Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I think parents have a vision of bedtime being this wonderful peaceful way to wind down a day.  I see a picture of a family snuggled up on a couch reading stories and praying together before walking kids up to their beds, pulling blankets snugly up around them, kissing sweet angelic cheeks and turning out the light while saying sweetly, "Good night, my lovelies."  Then all is quiet in the house while Mom and Dad unwind while reading books and newspapers and magazines.

That's my vision.
This is my reality as of late:

Things are going well through the book reading part.  Then comes the bedtime prayer together and, lo and behold, it is as if the younger ones know what comes next and the fight begins.  Escaping from bed repeatedly, requests for "one more sip" (often denied since they get a little water before bed), one more trip to the bathroom, non stop talking, etc.  Next thing Tim and I know, we're wrapped up in their chaos just to get them to be quiet and go to bed.  While trying to enjoy a movie together, there is a constant pausing and exchange of "It's-your-turn" looks until somewhere a half hour or so later, they finally give up and drift off while we are on the verge of quitting parenthood or contemplating telling childless couples to keep their lives simple and don't give in to the "When are you going to have kids?" pressure.  Hey, you may not like what I'm saying; I'm just being honest about the feelings in that moment.

You know what bothers me most about all this monkey business?  Yes, the disobedience is aggravating and the stalling is exhausting, but what bothers me most is my reactionary attitude.  I have gone from those blissful dreams of a lovely bedtime routine - which we have experienced along the way, don't get me wrong - to this raging monster of a mother who has waited all day for some quiet time alone with her husband and is mad that it's being taken over by little buggers.  I find it easy to fly off the handle and yell at the kids because I have dealt with them all day long and I just need a break, good night.  And honestly, when you're at home you're never on break because even during bedtime you're still there and still a parent.  But, anyways, I hate who I am during the bedtime battle.  And, yes, I realize that it probably reveals a heart issue, but that's probably for another blog post.

Tonight I caught myself in the battle alone since Tim is at a meeting. About a half hour into it I found my voice starting to get louder and my jaw becoming sore from clenching it while hissing out the words "Get back in bed and be quiet."  I don't know what hit me, but as I was walking up the stairs yet again, a voice in my head said, "You have 4 mainly healthy kids.  They were given to you.  Shift your perspective."

So instead of wishing I was totally alone in the house, I thanked God for my 4 little ones.  

Instead of wanting to tape their mouths shut, I gave thanks that they can speak and have healthy sets of lungs.

Instead of losing my patience with their climbing out of bed, I was thankful for their abilities to walk (especially since the youngest two had to have physical therapy to help them walk.)

Who would have thought that less than 5 minutes later, all would be quiet in the house?  It was almost as if the battle stopped cold actually.  I heard Caleb's voice drift off while singing "Do you want to build a snowman?" (his favorite song at the moment.  He sings it all day long, no matter where we are.  Just ask the lady in the restroom at Frederick Meijer Gardens yesterday.)

I am not writing this for advice regarding bedtime.  We've tried everything and have accepted that this may just be a phase when you have kids...especially when the youngest two are still 4 years old and 2 years old.  Noah and Ellie go to bed just fine for us.

I mainly wanted to encourage that sometimes it just takes a shift in perspective to allow God's strength to come upon you.  Thankfulness is a powerful thing.  It keeps your heart focused on what's important.  It's easy to become pessimistic and downtrodden but when your heart is thankful, the rest of you follows.

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  ~Colossians 3:17

Friday, March 21, 2014


A pen falls upon the paper, writes, lifts up.  There is the scratching out of words with pauses to reflect upon what is being said, quietly mumbled awkward and short prayers that the Lord will give the pen the words to write.

It's hard to do something you need to, that God has told you to, but that you don't want to.

Over five years ago, I had a falling out with a family member.  I won't go into what the relation is or what the situation was, but it was a large enough incidence that it has changed our entire family dynamic.  And when I say "entire" I mean aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, grandma, entire.

