Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Category: Miscellaneous

Sing (though your heart is breaking)

This week has been a tough week. I have woken up every day to a slurry of grumpy attitudes (including my own) and toddler tantrums all before breakfast. The toddler’s tantrums have been over everything:

Not putting the right milk in his cereal.
Not letting him put the milk in his cereal.
Putting blueberries instead of raisins in his cereal.
Putting raisins instead of blueberries in his cereal.

And on it goes.

If you’ve ever been the mother of a 2-year-old, you know what I’m talking about.

Most mornings I can handle this with a slight amount of graciousness and understanding. But with the amount of sleep I’ve been getting this week (totally self-inflicted) grace was all but absent. And it got worse as the week went on.

Add to the 2-year-old tantrums, siblings squabbles, and stresses and emotional outbursts, the mornings have been less than peaceful.

And this all before we begin school. Every morning I despaired. How do I rein in the terrible tantrums and redeem the day?

Sing! (though your heart is breaking)

Most days it is my practice to start the formal part of our homeschooling with Morning Time. To call everybody together and begin I usually put on the current month’s folksong, or, more often, the 2-year-olds favorite Aussie folksong, Road to Gundagai.

By the end of the song everyone has joined in singing and are prepared and ready to begin the day. We then sing a hymn together. Our current selection is My Hope Is Built (on nothing less). This is followed by Bible reading and prayer, memory work, and a few other things.

Without fail, every single day this week, beginning our day with singing our folksong and hymn has abated the tantrum tempest. I won’t exaggerate and tell you we were all on our best behavior for the rest of each day. We are, after all, sinners in need of a Savior. And there is only so much that singing can do to make up for lack of sleep, but it helped. It really helped to reset our bad attitudes and be in a more positive and worshipful frame of mind as we heard God’s Word, prayed with repentance to a holy God, and approached our duties for the day. Harsh words were replaced with encouragement. Scowls and frowns were replaced by smiles and giggles. For a little while anyway.

So if you ever feel that your day has derailed before it’s even begun, sing. Sing together. Sing folk songs. Sing hymns. Your soul will be fed. Your children’s souls will be fed. And you’ll all be directed toward Him.

The Secret to Downloading Free Audiobooks

We read aloud a lot in our home because we use living books for school. So when it comes to reading aloud just for fun, I don’t always have the time or the energy. It’s my ideal that the children have one story, that’s not a school book, read aloud to them every day. It’s a lovely idea, inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, the Read-Aloud Revival. But realistically, this never happens. With homeschooling, co-op prep, extra curricula activities, a toddler, and a home to run, I am lucky to manage 2-3 days some weeks. I can only be stretched so far. But a few months ago I discovered a way to attain my lofty read-aloud goals for my children, easily and without burden, by borrowing digital audiobooks from our local library. This in no way replaces snuggling on the couch with the kiddos and reading aloud to them myself. But when I’m strapped for time, I’m thankful for the option. They still get to hear wonderful stories and I get to breathe *wink*.

Borrowing Digital Books from the Library

My county library uses Hoopla to lend digital books. Other libraries use Overdrive. I will talk about what I know about both, but I have less experience with Overdrive since my library doesn’t use it. These are services used in both Australian and American libraries. So my Aussie friends can check out the service as well. My Overdrive example is with a library from Australia. Just remember, like any library, use discernment. This is not an endorsement of every audiobook.

You will need your library card number and pin to borrow from these services. If you have your library card number but not your pin, you can go to your library’s page, click on “My account” at the top of the page, then click “Forgot password/PIN code?” You will be asked to enter your library card number and your pin will be emailed to you.

Volusia County Library Page

Requesting Library Pin

Hoopla

I discovered Hoopla scrolling down through my library page.

Hoopla on the Library Website

Alternatively, you can go straight to the Hoopla webpage.

Hoopla

You can browse the digital library there, but in order to borrow, you need to log in first by clicking the “Log In” button at the top right of the page. If you are new to Hoopla, you can then sign up by clicking the blue “Sign Up Now” button.

Hoopla Log in

You will then select your library.

Hoopla Sign Up

Now that you are logged in, you can browse audiobooks, digital books, and movies to your heart’s content. There are categories you can browse to discover the items that you are most interested in. If there is a particular title that you wish to borrow, you can search for it in the search box.

Searching with Hoopla

It will then bring up all titles related to your search inquiry. Because I only want audiobooks, I make sure to select “Audiobooks” underneath “FILTER.”

Mary Poppins in the Park is the book I want to borrow. So I simply click on the title.

