Settling in: Rhythms and Resolutions

So we’re here. We’re home. We bought our house in October and moved from our temporary house in November. We still have boxes upon boxes to unpack and organize, but we will get there. No rush now. That’s a nice, but really strange, feeling. I tend to rush.

We pulled Hula Girl from public school at Thanksgiving break. School was a good experience for us overall. Hula Girl had a wonderful teacher who made her students’ lives at school fun. Even when the academics were way too easy for Hula Girl, she still wanted to go because she loved her teacher and she enjoyed her friends. My main comfort when deciding to put her in school to begin with was that I knew she wanted to socialize. She needed some practice speaking up for herself and being assertive. It took a couple months, but she got there. It was fun to see her develop confidence in situations where she needed to speak to other children and unfamiliar adults.

It was never our intention to use public schools for long. So when we moved to our permanent home, we gave it a few weeks and then kept Hula Girl home. We took the time between Thanksgiving and New Year to really focus on Christmas and all that season brings- TONS of activites, songs, crafts, reading together, and family time. We went light on the baking this year, mainly because our dishwasher broke in the beginning of December and doing all the regular dishes PLUS the baking dishes seemed like just a bit too much for me. Gotta know my limits.

For those of you who are wondering, Hula Girl is happy to be home. She really needed more challenging academics and she enjoys having ample time to read. She can knock out 50+ books in two weeks. She loves going to the library and impressing the librarians with her stacks of books. (I know some people who limit the number of books their children are allowed to check out. I limit my kids, too, to the number of books they can carry. Hula Girl has three library bags and she carries them all. Well, at least until we get to the door. Then I take pity on her and grab one and take it to the car for her. I’m a book softie.)

The socialization issue is really a non-issue for us. I feel like I need to address it, though, since many people somewhat close to me have questioned it. I think I’ve probably written about it before, and our views have not changed. As many homeschool families have already said, we would rather have our kids interacting with people of all ages in real-life situations than be stuck in rooms with twenty other people their age. Who will teach my kids better manners: the elderly neighbor who teaches Monkey Man how to paint and do papier mache; or a bunch of four-year-olds? Who will demonstrate careful attention to detail better: Hula Girl’s dance instructor; or her peers, who think that it’s an achievement to color mostly in the lines? And who will teach them to love Jesus best: her family, made up of two parents who put Jesus first and demonstrate the power of God’s grace and two siblings who give them ample opportunity to put that grace into practice; or the public school system, where Common Core determines all learning and all character education falls upon the shoulders of the school’s one guidance counselor, who presents boxed vague information about “getting along” and “bullying”?

Don’t worry. We’re not just keeping ourselves hidden away in our little hermitage here in the woods of Wisconsin. Hula Girl has many opportunities to interact with kids her own age. She has dance and Sunday School. We have neighbors right across the street with a little girl who is six also. The two of them get together and play and it’s like they’ve grown up together. They just have so much fun. Every afternoon, Hula Girl waits for C’s bus to drop her off, and then they go for walks or jump on the trampoline or go to C’s house and guzzle hot chocolate (C’s mom is much more liberal with the sweets than me!). We also have several other kiddos of roughly the same age in the neighborhood who will likely form a gang together this summer, with Hula Girl as their leader. And there are even kiddos Monkey Man’s age who will be junior members of the Summer Club. Winning!

So, for now, we have been working this week to establish our new homeschool/life routine. It looks like this most days, but some days the order of things gets thrown out of whack and we just adjust and go with it:

  • Sugar Plum gets up and nurses (yep, still going strong!)
  • Big Kids get up and we all have breakfast- Scripture memory, poetry, hymns, and folksongs happen during breakfast
  • Chore time- big kids do morning chores, I clean the kitchen, and Sugar Plum crawls around causing mischief (watch the cat food or she will eat half of it… ask me how I know)
  • Sugar Plum starts her nap and big kids start school
  • Monkey Man gets individual time with me while Hula Girl does independent school work
  • Switch
  • Free Play when independent work is completed
  • Sugar Plum wakes from nap, I nurse her, and all the kids have independent play time in their rooms or in the basement playroom while I make lunch
  • Lunch- I read chapter books to the kids while they eat (Chronicles of Narnia is our current series)
  • Free Play- the part of the day during which the three kids go nuts and look so darn cute while they do; the big kids engage with Sugar Plum and make her the Princess of the castle, take her on rocking horse rides through the “meadow,” and defend her from imagined dragons
  • Nap/Rest time- each kid goes to his/her room to sleep or rest; I only have one napper these days, but the other two are very good about resting quietly while they read or play with their toys
  • Snack- I usually have fresh-baked bread or cookies ready for this time of day, and we eat them with tea; snack time is wonderful
  • Varies- sometimes we have dance class, sometimes the kids play with neighbors, sometimes they do a table activity like play-dough, and so on
  • The Finish Line- Daddy walks in the door and is greeted with buoyant smiles and enthusiastically leaping monkeys

And my New Year’s Resolutions (which, by the way, I have actually kept this far! I think it’s a record for me.)

  • Whole foods, plant-based diet (except honey)
  • Drink 60+ oz of water per day- I hate water
  • Read the Bible every day
  • Pray specifically for each child and Jonathan every day
  • Exercise (That one is a bit vague on purpose. I don’t do anything specific to exercise while pregnant or breastfeeding. Never have. Probably should. Meh.)

And that’s the haps. I’ve completely disconnected from Facebook. I don’t miss it. I do miss some of you, though. Email me or text me and let me know how you’re doing.


Kids always have a way with words. It’s the combination of tone, expression, and word choice that make their phrases awesome. I have been trying to keep track of sweet things that have escaped my children’s lips over the past few months. I never want to forget their sweet words and thoughts.

Hula Girl’s teacher is of the same mindset. She loves listening to and reporting the words of the students in her care. She delights in them as much as their parents do! Here is a portion of a recent email I received from her:

[Hula Girl] said the cutest thing yesterday, and I actually wrote it down to tell you!  The last word on the spelling pre-assessment was “spoil.”  I used this sentence, “When you go to Grandma’s house, she will spoil you with treats, candy, presents, and staying up late.”  As I walked past [Hula Girl] she looked up at me with the happiest face and said, “Boy, does she EVER!”  It was precious!

Monkey Man has his fair share of intriguing things to say as well. Most of the time, he is quite imaginative and he tries his hardest to impress people.

A couple weekends ago, our town held a fall festival. (By the way, living in a small town that celebrates EVERYTHING is awesome. Downtown streets have been closed down at least three weekends in the past couple months for festivities. That might sound annoying, but there are easy ways around the closures. It’s so much fun to be here and be part of a town that is so focused on families and fun!) We attended the festival in the afternoon once Sugar Plum woke from her final nap of the day. We walked through the booths and roamed through a couple stores downtown. We decided to go to the coffee shop for dinner. We ordered some sandwiches and things and while we were eating, a local band came in and began setting up for an evening performance.

The band was made up of members who have adult children. They had banjos, violins, drums, guitars and keyboards. It was interesting to watch them set up and unpack their instruments; Monkey Man was especially interested in the process of tuning instruments. He was watching the woman with the violin with such interest that she invited him up to watch more closely. She asked him if he liked violins, and he said, “Yes! I am good at playing the violin!” She looked at me as if to ask if this was true. I shrugged. I asked him, “Where did you learn to play?” He said he had learned at school. “I’m the best violin player in my class!”

Ok, first of all, he was only in school for a grand total of 6 days. I’m certain he did not learn to play violin. But perhaps there was an instrument station in his classroom?

The woman then showed him how she tunes the violin and how she plays different notes. He was absolutely enthralled. So much so that her husband came over and said that if they can find their child-sized violin, he will give it to us so Monkey Man can learn to play for real. I think we will be enrolling him in violin lessons soon!

Both kids are very interested in art right now.

Hula Girl gave this paper to me and Jonathan last night. Each side is a different type of sunset.

Monkey Man created this picture for his self portrait for our schoolwork at home. It is him in the sky with a rainbow and clouds; the figures on the ground are looking up at the clouds and finding pictures.


A Surprising Choice

I have a lot of friends who don’t know this about our family yet. That’s because I’ve surrounded myself with people who have very strong opinions on this topic, and I didn’t want to have people telling me their very strong opinions unless it directly affected them or they are family members. We sought out wise counsel and have made the best decision for our family… for now.

When we moved to Wisconsin, we had no intention of changing the way our family does things. We still eat organic, we still put Jesus first, and we still spend as much quality family time together as we can. However, one major thing has changed– we decided to put the big kiddos in public school.

Homeschooling is our first choice for schooling our children. I even researched and joined several Wisconsin homeschooling groups on Facebook before we moved. We were set on continuing along with our plan, and I have been gathering books and resources for the past year in order to prepare for Hula Girl and Monkey Man to learn some really neat stuff this year.

But the move has been hard on the kids. Like, really, really hard. I believe I mentioned that the kids and I lived with my parents for about a month and a half while Jonathan stayed at our former house, packing and cleaning and getting it ready to sell, before we moved to Wisconsin. Now we are staying in a temporary (wonderful, but temporary) house, and we have been house hunting and dragging the kids all around the area to find a house. We have one that will be ours in October, but in the meantime, we’re not exactly settled.

At first, it was a fun adventure for the kids– staying at Grammy and Grampy’s house! Camping! Staying in a new house! Sharing a room for the first time ever! Eventually, it turned into a real drag. The kids got sick of each other and were bickering nonstop all day. I had to make millions of phone calls and try to learn all about the new area (where to grocery shop? What kinds of insane winter gear do we need to stock up on? How do I get to the nearest Starbucks– it’s PSL season, after all–?). And Sugar Plum is still a baby who needs tons of naps.

We were all getting sick of each other, really. So. I took the opportunity to put the kids in a wonderful public school. I went and toured it before I made the official decision. If I were still teaching, it’s a school I’d be proud to be part of. The teachers are so engaged, the principal is extremely supportive, and the parents are very involved. The school is a 4K-4th grade elementary school, and it offers a wide variety of research-based programs and interventions that are actually really cool. (I kind of geeked out a bit on the tour and I even got jealous of the teachers who get to work there!)

The first week of school was just the two days prior to Labor Day weekend. Both kids were so excited. We got all their supplies and attended the open house the week prior to school opening. We met teachers and saw the classrooms, and the kids were happy and ready for the change. The first two days were wonderful; both kids raved about their teachers and their days.

The following week was not so smooth. Monkey Man made it clear he did NOT want to go to school. He just barely turned four in August. I was having a hard time with him being in school, anyway, due to multiple drop-off and pick-up times and Sugar Plum’s napping schedule. We made the choice to pull him back out of school and just keep him home with me. That has been a wonderful choice for him, and I plan to write a lot more about that soon enough.

Hula Girl, however, is thriving. I feel like we must have won the teacher jackpot! Her teacher is very structured and organized, and she is extremely communicative with parents. She researches and implements new approaches as fitting, and she is super engaging for the children, to boot. Hula Girl is a child who appreciates wit, routine, and structure. She loves knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and why. Her teacher meets provides all these things while challenging her to better herself.

Hula Girl is above average academically; this was a huge concern for me. My personal experience of skipping a grade because I tested high is one I wouldn’t trade for the world (I had a few wonderful friends and there was a lot of very healthy academic competition in my graduating class), but I wouldn’t want to put the social struggles I encountered at the younger ages onto Hula  Girl. She is already a bit socially awkward as she is still working her way out of her extreme timidity around strangers. I couldn’t imagine sticking her in a public school classroom with second graders!

I have been very pleased to see the proactive ways her teacher and the school are working to support her and engage her academically. My ultimate goal is not to have her earn Valedictorian of First Grade status; rather, I want her to be somewhere she feels is safe, enjoyable and engaging while we sort out our living situation. I want her to make friends and practice treating others like Christ. I want her to walk away with self-confidence AND humility.

Public school is the current means to these ends, and I am so thankful for all the prayers and advice we were given when debating this idea for our kiddos. We plan to re-evaluate our decision at Christmastime, and see if we feel settled enough by then to bring Hula Girl back home so we can start fresh with our Charlotte Mason homeschooling experience. This is truly where we feel God is leading us as a family; we just want to make sure to go at the right time and in the right way. We’ve seen God’s hand in a very vivid way over the past six months, and we are eager to see how and where he will direct us next.

Surgery Week Update- Thursday

Well, we had a fun day today. Hula Girl spent the day with Grammy and Grampy, who took her to the playground. She loved this playground. There was a nice small area for her with “eedee ides” (little slides) so she could do it all by herself. She liked that. She also spent an inordinate amount of time in the swing. Go figure. 🙂

I got to go visit a lot of my old teacher friends and former students at VCS. It was a great day and I loved spending time with them. The school has matured, the students have matured, and I am so proud of everyone involved . Y’all are doing awesome!

Okay, now I’m going to do a different post for the actual surgery stuff.

Confession Time and why Teenagers should not use Facebook

This post is written for my former students at VCS. It is written for the sole purpose of speaking to them, from my heart. It is not a blanket statement, nor is it meant to judge anyone else’s students or children. Also, I should say, there are exactly two notable exceptions to this post, and those two students make me prouder than I could ever imagine. 

A funny little trend keeps popping up on my News Feed on Facebook. It is something I only see coming from the teenagers I used to teach. They’ll post a list of questions about themselves, and then say something like, “5 likes for confessions” or something. The list of questions is a really ridiculous list, things that only other self-absorbed teenagers would really care about, and are only meant as gossip fodder. For example:

  1. Am I single?
  2. Am I crushing? (Dad, this question means, “Do I have a crush on someone?”)
  3. Who?
  4. What’s my favorite color?
  5. What food did I eat for breakfast today?
  6. Who is my best friend?
  7. What am I going to do this weekend?
  8. Who am I mad at right now?
  9. What’s my favorite song?
  10. What am I scared of?

I remember when I was their age, and email was the hippest form of communication outside of passing notes in class. (Yeah, teenagers, we all passed notes and thought the teachers had no clue. Guess what- teachers know. And guess what else- for the most part, teachers don’t really care. <gasp!>) Back in the good ol’ days of emailing and possibly even IM-ing (thanks, AOL, lol), we used to send around “surveys” that were quite similar to your little Facebook confessionals. But there was one key difference. Our surveys were not a popularity contest/useless fact combo- they were purely for entertainment and sent only to those friends who we knew would read them and respond. We never requested that someone first do something for us before we revealed “deep” secrets about ourselves and our personal lives.

I get so frustrated when I see all of you, my former students, requesting your friends’ “likes” on these little “confessionals.” On one hand, I understand it perfectly: you think you’re all that, and that everyone else wants to know every little detail about your life because you are, in fact, the center of the universe. So it is reasonable to follow through on that  logic and assume that since you’re obviously so mysterious and wonderful, you can use that to your advantage and gather popularity votes, a.k.a. “likes”, just to ensure that you are, in fact, as cool as you thought you were. On the other hand, I wish you were reading your own posts, comments, and status updates with your 25-year-old brain. I bet your older, less self-obsessed self would have a thing or two to say.

Unfortunately, and this is my biggest concern for many of you, your 25-year-old self will not be any less self-obsessed. Facebook, Twitter, and the world of social media has forced you into a world fueled by selfishness like no one has ever seen. You get up in the morning, and the first thing you do is log in to the virtual world, where all of your “friends” are ready to greet you. You send out a random complaint, just hoping that someone will wake up early enough to log in and notice that you were the first person to make a statement today. Then, when you get to school, it’s an all-out battle for attention. Girls calling each other names, spreading rumors behind each other’s backs, being cruel to other girls…just because you can. Guys treating girls with disrespect, putting each other down through “funny” one-liners, doing the least amount of work required to just barely pass…just because you can. You even take time during your breaks (and during class, don’t think I don’t see your status updates all day long) to post rude, critical, crass, and disagreeable things on your social media outlets! And then when you get home, it’s an all-out frenzy to discuss the day’s events, rehashing all the gossip and drama, calling each other out (yet again) in a public forum, and generally hurting each other’s feelings. And all of this done on the stage of Middle School (which will become the even bigger stage of High School in just a few months or years). See, you’re just being set up to live in a way that is totally self-absorbed (I mean, really, as if the rest of the world cares what you had for breakfast?!?!) and will eventually create and fuel some of the biggest rumors, gossip, and drama the world has ever seen.

And the bullying! You are bullies! Students of mine, I have seen your status updates and comments. And let me tell you, I have been absolutely appalled at some of the things you are writing to and about each other. I know you all personally, and when my sweet girls start posting racist slurs about other sweet girls of mine, it makes me very sad. When the guys I knew before their voices changed suddenly start referring to girls using offensive names, it makes me feel like we, as adults in your lives, are really messing up somehow and setting a terrible example for you.

But the thing that makes me feel the worst is when I read posts from some of you who have been hurt by this self-absorption and cruelty that is displayed by the vast majority of my former students. A girl comes home from school and posts things about other students being mean to her at recess. A guy comes home and writes about his new board, only to have others belittle him and mock him in the comments section.

Students, this is not you. This is not who you are. And this is not who you were meant to be. When you turn 25, I want you to be able to look back on yourself and realize, “Wow, I was really self-centered back then. I am so glad I was able to see that and move on.” See, you all have the capability of changing this world. Each and every one of you has unique talents and gifts that no other person has. Many of you were gifted academically. Others musically. Some artistically. Most of you have a talent for humor, unique to you, and definitely the highlight of my years spent with you.

Students, I absolutely loved spending time with you back then. But I’m not really fond of you now. That’s not to say that I would not be there for you, 100%, no matter what. Because you know I would. I am always here for you. The thing is, I kind of expected you to be there for each other. And you’re not really living up to my expectations. Why not, guys? What’s the deal?

Absurd Black Holes

Absurd. I was clicking through the main stories on one of my frequently used search engines this afternoon and I realized that the things they post are generally absurd. For instance, why should anyone care that Justin Bieber got angry with paparazzi in Israel? Why should anyone care that a tennis star got injured at a wedding? Why should anyone care that a BYU basketball player was asked to complete his coursework online?And who cares that Kirstie Alley’s shoe came off?

All these ridiculous articles are intermingled with extremely politically-driven stories about all the bad stuff going on in the world, like Japan’s nuclear plant Level 7 status and the craziness in Libya.

And then you get the filler stuff, like, “How to date after a Divorce” and “Haunted Mansions.”

And as I was clicking through the thumbnails linked to these articles, I realized just how much time I was wasting when I have plenty of other things to do today. I still have to pack, I still have to shop for in-air snacks and toys to keep Hula Girl busy on our flight, I still have to write out our itinerary and mail it to the appropriate people. I still have to show the neighbors how we’d like our lawn and garden watered while we’re away.

Yet, there I was. Clicking through politically-inspired, brain-desensitizing drivel instead of doing the things that must be done. I feel like I’m back in college.

It makes me wonder if Americans would be “on top” again if we all stopped using technology. At home, it’s a productivity-black-hole. At a desk job, I can see how it would dull your skills and proficiency to the point where the boss would have to hire someone extra just to pick up the slack. What if we all just stopped using technology, or were only allotted a certain number of minutes of technology per day? Say, 60 minutes. Here’s how I’d divide that 60 minutes (I would use all my technology time for internet use):

Minutes 1-14: Check emails, respond, and write a few of my own.

Minutes 15-27: Check blog for comments, respond, and write a new post.

Minutes 28-46: Check online board I help moderate, respond, and write any new topic posts I needed to write, and if I have spare time, check blogs I follow occasionally.

Minutes 47-53: Facebook. (The word “Facebook” is a verb. So that is, in fact, a complete sentence.)

Minutes 54-55: Check out tomorrow’s weather forecast.

Minutes 56-60: Read 2 blogs I follow religiously.

That would be a much better use of my technology time than just sitting there, mindlessly clicking to find interesting articles. I mean, sure, they’re all interesting. That’s the way they’re written. Kudos to the journalists’ professors in college; they taught their students how to catch and hold the interest of the general public. But, seriously, what a waste! Those stories not only waste my time; they waste a lot of other peoples’ time as well- for starters, they waste the time of those sorry masses who troop daily into their cubicles and spend hours “working” and producing very little. Keep going back and back and back, and you realize these stories are a waste of a good solid college education.

We don’t need Superman (Waiting for Superman). We need chalkboards. Or at least that’s how I feel about it today.



10 in 10

Well, I’ve done it. I have sent my letters of intent to enroll Hula Girl in Kindergarten in 2015.

Yes, I know it’s a bit early. I also know that I’ve spoken with many of you and have told you that I think homeschooling is the best idea for us. However, that will just not be possible.

As I mentioned previously, I viewed the film Waiting for Superman the other night. If you’re not an educator, it’s probably not the choicest film for you. But as a teacher, it really struck a chord. It rekindled a fire in me and reminded me that I have to be in a classroom. That’s where I am meant to be. I don’t feel like I reached my full potential in the short three years of teaching that I was able to do before Hula Girl came along. In fact, I am 100% positive that I can do so much better, so much more.

Therefore, I sent in the paperwork and emailed the directors of the two schools I would consider sending Hula Girl to in the future. (I will admit there might be other schools I’d consider; however, this was all done on a whim and without much time to research, these schools are the only two I could identify off the top of my head.) One is the school where I was employed for those three years; the other is in a college town north of where we used to live, where Jonathan is currently applying to work as a counselor for the university.

Yep, he’s applying. I found this really awesome counseling job the other day while I was doing a short search online. I am always looking around for potential job opportunities for Jonathan. We do not want to stay where we are forever. In fact, Jonathan will be eligible to apply for his license in December; we’ll probably try to move away from here around that time. It all depends on jobs, cost of living, and just how quickly paperwork can be processed.

This job seemed really great, and when I showed it to Jonathan, he got really excited about it. He thinks college-aged kids would be great to work with. (I feel really old after writing that sentence.) He knows there is so much change happening in their lives, and he can see himself in a supportive role for people going through those types of changes. The application is due April 1, so we’ll have to really work hard on getting it in on time. I did just find the job the other day, and Jonathan is working a bit extra this week because of the training he’s part of at work. It will be a mad rush tomorrow night to make sure everything is filled out properly and all references are listed correctly. But it could be a really good opportunity!

I would be pretty excited to move to the town where the university is located. Anything is better than where we are. Anything with a Target, at least. I am really tired of having to go to WalMart for all our household needs. It’s fine if it’s a choice. But when it’s the only option, the excitement really fades.

Speaking of WalMart, Hula Girl and I have to visit this afternoon to get some cabinet and drawer latches. She’s getting really adept at pulling them open, and I’m getting slow at catching her. It will be a much greater problem when she starts walking, which is just over the horizon.

I also had a minor freak-out earlier today when I realized she will be one year old in 10 weeks and 1 day. That is far too soon. She’ll be 10 months old in 10 days. That, too, is far too soon. I am not ready for this.

Given the choice, do you choose to shop at WalMart or Target?

Practice Eggs

Well, I think we’re finally on the tail end of this week-long nightmare. Jonathan is feeling about 90% healthy today, Hula Girl seems to be functioning at about 80%, and I’m back to 50%. I’m not sure why, but I definitely had this waaaaaay worse than Jonathan or Hula Girl. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been sick in so long? No matter the reason, it really knocked me off my feet. Literally- I’ve been in bed for days.

As I typed that last sentence, Jonathan walked in and surprised me with a plateful of pancakes and turkey bacon and a cup of chamomile tea. How sweet!

Lately I’ve been thinking about my old school and my students a lot. I checked out the website this morning ,  and I found out that this school is doing amazing things this year. They’ve grown into a school that does fundraisers, family nights, principal’s coffees, before-school “jam sessions” in the music room, before-school “mileage club” with the PE teacher, after-school sports, student government, and parents curriculum-training nights. They’ve truly developed a sense of community, and I am so proud that I was a part of establishing that environment. Congratulations, Vanguard Classical School! I miss you!

We don’t know where we’re going to end up once Jonathan is finished getting his license. We will be able to move away from the place we live now by December. If we move back near where we were living, I want Hula Girl to attend Vanguard once she reaches Kindergarten. Therefore, I called and asked the front office to send me a letter of intent. Am I planning too far ahead? I don’t think so!

Speaking of planning ahead, I went ahead and did some practice eggs for our Easter Egg Contest.

Love 'em!

Oh, my poor sister-in-law. She never really stood a chance against my Easter Egg spirit. I wonder if I should tell her how I did such an awesome job, and give her a fair shot?

Do you have any fun holiday traditions in your family?

%d bloggers like this: