Sunday, August 4, 2013

A friend in urgent need - please help!

I don't know if anyone else will see this (considering the sad state of my poor, neglected blog), but I am trying to put the word out in any way that I can.

A dear friend of mine left her abusive husband about six months ago. She is now a single mom to three young children. Her courage in leaving him was great - it was a terrible, terrible situation and it still amazes me she lived through it, and is now on the other side.

Only, she isn't really. Not yet.

Her legal fees are mounting rapidly. He has caused her to spend an enormous amount of money already, and now he is trying to get custody of the children. This man, who abused her in every way imaginable for over a decade is still trying to victimize her. Because of the protection order, he can't get to her physically, so he's going for her where it really hurts - their children.

She needs to raise $1200 by Monday the 12th. Because of his constant emails and phone calls to her laywer, she's spent all her money and more already. There is an important hearing that day and it is critical that she continue to have legal representation.

Please consider donating to help her with her legal fees. This is a chance to help a family in need - a family who has already suffered so much. Please consider helping, and sharing as well. The more we can get the word out, the more people can come to her aid.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

God is SO good

I need to gush, plain and simple.

God is so good. I looked at my sweet little children this morning, and felt joy. Pure, unadulterated joy.

Ten years ago, I was in the throes of infertility. We'd been trying to get pregnant for a long time, but a long-undiagnosed hormone disorder was making that exceedingly difficult. I was obsessed with getting pregnant. I charted every cycle, I read everything I could find about maximizing my chances of getting pregnant. We spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments that never did work. There were moments when I felt I would probably do just about anything to have a baby. But the hardest part was the fear; not knowing if I would ever be a mother. Would I always look at pregnant women with that feeling of sadness, of jealousy? Would I always cry after baby showers and avoid the baby aisles in stores? Would I ever be able to simply be happy for my pregnant friends, without that aura of sadness creeping in through the cracks in my resolve?

The answer, in time, was yes. I was blessed abundantly with three amazing children, and that feeling of fear, of pain, of sadness, gradually dwindled away. Each pregnancy was a triumph, each time my belly swelled it healed me a bit more. Those stretch marks and sags and the pits in my hip bones are badges of honor, of victory, of blessing.

And those children. Oh, how I love them. My heart swells with joy and love, and the amazing thing is sometimes, I can almost feel the flow of love that runs from the Father, through me, to them. The parenting analogy has produced such profound understanding for me - if God loves us even a fraction as much as I love those little people, His love is huge. And He loves us infinitely more. That blows. my. mind. Because I look at those crazy little people He gave me, and I can't imagine my heart being big enough to produce so much love. I can't fathom someone loving me that much. And yet, He does, that and so much more.

My life has been rocky this past year and a half. But nothing, nothing at all could compare with the sight of those three little people. Motherhood is not all sunshine and rainbows, but sometimes it is. Sometimes all I feel for them is a bursting of love and happiness and contentment; a feeling of profound gratitude that I was given this amazing gift. I don't deserve one inch of it, and yet He answered my prayers. He answered my prayers in ways I never could have imagined, or planned, or hoped for.

God is so good.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tough choices and moving on

Sometimes being a grown up is hard.

We have been on an up and down roller coaster with regard to moving. First, we think we'll move next year. Later, my husband decides it needs to be sooner. We set our sights on summer. Spring moves so quickly, and there is so much to be done; perhaps we can wait. What is six more months, anyway? Then another twist, and we're looking at summer again. But still things aren't certain.

I can't decide if it is the uncertainty, or the inevitability that is bothering me more. The bottom line is, this move will be difficult, and not just because moving sucks. I have never lived in one place so long, never had this tight of a network of friends who are really family. We will be leaving behind so many things, and although we aren't moving so far that we will be cut off from them completely, it is far enough that we have to start over in so many ways.

The uncertainty is hard and makes me want to move now; pull off the band aid and get it over with quickly. Make a plan and do it. Putting it off longer, keeping the timing up in the air, makes me feel insecure and frustrated. Sometimes, I just want to know.

And yet, part of me was so happy at the thought of spending next school year here, in familiarity. Our preschool group could continue. The boys have friends to play with. We have a good routine, with schooling, field trips and activities. Those things will have to be built from the ground up, and I'm not even sure where to start.

The what if questions plague me, pick at me constantly like sand in the wind. I am doing my best to pray and to trust in God. I am trying to keep things in perspective. This isn't the worst thing we will ever face, by far. There are both pros and cons to this change in our lives. And people do it all the time. Why do I have to be so whiny about it?

