Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

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!!!