My Journey in Pounds

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I don't set New Year's Resolutions

As I'm staring at my laptop I have two dogs next to me, sleeping.  I have a cup of Spearmint/Peppermint/Tarragon tea.  I have my feet up.  I am sore all over - my back up to my neck and shoulders.  I feel tired.  I smell lavender and peppermint because those are the essential oils I was in the mood for today.

I've made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, taken the dogs out to play, worked out for 12 minutes, stretched and did yoga for another 8, fed the kids lunch, and started prepping for dinner.  I read my daily devotional and my Bible.  I've spoken to my husband, spoken to my boss, perused Facebook and Weilos.

I... feel... so...blegh!

If I don't even feel like reading, it's not a good thing.  The exercise lifted my mood a little bit.  And talking to the hubs, I'll be going to the gym later tonight.  And I did sleep ok the past two days - much better than last week.

I ran another 5K in the snow, yesterday.  Beat my original time by a minute and 19 seconds.

I have no reason to feel blegh, I just do.  I'm not worried or stressed.  The kids aren't behaving bad.  I'm not hungry.  Nothing is bothering me except that I feel blegh.

It has been a good month.  Christmas pageant at the church, some hard-put hours at my job.  Time as a family, playing board games, watching movies, and eating food that I put my heart into.  Then spending time with friends and eating food that they put their heart into.  The kids got great presents and are super happy.  We're doing Bible devotionals every night.  I could recall wonderful after wonderful moment from my last blog until now!

On Sunday, after my work shift, I went to a holiday party sponsored by the church at the mall where I work.  It was free ice skating and bowling.  I did ice skating for 45 minutes - and held my balance, didn't fall, didn't spend the whole time holding the wall.  I did spend some time holding a kid... but I was pretty happy with some exercise, some fun, some food and fellowship.

So why am I so blegh right now?

Maybe I'm just tired.  Maybe I'm tired of the same ol', same ol', needing something new to excite me. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful.  I feel peace, joy and thankfulness when I count my blessings and I realize that we're doing great.  Maybe it's not Reality TV type awesome, but God has been good to us.

I'm just wondering if what I need is a fresh new vision to motivate me.

I don't want my feelings to be dependent of my circumstances.  December looked exciting on the calendar: Hawaii, caroling, parties, Christmas. Woo-hoo! Put the scale away this month. It's time to be merry and bright!

I don't even have a January 2015 calendar.  And if I did, except for this Saturday, I'd have nothing on it.  But my work schedule (blegh).  Should I be less joyful because my calendar isn't full of fun and exciting things in January? No.  And yet, I feel so blegh.

Maybe it's SADD.  I go through this tango every winter, from December through February.  I lose all motivation and inspiration - I just mechanically get through my day, checking things off my list as I go.  We have lived through 5 Alaskan winters and this tropical South American girl just doesn't thrive here this season.

It also doesn't help that finances get tighter... So all the things I think, "Ooh! I'd like to do that!" Then I realize, "I probably won't be able to do that until March or so when the cash is a bit more free flowing."  I shoot myself down before I start dreaming...

If I allow myself to dream, for the sake of this blog post, I'd love to join a CrossFit gym, particularly condition my body for obstacle courses.  I'd like to do a pull up and get across a set of monkey bars - something I've never done in my life.  I'd like to do the Spartan race and about 3-4 5ks, maybe even a 10K next year.  I'd like to attend classes at a gym and not just show up to lift weights and use the treadmill.  I love Zumba!

I would like to sign up for two medals a month through US Road Running and other virtual races, and run my little heart out, and keep one set of medals every month for the Christmas tree next year, and gift the other medals to close friends and family.

There are restaurants I want to try out - I have not eaten out in a while! Once this month - Christmas weekend - and in Hawaii (we didn't have a choice there).  And there are places in Anchorage I want to go eat at.

I'd like a heart rate monitor to see how hard I'm exercising so I don't fool myself.  Just because I think I'm dying doesn't mean my body is really at it's limit.

And then there are dreams that seem so far away I don't even picture them clearly in my head - I won't allow myself to envision them, and feel the pain in my heart that follows...

But I read in my devotionals that God keeps a record of all my tears, and some of those tears are grief over dreams I've let go of, that I revisit in my heart's cemetery of sorts - where I walk by, remember all the things that won't happen, and mourn my losses... and move on.  I've prayed and asked God about these matters, and He didn't respond the way I wanted Him to, and now I lack the faith to ask God to do much of anything else.

Just our daily bread.  And our health.  The kids' safety.  Nothing more.  I don't know if I can handle more disappointment in life, and the best way to not be disappointed is to not desire or expect anything.  That way if it comes, it's a pleasant surprise, but if it doesn't, then you've learned to live without it.

If you're reading this, you're probably thinking, "Well, that's why you feel so blegh!"  And I'm sure there's a gazillion things unbiblical about how I'm feeling in this post.  And I know that others, with stronger faith, could offer a reprimand or two and tell me to read more Joyce Meyers or Max Lucado and just "believe".  I can give the whole, "be spiritual! You're a child of the King!" talk to myself as good as anyone, because no one has learned the art of fake-it-till-you-make-it better than me.

But the point of my blog as a whole wasn't to impress you, but rather be transparent.  The confession is, I don't set New Years Resolutions.  I hate goal setting period - I feel like it sets me up for failure.  I don't put numbers or measurable statistics up for me to visualize.  My goals are more of suggestions, things I'm going to try to do, if I can, when I can.  I choose to make smaller, daily choices that I can manage.  At the end of the day, God is the one who opens doors and closes them, so I might as well just wait to see what He allows into my life instead of beating my knuckles bloody on closed doors as I did in years past.

You may have read this far and thought, "You still say God is good?!"  Yes, and I believe it with all my heart.  Our relationship issues are a reflection of my weaknesses and failures, not of His power or His love.  In His amazing kindness God gave me amazing blessings this year that I didn't ask for or deserve; I lost about 30 lbs.  I ran four 5Ks when I only aimed for one.  I read through my Bible this year.  I started this blog (and I haven't given up yet!).  I honestly did not believe I was going to see Hawaii until the plane took off - I thought for sure there was going to be some error or tragedy to keep us from going, up until the last minute at the airport.  I wasn't expecting to go.  Vacation in Hawaii is something nice that happens to other people, but it's not really my lot in life. I was healed of Rheumatoid Arthritis - all while I was more than prepared to live with it until the day I die, but my husband had the faith to reach out and ask God otherwise... it was during a prayer of healing that wasn't even meant for me, but for youth pastors, which I am not.  And a month after that event I walked in to my last Rheumatologist appointment, and blood work confirmed I was healed. I didn't have the faith to ask God for any of these things, and yet in His kindness towards me He blessed me anyways.  Just to show me that He knows my heart and He cares for me.  Yup. He's good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Getting Past the Winter Blues

Does anybody else find themselves up a notch on the cranky level during the holidays, or is it just me?  It can't be just me.  The kids are getting on each other's nerves, the animals have gone nuts, and I can't seem to focus on anything...  It's the longest case of Cabin Fever ever... And I'm trying to work through it.

We are still surrounded by ice and no snow, which stinks.. It's all white outside but you can't build a snow man and you can't go sledding.  You can't run the dogs outside.  So we figured this was the best time to catch up on indoor stuff:

We went to see the Nutcracker Ballet.  A live performance is always inspiring because the kids can see skills that require practice and talent, and it's not all CGI'd!  Then we saw a live basketball game.  I highly recommend icky weather for museums, plays, ballets, etc when being outdoors is not as pleasurable.

We are catching up on books. Best time to read! Except we don't have a lot of good reading light, so our window is narrow, but we read as much as we can. 

We are crafting. Knitting, drawing, sewing.  Practicing recorders. Baking/cooking.  Doing Christmas art.

We leave plenty of room for pretend play.  It's amazing how my children can take legos and use their imaginaitons.  They make block people - like something out of minecraft - and off they go.  They don't even need actual dolls!

In all this, it doesn't quite cure the restlessness.  So the kids have made it a point to do the exercises on my 21 Day Fix program.  They pick one and do 30 minutes every so often.  I'm doing them too and going to the gym at night with the husband.  Exercise cures my grumpyness.  If I find myself annoyed by things that really shouldn't, I pop in a DVD and just start lifting weights.  Then I'm too tired to be grumpy about anything.

On that note, when I first did the 21 Day Fix in March, my light weights were... none... and my heavy weights were 3 lbs.  Sometime close to May I did 3lb light weights and 8lb heavy weights.  This time around my light weights are one or both of the 8lb dumbells and my heavy weights are one or both of the 15 lb dumbells.  Progress!

It's not enough for me to work out inside though.  I have to run.  So I have to go to the gym.  And I like squats and deadlifts with some real weight - around 80 lbs.  So I have to go to the gym.  At the beginning of this blog I prided myself in exercising without stepping foot in a gym.  But now that I can't run around the block or do real strength training for my legs, I feel that the gym is necessary.  I'm totally  looking forward to being off the treadmill and outdoors again!

I'd like other work out programs too.  Not P90X.  But Piyo, or Jillian Michaels, or Zumba/Dance related work outs.  I'd even try Boxing/Mixed Martial Arts.  Possibly even Barr. I just get bored.  Sometime next year my husband and I are going to join a CrossFit gym in town and train with a trainer.  And I'd like to take some live classes. But finances being what they are, I have to wait on that, and I'd like to do stuff at home.  Plus, stuff at home is fun because the kids join in.  It's nice to see them try!

And the older two kids are starting gymnastics in January, and possibly swimming if I can coordinate it for February or March.  Gymnastics will definitely challenge them physically.

Unfortunately, the dogs are still exerting all their energy in my tiny living room, and my furniture and Christmas tree have paid the price for it occasionally.  But that's temporary.

Just like it's temporary for the youngest one to not really be in anything or do anything.  Except he doesn't get it and he feels left out.  Caleb wants to take classes and read books and do book reports.  His all-time phrase is, "Mom, what do I do now?"  And it can get exhausting.  But he's also very helpful.  He refills all the water bottles with filtered water.  He sets the table.  He feeds the fish.  He just wants to DO something all the time.  Caleb and both dogs... Constantly following me around, counting on me to DO something.

And all I want to do, in the winter, is take long naps, drink good coffee, and snuggle under a blanket.  If I don't exercise at home I'll fall asleep!  But this is temporary.

I miss Hawaii... I don't think that's temporary. I think I would love to live in that climate and have access to the beach.  I can spend the rest of my life swimming, surfing (I will learn how before I die!!), and running in the sun.  I think the vacation there ruined me from Alaska life.  I think it made the Winter Blues worse.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Inspiration has left the building... I guess I should chase after it.

I am writing this blog finding myself kind of ... dull... on every side.

As I write, I am finally - at noon - getting a little natural sunlight coming in through the balcony, not quite enough to be able to read by it, but it's all I'll get until about 3pm when it starts getting dark again.  I have chest and nasal congestion and I feel sicky... 3 cups of coffee, not really eating, barely moving sicky.  Yesterday I sprayed chloraseptic into my eyes.  And it's been a weather pattern of melting snow, freezing rain, then freezing temperatures - creating everything outside my door step an ice skating ring.  So I can't exercise outside and I'm too claustrophobic to work out inside with 3 kids, 2 dogs, and a cat (we got a new-ish foster-ish lab/husky-ish runt, who had me chase him around the neighborhood yesterday after he slipped through a hole in the fence of our yard, but that's a whole 'nother story). 

So I've lost the inspiration for everything, and I go through this every winter for a little bit.  I'm not exactly dieting or eating healthy.  I'm not exercising.  I'm not really into writing... I'm not really into the homeschooling either... just blegh...

But this is always temporary.  Vitamins and meds kick in, I turn on my SADD lamp a few minutes every morning, and within a week or so I get past it.  Christmas is right around the corner and there will be so much stuff going on that I will be back to my old self.  So I am writing this post for two reasons:

1) To encourage you!  Everything we love to do, everything we're meant to do, doesn't always FEEL great. There are seasons where life feels a little dull, where even special things feel like a job.  But it's only a season, and like winter, it won't be this way forever.  Review your priorities, find the top three or five things that are important to you, and choose to do something every day - even if small - towards those priorities whether you feel like it or not.  Breakthrough is coming as sure as spring is around the corner!  Now is not the time to quit!

And if need be, go hug someone or surround yourself with some encouragement to remind you of why you are doing what you're doing in the first place.

2) To remind me, in writing, of all the good things that have been going on, all the dreaming I was doing, and all the things I was excited about since last post.  It is a physical exercise in counting your blessings.  I learned this from a dearly loved, now departed saint - Nettie "Jo" Gorder, who could answer any of life's conundrum with the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and a reminder to think of the positives.  It's been a few weeks since I attended her celebration of life ceremony and I still miss the way I felt when she prayed for me.  But if she was a phone call away right now, inspite of her health or her personal problems, this is what she would tell me to do.  So here I go.

I still have not seen the Northern Lights, and we took a break from chasing them around Thanksgiving.  We had glorious, over the top, eat-till-you're-full dinners with friends, stayed up late, and filled with love.  We cleaned our house and took a break from educational work to help get the house in order for Christmas and for our 10 year anniversary trip to Hawaii - I knew I did not want to come home to clean after a few days in paradise, so we pushed hard.  I was super proud of the kiddos!  They scrubbed walls and windows, organized shelves, did laundry, and even though by now all that "clean" magic is kinda' gone, I did get to relax after we got back thanks to their sweat equity.

Before I left to Hawaii, I had a few things in the works which got me excited.  For one thing, I was looking into for corporate sponsorship for blogs.  I didn't necessarily want to bombard this page with ads, although I don't mind a few, but I was interesting in writing product reviews for cash.  I'm in!  As soon as I find a way to try a product or service that will ship to Alaska, I will be more than happy to let everyone know my thoughts about it in writing and get paid to do it this time.  I do it all the time anyways.  Might as well make a little money of the side.  I was also praying about a book idea - I've been wanting to write a book for a while.  So I'm reading on that... And I have an idea for a fiction romance, which has a funny back story to it...

... so very early in the year, in January, I was depressed about being unemployed and finances were tight.  I read that there was a government program that researched why "50 Shades of Gray" was so successful, and they basically spent millions looking into "adult romance" which, from my perspective, contains no real romance and it's all about sex... anyhow, I read this and thought, "Really?! Millions of dollars going into this trash?  I've been in the wrong industry all this time! Here I was trying to work in the veterinary field - forget that! I'm going to write romance novels and become a millionaire!"  At the time, I had not even HEARD of 50 Shades and when I said I was going to write GOOD romance novels a lot of friends hinted at this, but I didn't get the reference at all, so when I looked into it at my friend Angie's house and she shed some light on what the 50 Shades hype was about, I e-bought the first book in the trilogy and speed-read it.  There were points in the story line that had me curious enough to read the second one, because I was sincerely looking for romance - and it's there, hidden behind a lot of dark, psychological issues and far too much sado-masochism to skip over in order to find it, so I didn't bother reading the last book in the trilogy.  But I was still convinced that I could write a better love story.  And now, at the end of the year, I think I finally have some sort of a plot I can work around. But when I said, "I'm going to write a romance novels and become a millionaire!" I was in no way serious... I made that Facebook comment dripping with sarcasm and bitterness, and God is up in heaven like, "Well actually... funny you should mention that... I was hoping you'd redeem romance from this secular industry and write a more believable love story..."

I also am working with other lady bloggers and have little projects to help write and participate in their blogs, with Bible or parenting devotionals and short little thoughts.  I am a writer, and I cannot help it.  And writing I will do.

Another thing I was excited about was running.  And since I'm training for a 10K (on a treadmill, when I can get to the gym, if I ever get back...), I was looking into some resources.  I ran a 5K in the snow around my house post-turkey comma to relieve some of the guilt of recreational eating... And I connected, one way or another, with a non-profit organization called "Girls on the Run", which mentors young girls and trains them to run a 5K.  So I'm in communications to see how involved I'll be there, and I'm praying about it. Peak season is February through May, I don't know how involved I'll be yet - I still have some phone calls to make but I feel icky when I talk right now.  It still gets me excited.  I learn a lot from running; about myself, about the world, and about my faith.  I've learned a tangible, practical, I-can-use-this-now form of perseverance through running that I apply as a part of every day life.  I would love to pass this on.

And in working with younger kids, I talked to our Children's Pastor at church to see if my husband and I can get more involved in the Wednesday night Bible Studies with the 6-12 year olds.  Two of those kids are mine.  And they all read and know their way around the Bible.  With the right curriculum I can totally do this, it's only about an hour and a half at the most.  And our church has the best kids in the world.

And I plugged in with a faith-based homeschooling cooperative and agreed to help teach a class or subject next season, since they have blessed me so much by taking care of Fridays for me, and it's very well organized.  This is the group my kiddos and I are going caroling with on Friday, through Providence Extended-Care (a hospice facility).

And the older two kids asked our Pastor and were baptized before we left! We were all pretty happy, they had been wanting to do that most of this year.

Also before Hawaii I got tickets to see the Nutcracker Ballet this Friday, and Paul secured tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters comedy show on Sunday, so my kids will have a blast this weekend!

And Hawaii was glorious! And much needed! That's a blog in and of itself.

Except when we got back, I found out my kids were pretty much spawns of Satan while we were gone, and we spent the weekend back in mourning as they permanently lost their hand-held video games and dealt with other disciplinary actions...  It was a sad weekend that started this week in the slumps.  Which is why I was stuck in the slumps.  Christmas cheer literally evaporated when all I felt was disappointment and anger at the kids, and Paul and I had a strong parenting point to make: Disrespect is never okay.  And there are severe consequences to burning bridges, as they had, that isn't fixed with just saying "I'm sorry" as if the damage wasn't done.  It was HARD for me to forgive them, and even more difficult for them to comprehend that even though I do forgive them, the disciplinary actions were not vanishing.  Harder still for me was not to punish them until next year - at some point I thought that if the kids opened a single Christmas present I was leaving my husband and them for good... and through tears and prayer I realized I had moved past discipline and I was seeking vengeance upon my children for the pain they had caused me.  What a dark place to be for a homeschooling mom.  What a dark way to start this week.  I have friends tell me, "it's just because they missed you", and "they were only being kids", but I do not accept that as justification and I hope and pray that we can build a bridge, get over this, and not revisit this again... because if they disrespect another adult in our absence, it will NOT be pretty.

Another reason why I needed to write this blog, and review, and remind myself that things were going good before we left, and desperately trying to pick up where we left off, trying to re-focus on positives, gripping the message of Christmas and the Gospel with both hands because it's so crucial that I apply it now!  So my confession for this post is that I have forgiveness issues from which even my children are not exempt from.  But my humanity reminds me that I need to rely on Christ and I can't do any of this on my own strength.  I don't want to be that mom that drags an issue out and brings it up for days and weeks and months or even years.  I don't want to be the kind of mom that punishes the children all month, long after the disciplinary value is gone.  I definitely could be if I was parenting out of my own strength.

But just like I'm seeing the living room a little bit lighter than yesterday, I'm also seeing the light at the end of the dark tunnel.  The perseverance I've learned through running I haven't done since November 29th is telling me, from my gut, to suck it up buttercup and move forward - in all things; at home, as it relates to my health, and as I write.  I am in a gloomy, dark spot but I will stay right here unless I put one foot in front of the other and head towards the light.  If I wait until I feel like moving my feet I will stay here for a lot longer than I care for.  So here I go...

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Health Plans Change... Often

At the beginning of November I was so stoked about going to Hawaii on December first that I filled my calendar with all these lofty health goals.  I was going to start by making sure I drank a gallon of water every day, do the 30 day push up, abdominal, and squat challenge, and go to the gym 3x a week for strength training and running (training for a 10K).  Then I was going to add a round of the 21 Day Fix to it all just three weeks before my flight and cut all carbs the last three weeks, on top of everything.  My hopes were that come December 1st I'd look AWESOME in a bathing suit (albeit once piece, cuz ... I just can't see myself wearing a bikini out in public... modest me).

Ha! Nope.  Either I had to do a lot of driving, or a lot of working, or I was sick, or had sick kiddos, or planned amazing but junk-food filled birthday parties for the household princess who requested chocolate cake and strawberries with a pizza on the side - and not just any pizza, but stuffed crust with cheese AND bacon!  And now that we're about 2 weeks away I can see, realistically, that I'm not going to drastically alter my diet or add ANOTHER work out program to my lifestyle because I still want to blog, and read, and homeschool the kids, and have a pleasant attitude on Thanksgiving.

So I've been spot on when it comes to drinking water, on less active days I drink a little less (about 48 oz), and on more active days I drink a lot more (72-112 oz a day), so I'm happy with setting that goal.  Specially since I realized it's very easy for me to drink 0 water at all for two or three days straight and only drink coffee.  But I managed at least the 48 oz on days when my lifestyle was far from healthy.

I did go to the gym 3x a week and I kind of worked out at home in between although lightly sometimes.  However, it wasn't the gym experience I had imagined.  My husband and I have different workout schedules and only about 40 minutes of gym time together before we split ways.  So I didn't do strength training more than one day a week and ran the other two, because I wasn't likely to have enough time to do both in one visit.  It's still my goal to do both every time I go to the gym.  But when all else fails I run on the treadmill because then I can just run hard and that's better than nothing once I get home.

I'm sorry to the 30 day challenges... but... no.  If I didn't have a chance to strength train at the gym I may try squeezing these in but if I did squats with 75 lbs on my shoulders, I wasn't going to do another 75 squats at home.  I'm good.  I don't think I'll ever do those challenges because it's so hard for me to consistently do anything for 30 days.  It gets boring.  And there's no background music.... It feels so lame...

I got used to working out every day.  But I learned that I need to recover in between work outs that last more than 30 minutes.  I feel awkward not breaking a sweat on a rest day.  And it's not like I know to eat less on a rest day.  But I walk, do yoga with the kids, maybe try running a mile with the dog... the intensity is WAY down on a "rest day" and I'm moving to help with restlessness and not necessarily to achieve my health goals.

Then came Brielle's birthday.  I had pizza twice on the weekend and a lot of it. I'm not even going to pretend I had one slice.  I also went to a Samoan wedding and ate gloriously at the reception... Yes, pig, rice, noodles, plantains, seafood soup... I had chocolate cake Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  And Snickerdoodle cookies.  All of this completely ruins how hard I worked out (or not).  And this past week I didn't even make it to the gym more than twice, but I ran a mile and a half on Saturday (better than nothing!).  I didn't bother putting anything on MyFitnessPal.  I was bad.  I was also entertaining a monthly visitor and was likely to bite someone's head off if they dared say anything.

A good sign that this way of eating isn't "normal" for me is how bad my stomach hurt even up until this morning. I was zombie-like exhausted, and curled up into a little ball.  I barely slept last night.  My body definitely protested this abuse.

One good thing I found, in Carr's, in the organic section, is Coca-Cola sweetened with real cane sugar and stevia.  One can is 90 calories.  For a party favorite, that's not half bad!

Today I haven't hit the gym yet, but I feel well enough to go once the kids go to sleep.  My breakfast was coffee and a cliff bar.  We had to stop by Carl's Junior for lunch and the hamburger smell made me nauseous (which is unusual, trust me!) so I had a grilled chicken salad.  I've had mostly water to drink.  Dinner was brown rice, dinner, and nathan's franks (hey, I needed protein and we haven't done groceries. Don't judge).  I had greek yogurt as a snack while the kids finished the snicker doodle cookies (yes! I really didn't need any more of those).  And even though I didn't go to the gym yet I walked about 8,000 steps.  I think today was a great day!

So I'm going to stick to the water, gym 3x a week.  I'll intensify the gym time (which means I have to wake up earlier and run a lot faster), and I'll stay under my calorie goal of 1470 minus exercise.  But I won't engage in any other plans.  I know I'll run with my son sometime during the week because that's his goal and there's no snow on the ground. And I know I'll do yoga with my daughter here and there.  I may throw in some push ups and sit ups if I'm bored... IF being the operative word... I have a mountain of laundry to do and the washer and dryer are UPSTAIRS so I'll be pretty busy and active that way...

I think that I'll still look awesome when I go to Hawaii.  Because going from 207lbs at my heaviest to the 177-ish I am now, I already look better.  It's so hard to compare when, at my heaviest, all my pictures were selfies of my face.  The husband HATES having his picture taken and won't raise his phone to take a full-body picture of me unless I specifically demand it.  Which I didn't.  Too many noticeable imperfections that I wasn't comfortable with.  And the thing is, I don't necessarily want washboard abs and a thigh gap right now (or maybe ever - on the thigh gaps at least), but it's nice not to look like you're bulging out of your clothes in every direction.  I'd like to hide my belly under my clothes, thank you very much!  And this is what I have accomplished.

Overall, the point is that your plans change, your goals shouldn't.  I may not do all I propose to do in one month, but I shouldn't lose sight of the goal and eat junk and forgo the gym as a habit.  Even while I'm "figuring it out".  When I started I was training for a 5K by running outside and doing the 21 Day Fix in my living room and I was proud of accomplishing my weight loss without going to the gym.  But - as happens with life - things change.  I had to change the plans to accomplish my goals.  I'm not very effective at running on snow.  I wouldn't be progressing if I repeated the program.  I think I could still benefit somewhat from the 21 Day Fix but for the intensity of running that I want to do I need to lift much heavier weights or I'll run muscle-mass off my legs - no bueno.  After my 5K I decided that my next goal was a 10K and that I wanted to be ready for it come April of next year.  Maybe even a half marathon (what's another 3 miles or so, right?).  So I have to adapt my exercise routine to be ready and reduce injury.  My goal is still to be able to run further and faster than before.  I guess overall my goal is a healthy lifestyle and a strong, lean body.  It's ambiguous but my goal won't change no matter how often my health plans do.  Who knows? If Zumba ever comes to town my plans might change to become a certified instructor - Zumba being the only thing I love more than running - but my goals only grow and become more challenging as I master them.

I'm loving SIMPLE Homeschooling

Last week was an experiment of sorts on "unschooling" or "simple schooling", which in essence means you don't have a set curriculum or workbook to progress, but rather the children learn by experience, curiosity, and play.  They kind of set their own goals for their educational experience.

Being the control-freak I am, this terrifies me.  But there's a hidden gem in this that God revealed to me - in order for my children to succeed in life, even as adults, they have to 1) be willing to learn 2) know how to find out what they want to learn 3) use what they learned practically.  Success in any area is us moving through these 3 processes - whether we want to lose weight, get our Master's degree, write a book, be a missionary, whatever... Successful adults stay humble and stay hungry and that's how they rise above the crowd and become noticed in their field.

But you can't force a child to learn.  Just try it.  It's the equivalent of dragging that proverbial horse to water, and hanging from it's neck to try to get it's lips to water. It ain't happening!  So it is my job to make them independently interested in their own learning progress, whether they are homeschooled or if they ever go back to public school (over a parent's dead body... and I mean that quite literally).

That's not to say they are ready to be un-guided.  So we sat down and set some goals: Spiritually, Physically, Language Arts, Math, Arts/Crafts.  These are the foundation of the Homeschooling experience at the Hass Household.  Social Studies and Science are like icing on a cake.  Anakin set a bible study goal, wants to start running and doing strength training on days off from Karate (at least one extra day), he wants to read his library fiction book and for his arts/crafts wants to illustrate it, and master fractions and division at a 3rd grade level.  Brielle wants to prepare a song to sing at church during the offering, finish reading her American Girl book, master telling time on an analog clock and counting currency (which she has, but has a hard time with pictures in books.  She has to feel the coins to really know how much they're worth), do yoga twice a week, and knit a scarf.

Caleb is the proverbial horse by the river of knowledge... who cannot be forced to drink.  He has 2 new Star Wars themed kindergarten workbooks in Reading and Math that he works through oh so patiently and then builds stuff with legos or blocks, or plays with puzzles.  The joy of a pre-school life.

It was pleasant that it was our first week home without any other activities.

We started our day after breakfast reading our Bible and praying as a family.  Then each kid split up to work on their own spiritual goals - Brielle borrowed my phone and went to her room to practice her song, Anakin did a Bible study plan on YouVersion (on my account).  Then we read for 30 minutes.  Then they practiced math - most of which is on Khan Academy, and we can only have one kiddo on the computer at a time, so the second kiddo worked on their physical goal and then they swapped.  They were both done before lunch.

After lunch, I added the "sprinkles" - a science project on cloud formations that involved art work, Spanish lessons, practicing the recorder.  Brielle usually knits next to me when we watch TV as a family.  They also learned some Social Studies by playing Carmen San Diego and the Oregon Trail - and that as a team of 3, so they all learned to some degree or another.

How did it work out?  Awesome!

For one thing, we were all de-stressed.  Everything was met with joy.  There was no pressure to meet a schedule.  The kids were so pumped that they worked quickly and efficiently and the evenings were a joy!

For another thing, come Friday the kids had worked on all their goals, so we participated in co-op.  Faith Homeschool Connection has a co-op for homeschooling parents at their church - it's a great group of support for moms.  The kids are all split up by age groups and there is one or two moms per class, teaching a subject in a group setting.  My kids in particular had Physical Education for the first session, lunch break, and then Brielle and Caleb went to a health class where they learned about a balanced diet and Anakin went to a Super Hero physics class.  They made new friends.  They still learned.  They were happy kids (Caleb protested a little at first but 15 minutes into it he was ok with it.  At least, I think he was. He stopped planking in the middle of the gym.).

I want this to be our routine over-all.  I told them that every day, Monday through Thursday, there will be Reading, Writing, and Math.  They can expect that no matter what.  Fridays is co-op.  Everything else is as we get to it.  They love having the option of "Would you like to work on your Spanish or do yoga instead?"

The curriculum I originally bought was from Oak Meadow.  They have an "unschooling" type of system too, where they give me a general guidance of what to work on week to week and I have the power to choose how to implement it.  It's how we're learning to play the recorder or learning our science/social studies.  I don't spend as much time as the curriculum emphasizes on the fairy tales because a) they read the Bible first b) they read fiction stories they chose second and I think it's a bit too much.  But I'm saving those fairy tale stories to read to Caleb between next school year and the one after, until he learns how to read himself.

Their language arts skills are ahead is of the curriculum but I have them practice cursive anyways.

This whole homeschooling experience comes with a learning curve that involves the whole family.  But we're all appreciative of the freedom it provides!  So the kids aren't just doing the work but it's sticking in their minds and seasoning their conversation.  I think it's efficient.  I love it because it's simple.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Actually, it looks like Spring!  The snow is completely gone from our yard and the pavement is wet.

But the Holidays are coming, and our family is excited.  Brielle's birthday is this weekend.  Then in 2 weeks is Thanksgiving, then Paul and I go celebrate our 10-year anniversary in Oahu, Hawaii for a FEW days, then the busy Christmas season begins!

It all becomes madness... starting... now!  Time out! I need to make lunch (it's 2pm already? My gosh, where has the morning gone?!  We read our Bibles, and we prayed, and we read our story books, and we are crafting cloud formations out of cotton balls so kids could remember the difference between cumulus, stratus, and cirrus clouds... that's where it went)...

Be right back...

Ok 2 hours later I'm back.

Anyhow the point is that we are approaching the Holidays and this year feels new.  Last year I vividly remember feeling like a boat hopelessly lost in a hurricane; I went with the flow of whatever everyone else had planned and I was tossed about by every circumstance.  From October through New Year's in 2013 I lost my dog, was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, had problems with Anakin at school that involved Child Protective Services, wrecked our van, lost my job, and had a friend diagnosed with a brain tumor (and he passed away suddenly in January), and my grandmother passed away.  My life felt like a roller coaster I wanted to get off ASAP.

As a result, our holidays were spent in a "whatever" kind of way.  I got the kids presents and set up the tree, but nothing was intentional or purposeful.  We spent time with great company and friends - they truly help the stress of this load be easier, doesn't it? And my Dad visited us, so we spent time together.  But we didn't plan anything - just hung out.

I lost the opportunity to give it meaning - and I love Christmas!  I feel like the time I spent with my dad and with the kids, had I been a bit more intentional about it, could've been a lot more meaningful and I wasted some of the time.

This year, I want us to start building traditions.  I actually want to take ownership of our Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I want to plan what we're going to do and how to make it special. I want to cook (I must be coming down with something).  Don't get me wrong, I want to see friends and love on everyone.  But more importantly I want it to teach my children something!

We also have a lot to celebrate.  We've survived staying home with each other for one year.  The kids have worked really hard and have accomplished a lot of cool things.  I feel like I'm a completely different person with the 29 lbs and counting that I've lost and the running I have done.

And I want to set some goals to start the New Year right.

So as far as our household goes, I've come across a little poem that helps narrow down the Christmas shopping in my home: "Something you want, something you need. Something to wear, and something to read!"  Nothing more than that.  And I think my kids are ok with this too.  We talked about it and I really don't want more stuff for stuff's sake, the frenzy of opening presents that eventually get lost or forgotten. I want them to remember what they got for Christmas and appreciate it.  Caleb is not too stoked about something to wear or something to read, but he's ok with it.

We also drew our household's name out of a hat and did a gift exchange, only the gift has to be hand-made.  The only shopping for this gift is for supplies or materials.  This way they spend some time putting thought and effort into loving on someone else, instead of thinking of themselves.

And before all that, before Thanksgiving, we're filling up 3 boxes for Operation Christmas Child, one for each kid, to fill it with items so that a less fortunate kid can celebrate Christmas.

That's the present department.  There will probably be a lot of Christmas related crafts too. And I would love attending a concert - specially since I normally sing in the Singing Christmas Tree at our church, but this year I've worked through rehearsals and won't be able to participate.

We will learn Christmas carols and maybe even get to go to Broken Sparrow and sing there, the way we did the year before that.  And draw a nativity scene on the windows spread out across the balcony.  And make stuff to ship to the grandma's and grandpa's in Florida and West Virginia.

I'm getting warm fuzzy feelings already!

Brielle is learning a choreography to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and "Over the Rainbow" and we'll love to see her dance.  And we will probably attempt sledding too (if it snows!).

We will make a "Thankful Jar" and have everyone write blessings and throw them in there, to read in Thanksgiving.  We're going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner with the neighbors.  But I have all day to spend time with the kiddos!

Speaking of food, I'm so glad I don't diet.  I'm not setting myself for holiday binging failure!  Portion control is everything.  Drinking lots of water, eating a LOT of vegetables and nutrient rich foods, and exercising every day.  Guilt free holidays - I have goals set that are not scale related.  So I know as long as I'm progressing at the gym I'm not worried about the number on the scale or the slice of pumpkin pie I KNOW I will have.  But, in all fairness, it'll only be one. Per Holiday.

Lessons from Ephesus

I'm doing a personal Bible Study on the books of Hebrews, James, 1 2 3 John, and Revelation. And I read Revelations 2:2-5 which says,

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you[b] and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

As I'm learning about the first few chapters in the book of Revelation, I am taught that the writer of Revelation is listing churches and identifying their strengths and weaknesses as told by Jesus in, well, a revelation.  And so I listed these too, in a chart, I only read about 4 churches at the moment, but it helped me to capture a thought I felt compelled to write about.

In the game Diablo III, there is a character named Tyrael who says, "The longer you spend fighting evil, the more you are corrupted by it."  How I know about this game and this character at the moment is irrelevant, but this toon made a point that stuck with me and I believe Scripture confirmed it.

It's not that you ever give up and say, "Evil wins! It's whatever!"  But that you can get so lost in the fight you lose the love you had in the first place.  I think this warning to the church in Ephesus was a real warning to me too.

In essence, paraphrase mine, Jesus was saying, "You're working really hard! I see you at church and doing godly things.  I see you stand up for what is right, and argue unapologetically to defend My Name.  I see that you don't give up or back down from what you believe no matter what the consequence is.  But I do hold this against you; you have forgotten to love Me!  In all your right living, you have made it all about the fight and you forgot it's about the love. My love.  You need to make our relationship, our love for each other and for those around us, the priority of your life again.  Or you will become someone who has nothing to do with Me, and I won't know you in the last day."

I'm pretty sure I've read this before but it didn't click like today.

I'm a very hard-headed political person.  I have strong opinions on right and wrong.  I'm very argumentative.  And I probably have a lot of bitterness and anger deep inside me that makes me want to fight.  I want to argue with the whole world - and yet, I hate physical confrontations.  So much so that thinking about a fall-out face to face with someone makes me nauseous.  But very easily, with politics, local news, and world news, I get more and more into the fight of it all and I forget my first love.

