What Am I Doing?

I was raised by a single mother. She was young when I was born. For the first few years of my life she managed to work full time and attend college full time. My hat still goes off to her because I was completely overwhelmed by motherhood, but in the end she left college her senior year.  There were many times she used her life and our struggles as a cautionary tale.  She wanted more for me and believed with all her heart that I was a smart and capable.

I loved theatre, but I was told that would be a great hobby, it was too unstable for a profession.  I should find an interest that would support me and should continue my education until I had reached the highest degree in the field.  Her goal for me was to always be self sufficient. She believed education was the way to make that happen. Graduate School and Professional School were goals I had before I even really understood what they were.

My pursuit of the right path for me wasn’t exactly a straight line, but I am sure that is true for many.  I did end up with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and considered continuing on for a Doctorate. I still think about it sometimes.  For a while my mother would ask when was I going back to school, because a Master’s degree was not the highest level.

Something happened in me when I received my infertility diagnosis.  Something everyone else seemed to be able to do so easily, I could not. It really changed my perspective on a lot of things.  I wasn’t sure about me being a mom, but I believed my husband would make a great father. It was heartbreaking.  When we finally conceived my decisions about parenting and motherhood had changed to some extent and took on a whole new meaning I didn’t even understand. Fast forward many years and now I’m a stay-at-home HOMESCHOOLING mom.  How on earth did THAT happen?

My husband and I never planned on living on one income.  We had always been a two income pursuing your passions kind of couple.  I wonder how much stress am I causing him?  He’s finally in a job he loves after many stressful years in a job he hated, but it’s come with many sacrifices.

Our entire family of five is completely dependent on him and it seems like something is always going wrong.  This is so far from our original plan and what my mother taught me.  I know lots of my friends look at me differently.  I don’t hear, “So when are you going back to work?” anymore, but there are jokes at times that don’t really feel like jokes, or reactions or comments. They won’t come out and say they think I’m crazy, but sometimes I feel it. Or maybe that’s just my paranoia.

The sad part is there are so many days I’m also looking at myself wondering too; How much money and time did I waste?  What the world God? Am I making the right decisions?  How do I know I really heard you? Are you sure it was me you were talking to?  You know I could have misinterpreted what you said.  Maybe I am just crazy?  How do you know it’s time to give up the charade?  I often feel like a fish out of water everywhere I turn. Who else feels like this?  What AM I doing???

 

Conviction

A few nights ago, my heart was convicted during evening devotions with my older kids.  The devotion was taken from Exodus 16. The reading was about the Israelites in the wilderness. They were complaining against Moses and Aaron for leading them to the desert to starve.  The Lord heard their complaints and decided to send manna and quail.

As I was talking with my children, I asked if it reminded them of anything or anyone.  My oldest immediately admitted it reminded her of herself and how much she has complained about our move to Georgia.  I had to confess she was not alone.  I felt God speaking to me about my own complaints.  I have often thought of our move to Georgia as my desert place, and in that moment I felt the burden of my groaning.

In verse 8 Moses tells the Israelites, “Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.” OUCH!  I’ve spent the last couple of years complaining against my husband for bringing us here and the losses I felt we’ve endured.  God is really the one who brought us here, so my complaints have actually been against him. Wow! Did that make me pause.

Just like he provided for the Israelites needs, he has done the same for us.  He has provided and continues to provide new friends.  He has allowed us to continue homeschooling, and provided medications and special foods for my children.  Many things we never needed before he has provided and more.  We have not lacked in one need, yet I have complained incessantly about our new life here.  I have complained about HIS path and HIS plan for our lives instead of being content and thankful for his grace.  Worst of all, I have led my children down the path of discontentment instead of demonstrating gratefulness.

Even as God provided for the Israelites again and again, they failed to follow his instructions. Boy, that sounds familiar! He told them only to gather enough for their daily needs.  Some gathered more and found the next day that it had spoiled.  Seeing this the Lord responded, “How  long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions?” (Exodus 16:28)

How long will I refuse to change my attitude?  How long will I refuse to submit myself to the Lord’s instructions and my husband’s leadership?  How long will I refuse to forgive?  How long will I refuse to respect?  How long will I refuse to trust?

