Because homemaking wasn’t on the Career Day list.

image.jpgWhen asked what she wants to be when she grows up, one of my young daughters answered “a mom”.

But instead of a smile from the well-meaning adult who had asked her the question, what she got in response was this little gem of a comment: “Well, I think you need to get yourself some higher aspirations.”

And then came the laughter directed towards my child’s comment, as if she had just said she wanted to be a fairy princess or a dollar bill ironer…what a cute little kid answer…ha. Ha. Ha.  I took up for my wonderful kid, smiling proudly at her and encouraging her to keep on keeping on and made sure she was okay. And then came my annoyance with this interaction and also my disbelief that this was said with me, THE MOM, in earshot.

There is this view of motherhood as simply something to do or maybe not to do, but definitely not something to aspire to. And I think that stinks. I think motherhood can be a dream and a passion, and I’m okay with a child of mine aspiring to be the owner of a world’s best mom coffee mug when she grows up. But to be honest, this passion for motherhood as a career, a solid career, is a newer one for me. I didn’t always see it that way.

I had a good childhood. I made good grades and knew without a shadow of a doubt that my straight-ish A’s and lists upon lists of extra curricular activities would take me right to college, then to grad school, and then to an exciting career with at least six digits following the dollar sign. I thought about the pencil skirts I would wear to my corner office, and I designed my business cards before I could pull my own hair back in a pony tail. I was going places, because that is what I learned students with sparkling transcripts did, and going places meant a 9 to 5 job with exciting letters before or after your name. But in the midst of this growing up in the world of career fairs and seeing the belief that stay at home moms are those women who sit around and watch their stories on the tube all day, I felt something. And this is what I felt: I felt really, really happy to walk into a friend’s house with a stay at home mom at the helm. And I didn’t think about what this meant for my worldview or my future at that time. All I was thinking about was: it’s nice to have a grown up just a room away in the afternoon. This mom knows where her kids’ stuff is….all of it….that is so very, very helpful. There is a snack ready on the counter, and it doesn’t come from a box.  Also, the beds are made in this house, and house guests aren’t even coming. The mom is here when we need something. Now, readers, these are honestly, honestly the thoughts I had as a kid. I am not making some blanket statement here that stay at home moms have better homes. I had a lovely home growing up with a working Mama. And I’m certainly not saying all we stay-at-home moms do is make beds and snacks! What I’m saying is this: the excitement I learned to feel for a mom in the home, was similar to the excitement I felt in a bookstore. My desire to be a mother took shape in my heart in a similar way as my desire to write creatively.

Fast forward to now, being a stay at home mother myself, I know beds are not always made and fruit is not always sliced in cute little shapes ready for kids to munch on with a smile. Believe me, I know this, BUT, what I am saying is that as an adult, I’m not willing to throw out my childhood impressions of the home of a stay at home mom because now I’m embarrassed to say these things, or I feel like I’m going to offend someone. Because they were my real thoughts as a kid, and being in the kid raising business, I think there is some importance to thinking about a child’s mind. So after thinking about my girlhood impressions and adding to them the things I know now, here’s what I want to say: We can all just do the best we can do for our kids, for our family, for our home. And if that best means I stay at home during the day and try to squeeze in writing or teaching time when everything else is accomplished first, then I’m okay with that, and here is why: THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE. I do not stay home with my kids because that whole career thing did not work out. I went to college. I finished grad school. I worked, and I liked it, but here’s the thing: I LOVE creating a warm home environment for my kids, I LOVE teaching my kids, I love organizing our stuff, I love creating lesson plans for my kids, I LIKE knowing the finances and bills and appointment schedules are all taken care of, I love educating myself on food choices and medical choices and educational choices for everyone under my care, I love creating a space in my home that makes us feel at peace, I love helping my kids find their own personal style, I love reading literary works to my kids, I love being there when they cry and knowing why they are crying, I love my home, and I choose making it what it is as my first career path. Kids matter. I would never tell a public school teacher her job doesn’t matter, because teaching kids matters SO MUCH. I would never tell a chef her career doesn’t count, because food is necessary and when you put a necessity with flavor, then that is just amazing. I would never tell an interior designer, a fashion designer, an accountant, a counselor, a life coach, or a piano instructor her job choice is not valid, because those jobs are valid. Those are solid jobs. And I wouldn’t tell someone volunteering at a non-profit organization that her work is not really work since it doesn’t pay in actual dollar bills, and I wouldn’t say that, because despite a lack of a paycheck, it could be very important work.

So maybe we want to stop telling little girls that mothering isn’t a valid life goal, because a mother’s work is important, it is valid, whether or not everyone takes it seriously, it is important. Maybe we could tell these girls that if what they want to do is to raise people, teach them to be world changers, show them how to bring light into a dark world, and take care of them in a full-time way that will not only impact the lives of their children, but the lives of every person those children come into contact with for hopefully the next hundred years and also generations in the future who could potentially be affected by their actions, then hey, that’s a pretty valid choice. And if we supported those moms and encouraged this path in society, then maybe we would have better equipped and trained and prepared moms, and that could have so many, many effects on the world. Mothers are world changers, either in a positive way or a negative. Motherhood is powerful, so please well-meaning person, please do not tell my daughter when she says she wants to be a mother when she grows up that she needs to get “higher aspirations”.

