Time for lovely

Yesterday afternoon the boys were playing and the girls asked to have a tea party.  Rylee found a little pad of paper and wrote down their order and handed it to me.  Usually she runs her own tea party but this time she wanted to be waited on.  I could have told her I wasn’t a waitress (it’s been said before!) but instead I told them to wait at their table.  I donned my grandma’s old ruffled apron and rummaged around finding snacks and crystal bowls (that haven’t been used in years) and my wedding china.

It was the end of the week so options were slim for food but I decided it was more about presentation.  Rice crackers in a beautiful glass dish with a lid would be perfect.  I used the tray they’d set out for me and filled it up with fun things.

Oh their delight when they saw me in my apron at their door with a tray full of love!

It doesn’t come natural to me, this slowing down, but oh the sweetness that comes when I do.  And my goodness are children ever so good at helping me practice this discipline!

Mornings…again

It has been a dreadful long time since I’ve written about mornings.  I’m not about to write anything on here that isn’t true and real.  And thus, I’ve had nothing productive or wonderful to say about morning time for…about 7 months.  Phineas has been a character-growing-tool in the hands of a gracious God.  Of course all children are, this is one of a multitude of reasons they are given to us.  But sleep has been extra elusive and patience a minute-by-minute need these past months.  And for some reason I put on myself the unnecessary burden of not wanting to complain lest I give someone the room to say “See, that’s why I don’t have five kids” or “You did this to yourself you know!”.  Yes, people do say and think those things.  All the time.

Life slowed – we did survival.  And my blissful mornings up early before anyone woke up were a distant memory.

But fall is here.  School is underway.   New routines are in place.  And my heart is in desperate need of deep portions of God and truth and grace.  There is no substitute for a vibrant, authentic, organic relationship with Jesus.  I cannot catch it by being around people who exude His love.  But in being around those ones, my appetite is whet again for more.  More than whispered half prayers in the night.  More than Sunday sermons. More than frustrated weariness that comes from depending on flesh.

Week before last at church, as soon as I saw the title on the bulletin Discipline I thought “Ugh, really?  I so don’t want to hear about this today.”  Only because I’ve been hashing out with God why I don’t see certain fruit in my life (read: patience, gentleness, joy, etc) and I’ve kept hearing the same thing from Him,

“There is NO substitution for time spent with me.  You cannot manufacture what you are longing for.  No matter how capable you are you still need ME.”

So I’ve known I needed some changes (namely, the will to get up every day before my kids come pouncing onto my bed to wake me up!).  But have lacked the guts to try, I just don’t want to fail.  Its just been a L-O-N-G seven months (did I already say that?).  I’m tired.  Like bone tired, super exhausted.

But He still beckons me.  He knows I’m tired.  He offers me all that I need and still I choose sleep over all else.

So last week Monday morning, for the first time since last year I set my alarm and woke up at 6 AM.  I thought the losing sleep was the “pain now” and the time to get my heart in order the “reward later”.  Wrong.  Literally at the sound of my alarm for 2 seconds on the lowest volume, Finn woke up.  So I got ready while he played then juggled him in the front pack while I bounced on the yoga ball to keep him quiet and tried to hold and read my prayer book and have some semblance of a ‘quiet’ time.  Not exactly what I’d envisioned, me curled up alone in my cozy chair with hot tea and a blanket and my Bible while the rest of the house sleeps.

But He met me anyway.  And I confessed my undiscipline and asked for a new beginning.  And I trust He can do that…again 🙂

How we’re learning this year

We’re changing things up this year for school, embracing a bit gentler more literature rich style of learning as my confidence is slowly growing.  I love reading other people’s posts about what they are doing for school each fall.  So in case any you feel the same way, here’s mine!

