Graceful Discipline

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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

A Willing Heart is More Valuable than an Educated Mind

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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.

 

 

Just Say “NO!” to Pinterest Mom

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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!

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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.

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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

 

Keeping a Godly Marriage in an Ashley Madison World

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This subject is not one I am approaching lightly. I realize it’s a touchy one so I pray my words come across the way I intend and aren’t taken out of context.

Here goes…

There are approximately 151 million men in the United States. I spent a good bit of time trying to find a reliable statistic on how many of those men are married however, that proved tricky. Some studies say as few as 30% of American men are married, some as high as 60%, so for this post I’ll use 50% for argument sake. With that figure in mind, let’s say that there are 75.5 million married men in the US.  Thirty-seven million of those have paid Ashley Madison accounts. That’s roughly half. Think about that. As many as 1 in every 2 of your married male friends had an account for the sheer purpose of cheating on his spouse. That’s a staggering number. That, my friends, is the break down of the American family.

Now, before I go any further, let me first say that in no way am I putting the blame for this on anyone other than the men who were unfaithful (or tried to be unfaithful with the fake female profiles that the website let them meet.) These men are solely to blame for their actions. I do, however, have a theory on why so many men and women are seeking attention outside of their marriage…lack of biblical submission. In the book of Ephesians Chapter 5:22-24 we find this passage:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Most people stop quoting there, but if you read just a bit further into verse 25 you find this…

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Biblical submission is a two-way street. Yes, we wives are supposed to submit to our husbands, but husbands are to do two things. 1. Submit himself to God and 2. Love his wife as Christ loves us. This is the ideal Christian marriage. Women, submitting to your husband does not mean that you are owned and don’t get an opinion. I am half of a submissive marriage. When we have a big decision to make, we both discuss our feelings and opinions. My husband, who loves me like Jesus does, cares what I think, he values my feelings and my opinions, and he takes that into his heart when making final decisions. He does this out of service to me.

When people go out of their way to put their spouse’s needs above their own, marriage works. We need to love each other more than ourselves. Can you imagine if all spouses put each other’s needs before their own? How many would pay to cheat? If your spouse’s spiritual, emotional and physical needs are being met on a regular basis in your marriage, what need would they have to seek those things outside of marriage?

When my husband and I were first married we were not connected to God. We lived a different lifestyle and we didn’t put each other first in any capacity. Our marriage suffered for it. About 3 years in, we found ourselves pregnant with our first child and as far away from each other emotionally and spiritually as we could be. We knew that we had to do something or we would end up divorced raising a child. We both loved each other, we just couldn’t seem to connect. We found ourselves in marriage counseling. The counselor was a nice man, a Christian, and he helped us see how badly out of whack our priorities were. Slowly, we were able to strengthen our marriage as we let go of some habits from the past and started truly investing in each other. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. I’m sure you’ve seen the Facebook post that says “Marriage is just two people who refuse to give up on each other,” that was us. We wanted it to work so we worked at it.

It is true that some people just don’t have monogamy in them. They will continue to cheat regardless of what you do to fill their needs. Those men shouldn’t be married, and if you’re married to one I suggest serious counseling before continuing in a marriage with them.

Several years ago my husband and I watched the movie Fireproof. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. In fact, I think every married couple should watch it together at least once. The basic story is simple. A young couple is struggling in their marriage. The wife is tempted to have an affair at her job and the husband has grown to resent his wife for various reasons. They are angry and bitter with each other, fighting constantly. The husband, played by Kirk Cameron, talks to his father about divorcing his wife and dad offers some advice. He tells his son to do something for his wife every day for 40 days. Serve her daily, even if he doesn’t want to and see how he feels about her after the time is over. He begrudgingly agrees to try. He starts small, halfheartedly and his wife sees through his attempts. He’s frustrated but with his father’s encouragement, he continues on his Love Dare. Within a couple of weeks of serving his wife daily, she begins to serve him back, without knowing why he’s doing any of this. In fact, after the 40 days, they keep serving each other. Their hearts have softened, they have found the love they once had simply by putting the needs of each other above their own. Small sacrifices can have a profound impact on your marriage.

