You Are Loved

As long as I can remember, she has had that necklace.
It’s a simple diamond-covered cross on a gold chain.
I have never noticed her with any other necklace on.

And today she gave it to my daughter.
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My grandmother, my sweet Momo, has been fighting cancer for a long time now. I know it probably feels to her like it has been forever. It’s been a rough road for her. Y’all, chemo is no joke! And all down this rough road she has been the rock for the rest of us.

Come to think of it, she has been the rock down a lot of rough roads.

And while I can’t say we agree on everything or that we’ve never fought, I have always known and never doubted that my Momo loved me.

She loves so well. In our mistakes, in our differences, in our flaws, in our troubles, in my insecurity and fear and anger….she loves. I believe I have learned much more than I realized from her in this way.
Whenever we talk she always tells me that I am loved.
“Well, you know YOU ARE LOVED.”
“I know it’s hard but YOU ARE LOVED.”
“No matter what happens, YOU ARE LOVED.”
How can you doubt someone who is so sure of this, no matter what you do or say, no matter the decisions you make, they never stop telling you that YOU ARE LOVED? For almost 32 years I have heard this woman say to me that I am loved nearly every time we have spoken.

Lily turned six years old last week. But she is not your average child; she NOTICES things. She notices feelings, notices body language, notices undercurrents and she notices the extraordinary… and she noticed many years ago that Momo is exceptional.  In her observations, she also recognized that this necklace was something special to Momo. Lily told her she loved it when she was very young and has spoken about it many times. And so Momo made it up in her mind that this necklace should one day be Lily’s. In fact, she told me she planned to leave the necklace to Lily one day when she leaves this earth.

Today she came to Lily’s 6th birthday party. And she gave her the small diamond-covered cross on the gold chain. It was one of the sweetest moments I have ever been witness to.

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As Momo explained to Lily that she is a special girl and now a big girl, she took the chain over her head and placed it over Lily’s. Lily’s eyes full of awe and her serious face portrayed to us all that she understood this; this was special, this was a momentous act of love.IMG_1788

She took me by the hand a little while later and in a hushed whisper said “Mama, I can’t believe Momo gave me her necklace.” I don’t think she will ever forget today.
I know I won’t.
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Momo, we really, really love you. Thank you for loving us so well. For teaching us what that looks like in so many ways. For being sacrificial and unconditional in your love. You’re a shining star and YOU ARE LOVED.

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The Second Cup of Coffee

I sit here in the morning hours, my bible open on my lap. My kids, in their pajamas and costumes, playing picnic in a bed tent with plastic food. My dog laying beside me, full. Content. My house is warm as I snuggle under this quilt made by my hands and drink my first cup of coffee and periodically gaze out the window to the wonder of the river just there, in my view.

And I think of the 21 ‘people of the cross’ who died last week for believing in Jesus.

And I get angry at myself for my cushy life.

By some standards, my life is hard. Every few years my family suffers a major financial blow: several lay-offs, paycuts, months without work, unemployment….leading to times of part time jobs, plasma donation, cleaning houses and mowing yards, odd sewing projects. It’s almost exactly every three years that a job disaster arrives. Sometimes sooner, I’m sad to say.
There was five months once where, while my husband worked full time, we didn’t have the money even to rent a home and had to live with someone else- all six of us in one little bedroom.
We have never owned a home.
There have many more months than I will share that we had no choice but to use food stamps in order to buy food. And have been thankful for them.
There have been years the locusts have eaten in terms of finances over here.
Even while we tithe. Even while we strive to be debt-free. Even while we give up cable and vacations and new clothes and hobbies. Even while we sell beloved items and odd skills we can offer. Even while we drive beaten up old cars in lieu of car payments. Even while we move often to get the best rent we can find. Even while we try.
Even while.

And yet. I am a person of the cross. Allowed to drink this second cup of coffee under a quilt I made with my bible open on my lap. My kids have eaten breakfast (some of them twice) and so has my dog. There is a pillow behind my back.

I do not fear militant persecution because of my belief in the Christ- or for anything. I do not look behind me or beside me before I read my bible in public. I am not forced to cover my head because I am female. I am not forced to live in a hut without protection from the elements or bugs or creatures. I am not in fear that my children will catch malaria- or even the measles.

I don’t have the “American Dream” but I do. I do have a cushy life.
And so this morning I can choose nothing but thankfulness.

