Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Monday, December 28, 2009

Complaint Cure #9

Thanking God for...
~ neighbors willing to share their time and their snowblowers. :)
~ a beautiful Christmas with my immediate family
~ the joy of children at Christmastime
~ a candlelight Christmas eve service
~ a helpful husband
~ dinner and a movie with a great friend tomorrow
~ at a glance day planners
~ a wonderful goodbye party for a friend
~ God's good gifts which are so abundant!
~ the hymn "My Jesus, I love thee"
~ the Go Fish Snow CD
~ Buckeyes (the candy - although the team is also good)
~ hearing the laughter of my son and his best friend
~ free books and movies and music from the library
~ Jesus

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


One winter night here in Evansville, Josh called around dinnertime and said he was bringing home a guest. A homeless man named Matthew had come and asked Josh for help. He had tattered sneakers, a worn coat, and a pillow and blanket. He was filthy and looked much older than his years (we found out he was just around Josh's age). Matthew had nothing and needed a place to stay. After talking with him for some time, Josh discerned that it would be safe to bring him home for a warm meal before taking him to a hotel for the night. As usual, it was a very cold winter night in Wisconsin.

Matthew's story was hard to understand. He told about himself as we ate sloppy joes. He told of wanting to go south, but didn't want bus or train fare. He told of looking for help to find a job, but wasn't sure where to go. He talked of sometimes trying to get arrested just to have a warm place to sleep. Matthew broke my heart. He had no purpose and no direction. And it was such a stark comparison to see him, destitute and desperate, in our home - a place of warmth, happiness and love.

Something else happened while Matthew was visiting that has left me praying for more homeless to visit. I saw my children completely disregard Matthew's appearance and unabashedly love him during dinner. Our sweet little Zack sat next to Matthew and kept hugging him. And as Matthew left that night, Zack's little voice called out, "I love you!". What a blessing to behold a love that had no boundaries!

I have been praying this winter that God will bring others like Matthew across my path. I will have a little chance to serve next week through a meal our church is hosting for those in need in our community. But, I want to do more. I want to share all that God has blessed us with. Oh, Lord, grant me eyes to see those in need and a heart and hands that are willing to be used by you!

Our kids still ask about Matthew. We pray for him and others in similar situations. I'm so thankful that our family had an opportunity to be blessed through a little time with Matthew and I pray that we were also a blessing to him.

Complaint Cure - Take 8

Praising God for ...
~children who are lovey first thing in the morning
~less time on snowy roads now that we are homeschooling
~a really fun time at the movies with the kids yesterday
~returning health
~a delightful Children's Pageant
~the CD player
~the ability to sleep in my bed after several nights on the couch and chair
~everything coming together smoothly for Josh's Kenya trip
~the opportunity to catch up with old friends through Christmas cards
~a small glimpse into a homeless man's life
~my Savior who came as a babe

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lessons from a helmet

Last night we took the kids to a lighted park in Madison. We used to visit one every December in St. Louis, but had yet to find one here in WI. The kids ask every year, so we finally researched and found a park filled with Christmas lights. There really wasn't much of a display, but the kids were excited none-the-less.

One fixture was particularly exciting ... a Green Bay Packers helmet. We drove by it four times and every single time Gabe would ooh and aah and exclaim over how wonderful it was. :) We found it rather funny that he continued to be excited by the very same helmet, but as I was thinking again of Gabe's joy, I realized that I had a lesson to learn from him.

How often have I heard the Christmas story and, more particularly, the gospel message? Every year we repeat the same Biblical stories with our children hoping that they will grasp the significance. And yet, in my own heart it has become just another retelling of the same old story. Where is my excitement over the miracle of Christ's coming? Where is my joy in hearing once again how God humbled Himself, took on flesh and died for my sin?

I have noticed lately that my faith seems dry and stale. I have been lacking the freshness and zeal that I once had. But today, as I think of my son's joy over a repeated sighting of a Green Bay helmet, I am reminded that I haven't really taken a good look at the cross lately. It is only through a daily glimpse of Christ that I will be able to maintain a joyful faith. Only when I am looking at Him can I see myself for who I am - a sinner in great need of saving, a totally unworthy recipient of God's grace.

So, today I'm choosing to look again at the cross. I'm choosing to remember to see my Savior. And I'm choosing to be excited about the age old story.

Complaint Cure ~ Take 7

Praising God this week for ...

... the beauty of snow!
... Christmas carols
... the palpable excitement of children at Christmastime
... heat
... the ease of NOT putting on all the winter gear before school
... a wonderful Thanksgiving with family
... guests that are helpful
... the violin
... JBU magazine
... oatmeal
... Christmas lights
... Mondays
... cozy blankets
... God, who took on flesh for me

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Complaint Cure: Take 6

Thanking God for ...

~ restored health
~ a finished scrapbook
~ the excitement of Christmas lights
~ chocolate
~ family that is willing to come to us for the holiday
~ a membership to the YMCA as an early Christmas gift
~ weather that is warm enough for the kids to play outside
~ "aha!" moments
~ a patient husband
~ the joy of giving
~ God's Word
~ His constant protection and provision for His children

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Football Frenzy

I didn't grow up watching football. So, it was quite a shock when I married and found that my husband planned to watch all Ohio State games and several others inbetween! For years, I have resented football season because it takes away from family time on Saturdays.

But today, I had a startling realization! As I stood ironing behind my husband as he watched the last game of the season, I realized that our entire family was gathered in the living room. Football wasn't taking away from family time, it was actually creating it. My oldest was asking questions and learning about the game, my middle two were snuggling on Dad's lap, and my youngest was happily playing on the floor nearby. What a shock! Instead of spending these hours rushing around trying to get our various tasks accomplished, the entire family was enjoying one common activity.

Now, I'm not a big fan of using the TV for family time, and I still can't say that I'm a huge football fan. (Basketball is another story!) However, I can grudgingly admit that I'm beginning to see a positive side to the game of football. Or, as my daughter used to call it, "the run around and fall down game". :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Letting Go

For a few years Josh and I have had an ongoing discussion. The debate is over the decision to get rid of our baby stuff. We have so many baby clothes, the baby tub (which is huge!), a saucer, a door jumper, a baby bjorn, another bathtub ring, the cradle (which is a keeper), etc., etc. It's just ridiculous. And while, at times, I think having another little one would be awesome, Josh and I feel that we are done. I'm fine with our family the way it is and since all of our kids are close in age, having another one now doesn't make sense unless we have two. Six kids might be a bit much!

So, today we finally decided to pass our baby things onto others who can use them. With the economy so bad we really hope that others will benefit from using our things - especially since everything is in really good condition. I had always talked of doing a garage sale, but Josh cringes at the thought of all that work. I can see his point. For a small amount of money, it's probably just not worth all the time and effort.

We brought up the many boxes of clothing and I set aside one to use for "keepsake clothes". These are clothes I want to pass on to my kids. Ones that were special - like Zack's giraffe costume from when he was 7 months old, a few items that all the kids wore, handmade sweaters for Abby, the outfits the kids wore for their one year pictures... I probably kept more than I should, but my rationale was that if the outfit brought me to tears, it was a keeper. Let's just say that I shed several tears today.

I loved being the mother of babies. I love my kids now too, but there is something about the baby stage that is so very special to me. I have memories of my children in each item of clothing and for most I could even tell you who gave us the outfit. It's amazing how just looking at a shirt can bring you back to an exact moment of time and a precise memory of the person who wore it.

But, it's time to let go. My baby days are gone. We're making more memories each day as the kids grow. And, as I reminded myself today, it's much more important to enjoy the kids than to hang onto the stuff. I have to hope that others who end up with these items will also someday have cherished memories of their own little ones in these clothes. That thought makes the letting go worthwhile.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Complaint Cure #5

It has been a few weeks since my last "complaint cure" blog entry. We've been on vacation. However, I've been home sick for the last week and need a complaint cure for myself. So here goes ....

~ A wonderful two week vacation with Josh and the kids. We built so many special memories and did many once-in-a-lifetime things.

~ The safety God granted us for our entire 3000+ miles of driving. We got lost once or twice and hit traffic and construction, but never once did we have any car problems.

~ The generosity and hospitality of so many. We had many feed us and offer their homes for us to stay in. We even had complete strangers meet us and give us a wonderful discount to Disney along with incredibly helpful tips for our day at the park.

~ Health. I'm missing my health right now, but being sick always makes me thankful for the good health I normally have.

~ A very helpful and loving husband.

~ Breath

~ Digital pictures

~ Soft blankets and pillows, throat lozenges, tea and honey, and good books.

~ An unexpected card in the mail today. :)

~ The patience of my children as I tried to teach them with no voice this week.

~ The soothing sound of hearing Josh play hymns on the piano

~ The opportunity to worship again at Oak Grove tomorrow

~ Salvation by grace through faith

~ The omnipotence of God

~ That we got to see our butterflies hatch just in time to set them free in Florida. And that our tadpoles now have legs and are losing their tales. Sure is neat to see God's incredible creation!

~ Free passes to the Creation Museum in northern KY

~ Less Halloween candy than normal. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vacation South - Take 3

Thursday: We were still in Tennessee on Thursday and decided to head to Pigeon Forge to enjoy some touristy stuff. We took the scenic route to get there and really enjoyed seeing the beautiful Smokey Mountains.

Once there, we found a place where the kids could pan for gems and fossils. They loved doing this! They each found a bagfull of "treasures" to bring home.

After that, we just wandered around a few shops and enjoyed a lunch of ice cream and nachos.

That evening, Uncle Bob came for dinner. It was nice to reconnect with him - especially since we rarely have the chance to see him.

The downside to the day was that I felt sick. I began coughing on Wednesday night and started with a fever on Thursday. It put a damper on the day, but we still had a good time.

Friday: I woke up quite sick on Friday. I spent the morning in bed while Josh tried to pack up all of our things and get the kids ready to go. We said our goodbyes to Grandma and headed out to Cincinnati. Our original plan was to stay with the McKittricks (friends of ours), but because I was sick, we opted to stay in a hotel for the last two nights of our trip. Josh and the kids still went over to their house for dinner and I stayed in the hotel and slept.

Saturday: I was still rather sick on Saturday, but didn't want to miss out on the day's events. So, after Josh took the kids for a quick swim in the hotel pool, we all headed out to the Creation Museum. This museum was the original motivation for our trip, so we were all excited to go! The museum is so well done and we really enjoyed it. We went through all the exhibits and most of the side videos as well. It was very educational for the kids and a good reminder in many ways for Josh and me as well.

After the museum, we went directly to the McKittrick's house for dinner. They invited our mutual friends over for dinner as well and we had a nice evening of conversation and food. Josh and I also got a chance to see where the new building site for Horizon Community Church is. Since we have sent two families out from Oak Grove to Horizon, it was especially meaningful to see the plans for the new building.

Sunday: Once again, I woke up feeling ill on Sunday, so Josh and the kids went to church and then picked me up at the hotel afterwards. We began our drive towards home. Unfortunately, because we started late and because of traffic, it was a very LONG drive. We finally were about a half hour from home when I asked to stop at the Urgent Care nearby. I was having a lot of trouble breathing and knew I needed some help. Turns out that I was hyperventilating because I couldn't get enough oxygen and had begun to panic. They also tested me for H1N1 and although the test came out negative, the doctor assured me that I have all the symptoms. She said 28 out of every 100 tests are wrong and put me on meds for the flu. It wasn't a fun way to end the vacation, but I'm thankful that I didn't get it mid way through our travels! We finally arrived home around 10 pm. Here's our final mileage for the trip:

So, a wonderful time! God granted us safe travels, excellent times with family and friends, patient and obedient children, and many, many memories!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vacation South - Take 2

Friday: We spent the entire day driving from Athens, GA to Kissimmee, FL. It was supposed to be a 10 hour drive and ended up taking more like 13 hours.

However, there were some hi-lights on our trip. Here are a few:
We saw HUGE anthills in Georgia! I’ve never seen anthills this big, so naturally I had to stop and get a picture.

We also saw cotton fields. I have never seen a cotton plant, so it was pretty exciting to stop and show the kids a cotton plant and to have them touch the cotton. Call it education.

Another big hi-light was that the first of our butterflies came out of its chrysalis. We didn’t actually see it hatch, but did watch it pump blood into its wings and begin the process of moving about. Of course, we stopped for that excitement too!
We finally arrived in Kissimmee and were greeted with yummy food and a comfortable house. The long trip was worth it!

Saturday: We awoke Saturday morning to find that all but two of our butterflies were flying around in their cage. How exciting! After a wonderful breakfast of chocolate chip and/or blueberry pancakes, we headed out with my sister, Beth to Universal Studios. We didn’t pay to get into the theme park, but rather just walked around the free area and looked in the shops. It was 94 degrees out and we were sweltering! Thankfully, we found some fountains and the kids shed their shoes and romped around until completely soaked.

After Universal Studios, we headed to Downtown Disney. It’s a free shopping area that has lots of fun stores – a Lego store and the largest Disney store on the planet! Boy was that fun! We didn’t have a lot of time because we wanted to get back and trick or treat. So, after a little shopping, we headed out for pizza with Beth and Steve and then went trick or treating with the kids.

Trick or treating was somewhat disappointing. We’re used to a town where just about everyone participates. Although we chose a neighborhood with lots of kids, few people had their lights on. Besides that, the mosquitoes were out. The kids did get some good candy though, and I suppose I’m actually quite happy to have about a fourth of our normal loot! Especially since we had to fit it into our already stuffed van. The odd thing about our trick or treating experience was that we had few people actually wait for us to ring the doorbell. Most people were outside waiting for the kids to come. At first, I assumed this was because the weather was warm. However, after asking Beth, I found out that because of the high crime rate, few people are willing to open their door to strangers. It’s too risky that someone may look in and then come back later to visit on less friendly terms (i.e. robbery). Once done with the trick or treating, we let the kids take a quick swim in Beth and Steve’s pool. The kids had a great time and slept wonderfully after a thoroughly exhausting day!

Sunday: Sunday was a terrific day! First thing, we set the butterflies free. It was pretty exciting to watch them all fly out of their cage and head to freedom in the warm Florida weather. I’m glad the kids were able to experience the fun of that!

We decided to take the day and head to Sea World. We knew this would be our only chance to get there. Thankfully, Beth came with us and was able to get us a military discount on our tickets. We went right away to the Shamu show. All I can say is WOW!!! The trainers are amazing and it was incredible to see them work with these huge animals. We purposely sat way down in the front (3rd row) so that we could get wet. And sure enough, we got DRENCHED!!! Shamu came out and created these huge waves that soaked us completely. Everyone loved it!

We also saw some other neat things. We got to pet the sting rays – which is a rather odd feeling; Abby, Beth and I paid to feed and pet the dolphins (the high point of Abby’s day!); we ate lunch surrounded by sharks; and we watched a funny pirate show with seals. The kids had a blast and so did mom and dad. It was another busy, fun day!

Once back at the house, we asked Beth if we could use her big bathtub to bathe all four kids at once. She agreed. Once all four kids were in, she substituted some shower body wash for bubble bath. We really weren’t expecting the results! The suds took over the tub and overflowed onto the floor! The kids had a great time playing in the suds, and even after draining all the water, we still had a tub filled to the brim with suds. Needless to say, not much washing happened in the tub, so each child had to take a quick shower after their bath. But it created some great memories.

Monday: This was our biggest day of the trip. We got up early and headed out to … DISNEY WORLD!!! The kids were so beyond excited! It’s impossible to recount all the great experiences here, but I’ll try to hit a few. We were at the Magic Kingdom and had planned to spend the entire day there. Right away we saw Pluto and decided to get in line for his autograph. (A friend had given us the tip to bring autograph books for each kid. That’s something I highly recommend doing!). So, we got a family picture and autographs with Pluto. In fact, throughout the day we gathered autographs from Pluto, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Cinderella, Belle, and Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). Of course, we have pictures of the kids with all those characters as well. We saw many others, but decided it wasn’t worth our time to continue standing in line.

