Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why is That Fish in a Tree?

I recently stumbled upon this quote and instantly loved it. Ready? Because you need to get ready for this quote...cuz it's awesome. Here it is:

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
— Albert Einstein

Now if that's not something to print out and tape to your forehead, then I don't know what is. And of course my first instinct was to apply it to my kids. Isn't that one of the big positives of homeschooling? That the kids avoid being pigeon-holed and labeled if they don't fit into the "right" mold? Absolutely.

But the more I thought about it, I started to realize that this quote applies to all of us grown-ups as well. How many times have we beaten ourselves up, or judged ourselves harshly because we thought we weren't as good as someone else? Because our house isn't as clean as hers. Or we're not as patient as she is with her kids. Or our hips aren't as thin.

Each one of us has gifts and talents that make us a genius. Precious qualities that God chose just for us. Something that equals greatness if we will only develop and use it. But how often do we neglect to use (or even fail to prayerfully discover) that which makes us a genius because we're too busy dwelling on the things we can't do... all the things we think we should be able to do, or should do better, or wish we could do. We get so caught up in fitting into, or more often failing to fit into, a mold the world has created to be seen as "successful," we forget that the only standard of success that matters is God's. And He has given us exactly what we need to meet it.

We see other people climbing trees, so we think we have to climb a tree. Those successful or pretty or smart or admired people are all in trees so we tell ourselves "I have to climb a tree too if I want to be successful or pretty or smart or admired." Never mind that God gave you fins and flippers for a reason. Maybe God didn't choose you to be a tree climber...maybe He wants you to swim through His glorious oceans. Maybe He chose you to fly. Maybe He destined you walk the highest mountain peaks.

If you have fins, don't waste them on trees...dive into the water God created for you. Stop trying to be the person the world tells you to be, and be the person God wants you to be.

Hmmmm...has the metaphor run it's course? Yep, I think so. But you get my point.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Don't Look for Miracles...Look for God

Our family is in a season of waiting, hoping and praying. We seem to be surrounded by uncertainty and we really don't know what life will look like in the coming months. And for me, being slightly organizationally and pre-planning obsessed, the uncertainty has the potential to throw me into a a state of panic. But it hasn't, and here's why...

Because I have decided to believe that God is in control. Even when it doesn't look like anyone is in control, I am choosing to believe that God is fully sovereign and fully in charge of everything that is going on around us.

I've spent more time than I should in my life saying I believed God was in control and then doing a lot of things that showed that deep down I really thought it was all up to me. But this year, as part of my resoluteness non-resolution I've decided to really let God be God in my life.

And part of that decision, for me, is to make a daily decision to seek God above all things. I still pray for our family's needs and the needs of others, but I'm not looking for miracles or answered prayers...I'm looking for God. I'm trusting God for miracles and believing Him for answered prayers, but that's not what I'm after right now. I'm after God. I'm after more of Him. A deeper knowledge of Him. A closer walk with Him. I'm still trusting God for miracles and believing Him for answered prayers, but that's not what I'm seeking...I'm seeking Him.

It's all too easy for us in our prayers and in our faith life to take our focus off who God is and wants to be in our lives and put our focus instead on what God can do for us. We all need to ask I seeking a miracle or am I seeking the One who works the miracle? We may think that we really need the miracle, or the breakthrough or the answered prayer. But what we really need is God. To desire what God can do for us more than we desire God Himself is nothing less than idolatry. We end up giving our devotion to something God can do instead of to God, which is the same as worshipping a creation instead of the Creator.

Matthew 6:31-33 says, "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

There's nothing wrong with bringing our needs to God, but there is nothing we need more than God. And once we get that right, everything else will follow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm Not Crazy

I'm beginning to think I've either completely lost my mind (hey, you don't have to agree so quickly) or there's a massive conspiracy among children's bedroom furniture manufacturers to make me think I've lost my mind. Yep, definitely the second option. And I'm not falling for it! I'm on to you, you sneaky furniture makers.

Ok, let me back up a smidge. About 6 months ago Major Dad and I saw the coolest kid's bed ever. Seriously, EVER. I saw it in an ad from the base exchange (which is like the big department store on a military base) and I immediately decided Jack would love it. Ready? Ok, it's a twin bed with...wait for it...a treehouse on top. A treehouse! It's awesome. There's even a little ladder to climb up. It's so cute, I can't help myself, I must squeal with delight...eeeeeee!!

Major Dad agreed that it's the perfect bed for our little monkey, but we didn't get it because it was out of our budget. So now, months later...well, its still out of our budget but I thought I'd see if I could find it somewhere else a little cheaper. And guess what (dun, dun, dunnnnn) the bed is gone.

Not just sold out or out of stock. I mean erased from history. There is no evidence that our monkey's treehouse bed ever existed. I don't even want to tell you how much time I have spent online trying to find that bed. Google was my best friend yesterday and I still couldn't find it. And I know it's out there. I saw it. Really. I did! My husband will back me up on this. But, poof, it's vanished.

Of course now I really want it. Still can't afford it, but that's not the point. It's the principle of the thing. You understand, right?

Sooooooo, loyal and trustworthy readers, if you happen to see a treehouse bed anywhere, would you 1) drop me a little note and 2) make sure you document your find with at least two witnesses and take photographic evidence of your discovery...because locating the elusive treehouse bed is a apparently a major find.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's One of Those Days...

It's cold, it's windy and the kids are a little stir crazy. Toss in a mom who didn't get enough sleep last night and who adamently despises being cold and you get a handy recipe for disaster. And that folks is where we are today. *Sigh*

So, seeing that my happy place has a "closed for repairs" sign on the door and the fact that I've already had hasty words escape my mouth (for which I had to apologize to my kids) and I'm just in general doing a pretty good imitation of Oscar the Grouch, I decided I should stay away from the blog. I didn't want to be responsible for spoiling someone's chipper chipper-ness with my "Bah Humbug." Can you even say "Bah Humbug" after Christmas? Is there some no Scrooge after Christmas rule like the whole no white shoes after Labor Day thing? Or is it no tree climbing after Arbor Day?

Anyway, so there I was, sulking and muttering in my pout when I stumbled across this little gem from Heart of Wisdom. Top 20 Advantages to Homeschooling. And it made me giggle, which made me smile, which made me think, "I bet someone else needs to read this today too."

So since I don't know the rules about sharing blog stuff and I don't want to get in trouble with the blog police, I'll leave you with a few of my favorites and let you click your way over to Robin's blog to read the rest. It's worth it.

My favs:

1. Your kids never tell you that you’re a lot dumber than their teacher.

6. You can post the Ten Commandments on your schoolroom wall and won’t get sued.

10. If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you’re having a PTA meeting. (Haha!! Love it!)

17. Your child may get called names by a sibling but not a stranger. But you can punish the sibling.

And the one that made me laugh the hardest....

19. If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the dog.


Thanks, Robin!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Small Miracles

I know that God answers prayer. And I know that He works miracles, big and small, every day. But sometimes, when I actually come face to face with a real, tangible answer to prayer, it takes my breath away.

That happened to me last week. You may remember reading here, that I was battling my protective mommy instincts because Ella didn't pass her last figure skating test and it broke her little heart. Well, she had two private lessons between the test and the start of the next session and she really nailed the turn that had caused her problems. So I called the rink to see if she could take the test again...wait, wait, that doesn't qualify for banshee mom status. I was soooooo sweet and mellow and all "hey, it's no big deal." But no one was there so I had to leave a super mellow message.

Anyway, I failed to factor my new phone into my grand get-Ella-retested-plan. I thought my voicemail would automatically transfer from my old phone to my new phone. Alas, that is not how phone migration works. So, even though the skating director did return my call, my voicemail wasn't working so she couldn't leave me a message. Drat.

So last week the new class started. Since I hadn't heard from anyone, I figured the retest was a no-go and I told Ella she'd probably have to repeat the class. She understood, but she was still disappointed. Which made me sad. We prayed the night before the class that God would make a way for her to move up. Then the day of the class I prayed the whole way to the rink (oh, it's an hour drive by the I prayed a lot) that God would step in and help Ella take the test again.

Are you getting the feeling that God did something mighty? Well, you're right, He did. When we got to the rink, I looked at the class assignments and guess what...they had moved Ella up! No re-test, no conversation, they just did it. I can't even describe the look of joy on Ella's face when she found out.

