Stories From The Tolbert Home

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Child Hates to Read {I've been there, let me help}

           Help, my child hates reading. I wrote about reading above your child's reading level awhile back. As a means to getting your child more hooked into the wonderful outlet called reading. I am no expert in this area but I have seen much success in our home when it comes to teaching a child to love to read and I love to share about it.

          What about when you have tried all you can do to help them and they STILL HATE TO READ. I get it, it can be exhausting. I failed to go into detail of the many months leading up to my final "Ive had enough" moment. My oldest daughter is quite stubborn...don't even know how she has that kind of streak in her..{awkward silence, moving on}.

          She loved when I read to her and such but getting her to simply enjoy it was another story.

          Before you start rolling your eyes and giving up on me let me declare I am NOT against TV. But let's be honest. I was a younger than most mother and TV was how I was able to get anything done! I did school while my daughter sat drooling listening to Dora or Blue's Clues. It was fantastic.
She learned quite a lot from television and it really was a blessing to help me get a few things done.
I decided to go amish. I decided we needed a break from TV. It was January and it felt a bit extreme but I told her we were going to go 30 days with no shows. It was very difficult at first...for me more than her HA.

         What I observed was it took weeks to re-train her brain. Television in all its color and glory tells the story for the child. There is not too much thinking that needs to be done. When a child sits down with a book and it has no pictures there is a struggle for them to imagine the story. Maybe you have a child that was born making those pictures up in their mind, mine was not. So I saw much frustration.

        What came out of that month {towards the end of course} was beautiful. I finally saw her sneaking away into a corner reading a book and asking to stay up just a little longer to finish. She stopped asking me to turn on a movie so I decided I would let it slide a little longer. I think she made it about 6 weeks.

          She developed something in that short span of time. Her confidence in her own ability to read grew, her hyper activity during trying to sit still and read left, and she was able to truly enjoy her time! Why do I push so hard for a child to love reading? What is so wrong with television? I cannot stress enough the importance of reading. When they are in school and having to sit down and read pages and pages of rather boring material it can be quite difficult if they do not read much at home at all. It sharpens the brain, broadens vocabulary and gives them a place to escape.

          Every so often I do my "amish" days and tell them no tv time. They are still children and would love to veg out on the couch and watch their favorite shows all day, but you see they are able to read and enjoy it very much now that we limit their time on the TV. I allow about an hour or so a day and I try to have a day or 2 a week where we just do games instead.

During your detox time here are some fun ways to distract them from their normal tv time

Tea! Girls and boys enjoy quiet sit downs with mom and it is an easy way to sip on something while listening to a good book.

Make a new recipe. If you need to get things done, turn your head and let them at it in the kitchen! If they can read, they can attempt a recipe. I suggest pancakes!



Read to themselves, the dog, a sibling, or a stuffed animal

Make a reward system for every time they choose to grab a book or something rather than a video game or tv

Outside time!

I know my kiddos well enough to know that too much tv time really affects their mood. They get very irritable on the days I allow too much. Yet if I let them read for hours they can walk away from the book and not be so groggy. Find your child's limit and help them learn self control and challenge their mind! You will not regret it.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Every Kind Of Mother

This week was a mother's day week like no other. I really had forgotten it was coming up, but my sweet kiddos kept reminding me in many ways. For some reason I just kept having those " I am a failure" days! I may have cried 47 times. The thing about having older children....they notice everything. I must say having their sweet little condolences through out my rough week reminded me I must be doing something right. 

I had to think back on some things. I have been a mama for 12 years now! It feels like so long, yet here I am thinking I really have no clue on things!

I look back and realize...

I have been the mom who strongly agrees I should work.
I have been the mom who strongly thinks I should be home.

I allowed Mcdonalds, chemical laden snacks, and fake ice cream to be swallowed by my littles.
I have also went through my whole-food clean out every possible wrong doing snack I could within 5 minutes.
I then hopefully found balance

I have preached the importance of sending your children to socialize. {made fun of homeschoolers}
Ive homeschooled. {6 years and counting..maybe}

I've yelled
I've whispered and showed grace

Basically, I have been every kind of mom....but what I hope my kids remember...was that I stopped being busy every now and then and let them be little. That I said I was sorry when I made many mistakes. I hope they know they are loved, that my ideas change as they do, that I live on grace and lots of coffee....and that they are the best gift I have ever been given.

To the mama's who have lost babies, or any woman who is still yearning for a child to hold...I think of you every mother's day. I only know a piece of your pain, but I do know it and I pray you find comfort. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I hear so often "how do you do it all!?" I often look beside me to make sure if they are speaking to me. Can they not see the bags under my eyes, I don't do it all. I scrape by like the rest of you. Lets be real.

I have had a rough season. I would like to say it has been a rough day or week, or even month. I think I have lost count. I feel God is near, but I feel challenged on every corner of my life. Like when you are working out and it feels like you just cannot do anymore and the trainer says "give me 3 more."

I find that I could list of the huge list of things that have weighed so heavy on my heart. Maybe I am bias to my own self but if I was on the outside of my own life looking in, even as an outsider I really do believe that lady with the 4 kiddos seems a bit overwhelmed.

I was going to a doctor appointment the other day, my husband had the kids and I punched in the address on my gps and traffic was bad so without realizing the route I chose, I picked the one with less traffic and began to drive.

I was praying as I drove. It was one of those mornings I felt I should lay out my wants before God. It was a quiet drive, no kiddos and I had a lot on my mind!

I began to drive by the area I grew up in. I say grew up, but I was probably considered an adult, being a mom and married at the age of 16 and all.( Piece of my Story) First I passed the school I never thought I would graduate from. My chances were slim, and honestly some days I just didn't think I would make the decision to finish, but I did.

Next, I drove by the bank where my friend had gotten a job, she was also a teen mama, and a year an a half older. I applied there also, they wouldn't hire me I was too young. It broke my heart.

Next came the little cafe I applied at for about 6 months. Every month I tried getting on at that place. Thinking just maybe the tips would be just what I needed to help us get going in life. Just up the road was my first job, the one that FINALLY took me in! I felt so important to be bringing in a paycheck.

I worked my tail off there, managing to balance my classes at college as well as high school-thank you running start.

After sitting in traffic reminiscing a bit more, I came to the first apartment we moved into. I remember the rent being a blessing because they gave us a couple hundred off each month because my husband had known someone who worked there. It was still a stretch for us.
I remember winning a contest that they had put together. They offered a computer to anyone who wrote in an essay on why they would use a computer. I wrote out my heart felt plea and begged they consider me. They did, and I did just what I had promised. I finished my last year of high school on that dinosaur. To this day I owe one last biology essay because my computer crashed the week I graduated and it never did get sent in.

Feeling so thankful, I kept driving. I began to drive past a rougher part of town, remembering so well the 7 years we lived in our first home. We bought that home with much pride. As time went on we began raising our 2 girls there and desired so much to move to a safer town. I would pray and cry and beg God to move us to the town where we wouldn't worry about drugs and crime in our front yard.

Tears streamed down my face as I so clearly heard God say "Ive always taken care of you." Here I was driving my Cadillac Escalade. The one we saved up for and paid cash. On my way to my doctor appointment from my home in that safe city I dreamed of living in.

The night before, my husband handed me an envelope with a check in it that I was supposed to drop off to the IRS after my appointment.

I had been crying and feeling the weight of life as I drove that morning. A check written out to the government for an amount I would much rather be putting down on a home. The amount that they said we made was something I never dreamed I would make, yet there I was throwing a fit.

When I think that I make the decisions each day, I seem to forget I still serve a God who ORDERS my steps. It was no coincidence how traffic was that morning, how I was feeling and where he led me along the way. I was feeling overwhelmed.

