Semper Paratus

Many people grow up with one career goal in mind. That goal may change or waver a bit over the years, but chances are, they went right back to their original plan for their lives. When I was growing up, I wanted to be anything and everything. I changed weekly – if not daily – and I’m not referring to my years in elementary school. Or even middle school. In high school, I had so many career aspirations that the thought of graduating and being forced to choose, scared me to death.

I graduated high school and began working through the process of joining the military. I took the ASVAB and completed the rigorous – and embarrassing – physical tests required. I was ready to sign on the dotted line and join the United States Coast Guard with the intent of being a Search and Rescue specialist. I shoved the no less than fifteen other career options I had in mind and focused on this one and I was ready to take that next step.

My recruiter called me and told that I had failed the color test and that I was color blind. I wasn’t aware of that fact, but I didn’t understand the significance of his call until he said that because I was color blind, I would not be able to be the Search and Rescue specialist, as intended. But, he said, I could be a yeoman.

A yeoman?! This guy expected me to abandon my initial dream post and settle for going through the rigors of basic training all to be a secretary on a boat?? Not on his life! I politely refused and turned away from a life in the military.

Now, let me clarify that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a yeoman. Any position held within our armed forces is to be respected and admired by all Americans. Our soldiers have a thankless job that requires their willingness to give that ultimate sacrifice in exchange for being mocked and harassed by the very people they are dying to save. I wasn’t willing to take that next step because my heart wasn’t in it.

If my heart was solely dedicated to serving in the  military, any position would’ve sufficed. I turned away because I secretly wanted an out. I didn’t realize it then, but I can see it now. I took a year off between high school and college to get my thoughts in order and by the time I started college, I had decided to focus on being a teacher.

Teaching was the one career that was always in the back of my mind. It’s an honorable profession and one that I admire greatly. Without teachers, we can’t have any other profession. I started my college years and crammed my four-year degree into five years, but during that time, I changed my major so many times! I went from teacher to marine biologist to nurse to journalist and then back to teacher and so on and so on.

Eventually, I graduated with a Literature degree and a minor in History. There’s not much you can do with an English degree other than teach. Different obstacles in my life led me to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentuck where I earned my Master’s in Christian Education. Once I graduated from Southern, I taught 9th grade English at a Christian school back home in GA. It took me two years in an organized school setting to know that teaching in that sense was not for me.

I took various jobs that ranged from an Emergency 911 operator to a customer service rep at a construction supply store. I worked in a hospital, at an airport, and for three different law firms before going to work a local church. While I enjoyed working at the church, life led me down another path and I left the church shortly before my 2nd anniversary.

Now I’m a teacher. Granted, my classroom is limited to two students and our curriculum is more student driven than government driven, but I have learned something very important: all of my varied interests growing up is serving as a benefit to my sons now. I use my history and my unpursued passions to ignite imagination and drive in the boys.

Right now, JoJo wants to be in the military – military police, to be exact – and JJ wants a career in law enforcement. I am currently tailoring unit studies on both topics so that the boys can learn as much as possible about both admirable professions. Regardless of how often they change their focus or what career they eventual settle into, I want my sons to do what I had the safety and support from my parents to do: DREAM.

I may not have joined the Coast Guard, as intended, but I belive in their motto and I want the boys to believe in it, too:

Semper Paratus – Always Ready.

 

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Soup’s On

I love to cook! (Hate the cleaning up part!!) I enjoy working with new recipes to find new meals to our dinner table. It usually doesn’t bother me if one or both of the boys try the new dish and then frown and shake their heads. At least they tried it!

Then there are times when I worked really hard on the meal and I get genuinely upset if they don’t like it. Silly and selfish, I know, but that’s the way of it. I love cooking and trying new things, but I am very recipe-driven. I either don’t know enough about the basic ingredients of a dish to experiment on my own or I’m simply not creative enough. Either way, I am generally limited to the steps that are printed in the recipe.

My mom is the greatest cook of all time! No lie. Just ask her pastor and he’ll adamantly agree with me. She cooks and bakes and almost everything she does is from scratch. She will throw in an occasional box mix cake or something like that, but not often. She combines all these random ingredients into a pot and a creation is made. Nine times out of ten, she doesn’t use a recipe. She pulls the recipe from her countless years of making the dish and just does it. I have asked her to write down a few of her recipes and she would if she could only remember how much of each ingredient she adds.

