Reflections At One Year Post-Ireland

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I actually don’t even know where to start this one. Every time I try to write this post I get overly emotional and I can’t get the words out. You’d think that after a year things would get easier, but they don’t. The truth is, I loved Ireland and most everyone and everything in it, and I miss it deeply. Tomorrow marks one year since we left Ireland for our next adventure in California–and what an adventure it has been! Since moving to California we’ve experienced the highest of highs…and the lowest of lows. And the manic-depressive nature of this year has me missing Ireland even more.

On the “high” side, we’ve relished in the daily sunshine–we spend time outside every day, and for the first time in my life I didn’t experience a single day of SAD (if you don’t know what SAD is, then you obviously don’t live in a rain cloud like we used to, so don’t worry about it). We’ve been blessed to reconnect with old friends (you know, the dear friends who you visit wearing sweatpants and messy hair so you can laugh and cry together). We’ve met incredible new friends and neighbors who already feel like family. Jon’s job gives him joy and fulfillment like he’s never had in his career before. We’ve spent countless days exploring the beauty and excitement that surrounds us in the Bay Area. Our children have flourished in their new environment and are truly happy. Life is good.

And, yet. The lows. The lows this year have challenged me to my core. In many ways, this has been one of the most demanding years of my life. We’ve had to make difficult decisions: parenting decisions and financial decisions and housing decisions and school decisions. Seemingly endless decisions. Decisions with long-term repercussions that took some serious thinking and planning and praying. We had a miscarriage which, alone, was the most difficult season I’ve ever walked through. Add onto that the fact that I still feel a bit like a foreigner in this big, new place, and it’s a lot to take in.

This year has made me yearn for a simpler time, like our year in Ireland. I know that I look back at Ireland with rose-colored glasses because, as difficult as this year has been, Ireland had even more challenges. And, yet.

In Ireland we were connected with people so kind and so welcoming, who poured their love into our lives from the first day we met, that a lot of the challenges just seemed to melt away. I’m still searching for “my people” here–the community who you live life with every day, both the highs and the lows, for better or worse.

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In Ireland things were, quite simply, more simple. Stores didn’t open until lunchtime, and they closed before dinner (ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t the everything-you-want-when-you-want-it mentality that we Americans are so accustomed to). It took an hour to drive to a town 10 miles away, because the only way to get there was to drive through your man’s field and about a dozen sheep paddocks. You ordered goods off a CATALOG…using your TELEPHONE. You spent cold rainy nights (which is near enough every night in Ireland) cozied up in a pub with your family, a pint, and some good craic. You paused every day to drink tea. You didn’t hustle and bustle because there was no reason and no place to hustle and bustle to. Ireland was a lot of slowing down and being still. It was good for my soul, and it is the polar opposite of living in the high-paced conundrum that is Silicon Valley. After a year, I find myself yearning again for the simple.

And, yet. Life goes on, and life IS good. Our year in Ireland impacted me profoundly, but so has this first year in California.

In this year I have learned to follow God more closely. There has been little time for complacency, and endless opportunities for seeking His will. All of the decisions and difficult times have drawn me closer to Him than ever before, and I could not have gotten there without facing the challenges that I did this year.

This year has taught me to cherish the relationships I have, and to hold my loved ones both in my hands and in my heart.

I have learned this year to be bold in who I am, even if that is different from the status quo. This has meant learning to block out the other voices so that I can trust my gut and my instincts. I have seen that sometimes the right thing to do is to quit, and it’s usually good to try again. I have learned to be confident in my faith and my foundation, and that is priceless.

IMG_4256This year has taught me to appreciate the special, ordinary moments. Finding my kids snuggled up together in the same bed, sleeping in each others’ arms. Accomplishing a goal–running a race, finishing a long-anticipated project, learning something new, potty training a toddler. Making a favorite recipe from scratch. Calling an old friend at just the right time. Enjoying a cold treat on a hot day. My boys playing happily in the sandbox for over an hour so I can write a blog post in peace :)

One year is plenty of time to learn and to yearn–and I’ve done plenty of both this year. Ireland will always keep a piece of my heart but, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that my heart has an endless capacity for growth to make room for the new loves and experiences that come my way.

An Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

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You Know You’re Living In Silicon Valley When…

IMG_0168In a few weeks we will be celebrating yet another momentous occasion: the one-year anniversary of our move to Silicon Valley! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a whole year–especially since, in a lot of ways, I still feel like I’m getting my bearings and learning the ropes. Which is understandable, because there are a LOT of new ropes to learn here. It’s difficult to explain, but Silicon Valley is a unique bubble that is truly unlike anywhere else in the world. After living here for nearly a year, I am still baffled by the idiosyncrasies that make Silicon Valley distinct.

