Saturday, December 28, 2013

{Some Kind of Crazy}



Do you see this? It's a tent my kids made in the back half of our playroom. You are probably thinking, "Oh,that's fun. I remember doing that when I was a kid" or "My kids [used to] do that!" And for them, it is fun. It's a critical part of their development- they learn about creativity, teamwork, and some of the laws of physics. But for me, it induces feelings of anxiety to see it. My heart beats a little faster and I can feel my blood pressure rising. I hate every second it's up, and it takes every ounce of self-control I can muster to not make them tear it down and clean it up.

Why do I feel so overwhelmed and out-of-control whenever the kids build forts or even get all of their toys out at one time? It's not because I'm a "Neat Nick" or anything like that, because I'm not; I have my fair share of clutter. I just cannot stand messes, and at the risk of sounding all "psychological," I think it goes back to my childhood.

If you know me personally or have followed my blog, then you know I had an unusual childhood. We moved a lot, actually seven times between grades 3-8 (ages 8-13). We moved a few times before that and a couple of times after, but the main bulk was during my elementary and middle school years. Each move meant packing up our house and unpacking in another. If you have never had to make frequent moves, then you cannot relate to the feeling of knowing that you MUST start over: new town, new house, new school, new friends. It can be difficult and scary, especially for a kid. Don't get me wrong, I clearly see the Lord's hand throughout my life, but as a child, moving was a dreaded task.

How does moving relate to my insane inability to tolerate messes? Whenever we moved anywhere, I never had a say in it (not that I should have, just to be clear). But, after a while, it got really old. Since I couldn't control the situation I was facing (moving), I tried to control what I could (organizing my stuff). To this day, whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious, my gut reaction is to get organized (wash the dishes to organize the kitchen, fold laundry to organize the living room, have the kids clean up their rooms so they are organized). I make my bed at least 28 out of 30 days in a month, even if I am running late. It calms me. It probably seems crazy, but again, if you know me well, you know I share my struggles in hopes that it encourages another (or at the very least normalizes the feelings others may be experiencing).

As Christmas approached, I began to feel anxious about the ensuing mess that happens after opening presents. I'm not talking about the wrapping paper, but with "stuff" cluttering the floors of the living room because it hasn't found a place to be put. It happens every year, but this year it was worse. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. 

First, I spent almost a month from mid-May to mid-June purging every space in our house, including the attic. TJ knocked down walls in our living/dining room and had to install a huge load-bearing beam in the attic. In preparation for that project, he emptied the contents of our attic into our bedroom to remove some of the weight on the trusses. He then re-did our floors in our main living space, so all the furniture was moved into the playroom. (As a side note, I left with the kids and spent a week in Ohio. There is no way I could live here while my house was upside down during the floor project!) Before putting everything back, I went through to decide if it was something we needed or wanted. That purge was the catalyst behind doing the rest of the house. We donated boxes and boxes of items to various people and places. I seriously could have filled a moving truck full of stuff! Items included clothes, toys, games, gadgets, electronics, and more. The thought of bringing items back into the house, although in the form of Christmas presents, caused anxiety.

Second, the shear number of gifts we all receive is overwhelming. That is a good thing- it means we are not lacking in any area! But again, trying to find space to put everything so it's not finding a permanent "home" in my living room is a daunting task. Some gifts the kids can only play with if they are supervised (contains small pieces, is permanent marker, etc) so I can't simply say, "Go put this away in your room." Other toys the kids deem as "special" and want to keep them for themselves. That entails finding a special place to keep it where no one will bother it (mainly Annie & Taryn). That, too, can be a time-consuming task.

So now that I've shared my insane need for organization, don't judge. We all have our little quirks and this one is mine. I have a feeling I am not alone.... :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{A Worthy Walk}

I will admit I don't spend as much time in my bible as I should. However, I make it a point to pray as soon as I am alone with the Lord in the morning, which is usually while getting ready for the day. I try to pray through scripture because it helps me to meditate on verses I already know and is more than just "asking" for things to be done.

One of the verses I pray through each day is Ephesians 4:1-3.

It says,

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."


As I was praying that the Lord would help me to walk worthy of my calling, I began to think about what exactly my calling was. The verse is speaking to brothers and sisters in Christ, that we walk (act) in a way that pleases Jesus and honors His sacrifice on the cross. But it goes deeper than that, I think. I personalized it even more to mean my calling as a wife, and of course as a mother. Am I treating my husband and children in ways that please Christ? Am I really living up to being a godly wife and mom? There are women out there who were not called to be wives and mothers. Am I cherishing my roles as I should? Ashamedly, not all the time! What about my calling as a daughter, friend, sister, and neighbor? Am I doing my best to fulfill those roles in a Christ-like way? Again, I fall short. 

I sat down and wrote out a list of things that I could do/change to truly walk worthy of my calling. The first thing was to "put off" my desires and "put on" the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). While I also pray those verses each day, it is very easy for me to live in the flesh and not rely on the Lord's strength for patience, endurance, gentleness, etc, particularly at the end of the day when I am tired and ready for a break from the kids. But, as I often tell my kids, doing the right thing isn't always easy...

I won't go into the details regarding the rest of my list, but I am sharing this so others will perhaps examine their own hearts regarding their calling. Christmas is approaching, and with it means celebrating the birth of the Savior, the One who gave me my calling in the first place. I can think of no better time than now to reflect on and implement changes. Christ was born to die so that others could live freely in Him. If I do not crucify my flesh and live for Him daily (hourly!), then what was the purpose of His suffering on the cross?



Friday, November 29, 2013

{A Thanksgiving Blessing}

This Thanksgiving we broke tradition and hosted friends at our house instead of spending the day with family. The idea came about when our original plan of traveling to Ohio was scrapped and we heard that a family new to the area was going to be spending the day alone. It immediately brought back memories of our Air Force days, when holidays were spent gathered with close friends who felt like family. TJ and I knew breaking tradition might cause some riffs, but the Lord worked it all out for the best!


I planned and prepared in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and when I bought the turkey, I chose the largest one I could find. We were feeding 13 people so I chose one that was 15 pounds. It would be enough for the day, but I wasn't expecting leftovers. Our guests were bringing side dishes and desserts, and I was making additional sides and desserts, so I knew we would have plenty of food for the 13 of us.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I ran into a long-time friend of mine. Our Thanksgiving plans came up in conversation, and when I heard that she and her family were planning to eat at a restaurant, my heart-strings were tugged and I invited them to join us. She accepted and we worked out details of what meal items she would contribute.

