11 years!

April 18, 2015

in birthdays,growing up

Today we celebrated my oldest son’s 11th birthday. 

How is it that I have been a mom for 11 years now?  I have no idea…. but today isn’t about me.  It is all about him.

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He wanted a nerf gun party.  I was so thankful for picture perfect weather on party day.  It was a ton of fun to watch them all racing around the yard shooting each other. 

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They played several games including target practice, hunger games, duals, kill the captain and capture the flag. 

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Scott always does such a great job of running the games at birthday parties.  He is so much fun and I love watching him run the parties.  My role is one of planning the theme, gathering the supplies prepping the food.  Then I step back and watch him actually run the show.  And he does it so well.  He is truly in his element on party days.  

I love the look on his face when the birthday boy ran triumphantly back with the others teams flag.  Ah, the joy of victory!

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Happy Birthday Son!  I love, LOVE being your mom.  I am so proud of you and the young man you are growing up to be.

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The kids and I spend a good amount of time in the van.  And sometime last year I felt like maybe I was gonna pull my hair out as we fought over everything from whose turn it was to ride in the middle row, to whether or not we wanted the air blowing from the vents or not.  Someone would inevitably kick someones seat, someone else would break out into an annoying song and before long ALL of us were grumbling and complaining.

Then one day in the church library I stumbled across a cd series called Johnathan Park.  It was about a boy whose dad was an archeologist and it explained the science behind Creation.  I instantly thought of my niece who was obsessed with all things dinosaurs and thought we could listen to it to see if it was any good.

The kids were hooked.  The ended up listening to all 9 cd sets.  It got a little crazy in the adventures the family went on (a trip to outer space, really?).  But it did stem many wonderful conversations.   I decided it was a bit young for my niece at the time.

When it was finished I pulled out the readers theatre version of the Chronicles of Narnia that I had bought years before but the kids hadn’t shown interest in.  This time around they were enthralled.  We spent every van ride to and from practice last summer listening to the Chronicles of Narnia.

Instantly our van rides went from something to be endured to something to be cherished.  More than once I’d pull in the driveway and they would say, “Please mom don’t turn it off, let us listen a little longer.”

We finished Narnia and moved on to a few others readers theatre stories and then some poorly acted out biography accounts.  I thought for sure the kids would find them cheesy but we were all hooked and we learned so much about so many historical figures.  Our entire winter was spent listening to biographies. 

This spring we had used up most of the cd’s in the church collection, so I moved on to actual books on cd from the public library.  We studied WW I a few weeks ago so I checked out a book called Lord of the Nutcracker Men.  This is by far the heaviest subject matter we’ve covered and the writing is definitely above that of my youngest, but it does a great job of tackling the difficult concept of war for children.  So often my oldest son has this almost romanticized view of war, as I am sure most young boys do.  But, this paints a more realistic picture.  The book takes place in England and has a series of letters the father writes home to his 10 year old son about life on the front lines.  It was written in such a clever way, and the writing itself is well done. I have truly been impressed.

We have had so many wonderful discussions in our van rides this past year.  Talks about our faith, talks about the allegories in the Chronicles of Narnia, talks about slavery, and prejudice, and honesty and even a few talks about dating.  But, today my son said something that just made me smile from ear to ear.  We were listening to the book and my 10 year old said, “Mom, this writer is so smart.  He totally brought in the Iliad and the Greek gods earlier, and fit it in with the toy soldiers in his garden. He knew what he was doing when he wrote about those gods earlier.” Now unless you have been listening to the story I can’t really explain what it all means.  But I just loved the fact that he was commenting on the writing, on not just the events in the story, but in the way the author crafted the story.  This, I thought THIS is why we read aloud to kids of all ages.  And I just haven’t been doing that.  In fact, even though I know from all my elementary education classes how valuable it is, even still, I haven’t been doing it.  BUT, now thanks to the cd player in the van, now, we are!  And I love it!  And I love the conversations we’ve had.  I love when they giggle at the British humor, when they speculate over what they think will happen next.  I love how they will say, “wait hit pause,” and ask a question about the plot because then I know they are actually listening. 

And I Love, I LOVE the fact that our rides in the van have turned from something to be endured to something we cherish.  I love that it is no longer wasted time, but we are sharing in experiences together and learning together.  I love it! 

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It was 3 years ago this month that we accidentally stumbled across our house. 

And we fell in love with it.

There are many things I appreciate about our house, but it was the backyard that captured my heart.  And truthfully still holds my heart 3 years later.   When Scott looks back there, he often is just overwhelmed with the work that needs to be done…. but I guess since those chores don’t typically fall on my plate, I honestly never see them. 

Instead I see this….

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I had been thinking of going in to DC yesterday to see the Cherry Blossoms…our schedule was open, the weather was gorgeous and the blooms were at their peak.  But, then I just felt like resting… like going nowhere, doing nothing and just being home. 

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The kids were out back pretty much from when we got home from church until it was time for baths and bed.

It wasn’t a particularly notable day… the boys rode bikes and skateboards, the girls made up a routine on the trampoline and then they asked to build a fire and play wiffle ball. 

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And while it wasn’t anything noteworthy, no epic adventure, no picture perfect poses, as I went to bed last night I couldn’t help but think that when they are old and grown, it was exactly the kind of day I hoped they remembered from their childhood. 

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I can’t believe I am more than half way through my 6th year of homeschooling.  Seriously, how did that happen?  I feel like I am learning so, so much…. and I also feel like this is the first year where I have felt truly comfortable in my skin.  Mind you, that is a FAR FAR FAR cry from feeling like I have it together or have it down.  That I do not.  But, I feel like I am now more comfortable and confident and am thus willing to think outside the box. 

I taught for 3 and a half years before becoming a stay at home mom.  And one thing that I have seen in the traditional classroom as well as the homeschool classroom, is that the third quarter is, for me at least, one of the hardest. 

I am thankful that we have one quarter left in our school year.  The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is starting to peek through!!!!! 

This year I had a strong desire to spend a great deal of time prior to Easter preparing my heart, my mind and those of my children.  A few years ago I bought a book called Amon’s Adventure but I never got around to reading it to the kids.  This year I pulled it out and the kids and I started our “school at home days” snuggled around the fireplace with me reading aloud to them from this book.  Reading aloud to the kids was one of those thing I knew I should make more time to do, but yet never felt like I could fit it in with all the other academic work we HAD to do.   However, I have learned it set such a sweet tone for our days… and it was a time the kids and I both cherished.  We finished the book this morning, but I have already decided read aloud is now a non negotiable start to our school at home days and I’ve already picked out our next book.  

I have known, oh I have even written over and over on THIS very blog, that my days would go smoother if I would get up BEFORE the kids and prep myself and START out school day at a set time.  And we’d do really well at this every September and January.  But then as life set in, I would often get lazy and our school days would start with a behind and frustrated Mom prepping breakfast and ordering kids to start around the table. 

This year has been the first that we have really stuck to a set start time.  And to be honest, this is because Scott has had to go in to work early and so once I am setting the alarm for him and getting up with him, it is easier to just stay up and get started.   It has been a huge difference maker for our school at home days.  One I have known I should do but haven’t felt like doing. 

Those who know me in real life, know that I am not a type A person.  And so I have fought against the notion of having a schedule for our school days.  I liked the freedom and the flexibility of the kids choosing what they wanted to do when… this resulted in my helping one with math, while another worked independently on spelling while another worked beside me on grammar…. more often than not I would find myself answering questions on 3 different subjects at the same time all while entertaining my toddler on the side.  And QUITE OFTEN I FELT LIKE I WAS GOING INSANE!  I felt like a million tabs were open in my head at once and how was I going to get through it.  Scott has over and over and over suggested I just make a schedule dictating when we do what.  And I have over and over bulked at it. 

Until about a month ago.

When I screamed, “That’s it…. I am dictating the schedule from now on.”

