Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mamma's Top Pick #2 - The Well-Trained Mind

Well, I haven't written in a while. How is it already April 19th? This has been a very busy, very productive month. And now my body is telling me to slow down by bringin on a cold.

At the moment, I am listening. The children are having nap or quiet time and I am curled up under a blanket on the couch in my pajamas, my pillows brought out from our bedroom, Everybody Loves Raymond on the TV (my favorite), hot soup on a TV tray next to me and I'm finally ready to write about a book I've been meaning to post for several weeks . . .

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

Cover of
Cover via Amazon
This book is seriously an answer to prayers that I haven't even prayed yet. Have you ever read a book only to find the author articulating thoughts and beliefs that you had in your mind and heart? So much of this book stated my own opinions, I felt like I could have written it myself, or that it was written for me personally.

I have put this book on hold from the library a couple of times, only to send it back, intimidated by its number of pages (about 700) and subject matter. But I finally tackled it and little did I know that this book was actually going to make my life easier!

I could give you a description of the book or give you a typical review, but you can find all of those at the above Amazon link. Rather, I'd like to explain the three main things this book has done for our family personally.

This book has first helped me understand some of the biggest difficulties that we have had with homeschooling so far. By explaining the three different stages of learning that children go through, I can now understand how to make the most of our homeschooling hours and how to most effectively teach Joshua and Noah right now. I have found that many of our challenges were due to trying to teach Joshua in a way that is beyond his years.

Secondly, the book has given me a vision for our homeschool for the next twelve years. I'm serious. Because of this book, I was able to come up with an outline to tell me when to teach the children about Shakespeare, zoology, physics, dinosaurs, Greek mythology, chemistry and on and on and on. This is such an enormous relief!

And lastly, the book has extensive resource lists. I mean pages and pages of recommended resources for each subject. Not only do I know what I will teach my children and when, but I also know how! We have begun using some of the books that are suggested and so far, we have loved them all.

If you are thinking about homeschooling at all or if you already are homeschooling and would like some guidance, I would highly recommend this book. I will say that if you are a homeschooling family that tends to favor the unschooling approach, this book probably won't be for you. To each their own, which is exactly why homeschooling rocks :)
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Monday, April 9, 2012

A Bit Embarassing . . .

Well, this is embarrassing. My back has been hurt the past few days and I am finally coming out of my denial and prepared to admit why.

After much research this evening, it seems undeniable . . .

I have a Zumba injury.

Does that make me just about the most spastic woman ever? I sure feel like it does.

I have only Zumba'd twice. And apparently this past Saturday, I Zumba'd too much!

I have been doing my research (a little too late, I guess!) and I am not alone. Similar to when any new fitness craze occurs, there are a lot of injuries related to Zumba. I was finding article after article written about it. And it seems that I have made two major mistakes.

The number one tip I found over and over again was to wear the right shoes and that those shoes cannot be running shoes. Oops. The instructor even mentioned this. But I was already there, at 8:45 on a Saturday morning with my Zumba buddy, ready to get my Latin groove on.

(Apparently, the main function of running shoes is the exact opposite of what is needed for a dance workout. When you are running, you want a shoe that is supportive and that won't let your feet or ankles pivot or turn too much. Well, that doesn't work for Zumba because you are turning and pivoting and salsa-ing and samba-ing all over the place!)

And second, I need to get to the gym earlier so that I can warm up. There really isn't a warm up during the Zumba class, so I need to make sure this happens on my own.

Right now, I am in the house alone. This is usually one of my absolute favorite things. But not tonight, because I'm missing the Zumba class I was looking forward to! Jason took the kids to the Y without me and I am supposed to be taking it easy, letting my back rest.

But I don't want to rest! I want to Zumba!

Seriously, it really is the most fun way I have found to exercise in a long time. And it's a very good workout - I always work up a sweat and am way out of breath during the harder parts.

The next class is on Wednesday night. Perhaps my back will be ready by then. In the mean time, I think I will shop online for Zumba shoes :)

Have you Zumba'd? Did you like it? Any sharing of similar embarrassing injuries would be so appreciated.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Walking Like a One Year Old

Veronica is moving up in the world. She is currently learning to walk! Just this week she has made a lot of progress. I can't believe my baby's turning into a toddler! Here's a video. Please ignore the loud music playing in the background from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. :)

I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Being a "Yes Mom"

For a while, I have tried to think of myself as a "Yes Mom."

What does this mean? Well, ideally it means that I don't say no unless I actually need to.

So, does it mean that I don't discipline my children? Of course not! It just means that I try to say yes to them as much as I can while still being a good mother and wife.

So it doesn't mean that I don't set limits for my children. That would mean I wasn't a good mom. 

So for instance, let's say I'm exhausted and a child wants to read with me. I'd rather read my book, all by myself. But I still want to try and say yes. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes I do just need some time to myself and that's okay.

