Sunday, June 28, 2009

My day dreams

Every one that I know seems to have one or two things that fill their day dreams. For my family, this is especially true because I live with a family of dreamers. (Check here and see if your personality type is a dreamer/visionary, too.) My husband dreams of our farm. My best friend dreams of her writing. My son dreams of the movies he wants to create or the books he wants to write. My younger son dreams of the things he wants to build or pictures he wants to draw. I dream of decorating rooms and plans for school.

Lazy summer days allow for more time to dream. So I decided to begin putting my dreams on paper for our new school year, even though I only have a fraction of the books I need. I L-O-V-E to plan for school! I had the opportunity to send the boys to a day and a half of school this year, which has the exact same educational philosophy as I do, and they would simply send home assignments for me the other three and a half days. My husband helped me realized that I just couldn't get on board because I love to plan what we study! So, they are not going. It sounds crazy and control-freakish. But, it's not about control. I would love to give someone control of the many responsibilities that weigh heavily and swirl around in my head. No, the planning is the fuel that revs my home schooling engine. I'm just wired that way. It must sound crazy to those free-spirits out there, but I love a game plan.

So, I'm excited. Today I've planned what field trips we will take this year. I've planned Jaybird's history reading, history art projects, and our history read-alouds. Can you tell which subject is our favorite? (We are studying the early church and the Middle ages this year with The Mystery of History, vol. 2! So exciting! I have found historical fictions to read with almost every major person (mainly from the Veritas Press website and the Sonlight website). We are going to learn a lot and have a ball together. I found Jaybird's Apologia Astronomy book at a used book sale. But I am handing it over to Andy who will be teaching science to J this year. I firmly believe Jaybird is getting the best science teacher around and I'm so thankful!

I have also planned Toot's history/science unit studies for the year. He will not be tagging along with the Middle Ages and Astronomy with big brother. I'm following a strong conviction to let him learn other things. He will get one to two week snippits of all kinds of subjects like author studies, the weather, Reformation day, animal life cycles, Johnny Appleseed, the founding fathers, etc. I've planned his schedule down to the day, mainly using my old plan books from my days as a first grade teacher. We'll read a picture book on the topic and then do a hands-on project. It will be a big treat for both of us.

The most daunting and tricky task in my planning frenzy was making a schedule. I am flip-flopping from boy to boy like a frog. Next year I will not be combining any subject except Bible and our family devotions. But thankfully the boys are both strong readers and I have managed to have one doing an independent assignment while I work with the other one. I will be back and forth all day long! Lydie will be in preschool three mornings a week, and then in the mix the other mornings. She is very interested in learning her numbers, shapes, letters, etc. And she is playing independently with her vibrant imagination now, which will help next year.

Our school schedule makes my stomach hurt a little. I am going to be juggling many balls at once! But, we have tweaked our budget to allow me help with house cleaning. I am also going to get Tuesday mornings (boys taking extracurricular classes, Lydie in preschool) to be home alone. And, we are hiring a college student to come for three hours on Fridays so that I can run errands/ have time alone away from the house. I am thinking about meeting a friend for coffee once a month on Friday just to unwind and relax. So the busy schedule should be manageable as long as I have my time alone and help with the house. I definitely felt I was maxed out beyond my thresh hold for what I can handle this past winter and spring. I am very thankful that we can afford to modify things to relieve me of some time and responsibilities.

I am so jazzed about the year! It is never quite the way it seems "on paper", but I enjoy having an ideal to shoot for. So...back to the drawing board!

On the "planning" agenda next:
~Make a list of books we need (which means checking the library website for availability first)
~Start shopping with our garage sale money! Fun!
~Begin reading over "Prima Latina". Oh my goodness...we're diving into Latin. Yikes!
~Find a good geography cd-rom for Toot.

**If you've gotten this far without falling asleep on the keyboard, you must be a planner, too!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Half full or half empty

We are preparing to buy home school books for the fall. We are saving from here and there and trying to find ways to "raise" money. Today we had a garage sale. The boys and I decided to pray for $300. We got up at 6:00 and got set up. It was sweltering today and so sticky and humid! The boys and I prayed and prayed all day, $300, $300, please Lord!

By the end of the sale we barely scraped by with $150. I was very encouraged by the boys' attitudes. They were happy to have made some progress, and told me frequently it was "better than nothin' ". I took the unsold sofa and chair to a home consignment store, so who knows what the end total will be when we get the money for the furniture. I am thankful that we can experience these things together as a family. I feel like the way we handle these situations are what these boys will mimic in adulthood. Will they tend to handle bumps in the road with anger, rejection, pouting, throwing in the towel? Or will they tend to care less about the outcome and more about glorifying God?

