Saturday, February 7, 2015

So, I guess we're moving?!

If you're reading this, you're probably a close personal friend, so you've probably already heard (or read on facebook) that we're moving back near my childhood hometown.  But, you may not have heard our story.

At the end of last year (2014), Ben had some vacation time left over, so we decided to spend a week with my family in my hometown.  It was a really nice week.  We all got along really well, and just enjoyed our time together.

Well, the next week, (December 30 to be exact), Ben and I were talking about our future, when he mentioned that he thought we should move to my hometown.  To be honest, I was in shock.  For many years I had wanted to move back, and the timing wasn't right.  But now, moving wasn't even a thought of mine.  I had assumed that we'd remain here forever. We have great friends, a wonderful church family, great neighborhood, Ben loves his job and the company that he works for, we found a great homeschooling community, etc.  So we prayed about it, asked a couple of others to pray for us as well.  And, we started applying for jobs.

Everyday I would spend 30 minutes or so looking for a new job for Ben.  He'd apply to any of them that he thought he'd enjoy.  He heard back from someone, but the pay wasn't right.  So we continued searching.  Two weeks ago, I did a google search on the best companies to work for in my hometown, and found a company in his current industry.  So, on January 26 (we think, the date is a blur), he applied for a position that was very similar to his current position.

Within two days, they called him and screened him as a potential candidate.  They wanted him to come in for an interview the next day.  So, he did.  The interview went well.  They informed him that the reason the position had opened was because the previous employee unexpectedly retired earlier that month.

Well, three business days later, they offered Ben the job.  They LOVED him and made sure he knew that THEY wanted him to work with them.  They negotiated salary (they raised the offer to get him on board).  And we talked it over and prayed about it.  The next day, he accepted his new position and resigned from his current position.

He begins his new job on March 2.

Let me backtrack for a moment.  When we first talked about moving, we thought it would be a very lengthy process.  Months.  And instead, the biggest part, getting a job, took only a few weeks.  Really, just a blink.  And through it all, we truly felt that God led us here.

  • Many years ago, when I craved my hometown, we couldn't move back.  Our very best friend was here, and we would never leave him.  Well, in recent years, he's gotten married (to a WONDERFUL woman) and gained a new family, and he's going to be a dad next month!
  • I had a very strong relationship with one of my friends here.  Our relationship is still strong, but in the past year, she's really bonded with another friend, and I'm so happy she has her now.
  • Ben's mom was single, but in December, she got married.  She's very happy, so we know she's taken care of.
  • We've become involved in Classical Conversations, and because of that, I've seen how easy it was for my children to make friends, so that part isn't scary.
  • The job that Ben applied for wouldn't have been open until this very month.
  • We were planning on taking a pay cut to be closer to family, but that all worked out better than we thought. 
  • When he accepted his new position, he also asked for a couple of weeks off for a vacation and camp week we have scheduled, and they granted that too.
I feel like the timing is perfect.  And I can't believe how it's worked out.  It's been fairly simple (only because of God), and VERY quick.  But now, we have a house that I don't consider to be market-ready, and it needs to be sold.  FAST.  And, we need to find a new house.  It's going to be so much work, but I feel so much peace.  If God has provided everything else, I know He's got the house thing figured out too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

School Choice Week!

Did you know this week is school choice week?  We are so incredibly fortunate to have a choice in our children’s education.  Whether you choose public, private, or homeschool (which is illegal in some countries), we get to choose what’s best for our children.  I know many of my friends are content with their decision in education – if that’s you, carry-on.  If, however, you’re even a little interested in homeschooling, please read on; I’d love to share a little about our life.

We’ve been homeschooling for almost three years.  To be honest, it was a very difficult decision.  I didn’t want them to miss out on having friends (the great socialization myth!), and I felt inadequate to be in charge of their entire education (gulp!).  So, after much prayer and advice from friends, we decided to give it a try.  We were committing to one year, and then at the end of the year, we would re-evaluate.

Well, you know how that first year ended.  We began our second year, then our third.  Lord-willing, next year will be our fourth year.

I enjoy being with my children.  Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I want to spend all day with them.  I know that before long, they’ll be grown, and then I won’t see them as often.  In homeschooling, I have more time with them.  And I savor it. 

