Monday, July 27, 2015

Big News!! (and the story behind it!)

No, we are not having number four. How dare you think such a thing?? Moving on!

Whilst (like that word?) we are still in the midst of making some decisions for our family/future, we have decided on one very big thing. As you might recall, I blogged a time or two about the rough year we had in terms of the boys' education. It was, quite frankly, an extremely discouraging, frustrating year!

It started out okay but quickly deteriorated into almost daily complaints of, "I'm so bored!" or "I don't like school." or "I don't want to go to school anymore." We worked hard with the boys on their attitudes while simultaneously assuring them that we were in their corner fighting hard! We had teacher conferences, chats with the principal and even a couple fruitless calls to the superintendent's office before coming to the conclusion this past March that something had to change and quickly!

We began a several month process of checking out other schools, intense prayer, countless conversations discussing our options and also keeping the boys in loop as much as we could. We found one school that excelled impressively in academics and we went so far as to go for a tour and had the boys take placement tests. We even took a whole month to fill out the paperwork! They were immediately accepted and offered spots. We let them keep the spots while we continued to pray and talk to people. People encouraged us and listened and offered advice.

Still, even though they were officially enrolled, I hesitated that last month and a half of school, to say anything to their current school, not feeling fully at peace. The last day of school, I prayed all day about what to say and if this was the right decision to pull them out. We did go through major life changes in this past year, after all! Was it the right decision to toss in another big change so soon??

I went to the boys' school about a half an hour before it let out and when I walked into the office, was immediately greeted by the school receptionist, who had been so welcoming and kind to me all year! I asked her what the process for withdrawal was and she asked what school we were thinking of sending them to. I told her and immediately her facial expression and tone of voice became cloaked in careful politeness and cautiousness. She agreed that it was an excellent school academically but when I asked if she had known anyone who had gone there, she said her grandchildren! And then she invited me to sit next to her while she described their experience.

Her every word confirmed the fears that we had about the school and it's atmosphere of pressure and competitiveness. The principal is well known for caring only for test scores and not for the child his/herself. She had twin granddaughters in the school and they began to exhibit aggressive behavior at home, etc. After a heartbreaking scene at the kindergarten graduation, where one twin was brought forward with a small group and applauded over how smart they were and the rest of the class, including the other twin was left at the back of the stage and told they needed to step it up to be more like the "smarter" group, the family knew they had to do something and quick. They contacted the principal, who basically said in response, "If you don't like it, get out." So they did.

Mrs Jones (the school receptionist) looked at me very sincerely and said, "I heard you mention that you had been praying about this decision?" and at my nod she added, "If you are looking to raise your children with all of the morals and values that come with Christianity, that is not the school for you." And then she finished it with a gentle hand on my arm and a whisper, "I'll be praying for you."

Um, can we say an answer to prayer?? I picked up the boys, got in the car, called Ben and told him the story and we said, "Okay, that's not the answer." We felt immediate peace over the decision and called the school the next Monday to withdraw them.

So what were our next options? Moving to another district? Keeping them at the same school and hoping it turned out better next year? There was one other option. A little seed of though that popped into my mind back in March, that we discussed off and on, not sure whether it was feasible or not. Until now.

We have spent the summer praying, asking, researching, meeting with people and finally in the last two weeks, we have made our decision and it's a big one! Ready??

We are going to be homeschooling.

 ( I thought it was a funny picture!)

I know, right? You are my first peeps to know, other than our moms, and everyone's support would mean the world to us! I never ever would've considered it, had we stayed in a school like the one the boys were in while we were living in IL. They were thriving and loving school and were happy. And so were we. Great teachers, advanced classes, etc.

And everything took such a turn for the worse this year. Education has become dumbed down, especially where we are, to minister to the large population of English-as-a-second-language kids. And that's long as you don't throw the other kids under the bus! So the lack of education (kind of important to us!) coupled with the scary changes and shifts in our culture and what children are beginning to be taught were enough for us to take homeschooling seriously. The things Samuel came home telling me this year have been so difficult (and would break your heart!) and he is still struggling a lot with it all.

I really had to examine my reasons for it. Was it to shelter our kids so they would stop being exposed to things at such impressionable ages? Was I being realistic about it or cloaking it in some fairytale story in my mind? After a lot (I mean, a lot!) of prayer, we feel very much at peace for our reasons behind our decision. We feel that it is not only our right, but our responsibility, to give our children a firm foundation (and in our home, that means a Christian foundation centered around Jesus) and a great education. Not a dumbed down one based on test scores. And no more of the school telling our children what is right and wrong and what they are allowed to believe or not to believe. That is our responsibility as parents and we take it very seriously. Not forcing our children to take on our beliefs but encouraging them, teaching them, raising them up in and modeling for them our beliefs, with the hopes and prayers that they will decide to love God for themselves as they go out into the world. (i.e. making their faith their own and not an umbrella faith!)

Last week, I was begging God to guide me through the overwhelming amount of curriculums and be able to choose what is right for us. The curriculums out there on the market go to all extremes. Extremely conservative Christian curriculums where it's all laid out for you and everything is filtered very carefully to ultra-secular where anything goes. We wanted neither!!

In the middle of last week, I was reading some homeschooling methods and curriculum methods to Ben while we were in the kitchen and all of the sudden, bam, we hit on one where we both said, "Yes!" and Ben really truly jumped on board with me. Another few days and everything just fell into place. We are praying for provision for our year and wisdom as we undertake this monumental task (or mostly me!) and we would so appreciate your prayers with us!

Next time, I'll blog about the method that we have chosen and the philosophies behind it. So excited! And nervous, and peaceful and everything all mixed up in one! We can't wait!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Fun Birthday Present!

 By "fun birthday present," you may have assumed I was talking about my Vitamix (which is the most totally awesome machine ever!) but no, I am talking about another birthday present. Samuel's birthday present!

Ben's mom went in with us on a very fun birthday outing for Samuel! This past Sunday, we headed down to Cincinnati for the day to watch a Red's game!! It was the first major league baseball game for Eliana and I to go to and the first Reds home game for the boys.

Within probably 15 minutes of the game starting, thunder started rumbling fiercely, followed by lightening. They quickly covered the field and asked all of us to take cover down by all the concessions, etc. So we huddled along with thousands of other people and watch the storm slowly move over the field, soaking it and then when it stopped, we went back to our (wet) seats and watched the fascinating process of the many workers uncovering the field. It was actually really fun to watch!

As you can see, all 3 of my guys had Reds shirts on:) We all inherited the Reds as our team because Ben loves them (although if you asked him this year, he would tell you they stink!)

Eliana and I don't have Reds shirts, as you can see:) After the rain went away, the sun came out and it was SOOOO hot and humid! We were literally dripping in sweat and had to keep reapplying sunscreen through the afternoon.  I had to keep taking Eliana down where they had this humongous fan that blew mist out. There were crowds of people around it, trying to cool off!

We drank so much water, it wasn't funny! The game was really exciting to watch and made all the more fun with the announcements, fun music ditties they play here and there and crowd shots. The cameras did silly things like the "smile cam" or the "kiss cam." It was fun to watch! We were a little too high up to have the cameras make it to us, bummer.

One of the most fun things about the game was the home run that Suarez (a Reds player) got. They make a huge deal of home runs, shooting off fireworks, etc. It was awesome! Also, the relief pitcher, Chapman, who comes out for the last inning or two to finish the game threw his 500th strike which was the fastest record in MLB history. He was a fun pitcher to watch! We even got to see him throw a few 100 mph balls! (all the pics are on Ben's phone though) Zakkai was so fascinated with watching the speeds of the balls so he was thrilled to see it reach 100! (and so was I, quite frankly:)

We lasted the whole game (11 innings!), only to have the Reds lose but it was still a blast and the kids all got certificates saying it was their first game and/or happy birthday. We were all hot and sweaty and exhausted by the time we left (it was almost a 5 1/2 hour game!) We got in bed late but happy and full of memories:)

Go Reds! (or as Ben says, those Stinking Reds!) haha.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Updates on the Thomas Clan!

I have to admit, I have been very tempted these past 2 weeks to just walk away from my blog forever and not come back. And yet, sigh, here I am again. I just can't seem to completely stay away! I am just not sure at all the direction this blog should take, or if it's worth the effort or if I should re-think what the purpose of this blog is for. I have to think about this!

Pictures aren't working as usual so you'll have to excuse me for the wordiness!

We have been super busy this summer and this is the first week in over a month that we have been able to have a couple of days to just breathe. Yesterday, all we did was go over to my mom's to give her animals some TLC (she's out of town for a week and my stepdad works all day) and the boys poop-scooped for a little moolah. Wow, so exciting! Woo!

Today is quiet, too and I am thankful. As much as we loved having family in town, it is tiring to go go go everyday. Not to mention that we totally blew our budget on all the extra little ice cream trips and fun little things that go along with visiting family and holidays! Ouch.

We celebrated a couple of bdays last week. Our Samuel turned TEN last Monday! He is growing up so fast. His interests are changing, his attitude is varying day by day, he's shooting up as fast as his sunflower plant outside, he is torn between growing up and staying a little kid! He even got kind of sad on the night of his birthday and said he didn't want to be 10! But that is totally my mini-me right there. I didn't want to grow up either. I was so sure I was going to live at home forever:) He's a fun kid though. He gets more subtle humor now, which is fun and he has been so good about sharing what he thinks about/worries about; usually right at bedtime. We love that he thinks about things seriously and really wants to do the right thing and love God.

We had a Magic Mountain party for Samuel the Friday before his bday with his cousins, Mr Z and two friends from school. Magic Mountain is a fun place with an arcade, go karts, laser tag, bumper boats, etc. Everyone seemed to have a really great time! The only thing Samuel didn't like was that he wasn't quite tall enough for Go Karts so he had to ride the Rookie Karts and got stuck with the slowest one! Bummer. Other than that, he had a great time.

On Wednesday, I turned...older. I admit I wasn't in a very good mood all day. For a number of reasons. I just woke up not excited at all and feeling a wee bit grouchy. But by the end of the day, I was feeling good! Ben got friends and family together and they all went in on a Vitamix for me and (all Ben's idea!) we had a smoothie party that night. I was nervous because we don't have a great place for entertaining because it's very small and closed in downstairs and the parking situation is yuck but it all worked out! We crammed in 21 people (including us!) and cranked out smoothies and milkshakes all night! We made at least 6 kinds, I think. It was SO so fun. It was funny though because everyone was like, "Yeah, bring on more smoothies!" and then all at once, everyone reached their limit and were just done:)

Can I just say, that I could totally be a Vitamix Spokeswoman?? I ADORE my Vitamix!! I have had my eye on one forever, it seems. I just can't even believe the night and day difference between it and my old blender. The blender worked decently for the past 5 years for us but it never mixed smoothies really well (you know, hunks of ice left in it and floating pieces of spinach....not exactly conducive for yumminess!) The Vitamix is freaking awesome! The consistency is absolutely amazing and I can't believe what we can put in there and have it taste awesome! We put in fresh fruit, veggies, frozen fruits, ice, etc and wow. Everyday, wow! It makes so much and blends it to perfection and I just love that we are getting more fruits and veggies in our bodies than ever.

Our whole family is rocking' the smoothie love every day. No one can get enough! I really can't say enough about it and how much everyone should have one:) Okay, ad over now! (Can I get Vitamix to hire me???)
Let's see, other news....we are on the brink of making some really big decisions and oh, it's a bit stressful! I guess I just need to get used to the fact that life is stressful as an adult and there aren't going to be many times where things come easily or run peacefully. Not for our life anyways! We are trying to be at peace with the fact that for some reason, God has the Thomas family on the slow track. (i.e. Sllllloooooowwwwww.)

Nothing comes easily to us, as it seems to for most of the people we know. Jobs, houses, settledness, etc. Now, I know that those are external things and that we are learning some invaluable spiritual lessons, things we are passing on to our children. And I am truly thankful for that. I don't want everything handed to me on a platter!

However....if I am really honest (which you know I like to be!), I would say that it would be nice to not have to struggle so hard to make ends meet or to have this giant school debt breathing down our necks or to be able to easily put our kids in sports or preschool or whatnot or to have a little home of our own so that we don't have to throw away our hard-earned money anymore.

The good news is that while some of the things we face are tough and quite honestly, discouraging, we aren't knocked down and devastated. We are just really trying to take things one day at a time and trust God to care for us and guide us in this great unknown journey of ours. A favorite verse(s) that I read yesterday:

Lamentations 3:21-25
"21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him."