I am NOT for taking away the choice of motherhood for my daughter because some unstudied-on-this-topic person says she’s too smart to be a mother. I’m for telling girls they can be a full-time mother. I’m also for telling little girls they can be astrophysicists. I want my daughters to know they can spend their days creating art, performing scientific experiments, for taking care of their children, or a combination of motherhood and another kind of work. It’s not cool with me to tell little girls that they must have a ton of kids and cook for them all day long. It’s about choices. Dreams. Aspirations.

I wake up at 6:30ish on most mornings, and I know that my job will be all things mothering until the end of the day. That’s my choice, and I love it, and I’m seeing fruits of that labor. But I’m thankful that I can say I live in a world where I got to choose this career. But I would be even more excited to live in a world where more people saw the validity of motherhood as a career. Just think of it as a non-profit position, working towards training the next generation of society. But if there is someone out there who doesn’t think she can bring herself to call my choice valid, then I can live with that. I still choose this life. But it would have been nice to have considered this way sooner, to have someone say, “Wow, with that work ethic, you could make a wonderful mother someday. Oh, the things you could teach your children with that kind of insight!” But you know what, those things weren’t said to me, and that is okay, because so many other positive things were said to me, and while there wasn’t a motherhood box to check on career fair day at my school, there were excellent mothers to be found in the world around me. They inspired me before I even considered the idea that my days would be spent in making a house a home and doing the work of family.

There are times when I feel like I should put teacher or writer or the other things that I work at on the side on a form where I am asked to fill in my occupation. But I want to shed that need to explain to people that “Hey, I’m so much more than a mother!” Because really, there is more to me than a laundry folder and a hair braider, but those aren’t the things that make me a mother. I know that. Moms know that. This is important work, and I’m not ashamed of the word homemaker as I once may have been. Because I believe in following your dreams. And I am so thankful that I am doing that. I’m so thankful that I really do think that at the end of my days on this earth, I would be more proud of the work I did in my home with my family than I would be of the other things I enjoy working at. For me, it isn’t about saying that staying at home is better than working, because that leaves out dreams and passions and individuals and choice. For me, it’s about saying, that working hard and well at motherhood is a fantastic aspiration. There are many fantastic aspirations. And I cannot wait to keep working at this one, on the good, bad, beautiful, and not-so-beautiful days.


And for the record, stay at home dads are doing important work, too. My blog today is just focusing on motherhood, but I clearly have an appreciation for the great dads of the world, too. My husband is a pretty stellar dad, and I so respect him. Also, my dad is fantastic. So there’s that.

What we did with all those wrinkled and torn storybook dust jackets, because we just didn’t want to throw them out.

It’s no secret that I love books, and I don’t only love the stories they hold, I love the actual, physical books. Digital books are great and have their place and purpose and all, but to me, there’s just something wonderful about holding a book, carrying it around with me, and admiring the way it looks on the shelf. I want to take care of my books, the pages, the covers, and the dust jackets. I appreciate the job the dust jacket does of helping protect them over time. But those shiny pieces of plasticy-paper covering my kids’ storybooks just don’t last the way dust jackets last on grown-upish books on the shelf because little kids, at least my kids, aren’t always so gentle with their books. The dust jackets tend to end up wrinkled or ripped. We tote our books around with us, taking them outside to read under trees, we pack them in suitcases, and we have been known to fall asleep reading them, which means those pretty dust jackets tend to fall off of our books. They aren’t practical for us, but I just cannot throw them away. Because they came with the book! They have cover art and the title and the author, and they are special for those reasons. It just seems wrong to throw them out.


So, here’s what I did.

I saved those darn, wrinkled, falling off, pretty, whimsical, dust jackets from my kids’storybooks, and I put them in my closet….UNTIL we had a bunch of them, enough of them to make a big  book-themed masterpiece to hang on our wall, something that would remind us of the storybooks we love and the time we spent reading them.

FullSizeRender (11)

It was simple and fun to make, and it was such a sweet time to spend with my kids, cutting the storybook dust jackets and gluing them and sealing them with Mod Podge to a wood board, while we talked about the storylines and characters and the memories we shared of reading them together. We added in some pictures and quotes cut from damaged storybook pages that I have been saving for a rainy day craft.

And this big board of book pages and dust jackets really is my favorite piece of art in my house. In this beautifully full life, it can be hard to find time and energy and inspiration to follow through with an idea, so I am super thankful that we somehow managed to pull this one idea I had together. And we did it on Mothers Day, which was pretty fantastic.

FullSizeRender (12)
The Finished Project. A memorable, messy, bright, and bookish wall hanging. It’s kind of huge and fantastic, and we love it.


It doesn’t take a superhero. To the mama in the grocery store who thinks she couldn’t homeschool.