Being a mama is not easy. Neither is being a wife, a friend, daughter, teacher and all the other hats I am so blessed to wear. Why do I allow myself to become overwhelmed when I so clearly serve a God who has never left me, has always taken care of me, and has went ABOVE and BEYOND what I could ever ask of THINK to ask him for myself.

I hope this overly long post reaches someone else who is having an overwhelming season. He still has the pen in his hand.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pro-Life. A Glimpse Into My Teen Mom Life

Something I do not speak of too often is my journey to motherhood. You see, most that are close with me know the story, and have seen the growth, and healing.  I was 16 years old the day I became a mother.

Without going into the history of it all, I cannot help but be taken back to the emotions I felt the months leading up to my sweet babies arrival. It hurts for me to even think of the raw anxiety and fear that absolutely took hold of me. I talk often with my daughter about our past and how soon she came about. I always want her to understand. To be very open, I want to scream every time I see Planned Parenthood's name in the news. It makes me sick to my stomach. It takes me back to a time I would rather not be taken back to.

You see I was in that situation that could have been very much avoided had I just walked into a clinic.   It would take pages and pages to tell you what was going on in my mind and the emotional turmoil I felt. The humiliation I felt as I began to get nauseous at school and had to run the mile in PE holding my chest that was already beginning to hurt. I wanted to die. Rumors began rather quickly. Friends that promised to stay quiet began talking. The year could not end fast enough. All I knew was that this was a roller coaster that I was not willing to get off of.

We moved to a town near by, thankfully our home was up for sale long before we even knew my situation and by the grace of God I was able to leave the area I knew too many people. I felt a little more hidden in our new town. I knew I needed God or I would not survive this. Thankfully I also had my best friend. He was going through the same things.

I completely understand the emotion I hear when young girls talk of the heart break they feel when they become pregnant and it was not planned. I can relate when they know what it will be like to miss school events because a baby will take over their life. I know what it is to finish school with a toddler running around my home and choose to go to Walmart and grab more diapers, watch episodes of Dora and eat fruit snacks on the night my friends are at their prom.
I cannot relate to the women who's stories end in a baby who would forever be deformed, or who've been raped. All I know is that "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good..." Gen 50:20

I will not argue with anyone who feels they need to set my thinking straight. I can one hundred percent say that it is not easy to allow a child to be born in horrible circumstances. I have been a very blessed person and can spend much time speaking of my path to God and the grace he showed my future husband and I during that time. He was the unmovable rock. In submission to the God given authorities in my life and to our parents and God we were able to begin to raise up our baby and see something made of our life. If I would have chosen to dismiss that little life and sweep it all under the rug I would still be haunted to this day. I know that for a fact as I have friends that I love dearly that chose the route of abortion. I love them. I pray for them and I know God can forgive and heal their heart.

I am one of many many young mothers who chose to give life to their child by either raising the baby themselves or by allowing someone else to be blessed and raising that precious life.

The day Dana was born I gasped so loud and said "she is so beautiful." I remember her little cone head and her bruised up face; yet tears could not stop running down my face as I stared into this little life. I looked into her eyes and all those months of worry, anxiety, humiliation, and fear passed in that moment. It was a gift to me. No message preached at church would ever be stronger than the voice of God in that moment calling me to raise her up to love him. It forever changed me. It made me re-evaluate how I wanted to live. It challenged me to seek new friends and to rid myself of any negativity that would suggest I do anything other than change my life.

This is not meant to hurt anyone. If you have made that decision and want to know of God's grace and forgiveness, it is there. If you are a young teen undecided of the path you should take, I am here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reading Above Your Child's Level

            I have been enjoying this stage of life when both my daughters can read. I think I have counted down the days until they were old enough to start enjoying some of my favorite classics. When Dana was young, I was so anxious for her to enjoy good rich literature that I began to just read it to her myself. I noticed that if I made her sit and listen she would wander off. If I gave her an activity and read only a short while maybe 20 minutes or so...she retained! She would make me pause to answer questions and such. Her vocabulary has always been high and I give much credit to the years of reading heavy literature to her before she could read.

