As I see all of the first-day-of-school pictures on my Facebook feed today, it seemed like a good day to share our school room!  Especially while it’s all clean and neat.  Because it is never this nice looking.  Ever.

The school room was actually the first space to get completely put together when we moved last December.  For me more than my amazing students.  If the space isn’t organized, I just can’t function.  Probably weird, but I know my limitations.  It has the same spirit as the old school room, but has morphed quite a bit now that we are entering our 5th year of homeschooling!  We are in the basement here – although I do miss all of the natural light from the old room, this one is super functional for us.  I opted to put all of the desks together in the middle, which gave me the extra storage that we really needed.  My book obsession is a real problem, just ask hubby.

I also gained my own separate desk!  Yay for even more storage space!  I do have organizational reasons for most everything in the room, but some things are just haphazard.  The drawers next to the desks are filled with the books (or busy bags in Dumpling’s case) we use daily, and the kids all share the supplies on top of the desks.  Games and other materials that I don’t want younger hands getting to easily are up high.  Books that are organized by subject are also up higher, but the other ones are all down lower so the littles can read when they want.  Unfortunately those closet doors are just hiding electrical boxes, but I do use the floor space for art supplies.

All of the furniture is from Ikea, though sadly most of it has been discontinued.  The Micke desks are still available, but all of the Expedit Shelving Cubbies were replaced with a new line.  There are usually versions of those red chairs available, but they range in price.  These were all relatively cheap and have lasted.  Most of the bins are also from Ikea, although I’ve picked a few up here and there at Target and other stores like that.  The drawers next to the children’s desks came from JoAnn’s.  The cute world map and U.S. map were purchased from Amazon.  If you’re into bright paint colors, the green is Parakeet from Sherwin Williams.  The neutral color on the walls in the rest of the basement is Revere Pewter from Benjamin Moore.  If I missed anything, I’m happy to answer questions – just leave a comment or send me a quick message!

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After 2 months, 70 hours of course work, and over 30 hours of in-person class time, we are officially Empowered to Connect Parent Trainers!  It’s been an intense 8 weeks, but our time has been filled with so much learning, engaging, reflecting, and neuron re-wiring.  This training has been life changing for us, and we’re so thankful for it.  We’re also grateful for the new friends we’ve made – the 13 other couples who joined us on the journey, as well as Ryan & Kayla North of Tapestry.  This parent training material is so, so good and thought-provoking.  Our studies have led to many late night discussions and have helped us become more intentional parents.  We’ve even learned more about ourselves and had several “ah-ha!” moments during our studies.

And we’ve also learned that we still have so much more to learn.  But that’s ok, because lots of practice and re-dos rewire our neurons and gets different synapses firing.  Practice, practice, practice.  And when we get it wrong (which happens plenty), we own up to our mistakes and keep moving forward.

We are so excited to offer this 9-week training course to local adoptive and foster families.  Our hope is that many more families will be changed and inspired, too.  Each training we lead is another opportunity for us to keep practicing intentional, connected parenting.  We’re still working through what this ministry will look like for us, but we can’t wait to see what the Father has in store.

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web 1I will admit that when we first moved to our property, I wasn’t all that excited about the pool.  It wasn’t something I was looking for in a new house for many reasons, mostly for safety.  I know people will think I’m crazy, but I just felt ambivalent toward it.  As the winter months dragged on though, seeing the pool all covered up outside made me long for warmer temperatures.  Then the spring came and we were able to enjoy our outdoor space a little more.  Seeing the pool still covered up out back became more intriguing.  And then by the time our pool opening date was scheduled, I was just as excited as everyone else for the unveiling.  We hadn’t actually seen what it looked like because we moved during the winter, so we were all thrilled to finally get a glimpse!

