The One where I Lay It ALL Out There

Summer is winding down, and everywhere we go, my kids get the question:

"Are you ready to go back to school?"

Then the inquisitor looks at me with a knowing look and a nod and says something like, "I bet you're ready for them to go back to school."

I don't think my kids are particularly unruly or misbehaved.  They do have a presence, after all, there are four of them, but I'm not sure why innocent conversationalists assume that I welcome and relish the time away from my kids that school provides.  

There was indeed a time when that Staples commercial rang true - you know the one:
 (Like it or not, that's brilliant advertising.)

I didn't always enjoy spending time with my kids.  It's the truth.  I love them all dearly as extensions of me, and as the gifts from God that they are, but there was a time in my life when they seemed like work.  And I didn't truly find joy from hanging out with them.  Maybe that was to blame on being an inexperienced, stressed-out parent, or maybe it was learning the ropes of infanthood/toddlerhood/preschool-hood, but I really and truly think it was because I didn't know how to spend time with them.

God brought me home in November 2010.  He dragged me here kicking and screaming when I got laid off from my not-at-all cushy, underpaid, grunt-work of a civil engineering job that I didn't really even love.  But, one thing I knew (or thought I knew) I did not want to be home. I spent hours per day searching for jobs outside the home - even considered going back to school to get an advanced degree.  Anything but being a stay-at-home mom.

I was terrified to death of being with my own children twenty-four hours a day.

Ouch.  The truth hurts.

Eventually, I figured out that my kids are pretty awesome.  I maintain that they're little sinners just like everyone else and everyone else's children (sorry if that comes as a shock to you - but your kids are little sinners too), but I'm not scared of being around them anymore.  This isn't to say I don't have moments when I need a break, and in those moments, Sam is awesome about recognizing my need to reset and calls me out on it, even if my pride gets in the way sometimes.  I'm truly blessed to have a husband who has never been afraid of his own children. 

Fast forward to now, approaching two years later.

In less than one week, our family will begin our newest adventure - homeschooling.

I've come a long way from doing anything I can to get away from these kids of mine...

It's amazing what you hear when you stop, wait patiently, and listen for instruction.  When I got laid off, I cried, went into a funk, and was determined to find a new, better job.  Well, I found one (being a stay-at-home mom).  It's not the one I would have picked, but it's one I've grown to love.  Now, I wouldn't trade it.  Little did I know that less than two years later, I'd receive a monumental promotion, of sorts.  And, to be honest, I did a little kicking and screaming before I decided that this was, indeed, what God was calling me to do.

I can tell you, while shaking in my boots, that I am nervous, excited, and terrified.  I'm confident in my ability to teach the subject matter.  I'm excited about the opportunity to teach the heart matters when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we arise.  And for all the gaps in my abilities, well, that's where I'll rely on the ultimate source of these abilities anyway:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31
I am anticipating the negativity I'll encounter when I go out to the grocery store in the middle of a school day.  I'm dreading the questions I'll get like, "Don't you think you're wasting your education?" and "Aren't the public schools good enough for you?" 

Since those have the makings of an entirely new post altogether, let me just say that our decision to homeschool our kids is a personal conviction that Sam and I have had.  It's not an indictment on the schools, or anyone else's choice to send their kids to any other institution of learning that they see fit.  This is not a judgment on anyone else.  We heard the call, and we are answering.  That's the best I can explain it.  I've chosen my own way more than a few times, but this time, we're choosing obedience.  

So, to answer the original question -

Yes, my kids are ready to go back to school.  And so am I.

Let's get this party started.

For those of you who might not have been along for the ride during which I decided to homeschool - here are a couple more posts on that:  


Of All the Outlandish...

Speaking of enjoying the jelly prints on the wall, we could tell that our first girl, Abby, was born with an unmatchable joie de vivre.  Whenever we're in the midst of something stressful, all it usually takes is a sentence or two out of Abby's mouth to lighten the mood.  She's off-the-wall, random, and hilarious.  And she doesn't even mean to be.  Sam mentioned the other day that he would love to be inside her head even for just a few moments.  I admit that she's enough not like me that the prospect of a trip into her brain is positively frightening.  She's footloose and fancy-free.  She dances at the first sound of music.  She is head over heels in love with baby Leah, and longs (already) to be a mother.  Someday she's going to be the best one ever.

In the meantime, we keep her around for our entertainment.  This week alone she's given me some quotable quotes - the ones that make me laugh, make me smile, and make me go "hmmmm..."

Oh, Abby, I love you, girl.

 (Even when you're taking aim at me with your water sprayer.)

