I can see.


July 21, 2012

Next stop along memory lane: the schoolroom.  Having been blessed with a first floor office/sixth bedroom, we turned the space into learning central.  With two 18-month-olds in the house (when we moved here), we (the three school-aged older siblings at the time) needed to be able to shut the door and have relative quiet sometimes!

I say relative, because my memories of the schoolroom revolve around my schoolmates and the conversations we had in that room.  Hmm.  If my next memory also involves conversations someone is going to discover a pattern!

The office, as we have always called it, is big enough to hold four desks – one each for 3G, Sister, and me, and one for Mom, which held the desktop computer.  We weren’t required to do all our work at our desks, for instance if we were reading the couch was often a better place, but many assignments needed desk space.  Sister and I had desks next to each other, while 3G was against the opposite wall.  We were facing away from each other, but thanks to our swivel chairs, we could turn and talk quite easily.

Mom had laid out the guideline that we needed to be eating breakfast by 8, and doing school by 9.  Rarely did any of us fail in that.  In fact, I made a habit, starting in 8th grade, of coming down early to work on my math before breakfast.

By 9 o’ clock then, we were usually working steadily on whatever assignments we chose to do first.  Almost invariably, by the time we had reached the second or third subject, one or another of us had made some comment, often relating to our present schoolwork, which engaged all three of us in conversation.

We talked about everything from punctuation to geography, and we even branched into some of the same topics we covered in lunch conversations.  Sometimes we had differences of strong opinions, which led to minor clashes between at least two of us, but the third could sometimes diffuse the situation, at least partially.  When that happened, we always had our books to turn back to in order to settle our thoughts.  And usually that was enough for one or both to see that they were wrong.

We never had these conversations when Mom was in the room.  If we heard her coming down the stairs to check on us, the three of us immediately turned back to our work.  She never spoke about it, but I think she knew very well that we talked amongst ourselves, and I doubt she had a problem with it.  But I think she probably did come down whenever she thought the conversations sounded like they were becoming unprofitable or overly long.  We did have other work to be doing!

Sometimes the four year gap between Sister and me was enough that she had a hard time following what I was talking about, although 3G could almost always keep up with (or surpass) me.  As we grew older, this gap seemed to shrink, till we could talk pretty equally when I was in my last years of high school.

Conversations such as these built relationships between me and my siblings.  Sure, we shared other activities.  We did most everything together, either as a family or in twos or threes.  But conversations are what reveals someone’s thoughts, their inner-working, their heart.  And we shared that too.

Today, we still get into long conversations; sometimes it’s two, or another two, or all three of us.  Whether Sister and I talk while she perches on my bed and I sit at my desk, she and 3G discuss the way the world works over a game of Mastermind, or we’re all hanging around in the basement after playing a game, we still enjoy delving into all kinds of topics.  With 3G and Sister away at college for six months out of the year, the conversations have become more limited, and may include other family or friends, but we probably enjoy them about as much anyway.

It’s interesting to think about it, but I probably owe much of my knowledge of some subjects to these conversations.  I was never very good at music theory, for instance, which 3G excelled at, and I never studied writing techniques like the budding author in the family, Sister.  But from listening to them talk about their favorite subjects (these and others), I picked up quite a bit that I never would have remembered otherwise.  Sometimes the concepts were ones I studied long ago, but when I had little interest in them, and my siblings merely solidified things and made them real.  Other times the things they talked about were new, and I’m glad for those too.

For you homeschooling parents out there, I encourage you to allow or foster discussions amongst your students.  Sure, they may take longer to complete their assignments, but they are building relationships and sharing knowledge.  That is priceless, for it actually helps both listener and speaker to solidify the knowledge in their heads.  Don’t feel like your schoolroom has to be silent for learning to take place, or that your students are distracting each other.  They are building the bonds which will in time knit your children together into a tight family circle.

My siblings and I are very close, especially Sister, 3G and I, despite our many differences and the distance which now separates us for half of the year.  And I trace much of that back to the relationships we began in our play and built in conversations, whether in school or out.

