Ready, Set, School!

We are on Day 4 of our school year, which means I am already completely overwhelmed, feeling ill-equipped, and noticing that my entire house is in shambles (even worse than the norm). Honestly, I'm beginning to think this is where I have to be as a "teacher" for this thing to work. Because I *cannot* do it on my own. Praying for God's grace to cover my inadequacies and for my children to thrive in spite of me. How can I pray for *you* today, friends?
I posted this on my blog's humble Facebook page last Thursday.  It was a day not unlike any of the others.  I woke up, optimistic that things would go perfectly, hopeful that the 484 approximate items on the to-do list (that I no longer officially write down because it stresses me out too much) would all miraculously get checked off, knowing full well that these types of thoughts only cause things to derail faster than usual.

I tried a new thing this year.  We began school before I was "ready."  I didn't clean the entire house first.  I didn't organize the playroom/school room and take a cute picture of it on the first day.  I didn't even have all of the curriculum yet.  It'll be a soft start, I said to myself.  We'll ease in.  Grace is the theme of the year.  I am trying to shed this "all or nothing" mentality that I've worn like a hair shirt for my entire life.  I have to tell you, after 30 years, it doesn't come easily.  But I'm trying.

It's messy.  It's imperfect.  We're already "behind" on some things, and ahead on others.  But...BUT, it's working.  They are learning.  Willingly, on occasion.  And even though I'm a frazzled, discombobulated mess, they are making it.  The dishes accumulate faster than I can wash them.  The floor, which really ought to be clean right now so that creeping and crawling Noah won't locate every speck and eat it, is hopelessly dirty.  The clean laundry pile is only discernible from the dirty laundry pile based on its location on the laundry room floor, and they are both about to earn their own zip codes.  But...BUT, it doesn't matter.  At least, it doesn't seem to matter...to the kids.

On the docket this year, we've got the usual suspects - History, Grammar, Reading, Math, Writing, Latin, Piano, Handwriting, and Science.  Then we've a few new ventures - Spanish and Guitar.  We're tracking all progress with monthly sticker charts, from the ten year old boy to the five year old girl.  This is the first year we're schooling three kids.  And while it's no doubt going to be tough, it's not insurmountable.  Because, well, God.

There are several things I've vowed to incorporate into my thoughts and my heart this school year:

When I get proud and take credit for my kids successes, I need to remember the glory goes to God.  I'm just a proctor.

When I feel ashamed by their behavior, I need to remember we are all sinners from birth and this is not a reflection on me, but a fallen world.  Plus, there's always grace.

When I feel inadequate, I need to remember that God hand-picked me to be the mother to these children, not the fun-mom on Pinterest, not the together mom at the grocery store, not the pretty mom at the nail salon.  Me.  These kids are my responsibility, my gift, if only for a very little while.

When I get frustrated and angry and overwhelmed, I need to remember my blessings.  Count it as joy.  Because oh my goodness, I don't even know what it is to suffer.  I don't know what it means to truly be afraid.  Or hurt.  Or even overwhelmed.  Seriously.

Sometimes I like to think I'm clever enough to come up with ingenious phrases like, "Though it be madness, yet there is method in it."  But then I realize, William Shakespeare I am not.  So instead I resort to taking pictures of my kids doing wacky things, captioning said photos, and calling it a blog post.  This is what I've done to the art of writing.  And that, my friends, is how I'm going to wrap up this one.  Here's the soft opening of our 2014-2015 school year, pictorial edition:

The most frequent question I'm posed regarding homeschooling is, "What do you do with the little ones all day?"  I could write an entire post about this.  It wouldn't contain advice.  It would simply be example after example of them getting into mischief because they are given license to "explore" while we are schooling.  Aside from babyproofing the best we can, we count on the natural bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood to carry us through the day.  Of course, that often looks like this, and may include big sisters sitting on babies, babies pulling hair, sisters throwing things at babies to get a reaction out of them, babies eating school work...whatev -

And then there are those times where the two year old disappears for literally less than one minute only to reappear looking like this (that's diaper cream, folks - it doesn't wash off) -

The day our public schools started back, we took a trip to the "big city" of Macon to do some geocaching, our newest, fun, and practically free (except for gas) hobby.  We hit 100 finds that day.  So, I had to take some pictures and I'm even including a rare "treat" - one of me and Noah, who was quit literally along for the ride.  Yes, that's me attempting to hide my ample belly fat with my forearm.  Mission unsuccessful.  But, on a related note, when I told the nurse the other day at a dr's appointment how much I weighed, she said, "You DO?!  I guess your height helps you carry it well."  So, I took that as a compliment and I'm cutting myself a tiny bit of slack because, five babies.  I keep promising I'll start exercising again soon.  In all of my spare time.  Did I mention it's taken me a full week to write this one post?  Now you know.  Oh right, geocaching pictures.  Geez, girl can go on a tangent.

We have settled into a sort of frantic groove in the past week.  Still figuring things out.  It's always chaos at best to start with, methodic madness, for sure.  Our little homeschoolers are marching to the beat of their own drums, just like weird, unsocialized homeschoolers do.

