Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Today I die.

I drive down the street. Thanks to the location of our new house and weekly rehearsals at the local children's theater I drive down this particular road quite frequently now. 

It's a road steeped with history. It's name reflects the piles of product that used to line the street 100 years ago. It houses the public library that sits right next to the police station just a block or two from the first Baptist church. Saturday mornings it hosts the downtown farmers market. And just a few blocks the other way is a local mission/shelter and the mission's thrift store and a salvation army thrift store and a liquor store, and on and on it goes.

We live in a small town, but I grew up in a big city... actually I take that back... I was a kid in a big city and I'm "growing up" in a small town.

As I drive down the road on my way to where I'm going... I hope I see her... and I hope I dont. Our city recently installed new benches along the downtown main streets, and on one of them sits a woman.
Sometimes she's wearing a brightly orange colored jacket, slumped over one of her two bags, resting. Sometimes she eating out of a container of some kind. Sometimes she has a plastic bag on her head because it's sprinkling. Sometimes she has on an auburn colored wig and sometimes I can see her dark hair streaked with gray. Sometimes she's just sitting there, not sleeping, not eating, not huddled up, just sitting. She usually sits facing away from the main street. Sometimes she's there at 10 am and still at 11:30 am. Sometimes she's there at 6pm and 8:30pm and 9:30pm.

Sometimes she's not there and I wonder where she is. I think maybe I've seen her on the north side of town before, walking from one place to another. Maybe that's where she is. Maybe she's at a shelter. Maybe she's hurt. Maybe she's dead.
But when she is there, I wonder what I should do. I read an article that stated "you can't begin to assess someone's needs and help them unless you have that relationship." So how do I form a relationship? How do I talk to her... I don't walk down that street and have a reason to just casually start a conversation. (and besides,.. introvert over here! I don't know how to start conversations remember! I wait for the other person, then I determine whether or not I can trust them, and THEN my bubbly, sassy personality comes out).

When I drive down the street I often have to stop at that red light, and she's only 40 or 50 feet away and I ask myself a million and four questions...
How can I help her? What if she doesn't want help? What if she's mentally ill or just afraid and I walk up to her and she pulls out a knife and stabs me? Should I offer her a place to sleep? Should I pull over and ask if she's hungry? What would Dave think if i brought her home and cooked her a meal and offered her our bed because we dont have an extra? What if she kills us all in our sleep... who will send my beautiful asha kids monthly support if we're dead? What if she steals something? What if she hurts the kids?
...and then the light turns green and I go.

but I don't go into all the world, because I can't even go to the bench lady on the corner of my small town America. I go back to my bubble. my stuff. my comfort. my husband and children. my life.

but I said I would lay down my life... because that's what Christ did for me. He saw me in my hunger and despair and orphaned state; separated from the Father because of sin, and He brought me in and he gave up His position and His stuff and He died for me.  He died!

and when I said I would follow Him and be like Him and live like Him... it meant I would die like him too. I would die for someone else. I would give up my stuff for someone else. I would give up my position and rights and privileges. I didn't get a ticket to heaven. I got a ticket to death. and in so choosing death, I will live.

and because whatever I do for her, I do unto Him. So it's not a scary, possibly-crazy, homeless lady. It's Christ. Waiting for me... to step out in obedience... to step out in surrender... to do something. It's Christ waiting for me to die so He can give me life.

and when all my questions start to convince me to be afraid, I remind myself that it's not just me... I'm only one small part of the body of Christ. I'm not alone in this. I have a network of support. I have a network of resources. Right now I'm the eyes. I see her. and I'll have to be the tongue and talk to her. and maybe I'll be the hands and feet too for a while, or maybe someone will join me and they'll be the hands for a time.

so today... amidst our busy schedule, dirty dishes, feverish child, burnt toast, theater rehearsals, worship set that isn't ready, longings for India, moldy tortillas, unfinished projects, school work, chores, memory verses, organizing clothes, disciplining kids, barking dogs, colorful crafts, and all that is my life... today I die.

