Category Archives: Family

from white noise to white space

 

Reposting one of my favorite blog posts from last year. Hope it blesses you today. 

I had a surreal moment last fall when I watched Jack trot down the sidewalk to his piano lesson in his Cub Scout uniform, with me in the car and a cooler packed so he (and the girls) could eat a sandwich in the car on the way to Scouts and Heritage Girls while Scott was in class. Wasn’t this just a little too much?

About this time last year I posted about how crazy our schedule was. We were doing many things, but not doing anything well. Busy-ness had become the white noise by which we lived. We’d begun to slip away from the things in our lives that mattered most- quality time with family and friends, serving and hospitality, healthy, homecooked meals and time for the children to play freely.

For some people, it’s not too much. But for our family in this season of life, we were losing ourselves in the process of keeping up and fitting in. I had to step back and look deeper into our motivations for doing all that we were doing. Why was I looking to have my children in clubs, teams and activites? Were they really benefitting? Was I letting guilt and fear be the reason we participated in things?

Early this year, I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. So much of the book resonated with me, inspired me, and affirmed me. The main point he makes is that children need to be given the grace to be children and not rushed into the ‘more! faster! earlier!’ mentality that has become the norm for our culture.

“I believe that simplifying a child’s daily life is one of the best ways to restore a sense of balance in parenting. By simplifying their toys and environment, their schedules, and the sense of rhythm and regularity, you allow them the grace to be a child… Simplifying acknowledges how a child comes to understand the world- through play and interaction, not through adult concerns and information. The pressure is off when childhood is no longer seen as an ‘enrichment opportunity’ but instead as an unfolding experience– an ecology- with its own pace and natural systems” ~Kim John Payne

When I look back to my childhood, my fondest and sweetest memories are of my backyard. We spent hours building forts, making sandbox cookies, swinging, digging, creating, imagining…. no internet, very little television, no electronics- all very simple and wide open. I want the same for my kids.

So this fall, we took a step of faith and decided to stay home. No scouts, no sports, no music lessons. I chose to release my fears of my children being behind because they missed one season or one year of instruction. This year, we needed to breathe. To focus on the heart of our home and relationships.

What we’ve gained is freedom. My children finish their lessons and have the freedom to be outside, to sit and read, to play without rushing. They are more relaxed, happy and at peace. We have the time to keep a friend’s young ones so she can have a lunch date with her husband. We can make a meal for someone just home from the hospital. Bedtime has become enjoyable instead of stressful. Having friends for dinner doesn’t mean giving up our one free night of the week. We can take a bike ride and soak in the fresh air and sunshine with nothing else on the agenda.

White space has replaced the white noise of being busy. Margins become the norm and not the exception. Our souls have room to rest.

gray31days31 Days of Mindful Minimalism: Day 27

 

progress

progress

in parenting it’s always three steps forward, two steps back it seems.

we are staring double digits in the face with our oldest and my heart just isn’t ready. we’ve still got most of a year left at nine and i find myself alternating between incredible frustration over the same childish behaviors and being deeply touched by the little hints of maturity I see in him.

this morning during the breakfast shuffle, he wanted oatmeal. there was one packet left. instead of going for it in his usual manner, he paused: ‘there’s only one packet of oatmeal left, would either of you like it?’ he said to his sisters.

progress.

a taste surprise!

My kids are always curious early in the day about what’s for dinner. They’re like their mama, wanting to think it over and dream about it all day long.

I have always loved brussels sprouts, even from childhood, when my very clever mother tricked us into eating them by calling them cabbagettes. We loved cabbage, so we knew we’d love little baby cabbages! Score one for mom.

Last week, I was planning to make these roasted brussels sprouts for our dinner. Ginny said, “Mama, what do brussels sprouts taste like?” … As I began to answer her, she covered her ears and said, “No, wait! Don’t tell me! I want to have a taste surprise!” Sweet girl. She gobbled them up that night.

from white noise to white space

I had a surreal moment last fall when I watched Jack trot down the sidewalk to his piano lesson in his Cub Scout uniform, with me in the car and a cooler packed so he (and the girls) could eat a sandwich in the car on the way to Scouts and Heritage Girls while Scott was in class. Wasn’t this just a little too much?

About this time last year I posted about how crazy our schedule was. We were doing many things, but not doing anything well. Busy-ness had become the white noise by which we lived. We’d begun to slip away from the things in our lives that mattered most- quality time with family and friends, serving and hospitality, healthy, homecooked meals and time for the children to play freely.

For some people, it’s not too much. But for our family in this season of life, we were losing ourselves in the process of keeping up and fitting in. I had to step back and look deeper into our motivations for doing all that we were doing. Why was I looking to have my children in clubs, teams and activites? Were they really benefitting? Was I letting guilt and fear be the reason we participated in things?

Early this year, I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. So much of the book resonated with me, inspired me, and affirmed me. The main point he makes is that children need to be given the grace to be children and not rushed into the ‘more! faster! earlier!’ mentality that has become the norm for our culture.

“I believe that simplifying a child’s daily life is one of the best ways to restore a sense of balance in parenting. By simplifying their toys and environment, their schedules, and the sense of rhythm and regularity, you allow them the grace to be a child… Simplifying acknowledges how a child comes to understand the world- through play and interaction, not through adult concerns and information. The pressure is off when childhood is no longer seen as an ‘enrichment opportunity’ but instead as an unfolding experience– an ecology- with its own pace and natural systems” ~Kim John Payne

When I look back to my childhood, my fondest and sweetest memories are of my backyard. We spent hours building forts, making sandbox cookies, swinging, digging, creating, imagining…. no internet, very little television, no electronics- all very simple and wide open. I want the same for my kids.

So this fall, we took a step of faith and decided to stay home. No scouts, no sports, no music lessons. I chose to release my fears of my children being behind because they missed one season or one year of instruction. This year, we needed to breathe. To focus on the heart of our home and relationships.

What we’ve gained is freedom. My children finish their lessons and have the freedom to be outside, to sit and read, to play without rushing. They are more relaxed, happy and at peace. We have the time to keep a friend’s young ones so she can have a lunch date with her husband. We can make a meal for someone just home from the hospital. Bedtime has become enjoyable instead of stressful. Having friends for dinner doesn’t mean giving up our one free night of the week. We can take a bike ride and soak in the fresh air and sunshine with nothing else on the agenda.

White space has replaced the white noise of being busy. Margins become the norm and not the exception. Our souls have room to rest.

life lately

…left y’all hanging, didn’t I? Didn’t mean to.  Here’s the not-so-short version of our past few months:

Our house is off the market. We went from May to August with only a handful of showings and mostly only calls from agents (we were selling by owner). I really couldn’t believe it or understand it, our house is adorable and priced well for the neighborhood.  I alternated between being elated not to have to keep my house perfect and offended that no one wanted to buy it! We prayed all along that God would put us exactly where He wanted us to be used for His kingdom and we can rest in knowing that He has us here in this sweet place for a while longer.

I met my only two summer goals: I joined Pinterest and read the Hunger Games trilogy. Oddly enough, I devoured the books but haven’t gotten sucked into the Pinterest craziness (yet).

We had a great summer. The first part flew by and July brought lazy summer days, pool time and mama finding her way on her yoga mat. After nagging pain for three months, a diagnosis of hip bursitis and a cortisone shot to the rear,  I’ve hung up the running shoes and am working on greater strength and flexibility. With yoga and this fabulous quick workout, I’m feeling better already.

We spent 10 precious days in the mountains, the first few were spent with friends, including a bear sighting while I was walking with Liz (simultaneous reaction #1: Oh, Cool! A bear! – Simulaneous reaction #2: Oh, &*%! a BEAR!!) (we survived, aren’t you relieved?) and staying up late to lay out on the deck covered in blankets watching a meteor shower. Amazing. Sweet time on the deck, great conversation, delicious food and lots of encouragement and laughs.

After our friends left, it was just the 5 of us for a week, which had us day tripping to Boone/Blowing Rock once, Asheville twice  with brunch at Table and a visit to Biltmore House. For some reason I am fascinated with the stories of historical people like the Vanderbilts, so as I held the rails of the stairway or stood by a mantle while passing through a room on the tour, I couldn’t help but think back on who may have stood in that very spot or run their hand down that rail one hundred years ago.

We stayed outside all day every day, it seemed. The weather never got above 80 degrees all week.  Though I often grieve the departure of ‘babyhood’ in our family, it is fun to see our kids grow up and be able to enjoy adventures sans stroller and naps. We hiked from the peak of Mt. Mitchell to the peak of Mt. Craig (amazing views), went tubing on the Toe River (brrr! and fun!), and ate pizza at Spruce Pine’s local spot two nights in a row (it really is that good.)

We came home and did a few days of school, then Scott and I got to enjoy a weekend away at the  Grove Park Inn in Asheville. It was a work weekend for Scott, but thankfully we still got to enjoy lots of time together. We ate lunch at the Laughing Seed and it made my heart and tummy so happy. Eating well and healthy is so easy in Asheville, where local and organic and vegan/vegetarian menus are more common than kids menus! We enjoyed a wonderful, challenging hike Saturday afternoon on a section of the Art Loeb Trail by the Shining Rock Wilderness. The views were open 360 degrees and breathtaking at every turn. My legs were sore the next day and it hurt so good. Dinner at Table again… and may possibly go down as the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously.

I even got to score an unplanned extra night with Scott at the Grove Park!! …But only because I’d spent Sunday afternoon and half the night with Ginny at the ER. I left Asheville Sunday to join my kids at the mountain house (my parents were keeping them for the weekend) and just 5 minutes before I arrived, Ginny had crashed on her scooter and split her chin. Though we could have just gone to the local hospital, we wanted her to be seen and stitched by a plastic surgeon so we hopped right back in the car and headed BACK to Asheville to the ER. God showed His great mercy and care for our little Bug in giving us a 5th year facial trauma resident to fix her up. Poor baby had to be put to sleep to be able to get it done. But she’s good as new now! Her favorite memories are getting to ride in a taxi to the hotel, sleeping in a big hotel bed with mama and daddy, and eating every soft food that the breakfast buffet had to offer.

And now we’re halfway into September and finding a groove with life. Scott started classes- he is now officially halfway done with seminary, two years down and two to go, Lord willing- and the kids and I are enjoying school at home and lots of backyard play, mid-morning bike rides and time with friends.

Scott and I are seeking to live a more disciplined, balanced and healthy life so that’s involved some schedule and lifestyle changes that I’ll be sharing about soon. Let’s just say it involves alarm clocks, mountain bikes and tofu.

My hope and goal is to learn to make time to write here. My thoughts are still swirling, my heart is still full, and yet the pull of life keeps me away at times.  So my swirling brain can remember, here are some posts bouncing around in my mind:

-how forks over knives changed everything
-our homeschool curriculum for this year
-making our own margins and white space, inpired by this book
-a simple birthday/christmas wishlist (by simple I mean Vitamix)
-my quirks and collections
-the fine line of packaging words with disclaimers
-two new recipes

we’ll see how far we make it with these. ellen and I have been meeting and writing some, too, and if i get really brave I’ll share that with you. real heart stuff.

it’s a small corner of the world I have here, but I’m thankful to have you on the journey with me.

state of the union: marriage

Blue Ridge Parkway, Spring Break 2012

We just celebrated our 12th anniversary in May. When I posted about our 11th anniversary, I said we were stronger than ever and it was true. But as I look back on another year I am thankful for the ways God has continued to knit us together.

Two years ago, the Lord was softening my heart and preparing me to be a seminary wife. (Now He’s working on the ‘preparing me to be a pastor’s wife’ situation.)  Little did I know that two months after he started classes we’d be homeschooling, too. And then we’d be thinking about joining a church plant. And then we’d be putting our house on the market.

All aboard the Crazy Train!!

I know it all really does sound crazy but I’ll tell you why it hasn’t felt that way one. single. bit. … we’re on the same page.

What do I mean by that? Well for the early part of our married life, we enjoyed the ease and pleasure of not really having much to differ in opinion about. I mean, not much beyond “I’d rather have a Rush’s Cheeseburger for dinner” vs. “But I really was hoping we could pick up Mellow Mushroom instead.”

Then as the Lord gave us more time together, He began to peel back the thick layers around our hearts, revealing stubborn wills (mostly mine) and more reasons for us to want to dig in and get our way.

But- the more years we are married, the peeling back still continues but it also gives us the opportunity to grow, be transformed and to be willing to yield to one another in places that we differ. There has been such a joy in desiring to be on the same page as we tackle the challenges of life. There is peace knowing that the undercurrent of our marriage is one of harmony instead of discord.

Certainly there are times when we differ and struggle to see eye to eye. We are grown up toddlers who must choose daily to submit ourselves to God’s authority in our lives. We pray for the Lord to melt our strong wills into His. And every day, though we fail frequently, we are met with the grace of God poured into our brokenness. We are given the gift of His unconditional love toward us, which compels to choose compassion with one another.

We promised to love, honor and cherish til death do us part and I am so thankful to be married to a man who chooses daily to love me selflessly, to bear up under my many weaknesses, to encourage me in the Gospel and to partner with me in the joys and struggles of life.  He also smells really good and is incredibly handsome.

I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather sit next to on the Crazy Train!

state of the union: home

It’s been five years since we moved into Grace Cottage. We closed on it about 10 days before Ginny was born and lived with my parents for four months while we (and by ‘we’ I mean Scott) renovated it.

Our contractor decided to change professions and quit before he even started (and called to let us know while we were at the hospital having Ginny) which sent Scott to the public library to get books on framing, dry wall, carpentry, etc. He did an excellent job.

It’s been such a happy place for our family and we have loved being here so close to my parents, next to neighbors we adore and close to the grocery store, library, post office, Starbucks, the park…

I’ve mentioned before that we’re part of a new church plant that started meeting in January. Both Scott and I have had a nudging from the Holy Spirit to consider moving to where the church is, to invest in the community and help get the church off the ground. Talk about ‘hands on’ seminary training!

It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me, with each day bringing new excitement over the prospect of going for it and a new wave of grief over leaving this place we love. Every day I feel differently but definitely feel that God has called us to live with an open hand to His plan, and He will give us the faith we need to trust Him with what’s ahead.

I’m banking on this promise: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold…” ~ Matthew 19:29

So, our house will go on the market this week and we’ve been busy cleaning out closets, doing paint touch ups and odd projects, taking pictures and getting ready to sell.

If it sells, we’ll gladly relocate. If it doesn’t sell, we’ll happily stay put. And along the way, we’ll trust in the Sovereign God who knows exactly how it will all work out.

homeschooling, part 2: adventures and activities

We definitely stayed busy this year… it sometimes feels like we are rarely ‘home’ to actually homeschool! Here are some highlights:

Colonial Days at the Living History Park in North Augusta, SC

Touring the new Greek Orthodox church at the Greek Festival

Fall Baseball for Jack…. roll Tide!

American Heritage Girls for Molly

Fall Art Class for Jack and Molly at Tag It Art

Clase de Espanol con Senora Nunez ~ part of our Wednesday Co-Op

Veterans Day Parade- Molly marched with Heritage Girls

Several fun trips to Riverbanks Zoo (even better with Cousin Sawyer!)

Gymnastics for Molly

Visit to the State House (to see Daddy at work in the lobby) – when Jack was little he called it the “Steak House”… love that.

On this visit to the Steak House, Scott’s boss, Representative Atwater, took Jack to the floor to be introduced and meet the Speaker of the House.

Spring Art Class at Tag It Art

Strawberry picking with buddies (and making this dressing– YUM!)

Science Co-Op with friends… here we are playing “Hibernate/Migrate” (aka Red Light/Green Light) as part of our unit on Animals.


Butterfly Class at Clemson Extension… part of our science unit on Insects

Spring Baseball for Jack

Ginny finishes preschool!

Whew!! We had a fun school year but definitely plan to scale back the activities in a MAJOR way next year. It’s a hard balance in wanting to give your kids opportunities to grow and learn but also to avoid burnout. Almost every week day afternoon filled with some activity. It looked like this:
Monday: Piano for Jack weekly, then Scouts/Heritage Girls every other week
Tuesday: sometimes baseball
Wednesday: Art, Science/Spanish Co-Op, New Church Launch Team (in fall)
Thursday: Molly’s Gymnastics, sometimes baseball
Friday: sometimes baseball (one practice/one game a week)

I hope to have more margins in our days starting this summer and into the fall. Time to just play, read, rest, and be together. Hold me to it?

state of the union: homeschooling

We’ve had  a great year at Grace Cottage School. Jack finished second grade and Molly first, while Ginnybug went to preschool every morning at a church nearby. Next year we’ll begin our journey with all three of them at home and I alternate between really excited and really anxious about how that’s going to shake out. I’ve never taught Kindergarten before but Ginny is eager to learn, starting to read and happy to be home with us!

I am so thankful to the Lord for giving me the grace to teach my kids at home. I was completely terrified and overwhelmed at the thought of doing it. I loved our wonderful public school. But the more I invest in homeschooling I truly believe it is a calling God gives you if it’s best for your family, just like it’s a calling to send your children to public or private school. It’s an act of faith and trust in the Lord either way, and I think it’s awesome to have so many options for educating our kids. I also love having friends who cover the whole spectrum of schooling. Vive la difference!

What I’ve loved the most (besides the extra sleep {side note to my local school district- 7:20 just. ain’t. right.}) is just having more time with them and being able to be the one learning alongside them. I used to think having them home ALL THE TIME would make me absolutely mental but interestingly, the opposite is true: I enjoy them more, the more time I spend with them.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I need  a break from them but the beautiful body of Christ is always there to help a mama out when she’s reached the end of her very frayed rope!

Jack and Molly being close in age and a grade apart makes it easy for me to combine them for every subject except math and phonics. Here’s a look at our curriculum for this year:

Math: Horizons 1 for Molly and Horizons 2 for Jack. I really like this curriculum, it is challenging, thorough and visually appealing. Molly has done well with it, but Jack has been very resistant to the repetition. Next year we’re transitioning him to Teaching Textbooks 4 and I’m hopeful that will work well for him. Math is one subject in which I really liked the Montessori approach but I did not feel confident I could teach that myself at home. Because my kids only did primary level math at the Montessori school, I felt like it was okay to switch to the ‘traditional’ methods we’re using now.

English: Rod and Staff 2 for both of them. Love it. Simple, comprehensive, easy to teach and both of my kids loved doing it. There is a good bit of writing so sometimes we mix it up and I write on the board for them, or they write on the board, or I copy the textbook into a worksheet, etc.

Spelling: We started out the year with Horizons Spelling 1 and 2 but I bailed on it by October… cute, but I didn’t think it was really teaching them how to spell. We switched over to Spelling Plus and have found that to be much more our style. I like the lists and the memory approach without the busywork. Her premise is that 90% of the English language consists of 1000 words. So she groups the words by difficulty and sound to learn them. Makes a lot of sense. Sometimes we’d use alphabet stamps to practice, or bananagram tiles. I used the spelling list worksheet maker from Handwriting Without Tears to make our practice lists.

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears. I really like their approach, making the letters tell a story to help you remember how to form them. Good practice but not an overwhelming amount. I like their manuscript but I don’t like the way their cursive looks so we’ll use New American Cursive for that next year.

Phonics: Explode the Code 2, 3 and 4 for Molly and 7 and 8 for Jack. This has worked well, I love the funny drawings and the simple approach to helping them learn about letter sounds, blends, digraphs, etc.

Reading: I used guidelines from Veritas Press to come up with our reading lists for the year. The kids kept a log of their independent reading and we did read alouds from ‘More Favorites’Sarah, Plain and Tall, My Father’s Dragon, Now We are Six were included in it. The Comprehension Guide was fun, though I found myself not reading to them as much if we wouldn’t have time to do the sheets. Next year we may do one or two books with reading comprehension but I plan to just read a lot more and discuss the story with them… I want to just saturate them with good books, they are so fun to read and listen to!

Science: Nancy Larson Science 1. This has been awesome. I joined up with Liz and Marni and we did a little co-op on Wednesdays. The teacher’s manual does all the work for you and the kids have a great time learning. It has a lot of review so you feel like they’re retaining the information throughout the whole year.

History: Story of the World 1 by Susan Wise Bauer. We have all really enjoyed this (says the Social Studies Major mama). My fave part is the audio CD of the textbook read by Jim Weiss. He is brilliant and my kids love listening. I let them color one of the color pages from the student book while they listen. The maps are wonderful and the tests are great for review. My only complaint is that it’s 42 lessons, so we’ve skipped some or just listened and moved on without doing the maps and worksheets. We still will have some to finish this summer.

Bible: We participated in Community Bible Study this year, studying Deuternonomy in the fall and Hebrews in the spring. They have an excellent elementary program that has them studying the same material as the mamas but with their own special notebooks and amazing teachers who share the Word with them every week. We had to memorize the same scripture verses so we’d set them to music which helped us all to learn them!

Extras: We also memorized about 5 poems this year, did writing prompts with Silly Starters (so fun!) and Story Starters and kept a journal a few days a week.

Next time I’ll share about some of our other activities and adventures we’ve enjoyed this school year- there have been a lot!

couldn’t have said it better

Our memory poem this month comes from Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne:

When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

As I was writing it on the board this week, Molly said, “Mama, why do you want us to memorize this poem? Is it because you want us to always be little and never grow up?”

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.