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I logged onto facebook yesterday and was met with this quote by Anne Lamott: "When God is going to do wonders, He starts with a big problem. When He is going to blow your mind, He starts with an impossibility." This pretty much sums up my life. 

I have lived through many big problems and even some impossibilities, and God has faithfully blown my mind with how he's worked through each of them. He has always looked out for me, provided for, guided, and sheltered me, he's even gently told me off a time or to. He has been a perfect Father.

Last week, I mentioned that 2011 was focused on learning how to appropriately trust and hope in God. Impossibility came my way, and God blew my mind with how it all worked out.

So this year, my focus is going to be on resting in his faithfulness and peace. Knowing that no matter what comes my way, He is with me. I can just rest. No worry, no fear, no anxiety...just peace and rest.

This is something I have been working on for a very long time. I’ve felt his peace and have rested in it from time to time, but I have never fully let go of my anxieties and worries to steadily rest in his peace. This is my year to do just that!

This morning, encouraged me with this:
CONTINUE ON THIS PATH WITH ME, enjoying My Presence even in adversity. I am always before you, as well as alongside you. See Me beckoning to you: Come! Follow Me. The One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand. I am not subject to limitations of time or space. I am everywhere at every time, ceaselessly working on your behalf. That is why your best efforts are trusting Me and living close to Me.

This scripture really spoke to me today as well: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28

Wow! God is so good. He knows just when I need that little nudge of encouragement. I love that he is the one who goes ahead of me, and at the same time, he is the one who never lets go of my hand! He doesn’t want life to be overwhelming for me, and it won’t be if I can just rest in his presence and know that he is always with me working things out.

I'm focusing on this prayer (by Melody Beattie): "I will cultivate peace and trust that timely solutions and goodness will arise naturally and harmoniously out of the wellspring of peace. I will consciously let go and let God."

Weeds Revisited

This morning I filled the last page of this journal. When I finished writing, I felt the urge to flip through it and read some of my past entries. Some pages were very sobering, but I felt a great sense of peace when I closed the book and put it away. This journal represents an incredible journey that I began 10 months ago. 

Last May, I blogged about some weeds that Robert and I discovered in our marriage. I am so thankful to write that we have located all of those weeds, and over the last 10 months we have dug them up and have taken numerous steps to make sure they never come back. We have had 41 counseling sessions (some individual and some together) and around 20 meetings with our spiritual care team (a mentor/accountability group made up of 2 amazing couples). The people we are surrounded with have spoken so much truth and healing into our lives. They've prayed with, encouraged, reprimanded, supported, and helped carry us through these difficult 10 months. I am so grateful for them!

We still have a journey ahead us, but I believe we are on the downhill side of this massive mountain. That's why there was such a peace about closing my journal and putting it away. I remember the climb up was filled feelings of despair and hopelessness. I remember when I reached my point of powerlessness and handed it all over to God. This journal represents his power, healing, loyalty, and love. I have no doubts about the rest of this journey because I know he is with me. I have truly learned to trust him, to put my mind at rest and know that he is ordering my steps...even when I can't see in front of me.

I wrote this morning that closing this journal felt like closing one chapter of my life and starting a new one. I had hoped that the beginning of 2012 would have started my new chapter, but I never felt like the old one was quite closed. I wrestled with the fact that I didn't feel comfortable finding a name, scripture and resolution for this new year. But now that this journal is finished, I feel like I'm ready to take that step.

Here is an excerpt of what I wrote about 2011 (full blog post here): 

I wrote down that this year my goal would be to learn how to truly trust God. To completely surrender to him. To put my complete hope in him and his ways. I wrote goals down of becoming more supportive, selfless and patient with my family and goals of learning self-control and perseverance.

I even gave this year a few scripture verses to encourage me on my journey. Job 13:15 - God might kill me, but I have no other hope. Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Zephaniah 3:17 - The Lord your God is with you, the mighty Warrior who saves, he will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

It's exciting to look back and see that I have learned how to truly trust God and to completely surrender to him. I've learned to hope in him. The 3 verses I chose were a constant strength to me last year. It's nice closing that chapter and knowing how far I've come. 