God has made it clear many times that I must change.  “The Israelites ate manna…until they came to a habitable land;…until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.”(Exodus 16:35)  They struggled a long time.  Lord, I’m tired of fighting your way.  I want to be at the border of my Canaan.  I know you have a Promised Land for me, if I will follow you and your commands.

Thank you for these words.  Here I am again asking for forgiveness.  Your ways are not my ways.  Your ways are so much better.  You have shown me that so many times.  Help me to release all the fears that have kept me from following your instructions.  I’m convicted. Now, I need to do something about it.

Reminders

I have been struggling with my emerging preschooler during school time lately.  She is no longer content to sit by with busy work while I work with her older siblings.  She does a lot more lately to try and grab my attention if it isn’t given quickly. She wants her own dedicated time and she deserves it. I’ve been trying to rearrange our schedule so I can sit with her first, but this morning I was not moving fast enough for her and it led to a great deal of frustration for both of us.

Part of my frustration is my mommy guilt because I feel like I don’t do enough with her most days. I struggle not to compare what I do with her with what I was able to do with the other two when they were her age.  We played this.  We read this many books.  We spent this amount of time outside.  They had this class or that activity.  And then the clincher, they knew how to do…

But she is such a different beast.  She is much more temperamental and easily distracted. So this morning when she wanted to do her “schoolwork” I wanted to give her my full attention.  I needed two minutes, tops, to get the other two started on their independent work and she interrupted the entire time.  When I turned my attention to her and the work she chose, her first response was, “I don’t want to do that now.” Steam from my ears and deep breaths. I tried to focus her attention on her letter sounds and could feel the upset rising within me and her at all that I had not taught her yet.

I wish I could say I didn’t allow it to bother me or that I didn’t beat myself up, but that would be a lie.  While I didn’t go overboard, I did have a sense that I was failing to teach her the things she should know. The worst part was I was wondering how would I ever figure out how to help her.

Later this afternoon I called my mother in New Orleans after seeing the weather reports of Tornado watches and severe storms.  My littlest listened to her siblings ask me about the reports and about their grandmother, and when they left the room she asked a few more questions of her own. She then did something that took me completely by surprise.  As she walked by my side, she grabbed my hand and said let’s pray for Grammy and the tornados.  She recited the sweetest prayer to God asking him to protect her grandmother from the tornados and to keep her safe and all the people there.

At that moment I couldn’t help but think, “Thank you God for the reminder of what is really important.”  Of all the things I can want my children to know and learn, God is at the top of the list.  That sweet smart girl knew to go to God to ask for protection and comfort in the time of a storm. If that’s not a reminder I don’t know what is!

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

 

 

Prayer for February 6, 2016

I wrote and prayed this prayer a few days ago, but I have been feeling a strong need to revisit these words everyday. It was a plea from the heart of a struggling homeschool mother for herself and her family, but we all struggle.  I’m going to keep praying this prayer.  I felt led to share it and so here it is.  May God use it to bless you too.

Lord,

Be with us today.  Help all of us to focus on you and your will for us today.  Help us, but me especially, to be content in the place you have us in right now.  Let me not miss out on the blessings you have for me today by focusing my attention on the things I don’t have.  Help me to stay in my lane and appreciate all the ways you are molding and growing me today.  Let my attitude be pleasant and my words be kind.  Help me to bridle this wild loose tongue of mine.  Be in my heart, so that my actions may be covered in your love.  Help me to grow in wisdom and discernment.  Teach me to be more organized, but help me to remember nothing is in my control.  And when I feel out of control, let me remember to reach for your hand because only you hold me and calm it all.

Amen

Grilled Chicken with Roasted Eggplant

DSCN2039My oldest loves to learn about other countries and cultures.  She often checks out books at the library about countries she would like to experience.  This year in CC we are studying ancient civilizations and many of her books have coordinated a great deal with our curriculum.  My sweet children are a lot like their mother.  They love to relate to anything through food, and they have been asking most of the school year to cook some of the food from one of these books.

