Thursday, January 15, 2015

Leaving the books out...

I think Evan made Ben this awesome plane. At least, I think it's a plane. Could be a tractor. Maybe.

There's this super simple thing I've started doing lately that's making a difference in our homeschool. I'm guessing probably everybody does it already, and I'm the last one walking into the party with my maracas, but just in case somebody else here has not yet arrived in their sombrero... here goes.

I leave out unfinished work. 

Yep, that's it. Told ya it was bonehead simple.

I shall expound, however. So, at morning time, I take out all the books I will be using, and I put them in a pile next to me on the floor by the sofa. Said sofa is in the picture above. As we use each one, it goes into one of the many small cloth crates I have lying around (also pictured in the left hand corner of the picture above.) We sing a hymn, hymnal goes into crate, read SOTW, it goes into the crate, etc. But I often forget to do Seth's reading lesson for the day (we're finishing up Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading), so I leave that one out. It may be lying on the arm of the sofa, or it may be on the floor, but I DO NOT put it away.

This way, when I walk by it over and over again, I will remember that we haven't done that yet. Its presence is like a flashing red beacon saying, "Your son doesn't know enough about compound words yet. Use me! Love me!" 

Same goes for the pile of books for tablework on the kitchen table. I put out a stack for Seth and a stack for Evan. Seth's stack got done early in the day, but Evan's didn't. It was still sitting there after lunch, mocking me. "Get to me. You know you'll feel better if you do, even if he is just in pre-K. Ahh. Doesn't that feel good?" 

You're welcome. I'm just here to make you feel better about yourself. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Homeschool mom t-shirts...

Ok, so if you homeschool, I know you've seen those homeschool mom t-shirts. I've walked by that booth at the homeschool conference. I'll slow down in the middle of my mad dash to get to Rainbow Resource before they're out of my preferred spelling book, but I don't slow down much.

Maybe this is considered sacrilege, but most of those t-shirts make me cringe a bit. Yeah. Sorry, but it's true.

One of the best sellers seems to be this one that says "I'm a homeschool mom. What's your superpower?" Then there's this one about being a full time multi-tasking ninja. Maybe I could like the one about being in love with your kid's principal, but I think "yeah, too confusing and possibly risqué."

I think what I don't like about most of these shirts is the tone of "we can do it all, and we're proud of it."

I'm telling ya, if I was wearing one of those bad boys to the park, that would be the day that my boys decided to play rough with all the toddlers, and then my oldest would come up to me and say, "Mom, how do you spell "us" again?"

Where's the t-shirt that says, "I'm a homeschooling mom, and I'm completely exhausted, and we're behind in math, and I'm just praying that I'm not making my children stupid?" Yeah, they're not making those yet, shockingly enough.

People buy t-shirts that say that they're proud of their sports team or they love chess or that they think Wyoming is beautiful. I know t-shirt sayings don't mean that much.

But when I see those t-shirts I think about the mom I met on the playground the other day who asked me how many boys I have, and then she told me that she'd homeschooled her two boys for a year. "They were so close together in age, and it was just too hard." I'd had a rough morning with my guys, and I understood. I could look at her and say, "I know what you're saying."

In my state, homeschooling is an increasingly popular education choice. Last year, there were more children in my county being homeschooled than were enrolled in our private schools. Homeschooling feels like it should be a viable option to a lot of families around here, and it seems to me that some of the people who aren't choosing it feel like they're not choosing it because they aren't strong enough.

How are those moms going to feel if I show up in a "homeschooling superwoman" shirt that is a complete lie on most of my exceptionally ordinary days with my non-child prodigy children who are not reading the Latin Vulgate for fun?

I want this company to make this into a t-shirt. I'd totally buy this one. Totally. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The next stage of mothering...

A friend of a friend posted this article on Facebook yesterday called "I'm Afraid to Stop Having Babies."  I talked about it with David last night and with a close friend today.

Ben is 3 now, and though he still has his passy at nap time, and though he still snuggles against me when he wakes up groggy from his nap, I see the day approaching when he'll no longer seem like a toddler. It's so easy for me to want to keep him a baby.

The baby stage is what I've lived and breathed for the last 7 years. That feels like such a long time in my life as a mother, and I've grown comfortable there. The unknown future with older children honestly seems scary to me, and though I know that's probably largely because I fear the unknown, it's still hard.

Maybe part of what I'm mourning is the loss of a simpler time of mothering. Parenting babies is tough, but it doesn't feel as complex to me as trying to figure out what sports would be best for my oldest or how to prepare him for yearly achievement testing. I knew what I was supposed to be doing with my little ones and how to do it (for the most part). We had fewer activities. Instead of tae kwon do and Cub Scouts, it was playing at the park and blowing bubbles in our cul de sac.

I'm beginning to navigate different waters now with my slightly older children, and I don't know what I'm doing. There are days that I really feel that.

