Thursday, September 29, 2011

God apparently knows what He's doing

I know, right? Who knew.

I resisted the idea of homeschooling for a long time. I thought it would be too hard, too much work, something that was fine for others, but not for me. Yet something kept tickling the corners of my mind, bringing the thought to my consciousness every so often. I had some concerns about whether traditional schooling was right for our family, but I tried to stuff those doubts beneath a pile of "It will be good enough," type thoughts.

(I'm sure I've said it before, and I'll say it again here - I'm not knocking schools, or teachers, or people who send their kids to school. I'm not judging other people's choices on this.)

Once I opened my heart to the possiblity of homeschooling, amazing things started to happen. I let that whisper speak to me and I finally started listening. I gave the voice heed, I looked into it, I researched my brains out (because that's how I roll), and ultimately made a rather last minute and semi-hasty decision to pull my son out of public school and jump, head first, into the icy depths of the ocean that is homeschooling.

Only, the water isn't icy. In fact, it's gloriously warm. I realized along the way that God had been leading me here all along, even during those times when I tried my darndest to tell myself homsechooling wasn't for me. He knew what would be good for our family (shocker, there), He knew what would be best for us. He led me to this place and now that I am here, it is nothing short of fabulous.

We get up in the morning and we are together. I don't have to rush anyone off to school to be parted from us for the entire day. We sit down in the schoolroom we created, still wearing our pajamas if we want. My younger kids play and read and interrupt constantly, but it feels like the way things should be for us. We play math games and read poetry and classic children's literature. We read about the life of Jesus and the teachings of the church. We'll study art and music as we go. We learn about the world, about animals, and about nature. We do art and cooking projects. We go outside and get dirty. We Google stuff a lot.

I know there will be days when I am overwhelmed, or stuck in a rut. And truthfully, looking forward into the expanse of time, it is easy to be seduced by anxiety over the questions and what ifs that may pop up along the way. Will I be able to teach all three? Will they make enough friends? Will I miss something? Will I get burnt out?

And yet, I must put all anxiety aside and rest in the grace of God. For it is He who led me here. I am already seeing the fruits of my obedience to His call. My son is happier, I am happier, his brother and sister are happier. Our learning stretches into the corners of the day and I can nurture my son's passion for discovery. This path may not be for everyone, but it certainly seems to be agreeing with our family.

It is a gift to be led by God to something that so enhances your vocation. Homeschooling feels like the most natural extension of my mothering. I am so glad I heeded the call.

(And remind me to read this post when I get frustrated or have one of those "I can't do this" type of days!)

A letter to my daughter

To my dearest daughter,

I am afraid that your current campaign to abolish naptime must not continue. You are two, and as a child of such tender age, you need your sleep in the midst of the day. Desperately. Pulling the pillow out of the window that is there in leiu of a curtain so the sunlight streams in will not help your plight. Throwing all the blankets and babies out of your crib will not make me come in and resuce you from your imprisonment.

Believe me, my sweet girl, there will be many more times when I require something of you that you disagree with. One day, you will realize that I do it for your own good, because I love you and because I know what is best for you. It may not seem that way right now. You seem rather content to throw things in your room and sing and play until I come get you. But please trust me, lying down like your body is telling you to do, and closing those pretty eyes, will bring you a lot more happiness than continuing to fight the inevitable.

Your brothers both went through a similar phase, at this very age, so I'm on to you. I know that this will pass and soon you'll be happily snoozing away the early afternoon hours, and waking up much happier and sparing the rest of us from your screeching and overall discomfort after dinner. Please, for the good of everyone in this house... just take a nap!

Love, Mom

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Buyer's Remorse

Our parish is putting together a directory, which means we all get to go have our pictures taken. We had ours today and I left with a very dramatic feeling of buyer's remorse.

We scurried out this morning in search of some matching or at least coordinating shirts for us all to wear and wound up with a nice ensemble. We went in, the kids did well, and the pictures turned out quite nice. Overall, I'd be happy enough with the experience if a) the pictures hadn't been so danged expensive and b) I'd have gone with my first reaction and said "no thanks" due to a).

When they sat us down to show us the pictures, she gave us some package options. Before she showed us any pricing, I was thinking it would be great to get a family picture for us and maybe a few to give to our parents. They did get some nice shots, after all.

Then she got to the price. Ouch! I think she could tell we were suprised because she immediately started showing us a couple different options that weren't quite as expensive. I thought about it a bit and what I wanted to say was, "Sorry, we won't be purchasing anything, but thanks anyway." What I found myself doing was justifying the cost (they were nice pictures, after all and I'm sure my mom would be willing to chip in a little, and we're here and it feels weird to walk away from these nice pictures without buying anything.....)

