A house full of four coughing, sneezing, hot, sleepless people is not fun. It’s been a challenging week as a mama, to say the least. There was even a low point one day during which—wait for it—we did absolutely nothing but watch cartoons and stay in our jammies. That’s right. I said it. Cartoons. ALL DAY. That should depict a certain level of desperation quite adequately.

Other than that, we tried to stay relaxed yet still a part of life. Our China unit slowed down a bit, and unfortunately we had to miss a program celebrating China at the library in the next town over. I had been eager for that, but we couldn’t go and infect everyone. The positive side of this (and there always is one) is that I really spent more focused time with Katie on her reading, a quiet activity that is easy to do cuddled on the couch. She reached a new record for words read in a row on her own this week:

“The red hen is not in the well.”

I am so, so excited! I have tried many different resources, but on a lark I finally decided to break out my old stack of reading books from Kindergarten at Friends Christian School circa 1985-86. Each short book works on different sounds, and we started with the short vowel collection. Crazy that I even still have the whole set, right? It is just the kind of thing I have always kept…

Anyway, they are working wonderfully! It actually helps Katie to know that I learned to read on these books. Reading is hard. Katie shows signs of discomfort at admitting it can be difficult. She is apt to start eating her knee, make a joke, or burst into song. She wants to read each word perfectly the first time (and many, she does…it’s the others that bother her), and part of teaching her is leading her to understand that facing a challenge is beautiful. I am so thankful we are in a one-on-one learning situation here. Because I know my daughter, I know what it means when she starts eating her knee. With just one student, I have the luxury of changing gears, trying a new strategy, making a joke, and redirecting her physicality (we use several kinesthetic tricks to get her to remember pronunciations). We talk directly about how “it is okay for this to be hard” and how I am an experienced reader and yet I still find books sometimes that require me to look up a word or that ask me to become an even better reader.

Tellingly, she said, “But I don’t think anyone had to teach Daddy to read.” I assured her that even Daddy had to learn to read, just like she has to learn. “Besdies,” I said, “I don’t know how Daddy learned to read, but I know how I learned to read. I learned to read right on these actual books we’re using. And Amie read to me all the time, just like I read to you. And I am a great reader, right? So you will be, too. You can learn the way I learned: by your mommy reading to you all the time, and on these books here.” That conversation really made her smile.

The truth is, as hard as she is on herself, she really astounds me for someone who is four years old, and I tell her all the time how proud I am when we’re reading (funny little thing, she’ll get shy and start eating her knee when I praise her, too—feels every emotion so intensely, my firstborn). First of all, she knows several more sight words than I even thought she did. And even though she thinks it is difficult, she is able to sound out most of the basic short-vowel sound words in the three books we have done so far. The key for me is to figure out how to get her to lighten up on herself, while still preserving that fire in her to want to get it done right. She needs both skills in life: a gentleness toward herself, but the desire to persist until she is accurate. I am still learning the balance between those two almost-conflicting traits myself.

So, our colds somehow translated to more reading time this week—that means I can’t complain too much, right?

I also had a chance to fit in some editing work for a friend from TVHS, and we had the most nerdy-tastic, word-loving, catching up, cool phone conversation about her work. And I just loved every second of it. Her piece emphasized the importance of living with heart and not hiding away the most sacred, beautiful parts of ourselves. What encouraging words, too, to help motivate me through this week!

Other goodnesses from recent days:

We made Chinese almond cookies

Katie put blanched almonds on top of each disk

The kiddos brush their teeth together…I usually brush mine with them to reinforce how we do it.

Lately, whenever we turn on music, Brother runs to Sister with both of his hands out and asks to dance with her…so cute, so cute, so cute.

Today we made biscuits for the top of our chicken stew, and Eric loved helping. He is becoming more proficient in the kitchen lately: he knows all the steps for making scrambled eggs from start to finish and can indicate what comes next and help me to do it, and he is getting better at following simple instructions.

Patting out the dough (he helped to roll it, too, but I didn’t get a picture of that)…

Cutting out our biscuits (made with heavy whipping cream—YES!)

And a most beautiful moment, of all that we had recently: my friend Marguerite and her family came to visit this past weekend during a trip to town.

So grateful for friendship, family, baking, and…as of today, the road to clear breathing, good sleeping, and less coughing!