I realize that a lot of people equate serving your husband with waiting on your husband. These are two very different things. When you serve your husband, it’s out of love, not out of obligation. Why is it a bad thing to make your husband happy? When women take care of their husbands,  we are looked upon as weak or controlled. That’s simply not the case. It takes a strong woman to understand and tend to the needs of her husband. Today’s society tells us that we should take care of ourselves first, our needs are more important. Ladies, I’m here to tell you, this new age view is not biblical. It’s not healthy either.

Serving your spouse is easy. You don’t need to come up with big, romantic gestures. Do something small. If you see he’s low on undershirts, wash some. Make his coffee in the morning, pack his snack so he doesn’t have to. If you notice he left his phone in some random place pick it up, and put it where he’ll find it so that he’s not rushing around the next morning. Sometimes my husband and I put toothpaste on each other’s tooth brushes. It’s a small, silly gesture but it lets us know we’re thinking of each other. Text him for something other than a problem. Let him know you’re thinking about him. Give him something to look forward to when he gets home. Let your home be his safe place. Smile and kiss him when he comes in, rather than running through the days problems. Heck, just give him 15 minutes to change his clothes by himself when he gets home from work, that will change the rest of your evening, I know that from experience. And men, after dinner, clear the table for your wife. Wash a load of dishes occasionally. Let your wife know that you understand that her day is hectic too. The demands on her are different than yours, but they are demands none the less. Keep the kiddos at home while she grocery shops or grabs coffee with a friend. There are so many little things you can do for each other that will go a long way in improving your relationship. Enjoy it, these are the best years of your life!

So how did we get to a place in society where nearly half of all married men are cheating or trying to cheat on their wives? Is it not obvious that something is completely broken?Ashley Madison is a repulsive website, however, the site itself is not to blame for these 37 million broken marriages. Think about all the wives out there, the children who are crushed and embarrassed over this scandal. There have even been reports of a few suicides in the aftermath. This is a big deal. We need to take back our marriages. We need to make the relationship between spouses a priority. We need to serve each other tirelessly. But above all else, we need to seek God. We need to put Christ at the center of our marriage, you’ll notice that the closer a husband and wife get to God, the closer it brings them to each other. This is the only love triangle that is healthy for your marriage.

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Ephesians 5:31:  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to how wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

 

 

 

Enjoy YOUR Journey

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My days all seem to start the same. Around 4 am my little bug climbs into my bed. She’s realized that I am useless at this time of the morning so she uses me as kind of a launching pad to pull herself up and over into the coveted spot in the bed: The middle. She then proceeds to work her cold little feet into the back of my underwear. Talk about a rude awakening! It’s this moment that I realize she has arrived. I then drift back to sleep as easily as one can with wiggly ice cubes in their panties, only to have her wake my slumber once more… this time for her sippy cup… you know the one that’s all the way in her room? So I stumble across the hall, locate the sippy cup in her covers and slip back into my bed… the cold feet/bum routine happens again and everyone settles in for a couple more hours of sleep.

My alarm goes off at 6:15 and my first life altering decision of the day is before me. Do I throw on the neatly folded workout clothes that I laid out the night before in the hopes that I’d wake up a 24 year old with energy? Or do I grab myself a hot cup of coffee and curl up on the couch with Gracie dog? Most days the coffee siren wins this battle but today I ran. Well, er, I jogged and walked and tried not to die. I, like every other woman I know, am unhappy with my body. Shocker right? I’m finally getting to the place where I just eat healthy and exercise a few times a week and try to be happy with whatever weight, shape, size that makes me. I still can’t help but find myself watching my fit friends on Facebook or Instagram and thinking “Why can’t I get it together? She has time to work out and raise 3 kids, why does she look like a fitness model and I’m here praying to squeeze back into my prepregnancy jeans?” I don’t see the differences in our lives at that moment, just the differences in our pant size. She doesn’t necessarily have more time than me, she just spends her time differently. She’s on a different journey than I am. God hasn’t called her to homeschool her 3 young kids so she has 8 hours per day that she can be in the gym, grocery shop, meal plan… I don’t have the same luxury. God has called me on a different journey.

Last week we went to a couple friends’ new home. They have just moved in to this beautiful, custom home and it is amazing. Her decorating skills are unbelievable and that place is perfect! I found myself walking around her beautiful new home and I was envious of all of their beautiful things. Don’t get me wrong, I love her and I am so very happy for their family, but I thought of our new home. Our home is fresh and beautiful too but it’s not decorated yet. We still have boxes filling the garage overflowing with things we probably didn’t even need to bring. We have a closet that we have tucked a few pictures away in, waiting until a free night where we can actually put them on the wall. We’ve had curtains for a month that aren’t even hung, simply because we haven’t had the time to get it done. You see my friend works part time and has adult children. She has time to decorate. She’s in a stage in her life where they don’t have the day to day financial strain of young kids. They have the time, money and energy to make their home beautiful and she has done an amazing job! Again, I am reminded that God has called me on a different journey.

We all have people in our lives that we compare ourselves to. We covet their homes, pant size, lifestyle… maybe even their children. The grass is always greener right? But God hasn’t called them on our journey. He’s designed one specifically for them. I wish God had given me the same metabolism that some of my naturally thin friends have but He didn’t. That’s no accident. He knows that I struggle with vanity and perfectionism and so He’s making me learn to appreciate imperfection in myself.  He’s organized my day just the way He wants it. He’s given me 3 little souls to raise and He’s set my day to remind me that they are my priority, not my weight, home or bank account. When we compare our journey to those of the people around us we breed jealousy and discontentment. We begin to look at our own lives and see burdens. The blessings that God has given us, the tools for our path, the unique life that He has carefully designed for me can never be a burden.

One day my house will be perfectly decorated, I’ll be more fit because I’ll have time to be in the gym. One day I’ll wake up without cold feet crammed into my underwear. I won’t wake with my face in a wet spot in the sheets from a leaky sippy. My kids will be grown and gone and starting their own journeys. I’m sure I’ll miss these days. Even as I sit here and type this my little mess maker is beside me… on the desk, coloring. One day I’ll be uninterrupted.

Please don’t waste your journey wishing for someone else’s. Please don’t squander your time with your babies watching your friend’s lives through the screen of a phone or tablet. I’m guilty of this myself. But I’m vowing to stop. I’m going to take a seat upfront for my journey. I’m going to watch my children grow. I’m going to drink my coffee in a living room that’s scarcely decorated. I’m going to write with a toddler on my lap, I’m going to wake up to cold feet and leaky sippy cups. I’m going to pass by the fit moms at the gym with my car full of kiddos on the way to Co-Op. There will be time for workouts later. Today it’s plastic solar systems and paper mache volcanoes and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

The Losses and Gains of Homeschooling

11846472_10207521496098891_239016432_nMaking the decision to homeschool is not one to make lightly. Careful consideration should be paid to the lifestyle change you are embarking on. Here are some of the most significant changes our family experienced. I’ll start with what we lost…

1.Rushing

If you’re a high energy parent who thrives on getting things done just in the nick of time homeschool may not be for you. Gone for us are the days of dragging little people out of bed before the sun rises, gathering up lost papers, socks, shoes and backpacks. I no longer throw sandwiches, yogurts and cookies together in a little lunch boxes. On that note, I also no longer find 3 day old lunches in the bottom of a backpack either. We no longer wear damp clothes that didn’t make it into the dryer the night before.

We also stopped wolfing down fast food in the back seat of the car on the way home from a baseball game or church because it was too late to eat dinner at home and the kids need to be in bed for their early school day. We even have time to occasionally grab an ice cream with friends after church but we’ll go over that in the gains.

2. Paying into the never ending school fund

You know what I’m talking about. Lunch money, field trip money, special-holiday-candy gram money… fundraisers, donations, gifts for everyone…  The back to school clothes must haves, school supplies, lunch boxes and backpacks. It’s expensive is it not? We still have a school fund but we get to use it at our own discretion for field trips or special projects. It’s a whole lot more fun picking teacher gifts when you’re the teacher too.

3. Homework

If there is one thing that has remained the same in my life it’s my disdain for homework.  I didn’t like it as a student and I hated it as a parent. I never understood why my child went to school 8 hours a day and still had 3 hours of homework a night. Now that I am a homeschool mom I get it. There is a lot of work to do at school but the teacher doesn’t have time to get through all of it because she’s teaching 20 – 30 kids at a time. She’s dealing with bathroom breaks, questions, recess… as a homeschool mom with 2 kids learning at once it’s much easier and quicker to get through the material.

4. The 3 pm pick up line and school bus traffic

When my boys attended school they were in a small private school. 200 – 250 kids total so the pick up line really wasn’t bad. It was a 10 – 15 minute deal. My public school mom friends were jealous. It took a full hour for most of them to get in and out of the pick up line! An hour! Can you imagine an hour of your day to pick your child up and then 3 hours of homework? How do schools expect kids to be able to participate in extra curricular activities with a schedule like this? Now we sit home in the afternoons, sometimes riding bikes, playing on the neighborhood playground or even swimming. We avoid school bus traffic, school zones and pick up lines. It’s blissful.

5. Constant illnesses

This one was a biggie for our family. Our kids were sick constantly while they were in school. It stands to reason too. Parents have to work, kids get sick. Many times parents send their kids to school because “they aren’t that sick” simply because they can’t take time off work to stay home. Kids come to school with fevers that have been medicated at home, the flu, even stomach viruses all because parents can’t miss work. Know what that means? You guessed it, everyone else gets sick too. I’m not faulting working parents, the system stinks. You have to do what you have to do but everyone pays. Since we’ve been a homeschool family my pediatrician has seen much less of us. Yes, they are still around kids regularly and they still get sick but it’s much more of a rarity these days and that makes for a happy momma.

6. Friends

Ok, this one is pretty serious but it’s really just part of the life for some people. I have lost one or two good friends since we became a homeschool family. Mainly because I would see them during school hours for coffee or lunch and I don’t have that luxury now. Not many moms enjoying their “me time” want you to show up for coffee with a brood of kids and that’s OK. I still love my friends, even though we don’t get to see each other now and our lives have moved in different directions but can I just say that I’ve made some pretty amazing new friends too? There are a lot of homeschool families out there with some pretty spectacular moms. They understand what you’re going through because they live the life themselves. They can offer a different type of love and support than someone who doesn’t understand this lifestyle. Please don’t think of this as a way to lose all your mommy friends, it’s really not. It is, however, a way to make a lot of new ones.

7. Bullies

When your kids go to school you have ZERO control over who they associate with. I bet you don’t even learn 90% of the things that happen during the day. You don’t get to help your kids through tough moments on the playground. You don’t get to give them advice on how to handle a situation. You know who does? Their peers. Who do you think is going to give better advice on how to handle a bully, an 8 year old or you? When you are a homeschool mom you have a lot of control over who your kids hang out with. You can lead them into healthy friendships. You can help give them godly advice when they have trouble getting along. You can help them develop real, working relationships.  Your child will never find themselves crying alone on a playground because of something a snot nosed bully said. Nope. If that snot nosed bully is on our playground we can handle it. We can leave if we need to and not play with him again. Yes, kids need to learn to deal with all sorts of people. They really do, but who do you want leading them through those situations?

Now that we’ve covered some of the losses, can we talk gains? These are some of the things our family has gained by homeschooling and I’m so glad to be able to share them with you!

1. TIME!

My favorite gain is time! Our family doesn’t rush, ever! If a baseball game goes into extra innings we come home, eat, shower, pray and go to bed. If it’s late we sleep a bit later and start school a bit later the following day. If my husband takes a day off work to go fishing we don’t have to worry about how many excused absences we have or making up assignments. We just go. If we find out that it’s snowing at Aunt Mel’s in Georgia we can pack up and head out! Beach day? Sure thing! We can always school at night, or have a make up day next week. We have the freedom to enjoy their childhood.

3. A relationship with our kids

I know that every parent has this but when you are with your kids 24/7 your relationship is affected. It grows deeper, closer. When you teach your child you get to know them on a different level. I don’t have questions about my kids. I don’t wonder who they play with, who their influences are. I know how they tick. I know what they love. I know how they learn. They also trust me on a different level.

4. A deeper relationship with Christ

This one is for me. I’ve always been a christian but I have rarely had to depend on God in my life. I grew up in a good home, we had the money to have nice things. I enjoyed a great lifestyle and rarely wanted for anything. Homeschooling my kids brings me to God on a daily basis. Not because it’s difficult but because I want to do it right. I pray to God daily for him to work through me in their lives. I pray for their minds to be open and pliable. I pray for their success, their education, their spiritual guidance. I pray for my patience, my discipline, my time. I. Pray. All. Day. Long. This constant dialog with God has deepened my relationship and dependence on Him. This one particular gain is worth it all. When our kids see us depending on God, deepening our relationship with Him then they are much more inclined to do the same.

5. A new respect from my husband

My husband has always loved and respected me however, knowing that I am home all day with our kids. Teaching, disciplining, loving and nurturing them makes him look at me in a new light. I am not perfect, I am so far from it but my husband admires what I’m doing. He sees the way the kids are growing, the way they are learning and the efforts I put in and he appreciates me. I also appreciate him more, when he comes home and he’s had a long day and he still does a sink full of dishes because he knows I’ve had a long day too it makes my heart happy.

6. We are now a HOMEWORK FREE ZONE!

I know that homework was counted in the losses but I’m counting this as a gain! One of my favorite things about homeschool is that there is no homework! We finish our assignments during school hours and when schools done it’s DONE. Our normal scheduled day starts at 8 am. We do school until 10:30 and then we take a break. After our break we school until lunchtime, around 12:30 and as a general rule we are done by that point. Twice a week we have science in the afternoons but that’s fun school so it really doesn’t feel like work. We have our afternoons and evenings free to do as we please. The kids play baseball twice a week in the evenings and it’s so nice to have time to rest after school, eat dinner and go. No one stressing over an unfinished assignment or having time to study for a big test. It’s awesome!

7. A closer family

One of my favorite byproducts of homeschooling is the closeness of our kids. Yes, they fight just like any other siblings but I’m there to help them through it. My 5th grader will help my 3rd grader when he’s struggling with something new. They read together, and they read to their little sister. They also take turns teaching her things during the day. We schedule something we like to call “Livi Time” into our day. When I’m doing math or english with one of the boys the other will take Liv into her playroom and play with her. Sometimes this is just a tea party or puzzle and sometimes it’s learning numbers, colors and shapes! Liv will come and ask for “Livi time.” They all love it. It’s pretty special in our house. I love watching them play, I love watching her learn. I love watching them work together.  The boys are fiercely protective of their baby sister. It’s sad to me that if they were in school they’d barely know her.

It’s no secret that I love the homeschool lifestyle. It fits our family and we love everything about it. I’m not anti public or private school, you have to do what fits your families needs. This article is meant to uplift those thinking of switching to homeschool, not to browbeat those who choose more traditional education methods. We are all doing what we feel is best for our kids. Keep loving them, keep providing for them and keep doing what you do best!

 

Our School Room

One of the most exciting things this time of year for me is setting up our classroom. Getting to choose curriculum, little desks, decorations and school supplies is awesome. Then getting to organize it all in new boxes, bins and shelves will make just about any homeschool mom giddy! It’s a process that can become overwhelming. We want to get the right curriculum, organized in a Pinterest worthy room. We will agonize and obsess over every detail, and once we’ve chosen we’ll question ourselves again and again.

This year we moved into a new home so setting up a new school room was obviously on my to do list and it was pretty high up there on the list of priorities. We have a small space right as you enter our home that was designated by the builder as “Flex Space.” It could be a dining room, office or a playroom for any family. Obviously for the Herrells it became our classroom. It’s not terribly big, just 11×12 feet but it’s got 2 great windows with lots of natural light and it’s open concept so it’s easy access from anywhere else downstairs.

It’s not perfect or necessarily even Pinterest worthy but I’d love to share a few pics with you.

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Here is the big picture of the room as a whole. All of the furniture with the exception of my chair is from Ikea. I love that place! We got the boys’ desks for under $20 each! If I were to guess I’d say we have about $350 -$400 in here. I’ll list all the items we purchased at the bottom although our large shelf is no longer available at Ikea.

I love this room, it’s colorful but casual. I put up a couple of posters that are specific to my kids and what they need help remembering. Those will change through out the year depending on what we are working on at the time. I don’t have the wall space to have lots of visual aids up at once, and I feel it gets too busy very fast.

 

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I love my Expedit shelf! It’s always a little disorganized because there are 3 children (and a husband who doesn’t ever put anything away) who live here but it serves it’s purpose beautifully. Lots of space for manipulatives, puzzles and games on that bottom shelf, all my teachers edition books, the boys books and inboxes, some board games, even our school pet, Finley. As I’m typing I see that my sweet husband put his lunchbox on the shelf instead of taking it all the way around the corner to the kitchen… well, at lease you can see that the possibilities are endless for this piece.