I'm ready to focus on what this year will hold. How will I grow in my relationship with the Lord and with my family? What will I learn about myself? Who will I be and what will I have accomplished when this year is over? Things to ponder and pray about. 

I'm going to use this place as a place of accountability to help me make the time to pray about this new chapter and what name and verse it should have. Maybe next week I can write about that...
Browse around this link

A couple of weeks ago at , I heard speak on how her family gets things done without her having to nag, scream and yell all the time. It is a brilliant plan using popsicle sticks and a cup or jar.

Here is Nadia's intro to using her stick method:

Using Sticks to Build a Structure In the early days of parenting, we often have a clear vision of what we want to 
teach our children.  We talk about what lessons and life experiences are important 
to offer our family.  And yet, somehow, in the hustle and bustle of a way-too-busy life, 
we lose sight of those early goals.  We find ourselves living a life that is out of control 
and facing the reality that we are pulling our children through day-to-day tasks.   
There is a better way!   Together we will discover this unique program that teaches 
our children to internalize tasks, reduces family stress, minimizes materialism and helps 
us to focus on the goals we once had for our children.   Hands on ideas will be given 
to accomplish all of the above and positively affect the discipline of our children.  

You can find our more about Nadia on her website:  and her blog: . She also mentioned that she will have a book coming out at some point this year. I will definitely be getting it!

I took about 3 pages of notes from her was that good! I came home and told Robert all about it. We agreed that we would give it a try since it seemed like a no fail method. Here are the notest that I took. I hope I didn't get anything wrong, but I think you will get the idea and be able to make it work for you family if you wish to do so.

She suggests that parents start out by asking themselves these questions: 
1. What do we want for our children?
2. What sort of parents do we want to be?
3. What type of children do we want our children to be?
4. What type of adults do we want them to grow into?
5. What goals do we have for our children?

The answers that she and her husband came up with were:
For themselves:
-they do not want to nag or scream at their hate it and parents hate it.
-they don't want to be tired, stressed or worn out...parents are only given 18 years with their kids, so we should make the most of it.
-they aren't servants, they are teachers...we need to teach our children how to behave and how to do the things they need to do.

For the kids:
-responsible children- it's not a parent's job to do for their children, but it's their job to teach their children.
-children who know what to do and do it- most children already know what to do, but they don't act on it.
-healthy kids- we can teach them how to be healthy and show them healthy things that they like.
-standard of things that happen everyday- a rhythm or schedule of sorts for the family.
-music and reading everyday- kids manage it themselves. Reading brings academic success, and academic success brings choices (meaning you can choose your path in life).
-promote delayed gratification- wait and think about a purchase/toy. if kids earn something, it will mean more to them.
-kids should play together- siblings need to value each other, listen to one another, and get along.

These questions and answers will help you decide what should go on your children's sticks.

Using the sticks...
For each child, you get a cup or jar and some popsicle sticks.

Nadia's toddler/preschoolers' sticks had symbols/drawings of these things on them:
-get dressed...draw a shirt and pants
-clean breakfast dishes...draw a plate
-brush teeth...draw a tooth brush
-read/look at a book...draw a book
-play outside...draw a sun
-take a nap (if they don't nap, then they can read in bed for quiet time)...draw a bed
-clean up...write the word "Clean"

For school aged children you can have two colors of sticks, or just color the outer edge of some of the sticks. One color is for before school, and one color (or the sticks with the colored outer edge) is for after school.

Nadia's older kids' sticks have these written on them:
Morning sticks-
-get up on time
-make bed
-get dressed
-eat breakfast
-clean breakfast dishes
-brush teeth
-pack a healthy lunch
-get school stuff together
-leave for the bus on time

Afternoon sticks-
-make snack
-clean up school stuff and unpack lunch
-play outside
-practice music
-practice sport
-5 minutes cleaning room
-15 minutes of reading
-help mom (wonderful stick! kids will actually come and ask you what they can do for you!!!)
-lay out next day's clothes
-brush teeth
-set alarm and get to bed on time

How it works...
Every morning the kids dump out their sticks and put them in their own order (if they want to eat breakfast before making bed, they can, etc). After they accomplish each chore, they can put the corresponding stick in their jar. If, at the end of each day, they have all of their sticks in their jar, then they get a golden stick. When they have 10 golden sticks, they get a prize or money or whatever you think their "currency" is. Nadia's kids get legos. My kids will get a pack of gum or tic tacs (they are super easy to please...haha!).

She also has a discipline chart to go along with this. She suggests this chart for ages 4 and up. The chart holds 3 ears and 3 mouths for each child. When a child disobeys or doesn't listen, an ear is removed from his chart. When a child mouths off or says something he shouldn't, an eye is removed from his chart. Under each ear and eye are the words, "help mom." Brilliant! So when an eye or ear is removed, the child has to do whatever Mom asks them to do when she asks them to do it. If they don't, then they lose another ear. If the child loses 3 ears or 3 eyes in a given day, Mom takes away a golden stick. My kids would hate to lose a golden stick!

She also has what she calls initiative sticks. These are special sticks that her kids get when they do something that is not on their sticks or that a parent didn't ask them to do. After getting 3 initiative sticks, they get a golden stick.

It sounds like a lot, but it's really not that hard once you get the sticks made. Today is our first day, and my kids are LOVING it! They are so excited about putting a stick in their jar. I'm excited about it too. I haven't had to remind them of anything today. And I loved hearing SG ask me how she can help me! I'm sure the newness will wear off and I will have to remind them to look at their sticks some, but I really think this is going to be a great asset to our family!

I would love to know if any of you try it and what you think about it!

SG's and Huck's jars of sticks

Tonight Tonight

Today is a HUGE day for me. I am so nervous, and I am second guessing myself. I keep thinking that a homeschooling (yes, we decided to make the leap and homeschool again!) mother of two who still doesn't have all the Christmas decor taken down should not be going back to school two nights a week! But that is exactly what I am doing.

Tonight I will drive onto a college campus for the first time in 9 years and find my way to classroom VON224 to join with other photographer wannabes in the class Photography 1. I have butterflies in my stomach and a fog in my head. I keep going through my checklist of books and equipment to make sure that I don't forget anything.

I just know that I will be the only 30 something in the class. I think I am even older than the teacher. Ha! I'm also thinking that all the young whipper snappers will have taken photography in High School, so they will all know more than I do.

I hope I am exaggerating!

I know it's all going to be fine, that I'm going to be ok. This is a great decision. One that is going to better prepare me for assisting in the future. And speaking of rojo...I will probably be the only student who has such a great tutor waiting for me at home. Nice!

Ok. My nerves are settling, and my confidence is rising. Now off to tackle my to do list for the day, so I will feel like I have it together when I leave for class tonight.

I might need to shorten my list...

As I was helping SG with her homework, I became very frustrated with traditional school and how it is affecting her.

Let me start by saying that Nancy Hill Elementary is a great public school. The curriculum is really good. I would prefer a Waldorf inspired curriculum, but theirs is great for a traditional approach. I really appreciate their Math and Science programs. They have exceeded my expectations. The other subjects are great too, but I was leery of Math and Science for some reason. So seeing how great they are was a unexpected surprise to me.

The faculty is really great too. They truly care about these kids. SG's teacher is really sweet, and seems to be so patient and understanding. The principal is wonderful. She is so kind and takes the time to engage with students and parents. All the faculty does. Every time I am at the school I feel as though all the teachers know me, and I am by no means a PTA/PTO/volunteer Momma, so they really have reason to know who I am except for seeing me at pickup, drop-off and school functions.

