Beautiful January

It’s always good to be home. We left last Sunday for a quick trip to Saskatchewan – drove there in under twelve hours which is a record for us. It was a good trip: we spent lots of time with family, celebrating the life of Wade’s grandpa on Monday, and our oldest girl’s birthday on Tuesday.

Can’t believe she’s nine! Isn’t she lovely?

We drove home on Wednesday and first thing Thursday it was back into life – dentist appointments and then a trip to check out my brother’s new house. He and his wife bought a fixer-upper and we helped them a bit with some flooring removal, and then drove back home again to celebrate my grandma’s 92nd birthday. And this morning I got up early to meet Sassy’s ride – she’s going downhill skiing for the first time today! So it begins – the journey to independence which I hope will include lots of adventures like this for her.

Consolation for the other two kiddos is my job today. Scooter and I are making a mini album, and soon we’ll have to run to town to pick up the photos we ordered for the album. And I’ve a bag of watercolour supplies for my upcoming class (space still available!) which starts Tuesday, and a brand new video camera which I’m hoping will enable me to post some watercolour tutorials for you all!

And I’ve a card on the Scrapbooker’s Paradise challenge blog today – while I was away I missed telling you about a two-day sale they ran earlier in the week – you really should subscribe to their blog and then you wouldn’t be dependent on me for this stuff! Anyhow, the challenge is “Clean & Simple using hearts” and so I did clean and simple – for me, which means there’s still a lot of detail.

The stamps I used are from Stampin’ Up! and the paper is My Mind’s Eye Stella & Rose. And the marbled hearts were punched out using my cardstock from my alcohol ink marbling technique.

You have until noon on Thursday, February 1 to participate in the challenge and I would love to see what you come up with! Enter here.

Doll Tracker – Like Man Tracker only without the Mosquitoes

So these two gorgeous girls are totally excited about the dolls that they ordered on Monday! They’ve already named them (I guess they don’t follow their parents’ tradition of not picking names until the new arrival actually arrives!) and they are drawing portraits of their new dolls. Sassy talked about ordering “Taryn“, but when it came time to order, did an about-face and picked “Leonie,” which both girls pronounced “Lonie” until I corrected them with the French pronunciation. Scooter ordered “Saila” and is naming her “Pancakes” cause she thinks it sounds cute!

“Pancakes” by Scooter, age 7. The clothes they chose for the dolls are ones they already have, made by my sister.

Sassy (age 8 ) showed me how, by covering the corners of “Ginger’s” mouth in the drawing, her whole facial expression changes. Clever girl. I’m also wondering if the mermaid in the picture is topless or wearing a bikini. Hard to tell. Once when I was about nine, we were playing “school” with friends and I was so embarrassed when the boys found in one of my notebooks a picture of a girl that I’d started, but it was just at the outline – I hadn’t gotten to the drawing clothes stage yet, so she was essentially “naked.” How mortifying!

Maplelea was kind enough to send us a tracking number so I think we’ll be daily checking on the dolls’ progress from Mississauga, Ontario to Dawson Creek, BC. Who needs a Santa tracker when you have Canada Post?

Little Runaway.

My eight-year-old packed a bag the other night. She didn’t know what else to do to get her point across than to empty her drawers to run away.

Sassy is a wonderful girl. A head taller than most of her friends, sensitive and sweet and so willing to take responsibility at home. Like many firstborns, she tends to be bossy and controlling with her younger siblings, and sometimes with me. And she has a very hard time sharing. These are her issues, and I know them well, because most of them were mine too (I was the oldest of three, just like her!).

I think her firstborn issues can be summed up in one incident that took place a few months ago. She was telling me about something her sister had done wrong, and I replied that “Yes, Scooter did make a mistake. You make mistakes too.” Sassy replied instantly, “Yeah, but not as many as Scooter does.”

Isn’t that a true reflection on the human condition? We all want to believe we are mostly right, at least more right than to whomever we happen to be comparing ourselves. So on Monday night, after I had checked Sassy on some bad choices in her behaviour, and then checked her again, and then, frustrated at her stubborn unwillingness to admit her mistake and start over, I sent her to bed a half hour early. Which is when she started packing.

I sought Sassy out to talk about what was going on, and my initial thought was that she was running from me, big mean Mummy. She’s not good at talking about her feelings and it would have been easy to continue to assume that – her face was still set, chin jutting, eyes downcast. But a few questions revealed that she had swung on the pendulum from self-righteousness to self-condemnation, and she wanted to run away to spare her family her presence.

Oh, have I been there. It just seems too awful, to snap out of a stampede of selfishness to the reality of the damage I’ve inflicted while on my rampage. I don’t want to look at myself in those moments of realizing just how ugly my behaviour has been. And I don’t understand how people can think they are generally good when we all have such ugliness simmering inside.

How glad I am that I can offer my child unconditional love when her behaviour is most hideous! How important it is to model that kind of acceptance and forgiveness when my deepest desire is to point her to a God who offers unconditional love, forgiveness and grace. It felt so full of hope to tell her, “Honey, you belong to God. Your problems are His problems – you can bring all of this to Him because He is the one who changes your heart.” These teaching moments are always so timely for me too: I so quickly forget that when I am looking at what I have or haven’t done, I am failing to look at what has been done for me by Jesus Christ and trusting in Him to continue to do it.

By the Book.

Last week was supposed to be our last week of school. Today, Sassy is sitting at the kitchen table, math before here, crying her eyes out. She has about five pages left to complete her grade two workbook, and she’s been stuck on the same problem for an hour. A problem I’ve already walked through with her multiple times. Short of feeding her the answer, I’m stuck.

Three read-alouds stack, unfinished. Wecco and Scooter play “distract the sister,” and the crying changes to yelling. Sometimes I hate homeschooling.

I’ve said before how I believe in home education. There are many, many things I love about it, and it has been very good for my kids. My biggest struggle with homeschooling is the sacrifice of my own time and space. It is very easy to be envious of the moms who enjoy child-free time on a daily basis – who get to attend mid-morning waterfit classes, grocery shop without cart hangers-on and pleadings for junk food, have lunch with friends. Selfishness, basically. Not a good reason to opt for traditional schooling.

It is times like today, when a year of Monday morning math meltdowns cause me to question my effectiveness. Surely by now we should have a system worked out that bypasses the drama. Kids don’t bawl like this in public school math classes (though maybe they do at home over homework and I’m dealing with a universal problem). I remember crying over a page of multiplication homework in fifth grade, and yet being able to relate to Sassy’s struggles doesn’t give me an answer.

This is the situation which makes other parents say “I could never homeschool.” They are envisioning similar episodes with their own children – the tears, the refusal to try, the frustrated mom eventually joining the meltdown. I hate the exasperation that comes into my voice when she is balking over a problem that I know she can do and in fact have just told her how to do and she is still not doing it! Makes my blood pressure rise just describing it. If only those parents could know that these stressful moments shrink to invisibility when measured against hearing your child read to her little brother, and knowing “I taught her that.” Or when your children spend a hour crafting swords and shields from cardboard and scotch tape so they can play “Camelot” after reading it for history. Or when they snuggle up beside you and pull out their science textbook…and it’s Sunday afternoon.

It is worth it. It is worth it. It is worth it. I have to remember that on days like today, when I have many other things I could be doing and the last thing I want to do is cajole my child finish one last problem in her math. And when I feel like a bad influence, rather than the calming, accepting parent/teacher/role model that I chose homeschooling to be. It’s scary to know I have to make this work, that I can’t give up. And I can’t be willfully blind to my relational shortcomings – it all comes out in the classroom.

Homeschooling doesn’t make me a better mom than you. I’m pretty average, mom-wise, though I’d love to tell you differently. Perhaps homeschooling gives me more opportunities to lose patience, to yell, to struggle with discipline and keeping order, and maybe that makes you the better mom. I spend a lot of time feeling convicted over the most recent confrontation, and desiring to do better, and wondering why I’m not better at loving my kids. (I love my kids, I just don’t feel great at loving them.) Maybe I have more opportunities to get it right, too. Or just a few more moments on my knees, reminding Jesus and myself that my life is His, my children are His, raising them is a gift from Him, and I can’t do it alone.