I like to think of myself as a woman who can hold her own.  I’m not a girly girl.  I can follow a football game and I am currently 3-0 in my fantasy league.  I love camping.  Power outages don’t send me packing for the nearest Hilton.  And I will happily kill and remove any bug that comes my way without even a squeal.

However, this “tough girl” fantasy that I have of myself falls apart rather quickly when confronted with my own personal kryptonite.

2 forms actually

mice and snakes

Nothing sends me squealing bloody murder and jumping for the nearest stool to stand on like mouse droppings or snake sightings.

And I’ve encountered BOTH this week. 

At MY OWN HOME!

Saturday morning I went to let Maggie out from our downstairs rec room and as I went to close the door, I spotted a black snake hanging down from the side of the railing.  It took me a minute to process what I was staring at before I slammed the door shut, ran into the middle of the room and started screaming and jumping up and down like a maniac. 

My oldest 3 kids found it hysterical.  My 2 year old was traumatized. 

Scott was away for the day.  So, I was left with no other option but to promptly shut every window on that side of the house and dead bolt the doors. 

Again my oldest 3 kids found this hysterical.  “Mom, snakes can’t open doors, you know.” 

I know.  And yet I still called for my 8 year old to open the back door to let the dog in. 

I know it’s not rational.  But, once you get the heebie jeebies they are hard to shake.  I am convinced in cases like this (cases of irrational paranoia) ignorance really is bliss.  If I had never seen that snake down stairs, I wouldn’t think twice about walking in my backyard.  Now I still walk out there, but you better believe I think twice, even three times about it. 

Well, if that wasn’t bad enough, Wednesday morning I spotted what I was pretty sure were mouse droppings on my kitchen floor.  I called Scott to confirm, which he quickly did.  I then jumped on our kitchen stool and squealed, “YOU HAVE GOT TO GET RID OF THEM!  AND I DON”T MEAN HUMANELY!  I WANT THEM GONE. DEAD GONE!” 

Because if there is anything I hate more than snakes, it’s mice.  I hate em.

I know they are little.  I know they won’t hurt me.  And yet, knowing that they are lurking behind my walls sets me completely on edge.  Wednesday I was awful.  I blared music all day, especially when the kids were gone and the babe was napping b/c it was “too quiet and what if the mice thought it was night and came out”.  I had a kid come with me every time I had to go into the laundry room or pantry.  I was Nazi woman about crumbs… fearful that each crumb on the floor was sure to mean mice prancing around that night.  By the time Scott got home at 8pm that night, I was a  wreak.  Nerves frazzled.  Stressed out.  Emotional.  He went to the store to by mouse traps.  Even though it was almost 9pm and he was dead tired from 2 long days at work ,b/c truthfully, I gave him no choice.  I wanted those mice dead on a platter by breakfast.  

I then found myself a weeping sobbing wreak as I went to bed blubbering about how mice are my own kryptonite.  I am sure Scott was a toss between annoyed about hearing yet again about those blasted mice and amused that his wife just compared herself to Superman.  But he lovingly let me go on and on and even said something about how maybe they’d end up being my alter ego, like batman and bats. 

Because he is a good man, folks.  A very good man. 

I guess you can say the “honeymoon” phase of the new house is over.  In one week I’ve encountered 2 snakes, mouse droppings, and a backed up septic system.    

We are three weeks in to our new school year.  I think I FINALLY have all the kids correct curriculum (missed a few things I when I ordered it this summer) and their books organized in a way that works for them, me, and their tutors at the tutorial. 

I’ve done things a little differently this year, and SO FAR, it has helped our days to run more smoothly. 

First of all, I’ve committed to waking up before the kids every day.  I’ve tried this in the past, but truthfully, what I did was sleep in as late as possible on “school at the building days” resulting in a rushed and flustered Momma trying to hustle the kids out the door in the morning.  Resulting in crabby and late kids and Momma.    On school at home days, I would just sleep till the first kid woke me and let the kiddos sleep in till they woke, with the aim of starting school right after breakfast. 

I’ll be honest.  It didn’t work great for us.  

For many reasons. 

This year I have finally resigned myself to the fact that morning person or not, I gotta set that alarm get up shower, make my coffee, prep breakfast, etc BEFORE my lil morning glory wakes.  I also wake my not so morning glory kids up (EVEN ON SCHOOL AT HOME DAYS) and we start school at the same time every day.   3 weeks in, I still hate waking up early, but I can honestly attest to the fact that it makes a MUCH smoother day for all of us. 

Another HUGE, HUGE change for us, was coming up with a visual aid to hold us accountable to our school work.  At a meeting this summer with some other moms from our tutorial, I heard someone mention something about clothespins.  I was intrigued.  I googled it and found a lot of people use clothespins to keep their kids on tasks with their chores.  You write all the chores your child has to do on individual clothespins , hang them on a door hanger or something, and as they complete them, they move them to the other side. 

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My husband made a little board for each kid.  I wrote their names on the top and he hung hooks above our dry erase board in our school area.   I made clothes pins for EVERY subject I wanted them to do. This was huge for us too, b/c our tutorial doesn’t cover all the subjects and I found myself having a hard time staying on top of the ones not covered at the building… especially on “at the building days”  I also added those extra stuff I wanted IMG_6592them to do each day like catechism, piano, and for my oldest Spanish.    On at the building days, I move to the left every thing they covered at the tutorial.  For the girls this leaves them with just catechism and piano on the right side of their board on Mon and Wed.  For my 3rd grader he is left with spelling, handwriting, Spanish, piano, and catechism still hanging on the left side of the board when he comes home on Mon and Wed.    They know that they have to finish all their school work EACH day.  When they come home from school, they can’t play with the neighbor till all the clips are moved.  They also can’t watch TV.   On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, they can easily monitor through out the day, how much work they have left.  And they get that joy of checking things off of a list.  It is a MUCH needed visual reminder for all of us throughout the day of what has been done and what is left to do.    And it is great accountability for me to keep us doing all the things I want to do, but tend to let slide as most good intentions often do. 

One other little thing that seems to be working for us.  One of the clothes pins is book bag.  School is not done until their books are put back in their bags and INTO the van on Tuesday and Friday (Thursdays they just have to pack them up).  This has really helped us on Mon and Wed mornings as our book bags are already packed and in the van when we wake up!   AND our house stays tidy b/c they are putting away all of their school stuff at the end of the day.

I am really optimistic about these new things that seem to be helping things run more smoothly.  Our days aren’t perfect.  We have messes.  We write on the wall.  We clog our septic line and have sewage back up into our basement (yes, that was our little “fun” adventure on Mon).  But, things are rolling along. 

Lately, I’ve been asked several times what I do with my 2 year old while I am teaching the older 3. 

Here’s your answer. 

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Yes, that would be pen mark up and down the corner of the walls in my dining room.    Yes, he did that yesterday morning while I was working with the big kids in the other room and thought that scraping sound was the sound of him scraping oatmeal of his cereal bowl with a spoon. 

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There are lots of things that I truly appreciate about our new house.  Among the top is the location.  This came as a surprise to many of our friends, because at first glance the location seems less than ideal.   A large majority of our life is centered 20-25 minutes away from our house… our church, our tutorial, gymnastics, and many of our friends. 

However, one of the most important and integral parts of our family life is located a mere 2 miles away.

Daddy

Before you raise your eyebrows in confusion, No, Scott doesn’t live 2 miles away.  He lives here with us.  However, his work is a a mere 2 miles away.  And the effect this has on our family life can not be overstated. 

Scott is able to eat breakfast with us every single morning.  In fact, this week for our “school at home days” we began our school day with Daddy praying and holding the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance.  Then he went out the door to work and we sat at the table to begin school.  I LOVE that he is a part of the beginning of each day! 

But, it gets even better.

Two days a week we are at the gym in the evenings… right during dinner hour.  I pack dinner and feed the kids in the waiting room or in the van on these nights and Scott and I eat at home later.  It would seem then that we miss out on family meal time on those days.

But, we don’t. 

When possible, (so no, not EVERY time) Scott comes home for lunch on those days.  He can’t guarantee it, so I pack his lunch in the morning just in case.  But when it is within his control, he tries to come home on those days.  He can do this b/c it takes literally less than 5 minutes for him to go from his desk to our driveway.  I have lunch ready, he joins us and he’s back to work within the hour. 

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I LOVE it!!! 

And in my opinion it makes the longer drives to church, school, gymnastics, and our friends houses worthwhile. 

This week, we had lunch with Daddy twice!

The morning was going well… kids on time for tutorial, load of laundry in the washer and dryer, even took the van to the garage for some repairs.

And then, because things can’t go THAT smoothly…..

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Yea… turns out even the otterbox can’t protect your phone when it’s  been thrown off the side of a van and run over on the side of a highway. 

And, no, this had NOTHING to do with the new iphone 5 coming out today. 

After Scott dropped me off to pick up the van, I brought the car seat, the 2 yr old, and my 3 other bags over to the van.  Scott helped me strap in the car seat and we were all set.  As he started to pull away, I realized I didn’t know where my phone was so I stopped him to check and see if it was in his car.  It wasn’t.  He called my phone and I could hear it faintly in the van… though it sounded muffled, but since I heard it, I figured the volume had been turned down and it was in one of the bags. 

Away I drove. 

And then after driving about a mile, when I merged onto the highway and starting picking up speed, I heard a clunk.

Only then did I think, “I wonder if it sounded faint b/c it was on the outside of my van….”

There wasn’t a place to pull over, and I was running late to get the kids, so I kept going.  I can’t remember sticking it on top of the van, but I couldn’t shake that clunk I heard, so I pulled over later to double check those bags.  

When I got to the tutorial, I asked a friend to call it.  Heard nothing. 

So, I headed back to where I heard that clunk.

And the whole time I kept thinking how great it would be to find it still working and how I’d write a blog post about how wonderful the otterbox is.

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I thought I saw my case on the side, couldn’t really find a place to pull over.

This turned around and  tried again. 

Still not sure, was that my case?  Why would just my case be there?  Would someone take my phone from the case?

Went back to the garage.  They didn’t see it.  They tried calling it.

Drove by again.

This time I didn’t see it.  Did someone take it?  (see how na├»ve I am?)

The girls had a birthday party to go to in less than an hour, we had to buy the gift.  Went to the toy store.  They let me call Scott and fill him in.  Got the present, they wrapped it for free AND let the girls use their potty.  (BEST TOY STORE EVER)

OK, last time… praying for a place to pull over and no traffic. 

Amazingly, the road was clear, we saw the case, I pulled over, hazards on, made a dash for the case, found the case, and my phone in parts. 

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The screen laid cracked on the curb, sheets of the screen like  those magic doodle pads that you can write on and then left up and it clears, and the case in 2 parts, I snatched the case and as many pieces of the phone I could find and raced to the van… one car passed me…

Not exactly the blog post I was hoping to write as I headed back looking for the phone. 

But, thankfully the SIM card was still in tact so we could do a little phone rearranging this evening.  

Scott commented the other day that he feels the passage of time more noticeably at the beginning of the school year, rather than on the kids birthdays. 

I think he’s right.

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Especially this year, when I packed up three backpacks and three lunch boxes and lined up 3 kids for pictures at the front door. 

We have our Kindergartener, on her very first day of school ever.  IMG_6512

Followed by our first grader. IMG_6521

And, then our third grader.

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They were all eager to go to “school at the building” today at their tutorial.  I wonder if they’ll be as excited tomorrow for “school at the kitchen table.” I think, by far, the most excited was my 5 year old… she’s been eagerly waiting for her turn for several years now.  IMG_6545

I hope and pray that it is a good school year for all of us. 

Just one day over 2 weeks from shipping her off to the doll hospital, Kit arrived on our door step during lunch today.

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Her arm has been reattached and they even sent her home in a pretty hospital gown, with new socks, and her hair pulled up in a bow. 

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It just so happened that Daddy popped home for lunch today and she eagerly greeting him on the steps to tell him the good news.

 

She was so happy to have her back, fully healed, and in time for her to come to Kindergarten with her on Monday. 

When I started home schooling 4 years ago, I stepped back from most of my other responsibilities.  I wanted time to figure out the ropes of homeschooling in addition to taking care of my family.   But last spring, I started to feel a tug.  I was ready to serve again.  I wasn’t sure where or how, but I knew I wanted to serve in some capacity.  (Keep in mind this is not because after 3 years of homeschooling I suddenly had the homeschool thing mastered… truthfully this year more than ever I feel more nervous about our school year…. it’s because I think I realized that I didn’t want to wait till I had mastered it b/c truthfully I never will…)

So anyway, last spring I started to talking to Scott about my desire to get involved and serve the Lord.  He supported it.  Still I wondered where, how?