And after several attempts we have kinda worked out a system that works for the kids and I.  It is kind of a combination of both worlds.  I have a set start time and a set end time.  We do school from 8:30-3 with an hour to hour and a half break for lunch and recess.  Some days we go until 3:30 and some days we may finish around 2:30.  But typically we are 8:30-3. Each day I write out my plan for what we will do when, but I have built in flexibility as well.  For example, there are some subjects such as spelling, handwriting, flashcards, and typing, which the kids do not need me for.  I have set an hour where I work with one kid on grammar while the other two work through those subjects.  I get one on one time during that hour with each kid to work on grammar, but they also get the independence to pick what they do when of those 4 free subjects during that time.  And we bang through 5 subjects in that hour!!! 

I don’t do the same order each day.  Other than the fact that I start every day with a read aloud and then quiet reading…. after that it switches up day to day.  I have a pulse of how many subjects we need to do before lunch and definitely try not to save all the hard or heavy subjects for afternoon.  But, by switching up the order day to day it keeps things changing and flexible like I wanted.   There are still a few times where I have them working on different subjects at the same time… this is so we can space out one using the computer for writing while the other does Latin and I do my best to help both at the same time. 

I have found recess to be a necessary part of our homeschool day.  It allows us to have a fresh start, a natural do over, which is so important on days when we have had a rough  morning.  Often times we return refreshed and with new attitudes after a time away from the books and away from each other for a bit.  The kids and I need a breath of fresh air, or time to play and or create (even if all I create is dinner in the crock pot).  Some days we will still return to rotten attitudes and battles of the will, sometimes no amount of fresh air can releave us of those as we tackle the task at hand… and on those days, I am still thankful for recess b/c at least we had a temporary reprieve which is vital to making it through the day.  Since we live very close to Scott’s work, he tries hard to make it home for lunch.  It isn’t always doable and sometimes it is really just a quick stop in to grab food and head out, but other times it is a nice sit down meal together as a family in the middle of the day.  I love those times.  And because of this, I need prep time for lunch so we try to break around 11:30-11:45 so I have time to prep lunch and we get back to the books by 1:00. 

So, with the end in sight…. I say I have learned that getting up early, starting at a set time, having a schedule set in writing, having read aloud time together and RECESS have all been HUGE HUGE game changers to our homeschool days.   

I will also say that just today I sent an email to Scott venting about a huge battle with one of my children.  Sometimes no amount of scheduling or read alouds can rid us from the inevitable battle of wills, and we must just work through them.  And I am so so thankful for a loving and gracious heavenly Father whom I call out to day after day in repentance for my shortcomings as their mother, for wisdom in discipling them, for guidance and comfort.  And I have found…. He is always there.  And He shows me glimpses of the work He is doing in my heart and in theirs.

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Bridging Over

February 21, 2015

in cub scouts,growing up

Our oldest son has been a Cub Scout since first grade.  I remember attending his first Blue and Gold banquet that year and watching the Webelos 2 crossing over and thinking, “Wow, those boys look so big.”

Then I blinked…

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And before I knew it my boy was one of the big boys crossing over.

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Not sure how that happened so fast. 

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He was blessed with two amazing den leaders.  They stepped up his first year and stayed with the boys all the way through.  They did so many wonderful activities with the boys and truly sacrificed so much time to provide an AMAZING Cub Scout experience for these guys.  What a gift they have been!

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They also helped the boys achieve their Arrow of Light achievement.

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for blog

We are so proud of our son and look forward to watching him grow as a Boy Scout. 

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Sledding

February 17, 2015

in sledding,snow

We’ve been wishing for a snow that would cover the grass blades and last night we got just that… a little over 4 inches of powdery snow fell last night and Daddy took an extended lunch break to go sledding with us and enjoy it while we could.

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These two were my dare devils, trying to come up with whatever creative way they could to get the two of them down the hill the fastest.

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Her favorite part was eating the snow…. she sat out a few rounds so she could happily stuff her face with the cold wet snow. IMG_8556

Then the dynamic duo decided to add a third to their antics.IMG_8580IMG_8573IMG_8574

I went down a token one time…. preferring instead to watch from the bottom.

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We were there for about an hour.  I am so thankful that Scott lives close enough to work that he can come home for an extended lunch in the middle of the day and go sledding with us. (when his work schedule permits)… and so glad today his agenda permitted. 

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Because everything, EVERY THING is better when Daddy is there.

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