I hope I will feel better when plans are in place and a date is set. The uncertainty is hard. The physical tasks of moving our life from one home to another are daunting, but what happens once we are there is more daunting still. I've never faced a change like this - a change that affects not only me, but my children as well. I'm not sure how it will all play out, but I guess I need to lean on God right now and pray that He grants me the grace to weather this season.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Our first day with "project time"

I know every day won't be like today, but oh if it could be...

We got our feet wet with this new concept of "project time" today. I had talked with the boys about the idea yesterday and their enthusiasm was so heartwarming. I did have to insist that we get our regular lessons done first, but they were happy enough with that (and even got all their work done before lunch!). After a short break, it was the much anticipated "project time" and they jumped into their work with gusto.

David, who is 8, is working on investigating the Loch Ness Monster. I think he's hoping to make some new discoveries, and maybe prove that it is real. I'm leaving it to him to decide whether that will be possible or not. Today he read some information online, did some sketches of the more famous photographs, discussed criteria to be used in determining whether a photo is real or fake, learned a bit about the capacities of photo editing software, explored maps of Scotland and attempted to make a sculpture of Nessie out of tin foil.

Grayson, who is nearly 6, chose the solar system as his first project. He glanced at a few books we already have, and then spent most of his time making cutouts of each planet with craft foam sheets. He already knows most of what is knowable at a young elementary level when it comes to the solar system, but it is what he is excited about and I was so amazed at his focus and determination as he worked. He wants to hang his planets all over the house, since as he says, the planets aren't all in a line next to each other, they are "all over the place in orbit."

I know part of their excitement today is from the newness of the idea. But it was so fulfilling to see how enthusiastic they were. They loved being able to spend time on their own interests and I think they are realizing this isn't going to be directed by Mommy. They get to call the shots, make decisions, ask for resources and get them. I had requests today for spiral notebooks, tape, air dry clay and more craft foam. David ran into trouble with his attempts at making a model with foil, so he's exploring other ways of creating a mock-up. Grayson proudly showed Daddy his sun and planets and has plans to make the remaining ones tomorrow.

I'm really glad I read Project Based Homeschooling and I think this concept is going to be such a wonderful addition to our little homeschool. I can't wait to see what my little monkeys come up with next.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Incorporating "Project Based Homeschooling"

I've come to realize that my life as a homeschool mom will never reach some sort of "finished" status. I'm never going to make a year's worth of plans that we live out and don't alter. This homeschooling thing is like a living organism or maybe it is just becoming such a part of our living, it moves and changes and grows as we do.

My newest alteration? Project Based Homeschooling. I'd been eyeing that book for some time, alternately adding and removing it from my Amazon shopping cart. I was concerned it would be too overwhelming, and require that I scrap everything we are already doing for a totally new approach. That, I do not need. But on the advice of a few homeschooling friends, I decided to go ahead and read it anyway. Boy, am I glad I did!

Right off the bat, the author tells you that changing everything you're doing is not the point of the book. This is not a purist approach that requires you to do everything in a specific way, right this minute, or you're doing it all wrong. Book like that stress me out (there is one very popular homeschooling book that really made me feel that way). This concept is something you can implement in small ways, a little bit at a time. You don't have to throw out all your curriculum and become a "project homeschool."

The idea is to give your kids time, space, materials and support to pursue their own interests - at their pace, with the materials and resources that they want, and the outcomes are directed by them. So instead of me assigning a project for science or history or what have you, they might decide to do a project on tigers. What form that takes is up to them. They might read about tigers, get books from the library, ask to visit the zoo, watch a documentary or YouTube videos. Then they might sketch tigers, make tiger puppets, paint or paper mache tigers. What they do with it is up to them - the parent is there to assist, get materials, support, encourage, remind them of their questions and ideas, take notes and photographs, etc.

The amazing thing about this is that my kids already do this stuff, to a certain extent. They are constantly coming up with random things to make. This simply gives them some deeper focus to something they did naturally.

My biggest take away, at least to start, is that I can give my kids a space to work, open access to a variety of materials, and work "project time" into our regular routine - and let them take it from there. And I really think they will - I think they're going to take off like a couple little rockets.

I get the security blanket of still doing reading and handwriting and math and even history and science, as part of our "lesson time." And they get project time to pursue their own interests, in their time, with the resources they want, with me there simply to support and help when they need it. It sounds like a great big WIN-WIN to me.