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This is my desk, which is made up of 2 LINNMON table tops, the Alex drawer unit and an Alex storage unit (for my computer tower) This works well because it gives me a place for all my school supplies and room for the computer, printer and plenty of space to write notes and lessons. I pieced this together myself and I’m loving the results.

The vinyl wall decal was a fun piece I got through Etsy. I wanted a US map but I find the traditional ones boring. This piece serves as both decor and map and I love the bright colors! It was very easy to apply too!

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This area serves as our bulletin board. I found last year that since we didn’t use a calendar wall or do calendar math my kiddos would forget what day it was. That’s easily remedied with this. Every morning we go over the date, the weather and any important events that are creeping up on the calendar. It’s a fun way to start the day and the kids always know where we are in our week.

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This is the kiddo area of our room. Their desks are made up of 2 smaller LINNMON table tops and 8 legs, the kids chose red. Their chairs are the Ikea SNILLE and they do swivel and roll. If I had to do it again I’d chose something stationary but these work other than the occasional distraction.

The hanging file folders hold the boys daily folders. I tear out any workbook pages that they have for the week and get their folders ready on Sunday afternoons. This gives me a chance to see what we are going to be learning for the week and it also keeps me organized and on track. They have a small pencil box (Target $1 bins) in the middle for crayons, pencils, markers and scissors. So far that’s kept their supplies neat and tidy. The deskmates on top of their desks have a ruler, multiplication chart, place value, fraction references and the cursive alphabet. It’s a great little reminder for them when they get stuck.

I love that they can look out the windows when they are working, at first I was worried that they’d be terribly distracted but it’s not been a problem so far… I may have to keep those blinds closed during school if that becomes a problem.

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I had to move this little gem into our loft upstairs simply for space. We are still using it though! I’ve filled it with their favorite candies and at the end of each school day, when they’ve completed all of their work neatly and correctly and finished all of their chores they get a painted quarter to get a few pieces of candy. At the end of the week when I take out the quarters if I find one that’s not painted I know I have a rat and I close the bank for a week. So far it’s a great motivator and having it in the loft means they aren’t begging for candy all day.

 

So that’s it, that’s our classroom. It’s not perfect but we love it. My kiddos are taught, loved and sheltered here. One day when they are grown we’ll likely turn this into an office or a formal dining room but for now I’ll embrace the bright, sometimes messy classroom downstairs. It’s my favorite room in the house.

 

Here are all the links for where to buy any of these goodies 🙂

The boys’ desk tops

The desk legs (4 each desk)

The boys’ chairs

My desk tops (2)

Alex storage unit (computer tower on my desk)

Alex drawer unit (my desk)

Ikea’s replacement for the Expidit shelving unit

Pocket Chart for daily folders

Vinyl USA Decal

Our Calendar Set

 

 

 

 

 

How I survived as a Stay-at-Home Mom

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Being a stay-at-home-mom is hard. Especially during those early years when your children can only communicate through blood curdling screams. I remember when I left the work force to stay home with my first two little ones, I was excited. My excitement soon dwindled to something else. Depression. Isolation. Resentment. (<< that last one was towards my husband who got to leave the house every day and talk to grown ups)

When our first son was born I worked outside the home. He spent the first 12 weeks of his life with family, I took time off of course, my husband took time after that, and then he stayed with my dad for nearly 6 weeks. It was great. We had this beautiful little blue eyed boy who had never had so much as a sniffle. Then he went to daycare. Just a short 4 days later my son woke up with a 104 fever and double pneumonia. The rest of his daycare career was very similar. I missed work for doctors appointments, as did my husband. My dad kept him a great deal since he was working from home and had that freedom. Our sweet boy was on antibiotics 3 weeks out of every month, had his own pulmonologist and had to have nebulizer treatments daily. Then we found out we were having another baby. I could not imagine having another tiny baby who was going to be sick constantly. I couldn’t imagine double the antibiotics and doctor appointments. Once we started calculating how much it would cost to have a 20 month old and a newborn in daycare at the same time we realized that I’d be working to put them there. It wasn’t worth it.

We decided I’d stay home. At first I was excited although a little hesitant. I already realized that being home alone with 2 small children was going to be stressful but I really had no idea what I was in for.

