Go Slay All the Dragons That Stand in Your Way

Friday, August 26, 2022


Feels like old times sitting down to a laptop, a cup of coffee, and a chill in the air. I started blogging when we lived in Alaska and I was by myself a lot. The darkness felt constant in the winter with the sun not even fully rising around 10am and horizontally moving a bit before it dipped right back down before 2pm. I've known isolation before. I've known lonely. Jordan was away from our little cabin in the woods a lot in those days. It was just me and some dogs (and the moose that visited our yard weekly). 

Recently, I told some friends that I googled "midlife crisis" and while it's a bit funny, it's also true. A few weeks ago when school was starting up in Tennessee, I was at such a low point that I was trying to determine how fast I could drive home with the kids and enroll them back in their public school they attended years ago. There was a picture that popped up in my memories lately that was of my sister, my best friend, and me plus all our little babies walking into the school to sign the oldest kids in for pre-k. I remember wishing that I could just drop off like all the other students instead of unbuckling my four kids under six and maneuvering across traffic to get them in, but every day I saw my sister, my bestie, my nephews and niece, and a whole host of people who were truly for my children as I walked inside. I had help. I had community. People did life with me. It's hard to re-create that when we move somewhere new. In the military, we had built in community. It's small enough that we almost always knew someone else that was stationed at the same place. If not, we were in similar circumstances with new folks and could jump right into friendships because we all knew the value of time.

This mountain we're on now looks beautiful from your point of view because you see what I share. I share the lovely- the pictures of freshly fallen snow, brilliant wildflowers, the Snow White- like yard where deer come up to our deck daily,  National Parks people wait their whole lives to be able to see, etc. I don't show when I can't drag myself from the bed because I miss my people. I don't show how the house falls into disarray because I'm trying to balance motherhood, homeschooling, marriage, fitness, attending the largest laundry mountain you've ever seen, and all the other things that I try to manage. The mountain can be isolating, though and sometimes this beautiful gift we've been given to live in the Rockies feels more like a prison. I don't share that because even reading the sentence back in my head feels icky. We GET to do this.

I'm writing all this out so you know- life isn't perfect for anyone. In the past, people have shared with me that they don't like who I portray online. I can't really help that. I don't pretend to be perfect or have the perfect life, but I do share what I think will make you smile when you see it. It's hard to listen to someone complain all the time and that's not what I want to see or share when I pick up my phone.
Instead of a midlife crisis that I'm going to try really hard not to have (ha!), I've determined that perhaps I just feel unmotivated. I've always done something every year or been working toward something big every year and I don't have that right now. One year it was- "I'm going to start homeschooling!" Or "I'm going to run a marathon!" And another and another. Then, I was so focused on the adoption. Now that everyone is under one roof, I feel unfocused on something/anything I can do for me and my mental health. I know this is just a stage and it's quite likely I would've been bored in Tennessee right now, too. The beauty of this stage and the value of life-long learning that we're trying to instill in our kids is that we have time right now to learn something new, to explore places we've never been, and develop the mental grit it takes to get through difficult times. The freedom I feel in that grounds me. Whether it's getting through deployments, navigating life with kids who have extra needs, moving for the millionth time, completing an international adoption, or figuring out life with five children- it's going to be okay. Life is still good. Hard but not without hope. 
"Take a few chances, a few worthy romances
Go swimming in the ocean, on New Year's Day
Don't listen to the critics
Stand up and bear witness
Go slay all the dragons that stand in your way"
(-Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors)

Your school choice is not a moral one.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The aspen leaves are twinkling as they do with the slight breeze that's blowing my hair and the sun shield I'm sitting underneath. The mountain is warm today. I woke up around seven a.m. having pre arranged the coffee to start with the push of a button, making it easier to head straight to the front porch to enjoy my morning sugar and beans. The baby slept in a bit so after my coffee I decided it was late enough in the morning to go out for a run. I try to avoid early mornings and evenings because of the mountain lions and more recently we've had bear activity so I've stayed closer to home. It was a quick run, but it gave me about twenty minutes to think and what I was thinking about was school choice, of all things.

I'm not entirely shy about discussing how difficult this transition to Colorado has been for me. My aim is to be positive with the opportunities we've been given, but I told my husband last week that I just want something easy for once. Easy is the comfort of our Tennessee roots to me. Not only did we grow up there, we've spent the last seven and a half years there. I knew what to expect. I knew who I could call on on dark days. I had therapies and doctors in order there. I had a homeschool community.

