Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I really do love Christmas and all the festivity, wonder, anticipation, and trappings of the season.  Driving down the street and seeing a house decked out in Christmas lights makes me smile and, my kids will tell you I'm prone to shouted outbursts of "CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!" 

Although I don't go head over heels with decorations, I adore setting out my nativity sets, wreaths, and candles, and will sit contentedly admiring the Christmas tree, letting the memories that each ornament brings wash over me.

The smells of gingerbread, lemon peel, cloves, and peppermint whisk me back to happy childhood days baking cookies and Christmas treats with my mother, and more recently with my own brood.

Holiday cards from friends and family far and near grace the door frame between my dining room and loving room.  I appreciate the effort it takes to get those cards in the mail, because my own cards have not made it out the door even 3 days after Christmas - but I rationalize that they will be appreciated all the more after the busyness of Christmas settles down.

Christmas music playing on the radio - or iPod,  and Christmas movies like "It's a Wonderful Life",  "The Nativity Story", and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" all put me in the holiday mood. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service with my family, welcoming Christmas Day as the clock strikes midnight, is another meaningful tradition.  Most of all, I love being surrounded by my family.  Four of my five children are nestled again in their beds, while the fifth is nestled in a cot in a tent with 30 or so other soldiers in Kuwait.... but at least we got to Skype on Christmas Day!!!

I hate shopping, as a rule, but I love giving gifts to the people I love. I did the Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh gifts again this year, and it really helped give me direction and purpose in choosing meaningful gifts for my family.  Gold gifts = the "big" gift that is valuable or desired;  Frankincense = a gift related to spiritual growth or worship;   Myrrh = a practical gift for the body.   Stockings are filled with small items like toothbrushes, candy, toiletries, socks, gum, batteries, magazines, pocket knife, Starbucks and iTunes gift cards, ice scrapers, and football cards. I knitted these Christmas stockings years ago, when my kids were babies - they are nice and stretchy.

Sarah and Amanda both were busy with the yarn and crochet hooks this fall, and Eric and Mark were the glad recipients.

 Is it really worth all the hoopla?  Is Christmas really worth the money, energy, time, and effort it demands?  Well, it depends on why you do it.  If it is something to check off the To Do list as you trudge through the calendar, then you might not think so. 
If the trappings of the holiday obliterate the reason for the celebration, which is the unmatchable gift of Christ the King, our Savior, then it's probably not. 
But if you view Christmas is a special gift - an opportunity - to engage in meaningful traditions and create cherished memories with loved ones, then it is priceless, and as enchanting for me at age 51 as it was when I was 5.  I thank God for loving me SO much that He sent His one and only Son, so that through Him I can be assured of everlasting life!  I thank God for the rich treasure I have received in family, friends, home, and traditions.  With Christ at the center of it all, Christmas is not a chore or cheap commercialism or something to endure, but a wonderful, delightful time of celebration and commemoration.  It's the birthday of the King!

Even as we give to one another, we remember the poor, the sick, the widows, the orphans, and give to help them as well... through The Salvation Army Kettle, Operations Christmas Child, TOMS shoes, sponsoring a child in Africa through Ten Eighteen, Inc.....

Because of Jesus - who He is and what He has done - it truly is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.    I hope it has been for you too. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread House 2011

Here is our Gingerbread House for 2011.  I designed it and baked the pieces. Jason did most of the assembly and decorating himself, with just a little assistance here and there.

We're proud of you.
We miss you.
We love you.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Teens & Young Adults

Since Jason turned 13 in August, this is the 1st Christmas that ALL my babies are teens or twenty-somethings. A recent growth spurt means no more shopping in the children's department! And no more shopping in the toy aisles at Target or WalMart.

I am still buying "educational" stuff. Sorry, but I'll always be a homeschool mom who believes in LIFELONG learning. :-)

Everyone still gets a stocking filled with goodies, and that is opened first thing on Christmas morning. They are left at the foot of each bed, so they can be emptied as soon as the eyelids flutter open.

