My 38th birthday was a few weeks ago and Annie and James were in the midst of recovering from a bout of sickness which meant no cake, no big celebration, no hanging with friends or family—but, that is how it goes some years, you know? Jason did his best to make the day special by making an amazing dinner of homemade meat balls, savory waffles and baked eggplant. Yum! I also stepped out of the house for a bit and hit up a few of my favorite thrift shops and scored a few great finds to add to our collection. All in all, it wasn’t too bad and this past year was another year of growing in our homeschool, our relationship with Christ, and with one another. There were some tough spots (as there always are), but there was a lot to be thankful for…
1. Thrift store shopping for used books is my absolute favorite pastime. Nothing brings me more (earthly) joy than finding amazing old classics for a few bucks.
2. What makes #1 even more awesome is that Annie and Jonah have become my trusted companions on these thrift store shopping sprees. Those kids can spot additional volumes in the series that we are collecting from a mile away. Mad skills, people!
3. And what has rounded out this love of going through piles of old books is that Jason has come around to not just enduring, but enjoying the experience of shopping at old, smelly stores, too. And, I love that he always does “creative balancing of the checkbook” to support our family’s book addiction.
4. You’ll notice James was not mentioned in the first three highlights of this year. Let’s just say that I love him for many reasons, even if I might have to disown him if he whines one more time about going on another one of our book hunting expeditions. “Momma, really? More books!” Yes, my son. More books.
5. So last summer, we lived in a perpetual state of camping while our first floor was renovated. We learned many things along the way. Important things like bacon cooked on the grill is a marvelous discovery, especially when you haven’t eaten bacon in weeks (tragedy!). And baked potatoes cook much faster on the grill than in the oven (as evidenced by the black rocks served one night at dinner early on in the process.) We learned that details matter and a 1/2” off in measurement really makes a huge difference in countertops being placed correctly on cabinets and hoods above the stove being hung correctly over (not to the side of) your stove. Thankfully, contractors fix mistakes and my kids learned to scoop out the inside of the baked potato, even if it meant they only got 1 tsp of edible side dish.
6. The above being said, doing dishes has never been so enjoyable, and it is not just because I don’t have to use the bathroom sink anymore. It’s because we have a farmhouse sink now, which is truly the highlight of the entire renovation for me. I’d consider going through that process again just to have this sink. I love it in a serious way.
7. I’m so grateful for my Scholé Sisters, those locally and those online. It is a rare gift to be able to share so many common loves. These women challenge me to grow not only in my understanding of the Christian classical tradition of education, but what it means to be human. They are precious and rare gifts for which I am eternally grateful!
8. It has been an absolute gift to watch the kids blossom in their musical pursuits. I love that their music fills our home for hours on end each day. I also love that Jason was able to spend the first few years of Annie and Jonah’s piano career instructing them, and is now doing the same with James. We now have a piano instructor for the older two, and it has been so fabulous to be at the stage in parenting where you can see a passion and love growing inside of your kids. I pray that they keep it with them for all time.
9. I love that with each passing year, the kids and I still find that our favorite thing to do is to snuggle on the couch and read delicious books. I also love that the kids know that when I say, “OK, five more minutes,” I really mean 15 because I just can’t put the book down either.
10. James’ go-get ‘em personality inspires me. He’s always up for a new challenge. He brings a particular spunk to our family that is unique to him. If he does, in fact, become a priest like he repeatedly says he wants to be, I want to be part of his parish. I think God’s got great things planned for him.
11. Jonah’s comments on everything coupled with his endless questions about why, where, how and when leave me pondering so many things each day. They also leave my introverted brain slightly tired.
12. It’s interesting living alongside your first born as they are on the cusp of growing into the next stage of development. It will be so interesting to see how Annie continues to grow and mature into the lovely young lady that God has called her to be.
13. Understanding MBTI personality types has opened up a new way of understanding my kids, myself and those closest to me. For example, I’m an INFJ. This means that I’m “in the zone,” as Mystie Winckler says, when I’m helping people. I’m totally not in the zone when there is conflict. No thank you! As an INFJ, I’ve come to own the reality that I make decisions based on how I feel about things—my gut is a force to be reckoned with. This, is the complete opposite of my husband (an INTP) who uses truth and truth alone to make decisions. He’s also pretty unaware of his feelings (seriously—feelings? What are those?), so in reality, we are a good match, balancing each other out. I also have one kiddo who is a feeler to the max and internalizes those feelings (as an INFP). I envision the teen years being a particular challenge with this one. One of the kiddos is the exact opposite of me (as an ESTP), needing to experience the world around him rarely stopping to examine feelings or potential outcomes. Interestingly, I find him the easiest to parent. There is also one kiddo who has the same personality type as me. In a way, this helps, because we get how the other is wired and how alone time is essential to thriving. But, we are both intensely passionate about our ideals and can drive each other a bit crazy. I’m so grateful for this knowledge because it helps us to thrive as a family, recognizing each other’s personality types, what makes us tick, and what irritates us.
14. If I could pick one influential person in the history of education to sit down with, I find myself wishing I could sip on a cup of tea and pick Charlotte Mason’s brain for a few hours. The more I study her volumes, the more I’m convinced that her principals and practices fit hand-in-glove with the classical tradition. I’ve also found that the more I implement her principles in our homeschooling in a way that fits our family culture, the more at rest I am.
15. Nature hikes have become an essential and necessary part of our weeks. When we don’t get out for at least one hike, we are all sorts of itchy. True story.
16. I’ve recently discovered Cadia veggie chips. This is a dangerous discovery.
17. I have continued to keep my chocolate addiction at bay. It is a rare day that I crave chocolate anymore. Jason just commented recently that this lack of chocolate eating means a lack of cookies being made in the house. He does not think this is a good thing.
18. Fresh cut flowers (preferably from our own yard) have become my favorite thing to decorate with. There is just something about fresh flowers in the house to brighten my mood.
19. My sister-in-law turned me on to Teaccino tea. People! If you love coffee but cannot tolerate the caffeine, this is the drink for you. I’m currently obsessed with their French Roast with a touch of honey and splash of cashew milk. It’s heaven in a cup. Thank you, SIL, for the recommendation. You’ve helped to take my love affair with tea up a notch.
20. We are to that point in our homeschooling journey where all of our kids are able to read. This is equal parts exciting (helping a child learn to read is not one of my favorite things to do) and sad because this means my kids are growing up and there are no more babies in the house.
21. I am so glad that this past election is over with. I hate politics. I hate how stupid people get about politics. I hate that our nation is so divided. But at the end of the day, I am proud to be an American and I have hope that America will one day get back to the principles that it was founded upon.
22. My weekly holy hour now includes the kids coming with me (their idea, not mine). While I love that they desire to have quiet time with our Lord, it is a sacrifice. James inevitably has to pee at least two times in an hour. Annie at least once. And Jonah…well, apparently he has a stronger bladder than his siblings, but he always refuses to take his coat off, which means that there is a constant rustling of his coat against the wooden chairs. Did I mention that he always wants to sit right next to me, too? Jason reminds me that the Lord is pleased with this sacrifice to not have my holy hour completely to myself. I think he’s probably right. Maybe.
23. For the first time (ever?), I have a reading list for the upcoming year. It has been a surprise to me how much motivation this is to actually start and finish books. It includes a mix of novels, spiritual reads, and books on educational philosophy. Gene Stratton Porter, Stratford Caldecott and St. Therese are my literary guides this year, and I am loving it! I also snuck in a book that wasn’t on my 2017 list. I feel like it doesn’t count because I binge read it in a few days. The add-on book, Different by Nathan and Sally Clarkson, left me pondering a number of ideas. While I don’t have an “out of the box” kid in terms of behavior or mental health issues like Nathan Clarkson, we do have our own challenges and one of my deep desires for my children is for them to know that they are loved for who they are—that they are fearfully and wonderfully made! This quote made me tear up, so I figured it was a keeper.
Each of us has a song God has placed inside of us—one that’s unique, unlike anyone else’s. We may try to ignore our songs, straining to hear and dance to others that look more inviting or socially acceptable. But on and on our song will play always inviting us back to move to our own music.
As someone who has always felt different, I grew up wondering if there was something wrong with my song. To others it often sounded loud, chaotic, strange—if they could hear it at all. It wasn’t until I realized that God has written a piece for only me that I understood I wasn’t supposed to be dancing to anyone else’s music. It wasn’t until I fully embraced the song God has put on my heart that I was able to live and move the way He had designed me.