You know you’re living in Silicon Valley when…

  • You and/or your spouse works in high tech, and you moved here for The Job.
  • Teslas and Ferraris are as common place as Ford Escapes and Toyota Corollas were “back home”.
  • You have finally accepted the fact that paying $4,000 per month for rent is your new normal.
  • You can smell if it’s time for the garlic festival when you drive through Gilroy.
  • Every person you meet is from NOT-Silicon Valley. Your neighbors, friends, and co-workers are recent transplants from some other state/region/country.
  • You contemplate playing Keeping Up With The Joneses…until you realize that your family just can’t handle weekly Lacrosse games, soccer practices, piano recitals, Physics tutoring, Mandarin classes, performance dance class, and art enrichment. You hope that your poor deprived children will survive to adulthood in one happy, under-achieved piece.
  • You have a “Brown is the New Green” sign staked in your front yard so passers-by will approve of your golden “drought-conscious” lawn.
  • You’ve eaten pizza at Mountain Mikes while about 200 little boys wearing Little League uniforms play Pinball in the arcade room.
  • Go, Giants! Go, Golden State Warriors! Go, Sharks! Go, Earthquakes! Go, (enter name of fanatical sports team)!
  • Your housing development is located in a former apricot orchard.
  • You spend the morning hiking in your neighborhood Open Space Preserve, your afternoon sipping vino at a local winery, and your evening lounging at the beach.
  • You’ve managed to untangle the spiderweb of freeways in your mind so that you can travel a 15-mile stretch on 5 different freeways: When going from Milpitas to Cupertino, simply take the 880 to the 101 to the 280 to the 17 to the 85 right back to 280. Easy-peasy.
  • When you need a lemon (or a persimmon or a pomegranate or an apricot) you just go pick one off the tree in your backyard.
  • You spent more on preschool tuition for your 3-year old this year than you did for your undergrad at the state university.
  • When somebody calls you on FaceTime there are 4 simultaneous rings going off throughout your house: your iPhone, your iPad, your MacBook, and your AppleWatch.
  • You’re wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops. And it’s February.
  • If you value personal space and your sanity, you know very well to avoid all public venues on weekends and holidays.
  • You <3 BART and CalTrain.
  • You’re playing with your kids at the neighborhood park and you realize that everybody is speaking another language: The mom pushing her toddler on the swing is rattling off German into her cell phone, the kids playing on the monkey bars are speaking to each other in Spanish, the little girl on the slide is calling for her mom in French, the little boy digging in the sandbox is giving directions to his brother in Mandarin, and the family at the picnic table is conversing in Hindi.
  • Tesora from Philz is your new best friend.
  • You have a membership to the local Classic Car Wash. You can’t remember the last time you washed your own car (we’ll just say it’s because you’re being drought-conscious).
  • You don’t pay for home internet service because your entire city is covered with free WiFi, courtesy of Google.
  • You used to think an Ivy League education was special.
  • You are awoken every Tuesday morning by your gardener blowing leaves off your front lawn.
  • You spend your summers at your local Cabana Club.
  • Your children–who spent the first part of their lives LIVING IN A RAIN CLOUD–do an ecstatic happy dance whenever the clouds darken and spit out a few drops of precipitation.
  • You were simultaneously creeped out and riveted by your tour at the Winchester Mystery House.
  • You have at least one robot in your home (Mommy after 5 PM not included).
  • Your 1952 Ranch house is worth more than a Manhattan penthouse.
  • You certainly do NOT have more than 2.1 children.
  • You freak out every time a motorcycle zips by you between lanes of stalled traffic on the freeway.
  • You plan outdoor events during winter months.
  • Your Google Shopping Express order is waiting for you on your front porch in its cute little white box with the blue parachute.
  • ANTS.
  • You’ve eaten authentic Dim Sum at least once in the last month.
  • You compulsively check school scores to determine which neighborhoods you may possibly consider living in.
  • The fragrance of jasmine and orange blossoms outside your window fills your bedroom while you’re sleeping.
  • While you curse the crowds and the high cost of living, you can’t imagine ever leaving this unique corner of the globe.

Silicon Valley: I love it, I hate it…and, honestly, I can’t get enough of it. Strange as it may be here, this is our new home. And, for what it’s worth, I think we’ll keep it.

Bedtime

IMG_6734Parenting can be ROUGH.