My mom rarely measures. If I find her measuring, it is usually during one of her rare moments that she’s reading from a recipe. This past Thanksgiving, my parents were in a bad car accident and my sister, sister-in-law, and I had to make this large meal that my mom usually dominates. My sister and I were working in Mom’s kitchen while she was telling us what ingredient to add to what dish, but she couldn’t tell us how much. We laughed about it and teased her a bit, but I believe the best cooks in the world just . . . know.

Learning basic recipes is not difficult, but it does take time and practice. In today’s world, time is a precious commodity that is already spread way too thin. And practice? Well, that ties back into the whole “time” thing. We are always rushing. Rushing to work. Rushing to church. Rushing to ball practice. Rushing. Rushing. Rushing. Taking the time to slow down and stop long enough to learn even a basic recipe seems like time wasted.

Even now, I’m rushing to write this blog post so I can get ready before I have to wake up the boys for school. The luxury of being a homeschool mom is that I can steal a few moments back from the clock here and there, but I am still very much a slave to time just like the rest of the world. There are still only 24 hours in a day no matter how often I need just an extra hour or two to get things done.

The other day, JoJo asked me what the word “priority” meant and as I told him, I thought about my priorities. Where does my time actually go? Am I spending the time on Facebook that I could be spending in the kitchen learning that basic recipe? For me, priority simply means the time given to things that you deem are important. Perhaps I need to make sorting out my priorities and priority.

Salvation and Scrabble

As a lover of words, I’ve always loved to play Scrabble. With the right opponent(s), it can be quite challenging. Some players are in it to accrue the most points (which is the ultimate goal, I know) while others – like myself – play the game to see how creative they can be with words. Words are very powerful. They can either be inspiring or degrading. They can give you the strength needed to tie a knot in the rope when you reach the end, or they can entice you to let go of the rope altogether.

For nearly an hour today in school, the boys and I played Scrabble. They had never played the game and it took them a few rounds to really get the gist of it. I helped them form more words than they made on their own, but I knew that would be the case. We didn’t worry about keeping up with the points, since I mainly wanted them to focus on spelling and reading the words on the board. It was challenging for them and they really thought hard when it was their turn to come up with a word. Especially JoJo.

JJ would think about it for a few seconds and then say, “I need help”, but JoJo was different. He never likes to ask for help. He was part of the reason why the game took us so long to play, but I never rushed him. He was thinking and working through the process in his mind and that was exactly what I wanted them to do. Neither one will ever be great spellers and I’m not convinced that JJ will have a passion for reading like I would like, but they are unique individuals. Convincing the boys to rely on their own brains instead of copying what the other says or does is a slow process, but they are working on it.

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JoJo is so closed to the point of being saved. He has a lot of the fundamentals locked away in his heart, but he’s still missing a few key elements that we are working through. Have you ever tried to explain “sin” to a 10-year-old? JoJo is the frustrating kind of 10 year old because he firmly believes he is already the best at everything and there is nothing for him to learn. He knows it all. We often hear phrases like “I am great at . . .” or “I am a genius at . . .” or “Do it like me, because I know what I’m doing.”

While I do want them to have confidence, I always want them to be humble. It is a fine line that can be difficult to understand and even harder to explain. When you take the explanation of “sin” and then add to it that the “wages of sin is death” you can downright frighten any kid. Hearing that you “deserve to die” is a huge downer, but it is imperative in the process of accepting the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

JJ is even farther from being saved than JoJo is, but I believe that once JoJo takes that step, JJ will not be fair behind. Teaching the boys to read and write and to know the basics of math is extremely important and I wouldn’t do anything to take away from that. However, helping them to see and truly understand their fallen nature as sinful human beings that need the grace of God through Christ’s blood is the absolute most important thing that my husband and I could ever teach them. Granted, that is my opinion. There are families who place a higher value on traditional education over a spiritual one, but not us.

Don’t get me wrong. I want both of our boys to graduate high school and then go on to graduate from college. I want them to be educated and successful and responsible and respectful. I want them to have the life skills that they need to not only survive, but to be great additions to the world as a whole.