Even now I get all misty eyed thinking about it. She was so happy. And God did that for her. Seeing His grace and mercy and love at work in my daughter's life is just incredible. It was such a small prayer request for such an insignificant thing. But friends, there is nothing insignificant to God. He stepped in and worked a miracle in a little girl's life because He loves her so much. Maybe in the history of the world it won't be remembered as a "big" miracle, but it was huge in my daughter's life. And isn't that what God is truly after? Being huge to each of us personally.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Presenting (drum roll).....Our Curriculum

By popular demand (ok, two people asked me) here's the post that reveals all my homeschool secrets. Well, not my secrets so much as the curriculum that we're using this semester. But honestly, I give a lot of credit for the success of our homeschool adventure to the curriculum we use. God gets the glory first, my children next and these books third.

I've done some trial and error in the past year to find the right fit for Ella. Some curriculum didn't make it past the first two lessons. But that's part of what makes homeschooling amazing. You can change what doesn't work as soon as you know it doesn't work.

So, here's what Ella's doing this semester:

Bible: Bob Jones Grade 3

Language: Easy Grammar 3, Daily Grams Grade 3, Horizons Spelling 3. Love the Easy Grammar series & Daily Grams. The spelling is a little on the easy side for Ella but she likes the colorful pages and the activities.

Math: Horizons Math 3. Love it! Seriously, it is awesome...but just so you know, it is spiral (which works great for Ella).

Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Zoology 3, Land Animals of the 6th Day. Great series. The notebooking is at times a little hard for Ella, but the text is fabulous.

Penmanship: Horizons 3. I like that the copywork uses Scripture passages.

Spanish: Switched on Schoolhouse Elementary Spanish. Ella loves being able to work on her own on the computer. She seems to be picking up a lot of vocabulary but there are some of the on-going story elements that bore her.

History: Sonlight Core 3 Intro to American History. This also covers Ella's reading...she has to read everyday and she really likes the books. I have loved this curriculum and we'll be doing it again next year.

Fun stuff: Lifepac Drawing Basics with Thomas Kinkade. It's pretty good. The dvds are very helpful but I think we'll be doing something different for art next year.

And Jack...well, Jack is a little less structured. He's doing pre-k work and these are the best resources I'm using with him:

Leapfrog dvds. He loves them and I'm convinced he learned all his letter sounds from the "Letter Factory."

Teaching Tiles: Math Readiness Center. This one is a little hard to explain. It involves matching, pattern recognition and counting. It has a card with pictures on it and Jack uses the corresponding tiles to either match the card, fill in the pattern or show how many somethings are in the picture.

Backyard Bugs Counters. Don't laugh, he loves to sort, count and stack these little rubber bugs.

Number Puzzle, Board & Pegs. He likes to assemble everything (which he mastered really quickly) and then stack them all like building blocks.

Books. Lots and lots of books. I think if I read Hunches in Bunches one more time...oh, who am I kidding if Jack wants me to read it, I'll read it.

And the best things...a white board and markers. He loves to write his letters, copy simple words and do very basic math. Ella likes to play teacher and give him work assignments.

I have the Hooked on Phonics series, but I haven't cracked the code on how to use it in a way that works for Jack yet. We used the flashcards until he learned all his letter names and sounds, but the books and the transition to reading haven't appealed to him yet.

Later this week (cause I hope you'll come back) I'll share some of my avoid-paying-full-price secrets.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Gonna Get my Independence On"

Ok, here's my new favorite homeschool resource. Liberty's Kids. Seriously, have you seen it? It's a PBS show that was canceled, syndicated out and then canceled again. We get it through Netflix and my kids love it. Like, crazy love it. I mean they hear the theme song and come running like I said it was raining candy. Toys are dropped, all fighting ceases and they sit enraptured for an entire episode and then beg to watch another one.

And I'll admit it, I like it too. It's entertaining and chock full of educational goodness. Although it took some doing for me to get on board with listening to Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Paul Revere. "Yo, Adrienne the British is comin'!" (Ok, that wasn't actually in the show...but it's funny, right?)

So if you haven't seen it, here's the surprisingly catchy theme song complete with Aaron Carter rapping "Gonna get my independence, white & blue don't give up, you represent America!" Don't blame me if your foot starts tapping. But it's ok, I won't tell.

Friday, January 7, 2011

God is.

I've been thinking and praying in this first week of the New Year about how to have a closer walk with the Lord. How to know Him more. How to seek Him first and above all things. And the first thing I've learned is that before you can know who God is, you have to know that He is. Not just an intellectual awareness, but a heart deep certainty that He is.

In Exodus 3 God appears to Moses in the burning bush and commissions him to return to Egypt and free the Israelites. Moses, who is understandably overwhelmed by the task, asks God for His name. Moses is afraid the Israelites won't believe that God sent him and he's looking for a word that will convince them. And God replies with one of the most amazing words ever given. "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'" Ex. 3:14 (NIV)

And that very statement needs to be the foundation of our faith. God is. There is nothing missing from God. He is in no way incomplete or dependent upon anything else. He is. God is. It's such a simple truth, but if you really think about it, it will shake up your life. God does exist. God is real. God is.

We can't possibly have a lukewarm heart or ho-hum attitude about our faith if we really get a hold of the basic truth that God exists; unchanging, unconquerable and eternal. There's no time, no place, no situation without God. God is whether we acknowledge Him or not, whether we choose to obey His word or not. God doesn't need us to believe in Him. He is whether we accept it or not. But we so need to believe, truly believe, in Him.

When Moses asked the Lord for His name, God gave him much more. God put words to the very essence of His existence. A word of encouragement for times of darkness and doubt. God is. Whatever happens, whatever trials come our way, whatever tasks are put before us...God is.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Daughter the Political Commentator

So yesterday we had to clean up the basement/homeschool room. Don't worry it's a finished basement, carpet and everything. I don't make them work in some dark cellar next to boxes of Christmas decorations and the dust covered treasures we inherited from Great-Grandma's attic (all that stuff is in the storage closet). See, good mommy homeschooler.

Anyway, after we finished schoolwork Hurricane Ella and Tornado Jack collided in a perfect storm of blocks, Legos, dolls and a marathon shopping game which involved Jack running a store and Ella buying pretty much everything in the basement...which is also our family room so there's a bunch of stuff for an 8 year old with a pocket full of play money to splurge on. Now, being the Merciless Mommy that I am, I declared that the room had to be clean before we could have dinner and go to church.

On a side note, it absolutely amazes me that kids can completely destroy a room in mere minutes and then take countless, feet dragging hours to put it back in order. My kids can go from 60-0 mph in the amount of time it takes me to announce, "clean up time!" But I digress...

So, as we're digging out from the toy storm (and I say we because Merciless Mommy isn't heartless...I did help), Ella and I got to work putting the play money away. I bought this really awesome Melissa and Doug play money set last year when Ella was learning how to count and add money and it helped sooooo much. Well, the bills are surprisingly realistic. Not that I'm going to try to pass them off at the grocery store or anything, but the images are really good.

Well, Ella looked at the $10 bill and said, "look, Mommy, it's Thomas Jefferson." And I was pretty impressed. We're studying American history and we've been reading about Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers so the fact that she recognized the guy was fairly high on my cool list. Then she points to the $1 bill and says, "and there's George Washington." Again, Mommy was impressed and feeling pretty good about our history program.

She didn't know the other gentlemen so I named them for her and when we got to the $100 bill I said, "and this is Benjamin Franklin. Did you know he's the only one of these men who wasn't President of the United States?"

And Ella replied, "well, I guess that's why he's worth so much."


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

When Your Invisible Friend Doesn't Want to Play

The following in an actual conversation between Ella & Jack...who I may rename Abbott & Costello.

Ella: Ring, ring. (she picks up a toy cell phone) Oh, hello, Emma. Yes, I would love to come over for a slumber party.

Jack: I wanna come!

Ella: You can't come, it's girls only.

Jack: I wanna be a girl.

Ella: Well you can't be a girl. You're a boy.

Jack: I'm not a boy! I'm a man!
(remember, he's 4)

Ella: Fine, you're a man. But you're not a girl. (Back to the toy cell phone...again, it's a TOY...there's no one on the other end) Sorry Emma, that's my bruh-thuuur.

Jack: Tell Emma I wanna come!

Ella: I told you it's just girls! Do you want to get your nails painted and get a makeover and get dressed up?

Jack: Yes.

Ella: Ugh! (
grabbing another toy cell phone) Ring, ring. Jack, it's Tony, he wants you to come over to HIS house.

Jack: Yippee! Mommy, Mommy, Mommy...Tony said I can come over.

Ella: Jack, it's just pretend. Tony didn't really call.

Jack: But Tony's my friend.

Ella: I know. But he's not on the phone.

Jack: But he is.

Ella: No, he's not.

Jack: But you said he is.

Ella: Jack, listen to me. Tony isn't on the phone. It's a toy phone. There's no one on the phone. Because it's not a real phone. We're just playing, see? It's...a...toy!

(with the most pitiful broken-hearted expression you have ever seen). Oh. Now can I come to Emma's with you?

Ella: Mommy!

I of course pretended not to hear her outraged cry of utter frustration. I was too busy laughing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Homeschool-aversary

Well, will you look at's been a year! A year of trying and changing curriculum, a year of being mommy, teacher and principal. A year of fervent, and sometimes desperate, prayer. Yes, friends a year of homeschooling. And I made it! Are you as shocked as I am? :)

See, here's the thing...when we decided to start homeschooling I was terrified. Not just "really-tall-roller-coaster" scared. I was "staring-out-the-open-door-of-a-plane" scared. I knew it was the right decision, but I was worried, anxious & generally freaking out. It wasn't only the academic part of it, though I was a bit concerned that I might actually make my children dumber instead of smarter.

No, my main source of panic was the fact that my kids would be with me all...the...time. Now I love my children. And I love spending time with them. But sometimes I need a big, heapin' dose of quiet or my occasionally questionable sanity stops being questionable and flies right out the window.

This time last year I had quite a few people look at me like I was nuts. Even I thought I was nuts. "Homeschool?" they'd say. But here we are, a year later. Still homeschooling and already planning next year's curriculum. Both my children survived and are officially, as documented by an objective third party test giver person, smarter. And I am absolutely amazed at what happens when you decide to trust God completely and jump in with both feet knowing that He will catch you.

If God brings you to it, He will lead you through it.

So, what's the traditional one year homeschool-aversary gift? Ummmm...chocolate, of course.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Can You Survive the Cockroach Uprising?

Imagine this:

A family enjoying a quiet evening at home. Well groomed and polite children playing Scrabble. Mom knitting a a pair of booties. Dad reading the paper and smoking a pipe. Then suddenly, an eerie sound fills the air. A clicking, a scratching, a tap, tap, tapping on the window. Then suddenly two black, beady eyes and a pair of twitching antenna peer through the glass. Aaaaaaaaahhhhh! It's started! The cockroaches are taking over! What ever will we do?

Ok, so the probability of a worldwide cockroach uprising is slim. I mean seriously how organized can they be? It's not like they can use cell phones, right. Right??? But it's the first of the year and its time to update our emergency preparedness kits...or start one. Hmmmmm? (Raised eyebrows. Yep, I'm looking at you) So I figured the threat of an invasion of germ encrusted, disease carrying, gargantuan size flying cockroaches would get your attention.

Our fun family New Year's tradition is to go through and update our emergency kits. Trust me, it's way more fun than it sounds. But that might be because I get a little too excited about anything that involves organization. You should see me with a label's like a Wild West shootout. Zing, zing, zing! Self-adhesive strips flying everywhere.

Anyway, Major Dad and I just went through both our home and car kits, checked all the expiration dates and made a list of what we don't have or need to replace. That's right, who needs Times Square when you can inventory band-aids and duct tape. Plus I got to play with the Swiss Army knife...that's right, party time.

So, consider this your friendly, blog reminder that in case the cockroaches revolt you want to have a 30 day emergency supply of food, water and survival essentials for your home and a 3 day supply for your car. First aid kit, battery powered radio, flashlight, extra batteries. Seriously, its better to be prepared than to be at the mercy of insects with a grudge and a taste for world domination.

Really seriously this time...for more (though less funny) ideas check out The Red Cross or Quake Kare.