There are times in parenting where everything is sunshine and lollipops but, to be honest, most days are filled with a lot of hair pulling and silent prayers offered up for my sanity. Case in point:

This month–amongst the lack of schedule and routine that is knowns as “summer”–we’ve been struggling with this little thing called “bedtime”. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, because apparently my children have NOT. Bedtime is supposed to be this magical time of the night where children go into their rooms and nod off so their parents can get an hour or two ALONE so they can muster up the courage to face another day in the morning.

Someone forgot to tell my kids about the whole “stay in your bed and sleep” part of bedtime, though, and recently we’ve had a few eventful nights as a result.

A few weeks ago on my birthday, for instance, Jon and I were sitting on the couch in our living room watching a movie after “bedtime” when we heard a knock on our door. “Strange,” we thought, “Who would be coming to our house at 9:00 on a Wednesday night?” Turns out it was a Good Samaritan neighbor who had been walking his dog when saw two NAKED boys playing in our pitch-black front yard. The boys claimed that they came from a zoo, but Good Sam could see right through their ruse and thought it best to try and locate some parental figures. Turns out it was our children, who had sneaked out the back door, removed a loose board in our fence, walked through the neighbors yard to the sidewalk, and eventually found their way to our front yard. As for the nakednes of said children, I can’t even fathom.

After getting the fence repaired we had some peace of mind about the boys’ late-night wanderings–even though they still managed to break out of the back door several times before I caught on to the idea of setting booby traps (an ironing board leaned against the inside of the door that makes a disruptive crashing noise when the door is opened has proved quite effective.). Now that the boys are relatively contained to the interior of our house, however, we’re still facing the fact that they will. Not. SLEEP.

Last week the boys came out of their room at bedtime so many times that I was starting to feel like we were participating in marching band practice. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, backandforthbackandforthbackandforth…

Then there was the night that I went in to check on them before I went to bed and they were sleeping peacefully in their closet. On the upper shelves of their closet, that is (Don’t worry, they’d brought their pillows and blankets up there with them. They actually looked quite cozy.).

But the events of two nights ago took the cake. After however many nights of this not-a-bedtime charade I was exhausted and I just wanted to go to bed at a decent hour for once. At about 9:30 I did my final check and the boys were awake, but each was laying quietly in their own beds. I counted this as a victory and decided to hit the sack. After all, how much trouble could they get in? (Famous last words, right?)

Around midnight I was awoken by the shaking of my bed–at first I thought it was an earthquake so I sat bolt upright and, in a daze, took in my surroundings. Turns out it was even worse than an earthquake: the children were still awake (and bouncing on my bed, naked of course.). When I brought them back to their room I surveyed the damage: An entire box of Pull-Ups (that we’d bought at Costco that morning) was strewn about the room (we’re talking, Pull-Ups hanging from the fan and used as mattress stuffing); every article of clothing they own was piled into Mount Wardrobe in the center of the room; the drawer pulls had all been pulled off of their dresser drawers and thrown in miscellaneous places (including, but not limited to: the windowsill, under the dresser, inside socks, and inside the diaper pail); an entire box of TEN THOUSAND MILLION toothpicks were scattered about the floor; and several empty food boxes littered the landscape. It was Armageddon.

So I did what any self-respecting parent would do: After my head stopped spinning circles around my neck and my eyeballs popped back into their sockets, I backed out of the room and shut the door so I wouldn’t say or do anything that might end up in the local newspaper’s Police Beat. Then I promptly got on Amazon to check their selection of child tranquilizers and muzzles. (Just kidding. Sort of. You’d be amazed what deals you can get with Amazon Prime…)

The next morning we spent HOURS cleaning up The Mess…and then we moved on with our lives. Because, really, in the scheme of things bedtime disasters are just a drop in the bucket. By dinnertime both boys were begging me to go to bed–it turns out pulling all-nighters is not for the faint of heart. Or for toddlers.

So here’s the big takeaway: If you are a new parent with a baby who keeps you up all night, just know that it won’t get better for a long, looooooong time…If you are a veteran parent who struggles with your own children–be it bedtime or convincing them to wear clothing in public or whatever their particular “poison” is–know that you are NOT ever alone…and if you don’t have young children at home: help us! Every one of us parents-in-the-trenches needs you!

Power on, parents, power on. And get some sleep, now, will you?

A Father’s Day Interview With The World’s BEST Father (No, Seriously, The BEST)

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Seeing as it will be Father’s Day on Sunday, I thought it would be fitting to write a post for all of the fathers out there. The thing is, though, I’m not a dad. Nor will I ever be. So, I decided to seek out an expert source to help with this one. Lucky for you, dear reader, I managed to secure The World’s BEST Father (that’s his official title) for an exclusive Father’s Day interview.

