The Do-Nothing Summer

This post could have just as easily have been entitled “Second Week of Summer,” but my heart is not to document how we spend each week of what I anticipate to be a 10-week break from our school routine.   But this was a week of “ah-has,” as we called them in my corporate days–the point at which I had to heed to the teachable moment.

It happened quickly, as teachable moments often do, and I was left to marinate what the moment meant to me for days afterward.    After picking up the oldest from her volunteer work, I had to run inside a grocery store.   I had all three children with me when we ran into a friend from church.   She immediately recognized the oldest’s volunteer jacket, and they had a brief dialogue about how much the oldest was enjoying her opportunity.    Then our friend asked our son, “And what are you doing this summer?”    With all the honesty and candor of a child, he replied, “Nothing.”    She played it off well, saying that “nothing can be good sometimes, too,” and I smiled in agreement, but inside I was crushed.   (Gasp!!)   My child saying that he was doing nothing this summer?!!

 Of course, he is not actually doing nothing.    We’re completing a minimal amount of school.   He and his dad are set for a record to see every superhero movie out this summer, and he’ll attend a dance workshop later in the summer.   However, given that I normally have camps planned and at least one trip in the works, hearing him tell someone that he’s doing nothing was awkward.   It’s like when someone asked your homeschooled kid, who might have a 7th grade science book, a 6th grade math text, a 5th grade English workbook, and read on a 10th grade level, what grade he/ she is in.    When the kid replies, “I don’t know,” it’s just not a good look.

While this short scene marinated in my mind, it occurred to me that I’d been so psychologically preoccupied with getting the oldest’s plans and activities in order until I let everything else go.   Moreover, her daily activities are taking over our summer such that I have a hard time sitting to think  and accomplish other tasks.   To begin with, during our more formalized school time, I normally wake up when my husband awakens, but I don’t get up until around 7:30.   This gives me–in theory–at least an hour by myself before I awaken the kids to meditate on the Lord, have my own worship time, get a headstart on breakfast, or catch up on some last-minute project from the night before.   Summer was supposed to be more-laid back and relaxed.  Instead, I now have to get up every morning by 7 a.m. at the latest so that the oldest can get to school on time.    Even on Fridays when she has no class, she’s taken on extra volunteer opportunities, and so I’m still up early to have her in place.   And almost all the flexibility that homeschooling allows into our schedule is gone as we adjust ourselves to having to meet others’ time and deadlines.   

 

So our younger two are left to their own devices this summer–at least, so far, and I’m having to learn re-learn a few things, too.   1st lesson: it’s okay at times to have nothing to do, aka Miss Mason’s “masterly inactivity.”    I love seeing the kids turn off the television on their own.   Our son, a huge fan of author Rick Riordan (of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” fame), has taken on the task of an avid reader–to read what his favorite authors read, and thereby to gain more insight into their perspective.   So, there are long periods of the day when we don’t see him, but I pass by to be sure that he’s still breathing.    I often find him on his futon with his head in a book.

 

The youngest could come up with a brand new project, complete with its brand new mess, about once per hour, if I let her.   But, with her time, she created a family restaurant out of all the chairs and tv trays in the house (and she accidentally deleted my picture of it), where we decided to eat and have dinner once per month.   She’s learned basic sewing stitches well enough to make purses for her and her dolls.     Today, she made a tent of quilts and chairs where she and the dogs could nap, in case she actually takes a nap, which would be enough reason to take a picture.

 

 

 

I can be taught, too.   I can learn that I don’t have full control of my schedule as I accustomed to having, and that’s okay.   I can sew.  I can read.   I can plan.    I can work.    I can even take a mid-day nap.   Wow, this do-nothing summer might just work out after all.

 

The Family that Competes Together

 Our final dance competition (since our directors decided to not attend the Nationals this year) was earlier this month.     Though I always cheer for the kids, this performance was special for our family.   All of the performance teams were given a chance to join with the original competitive team and form a larger production number.   For us, it meant that all three of our children danced together for the first time–and probably the last.    This was one of those moments that they may not appreciate until much later, but I can cherish it for its worth right now.   They will perform this dance number again for their recital, but since this was a first competition for the youngest, it was well worth capturing.

Our youngest has such a different personality than our older two–much more extroverted and, at times, outrageous.    It was a long day for her, and she was sometimes silly,

sometimes sassy,

but always cognizant of where she was, what this meant to her and everyone else involved, and prepared to give a good show.  She practiced for hours each day!

Our son’s mood was more melancholy.   This might be his last year competing (more on that later), and so he embraced the day with his usual air of professionalism mixed with slight depression.

The normal competitive team has only 8 members.   I’m not accustomed to photographing so many kids!   Bless my poor oldest’s heart–I cut off her face trying to get a shot of more of the team!

Here is the smaller, original competitive team waiting for their awards.   They were, yet again, the only participants in their category–an automatic first place trophy.    The larger team was amazing–they placed 3rd out of 7 teams.    Way to go!

What’s Been Happening?

 Apparently, there are a number of bird watchers/ lovers in my midst.  It blessed me to “hear” from several of you and to watch the previous blog post get distributed, then redistributed, then… Thank you!    On top of all of that, as if the Lord said, “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet,” the first red-breasted robin visited us soon after I published my last post!    Here he is, courtesy of http://www.encyclopedia.com.

The youngest will make Apologia’s “smart suet” this weekend so that we can see what else likes our yard.   I have a feeling that, given the weather we’re having, what will eat most of the suet is ants.

For the few of you who follow this blog regularly, you know that I’ve not been here in almost two weeks.    Things have been crazy, to say the least, and time to pen my thoughts has been non-existent.   Then, with my laptop already (and unexplainably) unable to connect to the Internet, our desktop  computer caught a virus, and we were severely limited in our ability to connect with all the folks in cyberspace.   It was a stark reminder of how plugged-in we are as a family.    Thankfully, we had everything back in a matter of days, with 5 people then lined up to accomplish all those online tasks that, left undone, gave us the shakes.    Restoring computers after a repair is painful–every password (even the ones that I don’t remember!), every favorite, and every bookmark had to be reset.  Yet, praise God for technology that works.   Personally, I have three posts in draft stage–I’ve got lots to say!

We’ve had other life events occur as well.    As I mentioned before, February begins our competition season.   Our older two’s first outing was at the end of February.    This year’s ballet costume, I think, is absolutely beautiful.

BTW, our daughter has on this much make-up because of what stage lights do to the face.

This is her on a normal day.     Of course, I think she’s the loveliest teen on the planet.   Apparently, at least one young man thinks the same, and he has asked her dad if he can escort her to one of the area’s homeschool proms.    There are three–can you believe that?!     While we pick out dress patterns and discuss potential hairstyles, I am fighting a mild bit of depression and angst as I realize that she’s my not-so-little girl anymore.    I speak quite often about college, but it’s still far enough out there that I feel good about advanced planning.   But the prom.    The prom.    I still remember my own proms.   I still remember my dresses, where we ate, and my dates–Marcus Mitchell (11th grade), and Marvin ? (12th grade).    I’m struggling with her growing up.   Oh, saints, I covet your prayers.

Appreciating the Season, Loving the Reason

 I love this season.   I love the music of the season, whether it’s a majestic “Hark, How the Bells,” a tranquil “Silent Night,” or the fun of trying to remember what my true love gave to me on each of the “12 Days of Christmas.”   It’s always hilarious how no one forgets the partridge in the pear tree, or the five golden rings?    I love spending time with family, and I love the extra affection put onto each plate on Christmas Day.

Having said that, I wish I felt more “Christmas-y” this year.   Jamie spoke of the trend of dwindling Christmas cards, and I concur.   Of course, I’ve yet to send out my own holiday cards.

