I’m Not Going To Do That!

Once upon a time, a young woman was engaged to a young man.  As couples do, they were discussing future plans for homes, children, and life in general.  After tackling the question of how many kids they each hoped/wanted to plan for (as if they had complete control over that or something), the question of school came into play.  The young man said he thought it would be nice for their kids to be homeschooled.  And the young lady looked at him somewhat horrified, stating, “I’m not going to do that!”

Fast forward approximately 8 years, and it would appear the young lady was quite mistaken.  For here she sits typing this post and reviewing a variety of curriculums while reading The Well-Trained Mind and feeling quite overwhelmed by the number of options out there for homeschoolers.

I’ve technically been homeschooling (unofficially) for the past year, if not from birth, for I am learning that teaching your children in any fashion is a start.  When you answer your child’s questions, when you teach them their ABCs, how to count to 10, and so forth, that is an element of homeschooling.  I have spent time throughout the past couple of years engaging in ways to help my now 4 year old (and even my 2 year old) learn how to read, illustrating simple math skills, and using fun, everyday life moments to teach.  There is a wonderful freedom and beauty in it.  Which serves as a source of encouragement when I wig out about the years to come.

So what took me from “I’m Not Going To Do That!” to joining a homeschool co-op and exploring my teaching style and my kids’ learning styles as I prepare to dive deeper into this journey?  Well, there are many reasons really, but the biggest of them all is the Lord.  I genuinely believe He is calling me to it, in spite of my adamance years ago that I would never homeschool.  Yes, I have a Master’s in Social Work and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW),  and working as a child and family therapist was my calling for a time, but I do not feel a pull back to that.  Originally, I had thought I would resume being an LCSW once the kids were in school, but as the thought of homeschooling began to slowly take root, I realized that as crazy as it was, I wanted to homeschool my kids.  Even though the thoughts of teaching advanced math and chemistry scare me immensely.

Despite the fact that I had a great experience in public school, overall, that was (ahem) quite a few years ago now (even though I am still in the 90s in my mind).  (Disclaimer: There are some really great teachers out there and some wonderful things about public education- end disclaimer).  Overall, while our choice to homeschool our children is certainly affected by some of the negatives in the school system, the choice is primarily affected by the amazing opportunity to be able to gear lessons to my kids’ interests, to work with them on their level, to be able to experience a wider range of topics, to take field trips, to be able to interact with a variety of ages, and to know what my kids are learning and how they are perceiving it.

There is a part of me that is still terrified and not sure I can do it, but I do know that if God has called me to it, He will give me what I need to accomplish it.

And I will need grace.  A lot of grace!

Two Years Old and Counting…

Asher turned two in December.  Disregarding the fact that we are now into February (I think it has actually taken me this long to fully register (accept?) that he is two years old), I thought I would do a post about my little guy.

His party was small and low-key, a result of being born right before the holidays and wanting to keep things simple.  Asher had requested a Larry-Boy cake, so I did my best!

I wanted to find natural ways to dye the frosting the different colors, but didn’t have time to really experiment with the way it would look and taste, so went ahead and used dyes for most of it (I’m not a big artificial dye fan).  I did use blueberries though for the purple, and it worked great- and tasted really good too!

We always end up doing two celebrations- my parents like to do a little celebration at their house for the kids (just family) and then we have the actual birthday party with friends.

The four of us at my parents’ house.

I love watching my little guy grow and learn about life.  Asher is full of curiosity and loves climbing, hiding, looking at books, watching Veggietales movies and singing along with Veggietales songs.  He is loving and very sweet, but definitely all boy.  He is clumsy, often falling over nothing in his eagerness to get wherever he is going, and he has a pretty good arm on him!  I am amazed daily at the differences between Eila and Asher.  Asher is full-steam ahead, fearless, and ready for adventure almost everywhere.  He’s still in the “I love my mama” stage, but I can see him starting to shift over into daddy-adoration as he gets older.

He has begun using the potty, albeit infrequently.  But I love that he initiated this on his own and can say that as hard as it is to watch him grow so fast, I do welcome the potty-training milestone!  Asher has become quite the talker and his ability to express himself surprises me (although it probably shouldn’t considering he is surrounded by talkers in this family)!