We rode on several rides. The kids particularly loved the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Goofy ride, the Pooh Bear ride and the Pirates ride. My favorite thing was Mickey’s Philharmagic – a 3D show complete with smells, water, sights and sounds! It was so fun for me to see Gabe jumping out of his chair trying to grab the objects flying at him! We were especially thankful for a set of recommendations from a friend for what rides and events are worth your time. We followed her advice and were not disappointed in the least!
When evening came and sun set, the kids seemed to grow even more excited. There is something about the lights on all the buildings and rides creating a magical environment. We stayed to watch the light parade and the fireworks. Here are some really cool pictures from that.

I never expected that my little three year old would be able to walk for three days at various theme parks! He was such a trooper! The poor little guy was so very exhausted by the end of it all that as soon as we left the Disney parking lot, he conked out in the car. What a good boy!

Tuesday: Sadly, we had to leave our times in Florida behind. We left the state exhausted, but with many wonderful memories to cherish. We especially enjoyed our time visiting with Beth, Steve and Shawn and the opportunity to take part in their lives for a few days. We left before 9 am on Tuesday morning and got on the road heading to Maryville, TN. We were off to see Josh’s grandma and were looking forward to a slower pace for a couple of days. This was our longest day of driving. And it was compounded by our children’s tiny bladders! We were reminded that when a 3 year old says, “I have to go BAD”, reminding him that the nearest exit is only 3 miles away does no good. “BAD” means “Stop the car NOW”!! And that’s what we did! I think we stopped about 5 times in the first hour of our trip. Needless to say, our trip lasted much longer than the 10+ hours we had scheduled and ended up taking more like 13 ½. Ugh. The kids were troopers, but we’re glad to have the day done.

Wednesday: On Wednesday we took the day easy. We had a few loads of laundry to do and were happy to just hang out at Grandma’s house and relax a bit.

We did go for a nice autumn walk and took a long, curvy drive through the mountains. The views were incredible! Gabriel slept through most of it, but the rest of us enjoyed the majesty of God’s creation.

Grandma cooked us some terrific meals and we all worked to get to bed on time. At this point in the trip, a restful day was just what we all needed!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trip South - Take 1

It has been awhile since my last blog. Getting ready for vacation took every spare minute! But, we are finally on the road and, although exhausted, thoroughly enjoying our trip. Here's an overview of what we've done so far:

Monday: We actually made it out of the driveway around 8:30 am. It's pretty amazing that we made it out so early. My goal was 8, but I was thrilled with 8:30.
We spent the day driving to St. Louis, MO.

We arrived in St. Louis around 3:45 pm. We had just a few minutes to hug Sara and drop off our stuff before heading out to Dino and Alison's house. Alison made us a wonderful dinner and we enjoyed hanging out with old friends.

The kids tried their hands at Guitar Hero and Wii Boxing. It was quite hilarious to watch! And, of course, David and Zack loved beating up on Dad!

We finally returned to the Wescoats' around 9:45 pm. We spent a little time chatting with Charlie, Becky and Sara and then sent the munchkins to bed. They had a hard time settling down, but I have a feeling that's going to be the case throughout most of the trip. :)

Tuesday: On the road again by 8:00 am. It was a VERY LONG day of driving. We got stuck in stand still traffic, took a different exit, missed another one, ended up in Alabama (!!) and took much longer to complete our trip. We finally arrived in Athens around 10:15 pm. Nobody got to bed until close to midnight. I'm glad that day is behind us!

Wednesday: Had a great day just hanging out with the cousins and Aunt Christy. We saw the Tree that Owns Itself, a Double Barrelled Cannon and got some really delicious cupcakes and carrot cake.

Had a wonderful dinner, enjoyed some time outside in the warm sun and got to bed at a decent hour. Josh and Jim also went out and listened to some music together in the evening. Overall a really great day!

Thursday: This was our day on our own. We drove around Athens a bit, checked out a bookstore and got a Georgia shirt for Josh's mom, went to an actual book bookstore, and had a terrific picnic lunch and playtime at a park.

We're now catching up on laundry and preparing for another day of driving tomorrow. Florida, here we come!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Complaint Cure #4

This week I'm thanking God for ...
- 14 years of dating my wonderful husband!!
- Beautiful flowers that he thoughtfully gave me in recognition of our 14 years.
- New glasses
- Chores accomplished
- Only one more week to survive until vacation
- Good health for our family
- wonderful hymns and songs of the faith
- a good, albeit cold, soccer season that is almost over
- mapquest
- a nice conversation with my brother
- inter-library loans
- gorgeous weather today!
- friends on the mend from H1N1
- winter clothes and indoor heating
- authors who can write entertaining and emotive stories
- free tickets to the Creation Museum for our vacation
- the wonderful new coat hanging system that my patient husband slaved over
- the great generosity of my parents and the way they have loved on my children for the past few months
- hugs from little arms first thing in the morning
- that Christ is our high priest who stands between us and eternal death

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Our house has become a home for arthropods, invertibrates and other creepy crawlies. Nobody warned me that homeschooling would force me to embrace insects, and yet, here I am with a houseful. Thankfully the ones I know about are caged!

Josh and the kids have been studying insects and other such gross things in science lately. So, we are now the proud owners of 5 tadpoles, 10 painted lady butterfly larvae and a few dozen ants. Until yesterday we also had a large spider, an asian beetle and a dragonfly. We had to get rid of those last night though, because the spider was creeping me out and the dragonfly (or flying dragon according to Gabe) was not allowing us to sleep at night.

Most of the kids are fine with the insects being under our roof, but our youngest is totally freaked out. Two nights ago, he was up every half hour to 45 minutes asking us to let him sleep with us because of bugs in his bed. I finally got to sleep at 5 am. That's what made me put my foot down about the flying dragon. No more of those. I think it's the name that really freaked the poor kid out. Who wouldn't be scared of a flying dragon?!

We're excited especially about the butterflies, ants and tadpoles - although when we ordered them, we didn't realize that we'd be on vacation shortly after receiving them! The butterflies are going to tour the southern states with us, the ants will have to fend for themselves and we're asking friends to tend to the frogs. I just hope we don't miss any great transformations. I thought 2 weeks in the car with four kids was going to be tough. Now we're taking 10 caterpillars and are responsible for their very lives! Hmm. We'll see how that goes.

So, here's a warning to any of you homeschooling moms out there. Be advised that homeschooling means doing ALL those crazy things that other parents can leave to the public school teachers - like keeping creepy crawlies in your house for "study". The things we are willing to do for our kids ... Yeesh.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Complaint Cure #3

Thanking God for ...
~ FUNNY, FUNNY children!
~ A wonderful husband who's willing to go sit through an hour of dance so that I can have time at home.
~ Warm outdoor clothing. An abundance of it!
~ Jars with lids that keep bugs for science study from crawling all over my house.
~ An early Christmas with family today
~ The incredible generosity of my parents.
~ An enlightening and interesting parenting conference this weekend.
~ My list making skills. :)
~ Hot chocolate on cold days
~ Goodwill
~ the ease of doing laundry in my own home
~ the forgiveness I am daily shown by God
~ His patience with me
~ The beauty of fall
~ A husband who can really preach well! (Thanks for the awesome sermon on Sunday, hon!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Freezing in October

Thought everyone might like to see how cold it was at our 8am soccer game yesterday morning. Brrr. Notice the frost on the ground. They were smiling at this point because we had just arrived. But by 9 am, everyone was miserable. The poor kids had to be out for 3 hours at soccer games. I guess that's the price we pay for living in Wisconsin!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great day and rough night

Yesterday, the kids and I attended our first gym class with our local homeschooling group. We LOVED it!! They are starting out with a football unit - which of course they boys all love. David and Zack were able to find several boys around their ages and had a blast. In fact, they continued to play football for another 40 minutes after the class ended! Abby and Gabe were in the younger group of kids. They also had a great time playing red light green light, kicking a soccer ball, playing duck duck goose and in general running around to get energy out.