Like when Leah insisted on wearing swim wings and goggles...to the SPLASH PAD at a Fun Friday homeschool gathering last week.

Or when Abby insisted she could concentrate on her math better in Noah's highchair.

I started homeschooling for my kids.  Because for a lot of different reasons we felt like it was the right thing to do for our family.  What I didn't realize was that it would impact me far more than I imagined.  Every single facet of my sin nature is challenged every moment of the day.  It's all out on the table and I spend most of my time asking for grace, not doling it out.

This is my attempt at honesty and transparency.  I'm cranky and I'm tired and I feel like I'm doing a downright lousy job, but I know that's just something the Master of Lies would have me believe.  So, in the interest of everyone else in my household, I'm off to bed.  Before I end up pulling one of these numbers in my comfy, green chair -

Even still I might have to get me one of these shirts.  Leah and I are two peas in a pod in the crabby department.

Until next time, when I'm hopefully past the frantic, overwhelmed stage and I can report to you in coherent connected thoughts.  Haha, good joke, right?  I can't do that on my best days!  Blessings, friends!!!!  Hope you're all doing great!!!

The Power of Staying Positive

Have you ever known someone who is just an all-in-all blessing to be around?  Positivity, folks.  It's not my strong suit.  (Though, I do think I deserve a little bit of credit for not being a complete pessimist these days.)  Let me take this opportunity to brag a little on someone who has had an outright tough time for the past several months.  Because this chick rocks.

This time last week, I received news that a dear friend of mine, Cindy, had been admitted to the hospital (again!) for various complications in her pregnancy with twins.  The poor woman had been suffering with hyperemesis since day one.  If you aren't aware, this is not your run-of-the-mill morning sickness.  It's morning sickness on steroids.  All day.  To the point of not being able to ingest fluids, running the risk of dehydration, and landing you in hospital, despite being on 24/7 anti-nausea meds.  It's bad, bad stuff.  You wouldn't have known it to talk to Cindy though.  She is always matter-of-fact about it, and not one, single time did I hear her utter a complaint or negative word, which, to me, is pretty incredible considering I complain pretty much non-stop, even when I'm not pregnant, and I'm certain I have no justification for any of it.  

Knowing that the doctors had been closely monitoring the developments in her health and the babies' conditions, we moved her baby shower up from Friday, August 8 to Friday, August 1, just to be "sure" the babies wouldn't arrive before we could shower them with some gifts.  Turns out, Cindy just really didn't want to hang out with me and the rest of the gals and went and got herself checked in to the hospital the day before.

There I was, lamenting the fact that I wasn't getting my much-anticipated night out with the gal pals, when we decided we'd take (at least some of) the party to her.  A handful of us were going to run up there Friday night to lift sweet Cindy's spirits.  As I texted back and forth with her to make sure she was up for company, I received this text:

"Well... The doctors have tested and evaluated, and today is Philip and Emily's birthday. Please pray for healthy deliveries by doctors with steady hands and awesome NICU nurses to take care of my babies."

Whoa.  Suddenly my girls night out seemed incredibly insignificant.  I have to tell you that not many things make you drop to your knees faster than the impending arrival of 27 week old twins.  We may not have been able to shower Cindy and her babies with gifts that day, but we definitely covered them in prayer.  It was one of those times I felt so helpless.  I wanted to do something.  To make everything okay.  

That's when it occurred to me.  Those prayers.  Those were the gifts.  In a situation like that, where there is absolutely nothing that we can do but pray?  It's not a last resort.  It's the first and only option.  It's the most powerful tool in my toolbox.  Not because I think we get what we want when we pray, but because God speaks to us, reveals Himself, calms us, conforms our will to His when we pray.

I was blessed to be able to talk to Cindy late that night after she safely delivered both of those precious babies.  I had hoped that in some way I might offer some encouragement or wisdom or cheer to her.  Pretty sure I failed at that.  I asked her, "Were you able to see the babies?"  She replied, "No, but I will tomorrow afternoon."  And after I offered my feeble, but sincere "sorry about that," she replied, "It's okay.  I look at it like this - most people don't get to see their babies until 40 weeks.  I get to see mine at 27."  See what I mean?  This is a glass is half-full woman.  She pulled the positivity number four or five more times in that same conversation, finding God's provision and protection in every facet of the events leading up to and during the delivery of those babies.  I began that phone call a nervous wreck, knowing I had no words to offer Cindy.  I hung up feeling like a million bucks after receiving encouragement from a woman who just hours before delivered twin babies at 27 weeks.  This is what a woman who dwells with the Spirit looks and sounds like, folks.  

I won't tell the story here because it's not mine to tell, but mostly because Cindy is so daggone good at telling a story!  (Go visit her, will you?  She'd love it!)  What I will tell you is that I'm blessed to know her.  And I will also ask that you keep her, Todd, their four year old, and the babies in your prayers.  Pray that the babies will grow stronger and healthier with each passing day, that Cindy can recuperate quickly and completely, and that Todd will have the fortitude to take care of them all. 

Thanks, y'all.  Remember to recognize your blessings.  I know Cindy does!  Life is so much better viewed through the lens of God's provision.  It's not just optimism.  It's hope.

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