Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wulf the Saxon: An Heirloom Audio Productions Review

Heirloom Audio Productions

Listening.  Imagination.  Combining the known and unknown into a world of adventure!  If you haven't introduced your family to audio books or audio adventures like the ones from Heirloom Audio Productions, you are really missing out on not only an educational tool, but a family building experience too.  Last month we were given an audio adventure from Heirloom Audio, Wulf the Saxon to review.  The shared experience of listening to these stories is so good for my job as a teacher, because it gives me more examples to pull from in all kinds of educating, from history and geography to personal virtues and principles.

When you're busy in the throws of life, auto-pilot sometimes takes over and you miss great opportunities.  A while back my husband, Mr. Butler, had a great idea to listen to an audio book off of Youtube on a 30-minute car ride.  By the time we returned home, we had finished it and the kids loved it! So, when Wulf the Saxon came in the mail, I decided to try it out in the car too.  Over the course of about a week taking short trips here and there we were able to finish it!  

Wulf the Saxon

Wulf the Saxon is about a young man in the year 1065 who through various adventures and trials plays a big role in the history of England.  His commitment to those he serves and honor in his dealings with others - even enemies in battle - paints a beautiful picture of principles in action.  It certainly presents a lot of examples of sacrifice for others and the price of selfish ambition.  However, with kids, you just never know what they are going to zero in on and come up with.  Toward the end of the story, Wulf asks for Agnes De Burg's hand in marriage and, of course, she accepts.  Afterwards, the story breaks for a moment and the children being told the story react with "Ew! Gross!" and "Can we skip the kissing part?" I started chuckling and stopped the CD at this point because we had arrived at our destination.  My kids, who never miss a reaction coming out of me, started questioning my laughter hard, which only made me laugh harder.  They didn't understand why the kids were so grossed out.  I'm not sure if they just weren't paying close enough attention or perhaps they are used to their dad and I kissing at home.  Either way, I explained it as best I could in between my laughter, though they never seemed fully conviced.  You just never know what kind of questions will be sparked from listening to these kind of audio adventures! 

Heirloom Audio's series of adventures is complimented by their online resource center, Live the Adventure Club.  When you become a member of the Adventure Club, you receive 3 CD sets (audio adventures) a year automatically sent to you, access to a ton of education resources like study guides, scripts to read along with, games and activities linked to their stories, access to hundreds of old time radio shows, and so. much. more.  If you're looking for a great gift for a birthday or holiday, this is one of those fun AND educational gifts that keeps on giving! 

My favorite thing about listening to these types of stories is the reaction I got from my 7 year old son when I asked him what he thought of Wulf the Saxon.  "I liked it.  It was kind of scary." he said.  He smiled really big.  I laughed and asked, "Scary in a good way?  I didn't think you liked scary things." And this is what I wasn't expecting but absolutely loved! He said, "It just makes me want to read the book.  Is there a book about it?"   Before listening to it I hadn't said what it was, whether it was from a book or not.  Education is at its best when interest and understanding is sparked from multiple directions.  Audio adventures like Wulf the Saxon are a wonderful way to engage students further into a subject or time period.  

Interested in knowing more about their other Audio Adventures? Be sure to check out Heirloom Audio on social media below!

Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018 Butler's Family Valentine's Dinner

A big motivation behind our decision to homeschool is to strengthen and protect our family dynamic in order to set our kids up with the best tools for the future.  Whether we pursue it or not, our family unit will shape the future behaviors and relationship patterns of our kids.  One way we love to feed the family dynamic is holiday traditions!  

Valentine’s Day can be a tricky one because of how conditioned we have become to see it as a couple’s holiday.  Sure kids have school parties, but usually society either loves or hates it based on whether or not you have a date.  And while I love having a Valentine’s date with Mr. Butler, showing love and appreciation should never be limited to a couple. 

This was the year the kids thought I meant costumes when I said "Dress up" so we went with it!

Our first or second Valentine’s Day after my oldest was born, a traditional kid-free date night wasn’t going to happen so I decided to improvise.  Instead, we had a fancy dinner at home with nice dishes and our Sunday best.  As we added kids, we just continued the tradition and now it is one of the kids’ favorite nights!   Here are some shots from this year's dinner - complete with lasagna, fresh flowers and Knudson's Sparkling Cherry Juice!

