Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Emotional roller coaster

Why is it so easy to focus on the negative?

Most of the people in my life have been very supportive about homeschooling. My mom and broher had questions, but the more we chatted about it, the more excited they were. My dad was on board from the get-go. His sister homeschooled her kids, and he always admired that, so he thinks it's great. When I posted an announcement of sorts on my Facebook page, I got a lot of great responses. A few questions, but mostly support and enthusiasm.

There are a few people, however, who clearly don't approve. Our best friends are the biggest example. We've been friends with them since college, back when my husband and I were just dating and they were engaged. We're very close - we even live next door to each other now.

When I told my friend L that we had decided to give homeschooling a try, all she said was, "Hmm, interesting." Nothing else. No questions, no discussion, nothing. I think it would have been less awkward if she had said, "Why? That's crazy! What are you thinking!" At least then I would have had the chance to explain - especially to explain that our decision to homeschool is not a judgment on their decision to use public schools (I think that's at the root of her disapproval - she's taking it personally as if I'm saying public schools aren't good enough, so she must be a bad mother for sending her kids to one).

Why, out of all the positive feedback, personal stories that have been shared with me, and enthusiasm from my friends and family, am I fixated on the (assumed) disapproval of just a few of my friends?

Emotionally, I'm worn out. I know I need to put away my fears of what people will think. Some people simply won't agree with our decision, and I'm going to have to live with that. I just have a hard time putting that into practice.

I think my emotional state is being further charged by the fact that tomorrow is our local school district's first day of school. Tomorrow I was supposed to be bringing my son to start first grade, and I'm not. All these feelings of doubt keep trying to wiggle to the surface - can I really do this? Am I doing the right thing?

This is real. I really sent the school my withdrawl notice (for which they're giving me a hard time, something that is adding to my stress level). I really ordered the curriculum, I really set up a school area. I really did all the things that only a couple of weeks ago I was only contemplating.

I am a person with a strong logical side. I see problems and solutions; I work out ways of doing things that make sense to me. When I decide to take a course of action, I act (yes, I research and overthink the heck out of things, but I act). I also have a strong emotional side, and those two pieces of me don't always get along. Sometimes the logical side takes the reigns and pushes forward. Then the emotional side catches up and shouts, "Hey! What are you doing!"

On the eve of my son not starting first grade, I am on an emotional roller coaster and extremely tempted to go out and eat my weight in ice cream.

Diving in to homeschooling

Although our school year won't officially start until next week, I am knee deep (ok, maybe neck deep) in all things homeschooling. Have I mentioned how surprised I am that I'm doing this? (yes) Truly this is the work of the Holy Spirit in my life because this is a road I did not envision myself traveling, and yet I'm full of excitement and peace at our decision. (mostly - there's a bit of anxiety thrown in there too)

I spent yesterday rearranging our loft/playroom area to include a new schoolroom. I bought some inexpensive tables at Ikea (oh how I love Ikea), cleaned off some bookshelves, rearranged toys and took the opportunity to throw some stuff out and donate a garbage bag full of old toys. Ahhhhh, organization! I'm still waiting for the curriculum I ordered, which will come with books, supplies, manipulatives, etc., so I'll have to find homes for all that too.

After a deep and thought provoking discussion, we determined that our school needs a name and it was a toss up between "Jedi Training Academy" and "Dragon Training School." Surprisingly, Dragon Training won out, so this afternoon we'll be making a poster for our wall. My oh-so-literal six year old had to make sure I didn't mean we were actually going to learn to fight dragons (the name comes from the delightful movie "How to Train Your Dragon), because after all "They're just pretend, Mom." I know, big man, I know.

I purchased curriculum for Language Arts, Science and Math and a homeschooling friend of mine gave me copies of a Geography study that she's going to use. We'll be learning about maps, continents, oceans, etc. and focusing on a new country each week. There's a supplementary animal unit that goes with it, so we can study animals from each country as we go. I forsee spending a lot of time on the animals :). And this is why I am so excited to begin homeschooling! We can run with things if they are interesting, especially when it comes to learning about our world. If we spend less time on learning about the customs of China, and more time learning about pandas... that's ok!

