Friday, May 19, 2017

Countdown to Summer

We have 9 days of school left this year.  It's hard to believe we made it to the end of our first year of homeschooling already.  The time has flown by, we've done so much and it feels like we could just keep on going because in all honesty, it has been a blast! 

The upcoming summer "break" is going to be full of more learning experiences where we'll continue learning and developing our relationships in a more active and hopefully relaxed way!  I've been busy planning activities and experiences.  Reading and math will be continued at a more relaxed pace.  Our city sponsors some free learning "camps" (they're really just a couple hours on specific days) that we've signed up for, we got some great deals on summer passes/discounts to the skating rink, bowling alley, movie theater, and local swimming pools.  The kids are ready and excited for the summer. :0)

I'm looking forward to picnics at the parks and hoping that it truly is a relaxing summer of fun and not too busy.

* * *

A more bittersweet anticipation of this summer is our baby's first birthday.  I'm excited because he is such a doll and I am thoroughly enjoying the little person he is.  I'm anxious to get back to eating the same foods as the rest of my family again.  I'm saddened that his first year is so quickly passing.  He is so much fun, I hardly notice that he's quickly turning into a toddler and his babyhood is ending.  When I do notice, I'm so busy I can't spend much time being sad over it.

He and I are testing new foods on a regular basis and passing most of them.  The ones he hasn't passed are common allergens anyway, so they may always be a bit of a trouble digestively, we'll see.  Right now we are slowly trying the milk "ladder", which is a slow and progressive way of introducing dairy into a non-dairy diet to be as easy as possible on the body.

My health has greatly improved since we passed eggs several months ago.  Eggs have such a wealth of nutrients that I needed.  There was a point where I was starting to wonder how long I could keep up with the strict diet I was on.  My hair had begun to thin and the weight fell off each week with no effort (aside from the diet).  I had to consciously eat extra to ensure I was getting the right amount of nutrition.  I even had to add extra fat to my diet to get what I needed while still being able to feed my son.  I've become pretty good at judging my dietary needs from my energy level mentally and physically.  We have made it so far and I am so thankful that we have been able to add so many foods to our diet.  My hair is filling in again (I have a fringe of short hairs around my head), and the weight loss has slowed to almost maintaining my weight.  I'm about 8-9 pounds more than I was at my wedding.  Our baby, he just continues to grow in leaps and bounds.  He's big for his age and chunky in all the right places!  He is definitely getting all he needs. :0)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Even stay-home moms need a break once in a while!

It's funny.  My childhood dream was to be a stay at home mom so that I could be there for my kids as they grew up.  My own mom was able to be home for the majority of my school years and when she did have to return to work, it was noticeable.

In my silly dreams, I would be home with the kids when they were young and then send them off to school and be home for them before and after their school day.  The house would be spotless because I'd have all that time to myself, all errands would be accomplished and I'd have plenty of me-time during the school days.  Real life...I don't know what a spotless house is, and if mine ever is...it would be such a shock I think I wouldn't feel comfortable until I cluttered it up a little.

Granted, I'm a homeschool mama too.  I replaced my career outside the home with a career inside the home.  I'm still teaching, I just get paid in hugs, kisses, sassy attitudes and rolling eyes. LOL!

I absolutely love being home with my kids and homeschooling them too.  It is not easy and I don't love it every day.  There are days and sometimes weeks where I just want to book a hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub and go on a vacation all by myself!  Mother's Day is coming and I always thought the moms who wanted a day away from their families were crazy and selfish.  But I have to admit, the idea was a little appealing last week.  It was one of those weeks that I was running out of steam.

We're in our final month of school.  We've pushed hard to finish the year by the end of the month.  We started school late, so we haven't taken many days off from school in an effort to make up some time.  Truthfully, we could school year-round and we don't need to push so hard to finish this month.  But, the kids are accustomed to the public school year and anxious for summer to start in June.  That schedule is ingrained in my head too, so we may add in some learning over the summer, but I don't want to be obligated to have school. 

Thankfully, my hubby was also feeling the pressure for a break and decided out of the blue to take a 3-day weekend.  A 3-day weekend was just what we needed and I feel so much better! 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Planning is so much fun!

We finalized several plans for next school year this week and I've completed my year-at-a-glance schedule for next school year!  Woo-Hoo!

The biggest thing I was waiting to confirm was whether or not we were going to put our girls into an enrichment program for homeschoolers.  Several families do this, and while I don't think it is necessary for the educational aspect, our kids were expressing a desire to be around other kids more often.

We've joined a Homeschool Group that shares our Christian faith and offers monthly opportunities.  We are slowly getting to know the other families.  We also visited two "enrichment" programs for homeschoolers this month.  One was a Christian Co-op and the other was a secular "Options" program offered through the public school system.