I told my boys about the concept and they were THRILLED. We were all so excited we wound up rearranging the furniture in our "school area" upstairs (which is a bedroom-sized loft area). We moved the small tables so they have their own desks, magnet boards will be hung later so they can have space to display their notes, sketches and pictures. I cleared a couple of shelves that will soon house more art supplies. And in the afternoon, we will have "project time" as a regular part of our day.

And what does my inquisitive little 8 year old want to dive into for his first project? The Loch Ness Monster. He wants to sift through the evidence and see if he can figure out if the creature is real or not. I refrained from telling him that if scientists can't come to a clear conclusion, he probably won't either. He'll get there on his own. In the meantime, based on tonight's flurry of ideas, I think I see a giant Nessie hanging from the ceiling in our future.

I'm excited for this new direction. I feel like it is the best of both worlds that I want our learning to inhabit - more structured academic learning, and self-directed learning. I think dedicating time and energy to both will give us a pretty well rounded learning environment.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Musing on preschool

I'm in such a quandary over what to do for my 3 1/2 year old daughter in terms of preschool. I am firmly of the mind that little children don't need a lot of academics and that pushing them too early is probably not a good idea. I don't want a formal preschool curriculum. But I also have a little girl who climbs up in my lap every day and asks to "do school." I find myself scrambling to come up with something that, to her, feels like we are doing school, that she wants to do right at that moment.

I have "Peak With Books," loaned to my by a friend, which has a lot of great ideas. But it requires a lot of planning ahead, and my poor third child is not getting the bulk of my planning time for her benefit. I also have a tub of random preschoolish activities that were passed on to me, and sometimes we're able to pull something out of that, but it isn't really enough.

I read to her often, and she's the little tag along on lots of outings and field trips and other activities. We have a little preschool group that meets twice a month at our house, and we do stories and games and art projects and such. She loves that time and it makes me sad that her "preschool friends," as she calls it, will be lost when we move.

What I need is something that isn't too structured, but already laid out for me to use. Something I can open up, pull something out, and go. I've looked and looked, and I don't think what I want actually exists.

I should probably do something organization wise, rather than trying to find the perfect curriculum. Maybe if I had a little preschool basket that was hers - I could put in special books, maybe with a theme, as well as other little supplies and a few worksheets she can scribble on. When I come up with other ideas for activities for her to do, I can place them in the basket and she can choose what she wants to do during our school time.

That's a good thought. Of course, it means I have to actually, you know, PREPARE stuff, which I'm awful at. I should say, I'm inconsistent. Sometimes I have all kinds of things prepped and ready to go. But eventually I fall behind, get overwhelmed and subsequently ignore everything in favor of Facebook, blog reading and pinterest, and fall into bed at the end of the night with a running list of things I didn't get done and the knowledge that I did it all to myself.


I need to think more on how to make some special time and resources for my littlest nugget.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My little boy and his bedtime worries

My oldest son has serious issues when he is overtired. He always has, from the time he was a newborn baby. He would stay awake too long and have a terrible time falling asleep again. That trait hasn't left him, it has just taken different forms as he's gotten a little older. Now that he is eight, it has turned into bedtime fears. The poor little guy is a bit of a worrier anyway, but when he is extra tired, he invents the strangest things to be afraid of. Sure, he's had the typical fear of monsters or of the house burning down - things that seem to be pretty normal for some kids. But in addition to those, he's amassed quite the list of irrational fears.

He went through a phase of being afraid of touching two separate substances, mysteriously found on everyday objects, that, when combined, would turn into poison.

He's been afraid of things like monsters, but also of randomly turning into a zombie.

He was afraid of "bad guys" breaking in through his room, despite the fact that the window is locked and his room is on the second story.

He was afraid of various things in his room coming alive in the night.

For a while he was afraid that his brain didn't work properly and he would stop breathing if he didn't think about breathing.

They've gotten more elaborate as time has gone on. Tonight he was afraid that his brother was going to somehow rip out his own rib, and that he might be randomly compelled to do the same thing. This was after Grayson, the little brother, showed him how he could stick his fingers under his lowest rib (skinny little dude that he is). This completely freaked him out and he jumped to the conclusion that not only would it be possible to rip your own rib out, but that Grayson was going to rip out a rib and then he just might do it too.