and tomorrow I plan to die again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Family Contributions!

um, i think i promised to share about our "family contributions" in my last post...

and i was reminded today that it might, mabye, i dunno, be helpful for someone else when my oldest daughter saw me writing out some family contribution cards and as clear as day said "mom, i like that we do family contributions"


yeah, you heard right.

that pretty much sealed it for me. so i'll share about our little box and cards and maybe it'll work for you, and maybe it wont. that's ok. or maybe it'll spark your own system that'll work great for your family. or maybe you already have one, in that case you don't have to keep reading. i won't be offended. ;)

ok. so let's start at the very beginning...

well then that means i have to share about all the FAILED CHORE CHARTS that have come and died in our family.

yeah. pinterest, you're not any help... with your cute little magnets and popsicle sticks and mason jars and posters and so on... nope, we have just NEVER been able to get a good system down. especially ones that require i re-assign tasks each day or week (ya know, the ones with a "need to do" and a "finished" side... nope those dont survive in this house past two days.)

now i have to preface with TWO things that i think have made a BIG difference with why this system is actually working that just may not be a variable for you.

one. my youngest is SEVEN. excuse me while i shed a few tears. my baby girl. seven. do you realize what that means? it means i'm not picking up after a toddler or even a kindergardener... nope, shes a big kid. and my oldest will be a teenager in just a couple months. oh my goodness, i just realized how close that is. sheesh. in other words, having older kids is definitely making it easier.

two. we have moved into a smaller house... and while it has caused some storage issues "where in the world do i put this?" problems, ultimately, less house means less stuff means less mess means less cleaning.

those two things are HUGE! so if this thing i'm about to describe seems crazy to you, it just might not be for your family and where you are, but hopefully some of the principles will be a little more universal and applicable.

ok. so what is this great and wonderful system that has my 11 year old daughter singing it's praises?!?!

index cards. 
in an index card box. 
with some writing on it.
and some makeshift tabbies. 
and that's about it.

oh yeah, i did get a piece of label tape and wrote "family Contributions" on it along with a part of a verse that reads, "through love serve one another." but other than that... it's not very flashy. but it's practical and easily alterable (i should know, I've already tweaked the cards twice).

ok so down to the nitty gritty. here's what i did.

First, i stopped calling these tasks we do each day "chores". who wants to do chores? not me!! nope. that word REEKS of pain and misery. nope, nope. i wanted the kids to see that these tasks serve a purpose... the smooth(er) functioning of our household. i wanted them to know that they contribute to this family and they each play a valuable role in each others lives.

Second, we set a time that was easy for us to remember and commit to. for us that's right after lunch. we're kind of a weird mix of flexible and scheduled and not every day is the same BUT more often than not, we are home for lunch and immediately after lunch. so at 1:00, I (or one of the kids) will call out "time to do family contributions!" we get the box. we read our cards and within about 15-20 minutes they are done and we can sit down for the next part of our school day.

Third, i sat down and scribbled out the things/tasks that i would like the kids to get done each week (i just sorta mentally, or physically, walked through each room and looked around and asked what was important to our family to get done). then next to each item I'd put down what days i thought they should be done. (ya know, is it something that needs to be done the day before we have lifegroup people over? is it something that needs to be done the day before the trash and recycling trucks come by? and so on)

Third and a half... i simultaneously thought of tasks that were more for ME to do... things like dusting the ceiling fans a couple times a month, or washing the bed sheets more often than normal (which was usually never. it's true.) ya know the things that are more bi-monthly or monthly and things i'd just like to do myself.... cough... cause i'm a control freak... cough.

Fourth i scribbled out a big "master chart"... see that scribbly paper in the top left corner? i put the days of the week across the top and then i wrote in the tasks under the days i had put on the original list. so for example, i want the living room swept on tuesday and saturday. so i put that under the tuesday and the saturday columns. and so on. simple. and if i noticed that some days were too loaded, then i'd move stuff around and got it to where pretty much each day had about the number of tasks.

Fifth i got smart after making the cards two other times (the first time, the kids were always waiting for the other person to finish sweeping before they could sweep themselves and then theyd get distracted and forget and i wasnt' about to buy four brooms so that they could all sweep at the same time. Aaand the second time, i think i was half asleep when i tried to fix the unavailable broom problem and ended up giving annabelle her least favorite task 3 times a week accidentally, and while on paper the tasks were distributed evenly, the reality was that some took way longer than others). so yes, i got smart and beside each task i also wrote an estimate of time for that task (5 minutes or 10 minutes or even 2 minutes, etc...but i wasn't super specific).

so after everything was listed and put under the right days and had little timey-whimey numbers beside them, i grabbed colorful pens and circled the tasks for each kid for that day. (detailed example: mondays tasks are sweep girls bedroom. sweep sams bedroom. sweep mom and dads room. empty bedroom trash cans. put away clean dishes. clear table. wipe coffee tables. wipe the trash can lid. empty bathroom hamper. empty sams hamper. empty mom/dads hamper. vaccum rugs. feed bandit. so for monday zosie got 4 tasks, sam got 3, micah got 4 and annabelle got 2. but they'll all take about the same amount of time (15-20 minutes) and assigned with age appropriateness in mind (like zosie can't reach to put high dishes away or use a blower out in the front yard, so she never ends up doing that during the week). oh and that reminds me, i chose to alternate tasks among the kids... one to avoid boredom and ultimately hating a single task. and two so that they can all learn to do all the things around the house. so there's that.

Sixth, i made little tabs. i chose to do days of the week. and behind each day i put one card for Sam, one for Micah and so on. and the card simply has the tasks written out (explained with added detail if needed).

then I pretty much ended up taking the back half of the tabs... i just gave myself a "mom" tab to put my daily cards under (coulda done that with the kids too, but i didn't), and then i made tabs for certain days of the month (i just picked days that my brain tends to notice in any given month. i'm a weirdo. it's ok.) and distributed those bi-monthly and monthly tasks i had listed. i did not put ALL of my daily/weekly stuff on the daily cards.... just the ones i tend to avoid more often than not. :P

So, that's it. and i guess i could give you  our lists, but then you might think it's missing half of what you need, or you might think it's expecting too much... so i'm not giving you a list. it really just makes more sense to just figure out what is practical and doable for your family, and then do that!

This little box has saved me many frustrations of my own and reduced whining from the kids (except for the whole annabelle and the dishes thing, which we ended up laughing about her reaction to seeing it on her card "AGAIN!"). i dont have to ask "did you do this? did you finish that?" i only ask them once they say they are done, "what did you get to do [or contribute] today?" and they proudly list off the things they did. sometimes i'll ask them "did you make sure to..." and i'll insert a cleaning detail that apparently only moms think to do. and sometimes they hafta go back and redo or improve on something.

so what have you found works well for YOUR family? (or didn't work well at all, lol)?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Open Thoughts About Organic

In an effort to squelch some assumptions I've noticed floating around in blog-land (you may know the ones I'm talking about, they like putting judgments into the mouths {or minds} of certain "types" of mommies... in this instance, those that choose organic... as if what i buy in the store defines who i am or who they are... and how apparently we're not gracious and we're always judging the non-organic mommies for not being super-human-organic heroes... those ones) i'm going to share some of my thoughts as they happen in real life situations. {this may or may not be a good idea, ha!}

my hope is to persuade you that this mama (who happens to choose organic grocery items), isn't spending her precious time judging those who don't and that i don't choose what our family eats in order to try to look like a better mom. and i don't post things on my blog to add to your list of expectations and duties for yourself ...and hopefully, this will help us all learn that we really aren't always being judged by others (but perhaps... we're allowing the enemy too great a hold in our thought life)

