January 31, 2008

Things I Wish I'd Known

Did you know January has been unofficially labeled "National Home Schooling Panic Month"? You are half-way through the school year and there is still so much to cover.
The other day I stumbled onto a blog that reminded me of my younger self. The woman who wrote it was a home schooling mom. She was weary. She was sick of her kids' fights. Her house was always a mess and trying to schedule everything she needed to do was overwhelming her. She was afraid she was making the biggest mistake of her life by keeping her children at home and attempting to educate them; she was sure she was going to ruin any chance they had of a decent future. The poor woman was half-way down the road to throwing in the towel.

I can't tell you how many times I've felt like that. I'm wondering if anyone who reads this crazy, meandering blog feels that way.
A few years ago I read a book called: Things We Wish We'd Known. It was written by home school veterans from across the country. The Gurus of the home school world. It is a wonderful book! So very encouraging. Since I wasn't asked to write an article for the book, (I can't figure out why) I thought I'd tell you what I wish I'd known way back when.

-Relax.
I know there are days where everything piles up and you want to crawl under your coffee table and eat a bag of Doves, but don't do it. The Lord knows your heart. He knows your kids. He knows what you need. He knows you were checking the phone book last night to see if there are any orphanages nearby with a shortage of children. More than anything, He loves you and your family. He wants to see your kids succeed way more than you do. Pray. Take a deep breath. Surrender. I can't emphasize that word enough. It's only been when I've surrendered my anger, surrendered my frustrations, surrendered my fears, surrendered my loneliness, that I've seen the Lord at work. That doesn't mean He wasn't working all along, but once my heart was surrendered I could see it.

-It will all be worth it.
In the last 2 weeks our 2 older sons have shared so much of their hearts with me. I know they trust me and we are friends. I really truly don't think we'd be as close as we are if I've would've given up and sent them to West Point. (Just one of the many places I was tempted to send them over the years.) The Lord has been faithful. We have 3 sons who love Him, love their parents, love others, and love the Word. They are by no means perfect, but looking at them now I can say it was worth it. Oh how it was worth it! I will say I have an advantage over any of you with younger kids. I can look at our 3 older sons and see the "fruit of my labor". That alone is so encouraging as I plug along.

-It will go fast. It might not seem like it now when you're in the middle of everything, but there will come a day when you look back and realize, "Wow. Where did the years go?"

-Your house will be clean, quiet, and empty someday.

-The Lord is faithful and He will fill in the gaps. The spiritual gaps. The emotional gaps. The academic gaps. Can I use that word "surrender" again?

-Some of the stresses that come with having adult children are way more stressful than changing diapers and dealing with sibling rivalry. Trust me.

-Your children can and will learn regardless of what's going on around them. We managed to home school around times of financial stress, marital stress, the death of both of my parents, and unexpected guests. We've moved during the school year and I've had surgeries during the school year. The boys were distracted by pets, the weather, illness, cookies fresh out of the oven, and the birth of their baby brother. However, when we've had them tested, they scored either above or at the national average in every subject. Again let me say, the Lord is faithful. Kids don't need 8 hours a day sitting at a table to learn. Even those so called "distractions" can be used to teach your children things that are eternally important.

I hope this helps someone out there.......questions or comments are welcome. :-)

January 28, 2008

My Secret Obsession

If you've spent any time at all poking around on this blog you'll know I dearly love my husband. You'll have read stories about my sons and how much I love and appreciate them. You may have noticed I have strong feelings for chocolate. And you will be certain I am devoted to home schooling and being a home-maker. I hope I've also made it clear that Jesus is the love and Lord of my life.
I do, however, have one other thing I'm obsessed with.

I cannot stop reading books about people who have climbed Mount Everest. I've read more books about that than I have books on marriage, parenting, or homeschooling.

I am absolutely fascinated by people who are willing to face rock and ice falling on their heads, avalanches sweeping them away into frozen mummies, having their bodies secreted away in a crevasse until the end of time, losing their fingers and toes, cerebral edema, pulmonary edema, short/long term memory loss, temporary snow blindness...on and on. Why on earth do they do it? And how on earth could any sane person be that devoted to a goal? It takes years of training. Thousands and thousands of dollars. Sponsors, a team you can trust, medical personnel willing to sit at base camp and wait for your frozen, oxygen starved body to come limping back from the summit. (Provided all the "what-ifs" don't get you and you actually make it.) Not to mention needing Sherpas you can trust to carry your stuff to base camp and not back to their own humble little abodes.

The book I'm currently reading on Everest is the best yet. The crazy kid who wrote it actually tried to climb Everest 3 times in 4 years! That means I get 3 stories in one book!

I really want to know why people do it. Is it a "man" thing? A need to test themselves against the largest thing on earth? Is it a search for meaning? For purpose? If so-what would your purpose be if you did manage to summit and lived to tell about it?
I'm fascinated by the moutain itself as well. Can you imagine standing on the top of something so high the clouds dance around at its feet? I want to stand on Mount Everest's toes and worship the God who formed it. I want to sit there and wait for people to come crawling down and ask them why. Why did you do it? What drove you? What kept you going?
I've never found a book that clearly explains the whys and hows. It seems like even the people who make it can't explain their need to conquer that mountain.

(As I was finishing this post Mike called me into the livingroom where he's watching the "new" version of King Kong. There's a scene in the movie where one of the sailors asks another, "Why? Why doesn't what's-his-name turn back?"
The answer was something like this, "A part of him wants to. But he can't. He needs to defeat the thing he's most afraid of."
Wow. That puts a whole new spin on the climbers of Everest. Are they afraid of death? Of God? Of their own fear? Are they afraid of avalanches, crevasses, or blizzards? Is that what drives them? To defeat their own fears? Or to say, "Take that, God!"?)


Anyway, all this does make me wonder about my own little mountain. I'm starting to see a pattern to the things that hold my interest. Paul. Mount Everest. The people who climb it. Frodo and Sam. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood....

January 23, 2008

Random Thoughts From A Brain Half-Frozen

Why is it that 68 degrees in July would be a dream come true and 68 in January is misery? I just can't get warm! (That's what we keep our thermostat set at in the winter.) So, I am not only fantasizing about being warm again someday, here are a few of my other fantasies this winter:
-I want to go back to England. I love the Brits. I love their humor. I love their architecture. I love their history and their food. I adore their accent.
-I'd love it if Mike would take the boys camping for a long weekend and "forget" to take me.
-I want to go on one family trip with all 6 of us present and accounted for. I want to take the boys out west and show them Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and the Grand Canyon.
-Even though I'm freezing to death and my brain is gelling, I really, really, really want to go see the Himalayan Mountains.
-I'd love a "Pause" button for all the guys in this house. I could aim it at anyone about to make a mess or utter a sound.
- I want 3 years alone with Jesus. I used to be jealous of Paul because of the 3 years he was able to spend alone with the Lord in the desert-now I know better. The bible says that later in his life he was:
imprisoned
beaten times without number
5 times received 39 lashes
often in danger of death
3 times beaten with rods
stoned once
shipwrecked 3 times
spent a night and a day in the water
in danger from rivers
in danger from robbers
in danger from his countrymen
in danger in the city
in danger in the wilderness
he had many sleepless nights
suffered hunger and thirst
cold and exposed

I think the Lord was using that time in the wilderness to prepare Paul for his future. I haven't arrived at the point where I'd willingly go through those things for the sake of the gospel.
However, I am very curious about those 3 years he spent alone with the Lord. Can you imagine what that must have been like? No distractions. No interruptions. Just sweet time with Jesus, sitting at His feet and learning, learning, learning. Having your heart set on things above. Getting the Big picture, and seeing life from God's perspective. My brain and heart explode with questions about Paul's experience, but I can't get those thoughts put into words.
I do know that I'm not always jealous of Paul. There are so many times I let anything and everything get in the way of the time I could spend with Jesus. Maybe what I'm jealous of is Paul after he had those 3 years alone with Jesus.
His focus was constant. He did see the big picture.
-I want my heart to want Him.

January 21, 2008

To Honor a Life

Both my parents are gone. I've made scrapbooks of their lives. In between their birth and death certificates are as many pictures and other documents as I could scrounge up. Yesterday while I was tweaking my dad's scrapbook I started thinking about his funeral and I came to a conclusion.

We should have funerals while people are still alive.

Why do we wait until they're gone to gather and celebrate their lives? Both my parents' funerals were wonderful. Bittersweet, but wonderful. Friends and family gathered. Memories were shared. Stories told. People laughed and cried as noses and mascara ran.

Mom and Dad would've loved being at their funerals. They would've loved all the attention, for one thing. But they really would've loved knowing how the Lord used them to help others along the way. Mom brought so much laughter to her friends' lives. You never knew what she was going to say next.
And my Dad had a childlike faith that convicts me to this day. He was able to simply lay things at Jesus' feet and leave them there. He loved the Lord with all he had and was not afraid to tell anyone about Him.
My parents had lived long, hard lives and had gone through many things before they went Home. The Lord was able to use them to teach others so much about how to live. How to parent. How to hope and how to hang in there.
I wish I could thank them for some of the things they taught me. More than that, I wish they were here so I could pick their brains! I have so many questions about life. And many questions about their experiences.

Wouldn't it be fun to have a big "funeral" now? With all your friends and family present? You could all take turns going around the room thanking each other for everything. Tattling about each others' embarrassing moments. Laughing together. Remembering who taught you certain things and thanking them for taking the time to reach out to you. To love on you. Give to you. Just to be together and share what made each relationship special and even perhaps how you're more like Jesus, or you know Him a little better because those people were there.

January 19, 2008

40 Things in the Life of an Italian Child

Even though my mom was 100% German, she almost literally became an Italian when she married my dad. I can't think of one "German" thing about her except some of her recipes and her stubborn will. (But that's an Italian trait too, isn't it?) As a result, I hardly ever think of myself as being German/Italian. I am "Italian".
This list brought back so many childhood memories for me! I had to laugh out loud when I read the one about the male relatives being named Tony, Frank, Joe, or Louie. My dad's name was Frank, I had a Grandpa Tony, I have a brother named Tony, and another brother named Frank Joseph. I'm not sure where this list originated, but thought it would be fun to share with you:

40 things in the Life of an Italian Child

You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an entire year after a funeral.
You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich."
Your family dog understood Italian.
Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.
You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.
You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.
You thought killing the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal.
You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday.
You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.
You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.
You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel.
You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.
Your mom's main hobby is cleaning.
You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.
You thought that everyone made their own tomato sauce.
You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter.
You ate your salad after the main course.
You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.
You were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom.
You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your left hand.
You can understand Italian but you can't speak it.
You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.
All of your uncles fought in a World War.
You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.
You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.
You have relatives you don't speak to.
You drank wine before you were a teenager.
You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos.
You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.
Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic.
You thought that talking loud was normal.
You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.
You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and had money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.
Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.
There was a crucifix in every room of the house,
You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (oh, and he has to be Italian)
You called pasta "macaroni".
You dreaded taking out your lunch at school.
Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over Zia's house.
Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.

January 12, 2008

It's Time For Someone Else To Take Over

I've discovered one of the reasons God gives us children. It's to keep us humble. Have you noticed that too?
Yesterday morning Barrett and I were having our usual cuddle time. He wanted to discuss "opposites".
"Mommy, the opposite of "north" is "south", right?"
"Yep. It sure is."
"And the opposite of "east" is "west", true?"
"True it is. And the opposite of "up" is "down", isn't it Barrett?"
"Yes!" He said excitedly. I could tell he was really enjoying our conversation and getting into it.
"Mom, the opposite of "in" is "out" and the opposite of "hot" is "cold", correct?"
"You're right Barrett! I'm so proud of you! You really understand opposites sweetie."
"Yes I do. The opposite of God is Jesus, isn't it Mommy." He said matter-of-factly.

January 11, 2008

Rearranging Scripture

I'd like to re-write just a tiny little part of the bible. Wait! Before you rush off to another blog where you know the person writing it isn't a heretic, can I explain what I mean?
For years and years my "favorite" bible verse has been:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

That verse has kept me going through years of homeschooling. Times when our 2 oldest fought so often my biggest fantasy was military boarding school. If they wouldn't go, I was ready to pack up and go myself just to escape the misery.

That verse kept me going when people told me if I didn't put our sons in public school I was going to permanently screw up their lives.

That verse kept me going through times in our marriage when Mike was the last person on earth I wanted to see walk through the door.

That verse is what I clung to 2 years ago as I battled (and won) my weight, and lost 30 pounds.

That verse is what I'm clinging to as our family goes through a metamorphosis. The whole flavor of our family is changing. We have 2 adults, plus one very young adult, and things are changing in the way we relate to each other. I'm confused about it. Sad. Excited to see what the Lord is doing in our adult children's lives. Fearful about some of it.

So, what does all this have to do with rearranging the bible you ask?
Tuesday morning I was praying and reading my bible. Basically I told the Lord, "Lord, that verse just isn't cutting it anymore. I am weary. I am hurting. I am so thankful for the things we have reaped in our family. I am fearful. It's a good verse, but really, I'm just tired. I want to run away from home."

It was then that I "stumbled" onto Psalm 37:3. It's almost a duplicate verse, but not even close.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

It's a list really.
1. Trust in the Lord.
2. Do good.
3. Don't run away from home (my paraphrase)
4. Feed on His faithfulness.

So, all I want to do is scooch Galatians 6:9 backward several pages and stick it into Psalm 37. It could be Ps. 37:3 1/2 or something like that. It's all well and good to read about not growing weary, but Ps. 37 tells me how.
Do you have any idea how long a list could be compiled about the Lord's faithfulness? It's evident everywhere in the "me" posts on this blog. It's evident in the bible from Genesis to Revelation. I just need to take my eyes off myself, which is what I usually feed on, and feed on Him. I love that phrase "Feed on His faithfulness." We feed on chocolate. We feed on TV. We feed on blogging. We feed on sleep. We eat 3-6 meals a day plus snacks. I need to look at His character, remember it, trust Him, and nibble all day long on that.

That is living in eternity and that is how I won't grow weary.

January 10, 2008

The Frogs

Thanks to my sister-in-law Denise, I now have the answer to one question that has plagued me for years. SHE knows why the French are called Frogs! I thought I'd pass the answer on to the rest of you, just in case you've been losing sleep over this question too.

"Frog" for the French comes from the stereotype that French people eat frogs legs, a comestible that the English find repellent. I recall from somewhere that it started around the Napoleonic era - not that the English suddenly disliked the French then, but a paranoia developed about republicans slaughtering the rich and the educated. The French Republic was, to many people, as bad as the aristo regime it replaced and certainly something that the vested interests feared. With France a mere swim away, anti-French feeling was high - it was anti-'republican french' at heart, but the republican bit got rather lost. picking on minor differences, such as the garlic and frogs legs was all part of the war-time propaganda.'frogs' and 'froggies' were intended as insults - implying that the French for all their pretensions were silly people who did not know civilised food.

Thank you Denise. Very much.

January 7, 2008

I Wonder.....

Why are the French called "The Frogs"?
Will our sons marry girls that like their in-laws?
How does De-Ja-Vu happen? (And how do you spell it?)
Where do our choices and God's sovereignty begin and end?
Why are most dinner plates round?
Why does every man seem at least a little sad and like the little boy never left as his body grew into adulthood?
Why don't shins have more padding on them?
Who would I be if my parents had never divorced?
Why do I have good hair days when I'm not going to see anyone?
How do you let your kids go?
Where is heaven?
When my boys are old and I'm gone, and they're sitting around discussing their childhoods, what will they say about the way I mothered them? What baggage have I piled on their shoulders?
What color should we paint our living room?
How do you "parent" adult kids?
Why did God make males and females soooooo different and then stick me in house with 5 guys?
What should I have my grandchildren call me? Grandma Judy is just awful! Maybe Granny Annie? (Ann is my middle name)
How am I more like Christ because of the things I've gone through?
Why don't my brothers, sisters-in-law, and nephews and nieces read my blog?
Where is my fishing license?
Why do I hate most words that start with "th"?
Should I just make 5 identical scrapbooks of our family? One for each boy and another one for Mike and me?
Should we start stockpiling dry goods and water?
Should Alec and I take the rest of the year off so he can play with Legos and I can scrapbook?

January 4, 2008

2 Guest Speakers Talk About Homeschooling

I have a new bloggy friend named Jen. (http://henzegirls.blogspot.com/2007/12/top-ten-tuesdays-reasons-we-are.html) Not too long ago she posted a list of reasons their family is homeschooling. I liked her list and with her permission I'm going to post it here. After I read her list I wanted to post a comment about it. Imagine my surprise when I found my son had been to her blog before me and had posted his own comments. With his permission I'm going to post his comments here as well. I hope these 2 lists will be an encouragement to some of you who homeschool-especially as we say goodbye to Christmas vacation and hit the books again!

10. We can go to school in our jammies if we want.
9. I get to spend all day with my girls, watching God's world unfold in front of them.
8. I have hundreds of daily opportunities to weave the Word of God into my girls' lives.
7. No long bus rides, brown bag lunches, heavy back packs, or school yard bullies!
6. Each of my children can learn at their own pace. We can slow down or speed up whenever we want and explore topics of interest exhaustively.
5. My girls are learning moral values based on Biblical truth, not cultural norms.
4. We have lots of opportunities to serve others as a family through our school--babysitting, cooking, visiting the elderly, etc.
3. "Extras" like music, art, drama are always in the budget!
2. My kids can be kids much longer--not "mini-adults."
1. Homeschooling is an issue of obedience, and choosing to do so makes us obedient unto the Lord.

(Here are my son's comments)
Hi Jen -Your list was great. I'm wrapping up a bachelor's degree at a public university after being home-schooled all the way through, and everything you said is “spot on”. You’re doing the very best thing that you can possibly do for your kids. Here are a few of the benefits you can hope to reap from your list (corresponding to the number)
8. If they attend a university or college, get a job or stop by Starbucks they’re going to be presented with entire worldviews based off of secular humanism, spiritualism, Marxism or the “buffet style”. Every action, word and deed that they run into will be based off of core beliefs about the universe, God, mankind, knowledge etc. that will be in direct contradiction to theirs. By grounding their education and life in God’s Word you are protecting them from being sucked into spiritual, relational and intellectual vacuums, teaching them to glorify God in every aspect of their lives and preparing them to be effective ambassadors for our Lord.
7. Especially the “bullies” part. You’re protecting your kids from developing the habit of deriving their identity from what their peers say about them (peer-pressure). They are learning what it means to be a woman of God from you, not a teacher or fellow-student. They are learning how to relate to others who are older or younger than themselves. There is a huge difference between the homeschooled and Christian/public schooled students here on campus in this respect.
6. Learning at own pace/slowing down for interesting things. Out of all the students I have tutored over the past two years (nearly 120) and those I share classes with, the homeschooled students are by far the most curious and best learners. Since most of their parents gave them the freedom to discover how much fun it is to learn, they know that even if the subject is difficult rewards are sure to come. Most of them have a stronger academic foundation as well, since they didn’t get left behind in a class of 30 when they ran into something that didn’t make sense.
5. Morals: amen, amen, amen. It’s relativism all the way down here, and anything goes. “Don’t do bad things because you might get caught”, “it’s OK as long as you don’t hurt anybody” and “what’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me” are our creed. Easily defeated in a debate and having a horrible track record, but rampant nonetheless.
4. Opportunities to serve others as a family: The vast majority of my fellow-classmates come from shattered homes so they have shattered ideas of what a family is supposed to look like. Saying God is our Father or that the church is the bride of Christ doesn’t convey anything except bad experiences. Many young ladies are hurt from not having fathers who loved them so they cling to any male willing to give them attention, and then guys don’t know how to be men so they view the young women as bodies. Your girls will have a huge head start by just being emotionally intact. Serving others also plays a huge part, but I commend you for being willing to be a mom.
3. Now that we know that science doesn’t have all of the answers (they could have asked the Christians) our culture is turning to the arts to enrich our lives. Learning how to express yourself, create beauty and convey a biblical message through the arts will help your girls with outreach, relating to others and “wholeness”.
2. Don’t even get me started on this.If I may give you a bit of advice:1. Keep teaching your girls to love the Lord. Even if they end up working at McDonalds (which they won’t) this is what matters more than anything else. You’re giving them a very firm foundation by just allowing them to enjoy the learning process and adapting to their learning style so they’re probably going to outperform all other groups on campus (which we statistically do). 2. Teach them about the different worldviews, and why Christians believe what they believe about biblical manhood and womanhood. I’ve seen too many “Christians” walk away from the faith since they didn’t know how to engage the culture and academia for Christ.
Thanks for being willing to obey our Lord and prepare the next generation of bondservants. Blessings,
Ben

January 3, 2008

I'm Back....I Think....

It's been so long since I've written anything that I now feel almost shy about being back on my own blog. Like it's a friend I've neglected and I am now trying to worm my way back into it's affections.
It's been so long since I've written anything that I now have no idea what to write about.....
I took a long break from reading blogs and writing. Blogging is an emotional roller coaster when you think about it. You read other peoples' thoughts and feelings and read about their experiences and you either react to their writing or relate with their writing. Then you write something on your own blog and wait for all those elusive comments and hope that maybe this time the lurkers will think you finally wrote something worth commenting on. Your emotions go uuuupppppp, and your emotions go ddoooowwwwnnnn. I'm still tired of the ride, but another part of me needs to write. So, I am back. I think.
I've had a rough 3 weeks-I was an emotional wreck. Sometimes when I get like that I "crawl into a hole" inside my head where it's "safe" and quiet and camp out until it passes. I don't socialize. I don't reply to emails. I avoid the phone. Maybe I just sometimes need to fall back and regroup. There were several times in the last few weeks where I came within a click of just deleting the whole blog. I was even too down in the dumps to click on the mouse...
Anyway-this afternoon the cloud finally started to lift. I still feel a bit weary and wobbly, but I do think the cloud is moving away. However, like I said, I have no idea what to write about. At least you know why I haven't posted anything in awhile.
We start school again Monday. Maybe my bloggy brain will come back with the school books....