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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer's Winding Down

The heat may not be winding down, but summer vacation is slowly drawing to a close. I looked at the calendar and realized we are only three weeks away from starting school. I knew it was getting closer, but looking at the calendar really made it hit close to home.

We have been out of school for almost three months. What a blessing this time has been. I was so burned out at the end of the year. Mentally it had been a tough year, between finances, new jobs, and dealing with morning sickness the last couple of months of school. Once we were done I wasn't sure I would ever want to start back.
Thankfully God has ordained times and seasons for everything. It is one thing I love about God. Our creator understands our frailty, and the need for rhythms of work and rest.
This week the school bug bit me. I attended a curriculum expo yesterday, and bought all of our curriculum for the upcoming year. It still has to ship, but I could hardly contain my excitement as we drove home. My mind was racing with ideas for field trips, books lists, and ideas for the year.

It is hard to believe we will begin our 5th year of homeschooling. I believe I can safely say I have move out of the novice phase. I actually have a 5th grader. Now that boggles my mind. I did the math, and realized that if we successfully school and graduate all of our children, I will have spent 22 years homeschooling. What a crazy, busy, and wonderful blessing!

We are continuing with My Father's World as our core curriculum. I know everyone has there own methods, and I'm often tempted to look around. Still my motto is, if it's not broke. don't fix it. We are only tweaking a few things in the language arts area. Overall this curriculum has been a godsend for us. I found it when I was new to homeschooling, and had no clue what I was doing. I truly feel God led me to this curriculum, and I have not been disappointed. I love the focus on living books, and family learning. It is a gentle approach that still challenges where it counts. This will be the first year I will have two kids in the family learning cycle. I am excited to watch them fight it out  grow together. I know there will be challenges, but the cohesiveness of learning is a great benefit to all of us.

 Isaac has also begun to express an interest in participating in school work. I have taken the approach of letting him learn as he is ready at this age. With Kaylie I was a little more obsessed with making sure she knew everything early. As a more seasoned parent I now realize how much joy can be taken from a child when there is such pressure to perform at a young age. I have tried to adapt in many ways, but I still see the remnants of frustration that periodically arise due to my earlier mistakes. Thank God for grace and mercy as we grow as parents.

I hope the new school year is a time of reflection and renewal for each of you. There are many hurdles and challenges that lie ahead, but we forget what is behind, and press on ahead. Grace, peace, and joy to each of you as you begin this new year!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

It's a Calling

Sometimes I just need to write. It may not be a groundbreaking article that will change how you view everything. It may be a rehash of the same struggles other mom's face. No matter, I just need to write.

Homeschooling is a calling. I don't say that flippantly. It is not easy. It is not for everyone. It is not the best choice for every child or every family. It is a decision made with much gravity. It is a decision that comes with second guessing. Yet for every drawback you know with quiet confidence, deep within your being, this is where you are supposed to be.

I wish every day came with confirmations and signs from heaven that this was the right decision. Of course many days are filled with arguing kids, eye rolling from a pre-teen. and pleading with  my kids to understand the importance of math and writing in the real world.
You will see other families driving newer vehicles, buying the latest gadgets, and enjoying fruits of a two income home. Briefly the seeds of jealousy will try to take root.

And then the moments come. Those moments that you see eternal fruits being born. Fruits that are born of temporary sacrifice.  A problem they have struggled with clicks. They offer insights to issues you have never thought of. You overhear your boys talking about deeper, spiritual things as they lie in their beds at night. You marvel at how much you have learned, just from teaching them.
Ideas are forming in their young minds as they learn to see and question things for themselves.

It is a beautiful picture, that may last for a moment, and then dissolve into a flurry of discord the next.
Still it keeps me moving forward because with each mountain top I get perspective of just how far we've come, and the view ahead, marked with more valleys and peaks, is ever brighter with each step.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

It's Meal Plan Monday, except for me it's meal plan Saturday. Saturday just doesn't have the same ring to it.
We'll stick with Meal Plan "Monday" for literary, rhythmic purposes.

I dread meal planning. It used to be all fun and games those first few weeks of marriage.
Those were the days when it still felt like I was playing house and pretending to be a grownup.
Every week I relished browsing new recipes, flexing my creative muscles in the kitchen, and planning the perfect meal for my husband to come home to.

