Friday, May 25, 2012

For The Love of Learning...

School hasn't wrapped up around these parts.  We are still chugging along and will be until June 22.  A gauntlet has been thrown, however, and I've challenged my boys to diligently work to be finished by June 14.  They liked the thrill of that challenge, so we'll see how it goes!

Even though we've set a date to end our formal schooling, we all know that the learning never really stops.  The beauty of learning is that it just keeps going.  There will be "field trips" (shh, don't call them that during summer!) and even an "extended field trip" to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Mt. Rushmore.

There will be books read as we have always done a "Summer Reading Challenge", even when they were in public school.

We will visit museums, new cities around Northern and Central California and learn culture, history, social etiquette and exploration.

We will go camping which brings lots of interest in the area of Science.  Each kiddo will keep a journal of our extended field trip or vacation where daily writing will occur (that's the plan, anyway).

 Then, we have life skills and service to others.  Summer home projects that they will help with and learn a new skill; helping at VBS and other service projects for the summer have been planned.  Even, spiritual growth will occur - each will still be working through our Bible curriculum over the summer in addition to reading for their quiet times.  Each will be attending church summer camps that will surely challenge them to grow their faith.

Homeschooling as a lifestyle becomes so easy when you take education off its leash and let it roam freely.  When it's not forced, a love of learning develops and becomes a daily part or life.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I left church crying today..

As I closed the door to the car, I hurriedly dug through my purse for kleenex.  I couldn't look at any of my family at all.  I was barely hanging on.  As I got the kleenex to my eyes, the tears began to flow.  Then, I went into a sob.  One like I've never really done before.  My family was shaken.  "What happened?".  "Are you ok, Mom?". The questions kept coming.   I couldn't even form a word to answer.  The sobs just kept coming.

This isn't the first time I've left church crying... and it was never for a good reason. It IS the first time I had left Lifepointe Community Church, our home church,  sobbing, so Chris and the boys seemed unnerved. 

I couldn't help it, though.  I was crying tears of pure joy. 

Jake's second hour Sunday school teacher stopped me to talk about the upcoming "move up" Sunday that will take place in a few weeks.  She shared with me her love for Jake and you could just see her light up when speaking about him.  For the first time in Jake's life, an authority figure (other than his mom,dad and Nana) loved him completely - his ADHD, his boisterous behavior, and his heart.  Through it all, she had seen his tender and loving heart.  I loved that she was firm with him when needed (and heaven knows, he needs it) but she saw Jake, for Jake.  Not as a rambunctious kid who distracted others or one that was a "hand full".  She saw who he really was - beyond the quirks, flaws and spunk that Jake displays (ha, don't we all, though?).  And she LOVES him and showed that.  Even her discipline was in a such a way that never spoke negatively into Jake's heart and spirit.  She's done this consistently through the entire time of his 4th grade class.  And I have loved her for it. 

But today... today, standing outside of church, hearing her words and watching her eyes and face as she spoke highly of Jake... JUST. OVERWHELMED. ME. I was left speechless that this person would pour acceptance, love and encouragement into my boy - in a way no one else had ever taken the time to do with Jake.   I was trying hard not to cry in front of her.. and the others walking by and saying "hi" to me. I'm not one who likes to publicly cry (who does, really?!).   I made it to the car and then lost it.  

Please don't think my Jake is a "bad" kid.  He's not.  He is adorable but what teachers have typically seen is...  he struggles to sit still.  He gets carried away easily. He struggles to focus.  He likes attention. He has a hard time listening and following instructions.  He loves to make people laugh.  He enjoys being with people. He values friendship intensely... often times at the cost of all else around him.  As harmless as these attributes seem to be, though, they do not make him a good candidate for sitting in a desk hours on end each day, which is a BIG reason why we pulled him from school and homeschooled him when we pulled our eldest.  My heart couldn't handle the labels being placed on him at school  when I knew his heart.  

And now.  Someone else knew it too. 

To see God's love so abundantly poured over my son's head - when often what's been poured has been  negative words - was an amazing gift to me.  And  an even more amazing gift to JAKE.  His response, in return,  to this teacher has been so positive, so amazing.  It has been a blessing beyond measure. 

