My Word for 2014 (Even Though I Had No Plans to Jump on the Bandwagon)

God will act. Now that’s something worth trusting in.

     I live a pretty sheltered life. Between having such a large family and homeschooling, getting out and about is much more difficult for me than for most people. Church and grocery shopping are about the most socialization I get (and they call homeschooled kids unsocialized), and I don’t do social networking, so I’m not exactly up on the latest things. So when I started constantly hearing references to ”choosing a 2014 word,” I honestly had no clue what people were talking about. After a while, I figured it out, and I really wasn’t interested. Just a new way to say ”New Year’s resolution” which I always inevitably break anyway.
     Imagine my surprise when, as I was reading yet another post about this subject, a word clearly popped into my head. Trust. Immediately thoughts began to flood my mind. Trust that God is in control. Trust in His provision. Trust that your children will learn what they need to learn. Just trust.
     Being the Type A personality that I am, this was a little scary. Unfortunately, this has been a problem for me. I do trust in God. I do. He has come through for me in amazing ways many, many times. I also trust my children to learn. I see it happening all the time. I’m just so used to being in control of things. This is a sin, I know. I’m working on it.
     So back to the trust…I’ve been reminding myself daily that this is what I need to do. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. And I’ve felt more peace than I have in a long time…but I still felt that something was missing.
     Until last Sunday.

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My pastor was preaching the message and referred to these verses- Commit your way to the Lord, Trust in Him, For He will act. – Psalm 37:5-6. And then it hit me… I was trying and trying to trust in the Lord, but it was still all about me. Do you see it? I was trying to trust so that I would have the peace that surpasses all understanding… I was counting on my trust to bring these things to fruition. I was still counting on myself, not God.
     That’s why these verses hit me so hard…” …For He will act.” The Lord will act…my trust is not the be all and end all of this process- what God does through me is. And it doesn’t say He can act, and it doesn’t say He may act. It says He will act. There’s no question about it.
     God will act. Now that’s something worth trusting in.

     
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Lessons from an 8-Month-Old- An Illustration of Natural Learning

This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.

     My youngest child, Kenzie, is learning to crawl.

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I sat for a while watching her, joyful, but also a little sad, when I started to think about her journey up until this point. Sitting. Rolling over. Laughing. Crawling. My point? She did all this on her own. I didn’t teach her how to do these things. I didn’t hold classes, ringing a little schoolbell saying, ”Kenzie! Time for crawling lessons! Put your blocks away! It’s time for school!”
     Absurd, right? But isn’t that what happens to kids everyday? They’re pulled away from enjoyable, often educational, activities to learn something they would have eventually learned on their own.
     Now I know what some of you may be thinking. Some babies don’t do this on their own. Some have to have therapists come in and help them. I know. Three of my children had physical therapy because they were delayed because of low muscle tone. Did you catch that word? Delayed. Meaning, they’re not following a neat little chart stating what children should do when. I realize that some children truly do need this help, and I’m grateful it’s available to them. But the vast majority, including my children, would have eventually accomplished this themselves in their own time.
     This is what happens in so many schools. Children are learning at a different time-table than what is expected, so they’re labeled as ”special needs, ” a label which often stigmatizes them, when there really is no problem. I can’t read the mind of God, but I’m pretty sure He created us as individuals- not as mindless robots programmed to all progress at the same speed in every area of life.
     Children are individuals. They need to be given the opportunity to learn what they want/need to know when they need to learn it.
    
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     Another example of this theory is language. In her travels around the floor, Kenzie found the TV remote. I told her sister to take it from her before she put it in her mouth. Kenzie heard me say this. She looked at me, dropped the remote, and started to cry. She understood me!
     She understood me without flash cards, and workbooks, and Mango Languages for Babies. She learned herself by being exposed to language all the time. This is how children learn best! This is how God wired them to learn- naturally.
     Am I saying you should never expose children to new things they would otherwise have never known about? Absolutely not. We should provide a stimulating environment in which they should be able to learn, explore, and be the little scientists they are!
     So the next time you’re ready to make your kids put their playdough away to ”do school,” reconsider. They’re already learning everyday.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.

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Definition of an Ideal Unschooler

What is the ideal unschooler?