When I decided to homeschool, I became a lot of things, and one of those things is this: the woman in the grocery store in the middle of the day surrounded by her beloved kiddos to whom sweet grandmothers in the produce aisle say the kindest, most encouraging things about her life choices and to whom other mothers in the same age bracket often shake their heads and say, “You homeschool? I couldn’t do that. My kids go to school, and I can barely keep up with them.” And there are so many thoughts that swim around in my head as I think about those encounters, and so many directions I want to take this blog post right now, but here’s the concept I’m sticking with in this post, a short and sweet main point to respond to any mother out there who might want to homsechool or at least consider it, but who thinks that she can’t do it, because her life is already busy and crazy and hectic and her kids are even at school for seven or whatever hours a day: “You could absolutely do this.” We homeschooling Mamas are not some rare mutant form of mothers. We are just as broken and tired and loving and happy and stressed and empowered and questioning and on and on and on as everyone else out there who wants the best for their children. But from the outside, I know this choice can look so much more hectic and daunting than it actually is because many times we are trying to imagine how to fit homeschooling into the lives and school systems and days we have previously created for ourselves. But we can’t successfully compare the two by holding up the same schedule and lifestyle and trying to decide how they would each fit into the same world. If I had to get my kids groomed and dressed and fed and packed up and studied up and all by 7:30 five days a week and then had to keep up with spelling lists from four different teachers at two different schools and practices and games and projects and signed forms and field trips and tests and making sure I have a purple shirt for purple day and a new pair of pajamas for pajama day and markers with caps that fit for tomorrow not the next day but tomorrow, then I couldn’t imagine adding homeschooling or any huge and new undertaking to my day either. Now, I’m not saying homeschooling is easy, because it is hard, often draining, and a full-time job with crazy, crazy overtime hours, YET there are so many bright spots in the week, so many rewards and sweet moments, and there doesn’t have to be a constant pressure pushing against you from the world outside. So here’s what I am saying, mother in the grocery store who is shaking her head at me and laughing at the absurdity of my day: if you remove all of the traditional obligations of the day and the constant pulls in different directions that often come with being a parent of a school-aged child, and then you start with a blank slate – a blank slate that you and your family can slowly and thoughtfully fill up in your own time and in your own way, then life becomes a different thing, a busy thing, of course, because parenting is always busy in a tedious and wonderful kind of way, but not so fast paced, unless fast paced is what you want. Homeschooling can mean setting the tone and the speed and the way your days work, and that is a wonderful thing. You can totally do this, if you want. And if you don’t, then I’m not saying you’re making a wrong choice. I just wanted to say that homeschooling isn’t adding one more thing to the already established family life; it’s a whole different life, or that’s how it felt for me. My intention isn’t to claim that one life is better than another; I’m just trying my best to stress the difference in my world since homeschooling became a part of it. We decided to homeschool, so we started this journey and haven’t regretted it for a second. Our plan for this life began with hope for our kids’ present lives and their futures. I hope to prepare my kids for work, for college, for life. And that’s what I try to model our day after. I want them to be socialized to speak with people of all ages and to be a part of different classes we sign up for with more than one set of kids. I want them to be helpful members of our family and of the community, and I want them to know what they are good at, what they enjoy, and what they struggle with. And I keep using the word “I” here because it’s so important in the world of homeschooling to realize that there isn’t one way to do this. These are my personal goals, but yours may be very different. Schools can be very different, and so can homeschools. Maybe you have a full-time outside of the home job, and your goal is to homeschool in the evenings and on the weekends, and your kids are learning how to be independent and patient and creative. Maybe your goal is to homeschool on a shoestring budget, and you make part of that a big part of your lessons, so your kids can learn to keep a budget and how to thoroughly research their lessons and can learn the value of time verses stuff. Maybe you are an artist who paints with your child in the morning and then uses the afternoon to pursue studies in logic and math and science, which you delight in learning your way through with your child at the library. There are so many examples of great families and learning models. It’s pretty amazing, and I think it’s okay for homeschooling parents to free themselves of sticking with the routines and standards of a traditional school setting. I’m not saying that public schools are bad, not at all. I’m just saying that it would be silly for a public school to try to be a homeschool, and so homeschools shouldn’t have to try to be public schools. Both types of schools should evaluate their students and resources and then do the best they can. And for me, I just have a few students, so my best can include breaks for tea time and grocery store trips in the middle of the day and extra long reading lessons from a musty classic off our shelf when the need arises. We can even pick up a cursive lesson after dinner time if we didn’t finish it earlier, and while that might sound excessive and tiring, it really isn’t because if we didn’t finish it earlier, then we were probably catching up on a mother-daughter chat about what’s going on in my girl’s sweet mind.

46686-booksforblog44 2cc00-photo2b60b3bb-abstractart b62ef-sensescandle

And so, cursive after dinner here and there just isn’t as tough as it sounds.

And, y’all, I know that not every parent who shakes her head at me and laughs at the thought of my day wants to homeschool. I know that. I’m just sitting here typing this in case one person out there who reads this and has said, “I would like to homeschool, but…” may be encouraged to know it isn’t as hectic/daunting/crazy as it may sound. 

