Thursday, October 20, 2016

And then some...

In a recent sermon at church, Pastor Steve talked about the concept "and then some" in his awesome sermon titled Aiming for Excellence.  He based it on Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."

Give the best in all you do, especially at home because you only get ONE life and there is too much at stake to aim short of your personal best.  We open ourselves up to God's best when we aim for excellence in every situation.  For a while this message of "and then some" kept replaying in my mind.  I should give my kids my best and then some.  I should give Greg my best and then some.  I should give my housework my best and then some.  Because in these in "then somes", I am able to bless others.

Grace decided to get a hair cut to bring bounce back to her hair and free up time from excessive brushing since her hair, while thick, tangles very easily.  I asked her if she ever considered donating her hair since it is blond and thick and beautiful.  She was not sure how short she wanted to go but after finding the organization Children With Hair Loss, she agreed that 8 inches was reasonable and would make her feel good to take a simple hair cut and turn it into an "and then some" moment.

Her hair has been sent to CWHL and I know it will bring  blessings to a child in need.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Life is short, I want to live it well.  One life, one story to tell.  - Switchfoot

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lake Hume

A year ago I dreamed that my girls would have opportunity for two things: retreats and missions.  Through answered prayer, we are now in a place where both are open to them.  Grace returned from her first retreat changed in so many wonderful ways.  She is more mature, more independent, more capable, more grounded in her faith.  She is committed to leadership, to fusing her talents and her faith, and to exploring the options that God presents to her.  

In her youth group she has found friendships that are true and honest and grounded on commonalities that extend beyond faith and worship.  Lilah is building relationships, having come to youth group in September.  She passed on the most recent retreat in favor of waiting until her relationships are solidified.  Determination is a trait both my girls share and I have no doubt that when she says she will attend the winter retreat, she will and she too will come back a slightly more grown up version of the girl who left.

The October retreat differed from Lead Week, which Grace attended in August.  This was much larger, 180 people vs. 50.  There was a guest speaker, Zane Black and the theme was that God is Greater.  Kinda amazing isn't it.  God is whispering.  Over and over we have heard this message and I have spent time reflecting on what this means and I have a few thoughts that I will share at a later date.  

I am so very grateful for our church, for it's Youth Pastors, the adults who give their time voluntarily to these teens and who are true role models, to the children who have welcomed mine into their fold and to the retreat centers that offer a safe place to gather, disconnect and reflect.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Settling In

I have learned over the years not to post too much about what we plan to do for the upcoming year because things change.  It takes a month to solidify a schedule and determine what is working and what is not working.  So here we are a month in and I'm happy to say that just about everything is working.  However, there are a few things that are not going so well and the beauty of homeschooling is that we get to make changes that fit our schedule and our kids' interests and learning styles.

Grace loves ASL.  She began studying this language in 8th grade because we knew the more traditional languages like Spanish or French would be challenging for her.  She excelled in sign language because it matches her learning style.  She and Lilah studied in classes and with tutors for three years.  Eventually we decided to try The Sign Language Center in Manhattan for 2 ½ hour complete immersion classes.  She loves it.  I wish they had satellite classes in Connecticut because the commute is just too much for us right now.  While New York is commutable, it is a 90 minute train ride each way and combined with the length of the class, an entire day is devoted to the study of this beautiful language.  We leave around 10:30 am and do not return home until 5:30pm and we don't mess around. We dash to the train, board the subway directly from Grand Central, walk three blocks, go to class (I hang out in Starbucks), then do the reverse and come home.  We don't dilly dally.  We don't explore.  We don't hang out.  We get in and we get out.  We are tired.  It is too much for us right now.  So what to do??  She has met her foreign language "requirement".  In Connecticut, us homeschoolers are required to provide an equivalent education but it is not stated what classes they must take.  Her transcript will show ASL 4.  She can be done if she chooses but her goal is fluency and she is not there yet.  She can have a conversation and that is great, but mastering a language is hard and needs to be worked at continually.  Sadly, there are not many options for ASL study at a higher level in Connecticut.  I will continue to search out options for her because it was decided that after this session of ASL  ends, she will take a break from classes in the city.

Lilah is plugging along with French and it too is a challenge.  She studies French at our coop and one lesson a week is just not enough.  It is to be determined if she stays with French past this semester or returns to ASL in the winter/spring.

The other issue we have is our workspace.  We tried the library but it is not working.  Well, I should say it works for one of my girls but not the other.  The teen section is right off the computer bay where people sign out computers and seem to have forgotten library manners.  They are loud.  Cell phones ring.  People use "outside voices" inside.  On top of this, the teen section allows tutors to work with high school students who are on alternative learning programs so they are talking and working through lessons and we simply cannot work quietly.  The quiet section is in the dungeon, the basement of the library where the walls are gray and there are no windows.  It is depressing to work there.  We tried reserving study rooms but only one has a window.  It has a small desk and two chairs and there is no way three people can work productively.  The other rooms are dungeon like, with no windows.  Just can't do it.  For now we have returned to working at home.  Now that Daphne is with Jesus, our house is much quieter.  One of the reasons we went to the library was to escape her constant barking at walls.  We are now able to work at home.  Because one of my girls still prefers working outside of home, we are going to try letting her go off with a friend who works at a library in a neighboring town every day.  

