Family, Homeschool, My Personal Journey

Our Homeschooling Journey

For the past few years, our family has been homeschooling our kids. It’s probably the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done as a parent. Every time they learn something new, I know I helped with that. Over the past 3 years homeschooling our oldest, we’ve used a pretty wide variety of curricula. We started off with a really cool workbook from Amazon for second grade, moved Switched On Schoolhouse for third grade, and used workbooks and Easy Peasy for fourth and fifth grades. Each curriculum had great and not-so-great things about them for each of our kids. While I love the way Easy Peasy is planned out, I’ve found that my sweet child tends to phone it in because of the way the curriculum is laid out. This year she is starting 6th grade. As her mom and her teacher, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure she gets as much out of school as possible over the next few years! These middle and high school years can have a major impact on what life looks like for her after 18, so I’ve leaned hard toward a curriculum with some accountability built in. We started school a few weeks ago, and while she’s still enjoying her Easy Peasy curriculum, we are going to try out something a little more structured for the next few weeks!¬†I’ve been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning. We’ll also be trying out the 1st grade curriculum for my little Bear! I’m excited and nervous about what the next 30 days will hold, and I look forward to letting you all know how my experience goes ūüôā

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Marriage, My Personal Journey, Reflections

Why Wait? From someone who didn’t, and did.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to post on this topic, as SO MANY people have weighed in already… but given my story, I feel like I have a pretty unique perspective on the matter… and if only one person reads it, it’s worth my time to write it all out. So, here goes.

A woman wrote a few months ago that she waited for marriage and wished she hadn’t… And it went viral. It’s tragic, for so many reasons… first, that she has found herself unable to enjoy marital intimacy, and second, that she chose to share with the world a post that has undoubtedly changed the hearts and minds of young girls who might have otherwise done the same (and not regretted it). I can understand the reasoning in some ways, but I mostly just hurt for her… She waited. She assumes it would have been easier or better somehow if she hadn’t. The thing is, though, that she doesn’t know whether it would have been better. I do. I know what it’s like not to wait. I know the hurt, the ick, the expectation that not waiting can bring. But I also know what it’s like to wait. I know how it feels to date a man and, through temptation after temptation, keep yourself chaste and just. wait. So with that unique perspective in mind, let me tell you … why wait?

The first time I remember thinking about sex and what I thought about it, I was 12 or 13. I was talking with a friend who said she had lost her virginity a few months prior because she had been raped. I was so sad for her. She felt that this was going to define her life and that her purity was gone and it didn’t matter what she did anymore. I cried for her. Because we were friends I told her that it didn’t have to change things for her.. that it was sad, and awful, and I was so sorry, but that she could move on and it didn’t have to change who she was. I had already decided for myself before that point that I didn’t want to have sex until I was married. It wasn’t because of my youth group — I didn’t have one. It wasn’t because of my parents — they themselves were never married. It wasn’t because I was passionate about Christ or because I wanted to honor God or anything like that… it was honestly probably because of logistics… I didn’t want to share something that had to be seriously intimate (and, in the mind of a 12 year old, inevitably gross) with more than one person. I saw my purity and my virginity as a gift, and it was the only thing in the wide world that was mine to keep and give to whomever I wanted.

I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but I never made a True Love Waits commitment or wore a promise ring. But at 14, when my boyfriend made suggestive conversation about things we *could* do, I resisted.. but eventually caved. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of na√Įvet√© and fear. A part of me thought this could be the easy way out. We had talked about marriage, and what if he was the one? Maybe this is the way I could ‘seal the deal,’ and we really would be together forever, and I’d never have to deal with the hassle of picking a husband or being single or whatever. Yeah, I was definitely na√Įve.
Unfortunately, the fear I felt wasn’t invalid. He did leave – not because I wouldn’t do what he wanted but in spite of it. After a few months of a relationship that revolved around sexuality on a level that I am, even now, very uncomfortable with, he began seeing other girls. Not behind my back – I was fully aware, but they weren’t. I was afraid to leave at this point because I had given such a huge part of me to this person and I couldn’t just leave that chunk of me behind. My parents, wisely, did everything they could to pry me from him, up to and including moving me about 200 miles away from him. And that worked, in a way. On our one year anniversary, he broke up with me because he ‘couldn’t handle a long distance relationship.’ Unfortunately, when I found myself living locally again six months later, the abuse continued, and I continued to allow it.