So we bought a package. I regretted it as soon as we left the building. I have a friend who is a fabulous photographer (professionally) and for what we just spent on pictures, she could have done a full shoot with family shots and individual shots of the kids and everything, with plenty of beautiful-quality prints. Plus, I'd have rather given her the business, regardless of what I spent.

It's still bothering me and I suppose it will for quite a while. We are trying SO hard to get out of debt and get in a better financial position. We did not have the money to splurge on expensive pictures, regardless of whether they are nice.

I'm half tempted to go back over there and see if I can cancel my order, although I doubt I could at this point (and I don't think they are there still, so I'd have to check back later in the week). Plus, I'll be honest, I'd be really embarrassed.


The paralysis of too much and getting things done

I find that when I am getting behind on things - laundry isn't put away, family room us cluttered with odds and ends, floors are looking rather... spotted, to-do list is lengthening - I feel paralyzed with all I have to do and wind up doing... nothing.

Which, of course, is the exact OPPOSITE of what I should do in that situation. My stress level is so remarkably alleviated by the simple accomplishment of some of my tasks. Check a thing or two off the list, and suddenly, what do you know, the list gets shorter!

Imagine that.

Yet I put myself in this position all too often. I see the stack of bills piled up in the kitchen, and it reminds me that I haven't kept our budget spreadsheet updated in far too long. The stack of unfolded laundry taunts me, and I swear to you, it breeds (I just wish it would breed something cute and fashionable). My to-do list for work grows longer and deadlines loom. But instead of just tackling that stack of bills, updating our budget spreadsheet (even if the news isn't great), folding the stupid laundry and getting a project or two off my list, I ignore everything..

Fortuantely, today my darling husband provided me some prime time to get things ticked off my list, and I feel free as a bird. I sat down for nearly four hours straight and got all my work projects done and sent off. I don't remember the last time I had a completely checked-off work to-do list. The laundry is swishing and I should have just enough time to get most of it put away before the rest of my little fam comes home from their adventure. The bills have been paid, the budget is updated and although there are still about a thousand other things I need to do (meal plan, grocery list, lesson plan for next week, prereading books, curriculum I need to return by mail, new YMCA cards to order, and don't even get me started on the clutter....) -  my heart is lighter.

I need to remember how effective GETTING THINGS DONE is as a stress management tool.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is it bad?

Is it bad that I often let my four-year-old son wear the same clothes for 2 days straight (including overnight)? I mean, he can't be *that* dirty, right? He's only a four year old boy.....

Is it bad that my six-year-old son is addicted to nutella spread and I let him eat it right out of the jar? We try to limit sugar and grains, but he is so picky, and while the rest of us are eating spoonfuls of almond butter, he has to eat *something*, right?

Is it bad that I let my two-year-old daughter wear worn out Target dress up shoes when we leave the house? Either that or rainboots that she invariably takes off (which I then have to carry) as she goes barefoot.

Is it bad that I tell my kids, "I have to go do some work on my computer," when they get some TV time in the afternoon? "Work" hmmmm. Pretty soon they're going to learn what Blogger and Facebook look like and I'll be in trouble.

<Shrug> Nobody's perfect :).

Friday, September 16, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. I am most definitely in the homeschooling honeymoon period, if there is such a thing. Right now, I love, love, love it. I hope that lasts, although I am prepared to find that we go through times when it isn't so smooth and maybe I'm not so in love with the whole thing. But for now, it's seriously awesome and I'll take awesome when I can get it!

2. I not quite so in love with the fact that I have to get up at 6am to get in my workout. That part isn't the best, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a small sacrifice to make in order to follow God's call for my life. That said... yawn!

3. Speaking of working out, I only hit the gym twice this week, but considering that's about how many times I had worked out in the last MONTH, it was pretty awesome.

4. I'm reading Charlotte's Web to my first grader. I haven't read that story in years and I am enjoying it as much as he is! I am such a bookworm and it is so gratifying to hear him ask for "just one more chapter!"

5. My four-year-old is welcome to join us while I read, but he is rejecting this whole "homeschool" thing quite soundly and whenever I pick up a book or suggest any activity, he immediately finds something else to do. This doesn't bode so well for next year when he'll be in kindergarten and I will be attempting to include him in our schooling a little more. I'm hoping by then he'll be over his little rebellion and will at least give it a shot. Otherwise I might be dumping him off at the office of David's old school so he can see the principal.