I was blamed for things I didn't do, say, or think and there has been a dump of hurt stinking up my heart since.  It hurts worst in the beginning and as time goes by and reconciliation looks more and more impossible, it's easy to live life with incidents forgotten and shoved down under mounds of daily life and present needs. 

But sometimes what a heart needs most is to be free...chains broken, light enough to fly, released from bitterness that steeps.  It means learning to forgive what most likely won't be confessed and asking for forgiveness for what was your mistake. 

Over the years I have thought about writing this letter.  Tim has mentioned at random times that I should really write this letter.  I didn't want to do it, though.  I didn't know where to even begin.  So I turned from what God was repeatedly revealing at intervals to me to instead live with my hurt because if I tried hard enough I could make it numb. 

After taking last year away from the ladies' Bible study at my church to ease the transition into homeschooling, I was excited to jump back in this year.  Little did I know what the year would hold for me.  As we have been working through Beth Moore's study on the life of David, I have felt a peeling back of the layers in my heart.  When I felt a certain name come into my mind, though, I was quick to push it back down.

I continued to dance around what the Lord was telling me to do, but He was doing it with more persistence and urgency this time.  Consistently, I would struggle through this.  One week I would feel ready to do it and the next I would go so far as to clamp my mouth shut against a quivering chin and rebellious heart as we did an exercise in forgiveness.

When it came time in David's story to learn about Amnon, Tamar, Absalom, David, and a legion of emotions felt but never dealt with, I knew I couldn't wait any longer.  Each week God prepared my heart and soul more for what needed to happen.  It was not lightly that I sat down with my notebook and pen and a prayerful heart.

After I wrote it and prayed over it, I shared it with two sage and godly women to check me on tone, motives, and if anything needed to be taken out.  I wanted to take responsibility for what was mine, but I didn't want it to be flowery or take responsibility for what was hers.

 And then it went into the mail.

I don't know how it will be received.  I believe it will be a miracle if there is reconciliation that comes from this.  You know what, though?  Sometimes you need to do things because it's what right, not because you expect something to come from it
.  I needed to be the one to break the ice here.  I needed to ask forgiveness for what I had done wrong.  I also need to be willing to forgive in my heart the hurt she brought, even if she never asks for it.

And by doing that?

I can go from this moment lighter.  I know that God called me to do something and instead of turning and running...again...I acted in obedience.  And, really, that's what matters most.  My obedience to the Lord.  I am not here to make others happy, but to glorify God.  He has begun a good work in me (Philippians 1:6) and through my life He is going to keep shaping me and working in me until my day of completion when I join Him.

Friday, November 22, 2013


There is a dishwasher full of clean dishes to be unloaded.  Dirty ones pile in the sink waiting for their time.  I have stepped over beloved blankies abandoned on the floor before breakfast.  A small pile of matchbox cars has been left on the bathroom sink after the owner's hands were cleaned.  A stuffed puppy dressed in doll clothes rests anywhere but a small girl's bed. There is a house to clean before Book Club tonight, food to make, things to plan for church nursery this coming Sunday, and a skit to still write out and perform on that same day.
There is a minivan that needs to be cleaned out before embarking on a Thanksgiving visit.  There is more food to make.  A co-op Thanksgiving lunch following practice for a Christmas program needs to be attended.  A simple kids' Christmas program sloppily rolls around in my head and needs to come out onto paper so it can start being practiced this Sunday.
I have little doubt that each home has similar messes, schedules, commitments, and a sense of overwhelm.  I haven't slept well for days and since I haven't had my shower to clear my head yet today, it's in a fog.  I am cozy wrapped in a big knit cowl with a big slouchy knit hat and a hot cup of chai.  I want to close my eyes to everything I see and pretend it's not there for a little bit.
And you know what?
I'm going to.
I'm not going to neglect it all forever, but I'm going to delay it.  I need to take a moment to be quiet.  Be still.  Rest.  Gather strength.  Gather some of HIS strength.
Thanksgiving is now less than a week away and it is the start of a flurry of what can be a very rushed, stressful season.  Not for me.  Not this year.  This year I will take the time. 
When the first real snowfall happens and those big beautiful flakes greet us as we open the curtains in the morning, I'm going to stop and enjoy it.
When kids climb up with a cuddle and blanket and book to read, I'm going to set aside the phone, laptop, notebook, whatever is taking my attention at that moment, and be snuggled with them.
When friends gather at our home to visit, I won't stress about clearing the table quickly after the meal, getting the dishes in the dishwasher, and trying to set a "perfect" atmosphere.  Because a near perfect atmosphere is when we're all together laughing, sharing, and enjoying each other...whether dishes are piled on the counter, left on the table, or nestled in the dishwasher.
I have the day ahead to clean my house and make food.  I know me - I'll have a schedule laid out by the end of the day that will help me get a grip on the things that need to be done before next Thursday.  I do want to be a good steward of my time.
But for now, so that I can enter everything else with calm and not stress and anxiety, I'm going to take the next few minutes and enjoy my chai and some quiet (with the background noise of kids playing happily downstairs - a good soundtrack indeed!)
And I would encourage you to do the same.  Take a few minutes and rest.  Continue to do so every day.      

Friday, November 08, 2013


Yesterday, while folding the never-ending pile of laundry, I was struck by something I realize I do.

Don't you just hate when that happens sometimes?  Especially when you know it's not a good thing you do.

I realized that whenever someone asks how many kids I have, after I answer, "Four" I always follow up with, "Yeah, we only wanted two but God gave us two bonuses."

I thought that because I had switched from calling two of them "unplanned" to "bonuses" I was doing well.  Yet yesterday I started wondering why I can't just shut my mouth after I say, "four."

Why do I feel like I need to justify why we have four children?  Why do I feel like I need an excuse for having more than two of them?  I can't say it's because of the people we're surrounded by.  My sister has three, one of my sisters-in-law is pregnant with her third, and my other sister-in-law has SIX!  Most of our friends have more than two, many of them are around the three or four mark, some have none.  I've never heard any of them apologize for the amount of kids they have, or even don't have.

So, what is my issue?

I think it's that I didn't think I would have this many kids so sometimes I can't even believe my mouth can form the word "four" in response to the question.  Or maybe I think it's an excuse for looking like a run-down and ragged mother?  "Well, I would look better with two kids, but you know, since I got more than I planned on, I just gave up."

I don't know.  Either way, I am actually thankful for this hard realization that knocked me over yesterday.  I made a commitment to stop apologizing for the number of kids I have.  I envision the next conversation going like this:

Random Person: So, how many kids do you have?

Me: Four

Random Person: Oh, wow.  You have your hands full.  [Because that is almost always what is said next.] 

Me: Yeah, full of awesomeness. 
[Ok, maybe not that. Let's try again:]
Me: Yeah, full of great fun and some chaos thrown in to keep it exciting. 
[A little more realistic.]

Hello, my name is Andrea.  And I have four children. 

They're pretty stinkin' cool and I love them to pieces.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Learning On A Blanket

