Too Fast

We decorated for Christmas this evening. Our moms had taken the older kids for most of the weekend, leaving me and Rosie all to ourselves.

I was having flash-forwards to when our kids are older and they only come home for the day and leave right after (please don't do that, future La-lings!). It was quiet and lonely.

Then I got used to it and the quiet was a wee bit nice, but boy, I was ready for my peeps to come home today.

We pulled out all of our Christmas boxes and were rather organized and tidy until the ornaments came out and all the crazy broke loose. Decorations were flying hither and yon-landing on whatever surface didn't move.

I turned my back for a moment and icicles were tossed all over the tree like so much spaghetti not stirred in the pot.

It was a glorious chaos. All the extra strands of lights that still worked were hauled off to the bedrooms to decorate in there.

Y'all. It was one of those times as a mom where you just have to stop and take it all in.

No one tells you when you are pregnant for the first time how hard parenting is. Yes, there are dire predictions about the lack of sleep and the physical changes.

But I'm learning that's not the hard part.

No one tells you how you grow to love your children so much you just ache sometimes. 

How the deepest part of you trembles at the thought of someone hurting them and the fear of the world they are growing up in.

The pain of feeling like you've really messed up and made a wrong decision and your kids have to live with the results.

The worry that out of all the choices you could make about activities and schooling and church and social stuff that you might be doing it all wrong.

How you one day look up and see that your baby isn't so much a baby anymore.

The deepest joy of getting to know the incredible little souls God has entrusted you to care for--its sobering.

The delight of seeing them learn and grow in the fear and knowledge of God.

Tonight, Johnny, who is nine, was so fired up and excited and enthusiastic about the decorating that he simply couldn't contain himself. It was beautiful. I started to calm him down, but then I realized that in a few short years that unbridled enthusiasm could be a thing of the past.

So I soaked it up. That's why the otter is wrapped in tinsel and lights and the boys room is decorated with a motley assortment of cast-off lights, and gift-wrap bows are stuck all over the place.

The beauty is in the imperfection this year.

My precious boy. Even as I often pray, "come, Lord Jesus" when I see the craziness of this world,  I'm also begging the Lord to slow this time-thing down. The hurry I was once in to move on to the next stage is quickly evaporating.

We had "party food" for dinner and kicked off Advent with reading, singing and prayer. Owen was answering questions right and left, and Rosie is just excited about it all. Aubrey has planned all sorts of projects for gift-giving. She's got SUCH a generous heart.

This was tonight's reading:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  John 1:1-3
I keep trying to comment on this passage, but honestly? Its so full of richness that tonight I just can't do much but read and meditate and ponder. 


Stepping Out . . .

Until I hit my late twenties, I had picture-perfect skin. I didn't really know what a pimple really was and didn't do anything to my skin with regularity. Occasionally I washed it. Every now and then I slathered it with petroleum jelly because my grandmother has great skin and does that every night. Oh, but then . . . I hit my late twenties and am now in my mid-thirties and my skin feels like it is making up for lost time. Blemishes . . . the works!

I've tried the oil method and a brand from Ulta. I've tried nothing and then scrubs and drug store brands. And my skin is showing it. The one thing I have yet to try is Rodan and Fields. Until now.

Can I say that I'm stubborn? Sometimes I dig my heels in the ground because I decide I won't try something and because I'm stubborn, I keep on digging those heels.

I finally decided to give R+F a shot and ordered some Unblemish and the Macro Exfoliator. I have watched my good friend Michelle's face just glow from using R+F these last three years. When the Macro Exfoliator came out I was super curious to try it, but also very stubborn. (Is this a pattern? I think it must be).

Y'all I am pacing the floor waiting for this delivery. I'm REALLY excited to try it out. I'm also glad there is a sixty day trial period. As Michelle said, "what have you got to lose?".

I'm also stepping WAY out of my own comfort zone and have signed on as an R+F consultant. The discount was appealing, but after watching how the R+F model has given several friends extra income and hearing Andrew and Michelle's story, I decided to take a leap and see if this is a good fit for us.

I'm super nervous. I'm super excited.