Not always.  Sometimes it’s really tough.  Sometimes I need a break, sometimes they need a break.  I was not equipped with super-patience. Sometimes we grow frustrated. But, over time, I’ve discovered that when they grow frustrated, often that means that we’re working on something that they’re just not ready for.  So, we back off and try again later.  I love that we can customize their education, and go at their pace based on their ability and skill level.

I get to teach them.  It’s the most amazing feeling when you hear your struggling reader read for the first time.  It’s amazing to watch your child (who HATES handwriting) develop a love of cursive.  When something questionable comes up, we get to discuss it together. 

I learn from them.  I’ve learned so much with them this year.  I hated history when I was in school, but now I can’t get enough.  I’ve learned some Latin, and the Presidents in order, and all the capitals of the US.  I’ve also learned how to live in the moment and not worry about being adequate.  I’ve learned (the hard way) how to be more patient.  We take it day-by-day, and learn what we want. 
They’ve made so many friends.  And they’re not all the same age.  I remember when I was younger, I was afraid of older kids.  It may be because I didn’t have older siblings, or because in school, we stayed with kids in our grade, or maybe it was my own insecurities.  My children love to play with children of all ages.  We meet most of the kids at church, gym class, or our co-op, so I know their parents, which is awesome too.

Now to be totally honest, I will tell you that this is the first year ever (so far) that I haven’t considered sending them to school the next year.  It can be really challenging, but so rewarding.   

Enjoy this week.  No matter how your child is educated, celebrate the fact that we have an option.  We are all so blessed!  Happy school choice week!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Purging = Simplicity

When I open my closet, I quickly shut it - it's disorganized and filled with clothing.  When I need to get a coffee cup, I open the cupboard very slowly, to make sure none of the other 75 or so cups in there fall out.  When I'm done vacuuming, I push all the coats to the side, and push the vacuum in while pushing the door closed (it's the only way to get it to close all the way).  Linen closet? Filled with hotel-shampoos and travel toothpastes.  Kids rooms - filled with toys, books, and crayons.  Dining room - craft cart, filled with coloring books and crayons.  Classroom - more books, toys, and crayons.  And don't even get me started on the garage - it is a nightmare.

Living the American dream.

We've been told a lie - that when we have more money, we buy more stuff, and it makes us happier. 

Stuff does not equal happiness.  Stuff is imprisoning, overwhelming, and sometimes, debilitating.

We're not hoarders, not by any stretch.  But, we have so much - too much.  Stuff that we don't need, and probably won't ever use.  I've been inspired by others to begin purging unneeded items as a way to simplify my life.  As a goal, I am aiming on a garbage bag-full per week.  It's a small, manageable amount, that will hopefully keep me consistent over the next couple of weeks.  I plan on focusing on one area each week, and thought it would be helpful to keep a log here.  Come back regularly, as I'll be updating each week (minus a few for vacationing/camping/etc).

Week 1 - MY clothing and shoes - I got rid of anything that didn't meet the following guidelines (this was donated to Amvets).

      1. it must fit well and make me feel good.  Anything that makes me feel fat or sloppy is gone.
      2. I have to wear it somewhat regularly.  If I haven't worn it in two years, it's gone.
Week 2 - linens - I got rid of extra sheets.  I kept one spare set for each bed (plus, one extra flat sheet for indoor picnics).  One thing that I'm embarrassed to say, is that I had quite the selection of full sheets sets.  We haven't owned a full-sized bed in eight years...
I also got rid of the kids' baby (hooded) towels - again, just not needed, we haven't had a baby in {gasp!} four years.

If you're feeling imprisoned by stuff as well, please join me on this journey.  Let me know what areas you think we should work on together.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Small Step Toward Simplicity

Wow, have we become dependent on technology.  Our computer hasn't been charging the way it should be, so I haven't been on much.  And, unfortunately, when I try to type on my phone, I make a million typos, so I haven't been able to blog as much as I would like.

Today, I don't have anything profound to say.  I'm not in the middle of a big struggle.  Life is good.

But, we made a small change.  One that hasn't affected us too much.

We got rid of cable.

It's interesting.  There are a couple of shows I miss, but the hardest part has been going without DVR.  I thought it was making our life easier.  If we were gone, we could just have our show recorded and watch it when we got home.  If we left the room, we could pause our show (not being able to do this has been quite the adjustment for my little people).  We could multitask while watching, because if we missed something, we could always rewind.

