The Family Mission Statement

First off, let me say I am sorry for the one week hiatus. Things were a little crazy with the holiday weekend, so I had to take a little break from writing..

But, I am back and feeling rejuvenated!

self care for the win!

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(The girls enjoying their picnic on our little homestead on the 4th!)

So here I am penning the much awaited family mission statement post. I don’t know why I have gotten so much feedback about people waiting for this specific topic to be posted about. Maybe its because there are a lot of us in the midst of this transition from survival mode to purpose mode, or because having a mission statement that fits our family sounds like it paves the road to freedom…

whatever the reason is, I am glad that you’re here and I hope that you are excited!

So, whats the deal with mission statements? Or what is a family mission statement?

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In truth, its just putting the direction and purpose of yourself, or your family, into a written and tangible statement. What are the overarching ideas that you want to govern your home? Where are your priorities right now? What do you want to be important that maybe gets pushed to the back burner?

We talked two weeks ago about creating a list of priorities (its a long post, but worth it – you can read about it here). Hopefully, if you’ve been working on this list, you now have a good idea of what direction you want your family going in. These priorities provide the base for your mission statement. They kind of govern the key points you want to have in your statement.

Now, you can write a mission statement a number of different ways – you can be more and less specific than the next person, have a short or long statement, include lots of detail or have something more general. Remember, this is YOUR statement, for YOUR family – so surrender to the freedom to make it your own!

So here is how I put ours together:

  1. I looked back over my list of priorities: as a refresher mine were: my relationship with the Lord, my marriage, raising the girls to love the Lord, making homeschooling a major part of our lifestyle, and growing our homestead. I have specific ideas of how to go about these, but this is just a general overview.
  2. I started playing around with how to word them in a way that made a solid statement. I had seen some in the past that seemed a little too formal for my liking, but I also really wanted to get specifics in there. After awhile, I came up with this:

In this family, we serve the Lord first. We seek to know Him, to love Him, and to be obedient to Him above all things. In this family, a healthy marriage is the backbone. We promise to make time to nurture, protect and grow in our marriage through time alone, regular date nights and making our marriage a priority. In this family scripture reading, prayer and learning about the Lord will take precedent over most things. We will strive to bring up our girls in an environment where they understand the love the Lord has for them and to bring each one up to fulfill the roles and callings that the Lord has on their lives. In this family education is important. We have chosen to homeschool and we give priority to creating an environment conducive to learning. We promise to give the girls the opportunity to grow, explore and discover the things they love and the things that move them. We will strive to offer grace and to adhere to Charlotte Mason’s statement that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.” In this family, we want to create a legacy of hard work and self sufficiency. We long to grow in our knowledge and skills in homesteading and we promise to devote time and energy to developing this lifestyle that we believe God has called our family to. We believe in the rewards and blessings that come from working with our hands, sustainably growing our own food and humanely raising livestock. We will journey together as a family as we learn and become more efficient in this area. We believe that if we devote ourselves to these areas of life in this season that we will continue to fulfill our purpose and calling. We are committed to measuring commitments and opportunities, as well as habits, up to these things to see if they are beneficial to the goals of our family in this season. 

So I know that this sounds a little on the formal side still, but once I started writing it out, I wanted it to have purpose and meaning and to sound strong. You need to lean into the personality of your family and find the wording that works for your lifestyle.

The best thing about all of this is that we are free to tweak and change things as life evolves and seasons change. But, there is a freedom in developing guiding principals for your home. We all only have so much time and energy we can give – and when we realize that we can edit our lives to fit where we are now and the things that we love, there is joy that naturally follows.

For a real life example, I have had to step back from certain things that I thought would be beneficial but just ended up stressing me out.

I have been invited to join multiple mama groups for homeschooling moms. Each one of them has all of these amazing things that they offer in terms of fellowship, encouragement and growth for moms who homeschool – and all of them seemed like they had something that I NEEDED. But, in truth, one thing I need more than anything else is time at home as a family when Matt is home, and time to rest and recuperate alone. Some of these wonderful groups meet at times where I would have to trade family movie night or an earlier bedtime to attend. So I had to really take stock and evaluate what we were already involved in and how that was serving the areas I felt we were lacking.

  • Our homeschool co-op provides wonderful opportunity for fellowship and encouragement at teacher’s meetings. Going to this meeting provides me with a time for growth, adult conversation and time away from the kids. Shifting how I viewed this meeting really showed me what a blessing it truly was.
  • Our twice monthly group that I had thought of leaving because it cuts into “school time” provides FREE classes and fellowship for the girls, fills a need for me to fellowship with other moms and meets at a time when Matt is at work. Compared to other groups who met in the evening, didn’t allow kids and would require me to make new friends instead of investing in relationships that I have already started, the time spent attending this group actually makes more sense.
  • Because I can count on these events monthly, I am free to stop feeling the need to say yes every time I am invited to another group to fellowship with other homeschooling moms. In addition, now I also have the freedom to find time to spend with some of these moms one on one and strengthen individual friendships.

It may seem ridiculous, but I am the type of person who has a really hard time saying no. I would say yes to events, groups and things I thought I “should” attend, and then feel guilty or resentful the whole way there. Now, having things in writing doesn’t suddenly make the ability to say no come super easily, but it does give me the encouragement and motivation I need to say no because I feel like I am sticking with the plan and the purpose we are creating.

Okay, I promised myself that this wouldn’t be a long post! And here I am rambling on and on. I hope that you find this helpful! If you are looking for some accountability or feedback, I would love to you to come and join our conversation over on Facebook and share your mission statement! I’d love to see them!

And don’t forget to go back to the priorities post and enter our giveaway! I’ll be announcing the winner tomorrow morning!

One Year

of intentional homemaking.

I remember when my idea for this series first popped into my head…

we were in our old house, had ONLY 4 kids and my personal/emotional/mental life was a mess. I don’t know why I thought I could keep up with a series like this at the time.

Fast forward and here we are living out our dream on this little homestead, raising 5 girls, homeschooling and the list goes on.

Moving, starting homeschooling, having another baby, and building a homestead have pushed the intentional part of my homemaking into survival mode.

No intention. Feed the kids. Keep them alive. Teach them all the things. Sweep the mess under the couch. Fall into bed exhausted. Repeat.

Its been crazy and I have felt crazy. BUT, things are starting to really fall into place. We’re on our second year with the massive garden, we wrapped up year 2 of homeschooling (and we survived!), our new house is feeling like home and baby number 5 is turning one!

I finally feel ready to stop surviving and start THRIVING again. However, I know that it doesn’t just happen overnight. Homemaking isn’t something that has always come naturally to me. I am THAT mom – you know what I’m talking about – the one who changes her family schedule every month, has a new method of discipline each week, rearranges her furniture constantly in an effort to motivate herself to keep up on the chores…

Part of the problem is that I never really took the time to figure out what being a homemaker even meant to me. What is this role that I put myself in? How can I become great at something I can’t define? Am I just the person who cooks the meals, cleans the house, runs everyone to practices and makes sure we don’t go over budget? Am I the decorator, maid and chef? Is there even a “right” way to do all of this?

There is. But “right” isn’t going to look the same for all of us. I always tell other moms that the best advice I have ever received as a mom was that my family and home will NEVER function the same way another family and home function – and that’s okay. In fact, its MORE than okay, it’s how God intended for it to be. You see, if I am living under the belief that our family was knit perfectly together by the ultimate creator, then I need to realize that what works for someone else may not work for us.

And that is where this series comes in. What originally started as a way for me to post about all the new things I was going to try to make our home life great has morphed into a series where I plan to get down to the core of our own home – and document how we got there.

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This year is about intentionally creating the home that THIS family needs to move forward on the path that God has for us.

So why follow along?

Because I want this series to encourage you to figure out the unique homemaking skills that you possess and to embrace them to create a beautiful, safe and comforting place for your own family to grow and thrive. God has these incredible, marvelous, exciting plans for these children he has placed in our care. This season can feel so much like we are just trying to stay afloat. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram can make us all feel like we are falling short. Comparison has become the core of our generation – but we all know that comparison is the thief of joy. The Lord wants this season of our lives, as hard as it is, to bring us peace, joy and growth.

The first three posts in this series will help us to begin to set the direction for our homemaking by covering how to:

1.Write a family mission statement.

2. Set our own priorities and goals for ourselves and our home.

3. Tackle our space and bring it line with the mission and goals for our family.

I hope that you will follow along and join me on this mission of moving from surviving to intentionally thriving…

This season of raising littles, being a wife and taking care of home takes so much effort on our part. The world seems to have moved on from recognizing the hard work that goes into creating a home where our families can reach their fullest potential. Sometimes its hard to feel like we are constantly being told that we are “just a mom” – but let me point out that you are anything but that. Our service to our families is something that brings glory to the Lord, and when it is done intentionally with Him in mind we realize that this calling is truly one of the most important ones that we will have during our brief time here in the world.

God sees you mama. He sees your efforts, He understands your struggles and He wants to walk this journey with you. Lean on Him, allow him to be the strength in the midst of your exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy.

I am so excited to go on this journey with you!

Here we go…

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Homeschooling?

Why would you want to do that?

This is a question we get asked A LOT. Thankfully, it’s mostly by moms who are genuinely curious about this education option that many seem to be unaware of…

So I figured that I would do a little background on why we chose this route for our family…

First of all, let me state that homeschooling is a legal alternative to public or private education. There are millions of kids across our country that are homeschooled, and homeschooling can look different for each family. Some families may use a relaxed approach, while others may use a rigorous curriculum or online school. What each family has in common is the desire to provide a tailor made education for each of their children. In NYS, homeschooling families must register with their school district. We send in a letter at the beginning of each school year stating our intent to homeschool, followed by a detailed outline of the grade levels of each of our students, what topics we intend to cover that year and what method or curriculum we will use. Homeschooling families provide quarterly reports to the district, just like teachers within the school district itself. At the end of each year, each student is assessed by someone other than the parent – either by test or review of samples of work from the year. While other states have much more loose restrictions on homeschooling, NYS requires the most oversight from the district.

So, what led us to this decision?

This answer isn’t as simple as “we don’t agree with public school”, or “we have such strong convictions about…”. For some families, these answers may fit and that is totally OKAY, but for us the decision was more about what we wanted for the girls vs. what we didn’t want. It is no secret that our schools are filled with so many kids that it becomes nearly impossible to reach every single student, and it is impossible to create a tailor made education for each individual student allowing for strengths to shine and weaknesses to be attended to. Teachers do an AMAZING job at trying their best to accomplish these things, but their are limits to what one can do with so many kids and a restricted amount of time. What I envisioned for my kids was an education where they could each thrive individually. I wanted to be able to research curriculum and choose what would help each of them learn best. I desired the ability for them to try new concepts and work at each one until they felt as though that had mastered it. I longed for the idea that they could not only discover their own strengths, but also have endless time in their formative years to strengthen their own weaknesses. But, above anything else, I wanted them to learn how to learn, to develop a passion for seeking out answers to their questions, and to figure out how to gain knowledge in something on their own! This invaluable skill, in my eyes, would lead to a lifelong ability to grow, learn and discover anything they desired to. It would create well rounded members of society, adults who didn’t run from problems but discovered how to solve them…..

I could go on and on, but I won’t. We have been so blessed with the ability for me to be at home with my girls, to have the time to study them and learn how they learn and then to provide them with the tools they need. I am so thankful to be able to give them access to curriculum, literature, classes and other adults who are masters in various fields. I am thrilled to be able to walk this journey with them. Is choosing homeschooling a sacrifice? In some ways, yes! We are committing to me staying home indefinitely to be able to provide our girls with the best education we can. We are saying no to things in order to say yes to the time we need to devote to this adventure….

But, even more importantly, we feel like we are saying yes to God in this season.

Because, for us, we feel like this is the direction our family is being called to!

Do I disagree with public education? Not at all. I think access to education is an amazing gift that we take for granted in this country. I can’t believe the plethora of people there are who devote their lives to educating the coming generations, and I believe that they do not receive the credit (or the pay!) that they deserve.

Do I think that homeschooling works for all families? No. I am a firm believer that every family’s story is supposed to be specific to them. There is no right or wrong way for a family to look. Loving your kids and committing to raising them to the best of your ability, following your convictions and striving to live joyfully and peacefully is so much more important than finding the “right way”.

However, for us, being almost a whole school year in, I think that we have made the right choice. As you will see in future posts, we are having a blast. I love being with the girls, and they are thriving. We change our lesson plan almost daily as I witness them whip through something I assumed would be difficult, while finding we need to devote more time to things I thought would come easy. The girls’ personalities are evolving as they see themselves growing…

And if I can brag on my kids for just a second – my 4th grader is exceeding every expectation I had. I have discovered that she CAN do well in math if given the time, but the perfectionist in her struggles with self-doubt when things are done incorrectly. I have watched her take the time on a difficult lesson, only to come running to the kitchen to excitedly tell me that she only got one problem wrong. I have discovered she is a fantastic and incredibly creative writer, a deep thinker and she has become an avid reader.

My 4 year old is learning to take risks. She has discovered courage and bravery this year. She is amazingly artistic, while being equally logical. She doesn’t love reading yet, but thrives on stories. And this girl can follow directions better than her 9-year-old sister! She is such an attentive listener….

My wild child is learning to spend time alone and become independent of her, only slightly, older sister. She loves to be taught ANYTHING and begs to “do school”. She is a math whiz and loves to dance. She asks a million questions and is beautifully fascinated by everything.

And the baby is no longer a baby. She can literally figure out how to do everything on an iPad. She speaks in full sentences and loves to make everyone laugh. She wants to be like her older sisters and will sit and copy everything they do. She loves to count money and stairs and is so loving and encouraging to her sisters. She is learning all about how babies grow and loves to talk to Macie. I can’t believe she will be old enough to “do preschool” next year!

I will continue to update this series with specific projects we are doing, curriculum reviews (honest and unpaid!), events we are a part of and answers to various popular questions regarding homeschooling. I truly hope that, even if homeschooling is not written into the story of your family, that you will find this section encouraging and inspiring as you participate in all aspects of your children’s education!

Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom…

and guess what? That’s okay.

It took me a long time to admit that. It took me a long time to “forgive” myself for needing any sort of medical treatment following my battle with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.

Every morning I would get out of bed, drag myself into the kitchen, open the cupboard and take out the little orange bottle with my daily anti-depressant in it….

The label may as well have said…

“FAILURE”…

“You are weak, you wanted a big family but in truth in you can’t handle it, and now you need to rely on ME to make it through your day…”

I opened the bottle every morning and took my medication feeling defeated. Hopeless. Broken.

Then the fog lifted…

The light shined through some of the darkness, and I emerged from the anxiety feeling triumphant! So I did what every normal, sane, rational woman who never struggled with mental illness in her life would do…

I stopped taking my medication. I was healed. I was fixed. I didn’t need it anymore….

Until I did. One day, out of the blue I had a panic attack. We had been sick for weeks as a family, no one was eating well and everything was upside down. My body didn’t have enough energy to care for all of the physical needs around me, and my mind was too mentally exhausted to process the stress of the situation.

I called my psych – who I happen to love – and told her what was going on, and that I had stopped my medication weeks ago…

Her words struck me hard….

“You need to get back on your medication.”

I was devastated. I had failed again. My mind keeps continuously giving up on me, and I didn’t have the strength to fight back on my own anymore…

3 weeks into starting the medication again, the anxiety lifted and I was functioning like a normal, happy mom – still facing regular stress – but not flooded with panic anymore.

But there was still a shame in taking my medication, in needing it in order to be “me” during this season.

Then a friend once said to me…”If you had a heart illness, you would take heart medication without shame. If you had a stomach illness, you would take stomach medicine without shame. Having a BRAIN illness should be no different…”

We get so caught up in the term “mental illness” that we feel like there is something wrong with us if we need help during a season.

I felt as though I had a breakthrough…

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Needing help is NOT a sign of weakness. Realizing that I have areas of life that I struggle in and working on those to create a better me is a strength.

Ensuring that I am the best me – physically and mentally- everyday is a gift to my family, allowing shame or guilt to creep in and keep me from the steps I needed to take to heal would have left them with broken pieces of me that I was trying desperately to put together on my own.

So I will continue to take my medication, until I feel like I truly don’t need it anymore. I will take my Xanax if I am suffering from a panic attack, and I will not feel ashamed about it. I will embrace this crazy, stressful, fulfilling life and all the crazy that comes with it…

but I won’t add my own crazy by sacrificing my mental health…

We have to take care of ourselves mamas – in WHATEVER way that looks like for you. Therapy, self care and medication are NOT signs of weakness. We are not perfect and life is so messy.

So do what you need to.

Get the help you deserve.

And then shout it from the rooftops, because there is no shame in needing help.

 

**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Any medications that I have taken throughout my journey have been prescribed by, and closely monitored by a board certified Psychiatrist. I recommend meeting with one if you think medication is something you may need, and let them decide the best course of action for you. Always take medications as prescribed by your specific doctor. **