Abby:  You know a great way to get into a car accident?
Me:  How, Abby?
Abby:  Steer really hard.

"I spilled some tea on your Bible, Mommy.  The one in the kitchen."

Oh.  That Bible.  Guess she knows how heavily I rely on that particular cookbook...

"Sarah wants a hot dog for lunch, but I want a corndog with no bread on it."

After dropping Ben off at day camp, the girls were sad because they weren't old enough to go (anytime there are inflatables that they don't get to play on, it's a sad day).  We went to Chick-Fil-A for some hash browns...their favorite.  I built it way up by saying, "While Ben is at camp, we get to have special treats like having tots!"  Abby's matter-of-fact reply?  "Mommy, camp is way more special than tots."

With a sigh she lamented, "I wish ponies were real..."

"But I'm five, and you're like thirty." (Actually, I'm not...but even if I were, don't say it like I've got one foot in the grave.)

"If I tell Leah about Jesus, I'll be a missionary." (Then I heard her whispering in her 4-month old sister's ear.)

While there are about a thousand ways that Abby and I are different from each other, the main one is that she is completely, totally, 100% secure in who she is.  She is confident.  And I have so much to learn from this skinny blond five year old.

(Who is not even afraid to take on much older children in a sack race.)

After the most amazing year in Pre-K, we told Abby that we were going to homeschool her for kindergarten.  I didn't know what her reaction would be.

She made it easy on me.  She was thrilled.  In fact, so thrilled, that she told everyone she saw - the lunch lady in the primary school cafeteria, the dental hygienist who cleaned her teeth, the cashier at McDonalds, her Pre-K teacher..."Mommy's going to be my teacher next year!  I'm going to school at home!" 

And me, being me, I kept shushing her and telling her she didn't have to tell everyone.  After all, I was (and am) still wrapping my brain around the whole idea.  I've been led to this place, and I've obeyed, but I still have to get beyond my own misconceptions and fear of what people will think of me before I start broadcasting it.  If they ask, I might tell them, but I'm not going to volunteer the information.

Finally, Abby turned to me and said, "What?  I'm just excited you're going to be my teacher.  What's so bad about that?"


The answer is "nothing."  There's nothing bad or wrong about it.  What's wrong is...me.
What will keep you from doing much good — is caring too much what others think. ~Ann Voskamp
It's the perfect parallel to how I am about sharing my faith.

"But I don't want to feel uncomfortable, or make other people feel uncomfortable, or have to defend my positions or beliefs, or feel attacked."

It's all part of the territory.  Guess I need to get over it.

Thank you, Lord, for Abby and her boldness, for her childlike faith and her unjaded spirit.  And, God, please help me to be more like her.  I know that you have called me to homeschool my children.  Please fill me with the confidence I need, daily.  But even more importantly, give me the confidence to share Jesus without fear.  Thank you.

Advice for New Moms

When you're in the throes of becoming a mom for the first time, people suddenly feel it is their responsibility to barrage you with advice.  Most of it is of the unsolicited variety.  I'm talking like 99% of it. That doesn't mean it's not good advice.  Some of it is.  But if you're like me, you prefer to figure things out on your own and you don't like advice unless you ask for it...which is usually only after trying your own way, doing an exhaustive amount of research, and still not coming to an acceptable solution. 

Here's what I've found - when it comes to kids, there's good advice and bad advice aplenty.  Good people often give bad advice.  No two children are alike, save for the fact that they're all sinners.  So, expecting the same methods to work on each and every child is, well, a little idyllic.  However, in the interest of finding what works, you need to collect as much advice as you possibly can, store it up in that brain of yours, and when the time comes to try something different, retrieve it and put it into practice.

At my first-ever baby shower, I received a little spiral-bound notebook full of anecdotes and snippets of advice from my mother-in-law's good friends.  At the time, I remember reading it, and because I was young and arrogant, thinking, "Psshhh, whatever."  I stowed it in a drawer in the nursery and forgot about it.

That was in 2003.

Last month, I was cleaning out the aforementioned drawers when I stumbled upon the aforementioned spiral-bound notebook.

It is now 2012, and I am a mother of four precious blessings.  Over the course of nearly nine years, I went from rejecting advice to craving it.  I moved from dismissing the old-fashioned way of doing things to embracing it.  And as I prepared to thumb through the little notebook, I excitedly anticipated what I would read inside.

It did not disappoint.


This one makes my heart smile...our kids have been exposed to books since birth, practically, and by golly, they love to read.

And my personal favorite - 

I never imagined it would be possible to enjoy those moments.  Nine years later, let me tell you...

It is.  