That's it!  My only two issues with our new semester and if this is all I have to fret over, I will take it!  These are manageable issue and customizable to each child.  Often decisions over classes, curriculum, or coops, affect the entire family but this is not the case this year.  I feel confident in our choices, in their classes, in the teachers they have and in the work they are producing.  They have never worked harder academically but they are balancing time for work, time for fun, time for church and time for personal interests.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Carnegie Hall

We have seen Kutless, 7th Time Down, Chris Tomlin with guests Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Phil Wickham, Tasha Cobbs, Kim Walker-Smith, and pastors Louie Giglio and Max Lucado.  We have been to the Hillsong movie, Let Hope Rise, and we have heard Franklin Graham preach.  Now we have added Francesca Battistelli and Lauren Daigle to that ever growing list.  This event officially ended the celebration of Grace's 16th birthday.

Back when she was just a little girl, just five years old, we were in the city to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and look at the window displays on 5th Avenue.  She was in awe of the city, just as she still is now.  Her eyes were full of delight and wonder as she craned her little neck to see to the top of Rockefeller Center.  I told her that once upon a time I went to a Christmas party there, at The Rainbow Room, and it was magical.  She asked when she could go and I promised her we would go as a family when she turned 16.  

Sixteen year old Grace is quite different than five year old Grace. She does not like fancy restaurants, she prefers down home barbecue served on paper plates under a tarp at a picnic table.  She likes jeans and Converse sneakers.  Her hair is always down and she detests makeup.  She is the most authentic teen I know and I love her for it.  Rather than make her adhere to a dress code and eat food she would rather not eat, we came up with a plan B for her birthday, to see Francesca and Lauren at Carnegie Hall.  

This is Grace.  Grace is a musician and her love of the Christian music genre is matched by Lilah's love for it, and mine as well.  There is nothing quite like an entire audience singing Amazing Grace at one of the most iconic music venues in the world.  That moment was perfect.  That moment was spirit led and holy.  It was beautiful beyond imagination.  It ranks with the entire audience of Madison Square Garden getting on our knees and reciting The Lord's Prayer in unison.  

16 was a special birthday for Grace.  It was so much more than just a day.  It was a true celebration of her life and how special she is to so many people.

Having a Plan

Growing up I had a best friend who loved to dance.  When I would go over after school the rugs would be rolled up and she would practice her ballet or tap or jazz before we could hang out and play.  Their living room was her ballet studio and her calloused feet were her trophies.  She was a dancer.  School was just something she had to do until she got old enough to dance full time.  After graduation she worked for Disney and went on to have a family and over the years we lost touch and I'm not sure where she is or what she is doing now, but I'll bet it has something to do with dance.

What do you do when you have a child with interests that don't fall within a traditional education framework? Grace feels about photography the way my friend did about dance.  It is all she wants to do, well, that and music.  She starts her day with new product releases from Olympus. She watches YouTube tutorials on product usage or technique.  She does not dream about owning her own car, she dreams about owning a professional wide angle lens.  She has made the decision to pursue photography professionally and we have two schools to look at.

Following behind her is Lilah.  Creativity oozes from her pores.  She can read for hours, draw, paint, and write.  She is a storyteller and while she has work to do in the grammar department, she tells stories I can only dream of creating.  She thinks kitchens are beautiful and has a beautiful eye for photography but she lacks the desire to be technically proficient.  I don't know what her future holds.  She does not have a set desire in terms of a career.  Since she too favors the arts (language arts), I doubt (although I never rule out) a S.T.E.M career is for her.

I wonder how my friend's mom felt raising her creative, talented daughter.  Did she worry about math or science?  Did she worry about booklists, AP, wait, AP was not even an issue then.  Back then it was just honors and you took one or two and if you didn't it was no big deal.  AP did not drive high school students.  We took the SAT, there was no ACT, and we did not take prep classes that cost thousands of dollars.  We did not hire college consultants.  We did not stress over extra curriculars.  To be fair, I'm sure some did, but not in my circle of friends.  We went to school, did sports, were part of a club, did our homework, still had time to hang out after school and have weekend sleepovers.

Now I think kids have to excel in all the do.  They must have a plan.  They must "keep up".  They must compete at the highest level in their sport possible.  They must be prepared for a "global workforce".  They must produce more than we ever imagined in the same amount of time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for four years.  What if your kid does not fit into this standard mold?  I see it with my nieces and nephews and I see it with my kids and my friend's kids.  We have kids that have talents and gifts outside of those which are conventionally seen as valued and honored.   They are writing books, winning photography contests, fixing their own cars, working jobs to earn money to pay for their cars, clothes and insurance.  They are caring and kind.  They are honest and trustworthy.

Grace has two options she is debating right now:

  • two years of community college to earn her AA in music then transfer to a 4 year art school focusing on photography.  Having her associates in music will allow her to teach music lessons with more credibility while she pursues photography.
  • Attend a one year intensive photography program in Manhattan and come out ready to pursue her dream of being a photographer.  She can then do two years at community college for music. We are blessed to have a community college nearby with an excellent music program.

Lilah is 14 and she has no plan.  And that is just okay by me.

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...