But first and foremost, I want them to be godly men who love the Lord and seek after Him first in all that they do. I believe that instilling the importance of God and His Word in their lives, that the rest will simply fall into place. As godly men, they will want to succeed and to respect others and to live out their life according to God’s commands. Regardless of all else, if I can help them understand the importance of Christ in their lives, I will consider myself successful.

Dear Lord,

Thank You for these precious souls that You have lent us for a time. Help me to show them Your ways and how to be godly men after Your heart. Help me to do it all to bring glory and honor to You and You alone.

Amen.

When the Teacher Becomes the Student

We have established a pretty solid routine, here at the White House. Each morning before school, the boys have breakfast, brush their teeth and change their clothes, and then they complete their morning chores. Not a lot of chores, but something to establish a routine for them. Then, the three of us sit down at the dining room table and I walk them through a quiet time.

The first day we did this, I talked about the importance of spending time alone with God, reading His word and praying. I taught them how to use the Table of Contents to find the book and how to write out the scripture reference. I explained what the word “blessings” meant and how we are to thank God continually for all things – even the not so good things – that happen to us.

It is difficult to explain to any 9 and 10 year old how we are to rejoice in the Lord during those times of our lives when it is hard to even get out of bed. Or those days when the pain of our grief threatens to choke the very breath out of us. Or the days when Satan attacks and makes us feel the brunt of every one of our failures all over again.

I do not believe God makes us remember our wrong doings, because He has forgotten our confessed failures Himself and has thrown them as far as the East is from the West, but we remember. And Satan remembers. Unfortunately for us, that means that Satan will use whatever is in his arsenal to slow us down if he feels that we are doing God’s work and bringing glory to God’s name.

And I have definitely felt that attack these past two weeks as my husband and I are doing everything we can to bring these boys up in the image of God and train them in the way that He wants them to go. The importance of training a child to study God’s word and learn to lean on Him through the storms of life is the absolute most important thing we could possibly teach our boys. That faith and works can work together, but that faith is the harder of the two and the one that matters the most. Without faith, we cannot have salvation. Without works that flow out of our faith, we can’t grow and we can’t lead others to Christ.

While I do not think that our boys have even come close to grasping either concept just yet, I do know that they are on the right path. Each morning, during our quiet time, one of the boys will read the passage and then we’ll talk through it. I will explain what the passage means and what we are to learn from the passage. The boys write in their “Time with God” journal each morning and JoJo loves to look back and see how many scripture passages we’ve studied so far. Both boys are sensitive, but JoJo is the one that has the heart bigger than the state of Texas.

Each morning, he prays for Daddy to have a safe trip home. He thanks God for his family that he loves so much and then he starts to name them. He prays for his twin cousins to do well on a test in college. The test was a year ago, but still he prays for them to do well in school. He prays for Paw-Paw to “do good on his surgery” that he has coming up next week. He prays for Gran-Gran to have a safe trip to our house and then back home again, even when she isn’t making the trip up from Alabama.

Then, he says the kicker: “Jesus, help us to know you more. Help us to help others know you more. My friend says he doesn’t believe in you and that going to church is stupid. Help me show my friend how much he needs you.”

That’s our 10-year-old! This little boy who spent 3 years in the foster system. This little boy who felt the brunt of all kinds of abuse. This little boy who has every right in the world to raise his fist up to God and ask all the “why” questions that are burning in his heart. He has the gift of forgiveness, that is certain. He may not understand what it means to have Christ living in his heart yet or why he would even need salvation, but he understands the goodness and the mercy of our Savior. I call him our little evangelist and I cannot wait to see how God will use him.

Last week, as we worked to establish a routine for school, was a rough week. There were many, MANY, times that I would literally sit in my chair in the classroom after the day was over and just stare blindly at their desks. Teaching is in my blood. It is in the very fiber of my being. It is the rhythm that sets my heart beating. Teaching elementary kids???? Uh, NO!