Scientifically Speaking

March 17, 2012

I realize I haven’t posted much in the way of homeschooling reflections lately, so here’s a long overdue post with some reminiscing.  One of the things I loved about homeschooling was that a kid who wasn’t particularly inclined toward most of the standard subjects was still able to do well in almost all of them.  Yep, personal experience!

Science was never one of my favorite subjects, but did that mean I didn’t take it seriously?  Hardly!

Science was where I learned what made rainbows, where trees came from, why ice cubes float, and how fossils form.  Science is exciting, though some may tell you otherwise.  I sometimes agreed with them when faced with a lesson in Physics, but I truly enjoyed Chemistry (okay, that’s largely because I loved the curriculum from Beginnings Publishing!), and I had fun in Biology (despite not being enamored of that curriculum – Apologia) because I liked investigating the concepts.

We used mostly library books for science until I got to high school.  In 9th grade I did a general science covering Biology, Chemistry, and Physics: Dr. Dobbins’ Rainbow.  Dr. Dobbins made the argument that science is taught backwards in the schools.  Usually students learn biology, then chemistry, then physics.  But the concepts actually build on each other moving from physics to chemistry to biology.  The reasoning behind the way schools teach science?  High school freshmen haven’t had enough math to handle physics yet.  Biology doesn’t require all the math, so it’s a good one to start with from that stand point.

I rather think Dr. Dobbins is right, and these subjects ought to be taught in the reverse order.  Still, after doing his general science, I proceeded to do Apologia’s Biology (fairly average as science texts go, which is dry).  I already liked biology, which was good, because the text would not have inspired me.  At least it didn’t totally kill my enjoyment of the subject.

In my Junior year, I was back to Dobbins’ material, doing his Spectrum Chemistry.  I loved it.  Dobbins makes the most complicated subject sound easy enough to understand, and that is half the battle.  Once you think you can understand something, it becomes easier to understand it.  If you go in thinking it’s too hard, you won’t be as likely to comprehend even the simplest part of something.  I rarely use the concepts I learned in Chemistry, but I still look back on that year with fond memories of dissolving packing peanuts and of washing all our beakers etc. in distilled water after every usage.  Of course, there’s another reason why I may have liked Chemistry.  I got to do it with 3G, who always liked science better than I did and understood it quicker.  There’s a reason he’s going into Electrical Engineering while my degree is in Human Services . . .

Since I had no plan to study anything scientific, many might have thought that I would skip Physics.  That’s not the way I saw it, nor the way my parents taught me.  I had no real interest in Physics myself, but I wanted to take the course for another reason.  I am going to be a homeschool mom one of these years, and with the genes in my family, the chances that at least one of my children is scientifically minded are pretty high.  Thus, I’ll probably be teaching Physics at some point, and I wanted to have some background with the material.  I know many homeschooling mothers will turn high school math and science courses over to their husbands, and I may yet do so, but I wanted to be able to answer simple questions and keep up with my students to some extent.  My mother sometimes referred questions to my dad, but in our case, my mom is a math and computer science major, while Dad is a mechanical engineer.  When Mom would get to the point where she couldn’t explain something any better, she’d refer my brother to Dad.  Notice I say my brother.  I usually didn’t ask the intensive questions!

Despite not pursuing a scientific field in college, I still took the Biology CLEP exam for my science credits, and I took a Genetics course because I enjoyed that subject when I encountered it previously.  So my science studies have already been useful in that way, and in conversations I continue to have with friends, scientifically minded or not, in which science plays a part.

I may not have been the most scientifically astute kid on the block (okay, so that’s a given with my brothers around), but I still enjoyed discovering the whys and wherefores of our natural world.  I encourage all you homeschoolers out there – stop saying science can be fun, and try saying science is fun!

To the students who aren’t likely to go into a remotely scientific field and therefore think science is a waste of time, think about how often it might be nice to understand what your scientifically minded friends are talking about, even if they have to put it in (to their mind) very basic terms.  And think about how interesting it will make your next walk in the park if you look at every tree and know how deep its roots must be.  And think about the times it will be useful to know the best place to put the fulcrum when you are trying to use a lever to lift something. And think how nice it would be to know why the river seems to be steaming in the middle of winter.  Just think!

