How to Run When I Have No Perseverance

I have a deep core memory in my head from grade school:
It was a beautiful, warm and sunny spring day. We were outside on the open field for P.E. class. Our teacher made us stand in two single file lines, basically pairing us off. My teacher said, "go!" The first two kids in each line sprinted away to the big telephone pole which was the finish. 

The first kid to get to the pole won, obviously. That kid got to go on and race again. The races continued until the four fastest kids were determined; they would ultimately run the four by four relay during or "track and field" day. 

I was excited and eagerly anticipating my turn to race. I was super fast. I ran all over the place. Plus, the previous year, I placed THIRD in the long jump, and you have to be fast to jump that far, right?

Then, I looked to my right and realized I was racing Debbie Nelson. Tall, long legged, totally athletic Debbie Nelson. 


There went my dreams of running the four by four relay.

I can so very clearly picture Debbie steadily pulling farther and farther and farther away from me. I can so very clearly remember the tension in my body from trying my hardest, but feeling like I was moving in slow motion. She beat my by a landslide. Like a major, embarrassingly huge amount. Like she was done and recovered as I just crossed the finish line. 

Two weeks ago, my husband asked me how I was feeling.

What came to mind was the vision above, except it wasn't just Debbie so far ahead of me but EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I was feeling like everyone was racing ahead. Everyone had energy. Everyone was happy. Everyone had the endurance to finish strong while I felt tense, tired, slow, and alone. I was losing any perseverance to finish the race. I wanted to face plant and quit.

My husband wrote a song based on the scripture Phillipians 1:6

"Throw off everything that hinders and entangles us
Run with perseverance the race marked out for us
He is the author and finisher of our faith


Even when I face plant, if I can just lift up my eyes a tiny bit, I see the feet of Jesus right in front of me. If I lift them a bit more, I can see his hand reaching down to help me up. In that vision, I know I am NOT alone. Knowing I am not alone gives me a little more energy to get up. Then, Jesus says, "You can do it, and I will be right here with you." I might have to lean on Him, but He will hold me up. In faith, I will gain strength to finish strong, but no matter what, he is in it to finish it with me!

How easily I forgot that He is with me. How on earth do I always end up thinking I can do it on my own? And knowing myself, I will gain energy and shove Jesus aside and inevitably, face plant again. 

Praise the Lord! He is always there when I lift up my eyes. 

God's grace is sufficient.

Shop VIDA -- My Original Art and Photography on Ethically Produced Goods

You guys! 

I am so excited about something, and have been itching to share it with you all.

That's me! That's my art and photography on scarves with more options to come soon!

VIDA is a company that allows for artists to share, and profit from, their original art in the form of ethically produced goods. But, the artist isn't the only one to profit. Here is more:

Trust me, I understand that the price points may be more than you pay for your typical department store fast fashion, but you get:

1. ORIGINAL art 
2. High quality fabric
3. Satisfaction of supporting individual artists
4. Satisfaction of supporting makers around the world
5. Confidence that you are not contributing to the environmental waste of fast fashion (each piece is made to order)

Even you don't like MY stuff, there is SO MUCH stuff to love so, buy other stuff!

You can even use this code to get $15 off at check out.

The Question of Socialization -- Eye Roll

That title is snarky. I'm usually not a snarky person. 

I'm a little sorry, but I guess if I was really sorry, I would have changed the title.

It's the question I dread most when talking to people about homeschool.

"How do you socialize your kids?"

Here is what I actually hear:
"Do your kids have friends?
Do your kids know how to act in public?
Do you ever leave your house or do you just keep them sheltered from the outside world?"

People might as well just say to me, "ya know... homeschooled kids are socially awkward."

Honestly, I used to think that too.

I remember a couple of homeschooled kids that went to my church growing up. I realize today that I only thought that because of what other kids said to me. When I look back, I liked those girls and I admired them a LOT. They were quiet, yes, but I'm quiet too. 

They were really polite, paid attention to and respected authority, were super talented, and were so KIND. One of them selflessly, without prompting from any adult, traded a solo with me in our kids choir, because she knew I wanted that particular song. She made a huge impact on me at a young age.

In fact, when I remember those girls, I think to myself that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE my children to be like them. 

I can't place any behaviors that made me think that they were weird. They just weren't friends with my friends. That's what made us think they were socially awkward?! Shame on us.

Listen, I taught in a public school for ten years. I encountered numerous socially awkward kids. 

Assuming all homeschooled kids are socially awkard makes the assumption that all public school kids are socially adept which is SO NOT TRUE.

Socially awkward kids tend to come from socially awkward families; socially adept kids tend to come from socially adept families. 

There are always exceptions, of course, but just think about it. Everyone knows someone who is eccentric or "weird." Everyone has someone in their life that is hard to work with or difficult to be around. What made them that way? 

Were they all homeschooled? 
Probably not.

Did they come from a family that had different personalities and ways of doing things than yours? Probably.

My kids have friends.
My kids are learning (because well, they are four and six and no kid's behavior is always on point) to love and respect people.
My kids get out of the house. (In fact, as I write this they are with my husband at an astronomers club gathering looking at the moon and Jupiter. And that is after hours outside playing with the neighbors).

We are doing things differently from most other families and if that is what makes us socially awkward then, so be it. 

Let's be real. We all have quirks and socially awkward times. I'll start! 

I am an introvert. I suck at pleasantries and surface conversation. People often think I am stand-offish and stuck up when they first meet me. To avoid that impression, sometimes I over compensate with smiling and head nods during conversations.

Tell me a quirk or awkward moment of yours in the comments : ) 

Favorite Photos -- Eau Claire, WI, Family Photographer

It's been MONTHS. Like... months and months and months since I have posted anything photography related. It's hard to tell that I even do it by looking around here (crickets chirping). 

But, I have been taking photos! 

Here are just a few of my favorites from the past months. Enjoy!

Family photos are really my favorite!

Here are a couple of slide shows 
from a recent retirement celebration and a two year old birthday party:

A Simple Approach to Meal Planning -- From a Mom Who Hates to Cook

I hate cooking.

I could bake all day. Baking is usually a treat so, you just have a little bit at a time. Usually the labor of baking is enjoyed over a few days. 

Cooking on the other hand... devoured. In five minutes. 

Baking, my kids love. My cooking, hit or miss which I know is normal, but none the less annoying and joy stealing.

Fact is... food is a major part of life, and I want to feed my family good food. 

We eat pretty simply around here. I used to be overly concerned with variety. Worried about my family getting tired of the food I make. Then, I started thinking about the past. Like pre-internet past, even pre-tv past, before people were so connected to the whole world. People didn't eat Chinese food if they weren't Chinese. Most people ate what they grew. No matter how big your garden, you were bound to repeat meals.

Mike and I have made great effort to simplify our lives. Why not apply that to our eating?

Simple is okay.

So, I compiled a list of all of our favorite meals. There are about 25.

*Edited to add: I guess we have more than 25! I had some requests to share our go-to's so here it is.*

My husband, God bless him, does our grocery shopping once a week. On grocery day, I make my weekly plan. I only plan ONE meal to cook a day. Ideally each person gets to pick one meal for the week.  

Our breakfasts are always quick and simple: smoothies, fruit, oatmeal, toast, eggs, etc. Sometimes, waffles or pancakes are actually one of the planned suppers. So, I make a big batch to freeze. Then, we can pull those out for a quick breakfast as well.

Lunch is either left over supper from the night before or what we refer to around here as "snacky lunch." I simply set out containers of pre-cut veggies, cut up an apple, set out a container of grapes, maybe add some slices of cheese, a few tortilla chips or pretzels and voila! Lunch. The same, every day... the kids don't care. Neither do I. 

Believe it or not, I have tried menu planning before; it never stuck. 

Two things have made this round of menu planning stick for that last several months.

1. Posting the menu on the fridge. 
Before I had it written in my planner. I don't know what it is about the visible reminder, but it works!

2. NETFLIX. No joke. 
I realize I am privileged to afford Netflix, but there are plenty of ways to watch free shows too. PBS, NBC, ABC and most other networks air their shows for free online. We don't have an actual TV. I just set up my laptop or my phone. Watching something I enjoy (which is currently the Great British Baking Show) while I cook has taken the drudgery out of it all. 

Do you love to cook or, are you more like me? I would love to hear how you plan meals. OR share what meals your kiddos love. Because, in reality, my kids really only like about ten of the 25 meals I make : /

Creature of Comfort -- An Ode to My Bed

My bed is my sanctuary.

I know everyone needs sleep and, therefore, pretty much everyone looks forward to laying down on a comfy bed for a peaceful slumber. 

But if you asked someone, "what is your happy place?" Chances are they'd mention tropical islands, beaches, gardens, with friends or family, etc.

My happy place is my bed.

I'm not particularly proud of it, but I'm coming to terms with it.

It's my place to think and dream. It's my place to escape. It's a place of rest and recovery.

It's the place where I feel the least amount of anxiety. 

If I am feeling anxious, I guarantee if I can lay down in my bed, it will dissipate very soon. 

If I am in the midst of panic and unable to physically get to my bed, my bed is what I visualize and it helps me to sit in my feelings/symptoms and "float."

The reprieve from anxiety is why I am quick to go to bed at night and slow to leave it in the morning. It is my most reliable coping mechanism. It's been there since the beginning.

How about you? What is your happy place? Tell me in the comments : ) 

Reflections on our First Year of Home School and My Ultimate Favorite Resource

So, we have wrapped up a year of home school 'round here. We are taking the first half of July off and will then start "first grade." I put first grade in quotes because I'm honestly not sure how to classify her and I don't want to classify her.

Parents all know how fast we can fall into the comparison game with our kids. I am not gonna lie, I had more than a few "freak out" moments this year when I noticed what a couple of other Kindergarten age kids were doing that Gwenyth is not yet doing.

BUT, then I reign myself in and remember that I very purposefully followed a more (what Eau Claire, WI public schools would call) 4K pace. 

The curriculum that we will begin in July, Moving Beyond the Page, doesn't go by grade level but by age. So, Gwenyth will be doing the age 5-7 curriculum.

This past year, I did not use a purchased curriculum. I did all the planning and prep. One resource that I used was What your Kindergartener Needs to Know. It was a great guide for planning activities which I found mostly on Pinterest. There is an UNBELIEVABLE amount of ideas to be found on the internet. It can actually be overwhelming!

At first, I loved planning but, as the year progressed, the overwhelm of choices was taxing me. I also realized I wasn't doing the greatest job of making sure to "review" skills. So, I am looking forward to the focus of MBTP having a day to day plan set for me with freedom to augment with creative ideas that I find.

Our schedule was/is very loose. Actual instruction took place all different times of the day depending on my husband's and my schedule. I try to make a list of the days activities with the kids while we eat breakfast. It's usually as simple as: eat, play, school lessons, eat, music lessons, play, eat, pick up, watch, read aloud, bed.

Play is the most important part of our day and, honestly, there were days that we skipped formal lessons because the kids were playing so well. I found school was NEVER a good interruption to creative, fun play. Meaning it brought on a holy terror fit. On the other hand, if the kids finally had enough of each other and needed space, school became a GREAT interruption to arguing and wining.

Although most lessons incorporated multiple subjects, Mondays were typically focused on letters and literature, Tuesdays on numbers and math, and Thursdays on science. Fridays were by far our favorite days. I want to share my ultimate favorite resource here.

Each map is filled with amazing illustrations of everything including wild life and land forms to famous people that the country is known for. The kids would choose a country and point to a picture of something they would like to learn more about. Then, we would research it together. We have spent HOURS together learning about all kinds of things. 

We are currently in the middle of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It is definitely NOT Gwenyth's favorite time of day, but it IS clearly working. She is making very good progress with her reading. We will continue through this as we begin MBTP. 

Did we have hard days? Yes.

Did we have days I questioned my decision to home school? Yes.

But mostly, we had good days. I feel a whole new level of relationship with Gwenyth which I love. 
It is such a privilege to witness light bulb moments and her growth physically, emotionally, and intellectually so intimately.