Monday, April 26, 2010

just hangin' around

The weekly contest theme over at iheartfaces is "Smiles." I like the wry smile on K's (3yo) face in this photo. She knows she's cute and she's proud of her amazing upside-down feat. It makes *me* smile.

Go visit iheartfaces to see more adorable smiles!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Schedule, Routine, Legalism, Grace, Self-Discipline

What do those words have in common? They're all floating around in my head as I try to sort out some of the discouragement I feel and adopt a strategy for finishing this school year on a positive note.

I think the problem is that I'm legalistic by nature. I'm wired to like organization, schedules, and order. That was pretty easy to accomplish when I only had 2 or 3 kids, and only preschoolers. Wait - let me rephrase that. It wasn't "easy" - it was a lot of work. But you know what I mean - it was more, shall we say, "doable." It was also very tempting to be proud of my accomplishments, of my skills - and forget that it was only God's grace, blessing my feeble efforts.

Fast forward a few years - and 2 more kids. Life is far busier. The hyper-organized, scheduled-to-the-minute lifestyle just doesn't work as well. I'm frustrated, burned out. I decide (this was back in 07 or 08, I think) that schedules are out and we'll just have a 'routine' and fly by the seat of our pants. I won't worry about the house being all clean. I won't stress about the little things. Let's lighten up & chill out.

The problem with that was it went counter to my own personality and I can only handle being laid back for so long before I completely lose it and go on a cleaning rampage and turn our house into military school, lol. I believe my God-given temperament towards being orderly is corrupted by sin and pushes me into legalism. I need to show myself grace in this area. But I'm coming to realize that, though corrupted, it IS a God-given temperament. It's foolish of me to try to operate counter to my personality, warts and all.

That brings me to the present. I work the best, and am the most at peace, in a somewhat ordered atmosphere. I obviously need to pray for the grace to be flexible and adaptable to the unexpected (something that admittedly has challenged me.) However, not only does my personality gravitate toward order, but God is a God of order, not confusion. In the past, I may have taken that to an unhealthy place. But I (hope) am a little more mature now, and can use order as a principle and not a taskmaster.

To that end, I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival on my doorstep of a new book: A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot. My childhood friend and blogger over at St. Theophan's has recommended it often. Now, I'm not Orthodox or Catholic, but I believe as sisters in Christ we have much to share in order to encourage and be encouraged. I've not read the book yet (obviously, duh! just ordered it today with a B & N gift card left from Christmas), but my understanding is that the author applies some of the principles of Managers of Their Homes with a more spiritual focus -and I think, more grace in understanding how a schedule serves a higher purpose, and serves US - not the other way around. Applying a 'rule' of regular times of prayer and praise and Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven."

Charlotte Mason put a lot of emphasis on developing good habits. Like laying the tracks for the trains to run on, she said. I think applying some of the principles in A Mother's Rule will help me develop a habit of praise and prayer, not only in myself, but in my children. Hopefully at this point, I will have the discernment to apply the principles as a blessing, and not allow them to become drudgery and rote.

Motherhood is our vocation, as Luther would say, our calling. Whether we homeschool or not, we have a big job. We each bring different gifts, skills, and personalities to our roles as mothers. I think that perhaps this book will fit well with me. It's probably not for everyone, and that's ok. But I'm feeling a lack of focus in our home and our homeschool and could use a little encouragement to get back on the track. I'll let you know what I think!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

-My azaleas are finally blooming! And they're beautiful, if asymetrical due to the fact that a couple of bushes died a few years ago. A(5), pictured above with the prolific blooms, was hesitant to smile the day I took the pic. Just before snapping the photo, I had released our eight-legged friend into the woods next to the azaleas.

-Spring has sprung! It's finally warm enough in the daytime for popsicles and sprinklers and caterpillars. I found some BPA-free plastic popsicle molds on amazon - by Tovolo. We've had fun filling them with diluted 100% juice and with smoothies. I should've bought a second set - may yet do that...

-We spent most of spring break hanging out around home. I needed that kind of break soooo badly! But we wanted to do something fun for the kiddos - something frugal and doable on a weekend. So we went camping in the North Georgia mountains. Of course, the above-average, summer-like temps disappeared the day before we left, and we had freezing temps overnight! It was a long, cold night. We had great adventures during the daytime, though. Including a visit to a section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Georgia. A personal favorite memory for me.

-This has been a hard school year. I mean hard. I love teaching and I love homeschooling. But it doesn't happen in a vacuum. There is a husband to love & care for. There is a home to keep. There are the myriad needs small children (and teenage children) have, out side of just being educated. For most of this school year, I've lived at a point near burnout. I'm not afraid of hard work. I'm certainly not a quitter. But I think a wise person can recognize when they need a little help. My dh and I have always believed that homeschooling is a wonderful educational choice, but not the only one. We feel led to at least pursue a more traditional school setting for M (11-rising 6th grade) and A (5-rising 1st grade) for next year.

There is a wonderful, small classical Christian school nearby that I never thought we could afford, but have always been interested in. God, in his Providence, has allowed us to have several conversations with folks involved there that indicate we may be able to get enough financial aid to make it work. We feel led at this time to at least pursue it.

The older two boys, rising 10th & 8th grades, will continue to go to their one-day tutorial, as well as take online math classes and biology at a local co-op. So I'll technically still be homescholing them. But I'll primarily be overseeing their work, and be relieved of the burden of planning, teaching, and grading - which can be so time-consuming!

These decisions will mean more time in the car, and more money. But they will also relieve a great deal of the burden that is weighing me down so heavily right now and making it very hard for me to have joy in 'doing the next thing.' I don't know, at this point, if all these things will actually work out - we're praying the Lord will either clearly open or clearly close the doors. But I know that I'm overwhelmed and spread too thin - not doing any of my jobs very well. And dh and I feel peace about applying, putting the feelers out, and seeing what the Lord can do.

-School may be rough, but life is good and we are very blessed. Our daughter, M (11), was born with a rare blood disorder and has been transfusion-dependent her entire life. I've never blogged about it because it's just one part of hers - and our family's - life, and we don't want to make too big a fuss about it. But it is a serious disease, and once a month, when she goes for blood, we are reminded of how thankful we are. For blood donors, good doctors, technology, and most of all for the Lord's mercy in preserving her to us. But lately we've had amazing news -- she has not needed blood since January 8th! I don't know what's going on inside her body, but I thank the Lord and give him all the glory! When she was a tiny baby, struggling for her life in the NICU, we chose Eph 3:20-21 as a special verse for her. We are humbled as we see God still do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. We don't know yet if this is remission, or just a long, merciful break. But we'll take it and rejoice!

-Needed to hear THIS today!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wolf Spider

We're going camping this weekend, to wrap up spring break. Daddy got our tent out the other day to make sure we have all the parts, and the kiddos have loved playing in it. Until now. A (5yo) came running in to me this morning saying, "Mom! There's a poisonous spider in the tent! It's BIG and BLACK and DANGEROUS!" I told him I'd come check on it, but not before grabbing my camera. If there was a big, black, dangerous spider in my tent, I sure didn't want to miss a chance to grab a picture! One, because I just love spiders; and two, because M (11yo) is studying spiders in her Land Animals class and would love to show and tell.

It wasn't black, or dangerous, really. Just a wolf spider. I snapped a couple of pics, then shooed him into an easter bucket and carried him into the woods, where he and A would both be happier.

I love spiders. Mind you, I’d rather not be bitten and I’ll kill a black widow or recluse on sight. But wolf spiders are so cool – partly because they look like tarantulas and partly b/c they’re very good mothers – they wrap their egg sac up and carry it with them at all times. Then the newborns ride on their backs until they’re big enough to hunt on their own. I just love God’s creatures and how he made each one to provide infant care in its own special way! One time my friend's son caught a mama with an egg sac and walked up to us with it on his arm. Scared her to death. I took a picture of course! (wish i still had it, but it was on a cell phone that died soon after.)