Tale as Old as Time

This past Saturday we took our girls to see the new Beauty and the Beast. We were so excited, and the girls had been looking forward to it for a long time. The movie was everything I thought it would be and more. The cast choices were perfect, the storyline held true to the original and a few extra details were added so that we discovered some things about both Belle and Beast that weren’t shared in the animated version. Overall, I think that Disney created an amazing, family friendly, movie worthy of spending the exorbitant amount of money to experience the film at the theater.

I don’t make a habit of reviewing movies often. The last one that I reviewed was Cinderella and it ended up being for about the same reason I feel led to share my opinions on Beauty and the Beast  as well. I don’t watch a lot of movies, and what we decide is appropriate for our children is based on our own personal convictions. We choose carefully what we allow the girls to watch, trying to keep their viewing in line with what we think is acceptable for their age and maturity.

The being said, I was shocked to see the articles and statements that came out about Beauty and the Beast prior to it being released. Title after title, post after post, came up in my news feed, condemning the movie for a storyline that had, supposedly, been added regarding on of the characters in the film. It was said that Lefou, Gaston’s dweeby side kick would have his moment on screen revealing that he is both gay, and in love with Gaston.

The idea gave me pause before deciding to go ahead and take the girls. Not because I disagreed with Disney’s choice to make a point of creating a gay storyline for an already beloved movie, but because should that be case, I didn’t think that my girls were at a maturity level that was ready to handle the discussion that I would like to follow such a discovery.

Well, we clearly decided to go anyways, after doing some research and reading article’s from people who had actually seen the movie. And, I can tell you that, whether or not Disney intended for Lefou’s sexual orientation to become clear to the audience, there was nothing in the movie that would have led be to believe anything other than the fact that he was infatuated with Gaston because he wanted to be like  him. But, you have to make the decision as to whether or not it is an appropriate choice for your family on your own…

That point, is not what led me to write this post as much as the reaction from those proclaiming to be Christians did.

It is no secret that I love the Lord. I believe that scripture is true, is not to be taken out of context and changed to meet our ever changing culture. I believe that God’s character does not change, and that He is exactly who He says He is.

But, my goodness…

What are we saying about Him when we lead with condemnation, shame and hurt? Here is what I also believe: there is not ONE person on this earth who doesn’t struggle with sin – believers and non believers alike. I struggle with a lot of things that the bible declares as sin. My daily life is a process of continuously trying, leaning on God and going to Him for forgiveness when in my own strength I find it hard to change.

What I don’t struggle with, is the decision to seek out a relationship with someone of the same sex. I can’t even begin to understand what the process is like to realize something about yourself that is hard, decide to pursue and attempt to live an open life in a society that is constantly seeking people to condemn or blame for all the problems of this world. My personal convictions lead me to believe that a homosexual lifestyle is not what God purposed for someone when He created them. However, I can also state that I am not living out exactly who God intended for me to be when He created me! I am a continual work in progress. Sin, struggle, growth and change are all a part of this fallen world.

But, my convictions also place me in a position to say that it is not okay to make someone feel unsafe because of their life journey. If God’s glory is supposed to come through me, if I am supposed to be a representation of who Christ is, then I should not be writing things that are hurtful, mean, shameful or threatening towards another person who I believe to be created by the same God who created me.

I need everyone to really stop and think – how are my word’s glorifying God? In what way is this statement making the person I am speaking to understand how much they are loved by God? Are my choices potentially adding bricks on a wall that is being built between this person and God?

Jesus came to earth and scolded the pharisees. He called out those who thought they were righteous. He tried to get those who were only concerned with the law to see the error of their ways. He spent time with the members of society who were seen in the eyes of others as “wrong”.

If He were here today, I have to believe that He would be scolding those who wrote hurtful and condemning things to others. He would call out those who use social media in a way that pushes people away from God. He would try to get those who separate themselves from those who believe they are better than the “sinners: to see the error of their ways.

We do not have to agree with a person’s choices in order to love them the way that the Lord calls us to love. All of our shaming isn’t drawing anyone nearer to the Lord. It isn’t creating any wave of change or revival. It isn’t revealing the true character of God.

The only truth that we can be sure of is this: each person was created by the same God, with a plan and a purpose and a journey. Each and every life that we come in contact with is an opportunity to play a supporting role in the story of one member of creation’s personal walk with God….

What character do you want to play? The villain or the hero?

Family Update

Things have been a little crazy here! There hasn’t been much time to sit down and write. In fact, as I am typing this, I am contemplating running upstairs to tell my children to be quiet and I can hear Macie starting to wake up and I know she will need to eat soon. This life as a mama to 5 girls is definitely not one for the faint of heart! But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

So, what have we been up to? Besides figuring out how to survive with 5 girls? Not much!