This year, we’re traveling out of town immediately after Christmas, so we chose not to decorate since we won’t be here to enjoy it.   Besides, the money we normally spend on a Christmas tree is the money that we could spend on a tank of gas.

The lack of Christmas ritual might not be helping me, but that’s really not it.    Every year, I fight the tendency to overload myself with activity such that I have time to just rest and reflect.     This year, I’ve lost the fight.     Just this weekend, I turned down 2 parties so that we could relax at home; then the kids informed me that they have a party at church on Sunday afternoon.    Oh, well, so much for that relaxation strategy, huh?

And our poor kids.   It’s been a busy time for them, too.   In fact, today is our last day at school, and the kids just simply dragged.   They’ve had good reason.     In one weekend alone, they performed in two parades.     I posted on last year some thoughts about the parades, the true meaning of Christmas, and how good it felt to walk through our little country town saying, “Merry Christmas” during this politically correct age in which we now live.    My opinions haven’t changed, but I did update the pictures as all three of our treasures marched this year rather than only the oldest.

    This year’s team features six tinier tikes, including our youngest.   They range in age from 5-7 years of age.   The parade walking took more out of them, but they made it.

The older kids were regular veterans at the venues this year.

There was also the Christmas play, in which the older two were choreographers, and our son danced–a tap number to Mary Mary’s big-band sounding rendition of “He’s the Greatest.”

Personally, I’m determined to quiet my spirit and just spend some time loving on the Lord.   So, with school over today and dance over as of last week, I consider this my time for me and the Lord.    Every time I think about it, I just stop and say, “thank you.”   Because of our trip out of town, my normal fasting into the new year will not happen, but I’m still believing Him to speak to me regarding direction for 2011.     I’m told it will be a good season, though I’m not sure of what the details of that word mean.   While that prophecy unfolds, I’m excited about next week–about loving on the Father, operating in faith by executing some plans that have collected dust, and basking in the Word.     May God bless your plans as well.

How (Not) to Do It All

It feels as if so much has gone on in the past few weeks until it’s difficult to get my head around it, much less articulate all of it on paper.   Somewhere in the last month,

1)      My husband changed jobs

2)      My job changed, forcing me out of my comfort zone and into new uncertainties

3)      Dance season began, with unexpected investments in time and money

4)       We brought home a puppy (in many ways like having a new baby, I now realize)

Another change that occurred, and I now realize that it was far more significant than I thought initially (since it had become a relatively new habit), was that my MP4 player broke.   The little electronic tool that had become the center of my morning devotional crashed and burned, just about the time that my devotional had become routine, and I had no back-up plan.

 

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, life has happened—school still happens, the house still has to be cleaned and maintained (enhancements are beyond me right now), kids still have to be fed, taken care of, and loved, and a business needs running.    I’m not complaining, just stating that I’m overwhelmed.       Even in the midst of realizing that it is all for my good (speaking primarily about #2 listed above), I’m just plain whipped out.   Seriously.

This week is our fall break after nine weeks of school.   Monday was a field trip for the kids and me that somehow wound up being a homeschool trip for 25 people.   Tuesday, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone during a grocery store visit that lasted 2 hours.   They rearranged the store, so now I’m relearning shelves, plus I took my girls with me, which didn’t help me focus any on the task at hand.    (I wrote that elaborate description of my errand because it is a microcosm of what is happening with my life these days).   Wednesday, I sat down to get a better handle on all the changes, and to figure out what all of this means for me.   Thankfully, the word that has continuously come my way—from a number of angles– is to prioritize.    Thank you, Lord.    So I looked at my schedule in blocks of time and embraced the ebb and flow of work that I’ve often taught to my adult students.    Here’s what I discovered:

The “non-movables” are here to stay: ministry to my family through school time, non-school family time, couple time, and home management.   Since the “non-movables” are a given (thank God), I must submit each day to the Lord’s priorities.  And guess what?   Some days the non-movables aren’t the priority! That doesn’t mean that they won’t be taken care of, but it means that if I believe the Lord has gifted my mind and hands in this way, then I must make the most of His gift.   So, with that in mind,

In the earliest portion of the week (Mondays and Tuesdays), I have time to write, and need to make good, effective use of it.

