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.