Loving motherhood in those in-the-middle moments, too

I’m busy. I’m a homeschooling mama with big dreams and ideas and a fairly large number of children in our family. My days are busy, I’m often spread thin, and if I succeed at a dozen things in one day, then I feel like I also fail at another dozen, too. Mothering is hard, yet motherhood is amazing. It’s such an honor, a wonderful, wonderful thing, and when I get over my stresses and silly worries and obsession with trying to be organized and have a perfectly uncluttered home and neatly groomed children, I find peace in the notion that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing everyday, what I have chosen to do. In those moments when I get over my stress, I’m thankful for my children, and I call myself crazy for wanting to do more and more things that are all about me and less about us. But you know what? These shining little moments of clarity in my walk as a mother often come in the super sweet and wonderfully fun moments of life. OR I have found myself finding clarity and a renewed sense of purpose in my role as a mother during the sadder moments of life, or the more worrisome or heartbreaking or challenging ones. The highs and lows of life teach me so much, and I think I’m not alone in saying this.

When my kids came down with the flu a few years ago, and I rocked them to sleep while they struggled to find rest, I wanted nothing more than to be there for them in all of their moments. If they could just get over their fevers, then I would be more thankful for their health than I ever had been before. And then there was the time my baby had that terrible cough with that awful whooping sound. As I stayed up with him through his coughing spasms and waited for him to catch his breath, I knew there was no where else I would rather be. I knew that all of the silly pressures and deadlines and minor disappointments in my life didn’t matter as much as the sweet baby in my arms. If he could just get better. If he could just catch his breath and clear his lungs and get better, then I would be a better mother. I would quit getting annoyed with whiny kids, and instead, show them how to express themselves by being patient and kind myself. I would quit complaining about never getting me time, and instead delight in the fact that I have sweet little children to read bedtime stories to. And there was the time I miscarried a sweet little life. That little life changed me as a mother in such a huge, immeasurable way. I became a more patient, loving, dedicated, and thankful mother while carrying that sweet baby. I tried to stop taking so many things for granted as I struggled to hold on and keep up hope. I loved carrying that little life, and when I lost that baby and looked at that tiny little body, I knew life was amazing, and I would not take motherhood for granted one more day.

But I was wrong. I did take it for granted – motherhood, my children, life, everything. Because weeks and then months passed by after that tragedy. Life got normal again, things became happy and routine, and then I got tired, and the kids got loud and tired and fussy one day, and they took all of the board games out of our organized closet and scattered all of the pieces to all of the games on the floor, and I wanted to send them to bed at 3 in the afternoon, while I put on a grown up movie and forgot about all the chaos a while. I wanted to throw all of their games away, and I wondered what my life would be if I spent more time writing and less time mothering. But I knew the answer. I knew my life wouldn’t be what I wanted it to be, or what my kids would want it to be. In my present daily life, there are no unnecessary moments that I want to trade in for more me time. I am their teacher. I am their nurturer. I am the one who is here for them, and even though it is trying at times, it is wonderful. I am not always good at doing this. I can lose my patience. I can misunderstand them. I often find myself exhausted and frustrated and ordering a pizza when I just don’t want to prepare and clean up after another organic, healthy meal. But then I remember what it felt like to look down at the little body of the baby I lost. I remember that in that moment I felt such pain, but also such love, and I try my best to hold on to that love and share it with the parts of my family I have here with me.

And it is pretty simple to share overflowing love with my family during the really great times, not just the really tragic ones. I sometimes find myself sitting in my living room in front of the fire, reading to my kids and then just stopping and thinking, “This is it. This is what I want to be doing more than anything else.” But when the coziness of those moments pass, I’m not so great at feeling content in the mundane moments – those moments when nothing tragic is happening, but also nothing especially great is happening, like during breakfast or while washing dishes or while working on a math lesson with one of my kids. And that’s a little sad to me, because those mundane in-the-middle moments are really the moments that make up most of my life. I want to be thankful and content in those in-the-middle moments. I want those moments to be fulfilling, too. I want to see God in those moments, and I want to serve Him there. I want to love my kids in those moments and to not spend those moments wishing I were doing something different or worrying about what might come next that isn’t so in-the-middle. I’ll continue to enjoy and love special days with the kids, and I know there are probably going to be many lessons to learn over the years from trying times, but I’m hoping to love life and learn from it at other times, too. I want to be better at that. Is that totally unrealistic – to love life and learn from it at 7 in the morning when I just finished cleaning the kitchen that I didn’t clean the night before and the kids are all hoping for muffins for breakfast when I was hoping they’d want some fruit and yogurt, so I could save some time and dishes and then maybe use that time to wash my hair or drink some coffee in semi-peace?

Maybe it is unrealistic, but I’ve never been much for setting realistic goals anyway.

(And just to be clear: I’m all for a little mama time-out and quiet coffee time, and I’m certainly all for carving out writing time and piano playing time and whatever kind of time a mama like myself is passionate about. I’m just saying I don’t want to always be wanting more and more and more time just for me at the expense of the kids’ little hearts and minds. I don’t want them to grow up with a stressed out mom who only appreciates them and cuddles with them and tells them an extra story when they are sick or sad or when times are tough. I want them to feel like I love spending my days with them, because, really, I do.
That said,  I love my coffee and a quiet spot. So much.)