        Ava was a little later than Dana with her reading journey, and quite frankly was so frustrated because I could not always sit down and read to her. I read to them each day; or I try. It wasn't quite enough. So thankfully we started to find audio books. I bought them a subscription to Adventures In Odyssey Club which is very inexpensive each month and they listen away! We also bought a cd player...would you believe they are hard to find. Who feels old now!? Getting audio cd's at the library is easy and free.

            I also buy classics that I know we will all enjoy off of iTunes and put it on their iPods. I got so tickled pink today when Ava asked for some hot chocolate and turned on "Anne Of Avonlea". It was my love language poured into a cup. Books and warm drinks...heaven.
Ava's little iPhone and my cup of love. Day made

            I encourage any parent that feels their child just doesn't love to read to take it up a notch and get them audio books that are above their level. I find children get so frustrated at reading "see dog go fast" and other short sentences. You may think they hate reading but that is not the case, they are just bored.
         My almost 3 year old sits and listens as I do our read aloud each day and he comments! I'd say 3 is when I notice they can sit through a read aloud. I try and read very dramatic and it reals in those busy boys. Even the baby lingers near.

          Do not go over board or your child will be onto you so fast..but ask them a few questions after you've read for a bit. It keeps them engaged and dialoguing is a great way to learn. Just as learning to run a mile, work up to it  I must include this quote I read today. It is absolutely true.

"Self education is achieved by a regular and steady diet of the best books combined with the use of narration to develop retention and understanding of what is read. This approach maintains the students' interest and helps them develop the habit of attention as well as literary style, a readiness in speaking, a wide vocabulary, and a love of books.- A Charlotte Mason Companion

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Christmas Morning Scavenger Hunt

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I hear that said, sang and I so agree. In all honestly Christmas used to stress me out. I used to put value on our children's presents and would get worked up over thinking how could I buy them every thing on their list. Then add all the family, and you know; responsibilities. Like paying bills and stuff....can I mention I love growing up and learning! HA

This will be our third year {officially a tradition right} to do a scavenger hunt christmas morning!

The first year we did it was the year I decided I wanted to make christmas extra special for the kids making it more about the memories and experience than gifts. We stuck to the 3-4 gifts rule and turned it into a scavenger hunt! The girls excitedly looked through the house for the clues, ran all around and as we did silly things like having them run around the house a few times they came out to notice they had brand new bikes sitting in the front yard. With us only buying them 2 other gifts it was an extra special thing! That was the first year we noticed they LOVED everything. They did not seem overwhelmed!

Year 2 {the one I've attached below} I had fun with...My husband rolled his eyes and totally called me you notice I ever so slyly included some chores, exercise, and getting dressed and picture ready in there{insert smug mom face}.

Have some fun this year and take the stress off your self. Maybe you have no stress and it's all me making big deals out of nothing.

Gift theme for this year...

1. Book-(I will have more than one knowing myself) will add things they have read more than once this year from the library to our home library.

2. Clothing-Will add a unique piece of clothing they have been eye balling through out the year

3. Something they want

4. An experience- Last year was horseback riding lesson.

I included what I did last year. I cut and taped these through out the house when the girls went to bed that morning. I included reading the christmas story, and fun memories like making breakfast together, and so slyly taking the trash out...Hope it gives you an idea!

Good Morning and MERRY CHRISTMAS! This is your FIRST CLUE! Please feed your dog, then go brush your teeth to find your next clue! You may need to do some digging.

Now that your teeth are shiny and bright, have you made your bed? There may be a clue awaiting you where you stuff the MOST trash! 

Having fun yet? Your hair is ALWAYS messy and that is not a bet! Go find Mama’s hair stuff and ask her to do your hair! A clue is sure to find you just to be fair! 

I have a FEELING that you are getting HUNGRY! Go make some cinnamon rolls, put them in the oven, and then when you are done throw all that TRASH away.....Keep your eyes wide OPEN 

I smell some yummy cinnamon rolls baking, have Daddy read you the CHRISTMAS STORY! Snuggle up tight you do NOT want to miss what will come NEXT! You will have to Search the bible to find your next clue....Hint: I am in the beginning...On the first day

This has been so fun, please take a break and eat a yummy breakfast with your family. Catch your breath because as soon as you are done you will have to RUN up the stairs 4 times before you can open the door to your next clue. Hint: I am the smallest door in the hallway.

Ok enough already I bet you are so anxious to open a gift! Let the fun begin! Open all your presents now and keep your eyes open for the gift that can take your bare feet running. I think there may be a clue awaiting for you there.

You have been sitting far too long, run around that culdasac with me ON! Stop by the mail box, might as well check it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO OUR BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADIES! Those new shoes you are wearing will be so fun for you when you take your 2 HORSE BACK RIDING LESSONS THIS JANUARY! Give your daddy a hug for this wonderful gift! ENJOY and Merry Christmas, remember who this day is ALL ABOUT! xoxo Love Daddy and Mommy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Let Them Be Little

Today I have time to sit and drink my coffee and do a little writing! Want to know why!? My children {ok half of them} are responsible! After many years of training I feel like I am seeing the fruit of my labors! The girls woke up this morning, did their chores {yes, they do still grumble a bit;and need reminded} but it was done in an efficient manner.
They made their own breakfast, cleaned up, began their school work. They then came down stairs and made themselves lunch. Ava even offered to lay Hudson down for his nap so I could eat my lunch. I did not think it would hurt anything; Dana does this regularly (she thinks she is his other mother) so I humored her....she came down in 2 minutes..."mom he is asleep" gasp...That boy has this things for making me sweat before he closes his busy eyes for ME, but for those girls he just passes out while they sing highly offends me.

As mature as my girls are seeming these days, I have to say what has my heart feeling more grateful than ever... is the realization with my second daughter..Ava Jane. I have been blown away as of late with her education.

A little background.

Ava is the second child/the baby of the family for 5 years {nuff said}

She is my free spirited child. Nothing bothers her{it takes a lot}. She has never been in a rush to do ANYTHING. If you've ever heard my stories of how it took me 3 years to potty train her then you know what I am saying. She was not the fastest talker. She really did not try and speak much until well after 2. She then had major speech issues.

Going back a little further let me give some background on my eldest. I say that in my British accent because it just so perfectly describes my eldest. She is the first born, my head strong, OCD-OVER THE TOP, must be organized, must succeed, must make impressions, cares what everyone things, manners loving little lady. She will give her husband a run for his money one day, Lord help me to tame that down some.

When she was 2, she potty trained within 3 days. Since that day that she had her last accident, she has been eager to grow up. We began looking for preschools that would take a 3 year old. We were just as eager as she to see her succeed. She attended P3, P4, then off to kindergarten. I found a private school that we thought would fit her well. They insisted she should know how to read before beginning. I was a bit worried as she did not know how to read because-in my day- kids learned to read in kindergarten. She was reading, writing full cursive stories by November of her kindergarten year. They were such an excellent school and it was fun watching her thrive.

We have always enjoyed watching Dana push her self in her education, but there is always a frustrating attitude that she battles. She "gets" it all. But struggles to have joy with her education. She times..but for the most part she definitely would rather go play.

When Ava started to be of age to start preschool when Dana did, I could not bring myself to put her in. She just wasn't "mature" enough. Age 3 came and went and I did things with her at home putting the pressure on myself that she needed to begin learning. Age 4 came and again I just didn't feel right about beginning her education. More pressure and feeling like the worst mom for allowing myself to treat child #2 just as everyone said "more relaxed."

She then turned 5 and I said okay let's start is time! I ordered everything! I decided to homeschool her because we had begun homeschooling Dana so we might as well! I spent a month or two working tirelessly with Ava and she just was not catching on. She never acted frustrated, she is pretty happy spirited. She just wasn't ready. Again I beat myself up and hated it when people would ask how school was going. I cringed. I thought maybe she had learning disabilities. I put the curriculum in a box and just began reading her books and allowing her to play and skip the typical school time we had set up in the mornings.

The next fall we started again. I was so frustrated at first because again, it did not seem like anything was sinking in. She was about to turn 6 and I knew at this age Dana was already reading, and here was Ava struggling to recognize the alphabet! I stressed out and considered all my options. I then decided I would just do one paper or so a week. So we tried that for a bit. I then decided we would just continue doing our reading ( I read the girls books that are not picture books, from a young age and have them dictate back to me, it's very good for their mind and patience)! I decided that I would get out the letter flashcards and skip the "paper work" WOW She had so much fun!

Each day I just would tell her to go and grab her little animals or dolls and we would do math. We would line them up and learn first, second, third. We would do patterns, we would do order. We would get out our letter cards and find other sounds in the house to match up. We did play-doh. We painted, puzzles, reading...not a lot of paper. The summer came of that year and Ava was beginning to be able to write. Would you know that I still was feeling shame that we did not touch that "paperwork" too often!?

First grade came and she was now 6 almost 7. Her eagerness to learn came that summer, so we started before the typical school time. She was eager to start writing on paper. I began to give her her first grade phonics and math books. She enjoyed it, but for the most part we took it slow! She began to sound out blends more and was able to slowly read a few things. She took speech therapy and we got her glasses that winter and we noticed her reading begin to take off. It was slow, and not comparable to her sister but it was beginning!

Here we are in the fall of her 2nd grade year. All of that (sorry so long) to tell you that girl began her school work in the summer( LOVES beginning early) she is reading like a champ, and writing beautifully! I do not mean to compare my girls at all, they both have strong talents, but I am so impressed with the neatness and care that Ava has with her education. She responsibly sits down each day with her goals in front of her and busts it out! She truly has joy and seems like she was born to learn. Which she was..

I was over the top worried for her, I cried many times. She has truly taken her time. She has done it on her own terms. She would have been placed in special education in school, and without a doubt been on ADHD meds.

I placed so many boundaries on her thinking that she would not be able to do this or do that and as I have begun to take off those boundaries and see what a beautiful mind that girl has I am amazed at her smarts and her talent.

I was not going to let her do bible quizzing this year. They learn a total of 250 verses and compete. She begged, I gave in {hesitant, not wanting to see her fail} and she is memorizing so well! She is ahead of me! I let her take piano last year {another thing I was nervous she would get frustrated at} and she is still going strong!

Mama, be encouraged with your free spirited child that would rather eat the pencils than write with them, who would much rather poop their pants and watch tv than to go to preschool, who looks at books and makes up her own story rather than sound out the letters. They are learning.

One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling, and probably the reason I keep going with it is learning how each of my children learn.

Ava would be considered "behind" last year. She is now what I would consider right on time if not ahead of where others were at this point. She somehow without me working too hard caught on to reading, phonics, math, and just "gets it." Go with your gut for their education and do not worry about your neighbor. Whatever resources you need to use, use them. If your child is not meeting up to other's standards shut them out. They will catch on, they will succeed; keep loving them, keep trying different things, keep fighting for them.

And let them be little.

If you are struggling trying to decide when you should start your child in kindergarten I highly suggest researching starting them later. They may be old enough and well smart enough, but sometimes starting them before they are mature enough can lead to much frustration. They have forever to be in school, and only a short time at home. Enjoy it, it goes by so fast.