Monday, September 18, 2017

Back to Homeschool 2017

At last, school is back in session. One big sigh of relief from me!  Not that I didn't love summer, but after awhile it just gets too loosey-goosey for me and I am ready for schedule and routine again.   This is my 11th year of homeschooling! It all started way back when Mister was four and now, incredibly, he is fourteen.  

Here's the updates for this year:

Here I am, homeschool mom of four crazy kiddos.  11 Years and Loving It! my sign says, but after I wrote it, I chuckled, because it could also look like 11 Years and Losing It!  Depending on the day, either could be true.  This is the best and hardest thing I get to do.
When I'm not homeschooling, I'm baking, trying to read good books, trying to blog, dreaming of travel, sipping coffee, and planning. Something. Anything. I thrive on planning.  I'm one year away from 40, 17 years into marriage, and full of wonder (still) at this amazing life I lead that is so unlike what I had planned.

 Mister is in his last year of middle school! Eighth grade! I am excited and terrified all at once.  This is an important year as far as preparation for high school (which we do plan to keep on doing here at home), but also because I feel like it is my *last* year of all of us learning around the living room together.  Next year, he will be on his own a whole lot more.  So this year, I want to read lots of wonderful books aloud, ones I don't want him to miss, and savor what feels like his last year of childhood. Sad face.  No more talk like this.

Mister loves making stop-motion movies with Legos. And he is so good at them. Just this morning he told me he had over a thousand followers on his Youtube channel.  I think that is so very cool and I'm excited to see where this interest takes him.  (As a side note, I have like five blog followers. Hmmm... he is way more popular).  He continues taking karate and is eligible to test for his blue belt this fall!

Brown-Eyed Girl is in seventh grade this year.  She has changed so much in the past year. Not only is she growing into a lovely young lady (vs. my little girl), but she is maturing. Leaving behind toys more and more. Totally obsessed with having friend time. Wah! Stop it. No more of this talk!

She is a huge Harry Potter fan right now.  Huge. She and her friends all pretend to be different characters and she is Harry.  She loves books that take her to made-up worlds and she continues to grow in her sewing talents and is overall just super creative.

Petite is my third grader this year.  She is such a little sponge, so eager to learn, and takes creativity to a whole new level.  She loves doing more school work because to her, it means more time to express herself.  With doodles and drawings and stories and fancy writing and lots of ponies.  She is huge fan of My Little Pony.   She's still my little homebody and I have no fears of her wanting to leave me any time soon.  That's good news.

 And then there is Little B.  Homeschooling is going to be wild and chaotic with this guy around.  He is the busiest of any of my children, mostly because he is just so curious about everything we do.  He is very hands on, longs to be outside, and already wants to learn how to drive.  He is a natural performer, athlete, and heart throb.  We all adore him and as crazy as it will be, he is one of the major reasons I love homeschooling.  All my kiddos, growing up together.  Day in and day out.

Little B currently loves Mickey Mouse, tools, tractors, frogs, and helping Daddy work around the house.

As for curriculum, I feel like we have found a pretty good fit for us in most areas.  My older two use Teaching Textbooks for math, Petite is doing great with Singapore.  We are using The Mystery of History for the first time this year and will integrate science when applicable.  My older two use Wordly Wise (I really love these workbooks and they like them too- I feel it is a great resource for vocabulary but also reading comprehensions skills for test taking).  All three school age kids use Spellwell.  The older two use Essentials in Writing (LOVE!) and I use Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind with Petite. I do a lot of reading aloud, often fiction that coincides with what we are studying historically, but also great books I want my children to hear before they grow up.

All right new school year! Let's do this!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to the Basics of Blogging For Me

In the past week or so, I've been thinking how much I miss blogging- about my family.  I occasionally blog over at My Life in Crumbs, and I kind of prefer that blog name to this one, but this is where it all started for me.  Writing about family life and sometimes an issue or two.  As social media became more prevalent, and an easier way to share photos and the Mathews news, I got away from blogging here.

But I miss it. I miss the goodness of just sharing photos and tidbits from our daily life.  Nothing too controversial.  The joys and tears of raising children, married life, homeschooling.  Simplicity.

