Questions

A thousand thoughts racing through my head, yet none that seem coherent right now. Maybe it’s the time, busyness and exhaustion, or just the fact that I’ve birthed humans into the world, and “mom brain” should be allowed an excuse since one’s first conception.

Questions. I get asked a million a day it seems, yet the moment I try to think of a few asked recently to start this blog post, my mind goes blank. It seems that my oldest comes up with a whole new set of them as soon as she’s supposed to be in bed. Ugh. Not again. I’m not going to lie, she probably gets that from me. I’m always questioning everything. I wish knowing that gave me more empathy during the unending questions.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately how much God wants us asking questions and seeking. How much He wants us to be like little children, and little children are wired with a surplus of questions. I think it’s a problem when we get to the point that we don’t think that there are any questions left to be asking. If you don’t ask questions; you won’t seek. He promises that if we’ll seek; we’ll find. In the last few weeks, I’ve read “Face to Face with Jesus: A former Muslim’s extraordinary journey to Heaven and encounter with the God of love” by Samaa Habib and Bodie Thoene and “Only Love can Make a Miracle” by Mahesh Chavda (a former Hindu). Since Sunday, I’ve been reading “Something Other than God” by Jennifer Fulwiler (a former atheist). All three of them were seekers, wanting to know purpose and meaning in life. They were open and vulnerable, or at least got to that place over time.

I feel like no matter where I’m at, I’m always seeking more. I always have questions. It seems like so many don’t have questions and seem ok. I just don’t understand how others get to that place. When I feel complacent even for a little while, I feel like life seems so meaningless. I guess I don’t ever question whether God’s real, just because I’ve had some miraculous healings and experiences that I can’t deny. I feel like to deny He exists, is to deny myself in a way. I don’t know how to separate the two. I tried to once, but the hopelessness was so unbearable, that I didn’t think life was worth living. I realized that period of time stemmed more from being angry at God for allowing me to walk through years of what seemed like a dark tunnel with no end in site and what felt like an inability to breathe. I felt so incredibly uncertain of His love for me or my ability to improve anyone or anything’s quality of life at all. Thankfully, despite all that, God gave me a second chance, and a fresh new start. With that came even more questions. However, I’ve come to realize it’s good to be uncertain. Being uncertain keeps one humble, keeps one asking questions, and keeps one seeking. You can’t find what you don’t seek.

Keep. Asking. Questions.

Questions of Existence
Everyone’s bound to have an off day,
But what about more than two?
What if you spent the last few years
Realizing off-days are what got you through?

What do you consider an accomplishment?
How do you measure success?
What questions of life are you answering
When ignoring the Creator’s test?

Why do you drown out the silence
Whenever your thoughts run too deep?
Why do you ignore Purpose’ whisper
When asking you to take faith’s leap?

Why does loneliness hurt you so?
Seeking happiness from meaningless lovers
And when you find they’re just as selfish
You go searching for another?

And how do you view yourself?
Is happiness only found with perfect body size?
Then why are countless models killing themselves
After listening to society’s lies?

Have you ever wondered what you’re seeking
When your soul always hungers for more?
What are your reasons for living
When you have nothing you would die for?

Is life supposed to be an endless chase
To reach happiness on the “come-and-go?”
And while going this false route
Why does your conscience hurt you so?

Is life meant to be this painful?
Is love supposed to hurt?
After living your meaningless life
Do you just decay into dirt?

When you don’t know where you’re heading
Which direction should you go?
Are these questions you’d like to keep asking
Or would you really like to know?

And if someone found true answers
Would you take it as reason enough?
And would you be willing to keep on going
When the going gets real tough?

And what if one that found Truth
Said Jesus is the only way
Would you follow ’til it wasn’t so easy
And then again be led astray?

And now that you’ve heard truth
Have you counted the cost?
Between a life of gain
And a life always lost?

What’s it going to be,
Your response to His call?
Will you live a life worth living?
Or one worth nothing at all?

-R.A.D.

On Learning

I love this guy & his intelligence! When Bella first chose to do schoolwork rather than take naps when she was 4- those were her 2 options & I was kind of hoping she would choose a nap originally 😉 & I had read most of the book “How to Teach Your Baby Math”, I had learned a lot about how kids learn & actually crave learning, but the way we usually teach & our attitude towards education makes them start losing interest. I usually tried to make things fun for her & the days we were having bad days, we just skipped it as she wasn’t even kindergarten age yet & there was no pressure. There have been some days as she has gotten older where I would tell her we might have to work through the harder times or work through something she started even if it’s not so fun to teach perseverance, but for the most part, learning should be fun! When Bella went to a good school with a waiting list as a kindergartener, the teacher told me that she’s so far above everyone else that she had to come up with extra stuff for her. Most kids were learning the abc’s & trying to memorize a few sight words while Bella was reading American Girl books on her own & very fluently. Bella would always tell me how all the kids in her class started going to her to ask how to spell words rather than her teacher. 😛 (She had an AWESOME teacher so definitely not knocking her in any way at all!) One of my favorite memories though was when they got a picture of all the students & were supposed to describe everyone. For almost every single kid she would say beautiful or nice or handsome or funny & for herself she put “smart” & was so proud to show me it. (Not so fun dealing with just how “smart” she can be & thinks she is though some days- still working on the humility thing at times & feel like I’m already dealing with a teenager… 😉 😛 )

However, as I started this homeschool year for what I consider the technical first time though she was taught a lot already at home just not really school age, I started putting so much pressure on myself to make homeschool like what I grew up with in school. There was so much busy work involved. My kids were no longer enjoying learning & I was putting so much pressure on them to complete so many different assignments when originally they begged for the curriculum books at Costco & couldn’t wait to do those the same night we got them on their own on top of their other school work. It was as though I forgot all I had learned the more pressure I put on myself to get different books completed to have something to show for what they were “learning”. My 7 year old daughter whose favorite movie in kindergarten was Akeela & the Bee (a spelling bee movie where Bella kept asking how to spell every ridiculously long word that after a while I told her I don’t know to look over & see her writing every word down in a notebook! *haha*) & who absolutely loved learning, writing books, art, reading on her own, & just learning anything she could get her hands on, started dreading it. She started misspelling words in definitions she even copied from the book & hated for me to look at her work as I was quick to point out her mistakes as I didn’t understand how she of all people could be struggling with that as she originally LOVED spelling. I was absolutely killing their love for learning. Austin already had enough of a hard time with wanting to know as much as Bella did but not realizing how much work we put in to get her there & he just started absolutely refusing to do schoolwork some days because he dreaded it so much. I’m not one to take that attitude from my kids, but nothing was cutting it. I told Drew I could “spank him to death” metaphorically speaking & it would do nothing for this & there’s not much of a fitting punishment I could think of. I started praying & just had absolutely no idea what to do. Wanting to do what I set my heart on well, I felt like a failure. I didn’t want them to go to public school with the common core, I couldn’t sign up for a parental involvement school where you volunteer so many hours per kid with nursing my youngest & being unable to bring him, & we just didn’t feel like we could realistically pay for a Christian/private school. I felt absolutely stuck & at the end of my rope. People would think that I was this amazing mother because I was homeschooling here which isn’t as common as it was at our last church (where I didn’t fit in so much sending Bella to a good but public school there… I just don’t fit in anywhere 😉 ) , & all I could think about was how they didn’t know me clearly because I felt like I was a failure. I wanted to be transparent with my failure, but it’s one of those things where people think you’re just being modest & I really wasn’t. I just was failing. Period. I was taking my kids’ love of learning & squashing it. You pretty much can’t fail teaching more than making your students hate learning. I started crying out to God at that point & sometimes just crying to be honest. I don’t know why it often takes me getting to the end of my rope (“I’m at the end of my rope & now it’s starting to show that if I’m going to survive, I’m gonna have to let go”… Seven Day Jesus 😛 ) & why I continually try to be self-dependent by this stage of my life, but it does & God’s still working on me in that area…