Doing schoolwork at the beach with our friends, the Docters
We're about 2 months into our second year of homeschooling.  We've gone through some changes in the last year of how we go about doing school.  As a result, we've (mainly I) have gone through some changes as well.
Last year, I had no idea what I was doing.  People had told me to be flexible with schooling and so I started the year flexible to a fault.  Our first day was horrible and ended with Noah and myself in tears.  I went back to the drawing board and found a great website, confessionsofahomeschooler.com, and I was so inspired by her schooling approach that I tried to copy hers. 
It worked for a short amount of time...kind of.  So I went back to the drawing board again.  This time I tried to copy the "regular" school approach.  I incorporated unit studies and made it try to seem like a school day Noah was used to from the public schools.
It worked for another short amount of time.
Somewhere around November/December, we hit a groove, but it never really felt comfortable.  I was constantly doubting myself and what I was teaching, what I may be missing, and I felt clueless in many ways. It seemed like the year before he had enjoyed writing assignments at school.  However, at home, it always turned into a huge battle with me frustrated and him in tears.
Actually, there were many days that ended in tears for him. Many times the phrase, "I hate homeschooling.  I just want to go back to real school" was expressed.  It hurt.  Thankfully, my sister-in-law who also homeschools was a huge encouragement. 
Despite the fact that our first year did not go as I had anticipated, we ended the year on a pretty good note and Tim and I felt even more confident that this is the journey our family is meant to walk.  I was very excited as a couple of my close friends decided to also homeschool their children going into this year.  There is something very refreshing about community!
Going into this year, I had my planner filled out up to Christmas.  I had my Science, Math, Geography, Copywork, History, and Reading Comprehension curriculum ready to go.  We signed up for a new co-op that was starting in our area.  They offer music, art, and gym for the kids.  We were so excited about everything that we started school a week earlier than we had planned!
Zeke at co-op...tired out

So where are we 2 months into it?
I haven't opened my planner since the second week of school.  Every time Noah saw the Reading Comprehension book, he was practically in tears before we started.  I tried two different approaches to it and still he stressed out every time.  I realized I was slipping into a pattern of trying to copy the public school...again. 
A woman from co-op hosted a Homeschool Support Group night where a speaker - a wonderful woman who has been a teacher herself, sent her oldest two kids through the public school system and homeschooled her younger two children - shared her story with us.  She also talked about Common Core, and the majority of the time was spent doing Question and Answer.
Such a weight was lifted off my shoulders!  As she talked, I realized that the way I desired to do school was more than ok!  However, it's a different approach and so I'd always been nervous to do it.  There is formal homeschooling, using curriculum and schedule and tests and workbooks and manipulatives, that looks more like a traditional school layout.  Many families thrive in this set up and it works for them.  It is what I was trying to copy doing, but it just wasn't working for me or my kids.
Then there is informal homeschooling, and that's where we fall.  We don't stick to a strict schedule.  We try to start school at 9:00, but if it's 9:15 or 9:30 or 10:00 before we crack open a book, we don't let that throw us off. 
But wait, you may be thinking.  Don't you care about teaching your kids the importance of being on time?
I do!  That is why, when we go to church, an appointment or an event, or we're meeting someone for a playdate or whatever else, they learn the importance of being on time.  I tell them what time we need to leave and when they will need to start getting their shoes and coats on.  Sometimes we run late, but I think that's typical of many families with kids.  We certainly try not to make a habit of it.

Anyways, what next?  Oh, yes.  Curriculum.  We use Saxon Math, Mystery of History, and God's Design for Life (Science.)  Every other book has been put back on the shelf for now.  Maybe we'll pull them out again sometime, but I don't really know.  Actually, Noah also does copywork from a site called Write Through The Bible. 
How in the world are we teaching our kids other important things?
Our family LOVES books.  We love to read - together, individually, however we can.  Noah reads to his younger siblings, Tim reads to them before bed, I read with Noah and Ellie during the afternoon, they all look at books throughout the day.  I am finding this is one of the best ways for our family to learn.

