Monday, March 30, 2015

When Life Is Like a Box of CON STRUCT O STRAWS

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Do any of you 70s or 80s kids remember playing with CON STRUCT O STRAWS? I do, and apparently this toy frustrated me. The caption my mom wrote on the back of the above photo reads: "Brandi's frustrated."

Story of my life.

(More proof of Brandi's frustrated moments. Mom's caption reads: "Brandi very upset." I can't blame her for capturing these hilarious moments on film; I've captured quite a few of my own kids' not-so-happy moments.)

It stinks to have a glass-half-empty approach to life. My excuse? That sin nature thing. I was born with a melancholy disposition mixed with bouts of extreme frustration. I've heard countless stories about how I cried all of the time as a baby, about how my mom had to incessantly walk me around the nursery to help calm me down (I hated to be rocked in the rocking chair), and about how I'd scream my way through each baby milestone.

For instance, my mom vividly recalls watching me trying to roll over for the first time. She claims I screamed in anger and frustration until I accomplished what I'd set out to do. We both laugh at the memory. It is kind of funny thinking that a baby could get so mad about something like that. Thank goodness I had a momma who loved me despite my orneriness.

Another thing that makes me laugh is when my mom tells me that I stuck my lip out at everybody, especially men. Supposedly I didn't like deep voices or other sudden, loud noises. And SURPRISE, I was an extremely light sleeper. So, the teeniest, tiniest noise would wake me up. I can almost hear my mom in 1976 sigh as the calm-Brandi-down-cycle started all over again. (Don't worry, I've been paid back in full with children challenges of my own!!)

I guess it's safe to say that I wasn't a very happy baby. And I'll add to that - not much of a people person either. Unless it was my momma.

Okay, one last trip down memory lane while we're on the subject of my melancholy-ness from birth. I think melancholy people can tend to not only be downers at times but also kind of particular about things. Yeah, I'm no exception there.

I couldn't stand to be messy or dirty as a baby, so I'm told. I cried if baby food ended up on my face instead of in my mouth, and if I happened to be outside, I crawled without letting my knees touch the ground so they wouldn't get dirty. Wow.

Baby recap: fussy, frustrated, mad, clean, sleepless, noise-hater, particular. Hmmm, not much has changed. Just ask my hubby! ;)

Before I get on to the real reason I am writing this post, let me be a bit more fair. I did have some happy moments. It wasn't all muck and misery. Here's a little smile:

What does my melancholy childhood have to do with today? One of the negatives of having a melancholy disposition is being depression prone. I've struggled with bouts of depression on and off in my life. And, well, I began 2015 down in the depression dump. Ho hum.

As I write this post, I am on the mend, praise God! However, for the past few months I've experienced lack of motivation, lack of joy, lack of passion for life. Thankfully, I'm a doer and don't like to sit around much unless I'm reading. While I struggle with lack of energy, I can still pour myself into tasks - keep busy to keep from stinkin' thinkin'. Until I turn out the lights and pull up the covers. Thoughts flood. Tears flow.

If you've struggled with depression, I know you can relate. If you haven't, I know it can be difficult to understand, especially when things don't really look all that bad on the outside.

When I'm depressed life is like a box of CON STRUCT O STRAWS. In the first photo of this post, I am sitting smack in the middle of a pile of CON STRUCT O STRAWS. I can't seem to get this image out of my mind! It's the perfect illustration for how I'm feeling about my life. I'm sitting in a pile of pieces all strewn about but not sure how they all fit together. I don't know where to begin. Without focus, without a plan, they're all just random parts that don't seem to be able to make a single thing.

When life's pieces resemble a pile of CON STRUCT O STRAWS, depression hovers like fog and tempts me to weep and gnash my teeth and throw the pieces as far away from me as possible. Then forget about them. As if that were possible.

Forget about patience in trials. Forget about leaning not on my own understanding. Forget about finding joy in the journey. Forget about how God is working all things for my good. Grrrrrrr.

I lose focus. I set my sight on things physical instead of things eternal. I question God's plan instead of willingly submit to it. In the midst of depression, it can be really hard to muddle through the fog. Hope seems as far away as the moon, and I always seem on the verge of tears. *Sigh*

Understanding depression whys can be complicated. But for me, I feel like I can trace its roots back to sin. The sin of discontent. Not being joyful in the midst of my circumstances. Instead of offering a sacrifice of praise to the One who orchestrates every facet of my life, I turn to complaining and shaking my fist. It's not fair - why can't life be simple? Or what I'm really saying is why can't life be all about me and my happiness? As a born again believer, I know God is more concerned about my holiness, chiseling His Son from out of this lump of mess called my flesh.

I do believe that my circumstances can play a part but only a part. I don't spiral down to the depths of despair every time I experience trials. However, I think I've experienced a lot of change in the past few years, and I usually don't do well with change. I can only take so much, or so I tell myself. Little by little my focus begins to shift or maybe it happens in a blink of an eye. I really don't know. Focus shifts from God to myself.

There are other factors that seem to affect my sinking into the pit: weather - seriously, I usually experience true depression during winter months. Feeling like a failure - and there are plenty of things right now in which I am feeling like a failure. Feeling like I don't fit in . . . I guess I could go on, but I'm not sure there'd be a point to it.

