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Hey Mamas: Ditch the Directions

Pssst… Hey Mamas, can I talk to you for just a second? Okay, maybe 10. If you are reading this, it is likely not the first blog or social media post you have ever clicked on. Chances are, if you see something that starts with “Hey Moms” or “Parenting Tips” or “How to Potty Train Your Kid in 12 Minutes” you jump on it like a 5-year-old on bubble wrap.

They are all over the web. Parenting tips, tales of woe, warnings for the masses. My recent favorite is “5 Things you are probably doing that are harming your children”

No, I haven’t read it. I don’t read them. You probably shouldn’t either, at least not without a grain of salt (or a glass of wine).

Let’s make sure we are all clear on this now. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PARENTING EXPERT. Sure, there are expert parents, and maybe you can learn a thing or two, but just because they got their Sally to sleep in a big girl bed by 18 months with no problem, does not mean you are a horrible failure because Timmy is three and still clinging to the bars of his crib.

Tips are great, but when I see something about potty training, or how to stop temper tantrums written by a woman with a blog and a 5-year-old, I giggle. She hasn’t experienced the terrible 8s yet. She hasn’t had another child, she hasn’t begun to uncover the world of temper tantrums. More importantly to my way of thinking, she doesn’t know how her methods will effect him as an adult.

Or how about this; all the coverage “getting your body back” is getting. I’m sorry, where did my body go after children exactly? Did I donate it? Have I lost it somewhere between Aldi and Target? I didn’t lose my body, I got more of it. Most of the women posting pictures of their post-baby bods either have a genetic advantage or 26 hours in the day to fit in their workouts. Kudos to them, but ladies, that is just not going to work for everyone. That doesn’t mean you give in to a lifestyle of pizza and couch sitting, but for heaven’s sake the next mother I know who posts an “inspiration” photo to Pinterest of a 5′ 10″ woman with rock hard abs and an obvious aversion to all things carbohydrate is getting a personal phone call from my therapist. Rock your mama body! You grew a human. Even Superman can’t boast that particular power. (Even mamas who didn’t actually give birth will see some changes, it’s a mother thing, be proud your biology is responding to what your heart already knew, you’re a mom!)

No mother is going to be perfect and I honestly think we are all making ourselves neurotic reading all of these articles on the way our daughters will grow up with self esteem issues if we let her play with princesses, or how our boys are going to grow into violent, confused men if we don’t allow them time to play with dolls (do you see the weird dichotomy there?). Turn off the noise and learn your kids! Forgive the grammar, but it’s an appropriate phrase. Stop looking at all the “advice” and start letting your kids show you who they are. Let them tell you what works and what doesn’t. Give them the grace to be human. Realize they are not just miniature versions of you or your spouse. They are individuals. They will fail, so will you. That’s not a negative, just a fact. Show them how to get up, dust off and try again, and then drop to your knees and thank God for his grace as you extend it to yourself and your family.

You click on these posts because you want to be a better parent. That’s commendable. You’re not likely to find the answers here, or anywhere on the web. Listen to your kids, pray about it, ask a trusted friend who actually knows your family. Don’t let a woman you’ve never met (like maybe me) tell you that you aren’t up to par. Chances are, her kids need therapy too.

Until next time, keep calm and mama on!

(PS. I do realize this whole post is slightly hypocritical. You don’t have to pay attention to me. Isn’t that great?!)

18POzvZ

Circle the Wagons

One of my goals with this blog is to chronicle the reality of the journey we are on, not just the happy times, or the funny times. This journal is as much for me as it is for anyone who actually takes a few moments to read it, and in order to do my life justice, the whole truth needs to be written.

