Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bits: By and By

Angry is not a word I throw around very often.  In fact, usually when I'm talking with the girls we use words like frustrated, hurt, grumpy, upset, disappointed, sad.  And usually those are far more accurate than angry, because every one of us can be sensitive given a particular issue.

But I wasn't kidding last Monday.

I was angry.  Yes, throw in hurt and disappointed, but the truth remains.  I just could not believe-- among several unfortunate incidents-- that two different sets of people straight up did whatever they wanted, with no regard to decency or to their word.  To clarify, these are not folks we know very well; just ones we have found ourselves having to do business with.  Sadly, I've found that people's compassion is often tied to their own convenience or purse strings.  No exception to this last week.

But I can also tell you this.

I don't like feeling angry, which is probably why I usually stop myself before it escalates to that place.  Righteous anger can be a good thing if carefully considered (starving children, the state of adoption or foster care, the killing of innocent babies because they are girls, trafficking, and more).  Stewing anger is a different bad story.

So I took the day it hit and I sorted through it, I prayed, and I asked God to take it away.  To give me clear eyes to see, to not waste my precious energy and time dwelling on such uselessness.  To help me remember that such behaviors can be signs of brokenness and hurt in the lives of others.

And you know what?

The next day, it was gone.

The Lord asks me to pray for those who caused us grief, and though it sounds ridiculous to some, there is such freedom in this.  Bitterness and resentment, anger and revenge are not my job.  Those emotions take hold of me; they hurt me... they do nothing to solve the problem; they simply make the problem worse.

What freedom there is in Christ!  He knew by telling us to forgive those who hurt us, to pray for those who persecute that we would allow Him to be in control.  It is His job to judge and mine to obey.  I am off the hook except to do what is right in His sight as much as is within me.

Oh, what freedom!  Especially when I get over myself.

This past week for "Serve Someone Sunday" the girls wanted to take donuts to the fire department.  There have been a couple of big fires around town lately and the girls noted that they have probably been working pretty hard. 

At the end of the trip, with new Junior Firefighter badges proudly displayed, we talked about the equipment and clothing the firefighters use to protect themselves while they serve.  We also talked about how they are like Jesus because they go into the flames for us and they risk their lives to save us.

Truly there are so many metaphors here.

Every day, as believers, we're asked to suit up.  In fact, without suiting up we can almost guarantee to be hit by firey darts.  Darts that will only sting at best or knock us completely down at worst.  Yet when the fire gets really hot, when it threatens to overtake us and do us in-- we will NOT be burned.  We have one who willingly stepped in to take the heat, to be bruised for our transgressions.  By whose stripes we are healed.

He promises to carry us, lead us, guide us, never forsake us.

Oh, what a Savoir!

Sunday, we went to church, and I passed Joe a note in the middle of a really good sermon.  "Want to get out of Lynchburg for the afternoon?  Go do something fun?"

Um, yes.

So we downed bowls of spaghetti, threw on hiking clothes, and took advantage of a little sunshine.  We hit up a new trail, one that was a bit more challenging than the usual.  The girls were pumped, checking out hollowed logs and spying smooth stones to toss in the cold creek beds.  Calling it an adventure each step of the way.

At one point we were traipsing across this long footbridge, feeling mile-high with the cool wind whipping our hair.  Maddie asked me to walk along the nail pathway with her, counting each one that held the bridge's planks in place.  Though my anger had long subsided, there still remained some lingering notes of anxiety because honestly-- I'm a person who often wants things solved and done with yesterday.  I hate confrontation and drama.  I want to believe that the best in people will win out every time.

As I held my girl's hand, though, and as I put one foot in front of the other I was reminded.  This is life.  There are seasons for skipping down the bridges with hardly but a care in the world, the wind whipping carefree hair.  Then, honestly, there are days of taking it one step at a time.  When the wind feels a little colder and leaves unwanted tangles in its wake. 

In those times, it's important to remember life is truly an adventure with lessons at every turn. 

Give strongholds over to God before they have time to take root.
Suit up.  Let Him deal with the flames.
Follow the path, one step at a time, lovingly marked by the nails of the cross.

Because, oh, what beauty is missed when we purposefully remain blind to the God of the Universe shining down on each of us!  Telling us He's there. He sees.  He's working.

