Big Feelings. Bigger Help.

Last week, we chatted a bit about clearing clutter to make room to parent well.

I want to continue that conversation this week.

Let’s start with an “incident” with my oldest.

I won’t go into details, because first, they aren’t that important… and secondly, they are more her details than mine to share anyway.

But let’s just say, E was feeling some big feelings, made a poor choice that shocked ME, which then made me have to take a step back before dealing with the situation. Because without that space for a minute or so, my own big feelings would not have handled the situation well at all.

I think any parent can appreciate what I’m talking about.

In the past, I probably would have just called the problem what it was and go ahead and dish out/allow for the consequence to come on in… but not this time.

This time, I followed some of the talking points that Dr. Becky mentioned in some posts/stories on Instagram. And it played out surprisingly well.

We started off talking about feelings… and how there isn’t such a thing as a “bad” one. Saying this point blank to my daughter made her mouth drop a bit. We talked about how feelings can FEEL bad, and how we can do wrong things with them… but the feeling itself? It is a messenger. It is something our bodies and beings have to let us know that something doesn’t feel right or isn’t right about a situation. Maybe something we believe is important isn’t happening. Or maybe something we feel shouldn’t be happening is. Our bodies let us know. Our feelings come up to tell us something is off. They tell us to pay attention– and it serves us to listen to what they are saying.

More specifically, our feelings conversation focused on anger– because that was the big feeling that provoked the choice that shouldn’t have been made. And whereas anger itself isn’t bad, because even JESUS was angry, we can choose to use that feeling to hurt ourselves and other people– which isn’t right. We talked about how, the next time her big feelings get too much, she should find me and tell me and we can figure out what to do with that big feeling together.

(Pain point: I soveryoften feel my children’s feelings and take them on myself, so that makes big feelings suuuuper hard for me to work through with them. But that’s my own thing to work through and clear out.)

My 8 year old isn’t the only one in the house who has been on the struggle bus recently.

<<cough>>

This 30something has been having her own big feelings recently.

Lots of big stressors makes it easier for my personal triggers to be mashed and throttled. And Lord bless them, my kiddos can mash and throttle those buttons. What normally I feel I have the grace and ease to handle, with big stressors… I don’t anymore.

Right now, we have been hitting car troubles, financial troubles, family issues, etc., + the whole “the pandemic still isn’t letting life get back to normal and it’s been a whole stinking year now and can’t this thing just stop already” thing.

All of the big things hitting at once, merged with the chronic pandemic fatigue, taps on an underlying lie that I fall into the trap of believing all the time: that if I have hope, or have gratitude, or take a breath or rest or really feel happy– somehow, it invites bad things to happen.

Now, I KNOW that’s not true. I KNOW it’s bad theology and my Jesus doesn’t work that way. But it’s a struggle.

All of this conversation and thinking and processing brings me to Thursday. I’m driving E to piano and she brings up an incident where she had a big feeling. And we started talking it through and pulling it apart a bit. As we finished the conversation, she heaved a big sigh and said, “It was a big feeling, and I didn’t like feeling it.”

“But did it show you something?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And what it showed me, I guess that was good.”

And it was behind that steering wheel, as I was getting into a median for a left turn, I heard it. 

That Still Small Voice that whispers in your soul Epiphanies so beautiful that a breath escapes your body.

All my life, I’ve heard it, and if you are a Christian, you’ve heard it, too… so let’s just all recite Romans 8:28 together:

“All things work together for good…”

We know it’s true because God says it true. And we might even know its truth more personally, versus in the abstract. I do. I’ve seen it. Some of the hardest road and trials I have personally faced I can look back at now and see God’s Hand in it– though it looked invisible at the time. 

But that life experience doesn’t change the fact that I still wrestle with my faith sometimes. I’ve never really had a hard time believing that God is Sovereign. But His Goodness? THAT’s what Satan and the fallen world likes to cast shadows of doubt on.

But you see, it is His Goodness that is my Epiphany.

Maybe, just like feelings aren’t necessarily good or bad… our circumstances are, too. We are so quick to label big circumstances that make us feel “bad” as bad themselves and rush to write off the value in them. We silence them and push them away because we don’t want to “feel” their “badness”… and instead, miss why we have them in the first place.

What if circumstances, like feelings, are messengers? And what if, instead of fighting our feelings, or rejecting and regretting what’s happening in our lives, we accept it all for what it is, know it has a purpose… and trust that when we have a hard time (because we will), we can and should reach out for Help.

What’s so wonderful about that Help, is that unlike our feelings and circumstances which come and go, ebb and flow…

Help is Ever Present.

The Big Four

Imagine: This week’s creative outlet isn’t connected to the kids. Note: the Big Four are just as necessary for mommas and caretakers. In fact, the term “mother culture” hits on this, and I’m a big fan. This week, I’ve taken a few minutes here and there to learn and practice a new crochet stitch and am making it into a blanket. I’m almost out of skeins, so will need to grab a few more this week. Read why making blankets is actually an anomaly for me, and why I’m glad I’m actually enjoying it this time.

Encourage: As this post has touched on, the main way I’m encouraging my kids is by working through my own Big Feelings and helping them handle theirs better. If you haven’t checked out Dr. Becky, I totally encourage you to!

Educate: We are starting a unit on fairy tales, and I’m super excited. We read East of the Sun to the West of the Moon this week, and it was the first time *I* had ever read it. E loved it. I read it aloud and do voices and all that (thanks, speech degree!), but here’s a video/reading of the story from the Blue Fairy Book. As with most fairy tales, there’s some things that strike adults as kinda weird, but kids are like, “no big deal.” Life’s funny.

Enjoy: To celebrate a new unit, we got a new game! We haven’t played it yet, but I’m heard great things about this one! Can’t wait to break it out tomorrow!


Making room to parent well

Relish Kitchen Organizing - Lake Zurich, IL, US 60047 | Houzz
(Not my actual kitchen. But it’s pretty, isn’t it? One day… one day…)


The kids were finally asleep and I meandered into the kitchen.

The next day was baking day, and since we do sourdough bread that needs some extra time to do the whole “natural leavening” thing, I decided to make the dough so it could rise while we slept.

However, before getting all the flour out and the starter and bowls down from the cabinet, I do what I always do before I make bread:

Clear the counters. Wipe them down.

It isn’t lost on me that in order to do something well, you have to clean up the clutter first.

I mean, you don’t technically have to, I guess. You could just put the ingredients down and around the dishes that need to be put away and the garbage that didn’t make it to the trash can yet.

But baking that way is stressful– it takes twice as long and adds way more problem-solving. Good luck not having to move 1,000 things to get to the measuring cups with doughy hands. It seems like the more you avoid cleaning, the more mess you actually make.

As I was wiping the counters down, it dawned on me.

Parenting well requires the same kind of effort.

People didn’t tell me that parenthood is basically re-realizing all the triggers you have carried from childhood. Maybe you were braver than me, or smarter than I was, but as I turned into an adult, I just kinda stuffed these memories and triggers away, thinking that since I was “grown-up,” I didn’t have to deal with those pesky thoughts and feelings anymore. I dug a hole and buried them deep, people.

So imagine my surprise when, as a parent of small persons, I find those thoughts and feelings resurfacing, cluttering up my mind and meddling in my own emotions… all while wanting to help guide my own kids through how to handle their own big feelings and hard things.

(It doesn’t help that I have a hard time just letting their feelings be THEIRS instead of turning them into mine as well… #workingonthat.)

I’m guilty of wanting to make them and shape them into what they should be– when I’m finding I have no room to do it well. My own clutter and junk are in the way.

Right now, I’m in the midst of reading about feelings and parenting and re-parenting. I’m hearing things for the first time about how to actually handle feelings– both my kids and my own– instead of stuffing or shaming them away.

I actually had a bit of an epiphany about feelings and circumstances and Sovereignty the other day. But I’m still processing that; hopefully, it will find some words and come in another post soon.

This week, I simply want to lay the groundwork for that bigger thought by encouraging you, whether you are a parent or not, to analyze what mental and emotional clutter is making it harder to accomplish what you need to.

Throw away what what doesn’t serve you anymore. Clean up and put away what you need.

It’s the only way to have room for what is most important now.

The Big Four


imagine: A big part of imagination for us is doing something creative… and this week we started a new handicraft! E has been wanting to work with knives and carve stuff… and I’m just not ready to jump into wood blocks and super sharp objects with littles around. So, we got some fun clay tools and handmade soap and began soap carving! It lays a good foundation to both wood working and sculpture for the future, and is useful now– because we like to wash hands a lot around here! Might as well suds up with a cute elephant, rights?

encourage: I’ve recently discovered Dr. Becky at Home on Instagram. Although I don’t agree with everything she says, her work and words has brought soooo many ah-ha moments for me recently. I’ve walked through some of the things that she has suggested with some “big feelings” over here, and am amazing at how they are starting to reshape the conversations I’m having with myself and with my kids– especially my oldest right now. If you haven’t checked her out, please do! I’ll link her here!

https://www.instagram.com/drbeckyathome/

educate: If you have kiddos who might be interested in soap carving, I’m going to drop some helpful links that might get you going. You can totally do the soap carving with the things that are mentioned in the videos themselves (paperclips, etc.), but my kids just LOVE tools and I know I’m going to use them for clay in the future. A lot of the videos call for Ivory soap because it’s soft, etc., but I opted for a natural handmade soap because we do our best to stay away from synthetic stuff over here. So, here you go! Stuff is hyperlinked below!

The tools we got
Soap Carving video: Teddy Bear, Butterfly, & Turtle
Soap Carving video: Bunnies (this video is my girlie’s goal for spring)


enjoy: Bouncing off of the Bernie meme from last week, I did my own homeschool mom version of the “kombucha” lady meme. I’ll go ahead and drop it here, for those who haven’t seen it.

Brittany Tomlinson, Kombucha Girl Blank Template - Imgflip

Here’s my version from this past week. 😂

enjoying life in the midst of no margin


I saw this quotation on Instagram this week, and my gut response was “well, work. Work is what I am doing with my ‘wild and precious life.'”

And then I promptly felt grumpy. 😆

You see, I know it’s not true. I know I have accomplished and am accomplishing and will accomplish way more in my life than doing laundry and being on hold with the IRS to figure out where in the heckie heck my 2019 refund check is just to be hung up on EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (Yes, we filed on time. No, they haven’t given us a refund. Yes, we have it on autodraft. Yes, they received it.)

Things like that make me feel like my life is happening TO me, and I have no choice but do do things that corrode my soul.

And again, I know that’s not true.

But knowing something and feeling something are two entirely different things.

I know that when I start feeling this claustrophobic feeling of soul drain that I need to do two things:

1) Respect my lack of margin. This means saying no to extras. It means not accepting invitations to be a special speaker or teach new things or basically do anything extra than what I’m currently doing that will take up my time or headspace. Not until margin returns.

2) Infuse easy fun in my life. I don’t like feeling like life is all work and no play. No one does. One of the saddest phrases in the world to me is ““Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.” I don’t know about you, but that motivational speech really makes me want to get up and at ’em in the morning.

The conundrum is that sometimes, I feel like I have to plan the fun. Go to a park. Plan an activity. Make plans in the evening. And all of the planning takes… you guessed… margin. Also, the weird thing on running low with margin is that you don’t exactly know when it is going to bottom out. I might make plans to go out… but then on that day, a bunch of drama happens that eats into energy. And then I regret making the plans. It’s weird.

So, how can I– or you– respect both truths? How can we respect both the lack of margin AND the need for fun?

Claim the little moments.

Let me list a few things that happened recently that respected both principles and lifted my spirits this week.

  • Night soccer: My 5 year old boy got a little air-soccer ball for Christmas. It’s rechargable and lights up. One night, we turned off the lights downstairs and stood in the entrances of the kitchen and hallway and living room and pretended they were goals. No scores were kept and no one won or lost. It was 10-15 minutes of impromptu fun, laughter, and a little talking smack and was the perfect way for the evening to end.
  • Baking: As you know, our family learns at home… and most of the time, we don’t need much coaxing to gather together and read some stories and continue our learning in the afternoon. But one day this past week, it just seemed that everyone was on edge, and I just knew that coming back to our agenda once the toddler was napping wasn’t going to go well. I didn’t have time to go into all-out baking mode… but I did find a cake mix stuffed in the back of my pantry. A couple of eggs, some oil, and essential oils for extra zing (instant lemon vitality cake!) and we had an impromptu learning tea party. The kids were excited about the surprise cake and that trickled over into the the things we needed to accomplish.
  • “Tickle zone”: I am not a morning person. And neither are my kids, really. I mean, they like to get up earlier than I do, but at the same time, don’t wake up super peppy. Well, neither of my girls do. My middle male kiddo, J, does– and this actually creates conflict. He wants to get in E’s and L’s faces and insist on playing right away. They don’t return his enthusiasm. 😆 I regularly ask him if he wants to climb up and snuggle for a bit– to give the girls some space and to give me a few more minutes in bed. He often doesn’t want to rest anymore. So this week, I happened upon the “tickle zone.” The only way he activates the “tickle zone” is by climbing up in bed next to me and lying down. Then small little tickles start and gradually grow. (He LOVES being tickled.) The tickle zone keeps him with me and away from the girls. The day starts with laughter instead of fighting (which is VERY margin-depleting when I’m running low anyway). It takes no prep and infuses fun. It’s a win/win.
  • Funny filters: These are SO great to whip out with no prep to lighten the mood. Big eyes, squeaky voices, animal faces. They are ridiculous and silly and always bring giggles. Giggles are so much better than afternoon cranks– for the kids and for me. 😉
  • Remembering and sharing funny memories/times: This last one is for me, and is not connected to the kids and their needs and moods at all. When I get super busy and overwhelmed, the thought of making plans to connect with friends adds to the load. I tell myself all the time it shouldn’t be that way, and that I’ll feel better if I make the effort to reconnect. But when I have little margin, it’s just hard to even push myself to make plans and get out of the house kid-free. Just in the past couple of days, I taken a few minutes here and there to Marco Polo a couple of my dearest friends. It started out just exchanging a couple of “remember when…” stories, and turned into other topics, like conversation does. But just seeing their faces and making touchpoints with them– especially as our day-to-day lives don’t do that so often anymore– has just been mood-lifting. 1) No planning respects my margins. 2) Connecting and sharing life and stories increases my fun.