Fast forward twelve years, three kids, a dog, and a zillion other responsibilities later and meal planning just seems to lose its pzazz.
Suddenly you find yourself just scrounging for something edible to place on the table praying there are enough vitamins and minerals to qualify it as sustenance.
I love to cook, but let's face it, cooking takes times.
Now this is no foodie blog, and I haven't mastered the techniques to whole grain, no grain, meat free, dairy free, paleo, vegan, or whatever the latest and greatest is.
I'm just a mom trying to keep it balanced and real.

So here's where I'd like to hear from you. Post your favorite quick meal to put on the table after a busy day. It can come from any dietary influence. I just want to hear what works for your family. I ask only three things.

  1. It must be something you've actually made
  2. It must take less than 45 minutes
  3. It must be tasty!
Ready, set, go!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Traveling With Kids

Yes, this is my children crashing at Miami International airport at around 2 in the morning. Yes, they are sleeping on trash bags. The cleaning crew took pity on us and graciously lent us these "sleeping bags" for the night.
Traveling is not easy. It's never predictable. Throw in little ones and you have the recipe for....well let's just say it can get a little crazy.

I love traveling, and once I had kids that itch didn't go away. I spent a lot of time in airports growing up, and I couldn't imagine not bringing my kids along for the ride. Of course it all sounds good until your two year old has a meltdown outside the terminal Chili's while your trying to hold them still, wearing heels, and everyone is looking at you like you're some psychotic kidnapper.
This may or may not have happened to me.

Now before you get scared and cancel all plans to travel until your kids turn 18, hear me out.
While we've had some crazy experiences, we've also made some of our greatest memories with our children. Yes we still love to laugh and reminisce about spending the night at Miami airport.
While I am by no means an expert,  I'd like to share some of my tips for traveling with little ones in tow.

1. Include older kids in planning. As a kid I loved nothing more than helping my dad plan trips. We would get guide books that I would pour over for weeks. It really made me feel apart of the experience. Let your kids plan a few outings or activities. We also love to add to the anticipation by making a countdown calendar a few months ahead.

2. Pack light.
I know the tendency is to go overboard. Unless you're traveling to the bush in Africa, I promise you a Target or the equivalent is never far. Most hotel chains also offer a laundry facility. You have enough necessary gear with strollers and car seats. Keep the suitcases light, and your mind free from clutter as you prepare to leave.

3. Get Excited! I know this may sounds weird, but your kids feed off your energy. If you are worrying and dreading the experience they will act accordingly. If they know you're excited, they will have a much more positive view of what's to come.

4. Be prepared to take it slow. Arrive early at the airport.. Allow your family time to assimilate and go through security in a relaxed manner. Nothing stresses me out more than rushing and running late. If you can eliminate that stress you are better prepared to work with your kids and patiently guide them through the process.

5. Snacks are essential. While you can't bring liquids through security, I always pack a few snacks. It doesn't hurt  to have a few sweet treats for times when we are all at our wits end.

6. Bring entertainment but refer to rule #1. I have read many moms who pack lots of entertainment baggies full of dollar store items to occupy kids. If it works for you that's great, but I find that the more stuff we bring the more time I spend fishing for it under the seats. We keep it simple, a few crayons, blank paper, a favorite toy or stuffed animal, a book, and an electronic device for the older ones. For some reason Sky Mall magazine has the magical ability to mesmerize kids for extended periods of time. Take advantage of this.

7. Give your kids/babies permission to not be perfect. This is a hard one.We all feel the stares of the passengers when we board with our kids. I'm sure you know the petrified nervous looks as we approach a seat quickly followed by a sigh of relief as we pass on to the next row. We all know the horror stories of children screaming or running up and down the aisles out of control. While I don't advocate gross misbehavior, our kids are human. They won't be perfect, and we need to understand that. I've seen many adults on planes who misbehave much worse than children. If you are doing your best to correct when necessary, and being mindful of those around you, let those stares and comments roll off your back. You're on vacation!

8. Get some Earplanes. These great little earplugs are very helpful for children as they deal with pressure during take off and landing. You can purchase them at almost any drugstore. I suggest getting a few pairs as we tend to lose them during travel.

9. Give yourself permission to break some routines. We take vacations for a break from our everyday rhythms and routines. Kids need this too. While your baby or toddler may still need certain routines, give yourself permission to be flexible with your kids.

10. Get out and have an adventure! While everyone has a different budget and schedule, take time for these special moments with your family. It's not always easy or perfect, but the lifetime of memories are worth every ounce of effort and planning.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Year in Review

It's 5 a.m. and I'm on the road. If you had asked me where I would be at this time last New Year's Eve, this would not have crossed my mind. This is life, down to one 10 year old car, back in the workforce, unexpected pregnancy, unexpected miscarriage, and trusting God for every dollar to make ends meet.

