Tuesday, August 31, 2010

14th anniversary

My sweetheart and I celebrated 14 years of marriage this past weekend. (Thank the Lord, because on Sunday morning I woke up with strep throat!) Our anniversary is actually today, but 8 years ago we gave away August 31st as a day to celebrate the birth of our second son! (More on his day later!) I could never express the joy it gives me to be married to Andy. He is incredibly patient, understanding, and giving. He adores us, but always, always seeks to follow Christ and lead us along in that direction. He and I are so completely the same in our convictions, and so completely opposite in personality and hobbies. It makes for a rich, challenging, exciting life together! We've had a whirlwind romance since I met him my very first weekend at college. His depth, integrity, and shyness were so intriguing to me. By Thanksgiving of our freshman year (just before my 18th birthday), he told me for the first time that he wanted me to be his wife (some day). I had developed the deepest friendship with him that I had ever experienced, not to mention electric chemistry. The love letters from those days are so fun to read! We were head over heels, hated to be apart, and thankfully all of our friends were friends. And that was that, we were inseparable all the way through college. Our college memories are golden. When I smell the air in Auburn I get butterflies. So thankful for God's grace and guidance in our lives since that fall of 1993! We have a beautiful life together!

This past weekend we went to a magnificent restaurant called The Craft and then to see The Sound of Music at the fabulous Fox (It was UNBELIEVABLE!). I happened to be in a silly mood all night long. And just before we left the Fox we saw a young couple get engaged just beside us. I had actually wished for that very thing at dinner. So fun and sweet.

I am so honored to spend my days with such an incredible man. He points me to Christ, challenges me, is a wonderful listener, an unbelievable Dad, and so smart and talented. I wake up and go to bed knowing (most of the time, unless I forgetor listen to the Liar) that he is genuinely interested in me, proud and thankful for me, and that I am deeply loved and appreciated. I love you, Andy! Happy anniversary, darling!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Words that have given me courage

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." ~Proverbs 25:11

I will lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip; he who watches over you will not slumber."

Psalm 121:1-2

Oh soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There's light for a look at the Savior,

And life more ABUNDANT and FREE!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

look full in his wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace!

His word shall not fail you He promised;

Believe Him and all will be well:

Then go to a world that is dying,

His perfect salvation to tell!

James 1:2-8

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not believe he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

Words from two of my friends who do not homeschool:

A note from Liz, along with a tea mug stating, "REJOICE":


Praying for you daily as you begin this exciting chapter of life-loving your family."

And an email from an old friend, Maryanne:

"...Let your head encourage your heart today that you would not believe any of Satan's lies. He is such a devouring lion. Praying for you today..."

"What lies behind us and what lies be us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

And all of the beautiful comments and emails- thank you!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The hardest part of being a homeschooling Mom

Whether you homeschool or not, this post may discourage you. Please forgive me if it is discouraging. I feel this is the time and place to express some raw emotions and clear my head. If you feel stressed, please quit reading.

I feel that I am in the middle of experiencing numerous difficulties of homeschooling my children. It is a very lonely place to be because I certainly do not want to share my struggles with my friends who homeschool, for concern that I might discourage them. And with my other friends, I sometimes get the feeling that they wonder why I am "doing this to myself in the first place". (Other comments that have given me that idea are, "I would never do that." and "Are you out of your mind?" and "Why would you want to homeschool?" and "You are not planning on doing that all the way through high school, are you?") It is very difficult to describe in a way that sounds believable and convincing just how much I feel called by God to do this with/for my children at this time. I mean, we left a very wonderful, comfortable situation (private school with tuition paid by a family member) to venture into homeschooling. It was an undeniable calling, trust me.

This calling is beautiful, wonderful, rewarding, interesting, and stretching (in a good way). But, it is also very hard. Right now my husband has a strenuous work schedule that requires occasional trips for 5 days in a row. He has also joined a hunting club that requires weekend travel various weekends through out the year. When these weeks come, I get completely exhausted. He is an amazing relief to me over the weekends, usually giving me time alone on Saturdays and rest on Sundays to revamp for a new week. The fact that I really struggle to sleep well when he is away from home exasperates the exhaustion issue even more.

Also, I feel torn frequently in trying to balance whom to serve. Being a full time teacher to 3 very individual children is a challenge I relish. I really enjoy the thought, planning, and careful selection of books and materials that we use. And I really enjoy these days of learning and living life together, and I have seen great rewards. But this aspect of my day is only one in dozens. Like most Moms, I also cook (trying to cook more from scratch b/c we can not afford organic), clean my house (no house cleaner this year), pay the bills and keep the budget, shop, decorate, wash clothes, garden, and sometimes do the yard work/pool maintenance when Andy's job demands his time. I wish these things were fast and simple, but with our budget I am required to research sales, consign, buy second-hand, and cut coupons which require patience and time.