Meanwhile, the moms who were not involved in teaching were able to just chat and watch the kids. I can't begin to describe how encouraging it was just to get out and have adult conversation! I hadn't realized how much I was missing it until I stood talking with complete strangers for an hour and a half! I think this group will end up being as much for my sanity as it will be for the kids to get some energy out.

We were especially looking forward to a field trip tomorrow to a pumpkin farm with the homeschool group. However, my youngest began throwing up last night around 2 am. Unfortunately, I had not yet fallen asleep, so instead of just a late night, it became an all-nighter. Yup, he didn't fall asleep again until 6 - which meant that I didn't either. I try to take care of the kids at night because I know Josh has to get up and work the next day. He is usually very good about shouldering his share of the nighttime ordeals, but right now he's got a sprained ankle. It's swollen to about double in size and is bruised all over. Needless to say, he's not walking well and I didn't want him to do have to do the stairs. So, the joy of cleaning puke fell to me. The thing that bothers me the most though (aside from seeing my little boy sick) is that we'll miss the field trip tomorrow. I think we may have to plan a Monday trip just as a family since the kids would really enjoy it.

On the upside, despite only two hours of sleep, we have accomplished a days worth of school today. I decided to let Abby have the day off since she's so far ahead on everything and we are pushing art off to another day. But, I must say, I'm proud of myself for patiently working with the kids despite being tired. That's something I wouldn't have been able to do (at least not graciously) a few weeks ago. I guess we are all learning and growing through the homeschool experience!

And, another great thing ... Josh and I got to go on a date last night. Obviously, this was before we knew any kids were sick. But we had a delightful evening talking over dinner and laughing together at a movie. What a wonderful midweek treat!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tea, frogs, eyes and life

I feel like I have sand in my eyes.

I went to the eye doctor today and after 2 1/2 hours (!!!) finally left with contacts in hand and new glasses ordered. Phew! I'm not totally sure how I feel about the contacts. The ones I have are just to try out for a week. The prescription isn't exact, but since I was a little anxious about having them in my eyes, they gave me some to try for the week.

I've had them before. But I had the gas permeable kind before (the hard kind) and within an hour of putting them in, my eyes would be bloodshot and in great pain. These are soft and are feeling much better. I'm still not sure I want to keep them though.

Beyond that, life has been quite hectic this weekend. An old friend from Lakeside, Beth Weaver, came with her fiance to speak at our annual Women's Tea at church. Beth and Jacob stayed with us and we had a wonderful time getting to know Jacob and getting reaquainted with Beth. She did a wonderful job speaking at the Tea and it was so interesting to hear about God's work in Papua New Guinea.

One thing I found especially interesting was how quickly Abby took to them. All the kids did but Abby was the one always holding hands with them or sitting on their laps. She has certainly come out of her shell!

This week we have our first gym class with our homeschooling group. I am looking forward to getting to know some more homeschool families and the kids can't wait to make some new friends. We also have a field trip planned with them on Friday. It looks like we have a pretty busy week coming up, but that's good. Busy - good. Hectic - not so good. This weekend was hectic. I'm ready for some normal busy!

Oh! And we are now the proud owners of five tadpoles. I really can't say that I'm happy to have slimy little things swimming around in my dining room, but the kids are excited. We've been getting water from the lake at the park to put them in. It looks dirty, but Josh said it's probably the healthiest stuff for them. Hopefully they'll all survive and we'll someday be the proud owners of 5 little frogs. I honestly hadn't given any thought to what we'd do with the frogs until the tadpoles came in the mail. At least we have a good 11 weeks or so to think about it. Anybody want some frogs??

Complaint Cure #2

This week I'm praising God for:
- a machine that takes a picture of the inside of the eye instead of going through the terrible dilation drops. :)
- a great time at the Women's Tea this weekend
- reconnecting with an old friend and making a new one
- restored health to our family
- hugs from little arms
- a husband who is willing to shop with me
- sugar and spice tea
- new glasses (which will be coming soon) and contacts
- hand-me-downs
- sweaters
- fresh green beans
- the flexibility of homeschooling
- athletic children - or at least children who enjoy athletics!
- indoor plumbing
- Beverly Lewis novels
- libraries: the free store!
- warm blankets on cool nights
- the fact that God is the same here as He is on the other side of the world
- the fact that the Church is not limited to just our little congregation
- the One who provides all that we need and so much more!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Less than stellar

I've been having a tough week. It did start off well though. Monday was terrific! We've decided that trying to do school on Mondays while Josh is taking his day off is just too much. He wasn't resting and we weren't getting time with him. So, this week we switched to a Tuesday to Saturday schedule. Great on Mondays, terrible on Saturdays. But worth it hopefully.

Anyway, on Tuesday, the awful part of the week began. I got really sick. It has turned into a nasty cold, but on Tuesday I was sure I was dying. I spent the majority of the day sleeping either in the bed or on the recliner. We somehow managed to get school done, but I couldn't tell you how - or what the kids were learning. Josh was at work, so I was trying to entertain the four kids by myself. Not fun. I'm much better by today (thursday), but it has been a long haul.

On top of that, the annual women's tea at church is this weekend. I organize the tea and make sure all details come together. Plus, I'm hosting a table and planning the menu. Needless to say, I don't have time to be sick. And, we're hosting the speaker and her fiance at our house for the weekend. I really want to be well - not just to have a healthy house for them to come to, but also so that I can enjoy their visit. I haven't seen this friend in about 15 years - maybe more.

And it gets better! Wednesday, we decided to try an art project that is really more of just a fun craft. The thing I had planned just wasn't going to work, so instead I decided to try making "bubble snakes" with the kids. I had seen the idea in Family Fun Magazine and had wanted to try it all summer. You cut the bottom off of a plastic bottle, wrap a washcloth around the bottom and secure it with a rubber band. Then, you dip the cloth in a dishsoap solution and blow through the bottle. It makes a really cool set of bubbles that snake to the floor. The kids loved it - except for one.

Although I had explained to the kids how to breathe out (and had even demonstrated it), I had one in particular who was determined to suck in. (And no, it was not my youngest!) As you can guess, he got a mouth and lung full of dishsoap! He then spent the next half hour spitting and crying and causing all sorts of trouble. So much for a fun craft. That ruined the fun for everyone. Ugh.

I knew not all weeks would be great with homeschooling, and we've definitely experienced a less-than-terrific week thus far. I've actually been dreading the first time of me being sick and having to teach. I'm glad it's behind me now and I have survived. The one thing that concerns me is that I'm now starting to lose my voice. Now that won't be good. How in the world do you control four crazy children with hand motions??!!! Oy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Complaint Cure - take 1

I have a cousin who does a wonderful thing on her blog. Each Thursday, she has a "Thankful Thursday" entry where she tells what she has to be thankful for. Because I love to read her thankful tidbits, my "Complaint Cure" will be a takeoff of her "Thankful Thursday".

One thing we've always tried to do as parents is to instill an attitude of thankfulness in our children. We often have days when they get rather cranky and begin to whine. One of our tried and true cures is to play a little game with them. We begin by saying something like, "I'm thankful for our house. What are you thankful for?" The child then has to come up with something and the game takes off. It only takes a few rounds before the kids get really into and start trying to out-do mom and dad with their creative answers. Needless to say, our children soon forget why they were whining and are soon laughing and ready to go play.

I've found that I often have to play this little game with myself. Too frequently I find myself cranky and whining. I forget to be thankful for the many ways in which God provides and even blesses beyond what I need or want! So, to that end, I will be writing a "complaint cure" entry each week. I hope to do this on Sundays or Mondays in order to get the week started off right. I'm hoping that if I begin my week by focusing on God's goodness, I will be less likely to complain throughout the week.