Today's unmet goal was a good reminder for us all, that the Lord is always providing on His set scale. Sometimes that scale is enormous and beyond our imaginations. And sometimes, honestly, it can be disappointing. Nonetheless, He is at work and He is in control. And it feels amazing to just trust Him-blindly. Although I want my own way, (that is, I want to have the money so I can buy the books and start planning!), I am glad to have to draw closer to Him to trust and find comfort in Him. I feel very grateful tonight for a day well spent.

"In His heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

Friday, June 26, 2009

What's on your night stand?

These were the two books I read at the beach:

The Giver by Lois Lowry is phenominal. I recommend it to everyone. And if you read it in high school, it will mean something completely different to you now. It was a very easy read with some extremely challenging concepts. It was odd and addictive. I loved it! I read it in 2 days and then my husband picked it up and did the same!

Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parent's Guide by Lucy Calkins was interesting. I checked out the book because I liked her book on writing instruction. But the ideas in this book seemed a little unreasonable and fluffy. I liked the main concept of the book, but it reeked a little too strongly of constructivism and humanism for my taste. I love the idea of providing a rich environment in which children can discover, explore and create on their own. But, I do not believe that goodness and knowledge are bound up inside of a child waiting to be discovered. I think these things need to be imparted (by the work of the Lord through instruments of His grace) and nurtured. Surely there is a balance between organized instruction and free exploration. That is the type of environment I am seeking to create. Maybe that's why I am holding on to the hope that I can mix Charlotte Mason's ideas with a classical curriculum!
Next on my reading list are:
Teach Them Diligently (Lou Priolo)
This Heavy Silence (Nicole Mazzarella)
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (Tim Lane)
What are you reading? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A week on the coast

Our vacation this year was one of my favorites. Vacations just get better and better as the kids get older. We slept late almost every day. We spent from 10-4 at the beach and pool. The boys loved the ocean, swimming to the sand bar together. I was a little nervous about their fearlessness. But there was a green flag every day and the water was beautiful. Lydie enjoyed the sand. And we all enjoyed the pool with its waterfalls and twists and turns.

Each night after showers and rest time, we went out to dinner. Mimi declared the week a "no cook week" and we stuck by that rule. What a treat to not have to cook or clean the kitchen! We ate fish and shrimp to our hearts content, along with a variety of tropical drinks.

Andy came down late Tuesday night (really early Wednesday morning) to join us. We were so excited that his work trip out of town was cancelled and he had vacation days to use! One of my favorite memories was our date night. We just walked on the beach, hand-in-hand and talked. We also had time alone with the boys for an entire day at the water park. That was so much fun! They were old enough this year to brave the slides by themselves. And I had a shopping day with just the girls- Mimi, Lydie and me. And Mimi allowed me to enjoy an afternoon alone getting a pedicure and reading 4 magazines cover to cover! We also played mini-golf (3 times) as a family! And we did a night time crab hunt with the flash lights. It was our typical schedule at the beach. I loved every minute of it! There's nothing like the Gulf coast in the summer!
"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choice less as a beach- waiting for a gift from the sea."
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father's day

We celebrated a day late this year due to our travels. We tried to celebrate on Sunday, but 7 hours in the car foiled our plans. So, last night the kids and I made Andy's favorite dinner. It's a yummy Japanese-style beef and veggie dish. We made him a chocolate cake for dessert. The kids made cards with the usual jokes for Daddy. Our night was a very small gesture, unequalled to a man that is a very wonderful father!

I love my sweet husband. My heart beams when I see him with my children. He really loves to be with us, and tells us so almost every day. He teaches the boys so much about the world. Taking a walk with him is a learning experience in itself. He is chocked full of knowledge about the outdoors. With me, the boys are always saying, "Mama, look at..." But with Andy, they are soaking in the information.
I love the way he is so affectionate and interested in our lives. I love the way he is protective of us. I love that he always, always asks for forgiveness- what a great model for the children. And most of all, I love his integrity and humility. He is such an incredible, godly man- but you would never hear him toot his own horn.
Sometimes I try to take a minute to look at our life through the eyes of our children. My very first observation is how much they enjoy their Daddy. We are all blessed beyond measure to have him leading us along!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reception raves

Last Saturday we had our end-of-the-year reception with family at the farm. I wanted the boys to have an outlet to share their accomplishments from the year, but I was a little anxious about doing so with our family. I feared the kids would be bored or uninterested and the adults might think it was silly or selfish. But, neither was the case!

We decided to play all day, and then have the reception before dinner. Our family arrived at the farm around 11 in the morning. There were scattered rainstorms, but no lightning. So we let the kids play in the puddles and rain. They also played on the new swing set Poppy installed, the pool, the slip and slide, and the four wheelers. Some other fun was had playing badminton, volleyball, and soft ball. And, the boys favorite activity was when Andy took them on a hike to find snakes and craw fish at the creek.

