perfectly imperfect

Homeschooling and home selling are two things that are not compatible. I’m not going to lie – the rope is fraying quickly and I’m definitely at the end of it.

The good news is that my house has never been this clean. I’m a raging clean-aholic. I’m totally obsessed. Not a good obsessed, either: like crazy-OCD-psychotic-obsessed. It’s bad.

The other night, our family was talking about how everyone has special gifts and talents. At the end of the discussion, David suggested that we name each of our family member’s gifts and talents.  Avery said, “Daddy’s gift is singing. I’m a good artist. Charlie has a good imagination and is brave. And mommy is a good cleaner.”

Sweet. My kid thinks that I’ve been gifted in the area of cleaning. Awesome.

If that’s my gift, I’d like a refund.

While my house may be squeaky clean these days, I have no desire to be “gifted” in the area of cleanliness. I can’t stand the stress I feel to keep our house “perfect”. Perfection and I are not friends. We have a long, complicated history together. In my experience, “Perfection” is Regina George and I’m the nerdy band girl who isn’t allowed to sit at her lunch table.

The problem is, random house-buying-types expect perfection when they walk into your home. They don’t understand that my little boy likes to throw his pull-up in the corner of his room every.stinking.morning, or that four year old boys have no clue how to properly aim for the toilet. They could care less that seven year old girls collect “treasures” like band-aids, gum wrappers, broken robin’s eggs, hair clips, glittery chap stick tubes, and stickers and proudly display them in their rooms . They don’t have the back story on that red stain on my carpet that mysteriously appeared after a play-date of epic proportions. They like clean, neat, tidy perfection.

So – here’s what “perfection” looks like when you’re the nerdy band girl and you’ve got 30 minutes before Regina George heads to your house for a showing:

Clean laundry gets stuffed back in the dryer…

laundry piles

When that’s completely stuffed full, I usually just throw it back into a random hamper.

more laundryAfter that, I usually have to clean the toilet area for the 50th time that day. See the bubbles? That’s the little chemical reaction that happens when Clorox bleach hits pee. Busted.

DSC_0626I’ve seriously considered rigging that bleach bottle to a holster of some sort and carrying it around the house with me.

Charlie usually does this while I clean:

helperThis next photo just makes my soul hurt when I look at it. It’s the one thing that is never, ever, ever, finished…

dishes

One of the last things I have to do before we leave is to get my dog out of the house. It’s no biggie, though. He only weighs 92 pounds…and can’t jump into the car without my help.

giant dog in the carPreparing for a showing is a major workout. I’m pretty sure that I have scarred my kids psychologically because I’m such a meany pants these days. I feel like the only words coming from my mouth these days are “hurry up”: hurry up and get in the car, hurry up and get dressed, hurry up and put away your toys. The other day, in a moment of frustration, Charlie told me that all I do is “boss, boss, boss”.

I’m no fun. No fun at all.

As hard as I try, I just can’t seem to find the balance between being a good mom and a good housekeeper. My attempts at perfection always end with me feeling like a super jerk instead of super mom. I feel stressed, frazzled, and just plain mean.

Deep down, I know that attaining perfection is impossible. When my goal is to be “perfect”, I don’t really perfect anything. I certainly don’t perfect the godly mom thing.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only thing I’m close to perfecting is the “Mommy Dearest” thing.

Not exactly the legacy I want to leave.

I don’t want my kids to grow up and remember that I was always cleaning. I want them to remember that I played with them. I don’t want them to see me on my phone all the time. I want them to see me coloring with them. I want to experience life with my kids, not just live with them.

Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t automatically mean that you are doing some great or noble thing for your kids. It’s not the “staying home” thing that makes a difference in your children’s lives. It’s the intentional time invested that makes a difference. Investing in your children requires discipline, effort, and a willingness to put aside your own agenda.

Many times, at the end of a particularly stressful day, I find myself replaying all of the jerky things I did or said on a loop. Every impatient moment, every harsh word, and every frustrated sigh plays over and over in my mind. It’s during those moments that my inner voice typically tells me how bad I’m failing at this whole motherhood thing.  All I do is boss, boss, boss.

Not long ago, I had the privilege to hear author/speaker Jon Acuff at a conference. One of the things he said that really struck home with me is that no one has a positive inner voice. It’s always negative. It likes to tell us that we are failing or that we aren’t good enough. That’s why it’s important to replace that negative inner voice with truth: truth from God’s word.

God’s truth is that even though I’m a hot mess, I’m still His child.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – I John 3: 1

God’s truth is that I am perfectly imperfect, and perfectly loved by my Creator.

“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. ‘Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! Again you will take up your tambourines, And go forth to the dances of the merrymakers’.” -Jeremiah 31:3-4

God’s truth is that He makes old things new again. Even mean old crabby things like me.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

Did you read that? He’s making streams in the wasteland! The mercy in that truth makes me so happy…and allows me to show a little grace to myself when that loop starts playing in my head.

Thankfully, all of this house-selling nonsense is just temporary. Before long, our house will be sold and all of this stress will be a distant memory. My laundry pile will return to it’s former mountainous glory, my microwave will once again be polka-dotted with food bits, and I’ll sigh instead of scream when I find that used pull-up under Charlie’s bed. Life will be less than “perfect” again.

And I can’t wait.

Avery’s Minnie Mouse Birthday Party

Fresh on the heels of our trip to Disney World, Avery celebrated her 7th birthday. In fact, on the plane ride back home from our trip, Avery planned every detail of her party. If you know my little girl, you will not be surprised that she planned her own party. For those of you, however, who don’t know Avery, she is precocious, knows exactly what she wants, and is quite possibly the best person I know at delegating tasks. David and I have always said that she will either grow up to be the CEO of a major corporation or the dictator of a third world country. One of our close family friends describes her as the type of kid who will grow up to have a hyphen in her name. Despite  all of those budding “leadership skills”, she has such a tender and sweet heart. She’s a really great kid.

So – armed with my laundry list of assignments and less than two weeks to get them done, I started the party planning process…while trying to unpack, clean my house, homeschool my kids, teach Sunday School, and volunteer at a consignment sale.

Thankfully, I found a really great digital invitation from a store on Etsy. The word “digital copy” makes me happy because history has proven that invitations and I don’t get along. I always order them too late or forget to mail them out in time. Always. Having a digital copy meant that I could print them and give them to our friends at church or just email them. Major details and I just don’t seem to mesh well. I’m embracing it. I’m too old not to.

Minnie Mouse Red w Photo2With the invitations behind me and a million online resources in front of me, I made my very limited time frame work. I did not have one single new idea for this party. I’m also not claiming to be creative super mom. I am, however, going to claim my mad “pinterest searching skills” and some fairly decent crafting skills. So there you go. I’m listing every single resource for this party at the bottom of the post… so if you are like me and don’t like to re-invent the wheel, you’ll know where to go for the details.

My take on the Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse wreath is a hodge-podge mash up of a million different ones that I found on Pinterest. The first one I made cracked into a million pieces when I was trying to connect the three Styrofoam circles. To have lost all that work after wrapping that stupid yarn around that foam 8 million times was almost more than I could take. David was sitting next to me when it cracked and wisely said nothing. I think he may have even stopped breathing for a few minutes. Smart man. 13 years of marriage has taught him a thing or two.

minnie mouse wreath - notjenny.com

minnie mouse partyThe food table covering was created out of my dislike for plastic table covers. Initially, I thought about using burlap as the table topper, but it’s stinky… and I didn’t want to spend that much. So – instead, I bought a roll of brown craft paper and cut and folded it for the table topper. I cut a rectangular plastic table cloth in half and taped it to the bottom of my table to make a “skirt”.  Less plastic makes me happy.minnie mouse party - notjenny.com

minnie mouse  cakeThe red cake stand was something that I bought several years ago at Target. I think they were sold around Christmas time. Since then, I’ve used those cake stands for just about every birthday and holiday party. I bought two of them and I can stack them for cupcakes or desserts. My two cents: If you find a cute cake stand, buy it. You will never regret it.

Another tried-and-true favorite of mine is the Ta Dot fabric by Michael Miller. I love, love, love it. It never gets old to me. It comes in a ton of colors, and I love them all. For this party, I bought 2 yards of the fabric (see below for details) and just cut the selvedges to make a table cloth for my dining room table. Easy peasy.

minnie mouse treat bags - notjenny.comDoesn’t washi tape make everything look cute? Muah, washi tape. I love you too.

minnie party - fruit cups

OK.  So here’s the part where I want to just stop and say… I’m a glutton for punishment.

Here’s what I thought when I saw the photo of the Mickey gloves on Pinterest: “oh my goodness! look at those cute gloves! I have to make them!”

That’s all that went through my brain. There was no thought of how long that making the gloves would take, how detailed they were, or that starting the project the night before the party might not be wise.

5:30 a.m. came quick, y’all..and this crazy lady was still sewing. Good gravy. Here’s a little tip: if you make these for a party, start reaaaaaally early.minnie gloves in basket - minnie partyNeedless to say, I made sure that everyone left with a pair…whether they wanted to or not.

For those of you who are not gluttons for punishment, here’s another tip: use a sillouette or Cricut catridge to cut out Minnie Mouse faces. Because that’s the non-punishing way to do it. If you are like me, you’ll just cut 12 heads and bows by hand. Learn from my mistakes, friends.

minnie mouse ice cream cup

mouse ears detail

minnie party dessert table

Avery’s request for entertainment was to have a bounce house and I said, “absolutely”. Bounce Houses are the single best party invention on the face of the earth. They are just so stinkin’ easy. Everybody jumps, everybody is happy, the end.

mouse ears - notjenny.com

By the way – how cute is my adorable sister in those Minnie ears? She’s so awesome.  Avery loves her aunt as much as I do. This photo makes me smile.

make a wish - notjenny.com

minine party birthday - notjenny.comSo – she’s seven. I can’t believe it. And another party is complete. I feel blessed to be this kid’s mommy. And even more blessed that I don’t have to sew any more Mickey hands any time soon.