This week I'm thankful for ...
... beautiful sunsets even while the rain falls
... milkshakes and sprite
... time shopping with just Abby - a little special girl time. :)
... hospitable and flexible family and friends
... the faithful preaching of God's Word each and every Sunday
... a husband who thinks I'm great even after 10 years of marriage
... a husband who is beyond GREAT!!
... a roof over my head and the comfort of a sweater
... the ability to homeschool
... thunder
... a relatively fast computer
... friends to chat with during soccer
... digital cameras
... the adorable things that toddlers say
... the beauty of creation that I see every single day
... our flag and all that it stands for
... those who do mission work in far away places
... beautiful dishes
... the ability to drive cars and get here and there quickly whenever I want
... grace

Here's wishing you a week full of thankfulness and minimal complaining!

Good, Bad and Ugly

Oh the glories of going to the second service at church! I find that I have an hour and a half more time than usual to get moving this morning! Of course, the kids didn't expect this, so they are dressed and ready as usual and now have time to play which leaves me with a little bit of blessed peace.

I need that peace today. It has been a busy and difficult week. We're all fully into the routine of homeschooling now and the attitudes are starting to surface. The honeymoon feeling has worn off and left some of us cranky. I even had to deal with a four hour tantrum this week from one who ought to know a whole lot better. Sure did make school a nightmare for that day! I'm proud of myself though, because I dealt with it and didn't call Josh for reinforcements or even for a phone conference with the errant child. :) Way to go me!

In retrospect, I can see that the week was also busier because we added in a bunch of things. We had all gone on Saturday to purchase a bushel of apples. Yum! But, my main purpose in buying them was to make applesauce. Of course, you can't do that without taking the time involved to make it! And here I am, thinking of going to get another bushel this week. I must have lost my mind. The applesauce has turned out awesome though and I'll share the recipe in a future blog.

Another problem was that I decided I should plan ahead for school since I have the church Women's Fall Tea this weekend. I do all the planning for it and am housing the speaker this coming weekend, so not only do I need to have everything ready for the event, but also a clean house. Well, housekeeping has slipped a bit on my list of priorities since we started homeschooling, so there is much to be done. But, I can say that I have planned ahead for school at least. I typically plan during the school week for the week to follow. This week I decided to plan out the next three! So that took a whole lot of time too.

We also decided last weekend to plan a 2 week vacation beginning in four weeks. This is no ordinary vacation where you go to one place and stay for the duration. No, we like to complicate things and have decided to head from WI to MO to GA to FL to TN to OH and back home. All in the car, all staying with family and friends - who need to coordinate around us and vice versa. It'll be a terrific vacation if I can survive until it! :)

Lest you think the week was only bad, there were some fun highlights. The kids got to dissect owl pellets in science. They loved it! However, for anyone out there who hopes to do this, I'd suggest NOT doing it just before dinner. It does have the ability to kill the appetite!

Gabe also had the opportunity to cook with Daddy this week. They made a wonderful dinner of mac and cheese, kielbasa and rice krispy treats. Gabe was so proud. We've started letting each of the kids have a week in the month that is their turn to cook one night with mom or dad. They love this idea and I look forward to the day when it'll pay off and they can cook for me. :)

And lastly, on Friday we parked the car on the street just opposite a house that was having it's foundation re-done. The house was up on stilts and we watched for an hour as little Bobcats went underneath the house to bring up dirt and concrete. We saw several different kinds of trucks and had lots of "construction conversation". Which I figure is educational too!

Well, there it is. The good the bad and the ugly of our week. We're learning - not only how to do school, but also how to love each other. And that is a definite highlight!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tripping down memory lane!

I just took a wonderful 2 decade trip down memory lane! My mom handed me a box yesterday and said, "this is all your stuff". Normally I'm not so thrilled to get boxes of stuff to fill my house, but this one was pretty neat. It was all the old programs and papers my mom had saved from my growing up years.

I had no idea that I had been in that many concerts, recitals and plays. It certainly does make sense, since violin was such a constant in my life. But, when you look at the huge stack of papers all put together, it's a bit overwhelming! To think of all the time and practice those papers represent.

There were a few highlights among those programs. Several names that bring back great memories, duets with Jeanette, Ryan and Katie, Lakeside talent shows, middle and high school graduations, school plays, the UConn Orchestra, playing "Nola" with the high school choir, etc. And, oh the memories brought back by the middle school gymnastics show programs. Ugh. I wish I didn't have that memory! I can remember doing the floor routine with Lena and Carrie. We thought we were so cool dressing in leotards with turtlenecks and tights underneath and shorts and socks overtop. (Hey, it was the 80s!!) I do vividly remember being unsure of my kartwheels. For some reason I thought it would be less embarrasing to do sommersaults while everyone else kartwheeled. Oh my. Top that off with my balance beam and parrallel bar routines and you have a pretty lame show! Oy.

Of course, there were other things in the box too. My mom had saved all the newspaper clippings from when I made honor or high honor roll. Let's just say, it's pretty obvious that I didn't really do my best until junior year started. Yikes!

There are lots of little cards and drawings that I did for my parents. One letter to my brother, "Timmy" shows off my cursive skills and poor spelling. A typed (yes on a typewriter) letter to my parents just before Christmas tells them that they need to hurry up and get my gifts under the tree so I can look at them and that they had better let me know if my hair is a mess on Christmas morning. I can only guess that my hope was to "look good" in the pictures that year!

Oh, the fun of that box! And, the many things I had forgotten! I've learned that my drawing skills peaked at about 1990. I showed Josh a drawing I had done of our cat and he didn't believe it was mine! He said, "What happened? You used to draw well!" Thanks.

Although I have no idea what to do with the box now that I have gone through it and enjoyed the contents, I do have to say thanks to mom for finding it. And the silly thing is - I already have at least that many papers for each of my children saved up. Oh the fun they'll have someday going through their own boxes. But I can guarantee that those boxes will be leaving my houe before my children reach age 31! I'm sure they'll thank me for it though ... :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Today is the day

Well, today I'm finally going to do it. I've threatened this several times, but in our three weeks of homeschooling, I have yet to resort to taking a partial holiday.

Sounds pretty fun. Let the kids have more time to play or even watch a movie. And today is just perfect for it! It's rainy and gross and I'm quite sure that soccer will be cancelled this evening.

Now, you may ask, what is a partial holiday? Well, in our day today there are some school things I'm not willing to forego. For instance, Tuesdays are history days. So, we'll do our history. And we'll probably do math too. However, we will just forget about language for today. That's what takes the most time anyway and is the most frustrating to the kids. They'll be thrilled when I tell them! Today, I can play good cop instead of bad cop (or teacher as the case may be!).

Now, before I start getting comments saying how it's too easy to slack off when homeschooling, let me put your mind at ease by saying that we are AHEAD in language already. In fact, several days ahead of schedule. So, missing one day is not going throw us off schedule or cause the children's education to suffer. They'll be fine. And frankly, I might as well term this a mental health day for me since I think I need it most.

I've been hearing from people lately (who don't know me or my homeschooling methods) that I must be approaching things in a stressful way. For instance, I met a woman recently who shoved this exact opinion on me. Although she knows nothing of me or my children or even how we homeschool (in fact, we had met that very day), she proceeded to tell me that I needed to start doing things her way. Her way is VERY different from ours and in fact, she would leave out a majority of the things I am teaching my children. I don't agree with her approach at all (which I have kindly listened to without critique). I will grant that her children seem very nice and from what I've heard they are well educated. But not everything that works for one family, will work for another! What irritates me is that someone who does not know me thinks that she can just tell me how I'm doing things wrong and why her way is the only way. Oh, and as of yet, she has only asked one question about the way we homeschool and that was just pertaining to what curriculum we use. Which really says nothing about how we approach homeschooling - especially since she didn't wait for a full answer.

I beg to differ with this woman. I think our homeschooling experience has been great so far! If you ask the kids, they'll tell you that they love it! They don't complain about science and social studies (2 things this woman would leave out) because it's some of their favorite stuff to study. Science with Dad is a blast and my kids have always had an interest in history. And since we always get a bunch of books out of the library that can supplement what we're learning in these areas, the kids are having a good time just reading at their own pace and recalling the instruction they have received. It works well.

