28 Sep

Slow Down Mom!

12042076_10207889043607349_1481258721_n

This is our second year of homeschooling our boys. Prior to then, they attended a more traditional, Christian school that we loved. We weren’t one of those families who homeschooled form day one, although today I wish we were. Having your kids in traditional school places certain expectations in your mind that are hard to let go of. You see, kids go to school from 8 am to 3 pm most days, so when you first start schooling at home and you realize that you’re done by noon you assume “I must not be doing enough!” You’ve spent weeks over the summer preparing your perfect schedule. You’ve picked the best curriculum, scheduled field trips and days off… You’ve looked into library programs for homeschool families and maybe even sports for your kids, and of course you’ve found the best co-op around and you joined… and agreed to teach… and suddenly you’ve lost complete control of your sweet little schedule.

I had the best plan for this year. We decided to try a year round approach to school. We basically work six weeks on and then take one week off. This gives us less time off in the summer but here in Florida we really appreciate the time off in the fall and winter when it’s beautiful outside. My year-at-a-glance schedule is printed out and posted on the wall over my desk, color coordinated and lovely.

I have weekly and daily schedules as well. Those are also color coordinated but they are anything but lovely at this point. We have almost zero blank space. Blank space is so important to a homeschool family, you need time to do experiments or art projects, to go outside and explore or maybe just to take an afternoon off to ride bikes or play outside. Our calendar had a ton of white space in June and July… then August came.

In August, our church lost our fabulous Mini Zone teacher. She took care of our 2-4 year-olds and they adored her. Every week she had special crafts, lessons and snacks for them, she put a ton of effort into planning and making sure they had something fun to do! Then she got a new job, and  had to move to Nebraska… and guess who was asked to take her place? Yep, this over booked homeschool mom right here… Our church is currently a little short staffed on the nursery front, it’s a good problem to have really. We are growing and we’re gaining new families and lots of new little ones. Anyway, I was reluctant to take on the Wednesday night teaching position but I figured “How bad can it be? They’re toddlers…”

Wrong. It’s a ton of extra planning, supply gathering and studying which wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t already doing lesson plans for fourteen 2nd and 3rd graders every week for co-op as well as those that I do for my own students weekly here at home. Add into that planning field trips, housework, dinner, taking care of a two-year-old, and all those other mom-duties we all have. It can get overwhelming.

The other project I’ve taken upon myself is our weekly Cross Trainers group. My kiddos and I decided to start this a couple of months ago. It’s basically a group of homeschool kids who enjoy running together. We’ve been training for an upcoming 5K together. This has been a lot of fun but it takes up a big block on our calendar. Thankfully, it requires very little planning on my part, we just show up and run, then the kids play for a bit. But it delays our school by about 2 hours every Wednesday.

I also have a personal direct sales business that I try to put a little time into every day. I have this blog that I love to write, I’m the team mom for our boys’ baseball team (2 games per week and practice on Saturday)

So enough about how busy I am, because seriously, every homeschool mom, or just mom for that matter, is busy. How do you make it stop? That’s the question right? Here’s the answer…

Stop. Saying. Yes.

It’s that simple. Why is it so hard for us? I think it’s because we sincerely don’t want to let people down. We also all have this tiny desire to be super mom. I think most of us genuinely want to serve, but when we are stretched so thin how effective is our service? If I run out of time to plan during the week and I have to wing the Mini Zone lesson I’m doing those kids, as well as our church, a disservice. If I take that time away from my co-op planning then those kids miss out. I’m at a point where I have too many people depending on me. I don’t want to let any of them down but we don’t have any margin. We don’t have any spare time. Here’s my basic week… You’ll see a lot of “chores,” Friday is my deep cleaning day, we don’t do school on Friday’s so I sweep, mop, dust, clean the appliances, bathrooms and put away all the laundry. The other days’ “chores” are maintenance, wiping counters, doing dishes, preparing dinner, general clean up. I left my personal free time in white… but quite often this isn’t actually “free” it’s a cup of coffee between demands to “play with me,” “read to me,” “Mom, can you get me…” I also use my free time to catch up on my lesson plans, Jamberry stuff and blog posts…

schedule

 