The hard thing is that when he gets overtired (a few too many late bedtimes is all it takes), he gets completely irrational at bedtime and no matter how many times we tell him, "It is physically impossible to rip a rib out of your own body," he doesn't believe you. He'll look you in the eye and whimper and wring his little hands and say, "Ok." Then when you try to leave, he starts in again with the, "But I'm scared!" and insist he's still afraid of the same thing.

Tonight we managed to help him calm himself down fairly quickly, although not without a lot of frustration on all sides. I feel bad that I'm not more sympathetic to his anxieties, but the tough part is, once he gets past a certain point of hysterical, he usually has to just wear himself out crying for a while before we can get through to him. Fortunately tonight wasn't so bad, he calmed down relatively quickly and we prayed together and he was able to go to bed.

One thing I really want for him is to be able to handle his emotions on his own. Obviously he's still a little guy, so we're here to help him wade through the tide of his fears. But over time, he needs to develop some ability to cope. He's very sensitive, emotionally, and does have a lot of worries. We're working on some ways for him to express those feelings and work them out, so I hope that will help him in the long run. I just don't want him to grow up without the deep realization that he is in charge of himself - he can make choices as to how he reacts and how he handles any situation.

He's a wonderful little guy, so smart and sensitive and caring. I'm sure glad God is in charge, because I never could have dreamed up a kid so awesome. I sure hope I'm worthy of the incredible honor of being his mother - and not screwing him up too badly.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Crossfit-iversary

Today is my one year Crossfit-iversary. A year ago, I got my butt up at the crack of dawn (well, almost), and despite the butterflies in my stomach, walked into a crossfit gym. And by butterflies, I mean something a little more akin to a flock of raging birds in a windstorm. I was nervous and intimidated, but I did my best to put that aside and take the plunge.

I'm not terribly athletic, but I have worked out (on and off to some degree) since I was a teenager. Dating a weightlifting football player does that to you. My comfy place in high school was less the gym or the field and more the library and the leadership room. I was active in school, but definitely more on the academic side of things (except for a stint as a cheerleader, which I now find hilarious). In any case, I've always valued fitness and belonged to a gym, and even sometimes used it. I did a few triathlons a while back, and that made me feel like a badass. But still - I've always viewed myself as a nonathletic, slightly uncoordinated, nerdy bookish type. So Crossfit, as much as I loved the concept, was quite frankly, freaking terrifying.

I walked in the door of that gym and have never looked back. Am I a super fit, lean and muscular chick now? No, not really. I think when I started, I did have this idea that I was going to work my butt off and in six months I'd be lean and fitting into my smallest jeans again. That hasn't happened (and I know exactly why - more on that in a sec), but what has happened is that I have gained a ton of muscle, and I'm strong as heck - for me, at least. I mean, I can deadlift 215lbs! Dude! I feel awesome about the strength and fitness I have gained.

What I love about Crossfit is that I don't have to think about it. I walk in, the WOD (workout of the day) is on the board, and I just do it. It will probably suck and be really hard and I'd never in a million years put myself through it without someone else telling me to do it - but I do. And the support and community at a good Crossfit gym is priceless. I've met some great people and everyone, from the out of shape newbies to the freakish uber athletes, are amazingly supportive and encouraging. I LOVE that. My gym is one of the biggest things I'm going to miss when we move later this year.

At this point, I'm really focusing on my diet. I am a case study in the importance of nutrition when it comes to body composition, weight loss, etc. I've been doing Crossfit for a year, and I haven't really lost any fat. I've gained about 10lbs, which I know is muscle and I'm fine with that. I won't ever be 120lbs, but I don't want to be. I'd rather be able to squat and deadlift and do pullups. But I still need to lean down, and that has not magically happened as I'd secretly hoped. I have to eat better, and I have to do it consistently.

I started cleaning up my diet and keeping a food log almost 2 weeks ago, and I'm hoping this will get me where I want to be. I don't want to be skinny, I don't need six-pack abs. I just want to feel comfortable in my skin again. I want my hard work to show. I weathered the storm of Easter candy and various other temptations the last couple of weeks and have done well, and although the scale is stubbornly not moving (I need to take my own advice about not worrying about the scale), I feel better and my husband says he can see a difference.