I finally began falling for another boy as a new school year began. He was a virgin, and I remember thinking that was cute. At this point, sex had become, in my mind, a weapon; it was power. It’s frightening to look back on, actually. It did feel empowering once or twice, until that weapon was turned on me and I found myself once again at the wrong end of this incredible, soul-crushing power. Once again, my boyfriend began seeking other mates while I bowed to his every whim until eventually, I walked away.

My senior year was about the same, only the boy was cuter, and the abuse was exponentially worse. Everyone could see it but me, as it always happens, and before I fully understood the extent of the abuse I was enduring, I found myself pregnant as a freshman in college, by a boy I couldn’t imagine having to spend forever with.

What you have to understand is that there was a large part of me that entered each of these relationships fully believing that I could marry this guy. The relationships began and these guys exhibited marryable traits. They all went to church and were fairly active in their youth groups. They pulled out chairs and opened doors. They didn’t dress like thugs. Each of them was actually in our high school ROTC program, which required a level of discipline and poise that you wouldn’t expect from the ‘average teenage boy.’ These weren’t the bad boys — they were the good guys. But sex. changes. everything.

I’d like to say having a baby helped me get my head screwed on right, but it didn’t. I still hoped, in a way, that sex could somehow lead to marriage — it always worked in sitcoms, after all! I endured a couple more ’empowering’ situations with other boys before deciding that this wasn’t going where I wanted it to. I remember driving home from my boyfriend’s house one night and it finally hit me — sex is bigger than me or this boy. It’s bigger than an activity that you do together. It’s an emotional and spiritual giant and it can and will swallow you. It was there in the driver’s seat of my car on Hwy 80 that I realized why sex is meant to happen only within marriage.

I don’t know how pertinent it is to the story, but it was a few months later that God shook up my whole world, and I got baptized and actually changed my life. Or I guess, my heart, because I was still a single mom making barely enough to pay for rent, gas and daycare, but it didn’t feel so hopeless anymore. That doesn’t mean I never made a stupid decision about a boy again… but I did feel somehow different about it.

A few months later, I reconnected online with a guy I had met on MySpace a year and a half earlier. He was a Christian – and now I had a way better grip on what that actually meant. I wanted to approach this relationship differently… with conviction. He was a virgin, and I liked that… but this time it was because I hoped it would keep him from trying anything. I hoped it would mean he’d respect me. Something my friend when I was 12 told me that always stuck with me was ‘once you give him more than a simple kiss, you’ll never have his respect again.’ I wanted to be respected. I wanted my feelings to matter – not just about sex but about life and TV shows and the color of my hair and how I dressed and whether I was well and what I was interested in. Any boy who had ever had more of me than a simple kiss soon lost interest in my feelings about any of those things.
Anyway, for some reason, this Christian boy took a chance on me. And to tell the truth it was so hard to stick by our convictions. Once you’ve been there it’s so hard to step backwards, even with a new person. It would be a lie to say we never stumbled or were never tempted, but we fought hard and made it to our wedding night before giving ourselves to one another. And you know what?
It was different.
There wasn’t some magical thing that made it amazing in spite of our inexperience, but the respect, the actual active, even-when-it’s-not-easy love he felt for me, the trust that we had given to each other — that he had earned — in the hard waiting… that made all the difference.