There are big issues out there. The past year has been a doozy in many ways, with the election, racial tensions, global tensions. It all matters greatly. But yet, I find I can get so caught up in those things and wondering what on earth little ole me can do about any of it. And the Lord brings me back to my family.  They are what I can do about it. I have been given the gift of four lives to raise, potentially as world changers.  Maybe not global world changers, but hopefully in whatever sphere they are given, they will do great things (for God, I hope.)  My job right now is to be faithful and be a part of preparing them.

I planted two little gardens this summer. You should know I am a terrible gardener. While I long to have a beautiful flower bed, everything I have ever planted has died, save some ground cover.  But this summer I decided I would commit.  I invested my time, my back, and my husband's hard earned money.  I dug up the flower bed several times over, loosening the soil, digging out rocks and bricks.  I added compost and plant food. I researched flowers in the gardening book I bought ages ago.  I visited the nurseries and made lists of what they had.  I planned where the flowers would go and I bought them.  I planted them, laid newspaper around them to keep weeds at bay, and mulched them for protection and beauty.  I prayed the whole time, "Lord, let these flowers live!" I have gone out almost daily to weed (because weeds are pesky and will always find a way through). I have watered.  I have been delighted by the bees the flowers have attracted and I hope for monarchs, too.  The ground cover has spread and the flowers have survived so far.  I pray often that they make it through the winter.

The day I planted my flower bed.
My flower bed today- there is growth!

I also found a few seed packets we had purchased last spring in the shed.  I decided to hoe up a few rows in the other flower bed and plant some peas and beans.  I again loosened the soil, but then I just made a few haphazard rows and planted the seeds.  I rarely watered them.  I barely pulled a weed. And today I picked my first batch of green beans.

I'm a novice gardener at best, but it reminds me of raising children.  Sometimes we do everything right, and we get the expected result, but sometimes we don't.  I know I will have flowers that don't survive, and some that will.  And those bean and pea seeds I just barely poked in the ground and left alone remind me of God's grace.  Sometimes we don't do all the right things, and fruit grows anyway.  The beans took about eight weeks to produce, the peas haven't shown a pod yet.  Sometimes growth takes longer, seed to seed, variety to variety.  And so it is with kids.

I am not always faithful to do the "right" things as a mom.  And I am confronted daily with my inability to do everything as a mom, period. I'm so grateful that the Lord doesn't expect perfection from me. I'm so glad he fills in the gaps I miss, that he covers my mistakes, that he causes supernatural growth in me and my children.  And I'm so grateful he continues to grow me as a mother who cares, who sacrifices, who invests her life for her children.  I'm so grateful when he whispers "well done" on the good and hard days.  More and more, I realize that this mom job is totally dependent on his grace.

I don't want the simplicity of that, or the enormity of that, to ever escape me.  So I want to write about it more.  To remind myself. To look back in years to come and be reminded of the ever-present song that plays in the background of our lives, its words whispering, "He is faithful."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

So Long School Year

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart."
2 Corinthians 4:1

We have officially reached the end of our 10th year of homeschooling.  This is kind of my life, teaching my kids at home.  It's hard to draw lines between me, my kids, our home, our lives, because they are all rolled together.  This isn't just school, it's living our lives together. Because of that, I admit, nearly everything brings me back to them.  These four children I have dedicated my life to.

I kind of worry about that sometimes.  What am I going to do once they are grown and raised and on their own, when I don't have the board books scattered across the floor anymore and all the curriculum I've collected just collects dust?  

I have no idea what I'll do. But I believe what I'm doing right now is preparation for it. Because, yes, this is my life right now, but so much more is being cultivated in me- and my kids- than I can see.

For now, I love what I get to do.  I'm not saying homeschooling is easy. It isn't. When people ask me how I do it with four children, one a toddler, one almost in high school, I shrug. I really don't know how I do it. We just do and we always have. Some days it does seem impossible.  I doubt myself a lot. But here's what I know:

God has given me this ministry. When almost everything else seems unsure, I am convinced this is what the Lord wants me to be doing with my life.   And this ministry of raising my children, and homeschooling as part of that, is given me by God's mercy. His goodness. I could have done anything with my life, but he has given me this.