I am forever grateful for this lovely teacher that slipped on the skin of Jesus and showed my son His love, His grace and saw Jake through God's eyes.  I am simply overwhelmed that she saw what we have known - he's smart, kind-hearted, a leader, generous, tender, and positive and joy-filled - and she has spoken into his life the truth of these traits existing in him.  He has had another encourage him in God's word and raise the bar in his life (not just good 'ol mom and dad) and Jake has blossomed under this outpouring of love on him, from once a stranger who has now become a life-long friend, supporter and advocate of Jake.  

Tears roll down my face as I type this because this is God's love in action, people.  That we speak His truth, grace and love into another's life and lift them up to experience the fullness of God's acceptance of coming to Him as we are. Broken. Flawed. Imperfect... yet, through Jesus' sacrifice, still worthy to stand before Him. And immensely loved.  Jake doesn't have to behave first before coming to God.  Jake doesn't have to get his ADHD, his focus, or him impulsiveness under control before being in His presence.  Jake doesn't have to approach the throne of God in perfect condition.  Amen that someone else is singing this truth over my son's life.  May I be the same to someone else's child  as well as to peers.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Homeschool Mom's Journal: May 7-12

In my life this week...
Goodness gracious!  Lots!  The week started with a trip to the dentist.  Dentists terrify me so before I visited this one, I made Chris go first to check him out.  Turns out, he's pretty awesome but I was shaking and praying in the waiting room (sad but true).  Our family is totally addicted to the game Tripoley!  We had another fun game night with that one!  On Friday, we ended the homeschool co-op Chris and I had started.  It was a bittersweet day - sad to say goodbye to it and many wonderful friends but joy and peace in knowing God's got it under control.

We headed up to Truckee on Saturday to visit the Donner museum and lake.  We went with good friends and spent the day together.  It's a day trip we had planned WAY back in February and I'm glad we did because I sure needed that R & R!  We originally were going to Petaluma for a Living History day but opted for cooler climates when we saw that Petaluma would be 84.

In our homeschool this week...
I'm suffering from a split mind right now - one half is focusing on finishing up this school year and transition into some light summer work and the other half of my brain is focused on next school year.  Our co-op did a wonderful lesson on Monet and in our personal school, had some great discussions on critical thinking, worldviews as well as history (both World and California)!  We've hit a much slower pace and I actually like it!

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...
Don't fix what isn't broken!  Don't throw out a curriculum just because "it's that time of year".  If it's working, keep using it for the next year!  It's tempting to want to try new things out there, believe me, but I'm learning resist the urge to tweak!

I am inspired by...
authentic faith; today's sermon and the challenge put out there to all moms by Pastor Chris and perseverance...

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
We're heading to Truckee for some much needed R & R with friends.  It's a daytrip - which I LOVE - and the temps. will be much cooler than in Sacramento! We plan on going through the Donner Museum and hanging out at Donner Lake for the day!

My favorite thing this week was...
Leaving church today.  I'll blog more about it soon but I left crying. In a good way because Jake's Sunday School teacher shared with me her heart for Jake.  I was so overwhelmed!  Ahhh, LOVE my church family!

Oh! one more.. Jake was telling me how much he loved our church this week, which made my heart smile, but he turned to me and said, "Mom, the very first day we went there.. I just knew.  It was OUR church!".  (sigh)

What's working/not working for us...
The color in my living room is DEFINITELY not working for me right now.  Ok, now that I've got that off my mind... I'm re-thinking our English curriculum, at least for my youngest, as it doesn't seem to be working that well for him.

Questions/thoughts I have...
Why does Starbucks put their frapps on sale once a year or so???  I guess that's a good thing, though, because I'd be there all the time if they were always $2!  LOL!

Things I'm working on... 
VBS craft preparations with a group of ladies at church.  Our all-church memorial day weekend picnic - I'm heading up a couple of kid games!  I'm also beginning to lay the ground work for next year's school with establishing goals, purging our book shelves, etc.

I'm reading...
Spiritual Parenting

I'm cooking... 

I'm grateful for...
provision that comes, not from man, but God alone...

I'm praying for...
Baby Livvy; to live out my faith, first and foremost, for my children and for others.  May I leave a legacy of faith that Lois and Eunice left for Timothy; for family; for the ability to forgive as God did and to live that out daily...

Photo/video/quote to share...
Watch Mike from Tenth Avenue North talk about elephants and forgiveness.  VERY. AWESOME. REMINDER!  God, may I absorb more pain than I inflict!  May I not keep a record of other's wrongs for you erased mine!

