Thursday, September 26, 2013

So thankful...

I am so appreciative of all the notes and calls and texts I have gotten this week, it has been a treasure to my heart in the midst of this trial. Monday I got a call about some blood test results that could mean nothing or could have meant the first of many tests and a potential chronic and debilitating diagnosis. Since I knew worry could add nothing to the situation, I submitted to additional tests and just waited to hear. In the mean time, I moved along with life, a household of six children, three dogs and two rabbits affords quite the opportunity for distraction. :)

I did share some of the "what if" possibilities with a couple of friends and they prayed for me. A peace and a calm that could not be explained was with me all week, I am continually reminded of the beauty of Christ's Church and thankful for the place God has me. During the days of waiting, I was trying some of the things the doctors told me to do, and a small amount of relief was being achieved. In the middle of gymnastics and martial arts classes for the kids on Wednesday evening, I got the call about the second round of blood work. Totally normal. No sign of the "scary" diagnosis. Praise the Lord! There was no real explanation either, so, I am currently chalking up this bout of physical pain to my soon being closer to 40 than I am to 30.

While physical pain has been a near constant companion the last few years, I am gaining a better perspective. I can relate to Paul's thorn in the flesh, I personally know how my inability to "do what I used to do" motivates me to look to the Lord to complete what is lacking in me. God promises in James 1:2-4 that trials are for our good, to strengthen our faith and grow in us endurance and in Romans 8:28-29 we see how all things are being used to conform us into Christ's image. I am thankful for God not just giving up on this proud, self-important sinner. I am thankful for His mercies, new every morning to walk in the good works already planned for me.

And I know God isn't finished yet, proved so clearly by my flipping out over the messy upstairs when I went to put the kids to bed last night... proof of my flesh still raging, proof that when I take my eyes off Jesus, I sink as fast as Peter did. Oh, that the Lord would choose to return soon. The no tears and no pain of heaven sounds so amazingly good! :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When you can't...

There is nothing more discouraging to this mom than seasons of physical pain. They always seem to come just when things are starting to "work"... you know, when everyone is learning the new schedule, chores are getting done and children are eating lunch before 2pm. Then, WHAM! Mom goes down with pain. 

I always think and hope the pain will be short lived. I continue to power through and try my best to ignore it and not let the children know. Sometimes I end up irritable, and many times I sin in anger. And every time I do, I am grieved. 

But this time was different. Though I have endured a week full of migraines and debilitating back and neck pain, my heart has been turned toward gentleness and thankfulness. It was hard not to think about all the things I couldn't do between passing out on the couch and tears of pain, but I chose not to. 

Instead, I spoke softly (it hurt to speak in more than a whisper) and listened hard (pain is "loud" to me, so hearing people becomes incredibly difficult). My children stayed on task while I was unable to function at times. The house didn't burn down and people ate. I can't remember the last time the house was this clean. 

I wish I could say that this pain cycle has left. It hasn't. Not fully. And in its wake, a round of tests with unexpected results, which will likely translate into making some doctor appointments and more "unnormal" days. 

What I know is that God is near me ever so much more evidently in the moments of pain, than in moments of ease. And yet both are a blessing. Right now, there is no pretending that I am functioning in my own strength, for my flesh is weak. And maybe that it is, God is humbling my proud heart, bent on showing how capable I am and yet I really am a mere weak and broken vessel. God's grace, more real today than yesterday. Oh that I would live in light of His grace and mercy. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 12: Style...

I could list off all the different styles of homeschooling I admire, but I don't really fit perfectly into one. What I am is passionate about creating an environment that makes the children yearn for the next piece of the puzzle that is our history and culture and world. Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box. Sometimes it takes trying new things. Sometimes it means staying up until 3am carving a Viking masthead. And while in this season of life, my style seems to tends toward the last minute, all those late nights are worth it when you see the kids get excited and engaged. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 11: Quote...

I had some errands to run this evening. I left after dinner, no one missed me because they all proceeded to go swimming while I made returns and dashed in and out of a half a dozen stores. I was half tempted to buy this sign. I love this little poem. I think it will be going up on the chalkboard wall soon. I am always keeping an eye out for sayings that I think will catch the children's attention or inspire them to love each other more, thank God more, live more boldly for Christ. 

What quotes inspire you? Or just make you smile? 

Day 10: Lunch...

It was one of those days when my best laid plans were changed by a single phone call. The call that changed my well orchestrated post-school 3pm doctor appointment into a 12:15pm one which splinters the children's focus and sent me scurrying to make changes to my previously arranged childcare as well as rushing to pack lunches I never intended to pack. And in all my rushing, I forgot food for myself and ended up at the only drive through that has food that I can safely eat on a GF diet. 

I had intended on making a special new oatmeal for lunch and was looking forward to photographing it. Instead, I barely remembered to snap a picture of my empty crinkled Chick-fil-A bag. 

What did you eat for lunch? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Listening aloud...

We have embarked upon a new school year, and with it, we have been striving to form some new habits and priorities. Some things are more of a return to old things that had somehow disappeared from our daily routine (like morning family worship and daily work on handicrafts).

Our new morning schedule seems to be working well assuming I keep on top of everyone. I have also been writing up the framework for our day on the big whiteboard in the hallway, the children who can read can now answer the "what are we doing today" question for themselves. I love that!

Each day I have been writing up "read aloud" and "handicrafts". A handful of years ago, the non-napping children and I would steal away to the couches in the afternoon during naptime for the youngest ones and I would read aloud and they would work on handicrafts (embroidery, knitting, crochet, loopy projects, etc.). We all loved the time, but I always felt a little left out on the handicraft part and I got very little work done on projects. My consolation was that I loved reading aloud to the children and we all loved meeting the various characters that came to life from page to page.

Somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life, our designated time of handicrafts and reading aloud through the afternoon fell away. Recently, one of the girls asked me to knit her a teddy bear. Then her sister asked for one too. Then her other sister asked for one. Then the littlest brother requested a "cowboy teddy bear". I haven't knit for nearly a year and I had no idea when to fit it in but I said I would try.

A friend mentioned that she and her kids were listening to a Librovox recording of The Secret Garden and it was read by one of our favorite readers, Karen Shallenberg ( I had an idea. I downloaded the files to my phone and asked the kids if they would mind listening to KayRay read the book instead of me, explaining I could then work on knitting projects during our newly re-instituted handicrafts time in the afternoons. They all agreed.

We have spent three or four lovely afternoons listening to KayRay read The Secret Garden and I have nearly finished knitting the first of my long list of teddy bear orders. The girls have worked on needle felting, knitting, cross stitching, and the boys have made Perler bead creations or played with Duplos.

Today, as we were making the transition from school time to handicrafts time, Hannah said, "Mom, is it time for 'Listening Aloud' time?" I grinned at her and noticed how pleased she was with herself and her little joke (since I am no longer reading to them myself). We turned on KayRay and all got to work, it has been a nice and enjoyable part of our afternoons. We are all looking forward to our "listening aloud" time every day.

Of pens and pencils...

When I was in grade school, probably around the third grade, I absolutely refused to write in pencil ever again. I couldn't stand the way pencils smelled, wrote or erased (oh, those little eraser shavings were the worst!). I had a math teacher who was just as determined that I not do math in pen. I was stubborn.

When I asked her why I couldn't write in pen, she said because it would make my paper too messy when I made a mistake. I thought about her answer for a moment and asked her, "May I write in pen if I don't make any mistakes?" She took a moment to think and said, "Yes, you may write in pen as long as you have no scratch outs on your paper."

I am sure that she intended this experiment to be short lived. Instead, the perfectionist in me flourished and I turned in all my math work in pen and without a scratch out. If I found a mistake or needed to rework a problem, I would rewrite the entire page. I don't think I owned another pencil for twenty years.

However, somewhere along the way in our homeschooling journey, I gained a deep appreciation for pencils (though I still despise the eraser shavings). I give my kids pencils all the time, I doubt they can remember a Christmas or Easter without a new set of pencils.  Everyone around here knew how to work the electric pencil sharpener by the age of two.

This year, my older two children are using The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and their DVD teacher insists on their using pen for their essays. So, with much reluctance, I gave them pens for doing their schoolwork. Well, specifically for their writing assignments, but I gave no official caveats.

Imagine my amusement upon finding my fourth-grader's math homework done completely in pen this afternoon and with no scratch outs. Immediately I laughed, and then called out, "Please only use pencil on your math homework!" I guess we will see if he heard me when I check his math sheets tomorrow. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 9: In The Schoolroom...

An atypical September day in Texas found Noah on the deck all morning and afternoon with the dogs and a pile of books. The rest of the kids were strewn about on couches and floors. It was a lovely day with lots of reading and little time spent at tables (except for handwriting and math, required table subjects). The fall is approaching and I envision trampoline studies will soon commence. 

I am loving our studies in Tapestry of Grace, and while the workload took a while for us to all get used to, I think the kids are enjoying the relaxed approach to learning that reading all day provides. :)

Day 8: Word...

