Saturday, August 22, 2015

Surviving house guests for a month

We have friends staying with us right now.  They bought a new home and are renting out their old one.  Back in July, their closing date was pushed forward so they didn't have had enough time to do the renovations on their new home before they had to be out of their old one for the renters, so we told them that they could stay with us.  They are a family of six with children ages 7, 5, 2.5 & 11 months so it was obvious that if they didn't get the repairs, painting and floors done before they moved in, it would never get done... right!?  *all parents nod their heads*

So here they are.... Look at my home filled with children!!
play dough time
They have been with us 3.5 weeks with another week to go and we still like each other!  haha!  We are friends and it's been great spending time together, often staying up far too late when we all have early risers!  The best thing is that my friend Krista likes to cook so she's prepared many meals for us.  She also eats a lot healthier and has given me tons of great, tasty ideas!  I'd like to think we are a good team in the kitchen.  She cooks; I clean.  I'm going to miss having my wifey around!  *wink*

You know, it's actually easier having a family live with us than visiting us for a few days.  I don't feel like I have to cook or entertain them.  They even have their own fridge and shelves for food in the garage!  And they come and go as they please.

When I tell people that a family of 6 and their pets are staying with us, they ask, "How are things going?" with a sympathetic smile, so I thought I'd share some practical things that help.  It's really not that bad and I am NO special angel as people seem to think!  The biggest thing is that we are all believers in Christ and serve the same heavenly Father.  We strive to live for Him and with Him as the center of our home, all else falls into place.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
As the person who is hosting, I am comfortable with verbalizing my rules and setting boundaries.  And in turn, my guests are very laid back and respectful.  We've both had issues with our kids but we both prioritize discipline and training our children so issues are addressed and we move on.  The kids have been the biggest dynamic just with all their varying ages and personalities.  But we are working through it!

So here are four tips to surviving house guests...

Set boundaries
We are blessed with a three-level home and our guests are living in our basement.  Our bedrooms are all on the top floor, with the common rooms on the main floor.  We told our friends that we wouldn't go in the basement without asking them first and their kids aren't allowed in my children's bedrooms unless my kids are with them.  My older two have definitely appreciated having this boundary and one in particular has needed more alone time than all the children combined!  Tempers start to rise and it's clear a break is needed.  Seven kids ages 10, 8, 7, 5, 5, 2.5 & 11mo is a lot!

Keep it shut
My daughter observed our guests' kids doing something different than the way my kids do it and told me about about it thinking I'd address it.  I told her that it was a parenting issue and not something for me to bring up to their mom.  I will not interfere with the kids doing something that really doesn't concern me, my kids or my home.  Since we are friends, Krista and I have both shared our struggles and we have each offered feedback in conversation so those late night talks have been great, but it's wise to not bring observations up unless the other person mentions it first.
We are living in closer quarters than normal and it's actually makes ya feel kinda vulnerable. She's seen me in a bad mood and before my morning coffee, in my PJs and with bedhead.  haha!  She sees how I feed my kids {which I'm working on improving}, so I'm glad she doesn't criticize me for how I do things.  Nothing worse than walking on eggshells around someone!
Plus it's just not necessary to bring every "little feathers ruffled" thing up.  I always filter my thoughts and if it's something that is minor, I just ignore it.  After all, this is a temporary arrangement and we don't have to find common ground on everything.

Lower expectations
My friend has four kids younger than mine and with that comes a lot more mess, along with my family's mess!  I totally expected this so I clean to keep up but don't get mad it.  It's just how it is and again, it's temporary.  There are definitely more messes from toys, dirt, bathrooms, laundry, etc, but I just clean it knowing that I want my home to be welcoming to them.  I have lowered my expectations and don't get upset about the chaos that is currently my home. {But I remain firm about no shoes in the house!  haha... *singing Oh Canada!*}

Check in
After the first week, we all chatted and I asked how everyone was making out.  We have been doing pretty good so we didn't have much to discuss but I think an open dialogue is wise, just in case there are things to put on the table and work through.

Glass half full
Focus on the positive!  Don't dwell on the other family's faults or shortcomings.  I really care about our friends and their children are a delight.  The 2 year old in particular might be a little shoe thief but his expressions and the way he plays is just so sweet and humorous!
"Where are my flip flops?" *searching for child* "Oh there they are!"
The hardest thing has been with the kids all adjusting.  Friends are between homes and out of their routine and my kids are out of their routines and about to start public school.  So with all the activity in the house, the kids have all had their various issues to work through.  My friend and I see it as great character development!

My daughter loves the baby and is quite the helper!  The house is busier but there is more life under our roof.  More play time. More conversations. More laughs.  I could focus on more messes, more fights, more mischief, but having the opportunity to help our friends out means more than any of that. They are appreciative and we enjoy their company!
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. 1 Peter 4:8-9
So this week is our last week together and I am praying that we have a fun time and end on a good note!  I also pray that my friends' move goes smoothly!  They are really excited about their new home and me too... they have a pool!

{If anyone has survived houseguests and has more advice to share, please leave a comment!  Would love to hear your ideas!}

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Finished Proverbs!

I just finished reading another book with my bible study group "Good Morning Girls".  I really enjoyed all the wisdom that I am able to easily apply to my life.  Proverbs ends with a summary of a woman who works hard for her family.  She is a good example of the kind of woman we should all strive to be!  But nestled in verse 28 are the words:  "Her husband praises her" which spoke most to me today!

We have all heard the expression "Behind every great man is a great woman," but I feel that any good I do is hugely in part because of the love and support that I receive from my husband.  {The full credit goes to God who made me and motivates me of course!}

But Jay is so supportive of the things I do and strives to make me happy.  {The chocolate he brought home yesterday really helped!}
He wants me to succeed in my endeavors.
He encourages me to try new things.
He cheers me on when I grow weary.
Oftentimes, as I do one thing, I slack off in another area, but he finds reason to praise me and that keeps me motivated.
He chooses to see the good in me and loves me unconditionally.
He truly is the perfect partner for me and I am so grateful to have him.

Geesh... what a good way to end this study because coming up next is Song of Solomon!  Courtney, the leader of GMG said the following about the upcoming reading selection:
"Song of Solomon is a divinely, inspired love poem and a celebration of sexual love…yes it’s gonna get a little steamy here next week."

So grab some friends and start a group, and if you know me in real life, let me know if you are interested and I will add you to my private Facebook group!

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mary has 3 little lambs. GMG Proverbs.

Next week we will be wrapping up our time in Proverbs with Good Morning Girls and what a great study it's been.  I've seen so many verses that have helped me come to a decision regarding school for the kids!  See my big reveal HERE from yesterday when I shared that we'll be sending our kids to public school after homeschooling for three years.

As I prayed for direction this past month and while reading the Proverbs, so many verses about planning our lives, self-control, discipline and being lazy all jumped out at me.  Here are just some:
"To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction." Pro 12:1
And regarding planning....  Here are three I jotted in my journal.

And more...
"Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city." Pro 16:32
"A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things." Pro 18:9
"A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit." Pro 24:34
"A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls." Pro 25:28

As shared in that post yesterday, being disciplined was my biggest challenge and I knew I couldn't continue on my own as I was.  This was a powerful reveal for me.  Humbling but motivating!

Sending my kids to public school doesn't mean I get to run back into my house, kick of my shoes, grab a martini and read all day.  This Proverb sums it up well:

I need to continue to be INVOLVED in my children's lives.  I need to know their teachers and be in the classroom.  I want to be available to them at the end of the day.  I need to listen to them and continue to guide them through this new territory.  I know my life will be busier but I don't want to get lazy.  I don't want to raise a family with "broken-down walls".  I know many changes are coming but I need to trust God and continue to study His word for encouragement and strength as I continue to raise my children with a little more accountability.

"Know the state of your flocks".... 
Brings a whole new meaning to Mary had a little lamb, huh?

Going from homeschool to public school

After homeschooling for three years, my husband and I have decided to send the kids to public school this fall.  We have always taken their schooling year by year and seek to do what is best for them and our family.  I am so happy we had the years together that we did but for many reasons it’s time for them to go.

When I first started our homeschool journey, the kids were 7, 5 and 2.  Vienna had gone through first grade at the elementary school and had a wonderful experience.  I simply wanted more time with the kids while they were young and am beyond grateful we live in a country that allowed us the freedom to do this!  If you want to read more about my reasons that we started homeschooling, please click {HERE}.

If you figured out anything about me from my blog, it's that I'm TRYING to live a productive life.  As I journey along, I evaluate things and I tweak them as I need to.  One thing I know about myself is that I am very social and do best when I have the accountability of others.  I’ve seen this play out with my spiritual life and that’s why Good Morning Girls has been great ministry for me to plug into.  Without the daily check in with other ladies, I probably wouldn’t be reading my bible every day. I have been struggling with working out consistently and find myself much more motivated when I have a 5K planned to run with a friend.  
me and my three monkeys
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the biggest challenge I had educating the kids at home was being disciplined to do school work every day.  I had a hard time with consistency but friends told me it'd take a couple years to get into a groove so I remained flexible and open-minded.  I listened to great advice from a friend: “It’s hard to homeschool when you aren’t home.” I cleared my schedule and limited running the roads last year to give academics my full effort.  Colin didn’t return to his second year of  preschool and I didn’t go to the weekly bible study I loved.  We simplified big time.  We started school in September 2014 with great enthusiasm.  Then the holidays came and we fell off our routine.  Then one of the worse winters hit, leaving this social momma feeling very blah and unmotivated.  Every time we gathered momentum with school something would interrupt it:  Christmas, winter, birthday season, Easter and then summer.  I had a hard time getting back on track with good solid formal teaching time.  And my worry about the kids getting a good education increased causing me anxiety.

I considered joining a weekly co-op for accountability but after attending an information meeting, the price and the curriculum didn't appealed to me.  I also attended another group meeting with some moms looking to start a new co-op.  Everyone voiced what they were looking for and I was the only one looking for academic accountability.  I felt my enthusiasm for homeschooling draining.

As friends celebrated the end of a school year and summer break, I noticed that I didn’t have the same joy.  It’s kind of like people who live in California... because they have sunshine every day, they lose their appreciation for it. 
As my husband and I talked more about school options, the idea of public school became more appealing.  Sadly in the last months my reasons to homeschool became more about why I didn't want them in public school over why I loved homeschooling. I no longer want to be motivated by fear!  Common core, testings, bullies, teasing, clicks, exposure to the harshness of the world, being behind in some subjects all concern me.  I reread a friend's blog post {HERE} that she wrote three years ago about her transition from homeschool to public school and it was one of the many things that calmed my soul.  I also ordered this book that both she and another friend recommended.  I hope to find more encouragement in it.
sold on amazon

Jay and I have had many talks about school and the bottom line is that public school is an extension of homeschooling.  We will never stop teaching our kids!  I just need help in the academic department and want the kids to answer to someone else.  I plan to be VERY involved in the classroom, PTO and plug into our community more… a need I’ve been feeling for a couple years.
school applications
My family will remain my priority!  Unlike when Vienna was in public school before, I don’t have younger kids at home so I am free to help in the classrooms.  I can support the PTO, go on field trips and get involved. 
I definitely plan on taking care of myself better by exercising regularly but I want to use my time to do all that I need to do in my home so that when my family comes home, I will be fully available to them.  That means housekeeping, special projects, meal planning.  
I also babysit for a friend every other week.  And hey… after a couple years of being late with my family’s holiday cards, maybe I’ll get them out on time again!  {I am not worried about being bored, that’s for sure!}  

So grateful for the privilege I have to raise these children and I love all the options available to us. We continue to take their education year by year and seek God’s wisdom in all our decisions.  Til now, He has been faithful in closing one door while opening another.  We are just stepping through.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our summer vacation

My husband was away on a course so I took the kids by myself on a 9-hour drive to my hometown in Saint John, New Brunswick to visit family.  Traveling with older kids is SO.MUCH.EASIER!  No diapers to change, no stopping to nurse or feed a baby, and no inconsolable crying... Oh to be past that phase makes a world of difference while on the road!

The kids even helped me pack and load the car!  To make it easier, I printed off my packing list from Word.  I have used this for years and really makes getting ready less stressful!  {I have a few things to add to my list after this last trip, like last minute to do's!}

The kids were anxious to get to Canada so we only stopped two times, every 3 hours and ate in the van!  Bathroom breaks was so.much easier.  All four of us went into our stalls and took care of ourselves. I didn't have to help anyone!  It was wonderful!  So hang in there parents of young kids who don't travel well!  It gets better!!!

I made my kids travel binders that included free printables I found online.   I included colored pencils in a binder zip case too.  My kids weren't as interested in these as I had hoped.  The biggest hit was the map of our route with a few major highways and towns in point form for them to check off as we passed.  We've played the license plate game many times but I loved the car make/model game.  Sadly that didn't last too long.  A friend gave me the idea of printables for each State so I had NH, Mass & Maine.  There are tons of ideas online depending on the interest of your kids and the binders can keep it all together.

I have the links saved on my "Kid's Stuff" board on Pinterest.  Click HERE to check them out. 

We had a great trip together although I missed my husband a lot.  We were able to see family we don't normally get time to see and I was able to do a lot of R&R that I desperately needed.  The hardest part remained to be bedtime.  Kids sleeping in a new place always takes time to adjust. They had later nights and were tired.  But overall getting away went much smoother than I had hoped!

Happy summer,
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Our church hopping history

When I moved to Connecticut I was not yet a Christian.  I believed in a Creator so when my husband wanted to go to church, I agreed because I wanted to meet new people.  I attended a bible study for young adults and met lots of amazing folks!  There was something so normal and genuine about them.  They were not phony or pushy; they just loved Jesus and talked about a personal relationship with God.  I asked TONS of questions and came to my own faith in Jesus in August of 2000.  My 15 year anniversary is coming up!!!  Since then we’ve done a bit of church hopping and it’s neat to see how God has used those churches and the wonderful people there to help me grow.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 SWITCH church #1 to church #2 in Spring 2002
My first official church was big and we ended up leaving after 2 years to go to a smaller more intimate church with our best friends.  We loved the small church vibe and the people became like family to us, which was important since my whole family is in Canada and half of Jay's is too.  We grew so much while there in our knowledge of God, the bible and how we should care for one another.  The ladies at that church showed me what serving our family looked like and were wonderful examples of how to love like Christ.  They were there when I had my first two children and the support they gave me was like no other!

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 SWITCH back to church #1 in the beginning of 2008
After having two kids, I missed the programs that church #1 offered.  We were the only young family at church #2 and as anyone with young kids knows, it can be an isolating time raising babies at home alone all day long!  I needed more connection with people my age in the same place of life as me.  So after much praying and talking we returned to church #1.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 SWITCH to church #3 in Summer 2010
I quickly got connected in things like a weekly women’s bible study, a monthly moms group, the church nursery, Sunday School, a cardmaking group and even started a new ministry for military moms.  Vienna and Lance attended the preschool and we stayed very busy!  Then I got pregnant with Colin.  We wanted a bigger home and we found one 30 minutes away from church.  We commuted but it became too much with three kids ages five and under!  We decided to try a church in our neck of the woods.  We picked one that Jay’s coworker attended and loved, plus it was 6 minutes from our house!   We visited and enjoyed it, becoming good friends with the pastor and his wife. 