I took my maternity leave 2 wees early and stayed home with Kaden during my last few days of pregnancy. It was nice. We went to the park and the library. We had snacks and lunches together and then there was glorious nap time. Kaden used to nap for 3 hours a day. It took me 30 minutes of laying in his bed with him so he could rub my ear to get him to sleep but really, in the grand scheme of things, that was time well spent. We had a pretty good system. I enjoyed our time together.

Then on May 25, 2007 I went into the hospital to have Collin. He wasn’t actually born until 1 am on the 27th. I had no idea that his long and crazy birth would be just a little foreshadowing of things to come with this crazy boy. John stayed home for the first 2 weeks with all of us. That was awesome. He took care of Kaden while I took care of Collin, I had an extra set of hands and an adult to talk to in those crazy first couple of weeks. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that when he went back to work.

When John headed back to work I still had 4 weeks left of paid maternity leave. I hadn’t told my employer that I was leaving yet. I felt that was a lifeline, keeping the possibility of working open. The first day I was home alone with both the boys nearly killed me. Collin at that time wouldn’t sleep more than 30 minutes at a time, day or night. I was literally up all night with one baby and up all day with the other. I remember getting through the morning until Sesame Street came on at 10 am. At that point I knew it was 11 am lunch and 12 pm naps.I was ready for naps. I nursed Collin and he fell asleep. I put him in his crib and took Kaden to his room. Remember how I told you it took 30 minutes to get Kaden down? I had exactly enough time to use the bathroom once Kaden was asleep before Collin woke up. Screaming. That woke Kaden up. Here I was with 2 babies, one screaming and one who had enough of a power nap to feel refreshed and ready to play. I was drained. I had very little energy left after being up all night with my sleep bandit. I put Collin in the baby swing, he screamed… I found myself sitting on the floor in front of my crying baby and my confused toddler and I just cried. I actually sobbed. I was defeated by 2 little children. I felt like a failure as a mother. I didn’t understand how all these other moms did it, how they enjoyed it. I immediately began to question if I was cut out for the job.

The next morning I asked John to take Kaden to his daycare. I remember the disappointment on his face. I remember watching my not quite 2 year old walk out the door, sad that he couldn’t stay with mommy too. I remember feeling like the worst mom ever.

Our days went on like this for months. I did decide to press on and quit my job to stay home with these little people.  I’m happy to say that I didn’t send Kaden to daycare again but I struggled. I was depressed. We started driving 40 minutes a day to my parents’ house in Fruitland Park. I stayed there because I knew that my dad would help me. He’d be a warm body to talk to. He’d watch Kaden while Collin and I napped. We did this for a long time. Our house was neglected because I was never home. We stayed at my parents until as late as possible. I timed it so that I’d get home just 20 minutes before John and that gave me time to start dinner. We spent a fortune on gas and ran up so many miles on our vehicle it was ridiculous. However, I needed it for my sanity. I didn’t know how to be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t know that you need friends. You need playdates. You need to get out of the house regularly.

A year went by like this. By this time Collin was sleeping better and both boys napped 3 hours a day at the same time. Things were better but I was still lonely. In August of 2008 Kaden started preschool. He was gone 3 mornings a week until lunch time. It was there at preschool that I met my first mommy friend. She had 2 boys the same age as mine. She was 10 years older and had a much better perspective. We became fast friends, as did our boys. We began setting up playdates several times  a week. We’d take the little boys to the library while the big ones were in school. She showed me how to do this mom thing. She showed me that with a friend to walk with you it’s actually possible to enjoy it. I will forever be grateful to her for helping me find joy in this journey.

When I look back now and see how far our little family has come my heart is filled with happiness. That first year was harder than anything I’ve ever been through but those times make me appreciate the life we live now so much. When we were first starting out we weren’t in church. We weren’t connected to God the way we are now. God sent me my friend to help me see the joy of motherhood. He brought her family in our lives at exactly the right time. She and I don’t talk as much as I’d like now. Our boys have grown up and grown apart over the years but they will always hold a special place in my heart for how they helped us along the way. Their mother will forever be one of my favorite friends because of the love she gave me through tough years.

If you are just starting out on this journey please know that you need help. You shouldn’t try to do it on your own. Get outside, go to the park, the library, anywhere other moms and children congregate and meet new friends! Pray for God to send you special families for journey. Our heavenly father didn’t mean for us to do life alone. He gives us friends and families to walk with and he always sends just the right person at just the right time. God never fails,  and neither do mothers.