Mary Poppins on Hoopla

Then click “Borrow.”

Borrowing using Hoopla

Did I mention that there is a Hoopla app for tablets and smartphones? Because I am borrowing on my iPad, and I have already downloaded the app, it automatically wants me to open the audiobook through the app.

Opening audiobook in Hoopla app

After clicking “Open in App,” the Hoopla app is automatically opened ready for me to play my newly borrowed audiobook, Mary Poppins in the Park. Click play and enjoy! This will stream the audiobook over the internet.

Play Audiobook of Mary Poppins in the Park

If you want to listen to the audiobook without an internet connection, you can download the audiobook to your device to listen to it whenever you want. The title will automatically leave your device after the 21 day borrowing period. No more overdue fees! To download the audiobook you simply click on the cloud icon at the top right of the page. An orange progress bar will track across the screen to let you know when it is downloaded. This is wonderful for those long road trips.

Downloading audiobooks to your device

You can find all your borrowed items in the “MY TITLES” section.

Hoopla Search

Overdrive

I will attempt to explain how to borrow audiobooks using Overdrive, but as I said, I have no experience borrowing using this service since I don’t have an account with a library that uses it. From what I can see, the principles are essentially the same, but the interface (how it looks) is slightly different. Hopefully this will be enough explanation to get you going.

The first step is to go to the Overdrive webpage or download the app and sign up. I found the iPad app the easiest. The browser experience may look slightly different.

Overdrive Sign Up

Once signed up, follow the prompts to swipe right.

Overdrive 1

Click “Add a Library.”

Selecting Libraries in Overdrive

Type in a city name, postal/zip code, or library name. I searched for a library near Rowville, Australia—a familiar city to me.

Find Library in Overdrive

Overdrive found Rowville library. Click on the library name.

Rowville Library Overdrive

Rowville library is part of the Eastern Regional Libraries system. Click on it.

Eastern Regional Libraries

Now I have selected my library that is connected with Overdrive, I am free to browse or search for titles in the search box at the top right of the screen. I tried to search for Mary Poppins, but sadly, this library system didn’t have Mary Poppins available as an audiobook download.

Overdrive 2

So I decided to select “View more…” under the Audiobook Fiction section in the black navigation bar to browse what was available. The headphones icon over a title tells you that it is an audiobook.

Overdrive

I scrolled down through the various categories until I came to one that interested me (Literature) and clicked “View more…”

Browsing Overdrive

To narrow down my search, I selected “Subject” from the left side bar.

Overdrive Literature Audiobooks

Then I selected my subject of choice, “Classic Literature.”

Classical Literature Audiobook

I scrolled down until I found a title that I wanted to download, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and clicked “Borrow.”

Alice in Wonderland Audiobook Overdrive

Just a note about children’s literature. There can be many versions of the classics. My encouragement is to read the unadapted and unabridged version. Our children deserve the respect of giving them rich, quality literature, that hasn’t been dumbed down

This is as far as I can take you since I don’t have an account with a library that uses Overdrive. I think that you will be able to take it from there though.

Borrowing with Overdrive

I connect my iPad via bluetooth to a portable bluetooth speaker for a better listening experience. My children then prop the iPad and speaker up on their dresser, snuggle into bed, and enjoy the story.

Mary Poppins in the Park Audiobook

I’d love to hear your audiobook experiences.

Bits and Pieces: Summer 2015

This summer we:

Played in the dirt.

Played in the dirt.

And in the mud.

Playing with mud

Enjoyed a week at VBS and sent A-Age-9 to Music Camp for the first time.

Sent A-Age-9 to Music Camp for the first time

I bought new books for the new school year (my favourite part of planning).

Bought new books for the new school year (love this part of school planning).

I'm teaching, "Story of the World: Ancient Times" to grades K-1 at our homeschool co-op this year. It will be my first time teaching a class, Eek!

I’m teaching, “Story of the World: Ancient Times” to grades K-1 at our homeschool co-op this year. It will be my first time teaching a class. Eek!

And pulled out old school books for new students.

And pulled out old school books for new students.

New school books required new bookshelves to fit them on.

/

BEFORE

AFTER"

AFTER

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

I had wanted to upgrade our bookshelves to the 5×5 Kallax since moving into our house over 2 years ago. It makes such a difference and worth the wait.

We had loads of swimming lessons. Once they were done, we took a short vacation to St. Petersburg where we:

Used our new swimming skills.

Swimming by the bay

And said hello to Winter and Hope at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Winter and Hope

Hope

Hope

There were playdates with fort making, ice-creams, zoo visits, and splash pads. Now we are ready to go and are looking forward to starting a new school year—well, I am at least.

