Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Matters.

I have had a few thoughts going around in my mind lately, but they have been put aside by the vice of fear and frustration that has circulated through the media. There is so much sadness and hatred and misunderstanding, a convoluted hodgepodge. Social media, especially, has been such that I kind of just have to stay away from it. Someone told me lately, "But you must stay informed!" Informed, yes. Staying informed from different sources is one thing. But joining the masses on Facebook does not make me more informed. One cannot possibly be expected to even begin to process the outpouring of articles, posts, and comments that come from every direction on his or her news feed. You very simply cannot. So many words, so many opinions, coming from hundreds, or even thousands of different people ... it leaves us emotionally exhausted and bleak, incapable of remaining fully present in our real lives.

Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the only one who just can't balance it all.

I don't think it is entirely out of coincidence that the dejected feeling I experience through social media has led me to pick up my camera again. It's as if my soul longs to see beauty. Cliche as it may sound, it's just the dang truth. Because amidst this sadness and confusion, there's still joy. And it's typically right in front of us, when our eyes shift from our screens to the small worlds around us. It is possible to grieve for others, to think upon their sadness and pray for a pain we cannot comprehend, while moving through our own everyday. I look into the faces of my kids, and my heart feels both joy and fear. An unparalleled love, and a looking to the horizon of their futures laid out beyond what I may ever see. In our parenting, we are shaping them for the unknown.

And I think upon my own huge responsibility to pass on to the next generation: 

To love thy neighbor.

As thyself. 

Our words carry weight. Our actions speak even louder. And in this small existence, in my little corner of a huge world, there are three perspectives, three worldviews developing under my roof. How I pray for compassion, for a fierce insistence of truth and justice, for hearts that flood with grace. 

But they first have to see it in me. 

Have a lovely day.  

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Unfortunate Hash.

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right? From the moment your eyes pop open, you and your loved ones are doomed for a day of unfortunate mishaps and frustration? That was today. There were some good bits here and there, but by and large, one little thing after another seemed to go wrong. A back door window breaks. Forgotten paperwork at an appointment. Shoes lost, old milk found in the car (heaven help me), miscommunication all around. This inevitably leads to grumpiness, and nothing spreads faster in a family than a bad mood. So, when dinner time rolled around, we had had it ABOUT UP TO HERE and I had no clue what to make. While throwing in the towel and pouring five bowls of cereal seemed like the safest option, our busy schedule has made our at-home meals few and far between and I was determined to make something. Anything. As I rummaged through our fridge, I found an onion and some turkey sausage. Olive oil from the pantry. Okay, then. I knew I could at least start there.

As I started sautéing, little unfortunate events continued to roll forward and I realized that with every setback, a new ingredient fell into the pan.

The girls left the back door open and an army of flies swarmed in. Defeated the army in a frenzied fly-swatting annihilation and sent the girls retreating to their room.

Diced potatoes, garlic, in the pan.

My son dropped a water bottle all over the kitchen floor. Before he dropped a dish of chicken food all over the kitchen floor.

Rosemary would be a nice touch. In the pan.

Husband is trying to use the vacuum, the vacuum isn't working. We all know what that's like.

Oregano, grumbling/whining, in the pan.

Blood-curdling screams from a back bedroom, rushing back there (oregano still in hand) to find my son rolling around on the floor in agony. No worries, just a foot cramp for him. And a heart attack for me.

Diced dried apricots. Makes no sense. THROW THEM IN THE PAN.

Soon, there was this really amazing aroma rising from the kitchen. And that cluster of (small, could-be-so-much-worse) incidents in that short span of cooking time seemed to dissipate with the steam.

A sigh of relief.

Blueberries as the side dish.

We gather in the kitchen.

The close of the day is sometimes rushed and stressful. We have had our fair share of those evenings. But sometimes, it's a reclamation of unity. A redemptive and collective "amen" at the end of the day, especially a day like today where we were just short of tripping over our own feet. Sometimes a family dinner is a miracle itself, or maybe a family dinner is always a miracle, and only some days we actually realize it. Especially a hash, where our five plates are filled from one single pan. Reclamation.

Or maybe the miracle is that my kids liked my Unfortunate Hash. Whichever.

Either way, I'll take it.

Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Our Year of Homeschooling.

A friend of mine recently asked if I would blog about our year of homeschooling. Cramming it all into one blog post would be akin to drinking from a firehose, but I will do my best! I do have two previous posts that talk a little bit about our experience, and you can check those out if you'd like. 

So! Homeschooling! I'll start with the basic info. For my oldest kiddo, we used Horizons curriculum for math and phonics, and for my middle, we used Bob Jones math and Explode the Code phonics (we did a blended preschool and kindergarten with her, and she will be going to kindergarten this fall). My youngest was basically along for the ride, and did a preschool workbook we found at Sam's, plus Handwriting Without Tears. Oh, and she also learned how to count to ten in Spanish...? Maybe from our oldest? Not sure how that happened. I'm fairly certain the youngest child learns strictly through osmosis.

I loved our school mornings together. We would do our read-aloud book during breakfast, then work on our memory verse, and then hit the books. If it was a nice day, we'd spread a blanket on the back patio and alternate worksheets with jumping on the trampoline or exploring around our property. The rest of the time, school happened at our breakfast nook table. All in all, it took about two hours for us to finish from beginning to end. 

One aspect of homeschooling that I loved, LOVED, was making our own schedule. We took a lot of field trips to local museums, restaurants, parks, etc. It was fun to create a haphazard curriculum based on specific art exhibits (we did a fun day of "Wyeth and Warhol" when both artists were on display at a local museum). My favorites in life include art, music, and food, and it was fun to expose the kids to different experiences involving all three. 

My Mom came along with us for most of our field trips, which was so fun. My second favorite thing about homeschooling is the copious amounts of family time that is involved, and we got a lot of it. We made a lot of sweet memories. 

We homeschooled with a local Classical Conversations community. The kids basically went to "school" once a week (as a parent, I had to stay, too) and they learned memory work and gave weekly presentations. I loved the public speaking that was emphasized with CC, and saw my kids really grow in their ability to express themselves.

I know this begs the question, "Then why did you choose to stop homeschooling?" It's a fair one. Our kids had previously attended a school that we loved, so when it came time to choose to re-enroll with CC or go back to their old school, we felt that we needed to establish a baseline for their education (rather than change every year, which I could totally see myself doing), and we wanted that baseline to be their old school. We know that things can always change and we now know that we could homeschool again if the need arises. We feel incredibly blessed with the options we have. I am excited for them to return to a school they love, and I am also dreading the moment when I will walk into my empty house after dropping them off. Don't get me wrong, I love my quiet time as much as the next Mom, but I know the house will feel lonely. As with anything, their success at school and my experience at home will depend squarely on the attitude with which we choose to face it. I'm already praying for a good attitude for all of us as we prepare to start back up in August! And this will be a new chapter for me--being home alone, three days a week--and I am praying for clarity as to my next step in this new chapter as well.

This past year I learned the importance of catching the hearts of our children, to truly invest in their learning, to be intentional in seeing things through their eyes. I learned that success is not dependent on how you measure up to anyone else, it's measured in tenacity, in diligence, in suddenly recognizing the letter "r" as "r" instead of "f", after weeks of seeing it otherwise. God created their little minds to function as they do for a reason and I felt that this year I was able to really see that clearly. I know that it doesn't necessarily take homeschooling in order to see that, but it did take homeschooling for me to see it. As they enter back into the classroom with checks and marks and prizes and honor rolls this next year, I want them to know that their highest achievement will be to remain tenacious and imaginative, to love learning, and to finish each day knowing that they gave their best. To know that assessments simply measure selective knowledge, not intelligence, and that God is preparing the way to greater things for them regardless of their class ranking. As for me, I learned that the home remains our children's greatest influence, the words we speak here and the perspective from which we see the world are always under the observation of little eyes and ears. Whether they are here or in a classroom, their scope of compassion and worldview are cultivated within our walls. It is both a heavy responsibility and an inspiring privilege.

Onward, forward.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hello, Again.

I spent this past weekend with some dear friends and one of them asked me why I don't blog anymore. She kindly said she missed my blog. I used to be a much more consistent blogger. Prolific, if you will. And now my page is stale, unrefreshed, my thoughts are stuck inside my brain, a discombobulated assortment of musings and observations, with no outlet. What's odd is that another friend recently commented on my need to have a creative outlet. Music, writing, what have you. And that she can tell when I focus inward and get bottled up, when those thoughts and observations swim around in my mind with no way to be interpreted or understood. And she's right. My lack of creative outlet makes me ... confused, really.

This blog began several years ago as a manifestation of my foray into motherhood, as I waded through the murky waters of sleep schedules and diaper changes, and I had a lot to say about all of it. Then, as I added another baby, and then another, my opinions quieted and I swung the other way, having very little to say, as more experience made me more humble and, therefore, quieter. I don't know it all. And every day I realize I know less and less! But the thoughts in my mind are growing restless once again, and I can now write from the realization that life is a cycle of sin and grace, and we find ourselves tending towards one or the other all of the time. And that just as we swing fervently one way, we can easily be jerked to the other, and so the goal remains to understand both and live a life that is being transformed, one wobbly step at a time. And that in that transformation we find the aching beauty of freedom, and the raw desire to know Him more, to never stop learning about who He is and who He has created us to be. Those occurrences of sin and grace permeate our responses, our words, the way we see that mess in the kitchen made by little hands or the way we respond to our spouse, whether the view outside our front door inspires gratitude or complaint. Every day we are given opportunities to respond, and every day we both succeed and fail at achieving, or, receiving, grace. And through the rise and fall of our emotional and doubting hearts, He remains constant, unchanged by our inconsistencies. And so we keep moving forward, learning, lining our steps to match His own, pushing ourselves to overcome. Attempting to quiet the noise and focus on what and who is right in front of us, being present. Silencing the doubt and refusing to simply give in to our fears. It's awkward. It's a daily giving over of our hearts. Waking up and choosing grace. Seeing past our sin that ensnares and allowing grace to give wings to hope, to know that He is for us, working for our good, loving us unconditionally, a concept we can't hope to understand in this life.

So. Those are my thoughts today.

(Some of them).

As for updates on our lives, my husband started a business three years ago and it's going well--we've been able to have a lot of family time, yay!--and the kids are doing well. Our year of homeschooling was so fun and now they are going back to school in the fall. We are moving forward, step by step. And as for me, I feel like every day I am learning, navigating motherhood and marriage, sin and grace, gratitude and complaint. And hoping to come out on the positive end of all of those things.

Hello, again.

Have a lovely day, friends.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Should Be Vacuuming.

So! I said I would keep the updates coming in regards to our decision to homeschool this year and look at me! No updates! It's like I'm busy or something, HA. Or I'm jockeying for a turn on the computer amidst my avid Starfall-loving children.

I'll go ahead and categorize these into "Good, Bad, and Ugly". Here it goes!

The Good:

The perks of homeschooling are what I thought they would be: Lots of family time, no more hectic mornings trying to shoo everyone out the door, and a relaxed home environment all-around. I love our routine (I would go absolutely nuts without a routine, which is why, I think, summer break can get REALLY OLD after only a few weeks ... no routine!) of waking up, taking our time with breakfast, doing morning chores, and then starting our school work. I've loved the flexibility of doing what we want to do, when we want to do it. Beautiful weather means we're outside. Hot hot hot weather means we're getting more sit-down work done inside. I've loved our Classical Conversations community and the once-a-week classroom setting my kids get to experience with different kids and their tutors. I love their memory work and the content of Classical Conversations, even if the memorization songs get a little mind-numbing at times (next time you see me, I will give you my operatic rendition of skip-counting the two's, if you would like). I love tailoring our week's learning to whatever interests my kids at the moment. For example, when last month's flash floods (followed by hot, muggy weather) hit our area, mushrooms popped up all over our yard. So, we picked them and spent a week studying the exciting world of FUNGI, woo-hoo. And I found a rotted mushroom in one of my tupperware containers last week. Awesome. Gah. My oldest is in first grade, so school doesn't take more than a couple of hours, if that. I'm taking advantage of their young ages by having lots of fun. We have an activity every day, whether it's CC, gymnastics, BMX, church, or piano lessons. We go to the kids' museum, we go bowling, we have fun. Homeschooling looks differently in that way than I thought it would. I like it.

The Bad:

I don't know if anything has been BAD about our experience thus far with homeschooling, but I have encountered challenges when it comes to knowing how to translate a classroom curriculum into a one-on-one tutoring-ish situation. Does that make sense? I'm getting better at understanding the different learning styles of each of my kids. Caleb reads it, gets it, moves on. Naomi needs to touch it, shake it, taste it, and manipulate it to believe its true (she is my child, for sure). Just like she had to touch the stove as a toddler before she believed it was hot. And Lydia is kind of along for the ride, so I'm still figuring her out. I put a crazy amount of pressure on myself since I am now their "teacher", so my tendency is to nit-pick things. Like, say, this blog post. Many of you may read it and point out my typos. How can someone who uses so many commas be capable of educating children?! The struggle is real. So, I would say that I am learning to step back and see the bigger picture. Pretty much once a day I have to zoom out, refocus, and approach our day with a broadened perspective. What are we really trying to accomplish here? Do we beat a certain concept to death or do we take a break and revisit it? Exasperated kids don't learn, and I'm learning to maneuver my way through being tough and focused and giving grace. On myself and on my children. I want my kids to love to learn. We have math curriculum and a phonics curriculum that we follow and I am figuring out how to make it work for my kiddos. We read a lot, read aloud a lot, and are acquiring quite a library of books ranging from Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins to old-school encyclopedias to books about George Muller. I read to them while they eat lunch. Awesome tip I learned from a friend. They can't talk when their mouths are full of food!

One thing I struggled with was comparing the experience my kids are getting at home to the experience they would have if they were at school all day, every day. People have very strong opinions about education and I felt that if they disagreed with homeschooling, they disagreed with me personally and that's kind of hard for me to take. But wow, I had to get over that. People disagree all the time. What matters is that we are doing what we feel is best for our little family at this time, until God tells us to do something differently, no matter what that looks like--public school, private school, or homeschool--we trust Him. It's not complicated.

Oh, and I have to try to stay organized whilst also trying to cook and keep the house somewhat clean-ish. It's an ongoing process.

The Ugly:

Vowel digraphs.

No, really, I hate them.

So, in summation, homeschooling is going well. Not every day is great--I have definitely had my share of "Mommy Time-Outs" over the past few months. But this process is refining and while it is hard at times, the rewards have been worth it.

Also, I've learned how to take care of myself amidst all of this. I'm training for a marathon (I'm a psycho, I know), so at least three times a week, I'm up early, running with a friend before the sun comes up. I have a quiet drive into town on those mornings, and I use that time to pray and focus for the day. It's the only time that I'm alone in the car. :) Running is something that I do for myself and having that time is super-important. We have "rest time" every afternoon, where the girls nap and Caleb has to read in his room for one hour. I use that time to do whatever I want--watch Cutthroat Kitchen, browse Pinterest, crash and nap from my early running wake-up time--that time is mine, and necessary for my sanity. I make time in our schedule to see friends, and for me to see friends alone, too. All of these things matter!

So, there you have it. An update. Have a lovely day!