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I’m happy to admit that I was 100 percent wrong about my thoughts on having a pool.  Although it does require maintenance and effort, it has been the place where we’ve spent the majority of the summer.  My children take a dip almost daily, weather-permitting.  Angel, especially, is part mermaid or fish or something.  Swimming never loses it’s delight for her.  She even swims alone when no one wants to go with her.  Lovebug has strengthened his swimming skills, easily diving and staying under for periods of time that make me a little uncomfortable.  Sunshine has almost completely taught herself how to swim, though she still needs to stay close to the sides.  And Dumpling has gone from being terrified like last summer, to putting his whole body under and retrieving dive sticks.  The pool has also proved to be one big science experiment – you just never know what little creature is going to end up in the water, dead or alive.  I could probably pass on that part, but the kids find it intriguing to check out the bloated toads and … eh … other once-living things.

web 8web 9web 10web 11web 12web 13It’s incredibly peaceful out here, completely surrounded by the woods.  Sounds of birds chirping and the breeze blowing in the leaves make it more of a sanctuary to me.  Just sitting out here and soaking in the beauty is especially calming.  Of course, the sounds of laughter and splashing are just plain fun, too.  They are forever creating new games and imaginary worlds.  Today the children wanted to jump off the diving board in the most lively ways they could invent.  I brought out my real camera and took hundreds of pictures, which made them get even more creative.  That meant lots of cannon balls, super heros, juggling, and dancing.  They’re such a fun bunch.  I’m so lucky to do life with them.web 14web 15web 16web 17web 18web 19

Her first loose tooth is officially lost!  Daddy was tickling her at bedtime last night when it popped right out!  So fun and she was absolutely ecstatic!  She’s been working on it day in and day out, for a few weeks now.  Seeing the fruits of her labor made her so proud and as you can see, she’s simply beaming with delight.  Adorable.

I love this milestone.  It’s a rite of passage for all children that should be an exciting event.  But as fun as it is, it’s a little bittersweet for me.  I can’t help but think about this milestone that her first mama is missing.  I feel sad for her first mama, for all that she hasn’t gotten to be a part of.  For all of the “firsts” that were sacrificed in the hope of a different story for her daughter.  For all of the future events that she won’t get to experience.  It’s heartbreaking.

But it’s also redeeming.  Because although those sacrifices helped to write the first chapter in our daughter’s life, they don’t define her whole story.  It’s also a story filled with love, grace, adoration, joy, thanksgiving, achieved milestones, and so much more.  It’s a story covered by our Abba Father, whom my daughter is growing to know and love.  Her first mama’s sacrifices have given me the honor of witnessing and experiencing intense beauty and redemption.  Even though I mourn for her first mama, I rejoice in the privilege she’s given me of being my daughter’s mama too.  With joy, I wholeheartedly celebrate this special rite of passage for my beloved girl.  And I pray that her first mama knows how very much our daughter is loved and treasured.

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For some reason, this book has escaped my radar until now.  I only discovered ‘Parenting Is Your Highest Calling’ And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us Into Worry and Guilt because it was required reading for our Empowered to Connect train-the-trainer course.  Wow, I’m so glad it was part of the syllabus!  It has easily become one of my favorite non-adoption parenting books, and I’ll be suggesting it to everyone!  Though many of the topics weren’t revolutionary, they were incredibly insightful and reminded me of many truths that are easy to forget while doing life.  One of the topics actually made me completely re-think what it means to be a “good mom.”  I’ll briefly describe my takeaways from the 9 myths the author, Leslie Fields, addresses in the book:

1. Having Children Makes You Happy and Fulfilled.  I don’t know about you, but there are times when parenting is just downright hard and sometimes … well, sometimes not fun.  It’s wonderful and amazing and rewarding plenty of the time, too.  But, my children aren’t supposed to simply bring me joy or complete my life.  That is sometimes a very happy result of parenting, but it’s not the reason God gave me children.  As Christians, we parent our children to fulfill God’s will in our lives and in theirs.  Our children teach us how to love and how to depend on the Father, to be humble servants.  These truths free us to parent faithfully, not simply to parent happily and to be fulfilled.