Field trip to Potter Park Zoo with the Docters and Bakers


Last Friday we were meeting some other homeschool families at a local farm for a tour.  On the way there, I was reflecting on some things I had learned the night before - which was the second Homeschool Support Group meeting - on development and if we should be concerned about our kids knowing certain things by certain ages.  I thought again about how Noah most likely could not diagram a sentence; I'm not even sure he could tell you what a noun, adjective, or verb is, although I did teach it to him last year. 
From the back of the van I hear him ask me, "Hey, Mom!  Did you know that the first letter of the Greek alphabet is called Alpha and the second is beta, and that's where the word alphabet came from?  And did you know that the Greeks had everyone around them learn to speak their language so that they could all understand each other?"
"Well, no, buddy," I answered him.  "I don't know if I did know that.  How do you know it?"
"I read it in my Magic Tree House book," he said.
Huh.  Now, I know - and we have been teaching him - that not everything you read in a book (outside of the Bible) is true.  But he sure does learn a lot of things about history in these Magic Tree House Books.  I would really recommend them.  And, yes, some mention Egyptian gods and Roman gods, and those are books that have been great springboards for our family to talk about our faith, how it differs, and reiterate why we believe what we do.

Another example is what a woman at the meeting the night before had shared.  She said she has a son who does NOT like school.  He does, however, LOVE forensic science.  She uses what he is interested in to help him learn - math, science, reading...it can all stem from forensic science.  They visit the library and they found an FBI, Jr. website.

While crocheting a baby blanket for our friend, Christina, 
we used the blanket to talk about patterns and addition/subtraction (Ellie), 
multiplication (Noah), and colors (Caleb.) 
THIS is the kind of learning and teaching I love!  This is how our family is thriving this year.  A helpful thing I heard recently was (summed up) "A person's weakness is always going to be their weakness.  We need to stop wasting time trying to make a child's weakness his strength and instead focus on, still encouraging them to learn in the area of the weakness, building up their strengths."  I want to take the things my kids are interested in and have their learning come from that.  It keeps them engaged, and is a great way to show the practical application of the subjects they're learning.

Whew.  Sorry, I probably got a bit intense there.

While learning about the Ice Age, they tried to see how long 
they could hold an ice cube in their hand.

So how has this approach changed us?
*I'm enjoying my kids more.  Yes, in some ways I have to think and plan a little more since I'm not relying on a laid-out curriculum. It is so neat to learn alongside them many things I didn't know!

Ellie drew this picture of the two of us and it makes my heart smile.
Homeschooling has actually been good in nurturing our mother/daughter relationship.
*It teaches me flexibility.  I can have as many plans in place as I want, but the Lord may be leading our family in a different direction that day.  He may want us to learn something else!  It helps me be open to His leading.  Proverbs 19:21 says,

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."

*It helps my kids see practical application.  I remember asking a high school math teacher, "When am I ever going to use this?" The answer: "Someday when you're an adult."  I never have, though. 

I love what the speaker said was her desire, and that of her husband: that their children love the Lord, love reading, and love learning.  That would determine "success" in their home.  Those are things that have always resonated with Tim and I so it felt natural to look at our schooling in the same light.

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." -Deuteronomy 6:5

"And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him." -Luke 2:40

Does this mean our home is perfect and always peaceful?  No way.  In fact, I just told my two oldest to get their feet out of each other's faces and stop touching each other.  My preschooler still drives me crazy.  Yet I wouldn't trade these days for the quiet emptiness of an empty nest...yet.  :)

 P.S. This post is in no way meant to cause anyone to feel guilt for the decisions they make in the education of their children.  I believe each family is called to prayerfully consider what is best for their individual family.  If that is public school, private school, formal homeschool, informal homeschool, or "un-schooling"...each family needs to reach that decision without the judgment of others.  This writing was mainly for me to share how we have made a shift within our teaching/learning and how it has been better for our family.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I've been struggling lately.
I was talking about it with a friend tonight who has been enduring some struggles of her own.
I have felt down.
Like a failure.
Busy, busy, busy, trying to catch a breath within it all.

Yesterday, while having a rough time with my kids during our school time, I actually threatened to send them to public school.
Then I thought to myself - Who actually threatens to send their kid to public school??
A lot of women, it turns out, as I found out today while at our homeschool co-op and listening to other moms who have also been struggling recently.  Five other moms confessed to doing the same thing already this week!

