Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cheers to the start of a new SCHOOL season!

(Gabe, Quinn, and Tennyson at a park in the town of Westport
ready for their scavenger hunts!  Oct 2011)

A New School Year has begun here at our house!

We started school a bit early this year, in mid-August, hoping that it will give us more flexibility around the holidays.  I always like to be just a little bit ahead, in case things know....AMAZING OCTOBER WEATHER hit!!  I have a homeschool friend who takes "nice days" instead of "snow days" in her homeschool.  When the snowstorms hit, she is hunkered down with her kids doing school while public and private institutions have the day off...but when the weather turns beautiful and their family is itching for some outdoor time--they have the freedom to ditch school lessons for the day and enjoy the sunshine!  I love this philosophy.  I also love to take school outside with us, enjoying God's creation while we learn about life.  That's what we did a few days this week...

The typical October chilly air was nowhere to be found!  Instead, we had a week of temperatures no lower than the mid 70's.  We took advantage of this, fitting in a field trip to the Madison Henry Vilas Zoo, and getting to a local park.  We got to enjoy the Sandhill Cranes who were also visiting the park.  Seems that every fall we see cranes at the park, just in time to wave goodbye to them as they venture to their winter destinations.

sandhill cranes at the park

At the park on this particular day we did a scavenger hunt.  We learned about tallies, and how useful they are for counting quickly by 5's.  I thnk the point really hit home for Gabe, who is very competitive, having an entire sheet full of little hash marks for the number of cars he counted while at the park.  He thought for sure he saw "the most" cars of anyone.  The face he gave me when I announced that we were going to COUNT up those random hash marks was PRICELESS!  He was thinking, "oh man--we have to COUNT these?!?  I thought I was just the winner!!"  I think his total of hash marks for cars ranged above 200!  I helped him circle little groups of took us quite awhile...and then I explained the system of tallies and how much easier it is to count up large quantities if we are organizing them into tallies as we go, counting by 5's and 10's. 

gabe finds an acorn

As I write this, the boys are at a birthday party...a pirate party!  I took their picture as they were ready to leave...and now I am off to pick them up!  Quiet time for momma is over. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011


The Eve of my very first Shabbat.

I know that I promised an update on our homeschool year.  But I just have to take a minute to tell you that it is 11:00pm, and I have finished all of my chores with an hour to spare before the official start of my very first self-regulated Shabbat! 

Shabbat is the Jewish word for Sabbath, a day of rest and cessation from work.  It was the fourth commandment out of the ten that God gave to the Israelites.  Somehow in our fast-paced, modern world, we have distanced ourselves from honoring the Sabbath.  We feel as if we do not need one, or we do not have the luxury of taking one because of all that there is to do.  Modern teachers tell us that we live beneath a new covenant, no longer bound by the Mosaic covenant.  I know that this is true in many respects, but I also believe that the ten commandments were not just handed out to bind us.  They are GOOD for us!  We do not think twice about keeping our lips from lying, or honoring our parents.  But that Sabbath command is...just...well...idealistic!  So we go about our lives, in a tizzy.  Forgetting that God himself rested on the seventh day after creating the world, and that maybe...just maybe...there is something to it.

For the past couple of years I have attempted to make Sunday my "rest day."  However, I have never held myself to it!!  Sure, I would try to keep Sundays as simple as possible.  You know, easier meals and kicking back in sweatpants after church.  Here and there, if I was really behind on laundry I would sneak in a load.  Or if I was behind on paperwork or school prep, I would take time to work on those tasks, thinking that they really weren't "work" but were quiet activities.  So I guess you could say I was practicing a half-Shabbat!  However, a half Shabbat--one without set guidelines or any a Shabbat that is easily broken!  On those Sundays when I was desperate for rest and actually honored my no-work rules--I often woke up on Monday morning to mountains of mess.  Like a bad Shabbat hangover.  Or found myself standing in the kitchen on my blessed appointed rest day, wondering what take-out to find for supper since I was NOT going to cook!  These are not restful practices.  I was enjoying the small break, but definitely not honoring the Sabbath.  Honoring the Sabbath--now that takes forethought!

I listened to a recent podcast, although don't ask me which one because I honestly do not remember...about taking a Shabbat with INTENTION.  The Israelites had to plan ahead for their day of rest, in order to fully honor it.  Manna had to be collected on the sixth day, because otherwise there would be no manna to eat on the seventh.  So today I figured out what my Shabbat would look like, and what I needed to do to preserve that day as purely restful and honoring to God.

It is 11pm, one hour until my rest day--Sunday.  I just finished putting away the mountains of laundry, which required me to tiptoe into the boys' room while they were asleep.  Okay, I felt a little bit like the laundry fairy!  They will wake up to a fresh closet of folded, clean clothes.  My husband will not have to ask me in the morning which drying rack contains clean underwear!  I did a load of cloth diapers at 9pm, when normally I would have just thrown up my hands and gone to bed and saved it for Sunday--justifying laundry on Sunday as a necessary evil of cloth diapering.  Excuse queen.  There are now clean, folded diapers in the nursery.  I spent the bulk of the day cutting up some veggies that my in-laws blessed us with!  Since tomorrow is hands-off as far as meal prep, I knew that I had to make use of those fresh items TODAY, or risk them spoiling by Monday.  I looked at the pile of fresh, organically grown butternut squash, tomatoes, and an entire box of apples...and made butternut squash and apple soup, homemade salsa, and apple crisp.  Now tomorrow, instead of tripping over laundry baskets and making a frozen pizza, I will be enjoying my family over a cozy autumn meal that is already prepared.  Now, was this hard?  YES!!  It took every ounce of my energy and lots of help from my husband since I also have three little ones running around my feet all day.  But I resolved to enjoy the pleasure of hard work for one day, so that tomorrow I can truly, truly REST.

I have found that I desperately need my Shabbat.  It is silly and crazy-ridiculous of me to ever think that I am superhuman and do not need rest--that somehow the rule of resting one day out of seven does not apply to my busy life in this modern time.  Honestly, I believe we need to take a Sabbath rest more than ever before.  To shut off our brains for one day.  To listen for God.

This whole Shabbat thing is a work in progress for me.  But I can tell you with honesty, that I am really, really looking forward to tomorrow!  I can do six days of hard work knowing that one day of rest is coming.  And next week hopefully I will be ready for Shabbat much earlier than 11:59pm.  Baby steps.

Making time for cuddles.