Friday, April 28, 2017

Changing Expectations

I am great at making plans that don't happen. Like, hashtag level expert.

I never thought:
  • I'd go to college in Utah
  • I'd be married while still in college
  • I'd have kids while still going to school
  • I'd be living in Minnesota this long
And those are just the big things. It seems that often I need to have reminders that I am not in control of my life. I have signed my life over to Christ and sometimes I lose sight of that. As a side note, the way things worked out are infinitely better than if things had gone "my way" because God's plans are better than we can imagine. That doesn't mean I'm driving my Rolls Royce to work and parking it in my mansion at home while I'm greeted by my butler who takes my coat with a hot dinner made by my cook. (Though kind of on that last part since Chris got a smoker). What it does mean is that God has plans for our life, and those plans are what we are designed for. There is no greater calling than following God's will.

I set that all up to say, my world was kind of changed this week. Or a very small part of it that feels rather large.

What happened was this. Weeks ago I signed up Sophia for the public school. This was not a decision made lightly. I feel as though we had exhausted other options. I researched private schools and they seemed out of reach (also, expensive). I researched charter schools and had signed up for one but we are #88 on the waitlist (that's just for kindergarten). So, it seemed that public school was what we were left with. What else was there?

We are currently in a Sunday School class about parenting. This past Sunday, Pastor talked about education. That was eye opening and very interesting. Parents are responsible for educating their children (insert: "duh") but how do parents really manage that? What does "responsible" mean? Long story short, I was challenged. We know that the public school is not neutral. There is no such thing as neutrality; that's a lovely fa├žade created by Satan to make us feel secure. I'm not saying she wouldn't do well in the public school or that it wouldn't create some good opportunities. I'm not saying teachers in public schools are bad. What I am saying is simply that the system is not neutral, and in it's lack of neutrality it is taking away God intentionally. There is no prayer in public schools. There is no Bible education. And it isn't that it's not there; it's that there is a hostility towards it. Kids can't pray openly or discuss Jesus without possibly a reprimand.

With that in mind, the Sunday School class was kind of a kick in the butt. We weren't at ease with the public school idea anyway and we were pushed to really look into other options.

Private school? That's a real possibility. Perhaps. We toured some, spoke with some principals and administrators, found out a lot of information about tuition cost and curriculum. Home school? I will say this. I never saw myself as being able to home school. I like the idea, and I admire moms who have done it, but I thought it could never be for me. How do I teach my child... period?

Well, I was brainstorming with Sherri. She came by to go on a walk with me on her birthday and we talked about school options for quite a while. There is a homeschooling co-op type of organization called Classical Conversations. The group is first and foremost: Christian based; second: classical education. The banner on their website, which I think states their "prime directive" (if you will) is "to know God and make Him known." I can get behind that. Christian education should start with God; what else are we equipping for?

So, what this group does is meet once a week. For young elementary years they meet for there hours from 9-12 and do things like gym time, science experiments, music and rhythm lessons, art, etc. and then the "tutors" work with the kids - and parents - and essentially teach the parents how to teach their children. The remainder of the week is spent doing school with the kids. The classical education model is excellent; the charter school I was hoping to get Sophia into follows this model. It starts with the "grammar" phase, so, the building blocks of learning (like learning addition and subtraction and math facts before learning how to use equations). It moves up from there as the kids get older.

I will admit I am still terrified of the idea. Homeschooling? I have run into few other things that make me feel inadequate. But that inadequacy drives me to my knees, which is where I should be. I am on my  knees praying for grace and wisdom, and I am also on my knees thanking God for this opportunity and the support of community that I have (namely, Sherri) who is helping me along in this endeavor and being willing to work with my (our) children. The *plan* is to take the girls to this day of schooling, and then Sherri will work with the girls when I am at work and I will work with the girls on my day off.

I do not have fears like "socialization" issues. She has a lot of socialization. I am not worried about the level of education; this curriculum seems to far surpass the local public schools and the girls will be getting more direct guidance. My biggest fear is my own competence. 