With over 32 years of fathering experience, he has enough wisdom to fill entire internet blogs (but for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep this to one post for now). He has survived raising not one, not two, but THREE daughters into adulthood (including a *charming* oldest child and twins, who all happened to be teenagers in overlapping years. Can you imagine the drama he’s witnessed?). He is, in short, a saint. He is also my father.

Here’s a snapshot of my dad’s take on this whole fatherhood experience:

We Love Teach Grow: Hi, Dad! Are you ready to spill the beans on what it’s like to be The World’s Best Dad?

Dad: Hi, honey. I’m only the world’s best dad because I have the world’s best daughter.*
(*Intro sequence imagined by the author)

WLTG: Seriously, Dad, what is the best part of being a father?

Dad: Honestly, just having your kids tell you that they love you!

WLTG: Awww…I love you, Dad! See, this is why you’re The World’s Best Dad! I’m obviously not a dad, but I have a husband who’s a dad and loads of friends who are dads. What is some advice you would give to other dads who are just starting out with this whole fatherhood gig?

Dad: There will be times…lots of times…where it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You brought this new person into the world, and now you have to provide for it…it’s a huge burden to carry. I realize now–and I wish I would have realized earlier–that it’s not my burden to carry alone. First, marry a wife who will be a great mother. And then, when you have children, lean on God. The Bible says that God will “never leave you nor forsake you”, and that goes for parents, too! When you feel the heaviness of parenting weighing you down, lean on God and He will help you. That, and just love your kids.

WLTG: I feel like I need that reminder all the time! What else would you advise fathers, maybe as their children get older?

Dad: You only have your children for a short while. Parenting is essentially a process of letting go, little by little. It starts when they are babies and they begin to crawl and walk and explore on their own, then you realize they are their own person, and you have to let go a little. Then your kids are in elementary school and they want to go to their friend’s house for their first sleepover, and you have to let go a little bit more. And then they’re teenagers and they want to DRIVE, and you have to let go a lot. And then they start college and get married, and you just have to keep letting go. In the end, you realize that they belong to God, not you, and you have been entrusted with them for a time. As you’re letting go, remember that they still belong to God, and He still has them.

WLTG: I can’t even talk about driving or college… Moving on. You raised three daughters and, I have to say, they all turned out GREAT. What tips do you have specifically for fathers of girls?

Dad: I’ll say this again: Just love them. Watch their ballet recitals. Learn how to make a ponytail or “princess hair”. Embrace the color pink in your life. Just love them.

Another thing I would suggest is to “date” your daughters. There is something so special about building that bond with your child and creating memories together.
(*Every year my dad takes each of his daughters out on a birthday date. We’ve been “dating” for nearly 30 years now, and none of us have never missed a birthday date in all that time–even when living in different states and countries! Now as an adult, our daddy-daughter dates are some of my favorite childhood memories–and something that I still look forward to every year.).

WLTG: Speaking of memories, what are some suggestions you have for building memories and traditions with your family?

Dad: Blow some dough! I made a decision before I even became a father that I would make sacrifices in order to make memories. For our family, that meant spending some money doing some outrageously fun things together. We spent our winters skiing together. We took road trips to National Parks. We traveled to Europe and ate gelato until our tummies hurt. It cost a lot in terms of time and money, but I’ve never regretted a penny or a moment we spent together.

WLTG: Any last words?

Dad: Be there…like, physically be there. If your kid has a recital or a sporting event or a teacher conference, make room in your schedule and be there. Years down the road your kid may not remember how well they danced at that recital or the score of that track meet, but they’ll remember who was in the stands watching them. Be there.

Also, model for your children what a good parent should look like. I am the father I am today because my parents showed me how to be a parent. They supported me, they respected me, they loved me. Parents need to be the kinds of parents that they hope their kids will grow up to be some day.

And, remember: just love your kids.

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10 Lessons I’ve Learned In 10 Years of Marriage

Our Wedding 0425We’ve been celebrating for the better part of a month now, but today is the actual day: our tenth wedding anniversary. TEN YEARS. Holy moly, how did that happen? I swear, just yesterday we were mere babies (seriously, at 22 years old we WERE mere babies) walking down the aisle and swearing our forever love for each other before God and everyone. Then I blinked, we had two babies of our own, we moved NINE TIMES, and here we are today: ten years older and wiser.