Surprisingly enough, the co-op wasn't the best fit for us this year.  I was a little disappointed that it didn't work out, but I know God has us in His hands!  It required parents to lead one whole class and assist in a second class of the co-op.  I didn't feel ready for that commitment with my youngest still quite attached to me, and me still figuring out this homeschooling thing at home.  Only one of my older kiddos enjoyed the day we spent there.

We did end up enrolling in the options program.  It was scary for me to consider, but our girls really wanted to be around other kids more and I'd heard several other Christian families saying their children attended.  The in-person visit was reassuring to me.  It is managed by a homeschooling veteran (a mom of eight!) and a member of the evangelical church that the program uses.  Several of the teachers were also church-goers and very up-beat about their role in the classrooms.  I don't have to commit to teaching, just supervising a lunch hour or two throughout the year, and both of our girls loved the visit and asked to start going right away! 

The other plus that I liked, but didn't want to be a deciding factor, was that they offer a free curriculum lending library to families enrolled and it also gives me a break for a few hours each week where I will just have the baby to worry about.  I have to admit I am looking forward to that built-in opportunity to focus on my youngest and the house.

With that piece of the puzzle complete, I was able to finalize my plan for the year so we have 36-ish weeks of school, built in breaks, and some extra days for flexibility.  Now I can focus more on curriculum and summer planning!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Parenting

Feeling a bit on the melancholy side tonight.  Being a parent is such an amazing and frightening experience.  My children mean the world to me.  The responsibility of being their mommy is one that I take very seriously.

I don't suppose that there is any parent who doesn't have regrets.  You do your best, you give the best of yourself, and like it or not, the worst of yourself plays a role as well.  Your child is with you through thick and thin, relying on you, and their entire growth and development occurs throughout the experiences you share together.  A quote that I learned once replays in my head, "Parents do their best, and when they know better, they do better."  I learn from my mistakes and I try to learn from the mistakes of others.  I know I'm a good mom, just not as good as I wish I were.  So, I try to give myself grace and place all my worries in God's capable hands.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Putting God First

God's been busy in my life again!  Our church has a regular time for prayer and fasting twice a year...at least.  This Sunday-Tuesday was one of them, and while I don't think I should fast while being a nursing mom, I decided to drop social media and minimize the use of my smartphone while with my family. 

I have been praying about putting God first more than I do, and while researching for next year's homeschool stuff, I found another mom's blog about her "morning basket".  Part of her morning routine is a scheduled time for the entire family to spend time one-on-one with God.  I really thought that was such a neat idea, so I toyed around with our current routine and tweaked it to add in that all-important personal relationship time with God. 

We've now followed the new routine two whole days, and I love it.  It gives me time to spend with God where I'm not mentally pulled in ten directions and it gives the kids time to learn what a relationship with God is.  I am less cluttered mentally and more at peace during the rest of the day.

I figured it would add a bit more time to our schooling since we were starting a little later in the morning, but so far it really hasn't made a negative impact at all to our normal schedule.  The kids complained about me making their morning TV show strictly one from our Pureflix subscription, but other than that, they seem to be enjoying their time with God too.  :0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Planners! Get ready to see a glimpse of my inner nerd!

Spring cleaning becomes Spring Planning for homeschoolers!  Everyone is talking about next year's curriculums, assessments, testing, etc.  Planners are on sale and I can't wait for mine to arrive in the mail!

I love to plan.  I love to fill in blank spaces in spiral bound books.  I love dreaming of plans and imagining what we will do.  Having something to look forward to is a good thing!

Over the years I have learned how often I plan unrealistically.  My goal with this year's planner is to set up a good foundation for the coming year: organizing and making general plans, but leaving the detailed planning for later as I get closer to actually needing it.  My current planner goes through June, so I don't truly need to start using my new one until then...I just need to have it ready to go.

There aren't many planners created specifically for homeschooling moms, but the most popular two on the market happened to be my favorite.  I spent way too much time drooling over them and trying to decide which one would most realistically fit my style of planning.

The first one I discovered was called "the Well Planned Day" by www.wellplannedgal.com.  It has a lot of floral designs which actually looked nice and not too flowery for my laidback personality.  What I loved most was the tabbed months and the double boxes on the weekly lined lists where I could plan for 6 subjects of curriculum.  Along the side of each weekly two-page spread was a place for notes, priorities, and the week's menu plan.  I loved it because it very closely fits what I have adjusted my current planner to look like.  I liked how complete it was and ready for use.  Some of the added features included bible verses, quotes, shopping lists, and articles to read each month.

My current planner is a nice Office Depot weekly/monthly academic spiral bound with a hard cover.  I like it a lot, but it is plain to look at and I found myself wishing for some additional features that it didn't offer.