I have blocks of time later in the week to exercise—a rarity in the house now-a-days.   The running joke of the house is whose Mii is sleeping the hardest—we’ve all been really tired.

I set goals on a number of sewing projects that have hung around for far too long.    The date written down, even in pencil, gives me hope (LOL)

The time between waking up with my husband and actually getting out of bed is my quiet time with the Lord.    However, tuning every other care out in order to focus in is a task for me, and that’s where my player came in handy.    I really need another player.    My devotional time was priceless, and because of the demands of my family, I was ministered to while operating with free hands to minister to my family through breakfast preparation, last-minute school plan adjustments, etc.

 Each day, what God wants, not what I want.    Too often, I want to be Superwoman, or at least some version of it based on the images of a woman who does it all, but looks like she does nothing, that suffocate my sense of self.   I may not get done all that I want, but there is peace and prosperity in accomplishing His purposes.

Finally, I’m not a slave to social media, but as a business owner, I recognize its power to quick spread the word and disseminate information.   I just have to exercise wisdom in being a good steward of when I use these tools and what I use them for.    An angel mentioned HootSuite to me, and it’s been a life saver.   I can quickly access Twitter and Facebook (and three other networks if I had them) at once and do what I need to do without the 4-hours of time on average that I’ve read as being common to most Facebook users.   YIKES!

Okay, this simply scratches the surface of all the places that my mind has been, but just writing it down is energizing.   I promised myself that today I’d catch up on my mending (husband has buttons missing on about 4 shirts), and sure enough, I’ve let the weather change catch me regarding finishing my youngest’s bathrobe.   We had our first day of 60-degree mornings this week, and she had to stroll around in an unfinished robe.  Oh, well!   I’m off to complete it now as I listed my deadline as Sunday!   God bless!

Musings

So much has happened in the last 1-1/2 weeks and I’m having trouble sorting it into a coherent blog post, but I’ll give it a shot.   Maybe chronological order will help.

We ordered our steps to have a very uneventful Independence Day, turning down a couple of invitations to get together for grilling, formal fireworks displays, etc.   I use the word ‘formal’ because our neighbors put on an informal display that would rival most public facilities.   Seriously.   Though this picture is borrowed from Photobucket, our neighborhood sky looked just like this on both Saturday and Sunday night—for hours. 

The one item we did have on the agenda was to visit my in-laws.   Though my husband is often within minutes of their home while at work, we’d somehow missed several opportunities to exchange Father’s Day greetings, summer birthday presents, recital  well wishes, and just a simple hug and “hello.”   Additionally, our niece had been sick with asthma-related complications during the week, forcing them to share hospital duty with my SIL.   So our planned visit kept getting postponed until we found ourselves at their home for July 4th.     

As a necessary bit of stage setting, getting our families together can be, well, interesting, for lack of a better word.  For the last 10 or more years, the generational torch has been passed from my MIL to my SIL and to us, having purchased larger homes and wanting her to be able to rest and enjoy.   (My MIL, however, still provides the meal at my SIL’s home as the latter does not cook  🙂 ).     My MIL and SIL “roll” very differently than my husband and I, so coordinating can be a bit taxing.  As you know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m a planner; my in-laws are very last minute.   I should also mention that my MIL always has even more irons in the fire than I do.   The result of this is that, whatever time we set, her dishes (as well as her presence) are always later than what we’ve planned.    By the time we sit down to eat, we are probably both rattled over the food temp and taste, and the fellowship (the next source of stress is the time as she and my FIL don’t drive as well at night, so she’s rushing to enjoy all the festivities before the sun sets).    This day was different.    Ours was a very impromptu “we’re coming over for a little bit, don’t cook anything special” type of visit at their home—no need to worry about trying to return home safely after hours.   She did cook something special—a delicious fish soup inspired by the Islands.   I enjoyed it enough to later try my own modified recipe.    We had a great time, and it was lovely to enjoy each other’s company without a lot of fuss and finery.

Dance season is now over.    Our son competed, as a soloist and with his team, and I don’t think we could have asked for better results given the circumstances.     Our son placed 3rd out of 12 soloists, which is amazing for a number of reasons.   First, I think this particular sponsor caters more to girls (and specifically, young girls who can move like adult women).    Secondly, our son has danced as a junior (ages 9-11) for the last school year as he just turned 12 a few weeks ago.    Because of a rule change, he was placed in the teens category (ages 12-14), which meant he was dancing against dancers with far more experience and talent.    I kept waiting to hear his name as they announced 12th place, 11th place, and so on—not to say that we were shooting for last place, but for the reasons I listed above, we all knew what he was up against.   Also, in the defense of the sponsors, at Nationals, each competitor is the one of the best dancers at his or her respective school.    The team also put in an amazing performance, and landed 5th out of 9th with a platinum level (excellence) recognition.    For a team that has secured last place for the last two years, this was tremendous.   Now we await the tryout results for next dance season, but between you and me, I found out that we have two kids competing next year—our son and the oldest.   (Shhh!  She doesn’t yet know!)     I’m just working on my beans and rice recipes—we’ll need that grocery money for more ’pique, pas de bourrée!’

A few shots of our oldest while away at fashion camp:

 

 

 

 

 

So where are we now?    Books are coming in, which is always exciting.    I read the Sonlight catalogs where parents talk about “box day”—the day that those books, etc. arrive, and I think there’s something to what they say; there is a sense of exhilaration as that plan begins to take shape and unfold.    I’ve already begun reading through these two before I get into them with our son.   I’m excited, probably more excited than he is, to learn more about the movement of the Gospel.

There are many books on my list, but I am also learning to buy in stages.   I have a couple of purchases to make this week in order to get started, and then we’ll add as money becomes available and need arises.   As one example, I would normally buy Sonlight’s instructor guides and then buy the books used as we go.   However, the truth is that I’ve never used the instructor’s guides as they are meant to be used.   So, cutting where I can, I’ve just bought books and I’ll wing it from there.  That’s right, kids—be afraid.  Be very afraid.

There is much more on my mind, but this week of VBS means that the hubby and I get to spend time alone while the kids enjoy the evenings at church.   One of those nights, though, will be spent at mid-week Bible study, and another will be a hand-in-hand trip to Toys R’ Us to shop for our youngest daughter’s 7th birthday on Saturday.    Being a wife, mother, and wearer of numerous hats in balancing all the many wants and needs of a household requires a special grace from the Lord.   BUT, that sounds like another post.   God bless you.

The busiest summer–(until next year)

Unless the Lord says differently, this has been/ will be our summer:

Weeks 1 and 2: preparation for this year’s dance recital

Week 3:  oldest in class for PSAT review

Week 4 (this week): oldest away at camp

Week 5:  oldest in class for PSAT review, part II

 Week 6: son at National Dance competition

Week 7: VBS

Week 8:         (can you believe it?—nothing to do!!)

Week 9:  begin school(?)

There are at least two aspects of this schedule that have become my latest musings.   The first is pondering how, every summer, I make a declaration that we are just going to rest, and every summer, we are busier than the summer before.   I wonder if I stated, “This summer, we’re going to be busier than ever!” would we actually have nothing to do?    I might try that next spring.   Right now, however, what this schedule means is that we will potentially have only one “do nothing” week, which also happens to contain my husband’s birthday, before school would start.   I intentionally wanted to start earlier this year because my goal is to finish school early enough to get outside in late April/ early May before it gets too hot.   The older two weren’t totally in agreement with this, but then again, they’re not the ones that do the lion’s share of weeding, mulching, and watering during the blazing heat.   Now I’m not sure if my plan will work.    Rest is important to academics, too, and we’ve not had much of it as far as I can tell.    