Rylee (age 8, third grade):
– Bible – daily reading plus family reading of Herein Is Love: Genesis a fantastic commentary for children
– a constant array of classic, quality literature to read independently as well as to listen to read aloud by mom or dad
– Math – Teaching Textbooks
– Science – Apologia’s Exploring Creation through Botany
– Grammar – English for the Thoughtful Child (though so far, I don’t like it, we might change it up soon!)
– US History – Beautiful Feet’s Early American literature selections
– World History – Hillyer’s A Child’s History of the World
– Nature Study – continually adding to our nature notebooks and aim to get outdoors every day
– Geography/Cultures – Window on the World
– Writing (lots of practice via copywork from history and science and grammar)
– Spelling – Sequential Spelling 1
– Fine Arts – enjoying classical composers while we learn, observing pieces of artwork together, learning practical crafts like needlepoint and sewing

Caleb (age 7, second grade):
– Bible – daily reading plus family reading of Herein is Love: Genesis
– a constant array of classic, quality literature to read independently as well as to listen to read aloud by mom or dad
– Math – Horizons Math
– Science, history, geography, fine arts and grammar same as Rylee
– Spelling/vocabulary/writing – Explode the Code (these books have been fabulous for him)
– Art class at co-op
– Fine Arts – enjoying classical composers while we learn, observing pieces of artwork together, learning practical crafts like needlepoint and sewing

Kyler (age 5, kindergarten):
– learning to read with The Reading Lesson
– Math – Family Math activities and beginning math workbook
– finishing up the Get Ready for the Code books
Handwriting without Tears K
– Nature notebook: drawing, narrating stories, anything related to the outdoors
– Art class at co-op

Audrey (age 3, Pre-K):
mostly she’s just hanging around while we read and work but since she is very eager we are using the following with her
Kumon workbooks like tracing, mazes, cutting – she adores them all
Handwriting without Tears wood capital blocks and chalkboard for letter making
– her very own Nature Notebook just like her siblings (only hers is little!)

Field trips – love that we can hit the zoo or the science center or the tidepools or the forest any day we see fit when it works with our schedule!

Fitness – our local YMCA offers a great homeschool program where the kids learn gym games and get swim lessons and all three oldest get to do that this year too, very fun.

My natural born naturalist

If I wonder where he is and happen to notice he is gone, I need only holler his name in my sing-song mama voice out the back door.  Sometimes I simply peek and get a visual on him and just leave him be.

Nature, creatures, being outdoors are critical to his ability to cope with life.  Might seem like an overstatement, but for him, truly it isn’t.

He grabs my hand and brings me to a plant where a tiny frog is perched on a blossom.  I watch as he walks back and forth in the grass that isn’t anything close to the expanses he dreams of.  Literally every time we drive by a field of grass he tells me in a wistful tone, “Oh mama, look at that – I want to run there and run and run.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”.

He is looking.  Taking in the blades of grass and making his daily inventory of what lives here.  A giant beetle flipped upside down.  A freshly spun web with a lovely reddish spider at home.  He checks the chicken coop for eggs, still none, any day now though and he knows it.  He’s determined to be the first one to find one.

He delights in all things living.  He tears up when he tells me he accidentally left the frog in full sunlight and its “all dried up”.  His finger nails are a perpetual tinge of brown.  He always smells earthy when I bury my head in his moppy hair.

Why do I fuss about his dirt covered feet – again – when someday I’ll wish I could scrub them and make him laugh again?

He talks quiet by the place where his bunny is buried in the front yard.  He rescues a magnificent dragonfly from our cats paws.  He catches bees by the dozen in mason jars and marvels when he finds one four times as big as the others and wonders why in the world it is so huge.  He holds the jar to his ear and listens to the sound he loves of them buzzing.

Why don’t I ever take the time to listen with him?

We go on a walk and he sees a garter snake, snatches it right up and holds it up for the rest of us to see.  We come home and pile inside but he stays out and scours the garden for anything ripe to eat.  He proudly comes in holding a shirt full of snap peas.

So much about the way his brain works and body feels I know I can’t understand.  It is complicated.  Though I’ve learned a great deal, I still miss chances every day to love him the way he needs love.  I hold to a truth I often recite back to myself when I forget

“I am the best mother for THESE children in this home, they have been entrusted to ME as gifts uniquely created and put in THIS family with purpose.  It was not a mistake.  God doesn’t make any.”

On days when a doctor tells me “He would really thrive in a one child family” it is impossible not to cry or let my heart break.  But I still have a choice to make, I can choose to see the gift and the purpose (even when its unclear).  That part is up to me.

On days like today when he comes running in loudly with a handful of inchworms and we all sit and soak in their cute minuteness.

We go online and look up inchworm, only to find there aren’t really inchworms just larvae (caterpillars).  Who knew?  We take careful note of all its features and look up its name.  Just yesterday we read in science about taxonomy and how scientists organize living things.  So imagine my glee when we find the precise caterpillar, along with its complete classification.  We literally just finished talking about binomial nomenclature and here we are holding tiny Nadata gibbosa larvae right here in our family room!