It's different here and when I tearily explained to my mom last week, 'I just need some help', she didn't chastise me for homeschooling in the first place OR discourage public schooling. She just listened and said she was supportive in whatever I would choose for our family. That is so incredibly rare to hear. I have a few friends that I can talk to about it and they reiterate that sentiment, too, both public school teachers & parents, private school parents, and fellow homeschooling mamas.

The thing is, we all bring our personal experiences and opinions to the table and some people feel so strongly one way or another that they can't help but spout off what they think. On the flip side, we can hold so strongly to those convictions, we can begin to think the other side is doing it wrong.

I'm just here to say that your school choice is not a moral one. 

There are a million different ways to live your life and a million different ways to be a good mother. Your freedom to choose what is best for your child and family is one you should exercise. It's easy for me to look at all the back to school photos posted online today and think that perhaps my children could be missing out on some rite of passage. I'm sure it's equally easy for some of you to see all of our adventures together and your mind will go to all the time you feel you might be missing with having them at school. Let's stop comparing!

I firmly believe that most of us are doing the best we can and operating from that viewpoint, we're choosing the best route for our own children and their education. As for my family, we take it year by year. We ask ourselves, is this still working? What do the kids prefer? What can we eliminate? What can we add?

Bad days are okay. You might want to assess the number of bad days you (or your child) is having, but don't dwell on them if there are more good ones than bad. Take notes. You're allowed to not have it all together all the time.

You're probably a good mom if your kids are being homeschooled. You're probably a good mom if you choose to send them to public school or private school. You are making the best choice for your kids even if it's hard! Give yourself some grace. 

Just like you can't bank on your morality with the clothes you choose to wear, the food you prepare, and the cleanliness of your home- you also can't align yourself with one school of choice and believe you are better for it. You're a good mom when you look at the needs of your children and rise to meet them in whatever capacity they might come in.

Happy Back-to-School, Mamas! You've got this.

Children in a Garden

Sunday, February 13, 2022


Yesterday. the seven of us got tickets to the Denver Art Museum to see the Whistler to Cassatt exhibit. The kids and I have studied Mary Cassatt for years and it was profound to encounter these works of art in person together. How magnificent to see something so beautiful that has withstood the test of time!

The piece above is entitled Children in a Garden (The Nurse). As we were meandering through the rooms of art, Jordan stopped at this one and said, "This reminds me of you." I looked at the woman and I looked at me, standing there with a baby in my arms and four children gathered around me as I pushed an empty stroller and reminded everyone to please whisper when they have something to add. 

I didn't want to see myself in this frumpy woman at first. 

You see, Mary Cassatt's later work largely focused on finding beauty in every day scenes, some that many found mundane. During her Impressionist days, she painted what was considered more sophisticated scenes like the opera. In her later art, she looked for women to paint who were considered plain and sometimes even unattractive. She sought out the beauty of the ordinary and painted them with grace.

Being compared to a subject in Mary Cassatt's collection initially wasn't the best compliment just a few days before Valentine's Day! But as I walked around admiring the works of a woman who was going against the grain of popular art and using her brush strokes to highlight a mostly unseen group of ordinary women (like me!), I found the love behind Jordan's sentiment. Here, is a woman, tending to children outside. I see her knitting or mending perhaps. She's making an effort to take care of the people and responsibilities she's entrusted with yet she's taking time to enjoy the colors around her and prioritizing curiosity, rest, play, and time out of doors for the children, too.

The comparison is a sweet reminder that I don't have to be polished. I don't need to be peoples' cup of tea. There's something lovely in this quiet life here at home with my family. Beauty in the ordinary.

I hope you dance

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Have you ever seen those little images people share with small children, arms outstretched to the sky with a joyful smile on their face even though it's raining? It probably says something like "I hope you dance" or "Always take time to dance in the rain." Sometimes they're cheesy and sweet, but people post them with abandon. I wonder if they believe those words.

 An unpopular opinion I hold is that it's okay to romanticize your life from time to time. Smile if you can.

You're knee deep in diapers and snot, but you know you want to remember those toothless little grins or funny way they pronounce a word so you open up your camera and start recording, pushing the trash bag out of the frame and adding a sappy song for extra effect. I'm not mad about it.