And let's not forget the food. Burgers, fresh veggies from the garden, my brother's ribs, and more were served in excess. And Mimi brought a cake in honor of our year. My Dad just had an old shed torn down and rebuilt it into a big, screened porch with rocking chairs. It was the perfect get-away from the occasional rain storm or the bugs.

During our "presentation", my family was so attentive and interested! They seemed proud and eager to hear what we had done together. None of our nieces or nephews are home schooled, so I wasn't sure what their reaction would be. They each poured over the pictures and school work in the boys' portfolios. They asked questions. They were good listeners. And, the boys did a fabulous job on their history reports!
At the end of the presentation, the kids each got a certificate. Besides working hard in school, they each received special recognition for what I've seen develop spiritually. Jaybird was recognized for being an outstanding servant to me this year. His help and good attitude was amazing. Toot was recognized for always being eager and willing to learn. I do not remember a day when he wasn't excited to start school. And Lydie was recognized for coming a long way in learning to be patient with Mommy when I am teaching, and for being willing to share my time so well.

Now I feel like our school year is really over. With a relaxing vacation and the first day of summer officially beginning yesterday, I am ready for some lazy days at the pool. This school year was challenging and not always smooth, but I can look back and see how each of us has grown and how we have been blessed as we have learned together. God has been so good to us to guide us along and make this journey fun and interesting.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Our reception and vacation were wonderful beyond my expectations. But, it is such a warm feeling to come home after 10 days away! I had time alone with each of the kids, as well as my husband on this trip to the beach. AND, I had time alone with myself. More about that later. But for now, here are a handful of pictures that describe our little family.

**We had an hour wait at a restaurant last night, and we let the kids play with my camera. We laughed until our bellies ached. I can't imagine the fools we made of ourselves in the middle of the Red Robin with our booth flashing over and over again from the pictures. It was one of my favorite vacation memories.

We are...

easily tickled,

complete goofballs,

the parents that make fools of ourselves to entertain our kids,

reel smart,

a closely knit little bunch,

affectionate (she's blowing us a kiss),

not skeered to eat,

Very, very happy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Deep breaths

I finally got my act together yesterday. My friend read my post yesterday about all my craziness, and offered to have my kids over for the morning. Keep in mind, she has one daughter that is getting ready to head to college. This was not an "I'm watching my own kids any way, what's 3 more?" kinda offer. She took her quiet, clean, peaceful house and filled it with my bunch. Wow, that's servanthood! I like to call her and some of her friends my "torch bearers". I just creep through the uncertain, dark paths of motherhood and look ahead to these fabulous examples that shine the light for me. What a blessing!! Thank you, Michele!

With her help, I finished our portfolios, gathered all we needed for our reception, and made our (very home-made looking) costumes. I invested $30 on materials, and we used scissors, a hot glue gun, and safety pins. The boys will wear these costumes when they give their history reports for family tomorrow. Now, that I look at the pictures, I see the costumes are a little lop-sided. We'll have to pull out the scissors again. Can you guess who is their favorite historical figure from the year?

(If you guessed King Tut and Joseph, give yourself a pat on the back.)

Then after dinner, I ran to church to make tie-dye t-shirts with the high school girls. I'm excited about another year of volunteering as a discipleship leader beginning in the fall.
Today I am preparing myself for an entire morning of packing. We have not packed anything (for a 10 day trip that starts in 4 hours)! And then, after lunch...we are off!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bee brain

Give me a meal to cook, a troubled-friend to talk to on the phone, a toddler on the hip, and two boys working out math problems at the table and I am good. I can do those things all at once. But, give me a bunch of events on my plate all at once and you will find me staring into space.

Right now, I am preparing for an end-of-the-year reception for the boys at our farm this weekend. (This requires making costumes for their history reports, finishing their portfolios, buying lots of food, and that kind of thing.) Straight from the farm, we leave for the beach for seven days. I haven't packed ONE SINGLE ITEM. And after those two trips I am anticipating my children's birthday parties (in July, August, and September). Not to mention, my role at VBS and the preparation I am not doing. And then there are the decisions I need to make for school curriculum next year and the planning. Did I mention I am hosting Camp Stinky Feet this year? And finally, I can't put off the preparation I need to do for my big summer consignment sale in July.

Who says summer is restful?? Actually, in spite of the ongoing stuff, I love summer. The only thing that is hard is that my kids go from being creative and easily-entertained to little parrots that ask, "What are we doing today?" Something about having the entire day to play freezes them up.