We hope the Lord leads us back into ministry one day. That's our dream-where our hearts beat. Having some extra income to give away and save would be a great benefit now--and then. I'm trusting that the Lord will make it clear to us if this is what he wants us to do.

But for now. I'm taking baby steps. I'm excited to see how Unblemish
helps my skin. Knowing real people who have had incredible results using Rodan and Fields has me excited that perhaps I can someone with bad acne, sun damage, or severely irritated skin find a solution that could really help them feel better about the skin they are in. Or if you've just been curious if a regimen would work for you and want to give it a go, I would love to have you as a customer.

Friends, I'm kind of on a journey of discovering what this looks like for Tuan and me. I'm a writer at heart, so blogging about this feels like natural way for me to leap out of my comfort zone. If you are curious and perhaps have held off giving R+F a try, or are interested in becoming a consultant, I'd love to walk this road together. With sixty days to try it out--and return it if it doesn't work, what have you got to lose?  Let's talk!

Here's my website: paulala.myrandf.com


School Year Thanksgiving

I'm so thankful that our school year is going well. It's been a while since we have not had a school year that involved moving, major surgery, childbirth, pregnancy,  or busy toddlers. Some of those years involved at least three of the above!

In recording this, I hope it's not a bragging post. I am just thankful for a season of success and want be able to one day look back at this ebenezer of sorts.

Homeschooling is interesting because every single person home schools differently. The flip side is that temptation to compare and wonder if you are really doing it right. One friend reads aloud and her children are so well-versed in history that I'm blown away. Another friend does great projects. This other friend has a knock-out fantastic school room and lesson plans. I have no idea what my distinctive is. I just do it. One friend asked if I lesson plan and I laughed because I just open the books and we do the next thing.

Martha Stewart approves of this. I'm sure. It's so styled.
Notice the cord, the pipe, the curtain rod and grabber. They are not used for school.

This is what our "school" looks like this year. Over the years we've had an armoire and a school/play room and a fantastic cabinet. This year it's this bookshelf. I quaked a bit when I saw the beautiful school rooms my Facebook friends have, but that was my sinful comparison at work. Be encouraged that "school" physically looks different for everyone.

My casual hand-writing is so poor,
that I feel like a hypocrite when I correct my children.

I sat down tonight and mapped out the rest of the 2015 calendar to see where we would land progress-wise. It was really encouraging to see that in all of our subjects we would start 2016 right on track or ahead of the game.

Our days are varied, but school falls into these time segments/categories:

Read Aloud/Devotional: I just started making this a priority and am trying to faithfully do this during breakfast. I read an attribute of God and we work on a verse. We read a simple Bible story and pray, then I read aloud--right now it is Winnie the Pooh

Independent Work/Owen's School Time: Johnny and Aubrey do most of their math, language arts and Latin independently. We review Latin together. I watch their math videos with them and answer questions and check their work, but this year, for the first time, they can do this part with little direct supervision. This has been fantastic for travel and for days when we can only get a little bit of work done, or I'm buried in laundry. The best benefit is that Owen gets a solid one-on-one time with me to do phonics and math.

Direct Teaching: I teach science, grammar and history. Johnny and Aubrey are doing the same curriculum, which is a huge help and time saver. Some of Johnny's assignments are harder, but mostly they do the same things. We spend a lot of time on these three subjects.

30 minutes of reading. We just really started this. I naturally loved reading as a kid and never needed to be told to read. Tuan didn't enjoy reading until college and then he became a voracious reader. (Since he was valedictorian and star student, I took that as an encouragement that our kids would be okay if they weren't big readers, yet). Still, I felt like there needed to be some more direction and instituted 30 minutes of reading most days and I get to choose the book. Wonder of wonders, Johnny and Aubrey have taken off. I'm thankful, thankful.

Some days we do school in this order and other days we switch it up. I am thankful that when the weather is nice we can play outside all morning and start school after lunch. Sometimes, the direct teaching happens after dinner if Tuan is working late. I can also take some time to tackle laundry or housework while the big kids do their independent work.

This is the best photo on the whole internet.  That spray bottle!
Tomorrow, being a Monday, I take a little while to get the house caught up from Sunday, so Johnny and Aubrey have a to-do and school list for when they wake up.