I am still apprehensive of the amount of time it is going to take me in prep and planning, but I hope once I get into a groove, I'll be able to relax a bit more. In my mountains of reading I've done recently, I came across a blog post about things to avoid, and one of them was something like, "Realize you aren't going to be able to do it all, there will be ideas and subjects and projects you don't get to, and that's ok." I need to remind myself of that daily. I keep finding great ideas that I'd love to try, but I know I won't have time to get to everything (not even close).

I'm also trying to let go of the idea that I have to recreate the traditional classroom and do everything he would be doing if he was up the road at the elementary school. And I'm trying to let it sink in that it's ok if we don't do things the way I see other homeschool bloggers doing things. Some of those moms are just amazing. Of course, many of the bloggers I've been reading have been homeschooling for years, so they have a lot of experience (and supplies!). We'll get there - in our own way, and in our own time.

For now I'm riding the coattails of my son's excitement and enthusiasm for this new adventure. I'm a little apprehensive and know that I need to turn to God a lot right now (um, always?) to help me through.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prayers and answers: homeschooling

I've been on vacation for the last week (which was lovely, by the way). The week away gave me ample time to research, consider and pray about whether or not to give homeschooling a try. I wish I could say I did those in reverse order, but I'll be honest.

I am a notorious overthinker. I can overthink the smallest thing, but give me something big and watch out. I stretch out the tought, working it over and over in my mind until it's soggy like a wet noodle. And then I attempt to dry it out and think on it some more. I started my week pouring over homeschooling websites, blogs, research, statistics, and ideas. I went to bed the first night barely able to sleep, partly because it was an unfamiliar place, and partly because I couldn't seem to find my brain's off switch.

So it was then that I prayed. In my moment of mental desperation when I was tossing and turning with my head spinning, I finally turned to God and said, "Help me out with this!" I tried to quiet myself and spent a lot of time repeating the same thing over and over just to get my mind to stop spinning.

Once in a while when I pray about something big, I immediately feel like I get an answer. It doesn't always happen, or perhaps I'm not always listening very well. But I really focused on listening that night, but not listening expecting to hear anything... just listening. Two things popped into my mind. One was the word "fear," which got me thinking about a homily we heard recently that touched on the phrase "Fear not." I realized immediately what that meant. I needed to let go of any reasons to homeschool, and any reasons not to homeschool, that were based on fear.

Fear of bad kids, bullies, etc. - not the reason to homeschool
Fear of whether my kids will do well at public school - not the reason to homeschool

Similarly, and these things were bigger on my mental checklist -
Fear of what other people will think if I homeschool - not the reason not to homeschool
Fear of whether I can handle it - not the reason to not homeschool
Fear of what to do next year, or the year after, or in middle school, or in high school - not the reason not to homeschool

Letting go of fear helped me get a lot of clarity on the subject. I realized that a lot of what was holding me back was fear of what people will think. I know a lot of people don't have a favorable opinion on homeschooling and I'm going to get a lot of questions. I still worry about the first time I run into David's kindergarten teacher because I have this image of her smiling at me while inwardly thinking I'm ruining his life. Obviously I disagree, but I do have an unfortunate tendency to stress about what I think other people think. But I realized that's not a good reason to base this decision.

The second thing that popped into my mind was the song, "Let it Be," by the Beatles. I have a friend who says she often hears the answers to her prayers in the form of songs, but this was new for me. Out of nowhere I was singing the song in my head, and I haven't heard that song in ages. I realized I needed to literally "let it be" for a while. My husband and I weren't seeing eye to eye on the issue - he was open to the idea of homeschooling, but I sort of sprung it on him and at first he said he thought we should wait a year. That wasn't sitting well with me, but I let it go for the time being. We both needed time to process the idea, so I didn't bring it up with him again right away.

We took a kayak trip down a river, just the two of us, on one of our last days on vacation, and the subject of homeschooling came up again as we floated in the sun. I told him what I was thinking (that we go for it and start this year, even though public school starts soon), and I explained my reasons. He thought about it for a minute, then agreed. I think if I'd kept pushing it all week, he would have kept resisting. But "letting it be," gave us both a chance to let it sink in and ultimately come to an agreement.

The best part of the whole process was telling my son. He said, "Yessssssss! I was hoping you'd chose homeschool!" That burst of six-year-old encouragement was awesome, to say the least.