Here's a list of some of the things that might find their way into my teens'/twenty-somethings' stockings:

1. an orange - every Christmas, there is one in the toe.
2. a coin - it always used to be a quarter; however, an upgrade to a collectible gold or silver coin might be in order
3. Gum / mints
4. candy - preferably something a little unusual - peppermint patties, turtles, dark chocolate, homemade caramels ....
5. nuts
6. toothbrush - standard or electric
7. iTunes gift card
8. CD or DVD
9. pens / markers
10. mini notepad or journal
11. Chapstick
12. makeup ( lip gloss, eye shadow, nail polish )
13. jewelry
14. pocket knife
15. compass
16. socks/ slipper socks
17. watch
18. sunglasses
19. magazine / puzzle book
20. batteries
21. Earphones
22. gloves
23. Gift Cards - Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, Bojangles, Barnes and Noble, movies
24. Face wash
25. hand lotion/ hand sanitizer
26. car air freshener
27. ice scraper
28. nail clippers / emory board
29. tweezers
30. Emergen-C / vitamins
31. Band Aids
32. Mini Photo Book
33. money clip
34. bag clips - for chips, pretzels, etc.
35. sports trading cards
36. cable ties
37. car charger for phone
38. jump drive
39. mini mag light / headlamp
40. keyring
42. stress ball / hand exerciser
43. jump rope
44. luggage tags
45. cellphone case
46. deck of cards
47. video game
48. Post It notes, flags, tabs
49. tickets to sports event or concert
50. guitar accessories - pics, tuner, strap, etc.
51. razor / razor blade cartridges / shaving cream
52. loofah
53. hair brush / comb
54. hair elastics, ribbon, clips, headbands
55. deodorant
56. Christmas tree ornament
57. purse organizer
58. Nerf darts
59. Silly string
60. stain stick

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts of the Wise Men - A Way to Give Meaningfully at Christmas

Christmas 1987.  It was the first Christmas in our new house. Alex was 2 and a half, Sarah was a newborn, having arrived just 24 days earlier.  We were living in Florida, and decided not to make the trip to Massachusetts where our families were, but to celebrate at home.  These were the only grandchildren in my family, so boxes of wrapped gifts arrived from my parents, brothers and sister, as well as Mark's family.  Since Alex had now grown into the "fun" stage, Mark and I  loaded up more than one cart at Toys R Us, and on Christmas morning the gifts spread out from under the tree, taking up half the room.

I kid you not.

For two children, one of whom was less than 1 month old.

Silly child. He kept wanting to stop and play with each toy he unwrapped. Overcome with the holiday spirit, we urged him to keep unwrapping!  There were more toys to discover!  What did Grammy & Grampa send?  Look at this! Finally, he literally begged to stop, and we allowed him to play for a while and resume unwrapping after lunch.

It was the Christmas of extreme excess.  To be fair, we were just so excited to be parents and wanted our children to have lots of wonderful opportunities to grow and learn and explore and use their imaginations!  The gifts included a Little Tykes kitchen, a tricycle, a red wagon, a child's basketball hoop!  We probably could have/should have spread those acquisitions out through the year, but there is just something so magical about Christmas morning!  But we realized that we probably weren't setting a good precedent, and Christmas morning  became a bit more sane in the following years.  However, I still struggled sometimes with setting a limit and making our gift giving meaningful.    Why do we give gifts at Christmas?  How do we instill an attitude of giving and gratitude in our children and not of greed and selfishness?

Well, my kids are mostly grown, but we still all love the Christmas holiday and opening gifts on Christmas morning is a wonderful part of the celebration of the birth of our Saviour, the ultimate gift to all mankind.  Last year I read about and implemented a new tradition related to gift giving that I really liked, and plan to do again this year.  It is giving the Gifts of the Wise Men.   We don't give actual gold, frankincense, and myrrh,  but rather gifts that symbolize those 3 gifts to the Christ child.  Each person in the family received a Gold gift, a Frankincense gift, and a Myrrh gift.
GOLD =  something valuable, something greatly desired.  The big gift.  An ipod, or bike, or video game system or jewelry. 
FRANKINCENSE = an aromatic spice/incense used in the temple;  so a spiritual gift. A bible or Christian book or DVD, praise music, Christian message tshirt or jewelry, etc.
MYRRH =  a resin, used to prepare a body for burial;  rather strange, but an important and practical thing to have ready.  So a practical gift, particularly something for the body.  Clothes. Snow boots.  Perfume. Hair bows. 

This covered the bases.  I had wrapped each type of gift ( g, f, or m ) in different colored paper, so on Christmas morning I had the gifts separated into piles and explained what we were doing. Everyone appreciated it, understood it. There were other gifts as well -  a family board game, DVDs, gifts between siblings.  But it brought new meaning to the opening of the Christmas gifts.  I think that makes it a keeper and a new family tradition.

Merry Christmas !

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pinterest = Genius

My daughter recently introduced me to Pinterest, and I'm hooked.   Not hooked, as in addicted and can't think of anything else and keep checking multiple times a day to see what has been "pinned" lately.  But hooked as in this is something very useful for my life!  Let me explain.

First of all, for the uninitiated, Pinterest is a website. Free.  It is a virtual pinboard where you organize and share all the beautiful, inspiring, useful things you find on the web!  Let me tell you, for a visual person, this is GENIUS.   It is one thing to have a long list of Favorites, even organized into folders, but a PICTURE list of favorites organized by category is 10X better!

You create as many Pinboards as you like and give them any label you like.  Some of my boards include  Oh, to be Organized! , I Love Cupcakes, Gift Ideas, Seasons & Holidays, Wish List, Yard & Garden, Healthy Eating & Living, and Crafty Ideas.  You load a "Pin It' button onto your browsers Toolbar, and then when you are browsing the web and find things you want to save, you click the Pin It button and save it to one of your Pinterest Boards!  Later, when you click on the picture on your Pinterest board, it takes you to the original website!  You can also look at other people's boards for inspiration, and Pin items directly from there - that's the "sharing" part. :-) 

You are pinning pictures, so a recipe must have a picture, or at least a graphic that goes with it, in order to pin it to your board. 

Home Decorating, Wedding Planning, Homeschool ideas, Recipes, Vacation Planning .... so many ways to organize and plan!

I created a Wish List of things I would like to receive and gave my husband the link - because when he or my kids ask me, "What do you want for Christmas, Mom?" , I generally draw a complete blank!  I don't keep a mental list of gift items in my head - I have too many other things to remember!   But occasionally I'll think of something that I'd really like, and then I can go find it on a website and Pin It, and voila!  It is there so I don't have to "remember" to tell him!

Pinterest works by "invitation".   You can go to the website and request an invitation, or have a friend invite you.  ( a marketing ploy, I'm sure, because it causes people to spread the word to all their friends )  Guess that worked. ;-)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Menu Plan to Get Back to Healthy Eating

I have gotten away from menu planning lately, much to the detriment of our good health! Too much fast food, processed food, prepared food - all things I know are not good for us but have been quick "no brainer" ways to get fed in a hurry.
As Mother/Wife/Head Cook/Nutritionist in this family, I MUST do better!

My goal is to include lots more fruits and vegetables in our meals, focusing on variety of colors and textures, and including specific foods and spices known for their anti-inflammatory and immune-building properties.  Walnuts, almonds, spinach, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, blueberries, sweet potatoes, oats, green tea, mushrooms, salmon ... all considered Super Foods!   Cold & flu season is upon us, and nutrition plays a vital role in keeping healthy!  Also, inflammation is now considered a major culprit in numerous diseases and ailments, including the arthritis in my fingers and knees,  and the allergies that just seem to become worse each year! 

