On Being a ‘Yes’ Mom and Lessons Learned

I read a blogpost a while back about being a “yes” mom. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important that our kiddos learn to deal with being told no and that they learn to say no to themselves but the point she made that really struck me was this: ‘too often the no’s really mean “I don’t wanna.”’

Um, ouch. I’m teaching my kiddos that sometimes you have to get over your “I don’t wanna” and just do it and here I am, the hypocrite.

So I started consciously asking myself about every ‘no.’ And you know what? We’ve had a lot of fun. I don’t say yes every time or even every day but I’m getting better.

That brings me to today.

My brother-in-law gave my kiddos an ‘mre’– a meal ready to eat. Something he experienced while in the Marines. They have been begging to eat it but they usually don’t remember to ask about until I already have lunch or dinner made.

Today they remembered.

P & C were playing Marines– wearing their camouflage with backpacks & walkies in tow– and they remembered. They also remembered that last time they asked I had said something like, “maybe if you ask before I make a meal.” Got me.

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So we unpacked the plastic shelf-stable-for-infinity package. Turkey with potatoes & gravy, crackers, peanut butter, chocolate “power bar,” cheese stuffed pretzels (they were COMBOS! My favorite not-even-close-to-real-food snack!) and powdered drink mix. There was also a little packet with a napkin, spoon, salt, coffee, powdered creamer, sugar, gum and an adorable miniature sized bottle of Tabasco sauce. (which I didn’t take a picture of, of course)

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We carefully read & followed the directions for heating the turkey. Then we waited. The longest 15 minutes of their lives.

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I’m sure the Marines and any other member of the armed forces eating these just rip open the package and eat but since we were sharing I opted for plates.

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Other than the turkey smelling like canned tuna, they kinda liked it. Much to my surprise.

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Sister joined us at this point and, although she was not about to be left out, she was not exactly sure about this meal.

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Meanwhile, little E fed himself some green beans…which I’m pretty sure means he consumed more nutrition than the other three kiddos combined. 🙂

So, on this rainy day, we had a little adventure. Without even leaving the house. And while each of my kiddos enjoyed the experience they also expressed gratefulness that we don’t have to eat MREs every day. We are so blessed.

The ongoing conversation led to prayers of protection and gratefulness for our military…and also for the huge group of law enforcement working hard in and around Tampa this week with the RNC.

I’m so glad that, for that moment at least, I was a ‘yes’ mom.

Homeschooling Works for Me

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This post is not so much about why we homeschool but about why it works for us…you know, the benefits that I love.

A lot of it boils down to flexibility. Allow me to explain:

~ We aim for a year-round schedule with breaks wherever we need/want them. Like last year, Eric was born on November 4th and we completely took off from all bookwork from then until January. Sweet!

~ Although I planned to work through the summer, I could tell we needed a break come late June so we did “school lite” just fitting the books in here and there. It has been a blessing…and we had more than one “ah ha!” moment when things just clicked on non-school time.

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~ I planned to start our new school year on the day after Labor Day until we had the opportunity to take a mini vacation with family the next weekend. So we will start, officially, in mid-September. For now, we are easing in that direction–getting used to a new schedule, organizing the books, training in new household responsibilities…

~ During our evaluations this year, it became apparent that part of our current curriculum is not meeting all of our needs. We could keep plugging away and hope that someday it will work but we have the freedom to scrap it and try something new. Also, P & C have different– dare I say, opposite— learning styles. I love having the flexibility to choose the right curriculum for each child. As my friend, Melissa, would say: “The Curriculum works for you, you don’t work for the curriculum.”

~ Related to that, we are able to erase grade lines and work in each area wherever the child is. Just as age does not automatically determine maturity, age is not always the best gauge for what you are ready to learn or should be learning.

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Besides the flexibility, the other benefit I love is recognizing that learning does not only happen during school hours with a textbook at a desk or table. Learning happens anytime, anywhere. We learn about nature when we play outside, fractions when we bake, and oh-so-many character lessons just in the normal course of the day.

Not to mention avian anatomy every time I cook a whole chicken for dinner. Not kidding.
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It is not always hunky-dory.  Days do not always (ever??) flow smoothly. I have almost as much to learn as a teacher as my kiddos do as students.  We have highs and lows, cheers and tears. I’m sure I’ll write about all that another time, for today, my point is simply that homeschooling works for us.

What works for you?

Tired

Wrote this a few years ago…still rings true.