     Since I made the switch to unschooling, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what an unschooler should really be like. I’ve always been one to overanalyze things, so it comes as no surprise to me that this has been weighing on my mind. After reading several books and hundreds of blogs, I still wasn’t able to come up with any definitive answer…until I took a look right around me.
     So, though opinions are sure to differ, I’ve come up with attributes I feel a ”star unschooler” would be sure to possess.

– A love of reading
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– Innovation with objects on hand
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– A willingness to help with household duties
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– A love of exploration
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– A love for science
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– The ability to stay busy
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– Lots of creativity
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– And most importantly, a love for life
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What do you think? Have I missed anything?

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An Intimate Glimpse into Life with Ten Kids

Come join us for the day!

     Have you ever wondered what other people’s lives are actually like? Not the public, edited image, but everything- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
     Today I’m giving you the opportunity to witness my hectic life. Last Thursday, January 16, 2014, I chronicled my entire day, hour by hour for the world to see. I began at midnight and continued through the entire day until bedtime. So here we go, if you’re brave enough!

I’m starting with a list of family members for easy reference since there are so many of us.

Shawn- the Dad
Me (Shelly)- the Mom
Devin(14)
Dillon(13)
Arianna(12)
Caollin(9)
London(8)
Bailey(6)
Luke(5)
Ireland(4)
Summer(2)
Kenzie(8 months)

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.

12am– I’m still awake. I just got done writing a post, so I’m a little wired. Kenzie, who’s teething, has just woken up and is very cranky. She falls back to sleep after a few minutes. I lie down on the sofa- we’re sleeping downstairs tonight, so Shawn can get some sleep before work.

12:45am- I start dozing off.

1am- Kenzie is awake again. After a few minutes of crankiness, she falls back asleep. I lie down again.

2am- Kenzie is not the culprit this time. I’ve woken up from a strange dream. (Something about me finding a gray hair and panicking. Don’t ask.)

3am- Kenzie’s awake again…

4:20- and again…

5:45- and again. I notice that Shawn has left for work. I’m already getting discouraged about what the day will bring after my lack of sleep. After Kenzie falls back asleep, I do, too.

7am- Ireland is awake at the crack of dawn, as usual, followed by a slew of early risers.

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Yes, that’s Ireland in boy pajamas- a hand-me-down from Luke.

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That’s Bailey with our kitten, Violet.

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Summer makes herself comfortable anywhere.

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That’s Arianna darting back upstairs after seeing Mom armed with a camera.

7:30- I give up on the notion of sleep and start checking emails, start a load of laundry, and proofread Dillon’s latest blog post. (He’s recently started a blog and posts 2-3 times a day.)

8am- By this point, everyone, except Devin, is awake. I make get breakfast out of the kitchen and bring it to the dining room.

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Nutritious, right???

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Yum!

9am- Time for chores!

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London vacuuming the living room

This may make it look like chores go off without a hitch, but today some of the kids, who shall remain nameless, do their share of complaining until loss of tablet privileges is mentioned.
     By this point Kenzie is still crabby and won’t nap, Ireland is crying because she wants a box like Bailey’s (he’s making it into a boat), and I am in desperate need of some coffee!

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Bailey making his boat

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Luke playing cars

     After filling up, I sweep the floor and vacuum again, which is dirty again already.

10:10- Kenzie is finally asleep, and I’m still in my pajamas.

10:30- I finally get dressed, start having the kids take turns showering/bathing, and do some more laundry.

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We’ve actually run out of laundry detergent, and since I can’t afford to skip a day of washing clothes, I use baking soda.

10:45- Kenzie is already awake. Sigh.

11:00- Snacktime! Just a few crackers to hold them over until lunch, while I put laundry away, proofread another of Dillon’s posts, and give everyone their own clothes to put away.

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Ireland with her clothes

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Caollin, my free spirit, carrying her clothes upstairs with pants on her head

     By this time, I’m noticing that my ankle is really hurting, even though I don’t remember hurting it. Sigh. The curse of approaching 40. Yuck.

11:30- Everything has calmed down enough for me to do my personal devotions. Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible, if anyone is interested.

12pm- We have lunchmeat sandwiches for lunch. Afterwards, Arianna, London, and I do some Mad Libs. Dillon and Caollin are on their tablets, Bailey and Summer are on Leap Pads, and the other little ones are doing a puzzle.

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Dillon on his tablet

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Ireland playing a matching game

12:30- I check more emails and comment on other blog posts.