I have also been remiss in not enforcing healthy eating practices with my family as the kids have grown up. I was much more deliberate when my older kids were little, but I guess I have gotten lazy.  My 13-yr-old is a pretty picky eater, and prefers canned ravioli and frozen Hot Pockets or taquitos to healthier lunch items. However, I'm the one who has caved and brought those items home from the store. If we don't have them, he can't eat them!  Hubby can get complain-y if meals get to health-y .... but it's time to bring out the Tough Love.

If I have a plan, we'll definitely do better, even if we have to deviate occasionally, than with no plan at all.  Also, breakfast and lunch are an issue right now, so I'm going to plan those as well.  Mark will still eat what he wants for breakfast and lunch.  So here is my Healthy-Eating Meal Plan for the coming week.

B:  Smoothie ( froz. blueberries & strawberries, plain yogurt, stevia, orange juice, flaxseed), Oat & whole wheat Waffles w/ blueberries
 L: Chunky Chicken & Brown Rice Soup (*w/ garlic, ginger, cayenne);  Apples & cinnamon
D: Salmon,  Brown & Wild Rice w/ mushrooms, Spinach Salad, whipped butternut squash

B: Smoothie, Oatmeal w/ walnuts, cinnamon, & brown sugar
L: Tuna Salad Sandwich (tuna, celery, relish, mayo/yogurt, onion powder on whole grain toast, w/ tomato and lettuce );   pear
D:  Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry w/ mushrooms; Brown Rice, Egg rolls,

B: Smoothie,  veggie omelet ( 1 egg, 2 egg whites, peppers, onions, mushrooms, sprinkle of cheese) w/ whole grain toast
L:  Chunky Chicken & Brown Rice Soup, whole grain crackers, Apple
D:  Fajitas (chicken, colored peppers, onion, mushrooms, black beans, guacamole, cheese, sour cream salsa  in low-carb tortillas )

B:  Smoothie, Oatmeal
L:  Turkey –Tomato Panini,  pita chips & guacamole
D: Spaghetti & Turkey meatballs ( homemade sauce w/ shredded carrot, garlic, chopped red pepper) ;  Veggie Salad (broccoli, cauliflower, red & yellow pepper, carrot, red onion, celery, purple cabbage, tomato, black olives – olive oil & cider vinegar dressing )

B:  Smoothie,  Veggie Omelet  w/ whole grain toast
L:  Taco Salad (seasoned ground turkey, lettuce, avocado, tomato, shredded cheese, salsa-sour cream dressing, tortilla chips )
D: Crock Pot Jambalaya (stew of brown rice, colored peppers, tomato, onion, cayenne, turkey kielbasa, shrimp, red beans ) ;  whole grain bread

B: Smoothie, Oatmeal
L:  leftovers (pack for Co-op), apple, yogurt
D: Homemade Pizza ( whole grain crust, pizza sauce, mozzarella, turkey pepperoni, peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives )

B:  Smoothie ,  Oatmeal
L: Turkey Roll-up (low carb tortilla, turkey, spinach, avocado, O/V, oregano)
D: Roast Chicken, Veggie Salad , sweet potato “fries”


Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Changes That Come When Children Grow Up

Our friends, the Nemitzes, had their 2nd annual (thanks to Emily, home from college and wanting to see everyone!) Thanksgiving Weekend Bonfire on Saturday, and a few of us moms were discussing some of the changes that have occurred in our families as our children are growing up. My friend Tracy was commenting on how her oldest, who is almost 18, has a job this year, plus basketball practice 4 days a week, plus a few other commitments, which means she is rarely at home - something Tracy was not prepared for before high school graduation! She suddenly realized how much her two children did together for school, and now her son was left floundering a bit without his sister around so much. Another friend was talking about her son's first (not very pleasant) foray into the world of dating. There are a lot of new things to deal with that make us moms of older children look very nostalgically back on the days of sippy cups and multiplication tables.

Most of my homeschool friends whose children have grown and left for college or jobs have said the same thing. They were unprepared for how much they would MISS them!  It is a huge adjustment, because for years we have had them around pretty much all day, every day! Sometimes, even the older ones who still physically live at home are so much in their own independent world that they are still "missing" from the family.  One friend half-jokingly suggested that we start a support group for homeschool moms of grown children, to help work through the transition to "retirement".

Not only do we miss having our children around, but we also lose that "extended family" of their close friends.  Many of my children's friends are like part of our family, and I miss seeing them at ballgames or co-op or the other activities that were part of our regular routine.  Thankfully, I can still stalk keep connected with many of them on Facebook.

Another real issue as your children grow up is how to handle holidays and vacations. It has been hard on my older children as well as on me to have them miss family camping trips or visits up north to see grandparents and relatives. It used to be that the whole family would make the annual trip to Massachusetts each summer to visit the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  But this past summer only 1 of my 5 children made the trip.  It makes me very sad to think that my children might now go years without seeing their grandparents.  I think it is even sadder because I see myself getting closer to that time of life when I may not get to see my own children for extended periods of time. It has already happened with my oldest son, who is on his 2nd year-long deployment overseas with the Army, thus missing another Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family.

I know my mother went through this, as has every mother since the beginning of time. Transitions are tough. There's just nothing easy about it. To all you moms with little ones who can't wait for them to grow up -  be careful what you wish for.
It will come all too soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain...
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain...

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love...

 We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life, our health, our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Benefit of Homeschooling: Sleeping Late

A post by Kris over at Simple Homeschool called Why We Don't Start School at 8:00 AM  caught my eye.   It appears there is a quiet sub-culture of homeschoolers out there who don't get up at the crack of dawn, but rather are happily snoozing in their warm beds while the big yellow buses are gathering up their charges and the car pool lines are winding around the neighborhood schools, and not starting school until 10am, or 11am, or - gasp! - after lunch!!

Who knew?   Who knew there were other families like us? 

Those of us who grew up attending traditional schools ( virtually everyone over age 30 and the vast majority of those younger)  know that school starts between 8am and 9am.  In high school, I had to catch the school bus at 7am, which meant I was up at 5:30am so that my siblings and I could shower, get dressed, and eat before heading out the door. Didn't matter if it was pouring rain. Didn't matter if you were up after midnight the night before finishing homework.  Didn't matter if you had a cold or sore throat. School was inflexible and ruled by alarm clocks, bells, and schedules.

Some homeschoolers duplicate that schedule in their homes.  For those with young children and naturally early risers, that probably works great!  I know families who are all up and ready for the day at 5am, doing devotions and algebra with Dad before he leaves for work at 7am. When my children were all little, we were up at 7 or 7:30, and starting school by 8:30 or 9, after morning routines, breakfast, and chores.

For some though, getting up early is a struggle, and studies show that most teens do not get adequate sleep as the need for sleep increases in adolescence.

It is hard to break old habits, and even harder when societal pressure tells you that you are doing something wrong if you do. But letting your teens sleep later is actually a good thing.  Our family schedule changed as my children got older.  We tend to be night owls, and staying up late meant I also let my kids sleep late in the morning. It just made sense to me.  My  13-yr-old typically gets up anywhere between 9am and 11am, so on most days he starts schoolwork around 10am, sometimes later.   That is what works for us!

Will this cripple him later on, making him incapable of using an alarm clock and getting up for early college classes or a job?  No.  Really.  All my kids have made the transition to early morning rising when required, are very diligent workers, and have not been scarred because they were allowed to sleep late as teen-agers. 

Flexibility and individuality - these are two of the great things about being a homeschooler.   So if your family's routine doesn't match up with someone else's, that's okay! If you are Early to Bed, Early to Risers, that's great!  If you are Night Owls and late risers, super!  No need to apologize!  Instead, be thankful for the freedom we have to live and educate according to our own needs, convictions, and preferences.  And do it all to the best of your ability, to the glory of God. :-)


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Don't I Do That Anymore?