6. Speaking of school, and working out, and early mornings... I'm tired. It's about 9:00pm my time and I wouldn't mind going to bed right... about... now......

7. And I just might have had some wine tonight, which is making me sleeeeeepy........

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Food should taste good

A few months ago my husband and I made some rather dramatic changes to our family's diet, ditching most grains, sugar, and processed foods in favor of a diet that is heavily weighted towards meats, eggs, vegetables, natural oils, fruits, nuts and some dairy. We're not following anything specific, but did a lot of research and decided to soundly reject the "low fat" mantra we've heard our whole lives. We now enjoy a lot of butter.

Not long ago, I overheard a bit of a conversation between a trainer and her client at my gym. She was talking about the importance of following the diet she had laid out for the client and how, "You really need to just think of food as fuel now, not eat for enjoyment." What has struck me during this time (among other things), is that the low-fat idea did a lot to take away our enjoyment of food. I think part of the trainer's message was something to the effect of, "Don't sit in front of the TV and eat a tub of ice cream just because it tastes good." But there's another side to that message - if you're enjoying what you eat, it must be bad for you, and therefore shouldn't be eaten without a healthy dose of guilt.

But why can't good for you food taste good? The problem is, stripping the fat out of everything leaves a lot to be desired in the taste arena. Take broccoli, for example. A very good-for-you green vegetable, and some people are fine eating it plain. But slather on some butter, and whammo - that's good stuff. My kids eat it up like crazy. They've even been known to ask for broccoli with their lunch (ok, I'm bragging a little there.) The point is, fat makes food taste good. And that isn't a bad thing!

If your dinner plate doesn't have a big pile of nutritionally useless carbs on it (which may as well be a bowl of sugar), you have all kinds of caloric room for fat. And the truth of it is, fat isn't bad for you. Even the saturated kind! I know, I know, it sounds crazy. But I'm convinced that the "low-fat" diet is not only ineffective, it's counterproductive and very often harmful. Plus, it tastes like crap.

I want my food to taste good. And it does. I'm no gourmet cook, but I do love cooking and I love making food that gets lots of "Mmmmms," from the people at my table. I love that we eat things with butter, cook things in oils, and add bacon. Our food is delicious, and it is so freeing to enjoy something without feeling guilty about what I've eaten. Even when I treat myself to something "off the menu" like a sugary dessert, I don't fret. I know it's not the norm and so my body isn't going to automatically paste it to my thighs.

Food should taste good, and good food - real food - does. So slather on some butter, crumble some bacon on top, and enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Men-bashing and being the mother of sons

I grew up repeating jokes about men. The "men suck" mantra often escaped my lips in some form or another. Whether I had any specific reason to be angry at a particular example of the male gender or not, I can't recall. It simply seemed like something women do - we bitch about men. After all, they're annoying, chauvinistic, often stupid and don't understand women at. all.

And then I had a son.

Suddenly those man jokes didn't seem so funny. Memories of my junior high friend joking, "Kill 'em all and let God sort them out," didn't seem nearly as hilarious as it had when I was 14 (and why were we joking about "men" when we were 14?). All those male-bashing quips, which at one point seemed designed to bond women together in our quest for freedom from male domination (or something?)... they suddenly seemed so wrong as I looked into the eyes of my precious baby boy.
There, in my arms, was a boy. A tiny little human being who will one day become a man. One of "them". To many women of this day and age (whether they admit it to themselves or not), the enemy. How can I make such callous male-bashing jokes about my own son? Because he will be one of them, a man grown, and the very subject of such hateful jokes.

He is my son.

It made me rethink how I talk about men. Sure, I have moments where I'm annoyed with my husband and I think, "He's such a GUY!" But usually I'm frustrated because we're not seeing eye to eye and it's probably an issue we've clashed over before and my first instinct is to blame it on the fact that he doesn't think like I do because he is a man. But the, "all men suck" mantra? It feels so incredibly wrong. My little men do not, in fact, suck. Quite the opposite and I do not believe that it is an inevitable conclusion that as men, they will. It is my sincere hope and belief that my sons will grow up to be good men. Good men who love God, love the people around them, and treat others with respect and kindness. Do I think they are now or ever will be perfect? Of course not, I am not delusional. But I do believe in the existence of good men (I know quite a few of them) and I think my boys have great potential to be among them - great men who are not deserving of the kind of half-joking, but half-serious male bashing that is so common among females in our culture.

