Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A year in review..

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 35.

A National Holiday.  At least in my family mind.

Ever since I was a little girl, I remember my birthday being a big deal.  Maybe it was because I was the baby and the world revolved around me (sadly).

But even as an adult, I LOVE celebrating my birthday!

And after my "30th" debacle (in which I was not happy), I am happily embracing EVERY year since.

My 34th year was full of huge milestones:

* In February I decided it was time to get fit.  I started exercising and eating better (dieting) and lost 16 lbs by December.  (pic on the right was in Sept).

* I set out to become a runner. And I did it!  I started with a 10:30 pace in February and now run an 8:30 pace as of December.  While I put a lot of hard work into this goal, I simply could not have made the improvements I did without my running partner (and trainer), Kristen.  I met her when we joined our lifegroup at church.  And she was eager to encourage me to get fit and exercise (she is, by trade, a spin instructor and a personal trainer).  And all the time we spent working out really turned into a beautiful friendship that I am so very grateful to have.  Love you New Jersey!

                                     (here we are after my very first time running sprints.. sweaty mess!)

* I ran some great races with my husband.  This was a first for us.  And it was awesome.

                                          (the Kenya Relief 5k)

And one of my favorites was the Warrior Dash!  a 5k with 10 obstacles included! 

*I ran my first Half Marathon!! 

* I got my first Tattoo! 

* We got a dog! 

*I had my first getaway with my husband in a very long time. And we also went ziplinning, which was also a first!

*And one of the biggest, and most difficult for me, milestones was my oldest child going "off to school."   

There was so much more that happened this year that was wonderful like the birth of my new niece, Eva Graciela, and the fact that I can now swim up to 2 miles (in training for a triathlon) and I have made some really amazing friendships that are icing on the cake.

All of this makes me sure that my 35th year will be even better!  I am claiming it as the "YEAR OF THE PULLUP!"  Yes, while I can run long distances, I have ZERO upper body strength and hope to be able to do some pullups by the end of next year.  Also, I will be competing in my first triathlon(s) as well as doing the Tough Mudder in April. (watch the video below):

IM CRAZY, RIGHT?? Thankfully I've already started training and Kristen is helping!!

While I am getting older.. I REFUSE to "get old."  Gotta keep moving!! Gonna push myself to new limits and watch as I accomplish things I never dared to do in my 20's!

I'll keep ya posted!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

My exercise in transparency.

If you haven't read the post "in which the homeschooler goes to school.."  you may want to catch up before reading today's post.

I wanted to share where I was emotionally/mentally/spiritually through this process.  It may encourage some and dumbfound others.  Either way, I'd like to chronicle it as a "stone of remembrance" for future days of doubt.

Let me start by laying down a quick foundation for this post.  I know that the topic of school choice is  quite controversial.  Not just in way of personal convictions but in philosophy of education.  I get that.  So let me be clear on some key points before you proceed rummaging through my scattered thoughts:

1.  I love homeshooling.   My philosophy of its benefits in education and how wonderful it can be has NOT changed.  I still believe strongly that it is a noble venture and should be approached with extreme numbing down of expectations.  Did that confuse you?  Well, those that homeschool will know what I'm talking about.  Rarely does it look like what we expect it to.  But the benefits far outweigh, for most families, the cons and when done well, the child thrives.

2. I am speaking about myself, not you.  I will keep all my statements focused on "me, myself, or I."  Please hear my heart on this: this post is not trying to persuade you in any direction.  It is merely me sharing where I have walked.  If you feel encouraged, great!  But it is NOT my desire to make you feel inadequate, proud of yourself or anything in between.

3.  I desire respect from all sides of the discussion.  There is enough GRACE at the cross to realize that this topic, while important for families to decide, is not critical to salvation, sanctification  or the furtherance of the Gospel.  Therefore it is not a dogmatic discussion.  If you care more about where you land on the subject than you do for the people involved.. I encourage you to take some deep breaths and step away from the topic.

Okay, so that's done.

I will acknowledge that I like to be in control.  Not in a "in your face" kind of way.  Just a tad bit more subtle.  And to be honest, I have learned (about myself) that as a professing believer in Jesus Christ.. I struggle to realize how much I pat myself on the back for said "appearance" of control.  All the while, professing that I really do believe that God is the one who is Sovereign.  Big picture.  Yet, I struggle with the personal application of that truth.

So when I realized that I was deeply in over my head, beyond the "God never gives you more than you can handle" farce, I was ready to relinquish some control.   The truth is that I can definitely put on myself more than I can handle and have the danger of not wanting to appear that I can't handle it, so I will take on stress that God does not intend for me.

I knew two months ago that I was not being consistent with Jorge.  Our home chaos (just during school) was enough to make the most willing teacher and student have a nervous breakdown.  And then there was the fact that he asked me if he could go.  And his reason had nothing to do with an unhealthy attachment to his family.  He wanted to LEARN, in quiet.  Without the 2yo screaming and the 4 yr old whining and fighting with the 6 yo.  And the mom constantly interrupting the learning to put out another squabble.

On the morning of my "aha moment" what hit me was the thought: "I can't do this anymore." That is truly THE single most difficult thing for me to admit.  I didn't feel like a failure.  No. I had taught two kids to read, basic math facts and potty trained three kids (the latter being the most noble!).  No, I didn't feel like a failure.. it was the thought of "this isn't working anymore."

I sat on the couch and cried.  Not because I wanted it to work, but because I knew that no matter how much more I tried it wasn't going to work.  I cried because I was sad that what I knew would work would go against my dream.  It would go against my comfort zone.  It would mean..

.. I would have to trust Him.  

Then I cried because I realized that I didn't trust Him.

I felt as though God was calling my "bluff" and calling me out on yet another area of my life that I thought was "just fine."

Who would watch out for my baby?
What if someone hurt his feelings and I wasn't there to comfort him and remind him of the truth?
What if he forgot the foundational truths of his faith in the moment he needed them most?

You see, in my mind most mommas fear what other kids will teach their kids on the playground: like body parts and sex.  But that stuff is common knowledge in our house.  Yes, my 6 & 7 year old know the basics of sex.  They know things that grown adults refuse to talk about with their teenagers.  But that's just how we've done things in our house.  So that's not my concern at all.  Besides, any thing mentioned on the playground is open for discussion with us.  (Shoot, it's likely my kids who would be "teaching" the other kids on the playground).

No, I had concerns about my son remaining sensitive to the things of God, if he isn't being taught those things all day.  And I'm not talking curriculum here.  Not a Bible class.  But a "you get in a fight with someone and we get to bring the Gospel in to that discussion immediately"kind of way.  I was uncomfortable that I would not be there to "fix" that for God.  You know, me, His ambassador to my child. (said, tongue in cheek).

But in the middle of those What If's God whispered, "He's mine, Rachel.  I made Him.  I am responsible for changing his heart.  I will speak those truths to him, yes, even at 7 years old.  He wants to follow me and I will be faithful to that! Can you believe that I want to?  That I'm capable?"

If he goes to school someone can hurt him and create a deep wound that can remain for life: "Yes, Rachel. But I am the God who can restore and heal." Besides, do I really think that I can protect him from this his whole life? No.

If he goes to school I don't have as much time to teach him more about the love of the Father: "Yes, but I am with him always.  I speak those things to him.  And you reiterate and give him examples."  Besides, this certainly has made me more intentional THAT is for sure!

I honestly didn't have a problem realizing it wasn't working.  I have always said that I would reevaluate each child each year.  When it was time I had NO doubts he would be fine educationally speaking.. it was me that was struggling to relinquish my control over my concerns for his spiritual growth. Because, as parents, we have very little control there anyway (internally speaking).

There are some that would argue (heck, I used to be one of them) that keeping your kids home allows for a safety net of protection long enough to secure spiritual foundations in a child's life so that when they leave your home they are able to withstand the questions that will come to their faith.  I understand that, I really do.  But I have to believe that if God can bring two individuals from broken homes, no Christian faith of their own until college and very strong influences from the world, to now have a thriving relationship with Him and a passion for the Gospel and a desire to lead their four children into a family and faith life that they themselves did not have.. that God is strong enough and big enough to handle my son going to public school for 1st and 2nd grade (and beyond, if needed).

I would have never, in a million years, expected to follow this path.  But given my specific set of circumstances that led us to decide this was the best option for right now, I am trusting that the Lord is leading our family specifically.  He is giving us wisdom and discernment as to the needs of the moment as well as trust that He is able to redeem as well as orchestrate the heart of our children. And reminding us that He is not limited or bound by the place where our children receive their education.

This is not to say that there aren't specific challenges to making those foundations prevalent, and it does take way more intentional living than I have previously experienced, but it is worth it.

Our family is thriving and the stress level has gone down considerably.  I am able to enjoy my time with the younger three and Jorge is able to learn and grow in areas that I was not able to pull off.

I appreciate all the prayers and support and I look forward to what the next year brings!

Thanks for sticking around long enough to read that. Any feedback you have is welcomed!!

Just keep it respectful!

We went LOCO and got a dog..

It only took 10 years of  my husband nagging me plus two years of his recruiting the children to nag and I finally caved agreed.

It started as any other day.  Chaos.  Children whining and fighting.  A mother already in over her head with four children.

Perfect idea to add a dog into the mix, right?

Well, a friend on Facebook was asking for help.  There was a dog at a kill shelter in GA that would be put down the following morning if no one adopted her.

When I saw her picture.. I was convinced she would be our dog.

She looked sweet in the face.. and downright scraggly in the second picture.  But just knowing that she could get a second chance at a family who would absolutely adore her, made me excited.

I called my hubby at work and told him about her.  And that if he were willing, I would call right then and make the verbal commitment to get her.

He said to go for it.

So I did.

After that we had to wait about five days until we got her.  So we prepared.

We got a crate:

Which doubles as a nice stowaway for children..

We also had a family vote for the dog's new name.  In the running was: Lola, Stella and (Eva's suggestion) Passy Gassy.  Stella won by a landslide.  But because we did have one kid fighting for "Lola" we ended up agreeing on "Stella Lola Garcia" and she would be called Stella, and on occasion.. Passy Gassy.

And when we went shopping the night before for toys.. I felt like I was shopping for my children.  I was very excited.

We drove to Montgomery the next day to pick her up at Ashleigh's house:

The kids immediately loved her and Stella did GREAT in the car.

She had her first bath AFTER her first swim in the creek by our house.

She loves all the kids but has attached herself to the oldest, my very own dog whisperer, Jorge.

While it took about three days for her to stop growling at the kids, she has figured out how to get relaxed even in the chaos.

Her favorite respite is her crate. I am very thankful for that.  The kids have learned this is the "no touch" zone.  When Stella is in her crate she is telling us she wants a "time out." 

And of course the couch is her favorite spot.  But so far, she wants to rest ALONE. She happened to get one of the most affectionate families on the planet, but we are patiently accepting that, while she loves rubs and snuggles at her choosing, she prefers to sleep alone.  Maybe one day that will change and we will be begging her to stop laying on us.

Her torture is her own doing.  She simply can NOT stand the kids playing outside without her.  But as a puppy, she doesn't quite get that she can't nip and bite at the kids when they play.  Of course, she is playing as well, but she outweighs all of my children.  So they ask me to bring her in when they plan on running around the yard.  The temptation is too much for her.

The first three days were terrible, for me.  It was more difficult than I imagined, what with having to train FOUR children to leave the dog alone as well as training the dog about her new life here. After all of the difficulty and the daily chewing of everything in the house, she is a sweet dog.. I realize that.  And she is actually a very obedient dog, very willing to please.  And I am very thankful for her willingness to love me even after I've repeatedly gotten on to her.  There is so much we are all learning that there has had to be plenty of grace to go around.

But she is worth it.

She just better stop pooping all over my yard.  I have to clean shoes at least three times a week.

I know, that's wishful thinking.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

in which the homeschooler goes to school..

So what is the equation that allows the homeschooler to be enrolled in public school?