But I do lose heart, often.  This verse from 2 Corinthians really blessed me this week as we read it at Bible study.  The Lord is always so faithful to give me a "parting verse" every school year. This was it.  No matter what we are called to do in this life, no matter how sure of it, we will be tempted to lose heart.  There is always that elusive Easy Street a few blocks away.  Over and over, I think I have to make peace with the fact that this wasn't meant to be easy, but it doesn't mean we are failing.

My hope for the summer is to rest and soak up the sun and make wonderful memories with my kids outside of math and spelling.  I am very proud of my kiddos for their hard work this year, for tackling new things and sticking it out.  I love to imagine all the plans the Lord has for these kiddos.

Our crowning achievement, or should I say, the joy in our homeschool, is all the wonderful books we have shared together. So allow me to share with you the titles I either read aloud or that we listened to via audiobook.  Because this is the good stuff we will remember.

Return to Gone Away Lake- Elizabeth Enright

Thimble Summer- Elizabeth Enright

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (audiobook)- JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (audiobook)- JK Rowling

Tales From Moomin Valley- Tove Jansen

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (audiobook)- JK Rowling

The Green Ember- SD Smith * A favorite of the kids

About Average- Andrew Clements

Five Children and It- E. Nesbit *

Turn Homeward, Hannalee- Patricia Beatty

Brady- Jean Fritz

George Washington Carver- The Benges

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (audiobook)- JK Rowling

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott*

Peter and the Starcatchers (audiobook)- Dave Barry

Across Five Aprils (audiobook)- Irene Hunt

The Children of Noisy Village- Astrid Lindgren

The Great Wheel- Robert Lawson

Little Britches- Ralph Moody* 

Island of the Blue Dolphins- Scott O'Dell

Mary on Horseback- Rosemary Wells* A tiny little gem of a book

The Year of Miss Agnes- Kirkpatrick Hill *This is the book that made me fall in love with reading aloud many years ago

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt- Coco Young

Wolf Hollow (audiobook)- Lauren Wolk *

Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John

The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley * Hands down my favorite. Just read it!

Raymie Nightingale (audiobook)- Kate DiCamillo

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (audiobook)

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The Watsons Go to Birmingham- Christopher Paul Curtis

Turtle in Paradise (audiobook)- Jennifer Holm

I have noted with a * our favorites, though it is so hard to choose.  This is the good stuff, when all else seems to fail.  You will notice, maybe with surprise, that we forayed into world of Harry Potter.  We have enjoyed them greatly.  If you ever want to talk about our choice to read them, I'd love to.  

Happy Summer, sweet friends. Soak it all up!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Homeschool Lessons 2017

We have less than two weeks left of our school year!  Folks, we will be legally done before May is even over! But anyone who knows me knows that school never really "ends" around here.  Not that we are always in the books, but because life itself is an education. Books just supplement.

Last year I posted about what made our school year really great.  We have had some good years, one really truly bad year (The Year I Wanted to Quit) and some meh years.  I get reflective as a school year draws to a close and I've concluded this year has been very good.  So, some take-aways for me (and maybe you):

1. Not everything in our school (our home) can depend on me.  In fact, if they do, they won't happen. That's why I have chosen a lot of curricula that are DVD driven (Teaching Textbooks, Essentials in Writing, Atelier Art).  The kids watch the lesson that is assigned and then do the assignment.  It's the same with some of the workbooks we use for spelling and vocabulary. I assign the work, they do it.  If it depends on me to dictate a spelling word list every day, it won't happen. I won't find time to teach writing every day.  I have chosen my teaching priorities, and that is what I spend the brunt of my time on.  I adore these programs that teach for me!

2. Some part of our day needs to be good. The Three Rs, in general, are not fun. They just need to be done. But for us, our "morning time" routine is the good stuff: Bible, history or science, and then read-aloud time.  No one complains about this part of our day.  It is the good stuff, the stuff that I pray my kids look back on as adults and say "homeschool rocked."

3. I'm a mom first, then a teacher.  Relationships with my kids need to be more important than what is happening in our school.