All in all, Crossfit has been amazing and I hope I'll be able to keep it up. It isn't exactly cheap, but for me, it is worth every penny. If I can be consistent with my diet for the next several months, I should start to lean down a bit and maybe those jeans I've been saving will finally fit again (just in time to find out they've gone out of style, most likely).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Absorbing ancient Troy

Sometimes you'll hear homeschoolers talking about their younger children absorbing all this great information as they "listen in" on what the bigger kids are doing. They follow along, wanting to be like big brother or big sister, and get all these great educational benefits from just being there. Doesn't that sound nice?

I thought so too, but my five-year-old doesn't read the same blogs that I do. He's not really the "sit and listen" type, at least not for long stretches of time and only if there are pictures involved. He spends much of big brother's school time building things, destroying things he built with lots of sound effects, or putting together puzzles.

He surprised me today, however, when he came to me and said, "Mama, I'm going to build the city of Troy with my legos. And the big horse too."

Oooh, look at that! He was listening! He's absorbing! I am the greatest homeschool mom ever!

"That's great buddy! I love that idea. I can't wait for you to show me."

He comes back later with a large base plate and a square-ish structure roughly in one corner. I ask, "Wow, is this the wall, or is it a building?"

He looks at me like I'm a little dense, "No, this is a building. The wall will go here," and traces his finger around the outside of the base plate.
"Ok," I say. "This looks good."

"Yeah," he says, pointing to some lego bricks sticking out of the top of the building. "And these are the laser guns and this is a security camera."

Um.... maybe not absorbing quite so much?

"That's neat buddy, but you know, they didn't have lasers or guns or cameras in ancient Troy. That story is from a really, really long time ago."

"Yeah, but it seemed like they needed more security."

Can't argue with his logic, can I?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Welcome to our new Papa

The Catholic world has, of course, been abuzz with the news of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. This is really the first time I have paid much attention to the selection of a new Pope. In fact, probably the first time I have paid much attention to the Pope at all.

What kind of a Catholic am I? A poor one indeed, I am the first to admit.

When Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, I was hardly what you'd call a practicing Catholic. I was aware of the new Pope, as most people in the world would be, through news reports and the like. But it didn't seem to mean very much to me. I never actually renounced my Catholicism, but in those days I was not attending mass and did very little to participate in my faith. I was like an outsider, watching with mild curiosity, but not feeling any real connection to the the new Pope.

I hadn't had much of a connection to his predecessor either. I knew who Pope John Paul was, I recalled hearing his name at mass, and if asked, I could have told you who he was. But I knew little about him. I grew up with a Catholic mother who took us to Mass, but my stepdad was very much not Catholic, so our faith was more or less reserved for church. It wasn't a part of our home life in very many ways, something I'm sure my mother wished could be different. But she had to walk a fine line with her husband (who is a good guy, don't get me wrong - just a sometimes-practicing Mormon), and he wasn't comfortable with much of her Catholic "stuff."

As a result, I didn't have a strong connection to my church - not the whole of the Catholic Church. I understood it on a certain level, but it didn't seem to be all that relevant to me personally. So I didn't think much of it when a new Pope was elected in 2005. I was busy changing diapers and wading through the newness of being a mother.

This time, however, I watched the process through a new lens. After the news of Pope Benedict's resignation, I was touched to read some of my favorite Catholic bloggers talk about their "Papa Bene." He meant something to them; he touched their lives with his words and his leadership. People connected with him, and saw him as not just a distant religious and semi-political figure, but a part of their larger family. Papa. What a lovely thing! I'd never realized how some Catholics looked with such fondness on the earthly head of our Church. It touched my heart and I found myself wishing for that sort of experience. Who would be my Papa?

I watched the announcement of our new Pope live online. I had no preconceived notions, no idea of who it may or may not be. I honestly couldn't have told you the name of any of the Cardinals anyway. So the news that they had chosen this Jorge Bergoglio didn't shock or surprise me. I simply watched.  The EWTN commentators sure seemed surprised, and I suppose the only thing that surprised me was his age. I wondered why they had chosen a man rather advanced in years, after the resignation of his predecessor largely due to his age.

Reading about him in the ensuing days, there is much to admire in our Pope Francis. People are talking endlessly about his humility; but in a person leading an organization as large and ancient as our Church, humility is quite the virtue. I like his simplicity, his prayerfulness and his steadfastness in the face of opposition and criticism in his home country. He'll need a lot of that in the coming years.

I am one tiny, small soul in an enormous sea of Catholics, so what I think or how I feel about him personally doesn't matter much to anyone but me. But I hope that I will grow to feel that sort of affection for him that I so admire in other Catholics. I hope I can refer to him lovingly as "Papa Francisco." I do feel a certain joy at being part of "all this," this time around - for being an active part of the Church, for being close enough to feel that this matters to me. I love our Church and I pray for our new Father. I pray he is everything God needs him to be for us, in these crazy days.

