Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Virtuous Life Day 1 Notes

   I began a new Bible study today, along with several friends.  You can find everything that you need to know about it on the Time Warp Wife blog.  I had to wait for new ink before I could print it and then I had to wait for a quiet moment to actually get started.  The day was a little rough since it rained all day and the kids were wild.  I managed to find time in the afternoon to color the color page that goes along with this week, which really helped me to calm down a little bit from the chaos.  I was excited to see that all of the printed scriptures in the study are from the King James Version.  This makes the scripture cards and color pages useful and relevant for me, since I prefer KJV.  One other note before I type up my written notes from my study tonight:  Today's study was just for me!  It reiterated a conversation that Gabe and I had last night and gave me the peace that I need for this period of my life.

From my study notes dated 4-18-16:
   Esther 4:6-5:8

What does Esther teach us about wisdom, foresight and practical judgment?
          Esther didn't just run to the king when she was asked to speak to him.  She knew that could get her killed before the king even heard what she had to say.  She prayed for the Jews safety and asked them to fast and pray while she prepared to speak to the king.

Idea yields prayer, which yields a plan, and then an action.

Mordecai presented an idea, it was prayed over, a plan was established and then Esther took action.  This pattern lead to being heard and later receiving the answer that they wanted.

The commentary in the Life Application Study Bible gave some steps for planning.
   When facing a difficult task:
          1.  Calculate the cost.
          2.  Set priorities.
          3.  Prepare.
          4.  Determine your course of action.
   Once you have done those things, move ahead boldly.  Don't dilly-dally once you have your plan, JUST DO IT!!!!

Week 1:  Prudence
   Prudence is wisdom, foresight and practical judgment.
   Prudent means showing care and thought for the future.
   Folly means foolishness.

Proverbs 14:8
          The wisdom of the "one showing care and thought for the future" is to understand his way: but the "foolishness" of fools is deceit.

Ruth also took the time to plan and then she stepped forward boldly.

Luke 14:28-32 says that no one will start building a house without knowing the cost.  No king will go to war without knowing what he is up against.

If you find yourself unsure of God's direction for your life, or you are unable to form a plan for reaching His goal for you, all you have to do is PRAY!

James 1:5
   If any of you lack wisdom (prudence), let him ask God, that giveth to all men liberally, and (upbraideth)  "doesn't put you down" and it shall be given him.

Just ask and God will give you the wisdom that you need.

2 Peter 1:5-6 paraphrased
    Work hard to become virtuous (showing high moral standards), then gain knowledge, then self-restraint, then patience, and finally godliness (conforming to the wishes of God).

   I've always thought that godliness meant being like God.  I looked it up tonight and found that it actually means conforming to God's wishes for yourself.

   I can't fulfill His wishes for me without
          1st showing high moral standards,
          2nd gaining knowledge about His plans for me, as well as gaining knowledge of His word,
          3rd showing self-restraint when things don't go my way,
          4th being patient, and
          5th conforming to His plans for me.

Patience may refer to my environment and to my response to those around me.  It may also refer to waiting on God to reveal His plans or for Him to tell you to act upon those plans.

Reflection Question:  What is God telling you and how can you apply this?

   WOW!  Right now we are in a waiting period.  We don't know where God wants us.  I'm a bit scared of this wait and all of the changes that come along with preparing ourselves to be used by Him.  I think that God has used tonight's study to tell me to straighten up my life, and "work diligently" to clean up my sin.  Only once I am living a virtuous (moral) life will God reveal His plans and further my growth in order for me to be used by Him.

   For now my wait is not because of God's timing but because I don't have my life right.

Direction for digging deeper tomorrow:  look at fasting.  What is the purpose and is it still relevant for today?


Monday, April 18, 2016

Behind the Perfection....

   Ah!  The first day of school 2014.  It's just after Labor Day, I've got a baby due a month later, and yet I still manage to get the perfect picture of my boys on their first day of school.  They were excited, they were getting along great, it was the perfect morning, or was it?

   It was misting rain, though you can't see that in the photo.  This was Malachi's second shirt of the day, it's on inside out and backwards.  The grass desperately needed to be cut.  We took our photos outside because inside was a mess.  YES!  I said it!  On our very first day of school I was not ready and our house was far from ready.  I still had 4 kids and everyone knows that the 4th is the one that pushes you over the edge to just giving up.  Thankfully the 5th throws you back up there because you realize that without organization, life will completely fall apart.  I've now learned that the 6th just takes all of those stereotypes, sticks them in a blender and serves up a nice concoction of order, organization and complete disarray all within the same day, sometimes within the same hour.



  
See what I mean, this was just a few minutes before the perfectly cute photo above.  


 This is what my office looked like as we started our school work that day.  

And the living room was a mess too.  


 
 
 
These are the photos leading up to the perfect one above.  They wouldn't cooperate with pictures at all.  

See the tall grass?  

The crazy antics continued.

 My vanilla latte was well earned!  
 Told you that shirt was inside out and backwards.
 Oh, yeah!  The rain meant Gabe was home from work that day too.  Notice my boys are "helping" read blueprints instead of doing the school work I had planned for them?
 
Notice I'm a hot mess!  My hair probably hadn't been washed in days, my shirt was snug because of my huge baby belly, and my yoga pants were covered in paint.

   So why would I share this?  To encourage you.  To remind you that there's always something behind those perfect photos.  None of us have it all together, some just know how to hide it better than others.  Some of us just don't care anymore.  We'll show our ugly to the world and remind ourselves to see this as a beautiful mess.  This mess means there is life inside the walls of our home.  Those grins on my boys' faces mean that despite the mess, there is laughter and love inside our home.  All the interruptions give us a chance to embrace challenges and disruptions and learn how to cope with them so that when these kids are adults, every little change in plans won't cause panic.  

  Homeschooling is hard work.  Raising kids is hard work.  On those days when you think you are the only one drowning in chaos, please remember that no one has it all together.  There's always something messy behind the perfection.  



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Planning for 2016-17

   Where is 2016 going?  I can't believe we are already 4 months in.  Our public school friends are getting ready for the end of the school year.  The ice cream man has already started making his rounds.  Curriculum fairs and displays are popping up everywhere.  By the time we start back to school in the fall, the year will be more than halfway over.  I'm a planner so in my head, I'm already in June and July.  This year we will be schooling into June and possibly July as well.  This is the first time we've ever gone into the summer like that with our current year.  We've schooled in the summer with the following year a few times, though the last two summers we have not.

   We are very eclectic homeschoolers by nature but we lead a very busy life so in an effort to insure we are getting everything in, last year we went to a boxed curriculum.  I wasn't sure how it was going to go over with the boys and in the beginning it was a bit shaky.  We stuck with it though and ended up loving it.  We decided on Abeka, which is very rigorous and thorough.  We continued our ShillerMath along with the Abeka math, added Beautiful Feet history and Apologia Astronomy.  The added subjects are programs that fit with our style a little better and since Abeka doesn't completely fit our style, the added programs have slid in perfectly to keep us excited about school.  This year we had a 4th grader, 1st grader, and 2 preschoolers.  We also have a toddler and a newborn.  I'm not sure how I've kept my sanity or if it really is gone and I just haven't realized that I need to be committed somewhere.  I won't say it's been easy, with moving and a new baby, as well as a crazy schedule for foster care visits and therapy.  It has been fun though.

   This time of the year also brings about many questions from friends that are considering homeschooling or that are looking at making changes to their homeschool for the following year.  I find myself getting excited as I help them to decide what may be right for them.  I love answering their questions and getting to know their teaching styles and their kids' learning styles.  I love looking at curricula that doesn't fit our style but might fit theirs.  I love learning about new hurdles others are facing and helping them to find a way to jump over those hurdles.  I love to help others have success homeschooling, just as we have.

  Each year at this time I ask my kids 2 questions.  1.  Do you want to go to public school next year or continue homeschooling?  So far each year they have wanted to continue homeschooling.  I don't know what I'm going to do when one decides he wants to go to school.  2.  Do you like how we did school this year?  For the first time in 5 years of homeschooling, they've wanted nothing to be different.  That means that finally, after 5 years we have found something that works well for us.  Well, for my oldest 2, I have 4 more coming up so we will see once they get started really well.  I take my kids' answers very seriously and I try to find curricula or programs that will better suit us the following year.  My kids thought this year was good, and it was for my oldest.  My 1st grader is my artist and he needs a little something more creative for next year.  My preschoolers also need more for next year than just a work book and Mommy finding them work throughout the morning.  So taking this information, I set out on a journey through the world wide web to find what we need.  This year I ended up digging in my closet and finding just what I need.  We will add 1 other thing that brings us back to our Montessori style and goes perfectly with what I found in the closet.

   So what are we using for everyone this year?

Elijah/Levi:  Complete grade level kits from Abeka, ShillerMath Kit I and ShillerMath Kit II,                                  Beautiful Feet Books history, Apologia Botany.  We will do several units from Hands of
                     a Child and Five in a Row as well.  These will be geared for the younger kids but using                        the FIAR Notebook Pages, we will adapt each of their level.  They enjoy reading along                        with us and participating in those activities so I plan to assign them work to go with                              those.  

Malachi/Ladybug:  Complete grade level kits from Abeka, beginnng Montessori lessons for math,                            Hands of a Child and Five in a Row units, and Brainy Kits to go along with the units                            that we are studying.

   I am looking forward to next school year.  My number one thing I want to do different is have a morning Bible time.  For some reason we just never get around to it and I want to make it a priority next year.  I also want to do a daily calendar time and use more music throughout the day.  We had planned to do calendar time this year, then life hit us hard and we went into survival mode after only a few days.  We bought an ipad last year specifically to put all of our music on for morning group, Bible study, and math.  I haven't yet made time to get the music on the ipad.  That is my main goal for the summer!

   If you have already started planning for next year, share with us your plans.

 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bountiful Blessings

From journal entry dated 3/31/16 while reading Who Are All These Children and Why Are They Calling Me Mom.

   Reflection Question:  Do I fully understand and accept God's desire to redeem my life?  If not, who can I talk to about it?

   I read this chapter a week ago.  It really spoke to me as we've just welcomed our own little surprise.  I struggled with an answer to the question though.  I don't feel that my life is a burden that needs to be redeemed.  I feel like my life is exactly as God wanted it, regardless if it's as I planned or not.

   The truth is, Gabe and I never discussed how many kids we wanted.  We talked about our dreams for our family and just always knew that those dreams included children.  Our family was built quite differently than most and even through foster care, you sometimes end up with accidental blessings.  The number of kids in our family may not have been planned by us but it was perfectly planned by God.

   We struggled with getting pregnant but wanted a baby as soon as we got married.  We didn't care that we were young.  He was just 21 and I was almost 19.  It took several years and lots of doctor visits, but in 2004 we welcomed our first son, David.  Sadly just a few days later, David passed away from SIDS.  In early 2005 we had a miscarriage and then in December 2005 we welcomed our oldest son, Elijah.

   We were the perfect 1 child family and were content like that forever.  Levi surprised us in December 2008, just a week after Elijah turned 3.  In May of 2012 we fell in love with Malachi, a foster child that had been placed with a friend.  We became foster parents and he was moved to our home in October of that year.  We hoped to adopt him and in February of 2015, he officially became Malachi McCormick.  In April of 2013, a beautiful little girl was placed with us.  We weren't sure about having a girl and with her race not matching ours, we agreed to see how it went for 6 months. That's been 3 years now and I still laugh about how scared I was over all that pink. Her adoption will be final later this year.

   In January 2014 we took a vacation to Gatlinburg, TN.  Our souvenir was born in October.  She was 8 or 9 months old when we found out that another baby was on the way despite the fact that I was nursing and we were using birth control.  We now have 6 wonderful kids and though it's tough at times, we couldn't be happier with the family that God has given us.

   I think God redeemed us long before we had kids, by never allowing us to have preconceived notions about our family size.  When we first began homeschooling, our first day at co-op, I learned who the Duggars are, and I met several moms of many.  I went home that night and cried because those people were so weird.  Fast forward 5 years and I'm one of those weird Mamas and I love it.  I'm so thankful that I never had expectations of how big or small the perfect family is, but instead I was open to God building our family to His specifications.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Disappointments?

From journal entry dated 3/22/16 while reading Who Are All These Children and Why Are They Calling Me Mom?

  The reflection question for this chapter was: What part of being a mother do I find disappointing?

   Hmmm.....  I always wanted to be a mom.  I didn't really know how many kids I wanted, and Gabe and I never really talked about it.  One kid was perfect, and two was even better because I became a stay at home mom.  We started homeschooling and I was that fun homeschool mom.  Life was wonderful.

   I fell in love with number 3 and a few months later he was moving in with us.  I got a call for number 4 and reluctantly agreed to try it out for 6 months.  It's been 3 years next month, her adoption will be final later this year.  We wanted another baby and brought one back from vacation, she was born exactly 9 months later.  She was 9 months old when I realized that number 6 was on the way.  When he was born, we had 4 kids ages 4 and under.  Life is now crazy.

   I always wanted to be the fun mom with the perfectly decorated, perfectly clean, beautiful dream home.  The last 3 years have stolen the fun mom, but I'm working on finding her again.  The perfectly decorated house may come one day but my budget doesn't have room for it right now.  The clean house?  Um, did you catch that I have 6 kids?  Ah, the dream house.  I had that, it's for sale right now.  The house we live in is nice, but it's so far from that dream house.  I don't know if we will ever have another dream house or not.  I will always long for the perfectly decorated, always clean dream house though.  Just in case you're wondering, it's a big old farm house, with a huge front porch.  It's bright yellow, has lots of windows, and is full of southern charm.  It's a house that invites you to put your feet on the furniture, curl up with a good book and an ice cold drink.  My Pinterest boards are full of them!

   My life doesn't have disappointments, it has dreams that haven't come true yet.  To me, disappointments come once you've given up.  Dreams give me hope and as long as I have something to hope for, I'm happy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Camping Dreams

It's Spring Break for the public schools in our area.  Not for us though, we are plowing through so that we can get caught up and finish by the end of June.  It's a big task but we are going to make it happen!  Today is a gloomy day though.  While my friends on Facebook are talking about the break being half-way over and the days they're losing to weather, I'm sitting on the back porch, enjoying the breeze, while my husband tills up a garden bed, and the kids play.  I've got my iPad in hand and a friend posts that her kids are getting ready to go camping.  I've been wanting to go camping since the baby was a week old but, Gabe can't take off for a while.  That leaves me dreaming of awesome camping trips.  I have an epic trip through Arkansas planned and I hope we are able to make it happen this summer.  For now though, I'm just sharing some links to lists of amazing places to camp with kids.  We enjoy geocaching so I'll post some lists of great places for that as well.  In the spirit of dreaming, be sure to share your dream trips in the comments!

If you aren't sure camping is your thing, here are a few links to convince you to at least try it once.  14 Reasons to go camping.  I love this list of 11 reasons Why camping is the best.  10 Reasons to go camping NOW!  10 Health benefits of camping.  Real benefits of camping.  17 reasons why camping is the best.  Why do I like camping?  I enjoy connecting with my family when there are no distractions.  I also enjoy the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders.  Camping is hard work but it doesn't even seem like work.  I've camped in an Rv only a few times but I've camped in a tent more than I can count.  We've camped in cabins too.  Camping in a tent is by far my favorite though.  As I get older, I have developed a love of a good bedroll though.  I don't need an air mattress but a good pad under my sleeping bag is a must!

This list has me all Googly-eyed.  Camping on the beach, hiking through the mountains, sleeping out under the stars, it all sounds like so much fun.  I'm ready to tie the baby on and take off!  This list will for sure have you dreaming!   This list includes places outside of the US but since we are dreaming, I might as well add it.  Some great southwest US sites.  

I grew up dreaming of seeing the ocean.  On our honeymoon we went to Santa Rosa Beach, Fl.  Technically it was still the same gulf I'd been to a million times but this time the water was a little more clear and the sand was much cleaner.  On that trip I learned that beach camping is a thing and have wanted to do it ever since.  I firmly believe I could be one of those retired people that just live on a beach, maybe in an Rv, maybe a tent.  I'd even settle for a van down by the beach, as long as I could lounge around and read all day while my skin turns a beautiful shade of tan.  If that sounds awesome to you too, check out these great beach camping destinations!

Are the mountains more your thing?  Growing up we camped in Arkansas a bunch.  The mountains are smaller in the areas we camped but they're still mountains.  There's still beautiful forests all around.  I once camped in the mountains in New Mexico while at youth camp.  That was the first time I ever saw the Milky Way.  It's still the most majestic thing I've ever seen.  The only thing that might compare is the Northern Lights but that's still on my bucket list.  Anyways, back to the point.  You want a few mountain lists, well here you go.  Rocky MountainsAppalachian Mountain Trial-There are links within this site for each individual state along the trail.  The Cascade Mountains- this link contains links to each region of the mountains.  Sierra Nevada- I've visited some of these places and they're must see places to travel!  Smokey Mountains. Some of these are dreamy write ups, some are just lists of campsites and things to do in that area.  These mountain ranges cover several states each so trying to find a list of all the great places to camp in the mountains was a little daunting.  Just know that camping in the mountains is awesome and leads to lots of exploration in caverns, caves, lakes, and rivers.  

Okay, so honestly, desert camping has never really been that appealing to me but as I get older, it starts to sound kind of cool.  I don't know, it kinda has a hippy kinda VW bus vibe to it and lately that just seems kinda dreamy.  California Desert camping.  New Mexico camping. It was a little hard to find information that wasn't state specific but I'm sure someone living in a desert region might could give us some better info.

The Grand Canyon is so beautiful and majestic.  It deserves it's very own paragraph!  It really deserves it's own blog post.  This is one of those places I dreamed of visiting growing up.  I finally saw it when pregnant with David, our first baby.  I naively thought our frequent trips and weekend excursions would continue once we had kids.  I've since learned that traveling with kids is not easy and it's much more expensive.  Foster care has completely changed it for us, as we have to have permission now.  Anyways, The Grand Canyon is simply beautiful and would be so much fun to camp.  Not sure I'd want to do primitive camping there but they do offer guide services for that.  Thankfully, there are established camp grounds and a whole website devoted tot he ends and outs of camping there.  Check it out and if you've ever camped The Grand Canyon, let us know how it was.

Geocaching..  This goes hand in hand with camping for our family.  We love the thrill of looking for a cache and hoping we find something really cool inside.  We once took a 2 week camping trip we called a treasure hunt.  We camped at the diamond mine in Arkansas, went antique shopping throughout Arkansas and Missouri, and geocached all along the way.  Craziest CachesTop favorites  by state.  Arkansas state parks have a Secret cache that you can only access with information from the clues you get at the other 52 caches in state parks throughout the state.  It is a life goal for our family to eventually find all 52 known caches and then the 53rd.  As you start out on this adventure, don't get discouraged by bad caches.  The hype has died down and there are many caches that are not maintained.  Use a geocaching app to locate caches around where you are camping and check in when you've found them.  If the cache needs attention, report it so others know to avoid it or someone  can maintain it.

I'm sure I could sit and give links to great camping spots for hours.  I could share my own camping adventures for days and our travel adventures for months.  Almost anywhere you could imagine vacationing will have camping options.  Camping isn't for everyone but if you're up for a real adventure, you are sure to find it, whether you are camping in a tent, Rv, or even a cabin.  Take a break from the big resort vacations this year and get in touch with your natural side.  You might just find camping to be your new favorite vacation style, but even if you don't, you're sure to make some amazing memories.



Monday, March 21, 2016

Becoming a Joyful Mom

 
     Ah! A fresh new notebook. A new book to read about motherhood. I'm not sure why I'm so in love with self-help type books but I even read books about topics that don't apply to me. This one is not one of those books. I need this book soooooooo badly. So what is this book called? "Who Are All These Children and Why Are They Calling Me Mom?" Seriously! Yes, really! I don't even remember when I bought this book but I know it was at least 2 kids ago, possibly even 3 or 4!

