Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

 

      Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday of the year. There's nothing better than gathering together with friends and family for the sole purpose of gratitude. I love looking back over the year, seeing the faces around the table and realizing all of the experiences and journeys each person has taken since we had last sat down at the Thanksgiving meal. Some changes are obvious while other are internal. There is no guarantee that each story is "happy", with a perfect ending, but there's no doubt that God is at work in each life and the footprints of his faithfulness can be realized. 

 Happy thanksgiving to all! Here's a few snapshots of our various 2013 festivities. Get ready for picture overload.

According to Lydia, "Pie is art."



The fruit of our labor




Oldest and Youngest. The bestest of friends.

Lydia and Joseph

My baby girl, Rebekah.

Smile!
Oh, my.
Youngest girls and friends:)

Getting ready for the Turkey Shoot

Cousins. Just a slight family resemblance.

Black Friday window shopping

Aunt Julie and Levi

Barbara adoring the noodles
Cousins. Wow.

V and Chris

Doing the post dinner dance

Betty Gobble sporting the boa.

Egg Launch success

Vanessa, like the guard in the wizard of Oz:)

I think this about sums us up

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grace

I remember distinctly a few years ago really struggling with letting other people invest in my children. We have always been surrounded with loving grandparents and supportive family, so I always felt that we had just the perfect situation.

Perhaps it had to do with being a home school family for 13 years before really branching out and sending the children out "on their own". (I'm using that term loosely.) We definitely were not the homeschoolers that never went out or denied our kids opportunities. Our kids have always been active outside the home, but I always cringed just a bit inside when one of the kids made a new "best" friend or became involved in an activity outside of my reach.

Writing that down makes me sound ridiculous, I realize, but truly for such a long time their world was my world and vice versa. That was our reality. But, as it must be, they've grown. Now it seems I have to schedule a time with my highschoolers to "hang out" with them. It's been a series of letting go little by little and really trusting in God to be their guide and teaching me to remain consistent and not to allow my insecurities to micromanage them.

The other night, one of our daughters, Hannah, was desperate to talk with me after school. She retold of how the mom of her best friend  had called her into the at school (she works there) and through tears apologized. This is a family that welcomes Hannah to their dinner table several times a month, has her over to study and takes her on family outings. The entire family has expressed such genuine hospitality and love towards her. She had been over to their house a few weeks ago and witnessed a conflict that had occurred in the family. Nothing terrible, just one of those moments that we all have when we are trying to get out the door on time. It happens that our daughter since that particular night has been very busy and not been around them much.

This dear mom was convicted by the whole situation and was concerned that Hannah's absence was because of this scene (which she barely remembers by the way). She had prayed about it and wrestled with it and out of love for our daughter felt the need to confess and set things right. With tears she confessed all of this and asked for forgiveness. What an impacting moment, one that she will never forget.

Wow. What a blessing to know that Hannah has a woman such as this to look to. What a confirmation to me that God is using others to affect her and teach her about relationships outside our immediate family. I see the Lord's goodness and realize that I can loosen my grip a bit more. He's got her.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Changing Seasons

Life is good. Life is full. Life is ever changing. I think that about sums it up. Having an upperclassman, a first grader and everything in between fills our days with lots of activity and lots of different areas of growth and change.  Each day is a gift.  I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Our yearly family picture at the park.  
Here's some of past pictures- 2006, 2007, 2008,
Not all of them are posted to the blog, I'll have to dig the and see if I can find more. 

I've been loving to spend more time with Elizabeth and getting to know her better now that she's the "oldest" at home during the day. 

 This pretty much sums up how they feel about their dad. 


This is how they "normally" act. 


Hannah, almost 17.  
This is a retake of the same pose a few years ago. Interesting to see the changes. 
That's John. Still working on smiling;)

Lydia enjoys being the life of the party. 
The Ninja among us. 

Always the daddy's girl and he loves it. 

Alike in so many ways. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Little Blessings

January 11, 2013    

      I'm trying REALLY hard to be disciplined in my spending.  In October I put myself on a pretty strict budget for our consumable items. $125 a week for grocery/household purchases. $80 a week for gas for our two vehicles and $20 spending money on whatever (this usually spills over into grocery spending or going out to eat.) When people hear this they usually gasp in disbelief.  Is it easy? Not always, but it is possible.
      I have become quite proficient at being able time the manager's specials at our local Kroger: Monday-Bread, Wednesday- Meat, Friday- produce, dairy and dry goods. I only go to the store once a week, so I try to alternate the days so I can stock up and those $.25/ loaf breads or those 40% off packages of meat and stick them in the freezer for the following month.
      I've also started using coupons again. It's by far a tedious task that I often assign to my children to organize, but it really is worth it in the end, especially on toiletries and household goods. Since I'm not at all brand loyal, coupons make all the difference. I've been tracking my coupon saving for a while and usually save $50 a month using them. Worth the time? Maybe not, but that is 10% of my monthly budget, so I'll take it. I hope to get more proficient this year with coupons, but only have limited time to devote to them.
     Perhaps my favorite way to save is by shopping at a scratch and dent grocery downtown. They have a large variety of items that changes regularly.  The large majority of it is organic and all natural grocery items. They also carry gluten free convenience foods and mixes for a fraction of the regular cost.  It's a half an hour drive and I inevitably get lost every single time, but I always come home two hours later thankful for the blessing of such a valuable resource for our family.
    Just to show you the value.  Today I took the kids and purchased all these items for $94:

  • Three boxes of all natural fishy crackers (12 indiviually wrapped packages in each)
  • 2 gluten free pancake mixes
  • 6 boxes of gluten free mini chocolate chip cookies
  • 20 small lunch sized bags of kettle chips
  • 20 frozen Bosco breadsticks
  • 12 frozen ball park microwave bun/hotdogs
  • 1 huge can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 2 bags of pumpkin granola
  • 3 boxes of kashi instant oatmeal
  • 2 bags of huge chipotle sandwich wraps
  • 4 bags of small soft tortilla shells
  • 6 boxes of organic chicken broth
  • 3 boxes of Little Debbie Snack Cakes
  • 6 pounds of organic no salt butter
  • 2 bags of candy
  • 2 boxes of wine crackers
  • 2 boxes of Glutino crackers
  • 2 boxes of Hodgkin's Mills organic 
  • 2 boxes of tea
  • 4 boxes of Starbucks mini vanilla scones
  • 3 bags of organic corn tortilla chips
  • 2 bags of gluten free soft tortilla
   Yes, a lot of these are convenience foods, but they are saving me a bundle.  We pack around 20 lunches a week.  I figure that if I would go and buy all this at regular price I would spend well over $500.  I thank God for little blessing such as these that continually remind me of His provisions for our every day lives. 
   If you live in the Indy area check out Angelo's.  Trust me, it's worth the trip. 


Friday, January 4, 2013

Be all there

January 2, 2013

I spent a few hours this morning at a Starbucks talking with a friend about the challenges of homeschooling, training, chores, various curriculum, special needs, expectations, challenges....  I'm often drawn into these conversations and remember clearly the years when I would wake up in a sweat and seriously question whether or not I was doing the best for my children in homeschooling. After trying not to hyperventilate, I would attempt to fall asleep praying, but not often having even the right words to express my heart.

I'd like to assure you that it's going to be alright. A child which is provided with one-on-one instruction every day for school in their elementary years and allowed to read to their heart's content is going to get what they need to succeed. Being by their side, you are going to see the missing gaps of understanding. You are going to have plenty of time for them to master what they need to know. You are forming and shaping their character by daily living it out before them even though you don't have the hour you had hoped to focus on that character building lesson or read three chapters of the Bible.   They are watching. They are learning.  They are getting it, even though you don't see the end product right now.  

What's the key?
Be there. Be all there.
Not on your phone.
Not paying bills.
Not cooking dinner.
Not reading facebook.
Not sending texts.
Not watching the clock.
Not serving the curriculum's schedule or demands.
Not checking boxes.

This is easier said than done. Life is hectic and overwhelming. Without multitasking how is it all ever going to get done? I'm guilty of doing each of these things (well, not the texting, I still haven't taken the leap there) and done a great disservice to children in doing so. When school time is focused on me, then they suffer. 

More than that, there are countless opportunities each day when the books are closed that growth and development are in full swing. No, I never had the time to go through a character development curriculum with them despite all good intentions. I never had the ability to take the kids to the craft classes at the library.  I used to feel major guilt and remorse about this until the day I realized that each moment at home is that opportunity. Embrace these moments before they pass.