These past 10 years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs and exciting twists and turns that we never anticipated in our wildest dreams. They’ve been wonderful years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Yet, as I look back at our 10 years of marriage, I realize that the roller coaster has also been full of learning.

We’ve learned about each other, about ourselves, about what it means to be fused to another human being…for LIFE. So, yes, these first 10 years have been wonderful, but they’ve also been incredibly humbling. In the scheme of things I’m still just getting started on this whole marriage gig, but here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned during my first decade as a wife:

1. Pray together every day.
I received a simple piece of advice at my bridal shower, and it stuck: Pray together every day. We took this counsel to heart, and we have never missed a day praying together–even if we’re tired, or cranky with each other, or the kids drove us bonkers that evening, or whatever–we always end our day in prayer together. For 3,650 days in a row, we have come together in prayer. And you know what? It’s done wonders for our marriage. Some of our biggest decisions and greatest joys have come as a direct result of our daily prayer time. Simple, yes, but profound.

2. Set your priorities: Jesus, spouse, family, everything else.
Here’s the thing: life is BUSY. And the longer you’re married, the busier it seems to get. It helps, then, to set your priorities straight from the beginning. Number one has to be Jesus–this is the firm foundation upon which your marriage can be built and stand the test of time. There is nothing–NOTHING–that a marriage can not overcome as long as Jesus remains at the center.

After Jesus comes your spouse. This is the one person in the world who you have committed your entire self to, and that takes an extreme amount of sacrifice. This means that you support your spouse, you stand up for your spouse, you love your spouse, you choose your spouse–even when you don’t want to. They are yours forever–cherish them!

Next comes your family. Notice that “family” comes after “spouse”. Kids are wonderful, important, life-changing additions to a marriage. But they are not THE marriage. In a flash, your kids will grow up and move out and begin independent lives. And you will be left with–you guessed it–your spouse! Even though children are seemingly all-consuming (of your time, your energy, your money, your food, your sanity) they must take second seat to your spouse. Nurture your children, but never neglect your spouse at their expense.

Finally comes everything else: your job, your hobbies, your (dis)comfort with noise/mess/obnoxious eating habits. ‘Nuf said.

3. Be honest.
Without a doubt, this has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned in our marriage. So much confusion, hurt, and anger could have been avoided if we’d simply been honest with each other.  This goes from the trivial (Saying “I don’t care” when he asks you what movie you want to watch tonight…even though you’re hoping he remembers that you already mentioned 4 days ago that you’d love to see that new Bradley Cooper movie…) to the über-serious (your baggage from your past, your finances, your fears and dreams). In marriage as in life, honesty is the best policy.

4. Have fun together!
Oh, what a drag marriage would be if you weren’t having any fun! On a scale of 1 – awesome, I’d rate our marriage as EXTREMELY awesome. We try to find fun in the mundane (like when we crank up the music and have a dance party as we clean the house). We laugh together. We go fun places together. We look for opportunities to sneak in fun where it really doesn’t belong. After all, life is a lot more enjoyable if you’re…well…enjoying it!

5. Don’t always win the argument. 
Truth: Jon and I don’t always agree on everything (probably because I’m pretty much always right). In the end, though, it usually doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong (or righter or wronger). Some things are just not worth the battle. Peace in your relationship is worth more than being right (even if you are almost always right).

6. Honor your spouse’s differences.
This is one that I keep re-learning, pretty much every day. As much as I love him, Jon is NOT me. He thinks differently, behaves differently, has different preferences and aversions. He likes beer, and I like NOT-beer. He could spend every waking moment of his life tinkering with electronics, and I don’t even know the basics of a circuit board. He likes to relax after dinner, and I like to let nobody relax until the dishes are washed and put away. You see? We’re different. We were created different, and we are supposed to be different. I’m working to learn what makes him different so I can let him be him, without trying to make him be me. Bam.

7. Learn his favorites.
Nothing screams love like giving someone their favorite whatever. When you remember someone’s favorites, it shows that you are paying attention to them and that you care about their personal enjoyment. This can take on many different forms: making his favorite breakfast on the weekend, stocking his favorite brand of facial tissue (this is kind of a big deal in our house), tucking his favorite treat into his work bag, buying a few extra pairs of his favorite jeans when they go on sale. Related to this is learning to speak your spouse’s “Love Language”–which may be quite different from your own.

8. Be the kind of souse I want him to be.
This definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done”. Seriously, though, it’s crucial. If I want him to be patient, I need to be patient. If I want him to spend his weekends working on x, y, and z around the house, then I need to be willing to help him achieve those goals. If I want him to happily send me off for my mom’s nights out, then I need to let him enjoy those beer bashes after work (without making him feel guilty for abandoning me in my greatest hour of need: dinner time with two cranky children).