I've heard some suggest hormones or a chemical imbalance could be the cause. I'm not saying that for some people that might be the case, but I really don't think it is for me. Even if a doctor said I had a chemical imbalance, and even if I believed him, I'd probably be the type of person to say that depression caused the chemical imbalance. Not vice versa. But that's just me.

Whatever the cause or causes, depression has yucky side effects. When I'm depressed I feel lonely even if I'm surrounded by people. I don't eat as healthy, because who cares, right? Then I gain a few pounds and feel even more miserable. My energy levels drop. I feel tired even after sleeping all night. Little, everyday problems seem bigger than they really are. Goodness, and I HATE feeling like I'm going to cry all of the time! 

I certainly don't feel like blogging when I'm depressed. Even when I want to write about something, it's like I don't have the motivation or brain power to do it. I don't know, but I think writing takes more energy than manual labor! I've got quite a few unfinished drafts, so hopefully, since the fog is beginning to lift, I will be posting more. :)

* If you really want to frustrate your children, you can still buy the original 1974 CON STRUCT O STRAWS!

And, of course, that's an affiliate link. ;)

Friday, March 06, 2015

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a Story and Some Good Eats

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One of the most memorable stories from the book, Mystery of History Vol 2 *NOP, was the one about St. Patrick. I've used a few other history books for homeschooling, but the Mystery of History series is my absolute favorite! If you've never heard the story of this not-so-Irish saint, I've written a brief summary of St. Patrick's life in this post.


For a festive breakfast or lunch, make these Rainbows with Pots of Gold! Fun and healthy. :)


If you have a juicer, serve some super healthy and amazingly delicious green juice to go with the Rainbows with Pots of Gold.


Don't have a lot of time? All you need is green frosting and graham crackers for this quick snack.


Top off the day with mini clover cupcakes made with naturally dyed green frosting or any green frosting of your choice.

Linked to Hip Homeschool Hop, Try A New Recipe Tuesday, WFMW

*affiliate link included in this post

Sunday, March 01, 2015

36 Weekly Writing Prompt Ideas for Homeschoolers {Printable}

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A little over a year ago, I decided to spice up our Mondays with writing prompts.

Best homeschool decision ever.

Why? Because I have seen my kids' creativity soar. It's been so neat to watch each of my kids' unique writing styles develop over the past year and to see how their personalities flow through the pen onto paper. I like that they look forward (mostly) to reading their work out loud and hearing their siblings' prompts, too.

My oldest likes to write fiction prompts, each story featuring different characters and scenarios. Because of the 15-20 minute time limit and the nature of his writing, he doesn't get to develop an entire story, but some of them could be best-selling novels in the making!

My middle child sticks mostly with the same group of characters he's created - Mr. Dr. Billy Bob Snow, Jelly Joe, Giant Jim, and a few others although he's likely at times to throw in a famous person here and there. Each prompt is like another chapter in a continuous story. He has a knack for humor and usually makes us laugh.

My youngest started out writing stories that were more like personal narratives, but she has shifted to creating stories that feature her ginormous collection of stuffed animals as the main characters. Each prompt is most likely going to be some kind of "Animal Town" adventure. Sometimes she even adds an illustration to her story if she has time.

How to Incorporate Weekly Writing Prompts

First, come up with a handy list of writing prompt topics (or print our list below). I came up with some of the ideas, but I did have my kids submit their ideas as well. I wanted to give them opportunities to write about things that interested them. I started out choosing which topic they'd write about each week, but then I added a twist and let the kids take turns picking a number off of the list. After they picked a number, I'd reveal the topic.

Second, pick a day and time that works best for everyone to have 15-20 minutes, or however long you decide, to write without interruption. We started out with Monday mornings around 9:30ish after Bible and read aloud/Good Mythical Morning.

Third, after everyone is finished writing, have your kids take turns reading aloud their work. In the beginning, I wrote, too. It was always interesting to see how 4 people could write so differently about the same topic!

Fourth, have each child store their writing prompt treasures in a special place. I choose not to grade their prompts. I don't even look at them. I want my kids to really enjoy these writing assignments without dreading grammar and spelling corrections, etc.

* My one writing prompt rule: Write about anything you want as long as it somehow relates to the topic.

A Few Notes About Our Prompts

The following list comes from prompts we've actually written about with the exception of the three starred ones. We haven't gotten to those yet. And right now we're trying out something a little different - picture prompts. I'll have to write about that in another post. ;)
I think most of the prompts are pretty self explanatory, but let me elaborate on a couple of them.
  • Animal Perspective - for this one, my kids had to write from the perspective of an animal. Basically, they had to pretend to be that animal and write from its viewpoint.
  • Real Imaginary Creature - they had to write about an imaginary creature they wish they could bring to life.
I hope this gets you and your kids excited about writing prompts! I'm so glad we've taken the time to add them to our homeschool schedule. Feel free to view and print our list of topic ideas.

Linked to: Thoughtful Thursdays, Hip Homeschool Hop, Literacy Musing Mondays, A Little Bird Told Me


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