My usual motto is to finish one thing at a time and focus on that thing. But right now, my schedule requires that I work on many of these tasks at once. My brain feels like bees in a beehive with ideas and thoughts buzzing around and bumping into one another. It makes me dizzy. I am definitely NOT the multi-tasker!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mercy found

Jaybird and I spent the morning with an inner city ministry today. I realized when I married my husband (and saw servant hood personified) that I do not have a mercy-driven heart. I have spent many years praying that I would emulate my husband's heart- Christ's heart- in the area of mercy. Especially recently since I have noticed a trend. If parents have a heart for serving others, their children seem to as well. Also, I believe God uses even a simple task, like serving lunch, to draw His people to himself. I want to be a part of His work!

My family has always been a very close one. I grew up with an extraordinary example of generosity and tightly knit family bonds. But mostly our time and money that was used helping others did not extend beyond family. (I am speaking of what I witnessed in my own home, not with extended family like my grandparents.) And for that reason, and probably my own personality, I find it very tempting to spend my time focused on only the people under this roof. If I am praying for some one's salvation, it will mostly be my children's. If I am looking for extra time to or money to spend, I would prefer to direct it towards my husband or my own children. I can be very near-sighted.

The good thing is, God has made me more aware of my choices. One of my biggest hopes for our first year of homeschooling was to serve others regularly. We made more time for mercy ministries this year, but still not nearly enough as I would like. So this summer I have been praying and watching. It just so happens that the Lord has given us three areas just this week to be used to stretch us. Today was one. Just being in an unsafe area of town is a stretch for me. But our morning was a great experience. Along with a few other families at our church, we helped serve lunch to 60 campers. The children's manners and gratitude were such a pleasure. And the director's sweet, firm leadership style was encouraging. We exchanged a little of our time for the privilege of being the hands and feet of Christ to some needy children. And it's exciting to wonder how God was at work in the midst of us all. (Mainly, he was using the children to change me!) I hope to have more opportunities like today- especially if I can have them along side of my family.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

My crown

After a not-so-smooth departure to church this morning, I was left with sadness and disappointment driving to church. Those feelings prompted me to ask the kids to forgive me for my impatience, mainly shown towards my two year old. After a few minutes of silent "arrow prayers", God was good to renew me by jogging my memory a little.

I remembered the song I've heard dozens of times before about wearing "forgiveness like a crown". And that reminded me of the analogy of Christ's righteousness being imputed to me like a royal robe. All of a sudden, the imagery turned my shame into something beautiful.

It is true that we only bring "filthy rags" to our relationship with Christ (as Romans says), but Christ's death and resurrection transform us into royalty. Not because of what we have done (whether good, bad or ugly), but because of Him. In a quick car ride, I went from feeling defeated to feeling lavish and beautiful- all because of Christ. My unworthiness made the gospel more beautiful to me. And the beauty of His grace and forgiveness swallowed up my discouragement. By the time we arrived at church, I felt almost as princess-like as my two year old. And that's saying a lot.

God used this experience to prepare me for several conversations I encountered through out the day. Like the tender friend whose daughter is preparing for college away from home. Or the broken-hearted Mom whose son is rebelling. And the young Mom of a toddler and baby that is gripping herself for potty training. We all wonder, "How will we do it?" It was helpful to remember that we are not walking alone. We don't have to bear the weight of our shortcomings or our hardships. If we know Christ, His death and resurrection on our behalf sets us free to feel and express love lavishly. And his grace sees us through the seemingly unbearable. As our pastor mentioned today, our relationships will be bumpy and painful. But the more we fix our eyes on Christ, the more we have to give and the less we have to carry. The freedom is exhilarating!

"To love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
- C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Just us, looking in "the same direction"

We have made date nights a priority around here. We have three children. So it works well to designate a date night (Friday is ours). And then we alternate dating each child and the last Friday Andy and I have our own date. We have done a few one-on-one outings with the kids over the years, but never on a regular basis.
Last Friday was our first time. Andy suggested that Jaybird and I take the first date. My son asked if we could see Night at the Museum at the Imax theatre. Even though we couldn't actually talk in the theatre, we had great, focussed/uninterrupted conversation in the car. Plus, it was nice to just be together. We shared some candy and good laughs. These nights might just be the highlight of our summer!
This is just one of many attempts to wrestle with time.

Slow down!!!

"Loving is not just looking at each other, it's looking in the same direction."

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A bike ride

::Maybe it's the graduation of the senior students from church ::Or the birth of new kittens in the house

::Or the untimely death of my nephew's 7 year old friend
::Or the end of another year of schoolBut, I feel overwhelmed with the sense that time is moving too fast for me, and I don't like this feeling at all. I'm trying to wrap my arms around it. I remember the first time I realized how limited time is on earth, but how limitless time would be after death. I was in fifth grade and I rode my bike around my neighborhood crying for over an hour. It was just too big for me. Today I feel like I need another bike ride. Only today I'm not scared of what I will be doing after death, but what I might miss right now. Praying that God would show me how to magnify Him today! He makes this mysterious life full of Joy and excitement!