I feel so ill-equipped. I have creativity in some things, but not when it comes to helping them learn reading or the basics of math. I don’t even know where to begin. When I taught school, the kids came to me knowing how to read and I, thankfully, didn’t have anything to do with teaching them math. I love LOVE to read. Give me a book, and I can help anyone understand it. Give me a Shakespeare play and I can help others look past the hard language and get to the heart of the bard’s meaning. Teaching a 9 and 10 year HOW to read? That is literally beyond me and I love reading. I have a passion for it.

The only passion I have regarding math is the passion to avoid it all costs. How in the world am I going to teach them something that I barely understand myself? Last week – and a part of this week – I have felt defeated. The idea that I could do something that a certified elementary teacher could not do was laughable. Still, I KNOW this is where God wants me and I have to rely on that peaceful, easy feeling that comes from being in the will of God. I may not have a clue about what I’m doing, but He does. If I want our boys to have the faith to lean on God, even when it is beyond their ability to complete His will, then I have to demonstrate that faith in my own life.

This morning, when I came downstairs to set my mind on the day, I walked into the classroom and immediately started to cry. On the white board, my wonderful, supportive husband, wrote out the most beautiful prayer that seemed to fit everything that I wanted to pray.  He prayed for the boys individually and then for me. He prayed for me to have wisdom and patience and not to burn out or lose sight of the goal.

My husband and each one of our boys are at the center of my world here on earth and each one, in their own way, make it amazingly easy to praise God from whom all blessings flow. They remind me of the importance to praise Him in the morning when light is brightest and praise Him in the evening when the world brings in the darkness. God has His proper place at being first in my life, but immediately behind Him is my family.

Thank you, God for all of Your blessings and Your goodness and Your mercy and Your unconditional love. Help me to show all of the above to my husband and to our boys daily. Help me to find the grace to cover my imperfections and rest confidently in my role since it is where You have called me to be. I love You and I praise You in all things, big and small, good and bad. Amen.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

One of the many things I’ve learned since becoming a parent is that I have a lot to learn. Not only that, but I also have a lot that I want to teach the boys. When I look at them, my mind automatically jumps a decade and I see the men they will become. I don’t necessarily see their outward appearance as much as the qualities that I would like them to possess.

They say (whoever “they” are) that a woman can tell how a man will treat her by watching how he treats his mother. Well, in my marriage, I can definitely say this a true statement. My husband and his mother are extremely close and he is blessed to have her, just as the rest of us are blessed. He treats his mother with the respect she deserves and the honor that is commanded in the Fifth Commandment. (Just a side note: That thing about “Honor your father and mother” – if you notice, God didn’t put an expiration date on that commandment. Regardless of our age, we are always commanded to honor our parents.)

With this in my mind, I have really been focusing on the kind of men I want the boys to be and ways that I can help them reach that goal. As I have stated in many previous blogs, I have started Homeschooling and it has really been a wonderful ride. This is only the beginning of the second week, but we have already learned so much!

One of the things I promised in a previous blog was to put up a few pictures of our classroom, so here’s a reminder of how the room used to look:

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And how the room looks now:

We have a morning routine that gets the boys ready for the day and they have a checklist to make sure they’ve covered all they were supposed to cover before we move on. The rest of the day is usually not so routine. This keeps them (and me!) from falling in a rut of monotony.

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I purchased these really cheap write-on pocket folders from Amazon and then adapted them a little. I taped one to their desks and one to the wall beside their desks. This is what they use when we do Time Check or Math Drills or any other games in the day. They love it!

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The latest addition to our classroom is our “Godly Virtue” poster. I found these amazing virtues on Pinterest that had a Scripture verse referenced on each one. I printed and laminated them to mount on the poster board. There are about 28 virtues and since we are in school for roughly 36 weeks, I can’t really call them “virtue of the week”. When teaching the virtue, I also have another laminated (a.k.a. reusable) sheet that details ways that each one of the boys can demonstrate that specific virtue. It’s a great tool to use to help my oldest remember to stop and think before he says or does anything.

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We’re also trying our hand at lapbooking. They are set up and ready to go, but we’ve just started reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” so the books are still blank. Still, here are a couple of images of the lapbooks put together. I’ll follow-up once the unit is complete.

Finally, I read so many Homeschooling blogs over the summer and came up with a GREAT system for keeping things organized and ready. I have their material separated by WEEKS instead of days and I place their work in the colored folders. It makes it so much easier for me to keep them (and me!) on task during the day!