Say you plan a huge family trip, but everyone is fighting on the way there and then you get burnt. It's not at all relaxing and there's more drama than anything, but what you want to remember is that one moment on the beach when the wind was in your hair, the kids were giggling, and you felt like God Himself was walking along side you as your family played in the crashing waves and took the best keepsake photo that you'll display for years and years.

Maybe you're headed to church for the first time in a long time and you're flustered about how the kids are dressed, if their faces are clean, and how long it took you to find your bible, but when you get home your mood has changed and you share what you learned the hour you were away. That's okay.

There's a difference between people who want to portray their lives as perfect and those who want to pick out something positive from their week. There's a distinction there that I think is often missed. We are on social media for connection and friendship. I feel excited when my friends are excited. I look at your posts and if it's a good day for you, I'm happy for you. 

Unfortunately, that's not always the go-to for a lot of people. Go check out various threads of opinions and comments where someone posted something happy, someone else chimes in something hateful, correcting, combative, whatever and suddenly something that was supposed to be just nice or funny or lighthearted is now full-on debate. Ugh.

Some of my undergraduate work that piqued my interests fifteen years ago was how the Internet with its images and media was changing the way we thought about ourselves and others. For fifteen years, I've either researched, wrote, or gathered up experiences about this very topic and I don't like what I see. Oh, but here I am still plugging away at it, a true millennial.

This brings me to another unpopular opinion I have: If you (or your child!) isn't capable of understanding that every sentence read from social media isn't the whole truth then you (or your child!) is not ready for this medium. There's a lot of information and misinformation all over the Internet and when common sense, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence aren't developed there will be a lot of hurt feelings, feelings of inadequacy, misunderstanding, and offenses taken.

Why am I sharing all this on my homeschooling page? It's something I'm passionate about and I want my kids to learn as we share our days here at home. It's why they probably won't have access to any of this for years to come. They aren't ready. If so and so can't read between the lines of my posts and see a person with struggles like everyone else then my children surely can't either. The Internet is gray. Black and white is easier to your listening ear (or reading eyes), though. It's our nature to want to group someone quickly to decide what social rules or beliefs should be assigned to them and in turn how we should feel about them. I'm asking that you pause and hold off on those judgments.

I hope you have friends in real life who you can get to know deeply and want to know you deeply, too. I hope you talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly with them. But for those of your "friends" who you see as you scroll, I hope you give them grace. I hope you encourage. I hope you "like". And for the love, please take time to laugh or dance or whatever other cheesy quote that pops into your mind. Life is far too short to lose friends over something you read on their social media page.

And for those of you who feel like you're drowning most days, post those happy moments anyway. I'll be happy with you.

Maybe your children can still show you the unbound way they float about in the rain and the mud and laugh and dance despite it all. If it's not too late, I hope you dance, too.

Nobody's Darling

Thursday, October 21, 2021

 As the bacon sizzles in the oven and the eggs and waffles I've prepared begin to cool, I pause in the chaos of the morning and realize that I am living all that I want. The children are game-schooling near me and while the laughter and excited screaming will wake the dead, I have a peace that can only come from God. Bach's Mass in B Minor is playing above the children and I can't explain it, but it's therapy to me. I'm watching as my five year old, with her "super bedhead" as she calls it, raises her arms out and floats about the room to the music. The morning outside is overcast, but the aspens are still yellow through our large front windows and I know if I walk outside I'll need a sweater. We feel so cozy here, just us. Our family of six is awaiting news today that we are now seven and we just can't wait to add her to our nest up on this mountain.

Last month I attended the Wild + Free conference again and it didn't disappoint. Every year I leave feeling refreshed and ready to begin a new school year with my gaggle of students. It helps me remember what we're aiming for and that it's okay to march to the beat of a different drum. Heritage Mom Blog's Amber spoke to my heart so much with her talk about belonging. I could relate with her in that I'm a walking contradiction. Just before I turned on Bach, I saw the last few artists I listened to included Run-DMC, Tyler Childers, ZZ Top, Josh Baldwin, The Pirates Charles, and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. I like to workout, but I adore really bad, unhealthy, and delicious foods. I talk about limited screen time, but on vacation we binge and those rules go out the window. We listen to classic literature in the car and we also have to grab the volume dial and turn down our music at some inappropriate parts lest the kids hear it and repeat it at the worst possible time. I believe in God, but not always the actions of the church. Amber talked about how she's allowed to like what she likes, promote what she cares about, and have differing views so much so that no one can seem to fit her in any type of box. She said she is nobody's darling. I felt much freedom in that statement. Lately, people have criticized everything I do or don't do. In the last few years of this pandemic, I've decided to let people keep any image of me they've created in their minds. I do not possess time to care about what others say or think about me. It has nothing to do with me. I'm nobody's darling, either.