Adult table all set and ready for guests
When I informed TJ that I had invited another family of 6 to join us, he was immediately concerned about having enough food, particularly turkey. He suggested I buy a ham to go with it. I went to the store to buy one but could not bring myself to pay $1.99/lb (10 lbs was the smallest ham I found) so I returned home empty-handed. Thanksgiving day arrived and as I was putting the turkey in the oven, TJ again shared his concern over having enough food. I assured him that I had faith the Lord would work it out. 
Panoramic view of the "big kid" table

I am so blessed that I was able to see the  Lord work that day! The fellowship was sweet and everyone left feeling refreshed, encouraged, and genuinely thankful for a wonderful day together. But most importantly, the Lord showed His providence and presence by providing more than enough turkey for all of us! I had enough leftover for 2 additional meals for my family of 8 (since Ruthie isn't eating solids yet)! It truly was the Lord's doing!
Some of the kids before the start of the scavenger hunt

This is a Thanksgiving I will never forget. I shared this story with my children in hopes that they, too, will remember this day and see how God took care of us. He blessed us greatly not just in the physical sense of providing enough food, but in encouraging our spiritual walk with Him.

Wow!




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

{Relying on God}

Yesterday during our history time, the Lord allowed me to have a glimpse into my son's heart. We were learning about the prophet Amos. Although he was from Judah, God called him to go preach in the land of Israel because the Israelites had stopped relying on the Lord.  As we were discussing the reasons why (wealth, peace with neighboring countries, surplus of food and supplies), he casually mentioned that he didn't rely on the Lord, either. When I questioned him further, I learned that my son (who will remain anonymous) responded that he didn't have any reason to- he didn't fight in battles (against other countries), he wasn't wandering in the wilderness, waiting to enter the Promised Land, he wasn't being ruled by a harsh king who was a direct enemy of the Lord, etc.

How did I interpret his response? Like this: he didn't know how to rely on God. I put the brakes on our history lesson and had a wonderful opportunity to explain to him what relying on God looks like. For him, as a child, it looks different than it does as an adult, but the principles behind it are the same. When he is outside playing, and comes up with [what he thinks is] a brilliant idea that involves using his dad's tools, he needs to stop and ask himself, "Is this what God would have me to do? Am I to use my dad's tools without permission?" I continued to give him similar examples and with each one, I could see the understanding show on his face. Relying on God means that you trust in His way and in His plans, knowing that they are perfect, even if God's way doesn't make sense at the time. Finally he confirmed his understanding and resolved to apply it.

Our conversation goes much deeper than just a simple dialogue at the kitchen table. It caused me to examine my own life, my own dependence on the Lord. Do my children not know what true dependence looks like because I fail to model it?  When my kids are going in 7 different directions and each one has a need that has to be met at that exact moment, do I pause to pray and gain my strength from Him in order to respond in the right way, or do I respond in my own strength in the wrong way? That was a humbling thought, and one that I have not taken lightly.

As the days pass and my time with my children at home shortens, I pray that I do model my dependence on the Lord in all areas. I am not just influencing my children, but their children and all their future generations to come.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

{Bread, Anyone?}

We go through between 9-10 loaves of bread (just bread, not buns) in a month and I pay about $.97/loaf. That's a great deal but I am always looking for something better. About a month ago or so, a friend of mine shared with me an article about buying "feed trays" from bread outlets. I inquired a couple of weeks ago at my local store and to my delight, they took my information and said they would contact me when they had extras. Today they called and said they had 10 extra trays, and I agreed to purchase one tray.

I loaded up the kids and we went to the store. I went in and paid for my purchase, not really sure of how much bread I was buying. The cashier told another employee in the back of the store that I was there to pick up my tray. She told me to drive around to the first bay door and I could load it up from there. I was beginning to get nervous, still quite unsure of what I had bought.

I couldn't open both doors on the truck or the bread would have dumped all over the driveway.

This is what I bought!! It is a mix of white bread, wheat bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, bagels, and sandwich rounds. It is called a "feed tray" because the bread, all of which is still fresh and within the date stamp, is smashed and deemed "unsaleable" by store standards. The bread outlet won't even put it on their shelves and instead sell it to people to use as feed for their animals. As the boys and I were loading up, one of the employees came over and asked what type of animals we were feeding. I smiled and kindly answered, "9 humans, 5 chickens, and 2 dogs." The look on her face was priceless!

I plan to freeze as much as I can. The loaves that are really smashed we can keep in a Rubbermaid container outside to supplement the feed for the chickens and dogs. The cool weather will help keep the bread from molding, and the animals won't care about it's freshness. I also foresee lots of bread puddings, homemade croutons, and stuffing mixes. I also plan to share with others (so if you need a loaf or two of bread, let me know).

The best part- I paid a whopping $10 for everything!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

{On Higher Ground}

The title of this post is the name of a CD put out by one of my favorite evangelist groups, The Pettit Team. It is also the name of a song on that CD. (You can listen here). The song reminds Christians to keep a heavenly focus, that one day our troubles will be gone as we sit in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. I thought the meaning of the song was a wonderful parallel to my present "season" of life.

A few years ago, in the midst of one of my children throwing a temper tantrum, someone told me that my life as a mother was eventually going to get easier. My children would grow, and the older ones would be a help to the younger ones. I wasn't going to be in this "season" of having young children forever. I remember taking the encouragement at face value; the stress of my present situation was so emotionally draining that it was difficult to imagine my life any different. As the years have passed, I have obviously added more children to my family, but that person was correct. My life as a mother has become easier. In spite of having a newborn, I am seeing that I am entering a new "season" of motherhood.

My older children are great helps with the younger ones, allowing me time to get done with the things that I am responsible for doing around the house. For instance, Taryn was sitting at my feet in the kitchen while I was trying to cook supper. Thomas came into the kitchen to talk to me, and when he saw Taryn whining and literally hanging off of my leg, he picked her up and brought her into the other room and started to play with her. I didn't even have to open my mouth; he did it on his own, and it was a huge help! Tristin-Grace will pick up and hold Ruthie whenever she's fussy and I can't get to her. She will also change diapers or dress the little girls if I need help. I have also taught my children to go to their siblings if they need help with something (i.e. tying shoes, zipping jackets, getting a drink, etc) instead of coming to me.

Playing at the park is also an enjoyable activity for me now. When my kids were little, it was difficult to enjoy the park because I seemed to always have a baby in a stroller, a toddler who wanted to explore, or an energetic preschooler who didn't understand the importance of not climbing on the outside of the play structures. Simply put, I couldn't supervise my children because they were all doing different things and it was really difficult. I would meet friends and their children for play dates at the park, but instead of getting some "adult time", I usually ended up chasing my kids around while they enjoyed the park. It was tough. It was isolating. It was frustrating. I missed having "adult time" during the day. Now I can enjoy going to the park with friends because my older kids can play with and supervise the younger ones.

I can honestly say that in some ways adding another child has not really made a difference in terms of the ways our family functions; Ruthie just sort of fit right in and we never skipped a beat. I'm not saying we don't have our stressful moments or that life is "easy". But, what I am saying, and the point of this entry, is that it does get easier. So, to encourage all you moms of young(er) children, in a few short years you, too, will be looking back on this season of life with fond memories. Hang in there, keep your chin up, and your feet will one day be on higher ground.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

{Ruthie- 2 months old}

Ruthie, or Baby Ruth (like the chocolate bar) as I affectionately call her, turned 2 months old on September 22. She had her check up yesterday. Here are her stats:


Weight: 11.14 lbs (60th percentile)
Length: 22.5 in (60th percentile) 

She has slowed down on her weight gain but it's because she is going longer between feedings. She goes about 3 hours between her daytime feedings. At night, she usually eats about 10 or 10:30p and then sleeps until about 4a or so (however, the past couple of nights she hasn't gone as long so hopefully she'll get back on track!). 