     I'd say I'm kinda on a mission right now. Elijah just turned 10 and I've realized his childhood is pretty much gone. He's got a few years left but he's nearly a teenager and slowly those childish things will be no more. I've missed out on the last 3 years of it. I've missed out on the best 3 years of school with Levi, he's finishing up 1st grade now. I've missed out on the sweetest 3 years with Malachi, who is now 5. Oh, I've been here, and we've had some great moments, but all of my energy has gone to therapies, family visits for foster care, and court dates. It has been exhausting! The kids' behaviors and manners have suffered, our school has suffered, and our family has suffered. I am so glad that it is all over now! Our adoption will be final this year too! It feels like a huge weight has been lifted.

     Now we are trying to learn how to be a real family again. We are learning to be diligent in our school work. We are learning to take responsibility for our chores. We are learning how to treat each other with respect. We are learning how to enjoy life at a slower pace!

     So far, we've got a set schedule for each day of the week and a clear list of school work to do each day. The younger kids' rooms are organized and they clean up before bed each night. The girls and Seth are even wearing pajamas each night instead of just going to sleep in their clothes. We've gone back to reading a story each night before bed. The routine has been great and has made bedtime for the younger ones so much easier. I'm still working on Malachi's cleaning ability and him wearing pj's each night. Elijah and Levi still need lots of work. We're starting from the bottom and working our way up though.

     The whole point of my changes is that I want to enjoy my life again. I want to enjoy being a mom again. I miss the days when being a mom was pure joy and I still had an identity as Audrey too. I want to enjoy my hobbies again but without routine and order, I can never find the time. I want my kids to remember a happy childhood and I want my kids to remember a mom that wasn't constantly stressed. I want them to remember a mom that knew how to have fun.

     I've started this journey on my own and I already have my plan, but this book jumped out at me tonight when I looked at my bookshelf. I look forward to reading about another mom's journey and writing about mine. Maybe I'll even find the time to write about it on my blog.

(Above copied from my journal entry dated 3/20/2016).

     Chapter 1 Reflection Question: What part of my life do I need to hold with an open hand?

     I'm not sure I understand the question. I think it means "what part of my life do I need to let God control?"

     This one is kinda tough. I have a lot that o just need to give to God. I think my biggest thing right now is our living situation. We're living in the church parsonage, which is too small for our family, while waiting for our home to sell. We want to build once it sells. The logical side of my brain says this will take a few years. The dreamy side wants it done by Christmas. Then there's the whole "what will we build" thing and the dreamy side takes hold again. Leaving all of that alone, I'm married to a preacher that isn't pa storing a church right now. I know God will eventually cal, him to another church but we don't know where that may be. I'm not worried about this and certainly not trying to control it, but it does affect our building plans.

     All my life I've dreamed of raising my kids in our forever home and them coming home doe holidays and family gatherings to the house where they were raised. I didn't dream of living in the country but that's the life I want for my kids now. I want a big beautiful southern farm house and I want it now. I want it perfectly decorated. I want it perfectly organized. I want it perfectly clean. This is the life I'm holding on for but ultimately I want the life that God is holding for me. I need to learn to wait patiently!

(Above copied from my journal entry dated 3/21/2016). 

     Monday mornings are hard!  We get in late from church, have to eat dinner and then get everyone in bed.  Last night we went out to dinner so we were even later getting home.  Everyone got in bed late so I let them all sleep late this morning.  The morning was ROUGH but I slipped into the dining room to leave everyone a message from my reading last night.  Love is not a feeling, it is a choice!  My older two boys left me replies.  This is the kind of mom that I want to be.  These are the things that I want my kids to remember about me.  Did this change our day?  Not at all, it was still long and stressful.  It did change how I looked at the stressful day though.  Instead of getting frustrated with the crying baby and the wild preschooler and the 1st grader that didn't want to do his work, I took it as part of life and kept going.  I may still shed a few tears but at least I can see through them.