Thursday, September 24, 2015

What we're doing about school this year . . .

School has been in session for weeks now and my mind has been all over the place regarding our schooling decisions this year. Camilla started third grade at a small Christian school at the end of August. Adrian is staying home for Kindergarten. Evangeline is eating crayons and stickers, tormenting the puppy, and speaking full sentences. Long ones.

Camilla loved school from day one. I knew she would. She thrives in a classroom atmosphere. She’s very social and she adores her teacher. She wanted to go on the bus the first day of school. She didn’t need me to drive her in. That whole first week, she wished she could live at school. She wished school continued on the weekends. She even “kind of” wished I wasn’t going on the field trip with her class.

What!?!? You’re only (almost) nine, kid, and this is sorta hard on your mom!

For me, the first day was all right. The second day, I ended up putting away Camilla’s work from last year in preparation for Adrian’s homeschool year. For some reason, I can’t seem to do this at the end of the school year in the spring. I’m just too eager for lazy summer days or something. Anyway, it wasn’t the greatest combination of factors—sending Camilla off to school all day and then rifling through last year’s memories. I ended up sobbing.

The next day was slightly better, but still rather tearful. I think I was mourning the homeschool dream. There’s a part of me that wants to homeschool all the kids through high school. There’s a greater part of me that knows in order to do that and remain sane, I’d have to hire substantial household help. And maybe an assistant. And a tutor.

That second part of me seriously considered sending Adrian’s Sonlight curriculum back and enrolling him in the same Christian school Camilla attends. It might not be logical, but I saw how well Camilla had done over the past few years of homeschooling, how much she had learned and grown, and I just wasn’t sure I could do a good job teaching Adrian. It seemed like a mammoth task, starting over from the “beginning.” Also, my heart was aching with Camilla gone all day. If I’m going to face that agony again whenever Adrian goes to school, why not just get it over with all at once?

Soon, however, I dove into our Kindergarten year, and remembered why I wanted to homeschool him for now. Not for myself, but for him. (I know, duh!) For the past two years, he’s gotten the short end of the stick. How many ends does a stick have anyway? He may have gotten no end of the stick because the baby and the school-aged child needed a lot of attention. He’s the only boy AND the middle child. It’s his turn now. I also don’t think he needs to be in a structured environment all day. Not yet. Maybe next year. 
Camilla’s attitude about school is still positive, which is really a great thing. She doesn’t mention wishing she could stay there all the time anymore, though. And after the aforementioned field trip, she complained that even though I was there, she didn’t really get to see me all day. That's actually been a common refrain lately. She’s definitely feeling the lack of time with Mom. I’m trying to give her that time at bedtime, even though I am so tired myself and honestly, I’d like a little “me” time in the evening. It’s the only time she really slows down enough to connect.

I do miss having Camilla around during the day, but putting her in school remains the best choice for our family. I’m slowly making peace with the fact that I can’t be everything my children need.  None of us can. Even if we do homeschool. It’s a lesson all parents learn—some more quickly than others, I think. This tiny baby comes into the world and you, the mom, are the sole provider of all her needs—with lots of help and support from the dad (in the best situations). You do everything for the baby and all she really needs is you. Then you blink and the baby doesn’t seem to want you around that much. She’s nine going on twenty-five . . .

I’m trying to frame our experience accurately in my mind. Homeschooling my daughter was good. I didn’t fail. I’m not "giving up" or "quitting." I taught her and she learned well. It was hard, too—and overwhelming at times. It’s all right to give myself grace and allow her to receive from other people now. I can only do so much, and I don’t need to live up to someone else’s ideal. God will give me strength to do what He’s called me to do. I think I know what that is for today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

This job is for the birds . . .

“Don’t let them get away,” I cautioned as I walked back to the car.

Adrian squatted by the box on our back porch, looking at the two nine-week-old chicks while Evangeline stood by, chattering excitedly.

By the time I returned with the other box of chicks, Adrian’s charges were perched on the edge of the box. I approached slowly, hoping to urge them back inside. With frightened squawks and a flourish of wings, they escaped into the yard. I took a lesson from my mistake and carefully placed the other two chicks into their pen before attempting to recover the escapees. Unfortunately, the little chickens fearfully darted about as we chased them.

Hot and sweaty from our pursuit, Adrian and I finally scared one of the chicks into the our enclosed chicken yard. I didn’t think she would easily get out again, so I turned my attention to her sister. But our feeble attempts to frighten her towards the yard only pushed her further away, into the wooded area separating our property from the neighbor’s.

I sighed, put my hands on my hips. She'll probably head back toward the other chicks if I leave her alone, I thought. Won't she?

Adrian and I went into the chicken yard, closing the gate behind us. He walked around the back of the chicken house, into briers and brambles.

“Let's try to scare her out this way,” I said.

I picked up a branch and threw it into the woods on the other side of the chicken house. The second one I heaved hit its mark, landing just beyond the chick. She skittered around the henhouse towards me. I rushed at her and she cowered into a corner as I quickly, but gently, put my hands around her delicate body.

I thought of how we run, sometimes. Uncomprehending. Disoriented. Paralyzed by fear of the one thing that can save us.

“Three down, one to go,” I breathed, as I set the rogue chick in the pen with her sisters.

I walked over the tumble-down stone wall onto our neighbor’s land. Ferns stretched out over the woods floor, just high enough to cover a wayward chicken. Adrian and Eva struggled to follow me over the wall. Adrian got stuck in a “picker bush” and lost his shoe. Eva picked it up and refused to surrender it to him.

The caterwauling was more than I could take. I ordered them back to our yard.

“You can help Mommy by playing with Eva,” I told Adrian. “Just stay in our yard. I need to listen for the chick and I can’t hear anything with the two of you in the woods.”

They obeyed, watching me. Wishing they could be in the thick of the chase.

I stood quietly, listening. A squirrel bounded up a tree. The ferns swayed in the wind. I carefully picked my way along the wall, deeper into the woods. If I were a chick, where would I go? I stood still again, listening.

Nothing. No quiet chirping. No crunching of dead leaves. Silence. Every way I looked, the woods were still. Alive with tiny wildlife, but no black chick strutting through. Where could she be? Had she been so frightened by my recovery of her sister that I’d unwittingly driven her deep into the woods? I felt a sudden sense of hopelessness. She had no chance out there. She was lost. And tonight she’d become fox food—or worse. There was no end to the predators that would like to make a meal of her. I almost sighed in resignation. At least we had three chicks. I should have taken a few extra. We were bound to lose a couple, anyway.

Adrian’s voice drifted to me from the edge of the yard. “Mommy, I just prayed that the chick would come back.”

“That’s good, buddy,” I said.

Then a still, small voice in my heart. “Go out of the woods and pray with your son. Pray that you’ll find the chick.”

I began walking back to our yard, walking towards Adrian, where he stood dappled by the sunlight falling through the trees.

Then. Movement in the undergrowth. Out strutted the little black chicken, right in front of me. She led the way into our yard.

The answer isn’t always so clear and direct, is it? And the answer isn’t always a resounding “Yes!”

But that day it was and the purpose was clear. After we chased her, cornered her, put her gently in the pen where she’d be safe. It came to me like a song I used to know. Many years ago . . .

“I sing because I’m happy. 
I sing because I’m free. 
For His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What I'm Into: July 2015

It’s been way too long. I’ve had my reasons excuses for staying away, but now I’m back! I thought the best way to catch you all up on the Life of Treats would be to link up to “What I’m Into” with Leigh Kramer again. I promise (kind of) to go into more detail about some of this in the next week or so. Deal?

What I’ve been reading:

I’ve moved on from The Hunger Games trilogy. I read all three books in the spring and I’m looking forward to the release of the last movie, but it isn’t consuming me as it did when I was in the process of reading the story. That’s a good thing. I have my own life to live and many stories to tell. Still, you have to hand it to Suzanne Collins for creating such an enthralling series.

In July, I read Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery aloud to the kids and Todd. More on that below . . .

I also read The Book Thief.
Enormous sigh.
I loved it. I hated it. Now I must read a happy book. Not one about Nazi Germany. Maybe that sounds shallow, but go read The Book Thief and you’ll understand. It is agonizing. I need to read a book about rainbows and unicorns. Or . . .