But, to be honest, it wasn't making life easier.  I would go to bed after the hubby so that I could catch up on my shows that I can't watch when the kids are awake.  We were watching WAY too much TV.  And, our DVR probably had 90+ shows on it.

There's freedom in simplifying.  TV has already lost some importance in our life.  We spend more time reading and listening to the radio.  I've become more productive without the distraction.  And, if the kids want to watch TV, they can watch PBS Kids which is educational, or Smile of a Child, which is a God-centered channel geared towards children.

Also, we just bought Frozen, which has been watched (more than) a few times.

Although it is March, I think I'm going to make more of an effort in 2014 to simplify our life.  I plan on getting rid of things we don't need, removing unnecessary distractions, and spending more time (once it's warm again) outside.  We'd like to maybe start a garden - that will keep our hands busy and give us something in return (less trips to the grocery!).  

I'm excited to see how our small changes improve our life this year.  Do you have any simplifying tips you'd like to share?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Birds, Bees, and Babies

Yesterday, we had 'the talk'.  Well, sorta.  We had an age appropriate (for my kindergartener and first grader) study on babies and where they come from.  I know this subject can sometimes be a tough one for parents, so I wanted to share what we did.

First we talked about where most babies today are born (hospitals). Then, we talked about how 100 years ago, not many people had cars and may have lived far from their neighbors - where would their babies have been born?  What about thousands of years ago when people lived in caves?  Or baby Jesus?

Next, we started reading.  Our book list - along with notes is below:
  • The Story of Me - this book is designed for ages three through five, but I thought it was perfect for my kids.  Some things I really liked about this book: God is the focus - it talks also about how God wants babies to be born to married people.  It is written in story format - it's basically parents answering questions to their four year old son.  I also liked that the story quickly mentioned inappropriate touching and that we don't have to share our love with people if we don't want to.  Something I also want to mention is that they use the actual names for genitalia - I know this will make some people uncomfortable.  I read the book as is, and the kids didn't really ask questions about the proper names. (phew!)
  • The Birds, the Bees, and the Berenstain Bears - this is a pretty 'safe' book.  It uses terms like 'womb' and 'birth canal'.  It is pretty generic, definitely appropriate for a younger audience.  It's mostly a cute story.  A good follow up to this story is The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five.
  • Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia - I love this encyclopedia.  So much content.  And, there's internet activities for each page (more info down in the internet links section).  We focused on pages 108-109.  It used the words 'sperm' and 'egg', but didn't describe how the sperm got to the egg (which, I think is totally fine as I'm not sure that my children would be ready for that conversation!).  
After doing some reading, we talked about babies and decided to do some searching online.  Here's some links that we enjoyed.
  • Usborne Quicklinks - these are the links for pages 108-109 in the Children's Encyclopedia.  We especially liked the 'pictures' of the growing baby.
  • Video of baby growing inside of mother - this is an animation beginning with conception until the baby is full grown.  It wasn't the clearest video - poor pixel quality (or something... I'm not really techy).  I really liked it though.  We watched it without sound - I don't really care for the soundtrack, but that's just me.
  • Week by week ultrasound pics - this was great.  We enjoyed seeing the pictures of the developing baby.  There were some 4D pics, so it was neat to see the babies moving.  This is another one that I muted.  I just didn't care to listen to "We are the children."
  • A home water birth - this starts with a family who is excitedly waiting for their newest addition to arrive.  They prepare for the baby's birth.  Then, the mother goes into labor.  You can tell she is uncomfortable, but I love the way her husband stays with her, supporting and comforting her the entire time.  Her other children peek in from time to time to see how the mother is doing.  Then, it happens!  You see her baby come out, but the mother's 'parts' aren't visible.  It is beautiful.  Totally made me cry (and it just may make you want another baby!).  Then, the whole family greets the baby by having a first birthday party for her.  Amazing, and beautiful.  
If you wanted to, you could incorporate some Bible verses as well.  Some of my favorites are:
  • Psalm 139:13-16 - For you formed my inward parts;
        you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
    14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
    Wonderful are your works;
        my soul knows it very well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you,
    when I was being made in secret,
        intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
    in your book were written, every one of them,
        the days that were formed for me,
        when as yet there was none of them.
  • Psalm 127:3-5  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
        the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
        are the children[a] of one's youth.
    Blessed is the man
        who fills his quiver with them!
    He shall not be put to shame
        when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. 