Asher has the funniest sense of humor and loves to be the comedian in the group.  He also tends to be pretty stubborn and I have no idea where he gets that from…

God is growing him into such an amazing little man, and we are so proud of him- I can’t wait to see what this next year will bring!

Sunrise, Sunset Part 2

(starting where I left off in Sunrise, Sunset Part 1…)

After the couples massage, Will and me (is it “me” or “I”? “I” sounds better but I think “me” is grammatically correct…) relaxed a bit and got ready to go to dinner.  As nice as the massage was, I actually wish that it hadn’t been included in our bed and breakfast package.  It made things rather difficult because it was scheduled right in the middle of the day and prevented us from going to Ocracoke as we had planned.  Although, let me be clear…if that is my biggest problem, I am very blessed indeed.  It’s not a complaint, more of just an observation.

Anyway, that night for dinner we planned to go to the South Beach Grille.  I had discovered this restaurant through Restaurant.com and after reading through many, many reviews, had scored a $25 gift certificate for $4.   I was a bit nervous because even after reading the reviews, I had no idea whether or not this place would be great or a bust.  Thankfully, my worries were all in vain (as they usually are) and the food was amazing.  Very fresh seafood, great service, and a lot of food for a reasonable price.  If we get the chance to go back to the OBX, we will definitely eat there again.

After dinner (and doing our nightly check-in by phone with the kids), we headed back to our B&B to enjoy our last evening in the OBX together.  We decided to grab some wine and sit outside by the fire pit.  But alas, the young couple who had used it the night before had used the last of the gas and we were out of luck.  It was then that we discovered the tree swing in the backyard, and I was ecstatic.  I love swings.  One of my favorite moments of our trip was Will pushing me on that swing behind that Victorian house with a canopy of stars overhead.  It was so much fun.

After playing some more in the backyard, we decided to head in and watch a movie before bed.  I was determined to get better sleep that night too because I knew I would be returning to the land of disrupted sleep soon enough.

Except…it wasn’t meant to be.  I can’t complain though, because the reason for not getting much sleep that night was that Will woke me around 6:00am (granted, I was kind of awake as that is near the time Asher often wakes) to ask if I wanted to go with him to watch the sun rise.  I quickly debated warm bed vs. sunrise, and the sunrise won, as we have never watched the sunrise together and with young children, the chance to do so doesn’t come along very often.  We dressed quickly and drove about a mile down the road to the waterfront.  We walked out on a pier and cuddled up under a blanket and enjoyed the beauty around us.

God gave us such an amazing world to experience.

Following the beautiful sunrise, we went back, showered, dressed, and ate breakfast.  We packed up our things, checked out of our room, and headed towards Jockey Ridge State Park, hoping to have a couple hours there before we had to head back towards home.  The sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge are incredible and are the tallest on the east coast.  Climbing them was actually an unexpected workout!

The view from the ground (Will took this of me at the top)…

And then, after the climb, we did this…

It was like playing in a giant sandbox, although unfortunately, sliding all the way down didn’t really work.  I discovered a way to do it in spurts, though.

Soon it was time to go home, and after grabbing a couple of sandwiches at a local sandwich shop, we were on our way.  It was hard to leave that “couple time” behind, but I was ready to see our kids again and step back into my mommy shoes.  We started our trip with a sunset and ended it with a sunrise, and while some may think the opposite would have been more fitting, I kind of like to think that it was the way it should be.  This trip we took to celebrate our 7th anniversary is only a blip in the time God has given us together- that last day didn’t mark the end of anything but the trip itself.  I’d rather look at that last day as the start to our next 7 years together.

And you know, we never did get to ride that tandem bike.  I guess we will have to go back!

Sunrise, Sunset (Part 1)

No, the title of this post is is not a Fiddler on the Roof reference, for those of you wondering.  It is, however, a reference to two of my favorite memories of our trip to the Outer Banks last month.

