Leading from Behind

As a parent, leadership is a daily job, and it can be all-consuming.  If we don’t direct the day, will teeth get brushed?  Will math be practiced?  Will bedrooms be cleaned?  Will Bibles be read and prayers be said?

If we don’t walk at the front of the line, will these little ones go astray?  Will they know where to go and how to get there?

We are placed in the position of authority in our homes, and that isn’t a job to be shunned or taken lightly.  However, being in charge can lead us to put on blinders as we focus intently on the goal of raising healthy, responsible adults.  We can too easily miss the wonderful people these kids already are.

Early in the fall, we had a remarkable day with glorious, sunny weather.  My mom and I took the kids for a big walk.  We strolled behind as my children walked ahead of us, happily brandishing sticks (and light sabers!), picking up interesting finds, and relishing the  warm day.  I called out to them from time to time if someone drifted too close to poison ivy or became too enthusiastic with a stick.  But overall, I simply chatted with my mom and observed the wonderful way that children learn even without direct leadership.  Their curiosity comes naturally, so I can’t help wondering if their learning actually happens more readily without my interference.  Certainly their joy seems to!

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But this post isn’t simply an attempt to say “get out of the way” of kids’ learning, I have something a little different mulling around in my brain as I reminisce about that particular afternoon and reflect upon some things that I’ve observed in the last few months of homeschooling with a newborn in our family.

When I stand behind the action and watch from a few steps back, I am still leading my family.  I am leading them toward MORE of what they are doing.  I am showing my children that their activities are productive, their conversations are important, and their observations are valuable. I am leading them to do more of the same, to see their choices as good.  By not interrupting, I am saying, “You are doing good things.  You are smart, curious, and important.”  I tell them by my actions that we are on the right track.  School is going well, and they are growing as amazing people on this beautiful planet.  I do have to step in at strategic points in our week.  I do have to make concrete plans from time to time and take the first steps into new activities and new lessons.  However, the more I lead from behind, the more I see the leaders that these kids are becoming, and I have the ultimate pleasure of watching it happen.

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Getting Back to the WHY

We hit a rough patch early in the fall.  We had been working hard on the house–painting, cleaning, organizing, and decluttering.  That’s exciting!  All good things.

But then there was the flat tire, the dented car door, the leaking sink,the dentist appointments, the strange little stomach bug with a slight fever, the lost library books, and those pesky multiplication facts.  Sigh.  Real life.

Suddenly, in the midst of all that LIFE, I kind of crumbled under a whole lot of self-doubt.  Have you ever been there?  You’re working hard to do all the right things–to check off all those boxes–but you always feel behind and inadequate.  That’s where I wallowed for awhile.  Homeschooling, in particular, was feeling like a bunch of “get dones” instead of the joyful privilege that it can be.

I’m not one to linger in a bad mood for long, and I knew I needed to do something to shake the funk.  I reached out to a group of homeschool moms who might understand.  Their responses were incredible.  They were practical, offering actual help for spelling and reading.  They were whimsical and inspirational, reminding me that I’m not alone.  One friend told me to get back to the WHY of our decision to homeschool–to return to all the things I love about educating my children at home.  That advice was a true answer to prayer, and I followed it immediately.

In our homeschool, getting back to the WHY means experiencing the outdoors.  It means learning through all of our sense.  It means learning by doing.  It means reading lots of things from a variety of sources and subjects.  It means learning together as a family.  And it looks a little something like this:

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Simple Living// Three: Fall Matters

Spring cleaning is great, but fall decluttering is truly valuable.  Fall matters, and here’s why.

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A long time ago–no idea where or when really–I read something that compared autumn to the “letting go” process that we need to go through in order to grow.  I grabbed on to that idea, and I’ve thought about it often over the years.

The tree naturally drops the leaves that once served it well.  Those leaves sprouted from buds last spring, and since their beginning, they have been a source of nourishment for the whole tree.  They spread their green selves toward the sun and got to work creating chlorophyll to feed the tree.  It’s an amazing system.  But as cold weather approaches, the leaves end their food-making role.  They stop creating chlorophyll, stop nourishing the tree.  The tree drops them to the ground, leaving empty space where each leaf had been.  The braches are bare, ready for the new buds that spring will bring.  If the tree held on to all the old leaves, there would not be room for new leaves–the tree’s only source of food.  There would not be room for growth.

Okay…the analogy isn’t too hard.  I’m sure you are getting the picture.  We have to drop stuff if we want to have room for the things that really matter.  Want to grow in knowledge?  Drop the “noise” that clutters up your mind and wastes your time.  Want to grow in your faith?  Drop the voices that aren’t feeding your soul.  Want to grow in the way you organize or manage your time?  (Imagine me raising my hand enthusiastically and shouting “Me, me!”) DROP THE CLUTTER.