I'm linking up to...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Coming to the end of something - whatever that something might be - brings a mixture of emotions.  Depending, of course, on what that something is, you may feel more sadness or excitement that the end is near. Endings are, well, so... final.  And that can be scary if fear gets a foothold and strike dread, frustration or ?? (insert emotion here), again, depending on WHAT exactly is ending.

I am coming to the end of a journey that began with a big vision and a hope.  A hope for community among homeschoolers and friendships to grow and bond.  God laid on my heart to begin a homeschool co-op in my neighborhood 3 years ago and it took close to a year for it to come to fruition.  My amazing husband not only supported it but sacrificed money, time and a half day of work each week for a year to not only help it get off the ground but teach and help, lead and direct.  I am grateful for the support as well as the wisdom and no -nonsense approach he brings to everything.  He takes things that can become so complicated and simplifies it. I love him to death and am grateful for his help.

This journey has been marked with many emotions for us as a family. It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies - this journey.  Nor has it been completely hurtful and frustrating.  As with many events in life, it has been a combo of it all. Still, the personal toll on me and my family wasn't always easy.  Juggling the many components of running weekly classes and a group of as many as 32 families wasn't always easy but felt worth it.  The missed  personal school days to prep for co-op, the late nights doing paperwork or filling in absences to cover all classes, the emails (man, the amount of email),  being the first to arrive an hour before the group and the last to leave to lock up, even the hurtful words that came from others when boundaries had to be enforced... we always felt was worth it when we'd see the joy on the kids' faces and the friendships being formed.  God didn't call me out when the going got tough... even though I tried to call myself out. Several times.  In fact, he kept giving me glimpses of encouragement instead.

Yet, here we are. God is closing the door for us.  He has affirmed this decision over and over but even more so than affirming, he planted this decision and sent many, many signs in the past two months that sings to our heart that it is time. So,  I hang up my Co-op director hat and shut it all down.  It is time. And I am grateful for all of it.  Grateful for the chance to serve.  Grateful for the opportunity for a vision to come to life.  Grateful for the lasting friendships I've made from this journey. I am even grateful to see this dream come full circle and end in His time and grace.  I am grateful for it all - the good and the bad of this experience.

   As we close down the group and God closes the door on this chapter in our life, I can't help but be excited.  When the "sweet spot" of being in God's will hits, the feeling of release is a rolled up ball of peace and joy... and rest.  I can rest safely in His arms knowing that He has the next chapter of my life already laid out.  I can rest knowing He opens a door and closes it.  I can rest knowing He is in control.

And has been all along.

I look forward to the future as God lays on my heart the next chapter.  I am excited about what has been stirred in my heart for months and months... and am so grateful He continues to stoke the vision of intimate fellowship and community.  Where once I thought the vision was gone, He still provides.  I am grateful...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monthly Meal Planning...

I know, right?  MONTHLY meal planning?!  I'm crazy, right?  Nope.  I did this for most of my 15 married years but mysteriously, suddenly quit doing it about 3.5 years ago.  Actually, I know precisely when I did.  The August that we decided to homeschool and buy a house within two months of each other!  What were we thinking?!  Oh yeah.  That's right.  We weren't.

Well, needless to say, I never recovered from throwing two major life decisions (and adjustments) together for a wee bit 'o fun!  Several times over these past 3+ years, I've tried to go to a weekly menu planning system.... and I can't do it.  My brain JUST. DOESN'T. WORK. LIKE. THAT.  It's weird.  I couldn't get motivated until I realized that weekly meal planning required, well, a LOT more work!  More planning sessions.  More trips to the store.  More. More. More.  Blech.  I'm trying to do Less. Less. Less.  This wasn't working.

So, I went back to what worked for 12 years of our marriage.  Monthly meal planning.  To some, that may be overwhelming but I say to them... it is freeing.  Really.

This is how I do it:
* Sit down in a comfy chair, a yummy drink, and a month calendar print out

* Look at your calendar for activities you already KNOW you have for the month and plan meals for those nights FIRST.

* Allow one or two nights for take-out, especially on those crazy, busy nights.  Monthly meal planning helps us TREMENDOUSLY in NOT eating out!

* Then, plug in favorite meals, easy meals, meals for Sundays, meals for your "crunch" day or late-night days.

* Allow for leftovers some nights.

