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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.