Our Newest Arrow: Baby Q's Birth Story

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth." 
-Psalm 127:3-4
Quiet time on the blog usually means things are busy on the home front. . .

On Wednesday, May 18th, God blessed us to deliver another baby girl. She was born at 1:30 pm, weighing 8 lbs and 11.5 oz, and 21 inches long.

Baby Q
Labor pains woke me up around 7 am and after 30 minutes of contractions, I knew the time had come. After a brief whirlwind of confusion with my doctor's office, my husband and I arrived at the hospital sometime between 10:15 and 10:30 am. At this point, I was 8cm dilated and 80% effaced.

I have been blessed to deliver all 7 of our children without surgical intervention, but this one was different: no epidural or pitocin or any other medications.

This was a desire of my heart, and God heard my prayers. He allowed me to experience birth naturally and I am so grateful for that. This was important to me because I want to be able to share the experience with my daughters (and daughters-in-law).

So much of womanhood and mothering has been lost from times past, leaving a gap between generations. Women become wives and mothers not knowing how to do many basic tasks of keeping a home and child-rearing, not to mention breastfeeding or natural childbearing.

I am one of those women, who has struggled to learn homemaking, mothering, biblical womanhood along the way. I want something different for my daughters. And birthing a baby naturally, even in a hospital, is part of bridging that gap for me. It was a long time coming--I mean 6 other deliveries before I was willing to try, but I am so grateful for the entire process, 13 years in the making.

I know I've said this before, but I am amazed at how He takes time to see about us, even in the small places, all the way down to the details. This song played over and over in my mind during my laboring, which just reiterates Romans 8:28--
"And we know that all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Whatever we face as believers, including laboring to bring a child into the world, God's intentions are clear: to bring about some good in the end. "He's intentional, never failing."

My littlest girls have birthdays just one day apart 🎂

Birthday party in the hospital 😊 

"Baby Q" was born one day before her big sister's birthday. We were able to go home the next evening after she was born. So far baby is doing well, recovery is good, and nursing is going strong. I'm sleepy, and I can't quite keep my days straight yet, but overall, I feel incredibly blessed.

A big, heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who prayed for us. 💜

"They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them."
-Isaiah 65:23


Bible Study Fun

The Bible is an important part of my family's life as it is the foundation of our faith in God. So, naturally, it is important in our homeschooling as well. While we do have a more in-depth, sincere Bible study time each day, I also wanted to incorporate a little fun in our Bible learning as well. I think taking the Bible seriously is an important thing to teach my kids. However, that doesn't mean we can't sprinkle a little fun in there to cultivate a love of learning God's word. Here are a few things we do.
"A merry heart does good, like medicine, 
But a broken spirit dries the bones." -Psalm 17:22
Scripture Drawings
Sounds easy enough right? Well, this is a bit of a challenge because it uses some creativity. Exactly how do you show that we should have no other gods before Him? Or that we should not take the Name of the Lord in vain? (Exodus 20:3, 7) It has been fun seeing some of the things my kids have come up with. Some of their drawings have been very literal and others have been very abstract, but both lots of fun.

Bible Books
There isn't anything fancy or brand new here. Kids have been learning the books of the Bible for ages! Still, there is just something cool about knowing and reciting all 66 books and where to find those books without using the table of contents. It brings back childhood memories for both my husband and me, and so it's another family fun idea. We've taken the Bible books in chunks, about five or so at a time, and just add to them as we learn them. We're not in a race and there isn't some special prize at the end. What gets my kids going is that they get to quiz me! They keep me on my toes!

Bible Flip
Now this one is a race. I'll call out a verse from one of the Bible books that we're learning, and my kids have to try to get there as fast as they can. The first one to get to the passage has to recite it out loud. We do this just a few times per week and boy do they get a kick out of it. My little ones who do not read yet, pretend to find the verse before the older kids do. We've had ties and we've had blow-outs, and we've had people reading the wrong Scripture. (Bonus: sharpening listening skills!) We keep it light-hearted and we laugh about it. You know your kids enjoy this activity when they ask, "Mommy are going to do Bible flip today?" And if I respond with a, "No, not today," I get an, "Aww!" in return.

