Sunday, October 17, 2010

Revelation Deja Vu

Wow... I would laugh, if it weren't so sad... Why, oh why, must the Lord convict me of the same things over and over (and, unfortunately, over again)? It seems that whenever God has used my life experiences to teach me powerful lessons, somehow I end up right back in the same place?

Take Wednesday's somewhat maudlin post... "I'm so busy", "I'm so tired", "I'm so confused about why I feel this way." Seriously?!?! It was only a year and a half ago, that I was singing the very same tune.

Stressed and at the end of my rope, confused and adrift, I was totally burned out. And when you're totally burned out, guess what? There's an incredible opportunity to start over. With nothing certain, I figured the only thing I could do was look after my health, which had been neglected for so long. I was the busy mom who had time for every activity, club, and committee, but couldn't find a single hour in my day to get a work out in. I'm sure you've never met anyone like that, right? :)

So, I found an incredible (and I mean INCREDIBLE) fitness facility. My children were so thrilled. Each of them were so happy there, that I spent every day of last summer taking a little time for me. I checked those kids in, programmed the iPod, slipped the SkullCandy over my ears, and hit the elliptical trainer hard (well, as hard as you can while you're ogling Food Network!). A couple of times a week I would do Zumba (oh yeah!), but when I was done I would always shower, put on something cute, fix the hair and pick up my babes (who were always sorry to leave).

I'm sure you can imagine what happened... I lost forty pounds and I felt fantastic! I never wanted to go back to that sluggish place. I learned the same lesson so many other women have: taking time for yourself does not take time away from your kids. It actually ADDS to the enjoyment of the hours you have together.

So last Wednesday, I was down. Thursday came around and it was time for the kids to go to one of their sporting lessons. That morning, determined to get a work out in, I dressed in my gym clothes and when I dropped the kiddos off, I hit the machines. With a little tobymac thumping in my ears, I had a revelation...

I hadn't worked out regularly since July and my eating patterns haven't been great, either.

Hmmmm, I wonder why I haven't been thinking clearly or finding the joy in homeschooling? I was frustrated that I hadn't paid attention to that important lesson I thought I had learned. I thought I had that one crossed off my list forever. Evidently, I needed a revelation deja vu.

Are you feeling stressed about something right now? Just know that's not God's will for your life. He repeatedly tells us over and over (and, over again) not to worry about anything. If you're concerned with the direction your life is going, just go ahead and put your name on a list about a billion people long, right below mine... and then do something about it. Pray that the Lord would reveal to you (even if it's for the fortieth time) that which you cannot see clearly on your own... and then do something about that.

The phoenix is probably my favorite mythological creature. I love the idea of it bursting into flame and rising from the ashes, a new (and I'd like to think, better) version of it's former self. Wouldn't you love to start over with the knowledge that you have today? Would you like to take the lessons you've learned and rise, a better version of yourself? Maybe you're like me, and your current struggle can be easily remedied. Maybe you're like I was, burned out and at rock bottom. Either way, know this, you can have a do-over on life. You can be better tomorrow than you are today, but not by your own power and it's not a myth. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Cor. 5:17 Don't be afraid to relearn old lessons. Grow from them and rise.

Blessings, Lins

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Defining Moments

Oh, it is so sweet to sneak away from all of the busyness inside my home right now. I've missed my blog. It's so sweet to be able to write about whatever I want and not worry about it being perfect...

For some reason, and I still can't figure it out, this year just feels SO much crazier than last year. I feel like the kids are involved in the same activities, but we never seem to stop. It's actually making me a touch frustrated. If only I could put my finger on what it was, I would fix it in a heartbeat, but for now I'm left wondering.

Can I just share a HUGE bright spot, though? I was absolutely floored when Carrie at Live, Learn, and Love Together linked to my last post! Seriously, I think she is just about the coolest person I've never met! :P If you have never visited Carrie's blog, you must! Everything about it makes me happy: the colors, the fonts, her writing, her beautiful family. She's amazing. Thanks, Carrie!

Last week I went to a meeting for our homeschool group. We always begin with chapel, but I tell you all the kids want to do is worship. When our director starts her short message, my kids get a little antsy and I am almost always unable to connect. This week however, she spoke about homeschooling as a calling. The core of the message centered around the fact that many of us have chosen to do what we do because we were called by the Lord. If you have read any of my other posts, you may remember that homeschooling was truly not my idea and I actually chickened out at one point. The Lord, in His goodness, called again and this time I answered.

But I'm tired, friends...

It seems like all the things I loved most about homeschooling; the flexibility, the random field trips, the peaceful coming alongside my children, the worship, the joy has been replaced with schedules, scheduled field trips, finishing on time so we can get to our activities, tasks... it's overwhelming.

I need space. I need quiet. I need the Lord. I need time to reflect on His calling.

What has He called me to?

He called me to this time. I am who I am because of my generation and the parents he gave me (praise and thanksgiving to the Most High for mom and dad... they are the two most incredible people ever). The work I have ahead of me fulfills His purpose at this moment in history. If that thought doesn't just amaze you, I don't know what will.

He called me to be united forever with my best friend. Where there were two, fearless kids on the cusp of possibility, He created a family. Never would I have imagined marrying as young as we did (I was going to be a Supreme Court justice, you know). Praise God for the history we already have together.

He called me to parenthood through His perfect miracle of adoption. That fearless kid on her wedding day was so confident that pregnancy was a heartbeat away. Now I praise Him daily for the blessing of infertility.

As I reflect on these callings, I realize that these are the defining moments of my life. Coaching soccer teams, folding laundry, teaching classes, emptying the dishwasher, shuttling kids to and fro; those are things I do. They do not define who I am. God has defined my time and my family according to His plan, not mine.

Now, He has called our family to homeschool. He has made a way for us to be with our children and educate them morning, noon, and night. He has changed my boundaries and defined me once again, while also allowing me to define who my children will be. My three precious gifts will be who they were called to be and think differently about their lives in the future because of what's happening now.

And what's happening now?

Busy is happening. Movement is happening. Stress is happening. Tasks are happening (or not). :) I want this to be the defining moment for my family. I don't want the moments to define us. There is no glory to be found in busy. There is no joy to be found in rushing. The whole of life will demand deadlines and schedules. Do I want to teach my children that perfect attendance at gymnastics supersedes kind words or that showing up to every single homeschool activity trumps peacefulness in the home? It sounds silly even typing it, so I can only imagine how it must sound to read it. The answers are obvious, but what's less obvious is how we make needed changes.

For now, I must remember that I am living in one of my defining moments. When a sharp word is on my tongue, I will be mindful of the effects those words have in defining future generations. Peace be with you, friends.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How We Get The Party Started

Routines, routines, routines... If there's one thing I learned from teaching in a school, it's the importance of having routines and procedures in place. So much of the way my day goes is dictated by the way our morning begins. I've found that the easiest way to ensure success in our homeschool day is just having a game plan. I'm not talking about a minute-by-minute accounting of our day (though I'm sure that's very helpful for many). For our family, school starts off with "Morning Circle" (which is a complete misnomer as we do not sit in a circle and we occasionally do it in the afternoon). I'm gonna work on a new title, but here's what works for us...

Each of our kids has a binder of their own.
The binders have different tabs. Everybody has "Worship", "Scripture", "Presidents", and "States". The almost five year old also has a tab for "Sight Words" and the older two have "Spelling" and "Homework".
Every school day begins with worship. We try to learn two new songs a week and they follow along with the lyrics in their binders and on the overhead.
This year I have written a "Fruit of the Spirit" curriculum for our scripture study together. It's hardly a new idea, but every month of the school year we take a different "fruit" and memorize scripture that ties to it. The kids also have a "Fruit of the Spirit" Journal that they write in nightly.
The month of September is "Kindness". I tried to tie each fruit to the season, wherever possible, and I tell you it took a certain amount of self-control on my part not to make "Self-Control" the very first one we studied! :) I didn't really think I should start the year off harping on them. The journal questions for this month are: "What did I do to show someone else kindness today?" and "How was someone else kind to me?".
Of course the notebooks look better when they're more colorful and hey, if it keeps the little one in his chair, I'm ecstatic!
Each week I am introducing one or two of the Presidents to the kids. I made the master worksheet, but used portraits I found on I also got the facts from Homeschool Share. The kids have to cut and glue the portrait, color the frame, and fill in the information. I write the four year-old's info in gray and he traces it (sometimes). Here's an example of one of his pages.
Here's another example, this time from my fourth grader.
Since I am as yet unable to sell everything and hit the road in an RV, we are traveling the U.S.A. state by state. First we color the state in on our U.S. map...
Then we do map work on the state. This is what my second grader did. She is required to trace the rivers, label the capital, and major cities. Fourth grader has to label rivers and landforms, also. I love these maps. I got them from YWAM.
I made this corresponding worksheet because I thought the one in the YWAM book was too advanced for my second grader. The kids fill this in while viewing a PowerPoint presentation of the state... definitely a cheap vacation! :)
At the beginning I mentioned the older two have a "Homework" tab. It could just as easily be called "Skills Reinforcement". My daughter usually completes a phonics activity and my son does a reading comprehension passage. They both do a math follow-up page. Whatever we need extra practice with is considered fair game for homework!
Can't believe we've already been in school for over a month now! There is so much work going on and my beautiful school room is atrocious... mostly because a day without art for my kids is like a day without food! Cracks me up since "artsy" is the last word I'd use to describe myself! Love and blessings to all of you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Very Jonas Field Trip

I have been SUCH a bad blogger lately! I have soooo many things to blog about, too. I finally borrowed my grandma's camera charger (since mine has yet to reappear) and snapped some awesome shots. I will definitely be updating my blog this weekend, but I just wanted to share a funny photo we took when we were out and about last week.

A group of our kids were all looking in the candy shop window on Main Street at Disneyland, when one of the moms whispered, "Isn't that one of the Jonas Brothers next to the kids?" I tried to take a stealthy pic of my little girl and get him in the background, but he just looked like a white dot. My awesome friend made like the stalkerazzi and with sneaky moves of her own, shot this cute pic from far away...

They are a super cute couple and we really didn't want to ruin their date, so we tried to play it off like we see celebrities everyday! :) After we got our picture, I asked my baby, "Did you see that Jonas Brother?" (since he REALLY wouldn't know that it was Kevin and not Joe or Nick). His eyes got really big and he said, "You mean they're real?!?!" Gotta love it!

Blessings, Lins

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Change in the Weather

Oh, don't you just love plans? Somehow they never quite work out the way I arrange them in my head, but that doesn't stop me from making more. Take today, for example. One of the best parts of homeschooling for me is the celebration found in something as simple as a rainy day. I had this vision in my head of what the first rainy day would look like at my home. Here's the gist of it...

All summer long I dreamed of the first rainy day... piling my pajama-clad kiddos into the minivan and grabbing something warm from the Starbucks drive-thru, spending the better portion of our day reading books in the coziness of our living room, and not once venturing outside (you know, after the Starbucks, of course).

Well, that's just about the exact opposite of how my day went! My delighted kids dressed as quickly as possible so they could grab their umbrellas (only recently found in the "Great Labor Day Weekend Clean-Out") and head outside to play in the puddles. "Not so fast kids! Back inside!" Wednesday morning means tennis lessons twenty minutes away. Since the rain only really amounted to a drizzle, I called over to the club to confirm their cancellation. "None of the coaches have cancelled yet," the receptionist informed me. UGH!!! Everybody gets changed, we drive all the way out, get the WORST spot in the parking lot, slosh all the way to the courts, only to find them completely flooded and deserted. Surly 9 year-old son: "Wow, mom! That was a waste of our time." Darling daughter: "And gas..." Wise Mother: "But if we didn't show without cancelling in advance, we would have had to pay for the lesson." (Look who just covered Economics!!!)

So, we change plans and go visit my cousin and her brand-new DARLING baby boy. He is an absolute slice of heaven. Transition quickly out of baby heaven mode after receiving an urgent message from the banner company...there was a problem with the email submission of the order form for my baby's soccer team banner. Go home. Nearly pull my hair out trying to resubmit it. Finally end up getting back in the car to drive it down to their office. No time to get back home for lunch before the first park play day of the year for our homeschool group.

Fast food lunch, chase a four year-old around the park, hurry home to "do math", off to gymnastics, off to soccer practice (where I attempt to wrangle 10 four and five year-olds into some semblance of a scrimmage that doesn't involve running off the field crying when the other team scores or dog piling an unfortunate friend who fell while dribbling), back to gymnastics, drop off some paperwork, fill up with gas, dish out the crock-pot dinner, kiss the world's handsomest dishwasher, finish language arts and social studies around the dinner table, showers, pajamas, and finally... bedtime.

What happened to my plan?

Can I get a do-over on today please?

What was supposed to be one of my most favorite homeschooling days, turned out to be one of my least favorite... the day where nothing goes according to plan and I feel as though I've done a great number of tasks, but very few of them significant or meaningful. Not to say that wrangling tiny soccer players is insignificant... :) I'm quite confident that tomorrow will be back to 105 degrees since the only thing on the agenda is school, but I was so very thankful for a change in the weather. Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference. Even though the day didn't go according to my plan, I felt so optimistic about the coming fall and a real change in the weather. Which leads me to the last item on my agenda for today... plan for tomorrow. Oh yeah, and hide the vuvuzelas my husband brought home from work until AFTER school tomorrow! Pray for me, friends. :)

What do you have planned for tomorrow?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

For Whom The Car Honks

It happens every morning. Monday through Friday, it's more regular than my mail delivery. See, those of you who live in the peaceful, bucolic serenity of the country will have no way of identifying with me. Well... maybe you will. Maybe there's some cow who moos too loudly or some chipper little bird who won't stop tapping on your window pane. Over here in suburbia, we have car horns...and impatient soccer moms...and schedules...schedules that have to be kept with military precision, lest one of those balls we've been precariously juggling should fall to the ground and disrupt the flow of the entire day. Impatience at 8:12...every...single...morning. I haven't even had my coffee yet (or my first Diet Pepsi) and here she swerves around the corner, in her raised up 4X4, blaring on the car horn for all it's worth.

"Hey there sister! I've felt your pain. I know exactly where you're coming from. You were late before you even woke up and your tween is in the back seat anxious to get the carpool picked up and make it to school on time. Is there any chance, though, that your child might take the opportunity to stretch his legs and employ the door bell once in awhile?"

When I used to keep that same schedule, I was never home to hear that horn. I was busy being She-Ra, Princess of Power. No hair uncombed. No shoe untied. No homework left behind. Watch out! Here I come... Supermom!! It was only when we started homeschooling that I realized what I would have considered efficiency in the past, was now a huge annoyance. Every morning, without fail, the Jeep would honk. And honk. And occasionally, honk again. I would forget it was coming, and be startled when it did. I would remember it was coming, and would wonder if the kid in the car had an allergy to doorbells. Then one day, as the horn blared a third time and I watched my lanky neighbor trudge to the car, I borrowed a line from John Donne and thought, "Ask not for whom the car honks, John Kelley. It honks for thee."

Do you ever have "AHA!" moments? I do, on occasion. I'll hear something, or see something, and suddenly it's as if a light bulb has illuminated the dark. Suddenly, I see what I saw before, but somehow, it's all different. Well, that day at my kitchen sink, I had a revelation. What if, instead of being irritated by the reminder of someone else's hectic schedule, I took that moment to remind myself to be thankful? Not thankful that it's her and not me. Just plainly, thankful.

Some days it's still blissfully quiet at my home. My three sweet babes are still tucked under those covers and the car honks. On those days, I'm free to spend uninterrupted quiet time, thanking the Lord for His divine blessings in my life. Some days we're up and at 'em, finishing our breakfast, getting ready for school, and the car honks. On those days, I remember to be thankful for these moments of togetherness. They're fleeting and so precious. Some days I'm slogging through an inch of water on the bathroom floor because my son decided to "make an ocean" during his shower and, oh by the way. "MOMMY, THERE'S SOMEONE AT THE DOOR!" (and WHY IS THAT CAR HONKING?!?!). On those days, I'm thankful for the drive-thru Starbuck's, the gift card my mom gave me for "emergencies", and the fact that I have three children when I wondered for years if I would have any at all.

Is there something in your life that's been annoying you? I guess I could have just asked, "Are you a human?" :) What if, right in this moment, you purposed to turn that irritation into a moment for celebration? It may seem cliche, but the things that drive you crazy, may be the things that others desire so much for their own lives. Maybe John Kelley's mom doesn't want to push him out the door when the car honks. Maybe she wishes she didn't have to carpool and could spend uninterrupted quality time, driving him to school, and talking about the things that make him anxious, or proud, or sincerely happy. Then again, maybe she just wants a shower and a child who can get out the door on time! Ha! I've been there, too! :)

This is real life... busy, full, overflowing life. Whether it bubbles effervescently or floods tragically, the choice is really in the way you see it. I pray that my "AHA!" moment leads you to one of your own. Tomorrow, when the car honks, I'll be thankful for the people who may read this and the powerful ways their days may be changed by something as simple as positive thinking.

Blessings, Lins

Monday, August 30, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Well, after a super fun weekend, I finally got down to the business of drawing winners for my two giveaways.

Thank you all for your fun comments in the Charlotte's Web giveaway. I really enjoyed reading each and every one of them. I think the winner for this giveaway is absolutely perfect. Thank you for choosing kahlanne at Long Ramblings who wrote, "I know this will be a shock but I have never actually read Charlotte's Web. I watched it years ago when I was a kid. I would love to have this for my homeschool."

Congratulations also go out to the winner of the Native Americans History Pockets, Leann @ Montessori Tidbits! I could not figure out how to email either of you, so if you see this before I get in touch with you, please leave me a comment here. I will send them out as soon as possible. Thanks to everyone who visited for these giveaways!