How did you spend your summer?

Real Conversations with Dad

Car

“‘Real’ talks with Father were always such delightful things.”

—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily of New Moon.

We were in the car, driving to who knows where? It didn’t matter. I was with my dad. I looked forward to our drives together. It was our time alone—just him and me, without the distractions of the computer or TV or everyday life. I had his attention all to myself. I looked forward to these drives. It was when we talked. And I loved our talks. I loved asking him questions. Questions about his life, about politics, about God, about world events and news stories, about what I was learning at school—anything, it didn’t matter. I simply wanted to know what he thought. I don’t remember how often we had these drives. I don’t remember where we went on these trips. But I do know that these conversations had a formative effect on my life. They were instrumental in molding my values and shaping my thoughts. Although I am sure there were other times when we talked, it’s these drives that I remember. And as I thank God for my father this (American) Father’s Day, these times in the car with my dad, having “real” conversations in which he imparted his knowledge, his wisdom, and most importantly, himself, are what come to mind as most precious to me.

It is in light of this that my heart is overwhelmed to see the same love and excitement in my girls’ eyes when they go on a drive with their daddy. It usually isn’t to go anywhere exciting: Home Depot, the lawn care place, the gym, or to get a haircut. Yet, they get so excited that they get to go with Dad on his Saturday errands. This is because, as my 9-year-old daughter explains:

“I love driving with Papa. I like our conversations.”

The minute they get into the car she asks, “Can you talk to me about something, Papa?”

In the same way that I felt with my father, what my daughters and their dad talk about isn’t important to them. What is important is the time spent with their dad as he gives them his attention and love. Just being present with them as he freely gives his time and himself to them. He never talks down to them, but always respecting them as persons made in the image of God, he answers their questions thoughtfully, thoroughly, while being mindful of their personalities and sensitivities.

I know that these conversations my daughters have with their dad will have a lasting impact on them as they continue to grow up. They will help shape and mold their hearts and minds, just as the conversations with my father did for me.

As I further reflect on these conversations, and their role in forming children’s minds, I cannot help but see the connection with our Heavenly Father. How much more should conversations with our Heavenly Father mold and shape our hearts to be more like Him? As we read His Word, He speaks to us. In a sense, He is sharing Himself, His thoughts, His will, and His values with us.

On this Father’s Day, may fathers delight in having “real” talks with their children, and may we all treasure “real” talks with our Heavenly Father as all the more delightful.

How Martin Luther Helped Us to Pray

For the past year and a half, every school morning, we begin our day with what I call “circle time.” My four kids and I gather together on the couch, or around the table outside, to read Scripture, memorize Scripture, pray, and to read and memorize poetry. It hasn’t always been easy establishing this routine, especially with a baby and a five-year-old incessant wriggler whose maximum attention span is five minutes. Nevertheless, it has become my favorite time of the day. I hope over time it becomes my children’s as well. It is wonderful to begin the day together focussing on our Lord; emphasizing truth, goodness, and beauty. It really helps set the tone for the rest of our day, most of the time.

When we began to incorporate a regular circle time in our day the children each took a turn at praying. Their prayers would be something like this:

“Dear God, thank you for the day. Please help us at school and please help such and such to get better. Amen.”

There is nothing wrong with this prayer in itself. The Bible says we should come to Jesus like a child. God hears our simple, heartfelt, and fervent prayers. The concern I had was that I felt as if the children were praying on autopilot. The same prayers would be prayed each day, the exact same words said by rote, and I didn’t feel that they actually thought about what they were saying. I didn’t feel that they really understood that they were praying to God, the creator of the universe. As I thought about it more I realized something: that was how I prayed as well. I was praying in a haphazard, unthoughtful way. They were following my example.

The Barber Who Wanted to PrayOne day, as I sorted out the kids’ bookshelf for the hundredth time, I rediscovered the children’s book The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R. C. Sproul. We had read and enjoyed this beautifully illustrated book several times before, but hadn’t pulled it out for quite some time. It is about a father, Mr. McFarland who, during family devotions, is asked by his young daughter how to “pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and will make me feel more comfortable.” Mr. McFarland tells her a 500-year-old story about a barber and his famous customer, the outlaw, Martin Luther. He tells her how Luther came to write a letter to the barber, explaining to him how to pray using the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments.