We first had given them grape leaves but upon learning who they were (also known as green oak caterpillars) we got them some oak leaves and they started eating right away.  Too fun.

I may sound like such a nerd, but seriously after a week of sick children and the high point yesterday of all 6 of us crammed into a tiny dental room for an hour while the above mentioned nature boy got two cavities filled….well, really this find was more than a delightful end to our week.

It felt like a rare treasure.  Like a little window to God’s amazing world.  A world that my son appreciates and basks in more than almost anyone I’ve ever known.

A chance to speak up for good

Join thousands of families nationwide to see the movie Dolphin Tale on September 23 together. It makes a statement to Hollywood to rally behind movies that “get it right” and tell great stories without all the junk, twaddle, and moral compromise! This movie has all the good stuff we want more of and is truly entertaining and inspiring from ages 5-95!!!

It’s time the conservative Christian Family and Homeschool community shows Hollywood we have a voice. But how? We need a story we can support and get behind, a story that affirms who we are and what we stand for.

Dear Friends, Dolphin Tale is such a story!

This is a family movie that will inspire, instruct, and bring you to tears because of the great story line. This movie even has two homeschool kids who play the main roles! (The casting agents went to a local support group in California and found them!)

The bottom line is that the Homeschool Movie Club wants to show Hollywood that the those of us with Christian and strong family values are a big enough market to support other great movies with traditional, conservative family values. I am hoping you will be a part of this great opportunity with me!

**Call me crazy but I’m heading there with 5 kids in tow by myself (unless anyone reading this wants to come with me!) just to toss my one voice into the mix and say “YES, please make more movies like this!”.  There are so many things to complain about but this is a chance to promote and use your voice for GOOD!

Homeschool: What we’ve loved this year

**I just found this in my drafts from JUNE! – I’ll post it anyways even though my next post about what we’re doing for school this year is just about finished.  And ps – I’m technically NOT out of the new baby fog – he still gets up every two hours!**

As I come out of the new baby fog and am fresh from an all day trip to the local homeschool convention, there is oh-so-much I could say about this.  But I’ll keep my focus narrow and just share some of the things we’ve most loved this year in our home learning.

  • Freedom to work at the pace each child needs in each subject area – this piece is core to our reasons for homeschooling.  While kids have worked through reading at lightning bolt speed, math has been slower and more challenging.
  • Time to read and be read to – every single day.  When we’re able to get most of our focused work time done early in the day (always the goal) each child has the freedom to read their own choice of quality books.  In fact as I type this Caleb just interrupted me and said:
    “Did you know that the water they are traveling over in my book right now is fathoms deep?  They are crossing the Atlantic with three ships none of which have been destroyed but they did lose valuable equipment.”  He’s reading a biography of Captain John Smith and is absolutely captivated.
  • Time outside.  Especially with boys, coop them up indoors for days in a row and its a sure recipe for craziness.  They thrive on meaningful work (read: not loads of busywork and worksheets), outdoor time and the chance to be physical.  I’m still learning how to do this but our days at home offer again a great deal of freedom to figure it out.
  • Relationships – though our kids of course argue and bicker as any kids do, all in all they are forging amazing relationships with one another and with me.  I know we could still facilitate this if they were gone all day, but its simply easier to do when we’re together most days.
  • Practical life skills – once we’re done with our work (which takes a lot less than a 7 hour school day for many reasons) we can learn to preserve food, we tend our garden and harvest veggies, we catch bugs and marvel at them, we learn how to read recipes and help prepare dinner, we try our hand at various crafts like sewing, knitting and woodwork, we write letters to friends and family, we get out art supplies and make beautiful things, we snuggle up in a blanket for an hour and read quietly.

Those are just the first that come to mind.  The main theme I think is freedom.  We are totally, amazingly blessed in this nation to have the freedom we do to worship as we choose and to teach our children in the way we see best for our family.

One more reason…

…why I love my husband:

Because he spontaneously wrote this on my kitchen chalkboard when I came home with 80 pounds of peaches and 40 pounds of tomatoes to preserve.  The kitchen is a perpetual mess of fruit flies (which he hates) and sticky counters for the good part of September.  Despite all that, he writes in chalk with exclamation marks what’s on the docket ’round here.  This makes me happy.