Why Creative Writing?

The first creative writing course I took (that I can recall…) was in college. I always wrote on my own and did exercises here and there and knew I wanted to write since preschool, but creative writing is often just a thing for adults. After getting my masters in Creative Writing and entering the world of writers and courses and teaching writing courses, I’ve come across and taught courses for adults. That’s a pretty popular thing, adults and creative writing courses. But not as much so for kids. Why not spend more time helping these young imagination superstars write creatively, too?

We love classical education . We love it, and we use it in our homeschool, which means we are deep in the world of memorizing and facts and doing things in an ordered and exact way in many areas of education, so I think the choice to include creative writing in our kids’ education might seem a little surprising to anyone out there who knows we are classically educating our kiddos. So, why are we choosing to encourage our kids to write creatively in a home that is full of grammar (grammar as in memory work, not how we speak…)? Well, it’s simple; because kids are sponges who soak up an unspeakable amount of info every single day, yet they are also imagination superstars, and I want them to learn to work with both of these sides before they grow up to be more serious versions of themselves called grown-ups. Anyone who listens to a child’s dreams or sits and watches her children put on a play in the living room or who listens to her child’s request for a meal of all his favorite things mixed together knows that children have great imaginations, which means children have some stories to tell. So I say this: let them tell the stories, and help them to tell them in their own way and in their own time and in their own fantastical style. There will be time for restating questions, word count, spell check, and working around a rubric later – lots and lots and lots of time for that. But for now, I want to be there with a sheet of paper and a midnight blue colored pencil when a daughter has a story in her mind, and I want to sit down with her (if she wants company) and encourage her to put those ideas down on paper, so that she can share her mind with the world or with her family or just with herself. I want her to learn that her imaginings are valuable, something to be recorded and saved, and then I want to show her that they can be crafted into something amazing. I challenge all of the teachers and parents (including and especially myself!) to keep on teaching, but to also take a step back now and again and let the kids lead us to their own world, a place they make up, and to help them show that place on paper. Sometimes that will mean we are simply the person who answers the “how do you spell….” questions over and over again as the kids write, and sometimes that means we say, “if you can’t write your story quickly enough for your mind, then tell it to me, and I’ll write it down for you”, and other times that means we silently support them from the other side of the room and watch greatness happen. And then there are times when we say, “If you don’t know what to write, then how about you start with….”.

It’s a pretty cool thing to let a little creative writer take the lead, even if she doesn’t think she is a writer and doesn’t want to be one. Give it a try, and take away some of the rules. Sometimes a kid who doesn’t want to write is actually a kid who doesn’t want to write what he is being told to write or where he is being told to write it.
The first exercise in the writing workbook my brother and I created focuses on finding a good writing spot. A change of scenery can sometimes make all the difference. Move out of the classroom, or stay in the classroom and sit under the desk. Let your kid write where it works for them (within reason of course!…).
…another favorite writing spot
One favorite writing spot in our home
What I’m saying here is this: I can’t think of a reason to make kids wait for high school or even college to write creatively. Yes, there are rules for good writing and those should be followed, but first and foremost, let’s encourage our young imagination superstars to create something of their own on paper with words. Maybe they will one day be a world changing writer, and maybe they will never really love writing. But the experience of being encouraged to write creatively can help kids feel valued and teach them to express themselves and can even help them find a love of other art forms and aspects of life. Clearly, I’m excited about this, but writing with kids is just SO MUCH FUN.

Give a kid a blank page, and watch them go

My brother and I have just released our first creative writing workbook into the world. This is the first workbook in a series of workbooks designed to get kids writing creatively, as in writing down something in an imaginative way, a way that is all their own and that is more about how they are writing than what they are writing. The three follow-up workbooks will all have lined pages, BUT the first workbook, titledWrite Something. a course in creative writing for kids, includes twenty-six writing inspirations for kids, and absolutely NO LINED PAGES. I know that sounds like crazy talk, and believe me, we put a lot, lot, lot of thought into this decision. I have kids, and I kind of remember being a kid, and I KNOW that pages without lines often lead to drooping lines and sometimes even frustration, BUT I also know that a fresh, white sheet of unlined paper also leads to greatness…because when a kid has the freedom to use the paper as they wish, they often go a little deeper into their imagination. They often let themselves write a story in the shape of a house, or draw a masterpiece right in the middle of a fantastic sentence, and they often feel more ownership of their story, of their work of art, because they were free to decide just what to do with the paper and how to do it. And ya know, there can be something a little intimidating (or a lot intimidating) about a page full of lines, especially to a brand new writer (and I mean a new creative writer as well as a person to whom handWRITING is even new). The lines can seem to stand there staring back at you, saying, “You sure have a lot of lines to fill up on this page.” And it can be an awful thing to some writers (uh….me….) to have a finished story, sitting there on the page with empty lines following it. That just seems wrong, ya know. OR, for those future novelists out there, lines can be frustrating because there are two FEW of them. There’s just never the right amount of lines, it seems. So, in this first workbook we have created, there is none of that. There’s just empty pages, ready to be used however the young writer sees fit after they read through or listen to the inspirations provided.