9. Carry your weight in the relationship.
Imagine a teeter-totter: on one side there is a child, and on the opposite end there is a grown man. No matter how much each of them teeters and totters, that teeter-totter will never find balance. The same is true in a marriage. If one person is doing all of the giving, and the other is doing all of the taking, there will never be balance. You do your share, and help your spouse to be successful in doing their’s.

10. Tell him you love him. Often.
Word.

So, there you have it: My sage advice from a decade of “I do’s”. I hope that you have found some encouragement in these words, and may God bless your relationships as He has blessed mine!

Now excuse me while I go find some cake to shove in my handsome husband’s face.

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24 Hours of Yes

IMG_4256Sometimes I feel like I’m always telling my kids “No.”

Sure, there are times when No is useful–like when they ask to eat ice cream for dinner or ask if they can draw that really cool picture on their arms…with a Sharpie. Other times No is quite necessary for the health and safety of themselves or those around them–like when they ask if it’s ok to play with Mommy’s (plugged-in) blow dryer in the (full of water) bathtub or if they can “practice flying” off the roof with their friend. Sometimes, though, No is just plain convenient. Like when they ask if they can go for a bike ride but I’m “busy” emptying the dishwasher or when they ask for me to do a puzzle with them but I’m BUSY updating my Facebook status (I may have a friend who does this.).

All of the No’s got me to thinking–what would happen if I just said YES? Like, every single time my kids asked me something, I just said yes. And so, an experiment was born: 24 Hours of Yes. I decided to go one whole day where my answer to every suggestion my children made was “Yes.” Not “Later” or “I’m busy” or “I don’t feel like it”, but “Yes”.

*Note:
I performed this “experiment” on our first official day of summer vacation (which also happened to coincide with the day Daddy left for a big business trip–not something any of us were looking forward to, so I thought the “summer fun day” would help distract them a bit). I chose this day so that I could guise all of my extra Yeses as a special celebration of our newfound summer freedom (that way they wouldn’t be able to hold me accountable to continue performing in such an agreeable manner for all of eternity). 

Although I didn’t tell my test subjects children about the experiment, I did set up a few guidelines for myself. First, no requests could directly interfere with stated family rules or cause harm to themselves/another being/property. Secondly, all of my Yeses for my kids meant some No’s for me: no cell phone (Gah! No Facebook! No emoticon texting! No Candy Crush Saga!) and no impatience–today was going to be about my kids, so I wanted to be present for them and lay aside my own plans for the day.

With no further ado:

24 Hours of Yes

Question: What will happen when I only answer Yes to my children for 24 hours?

Hypothesis: My children will watch way too much TV and eat way too much junk food. I will go bananas from the lack of control.

Experiment Notes:

7:15    Yes to “Can I watch a show on your phone?” when Jacob sees me check the time on my iPhone before rolling out of bed.

7:30    Yes to pancakes for breakfast. (Sugar count:1, because to my children, “pancakes” actually means “lick syrup off the plate”.)

9:00    Yes to watching Daniel Tiger while I clean up from breakfast.

9:25    Yes to spending the day at Happy Hollow (*Happy Hollow is a magical wonderland of childhood fantasy. It’s part kiddie rides, part zoo, part ride on a dragon to Never Land. It’s lovely.)

9:41    Yes to eating gummy bears while I pack a picnic to bring with us to Happy Hollow. (Sugar count: 2)

10:08   Yes to spending 15 extra minutes searching the house for a VERY SPECIFIC TOY–even though we already had the car packed and everyone buckled in their seats.

10:15   Yes to jumping on the bed while Mommy crawls on the floor looking for the VERY SPECIFIC TOY.

10:30   Yes to running laps in the driveway (outside the packed-and-ready-to-leave-our-house car), waving the found VERY SPECIFIC TOY in a victory parade.

11:00   Yes to playing on the metal fire truck outside the Happy Hollow entrance gate, even though we’re already an hour past my planned arrival time.

12:00   Yes to the children deciding which attractions we would visit at Happy Hollow, and in which order  (This had a pleasant side effect of giving me a great workout while criss-crossing the park all day).

12:45   Yes to buying Icees after lunch. (Sugar count: 3)

1:00   Yes to riding the rickety roller coaster SIX TIMES in a row. Without getting off.  Directly after downing giant red Icees.

1:40    Yes to posing inside the over-priced photo booth.

2:40    Yes to “Mama, will you hold me?” while Big Brother plays on the playground.

