Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Things

This week we started school up again.
Jasmine's a third grader, Bekah's in first, and Hudson's technically pre-kindergarten.
People always ask about teaching preschoolers. Though this picture makes it look like we're all official and stuff, we're not. Not at all.
To me, being 3 or 4 is all about learning about life. He's learning grammar and pronunciation (he's got it mastered except for those pesky /r/s). He's learning his letters and counting, shapes and colors and rules of the house. He's learning about chores and playing fair. He's learning to sit still while we read the Bible. He's drawing really cute pictures of people. He's coloring better every time he picks up a crayon (something he's practicing on doors and couches).

We're starting to work on reading, but it's very slow. He's interested, but doesn't want it badly enough to sit still for a lesson. It bothers him that he's not mastering it already, so we go a couple weeks between lessons most of the time. And that's fine! He just turned 4!

He's learning that if you ask Jasmine what 10 plus 4 is, she'll give you an answer that's another number.

And that the abacus is involved in that:

Jasmine, on the other hand, is in very formal school these days. She's got  the same spelling and math books as last year, but we're adding in new grammar books (Easy Grammar and their Daily Grams) and new history for the year (Story of the World, vol. 1). A month ago we heard about Reflex Math and I'm sold!! She's mastered 60% of her addition facts in the past month. 
We're starting to learn Spanish as a family (though I think the system we got will work best for Josh and I and I need to find something a little more gradual for the kids).

My spunky little First Grader is continuing to do work above her level, though she's slowing down a bit to being where she belongs. She's nearly halfway done with her first grade math, starting second grade spelling, and I have to get her the second grade phonics book.
It's a little tough for her to get used to the idea that school is less voluntary now, but she's getting there!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jedi Training

Yesterday, we left the house nice and early (actually, I'm not sure I'd call it "nice") so we could get the kids signed up for Jedi Training at Disney Hollywood Studios.
They saw it last year and they all wanted to do it, but it's for ages 4-12, and there was no way Hudson would have let the girls do it while he sat and watched.
So between that and the fact that you have to get there when (or before) the park opens to get them signed up, we waited for Hudson's birthday to do it.
Which was, of course, yesterday!

Jasmine said afterwards that she was nervous. Bekah was completely confident, and Hudson was adorable and did a great job. (Jasmine did too, despite being nervous)

Monday, April 08, 2013

Sporadic Posting

I am such an inconsistent blogger.
But it's okay. I'm consistent in my inconsistency.
I'm also very inconsistent in how quickly I respond to emails.

Anyhow, rather than get frustrated with myself, I'll just do it when I feel like it!

For my birthday, I went to Gatorland with my friend Stacey.

Now, before you get all angry with me for going without my kids, lemme 'splain.
Gatorland has a Photographer's Pass. They let you in 2 hours before the park opens, so you can take pictures of the birds and the gators without the crowds. I knew the kids wouldn't do so well for a full 2 hours, and we only have one car, so Josh and the kids couldn't have just joined me later. So this was my opportunity to go enjoy the photo ops. We'll go as a family at some point down the line, but not to the early-morning part. (it was great, but I don't know if I'd want to do it again. I think I got enough pictures the first time!)
Here are most of my favorite pictures (I realized after I exported this that I missed one, but oh well):

 And the gators:

It was really, really fun. It was sprinkling in the morning but stopped when we got there, and the sun actually peeked out for a few minutes.

Then yesterday (Sunday), we went to the East Coast for the afternoon. We found a relatively quiet park and spent a few hours there. The kids chased (and then ran away from) waves, I took pictures, and we all got very, very sandy.

Have I said lately how much I love living here?? 
Probably not. I've tried not to make people sad, but I really am so happy and thankful to be here. I love the sunshine, the weather, the attitudes here (people are just happier, and it means they're also friendlier), the proximity to awesome places, the easier homeschooling laws, the utter lack of snow...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Everyone talks about having “wilderness experiences,” when life feels directionless and slow.
I’ve had two of them.
The first was after an awesome two years living in Istanbul. I didn’t want to come back to America but knew my time overseas was up. I fought it. I complained. I was miserable.
And I was directionless.
When I was 12, I knew that I wanted to be a wife and mother, but I got to 24, and then 25, and 26, and still didn’t have a love interest.
Teaching jobs I tried for dried up.
I worked a couple part-time jobs while living with my family. And not necessarily being the most helpful member of the family.
Miserable. Frustrated. I didn’t know why God would put something in my heart and not give it to me.

What I didn’t realize then was that the Israelites were given 40 years in the wilderness because they complained instead of trusting God. What was supposed to be a short trek across the desert turned into 40 years of not having a home. Of only eating manna. Of moving when the cloud moved, and stopping when the cloud stopped. They were required to learn to trust God.
They did learn it. (though of course they forgot it as soon as they got to their Promised Land, but that’s where I’m choosing not to let the analogy continue in my life!)

Right after my 26th birthday, God brought me out of the wilderness and brought me to Josh. The wilderness time was over.
Until 6 or so years later, when I started getting the itch to move to Florida. I knew the whole family was headed there eventually, but they seemed to be dragging their feet.
And the exact same feelings started up again.
Frustrated. Miserable.
I wanted to move, and NOW. But I couldn’t do it on my own, and no one else had the same motivation to just go!
This time, though, the Lord brought someone into my life. As we started talking about our struggles with living in Buffalo and not where we thought we were supposed to be going, He worked in both of our hearts.
I fought it at first, just like I’d fought it at 24, but gradually I started realizing I needed to learn something and not just fight it.
I started to focus on being thankful. I started taking things that normally frustrated me (like snow) and finding something I really, truly appreciated about it. (like the fact that the snow allowed the apples to grow!)
It took a long time, but I started sensing a different attitude. I really wasn’t miserable anymore. I found myself worshiping instead of griping.
Then the big day came: putting the house on the market! We were free!
…until it didn’t sell that summer. Or in the fall. Winter came. The winter I didn’t think I was going to be in Buffalo to experience.
It was hard to keep my eyes on what God had been teaching. Oh, so very hard. Reading the listings and watching houses come and go from the market, seeing Josh’s parents close on their house down here, packing up our warm-weather clothes in exchange for dreaded hats and mittens.
It felt like my final exam. Did I really learn how to trust? Did I really learn how to be thankful in all things?
I chose to be thankful. I chose to trust. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long, but I chose to believe.
And 5 ½ months after putting a sign in our front yard, we finally got a real offer.

When we first moved down, I worried that I was only thankful because we were here. But I know I really did learn how to be thankful. I really did learn how to trust. And if another test comes along, I know that I now have the tools to keep my mind on Jesus instead of on my situation.
It doesn’t mean I want another test. Or that the next big thing to come my way won’t be completely different. But I learned and won’t have to struggle the same way through this particular test next time!