I also don't feel like I was prepared somehow for mothering after the baby stage. All my life, I looked forward to getting married and having babies. That was what I dreamed about. The time after they were babies didn't get any consideration from me. I just didn't imagine it.

So now I'm here, living in an in between space. My youngest is still a toddler, but my oldest is in 2nd grade. Even if I had another baby tomorrow, the days of only parenting young ones are over for me. I probably just need to mourn the passing of that phase and get excited about the next one, and I know it.

Knowing it doesn't mean that it doesn't still feel sad and confusing sometimes. It doesn't mean that I shouldn't shed a tear or two about giving away the baby gear. Welcoming a new person into your family is such a  wonderful and special and unique kind of exciting. Feeling like you won't do that again should feel like a kind of loss, right?

I think my phrase for this year is going to be "Fear Not." I have a lot of fears, but I don't want to be ruled by them. More of my friends and acquaintances are dealing with cancer and health problems and parents dying. I've been dealing with chronic illness. Maybe part of wanting to stay in the young mother stage is wanting to live as if the natural difficulties of getting older can't touch me if I park there.

But I can't park there, and I want to live boldly and joyfully while it is still called today. I can't control what happens tomorrow, but I can fight to trust that God is good. He has good things for me and my family, and even though I don't have a clue what I'm doing so often in this parenting gig, and even though I don't know what trials will surely come, today is what I've got. I'm not supposed to worry about tomorrow. I'm supposed to serve and love and open my arms wide to welcome what He has for me, whatever that is.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Post Christmas...

We've been hit with a virus that's going around town, and I don't have much pleasant to say about the last few days. Fevers, coughs, snotty noses, and bad nights of sleep are things I don't really want to write about, much less slog through. We discovered that Evan had thrown up (from a snotty stomach probably) when we arrived at church for the Christmas Eve service, so we turned around and went home. That was pretty disappointing, but we had a pretty good Christmas anyway before David and Ben and I came down with the bug. 

But I do have a sweet story! :) Ben is only allowed to have a passy now at nap time. That has made his passy a treasured possession, lemme tell ya. Anyway, we have a baby doll wrapped in a white receiving blanket that we put on the table in the living room on Christmas Day. Ben decided that Baby Jesus needed a passy. He put his passy in Baby Jesus' mouth, and ran off as we all smiled. 

At nap time on Christmas Day, Ben looked longingly at Baby Jesus' passy. We asked him if he'd like to borrow it from Baby Jesus for his nap time. So he enthusiastically popped it in his mouth, and we headed upstairs for nap. After nap, the first thing he said was "I give the passy back to Baby Jesus now." And so he did, just as as soon as he got downstairs. :) 

He's gone through this routine for several days now. I'm putting off putting Baby Jesus away because it's so cute. :) 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wisdom of Anne....

"For a time she thought of all the old loved things behind her and then her thoughts ran ahead of her to the loved things before her. Her heart sang all the way because she was going home to a joyous house... a house where every one who crossed its threshold knew it was a home... a house that was filled all the time with laughter and silver mugs and snapshots and babies... precious things with curls and chubby knees... and rooms that would welcome her... where the chairs waited patiently and the dresses in her closet were expecting her... where little anniversaries were always being celebrated and little secrets were always being whispered."- Anne of Ingleside, p. 14

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Oven roasted sausage and potatoes...

Ok, so I got this recipe from a friend's link ages ago, and then the link stopped working, so I thought I'd post it here. It's become a staple around our house for my meat and potato lovers.

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes

1/2-1 pkg. smoked sausage, sliced
1 onion, chopped
5 red potatoes, cubed
a drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
generous dashes of paprika and thyme
shredded cheese

Grease a 9x13 Pyrex dish. Throw in the sausage, onions, and potatoes. Drizzle with oil and add seasonings and then stir to coat. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes- 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking. Add cheese on top at the end.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The youngest of them...

See this little angel? This little darling? The one with the smile that can turn all women in his life into melted butter in the wink of a eye?

Not so much this week.

It's dawning on me why I take less showers than I did when he was a newborn. He wakes up the second my feet hit the floor, and I can't trust him while I'm in the shower.

Last Sunday, he flushed two toothbrushes down the toilet. (David borrowed a pipe snake and got them out, but we think there's still something down there because it's still not flushing well.)

Yesterday, while I was taking that rare shower so that I wouldn't frighten all the other women at Bible study with my greasy hair, he pulled a stool up to the bathroom counter, climbed up, opened the medicine cabinet, opened a child proof bottle of ibuprofen, and drank everything in it (half a bottle's worth). When I caught him, he was trying to pry open the bottle of allergy medicine to continue his medicinal orgy.

I panicked, but a little research showed me that he would live with nothing more serious than sleepiness and possibly an upset tummy, so I packed us all up and headed to CBS. And then asked for prayer for how to handle his recent obsession with playing in the bathroom.