3:00    Yes to “Mama, hair down.” (*Jacob is obsessed with my hair and he gets depressed if it’s pulled back in my quintessential “messy bun” for too long).

3:30    Yes to looking around the full-of-temptations gift shop.

4:15    Yes to the request to go home and rest (*This resulted in a secondary request to go back to Happy Hollow–which was not granted due to the fact that it would negate my previous Yes–followed shortly by a colossal temper tantrum in the parking lot).

4:45    Yes to watching a movie with Big Brother while Little Brother took his nap.

6:35    Yes to reading a story before cleaning up from dinner, even though there was food on the counter and dirty dishes on the table.

6:45    Yes to taking my hair down. Again.

7:30    Yes to throwing rocks into the bushes in our backyard.

7:45    Yes to eating Pez out of their Elsa and Olaf Pez dispensers while we read our bedtime story. (Sugar count: 4)

8:20    Yes to one more story after everyone was already tucked in and ready for sleep.

8:30    Yes to butterfly kisses before they pass out from a (mostly) perfectly wonderful day of Yes.

Analysis of Results:
There was an excess of TV watching, junk food eating, story reading, and hair letting-down. There was a deficiency in Mother’s typical overly-controlling behavior.

Conclusion:
Yes is a good thing, and I need more of it in my life. There are certain requests that are always worth Yes–requests that increase our quality time together, that help us build memories, that help us strengthen our relationship, that validate my childrens’ role as a decision-contributor (most of the time) in our family. It went against my very nature to say so many Yeses, but I recognize the value of that word and I want to say Yes more often.

While I’m going to hang on to my Not Now’s and my No’s for when I really need them, I’m going to keep those cards in my back pocket. If there’s a way to say Yes–even at the expense of my own personal comfort or enjoyment–I’m going to take it.

Unless, of course, they ask me to ride that dang roller coaster 6 times in a row again.

XxX,
Allison

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We’re Going To Homeschool?!?!

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Seeing as yesterday was David’s last day of preschool, I thought it would be fitting to make our big announcement. After much thought, prayer, and deliberation we have decided to take on a new challenge in the Fall: homeschool. That’s right, folks–HOMESCHOOL.  As in, me having my own little classroom of two darling pupils located halfway between our kitchen and the boys’ bedroom. Every day. All year. By myself.

This is a relatively recent decision for us, and we’re still piecing together what “homeschool” will look like for our family. As I’ve started to share our news with people, however, I  have discovered that our somewhat unconventional decision has the potential to spark a lot of debate/dismay/panic. So, in order to answer some of your burning questions, I thought I’d put together a little Q and A session for us:

Q) Are you crazy?!
A) Yes, but I think we established that fact long before the topic of homeschooling came up.

Q) I could never homeschool my kids. They’d drive me nuts.
A) That’s not really a question but yes you could, and yes they would.

I believe that homeschooling is a calling–it is not something that you simply fall into or decide on a whim. One lesson I have learned (repeatedly) is that God equips the called, not that He calls the equipped. To be quite honest, I don’t have a clue how I’m going to do this. I do know, however, that God has called our family to take this on for this “season”, and I trust that He will lead us every step of the way.

I’m fairly certain my kids will still drive me nuts, though.

Q) Have you always wanted to homeschool?
A) I’m going to answer this one with an emphatic NO. No no no nooooo no. Because I used to be a teacher, a lot of people assume that I’ve always wanted to teach my own children–not the case. Not at all. My response to the “Would you ever homeschool…” question has always been, “Only if it’s the only best choice for my kids.” I know that homeschool is night-and-day-different from traditional school, and I never really thought I was cut out for the job. Plus, I REALLY like my free time (which just so happens to only occur during the hours my children are away at school).

Which leads me to the next question:

Q) Why on earth would you decide to homeschool?
A) The short answer is: because it’s the best choice for our kids and our family right now.

The long answer is…well, longer. I could write a whole post on this one question, but I’ll try to summarize some of our thoughts here. The main factors that went into our decision include: the privilege of building our childrens’ character and teaching from a Biblical worldview; the ability to address the specific learning needs and learning styles of our children (our boys are c-r-a-z-y); flexibility in the daily schedule to allow more “wiggle time” and play time (which research shows is more beneficial than strictly academic instruction for young children); more time for pursuing outside interests and extra-curricular activities; proximity to home (as in, roll out of bed and you’re already at school); the absolute absence of the term “high-stakes testing” (and for those homeschooled students who choose to participate in state-mandated testing, consistently scoring 30% above their “typically schooled” peers);  allowing our children to get enough sleep, at the times that naturally work for them; having more time together as a family mid-week (like, we can actually be awake during some of the hours when Daddy is home); and financial considerations (one local private school that I visited had an annual tuition of $24,000. For KINDERGARTEN. For the love…).