2. Nurturing Your Children Is Natural And Instinctive.  I am inadequate to love unconditionally like Jesus, because I’m sinful and can’t possibly measure up.  All Christians fall short of the glory of God, in all aspects of our lives.  That includes nurturing our children in a natural and instinctive way.  Loving children is hard because parenting calls us to do more than we are capable of.  Expecting this kind of sacrificial love to be natural and instinctive is simply unrealistic.  Of course it’s hard, and it forces us to rely on Jesus even more.

3. Parenting Is Your Highest Calling.  At this stage in my life, when most of my day involves parenting, it’s easy for me to get caught up in this myth.  But as a Christian, my highest calling isn’t to parent my children.  As a Christian, my highest calling is to be a follower of Jesus and to glorify Him through my life.  If parents pursue God first, we are free to love our children in a way that glorifies Him.

4. Good Parenting Leads To Happy Children.  God’s foremost concern for His children isn’t happiness.  It’s holiness.  We were made in the image of God to be set apart.  To be holy.  And as we work toward our holiness, we find happiness by letting go of the sins that weigh us down.  That happiness comes from knowing that we stand perfect and complete in front of God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  This is the kind of happiness that I desire for my children – happiness attained through holiness.

5. If You Find Parenting Difficult, You Must Not Be Following The Right Plan. Our easy access to all of the new parenting plans, tips, tricks, and fool-proof methods makes parenting completely overwhelming.  Which technique is the best, most correct way?  The Bible makes it clear there’s no one, perfect way to parent our children.  “Godly parenting begins not in the rules we or other people make for our children but in pursuing a genuine relationship with God … Knowing God and depending on Him is the beginning of Godly parenting.” (p.115)

6. You Represent Jesus To Your Children.  This is one that I know, in my heart.  But sometimes it’s harder to remember it logically.  I cannot possibly be Jesus to my children.  There’s only one Jesus and I can’t come close.  So why do I get caught up in trying to be like Him for my children?  It is completely beyond me.  It’s just a recipe for failure and guilt, because I can never measure up.  No earthly parent can.

7. You Will Always Feel Unconditional Love For Your Children.  We have many emotional responses to our children because we love them so much and want the best for them.  It’s normal to feel love and adoration, as well as anger and impatience.  And sometimes, our negative feelings toward our children are caused by our own sinful nature.  We feel many different emotions for our children, and can even feel guilty about the not-so-nice ones.  But we can see in scripture that loving others doesn’t always feel good – even God himself was angry with His children at times.

8. Successful Parents Produce Godly Children.  This one rocked my world because, of course, my desire for my children is that they will lead a life that follows and glorifies God.  So it would make sense to me that successful and “good” parenting produces Godly children.  Leslie Fields completely reshaped my thinking on this one though.  Successful parenting isn’t about the Godly outcomes of my children’s lives, though I am certainly hopeful for that.  It’s about me and my faithfulness in living out my calling as a child of my One True Father.  It’s about parenting faithfully as I influence them, and releasing the outcomes of their lives to Him.

9. God Approves Of Only One Family Design.  The one and only perfect earthly family didn’t stay perfect for long.  Adam and Eve quickly disobeyed God, and the rest of Biblical history is filled with imperfect families as well.  Fortunately, God loves and works through all of His people, no matter their mistakes.  He does not approve of only some people who fit a specific “perfect Christian family” description.  We can be free in knowing that He loves all of us, no matter our family design.

Aren’t these 9 myths thought-provoking?  I challenge you to read the whole book to fully soak up the Biblical truths that Leslie Fields writes about.  Her book will encourage you, and help you rest in the promise that God holds our children in His hands, no matter what our parenting mistakes may be.

  • July 24, 2016 - 4:08 pm

    Danielle Jones - I’m a big fan of this author. I have a friend who has gone to her writing retreat up in Alaska! I’ve heard her memoir is quite fascinating too. This title has been on my Amazon list for a long time, ever since I heard an interview with her discussing this book. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the review!ReplyCancel

    • July 24, 2016 - 5:44 pm

      Nicole Renée - That’s good to know! I’ll have to look up her other books and add them to my list. This one was excellent, you’re welcome!ReplyCancel