The journey will be worth it.
Step by step, lesson by lesson, bit by bit by bit.

ps: Dr. Seuss Day is a favorite around here (March 2nd).  Here's a super fun list if you too want to celebrate!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bits: Take Heart

My Heart Day girls decked out and headed to Bible Study 


If today had been yesterday, I wouldn't have felt like writing a thing.  What I did feel like was pulling the blankets up around my head and calling uncle.

But is that a true cross-section of life?  If I want my girls to come back and read these words some day, I want them to know it's not all roses and sunshine.  In fact, sometimes much of it feels not at all like roses and sunshine if you want to live and do right in a world that has a whole lot going wrong.

I want them to be comforted that their Mama struggled sometimes, but that I know the Comforter.  That this verse means what it says:

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Peace, take heart, overcome.


Probably among some of the most important things I can possibly teach my daughters.

I have lots of reasons to be stressed right now.  Kind of a when-it-rains-it-pours type of time.  It came on suddenly, with one frustration and broken promise upon another.  People's choices to be dishonest or to not keep their word flooring me in a way that has bubbled up all sorts of emotions.  Topped off by some food poisoning for me this past weekend, and I was weak and angry yesterday.

It takes a lot, I think, to get me to such a place and poor Joe-- my best friend-- took the brunt of it last night after all the girls were in bed.  I spent my night restless and frustrated and in prayer.

Then with the morning came fresh eyes.  Joe's hugs and words of forgiveness popping up everywhere. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" meaning more than a sports motto.  It means I can love unlovable people.  I can stand up for what's right with integrity.  I can believe God will work things out even when I don't see it happening.

I can take heart.

That's all I've got today.

Well, that and my bits.

:: February 14th, such a super sweet day.
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
:: Family Night Pictionary, such a fun game with the girls.  A new favorite for sure.
Photobucket Photobucket
:: Warm afternoons for quiet, then messy, learning.  Hope saying (of Valentine's Day), "I thought yesterday was the best day ever!  But then there's today.  Actually every day is the best day when I get to be with you, Mom."
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
 :: Babysitting my "grandchildren" who have very specific schedules, quickly scrawled out for me as an afterthought that I might need it in lead and white. Three great mamas-in-training.
Photobucket Photobucket
:: Alysse consoling me when I was sick with gentle rubs and, "Don't worry Mama, I'll go to the Goodwill and get you some coffee."
Donating/thrifting + coffee makes it all better, right baby girl? 

:: Precious puzzle lovers giving me a break. Photobucket
The bits may be short and sweet this week, but I am ever so glad they're mine.

Taking Heart,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bits: Laughing Good

Once when my brother was a wee thing, he told a joke.  Jokes that I totally get now that I'm a thirty-four year old mother who often has to fake-laugh to the likes of:

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Duck Who?
Duck, who's gonna quack on you!!!!!

My Dad, being not so good at the fakey kinds of stuff, responded with a literal hardy har har har.  Kind of kidding, but still-- not good.

My brother, usually a pretty laid back fella, was mad and hurt rolled into one.  The rest of us poorly attempted stifled laughter, and to this day we joke about it from time to time.  I still don't believe he thinks it's funny.

Well, that's the way of comparing Friday before last to this past one.  Last Friday being all "Homeschool-yay! TGIF, e-v-e-r-y body!" and this one being all, "Where'd you come from cold?  My head's going to explode.  Alysse had a twenty four hour bug and I literally had to sit up all night with her in the upright position 'cause girlfriend was so out of it she almost choked every few minutes.  Thank you, movie collection, for the awesome job you and our box full of art supplies did babysitting.  Jesus help me; is it bedtime yet?"

In the matter of a week, I guess the week told me:

Hardy har har har.

That's alright.  I'm not going to be bitter, largely due to the fact that God's been answering prayers around here.  More on that later, but I am grateful.
Long story short: patience IS a virtue. 

And grateful, even when I've had my moments of sick and grumpy and all, is what the bits are all about.

:: Add cartoon artist to her list of dream jobs.  She creates in a flurry of passion and thick strokes and bold colors.  And loves heroes, adventure, and comic strip style.
:: Maddie, on the other hand, is slow and careful with most of her creations.  They are soft and detailed.  She likes romance and sparkly, happy endings.
This is totally a Katrina-face.  People, you should see my kindergarten photo.

