Friday, June 19, 2015

Three Little Words

By the time the summer solstice is upon us, there are three little words every home educating parent longs to hear...

School is out.

Yesterday, I was able to say these words.

School is out. (f.i.n.a.l.l.y.)

I never approved of the idea of falling across the finish line.
I never imagined a face plant to end a race indicated greater strength then at the starting block...

...until yesterday.

It was a significant day for me as it marked the end of an amazingly exhausting yet rewarding school year.

Our family has encountered unique challenges this year, but we have borne each other's stresses and we have survived. Everyone is still breathing and still ever-so-slightly sane. And oddly enough, I feel stronger than when we started.

We faced three large hurdles this year:

1. This is the first school year I have had all three children in school at once. I am not sure I ever fully grasped how to teach two different grade levels effectively and then the youngest had to go and turn 5. So, Kindergarten here we came. Along with a 2nd and 4th grader too.

2. This is the first school year I have taught while working significant hours outside the home. Between us, my husband and I spend a joint 60 hours (give or take 10...actually just give 20) serving as interim pastors of a congregation making some significant transitions. My responsibilities include, but are not limited to, preaching 3 times a month, coordinating guest speakers for my off weeks, leading bible studies, developing ministry leaders, offering guidance to leadership, writing notes and making phone calls to congregants, and trying to figure out the copy machine.

3. This is the first school year we have encountered sickness multiple times. Not major stuff. I am talking the flu and slobbery colds, but enough to sidetrack school on several days. December's mini vacation was cut short by a vomiting child in a hotel room. Yes, it's every bit as gross as it sounds. That got passed around to everyone save for my husband who was the only one to get his flu shot last fall. Guess who's getting their flu shots this year? Everyone, so help me God. Insert a runny nose here and a sore throat there and that brings us to April when the tables turned and all three kids and Daddy went down for the count. I came through unscathed with this bout although I am still unclear as to how that happened. In other news, my children think Lysol smells like spit-up because that is the only blasted time I ever spray it. I am, however, truly thankful to report despite these setbacks, we had no major medical issues and so my grumbling comes to an end here.

I tend to be my own worst critic, easily focusing on the ways I have failed to live up to my (ahem, impossible) expectations. In spite of our unparalleled year and my unrealistic ideals, I am glad to say that these accomplishments were made in spite of it all:

- My "let's-enjoy-the-journey-no-matter-how-long-it-takes" Kindergartener knows all her letters and their phonetic sounds, can write them correctly on lined paper, and is finally grasping the concept of decoding strings of letters (aka reading words). She can write her numbers, do basic addition, count to 100, and skip count by 2s, 5s and 10s. It's been difficult as her needs has been vastly different then her siblings, but she has accomplished so much and I am so proud to promote her to 1st Grade.

- My "conscientious-let's-stay-focused-and-get-the-work-done" 2nd grader has mastered addition and subtraction, can tell time on an analog clock, and count money. He's a quick study with numbers which has made math enjoyable for him. After a slow start and disheartening lack of interest in phonics last year, he has blossomed into quite the reader which thrills my heart to no end. Armed with his Lego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia, we gladly replace the batteries in his LED flashlight so he can read to his heart's content at bedtime. He is now a 3rd grader.

- My "highly-distractable-yet-wonderfully-creative" 4th grader can now write every letter in cursive, has begun keyboarding (which she loves), has taken 30 spelling tests (which she despises), and has learned long division. I have heard horror stories from parents sitting with their children who are learning long division. While we have had difficult moments in the process we have come through with very few tears or battle scars. God bless Steve Demme and Math-U-See. She is so excited to say she is now a 5th grader. (Notice her creative self decorated her board.)

- All three started the year studying world history. We moved from the nomads to Ancient Egypt and then they discovered the game "Stack the States." Since we homeschool in Michigan and have the blessed liberty to do so, we switched our social studies focus mid-year to match their interest. This began our journey in learning about the 50 states. 

- Our science studies led us into the world of Botany, be still my heart. Believe it or not, the kids chose that subject...silly rabbits. Yet, in the end, I have to admit even I was taken in by the fascinating facts we learned about the world of plants and the kids were too.

- Of all the accomplishments this year, I am most pleased with the children maintaining a prayer journal. Our bible time ranged from discussions about Psalm 119, the armor of God (Ephesians 6), wisdom in Proverbs, reading various children's bible, and following a Lenten Prayer Guide. Throughout the year, regardless of the bible topic, the kids have practiced the art of recording their prayers. I can't wait to give these precious notebooks to them once they are grown.

They were days I didn't think I would make it. Days of feeling inadequate and questioning my capabilities. They were days I wanted to scream, pull out my hair, crawl into bed and escape into Austen's world of Pride and Prejudice. But we made it thanks to a faithful God, a sense of purpose, a decent ability to laugh at ourselves, some awesomely faithful friends, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. And diet coke. 

It feels a little like we've fallen across the finish line, yet I still feel strong. It was a hard race - life this last 9 months - but we've broken the ribbon at the completion of this course.

So without further ado, I say again...

School is out.

Time for a nap.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Choosing Day (on our 17th anniversary)

Paul - 

I remember our scandalous beginning. Strangers pretending to be high school sweethearts until everyone in the piano lab believed it. I had never even said hello to you before that day.

I remember speaking briefly on the sidewalk outside the Olt Student Center on picture day. You had caught my attention and I was wearing black jeans that apparently had caught yours. 

I remember your face in a sea of sophomore guys while you held up a kiwi. And I thought I would die of embarrassment with a one word declaration about a fruit. 

But I didn't know it was the beginning of a love story.

I remember late night phone calls, shy smiles, and first kisses that took my breath away.

I remember the tiger t-shirt, the worn-thin one you still wear to bed, and your question about submission that really was just an awkward prelude to speaking your love for me.

I remember our days as a couple in chorale, as Park Place youth workers, as ministry majors (finally), and then those painful days we weren't a "we" anymore.

But I didn't know it was still the beginning of a love story.

The love story that was sown on the campus of Anderson University began to sprout as we commited our lives to one another. We stood, hand in hand, while Shirley Coolidge worked her magic on the organ. Before a room full of people and all of heaven, we chose each other. 

June 6, 1998 became our day of choosing.
But I didn't know that was still the beginning of our love story.

Funny how the wedding is still the beginning. Hollywood would beg to differ. Don't get me wrong, I love me a romantic movie. You wouldn't have to suffer through all those Hallmark movies if I didn't. There's something special about the early butterflies of courtship and the breathless excitement of getting to know someone, but most romantic films are set up to end the moment the couple chooses each other.

The older I get and the longer we are at this crazy little thing called love, the more I realize that movies end before the love story takes hold. The unfolding of love is not in the candlelight of newness or the infatuation of dating. Love unfolds itself every day after the choosing. 

That's the love story.

Our wedding day is the day I chose you and you chose me.

For life. 
In the good and the bad.
When we have love bursts and when we discover habits that drive us crazy.
For the days we have patient smiles and the days steam comes from our ears. 
When we could run the Crim and when we are hospitalized from pneumonia or childbirth.
In the moments of triumph and defeat.
When we are confident of our tasks and struggling to face the day.
When we are caught up on housework or we've run out of underwear.
For the predictable and the unexpected.
When we speak words of healing or words that wound.
I chose you and you chose me.

We chose each other that sunny June afternoon. 
In the seventeen years that have spanned since then, we have still chosen each other. 
Every single day.

And that is the story of love.
Every day of our marriage has been a choosing day.
Love unfolds itself every day we still choose each other.

That's our love story.

I still choose you and you still choose me.
I am still chosen and so are you.
A love that unfolds and blooms each time we choose one another.
And with each sunrise, we have a new opportunity to choose each other again.

I am pretty sure there is nothing more romantic than the choosing.
Nothing more powerful or life-giving than the choosing.
Choosing love. Choosing you. Choosing me.
Every day.
No matter what.

I am so glad we chose each other 17 years ago, 
but I am ever more grateful for our choosing each other every day since.

Happy Anniversary, Stud Muffin!

I love you and I choose you. 
Always. Everyday.