I have been struggling with Caleb the most when it comes to feeling like a Mom failure.  I listen to him try to talk and, while he has come so far, many people still struggle to understand him.  He's been through speech therapy.  Do I send him on to the special education program at the public school where he will be put through more classes?  He's already in chiropractic care and it has definitely helped - do I just continue with that?  What decisions do we make that don't fail our child's future?
He struggles with aggression, often stemming from not being understood, yet I think also coming from being 3 years old and being 3rd out of 4 kids.  He's trying to find his place and make his place and it's not always very friendly.  I feel like he's struggled since birth, right from his being born.  He's a little fighter...in many ways.  

I just feel like I'm failing him somehow.  Mostly him.  Noah is thriving.  Ellie is excelling.  Zeke is a little parrot trying to mimic what everyone is saying and doing as he learns.  Caleb is in a challenging stage right now and I walk around nervous that any decision I make could be wrong.  I have been trying to remind myself today how I never thought I would survive 2-5 years old with Ellie and now she's on the other side and it's such a breath of fresh air.  Maybe I'm just back there but with Caleb, praying it won't last as long.

I listen to all these new homeschooling moms with their lesson plans and schedules and the way they are on task and I wonder if I'm not doing enough.  I have a planner but we're pretty loose in following it.  I have to remind myself that it's ok when our plans for the day change and that's one of the reasons we chose to homeschool - the flexibility.  If we end up throwing math, science, copywork, and history out the window for a day to be outside and enjoying each other then that's ok because it's strengthening our family relationships and encouraging sibling bonding.  That's going to be more important 20 years down the road when they're adults then them knowing the 5 characteristics of a mammal (which they can tell you, so I don't feel like a total teacher failure this week.) 

On top of all those emotions, I just feel drained.  Between trying to sell a house and be on the search for a new house, involved with things at church, and Tim working loooong hours to get a house finished (a 3 week job that has turned into 7 weeks), I think I'm hitting a wall.  My body hit it and is now sick, but you can't really find much time to rest when you're husband's not home to help when the kids are awake.  Blessings upon the single parents out there, because I could not do this for a long period of time.
And this week marks the 9 year anniversary of my miscarriage, which for me has a 2 day significance of finding out the baby was not alive on September 16th and having a D&C on September 18th. Just one more thing to add to my emotions.

This is a downer of a post and I am sorry.  I guess I just wanted to put it out there because I have been talking to so many other moms in the last couple days who seem to be feeling the same way.  I guess I just wanted to say that if you are feeling it - you're not alone!  There must be something in the air or water. 

You know what the GREAT thing is in all of this, though??

We're NOT actually failures.  We're not alone though we feel lonely.  We ARE in struggles, sure, but some Scripture came to my head tonight while I was collapsed on the couch from tucking Caleb into bed for the fifth time.  The first is Ephesians 6:12:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

The second is John 16:33: 

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

So.  The Bible has told me I will have tribulation, trouble.  That sure feels like my week.  It also says that I'm not actually wrestling against flesh and blood but against cosmic powers over this present darkness.  Well that also sounds like my last couple of weeks with the emotional lows.  It also gives me armor to put on, thankfully.  I just have to be the one to do it.  Finally, this passage is what I've been repeating over and over tonight, 2 Corinthians 12:9:

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I am weak.  Thankfully, I have a powerful God who gives me strength.  If I was always strong and thinking I could handle things on my own, what need would I have for a Savior? 
The lyrics of this song speak so much to me this week.  I hope they do as well to you.  

 Lord, I need You 
Oh, I need You
Every hour I need You 
My one defense
My righteousness
Oh, God, how I need You.... 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Throwback Thursday

I keep seeing this topic of Throwback Thursday, so when I stumbled across this picture below I figured I would send out my own Throwback.

This is Noah's hospital picture. I can't believe he turned 8 years old last week! Where has the time gone? We love him!