I agreed to let her choose a meal for dinner.  She and her brother wanted lamb kebobs from Turkey.  I love lamb, but I’ve never been brave enough to cook it myself.  With our budget, I couldn’t imagine spending the money for the lamb and not cooking it properly.  I managed to convince them that we should try the recipe with chicken instead.  Chicken is so far from lamb it’s ridiculous, and part of me felt really horrible about it.  I told them we would still use the same spices and flavorings.  I forgot the oregano at the store, so we made some adjustments with Italian seasoning.  It may not be authentic to the book, but this recipe was inspired by a recipe from the book on Turkey.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1/3 c lemon juice
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. course ground pepper
  • about 10 mini sweet bell peppers, cut into large pieces
  • 1 large eggplant cut into cubes

In a blender, combine the salt, pepper, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and Italian seasoning.  Blend until it forms a paste.  Place the cubed chicken into one gallon sized Ziploc bag and the eggplant and peppers into a separate bag.  Pour half of the marinade into each bag, seal, and massage the bags to make sure the paste covers all the meat and veggies.  Place the bags in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.  We let ours sit for 2-3 hours.

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Remove the meat from the bag and place onto skewers.  Heat your grill pan or grill, and spray or coat with oil to prevent sticking.  I used medium high heat.  Place the skewers on the grill pan and cook until you see beautiful grill marks and your chicken is cooked on one side.  After about 10 minutes, turn the chicken over and continue until cooked through.

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You can skewer and cook the eggplant on the grill as well, but I did not have enough space.  Instead I roasted the eggplant in our oven.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Spread the peppers and eggplant on a large greased cookie sheet.  For easy cleanup, I lined my sheet with aluminum foil and then greased. Bake until the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes.

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Before

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After

We served the chicken and veggies with rice and salad. A healthy dinner served and lots of happy faces!

Science Rocks!

I have not been online in a bit.  I have been sick on and off for the past few weeks, but today I was feeling better, and decided to have some science fun with the kids in school today.  As always, anything that allows us to incorporate food into our lessons is a huge score!

We started the lesson by reviewing some of the CC Science memory work from the last couple of weeks.  I had the kids answer the questions, “What are some parts of the earth?”, and “What are some types of rock?”.  We then re-read passages from two of our library books to elaborate on the memory work.  We used Geology by Frank H. T. Rhodes and the Earth from the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books Series by Susanna Van Rose.

The activity ideas for the day were found on this great blog, Beakers and Bumblebees Blog: a Journey through fifth grade Science class!  As always I used whatever we had on hand at home. First we created an edible model of the layers of the earth using the cut off bottom of a cake ice cream cone, cake frosting, chocolate syrup, and a hard candy.  The cone was our crust.  The frosting was our mantle.  The syrup was our liquid outer core, and we used a lemonhead breath mint as our hard inner core.  We read and talked about the hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere while we ate our models.

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Next we sang the song we found on the blog and started working on making our rocks.

We will we will rock you!
we will we will rock you!
Volcanos erupt with lava so hot
it cools and hardens and its igneous rock cuz
rocks can change…all over this place…
they weather, and melt, and get rearranged!
We will we will rock you!
we will we will rock you!
Rock gets weathered into tiny tiny rocks
layers and layers get piled on top
it gets compacted, its elementary
this rock will become sedimentary
we will we will rock you
we will we will rock you!
Any type of rock under heat and pressure
becomes metamorphic and that’s for sure
cuz rocks can change, all over this place..
they weather, and melt and get rearranged
we will we will rock you
we will we will rock you!

The kids loved the song!

First, we made metamorphic rocks by using the heat and pressure from our hands to change snickers bars into deliciously rearranged rocks.  We placed the candies into Ziploc bags and then smashed away.DSCN2019 - CopyDSCN2021 - Copy

Next, we used a candle to demonstrate how igneous rocks are formed.  We compared the melted and cooled wax to the lava that flows from volcanoes to create igneous rocks.  We then melted our own chocolate “rocks”, you may call them chips, and allowed them to “flow” over waxed paper and cool.  My son said it was the best rocks he had ever tasted.  There’s something special about a dark chocolate igneous rock. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture. I think I was a little too messy by that point or fighting the littlest to let the chocolate cool.  I know there was an incident with the candle.  You’ll have to trust me.

We ended the lesson by making our edible version of sedimentary rocks.  We began by taking a few cookie “rocks” and ” weathering” them until we were left with crumbs.  By weathering I mean dropping them and banging them against things.  Isn’t that what the wind does?  We poured those into ramekins.  We found more sand in the form of brown sugar and layered that on top.  Next a few larger rocks that resembled dark chocolate chips. For the final layer of rocks we used mini marshmallows.  We read about fossils and their deposits in sedimentary rocks and used butter as our oil deposits created by those dead animals.  We placed the ramekins in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes and allowed them to cool.  After lunch we unearthed our sedimentary rocks for a crunchy dessert.

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Thank goodness we had a really light breakfast this morning because we pretty much ate nothing but sugar the first half of the day.  Had I planned better, I would have spaced those out over a few days.  There is certainly something to be said for feeling better and being out of bed!  And yes, I know this was crazy to take on my first day back.  I’m paying for it now, because I’m exhausted.  Good night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Season Pics

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Neapolitan Cake

I never got a chance to fully go through baking season, so I thought I would post a few pictures of some of the goodies the kids and I baked up.  It should be obvious why my pants are a little tight.

 

 

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Carrot Cake Cheesecake

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Orange Cranberry Coffee Cake

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Red Velvet Cheesecake

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Strawberry Minnie Mouse

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Lemon Pirate Ship

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1st attempt at Homemade Gingerbread House

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Texans Jersey

Psalm 95:1-7

A dear friend of mine shared this great “Thanksgiving 30 Day Scripture Writing Plan” on her page.  It’s a pdf file found at http://www.swtblessings.com. Our family already has a few traditions for my favorite time of year, but I loved the idea of purposely copying what God’s word has to say about thankfulness. I saw the post yesterday and my original desire was for us as a family to copy the verses together before starting our regular homeschool work.  Sometimes plans work and sometimes they don’t.  Yesterday they didn’t.

This morning during my devotional time I decided to copy the verse myself from day one.  I’m already 4 days behind, but I didn’t think God would mind.  I just had this desire to start because I did not know what this morning would hold.

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;  let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.  The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.  O come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  O that today you would listen to his voice!

There is so much truth beauty and truth in this passage!  What a wonderful praise to our Lord. But the part that particularly spoke to my spirit this morning was the last line, “O that today you would listen to his voice!”

For me there is a huge difference in hearing and listening.  I know I have this discussion with my children often.  To hear means 1) to perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something). 2) be told or informed of. 3) be aware of; know of the existence of.  To listen is defined as to give one’s attention to a sound.  Lord, let me not only hear from you, but obey your voice when I listen.

I don’t want to just perceive you saying something to me.  Let me listen and give my full attention to your voice.  Let me worship you with my whole being and heed what you are telling me.  Let my focus today be squarely where it should be_on you.  Let me yield myself to your voice and follow your will for me today.  I want to listen to your voice as you guide my interactions with my husband, my children, and anyone you choose to allow to cross my path.  I want to surrender myself to the blessing of your voice.

Amen.

I’m Awake Now

I have been buried in a hole, it seems, for over a month.  School started and I kept falling deeper and deeper into my abyss. Everything about the start of this year felt off.  It was especially upsetting because this was supposed to be MY year.  The year when everything came together as it should.  The year when I had less stress and more fun.

Three years ago I was experiencing a difficult pregnancy and my oldest went to public school for a year. I had no peace.  The following year we moved to a new state with a six year old, a four year old, and an eight month old and started a new Classical Conversations group two days after we moved into our new apartment.  During the middle of that year, we moved again once we bought a house. Two of my three children then started having health issues.  I believed God had called me to homeschool, but with everything else going on I was ready to give it all up. As ready as I was, I felt God was asking me to give Him one more year.

Last year was God’s extra year.  We joined a CC group closer to our home, which made a huge difference for my kiddos. They finally started recognizing people when we went out around town and were able to feel more connected to the new city.  But during the middle of the school year a family illness surfaced and a stress free year we did not have.

