Category Archives: Personal

Just Checking In

Changes are upon us.  Our family is growing, and I’ve decided to take a break from the Homeschool Review Crew after finishing up my last few reviews in the next few weeks.  This school year has just felt too busy, and something needed to go.  I’m trying to figure out how much I want to be blogging in this season.  I love having a record of what we’ve done (and I go back to look things up more often than you’d imagine), but I’m also ready to back off a little bit.  I haven’t posted a wrap-up in a few weeks (we took last week off of school), so I thought I’d try to catch up this weekend, but then that didn’t happen either.  I probably won’t be writing weekly, but I don’t want to give it up entirely.  It may take a while to find a new rhythm.

Ark Encounter Tour and Review

Ark Encounter Review
Ever since I heard that there was going to be a full-size model of Noah’s Ark, I have wanted to visit.  Unfortunately it’s a couple thousand miles from where we live, so we won’t be making it out there any time soon.  My friend Keith recently took his family, and after he shared the video he made of their trip to Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky, I asked him if I could share it.  For those of us who can’t go ourselves, he gives us a chance to get a feel for everything that’s there.

Here’s what he had to say:

If you’re curious, here’s my experience at Ark Encounter.

Most of the video is a slow walkthrough of the ark and its exhibits. I interview some other guests to get their take. My thoughts are at the end.

Rating: 7/10. Some things at the Ark Encounter could be better, especially to make it kid friendly (it’s mostly a museum for adults) — but it’s very, very cool.

They strive to be visually stunning as well as informative and meeting the challenge of skeptics. They do a much better job of the first than the second.

 

After watching Keith’s video, I’m more eager than ever to make a trip out to that part of the country and see the ark for myself!

Confession

My kids don’t like to read.

Just writing that feelings like an admission of failure.

That’s not so much because I’m a homeschool mom, as it is because I come from a family that loves to read and I can’t figure out for the life of me why my boys don’t choose to spend time reading.

“Yeah, well, they’re boys,” people comfort me.  I don’t buy it.  My brother loved to read.

“Give it time.”  I have my doubts, but I’m clinging to this one, hoping it will prove true.

I’m also hoping by the time I get to child #5 I’ll have figured out what I’m doing wrong.

Here’s #3 giving me a little hope.

DSCN1521

I just found her like this, all on on her own, with the stack of books she’d “already read” next to her, pleased as punch that she was able to read at least a little bit.

Thanks, Arianna, for reassuring me that I’m not a total failure at raising bibliophiles.

Snatching Time With God

This weekend my husband and I got to meet with a group of other leaders from our church for some time of worship, focus, and training.  I was stuck once again by what a unique season of life I am in.  The demands of having young children can feel all-consuming, and my relationship with God has certainly looked different in the last few years than it has at any other time in my Christian walk.  I have noticed that most of the books I read or advice I have heard about spiritual formation may be really helpful during other seasons, but don’t necessarily work quite so well for me as a mother of young children.

Snatching Time
For example, I spent my first few years as a mom trying my “old” way of scheduling time with God–early in the morning, during nap time, after the children when to bed . . . the result was always the same.  While it can be helpful to have a regular quiet time, I have found that more often than not, that time I try to set aside gets interrupted by a teething baby, a toddler who wakes up earlier than usual, a child who’s melting down and just needs a bit more mama time than usual, or complete exhaustion on my part.

prayer calendarRather than developing a discipline of devotional time, I found it more helpful to train myself to “snatch” moments with God.  When everyone is playing quietly for a minute and I have time to run to to the bathroom alone, I take a moment to read in the Bible I keep there just for such chances.  I keep a perpetual prayer calendar above my sink so that as I’m doing dishes I can meditate on the verse for that day and pray for my children accordingly.  Sometimes I’ll keep a prayer list on the dashboard of my car so on the chance I get a moment as we drive when I’m not answering questions from the back seat I can use that time to pray about the things on my heart.

need these times.  When I find myself feeling short-tempered and irritable, snapping at my kids or feeling overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m “running on empty.”  Taking an extra minute in the bathroom each morning to greet the Lord, thank Him for the day, surrender myself to Him, and ask for His Spirit to lead me, fills me up so that my kids catch the overflow of His love spilling out of me, rather than the impatience of a desperately thirsty soul.

Susanna Wesley, mother of 19 children including John and Charles Wesley, used to pull her apron up over her head to give herself a private place to pray.  That’s woman who knows her desperate need!  Whether you find your chance to pray under an apron, in a bathroom, in your car, or someplace else, I want to encourage you to have grace for yourself in this season of child-rearing.  Don’t feel guilty if you can’t find consistency in your quiet times. Instead, try to snatch up those moments to draw close to God whenever you can catch them.

How do you find time with God in the midst of busy days with little ones?  I’d love to know what’s working for you!

Summer “Unschooling”

We are most definitely NOT “unschoolers.”  I think it’s an intriguing idea and it seems to work really well for some families, but I enjoy planning too much to be able to be comfortable with such an approach.  However, once we’ve finished up everything I wanted to accomplish for the year, I find that we fall into a pattern that feels a lot like unschooling.

reading
Ian has been systematically going through the books on our science shelves this week, devouring books on the solar system, animals, and the human body.  He’s spent more time reading to himself voluntarily in the last five days than he had in the whole month before that.  Both boys have been building amazing contraptions with K’NEX, disappearing into their playroom for hours at a time.

I have worked hard to provide an environment that fosters learning, even when I’m not intentionally doing anything.  Our school holidays are a time for me to get caught up on things, reorganize, and let my kids enjoy some freedom.  I’m thankful that they use some of that time to continue learning and diving deeper into subjects that interest them.  I’m not ready to follow this pattern year-round, but I think it’s a delightful way to spend the summer.

Spring goodies–FREE gifts from The Old Schoolhouse!

Spring is here!  Time for gardens, spring cleaning, and a little soul refreshment, don’t you think?

I have been so blessed by The Old Schoolhouse over the last few years.  When I first started exploring homeschooling, they were my go-to source for product reviews, and I devoured every issue of the magazine on which I could get my hands.  I joined The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew a little over two years ago, and that has been a huge blessing to our family as we get to try out different products and share with you what we think of them.

Now it’s YOUR turn to be blessed!  Members of the Review Crew got to choose three digital products to share with our readers for FREE!  I chose 3 products I either love already or want to check out myself this spring:

KeepingtheGardenKeeping the Garden

“For the garden-lover or wannabe … You’ll be inspired by over 100 pages of articles on organizing your garden, saving seeds, growing herbs, keeping pests at bay, recipes for your own produce, and so much more!”

I would definitely fall in the “wannabe” category, having never successfully grown ANYTHING.  I’m looking for inspiration and tips to help me take baby steps toward growing some of our own food.

NaturalCleaningPlannerThe Molly Green Naturally Clean Planner

Growing up,there was a brief season when my family’s financial situation meant my brother and I had a few housecleaning duties, but for most of my childhood all that was expected of me around the house was making sure my room was picked up in preparation for the cleaning lady’s visit.  My mom was a teacher, and having help with housecleaning was one way she kept herself sane.

That was great for me at the time, but now that I have my own home I feel woefully unprepared for taking care of it.  I have been looking for help getting organized, and I’m hoping this planner will help me take a step in the right direction.  I’m also looking forward to trying out some of the recipes for natural cleaners.

HeymamadevosHey Mama! 31 Day Devotional

Last year I used the Hey Mama! Planner, and by far my favorite thing about it was the encouraging notes from TOS publisher, Gena Suarez, that went with each month.  I really looked forward to the supportive, uplifting messages she shared.

Now Gena has put together a devotional to bless you each day for an entire month.  The Hey Mama! 31 Day Devotional will remind you each day to take a moment to rest in God’s truth about who you are and who He has called you to be.

Any of those items pique your interest?  Just click on the links and put any or all of these items in your cart, entering code DJCREW16 at check out to get them FREE!  This code will be good for the whole month of April.  While you’re there, check out the other encouraging and helpful resources that are available!

“Blessed” to Overflowing in 2015

2015 was the year my cup overflowed.  As the year began, I joined other bloggers in writing about a “Word for 2015,” not yet knowing how well my chosen word would fit.

Blessed
In the previous few years, we’d had our share of difficult times: burying far too many loved ones, job loss, financial difficulties, losing our first home, losing our fifth baby… We were thankful for the Lord’s strength and grace that got us through, but I was hopeful that 2015 would see us heading in a new direction.  I prayed about my word for the year and went with “Blessed.” I had hopes about what that might look like, but I reminded myself, “No matter what trials and difficulties I may face, Father, help me always remember that I am blessed.”

overflowingOh, am I blessed.  This past year the Lord heaped blessing upon blessing for our family, and I finished the year feeling like the fountain in our new back yard that just keeps filling up and spilling over.  We moved into a beautiful little house where not only do my children have space to run around, they’ve also been given wonderful neighbors with whom to do it.  We welcomed Nathaniel into our family, healthy after some respiratory complications due to his early arrival.  Actually, everyone has been remarkably healthy this year.  Eric and I celebrated our ninth anniversary, and we’re more in love than ever.  We have so much for which to be thankful.

I know life won’t always be like 2015, but it was a beautiful respite from the trials and struggles that normally face us.  I am humbled and awed by the blessings of this past year, and I feel like I can now take a deep breath and plunge into the future, whatever it may hold.  And while I don’t expect new houses and babies to keep pouring down on us, the truest blessings will always be ours in abundance.