But here is the best part.  Trees do not mourn the loss of their leaves.  They aren’t out there in our backyards thinking, “I can’t lose these leaves.  I worked so hard to create them last spring.  I can’t get rid of that one.  It’s such a beautiful shade of red.  Oh no!  Not that one!  It’s the biggest leaf I’ve ever seen.  No, I’m keeping that one.  I don’t want to waste it!”  That doesn’t happen.  The leaves simply do not serve the tree any longer.  They must go.  Why do we analyze each item and place value on it that is far higher than its practical worth?

I have a closet full of things that served me once-upon-a-time.  They don’t serve me any longer, so I’m passing them to someone who will enjoy them, value them, and be blessed by them.

This is why fall matters to me.  It is an opportunity to drop the old and settle in for a beautiful season, free from the STUFF that holds me back.  I have many wonderful memories of fall, and the emotions of those happy times come flooding back and motivate me to make new autumn memories with my husband and children.  I can’t do those things freely if I’m held back by old thoughts, old regrets, and physical clutter.

What will you drop this fall?

When Rest is Required

Dear Readers,

I’ve been thinking.

When people have surgery, they are expected to rest.  When they come down with the flu or bronchitis or a simple, common cold, rest is prescribed.  Sprained ankle?  Rest it.  Mothers tell their children–even the grown ones–to get some rest when they have any ailment or injury.  Everyone knows that rest promotes healing.  It’s a given.

But do we remember that emotional fatigue and pain also require rest for healing?  Too often, we assume that we can continue our usual, zippy speed as long as our bodies are keeping pace.  Although I can’t speak for everyone, I’m pretty good at identifying bodily fatigue.  I recognize the slow, dragging feeling, the muscle aches, the heavy eyes, and sore feet.  I feel them, identify them, and slow down.  I’ve learned that ignoring those signs means paying the price in headaches, sore throats, fevers, and colds.  Not worth the price.

I’m not as good at remembering the toll of emotional busyness.  I think of “emotional busyness” as periods of time when I’m experiencing a wild ride of high and low emotions, a time when I need to invest myself emotionally in events and people that seem to overlap and collide all at once.  That is exactly how life has looked lately.  Crushingly sad news followed by happy news.  A fun trip followed by a sad good-bye.  Scary news before a fun weekend.  And on and on.

You know what though?  I am thankful that I care enough about people to have developed some powerful emotional ties–bonds that require some big emotional investment.  That is something to celebrate.  I want to love and be loved.

Nonetheless, rest is required!

We took a serious Sabbath on Sunday.  Without apology, we announced our absence at an evening event–an outing that the whole family usually enjoys, and instead, we did some restful things.  We attended the morning worship service, changed into comfy clothes, and did nothing of importance!  The kids jumped in thousands of yellow leaves that blanket our yard.  We watched a movie.  Cory didn’t even turn on football until after the kids went to bed.  I did some tidying around the house and snuggled with the baby.  Easy, restful day.

The bad news is still real, but with it has come a lot of love–love from all directions.  The world is still a weird place, and the future is big and open and kind of scary sometimes.  BUT…I know…

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Psalm 62:5

Hello, Monday.

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Hello, Monday.

I love that you hold the promise of new things, new routines, endless possibilities.  I love that you ride in on a hint of sunshine, still carrying all the warmth of a weekend well lived.

Hello, Autumn.

I love the beginnings of your glory on the tree outside my window.  The prettiest yellow-orange starts at the top of the boughs, but summer’s green is still going strong at every window.  Autumn, your cool mornings make me excited for the sweaters and pumpkins and cups of tea that will return to our days in the coming weeks.

Hello, School Day.

I’m looking forward to the discoveries that wait in you.  I love the furrowed brow of a boy considering 9×6 and the excitement of a perfect letter “C” drawn by a chubby three-year-old hand.  I love the sounds of poetry and scripture recited by heart.

“This is the Day.”

Hello, Gratitude.

An Almost Autumn Weekend

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Hello, readers.  I’m excited to be back on the blog with you in about two week’s time!  This feels like a victory.  I hope you are witnessing the start of a nice, long stretch of consistent posting.  I’ve missed you and this place.

Saturday could not have been a more beautiful September day.  The sky was crystal clear–the kind of blue that requires you to pause in awe of that true, true color.  The air was cool, and I had to rummage through bins of long sleeves and pants to find something for the kids to wear.   Late Saturday morning, the guys headed out on their outdoor adventure (hiking, fishing, the works) while Charlotte, Mom, and I went to an Apple Festival.

I’ve been excited for this festival.  It felt like the ultimate celebration of the impending autumn–a season that I’ve missed profoundly.  I loved our time in Florida, but my goodness, I missed fall and all that goes with it.

So the weekend was all about autumn, and the Apple Festival certainly brought out many of the things that I love about the season.

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(I apologize for the if-y photo quality.  I’m trying to fumble through the new way of adding photos through WordPress.  I haven’t quite got it yet!)

Election Day Soup

It’s Election Day in the good old U.S. of A.  I am far more excited about the FACT of voting, the right to vote, the concept of voting than the actual choosing among candidates.  Two imperfect (who isn’t?) men with a variety of ideas on a variety of topics are vying for the same job.  I will choose the person who I believe will do the most good with the position, and I hope you will do the same.  I refuse to see the “other guy” as a monster, and I have no illusions that the man getting my vote is going to save the world.  Someone will hold the office of President for four years, and the world will go on.  And that, my friends, is as political as I will get on Warm As Pie!

You know what I really love about Election Day?  Election Day Soup!  Let me tell you a little story.  In 2000, I was eligible to vote in a Presidential election for the first time.  I was really excited.  I was in my senior year of college, and I had a wonderful boyfriend with a little black pick-up truck who was willing to make the trip from campus to my home precinct.  The ride was 1 hour and 45 minutes long, and my future husband barely batted an eye.  The power had gone out due to a storm, so I voted in the glow of a generator-powered spotlight.  I had my picture taken in the booth, something I hear is now illegal.

Not wanting us to simply vote and turn right around, my Grandma Sunny invited us–along with my parents–to have dinner at her house.  She made her family-favorite broccoli cheese soup and homemade buns.  Nothing–I mean nothing–beats Gram’s buns.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.  Anyway, my boyfriend had never been to Grandma’s house (although they did meet once before), and he later confessed that he had never had soup as a complete meal before.  Funny.

We had a wonderful time.  All of us were laughing and talking and sopping up delicious, creamy soup with big chunks of homemade buns.  We told stories and giggled over silly memories.  Cory had Gram laughing, and I knew she truly liked him.  I remember sitting in Gram’s dining room feeling very much in love and realizing that life was very, very good.  I have made her broccoli cheese soup on Election Day ever since.  I know I’ve never missed a Presidential election, and I’ve even pulled out the broccoli & cheese for a good number of the annual elections as well.  I’m a sucker for a tradition, and this one holds some truly delicious memories.

Wishing you a happy Election Day and a blessed autumn!

Thinking of Thanksgiving

It felt strange to celebrate our first major holiday without our families.  We received a generous invitation to dine with new friends.  What a sweet offer!  But having just closed on our new house, we wanted to give thanks in our very own diningroom.

(Please pardon Miss Drooly.)

After dinner, we went back to the rental home for apple pie and some Skype time with family.  My sister-in-law took this picture of her younger son “Skyping” with my boys.  Celebrating Thanksgiving in our new town and new house was joyful, but what I would have given to jump through the computer screen into the arms of the people I love!

Catching up…

Whenever my head is full of this and that, I have trouble getting a good blog post together.  I’ll try to get on track!  We’ve been busy enjoying lots of family time.  The last few weeks have brought a local festival, plenty of beautiful weather, and even some company from back home.

We think our girl might be working on a tooth.  She munches on her bottom lip like this all the time.  The boys think it is hilarious.

(Don’t ya just love the “peacock couch.”)

We were delighted to have hubby’s brother and his wife visit from “up North.”  We had a fun weekend showing off our new town, peeking in the windows of our new house (shh!), and cheering on our Steelers.  The visit gave me the boost I needed to make it until Christmas.  Counting down the days!

Feeling like fall (and a heads up!)

How about that little scarecrow?  Pretty cute, huh?  J’s whole class dressed as scarecrows for the preschool’s annual Fall Fest.  It was a sweet day of games and treats and wonderfully cool weather.  I have always loved autumn.  It is, by far, my favorite season, and I am definitely missing the colored leaves and the chilly weather.  But on the morning of the Fall Fest, I had to go buy Charlotte a little jacket.  It was seriously brisk.  Brrr!  And I say that with a big old smile on my face.

A bit of exciting news!  About a month ago, I was asked by MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) to participate in the “blog tour” of the organization’s latest publication, MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering.  I am so excited to participate in the blog tour.  I will be posting my review on Friday, October 28.  Here’s the best part:  you can enter to win your own copy, right here on Warm As Pie.  Leave a comment on Friday’s post, and I will enter your name in a drawing to win MomSense.