This summer has been HOT, and so far has consisted mostly of me watching the girls swim or trying to stay in the air conditioning. We have managed to make it out for a few little trips – bounce it out, the zoo, the indoor play cafe –

But, thanks to an amazing husband and an awesome dad, our yard is pretty much as good as any local playground, so most of trips consist of only taking a few steps out the door…

When I do have a few minutes of down time I have been excitedly planning our homeschool year for this coming school year! I’ll be composing a few posts soon about what are plans are this year, what curriculums we have chose and why, and how we are really seeing God move through our decision to keep the kids “home” for school (yea – we’re actually home less than we are out..)

My husband has been diligently working in our garden and we are starting to see the fruits of his hours of labor in the form of an abundance of zucchini, cucumbers that beg to be pickled and the beginnings of some very large pumpkins and winter squash!! I can’t wait until the corn is ready to be picked! We’ve learned a lot as this season has gone on, and I can’t wait to share some more of our homesteading lessons and misadventures (chickens in the house, anyone!?)…

I have to keep this short for now, as I have a little babe who is about to beg me to be fed. This season of our life has been so amazing, I can hardly describe everything in the few short paragraphs I wrote here. I am looking forward to getting some more time to write as Macie’s newborn naps start to become a bit more predictable! For now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of my sassy littles…

Emmy’s personality in 3 seconds…

These two…

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I can’t believe that this kid is 5 already!!

A Huge Leap of Faith

Deciding to have a baby after struggling with Postpartum Anxiety for a year was NOT an easy decision.

We had just bought the house we knew we were going to raise our kids in and started a new season of life. Things were great, and we finally began to feel settled after what had been a rollercoaster of a season…

But, I still had this longing in my heart, this deep desire to have another baby. I dealt with grieving over the idea of never having another baby for as long as I could, but this desire wasn’t going anywhere…

In fact, it was getting stronger. After sitting down and explaining how I was feeling to Matt, I realized something….

I felt broken. Damaged. I carried a lot of guilt over not being mentally stable enough to expand our family. Women are created to carry and bear children – and here I was, unsure if I was capable of doing it anymore.

I couldn’t stand the idea of our family not growing because of something wrong with me. So, after doing a lot of work with my psychiatrist, and praying and talking A LOT about it with Matt, we decided to try. We would give it 2 months, because we wanted the baby to be born in early summer at the latest, and if we didn’t get pregnant then we would put the idea off for another year…

It took two weeks. I was ecstatic, overwhelmed and excited. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone.

But then, one morning when I was waiting for the kids to get up, it really hit me. What if it happens again? What if its worse? The memories of my postpartum period with Emerson came flooding back, anxiety and panic set in and suddenly I was afraid that I had just made a terrible decision for my family…

Diagnosis: PTSD

I was angry, frustrated and defeated. All the work I did to get through the anxiety and now this!? I spent the first half of the pregnancy worrying A LOT.

But, one day, I was playing with Emerson and thinking about everything that happened to get to this point and I realized how worth it it really was.

So I made a plan – a plan for the rest of the pregnancy, a plan for if the anxiety came back, and a plan for if it was worse. Having a plan made me feel a lot better, and I continued to do a lot of work on myself in order to have the best shot at a good outcome for me and the rest of my family.

Fast forward a few months and we were in labor. I’ll write all the details about Macie’s birth story in another post, but what I can say is that it went better than I had imagined. In fact, I felt more in control of my choices and what I needed than any of my previous labors, and I have the work of digging myself out of PPA to thank for that. Our hospital stay was restful, anxiety free and filled with quality time snuggling my new babe.

But, when we got home, I began to doubt our choice again. For two days I sat around, on the verge of a panic attack, waiting for the PPA to return. I woke up in the middle of the night, expecting it to come flooding back. I worked myself into a full blown panic attack, convincing myself than my descent into anxiety was right around the corner. Flashbacks swam through my mind, and I was scared. For 48 hours, I was sure that I was going to have to battle for my mental health again…

And then it didn’t come. The nightly panic attacks, the struggle through heavy anxiety all day long, the desire to just hide in my bed from the world, the insomnia, the terror….

it never came back.

What did happen was me learning that once you have experienced anxiety, you can make yourself experience anxiety over and over again. You can talk yourself into a panic attack a lot easier than you can talk yourself out of one. I was, unwillingly, sabotaging myself….

So, I put my plan into action. I called my psychiatrist immediately to talk through the anxiety and make sure it was “normal”, I upped one of medications – a decision we had already planned for by having it at my house in case of an increase in anxiety, I told my husband exactly what was going on, began taking my placenta pills and had my doctor add in another prescription strength B vitamin….

and then I got out of my own head. Each night when I go to bed, anxiety tries to creep its way in, but I’m on top of it. I remind myself of how the day has gone, recount the good things around me, and remind myself that worry and PPA are not the same thing. I don’t let myself talk myself into the downward spiral.

When I woke up today, I realized that my first thoughts were not about anxiety. They were about snuggling my baby before the other kids woke up. They were about savoring my cup of coffee early, and catching up on laundry. They were about how excited I am about the garden, and planning a canning schedule. My thoughts were normal. And, I finally realized that I am happy. A different kind of happy, a happy I haven’t felt in a long time.

