school is back in session

This year I am using a curriculum called My Father's World: Adventures in United States History. I chose this curriculum for Ivar's 2nd grade and Elsie's 1st grade because every mom I ever mentioned it to always said, "Oh, the year we did that was one of my favorite years. There's so much good stuff in that year." And I can totally see why! 

Every week we are studying a different slice in US History through extensive books lists they recommend based on each topic. The books have been fantastic and we are learning so much.

This also means that I depend greatly on getting the recommended books from the library from week to week. When I realized this early in August I made a crazy decision. I decided to start our home school on August 13th, three weeks before Labor Day. I didn't mention this to many people because I remember last year a friend told me she was starting early and I felt behind before I began! But this just worked best for us this year (we needed routine!) and it means I have returned our library books two weeks before other mom's using this curriculum would need them.
Our first week was on the Vikings. I was supposed to buy student sheets for each kids to color, but I was too cheap and decided I could probably figure out what they wanted us to do and then make up our own sheets. Part of the curriculum is to make this timeline on the wall and it was supposed to be clip art included in the student sheets, but because I didn't have them I asked Ivar, my awesome artist, to draw a scene instead. What he comes up with each week is so, so awesome. (All based on the pictures from the beautiful books from the library.)
For the record, this timeline may be up on my walls for the rest of my life. And in my room at the nursing home when you come to visit me in my 90's.
It's been a pretty great start this year. I absolutely love the curriculum we are using. That is just such a gift. Soon we will begin studying each state and the national parks that are in that state. And each day we begin with a lesson on all the different names for Jesus. Then the science lesson corresponds to that name for Jesus. This week we are learning all about Light, and talking about what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World. Next week we learn about The Bread of Life and learn about yeast. It's just so rich and fun and creative.
This was our first day of school. That week set the stage for learning all about America, hence these little graham cracker flags with cream cheese, jam and frozen blueberries. I improvised with what we had on hand! Also, our dress code might be a wee bit lax at this school...
Other than that, I am still pretty minimalist when it comes to supplies and materials for home educating. I got a bin for each kid to keep their own books and supplies in because I remember LOVING my tote tray in my elementary classrooms. And the big kids love it too. Hattie keeps 3-ring binders (that match Ivar and Elsie's) toys, crayons, picture books and left over snacks in her bin and Alden really loves to crawl in and out of his bin.

So we're off on the right foot! Two years ago I began this home school journey quiet leery and uncertain about the whole thing, but I'm so grateful we are doing this now. It's really exciting to watch my kids learn and so rewarding to choose this path each day. There definitely are challenging moments, but the rewarding moments far outweigh those other ones. Mostly I like that we are all together.

so precious

It wasn't until the very end of the night that I had the enormous realization of what a gift I was surrounded by. My four kids had just spent the afternoon playing and eating and getting melted m&m's wiped from their faces by ALL FOUR of their grandparents. Could anything be more precious or special? These four kids are so loved and cherished by these four grandparents. What a blessing to have these moments!

The moment we found out we were pregnant back in Nebraska we started making plans to move back to Minnesota so we would be surrounded by family. I am so glad that we did. Because family is the best!

bottle this up

And here we are, on the first day of school. Ah! So let's relive a perfect summer day, shall we?!! Two Wednesdays ago , Marlene and Madison had my side of the family over for an afternoon and evening of boating, swimming, tubing and feasting.
It was so perfect. I was blissed out most of the time. I LOVE being on the water in the summertime and I LOVE playing with my kids on the lilypad. It was a glorious 79 degrees and I said many times, remember this moment! It will get us through March!
Alden was a bit zonked, but guess what? Because he missed his second nap this day he SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. Alden has not been my star sleeper, and because of this day he is now getting one long nap a day and SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT. Last night was the first night I didn't get out of bed one time since he was born.
It was a wonderful day and left everyone sun-and-swimming-tired, the best kind of tired.

my name is becca and I am a farm wife.

Yesterday I was outside with Alden on my hip, wearing my Great Grandma Anders apron (Cathy, it's the one you and Chuckie bought for me at the auction at the Colorado family reunion...I wear it EVERY DAY) and was dumping a bucket of food scraps over the fence for the chickens.