And the kids...oh the kids. They are so cute, sweet and friendly. They don't have as much as families in other suburbs, and many of them don't have a great home life, but they really seem to be into school. I've been to 6 school functions in the last 3 months, and I have been shocked at the number of families in attendance. From curriculum night to the school festival, there has been a great turn out. I think this speaks highly of the families at Nancy Hill.

With all of those positives, I do have some negatives. One is the schedule. SG is 7 and in 2nd grade. I wish her school allowed more time for unstructured play. She goes to school from 8 AM to 2:20 PM. Here is her schedule:

8-10am - Classroom
10-11am - Recess and Lunch
11-1pm - Classroom
1-2pm - Mon - Music and Gym
              Tues - Art
              Wed - Music and Gym
              Thurs - Computer and Library
              Fri - Study Time (so there is no homework for the weekend)
2-2:20pm - Get school work together and clean up

We get home around 2:30 and have snack/relax time until 3pm. We do homework from 3 to 3:30/45 depending on how much she has. By the time homework is over, I have a weepy, touchy, moody little girl on my hands. Her mood does change for the better once her homework is put away in its folder and she's relaxed some more, but while she's working on it, her attitude stinks!

Between 8 AM to 3:30 PM SG only has 3 hours of fun/down time. And only 1 hour (recess and snack time at home) of those 3 is unstructured fun/down time. This frustrates me. I believe that children should have plenty of free time to play and use their imaginations. Maybe I should delay homework time so she gets more playtime before doing school work again. But I don't multitask very well (it's true!), so it doesn't quite work if I try helping her with homework while preparing dinner. And she doesn't seem to want to stop playing to focus on homework. It just seems better to do homework earlier... except for the nasty attitude that comes out.

The only other negative really worth mentioning is that Nancy Hill is not a Waldorf school. If we could afford Four Winds Waldorf, SG would be attending there! But right now my options are homeschool or the local public school.

I've been considering pulling her out of school over Winter Break and homeschooling for the spring semester. I'm wondering if I can handle the stress right now. I'm wondering if the kids can put up with me if I don't handle the stress very well. Ugh. I have two months to make up my mind.

With homeschool, I can give her the Waldorf approach to education, and I can give her plenty of unstructured play time. She loves homeschooling, and yes, she still has weepy, touchy, moody days at home. But these instances are more spread apart than they are now that she is in school. She loves being in school too though. She is a social butterfly and strives to be the teacher's pet. :) She is just the type of kid who will excel in either environment.

So what to do?

Prayers are appreciated!

I Don't...Confessions of a Mom

Two blogs this morning discuss the idea of letting go of super mom. Minimalist Mom writes of it . And over at , Tsh wrote out a list of things she doesn't do and asked readers to leave their own list in the comments. I joined in. Here is my list:

I don't change the sheets every week...I don't even change them every 2 weeks.
I don't dust until I see a thick layer of it on my furniture, and even then, I only dust when company is coming.
I don't vacuum or mop more than once a month.
I don't finish a book before starting another one...unless it's a novel. Then I don't do anything until I finish it.
I don't put the laundry away the same day I wash, dry and fold it.
I don't iron unless I'm going somewhere fancy, which isn't very often.
I don't bathe my children or myself everyday.
I don't stick to my budget as well as I should.
I don't feel shame about the above don'ts. :)

Whew! That is a lot of don'ts. It feels good to put them out there. I'm okay with this list. I have a lot of do's, and they balance out my don'ts. There are some don'ts that I would like to turn into do's, but I'm not going to focus on that until my current do's are solid habits. :) It's all about priorities, right?!

I blogged a list similar to this last April. You can read it here: . I don't necessarily consider them confessions of a "tired" Mom anymore. Now I think they are confessions of a normal Mom. We all have things we are good at, things we strive to be good at and things we will never be good at. Ha! I think I am starting to accept this fact and focus mainly on the things I'm good at. My do's are more important than my don'ts. Yours are too!