              Mom's emotional breakdown + no money for private + child wanting to learn= public school 

Yep, that's about it.  

Four months ago my eldest, Jorge, asked me if he could go to school.  "Why?" I asked.  "Because I can't focus here. And can you make Isaac stop crying so I can finish my math?"

The kid had a valid point.  But I gave him my husbands lawn mowing head phones, industrial strength, and he seemed happy.  

Fast forward four months to two weeks ago.  I had been in denial for about 4 weeks. I was overwhelmed, tired and frustrated.  While the homeschool day had worked with kindergarten it was way harder to pull off now.  I simply could not orchestrate enough consistency and quiet to allow for Jorge any time to learn, especially new concepts.  

Then we got a dog.  

Oh yeah.. that should make me sane.  That is a separate post entirely.  But God used the dog to show me how little I was actually getting accomplished anyway.  The morning of my "aha moment" I had spent two hours dealing with the dog AND I had gotten up early just to make sure that we got school accomplished first thing.  Needless to say, I realized how hard it was to pull this off and I then sat in a crying heap on my couch realizing the obvious: Jorge deserves more.  

Sure, the schooling aspect was going GREAT!  I could teach and he could learn, all day long, if it were just the two of us.  He is such a willing student and a hard worker.  However, it's not just the two of us. I know that there are so many people that are able to pull this thing off, but I was beginning to lose it.  I realized just how tired I had become and, angry.  I was so tired of hollering out at the younger three "Hey, go find something to do!  Anything!! Just please stop interrupting our school time!"  

I wanted so much more for them too.  I wanted to be able to do the "fun" things I was able to do with Alex and Jorge when they were that age.  Like, actually play with them.  I wasn't able to pull that off either.  

So, I called the school to find out what we needed to do to enroll.  

I was serious. 

When my husband came home from work, I ugly cried explained what was up.  He did all he could do to contain his glee and said "I really think this is good.  I think it's going to bring a lot of balance to our home."  He has always been my biggest supporter, but had "suspected that it had gotten harder" for some time.  I wasn't in a good place and he could tell. I am so grateful that he allowed me "my process" and supported me no matter what. 

The original plan was to wait until January, but an educator friend of mine (Shelley) recommended going on and sending him so that the teacher could assess him and start strong in January.  Of course, Jorge was thrilled with that idea.  

So he started December 3rd.  I think the highlight of his life was the fact that he would finally be able to ride the school bus with all the neighborhood children he already knows.  

He woke up at 5am that morning, dressed and ready to go. I was excited too, since I had been in contact with his teacher, Ms. Davis, via email and her excitement curbed some of my anxiety.  

Of course, I mourned as well.  Sadness over not having my sweet leader boy here with us all day. But I knew he would be having fun and thriving!  

On his first day, we took him to school and then he rode the bus home.  Then after that day he would ride to school as well.  I asked the grands to come celebrate his first day!  

                                                                 Here comes the bus! 

                                                            The crowd of supporters!

                                                                     He is so happy!

                                                    Mrs. Christine, our precious neighbor.



                                                                          My big boy!

I will say that the second day was harder on me than the first, but we got through.  And now I simply adore 3:35 every day! That's when he comes home.  Of course, he is doing so well and his teacher has had nothing but good things to say.  I am also so proud of him!  He was able to stand up and "do what's right" without me being there!  While on the playground his fourth day, he realized some of the other boys were playing a game of "hurt the girls" and he told them (what he has heard from infancy) "God made you strong to protect girls, not hurt them" and they told him "whatever, we will do what we want."  So Jorge went to the teacher and told her!  My good little "tattle teller!"  Ha!  The best time to "tattle" is when someone is going to get hurt if you don't.  That event was such a great conversation starter for us  (as well as him telling me that one of the boys later sang a song titled "women's boobies, women's boobies"  I was extremely thankful for that conversation as well).  

I am hoping that given a couple of years, I can return to homeschool.  It will continue to be, as it always has been, a year by year review.  