I'm very angry with our President and most of his current decisions.  I want to physically yell at him, to his face.  This is honest me.  And I was humbled today when my daughter, during prayer time, started praying for him.  Now I know we're supposed to pray for our leaders - the Bible says so, and I have taught so to my children.  In all honesty though, I was beyond praying for the man and more willing to gather pitchforks and storm the White House demanding his impeachment.

I never assume to be right or wrong in anything I've blogged about. I'm just being as transparent as possible.

And here comes my 6 year old daughter, during prayer time, and she prays for him with the most respect she can muster, and with all the love she knows she's asking God to give him wisdom and keep him safe so he in turn can keep us safe.  She said that God alone can touch his heart and help him change his mind if he's making a wrong choice.

I am all about the fight.  But my daughter has not forgotten her first love, and the supremacy in the love of Christ, and the power therein.

So I'm encouraging you to remember that it's not about doing the right things, or taking the right stance all the time, but about being in love.  For me it means being in love with God and finding that one-on-one time before I face the rest of my day - so I'll probably wake up earlier from now on.  We shall see.

It has huge implications for my children, who are with me a LOT.  And who observe more than what I pencil down to teach them as I prepare the lesson plans for the week.  As we scale back on result-driven school work we are focusing more on attitude.  My kids see my attitude as I'm browsing through Facebook or talking to my husband.  I need to teach them a Bible-centered attitude towards life so they can tackle everything appropriately.  I need to model the right attitude in all circumstances first, even if that means I do a whole yoga session before I open my mouth on the subject.

I'm not ever going to agree with everyone.  And I've always said that people are very, VERY hard for me to love.  But I would hate my kids to see this attitude and think that I will only love them if they see eye to eye with me and I would never really love them for who they are.  I know the answer to this problem: to soak up God's love, like a sponge.  If I just spend enough time loving God and letting Him express His love for me, then when I'm wrung out or stressed or pushed, what will pour out of me will be love - and it would be as natural as water from a sponge.  This was the main point of 1 John.

Most Theologians believe that John who wrote the gospel and was the "disciple that Jesus loved", also wrote 1, 2, and 3 John later on, and finally wrote the book of Revelation when he was exiled to Patmos.  And his unique perspective on Christ as God, coming down to earth to love on us really set him apart from other writers - his style of writing is pretty simple and warm.  I concur with these theologians because the books with his name on it are just full of John's love for God and it works like... a finger print.  And it makes total sense that this man wrote these documents in this order; first he experienced Christ and felt His love.  Then he writes 3 epistles to instruct other Christians on the love of God and the love for others.  And finally, in a grand culmination, Jesus shows John the end of it all - the final throw down, so to speak.  So I see, as God is the primary Author of the Bible, how intentional God is - with all the theology and history, and do's and don'ts, and instructions (all of which are important), God uses John to remind all believers, "Wait! In all this, don't forget your first love!  Don't get lost in the work and lose the love! I am love! And it all starts and ends in Me!"

Lord, help me to be less about the fight in this life and more about the love You have for all of us.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Parenting from a Biblical Perspective

After last night's post, I was up late with ideas swirling through my head, so I figured right now would be the best time to put things down on paper.

I was thinking about yesterday's post, wondering if perhaps I have been kind of harsh.  I didn't mean to imply that I did things right and other moms do things wrong.  I just meant to explain why I cannot relate to some of the parenting frustrations other moms go to, and why I sometimes cannot offer appropriate encouragement or advice.

I laid in bed last night thinking about why I have done things the way I described.  I was raised outside of the church by half German, half Venezuelan families.  I have no question in mind that I was loved.  But I also remember a lot of times where I was not "spoiled".  From my earliest memories I remember that I was loved not because I got what I wanted but because my parents, grandmothers, aunts and uncles loved me.  And I believed how my momma and daddy raised me, well, works.

But then as I was praying and thinking about it, God revealed to me some verses that also guide my parenting thought process more than any other "school".  There is a kaleidoscope of ways to be a mom, from the co-sleeping, breastfeeding forever, super attached moms to the disciplinarian, apparently distant moms that are more common in cultures outside of the United States.  Did you know that in some tribes in Africa moms will avoid eye contact with babies?  Their way of life requires for children to be as independent as possible by the time they're 3 years old.  Children that young may be left in homes while adults go hunt or work for food.  It's hard for me personally to imagine not responding to my baby's smile, but I cannot judge these moms and say, "They don't love their children!"  The point is, their parenting is intentional because they are raising children that will survive in their society.  They cannot have needy, crying children that chase after mom, or refuse to stay home, or want to be held all the time.  I'm thankful my way of life is a lot easier.

And whether you are raising children in Africa, Japan, Germany, or the US, your parenting needs to be intentional too.  That is the point!

You can read thousands of parenting articles from different schools of thoughts and do all the research on the subject, but as for me, I turn to the Bible.  I cannot separate God's Word from what I do.  So this is where I start:

What the Bible says about me as a MOM:
1) Proverbs 22:6

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. 
It is my belief that we begin this parenting journey with the end in mind.  We mold them while they're young with the hope that it will shape them as adults.  It involves guidance and being future-minded.  And active parenting.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that, in the words of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, "children should be free to lead their own life." It also puts me at the driver's seat of our home.
In a practical application, I can say that Caleb has lost his temper and hit his siblings when he doesn't get his way.  I think of how this kind of attitude would look like when he's an adult - is it ok to hit his wife? To smack his kids?  So I don't tell him he can't do that simply to referee in my household, but I work on his attitude that it's not ok to demand your own way to the point of hurting someone else.  And I teach him to express his emotions using words.  Because if it doesn't look cute as an adult it really isn't something to shrug about as a child.  I don't expect my children to "just get over it" or "outgrow that stage" when the Bible says it's my job to lead the children in the way they should go because the habits (emotional, physical, and spiritual) they develop as children will be what carries them as adults.
On the note of habits, practice doesn't make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  So if you do an exercise with improper form three times a week for a year, you are not improving your health at all.  You've just taught your muscle memory to do things wrong permanently.  So having my children interact with the same attitude over and over will not miraculously cause them to think or behave better - I have to guide them with the right attitude so they practice that from the get go.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Some people believe that you should let children choose their own faith.  I believe I'm supposed to raise my kids according to my faith.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it's the Children's Pastor or the Youth Pastor or the Sunday School Teacher or the Public/Private School's job to teach them the instruction and training of the Lord.  Teaching children about faith is specifically listed as the parent's responsibility.
I find it interesting that the Bible says the solution to avoid exasperating your children is to train them in the Lord.  And the way I can reconcile this is by putting all things into a Biblical perspective.

The Lord made us all different, and with different personalities.  I accept that between you and me as moms. I also accept that between my children and me.  I know Brielle is not as organized as me.  I know that Anakin is not as courageous as me.  I should not exasperate them by fussing at them to be more like me, because that's a dead end that only leads to frustration.  We may never see eye to eye on how to put laundry away or whether or not to eat french fries.  And even though the Word puts me at the driver's seat of my household (or at least, the front passenger if my hubby is home), that does not mean that their individuality and their will gets thrown out the window.

Rather, it means that in all things I teach them to be like Christ.  And Christ taught us to love and honor one another even if we're right.  He also teaches us to submit to Him and to others, to put others before ourselves, to speak the truth in love.  Our individuality does not allow us to be disrespectful or disobedient to anyone, but we learn to express ourselves within the confines of love with one another.  Here is the key to teach a child why he should obey you even if he disagrees with you.  

So as a practical example and with this end in mind, I can tell Brielle to clean her room.  And Brielle has a random, typical artist type of brain so her version of a clean room is usually NOTHING like what I have in mind.  So I work with her and with myself and make clear some ground rules and expectations: No clean clothes on the floor - it goes in a drawer.  No dirty clothes in the floor, it goes in a hamper.  No toys on the floor, it goes in a toybox.  I will not lie to you, Brielle puts her toys in her drawers and keeps her clothes in toy buckets because it's more accessible to her.  But she'll pick everything up off the floor.  I can choose to exasperate her by yelling my head off because her socks aren't matched and she has pjs and blue jeans in the same drawer.  Or I can teach her that the Bible tells us to be good stewards of the things we are blessed with, and that even in creation God is a God of order and not chaos.  So the happy medium is that as long as a) her stuff is being cared for properly b) she can find what she needs immediately when she needs it - then we're good! And more than just teaching her not to roll her eyes at me when I say she needs to clean her room or how to have her room the way I would have it, I'm teaching her that in all things she needs to obey Christ.

3) 2 Corinthians 5:20
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 
I am fully aware of how little we care about our ambassadors in this day and age.  But in the heart of the matter, an ambassador is an exact representation of the Kingdom he/she represents, and whatever the ambassador says or does is as good as if the King from that land had said so Himself.  Food for thought when it comes to parenting...
The relationship the children have with me will be their prototype for the relationship they will have with God as adults.  This is not something I take likely.

Although "submission" is such an ugly word in today's society, the gospel truth is that we cannot have a relationship with God without submitting to Christ.  And my children learn what all submission means from me.  And it's a good thing, really.

Submission implies a certain level of respect, or what the Bible describes as "fear of the Lord".  It means we cannot have a loving, healthy relationship with the Lord while we simultaneously disrespect or disobey Him.  So the kids need to practice, and that with me, how disobedience or disrespect doesn't work in a healthy relationship.

Submission implies a certain level of trust.  We submit to Christ because we believe His character is good, and He is trustworthy, so even if we don't like what we are instructed or we are afraid we follow Christ - at times blindly - because we know He has our best interest in mind.  How much more in parenting!  I need my kids to trust me and know that everything is for their good - whether they like it, understand it, or not.

And guess what - we are all in submission to one thing or another.  No man is above the law.  We submit to our spouses, to our bosses, to our teachers.  The best leaders are the people who can be trusted to have people in submission to them because they are in submission (or accountable to) someone higher than them.  The best athletes submit to their coach.  The best students submit to their teachers.

But within the boundary that this submission concept establishes, lies a relationship filled with unconditional love, comfort, and wisdom!  Relationship being the key.  Submission is the means to a much greater end and if my kids can't practically see that end between them and me than they will have no motivation to submit to God.  There are treasures to uncover if you follow the instructions on a treasure map - and this applies to obeying God's Word, and to obeying Mom and Dad, and I want my children to experience these treasures in me as a representation of the relationship they can have with God the Father.

So practically speaking, it means that even though they are not allowed to sleep with Paul and me, doesn't mean that I won't pray with them at their bedside after a nightmare or won't get up and help them clean up if they puked.  They may have to eat all that's on their plate but when I can, I ask them what they would like to eat and take them up for suggestions.  Jesus expressed that even us, in our wickedness, long to meet the needs of our children and give them what they ask for (and how much more the Father wants to bless us!).

No where in the Bible does it say it's my job to make my children happy.  Or anyone else for that matter.  Can you imagine if I posted on Facebook, "Your job as a wife is to make your husband happy."?  Feminists would burn me alive.  Wanting someone else's happiness is a byproduct of loving someone else and comes quite naturally.  But it's not our responsibility.  And we can create a whole bunch of problems, one of them being codependency, if we make it our job to make other people happy.  My role as mom and ambassador of Christ is to teach my children to find their joy in Christ and point to Him for the emotional stability only He can fill.  So they don't expect anyone else to make them happy.

And so, as it relates to crying, I don't believe that a child needs comfort every time he/she cries.  What they may need is a change of perspective, much like I need as an adult when I'm throwing a pity party. It's not my job to stop their crying and turn every tear into a smiley face.  Christ alone was the one who promised that He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  I handle tears within the confines of my Biblical responsibility.  There is a huge difference between crying because they want a toy and crying because the dog died or their friend moved away.  I don't diminish their emotional need for comfort but I won't foster a self-centered attitude.  Personally I rely on the Bible for the wisdom to know the difference and to know what I want to cultivate in my children deep in their hearts, in the wellspring of their lives.

I personally believe that these Biblical principles are universal.  You may not apply them exactly the way I do and your children are entirely different from mines - so that's probably a good thing.  But at the heart of this parenting matter is the fact that whether we do or don't, whatever decision we make for our children, it needs to be intentional.  It is nobody else's job to raise our children but ours!  How many children are handed the crackers and the TV remote ONLY because mom wants them busy and occupied so they can move on to something else?  How many absent-minded parenting decisions are made to make things smoother at the moment without having the long-term consequence of that decision in mind?  Then we wonder why all these children turn into teenagers that have no earthly clue what the purpose for living is and the answer is because very few parents in this society do any purposeful parenting!  So whether you choose to respond a certain way - or not - if nothing else understand the Biblical implication that these decisions carry a heavy long-term weight, in this life and in the life to come.  I write of what I know, but whether pagan or Christian or Muslim or Jew, parenting is one thing we cannot do haphazardly.

I can't relate to a lot of Mommy posts...

I've always wanted to write, and I've heard that you write about what you know.  And now, what I know is how to homeschool my kids and to live healthier-ish.  But then I also heard that you should write to an audience.  I thought well, Moms!  Because who else would my audience be, really?

And then I read other blogs by other Moms or talk to other Moms and I feel like I can't relate... at all... and I think, "I'm not normal".  And then I wonder, could I write and connect to other moms?

I have invested all of my motherhood in not having needy children.  As babies my socialization goals was for them to be comfortable with anyone and away from my presence.  I had the babies everyone else loved to babysit.  They never cried to see me go, and they were always happy when I came back.

So when a child is crying at the church nursery and mom is like, "I don't know, what should I do?" I'm honestly speechless. 

I didn't breastfeed for long, I let them cry through the night to extend their sleep cycles so I didn't get up during the night after they were 4 months old.  They never got anything from me by crying after they were old enough to recognize my face - even at 6 months old I waited until they soothed themselves to give them what they were crying about (as it relates to food and diapers I tried to anticipate their needs so they didn't have to get to a crying point to begin with, though).  Honestly, when a baby is crying and I see a mom rushing to soothe him my first instinct is to think, "Why would she do that?"  The only reason I comfort a crying child is if I know he is in physical pain or discomfort.

I've also taught my kids to be as self sufficient as possible.  I don't care if my kids have their underwear inside-out and their socks don't match.  I stopped dressing them as soon as they could put it on themselves.  They eat all of whatever I put on their plate because I would reheat the same meal until it was finished or let them skip the meal.  My plate is as much my personal space as my privates - my kids are not allowed to touch my food and they've never shared off my plate.  And my kids always go to sleep on their own bed - they have NEVER spent a night between my husband and me.  My parenting catch-phrase is, "this isn't a democracy.  It's a benevolent monarchy that belongs to me!"

So here is a common scenario:  I'm at McD's with my kids.  I see a mom come in with two young kiddos.  I hear the kids fussing the whole way to the table.  I see the mom get the food and serve them.  I hear the kids demand ketchup.  I see mom go get ketchup.  I see the kids spills the drinks.  I see mom get napkins and clean up.  I see kids leave their food and demand to go play.  I see mom pick everything up and head to a play area.  I never once saw Mom take a bite of her food.

Well no wonder parenting is not viewed as enjoyable.  I don't feel compassion for her.  The overall picture is that you survive 10 years of childhood for tiny glimpses of hope where the child isn't acting like an animal and maybe then you'll see the reward.  You'll spend years without sleep, without eating a meal of your own, you'll sacrifice your sex life with your husband, you'll never have the time to do your nails or your hair or take an uninterrupted shower and you'll never hear a thank you.  The only satisfaction you'll get is the smile on your little angel's face.

But why?

Call me selfish, but my mental and physical well-being is priority.  I need to function in order for my household to function.  There will be nights of staying up because of illness.  There will be moments where your child genuinely needs your comfort.  There will be days when you barely have a chance to eat because you are at a hospital or some other situation with your child.  But I would not make this lifestyle your habit.  I'm not even going to get into what consequences living like this - regularly - can have for your marriage.

Go back to the McD's scenario with my household.  I'm already walking in with tensions high because I'm nervous or running late.  The only reason I would stop at McDs is if I know we won't be home for close to 8 hours.  I send my kids to get napkins, ketchup, and silverware while I order the food.  They may get happy meals.  They may not. They may have a choice.  They may not.  It all depends on our household budget.  They know that if it is in my power to do so, I will give them anything they want - but if I can't, I will definitely give them what they need.  I bring the food to the table, and we enjoy conversations - about Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, and whatever else comes up.  They will ask me if they can play in the gym and I will check my time.  I tell them that if they finish and clean up within the time we have they may have 15 minutes.  It is probable that Caleb will spill the chocolate milk - at which time he will say, "I'm sorry!" and Anakin and Brielle will rush to get napkins and Caleb will help clean it up.  They will clean up, go play in the gym, and when I say, "We gotta go!" they will get their shoes on and we'll be on our way.  And the employees at McDs usually comment on how good my kids are.  But my point is that I'm very strict on some rules and work on them consistently to prepare for a time like this.

Am I saying that my children are perfect?  They're not even good. And I can laugh about it.  As a matter of fact, all behavioral issues that come up in our household usually have to do with whether I'm with them and engaged or not.  They smell weakness in other adults and test everyone's limits with everything they know they cannot get away with at home.  Only one public school teacher put a stop to Anakin's nonsense, and she was an old, crazy cat lady that couldn't be moved by any kid.

I have struggled with inappropriate behavior, embarrassing moments, and difficult childhood stages.  Every caring mom will.  But through it all I'm reminded of 2 key points I learned from other godlier women who came before me: 1) The point of godly parenting is to raise God-seeking adults, not have children that make me look good. 2) The point of parenting is not to be the cruise director of my children's childhood, as if I was put here to entertain them.  Even I understand, as a mature-ish Christian, that God seeks to build my character more than my comfort.  How much more, as the sole agent of God for my children until they mature enough in a relationship with Him, do I need to prioritize building their character! And teaching them manners! And helping them be successful members of society, children that know proper etiquette and how to show respect, that ask for help politely...

And if you are still reading this far, and your mouth is hanging open, I want you to know what a joy it is to be a mom for me.  Even more so that I've quit my full-time job, and have been home with them for a year.  What a joy that I taught Brielle how to read.  What a joy that Caleb will sit for vaccines, cry his poor little eyes out, and he will not struggle or move his arm.  What a joy that on my sick day I can ask Anakin to grab a stool, wash his hands, and make sandwiches for his siblings.  Even their less than ideal behaviors and comments, moments where I cry and pray, remind me about grace and mercy.  And about how none of us are perfect.  And that correcting our behaviors, when less than ideal, are a process of time and consistency, right?  So it's a joy to wake up each new day and try again.

I'm pretty sure that after all my political rants, my off-colored not-so-popular opinions, and my annoyingly traditional biblical views I probably only have, like, 3 readers.  So if I do write a book it will be entirely by faith.  I started homeschooling entirely by faith.  No woman in my family has ever been a stay-at-home mom, let alone a homeschooling mom.  I graduated through the public school system.  I've also never had anyone in my family work out regularly or lose 27 lbs or so or change their eating habits so drastically and permanently as I did.  Nothing I have blogged about has been something I learned by observing.  This year has been a brand new adventure led entirely by what God has told me in times of worship and prayer.  If writing a book is a task I am to accomplish it'll be because God told me so too.

My hope is not to have moms read this and feel horrible or inadequate, but so that they would be less fearful... burnt out... I want moms to realize that they are not slaves to their children and their God-given role is so much more than unpaid servant-hood.  This mom thing is really hard!  I wouldn't even dare give advice because each child is so different that what works with my kids may be disastrous for you.  But if any mom out there can see the grace that God bestowed on me, the humor at the end of the night, and how brilliant my kids are in spite of my imperfections - then maybe they can be encouraged... perhaps even emboldened.  They say the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.  Let's start living this mommy-hood life like we're ruling the world instead of being ruled by the little people in our home!

Friday, October 31, 2014

I'm about to unschool y'all!

As I'm starting to write this I have no idea what I'm going to write about or title it.  But here I go!

This week has not been very successful in a lot of areas.  It's been a lot of driving from one end of town to another.  In all that driving any rhythym or semblance of a routine - as a homeschooling mom, as a healthy-ish mom, as a pet owner, as a wife, as a believer - vanished like the smoke from my exhaust.  Which stinks because I rely so heavily on a sense of routine.

Habits and routine relieves stress because it's less decisions I have to make.  Less of a conscious process - and therefore easier for me to focus and think about other things.  This week, the majority of my thinking has been focused on driving with a manual transmission (a skill I have not mastered), on figuring out what to eat between appointments so that the kids don't go starving for 12 hours straight the way I might be likely to.  On not forgetting appointments or forgetting to make follow up appointments at these appointments.  Fun times!

But life happens sometimes, and we all got through it time.  I didn't have any significant health/fitness related achievements and honestly I ate anything I could.  But the kids put their brain to the test with their assessments at school and blew everything out of the water.  I'm super proud of their hard work. I'm also super happy that they can go through these things without fussing and complaining. 

Their assessments covered their learning styles, emotional quotent, values, cognitive skills, and a few more I can't remember off the top of my head.  I'm happy that not a lot of things revealed were surprises - it all felt like confirmation to what God was showing me about my kids through prayer.  I'm also grateful that Frontier Charter School supported me by doing these assessments one on one and giving me practical tools that will help me help them.  The assessments are worth $400 per child + staff time.  I paid nothing out of pocket.

I learned that homeschooling was probably the best decision for my children.  Anakin is a tactile learner and has improved memory and critical thinking skills when he's engaging his large muscle groups, so sitting in a classroom for 7 hours straight is probably not the best place for him to reach is full potential.  Brielle is an auditory learners and very much a creative free-spirit - but our school system's curriculum is designed for visual learners and in a very concrete fashion.  Would they survive in public school - yes.  Would they thrive? Just enough.

I discovered that Anakin is really smart because he works 3 times as hard than the average kid to learn what they are learning.  I also discovered that he has a very harsh, unforgiving view of himself.  Things we can work on.

They both are so much further ahead than their grade level that we could, in theory, take a year off and they'd still be ahead.  However, in practice, I can't slow down learning.  My kids will always read.  They'll always work on math concepts and build on that.  They'll always explore and use scientific processes to understand biology and physics around them.  We can't turn it off - it could be at 7pm while we're watching TV.  It's the beauty of an open, non-pressure, non-testing perspective of learning.  And they still have chance to play and do chores.  Which both are so importants!  For their sanity and mine!

But I am considering going lighter on the bookwork and focusing more on our Bible studies, on sports/physical skills, and on crafts/hobbies.  Why not?  We all could use a little more living, a little less same ol' same ol.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm Not a Consistant Blogger

I've been off-line for the past 3 weeks or so when it comes to this blog.  My bad.  Part of it is I'm a little busy - or a little tired.  The other part is I didn't have anything new to share.

I lost a few more pounds and I'm 2 lbs away from 175!  And I ran a 5K faster than usual. My usual was 45 minutes, but I managed in 39 minutes!  And I've been doing very well - very consistant - in eating healthy and exercising. I've added weight training too, off and on, but now I think more regularly since there's snow on the ground.  I've also fallen in love with the treadmill (not really) since I can force myself to run 6mph and not my usual 4.5 mph pace (pathetic, I know.. But I'm improving!).

Kids are doing great!  All the first quarter assessments show that homeschooling since last December has them advancing by leaps and bounds.  And that I'm more intune than I give myself credit for - I wasn't surprised at what they are struggling with, or what I can do to help them... I was already working on it. 

Kids have a funny way of making you proud and embarrassing you on the same breath.  They do great academically in some things at home - and then, in church or in public, they'll make a really foolish decision and act like little monkeys raised by a pack of wolves.  But what this is teaching our home is the value of unconditional love - and loving as Christ loves us.  We're working with the kids and learning ourselves that we are not our actions or our mistakes but our identity is exclusively in what the Bible says we are.

I think you've been there too.  Or maybe it's my confession.  But your kids do something off the wall, and you say, "Why are you such a little heathen?!" But God has shown me in these moments that they are not heathen, they are precious, smart children!  It reminds me of a meme I saw on Facebook: "You are not fat.  You have fat.  You also have fingernails.  But you are not fingernails."  Same concept. 

You can develop an identity crisis from constantly hearing what you are.  Even the question, "Who do you think you are?" is putting an identity on you - because you answer it! And it's never a good answer.  I've been yelled that in a church lobby once, in full fury... "Who do you think you are?!"  You know the answer to this - rhetorically - the answer is "Nobody".  I'm "nobody" to be here doing anything.  That was the point that was being made and it stuck - for 7 years.  It stuck good.  Until I heard an anointed preacher proclaim who I really was according to the Bible.  It has messed with me for some time now and I can't do anything without hearing that. 

And I'm glad that the Lord was speaking to me in this area as it pertains to my kids.  But He has been all-encompassing that way; He communicates to me through His Word, and about my children, my marriage, my health, my friends.  He is there to guide you if you seek Him. Most people just don't want to hear all that He thinks.  You have to take Him all in - not the bits and pieces that you like or dislike.

So in 2013 I chaperoned youth conference and the Lord healed my knees.  I couldn't walk without my knee caps swelling and I had no synovial fluid.  My knees were starting to rub raw and deform.  Then God healed me and told me to run - quite literally, so I have.  To date, since then, I've run 160 miles.  And I would've run more but I didn't start till April because of snow on the ground.  This year, God healed me of Rheumatoid Arthritis altogether.  I had spent a month without my prescription medication because of being uninsured, but after being insured, I don't want to get back on.  There was a prayer session where the guest speaker asked all the youth leaders to come to the altar to pray, and he specifically asked for leaders and not aspiring leaders.  So Paul and I stayed in our seat.  As we prayed the leader said that God was going to heal wives who had debilitating illnesses or ailments that put a hindrance in the work they can do.  Paul came over and claimed that for me - and we weren't even the wives the preacher was talking about! (I kept saying, "Why would God heal me like this? I'm a nobody. I'm just hear to help man a hotel room.")  And then a little while later He did it.  I felt it in my joints, and I haven't taken pills since. I run faster, I feel lighter, and the only soreness I have is from the 75 pounds I put on my shoulder and squatted 25 times.  I'm going back to the rheumatologist end of November - can't wait to see that report.

It makes me a little melancholic because, while I know that I'm absolutely supposed to be homeschooling the kids, I have no idea what to do with the rest of me.  I know I have more to share than just watching teens and toddlers at church.  I just don't have any other opportunities.  I feel a little lost.  And I feel like for most of my life I've been sitting on potential (not kinetic) energy and my talents have been consistently under-used.  I've always been that team player that just "goes where you need me" whether at work or church.  And I regularly get put in places that I don't particularly care for, but I agree to stay for the sake of being a "team player".  Now I'm just asking God to show me what I'm supposed to do with all the unfulfilled dreams and desires in my heart - all those things I love to do but never do.  I'm waiting for Him to open my doors.  It's a sore subject, but I trust Him.  He knows my heart.

And while I wait on the "everything else" I'm at peace at home.  I won't lie, a lot of days it feels like I'm talking to the walls - I keep repeating myself, kids keep looking at me with a blank stare.  But every once in a while there's a break through... like this morning.  The kids read the story of Jonah and Caleb (age 5) goes, "Jonah didn't want to do what God said, and he ran away, but God saved him by sending a whale."  And I ask him, "What do you mean God saved him by sending the whale? I thought the whale swallowed him."  And he goes, "Yeah, but Jonah didn't know how to swim.  So the whale saved him, and gave him three days to pray to God and get his heart right.  Otherwise he would've drowned in a few minutes..."  Out of the mouth of babes!  When, ministry/vocationally, I feel stuck in the belly of the whale, I'll remember that I'm there because the Lord saved me from drowning trying to tread open water.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm Not the Best Teacher

Confession #1 - my dog is sabotaging my blogging because he's tired of seeing me do all these other things and not play with him. So he's throwing his face on my keyboard and pushing my hands out of the way. I may have horrible grammatical errors - more than the usual. Bear with me.

Confession #2 - I'm jacked up on Coca-cola and Cookies and cream hershey's chocolate which I downed with some excedrine to help me get rid of a horrible tension headache/migraine I've had all day.  And I didn't excercise.

Confession #3 - the above mentioned headache had me in a Jackyl/Dr.Hyde mode with the kiddos.  I swayed between screaming like an ogre because I was in tears from the pain, to feeling guilty, to being as sweet and loving as I could (and quiet) in order to compensate for my earlier explosion.

At any given moment, a stay at home/homeschooling mom will wonder if she's schizophrenic.  It's true - ask around!

Fortunately we are not crazy! Or alone!

Confession #4 - the 's' key on my laptop is super sensitive and has added an extra 's' to every other word.  I have now calculated that I personally need $1650 to have fully functional electronics. Just for me. Not counting anything for the kiddos or anything the husband is likely to buy because where there is a will, he will make a way.  This is just my dream money to have a working new laptop, a printer, and a smart phone in which all it's features work more often than not.

Word of caution: the HTC1 and Android is like Obamacare - good in THEORY, horrible in practice. Just sayin'.

I'm at a testing point in my life because we found out today that for the most random of reasons, the children and I were kicked off the hubby's medical insurance, and we won't be reinstated until we prove we are his family... and then maybe it will be back-dated to provide continuous care.  Fan-freakin'-tastic!  Because one of my RA medications cost - and we found out today when we tried to pick up a refill that I've needed since last Friday - $137.  So I told Paul I'll just deal with it until the insurance issue is resolved.

I hope the kids and I survive.  I hate to admit it, but I have 0 patience, grace, or tolerance when I'm in pain.  And I have a high pain tolerance to begin with.  It's like constantly hearing fingernails at a blackboard for me; I get to a point where I can't handle another thing.  I know this full well. This was me today.  This is not good for a homeschooling family.

But I have been reminded, over and over, that God loves me because of who I am, not what I can do - and all my children need from me is to do less and be there more.  So where normally I'd be like, "Really?!?  God, You had to throw this our way now?!?!"  Something in me senses that this trial season will deepen my relationship with God.  Instead, my prayer tonight is more like, "God, You are my Shepherd. And You are a Good Shepherd.  If You are leading me through this valley, I will follow close after You because I trust in the pasture You are planning to take me to!  I believe I can experience victory - even over my pain, my temper, and my emotions - right here, right now, with You.  Your Word says You are gentle with the 'momma lambs' and their babies as You shepherd them, and I know You will continue to carry the kids and I through it all."

What I'm experiencing in this walk with God is that He's never failed to show me His presence.  Even through little things. Last Sunday Paul gave the only $1 we had for offering. It was no biggie; we had food and gas saved up since last paycheck.  I wasn't worried about only having $1 left until this Friday.  I found no reason to object to him giving that $1 in the offering.  It's not our biggest offering.  It wasn't our biggest sacrifice either.  But when we got home, I found a piece of mail I had not opened yet, and as I did $2 fell out in singles on the floor.  This survey junk mail sent us $2 in the mail.  Paul and I couldn't help but laugh but the reality is this is how God works - you can't outgive Him, and He desires to bless you more than you desire to honor Him.  I don't feel like I needed the $2 but I believe He sent that our way just to show us He's here.

As far as the homeschooling goes, God is providing above-natural (or "supernatural") results.  My kids are progressing in leaps and bounds and I know it's not the result of my amazing parenting and teaching techniques.  All of us homeschooling moms try our best but we are very honest - there are days when a lesson is a movie, physical education is "Go ride your bikes outside!" and we may have "days off" at random.  That's just the flow of life.  And as we do "life" together, God has put a desire in my children to expand their knowledge all on their own initiative, and it's paying off greater than I could've ever planned or taught.

Tonight while Daddy was making pasta and I had a hot rice sock over my head and sunglasses on (in my living room... It was THAT kind of headache), the kids climbed up on the kitchen table to see the pot boiling and had an impromptu science lesson on the cycle of water, evaporation and condensation.  I could totally take credit for creating a 24/7 classroom environment where they don't ever really stop learning - and Paul loves to share his science knowledge with anyone who will sit still long enough to indulge him - so as parents we both agreed that we would teach them as their curiosity arises and never say, "ask about that tomorrow while you're doing schoolwork".  What I cannot take credit for is what the older 2 kids did next:  Without being told to, they brought down their science notebooks and drew their "science project" of watching a pot boil water, and explained with notes the cycles with charts and arrows.  At 7pm. While dad was making dinner. Why? God knows. Why not?  This is the work of God answering my prayers of what I dreamed homeschooling would accomplish, academically, in the kids.

The older two also loaded the dishwasher and did dishes.  The younger one took a nap as a favor to me because I had a headache.  They spent time thinking of ways to bless me.  That's not something I can take credit for at all.  I know that's the work of Jesus in their hearts.

They refused to go to sleep without Paul. We were blessed with a little more cash and Paul knew I needed the items in confession #2 if nothing that I had done all day helped.  It's now 9pm and I have just removed the sunglasses, but now I have the rice sock over my eyes and it is discreetly absorbing the tears as a result of being so tired and in so much pain.  So Caleb lays down next to me just to cuddle (and he's the least cuddliest of them all) and the other two sit with their Bibles and they are sharing verses they like out loud.  They were not told it's Bible time.  They were told to get ready for bed.  But Caleb told them we need to read a Bible story before bed and they needed to have everything ready for when daddy got home.  I can't take credit for that - I haven't been able to stare at printed words all day.  But even in hearing them pray I know Jesus is working in their lives because they've moved on from memorized prayer ("Now I lay me down to sleep...") to this conversational prayer where they just express their hearts to God in their own words.

I see Anakin write questions about Bible topics and then use the concordance in his Bible to find the verses and answer his own questions.  And he's decided to read the book of Nehemiah.  And he has done research on Rosh Hashana and is planning for our family to celebrate it and has thought of what to fast to welcome the new year (disclaimer, we are not Jewish).  And when he read in Social Studies the Cherokee account of the beginning of the world, he drew a Vinn diagram to compare and contrast their beliefs against Genesis... after his social studies assignment... Why? God knows. And I'm ok with that. I'm ok with not always being the teacher and with some self-directed items added to the lesson plan.  Why not? I'm in no rush. I'm not going to tell him, "Put that away, we need to move on to something else now."

I saw my 4 year old write a list of spelling words 3 times, because it's what the older 2 were doing, so I gave him a small list of sight-words - lo and behold, he could already read them and was more than happy to practice spelling them and practice his handwriting.  I also saw this 4 year old work out multiplication with tangibles (blocks), because adding and subtracting (and counting, for crying out loud) was too easy for him.  So he was manipulating blocks in groups of 5 and counting by fives to figure out the multiplication.  I saw my 4 year old count by 5s and then do subtraction from the 40s and 50s by counting in reverse per how many number of blocks he was taking away.

I saw my 6 year old pick up a 3rd grade chapter book during reading time.  She said the "Little Bear" books were "kinda' boring".  My first temptation was to say, "Oh no sweetie that's too hard for you! Let's pick out an easier book", but before the words came out the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart that it would make her feel stupid.  Instead I told her, "Grab your bookmark, because that book is meant to take a little bit longer than the books you are used to. It may take you a few days or a few weeks to read all of it.  Just be patient with yourself and take your time."  And she read for a total of 45 minutes today.  Her confidence is up. She said she loves it!  She's finding it funny so far.  Confidence and patience is a big thing for her - when her siblings can read simple things faster than her (and that's including Caleb, my 4 year old) because it takes her a second to sort everything out, she can get so discouraged.  When she goes to ballet and she's in a classroom with girls who have the whole ballet gear and have taken dance classes since they were 3, and she can't "get it" as fast as they do - I see the light flicker off in her eyes for a split second, almost invisible to any other eye but mom's, and then courage comes in as she takes a deep breath, smiles, and tries again.  I know she wants to fit in more.  I know she will too because this matters more to her than it does to them.  I see the other girls leave class ready to do the next thing as they jump into their mother's vans and Brielle, the boys and I are walking home for 30 minutes and it's cold outside.  Those little girls don't seem to have a care in the world, while Brielle is lost in thought half the way before she finally says, "I suck at spinning."  And here I am, thankful for this teachable moment in perseverance and confidence, because I know full well that if she was in public school she would get lost in thoughts like this, and drown before anyone even noticed, because it happened often to me.  But it's in moments like our conversation home from Ballet, or when she picks out a tough book, or she chooses to read an NIV Bible (not even the NIrV which is easier for children to read), or she gives multiplication a try on Khan Academy, or she attempted division during her learning assessment and spent 45 minutes on 81/9 (because she drew 81 objects on a piece of paper and circled 9 even groups - and found the right answer to see how many needed to be in a group so that it's evenly divided by 9), these moments I say, "Thank You, Jesus!" I know he's putting a fire of resilience in her as she discovers there is nothing she cannot do... she may just have to learn it first.