4.  Preteens, teens, puberty- oh my! We are officially there!  I will say I don't think it's as bad as it could be. Bad isn't the right word. Just new territory. But I think what they need is lots of grace, extra sleep, extra protein, and a listening ear.  And permission to skip something hard every now and then.

She's not a teen, or a preteen... so she's still pretty excited about school!

5.  There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. We get to do what we want.  I can read any book I want to my children, whether it's in the history cycle or not.  Or if it's in next year's cycle but I want to read it now.  There is no best math product or writing product or any product.  We get to do what works for us.

6. Adapt to the kids' schedules if possible. I have an early bird and a very late riser.  I am an early bird.  I would love to get started pronto and get our work done by early afternoon. But this doesn't work for one kiddo, so I'm trying to adapt and accept that as long as it gets done, it's good.

7. Fill out weekly assignments on Sunday night in an assignment book. Revolutionary for my older kids!  If it requires me to help them, I make a note of it. Otherwise, they can see at a glance what they have to do for the day.  A step in the right direction to independence.

8.Turn off social media on my phone each morning.  It's too easy to constantly check my notifications and really distracts me from my kiddos.  I sign out of Facebook on my phone each morning, but I still get private messages which tend to be more important.

9.On the rough days, I need to pan out and see the big picture. I tend to zoom in and see that one character problem or continuing behavior issue or the still-struggling student.  But when I zoom out, I see so much growth and that we really are making progress.

10.The Lord provides. He just does.  Resources, strength, joy, connections I could never make. He is here. A recent example: In history, we read a little blurb about the Battle of Dunkirk.  That very same day, in our read-aloud, the characters experience the Battle of Dunkirk first hand. Powerful and memorable. Keep in mind that I'm planning my own curriculum this year, not following an Instructor's Guide... but who is really guiding this whole thing? He is faithful! This stuff happens all the time.

11. They're my kids- enjoy them! And enjoy their education!  I get to give them the childhood and education I want them to have. That doesn't mean I have every resource or ability to do everything I want, but I get to choose so much!  I want my kids to have a literature rich education and that is what I give them.  I want to give them more travel, more experience, more of the outdoors, but literature is my priority.  Some families want their kids to have a strong STEM education, or an outdoorsy education, or an artsy education.  I think it's fabulous that we get to choose and then give our kids what we value.

12. Stop comparing, stop feeling guilty for not being like everyone else, stop judging everyone for not being like me.  There is no place in the body of Christ for this. None.

13. Even though I am trying to adapt to my kids' schedules, I also need a point in the day when I am done. No more teaching, no more tutoring.  I am "off the clock".  For me, that is three o'clock.  Anything they haven't completed by then still needs to be done and checked by dad when he gets home.

I will write my annual end-of-the-year post, but I these are things *I* keep reminding myself of, things I don't want to forget. Because this. Is. A. Marathon.  Not a sprint.  The days are long, but the years are short. And I'm feeling it. I want to enjoy each and every day that I get to do this.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Last Day of Our Year

Today we celebrated our final day of the school year with our first trip to the beach of summer.  The weather cooperated beautifully (and you never know if it will in Maine).  I sat at the water's edge, keeping watch over Little B and the others, thinking that even splashing around on a lake is part of an education.  And I prayed that I would let this sweet, so-very-short season of summer have it's way.

I wrote a post about a month ago, talking about the many things that have made this school year a truly great one.  I'm glad I wrote that post, because I have found myself in several crises of faith since then, battling the homeschooler's constant enemy- the enemy of "Am I doing enough?"  I reread that post and remember the reason why I do what I do.  It reminds me of the things that are most important to me. And that we had a wonderful school year.

Tonight we fired up the brick pizza oven and ate outdoors. And then we made s'mores in the oven for the first time (perfection, really).  As everyone licked their fingers and wiped melted marshmallow from their lips, I asked them to think about the things they were most proud of this school year, areas where they had grown or matured.  The conversations we had were priceless.  Mister has difficulty seeing his strengths, but with some coaching, he was able to name some.  Josh and I shared our observations as well and you could see him swell with pride.  Brown-Eyed Girl had a list of four things and it made me so happy to know she was proud of herself in these areas.  Because she should be. She has made huge strides this year.  Hearing all the talk about her siblings, Petite kept saying "What about me? What about me?"  And we were happy to hear her thoughts and share our own with her, and to see her smile with pleasure as we praised her. 

