Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Year Down, Twelve Years To Go Part 2 (For The First Child Anyway!)

In my first post about home schooling, I shared with you our families experience as we took the plunge and home schooled Emma for her Kindergarten year. Now, almost a full year later, our fmily is about to embark on home schooling first grade and it feels like old hat. A perfect fit for our family and the lifestyle that we desire. Today I want to share with you why we have chosen to home school our kids.

There was a time in my life when I thought what some of you might possibly be thinking. Home school families are freaks! Ha! I grew up in a rather well-to-do suburb of Houston, TX. Everyone that I knew went to public schools where the parking lots were filled with Porsches and fancy trucks, etc.... that belonged to the students. In Sugar Land it was all about status. All of the public schools competed against one another, and which school you attended determined your status at everything else in the community. NOBODY home schooled. Except for the Mormons. Seriously. Home schoolers were nerds. They had no life. I first learned about a family similar to mine beginning to home school their children when I started the sixth grade. Our preachers wife started home schooling their children, and that was all it took for me to want to get in on that action. By mid semester my mom agreed and she pulled me out after Christmas. Unfortunately, I think it was a bit too late for me to start that endeavor. I was not interested in taking instruction from my mom (sorry, Mom), and we never got involved in any co-ops or groups and I became very lonely. I spent more time trying to get out of doing work, than it would have actually taken me to do the assignments. By the middle of seventh grade I was enrolled in a private school where I remained until I graduated. But the idea of home schooling stayed with me.

After Ben and I began having children, and each year took us closer to making an education choice for our kids, I would think about home schooling. In no way do I think that home schooling is the only right way to do things. I know several families that do both public and private school, and there are several of those families that I respect. For me, it simply started with the fact that I wanted to be with my children. It was always on my mind how fleeting their childhoods are. We only get so much time with our laugh with them, mold them, teach them. Why would I want to send them to someone else to do that for 7 to 8 hours a day? It just did not sit well with me. I wanted to be the one they laughed with. I wanted to be the one who molded them. I wanted to be their teacher.

The things that kept me from jumping in whole heartedly in the beginning? Well, selfish reasons, for starters. If I chose to home school, I would never get a break. No going back to bed after the bus came, no running errands in peace, no visits at coffee shops with friends. I didn't know if I was willing to give all of those aspects of life up. I also worried about all of the social aspects of home schooling that people always ask about. What if my kids had no friends? What if they were social outcasts and developmentally behind other kids their age because we chose to home school? I was also sad when I thought about the fact that they would miss out on class parties and plays. I was sad they would not get little Valentines from friends. I was sad they would never experience Home Coming. But you know what I realized? Nothing of what I was afraid they would miss out on was about educational things. It was all about parties ad having "fun". Things that I can barely remember being important to my own childhood now that I am an adult.

I remember clearly the day that I made up my mind to home school our kids. It was about eleven in the morning on a Tuesday. Everyone on campus was at school, and I looked out the window and saw our neighbor boy (who is home schooled) out riding his bike, already finished with his lessons for the day. He had his legs kicked out to the sides, was screeching with delight, and had a look of pure joy on his face. I thought to myself, this is what childhood is all about. No worries or stresses that come with the confines of a classroom. Just being able to learn and explore. Being able to be a KID.

I firmly believe that God "led" us to this tiny town in the midst of corn fields, for this stage of our lives, for a reason. I loved the school that Ben taught at and the preschool they had that Emma attended when we first moved here. Had it not shut down (which at the time we were very devesdated about) I know I would have sent my children there. It was a school filled with loving, Christ centered teachers. Daddy was there to know what was going on. It was on our property. It was the easy choice for educating our kids. A good choice for us even. But had it not shut down, I would not have gotten to experience this, the very BEST choice. For our family, that is. Now my children are not just a number that need my attention at the end of each school day. They are my day.

And you know what the funny thing is? After all of that worry, I do not feel like we are missing out on a single thing. If I want to crawl back into bed after I send the big kids off to school, my babies get to crawl back in with me. If I want to meet friends for lunch, the kids go with me. And have no fear. They still got plenty of Valentines from the neighborhood kids :). Sometimes I even wish we were a little more lonely... just kidding! My children have plenty of friends. They have neighborhood friends, church friends, home school friends, and dance friends. Best of all they have each other. I love the fact that they are each others very best friends and play mates.