My challenge to you this week is plan some fun in your day. OR if your margins don’t allow for that right now, find small, simple moments to infuse some fun in. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate. For me this week, it was some tickles and lemon cake tea time and a few Marco Polos.

Those few extra moments of enjoyment made my life feel a little more wild and precious.

Find moments for you feel like your life is wild and precious, too.


This Week’s Big 4

Imagine: This week coming up, we are bringing out the Brush painting/lettering again this week. I’m actually going to play around with using the brush techniques to make Valentines while the kiddos do their thing. We’ll see how it goes.


Encourage: I’m loving this book the kids and I are reading together in our Morning Basket time. I’ll drop my Instagram post about it here.

Educate: The Inauguration this week allowed us to have the once-in-a-4-year opportunity to see and talk about the transition of power of our nation. We looked at a photo collage of all the presidents so far, and E (my 8 year old girl) asked why there weren’t women in it. We talked about how our new Vice President is a woman, and that women did and can run for president, but hasn’t been one yet. She said that the next time a woman ran for president, she would vote for her because she was a woman. *That* led to an interesting conversation about why we should vote for someone, if gender should be a part of that reasoning, and how we have to consider the ideas and laws someone supports when we vote. We came up with laws we would want to pass if we were president. It was a great conversation!

Enjoy: Because Bernie is trending in the light of the Inauguration, I just couldn’t help myself. You know, since we mentioned margin. 😂

Decide once.

“Decide once.”

I first read this phrase when I opened my birthday gift to myself– a copy of The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi.

The principle should be pretty self explanatory in its simplicity, but I’ll add a few words anyway. Basically, instead of reinventing the wheel all the time, decide once about the things that can be decided once about… and then lather, rinse, repeat.

Truth be told, I have done this in several areas of my life. For instance, lesson planning. I teach part-time both college and high school, as well as homeschool my own kids. During the day with my kids, I try to have these 4 things in some way: imagination, encouragement, education (obviously. We homeschool.), and enjoyment. I want all 4 in my day, and try to actually think through and plan those out. More on that in another post.

I also try to incorporate each of those principles in my communication lesson plans via activities, one-on-one, discussions, projects, etc. It’s important that students get creative, feel confidence, learn something, and have fun. Those things are what matter to me.

However, I will admit to not being so awesome at deciding once in my home life. I don’t like feeling “tied down”/committed to something when I don’t want to be. For being married with three kids, I’m a bit of a commitment phobe. (I don’t even have a yearly plan for my cell phone people.)

As much as I love NOT feeling tied down, the stress that comes when I don’t know what’s next with certain things is NOT fun for me. When it was just me and my husband working full time and I didn’t know what was for dinner? We both said, “NO problem!” and went out to eat. Fast forward 10 years and 3 kids later, and that decision isn’t feasible anymore. It costs way more to eat out, and then schedules get all thwarted, and kids have meltdowns in public, etc. You get the picture.

So, thanks to budgets and routines, dinner needs to be home most nights. And around the same time, too.

Funny thing is, I actually love cooking and meal planning and trying new recipes and foods. But here’s another thing: right now, it isn’t worth the extra time. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel every week… especially when my kids are at the age that extra time in the kitchen to learn and try new recipes just ends up stressing me out. (Hello toddler, pulling your diaper off in the middle of the kitchen and peeing on the floor while my hands are in raw meat… I’m looking at you.)

The answer for me right now: decide once.

Let’s chat about what that looks like.

