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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting settled with a little George Mueller thrown in for fun.

Here's our latest family update. We are finally settling into our new hometown. I am quickly falling in love with Cary, NC. From the parks to the Barnes and Noble that's less than 10 minutes away, the Aldi that's within walking distance to the awesome movie theater with $5 Tuesdays, I'm hooked. The commute to the airport is ideal (that's an important detail for Mr. Inc). It's pretty much exactly what I've always wanted. It feels small townish with the convenience of the city.  Plus some wonderful museums that are free? This homeschooling mom can't ask for much more.

As for churches, I think we've settled on one. There is no perfect church, and admittedly, the one we've chosen is rather large for my comfort. Still, the kids are comfortable and making friends, it's not too far so we can be involved easily, and they seem to be very motivated for missions. They've got their theology straight. I even registered the kids for VBS, so I guess we're in. =)

Finally, in our class at church on Sunday someone brought up George Mueller. He's a fascinating person if you haven't read about him. The man lived out faith in a way that most people would consider irresponsible. If you don't know who he is, look him up. The part that struck me is how divergent his life was from the norm. We look back on his life, and we can see how God provided for every single need; not only for him, but for the hundreds of orphans he cared for. I wonder what people thought of him at the time. Did they think he had great ideals but carried them out in a terribly irresponsible manner? Because I'm sure that's the best he would get today. More likely he'd be recipient of many eye rolls for being a little too God crazed, yet we look back on his life with admiration.

I've been thinking about George Mueller because I've had a few moments this week of wondering what we're actually doing here. Why in the world did we move our family to North Carolina? Make no mistake, we didn't have to make this move or this job change. We've made life difficult for ourselves by choice. We stepped out on faith, and we think things will work out well. But maybe it won't. God doesn't promise happy endings in this life, certainly not for the short-term. Not that I in any way compare ourselves to George Mueller, but I think that if even I occasionally wonder if we've gone off the deep end, what must everyone else think? 

Then I remember that I don't really care what everyone else thinks so it's alright. We're living our lives, doing our thing, getting to know our new home. Since I am secure in the knowledge that God doesn't make mistakes, I know that we're here on purpose. We're still figuring out that purpose, but my knowledge or lack of knowledge on that note doesn't really have an impact on God's purpose for us. There's freedom in that little truth.

So basically, we love where we've landed, we're getting connected, and the jury's still out on the sanity of it all. =)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

One of those days...

Yesterday was one of those days. I was fed up with my tetris apartment, especially since I'd lost the game of fitting the computer somewhere normal. Like, NOT in a place where we walk. I was tired, defeated, and generally unhappy with my lot in life. In other words, I was acting like a teenage girl. Blech. So of course this morning one of the first things I read is about cities of people living on giant landfills in Honduras. They dig through the trash daily looking for food and plastic. If they find enough plastic (50 lbs), they can sell it. For a DOLLAR. And I was so proud of myself last night for pushing through and not ordering the Papa John's pizza. I'd made out the order and everything. I just had to push "Order" on my phone, and it would have been done. But I didn't. So it was a major victory in my mind at the time.

I don't know why I have days like that. Days where I know that I'm being completely irrational, but I just...can't. Days where suddenly someone else's husband is doing all these great things, and I think "why can't MY husband do that kind of stuff?" Or why won't MY kids stop asking me the same questions five billion and one times a day? Why does MY apartment have to be so annoyingly laid out that even though the space is officially there, it's really not. Why does Angelina Jolie get a personal chef? You know, perfectly rational questions.

Since I must find the purpose in everything, I look for the purpose in those days. And don't even tell me you don't have them too. So on the day after those days, I am reminded that all those yucky, embarrassing to admit thoughts and attitudes are always rumbling around in my heart somewhere. Yes, most days I can tamp them down, choose thankfulness, or at least fake my way through the day so no one else sees it. But it's still there. Deep in my heart, I am jealous. I crave the attention and approval of certain people. I am lazy. I am a list of filthy, disgusting, dirty characteristics.

I am cleaned. I am saved.

Saved from what? Saved from living a life led by jealousy, the search for adoration, laziness, anger, and all the other things I'll never admit to here.

See, I am not really those things. They don't control my days. I let my guard down and think to myself that I've got this whole LIFE thing down. Then God reminds me that I haven't arrived. I'm in the middle of the journey, not the end. I don't know if I'm even far enough to claim the middle. I'm still at the beginning in many ways! But I do not know myself as a jealous, ungrateful, lazy person. I feel those things, but I am not defined by them anymore.