I LOVE home schooling my kids. I LOVE that when they have questions about life or learning that I am the one who is filling their heads with the answers. I LOVE that they have no stresses or worries, and that they are free to just be kids. I LOVE that their daddy and I are the greatest human influences in their lives at this point, and I LOVE that I have the time to spend with them each day, shaping their hearts for the future. Some people believe that home schooled kids are too sheltered, and that they will go hog wild when they graduate and are finally on their own to make life decisions. While I do not believe my kids are too sheltered (they live with the epitomy of the world), that might in fact happen. My kids might go "crazy" at college or at any other time in their lives, really. On the other hand, perhaps they might be so strong in their faith and in their family relationships, that they might have the strength to stand strong and firm in the midst of a world that is full of temptation. I believe that as parents it is our job to trust God with our kids hearts and lives. To do the very BEST that we can for them with the resources that we have been given. That is all any of us can do, really.

I know that there are some people who will never agree with our decision to home school, including some of our own family members. That is okay with me. These are simply our thoughts on why we have made this choice for our family. It was a decision we made after much prayer and consideration and we have not looked back. It has been a complete and absolute JOY. When Ben and I are empty nesters we do not want to look back and regret that we did not spend enough time with our kids. That we let someone else have control of their hearts and minds during the most formative years of their lives. We only want the BEST for them, as does any parent. And we believe this is BEST for us. Here is to another great year of growing and learning together as a family!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Happies

* Going to the Beach (a MUST for the Z family).

* Pedicures

* Driving with the top of the Jeep off.

* Fresh Fruit

* Birthdays (celebrated mine today!)

* Evening bike rides around campus.

* Sunshine

* Kings Island Amusement Park

* Ice Cold Coca Cola (who am I kidding? That is a year round happy.)

* Daddy is home.

* Sleeping in.

* Homemade ice cream at Ms. Fayes.

* Time. Time to slow down, escape the business, and enjoy my life. 28 years of life to be exact.

* Bright Colors

* Country Music (For some reason that down home twang just calls to me in the summer).

* Sunsets

* Fireflies. Watching my daughters dance around the yard trying to catch them.

* Friday night burgers on the grill.

* Visiting with neighbors until dusk.

*Escaping the heat with a summer novel.

These are my summer happies. Life just doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Four Month Update

Mister Man is now over four months old! I can't believe how BIG he is getting. People often remark on how chubby he is, especially commenting on his precious cheeks and thighs. I was actually worried that I would get scolded at his 4 month well child check today for how big he is, but it turns out he is really just quite average for his age. Today he weighed in at 15 pounds 2 ounces (45th percentile) and was 25 1/2 inches long (60th percentile). He is a perfectly precious butterball! Completely healthy too, praise God. It seems his hydroceles are officially gone and his squeaky little noises are just his cute little trademark :).

Lately Jack is sleeping great with at least an eight to nine hour stretch at night before taking an early morning bottle and going back to sleep for another couple of hours. He still sleeps in his bouncer by our bed each night, but has taken to taking all of his naps on his back or side in the pack n' play. NO complaints from this momma! He is also still just on formula, taking six ounces every three hours or so, except for that one long stretch at night. And he still seems to spit up half of everything that he eats! I bought rice cereal and think I will start him on it this week, maybe just giving him a bowl of it each night before he goes to sleep. Something warm to soothe and fill his tummy each night before bed.

Jack does have some new tricks! He laughs all of the time now, can track you around the room with his eyes, has discovered his toes and loves grabbing them, and his new specialty is blowing bubbles! He still cannot roll over unassisted, but he is getting so close. He just needs to figure out what to do with the arm that he gets tucked under him. Our guy is just such a wonderfully happy baby! You just have to look at him to get a smile out of him, and when he smiles it lights up his entire face! His eyes just sparkle. He loves to cuddle. I feel so blessed to be his mom.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Fairy Princess Makeover Tea Party

