Monday, March 21, 2016

The One with the Helper

You guys. Is there seriously anything cuter than this?

I was busy "spring cleaning" our outdoor space earlier this week. There were a lot of things I wanted to get done and not a lot of time to do them! All. The. Things. Someone send help!

Imagine my surprise when I'm busy rummaging through the outdoor toy bin, throwing out the zillion broken toys we've managed to keep for the required minimum of six years, and I hear the hand-vac start up!

Bless. This. Boy! Such a sweetheart, amiright? Awwwww! He was insistent on vacuuming up all of the leaves on the rug. I so scored big when this little joined the fam!

Love him!

Friday, March 18, 2016

The One with the Train Ride

We had a busy day last Saturday with spring ball practice for both LO and Chase, so we decided to make a day of it at the park. One practice at 11 AM, some fun at the playground, a picnic lunch, a train ride, and another practice at 2 PM.

Somebody was pretty excited about riding the train!

These sweet faces. They are my world!

Clown. Times two. I can't get enough of them and their silliness. Is that a boy thing? 'Cause they keep me laughing All. The. Time.

Such goofballs. LOVE.

I couldn't help but ask for a pic with Mr. Conductor! What fun!

We had such a great day! And all of this train fun reminded me of this post when we took LO on a train ride at another local park back in 2010. Go check out that post. I promise watching that video of 3-year-old LO is the best thing you will do today! ;)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The {L-O-N-G} One About Classical Conversations

Hey, y'all! I've been meaning to write this post for over 8 months... it's a bit delayed to say the least, but finally here! It's basically the one about homeschooling and why I chose Classical Conversations and what is Classical Conversations and what does a day in the life of a Classical Conversations homeschooling family look like and why I choose to never ever ever write run-on sentences--haha! 

Come along, and enjoy a vicarious peek into our world, won't you?
Whew! This is my second year of homeschooling and our first year in Classical Conversations. I must say... I am thrilled with this program and everything my kids are learning! We have completed 21 of our 24 weeks of CC, and I am simply astonished at what God has taught all of us this year!

I wasn't too sure about Classical Conversations in the beginning, because I do NOT think of us as a "classical" family. But I didn't have a true understanding of the word! After some research, meeting with our (amazing) CC community director before the school year began, and plenty of prayer over the decision, we ultimately felt like this would be the best fit for our family. And it's not a one-year thing: once you're into CC, you're kind of committed! But that's a good thing are we're excited about it! {Warning: I'm about to throw down a seriously detailed description of classical education... you have been warned!} This program is awesome because it utilizes the three stages of learning: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. Here's a quick summary for you and what it means for our current homeschool situ!
Grammar isn't only what I'm sure you're already thinking -- it's actually learning the words and terms associated with a subject -- any subject. English, of course, but also Math, Latin, Science, Geography... you name it! Grammar is essentially learning the vocabulary, or "building blocks," of a subject. This stage is fun for kids because they get to put their grammar to music, learning repeating songs, chanting rhymes, etc. There are some seriously catchy tunes in CC and I've found myself singing them at random throughout any given day. ;)
Both LO (3rd) and Chase (Kindergarten) are currently in CC's Foundations course, which is the Grammar stage experience in their classical education. Both of them are learning the SAME MATERIAL (insert Hallelujah Chorus here), making it incredibly easy for me to work with them each week. Can I get an Amen?
The next stage is the Dialectic stage where students ask questions, sort, compare, and practice the knowledge they learned in the Grammar stage. Much of the work done in this process is accomplished through dialogue. This stage is broken down into CC's Essentials course, covering 4th grade through 6th grade. It continues through Challenge A and Challenge B for 7th and 8th grade, respectively.
The final stage of learning is the Rhetoric stage. This is essentially communicating the truth of subjects learned in the Dialectic stage through writing, speech, and conversation. In CC, this would be Challenge I, II, III, and IV, the equivalents of high school. This stage gives teenagers a chance to express themselves and be creative problem solvers... exactly what they want to do at that age. Win! 
{If you're interested in learning more about the classical foundation of education, check out this link from the official CC website.}
Understanding the classical model of education was a big catalyst in our decision to go with CC. Breaking it down further only served to encourage the decision. The Mission of CC, for example? This. Is. My. Heart!
MISSION: The purpose of education is to know God and to make Him known.  
MODEL: We combine classical learning with a biblical worldview.  
METHOD: In Classical Conversations communities, parents equip parents and encourage students. 
So the decision was made to join CC last summer, and we couldn't be more happy with this! Teaching our children is a calling God placed on my heart, and I believe He even calls us to do so through the Scriptures. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 states, "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." {Side note: Those words Moses spoke of when he shared what the Lord commanded His people? "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Incredibly important stuff we're responsible for diligently teaching our children IMO.}