The morning of our trip, we gathered up our bags and the kids’ bags and headed first to my parents house to drop the kids off.  For me, it was a bit of an emotional ordeal.  As much as I was looking forward to the alone time with my husband (and I really, REALLY was), it was very hard for me to leave the kids, even in my parents’ super capable hands.   Yes, there were tears as we drove away (mine, as I think the kids were fine), but thankfully a few miles down the road I was able to switch into wife mode and realize that We. Were. Alone. In. The. Van.

We made our way to the Outer Banks in good time and checked into our bed and breakfast a little after 3pm.  Once we had been given the tour and got settled into our bedroom, we enjoyed the wine and chocolates that was part of the Living Social deal and talked about what we wanted to do that evening.  We decided to grab something to eat and, um… go to a movie.  Yes, really.  We rarely go to movies (maybe once or twice a year) and when we do go, we often have to rush back to pick up the kids to get them home to bed or something along those lines.  I had purchased a deal through Living Social (noticing a theme here?) a while back for two tickets that I managed to get for $5.  We had both been wanting to see Courageous while it was in the theaters, and given that this was the Outer Banks in October, many things were closed for the season.  So…we first set out to find something to eat.  Did I mention that many things were closed for the season?  The place we had planned to eat was one of them- I had heard it had been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network, and some good friends of ours had also recommended it, so I was a bit bummed that it was one of the places that was already closed for the season.

As we drove around looking for a plan B, we noticed that the sun was going down and the sky was becoming a beautiful blaze of color.  So we decided to stop food hunting and find a place to watch the sunset.  We had about 10 minutes before it was due to set and  drove along trying to find a quick access on the sound side.  Thankfully, we found one and pulled off on the side of the road just in time to get some gorgeous pictures that still don’t do the actual event justice.

Because of that sunset, I’m glad that the place we had planned on was closed.  I don’t think we would have experienced that amazing, spontaneous moment otherwise.

 

 

 

We ended up at Five Guys, which I found hilarious because it is certainly not a restaurant unique to the OBX.  But it was good and fast, which allowed us to get to our movie in time. Being that it was a Monday night in late October, there was only one other couple in the movie theater, which was nice actually.  Courageous is an absolutely incredible movie.  And for those of you that have seen it, you can probably understand why it is not an easy movie to watch when you have left your kids for a few nights in a row for the first time…it was like an emotional punch to the stomach…but in a good way.

We got back to our room and reveled in the fact that we not only had a full nights sleep ahead of us with no little feet padding into our room, but that we could actually watch a movie undisturbed!  Our kids had the last laugh, however, because apparently I am now programmed to wake up at 6:30am no matter what.

That first full day in the Outer Banks we had planned to take the ferry over to Ocracoke Island and get back in time for the couples massage that was also part of the deal we had purchased.  Now, normally I am a planner and check into every little detail.  But I was seriously trying to just go with it on this trip.  Which meant that I didn’t realize it would be an hours drive to get to the ferry, on top of the 40 minute ride to and from Ocracoke.  Oh well, we figured we would be a little limited on our time on the island but could make it work.  That was, until the ferry was late.  Over 30 minutes late.  And we couldn’t easily abort our plan because we were stuck in the sardine-packed ferry lanes of cars waiting to board once the ferry actually ARRIVED.  As we sat in our car contemplating what to do, we decided to call our B&B to see if we could push our massage back.  It wasn’t possible.  We didn’t want to forfeit the massage due to the cost, and knew at this point that there was no way we’d have enough time on Ocracoke if we proceeded with our original plan.

We waited for the ferry (which apparently had been having some technical difficulties) and then managed to extract our car and head back towards Manteo.  I was back in my mode of “not managing failed expectations well” despite my attempts at a laidback, go-with-it attitude, and was not pleasant to be with at the particular moment.  Thankfully, we shook it off, decided to pick up a pizza, and ate it on the beach.

We made it back just in time for our couples massage (okay, about 3 minutes late).  And yet again, because this entry is getting a bit long, I’ll stop now and share about the last half of our trip next time.  I know, I know, I’m leaving you in suspense. Ha.