This school year we started a new Bible Study, The Narrow Way by The Pearables is an in depth study of 2 Peter 1:4-8. We are just starting, so we are digging into what faith is and who God is whom we place out faith in. It is a sweet time each morning after breakfast and sets our day in the direction. 

What are you doing to be in God's Word with your kids? 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 6: Project...

Studying the Middle Ages has been enjoyable for our whole family. As a part of our co-op, I am co-teaching the 6th grade History class. Today, I led the kids in a lesson on heraldry and they designed their own shields. I am continually impressed by the creativity of these kids! Our co-op has been such a blessing, I love seeing all the things the kids come home with each week, and am so thankful for the other moms who pour into my kids. 

Day 5: Music...

Car dancing is always a fun way to help pass the time during a drive, whether around the corner of across town. We were jamming out to some catechism songs. How do you keep your kids happy and busy on the road?

Day 4: Lesson Plans...

Keeping six kids going in the right direction makes for lots of lists. But this is how we have been keeping the family on track this week. The kids LOVE crossing things off as we finish them. Elliott enjoys seeing all the kids have accomplished each day. And I am enjoying making the seemingly mundane a little more fun, plus the kids can read it, so I don't have to repeat myself a thousand times! :)

Day 3: Favorite Subject...

The conversation was between his twin sisters. They were reading their word problems for math aloud, "There are seven monkeys in the tree. Four monkeys jumped to the ground, how many monkeys are still in the tree?" Before his sisters had a chance to answer, Caleb very matter-of-factly said, "3". I wasn't there, but I was quickly greeted by a pair of giggly girls telling of his "lightbulb moment". So, I asked if he wanted to do some math work. In under twenty minutes he had completed two weeks of lessons and was beaming with excitement and pride and joy. These are the moments that remind me why we homeschool. :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Initially skeptical...

When the duct tape craze started a couple of years ago, I was thankful that we didn't have TV so my children wouldn't find out about it. I had visions of children taping each other up and my tables and chairs never looking the same again. Alas, they have friends, and one day they asked for duct tape...

Besides thinking "why would anyone ever want a duct tape wallet?", I was reluctant to get them started with it because duct tape is, well, not cheap! I always try to use a coupon when a duct tape purchase is required but the cost is still a hard one to swallow. As I buy it, I try not to think of  the numerous almost projects consisting of many "balls" and "bookmarks" and blobs of "it stuck together, I don't know how that happened"!

But, yesterday, while I was organizing and purging in the office turned TV room (I love, love, love not having a TV in the living room), the girls set to working with duct tape. Occasionally, they would call me over to help, providing a pleasant break for me and eventually what we came out with was three bags, and an Etsy-inspired wallet (thanks for the link, Michelle).

These are the purses Grace and Faith made. Faith opted for handles and Grace preferred a strap. 

Hannah made these cute projects. She embroidered the owl on the front of the wallet that makes a pocket. She loves owls. 

The success of the day reminded me of when we started embroidering, and I thought they would never "get it". But, with lots and lots of practice, and lots and lots of "how did you make that knot and not notice?", one day they "got it". I doubt that I will ever personally think of making things out of duct tape, but knowing that the children can now make usable (and quite durable) projects, I don't think I will be cringing as much when we need to refill the duct tape basket. :)

Day 2: Chore...

I laughed when I went to take a picture of Mount Washmore and there wasn't as much as there should be piled precariously on my living room couch. But then, I took the picture after we went swimming, so 8 towels had been grabbed out of the mix, lessening the imposing monument's height and breadth. This chore is a daily one around here Monday through Thursday, and as needed on weekends. What is your laundry habit? And what do you call your laundry pile? 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 1: Organize...

This may look like a disaster, and in many ways it kind of feels like one right now... But all this preparation and organizing should benefit us with a smooth, well prepared week. Or at least, that is the idea behind squirreling away on my bed all day with my computer and mounds of resources. 

I am also working on a new schedule and chore charts... How do you organize?

30 days hath September...

September?!?!?!?!?! How did that happen? Every year it seems like two-thirds of the year evaporates and I think, "Where did the time go?" We are back in school, I am planning on the weekends, trudging through during the week (we are fighting some ruts in the area of habits and routine). All in all, so far so good.

Last night, a blog I read mentioned an Instagram photo challenge for the month of September issued by a friend of hers on her blog. Well, I love Instagram, and I love challenges, so I am hopping on board. I hope to post my photos based on each day's theme on here as well (in case you aren't on Instagram). If you want to link up on Instagram, just let me know... I have my account set to private since my hubby is a computer security guy, just being secure! :)

So, here it goes... photos to come...