The other realization I’ve had, as we left the oldest waaaaaayyy out west yesterday, is that this is the first time we’ve been apart from any of the children for an extended period of time.    On the bittersweet ride back home yesterday, past endless windmills and mesquite trees, I thought about a family favorite of ours, Disney’s “College Road Trip” (Martin Lawrence, Raven Symone.)   

At the end of the movie, as Raven’s character waves goodbye from behind the opened door of her dormitory, her parents fight back tears, and memories of childhood past flash through their minds as they return a final wave—for a while.   Were we experiencing a glimpse of what we’ll go through in a couple more years?    I think so.     And though she politely ushered us out of the door so that she could begin her week as a semi-grown up, she missed us, too.    During our 10-hour drive back, she texted twice, then called twice, saying the latter time, “Would you like me to talk you until you get home?”   (We were 5 hours away from our driveway at the time).     I couldn’t help but laugh at how irritated she gets when little brother and sister make an unannounced visit into her room, and yet, what does she do with her first opportunity to be alone?   She calls home, and talks with little sister.   Priceless.

When I’m not playing taxi cab/ head cheerleader for all these efforts, I have had a little time to think about next school year, and to even make a decision or two (smile).    The oldest had asked about learning home management skills—how to cook, complete the laundry cycle, etc.     I began to try and formalize this into a Home Economics course on last year, but it never materialized.    It probably won’t happen this year, either, at least not in a formal sense.   We will pull in some Dave Ramsey and/or Larry Burkett materials on personal finances, but I think that, for the most part, we’ll learn to manage a home by managing our home.   The biggest dilemma I’m having in this area is how to teach cooking to someone who doesn’t eat.      So much of good cooking is about intuition and instinct regarding taste, flavor, and pleasurable textures on the tongue.  Based on my own childhood experiences, I’ve had to fight the demons that cause food to be so much more than food—it was comfort, it was companionship, and it was love.  For our oldest, food is what food should be—sustenance to allow her to get on with the priorities of her day.    For that and a couple of other reasons, her diet is fairly restrictive; how do I turn her into a cook?    What I’ve thought about doing so far is to work with the things she likes and make sure she can prepare those;  artistry will come with time.

Otherwise, I’ve been gathering books and book ideas, and pulling projects into the kids’ studies for next school year.   It’s shaping into another fun learning time (at least, I think so.)    I’m also in thought/ prayer about joining a homeschool group again—not for the sake of the group, but for the sake of our youngest daughter, who needs to get out, and to do something different than what she currently does.    Of course, this could happen in a myriad of ways, and that’s the part that I’m prayerful about;  a homeschool group is not a homeschool group is not a homeschool group, and I am definitely not decided that we need some of the more negative aspects of a group in the effort to have more play days and field trips.   Somewhere in the midst of all this busy-ness I will have to carve out some thinking/ praying/ meditating time.   So much needs to be more carefully thought through than I have time to do right now, but I plow along.

I suppose frustration would be an easy space to crawl into right now, but I make the conscious effort to be thankful.    So, in the midst of all of this, I’m thankful that…

1)      We had resources to do all the items listed above

2)      Where resources looked limited, God provided abundantly (I’m still speaking that)

3)      Dad has been able to travel with us, and has worked from home on several days this summer

4)      We spent a safe and fun Father’s Day on the road, and returned safely on yesterday (also speaking that trip #2 will be the same or better)

5)      Today I will sleep as much as I want to (Hallelujah!)

6)      I saw the one corner of Texas that I’d not seen before

7)      I was asked to take on some additional work that won’t require too much time

8)      Our okra is growing like crazy

9)      With dance season over (for the most part), we can attend mid-week service

10)   Next dance season, class times were adjusted such that we can continue to attend mid-week services

11)   Whatever happens over this summer, busy or not, we serve a great God.

That’s a very small, non-exhaustive list.   Hope you feel the same way when you jot yours down.