Sometimes you do things out of necessity that later on turn into something so important.  This is one of those things for our family.  It takes extra effort (mostly on my part in regards to cooking and grocery shopping), but the impact this kind of thing has on the kids is huge.  Miss Z has been on a big kick of wanting us to be twins and when we both dressed in black she just about lost it with joy.  Plus, this was the first year we let them use the fancy glasses with Mr. Butler and I.  Fun all around, we talked about what we loved about each other and we worked on our table manners as well! A very good day!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

What 3 Babies Taught Me About Weight-Loss

Unlike my mother or my daughter, I was never really skinny.  As most people can do, looking back on my size in high school and college, I was just fine and would gladly return to that size again if given the choice.  When you're living it, though, that unique and specific-to-you shape gets ripped to shreds by society and their version of normal.  So like an adolescent girl is prone to do, I proceeded into adulthood with shame and insecurities surrounding how I looked and how much I weighed.  Enter marriage and pregnancy to make things really interesting!

If you know Mr. Butler, you know his second home is the gym.  To an insecure newlywed, that can result in more pressure and sensitivity.  I always wanted to look perfect and be viewed as perfect by everyone but especially my young husband.  Yet, exercise and dieting weren't exactly something I loved.  Ice cream, treats and Friday night fun I could get motivated for, but it took way too much baby weight that wasn't going anywhere to teach me how much exercise and clean eating would become one of my greatest tools in life.  Still, J was 6 or 7 months old before I had really begun that journey.  There was a mountain of judgement and criticism that I just couldn't get around and that was just the stuff in my head.  On the one hand there are supermodels and air-brushed magazine covers convincing me that my imperfection should be my shame.  On the other hand, there are other voices in the media that pounce any time someone suggests that a person should really work at losing weight.  Body-shaming, they call it.  And, goodness those voices can get so ugly.  In either case, I'm not buying it anymore.

I am 10 months postpartum after my third baby and about 50 lbs over my (1st) pre-pregnancy weight.  The rollercoaster has been real, but being on this end of it, I have certainly learned a few things I wish I could share with my pre-motherhood self.

1) View weight and body image through the lens of health.  Early on Mr. Butler encouraged me to exercise not because he saw me as flawed (like my inner voice tried to convince me all. the. time.), but because he wanted me to feel good about myself and stay healthy like he had learned.  Diabetes and heart disease may have very well been in his near future had he not made some major changes when starting college.  Thus, his commitment to healthy living was born.  He knew I was insecure and he also knew the motivation that came from a great exercise program!

It is in this point that I have a real problem with most people claiming that a concern for someone's weight is body shaming.  There are bullies and very cruel people in the world that say mean things and terrorize those with insecurities.  Encouraging someone to maintain a healthy weight is not the same thing.  I agree that no two bodies are the same and your healthy weight may be heavier/lighter than mine.  But if you have health complaints (other than how your clothes fit) like joint pain, labored breathing going up a flight of stairs, or depression, I do not agree that you should ignore your size.  A combination of any of those symptoms are signs that your body needs some attention for long-term survival, not to fit some society-built expectation.  When someone develops pneumonia, it is serious.  Any caregiver worth anything isn't going to start in ridiculing the person for being sick.  Instead, they just want them to survive without any permanent effects.  A major weight problem should be viewed the same way.

After the first pregnancy, losing weight was 100% about how I looked.  I was self-conscious about everything around everyone.  Now, after the third pregnancy, losing weight is about getting my health back where it needs to be so I can be the mom and wife I need to be.  What I look like and how my clothes fit is just a physical manifestation of where my health is at and how much further I have to go.

2)  Don't Use Another Person's Experience to Shape Your Expectations.  When it comes to weight-loss, most people fall into one of two categories.  They either must work at it to lose weight or they don't.  It is a rare unicorn of a person who has to work only a little bit in order to lose weight.   The two really can't be compared  and yet that's what we do.  Having babies is the perfect example.  Everything surrounding your first child is a brand new experience and that includes losing weight after pregnancy.  'They' say that if you breastfeed your infant, then the weight will just fall off.  Yeah, that only works for people who the weight just falls off anyway! I have two sister-in-laws and a handful of friends who just didn't even think about it and they were back to square one in no time.  I had really hoped that it just wouldn't be a big deal after J, because I tried to eat well and exercised some thinking that would be enough.  As you know, I fell into the category of having to really work at it.  And now I'm here again at 10 months postpartum and it still requires a ton of work. Honestly, it is probably more difficult this time because of how much busier I am with three kids.  Busyness translates into less time to exercise, less sleep and more stress which are all recipes for weight gain in my body, certainly NOT weight-LOSS.