Tuesdays and Thursdays, our family has music stuff until, basically, 5. This tight turn-around makes dinner prep nigh impossible. Answer? Tuesday/Thursdays are either slow cooker/instant pot/ or kid friendly charcuterie board nights. Right now, we are doing a lot of soups and a roast occasionally.

Saturdays are pizza and movie nights. Most weekends, we make our pizza at home… but every once in a while, we will Papa John it.

Sunday nights are breakfast-for-dinner nights.

This leaves MWF “open.” One of those nights will be a steak and caesar salad night. We get all of our beef from Butcher Box and love how tasty their grass-fed food is! Also, caesar dressing is SO easy and tasty to make from home if you follow this easy hack: fish sauce instead of grinding sardines. (GAG) I got the idea and my initial recipe from vietworldkitchen. (After making it several times, I just eyeball all the ingredients in her list and don’t look it up.)

That leaves 2 days a week for me to plug in a family favorite or try something new or have my 8 year old choose and make dinner.

Or have wiggle room for special occasion nights.

That amount of flexibility is perfect for me.


This week’s Big 4:

Imagine: I would have liked to have done more here this week– something a bit more original that “just coloring” or “just doing playdoh,” but that was what we did this week. We are still recovering from Christmas, coming in from out of town, unpacking, being hit hard with meetings/speech competitions, and physical limitations this week. This next week, I’m thinking about having the kiddos make a map to go along with the travels we are reading about in the Pilgrim Progress adaptation, Dangerous Journey. They also really love watching other kids’ “plays” of stories, so once we are done, we will have movie time with this video.

Encourage: The kids and I are memorizing Romans 8:31-39 this quarter. Saying the words each morning, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” encourages my heart– especially as some personal trials seem very much “against” me right now. I love this reading of the passage, and listen to it each morning as well.

Educate: We are learning about different Native American tribes for history right now… and I’m using the Family “jeopardy” app on our Apple TV to make a game out of what we are learning. Both my 8 yo girl and 5 yo boy are LOVING learning about the different cultures, and my daughter can’t wait until we get to Cherokee, as Papa (my grandfather) was half. I remember going camping in the reservation and getting to see tribe members dress in their dance regalia and just being mesmerized. I’d love to take a field trip up to the Oconaluftee Indian Village once we can!

Enjoy: We bundled up on a sunny day and hung hammocks that the two “bigs” got for Christmas outside. The kiddos stared at the sky through the branches of the trees and looked at the clouds. Made me wish I had gotten a hammock, too. But it was so nice to just watch them enjoy it. Isn’t that parenthood, my friends?

Zesty Lemon Bars (HFLC/Keto/GF)

It’s been a while since I’ve tried from-scratch desserts in the kitchen that take more than 3 seconds… but this summer has seen me begin to do so again, with fruit-based, refreshing favorites.

I posted recently on Insta about a yummy lemon bar that I tried, adapted, and made… and how great it turned out.

And I’ve been promptly asked for a recipe. 😀

This isn’t a cooking blog, so I don’t have a fancy shmancy recipe card template or a fabulously long and nostalgic story about the significance lemon bars have had in my life, HA!

I hope that doesn’t deter you from trying these. 😉


the recipe

ingredients
1/2 c butter
1 and 3/4 c almond flour (fine)
1 c sugar substitute (xylitol/erythritol blends are good)
juice from 3 lemons (or bottled lemon juice equivalent)
3 eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
powdered sugar substitute (for dusting)
Lemon Young Living Vitality EO

directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Mix melted butter, 1 cup of almond flour, ¼ cup sugar sub and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Combine and pour into an 8” x 8” pan lined with a sprayed pan.

2. Bake for 20 minutes and then let it cool while you mix step 3.

3. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, eggs, ¾ cup sugar sub, ¾ cup of almond flour, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 4 drops of lemon vitality. Whisk together very well to incorporate the eggs.

4. Pour the filling onto the cooled crust and bake for 21-23 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the refrigerator for several hours until firm enough to cut into squares. Dust with additional powdered sugar sub to decorate. Keep stored in the fridge.


I will fully admit to cutting these and eating one while they are warm because I’m impatient. They were okay warm… but MY LANDS. They are AMAZING once you actually let them cool. Both the textures and flavors are ON POINT if you are patient.

<<sigh>>

Patience.

It’s a virtue, they say.

Anyhoo, give the recipe a go and let me know what you think!

We don’t want it.

This morning, my girl and I had a chat.

Goodness, as if talking about racism and privilege and protests and rights and equality and riots isn’t hard enough for adults… where do you begin with your 7 year old? Her mouth dropped open when I told her about George Floyd and the atrocity that happened and the why behind it… and I know her shock is proof of privilege.