The guest speaker at our November Lighthouse homeschool group parent meeting was Vicki Bentley. Vicki homeschooled her 8 daughters as well as numerous foster children, led a large support group in VA, speaks at homeschool conventions all across the country, has authored several books, and now works for HSLDA as their Early Years program and Group Services coordinator.  We were blessed to have her visit us, and next time, will definitely have her stay longer, because she had great stuff to share with us!

Her topic was Time Management and Organization for homeschoolers - a timeless topic, as it is applicable to brand new homeschoolers as well as crusty veterans.  Listening to her tips and suggestions, as well as preparing for my mentor group meetings recently, has highlighted that there were a lot of things that I USED to do that I have somehow let slide as my children have grown up and life has changed in our household.  While it is natural that some things will change as we go through seasons of life, not all the things I have let slide have been good to let go!  I have found myself asking, "why don't I do that anymore?"

#1  Menu Planning
When I had 5 kids at home (and even 4, then 3), I planned our meals by the week, and sometimes by the month. It was a necessity, and eating out or even getting takeout pizza was a rarity.  I grocery shopped every week and made breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my family almost every day.  Now? I usually don't know what is for dinner until 5pm, when stomachs start to growl, and I realize I have to make a run to the grocery store. Way too often we eat out or get pizza, and I haven't made pancakes in a long time.  I have had a hard time adjusting from cooking for a large family to cooking for just 3 or 4, depending on who is home that night!  Not healthy. Not economical.  I need to start making a weekly menu again and shopping for the whole week at once! 

#2  Chore Schedule
We used to have chore charts. The kids had certain chores to do each day, before we started school.  I tried to follow the FlyLady plan somewhat, although never very successfully.  But at least the major things, like cleaning the bathroom, got done on a regular schedule.  Well, kids grew up and left home and their jobs had to be reassigned, or I just took them over.  And now.... it is kind of a "fly by the seat of my pants" instead of FlyLady approach.  I've never been great at structure and routine, to my detriment.  That definitely takes deliberate effort on my part, and sometimes I feel too worn out and overwhelmed to tackle it all.  Grr.  I KNOW that the solution is to simplify, both my belongings and my schedule.... but that is soooooo easier said than done.

#3  Community Service
Again, when my older kids were young, I placed a high priority on including community service in our schedule.  It wasn't a lot of hours, but we faithfully volunteered at the church food pantry one afternoon every month for many, many years.  We also visited the local nursing home with other families from our homeschool group a couple of times a year, both to bless the residents and also to help my children become comfortable  being around the elderly and infirm. But then schedules changed.  We started participating in a weekly co-op, which conflicts with the scheduled nursing home visits. The food pantry day conflicted with sports practices.  So those things fell by the wayside, and I now realize that my younger two have not had that same experience as their older siblings.  Yes, our family is very involved in serving the homeschool community through many, many hours devoted to  homeschool sports and support group leadership, but I'm not sure my children get the same impact from that.

How have you adjusted to changes in your family?
Are there things you have let slide that maybe should be embraced once again?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Still here...

I'm still here! Still homeschooling, still baking cupcakes, still doing physical therapy once a week, still up to my eyeballs in all kinds of stuff! It's about time for bed and I don't have anything profound to write about, but I figured I should at least touch base, since I haven't posted in over a month and I rarely go that long between posts.

Alex is getting ready to leave Iraq, but instead of coming home early like we thought, he is actually relocating to another base in the Middle East for the remainder of the deployment. So he won't be coming home until next summer. That's disappointing, but I'm not surprised. I had a feeling they weren't going to come home yet

Sarah has been in Uganda almost a week now, and comes back this Sunday. After that she'll be back here at home until after the New Year, so that is pretty exciting!  She has been posting pictures of their work in Mbale on the Safe World website.  She is helping lead a medical mission trip, even though she has no medical training at all. She is a photographer and artist and media specialist - but wherever God puts her, that's where she should be!