Isn't homeschool that way, too? I know there are so many different ways of learning. The trick in schooling and in being a kind human is not to compare. Don't dwell in jealousy. Celebrate the differences and achievements of others. Just because I choose to live a certain way doesn't mean I think it's the only way. Just because you live a certain way doesn't mean I want that, too. This house on the hill, tucked away in the pines, is walking in the freedom of an alternate path- one that God himself orchestrated. The bible verse we're committing to memory this week is:

"You are the salt of the earth." Matthew 5:13a

And we intend to teach the children to be the flavor when the world is bland. We want them to preserve (as salt did) the characteristics of a life walking with Jesus. We wear what we want, listen to what we love, and collect experiences we are interested in. All of that weaves together into a culture all our own. In heaven I imagine people from all parts of the world, many skin tones, music lovers, writers, builders, conservatives, democrats, and all manner of people who follow God. The unique characteristics He placed in our hearts will only add to the flavor of eternity. We are HIS. We don't have to be anyone else's.

What Makes You Fragile?

Monday, June 21, 2021

My mama, the woman I inherited my love of writing from, gave me a book last year that is called "400 Writing Prompts". There are small thoughts or questions typed on every page and there's not a single thing written in it in response. I do pick it up often and flip through the questions and come here or there (microsoft word) and answer them. 

I've been writing a book lately. It seems that I start one every year and before too awful long, I capitulate and it begins to gather dust in the wastebasket of my home screen. I've started so many and finished none. It's too scary. I want to write something important because if not, I'm not sure what the point is. In the past this has meant that I must write something true, but lately I've started to remember how much fiction can mean to a reader, as well. 

Just today, the kids and I were reading Heidi by Johanna Spyri and I marveled with how well she had my children thinking of talking to God and how big truths like "He is always listening" can help them to navigate any problem that might arise. One of the kids said, "Heidi misses her grandfather and she's trying to be strong." And you know that I almost lost it right there. We, too, are far away from home and the people who make it home and while some days we learn to read just like Heidi and there is much that is exciting, we also gaze on fields of green and cows grazing and wonder just how our people are.

The prompt I found today was this: What makes you fragile? What makes me fragile? It's them.

I'm the Tennessee girl who moved to Alaska knowing no one and started a life. I'm the one who loves a haunted hotel and the idea of the unknown. I'd jump off any height, buckle into any roller coaster, and flirt with disaster at every turn. I'm the girl who decided to homeschool my kids when it went against basically everything I knew. I'm the woman who finished Master's classes in the delivery room at an Army hospital. It was me who stood in waiting rooms trusting my perfect boy in the hands of literal strangers as he struggled with infection after infection. My point is that I am brave. I was. Or I am.

My fragility comes when my kids are involved. I suddenly care so much more of my life because they're involved. Now, I find myself near panic attacks driving in a new city. I have to bite my lip to ensure I won't tell them to be careful on our weekly hikes. The thought of sending them down a snowy mountain on skis is akin to the fiery crash cartoons us eighties babies grew up with. I can't. I worry if they get too far ahead on their bikes when I'm running. Everything I do apart from them reminds me that one misstep and it could leave them without a mom. These are the thoughts that run through my head each time I do anything that strays from our norm.

But what makes me fragile is what makes me strong, too. 

I am the woman who juggled two babies under two while my husband served in the military. I am the one who fought for my second born when no one seemed to understand my God-given instinct that he needed help. I am the one who had three boys under three and battled depression and anxiety all the while. It was me who stood up every time and kept moving. I ran a freakin' marathon (or four) just to outrun my difficulties. My God propelled me.

What makes you fragile has the power to strengthen, too.

"A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Whatever you're going through, keep going, friend. You are so much stronger than you realize. I will never discount all the problems that have left me fragile because I know that His power is made perfect in my weakness.


