Saturday, July 27, 2013

At the Lake



Friday, July 26, 2013

Justus, Justus, Justus....

Our little Justus is such an interesting character.
He was our easiest baby, and is a very jolly child overall.  We often refer to him as the "sunshine of the family" because of his beaming smile and blonde hair.

However, life with little Justus, at this age, can be a challenge....indeed.
Our "Justus Stories" are legendary amongst our friends and family.
Just in the last few days, Justus has:
1.  Peed off the deck onto some pool floaties on the ground below.  Yuck!
2.  Swung a belt around over his head and hit a friend.
3.  Tried jumping out of the bike cart I was pulling while it wasn't completely stopped.  Ouch!
4.  Crashed into a friend with his scooter, on purpose, and knocked her off her bike.
6.  Taken a nasty spill when riding his scooter fast and wild.
7.  Bruised his heel on the pavement and screamed for all of the people in a 3-block radius to hear.
8.  Had a 2-hour showdown with Mom over cleaning up legos.
9.  Tumbled down the stairs.
10.  Tried to squirt me with the hose full-force when I told him to turn the water off.
11.  Almost killed my tomato plant by watering it with a few squirts of his squirt gun instead of with the bucket.  "Yes Mom!  I watered the tomato!"
12.  Squirted the windows with a squirt gun.
13.  Worn a swimsuit, which he wears daily at home, to church.  He had khaki shorts on, but for some reason took them off at church during Sunday School, revealing a swimsuit underneath.  To complete the ensemble, he had knee socks on, rolled down to his ankles looking like tubes around his legs, with sandals on.  Of course we noticed this in the middle of church when it was too late to find his other clothes!
15.  Created enormous messes in the downstairs bathroom with water, and covered the sidewalks in sand and mud.
This list of course does not include multiple fights with siblings, arguing with me over everything under the sun, pushing the boundaries at every turn ("You said I could watch 20 minutes of cartoons, I want TWENTY-ONE!!!  You said we could have granola or I WANT SCRAMBLED EGGS!!!!"), and freaking out and crying over the littlest things, ("I WANTED SALSA ON MY TACO BEFORE YOU PUT THE CHEESE ON!!!!")
Much of my day is spent correcting and training this little guy.  You would think from this list that he is spoiled and encouraged to be defiant, but he's not!  He is not allowed to get away with this behavior, but that doesn't stop him from continually trying.  It's quite the end of the day I wonder if I have even accomplished anything with him.  But God is giving me little glimpses that give me some hope that Justus is growing and maturing.

I get the most-enthusiastic hugs from Justus. 
He often tells me the food I made is "so good I just wanna die!!!" or "the best thing I've ever tasted!"
He's teaching himself to read; Yesterday I overheard him trying so hard to figure out the words in a book he was looking at.
He builds fantastic Lego/Duplo creations and proudly tells me all about them.
He's got a huge imagination and is extremely inquisitive.
He is extremely physically active and loves the outdoors.
He runs faster than any other 4 year old I've ever seen!
He's courageous and is a leader.
The little things in life bring him so much joy:  homemade popsicles, catching grasshoppers, going to the park, snuggling up for a story, his freshly-washed blankie, planning out what he wants his birthday cake to look like, etc.
Someday these difficult years with tiny ones will be a distant memory.  I won't miss most of "Preschool Justus" but I will miss giant hugs with my wild little guy and seeing his uninhibited excitement for life and learning. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Seven Kids

My sweet friend had surgery this week so some of her kids hung out here for a couple of days.
We had loads of fun!  Here are her girls making their own pizzas one night.

Personal pizzas for everyone!

We biked to a nearby playground after dinner.

So glad my kids were able to round up a few extra bikes and helmets in the garage.  They spent much of their time at our house biking around the block!

Our favorite local ice-cream place has $1 cones on Tuesday nights.
My friend's son has such a sweet smile!


We made another water blob, only this time I used an air-mattress someone had given us. 
It worked really well, and lasts a LOT longer than using tarp and duct tape.
The kids spent a lot of time in the pool too!

We spent an hour making Get Well cards for their mama.
The biking brigade

We biked to the park one morning and had blue Jell-O for snack.

Water Blob Olympics

Pushing KK in the stroller, I looked like I was running a daycare!

You Know You're a Mom When....

...a trip to the eye doctor and Walmart, all by myself feels like a wonderful vacation!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Anywhere But Here

Sometimes "here" is the last place we want to be.
Whomever you are, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, it's easy to idolize "there" because "there" isn't "here."
"Here" isn't always fun.
HERE involves messes aplenty, and pain, and failure and loneliness.
HERE brings with it hard work, difficult people, and the constant struggle against sin.
"There" looks better/easier/more fulfilling/more fruitful/more comfortable.  We long to be "there" because if we were there we would be happier, right?
I have seen time and time again in my life how even when I've gotten "there" and it becomes my new "here" I am still discontent in my circumstances and at war with my flesh.
Today I scrubbed up yet another HUGE blood mess as Justus slipped off the bathroom counter and smashed his nose and teeth into a corner of the wall, leaving a 20-foot trail of blood throughout the house, screaming at the top of his lungs for 30 minutes......but hey, he's fine now!  I was weary after a morning of errands and cleaning chores, 100 degree weather and being a single parent for the weekend,  wiping poopy bottoms, washing sticky hands, spills, making food, sorting broken toys, enforcing rules, correcting misbehaviors, hearing one kid scream that the toilet was overflowing, dealing with a drama queen whose siblings woke her up extra early, etc. etc. etc. I was thinking about how much easier it seems like it would be to be anywhere but here.
Send me to the orphans in Africa.
Take me to the slums of L.A. to serve food in a kitchen for the homeless.
Move me to artic Alaska to work amongst the Eskimos.
Give me a full-time job as a grocery bagger...or a waitress...or a park ranger...whatever!
I just don't want to be here today.
When I worked in summer missions as a teen, it was always so much easier to go and love on the lost in other towns than in my own.
It was easy to be nice and respectful to my adult directors and hosts.
It was even a breeze to teach 5-Day Clubs all day in 100 degree heat with no shade for dozens of needy children, day after day, week after week.
Compared to talking to my peers in High School about Jesus.
Compared to being respectful of my own parents.
Compared to sharing with my brothers and putting up with their bathroom-hogging and getting into my stuff.
HERE is hard.
As a wife and mom, I often feel the weight of being HERE.
Even if I'm living out my dream job and know that someone else wants what I have.
I'm often unhappy with the chaos that young children bring to my days and the continual sacrifices I have to make as a mother.
But thankfully..........God is more concerned about my holiness than my happiness.
My loving Father knows what is best for me and....
......HERE is His will for me.
While serving Him does ultimately bring true and lasting happiness, that doesn't mean it will always feel pleasant to be in the center of His will.  He is using my present circumstances to make me more like Himself, to make my faith stronger, and to build endurance in me, for His glory.
(See Hebrews 12 and James 1)
So, "here" I am:
Kneeling in prayer and begging God to give me strength.
Asking forgiveness from a child I offended.
Filling another cup of water for chubby, little hands.
Scrubbing bloody handprints off of walls.
Thinking of our Savior, who also had bloody hands, 
who left His amazing THERE in Heaven and came HERE for me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Praise

This spring I came across Monica's posts about Classical Conversations.  I thought, "What an incredible way to do homeschooling!  I wish we had a group like that here."  I even mentioned to my husband that I'd be willing to move, from my beloved hometown that is awesome, if we could go somewhere where there was a group like this.  I have enjoyed Monica's posts for years and have often wondered how she accomplishes so much so I was intrigued by her statements about how much CC had simplified her homeschooling.
About that time, a friend in a nearby town started a community fb page for homeschoolers.  I saw a couple of other gals on there talking about CC.  One mentioned wanting to start a CC group.  In our county, you usually recognize fellow homeschoolers' names, even if you don't know them well. 
I didn't recognize her name.
Ever the optimist, cue sarcastic tone, I was sure that:
A.  The gal starting it wouldn't be someone in our town, but one far away.
B.  She wouldn't be doing a group for my children's ages.
C.  She wouldn't really start it, because so many people I've known have had good intentions but no follow-through.  I knew it would be a LOT of work for someone to start.
Imagine my surprise when Kristi and I met at a lovely homeschool mom's tea party and discovered that:
A.  She had just moved to our town and was VERY serious about starting a CC group.
B.  She had been praying for people to join and get on board since before her move.
C.  She was starting a group for my kid's ages, as well as for young teens.
D.  She's not afraid of hard work and has done an excellent job thus far of setting up a CC group here that as of today has 7 families committed and signed up for this school year.
E.  She attends my church, where our CC classes will be held, and I didn't even realize it because our church is growing so much that we hadn't run into each other yet.
F.  She also just so happens to be nice, funny, inspiring, godly, fun to hang out with, and has kids that love my kids....a cool bonus!
My husband, being the tightwad conscientious provider and budget-er that he is, was concerned about the cost of tuition.  I told him from the beginning, "If God wants us to do this He'll provide."  I suspect he intensely dislikes it when I pull out that card, because there's really nothing more to say after that.  *smile*
A few months ago, Josiah strained a ligament in his shoulder and we submitted the need to our health costs sharing group, Samaritan Ministries.  We weren't sure if the need would be covered.  It wouldn't have been a devastating financial loss to us if it hadn't been covered, but when you are on a tight budget, it's definitely hard to see any amount of money go.  We paid his outrageously overpriced bills for something that turned out to be a minor injury, hoping that someday we'd be reimbursed, but not certain of it.
Wouldn't you know that God would work it all out perfectly in just the right timing.  It just so happened that this past month Josiah's need was published for sharing, and in the last two weeks we have received sweet cards of encouragement and checks in the mail from fellow believers around the country.  Since our CC paperwork and tuition is due this week, I finally took the time to tally up the checks and add up the numbers.
The results?
Today we deposited $1,445 into our checking account.
Tuition, fees, and registration for our 3 young children to attend CC added up to $1,300.
The kids' textbook, tin whistles, and memory cards added up to $148 with shipping.
Therefore, we only had to shell out a whopping $1 per kid for them to get an amazing education this year that will simplify our homeschooling.
Because I'm tutoring a Foundations class and getting paid for it, at the end of the year we should break even on tuition, meaning technically our kids' education will have cost us nothing but my teaching labor.
What's also neat is that God has provided a way for another friend of mine with a limited income to be a part of CC too.  She will be able to work in the nursery, watching the little kids age 3 and under while we are doing lessons, and she will hopefully break even on her kids' tuition money and the gas money it will take her to drive in from an hour away each week!  (She lives at the honest-to-goodness-end-of-the-earth, middle-of-nowhere, in the actual shadow of the Oregon Trail, but that is another story...)
I am so excited about her being a part of our group, because she is someone I completely trust with my precious little girl.
I love seeing how God works amongst the little details of our lives to reveal His presence to us.
A sign hangs on my bedroom wall, "Where God guides, He provides."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pioneer School

I know I'm very biased, but I think our little town is one of the best towns in the world!  There are so many great things for kids and families to be involved in.  Every summer, one of the local museums puts on "Pioneer School."  Pioneer School is a one-week session of attending school in the original old schoolhouse, dressed in pioneer clothes (provided on loan from the Museum of the American West), learning lessons from McGuffy's Reader, working math facts on a slate, and eating snacks that pioneer children would have eaten.
The week Alathia attended there were no boys!  The session before hers was half boys, half girls, and the session before that was all girls!
Pioneer School costs a meager $25 for a week of lessons and crafts.  They attend from 9am-12pm each day.  The parents chip in and bring old-fashioned snacks.  We volunteered to bring cornbread.

Alathia's best friend, Ansley, also just so happened to be signed up for the same week.  They loved getting to see each other every day at school.  There were a few other homeschoolers in their class whom they knew and the little ladies they didn't know became fast friends of theirs!

Recess time!

One day they had a Spelling Bee.
One morning some musicians came in and played some old-time music for the girls.
On the first day, they learned to weave bookmarks.  My Ali girl came home and began a weaving obsession that kept her occupied for a couple of weeks!  She wove dozens of bookmarks!

One of their crafts was making butter by shaking cream. (No pics of that though!)
They learned to write their letters in cursive and practiced with quill pens in their journals they made.

Another of their craft projects was making fancy hats.
Here they are modeling them!

On the final day, the class had a program for the parents in the old church building at the museum.  Each girl recited a poem from memory with a partner.  Alathia and Ansley recited "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Ali had actually memorized that as part of her English work last September so it was a good refresher for her!  The class together sang "America the Beautiful" and recited their virtues.  It was a lovely program.  Then the young ladies took their parents on a tour of the museum, explaining what the different buildings on the site are and what they learned during the week.  The students were all presented with a fancy certificate with a picture of themselves, their teacher, and their whole class, in sepia tone, and a CD loaded with all of the pictures from the week.  Nice!  So, all but the last picture in the post were taken by the wonderful woman who organizes Pioneer School and volunteers at the museum.
This was the PERFECT, and I do mean PERFECT recap to My Father's World Adventures. 
Ali and I both really wish Pioneer School was year-round!  It was a chance to live out The Little House books for a week.
Pioneer School is definitely going to be an important part of our summers for years to come!  When the boys are 3rd grade and up they will attend too, as well as Katrielle.  When Ali is too old to be a student, she can be a teen volunteer who assists the teacher, something I know she would be great at.  I was talking to another homeschooling mom when we picked up our girls and she said,
"I wish we could go too!" 
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