Cleaned and saved are the only ones I'll claim as definition. And they are more powerful than any one of those days.   And now to clean up the disaster left from yesterday. Because those days usually leave piles of laundry, dishes, toys, books, and papers for me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Circles

The circles. I'm sure every culture since the beginning on mankind has had circles. I'm sure I can't claim them as a southern invention, but since that's my experience, that's what I'm going with. When I was a kid, I went to these small, country churches. Between Sunday school and the service, then again after church, the men would congregate outside in a loose circle and talk. It's just what they did. There was always an opening for someone else to join, but everyone knew instinctively how close to stand to each other.  I remember how they stood. They all had the same posture, the same laid-back stance. I always thought it was fascinating to see them. The same thing would happen at family gatherings. My dad had 3 brothers. My grandfather had 4 brothers. The men would always find themselves in the circle. Multiple conversations would be going on at once, and they'd jump in and out of all of them. So if I'm ever sitting near you and suddenly jump into your conversation when I was in the middle of a different conversation with someone else, that's why.

There's really no point to this post. I just think it's a beautiful custom I've observed and now miss. I'm a little sad that my boys don't get to see and join the circles. It seemed like a sort of rite of passage for the boys. We don't live in that kind of place anymore. The churches we've visited are far too urban and busy for people to simply stand around and talk afterwards.  I wonder how much is passed down in those informal talks that will be forgotten.  The family stories, the jokes, the history of a micro world. 

Now we sit in circles and text. Somehow it just doesn't feel the same. I'm pretty sure something is lost in the translation.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Basically homeschooling

After months and months of hobbling through life without a computer, we've finally come back to the sweet life. We bought a shiny, new computer last week. The struggle of doing everything through a smartphone is real, ya'll. Real.

So I've been tracking through my goals for the year of getting back to basics, and the past few weeks have led me to goal number 3: homeschool. First, homeschooling is HARD. The information isn't hard. The information is easy. Anyone that thinks they can't homeschool because they're not smart enough clearly has no idea what homeschooling is about. The books tell you everything you need to know if you don't already know it. I've got nouns, earthquakes, and fractions down. That's easy. What's not easy is the drudgery. The day in, day out life of getting the work done. It's the hardcore parenting. There's no break. There's no village to help out. Nope. I've taken the challenge of preparing my children for adulthood by the horns. Some might think that sounds arrogant, and perhaps it is. Because I really think I can do this educating thing better than any school. Schools are great. Teachers are great. But no one is an expert on my kids like I am. And if the kings throughout history were educated by private tutors with an arguably lesser education than I have myself, then I think I have history on my side when I say homeschooling is the best choice for us. ;)

But then there's the drudgery. And the PRESSURE. If my kid grows up as dumb as a rock and fails to launch, who am I going to blame? I know my kids are intelligent so I can't blame genetics. So here's the deal. This year has been difficult. We started school in July of last year in preparation for a school year of 2 moves. I am tired. I keep waiting for the mental fatigue to go away, and it's just not. I've become even more absent-minded than I usually am. It's like I have new mommy fatigue without the baby to blame. A month and a half ago, I made some specific benchmark goals for school. If we couldn't get to finish line this year within my determined timeline, major changes would have to happen.

At this point, I can tell that we're not hitting the timeline like I needed to feel comfortable with continuing the way we've been doing things. Don't get me wrong. The kids are still fine with where they are. It's the overachiever inside of me that keeps beating up my heart. And my heart needs a break. SO....next year we're joining Classical Conversations again. It's getting me back to the basics of homeschooling. Classical Conversations will give me a set curriculum, schedule, and accountability.

This decision was particularly hard for me on a few levels. First, part of me is dealing with feelings of disappointment, failure, and shame. Either I can't do what I need to do (and I HATE to admit that I can't do something I think I should) or I won't do what I need to do (and that feels even worse). Either way, right or wrong, I'm dealing with those feelings. Pretending I'm not would just be lying to myself, and that never makes anything better. Over the weekend, I went to a homeschool convention. It was great! But every time I mentioned CC, I'd literally cover my face. My friend pointed it out to me in her gentle "I'm totally making fun of you" way that only she can.  I realized I had to deal with my shame issues quickly unless I wanted to spend the weekend being the butt of jokes. In a loving way of course. =)

Second, I like getting to choose what we study. I love learning. Everything we study is fascinating to me. Truly! I like looking through curriculum, choosing, and planning what we'll do over the next year. Giving that up hurts my heart a little bit. Instead, I will console myself with doing my own little research projects. I have list ready for me that I worked out during the homeschool convention. It includes Gregorian Chants, Russian history, and possibly morphology.  =)

Third, let's be honest. If you know anything about Classical Conversations, you know there's a certain mentality that "this is the only way to do things" among some of the groups. Most groups are WONDERFUL, but the couple of times I've met the kool-aid drinkers, well...let's just say that one had me sobbing in my bathroom, convinced I had failed my kids permanently because I'd quit CC.  I've matured enough to know that person is completely irrelevant in my life. Still, those kinds of experiences burn deep. I'd hate for other people to think that I'm like that. Then I remembered that I shouldn't care what people think (in that context) and need to suck it up to do what's best for my family. For the record, I am NOT a CC kool-aid drinker. I think it's a great program, and I can't wait to get started in the fall. I think there are lots of great programs and curriculum. No one program is going to be better for everyone. So there.