“…You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Psalm 23:5-6

So Thankful…

ThanksgivingThis morning we gathered with some other homeschool families to celebrate Thanksgiving, and of course at one point we asked the kids to list the things they were thankful for.  We’d had a hideous morning so far, and my kids’ answers did nothing to improve my mood: toys, cars, chairs, strollers, cups… basically just anything they saw in front of them.  They were just not getting into the mindset we were trying to encourage, and I’m sure I didn’t help the situation, since I’d been in tears several times over the past couple hours and was barely holding myself together to lead the discussion.

However, the experience got me thinking, and as the day progressed I tried to be intentional about focusing on gratitude in the midst of frustrating circumstances.  I am so thankful for these blessings today:

  • my sweet friend who told me not to stress when I realized our celebration started in 10 minutes not in 2 hours
  • our neighbor, herself a busy homeschooling mom of four, who took the time to come jump start my car when the battery was dead for the fourth time in as many weeks, even though she needed to leave herself
  • another dear friend who sent her older kids to whisk my little ones away to the playground and help clean up the mess from my leaky containers of food for our feast
  • multiple friends jumping to take over my clean-up responsibilities when I expressed how overwhelmed I was and just needed to go home
  • A healthy 3-month old who interrupted his nursing just to smile and coo at me when I finally escaped to my bedroom for an hour of peace.  Every day I get teary and praise God for him, remembering his rough beginning and how I longed to hold him while he was getting strong in the NICU.
  • A day at home tomorrow.  The last few days of early holiday celebrations have been too much for this introvert and I am thoroughly “peopled out.”
  • God’s mercies which are new every morning.  There are many moments today that I wish I could take back, but I’ll settle for moving forward and resting in His sweet mercies.

Of course there are so many things I could add, but the important thing isn’t what’s on the list but the simple act of setting aside my tears and frustration to notice even a few of the myriad blessings God pours out on me each day.  Truly, my cup overflows.

Comic Relief for a Frazzled Mom

This morning did not get off to a great start.  The boys had their IEW class at 10, so in addition to the normal morning tasks of trying to get everyone fed and dressed, we were trying to squeeze in a little math, plus they needed to finish their homework before we left.  It soon became obvious that no one else was going to jump on board my efficiency train however, so I found myself dealing with chaos:

  • Ian arguing about wanting to do different math.
  • Arianna battling over my refusal to let her wear a nice church dress to her class because they usually go outside and play in the sand and I didn’t want it ruined.
  • Both boys rushing off sloppy stick figure sketches instead of doing their best work and then breaking down in tears when I required them to go back and improve their illustrations.
  • Nicholas droning on and on, “Why, Mama?” like a broken record about nothing in particular, not trying to cause trouble but annoying me to no end as I tried to tend to everyone else.
  • And behind it all, the background noise of Nathaniel crying incessantly, mostly because I dared to set him down to fix breakfast, help get people dressed, or change the diaper that I didn’t notice was dirty until I started buckling Nico into his car seat.

Ordinarily I might have just cancelled school for the day, but I didn’t want the boys to miss class, plus we have a birthday and a field trip later this week so we really did need to get something accomplished.  By the time we left the house, I had apologized to at least three children for making them frustrated and for letting my stress get the better of me.

We made it to church (where their writing class is held) and got everyone settled in the appropriate rooms.  I swung by the bookstore/coffee bar on site for an iced mocha and a pecan roll to finish off my breakfast (since chocolate seemed like a necessity at that moment).  Then I popped into the women’s Bible study for a bit of peace while I nursed the baby before joining the boys in their class.  Settling in, I took a deep breath, determined to soak in the quiet of a [mostly] child-free moment, and prepared my heart as my friend Elizabeth opened with a reading from Psalm 56 (NLT).

O God, have mercy on me,
    for people are hounding me.
    My foes attack me all day long.
 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
    and many are boldly attacking me…

I almost started laughing out loud as the words made me picture our morning and my children as the “foes.”

I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

They are always twisting what I say;
    they spend their days plotting to harm me.
They come together to spy on me—
    watching my every step, eager to kill me…

Okay, well at least it hasn’t gone that far, I chuckled, feeling slightly guilty that this psalm was striking me as something humorous when there are people in the world facing truly deadly situations.

My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
    This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised;
    yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

BlessingsFor years, I clung to the promise God had given me in a vision when I was just fifteen, a promise of a husband and children.  I longed for the life I have now and dreamed of getting to spend each day discipling the children He would give me.  So even though I know it’s a gross misinterpretation of this Scripture, the words of the Psalm were a gentle reminder for this frazzled mom that I have so much for which to be thankful.  Even on the stressful days, I want to make sure I am praising God, especially for these five precious blessings, “mere mortals” from whom I have nothing to fear.

I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,
    and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
For you have rescued me from death;
    you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
    in your life-giving light.

Oh, let it be so, dear Lord.  Thank you for making me smile in the midst of my stress and for the reminder to turn my eyes upon you so that I can bask in the glory of your “life-giving light.”

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