Baby Ruth continues to be an easy-going, low-demand, pleasant baby. However, she seems to be very serious, and her smiles are few and far between. I happened to catch one with the camera. Enjoy!

Friday, August 30, 2013

{Ruthie~ 1 month old}

Ruthie is 1 month old already!  Here are her stats:

Height: 22.25in (grown 1.25in)
Weight: 10lbs, 7oz. (gained 2lbs, 2oz since she was discharged from the hospital)
Feeding: every 2 hours with one 4 hour stretch usually from 10p-2a.




Monday, August 5, 2013

{Tyndall Ruth ~ An Induction Story}

My pregnancy with Ruthie began like most of the others: an unexpected surprise. However, this pregnancy was different. It was harder on my body physically: my back and hips hurt from about month 6 on, making walking, sitting, or standing painful and moving around difficult; my hands and feet swelled, forcing me to wear one pair of flip flops every day, even to church; and I had headaches for many weeks straight for no apparent reason. Although I gained the typical (for me) 30 pounds, I gained it early in the pregnancy compared to my others. Also, unlike the others, I actually lost weight the last few weeks of the pregnancy because I simply lost my appetite. The weight of the baby sitting on my stomach just constantly left me feeling full. This was just an all-around different pregnancy experience for me, and one I really don't think I want to experience again.


Another way this was an atypical pregnancy was the fact that I carried Ruthie for so long. All of my other pregnancies ended in me going into labor on my own between 2 and 4 weeks before my due date. So, you can imagine my surprise when I hit week 38 and I was still pregnant. Even the doctors were shocked, mainly because I had already started to show the early signs of labor (cervix thinning out and dilating) AND they had stripped my membranes to see if that would get labor started. Each week they would end the visit with, "If you make your appointment next week, we'll...". At my 38 week visit (only been 38 weeks pregnant once before, with Tanner), the doctor asked me if I was interested in being induced. Since I've never been induced, I wanted to find out more information. He briefly explained the process and said that, given my history of fast labors and deliveries, it would be beneficial because the labor process would be more controlled instead of me showing up at the hospital and having to wait on the doctor to arrive, etc while on the verge of delivering a baby. I went ahead and set up the appointment to be induced, but prayed fervently that I would go into labor on my own beforehand.

I was nervous about being induced because, as I wrote, I had never experienced labor in that way before. I was scared that the pain was going to be worse, that my body wouldn't respond to the Pitocin (the medicine used to get contractions going) and I would end up needing a C-section. Now, I am not against having C-sections, rather I am a wimp with a low pain tolerance and scared of the pain from the recovery afterwards. Plus, there are many more restrictions in the post-partum period with a C-section and I don't know how I would care for my other kids. So, I was definitely fearful and had my doubts that I was making the right decision, but after talking with TJ, we decided to go ahead with the induction. We had childcare arranged for the kids and if I waited until I went into labor on my own, we would be scrambling trying to find someone to come stay with the kids.

The morning of the scheduled induction, I was to call the hospital at 5am to find out if there were any beds available. I woke about 2am, nervous, unable to fall back to sleep. When I did call at 5a, there were no openings and I was told to call back at 8a. I went back to sleep for an hour or so and got up to shower, finish packing, etc. I called at 8a and was again told to call back at 11a. At 11a, I was told the labor and delivery unit was really busy and that someone from the floor would call me back when there was an opening. I hung up feeling discouraged and doubting I was going to have a baby that day.

To cheer me up (and get me out of the house!), TJ suggested that we go out for lunch at a sit-down restaurant and then head to the store to do some shopping. We only had Taryn with us, and my dad was visiting, so the 4 of us decided on Chinese and headed to the restaurant. We ate our lunch and drove to the gas station on the way to the store. While there, I received a call from the hospital that there was an opening. TJ immediately went into panic mode! We went home, gathered my belongings, and arrived at the hospital within 30 minutes of receiving the call (I was worried a woman was going to show up at the hospital in labor and take my spot!).

I got checked in, changed into a gown, and waited for the doctor to come in. He finally came in about 2p and explained the plan: start an IV drip with the lowest dose of Pitocin, monitor the contractions, and make adjustments to the medicine as needed. I do not like needles (fear of pain, remember!) so I try to avoid them, meaning no epidural. As a result, I wanted to be able to get comfortable when the contractions became painful. The doctor agreed I could have access to a birthing ball, rocking chair, and be able to move around the room rather than just laying in the bed. I felt a sense of relief that he was so willing to accommodate my requests and be flexible with my desires. He checked me to get an idea of where we were starting, and I was 3cm and 75% effaced (thinned out). My water was still intact and the baby was at station -3 (still pretty high up).

It took about 45 minutes for the medication order to get put in the computer so I didn't start the Pitocin until almost 3p. I had been contracting on my own, and some were strong, but nothing consistent. Now, while at lunch, I drank 2 glasses of sweet tea. When we left, I had an ice water to-go. When we got to the hospital, I had another ice water brought in. About 3:45p, I really had to use the bathroom. I stood up to go and realized my water broke (not a gush, though, like the other pregnancies). That was a good sign things were moving in the right direction. The nurse decided to stop the Pitocin because my contractions were becoming closer together and getting harder. About 30 minutes later (4:15p) the doctor came in to see how things were going. The nurse informed him my water broke and that she stopped the Pitocin, he asked about my contractions (how they were feeling, did I want an epidural), and offered to check me. I declined on the epidural and on him checking me, explaining that although the contractions were definitely coming frequently (every 1-2 minutes) and uncomfortable, they were still tolerable as I breathed through them. On a scale of 0-10 (0 being no pain, 10 being worst pain imaginable), I rated them as a 5 or 6, sometimes becoming a 7.

30 minutes later (4:45p) I had to again use the bathroom. This time it was a 2-person job because I couldn't concentrate on breathing through my contractions while trying to push the IV pole and walk to the bathroom. I put TJ in charge of the IV pole. As I went to sit on the toilet, I suddenly felt pressure and knew it was not a good idea to sit. More importantly, I knew I needed the doctor ASAP because my baby was coming soon! I calmly told TJ to page the nurse. He asked me why, and I just told him she needed to get in here because things were progressing faster than I thought. Up to this point, my labor hadn't been bad and I was able to tolerate the pain.

She came in, checked me (I was at 7cm), and said she was going to page the doctor. She went into the hallway, called the doctor (I could hear her on her phone thing the nurses use), and came back in the room. She was gone for literally less than 2 minutes. I told her he needed to come now because it was time to push. She checked me again and I was at 9cm. She yelled into the hallway for assistance and the room was filled with people. At this point, the pain of labor had taken over so I don't really remember everything. TJ has had to fill me in on some of the details.

The doctor came in, I was already pushing, and I just remember pushing so much I was out of breath. He kept telling me to push, the head was right there, and suddenly I felt the most excruciating pain in my life. I had had my legs drawn up to aid in pushing, and when I felt that pain, my legs shot straight out and I didn't want to move. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs for so long that I went hoarse and my throat was sore for 2 days. I remember someone grabbing each of my legs (nurses probably) and forcing me to bend them again. I remember the doctor telling me to calm down, that I was the only one who could make the pain go away (by pushing out the baby). I remember looking at TJ's face and seeing just this look of "something's not right" but not really being able to make sense of it. It wasn't until after Ruthie was born did I understand.


Apparently when I delivered her, she was head down but turned sideways (not just facing sideways, her entire body was on its side). As a result, her shoulders got stuck and her entire face bruised. That was the pain I felt and that was the look on TJ's face that I couldn't understand. Add to it that she weighed a whopping 9 pounds, 1 ounce (for me, that's a HUGE baby!!) and it's no wonder this was by far the most painful delivery I have ever experienced. It's sort of funny that the doctor said an induction would be more "controlled" and be less traumatic of a birthing experience for the baby. It actually ended up being just as fast and crazy as if I had gone into labor on my own. I will admit though, I am glad I was at the hospital because if it had happened when I was at home, Ruthie would have probably been born in the living room. =)


Ruthie's facial bruising has healed with the exception of her eye. She has a hematoma in her right eye that the doctor said could take up to a month to heal. Other than that, she is a healthy newborn. She is already up to 9 pounds, 5 ounces. She eats every 2 hours and loves to be held. The kids enjoy holding and feeding her, and I am thankful for their help. Although not a typical pregnancy, labor, or delivery, she is a blessing and precious gift from God.


Tyndall Ruth
July 22, 2013 at 5:25pm.
9lbs, 1oz
21in long
(Tyndall- named after William Tyndale, a 16th century English scholar who was executed for his work in translating the Bible into English).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

{Happy Anniversary}

TJ and I celebrated our 14th anniversary last Wednesday. No, fourteen years is not going to break the record for having the longest marriage, and it's not considered a "milestone" year in any way. But, to me it's significant because we have worked really hard to make our marriage last. Not just last, but honor God and be a good example for our children in the process.
 
 
 
When we married, I was 20 years old. I had never met his family, and he had only met my family once. We had our families' blessings to get married, but it didn't come without many, many warnings of "Don't you think you're too young?" and "Don't you think you should wait a little while longer?"
Speaking only for myself, I knew TJ was "the one" for me before we started dating. No, it was not "love at first sight" or anything like that.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  TJ and I worked together while in the Air Force. He asked me out several times and I always declined. I had recently broken up with a long-term boyfriend from back home (in Ohio) and simply didn't want to jump into another relationship. But, the more we worked together and I got to know him, the more I enjoyed being with him. I knew he was "the one" when he deployed for short trip (gone approximately a week). I missed not working with him! When he got back, I told him I missed him and he asked me out to dinner and a movie. I accepted, and that was the start of our dating relationship.
 
We dated for about 15 months before we married. When we did get married, it was like something out of a movie. Notice I didn't say fairytale. =) We drove to Reno, NV and got married at "The Chapel of Love" wedding chapel. We had our closest friends from the Air Force with us, and we spent 2 nights in Reno. We enjoyed celebrating the 4th of July watching fireworks on the rooftop of our hotel (Circus Circus- Cirque De Solei performs out of there), along with a performance of "Riverdance" the other night. It was a fun, memorable time for sure!
 
Our marriage is nothing extraordinary, but like I said, we do try to glorify God through it. That means lots of overlooking offenses (in love), lots of taking time to put each other first, and lots of seeking forgiveness as neither of us is perfect (shocking, I know!).
 
TJ brought me a dozen roses for our anniversary this year. Perhaps to some, this is not enough. And, at one point in time, it might not have been for me, either. But, over the years I've been married, I've learned a lot along the way. One is that he thinks about me in many unusual ways, and that makes me feel loved. For instance, users often bring in baked goods as a way to thank him or one of his employees for their help in solving a computer problem. Many times TJ will not eat something and instead bring it home just for me if he knows I really like it (brownies, for example). Another thing I've learned is that I would rather him "spoil" me in the everyday of our lives rather than once a year. He helps me out so much with the kids in ways that many other husbands don't: he bathes the kids while I clean up from dinner, he takes them to run errands on the weekends to give me a little break, we put the kids to bed together, etc.
 
Our marriage isn't perfect, but it is "real" and it is founded on God's design and plan for marriage. As we both work to perfect our roles as husband and wife, we grow closer to each other and in our walk with the Lord. What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

{Taryn's 18 month Stats}

This post is a month overdue but here it is anyway....

Taryn weighs in at 22 .15 pounds. She lost about 1.5 pounds in March from a 5-day stomach bug and hasn't regained much since she's started walking. Speaking of walking, she began taking a few steps in March (at 16-mos old) but didn't walk independently until mid-April. Since that time, she has begun to walk fast (but still not running) and can walk down 1 small step without having to sit down. She is trying to jump with both feet off the ground but so far can only get one up.

 
At her 1-year check up it was confirmed that Taryn has a milk allergy (not to be confused with lactose intolerance- they are not the same). She has always had a clear, runny nose even though she wasn't sick. She also had spots of eczema on her body. At about 11 months old, I introduced her to cow's milk by mixing it with her formula. As the amounts of cow's milk increased and the formula  decreased, she began to show signs of an allergy. Her eczema became wide-spread and covered her back, her runny nose became more constant, and her face became splotchy with red patches. At her visit, I mentioned my suspicion to the doctor and he agreed that she was probably allergic to whey. The only way to tell (without going through the official "allergy testing") was to take her off all dairy and see what happened. Within 3-4 days of taking her off dairy, her skin cleared up, her runny nose dried up, and she was a happy baby. She is able to drink almond milk and consume soy products (but I avoid soy because it's not as good for you as most think- see here and here for more information). However, she doesn't care for almond yogurt (not because of taste but rather the texture of the fruit pieces) and I've never tried soy cheese, so other than almond milk, she doesn't consume many dairy products. At first it was somewhat challenging as I got used to preparing meals that she could eat or omit cheese in foods that I would have otherwise included it. Now that I am used to it, it's not as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be.


As far as her speech development goes, she has made huge gains in even the past week! She correctly (as in at the right times/with correct intonation) says (this list is not exhaustive):
  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Teagan
  • Nannie (Annie)
  • Grace (Tristin-Grace)
  • cookie
  • cup
  • down
  • love you
  • bye bye
  • eat
  • No!
  • Stop!
  • Uh oh!
  • Rainbow (our cat)
  • Na na (Jenna and Kiana, our dogs)
  • wipe (as in wipe me & get me out of my chair now!)
  • shoe
  • more
  • chicken
  • Yes (although she doesn't say it very often)
  • kiss
  • baby
  • ba ba (bottle)
Words she can say but not always appropriately:
  • bird (can mean "bird" or "airplane")
  • car (can mean "car" or "truck")
  • down (can mean "down" or "up")
She has also started repeating words or phrases she hears. For example, I took the girls to pick blueberries earlier in the week. She kept hearing me tell them to only pick the purple blueberries. We were picking some and giving them to her to eat as she watched us. When she wanted more, she started to ask for "blue blue". It was so cute! The other thing that is really cute that she and TJ do is sing together. He will practice his warm-up that he does during his weekly lessons, and she repeats after him. They go back and forth, singing to each other.