After J, I let what other people (different body types and different circumstances) experienced determine what I expected my circumstances to be.  When I was obviously wrong, the despair, judgement and self-loathing just about ruined me in more ways than one.  In retrospect, it was all just so silly.  Healthy weight-loss is really just a science experiment anyway that takes patience and tweaking along the way.  What ratio of diet changes and exercise program intensity does it take to decrease your weight?  Spending all your time comparing yourself to where others are at is just taking time away from getting further along on your own path to a healthy place.  For probably the first 6 months of J's life I was just insistent in my head that what I was doing should be enough to get my desired results because of what anyone else was or was not doing.  And we're not even talking about the subject of what recovery after having a baby really means.  I had no clue.  Just stop comparing.  Period.

3)  There are many things worse than extra pounds.  When your health is clearly in danger, it will be a different story, but life is filled with more than just numbers on a scale.  Especially after children, life becomes more complicated.  Having healthy and whole children is a luxury many parents don't have.  A loving marriage, financial security, a hope of heaven and peace of mind are all things that don't just happen.  Many families struggle with so many things.  After miss Z's birth and difficulty sleeping through the night, I learned that I'd Rather Be Fat Than Crazy. The season of having babies and small children is short and losing weight is something you can always pursue later too.  At this stage there's just so much demand being put on your body that an aggressive weight-loss plan may not be possible, not yet anyway,  Be patient and be thankful for the good.

Mr. Butler has been so supportive of me this past year and it has really taught me to be kinder to myself in this area.  My blessings are many and my children deserve to see gratitude instead of a whiny state of being that only breeds unhappiness.  By the end of 2018, it is my goal to be well on my way to my former weight, but these three babies have taught me how to be content in the mean time.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Passionless Work: Why Bother?

She was finally settling down under the covers after much nagging on my part and lots of chattering on her part.  She smiled as her eyelids closed and said, "Goodnight, Mommy." The wind suddenly blew outside and a realization struck me.  My little girl - this larger than life free spirited girl who loves with her whole self and spreads excitement with her eyes - was tucked safely in her bed with nothing to fear and all her needs met.  So many others don't have that luxury, or worse, struggle under blankets of abuse.  I was so thankful for my girl's safety, but more than that I recognized how deeply indebted she is to her father who makes all of that possible.

I grew up championing passion and finding THE career or life calling that a person could get excited about.  Why do something for the rest of your life if you weren't passionate about it, right?   Well, I'm beginning to realize that passion is only half of the picture.  The nature of passion is that it burns hot at first, but can fade quickly.  The ability and willingness to work hard no matter what is something that you can depend on, finding passion and fulfillment in many places.  It is another case of emotion and truth having to work together for the best result.

Mr. Butler has wished many times that he had chosen a different career.  Engineering, while lucrative, is not what he thought it would be and not the most fulfilling thing he could be doing with his life.  I have told him so many times that I just wanted him to be happy with his work.  However, he is a fiercely committed man and has always sought to provide me - and eventually our babies - a safe and healthy environment in which to live and grow.  That has often involved work that might not have been his favorite but certainly took care of us.  For the longest time, I just didn't understand being okay with a job that you didn't just love.  I think the problem was that I didn't fully understand love at all.  Idealism and naivety can cloud your understanding.  Single parents,  two working parents, daycare, foster care, the list of not our first choices for a family situation is endless.  Life doesn't usually go the way you expect and then you find yourself making different choices.  Love for your family, more specifically love for your children changes the world as you know it and sheds a whole new light on eternity and God's provisions for us.

This man works hard, even on a Saturday morning when he'd rather take the day off.