^^^^ This is what will burn you out on homeschooling your kids. Not your kids themselves. This crazy packed schedule isn’t necessary for my kids to get an education. It’s not filled so that they can be more well rounded, it’s filled because I have a need to do it all. We can’t do it all, we really can’t. Something is going to suffer, more often than not, it’s school that gets cut when we are overbooked, not the activity that over booked us in the first place. This schedule is why I snap at my husband and my kids. It’s why I’m on my phone more than I should be. It’s the exact thing we wanted to avoid, the hurry up’s of school life. Granted, it’s much better with homeschool because we still have the power to manipulate this schedule when we need to, but still, something gets less attention than it should…

So what is this rambling post about? What’s the moral? Slow down moms, don’t over book. Co-op is fun, but it’s not necessary. If you really want to do it, don’t teach. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, leave some white blocks in your calendar to enjoy this little journey. This years will go by quickly, you want to remember spending time with your kids, not how stressed out you were all the time.

 

 

22 Sep

Graceful Discipline

11949671_10207857915749172_1112364560_n

A couple of weeks ago we had something happen in our home that shook us up a tad. I won’t go into great detail because I do not want to embarrass my children, however, I will share a bit for the sake of the lesson we learned as parents. A couple of weeks ago we found out that one of our children did something dishonest on his Ipad. It wasn’t anything alarming, just some in-app purchases that he didn’t have permission to make. When the bill came, no one was willing to own up to the situation. When I called Apple to ask why my in app purchase block wasn’t working they told me that any time an Ipad is updated it opens that up again (I had no idea… take note of that one parents) they also were able to tell me exactly who’s iPad was used. He was caught red handed, to the tune of $65 (Apple refunded it all but that’s not the point) He would not cave. His brother had done it, maybe his sister? A friend down the street? Everyone but him. After being presented with irrefutable facts (sometimes having a cop for a husband can be very valuable) he finally admitted what he’d done. We were so surprised that John and I just looked at each other. These was uncharted waters for the two of us. We’ve never had to punish this child for something like this. What do we do?

We did what any parent who has no clue what to do does… we sent him to his room, and his brother too, for good measure. We tossed around ideas. Do we make him miss his baseball season? Just the first practice? Ground him for a week? Two? My husband had the brilliant idea to have him write the definition of lying 500 times. I vetoed that one, 500 is excessive for anyone, no less a child. I suggested that we have him write bible verses about lying… John was quick to stop that, he didn’t want to make the bible a punishment. He was right. We finally settled on grounding him for a week, while his brother is outside playing with friends in the evening, he will be doing chores. That seemed pretty reasonable.They both lost their iPads indefinitely too.

All of these things will sting him. He’ll miss his buddies in the evening, that’s hard, especially for a homeschool kid. Plus, watching his brother enjoy that time will be lousy. But will this change his heart? The more we pondered our decision the more we realized that it won’t. Yes, our punishment will still stand. You can’t back down over something like this, you have to stick to your guns. But we need to also point him back towards Jesus.

After all the dust settled, John needed to run to the store, he took our sweet boy with him. One of those rare moments when it’s just the two of them. He admitted that he had been struggling with exaggerations with his friends. His daddy helped him understand that he is enough without them. He doesn’t need to exaggerate anything at all, he’s this perfect, tenderhearted, godly young man. He is enough just as God has made him.

Do you know who that little heart reminds me of? If you’ve been following me for a bit you know that this sweet boy’s mother struggles with feeling of inadequacy. I’ve struggled with it my entire life and I know all too well what it feels like to exaggerate to make yourself look better as a child. I did it when I was his age too. I also know what it feels like to be caught in one of those lies by your peers. It’s miserable, it’s self-esteem crushing. Especially when you already feel as though you don’t measure up. I don’t want my son to feel that. EVER. I don’t want him to feel that he’s got to be perfect to be loved. This is the heart issue God brought before us today. It wasn’t about the lie over the iPad, although that is certainly something that has to be addressed. No, God brought this to us today so that we could work on the bigger issue with our child. We weren’t aware of this part of his young life. Now that we are, we can steer him. We can steadily walk beside him, teaching him diligently. We have to know where our children are weak so we know where to build and how to pray.

