Posted in Around the Web, Repost, Thoughts from Life

Sock Dolls & Homeschool Tradition

Remember the “looking back at old posts” idea from yesterday? Here’s a post that I wrote nearly three years ago for work purposes. The sock dolls aren’t as prominent these days, having given way to other things. But, the traditions birthed from those sock dolls are still growing. This is a precious memory. 

My daughter’s ninth birthday was just around the corner. She loves homemade gifts, but this particular year she had no requests and I had no ideas. So, my husband and I made plans to purchase a gift or two instead of making something. Suddenly, inspiration struck! Two mere weeks before her birthday, my precious child decided all she wanted for her birthday was a homemade sock doll.

To this day I have no idea where she got the sock doll idea. I wonder if she even knows! I began to interrogate her, trying to determine where she had seen or heard of the idea, but she would just shrug and say the thought popped into her head. I dug deeper, hoping to determine just what sock doll image she carried in her mind so I could attempt to create what she was envisioning. A doll made out of socks seemed to be her only criteria.

After finally remembering a sock doll pattern book my mother-in-law had passed on to me some time before, I set to work. Pressed for time and lacking in confidence, I prayed I could create something that would make my daughter smile. By the time the big day rolled around, a nightgown, two dresses, and a brown-haired, green-eyed sock doll named Susan were wrapped and ready for my brown-haired, green-eyed birthday girl.

Not Just A Doll…

I never would have imagined the tradition that sock doll request would become.

Hardly a birthday or Christmas passes without at least one more doll joining the family. A year after Susan’s arrival, William graced my daughter’s tenth birthday celebration. Ella joined the sock doll family a few months later when my daughter decided that her little sister needed a doll of her own. William and Susan now have a son named George, and Ella met Oliver this past Christmas. My son, who was given a blue-eyed chef named Han for Christmas, is helping me assemble a little sister for George. I believe my middle child has created a sock bunny, and both George’s little sister and the sock bunny will soon be wrapped up and presented to my oldest for her twelfth birthday.

When I first started homeschooling, I mourned my inability to establish homeschool traditions.

I hate paper crafts, and I never could get my act together early enough to plan the perfect food celebration for every holiday. I felt like a failure because holidays such as President’s Day and Valentine’s Day would pass by without an educational, yet celebratory, plan. An old school year would simply end with little fanfare, and a new one would begin in much the same way.

…A New Tradition

Only after the sock dolls began multiplying with great rapidity did I realize that our family really is creating homeschool traditions. We usually forget to work in thankfulness activities all through November, put out the perfect Valentine’s display, or welcome Easter with reminder-filled baked goods. But we do not forget to line up the sock dolls and their stuffed companions to help recreate the first Christmas. We always remember to pull out a favorite book in March to make sure the stuffed menagerie knows the story behind St. Patrick’s Day. Napoleon the Penguin preaches stuffy church every Sunday, and Alf the Calf has performed at least one sock doll wedding in full-fledged Impressive Clergyman fashion.

I no longer mourn the holidays and events that pass us by without the typical homeschool crafts and foods.

A cheap bag of men’s tube socks, some fiberfill, and a supply of fabric scraps might not seem like much for other families, but for us they symbolize surprising tradition in the form of pilgrim and Indian sock dolls retelling the story of the first Thanksgiving. That, my friends, is tradition enough for me!

This article was originally written for Home Educating Family’s blog, now WellPlannedGal.com.

Posted in Marriage

Commitment Considerations

My husband and I frequently get text messages, phone calls, face-to-face questions asking for a commitment to this event or that get-together. When can we meet? Can you attend this? Would you like to join us for that? Can your kids go to this?

So often there is a press to make the decision right now. With calendars on our smart phones, families constantly going ten gazillion different directions, and a society inclined to fill every second with something, it is counter-cultural to respond by saying that we cannot commit to something without stepping back and discussing it as a family – or, at the very least, as a couple.

May I suggest that it is okay, and even advisable, to be counter-cultural when it comes to your commitments (among other things!)? Whether we are committing time, finances, energy, or other resources, being together in commitments is a critical foundation for marriage. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot to be unified when making commitments. It simply takes intentional consideration.

Boundaries

We all know that children crave boundaries, whether they admit it or not. They might push them or even defy them, but there is comfort in knowing those boundaries are there. They know what to expect and when to expect it when the boundaries are set and affirmed through both positive and negative discipline.

Commitments are no different. When a couple sets boundaries, they provide a security for their marriage and their whole family. Is a daily or weekly family dinner important? Set boundaries around it and establish clear guidelines regarding a handful of interruptions that can automatically override the established family meal. This doesn’t mean that everything else is automatically trumped by family dinner, but it does mean that anything outside the agreed-upon interruptions must be discussed before a decision is made.

The same would go for date night, a family sabbath, or other regularly established routines. By setting and then protecting your boundaries, the whole family automatically knows what outside commitments must automatically be turned down.

Personalities

Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Or a night owl married to an early bird? If you and your spouse differ in your social personalities, balance is a huge deal. Just as you need a recharge on one end of the spectrum, your spouse needs it on the other. Even if you have similar personality inclinations, commit to being mindful of each other’s needs. Be willing to sacrifice for one another, but also be open about your needs. If one of you is constantly being fueled while the other is being drained, your relationship will not be healthy.

Of course, it’s important to also be mindful of the rest of the family, realizing that it’s not just Mom and Dad’s personalities and needs at stake. Consider in advance when it’s okay to divide and conquer and when the whole family needs to stay together. When can the decision be automatically made by one member of the family and when does a discussion need to be had?

Choices

There will still be times – many times, I’m sure! – when opportunities or obligations arise that do not fit neatly into the plan, even when boundaries are set and personalities are taken into consideration. We all know how important it is to communicate openly and well with one another. But sometimes we have to make decisions before we have a chance to discuss or communicate.

The best way to handle decisions like these is by being prepared beforehand.

  • Have a weekly calendar date. Discuss the upcoming week in detail, but also discuss any adjustments that have been made for the current month and the upcoming month. This will reduce the chances of double-booking or overloading the schedule.
  • Communicate potential commitments. Do you know that your parents are looking to plan something, but don’t have a date yet? Maybe some friends want to find a time to get together or a group you are involved in will need extra meeting times to complete a project. Go ahead and put those things on your spouse’s radar.
  • Set a “maxed out” guideline. Like with your boundaries, communicating this in advance, you know when you must say no to avoid overcommitting.
  • Determine in advance how often you will go separate ways. You don’t have to do everything together, nor do you want to divide and conquer all the time. Decide in advance what thr balance looks like for your marriage and for your family as a whole.

Once a decision is made, be quick to inform him of your choice. Establish a foundation of trust that gives him confidence in your decision-making process. And offer him the same trust.

Posted in Thoughts from Life, What I Do

Working Mom

I have a question for you. When you think of your identity, what title do you give to yourself? I have several. Pastor’s Wife. Homeschool Mom. Writer. Editor. And, up until recently, Stay at Home Mom.

Has something changed? you might ask. In fact, I can almost see the wondering on the faces of some friends, wondering if I’ve suddenly decided to put the kids in school and work outside the home. And, no, it’s nothing like that. It’s more of a discovery.

Defining Stay at Home Mom

It’s a realization that for many, many years, I’ve struggled with my role as a mom.

I have this mental definition for the “Stay at Home Mom” title. It’s a mom who essentially structures her life around the care of her home and family. Everything else is secondary.

For fifteen years, I’ve called myself a stay at home mom. But, can I share a little secret with you? I have never fit the boundaries of my own definition, and I have always felt the conflict of that without ever understanding why.

Just recently, it all clicked in my head when I realized that I have actually worked for nine of my fifteen years of motherhood. And, in the years I didn’t work, I always had something specific to focus on. In the early years of motherhood, it was photo editing. I loved to take pictures, keep them well organized on my computer, and edit them in a variety of ways. Later, I started writing and discovered the world of product and book reviews. Only now do I see that I looked upon both of those “hobbies” as jobs.

Only now do I see that I’m not really a stay at home mom, and I never have been. On the contrary, I have always been a working mom. The whole time.

A Beautiful Mental Shift

Admitting that is a big deal for me, because I realize I have always felt a bit ashamed of my jobs – ashamed that I enjoyed them more than keeping up with my home or cooking for my family. It’s not that I preferred being away from my family. Quite the contrary! I love being with my family. But, I’ve always preferred the work that is not home related. The more I loved my jobs, the more I felt like a stay-at-home mom failure.

Something about the simple admission that I am a working mom changes so much in my head. You see, like many of my friends who also work – some from home and others outside the home, both in part-time and full-time capacities – I still prioritize my family. I shape my work options around doing what’s best for my family. I work in a way that allows me to homeschool. I work in a way that makes me available to my children when they need me, while still setting parameters and boundaries for work time. My family is no less of a priority. But, the care of my home is not my job. It’s a joint responsibility for every family member.

I cannot even begin to explain how that admission has eliminated conflict for me. That realization has helped me interact better with my children. It will allow me to share responsibilities of home care more freely, rather than feeling like a failure because I thought I couldn’t keep up with my job.

I’m a work in a way that most vibrantly nourishes my family working mom.

And, do you know what? I still highly value stay at home moms. But I also absolutely love who I am and what I do.

What about you? What title have you adopted? Does it fit?