Bible Movies/Series
There's nothing like seeing the best compilation of history ever being played out before your eyes. My children absolutely love to watch Bible movies, whether cartoons or real actors. As their understanding of God's word matures, what we've been doing is critiquing the show based on Biblical accuracy vs. embellishment for the movie's sake. The last ones we watched were The Prince of Egypt and The Passion of the Christ. It was interesting to hear their take on things and a few times we even paused the movies to consult the Scriptures if we weren't sure.

These are a few ways we enjoy learning about the Bible. How does your family make Bible learning fun?

Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum.


36 weeks and Counting

Hey Ladies!

Just checking in with a bit of a pregnancy update of sorts. I am officially 9 months pregnant and I am patiently awaiting my baby girl's arrival. I know I haven't posted on this pregnancy as often as I have with some of the others. But honestly, I have tried to treasure each bit of this pregnancy in my heart, and it's hard to believe that the end is near. There have been highs and lows, as there are with any other thing in life. But I am forever grateful to God for this blessing He's given to my husband and me, and to our family as a whole.

Labor and delivery are at the forefront of my mind right now. I'm wondering when labor will start and how will I handle it this time and where I will be and what time of day it will be and so on. I pray about this process and then I wonder about delivering her, so I pray about that, too. Yes, even after having had 6 kids, all of this still crosses my mind, and it does so more and more each day.

My daughter (aka photographer) caught us in a real life moment.

I've washed up all of my little girl's clothes from when she was a baby. Now I have to sort and fold and put them away in a few drawers I've cleared out for my baby girl. It's a sweet/sad moment to go through all those tiny baby outfits and remember how little my almost-2-year-old used to be. She's thrilled about it though, from what I can tell, and loves all things baby right now. She often whispers to my belly, "Come out, baby!" Soon, sweetie, soon. 💜

I've been trying to de-clutter places and spaces as best I can. My littlest girl's room is good to go. My older two girls' room is still a work in progress. They are 11 and 13 and I'm still finding things like Dora books collecting dust on their bookshelves! LOL Now that they have a little sister and one on the way, they are more comfortable parting ways with these items I think, since they know they'll still be around. I cleaned out my own closet and have yet to touch the boys' room. I'm hoping to do that this week so I can donate the items before she comes. I'm sweeping as much as I can and I can't stand to see crumbs on the kitchen table. This is how I nest, folks! 😊

I haven't packed a bag for the hospital yet, but I intend to do so in the coming days. I'm debating on laboring in my own gown or using one of those awkward sized, shows "all of your business" gowns the hospital provides. LOL I did get new flip-flops to use in the hospital shower, though, so that counts for something, right?!

After having 6 hospital births, I respect so much more the natural-ness of laboring and delivering at home. There are so many interruptions to the natural process in the hospital. Honestly, by the time we had our 4th baby, were leaning a bit more in that direction. Although my husband and I both looked into it, it just hasn't worked out that way for various reasons. Any of you ladies have ideas on how to make a hospital birth feel more home-like????? I'm reading a few books about it, but there's nothing like hearing from mamas who've been there.

I had my homeschool portfolio review last week. My reviewer agreed to meet with me in April instead of June. I thought that was very considerate of her and I'm thankful that is complete. We are still continuing to school each day on our regular schedule for the most part. Once the baby comes, we will transition into our "newborn/summer" schedule.

I'm feeling pretty good overall and I can't complain. I'm big and round and I feel like I'm waddling with every move. My husband's sweat pants look more and more like a comfortable alternative to some of my maternity clothes. I'm at the stage where clothes are pretty much the enemy right now. LOL I need a pedicure for sure and one of my daughters has offered to help me--thank God for daughters. 😉 Sleep is harder because finding a comfy position is getting trickier, but that's nothing new to pregnancy. I'm having Braxton-Hicks contractions every day now, several times a day. I'm hoping that they are productive so that there's less work to be done during the actual labor. (A mama can hope, right?!)