I turned around and saw my neighbor's daughter running by. Her family is here from Boston for a summer vacation. She is in her final year of residency and was still flying at the end of her run, wearing a cute running outfit as she glided past. We waved and then I saw myself.

I was barefoot. With a baby on my hip. In an apron. Feeding chickens.

End Scene One.

Last night I stayed up late and made my third batch of soap. This time I made a peppermint scrub with ground oatmeal. I'm super pumped about it. And today I got up extra early to milk that goat again and do chores real quick before meeting girlfriends for breakfast. After breakfast my friend Kandi and I walked around our town's farmers market and saw tons of friends as well as a stand that is selling only goat milk soap. It was beautifully packaged, priced right and I excitedly talked to the woman selling, "don't you love it? Making soap is so addicting! I just made my third batch last night and I know I'm hooked. And milking the goat! Don't you just love your goat?!!" Her face went blank and confused, "I get my goats milk from a farmer...I'm busy enough with the soap that I can't milk a goat."  I shook my head encouragingly and told her how much I loved her booth. I really did. I was proud of her. And sincerely surprised that she sells goats milk soap and doesn't know the goats.

End Scene Two.

We are meeting friends for a picnic tomorrow at Lake Harriet and I began thinking through what we could bring.  So just hear this and then hear me out before you think I'm bragging. But by trying to use our own food and not spend an additional money I figured that I could bring the following without leaving the house: roast chicken, homemade potato salad, homemade dinner rolls, a jar of our pickles and a cake (a look in the pantry and I decided on tres leche cake). I happily put Great Grandma's apron back on and hit it for a whole afternoon in the kitchen.

And after I roasted the chicken, I pulled it apart for bbq sandwiches for the homemade dinner rolls (just got a bread machine at a garage sale for $3!) and put the carcass on the stove with celery, carrots and onion to make chicken stock. I made pork chops for dinner to eat with our apple sauce and the potato salad I made earlier. Also, I started a loaf of bread in the bread machine for breakfast tomorrow. And I sliced up the soap that I made last night.

What on earth.

I texted my folks, telling them half of what I just told you and said, "What have I become?!!" My dad replied, "a farm wife."

And it's hard to deny it. Especially when I ate my supper in my apron.

End Scene Three

I fear that all sounds boastful and braggadocios. But I am processing so much in my head right now and want to try to get it out. I feel like I have had a complete and utter farm girl transformation this summer- well, actually since the day I turned 37, the day Miracle was born. And I'm so surprised by it because we have been here for six years but it didn't happen until this year.

Here's why it mystifies me. If I wanted to become a lawyer, I would research law schools, fill out applications, pick a school, move to a new city and attend classes for four years. At the end of those four years I would study for the bar exam, and then look for a firm where I could begin my practice. I would be an attorney, just as I had intended from the start.

Now I know I have lived on this farm for six years. And I was obviously around when we built the barn and when we dreamed our dreams. But in my head it was still all Rory's work to be done. I would just enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Instead I am up to my neck in it! Boom. I'm a lawyer! Just by living on the campus of the law school.

It started with bottle feeding Miracle every three hours, eight times a day, making that trek out to the barn in the middle of the night (in the dark of winter...), smiling at Darcy the goat and beginning to really love our animals. And then when I started milking Darcy I took over all of the morning chores. It just made sense. I'm outside anyway so why not feed and water the cats, chickens, sheep and goats.

And then! And then I started weeding the garden. Whaaaaa?!!! And I sincerely, truly, for real enjoy it. I have thought often how weeding a garden is a lot like sorting the junk drawer. I love organization, and a garden clear of weeds just looks so pleasing to me. Then I began preserving our food and have quarts of tomato sauce, pickles, gallon bags of frozen cut french fries, jars of raspberry freezer jam, and salsa.

I guess I'm just trying to explain that this wasn't my intention. I didn't go to law school intending to be a lawyer. And I didn't move to this farm thinking that one day I'd milk a goat. But here, in my 37th year of life, I have become a full-fledged farmer and I am still surprised by this fact.

making myself low

I opened the door to the garage to bring the trash out and nearly stepped on this heap of nursing kittens! Look at that Mama. She looks so over it! I love this picture so much because the past few days I have felt like Bowa, our mama cat. Pouring it all out, giving it all away, being sucked dry. (I wrote this post last weekend...but I still want to post it.)