So basically, we should be teaching our children All. The. Time. How could I accomplish this if I didn't have the kids with me All. The. Time? Additionally, I can't imagine missing out on 8 hours of their lives 5 days per week while their learning is taking place outside of our home, outside of our "jurisdiction," and outside of God's calling for us. {Disclaimer: I fully believe not every family may feel led to school their children at home and that is perfectly alright! I would never want to come across as "shaming" parents for making the choice that is right for their family. Please don't ever mistake my passion for our homeschooling lifestyle as an insinuation that ALL families should be doing it. They shouldn't.}

As a CC family, we meet with our amazing, outstanding, incredible CC community every Tuesday morning for Community Day. Tuesdays are the best, aren't they? Well, they aren't Mondays, so that makes them pretty awesome!

Each Tuesday morning we follow the same schedule*:

* Our family does not currently participate in the afternoon Essentials Program, but we will begin next year since LO will be in 4th grade.

One other handy gem of info about CC is that it goes in cycles. Three cycles, to be exact. This year, they happened to be on Cycle 1, which, if you know me, was a clear sign from God that we should be a CC family. My OCD could not have possibly handled "starting" a brand new year in a new program on Cycle 2 or Cycle 3... ;)

Here's a little breakdown of what each cycle covers:

As for this year in Cycle 1, we've been busy memorizing a TON of information! There are over 400 facts, figures, and information that both LO and Chase (and me!) have memorized this year. I think I may have learned more in one year with CC than I learned during my entire tenure in public education! I'll just leave that there. ;) haha!
  • 161 events and people in a chronological timeline beginning from Creation through the Present
  • 44 U.S. Presidents
  • 24 history sentences
  • 120 locations and geographic features in Africa, Europe, and the Old World
  • 24 science facts, including classifications of living things and each continent's highest mountain
  • 5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
  • English grammar facts, including 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs, and 12 linking verbs
  • Multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, basic geometry formulas and unit conversions
  • Exposure to drawing techniques
  • Music theory and tin whistle
  • 6 great artists and related projects
  • Introduction to orchestra and 3 classical composers
  • 12 science experiments, 12 science projects
  • 24 oral presentations
  • Memorization of Exodus 20:1-20
Wow, right? This program is very impressive and our family is blessed to be a part of the CC community. It is my hope and dream that, if God is willing and continues to provide, we will continue with Classical Conversations for all three of our kids through High School. I certainly don't think this will be an easy task, but I truly believe it is what God is calling us to do and is in the very best interest of our children and their futures.

Here's an encouraging infographic from the CC 2016 Catalog regarding the success of CC students:

WHEW. If you made it this far, congratulations and I look forward to seeing you at the dinner table now that you are officially a part of our family. ;) But in all seriousness, I can't possibly tell you how much we appreciate the love, support, and prayers of our family and friends with this homeschooling venture of ours. God has called us to this journey and I couldn't be more grateful for the joy and privilege of witnessing my kids understand a new concept for the first time, for spending countless hours in our pajamas singing and memorizing, for impromptu science experiments, for including housework/chores in a typical school day, and for so much more that I can't even express. Y'all watch my Twitter, IG and FB posts, though, so I know you know how much fun we're having!

Love y'all!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Another Big Day!

So for whatever reason, last night, right before the kids' bedtime, I thought it'd be fun to convert E's crib to a toddler bed. I don't know what it was that made me think he was ready. But I decided it. And it was so.