I think my husband is mentally preparing, because he's telling people that I'm pretty much at "any day" status. All of the kids are excited, and have expressed it in different ways. Some tell me often how they can't wait to meet the baby, how they're so glad to have another sibling, asking what she's doing or how big she is now. Some of the kids just randomly come up to my belly and start talking to the baby in sweet little tones. 💜

Finally, I am so very thankful. So grateful for the opportunity to carry life one more time. God is gracious. For every time I feel her move or I see an elbow or foot move beneath my skin, or hear her heart beating or just think over the way this pregnancy unfolded--I thank God for it all and pray I never take it for granted.


The Trickle-Down Effect

I walked in the school room the other day and the 4-year-old boy had written a whole host of numbers on the chalk board that I'd never taught him to write. Last time I checked, we were still working on a few letters. . .

One day, I realized that my 3-year-old, who was 2 at the time, knew all his colors because he began naming everything by color. I thought we were still working on the difference between orange and white. . .

My littlest girl, who's 22 months old, recognizes all her letters, but hates to sit down for any alphabet flashcard time. Flashcards were a big hit for her 5 older siblings, but not so much for her, so I'm thinking, how does she know this?

My oldest son, 8 years old, regularly announces how he's already familiar with the history lessons we're studying. He goes on to tell me all of what he knows, and I'm thinking, this kid is on point.

I watch my oldest girls, now 11 and 13, do more and more and I think, when did they learn that? Like I watched my 11-year-old pick up her little sister, balance her on her hip just right (Mamas, you know that classic hold I'm talking about!) and she walked on across the kitchen with her to get a cup of juice.

Then one night, my new teenager girl said she'd help this same baby sister get dressed for bed. When I peeked my head in the room to offer guidance, she had little girlfriend laid across her lap, and was changing her like a pro.

I never explicitly said, Daughter, this is the proper way to sling a toddler up on your hip. And as for teaching number writing--I had good intentions, but hadn't yet given the lesson. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t sat them down to learn any of the things mentioned above.

So, how do they know?
It's what I call the trickle-down effect of learning. 

Not everything is taught explicitly, through formal encounters and a ton of lesson plans. Some things just trickle down and the children grasp them as they come, simply by all of us being around each other, day after day. In homeschooling, there is plenty of time for togetherness.

My children aren't spending the day separated by age, grade level or ability. They spend most of every day with each other and one or both of their parents. Togetherness isn't something we carve out or schedule a time for, rather it is something we live. Life and learning go on in the same space daily and are not two different dynamics in our home.

As they say, homeschooling is a way of life. It offers plenty of opportunities to watch, listen, emulate. . .watch, listen and learn some more. And the learning isn't just from Dad or Mom--it takes place between siblings, too: games played, stories read, tying shoes, zipping up coats, passing down a beloved toy, bedtime routines--togetherness.

When children are encouraged to be around you, to be in your presence, even in the most ordinary of tasks--rather than being shooed off into a corner--it's amazing what they pick up on.

Having the chance to watch it all unfold is a beautiful thing. Keep pushing forward, keep learning as a family, keep being together, keep planting those faithful seeds. The fruit that it produces is a blessed reward.

*Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum


Patient Enough to Homeschool

I'm sure I'm not the only homeschooling mom that's been told by a non-homeschooling mom,
"I don't see how you can do it! I'm just not patient enough to homeschool!"
And my immediate thought is, "What makes you think I'm patient enough?!" Clearly this dear woman hasn't heard my "gruffy voice," as my kids call it, when things aren't going according to plan.

Somewhere out there in Mommy-land, non-homeschooling mothers automatically assume that homeschooling moms have been endowed with some supernatural host of powers, including an ever-flowing, overflowing cup of patience, that not only allows them to stay at home with their own children, but educate them, too!

News flash: there are no super powers--except the power of God.

The truth is homeschooling moms are moms first, which means we are human, too. We love our children dearly but some days they drive us up the wall.We don't have it together all the time, our babies wake up a bazillion times each night, too and we'd rather not have to unclog toilets while drilling math facts. We are also trying to be the best wives, mothers, and homeschool teachers, while balancing homemaking, cooking dinner, running errands, nap times, school work, volunteering, date night, and on and on.
Source Unknown
So what's the secret? Why are we wild enough to want to be with our kids all day, every day?

Well, I'll speak for myself and say. . .
It's the power of God that enables me to remain committed. Plain and simple.

You see, on this Christian journey, we are to develop patience, let it grow and mature.
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." -James 1:2-5
This suggests that none of us are just given all the patience we need up front. It is something that must be cultivated, that we need the Holy Spirit to work within (Galatians 5:22). And let me tell you, being at home and teaching all of my children is certainly an opportunity for just that.

So for the mom who will allow her faith to be tried, stretched and tested by staying at home and teaching her children, the reward is a bit more patience coupled with wisdom. Nope, it doesn't come easy, but the fruit it produces makes the work worth doing.

I realize that one day the baby will sleep through the night and nursing sessions will end. One day my little one won't need help with getting dressed or letters. I know that one day my child will take over reading the stories and math facts will be memorized.  They'll go on to writing term papers and higher learning and beyond. As the old saying goes: the days are long, but the years are short. Homeschooling and time just spent together allows you the chance to seize every opportunity with your children and make the most of it.

So, to the mamas out there who are considering homeschooling but feel you don't have what it takes--I'm here to tell you that all you need is a willing heart. Know that God has called you Mother and will give you everything you need to raise your children up before Him, including educating them at home. You can do this.

Don't worry about having enough patience, it will come.

Originally written for Our Homeschool Forum.


When No One Celebrates

The more children you have, the fewer the celebratory responses.

Sad, but true--I've been there.

It can be difficult when people don't "get" you and your family life.

It's hard when you remember how excited friends and family used to be for your first or second baby . . . and then you watch as that excitement gives way to bewilderment, perplexities, rudeness, lack of understanding, compassion or tact . . .

It's one thing to be questioned or mocked by the random lady in the grocery store; it's a totally different thing to have those closest to you act just like that random lady in the grocery store . . .snide remarks, indifference, no kind words . . .

So, mama, what do you do when the baby showers stop and the "congratulations" end?

Here is what I am learning to do. . .

First, remember this above all else:
Each life should always be celebrated, no matter how many, as each one is a miracle straight from the hand of God. He gives life and calls it good.
Next, party at home with your husband and children and celebrate that life any way! Seriously, though, do not let your joy fade or be stamped out. Embrace your growing belly, love the life within, do not be ashamed or apologetic for the joy a little one brings. Praise God for the wonder He has worked within.

Stay focused on the task at hand. Although it may feel like it, you are not ambassador to the world whose job it is to explain why you have that many kids. Instead, God has called you wife and mother. That is your duty, your top priority: love your husband and your kids, focus on their care and well-being, and make your house a godly home. And should the Lord add to your family along the way, welcome every one of those babes, but don't lose sight. Stay focused.

We may never understand the in's and out's of why people react to more children the way they do. Perhaps it's their own up-bringing, or maybe it's not knowing how to react to a culture that screams against more than 2 kids. Maybe it's the pain of not being able to conceive or perhaps spouses do not agree. Maybe it just is what it is and they can't fathom at all why anyone would be open to more children. . .

The reality is, it isn't our job to figure it out and work through it all with the lady in the check-out line, or around the Thanksgiving dinner table at your mom's house. Yes, it's frustrating, and it can even be heart-breaking, but that is not your load to carry.

