Monday, January 2, 2017

reflecting on 2016:

I love the New Year for dreaming and re-focusing, and I love taking time to reflect on where we've been. I prefer to take my time entering a new year, giving myself these first weeks for dreaming and planning the year ahead. These are some of my reflection questions on 2016:

Single best thing that happened in 2016: Changing my diet, eliminating sugar, gaining greater health. Choosing to homeschool the kids another year.

Single most challenging thing: LUCY.

An unexpected joy: that I would not only learn to live with Lucy but also grow to love her. (Most of the time). Watching the kids grow and mature, seeing their strengths emerge.

Best books I read in 2016:
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (still making my way slowly through this, so much to mull over!)
Big Magic was good, too, and The Allure of Gentleness by Dallas Willard. I listened to both of these on audio.
Best fiction was The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a read aloud with the kids.

Biggest personal challenge: learning to say no, letting go of guilt

In what ways did I grow spiritually? In various ways, at various times this year I have sensed the Lord showing me that I am trying too hard. I feel guilty alllll of the time. I feel like from the moment my feet hit the floor, until I fall into bed at night, I am trying as hard as I can, and I still fall asleep feeling like I'm failing. One Sunday our pastor gave a message on the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, and it hit me hard. The older brother is working really hard. The older brother is angry. The older brother doesn't realize he too is lost. I am the older brother. I have to admit, the message made me mad. I felt hopeless. I felt like saying, no matter what I do I am still doing it wrong. I give up. For the first time I took a long break from everything- a break from guilt, a break from trying so hard. I am still working this out, I know I need to sit here for a while and understand how to abide as the beloved, how to rest in imperfection.

In what ways did I grow physically: I originally contacted a health doctor for one of the children. But it was the week I turned 39, and suddenly I wondered if I was taking care of myself. I considered myself a pretty healthy person, but I was also considering going on a mild anti-depressant. I'm so glad I started by learning about nutrition instead. After cutting out sugar and grains and adding supplements, I have very little pms symptoms, no more insomnia or anxiety or brain fog, more energy and balance. Over Christmas I indulged a bit and instantly experienced anxiety and insomnia again.

What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home? Cooking, meal planning, decorating, planning our schedule and just going about our life together, cooking with the kids, reading together, having people over.

What was the most challenging area of home management: homeschool

Single biggest time waster? The internet. One of the frustrations of being home with my kids all the time is the sense that I can't do anything without being interrupted. As a result, I often default to mindless things which don't require deep attention. One of my goals for the new year is Deep Work- to train myself to give focused attention to my work; whatever it is I am doing.

Best way I used my time this year: any time I was present with the family, the nights that I didn't work, reading with the kids, family suppers, Sunday evenings when I sit down and relax, visiting friends and taking trips. Not trying too hard to read, write or blog this year weren't things I'd have chosen, but ended up being a necessary choice.

2016 was a year of peace and goodness in our home. It was another year of God's beauty and grace. I am so grateful.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Our Story of 2016

We began the year with a minor surgery for Josie. She was a trooper and back home running around by the end of the day.

We did what we always do in winter: lots of time in the kitchen, books, piano, homeschool, soup.

A new baby cousin in February!

Florida in March.

In April Sam and Annie were baptized as a profession of their faith in Jesus Christ.


We figured out that Sam is quite the babysitter. Along with cook, home manager, all-around great kid.

Josie got to go to her first birthday party.
The Cavs won the NBA finals.

And then after years and years of endless begging, reasoning, prayers and supplication by Sami-- we got a puppy. The rest of 2016 belonged to Lucy.

In June our closest friends moved away, leaving a big space in our home and our hearts. 

Another June highlight was a few days with our cousins here for Cousin Camp.

We did a ton of work to the outside of the house this year- new landscaping, a fence for Lucy. 
We put the children to work.

Annie got to travel to Oklahoma with my parents all by herself- for a week!

Another baby cousin! Sam the baby whisperer.

A highlight of the summer was a reunion with my Haiti friends in Indiana. It was such fun to reconnect with so many, and for our families to get to know each other. Thanks, Shannon, for planning an amazing weekend at Camp Moneto.

We traveled to Pennsylvania to visit the Kanagys in August. A beautiful, sweet time with our friends!

Jim surprised me with a fun day at Kelly's Island for my birthday.

My whole family came to Cleveland to go to an Indians game. So much fun.

We began our fifth year of homeschool and our fourth year of Classical Conversations.

Sam and I traveled to Grand Rapids to visit dear friends in September. A fun girls getaway!

We went to Indiana to visit our dear friends the Dunns in October.

The Indians nearly won the World Series. We loved watching the games.

Fall is always a blur- a hectic, busy, sometimes frantic season of adjusting and re-adjusting and trying to find some kind of a groove. There are too many activities and never enough time. I need to remember this and adjust my expectations. Every year I want to quit homeschool in the fall.

I have to tell the truth- this dog sent me into therapy- literally. I was living in a constant state of panic, she brought out all of my neurosis. We were this close to re-homing her. And then I fell in love with her. My Lucy experience was nothing short of a spiritual awakening; a step of liberation and of understanding the love of God in a new way. 

2016 was the most peaceful, joyful year I can ever remember (aside from Lucy).
Don't get me wrong- I did my share of complaining. I muddled in the usual self-doubt and questioning. The kids have their own struggles that did not go away. There are broken relationships that make us ache. Jim and I had our share of fights big and small.

We did two really positive things this year: we began going to counseling as a couple, and I began going to a Natural Health doctor and completely changed my diet. As a result, our marriage is the best that it has ever been, and I feel healthier- emotionally, physically, mentally- than I ever have. Hopefully I will have a chance to write more about both of those, and more. 

For now, this is the story of us in 2016.

Friday, November 4, 2016

the problem with knowing everything

I spend a very large percentage of my life acquiring information in hope of doing something right, whatever it is- Life. Living. This Very Important Question.

I read ALL the parenting books and followed all the blogs and went to conferences. I researched the hell out of homeschool and read all the books and followed all the blogs and went to conferences. I've spent my Christian life trying to read all the books and I still read all the blogs and go to conferences. I've read all the writing books and subscribed to the magazines and followed blogs and gone to conferences. I spent all summer researching dogs which is not my favorite topic. Lately I've been changing my diet and now I'm searching for books and blogs and going to talks on nutrition.

And then I worry. I worry because I am not living up to what I know. I worry that I'm choosing the wrong information, or because this information contradicts that information. There is always more to learn, and yet there doesn't seem to be enough; I am still imperfect, life is still imperfect.

We have this very human need to know how to live. I don't think there is anything wrong with learning, growing, trying to improve; it is vital. Questions, ideas, contradictions, conversation, are some of the best things in life.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; 
to search out a matter is the glory of kings. 

Surely I've read 1 Corinthians 13 hundreds of times. But this week verses 8-13 were brand new to me, the best news I've read in a long time:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part . . . Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Everything is only in part.

Knowledge is in part.
Prophesy is in part.
Homeschool is in part.
Public school is in part.
Classical education is in part.
Every parenting effort can only be in part.
Every vocation is in part.
Calling is in part.
Relationships are in part.
Nutrition is in part.
Art is in part.
Every book is in part.

Life will never feel quite complete. Every idea or school of thought will eventually end because it is imperfect. There are no perfect solutions or ways of doing anything. Every choice I make will always be at least partly the wrong one. This is a huge relief!

So what do we do with this incomplete life and imperfect living? Faith. Hope. The greatest is Love.

All of the books, all of the reading and asking and discussing and learning- what we are searching for are these.

Love fills in the gaps. Love covers a multitude of imperfections. Maybe living well isn't even all that possible. Only how we've loved will remain.

"Do every day with love, and you will know what to do."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Daybook October 5

Today . . .
Today we are at home. I knew by the look in her eye at four-o'clock yesterday that Josie had caught her sister's fever, knew we wouldn't be hurrying out the door to co-op today. I never want my kids to be sick, but I never mind the healing. I don't mind canceling plans, cuddling all morning with books, getting out the soup pot and stirring chicken soup. I don't mind that she asks all day long for more hugs. Today is for healing and this is my best and favorite work.

Reading . . .

Devotional: The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. Enjoying this one so much.
Fiction: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Recommended by Ruth.
Nonfiction: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listened to this on audio and liked it so much I bought the book.

In the Kitchen . . .

I am completely off all sugar and grains now, so I've become one of those people who takes lovely, eternally good, delicious things like pizza and tries to make it out of cauliflower and enjoys suffering. (Kidding. I am all in. I thought I could never give up sugar and now bread but it really is worth it. I'm sorry, paleo people, for making fun of your recipes all these years.)

So now I'm cooking:

This red cabbage and kale slaw. Tuscan garlic chicken. Roasted sweet potatoes. Kale chips. Eggs over quinoa with feta. Or my default recipe: any remaining vegetables and/or protein on a plate, a handful of seeds over, oil and vinegar.

Outside my window. . .

It is a beautiful, sunny and mid-seventies week here in Cleveland, and I feel guilty every time I look out the window and can't stop thinking about Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba.

Thinking about . . .

How to quiet my mind. How to simplify our schedule. How to stay home more. How to say no to good things and yes to the right things. This:

"Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not fully seized us." -Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Looking forward to . . .

Wendell Berry is speaking at the Circe Institute Winter Conference. The price is ouch but I was already hoping to attend and when I saw that Wendell Berry would be there I fell over. My biggest crush (W.B.) and my biggest educational influence- together. I will be such a fangirl.

The Spiritual Discipline of Dogs . . .

Josie is napping on my lap and I'm trying to type around her. Lucy is begging to be on the sofa with us and I keep dragging her off. I am determined to love Lucy. She barks too much and she stinks and the shedding is more than I can take. I don't understand dogs but I believe God is here, and that she is another way to know God and to be loved by God. I'm learning that my heart needs stretched, in all kinds of ways. The older I get the more aware I am of a hardening of the heart, a natural reflex to be unchanged and uncomplicated, and if I choose to believe in the vastness and limitless of the love of God then I must open up, again and again, the door of my heart to Jesus, to invite him to come in, daily, in every way. To find his glorious presence. Even by learning how to love dogs.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Symposium, and what is working this year

Symposium, or Morning Time, is a concept I have read a lot about and have done in various forms over the years. It is basically a way of creating a specific space, or ritual, of reading aloud and memory work, and making it the most important part of our day. 

The word Symposium comes from the Greek and means "to drink together," which is wonderful however for our homeschool this means tea. We have Symposium mid-morning, and promising tea and snacks is a great way to get everyone to the table.

This year Symposium consists of:

A hymn. Usually I begin by playing the Benediction on YouTube, hopefully we will go a little deeper into other hymns and their composers.

Devotions- The Jesus Storybook Bible (still our favorite, we will switch to another when we are through) and Jesus Calling for kids.

Scripture Memory: I have collected in our Symposium notebook many of the Scripture passages we have memorized in the past as well as what we hope to memorize this year. This way we can review several passages, and I can quickly choose the next. Having passages already prepared is key for me to reduce the paralysis of analysis I often feel with Bible memory- which one to pick next?

Poetry: ditto for poems, I have printed the ones we have already memorized, and selections to be memorized (I chose ours this year from The Harp & Laurel Wreath). We can quickly review a few already memorized, and then work on the new poem.

Classical Conversations Memory Work: we review Memory Work lightly and then spend time going in-depth in the subjects with library books, YouTube, Encyclopedia of World History, etc. For example, this week we are reading through an Eyewitness Book of Medieval Life, we watched a short video on the seven biomes, and a video of Charlemagne. 

Read Aloud: One of our read aloud books is from the period of history we are studying, and there are more picture books from the library on the subjects from our CC week in Science, Geography, and History subjects.

Famous Paintings: I love this set of activity cards from Usborne Books. One brief card per week with a famous painting, the artist, and a few key facts.

There are educational coloring books for kids to color while I read aloud, or they can cut paper or draw. Generally Symposium lasts right up to lunch, from about 10:30 to noon, and is our favorite and most focused time of the day.

Other things which are working for us this year:

I am giving myself Mondays as a slow-entry day. Generally I work on Saturdays, and so Mondays are for managing the house: cleaning, laundry, groceries, and the library. I take the morning to catch up on email, plan our menu, figure out what books we need. The kids help me clean, round up overdue library books, and try to at least practice piano. We also try to fit in Symposium on Mondays. My fifth year of homeschool, I don't feel guilty for taking this day. Homeschool is about living life together, and we need this day.

I'm trying to take back a daily quiet time- all kids in their rooms reading for one hour. Everyone is happier when they take some space from one another, especially mom.

Just-Because-We-Can days. We want to be about enjoying the freedom that homeschool give us. Who am I kidding, we've always enjoyed our freedom, but we are being even more intentional this year and planning fun days and trips.

One of the values of Classical education is the idea of much not many- to go deeply into a few subjects rather than a thin study of many subjects. The same applies to life. Learning how to say yes to a few things- and do those things really well. 

Most of all, I am learning to relax and enjoy our days. I'm learning to laugh more and try to control much less. Everything goes smoother when we take it a little lightly.

I love this permission slip at Brave Writer. I hereby grant myself permission . . .