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The completed work gets placed in binders so that by the end of the year, it will be extremely visible to them just how much they have accomplished.

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That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll keep ya posted on this new adventure into Lapbooking!

The Important Things

To say that life has been hectic this week would be putting it mildly and we are all feeling it. My youngest is a very sensitive little boy who cries quite easily when he is really tired. Yesterday, he had three meltdowns all before noon. Needless to say, there was not a lot accomplished and I realized I was fighting an uphill battle. I was exhausted. The boys were exhausted. We stopped our school day forty-five minutes early and went upstairs to fix lunch. After lunch, the boys played and I crashed on the couch for nearly an hour.

I rarely nap. Naps are nothing but a big tease to me. If I’m tired enough to nap, then I am going to need the nap to last more than thirty minutes. Yesterday, I knew I wouldn’t be able to cross one more item from my to-do list if I didn’t lie down at least for a little while. I was physically and mentally exhausted and nursing a substantial headache.

The boys were great, occupying themselves in the basement while I napped. When they heard me moving around, they both came upstairs  to check on me. The oldest wrapped his arms around me and asked if I felt better while the youngest held my hand and asked if I needed him to do anything for me.

My heart melted. The oldest – who loves to play so much that he hates to interrupt his playtime even to go to the potty – put me before his toys. He told me that he would stay with me if I needed him to and for JoJo, that’s pretty massive. I’m used to having JJ as my shadow, since he is like a little puppy – always under your feet, but JoJo? He is more affectionate than JJ, but he is also very stingy with his time. They both thought of me first and reminded me just how awesome our sons are.

At dinner, JoJo wanted to pray and in his prayer he thanked God for Homeschool and for his mommy helping him to learn. Everyday this week, the boys have worked so hard for me. They have done everything I’ve asked, without grumble or complaint. They even beg for school to continue. JoJo asked me yesterday if we could do school on Saturday. I know the excitement of the new school day will wear off and they will soon be begging for the day to end, but that hasn’t happened yet.

It is in the lowest moments that God brings fresh reminders to my heart that make me appreciate these precious, precious moments with the boys. Not everyone is as blessed as I am to be able to stay home and teach their children. Not everyone gets to see the light shine in their brown eyes when they realize that they can now tell time. It is beyond special to be a part of something bigger than yourself and I thank the Lord for reminding me of that, even when I’m frazzled!

E=MC What?

With day one of the new homeschool year under my belt I have realized something very important: the decision to leave my wonderful job at a local church to stay home and teach my kiddos was the absolute best decision since we decided to adopt the boys. The benefits of staying home with them during this stage of their life far outweigh any benefits of continuing to work outside of the home.

Spending all day with two boys is definitely a challenge and I have already had good days and bad days, but that’s a part of life regardless of whether I stay home or get a job. Yesterday was our first day of school (not only for our house, but for the county where I live as well) and we managed to do a lot of great activities. A couple of the activities left me feeling a little down because the boys were actually farther behind than I had originally thought in certain areas.

As a former high school English teacher, tackling the job of teaching literacy and basic arithmetic to elementary age kids is a great deal harder than I first imagined. When I taught, all of my students already knew how to read and the scope of math wasn’t anywhere close to my radar. Math is my weakest area and, naturally, the area in which I feel buried beneath. Devising creative ways to teach a subject in which you are passionate about is easy. Figuring out how to get a 3rd and 4th grader to understand a subject that has always been my Achilles heel is something else entirely.

I know the adage that you tackle consuming that elephant one bite at a time and that is the approach I’m taking. The boys were so excited yesterday about school (they actually didn’t want to stop when the school day was over!) and I want them to stay in that excitement. JoJo was constantly asking me if we could do this activity or play this game or go on this field trip. I told him repeatedly that we had an entire school year to fit in everything we want to do and I have to remember to tell myself that same thing.

I cannot teach them three years of material in just one day. As I have learned through parenting a severely ADHD child, I have to focus on one thing at a time. I can’t give JoJo a list of things to do and then expect him to complete them all as easily as his younger brother would. Instead, I give him one small task before adding another. The same is true for tackling the task before me in getting them up to speed in the education world.

The boys are so incredibly creative and inquisitive and eager and the world has already been harsh toward them during the first part of their lives. I want them to thrive and be engaged and feel passionate about a topic or a subject. If I want that for them, then I have to discover that same passion myself. Even in math!

Dear Lord,

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Words cannot express the level of gratitude I feel over the fact that You have blessed us with these two magnificent boys. They are so eager to learn and they soak up all that they can about You and I want to feed that flame. Thank You for blessing us with the ability for me to stay home and do what needs to be done. Help me to have patience and wisdom as I lead, guide, and educate their young minds. Help me to remember that the destination is not important, but the journey is where memories are made. Help our homeschool be a true lighthouse for You and Your word in a world that growing darker by the day.

Thank You for loving us and providing for us. We love You. Amen

Makeover Me

There is something mildly insane, yet severely satisfying about home DIY projects. I selected the image above because I found it humorous and slightly similar to how I’ve been feeling for several months. As many know, my last name is White and I often referred to the home in which we live as the “White House.” For the past year, we have been in a nearly constant state of home remodel projects in an attempt to sell our home at the optimal price. Over the past few months, I have felt that the tasks before us would be as daunting as those attempting to remodel the actual White House in Washington, D.C.

OK, perhaps not as daunting!

We started with the kitchen, since that is the focal point of any home. Even if the kitchen sees very little culinary action, the kitchen seems to be where everyone congregates. It sets the tone for the rest of the house and I really wanted to change our “tone” to something a bit more modern.

Here are a few before pictures of our kitchen:

Now for the after:

I LOVE the two-toned gray look. It makes the Kitchen look crisp and clean (despite the boxes of pop-tarts in the picture!)

With the kitchen nearly complete (we still need to do something with the countertops), we moved on to the boys bathroom that also served as the guest bath. The boys wanted us to paint their bedroom, but since we painted it not long before they moved in, we decided against it. The bathroom remodel added appeal to our home and appeased the boys, so it was a win-win.

Our guest bath / boys’ bath before:

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Apparently, I had a deep fascination with the color yellow ten years ago!!

And, the guest bath / boys’ bath after my hubbie and I broke our backs. And knees. 🙂

We pretty much knocked out the bathroom remodel over the past weekend. There are a few little finishing touches still left to be done, but it is pretty much finished.

With the start of homeschool looming around the corner, we have turned our attention solely to the classroom downstairs. What used to be my office is slowly – VERY SLOWLY – making the change to a classroom. The main reason its transformation is taking so long is because of me. There are so many books and pictures and . . . stuff in that room that I haven’t had the motivation to go down and purge anything. Plus, with no AC in the basement, that tiny office gets incredibly hot!

Thanks to my hubby and a great friend he used to work with, our basement now has working AC! We are not even close to finishing the makeover for the classroom, but here are a couple of pictures detailing the current state of things:

Half of the room is cleared out while the other . . . well, I’m getting there!! (I’ll post pics when it’s complete.)

I show all of this not to boast about our DIY prowess (even though, we can rock it with a hammer and paintbrush!) I say this to reflect on those areas in our own lives that could use a little makeover. Perhaps not visible, but just as substantial. I have a tendency to show my emotions regardless of whether I’m happy or angry. At times, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. At other times, I let my feelings show intentionally. I WANT the other person to know that I am upset with them.

Childish, right!

I have a nasty habit of showing my frustrations far too easily and I really want that to stop. Especially as I relate to my husband and sons. My oldest can drive me to the point of insanity and then shove me over the edge without blinking an eye, but the fact of the matter is: he’s 10. I’m 41. He doesn’t always know better, but I do. I accuse him of acting like a child, when I’m doing the exact same thing.

As I think about what kind of homeschool I environment I want to create, there was one element that entirely skipped my focus: me. What kind of teacher / Mom do I want to be? Do I want to be the ogre who stands in the front of the room, staring at them as a public school teacher might? Do I want to decide everything they’re going to learn and exactly how they’re going to learn it? Do I want to drive myself crazy because I think I have to do everything all on my own?

The answer to all three questions is a resounding NO!

I want to learn WITH my children and encourage them to grow into the men that God wants them to be. At 9 & 10, both boys are fully capable of telling me things they want to learn about. Regardless of curriculum or my own interests.

The makeover I’m applying to my personality will alter the way that I teach and I believe that will make our experience together even better. I want to be the best Mom I can be and in order to do that, I need to hammer out the not so flattering features and apply a fresh coat of paint.

When Imagination Knocks

I absolutely love to read. I always have. I have books upon books downstairs on so many shelves, and I can’t stop wanting more. I have ebooks on my iPad (but I do prefer actually holding a book!). I even damper with writing a few novels when I have time. Writing is a stress-release for me and when I don’t get the opportunity to indulge, I start going into withdrawals.

They say that hearing voices is a one-way ticket to the loony-bin, but for writers, it’s just a way of life. My characters do speak to me and, when I seem to be ignoring them, they start shouting! In all CAPS!

Lately, I have had a great deal going on: homeschool preparation, my own grad school work, DIY projects as we prepare to sell the house, and learning what life as a stay-at-home mom is like. The chance to write and escape into my character’s world for a while is always a temptation in the back of my mind, but other things seem to be more important.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I have been working on designing a template for the boys to create their own Dictionary during the school year. By the end of the year, they will both have a dictionary – that they created – consisting of more than 300 sight words. Teaching the boys to appreciate a book, is one thing. Simple. Easy. I can do that. Teaching the boys how to read that book . . . that’s an entirely different beast.

Teaching literacy is the absolute most important thing that anyone can ever learn. Knowing how to read is the foundation for learning and when that knowledge is lacking, the pressure to bring them up to speed is extremely overwhelming. I have never taught literacy and I know that I will make mistakes, but it was my intent that the Dictionary would aid them for not only this year, but the coming years as well.

So, for three days, I have poured over this template and I got it exactly as I wanted it to be. I finished JJ’s Dictionary with more than 320 sight words and I was half-way through JoJo’s when I noticed something extremely heartbreaking: the files were corrupt. No matter which file I opened, there were only forty something words that would pull up. The rest was just . . . gone. I have no idea what happened. I saved the files repeatedly as I worked. The only explanation I could give is corrupt files.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. It seemed like all of my work was for nothing and I had to start back all over again. I got up yesterday and sat down behind my computer with the intent of doing just that: starting over.

Then I heard a familiar voice. (You may think I’m crazy, but that’s what this blog site is all about: exposing the crazy!) I heard one of my characters from one of my favorite stories that I have written calling me to spend a little time in Huckleberry Ridge. It is a fictional town that I created years ago and I used to frequently visit, but the time to return never seemed to present itself. I really didn’t have time to venture into a fictional world when my real world was pressing in on me, but I did.

I spent the entire day in Huckleberry Ridge yesterday and did not spend even one minute in reality. As it turned out, that was exactly what I needed to do. By spending time in a world that I created – a world that I wish with every wish actually existed – it renewed my passion for teaching literacy to our sons.

JJ, the youngest, is definitely our most imaginative son. He can create worlds and travel to Africa in his mind with nothing more than an empty shoe box. Just imagine how much his imagination would flourish by living on a healthy diet of books, books, and more books. Reading ignites a desire inside all of us to be more than we are. I want that desire, that passion, to be alive in our boys.

Education is all important and there isn’t one subject I would remove from their curriculum, but, for me, reading and literacy is the absolute most important thing I can teach them. With reading comes adventure and courage and morals and challenges. We learn from superheroes and villains alike. By reading, I am showing our boys that life can be whatever they want it to be. There is no end to where imagination can take you.

All I needed to reignite my passion for reading was a little side-trip to a familiar town that is filled with characters that I created. Huckleberry Ridge and its residents is a series that has not been published – yet – but it is my intent to expose the world to my creation. One day. After all, without Huckleberry Ridge to remind me, I may have decided to just give up on recreating the Dictionary.

Reality is important, but fiction is where I learn to appreciate my reality.