First day of (home)school

These are for you Mama…

Only because she is very anxious to be in the mix, Audrey is doing preschool with us this year as a very enthusiastic 3 year old

At five years old, Kyler is beginning his kindergarten work this year – though if you’d ask him, he’d tell you that in fact no, he’s not actually.  It’s taken me weeks to convince him that ‘going into kindergarten’ doesn’t actually mean GOING anywhere.  He is relieved and I’m happy to have him here.

Caleb is heading into second grade this year.  He would rather study frogs and salamanders than math but we’re going to try and do both.  He is a voracious reader and we can hardly keep enough books around for his appetite.

Sweet Rylee Jeanne is ready to hit the ground running with her third grade studies.  She is most excited about her new math program (yay!) and the opportunity to learn crafts like needlepoint, weaving, sewing and the like every afternoon after she is done with her school work.

I needed to feed Phineas so Rylee read to everyone out of my new book stash.  This is one of my very favorite parts of learning at home.

Audrey tracing a leaf into her nature notebook.  We are looking so forward to one dedicated, directed nature study a week and trying to get outside and appreciate something in creation every single day.

How to surprise yourself

On a mundane Monday morning after a week of the hubby being with family 24/7 for his vacation, ponder how you can get some more time with him because, well, you miss him already.

Text beloved babysitter to see if she can babysit Friday night for a date night.  Grin when she says yes.  Vow to not tell hubby and surprise him.

Promptly erase calendar and start with next weeks date just to be efficient.

Brim thankfulness for a mother who offers out of the blue to watch all kids but the baby for a half a day so the mama can get life/home/self ready for the new homeschool year.

Spend nap times and night times organizing, planning, mapping out how to make one favorite quote from Charlotte Mason about education become reality:

Education is atmosphere.

Shop and think and rearrange and prepare.  Rearrange again.

Get lost in the details of everyday life.  Clean up spit up 8 times every day.  Feed small, hungry army.  Ponder why one child is not coping with life well this week.

Wake early on aforementioned Friday after broken and little sleep.

Wish I drank full caffeinated coffee.  Or Red Bull.  Or something.  Settle for home brewed Kombucha instead.

Ready kids to go with Nana.  Slightly embarrassed at the state the minivan, apologize for the mess.

Ready self to paint a large family/school room in 4 hours with a baby to tend to and a 7 year old enlisted at the last minute to help.

Work crazy hard and come close to finishing when kids rush back in the front door.

Chat with hubby throughout the work day.  Plan on taco tostadas for dinner.  Start cooking.

Still wearing jammies (now deemed ‘painting jammies’) from last night and smelling a lot less than fresh after the days labors, cook dinner, hold baby and supervise crew as husband rolls in.

Quietly think about how to get the paint dog paw prints off the carpet.  Wonder why she had to walk through the paint tray instead of around it.

Smile proud when he sees the paint job (anything was better than the key lime green he’s pleasantly put up with for two years now).

He dons pj pants and grabs a paint brush to pick up the rest of the job.

Puzzled at a dinner time door knock, figure its a neighbor and head to door in jammies with babe in arms.

A babysitter.  OUR babysitter.  But why I ask myself?  I look inquisitive and wonder.

She sees my confusion and asks, “Did you forget?”

Yes.  I completely, totally forgot my ‘surprise’.  And in the most delightful way, managed to plan my very own surprise date night, for myself.  Truly, I could not have pulled it off if I’d tried.

I holler that she’s here and say “Throw some clothes on, let’s go!”.  We all laugh, a lot.

“Hope you like tacos!” I quip to our sweet sitter.  I ask how she is and eyes well instantly, “Not so great…”.  All the kids hover in the kitchen and though my better judgement says don’t subject her to a hug give my jammie-clad-smelly state, I can’t do anything but.  Baby Finn gets squished pleasantly and I apologize for being sweaty.  Plain old, pure love may not always smell good, but it always feels good.

We clean up quick, the four-days-since-getting-washed hair stays in a pony tail.  The green paint stain I can’t get off my arm remains. No time for makeup or anything really, we hightail it to the restaurant where we have a great coupon I’ve been saving, you know, for this well-planned date night.

I giggle.  And we relish the time.  We talk goals and ideas for the new year at hand.  He makes sense of what I can’t figure out.  Love how he can do that when I just let him.