1pm- Devin has risen and graced us with her presence.

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Time for family read-aloud. We’ve been reading Little House on the Prairie. The kids and I really enjoy it.

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1:30- Devin starts her Swedish lessons using Mango Languages, while Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and I pull out the atlas to plot countries from which people have read our blog posts. (Arianna blogs, too.)

1:45- Today is Ireland’s 4th birthday, so Arianna bakes her a cake. In the meantime, Dillon and I work on his Smithsonian volcano Kit, until we give up because the string is all tangled.

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     Devin starts her schoolwork now, while the other kids play the game, Operation.

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Devin hates algebra.

3pm- Shawn arrives home, Arianna decorates the cake, and we sing Happy Birthday to Ireland.

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4pm- Chore time, again, and I start dinner- spaghetti.
     Afterwards we all pose for a family photo for Dillon’s blog. Then, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin do their math.

5pm- We eat dinner and start to wind down. From this point until their bedtimes, nothing major happens. Just lots of puzzles, games, TV, and, of course, electronics.

8pm- Bailey, Luke, Ireland, and Summer go up to bed and listen to the Bible and their bedtime stories.

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What we’re reading.

After they’re in bed- at least, before they come down five more times- I read the Message New Testament Bible to Devin, Dillon, Arianna, Caollin, and London. Then, I help Devin with some algebra she didn’t understand.

9pm- Caollin and London go to bed. Okay, they’re in their bedroom, but I doubt they’re sleeping. I correct any schoolwork that was done and write in the daily logs I have to keep for Devin, Dillon, Arianna, and Caollin. I truly despise this.

10pm- Kenzie is asleep for the night (I hope), and within the hour, I’m down for the count.

What’s your day like?

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My Daughter’s Choice- Our Approach to Unschooling High School

Devin has chosen to continue learning in a more schoolish way.

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     Up until now, I really haven’t mentioned my daughter, Devin, much in my unschooling posts. This is because her approach to unschooling is very different from the free-form learning of her siblings.
     While my other children are free to pursue their interests in whatever manner they choose, Devin has chosen to continue learning in a more schoolish way. Despite, this fact, I still feel confident calling her an unschooler because this is completely her choice. In all honesty, though, how much are labels actually worth anyway?

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     There are two reasons she’s opted to learn this way.

– She was in public school longer than any of her other siblings, with exception to Brendan(20). Because of this, she’s just grown accustomed to the routine and is more comfortable this way.

– She plans to go to college, so she has chosen to go through an accredited diploma program, which is extremely vigorous. We’ve researched the other options for high school diplomas. She’s not interested in a GED and the stories about parent-issued diplomas often needing lawyer backing have scared us off that route.

     So what does she do? I’ll break it down into subjects, as the state will.

English- lots of reading- she’s quite the bookworm
             – Grammar and writing through BJU Press- she only does this twice a week since the diploma program only requires that 1/4 of the book is completed
            – Composition and Speech- another requirement is to write four compositions, one being 2500 words long, and she has to write and present a speech

Algebra- she’s using Lifepac this year, completing two pages per day; she doesn’t like this curriculum, but I don’t think she’d like any algebra curriculum

History- Streams of Civilization– I don’t follow the lesson plan. She reads this pretty much as a story and completes a project for each chapter. She usually chooses projects with an accent on art, one of her loves.

Life Science- again, Lifepac, which isn’t very exciting. She wants to continue on with this until next year, when we’ll use something different

Greek Mythology- D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths– she really enjoys the stories and artwork in this. She also completes the accompanying workbook. She’s always been interested in this subject.

Flash Animation- she takes a class for this at the local art school

Photography- she’s using a homeschool photography course in which she will email photos from shooting assignments to a photography teacher who will grade them.

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     Subjects such as consumer science, health, art, music, and physical education are all subjects that just happen naturally.

– Household duties are completed daily.
– Health issues often come up in normal conversation, along with the health issues addressed in doctor visits and everyday personal hygiene.
– She loves to draw, is teaching herself how to play the guitar, researches her favorite bands daily, and she loves to go for walks. She also plays games in the gym during youth group, although this isn’t her favorite thing.

     So this is what her typical day looks like. Structured, but flexible, which is what she wants and needs.

How do you homeschool high school?