And there it is. I'm simplifying our homeschool. We are getting back to the basics of homeschooling for us. CC will free up brain space to teach the way I like to teach instead of getting caught up in the drudgery as much. I am not foolish enough to think this is a silver bullet. The same struggles will still be there day after day. However, I've given myself a very welcome helping hand. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One month post-move!

It's been a little over a month since I've been able to write anything. Unfortunately, our computer that as been struggling for months finally passed away between Charleston and Raleigh. Since we're also trying to figure out our new budget in a new city and new job, we thought the prudent choice would be to wait on a computer. So I'm writing on the laptop that refuses to type the letters "g" and "h".  I'm counting on spellcheck to fix everything. ;-)

So we've been in Raleigh for a month now. It's been quite an adjustment as we knew it would be. I have endearingly named our apartment The Shoebox. It's a tight squeeze, but it's turned out to be exactly what I asked for. Remember those goals for 2014? You know, getting back to basics? Top of the list was stuff and home. We moved into a 1000sq ft apartment, and I'm pretty sure they exaggerated on the size. There's no room for extra clutter. Really. Every single item we own needs its own space, or we'll be stepping on it. I've spent the last month sliding things around until I found the one exact spot that it fits. I'm not quite finished, but a collapsed closet threw off my schedule. I have to admit that I've done a better job of getting our home decorated and organized than I've ever done. Ever. It's easier to keep clean because I was forced to find a spot for every single item AND put those items away. I can't leave stacks of stuff out anymore because we use every single inch of space in this apartment. Basically, my shoebox has forced me into submission. Resistance is futile. I'm much less tempted to buy stuff when I know how tricky it will be to find a space for it.

goal number 2 was Food. Specifically, not eating out. Although we haven't been perfect, we have GREATLY improved!  I've been making a menu and following it. Following the menu was always the problem for me. I've been baking and cooking freezer meals to ward off any temptation to eat out. Let me tell you, after my first day of making pizza pockets for the freezer, I was not convinced that the result would be worth my time and effort, but I was so wrong. Spending a few ours over the weekend or an afternoon to make lunches as been a lifesaver. I don't have to think about what we're eating for lunch. I only have to grab 4 items out of the freezer, put them in the oven, and lunch is ready 30 minutes later. I say oven because we don't actually have a microwave. It's been a small adjustment but not nearly as hard as you might think. We didn't have one because it was provided in our previous apartment. I considered buying one, but I didn't really want to spend the money, plus I wasn't sure I could justify the counter space I'd be giving up. I'm sure we'll have a microwave again one day, but I've decided to live without it while we're in the shoebox.

So how is my back to basics agenda working out for me?  honestly, better than I expected. Moving to a new city and downsizing means I've cut my life to the basics already in many ways. We have no commitments pulling us in 5 different directions. We've cut out many of the distractions in our lives. I'm genuinely surprised at how much I've enjoyed doing the simple things like baking and cooking, playing with the kids. Over the last 3 years, I felt torn between work and home.  Kids, school, and family would get pushed to the back burner sometimes because they don't have pressing deadlines.  Now my attention isn't divided. I know myself well enough to know that this will NOT last, and I don't even think it necessarily should.  But for this slice of our lives, after all the moving, after being stretched in too many directions over the last few years, this is good. This is what we need.
   

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The afternoon I tried to take a nap.

I tried to take a nap yesterday. Kids interrupted my sleep for the past few nights plus that little thing called packing up my house was draining my energy. It was 4:02pm. I set my alarm for 4:45. This is what happened.

4:02- Set alarm and cover my head with my favorite nap blanket. Yes, I have a favorite nap blanket.

4:05- *BANG* *BAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAMBAM*   from upstairs, directly over my head. It's Kid #1 trying to pack up some of his room. I hope.

4:07- *BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP*  Kid #3 is coming down the stairs.

4:08- *tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap*
          Kid #3 is now tapping a stick on every hard surface he walks past.

4:11- Kid #1 walks into the room and stares at me. I pretend to be asleep. Kid walks away.

4:13- Kid #1 comes back and stares some more so I ask what he needs. It was something completely pointless and unrelated to me in any way.

4:16- I start to hear Kid #2's voice growing louder and more intense until I hear the words "I'M GOING TO TELL MOM!!!!!"  Followed by the 13 BAMS of her stomping down the stairs.  Honestly, I don't remember what this was about. I said something to fix it, that's all I know.