Whether or not your young writer is working through our workbook, I clearly think a blank page can be a wonderful thing. Give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out, if you have a cool little rule-follower who just wants LINES, then that’s great, too. And then I say this: Hand a kid a ruler and let them draw their own lines, in their perfect spacing and amount. That is a kind of creativity, too.

Carys Organics: A Sweet Break in our Homeschooling Day

 Anyone who reads this blog knows we are tea drinkers. More specifically, we are tea party throwers and afternoon tea takers. I’ve found there aren’t many quarreling sisters and discouraged little mathematicians whose days can’t be brightened a bit by some quiet time with Mama and a warm cup of tea in a fancy china cup. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see if this mood lifting method continues to work in our house once this baby boy grows up a bit. I might just have to change the afternoon tea time up a little, but for now, we are all lace and honey and tea parties. SO, I was absolutely delighted when I heard of a tea business started up by a working stay at home mom who lives in my neck of the woods. She blends her own tea, steeps her own candles with local beeswax, AND she just opened up her etsy shop and launched her website. Stay at home mothering combined with creativity and working is usually enough to get my attention, but combine it with tea and candles (I mentioned on a previous post that I have a daughter who focuses better with a scented candle in the schoolroom…), and I’m really listening. I browsed her etsy shop, since I am an etsy lover, and made a mental note to purchase some of her wares at some point, and then went on about my usual routine, UNTIL Deborah of this wonderful tea business, Carys Organics, happened to gift me with a couple of her tea blends to try out, and now that I’ve tried them, I’m hooked.

So, here’s what I want to say to you all about Carys Organics (I’ll be as to the point as a wordy girl like me can easily be…):

These teas were beautiful. I mean, they looked like potpourri that I would be totally happy to set out in a Mason Jar in my home for decoration (of course I can’t do that seeing that my baby or a kid even would probably just eat the leaves….sigh….).

While I am a tea drinker, I am in no way a tea expert. I don’t time how long my tea steeps. I know this is what you should do, and I don’t measure it, either. I know this totally takes away my credibility to many, but I have to keep this real. So, when I make tea, I do what I do while cooking: I just do it, and when it is over, I generally don’t recall exactly how I did it or what I did. Please accept my humble apologies if you are a serious tea brewer. I know that was probably painful to read. BUT, with that said, the tea smelled rich and tasted wonderful.

The first blend we tried was called Autumn in a Cup, which was spicy and warm and everything I want in a seasonal drink. The kids said the tea was “applesaucey”, “and cinnamon-y”. We have a family tradition of making lots of applesauce in the fall, and so I was so glad to hear the tea made them think of that. I added local honey to their tea, and they just loved it.It made me think of all the good fall things, including spices and apples. We used it as a homeschooling opportunity, to discuss fall. The tea leaves even look like fall with their rich colors.This is the kind of thing I look for as a homeschooling Mama: creative ways to teach my kids something. We crack a lot of books around here, but seeing things hands on, talking about real things so we can learn more about other real things…now that is one homeschooling perk. Having the freedom to learn about a season over a cup of tea named for that season, well that is just fun. And now my teacher mind is running away with other seasonal activities and ideas for treats…have I mentioned that I love fall?

The second tea I tried was Deborah’s chai blend. It was dark, rich, and different from other chai’s I have tasted, darker and fuller. I hope that makes sense. It was like other chai teas, but grown up and sophisticated a little more. Chai is my favorite tea, and this blend was spicy, and very, very rich. Perfect for a cool day. When I poured in a cup of steamed milk, it became a serious treat. I’m not sure about the caffeine content here, but since chai generally has a higher caffeine content, I felt no shame in announcing this tea was just for Mama, and since the kids had thoroughly enjoyed their Autumn in a Cup with honey, they didn’t mind in the least. Moms want to have their own treats sometimes, right?

When I sat down to write this blog, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say other than “I love homeschooling. I love tea. And I love homeschooling with tea.” But now, I think that the main message I’d like to put down here is this: I love being a mother who connects with other mothers who are trying to do the same thing I want to do: Love my children and create something I love while doing that. I’m so glad we spent a morning with Carys Organics tea blends in our little school. My kids finished the tea party by discussing what fall is all about to them, and I really feel like we all got to know each other better. Not one tea cup was chipped in the process, which was pretty cool, since we are often chipping cups and plates and everything else around here. It’s so easy for me to get in Crazy Mama mode during our days at home, and to try to work our way through school work and house work quickly, and to fail to enjoy quiet, sweet moments together. I’m so glad we had tea time together this morning. My laundry is piled up to a ridiculous height, but it was well worth it. Goodness knows, there will always, always be laundry around here, but I keep trying to remind myself that there won’t always be cute little kids holding on to tea cups with big smiles on their faces.

Sorry if this post was all too warm and fuzzy, BUT it’s tea and Autumn and sharing with family. The warm fuzzies have just taken over.

And in the spirit of sharing and encouraging, what are your favorite small, local, or stay at home mom businesses/products? Please do share in a comment!