If you have kids I know you know this feeling. And I think it's especially intense right this moment before the start of a school year. There is a panic that creeps into me every end-of-August, "am I restored? did I get the rest I needed this summer? am I ready for the demands that are ahead?" And the answer is a sinking and definite, "no."

My kids are in full gear these days. Alden is monkey-ing around, pulling down table cloths, sticking everything in his mouth for quality control, pulling cords, screaming with excitement and demands to go outside. Hattie is into it all as well. Her greatest life struggle is trying to find two shoes so she can go outside. Much of my life is spent looking for any pair of Hattie's shoes. Elsie is my clingy companion and at the moment the most demanding. She needs me non-stop. She wakes up with a plan for us, and if I fall short in any way she falls into a heap on the floor, disappointment made visible, mom-guilt flooding the room. And I am trying to stay strong and set boundaries and expectations, but she must just be going through a stage or something. She wants to be right by me all the time, in my lap, all limbs wrapped in some way around my body like a grape vine. It's really something. Well, it's really exhausting is what it is. And Ivar has his own needs, though they are less obvious because he is growing into something so independent of me. Mostly he tells me jokes non-stop, or lego plot-lines or reasons why he has too many chores.

Anyway, this weekend my personal space began crying out. It's also the weekend I have completely weened Alden so hormones are also a huge factor. Add in the beginning of the school year, farm chores, preserving the garden and running the home and I was ready to run for the hills.

And the world would say, "absolutely! You deserve a break! Get out of that house for an overnight and recharge!" And given the right heart, I think a break would be wise too.

But have you ever had a morning off or the house to yourself and not known what to do with yourself? I hear this from friends all the time. What we think we want finally comes, and we are lost. And then that time away is over and nothing has changed. It's after enough of these experiences without a change of heart that I have learned better. Because it is really a heart problem. It's my heart and it is my own selfishness that is trying to overtake my selflessness.

God showed me this with crystal clear clarity this morning at church. Our pastor, Danny, stood up after a few songs and talked about humility and how pride is the very first thing to creep into any cracks in our foundation. But we serve a righteous and holy God who calls for humble vessels, willing to be filled by him alone. Danny said that kneeling is simply a way to remind our bodies who it was who created our souls.  He suggested that if anyone felt the nudge, they should get to their knees in a posture of humility and submission.

I didn't get on my knees.

Because at that moment Elsie was spread across my lap like a wet noodle, whisper-yelling at me to "scratch my back. harder. lighter. give me a head massage..." She sat on me looking forward, then turned around to face me, all the while twisting up my dress. My thought was that with Hattie and Alden in the nursery, I could use the hour to fill this girl up, give her all the love and touch that she needs and enjoy just her. Instead I just felt smothered.

Like a farm cat nursing six kittens.

But I laughed as Danny suggested we get in a humbled posture. And I realized that Danny's words were for me. I wasn't on my knees, but my posture was the same. My daily-non-stop-every-moment life of service for my family is utterly stripping me of my own desires. And this daily pouring myself out can only be maintained if I turn to the one who pours himself out for me.

So this is where I am left this afternoon. As I typed this, Elsie came and asked for cheese four times, hoping for a different answer from me. We have a season of growth ahead of us. Boundaries will be set and kept and there are some demanding weeds I am ready to pull while they are still little and she can understand why they must go.

And I have weeds of my own that need to be pulled too. I have been working myself into a self-righteous tizzy and it's going to lead to nothing good. I have heart work to be done, a few conversations that need to happen with God as we make a plan ahead, Him teaching me how to lay down my life for my friends, Him showing me that the only real happiness to be found is in fellowship with Him daily. There is a lot of room for new growth and I have a lot to learn. Good thing it's the start of a new school year!

And I just had this realization. Elsie is glomming onto me and needing every bit of me. I am weary. So I need to glom onto Jesus because I need every bit of him. And I need to teach Elsie to do the same. That well never runs dry. I think Elsie and I have some sweet moments ahead, reading our Bible's and talking about what it means to be God's girls. Doesn't that feel like a great next step?