asa is 1

I would like to ask you to just try to explain to a group that includes an eight, seven, and four year old that you are not, in fact, going to really do anything for your one year old’s birthday. Call me un-fun but my plans were to pull out the birthday caterpillar candle and Asher’s old birthday crown (three cheers for names that begin with the same letter!), sing him Happy Birthday, and give him a small (perhaps previously used by three older siblings) present. Done.

My other children were horrified.

And thus my fourth child made out like a bandit in the gift department.

On his birthday morning, Omar and I heard the older three go into his room and sing to him, and I’m all weepy just thinking about how cute the whole thing was.

So Asa is now one. He is walking and jabbering and asserting all kinds of opinions. I’m loving his age right now. I’m loving how every morning he gets pulled out of bed by one or more siblings and then finds his way to me to just snuggle with me for about 10 minutes. I’ve never had one do that. I love it.

Happy Birthday, sweet Asa. You’re the best.

on to the next stage

I remember that moment in June of 2013. That moment that I knew, I knew, that we were done having kids. That I could leave baby world behind. We got married young (at least in my mind) and chose to have kids soon after marriage. I knew the day would come when the babies wouldn’t be babies any longer, and I could walk down more paths that wouldn’t exactly work for our family while there were tiny people in the house.

And at that moment in June of 2013 I thought we’d hit that day.

Guess who was pregnant at that moment in June of 2013? Ha.

Don’t so many of us have that conflicting cry when we find out about an unexpected baby? Joy for the life, guilt for not being totally thrilled, conflict because you just thought you knew you were ready to walk down a different path?

I knew I didn’t want to struggle in some of the ways I did when Lenna was a baby. Simply put, I wanted to do too much. I was overwhelmed with baby world and wanted to have a place in the world outside of daily mothering. At one point I seriously started to explore what it would like to homeschool, partner in ministry with Omar, go get another Master’s, and be the mother to a toddler. I can’t even type that now without laughing. I am completely aware that for some that might be doable. For me? I know my limits, and I would’ve gone down in a blaze of (not)glory while dragging a family behind me.

So in June of 2013 when we found out that Asa was on his way, I think some of the sadness was that I had to just wait. Just be patient for another couple of years. That to fight it would result in misery. My misery and my family’s misery. I knew there would be little to no travel for us for a year and a half or so. I knew there would be little time for classes and outside commitments. Soon after I decided to consciously enjoy the season. I’ve always struggled with enjoying pregnancy, but I gave it my best shot. I have really good memories of my time in the hospital with this last baby. Of night times with him in the newborn stage. Of watching older siblings learn how to love on a baby.

And as a result I think we enjoyed Asa’s first year the most out of any of the kids. We didn’t love him any more, we just enjoyed him more. He’s been a textbook easy 4th baby, so I know that helped, but I’ve just not sweated anything (regarding him) this past year.

Omar has always been great at shooing me away to some other city once the kids hit about a year or so. This time was no different. A few weeks ago Omar brought it up and we started planning. I bought a ticket to fly out to the west coast. It’s still so weird to think that the time has come where I can do these things again.

That season I was so fearing of having to go through again is over, and I got a pretty amazing kiddo out of it. And perhaps more importantly I learned more about what it means to hold my plans and big ideas loosely. This is important because about a week after I bought my ticket to Portland/Seattle area, our calendar started to fill up: classes here, conferences there, weddings, Omar’s work travels. I don’t always want to be looking forward to the next big thing or the next time to travel. I want to enjoy the days filled with school and laundry and not be caught off guard if God decides to place everything on hold again. No baby jokes, please.

again, with all the sabbath

I’d be interested to scroll back through the years here and see how often I’ve written about developing and sticking with a sabbath in our home.

Try, try again.

It could be my life’s motto right now.

But this time. It’ll be different (typed while laughing out loud).

Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t.

We usually start off well. Sunday night meals that are a little more special. Chocolate cake and wine.

Then Monday morning comes. And with it my mental lists.