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Weekend Review- Still Learning to Let Go

We’re finishing up our second week of unschooling…

     We’re finishing up our second week of unschooling today, and this week has definitely had its UPS and downs. Unfortunately, a lot of those downs came when I started stressing too much about what my kids were doing.
     Since my kids spend so much time on their tablets, I’ve initiated a ”media blackout” everyday between 1-4 when all electronics must be put away, unless they want to research something or are watching a tutorial.
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Summer(2) on a Leap Pad Learning Tablet.
    
     It’s during these media-free periods that I find it hardest to let go of determining what they will do and what they will learn. It’s hard for me to let go of what other kids their age, even homeschooled kids, are learning.
     They are learning, though. Everyday.

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Dillon finishing up the first chapter of his science-fiction story

     This week has been pretty uneventful as far as outside activities. The only time we even left the house this week was to get groceries, so I’m just going to review the week as a whole, rather than day by day.

     So what did we do this week? Other than lots of Minecraft, Ruzzle, Scribblenauts, and Sims, the kids did everything from art to science experiments.
     We’re still reading Little House on the Prairie together and enjoying it immensely. The kids  have been doing their own reading
everyday,too, like Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and Little House in the Big Woods.

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     Dillon(13) has really been on a roll with writing this week. Besides writing a science-fiction story, he’s also started a blog and has been posting 2-3 times a day. He loves it.

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     Dillon and Arianna(12) did several experiments this week with eggs and other things we just had lying around the house.

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This experiment shows how soap breaks the surface tension of water.

     Devin(14) started her homeschool photography class last week. She’s a little bored so far because there haven’t been any shooting assignments yet, but that’s kind of a good thing because her auto focus hasn’t been working all the time, so we have to get it repaired.
     Yesterday was Ireland’s 4th birthday, so Arianna, our resident baker, made her a cake.

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     The younger kids played a lot this week. Apples to Apples, Operation, puzzles, and imaginative play occupied most of their time.
    
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     So while my kids haven’t built a nuclear reactor out of paper clips and string :), they’ve had a lot of fun this week just being themselves and exploring their own interests, while I am slowly, but surely, becoming okay with this.

What’s your week been like?

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An Unschooling Novice’s Approach to, Well, Unschooling

Our typical unschooled day

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     Are you one of those people, like me, who loves to read about how other people homeschool? Maybe you’re someone who loves to talk about your approach to homeschooling, also like me. Today I’m writing about our approach to our latest journey, unschooling.
     As I’m sure you know, every day is different, and, especially since we’ve just transitioned from eclectic homeschooling to self-directed learning, we’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Our Typical Unschooled Day

8:00- Breakfast- usually something simple; I’ll be the first to admit that our meals are more about convenience. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to cook something from scratch everyday for twelve people.

9:00- Chores- Since we do these a few times a day, it only takes about 20 minutes to get things done.

9:20- From this point on until lunchtime, the children are free to do what they want. Like my husband, my children are all technology fanatics, so our morning looks something like this-

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At first this really bothered me, but after I stopped stressing about it and actually paid attention to what they were doing, I realized that they’re learning far more than I ever imagined.

Minecraft- geometry, logic, learning step-by-step how such things as glass and steel are made

Ruzzle- spelling, vocabulary

Scribblenaut- spelling, vocabulary, science, history

-Leap Pad Learning Tablets- well, that’s kind of obvious

They will sometimes do other activities during this time, such as their math. I know many unschoolers don’t formally teach math, but living within PA homeschool laws makes me too nervous to skip it. My younger kids- 8 yrs. old on down have a choice about whether or not they’ll do it. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t. At this age, it’s very easy to incorporate math into everyday learning.

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My 9, 12, &, 13 year-olds are all required to do their math everyday at their own pace. Incidentally, besides my 14 year-old, these are the children who must be evaluated every year, so the documentation is so important.

12:00- Lunch- again, usually something simple

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1:00- Family reading

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Starting at 1:00, we have what I call ”Media Blackout”. Until 4:00, no electronics are permitted, unless they’re researching something or watching tutorials. While they do learn through media, I think it’s so important to do hands-on activities. During this time is when you’ll see what I consider the good stuff.

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3:00- Chores

4:00- Supper

6:30- Bathtimes

8:00- Bedtime and Bible story for the kids 6 & under
       – Bible reading with the older children followed by silent reading

9:00- 8 & 9 year olds go to bed; my three oldest go to bed whenever they want, as long as they’re quiet.

