Monday, June 30, 2014

Our First Real Summer Vacation Ever

A month ago I had grand plans to continue our schooling all summer.  I've done homeschool lite every summer since David started school.  Math and reading every day we are home, with some science and history thrown in when I have time.  But then I realized I was completely done with school.  While I wasn't experiencing burnout, my kids were.  And my school year of being "sick" and too tired to do much had left me with a really messy house and yard in need of some major TLC.  I prayed and decided it was time to give my kids a real summer.  No school.  No structure.  Just an open day with endless time to play and be creative.  My kids didn't even know what that meant.

The whining of boredom commenced immediately.  I ignored it and told the kids they could fold a hamper of laundry if they were incapable of finding something to do.  Magically they found a game or project to do.

See, I don't cater to my kids' boredom and I never have.  I want them to be bored.  Because boredom makes them turn to new things for entertainment that they generally avoid during the school year.  Books they'd never read unless they were desperate.  Games they're too busy to play when there are other things to do.  My basement is completely filled with a fort the kids built where they play for hours every day, even reading and having their prayer times in their own little beds they've made for themselves.

Making their own Pokemon game

My kids have spent many hours up in our climbing tree.  Hours laying on a blanket watching the clouds.  They paint my driveway with water.  They draw.  Make up games.  This afternoon they asked if they could create their own drinks--which were just really disgusting sounding smoothies involving fruit, tons of cinnamon and a little stevia.  I averted my eyes to the mess they made, happy that they had found an outlet for their creative minds.

Joy teaching Lizzy how to fry an egg--the latest accomplishment for both girls

All this unlimited free time has made me discover a few things about my family.

1. My kids are not used to so much free time.  While I've always summer schooled with good intentions, I'm beginning to realize that maybe dealing with regression is a small price to pay for my kids having the time to discover new hobbies, new games, new books.

2. My kids lead a very structured life.  I've always had a routine and structure to our days.  Always.  My kids could depend on the same daily routine and an almost always same weekly routine.  Not any more.  I can't tell you when we will make it to the library or the grocery store this week.  And I don't care.  We'll go when it's desperate (we're nearly there).  It's good for my kids to have their routine shaken up.  Teaches them to be spontaneous.

3. My kids are creative geniuses.  Up until now I have always wondered if my kids were a little abnormal in that they don't come up with make believe games, stories, or other similar things the way I did as a kid.  They do, but not nearly as much as I did.  But now I can see that I have just never given them the time to be bored enough to get their creative juices flowing fully.

Making Perler bead creations

4. My kids fight when they are bored.  This took me a few days to figure out.  David was constantly pestering the girls just to make them mad.  Hubby pointed out that David just didn't know what to do with himself.  Oh.  So maybe some structure is necessary.  Boo.  Today I decided I would play a game with David.  I don't like games but David does, so I was speaking his love language.  We played Rummy.  Then the girls saw us playing and wanted to play, too.  So we all played Rummy.  This afternoon I read 10 chapters from "The Sign of the Beaver" to the kids before I finally called it quits.  We usually only make it through 2 or 3 before the kids are done.  Guess their attention spans are improved when they have nothing else to do.  Right now they are outside having a squirt gun fight.  And I am choosing not to care that my house is going to get wet when they're done.

5. We all needed a break.  I thought I was fine and could do school all summer.  But after 3 weeks off, I've discovered I needed this time.  To read.  To just sit and stare out the window.  To work on a project when the inspiration strikes.  To have the freedom to drop everything and meet a friend at the park for the afternoon.  To not care that things aren't getting done.  To paint.  Yup, I am going to attempt painting on an actual canvas this week.  It's been about 25 years since I've tried.

I averted my eyes to this little mess--
and made them sweep up the sandy mess in my bathroom

This summer is nothing like anything we've ever done before, but it's exactly what we needed.  So if you decide to drop by unexpectedly, don't be surprised to find three monkeys up a tree, laundry all over the living room, and projects in various state of completeness all over my dining room table.  Because that's how we roll this summer around here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

It's Summer, So Let Your Kids Play Unlimited...Video Games?!!!

This is not an anti gaming rant--I am not a hypocrite.
This is my kids at my doctor appointment where
I didn't want them to hear what we were discussing.
Good time for gaming with HEADPHONES.

Have you ever been so seriously disturbed by a TV commercial that it leaves you wanting to launch an anti campaign???  Me either.  Until last night.  Thank you Nintendo 2 DS for making me want to puke at the sight of all those kids absorbed in their hand held devices instead of PLAYING outside, PLAYING around the campfire, PLAYING on a camp out.  It's summer so let the kids glue their precious, little faces to the Nintendo 2 DS screen and MISS an entire summer of relationships, family time, friend time, adventure.  Sign me up right now!  (If you have been lucky enough to miss this commercial but would like to know what I'm talking about, here is one of several commercials they are currently running on TV.  Grab your puke bucket before viewing.)

