A Frumps Confession

So I have a confession to all of you who have been following my Frumps to Pumps  challenge. Two days this week I didn’t really get dressed. OK, technically I did put on clothes other than pajamas. After a difficult Sunday that included having to buy and install a new water heater, we had dinner between 9:30 and 10 PM and didn’t get to sleep until after 11 with my kitchen sink still full of dishes and unfolded laundry strewn all over the living room. I set my alarm for what I thought was a conservative 6:45, since I’ve been out of the habit of getting up early for the last week. But it was another restless night with my daughter up in the middle of the night to tell us that she couldn’t sleep. Around 5 AM I gave up and turned off my alarm.

But I was determined that I was going to exercise so I stared my day at 8 AM in exercise clothes. Long story short, I didn’t actually get dressed in regular clothes until after 12 and I never did get a shower.

Today has not been much better, as it is now after 1 PM and I am still in my workout clothes. The good new: I did over an hour on my Wii Fit. Bad news: I also have to finish cleaning the house and it’s hard to clean while dressed in clothes you care about. (I’m always giving my husband a hard time for cleaning the tub in his work clothes.)

Not the day I had hoped for but the best thing about days like that is that we can try to do better the next day. Thus ends my Frumps confession. Give youself grace for the days when all your good intentions lead to nothing but more chaos.

A Moment of Silence for Showers: Frumps to Pumps

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Ouch, this one hurt to read. I used to shower daily before I had kids, sometimes more than once if it was a hot day or I worked out. But once the kids were born I hated how much time showering took in comparison on my miniscule time alone each day.

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Inspiration I’ve Imbibed

Showers, yes take them and often. Schedule them if you have to.  There isn’t a whole lot more to say about that except that I’ve discovered that showers can be a great place to think or not. I’ve wept in the shower, almost fallen asleep, dreamed, prayed. I think or give myself permission not to think or worry about anything except the soothing water. No, it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes there are screaming kids, phones ringing, disasters happening and basically all hell breaking loose when all I want is to get the nastiness of a 90 degree day out of my hair. But it’s still worth it. I almost never feel worse after a shower than I did going in and I usually feel better.

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Challenges I’ve Pursued

Buy yummy body and hair products and make you feel lovely. This is a hard one for me because I’ve been transitioning away from most scented products in my attempt to simplify and pursue a more toxin free lifestyle. That being said, after a terrible day I still have the guilty pleasure of using Bath and Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint body wash to shave my legs. Find a way to make your showers something you look forward to and will make time for.

Next – Frumps to Pumps: Roll Up Your Sleeves

Week 1 : Join the Challenge

Week 2: Know Your Why

Week 3: Dress Differently, Act Differently

Week 4: Prophesy Hope Through Accountability

Week 5: Make the Decision

Week 6: Find Your “Earrings”

Week 7: Focus Your Eyes

What Does School Look Like at Your House? Finding Your Homeschool Philosophy

1428611_89419299When I first started researching homeschooling, I quickly realized that each curriculum seemed to be focused around a philosophy. It was overwhelming. Classical, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori, Unschooling, Interest led/Delight led learning; there were so many. I was drawn to aspects of all of them. The academic in me loved the idea of Classical education with its structure and focus on memorization. I even pursued the idea of signing my daughter up for a local chapter of Classical Conversations, though it was very expensive and we couldn’t really afford it. But when I emailed the organizer she asked if my four year old knew how to read yet. She assured me that it wasn’t required, but that she would get more out of the program if she did. I had been struggling with the very issue of forcing academics too early. I was all for teaching kids to memorize, but my instinct was that facts memorized without any understanding wouldn’t necessarily be helpful. What good is remembering when an event happened if you don’t know why it mattered? I’m not saying that classical education isn’t great and we may pursue it more in the future, but I realized it wasn’t why I was homeschooling. Which led me to ask the question: Why am I homeschooling and what do I want my school to look like? The answer surprised me.

1193228_35828531As a very academic person who thrived in a traditional academic environment, albeit private school rather than public, I assumed that my homeschooling would be more like traditional school at home. Schedules, assignments, perhaps even tests. But then I remembered a big part of why I am choosing to homeschool, I don’t just want to teach my child, I want to help her learn how to learn, teach her to think. In some ways I won’t be her teacher at all, though part of me would prefer that role, I am here to help her develop the ability to self-teach and to become a lifelong learner. I want her to be able to absorb and analyze new information, remember that information but also form conclusions and create her own ideas using that information. This is something that is not taught in most traditional public schools any longer.

Girl drawing back to schoolSo what does our school look like? We are much more unschool or interest led than I ever imagined. I have set days with room for school. It often works around my son’s naps, but not always. We do lots and lots of read aloud, more if my daughter asks for it. She can do creative activities like crafts pretty much whenever she wants. We spend two days a week with our preschool co-op, meeting outside as long as the weather permits. The two things I’ve learned most from Charlotte Mason are that children only have a 15-20 minute attention span, so keep that in mind with planning all lessons. Also, give them as much outside time as possible. We don’t get as much outside time as I’d like, but I notice that my daughter is a happier kid, even if all she does is dig in the dirt or draw with chalk. It’s even better if we go someplace where she has space to run. I can see why previous generations of inventors, entrepreneurs and artists spent their childhoods mostly outdoors rather than in front of the TV or sitting at a desk for eight hours a day.

1356853_39267271 (1)I love many of the aspects of Waldorf education including the focus on music, dance and the arts along with the seasons of the year and cycles of nature. The curriculum we use in Waldorf based and so far it works really well for us. Music is a daily part of our lives. Thanks to Pandora we can transition from classical, to blue grass, to the Beach Boys, or Veggie Tales. We’ve come upon songs like the Water Cycle and the Alphabet of Nations. Music has seamlessly become part of our daily learning without even officially adding it to our education plan.

485097_60890254The amazing thing is, my daughter is learning. In her own time, in her own way, without me standing over her telling her how to do it. Her counting skills and letter recognition skills seem to be materializing practically before my eyes, without much formal attention. This gives me great confidence in the human ability to learn through environment. Life is learning and I realize now that if I pass nothing else on to my daughter in the way of education that is what I want her to realize.

947375_31536446I want my children to realize that learning occurs anytime and anywhere, and most of the time it will be fun and even when it’s hard it can still be satisfying. Talent is important but hard work will get you a long way and many skills can be taught if you are willing. We are each unique and have something special about us, but there will always be someone who is better than you, smarter than you or more attractive than you. That’s life but it in no way diminished who you are and what makes you unique. If you want to be exceptional, work harder than everyone else, and treat others with respect. Be a gracious loser and a polite winner.

If I can impart any or all of those things, my children will be more prepared for life than if they get a perfect score on the SAT’s, ACT’s or PSSA’s.

So what does your homeschool look like? What philosophies have influenced you and what are your primary goals?

We’re All In This Mess Together: Five Minute Friday

I am wearied with mommy competition. It seems like all around me women are trying to justify the way they birth, eat, parent and generally conduct their lives. I heard a great quote recently that I unfortunately can’t attribute here but it went something like this.
“No one is thinking about you as much as you are.”
I’m realizing that I don’t need to justify how I chose to raise my kids to anyone. My husband and I need to come to an agreement between us and we are accountable to God, but you know what? That’s it. It doesn’t matter if my relatives approve of my intention to homeschool or if my friends thing my clothes are stylish enough. It’s Ok to want to feel good about myself, but I need to be careful that I’m truly trying to please myself rather than others with changes that I make.
Am I afraid to invite friends to dinner because they eat all free-range and organic and we can’t afford it? Sometimes, but I want to believe that hospitality covers a multitude of failures in the culinary department. I probably think way too much about what I’m wearing when I head out to a rare mom’s night out or even to MOPS or church on Sundays. Seriously, who cares what I wear or even notices?
This year’s MOPS theme is A Beautiful Mess, the problem is that most of us are afraid to show our mess. We women have become so practiced at protraying our best side that we forget that sometimes others can be encouraged by seeing our flaws. When we admit that we are less than perfect in whatever area, it lets other women (who probably already feel like terrible moms, because let’s face it, our culture sets the super woman/ super mom bar pretty high) realize that its OK that they aren’t perfect either.
So here goes.

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This is my kitchen table, not just today, but most days. It also backs into my pantry for which there is no curtain or cover. Welcome to my staging area. Cloth napkins, table dock and keyboard, water bottles, knitting projects and Adventures in Odyseey cassettes.

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This is my kitchen sink area. It actually looks pretty good and I’ve spent multiple hours in the last two days trying to bring the mess level down a little bit. But you don’t want to know how long that blender has been in there.