Plus, I genuinely enjoy teaching and being home with my children (they’re actually really cool people), so it’s kind of a perfect fit.

That, and I also think I enjoy torturing myself a bit.

Q) Are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?
A) Yes, and no. The world shelter is defined as “a place giving temporary protection”. There are several matters in The World to which I would like to offer temporary protection to my children while I build a strong foundation for them so they will be able to weather storms on their own. I am not naïve enough to assume that I will shield my children from every potential Bad Thing that is out there, but I’m happy that I will have more time in these early ears to equip them for the challenges that lay ahead.

Q) What will you DO all day?
A) Here’s the thing: I can’t STOP my kids from learning. All day, every day, they are learning. When my boys work together to build the world’s tallest Lego tower, they are learning. When we go to a new park and spend 3 hours exploring nature trails observing the flight pattern of a butterfly or which objects sink or float when they throw them in a creek, they are learning. When we bake cookies and they measure and count each ingredient, they are learning. For children, the world is a classroom.

While my children are little, I want them to…well…stay little. To explore. To play. To be bored for awhile and sort their own selves out. To sit in a cozy lap and read books all afternoon. Next year we will do a lot of that: exploring, playing, reading, learning as their interests lead us (plus some hardcore academics thrown in for good measure).

If this homeschooling thing sits well with us, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of curriculum options available to us. We can use “official” curriculum provided by our local public school district, formal curriculum packages available for purchase, an assortment of unit studies pieced together from Pinterest/library books/my brain, or anything in between.

All I know is we’ll be doing it all (or most of it all) in our pajamas.

Q) Going against the stream, are you?
A) I guess so. Strange as homeschooling may sound, though, it’s not that strange. A growing number of my friends already homeschool–so it doesn’t seem that unusual to me. In fact, with nearly 2 million families choosing homeschool for their children this year, homeschooling is the single fastest growing form of schooling in the United States. 90% of Americans still choose traditional schooling for their children…but 10% (and growing each year) are choosing homeschool. I dunno…a part of me has always kind of enjoyed the challenge of an upstream battle.

Q) How long are you going to homeschool?
A) As long as it’s the best choice for our kids and our family.

We’re going to use next year as a trial year to work out the kinks and see how we like it. David will be in Pre-K next year and Jacob will be entering preschool, so we still have plenty of time to decide if this will be a good long-term choice. We’re just going to take each year as it comes, and go from there.

If I’m comatose or neurotic by this time next year, we may have to call it quits.

Q) So, are you against “normal schools” now?
A) Absolutely not! Jon and I both went to public schools (whoop!), and I’ve taught in both private schools and public charter schools. Each school setting has different strengths and challenges, as does each individual school. We plan on transitioning the boys to a traditional school some day–whether that’s in a year or two or ten, I don’t yet know. I love schools and I’m excited to try out one more type of school for myself.

Q) Won’t your kids become socially awkward now that they’re being homeschooled?
A) You’re wondering if Boy 1 who believes his toys are actually alive and Boy 2 who has full-blown conversations with my hair might possibly become socially awkward? Not a chance. There are actually plenty of opportunities for homeschool kids to interact with their peers: homeschool co-ops and support groups, church groups, sports, extra-curricular clubs or lessons, and playing with friends in the neighborhood. My boys will also have plenty of time to interact with their favorite life-long friend: their own brother/new-schoolmate.

Q) Now that you’re homeschooling, are you get an ugly haircut and frumpy clothes and move off the grid?
A) Now that you mention it, that doesn’t sound half-bad. I actually don’t even know what my hair looks like any more because I only ever wear it pulled back in a “messy bun”, my clothes are already about as frumpy as yoga pants and t-shirts can get, and I’m kind of over this whole overcrowded-too-much-traffic-people-everywhere thing. As long as we have internet access so I can binge watch Netflix after the boys go to bed, “off the grid” could work out just fine for us.

And so the ending to this school-choice saga is the same as the ending to any good story: unexpected, yet inevitable. It’s been a huge decision–but now that our choice has (finally) been made, we are excited and confident that it’s the right one!

I hope that this Q&A session has been helpful for you and that I’ve answered all of your questions. If you have any additional concerns, feel free to keep them to yourself for awhile so I don’t have a nervous breakdown before this whole homeschooling thang goes down.

Wish me luck!