So here I am, about to embark on something very new and very, very unexpected. Suddenly I'm a homeschooling mom!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thinking more about homeschooling

I'm probably going to say this a lot as I work through this line of thinking, but I never thought I'd be considering homeschooling.

I have a friend, with kids of similar ages to mine, who decided to homeschool when I was looking into preschools. I remember thinking at the time, "More power to you, but I have no desire to go there." I've never been all that judgmental about homeschoolers - my aunt homeschooled my cousins (who are all quite a bit younger than I am) and I always thought it was kind of neat. But I never thought it would be something I'd want to do. For a long time I've thought homeschooling has to be a calling.

Lately, I can't help but think maybe I'm getting that call.

I'm not coming at this from a negative place. My oldest son had a great kindergarten year, overall. His only complaint about school was that he wondered why he had to learn stuff he already knew all the time. And therein probably lies the first kernel of my homeschooling thoughts. It isn't that I believe I have genius child who far exceeds what a traditional school can offer. But he is a smart cookie and, like every other parent out there, I want what is best for him - for all my kids.

This is a life turn that I wasn't expecting, and I'm still not sure if I'm going to go down this road - and if I do, I'm not sure when. Or for how long. But I feel like I have to keep exploring this option because something about it keeps popping into my head. And the more I read and the more research I do, the more intrigued I become.

And then sometimes, I'm busy doing something-or-other, thinking about the numerous other things I have to accomplish, and I think wait, this is crazy.

But is it?

Friday Quick Takes

Friday Quick Takes with Jennifer at Conversion Dairy and all the rest.... :)

1. Mom mom had brain surgery back in April. She had a benign, but very large tumor, that needed to be taken out. Thankfully, it was operable, surgery went well and she's been recovering nicely. Unfortunately, she had a major seizure two nights ago. I'm so very grateful that my stepdad was home with her at the time (he travels for work a lot, so it was unusual for him to be home). She's ok now, but it was very scary for both of them. She's now on anti-seizure medication indefinitely, and she can't drive for 6 months. I have no idea how that's going to work, given my stepdad's travel schedule, but we'll see how it plays out. I don't live close enough to be of much help either. In any case, prayers for my mom would be much appreciated!

2. On a lighter note, my family and I are leaving for a week-long vacation on Sunday. Hooray! It should be a wonderful end to our summer fun and I am really looking forward to the time away.

3. After our vacation, school will be upon us! I'm still having so many conflicting thoughts about my kids' schooling, so it's something I'm still pondering and praying about.

4. My oldest will be in all-day school for the first time, and this means packing lunches! I'm planning to do bento-style lunches and bought some fun containers to make it easier. He's a picky eater, and we aren't eating grains and processed foods anymore, so packing lunches will be interesting. But I have some fun ideas, so it should be kind of fun.

5. Packing lunches, however, means my days of sleeping late are drawing quickly to an end. Lately I've been getting away with rolling out of bed between 7:30 and 8:00. I am not much of a morning person, so this has been lovely - especially after years of my kids waking up at 6:00am. We're all going to have some serious schedule adjusting to do!

6. This also means I need to reign in my late-night writing sessions. That's going to be the hard part. I am mommy all day, work part time after bedtime, and who doesn't want a little freetime in the evenings. This has meant me staying up rather late all summer, which in some ways has been great because I feel like I have more time, and I know the kids aren't going to have me up at the crack of dawn. It's going to take some serious willpower to get myself to bed at a decent hour.

7. I hope some cooler weather is on the way for those who have been sweltering all summer. We've had the coolest summer on record here, and although we've had a little stretch without rain recently, probably also the wettest. It's hard to believe fall is right around the corner when it feels as if we barely had a summer. But I can't complain - I'll take gray skies over 100 degree heat any day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Conversions - big "testimony" or small moments

Before I came back to the Catholic Church, I spent a lot of time with some protestant/evangelical/non-denominational friends of mine. Not that I don't spend time with them now, but I attended their church a bit and did a Bible study group for a while. I learned a lot from them, both things that I agreed with and things that I didn't and a lot of what I learned about Protestant Christianity helped me find my way back to the Church and learn to appreciate it in ways that I never had as a former cradle Catholic.