There are many, many resources out there.  What have you used to have 'the talk' with your young children? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Doormat, the Bulldozer, and the Wall

Today's post isn't going to be about homeschooling, or product reviews, or my favorite place on Earth (WDW!).  Today, I'm going to come out with a (semi) struggle I am dealing with.

Finding the balance. 

It isn't what it sounds like.  I feel that I'm doing pretty well with the important things - faith, family, friendships.  What I'm having a hard time balancing is boundaries.  Kindness versus honesty.  Patience versus being assertive.  Doormat versus bulldozer.

First, let me give you some background.  For as long as I can remember, I've been a doormat.  I've allowed others to walk on me.  I've allowed my perception to be changed by how others treated me.  I lost sleep, for years.  I argued with those that truly wanted the best for me (hubby, best friends), because I defended the people who treated me poorly.  I quickly dismissed the actions of the harsh people in my life to those who were trying to protect me.  I tried not to let the selfless people in my life see how the selfish people affected me. I was truly, my own worst advocate. And it all came crashing down.

I realized that when I was worried and preoccupied that I wasn't a very good wife, mom, or friend.  I was so wrapped up in my own suffering, that I wasn't honest or truly present with others.  I became incredibly anxious.  I woke up sobbing.  I was alone in my pain, (purposefully).

Then, God placed someone amazing in my life. 

Last July I went to summer camp with my family.  While there, I spent much of my time with a few ladies from my church.  I poured out my life to them, and they were incredibly gracious to me.  They were never harsh or judgmental, but they were honest.  And some of the things they said were incredibly difficult to hear.  But I needed to hear every word of it.

The woman that I talked to the most has grandchildren around my age.  She has been through so much in her life and has dealt with a lot of pain.  She's had people affect her in the way that I had been allowing others to affect me.  And she told me that our situations were very similar.  She pointed out that even though we love other people, they may not treat us with love.  Some people only want to be in our lives when they feel that they control us; they purposely say things to get a reaction out of us.  If they are miserable, they make sure everyone else in their life is miserable - they will manipulate anyone and everyone to get what they want, and it doesn't affect them that they hurt others.  They only invest in relationships when they are easy and beneficial to them.  They are the bulldozers.

I didn't want to believe that people that I loved so much could be manipulators.  It hurt to think that I could love someone who didn't really care how I felt.

It took me a few days of prayer, reflection, and Bible reading to realize that everything the kind woman said was true.  And I realized that I needed to change.

I needed to stop enabling it.  I wasn't voicing my opinions.  I didn't speak up when I felt hurt.  I bottled it up to keep the peace. 

Instead of peace, it created turmoil. 

I couldn't allow these people to walk all over me.  I would no longer allow the drama to cause problems in my household.  I recommitted myself to my husband and kids, and for the first time, I stood up to people.  If I couldn't/didn't want to do something, I told them.  When they tried to make me upset, I stood like a wall.  I may have quivered a bit, but they couldn't see it.  They tried to bulldoze me, but it was no longer effective.  I did not budge.  And, for the first time in my life, I felt free.  And I still feel free.

I no longer feel the need to keep the peace.  Instead, I've learned how to not let them control how I feel.  Sure, there have been a couple setbacks, but it's been far easier that I thought it would be. 

And sometimes I question myself.  I question if I am dealing with them in the way that God would want me to.  I wonder if I need to be kinder, or more patient.  I wonder if I should make myself more vulnerable so that I am more compassionate. I wonder if God would approve of me standing up for myself; if he would want for me to be emotionless when people are purposefully trying to create drama.  I know if my children were in my position, without question I would want them to stand up for themselves. 

One thing that I've noticed since I became an advocate for myself, is that my life has become more peaceful.  I am really proud of who I am, and how far I've come.  I just need to find the balance.  I need to be kind, compassionate, and gracious, but protected.  I want to be a representative of Christ in all that I do, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that means.  I'm a work in progress, but for now, I think I'll enjoy some uninterrupted sleep.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January Recap

January was a great month.  My little guy turned seven (how is that possible?!), we made some much-needed changes in our home and homeschool, and we had lots of quality time with family and friends.