The biggest news is that she is finally sleeping through the night! She only started that about a month ago (after we got back from Ohio for my sister's graduation). She used to wake at least once each night, but sometimes twice. I'm not sure why she started sleeping better, but it was definitely an answer to many prayers!

Taryn is a very happy, animated little girl. She rarely cries and is usually smiling. She enjoys playing babies with her sisters and it makes me smile when I watch her care for her baby dolls. She will put them in a stroller or high chair and know just what to do with them. It amazes me the innate ability to nurture that God gave to girls. I remember thinking the same thing with my boys as they played with their cars, making car sounds that they had never heard before.


I am so thankful for Taryn as she brings joy to all of us!

Monday, June 24, 2013

{Women Living Well- Having Babies in Opposite World}

I am sharing the link to this post because it really encouraged me...

It seems like I live my life defending my choice to have many children instead of celebrating them. I have heard just about every comment and snide remark a person can make about children, mothering, and preventing more children from coming along. These remarks have come from strangers, family, and even an OB doctor at the practice I use. Why?

Because our society does not embrace children as much as it says it does. Abortion wouldn't exist if it did. There would be more large families if it did. Pregnancy would be more celebrated instead of questioned. And mothers like me would not feel ashamed to walk the aisles of the grocery store with all of her children, afraid of what comments she will hear or questions her children will have to field.

So, for all the moms out there reading this, whether you have one child or many children, do not be ashamed, embarrassed, or defensive. Instead, celebrate the gift you have been given and praise the Giver of Life for choosing you to be their mother.

Friday, June 21, 2013

{Blueberry Picking!}

I took the girls to pick blueberries one day while the boys were working to earn some extra money. We have only been to this particular farm once for a strawberry festival. I was familiar with the layout but honestly didn't know what to expect because we've never picked blueberries before. It was a GREAT time!

When we first arrived, we made a stop at the bathroom to ensure we would have plenty of time to pick without having to "go" later. When we came out of the bathroom, we saw a group of people listening to instructions from one of the farmers. He then handed out half-gallon buckets to everyone. Side note: we have gone strawberry picking at a different farm and at that farm, customers were required to pay prior to getting their buckets. I was assuming this farm operated in the same way. I was wrong. I was only wanting a total of 1 half-gallon bucket of blueberries. Since each of the older 3 girls had a bucket, I was trying to convince them we were going to SHARE the bucket and contribute to filling it. Thankfully someone overheard me and explained the way this farm operates. I definitely like it better with each person having a bucket to fill without sharing. We just combined the berries into one bucket when we were finished, and I paid for exactly what I wanted and turned in the extra buckets. We proceeded to walk to the blueberry fields, which was about 1/4 mile down a dirt road.

As we were walking, a woman turned around and asked me if I homeschooled. I told her that I did, and she commented she hadn't met me before. I thought that was strange (it's not like all homeschoolers know each other!) but introduced myself nonetheless. She continued to ask questions and it occurred to me that I had somehow joined a homeschool group upon exiting the bathroom! I explained my mistake to her, and we both laughed hysterically. Thankfully they were more than willing to include us, and it made for good conversation and a better time for the girls since there were other children picking with us.

 
We picked blueberries, of course eating our fair share as we picked. The girls each picked and filled their own buckets, excited to show me their loot every 2 minutes or so! Taryn just enjoyed the fresh air and even fresher blueberries. We couldn't pick them fast enough for her; she was double-fisting them into her mouth! We enjoyed talking with the farmer about how they grow, the types of critters that are attracted to blueberries (ladybugs love them!), and how to tell a really ripe blueberry from one that is almost ripe (it's not just about the color!).


While in nature, we heard many types of birds, saw turtles (the fields were across from a pond), and enjoyed hearing the sounds of being outside. I heard the familiar sound of an airplane overhead, and as I pointed it out to the girls (I am slightly obsessed with airplanes, always have been), I was thrilled to see it was a biplane! We watched it fly over us and then resumed picking our berries, just talking and enjoying our time together.

After about 45 minutes of picking, we made our way back up the dirt road to begin the process of paying and leaving. As we reached the top of the hill, we saw the biplane parked in a field next to the strawberry fields. Of course we had to stop to take a picture. The girls wanted to get close to it, but the exhaust was still hot because it had just landed. After we paid for our berries and walked to the truck, we heard the airplane prop start up. We watched it taxi down the grassy field, pick up speed, and take off over the trees. The girls were disappointed because it flew off in the opposite direction, but as we continued to load up in the truck, it flew directly over us and we were able to wave at the pilot and his wife. The girls were so excited because they got to see it again!


Blueberry picking, especially at this local farm, is definitely something we will be doing again. The boys want to go with us next time, as does TJ. I actually foresee another trip in the near future as we have already ate the half-gallon bucket we picked (only 2 days ago!).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

{Locks of Love}

Now that summer is here, school is out, and our days less busy, I have more time to post what's been going on in our lives...

For several months, Tristin-Grace has been wanting to cut her hair. As in short, very short. She was tired of having to sleep in braids, and truthfully, she just wanted a change. TJ was against her getting her hair cut off. Every morning, as I brushed and fixed her hair for school, she'd plead with me to make her an appointment. Every evening, after her shower, she'd plead with me to make her an appointment. And each day when she got home from school, she'd ask me to fix her hair and beg me to make her an appointment. And each instance I told her the same thing: talk to your dad.

Finally, Tristin-Grace was able to plead her case to her dad. Although not happy, he agreed she could get her hair cut. I made her appointment about 2 weeks out to give her time to think about how she wanted it cut, and if she truly did want to cut it short or if she only wanted a couple inches cut off. We talked about how she could donate her hair to an organization that makes wigs for children who are battling cancer, alopecia, or some other medical condition causing hair loss. I showed her pictures of a little girl we know (but haven't seen in a while) who is the same age as Tristin-Grace. She is battling brain cancer and lost her hair due to all the surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Although hers is starting to grow back, Tristin-Grace made her decision and was set on donating it to Locks of Love.

We discussed our plan with TJ. Locks of Love require a minimum of 10 inches from tip to tip of the cut hair, and the hair has to be banded or braided together. I rubber banded her hair and took a ruler to it to show him about where it would fall after it was cut. TJ really didn't want her to cut her hair, not because he was set on her having long hair, but because he was worried she wouldn't like it after it was cut. She has only ever had long hair and was in for a big change! He agreed to having the 10 inches cut but not a centimeter more!

For 2 weeks she counted down the days, and honestly, I really thought she would change her mind once the big day arrived! We got to the salon, ruler in hand, and got started. Our stylist, Erica, began by straightening Tristin-Grace's hair so that, when cut, it would be exactly 10 inches. Finally, it was time to begin cutting. I gave Tristin-Grace one more opportunity to change her mind, but she was determined!



Her hair when we arrived
 



Straightening it
 

Measuring exactly 10 inches
 

 The Big Cut!
 
 
 
 View of the back
 
 
 
Her new 'do
 
She is thrilled with her hair! She loves that she can wear it down without getting in her face, and she said it feels lighter now (well no wonder- it was down to her bottom berfore her haircut!). Someone asked how much total she had cut, and I would estimate 11 inches. Her ponytail was 10 inches exactly but once her remaining hair was evened out everywhere, it was close to another inch off the back and sides. I'm just happy that Tristin-Grace loves her hair as she definitely earned this haircut!

Monday, June 3, 2013

{The Lord's Provision}

This post is simply a public expression of thanksgiving to God for all that He has provided us over the past few months. Here are the specifics:

*We knew last summer that we would be needing a new(er) vehicle as TJ's van (our only vehicle that could hold all 8 of us) was showing signs of its age and wear, particularly with the transmission. The goal was to keep up the maintenance on it for as long as possible until it was no longer safe to drive. On one of our trips to Ohio, we drove a rented Toyota Sienna while TJ's van was being repaired after a minor accident he was involved in. It was very spacious and had plenty of cargo space for all of us plus our luggage and gear. As a result, we discussed buying either a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna when the time came to replace his van. I will admit, I wanted a new van sooner than later, and hoped that TJ would one day soon announce his decision that it was "time".

When I found out I was pregnant in November, immediately we both knew that purchasing a vehicle was a priority because another baby meant we had outgrown a mini-van. That also meant our vehicle options were limited. We began to pray. We began to search out vehicles that could hold 9 people (comfortably) and still have room for strollers, groceries, etc. We had 3 options: a Chevy Suburban, a Ford Excursion, or an 11-passenger van. We researched all three of our options and concluded that the Ford Excursion was the best choice for our family. It is also one of the most expensive simply because of it's size and limited availability (they were only produced from 2001-2005). We began to pray some more. We needed finances along with a low-mileage vehicle that was in pretty good shape so it would last a long time. TJ spent many hours scouring the internet for one, and God provided just the right one! TJ was able to trade in his van for close to what we paid for it (over 4 years ago!) and was able to negotiate the price of the Excursion down another $1,500. It was truly amazing to see the Lord's hand in that entire situation!!

My "new" truck! :)
What I learned is that my plan is not always God's plan. I wasn't planning on another baby, and I am so thankful that (for once) I didn't repeatedly express my desire for a new vehicle and put undue pressure on TJ to purchase one. Can you imagine if we had gone ahead and purchased a new(er) mini-van last summer and then only a few months later found out about the pregnancy? That would have been a financial mess for sure! I also learned that I have to trust that TJ is going to make the best decisions for our family, and that the Lord will bless us when I submit to TJ as the leader of our home. This vehicle is certainly proof of that, and I would be remiss to not acknowledge the Lord's working in the entire situation.

*Taryn's birth meant that she and Tristin-Grace would share a room (since Annie & Teagan already share a room) once she slept through the night. Taryn is not a good sleeper so she continued to sleep in the crib in our room until she was only waking once per night. In early April, TJ and I felt she was finally sleeping well enough to move into TG's room. The problem- we only had 1 crib and I was going to need it for the new baby. I began to search for a 2nd crib. I inquired at the thrift store (they don't accept cribs because of all the recalls), I searched on two local buy/sell forums that I belong to (no one wanted to sell one for less than $75), and I posted my need on Facebook. I also prayed every night that the Lord would provide something, and that it would be cheap. I looked online and found one brand new for around $100, but I really didn't want to invest a lot of money into a crib since Taryn will be moving to a twin bed in the next 6 months to a year. God answered my prayer! About a month ago, a friend of mine emailed me one day stating she was moving her child from a crib to a bed and no longer had a need for hers. She didn't know if I wanted hers. Without hesitation, I said "Yes!!" and asked how much she wanted for it. Her response- no charge, just come pick it up. Wow!! TJ put it together last week and Taryn slept in it for the first time Friday night. She was unsure at first, but now loves her new crib in her new room!
Taryn in her new crib in Tristin-Grace's room
*Tristin-Grace has a full-size bed in her room, and with the crib and another dresser, there was barely room to turn around. The next item we needed to get was a twin bed for her to replace her full-size bed. TJ is going to build a guestroom/nursery downstairs off of our bedroom, and I am going to put the full-size bed in there. I again checked the thrift store for a twin bed, and we were able to get a mattress in excellent condition for free, but finding a twin bed that included the bed rails was not very successful. I again prayed about it, and the Lord again provided above and beyond my expectations.

One day a couple of weeks ago, TJ was working around the house when he received a phone call from a co-worker. She had a house not too far from ours that she was preparing to rent out. She had just cleaned out the attic and wanted to know if we needed a twin bed and frame. Coincidence? I think not! But, the blessing didn't stop there. Another friend of  mine is having a baby boy about 2 weeks before I am due. TJ and I decided to go ahead and purge the remaining boy items we had, so I texted her to see if she wanted the clothes. In return, she offered me a twin-size trundle bed, complete with mattresses, that she was getting rid of. For only the investment of bedding, we now have a bed for Tristin-Grace, Taryn, and an extra (the trundle) for friends.

 
It may seem trite to share these "stories" with you, but the Lord has been so good to us over the past few months. It's easy to see the Lord's hand in the "big" things in life, but it's also important to see it in the everyday moments. In all of these instances, the Lord answered prayer, provided for His children, and blessed beyond what was needed. In the process, I learned the power of prayer, the importance of waiting, and witnessed the goodness of God.

This hymn pretty much says it all:

Great is Thy Faithfulness (words by Thomas Chisholm, music by William M. Runyan)

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see All I have needed Thy hand hath provided Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

(Refrain)

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

(Refrain). 

Monday, May 27, 2013

{Our 2012-2013 Homeschool Year}

Thomas completed 5th grade and his third year of homeschooling, and Tanner completed 2nd grade and his first year of homeschooling. I am being completely honest when I share that, although challenging at times, this was the best school year yet! Adding Tanner to the mix meant some scheduling changes needed to be made, but once we established a routine that worked, our days passed quickly and the weeks, and inevitably the months, passed even quicker.

1st day of school- August 2012
I personally enjoyed watching both boys learn, grow, and mature over the course of the year. My favorite subject to "teach" them was history as we focused our studies on the Old Testament. I learned so much about God, the Israelites, and how it all relates to not only the New Testament, but to present day living. I know the boys did, too! After reading our daily passage, we often talked about how it applies to our lives today, or how we are/were like a particular person we read about in the Bible. Those were my favorite "lessons" because the three of us discussed certain areas of weakness or sin in our own lives and how God dealt with others before us. It made God more real in each of our lives, but it also displayed His wonderful forgiveness and love for us. My kids know I am not perfect and struggle with sin like they do, and having these types of conversations with my boys is priceless. It is what homeschooling is all about for me!