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 SWITCH to church #1 in Summer 2011
While attending this new church, I remained very involved at church #1 in all the things I mentioned above.  I was busy and didn't make time to connect with the people, nor was it easy.  Some lived 30 minutes away and weren't in our area.  The women who had kids my kids' ages homeschooled {which I didn't start til 2012}, and I wasn't able to get together with them much.  So after having a foot in each church for a year, we decided to return to church #1 yet again!  Sadly Jay’s schedule didn’t allow him to plug in the way he had been hoping and we figured if the programs were worth commuting for, then so was Sunday morning.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 SWITCH back to church #3 in January 2015 - what?!
From the title here, you see where this is going.  We went back to church #1 again but slowly over four years, God took all the things I was involved in off my plate... While we were attending church #3, the Military Moms Ministry fizzled to an end after three years because there was no one to help me lead it – darn military moves!  I wasn’t able to continue with the cardmaking group because Jay’s schedule was unpredictable and I couldn’t give the ladies a 100% commitment, plus it was a 30 minutes drive in the evening {dark through the winter} and I was often too tired by the end of the day!  Then I started to homeschool and the women’s bible study didn’t have childcare for older kids so I stopped attending that.  Colin attended the preschool when he was three but after I had a hard year homeschooling when I was gone two mornings a week, I knew that the 3-day program was out of the question.  In the summer of 2014, I found myself uninvolved in ANYTHING at the church aside from the monthly commitment in the nursery.  Jay’s schedule continued to be busy and we didn’t prioritize getting to church every Sunday.  There was no accountability because the church is so large and has three services.  Without being plugged into a smaller group, we were lost.  It was clear that doors were closing and our hearts were being prepared for something else.

I started to feel a strong urge to connect with more local people.  By Christmas, Jay and I decided to visit church #3 again.  My mother-in-law was here visiting so she watched the kids and off we went.  As soon as we walked through the doors we saw many familiar faces and heard many warm greetings.  My friend was surprised to see us and that made me smile.  I sat down in the pew and to my left was a homeschooling family I came to know through a co-op.  To Jay’s right sat his ex-coworker who was highly respected – and Jay had no idea he went to that church!  Then a 98 year old man got up to recite poetry and play his harmonica.  I looked at Jay who was beaming.  He loves old people and the harmonica!  I knew Jay was happy, and I knew this was where God wanted us.

Bringing the kids
We brought the kids the following week and the boys were thrilled because they knew some of the kids.   I was most worried about Vienna because there are TONS of younger boys but not as many girls her age.  Thankfully, last month my little introvert told me that she is happy to be at this church because it’s smaller.  This made me so happy because I prayed for her 10 year old heart to not ache for her friends!  {It also really helped that they attended VBS for the past three summers and were all comfortable with the building and some of the people!}

Fast forward 6 months and things have been going so well!!  We were put into a small group that meets once a month for dinner and were able to reconnect with people.  We've attended book clubs, birthday parties and a recent event with missionaries that included a hymn sign and potluck.   We have VBS coming up where I'm teaching for the first time!  And there are many other things coming up this Fall that I'm excited about.  It's wonderful to have so many events to attend when you don’t have family around!!  Oh and the teaching!  haha!  It's a wonderful bible teaching church!!!  That's KEY too!

What I've learned
God's timing in perfect.  He has us in a place for a certain season or for a reason and although we may not always be able to make sense of it, there is work being done.  In hindsight, I can see how my heart has been prepared along the way and how clearly God has directed our footsteps.  I am just so thankful that no matter what church we're at, we are worshipping God together and learning what His word says from intelligent and wise people!  I am just so thankful to Him for his faithfulness and love and using His people to reach my heart.  I have been so encouraged lately!

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Proverbs 1 -5 with GMG

We just finished week 1 in Proverbs with Good Morning Girls!  It has been a great study so far!  I have read this book before but like with everything, when you read it again, new things pop up!

I love to highlight, color and doodle in my bible.  This time around, I decided to follow Courtney's color chart that she blogged about over on the Good Morning Girls website.  Normally I just grab any random color but this helps organize things a little better.  I'm not coloring every line, just those verses that jump out at me.
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The week we read Proverbs 1 through 5.  I have learned how important it is to seek wisdom.  The bible has TONS of info in it but if you read it, wisdom isn't spoon fed to you; you gotta slow down and really seek it...
"Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures." Proverbs 2:3-4
And I learned the necessity of memorizing scripture...
"Store my commands in your heart.  If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying." Proverbs 3:1b-3 
It's not the length of my life that matters but the satisfying part that struck me.  After all, only God knows the number of our days!  {Proverbs aren't promises, but principles explained Courtney!}

And as I grow and learn and as I raise my kids, this pretty much summarizes what I want for my kids...
"Get wisdom; develop good judgment." Proverbs 4:5 
That is just a snippet of what I've learned this week.  It's been so good to get into the swing of things and continue on with our bible read through!

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