I don't see the point of pushing one type of homeschooling on someone just because it works for you. Sure, tell me about it, but don't attack the way I do things. Especially if there is nothing wrong with it. I'm sure I have let this bother me too much, but that's just how it is.

As you can tell, this riled me up quite a bit. I've run into this one person two days in a row and twice she has attacked my teaching style. Now that my feathers are all ruffled, I need a little time to cool off. So, thank you pushy lady. Because of your influence (which pushed me over the edge), we are taking a partial day off! And I intend to enjoy it!! So there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Discovered Downside

I have a new revelation about homeschooling.

While school has been going really well and we're getting a lot done, almost nothing is getting done around the house. I find that I'm beat after we finish school - which means that I have no desire to start laundry. And even if I do start it, I often get distracted and forget to switch it to the dryer - which means I have to rewash it the next day.

Beyond that, I have forgotten several days in the past week to defrost meat for dinner. Which means that we have had a few really skimpy meals. Oops. I can say that at least the bathrooms are staying clean - but only because the kids have that responsibility!

I honestly didn't foresee this. I expected that we'd finish school and I'd still have tons of energy and be able to spend the majority of the afternoon cleaning house and being domestic. I am trying to exercise to boost my energy level a bit, but if I can't find time to clean, it's unlikely that I'll be very consistent in exercising either.

Please don't think I'm complaining. I knew that homeschooling would take awhile to get used to. I just didn't realize that the normal, everyday life stuff would be cast aside in the name of homeschooling. Josh has been very patient in dealing with our messy house and poor dinners. In fact, he helps out as much as he can by doing dishes and cleaning up. But, I'm hoping that I can soon figure out how to be a bit more efficient at things.

My goal in this blog is to provide a realistic view of homeschooling - good and bad. Well, there it is. A definite downside. But, I keep asking myself: What is more important? My kids' education or my clean house? If I'm honest with myself, I can recognize that I've never been able to keep a really clean house. But even if I could, the answer isn't hard to come to: My kids always come first!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

thinly stretched

I'm not sure that there's enough of me to go around this soccer season! Tonight was our first big night of soccer (aside from the practices we've been having for two weeks and the set of games we missed on Saturday). It was our first night of games. I knew that having three kids in three different leagues would be hectic, but I hadn't really counted on having overlapping games!

So tonight, David had a game starting at 5:30 over by the schools. Then, beginning at 6:00, Zack had a game in a different part of town. No biggie. Josh was able to take Zack and the little ones while I stayed at David's game. However, Zack's game was scheduled during the special youth soccer night at the high school. All kids were supposed to show up for the high school game at 6:30 so that they could be introduced with their teams at half time and also see older kids play. Beyond that, Josh had to get to a meeting! Oy. Have you lost track? Me too! So, we rushed from David's game to Zack's. Josh hurried off to his meeting and I saw the last ten minutes of Zack's game. Then, I took two sweaty kids and two sandy kids home and tried to handle showers. Of course, they got to bed late. And we didn't even try to make it to the youth soccer night, because it would have been over by the time we got there. Bummer.

I had figured that we'd have a few days/nights like this in our six weeks, but in looking at the schedule I'm realizing that most of Zack's games were scheduled during David's practices (different locations) and on the few times when Zack has a game on Saturday, we'll be at the field from 8 in the morning until noon attending three games.

And to think, in a couple of years, we'll have four kids in four different leagues. Wonder what that will be like ... Yeesh.

On the upside, my kids played awesome tonight and I was so very proud of them. Way to go, boys!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Food for thought

This weekend has been filled with wonderful learning opportunities. We had our Great Commission Conference at church - which was basically a conference about how to do evangelism. I think sometimes we look at the word evangelism and get scared or immediately think of it in a negative context. We weren't talking about going and harrassing people on the street! Rather, we talked a lot about how to welcome and accept people as they are and how to love well.

Our speaker was Jerram Barrs, one of Josh's professors from Covenant Theological Seminary. He has always impressed us with his teaching and his tremendous love for others. He spent the weekend teaching at OGC and sharing with us and other individuals about how and why we should be reaching out to the community.

One of the major topics that kept coming up is that of how to socialize with, accept and love those around us without getting sucked into their way of life. Specifically when raising children. How do you raise children to show mercy and love to unbelievers and especially to those who are from very broken families while still protecting them from some of the negative influences they will encounter? And here was Jerram's answer: You can't protect them. Instead, trust God to do that. Teach your children at home to love what is right and true. They won't long for the brokenness around them when they see the beauty of the gospel being lived out at home. And, in fact, it is very likely that your house will become somewhat of a haven for your children's friends who are from broken situations. They will long to be at your house and to experience the family life that you have in Christ.

So, that makes me think ... Am I letting my kids get out there and really meet others? Or am I sheltering them in the hopes that I can instill as much good in them as possible before sending them out? I don't believe that we overly shelter our kids, but I'm sure that they could be exposed to many more types of people. Evansville is not very culturally diverse and so as parents we need to be thinking about how to expose our children to more than just middle class whites from small town America. There is so much richness in experiencing and learning from other cultures and other walks of life.

On the adult side of things we need to be looking at our churches. Do we have a church that welcomes anyone who comes through the doors? Nomatter what they look like, how many tattoos or piercings they have, nomatter what clothes they wear or how they smell. If we are not welcoming to all people, then how can we really call ourselves Christ's church? Jesus came to heal sinners. That would mean all of us! Even though I may be uncomfortable around some who walk into church on Sunday morning, I HAVE to put that aside and seek to build a relationship with them that may eventually open doors for them to know God. No one is beyond His reach and so no one should be beyond ours. It sure does make you think about what your body language and facial expressions may be saying to the visitor who has finally mustered the courage to come to church for the first time.

Jesus said, "Go into all the world ...". The real question then is whether I believe that means going even to the unloveable in my own town. I believe it does. Do you?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Life is NOT over.

I have to say that as we have begun homeschooling I've been shocked at the amount of support we have received locally. So very many people have stopped me to ask who my kids have for teachers or how school is going and they are often surprised to find out that we homeschool. However, I am usually the one left in shock by the tremendous amount of moms and dads out there who say, "I really wish we could homeschool our kids!".

This statement surprises me on two levels. First, I fully expected most people to think we were strange for homeschooling and to be treated more as an outcast for it. Secondly, I don't really understand why so many people "wish" they could homeschool, but don't. What is stopping them?

I've been mulling over this question for several days now, and think I may have stumbled across an answer. I do believe that there are some out there who truly would homeschool if given the opportunity, but for some valid reason cannot. Some parents both need to work in order to pay off debt, or perhaps their children have special needs that can be met more fully by a specifically designed classroom or program. However, I think many parents don't homeschool because there is such a stigma that goes with homeschooling. I'm not talking about people looking at you negatively or thinking you are trying to separate your family from society. I'm talking about the stigma of "If I homeschool, I'll have to give up everything I love in life."

Honestly, I somewhat bought into this. For the last week before we began school, I constantly thought things like, "This is our last Tuesday of freedom", "We have to enjoy our last few days of 'life'", etc. But, in talking with Josh yesterday, I realized that life is actually less chaotic now that we homeschool.

Take yesterday as an example: We did all of our school work for the day (3 kids), had a long (1 1/2 hour) science lesson, cooked a turkey and all the trimmings, attended two piano lessons, did the week's theory sheets, went to worship team practice, grocery shopped, had time as a family, and still had quite a bit of play time. In the public school scenario, our day would have looked like this: while the kids are at school, grocery shop with the little one; once the kids are home, quickly do homework; have two piano lessons; save the theory work for a less busy night; throw together dinner; rush out to worship practice. Forget having play time or family time or even the nice dinner (although to be fair, we did sometimes have big meals on school days). My point is that even though I thought homeschooling was going to end my wonderful, carefree life, I actually have more time with my family now. And, I accomplish more - imagine that! And my kids have time to actually play - even on days when they have other activities besides school.