Thanking the Lord for putting this book in my path right when I needed it, I decided to read this story to the kids as part of our circle time. After spending a week or two reading it over a few times and having them tell me the story in their own words, I explained that we would do as Martin Luther taught the barber, and memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments as part of our memory work during circle time. I wish I could tell you that the girls jumped for joy at this pronouncement. They did not. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard groans. It sounded like a lot of work to them so, of course, they didn’t want to do it. But anything worth doing requires effort. We have been memorizing these verses and creed, five minutes a day, for the past year and a half. The oldest has memorized all of them and the younger two have memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed and are at various stages in memorizing the Ten Commandments. Amazingly, I too have memorized them incidentally since I have been helping the children learn them.

As we have memorized each verse or sentence, I have encouraged the children to pray through them as was taught in the story.

“Think about the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’ When you think about these words, allow your mind and your heart to give careful attention to what these words say, and let them move you to deeper prayer.”

Martin Luther goes on to give several examples in the story of praying in this way. I too tried (and continue) to model how to pray in this way. Each day I picked one line from whatever the children were in the process of memorizing, often focussing on the same verse for the entire week or more, sometimes even a whole month. Then I encouraged the kids to pray something about that. For example, when considering the line in the Apostles’ Creed, “Maker of heaven and Earth,” I would talk about how they could praise God for His wonderful creation. Thanking Him for the birds that chirp in our trees. For the sun and the moon and the stars. To thank Him for creating this world that we are living in and for providing plants to eat that bear seeds after their own kind. I would ask them to think about how powerful God must be to create such a perfect home for us. I then told them to include in their prayer at least one thing about God’s creation that they were thankful for and to thank Him for it.

As we have continued this practice of praying through these verses and creed I have seen my children grow in how they approach God and how they pray to Him. They still pray with their simple language, but they have begun to include whole verses from memory in their prayers and to apply them to specific circumstances for which they are praying. Not only has this book helped me to teach the children to pray biblically and to seek Him and His Word, it has also radically changed and enriched my own private prayer life as I too learn to “pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and will make me feel more comfortable.” While this book was written for children, it’s story will impact anyone who wants to grow in prayer and their Christian walk with God. If you’re interested, Luther’s original letter is also freely available online.

My Favorite Educational iPad Apps for Kids

I use my iPad a lot for school. It’s easily transportable upstairs to the school room and many of our school books are on it or are accessible through the Internet. Not to mention the Internet itself being easily accessible to provide extra supplements to our lessons where appropriate, and in the spur of the moment, as is often the case with me.

Overtime I have collected a few apps for the children to use in their free time. I do not let them use it whenever they want, but have limited their time on it to an hour or two on Fridays (my cleaning day), and occasionally at other times I will allow them to use it to listen to a specific story, or to use a particular educational app.

So out of my small collection of apps for the kids, I have a few favorites that I would like to share with you.

The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Bejamin Bunny, and Squirrel Nutkin
The following three apps are my absolute favorites. They are the timeless stories from Beatrice Potter. We have downloaded many children’s book apps, and one of my criticism’s of them are that the developers have made the app so busy with all it’s interactivity that it becomes a distraction from the story. Not so with these Pop Out apps. The interactivity is that of the traditional paper pop out book, with tags to pull and push and make Peter Rabbit move through his adventures. In addition, the falling leaves can be collected on a couple of pages which the kids enjoy, and I do not believe provides a distraction from their listening to the story. The story is read by a lovely female voice which can be switched off if your child wants to read it themselves. The illustrations are the beautiful illustrations we’ve always known and love.

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Pop Out! The Tale Of Peter Rabbit

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Pop Out! The Tale Of Benjamin Bunny

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Pop Out! The Tale Of Squirrel Nutkin


The Night Before Christmas
My next favourite is made by the same developers and contains much of the same interactivity as the Beatrice Potter apps. It is Denslow’s The Night Before Christmas.

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The Velveteen Rabbit
The last of the book apps is “The Velveteen Rabbit” read by Meryl Streep. This is app is simply a video of this beautiful book being read, with some panning of the original illustrations, like they do on Playschool. This app is unfortunately not available in the U.S. App Store, so I can’t link to it, but it is in the Australian store. So all you Aussies enjoy it. Glad we got it while we were still in Australia!

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Starfall ABC’s
Starfall ABC’s is my favourite phonics app for preschool (kinder) and Kindergarton (prep). It is simple but does the best job in reinforcing the letter and its sound, giving many examples of objects beginning with that letter, and providing a variety of games for the child to play that continues reinforcing the letters.

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Reading Eggs Spelling Games Grade 1
A first grade spelling app that we like is Reading Eggs Spelling Games Grade 1. This Australian app provides a variety of games to reinforce spelling. My first grader, who is a very good reader, finds this app very challenging, so it definitely could be appropriate of older grades also.