I had hubs take the front rail off before I brought E in for bedtime. He was pretty excited when he saw his bed and climbed right in! We went through our usual bedtime routine of a book, prayers, and a few precious moments of rocking, only this time allowing him to get into bed himself, and called it a night! We weren't too sure what to expect.

However, just like his siblings before him, he had a perfectly restful night! He didn't get out of his bed a single time! And get this -- the boy slept until just after 10AM! Bless him! I can tell you with certainty and gratefulness that mommy may have just slept in 'til 10AM this morning, too! WIN!

I was super proud with how the nighttime went down, but was curious to see how he'd handle nap time today. BLOWN. AWAY.

The kid got up one time right after I left, just to grab a book, and climbed back into his bed. He then proceeded to rest... for 2 1/2 hours. Quite honestly, I'm not sure why I'm so shocked by all of this. It's exactly how LO and Chase handled the freedom of toddler beds.

So consider this a shout out for sweet E and his awesome sleeping self. This boy definitely has his mama's heart! Well, at least until those Terrible Two meltdowns catch me unexpectedly. ;)

See this big guy? Movin' on up, just about 6 weeks shy of his 3rd birthday...

And his big bro with the same Big Kid milestone just a few days before his 2nd birthday in 2011...

And of course, the one who started it all! Here she is about 2 months before her 2nd birthday in 2009...

The One Where I Say, "Thank You!"

Okay, so I was getting ready to write up a quick post about my new toddler-bed-sleeping baby almost 3-year-old, but first I felt compelled to take a minute to write a quick post to say Thank You to the MANY people who read this post and offered kind words to me through encouraging facebook comments and private messages. I did not realize how many people have experienced issues with their thyroid, whether it by hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism ('cause they're quite different!), nor did I realize the MANY various ways others have found relief from the symptoms of thyroid disease.

T H A N K  Y O U !

It is so encouraging to know I'm not alone in this! And it's inspiring to see that -- when we take just a moment to be vulnerable enough to share what's really happening in our lives, and not the "perfection" we seem to portray on social media -- people will respond in wonderful, unexpected, and encouraging ways!

I'm so very grateful for those of you who continue to support my family and I as we "do life" together. Thank you for being a blessing!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The One Where I Talk About Myself

Can I be real?

You know, just for a second or two. I'll make it quick. Promise.

Those of you who've been reading here for a while know I rarely write about myself. I mean, with a husband, three kids--one of whom sent our world spiraling out of orbit with his prenatal CHD diagnosis--and the guise of overseeing homeschool perfection on a daily basis, it's not often that "mommy" makes an appearance in my stream of consciousness. Nothing personal, self; you're just not that interesting.

But I struggle.

There. I said it.

I struggle. With life, with parenting, with marriage, with health, with friendships, with serving God, with serving others, with balancing life, with defining priorities... the list goes on and on.

And, as they say, the struggle is real.

Now I won't pretend for one second that I'm alone in any of these struggles. We are all fighting for our families and livelihoods while simultaneously fighting against the enemy and his efforts to steal, kill, and destroy. And while I know my God is bigger than any obstacle I find in the road ahead of me, I still call out this whole "being human" thing every now and then, and how unfortunate it can be at times.

Here's the good news: I'm not going to rant on and on about all of the struggles because, let's face it, your interest level and attention span (not to mention my will to vent) isn't conducive to such extemporaneous dialogue. So I'll be moving right along now and focusing in on one key area: my health.

I'm going to share a tiny gem here that very few people are aware of: I was diagnosed with a fairly common disorder called Hypothyroidism waaaaaaaaaay back in high school (waaaaaaaaaay back = the 90s. Like, the 1990s. To confirm, Me = Dirt). The diagnosis didn't mean much to me at the time. I didn't have any symptoms, but was told my thyroid levels were whack and that I'd need to take a daily pill for the rest of my life. Yay?

Fast-forward about a decade (geez I'm old!), and you'd find the newly-married hubs and I looking to populate the world with our sure-to-be genius offspring. A positive pregnancy test and a vat of joy and excitement unfortunately ended in an early miscarriage. Two months later, another positive pregnancy test and optimistic excitement also ended with the same unfortunate result.

We were stunned. Disappointed. Confused. Just to name a few.