My children are not involved in a large amount of activities, but do attend tennis, pe, art, and ballet weekly, not to mention church and church-related activities. (I am attempting to teach the boys piano at home to save money and time, too.) And I try to make sure they spend an afternoon each week with a friend. Once all of these school/Mom/house manager things are done I am whipped. I struggle to maintain time for exercise, time to sit and connect with my husband (although, by God's grace we remain close), and time to enjoy relationships with our family who are all in a different state, as well as our friends and the teenagers in my discipleship group. We find ourselves using our home a lot for ministry and friends, which is truly a joy (and one of the few spiritual gifts that Andy and I share) but a challenge energy-wise. I need a mentor, and actually I have someone who has agreed to be one for me! But we can not find the time to get together. I am pooped in the evenings or busy wrapping up house work.

All this to say, this homeschooling lifestyle has enabled my children to really blossom, given us the opportunity for much closer relationships, and delivered a very tailored education to each one. Plus, I love the way learning together has become a lifestyle, spanning beyond the frame of "school time". But I find it very difficult to maintain all of the other categories of my life well without feeling sick with exhaustion. We have very little help due to out-of-state family and a skimpy budget that does not permit many opportunities to utilize baby sitting. I find it a bit ridiculous, but absolutely necessary, that I am usually still folding laundry or sweeping the floors at 9 or 10 pm. My children already do more chores than most children their age. If I have them do much more we will not get our school work done in time for afternoon commitments.

I love my life and the the choices we have made, but I am not sure how long I can maintain this work load, especially when my husband's travel schedule heats up. I am not sure what gives. I sound like I big fat whiner. But honestly, I really just want to understand how to make it all work. I am beginning to think I am not the best time manager. For example, I will stop just about anything to have a conversation with a friend, especially another Mom who needs a listening ear. I get these types of phone calls frequently and enjoy my friends so much. I have not set too many limits in this area because I see God at work in these relationships and I think they are vital. I have been told I have the gift of encouragement and I enjoy using that gift. But maybe areas such as these need boundaries?

And finally the point of this post: Can anyone relate? How do I balance it all and maintain good health (I have gained 10 pounds since I began homeschooling 2 years ago!)? If you are a working (or homeschooling) Mom who does not employ house or yard help, when/how do you do it? I feel the Lord urging me to press on with homeschooling, and I will do so with joy. But I also know we need to make some changes and I have no idea where to start! I know the Lord does not give us more than we can handle, so I think the issue is not the amount of responsibility but the way in which I am handling it.

My boys!

I found some pictures that I had never seen before from my husband's digital files. They stirred some wonderful memories of days gone by with only two boys!
Apparently boys tie one another to trees when they go on camping trips with little cousin.

That year I gave Andy a canoe for his birthday.

This little 3 year old will be 8 next week. Be still my beating heart!

This one made me shed a tear or two. They are really sweet boys.

This is lovely, Papa. What (little and big) boys do when Mom (or wife) is away.

This looks fun!

If I could visit anywhere in time, these days would be one of my picks!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Words to remember this school year

Our special verse(s) for this year
Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His.
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good
and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues to all generations.
Our continued school motto
Love: Learn: Serve
My current favorite quote
"A flurry of accomplishments will not get us happily across life's finish line. Tasks are not the purpose nor the priority. If to-do lists are what compels us, inevitably, we'll stumble. Because that is not the essence of family life. The essence of family life is the care of souls."
~Ann Voskamp

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pre-K week 1

This post linked here:
My youngest child (Lydie) will be 4 next month. This week was her first week of Pre-K at home. We really had fun together. She is very eager, excited, and quick to learn. We are following Horizon's Pre-K workbooks for fundamental skills like writing, reading, numbers, letters, shapes, cutting, glueing, etc. And it is fun to watch Lydie make connections and learn.
After we work on the Horizons book, we follow the lessons in Before Five in a Row(BFIAR). I love it! It uses a book that you read every day for a week to teach skills and discuss concepts. Each day it also suggests various projects to do together. I like to add a few extra things of my own, as well. This week our book was Jesse Bear, Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?. Here are some of the activities we enjoyed together:
Lacing bears which lead to...

Lacing beads which lead to...
Using the string as a lasso and spending the morning in cowgirl world. Oh the joys of a preschooler!