Welcome, Papa Francisco. Welcome as our leader and our example. But welcome also, into my tiny little speck of the world, into my heart and my family.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finding my joy in little green army men

I just had a moment that almost brought me to my knees. I've been in a funk lately. I'm too tired, too lethargic, too stressed, too unmotivated, procrastinating everything and generally feeling crappy. I've been feeling like there's just too much to do, my house is always a mess, I'm always behind, etc. etc.

I was walking through my room, making the pile of unfolded laundry a slightly more organized pile, and looking around at the army men, pencils and markers, books, and hand-sewn pillows that are currently cluttering my floor. My first thought was to be annoyed - why do they have to leave their crap all over MY floor too? It's bad enough that their rooms are messy, the upstairs is messy, the kitchen is messy. Why here too? This is my room, damnit.

And then it hit me and it brought me to tears. I have kids making a mess.

I have kids.

I didn't always know I'd have kids because for several years, we couldn't seem to manage it. Have I forgotten those days, when I prayed for them? Has it been so long that I don't remember? How can I forget those morning drives to work, my heart full of prayers for a baby? How can I lose the sense of despair I felt, not knowing if I would ever be a mother? How can I forget what it was like to want something so desperately that I would have done anything, paid anything, to have it?

I have it now. And damn, but I've been taking it for granted lately.

My life is not so hard that I need to walk around in a cloud of meloncholy. I mean, really. Yes, my life is sometimes chaotic, and almost always messy. But really, would I give up the mess? Would I trade in those precious, precious little people for more order, for less responsibility, for more time? Oh hell no.

God hit me over the head with that one, and what's funny is, I've been asking Him to do it. I've been asking Him to remind me, to help me find my joy.

I found it in some little green army men.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why I love planning

It is no secret to those who know me well that I love to plan. I'm lucky enough to be a planner with flexibility, so when plans change, I'm cool with it. That just means I get to replan! Bonus! Plus, being married to a man who is basically the incarnation of chaos, planning can never be rigid, not in my world.

Homeschooling has given me innumerable ways to indulge my planning urges. There are SO many resources, ideas, books, and curricula options, it makes my head spin. With three kids to plan for, since next year I'll have a 3rd grader, a 1st grader and a little preschooler who really wants to "do school" with Mommy, I have to sort through the options, thinking about what has worked well for us, what hasn't, my kids' learning styles and preferences, and my goals for them, as well as my teaching style.

I love reading through homeschooling blogs, reviews, curricula descriptions, and booklists. I love sorting through the possibilities, taking notes, making lists and coming up with plans. It's like crack to me.

It occurred to me tonight, as I spend a wild and crazy Saturday pouring over ideas for next year, why that is - why I love planning so much.

Everything is perfect in the plan.

There is no whining in the plan. There are no interruptions, potty breaks, snacks, spilled cups of water, glue squirted all over the floor or newly potty trained 3-year-olds needing help with their panties in the plan. In my imagination, my ideas all work remarkably well; miraculously well, in fact. My plans flow smoothly, preparation isn't a problem and implementation is effortless. Ah, how lovely the planning stage is.

The reality is, naturally, quite different from my plans. And that's ok too. Reality is a lot messier, takes more time, definitely includes some whining, and basically doesn't turn out the way I want.

I know this, and I'm cool with it.

But I do need to keep in mind, as I plan, to keep things fluid and flexible enough to allow the plans to fall apart when they need to. I need to be ok with scrapping my plans and starting over when things aren't working. I tend to want to pour over every single possible option so I know I'm making the best choice possible (and I do this with so many things - you should see me shop for shoes). It's like I'm afraid I will find out later there was something better and regret my decision. But I can't always predict how things will work in our homeschool (or how the shoes will fit). Sometimes things work out the way I expect, but very often, they don't. That can be hard to deal with, when you've bought curricula, or purchased books or have a well laid out lesson plan that just isn't working. I've been there, and I'm still basically a newbie homeschooler.