Tanner made great gains in his reading ability, both with fluency and comprehension. This year he also learned to write in cursive, and he is proud of the fact that he is learning his multiplication facts. He is different than his brother in terms of interests, and his writing reflected those differences. Tanner had to write an informative essay and also do a research report for two different writing assignments during the course of the year. Both times he chose to write about the outdoors/nature. The first essay he wrote about mowing the lawn, and for his research report he wrote about chickens. For him, homeschooling is a great fit because it is so personalized. I didn't limit him by giving him topics to choose from when writing; I let his interests guide him so that he would actually learn something. If he is going to do the work, why not let him enjoy it?!


Tanner & his chickens
Highlights of Thomas' year include writing a persuasive letter in order to gain donations to create and build a backyard bird sanctuary.  Along with Tanner's help, the boys planned out the area, selected and planted the flowers, and finished it up with mulch, bird houses, and feeders. They even included a bench so they could sit and relax while watching the birds; it was a great project for them because they worked together to accomplish their goal! He also continues to excel in his math as he began pre-algebra the latter half of the year. He thinks it's neat that he is learning it now and I didn't learn it until 7th grade- smarty pants!!


We went on 10 field trips this year. Some of our favorites were the 'Beach Discovery Tour' while at Hilton Head. We learned about the native sea life and then explored the beach to find them. It was awesome and correlated with our study of sea creatures in science this year. Highlights from that trip included finding live sea stars, a sand dollar, and three different sizes of perfectly molted sand fleas. We also saw some blue crabs when they were "soft", which was rare for us to see. We also attended some stage performances in Charlotte, and those were really fun. We sat right in the front row for 'Pinocchio' and it added to the excitement of live theater. The boys had a great time!

The molt from a sand flea
However, our best "field trip" days were actually spent at home baking, packaging, and crafting items to sell. The boys, all on their own, wanted to raise funds for the victims' families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occured on Dec. 14. Someone from the pregnancy center where the boys volunteer notified a local reporter and he wrote an article about their efforts. This is the most kindhearted, selfless act of generosity I have ever witnessed in my children, and homeschooling helped make their idea become a reality.

 
Beginning this next school year, we are actually going to homeschool "year round." I planned out a schedule that allows us to do school for 9 weeks and then have a 2 week break. Our school year will start back up at the end of July and we will go until almost the end of May. I am hoping these small breaks between quarters will give me time to catch up on recording grades on the computer and filing their school work, which is a time-consuming task that I never seem to get completely finished. I record grades by hand in a grade book (as legally required), but I use a free program to generate a report card. I don't have to do that, but the boys' bank pays them for each 'A' they earn so they like to get a report card. I don't blame them- it's free money!

As they get older, I appreciate being around them more. I am thankful for this opportunity to be so involved in their lives. Conversations are becoming more meaningful, and it's neat to really talk to them, to get their opinion on situations and find out what they're thinking. I'm not saying I couldn't do that if they attended public school, but honestly how could it be the same? I wouldn't know the specifics of what they were studying to know what kinds of questions to ask. I would miss out on a part of my kids that can be only be accomplished by acting as their teacher. Is it difficult some days? Sure! Do I get overwhelmed at the task of being wife, mom, and teacher? Absolutely! Are there days when I think I can't do it anymore and I stay up late crying because I feel like a failure? Of course! But then, God brings to mind all that we have been through, and all the gains I have seen my boys make, and I realize there is no way I could give that up. I love them too much and I only have a few short years with them before they graduate and move on.

I am so thankful I get to homeschool!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

{Ohio...again}

The kids and I, except Tristin-Grace, are in Ohio for my sister's graduation from nursing school. Her ceremony is tomorrow, and she is having a party on Saturday. 

Every time we visit, I try to take the kids to see a different part of the state. For this trip, we went to visit Ohio's Amish Country. Here are some photos of our trip thus far... 

Main Street in Millersburg, Ohio...
 
Lunch in Berlin, Ohio...

Since I don't like to be stared at when we're out in public, I didn't take any photos of the Amish people or their buggies. I used today's outing as an opportunity to discuss with the children about being different. I used our own experiences of being in public and questioned or gawked at for being different because we aren't the "normal" size family; the children understood completely!
 
Annie playing in my mom's backyard...

Teagan wearing her new bonnet my mom bought her in Amish Country...

Friday, April 12, 2013

{My Baby Chicks}

This is a descriptive paragraph written by Tanner. I am copying it exactly as it is written, spelling mistakes included. I am sharing it because it brings me joy to see how such small, simple creatures can mean so much to a child. How do I know they mean a lot? He chose to write about them out of anything in the world....

I have baby chicks. They are very small and colorful. They are covered in feathers and fur. They sound quiet and cherp a lot. When they are scared they cherp loudly. Their feathers feel soft and furry. I like taking care of them and I also like holding them a lot.

Friday, March 22, 2013

{Psalm 121}

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. ~Psalm 121

I have read this Psalm many times and I was always a little stumped as to why it used the word "keep" when talking about what God the Father does for His children... and then tonight it made sense to me (so much so that I just had to share!).

The word "keep" doesn't mean "prevent," like I originally thought, but rather it means "protect." What an incredible realization!! If God were to "prevent" us from harm, that would take away a man's free will. Evil exists because of man's ability to choose (to do good or evil).

Instead, God protects His children from the harm of the sun and the dangers of night (v6), He protects us from ALL evil (v7a), He protects us daily, even in the mundane tasks (v8), all the days of our lives!! How wonderful to know my God will do all of this for me, a sinner who deserves none of it?!?!

Thank you, Lord, for loving me, keeping me, saving me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

{Homeschooling FAQs}

This post is to answer some common questions and address the most common myths related to homeschooling. I am going to answer the questions based on my family, so they will be specific answers, but they can generally be applied to any family thinking about homeschooling.

How do I get started?
No matter which state you live in, you first need to visit the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website to find out how to legally homeschool. Every state is different, and each state has its own laws regarding homeschooling. If you are not abiding by the law, you can face fines, serve jail time, lose custody of your children, or all of the above. =(

Once you find out the specific law(s) for your state, HSLDA can also put you in contact with local organizations in your area. These organizations connect you to other homeschool families and can help answer specific questions related to homeschooling, provide support and encouragement during your homeschooling years, as well as offer guidance in making homeschool decisions.

Specifically related to our family, we homeschool under South Carolina's 3rd Option. That means that we align our home school under an "umbrella" group. This group oversees our schooling each year. The specific group that we use is Palmetto Homeschool Association (PHA). In order to legally comply with option 3, we submit the required documents to PHA each year. Just to be clear, PHA is our legal umbrella group and NOT a support group. Although PHA does support us, it's primary function is to be our authority in schooling.

What about socialization? Won't my kids "miss out" since they won't be around other children?
This was a concern of mine before I knew much about homeschooling. I grew up attending traditional, public school and truthfully, homeschool children were the children who got expelled from public school for one reason or another. It wasn't until moving to SC and attending our church did we find out how popular homeschooling was (and continues to be!).