We talked about how she will hear about people protesting— and how all people have the right to peacefully protest. To let their voices be heard. To make signs and march and tell the world that something is wrong and that things need to change.
She asked if protests make windows smash. And that led to tricky conversations about what riots are. And I told her that just because riots happen, that doesn’t change the fact that all people have the freedom of speech and right to protest.

I loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, noticing my girl had gotten out a marker and construction paper. She came to me once she was done.

“It’s my sign, momma,” she said.

“What is it that you don’t want?” I asked, reading her print.

“I don’t want meanness. It’s wrong to be mean like that to people, and I don’t want it. So I made a sign to let people know.”

Oh girlie. I pray you will always use your words and have a heart to speak up to stop the meanness around you.

If only everyone was so brave.

If only everyone in my generation and your generation and all the ones to come look at what has happened and is happening, declare “we don’t want it,” and do something about it.

Song on repeat this week:

Because the world groans. The world weeps. And He is still worthy.

My prayer for everyone.

Trust in the silence.

Every once in a while, I come upstairs when my husband is working on an extra project and just watch and listen to him work. He’ll hum a few notes to himself, click the mouse, play a chord or a melody line. It sounds so disjointed, honestly. There doesn’t seem much rhyme or reason or anything musical about it. Just an audible snippet here or there that might clue you in to a measure of a song or a taste of the melody. It seems like a dab of random with a whole lot more silence than what you’d think making an entire orchestration would be. But when he is done, and he pushes the button, suddenly it’s there: the entire song, with strings and brass and woodwinds. Percussion. The whole gamut.

But all you heard?

A hum or two.

My word. Isn’t that the way life is?

You want to trust the Orchestrator… but try as you might, you don’t get to hear the music in his head. You get dazzled by a pretty chord that escapes the keys, or distracted by a weird note that gets clicked in. But more than anything, you wonder how any beautiful music can come from long, long stretches of silence. It’s unnerving.

I think we all long to hear the music. To see how all the measures are going to play out. To see if there are some nice themes and repeating parts. I know I do. We want to hear all the parts together.

It’s hard to be patient with the process of creation.

It takes trust. Trust that the Orchestrator hears and knows it all in his head… and that each note is deliberately placed. The tempo is strategic.

It is so comforting to know that one day, we will finally get to hear the final piece… and we are even the music itself. We will be awed, not just by the song, but by the One who placed every. single. note. in it.

So listen closely. Catch what you can.

But rest in the fact the music will not be silent forever.

Gather ‘Round Oceans Unit Study Playlist: for pre- and early readers!

Hello there, fellow Gather ‘Round users! Although I don’t used GR for our main curriculum during the school year, I LOVE using it for our breaks. We loved the Christmas unit, and decided to use the Oceans for “summer” school this year. I find our family works best with some “structured” time during the hot months– and this Oceans unit study seems like it will fit the bill so nicely!

We just finished our first lesson, and are already loving it!

Before starting Oceans, I did hit Thriftbook.com and an Usborne party to snag some great picture books, etc. (You can check those out in my saved “Oceans” Insta Story!)

I would normally head to the library to snag most of these, but since libraries are closed right now (thanks, Covid!), these links are the next best thing!

These videos are in no particular order, but all of them are recommended in either the pre- or early reader levels, and both ages are close enough to enjoy them together in my opinion. 🙂

Here we go!

The Dolphins at Daybreak Chapter Book Links

There you have it!

Hope these links help you and your kiddos enjoy your Oceans unit even more!

my thoughts on a Persuasive Pandemic

I’ve been in the world of persuasion and debate a LONG time.

I debated in high school and college. I started traveling as a debate judge and coach in grad school as a part of my teaching assistantship. I continued traveling as full-time college faculty member, and was the faculty advisor for our intercollegiate debate association. I have taught public speaking on the collegiate level— which included large units on persuasive discourse. And I have continued to teach debate in my community to high schoolers while I educate my own children, and run a business from home.

Added up, that’s going on 20 years of experience— over half of my life.  And while there are people who have definitely done debate longer and have a more impressive persuasive CV, I don’t consider myself a stranger to things such as analyzing persuasive communication and wading through research and statistics to create a perspective.

The purpose of this post isn’t to convince you that our current situation is overhyped or not being presented as dire enough.  The purpose is to get you to consider the information that you are absorbing by asking it some pretty important questions before “accepting” information as evidence of what is true.

Before we continue, a word about truth.