Homeschooled kiddos rarely get recognized for their hard work in tangible ways.  Much of what they do is only seen by mom, maybe by dad, and maybe their siblings.  While I have always wanted to have an end-of-the-year ceremony for friends and family, it just hasn't happened yet. Taking this evening to wrap-up our school year, at least as a family, with encouraging words and the first s'mores of summer, was a good thing.  I pray, and I believe, that this will stick with my kiddos.  We are so very proud of them, not just for their hard work, but for the young people they are becoming.  They are precious and priceless to us.

And though they didn't tell me what an a-mazing teacher I am, Brown-Eyed Girl asked me a simple question that made my whole homeschool career worth it.

"You're still going to read to us this summer, right?"

Of course they are thrilled to put away the school books, but they love to have mom read to them.  And that fills my heart with joy.

Yes, oh yes, I will read to you this summer. I have more books to read to you than I will be able to! I promise.

Welcome, you lazy days of summer.  I will try hard to savor you while you're here.

And just because it makes me happy, I want to share all the books I read aloud to the kids this past year (or listened to via audiobook).  These are just the chapter books. There are many more books I read to them, including biographies, tall tales, poetry etc.

Gone Away Lake
Strawberry Girl*
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic
The Sign of the Beaver*
The Birchbark House
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch*
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (for the 3rd time)*
The Hobbit (audiobook)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond*
Calico Captive
Johnny Tremain (audiobook)*
Toliver's Secret
Three Go Searching
Ben and Me
Ramona Quimby, Age 8*
Ellen Tebbits
Stuart Little (audiobook)
The Cabin Faced West
Bound for Oregon*
Henry Huggins (audiobook)*
By the Great Horn Spoon*
Matilda (audiobook)*
Caddie Woodlawn

It is too hard to pick favorites as all of these were wonderful, but I have starred a few that really did stand out.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Going Strong (But Still Counting Down Our Days!)

I've been thinking how I usually have a whole plan for next school year by now.  Here it is May and I don't! This makes me happy and I'll tell you why.

Next year isn't going to be better.

That's usually the motivation behind all my New Year's homeschool planning (and purchasing!).  It's this idea that the current year has reached it's peak of enjoyment. We are tired of what we are doing, and next year will be way better because we'll be studying something new, or using a new curriculum.

"Next year will be better!" so many of us are thinking as we slog through the final months of school.

 But in my discontent, my boredom, or more likely my weariness, it is so easy to forget :  each morning I have a new day with my kids. I don't have to muddle through til next school year to have a great school year NOW.

This 2015-16 school year, I returned to my roots, so to speak. Our first five years of home schooling were spent doing unit studies.  The next three years I purchased an all-in-one curriculum with all the subjects planned out for me.  This  year I really wanted to study American history with the kids, in depth and for as long as we wanted to.  I already had so many great books, it didn't make sense to buy another all-in-one package.  I was a little nervous to take back responsibility for planning, but also really excited to do so. (I like being in control! I am an INTJ  homeschool mom!)

So this school year has been one of meandering through American history, utilizing the notebooking method, and lots of wonderful read-alouds to make history come alive. It has really been a great year. Even with a baby in the house.  Yes, I am pressed to get it "all" done every single day, but I am also learning to slow down.  I don't have boxes to check in an Instructor's Guide. I'm spending much more time on the Revolutionary War than I expected.  I'm not cramming information in just for the sake of a syllabus.  We are savoring our studies more.

I'm not anxious for next year. Because this year is good. And I'm glad it's not over. There is so much more I want to do with the kids.  There are sooooo many books I want to read to them.  We won't get everything done that I had planned, but I am glad. Because that means we get to do it again next year (and all summer if we want!). I plan to just keep going with history and keep doing what we've done.  Next year won't be better, because this year is great!