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YouTube
Goes without saying. I don’t let the children use this on their own, but it is used to aid in their lessons.

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Plant Nanny (iPhone)
I have a daughter that does not drink much water. If I don’t force her to drink a cup of water in front of me, she would not have a drink all day. This has been exasperating to me, and I have not known how to get her to consistently drink more water. That is until I found Plant Nanny for the iPhone. In this app the user inputs age and weight, and the app calculates how much water the user should drink a day. They then get to choose a plant to care for, to give a glass of water each time the user drinks a glass. If you don’t give the plant water (by drinking a glass yourself), then the plant will die. After a few days the plant can then be planted in a garden and the user can choose another plant. This app has proved extremely successful in getting my 6 year old to drink water. She loves the app and is now much more responsible in drinking her quota of water for the day. So if you have children that you struggle to get to drink enough, I highly recommend this iPhone app.

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Apps Gone Free
Finally, this last app is not for the kids, but has been very useful to me. Apps Gone Free tells you the apps that are available for free that particular day. I have got a lot of my apps for free through this app.

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So there you have it. These are ten of my favorite educational iPad apps for the kids. I hope it’s been helpful.

Have you got any apps that have made it to your favorites list? If you do I’d love to hear about them.

Year 1: highlights from term 1

Even though we are almost at the end of term 2, I thought it might be nice to share with you some highlights from term 1.

Handicraft

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Science
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Reading

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Art

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Building and painting our French house

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Narration highlights taken from end of term exam

Q: Tell me about your favorite Aesop’s Fable

A: The wolf and the kid. A kid thought she was an adult and so when the mum called he kept in chewing grass and when he went he saw the wolf that he didn’t want so he asked him to play his flute and then all the dogs came and saved him from the wolf. And, do not let anything turn you from your purpose.

Q: What is one of your favorite pieces from our composer study this term? (We studied Debussy)

A: Suite Bergamasque Prelude. I like that its smooth and sounds nice. It’s sounds like your playing a mixture slowly into a ball.

Q: What instruments were used?

A: I think it’s a piano.

Q: Tell me about St Alban

A: St Alban was not a Christian and he lived in a little home and Romans came to kill Christians. And one Christian came to him and the soldiers didn’t know that they were there until one day and St Alban put his coat over the Christian and the Christians coat over him and he got tied up and brought to the priest and he threw off his coat and he was like brought to the… And he was asked some questions, which I can’t remember the questions and he was brought to a mountain and he found some water and he drank some and the soldier threw away his sword because he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong. Isn’t that right? And the priest cut off Albans head as well as the soldiers and then they buried him on that mountain and called him St Alban and put a church on that same spot. Made a church that was his and after a few years it broke and they made another one. That stayed there for a while and it’s still there today.

Well that’s it. Just a few highlights from term 1, our first term homeschooling here in Florida. What have been some highlights for you?

Holidays and Blessings

Well after only a few posts I regret to say I have become negligent in keeping up the writing on the blog. Being disciplined is not one if my strong suits. But with the new year comes a new goal, to be more consistent with writing. We’ll see how it goes.

This hiatus of mine was partly to blame on the business of the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving.

This was our first Thanksgiving ever, here in America (Thanksgiving is not an Australian holiday). Can I just say what a fantastic, God honouring holiday Thanksgiving is. To think that an entire nation sets aside one day to share a meal with family and loved ones, and to take stock of the things in their life that they are thankful for. How easy it is to go on with the hum drum of day to day life and never take a minute to stop and consider the great many blessings that we have been granted in our life. But here is a day called “Thanksgiving” to do just that. Brilliant!

We were privileged to be invited to share this meal with a work colleague and his family and friends. Before the meal began each person in turn shared the things they were thankful for: Family, Pets, Health, Successes at school, Children that loved Jesus, Gods continued guidance and direction through the year – just to name a few.

Wow! A day set aside to share with and encourage one another with the things we are thankful for. It makes you realise how much there is to be thankful for.

I have, since that day, continued to reflect on Gods goodness in our lives. How he has brought us here to a new country and has enabled us to love it immediately. He has given us a family in the wonderful church we attend and in dear husbands work community. I am so thankful that the people who we fellowship and work with were prepared to love us before we’d even arrived to their shores. I am thankful that all our physical needs were immediately met as soon as we arrived. We have been given so much and deserve so little.

My prayer is that I would continue to reflect on Gods blessings not only on “Thanksgiving,” but everyday.

What are you thankful for?

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