I'll continue to research and plan like crazy, because what can I say, I can't help myself. My challenge is to keep reality in perspective as I do so, which will hopefully make my planning time more productive - or at least more likely to result in a good learning experience for all of us here in our little school.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Making time for the littlest one

I'm cute, even with a dirty face

Today I took my 3 year old daughter with me to Costco. It was just the two of us; the boys went with Daddy to get the oil changed on our truck (man time - very important!). As we headed out of our neighborhood, we passed the neighborhood school; the school my oldest went to for his kindergarten year, and the school both my boys would be attending if we weren't homeschooling.

The thought occurred to me, as I enjoyed some silly banter with my girly-girl, that she might be missing out on some special one-on-one time because the boys are home. We don't drop them off at school in the morning, and then head out to run errands together, or go home and read picture books and build puzzles, just the two of us. It is rare that she gets me all to herself, and if the boys were in a traditional school, she would.

Am I missing something here? In choosing to homeschool based primarily on where my oldest son was at the time, did I overlook the time my daughter would have had alone with Mommy during these precious preschool-ish years?


I admit it sent me down the mommy-guilt road, even if just for a little while. She does love her mommy time, and yes she does have less of it than she might have otherwise. At least for now.

But she does have other things, as a result of this funny life we live. And she'll have even more of those other things as she grows - things she wouldn't have if we weren't home educating.

She has time with her brothers. They are home with us all the time, but really, that's a plus. They all love each other a heck of a lot, and get along pretty well. Maybe I'm in for it later, but there isn't a ton of bickering amongst my kids; some, but not the overwhelming sort that makes me wish I could pack them off to school all day.

She has all sorts of learning opportunities at their side. We go on field trips as a family. She goes to the art museums and the ballet performances and the nature walks and the zoo trips. She sits at the table with us as we work and colors or cuts paper. She sees them reading and working and learning; these things are simply a part of our days, a part of our life, a part of our world.

In the long run, she'll have far more time with me, alone and otherwise, than she would if she was headed for school in a year or two. She may not have mornings alone with mommy while her brothers are at school, but she also won't be away from me at preschool (and isn't now) for several hours a week. And later, she won't be away from me for 7 hours a day, as she would if she were traditionally schooled. I think my worries about time spent with her are truly no worry at all.

The key to making this life work well for all of them, I think, is to mindfully spend time with each of them, each day. That has always been easy with my oldest; he loves attention and if he's feeling neglected, he will be right there to tell you all about it. I naturally spend most of our school time with him; he's older with more work to do. I've recognized that for a long time, and done my best to make sure to attend to the needs of my younger son as best I can. He's quieter in his own fashion, and doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve, so I know I need to come to him to fill up his "love tank."

But my sweet girl, she needs that same effort. She needs to be held and loved and read to. She needs me to sit with her and watch her paste stickers or glob glue on construction paper. She needs me to integrate her into our day as I can, instead of pushing her off so I can get things done with her brothers.

It isn't easy, I'll tell you that. Schooling two instead of just one this year has made a pretty significant difference in how our days flow, even though my kindergartner's workload is gentle. Adding a third is a challenge. And it isn't a curriculum or a set of plans that she needs. She just needs time. I have the resources; the books, the toys, the art supplies. I just need to be sure to set aside the time to be with her. It's what I'm working on as we head into the second month of the year.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Ancient Hebrews and Us

Recently, I've been reading, "Walking With God," by Jeff Cavins and Tim Gray. It walks you through the narrative portions of the Bible, showing how it is one long story of salvation history. I've found it fascinating, and as I haven't delved very deeply into the Old Testament before, I have learned a great deal.

As I read about the plight of Israel, and learn more about the things they went through prior to the birth of Jesus, I am finding so many parts of the story I wasn't familiar with; levels of meaning that are deeper than the "Bible story" versions I remember. For instance, when Moses first goes to Pharaoh, he does not ask for his people to be set free from slavery entirely; he merely asks that they are allowed to leave for three days to worship God in the desert. And the various plagues God unleashed upon Egypt were calculated to attack the power of specific Egyptian deities, showing that He is the true God, not them. The entire Exodus story was not just a story of a people freed from a life of slavery; it is the story of God trying to wrestle his people from the grip of idolatry.

The ancient Hebrews were living in a world of pagan cultures. From their time amongst the Egyptians, to being surrounded by Canaanites, Philistines and others; to their time of exile amongst Babylonians and Assyrians, to being conquered by Greeks and Romans, the Hebrews were constantly living in and around cultures who had dramatically different beliefs, customs and practices. Time and time again, they veered from God's law, and took up the practices of their neighbors. In reading the scriptures, it is easy (at least for me), to wonder how it was that they slipped into idolatry so easily. How could they forget what God had done for them and abandon his ways, even in the face of danger and difficulty, even when they had prophets trying to guide their way? The very voice of God spoke to them on different occasions. They witnessed amazing miracles and clear signs of God's favor or disapproval.