The first week of January was good.  Every year we have a New Year's party, so this year was no different.  As we get older, the party ends a little earlier, but we still had a wonderful time with our friends!  I also began my fast from Facebook.  I mentioned in this post that part of the reason that I quit was so that I could devote more time to focusing on family.  To be honest with you, Facebook was becoming an idol to me.  I was spending so much time on it and it was constantly in my thought process - for example, whenever someone took a picture of me, I would make sure the photo was Facebook-worthy.  I spent time on it when I should have been doing other things.

We also started making some changes around the house.  I've started washing one load of laundry every day, which has been helped me to be more productive.  I'll put away one load at a time.  If I try to do more, the clean clothes will sit in a hamper for a week before I put them away.  I try to get the kitchen cleaned each night before bed so that I don't have a mess to wake up to.  I do dishes throughout the day, and clean/pick up things throughout the day.  Otherwise, I won't have energy to do it all at the end of the day.  And, I take Sundays off.  Sunday is family and church time.  Not cleaning, running around time.

Our children went to a fun kids event without us (they were with an adult family member).  It was really scary for me because I am always concerned that something will happen to them when I'm not there.  But, it ended up being great.  Ben and I got to go out to breakfast together and then go to the mall for the afternoon.  I can't remember the last time we (just the two of us) went out for breakfast, it was definitely needed.

X-Man had a family birthday party which was very nice.  He also had a friend (as in, HIS (under 18) friends) party. We had it at our community center, and the kids got to run around, play games, and burn energy! It was on a super-snowy day - church was actually cancelled that day, so we didn't get everyone we had expected, but it was still a lot of fun. 

We've started reading a chapter (or two) of a novel to each child every night.  I was rushing their bedtime routine, then Little Lou would come out of her room every night asking to be snuggled.  Then, as soon as she asked for snuggles, X-Man came out for snuggles.  It ended up being stressful and taking way longer that it should have - so Ben and I weren't able to spend much uninterrupted time together.  So, we each take a child to bed.  Then, Ben or I read one or two chapter of their book to each child in their bed.  It gives us snuggle time, and gets them sleepy so they fall asleep quicker.  X-Man and I just finished a Magic Treehouse book, and Little Lou is working on Charlotte's Web.  X-Man is into History, so the Magic Treehouse books are perfect for him (Little Lou probably wouldn't pay attention to these books at this time), and Little Lou loves animals, so Charlotte's Web has been great for her - X-Man doesn't seem to like books that are obviously fictional (talking animals and whatnot, whereas Little Lou does).

For school, we changed our planning as well.  As I mentioned in this post, I was spending each night prepping for the following days lessons.  We changed that too.  Now, on Saturday, I write our entire weekly schedule on a white board.  We erase each thing as they are completed.  This past week it worked really well for us.  We began reading A Grain of Rice, and on Tuesday (the second day), the kids were HOOKED.  They wanted for us to keep reading, we read the entire book in two days instead of four.  I just erased the assignment from Wednesday and Thursday and added new books.  Also, if we fall behind, we can leave uncompleted assignments on the board for us to finish later in the week.  For example, for the first time ever, X-Man is struggling with his math work.  He wants to rush so he forgets to regroup.  He already completed his lessons in the Math-U-See book, so I've been creating new worksheets for him.  One thing that has helped is making his math problems multiple choice answers.  That way, if he doesn't get one of the answers I have listed, he HAS to go back and figure out where he went wrong.

I also made my first sensory bin for the kids.  It's Valentine's themed and Little Lou is LOVING it.  She's been playing with it all morning. There's shreds of paper; foil; felt hearts; red, pink, and white pom-poms; cups; spoons; tongs; heart cookie cutters; small red and silver presents; and pink, white, and red foam squares, beads, and gems.  It's messy and fun, and since everything goes right back into the box, it's easy to clean up.
 We attended two Classical Conversations open houses and have decided to join.  We are attending one more next week, so at that point we'll make a decision on which campus to attend, but we're pretty excited about it.  In fact, registration begins today for next school year, so I'll be doing that soon. 

All in all, it was a great month.  The weather wasn't always cooperative, we had gym class cancelled because of snow, and have had a few days with sub-zero highs.  But at least the snow is pretty, and we can stay inside if we want.

Now, onto February and the countdown to Valentine's Day.