Can you imagine if I lamented this? A warm home to live in, food to eat, coffee to drink, a job for my husband, the chance to educate my children how I see fit, a safe place to live- so safe that we can publicly criticize, loudly, our town governments if they don’t scrap the snow off our street in a time we approve of! What would you think of me for wanting more? I hope you would think it was foolishness.
Can you imagine how ridiculous we all sound about square footage and car trouble to those who are starving? Can we just take a minute to consider how silly it is that we argue over other people’s clothing choices when there are human beings in actual slavery all over the world? How insane is it to have debates over the translation of the bible you prefer when there are believers who’ve never held an entire bible- an entire book from it? It is a reality that we have fights with people over infant feeding choices, education choices, lifestyle choices while there are millions of children in our world, in every country of the world, who do not even have families. We call ourselves persecuted when the person who rings us up at Target doesn’t say “Merry Christmas.” Folks, come on now.
It is time to fess up to our cushy lives. To look outside of our walls. To pray and to care and to be affected by the 21 people of the cross who were beheaded for confessing Christ. For the countless others in other places who have been truly persecuted. It is time to wake up. There is a whole world outside of our cushy lives.

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Snow Day

Well, as you know, snow and ice pummeled the south this week. As this isn’t a frequent occurrence, we all tend to flip out a little bit. (Trust me when I say my husband and his family get a big kick out of our southern aversion to snow days!)IMG_1279

As for our little family, we now live waaaay out in the country. Our roads aren’t salted and they aren’t scraped or plowed. Access to the main (clear) roads is complicated and in some ways and on some days, impossible: winding roads, bridges, mountain passes…these are not easy to maneuver in a snow storm. Our road is several inches of solid ice.IMG_1250

But I actually love this.

I love the seclusion of this old farmhouse anyway.

But I love this entire week of time at home with my family. I love that all our nightly obligations were cancelled, that we have spent all these days reading and laughing and sewing and playing and eating. I’ve read so many say they are going stir-crazy being trapped at home by ice with their kids…but not me- I love not needing an excuse to be a bit of a hermit; a secret dream of my heart. When I read Little House with my kids I don’t feel sorry for Ma, I admire and envy her. Her bravery. Her strength. Her tenacity.  Her knowledge on how to use God’s natural provisions to take care of her family. If only I had half her skills! But I envy the most that she was not only expected to be at home, she was revered for it. So often nowadays, family is secondary. People are condemned in books, magazines, articles, in the media for being a parent who chooses to make her career caring for her children. It’s seen as lazy or dependent; less than. Every decision made by an at-home parent is scrutinized. And frankly, this makes me feel both angry and disappointed.  Family was meant to be the primary drive for everything.

I am not naturally a snow person. And I’ve been through a snow storm, then with three kids, with no power.  And that isn’t fun. I’m not one for frozen toes and wet gloves and red cheeks.IMG_1206

But the truth is, when the snow and ice force us all to stay in our little homesteads, we find ourselves forced to turn inward. Be glad for the “Alert” messages canceling all your obligations. Less distraction, less worry, time for freedom, time for fun. Relish this! Seize this time! Be in the moment, make your family everything.IMG_1377IMG_1205IMG_1287

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lily learns to SEW!!!

For Christmas, Miss Lily was given a sewing machine by your’s truly. She had been asking and asking for one and I just wasn’t sure she would really use it. However, as time went on, she stayed determined that she wanted this. Badly. She noticed machines at every store, especially the toy machines (which I considered greatly until I learned they do not truly sew- which I knew would frustrate and disappoint her.)
So on Christmas morning she unwrapped this gift with great delight. I can’t say I blame her, it is the cutest little pink sewing machine you’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s name is Pink Lightning.

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We moved just after Christmas (literally) and there really was no time to open it and teach her to sew.

But in January we got our chance. In our own sewing room, no less!

She was quite a natural. We watched a couple videos on YouTube about sewing safety and learned all the parts of the machine.

She had been given fabric from Momo (my dear grandmother) for a gift on Christmas Day and knew she wanted to make a pillow from one of the patterns. The joy she had at her success was infectious and soon the boys wanted pillows made by Lily, too. We took a special trip for “boy fabric” a few days later and now everyone has a special Lily creation on their bed. I’m so proud of my seamstress in training!

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I do want to add that we love this little Janome machine! I read so many mixed reviews. It is sturdy, does not bounce around for a tiny machine, and is the perfect size for kids or for travel. My favorite thing is that it does not sew very fast- I had read on several blogs to put a sponge under the pedal of a machine in order to make it sew slower even if the pedal was pushed down hard. Since she is learning I thought that sounded brilliant. With this little Janome we did not need the sponge- it’s literally the perfect machine for my little Lily Lamb. We have enjoyed sewing together several times and I can envision many more projects to come!