Science isn’t just fun, it’s an exciting world to explore, especially for those of us who don’t have to memorize the Periodic Table but who can enjoy a hunt for the atomic number of Uranium for a crossword puzzle!

Of spring break and siblings

March 5, 2012

Is there anything better than siblings?  3G has his spring break this week, and Sister came home for the weekend so she’d get to see him (her break isn’t for another two weeks), so we had the whole seven of us together for 24 hours.  Saturday afternoon was hilarious, with a game of Spoons followed by Catch-Phrase.  The spoons (plastic!) were flying and so were the laughs.

Thinking about it today, however, I realize that my experience isn’t necessarily the norm.  It amazes me that in some families, siblings can’t stand being around each other, constantly fight, and prefer to find friends outside the home.  In other families, the siblings may not dislike each other, but they don’t have any kind of relationship, being too busy with their own activities to know what the other one is doing or feeling.

Siblings are home-grown friends!  While my siblings and I didn’t always get along perfectly growing up, we still loved each other and enjoyed playing, studying, and growing together.  We still get on each others’ nerves sometimes (all right, all right, mostly me getting on Sister’s nerves – sorry, Sis), but the best friends are people who can be themselves with each other, forgive the others’ mistakes, and encourage each other to grow past their faults.  My siblings and I love spending time together, whether it’s playing a game, eating dinner, or just a general gab fest.  What with two kids away at college now, breaks are usually full of jabbering to get everybody caught up (sort of!) on what’s been going on with everyone else!

Don’t read me wrong.  I’m not saying that siblings are the only friends you need, should have, or should want.  I have plenty of friends outside the family, between church, work, and volunteering.  Some of them even feel like family.  What I am trying to say is that I’m disappointed in families where the siblings can’t stand each other and the parents don’t seem to know how to encourage them to change that.

How does it start?  I don’t even know, having early learned that siblings are great playmates when treated with respect and love.  Is it because siblings are separated into classes at school, rarely seeing each other, and then vying for parental attention when they get home?  Is it because their school friends are jealous of their time and would rather snub all the other people in their own household and those of their friends in favor of spending time with the friend?  I doubt this is the only factor, because some children don’t seem to be infected by the general aversion to siblings.

I feel sorry for people of all ages who have never learned what a joy it can be to have siblings.  For the only children out there, hopefully you’ve found friends with siblings that you can enjoy, or have cousins that can help fill their place.  And God does have reasons for not giving everyone siblings, just as He has reasons for everything else He does.  For those of you who have siblings, I challenge you to cherish them this month, whether they (and you) are still in the home nest or not.  Think about what nice things you can do for them, how you can make your relationship more friendly if necessary, and just enjoy them in general.

Especially those that are home on spring break!

Homeschooling and a New Baby (or two!)

January 28, 2012

Homeschooling is plenty of work for everyone involved, though I think most homeschooling moms and students would say it was worth the effort in the long run. But I have to think homeschooling is at its hardest when you are pregnant or have a new baby in the house. My mother knows all about that, having done it with not one new baby, but two.

I had just turned 10, 3G was nearly 8, and Sister was almost 6 when my youngest brothers were born in the middle of the school year.

Knowing that she was going to be due mid year, Mom and Dad had discussed sending 3G, Sister, and me to public school for a year because she wouldn’t be able to give us as much attention even during the first half of the year.  Dad’s final decision was, however, that whatever she was able to do for us was still going to be better than sending us among strangers in the public school system.

I, of course, was not part of the decision, although Mom did ask us what we thought.  None of us wanted to go to school for even a year.  We wanted to be home with Mom.

Was homeschooling different that year?  Sure!  We did a lot more of our subjects much more independently than we had in previous years.  And we started school sooner.  And we ended later.  But we got to have a week off when the twins arrived.  This, of course, was because Mom wasn’t ready to dive right back into schooling yet, but we looked on it much more as a chance to enjoy our new baby brothers.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing of what my parents did that year.  We all learned a lot, and much of it went beyond academics.  3G and I especially started helping out a lot more with household chores that Mom in her last three months did not have the energy or strength to do.  And we all put in a lot of hours with the twins.  Was it a lot of work to homeschool with two newborns in the house?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.

Thirteen years later, I look at my youngest brothers, now growing like a couple of teenage weeds, and smile to think how small they were when I first visited them in the hospital.  I’ve probably learned more about parenting from watching Mom and Dad with the twins than from my own experience as their child.  And that will be invaluable when I have my own “quiver full of arrows” to raise.  Would I have wanted to miss most of their first months by going to school away from home?  Not me!  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

For the Birds

December 3, 2011

In response to a suggestion from Sister, I realized that I have to write a post about birds.

For not being avid birders, my siblings and I can identify a fair number of birds.  Sister is currently taking a course at college in which she is learning to recognize several dozen birds by sight and sound, and all her practice at home has made this much easier.

Think about it.  How many birds would you recognize if you met them on the street?  Probably a cardinal, or a blue jay, and most people know a crow when they see or hear one.  You might know it’s an owl, but would you know what kind?

Almost as long as I can remember, we’ve had feeders where we feed the birds.  While we get the most birds in the winter, the feeders are full most of the year, and we get visits from the sparrows almost year round.  Yes, we get House Sparrows, aka the English Sparrow, Chickadees (my personal favorites), Cardinals, Blue Jays, House Finches, American Goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and Juncos.  Not all of them stay year round, but we see quite a few of the smaller birds throughout the winter.

Then there are the Robins who come to greet the spring.  I usually hear these guys before I see them!  Yes, I can recognize a Robin by its song, as well as the Cardinal (who has several calls), Chickadee, and and others.  Summer also brings the Red-Winged Blackbirds, the Cowbirds, and the Starlings.  Grackles are neat looking black birds with iridescent heads.

And don’t forget the hawks!  We saw a Cooper’s Hawk and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk within a couple hours of each other just this past week.   A pair of Red-Tailed Hawks has been nesting in the woods behind our house for years.   We’ve even seen a Peregrine Falcon and an American Kestrel at different times.  And yes, we saw an owl once, being chased by a noisy bunch of crows.  It was too far away to identify exactly which owl it was, but we tried.

Whenever we see a new bird, we hit the bird books until we can figure out what it was we saw.  That happened when we saw our first White-Crowned Sparrow and White-Throated Sparrow, which look very similar.  It happened again when we saw the Kinglet that accidentally flew into our sliding glass door.  And we even had to resort to the internet when some of us saw a Green Heron fly across the back yard.  We see Blue Herons all the time, but the Green one was new to us.

And I shouldn’t forget the Mourning Doves that love to perch on the top of our roof or on the top of our swing set and sing their sad song.  Or they will bustle around under our feeders, looking for the seeds that other birds drop.

We’ve also made sightings of a few rare (for our locale) birds, like a Red-Bellied Woodpecker (normally all we see are the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers), a couple of Flickers, and once or twice some Cedar Waxwings.  Before we moved to our current house, we even saw a couple of Common Redpolls.

Some birds like to feed in the woods, so we rarely see them, like the Rose-Breasted Grossbeaks.  Others visit our pond for a few weeks, like the Mallard Ducks we get in the spring.  Other birds we’ve only seen while away from home, but we know a Bald Eagle when we see it.  And the Gulls that love to occupy parking lots and devour any fast food we humans carelessly leave behind.

I love the many different kinds of birds.  Each one is so different, and each one is so beautiful.  Next time you get a chance, why don’t you take a pair of binoculars or just your own two eyes (or four, if you’re like me) and go to a park or some wooded area and watch for some birds.  Maybe you’ll discover a new pastime.  Maybe you won’t see anything in feathers.

I realize that in some areas of the country, temperatures and ground cover (aka snow) may get in the way, and many of the birds may be gone.  But not every bird flies south for the winter!  Or you can wait till spring, when they’re all at their best.

I don’t know where you live, but I think anyone could benefit from taking an hour or two to just sit and watch the birds.  You’ll see different birds, probably, than I’ve listed, but you’ll have fun anyway.  Listen too, because birds are some of God’s best songsters around.  It won’t all make sense at first, so don’t expect to be able to recognize every bird at once.  Just watch, listen, and think about the amazing God who had not only imagined all these creatures, but made them all just so, so we can enjoy them.

Happy birding!

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