Another example would be when a child asks me if they can do something. "Mom, can I build a fort?" "Mom, can we get out our bikes?" "Mom, can we make our own board game using Cheerios, Elmer's glue and glitter?" Well, my instinct sometimes is to say, "No!" Especially to the latter. But rather, I may sigh for a very long time and then try to say yes.

Or at least ask myself, "Why not?"

This is not only good for the children, but good for me. I find when I keep this attitude, my confidence as a mother is higher. I find myself thinking, "Yes we can!"

However, there is a paradox to this. In order to have the freedom to be a "Yes Mom," I have had to learn to say no. If I am over-scheduled and have every single hour of my week committed to something, I won't have the time to say yes. The answer much of the time then has to be no, because we have to get ready for the next thing. Or because I'm too tired from the six things we did before.

This is always a work in progress. The word "no" is so often used when you speak fluent Mommy. I just try to keep this idea in the back of my head and to keep it as part of the way I see myself. 

How might things change in your home if you decided to say yes more?

YES, my darling girl, you CAN have a big ol' piece of chocolate cake for your first birthday.

And then you can have a big ol' bath in the kitchen sink!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Expecting Plans to Fail

Would you like to make God laugh? Just tell Him your plans.

I'm a planner. I plan things. Some plans are for tomorrow. Some plans are for when Jason retires. These are not just dreams. They are plans. We have talked about some of the things we would like to do, even thirty years from now, and we are taking small steps now to make those possible.

I realize that very often, life can trample even the best-laid plans. We have all had this happen to us and it can be very frustrating.

That's okay.

And I can't help but think, so what?

Does this mean that I should no longer plan? To me, the answer is no. To me, this would be like giving up and no longer pursuing excellence, no longer living with purpose and ambition.To me, this is settling for mediocrity. I want more from life than that. And I believe the God wants more for His children than that.

I'm sure that God laughs at a lot of my plans. I'm sure He was laughing while I was in college planning to be a teacher. I'm sure He was thinking, "You sure are going to be surprised who you'll be teaching!"

I'm okay with that and I have faith that God's plans for me will always be better than my own.

But I'm still going to try! I'm going to try damn hard to discern what God is calling me to do, what will bring joy into my family's life and what pursuits are worthwhile.

And then, I'm going to plan and try my best to make those things happen!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Joys of Being a Stepmother, Pseudo-Aunt and Godmother

We made it. Here we are on the other side - Monday morning.

Jason and I welcomed three additional kiddos into our home on Friday afternoon and had them stay the weekend with us. Matthew, Kayliana and Zachary Martin all joined the Burdullis family for a couple of days while their parents presented an Engaged Encounter weekend. Our three darlins will join the Martin household for the weekend at the end of April.
Good Morning! Breakfast time Saturday morning.
Adrienne was also with us and has been for the past week. If you count her as a "child", that makes seven children for the weekend, although she provides a lot more help than additional work. Jason drove her home to Portland on Sunday afternoon. We had another fabulous visit with her during her spring break and will be counting the days till she comes again this summer. Seriously, the week after she visits, we all have to go through withdrawal. She adds so much to our family and we will miss her so much. The next time we see her, she will have graduated from 8th grade and be ready to begin high school this fall! Unbelievable!

The weekend went great! Everyone slept well and there were no major injuries - success!

With the Martin children, Jason and I got to relish in our role as pseudo-aunt and uncle (Matthew and Zach call us Auntie Rebecca and Uncle Jason, which pulls my heartstrings every time) as well as our role as godparents to Kayli.

This all brings me so much joy. To see all of these children in our life play together and interact with one another with so many different personalities and dynamics is amazing to witness.

At one point during the weekend, I was on the phone with Jenny giving her an update about how the weekend was going. I was telling her about Veronica and Kayli interacting and called them "the girls."

Jenny exclaimed, "The girls! I love that you just said, 'The girls!' I still can't believe that we both have little girls!"

It's true. "The boys" has always been a common phrase among our two families. But it is such a blessing to now have added "the girls" to our vernacular!

And I must say, they are pretty darn cute together.

See . . .

It was very fun to have two little girls around who are so curious and excited about the world around them, who love to chat and to snuggle. I have had more hugs this weekend than maybe ever. And when one of them was feeling sad, it seems a mommy is the best comfort, even if I am a lame replacement for Kayli's actual wonderful mother. On Saturday evening, I was holding them both quite a bit, eventually causing Veronica to be a bit jealous. She expressed this by rolling around the floor and collapsing in irritation, which was funny and adorable.

What a blessing to be so loved! And what a blessing to not only be able to have my own children, but to have an inspiring stepdaughter and to have these three darling children join our family every now and then. We all had so much fun together. I couldn't help but smile at all of the bedtime whispering and giggling happening last night :)

Who's that?

All the girls in PJ's