Monday, September 18, 2017

Struggles of Life and Ways We Cope

Week of Labor Day:  It's been a trying week, the first time in a while that I've been this drained.  The biggest challenge has been that both my hubby and the baby have had health battles all week long.  We had two big events planned for our holiday weekend.  We had to cancel one and I took the kids to the other.  It was our first "family event" for just our little family that my husband had to miss out on due to complications with his arthritis.  I think this was the first time that I have sincerely been frustrated and angry about this illness that continues to interfere with our lives. 

For him, I know it is a daily struggle to balance caring for his physical struggles and still participating how he can at home.  For me, it is a complicated balancing act with all the hats I wear.  There isn't a true solution that solves our struggles. Our struggles are caused by health issues.  Issues that will never go away and will only get worse.  Solutions for this kind of struggle are finding ways to work with the problems and through them.

In the hard times, like this past week, my husband is unable to do much more than put a smile on his face for the children and spend the day coping with pain and attempting to recover enough to participate in a "normal" appearing life.  I care for everything else in the day-to-day living in our home.  At times I feel alone.  He feels alone.  At times I feel overwhelmed.  It can be exhausting, and it is hard to take care of myself, to pay attention to our marriage relationship, to be there emotionally for our children, care for the daily household needs, etc.  I am a strong woman, I can handle a lot.  I am capable of doing many things on my own and carrying this load for a while...but sometimes it gets to me.

Solutions / Ways to Cope:  The biggest help is to be aware of the root cause(s) of the little frustrations that mount up and pray about them.  Knowing is half the battle...there's a GI JOE jingle in there somewhere. :0)

Time is another biggie.  Allow time to explore where your emotions are and why they are.  I know that when I feel the most depressed in hard times is at night when I am tired.  Simply sending myself to bed early makes a huge difference.  100% of the time I wake up feeling so much more positive than I felt the night before.

The next biggest help is to keep communication lines open.  This can be tricky because emotions and patience can be stretched thin already.   We both work at speaking to each other in loving ways and avoid any outbursts of negative emotion...those must be spoken in a sensitive way with understanding of how they may come across to the other person.   My husband's arthritis isn't his fault.  He has little to no control over when it flares up or how bad it gets.  So when I express frustration with it, I am conscientious of not using words that may cast blame on him as a person.
Then it comes down to being flexible to change plans and simplify life as needed to accommodate the changes necessary for dealing with it.

Lastly, there are always preventative actions to take.  Knowing our plans may change at any time, we are careful how we present them to our children and my hubby is careful on how he cares for his body in the days leading up to our plans.  He'll often schedule his masseuse appointments for the following day or two after a big trip.  We plan out medication timelines and bring heating pads on our road trips.  And so on...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Meal Planning and French Lessons

Nothing particularly exciting is going on in our lives as of late, and I'm enjoying the day to day living for once.  The biggest excitement for me is that we've reached the beginning of a new month and I get to start fresh with my monthly grocery budget...a consistent source of challenges.

If we could get by with buying generic, processed foods, groceries would be cheap.  But with my honey's low-carb diet and my son's intolerances, that just isn't doable.  I read a post recently on the unlikely homeschool blog about large family menu planning and budgeting.  My family isn't nearly as large, but some of the tips helped!  I started by copying another mom's rotating two-week menu plan that she uses to stay cheap on food.  Most of it fit our family's eating habits, but she used so much of the same foods that I know my family would revolt after a couple rotations. 

After brainstorming with my honey, I adjusted it to fit our needs/wants better and made it into a rotating 4-week menu plan.  This is our first week using it, and I'm so far pleased with the cost for my first week's plan.  It takes a lot of the stress off my shoulders having a plan already written so I can just buy the food for the meals on our list rather than coming up with something new every week.  It will also help with budgeting to see how much each week will cost us and how much we spend on "extras"...having that more streamlined and tangible will help when my hubby and I discuss our spending habits in the future.  It makes me feel good to have organized another chaotic area of life!

School days are going well, I'm very thankful that the Lord led me to be less specific in my planning.  I made plans for routines and goals, but I didn't try to restrict our lives as much I usually do when I get lost in the romanticized world of organizing.  We've made several small tweaks already that would have messed up any specific plans I might have made.

A perk of homeschooling is that I can adjust lessons and lesson plans to fit my kids' needs.  However, it also requires me to be flexible and find ways to adjust to those changes too.

For example, the girls want to learn French this year.  Through our Options program, I was able to check out a CD and Workbook curriculum.  My oldest loves this method and is enjoying the process.  My youngest gets bored just listening and following along so she doesn't pay attention.  She's not learning much or enjoying it, so today, I downloaded the DuoLingo app on my phone for her to try and she loves it.  Not only is it a 'screen' that she can see and touch, but it's "Mommy's Phone" -something she rarely gets to use!  She is very excited about this new way to learn French. 

I'm thankful to have found a free way to help her to enjoy learning and participate in French, but now I have to figure out the best way to incorporate the two different learning methods into our day...and I have to learn French both ways too because they aren't teaching the same words at the same time!

Friday, August 18, 2017

School Year Beginnings

One week down, 35 more to go! The first day of school was awesome!  Our new schedule/routine worked perfectly and was so relaxed.  I thought to myself, "I could do this every day!"  By Thursday I was thinking, "Is it the weekend yet? I need a break!"  Hahaha.  Perfect days like our first day are few and far between, but oh, so wonderful!

I'm glad we are back into a school day routine.  This week showed me how lazy our summer really was concerning following a schedule.  I can't stay up late for "one more show" with my hubby and still expect to have the energy to make it through the school day.  A couple nights like that and our little man awake a couple extra times and all those beautiful plans become a struggle!

We had to make a few minor tweaks to my planned routine for our little guy.  He plays wonderfully on his own when we are in the same room as him, however, when we are doing a lesson at the kitchen table and he is in the living room on his own...completely different story!  He just stands at the gate whining and watching us.  Poor guy.  It seems he forgot we just played with him minutes earlier! :0)  The solution is to do school with one child while the other plays with him and then switch.  Then while they are working on individual things, Mommy spends time with him!

Last year we were able to get most of our schooling done by lunch time.  This year I split it up into morning and afternoon work.  Trying to anticipate the needed flexibility for a toddler added to the mix and also fitting in some time for fun and a few chores.

Next week we start our once weekly full day of enrichment at our local Options program.  I accidentally let my license expire, so my first day of freedom is going to be spent sitting at the DMV, joy of joys...  The girls are looking forward to being back in a group of their peers, the one major thing they missed about traditional schooling. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Think, Think, Think

I have a brain that likes to ponder things...like Winnie the Pooh who frequently sits and taps his forehead saying, "Think, think, think."  We start our second year of homeschool in a week, and I find myself reflecting on how life was prior to homeschool vs. how it is now.  I ponder the upbringing my older children had being in childcare vs. my son who has only known a home environment.

There are things my older girls learned simply because being in childcare there was a set system of growth and development that is expected and necessary to function well in that lifestyle.  I worried more about training them to sleep on their own, using a pacifier, staying on track with the published typical milestones of child development, and social skills at a younger age.

With my son, everything is more relaxed.  He didn't have to be sleep trained or keep a set mealtime schedule.  We have the flexibility to go with the flow of our home lifestyle.  His life doesn't have to fit into a system.  I have enjoyed the absence of this pressure in caring for him.  For example, it was very important to keep ahead of the game in learning to eat solid foods for my girls and also to learn self-soothing habits because in a childcare program, those skills make a child's day significantly better.  At home, these skills are learned following the child's leading and aren't required in order for a day to go well.  He is learning these skills, just a little more slowly and at a pace that works for him.

One thing that the girls learned early on, is to accept other caregivers.  My little guy is very much attached to me.  I love that I have been able to be there for him, although it has made leaving him with others more challenging.

I ponder similar comparisons with our homeschooling experience so far.  Traditional school is very structured with routines and rules that are necessary to have a successful learning experience within a large group of children and teaching is geared towards meeting specific state goals.  Everything is set up for the group as a whole with very little flexibility for children's individual learning needs. 

At home, I can adjust the day's learning based on the individual needs of my children from slowing things down, to speeding them up; taking a day off or changing the learning environment.  I can even adapt our curriculum as frequently as needed or desired.

The longer I homeschool, the more I realize that in being home with my children, and unlike the traditional school setting, education takes place throughout all of our life experiences together and not just during the set "school hours".  This might sound like a "duh" statement, but I'll explain further what I mean:

I remember my older girls being in their public charter school and wondering what they were learning and how well they were learning.  I had to trust the teachers and the school system that things were going good as long as I didn't hear otherwise. 

Now that I am the teacher, I know exactly where they are in their learning and can use our life experiences with an educational advantage.  Over dinner, I can enforce a concept discussed during school as it pops up in casual conversation.  When we are perusing Netflix for something to watch, I can pick out shows with themes that correlate to things we've been learning in school.

Homeschooling and being a stay-home mom isn't for every family, but for me, it is a cherished season of life.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Insecurities and Perspective

Don't get me wrong, being a stay-home mom is my dream.  It's just that lately little insecurities here and there have been popping up.  I don't even speak them or write them down, but they seem to accumulate somewhere in my "emotional bank" -for lack of a better term.  Little things that the rational-me knows are insignificant and some truly don't bother me on most days.  Yet, when they all add up together, I can get overwhelmed and start to feel down on myself and doubtful.

My hair that had started thinning at the beginning of my diet is now growing back and nearing two inches long...you know how every short hair cut goes through an ugly stage in the growing-out process?  I've found mine.  It is hot on my neck in the summer heat and looks like I've got a major case of frizzies if I pull my hair back -which I do regularly because the baby loves to pull hair.  So, I resolve to roll my eyes at myself and chalk it all up to loving myself as a stay-home mom of three.

Many of the homeschool moms on Facebook are joking about how many books they are buying and all the curriculum choices they are making for different subjects.  Others are posting pics of their homeschool rooms and new decorations for the upcoming year.  I'm not buying curriculum books, our curriculum is free, online, and comprehensive.  I don't have a homeschool room to decorate, but I will make the girls clean their desk before we start school...  I am completely okay with not being like those other moms.  Every homeschool is unique and developed to meet its individual needs.  Sometimes I have a nagging little thought that maybe I am missing something by not doing the same things other moms are.  I push that little thought away, but it likes to pop back up when I'm feeling low.

Money is tight since I am home and I didn't take a summer job.  We have enough, but not extra and we watch closely what we choose to spend each month on the little extras.  It's an added stress, not a huge deal, but again, there.

And then there are my three wonderful children who I love so much that I want to be the absolute best mother they could ever have and meet every need in the best possible way.  Mom-guilt is natural for all mommies and my perfectionist self loves to pile it on.

So, I read an article today that I totally related to.  I could've written it...except the author is much more eloquent than I am.  It was basically saying why can't it be okay to just be me?  Why do I have to strive so hard to be perfect?  Why can't life be good enough when I am being me?  I needed the change of perspective.  After reading that article and praying about my feelings, I felt much better.  I looked around at my cluttered little house. 

Instead of a walking hazard of toys on the floor, I saw a baby boy's play area where he has so much fun banging toys on the tile entry way and then leaves them there so we can't open the door.  How long will I get to enjoy his pleasure in the simple things?  Instead of my daughter's hamper of clean clothes that she hasn't put away in three days, I saw the evidence of a little girl who loves to play and avoids chores at all cost.  My little girl who will one day grow up and leave an empty hamper.  Instead of a frumpy, aging woman in the mirror, I saw bright brown eyes with laugh lines and hair that has volume and beautiful soft curls.  Perspective people.  Love who you are.  Accept yourself for who you are and the way God has made you.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What does God want for us?

Life gets overwhelming easily when we don't put our faith in God.  Especially for me because I want so badly to get it right the first time.  Making decisions that directly impact my future or my children's future, is hard for me.  When I take the time to set all the stuff aside, get quiet and seek the Lord, He relieves all that stress and pressure.  He gives me clarity of thought.  He gives me wisdom and insight to the decisions He wants for us.

Most recently, this came in the form of homeschool planning.  I've been contemplating how to schedule our school days.  Our baby is going to be a toddler and his needs are changing.  I've gotten to know the learning styles and habits of my older two, and in certain subjects they need more accountability or support than in others.  I can't focus on all three at once all the time, so having some ideas and plans set in place ahead of time will help.

In addition to wanting to meet the individual needs of all three of my children in a day, the content of what they learn is on my mind.  Our curriculum (Easy Peasy - Allinonehomeschool.com) is a Christian-based program, but I feel God calling me to live out my faith with my children.  Not just following someone else's bible time, but personalizing our family's experience with Him.  I don't want to teach my children religion.  I want to share the blessing of a relationship with God with them.  I spent time praying about it by writing my prayers in my journal and looking through the bible verses I've been looking over recently in my own personal time with God.  I felt God leading me to study with my children a topic that I've pondered many times and have always desired to be better at...we are going to start out studying "What does it mean to seek God with our whole heart?"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ah! Summer is nearly gone!

Vacation Bible School was a good experience.  I had volunteered to work the whole time, but was only scheduled to do the first shift of 2-3 hours in the mornings.  That ended up being perfect for us.  I got to know some of the other volunteers at church and how things are done there.  I was tired and ready to have a break at the end of each shift...part of that was not getting much sleep that week.  Something, teething or food -I don't know, kept the baby up at nights.  He would take his morning nap as soon as I buckled him into his car seat and I got an hour break before returning to pick up my older children.

Being in the nursery with him worked!   He enjoyed exploring and playing and he got used to the environment!  Last Sunday he lasted almost through the whole service and they only had to call me because he bumped his head and wouldn't let them console him.

I enjoyed the small taste of working with young children again after being home the past year.  I'm still good with kids, but I'm not interested in getting back into the field anytime soon.  Life with three children, my hubby's disability and homeschooling are enough to fill my days.

We're down to four weeks of summer left.  I'm excited for the school year to start and I also want to savor the time we have left before the busyness of the school year begins.  My brain is quickly filled with all the potential plans for the future and trying to make the most of the present as well.

I was blessed to get to spend some time with my oldest two on their own at our church's family skate night this week.  We had a blast.  I was able to join them in skating while my hubby stayed home with our little guy.  The girls and I participated in the games and played our own version of tag during the regular skate.  It was fun.  I exaggerated being surprised or upset over getting tagged, played up the chase and thoroughly enjoyed the laughter of my daughters as we played.  My tween didn't want to hold my hand, but enjoyed me being near.  My youngest loved skating holding hands and the added leverage to keep her balance.  It was a great evening together.