Painting and a bear face made out of circles

Counting Teddy Grahams
Her own re-enactment of the book
Sorting, counting, writing with gummy bears. (Check out the 5. :) )

A tea party for her bears

Both Horizons and BFIAR take a total of an hour to an hour and a half a day, a relatively small amount of time, but so valuable and fun. I am so excited about our year together!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Farm to table

My husband's best friends have jointly rented a piece of property for their personal garden. They have enough land to grow things that we can not in our very small garden. Last weekend the kids and Andy went to visit and came home with some goodies. I decided to discover a use for these yesterday.

Believe it or not, 6 small pumpkins will produce all of these muffins (there were about 80 before the kids began snacking) and breads (5 loaves). I am giving some away. But if I didn't we would have enough food for about 30 breakfasts because these items stay fresh very well in the freezer.
I am obviously not always a homemade cook (note previous post on buying bulk at Costco-all canned and frozen). But I really enjoy the "farm to table" cooking. It tastes and makes us feel so wonderful! And, it is good bonding time with the kids, particulary my girl who loves to be in the kitchen with me.

My Dad has promised to build me a "little house" at the farm for this type of cooking. He is going to include a big kitchen for canning and a lot of storage for freshly stored food/jars. I am going to try to persuade him to install 2 convection ovens as well. I invested 6 hours, over the course of 2 days, in roasting and mashing the pumpkins and then making the muffins and bread due to a small oven. But still, I am very much looking forward to a future with much, much more fresh food. It is very rewarding and satisfying to make food from scratch, especially when the main components were grown by a friend or yourself.

Last week we watched this movie.

It changed my perspective on food- for the better! It's on Netflix Instant Streaming or can be found in the documentary section at the video store. Go rent it today! I am becoming more and more interested and excited about moving to our farm! But even if we were not moving to a farm, I would be very interested in making some changes in our diet. I don't believe "We are what we eat!" but I do think what we consume obviously effects our mental and physical health. And I think as a Christian I should be willing to invest time, money, and energy in being good stewards of all that God has given me.

To prepare fresh pumpkins for bread or muffins:

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out insides. Fill pyrex dish 1/4" full of water. Put in pumpkins, insides down. Roast on 350 for 60 minutes. After cooling, skin will easily peel off. Pumpkin can be mashed easily and stored in Mason jars in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before use.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First day

This week we are slowly easing into school routine. We are going to finish up our last 5 history stories from last year, enjoy review in math, and read and write together. Next week we will forge ahead full throttle with this year's new curriculum! My new little student loved her day! She enjoyed so much her pre-k letter and number lesson. And she loved reading and doing a craft with me. I am excited, yet bracing myself for being an ever-faster ping-pong around here. It's going to be quite a challenge!

And after lunch, a first day celebration at our favorite yogurt cafe!

Fourth and second grade (and pre-K) here we come!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Last day of summer break

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all is right with the world."

~Ada Louise Huxtable

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy birthday, boys!

This year we went the easy route, thankfully. As we were walking out the door for the party, not only did it begin to rain but we had people come with an agent to look at our house. I am SO glad we did not host the party at our house! We have also found that having the boys' party the weekend after school starts will enable almost all of their friends to come!I hope the Moms enjoyed an excuse to sit and gab.
The grandparents traveled 3 hours for a 2 hour party! Thank you!

Jackson's best friend came dressed in Harry Potter costume as a surprise for Jackson. So adorable and fun!

Fun gifts

Gotta love the older girls who watch out for Lydie! She is well loved.
Some buddies at the party
Homeschooled gangsta from suburbia :)
Super cool book!
The cakes were a hit.
Happy birthday, my darling boys!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Birthday cakes

The boys' party is this Saturday. We had some fun looking back at cakes from years past. They are amateurish and sloppy, but it's a family tradition to make them ourselves and we've had fun together. I have a mental list of things I want the kids to remember when they grow up. Hearing (and seeing) the gospel, music in our house, meals around the table, hosting friends, laughter, etc. And somewhere on that list feeling celebrated on their birthdays is a priority. Here are a few of our past cakes:


Indiana Jones


Mini-golf course


This year Jackson's favorite books were the Harry Potter series. Joshua has loved anything Mario. So Lydie and I took the boys' requests and got to baking Thursday afternoon.

Birthday cake baking with my baking partner!

*This spatula was put into the dishwasher after licking and not back into the bowl, friends!

I can't believe I am done with the birthday cakes this early! I have a full 24 hours until the party! Andy and I are usually up until midnight the night before. And usually around 10PM I send him to the store. (Like the year I didn't grease and flour the cake pans.) Good times.

Here are this year's cakes:
Harry Potter hats and wands
Mario and Luigi cake

I love the kids' birthday parties!