Organizing! Some people find that uplifting. I just started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. There's been so much buzz about this book, I finally decided to see what it was all about. My best understanding thus far is that the author, Marie Kondo, is an organizing expert who claims that if you put your whole house in order in one fell swoop, the results will be so dramatic you'll be motivated to keep it that way. Her method is to “tidy efficiently, all at once, as quickly as possible.” It makes sense, and organizing is fun for me, so I was gearing up mentally, wondering how much time I needed to set aside for this overhaul of my entire home.
A week? A month?  
Then I read this in the book: “’quickly’ means about half a year.”
My thoughts: “Half a year of concentrated effort on tidying up? What the what?”
I don't mean to be a party pooper, but clearly she doesn’t have children. At this point, I’m 80% skeptical, 15% hopeful, and 5% reminding myself that an orderly home isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. I had high hopes and I will keep reading, but I feel a little let down because there’s no way I can concentrate on purging my home for the next. six. months.

Perhaps Kondo will redeem herself and I will find a way to make it work. I hope so.

The kids and I listened to A Wrinkle in Time. I love that book. It never gets old. It’s so raw and real, in a sci-fi kind of way. And I love the Listening Library version read by the author, Madeleine L’Engle. We borrowed it from our local library and I don't know if it's available to purchase anywhere. L'Engle was the best, but this version, read by Hope Davis, sounds like a good one as well.

Where we’ve been going: 

July was our month for traveling! We took twelve days and made a huge northeastern trek. It was wonderful! Exhausting, yes, but well worth it. Our first stop was the Boston area. Some dear friends moved there two years ago and it was so good to reconnect with them. Haven is seven months older than Camilla. The girls lived close to each other for the first five years of their lives, so it’s great to see that they still have fun together.
We also did some Boston sight-seeing while we were in the area. We learned about the Boston Tea Party in our Classical Co-op this past year, so I thought the kids should throw some tea into Boston Harbor themselves!
Next, we went to Acadia National Park in Maine. It was beautiful! I don’t even know how to describe it. We did a tough hike up Cadillac Mountain. We went tide pooling. We discovered that, although we love camping, five days is our limit (at least with a 22-month old and no showers on site). 

And for that reason, we were happy to move on to . . .

Prince Edward Island! We got to relax in a lovely little cottage with a full kitchen and bathroom. Yay! Let me just pat myself on the back here and say that I planned that well. I’m not sure what would have happened had we tried to camp in PEI after camping in Acadia. Having a cottage was a life-saver, allowing everyone to catch up on their sleep! (And bathing!) 

PEI is famous for its red cliffs.

We did some Anne of Green Gables touristy stuff and it was fun, especially since we were reading the book on the trip. I learned a lot about L.M. Montgomery. She inspires me. She wrote beautifully, even in her journals. And, like so many other talented creatives, she had her demons as well.
Green Gables
Anne Shirley aside, it was also good just to relax on this beautiful island. To be disconnected from the internet and even phones for the most part. To chat with some of the locals and experience another part of the world. I think the kids’ best afternoon was spent at the cottage itself, reading books and playing with toys that were new to them.

What else we've been up to:

We'd been home about a week and a half before we launched into a completely new experience. Saturday we brought home an adorable nine-week-old black Labradoodle! His name is Caspian and we love him!

Photo Credit: April Roskos
I’ve never had a dog before! We’re determined to do our best with the training and raising of this precious fellow. It’s certainly a lot of work, but I’m trusting that putting in the time now will pay off as he grows up to be a faithful friend for many years to come.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What I'm Into--April 2015

Spring is finally here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever come. I think that happens to me every year—at least when we’ve had a long, cold winter. It’s been so good to get outside this past month in the sunshine and green grass. There are even some flowers blooming!

What I’ve been reading: 

I finished A TreeGrows in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful book. Not a quick read for me, but full of rich, weighty words that touched my soul. I have to share this passage, close to the end. As I read it, my eyes filled with tears. This is exactly the way a big sister would want her little brother to say good-bye to her. Before she goes away to college. Before she gets married. At the end of the long childhood years they’ve weathered together:
". . . Monday, I have to go to school. And while I’m there, you’ll be getting on that Wolverine train for Michigan. There’ll be no chance to say good-bye to you alone. So I’ll say good-bye now.”
“I’ll be home for Christmas, Neeley.”
“But it won’t be the same.”
“I know.” He waited. Francie extended her right hand. He pushed her hand aside, put his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek. Francie clung to him and started to cry. He pushed her away.
“Gee, girls make me sick,” he said. “Always so mushy.” But his voice was ragged as though he, too, was going to cry.
 Isn’t that just beautiful? In college, I had a professor who would read a passage he especially admired and say to us, “If I wrote those words, I could die happy.” I guess that sums up how I feel about this book.

The kids and I read StrawberryGirl. When I started it, I thought the Florida backwoods dialect was going to be annoying, but it wasn’t. It was fun. So much so, that sometimes I slipped into the rhythm of their speech without thinking about it. Okay, I only did that once, but still . . .

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this to the world. (Because, you know, the whole world reads my blog!) I got sucked into The Hunger Games this month. A few years ago, I thought about reading the books but talked myself out of it because people told me I would find them too disturbing. They were still on my “someday” list, though. A couple weeks ago, Todd and I were looking for a movie to watch on Netflix. Have I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the movies available for streaming via Netflix? They have some great TV series available, but the movies are limited and sometimes I miss our old one-dvd-at-a-time plan because there were so many good movies available that way. Anyway, the second Hunger Games movie was available—Catching Fire. I wasn’t thrilled with starting the series with the second movie, but Todd was eager to watch it, so I gave in. And now I’m hooked. I loved the dystopian future perspective. Well, I shouldn't say I loved it. It was brutal, but I found it so creative--and important. Todd keeps teasing me that I’m going to get into Twilight next and I keep disdainfully saying that Hunger Games is not like Twilight. (I haven’t read Twilight or seen any of the Twilight movies, though, so I can’t really judge them.) After seeing Catching Fire, I went on to read The Hunger Games (the first book) in approximately 33 hours. On Friday, I rented the movie from Redbox and discovered that I had ruined the movie by reading the book. After we watched it, I ranted to Todd that the book was so. much. better. Now I just have to clear 48 hours in my schedule before I crack the spine of the second book. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta! Oh, and Gale, too. Please excuse my enthusiasm . . .

Other happenings from April: 

We had a wonderful Easter, celebrating our risen Savior. I don’t think I’ve blogged much about it, but we have a new pastor at church now—and a new worship team. Todd is super-stoked to play drums with some very talented musicians. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they rocked out for Jesus on Easter Sunday! Also, my kids looked adorable!

I helped host a baby shower for a friend at church. It was a blessing to celebrate this new little life as we look forward to her baby’s birth. 
Camilla with the mother-to-be!
We took the kids to Philadelphia for a field trip with some other families from our homeschool co-op. It was so cool! We toured Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. I loved seeing Ben Franklin’s old stomping grounds. You know, history is my thing. I think the kids learned a lot too, but they were mostly happy to hang out with their friends.
The two big kids by a guard house at Independence Hall.  

And one thing from early May:

I can’t write a post without sharing some super-exciting news! Early Monday morning, I was honored to be present for the birth of this sweet baby girl!

My dear friend, Susie, asked me to support her during labor (along with her husband and some awesome nurses). The only other births I’ve attended have been those of my own children. While those were sacred experiences in themselves, now I can say with more conviction that the birthing room is Holy. I felt so blessed to be part of the team of people cheering Susie on as she worked with the Creator to bring forth life. This woman has proven herself a rockstar mom for the fifth time!

I’ve often wondered what my passion for natural childbirth might lead to in the future. I’ve toyed with the ideas of being a Bradley Method Instructor or perhaps a Doula. Witnessing birth was so amazing, I just might pursue something like that in the future, when the kids are a little older.

For now, my plate--and my heart--is full. I’m looking forward to the rest of May. Let the renewal and healing of spring continue!