An Ode to This Old House

This old house has seen me through more than half of my adult life.

We moved in when Shiloh was 4 years old and Huck was 4 months old (2008).

We have so many heartwarming memories in this house.

The kids and I sent Robert off on many travels and adventures from this house and joyfully welcomed him home when they were over.

I taught Shiloh to read in this living room. I think I also taught her to dislike math here too. Whoops!

The kids learned to ride bikes on these sidewalks, learned what being neighborly looks like from our kind neighbors, and developed life long friendships with some of the greatest people right here on this street.

They experienced the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus here. Built forts, obstacle courses, fairy houses and leprechaun traps in this yard. Had late night conversations and tenderhearted prayer times in their bedrooms.

Their dirty little fingerprints are on every doorknob, door, door frame, window, window pane, windowsill, wall, corner, baseboard, countertop, cabinet…you get the idea.

The hours of snow shoveling done here will not be missed, but jumping in the giant piles of snow will be.

This house is where I planted my first garden. I experienced life coming from my hands. I also experienced death coming from my hands as this is where I learned that I am not a good gardener.

We named our giant maple tree in this front yard Mr. Bark. He hosted many squirrels, birds, fairies and gnomes. He had canopies, tents, faces, and fairy doors hung from his trunk.

Mr. Bark was also the home to our joy-filled tire swing. Our kids and many neighbors spent hours swinging here. The swing became an airplane, a pirate ship, a boredom-buster, and a friend gatherer.

We brought Louis and Bowdrie home to this house. We will miss watching them view the outside world from our living room bay window, but we have fond memories of cuddle and play time with them here.

It was in this house that my marriage died and, by the grace of God, was resurrected. This is the house we separated in and the house where we reunited.

This house hosted many counseling sessions, crying sessions, yelling sessions, and making up sessions.

This is where I was when I received the news of my dad’s death. This is where my friends came around me and helped carry me through that loss.

I had a late term miscarriage in this home. We said goodbye to a little life in our upstairs bathroom.

Then I gave birth to Weslee in this home. We said hello to her in that same upstairs bathroom.

This house hosted birthday parties, halloween parties, dance parties, bonfires, christmas concerts, bible studies, and neighborhood soup nights.

It’s been the holder of happy times and sad times, and it has held my family well.

I’m so thankful God saw fit for this house to be a part of who we are.

722 Palace St, you are a wonderful piece in our story.

722Palace

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Frustrations

As I was helping SG with her homework, I became very frustrated with traditional school and how it is affecting her.

Let me start by saying that Nancy Hill Elementary is a great public school. The curriculum is really good. I would prefer a Waldorf inspired curriculum, but theirs is great for a traditional approach. I really appreciate their Math and Science programs. They have exceeded my expectations. The other subjects are great too, but I was leery of Math and Science for some reason. So seeing how great they are was a unexpected surprise to me.

The faculty is really great too. They truly care about these kids. SG’s teacher is really sweet, and seems to be so patient and understanding. The principal is wonderful. She is so kind and takes the time to engage with students and parents. All the faculty does. Every time I am at the school I feel as though all the teachers know me, and I am by no means a PTA/PTO/volunteer Momma, so they really have reason to know who I am except for seeing me at pickup, drop-off and school functions.

And the kids…oh the kids. They are so cute, sweet and friendly. They don’t have as much as families in other suburbs, and many of them don’t have a great home life, but they really seem to be into school. I’ve been to 6 school functions in the last 3 months, and I have been shocked at the number of families in attendance. From curriculum night to the school festival, there has been a great turn out. I think this speaks highly of the families at Nancy Hill.

With all of those positives, I do have some negatives. One is the schedule. SG is 7 and in 2nd grade. I wish her school allowed more time for unstructured play. She goes to school from 8 AM to 2:20 PM. Here is her schedule:

8-10am – Classroom
10-11am – Recess and Lunch
11-1pm – Classroom
1-2pm – Mon – Music and Gym
Tues – Art
Wed – Music and Gym
Thurs – Computer and Library
Fri – Study Time (so there is no homework for the weekend)
2-2:20pm – Get school work together and clean up

We get home around 2:30 and have snack/relax time until 3pm. We do homework from 3 to 3:30/45 depending on how much she has. By the time homework is over, I have a weepy, touchy, moody little girl on my hands. Her mood does change for the better once her homework is put away in its folder and she’s relaxed some more, but while she’s working on it, her attitude stinks!

Between 8 AM to 3:30 PM SG only has 3 hours of fun/down time. And only 1 hour (recess and snack time at home) of those 3 is unstructured fun/down time. This frustrates me. I believe that children should have plenty of free time to play and use their imaginations. Maybe I should delay homework time so she gets more playtime before doing school work again. But I don’t multitask very well (it’s true!), so it doesn’t quite work if I try helping her with homework while preparing dinner. And she doesn’t seem to want to stop playing to focus on homework. It just seems better to do homework earlier… except for the nasty attitude that comes out.

The only other negative really worth mentioning is that Nancy Hill is not a Waldorf school. If we could afford Four Winds Waldorf, SG would be attending there! But right now my options are homeschool or the local public school.

I’ve been considering pulling her out of school over Winter Break and homeschooling for the spring semester. I’m wondering if I can handle the stress right now. I’m wondering if the kids can put up with me if I don’t handle the stress very well. Ugh. I have two months to make up my mind.

With homeschool, I can give her the Waldorf approach to education, and I can give her plenty of unstructured play time. She loves homeschooling, and yes, she still has weepy, touchy, moody days at home. But these instances are more spread apart than they are now that she is in school. She loves being in school too though. She is a social butterfly and strives to be the teacher’s pet. 🙂 She is just the type of kid who will excel in either environment.

So what to do?

Prayers are appreciated!

Week Unplugged

So this past week was Screen Free Week. A week of unplugging from the TV and computer. I will say that unplugging from TV, movies, video/computer games was not hard at all for my family, but unplugging from the internet proved to be rather challenging.

I realized that so much of my life is wrapped up in being online. Majority of my recipes and craft tutorials are online. I pay our bills and balance our checkbook online. I find out the weather and news online. I stay in touch with family and friends online. Whew…what did we do before the internet?!

So this past week, I decided that instead of uplugging completely from the computer, I would just unplug from facebook and blog reading. I did pretty well. I logged into facebook once because I wanted to subscribe to a moms’ newsletter. And of course the only way to do so was to like their fan page. Ha! I felt like I was cheating, but I’m proud of myself for not browsing facebook any while I was logged in. I liked the fan page and then logged off. This was a huge step for me!

I found that, as a stay at home mom, facebook and blogs are some of my only connection to the outside world. As a family, we try to stay home as much as possible. We don’t do a whole lot of field trips and such. I have young children, and for us, home is the best place to be for learning and discovering. But it can be hard on me, so I find that facebook and blogs give me the adult interaction that I need to function normally. But I also found that I don’t need them as much I thought I did. I spent last night and this morning catching up a bit, but I feel completely ready to shut this thing down and move on with my day. I think this unplugging was just what I needed to get my priorities in order.

I also enjoyed the time we had to really focus on Holy Week. The kids and I discussed Palm Sunday, Jesus cleaning out the temple, Mary and the alabaster jar, Judas’ betrayal, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and of course celebrated the resurrection on Sunday. Our nature table has symbols from every day…palm leaves, written prayers, an “alabaster” jar, a bag with 30 dimes, a bowl and towel, a cross and toilet paper representing the empty cloths left in the tomb (my ideas came from here). By doing these activities and attending great services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we had some wonderful discussions this week.

So this past week was definitely a gift to me. I am blessed with a beautiful family, and I love being a homemaker. But I also have so much to learn in getting all of this right. That’s the great thing about life though…each day is a new day to learn and try something different.

 

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

Where have I been the last 2 weeks? I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out what I’m doing and what my 2 year old son is doing. Last Tuesday, I had a complete meltdown. It including me throwing the laundry into the dryer while yelling at my husband about how I just can’t do this parenting thing anymore. I was exhausted. Empty. Drained. Totally over taking care of a certain 2 year old little boy.

Robert reassured me that I am a great mom. That I am doing the best I can. That this is just a phase Huck is going through. He will level out. He is just testing his boundaries. And so on. But the thing that really lifted me up and brought me out of that meltdown, was when Robert reminded me that I would wake up the next morning with a brand new day ahead of me.

Ahhh…what would we do without a night to sleep. It’s a time to put our troubles and worries aside. A time to just rest and be at peace. Even if I get woken up by a sleepwalking daughter or a son who needs help getting his blanket straight, it is still a time of relaxation and rest.

After sleeping the night of my meltdown, I woke up the next morning with a fresh start. With a new attitude and untried patience. I was ready to face what the day (and Huck) would bring. I read my daily devotional and skimmed through my journal. This particular journal is strictly for inspirational thoughts, encouraging words, and my list of 1,000 gifts.

As I was reading, I was reminded of my biggest parenting inspiration. I was reminded of my Heavenly Father. He is so patient with me. So kind. So gentle. So understanding. When I do wrong, he gently nudges me in the right direction. He’s never taken an “I told you so” attitude with me. He’s never yelled at me or answered me in a sarcastic or bothered tone. He is always there to help me understand. And even when I don’t, he is there to comfort me and reassure me that his way is the right way. I was so thankful for a new day to make sure my attitude towards Huck could be more like the attitude of God.

I also read this blog post by Carrie at The Parenting Passageway. I had a light bulb moment. I have been crafting our daily rhythm towards my oldest child because she is the one homeschooling and needing to get her school work done. While doing great things with SG, I have been leaving Huck to just play on his own. He plays really well by himself, but after a while, he does find himself doing things that are not allowed. And this is when things get crazy. He flies off the handle when I try to redirect him. We end up fighting with each other until one of us gives up (it is usually him…I can be extremely stubborn). But by that point, we are both an exhausted and crying mess. And poor SG just sits off to the side waiting for us to get done. Whew…not a great example of a peaceful home is it?!

So I have decided to completely revamp our rhythm and change things up. It is going to require some extra patience and a fresh attitude on my part, but I am ready for it. This is the perfect week for me to do this because this week is Screen Free Week, which means that my little family will be taking a nice, long break from TV, movies, video games and the computer. I am really excited about this. I was supposed to have started this morning, but I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday. So my screen free time will start after this blog post goes live. This is also, and more importantly, Holy Week, so we will be filling our days with prayers, readings and activities to focus on Christ and his death and resurrection. The kids were so excited to parade around the living room with palm leaves singing “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” this morning. They both seem willing and ready to give up their TV time and learn about the things Jesus did leading up to his death and resurrection. (If you have never gotten involved in Holy Week activities, you should…I just googled “holy week for kids” to get my most of my ideas.)

My new attitude has already been tried today. We have had a couple of episodes where Huck has crossed over into aggressive-hostile-you’re-mean-and-you-can’t-make-me-do-that land, but I am glad to say that I have remained calm and gently helped him back to a more peaceful frame of mind. I think I will have to add this to my list of 1,000 gifts…that I can learn to have patience and show grace and mercy from my Heavenly Father! This list keeping is definitely helping me on this journey.

Here are some more of my gifts…

41. gloomy days…perfect for cuddling and reading
42. living room tent making
43. downsizing
44. Huck eating his veggies
45. house plants
46. garden planning
47. sleeping kids at 7:30 pm
48. origami animals
49. squeeze hugs from my kids
50. “I lub you, mom”
51. giddy girls sharing a bed
52. kids trading toys to remember each other
53. patience
54. self-discovery
55. blog comments that affirm and encourage
56. productive days
57. kids cooking
58. granola from the oven
59. dish gloves
60. shutting down the computer for quiet time
61. tutus for little girls
62. homemade birthday cards
63. finishing school work early
64. buzz cuts on little boys
65. summer days in spring time
66. listening the wind howl through open windows
67. evening walks
68. sticky kids after eating ice cream
69. cutting wood to make homemade toys
70. cleaning up the yard after a long winter
71. holes in fences so neighbor kids can squeeze through
72. sharing kids
73. a supporting and encouraging husband
74. Robert praying for me
75. screen free week
76. that I can learn to have patience and show grace and mercy from my Heavenly Father!

Confessions of Tired Mom

1. The kids and I do school in our pajamas once or twice a week.

2. I don’t separate the whites from the colors. Everything goes in together and gets washed on cold.

3. I don’t clean my house every week.

4. I love having a garden, but I am not looking forward to the work it will take to get it going.

5. I haven’t gone for a run or done any other form of exercise in 2 months.

6. I put my kids in bed at 7 pm whether they are sleepy or not. They usually fall asleep soon after.

7. I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. I love knowing what’s in my food and not spending money on eating out, but I hate the time it takes and the cleaning up afterwards.

8. I am starting to time myself while browsing facebook and my blog list. I have a crazy addiction to reading about someone else’s life when I should be tending to my own.

9. I have 6 books sitting on my desk. I have started reading them all, but I can’t seem to finish one.

10. I’m starting to get bored of tv…except of course when I need it to keep my kids occupied.

11. I should be folding Huck’s cloth diapers right now while waiting on our bread to cool, but obviously I’ve chosen to do something much more productive. 🙂

A New Day

We started our second semester of 1st grade on January 5. And I have been readjusting our rhythm quite a bit over the last 3 weeks. I have always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl, but I learned this past summer that being a homeschooling mom requires more structure in my life.

I’ve found a decent daily rhythm. But I can’t seem to get our weekly rhythm nailed down this semester. Because of this I have been so excited for my alarm to go off at 6 am. I am ready for a new day to begin, so I can see what we can accomplish. Does this mean I’m crazy? I am determined to figure out how to get our stuff done and still be sane at the end of the day.

I ordered the book Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider for Christmas. I am in the middle of reading it along with 3 other books. But I decided this weekend that I need to put the other books aside and let my focus be on organizing…my time…my home…my finances…my life.

The idea in the book is great. It’s all about being intentional in every area of your life. From how you spend your money and your time to how you eat, clean and decorate your home. Everything has a purpose. The author’s definition of simple living is “living holistically with your life’s purpose.”

“Holistic living means that your spiritual, relational, emotional, intellectual, physical, and financial lives are working together. They’re not competing with one another…these parts exist to complement and strengthen one another.”

“Your purpose is the reason for which you exist, for which you do things, and for which you are made. It’s what you are about. It’s the reason you live.”

So “the different parts of your life line up in the same direction, and that direction is pointed toward your life’s purpose. All the independent things in your life – the items you own, how you spend your time, the relationships you cultivate, and the books you read – ultimately benefit your life’s purpose.”

This is great for me right now. Not only in our homeschooling and daily and weekly rhythms, but in every aspect of my life.

I feel like I am having an early mid-life crisis. You know where a young woman wakes up and asks, “How did I get here? What happened to life as I knew it?” Except I have woken up saying, “I really like where I am and this life I am living, but how do I continue to do this and do it right?”

About 14 months ago, at my last therapy appointment, Dr. Suzanne told me that once I worked out my faith, everything else in life would fall into place. She was right!

Last Fall, our pastor spoke on saying yes to God. That day I realized that when my dad passed, I said no to God. Then after a few months in therapy, I began to say maybe. But 3 months ago, I said yes. I was really ready to “get off the bench and back in the game” as Dr. Suzanne put it. I realized that the “injury” of losing my father was finally healing. It is no longer a wound that scabs over and then rips open again and again. It’s made the transition to a scar. This is good. Scars remind me of the pain I’ve felt, but they also remind me that with God I can make it through hard times.

And now that I’m back in this game, I want to do it right. I like the ideas I’ve been reading about lately…simple living, gentle parenting and most importantly fully trusting and hoping in God (my motto right now is Job 13:15 NLT). What’s crazy is that I have lived really simply before. And when SG was a baby, I could have written the book on gentle parenting. And I have known what it is to be completely devoted to God. But life gives us experiences that cause change. So it’s time for more self discovery. My hope is to rediscover my purpose and to live it fully!

24/7

How do you have time to train for a marathon? How do you homeschool and babysit? I get these questions a lot. Other moms of small children often wonder how I can do some of these things when I have the same amount of hours in a day as they do.

My answer is priorities. Homeschooling is something I am passionate about as well as running the marathon this October. Making these two things happen is high on my priority list.  The babysitting just falls into our daily rhythm. It’s tough at times, but these are all things that mean a lot to me right now, so I make them work.

Some of you moms work full time. I’ve been there, and it’s hard! I figured up one time that my daycare provider had 40 waking hours with SG each week while I only had 37. I hated that, but my paycheck had to be a priority at that time in my life. You make it work.

Others of you can only function with a clean house, so you make that a priority. I honestly have never been there. Haha! But I do heed my Grannie’s advice by trying to always keep my front room and bathroom clean (or at least decluttered…if you look closely you will see dusty furniture and floors that need a good mopping). But if I have visitors, I want them to feel comfortable and not think I am a dirty person (smile). Truth be told though, if they would just take a peek into my bedroom, the breakfast nook or the basement, they would immediately assume that I need to be on the TV show “Hoarders.” One of these days, those areas will look normal (at least for a little while anyway).

So really, I don’t “get it all done” at the end of the day. There are PLENTY of things that need attention. But I’m okay with a little dust and cobwebs around the house, clean laundry begging to be put away and not just left in the “clean” basket :),  a dishwasher that needs to be unloaded and loaded again, paper work that needs to be sorted and filed, and my list can go on and on and on and on. At least the beds get made every day (or almost everyday). I am learning to fit the house cleaning in. It’s hard for me, but I am getting there. I would just rather fill my day with other things. I feel great after a morning of homeschooling when I see that light bulb go off in SG’s head, an afternoon of wonderful playtime (and sometimes fight times) with SG, Huck and their friends, and I really feel great when I accomplish an amazing run with my husband.

We all have our priorities, and it’s perfectly fine if yours are different than mine. I won’t judge you if you won’t judge me. 🙂

Summer Rhythm

 

A rhythm is a non-rigid, free-flowing(ish), Waldorf inspired routine. I love the idea of having a schedule to follow, but I think my free-spirited ways cause me to fail in keeping it, which causes me to feel like a huge failure. With a rhythm, I have a guideline for my day, but I don’t feel like a failure when I don’t keep it exactly. This blog, at The Magic Onions,  gives a great explanation of Waldorf and rhythm. The author of this particular post is Ariella from Childhood Magic. Both of these blogs are huge inspirations to me and our journey in parenthood.

Our rhythm includes a nice leisurely morning including breakfast and our morning prayers/blessings. Then we move into our exercise rhythm of taking a walk or doing yoga then heading to the gym so I can get my marathon training done. We have lunch and play outside or do artwork, then for my favorite time of day…Own Self Time. This is when we each spend an hour or so by ourselves. Huck takes his nap, I catch up on the blogging world and facebook, and SG plays quietly in her room. She is still adjusting to this part, but once she gets to playing with her ponies or dolls and listening to her Adventures in Odyssey cds, she will stay in there for longer than planned.

Some outdoor play… obstacle course while I pulled weeds
scavenger hunt with the kids I babysit (sorry for the blurriness)

The only part of our rhythm that I am having problems with is chore time. 🙂 This is the time of day where the kids and I do our chores around the house and outside. I HATE cleaning house, so I have been finding other “important” things to do besides my inside chores. Shame on me. I will do better next week. SG is anxious to help me with the chores. She has been asking to dust, sweep and do laundry…so why am I not taking her up on this??? Again, next week will be better!

Today I am letting our rhythm slide. SG has had Summerfest (our church’s kids’ camp/vbs) every night this week. She hasn’t been getting in bed until 9:30, which is super late considering she is normally in bed by 7:30. And she has been waking up every morning at 7 for her 8 am swim lessons. Last night was the last night of Summerfest, and there are no swim lessons today. So SG is sleeping in and then we are meeting friends at the Arboretum.

Our rhythm is working out pretty well. It might need a few tweaks, but all in all it has been working rather nicely for us.

Summertime and the living is easy

Ahhh…Robert’s home, today is the last day of school and a fun 4 day weekend starts tomorrow. Life is good in the Johnson home.

We have Huck’s 2nd birthday coming up on Monday, the 14th, and SG’s 6th birthday is on Monday, the 21st. So there will be lots of celebrating going on in the next couple of weeks. And we can’t forget about Father’s Day mixed in the middle of it all! SG was born the day after Father’s Day in 2004, and Huck was born the night before Father’s Day in 2008. So celebrating the kids’ birthdays is a great way for Robert to treasure fatherhood on Father’s Day. SG and I have a great gift in mind for him. So don’t worry, he won’t be forgotten. 🙂

SG giving Robert his Father’s Day card at midnight (45 minutes after Huck was born).
Starting Father’s Day off with a new baby
Another fun thing coming up is our new homeschooling adventure. I just ordered our curriculum, so next week will start our preparations for first grade. I have been reading so much on Waldorf education, but I was nervous about making the leap (changes) to become “pure” Waldorf. So we decided to go with Oak Meadow curriculum, which is Waldorf based but not pure Waldorf. This will be a good fit because it will give us traditional education with lots of Waldorf flavor. I was telling SG some of the projects we will be making in first grade, and she was head over heels about making a native american teepee and learning to knit. This is going to be a fun year!

So now I need to step away from the computer and get this house prepared for our weekend and the upcoming birthday and father’s day celebrations!