There are many options for "socializing" your homeschool children. (I use the word "socialize" in quotations because no one lives an isolated life; we are all surrounded by people. Every day life provides countless social situations and therefore countless learning opportunities on how to behave in those various social contexts). There are support groups, co-ops, group classes or lessons, etc. that exist outside of sports, church activities, and neighborhood friends.

Our family belongs to a support group for field trips. Each semester (usually in August and January) the group meets for a planning session to discuss ideas for field trips and set dates on the calendar. There are over 100 families in this group so there are typically 2-3 field trips planned for each week. Obviously we can't participate in all of those, but we do try to do at least 1 field trip each month. Another way my children are "socialized" is through weekly piano and pottery lessons. These are both done in a group setting with other homeschool families. The pottery lessons are actually provided through the city in which we live- homeschooling has become so popular that even the City is taking advantage of the many ways to include us! Finally, my children are involved in sports leagues through the city as well as active participants in our church's youth programs. My kids are surrounded by people of all ages and abilities, and they receive the same opportunities (if not more) than a typical public school child.

We have met many families we otherwise would not have known, and friendships have been formed that would not have otherwise existed, because of homeschooling. Sometimes, we have found that we actually have to decline participating in certain activities simply because it is easy to become "too socialized" and neglect school. That is a balance each family must find on their own. The point is, there are countless opportunities to participate in social functions.

What about curriculum? How do I choose?
As you homeschool and meet other homeschool families, conversations inevitably turn to curriculum choices. The reason is not because we are "comparing" ourselves to others, but because there is SO MUCH out there that it is interesting to find out what others are doing. That is part of learning, and it is part of what makes the homeschool community so eclectic. Plus, if you homeschool more than one child, what works for one child may not work for another. Knowing families who have used a curriculum that is different from you can help you decide on what to choose without having to purchase it first. I know I am so thankful for my homeschool friends who allowed me to borrow books to see if I thought it was something that would be useful for my family. Also, if you use a curriculum that others have used, you can compare the way you do things. I have a friend who greatly enjoys spending time on the "extras": doing further research, going places, completing more experiments, etc. She has been able to tell me which ones were worth doing and which ones should just be skipped, saving me time and trouble along the way. Also, many curricula come with teacher guides, textbooks, workbooks, etc. In some cases it may not be necessary to purchase EVERYTHING, even though the publisher suggests it. With others, all of the books may be necessary. Again, this is where knowing someone who has used a particular curriculum is helpful as you can find out before purchasing which items are essential for a successful school year.

There are many books in the library on this very topic, so much so that it can be overwhelming. My suggestion as to how to decide on which curriculum to use (and I will admit, I followed my own advice) is to find a homeschool family with children you admire. You want to look for a family that has children who display the very characteristics you are hoping to instill in your children: smart, godly, well-behaved, whatever it is you are looking for and hoping to accomplish through the years (remember, schooling takes time). Once you have found your family (or families), talk to them to find out what they used. Ask to look through some of the teacher guides to get a feel for them, ask them what other curriculum they've used (chances are, they've used many) and which ones they liked and didn't like. Of the ones they didn't like, why didn't they? Why do they like the ones they are currently using?

You also need to have a realistic idea of how your school day will go. I have young children who attend preschool several times each week. I have to drop them off and pick them up. I also have to take into consideration various appointments for each of us, running errands, grocery shopping, extra-curricular commitments, etc. It is a rare day for us to be home all day. Because of that, it is important to me that the curriculum I use be flexible so my kids can take their work with them. On the other hand, some families choose to do all of their schoolwork on DVDs. That obviously won't work for our family since I can't leave my kids home alone yet. Perhaps one day we might switch to that method of schooling, but for now, I need to be able to car school, waiting room school, parking lot school, along with home school. =)

Homeschooling in the elementary years sounds easy enough, but what about when my child begins high school and the classes become more difficult? I was not a strong student myself in math/science/english, how am I supposed to teach my child in that area?That is another comment I often hear from people when they find out we homeschool. My answer is simple: either use the teacher resource book that accompanies whatever curriculum you are using (each lesson is written out in explicit detail) and seek help if/when you need it OR don't teach your child in that particular subject.

The wonderful thing about homeschooling (well, one of the many wonderful things) is that there are so many options to choose when teaching your child/ren. There are classes available for any subject or grade level. Of course, there are fees associated with the class, but it may be worth the price if it is beneficial to you and your family. For instance, there are many homeschool families in my church who participate in a science class. There are several classes as they are broken down into groups (such as biology, chemistry, general science) and by grade level. There is an instructor who teaches the course, assigns homework, administers tests, etc. It is very similar to a traditional classroom, except only one subject is being taught. I plan to use this option when my children reach high school. I enjoy science, but I have a weak stomach and there is no way I could supervise (let alone lead!) a dissection. I also plan to do this with high school literature; I think that type of class warrants participating in a discussion with one's peers. I enjoyed my literature class so much and gained perspective from my peers during those class discussions; it helped make learning engaging.

There are so many more options, this is just one. Again, talk to others who have graduated children (if you are concerned about high school courses) to find out what they did or are currently doing. Most homeschool families are happy to share with others about something we feel so passionately about.

Do your children really graduate with a high school diploma? How is that possible?
Yes, my children will graduate with a diploma since that is the option we are choosing. Again, go back to the first question about getting started to learn more about the various options of homeschooling, especially in SC.

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I realize the topic of homeschooling is very broad, and I have only addressed a few of the questions I am often asked. If you have a specific question that I did not answer, or would like a more complete answer to a question already posted, feel free to leave it in the comments. I will do my best to answer you in a timely fashion.

Monday, March 18, 2013

{Updated Blog List}

I updated my blog list to include some blogs that I have been following for a while but weren't linked. I also removed some of the links to blogs that were no longer being updated. I may add some more to my list, time permitting. This clean-up/update has been long overdue! :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

{#1 Bon Jovi Fan}

My grandmother was the biggest Bon Jovi fan. She had full-length posters of him in her laundry room, bought every newspaper or magazine that wrote an article about him, and recorded every interview with him. She attended several concerts (including traveling out of town), even going back stage to see him personally. Can you guess why?

Jon Bon Jovi was my grandmother's great-nephew. His grandfather was the brother to my grandmother. I don't remember when he passed away (it could have easily been before I was born, I honestly have no idea), but my grandmother and Jon's grandmother were very close. My grandmother would visit her in New Jersey, and Aunt Lizzie even came to Akron to visit my grandmother (which is when I got to meet her). My grandmother was very proud of Jon and his accomplishments. Many family members helped Jon to attain the success he enjoys today (but that is another story far too complicated to share), and my grandma was proud of all who were involved in Jon's career.

At her funeral, there were family photos displayed around the funeral home. Some I had never seen before, many I remembered from years past, and I snapped pictures of some of the photographs because they were still-shots of a time in my grandmother's life when she was truly happy and vibrant...exactly how I remember her.

Do I think it couldn't have been more fitting that Jon was in concert in Cleveland the day of her funeral- no way!!

Below is a picture of her and Jon backstage at one of his concerts in 1989 I think (sorry about the glare)....


My grandmother's wedding day in 1936 (she is the last on the right, with my grandfather behind her)....