I often spent time simply listening and taking in their language, because there is a distinct set of things you hear in evangelical circles that you don't hear elsewhere. "Testimony" was one of those words. They'd talk about who they had shared their testimony with, how their testimony was important, and once in a while, one of them would share their actual testimony during our Bible study.

I admit when I first started hearing this term used in such a specific way, I wasn't sure what they meant. I came to realize they were referring to their conversion moment - the time when they became a Christian. I was surprised to realize that often they considered themselves a Christian before that moment, but after it happened, they changed their definition of themselves. Before their big Moment, they thought they were a real Christian, but they apparently weren't. It was only after said Moment that they truly became saved, or brought Jesus into their heart, or became a real Christian.

I was distressed because I'd never had a big conversion moment. I started to wonder if that meant I was doing something wrong. I thought back on my two main Catholic examples in my life - my mother and grandmother. And as far as I knew, they didn't have a "testimony" either. Not that they didn't have their own journeys of faith, and I knew a fair bit about my grandmother's. But I didn't think either of them would have talked in that same language, or necessarily had one, big, breakthrough moment that defined their faith in such a big way. Were they "real" Christians then? Was I? Could you be without that fall to your knees and weep before the Lord moment?

I've thought about that off and on over the last few years. Although I don't doubt the sincerity of my friends' accounts, nor the impact it clearly had on their lives, I have come to realize that having a profound moment of conversion may happen for some, but not all. And the big, dramatic, "testimony" story isn't a requirement to call yourself a follower of Christ - even though those friends of mine seem to think it is.

I haven't had a big, fall to my knees moment. But I have had a thousand little ones. I have experienced the hand of God in my life in very real ways, even when I wasn't trying to be faithful to Him and had fallen away from Catholicism specifically, and Christianity generally. I've experienced those moments during times of distress, and times of happiness and contentment. I've felt His call, felt His pull, and sometimes done the work of answering.

Conversion for me happens every day. I have to wake up and make a decision to have faith, make a decision to love, make a decision to do my best that day to follow God. A big Moment might have been an amazing, emotional experience, but for me the effect of that would probably wear off too quickly. The falling-in-love with God wouldn't last. I need to be in the old-married-couple phase - the part that takes the real work to maintain the relationship. And that's where I am, where my conversion to God happens all the time, in every decision I make and every prayer I say.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A little 'headdesk' regarding nutrition and weight loss

Recently, my family made some big dietary changes, largely as a result of research I've been doing. We cut out almost all grains and are eating primarily meat, eggs, natural fats, some dairy, vegetables and fruits, and nuts. No more processed stuff. No more boxes of cereal and crackers. And let me just say, it's been awesome.

We didn't do this as a weight loss tactic. I only need to lose another 8-10lbs to be at a really good weight for my body and my husband is in a similar boat. We did this because we both have come to believe, through the research we've done, that this is the only healthy way to eat. Most of what I used to believe about nutrition was downright wrong and the more research I do, the more I believe that we're doing not just the right thing, but the only thing we can do to raise a healthy family.

Pretty heavy stuff, I know. I talk to friends about it and I feel like one of those crazy people who can't stop talking about the latest product they've tried or the latest diet book they've read. They've had success of some kind, so get all evangelical about sharing it with everyone they know.

I don't really want to be *that girl*. However, I do want to scream my head off when I realize how much misinformation is out there about nutrition. It is literally killing people.

I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and over the years since my diagnosis, I have connected with many women online who have the same disorder. It's a hormone disorder affecting fertility and weight, among other things. A lot of women with PCOS are overweight, to one degree or another. It's something a lot of my "cyster" friends deal with.

A large group of us with PCOS started a message board to stay in touch several years ago and I've been active in an ongoing thread discussing health and weight loss. We post our progress, some post their food and exercise - it helps us all stay motivated and accountable.

Lately, watching some of my good friends continue to spin their wheels, trying to lose weight in the way we've all been taught (calorie restriction and low fat) has been making me want to bang my head against my desk. I know I'm not so brilliant that I suddenly have all the answers. But I really believe that what they are doing isn't going to work - not in the long term, anyway. I want to shout at them to read what I've read, to do the research I've done, or at least listen to what I have to say! But it's hard - the low-fat paradigm is so ingrained in our collective heads, it's extremely difficult to accept that it might actually be wrong. To face that most of what we believe about weight loss and nutrition is wrong is so shocking, most people simply can't believe it, or think I'm waxing on about some fad diet or short term, quick fix.

I also don't want to come across as a Miss Know-it-all, blabbing about my new-found knowledge as if I can save everyone from obesity. I'm struggling to find ways to reach my friends and help them - give them some of the information I've found in a way that will help them. Because I truly believe it will.

I guess the best I can do is answer questions when asked, provide information as I can, and be a good example of healthy living.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best use of talent

This is something I've been pondering for a long time, and I hope that writing about it some will help me sort through my feelings. That usually helps, and is a major part of why I started this blog in the first place.

I've loved to write for as long as I can remember. I was always a shoo-in for the "best author" award in elementary school. In high school and college, I aced every paper I ever wrote. Outside the scope of school, writing has always been something I fall back on, a favorite skill of my employers, and something I have done both to make a living (at least in part) and for pleasure. I believe God gives all of us talents, and this happens to be one of mine. I also believe He gives us talents for a reason, to use for His glory and to do His work. And herein lies my conundrum.

Blogging is fun, and writing for work is fine. But what I love is fiction. Yes, I'm one of countless writers out there slogging away on a novel, hoping to one day see her book amidst the shelves of bookstores everywhere. Specifically, I like to write fantasy. I love to read fantasy, and my love of all things fantastical is realized in the creation of my own little world - the characters, the geography, kingdoms, supernatural abilities, the strange and unexplained. I love it. My absolute favorite books are fantasy and writing the genre has been a natural extension of my love for fantasy.

What I'm struggling with is this - what if I spend my time and devote myself to writing these books I have in my head. And what if I'm actually good enough to be successful. Great, right? I get to do what I love and entertain those who delve into the web I spin.

Yet - is this the best use of the talents that God has given me? To write works of fiction purely for entertainment?

The thing is, I really, really want the answer to be "yes." It's something I love to do and for a long time my ultimate dreams for myself have had "successful fantasy author" amongst them. Two of my favorite authors both wrote epic works of fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) and were both devout Christians (not that I am comparing myself talent wise to either Tolkien or Lewis!), so it has to be possible, right?

I also recognize that what I think I want isn't always what God wants for me. And what God wants for me, God's will for me, will always be what is best for me and is infinitely more important than what I might dream for myself.

This isn't so much a case of worrying that I'm going to miss the boat on God's will for my life if I keep writing fiction. I believe that God honors our choices in life (as long as they are moral choices), and can work through us in limitless ways. If I take a left turn, God will be there along that road, ready to work through me on that path. If I take a right, He'll be there too.

Is fiction writing the best use of my time and talent? Should I be out there, doing something else to serve God and serve others? Is there a balance that allows me to do both? Perhaps there is and it is something I will continue to prayerfully consider. I have prayed about it quite a bit and haven't felt any burning need to abandon my works of fantasy, so perhaps I already have some of my answer. And who knows, God works outside of time while my limited perception is bound to it. Perhaps someday I will understand better how my talent can serve God more directly. Or perhaps using my talent in this way will bring opportunities I would not have otherwise had. I guess I need to trust in Him and do my best to keep listening.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

God's whispers

One often hears complaints that God doesn't give us enough to go on to prove his existence. If He is so powerful, why does He not just show Himself? Why not show up, trumpets blaring in the sky, voice booming over the landscape, and announce that He is real? Why not just show us in all His glory?

I myself have pondered these questions, although the lack of major heavenly fireworks has never caused me to doubt (not that I haven't doubted - I have... a lot). In the words Judas sings in the rock opera, "Jesus Christ Superstar," - "If you'd come today, you could have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4BC had no mass communication... don't get me wrong... I only wanna know..."

The truth is, God has revealed himself in big, huge ways numerous times throughout history. As if the coming of God Himself as a man in the form of Jesus wasn't enough - there have been many signs. From Old Testament times straight through until today, people have witnessed amazing things. Miracles, visions, apparitions, signs. I was reading a discussion of this week's readings at The Sacred Page today which I found fascinating - talking about some of those "Big Events" when God has appeared to large groups of people. From Biblical times to modern, those events, while noteworthy and important for many who witnessed them, have never been very effective at actually changing people's hearts and turning them toward God. In short, coming out with trumpets and fanfare, earthquakes and a booming voice from the heavens, hasn't ever worked very well to instill faith in God. As John Bergsma writes, God appeared at Sinai (Exodus 19) and only 40 days later, the people were worshipping a false God again. Just 40 days! He showed his power in the time of Elijah at Mount Carmel and the next day Elijah is forced to flee for his life from the pagan Queen. In modern times, there have been signs, but they don't result in mass conversions. They do little to change the human heart.

Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. ~John 20:29

How does God reach out to us and change our hearts? If not in grand displays of power, how? More often than not, He whispers. His voice is soft and gentle and we have to learn to quiet ourselves in order to hear it. In the quiet, in the silent place of our hearts, God speaks.

It may not always be easy to hear, but that is our failing, not His. It is easy to be consumed with our own issues and fears, our problems and obsessions. All that noise, the rattling and banging around in our heads. He calls to us gently, through all the racket and if we slow down long enough, we just might hear Him. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011


We're less than a month from the new school year starting, and I'm having so many mixed emotions. My oldest, David, will be entering first grade come September. He had a great kindergarten year at our local public elementary school and that's where we have him enrolled for the coming year. It's less than a mile from our house, so we often walk to and from, and he has lots of good friends there, most from close by. We live in a rather dense area in terms of housing, so the school pulls from a fairly short radius - meaning most of his school friends live within about five minutes, if not right down the street. And like I said, he had a great experience in kindergarten.

So why am I so torn about whether we're doing the right thing in terms of his schooling?

I can't stop thinking about Catholic school or homeschool. I never, ever would have thought I'd be a homeschooler, and in a lot of ways I think it's more a temporary brain malfunction that is making me even dream that it would be a good idea for our family. And yet, I can't help but wonder if this school is the right place for our kids.

This isn't a reaction to anything negative. He was fine at school, learned plenty, enjoyed it a lot. In fact, the kid loves school. He was heartbroken at the end of the year because it was over for the summer. He does very well in a classroom environment - he likes being good and being praised for being good, and he thrives when given opportunities to accel. Give that kid a challenge, and he will rise to it and be glowing with pride when he does well. He likes attention and being with others - being alone is about the worst possible thing he could dream of. School fits him well.

He's also quite smart, and I know, everyone loves to brag about how smart their kids are. I'm not simply going off on a mommy-brag here - he is very smart. His only complaint about anything school-related (other that the school year ending) was that he was bored learning stuff he already knew. He's not the kid who will get bored and act out because of it; he has too much of a drive to be good and follow the rules (I was like that as a kid too). But I wonder how this year is going to go and how they're going to manage to keep him challenged and help him reach his potential.

Which is one of the reasons I keep scouring the website for our local Catholic school. The problem with that? Well, it isn't free... We should be in a financial position to afford it, but we've made some bad financial decisions and we're paying for them now (literally), so we really can't. I honestly don't see how we could afford the tuition for just him, let alone our other two when they get to that age. Plus, the campus is split into two locations. The K-2 kids have to go to the campus that is a good 40 minutes away. That's pretty far from home. Once he's in 3rd grade, he'd go to the campus that is closer, but even that is way on the other side of town from where we live.

But I love the idea of our kids being in a Catholic school. They'd be learning about God and the Church right alongside their other studies. Prayer and mass would be a regular part of their week. They'd be in an environment where faith isn't an afterthought, something only brought out of the closet on Sundays. I love that.

And I have the perception that Catholic schools are better academically than public schools. I'll be honest - I don't know if that's actually true. I haven't looked into this school to see if it is genuinely "better". But my preconceived notion is that it would be better for him academically.

So my mind keeps wandering to the two schooling alternatives. With the school year right around the corner, we certainly aren't changing anything at this point. But I want to be open to other possibilities. There are pros and cons to all the options, as they relate to our children, our finances and our schedule. I need to prayerfully consider all of this, and probably keep writing about it, since that helps me figure things out. That and see how this school year goes.