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Another Day, Another Project

A little while ago a friend posted something on Facebook about possible church pews that would soon be available for sale. She said to let her know if interested. I did. Her childhood church was beginning a new building project and the old pews were sitting in storage and needed moved asap. Sounds perfect I said.

Then forgot about it.

Then the friend messaged me this past summer. Said the pews would be ready to go soon, did I still want one?

Um, yes.

Do you Pinterest? Gah, I love Pinterest. And I’ve pinned, say, maybe 20 pictures of church pews already. I’m down for whatever in regard to these pews.

And it is fantastic, y’all.

It came with an old cover on the seat.

Underneath was old scraps from another, even older old cover on the seat.

And staples. Oh my the staples.

But look at what came underneath.

I love my pew. (Sigh.)

In our old house the pew was just fine and dandy. But in this beautiful farmhouse, it has a real home. It belongs.

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back from hiatus: blowing up the blog

I’ve been on hiatus.
Not just from the blog but from DEALING.
Back in September, we tried to buy a house. The American dream. Every body does it. Except us, apparently. Because after five weeks under contract we found out our financing was not going to go through, citing the reason that Not The Mama had not been in his job long enough. We were attempting a type of loan where you do not have to have any money down. (Isn’t that amazing?!) I will try not to get into how I DO NOT UNDERSTAND how people EVER have enough to put 10 or 20% down. I mean, whoa!
Anyway, it fell through. It was rough. I see now the reasons and I’m actually glad it happened. (Yes I just said that.) But it was rough. We had made grande plans, turned in a notice to leave our rental of three years and packed 90% of our life in boxes, ordered new address labels…the works. This was our first time in homeownershipland or almost-homeownershipland and it was full of important lessons.

As it turns out, we had to move anyway and we landed in a friend’s gorgeous renovated farmhouse on the Watauga River. We truly, truly could not have asked for a greater blessing than staying here for a few months. It has been healing, in the best of ways, in so many ways. I do not know what the future holds, I do not know where we live 5 weeks from now. I do not know what is coming down the road. But I am choosing to trust in the Lord….while I sip my coffee and gaze at the mountains. It doesn’t get much better, folks.

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homelearning: what we are studying this year

Today we began YEAR TWO of this homeschooling adventure!

Ok, ok, we actually began in August and that’s how long this little gem has been sitting in my draft box!

One thing I’ve learned in my first year of homeschooling is that homeschool moms love and hate to talk about curriculum. There is a sense of ‘did I choose the right one?’ rolled into ‘does someone else understand my day?’ when the questions are broached. (Of course there’s also some that are more like ‘is my kid the best and I need to know what you’re doing so I can compare him’ but usually I don’t get that from those I know. The fact is though those moms run in every crowd so look out!) Thinking about and talking about curriculum is a huge part of the homeschool world. While it does not, hopefully, define your home learning environment, in many ways it is one of the most influential factors….and in most states, it’s up
to mom to pick which one!
It’s for this reason I decided to post on ours: I love to read the homeschool blogs, especially the “what we are studying” posts. It’s good to know when that book you’ve had an eye on was a big success- or a big bust!

ALL:
We do several subjects as a group. I know to you public school peeps this sounds nuts but consider an old schoolhouse design: all ages in one room has a good number of benefits for all. One, younger kids learn up. Two, it creates a great “us” dynamic in the family. Three, it makes learning entertaining.

In our “ALL” category, we study History, Science and Geography.

SCIENCE:
Last year I wrote our Science and we did weekly reports in our ‘field journals’ (trust me on this one: kids love field journals).
This year I purchased a curriculum from Real Science 4 Kids. We chose Astronomy. If I’m totally honest I chose this one because of all the amazing projects on Pinterest for Astronomy AND because our local nature center we have a pass for has a really wonderful planetarium and space programs for it.
Science is my younger two sons favorite subject but all four kids enjoy it. (I do too!)
So far we like Real Science 4 Kids very much. I’ll keep you posted.

HISTORY
For History we are trucking along using Story of the World just like last year. There are four volumes of SOTW with the intent for you to study them in order for four straight years while they are young (elementary age) and begin them again at greater depth when they are older (middle/high school age). We are taking our sweet time in History- we landed in Egypt for many months last year but it was totally worth it. I am looking forward to Rome and Greece as we ‘travel’ this year. I do not worry about pace but about content here: they are learning so much and learning-by-doing really sticks.
They also notebook in History, a bit differently than their field journals in Science but the same concept.

GEOGRAPHY
Geography is not a strong suit of mine, folks. I likely could not name all 50
States if I had to in order to save my life. This is a shame, really and I’m rectifying it with my kids. Once they have learned some foundational information, we will weekly study a state: it’s culture, landforms, agriculture, special facts, etc. This will take much time and will be reviewed again, I’m sure, when we study US History when they are older.

CHARACTER
Doing an actual character study is new subject for me. I hadn’t heard of this before homeschooling. I have loved the idea and have created my own curriculum for this using a book compilation of classic stories and poems with meaning behind them. Weekly I read one of the stories to the kids and we discuss it and then they journal about it in their draft books. This gives them good writing practice as well but I really love their thoughtfulness behind it. Example? After a story about thankfulness, they were to write several sentences and draw a picture of what they are most thankful for in our home. Seth (age 4) decided he was most thankful for his sister.  (Precious.)

MISC.
We also study some art and music topics at home together using various books, videos, friends, instruments, etc as our sources. Adam and Noah participate in Chorus (music) at our Co-Op.

INDIVIDUAL LEARNING

ADAM:

Adam is doing 2nd grade work this year. He is a sweet boy who tries hard and has a tough time slowing down. He loves Legos, listening to books read to him, talking about Minecraft and eating peanut butter and jelly (anything else he eats is under duress.)
Adam’s 2nd Grade:
Language 2, A Beka Publishing
Phonics (Letters and Sounds 2), A Beka
Arithmetic 2, A Beka
Spelling & Poetry 2, A Beka
Handwriting Without Tears
Reading Program 1st and 2nd resources, A Beka
He also writes in a draft book, completes art projects, plays baseball and memorizes 1-2 verses a week minimum for Awana (which we also use as our Bible curriculum. I am amazed at what kids can memorize from the Bible.) He says his favorite subject is Astronomy because “I love studying the cosmos.”

NOAH:

Noah is doing 1st grade work this year. He is a rambunctious fella who is a natural learner. He excels in homeschooling because he works very, very hard for short bursts of time and is typically my most independent student.  He is also stubborn and hard-headed and I attribute half of his hard work to this fierce determination to best himself. Noah is well ahead in several subjects- he will begin 2nd grade work by spring.
Noah’s 1st Grade:
Language 1, A Beka Publishing
Letters & Sounds 1, A Beka Publishing
Arithmatic 1, A Beka
Handwriting without Tears
Spelling & Poetry 1, A Beka
He also writes in a draft book, completes art projects, plays baseball and memories 3-4 verses a week for Awana. His favorite subject is math because “It is fun.” (Or so he says! ;) )

LILY:

Lily is doing Kindergarten level work this year. She will begin several 1st grade subjects in the spring, however, because she began the Kindergarten level during her Pre-K year. I’m a big proponent of NOT forcing learning too young and so for PreK and Kindergarten both, she does not do book work every single day. She is also a natural learner, much like her brother Noah and has yet to struggle in or get bored of any subject. School and learning are fun to her still and I love that for her. (If I could go back and give that gift to all of them, I would.)
Lily’s Kindergarten:
Letters and Sounds K, A Beka
Numbers 5, A Beka
She participates in our Science, History, Geography, Character Study and also writes in her draft book. She memorizes 1-2 verses each week and does an awful lot of writing in her various journals with her various ink colors. She is very serious about journaling. She says her favorite subject is History because “I love back then!” Like mother, like daughter.

SETH:

Seth is my four year old. He is not of compulsory age yet and therefore his school “doesn’t count” and besides our shared subjects, I had no desire for him to have any official work. But he insisted he needed a book like the others! In fact, he was furious at me for the first couple weeks of school that he did not have one. Therefore I ordered him ABC, 123 by A Beka which I now know he is way too advanced for. I could well have started him on Kindergarten materials if it weren’t for my own nagging voice about pushing too fast, too soon. He loves his book and it is very simple for him- therefore he can do a lot of independent work (which is great!) and that is a great start for his future.  His favorite subject is History because “I like stories.”

As I’m posting this so much later than it was written, the update that I can give is only that homeschooling has been a true blessing for our family. I’m amazed at their progress but I am more amazed at the peace and hope in their little hearts and thankful for the chance to spend these days with them. I’m blessed.

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