Basketball season has started, and Jason's first middle school game of the season is Friday afternoon.  Woo hoo!  Mark is coaching Varsity boys again this year, and his first season game is Monday. The insanity begins!   go Eagles!

My knee is doing great! I'm walking normally again, and only have a problem now going down stairs and getting up from the floor.  The physical therapist said those are the last things to get back after surgery - that certain muscle motion that I can't remember. But I'm doing exercises to help strengthen that muscle, and probably will only need to continue PT for another 2 or 3 weeks.  It is pretty great to not have constant pain like I did for almost a year before having the surgery. 

I'll try to get back in the groove of blog writing and not go so long between posts anymore.I actually have good ideas of things to write about every now and then.  I should try to get some of them actually written down.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

100 Days to 1000 Blessings - Day 8

Out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, that is often the way my brain works, and sometimes things don't get finished the way they should. I started to list 1000 blessings, 10 at a time, back in the early summer, but have gotten sidetracked. Well, I never said they were going to be consecutive days, right? And God is continuously pouring his blessings over us, even when we don't stop to recognize them. So here is another 10.

71. Sarah was just home for the weekend, and we had a really nice visit! She has been in TN since the 2nd week of July and this was her first visit back home.  This week she's heading down to Atlanta, where Safe World Nexus will have a booth at Catalyst, a huge Christian leadership conference, featuring speakers such as Jon Acuff, Francis Chan, Bob Goff, Blake Mykoskie, Katie Davis, Dave Ramsey, Lysa Terkheurst, David Platt, and more.

72.   Sarah bought Jason a new board game, Ticket to Ride, for his birthday, and taught us to play it this weekend.  It is a lot of fun!
*from the website:
Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

73.   Alex posted confirmation that his brigade will be coming home from Iraq early!!! They will be coming home in Dec / Jan instead of July!   Hallelujah!

74.  Fall weather has arrived! ahhh!  after a blistering summer, temperatures in the 60's and 70's are just divine!  This is my favorite season!

75. My knee is feeling pretty good after surgery to repair a torn miniscus a couple of weeks ago.  It still gets stiff and stairs are still tough and I'm not walking completely normally yet, but it is coming along.

76.  After surgery, my dear friends rallied around and brought meals for 2 weeks - I am so blessed to have people like that in my life.

77.. My friends are still enjoying my cupcakes, so I am able to send Sarah support to help her stay in her internship with Safe World a while longer.

Caramel Apple Crisp Cupcake

78.. We spent a day in Boone with Eric to celebrate his 22nd birthday.  It was a pretty day so we went to a park on the Blue Ridge Parkway to throw a frisbee around for a bit ( I watched -  bum knee ), then went out to Woodlands BBQ in Blowing Rock for dinner with him and his girlfriend, Ryan. 

79.  The freedom to homeschool and to raise my children according to my beliefs and convictions is precious, and tonight my support group will be showing the documentary, "The Child", which addresses some of the challenges to that freedom that our country is facing right now.

80.  Did I mention that Alex will be coming back from Iraq much sooner than expected?  And his contract is up in Dec. and he is planning to leave the Army?? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Myth Busters: Homeschool Edition! - Setting Priorities

The topic of our monthly homeschool support group meeting last month was "Myth Busters: Homeschool Edition", inspired by the Myth Busters television show and Todd Wilson's book, Lies Homeschool Moms Believe.

Our illustrious madame pres., Becky, who has very capably relieved me of my presidential duties this fall, created some great Power Point slides to introduce each Myth we addressed, complete with Todd Wilson's hilarious homeschool cartoons.

We talked about 4 Myths, or Lies that homeschool moms believe.

#1  Everybody else's kids are smarter and better behaved than mine.

#2 Everybody else has a cleaner house and serves better meals.

#3 Everybody else is more spiritual than I am.

#4  Everybody else can do it all and is more capable than I am.

A different mom tackled each myth, sharing about what their homeschool was like and how we all get caught in that same trap of comparing ourselves to others around us who we just KNOW are doing a better job than we are.

I talked about Myth #4.  As a veteran homeschooler with 4 graduates and as a support group leader, I know that I am sometimes put on that pedestal of "doing it all".  And just like Gena Suarez, homeschool mom of 6 and editor of The Old Schoolhouse magazine, relates in this article,  it just ain't so!

I may do a lot of things that you don't do.  But I'm certainly not doing "it all".   You see, we all make choices about where we will and will not spend our time and energy.  We also all have different temperaments, skills, callings, and tolerances. 

I have a friend who gets more done in a day than I do in a month - no lie.  She amazes me, and wears me out just hearing about her day.  She keeps a spotless house, has a speaking ministry, decorates to the hilt for every holiday, has grandchildren as well as a houseful of little adopted children, and paints her kitchen in the middle of the night after she irons everyone's shorts and tee shirts!

Another friend is homeschooling her youngest 2 out on a farm where she and her husband have been homesteading for the past 8 years.  She has a huge garden, cans hundreds of jars of gorgeous fruits and vegetables every harvest, is nurturing an orchard that they hope will provide retirement income someday, is active in overseas missions work as well as ministry at her church.

These two busy ladies are doing very different things  - neither is doing it all!  And neither of them is doing what I am doing. Or what you are doing.

Many years ago, I heard a speaker at a homeschool conference talk about setting priorities, and at the meeting I shared something that she taught us then. That is, make a list of What I Do and another list of What I Don't Do - and realize that life is about choices.

My list of What I Do includes
  • homeschooling my 13 yr old son
  • keeping up with my grown children and their needs
  • serving in leadership of our homeschool association
  • teaching history in a weekly Co-op
  • hosting a monthly Geography Club for middle schoolers in my home
  • leading a Mentor Group for new homeschool moms, and talking to many, many people about homeschooling through email and on the phone
  • helping my husband in his role as director of our homeschool sports program
  • chairing the homeschool prom committee
  • serving on the homeschool graduation committee
  • attending my son's sporting events
  • baking cupcakes to help support my daughter in her ministry work
  • clipping coupons and trying to figure out sales and ways to save money on our grocery bill
  • blogging / facebook / 
  • moderating our homeschool group's email loop
  • cooking healthy meals for my family
  • keep up with laundry and maintain at least a sanitary home
  • attend church ; try to have a daily quiet time

My list of What I Do Not Do includes
  • keeping a spotless house - heck, I don't even make my bed very often
  • working outside the home
  • gardening 
  • scrapbooking
  • home decorating
  • teaching Sunday School
  • attending Women's Bible Study or Women's Ministry events
  • paying the bills ( my husband takes care of that, not me)
  • painting, drawing, calligraphy - all of which I enjoy!
  • singing in the choir or in church musicals
  • sewing
  • nature study, lots of hands on science experiments, big art projects
  • lots of field trips
  • shopping for fun
  • exercise
  • lots lots more.....

The point is, those things on my What I Do Not Do list are good things, things I would like to do, some are things I SHOULD do.  But the reality is, moving things from that list to the DO list will require a) giving something else up, or b) sleeping less, or c) becoming much more organized, which is not something that comes naturally to me AT ALL.

When you look at me and see the things I Do, you are not looking at the list of things I Do Not Do.  So take a look at your own list of things you Do, and realize that those are hopefully the things that bring you joy, that are important to you, that are your calling right now.   Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others.  Look in your life for time wasters, and consider if there are things that need to be removed in order to allow time for what you have determined is important for YOU.  Pray and seek God about where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing, and rest in that. Realize that priorities will change as the Seasons of your Life change.

Be content.