Last night I took him out for a little one-on-one errand running, and I didn't realize that David had left a hammer in a plastic bag in the backseat of this car. I heard a loud noise and turned around to see him hitting the passenger side window with a hammer. I had to stop the car in the middle of the road and take it away!

Today he pooped in his pants, and as I was stripping him and giving him a bath and dunking his dirty underwear in the toilet that he broke and wondering if I could flush it, I was seething.

But now it's evening, and Daddy's home, and we're watching the second Star Wars movie in front of the tv.  The big boys are asking excited questions and saying, "It's the Millennium Falcon. Do you see it?" He's begging for more pizza and humming the Weird Al "Yoda" song, and I feel a little less like running away from home.

But he just got into the wine glasses in the china cabinet while he was supposed to be in time out, so maybe I take that back… This 3-year-old is gonna be the death of me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A walk among the trees...

This morning, I put on a vest to ward off the slight chill in the air, laced up my shoes, and walked out the front door of the home where I grew up to wander aimlessly in the fall sunshine with my oldest boy. (This oldest boy is too tall and gangly for me to be comfortable with his tallness and ganglyness, but he still holds my hand, so I will begrudgingly accept this.)

I found myself heading down the driveway toward the road, and it was almost like my feet turned me left when we reached the end. We got to the neighbor's driveway, and I lifted him up so we could read the historic marker there, my family name hammered into the metal in several places. We headed up their driveway, and I took in this perspective that I haven't seen in years. I remembered the little gate that separates our horse pasture from their yard, probably grown rusty with disuse at this point.

He didn't recognize me when he opened the door, this neighbor who watched me grow up. And time had changed him, too. He lives as a 40-something in my memory, though he is now closer to 70. I told my brown haired boy about how they opened the old home place to our family again when I married his father.

As we walked back, he asked me to explain the expression "deep roots." I pointed out one of the many tall, strong, living examples of this that line the driveway...

"When you grow up somewhere your whole life, you are like a tall, mature oak tree. The longer it grows in one place, the deeper and stronger its roots get. I grew up here, and so I know the people and places here well and have a lot of memories here. Daddy grew up in many places and got to know lots of different people and have a lot of different experiences than I did, but there is something special about growing up in one place and having deep roots, too."

We were silent again, our feet crunching in the dead leaves, and I saw those tree roots in my mind's eye, twisted and deep and strong, reaching down far into the rich Carolina clay. I thought about the struggle it took to wrench myself from this place when I got married and became a nomad for several years. There's a reason why it was hard. There's a reason why I wake up from dreams that this place has been sold with tears in my eyes.

My sons are growing up in a city, not a small town. I wonder if they will yearn for their childhood home in the same  way that I do. I'm sure it'll look different, but I don't know how yet. However it looks, I want them to have people and places to return to with joy that speak to them of unconditional love and family and knowing and being known. 

I think this is a beautiful glimpse of eternal home that He sometimes gives us so we will trust that it exists more fully with Him in heaven. When I enter heaven, I suspect that I will look at Him and say, "This feeling is familiar. Thank you for the bit of it that I got on earth to remind me of you who created it."

Monday, November 03, 2014

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Good things...

Good things from this week so far….

- Last minute Chick Fil A lunch after co-op with a sweet friend. She texted that morning that we could get free kid's meals if the boys dressed up, so I threw the costumes in the car as we headed out the door.

- The tree in front of the house in glorious, full blown yellow. Most years it is red, so this was a beautiful surprise.

- Two teenage Ninja turtles and a giraffe for Halloween. Seth and Evan were Raphael and Donatello. (I should get extra homeschool mom points for restraining myself from giving them a lesson about famous artists after informing them of which ones they were.)

- Braised beef and noodles for dinner on a chilly, wet Saturday. And hooray for saving the cut of beef I'd bought that wouldn't have been edible cooked any other way.

- Introducing the boys to "The Princess Bride" and hearing them giggle and get the jokes. That whole movie is completely quotable. The whole thing, I swear. It's inconceivable. (Speaking of swearing, there's a bad word at the end when Inigo Montoya kills Count Dugan, so next time, we'll skip through that.)

- Finding several treasures at our local once a month, dollar book sale.

- Seth asking to read more than just one chapter in his new book on King Arthur. I've been waiting a long time to hear that wonderful question.

- A date night to look forward to tomorrow night. We've discovered that no weekend night is a bad night for a date. :)

- Meeting an older lady in our neighborhood while trick or treating and having her invite Ben inside to show him her giraffe statue. Maybe we can find a way to be a blessing to her soon.

- Finding some plain, long sleeved t-shirts at Old Navy that don't hug the 3-kid permababybump pooch. This is a big deal, since I have gone out shopping for them before and come back with nothing, and I really needed to replace some of my daily basics.