And then I got a letter from our youth pastor seeking helpers for the youth group.

This is not the first time such a letter has arrived in our mailbox.  In the past, I’ve gotten the letter, thought, “wow, I am flattered they’d ask me to help with youth group… I know nothing about teenagers.  Teenagers scare me.  There’s no way I could ever do that”  and so every year I’d send him a nice e-mail saying, thanks, but no thanks- my plate is full right now.

Until this time.

This time, I thought, “Wow, teenagers totally scare me, there’s no way I could ever do that…” I think I want to sign up.

I can’t explain why the change of heart, only than to say, I think it comes from God working in my heart.  I think I finally realized I am ready to step out of my comfort zone.  I think I finally realize how very little it has to do with me, and how much it has to do with Him. 

What do I, homeschooling mom of 4 young children have to offer a group of teens?

Nothing.

But, God has LOTS to offer them and I am exited and hopeful that He will use me to draw them closer to Him.  And conversely, I am hopeful he will use them to draw me closer to Him as well. 

On one hand there is a part of me that is absolutely terrified of  youth events.  I hate small talk.  I hate starting up conversations with people I don’t know well. I find spending time with large groups of people completely exhausting.  I find walking into a room full of teenagers completely intimidating… it’s like all those 9th grade insecurities come creeping back.  I’m not hip.  I know nothing of style (I text and e-mail my SIL when I need help putting together an outfit), what am I thinking?  My comfort zone is a world of play dough and goldfish.   I prefer squishing into chairs that are low to the ground and making time for “potty breaks.” 

But, you know… I am only 3 years away from having a middle schooler. (this thought instantly makes my breathing turn rapid).  What better time to learn about the world of teenagers than before I have one of my own? 

This weekend I’m heading off for my first “official” youth event.  It’s a staff retreat to get to know the staff I’ll be serving with and to further grasp the vision for the year.  Or as I told my 5 year old the other night when I explained why Mommy is going away for the weekend, “so I can learn how to teach teenagers more about Jesus.”  The week after that will be my first Sunday School and youth group event.  I am excited and nervous about this year.  But, I hope I am able to make some connections with some of the students and that together we’ll grow closer to Jesus this year. 

This weekend marked an anniversary of a life changing event in my life.  In fact, one could say that my life is very, very different as a result of it.

2 years ago while on our annual Labor Day cabin trip I did something I had never done before. 

I finished a cup of coffee.

Sure, I had had a sip once or twice, hoping to like it like my friends… but I never really cared for it.

And so I gave up, b/c ignorance is bliss.  But I found myself begging my husband to become a coffee drinker just so our house could have that wonderful aroma of coffee brewing each morning.

He wasn’t interested in “becoming addicted to a drug,” as he put it.

I don’t know what changed 2 years ago… maybe it was the hormones from child number 4, maybe it was that I finally tasted good coffee (the bolder and stronger the better in my book), but I fell in love 2 years ago and there is no going back.coffee

I drink a good 4-6 cups a day.  I love the smell, I love the taste, I love the warmth, I love the feel of the mug in my hand as I sip all morning long.  I typically top mine off throughout the morning, it keeps it at just the right temp.  I like mine with sugar, no milk or cream. 

I actually went from never drinking the stuff, to a coffee snob.  I like the good stuff.  I like it bold.  I like it freshly roasted and freshly ground.

And then to make life even sweeter, this winter my little brother became a coffee roaster and sells his own beans.  I ordered from him the first time because he is my brother and that’s what sisters do.  But, I became a subscriber (which means that I get my coffee shipped monthly to my door) because it is that good and I didn’t want to deal with those terrible headaches I got when I ran out of coffee and had to wait for my next shipment.  It’s good stuff people. 

Fall is just around the corner… I am eager for Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and then peppermint flavored coffee. 

Take 2 missing teeth, plus a few inches chopped off at the salon, and throw in a brand new pair of glasses, and you get yourself a brand new look for first grade!IMG_6341