This is not an anti video game rant.  If you know my family in real life, you would laugh at that.  We have more computers than people, my husband games, my kids game, they each have a Nintendo 3 DS, and we had a Nintendo Game Cube until it broke a few months ago.  My Hubby does computers for a job--he reads computer screens that look like gibberish and can make sense of them.  He can read thousands of lines of computer code and find "the bug" in the system.  He showed me his work one day when he had to do a system reload from home.  My eyes glazed over and I started dreaming about tackling Mount Laundry.  Ya.

I personally would rather stare at paint drying than play a video game, but I realize that for many people, gaming is enjoyable.  So I let my family have their game time while I enjoy the silence of my living room and read a book.  Because that's what I find fun.

So no, this is not a gaming rant.  While I personally do not game, I am not anti gaming.

This is a rant about missing life.  About equipping our children to miss life.  About taking precious memory making moments and stomping all over them.  About handing our children a tiny little screen to become absorbed in when there is an entire world to discover.  World!  Out there!  Look up!  It's about those few short years we all are given to get to know and fall in love with our kids, and rather than do that, we isolate ourselves in our own little pocket worlds.  Relationships?  Communication?  Overrated.

Build a fort in the woods

And no.  I do not think this is isolated to children.  I am well aware that this "pocket god" phenomena is a universal problem.  Which is why I held off on getting a smart phone for several years.  I did not want to become one of those people who were always checking their phones.  A year and a half ago, I gave in and got a smart phone.  Within a few weeks I was sucked in.

But God has been convicting me on that.  It started with my kids refusing to pose for pictures.  While I wanted to capture every moment forever, my kids were tired of me sticking my phone camper in their faces and saying, Smile!  Who can blame them after realizing I'd taken thousands of pictures of them in one year.  One YEAR!  Oh my.  I started leaving my phone behind when going on family outings so I wouldn't be tempted to take pictures.

Go climb a tree

Then God convicted me on my Facebook habit.  I was checking it all the time.  First I disabled my account for a week.  I went through withdrawal and nearly died.  But I made it an entire week without Facebook.  That helped me back off on it for a short while, but it didn't last.

Most recently God convicted me to just remove the Facebook app from my phone.  Four days ago it went poof.  I still use Facebook on my computer, but it's a lot more limited that way.  No more mindless Facebook reading when I should be focusing on something else--like my kids.  Or my Hubby.  Or the world around me.  Has it been difficult?  Yes.  I get an email notification that someone responded to something on Facebook and I click the email link to quickly respond only to realize I can't do it from my phone.  Oh right.  I have to get out my laptop to do that.  Oh well.  I'll do it later.  And interestingly, almost every quick response I would have made ceases to be necessary when it requires more work.

Road trip sans electronic devices

I'm not perfect at ditching my smart phone addiction, but I'm getting a lot better.  Because I want to focus on life.  On people.  On moments.  On memories.  On living.  On loving.  On cloud watching with my children.  On God.

And I want that for my kids.

Gaming and smart phones are not evil or wrong.  There is a time and a place for everything.  It's when they stop us from living life that they need to be set aside.  When they block us from building relationships that they should be turned off.  When a tiny screen becomes more important than running and playing and laughing and breathing that they should be left at home.  So go climb a tree.  Go build a fort in the woods.  Sit around the breakfast/lunch/dinner table and talk and laugh.  Linger.  Repeat.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Last Day Of School--We Did It!!

The last day of school 2014

When I was a kid, my Mom always marked the first day of school and the last day of school with a special lunch out--almost always to the Burger King down the street.  It wasn't the place that was special, it was the tradition.  Starting and finishing a school year is a big accomplishment and I love that my Mom celebrated that.

My Hubby says that my family is party happy.  We celebrate everything together--birthdays, holidays, promotions at work, anniversaries, everything.  He's right.  But that's one of the things I love about my family.  You know that if something big happens in your life, people are going to celebrate with you.

And so I choose to continue the tradition with my own family.  

One of the downsides of being a Homeschooling family is that we don't have the already built in graduation ceremonies and school parties.  If my kids are going to get any sort of recognition for a year well done, it's going to have to come from me.  And I choose to play it up big.

The first day of school this year found us up north at the cottage.  We celebrated by going to the beach.

Not as excited about the first day of school as the last

The last day of school is marked with pictures and fun.  Okay.  So we haven't had any fun yet, but we will.  Tonight or tomorrow we will go somewhere fun to celebrate.

Joy is now a 2nd grader

Lizzy is now a fourth grader

David is now a sixth grader--MIDDLE SCHOOL!!!  

Most years I get to the end of the school year and am just relieved that we made it.  This year is a little bit different.  While it's exciting to be done, I'm not crying with relief.  We didn't crawl over the finish line like every other year.  Which is amazing considering all that has happened.  There have been so many things this year that would have sent me over the edge even a year ago.  Two hospitalizations, two surgeries, watching my nephew 1-2 days a week, discovering six weeks ago that my iron was crazy low which would explain why I spent the entire winter with crippling fatigue--fatigue so bad that I would fall asleep if I sat down for longer than a few minutes.  Which made every task feel like it required a Herculean effort on my part.  For months.  Several extended family member hospitalizations that resulted in hospital visits, babysitting, making meals, etc.

This year has been tough.  Super tough.  Probably the most physically challenging year I have ever had.  I should be rejoicing that another school year is complete!  I should be running in the streets!  But instead I find myself doing only one thing--Thanking God.

I could not have done this year on my own.  I seriously could not.  Like no way ever.  So many days I woke up in the morning and just laid there, crying out to God to give me the strength to get out of bed.  To make it through the day.  To have the energy to school my kids, to take care of my home and family.  And God met me every time.  One the days that I watch my nephew I pray that God will give him a good day--and whether it was those prayers, nature or nurture, my nephew has only ever had good days at my house.  He is a true delight and brings us a lot of joy.

I look at this year and I know that it was only by the Grace of God that we had a really good year.  That my kids learned.  That my kids thrived.  That we've all grown spiritually.  That we've grown closer as a family and have grown in love.  That we made it to the end of the year with energy left over.

I thank God for a great year.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When You Feel Like Giving Up

Lots of branches on the ground after a good pruning

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do that you find yourself wanting to just sit down and cry?  That you want to quit before you've even started?  That's how I feel about my yard.  This past Friday I was looking out my window for the thousandth time this spring, and I realized that there was not one square foot of yard that did not need my attention.  The enormity of the work involved overwhelmed me.

I wanted to light a match and set the whole thing on fire.  I wanted to bulldoze the whole yard.  I wanted to shut my blinds and ignore it.  Anything but go outside and attempt to bring order to absolute chaos.

I was praying on Saturday morning, mostly putting off doing yard work, and though I never actually complained about my yard to God, He knew my heart.  I was praying about something entirely different and I asked God, "What's the Next Step?"  The thing I should do to move forward.

Go outside and fill the bucket with rocks.

Huh??  God, You know that's not what I meant, right?  I didn't ask about how to move forward with my yard.  I asked about something else.  I am busy ignoring my yard, in case you missed that.

Go outside and fill the bucket with rocks.

Fine.  Clearly I was getting no where with God on the issue I was praying about.  All He wanted to talk about was my yard and the patio project we've been working on for two summers so far--where we remove all the rocks from our front porch area and turn it into a real patio with bricks.  But all those rocks stand in our way of making a patio.  Bucket by bucket, wheel barrow by wheel barrow, we are making progress.  I really did not want to go outside and tackle the patio.  But I obviously needed to go start working on my yard.

I put on my shoes, grabbed my work gloves, and set to work weeding my very overgrown garden plot.  I pulled a lot of weeds, one by one.  Slowly reclaiming my garden so I could actually plant some vegetables this year rather than just letting it go like I had planned on doing.

When I was finished I decided I needed to go to the store and buy plants to grow in my now cleared garden.  Not a lot of plants, just a few.  I bought 2 big tomato plants, 4 cucumber plants, 1 summer squash plant, and a few herbs.  Oh, and 2 ground cover plants for my flower garden that needed 2 new plants that would hopefully spread and squash out the weeds.  Way less than I have ever planted before, but it was all I felt I could handle this year.

I came home and planted the vegetables.  Then I weeded out my flower garden and planted the flowers.  Next I had to weed wack around the house because, while David does an excellent job of keeping the lawn mowed, he is still learning the finer art of edge work.  Ya.  That's a good way of putting it.  Which means there are always tall patches of grass and weeds that he misses.

As I was weed wacking, I noticed that the tree in the front yard needed its canopy raised up so people could walk under it without ducking.  Of course I had to get our new loppers and prune.

Then I was done.  Very done.  But I felt successful and that I'd knocked out a big chunk of the work.  Until I stepped back and looked at the rest of my yard.  But I digress.

Later I felt like the Lord said, Lisa, take it one day at a time.  Commit to spending 15 minutes on your yard every day you are home and you will eventually get all the work down to a system.  Right now you are playing damage control after years of neglect.  The work is a lot, but it's not impossible.  You will be overwhelmed if you look at the yard as a whole.  But you will get it done if you take it in small chunks.

I realized that God is so wise.  Every time I looked out my windows I saw every little thing that needed doing.  God urged me to see one project that I could do in 15 minutes.

Today I pruned two more trees.  I just raised the canopies so they could be walked under, and then pruned back the tree that touches our house so that it no longer touches our house.  15 minutes of work that didn't lead to me being stressed out or overly tired.

It puts me to mind of the saying, How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

How do you turn an overgrown, neglected yard into a real yard that isn't the scourge of the neighborhood?  One plant at a time.

Just as we should approach everything in life.  One step at a time.  Do the Next One Thing.

The part of my yard that I am pretending not to see--
all that horrible garlic mustard that I have to HAND PULL!!!