I’m excited for this season of life. I look around and can’t believe that this is the life I get to live, day in and day out.

Deciding to have another baby was a huge leap of faith. Truthfully, it could have been bad. I mean, having a child is always worth whatever you go through to get there, but it could have cost us another very dark season. We chose to believe we wouldn’t. We decided to believe that God wanted to use this birth, this child to show us how far we have come.

And it has done just that, giving birth to Macie has brought this whole journey full circle.

It has shown me that its time. Time to move forward to the next season of life. Time to stop living in this shadow of PPA, of defining who I am because of it. Time to take what I have learned, all the good parts of my journey and carry them on into the next chapter. Its time to leave the hard parts behind, to say good bye to the fear, the worry and the pain.

I will always be open about my journey. I will always be willing to share my story. I will always listen to a mom share her struggles while she is in the depths of the battle…

But I won’t be there anymore. 2.5 years of my life is enough for PPA to have a hold of.

So, if your wondering, I’m okay. Things are great. I am happy, sleeping and enjoying summer with my kids. I am spending time with and dating my husband. I’m working along side him to build our homestead….

So you don’t have to ask if I’m okay.

I’m sitting here about to nurse my crying babe, with my kids fighting bed time, watching shark week and looking forward to the adventures that tomorrow will bring…

 

 

The name Macie is of French origin.

The meaning of Macie is “weapon”.

It is also of English origin, where its meaning is “gift of the Lord”.

It is also the female version of Maccius – a roman version of the name Matthew.

 

Life on The Homestead

I can’t believe that we have been in our home for as long as we have. This time last year, an old farmhouse with land, in a good area and not to far from family seemed like something that would never be attainable. We had just finally begun settling back to “normal” after a whirlwind move, followed by my 18 month battle with Postpartum Anxiety. We knew what we wanted, and we prayed and prayed for the right home, at the right price, to appear….

It felt like the kind of wish you wish for as a kid when you are about to blow out your candles – you know, the ones you know deep inside are asking for too much, but you still believe in the power of magic birthday candles enough to at least try?

Except,we were shown once again, that we weren’t wishing on magic candles, but instead pleading with the creator of the universe to fulfill this desire if it was His plan for us…

I mean, we felt like He had put it on our house to move home, save money, and figure out what we truly wanted our family to look like. A desire for a simpler life, one where we could get back in touch with who we were created to be, grew inside of each of us – without knowing what the other one was thinking. Until, one day we were planning goals for the future and realized that, in seeking the Lord’s will for each of our lives, that our desires and dreams had begun to take the same direction. We both envisioned a life for the girls filled with a love of the outdoors, working the land to produce and harvest our own foods, a barn with goats, chickens and a cow – all while being a short distance from family, work and Wegmans.

So, when we set out to look, we never dreamed we would find it. It just seemed as though we had too many desires: not only enough land in an area of the county that was less restrictive on its agricultural guidelines, but a house with character – old, but not falling apart – and big enough for all 6 members of our family.

We originally turned this house down. We just didn’t see the potential. There were things on our list that it didn’t have – a full size barn, pasture fencing, or many modern updates. It also had less land than we originally thought we wanted. So, we pulled our offer and kept looking…

only to be brought back to this home again and again. We could afford it. Most of the updates were cosmetic. We weren’t really ready for livestock just yet. It had enough bedrooms and a separate school room…

and then we realized that the amount of land was enough to do what we wanted to do according to the guidelines in the particular area this home was located in.

So we put in another offer, a little higher than our first knowing that there was some competition.

We waited….and waited….and waited….

and then we got the call. Our offer was accepted! We were so excited! But, a few things still needed to be worked out, so the owner decided he wanted to meet with us directly (apparently that isn’t normal real estate procedure?).

So Matt and I went out to the house to meet with the owners, who turned out to be an incredibly sweet, kind, caring and generous older couple. The man and Matt hit it off immediately and we were told the story of the day our offer came in…

The owner was driving to meet his real estate agent to sign an offer that he was going to accept, only he couldn’t remember where they were supposed to meet. Apparently, after going to the wrong place, he decided to just go back home and figure it all out later that day. While he was back at home, our offer came in – slightly higher and non contingent. If we had waited until the next day, the house would have escaped out grasp. It was as if it was all orchestrated to fulfill a part of our family’s plan…

And shortly after moving in, we knew that it had. This house has turned out to be more than we could have imagined. The girls are THRIVING here, we’ve made it our own, decided to add one more member to our family, drawn closer together and successfully finished our first full year of homeschooling.

We brought some baby chicks into our family, and built the a chicken coop. We’ve seen the girls grow in responsibility as they learn to care for the chickens, and our new farm dog Sophie, and we can’t wait to add more animals to our family a little at a time.

We’ve also begun our first garden here, and its huge. I can’t wait to see all of the vegetables growing on our property. We’ve discovered apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees and raspberry bushes as well. We can’t even believe how blessed we are.

Its amazing to feel as though we are exactly where we are supposed to be this season…

and since we are new to this whole lifestyle, I’m starting a new, semi-regular series, documenting all the ups and downs of building a homestead. It should be pretty comical, as I can barely keep flowers alive. We are reading and devouring everything we can on various topics, and then trying out what we have learned! Its been so much fun, and our home isn’t just a place we live anymore, but its also our hobby, our interest, and our refuge.

I’m including some pictures of the house itself, and parts of the yard, since I know some of you have been asking to see it. Its hard to get everything in a few pictures, but I’ll be adding more with each additional post, so stay tuned!

Learning From Our Kids

Before I became a mom, I never knew how much we would learn from our children. We’re supposed to teach them, help them grow, guide them to finding themselves and then send them off, right?

I was so wrong.

Becoming a mother so young, I have spent the last decade of parenting learning more about who I am, who I want to be and how to get there than I have actually teaching.

My kids teach me incredible things everyday – they teach to be patient, to react with anger slowly and to think hard before I speak. They teach me to explore, to wonder, to imagine and to create. My girls ask the hard questions, trusting fully that the answers I give them will be the right ones. They have taught me to seek the right answers and to be honest and content with saying “I don’t know.”

Their personalities give me insight into who they are, and the possibilities of what they can become ignites a fire inside of me to discover my own endless possibilities…

They remind me daily that they were each created by a master artist, who took the time and detail to knit together every little tiny nuance to create a perfectly imperfect, unique and awe inspiring human being.

To be honest, in the crazy of the day to day, I am more likely to focus on the things about my kids that I don’t like, or the things that I am resentful at times of dealing with. Parenting is hard. There is no guidebook, no instructor, no black and white. What works for the first child rarely works for the second, and days string into endless battles with strong wills, defiance and sin.

But, let me encourage you if I can, about how those battles can turn into victories you never saw coming…

My second was diagnosed with a mild sensory processing disorder around the age of two. Truthfully, at the time, I didn’t even know what that was. The things the doctors pointed out – crying tantrums, the need for more rest at that age, an unwillingness to talk in front of others (she could talk, she just wouldn’t), the inability to handle being dirty, sticky, covered in food, mud, paint or ANYTHING without melting down – all seemed like normal toddler issues to me. I mean, I KNEW she was different than my first. I couldn’t put her down for months, she cried a lot, and taking her places was difficult because she became overwhelmed easily, but I didn’t think it was an actual “problem”.

We did all the things the doctors suggested – purposefully upsetting her routine to try and make her more flexible, alternating days of being out with days of recovery at home, encouraging her to make messes and stay messy, and teaching her new coping mechanisms at each age milestone.

In my raw, and extremely selfish moments, I was angry at times. I didn’t know how to deal with it. The rest of the girls are outgoing, spontaneous, messy (unfortunately) and mostly excited to try new things. Their personalities line up so well with mine that I got them! I could discipline them, or connect with them without trying too hard.

But number 2 was different. I couldn’t connect with her that way. I could snuggle her, try and calm her down and shift our schedule at times to suit her needs, but I just didn’t get why we had to.

And then, my 4th was born and I plummeted into Postpartum Anxiety that turned my world upside down. Suddenly, my personality was different. Anxiety plagued me, outings exhausted me, and overwhelming situations sent me into cycles of panic attacks. If things were out of order, out of my control or out of routine, I panicked. I created rituals and attempt to control my environment to make me feel better, and without time to myself in my created space, rest was elusive…

I have since come back from that place, but it was on the way out, in a random moment of clarity one day, that I realized something devastating….

This is how my child feels the majority of the time.

I was heartbroken, guilty, upset and angry. With no one in our home to relate to her fully, I wondered at how often she had felt alone and misunderstood. How many times had I lost it over a tantrum that may have actually been a panic attack? How many times had I pushed her to participate when she needed time alone? How many times had I sent her back to bed in the middle of the night, because I was tired from feeding the baby, and left her to dwell alone in her anxiety?

I started to see her different. I related to her. She could see it. She seemed different, like she felt safer. We learned new coping mechanisms together, and as we faced each difficult season and change for her, we worked together on ways for her to cope. Her anxiety wasn’t triggered in the same way mine was, but we navigated it together – her with a new, understanding advocate, and me with the empathy and compassion that I hadn’t been able to find before.

She has grown so much in the past year, and has discovered a confidence she didn’t posses before. This past weekend, despite her proclamations that she would not get on stage, we dressed her up in her recital costume anyways and told her she could decide when it was time for their dance.

I sat in the audience with a different kind of anxiety – wondering how she was feeling, if she was okay. As her class walked out on stage, I was so excited to see her sisters, but I wasn’t sure whether or not she would be up there.

Right in the middle of all the little girls, there she was. She was on stage. She was dancing and doing the whole routine. She was SMILING.

I was sobbing.

And in that moment, I learned what bravery really is. Being outgoing naturally, it is easy for me to do things, like get on stage, and still be in my comfort zone.

In that two minutes, I watched my 5 year old step WAY outside her comfort zone to accomplish something that was equally as important to her as it was scary.

The pride in her when it was over illuminated from her as she walked.

Seeing her pride in herself made the struggles of the last few years worth it. It erased every struggle, every tantrum, every moment of frustration. It made every second of learning to cope mean more than I could have imagined…

But, it did something else too. Her decision to get on stage erased every remaining ounce of resentment that I have carried from my own battle. I realized that without my journey, I would never have been able to truly understand what that moment meant for her, I would have never been able to understand the level of bravery, the difficult choice, and the resulting pride in herself that came with her walking out in front of a room full of strangers.

In that moment, my daughter showed me what she is made of, and became an example of someone I want to be.

Catching up…

Tonight I came across a post a friend of mine shared about not making excuses for our messy homes and unwashed hair as mamas…

It got me thinking. How many times have I gone around the house after everyone has fallen asleep and counted up all the chores that were “behind”? How many times have I lamented over never having a clean house? How often have I stressed over the fact that the table was sticky, the floor wasn’t mopped and there were dishes still in the sink the from the night before?

I shuttered at the thought of time wasted worrying about the things that don’t truly matter.

This season has been one of letting things go and focusing more intently on the ones in my care, including myself. Being sick has a way of doing that – of slowing things down to a more manageable pace. In the past it has been followed by a hurried catch up, burning the candles at both ends to get back to reality.

I’m making a decision.

Not this time.

What on earth am I attempting to catch up to? When have I never not been “behind” on housework, whether it be laundry piled up in the laundry room, or a kitchen floor in desperate need of mopping? Getting so caught up in an attempt to do this motherhood thing “right”, has me worrying about the less important things and putting the ones that DO matter on hold “until I get                  done…”

Waiting…

for the house to remain clean

for the kids to be bigger

for chore charts to miraculously become effective

for the day when I can count on a full nights sleep

for the day I can assure myself that I will be showered and in clean clothes before the women arrive for coffee….

Waiting, for a day that, if I’m being honest, isn’t on the horizon anytime soon.

And in the waiting, the very worst thing, is the joy I am missing out on right in front of me….

sticky counters that come from the blessing of little hands helping in the kitchen…

dirty sinks stained with toothpaste from little beauties learning how to take care of themselves….

mud on the kitchen floor from feet too excited to show me what they discovered outside to remove their shoes….

socks strewn on the floor in the living room from a husband too tired to toss them in the laundry basket because of his willingness and determination to work hard for his family….

As the dishes from dinner tonight went undone in favor of snuggling up on the couch to watch the Bernstein Bears before bed, I began to look at my messy house in a new light.

My house is full of an abundance of life. Nurturing, learning, growing, healing, rest and yes, MESS happens here because of the blessing of life, and not just any life, but life well lived…

And that is worth leaving the chores until the morning.

New Victories

I am writing this to you all from my death bed…

Okay – that was a little dramatic. But, my entire family has the flu (as in myself, my husband and all four girls), so its basically the same thing. I’m going back and forth between comforting sick kids, refilling juice cups, keeping track of times for tylenol and then falling asleep myself on the couch….

Its been, a little overwhelming….

but you know what I haven’t been doing?

Having a panic attack. And that’s huge for me…

This time last year (and I mean EXACTLY this time last year – the timing is insane) we were all home nursing a TERRIBLE stomach bug. And, I really mean TERRIBLE. We replaced every blanket and sheet in our house after that week since most of our kids weren’t able to understand how to NOT throw up on EVERYTHING. It lasted ten days and I was a wreck.

See, it was coming up on Holy Week and I had a million things planned for making Easter a  big deal in our house that year – and none of them involved the Easter bunny. I had spent weeks prepping and preparing these fun activities that taught my kids all about what Jesus had done for them, and why and I was SO EXCITED.

So when the bug hit, I was livid. I was sad. I was freaking out. My plans were ruined. My kids would have a horrible Easter. I tried everything that I could to end our stomach bug sooner. I cleaned floors, counters, furniture and beds again and again – even though I was just as sick as everyone else, in an effort to make us better in time for Easter weekend.

When I failed and Easter came, I melted into a puddle of anxiety and sadness. I had the first panic attack I had had in months, and that panic attack led into a month long anxiety relapse.

I was confused. I thought that I was healed from my struggle with anxiety. I felt defeated, broken, and back to square one.

What I hadn’t realized, was the amount of self sabotage there was during that week, and how much I still needed to learn from my battle with Postpartum Anxiety.

For some reason, letting go of everything that week and not being able to make my kids have a memorable Easter in spite of being sick made me feel like a failure….

On top of that, I didn’t make any of my own needs known that week. I didn’t try to make sure I was getting better. I wasn’t willing to just back up dirty laundry and wait until I was done throwing up every ten minutes to take care of it. I didn’t hop into bed the second everyone was sleeping. I didn’t ask anyone to drop off fluids, juice, medicines or food. I didn’t make a plan to trade off sleep with my sick husband so we could both heal…

I just pushed forward. I kept going, taking on everything myself and then falling apart when I couldn’t.

Self care has been a huge lesson I have learned over the last year. The first year of recovery from PPD was all about not being anxious anymore, but this last year has been me learning what different things may have triggered it, or made it worse…

One major thing is this notion that I need to do it all, and do it all alone. I CHOSE to have a big family, and I chose to stay at home. This is what I always wanted, and I LOVE almost every second of it.

But, it doesn’t make me weak to learn when I need help. It doesn’t make me a failure of a mom if I don’t run myself into the ground trying to do everything on my own. I am not less of a woman if I say I need to take a break, or I am too sick to take care of my kids on my own…

So this time around, from my hospital bed I texted friends and family and enlisted help. I lined up overnight sitters, allowed people to drop off goodies from the grocery store, I let the mess pile up for a few days and I slept…

Did I miss my kids?? Yes – a lot, it was harder than I thought.

Did I feel terrible that we didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year with green pancakes and some Lord of Dance? Yes! I may have even cried a couple of tears…

but it wasn’t the pervasive, overwhelming anxiety and sense of failure that came with the PPA attacks, but the normal “I am a mom and I’m sick and hate being away from my kids anxiety…”

Now all of my kiddos are home, and all of them are at some varying stage of flu illness, but I’m not overwhelmed. I’m not panicking. I emailed the co-op coordinator and let them know we won’t be in class on Monday, church knows we won’t be there on Sunday, and I’m just going to play it by ear next week to see how early in the week we can leave the house….

I  have some fun Easter activities planned, but I have low expectations of getting them all done and I am okay with that.

I don’t ever want to go through PPD again, but I am so thankful for the testimony that it has given me. Had I never battled debilitating anxiety, I don’t know if I would have really learned how to take stock of what I need in order to be healthy. I may have continued running at 100 mph, without asking for any help, without taking care of me, and may have missed out on all of this great life in front me.

I am thankful for the occasions now that cause us to slow down, that allow me to stop and check in on how I am feeling and figure out what I need to do in order to make sure that I am the best me I can be for my family….

Empowered by Nudity?

Its been a month since my last post, its been crazy busy around here. We’ve been bogged down by sickness for the better part of February and seem to finally be on the upswing…

I know I am a few days late to jump on this whole Kim Kardashian band wagon and truthfully, I wasn’t going to even write anything, but I can’t stop thinking about it. You see, we have cable, but we don’t watch much television (other than Disney Junior!), my kids aren’t on social media and we have the luxury of avoiding those school bus conversations since we homeschool….

We SHOULD have avoided hearing about Kim Kardashian and her nude selfie on Instagram, but we didn’t…

Because every major news outlet mentioned it, radio hosts talked about it and eventually I had to find an article to see what this whole thing was about….

Once I realized, I was appalled. Truly. Not so much at the photograph, because let’s face it, there isn’t much these reality stars could do that would shock me anymore, but it was what she wrote underneath it….

I’m not quoting her exact words here, but to sum up her post she stated that posting a naked image of herself on the internet was empowering…

Empowering.

Maybe for her it is. Perhaps in her chosen life path and career posting that picture felt empowering. In her circle, in her life she has people telling her that the outward appearance of her body applies directly to her self worth and her CHOOSING to share it with the world empowers her…

and the mother in me feels sad for her. I wish that someone would pull her aside and tell her that there is so much more to her than how she looks naked, how much money she has or who she is married to…

but the mama bear in me is ANGRY. In our culture today, there are droves of girls who look up to her. While I would like to question their choice in a role model, the reality is they look to these reality stars, who are seemingly famous for nothing, and they mimic them in the hopes of becoming famous themselves, or at the very least increasing their own self worth.

So, what happens when a 14 year old girl’s favorite reality star posts a naked picture of herself on Instagram, calls it empowering and seemingly supports the damaging “send nudes” movement amongst teens?

Her sudden stand against sending nude images of herself to the boy asking for them loses some weight. Her confidence in her decision to not follow suit with her peers begins to waver. She begins to define her self worth more and more by what those who view her body think about her…

She wants to avoid the teasing and tormenting that comes with standing on the opposite side of the crowd, but every time she takes her stand, she believes herself less and less. If the media is calling it empowering, then it must truly not be THAT BAD.

So she sends the picture.

Regret, shame, guilt, fear – nothing can take that picture back once its in the hands of someone else. The receiver has the ability to do whatever they please with it. If she is lucky, the receiver only shows it to a few friends, but refuses to send the actual image on to anyone else…

and if she isn’t, the receiver forwards the image to anyone he/she pleases, posts it on the internet, adds it to one of the many “slut pages” that are popping up in school districts across the country, or uses the right to do any of these things as a form of exploitation.

Being a kid themselves, most of the receivers of these images don’t even understand the negative ramifications of their actions.