I can tell you, with more experience than I wish I had, that sex is better when you’re married to someone who truly loves you, than it is when you are dating someone who says they love you. It isn’t picture-perfect, it didn’t eliminate the natural process of it all, but it didn’t kill me inside. It still had all the markings of two people who still don’t know everything about one another written all over it, but it felt more like the beginning of a process than an event to get over with.
To anyone who has waited and regretted it, I would say to remember that you have the rest of your lives to practice getting things right, and if one party or the other is unwilling to do so, there is counseling for that. Don’t give up or think that you have to be miserable, because that isn’t what marriage is about. This is part of the ‘for better or for worse’ that you signed up for…
To anyone who hasn’t waited or didn’t wait, there is no condemnation here, but there are always abundant opportunities for redemption. If you have questions about that, comment below and leave an email address and I would be happy to talk more about that.
To anyone who is on the fence, I implore you to wait. Don’t let one girl’s bad experience change your life forever.
To any and all of the above: You are a gift. You are worth waiting for. You are precious. You are pure. You are lovely. Nothing you have done changes any of that. And it’s never too late to start over.

**and, side note: to cut down on first-night awkwardness, I recommend reading books like Sheet Music & The Gift of Sex before your wedding night, and discussing sex with your future spouse, as well as participating in premarital counseling. Sex isn’t wrong, bad, or dirty – it’s complex, intimate, and important. Treating it like it isn’t – one way or the other – is ultimately damaging to everyone involved.**

Family, Health & Wellness, My Personal Journey

We Have To Talk About This.

There were several comments on my post about DIY Scratch Sleeves that theorized why my son’s eczema was so bad. I appreciated these comments, but by the time I had gotten them I already knew what they were telling me was true. And I didn’t mean to take a super long blogging break the first half of this year but I had to because my son was so sick. So sick. And he isn’t out of the woods yet, but he’s well on his way to healing from a condition called TSW¬†or Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

Sounds weird, right?

You see, I thought withdrawal from medications was a fairly quick thing… a few weeks, max. In fact, we experienced a minor withdrawal when we switched from topical steroids to essential oils about a year ago. It looked like a minor flare, followed by a ton of improvement. But then on Halloween last year my family went to IHOP and my son was given a strawberry that had spent its life in strawberry syrup being coated in Red 40. We didn’t realize it until after he had eaten it, and as a result we spent several days in the hospital helping his body breathe. One of the steps in that process was a round of oral prednisone.
At his follow-up appointment with his pediatrician, the doctor pointed out that his skin looked great, but was looking very thin. After a couple of weeks, his skin began looking worse than ever, and at that point nothing helped.

The decline :(

In our Christmas photos, you can see that he just isn’t quite himself… and it just got worse from there. We didn’t leave the house for weeks. I hadn’t gone back to the topical steroids, but the prednisone set off the withdrawal that I suppose the switch to oils had *almost* saved us from.

not so bad anymore

If¬†you’ve ever had the inkling that maybe your eczema or your child’s eczema was getting worse on steroids… or that your skin almost seemed to need the steroids… let me just tell you¬†you’re probably right.

just about back to normal

After 9 months of suffering, my boy can play again. We almost never get questions about his skin anymore. I’ve watched friends go through this condition, though, and I know it might not be over for us. But for now we’re okay. And because of what we’ve been through I have to tell people and at least try to prevent another child from going through this misery. Because it’s downright horrifying what my son has had to endure and I can’t imagine not trying to prevent that!

If you want to know more, go to ITSAN.org. You’ll find forums there with people who have and are going through this. You’ll find research and photos of healing. You’ll find a list of symptoms that go beyond skin and maybe it will explain some of the things you’ve experienced that have baffled the doctors. I know I was thankful to find them and talk to other parents who have walked in my shoes, get advice, and help me figure out how to love my son through the hardest thing I hope he ever has to go through.

I have many more photos, but they are heartbreaking and very personal. There are other moms who have shared their TSW stories in far greater detail, and you can find them at http://www.itsan.org/get-involved/IMIA/

Essential Oils, My Personal Journey

Essential Oils – Notes from a former skeptic

I wanted to let you know about a new(er) development in our home.

