Saturday, October 26, 2013

Home?

I'm just thankful that my older 4 can work independently . . . and that they are.  I'm thankful that my little ones can crawl into my lap for some love whenever they need it.  I'm thankful that A6 is reading and reading and reading, so that my inattention to her little school lessons has less impact than it might otherwise. 

But I still feel so guilty for my inability to provide rich, stimulating, family-love-increasing school hours for my children.

I'm not ill. 

I'm distracted.

Our house has been on the market for almost 6 months.  It took 5 months to even get it ready to list, so that's nearly a year of being unsettled and living in between. We've been searching for our dream home/dream land for even longer than that.  Painting, cleaning, redecorating, cleaning, mending, cleaning, showings, cleaning, and so forth and so on have left us with few if any hours for really great school.

Add in the away-from-home activities I'm allowing the kids at the moment, the responsibilities that fall on me as a participating parent, and the driving to and from, and we've got a monster on our hands . . .

Me.

And 2 pregnancies and 2 miscarriages this summer haven't exactly stabilized the force of my nature, either.

Something has to give.

The something is my dream land . . . my dream future . . . my idyllic home in the country where we learn to expand our current gardening skills, care for animals, and perhaps open a stand at a local farmer's market or two.

It's a terribly long and complicated story that boils down to this:  Heavenly Father does want us to move (that answer came as clearly as a phone call one early morning), but in our moving I have to make a choice--the farm or my family (that prompting left me shaking and weeping late one night). 

Ummmm . . .

I choose my family.

Many women do both successfully--raise families and farm.  They're part of what inspired me in the first place.  But Heavenly Father has called me to motherhood and not to farming.  For whatever reason, I am not the multi-tasker-seize-the-day-juggle-the-schedule-with-aplomb-and-a-smile mother I would like to be; instead I am a homebody-focus-on-the-small-precious-moments-provide-lots-of-routines-and-stability mother.  My calling is large, and I am small, so I guess I have to accept my limitations and try to shine within them.

This is not what I intended to write when I sat down.   These fears and frustrations are obviously controlling my every action right now.

I thought I was at my wit's end 5 months ago, but Heavenly Father let me struggle on. 
I thought I was at my wit's end 3 months ago, but Heavenly Father let me struggle on.
I thought I was at my wit's end 1 month ago, and Heavenly Father gave me a spiritual hug and let me struggle on.
I'm pretty sure I'm past my wit's end and am living on borrowed energy and intelligence, but I think Heavenly Father has shown me the end of this round of struggling.

I think we've found our house.  It has 7 bedrooms without being an oversized monstrosity.  It has room to cook, room to eat as a family, room to gather for family time.  It is on a quiet street, and is near a large city park loaded with hiking trails.  We cannot garden in its current state, but it comes with nearly an acre of yard that includes woods and a small stream.  My husband is not sure . . . he's struggling to feel good about making a commitment to a home and land that are so obviously unsuited to obeying the command to raise a garden and feed ourselves as much as possible.

I was also desperately unsure until 5:22 am yesterday morning--I was actually hyper and frantic with confused thoughts for hours the day and evening before.  I prayed and prayed.  I planned to fast and to ask my family to fast together this Sunday.  Then I woke for no reason other than the peaceful feeling that this house is a good home for us and Heavenly Father will bless us with what we need in it.  I told my husband about what happened to me, and he listened respectfully, but he has not received his own witness.

My prayers are currently filled with pleading for Heavenly Father to speak to him as He has to me, and for me to be humble enough to accept what might come if my husband does not receive that witness.  I trust him.  He's a good man who loves God, loves me, and desires for our family to be happy.  If he thinks we need to keep searching, I will keep searching.

(But I will probably cry before I put my shoulder back to the wheel.)

Even if this house is to be ours, there are hurdles to get over.  But as long as I've heard Him correctly,. Heavenly Father will help us find the way.

Moving to a new house is not exactly the recipe for great homeschool hours.  But I feel hopeful anyway.  I miss "doing school" with the kids.  I'm learning that it is really important to limit outside activities--no matter how the kids beg or how good the activities seem.  I'm learning that home matters.  I'm learning that I can live longer in limbo than I ever thought I could.  I'm learning to look for the good in every state of being . . .

though truly, some states are more satisfying than others.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Process over Product

I love my children's art much more for the process than the product.

Today I watched H4 draw a tree and put a cut-out picture of a nest in it (today was N is for nest day).

She drew a fat tree trunk with two thin branches extending from either side--like a T.  Then she got discouraged and said, "You do it, Mom.  I can't do it right."

That's when I go all cheerleader-y and pointed out all of the tree-like parts I could see.  I told her it looked like a perfect tree for safely holding a nest full of eggs. 

She thought about what I said, studied her picture for a moment or two, then drew what looked like a second trunk next to the first one.  "It will hold the baby birds without letting them fall, Mom," she said.

We colored and cut out her nest and eggs.
We glued them in place.
She colored in a sky above.

I asked, "Do you want to make leaves on your tree?"

She looked at her picture again.  "It needs more branches, Mom."

Then she drew a large brown circle all around the space above the two-trunked tree.  After drawing her circle, she proceeded to put a bunch of spikes all over it.  "Here are the branches.  And here are some more branches . . . " she muttered, half under her breath, intent on her work.

How interesting.  I'd have drawn branches to define the space.  She defined the space and then drew the branches.

There's so much more than a finished product in a child's art.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At the Nature Sanctuary

Today our science club met at a local nature sanctuary.  The group leader had 2 different scavenger hunts prepared--one of items to find (and leave) and one to use multiple senses (but not tasting!).  My littles chose the senses list, but my older ones chose just to look.  We divided into groups, and I stayed with my littles.

I so like my little ones.

We meandered along, admiring leaves and sticks and rocks.  Our list included things like "See sunlight shining through the trees,"  "Watch clouds move across the sky,"  "Smell moss,"  "Touch mud,"  and other delightful ideas.

I'd never thought of smelling moss before!

I learned about Scour Rush--a bamboo-like plant that grows in temperate climates the world over.  It's considered indigenous. 

I never knew that before.

The kids climbed one side of a dam--it's a big grassy hill.  I haven't the faintest idea how tall it is, but it is very, very tall.  They climbed, then turned and waved.  I waved and waved back at them.

Some of them tumbled down.
Some of them ran down.
It is probably truer to say that all of them tumbled at one point or another.

I was happy to be at the bottom with the other mothers, watching our children climb.  Their enthusiasm for conquering that hill made us all laugh.  One mother said, "It's like turning out horses to pasture;  they can hardly wait!"

There was a waterfall. 

Waterfalls always make me think that Heavenly Father loves beautiful places.

We shared snacks, swung on vines, balanced on fallen logs, and climbed on rocks.
We basked in the sun.
We ignored the clock in favor of living in the moment.

I think we'll go again, soon.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Field Work --> Home Works

Today E13 got to spend the day with an adult friend who works as director of a leadership camp.  She runs camps for public school kids both at her facility at on the schools.  I think she offers corporate leadership workshops, too.  But today was all about 8th graders learning to identify their personal strengths and to acknowledge the strengths of their peers.

E13 was there to soak up the philosophy under the guise of being a peer evaluator.  She carried a clipboard and evaluation sheet around with her to "grade" the kids' abilities to follow directions and achieve their goals.  This is supposed to help our friend see where the strengths and weaknesses of this particular camp reside.

I hope that her feedback is helpful.

We asked E13 how she felt about the day.  She answered, "Sister B----- is sure patient.  I know that sometimes I'm immature, but these kids were like 2-year-olds!"

They were her exact public school peers at the exact public school she would attend were we to decide that was the place for her.

She told a lot more stories as the evening wore on, but her first answer really sums it up.

So while we're not sure that we achieved our hoped-for goal of encouraging her to see the best in herself and others, she's feeling more and more thankful for our homeschooling ways.

Sometimes the best benefits are surprises.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oh, Ewe!

I was reading aloud to I1 the other day.  A6 came over to listen.  She'd read the very book I was reading (Gideon and Otto by Olivier Dunrea) aloud to her little brother herself, but my kids know to seize the day when Mom actually sits down for a little bit.

I got to the line, " . . . he bounced on the back of the ewe."

I heard A6 mutter under her breath, "Oh!  Ewe!"

I realized she hadn't known how to pronounce that interesting word and had just learned something new.

An "ah ha!" moment that made my heart sing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

House Showing

Got a call at 8:15 am, "I'd like to show your house to my client between 1 and 3 this afternoon."

It would be our first house showing in about 3 months . . .  and I'd made up my mind that we'd go back to regular life instead of "museum house" life about 2 of those months ago.

I agreed, turned to the breakfast table and announced, "No school today.  We're cleaning."

And, to my surprise and joy, they cleaned.  We worked steadily until 1 pm.  It took all hands (most hands--J9 babysat the littles on her own all morning--she did a fine job, too) and every bit of energy we had to get the house in showing order.

Then everyone was banished from the house until the showing was over.

Good thing the weather was beautiful!

The real estate agent and her clients arrived just after 2:00.   The only comment I overheard was, "Oh!  We'd have to hire someone to mow the backyard!"

Rats.

But we did it.  The house is very clean.  It won't last, but I did restore the kitchen to the same level of cleanliness after dinner tonight.

That's something.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

4 Pictures of my 4 Youngest

J9 and A6 are reading aloud to H4 from You Read to Me, I'll Read to You

H4 is working on a jet on J is for Jet day.

Here's I1, complete with bandage over his 1 day old stitches, showing off his latest art project.

One of the older girls took this perfect picture of my precious A6.

Activity Du Jour: Bows and Arrows

Before breakfast even, the girls were outside with their mini bows and arrows--fashioned out of leftover dowels and rubber bands from the book-binding we did for Explorer's Club.  I was annoyed that they'd raided my preschool cupboard without permission, but after giving them a good dressing-down realized that this creative activity was far more valuable than anything I could think of.

When I can relax and let them be before the dressing-down I'll know I've arrived at good-motherhood.

They've used crayons to color the dowels and have given their bows names like "Rainbow Shooter," and "Silver Strike."  The arrows at first were plain dowels, but along the way someone thought of the idea of sharpening them against the asphalt of the street, so now they're real arrows.

A6 shot herself in the chest before they thought of sharpening their weapons (she had her bow backwards and lost control of the rubber band); it left quite a mark.  I've been passing out warnings today about their potential to cause damage and the need to be wise weapon-handlers.

Those little toys really shoot!

I didn't call them in to school.  Whatever lessons in physics and handicrafts they were learning out-of-doors seemed on a beautiful autumn morning seemed a far better way to welcome October than sitting with books.

Eventually I realized they were all back inside, and as soon as I was able to tear myself away from my chores we got down to work.

Just regular stuff--devotional (forgot the little girls'--perhaps tonight before bed!), reading, copywork, math, preschool.  Tonight we'll read the second and third chapters of The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H.M. Bouwman.  I read it myself several months ago and was captivated by the growth of the characters in the story . . . and the story itself.  I think it is a modern classic and can't figure out why it isn't receiving awards right and left.

We started it last night after reading the second story in Mathematicians Are People, Too.  I tried for the tiniest of narrations from my littlest girls and found that H4 is a very good listener and story-teller.  M11 tickled me when she looked over my shoulder at the third chapter and told me all about it even though the last time we read it was 5 or more years ago.

E13 didn't do her schoolwork yesterday until it was time to read aloud last night, so she missed out.  I didn't like having her gone from that precious family hour, but her laziness pushed one of my buttons, and I sent her off to do the little that I require of her.  I wondered how she'd do when I didn't receive her notebooks until 9:30 pm, but she did a fine job.  Not one math error and a nice summary of her reading.  I become comatose at night, but I think she might feel the same in the mornings.  I wonder if we can work out a win-win proposition.

My favorite moment of the day was when E13 was complaining about S11, "She's the most annoying person in the world!"

"I've known people a lot more annoying than she is,"  I answered blandly.

She paused, then answered dryly, "Well, I guess I'm actually lucky then."

I howled right then and there--right in front of her.  "That's really funny!" I exclaimed. 

She stared at me as though I were a strange insect, but then she smiled and asked, "Are you going to blog about this?"

Yup.

*************
I'm fighting a cold, so I'm right back at lethargic and unmotivated . . .but I've studied the scriptures, served oatmeal, done laundry, baked bread, supervised school, run to the library, worked on my next Explorer's Club lesson, prepared bean soup, baked a peach crisp, and held rehearsals for our performance group.

Not bad.

Not great, but not bad.

There's still the evening ahead . . .