Light Will Always Pierce The Darkness

I wake up most mornings just after my husband leaves for work. It’s summer and there are still two more weeks of “rest” before my first year teaching homeschool is scheduled to begin and I can’t sleep past 5:30. I’m not sure if my inner clock is still set on waking up early and getting ready to go to work or if my brain has too many tabs open for me to really settle back into sleep after my husband leaves. It’s as if my brain knows I’m semi-awake and it can’t wait to fill my head with random and, sometimes, meaningful ponderings.

They say that once a woman stops working in order to stay at home with her children that the woman will quickly wonder how she achieved all she did at home while working full time. June 15 marked my exit from the out-of-the-home workforce and while I am still very new to this stay at home thing, I can say that “they” were right. On top of the normal housework that plagues all stay-at-home parentals, I added homeschool preparation, DIY projects as we get our house ready to sell, and my own grad school work. Not to mention raising two very active boys and helping one of them struggle to get his ADHD in check.

All that to say, I have plenty to keep my brain quite active, so it shouldn’t surprise me when it just won’t shut up in the mornings. Even with only one cup of coffee in my system, my brain seems to think it is midday and I should have already accomplished a great deal. I have to get through two more weeks of the class I’m taking for my master’s degree and then I get a term off to focus on getting the homeschool up and running. Before this class, I thought I loved all things related to literature. As it turns out, there is one exception: literary theory.

Taking a boring piece of literature (yes, there are pieces that I consider boring) and shredding it until there’s nothing left except one of the four major theories that are outlined in the course is not my idea of enjoyment. I always knew how to view a piece critically, but I have – begrudgingly – learned a lot more about critical analysis. It has been a torturous class, but anything worth having is worth the work, right? Right?

Still, with everything I have running through my mind, I can’t seem to stop thinking about the state of the world. It’s like driving by a horrific accident when it’s all you can do to not look. There are so many things going on in the world now that takes up residence in everyone’s mind and we see only the tip of that proverbial iceberg. We see footage that the media feeds us – often with a very misguided intent to mislead – but what about what we don’t see?

My heart hurts with all of the assault on our law enforcement. It breaks over the fact that ignorance and hatred has led us to turn against each other in the most brutal and senseless ways. The only familial tie I have to law enforcement is that one of my cousins retired from the State Patrol, so I am not nearly as invested in the matter as others with deeper ties, but I still grieve deeply. It sickens me that I live in a world where some believe that their life is more important than others simply because of the color of their skin.

Thanks to the slanted views of the media, I have the ability to see a lot of the nastiness that goes on in the world, but not everything. If the things that I see crowds my thoughts and demands my full attention in spite of everything els I have to think about, how does God feel? God sees everything. EVERYTHING. There is not a brutal act of violence that He misses. There is not a single tear shed over that violence that He does not feel. There is not a soft cry whispered silently in the dark of night that He does not hear.

Yet who is the first to be blamed for not “stopping” the violence that WE started? God. People spout His name when the fear and despair creep into their lives, but then they curse His name as soon as their prayers are seemingly unanswered. How can we pull God from our schools, petition to pull His name off our currency, and demand that “Happy Holidays” be used in the place of “Merry Christmas” and then turn around shocked by the repercussions of our own actions?

We remove prayer and the Bible from our schools – now we have more violence in our schools than ever before. We totally abandon the fact that our nation was founded on God and His word – now we have terrorists attacking us on our own “safe” soil all in the name of their god and, oddly enough, it’s the religion of those terrorists that our government works hard to protect. The rights of one are stripped away to allow room for the rights of another. Instead of striving to all stand united, we turn against each other and delve into the “us” and “them” mentality.

Adopting two children out of the foster system has taught me a great deal. One of the things that I have always believed, but feel is more important than ever is sharing my faith with those two boys. One of the many, MANY perks to homeschool is that I can teach my children whatever I want. We can begin our day immersed in God’s word so that they can learn it and hide His word in their hearts. We can pray for our nation and the world that they would turn around and realize that Jesus Christ is the answer to all of their problems – NOT the cause. I can teach them to rely on Christ in the darkness and allow Him to be their light.

In a world where darkness is in full control, I want my tiny corner of the world to be marked with light. His light. This “White House” (“white” because it’s our last name) will be a Light House and it is my prayer that our sons will learn the importance of keeping that torch lit for the rest of their lives. No matter how dark the world around them becomes.