What we have to do is continue to joyfully labor in the field that God has placed us in. Continue planting those seeds in His Name, and in time, we will reap a bountiful harvest. (Galatians 6:9)
Let that stand on it's own, let that be the "explanation" we give to others.
Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.
Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel! 
~Psalm 128 


Homeschool Co-ops: Why We Haven't Joined One

Gone are the days when you are the only person in the world to homeschool, where there is only one curriculum to use, and there's no support anywhere for your decision.

Now, a simple search of "homeschooling" online will yield a ton of results that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. That's great, in the sense that there are so many options, methods, and curriculum choices so parents are able to tailor their children's educations. But it can become overwhelming if you are trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing.

This is where homeschool co-ops fit in for my family. I know plenty of families that thrive with the homeschooling/co-op life style. But, it just wasn't a fit for us. Here's why. . .

1. Time and Place
You have to meet usually weekly (possibly twice a week, depending on the ages of your children), at a certain time, at a certain place. This was a no-go for my family. When we began homeschooling, we had just left public schools to homeschool our children and we just wanted to be at home. No deadlines, no commitments, no being on someone else's schedule. For the last 3 years I had been waking the kids up and rushing them through morning routines so I could get them to school on time. I didn't want any part of that sort of thing, even if it was weekly.

We wanted every ounce of flexibility that homeschooling offers a family. Plus, we began homeschooling when I was about 6 months pregnant with our 4th child, so maintaining our flexibility was important for major life events like that.

2. School Zone
Coming out of public schools ourselves, my husband and I were ready to "detox" our own brains, as well as our daughters', about what education should look like. The co-ops we found mimicked the traditional school environment: classes grouped by age, teachers/leaders/tutors in charge of those classes, meeting for a specific day and time, pledge of allegiance to begin class, etc.

Now, I have no doubt that wonderful things can be learned in this environment. They most certainly can--in fact 3 family friends of ours have their children in different co-ops and their children are learning some pretty AMAZING things! However, the setting was all too familiar for us and we wanted to school our children away from that traditional set up.

3. Curriculum Choices
This was big for my husband and me. We'd already been down the road of having no say, no choice at all in what books we'd use to teach our children. As a matter of fact, my girls rarely brought school books home; it was always a worksheet ripped out of the book, so we could never quite tell what book it was or what the scope and sequence was. So, choosing for ourselves what we would use was important, and we didn't want to be bound by what the co-op had chosen.

The other thing that concerned me was the rate of learning with those curriculum choices....what if my child needs to slow down to really be able to master a concept? What if my child needs to move ahead because he or she has already mastered a concept? I didn't want to be told that we must be on such-and-such lesson, by this day, because that's how the program works, or because that's more convenient for the group.

4. Cost
Many co-ops are on par with the price of private schooling. So, put very simply: it was not an affordable option for our family. And, that became even more apparent to us as the Lord blessed us with more children. Co-op costs are just not in the budget.

Now, I realize that all co-ops are not created equally and that each one is run a bit differently from the other. Therefore, this is not meant to be an all inclusive run-down of how every co-op is structured. But these seemed to be the recurring themes that concerned us most amongst the popular ones in our area.

Now, lest you get the wrong impression, I don’t think a co-op is necessarily a bad idea.
Let me tell you about the co-op of my dreams. . .

  • Meeting with two or three other like-minded families, maybe once a month or every other month
  • Relaxed environment, like my home or theirs, or at the park, or where ever we decide
  • Doing one or two subjects or projects with all of our kids, together, no matter the ages
    • For example, I might teach a health lesson with a hands-on activity one month, while the next mom might choose arts & crafts for the next
    • More enrichment based, rather than curriculum based
  • Maybe we get together to go on a field trip sometimes
  • Other times we get together to simply fellowship, to talk over a potluck lunch, to let the kids play
  • Share our tried and true tips and tricks of parenting, homeschooling and family life

I don't know if this would technically qualify as a co-op, maybe it's more of a support group.
Whatever it is, it is what I would call ideal.

Have you decided to use a co-op for your family's homeschooling? Why or why not?

**Originally written here for Our Homeschool Forum.**
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