Deuteronomy 6:7And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Sometimes I think we get caught up in this notion that children should always do the right thing. They know better, they know the rules, why can’t they just listen and obey? Our expectation of perfection in them can easily cause a perfection complex in their little hearts. Over time, they begin to feel as though they cannot make a mistake. Children are not meant to be perfect. They cannot be expected to make adult like decisions every time. They are going to stumble. When they do it’s up to us to not only punish the sin but to also mend the heart. We have to steadily steer them towards Jesus and His perfect love. We have to give them grace when they don’t deserve it just as our heavenly father has given it to us. Grace is a beautiful thing to give to your babies. It’s good for the soul. Demonstrating to our children what God’s grace looks like in those moments goes so much farther than any Sunday school lesson could.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go;even when he is old he will not depart from it.

I spoke to a friend about this and she reminded me of something she and I heard another homeschool mom say at our FPEA convention earlier this summer. This mother would write notes to her younger children (she’d text the older ones) and give them a bible verse or chapter to read, not as an assignment, more as a “Hey, I really think you’ll like this verse!” That little act of mom-grace would gently steer their days. That ever present reminder that God is with them and that their mother cared about them reached their hearts in a way that a punishment could not. As a bonus, they were hiding the Word of God down deep in their hearts.

So this is my new approach to discipline here in our home. Yes, there will be consequences for their actions, however, there will be love and grace. There will be gentle reminders that we have all come short. We all need forgiveness and that they are worthy, just as they are. Sometimes I think we, as parents, learn more from our children’s mistakes than they do!

I’ll leave you with this reminder. When you’re faced with a child who has stumbled, please remember that we are all in need of grace. Grace is a gift that God gives us freely and undeservedly. It’s a blessing to be able to give the same to our children.

Romans 3:23 -24 

23 For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by His grace, as a gift. through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Thanks for reading!

Nicki

09 Sep

A Willing Heart is More Valuable than an Educated Mind

willing heart

While studying the life of David with my husband this week in preparation for Bible study class, we found ourselves reading about the anointment of David by God; particularly how and why David was chosen. In 1 Samuel chapter 16 we find that King Saul has lost favor with God. He has rebelled against the Lord and God has set into motion the removal and replacement of Saul. God sent the prophet, Samuel, to Bethlehem to see a man named Jesse, who was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:17, 22.) From Jesse’s sons God would anoint the future King of Israel.

We don’t know if Jesse knew that Samuel was coming. I can only imagine what would be going on in his mind if he did. Was he in turmoil over which child to present? Did he have a clear favorite? Was he concerned about how his children would represent him? I would be a nervous wreck. Wouldn’t you be?

When Samuel arrives at Jesse’s home he is immediately met with Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab. Eliab was a tall, handsome man. The best of Jesse’s crop so to speak. Samuel himself believes immediately that he is standing in the presence of the future king, but God says otherwise.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Jesse presents each of his six oldest boys to Samuel. Each is rejected by God. Jesse has one son left but he is only a boy. He is working in the fields, tending sheep. Samuel sends for him. His is the heart God wants.

11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

Do you see what happened here?Jesse brought forth the child he thought the highest of. The one he felt was the most qualified to be King of Israel. He based that on the things he knew of his son. His height was of importance, as I am sure was his education, strength, and appearance. He was judged on his outward appearance, as we all are. God said no to his first choice. God continued to say no to all of the sons Jesse felt were fit for this role. Did you notice that Jesse hadn’t even bothered to have David home and cleaned up for this meeting? He didn’t even consider him as a possible candidate. The Bible tells us that David was handsome, but small and rugged. He was only a boy. It was probably laughable that he would be considered for such an important position as King. But God didn’t laugh. 

God did not care about his stature or appearance or even his age. He wasn’t worried about how polished or educated this boys was. God only wanted his willing heart. David trusted God daily. We learn in later verses that David had fought off both a bear and a lion while tending sheep. God protected him because he believed that He would. David was faithful, fearless and in complete submission to God. That’s what God was after; a man, regardless of stature, who had a heart for Him.

When we are teaching our children we see their differences. We know their weaknesses and their strengths. We know who’s more likely to have a career in math or science and which one will be more artistic or free spirited. We know our children on a very deep level but we cannot know them the way that God knows them. This is why His plan for them is so much greater than ours ever could be. We sometimes stifle our children’s future by putting our own limitations on them.

That child you have who struggles to read or learn may be weighing your soul down today. You may be banging your head against a wall and hitting your knees on a daily basis for him to understand. You may be questioning how you’re going to get him prepared for adulthood. We all want our children to be successful but it’s not always so black and white. Sometimes the best way to prepare them is to give them to Jesus. Every day.

Jesus can prepare our children for their future in a way that we cannot even fathom. He already knows their struggles. He knows the sins of their hearts. He knows where they will fail and where they will soar. He’s designed a plan for them to soar! He tells us this in Jeremiah 29…

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a]and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 

Stop worrying about your children. Teach them to have a heart that is submissive to God. This will take him farther than algebra ever could. Yes, it is our job to educate our kids and to give them as much as we possibly can to prepare them for their lives but let us not forget what God wants from them. He wants a willing heart. He wants a heart who will obey, trust and believe. If we can give our children that they will go on to live out the greatest of God’s plans for their life. There is nothing more valuable to a mother than seeing their child succeed!

Our children are called for great things in this world. Our God does not call the qualified, our gracious God qualifies the called.

 

 

01 Sep

Just Say “NO!” to Pinterest Mom

11944918_10207707491348656_1763205001_n

We all have those perfect Facebook friends. You know the ones, Pinterest Mom, Super-Duper-Birthday Mom, My-House-Always-Looks-Like-This Mom, My-Kids-Only-Eat-Kale Mom… She’s hard to compete with. I’ve been trying to compete with her for the last 6 years that I’ve been a SAHM. I finally got tired. I got tired of feeling inadequate. Tired of feeling like I was somehow failing my children if they didn’t have a perfectly planned themed birthday party. Really? Do you remember the birthday parties from your toddler years?  While sifting through some old pictures at my mother’s house I found this one picture of me, on my 2nd birthday. It was nothing fancy. My mother made me a homemade (not an ornate, custom made) cake. It was white, with some of those little candy letters that spell out “Happy Birthday” from the Winn-Dixie. It was on a piece of cardboard wrapped in wrinkled aluminum foil with a #2 candle on top. There were no crazy decorations, no coordinating party favors, no embroidered shirts announcing proudly that I had made it to the ripe old age of 2. It was my family, some neighborhood friends and cake. We played outside, we ate birthday cake and I opened a couple small gifts. Pintrest and Facebook didn’t exist back then. I’m sure my mother was glad they didn’t. She didn’t have any perfect moms to compare herself to on social media. No Facebook friends posting pictures of their 3 tiered, $200 cakes. It was a simple thing to have a birthday party for a child. Ladies, I give you the Pre-Pinterest 2nd Birthday Party… I’m sure no one would rush to post this beauty to social media!

11921936_10207707394506235_1961295230_n

Today, in order to throw a 2nd birthday party you need to find the perfect venue, have cake tastings with the best bakeries, have custom printed water bottle wrappers. You need to make sure that you have allergy-free, dye-free, corn syrup-free, all natural, organic snacks for 20 – 30 of your child’s closest friends. It takes months to plan the perfect Pinterest party. Seriously, should your child’s birthday party have the same budget as your wedding? I’m guilty too. Take a peak at our middle son’s second birthday party… That birthday cake cost us nearly $200. It was a Curious George Finger Painting theme party so the cake was hand painted fondant (made to look like one of the scenes in the classic books.) I bought each and every kid a George coloring book, paints, crayons and countless other favors in custom, hand-sewn goody bags. We covered the kids tables with butchers paper so that they could finger paint. We I ordered a custom printed, personalized “I am 2” Curious George Birthday shirt… We played the CD soundtrack from the movie for all the kiddos to dance to…  Looking back I realize how absurd this was.

11937891_10207707481628413_1203548136_n

11930616_10207707481588412_1147816035_n

 

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. I hosted elaborate parties for both our boys for years to come. It stopped after Olivia’s first birthday (Snow Princess Theme… sigh…) It finally hit me how much money we were wasting just to have great pictures to post on social media.

I was trying to create a facade. I wanted my 800 Facebook friends to think I was a great mom. I needed their approval for some reason. Actually, I’ve always been one of those women who needs EVERYBODY’S approval. It took me a lot of years to realize that there is only one person I need the approval of and that is Jesus Christ. I spent years constantly apologizing for not being good enough. I always felt inferior to people around me so I would explain myself constantly. When I really didn’t need to explain anything at all. When someone didn’t like me I needed to know why. I worked hard to make them like me, even if it meant not being true to myself. I was desperate to be everything to everyone. It was exhausting.

The past couple of years God started working in this area of my life. First, He called me to homeschool my kiddos. If you read my post Get Out of the Boat you know that I had to go against the approval of my father for this one. That was a BIG step for me. Then He gave me a friend who would speak truth into my life. I used to apologize to her constantly for being myself until she told me to knock it off. She told me that she knows my heart, that I didn’t need to apologize for being me. She helped me realize that I was enough, just as my God had made me. I didn’t need to be perfect. I could be flawed and be a great mom. Perfectly imperfect became my personal motto.

When God is working you through something He will continually bring it to the forefront of your mind. A few weeks ago, my pastor spoke about this very subject in a sermon entitled “Living a Christ Centered Life in a Self Centered World.” That is a lofty goal in today’s society. The verses we studied were in 2 Corinthians where Paul is addressing the Corinthians and warning them about hiding their hearts from each other.

15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

That freedom is the freedom to be imperfect. It’s the freedom to not get it right every single time. God sent us grace, not just for our sins but for our hearts. We have to give grace to ourselves and those around us. We have to stop judging each other based on our ability to be perfect or lack thereof. Our pastor stressed that people connect through our weaknesses. How can you connect with people going through the same struggles you are if you are constantly hiding your struggles?  I knew God was speaking to me when he said these words

“Stop seeking the approval of man when you should be seeking the approval of God!”

That was a reminder that God’s not finished with me. I haven’t completely let go of my need for perfectionism. I sometimes stumble and long for the approval of someone other than God. I remind myself often that as long as I am following after God’s heart His approval is the only one that matters.

Have you ever stumbled across an old high school friend in the People You May Know section on Facebook? I have, and if I see a profile picture with perfectly groomed children in matching outfits sitting in a spotless living room eating homemade cookies shaped like Elsa, or Elmo or whatever character is hot right now I generally don’t even bother looking. Because I know it’s going to make me feel like I’m not doing enough. I have piles of laundry in various stages, some waiting to be washed, some to be folded and a few in between. I haven’t mopped the floors in about 3 weeks because there never seems to be time and as soon as I do I know my brood will cover it in cheerios and Play-doh. My kids eat Oreos, or Chips A-hoy or whatever is on BOGO at Publix. I can’t talk the little boogers into eating a vegetable, the closest thing I can get to one is marinara sauce so we count that as a win. We sometimes go a full week without bothering to make a bed, you’re just going to get right back in it in a few hours anyway right?

We do school 4 days a week and we take Friday off. That’s because if I don’t have at least one day where I don’t have to beg someone to write their spelling words or complete their math assignment I’ll go bananas! My days don’t run smoothly every day. I have one child who is such a perfectionist that if he misses one problem on his math assignment he might as well throw in the towel and quit school. The other is just a tad too ADD to handle school for more than 45 minutes at a time… anything longer than that without a break and I lose him completely. For days. And then there’s our bug, the toddler that terrorizes our school room. It’s constant chaos. We have a great room, but the papers are piling up, needing to be graded. Pencils and broken crayons hide in the corners, under their desks. It’s our classroom, this is our home and our school. It’s bound to get messy. If I get caught up in the details and wanting the place to be perfect and the kids to bet perfect I lose sight of what’s important. They are here with me, together. They are learning their own way. They are growing and we are closer for it. This perfectly imperfect mess is exactly what God wants me to have. He’s using it to help me grow. I am grateful.

Having God working in this area of my life has made me realize that there are a lot of women out there just like me. Women who hide their messes and imperfections.  Women who create an alter ego so to speak on Facebook so that they win the approval of the social media world. So I’m trying my best to do something about it. I am sharing my heart with you. I’m sharing my messes, flaws and imperfections in the hopes that we can connect and that I can help God make a difference in your life too. We don’t need to be perfect. Say it with me…

“I can be perfectly imperfect and still be enough!”

So I promise you won’t see fake perfection in me. If you stay with me and keep reading you will see failures and grace, messes and forgiveness. I hope you’ll share yours with me too!

<3 Nicki