I am tired of failing
and falling apart
Tired of my weakness
and faintness of heart
Tired of struggling
again and again
Of fighting a battle
I never can win
I am tired of a mouth
that will not stay closed
Tired of the hurt
that nobody knows
Tired of irritations
frustrations galore
Tired of saying sorry
then saying it some more
Tired of thinking I’m right
when I’m wrong
Tired of lying
to myself all along
I am tired of tired
but I know there is hope
He is Savior, Redeemer
the only way to cope
He is rest for the weary
Unshakable Rock
The Light in my darkness,
I hear Him knock
I have but to respond
to His gentle call
Then rest in His arms
while He takes care of it all.

Works for Me…

<newsflash> I do not have it all together. I do not have all the answers. I do not know all things.

Shocked yet? Or laughing hysterically?

Calm down, I’m trying to make a point.  So here it is…I may not have all the answers but I do know a few things that work for me.  Don’t miss that ‘for me’ please, because what works for me may not work for you. On the other hand, my trial-and-error may benefit you.  I would also like to add that what works for me today may not work for me next week.  (I may share some things that ‘worked for me once upon a time’ eventually)

So here it is (drumroll please) the first instalment of “Works for Me!”

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Homemade Toothpaste

We’ve been on a slow journey into natural living– whole, real foods; natural cleaning supplies; herbal remedies. And now toothpaste.  “Why?” you may ask.  The answer is multifaceted but in an attempt to simplify I’ll just say that I became concerned with many of the common ingredients in regular toothpaste and most ‘natural’ options are either expensive or the same product in a different wrap with ‘all natural’ stamped on it.  So I did the research, I experimented. This may not be what we use forever but so far it is easy to make, my kiddos like it, and it works. I haven’t crunched the numbers– I had the ingredients on-hand– but I will…eventually. 🙂

I’ve tried a few variations but we are liking this simple version:

2Tbsp Baking Soda

1Tbsp Xylitol

1.5 Tbsp Coconut oil (I use extra virgin so it tastes like coconut)

pinch of salt

Mix it all together and keep it in a small container with a lid…a babyfood jar is perfect!

I’m still experimenting– I want to try a peppermint flavor and I’d love to make the right texture to use a soap dispenser (a new one that hasn’t had soap in it!) for easier dispensing, and, and, and :-)– but for now, this Works for Me.

Do you make your own toothpaste? What works for you?

STILL Musing on Nehemiah

I am working on finishing up my last week of homework from the study of Nehemiah. Yes, The study is technically over, we have met together for the last time, but I didn’t get it done and I don’t want to miss any of the truth God has to speak to me from this book. So here I am.

This morning, phrase after phrase is speaking to my soul. Lifting me. Singing to me.

  • “take this work of raising a family as a serious calling and be faithful in that”
  • “Satan likes to use our busy lives and our busy minds to help us forget what we’re to be focusing on. I pray my mind stays focused on what the Lord has put before me to do.”
  • In the book of Nehemiah, there is a “sense of community even in adversity, and the building for tomorrow”
  • “I…am learning to see through the enemies’ schemes to pull us away from our God given work.”
  • “We may not always feel like it. We may arrive weary, afraid, or discouraged. Warren Wiersbe said it best, ‘ Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place where God wants you.’ Sometimes obedience simply means showing up.”

I needed these words today. After all my years of walking with Christ, I am still amazed sometimes at how he speaks directly to my need at exactly the moment I need it. I serve an awesome Saviour. He hears me, He sees me, He loves me, He speaks to me, and He takes action on my behalf.

Last night I began writting a post titled “A Plea for Help.” You see, I feel overwhelmed. More accurately, I feel like a person with multiple personalities swirling around in her head, all competing for domanice and struggling for balance. I am Heidi, Heidi the wife, Heidi the mom, Heidi the housekeeper, Heidi the cook, Heidi the teacher, Heidi writer…and on and on. If Heidi the housekeeper gains control, my house looks fabulous but my children suffer because Heidi the mom is no where to be found. If Heidi the mom rules the day it is awesome…but eventually the house is so disgusting I don’t want to live here anymore!

I know that the idea of “getting it all done” is a farce. No one gets it all done…even if they look like they do. But where is balance? I believe with all my heart that loving and teaching my children is one of my top priorities but if housework falls onto the “not to do” list permanetly, how can we live in that mess? If my relationship with Christ is top priority, does it trump preparing meals for my family?

Meanwhile the ongoing mental arguments make me weary. The cacophany of voices screaming about what I should do, need to do, and want to do, drowns out everything else. The struggle for balance is not successful, just ongoing. I want to quit it all. Run away. Hide.

Then He speaks.

The voice that calmed the sea speaks peace over my soul. The voices stop screeching, if only for a moment or two.

“Peace, be still”

Maybe, for today, I don’t need balance. Maybe, for today, I just need to be still. To be present in the place where God wants me. To recount His faithfulness aloud. To remember how it is His hand that has lead me to this point. To stand in the conviction that it is in Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him that I will continue on.