This week is hard. Not so much with homeschool, but just with life. Sometimes you get curveballs, and if you’ve got a good bat you swing away. This week we have curveballs aimed at our heads and we didn’t even know we were at the ball field. I feel dazed. Trying to teach through this fog is a very new and difficult experience. I’m not one to put on a fake happy face for anyone. I’m pretty real to begin with, and while my kids learn something when they watch mommy deal with a bad day (at this point, it is hopefully how NOT to deal with a bad day), they don’t need to be burdened by all that exists in the adult world just yet. So this week, I have a smile plastered to my face, and we’ve taken a very relaxed approach to how much we get done.

One thing we have learned this week, however, and it’s been the best lesson yet, is how we come together as a family and help the others out. We have circled the wagons and will do everything we can to protect our own. Sometimes it is from outside forces and sometimes you protect those you love from the battles that rage within them. Prayer is so important during these times, but so is physical support. 

The Bible says that:

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.” Ecclesiastes 4: 9, 10

“And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” Ecclesiastes 4:12

We have 6 cords,  and we will not be overcome. We will figure out what ballpark we are in and we’ll start swinging at the curveballs. One is bound to head for the left field wall.

Until next time.

18POzvZ

Family Trees and Puzzle Pieces

To the best of my knowledge, I am not descended from Royalty. I have no blood ties to Rockefeller, or Vanderbilt. I do not believe my family tree contains a branch with Henry Ford, Harry Houdini or Joe DiMaggio. But it’s entirely possible someone in my family fed them. I am a descendent of American Farmers. Both sides of my family contain roots embedded in American soil. My mother’s family settled on a farm in Kansas in the mid-1800s, and someone in our family has farmed it, or owned it ever since.

I don’t believe I have anyone famous or fancy in my lineage, but I descend from some amazing people. My great-great-great grandparents settled in Kansas in mid-1800s during a time where their slice of land was perilously close to the unknown wild west and dangerously far from helpful civilization. They built a house, with their own hands, out of stones and homemade mortar. Their grandchildren were eventually pushed off of their farm in the 1940s when the US Government commandeered their property to aid in war efforts. They received $300 for their house. I think I would have been a little angry with Uncle Sam, instead they sent their kids off to serve their country, salvaged what they could, and planted it again.

My grandmother survived the dust bowl, the Great Depression, and WWII where she served as a nurse overseas. She raised 6 kids on a government salary (my Grandfather was also an army nurse). While moving from place to place she and her siblings and parents wrote letters that still survive detailing day to day life on an army base…overseas….with 4+ kids. My grandmother was 91 when she passed, and the full military honors at Arlington were almost enough to honor the amazing person she was. In my 30 years of knowing her, I never once heard her complain (except when I’d stop her clock in the middle of the night…but that ticking drove me bonkers!)

I complain a lot.

I have never not had enough. 

I have never been forced from my home.

I’ve never served my country.

I don’t now…nor do I plan to…have six kids.

I don’t know how to sew, or fix a tractor, or make my own butter.

My grandmother and her siblings rarely smiled in photos, but to hear their descendants gather, you know that they valued laughter and joy, because it flows like a river at our events. We keep traditions alive and add new memories. We remember where we came from, and we take that with us wherever we go.

I don’t descend from royalty, I descend from everyday heroes, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Blood runs in our coffee stream.

Blood runs in our coffee stream.

Somehow G-money won every game he played.

Somehow G-money won every game he played.

We have this thing for puzzles. Haven't quite figured out why.

We have this thing for puzzles. Haven’t quite figured out why.

Family

Family

It's fun to get the older generation giggling until their cheeks hurt. We're mean like that.

It’s fun to get the older generation giggling until their cheeks hurt. We’re mean like that.

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Day One

Technically, it’s the end of day two, but day one tuckered us out to the point I couldn’t find a coherent thought to write yesterday. After two days of homeschool I’ve already learned so much!

  • I love my children– Really I do. I love being a part of their learning process. I love that I am learning about who they are and how they learn.
  • My children drive me crazy– Really they do. They are just, like, here, all the time right now. Underfoot, knocking on the bathroom door, jumping out of my closet, under my desk. Everywhere.
  • I’ve learned new phrases– such as: get your elbow out of your brother’s throat, don’t chew on your sister’s hair, and my personal favorite; the math blocks do not belong in your nose (I really thought we were beyond that stage).
  • I may have overdone the curriculum: I’ve actually had a suspicion building for a few weeks in this regard. We bought the Sonlight Core, and it is a stout curriculum. We purchased it because I really wanted something that was all planned out for me. I had no faith that I could create my own with any success my first year. However, in addition to the core package, which included two full boxes of books and binders, we also got a spelling program, handwriting, math, science and phonics curriculums. Those who are veterans just shook your heads with a knowing smile, didn’t you?
  • This is going to take time- I was told by so many moms that trying to mimic school was their number one mistake, but kicking that habit is going to take some time. G-Money even started our first day by finding a buzzer and ringing like a bell. Oy.
  • My boys do NOT work independently- Suggestions welcome on this one. I know I need to find some time to work each child individually, but what to do with the other? Right now they just want to play.
  • My patience is better– not perfect, but better.
  • We can do this- After two days, we’ve had ups and down, laughs and tears, but we have ended both days cuddled up reading our books and looking forward to tomorrow. This is not going to be an easy path, but I’m pretty optimistic about the big picture.

Here are a few snapshots of Day 1

We started the day by cooking a big celebration breakfast. Gluten free pancakes...best we've made yet!

We started the day by cooking a big celebration breakfast. Gluten free pancakes…best we’ve made yet!

 

Yummo!

Yummo!

My "class"

My “class”

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This is going to be fun

This is going to be fun

A little walk before we got started for the day. I'm so in love with this picture.

A little walk before we got started for the day. I’m so in love with this picture.

Cause who can get enough of this face?

Cause who can get enough of this face?

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Our first lesson: Frog are slimey and hard to catch.

Our first lesson: Frog are slimey and hard to catch.

History on the Hammock. I think it's going to be a thing.

History on the Hammock. I think it’s going to be a thing.

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The Spice of Life

Among the myriad of things we’ve changed in our lives in this past year, one great addition has been our garden. I have never kept a plant alive before, but I’ve kept my three kids alive so far, so I figured, how hard can it be? Ha! Those of you who garden are laughing at my naivety aren’t you?

After finding a raised bed we liked on the Pioneer Woman’s site, (Raised Garden Bed How To) we went to work constructing one in our yard with the help of my very handy daddy. We then went to our local garden store and shopped for dirt (oh how the mighty have fallen–just three months ago I was shopping for power suits).

I was so proud when all my plants bloomed gloriously. I had thoughts of running my own organic farm dancing through my head. The op-ed piece in the newspaper would read like this:

“Former Corporate Mother Becomes One with Mother Nature”

There would be pictures of me holding my 18lbs cucumbers, surrounded by birds and butterflies and looking serene. 

Enter the deer. The deer were very impressed with my endeavors as well. It was like I planted them their very own snack bar. The destruction was swift and brutal.

susanna and the deer We are so used to the deer around here, I forgot about them…yes, I realize that makes no sense.

Anyway, I was then on a mission: Bambi Must Die

Okay, not die, but get the heck out of my tomatoes. After rigging a makeshift fence our garden is back in bloom. But now there is another problem. What does one do with all these tomatoes?

Friends suggested sauces and salsas. I buy those things in a grocery store ladies. How do you make the stuff?

Again, Pioneer Woman to the rescue! Click to see recipe

We made several changes. A big one being we used our own ripe tomatoes and not something out of a can.

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The other great thing about cooking is that it turns out it is awesome for kids who need work with their fine motor skills. Willy Man helped my by peeling the garlic and the onion.

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My child had never seen actual garlic before. Seriously, I’ve failed this portion of motherhood.IMG_0731

Once we had all our ingredients (including a quick trip to our corner store for some cilantro), we were ready to mix.

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Great hand strengthening exercise for Willy Man. We had him squeezing limes into everything last night. Lime water anyone?

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Grinding peper was another good one…I see a lot of cooking in our homeschool future. Fine motor exercises are meant to help with handwriting…and hopefully getting those pesky Capri Sun straws into that little hole.

Our final result was ridiculously spicy (note to self: less jalapeno and cilantro next time), but very tasty. 

In case you are missing this….I MADE that salsa…with tomatoes I grew…this is crazy! Next grinding my own corn for corn chips (not really)

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Broken Beautiful

What do you do as a parent when you’re kid thinks he’s broken?

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After three years in school, this is what my son has decided is wrong with him. He’s broken. Specifically, his brain is broken. He can’t concentrate, can’t sit still, can’t tell people what he feels when he feels it, He has heard it from teachers, from coaches, and sadly from his own parents.

It happened again yesterday, his karate teacher, made him feel broken and incapable of learning (the teacher was not cruel or mean, just not a fit). At 8 years old, he doesn’t rebound as quickly as he did a few years ago from such set downs. He’s had such a great summer at camp, and in a few short minutes, the confidence he’s built working with the horses and playing outdoors, was knocked down like house of cards.

I love all three of my precious little humans, but if I have only one goal this school year, it is to rebuild this child’s confidence. We are going to discover all his strengths and use each and every one to help him move forward.

I will remind him of his heart, which is full of compassion

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I will remind him of his imagination (J.K. Rowling watch out)

Each creation played a different tune as it was knocked down..really cool actually

Each creation played a different tune as it was knocked down..really cool actually

 I will ignore the traditional ways of learning if they don’t fit. If he needs to sit inside a desk drawer and juggle in order to learn…that’s cool…and maybe we’ll become YouTube sensations in process.

I will apologize. I’m going to get frustrated. I’m likely to lose my temper from time to time (please, Jesus, help me), but I will breathe, apologize and keep working to find solutions.

I will do whatever I have to do to show my son he is NOT broken. At least no more than the rest of us. Like diamonds, it’s our cracks and imperfections that show our brilliance when they reflect The Light.

Shine on, beautiful. 

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Sunday

I have been giving Sundays a lot of thought lately. Kind of odd, really. I experience 52 of them a year and have my entire life, so why the day has taken up so much of my thoughts lately is a puzzle. It might be that, for many, Sunday acts as the 7th Day, the day of Sabbath, day of rest. Different religions and different cultures view it differently, but almost every faith system I am aware of observes some sort of rest. So as a Christian in America…why don’t I?

It’s important, but we’ve stopped viewing it as such. Instead, we are often made to feel guilty if every available ounce of our time is not spent in one productive endeavor or another. I tend towards laziness. I would rather spend my entire day on a couch or a hammock reading than doing just about anything else. After college, I had to get beyond this if I wanted to eat (and stay married), so I took it to the other extreme. I would beat myself up over a day spent doing nothing. I would then swim in guilt, which would cause me to float into depression, in which state it is nearly impossible to do anything but nothing. Awful cycle, right? 

Yesterday afternoon, we unplugged (minus the camera) and enjoyed an afternoon of nothing much. Spent some time on the lake, but didn’t take any toys, no tubes, no skis, nothing to learn, and yet…

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G-Money learned how to dive…as best one can in a life jacket.

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AnnaJane learned how to swim to daddy all by herself.

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We learned ducks want to be your friend if there is food on your boat.

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And that turtles have a similar notion.

(we also learned from our resident Dr. Dolittle, Willy Man, why it is important NOT to give in to their begging. For those interested it is because you never know how they will react to human food and it reduces their urge to hunt for themselves)

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We learned life is better when you relax.

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And fun can be had without an iPad. (or DS3, or Wii, or Leapster…)

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We learned that rest is sometimes the most important thing that happened all week.

Here’s to Sunday, whatever day that may be for you.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV)