Sayonara Summer 2016

I wanted to take a moment to document our summer and reflect on my gratitude for a wonderful few months.

Way back in May, Ryan had to travel to Hawaii for work. We purchased my airline ticket out of pocket and I enjoyed a week on Oahu with my sweetheart. I wrote about it here and also here.

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So many rainbows…

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Pearl Harbor.

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Thanks to my parents for keeping our kids for the time we were in Hawaii. On my way back from Chattanooga, we were able to stop in Canton and see the cousins.

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Back in Augusta, we spent some fun time with friends.

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And just like that, we were loading up and headed to our next stop, Williamsburg with Ryan’s parents. I wrote about that trip here.

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Immediately following Williamsburg, Ryan and Thomas went to Trail Life camp for a week. It was a big time for the guys! They hiked Table Rock and loved it.

While they were gone, I hosted a Camp Claire for my nieces and nephew. We had a great time!

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When we were all in town, we worshipped with our Fort Gordon E3 service!

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Mae had soccer conditioning and Thomas had baseball practice.

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The girls went to VBS at Grace and invited a friend to join us.

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We hosted some old friends who are new in town.

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We had orthodontic appointments…

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Ryan attended his battalion ball alone because I had food poisoning. (Boo!)

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Ryan had a retreat in Hilton Head. This is my absolute favorite place on Earth. We enjoyed a nice few days at Sonesta.

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And we treated ourselves to some chocolate treats…

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We spent a few Friday nights at the driving range hitting some buckets of golf balls.

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We saw The BFG!

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We hosted Ryan’s brother, sister-in-law, and niece for the 4th of July.

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We spent some mornings at the local park working on our Ninja Courses.

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The two older kids finally got their military ID cards.

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It hasn’t been published yet, but I was interviewed on Stronger Families Oxygen 365’s video podcast. What an honor. I had to have an official headshot. I made due with my good camera and my eight-year-old photographer. =)

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We made another trip to Atlanta. We visited the Atlanta History Museum.

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While in the area, we spent a few days filling up our Cousin-Love-Tank!

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From there it was back to Chattanooga for a few days. There’s nothing like a good visit with your childhood besties and their kiddos!

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We celebrated a huge milestone and cheered on my dad who retired from Regions Bank after 30 years of service.

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From there, it was up to Cleveland for a few days to visit with my in-laws and drop off our kiddos while Ryan and I attended our denominational General Assembly.

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Nashville didn’t disappoint!

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Ryan and one of his preaching heroes and most respected men of faith, Dr. Tony Evans.

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After checking us out of the hotel I had some time to kill before Ryan’s final session ended. I drove to 12South and visited Reese Witherspoon’s store, Draper James. They serve you sweet tea while you shop. (Precious!) Some cute things there but WAAAAAAY out of my price range.

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Meanwhile, back at Nana and Granddaddy’s house, the fish were biting. The ice cream was churning and the good times were rolling!

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After our week in Nashville we made one last run for the beach.

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Every year my extended family on my dad’s side spend the same week at the same condo in Fort Myers Beach. The sun and fun are great, but it is the family time that we love. It’s my aunts, uncles, cousins, and now our kids (“cous-lings”).

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One of the mornings Ryan golfed with my cousins, I took the kids to the Edison/Ford Estate. It was super cool!

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I had worked throughout the spring and summer (when we were home) to have everything ready for day one of school upon our return from the beach.

We kicked off our sixth year of homeschooling on August 1st.

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Finally, one of the biggest highlights of the summer for Ryan and me, was celebrating our FIFTEENTH wedding anniversary. Fifteen, I tell you!

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We enjoyed a wonderful meal and date night at Frog Hollow Tavern. So great! We *really* celebrated in Hawaii but wanted to mark the event on the day of our actual anniversary too.

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In SUMMary (see what I did there?) We had a fantastic summer season! We soaked up lots of family time, extended family time, and friend time. We travelled, relaxed, lounged, and saw the sights. Summer is a time that really resets my heart and mind; it recharges my batteries for the op-tempo of the school year. Twenty-sixteen will go on record as one of our best. Next summer it will be time to move again and I am especially grateful for every moment we had this summer being near our families. #woodfamsummerfun2016

American Home School Ninja Warrior [July]

In 2015, I committed to a project and series for my blog called Teach Them Diligently. It was a way to keep myself accountable to teaching and training our kids in good habits and building not only their confidence, but also a way to move them toward intentional independence. We all enjoyed the process. Here were the skills we honed:

January [ironing]  ||  February [the oven]  ||  March [saving]  || April [safety]

May [purging]  ||  June [written correspondence]  ||  July [cleaning the bathroom]

August [planning]  ||  September [shopping on a budget]  ||  October [rest]

November [reflect]  ||  December [rejoice]

As I am looking ahead to AY 2016-2017, I have felt a renewed outlook on taking back our home school after giving away too much instruction to our co-op last year. It was a great endeavor, but in many ways it did not fit into our overall philosophy of home education.

It was largely an academic co-op. The rigor was good, but our sole focus isn’t simply academic. We are aiming to educate the whole child.

In that spirit, I have been considering and praying about how a few things may look for the Wood Academy of Christian Kids (W.A.C.K.) next year. I am continually evaluating what we are doing, what’s working, what’s not. As my kids’ primary teacher, I get a front row seat to what they need to continue their academic, emotional, social, and spiritual development.

As avid Charlotte Mason’ers, we are no strangers to the value of being out-of-doors. Ms. Mason believed in lots of free time, lots of outdoor exploration, and much physical activity. The bottom line is that last year, we (myself included) did not get enough strenuous physical activity. That has been on the top of my priority list of activities to re-incorporate into this coming school years’ timeline.

Enter: The American Home School Ninja Warrior Experiment  #americanhomeschoolninjawarrior

 

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Over the summer, one of our favorite family television shows has been American Ninja Warrior. All five of us are routinely inspired each week as we watch these athletes give their all to completing a demanding physical course.

Not only are these athletes in great physical shape, but also many seem to translate their “can do” attitudes into other areas of mental strength and overall willpower.

This got my proverbial wheels turning.

 

 

 

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The inspiration for this project came at one of those times where I lay awake for nearly two hours past midnight thinking through the benefits of incorporating something like this into our weekly rhythm. I worked through logistics, outcomes, and potential fun.

While I am committed to home schooling our kids indefinitely, Ryan and I are ever-prayerful and always open to the timing of when the Lord may call us to put our kids back into traditional schooling. This thought prompted me even further to explore really kicking the fun-factor up a notch.

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I never know if this will be our last year home schooling. Our kids are growing and maturing at lightning speed and what is fun this year could very well be The World’s Lamest Idea the next. Timing is everything, and this year, more than ever seemed to present an opportunity for something quite profound.

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As each academic year provides a finite opportunity to use our time to help our kids develop, I am always evaluating ways in which to prepare them for the real world. I especially think about a scenario in which Ryan is still serving the Army and we are moving frequently. It is very likely that if and when our children go off to college, it will truly be OFF-TO-COLLEGE, far from us.

It is increasingly important that each has the academic preparation for wherever their dreams and passions may take them. But equally important to us is that our kids are equipped with life skills, independence, a strong faith in God, and a certain aplomb for navigating life’s difficulties.

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Are we getting this right at every turn? Maybe not. Are we aiming and trying?  You bet!

What could give them more mental and physical confidence than training and pushing themselves toward goals that build strong bodies and equally strong minds?

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A few years ago, I trained for and completed (walking) a half-marathon that quite literally took me over a mountain. There was something about finishing that feat that helped to breed courage, determination, fortitude, and grit unlike few things I have done in life.

I could use a little more of that confidence of late and I know it would be good for our kids too. That’s why I have implemented the American Home School Ninja Warrior project for this school year.

It is covering our P.E. in conjunction with Marathon Kids (which we did during our Texas years). It is covering some of our habit training and personal development. I love it when one stone kills a few birds.

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There is so much I think I am going to love about this little project. Here are just a few of the benefits and outcomes I anticipate:

  • regular, rigorous exercise outside (rain, shine, sleet, or snow)
  • stronger muscles, stronger minds, stronger mettle
  • reinforced sibling relationships based on friendly competition AND cheering one another on towards success/completion of courses
  • accountability to ourselves to get up early two mornings a week to “train” at the local playground and park
  • chances to make good nutritional choices and see the connections between our diets and our health
  • an opportunity to keep our God-given bodies healthy and in shape so that we may better serve God and others
  • a format that does not include a gym membership, a set time for a traditional P.E. class, and ninja-courses that are only limited by our imaginations
  • confidence in our kids that they can push through mild discomforts of life to “finish the course” (a lesson that sometimes needs refreshing in mom as well)
  • opportunities to discuss the metaphor of physical training as it relates to life; especially as we anticipate another relocation on the horizon

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I plan to update this space regularly with some great pictures of happy and healthy kids. I also plan to update some of the bigger lessons we all hope to learn through this process.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [I Corinthians 6:19-20]

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Local or far-away homeschooling friends, we’d love to have you join us on this adventure. Email me at rctmkwood@gmail.com and we can coordinate!

Stay tuned for a future post where I’ll introduce my awesome team of Home School Ninja Warriors. We all have names and fun Ninja facts we’re dying to share.

Experiment update || 05 ||

Today marks nine weeks of this proposed 180 day, four month experiment…I’m roughly halfway through the time I set out to realign some things in my life.

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{excerpt from April 24}

For example, I’d tell you that my spiritual life is of foremost importance and yet, I have not practiced regular, disciplined Bible study most of this school year after repeated attempts to get into a rhythm and practice. I’d tell you that my marriage is of foremost importance and yet, Ryan and I haven’t had any date nights and frequently go for periods of time where we don’t connect beyond the immediate-necessary-need-to-know details of our days. I’d tell you that mothering my children, investing in them spiritually, educationally, and lovingly is of foremost importance and yet, the routine of our weeks this past school year has left a lot to be desired; I’ve given away too much of their academic instruction to our co-op and honestly I’ve felt too tired and burdened to lead them intentionally toward Christ in devotional time. I’d tell you my well-being and health is of foremost importance and yet, I have not been faithful to create a space for regular exercise, consistently good eating habits, or rest.

The above paragraph was what was in my heart two months ago. It was coming from a place of exhaustion, spiritual dryness, and overwhelm. Thankfully, today, I am in a much different place. I shouldn’t say I am in a different place as much as I should say I am on my way to a different place.

I have needed a pause from things like mindless spending to fill a void, social media to escape, and the busyness of the school year to reset my heart and priorities. This pause has proven to be the start of renewal in my spiritual life, my physical life, and in our home.

These past few weeks have given me lots of mental space to really think about, consider, and listen to a message of what I believe the Lord has longed to get across to me.

It doesn’t take long to hear Him when you begin removing all of the distractions with which you have inundated yourself.

Essentially, I have needed this time to have my eyes opened, my ears attuned, and my heart softened. I am thankful that I believe that process has begun. I believe it started in Hawaii with the fallout after a mild panic attack and that message took on further clarity yesterday when I heard a short phrase on a podcast that got my attention.

Hawaii:

The short version of the story is that I didn’t especially want to go hiking in the heat of the day with Ryan on a trail that seemed beyond my current physical capabilities. I was full of fear. I was afraid of overheating, of over-exerting myself, of the unknown details of how long this hike would take, and how physically taxing it might be. #controlfreakmuch

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Most of our ascent, I was winded and quickly realizing that yes, part of it was not being in top cardio-vascular shape, but more of it was because I was slowing beginning to take short, shallow breaths and hyperventilation was imminent. By the time we reached a set of steep stairs I was nearly panicking.

I wasn’t in control of my surroundings or situation which leads me to feel out of control of myself. Around the next bend in the trail was a dark cave we had to go through in order to reach the top. It was in that moment, I began to cry as I was literally talking aloud to myself saying things like, “you can do this…,” “you can do hard things, you have done them before…” and “you’re almost there…”

I was continually looking down at my feet urging myself to keep going, to keep moving one foot in front of the other. I distinctly remember focusing on doing that. Thankfully, Ryan was behind me consoling me with messages of “you can set our pace…,” “we can take this as slowly as you would like…,” and “you’ve got this; we’re almost to the top…”

In those moments, almost didn’t mean much. I was losing it. Thankfully, we rounded another corner and I could see the top of Diamond Head. We made it and my breathing began to return to normal. The tears were still coming but I knew the downhill descent would be a breeze compared to the climb.

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During that time I had an opportunity to really open up to Ryan about some of my struggles and why, what he saw in that manifestation of my fear, was something I feel like I deal with (and hide) a lot.

I explained that I live most of my thought-life in a place of near-constant worry about a hundred things I cannot control. Some that top the list are the fears of sickness of family and myself; fears about not knowing what life will look like for our family in the next year, two years, five years; the fears about whether or not we will have community around us (family, friends, or even a support system…)

I live in fear of not being able to be in control. This mountain crater hike just put a giant spotlight on that fear and how I am clearly NOT DEALING with this.

Ryan and I had some good discussion. We talked about strategies for combating those fears and both practical and spiritual habits that would help me to alleviate my fears and learn to accept and trust more. <—Lucky for me, I live with a chaplain who has HOURS of on the job training in Christian counseling…🙂

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My take-aways from that experience were these:

  • on a basic level I need to get into better cardio-vascular shape (my neighborhood walks aren’t cutting it when it comes to elevating my heart rate…)
  • I’m truly grateful for a loving husband whose understanding and empathy grows with each year of our lives
  • I know God doesn’t long for me to live spiritually “in knots” with an ever present, low-lying anxiety over the future…if I’d avoided the hike simply to avoid pain or fear, look at what beauty I would have missed out on…that’s a metaphor for life right there, friends…

So fast forward a few weeks. We made it home, we travelled to Williamsburg, and we have had many days back at home in our normal, routine, life. I have had a longing (not an obligation) to dig deeply into God’s Word, to regularly exercise and eat good-for-me-foods. I’ve been back on a good vitamin/essential oil regimen. I’m reading regularly, limiting caffeine and going to bed early. I’ve had some friend time, talked to and emailed with several folks, and have been trying to effectively hear from the Lord.

Yesterday I listed to this podcast with Andy Stanley’s wife, Sandra. I love hearing from other minister’s wives and what Sandra said had nothing to do with my life in particular, but rather she was talking about their own journey in parenting. She simply said,

“New seasons don’t scare me…”

I stopped the podcast. I made a note in my phone of her quote and proceeded to not stop thinking about her words all day. She basically went on to say that she doesn’t fear the unknown in new seasons of her life because she knows that God’s track record in her life speaks more loudly than her fears. She cited the Fruit of the Spirit as the power we have as Christians to live our lives in such a way.

Earth. Shattered.

I’ve been thinking so much about what I want my life to look like. Maybe it’s some pre-over-the-hill-I’m-turning-40-soon reflection, but that’s been at the root of my entire “Summer Experiment.”

I want to live a legacy of a woman who is full of faith, not fear. I want to live a legacy that says yes to whatever it is God has for me in this life. Whether in my marriage, in our parenting, in our vocation/calling, or in the possible hardships of separation, sickness, or any unpleasant thing…I want to be so full of the Holy Spirit that my faith isn’t shaken. I want the Fruit of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity to be the HALLMARKS of my life, not the targets I was grasping for but never quite attained.

So for me, here at the half-way mark of this so-called experiment I want to say that it isn’t about self-restriction from social media or purchasing. It isn’t about setting up a prescription, list, or chart for how I’m going to finally master myself.

Those things may have helped to set aside distractions and clear the noise as a means to open up my heart again. And as these weeks roll on, I’ll decide when and how to return a sense of balance in those areas of life. I don’t think the Lord longs for me to set about putting up legalistic rules for myself; rules that honestly propagate less grace and more striving, effort, and pride.

Rather, I know that He longs for me to return wholly to Him as I seek to give Him control over every area and detail of my life.

 

Williamsburg, VA

We spent a wonderful week in Williamsburg, Virginia with my in-laws earlier this month and it was one of our favorite vacations ever!

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Our kids are at just the right ages to enjoy a trip like this. It was lots of walking, lots of history and touring, and a lot of information. I have mentioned multiple times that if they’d been much younger, they would have been bored and if they’d been much older, uninterested.

Here are the highlights of what we did in Williamsburg:

Sunday & Monday:

Colonial Williamsburg

We arrived late Saturday and had our plan in mind. We spent two full days at Colonial Williamsburg. We felt like two days was just the right amount of time. It was very wet and rainy and therefore, we didn’t have to wait to visit any trade-shops and the crowds were minimal. We were able to devote almost two, eight-hour days to this sightseeing.

If it had been hot, sunny, and crowded we would have definitely needed an additional day. However, we believe that a third day may have been pushing it with the kids’ interest. We visited nearly every shop, ate at a few of the restaurants, and even got special ticketing for a few of the shows/scheduled activities. Some of our highlights were seeing the cobbler, participating in the dance class, and the kids especially loved the Powell House.

{Bonus: We were there during their free military admission for the Memorial Day holiday, so our tickets were free! $178.45 savings!}

 

Tuesday:

We spent Tuesday laying low around the condo. It was sunny and so we had a pool day!

 

Wednesday:

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

We visited Busch Gardens and loved it too! The park is awesome, well-maintained, and offers wonderful rides our kids raved over.The park was clean, rides were thrilling, and we spent an entire day there as well! The final hour of the park hours, the skies opened up so we sprinted to the car!

{Bonus: Because of their Waves of Honor Program and a kind and generous ticketing attendant all five of us got in for free! $365 savings!}

 

Thursday:

Historic Jamestowne

We loved this attraction almost as much as the others. As part of the National Parks Service, Jamestowne was quite a learning opportunity. We were able to meander around at our own pace and hear from very knowledgeable archeologists concerning the settlement.

{Bonus: Thanks to the NPS America the Beautiful passes for military (again), we were able to gain free admission. $28 savings!}

 

Friday: 

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg

Another highlight of this trip was the art museums which rivaled Smithsonian collections and artifacts. We spent several hours looking at all of the furniture, instruments, artwork, silver, and even a mental hospital exhibit. Definitely worth planning some time to visit here.

{Bonus: Thanks to the Blue Star Families program we were able to get free admission here as well. $45.50 savings!}

If you’re counting, and as a TYPE A person, you know I am…that is a total savings of $616.95 in gate admissions for the week! Thank you, Ryan, for your service!

All in all, we loved Williamsburg. It is definitely a “learning” vacation and one that will engage the minds of everyone in the group, young and old. Our kids are already talking about wanting to go back again; or better yet, they want to get stationed in Virginia!

Some of the places we ate while there:

Food for Thought || Duck Donuts || Fat Canary || Trellis Pub & Grille || Second Street || Sal’s By Victor || DoG Street Pub || Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop || Surry Seafood Company

 

You can see a complete listing of attractions we have visited by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Experiment Update || 04 ||

Summer is trucking right along. It’s already the second week of June and I know August and back-to-school will be here before we know it.

Our summer has been very full so far. Immediately following our Hawaii trip, we all went to Williamsburg with Ryan’s folks. We returned home and the very next day, Thomas left for Trail Life Camp. During that week, Ryan joined him and the girls’ and I hosted my siblings’ kids.

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As far as my summer experiment goes, I’d say it is going great. I’m settling into some of my new routines and habits like scripture reading/meditating, exercise, and spending lots of intentional time with my family.

I am also feeling rejuvenated in many areas. I have had some great opportunities for reflection. I am grateful to have found my groove again in terms of housekeeping and cooking, both of which I’d lost near the end of the school year. I’m still on the hunt for my writing mojo.

I have kept up to my end of the bargain on not purchasing any new clothes for myself with the exception of a ball gown for an upcoming military ball. I scored a great deal (it was the last one in my size, and a final sale so reduced, reduced, reduced). I felt really good about making this purchase because, well, it simply was the opposite of mindless spending. It was purposeful, deliberate, and I shopped around online and will have it to wear again in the future.

There’s been some clarity for me in several aspects of my life. I’ll share a few of the small epiphanies I have had:

  • Centering my mind on God’s word has helped to center me in general. I’m not spending time reading and copying scripture out of strict self-regulation, I’m doing it because I am longing for time in the Word and seeing the direct result of the role it plays in my life.
  • When you put yourself on a spending hiatus for things for yourself, you actually quit allowing the thoughts of shopping (either online or physically) to just kind of fizzle away. Being mindful about what we bring into the home (waste) has helped me to focus less on accumulating stuff and more on enjoying moments with people I love.
  • Not spending time on Facebook has reduced a LOT of mental clutter. Sure I have my moments of missing out on news of what is going on in the lives of people I know and love, but overall, I have become much more content with who I am and what I have.
  • I have felt a return to feeling much more invested with my children and Ryan. We have resumed family devotions in the evenings, have eaten many meals around our table on days we have been home and in town. I have also felt a return to hospitality; something I’ve missed and needed a break from during last school year.

Ultimately, when I think about my life and my values I want to be sure that my actions reflect what is in my heart. I believe that slowly but surely those are aligning once again.

I’ve gotten to the point that I have mental space once again to begin thinking about the upcoming school year, our travel plans in our final year in Georgia, and how I plan to maintain balance in the coming days and weeks once our summer pace ends and the school year pace begins.

I haven’t written here much as I believe this overall lack of focus has invaded nearly every aspect of my life, including writing. I haven’t known what to say or where to dig in. I realize that not everything in life has to be planned or mapped out exactly. However, I have been praying and seeking the Lord on the future of this space, on what He’d like me to focus on. I have so many things on my heart to share about life, marriage, parenting, homeschooling, military life…but it often feels so scattered. Throughout the summer, I’m going to continue my digging and seeking.

 

 

Experiment Update || 03 ||

As the school year ended I began to think about what I hoped our summer would look like. I also began to reflect in general; ever wondering if what I say I want my life to look like is actually what it is.

Essentially, I asked myself, “Do my actions and time reflect what’s most important to me?” For the past several months there has been a stirring, a discrepancy, and a desire for realignment.

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I decided to write about that process and document it here over the course of four months; May-August. It’s summer and there’s no better time to hit the reset button. I want less stuff, less distractions, and less time spent on Facebook. I want more intentional time with my family, more fun, and more opportunities for practicing good health.

What could be so difficult about that? Why don’t I do the things I want to do and set aside the bad habits of things I don’t want? It seems simple enough, and yet, as humans that is the battle we face against our flesh.

I’m about four weeks in and that battle has been ongoing. I knew habits wouldn’t change overnight. I knew this would be a process. I knew that I’d have to be intentional with my choices, thought processes, and even where I chose to spend my time.

Here’s an update at the end of one month:

 

School Commitments: 

We did finish out our school year strong. We had our end of the year party and have closure on the whole thing. One of my goals was to avoid adding back in more commitments for the fall until school actually starts. I’ve had a habit of hearing about all kinds of fun/engaging/useful activities for all of us and saying “yes!!!” only to start the school year feeling dictated by our schedule. Part of my mission is for us to get back into our Charlotte Mason rhythm and only participate in activities that add value to our time.

 

Facebook:

Facebook. AHHHHH! This one area has been probably the one that I’ve seen and felt the most difference. Facebook is something that has, in the past, added GREAT value to my life. As a military family, Facebook is a vehicle that helps me to stay connected (literally) to hundreds of family and friends. It’s actually become a crutch to combat loneliness and homesickness. It’s also sometimes like pouring rubbing alcohol on loneliness and homesickness. It stings.

As someone who is highly sensitive, scrolling Facebook not only stirs up those feelings of “if we were still in TN or TX, we’d be doing that too,” but also it lures me in with an empathy so great that I am often laying in bed at night wondering about so-and-so’s grandmother’s aunt’s cousin who had surgery or is sick.

I will admit there has been a quiet peace in not knowing all of the drama of 1200 people. There has definitely been a quiet peace in not filling my mind’s eye with nasty political junk and zillions of quick-time recipes. However, there has been a sense of mourning in NOT knowing the minutiae of a wide circle of friends and feeling like what I would share hasn’t been missed. Out of all of those 1200 + friends, I have had less than five non-family members contact me in another format (speaking, emailing, texting) to check in. This proves my point that Facebook isn’t proof of REALITY.

I have, on the other hand, spent many hours talking to real life friends and real life family members in person and on the phone. I have emailed back and forth with a few friends to truly check-in and see how they are doing. I have even run into to acquaintances here and there, and we are all still very friendly despite the absence of the exchange of Facebook knowledge.

Since deactivating my account, I have continued to use Instagram. I keep certain photos and hashtags there for posterity. I have also gotten on to Ryan’s account a handful of times: once to check something my sister needed me to weigh in on, and once out of boredom. Both times, I got sucked into other people’s medical issues and tragedy. Both times I literally felt something physical after having been mentally zoning out by scrolling.

The greatest benefit, I believe, is that I am not zoning out while sitting in a room full of family or friends. I am attempting to be present with the ones I’m with.

This is all to say that Facebook should be a compliment to a full life. It should not become the life itself. I know for me, I can allow my own connection to it to become an idol that takes on a life of its own.

Mindless Spending: 

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of unused and unwanted items over this past month. I have also not brought much of anything back into the house. I have needed to get the kids a few things like tennis shoes and swimsuits that had been outgrown. We also traded my vehicle, so while a big purchase, it was one that made sense for us and didn’t include debt. As far as for myself, I am always SO TEMPTED to buy clothes and cute jewelry. I like that stuff and have pinpointed that shopping for those kind of things gives me a temporary endorphin boost.

It’s mindless and makes me feel good momentarily. There were multiple moments in Hawaii that I almost abandoned ship. There was an awesome necklace that I went back to look at twice but did not buy. And then there was a dress that I REALLY wanted to buy. I looked at it multiple times and even tried it on. I decided to sleep on it, and the next day, it was easier to just not go back to that store.

We all want to look our best, but there have been times I have just bought stuff to placate something else going on. If I say I want less stuff, clothes and accessories is a good place for me to examine my habits. My intention of not accumulating more clothing has nothing to do with the money spent, or the self-imposed process of restriction. It has everything to do with contentment and USING WHAT I HAVE…which is a lot…and which is plenty.

Having said that, I have made one personal clothing purchase. I did buy some athletic shorts because we will be going to an amusement park with mostly water rides on vacation. I truly need a pair of shorts that could get wet and dry out quickly. All I have for working out or exercise are yoga pants/capris that are not water friendly. 

Also included in the mindless spending category is the stopping and buying of fast food and junk food from the grocery store.

I’d say I/we have done just okay in this area. It is difficult when traveling to avoid some fast food. You are at the mercy of interstate stops and airport offerings. I’ve tried to make good choices as often as possible. When we have been at home here in Augusta, I have tried to avoid eating out for the sake of convenience. I’ve cooked at home and we’ve had lunch at home nearly every day. We have also made it a priority to pack our own water bottles to take with us and not make stops at Sonic for drinks.

 

Porch Time: 

I have spent a fair amount of time out here when I have been home. I am out here right now writing this blog post. I’ve had my coffee and spent a few minutes of prayer time alone. It’s cool and shaded. And I have seen two of our deer meander past me to and from the apple tree. Various birds are chirping, our neighbor’s dog is going crazy (see deer comment), and I’m hearing the sounds of folks driving out of the neighborhood on their way to work. Porch time = good.

 

Health:

I am a work in progress in this area. I am trying to eat right and be more active. I got in some good walks and even a strenuous hike in Hawaii. That hike (I’ve alluded to before and have a separate blog post brewing about it) made me realize some things and helped me to understand the need for more changes in my life (physical, spiritual, and emotional). It’s harder for me to make and implement changes on vacation but once we get home next week from another trip, I have a plan in mind.

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It boils down to this: what I have been doing isn’t cutting it. Have I made some progress? Yes. Has it been enough? No. I need more sleep, more rigorous exercise, a more consistent eating plan, and more writing.

 

More Family Fun:

This is probably my most important outcome and the one where I am seeing the most fruit. Instead of lots of zoning out shopping or Facebook scrolling, we have actually been spending some wonderful, purposeful time together in various formats. #woodfamsummerfun2016

I’m not just talking about vacations and trips, but we have played many hours of board/card games, had our meals around the table, gone to the library, played golf, gone swimming, and just last night we all stayed up until after 11:00 watching all 25 embroiled rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. <—That is what I want for our family…togetherness.

Ryan and I had a recent opportunity to walk through some of the exercises he uses for marriage retreats ourselves. Even as the facilitators of the retreat, it did us good to communicate some of our expectations, articulate some of our hopes for the future, and cement what we want our foundations and legacy for our marriage and family to be.

Folks, that’s it. That, to me, is the deeper meaning and motivation for writing about and pondering my values and my life and how I spend my time. If I say I want A, B, and C for my life and our home and yet spend all of my energy on D, E, and F… it will never align. But if I say I want A, B, and C and examine things in order to re-align the time and focus to A, B, and C…well, then, hopefully the result will be A, B, and C.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…” ||Matthew 6:21||

 

 

 

 

Hawaii

We are all five finally back under one roof after almost two weeks of being here, there, and yonder. I wanted to write a post here of our Hawaii trip to document one heck-of-an-adventure.

One of the greatest perks of military life (in my opinion) is the opportunities that come along to travel. Just six months ago, we were able to visit Washington, D.C. because of an honor Ryan received. When the chance arose for me to join him for a trip to Hawaii, it was a no brainer. Thankfully, we had willing and able grandparents who were more than happy to spoil keep our children during the trip.

Here are many of our pictures from our trip. I’ve posted some links to specific places that we visited and ate. As usual, we lived and died by Trip Advisor.

Tuesday:

Rendezvous at the Charlotte airport and made our way to Phoenix and then to Honolulu. FYI, there’s just no quick way to get to Hawaii.

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We arrived in Honolulu around 6:30 pm Hawaii Time (HT) but to our bodies it was already after midnight. We were greeted from the airport with the first of many rainbows and blue skies.

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Before checking in to the hotel, we drove to eat at Nico’s Pier 38 per Guy’s Triple D recommendation. It was just okay. We think part of our attitude about the food was the fact that by the time we sat down to eat, we’d been awake nearly 24 hours.

Wednesday:

Ryan had to go to the office for a few hours so I was happy to rest and lounge around our hotel. We had a great room on the 31st floor with wonderful views.

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Even the water was pretty in Hawaii. I had lunch at the pool restaurant and walked the beach and read my book. It was a quiet day in paradise and the perfect way to adjust to jet lag.

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Ryan got back to the room that afternoon and we had a great date night at one of the best restaurants we have ever dined in. If you ever find yourself in Honolulu, you must eat at The Pig and the Lady.

Thursday:

Again Ryan had to spend a few hours at work, so I took advantage of some fun around the Hilton. I sampled fresh pineapple and a coconut muffin (both highly recommended by a friend who is local). I sunned and read and then hit up the hula lesson.

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That afternoon, after Ryan returned to the hotel, we headed out to see and hike the trail at Diamond Head State Monument. That hike will be its own post at some point, but I will say this was my most favorite memory of our entire trip.

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The views were simply amazing, and as God would so divinely appoint it, Ryan and I had a interesting opportunity for some personal marriage reflection and examination. imageimageimage

After our hike, we headed to a nearby local favorite, Uncle Bo’s. Yes, we are 13 and yes, we had no shortage of jokes about eating Pupu. The thing about Hawaii that we quickly realized is that you can miss a lot of good eats if you’re basing a choice on the outer facade of the restaurant. Most of the best places we ate looked sketchy from the outside.

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After dinner, we came back to the hotel to have coffee and walk around. Unfortunately, we were pretty exhausted around 7:00 HT (1:00 am EST). We went to bed most nights before 8:30 or 9:00. #oldpeople

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Friday:

Since we went to bed so early (see above), we were crack-a-lackin’ by 5:30 or 6:00 HT. That worked to our benefit Friday as the common idea is to arrive early at Pearl Harbor. We were there when the gates opened and really enjoyed our time at the exhibits and memorials.

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After we left Pearl Harbor, we drove out to Turtle Beach (Laniakea Beach). This was a short visit, but probably one of my favorite views of the island. I wish we could have spent a day just lounging at this beach.

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From there we hit up the Food Trucks of Hale’iwa or the North Shore. Again, if we were to ever live in Hawaii, this would be the part of town I’d prefer. Very casual, very cool, very beautiful.image

And we made it back to the hotel in time for me to attend the lei making class. I felt so Hawaiian after making my own lei with fresh orchids.

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Friday evening at dinner time, our 782nd MI BN retreat started. We had a small number of families but everyone seemed eager to participate in the fun.

Saturday:

Our retreat session began at 8:00 and lasted until noon. We had some great discussions and training. I was super happy to “tag-team” and co-lead the retreat with Ryan. Sometimes I think other couples relate best when you are able to be transparent and share you struggles and victories with them. We pray that the Lord would continue to use us to bring others to Him.

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After lunch, everyone had free time until the dinner meal. Ryan and I chose to spend our last day just relaxing and lounging around. It was perfect!

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Sunday:

We had our final retreat session after breakfast and then packed up to head home. It was tough saying goodbye to these views. Every single morning of the trip, Ryan would look over at me and ask, “Did you know you woke up in Hawaii?”

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We checked out of the hotel, returned the rental car, and made it through airport security with time to sit down and have a nice lunch at the airport before we began the l-o-n-g trip home. Our flight left Honolulu at 2:30 pm HT and landed in Los Angeles at 11:30 pm PT. We left LAX around 1:00 am PT and arrived in Charlotte around 8:45 am EST. I got back to Chattanooga just after noon on Monday. HOLY JET LAG!!!

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I’m not sure what the best time or way to travel back is, but wowza!!! were we delusional hallucinating  tired. Let’s just say that it’s Thursday and I’m just now starting to know what day it is.

This was a fantastic trip and one that makes me grateful for the ministry calling and Army life that we are leading. All those years ago when I *just knew* that God would call us to a traditional church pastorate, I couldn’t have envisioned this.

Matthew 28:19 is a verse I cling to often, especially in my moments of homesickness or discontent with our nomadic life. “Therefore go…” is the admonition of The Great Commission. It gives me joy to reflect on the many places and people God has put in our path thus far.

Celebrating Five Years of W.A.C.K.

We ended our school year several days ago, but due to life’s busyness we just got around to having our celebratory party Friday night.

I kept is fairly simple as we tied a bow on another school year. I do these little parties for the kids, but also for myself, and for Ryan. They are a good reminder to our family of where we have been; a time for reflecting on some of the highs and lows of the school year.

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This was the end of our fifth year and it felt like a special occasion to hit a five year milestone; especially when I said I’d never homeschool our kids; and again when I said I’d only do it a year.

Life is funny like that. Never turns into giving it a try, which somehow transitions into a five year commitment. I stared this journey with a second grader, a kindergartener, and a pre-pre-schooler. I also started this journey with a heavy dose of trepidation, blindness, and worry that I’d mess the whole thing up.

It turns out that God has been faithful and merciful along this ride. He’s given grace and peace in the midst of every transition, trial, and moment when I’ve second-guessed what we’re doing here.

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Last night as I cheered on some of our kids’ successes for the year, it confirmed to me that the 2015-2016, was not at all what I’d hoped it would be. Several factors are to blame, but overall, my working full-time AND doing a co-op meant too much was farmed out. We gave too much away and didn’t have time for what mattered most to our family.

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We all recognized this early in the school year, but stuck with our obligation to what’d we’d started. Going forward, we won’t do another co-op and I have cut back my projected work hours.

We will go back to our typical rhythm and lifestyle of learning. If this school year taught *me* anything, it was to trust in what the Lord has called me to do and how he wants me to accomplish it. As always, I believe God doesn’t want me looking to the right or the left for my approval of what homeschooling should look like. He wants me looking up to him for my guidance.

It was a long school year to learn that lesson, but alas, I’d like to end with some of our highlights of this year.

  • each of the kids (and I) made some great friendships in the local homeschool community from our co-op; such sweet, loving, welcoming folks who are like-minded when it comes to academics
  • we all learned the value of perseverance and honoring a commitment even when we felt like walking away
  • each of the kids excelled academically under the direction of a variety of teaching styles, methods, and curricula
  • they all worked very hard with very little input from me; each of the three is now self-directed (for the most part) and I’m proud of their moxy
  • everyone had a good year with evident spiritual growth, maturity, social opportunities, and fun

As always, ending a school year is a mixed bag of emotions. I am thankful and relieved “we made it,” but also excited about what the next school year with bring.

Here’s my 2014-2015 post from last year in case you’d like to take a trip down memory lane.

Experiment Update || 02 ||

As the school year ended I began to think about what I hoped our summer would look like. I also began to reflect in general; ever wondering if what I say I want my life to look like is actually what it is.

Essentially, I asked myself, “Do my actions and time reflect what’s most important to me?” For the past several months there has been a stirring, a discrepancy, and a desire for realignment.

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I decided to write about that process and document it here over the course of four months; May-August. It’s summer and there’s no better time to hit the reset button. I want less stuff, less distractions, and less time spent on Facebook. I want more intentional time with my family, more fun, and more opportunities for practicing good health.

What could be so difficult about that? Why don’t I do the things I want to do and set aside the bad habits of things I don’t want? It seems simple enough, and yet, as humans that is the battle we face against our flesh.

I’m about two weeks in and that battle has been ongoing. I knew habits wouldn’t change overnight. I knew this would be a process. I knew that I’d have to be intentional with my choices, thought processes, and even where I chose to spend my time.

Here’s an update at the end of week two:

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This collage represents 16 highlights of the past week:

| having the kids with me when I made my last trip to campus of the semester | getting creative with teacher gifts that relied more on thoughtfulness than giving trinkets | reading a book for pleasure | giving away another bundle of homeschool items I’m no longer using | taking time to write out thank you notes to express gratitude to the kids’ teachers | enjoying a night of baseball that started off stormy, but ended with a rainbow | kids’ playing a board game instead of being lost in screens | finishing a book that I read for pleasure | finishing up West Wing with Ryan after months of evenings spent watching together | our last day of co-op and honoring a commitment that was one we wanted to abandon | teaching my kids to play Egyptian Rat “Slap” and absolutely wearing them out at it | having an awesome date night with Ryan that was fun from start to finish | putting a fresh reminder on my beloved chalkboard | donating more unused items to Goodwill and emptying the house of more clutter | l.i.v.i.n.g. out on our back porch | and hosting company (18 people in total) at our house to say “see you later” to some treasured Army pals |

And not pictured were some of the struggles of this week; not pictured were some of the heart moments where I had pause with this experiment:

  • got onto Ryan’s Facebook to check one thing my sister asked me to look at; I looked and closed it…felt the immediate “hook” and “suck” and remembered exactly why I needed a break
  • the day before our date night to a marriage event I stood in my closet feeling dissatisfied with my choices and felt a strong urge to go buy a new dress for the occasion; I didn’t like what I had and believed for a split second that nothing in my  own closet would be dressy enough without being too formal. I went with a basic black dress I’ve had a while, added some fun jewelry, did my hair up big, and didn’t think about my dress all night
  • “celebrated” the end of co-op with a drive through Little Caesars and Sonic for drinks; I know I made these choices out of tiredness and the excuse of having baseball games later that night. I justified it because it was our first “treat” in over a week. In the end, it really was a treat because it was something out of the ordinary, not our typical every other day stop
  • after a long talk with a friend about a homeschooling opportunity I was second-guessing our plan for next year for Thomas; I went down a rabbit trail of thinking “maybe we should do this…” and when I later talked to Thomas about it in private, he was the one to jolt me back to what I’d determined earlier (adding no more commitments for fall). He said, “Mom, it sounds sort of fun, but didn’t we decide to do X instead? Let’s just stick with that.” …out of the mouths of babes

 

Here’s to week three of our Simple Summer. What have you done lately that felt like a win for intentional living? What have been your struggles? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Back To Work – End of School Year Edition

Back to work

It’s no new news that I went back to work this year as a full-time college English instructor. It was one of those opportunities that landed in my lap a week before classes began and instead of teaching the three sections of composition classes per semester I’d already committed to teaching, I ended up teaching five classes each semester. A full-time load on any account, but especially full-time as someone who homeschools her children, and had committed to teaching a high school writing class at our Veritas co-op.

Earlier in the school year I documented a monthly “Back to Work” series but didn’t post at all second semester. You can read those first semester updates here:

|| August Update ||

|| September Update ||

|| October Update ||

|| November Update ||

|| December Update ||

To tie a bow neatly around this academic year, I wanted to offer one last reflection on these past ten months. Here are the take-aways from my year.

 

1. Ryan is my partner and this has never been more evident than this year.

I’d say we have generally made a good team, but prior to my return to work, I did a majority of things around the house. I still do, but Ryan has pitched in a ton and helped to take away any stress (real or perceived) that I have had. He’s cooked, shuttled kids, managed his schedule to be home early to take kids to activities, he’s given me hair rubs, neck and shoulder massages, pep talks, words of encouragement, and forgiveness and patience when I haven’t deserved it.

I distinctly remember us sitting on our bed talking the day I got the job offer and I was wanting to discuss the job and whether or not I should take it from every single angle. Ryan, in his usual, easy-going manner, said it was simple.

He asked, “Do you want to do it?”

I said, “Yes. I want to try.”

He replied, “Go for it. Let’s make it work.”

One thousand cheers for my guy!

 

2. These kids of ours are truly super!

Ditto for the kids on the patience end. They have been genuinely easy-going about having me away from home for several hours each week. I wasn’t sure how they’d adjust but they have done great. Each has assumed more responsibility with chores, laundry, cleaning, and food prep in particular, but they haven’t complained. (Commissions help!) They have all maintained excellent grades and school habits. And each has enjoyed extra-curricular activities despite some hectic evenings.

 

3. Yes, it takes a village.

From friends who pick up your kids on the way to co-op, to others who host your kids for dinner when Ryan was out of town, I couldn’t have managed without help. I have had some great sitters/nannies/tutors who have gone above and beyond to love on our kids during my afternoon work days. My parents and in-laws have filled in some gaps when they have visited. I had someone clean the house in October when I really needed an extra set of hands. We have had takeout more this year than all other years of marriage combined. There are lots of people who helped make this a smooth school year and I’m grateful.

 

4. I enjoyed returning to the college classroom and found great fulfillment there.

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a quest to discover my passions and specifically invest my time in those pursuits that are life-giving to me. I knew this job was something that would fit into that category. What I didn’t expect was the huge emotional paycheck I received from seeing lightbulbs go off for my students, reaching them as not just a teacher, but also as an encourager, and finally for feeling like a part of me that had been dormant came back to life.

At a recent homeschool conference I attended, the speaker shared a story about Fred (Mister) Rodgers’ wife, Sara Byrd. She shared that when their kids were in late elementary school/pre-teens, Sara returned to her work as a concert pianist. She wanted to raise her kids differently than she’d been raised and she believed that by pursuing her own passions, it took extreme pressure off of her kids to be her everything. It gave them room to be themselves and not live up to unreal expectations that their lives and identities were so tied into their mother’s that they didn’t have the pressure to live up to that kind of unrealistic pressure. They saw their mother pursing her passions which modeled the truth that they should pursue their own.

 

5. It wasn’t all peaches and cream.

I’m not one to focus on the negative, but I don’t find this update to be totally honest if I leave out some of the more difficult aspects.

  • my eye twitched nearly constantly between January and March
  • I didn’t fully find a way to keep up with exercise, devotional time, or rest
  • many, many days I felt completely overwhelmed and was snappy with my family
  • our house stayed really dirty for long stretches
  • between East Georgia and co-op, I estimate that I graded 1,080 essays (not counting revisions or multiple drafts) || see eye twitch above ||
  • I didn’t write much at all and felt like having a job was a legitimate excuse but often felt that it was just that, an excuse, to avoid writing, which I feel to be another calling/passion
  • I know I am the therMOMeter of the home and many days I allowed my frazzled state to dictate the mood around here
  • overall, we made it but it was too much…changes are already in place for next year

 

6. All-in-all, it was great and I stand by our family decision to pursue this opportunity.

Back in September, I wrote a piece for the National Military Family Association about being #morethanaspouse and I realize that as long as Ryan is serving in the military and we are moving around the globe, professional opportunities are rare. I’m so glad I took this job, even if it was to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew it would be hard, but rewarding work, but I just knew it was possible to, as Ryan often says, do “and” and not “or.” I knew I could be a homeschooling mom and a full-time teacher; I knew I didn’t have to pick one or the other. Many days, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

This job has benefitted me personally and professionally; and it’s benefitted our family relationally and financially. I committed to a 10 month contract and that’s up in a few days. I did it. We did it. And I’m grateful we all thrived through the experience.