4:20- Kid #3 walks in and starts making random boy noises. Things like "PSHHHSPPPSSSHHH" and "GAH I GOT YOU!!!"  I make him leave.

4:23: Kid #2 returns, asks a question, and leaves.

4:28: A freaking SONG BIRD parks itself outside my window and starts singing. At this point, I look up and think to myself "God, is this Your way of telling me to get up and pack some more? Because I'd really like a short nap. Please."  The stupid bird flew away after about 5 minutes.

4:40- My phone rings. It's my husband wanting to know how my day is. That is such a dangerous question when I've just failed at taking a nap for the last 40 minutes.

4:45- My alarm goes off while I'm still talking on the phone.

Naptime over. Time to get up and pack the kids for grandma's house. 




Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: Getting Back to Basics.

After looking over my New Year's resolutions for the past couple of years, I realized that I need to stop that craziness because it's Just. Not. Working. Having completely failed at 3 of my 4 resolutions from last year, I've decided that resolutions are too limiting for a person with dreams as big as mine. ;) Therefore, I'm going with an overall goal or motto for my year. So for 2014, my motto will be Back to Basics.


Yes, I'm going back to the basics in a few different areas. In a world made to distract, entertain, and clutter our lives, I'm going to attempt to cut out the clutter and distraction and reach deep to find the things of most importance. What areas will I focus on this year?  Things. Food. Home. School. Spirituality for lack of a better word.

Things and home.  These two sort of go together.  I've ranted enough about stuff. We're moving in 2 weeks. I've already been purging. I purged some before we moved 3 months ago. I will continue to purge until we move, and I'll probably purge a little more as I unpack.  The physical clutter gives me mental clutter, and I am so over it. Throughout the year, I will ask myself if the thing I'm about to purchase is going to bless us or ultimately just become more clutter. Is it necessary? Really?  Because just because I can have something doesn't mean I really need to have that something.  For example, I threw away my electric can opener about a month ago because it wasn't working well. It was more trouble than a help. I started using my dinky hand held can opener that's better suited for camping, not every day use. I opted to buy a better hand help can opener with some Christmas money because it takes up less space, and I've already been exploring this whole back to basics mentality. So far, I'm pretty happy with my choice. =)   Along with things, I want to have a simple home, and to invite people to our home. No overly complex schedules and multi-colored charts detailing chores. No extravagant dinners and crazy last minute clean ups to have people over. People will come over and see what they see. Hopefully, they will see an uncluttered, comfortable home. =)

Food.  Ahhhh. Restaurants. I puffy heart LOVE them. After all this time, I haven't been able to give them up. Part of that is because the key to my eating at home success is routine and schedules (boring).  Our lifestyle was not conducive to routines, so whenever things changed up, we'd inevitably eat out. Once we move to Raleigh, our lives will finally be able to have a certain rhythm that will allow me to succeed. Eventually, even the life hiccups that will occur won't send me running to Papa Johns, Jersey Mikes, Arby's, Chick fil a, McAlister's Deli...  Plus, I already don't buy the overly processed convenience foods at the store so we'll be going completely back to whole foods, cleaner eating. It will be good. A difficult transition, but good.

 Homeschooling is its own industry. Books, curriculum, manipulatives, etc. We are a marketing demographic with guilt pushing our buying. I must buy this fabulous art program or else my child might miss out on art history and technique! If I don't teach it, who will?  Or this math program will better fit Kid #1's learning style; however, that math curriculum is better suited for Kid#2. Let's buy them both!  Yeah, that's what happens. It's pure craziness. I've fallen into that trap a few times although I think I've done pretty well navigating these shark infested waters.  As I finish up this school year, I will look over all those beautiful books with a more critical eye and get back to the basics of what I want my children's education to be. I have some great studies that just don't work for me. So they're going.

Finally, spirituality. Blech, I kind of hate that word because of what it's become. Obviously, I'm coming from a Jesus perspective. All the trappings of the American church have bothered me for quite awhile. I really want to peel away the colorful layers to get the meat of who I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing as a Christ follower. So for now, loud, blaring productions to induce a better worship experience are simply NOT for me. At corporate worship, I don't want the production, the branding, the songs I can hear on any radio station. This means NO Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Tom Petty, whatever. I don't want to hear it at church. I think we can do better.  The Psalms are IN YOUR FACE about God. I want music at corporate worship to be IN MY FACE about God.  Basically, I'm looking to get back to simple Bible study, eating together with my church family, singing songs about God in corporate worship, and serving in our city wherever the needs are. The rest can melt away. I don't need 5 different book studies that are polished, published, and marketed directly to me. I have the Bible. I can look for help and insight from the resources I already have and the people in my life that I trust.

So that's it. That's my plan for 2014. Getting back to basics in the most basic parts of my life.  We'll see how this goes!