At the risk of sounding “postmodern” (for those who view that scary), can we all agree that NO ONE knows what the truth really is in this situation— and maybe any situation?  The experts don’t know, the law makers don’t know, the press doesn’t know.  You and I definitely don’t know.  We don’t really know how the virus works, who it will affect, why some countries are hit super hard and others aren’t.  We don’t know how long it is going to stick around.  We don’t know how many people have it, how many don’t, how long it has really been here.  We don’t know how it will affect our economy long-term… or how it will affect our own little family units.  We don’t know.

We predict, project, and speculate.  And then predict, project, and speculate some more. 

And then we all act on those predictions, projections, and speculations— you.  Your family.  Your community.  Your country.

So, I’d say it’s pretty important that we hold the information we are using to gauge our actions to a pretty high test, since it affects our actions so significantly. 

“But the statistics!,” you might be saying. “Numbers don’t lie!,” you might argue.

Oh, if only THAT were true.

Anyone who has worked with numbers and heard statistics regularly knows that there is always another way to crunch the numbers.  There is always another valid statistic out there that can argue the opposite of the position that is “proven” by other numbers.  Once you really start realizing how fallible numbers and the interpretation of them can be, you really start questioning how anyone can prove anything. (It goes to show you that believing a certain statistic over another contradicting one is an act of faith versus one of logic in a lot of instances.  But that’s another post for another time.)

To paraphrase, lots of people have the pretense of knowledge— but we are lacking in actual wisdom.

With that, let’s me jump into some pretty important questions you should be asking to any post, article, news story, graph, chart, etc., that you are seeing right now.

  1. Who is telling me this information, and what do they profit by giving it to me? 
  2. Is the information being presented ethically?

The answers to these questions are telling, and should affect how much “space” you give these sources in your head and in your decision-making.

First, who is telling me this information and what do they profit?

This lesson is one of the first ones I teach when I start teaching my students how to find and use evidence. If the source you are drawing from profits from you believing their information— in power or money— you should take their data with a pretty big grain of salt.

Does this mean that they will be inaccurate and that the information is always false?  Not necessarily. But the more that they profit, the more you should question the accuracy.  The bigger the profit gain or loss, the bigger the incentive to coerce information to their perspective.  Ask yourself if other, less-biased sources have similar findings.  

Something to consider is that, in times of crisis, both the mainstream press and the political arena are good at profiting off of extremes— making something seem way worse or way better than it is.  Why?  Because extremes grab exposure.  Headlines never say, “Nothing to see here.”  There is both power and money in widespread capturing of people’s attention.  We have seen this time and time again.  

A question to ask would be, is this happening now?

Who are you getting the most of your information from?  How much of the information are they actually giving you?  Do they give you a few soundbites, and spend the rest of the time interpreting parts of the whole?  What is the purpose of their message?

What emotional, versus logical, response is it asking you to have?

That leads us to our second main question.

Is the information being presented ethically? 

Your follow up question might be, “how would I know?”  If the article is asking for an emotional response over a logical one I mentioned above, that is a pretty big giveaway.  

If a story, etc., is laced with emotionally-charged language, little red flags should be going off.  Unless it is labeled as an opinion piece or a human interest story, we should see be seeing denotative language over connotative.  

The source definitely should not be employing questionable propaganda tactics to lead their audience to a polarizing “us vs. them” conclusion by the end of their article.  

As a small tangent, let’s talk a second about propaganda.  Propaganda itself isn’t a bad thing.  It’s neutral.  You can use it for bad or for good— but it IS a PERSUASIVE tool, not an informative one.  Also, there are many types of propaganda, but two are universally seen as unethical, although many are neutral.  Those two questionable kinds are name calling and card stacking.  

Name calling is intentional use of offensive names or language to win an argument.  Card stacking is a purposeful manipulation of the audience perception of an issue by emphasizing one side and repressing another.  

Both of these can be outright or implied, but if they are in an article, you should definitely begin to question the legitimacy of the message they are asking you to accept.

How do we apply this in this situation?

Does a news source you are reading call— or even imply— that anyone that disagrees with it is absurd or immoral in some way? Are they purposefully repressing and disregarding anyone that might think differently?

I *know* I have seen these tactics from both sides over the past week or two.  People even suggest that society should open up soon, and they are cast as money-grubbers, willing to sacrifice the elderly on the alter of our economy.  On the opposite side, people who are advocating for shelter-in-place or more stringent social distancing are portrayed as weaklings who are willing to rip up our rights as Americans and gladly become a communist country.

I would like to say that my language in the above paragraph is exaggerated for dramatic effect, but I’ve basically read those very words recently. I have seen them implied WAY more— not just in the comment sections of people’s posts— but by people and entities that are supposed to be representing facts.  