It's Saturday morning. I wake up and realize I forgot to get "fun brunch" items for the kids to share who had participated in a local show-choir camp. drats. and there's nothing in the house. double drats. and we slept in late. triple drats. so on my way to drop off my daughter, we stop at kroger. i grab some organic bananas, organic strawberries and organic yogurt slurpy things (that are overpriced, because they're in individual slurpy packages, but thankfully marked down a little that day). let me just say, i don't choose organic because i want to shove it in other peoples faces, i choose organic because it's what i always buy (just like i prefer a certain kind of salsa over another, it's just what i get) so we walk into the theater and my daughter takes off with the bag. i at least had the chance to tell her to make sure to eat some of what we brought and that she could pick one other "bread" item from what other people would bring. {now this is the daughter who has cavities, so i'm trying to be pretty strict with her, but not kill ALL her fun ALL the time}. but in all honesty, what i would have preferred was that she not even have the organic yogurt cause it's still pretty loaded with sugar or any bread item at all because we are doing our best to avoid bread because of the cavities}.

As I walked out, a mom walked in with two boxes of donuts. my thought was "oh i hope my daughter can resist all the donuts cause I know I couldn't"

Later when we went to pick up the left over items, I noticed someone else had brought yogurt slurpies and bananas too!! my thought "whew, at least i didn't look like a TOTAL freak for not bringing donuts or muffins". (remember no one even saw me, but still i was concerned about how it looked, sheesh)

and since i didn't have a bag to put my "sticks-out-like-a-sore-thumb" organic items, i went around the outside of where all the people were just so they wouldn't see what i had and think i was trying to show off my organic purchases.

THE REVIEW: let me summarize and comment on these events:
1. Did you notice that my thoughts were not focused on trying to decide whether a mother was good or bad at any point in my day? (no one can rightly judge our hearts and motives based on what we carry out of a grocery store or into a kids fun-brunch)

2. I was not defining or labeling or categorizing moms based on whether they were carrying donuts or organic bananas. (we are not defined by things or the choices we make that fall in the areas outside of the core/central moral beliefs. Our definition and identity comes from the Father alone.)
3. I too, like so many moms, wondered what someone was thinking about me, which tells me that everyone is most likely concerning themselves with themselves and so I can probably stop worrying about it altogether. (the enemy wants division among God's people, but we should choose to encourage one another and stand united against the common enemy, not each other.)

4. The things I bought & brought were not to compete or show up other moms, i bought them because its what I buy on a regular basis. (except for the yogurt slurpies, i only get those when they're on sale, either way, it had nothing to do with another mom, it had to do with what i wanted to buy my family. plain and simple.) ;)

of course, i'm not saying that moms NEVER point a finger, or think a mean thought towards anyone else (obviously its happening since its being reported in all these blogs posts), but what I am saying (because i can only speak for myself and not anyone else)... is that this mama don't do dat... and I'm betting that a lot of others don't as well.

How about we give each other the benefit of the doubt and stop assuming that what people think about us is horrible, terrible things (that sounds more like satan's lies trying to destroy and distract). maybe, lets assume that they aren't even thinking about us at all... and yes, i'm writing and reading this myself, i don't need to worry, fret, or fear that people are going to see me as a pretentious hippy snob when they see me carrying organic items... because they're probably just wondering why i eat organic or maybe they're wondering what i think about their donuts. maybe they don't care either way.

wanna know what i think about your donuts? i wanna know if there's a blueberry cake do-nut in the box so i can drool over it and smell it and convince myself its worth cheating over!! where's the milk!

seriously though, we're never going to know what the other person actually thinks unless we actually talk about it, and really, its ok if we never do because i don't base my life decisions and purchases on what other people think or expect. you don't need to either. but the assumptions need to stop and the communication needs to begin.

...and that's what I think about that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homeschool FAQ: #1

Question: What does your typical day look like?

Short Answer: there are no typical days... but you probably already knew that. :)

Long Answer: Here's a description of our schedule...

Kids wake up (hopefully before 8... yeah we're not alarmists 'round here) and complete their "wake-up tasks" which include brushing teeth, fixing their bed and personal bible reading.

Eat Breakfast, wash their dish and get dressed.

Family Time:
  • All the kids gather together for scripture memory verses. Each of the older three take turns leading the practice each day.
  • 15 minutes of exercise all together (we might go for a walk, or do some stretching, or some aerobics, etc...)
  • 15-20 minutes of Foreign Language (we spend a few minutes learning/reviewing the Telugu alphabet, etc... and watch a few minutes of an Indian movie via youtube videos)

Individual Time: [Core academics]

depending on who needs a kindle or a computer or mommy... determines what order they go in (and that's pretty much what takes the time to organize), but essentially everyone is working on Math, Reading and Writing between 9:30 and 12. the older three (4th, 6th and 7th grade) are primarily on their own, and I focus my time with the 2nd grader and she is technically done by 11:30 and that gives me time to get lunch started while she plays quietly on her own and the others finish up. they also stop for a 10-15 minute snack between their first and second subjects.

LUNCH, wash our plate and at 1 o'clock we start our "family contributions" (aka chores)!! (takes about 15-20 minutes... a wonderful benefit of having a smaller house!)

Family Time (again): we come together for a time of bible study, discussion and prayer.

Individual Time (again): the kids now have their "extra" or non-core subjects. which are currently Computer Programming (7th), French (6th), Texas History (4th), and whatever interesting thing I find for the 2nd grader for the day. :)

then the option for art or handicrafts or music is available (but most often neighborhood friends are knocking on the door to play by then, lol)

the end.

but of course THEN there are days like today where we all wake up around 8:40 and also have other errands to throw into the mix. so pretty much what we do is start from the beginning and work our way through, adjusting meal times . and for instance with today i have to take a 90 minute trip to get our goat milk, so i bring the two youngest and they do reading in the van together while the older two continue at home following their normal schedule. and if 3 o clock rolls around and we haven't done everything we had scheduled, we still quit. (and that works for us because of how we progress through lessons) and we try not to end up looking like this...

Monday, September 15, 2014

quick catch up

up late.

I keep thinking that surely things will slow down.
[buuuuuut. they don't. ha!]

We are full steam ahead with school.
[and it only took me 3 days of staying up till 2am to get it all ready. someday I'll share the deets on that.]

We have a good routine established
[or so i thought until choir and gymnastics and artsview and so on peeked around the corner and said, "oh, Hello!"]

We have a new "Family Contribution" (aka CHORES) system that is working out pretty well
[one of these days I'll post pictures and give details on this too... but knowing me, it could take a year, so don't hold your breath waiting. I don't want to be responsible for those senseless deaths]

We have NOT sold our house yet.
[but we did get the inside repainted and spruced and if it doesn't sell in the next couple of months we might just rent it out]

We shaved the dog.
[really that's worth it's own entire post. but I want to go to sleep]

good. night.
[or as i used to say... blog ya later... though "weeks" might be more accurate than simply saying "later"]

Friday, August 8, 2014

want. need. anxiety.

it's amazing how easily and how quickly a simple comparison can change your definition of "want" to "need".

i gave samuel a math placement test to see where to start him in a different curriculum. since we cut off the school year rather abruptly because of buying/selling houses, he didn't get as far as i would have liked, but he tested to a certain book and i happen to have that book, so that's good. but i don't have the solution manual or the test & worksheet book, and since it's an older version i'm not sure if they still offer those things for this version.

so i started looking around at the current version of this text and of course i already know that we can't buy any school materials right now, but i kept looking, thinking maybe if i just found one site that had it low enough then i could figure something out.

serveral minutes later i notice my leg bouncing (ya know that nervous bounce) and my heart rate going a little faster and a little anxiety starting to build within. before i knew it, i was just focused on finding this newer version with everything i needed to go with it and i was realizing how impossible it was becoming.... so i paused and bowed my head.

but i didn't pray that some miracle would take place and i'd magically get this curriculum kit. i halfway did, for just a split second... but prayer isn't magic. no instead i prayed that i would trust the Lord. and that i would be content with what's available to me. there are a million and one resources out there for math. and they will do just fine. i do not "need" the curriculum kit. i have what i "need" and its ok if i don't get what i "want".

and now, wonder of wonders... there's peace again. bye bye anxiety. my situation did not change. but my perspective has been realigned.

how often does this happen in other areas of my life? your life? whether its an outfit, a car, a house or anything that we begin to covet (defined as "yearn to posses or have). we don't' need to spend hours on our knees praying for things to magically appear, or problems to magically be solved, or our covetous wishes to be granted. that is not the purpose of prayer. we need to spend time with the Father so that our heart, our thoughts, our desires, and our perspective become one with His. so that our yearning is fixed on the Creator, His purposes and His ways.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Whirlwind of a Month

i honestly can't remember the details...

everything has become quite blurred in my mind's eye due to an endless sea of boxes...

but here goes...


ok that's all that really matters. we're in. we love it. and we definitely have to get rid of a LOT. MORE. STUFF. sheesh. I'm pretty sure our oldest daughter has to get rid of the most since she went from having her own room to sharing with her two sisters.

but the kids love this house. they love the neighborhood too. new and old friends really makes it worth it for them.

my favorite part is probably how sunny and bright it is throughout most of the day. and i do love the hardwood floors. i really do think the size is perfect for our family.

the hardest part is probably that i want everything to be in its place, but that's just going to take some time and i have to remind myself that its ok if it's not done right away. :P

the other tough part has been not having a fridge. especially at a time when we really have to watch our spending and i've basically had to grocery shop every day or two because the mini-fridge we're using just won't hold enough for a family of six. buuuut after a few weeks of waiting, it has arrived and man, do i appreciate it!!

aside from quite a few boxes everywhere, the house is definitely livable. still not sure where some stuff is. but we're definitely getting there.

i would just like to say, that for anyone thinking it would be too hard to downsize, you really ought to consider it. :) obviously different families have different needs and so forth, but if you find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of house and stuff you have to keep up with, just let some of it go... or a lot of it! it's quite refreshing. even in the midst of our moving chaos there are moments of stillness and quiet where i pause and realize that the simplicity of things helps me be more aware of the blessings around. i hope we keep this trend move forward and keep getting rid of things that weigh us down.

don't get me wrong, i've had some "break down" moments too, especially when trying to work with the kids in their time of adjustment. and then i tend to get frustrated that some things are even an issue because i see that it's the selfishness of this world and more specifically our american culture that's staring me in the face, and it's because i've taught it to them and its so deeply infused in my own thinking and actions.

and there have been other moments of some fear and trepidation as we face a tight (but still extremely blessed) budget, as in the school year won't start out with "perfectly" new crayons and map pencils and notebooks, but we have more than enough supplies to last a couple years. and we cancelled our netflix account but the kids have been playing more games together and enjoying neighborhood friends. and we didn't go "out" for the traditional frozen yogurt for our daughters birthday but we still had some from the store at a fraction of the price. and we didn't get her a present, but she had a friend over and all the kids laughed a wonderfully care free laugh at an old movie and cheered over late night cheap pizza...thank you little Caesars lol. and selling the hubby's car couldn't have come at a better time to help cover fixing the van (and the car itself) and stuff for the old house that still hasn't sold (pray it sells!!). but see what i mean, we are still so blessed and still have SO much.

and i'm reminded of the Lord's grace in all of this.

and i'm reminded that He is for us.

and i'm reminded why we've put ourselves in this position. and i wouldn't want it any other way.

and i think psalm 119:32 words it perfectly, "I will run the course of your commandments. For You shall enlarge my heart"