But yesterday there was a small victory when Omar and I didn’t sneak work into our day. “Oh, you know we really need toilet paper,” I said out loud, rationalizing to myself that if a family so desperately needs toilet paper then I just must go out. And then if I’m out why not just cross a few more things off of the to-do list?

Omar wisely questioned why I needed to do all the errands right then. I didn’t.

So we went to the zoo. We took the kids out for hot chocolate. I took a brief and beautiful nap. We read. I went out for a few hours with a friend.

I asked Omar why resting is so hard. I mean, really, why does one need to be convinced that a 24 hour stretch of time beginning with chocolate cake and ending with wine with a friend is so torturous?

I’m also trying to sneak sabbath rhythms into other aspects of our lives. Schooling the kids without any scheduled breaks is good for no one. But the traditional 9 week cycles don’t work for me. I’m ready for a break by then. So how about 6 weeks on, one week off? We’re trying it. A sabbath week.

winter schooling

love hearing about what others use for homeschooling. On a practical level it helps me figure out what might work with my kiddos. On a humorous level, if you start researching different methods and curricula, you’ll land in the room of online chat rooms and message boards, and there is so much crazy out there that you can’t help but laugh. People are so passionate about their choices that many just cannot imagine why every other parent wouldn’t pick their preferred method or materials. You won’t find any exaggerated rooftop exclamations here about one specific book or one type of method. One semester something might work great and the next not so much. We homeschool for now, but I don’t necessarily see it always being this way.

But we’re in a good groove right now. And lest somebody read back a few posts and think I do all my schooling through television, here is a quick rundown of some of what my kids see on a more-or-less daily basis.

Singapore Math has the boys chugging along at a good pace and there isn’t much drama in this department. Add in some Star Wars practice math books and they’re set.

Easy Grammar 2 is joining up with First Language Lessons 2 to form a pretty good grammar curriculum. Writing consists of copy work and dictation, and soon we’ll move into Writing & Rhetoric (I’m excited about this one).

My Father’s World US History is one of the only lower elementary one year American history programs out there. I switched from Sonlight this year to try to get a year of US history in when it looked like they might be headed to a charter school next year. That is off the table for now, so we’ll finish this up and either head back to Sonlight or make our way over to Veritas Press for their online self-paced history. I love the book list in the back of the My Father’s World manual, but the program has just not been a good fit for us. I love Sonlight history. Their book lists are great, and their teacher’s guides work with us. They are also one of the few companies that don’t have a completely Eurocentric history program. But…at this stage and even next year, there is still so much that I would have to read to them, and I think something has to give in this department. An online history program with less reading from me sounds pretty good right now.

Omar is using Song School Spanish with the kids in the mornings. I think they all like it?? Ha.

Literature read-alouds are a mix of things that match up with our history (currently Farmer Boy while we are in 1800s America) and things that just sound up their alley (recently From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler). As for what they boys are reading themselves, it’s a bit of everything: picture books from the library, Harry Potter, graphic novels, history readers, and books that I’ve read about from this site (such a good resource!).

Science is a mix of library books, scientific encyclopedias, the bit of science included in My Father’s World and Real Science 4 Kids chemistry. And there is always a focus on south Florida nature and animals, especially now that we’ve decided to visit all of the parks in our county. We always try to take field guides, a notebook, and The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms when we go out.

My dad has been working through Mona Brookes’ Drawing With ChildrenWe’re also going to focus a bit on watercolor over the next few months.

Morning Time comes and goes depending on the week. Some weeks we faithfully memorize poetry, review civics questions, read books on random topics that just wouldn’t find their way into other parts of our day, and learn and sing hymns together. Other weeks? We take a break.

From January through March/April there are lots of park visits and walks around the lake. The weather is just too beautiful down here not to. And now that Asa is out of the itty bitty stage, museum visits and zoo visits are on the agenda more often. Like tomorrow, when we hit up the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science.

Happy schooling.

the first of 2015

Last year’s first post told the world that my resolutions were to bring a baby boy into the world, transition to a family of six, and make it there and back again from Colorado. Done, done, done, and done.

This year I just chuckle when I think about whether or not I should try to set any lofty goals. Or even not-so-lofty goals. I think I’m going to take a pass and then surprise myself if I find myself accomplishing something out of the ordinary. I’m afraid that all the resolution-type goals I’d love to set would distract me too much from daily life. And right now daily life requires most of me.

But I love reading other people’s resolutions and goals. They give me ideas and often more books to add to my to-read list.

2014 was the year of Asa and of Colorado. Those are the first things that spring to mind. The biggies. But this was also the year that the boys became truly proficient at reading on their own, and thus homeschooling took a new turn. This was the year Lenna became a swimmer. This was the year that I found myself back in the (virtual) classroom. Back in the days of Latin classes and ancient Egyptian art classes I would have never dreamed that at 34 I would be in the middle of my second law class on immigration, and well, here I am. Quiz me on visa bulletins next time you see me.

I guess I do have something similar to a resolution, but I see it taking 2 to 3 years to complete. A few days ago I found the Palm Beach County parks map that I got about six months ago. I opened it up for a look and then decided that it would be fun to visit all 70+ parks with the kids. There are parks with beaches, bike paths, water parks, playgrounds, kayaking, snorkeling, and on and on.

And while we didn’t set out to cross one off the list today, we did. #1 was Coral Cove Park in Tequesta. Rocks were climbed, waves were splashed in, and 4 out of 6 of us got soaked.

Happy New Year, friends.

the twenty-second of december

Today there was present making. There was felt cutting and scrapping and sewing. Pillowcases were made for the boys. Mulling spices were packaged and wrapped. Glitter made an appearance.

I found the time and space to just sit for a few minutes and read Sarah Arthur’s Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. It has been the Advent guide that I’ve been the most consistent with (in a perfectly inconsistent way). It is a mixture of scripture, literature, and poetry. It fits me at this stage in my life. And Susanna Childress’ poem Bethlehem, Indiana is worth the price of the book.

Yet even in the midst of carols and fabric and cookies and presents real life showed up. The oven rose up against us and decided to go on strike. The dishwasher went on strike last week, and it got fired. We think the oven just needs to be negotiated with.

But I still found tears coming to my eyes. When one of the boys walked into the kitchen and heard what had happened, a dramatic monologue took place about how awful this week has been and how bad things are. Broken dishwasher! Broken oven! Their passion about the situation highlighted how ridiculous it all was. Is.

And so I did what I knew I was supposed to do, even if I wasn’t feeling it and would have rather high-fived and agreed with him. I told him how blessed we were. How this is just life. Full of beautiful things and full of broken things.

a week in advent

And then a full week of Advent flashed before my eyes.

The highlights were a beautiful wedding by a lake (complete with coffee on tap), a stay at my aunt and uncle’s (also by a beautiful lake), a visit to a new brewery in Deland, a trip back south, an unexpected purchase of a new dishwasher (Did you know they sell them according to decibel levels now?! Too funny. Ours is 51, if you’re curious.), painting the front of our house (Those with four children and small budgets paint in long, drawn-out stages. For now we request that any visitors only look at the house once they are directly in front of it.), and finally, gingerbread houses with the kiddos. It was the first year that I didn’t have to help them at all with the decorating. I got to stay out of the way for most of it, and they got to sneak an ungodly amount of candy as a result. Win-win.

the twelfth of december

Twelve and a half years ago Omar and I went on our first date in Winter Park. First dates are always kind of awkward, and this one was no different. We dressed up and went to a restaurant out of our price range. I remember exactly three things about that first date: it took only 15 minutes for a bad seminary/bible joke to be made, Omar and I had to switch seats so the TV wouldn’t be a distraction, and as we were walking around after dinner I looked down at what I was wearing and realized I had let my mom buy me a dress that was so un-me (unbeknownst to her, at the time I was just so thankful she bought me a dress) and I wore it and felt strange the whole night. There you have it.

Fast forward two years. We were back in Winter Park walking around. Omar suggested we have a seat on a bench. And the next thing I knew we were engaged.

Jump ahead 10+ years. We found ourselves in Winter Park on our way to a wedding. But this time there were no uncomfortable dresses, nervous first date laughter, or nerve-wracking proposals. This time it was two people completely comfortable with each other, with their fourth kiddo along for the ride.

We topped the night off with a dinner at Cask & Larder (which I swear got their name from this site), and Asa now knows about rock shrimp, fancy hams, pork burgers, and beer-fried donuts.

the eleventh of december

Advent activities have been kept to a minimum this year.

But I did promise the boys I would make them Christmas pillowcases. Lenna’s was made last year, and after a bit of discussion, I convinced the older three that Asa does not need one this year.

Yesterday we walked into Joann’s. Now I realize Joann’s is not always the best place for up-to-date fabrics, but they have come a long way in the past few years and I got Lenna some great Christmas fabric last year. So we are standing in front of the Christmas section, and in the blink of an eye, my two boys’ bodies become overtaken by 60 year old women and these are the fabrics that they look at and fall in love with.

What?

I stood there having an internal debate as to whether or not I should practice my manipulation skills and decided against it. Please praise me. I didn’t try (much) to change their minds. They stuck to their guns.

I’m still laughing.

the ninth of december

Tuesday was luncheon day.

And did you know that all ladies luncheons are made better when the 90-something year old hostess comes over to you and your husband and whispers in your ear, “Now would you like me to put Kahlua or Bailey’s in your coffee?”

Best luncheon ever.

the eighth of december

All Mondays should start with cinnamon rolls.
All Mondays should include afternoon walks, book reading, tree trimming, A Christmas Carol watching, or a combo of all four.
All Mondays should end with good conversation and meet-ups with friends.

the sixth of december

Today I learned that there is such a thing as cannoli cake. I love cannoli. I adore good cannoli. I bet I could love cannoli cake. Now I just need a reason to head back and brave the crowds at Costco to buy one.

A few weeks ago I learned that there is such a thing as eggnog pie. I love eggnog. I love the good stuff that is thick but not too sweet with tons of freshly grated nutmeg on top. And bourbon doesn’t hurt it, either. I picked up the Four & Twenty Blackbirds cookbook from the library and quickly decided the egg ‘n’ grogg pie would be the first to try. Holy smokes it is good. It has a gingersnap crust, just enough spice, a smooth and creamy texture, and just enough bourbon to make it pleasantly boozy.

Last week I learned that there is such a thing as cranberry pie with thick pecan crumble. I live in a home of cranberry sauce lovers, so I think this one will be a hit. I actually prefer when only one or two out of the four kids like a dessert I make because then it lasts longer. If none of them go for it, I end up eating too much of it. If all of the kids like it (and remember Asa is now at the eat-anything stage), it lasts for all of five minutes and I don’t get “enough” of it. It’s all about finding the balance.

the fifth of december

One year I will bribe my family with something so they will let me put only white lights on the tree and nothing else. I love the lights. They love the ornaments, and the bigger and gaudier the better. Today I couldn’t hold them off any longer. I think they caught on to my scheme of leaving off the decorations for a few days just to make sure the tree was drinking enough water. That worked for a day or two, but four days was pushing it.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement for the sixth day of Advent, my parents took the oldest boys to a Christmas concert and then let them spend the night. And Lenna? There was a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth when she was told she would be staying with us. But then we ordered in pizza, watched a pirate fairy movie, and ate ice cream and all was right with the world.

the fourth of december

Today’s compost bowl made it look like I’d thrown away Thanksgiving along with a little bit of Christmas.

Every Advent for the past few years has found me in throw-away and cleaning mode.

For some people Spring Cleaning is a thing. For me it’s Pre-Christmas Cleaning. Cleaning and purging before we bring yet more stuff into this house.

One Christmas we’ll declare it an all and only Family Experiences Christmas!! Science museum passes, zoo passes, movie tickets, you name it! It will have the double blessing of giving my kids good times and yet there will be no accumulation of stuff. It will be beautiful.