See – Kim Kardashian already has a career, a life, enough money in the bank to live off of forever and is an adult who can choose to do something that may warrant negative reactions…

These young girls following suit don’t have any of those things. What they do have once they send one of these “empowering images” is a higher risk of anxiety and depression, a very scary chance of their image getting into the hands of an adult who has the potential to harm them, and a lifetime of their image potentially popping up on the internet. They have the very real situation of having a harder time academically because of the peer issues they face at school, and are much more likely to have LOWER self esteem and LOWER self worth, valuing themselves less and opening the door for more choices that could prove to have negative consequences…

These girls are not old enough to make a choice like this.

But they are….

and every time they hear about it in the media and hear it being referred to as a positive thing, they are at risk for making a choice that could affect them forever.

I wish this wasn’t an issue for our adolescents, but it is. This generation coming up into adulthood soon has more opportunity to make mistakes that could haunt them for a lifetime than we ever did. Their naivety and the very real danger of exploitation, child pornography and sex trafficking is a major threat to them.

So – here is my plea. Stop sharing, liking or commenting on these media articles that promote or talk about the nude images of these reality stars. Every time you add your opinion to them – even if its negative – you allow more and more people to see it.

And talk to the tween/teen girls in your life. Be a true example of an empowering woman. Be open about what self worth is truly made up of, and let them know that you stand behind them when they stand against the peer pressure…

And if you only do one thing, don’t look the other way and pretend that this isn’t happening.

It is. And the cost to these girls is too high for us to ignore it….

A Typical Day..

Never actually looks the same around here.  I think that has been the hardest part about homeschooling, finding out the routine that works best for us!

When I was lesson planning over the summer, I had all of these amazing ideas of how our week would love, filled with lots of reading, laughing, projects, exploring and of course – school work.

At the end of our first week, I cried. I realized I had no idea what it would really be like, and that my expectations were way too high. I overwhelmed myself with books on different methods of teaching, and for a month I was convinced I was doing everything wrong.

See, there a a million different types of homeschooling families and a ton of different ideas on HOW to teach kids…

Some of the main methods of homeschooling are:

“Unschooling” – also referred to as “child directed learning.” The least structured method of schooling, parents that choose this method allow their children to follow their interests in choosing topics, then they attempt to organically fit in the different subjects taught through the lens of that topic. I believe it varies from family to family, but I assume that being mostly child led, each day would look a lot different from the rest. I know a lot of families who have fallen in love with this method, but I knew right away it wasn’t for us. I wanted something a bit more measurable, with somewhat of a routine…

So then we looked into another method of learning – “Unit Studies”. I wanted to love this idea. I began planning our months around specific units (history and science typically), and then included writing assignments, reading, health, and bible around these topics. It went well in the beginning, but I began to crave even more structure to our day…

So we moved onto researching what I thought would be my most favorite method – the “Charlotte Mason” method. Modeled after the teachings of Charlotte Mason herself, this curriculum focuses a lot on reading, dictation, and time spent outdoors. It incorporates a lot of life skills to reinforce subject matter and prides itself on not “watering down” subject matter for children, but instead pulling them up to the level of the subject matter. On paper, this is my absolute FAVORITE, the ideals of instilling a love for learning, independence in developing new skills, and the emphasis on great literature fits completely with our values…

But, actually translating those ideas into our “new normal” turned out to be too much of a culture shock to our household. We had to scale back, and while we still enforce a lot of the ideals of Charlotte Mason in certain subjects, I wouldn’t call our schooling style “Charlotte Mason” by any stretch of the imagination.

What I did find, was that I was gravitating more towards a classical education for my children, without even knowing! I had stayed away from researching this more structured, and rigorous form of educating children because I thought that it would not fit our family style at all. Then one day, out of sheer desperation for direction, I cracked open my obligatory copy of “The Well Trained Mind”. As I was reading, I realized that classical education was much different than I thought! The emphasis on good writing, excellence in reading and the mastery of academic skills necessary for adulthood actually DID fit in with our ideals. I also realized that, while some classical families tend to follow a more demanding academic routine, classical education could be molded into slightly less structured, yet still academically sound curriculum that allowed us to add in some of the best features of each of the other schools of thought!

Finally, I had a revelation! After months of doubting, questioning, wondering and having full blown panic attacks over choosing the “right” school of thought for out family, I realized that I didn’t have to pick just one! We went into homeschooling to educate to the best of OUR CHILDREN’S needs, not the direction of one book or another on how to teach!

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So where does that leave us? Somewhere in between all of this! I realized that our family does better with a combination of structure and freedom, and that is OKAY!! We tend to do all of our subjects in the same order, so that the kids become used to the routine of school at home, but we start and end at different times, depending on what outside classes the girls have that day. Two mornings a week we are out for playgroup for the preschoolers, and gymnastics for Autumn, so the bulk of the work is completed in the afternoon, where we also typically don’t do any formal preschool work because of the additional instruction the little girls are getting from sources outside of the home. The other days, school work is done first thing in the morning, and ends in the early afternoon, where crafts/projects/free time or resting time will take up the rest of the day until dinner. Fridays is typically swimming, which rounds out the girls gym requirement (dance, swimming and group sports games at Awana fill in the rest of that requirement).

Our typical schedule looks something like this:

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Bible during breakfast – reading, discussing or following a devotional, we let where we are that week lead our bible study time.

Math for Gabbi – which is mostly independent because we purchased a computer based instructional program. I do sit with her at least one day a week to go over all the problems she has struggle with to see if we need to add in any remedial work, or if we need to take a step back and repeat a concept. During this time we also do our “formal” preschool – which is usually a letter study, small craft, song, counting and simple math, and then independent crafting.

Grammar – Writing  well is such an important skill, so we study grammar daily. We use a more rigorous Abeka curriculum, as well as editing all journal entries and writing assignments together to fix grammatical errors. I have seen a huge improvement this year!

Writing – Also focused on daily, we study different types of writing through our unit studies, grammar focus or just for fun. We don’t use a curriculum because writing is my happy place! We have studied: journaling, creative writing, responsive writing, persuasive writing, writing letters and we did a full research paper this year! Moving forward this year we will be covering character development, theme forming, setting, poetry and more story building techniques! I’m so thankful that this is my daughter’s favorite subject because it allows us to have fun everyday.

Reading – Another area where we don’t use curriculum, we are using reading time to both enhance the girls vocabulary, comprehension and writing. I made a book list at the beginning of the year and we spend time daily reading both out loud and independently. I use note taking methods with Gabbi to see where her comprehension is, as well as verbal discussions of each chapter. Were going to be looking more closely at character, setting and theme development the second half of this year using more fiction! The first half of the year we read a lot of non-fiction and focused on the ability to learn concepts through reading.

Science and History – this is where we focus solely on unit studies!! We are using a two whole units of curriculum for history by Homeschool In The Woods (stay tuned for a full review on this FUN way of teaching history!!), New World Explorers for US History, and Ancient Egypt for world history. The girls are VERY excited to start Ancient Egypt in a few weeks! For science we have done a unit on the human body, a unit on nutrition and will be doing a second unit the human body covering diseases and hygiene later on this year. We group health into science, because for these units go hand in hand. The best part about these unit studies are that the little girls love to join in and I can really modify each activity so that everyone can participate at their level!!

The rest of our days involve studying topics of interest, learning new skills, spending time outdoors, or enjoying our extracurricular classes!

This post got much longer than I expected it to! So, I am going to end it here for now. Next week, I will tackle the topic of socialization – the ever popular question that we get from concerned citizens who don’t truly understand what homeschooling your children is REALLY like!

Face to Face

I’ve noticed a trend lately….

Mom’s on the internet posting incredibly personal information and questions in online mom groups, gleaning advice from women they barely know.

What started out as a way to communicate with local moms on parenting advice or local happenings for families has turned into a replacement for deep, meaningful and connecting friendships.

I get it. Trust me. Motherhood is ROUGH. Trying to make time for anything other than keepings the kids alive, while trying to juggle a home, and for many full time jobs, can seem like an impossibility. So we retreat into our homes, throw on our pajamas and open our computers, using the screen in front of us for any amount of adult interaction that we can grasp.

Social media is an AMAZING gift to our generation. It can connect us in ways that we were never able to connect before. We can develop friendships with people we otherwise wouldn’t have met, find communities with the same values and opinions as we do, and keep tabs on those we have lost touch with on a regular basis…

But, in the same breath, social media can be a detriment to a part of is that can’t be filled by a computer screen.

Community.

Relationship.

Real, raw, open, honest, accountable and loving friendship….

The lonely parts of our soul long for face to face connection. The void can be temporarily filled by an online connection, but it only lasts for so long.

We were NOT made to mother alone. The years in the trenches are exhausting, demanding, overwhelming and worst of all LONELY. When we become mothers, and each time we add another baby to the mix, we are faced with the daunting task of finding ourselves again.

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Whether you know it or not, you need someone to come into your space and say “I see you.”

You need to HEAR a person laugh with you over the craziness of your life, to cry with someone when things get overwhelming, to talk through feelings, decisions and struggles audibly.

We were designed for face to face communion with other moms. We were designed for deep and meaningful friendships.

So, ladies….

I am calling you out. Out of your homes, out from behind your computers or the guise of your latest smart phones, out into the community of women who have found the freedom and blessing that true, open, honest and loving friendships bring.

If your local, and home on Wednesday mornings, I encourage you to come on out to our weekly playgroup. The coffee will be hot, the kids will be corralled, and the conversation will be flowing. Come in your pajamas, come unshowered, come exhausted and defeated, come late, whatever it takes, just come as you are! You can find the time and address here. 

If you aren’t local, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone and join a local moms group. Don’t have one? Then host an open playdate, invite that friend you have been meaning to see over for coffee, or head to a local play area and start a conversation. There are even downloadable apps (MomCo is one I recommend, especially in some larger cities where there seems to be more moms using it!) where you can find playdates with other moms!

Sound scary? I’ll admit, it can be. Making new friends is HARD. Inviting moms into our mess without worry about judgment can be frightening….

But, I promise you, you won’t regret it.