Taking a time out from stickers

I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed, and I might regret writing a blog post while annoyed, and I know I might even soften up to this thing that has me annoyed later on, but since I’m a pajama-ed mother in a venting mood tonight, I’m just going to go with this feeling, and write what’s on my mind. And here it is: What in the world is with all these rewards and prizes and presents and “if you do what you’re supposed to do, then I’ll buy you a doll or a pony or give you something to eat that is horrible for you?” What ever happened to simply expecting kids to behave, or at least make a reasonable effort at behaving because they are human beings who need to learn to be good and kind and smart and capable and enjoyable to be around? What about that?

Let me back up here, and say this: I love a good potty training for chocolate chip system. I appreciate a warm batch of cookies baked as a thank you for a child’s willingness to be an extra good helper one week, and buying a new puzzle for a kid who finally took the initiative and cleaned up all of her toys on her own for ten days straight makes a lot of sense to me. That said, I think it can be easy to go overboard on the reward system. A new toy for reading extra books here, candy for a clean room, more candy for working hard at sports practice, extra dessert for helping a sibling with school work, stickers for not talking during class, coupons for ice cream for obeying the teacher, snacks in exchange for a few minutes of silence, extra movie watching time if you will just please oh please let mommy talk to daddy for a minutes, a dinner out for learning all of the week’s spelling words, and the list goes on and on and on until what we have are some heavily rewarded kids who will do anything for a treat, as long as the treat is shiny or sweet enough.
Rewards can be great. I mean, if what we are trying to do is raise wonderful little humans who will one day be wonderful old humans, then a reward system can prepare little ones for being rewarded or missing out on perks in the work place and in life in general, BUT rewarding for every little thing is just setting kids up for…..what?….a lifetime of sitting on the bench until some great big incentive is offered up, and then and only then will a person get up off the bench and do something? What happens between all of the prizes? Nothing….just waiting, letting other people live and do and accomplish and pursue and dream and be kind and good and do what needs to be done or what can be done.
So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to try my best to refrain from words like “if you do this, then you’ll get….”, and I’m going to try to say more words like “you need to do this” or “do this please.” No more “because”, no “if”, no “and”….just a requirement followed by an expectation. An expectation because I believe in my kids. I love them, and I think they are fabulous and capable, and though they don’t always behave or complete or follow through, I know that they can. And they’ll see my expectations, and my hope, and I really do think they will feel loved and honored because of the faith I have in their decision making abilities and in their hearts and in their goodness. And when they don’t accomplish what I would like for them to accomplish, then we will keep working at it, and they’ll keep feeling loved even if there is some correction waiting on them. When accomplishments are made, then they will be rewarded with smiles and hugs and praise and all the good kinds of feelings that doing good things brings, and sometimes, I may surprise them with a little thank you, a trip to the coffee shop for tea with honey or a new pair of silly socks or an exciting chapter book. But hopefully, those tokens of my appreciation will be a bonus, something to brighten their day, something unexpected, not a payment owed to them. Not something that is theirs to take, rather than someone else’ to give. I want good things for my kids. I do. I just don’t want all the things in the world for them all the time. I want them to love doing good things, not just love rewards at the end of good things. And maybe a reward system will work its way into our home and school every now and then, but it will be small and seasonal and short lived enough that it will be, hopefully, special and not expected.
You know, I started out this blog post annoyed, and now I’m hopeful. We can do this, right? I know I won’t cut out all of the rewards in their lives, but hopefully when those rewards come, they will appreciate the reward more, and appreciate the hard work they did to get that reward. Just like I’m hoping against hope that they will appreciate the treasures they already have. With a closet full of toys, why of why, would they require more stuff before they decide to do what they should do? More stuff doesn’t make a good child. This is basic, this is simple, and I’m betting this is pretty undisputed, so why not live according to this truth. You want to be educated, then read and write and compute. You want to play an instrument, then practice. You want to be a fun person to be around, then be kind and sensitive to the feelings of others. You want a sticker for that?….then the accomplishment just may not be worth enough to you, and that is the thing that needs to be worked on – finding value in hard work, success, and polishing talents. If my kid doesn’t want to work on her reading, then I hope I can find ways to show her the value of reading, rather than putting value on something else entirely, like a new doll earned by half-heartedly reading twenty books. That’s not fixing the problem, only putting it off, to be dealt with or ignored on another day. I want to fix the problems we come across in our family. I want to, and I hope I can, but if I can’t, then there will be consequences of some sort, I’m sure of that, and if I can fix problems that arise, then I pray I’m happy to live in that success, rather than holding out my hand at the end of a long day, hoping someone will put something sugary into it for all of my hard work.

Moms say odd things.

Here’s a glimpse into my personal brand of mothering perfection.