:: Alysse just likes to have a paint brush or marker in her hand.  Can be deadly with some scissors, though.

{Photo replaced by your mental image of my carefully chasing her and the scissors down.}

:: So glad folks love new recipes!  I too need some new inspiration every now and then.  Here's a no fuss, much lighter option that we make some variation of almost every week.
Did you know Joe's family is Mediterranean?  That's not really why we make this salad, but anywho-- it is an easy, peasey meal. Chop favorite lettuce; romaine works great but mostly spinach is pictured since that's what we had on hand.  Then add any or all sorts of Mediterranean-like toppings; tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, onions, peppers, etc.  Toast some pita bread and serve on the side with your favorite hummus (roasted red pepper is delish!) Dress with your favorite balsamic or greek vinaigrette.

Note: I don't make different meals for our family; generally everyone eats (or at least tries) the same thing.  Sometimes, though, I serve it up in different ways-- like for this I would serve the girls pita and hummus, while breaking up the toppings on the side.  Since we really dig salads, I do this often with lots of different combinations (Another fave: romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges and/or apples, cranberries, feta, walnuts or almonds, and a raspberry vinaigrette).

:: It's Valentine making season.  Feeling the love, especially while we try to understand the best explanation of love there is.
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Our little family love note station. Adorable, free printables here.

:: When we have sick days or catch-up days and the girls get some extra dvd/video time, I've learned not to be too concerned.  It fuels plays, reenactments, new plots, pausing the show to try and draw the characters, a desire to understand cartooning, newspaper or book spin-offs, and more.  Of course, I love them to read and play outside and tap into their own originality-- but I also love that they see potential for creativity everywhere.  Plus, who doesn't need to vege out from time to time?
Toy Story aftermath; First thing in the morning and they have gathered every toy or object in the house that could serve as a character.  Alysse is barely awake and already jumping into some terrific story lines.  Hope was probably off finding or creating the rest of what they needed.

:: My baby loving one of her babies. Sometimes I so badly wish I could have my Leesie pint sized again and in a carrier right over my heart.  I smile just remembering her as a chubby little ball of love.
Photobucket Photobucket

Laughing Good,

ps... Valentine's Day math, no?
Free bar graph printable here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bits: Just Another Hair Raising Day

So, if you choose a word like peace to mark your new year-- it is quite likely you're going to get a lot of practice straight away in showing that you mean it.  Especially if you seem to be a slow learner like, oh I don't know, me.  Don't get me wrong; there have been times in recent years that amazing peace has taken over, and I've dwelt in that precious place to weather some of this life's bigger storms.

Simply put: it's usually the more every day of annoyances that evict me from my peaceful residence to it's evil next door neighbor's joint.  Madwoman Manor. Ever been there?

It's not pretty in those try-hard, own-strength rooms.  The ones where you hide because you think the Landlord Upstairs might have forgotten to have your best interests at heart.  It's up to you to work and work to put pieces together, to constantly straighten up around you-- in essence-- to wear yourself kind of out over silly details.  All the while right there in  your lease, Section Matthew Chapter Six,  it reads:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Own it.  Own it.  This message is for all who believe.  Tell God your desires, ask Him for what you need.  Then lay it down.

Lay it down, Katrina. 
{Like you don't talk to yourself.}

Then hear Him whisper, "Peace be still."

The best homeschooling days are the ones where we are simply present.   A loose framework, fueled by a little energy and coffee and desire to learn.  I have been reminded of this, even in the verses above, to live in the now-- the day that has been given.  Stopping that useless waiting until this or that happens to do what we really love.  Yes, sometimes life gets in the way and things have to be scrapped or altered from the original plan; but, more than likely, there is plenty of good to be done with exactly what I have and exactly in the moments I have been given.

That's why I love reading this series and since we started a new semester, the new year bringing in a fresh wind of beginning again, I thought I'd pop back in with another "day in the life."  These are so helpful to me as we grow and fun to read as the years skip along.

Without further adieu, another hair raising day in the Martins' House-- Madwoman Manor boarded up, with fresh nails nearby in the event of a break out.
It's a Friday which, when at all possible, is an extension of the week-end in some ways.  The biggest being that it's a slow going kind of day and, as I usually try to do, we have nowhere specific we have to be.  The girls trickle into my bed one by one and soon a pet show takes place under the blankets.
The leftover mound of stuffed animals as evidence.