You may have noticed I didn’t address my 14 yr. old much. This is because her approach is different, again, because of compliance with homeschool laws, and, honestly, by her own choice. I’ll address this in a later post.

What’s your day like?

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Five Things I Learned from My Kids Yesterday

What have you learned from your kids today?

Sometimes I think know that I learn as much from my kids as they learn from me. This is my list of five things I learned just yesterday!

1. I’m pretty terrible at
     play dough creations. My kids
     are all artists. Believe me,
      they don’t get it from me.

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This is my, um, zebra.
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This is my son’s. See the difference?

2. It’s okay to go with the flow.
     I’ve always been a rigid follower
     of schedules. I used to have
     charts of all kinds taped
      everywhere throughout the
      house. It drove my husband
      crazy. The schedules have since
       come down, but this is what
       goes through my head:
       Breakfast- 8, Chores- 9, Get
        Dressed- 9:30, etc. Yesterday
        my adult son stopped by
        unexpectedly, and while my
        other kids were having a
         blast with him, all I kept
         thinking was, We should be
         reading Little House on the
         Prairie right now. We never
         plotted those countries in the
         atlas. Chores should have
         started already. After
         watching them for a while,
         though, it finally hit me that
         these things are not that
         important, and I was at
         peace.

3. Exercise can be fun. This is
     something I’ve forgotten, but
     it’s actually pretty pathetic
     because I used to be a dance
     teacher. Listening to my kids
     outside yesterday playing Simon
     Says, Sharks and Minnows, and
     soccer reminded me of that.

4. Minecraft and Ruzzle are not
     the only electronic games of
     value. I discreetly rolled my
      eyes when my son told me he
      downloaded yet another game,
      until he started asking me
      questions about sea creatures,
      dinosaurs, and the
      government. I asked him what
      he needed this for; it was his
      new game.

5. Take time to play. My kids are
     so active, and they’re always
     playing, playing, playing. I took
     their cue yesterday and played
     play dough, Memory, and
     Apples to Apples; I had a blast!
     While it is important to get
     things done, especially with
     such a large family, it’s equally
     important to have fun and live
     life!

What have you learned from your kids today?

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Some Days Are Tough

If every day were beautiful, would we see the beauty in each day?

     Why is it always that the days that I’ve gotten little to no sleep are the days when everything else goes off kilter? It’s my own fault, really- the no sleep part, I mean. We ran out of decaf coffee yesterday, so I proceeded to drink regular All. Day. Long. So I guess I was asking for it when the baby awoke at 3:20 am, and I was never able to fall back asleep.
     The day didn’t start off so bad, really. Ireland (3) was awake at the crack of dawn, as usual. She wasn’t particularly crabby, so we just cuddled and watched TV until the other early risers filed downstairs.
     Breakfast came and went with no particular problems, but that’s pretty much when the peace ended. Sometimes I think that the kids pick the days when I’m obviously exhausted to pick fights and bicker the most.
     Little spats over sharing play dough colors, copycatting, and name-calling ensued. The baby was crabby because she’s teething, and I just couldn’t seem to get the house in order. I was still jumpy from the caffeine overload yesterday, but I managed to get through the morning in one piece without having a meltdown.
     Finally, things seemed to calm down. It was a beautiful day, so the kids went outside to play while I got some much needed quiet. Until our oldest son, Brendan, stopped by unexpectedly. That’s when everything fell apart.
     As I mentioned in another post, Brendan is a 5 yr. old trapped in a 20 yr. old’s body. He has a gift of getting the kids wound up more than anything else can. I had little ones running through the house and jumping on him, kids being flipped over his shoulders, and the noise. The noise. And while all this was going on, I was on the phone with his bank to sort out an issue with a missing debit card. (Hence, the reason for his visit.)
     After he left, and the kids calmed down, I was more at peace than I had been all day. Sure, the family reading didn’t get done today, and we didn’t get to plot various countries on a map that we had planned to do. The house was a bit messy, and my husband was due to be home soon, but that was okay because I realized something today. If every day were perfect, we might overlook little blessings like these-

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Little blessings that happened amidst the chaos of the day.
     If every day were beautiful, would we see the beauty in each day?

What blessings have you encountered today?

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