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!