This was one of the easiest parties I have ever thrown for my girls and it was one of the most fun! We kept things very small, and only invited a couple of our favorite mammas and their little girls. (We still need have our family party!) We decorated our dining table with fancy decorations for a little girls tea party. Emma wanted a Tinkerbell Fairy theme, and I even got out my childhood tea sets for them to use. we transformed our basement into the salon. We had a hair table, a makeup table, a place to do nails, and a basket full of dress up costumes. We took a "before" picture and then set to work making over the girls! Such fun! After everyone was made up we went upstairs and had our tea party. Emma requested pizza bagels, chips, and fruit be on the menu :). After lunch came present time, and then we had cupcakes and ice cream to finish everything off. Grammy was out of town and she ALWAYS makes the birthday cakes, but I did my best! It was such a fun day and the girls were so precious. They practiced their manners at the tea party and had fun talking in fancy voices. I LOVE little girls and really enjoyed celebrating my daughter wiht some of her favorite friends!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sweetly Six

Just look at my girl. Is she not sweetly beautiful? I cannot believe how grown up she looks, missing tooth and all. I will never forget the day that she made me a Mommy on July the eighth, six years ago. Emma was a wonderfully easy baby, a joyful toddler, an inquisitive preschooler, and now a sweet and sassy six year old.

Emma, at six you are learning so many things! Just this week you learned to ride your bike without training wheels. I had to teach you (Daddy could not seem to let you go), and you practiced that first night until you got it. Round and round the block we went until you could do it all by yourself. You did great, and you did not even fall one time! Spaghetti is your all time favorite food, strawberries your favorite fruit. You love singing and dancing, and doing girly things like putting on make up and playing dress up. You also love frogs and bugs. You love falling asleep with your daddy each night, and I always move you into your bed after you are sound asleep. You love arts and crafts and to draw! I love you.

For Emma's special day she picked out her outfit and had me curl her hair. We even broke out the glitter (notice her forehead :). We met Grammy and Da for Pizza, and Emma opened some of her family presents there. From Mommy and Daddy she got a little gold locket that she had been wanting. From Grammy and Da, a CD player and two CDs (Hannah Montanna!). On a side note, Emma recently informed me that she would be needing some alone time with her music. What? Think she lives with teenage girls much? Anyway, after pizza we went to the mall and played and then Emma, Kate and I got pedicures! It was such fun doing that with my daughters. Emma chose sparkly teal and got a flower on her big toes. After the mall we stopped for ice cream on the way home. Such a fun day. Such an awesome little girl. We love you Em!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fun on the Fourth

Sooooo, once again, I am having to majorly backtrack in order to catch you all up in the daily goings on in our lives. We had a fun Fourth of July! I love dressing my kiddos in coordinating outfits and taking pictures. Have you noticed? This year my brother and his wife were in town for the fourth and we had a great weekend. Saturday night we grilled out at our house and played many games of croquet and corn hole. Funny story. For all you Southerners, corn hole is a bean bag toss game we Yankees play way up here in the north. It rocks. Especially its name. Anyway, our dog Glory loves to fetch. Do you see where I am going with this? Every single time someone would throw a bean bag and try to land it on the board, Glory would fetch it and bring it back to the thrower! Totally messed up the game! So we moved our game to the front yard and all was well. See, I told you it was a funny story :). Moving on. After everyone left the cookout, I sat for quite awhile in the Amish swing in our front yard rocking my sweet chubster (that would be Jack not Ben). I nuzzled his delicious head, looked at my beautiful surroundings, and watched the sunset. I realized very clearly that night just how blessed I am. Moving on again.

On Sunday night we met my family at Kings Island (an amusement park) and rode rides and watched the big firework show. The fireworks were great, but there was no music to accompany them, and it was quite crowded. We had fun, but the older I get the more staying at home and doing sparklers on the back porch appeals to me. Growing up my family never had any Fourth of July traditions. I recall eating Chinese food a few years and then mom, dad, and I would watch fireworks from the parking lot. A couple of times we went to hear a fifties band play. I love, love, love traditions and seriously need to work on starting some Fourth of July traditions with our kids. As long as we see one really great fireworks show a year (say at a Reds game...they are the best!), I am thinking maybe we should start creating traditions at home rather than braving the masses. Celebrating the freedom to freely enjoy our family and the time God has given us with each other. We shall see what transpires over the next few years!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kate's Party Pictures

Turning Four

On June 26, 2006, God blessed us with our second, beautiful baby girl. Two weeks ago we celebrated her fourth birthday! Where has the time gone? I will never forget the day that Kate came into our lives. It was a relatively quick labor (only experienced pain for an hour!), and after pushing only a few short times, I was holding a 6 pound 9 ounce dark haired beauty in my hands. All of my children are beautiful (I am allowed to be biased :), but all of the nursing staff kept saying that Kate looked just like an Anne Geddes baby in a calendar. I had to agree! She was and still is completely beautiful. We knew as soon as we found out that she was a girl that we would name her Kate, but her daddy and I argued (or respectfully disagreed :) for hours after she was born whether her name would be Anna Kate or Kathryn Anne, before finally deciding the day that we left the hospital to name her Kate Elisabeth. Our Kate Elisabeth.

This year for their birthdays my girls wanted their own parties instead of having a combined one. And with the craziness of everyones different schedules we also decided to split our parties up into having a "friend" party and a "family" party. It gets so complicated as the kids grow! We had Kate's "friend" party the evening before her birthday and she chose a Dora theme. We decorated with many streamers and balloons and Kate loved that it was all especially for her! Daddy grilled out and we basically invited all of the families in our tiny "neighborhood". After dinner the parents were able to chat while some of us organized the kids in some games. We played Pin the Backpack on Dora, Musical Backpacks (like musical chairs), the kids went on an adventure following "Map" that led them to their goody bags, and of course we had our traditional pinata. It was fun! After that we had cake and ice cream and then Kate was able to open her presents. Her gift from Mommy and Daddy was her very own bike! She had been riding Emma's old bike, but had been eyeing a new Barbie bike in the store and she was so excited! The next day for her actual birthday, we watched her birth video and then Grammy and Da took her and Emma to see Toy Story 3 and to have lunch at Panera Bread.

Kate, you are an amazing four year old. You have gotten so much better at sleeping through the night. Every night before you fall asleep, you still say you are just going to "rest your eyes", and then each morning you announce that you have slept until the sun was up. You love to play babies and Barbies, and to basically play whatever Emma wants to play. You love to have your back tickled when you are tired. You hate having to wash and comb your hair, and you scream bloody murder everytime. You LOVE your siblings! You would follow Emma to the ends of the earth, and you adore making Jack smile, talking to him in a little baby voice. You still throw many fits (just keeping it real!), but when disciplined you always say, "But I just love you!". Ha! Have no fear, we are working on that. Kate, your eyes sparkle when you are happy, and our eyes sparkle when we look at you. Thanks for being ours!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Myrtle Beach Part 2 - More Pictures

Myrtle Beach part 1

We had such a great time! I love, love, love traveling and going on adventures with our children. They are such awesome little travelers and always do great. The car rides are often long, but we pass the time by watching lots of movies and by getting surprises from the surprise bag (if they have been good and not whining, they can pick a surprise out of Mommy's special bag each time we stop,to entertain them until we stop again!). Myrtle beach was an awesome family destination and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling with small kids. We stayed a couple of miles from the beach, but it was a quick drive. Since we had baby Jack, we were only able to enjoy the beach in the early mornings or evenings. I would sit under an umbrella with Jack enjoying the ocean breeze and watching the girls play. The girls enjoyed boogy boarding, jumping in the waves, making sand castles, collecting shells, and trying to catch minnows and crabs in their buckets. The expression on their faces was pure joy! It is our family motto that everyone should put their feet in the ocean at least once a year! We also enjoyed swimming,eating out, shopping, going to The Dixie Stampede, the aquarium, getting ice cream, and watching Little Rascals in our condo. We love summer!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Three Month Update

Three pictures for three months! I can't believe my boy is getting so very big. In reality, he is closer to being four months old, so I figured I should get this update in before it was too late! Jack is getting to be such a big boy...literally :). He is preciously round and chubby and I just love, love, love to smooch his giant baby thighs! Both of the girls were rather petite, so we are loving having such a roly baby. Jack LOVES to eat! He is fully on formula now (which was not my first choice, but we had such issues with his breathing and reflux) and eats about six ounces every three hours except for at night. He takes his last feeding of the day between eleven pm and midnight, and then will sleep anywhere from six to eight hours before feeding again and then going back to sleep for another two hours or so. It is not a perfect schedule by any means, but we are all getting some much needed rest, and I do feel as if the newborn haze has finally lifted. Whew! We made it!