And yes, it’s still hard when I get stares and condescending looks. There are times when I wish I had a different song. But that doesn’t happen nearly so often now.
When you realize your song was divinely written for you, your audience suddenly becomes that of One.
And then you can dance to the music only you were made to hear.
24. Getting older and having crappy fertility means that my body is all sorts of crazy. Friends who are not in this phase, relish those amazing metabolisms, sleep-filled nights, and youthful spirits. I hear this current crappy phase will be over in, like, 10 years. The only silver-lining I can find in this is that I’ll be through this crappy transition 10 years earlier than most of my friends my age. I guess that is awesome?
25. Lands’ End clothes have seriously become my favorite for the entire family. For the kids, they are durable and actually last long enough to pass down to other kids. For adults, their sizes run big which makes me feel a tad better about myself when I have to buy clothes (see #24).
26. I’ve written before about knowing who My People are. I’m so grateful for these people. I can’t imagine life without them. True, authentic friendships are a gift from God, this I am sure. There’s no doubting their loyalty. There’s no questioning their motives. They are just there, always and forever. Thank you, Jesus!
27. While I long to live in a state that doesn’t have snow for 1/2 the year, I kind of missed an occasional big ole’ storm this past winter. There is something about being snowed in with a big cup of hot cocoa and a pile of books that makes my heart all kinds of happy. That being said, the warmer temps and sunshine were a blessing this past winter.
28. I think that my obsession with Fixer Upper actually proved to be helpful this past summer. We tackled so many DIY projects, doing our best to channel our inner-JoJo and Chip. I would have never guessed that I would enjoy the process so much.
29. That being said, I’m grateful that my dearest friend is way better at this stuff than me. She helps me to turn my ideas into reality and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
30. I have found that while I still can’t drink much in the way of alcohol (thank you crappy autoimmune issues), an occasional Margarita has actually become a possibility here and there. This is exciting.
31. I’m slowly learning that multi-tasking means that I’m not really doing any one thing very well. Jason is always telling me this. Recently, I asked Jason if he could be thinking about what he wanted for his birthday. I said something like, “You don’t have to answer me now, but be thinking of it in the back of your mind.” He stopped what he was doing, looked me square in the eye and with complete seriousness explained, “I don’t have a ‘back of the mind.’ I only have what is going on in the front right here and now.” I died laughing. I can’t comprehend that. But, I see the value in a mind working that way. For now, I’m settling on not allowing myself to do more than two things at a time.
32. Lexie continues to be an awesome dog. She is seriously the best (even if she just ate another tube of chapstick today).
33. I love how small the world can become through social media. Don’t get me wrong, social media has the potential to be all sorts of addictive and distracting (I have no experience with this!). But, I’m grateful to be able to stay connected with friends and family in far away places. I’m also grateful for new readers to this blog and the stories they share with me. Homeschooling is a journey and I love sharing it with those who want to read along!
34. One of my favorite ways to end the day is to crawl into our bed with a million covers, turn off the lights and switch on a dim reading light (OK, it’s a camping flashlight) and stay up way too late reading a novel. It’s like channeling my inner-kid. Not a bad way to end the day.
35. I have developed a love-hate relationship with YRG Yoga. While I still run/walk every morning, I’ve added in YRG at the recommendation of my kinesiologist—also, see #24 (that dang metabolism is killing me). This getting older thing stinks! The workout seriously kicks my butt, and I’m left with sayings like, “Squeeze em!” and “Explode!” running on loop in my mind throughout the day.
36. I’ve recently hopped on the Under Amour bandwagon. I never understood the obsession until I got a pair of their yoga pants. I now pretty much live in these things. One fashion trend that I tried and did not succeed with this past year was leggings. I see so many ladies wearing these things. I’m down with them as long as they are being worn with a long shirt or dress. But the reality of them on me…no. Not happening.
37. I have a feeling that this year is going to be The Year of Discernment. We have a lot of big decisions on our horizon. Considering Jason and I are two of the most indecisive people on the face of this planet, this year could prove to be an interesting one. I’m grateful that God is giving us some amazing opportunities to discern, but…gah! Decisions! I’ll leave that little teaser there and simply say, pray for us!