Those sources cannot claim to be unbiased in their reporting while simultaneously using questionable propaganda techniques to help support their conclusions.  But they are.

What’s worse? These articles are being shared. And shared. And shared again.

There’s one more facet to this “ethics” question that I’m going to mention here.

Let’s go back to debate. 

While making and arguing cases and points, good debaters use a lot of evidence.  Some of it can get deep and honestly, hard to listen and process— which can be a problem when you are wanting a judge to understand your point at one listening.  So, debaters do this thing called “tagging evidence.”  Basically, it’s a one sentence summary of what the judge can expect to hear in the evidence coming up.  Think of it like the evidence’s thesis statement, if you will.

Now, here’s the thing.  Some debaters want the judge to believe something, but can’t quite find the data to prove exactly what they want the judge to believe.  So, they will mis-tag the evidence, with the hope that the judge will write down and accept the tag without actually analyzing the data in the evidence itself.  It’s definitely a no-no in debate, and the other side can call out the misidentification and call into question the ethos of the team using those tactics.

So why risk this credibility blow?

Because a lot of times, it isn’t caught by the opposing team or the judge.  The team gets away with it and might even win the round because of it.  

What is very frustrating to me is that I see this “mis-tagging” happening over and over and over in news articles.  The titles of the articles have this attention-grabbing “fact” in it… but when you click the article and read it?  You find the information in many articles don’t actually say what the title suggested it should.  You realize that the article includes disclaimers and details that neutralize the sensationalism that the headline suggests.  

We don’t realize that right now, we are in the middle of a huge debate round as well as pandemic. We are the judges, listening to evidence come at us in such uncomfortable speeds by people who want us to believe them, that we just remember the “tags,” and don’t have time to dive deep into the details of all the information being shared with us.  So, we use the tags to convince us, one way or the other, of which side to believe. 

And ultimately, which side to act on.

There’s so much more I actually want to say, but heavens.  This post is already a novel. 

We are living in a time where it is easy to grow fear— of the unknown or of a virus or of losing jobs and freedoms.  Our fear actually makes it harder to analyze what we are reading and hearing, but it is more important now than ever.

I’ll be honest. I’m tempted to fear. I don’t like it when experts contradict and stats aren’t consistent, and logic isn’t easy, and people resort to name calling and card stacking to get points across. 

I don’t like knowing the truth about everything that is happening, either.

But I keep coming back to some bigger truths that sooth my soul, even when nothing else makes sense.  My faith grows clearer when facts become more elusive.

I know that I’m not supposed to have a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.

Making sure that I’m reading and sharing things that are as factual, unbiased, and not needlessly creating fear is doing my part in having “a sound mind” in the middle of a restless world.

At the end of the day, I ultimately know that there is One who knows the truth about all of this.  About all of everything.  

And that belief in the midst of crazy provides the soundest mind of all.

St. Patty’s Fun!

Want a little St. Patty fun tomorrow… but don’t have time to print a bunch a stuff out or prepare a lesson plan?

Here’s a handful of ideas to throw together a great day of Irish-themed learning!

Language Arts

Irish Storyteller Michael R. Kasony-O’Malley of Columbus, Ohio shares “Bridgette and the Lurikeen,” an old Irish folktale about a girl and a leprechaun. Fun storytelling and Irish culture combine in this fun retelling!

Feel free to ask your kids to narrate the story back to you, ask them their favorite part, or even to reenact it to check their understanding and attention. 😉

For those kiddos who are older and might want try their hand at some creative writing, have them try writing their own limerick! According to britannica.com, “the origin of the limerick is unknown, but it has been suggested that the name derives from the chorus of an 18th-century Irish soldiers’ song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?” So, definitely some strong Irish roots there!

Cooking (and math. and science. and snacks.)

Make a whole Irish meal! Or just pick one or two! Snacks are good, too!

What’s great about being in the kitchen is that it can cover soooo many subjects! Measuring? From counting, to fractions, to multiplying (if doubling or halving a recipe), it’s math.

Wanna dig a little deeper about why and how bread actually becomes bread? That’s science, my friend!

Music & Arts

Traditional Irish music is so fun! This video pairs some pretty photographs of Ireland with The Chieftan’s recording of O’Sullivan’s March.

Learn how to draw a leprechaun! This is such an easy step-by-step for several ages.

Physical Education

And last but not least, grab your kiddos and learn how to do a little Irish jig… all while getting your exercise in!

Hope that this offers a fun, St. Patty-shape to your time at home!