We all come downstairs and Hope announces, "Let's celebrate! It's the first day of February."  So comes the chocolate chip pancakes (with extras made so I can be lazier the next morning), the smoothies left by Joe for the girls, a cup of coffee for me. 
Girls head upstairs for morning chores-- beds made, clothes on, teeth brushed while I set out things for "Circle Time."  This is our new way to begin our official learning time, and I really dig how it starts us all off together.
Weather graph, calendar math, memory verse, devotion, and a second hand book I picked up that I wanted to share with the girls

After Circle Time the girls head upstairs while I cut up cantaloupe for a snack tray of that and some pretzels. Also throw some pizza dough ingredients in the bread maker, Maddie's choice, since Family Night is to come later on. I crank up the "JJ Heller" station on Pandora.  Fill my soul, Lord.
By the time I get upstairs I let the girls finish playing "family birthday parties" and then we snack as we do, what I call, our "Literacy Block."  Word work for Hope, sight words for Maddie, coloring this week's letter for Alysse.  Leesie soon skips off to play for a long time in their bedroom with Polly Pockets and (shhhh!) Maddie's new mini Rapunzel Doll.  Maddie is really into what we're doing so she sticks around for the rest of the time.
Then "Reader's Workshop," which is just a fun way of saying that we read self-selected books and learn how to do readerly things.  Typically this is followed up by "Writer's Workshop," but Hope and Maddie got so into the "Henry and Mudge" series that they read through that and through our Math/Science time.  Far be it from me to stop voluntary, happy reading.  So, I don't.
Photobucket Photobucket
Instead, I grab some simple things to make lunch and the girls eventually all make it downstairs to eat.  I read aloud as they munch and Alysse steals all my kiwi.  As the sun shines through the back door and the continuous soft music plays, I can feel it heavy... blessed.

Next is a "Fun Friday" activity... sometimes we bake, sometimes we do an experiment, sometimes we answer the question, "What do we want to learn more about today?," sometimes I sit on the couch while they spin circles around me.  This day we play a math game about time since that's what Hope is currently learning.
Rest time!  New policy: each girl in a room of her own for the hour.  This is, pardon me, but brilliant.  Since all my girls share a room, this plan is a good break for them... and me.

Since I did not get up extra early I use this time to do my CBS study (LOVE!) and have a date with Billy Blanks.  I throw in some healthier oatmeal cranberry cookies for snack and to have as dessert for after dinner.  (Typical oatmeal cookie recipe-- just sub applesauce for the oil, throw in a couple TBSP ground flax seed, and use just about 2 TBSP butter instead of a whole stick as many recipes call for).
Photobucket Photobucket 
Two of the three are asleep so I pass Hope the new National Geographic Kids that came in the mail as she builds with Legoes.  I use the added time to, thank God, grab a shower.  And a much-needed load of laundry. And check out some of my favorite blogs and check e-mail.  You know, all that jazz.
Sweet Angel Cakes

Afterwards I wake up the only remaining sleeping beauty and all three play: some draw, some build with blocks, some look at books, some argue and drive me crazy, etc.  I get the stack of dishes that have been progressively piling all day into the dishwasher.  Finally I call to come help with the pizzas and girlies about break their necks to get there.

Throw some veggies on two rounds of dough for Joe and I; make a Caesar Salad for us all.  Eat dinner, do the always anticipated "Mad Libs" from the NG magazine, watch Maddie's selected family movie (while Joe and I fold a few rounds of laundry), a family story and prayers, and try to get everyone to bed.  Gonna pay for those long naps, but hey-- at least I got a shower.  And in Maddie's words, "My favorite part of Family Night is being together!"
Agreed 100%; now just go to bed already let's look forward to more time together tomorrow.

Sometimes I think of the other jobs I could be doing, the great life-changing work that I could be investing in, the big dreams that lay just a closed eyelid or two away.  Then I remember, this season is short.  Much too short, even if the days sometimes feel a bit long. My heart is here, in the two and four and six year-old now.  

Then my soul lies at peace in this gift.  This hair-raising, memory-making, patience building, peace-seeking gift of NOW. 
Tomorrow can worry about itself.

Other Days in the Life: Here and Here and Here