It wasn’t until that point of realizing that something has to change & feeling at the end of my rope that I started cutting their load almost in half & telling them after reading, a bit of math, throwing in some more cooking “classes” for those who wanted to learn, & once a week a verse for them to copy to practice spelling & penmanship & their daddy reading to them from a history book occasionally at night (& sometimes a few other things but these were the more consistent ones) & telling them they can go play more often after their work that I started seeing them THRIVE again. Austin seemed to figure that was more doable & stopped refusing to work & often wanted more! He ended up finishing the entire Kindergarten & 1st grade curriculum books from Costco a month before school ended & LOVES math! Before I changed my ways, he could maybe read around 10-20 words a minute on a good normal day & seemed to greatly struggle with MAJOR dyslexic tendencies not only passed his Victory Drill Book with 72 pages that get much harder by the end, but starting the 2nd time around started reading around 60 words/min. consistently (shorter words that they hope kindergarteners can read around 25 words/min. & improve by 5-10 words/min. each year) & Bella was reading around 80 words/min. consistently in list form even through the more difficult pages, though had gotten 109 words/min. at one point (they hope to 100 by 5th grade) & I realized in paragraph form she read even more & wanted me to time her & she passed 200 words/min.)! Instead of dreading writing assignments, she came to me with excitement the other month & told me she had such a great idea for a book & wrote 4-5 chapters with around 11 pages each within 2 DAYS & made her own book cover! I started seeing how much she loves fashion (& often ask her advice when I’m having a hard time deciding 😉 ) & just tried to let her know I think she has a gift that if she wanted to develop, i would support her work. She has now learned some sewing & crocheting thanks to asking her aunts Laurie & Laura, a tiny bit of help from me in the sewing part from my youtube learning, & thanks to her Aunt Becky & her headband-making skills & supply of headband stuff as a birthday gift & my fabric glue, has made her own money selling headbands for “$1 or more” as she says to her customers around the neighborhood. 😉 haha. She also LOVES to cook & made banana bread mostly by herself the other day. I have so many more examples from both of them, I could go on & on.

I’m honestly not trying to brag at all, because clearly I was squandering their love of learning for at least half a year & holy cow am I aware of my kids’ issues because they are definitely not perfect & have just as many issues as the next person along with myself. I was so excited to homeschool at first with all the ideas I had, but then just resorted to “dry” teaching & what I’ve seen a lot at schools & honestly, I had some pretty amazing teachers that did their best with some of the textbooks they had to work with. I started finding out more about Charlotte Mason this year & her work as well & so recommend “The Charlotte Mason Companion” & “How to Teach Your Baby Math” I mentioned before which is actually a fascinating book that talks about how babies & kids learn. Until they get into the nitty gritty details, it’s a super fast, really interesting, & enjoyable read. 🙂 I just wanted to share for anyone else who has thought about homeschooling & was overwhelmed by that thought or who is homeschooling & dealing with similar issues. There is hope! Educationally speaking, I am by no means qualified to be a teacher. I didn’t even technically finish the whole first year of college as I stopped showing up to some classes the last couple of weeks when we thought originally we were getting married that summer & I was trying to finish paying off all my school loans & to help with our wedding & figured I didn’t need it to be a stay at home mom or artist or writer that I wanted to be. I don’t even technically know how many college credits I have as I didn’t take all the finals because of that fact so, not sure if my credit hours actually counted. I have taught kids how to read following some of the steps I remember from a super amazing teacher i had in first grade who stayed after school to teach me & a few others who were behind how to read after I learned no phonics at a public school & The Victory Drill Book (the best phonics/reader book I’ve come across & HIGHLY recommend). I worked my way up to be a paraprofessional the first year of my marriage though they usually use people with at least 2 years of college & it was amazing seeing the improvement of some of the troubled kids I assisted. People have seen some of my kids’ work & complimented me, but honestly, I feel like they’ve learned more the less strict I’ve become (as far as learning, still strict in other ways 😉 ).  Here‘s another amazing video which also only confirms that theory.

I think we put so much pressure on ourselves & our kids wanting the best for them or just by feeling the need to compete with others & their kids as validation for ourselves. I hope me sharing about my kids isn’t another thing for others to feel the need to compete with. I completely know that struggle. The more kids I have, the less pushy I am with their learning as I know they’re all different, it takes time, & frankly, they need to have the drive themselves to enjoy it. My youngest is now a little over 14 months old & just doesn’t want to walk on his own quite yet. My oldest would fall down & get herself back up & keep challenging herself on her own & started walking at 10 1/2 months. They’re all different. I figured my youngest just wants to exercise his brain a little more with his crawling. 😉 haha. It is hard though, as a parent, & especially as a Christian parent with a strict upbringing that’s always been taught to “train up a child in the way he should go & when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It’s so incredibly hard to not put so much pressure on ourselves or our kids to validate us. It feels like an ongoing struggle for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a stay at home mom & even more so a homeschooling stay at home mom now that I feel like they’re basically the work I have to show for, but I feel like it’s at least partly a universal feeling. Obviously, there is so much judgement on the mother when kids do anything to act up. It’s all over the media & parenting is just so tough in general. I used to have the verse “A tree is known by its fruit.” on our family branch at our old house, & at our new house, I made a family tree, & I told Drew, I don’t want to put that verse because I don’t want people to think that some of the attitudes & actions our kids are portraying come from me. 😉 haha. A super sweet dr. lady at the wellness center I had to go to for a while was telling me some amazing feats her son had accomplished, & I remember complimenting her by saying how much that speaks about her as a mom. She said something along the lines of how heavy of a burden that would be to carry for a person & how he did that all on his own accord & how he’s a person just like anyone else. He’s made some bad choices & mistakes as well as good ones & he’s a whole different person. To carry the burden of another person & their choices is too heavy of a load for anyone to carry. Those weren’t her exact words & I so greatly wish I had a recorder to record her wisdom, but I couldn’t help but try to glean from it. It’s such a hard thing to remember at times, but I want to always remind myself of it when my kids make bad choices at times which they often do, it’s not a direct reflection of me & that I need to stop being so harsh with myself when they do that in fear of what other people think of me.

I never really considered myself to act as a fearer of people as I try to conquer those types of fears at least; however, the more kids I have, the more aware I am of how much we stand out & the media’s portrayal of bigger families (4 isn’t even that many no matter what people say & I happen to love a lot of way larger families!) & of course the more accidents that are made, the more messes that happen, & the more my patience & anger & self-control is tried, & frankly, I got a lot of crap to work on & all these kids just make it all the more obvious. I mean, I could just have less kids & not have as many issues brought to the surface, but then less issues would be brought to the surface that I need to let God shine His light on. Plus, whatever I allow God to teach me, hopefully my kids will learn even sooner & better & become world changers like this world absolutely needs. That is my hope. I am so far away from being the perfect parent a couple people have told me lately. In fact, I lost my temper a LOT today due to a lot of sleep-deprivation from painting my friends’ cabinets the last few days & apologized a lot, but I basically told the kids to not look at each other or talk to each other or be near each other quite a bit today after they continually fought & told on each other for looking at each other & hurt each other. Then after they settled down a bit & I could barely keep my eyes open, let them watch a movie while I napped before painting again. So yeah, far from a perfect parent. Yet, God still showed me so much grace as even after all that, Austin told me “you’re the best mom ever” & hugged me. *Phew*, my eyes are tearing up thinking about my reactions to them & his reaction to me- after he got out his anger for his sisters & my reactions of course. 😉

Blah blah blah… about that teaching & what becomes from my lack of sleep apparently 😉 , all this is to say, what I’m learning & hopefully teaching, is to allow some grace. I have only the weight of carrying my choices. Yes, parenting well & training them up in the ways of God are absolutely encouraged, but these little kids are people. They were granted free will that’s often selfish just like the rest of us. God doesn’t control our every action & He isn’t a bad Father just because His children make bad choices. I need to cut myself some slack when my kids make bad choices. It’s not necessarily a reflection on me just like my lack of making good decisions isn’t a reflection on God. This might not seem like it has to do with the learning I started speaking about, but eh, it’s what I’m learning lately. Learning doesn’t end just because school does, and learning often happens outside of school. I just know that I know from speaking with others & feeling the weight myself how easy it is to pick up the weight of the little people in our lives not just physically but metaphorically speaking. There is hope when it comes to parenting. Our little people can become world changers & if you want, you can be an amazing teacher. We often need to take the pressure off of ourselves to perform & our kids to perform up to the world’s standards (ha…standardized tests :-P) to uncover the gifts that are waiting to be developed right in front of us. And honestly, who doesn’t want to know more about the things we’re passionate about? I can easily get addicted to watching HGTV or listening to good music or good poetry or truth being shared. We want to develop our passions. That’s natural. What’s unnatural is how much we’ve tuned out our passions for “living” & how much we’ve tuned out learning for “education”.

PASSION DRIVE
Passion gives life to my soul
To not live out of it
Would put death to my life’s role
Why do people choose routine?
Why live life so serene?
When passion wishes to take the scene
And I know that each attempt I would make
To live a life so fake
Would never be me
I refuse routine
As my false identity
Passion drives me
It’s what I live for
Nothing less
Nothing more
Passion’s taking over me
I’m not putting my life in cruise control
Passion is the engine of my soul
The tire,
That will have its roll
The wheel,
That’s taking control
It drives me
-R.A.D. (a poem I wrote as a teen…technically as RAJ 😉 )