(Okay, so those are chalk prints on the window...but it's the same idea.  And I love them.)
And now it's time for my own advice for new moms, in case anyone cares. These are the things no one told me, and if they did, I sure don't remember.

1.  Plain old Gerber cloth diapers work best as burp cloths.  Those cute ones that feel soft?  Useless.
2.  Breastfeeding is God's gift to women.  Yes.  But it's hard.  To be one of the most natural things on the planet, it feels so incredibly unnatural to start with.  It does hurt at first (I don't care what the books and lactation consultants say).  But give it a month, and you'll be glad you toughed it out.  I can almost promise that.
3.  If you want to take your newborn to the grocery store and actually buy groceries, I recommend the Moby Wrap (or Boba Wrap).  If you're wearing your baby, you can fit groceries into your car without having to pile toilet paper, diapers, and fresh vegetables on top of the carseat carrier.  It sounds like that would be fun, but it's not.  Really.
4.  The singing advice above really works.  If your baby is screaming, sing to them.  If your baby is happy, sing to them.  If they look like they're somewhere between contentment and a fit of rage, sing to them.  Even if you're terrible at singing.  (Babies are tone deaf anyway.)
5.  Clean water in the eyes will not kill your baby.  If they hate bathtime, press on.  Getting them used to water in the face will only benefit you later on, and prevent you from having a seven year old who still refuses to get water in their eyes (not that I have personal experience with that or anything......).
6.  Stop looking sideways.  It does not matter what Janet or Kelly or Melissa is doing with their baby.  You are your child's mom.  And your baby is lucky to have you.
7.  Sleep is important, but you're not going to get a lot at first.  Even if you nap when baby naps (but let's face it, no one does).  It's okay to have a cup of coffee every once in a while if you need it.  This won't kill your baby either.

Because I'm so "wise" I'm sure I could give lots more unsolicited advice, but what would that make me?  Oh yes.  One of those people I used to complain about.  I've come full circle, haven't I?

What's your favorite bit of advice for new moms?  
You know you have some!  

For now, I'll spare new moms my list above, and just go with the jelly prints one.  That's the best advice ever got...


Freedom! (Just say it like William Wallace...you know you want to.)

I don't know what it was like to be one of the revolutionaries who fought so hard for our country's independence 236 years ago.  I do know that the amount of foresight and wisdom our founding fathers had was incredible.  To think that mere men could write such timeless words as these from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
The writers of this document were fed up with the oppression and tyranny of a foreign government with which they had no representation, no voice.  They fought long and hard to defend the rights that they felt we, as humans, are born with.

Rights are a tricky subject.  To me, the whole "rights" thing has gotten out of hand.  I don't know that half the things we claim and fight for in the court of law are actually rights, but more like preferences and personal agendas.  I think I have a right to a good parking space, a profanity-free trip to the hotel pool, and a discount at Dunkin' Donuts even when I forget my coupon because I'm just that faithful of a customer.  But those are not rights.  Those are wishes or maybe demands.  To sum up, wishes, demands, preferences, and personal agendas are not the same as rights.  At the end of the day, I don't know how best to sum up the definition of a "right" other than to say it's a man-made construct that attempts to claim our natural, God-given entitlements.

Freedom is a little easier for me to wrap my brain around.  From the beginning of creation, God gave man freedom.  We are free to make our own choices.  We are free to be smart, and free to be stupid.  We are free to uphold the law, and free to break the law and suffer the consequences.  His mistake, maybe, because when faced with the choice between right and wrong, doggone it, we're going to screw it up.  That's just our human sin nature.  (Just a joke, folks, God doesn't make mistakes, but I know he has grieved over our behavior, just like any parent.)

Freedom in the United States is more than a patriotic buzzword, it's a blessing from God.  It's a gift given to us by the founding fathers, and secured daily for us by our armed forces and leaders.  Going down that list of freedoms in the First Amendment, we have been given the ability to worship freely, gather together, protest against the establishment, to speak freely, and write about and read news in the press that has not been influenced by the government.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most Americans take these basic freedoms for granted daily, myself included.

No matter how awesome our military is (and they are awesome), there is one freedom they simply cannot secure for us.

Despite the warm fuzzy notion that we are all inherently good, man has proven from the beginning that we  choose poorly.  Apart from God, we are slaves to sin.  With God, we are granted freedom that surpasses even those we're afforded in the United States.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  Romans 6:17-18

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:32

That's the ultimate freedom.  Jesus is the strongest ally.  July 4th is the day America celebrates its independence.  The day you decide to let Jesus be your Savior?  That's your Independence Day.  

Jesus was sent to proclaim freedom for the captives (Isa. 61:1), won't you claim that freedom today?

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