Homeschooling for the Long Haul

My friend, Jen, over at Homeschooling in High Heels asked me for a post to encourage homeschooling parents that are facing the high school years. So here goes…

(disclaimer: this is not written from my experience as a homeschooling parent for the long haul, rather from my experiences as a homeschooled student from 1st through 12th grade. I understand that the task of homeschooling all the way through high school is a difficult one and I pray that God gives me the grace and strength to do so when the time comes. May He grant you the grace and strength to walk the path He has laid before you too.)

When I was at the tender age of 5 my parents were introduced to the idea of home education. I wish I could remember what their initial reaction was…I mean, as common as home education is today it was downright strange back then. I’m not sure how much time passed between hearing the idea and deciding to take the leap but leap they did. Right into the deep end of the pool. By faith alone. My sister was going into 3rd grade, I was ready for 1st and little sister was along for the ride. They faced rude and pessimistic comments from the private school we had been attending. Most family members were not antagonistic, rather, they were curiously doubtful, but I am sure they all thought my parents had lost it. Still, my parents persevered.

There were struggles. Teaching a child to read isn’t easy. Teaching math, science, history, and geography while simultaneously coaching good character and conflict resolution is exhausting. There was also the fear of some government authority knocking on your door and taking your children away.

Fast forward 25 years. My parents have graduated 6 out of 7 children. (my youngest brother is 14 and for the first time ever my mom only has one student) We can all read, write, add, subtract, multiply, and divide. We can locate countries on a map…as well as use a map to figure out how to get where we are going. We can share delightful tidbits of information on many historical topics. Oh, and thanks to my Dad’s influence, we will never forget the Pythagorean equation. We have jobs, families, and function well in society. (there goes that “homeschoolers aren’t socialized” argument. ha!) We each have a strong faith and an even stronger bond to each other.

Now, I’m not sharing this to brag. The thing is, my parents are not perfect. Our life and education was not perfect. My Mom, in particular, has struggled often with feeling like she was failing as a homeschooling mom, that there were gaps in our education. From my perspective as a second generation homeschooler, I admit there may be some information that my siblings and I missed along the way. However, we learned how to learn. How to follow our interests and find answers to our questions. Personal Opinion? Learning how to learn is more important than what you learn.

So that is my history in a nutshell.

I’ve been asked before about what I missed out on as a homeschooler. As a young teenager, there was a time when I wanted to attend public school. (Mostly because I had an older cousin who was so cool.) I have to tell you though, there was also a time when I was ready to pack my bags, leave my family and move to Soviet Russia to be a ballerina. I also wanted to change my name to Cassandra at one point because “it is a much prettier name than Heidi.” None of these wishes were based in reality, only passing fantasy and I am no worse off because my parents refused to give in to my notions. Perhaps I am even better off.

And what about that whole rite of passage that is public high school complete with clubs and proms and the like? Allow me to answer by giving you a glimpse into what high school was like for me…

  • I worked with a team of fellow homeschoolers teaching character education in a local (public) elementary school. We adapted curriculum, wrote & preformed skits, made two short films, designed & created costumes & props, tutored…we had as much fun as any club.
  • I worked with a catering company. They liked hiring homeschoolers because our hours were more flexible. It was work but it was also fun. It was also part of how I met my husband. 🙂
  • I played in the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestras for several years and enjoyed every minute of it! Musically, I have never found anything that compares with being on stage with a hundred other musicians creating something almost electrifying in its magnitude.
  • I’ve always had a bit of a theater bug and after being on stage with orchestra I had the fever something fierce. The problem was finding an outlet for that– an acting group that would accept a teenager with little experience and that only preformed family friendly fare. What does a homeschooler do when they can’t find something that meets their needs? They create it! And so I did. I researched, I planned, I rounded up some friends and started my own Drama Club. Eventually, a friend and I wrote & directed 2 Christmas plays for our church.
  • My sister and I started a cake decorating business. It started as a hobby that I was interested in, then we both took the Wilton classes. We made wedding cakes, graduation cakes, birthday cakes…we learned how to keep records, figure cost, and set prices.
  • I helped my grandfather with the care and training of his horses and competed in a horse show.
  • We (2 of my sisters and myself) had the awesome opportunity to spend two summers working with a photographer near Atlanta. We did everything from scheduling appointments to arranging backdrops & props to mounting negatives to assisting during sessions.
  • Around the time that “everyone” was going to prom and having a”great time” we planned our own special event. My sister, a good friend and I had our hair fixed up nice and spent the day at Cypress Gardens dressed as Southern Belles. Our mothers and siblings played paparazzi and we did our senior pictures there.
  • A lot of people ask about graduation and, to be honest, when it came time to graduate a ceremony was important to me. Nowadays the FPEA offers a statewide graduation ceremony each year as part of their annual convention in Orlando but it wasn’t an option then. I had several friends that were finishing school that same year, after getting approval from our parents and pastor (it was a church event) we organized and planned our own ceremony. We included elements that were important to us. For example: a speech from a graduate thanking our parents, followed by presenting our parents with a rose; the presentation of diplomas was done by the family of the graduate and each father & mother spoke a blessing over their child. The only detail that was not decided by the graduates was the color of our caps and gowns. We were at an impasse, so the parents stepped in and decided. In order to be impartial, the parents chose to refuse all the color options that had already been discussed and go with something completely different…they chose teal. I’ve almost gotten over my bitterness about graduating in such an undignified color.

I didn’t realize how busy my high school years were…and that is without considering that actual bookwork! Now that you know what I did, here is what I missed:

  • School lunches – my husband avoids tater tots to this day. Enough said.
  • Early mornings – I come from a family of night owls, so we especially enjoyed the benefit of starting our day when it worked best for us instead of heading out the door at 0:dark-thirty.
  • Stereotypical social groups – I was never called a nerd, jock, band geek, teacher’s pet, etc. I was never labeled based on where I lived, how I dressed, or what my hobbies were. I am particularly grateful that I missed out on this part of public high school. I know myself, I know who I was then. There is not doubt in my mind which group I would have been relegated to and the negative effect it would have had on me for the rest of my life.
  • Learning at the same speed as everyone else. I have a friend that graduated at 16…he was smart and motivated and because he was homeschooled, he was able to move at his own pace.
  • Prom – ok, yes, I missed out on prom. There was a time in my life when that fact bothered me. Then I grew up. Two of my sisters had the opportunity to go to prom with friends and they were, shall we say, a little let down after all the hype.

This is my experience. Just as everyone who goes to public school comes out with a different viewpoint (some see high school as the pinnacle of their life and for others it was like sitting on death row for 4 years) so all homeschoolers have a different experience. The beauty of home education is that the parent and student can have greater control over the negative aspects and make room for more time for the positive aspects. Talk to your child, tell them about your high school experience, listen to their concerns and interests. Then you will be well prepared to form a plan that will maximize your child’s strengths and give them the high school experience they desire. Then breathe deeply. No education is perfect. It will all turn out ok.

30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years

  1. God is faithful
  2. Hindsight is often 20/20
  3. You can’t trust your feelings because a pepperoni pizza can change the way you feel
  4. You can trust God because He never changes
  5. When it comes to friends and chocolate, quality is better than quantity
  6. Sometimes you just need to let go…of hurt, of unhealthy relationships, of excess stuff, of worrying what others think
  7. There is a song for every situation.
  8. The things we dislike most as youth are often the things we are most grateful for as adults.
  9. People who do not have children are the only perfect parents.
  10. There is nothing new under the sun.
  11. There is a difference between messing up and failing.
  12. Be quick to apologize, relationships are more important than being right. Be quick to forgive…remember that forgiving is not saying what the other person did/said was ok but it is letting go of the hurt and your right to exact revenge. After all, “holding on to hurt and anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
  13. Fashion is constantly changing and it is not worth the time & money it takes to keep up with it. Be comfortable. Be modest. Be yourself.
  14. Those whose lives look peachy-keen are probably hiding more hurt and struggles than you can imagine.
  15. There are few things as precious as the tear-stained pages of a well-worn Bible or hearing your children sing praise songs as they play.
  16. Balance is the key in almost every situation.
  17. Anything worth having is also worth waiting and working for.
  18. Homeschooling is not always easy and it is not always fun, but I would not change my experience as a student or parent/teacher for anything.
  19. It is not possible to “get it all done”
  20. It is ok to be weird…it might even be better.
  21. Friends come and go but family is forever.
  22. I cannot survive without paper & pen.
  23. Realize that there is always something that you do not know. Be intentional about learning every day of your life.
  24. If you can’t say something nice, you are better off biting your tongue than opening your mouth…hurtful words can be apologized for but never unsaid.
  25. Do not make decisions or have important conversations when hungry or tired.
  26. Give the benefit of the doubt.
  27. Kiddos need structure, discipline and responsibilities but they also need hugs, kisses, to be read to, mud pies, encouragement, and the freedom to make messes & mistakes.
  28. Good things are often the enemy of the best. In order to do the best thing you must say NO to all the good things.
  29. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it…(Philippians 1:6 NKJV) Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 HCSB)
  30. Age is just a number. It is not a score, a sign of maturity, a limitation or something to cry over. No matter your age, if you are here on earth, He has work for you to do.