When I say, "I HATE WINTER!" ...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

God gives me this:






So, I'm re-reading Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts.  If you haven't read it, read it. Today.  If you've read it already, read it again with a hi-lighter and sticky notes in hand.  It is to be cherished and savoured, but also studied and used as a companion to looking deep into scripture.

I read it the first time several months ago, loved it, prayed about it, cried my eyes out, started my own gratitude journal, felt an overwhelming sense of joy in offering thanks for the everyday, tapped into that deep understanding of life's gifts... then my dog then ate the book.  I laughed at the irony and asked for a new copy for Christmas.  And so, here I am in January, reading it for the second time and enjoying it probably more than I did when I first devoured the pages (not literally like the dog, however).

I truly do need a constant reminder to embrace the very moment before me.  It's not something I can think about weekly or every few days or even daily.  It's hour by hour, minute by minute.  Thinking intentionally to be thankful and savor these minutes.  And I completely relate when I read Ann's words related to taking a photoograph of a plate of cheese.  "Ridiculously happy over slips of cheese.  That I am, and it's wild, and, oh, I am the one who laughs.  Me!  Changed!  Surprised by joy!" (p.57)

Because when I'm walking with a big floppy pup on a leash at 8am and the sun rises over the Blue Spruce standing thirty feet tall, I'm giddy too.  My cheeks hurt from my smile.  And when our big old truck bounces through slushy streets three hours later, just me and three kids, I cry.  Tears roll down as I tell the kids, "Look... it's like God covered the whole earth in jewels."  We see how the white powder shimmers in the sun light and we all breath in that gift.  I'm trying to embrace this lifestyle of gratitude myself and also instill it in our children... so they won't have to learn it at almost 30.
Two years ago, I would never have thought to say those words.  I would never have thought to pause and fully inhale.  I might have sighed and whispered, "oh, pretty" and moved on - but this is so much deeper.  So much more pure.

So, when again I'm whining that, "I hate winter," and I need a boot-kick reminder to be thankful in all things, God gives me snow.      


And then He gives me the whispers to, "accept".  Because when I complain about the season, it's like saying no to the present He has sent us in this beautiful, shimmering earth cover.  And I don't want to be like a child that complains about the things her Daddy gives her. "I don't WANT that, it's not GOOD enough... I deserve something better...."  Ouch.   I feel like I lack the maturity to understand that all good things come from Above... and all good things are, um, undeserved.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have my eyes opened to these little gifts.  And to remind myself of it hourly, I've started journaling gifts again.  I got up to number 250-something and then I just stopped.  I didn't stop noticing, but I stopped writing it down.  There's truly something sacred in documenting all the undeserved bounty poured on me.  Putting the pen to the notebook is definitely Holy work when you are accepting those little gifts and whispering thanks to Him with every number.



In this childlike, "THANK YOU, DADDY!", we can just fling our hands up and allow Him to fill us with joy all day long.  Rather than complaining or thinking the negative, I shake my head and allow myself to see the blessing in every single moment...  I guess that's 'the dare'... "to live fully, right where you are."

And so, the simple things become cherished gifts...

A messy breakfast table... beautiful and bright.

Morning sunshine casting shadows on a favorite book.

Sweet puppy-girl, resting on a dusty floor.


Little boy, messing with Math puzzles.

Little girl's birthday flowers, popping with color.







God, teach me, grow me, mature me in every way.

"Do not be so preoccupied with getting,
 but instead, respond to God's giving. 
Steep your life in God-reality,
God-initiative, God-provisions..." 
 Matthew 6:32



Linked in:
A Holy Experience






Blessed Dishes (featured post at The Better Mom)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The view from this side of the world...

I ring out the wash cloth after dipping in soapy water. I sulk to the sticky kitchen table and start wiping.

“You know, I feel like a hampster in one of those plastic wheels. All day I clean. All day! I clean, clean, clean. I wash dishes, what? Five times a day? I organize dishes, I wash them, I dry them, I put them away, I take them out again… I make a meal and start all over. Argh!”
Back to the sink, dip cloth, ring it out, and now the counter tops. My husband just looks up, smiles slightly, and keeps scrubbing the pot in his hands.

“I mean, seriously!” I continue. “It’s all I do. It’s practically my unpaid occupation! I clean half-done crafts, I pick up toys, books, games, play-doh… I scrub toilets, I vacuum – like 4 times a day now that we have Molly (our 85lbs Golden Retriever Pup). I do dishes. That’s what I do. I should have gotten a degree in soap suds or something.”

He snorts and shakes his head.

I shake mine too, finally stopping myself from further outburst. And then – I quit ranting long enough to allow my mind to wander in the silence of our little country home full of sleeping kids.

To read the rest, won't you join me here?

Vivid

Friday, January 20, 2012

Webster's first definition of the word VIVID is about color - hues that are very strong, high in chroma.  I like the second definition much better.  It speaks of VIVID having the "appearance of a vigorous life, or freshness".   Ah, a vigorous, fresh life.  Now, that's what I want.


Two days ago I cried on my husband's shoulder that maybe I wasn't cut out for this "homeschooling stuff".   Our house had been chronically chaotic for two weeks, I felt like the kids weren't learning, well, anything - and I was slowly, but noticingly, losing my mind.  Doubt clouds over me in times like these.  The whispers of enemy lies take over. "Psst - You're not cut out for this.  Stop trying so hard.  This way of life is just too challenging.  It's not worth it".  And I start to believe that these Holy days with these beautiful kids of mine aren't worth it.  Aren't WORTH IT?  I'm ashamed to admit this now as I'm curled up in a quiet house, my laptop on my knees, Kari Jobe quietly worshipping in the background.

And then, it happens.  Just like it always does.  I have two VIVIDLY bright days.  Two days filled with the vigorous, fresh life.  Two days of letting go, and allowing myself to experience joy, joy everflowing.  Joy that comes from the wreckless abandon I force upon myself, because I'm slow with these things.  Joy that comes when I just shut up and trust in Jesus.

In the past two days we've made Pizza, baked a pie together, enjoyed a visit with a dear friend, read lots of silly audio books, and today - spent the whole day sledding and eating too much chocolate.  And yes, this is home school.  It is this week.  Because it's what we needed.  It's what I needed to make sure I was embracing that VIVID life.  That life that says "whatever" to society's standards.  That life that kicks the Deceiver in the face by choosing to embrace the calling God has given me to raise these children in Him.  The life that stops whining long enough to look around and see what I really have.  That life that shrugs shoulders to the 'norm' and just breathes in the joy of right now The life that allows our family to be the only ones on the sledding hill.  The only ones shreiking with laughter, whooping out "YA!!!  THAT WAS A GOOD ONE!" on a Friday afternoon.




A smirk crawls across my face now as I remember the giggles, the rosy cheeks, the sheer joy of being free.  Flying down a snow-dusted mountain side and laughing hysterically when you spin three times then flip over, face first in white powder.  When your three year old jumps on you and begs you to "sit in the sun with me, Mama" and leans trustingly against your chest.  The sun beams down and I lift my eyes to the sky.  God is here, in these moments, revealing truth to my forgetful soul.



The opposite of living a
vivid life would be to live a dull life. 

To me, the dull life is the life filled with pretenses, cultural norms, classrooms, cubicals, and consumption.  The dull life is void of God and void of the belief that we have the power to impact the world.  Yes, little us.  We have that ability.  I want the vigorous life.  The fresh life.  The daring life.  And I want it for our children.  The life lived in God's hands, whether the Phonics lesson gets done or not.  Every day, making choices based on what leads us to God and keeps us fresh.  Isn't that life school?  Isn't that the education of a life-time?  To zoom down a hill laughing with joy, caught by your loving Mom who is more concerned with joy and life than she is about filling out a checklist.

I choose to live FRESH, free falling right into Christ's arms, trusting He'll be at the bottom of this crazy hill, ready to catch, pick up, dust off, and point me back in the right direction... which will likely be right back up that hill again.



Linked in for Five Minute Friday



A Weak Homeschooler's Prayer

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Might I humbly share what I wrote this morning in my prayer journal?  

Lord, these days are long, when my husband leaves for work and doesn't return until after the kids are in bed.  Give me strength... no, not only strength but a different perspective.  Not thinking "Oh, what a long day ahead... how will I get through it?" but instead, "Oh, what a great day I now have to spend with our children. How blessed I am for these long, quiet, safe, holy days."  It sounds cheesy but how different my life would be if I looked at all things from a positive perspective instead of subconsciously thinking the worst.

Hard to believe THIS was three years ago already...  they stay cocooned for such a short time...
Within a few months, this little boy was already done being bundled... these stages fly by faster than is fair...


These days are not long, arduous days - these days are numbered, precious occurrences that will one day run out.  One day, our children will grow up and I will grow old and I will long for quiet days with three kids at the kitchen table.  Spills and all.  Teach me Lore, to not count the minutes but rather, cherish the moments.  Every moment is filled with life.  Life unexpected, life uncertain, life fleeting, life passing by, life so precious.  Remind me, Father, in the eyes of our children, that what I do as a Mom has deep value and my purpose is so firmly rooted in You.  These little ones, their souls, their hearts and their spirits - they are in my hands.  Every day, all day, they count on me to be here, present, nurturing them, helping them learn and grow to their potential in You.  How did I inherit this?

More cocooned days, long passed... when baby girl was only two...
now she's nearing five... have I cherished these days?


Thank You, Lord, that it is not in myself that I trust.  Thank you, God that I can lean fully on You and Your guiding hand.  Although, I don't do that enough.  Thank you for affirming me as a Mom, as a teacher, and as an important part of Your eternal Kingdom.  Help me never to lose sight of the big (so very big) picture of this life. 

Heaven is our home,
and earth is but a footstool. 

This isn't it!  Raising of children and growing their hearts at home, no matter how unconventional, is Your work.  Kingdom work.  Yes, I have been set apart for such a time as this...











Remind me that messy paint tables and spilled Science experiments and unfinished assignments are all a part of this imperfect journey.  Show me how arguing siblings and dogs chewing art projects are molding me, molding us.  Open my eyes to the nature that surrounds us and brings us closer to You... showing us Your love.   Make me so vividly awake to the truth that rewards are found in the embrace of a child and the kitchen laughter on a rainy afternoon.  In hot chocolates on the couch, surrounded by children and audio books.  In long nature walks by the river when everyone else is stuck in the classroom or the office.  That I am intensely blessed and many would trade places with me in a moment.  That rewards are piled up in Heaven when we sacrifice ourselves and choose to follow You.  Yes, rewards are there in Your Kingdom for us Moms who plug through these days, daring to count fully on You.

Yes, God, pour your grace on those of us daring the live counter-culturally.  Daring to say, 'I will be the primary care provider for my children.  I will teach them, even if I am not qualified.  I will put my children and my calling before my own desires and I will push aside what people may think or say about me'.  

The year we started this home schooling journey... the year that changed our life and rendered me so in need of grace...


I will choose to look around me every single day and raise my hands up to the sky whispering, "Thank you, Jesus!".  That I'm here.  That I can do this.  That my husband has a job to support us, that our home is safe and warm and these walls hold in love and wonder.  Thank you for the craziness, for that chaos, it reminds me I need You.  Thank you for the quiet moments, though very few, for they restore my soul and give me strength. 

Fill me with Your grace, Your hope, Your light, Your truth.  Humble me to be a true example of Your love to our children.  I surrender this home and these home school days to Your will... teach me Father, what that means.  I'm not good at surrender.  But I need to be.

Praise You God....  for Your love... Your ever-presence  Amen.


"I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Majer of heaven and earth."

"He will not let your foot slip-
He who whatches over you will not slumber;
He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep."

"The Lord watches over you-
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night."

"The Lord will keep you from all harm-
He will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore."

(Ps. 121: 1-8)










Awake.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I feel like I've spent the past week in a sort of sober-drunken sick stupor.  The whole house has been crashed out with colds, flus, headaches, fevers.  Until yesterday I hadn't left the house in 6 days.

"Argh... I have no pants."  My laid out husband is in a cold sweat and drowsy in bed as I tirade around the room.  "For two weeks, I've had no pants.  Nothing.  Only these disgusting jogging pants - ack."

He tried hard to open his eyes and at least acknowledge me.

"I'm so sick of this house!  I feel like I'm in jail... seriously.  Could it be any worse?  Must be nice to be able to just lay there and 'get better'.  You went to work while I felt like that.  How do you think that felt?  Honestly!  I had to be up and running around after three kids and the dog when I was that sick."

He's barely able to respond.

"Argh... never mind."  I storm out of the room with my ugly track pants under my arm and whine to myself that 'this sucks' as I trudge down the stairs to three coughing children on the couch.

"Mama, I need more water."
"Mama, my head is hot again..."
"Mama, Alex is touching me."

Mama...  Mama....  Mama....  for an entire feverish week, Mama.

I heave a sigh and keep on pushing through the day.  My Mom always said it, "this too shall pass".  But when everyone is sick, I GET GRUMPY.  And when my huspand couples over and checks out, I take it out on him.  There.  I said it.




Everything I know about living in the moment - of soaking up life one minute at a time, gets flushed down the toilet with all that dirty Kleenex.

When our household has the flu, I forget to be thankful.  I forget to bow low and thank Jesus that we are all still awake.  Still here.  Hearts beating.  Little mouths eating.  Smooth rosy cheeks smiling slightly.  Little eyes looking to me to care for them.  Looking to me.  No one else, me.  Yep, their upset, overwhelmed, sick-too Mom.  That's me.  Sorry kids.

But today, in this 8th day of sickness around these parts, I've resolved to wake up from my immature, grouchy stumbling and be awake to the beauty around me.  The snuggles, the softness, the storytime, this sleepy house, warm and safe.  To all the gifts we have been given - cozy beds, tea, juice, soup, music, books, wholesome movies, medicine.  Water.  Fresh, clean water.

And I write this as a friend in Uganda makes the long trek to purchase a water filtration system for his humble home.  A system that will hopefully keep his children healthy and away from death's grip this time around.

I'm selfish.  I'm petty.  I'm so not 'there'.  But I'm learning.

I'm committing.

To awaken to this family I've been been given - in sickness and in health.


Linked in @ Five Minute Friday

Gender-Phobia and Toys

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hi, I'm a girl's toy.  People get annoyed with me, saying I encourage all things 'feminine' - playing with dolls, inventing cute social situations, dressing up, and of course, just enjoying the act of admiring  how 'pretty' I am.

Hi, I'm a boy's toy.  People get annoyed with me, saying I encourage all things 'masculine', such as, creating battle scenes, acting out heroic quests, and saving those girls who need rescuing.


The uproar following the release of the new Lego brand for girls (Lego Friends) got me thinking about gender roles and toys.  People are questioning if Lego releasing a brand just 'for girls' is actually a good idea.  Lego Friends has already been labeled 'too girly' by consumers; complaining it feeds into gender stereotypes. 

For the record, I'm not personally a fan of the new Lego Friends.  For a product that is supposed to foster creativity and building skills, the Lego Friends kits require very little building and almost no creativity.  (Go figure).   I also disagree with the fact that although they are geared at younger girls, the promo characters are mature bodied, over-sexualized cartoon characters (there's something new).

What I'm NOT against is how Lego has marketed a product that appeals to girls and is willing to say so.  Let's face it, Lego is mostly Knights, Castles, battle scenes, ships, Pirates, and the like. The majority of girls aren't all that interested in those themes.  (My daughter is one of those exceptions that enjoys both girly toys and boyish toys, I think, because she has two brothers).  Our whole family really loves Lego, but we don't usually go for the newer kits, but rather, purchase buckets of pieces and find them second hand so we can get creative instead of fabricating what the box tells us to.

But I digress. 

My question is, why the uproar?  What's the big deal with calling an Outdoor Bakery, Vet Clinic, and Purple Convertible GIRLY?  I mean, aren't they?  Last time I checked, there was quite a difference between the way girls and boys played.  We are uniquely made - with boys and girls learning and experience life in different ways.  This includes how young children play and what kinds of toys they enjoy playing with.
One of our daughter's favorite toys - her Calico Critters.
I truly do believe toys can be inherently 'boy' or 'girl' centered.  And I don't think it always has to do with marketing.  Nay-sayers will argue that it is actually Western culture that mostly directs boys to what we view as 'boy' toys and girls to 'girl' toys.  The same reason girls like Pink and boys want Blue.  It's all the result of marketing and the mass media's affect on our kids. But this is only partially true.

There really is no way to fully know to what extent a child's play preferences are purely genetic or completely influenced by culture.  Kid culture (including toys) has been so intertwined in everything children experience that it's hard to know where the line is.  No matter how hard you try to escape it, it's nearly impossible.
But then I started wondering, "do I WANT to escape it?".  These gender-specific toys, are they really as harmful to kids as some suggest?  Is it 'wrong' to buy Knights for my sons and Dollies for my daughter? 

One of our son's favorite toys, Duplo Knights and Castle.
In many ways we are moving towards a world of  "Gender-Phobia" with toys.

A world where it is wrong to suggest that girls play with kitchen sets and baby dolls.  A world where it's 'harmful' for boys to imagine themselves Knights on a mystical quest for a lost princess.   And I think that's sad.  We are told that suggesting girls pretend to cook and take care of babies is wrong because we are pushing them into a 'traditional and stereotypical role'.  I'm still wondering when being a Homemaker and Mother became stereotypical.  I believe as women, it is our calling.  No, not every girl will have babies and not every girl wants to, and that's okay.  But most will.  And boys - it's stereotypical for us to assume they want to play with trucks and dinosaurs, and Knights and Legos.  These things are said to push them into a gender-role stereotype that is implied rather than realistic. 

Really?  Why is it, then, that when we spend an afternoon at the Children's museum, I see it play out right before my eyes.  There are no signs on the walls indicating a 'boy' room or 'girl' room.  Interestingly though, the boys collect in the room where there are blocks, strategy games, and a large Velcro wall with tubes and chutes.  The girls, however, congregate in the large room that has been transformed into a fantastic restaurant with a kitchen to make pretend food and a large counter to serve and collect payment from customers. 

Is this instinctive or inspired by every kid's experience with media and marketing? 

the boys first went here...






the girls first went here...



I just have to ask - is it really a bad thing to foster a love of feminine things in our daughters?  I believe it is a positive thing to encouraging our girls to play with toys that nurture a love for homemaking and child rearing.  These aren't bad things.  These are very healthy things.  And what's wrong with boys loving an adventure?   Imagining they are a brave Knight or a captain sailing the seas?  I believe God created women as caregivers and men as the hunters and gatherers.  No wonder kids play in these ways.  To strip children of the basic playing methods they enjoy for the sake of 'avoiding gender stereotypes' is not only fear-driven but potentially quite destructive.  Let's let girls be girls and boys be boys and allow them to play as they wish.

In our family, we do embrace healthy gender-specific toys but we also encourage our children to play with any toys they desire to engage with, no matter their sex or age. 

Some days, our daughter plays with cars and builds a Lego castle.  Likewise, on the Children's Museum day, after enjoying time in the cognitive and building room, our sons also had fun playing in the pretend restaurant. 







While making up their own play in the creative room, Audrey decided to be a fairy princess, Simon was a Knight, using a walking stick as a 'lance'... no Gender-Phobia there!  Ha...


I'm curious, what are your thoughts about children's toys and this fear of 'gender stereotypes'?


Linked In:
Raising Homemakers
Women Living Well

No pretenses... just PERSPECTIVE.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I want to tell you the TRUTH about our family.



As we embark on another year...  another year of living, of parenting, marriage, growth, change, striving, I feel a strong urge to open up and talk about how I'm feeling.  Right now, I'm more committed than ever to motherhood, to wifehood (I'm making up a word), to my relationship with Jesus Christ, to letting Him mold me.  And oh my goodness, there's a LOT of molding that needs to take place up in here.

And I feel more committed than ever to write from the deep, dark corners of my heart and soul.  That means the good, the amazing, the horrible, and even the humiliating.  It means letting this page be a flowing river of truth, no matter what I'm going on about.  And I'm humbled to discover that thousands (THOUSANDS) of people read these words.  It's humbling but also scary.

Let me tell you a secret - I get incredibly nervous about what kind of impression I make on the people in my life.  What people think of 'me' matters.  A lot.  Which is kind of funny, because I've often had people say they'd never think "I" would care what anyone thought.  Me.  The opinionated one... Ha!  They couldn't be further from the truth.

But I digress.  Let's start here:

A blogger I love wrote a post about giving each new year a 'word'.  Almost like a starting point or a platform on which to build goals and hopes and dreams.  Or maybe the word could be used somewhat like an 'inspiration piece' is used when designing a room.  The WORD becomes the "piece de resistance", if you will.  If you can?  Bah, either way, if asked, I'd say my word for 2012 is perspective.



My goal for my writing is and always has been to share truth.  That every soul who reads these messy words that start in a sketch pad would get a true glimpse of ME.  A true glimpse of our family. 

I love reading other women's blogs.  So many ladies, young and old, have a wealth of knowledge and a sea of emotions and experiences to share.  I grow immensely from soaking in what others pour out through the written word.

But let me be brutally honest: 
There are some very popular blogs in the
Christian blogging circle that I avoid reading. 

Why?  Because they don't motivate me or encourage me at all.  They actually make me feel bad about myself.  I actually feel worse when I read about how seemingly 'perfect' these women are.  Shining, radiant examples of the sparkling 'Titus 2' wife.  Massaging their husband's shoulders the moment he is home from work, waiting in full make-up, with a hot meal served in fine China.   Me?  I'm pretty sure I'd leave 'em wanting. 

There's also that large, poised, wonderfully organized Homeschooling family where Mom seems to have everything together.  I read about lesson plans and daily routines and Godly discipline and the pouring out of grace and never raising one's voice at her children and I can feel my shoulders sag and my back hunch.  I just can't live up to these women.  I'll never be THIS.  And then I feel almost defiant - are these people even real?


I want to be real.

Please. I'm not saying this in spite or to sound mean in any way. I love difference... I truly do.  Every message has it's purpose, and every writer is passionate about theirs.  And I'm sure every Christian blogger writes in hopes of inspiring others.  I know not one of us TRIES to intimidate or confuse or bewilder.   But I'm also POSITIVE I'm not alone in my feelings of inadequacy when comparing myself to 'perfect' Bloggers, because I've had people send me emails that described the way I'd made THEM feel.  That MY blog had actually discouraged them.  That they felt they could never live up to my family and our "unpluggedness".  Friends - tears roll down my face when I read words like these. 

Something vital you need to know about me -
I am nothing special.

I am not some amazing, unplugged picture of perfection.  I don't do relaxation exercises in the forest- I chase my kids screaming, "HEY!  Back away from the waterfall!!!"  Yes, I have a touch-screen phone- and I probably text my husband thirty times a day.  I watch online TV programs - mostly Extreme  Home Makeover and The Dog Whisperer and documentaries about Africa.  Our children like movies.  Correction - our children LOVE movies.  We eat candy and I often don't exercise.  Sometimes, I grab McDonald's instead of making lunch because I'm lazy and it's easier. Our kids fight.  A lot.  I yell. I went to Wal-mart and bought laminate folders the other day AFTER blogging about how much I dislike Wal-mart because of their poor ethics. I drink Tim Horton's, even though I question where the coffee beans come from and how good it is for me.  Yes, I'm just ME. 

Our family is a normal, crazy, chaotic mess.  We have not reached some level of 'there' like so many people seem to somehow think.  It seriously makes me on edge to think people consider us a picturesque example of perfect family life.  It's just not so.

I recently received a comment from a sweet reader who was questioning why I had mentioned our children watching Curious George.  She wasn't criticizing, she was just wondering. "Do you consider Curious George 'educational screen time'?" she asked.  Um... I'm not sure.  Is this a trick question?  But she was right - I had written that our children were allowed 'educational screen time'.  Which is misleading, I suppose.  Sometimes, they just watch silliness.  They do.  I mean, is "Dave and the Giant Pickle" REALLY educational?  Or what about Pingu?  A penguin who doesn't even speak a coherent language but instead mutters and yells "NOOOK NUUUK!" ?  Probably not so much.

But the comment got me thinking about how people view us as this, "The Unplugged Family".  Let me say first and foremost, we are STRIVING!  (It's right there in the tag line, see?)   Sure I have my opinions about popular culture and media and we do try very hard to unplug from the brunt of what the world would sell us.   But, we are still human.  We are still IN this culture.  And we're struggling to find a way to stand apart without making people feel judged... and without driving ourselves mad.  And it's hard.

I'd rather my kids have little to no screen time and I'd rather be unplugged from consumerism and branding and all the junk we're thrown... but then there's reality.  The reality that I spend 60 hours a week on my own with three children and sometimes, let's face it, I need 30 minutes to make dinner.  Life happens.

And I used to get REALLY worked up about it... but I'm starting to learn...
It's all about perspective.  Because I think mine has been pretty messed up in the past.  Because it still is some days.  Because everything, given the right perspective, makes sense.  Because God desires for us discernment and the ability to view things through His eyes (ie: the perfect perspective).  Because sometimes, it's just not THAT big of a deal.  You know, if my kids watch 2 hours of silly screen time today because I'm sick and alone for 12 hours.  It's ok.  I'm not letting everyone down, am I?  I mean, really?  (Please, help me out...)


I'm still figuring it out.  And I'm not saying EMBRACE culture.  I'm not.  But I'm asking myself to consider perspective and I'm begging readers to please understand... we're human.  Yes, I speak on issues of pop-culture, I write about unplugging and questioning media messages - but we aren't a cut-off from the world, we roll with the punches.

I'm starting to think it truly is more about how we are being the hands and feet of Jesus and spreading His love and His message.  And that I be a woman who encourages and inspires rather than annoys and frustrates and makes a loving Mother feel inadequate because HER child watches too much TV.  Perspective for me means we focus on living for others and spreading life.  Perspective means I learn to let go of my opinions and my 'but I have to make a point' mentality, and just embrace the Everlasting... the things that REALLY matter.

The nurturing of souls is what the job of parenting is.  I am so under-qualified, but still, I nurture souls along with God and my husband daily.  All day.  Every day.  And as I do this, I want PERSPECTIVE to be a guiding factor.  What is a must for these children?  What needs to be breathed into their souls?  What attitudes, passions, desires, and truths need to be sowed, watered, grown?  And what things are just opinion-based legalistic eye-rollers?  Oh, Jesus, help me figure all this out!  And then Lord, help me humbly share what I'm learning in writing... here... on this little blog.


The "Unplugged" truth about us -
what you should know before reading this blog.
(A gimps at today, for example)

No, I do not do morning devotions. In the morning, I roll out of bed and stumble down the stairs when the kids bug me long enough. This is usually at approximately 6:45am. I then require two cups of coffee. As quickly as possible. I add sugar AND cream.  Milk if cream is unavailable, which is usually the case since I ALWAYS forget to buy it. Sometimes we start projects right away (yes, this early).  Often times I actually ENCOURAGE my kids to 'watch a dvd' for 30 minutes, so I can open my eyes.  I DO, however, make a point of looking out the window and embracing "JOY" as my blanket for the day.

This morning, I let our three-year-old squeeze his pudgy hands through an ENTIRE bottle of liquid soap... JUST to keep him busy.

Two years ago I organized a basket of “Phonics and Reading Tools and Manipulatives”. I like using the word 'manipulatives' because it sounds really intelligent. I've never used it, this basket of 'things'. In fact, today was the first day we actually really started doing the Phonics program I bought in 2009. Yep.  Amazing though, that our son reads brilliantly...  and our daughter is well on her way.  Praise God for grace...

Craft time is particularly entertaining at our home, as our daughter loves anything artsy, but our sons practically have to be pinned to their chairs and forced to color.   This morning, Audrey daintily cut careful patterns while Simon announced that his Papel Picado was indeed a paper with “gun shots” through it and then proceeded to chase the dog through the house as I finished his craft FOR him and then sticky tacked it to the window so I felt better about myself.


Our 8-month-old Golden Retriever is the most spoiled puppy in the world. Despite countless hours of watching The Dog Whisperer while doing nightly dishes (and trying to unsuccessfully hide my crush on Caesar Millan), alas I am still too lazy to actually IMPLEMENT all my doggy training wisdom. She sleeps on the couch, manipulates me with her eyes, and yes, after mere moments of begging, she did get Waffles for breakfast.


Art Appreciation and Picture Study this week – two pieces by the late Pierre Auguste Renoir.  Sounds fancy – eh? Eh? 
I inquisitively ask two attentive children a pre-planned question as we consider one of the famous paintings:  “What do you suppose this young girl is thinking about?” They look at the print-outs, carefully laminated and cut to size. They look back at me, blank stares. “Um...” says my six-year-old son. “POOP!?”  He laughs.  "Yes, poop.  She's thinking about POOP!!!" 
Bursts of laughter. My head throws back. And THIS is advanced Charlotte Mason Picture Study in our home. Right.




Literary Enrichment time... Charlotte Mason says to seek out only enriching, beautifully written, inspiring literature for young children, not wasting time on 'twaddle'. Well, as for me and my kids... sometimes, we just like a really ridiculous Robert Munch audio book. Pretty sure his work would be considered 19th century SUPER twaddle though... just sayin'.


I'm a Home Educator. I absolutely love my children. They are my priority and my passion. But really, I'm just a normal, every day person who feels called to a lifestyle embraced by less than 5% of the Canadian population. I'm often disorganized, rarely stay with my schedule, and sift through piles of books a mile high to find my 'to-do' lists, still incomplete, from 3 days ago. I spend hours every night organizing lessons and activities and desperately trying to inspire our children.  Trust me when I say,  I rely heavily on grace. It's just so not about me.

Many days, I'm so overwhelmed with the stress of Mothering three children and a puppy that I just stare out the window pleading for Jesus to help me through the day. “Give me wisdom, oh Lord!!! Patience, pour your peace on this home... pour your grace over me... please Lord, I need help...”


I share all this to communicate my heart. I want to be real. We are not a perfect family.  Not because we strive to be unplugged... and not because we homeschool.  Not because I blog.  Not because I speak.   Haha... not even close.   I desperately want the 'real' us to be the heartbeat of this blog for the coming year and beyond.  I care deeply about sharing truth and  not making our family seem like something we're not. We are normal, we are crazy, we make mistakes, we are covered by AWESOME grace... and above all else, we love each other and our God. We are work in progress.

I like to joke, but I'm intensely serious about the grit of this post. I will be an honest writer, and an honest communicator. I don't want this blog or anything I write to contain even a hint of pretense. I'm broken. I suck most of the time. I'll never 'live up' to the imagery of the 'perfect' wife, mother, homeschooler. It's not 'gonna' happen. Not for me, and not for most of us.

And the last thing in the world I'd ever want to do is make someone else feel inadequate because my blog somehow 'puffs' me up.

Our life is beautiful... but not perfect.

Let's embrace each other – faults and all.  I'll hug you, you hug me. I'll share this journey, every insane, crazy, calm, simple, unplugged, and sometimes too-plugged moment of it... but with perspective. With a desperate, humble striving towards the truth God calls us to... a life lived on purpose and for the right Purpose.  A life focused on what TRULY matters - the Eternal.  Not on being 'just so' or following some code for the Perfect Christian Mom or Wife or Daughter.  There is no such code.  We are all saved by grace and God views the heart (thank goodness) not the pretty home or the organized lesson plans.  He sees the heart - right through these key taps too.
May you also see my heart, friends.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me... I'm so looking forward to seeing what is to come.

Cassandra


Some blogs I find particularly HONEST and OPEN and PRETENSE-FREE:
A Holy Experience
We are THAT Family
The Gypsy Mama
Big House in the Little Woods

(There are many... but these are ones I love and visit often, if not daily...)

God Bless in 2012!
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