These are a few things that have helped me slow down and enjoy our days more this school year- they are at the heart of what I really love about  homeschooling:

1) Lots of reading aloud.  I've read so many wonderful books to the kids this year, mostly complimenting our study of American history.  The benefits of reading aloud are incredible, but more than that, we all just love it. It is what brings me the greatest joy in our homeschool. I love  running my finger along the shelves in our library and seeing how many of the books we have read.  Lots!   I love when the kids beg for another chapter. I love when they are eager to find out what our next read aloud is.  And we have learned so much history through The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, Bound for Oregon, and biographies by the D'Aulaires.

Side note: If you love reading aloud, or want encouragement to read aloud more, please check out Sarah McKenzie's Read Aloud Revival blog and podcast! You will be inspired!

2) Togetherness.  I am occasionally blown away that I have four children.  And I am even more blown away when I see them all interacting together, playing, laughing, teasing, provoking.  I love that we are all home together, every single day. I love that my three school age kids get to watch their little brother grow up.  I love that he gets to watch them and learn how to do practically everything.

Now you know we have crazy days. You know there are days I want to quit.    This isn't a walk in the park. But we're all here together. And it's one of the best things about our year.

Mister is an amazing big brother, and loves to help out with B.

3) Time off.  Instead of trying to cram our required 175 days in as soon as possible, I have allowed for time of.  Josh and I took a trip in November and that was a welcome week off.  Holiday breaks, of course.  We took a family vacation in early March.  We may take more days off before our 175 are complete.  Because having built in breaks has kept us going strong instead of fizzling out.

4) Days out of the house.  As my kiddos have gotten older, their craving for friend time has increased, and I have purposefully built more days into our schedule to get us out with friends.  This is hard for me sometimes, because  I am a homebody and I really hate interruptions in our schedule. But it means so much to the kids, and I love the time with my mom friends as well. Roller skating days, MOPS meetings, and co-op are appointments on our schedule to look forward to.  We all need those!
I need excuses to escape the ever-present laundry pile- because in the grand scheme of life, laundry is pretty small, even if the pile is huge!
 5) Letting go of some crazy ideas, like "We need to finish the whole curriculum before the year ends" or "We need to do every subject every day".  Where do these strange measures of homeschool success come from? I'm daily trying to put them to death and we are all the better for it.

6) Holding to my values, my  ideals.  I wholeheartedly believe homeschool is the best way for my family, even on my worst day.  I have faith that it is making my children, and me, into the people we are intended to be.  More and more it feels like the road less traveled, but I'm also learning to stop trying to run other people's race and put  my energy into running MINE.

7) Education that is a mile deep vs an inch deep.  We are taking as long as we want on a subject.  We are diving in, reading from more than one resource, getting more than blurbs, feasting on one person at a time, one moment in history at a time.  We have had so many wonderful discussions as we have done this.  Recently, as the Constitution came up again, and as I read more of what it states, Mister asked me, "Is there anyway that document can be destroyed?" Oh, what a great talk we had about how the principles, and governing laws, that our nation was founded on have been under scrutiny and constant interpretation. We can't possibly touch on every topic under the sun.  Every education will have gaps. But because I'm not trying to keep up with a preplanned teacher's guide, we have time to chase rabbit trails and go deeper into  our studies.

Now  I confess, I got the latest CBD homeschool catalogue in the mail the other day. And I did flip through it and circle some items in black Sharpie.  But I'm not thinking too long and hard about next year. After all, there are new mercies for me each day -for marriage, mothering, and home education too.  No need to wait til next year to do what we really want to do, or to scrap what isn't working and choose something that does. (Early on in our year I chucked Apologia's Human Body book for their book on flying things- and we've only done the first six chapter on birds- because we love birds! No guilt!

How bout you, homeschool moms.  Have you planned or even  purchased curriculum for next year yet?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Baby B Turns One!

It's been such a sweet year here at the Mathews'.  Baby B join us a year ago, March 6th, a little after nine in the morning. Our fourth child, my first c-section,  our second son.  He has been such a gift from the Lord to our family.  I have known in my head that children are a blessing from the Lord, as the Psalm says, and of course I have felt it too, but Baby B has really planted this belief firmly in my heart, even since before his conception.  Since that promise that I was going to have another son. (Somewhere I have written about that!)