Jack Ryan LOVES to smile! At first I was worried he was going to be a rather serious baby, but now all you have to do is look at him and he breaks into the biggest grin. Precious! We have also heard him belly laugh, but only twice. The first time was when I was rubbing sunscreen on his toes at the beach, and the second time when I was changing his diaper. Jack has also started cooing and talking to us (almost non-stop!) and has recently discovered his toes. He is not rolling over without help yet, but I am sure it is only a matter of time. Our boy seems to do things a bit slower than the average curve, but he eventually gets there :).

What else? Jack is still a huge fan of his swing and his paci. Both of those things are lifesavers throughout each day. Oh yes. I believe that Jack's hydrocele's are gone! The urologist had decided to just watch them, but in the last couple of weeks he has started to look less swollen so that is great news. Also, we found out that Jack has no severe breathing problems or issues. He does make a stridor (loud squeaking noise when he breathes) but the doctor thinks it is a result of his acid reflux. He thinks the acid has built up on his esophogus which cause a funny noise when he breathes. Also, Jack has a floppy vocal box (not sure of the scientific term for this), but that is something he should grow in to.Because of his reflux he still sleeps at an incline in his bouncer each night, but I think soon he should be moving to his bed. We will see.

We simply love and adore our son and think he is absolutely perfect. I am amazed at the ways God has answered our prayers, both big and small, in regards to his life. The big prayers? That we were able to concieve him and carry him to term without any major health complications. The little things? As silly as it is, I wanted a baby who would take a paci. The girls never did and while I may regret this later, Jack LOVES his paci (as long as it is an Avent). I wanted a baby with curly hair. Okay, okay. I agree Jack's hair is straight (and seems to be falling out!), but when it is humid or he gets wet, his hair curls up into tiny curls on the back of his head. I think it is a special gift just for me:). I wanted a chubby baby. Jack has rolls to spare. I wanted a baby who would sleep and be easygoing. Jack is all of those things. I am overwhelmed at all of the ways I see God's fingerprints all over his life. Precious, precious boy. So very glad that he is ours!!

House Picture Preview

We are really enjoying our new house! The above pictures are of our new family room/den/basement (not sure what we will call that room yet!). I think that room is my very favorite part of our new home. I love that it has big glass doors that let in lots of sunshine. I love that it has a red brick wall which adds lots of charm. I love that there is enough space down there for a TV area, a reading nook, and a home school area. That is where we will be doing our lessons each day, and I am so looking forward to it. Also down in the basement is the laundry room, a bathroom (which needs lots of work), and a bedroom which we will use as a guestroom/playroom once it has new floors. For now it is just storage.

The main level of the house is just like our old house, minus a few of the same details. We got new living room furniture and painted the walls a warm chocolate instead of yellow like we had in the old house. We painted our dining room pale yellow on the top, with white bead board on the bottom, and I somehow convinced Ben that we needed a new dining table. We ended up finding a beautiful white table on major clearance, which seats ten and fills my homey heart with joy! Picturess soon! The kitchen in this house is probably the only thing that I do not like as well as I did in our old house, but it is still cute, and will definitely do.

The upstairs in this home looks exactly like it did in our old house, except for the fact that I convinced Ben on a whim that we should paint our bedroom blue. For now all three kiddos still share a room and that will not change until they are ready/old enough to sleep away from us. I remember wishing as a child that I had someone to sleep with me, so I think it is kind of cool that all of my kids are all tucked in together each night in the same room. If only Kate could manage to stay awake past seven oclock, they could have some fun in there before lights out! :)

We are loving our home and thank God for not only providing for our every need, but also for giving us a few of the desires of our hearts. When I was growing up I desperately wanted to live in a large country home with a big table filled with lots of people. I wanted to rock on my front porch and watch my kids play in wide open spaces. I always thought it would be cool to have a mini van full of children. While it is not exactly how I planned it all in my head as a child, God has fulfilled every one of my dreams. Our huose is always busy, loud, and bustling, and I not only have a minivan full full f children....I have a 12 passenger full! Ha! Life is good.