I really appreciate all the support we have gotten.  As I know this issue is very controversial to many.  To us, we are celebrating this season and know that God is in control of ALL.  Praising God that after all these years He is still faithful to teach me and stretch me in the places I tend to think "I'm okay here."  

Part TWO of this series is linked here: My exercise in transparency. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

I"m only HALF crazy!

Well, I did it.  I ran my first half marathon!! And what a fun weekend it was.  

I handed off the kiddos, on Friday, in two different locations (younger two to Tuscaloosa with my younger sister Rachel and the older two with my OLDER sister, Mishka in Montgomery).  

Then, me and the hubs were Pensacola bound!! And an added bonus: our friends Kristen and Jesse were there too!  Kristen is "full crazy" because she was running her first FULL marathon.  Wow! 

So we arrived Friday night and connected with Jesse and Kristen and ate dinner at Pegleg Pete's.  Being sure to start my weekend of "carb loading" (yes, I know it's only for the night before a race and not two days out) I chose to eat this: 

                                                                the grouper sandwich! 
And then we went to get coffee and chat!! 

The next morning I awoke to this view from our hotel room: 

Then we did a laid back 2 mile run to loosen up the legs for Sunday. And then we went to breakfast.  Y'all, only a picture will do justice to show what I ate.  

I eat the same, if not more, than a grown man.  I said I wouldn't eat the pancake but I ended up eating half.  Again, carb loading. Right? 

Then we went to pick up our packets.. and drive the course. 

*It should be noted that everyone was fine driving the course, until we veered off to follow the marathon route.  Everyone kept commenting on how boring it was to drive this route. LOL.  And poor Kristen was the only one "manning up" to run it.  26.2 miles is a loooong run.  (like I said, I'm only half crazy.. at this point).  

So then Jorge and I headed back over to the beach to get the necessary beach pics: 


 Ahh.. it was refreshing.  I loved being able to just have some "us" time.  Then we headed back to Mollie's house (who was hosting us Saturday night) in time for some yummy pasta (more carbs, YAY) and unfortunately, a terrible Alabama football game.

Then it was time for an early bedtime and an earlier wake up call.  It was 4:30 when my alarm went off letting me know it was time to stuff my face with a cream cheese bagel sitting beside my bed.  Then roll over and try to go back to sleep.  The final alarm going off was at 5:10.  Time to get ready.

Much to my chagrin, we arrived by 5:45 and in time to use one of these:
(thank you hubby for yelling "GOOD LUCK, BABE" for everyone to hear). 

Then it was time to go stand in line and wait: 
                                                    (it was a wee bit chilly, even for Pcola) 

                                       (it got a bit more bearable and then it was racing time)

And then off we went.  Me for the 13.1 and Kristen for the 26.2!! 

                                                  (in the second mile.. still smiling..)

And then I did it!! I finished.  13.1 in 2:02.  I'll admit it.  I was really hoping that I'd finish in under two hours but when I hit a wall at the 10 mile mark (my foot was hurting..among other things) I was just so glad that I finished.  When I ran my 10k last weekend I was on pace to finish in under 2 but like I said, I slowed down at the end and couldn't get it back.  But needless to say, I have no regrets! Just another reason to train harder!  

I also had a nasty chaffing spot under my arm so I had the pleasure of getting that "taken care of": 

And you better believe I took advantage of the free massages:  

And My gal Kristen wanted to finish her first marathon in under 4 hours.  And that girl finished in 3:57!!! 

I have to say: this was an insanely fun weekend! A getaway with my hubs, a run with a sweet friend and lots of CARBS!!!

Lets not talk about how sore I was for the first 24 hours.  And that I am totally gonna run another half soon!  I got two minutes I need to beat!!

A special thanks again to my awesome hubby for so proudly supporting me and telling me over and over how proud he was of me.  For my sisters, Mishka and Rachel for braving children and loosing sanity so that we could go.  To Mollie for hosting us and making us laugh. And to Kristen for being an amazing coach and running partner (and friend)!! And Jesse for showing us how to run with a jacket!!

Now I am asking myself the obvious next question:
Who knows.  I have no plans at the moment.

Any races y'all are running?