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Back to the grind…

The main thing on every homeschooling mom’s mind right now is, “How do I go back to it?” Whether it’s because of holidays, sick days, sad days, or the freshly fallen snow… it’s hard to transition from not doing anything really to any kind of focused progress.

Except for unschoolers. They’re cool like that. But I’m more the Charlotte Mason type.

I was struggling with some gnarly health issues that kept me laying down on the couch up until Christmas. Seeing this coming, I did something in December which I now consider brilliant:

I took my December calendar, and blocked off one day for every subject I do at home. We did language arts, science, history, and electives (Spanish, programming, art, ASL). Then I blocked off one day for every holiday activity the kids wanted to do: make crafts, homemade gifts, cookies, watching Christmas movies, and sledding.

And that was ALL WE DID. Every day that didn’t have an activity was a “free day” with some rules… When we did history we did history all day, between games and movies, and reading. When we did science we did that all day too. And then it got put away and pushed away.

For the record, we covered three weeks worth of science in one day, and learned from the French and Indian War to the Revolutionary War in History.

Our rule for “free days” was you needed to do 30 minutes of math practice and reading before you went to play. But I had gift-wrapped a book for each free day that we had scheduled. They were small readers that we got through in one day, taking turns reading aloud on the couch for about an hour. It was like opening a Christmas present of knowledge and imagination every day!

This helped prepare us for going back to school tremendously. Because the information was learned very effectively! And they made considerable progress that we can build on now.

For one thing, my 8 year old went from not really reading to reading books that have 14-20 chapters and loving it. And I can tell he’s reading because his writing and grammar have improved dramatically. It was a good break in the school year that wasn’t a waste of time; we rested AND moved forward.

You’re probably thinking, “That would’ve been a wonderful suggestion for DECEMBER, Maria. But now it’s January.” It would still work! Take January’s calendar and pick a day to review and prepare for each subject you teach. Block off a day to put away Christmas decorations (and make it fun! With hot drinks and music!). Block off a day to visit your local library or a play ground. Take one day to revisit the household chores and make adjustments if necessary.

Then make the rest of the days “free days”, that is, “interest-led” days. Let them have days to just craft, or read, or practice an instrument.

It’s a good idea in January to implement a few things daily regardless of what’s on the schedule; write a thank you note (or two) and work on five math problems. Simply because the skills necessary for writing and math have to be worked on regularly and consistently.

Then progressively work on replacing thank you cards with a full language arts lesson, and doing a full math lesson instead of just five problems… add the history and then the science. Build up on it so by the last week of January the family is back to full-speed ahead.

My kids are so comfortable with their language art and math lessons we are ready, by next week, to bring back history and science again. And all their regular activities (co-op, Choir) start up again too.

Pin this post for when life happens. Surgery, travel, family illness… Knowing there’s a way to ease off the workload and ease back into it without falling behind. It’s a perk of homeschooling, and it helps! I know what it’s like to feel pressure if days or weeks go by and “school hasn’t gotten done!” I only share this because it worked so well for my household, maybe I can inspire you to think outside the box… and come out victorious!

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Happy 2018!

Happy New Year!

I have given up on the hope that I’ll sit by a computer three times a week, editing pinable photos and creating blog content to share… its time consuming. And while I enjoy it, 2017 showed me that I have a lot of hands-on to do with my kids this season of my life.

The kids are learning – REALLY learning – and it takes me a while to do everything. It takes me a full school day, but it isn’t a pushed schedule. It’s the projects, the questions, the read alouds… next thing you know it’s 4pm and I’m done.

My goals for 2017 changes a bit too. I finally feel on top of my health, and while I’m not 100% healed I can assume control and work on it. So it came back to the top of my priorities; to eat better, exercise and sleep well.

It’s not a “number on the scale” thing. It’s a life or death thing. Seeing my mom get diagnosed with breast cancer brought a new awareness in my life. The goal is longevity. It’s changing not only how I eat and whether I exercise but also the deodorant I use or the things I clean my house with. We are working our way towards mostly plant-based, completely toxin free living. To that end, I’m an H2O at Home Advisor, and I can’t overstate how much that has dramatically turned our lives around. But that’s for another blog post.

Conclusively, for the sake of my mental health I have made some changes too. We are no longer pursuing home ownership (I needed a break from that stress) and are happily renting a cute little apartment that has been a God-sent for our family. I’m trying not to add stressors to my life when I already have my handful of things going on: I’m still watching my mom fight breast cancer from afar, helping my husband go back to school this year, and still trying to improve my physical and mental health. I’m maxed out on projects or things to think about.

So where does that leave this blog? In a very primitive place, back in its origin. Writing for pleasure. For venting, for mental health purposes. Writing good news and writing to be encouraging. For an audience of 1 or 100.

What are you looking forward in 2018? Share below 👇🏼

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These Boys Can

I make the mistakes sometimes of underestimating my boys.

I spend most of the time reminding myself that my 11 year old and my 8 year old have Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.  If I didn’t, I’d flip a lid SO MANY TIMES I’d die of a heart attack before they make it to puberty.  I don’t intend to belittle them; I’m facing every single disciplinary issue with this in the forefront of my mind so I don’t tear them apart with shame and failure!

And if you think Parenting comes with a lot of disciplinary issues, you have never been in the heat of correcting your child for knocking over the lady on a walker on the way out of Wal-mart and mid sentence your kid runs after a bird and nearly gets hit by a car.  This is my life. I’m on top of my boys all the time to 1) keep them alive and 2) teach them to be decent human beings in the process.

But then the ADHD label on them becomes engraved on them like branding or a dog tag. Because I’ll bring down their ability to match their self-control and I catch myself assuming, “They won’t really succeed with that…”

The way I thought my 7 year old would not do good at a spelling bee. He hates to write.  In the process of picking my battles I gave him the list of suggested words and told him with only one week in advance that he was participating in a spelling bee. I didn’t do anything else to help him memorize the words, but to my surprise… he placed second for his age group and only misspelled one word.

I’ve never seen self control like that day from this kid.  Sitting still and silent at his chair waiting for 20 other kids to finish spelling their words before it was his turn again.

I also didn’t know that he could learn to ride his bike AND successfully complete a triathlon without training wheels in a month… but he did.

I didn’t think my 11 year old would ever make true, lasting friends.  I didn’t think he’d get invited to parties or to play sports because he’s either arguing with everyone or blowing everyone off.  And yet he has; he’s had friends invite him out to play all summer long.  And he’s made a few “let’s stick together, I’ll go if you go” kind of friends too.  And held meaningful conversations with adults.

Because it turns out that all my attempts at teaching my son to NOT be a jerk were not in vain, and teaching him to be the kid that is a friend to everyone and does not tolerate bullying – building him to be a young man with Godly character – takes precedence in the sport over his actual athletic skill.

Now I’m learning to stop myself from assuming, “No I don’t think they’ll pull through that.” Instead I say, “It may be a little more challenging for them, but these boys can…”

Posted in Faith, Family, Uncategorized

The Cha-Cha of Life

Pin Title

If it ever felt like we take one step forward and two steps back, it’s now!

We did not get pre-approved for a home loan.  We ended up moving into a small apartment just to be on our own again.

I’m not even trying to get into a home loan. I’m trying to get to Florida to see my mom and my sister.  And then get back.

whynottri1My mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  That blind-sided me.

A chiropractor is out to get me and levied my entire bank account.  The only medical place I have not been able to pay decided to help themselves to my husband’s entire paycheck and all we had in savings.

We did a triathlon as a family!  Then I injured my foot and haven’t been able to walk pain-free since June 9th.

I joined itWorks!  I can’t wait to get my starter kit.  Looking forward to making money for using products I would buy at GNC and start losing the weight I gained.

My dog Momo had a major seizure…

life groupOne step forward, two step backs.  It’s a cha-cha. The Salsa lover in me should find this beautiful… Except I feel violently shaken and disoriented right now!  Part of the reason I haven’t been able to blog, other than depression (and I’m seeing a therapist and a doctor for that) is I’m kinda’ stunned speechless! Yet I’ve been very well taken care of by my tribe of believing homeschooling moms and that has made all the difference.

I guess I forget I’m dancing with the Lord as my partner and He takes the lead! Not an original idea, but I heard Amena Brown, a spoken word poet and she NAILED IT, it’s so good I’m sharing with you the lyrics. Not quite as good as hearing her recite it, but it’s the best I got today:

Dance with Him
He puts His hand on the small of my back
Two fingers pressed into the center of my palm
He pulls me close
Steps with His left, my right
I focus on His eyes and try to ignore my feet as they clumsily count one – two – three
I’m trying to trust Him
He knows this dance better than me
I’m still a novice and it’s obvious
I have yet to lean in and let Him control the turns
He takes His time and even when I miss a step
It’s fine
He knows I’m learning
He wants me to put my hand in His
Close my eyes and trust Him
With my life
My heart
With worry
And “I’m so scared”
With hurt
lifeWorth and unworthy
Loving and unlovable
And my heart has been hurt before
I have been burned before
Loved
And endured loss before
I am in no mood for a dance
No mood to be romanced
I have become a grace cynic
And love’s worst critic
He sends me invitations every day
And even though I have yet to RSVP
He doesn’t mind me
He keeps pursuing
Taking steps in spite of me
He is a songwriter
Composing the notes that hold together eternity
And He wants to teach my limbs to sing
He’s been waiting to watch me let go of woe
And worry…until my soul
Sings in that beautiful voice He gave me
That I have someone come to think
Is not so beautiful
To dance with Him
I must give in
And give up
Plus
The trust it takes to really love
And I want to love Him unbridled
Believe in Him with a faith that is unshakeable
Like tree roots centuries deep
Until I learn to follow His time
Take deep breaths
Rest my head on His chest
And my cares at His feet
But I never fare well
As long as I depend on mewhynottri2
Take His hand
Take a chance
Fingertips in the palm of the One who holds galaxies
In His hand
Hand on His shoulder
Heart in His hand
We dance
To a down beat
That keeps time with His heartbeat
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
His is the song that never ends
His love
Sinners become friends
He wants to dance with you
Until the only Song you hear
Is Him

When I have nothing to encourage you with personally, it’s ok.  That will get better.  But I’m never without encouragement from the Lord, without His peace, or His provision.  As a Christian blogger, the best I can do is share the encouragement I’ve received with you.  I pray it lifts you up today.

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Hard Times

I’m having such a hard time right now. 

It’s no secret that I fell off the blogging world. The truth is that I feel completely voiceless. This wasn’t meant to be a place to vent, and I have run out of things to say. 

Confession: I battle with depression and anxiety sometimes, and my present living arrangements doesn’t make it any easier. 

I had book reviews to do (which are still good books) and updates to give (my youngest was also diagnosed with ADHD but with medication and prayer he finished the school year quite victoriously) and I was swimming, running, and biking my little heart off. 

It started with news from Venezuela. 

My family was struggling. And protesting. And sharing videos… My news feed was video after video of people being shot at, run over, and beat by militarized police. Somewhere between the tear gassing of an elementary school (and my 18 month old cousin in the vicinity) and the assasination of a Boy Scout trying to “do a good dead” at only 14 years of age, it felt like I got punched in the gut and all the air knocked out of me. 

I was there. I was tear gassed. I have not been able to return since, and I never wanted to leave in the first place. 

Maybe this is PTSD?

About 60 days later it’s still just as bad. Men have been stripped naked and beat for begging them in the name of God’s Word to stop. Old ladies have stood up to military Rhino Humvees and been tear gassed and arrested.  Medical students doing Emergency responder work (clearly identified by a green cross on their helmets) have been run over dead. Instruments dashed from musicians between the ages of 14-18 simply for playing the national anthem…

I’m not even allowed to look at the images any more. 

So with this hollowed out feeling in my soul, I tried to keep moving forward. Take care of my kids and finish the school year. I’m trying to get us into our own home. Everything I try falls apart in my hands. 

No matter what I do I just can’t seem to convince the mortgage company to preapprove us for a home loan. 

So while I wait on that I try to do other things too, to pass time. Except I’m in physical pain all day, getting steroid injections in my joints, upping my chemo meds to fight my immune system which seems to have altogether given up on me and has decided to feed on my joints until I crumble. 

60 days of not being good enough no matter what I do. Of hoping for good news, and thinking maybe we finally get good news, only to hear that we don’t really deserve good news yet, we’re not good enough. 

While going onto a year of living in someone else’s spare space. Making dinner after the family who actually belongs here makes dinner. Keeping my dogs and my kids out of the way. Cleaning up when I’d rather be resting so our hosts don’t complain. Apologetically putting our food, our stuff, and our lives in the spare corners – boxed up and stacked up and on hold until we get our own house. 

God only knows when. 

Having a near suicidal break down on the recliner downstairs and being reminded that someone in our family is somewhere or did something they aren’t supposed to and instead of  giving myself the time to cry a few tears, catch my breath, and address it when I feel good and sane enough to (like I normally would), I have to spring to action and fix it RIGHT NOW. Never mind all the other fiery hoops I’ve jumped through TODAY to keep this boat afloat, RIGHT NOW there’s a problem and it can’t wait. 

I’m pretty sure this is what depression looks like. 

I still get dressed, put on a smile, and take the kids out. To parks or play dates. To church. I get asked 15 times a day “How are you doing?” And my answer is still “I’m alright”, because I’m not but I just don’t want to get into it right now. 

And everyone tells me to just wait and trust in God’s timing. There must be some truth to that cliche but it sounds like nails on a chalkboard by now. 

And what can I do while I wait? I have lost all desire for the things that made me happy to be alive. Writing and blogging seem hollow and insincere. Running and biking is painful. I don’t even enjoy music anymore. The sunshine doesn’t invite me the way it used to because it comes with the price of waking up early to keep the vehicle and I already do that on doctor days to manage chronic pain so I’m too exhausted to go out and play. 

All I want is a nap. 

So what’s the take away here?

Maybe that sometimes even Christians who read their Bibles and pray every day have really bad seasons. Maybe that it would be fantastic if mental health issues didn’t carry such a stigma in the faith community. Maybe that it would be so much easier if adults could get help with mental health services quickly and effectively. 

But definitely that if you are feeling the same way, you are not alone. And it’s not wrong to ask for help. And please, I’m begging you not to give up because I’m not giving up.

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Seward!

Our family is just having a great time today. 

A friend of mine coordinated a nocturnal, overnight field trip to our very own Sea Life Center in Seward Alaska. 

Confession: I love taking pictures. There are so many memories I have of Venezuela; places I’ll never be able to show my husband or my kids. I wish I had a camera back then! So I go overboard with pictures now…


Even the drive is absolutely beautiful! I keep my nose glued to the glass the whole way there!


I drive this same road multiple times a year, and it always looks different. Seasons make a difference. 

We also love car trips to listen to Audiobooks. It’s so much fun to listen to a good story while you drive! Today, we played “The Spiderwick Chronicles” narrated by Mark Hammill. 


When that needed a break, the Celtic soundtrack to the Disney movie “Brave” did just fine!

Once in Seward, we arrived about four hours ahead of schedule, so we took our time walking around town. We tried to find some geocaches for Anakin’s camping badge. 


Oddly enough, at 26F and sunny it felt wonderful. Like, Lularoe leggings and a hoodie nice. There were also wild seals to observe on the bay, and a few bald eagles who had no problem with our intrusions. 


When we went in the Sea Life Center there was so much to see! Home to sea lions and Harbor seals, as well as plenty of local fish and an aviary. 


The experience is more than just watching the tanks. After dinner, we did two classes on marine biology that were fascinating! The kids (and I) learned so much!

Now we’re all in our sleeping bags between the seals and the birds. I don’t know that I will sleep… but I hope my kids do! 

You can see a few more pictures on Instagram, and there’s still so much on our schedule for this week that more blogs are to come, I’m sure!

Until then, I just want to thank my friend Cass and her husband for putting this together. It’s a super cool experience, maybe even more so for my husband and I – we never had experiences like this!


You know, sometimes you have deep theological thoughts, other times life throws you deep perspective. With RA, ADHD, and homeschooling I could have plenty to write about… And yet, sharing a nice experience is just fine too! Thankful to God for sunny days like these.

Posted in Faith, Uncategorized

Blast From The Past

This was a blog post published July 28th, 2015.  Sometimes going back and seeing God’s faithfulness in the past helps to jolt me to the reality that He really is a present help in time of need.

The past three weeks I have not been scheduled to work at my part-time job. This has been a bit of a financial blow that we are trying to overcome.

And as usual, this is the season when things go wrong, need repairs, or somehow we are reminded how much more money don’t have.

As y’all know I’m already a bit of an insomniac. Last week was different: I would stay awake with my heart racing, fighting a supernatural struggle against anxiety. Praying, listening to the Bible as I laid in bed so I wouldn’t hear all the other thoughts that assaulted me.

In my prayer time, I asked God what I was supposed to do with my Zumba certification. Because I can’t really seem to get a job as a Zumba instructor unless I’m also an accredited Group Fitness Certified Instructor… a certification that costs $300-500 I also don’t have. I just felt stuck.

May I add that finances were the LEAST of our trials? Talk about a spiritual assault! I had arrows thrown at me from every side! From family, to our kids, to work, and my husband’s job. I was weary from it! I can’t even begin to share all the details here, though my journal knows, but I was beat down on every side.

When I couldn’t take the stress anymore, I got a little lost with my kids to re-center.