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This is my organizing and filing area in the dining room. I’m supposed to file a little bit each week. It’s more like once a month. I’m several months behind (and this is the paperless/low paper version).
So there you have it. I also yell at my kids sometimes, feed them pancakes (from a mix I buy in bulk at Sam’s Club) when I’m too tired too cook and have been known to give another cookie just to get them to be quiet.
I think maybe if we all shared our weaknesses as freely as we do our strengths maybe we’d all put a lot less pressure on ourselves. Another great quote I can’t remember the author of
“Don’t compare your everyday to someone else’s highlight reel.”
Can’t we just love each other and encourage each other? Speaking of which, you’ll have to excuse me, I have to go breakup a fight between my screaming children.
Remember, we’re all in this mess together.

When I Run, I Feel His Pleasure: My First 5K

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My pacing partner and I cross the finish line at the Runner’s World 5K

I have watched Chariots of Fire at least a dozen times since I was a kid. It is one of my father’s favorite movies. I loved the Eric Liddell character and watching that movie made me want to be a runner. But I always hated running, and truth be told, part of me still does. When my dad was in his forties he took up running for the first time. It began as a necessary step to help control his cholesterol, which was high in spite of a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. I ran with him a couple of times when I was in high school and hated pretty much every minute of it. Other than one one or two single attempts in college, I never attempted running for exercise again. I took four dance classes a week, I did Pilates and yoga. I taught dance. I walked most days after work, but I was never a runner.

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My dad as he passed the 11 mile mark of the Runner’s World Half Marathon

Two years ago my dad ran his first marathon. In the last year alone, my father has run two more marathons and a half marathon as well as helping to train a group of 10K runners for the Runner’s World Half Festival. All of this in his mid-fifties.

As part of the Runner’s World Half Marathon Festival our church decided to organize fitness groups. We had non-competitive walking groups as well as training groups for a 5K and 10K. Many of the runners decided to enter the Runner’s World races. I had never run more than a mile in my life, let alone entered a race, but I wanted a new challenge.

Last Saturday I ran my first 5K. I didn’t win any awards (though I did get a medal for participation that I love, as a reminder of this important personal achievement) and I certainly didn’t have an impressive time. But I ran 3.1 miles without stopping, something I had never been able to do during my nine weeks of training.

Two weeks before the race I injured my foot, probably a small tear in my plantar fascia. Suddenly this all really mattered to me. I wanted to run this race. Now I needed to. I had registered. I had committed, I wasn’t giving up now. So I cut back on my training schedule but kept running. I iced my foot, wore sneakers all the time and took plenty of Advil. I was determined I as going to complete this race.

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I had two goals. Complete the race in the allotted time, which was one hour and be able to run the whole distance without stopping or walking. I wasn’t overly concerned about time, it was more important that I finish. The week of the race I only did two training runs. The first was an actual practice on the race route. After that, I felt confident. Four days before the race I did my usual training run in my neighborhood. My foot and lungs gave out around 2.75 miles. The day of the race was colder than I anticipated. As we stood around waiting for the race to start, my foot was already cramping. As we began to run each step sent shooting pain through the arch of my foot. But was determined to keep going. Slowly, I got into the rhythm and my foot kind of numbed out. Thanks to the training run we took of the course a week earlier, I knew what to expect. As we climbed the last hill I knew the rest would be mostly downhill and then straight away to the finish. With the finish in sight, my pacing partner and I exchanged thanks and encouragement as we headed toward the finish line. I think we may even have sprinted a little. 36 minutes, 11 seconds. 11 minutes, 41 seconds per mile.

As my husband found me in the crowd I couldn’t quite believe it was over. It seemed to go by so quickly. I didn’t feel any pain until we began walking to the car. 5 days later I still have pain most days and I plan to take at least two weeks off from running. But I finished.

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Talking the race highlights over with my dad.

Racing was different. There was an energy and excitement. I realize that by most running standards 5K is a very short race. But I felt exhilarated. But it’s hard to carry that excitement into the cold at 6 AM when you hit the road alone. Will I keep running? I’m not sure. But I think I want to. I especially want to race again. For some of my training partners this race represented a major triumph. One recently, by the grace of God, has overcome panic attacks. Another is fighting thyroid cancer. Our training leader began his running journey to battle a family history of high blood pressure and heart attacks and he is now in the best shape of his life with multiple 5K’s, 10k’s, and half marathons under his belt. For me it was a simple as a new challenge. Taking a first step towards trying something new that I never thought I could do. Realizing that I am stronger than I think and more capable than I realize. That was my dream and now I don’t want it to end.

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Focus Your Eyes: Frumps to Pumps

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It can be easy to lose focus in the daily grind. Sometimes I get so caught up in the diapers and dishes I forget that my goal is to raise children who love God and love others. While having a clean house in part of that, it isn’t all of that. For the last few weeks we’ve been taking  the time to put some focus on ourselves as well, which is a good thing since it will ultimately help us to be better wives and mothers. But I have to remember that I also have a higher calling.

1399686_21236547Inspiration I’ve Imbibed

Keep your eyes of Jesus. He is supposed to be at the center of all that I do. Remembering what my ultimate focus is supposed to be is a difficult task while also trying to take care of myself, but I try to remember that God loves me and just as I love to see my daughter feeling good about herself, I think he feels the same about me. Another great challenge is to remember that your expression can be as important as what you wear. Practice smiling more. This actually can help you feel happier and makes you look better too. No amount of makeup can make an unhappy person look truly beautiful.

Challenges I’ve Pursued

Buy new eye makeup if you wish, something that makes you feel like actually looking people in the eye and smiling.

Remind yourself that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that we are beloved daughter’s of the most high God. He sees us as beautiful, both inside and out, just as we look at our own children. As you get dressed, try to see yourself through his eyes.

Next – Frumps to Pumps: A Moment of Silence for Showers

Week 1 : Join the Challenge

Week 2: Know Your Why

Week 3: Dress Differently, Act Differently

Week 4: Prophesy Hope Through Accountability

Week 5: Make the Decision

Week 6: Find Your “Earrings”

My Father Has It Under Control

727639_69013102When I was a kid, I believed my Dad could do anything. He was a chemical engineer which meant nothing to me as a little kid except that he was good at fixing things. I thought he could fix anything. He built my first dresser, my first doll house (it was a kit, but was damaged so he had to fix and reconstruct many of the pieces as he went along). He took care of the car, repaired things around the house and rarely hired anyone to do anything. He had a good job and he worked hard but he and my mother also made a point to be wise with how they spent their money. I didn’t always have the most expensive new toy and we never drove new cars, but I rarely had to worry about having what I needed. I knew that my Dad had it under control.

447616_75772427One of the things my Dad was very good at was sharing his faith. For as long as I can remember he prayed with us and read the Bible to us each night. There were other stories too, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, the Secret Garden and made of stories or tales of he and my uncle’s childhood escapades. But there were always hugs, prayers and scripture. Yet, it took me until I was almost grown to realize that my Dad didn’t always have everything under control, but he trusted someone else who did.

1205795_60656767I’m 30 years old and I feel as though I’m just finally getting a glimpse of the kind of trust my father had in God. I’ve been blessed in many ways, but I’ve also faced my share of disappointment and pain. There were times when I felt like my life was just spinning out of control. I wanted to be a little girl again, climb into my Daddy’s lap and know that he would take care of me. My dad is always there and I know he prays for his children and grandchildren daily. But I’ve learned that while I still depend on my earthly father in many ways (when my pipe bursts or the toilet breaks or I have questions about my faith), my heavenly father really does have everything under control.

223094_4008It seems as though the news lately is so full of negativity. There is so much going on around me and truthfully, I feel totally out of control. I live in a country that is supposed to give its people a voice in government but yet I feel shut out and ignored by those I helped elect into office and whose salaries are paid by my tax dollars. For the first time in my life I feel as though I’m not sure I can take care of myself and my family because of the impingement of outside forces upon my life. But you know what? My Father has it under control. Because the truth is, I never really had control. I have been blessed enough to live in a nation where I have many choices. This gives me the illusion of control. But the reality is that every day I interact with a world that I have only a minor influence on, and certainly no control over. Does this mean I should stay silent? No! Does this mean that I shouldn’t work hard toward the causes I believe in? Certainly not! But it does mean I need to keep it all in perspective.

1384961_16398248Just as when I was a child, trusting in God doesn’t mean that I will always get what I want or that bad things won’t ever happen. It just means that even in trial and difficulty I can have hope because I know my Father is here and he will take care of me.

Have hope. Our Father has it all under control.