* Plug-in a few new recipes to try.  You know, to keep things exciting!

*Make a grocery list from the calendar, post the calendar somewhere and go to the store (wait for your paycheck, if you need to first, though).  Either shop for the month, with a couple of "fresh fruits and veggie" runs OR shop per paycheck (which is every two weeks for us, splitting the calendar in half).

... and you should have your 30ish days covered!

Here's the benefits of Monthly Meal Planning:
* IT SAVES MONEY!  No more last minute trips to the store, impulse buying or getting take out because dinner time is approaching, you have nothing planned and your brain hurts from trying to think of something.  Trust me, I've been there! This way, allows you to put eating out in its place - as a special treat - not the norm!

* IT SIMPLIFIES SHOPPING!  The grocery list is made directly from your calendar and so you have all the ingredients you might need right before you, in ONE planning session.  Trips to the store are minimized.  Less money is spent.  No more endlessly wandering the store for what might be good to eat!

* IT CLEARS THE BRAIN!  Gone are questions like "What's for dinner?" from your spouse, kids or even yourself!  No more afternoon panic about what to make. You've taken the task of thinking about dinner (which is often overwhelming at the last minute) from dread to ease!  You gave yourself the gift of pre-planning and room in your brain for other important things.  Like Pinterest ideas! :)  

* IT PROVIDES FLEXIBILITY!  I get some pushback on this one every once in awhile.  Some feel locked into having to eat what they wrote down in each square.  Not so!  If you arrive at June 14 and you aren't feeling the Chicken Parmesan you scheduled, NO PROBLEM!  Switch it with another day's meals.  If you've already gone grocery shopping, you've got the ingredients.  Flip them around!  If this is still a concern for you, plan more new recipes to add interest into your dinners!

* IT SAVES MONEY!  Yes, I know this is a repeat but it's true and worth repeating!  If you've shopped for the month or even two weeks at a time, dinners are in the bag!  Should your month run tight with an unexpected bill, guess what?  Grocery money won't be an issue because you've got the stuff necessary to make your meals!  

I love, love planning out meals a month at a time and I'm sorry to have abandoned it for so long!  How do you plan your family's meals? Weekly? Monthly?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Update on my "6"

So, my purging has fallen off the track a bit.  But only a little bit.  Even though I haven't physically purged a single thing in 3 weeks, I have been mentally purging like crazy!  I have a plan in place to pick up where I left off with the "stuff" part of "6".   If you don't know what my "6" is read here, here, here and here.  I have a couple of Easter posts that came after conviction of reading the book, "7" also.

Here's my update for accountability purposes:
* STUFF - anyone who has seen my garage knows we own too much ever-lovin' stuff!  Sheesh! It drives me batty!  I've made a plan and have begun even more purging with little piles here and there.  Summer will be my friend this year, I promise!  I am tired of being a slave to STUFF and I want it gone!

*MEDIA - we've done well here.  Still no t.v. in our house.  If we want to watch a movie or something educational, all we have are the movies we own and Netflix.  We upgraded our DVD portion to two movies out instead of one because, whether for school or a family night, we have watched more movies, both in DVD form and streaming.  Now, you might think that is counterproductive.  Nope. Let me explain.  Our t.v. no longer is ON just to be on.  It is on when we choose it to be.  We now have multiple game nights per week as a family (which ROCK, by the way) and we are much more aware of our time because the T.V. isn't consuming it.  Nor are video games or the computer.  Those, too, have their appointed times.

FOOD - well, ahem, let's just say this is a work in progress here. And I'm working on it.

APPROVAL - hmm, this is a Pandora's box for me.  A two steps forward, one step back kind of deal but I'm going to grab progress where I can.  Sweet release has come in so many forms of this vile demon.  Approval of others is just so unhealthy and I am learning, step by step, to let go and it feels GREAT!  With the progress that God has given in this area, I feel SO FREE!

FINANCES - April was HARD!  With an ER visit, a surgery to remove what might have been cancer in our dog, new co-pays (eh-hem, $200 to get new epi-pens for Josh - a MUST medicine), we have been stretched financially.  Yet, God continues to provide and remain faithful.  Do months like these make skimping on tithe a temptation??  You bet'cha!  Yet, to put our faith where our mouth is (or money, really), Chris and I know we must honor God with our tithe.  We will begin Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at the end of this month at our church and we can't wait! This is another step at purging our finances and align them with God's word.