This was supposed to be the year we hit our stride.  This year we were settled.  There were no babies, no moves, and no new health surprises. My husband and I didn’t even really need to discuss the upcoming school year.  The decision was painless instead of painstaking as it had been before.  I could envision giving homeschooling more than one more year. My oldest two had been so responsible and diligent over the summer.  I told myself this wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I was going to get better organized and we were going to rock this year.

We’ve been in school for seven weeks and oh, how wrong I was.  This has been my hardest year yet!  At the start of school I felt more unprepared than I ever have.  I have felt more behind, more stressed, and more like I don’t have a clue.  The house feels like it’s always a mess.  I feel like I am always yelling at the kids, and we can’t ever seem to accomplish what I think we should in a day.  For the first time I found myself screaming inside and saying out loud, “I simply don’t WANT to do this anymore!”

I asked a friend and fellow homeschooling mom, why do we submit ourselves to this kind of torture?  It is pure insanity. She sent me a link to a post titled, The Truth About Homechooling. It made me laugh and it made me cry.  I was thankful to know I was not alone. This is really hard.  The author, Heather Bowen, gave a beautifully simple answer to the question “why?”  Because we are called to.

It’s funny how when I started homeschooling I really believed  I would be the teacher, but in reality I am truly the student.  Everyday I am being taught how to listen and obey.  How to love. How to be a willing vessel.

I hadn’t realized it, but maybe I had become arrogant.  This year was going to be easy because I didn’t have X,Y, or Z on my plate.  With a little bit more planning and organization I could do this.  As I’m sitting here typing I realize just how crazy that sounds.

The truth is I have never been able to do this.  Everyday I need HIS strength.  I need HIS guidance. I need HIS patience.  I need HIM.  I haven’t given up yet because he has not released me.

I cannot count the times I have spoken to people who have looked at me like I either have 3 heads or I’m a saint when they find out I homeschool.  They often remark that they could never homeschool because they’re not patient or organized or fill in the blank.  My answer is usually, “Neither am I” to every adjective they list, “It is only by God’s grace that I do this.”  Somehow I forgot.  I stuck my head under a blanket and tried to pretend I had this all together.  Shame on me, but I’m awake now!  None of this is about what I can do.  I simply needed to wake up and remember it’s all about what God will do.

Today I Thank God for Daddy

Today has been one of those days with too many tears.  Unbelievably, none of them were my own.  I felt like the kids were simply tag teaming and trying to see who would finish me off first.

I am an only child who now has three.  I guess I should be used to the days when I feel like an alien in my own home.  There’s the bickering, the competition with each other about nothing, the constant thought that things are not fair, and that I’m favoring one over the other when I thought I did the same thing for everyone.  There are times I feel like I’m floating in the Twilight Zone and today was one of them.

I’m sure many mothers feel the same way, but I am convinced only children are at a significant disadvantage in handling this insanity. At least that’s what I try to tell myself when I’m feeling completely unglued.  All of it is completely unfamiliar. I observed this strange phenomenon at the houses of friends and cousins occasionally, but the escape to my house generally shielded me from this terror.

All the lies that live buried in my head decided they would make a grand appearance today.

“3 kids…you really are crazy!”

“You’re a horrible mother.  Your have no idea what you’re doing.”_(That second part isn’t really a lie I guess)

“No child with a decent upbringing would speak to their mother that way.” i.e.  You’re a horrible mother.

“You are so obviously unfit to parent.”

“And you decided to homeschool too?!? You’re a horrible teacher! Pure craziness!”

We met with friends and received a bit of a reprieve, but not nearly enough to not get public school out of my mind, and then I heard the sweetest words I had heard all day, “Daddy’s home!”  What?!?  Really?  It’s early. Don’t toy with my emotions.  But it was true, Daddy really was home!  And it became pretty clear to Daddy that Mommy had reached her limit.  I am so thankful to God that he gave me a break exactly when He knew I needed it.  He didn’t want my children sitting out on the sidewalk anymore than I did.

Thank you for taking over the screaming toddler’s bath.  Thank you for putting on my favorite Pandora station because you know how much music soothes my soul.  Thank you for taking over the big kids’ night routine so I could have a moment to myself.  Thank you for coming in with your calm and not making me feel like the voices in my head were true.  Thank you God for this man you sent to share this craziness with me.