I’ll keep this one short. It’s another one of those crazy, wonderful, busy days, but I’m taking a few minutes with a latte (I know that sounds so cliche….yoga pants mama and her latte and all, but I can’t help it…coffee is just better to me with steamed milk and I need the coffee, so here I am with my pretentious beverage) to make a list of things I actually said lately that sounded to me like things no real-life version of me would ever be saying. But I’m a mother to little ones, and with that comes all sorts of weirdness. So, here’s a little list of out of my mouth weirdness, things I actually and really did say:

1. Stop riding the dog. (The joys of having a dog that looks like a pony to a preschooler…)
2. I want to hire a sitter so I can  take a break to catch up on laundry or organize the kids’ clothes.  (Who other than a mother would pay 12 dollars an hour to do chores?…)

3. I’ll give everyone a chocolate chip for each thing they find in this house to give away. (And I was a genius and didn’t set any kind of limits on this…chaos….pure chaos around here as everyone brought everything to offer up in exchange for chocolate chips…nothing was sacred or safe…not even our pillows)
4. Tea party for dinner? (This goes along with other personal favorites of “Who wants cranberries for breakfast? Salad for dessert? Smoothies for dinner? Pizza party!-as in: crackers with tomato sauce and cheese on top for lunch today, kids! “. Feeding a family of six gets a little off sometimes…My family is well-fed, so please don’t worry, but there are days when meal time comes around and we make randomness work.
5. You’re in the toilet! (Yep.)
6. Please stop eating paper. Just…please. (Please.)

7. If you play outside for a little while, then I’ll let you be quiet and read for the rest of the day. (Okay, so I get this one and wouldn’t call it strange myself, but I’m thinking it might sound strange to the rest of the world out there….maybe a little backwards?….but that’s just the way it is around here…)

8. Will you come get this bug for Mama? (I know, this one is just shameful, but they’re braver than I am, and at least I’m honest and humble enough to admit it, right?)
9. Where are your pants?! (Okay, so this one isn’t too strange, but it’s just the crazy amount of times I say this in a week or even a day that is surprising to me. We had some friends visit once, and they commented that we say this pretty much all day long. What is it with toddlers losing their pants?…)
10. What I really want for my birthday is a steam mop. (Now that’s a gift.)

11. Did you just eat a dog treat? (Yes, they’re organic, but they are duck, and DOG treats…)

And on tomorrow’ agenda: number 12….whatever that may be.

inexpensive, little added clutter, and fun: three things to give a little girl on a rainy day or any day

Once upon a time there were four amazing kids. These kids were blessed with toys and games and puzzles and all sorts of fun things created by fun people and sold by fun stores. Alas, these four amazing kids more often than not, left those shiny toys and games and puzzles on the shelves to play with boxes, their mama’s hand me down jewelry, paper and found-in-nature craft supplies, and so many other hundreds of trinkets and baubles and sticks and left over packaging and hand-me-down goodies.

If this sounds like a familiar story, then you’re certainly not alone. We (and grandparents and friends and aunts and uncles and almost every else…) spend money and time procuring just the right gift and developmental toys for our kiddos, only to find that the toys are often not played with regularly, aren’t taken care of properly, clutter up our homes, or are put aside as kids would usually rather go on an outdoor adventure or come up with something to do on their own inside. Now I still love giving my girls new books and baby dolls and wooden puzzles and family games, BUT I try my best to remember that, sometimes, the best gifts to share with my kids don’t come from an expensive toy store.

Here’s my top three “gifts” to give my daughters that encourage creativity, don’t break the bank, and don’t clutter the house as much as more shiny and new and plastic-y toys or gifts might:

1. A box. This is pretty obvious. Think back to childhood. How cool was it to climb inside the cardboard box from the new kitchen appliance and pretend you were in a fort or a castle or even just to hide from your big brother? The possibilities are endless. Plus, boxes are generally free, can be decorated easily, and when the kids are done imagining they are pirates in a cardboard ship, the cardboard can be recycled. Done.

2. Hand-me-down jewelry. When we are in the middle of a rainy day or maybe stuck at home due to an illness, there’s not much more exciting to a little girl than getting to go through her mother’s jewelry box (with mom’s help, of course). And then on extra special days, I might just give away a necklace or bracelet to one or two or three of my daughters. Because really, I can’t take it with me, and the look on their little faces when they are trusted with a piece of mama’s jewelry is just priceless. This also brings up a great opportunity for sharing memories with kids (“Mommy got this necklace when I was dating Daddy during college…”) and for teaching kiddos about responsibility and taking care of things.

3. A magazine subscription. Okay, so this costs money and needs to be ordered. BUT, I have to list this one, because we have had so much fun giving our daughters each a subscription to a children’s magazine. They learn to be patient as they wait for the next one to come, and there are so many great magazines out there that teach kids great lessons, provide them with educational activities, and show them about different parts of their world. The prices on these vary, but most are very affordable and surprisingly lower than I would have expected. Also, the clutter is minimal. No huge hunks of plastic in our living room. Just some thin magazines which can be later shared with other kids, cut up for collages, or recycled.

NOTE: I’m guessing boys would enjoy these things, too. Even the jewelry. Boys like pirates, and pirates like treasures, no? And boys also love their Mamas, so why not share a trinket of yours with a son. I just titled this post …”things to give a little girl…” because my son is still a baby, and I haven’t given him anything on a rainy day yet…besides my time and my cuddles.

What do you give your kids on a rainy day?…