We often don't see our pride in self sufficiency. It's a sneaky little sin that is hard to perceive as evil in a land that was built on hard work and self reliance.
This year God loved me so much that He took out the mirror to show me more of my own weakness.

The best part about God is that He doesn't pull out the mirror and then proceed to laugh and deride you.
No, instead He tenderly picks up the pieces of the card house you perceived as a mansion. He then begins to replace it with solid truth. He begins to build something that will last far beyond this momentary affliction, far beyond these earthly materials we hold so dear.

I've spend a lot of time lamenting 2014 and praying it would soon be over. As I survey the trodden terrain of the year past, I am gripped with the reality that I am loved. I am so loved by a Father that will not leave me in my sin. I am loved by a Father who desires to bring eternity out of the dusty caverns of my soul and to the forefront of my heart.
I am loved by the Creator of the universe, and that is enough.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The "M" Word Part 1.

I was 20 years old standing in the bathroom staring in utter disbelief at the two pink lines glaring back at me.
How could this happen? I had life so carefully planned. I was 20 for goodness sakes, in the middle of college and working at Starbucks. This was not the life I had planned. I knew it could have been worse. I was married so I didn't have to wonder who the father was or worry about telling a boyfriend who would possibly bolt, but in that moment it didn't matter. All I knew was that MY plans had been thrown drastically off course. I didn't hate kids. I just wasn't in a hurry to have any, and I was never one to go gaga over babies.
I saw myself as a college graduate with a great career, a house, and lots of travel. Kids could come later...much much later.

As I tried to process all that those pink lines meant my husband was the exact opposite. He was over the moon happy and quickly went to work making new plans for our life as a family. I couldn't understand his enthusiasm. This was not part of the plan. How could he so quickly shift gears and start a new plan?
We butted heads often at my lack of enthusiasm.  One night in my own frustration I remember stating something along the lines of wishing this never had happened. He was so hurt he replied, "Maybe you're right."

In that moment my own words broke something in me. The realization that my child was growing inside of me and I was wishing him or her away. I can't say it was instantaneous, but slowly something in my heart began to change. The heart of a mother was born in me that day. It wasn't me or my nature, but God was doing something deep in my soul. Slowly I began to love that child fiercely. It was a love I had never known, but I knew it was transforming everything I had known for the rest of my life.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Looking back. Moving Forward

Today we will write the last lines of the last chapter for the 2013-2014 homeschool year.
You would think that with three years under my belt I would be more sure of myself. I end the year with gratefulness and much fear and trembling. The weight of the responsibility God has put upon me to educate my children is sometimes quite heavy. Of course I swiftly realize this heaviness is my own doing, and I quickly repent and let Jesus carry the load.
I will say we have come to a place that I cannot imagine doing anything else. I have seen God knit our family together in an even closer way. We are daily forced to look in the mirror and realize that to work together we must give up pride and selfishness.

We chose homeschooling because we first and foremost felt the great responsibility to provide our children's educational foundation. I also personally had a distaste for the test mills our schools have become. I desired my children to truly learn and to love it, not to  merely cram for a test they would soon forget. I wanted to celebrate their individual personalities and strengths.
Fast forward three years in and I often find myself preoccupied with what my children know. Worrying that they might not measure up to other kids. I was slowly becoming an apologist for our homeschooling ways to strangers who question our decisions in public.
Then it hit me. Am I doing this all so my kids will be indistinguishable in a crowd? Are our core values to work so hard in orde please men?

I fell into the trap. I lost vision of this whole thing called education. Of course I set standards for my children. I want to see them flourish and excel, but not so they can prove to some stranger they're not one of those "weird," homeschooled kids. I desire that they have intelligence tempered with character, love for people that softens selfish ambition, and wisdom that permeates every decision they will face as they grow and leave this home. Most importantly I pray that they are pleasing to God. I cannot force these things. I cannot build robots after my own will. What I will strive to do is be the greenhouse for their little souls by allowing the sunshine in. This is not hiding them from the world, but providing a safe place to grow and be nurtured until my little one's are ready to put roots down in that big, wide world.

Today we celebrate all that has been accomplished. I am so proud of my children. They put up with me and that says a lot! They have worked hard. We have laughed and cried. We've worked through a lot of junk. We haven't arrived, but we are on our way. Now we enter the reward in this season of rest, and prepare our hearts for the new year to come.

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better 
Colossians 1:10