The second planner I found was called "The Ultimate Homeschool Planner" by Debra Bell.  Several websites sell it, but the best view of it I found is on www.rainbowresource.com.  It is an undated planner in a simpler, more basic floral design which I like okay.  It didn't have the monthly tabs that I like, and it had the monthly pages separate from the weekly pages.  Two things that in the past I have rejected planners for.  The weekly pages are blank with six columns and six rows, along with a seventh column with space for notes, supplies, and appointments.  I loved the flexibility of the many ways I could use the blank columns and rows to fit my needs and adjust as the year progresses.  Some of the additional features include a user guide at the front with tons of tips and suggestions, areas to evaluate your school year, and a weekly two-page spread for a bible reading, battle plan, and space to write memorable moments and moments of God's grace.  I liked the reminders and space to encourage a more godly train of thought in my planning, but it wasn't a feature I was necessarily looking for and I'm not sure I would actually use it, to be honest.

Planners are expensive and I wanted to purchase the best one for my needs...but I could see myself using both planners.  I poured over video reviews and repeatedly went back to look at the views of the planner pages.  I hated not being able to walk into a store and touch them and flip through the pages to make my decision.  Online shopping is a challenge to me in that way.  Ultimately, I chose the second planner.  It was the one that made me the most excited to use it because I get to set it up my own way.  I can use my colored pens and markers to make it my own, and if I need to adjust something as the year progresses, I can.  The pages offer so much usable space and nothing is set in stone.  I also like the idea of having a reminder to start the week consulting the Lord and plan to have Him be part of our school year.  I am excited for it to arrive so I can start planning how to set it up!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Burdens and Blessings

Disability: a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities.
Few people realize the extent that disability impacts our lives...and rarely do I share due to my husband's preference to live life as normally as possible and not burden others.  The word is one I've avoided using, but is becoming more accepted by both my husband and I as his arthritis continues.

His arthritis is genetic, and often many people are carriers of the gene, but only a few actually develop the disease.  As with all arthritis's it attacks the joints causing pain, but this particular arthritis also causes inflammation which results in fusing of joints, muscle spasms, and bones to move out of place.  The pain is chronic, never a day without pain.  Some days are worse than others.
He works hard and takes great care to provide well for our family so that I can be home and we can provide our children with our best.  I am grateful for the opportunity to be home for our family and for him.

I like my traditional role of wife and mother.  That is the role I feel called to be in; as well as a role that I flourish in.  I love to serve others; especially my husband and children.  I give of myself and it makes me happy.  I appreciate the sacrifices my husband makes so that I can be home.  I understand how his arthritis limits what he is able to do.  I understand it is exhausting to be in pain all day...simply being in pain takes an immense amount of energy.  So I make it my goal to be his help-mate.  I work alongside him in the home as he works outside the home to provide.

School, most shopping, and housework are all generally done during his working hours.  When he comes home, we all relax as a family.  I'm not so great at being a housekeeper, but my culinary skills are growing in leaps and bounds!  Tonight I made him sloppy joe stuffed peppers and cooked the children their favorite macaroni and spam since they're not so fond of sloppy joes -even ones not made from a can!  (A no starch/low carb diet reduces the inflammation from his arthritis, so we try to keep his meals that way.)  I have learned how to cook all kinds of meat and often cook from scratch using recipes I've found until I am familiar with different methods and flavors we like.  I make my own cheese sauce without a recipe for the macaroni, and I microwave a tasty baked potato (potatoes are my current favorite food on my strict diet), but no longer do I cook the whole chicken in the microwave like when we first got married!  I try to keep up with the laundry and am pretty good at keeping it clean.  Sometimes it makes it out of the basket to the closet, but it is at the very least, clean. 

The hardest part is of course that the responsibilities at home with young children are never-ending.  While the bulk of our daily work is done during the day, a mother's work is truly never done.  I spend evenings balancing time with family and time cooking, tidying up, parenting, caring for the baby, etc.  Alone time for me is rare.  My hubby supports me in getting out at least once a month to go to my mom's-night-out bible study which I always enjoy, even if getting out of the house is challenging.  I'm also starting to attend more homeschool get-togethers which forces me to socialize more.  I never realized how much women talked before...maybe it is the fact that we are all homeschooling moms and need adult interaction, but every event I've attended I am surrounded by chatting women.  Lots of them.  They are very friendly and I enjoy the conversations...and then get home all "peopled-out".  This introvert can only handle that much interaction for a short time!

Ultimately, I love where our life is right now.  I'm grateful for our blessings and strive to accept and overcome the burdens as we can.  God is good.  He always has our best in mind even when we don't see it.  Have a great night!