Baby B has changed everything!  With siblings that are 12, 10, and 6 years older than him, he has brought the joys of babies back to the house... but we experience it in a whole new way because now we experience it through our older children as well.  To see their joy as they watch him grow and learn, to see their interactions with him, it is just priceless.  It sounds silly, but sometimes I feel bad for my oldest two because they only  had Josh and I to adore them (They were close in age.   They are best buds but they didn't adore each other!) And Petite got a little bit better deal because she had Josh and I and the oldest two to adore her. But Baby B gets the best deal because he has five people in this house who constantly adore him!  It totally disproves the whole argument that you have to divide up your love and time and resources more and more with the more children you have.  This house just totally overflows with love!

Now, it totally overflows with laundry too. And toys. And garbage that needs to be taken out. And crumbs and dust, too. And noise. Lots of noise. In fact, I would say Baby B proved some other cliches true for me.  I am now the mom with mountains of laundry. My oldest two do their own, even. But I constantly find myself with a pile of laundry that needed to be washed, folded, or put away four days ago.  Maybe longer.  I am always wondering where it all comes from and how on earth four people can create so much of it!  I have been conquered by laundry.

 I've also fallen prey to the "I can't get anything done!" cliche.  I used to manage the house pretty well, educate the kids within reasonable hours, find time to read for my own enjoyment or watch a movie, and read bedtime stories to Petite.  Now, Me Time is something I have to prioritize to 15 minutes or so while Baby B has his afternoon nap.  Despite all that is left undone around the house, I have to force myself to take this break. Because it will all have to be done again tomorrow, anyway, and I need a moment. But this is all new to me.  I never totally understood the whole "I can't get anything done!" complaint from moms. I just thought "Hey, get off Facebook".  Now, I realize it may be more than a Facebook addiction :)  It might be the incredibly busy job of running a home and managing a family (and maybe a job too!).  I had always heard that after three children, you could handle anything.  Hmmm... maybe after four?

It has been a new level of exhaustion.  I have never slept so well (even though Baby B continues to wake up in the night to eat).  I sink into a chair and stare into space.  My brain isn't empty, but it goes blank.  Read a book that takes focus?  Hardly! I get why moms start reading mindless, predictable Harlequins (though I don't recommend it.)  I am on my feet most of the day and I'm usually going strong til about eight o'clock.  But then my Super-Mom cape gets ripped off and I'm ready for everyone to just go to bed.

So all of this sounds like motherhood rocks, right?

It sure does.

These kids are such gifts.  They are priceless.  It is such a joy to watch them grown and learn.  What a blessing to watch Baby B this year as he began to smile, to roll over, to crawl on his belly and then his knees, to take his first steps, to shake his head no, then yes (why is no first???), to clap his hands, to say mama (first!) and dada (second!)  and kitty (third!).  How fun to see him dancing to the music we play, to hear his giggles and outright laughter as we tickle him.  His life is irreplaceable.  We wouldn't be the Mathews without him.

We celebrated Baby B's big first birthday with a small family party.  There were gifts (of which his favorite is the toy cell phone!  He wouldn't put it down and freaked out when it turned off!).  I made a chocolate chip cake which he devoured with gusto.  He was just as adorable as ever.

Of course it is bittersweet to have my baby no longer be a baby, but a toddler.  We are going to try hard to call him Little B now that he isn't really Baby B.  :)  But then, maybe one more year of Baby B :)

The Lord has given me a Scripture verse for each of my children, a verse to pray over their life, a verse that has been so encouraging in times of difficult parenting.  The verse usually comes as I am just reading through my Bible on an ordinary day. Until today (March 7th), I hadn't been given a verse for Baby B.  Every once in a while I'd remind the Lord that he needed to give me one.

Today, as I finished up the book of Deuteronomy, I received my verse for B.

"Of Benjamin he said,
'The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long,
and dwells between his shoulders."

Deuteronomy 33:12


And Happy Birthday, Baby B!  
Here's to a sweet 2nd year of Life!