Posted in Marriage

Marriage Monday: As a Family

Do you recall the story of Isaac and Rebekah? We meet Rebekah in Genesis 24 when Isaac’s father Abraham sends a servant back to his family to secure a wife for Isaac. Rebekah returns with the servant willingly to marry a man she has never met.

Twenty years later, twin boys Jacob and Esau come along. Take a look at Genesis 25:28: Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Mom and Dad chose favorites. And in the long run, choosing favorites caused major issues in the family. Although Scripture does not go into detail about the marital relationship of Isaac and Rebekah, her willingness to readily deceive her husband for the sake of her favored son (Genesis 27) is pretty solid evidence of division within the marriage.

What about us?

The story of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau is not about marriage, and I won’t stretch it to glean marital truths from it. But it is an example of what happens when we allow our children to form a wedge between us and our spouses. Because it is an example, I believe we can use it as a springboard from which to discuss positive alternatives.

Here are some thoughts to ponder:

1) Instead of dividing us, the presence of our children should remind us to intentionally put one another first.

Our oldest child loved both mama and daddy and wanted us to fill different needs. Our second child was much more particular, but she did not mind mommy and daddy being together – as long as I could be there to meet her needs.

When our son came along, though, we found ourselves in brand new territory. He was a jealous mama’s boy through and through. Once he began to talk, “My mommy!” was a common phrase when my husband would try to hug me while our son was in my arms. My husband would sweetly, but firmly, respond with, “My wifey!” and proceed to wrap me in a huge hug. He was never harsh with our son, but he intentionally taught our baby boy that it was not a competition.

And now my son has no doubts. He knows I’m Daddy’s first. And he’s secure in that knowledge and in the knowledge of our love for him. By extension, my husband and I have seen our love continually strengthened because we reinforce it before our children and the rest of the world!

2) Instead of making life about our children, we are driven to even more strongly consider the impact of our marriage on the world around us.

Our children see the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our marriage. They hear us fuss and disagree. They see us in unity. But, through it all, they are completely confident in our solidarity. And if they see our solidarity, how much more will the world see it?

Marital solidarity is not a cultural preference these days. But it is a biblical reality. Being intentional about our marriage is an incredible testimony, and our children offer a great litmus test by which we can evaluate how others view our relationship.

3) Finally, instead of life being us versus them – whether it’s Dad and Mom versus the kids or Dad and “Esau” lined up against Mom and “Jacob” – interactions with our children can help us learn how to be strong in marriage in communion with others.

I’ve clearly stated on more than one occasion how important it is for my husband and me to pull back and have time to ourselves. But, it’s also important for us to function in community with others. So, we start with our family. We are training our children to follow Christ in everything. That means that if Doug and I have to divide to do women’s or men’s things, our “little” women and man divide and go with us. That’s part of training them. If we divide as a family, it is very rarely for one of us to go a lonely direction. Yes, that’s necessary on occasion, but it is our rule to make that the exception!

Marriage is not just about him and me. It’s about us. It’s about everything that encompasses us. Our children are a part of that! As a result, we must actively pursue a godly marriage as a family. What are ways you can accomplish that this year?

Posted in Around the Web, Homeschooling, Thoughts, Thoughts from Others

Around the Web – June 18, 2014

I haven’t gotten quite back into the full scope of blog reading this week as I’d hoped, but I’ve still come across a few posts that I really enjoyed.

Doug’s Blog

A couple of weeks ago, Doug wrote a post about earning his MDiv and contemplating what’s next. Obviously, I know all about his journey and his plans because we have talked through these things many, many times. But, “Third Degree Burns?” also has a point. No matter what might be ahead, consider where God has you right now. Obey here and now. I needed that reminder.

Oh, and if you like historical fiction and want something a little different, take a look at Doug’s review of Edwin, High King of Britain.

The Fun of Homeschooling

The Nerd Factor

I love the way homeschooling feeds our nerdiness. Here’s the phrase that caught my attention this week:

Do you hear the words Allon-sy, Geronimo, and Fantastic all the time in your house? Are jelly babies on short order? Does the sound of the T.A.R.D.I.S. echo from your living room? If so you might be the parent of a Whovian. (Who am I kidding? You might be a whovian yourself.)

I love that a fellow homeschool mom wrote “Using Doctor Who in Your Homeschool.” And my oldest immediately said, “Yes, please!”

The Training Factor

I also ran across this post about the need for children to move and play and be outside: WHY CHIDLREN FIDGET: And What We Can Do About It

And this post about summer boredom:
Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

A Lifestyle Thought

Then there’s this post: Because There is a Difference

I absolutely loved this post. It expresses what I know to be true about myself. My eating habits, or any other health or discipline habits, mean nothing if my heart is not in tune with Christ. Aimee Byrd articulates that fact beautifully.

Be sure to check out what my HEDUA friends have been reading and writing in Must Reads. And don’t forget to share your links with the rest of us!