But what one needs to remember is how different their life was supposed to be from their neighbors, and how difficult that must have been.

What has struck me, is how the story of the Hebrews and their pitfalls and trials, so mirrors the story of any one of us today. We may no longer be called to adhere to strict cultural laws that govern what we eat, maintain cleanliness, and how we worship God. But we are called to adhere to God's commands, and to live a life that is different from many around us. No longer are God's people living amongst pagan cultures such as the Egyptians, Assyrians or Greeks. We now live in world of secular idolatry. The new paganism that we are surrounded by is the secular culture of our day; a world in which many of the ways we, as Christians, are called to live are contrary to what we see around us. We are asked to set ourselves apart, and live differently. And like the ancient Hebrews before us, that's hard to do.

Instead of having to choose whether to adhere to the traditions and practices of our fathers, or worship the statue down the street, we have to choose whether to remain steadfast to the teachings of Jesus and the Church, or allow ourselves to be swept up in the tide of modern culture. It isn't easy to choose to live a life that is different from many of those around you; to hold fast to different beliefs and practices. To continue to go to mass, to pray, to stand up for what we believe to be right. Like the Hebrews before us, we are surrounded, in the midst of a mass of people who do not know God, or if they do, have chosen to reject Him. In the midst of this, we are asked to be different, to be faithful, to trust.

And the worst part is, when you read the Scriptures, you realize how terribly the Hebrews failed! They failed time and time again. God would send them instructions, and they would ignore them. God sent prophets, messages, even angels! And still, the Hebrew people seem almost fickle in their wavering from faithfulness to rejection of God's ways. The hope inherent in these stories is of course that God's mercy and forgiveness are always offered, if the people will be obedient and follow Him.

We know, 2,000 years later, that in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness and redemption. We know the law was fulfilled in him, and we understand more of what it means to live according to God's law. And yet, like the Hebrews before us, we fail. Even when we believe, even when we try to dedicate our lives to God and live the way He wishes for us, we fail. We mess up. We aren't faithful. We don't trust. I know I don't, far more often than I really want to admit.

But again, like the Hebrews before us, we find our ultimate redemption, and ultimate hope, in Jesus, and in the everlasting mercy and forgiveness of God. If God can hang in there through the ups and downs of the Hebrews, I'm quite certain He can hang in there with the least of us. It has been a comforting, and yet eye opening discovery. It makes me wonder how I can learn from those people of so long ago - learn to trust and be faithful, even when it is hard.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Yoga pants

I just saw this funny ecard on Pinterest, and I totally relate:

Of course it does - especially if you've showered first
But then I was all, wait a sec... I wear black yoga pants almost every day. To me, that IS getting dressed, and not in a funny "oh yeah, this phase of life means I'm a slob" way. I just wear them.

Granted, I get dressed up to go out (mostly). I'll throw on jeans if we have to leave the house (and yes, that does qualify as "dressing up," thankyouverymuch). And my very favorite fashion trend ever is the scarf. I can wear jeans and a plain t-shirt, tie a scarf around my neck, and suddenly I look all put together and stuff.

And don't get me started on my knee high boots. I hope that trend never goes away, ever.

But at home? Yoga pants. And honestly, why the heck not? I am not a fashion-y person. I like to look cute, but my fashion sense is really basic and I absolutely value comfort. So yoga pants, a t-shirt and an open cardigan over the top? Heck yeah. That's homeschool mommy finery right there. But I don't feel the least bit sloppy in them - I just feel comfy-cozy. And cute, gosh darnit. Those babies make my tushie look good :).

I guess the implication to the mom in yoga pants is that she no longer cares enough about herself to put effort into hear appearance; that she doesn't value her place in the world because she's spending all her time caring for little people, so what does it matter what she wears.

There is something to be said for putting care into your appearance. Doing something with my hair and putting on a little makeup go a long way to making me feel put together, presentable and pretty. And I do those things regularly. But when we're home, makeup or no, I like my yoga pants. I don't feel frumpy or sloppy in them - I feel just right, and silly internet meme or no, I'm sticking with 'em!

I'm counting this as one of the benefits of being a stay-home-mommy. Yoga pants for the win!