Rosie often joins us at the table. She has a basket of math manipulatives to play with and these three Hello Kitty activity books that she refers to as "my school". Rosie takes her school very seriously.

That's the state of our school right now. I'd like to add in a spelling and writing program after Christmas and would love some suggestions. Johnny is wrapping up his language arts book (finally!).

Our year of grammar has put me in a panic about my writing. Now I am feeling stilted and a bit fearful of making a big mistake that will prompt someone to label me an unfit homeschooling mom. Not to mention the pressure to end this whole post well, with excellent writing and a snappy closing statement.

Pressure-rebellion. Over and out.


Breaking Up is Hard to Do, or Homeschooling These Days

I was talking with a friend the other day about how each of our homeschool days were going. It's a new school year and we are both trying new things.

"I'm almost afraid to say it out loud . . . " she said, "but it's going REALLY well".

We laughed because both of us knew it was silly, but sometimes there is that internal fear that once something is spoken out loud, it will inevitably be jinxed.

We are having a really good start to our year. We are on our fourth week, and it just might be our best year, yet. All glory to God, but I will also say that the best decision I made this summer was breaking up with our math curriculum.

It wasn't working for us. Lessons took a ridiculous length of time to work through and were exasperating to both the child and myself. Our days revolved around math, language arts, and not much else, because who has energy to tackle history and science and all those things when your math curriculum is like a possessive boyfriend who is sucking all the life out of you? 

Letting go was strangely hard. I am a pick it and stick with it kind of person. It was "safe and secure" because it was such a respected program and covered EVERYTHING. But you know what? Switching to this new program has SET US FREE. We are actually covering other subjects thoroughly and the kids really enjoy doing math, now. Each lesson is taught via video and it is such fun to learn from this teacher.

Now we have time for very important things.
One of the lessons I'm learning in this homeschooling journey is that we who teach greatly need the community and support of other homeschool parents. I'm not in an official organization--yet, but have a sweet community of veterans and newbies to bounce questions and ideas and, yes, at times discouragement, frustration, and despair. That's how I found out about our current curriculum. Two of my friends were so assured and chill about their math programs, had a healthier balance in their days, and kept recommending it.

Homeschool friends, don't do it alone. Find community. Embrace social media if you are in an isolated place and don't be afraid to break up with that possessive boyfrie--er, curriculum if it isn't working for you.


Porches, Culottes and Airstreams

I grew up with the great blessing of knowing my extended family. Each of my grandparents came from large families (11, 5, 7 and 7), and I have fond memories of huge gatherings with my great-aunts and uncles.

My maternal grandfather's family were the Calhouns. Papa and his 6  older brothers (they lost a sister, I believe), all grew up in the "Dry Creek" area of Covington County. I'm pretty sure there was Scotch blood on all sides ("Grandmother Calhoun" had been a Magee) and they were a neat and eccentric bunch of folks.
At one point the family land was divided between the brothers, but when Papa retired from the Air Force in the seventies, he bought several of the brother's shares and he and my grandmother built a house and settled into semi-retirement. He farmed, raised cows and had a part-time law practice, as I understand it. 

By the time I was a child, all the brothers were retired. They had been in the Highway Patrol, worked for Standard Oil, done Civil Service, military, etc, and in retirement, it seemed that every one of them owned an Airstream travel trailer or some sort of camper. My grandfather turned an acre of the land into a "camper park" and every so often, they would all gather at the farm for a season. 

I loved it when they gathered. It was so fun to explore their campers and just listen to their stories. 
Papa and his brothers had the best names: Knox, Garland, Evan, Shelton (Shaky), John H., Harry and my own Papa was Aubrey. They were all a bit loud as every one of them had major hearing loss, and 
the gathering may have been referred to as a "Beltone Convention" by some of the younger folk. I remember steaks on the grill and boiled shrimp piled on a spread out on a newspaper; aluminum folding chairs and folks gathered around the kitchen table. 

My Granny and aunts matched their husbands in names: Lois, Eloise, Lucy, Nettie, Edith and Jean. They were such neat ladies. I remember lots of tightly curled hair and culottes and pumps (worn with the culottes, of course!)

There were many hours spent on the porch, and I remember a lot of pea-shelling into these aluminum colanders. I have some chairs on our porch now that remind me of those days. 

After Papa Died, many of his siblings were still alive and Granny kept in close touch with most of them. I have the best memories of going to visiting.

Aunt Nettie lived in my hometown, in a little tiny house. She had an electric organ and her galley kitchen always seemed to have some kind of pie in it. The back yard, which you accessed through the carport, via a little gate between the storage room and house, was the best. There were rose bushes and some sort of small patio with an out door shower and sink. I loved to play in her backyard, and peek into her bedrooms.

Aunt Eloise and Uncle Knox were simply
wonderful. They lived in Georgia and she dealt in collectibles (like glassware). She was very, very ladylike. He made muscadine wine and was a woodworker. The one time we stayed with them, I was just enamored with their house.

Our favorites, though, were Aunt Edie and Uncle Shaky. I even named one of my dolls Edie, my sister did one better and named her daughter Edie. Because they lived in Meridian, we saw them very often. Their house was super cool. The front living room had a long seventies couch, but I don't remember anyone ever sitting in it, but instead, there was a very comfy family room.  Their tiny kitchen had a swinging saloon style door. Aunt Edie had white hair and was very "pearly". She had the best laugh and read Victoria Holt novels. Her bathroom was pink, with pink carpet and I remember a lot of gilty-gold accessories lining her hallway. When we ate at their house, there were vegetables like squash and black eyed peas and sliced, peeled tomatoes on a dish. Best of all, I remember that she spoke "to" me and not at me. When I was a very little girl, Aunt Edie would sit on the swing with me at Granny and Papa's and we would swing in the night air and listen to the bullfrogs.

I'm grateful for these sweet memories of family. Being on the porch of the house we are in now brings them back. I'm grateful that even though family is often "difficult", my Granny pursued relationships even after Papa died and I got to know so many of my great aunts and uncles. 



Our days are full of choices and the voices all around social media are pestering me to make deliberate and intentional choices. Well, here ya go:

Today, I chose to:
Spend a little time with my prayer journal.
Wash the breakfast dishes.
Sit down and eat only ONE biscuit with tomato gravy that my husband fixed for family who had stayed overnight. (then I chose to eat the SECOND standing up)

Today, I chose to:
Play a game with my husband, brother-in-law and son.
To get in the laundry room and catch up on a Holiday's worth of folding,
then I ironed dress shirts in a patch of sunlight because I knew it meant a lot to Tuan.

Today, I chose to:
Eat vegetable soup, then
Take a nap so I wouldn't be a grumpy pants.
I chose to sit with my dear sister-in-law and hold my nephew and talk.

This afternoon, I chose to
Get all the children bathed and the girl's hair dried.
I chose to straighten my daughter's already straight hair
because she wanted me to.

Tonight, I chose to
Vacuum the living room,  and wash and dry our sheets, and have the kids clean their rooms.
Then I chose to let the kids stay up late and mess up their rooms because they were all cute and wearing pajamas and playing so well together.

Tonight I chose:
A bath and a shower because it's fun to do both!
To eat dinner with Tuan after the kid's bedtime,
then to listen to his work training videos while I worked on a project
and let myself get lost in a blizzard of creativity and dreaming.

Every day we are surrounded by choices. Some are important and some are mundane, but sometimes its not so much what we choose to DO, but what we have chosen not to do.

And, that, dear friends is why I came out of the blizzard of creativity and walked into the kitchen at 1:20 am to realize that today I had chosen NOT to:

wash the lunch dishes,
wash the second lunch dishes
wash the crock pot
was the supper dishes
wash the second supper dishes.

And so, early this morning I chose to wash half of the dishes because I have so many type A friends (who never have dirty dishes and I SO WISH I WAS LIKE YOU SOME TIMES!)  who I'm afraid might drop by the house before I could get them washed in the am.

So at the end of a day full of great choices. I chose to wash the dishes from a place of comparison and guilt. But I only did half.

Because I'm type B.
And blogging about it was much more interesting than drying, then washing some more.