I’m guessing the tandem bike will be more of a success…

The countdown has begun. Well, it had begun back in April when my husband and I first decided to do something completely out of character by purchasing a Living Social deal for a vacation at a bed and breakfast on the Outer Banks. This was out of character because a) we have gotten in the habit of rarely spending larger amounts of money on non-essentials (or “frivolous” things, b) we are actually going on a vacation, and c) we are going on said vacation without children.

Ever since we booked this deal, I’ve been torn between guilt, excitement, and a bit of anxiety. The guilt is due to our typical spending habits and the knowledge that this vacation is not part of our usual budget. We were blessed to be able to pay cash for this trip (or we wouldn’t have done it), but it does take away from the savings we had been building up. The excitement part should be obvious. And the anxiety part? Well, that is because of our almost 4-year-old and our almost 2-year-old. We have never left them overnight before (2 exceptions: the first was when I was giving birth to Asher- Eila stayed with my parents; the 2nd was when Will had to go out of town, Asher was not yet sleeping through the night, and my parents offered to have Eila spend the night so I would only have one child waking me mercilessly). In fact, we’ve never been gone from both of them together more than maybe 5-6 hours. I will miss them terribly and worry primarily about Asher since he is in full-blown “must be with mommy” phase and I’m not sure how he will do sleeping in a bed rather than a crib! But…

Now that we are less than a week out from our trip, I am getting very excited. The anxiety is easing because I do know that, overall, the kids will do great and my parents will do a great job with them. The guilt has eased, primarily because I know we are responsible with our finances but also because I believe that having time with just my husband is so incredibly important for our marriage. I am a homebody most of the time, but I definitely love opportunities to experience new things and new places, and who better to do that with than my best friend? I can’t wait to be able to have uninterrupted conversations, uninterrupted sleep, and the opportunity to go out and explore without having to accommodate naptimes!   The bed and breakfast we are staying at has gotten great reviews and the deal we purchased through Living Social included a couples massage, which will be especially welcome by my tension-filled shoulders (resulting from carrying a toddler around on clingy days).

The B&B also has a tandem bicycle couples can use.  I hope we get to take it around the Outer Banks.  My last experience with anything remotely similar was kayaking with Will pre-kids on an NC mountain lake.  Let’s just say I use that experience frequently as an analogy for marriage- when you both try to do it your own way, or to go your own way, you get nowhere.  We you finally start to work together towards a common goal, progress is made and it is filled with an amazing amount of fun and excitement!   Let’s just say that with the kayak, my stubborn self had a hard time doing it anything other than my way for a bit, and we made some beautiful circles in the middle of the lake…at least the bike won’t allow that some degree of stubbornness!  Although, I’m now thinking that it would be incredibly great to rent a kayak while we are there…

Anyway, I’ll make sure to take some pictures and share about it when we return.  I’m going to go back to knocking things off my pre-vacation to-do list!  

Stirring up and settling in…

God has been working on me.  A lot.  I could almost stop this post right there.  (Ha, some of you would probably like that!).  Anyway,  I have been blogging off and on about our adventure in listing our house for sale and our subsequent discovery of a beautiful, run-down and worn-out pre-foreclosure that my heart has been longing for ever since I laid eyes on it.  And, therein has been the problem.  I think my heart started longing for it a bit too much.

When we listed our house, it was entirely on a whim.  I have a crazy habit of scrolling through realtor.com to look at what is out there, especially as I have been bitten by the DIY/decorating bug in the past couple of years.  We noticed that there were some homes that were larger than ours for the same amount of money (or a little bit less) thanks to the sadly booming short sale/foreclosure market.  Will and I did put some prayer into it and felt like we should just give it a shot and see what God does- a couple of days later we talked with the agent whom we worked with on selling our last home and voila!, we had entered MLS territory.

What started as an informal adventure grew into an ache and desire to somehow acquire this home that Will and I both felt was like our dream home.  It wasn’t normally what I would have pictured for myself, and it needs an incredible amount of work, but the potential is enormous and the location would be perfect for our family.  Since it is located in a neighborhood across the street from our church, we would often go by and pray over the house and for whomever is meant to live there, be it us or another family. I had it planned out in my mind’s eye- the front and back yards, the beautiful front room with the two bay windows, a room for homeschooling…knowing how attached I was becoming to the house, I also began praying that God would help me keep my desires in check and remove them altogether if need be.

All that to say– one day, six and a half months into the process of having our home listed, I was outside pushing my 1 1/2 year old in the swing under our big, beautiful old oak tree in the backyard.  My 3 1/2 year old was sitting on the bench swinging her legs and waiting for her turn.  I drank in the moment with all five of my senses and felt contentment wash over me.  I felt something lift inside, and knew then and there that God has answered my prayer.  Not in the way I wanted, but in the way I needed.  While I still love the house that we had been praying over and I would still love to live there, my overwhelming desire for it is gone.

It’s ironic, because before we started this process, I was reading Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life– I even wrote a post on it here.  There was an anecdote he shared that has stuck with me, and I remember thinking about it after we listed our house and vowing to keep it in mind.  It was the story of a farmer who decided to put his farm up for sale.  After he wrote out the ad describing his property, he sat for a moment, realizing that he already had everything he was looking for.

When we bought our current home, we were aware that it wasn’t in the middle of town. We knew that sometimes the 20 minutes down I-40 to get to town would feel inconvenient and longer than it really is, especially with two young children.  And we knew that there were things we would someday want to change about the house- like adding on a sunroom or screened porch, adding on more square footage for our bedroom and bathroom, and so forth.  But, we also knew we loved our lot- it is surrounded by old oak trees, other hardwoods, a very nice size, not too close to neighbors, and our house is situated on a small, pretty hill.  We can easily see the stars and it is quiet enough that I can hear the orchestra of a myriad of creatures at night.  It is a small neighborhood with just one street that ends with a cul-de-sac.  The house is quite pretty, isn’t cookie-cutter, and is certainly large enough for our needs, especially with our current family of 4, and will be large enough whenever we grow to five (God-willing).

So yes, it is still for sale, for another month or so.  But I’ve settled into it in a whole new way, and more importantly, this process has helped me settle into God’s will in a whole new way as well.  It’s been painful at times, but He’s using it for good.

Reliving a piece of my childhood…

For those that know me well, it is no secret that I love books and that reading is one of my favorite activities. I read as much as possible, which is definitely more difficult now that I have kids than it was BK (before kids). As a little girl, I was a definite fan of series like The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, Anne of Avonlea, and many others. At the top of the list, however, was The Little House on the Prairie series. When visiting my parents the other day, I found my Little House series on a bookshelf, and was instantly struck with the joyful fact that I now have a daughter I can share them with! I then debated over whether or not Eila is too young, because at 3 1/2, that was certainly something I had to consider.

I decided to bring them home with me and as I gathered them up, Eila asked me about them and wanted to look at a couple of the books in the car. I gave her the first book and laughed as she began to thumb through it, questioning where all the pictures were. She was excited when she discovered that there is an illustration every few pages and began to ask me about some of the pictures. I talked with Will about perhaps reading the books as a family, and Eila asked if we could read part of one that night at bedtime.

We did, and a day hasn’t gone by since in which we haven’t read at least one chapter.  Since starting this post (um, it was originally started the first week of September- another challenging thing to keep up with having kids!), we have read through 3 1/2 books, and Eila is loving them.  She may not understand every aspect of them, but she enjoys them immensely to the point where she likes to keep them beside her bed and brings them along in the van.   As a beginning homeschooler (that’s a whole ‘nother post!), I love the rich learning opportunities.  The series is dripping with history, obviously, and being able to talk with Eila about life before cars, computers, and cellphones allows us to explore a whole new (old) world together.  Covered wagons, prairie and farm life, wolves…it’s exciting!  I love that I am learning too.  There’s also science, sociology, and a solid moral/Biblical base, to name a few more.

I tend to read so much and so fast sometimes, that to my detriment, I don’t retain information as well as I would like.  There is something about the illustrations and many of the stories in the Little House series, that I immediately recall as we dive into them.  I look forward to reading with her each day, and I am already feeling a bit sad knowing that we will be coming to the end of them sometime in the next month or so.

Of course, there are many more wonderful books to explore together!  One of my favorite parts of being a mother is getting to integrate parts of my childhood with their childhood.  It’s a privilege, really.