Just as the way life goes, some things you just don't get until you're older and have been pushed around by life a little. All three of my little circus animals are safely tucked into their beds with full bellies, more clothes and toys than they need and have no fear of tomorrow.  With just a few different choices in life, that is quickly not the case.   My heart hurts for all of the innocent kids who didn't choose their lot, especially when it involves avoidable circumstances.  I still celebrate understanding ourselves and finding the career or hobby that makes your heart soar!  If you can get paid for what you love, that is a wonderful thing!  But more than that, keeping children safe (through a steady income or just being a good parent /advocate) and teaching them what love and security looks like is probably one of the most rewarding jobs someone could have.

So, to all of you who work hard and find yourself doing things that you don't exactly love in order to provide something for one of these little ones, THANK YOU!  What you are doing is changing the world for good.  And that's all anyone can hope for in this world, isn't it?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Something To Be Said For Slowness

One of the best sounds in the world - as a mom and an educator - is the pleadings of children saying, "Just a little more?  Please???" after I reach the end of a chapter.  Tonight it was especially urgent because we're reading Sarah Witcher's Story by Elizabeth Yates, where a young girl, Sarah, gets lost in the woods and the entire community is searching for her.  We had already stretched the book over several sittings and their emotions had just about had it, I think.  So, of course we read just enough to know they were going to find her and then everyone could manage to sleep.

In the this competitive and high traffic world, we all just want to do well, to feel normal and not get left behind.  So we try to do more, go more and ultimately be more, but then we forget how much is gained in the slowness.  The one curriculum that we have used consistently since J started is My Father's World and, like a lot of homeschool curriculum, read aloud books are a standard practice.  My sensitivity to pressure (of any kind) causes me to get caught up in worry about to-do lists and doing enough.  So things like reading together takes time that the shameful side of me says could be used to clean something.  But of course I know better.  Having my big 7 year old and the whippy 4 year old clinging to me out of fear and excitement about the fate of a character in a book is far more valuable and steadying than a clean sink or organized closet.  This thing we're doing as parents - shaping their hearts toward the world and toward God is such a huge thing.  When your back aches and eyes droop from the exhaustion of it all, it is easy to forget what it's for.

Another thing that this year has brought has been more puzzles.  Nobody is pregnant in our house, no huge renovation projects are in process, and it's just too cold and dark after dinner to do much else.  So, our brains are getting a little exercise and our pace is soothingly slowed.  There's something to be said for slowing life down a bit. :)

Monday, January 15, 2018

How is your January going?  The race car is smiling most of the time and we're so thankful for that!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Be the Helpers

I have this really great friend who is probably my most favorite person to just cut to the chase of life with.  Small talk and polite hesitation just isn't something we usually do and certainly not her way.  Her super power is to say just what she thinks -especially in regards to the important matters of life - and not be bothered by any awkwardness that ensues.  I'm not really talking about rudeness, just more like the true friend love that knows you may regret this horrible choice you are about to make.

I, on the other hand, hate confrontation.  I despise awkwardness.  Even on TV!  The Office is a favorite of Mr. Butler and I's, BUT sometimes Michael Scott's ridiculous awkwardness is just too much for me.  And it's not even real.  So, I have always avoided the straight-talk kind of conversations unless someone else is asking my opinion.  As I get older, I have some regret about not being more willing to try to help others when they are clearly going in a foolish direction.  One of the privileges of knowing people for over 20 or 30 years is that you get to see the results of early life choices and it is evident now that those adolescent events are so shaping and unfortunately condemning if left uncorrected. 

Why am I talking about any of this?  I want to encourage you to always be a helper.  Moms and Dads, teach your kids to be helpers.  Teenagers, the way you treat others - especially those in your peer group - will change them for better or worse.  In the chaotic moments of adolescence, I know you feel like it's every man for himself, but in 20 years you'll see what kind of effect you had.  Will it be meaningful and good? Or was it hurtful and negligent?  Every man is responsible for their own actions, of course.  But haven't you seen all the hurt and dysfunction that many, many children - maybe even you - grow up in?  Maybe love and attention from you or your family could change their life? 

Something I've decided to work on is my ability to do good in spite of discomfort or awkwardness.  I'm really bad at it - like brain racing, blood pressure spike, and just foolish talking - but I'm hoping that the pregnancy/new mom brain will start to improve and I can be more purposeful with my words.  There's always going to be tragic ends and self-inflicted pain and suffering, but I think we can save some.  And I think that matters.