So, it makes me want to really question those who say, "I wish I could homeschool". Aside from those with a valid reason not to, what is holding everyone back? It's not going to ruin your life! In fact, it likely will give you and your kids more of one! Try it!

Friday, September 4, 2009

One down, 51 to go!!

One week down, 51 to go. Or something like that. Oy.

We are officially done with our first week of homeschooling. I have to say that it has really gone much better than I expected. I've been pleased with the attitudes of all involved and the kids' willingness to work hard all morning.

Here's what our days have been like:
- Get up, get breakfast, get dressed, make beds.
- Do chores. Each day is different although they are the same from week to week.
- Sit down for Bible on the comfy couches. This part has been going really well and is a nice, gentle start to the school day.
- Move to the dining room and work like crazy until everyone is done. Usually we are done around lunchtime and the kids are able to play for the afternoon. Which they love!

I've set up a whiteboard in the dining room and daily write on it what David and Zack need to accomplish that day. For things they need my help with, I write "with Mom". This has been working really well. They love crossing things off on the board as things get done. Plus, it allows me to juggle several kids. If I'm working with Abby, I can ask David and Zack to work on something that doesn't require my help.

The hardest part has been keeping Gabe occupied. I did put together a bin of special toys for school time and get out one or two things each day. Plus, I have little worksheets that he can do to feel a part of the school experience. However, his attention span is 5-10 minutes and I'm finding it difficult to keep him busy. Plus, I've come to realize that he's never had to play alone. Our other three have all learned that alone time is good and can be fun. Gabe has never really had that, so it's hard to get him to play anything by himself. He'll learn, but it'll be a tough transition until then.

The one thing that I didn't expect was to have exhaustion accompany teaching. I thought that since we finish school by lunch time, I'd feel fresh and ready to go each day. But, throughout this week, I've grown more and more tired. I guess I'm just really pouring a lot into this. Plus, I never get any down time since even after school is done, I'm still with the kids. And, I still am doing all the normal life stuff like cleaning and cooking and ministry. So, that has surprised me. I think I'll just need to commit to getting to bed a little earlier once or twice a week.

Overall, the homeschooling experience so far has been positive. I can see that the kids are enjoying it and I really like having them home. I love seeing more of their quirks and talents and thought processes. And, I have already caught a few gaps in their education that I think otherwise would have gone by unnoticed. So, several good things are happening. But, I certainly am glad it's the weekend and that I have nothing planned for tonight and can hit the hay a bit early. :) If there is one thing I've learned it's this: Kids are wonderful and fun and forgiving and cheerful and great little sponges for learning. But, THEY WEAR YOU OUT!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1st day

Whew! We have finished our first day of homeschooling!

I'm happy to report that it went quite well. The kids were excited. We got our chores done after breakfast and then started in on Bible. They sat remarkably well with only a few reminders needed that this was "school". After that we headed to the dining room and got into the real work. I'm amazed that the boys worked for over 3 hours with no break! I gave them a snack and they just ate as they worked and continued until all was done. What troopers!

Thankfully, we were all respectful and patient and there was no complaining. I think the most difficult part will be keeping Gabe occupied. Although I had a few worksheets for him to do and a favorite toy that he's been waiting all summer to play with, he still was very much underfoot. I'm sure he'll get used to the school schedule, but for the next couple of weeks I may have to be creative in filling his time.

Once we were done, exhaustion set in for me. I didn't realize during school how much effort I was putting forth, but once we finished, I really needed a break. I'm so grateful that Josh's schedule is flexible because he came home and handled lunch. I feel somewhat more rested now and ready for the afternoon.

I'm just so proud of my kids for giving this new kind of schooling their very best effort and for enjoying it. Josh quizzed them at lunch and they were all able to tell him something new they learned. So, I guess that's a good sign. :)

We've conquered the biggest hurdle, but now have to do it MANY more times! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!!!

Monday, August 31, 2009

On the eve ...

Today is the eve of our big adventure! That's right, tomorrow we begin homeschooling our four children. I'm excited ... mostly. I doubt I'll sleep a whole lot tonight though.

It's odd knowing that you are about to start a new phase of life that could last about 2 decades and that it will consume the majority of your time and energy. Put like that, I'm not sure I want to start. Rather than think of it that way, I'm trying to remember that we are doing this because of the positives:
- We'll have lots more time with our children
- Our kids will be able to learn at their own pace and to dig deeper or get help as needed and desired.
- I will know my children better by learning with them and seeing their strengths and weaknesses.
- We'll be able to place God where He belongs - at the center of EVERYTHING! And we can teach in a way that our children will come to understand that truth.
- Our family will hopefully have less stress.
- Our children will have more time together.
- Our children will have time to be kids and to play.
- I can cook with the kids and teach them life skills that you don't learn in the classroom.
- They can have time to help out here at home more by doing chores daily.
- Our kids will not be bringing home the terribly negative things from peers at school that we were getting accustomed to hearing about.
- We can take more field trips!
- We can learn on a broader spectrum: integrating more subjects and helping the kids see how all of learning can work together.
- More time to read to our kids.
- A happier, healthier home environment!

These are just a few of the benefits. When I choose to look at it this way, I'm so excited to begin homeschooling! There are so many pros, that I don't mind the con of giving up my ideals of free days once the kids are all in school. I don't mind being the main influence in my children's education. In fact, I relish the opportunity to do so!

So, pray for us if you think of it. Tomorrow is a big day, but so is every day in our future. Because every day will be a learning day and will be another day when we can impact our kids!

[As a side note: we took David and his best friend last night to the Medieval Times near Chicago. They have sites all over the U.S. If you have a child around the age of 8-15, I'd highly recommend it! Or just go for the fun of it as an adult! We loved it and hope to make it a special 9th birthday celebration for each child in our family.]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You say Tomato ...

I have 9 quarts of tomato sauce sitting on my kitchen table right now. NINE QUARTS! It may not seem like a whole lot, but since it took the whole day to fill those nine quart jars, I think it's a lot.

My mother in law makes the most wonderful tomato sauce and generously gave us a few jars for Christmas. I now see how valuable those were! In any case, her sauce is the only kind that Zack will eat. So, this year I figured I'd try making some. I have been carefully and diligently tending our six tomato plants all summer. And although they have more than a hundred tomatoes on them, only one or two ripen at a time. So, while there is enough for taco salads, there is never enough to make even one jar of sauce.

We finally broke down and bought a half bushel of tomatoes. And a Victorian Strainer - which is a blessing since you don't have to cook the tomatoes before straining them. The big issue was that after straining, you have to cook them for three hours minimum, stirring every few minutes and adding things each hour - and of course each of those items takes plenty of time to prepare! Needless to say, I was exhausted after all that!

I hit a few hiccups on the way, but I think that next time I'll know better what to do and how to handle it. Yes, I did say next time! I'm considering doing this for at least one more day before I feel finished for the year. We go through tomato sauce like crazy in our house and nine jars just seems pitiful to me. So, I venture on. One more day of tomatoes ... and then apple season will begin!

Yum ... applesauce.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Overscheduling Woes

At the recent Leadership Summit the book "Too Small to be Ignored" by Wess Stafford was given to each person in attendance. Wess Stafford is the president of Compassion International.

This book is incredible! As a parent, it is transforming the way that I look at my children. There are so many things I have gotten from this book, and I'm sure I could blog about it for several weeks, but first I'll just start with this one thing. Stafford writes in his book, "We pack our lives to the last nanosecond. We have electronic reminders to tell us what to do next. We jam appointments back to back, arriving at day's end exhausted from the intensity. Having packed their own lives full, many parents proceed to do the same with their children. The week becomes a blur of school, sports practices, music lessons, and - soon enough - part-time jobs. Kids have scarce opportunity to lean back and stare at the sky or notice a flower; they have to get to the next activity."