As promised, here are the details:

creating our homeschool space

pinpic

Before I had Avery, I was a first grade teacher. After she was born, I spent 5 years teaching  Junior Kindergarten in a Preschool. Since I have some experience as a teacher in a typical school setting, I thought that choosing curriculum would be fun and easy. Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on how you look at it) there are a million online resources out there for home education. While I enjoyed researching my options, I found myself quickly falling down the curriculum rabbit hole. It was totally overwhelming… and way less fun than the Pinterest Rabbit Hole, or the Facebook Rabbit Hole, or the Candy Crush Black Hole.

Maybe it’s just me, but the very first moment that I looked at my perfect newborn baby, I had the frightening realization that there are at least 8 million ways that I could screw that kid up. I find myself constantly worried about feeding my kids the wrong things, letting them watch the wrong things, making sure they eat their vitamins, whether they are really brushing their teeth correctly… the list is seriously endless. Screwing my kid up educationally was NOT something I wanted to add to that list. People will look the other way if your kid has a cavity or two, but if you mess your kid up educationally, I think it’s safe to say that you are generally considered a truly terrible person. As a first year homeschool mom, I needed easy. I needed less choices. And I needed to be absolutely positive that I wasn’t going to mess my kid up.

Thankfully, I found a few highly rated, all-inclusive options. I realize that the word “all-inclusive” probably isn’t “academically correct”, but that’s what I’m going with. It was like having an “easy” button for homeschool. I clicked the mouse, whipped out my debit card, and all my lesson plans were written and all major subject areas were covered. Everything was included. Even math maniuplatives and science equipment. Easy peasy.

The two options that fit our needs the best were My Father’s World and Sonlight. In the end, I chose Sonlight because it seemed to be the best option for my little girl. It fit her interests and her personality best. She’s a deep thinker, loves to listen to chapter books, and thrives on structure and routine. Once I made my decision about which distributor to go with, I had to choose the curriculum path that I would take. I decided to choose Sonlight Core B curriculum because I thought it was really cool that it teaches kids all about the history, cultures, and people of the world. Global Outreach and Missions are two things that really speak to David and I and the thought of intentionally instilling a love for the people of God’s world was exciting to me. This year, we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. The little girl we chose to sponsor has the same birthday as Avery. Because our curriculum addresses different cultures and places, talking about our new friend in Peru will be much more natural and fun for Avery and Charlie. We can even write to her as part of our writing lessons.

classroom1

In addition to Math, Reading, Spelling, and Phonics, I teach Social Studies, History, and Science every day. When I was teaching in a typical school setting, I was lucky if I had time to cover Science and Social Studies twice a week. When our big boxes of curriculum arrived, I was so excited to discover all of the beautiful chapter books that were included in the lesson plans. So much variety!  The reading nerd in me is just giddy when I look at this picture:

books

While I like Sonlight Core B curriculum for our basic subjects, I was kind of bummed to see that there really isn’t a lot of opportunity for creative journaling or fun art projects. Evidently, Sonlight has some supplemental curriculum that you can add for Art and other electives, but I think I can manage to find cute art projects on my own. I added a daily “Calendar Time” to our lesson plans since it’s such an easy way to incorporate math and life skills and I plan on adding daily journal writing activities in September. While it sounds like I may be adding a lot to our curriculum, none of the activities I mentioned take more than a few minutes to do when you are only teaching one child. In fact, our entire school day is finished in 3 hours or so. It’s amazing how quickly we can get through all of our subjects.

We have our “school” set up in our downstairs playroom. I know that there are lots of theories out there about how and where you should do school. Most of them seem to argue against having a “structured” area in the home for schoolwork, since it can be a little too rigid. The beauty of Homeschooling is that I get to decide how and where I want to educate my kids. I made the decision to have a more structured space for my kids this year because I think that they really need it at this point in their life. Early learners are so literal and thrive on routine and structure. Having a “school” space for my kids seems to help them transition from “hanging out/relaxed time” to “listening and learning time”. We may end up changing that one day, but it’s working really well for now.

One of our first activities in the morning is to have “Calendar Time” together. This is our playroom/classroom wall.

classroom2

Our white board is actually a large piece of shower board that I bought at Lowe’s. David and I measured the wall space and the good people at Lowe’s cut the board according to the dimensions we needed. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting that gigantic board home. I’m not going to lie, we may or may not have had an incident on a major road with some flying shower board. If we hadn’t lost our first board tragically, I think we would have only spent $30 for the entire thing. Did you know that a giant white board normally costs hundreds of dollars?  It’s shocking, really. Shower board is definitely worth a trip (or two) to Lowe’s. