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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Remembering

We did it.  We finished it.  All six hundred and something pages.  And, at this point, I'm not even really sure how I feel about it.
If you would've told me five years ago that Mason would have to read The Iliad in SEVENTH GRADE (much less ANY grade), I'm quite certain I would've crawled up into the fetal position in dread and horror until such time that we ran away to a deserted island where things like books and school and grades didn't matter.  To be fair, he didn't just curl up with this book everyday the past two months on his own.  I read it to him.  Aloud.  All the pages.  Because I knew that was the only way.  Yet and still, I think it's something to be celebrated (although the test is yet to come in a couple of weeks).

The past couple of weeks have been reminiscent of five years ago.  Those were the days when I just didn't think we were going to make it.  I saw no hope of Mason ever learning how to read or being the least bit successful in school.  Those were the days when there were so many questions and no answers.  Those were the days when I kept saying, "I can't do this anymore," and asking, "What are we going to do?"

We are so far removed from those five years now.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  It really does.  We've been through so much and covered so many miles, both literally and figuratively.  I don't even know how we made it through two years of private therapy two days a week after school.  I really don't.  I think I did it with my eyes closed.  In a way I feel like I've been walking on egg shells lately . . . the darkness of those days feels sometimes like it's chasing me, like it's almost caught up, like it's going to overtake me again.  So I've just been waiting.  Waiting on that one thing that would all of a sudden be the "impossible" or the thing he'll "never do."  

The past two years have been so much easier in a way.  I knew the hard was coming again though.  I knew it would be seventh grade.  I don't know why.  I just knew.  And it is.  Even though we now homeschool and can essentially choose what we do and how we do it and can provide perfect accommodations for Mason geared towards dyslexia, that's not exactly the road we've chosen.  I've often wondered if we've chosen correctly.  I wonder if we are going to be able to continue on the current path we're on.  So many people question why we have him handwriting papers and essays when it would be so much easier to type them.  Or dictate them.  Or not do them altogether.  So many people question why he is studying Latin, particularly when most kids with dyslexia do not learn a second language because they can be exempted from a foreign language requirement.  I'll not answer those questions here, but I can assure you I, too, struggle with those questions.

Remember.  To bring to mind or think of again.  To retain in the memory.

Oh, I remember all right!  I remember the tears, the struggle, the questions, the fears . . . Mason isn't going to pass second grade . . . this probably isn't the best place for Mason so you should consider sending him somewhere else . . . another failed reading test . . . the hours and hours and hours of therapy and sitting in that lobby with the girls while we were waiting on Mason.  Everyday right now is a reminder of this.  

But one day I hope to look back on all of that and be thankful, grateful for the special way the Lord made Mason, the gifts He has given Mason.  I mean, I am thankful . . . he is strong and healthy and smart and funny.  He is diligent and hard-working.  His logic teacher this week told me he has a stick-to-it-ness.  He hasn't given up.  And, again, he has essentially CONQUERED dyslexia!  

It just seems like the remembering brings with it more of the difficult memories than the victories.  One day I'd like to remember the victories more than the difficult.

God often told the Israelites to remember.  He wanted them to remember the years of slavery in Egypt.  Why?  Because then they would remember how He brought them OUT of Egypt.  That was cause for celebration.  Celebration because they had been delivered (Deuteronomy 16).  It would also help shape their response to the foreigner and the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 24:21).  They had such a personal, unique perspective of bondage and helplessness and not-belonging-ness that could enable them to effectively minister to others.  And then - FINALLY - came the moment the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into the promised land.  Joshua had them take twelve stones from the middle of the river and build a memorial with those stones once they got to camp.  Why?

And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.  He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their parents, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.'  For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over.  The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."  ~Joshua 4:20-24

Remember.  So they would remember their deliverance out of Egypt by the powerful, mighty hand of God.  So they would remember that God always went before them, always provided a way.  So they would remember that God is good.  So they would remember that God keeps His promises.  So they would remember that God is faithful.  So they would remember that God loves them with a forever kind of love that culminated with the death of His Son at Calvary.  So that "all the peoples of the earth" would see the evidence of the might and power of the LORD GOD.

When I look back on the past eight years, God's faithfulness is woven through every single thread.  He has moved and worked in ways that I couldn't even have imagined, and He continues to do so.  I have to remind myself daily that He loves Mason even more than I do, and He has a plan for Mason's life - a GOOD plan.  I realize that dyslexia is definitely NOT the end of the world or the "worst" thing that could happen.  I do.  But it has been a huge struggle for me watching my child navigate the challenging waters of a learning disability, especially in a world that isn't always so friendly to learning differences.  It has even bred bitterness and anger that has needed to be reckoned with and rooted out.

Mason is thriving.  He really is.  I watched him write an essay for science today, and I was amazed because he was correctly spelling words that I never thought he would.  His Latin teacher, who also has a son who is dyslexic (and currently in college), told me he never would've known Mason is dyslexic had I not told him.  What?!

And, speaking of remembering . . . Facebook reminded me today that exactly four years ago on this day, Mason made a B in reading on his report card for the very first time ever (he was in third grade), and I bought him a cookie cake to celebrate.  Now that's the kind of remembering I want to do!
 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tradition: LSU Football Game

Every year for the past few years, my guys have gone to an LSU football game.  A couple of weeks ago, they attended the homecoming game against Troy.  As in Alabama.  A Sunbelt Conference team.  

Clearly Mason is dressed for the occasion.  Seth, on the other hand, looks like he was cheering for Ole Miss.  I have no other explanation.
There's really not much else to say because the game didn't go quite as planned (Did I mention Troy is a Sunbelt team?  I am simply stating fact.), but this kid still had a great time and made another memory with his dad.  That's the most important thing really.
And, by the way, it should be noted that when asked the next day by a gentleman at church my thoughts regarding the game, I gave him my best break down of the good, the bad and the ugly.  He then proceeded to tell me I should be a sports analyst on television!  Meanwhile, my husband is rolling his eyes.

This has become quite a special little tradition for Mason.  It was on the same weekend last year that they went to a game.
And, apparently, in October 2015, it actually felt like fall at the game!  Haven't been able to say that in a very long time.
In other news, have you seen MY TEAM lately?  I don't want to brag or anything.  A lot of people have asked me what I think about a Georgia-Alabama game.  That's all fine and good.  But I'm thinking more towards a Georgia-Miami game . . . this year?  Next year?

Saturdays have become fun again!

Friday, October 06, 2017

Ellie's "First Day" of Kindergarten

I feel like I've been homeschooling Ellie forever.  As I've homeschooled the big kids the past couple of years, Ellie has been right there at the table with us.  She doesn't care to play independently so I always had something for her to do, whether it was a worksheet, motor skills development games and activities or a craft.  I even put together a binder for her, and that has been her school book.  Last school year she completed three phonics workbooks.  So we've been at it for awhile.  But now that she's five years old, we put a name to it and called it kindergarten.  And then I realized that I really wanted her to have a "first day."  So we chose Monday, September 11, as Ellie's first day of kindergarten.  
All that really means is that I actually purchased a math curriculum to add to what we were already doing with phonics and reading.  I also took her to the school supply store and let her pick out one of those calendar bulletin board sets.  My original plan was to "do school" with her at the dining room table where we've always done it with Mason and Hannah Kate.  That has evolved into our school room over the past few years.  But after the first week I realized that wasn't going to work for Ellie.  So I had Seth bring the little table and chairs down from the playroom, and Ellie's "classroom" is now set up in the foyer.

Ellie has asked me on more than one occasion when I'm NOT going to be her teacher anymore.  That's a confidence booster for sure!  But, really, who gets to "go to school" in their pajamas and bring their baby along to sit with them?
Ellie and I spend about two hours a day schooling.  Our main focus is math, reading and handwriting.  I really thought she would enjoy reading, but I can already tell that math is her favorite subject.  That surprised me a little bit.

I think she thought she would automatically be reading.  I really don't think she realized she would have to LEARN how to read.  She hasn't been very patient with the process, and I knew immediately that I was going to have to really vary her activities and use a lot of colorful, hands-on manipulatives.  We also spend about thirty minutes a day reading aloud.  I think that's her favorite part (besides her calendar).
She has always enjoyed workbooks.  I think that's what makes her feel like she's really "doing school."
So on this particular day, Ellie came "to school" dressed in her "gymnastics outfit."  This thing is really a 10-year old hand-me-down from Abbie that Ellie wears pretty much everyday.  I'm not even kidding.  The straps even broke awhile back, but Hannah Kate rigged them up so Ellie could still wear it.  Y'all, I even hid this thing for a couple of months.  Again, I'm not even kidding.  I thought she would get over it.  But she hasn't.
Ellie loves handwriting.  Most of the time.  But she doesn't love holding her pencil correctly.  
On this particular day, we were working on the short vowel sound for A.  We were also trying to celebrate the beginning of fall on a hot, humid, 95 degree day.  So we grabbed our Secrets of the Apple Tree Shine-a-Light book for the letter A, fall and science all wrapped up in one.  (And it should also be noted that she brought her American Girl to class with her on this day.)
After about an hour, I told Ellie it was time for a little break, and she asked to go outside on the back porch and play with her sidewalk chalk.  I went to move the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, and before I could even finish, she ran back inside and begged me to come look at her drawing.  So I did.  She didn't even have to tell me what it was, but she was excitedly going on and on about her apple tree.  I didn't even ask her to draw an apple tree.
She loves watering the flowers.  She thinks she's just watering flowers.  But our science lesson was about what plants need to grow so it just seemed best to take that lesson outside.
I can remember a few years back looking at pictures like these that my homeschooling friends would post on social media.  I mean, it looked like so much FUN!  I even found myself thinking or wishing I was one of "those" moms . . . a mom who homeschooled her children.  At the same time, this was the year I had circled on my own calendar.  This was the year that all three children would be in school.  For the first time in over twelve years, I would go grocery shopping by myself.  I would spend hours cleaning my house, weeding the flower beds and cooking.  I would even brush the dust off my sewing machine.  I had plans.

When I went back to my Wednesday morning Bible study a few weeks ago, several of my friends were shocked to see me there.  One of them asked, "Are you still homeschooling?" When I told her I was, her response was one I hear all the time:  "I could NEVER do that."  I get told that at least once a week, and I get it.  I really do.  I used to say the same thing.  I told her that I could never do that either, but I can obey what God has called me to do.  

It's actually quite simple.  It's an equation.  For me, homeschooling equals sanctification.  Here's the thing.  When you see these pictures, I do hope you see fun.  But I also want you to know that as fun as it is, it is also hard.  It is VERY hard.  Or, at least, it is for me.  Yes, we have some good days.  We have some really good days.  We also have some hard days.  Some really hard days.  I'm not showing you pictures of the hard.  I'm showing you pictures of the best moments.  Just know that it's not always like this, and it's never perfect.

More than absolutely anything else in my life, including parenting and even a child with a learning disability, homeschooling has been what God has used for my sanctification.  And I am still very much a work in progress.  And I continue to be mindful every single day of God's grace.  I could not ever do this thing, or anything, without Him.

I've told myself over and over that "it's just kindergarten."  But you know what?  Kindergarten has scared me to death!  The other two actually spent the beginnings of their schooling in a "real" classroom.  Even though we've been homeschooling for three years now, this is my first year starting from scratch.  This is the first time I'm the one solely responsible for laying the groundwork and teaching my child how to read.  Besides, I don't want Ellie to think "it's just kindergarten."  I want it to be a big deal to her.  I want her to enjoy learning.  I want her to explore learning.  I want her to embrace learning.  And, maybe, somewhere along the way, she'll hopefully realize it's not so bad having your mom as your teacher.    

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What's Up Wednesday . . . Thursday Edition

I tried to pull this off yesterday.  I really did.  But I just didn't make it.  I love linking up with What's Up Wednesday because it's just a great way to catch up on everything I'm behind on.  It's just a good little reminder of these days that seem so long and so full, yet so fulfilling.

WHAT WE'RE EATING THIS WEEK
It's nothing to write home about.  We're back in the season of using the crock pot a lot because I just don't have the time I'd love to have to spend in the kitchen.  I feel like my meals are rather uninventive right now.  I did attend a Wildtree meal prep workshop a few weeks ago and came home with ten meals in freezer bags that have been a huge lifesaver these days.  I'm definitely going to be doing more of those throughout the school year.  Honestly, if it was up to me, I'd eat a big bowl of soup and a slab of cornbread for supper every single day.  But my people do not like soup.

WHAT I'M REMINISCING ABOUT
You know, I just really enjoyed our quick little trip to Houston earlier this month to see the Astros play. 

WHAT I'M LOVING
I'll mention this later, but Ellie and I are back at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) this year studying the book of Romans!

WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO
We are all in with 7th and 4th grades and kindergarten now.  This is our third year of homeschooling, but I honestly feel like this is the first year of REALLY homeschooling.  That probably makes no sense.  We sort of cruised through the last two years.  But 7th grade is no joke.  And even though I feel like I've been doing kindergarten with Ellie for two years now, I finally made it official, meaning I actually purchased a math curriculum and have a specific "school schedule" for each day.  I'll post soon about Ellie's school days. It has been quite a challenge managing everyone's school day and school work, especially with the youngest and oldest being so far apart in age.  But I think we've settled into a routine that's working for us.
Anyway, our days are full of school activities and lots of reading.  Hannah Kate has dance two nights a week, and Ellie is taking gymnastics.  Right now I feel like I'm always behind, I can't get caught up and I'm missing something.  But I've also decided that there are some things I just have to let go right now.  I can't do it all.  I'll never be able to do enough.  But I'm also realizing it's really not at all about DOING.  It's about BEING.  But that's another thought for another day.

WHAT I'M DREADING
Nothing, really.  

WHAT I'M WORKING ON
I have drastically simplified my personal projects because I really needed to be "all in" with homeschooling right now.  Besides, there simply aren't enough hours in the day.  I really had no choice.  If I had to put words to it, I'd say I'm working on being in the moment with my children, giving my all as a homeschooling mom and glorifying God in the day-to-day things that He's entrusted to me.  

WHAT I'M EXCITED ABOUT
Oh, I'm excited about EVERYTHING.  This is my most favorite time of the year!  I'm hopeful I will eventually be able to pull out my scarves, leggings and boots.  Maybe one day soon the temperature will drop below 92 degrees.  I'd love to take a drive to see some fall color on the trees because we don't have that down here.  I haven't had my first pumpkin spice latte yet because, well, honestly, it's just too darn hot.  But I'm looking forward to that, too.  I'm planning to bake some pumpkin muffins tomorrow.  And applesauce.  I'm in the mood for homemade applesauce!

But you know what else?  And I even hesitate to say it because I wasn't expecting it this year . . . but I'm pretty pumped about my team!  I mean, I've always LOVED my team.  It just gets kind of lonely sometimes living away from my team.  But this year, for the first time in three years, I'm just really excited about my team, and I'm loving every minute of this football season.  I hope to share that same sentiment throughout the entire season this year!
  
WHAT I'M WATCHING / READING
Well, I think we all know what I'm watching these days.  I can't tell you the last time I watched a series of anything.  I don't even know what comes on when.  I just don't have time in my life these days for watching anything.  Except football.

But reading is another story.  This month has been so much fun!  Here's a look at my current stack:

Now I realize this is a rather eclectic collection of books to be reading right now.  But let me explain.  

Hannah Kate and I are currently reading together Anne of Green Gables.  Oh, I absolutely LOVE Anne!  I adored this book when I read it as a child, and I've had the best time reading it with Hannah Kate.  She has already asked to watch the movie once we are finished!  That makes me happy!

Mason and I are currently reading together The Iliad.  So let me just be honest here.  The ONLY reason we are reading this is because we "have" to for 7th grade.  Otherwise, it's just not my favorite.  This is my first time reading Homer's work in its entirety.  I'm so proud of Mason!  He's really hanging in there with it.  We're on page 424 . . . less than 200 pages to go!  We can do this!

Earlier this month I read Practical Theology for Women, Teaching from Rest and Mississippi Blood.  

Practical Theology was recommended to me by a dear friend.  She said it was perfect for me, and she was so right!  I highly recommend this to all of my sisters in Christ.  Such a GREAT read!

I've had Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace for over a year now.  But it just sat on my shelf.  I so wish I would've read this little gem when I first got it.  But, in a way, I'm glad I didn't.  It was just what I needed at the start of this new school year.  This is a book that ALL homeschool Mommas should read!  I would even recommend this book to Mommas who don't homeschool because there are so many good principles here, but it really is very specific to homeschooling.  I know I'll be picking this one up again and again.  It's a quick read, but there's so much on those pages.

I've also had Mississippi Blood ever since it released earlier this year.  But I was saving it.  It's the final book in a trilogy that I'm so sad has ended.  Man, I just love a good southern author and a good courtroom drama in a southern town.  I read this one quickly because I couldn't put it down.  And I just hated finishing it.  

Right now I'm reading Nothing to Prove.  Oh, and it's so so good, too!  If you struggle with striving and perfectionism, this book is for you!

WHAT I'M LISTENING TO
Next time I talk to my parents, I need to ask them if I talked all the time as a kid.  Because I really don't remember.  I truly don't think I did.  But two of my three children think it's their JOB to talk all. day. long. no. matter. what.  I mean, one of them in particular would TALK TO THE WALL.  Someone is ALWAYS talking!

WHAT I'M DOING THIS WEEKEND
Well, Ellie's gymnastics class is on Saturdays.  That wasn't the original plan, and it's not my favorite.  But it opened up a door for something else, and it worked so that's where we are right now.  But after that gymnastics class, you can believe I'm coming straight home, and I will either be watching or listening to football the rest of the day!  Seth and Mason have tickets to the LSU game so it will just be the girls and me.  And then we spend pretty much all of our Sunday at church.

WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT MONTH
October is one of my favorite months for all the reasons I mentioned earlier.  We don't have anything outside of the ordinary on our calendar right now, and I'm kind of glad about that.  I just want to enjoy the simple things, the daily things that make up our lives.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW
Back in February, Sequitur announced that there would be a schedule change for this school year.  Instead of going only two mornings a week, Hannah Kate would go four mornings a week.  Mason would, too.  This was a huge blessing for several reasons, one of which being it opened the door for Ellie and me to go back to BSF this year!  

After five years in BSF, two of which I spent in leadership as a Children's Leader, we weren't able to attend last year because of homeschooling.  I was sad.  Actually, that's an understatement.  I always knew how much I loved BSF, how much that Bible study has impacted my life.  BSF has been, hands down, one of the best parts of my life since moving back here.  It's one of the only places I've felt I "belonged."  Needless to say, I felt a huge void in my life when it became necessary for me to leave the class last year.  I always hoped the Lord would allow me to return one day, but I had no idea when that day would come as soon as it did.  So, ever since February, I've been looking forward to going back to BSF.  We are studying Romans this year, which I can't even say enough about.  Anyway, I attended the welcome two weeks ago so Ellie and I could enroll back in class.  I can't even tell you what it felt like to walk into that sanctuary again and hug those familiar faces and sit in Bible study with those women.  I felt like I'd gone home!

But, you know, God loves giving good gifts to His children.  I also like to think He loves surprising His children.  I know I love surprising my own children!  I get such a kick out of the looks on their faces.  I'll bet He must feel that way, too.  Well, God surprised me two Wednesdays ago.  Not only did He open the door for Ellie and me to go back to BSF, but He also gave me another opportunity to serve in leadership as a Children's Leader!  Not even two hours after I left the welcome, I received a phone call asking me to consider serving again.  I was shocked!  I mean, I LOVED serving as a CL, and I had again always hoped that the Lord would allow me to do that again one day, but I had NO IDEA it would be NOW.  

I agreed to pray about it.  I WANTED it so badly, but I didn't know if that's what God wanted for me right now.  Leadership would mean I would go two mornings a week instead of one morning a week, and I've really tried to protect our homeschooling time this year.  So as much as I wanted to be a CL again, as much as I hoped to be a CL again, I had to be absolutely sure this was what GOD wanted for me.  As I prayed about it, He very clearly and very quickly opened a door for me to say yes.  I called Seth to talk to him about it, and I just couldn't stop crying.  I know he thought I was crazy!

I still can't get over it even now!  Ellie is absolutely thrilled to be going two mornings a week, and I'm so excited she has that opportunity again.  I'm teaching the older two year olds/younger three year olds this year, and it's going to be such a TREAT!  
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