The greatest gift

Money is tight here this Christmas season. We’re gearing up for yet another move, the kids’ clothing needs seem to be multiplying like gremlins, and the list of needs is far more pressing than the wants. We’ve scaled back wherever possible to make the pinch a little less pinchy, and honestly feel blessed that we’ve had leeway to do so.

One of the things you won’t find under our tree this year are gifts from Christopher and I to one another. We’ve exchanged sporadically in the past, but in all truth, we entered the season of “if you need it, buy it” long ago, and neither of us is keen on making purchases just to fulfill an obligatory gift exchange. This year, there was an understood moment of “we can’t afford it, sorry.” Neither of us was hurt or offended. It is what it is and that’s o.k.

Actually, it’s better than o.k. Seasons of financial strain always bless me with the reminder that I could be out there making a paycheck. I am, after all, a college graduate with some reasonable skills. I know the current job market is tough, but there’s something out there for a woman willing to do whatever it takes to lift the burden of sole provider off her husband’s shoulders. I could be a substitute teacher. I could work in a daycare center. I could answer phones at a doctor’s office.

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On risk

We’re on pox watch here, awaiting the arrival of round three in the Great Chicken Pox Epidemic of 2013. In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect way to end a year that has challenged the notion that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” We’ve seen death, flood, and sickness these past few months. The only things left are… well, I’m not going to say. Because frankly I’d just rather not.

Last Man Girl Standing in the pox face off is, remarkably, Birdie. Somehow, her allergy-challenged immune system is holding strong, warding off the virus that has an impressive 90% infection rate. I admit that at this point we’re all beginning to wish she’d just get it already. I mean, seriously? The girl has a 90% chance of coming down with it. Let’s just do this thing and move on, people.

I waited years for my kids to catch the “wild” chicken pox, having eschewed the vaccination in favor of natural immunity. Like many others, I’m fairly skeptical of the public health system’s recommendations in terms of their effect on personal health. I get why it’s in the best interest of a general population to pursue herd immunity. However, I’m not charged with overseeing the general population; my goal is to manage (in asmuch as I am capable) the general health of the individual members of my family. With that in mind, we follow a selective, delayed schedule that makes sense for our family and its unique needs– like traveling to developing nations, and all the health risks that entails.

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Dangerous

Homeschooling is dangerous.

The grocery store clerk, your mother, the woman at church who teaches 6th grade at the public school … they’ve all been telling you this for years.

I’m here to tell you that they’re right. Homeschooling is not to be taken lightly. It’s not a choice to be made flippantly. It’s not something you can just do, or not do.

No. Homeschooling is dangerous, and should be treated as such.

What makes it such a heavy undertaking? It’s not the fact that your kids may not learn how to hold their pencils correctly, or might miss out on the character-building experience of being picked last for a game of dodgeball. It’s not that you’re categorically unqualified to teach reading, or that putting Jesus in your kid’s science book might cost him a couple of points on his SATs.

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Why we DO celebrate Christmas

Some of you read the title to this post and thought, “Who DOESN’T celebrate Christmas?”

Chances are, if that was your reaction, you’re not an evangelical Christian. Or a homeschooler. Because if you walk around with either of those labels on your forehead, you knew exactly what I meant. Not only did you know, you could immediately picture someone who falls into the other camp–someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

I’ve heard a whole host of reasons why people shrug off Christmas. Historically speaking, Jesus was probably born in the spring. It’s a Catholic holiday. It has pagan roots. It’s not in the Bible. It’s too commercial. 

And you know what? I agree totally.

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Straddle Parenting

I am an anomaly, even in the microcosm of the homeschooling world. Day in, day out, I parent across the seasons. I do ortho visits and 6 month check ups. I buy bras and cloth diapers. I play Pat-A-Cake, Uncle Wiggily, Monopoly, and Chess. I count toes, find blankies, praise Lego creations, discuss Predestination, and wipe snotty noses. One foot in the Getting Ready to Launch You Into the Big World camp, one in the Oh, Please Don’t Put That Nasty Thing in Your Mouth group, spread over a whole range of Yes, You Have to Take a Shower and I’ll Read That Book to You One More Time and Then I Really Have to Do Some Dishes.

I Straddle Parent.

I whispered the term to myself a few years ago, googled it, and realized that no, it wasn’t something I had heard somewhere that had planted itself in the recesses of my brain. It was simply my head’s label for what my heart was doing: stretching itself over the framework of my duties as they needed to be portioned out.

Some days, it is exhausting. There are morning when waking up to Simon tugging on my hair after a late night talking over the delicacies of teen relationships feels surreal. There are days when I sit on the floor changing yet another dirty diaper and answering yet another question about Microbiology and think that if I hear another preschooler screaming the Veggie Tales theme song ever, ever again, my head will explode. There are moments when I do the math and total my anticipated total homeschool career (28years, people) and wonder how many times a person has to read Justin Morgan Had a Horse before they are legally insane.

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Advent intentions

Last year’s Advent season wasn’t exactly stellar. I mean, it was fine enough. Cookies were baked. The tree was trimmed. Merry was made.

And I had just about nothing to do with it.

Sure, I made the plans. I even nudged things into being by assembling our Advent schedule, putting together craft ideas, reminding Christopher to buy enough butter for the shortbread, and putting holds on our favorite Christmas movies.

But I was on bed rest. And really, there’s only so much jolly to be had while stretched flat on a couch. My memories of Christmas 2012 are all slightly sideways and from knee level. Incidentally, so are the photos.

This year, I was ready to go all out. I trolled pinterest in search of crafts to satisfy the teens and the tots alike. I checked local listings for fun freebies to round out our season. I plotted how to pile everyone in the van late one evening to ooh and ahh at light displays. I sent out invitations to our Open House party. All that was left was my favorite part: assembling a schedule of Scripture readings to explore this season as a family.

It was all coming together so beautifully. I may have even had a moment of insanity when I thought that for once, I was ahead of the game.

Cue the chaos.

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