Students Together

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

We've been on a hiatus in more ways than one. For starters, I'm writing for the first time from a wobbly wooden ikea desk nestled against a beautiful backdrop of natural woods and my words aren't coming as freely as they used to. I've wanted to write, but I've felt the daunting task of summing up an incredible experience while also being so very busy to be too much every time I sit to tackle it. From my vantage point, I see six large windows and beyond them layers of pine. I'm sitting in a fairy tale- one that my husband and I have only dreamed about before. The Weigle's are out West!

I've had so many questions about what we're doing and I've found them difficult to answer. We got the opportunity back in November to travel to Colorado and we've been back and forth from here and Tennessee ever since. When we started homeschooling years ago, it was a hope of mine that our kids would get to experience more of the world as we made that choice. I didn't want to plan our adventures around one week in the Spring and one in the Fall. I wanted to be able to drop everything and seize the day if an opportunity arose. In 2020, my husband's job became mostly online and we have decided to take advantage of that when we can and so here we are!

I could talk about how we were here for that blizzard a few weeks ago. I could talk about how we've hiked around Garden of the Gods. I could tell you about the herds of mule deer who visit our front door daily. We've had fox sightings just outside the window. We celebrated Holi in the shrouds of color in the snow. We've spotted Steller's Jay on the porch and in the trees. We've traversed many miles in pursuit of endorphins. We've shivered in the wind and broke a sweat with snow still on the ground. We are learning that the West is one special place, a place where it was 80 yesterday and 30 and snowing again today.

Two strange happenings inspired me to write today, though. 

As I looked ambivalently outside at the falling snow today, I was startled by a loud sound I wasn't expecting. Thunder! How peculiar to experience both at once. I guess I didn't know that could happen. As my dad would say, "Ya learn somethin' new every day!"

Furthermore, the other day I desperately wanted to feel as if I'm still a runner, but the house sits at right around 9,000 ft and running here is very difficult. I hoped to head off this mountain into Denver for a quicker and longer run than I had been accomplishing here. With trepidation (I'm still so uncomfortable in cities), I pulled into a familiar park to run circles around a body of water with massive mountain views in the distance. I had been there once before, but on this day it felt new because before I even got a mile in, I stumbled across a field full of groundhogs. Clearly an outsider here, I paused my watch and started snapping photos because surely I had found something others had not. I looked around as everyone else kept walking like this wasn't the coolest happening of the day. Never have I seen multiple groundhogs together much less glancing up to fifty in my eyesight at least. I unpaused my watch and kept a steady pace expecting them to scatter. Some of them scurried away to another nearby hole while others looked at me unfazed. Meanwhile, the people of Colorado were also unfazed by this surprising (to me) community of rodents.

That was a first.

Here's to many more!

The kids and I are students together in a new place and I don't want to waste one moment of it.

Festival of Light

Thursday, November 19, 2020

 The past few weeks have been doozies. From the election to the pandemic to the big changes coming our way as a family, my head has been spinning with information and sometimes fear. The Hindu holiday of Diwali came at just the right time. Why would a Christian family celebrate Diwali, you might ask? Well, we are intimately tied to India through our adoption and our homeschool seeks out opportunities to learn about other cultures and customs all the time. We Americanized it inadvertently, of course, with our attire and my lack of Indian food and the whole Hindu integration, but we had fun and the kids learned a lot, I think.

What is Diwali? Well, it first caught my eye when I noticed that in preparation for the holiday, the whole entire house gets cleaned by its inhabitants! We celebrated with a family-wide cleaning spree which always calms me. I tidied up the upstairs while the kids tackled the monumental mess downstairs. The purpose of the first day of cleaning is to have mental clarity and peace to celebrate the five days of Diwali.

It's customary for shopping to be done for the holiday, too. We did purchase new clothes. In our case, we wore our India Adoption Fundraiser tees that recently arrived on our doorstep.

On the second day, many people decorate their homes with rangoli. Colorful designs are made at the entryways of homes with colored powders and flowers and light. Well wishes are made to friends and family and sweet treats are had by all.

The third day is marked with family gatherings, food, prayers, and fireworks.

On the fourth day, gifts and well wishes are given to friends and relatives.

On the final day, siblings visit one another and exchange gifts.

From my understanding and application, Diwali is about embracing light and goodness over darkness. What a great notion to teach my children. I think perhaps God is showing me something through all of this waiting. As I imagine what it must be like to be in India right now celebrating with more lights and colors than I've ever seen, I can imagine that the government there needs a break, too. It reminds me to relax and continue waiting patiently with this adoption. I want to celebrate the children I have here and the one God is orchestrating to join our family one day. The blending of lives is humbling, incredibly humbling...and it's our pleasure to be free to learn about the country where our future family member resides.

Happy Diwali to you and yours.

How The Light Gets In

Saturday, October 24, 2020

"Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in."

Every September I look forward to  the wild + free homeschooling conference that always seems to breathe new life into my intentions for our learning atmosphere here in our home. It's the perfect start to another school year in our rogue educational experiment. This year was different and as much as we hoped our way of life would just go back to normal, it did not. The conference, among so many other events and activities, was cancelled. Thankfully, it morphed into a simulcast that we could still enjoy a month or so later. With so much loss and hardship this year, it was life-giving for me to be able to have this one day with fellow mamas to soak in ideas, philosophies, and encouragement from veteran homeschooling parents.

I'm looking back over my notes now and while each speaker talked about different topics, my main take away emerged clearly from my notebook: 

This schooling my kids at home can be done and I'm equipped to do it.

I think I get that from the conference every year, but after ten months of 2020, I needed the reminder. This year has been difficult for many of us in a plethora of ways, but each of us can probably label a fire or two we've figuratively walked through. Mine came in the form of spiritual obedience, a devastating diagnosis, and people exiting my life and pushing me away in rejection, criticizing my motivation to adopt and motherhood in general. Brutal. On top of all the personal reasons this time has been trying, the world was navigating a global pandemic and I was supposed to be used to teaching my children from home anyway. Some days were so so heavy.

During her latest talk Elsie ludicello says to remember those days. Evaluate the hard and the mundane. Greta Eskridge put it this way: Look for the good and pivot! She said that these times allow us opportunities to "practice grace under pressure." Finally, Ainsley reminded us that calm seas never made a skilled sailor. So when I look back over the fiery furnaces of my life, I can see where I've been refined instead of consumed. Years ago, I became a mom of a special needs child. It was the hardest year of my life as we dealt with surgeries, infections, therapies, and three children under three years old. Our home looked mostly like survival then. There were no family read alouds or historical art studies or morning time scenes. It was cartoons and goldfish and tears and prayers. But my kids were able to see the testimony of their mother as I got up, dried my tears, and tried again every day. I have had days like that this year as I've let people speak into me some things that are just not true. I felt each statement in the way a type 9 would and they cut me to my core. In the same breath, I know these statements weren't about me. Not really. I was just the punching bag. It's okay. Richele Baburina said when fear comes in to keep calm, ask for its credentials, and wish it well on its way out. The bottom line is that no one gets to tell you who you are, what your intentions are, or what you're capable of. Perhaps it's overly Pollyanna of me, but I truly believe the majority of us are trying our very best. Motherhood is the hardest role I've ever had, but it doesn't mean I don't wholeheartedly appreciate that I've been able to do it. It's okay if mothering your children comes at the cost of friendships or job opportunities or whatever. It's the constant laying down of your life for them that honors them and God and that looks different for each person.

Last year at the conference Toni Weber said this, "Stop checking the rear-view mirror." She went on to say we need to simply show up and do the best we can. God will fill in the cracks. One of the very first bible verses I had my kids memorize was, "No one is righteous, not even one." That was strategic because as I saw them struggling with sharing in those early days I wanted them to know our human natures aren't the goal but we will all struggle with them. I wanted them to know that I am also a sinner who will undoubtedly mess up at times, too. No one is perfect. But I know that my children see my reaction to hardship and are learning from me every time. What will they see? They'll see me rise...again....for long as I have breath. That includes seeking a certain way of life and education, but it encompasses so much more, too. This year has been trying, but aren't we being built in it? Refined by the flames not consumed. Thank you, Lord.

"Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in."

(Leonard Cohen)

Raksha Bandhan

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Monday, August 3rd, is Raksha Bandhan! It's an Indian holiday for siblings- a day to promise to love and protect each other always. I didn't announce it here, but we hope to adopt from India and have started the long, difficult process. While we wait on our child, we are learning as much as we can about the culture and introducing traditions into our home school and family. This was our first year celebrating this holiday, also referred to as Rakhi. It was perfect for our own morning time rhythms here. 

Traditionally, the girl children present the boy children with a bracelet known as a "rakhi" and the boys give the girl children a gift and sweets called "chum chum" to celebrate.

 I was able to get my hands on some genuine Indian rakhis for my kids to exchange, but I also thought it would be fun to make our own, too. The kids had fun making the bracelets and chose close friends and cousins to give them to. Our chum chum of the day were pumpkin muffins because I wasn't prepared to present Indian food that early in the morning! Perhaps one day.

 The spirit behind this holiday is to promise to show love and support to one another always. What a beautiful sentiment. I think we've found a new tradition in Raksha Bandhan! Below I'll list some resources we used in teaching the children about this special holiday:

(Note: Please be careful when buying rahkis from certain Indian companies. Some seek to make a joke or mockery of adoption, furthering the damaging stigma. Look for companies who are in support of families no matter how they're pieced together!)

 I used a legitimate one and this was the note on the packaging:
 Find one that supports girls! Little girls...what precious gifts from God.

Happy Raksha Bandhan!

Suddenly Homeschoolers

Monday, March 16, 2020
Everyone and their sister is out there offering up their two cents on recent events and how you can deal if you are suddenly a homeschool family. This post will just be a drop in the bucket. I haven't read any of theirs and I'm sure they have a plethora of advice and resources that would far exceed my own so if it's that you're seeking then definitely go find those pages for help getting started. My two cents is offered up here only because I thought that I might be the only homeschooler you really know and it might be helpful if I shared how we operate. It's my intent that this post doesn't lack empathy but that I might instead give some of you a sense of peace about the coming days and your ability to handle them.

You can do this. If I can do it, you certainly can. Teaching your children at home looks a lot like mothering them. Because you care to develop them into the people God has created them to be, you attend to their needs on every level naturally. Don't you? You take them to church, to piano practice, to their sporting events- You care about their health physically, spiritually, and academically. If you can recognize that is true than you can absolutely know with your whole heart that you are capable of teaching them. It may not look like the way that you knew school to be. It's not all desks and workbooks and checklists. It isn't wasted time, though.

Utilize books, games, and conversation as your teaching tools. You certainly don't have to spend a ton of money to teach them. Take the high expectations you feel and throw them out the window. It's okay to spend time with your kids. They are little scientists already. They naturally are learning. Diving into worthy books can teach them a million lessons. Playing games together as a family is a teaching tool and a bonding tool. Mothers already are teachers. Read to them. Build lego cities. Play barbies. You've been gifted with time and while I know the days seem uncertain, you do get more time with your kids today, this week, this month. I like to look at it as a precious gift even on the hardest days.

Have you read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? In it you'll find a warning that is applicable in this conversation. You must understand the way the book is written to appreciate the quote entirely so I won't leave it word for word here, but it discusses the use of fire extinguishers in a great flood. The lesson is this: Don't pile up all the heavy expectations of keeping up algebra, geography, or whatever you feel weighing on you. A fire extinguisher won't help in this flood so don't go doing more of what might be stressing you or your child out. Flooding them with math when they are struggling isn't the answer and the same is true for you. If all the changes that COVID-19 have brought about stress you out, please know that your children will be okay. They aren't going to forget all they've learned. It's not all on your shoulders. Breathe and know that being with them during this time is enough if that's all you have to offer up right now. It's enough.

Finally, my other piece of advice is to go outside. If you have the ability to follow the guidelines of social distancing, but can do it out in nature, please do so. You won't regret it.


