Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Proud To Be His

Valentines Day passed almost two weeks ago. And while we were not particularly romantic in our celebrations (we ate pasta, and then I tucked the children into bed while Erik headed to the garage to wax three pairs of skis for the next morning's race), I was still so reminded of how blessed I am to be married to my wonderful husband.  I am so thankful for him. And I am so proud to be his wife!

 Erik has been on the leadership team for our church's men's ministry for several years, and each week, as I've mentioned, he spends Wednesday mornings with a group of 30 or so men, watching Robert Lewis videos, eating sausage, and praying.  As he has been involved in this group, he has had several opportunities to offer counsel and encouragement to men in hurting marriages.  Often, at 8:00 on Wednesday mornings, my phone beeps with a text, and my hubby is telling me how deeply he loves me and how thankful he is for how I love him in return.   He is reminded - both by the instructional video and by the discussion around the table - that our love is strong. And good. And he - and I - never want to take one another or our marriage for granted.  We want to be always striving to love each other better....  to give more and bend more and serve more.  To - more and more - display the beauty of the Gospel through how we love and honor one another.   

Most of you know our story.  A courtship by snail mail (and email, too) for nine months. Then, long-distance phone calls and bi-monthly weekend visits. By the time we married, the longest consecutive time we had spent (as a dating or engaged couple) in the same state was 9 days.  Many friends warned me that it would be hard adjustment.  People cautioned us to try living in the same town for a while before we got married.  We were told "the first year will so tough, but don't give up."  We stubbornly ignored any words of caution we received.  Instead we plotted our own course with purposeful hearts - and our first year was blissful.  I honestly do not remember any arguments or moments when we wondered whether we had done the "right thing" by marrying one another.  I am sure we disagreed at times, but, even with an unplanned (but much delighted in) pregnancy four months into our marriage, our memories of that year are filled with joy and discovery as day-to-day life gave flesh and form to the souls we had fallen in love with through letters and words.

My Valentine's card this year was a simple Excel graph. A bit tongue in cheek from my engi-"nerd" husband.  It showed the years of our marriage along the bottom of the graph, while numerical "love values" scaled vertically.  At one year, our love was a value of 5 to the 10th or something like that.  And, then, he had created a line of exponential growth, showing that by 50 years of marriage, he would love me 500 to the 10th (or whatever the actual number was).  It was funny, and heartfelt, and it made me smile to think that the love we share now is nothing compared to how much we will love each other when we are 80. Erik's parents laughed when they saw the card, and then teased us by telling us  how much more they must love each other than we do.  I know that my parents lived their marriage that way, too, and it makes me teary to realize that the love-graph of their life together was cut-off too early by my dad's death. 

So why am so sappy about loving my man this morning? Well, my plan had been to share some of the ways we intentionally keep our marriage strong.  Not because we have it all figured out, but because we are two flawed individuals, two sinners, who by God's grace truly are better together than we are apart. I also wanted to share some "love your husband" challenges adapted from the book Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph.  She had a list of ten simple ways to honor your husband, and several of the them really challenged me to reevaluate my daily priorities.  I ran out of time, so this morning, you just get the sap.  Maybe next week..... 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow Cave!

In the last few weeks, we have finally gotten some much needed snow.  Unfortunately, the forecast is calling for a rain and snow mix over the next couple days, and I know much of our snow will condense and melt.  But, we are thankful for the moisture and the new snow to play in.  We managed to ski a few times in the soft powder before the weather warmed.  With the new snow, we finally had a decent snowplow pile in our driveway, and at temperatures of 5 and 10 degrees F, my bravehearted adventurers began building tunnels and forts. By Saturday it was in the 30s, and they enlisted the help of their big strong daddy. With an extra six inches from the night before, there was plenty of white stuff to work with.

 Daddy's feet sticking out from the cave as he digs.
 The hard working cave diggers
 And one little goof-ball. :)
 Inside the cave!
 Catching snow on her tongue.
 Wild girl!

So, after a day of digging, the snow fort was big enough to sleep in! Daddy carried out a tarp, pads, and sleeping bags, and the older two dressed warmly.  They headed out late - after making cookies, and reading stories, and tiring themselves out with general silliness. :) And then Daddy tucked them in warm and snug - and they didn't emerge until 7:30, when we hurriedly dressed for church!  They had so much fun making a special memory with Dad - and I slept warm in my own soft bed.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Harmony Homeschool

 Last fall, we began our third official year of homeschooling, with Sadie beginning kindergarten, and Elisa starting second grade work. This year, we decided to join our local classical homeschooling community - called Classical Conversations.  CC is a national organization that gives students an opportunity to be tutored each week at a co-op style meeting.  My older girls are in different classes, each with a a tutor they love. I currently teach the preschool/nursery group while they go to their classes, but most parents sit in the back of the classrooms, so that they are being "mentored" by the tutor in how to teach the material the rest of the week.  If you are not familiar with classical education, the grammar being taught seems a little bizarre, so hang in there with me. :) Each week the kids memorize seven different pieces of information (Math, English, Latin, Geography, History, Science, and seven pegs in a world timeline). During the week, we review the memory work, and try to delve into each subject a bit deeper. For example, this week they memorize Newton's First Law of Motion, the area of a rectangle, the definition of a verb, the Balkans, a sentence about World War Two, Latin verb endings, and timeline pieces beginning with the Industrial Revolution.  Our school day yesterday went a little haywire, but we are currently enjoying a WWII read-aloud, and maybe today we can do some map-tracing and explore what it actually means that an object at rest stays at rest until....
 There are things I really like about CC. I love that my kids interact with other homeschoolers and are taught by other mamas. I love that they give a weekly presentation, get to do a science experiment, and art, and have lunch once a week with their friends.  I love that if I accomplish nothing else in a given week... well, they've still memorized those informational "pegs." 

But it has been a tough year for us, too. I named our homeschool this year, after several fruitless attempts last year. I dubbed our learning space "Harmony Homeschool," because my prayer was that our home learning would be filled with grace, peace, unity and order.   I still pray for that, but there are definitely days - most days - when idealism shifts into survival mode. Because a toddler dumped 5 pounds of rice on the carpet, and my 8-year-old is yelling in anger and frustration for reasons I don't totally understand.  And  I am trying to work with a kindergartner who legitimately needs help, but Raina is begging for a story above the din. Not exactly harmonious.   

It is genuinely hard to be pulled in so many directions, to have four needy little ones (who, by the way, I think are precious gifts from God!) and I just want to nurture them and love them...  but there are tasks, and work, and we are accountable for the work we do and what we learn and how many days we spend doing it.  Yes, I could snuggle and read and play all day, but then math wouldn't be learned.   And while I don't homeschool in order to have academically accelerated kids, the academics matter.  And the hard work of learning gives way to lessons of character that are not easily taught.  Some days I feel like I spend 75% of my time in character training, and the other quarter on school.  And it doesn't sink in in a day, so we start over the next day. 

In case you are a fellow homeschooling mama, and you are interested, we teamed CC with Horizons Math, All About Spelling, All About Reading (for Sadie), Drawn Into the Heart of Reading (for Elisa), First Language Lessons, Writing With Ease, A Reason for Handwriting, and the read-alouds from Sonlight Core A. We also used Ann Voskamp's A Child's Geography the first semester, and we are using Our 24 Family Ways for devotionals while studying Grandpa's Box for some Bible History.

When I say this has been a tough year, please also hear me say that God is so gracious to meet our needs.  Right when I was feeling discouraged about some of my failings, a sweet veteran homeschool mom invited us to her house once a week for art lessons. Free. It's awesome. God is so good to encourage my heart through an older mama who has been there and "done that." 

My girls are so different. Sadie is flighty and fluttery - my dreamy little princess.  But she is motivated to read, and even though she forgets things, and sometimes needs reminders to follow directions, she takes pride in her work and is always eager to tell Dad what she has learned or done.  Sometimes her needs get lost in the shuffle, because she is the easy-going one. She doesn't demand my help or attention; she just waits for it.  She still loves story time with Mom, and she enjoys math.  She likes doing copywork, and even though reading lessons sometimes seem tedious to her, she wants the skills, so she perseveres. A cup of cocoa and a snuggle help, so we wait until the little ones are napping. 

Elisa is a bright and determined. She reads a 200 page book in an hour, and, when she is motivated to focus, she can race through her math assignments. She skis fast, and she has the athletic endurance of her daddy. But, she has always been my strong-willed one. The one to push buttons, and test, and rebel.  So, sometimes, she chooses to do her work poorly. Or not at all.  And then we find ourselves in a character-training session that involves screaming and flailing. And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.   I adore my strong-hearted child. And I am thankful for every opportunity to try and reach her heart through tender correction.  This year, God has reminded me that her strong personality is how He made her. And He fashioned her for His glory. It's not something He did so I could learn patience, at least not JUST so I could learn patience.  He made her because her unique character traits can be used for His purposes to make Him known in the world.   So, as the mama of this out-of the-box and often challenging sweet one, I need to both accept who she is, and lovingly help her turn those stubborn traits in God-honoring directions.

Little Raina is my energizer bunny. She never stops moving, but she is tender and sweet and snuggly, too.   She has great fine-motor skills, and she revels in doing school with Mommy.  Give her a handwriting page, and she is a happy little scholar. 

 I don't know what will happen next year. We are in the midst of some decisions.  Two new classical, Christian schools are opening in the fall, both with opportunities for scholarships.  We may try to send Elisa. I am beginning to think she would thrive with more structure than I can give in our home.  And, the schools offer so much more academically than I am capable of - not to mention the enrichment activities available.  I don't know about Sadie-girl.  I would kind of like to teach her one more year at home, but it also makes sense to keep them together....   We don't know.  I don't want to give up homeschooling because it is hard. That isn't a good reason. Every good thing is hard.   But, if God is showing us that His purposes for their lives might be better accomplished in a different setting... well, I want to listen to His voice.  I want to follow His lead.  I want to send them if it is God's best.  If He wants me to keep them at home and grow and learn together through the hard stuff, then I want to do that.   I love the idea of having my sweet ones with me.  But I don't want to cling to my ideals if they are not also God's ideals.  So....  we press on. One day and one decision at a time!