Well the Lord has graciously provided an opportunity for me to substitute three Zumba classes this week. It means I make some extra cash (yay!). But for every one hour of Zumba I would teach, I do four hours at home perfecting the class and making sure my routine works. And then another hour fighting anxiety in prayer because I’m nervous that no one will show up or no one will like me or I’ll screw up. So this is taking a lot of my time.

And I already have to give time to the kids. Anakin’s hand completely healed and he’s ready to ride his bike (two weeks ahead of schedule! Praise God!). And I have to give time first and foremost to the Lord; I’m not that stupid as to be facing so many battles and not spending time working out strategies with my Commander. So the first thing our family has been doing (more consistently now than in the past, I confess) is reading our Bibles and studying it. And praying.

So here is where my fellow introverts ask me: Maria, if you are so anxious, and teaching a Zumba class makes you so nervous, why do you do it? Why don’t you just get a job?

Or my biggest pet peeve ever: Maybe you should just send your kids to public school so you can go work at an office? (Gotta love people who solve your problems without any God-given direction…)

It’s a risk I’m willing to take because I am motivated by the possibility that I could find that John Piper sweet spot where God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If I can make the extra income we need helping other women have a good time (teaching Zumba) and not sacrificing our family life, I am in that sweet spot.

For the record, I’ve also applied for and interviewed other very basic, entry level jobs at local gyms.

My extra motivation this week came after I took the kids to their annual eye checkup.

My silly, beautiful little girl!

I always thought Brielle was dyslexic because I knew that she struggles with doing her letters backwards or spelling words all scrambled. I knew (and I’ve shared this before) that she works twice as hard as any other kid her age to read or write and that she focuses twice as much. Public school told me in Kindergarten that she’d probably outgrow it naturally. The charter school I homeschool through told me that she seems to be an auditory learner, and she has not fallen behind, but enjoys learning more through conversation, music, and movement than through print.

The doctor examines her eyes and notices that her eyes naturally rest looking outward a little instead of straight ahead. Which means to focus, and to see a line of print (like from her Bible, which she reads about a chapter a day or so) she has to hold a strain for a prolonged period of time… where other kids can just stare straight ahead and be just fine.

And now everything I’ve known in my heart makes sense, although it wasn’t dyslexia. But she does need to see a specialist for eye therapy to correct the issue, especially since she’s still young and there’s a good chance that as she grows she can be “cured”. In the meantime I’m just in awe of how dedicated she is to reading and writing, because she’ll write in her journal regularly and she loves the youversion app on the kindle.

And I’m thankful I homeschool because while she’s getting therapy, I can focus a curriculum JUST FOR HER that uses other styles of learning more than book work, so that she doesn’t fall behind on content and she can keep learning without straining her eyes. It’s one of those moments I know God was moving in Brielle’s favor when He told me I needed to homeschool before I even knew what was necessary.

I want the resiliency my kids have. They laugh through everything!

Then my youngest, Caleb, turns out to be quite the conman. We’ve always done his eye exams briefly at the pediatrician, with a chart. He’s always said he appears to have 20/20 vision in both eyes.

It turns out, he has ok vision in one eye and a WHOLE LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHIC memory. He memorized the chart and aced it.

Because at the eye doctor, he was discovered to have been soooooo farsighted in one eye he was in danger of losing the optical nerves in that eye. So he needs to wear prescription glasses as soon as possible. Talk about total surprise!

I was humiliated that I couldn’t afford to pay the $29 I needed to at check out for my son’s glasses, and had to ask them to bill me that when I pick them up.

But it motivated me to take on the Zumba classes with a fury because I now know I’ll need more money than I thought. I don’t know how much Brielle’s eye therapy will cost, or how often it will be, or how much our insurance will cover.

In all this, the verse that kept coming to mind over and over was in Philippians 4: Our God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. I had this verse given to me in every Bible app, every Facebook post or comment sent my way. I listened to it at night and read it during the day.

It has given me peace to know God somehow knew the entirety of my situation before I was aware of all of it. I know I’ve been attacked a lot (and so has my church, so it’s nothing unusual honestly), but I also see the Hand of God moving in my favor and having my 6. I can’t explain otherwise how getting the news that two of your children have pretty gnarly vision problems can result in a praise report.

Update: Present day (2017) Caleb’s eyesight has improved, though he wears glasses faithfully.  Brielle “graduated” from vision therapy and is now reading at grade level, hasn’t had any more issues since.  Praise God! Shortly after this post I got a regular Zumba teaching job which I stayed in until the room I used to teach went down for maintenance and I was, in essence, laid off. God has been faithful through out with different opportunities to make ends meet.