Friday, November 14, 2014

Because...Pancakes


A friend of mine from the gym posted a pancake recipe yesterday. She's all about strong, all about eating right and not messing up her training, so I was guessing that if she posted a recipe for a pancake it couldn't bad for you. It consisted of two eggs, a cup of oats, a banana and some vanilla.

I called my son and said, "I'm going to make you a guinea pig."
"Why? I'd rather have it as a pet than breakfast," was his smart reply.
"I mean, you're the guinea pig. I'm making you a pancake."
"Oh! Cool!"

I tried it. It worked, sorta. Didn't overwhelm us with goodness, but meh...But I really. Wanted. Pancakes. Now...since she posted that and I was post-workout and hungry.

I decided that round one of her pancake "recipe" didn't quite cut it, so I tweaked it, and round two was perfect. Pancake perfection. I am sharing it with you. I'm nice that way.

I give you "Guinea Pig 2.0" (Gluten Free pancakes)

In a powerful blender (I used a Vita Mix, but any conventional blender on liquefy will probably do) add the following ingredients:

4 eggs
1 banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut milk, almond milk or milk
a few drops of liquid stevia or a little honey
1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda

Blend until liquid
Pour into a hot well-seasoned cast iron skillet or griddle, wait for bubbles to pop, etc...Makes 10-12 pancakes, depending on how big you make them.

These pancakes are thicker and fluffier than crepes but not super thick and dense like some other GF pancakes that I have tried. They are a perfect texture and lightly sweet. My whole family loves them. I'd love to know how they work out for you, so, leave a comment!
Enjoy!

* I have since doubled this recipe a couple of times, with good success.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Week is It Now?

Truth is, I don't care a bit. 

The last two weeks we have been slowly feeling our way back into school. I decided to keep the kids on track with their math, science reading and history reading. We are continuing with our Wednesday co-op for my younger daughter and her friend. It's just the two of them so it's very low-key and a great thing for her to look forward to each week.

The things that require a whole lot of "Mom" we are putting on hold until I am able to juggle it all. Right now, I am truly appreciating the quiet and time alone or with my husband and kids.

The school work is getting done--no one feels under a tremendous amount of pressure and the kids seem to really be enjoying what they are learning. They are also enjoying my willingness to be with them, to really do things with them like watch a movie, lie and snuggle, sit and color for long stretches of time...I too am enjoying these things. They are soothing and healing.

For nearly two weeks after my mom's memorial service I found myself in a kind of fog or perhaps it was more like a bubble--as though the world was going on and I couldn't participate, but I could watch, and indeed there was part of me that really wanted to be around people and activity, but I didn't want to participate. Thankfully, for the most part, my close friends seemed to understand this.

C. S. Lewis described it like this in A Grief Observed:
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. 
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I wan the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.
Suddenly, it was as though someone turned off a faucet and the inexplicable weeping stopped and I began moving through the days, but still felt a bit numb. Then one day the kids were having their music lessons and I heard them. It's not that I couldn't before, but I really heard each song, each note, the voice of the teacher instructing them, and their voices and notes in response. It was like coming out of a long sleep or a strange illness...and I felt alive again. Since then every fall color pierces my heart, every song, my soul, small activities take on much greater meaning, and the mundane feels perfectly fine with me. It is all coming back to me...what it means to really be alive. To feel again without a constant haze of worry and sadness hanging over me. I didn't realize just how heavy it has been or for how long it has been part of me, but I'm guessing it started about 5 years ago when Mom really started to show signs of Alzheimer's.

I am continually receiving news that Mom's affairs are being settled, accounts being dissolved and final accountings being made. It all seems so final. So strange. That soon there will really be nothing left to show that this woman ever lived, only proving that all of life is truly just a breath.

Day by day we will live and love and carry on, hopefully with renewed purpose and intention, digging deep to plant seeds that grow fruit that will produce far beyond our own usefulness and well into the next generations...It's what she would have wanted...


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Breaking the Silence

I have been in a writer's slump for quite a while, but it has been due to a much greater preoccupation with things that were more important than blog-keeping. It was this thing that sucked dry my well of thoughts and reasons to write. My mother was reaching the last stages of her battle with Alzheimer's and I had her on my mind. All the time. The way I felt about it all was to retreat into myself--I hated talking about the A-word, or the struggles my mom was having near the end. This was her dignity, and I felt deeply private about it all. I still do.

On Tuesday, October 7, my dear mom went home. My sister, brother and I were with her constantly for her last two days. My brother was with her when she took her last breath. 

The remainder of the week we made preparations for her memorial service and fielded all the phone calls. My husband mercifully took the week off to be with me. Friends blessed the kids with invitations to play, tended to my emotional needs and have taken time out of their schedules to cook, shop and or just be with me if I want.

It has not been quite two weeks since her death, but I still feel as though I am in a fog...a thick cloud bank that is exhausting to navigate. The kids need to get back to school work, but I could not feel less motivated. I suppose tomorrow we will attempt to return to some sense of routine. I will get back to writing sooner or later, I suppose. I find it more comforting at the moment to write on real paper with a real pen. The thoughts that are deepest and most private belong there. This is where I belong right now.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Week 4: My Favorite Season

The weather this week was a bit dreary--clouds and rain, drizzle and a not-cold-not-warm dampness that I don't love. On the back side of it however, we are seeing crisp, cool October weather and big, lovely blue skies that make October my favorite month of the year.

We decided to celebrate the arrival of fall with a field trip to the National Zoo. We had a lovely time, and both of the kiddos had a friend with whom to enjoy the day.








Wherever we went the animals were very active. We especially enjoyed seeing the Pandas in the indoor enclosure, as it was not crowded at all and we could have a really good look. We even saw the baby, but I  couldn't get a good picture because she was curled up in the corner on a ledge sleeping and we couldn't see her sweet wittle facie. We could only see a mound of black and white fur that kept shifting positions into a tighter little ball as she went about the serious business of napping. Mom on the other hand, ate bamboo, walked around, stood at the door and looked out the window "asking" to go out," pooed a giant-sized panda-poo, and did all the things you would expect from a panda. Another highlight was seeing the lions--6 cubs pouncing and tumbling, scratching on trees and being adorable. The Dad lion was just hanging out in his area, but all of a sudden he got up, stretched and then started roaring. It was very unnerving and resonated so deeply, I felt like it was in my belly. I won't deny that I considered the possibility of the poor guy having a hairball...

Here is a video of what we heard, though this is not the lion at our zoo.


Otherwise it was a pretty normal school week. Matt finished his first paper, and I was very pleased with the result. Molly continues to work steadily and build confidence in every subject. She is expressing interest in writing beyond Writing With Ease and learning how to write paragraphs. I will certainly oblige her!

This week we will take another field trip to a Kennedy Center show and the National Cathedral.

On, on! And let the October skies prevail over clouds and drizzle!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week 2: Short and Sweet

Week two is in the bag. A successful week, on the whole.

Timeline work for TOG
We started out the week with our regular routine. I am particularly pleased how TOG is going for Matt. He is doing excellent work on his timeline and map study, and is working hard to get the reading done in a timely manner. He also attended the two-day life and physical science intensive held by Landry Academy. We had to drive nearly an hour to get him there both days, but it was worth it. He seemed to enjoy the scope and depth of the labs, learned the correct way to write a lab report and enjoyed the other students who were participating.


On Saturday morning he awoke with a terrible cold.

Molly worked diligently on the three days that her brother was home, but once he was out of the house and attending the science intensive, well...I'm not going to pretend that we didn't slack off a bit. We did math. On Friday we went and exercised with friends. Loads of fun. Friday evening she went with us to pick up her brother in the quaint little town where his class was being held. We arrived to discover a homecoming parade underway and a festive atmosphere. We ate dinner in an Irish Pub called "Molly's" and enjoyed some fun family time.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Week One: Better Late Than Never

It took us a while while to get going this year. In nine years of homeschooling, it is the first time we have ever started later than the public schools started. Normally we start a week or two or even three before, depending on how organized I am.

This year was a combination of factors, not the least of which was my preoccupation with my Mom's health. In addition to that we had the added complication of our group co-op situation changing completely.  Finding ourselves completely on our own, we had to make adjustments.

One of the things I felt I HAD to get done before starting school was a good, thorough cleaning of our  basement--the toys, the carpet, the upholstery. I'm not completely OCD, but I know a dirty room when I see it and it becomes depressing to me after a time. We've had a couple years of playing friends, school, family movie nights and general traffic without a sound carpet scrub and I was ready to get it spruced up. So I did. Beautifully.

Monday I was ready to roll and was surprised to discover how ready the kids were, as well. They dove back into their work with real gusto and by Wednesday I was amazed to find that we had found a nice groove already. By today (Thursday) we had our first meltdown, and well...the beginning of the school year is complete!

The 8th grader's week included grammar, latin, spelling, vocabulary, literature, algebra I, science, history, and geography, sign language, mandolin, and piano.

The 4th Grader's week was full of Math, spelling, literature, science, history, art, geography, sign language and piano.

My basement family room / school room / play room / art studio / computer lab / where we live was clean, bright, and full of life (and cats) this week. This is reason #438 to homeschool. Home is the best.

We usually have to negotiate with the cats for table space...
see?
comfy reading spot...
our work desk...
at the opposite end the kids have a computer that they share and a big desk which is used when more desk space is required.
The kids decided to set up all the play mobile sets in the clean, open floor space!
"I heard there's a zoo here?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Exchange Student



Mama Deer seemed to be asking if her baby (you can see his rump off to the right) could come and join us. It is hard to tell just how close she is from the photo, but believe me...it was strange to have a deer looking into our house at that distance. She was not really bothered by us, and I was tempted to open the door to see if she would come in! She darted off when my son thumped upstairs to get the camera, so I could only get an iPhone shot of her.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Finally!

Today we start. Nearly three weeks after I intended, but life happened in the form of a family emergency that consumed all of my attention.

The kids seem ready to begin the routine and my daughter is ready to do everything today except spelling, which she declared we could "save for another day." (sorry, kiddo...)

So goodbye summer--finally. Even though we are starting late, it all seemed to fly by...

The Beach
CrossFit regionals (Met Ben Smith! Woot!)

Rolled in mud with cousin.

Took the Ice Bucket Challenge

Met more CrossFit faves--Christy Adkins of the DC Brawlers! 

and here we are...supposedly ready.

3...2...1...
GO!



Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Convergence

the wind scatters leaves in gusts on the street,
as I watch,
they are gathered,
(invisible hands) 
tumbled, 
tossed,
raised in a little vortex of perfection--
a moment,
a mysterious convergence.
just as quickly
they are released,
free to fly about on the wind again.

© Kelly Mine 2014

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Back to School Day, but not for us...

Today is September 2, the day after Labor Day and the rest of the world went back to school today, if they hadn't started already.

We spent the day in the ICU with my mom.

That has to be okay.

Life is so fragile. Sooner or later we'll get back to the routine of academics and life.

In the meantime, I want my mom to know that we are there for her and that we love her.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Counting Down to Day 1...


This is the condition of my desk at the moment. It was my intention that this be done by now, but I am in my happy-place...planning out the calendar, the schedule, the units that we will study, and assembling the plan for the year overall.

I said before that it was a weird summer. It had some very lovely moments, but overall, I am quite ready to move on to a new season.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bittersweet Changes

It has been a long and strange summer. I remember saying to a friend last spring as the school year wrapped up, "I feel a season of change coming," and I wasn't wrong. I have had little or no inspiration to write or blog, as I didn't have anything that I felt was constructive to say about much of anything. In some cases I had little inspiration to do much of anything! With regard to school issues, I felt tired and very uninspired. As I sit here writing I am glad to say that  this feeling has passed, but only because in fact, this season of change has come to fruition and now I am prepared to move forward. Normally by this time each year I have the whole calendar sketched out and notebooks set up and curriculum blocked out and set up for the year. Not this year. I haven't even started. It is t-minus five days until we start back to our academic work! Even so, I'm strangely at peace.

I have been blessed for the last five years to work with two other families consistently and other families that have come and gone from our group. We started out in Classical Conversations together, and then left and began meeting together for a smaller co-op based on Tapestry of Grace. This year, we have all reached a point where meeting together is not going to satisfy the needs of our families as it has in the past, and we are finding that we have to disband our little co-op. While I know it makes sense and is the right decision for all of us, it is bittersweet. 

These are the scenes that I will miss so much...








And with that I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Candace, Lynelle and Lisa for allowing me to participate in teaching your children. They brought me great joy! 

I look forward to posting about the plan for this coming school year as it develops over the next few days. Thankfully today I have a whole afternoon on my own to just sort things out...Let's see what develops!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Doldrums...

It's been a while since I last wrote. Funny thing is, I received one of the wonderful, random emails that I receive from time to time from readers who use Google, find the blog and actually take me up on the invitation to send an email. She said, "I saw that you haven't written in a while, but thought I'd give it a shot..." I took a chance and called the phone number she put on the email and we had a lovely conversation.

The truth is, I've been in a blogging slump. I've been in a homeschooling slump...When the school year ended, I went on vacation and didn't give lessons a second thought. Usually by this time of summer the whole next academic cycle is planned, books are ordered and organized, and I'm starting to rub my hands together in happy anticipation of the school year to come. Fact is I haven't ordered one book, cleaned up the school books from last year, or given a bit of thought to what we will be covering. It's a bit disconcerting, but worrying doesn't help. I know from experience that every year is different and how we go about each year is not a copy of what we've done before. I think the Lord simply hasn't chosen to reveal to me what He has for us yet this year. We are taking a bit of a trust walk, and that's okay.

But there are these other things--I've been busy with church, CrossFit, kids' activities, and life. The house is never cleaned all the way any more and I have to take things on in small chunks. It is not how I work best, so I'm learning a new paradigm. I have been digging deeper into some hobbies--guitar, art, lifting weights. (what? did I just write that?) This week I had to go to my sister's which is three hours away to see my mom, who has Alzheimer's. I need to do this much more often than I manage to do. I need to tuck in, nurture my family, care for them deeply.

So I don't know much about what this year will bring, but I do know this: I will tuck in. It is my hope that this year will be one in which we stay close, "tucked in" together and relishing the luxury of time to spend on adventures in the Middle Ages (Tapestry of Grace, Year 2), read together, work on math together, learn how to be caring, creative, fit, healthy, whole together...My heart is quiet, but the plan seems to be just on the horizon.

Seeing my family these past couple of days reminded me that there are so many things that can interfere with what is most important. It was necessary that my mom see me. Necessary that I got to love her and remind her of what my hug feels like, even if she did think my sister was my mom! I know that her heart remembers, even if the synapses aren't firing on all cylinders! My heart was so filled with love and joy, even in the grief of this awful disease. I know that this is just going to be for a millisecond of eternity, and then life will really start for Mom. I want to be there for her, for my sister and niece, for my kids, and my husband completely and fully on this side of eternity.

L to R, Me, my niece, Mom and sister!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reflections on Easter

I love Christmas...I love the tucked-in warmth of family time and gifts and the focus that we place on love and human kindness. It is my favorite, in a sense. Every year when Christmas comes I am so happy because of the mystery and the miracle, and let's face it, there is such an element of humanity there--God becoming flesh and being born--mom in labor, baby arriving and guests coming to visit, and then the high drama of parents fleeing for his life and the life of all humanity, all so we can have the next holiday.

But then there is Easter. Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, Lent and Ash Wednesday...this 40-day anticipation. It is not tucked in. It is not even necessarily happy. It is public, and visible, and painful if entered into fully. It is an acknowledgement of the end of life, the truth of who we really are and the judgement that we deserve. It is an identification with the reality that we are sinners, and for 40 days Jesus faced intense temptation on an empty stomach, face to face with Satan and proved that he was not. So for 40 days we remember.

And then this man who was not a sinner, who had a mother, who had a family of brothers and sisters, a huge following and the weight of the world on his shoulders is falsely accused, beaten and brutally murdered, betrayed by one of his closest friends. Good Friday. Good because he laid himself down for us. Horrible in the reality of what we did to him. True story.

Then Saturday. Silent. Waiting. Knowing the end of the story but imagining all that must have been going through the minds of his family and friends. Waiting for Sunday because of longing to hear that one word...

Throughout Lent the word "Alleluia" is omitted from the liturgy. For the purpose of reflection and a reminder of the gravity of our sin, we do not celebrate. We wait.

Last night I had a dream that I was in a church with people that I know and love all around me and it was Easter morning. We were singing the hymn "All Creatures of our God and King" which has a refrain of "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia" in it. I found myself nearly swallowed in the Alleluias, the highest word of praise. The truth. I could not help but close my eyes, raise my hands, and in the moment was aware of fact that every single person there was compelled to worship in the same way. We were lost to ourselves and completely surrounded by the Truth of the Resurrection!

There is this unspeakable joy that overcomes me every single year on Resurrection Sunday. It is not a time to be tucked in with family and celebrating humanity. This is for public display! This is running through the streets and preaching material! This is the end of death if you will claim it, the end of suffering if you will believe it, the beginning of eternal life if you will have it! This is freedom! There is no law or regulation or ordinance that can defeat it. There is only the hope that we now have, and the joy that nothing can overcome us if we are in Christ. Nothing.

Alleluia. Easter is my favorite. Every. Single. Year. Forever and ever and ever. Alleluia.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Everything in its Season




Ecclesiastes 3:1
For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.

This is one of my favorite chapters of scripture. As I move through life, I have learned more and more that there are seasons for things. Everything we traverse is part of a season and as sure as winter changes to spring, so do seasons of life. Whether it be in life, death, sickness, growth, laughter, quietness, or passionate pursuit, the season will change. There are seasons in learning as well, and we must not force children into a season where they are not. In fact, we cannot force them. Trying to do so only frustrates, and I know this from painful experience with my own kids. 

Right now I find myself in a season that has me pondering our purposes. In the outside world I hear a cacophony of noise about education--Who is best in the world?  How do we test? Should we standardize? Guess what--you don't have a choice in the matter! It's happening! What about college? Should everyone go? Do you have to go to be marketable? What does that mean, anyway???

Much of education seems to be tied to the sense that inner peace is somehow connected to the inevitable job at the end of the educational tunnel, and if you can't get a job, then all is lost. Check all the boxes, and at the end you can be churned out into the marketplace to satisfy someone else's whims and answer to their demands so you can take home a lousy paycheck and buy some Ikea furniture.

Much of this external cacophony can put pressure on parents who homeschool, and especially those who choose a different path than what is typically prescribed by school systems. Classical educators and unschoolers and eclectic Charlotte Mason types, or any other "type" of home schooler that there is cannot be a stranger to the unnerving sense that overcomes from time to time that says, "You're kids are freaks and will never be able to support themselves. What on earth are you doing to them?" 

Ah, but then there is this moment...

I was sweating and fretting because I wasn't having my son do enough writing, though I wasn't entirely sure what "enough" meant. I was trying to cram him through a curriculum that he hated, and when I considered what I would be feeling were I to do the curriculum, I would hate writing too. I had to evaluate what my objective for him in writing actually is. In fact, my objective is for him to be an effective communicator. So I backed off and decided to watch and wait, and yes--I even prayed about this. Then this happened...

After a particularly lively conversation about The Wanderings of Odysseus with our Tapestry of Grace Dialectic co-op kids, one of them piped up with, "Could we write a paper that compares the gods and heroes?" 

Me: Stare. Blink. "Uhhhhhm...Yes. Yes you can. I think that is a great idea." And so began our journey of writing applicable, difficult academic papers. All the kids agreed that this was something they wanted to take on, something that they want to learn how to do, and four papers later (in two months' time) have turned out some tremendous work. They have tackled the very difficult comparison / contrast essay twice (though normally I would never start there!), a biographical essay, and the art of effective summary. They have not balked, complained or winced when given difficult critiques, but have embraced them and applied what they learned to the next paper. They have asked to receive grades, and I have given them with the understanding that I will be honest in the assessment, to which they all nodded and said that they wanted it, even if it wasn't a "good" grade. 

None of these kids were being forced to write above or outside of their particular skill or age level up to this point. All of them have been allowed to develop at their pace and in their strengths. Now that they are ages 10-13 and very much in that dialectic stage where they want to interact with information on a deeper level, they have no qualms about asking how to do it. Straight up. Honest. Just like kids, but this time more like young men and women who truly want to know...

For everything there is a season.

It showed me once again, that I really don't need to worry. I have asked for wisdom about how to do this, and watching and waiting for my children's cues for readiness has proven the best course more than once! Each of these children has a season, and we cannot create it for them. We can only model, model, model what Godly, wise, healthy living is, and provide the guidance for them along the way. It is not my job to make my children. It is my job to guide them. When they are ready, I must be prepared to meet them on the path and show them the way, even when the season changes unexpectedly, brings storms and turmoil, and when there seems to be a drought. Watch and wait. Listen the the voice of the Lord who has placed me here for this very purpose. Be faithful. diligent. prayerful. loving. kind. compassionate. merciful. wise...in every season.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Longest Winter, The Loveliest Year

It is March 30, and usually by this time of the year we have already begun the yard work for the spring, beginning the process of turning the soil and planting spring flowers and garden vegetables. Today, however, we were deluged with about two inches of rain, snow, and slush, and five days ago we had about 4 inches of snow. Again.

It has been an incredibly cold and snowy winter for us in Virginia, where we normally receive a paltry amount of snow and winter is mostly a suggestion rather than a big experience. By the time winter is here, it is nearly over. We seldom experience enough of it to grow truly weary of it. This year, most people who live here are crying "Uncle!" Even so, I have been determined not to complain, because the cold and the snow helped the kids and me to have one of the best school years we've ever had.



While most of the moms who teach their children at home are burnt-out-done-with-it-all right now, I have managed to bypass this. I do not say this to boast--believe me. Most years at this point I am nearly deranged with burn-out. Not this year, and I had to sit down and evaluate why not. Four areas of focus seem to sum it up:

Attention to health: All four members of our family have been incredibly intentional about our health this year from clean eating to working out. I have been working out 4-5 days per week at our CrossFit gym (a.k.a. box) and my husband has joined me there. The kids attend their CF Kids class 3 days a week as well. And don't think I'm uppity about all this! Clean eating is not legalism--we have the occasional cheat day, such as a burger and milkshake after a day on the slopes or a dinner out at a grilled pizza place, but we choose carefully and make sure it's a treat, not regular fare.

Attention to spirit: A renewed commitment to our church family, regular time reading the Bible and praying, and spending time in good, deep conversation together has strengthened and renewed us spiritually and emotionally.

Attention to sleep: We have made a huge effort to get more sleep. It's worth it. If we are so busy that we cannot get to bed and get the sleep that we need, then something has to go. Bed is a priority, and it is paying off with better moods, more energy, more productivity and general well-being. Down with the rat-race--I'm sleeping when I need to from now on. Funny thing is, more sleep means I wake earlier and better and have more time for the other three things on the list. See how that works?

Attention to living: School at home is the best. Really, it is, but there are just those days when I cannot face another math or grammar lesson just because it's on the list and needs to be checked off. We set weekly goals, and there have been weeks we didn't meet them all, but went skiing instead. I have encouraged the kids to keep up with their Tapestry and science reading and projects because we have the accountability of the group to keep us on point, but in other things, we have all agreed that we would trade some book work through the summer in order to do more fun things in the winter. It works out to be a very manageable pace and schedule, and it all seems to get done. There have even been weeks we were ahead in reading. Learning to ski this long, dreary winter was the reward for working hard on the days we weren't on the mountain. Figuring out how to balance CrossFit and school time and give both the high priority they deserve is good mental exercise for both kids. Figuring out how to listen to tired bodies and back off from everything rather than be a slave to the check-list has reaped huge benefits.

When I compare the way I feel this miserable, cold, dreary March to how I have been in other years at this time, the difference is remarkable. Allow me to draw an analogy from CrossFit: WODs (Workouts of the Day) are designed to be difficult every time. They are intense and there is always the potential for "redlining," "hitting the wall," "burning out." Whatever word you choose, the point in a WOD is to stay just behind the red line. Chase it as hard as you can, but not to where you have to stop so long that you lose momentum and can't get back into the action. The point is to stay consistent, but intense so that you develop your metabolic capacity. We call it "staying behind the suck." When you can successfully do this you can say that you "crushed" your workout. If on the other hand you redline and continue to push, you cause injury to yourself and your efforts are negated by needing more time to recover.

It may seem a strange analogy, but the truth applies in everything we are currently living. Homeschooling is hard. If it weren't then everyone would do it. When we begin to approach that red line, that breaking point emotionally, spiritually, physically, so many of us keep pushing, thinking that if we just endure a little longer that things will be better. We do it because of fear--fear of failing our kids, fear of not getting that God-awful curriculum done, not to mention wasting money and frustrating the spouse, fear of disappointing the in-laws or fear of appearing to the neighbors as if the kids are just goofing off all day. Actually, things are not better after pushing. We are only more exhausted than when we started and the road to recovery is that much longer.

These fears are so counterproductive! One of the key reasons we homeschool is to teach our children how to live full, healthy, and productive lives, and we think that by stressing out both them and ourselves we will achieve that? No. We must model it. Who cares what the neighbors think?

Let me add this--if you have babies, toddlers and/or pre-schoolers while at the same time juggling the needs of older learners, you have a much tougher row to hoe when it comes to avoiding burnout. However, I do believe that this same balance and pace of life can be achieved, because I have seen it done, and done well.

This time next year may be completely different, but I hope not. Whether we have a cold, snowy winter or not, I hope I can look back on this school term and remember the skills we are learning. I want to continue to let go of what other people expect of us, and do what is best for my children and my family. I want to continue to listen to what God has to say about our lives and use that as our guiding beacon. I want to stay right here, but move forward at the same time, if you know what I mean...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Lighter Side of Learning to Ski

The theme of this past year of my life has been to live life, not sit on the sidelines. CrossFit has opened so many avenues of activity for our family...Being fit is a total game-changer. I went camping last summer for the first time ever, and went tubing in a chilly river for about 4 hours. It was loads of fun. I went kayaking with my kids for the first time ever last summer. Also, loads of fun. This winter, conditions have been perfect to learn how to ski, and this is the most fun I have ever had in my whole life. Exaggerating? No. I'm serious when I say this. I have literally gone head-over-heels crazy about skiing. Literally. Head over heels.

I'm not entirely sure why strapping two flat boards to the most uncomfortable shoes I've ever worn and careening down a mountain is so much fun, but for some reason, it is. I've heard people say that they hate skiing...the cold, the snow, the speed...Okay, but most people I've talked to really like it, and so I banked on those reports.

I sincerely wish I had a video report of my first day skiing. I would love to have watched myself as I managed walking with those feet or got off of the lift for the first time. A friend of mine told me "keep your thumbs in when you hold your poles" because her roommate in college broke both of her thumbs when she fell and her poles bent her thumbs backward. I opted not to use poles, so as to avoid the broken thumb scenario. So we went through the lesson and I fell a couple of times..I did not understand what he meant when he told me how to stand up. Off with the skis. Second try. That little bunny hill was steep, and long, and scary. Then the instructor took us to the top of the bunny hill and I had to get off the lift. I got off the seat and whoa! there was a steep ramp and I flew down straight off of the lift. I landed in a pile at the bottom and would you believe it, sprained my thumb! I landed on my right hand and my thumb bent backward under me. It's still getting better. I managed to make it down the bunny slope a few times alive, and by the end of the lesson was able to stay mostly on my feet.

After the lesson I ventured up to the green-dot slope next to the lesson area. It was fiercely steep and miles long. I got off the lift and didn't fall immediately. I started down the hill, careened wildly down the slope and fell spectacularly. I lay there face down in the snow to gather my wits and heard my daughter call from behind me, "Mom? Are you okay? MOooOm!? Are you okay?" I got up looking like the abominable snowman, I'm sure. I asked the eight-year old daughter (who was zipping along everywhere she went like an old pro after one lesson) "HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS?" She showed me the little snow-plow maneuver when she picked up speed. It didn't work for me. I wiped out again, this time under the ski-lift just at the moment when my friend and her daughter were floating overhead, laughing behind their gloves.

Even so, I got back on the lift and went again. I still had a grin pasted to my face, despite the fact that I spent half the time in the snow as opposed to on it. The lift operator asked if I was having a good day and I burst out at him, "YES! I'M HAVING A BLAST" and he kind of recoiled and raised his eyebrows and said, "Oh, well, good!" He probably turned to his colleague as soon as I was out of earshot and said, "Freaky lady."

After that first venture to the slopes, we went again, exactly two weeks later. I stayed on my feet a little better. I learned how to turn on my skis a bit more. I learned what an "edge" was, how to feel the weight on your downhill ski, how to get your skis parallel, and and how not to take your class group out like bowling pins by skiing right into the middle of them. Yes, that happened, and yes, I was the one skiing. I learned how to fall and "spin out." It's less fun than skiing but less painful than falling without any choice in the matter. I learned that sometimes the ski lifts go fast and you'd better be ready or you'll watch your little girl get swept away without you. I learned that they always stop the lifts for cute little girls who can't reach the ramp and get off in time. I learned that hand warmers are really necessary if you plan to ski all day in 20-degree weather.

We have found the most amazing burger place, to top all of this off. Elevation Burger in Frederick, MD is about 20 minutes' drive from the mountain, and I have to say there may be nothing better than a burger, fries and milkshake after a long day of exhausting exercise. My son ate a triple-patty burger with just everything on it. This is us, windburned, tired, but really happy about our food.


So far this is my skiing journal. We go again this week on Thursday, and I can't wait, though I realize I am taking my life in my hands through the entire experience, but isn't that really living? Here's to staying on my feet!

Let me just offer this piece of advice...don't wait until you are in your mid-forties to learn to ski. Do it yesterday. I'm sure you'll be better off!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Trying New Things in the New Year!

In light of my "Resolutions" post from a few weeks ago, I have been away from blogging and quite busy doing exactly what I set out to do.

I am happy to report to you that in spite of battles with tremendous anxiety, I have taken the kids to go skiing not once, but twice! This is a lesson in trying new things, which for me is always a challenge, but I forged ahead and did it. My question is "What part of homeschooling says we have to stay home and read books every day?"

our perfect powder day...

As I grow in our educational journey, I realize more and more how the particulars of their education will sort themselves out. I need them to be able to read, write, think critically and do essential math operations and higher math as needed. I feel deeply called to give them a strong foundation in history, faith, and freedom (and by that I don't mean flag-waving American rah-rah, but rather true, spiritual freedom). I want them to look back on their years of being in our house and think of school time as quality time with me and with each other that enriched them mentally and emotionally. I want them to look back and remember days skiing, sledding, boogie-boarding, beach combing, hiking and camping. I want them to consider political and financial positions that we take and think critically as to whether they are wise and fruitful. I want them to be problem-solvers in their lives and in the world around them. 

Trying new things is good for them, and it's good for me. It's good for me to model that even in one's grown-up years we can still be learners and can be willing to fall on our faces and feel foolish once in a while. I definitely have had my practice in falling lately, and had my share of snow in my face. So be it...I can't remember ever having more fun with my kiddos!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Prayer

Lord

Help me to remember that he is small—that his very life began inside my body, and that being close to me is his source of comfort.  Help me to remember that every time he says mama, it’s because he trusts me, needs me, wants me, loves me.

Help me to remember that he feels safe with me, and I can destroy that sense with a look, a harsh word, or a strike of my hand. Help me to keep my head, but when I err, help me to say “I’m sorry.”

Help me to remember that his heart is tender, and to be honest with him. Show me what he needs to know without corrupting his innocence. Our world is such a perilous place for the mind as well as the body—help me to teach him to keep his mind pure and his body safe.

Help me to remember that I am his parent, and that he needs me to be strong. Help me to set clear boundaries and be consistent in discipline, so that he will not question my authority, for this will help him to be obedient to you when he is a man.

Help me to remember that I, too, have limitations and will never be perfect. Help me to look to you for strength when I feel I have no strength left. Give me grace to be gentle when I don’t feel gentle, and wisdom when I don’t have the answers.

Help me to remember that his future lies ahead of us, and that our home is the soil in which his roots will stay. Help us to teach him by our example to be honest, wise, kind and gentle, and to season the world around him with goodness.


Help me to remember that someday, he won’t be small anymore.  Give me the wisdom to let go when the time is right and to joyfully trust that you have guided us in raising him into a godly man.

© Kelly Mine 2014

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

What I'd like to Think My 2014 Resolutions Are...

I don't make new year resolutions. I send Christmas cards, sometimes late, but I do not make resolutions. My experience has been that they are typically an exercise in human striving against a perceived failure or flaw, and battles taken up against myself and in my own strength are rarely won.

As I sit down to write this, I am in the middle of a frantic tidying of my house in order to make it presentable for friends who will come and hang out with us tonight. So of course it is the perfect time to sit down and write a fairly thoughtful blog post.

I came down with a fairly miserable flu-type virus last Monday, two days before Christmas. I had a fever and from there developed a horrible cough. I had not wrapped even one present yet. I had cooked nothing, baked nothing, and the house was dirty. This was not my idea of how Christmas was supposed to unfold. It has taken me over a week and some antibiotics (which is a huge admission of defeat for me) to recover from this. But God had one of the most restful Christmases in store. He blessed me with a concrete reason to say, "I quit. I refuse to do anything." And I didn't. I slept a lot. I didn't exercise once. (This is also a terrifying reality because I will be in agony when I go back, but that's a different story for a different blog.) I enjoyed being with my kids. I didn't care that the house was dirty. I didn't mind that meals weren't perfect. I just wanted to get better, and resting was what was required.

A lot of thinking came of my week of quiet nothingness. My thoughts (not resolutions) about this year have so much more to do with what I am going to do less of rather than what I am going to do more of. It boils down to worry less, enjoy more.

1. Worry less about cleaning, enjoy playing with my with family. 

2. Worry less about money, enjoy doing things with it. 

3. Worry less about school work and what the kids are learning, enjoy setting the kids free to learn what they want and yes, see resolution 1.

4. Worry less about no, enjoy saying yes, whenever possible, even if it's messy (back to #1).

5. Worry less about comparing my life to other people's and enjoy making mine what God means for it to be, in His strength and in his time.

I've always said that stress is to the mind and heart as pain is to the body. There is good pain--the kind that lets me know my muscles are growing and getting better and stronger, and there is acute pain, the kind that says, "Stop and let me heal." There is good stress--the kind that means I am growing as a person, and deeper stress that says the very same thing that acute pain says, "Stop and let me heal." When Christmas came I had reached that point, and it was time to stop and heal the body and the soul.

The first night I felt better, I suggested to my husband that we take the kids on a surprise family date. We told the kids to dress warmly and be ready to go when we said it was time to leave. We refused to give them clues as to what we were doing, which drove my son crazy, but in a fun way. We took them to the city (or just outside, actually) and took them to our very favorite burger place. Then we took them to an outdoor skating rink and went ice skating together along with three-quarters of the population of the state. They played Christmas music and "snow" drifted down on the rink making the perfect Christmas-card scene. Little Girl fell and banged her knee, so we took a break and snuggled close and sang a song...then skated some more, hand in hand. We came home with happy kids who were thanking us over and over for such a fun night together, and this made it all worthwhile.


I want more moments like these, so I'll try to keep it simple this year...

More yeses, fewer nos.

On a lighter note, I have some other things I want to do in 2014:

1. wax my eyebrows more often so it's not so painful every time.
2. buy new bath towels for my bathroom (been saying this for years)
3. do laundry every day instead of all weekend (been saying this for years, too.)
4. plan the weekly menu better so we're not asking "what's for dinner" at 6:00 p.m. (yup...years in the making, also.)
5. buy some new makeup (makeup just doesn't make it high on the priority list with me.)

And that is about it. These are the resolutions I may or may not get around too. I'll probably be sitting here next year saying, "yeah--that eyebrow thing didn't happen..." It's only a priority when they are actually ripping my face off...then I quickly forget.

Here is to a low-stress 2014. May all of your priorities be where you need them to be, and may your family be blessed because of it. Happy New Year.