So next time someone is laughing it up with their girlfriends and bashing on men, think for a moment whether your son, your nephew, your best friend's child, your cousin or your grandson... even your brother or your father... deserve it. And what does it say about us that we so callously berate the men in our lives, even in supposed jest.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Clearly my life is rather consumed by my new identity as "homeschooler." Even my little blog is filled with it - my last several posts have been all things homeschooling. I didn't intend to turn this into a homeschooling blog, but that is what is going on in my life at the moment, so there it is.

Have I mentioned I'm surprised at this turn of events in my life? Oh I have? Yes, I suppose I have said that a time or two. Imagine how often I've said it in real life.

Now that we have actually begun our adventure (two days in and going well so far - not that you can tell much from two days I suppose), my emotions have calmed and I am settling into our new routine. We all are. What I am contemplating now is this lingering sense of, "How did this happen?"

I don't mean to say that I suddenly regret my rather hasty decision to pull my first-grader from public school and homeschool. But I do feel like this hit me out of nowhere (well, not nowhere) and I'm still spinning a little from the shock of it.

It's like this - I was standing at the base of a hill. There's a tunnel that goes right under the hill. It's deep and dark and most people go around. Going around isn't a bad idea. In a lot of ways it is easier and it can work out fine. I always assumed when I got to the hill in my travels, I'd go around and stay out of that strange, dark tunnel. I didn't mind that some people went through the tunnel, I just didn't think it was the right way for me.

Then the tunnel started getting closer and I could see it more clearly. It was still dark. It was still somewhat strange. But it started to look oddly appealing. What's in there? How far does it reach? Some people sprinted toward it, seeming to have always known they would go through. Others got there from a more roundabout route, but were happy to go through nonetheless. Something inside me started to not only be intrigued by the tunnel, but to yearn for it. I fought the feeling for a while, put aside my curiosity and trudged forward on my pre-planned route. But the tunnel seemed to call my name.

Finally, I realized the idea of going through the tunnel wasn't going to go away. It wasn't a flight of fancy or an emotional reaction to some unknown fear. And not only that, there was something deep inside me that seemed to be steering me toward the tunnel. No matter what I did, I couldn't get past it. I couldn't get it out of my head. Deep inside, I felt that I was supposed to go that way.

So I did. I abruptly changed course, altered my plans (ha! plans!) and headed toward the tunnel. I did so hesitantly at first, telling all around me that I was just curious, just checking it out. At the last minute, I dove in, sprinting toward the mouth of the tunnel and plunging myself into its darkness. If I'm going to do it, I may as well do it now.

The tunnel is definitely dark, but I think that once my eyes adjust, I will see fine. It's just that, I'm surprised to be here. This wasn't in my plans. And therein lies the crux of my emotional confusion this week. I didn't plan to be here.

God is guiding me through the tunnel. Making this choice has been a huge act in almost blind obedience to what I feel is the will of God for me right now. I prayed and prayed and prayed and kept getting the same answer. Go through the tunnel. So here I am, muddling my way through, holding out my hand to feel the presence of God guiding me along, all the time saying, "OK Lord, I'm here. I didn't plan this. But I'm here."

Plans. Yeah. What's that saying? How do you make God laugh... tell him your plans.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Too long at the starting line

I like to run in races. I am not fast and I'm certainly not competitive. But running and triathlons give me a goal to work toward and a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I'm done.

Every single time I line up at the starting line of a race, I get nervous. In fact, the nervousness typically erupts to the surface around the time I wake up on race day. I have a hard time eating any breakfast. Those butterflies seem to flutter around endlessly. I suppose it is a mix of nervousness and excitement, but I feel it every time. And every time, I wonder (to some degree or another) why do I do this to myself? I've even found myself wishing I wasn't there (particularly at the start of a triathon - I hate open water swimming).

And then the air horn blows, the crowd in front of me starts moving, and I'm off. I start to remember why I'm there, why I do it. The exhiliration, the crowd around me, the sense of achievement. And when I cross the finish line - there it is. The reason I put myself through the nervousness of the morning is to cross that finish line and say, "I did this." That's the part I love.

Homeschooling is my latest race and I feel like I've been standing at the starting line for a week. I know we're going to do it. I have a space set up in our playroom. I have some supplies. I have books and materials being shipped as I type this (and hopefully some arriving tomorrow). But we aren't officially starting 'school' until next week and I'm left with this hovering anxiety and excitement that reminds me a lot of a race morning. I know I will feel better once the horn is blown, the timer is set in motion and I cross that chip mat. Once we get down to business, start working on some of the lessons and activities, I will feel like it has begun and I know much of my anxiety will melt away in the doing.

Until then, I'm left to cope with the anxiety, the what ifs, the how-are-we-going-tos.