Although we had experienced a dramatic change in my son’s skin once we successfully eliminated all the food coloring, we still battled severe dryness and itching. We had used every soap and lotion we could find (including several $30 bottles of CaliforniaBaby which his skin didn’t like any more than it did the regular stuff), various oils (baby oil, coconut oil, etc) and we were still battling constant itching and bleeding, scabby legs from my sweet boy not knowing how to quit scratching. Desperate, I reached out to my friends on Facebook. I didn’t want to have the “stop scratching” chorus be my all-day-long song to my son any longer! I had one friend recommend using essential oils. I honestly thought it was crazy, but nothing else had worked, so I agreed to let her bring me some samples.

She brought me samples of lemon, lavender, and melrose oils. She suggested I place them in a carrier oil – I used some of the coconut oil leftover from previous ‘lotion’ attempts – and apply it several times a day for the first few days, and I could taper off after that. So I did just that. The first day, it looked about the same. Toward the end of the second day, it looked worse. I asked my friend and she suggested that it could be the steroid creams coming out of his skin. It sounded weird, but I was never comfortable with all those steroid creams anyway, so I went with it. On day 3, I started to see some real change… and I also began to run out of oil. I dragged my feet, and my husband and I talked about buying more, but what convinced us was what happened on the next few days. His skin continued to improve. I was basically shocked. The scabs were healing from all of the scratching, and he was no longer itchy all the time. At this point, I decided something had worked. It was no longer a constant uphill climb! We had reached a level of skin that was almost¬†normal. I tell you, I could have cried. I probably did.

We have since begun using essential oils for many things. My son’s skin is still in better condition than it had ever been before. And most excitingly, if he has accidental contact with red (like his sweet sister sharing her candy, or chewing on a red pen – yes, both of those happened… within a 2-day period!), the “mommy lotion” keeps it from getting obnoxious like before. Benadryl is still needed in those instances, but we no longer need a round of steroids to get him breathing well again (as long as we catch it pretty quickly), and his skin doesn’t go back to crazy. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why it works. I just know my son is closer to feeling like a ‘normal’ little boy (if such a thing exists), and he is so. much. healthier.

For our family, we have found that making the essential oils into ‘medicines’ we can simply pull out as needed works best for us. We have small jars in our medicine cabinet, and I find myself reaching for lavender instead of tylenol these days for a headache, and Purification for a bug bite instead of After Bite (and a bonus – it doesn’t STING like After Bite does!) I’m excited about this new world of wellness to which I’ve been introduced, and we’ve had so much less sickness in our home than is normal for this time of year.

Have you ever used ‘alternative’ or ‘supplemental’ medicine? What have been your experiences? Do you have questions about essential oils? Ask them below and I’d be happy to answer however I can!

Faith, My Personal Journey

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

Welcome, 2013! It is a new year, a new day, and that feeling of new beginnings is all around. For many, ringing in a new year means hopes of a better year. As I said in this post, we felt like 2012 followed the pattern of a specific bible verse. While we love having our eyes on God (and intend to keep our eyes on Him!), we decided to pick our own verse for 2013. I went through each book of the bible trying to find a 20:13 I liked, but my wonderful husband came to me with Isaiah 61, and said he wanted to claim it over our 2013.

Isaiah 61

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
though they have been deserted for many generations.
5 Foreigners will be your servants.
They will feed your flocks
and plow your fields
and tend your vineyards.
6 You will be called priests of the Lord,
ministers of our God.
You will feed on the treasures of the nations
and boast in their riches.
7 Instead of shame and dishonor,
you will enjoy a double share of honor.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice.
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be recognized
and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people
the¬†Lord¬†has blessed.‚ÄĚ

10 I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
or a bride with her jewels.
11 The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere.

Well, I don’t know about you, but that sounds great to me.

I can’t honestly say I know what 2013 holds for me and my family, but I do know one thing.
I serve a good God. A loving God. An Almighty God who is a good Father and who is King over everything in my life. A Daddy who has plans for our lives – to prosper us and to give us a hope and a future. I’ll be clinging to that most of all, this year and every year. But a little Isaiah 61 wouldn’t be too bad, either ūüėČ

What are your hopes for 2013?