Here in the West, we have made such a huge deal of not giving children any responsibility so as to not steal away their childhood. In fact, we are doing just that by overcommiting them to sports, school activities and other pursuits. We steal their childhood by rushing them from event to event, practice to practice hoping that this will create well-rounded adults someday in the future. Instead what we are doing by this is snatching the time for play and imagination and substituting it with stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for sports and music. But, I can definitely see how this could easily happen in our own family. Our kids play soccer in the fall and our daughter also takes ballet. This fall, we'll have three different soccer leagues because of how their ages are - which means two nights a week of practice, some weeknight games and at least all morning Saturday filled with soccer. Then you add ballet for an hour on Monday evenings and our schedules are going to be hectic! When we had the kids in public school, this was a huge issue. The kids would get home from school, rush to do their homework (which was at least an hour's worth all together) and scarf down dinner before rushing out to whatever event was going on in the evening. By the time we got home, there was barely time for showers or baths before bedtime. Oy.

One thing I certanly hope this homeschooling venture will provide is a less hectic schedule. Yes, we'll still have the activities in the evening, but the kids will be knocking out homework from the schedule. We'll also be able to accomplish our schooling more quickly in the day. Mind you, we don't plan to skimp, but so much more can be accomplished one on one than one on sixteen or twenty!

I guess when I look at our kids, I don't really see them as overscheduled. They each do a sport or two. They each are learning musical instruments - although this is included in the schooling time. But, one thing we are careful to ensure is that our children have plenty of playtime. I certainly hope that people will keep us accountable to this. I think most parents don't intend to fritter away their children's childhoods, but are rather trying to provide every possible opportunity for their kids to try new things and to excel in areas where they have strengths. I think that's great, but it's important to remember that often this just stresses kids out more than it helps them. So, as we enter our first year of homeschooling, I hope to continually ask myself, "Is this working?", "Do the activities our kids are involved in take away from their childhood or add to it?", "Am I providing enough time for my kids to just be kids?". If the answer to any of these is no, I pray that I will have the strength to pull my kids out and let them just be kids!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fish and Shells

Last night we took the kids to a Go Fish concert at a church in Milwaukee. What fun!! We all had a great time and since it was a much smaller concert than many, we had great seats.

I was most struck though by Abby. I remember when we moved here three years ago, she was so very shy. If someone came near, she would hide behind Mom or Dad refusing even to peek out. When the need arose for her to say "Hi" or "Thank you" she would, after many proddings, finally pop out from her hiding place and barely whisper the word. As soon as that was done, she was back in her hiding spot highly embarrassed by having to make an appearance.

Last night was different though. Last night I saw a little girl who was dancing around in the aisle, chatting with the kids and adults around us (all strangers!), and even leaving her seat to join the crowd giving high fives to the singers! What a huge change!

As we drove home I was trying to put my finger on what has made the difference. As parents, we try to expose our kids to many environments and to give them skills to get along with a wide variety of people. But I think in Abby's case, the credit must go to her ballet teacher. Abby has had two years of ballet. The first was with only three other little girls in the class. Abby loved it! But she was still very shy. However, when year two started, she was the veteran of the group. The girls from the previous class had moved up a level and Abby had not. Her teacher intentionally pulled Abby out of her shell by making a big deal about her "knowing" all the stuff already. She had Abby demonstrate how to skip, sashay and pose in first position. At the end of each class, an ecstatic and bold girl would come bounding out of class eager to tell me how she had been the teacher's helper.

I doubt that this particular dance teacher realized what a huge impact she was having on a shy little girl. Regardless, I am appreciative of how she took the time to cater to the strengths of our daughter. It does make me wonder if I am having that kind of impact on the kids I meet. Do I give my own children and others the chance to shine? Either way, my actions can have a huge impact - either in letting a child stagnate or in helping them realize their great potential.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Global Leadership: Lessons Learned

This past week Josh and I attended the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek in Chicago. I honestly didn't have any expectations going in - except that parts may bore me to death. Thankfully that wasn't the case in any of the sessions!! On the contrary, I learned so very much!

The main theme of the summit this year was on leading globally. So, instead of just leading in our church or business, we were encouraged to expand that to our community and eventually across the world. There was a big focus on Africa too. Honestly it felt a bit like God was hitting me upside the head with a shovel! Josh and I have been talking about taking a trip to Kenya for a few months now. He's been invited by a pastor there to come and speak. While we've gone back and forth about the idea, it was obvious to us both that God brought us to this particular conference in order to open our eyes to how we could be of service to believers in Kenya.

Of course, God also challenged me on finding ways to reach out to the community of Evansville. I think with homeschooling this fall, the kids and I will have more opportunity to reach out to others. What does this look like practically? Well, I'm not sure yet. But I am praying that God will show me what he wants me to do - what needs to change in the way that I arrange my priorities and how I can better love those who I see so often around town.

I'm so thankful to have a husband who knew I needed this and who suggested again and again that I attend. Beyond the benefit of the conference, it was great for us to have some time away. We needed that time of uninterrupted conversation to catch up on the many things that get shoved to the back burner here at home. And I love that he even planned an extra bit in the budget for me to buy books that will be helpful to me both at home and in the ministry. Thanks, Josh!! I love you.

{Are you looking for a practical way to help Africa? Here are two: 1.Go to kiva.org and provide a loan for an entrepeneur somewhere in the world and help them get on their own two feet. 2. If you are a coffee drinker, try drinking some Good African Coffee. This coffee is made in Africa and the profits benefit those growing and processing the coffee. For more info look at goodafrican.com }

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I said I'd never do it

I said I would never ever do it! I'm not cut out for it. I'm not strong enough for it. I don't have the drive to do it well. But, regardless of all my doubts, I have been called to begin homeschooling my children this fall.

It was quite a long process that brought us to this point. Unlike you may suspect, our kids were learning quite a bit in the public schools, we liked most of the teachers, we enjoyed getting to know other families, and I certainly liked the idea of someday having all four kids busy during the day! So, why homeschool? Well, the answer isn't simple. In fact, there are many things that led to our final decision.

First, we took into consideration our children's education. David is extremely smart and is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of his class. He longs for more work (and currently loves learning), but his teachers can only give him so much extra work and can only allow him to get so far ahead of his classmates. Zack is in the opposite boat. He is not as interested in learning and really wasn't being pushed to learn much. Teachers seemed satisfied for him to stay at "grade level" instead of pushing him to realize his potential. In both cases, we think we can do better. In homeschool, David will be allowed to move at his own pace. To really push to learn more and to go in depth on all subjects. For Zack, we can spend the time necessary for him to go beyond grade level and to realize that learning is fun! Abby will be starting kindergarten this fall and we've decided to homeschool her as well.

Many people bring up the issue of socialization - which I think is rather funny, especially if you know our family. Our children will continue to play community sports, will participate in music, will be part of a homeschool group in a nearby town, will attend church activities, will have more time for having friends over and will even have more opportunities to socialize with senior adults at the nursing home. Another argument often raised against homeschooling is the ability of the parents to teach their children well. First, let me say that this was my biggest argument against homeschooling. Can I do it well? I think I can. First of all, my children are young and the material really isn't all that advanced. Secondly, I have been trained as a teacher and have my bachelor's in education. Thirdly, and most importantly, I firmly believe that if God calls us to this, he will give us the tools needed to do it well. Josh is already a whiz at math and science and loves history. All of my weak points. But, we also have many friends with expertise in various areas who we are willing to call on to help us with various units.

Honestly, I'm quite excited about this new venture. We have purchased our curriculum, I have been planning and organizing for months and the kids are actually looking forward to it. I think it will take so much stress out of education for our kids. They'll have more time to play, more time to pursue interests, more time to learn the things that we feel were being jipped because of time issues. What more could I ask for?! So although I said I never would: I will, I am, I can!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Why glory itches?

My youngest son once quoted a Bible verse by saying, "My God shall supply all your needs according to his "glory itches" in Christ Jesus. It's supposed to say "glorious riches". I like to think that God gets "glory itches" and reigns down his glory for us to see. I know it's not what the verse is supposed to mean, but isn't beholding the glory of God one of the things we need in life? So, this blog is titled "glory itches" simply to remind me of that verse. God will supply all my needs - He has always been faithful, and will continue to be - and in receiving His goodness, I will glimpse some of those "glory itches".