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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nothing Is Worth More Than This Day

I wear this bracelet pretty much every day. It was a Mother's Day gift years ago from a very perceptive husband who has learned the art of trolling his wife's Pinterest account. (Husbands: take note.) But like the overflowing piles of laundry in our closets, I see it so often I sometimes fail to take any notice of it at all.

The inscription is a quote from the German writer Goethe, "Nothing is worth more than this day." 

That quote says so much so simply. And it has become a part of my daily uniform because I am in desperate need of the reminder. I've always been one to run ahead of myself and think about the next thing. In high school I couldn't wait to get to college. During college I was so ready to get out in the big bad world and start my own life. Now that I'm the mom to 4 tiny people, I am constantly battling my desire for them to grow up already.

Often I catch myself hurrying through the day - rushing through breakfast so we can start school. Anxious thinking about the laundry that needs to be folded while reading a story or the dinner that should be prepped while giving the kids baths. From 4pm-6pm I'll be longing in my heart for B Daddy's arrival - and once he's home, eagerly waiting for the kids' to go to bed at last so that we can catch up. When we finally crash into each other on the couch...instead of connecting with this man I am so smitten by, I'll catch myself phone in hand, addictively scrolling. Scrolling for what?? For something more? Something I'm missing?

Often I find myself wondering what life will look like in 5 years when the kids are a little older. Or what my world will be like in 10 years when we have high schoolers. What will we be doing when the kids head off to college? Will I write more? Maybe teach something? Will we take that trip to London together? Hike the AT? Will I finally lose the last 5 pounds? Maybe we'll build our dream home?

Thinking about these things gets me excited. My heart beats faster. I think about how much fun "future me" will have. I picture how put-together she will be and the great dinner parties she'll host. I start to idolize future me over current me. Future me has more options, more money, more freedom. And then I have to stop and remind myself, future me is a FANTASY Katie. 

It's incredibly tempting to throw cold water on the life I'm currently living.  To eagerly wish away this season of Cheerios and applesauce, laundry and grocery lists.

I can go an entire day and miss this. This present life. 

I'm not a student anymore, anxious about the future. Worrying about my career, my future, my family. I am 33 years old. I know myself well and I like who I am. After 10 years of married life, my relationship with B Daddy is as open and honest as it has ever been and we are in a fun, healthy place. Somehow I made a choice at 22 that proves smarter and smarter each year. My four kids are funny and (mostly) sweet and right now perfectly healthy. They LOVE being with me. Yes, too much at times, but still. They have yet to turn down an offer of reading a book or playing a game with Mom. They aren't old enough that I worry over the choices they are making. I don't stay up late at night wondering where they are. I may have 5 pounds to lose, but I can fit into skinny-enough jeans and I'm comfortable forsaking the fashion trends that don't flatter my postpartum body. I don't throw lavish dinner parties, but I love to grab Panera with my tribe of mama friends. And I am working to make new, non-mama friends. I have family who live near us and who we like to be around.  

I may never get to a different season. I don't say that to be morbid, but just to remember that the future may not be the greener grass I imagine it to be. It's a daydream, a happy hope, a possibility and nothing more. 

This beautiful rainy morning is all I have. And it is enough. Nothing is worth more than this day.

Are you in a season of wishing away your current situation? What are the things you take for granted now that you'll probably miss desperately in 5 or 10 years? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

What We Learned Our First Month Homeschooling

You guys. It's finally FALL here in Georgia.

I can wear shorts with a sweatshirt or jeans with a t-shirt and can go a full 24 hours without sweating if I choose to do so. It's my most favorite time of the year. All of my favorite holidays are right around the corner - Halloween and Thanksgiving. (Any adult who still ranks Christmas as their favorite either doesn't have little kids or has learned the art of low expectations.) In other words, not me.

September also ushered in the season of homeschooling and I'm proud to say I survived a full month of teaching my own progeny and (for the most part) enjoyed it.

What has my first grader learned in school this month? 

Math: addition and subtraction facts up to number 10. So far I haven't actually introduced new concepts, but we are re-learning things the Singapore Math way and I feel like Elijah actually understands why 7-2 = 5 and can also explain why this means that 7-5 = 2. So maybe we've gone deep rather than wide here.

Reading/Phonics/Language Arts: reading, reading reading. It's exciting to see this kid finally reading snippets of text with ease. He still balks at picking up a book and reading, but it seems like soon he'll have enough of a base that it's not so painful each time. He's written a few letters, but I'd like to make that more of a priority this coming month.

Science: the animal kingdom. We began by classifying vertebrates vs. invertebrates and studied insects and their life-cycle (Britain could tell you in a heartbeat the invertebrate you are seeing in the picture above is an insect because he has 6 legs) and we just started talking about birds. Next week I'm planning a field trip to a local nature center so we can see birds of prey up close. Also, so I can see people other than the ones I birthed while the sun is up.

History: the very first people and early civilization. Highlights included creating making clay tablets and imprinting them with cuneiform symbols and making a model of the Nile River.

What have I learned during homeschool this month? 

School happens most effectively from 9am to 12pm. (Because everyone is fed and happy and the baby is sleeping for a good bit of that time.) Every now and then I'll work one-on-one with Elijah during the kids' afternoon quiet time, but I really like having that time free to prep dinner/do chores/rest.

Britain (4.5) and Ben (3) really want to "do school" too. I imagined they would be more content to wander around playing on their own. They really want paper and pencil type activities to do when Elijah starts doing the book-work stuff. I'm thinking it might be wise to buy a few pre-school activity books from Target to throw their way when E and I need to do desk work.

Between homeschool mornings and afternoon naps, I am at home ALL THE TIME. While I would love company, I really can't do playdates/see friends if we're going to have an effective day.  I wouldn't exactly say I'm lonely...but I do feel isolated. I keep reminding myself that this is a season and once Jude drops his morning nap, our schedule could change and we'll have more freedom. In the meantime, getting texts reminds me that I do have adult friends out there somewhere, so text away!

This is ALL-CONSUMING. Homeschool is not something we can do on the side or in-between our usual routine. I've started doing the grocery shopping on Saturday instead of mid-week which has actually been quite lovely as no children accompany me. Our house cleaners are a GOD-SEND. They come 2x a month and are the sole reason we sleep on semi-clean sheets and use semi-clean bathrooms. (To clarify...the house is spotlessly clean for entire minutes after the cleaners leave...but things descend into chaos VERY quickly.) My typical schedule at the gym has been side-barred and I really miss those classes. They were life-giving!  I am struggling to figure out when to pay the bills, when to call friends back, when to blog...when to do anything really that isn't essential to the day-to-day function of our house or my kids' education.

Teaching my kids is the coolest thing. All parents are naturally teachers. We teach our kids countless lessons without ever intending to...but having this opportunity of intentional hours, set aside for the sole purpose of's a precious gift and right now I'm enjoying it so very much.

Friday, September 4, 2015

All Things are Difficult Before They Become Easy

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.” ~ Saadi

We just wrapped up our first week of homeschooling full-time. Like everything in life, there were highs (Monday!), lows (taking 4 kids to the dentist and discovering one child has FOUR cavities #momoftheyear) but mostly in-betweens. But one thing did not surprise me, how difficult it is to be present all day, everyday with my kids. How incredibly hard it is for me to be patient with them.

It was unsurprising because for the past 6 years I have been with all of my kids for close to all of the day, every day.

When Elijah was a little guy and Britain was huge in my belly, a sharp hike in our health insurance premium meant that the mother's morning out program I had my eye on was financially no longer an option. At the time, I was devastated. (If that seems dramatic, it's because it was. Motherhood has been a very difficult adjustment for me.) I saw those precious hours of freedom slip away and wondered how I would survive without "me" time in my weekly schedule.

As my journey of mothering continued, I realized that if indeed I planned to homeschool when the kids reached elementary age, I was going to need to be okay being with them for an entire day.

The profound thought occurred to me that perhaps being with them all day long was the best training for, wait for it...being with them all day long.

I've considered the past several years training ground for the season we are only just now moving into. I practiced taking all of the kids to the grocery store, practiced staying at home all day long because of the baby's sleep schedule. Adjusted my pace by waiting on little ones to put away the toys, to finish lunch, to find their shoes.

I discovered anger issues I never suspected I had. I realized how incredibly selfish I am innately. I have gone through season after season where I spring out of bed before dawn and race to the sanctity of this kitchen to plead for renewal from my Source before the littles come wandering out of their beds. Not out of piety. Out of necessity.

It continues to stretch me, this being with my people all. day. long. I have not arrived, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think I am growing more patient through practice. I am coming to understand that maybe, just maybe, I had a lot more growing to do than most people. 4 kids in 5 years, God knew just how much training I needed.

The other day I read that the ability to be present and patient are not gifts a select few people possess, but are instead muscles that we all have. With regular exertion, the muscles of patience and presence become stronger. Using them feels more natural and they are more readily available when called upon. But the opposite is also true, without an intentional strain against their limits, your presence and patience muscles will atrophy.

Whenever someone learns about our family's lifestyle choices I tend to hear something along the lines of, "you must have the patience of a saint!" to which I can emphatically say, nothing could be farther from the truth.  But I hope, if they could see where I started from, they'd say instead, "girl your patience muscles are looking goooood!" 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

And So It Begins...

Yesterday we officially homeschooled at home, on our own, for the first time ever. This is a journey that has been more than 7 years in the making.

Yesterday was the first time I was curriculum designer and teacher, mom and principal all rolled into one.
We started our study of the animal kingdom by learning the difference between Vertebrates and Invertebrates and classifying some examples. And yes, I spelled InvertEbrate and VertEbrate wrong on the whiteboard. Maybe we could use a little oversight in this place. 

We moved on to math, which is review for everyone this week. By this time I was feeling like a rockstar. No tears, no arguments. The babe was napping. Life was good.

This is an Octopod. Even when you homeschool, there's time to doodle if you finish your work before the others.

A "before" shot of the archaeology dig we set up. Yes, in my first week of homeschooling my kids we are having an archaeology dig - it's my school and we get to do it my way. If you're unaware of my love for archaeology, you can catch up here.

We finished our morning with plenty of read-aloud time squished on the couch together. It was a dream come true. And it's not often that one can say that about a Monday.

If y'all want to keep up with the homeschool thing this year, let me know and I'll keep sharing the hows and whys of what we're up to. And if not, let me know that too, my feelings will only be hurt for a minute.

More on homeschooling:
Why we've chosen to homeschool: Back to School
The resources we're using this year: How (I'm Planning) to Homeschool a First Grader
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