NEGATIVE THOUGHTS/STRESS - This is another challenge area for me but despite the incredibly one-hit-after-another month, negative thoughts and stress have been kept away or nipped in the bud by the promise of God's words through scripture memory.   God's word soothes and comforts in times of distress and recalling sweet words in times of worry or frustration prevents my mind from slipping into a negative stew.

I'm convinced that weeding out our media so heavily has GREATLY decreased negative thoughts as well.

My 6, inspired by "7" is still chugging along and I'm excited to switch gears to lite summer school and be able to purge - mentally, spiritually and physically in the next few weeks.

What areas of your life need purging of those things that do not align themselves with God's word, cause turmoil in your life or prevent you from being all that God intended?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal: May 5

In my life this week...
Good things!  A beautiful nature walk with co-op friends. Encouragement and laughter from good friends. A sleepover at a friend's house for my oldest and a "date night" with the hubs and youngest for me.  Tummies that didn't feel too good this week too.   Lots of planning and researching for school with an 8th grader and 5th grader next year! A fun bridal shower for our old babysitter and youth group attendee (am I THAT old?!).  Earlier in the week, we had dinner with said bride and groom to be and two dear friends of ours!

In our homeschool this week...
Lots of living room learning!  This is a carry-over from the homeschool conference I attended a couple of weeks ago.  A more simple, relaxed approach to school.  For this time of year and season of our life, this has been perfect.  We've done lots of reading and discussions and their retention has been better!  We plan on pushing through May and then doing what I call "lite" school through June.  Living room learning is helping with our desire to be DONE with schoolwork though!

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...
Enjoy the journey.  Learning is not a race, competition or long list of "to-dos".  Enjoy it and make it fun!

I am inspired by...
Those who walk their faith more than they talk it.

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
We're heading to an all church event tomorrow night for a performance and ice cream social.  Later in the week, we'll meet up with some friends at a theater downtown and see "Hansel and Gretel".   Friday marks our last class day of our homeschool co-op.  We'll be wrapping that up with a lesson on Monet and a potluck.  I'm hoping to meet up with a dear friend of mine to begin aqua-aerobics classes (we did them two years ago and they were great!).
My favorite thing this week was...
Family game night and watching my adorable boys laugh so hard until they were crying!  That was so fun!  LOVE our nights like this!

What's working/not working for us...
Conducting education with a "school at home" mentality.  That's what I've done the past few years and while the public school system has its merits, the reality is I can't copy that and bring it into my home.  Education has to be unique and molded to the environment and people to whom you're trying to teach.  So, our "living room learning" has been AWESOME to get us out of our school room and help us love to learn again!
Obviously, living room learning is working right now!  Our 2 month trial of Aleks math is working... so far and next year's plan is coming together nicely!

Something else in our life is not working and it's time to acknowledge that and let go.  Even though there is some sadness to this door closing, I feel relief and release even more.   Knowing I can let go of what doesn't work, I'm SUPER excited about the future!

Questions/thoughts I have...
Oh boy! I have lots of thoughts and questions!  There's been a lot on my mind lately and decisions that have had to be made - the ones that don't come so easily but make you mull it over and over in your mind.  There's been a lot of extra talks with God lately around these parts!

Things I'm working on... 
Curriculum and school next year. I'm also working on gathering up summer plans for some continued school through June and our two week vacation in August.  I'm also getting a plan in place for MORE purging through my "6" (which was inspired by the book, "7").

I'm reading...
To the boys, I'm finishing up "By The Great Horn Spoon" with them.  What a cute book!  For me, I'm making my way through "Spiritual Parenting" currently.

I'm cooking... 
Homemade chicken noodle soup and foccacia bread.

I'm grateful for...
An amazing husband that loves me as I am yet encourages me in my pursuit to become more like Jesus and less like me!  Two awesome boys that have amazing hearts, quick wits, and ingenuity!  I'm humbled at having these three in my life!  I'm grateful, so grateful for God's grace.  His guidance.  His release from things that burden and weigh down.  I am in awe of who He is.

I'm praying for...
Peace. Continue guidance. His wisdom to discern.  For my family.

Photo/video/quote to share...
Refuse to waste our lives. Build Your kingdom here.   Amen. and Amen.
Rend Collective Experiment.  Love this Irish worship band.

I'm linking up with