With a little bit of research, we discovered the importance of hormone levels in successful pregnancies. Any guesses on which gland is responsible for secreting hormones?

Spoiler alert: it's the thyroid.

With a quick online search, you'd find research concluding that "hypothyroidism has a statistically significant relationship with recurrent pregnancy loss in the first trimester."

Darn you, thyroid!

Of course you all must know by now that I successfully birthed three of those supposed genius offspring. This was only possible with monitoring thyroid levels during each trimester of pregnancy, adjusting my daily maintenance medication as needed. It wasn't a terrible inconvenience, but it certainly added a new level of stress during pregnancy since we were very aware of what would happen should those levels get too out of whack.

So we've established that (A) the thyroid is important and (B) it sort of plays an important role in pregnancy. Got it.

Wanna know another side effect of hypothyroidism? I knew you would. I could wait here while you google it, but I'll save us both the time: Weight gain.

{And all the women everywhere sing the Hallelujah Chorus a la Handel's Messiah. Only not.}

Can we all just agree to have a thyroid issue to explain away the weight gain? Seems legit to me!

Ugh. But really, this is where my latest health struggle lies. In December of last year, my endocrinologist tested me for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis disease, and the results were positive. This wasn't terribly unexpected, and in the end doesn't really impact how I will be treated; however, it did explain the underlying issue of my hypothyroidism.

Apparently, our dear friend Hashimoto's disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid... you remember, that lovely little gland responsible for producing hormones that coordinate many of your body's activities? All the activities. Like the weight. And the gaining. Oh the gaining.

Y'all know how frustrating managing one's weight can be, especially as one's age grows closer to yet another round number... and how difficult it can be when you make everything else a priority rather than properly caring for yourself. There are just so many things/people vying for your attention, amiright? All. The. Things.

But I digress. Well maybe not just yet. Let's take a look at a little graph here for a bit of a visual aid, shall we? In the effort of full disclosure (thus empty embarrassment?), my actual weight in numbers shall not be publicized here on the interwebs because, really, right? But I will disclose that the horizontal gray lines on this here graph each represent ten pound increments.

I'll await your gasping and/or calculating of the gray lines. I wish I had the ability to share further back than just a year, because you'd see that graph all. over. the. place. It's insane. And frustrating.

It doesn't seem to matter what I do--diet, exercise, exorcism of my sweet tooth, et cetera. My attempts are futile as it seems my body has its own interests in mind, which, apparently, is holding on to every ounce of weight to the utmost conceivable degree whilst searching out it's next dozen pounds.

Bless it.

I was hoping to get things figured out but oh, the tweaking. The tweaking of my medication is driving me certifiably insane. The consolation I find is that I'm no longer depending on a primary care physician to make their best educated guesses on where my levels should be; I've started seeing an endocrinologist whose job it is to know how to bring these numbers into submission. But even still, we continue to tweak my medication levels in an attempt to find the right balance that accounts for my immune system's evil desire to attack my perfectly innocent thyroid.

Will we ever get there???

I can hope so. I believe so.

But we aren't there yet. And that means I continue to do my best at managing the symptoms of this disease, which hands-down, my favs have to include the weight gain, fatigue, and stiffness/swelling in my wrists < - - - - note: not the best situ for a computer-wielding, piano-playing, cake-decorating, overall significant wrist-using individual.

I'm guessing it's quite likely that one or more of my faithful blog readers can identify with the life of hypothyroidism, and if so, I'm hopeful you're getting the treatment you need to be a productive (albeit tired) member of society. And I really hope y'all don't mind me being real here about this. I'm so grateful this "battle" of mine is as insignificant and unimportant as it is... I'm fully aware that many are suffering with much more serious and life-threatening diseases. But since this is my blog after all, I decided to take a cathartic moment to unload a bit of stress and be honest about life. Because I'm learning that it's okay to share a struggle -- whether big or small -- as we all go about doing life together, supporting one another, and encouraging whenever possible. And I pray in exchange that you will give me the same opportunity to love and support and encourage you with whatever life has thrown at you. I'm here and I know how to listen and pray!

Just as long as I can fit it in between donuts and nap time. ;)