Saturday, September 7, 2019
I was listening to a podcast the other day. The guest speaker seemed slightly abrasive and I was just about to turn it off when she said something that really made me think. At first, I thought nothing of it. Then, as I'm walking to my phone to choose something else to listen to, I paused. Did she just call mothers desperate and clingy for a how-to model of sorts? Yeah, that's offensive. I don't like when any mother tries to tell another one how to feel about motherhood. How does anyone know how another feels? But it got me thinking about who I am and how I've changed through the years. It got me thinking about my story and how perhaps His story is different than mine. How do I reconcile that?
When I signed in to write today, I perused what I've written thus far in this space. It's sweet to see how this school and our home has evolved. It's a bigger picture, though and I think if you go back through and read it's evident that I know there's much more going on here than a decision to homeschool. It's a story of faith, a story of confidence, of trust, identity.
I don't want to go into our full story again. I know I've given you pieces of it before. But I've felt the evolution of our school changing in this second year for the better. Last year, I knowingly made all the rookie mistakes. I purchased a ton of curriculum and kept switching back and forth, second guessing myself. I crammed their little brains with information on some days, ignoring the fact that they probably weren't learning anything because of the overwhelming schedule. On other days, I threw my hands up entirely and researched boarding schools. Only kidding. But the point is, I was still letting the crowd tell me how to best parent my children. I valued what the crowd thought. I wanted to present my children with a rich reading life, but I wanted them to read on time at appropriate grade level, too. I wanted them to see math in our every day, but I handed out worksheets that were way above their grade level to make me feel better about their progress. I hoped they'd return to the out of doors and grow to love it, but I worried that they spent too much time playing and not enough time sitting at a desk. I was vacillating between two worlds and it was exhausting.
I'm learning more every day, too. As I focus my eyes on my Creator, this life here at home is less pressure because I know this is His plan for me. When mine is full of worry and doubt, His is full of trust and promise. I never expected to be a homeschooling parent. Never in a million years. Our society often tells us- Go find yourself! God already knows us. He created me to be a mother and teaching them is simply an extension of that. I'm equipped not because of anything I've done, but because of who God made me to be in this season of our lives. That thought alone has brought so much rest and learning into our school year. Our homeschool doesn't have to look like anyone else's. I don't have a beautifully designed, organized, and sparkling clean home. I don't have boxes and boxes of the newest curriculum either. We don't sport the latest hipster threads in our Instagram feed and I'll likely never be organized. What I do have is a desire to change the heartbeat of our family. I have eager hands. I have an open mind. I believe that children need time and I am humbled that I get to buy some back for us. Most days that feels like a gift I get to open every single morning when my curly headed children filter into the living room and snuggle up beside me as I sip my first cup of coffee and they begin recounting their dreams. Maybe we'll pick up a book to read together. Perhaps we'll have discussions- both serious and silly. But we're together and that's a nice place to be.

School Everywhere

Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Today was one of those days you just want to pretend never happened. I had to take the kids shopping with me into multiple stores- out of necessity, couldn't be prevented- and I bet those words are enough said for you, but I'll elaborate because I have a point. Poor behaviors from the smallest two left me frazzled and frantic and angry. Why is it so hard to walk upright with shoes on your feet and stay near to your mother? I might as well have been asking them to tight rope across New York City. 
I stopped for a treat for the oldest two which I had promised for those who could display good attitudes the whole time and listen (for the love) and in an effort to stay true to my word, Kinley and Abel got cake pops. Mama, Saylor, and Merit did not.

Homeschooling is simply another way to live life. It's arguably better or worse, but no matter which  side of the fence you're on, you should know that I look at it as a way of living. Not superior, certainly not inferior, simply different. 
Charlotte Mason said, 
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
We purpose our days around that, trying to learn from everything. I hadn't planned on having a school day today. Our summer schedule is a lot more relaxed, but we recently started trying to memorize multiplication facts. I attempted to introduce it to them before I pushed the memorization. Truly, I thought they were clueless as they looked on with confused stares. I know they're all young for multiplication so I wasn't concerned. It was more about exposure. That was two days ago.
On the way home, Kinley started saying thank you over and over and over again. When I asked him why he was so repetitive, he replied, "Hold on, I have to think."
"Whew! Sixteen thank yous", he said. 
I wasn't following.
"There are four of us. You got each of us four things. Four times four is sixteen. I said their thank yous for them."
We get so caught up in check lists, norms, standardized tests, and what all the other kids are doing and we forget that children have the incredible ability to think outside the box we create for them. Yes, they can probably do the worksheet we put in front of them but let's not forget that they are learning all the time. Math is in art, cooking, sports, shopping, and many other normal activities we do with our children all the time. Sometimes on a rough day, something so simple as that realization is enough to keep me going. God is weaving their stories, their education, their life. I'm just a tool. He is in control.
“Take a deep breath, mama. This isn’t as dependent on you as you think it is. Give God your “Here I am. Use me.” Let Him carry the burden.” (Sarah Mackenzie)