But for right now, for the fall of 2017, this sounds like an excellent option. I am not going to worry about tomorrow, for it has its own problems. I am going to take this one step at a time. And perhaps I just do Kindergarten with them at home. Perhaps I continue with this Classical Conversations all of the way through high school. We will see what that looks like, but I am excited for the possibilities.

And, providentially, a funny story. When we had first brought this up I decided to look on Craigslist/Facebook marketplace to see what options there might be for school supplies and desks. I was wondering how much student desks would be if parents were getting rid of them, and what the cost might be to try to set up a "school room" in my house.  I found a parent who was getting rid of three desks and sent her a message. She originally listed them for $40 but she wanted to just get rid of them and said I could have them for free! WOW. She was driving to a thrift store to get rid of one of them when I contacted her so she just dropped that one on by my house and I went by her house to pick up the other two, so I happen to have three perfectly good school desks!  Sophia and Heidi have already staked claim on which desk belongs to who.

So; yes, this sounds overwhelming and crazy and different. Or, at least it does to me. But I am excited about the idea of a God-focused education and spending more time together as a family.

On top of the school change, an added stressor was that on Monday evening I ended up with a ruptured Ovarian cyst. I forgot just how painful those were. Came on all of the sudden and I didn't sleep that night because of the pain. I was afraid to eat and drink, or even take ibuprofen because it was upsetting my stomach so much. Tuesday I went to the doc because he wanted to verify I wouldn't need surgery (I guess made sure it drained?) and everything seemed to be draining. I didn't even have coffee because of my stomach so Wednesday I woke up with a lovely migraine to boot. It took a couple of days before I got my appetite back! By now (Friday) I am back to 100%. Coffee and all. Praising God I didn't need surgery and I recovered so quickly!
A rare selfie - showing off my awesome hot pink saguaro leggings
Sophia's TKO. She tripped and her face hit the floor straight on :(
Goofy work training
Ridiculously cute Baby Toms
Playing with our new desks
Sophia came to me, "I wrote our address!" You can see the numbers :)
Chris beating me at our new board game
Bethany was trying to drink my coffee...then she saw the phone and wanted to eat it!
Heidi getting dressed, specifically, wearing her absolute favorite pair of green socks
Sophia learned how to cut with scissors. Paper is EVERYWHERE!

Completed Nursery!

By Easter Sunday the church nursery was completed with the exception of one final framed picture Sunday School song, which was put up the next Sunday (loooooooong story with the frame).

The first picture is of a spider carcass that was preserved in the wallpaper and I had the pleasure of finding. This happened to me twice, actually; once in both rooms.

The next pictures are phases of wallpaper removal. Then we painted. It's a light gray color and it went over the blue nicely. Did not even prime :) But the paint was supposed to be a paint + primer. 

The animal artwork is "Minnesota-themed Noah's Ark" with a moose, fox, bear, and loon! Especially the loon. And the hand-written looking design was from Hobby Lobby.

Perhaps the biggest change we made is that both rooms are now usable. We made the previous unused side the infant size (0-12 mo) and the other side is for the older kids, walkers, toddlers, etc.

The drawing board in the infant room was made with a frame Katie picked up at Goodwill (other Katie - I'm not writing in 3rd person now!). We spray painted the outside, stapled some fabric to a backer, and put it back into the frame so you can write on the plastic with a dry erase marker. New clocks were a significant improvement too.

The little table was spray-painted a mint green, and new chairs were brought in. There are a lot of little details too; each room has age-appropriate snacks, and age-appropriate diapers, and nice storage for all of the items. It really came together quite nicely!

Jesus loves me this I know
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it Shine
He's got the Whole World in His hands
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty

Friday, April 21, 2017

8 Months!

Tonight I gave Bethany Grace a massage and fed her before I laid her down to sleep. Nothing unusual or extraordinary about tonight, except that today she is 8 months old. As I held her sleeping little body in my arms and studied her sweet face I was struck but how fragile and fleeting life really is. Like a vapor. And it was a strong reminder to impress eternal truths upon my children.

My youngest daughter is 8 months old. As I sat holding her tonight it is hard to believe that much time has gone by. I remember so vividly her birth; I remember driving to the hospital that night telling Chris "I can't do this again!" as the pain of another contraction grabbed me. I remember the sweet Somali man who brought me a wheelchair as we were walking in, who was there with his wife laboring as well. I remember the nurses telling me they thought I had delivered naturally for my other children because I was handling the labor so well. I remember the faded turquoise color of the knit blanket on the hospital bed, and the small pink flowers on the hospital gown, and watching the Olympic game reruns for a brief time on the TV while we were waiting to push. I remember it all with such powerful imagery that it is almost like it happened just yesterday.

But it was 8 months ago.

Her first birthday is going to be here before I know it. Before she turns 1, Sophia is going to turn 5 and Heidi is going to turn 3. Andrew is going to get married. Chris and I will both have birthdays and we will celebrate our 9th anniversary. Chris will leave for Kirtland AFB. The time will absolutely speed by.

She is so vibrant. We jokingly say, she only cries when she needs something! Which is true of every baby, I suppose, but she is truly so content and outrageously happy that if she is fussing, she is truly hungry or perhaps dirty or tired. But otherwise she will play and explore so joyfully. She has a smile that seems to take up her entire face and it is impossible to not laugh with her.

Her bright red hair and eyebrows alone can bring a smile to my face.

She is officially my latest bloomer when it comes to teeth; both Sophia and Heidi got teeth right before they were 8 months old. Bethany's first ones still haven't made an appearance.

However, she is doing really well with solid eating, which is great considering her absolute refusal of bottles and breastmilk from any source but me.  Among her favorites are still sweet potatoes, but she tried cornbread stuffing on Easter Sunday and absolutely loved it. Last night she had ground turkey enchiladas and seemed to enjoy those as well (of course, all cut into pieces the size of her fingernail). She has had all kinds of fruits and soft veggies, eggs, crackers, cheerios, and seems to like just about all of it.

Sleeping through the night is still an iffy practice. Last week she went on a streak of sleeping three nights in a row from 8 p.m. to 5 or 6 a.m. but every other time her longest stretch has been about 6 to 7 hours. Normally she sleeps from 8 p.m. to about 5:30 a.m. and wakes up one time between midnight and 2 a.m.

She has yet to latch onto a "lovey" but she does love her Sophie Giraffe and Baby Banana toothbrush chewies. Her favorite toy is a Fisher Price gumball machine with these little balls slightly smaller than a tennis ball that go inside of it and have little toys on the inside. She got some more of the balls from Nana and Papa for Easter and just loves it. She will crawl around the house holding one of them in her hand.

Her other favorite thing is getting into the hairbrush drawer in the bathroom. By now she has somewhat figured out the layout of the house upstairs. If I set her down on the kitchen floor she will either crawl into the bathroom and open up the middle drawer with hair brushes and pull them all out (sometimes picking one to chew on), OR she will crawl over to the dishwasher if the drawer is down, pull herself up, and try to pull dishes out. If I push the bottom rack of the dishwasher in she will grab it and pull it back out so she can reach the dishes.

She still loves to have her thighs and her neck tickled.  She is also officially moving out of the 9 month size and into the 12 month size.  She is by far my silliest baby.  Lots of things that have no obvious humor make her laugh, such as when I push Heidi on the swing if she is on me in the infant carrier. Or if I am folding laundry. Or if I make funny noises. Or when Sophia and Heidi are goofing off at the table at dinner. It doesn't take much at all to get her laughing.

I don't think it will be long before she is walking. Her primary purpose in crawling seems to be to get somewhere that she can pull herself up to standing. She has been getting a lot more bold with balancing without holding on to things or pulling herself up with toys (like the push stroller).

I thank God for the joy that she brings to our family and I can't wait to see her continue to grow in grace. It is an honor to be her mother!