What's the key?
Let them follow you around.
Let them ask "why?"
Let them try to do something hard or beyond their years, even if it's not perfect.
Let them hear about how you are not perfect, mistakes you've made. 
Let them get their hands dirty and make a mess.
Let them listen to you tell stories.
Let them see you listening to their stories. Stop what you're doing and look them in the eye.
Let them hear "yes" (especially when it involves making a mess)
Let them pretend and take the leading role once in a while.
Let them talk.  Ask them questions about themselves. Then ask them more questions until they run out of words to say. 
Let them follow through with an idea, even if it's an inconvenience. 

Certainly each child has their quirks and very unique challenges to learning and life.  Some are quite evident and others not so much.  I couldn't speak wisdom into much of what my friend was sharing, but one thing was clear. This mom was passionate about her son.  She's going to figure this out and he's going to thrive under her loving care. The amazing thing is that God has specifically given each child to each mom to teach, mold and shape in only the way she can.   Mom and kids- we were made for each other.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

I found myself with big tears running down my face this morning when John climbed up into my lap for an extended morning hug. I think I could have held on forever. As his sweet little hands patted me on the back again and again, my mind was turning over and over again of the realness and magnitude of God's grace and His expression of it  in everyday life.

Not every day is exciting and some are just plain hard. Not every struggle or conflict is instantaneously overcome, most are, in fact, painful. Not every moment is full of success, but time marches on and there's another opportunity to try it yet again.  In the midst of all that can be tiring and rigorous and stretching in the dailiness of life, grace does abound.

God is at work.  He gives comfort, companionship, answers, endurance, provision, direction....His presence.


He's given us a table and food for it day by day.




He's given me these seven children, each individual, each with their own unique lives, to teach me more about how to serve and pour out unconditional love.  And when I think I have nothing left to give, God supplies what is needed for me to be their mom. Each day with them is a gift.




He's given me a soul mate who loves me through each day and never stops leading even when it's tough.




He's given me support through my big crazy family who are always there to help at a moment's notice offering a prayer, a practical help, a cup of tea or just a word of encouragement.



He's given me parents who continue to love and support me even at age 40 and He's provided them a home now in their semi-retirement only 10 minutes away.


He's given me life long friends and special times away to reconnect and be refreshed.




He's given me Christian fellowship and the faithful teaching of His Word week by week which remind me and teach me again the sure promise of salvation.





He's given me health and time to enjoy to the beauty found even in the smallest things.





With the abundance of His Grace I am overwhelmed.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not about me

Okay, seriously?  Where did this school year go?  It's been a busy and full nine months.  Two kids in school.  Five kids in homeschool.  Deadlines.  Activities.  Games.  Projects.  Successes.  Disappointments.  Failures.  Frustrations.  Firsts. Transparency. Breakthroughs.  Laughter.  Secrets.  Togetherness.  Tension.  Hugs.  Life. 


There is not one word that could sum all that I've learned this school year.  Yes, I did finally master all of the states and capitals and can now diagram about any sentence you put in front of me.  (Even homeschool moms have a lot to learn.)  My real growth, however,  has been in  realizing that being a mom isn't all about me. 


I've spent many hours on my knees these past months just begging the Lord for wisdom.  Where do we set the boundaries?  How can I respond in love, yet with the truth?  What do I do with my own fears of failure? How do I  face of the reality of the fragility of our teens?  


In a few short years, they will be out on their own.   What will our relationship be when that day comes?  


I believe that the answer to that questions has to do with my responses, words and actions towards them today.  They aren't young children to be micromanaged, dressed up in matching clothes, scolded and set aside for bad behavior, expected to silently nod or perform for others at a moment's notice. 


No, they are young women.  Thinking, growing, ever changing young women who are formulating their beliefs about who they are, what they believe and who the will ultimately love and serve.  Their journey is their own.  


Though, their struggles and triumphs really aren't a reflection of me as a mom,  I've come to realize that I still play an important role.  I'm neither in the center of it, nor am I a just on the sidelines.  My position is precarious and confusing.   I have learned (by default, I might add) that my slightest reactions, words, or actions speak volumes into their lives.  My availability to listen empathetically when I'm tired or frustrated,  my willingness to engage them through conversation when I would rather lecture, my commitment to follow through with discipline with a heart of discipleship.... these will cultivate the young women emerging before my eyes. 


God, give me the grace to realize every day that it's not about me.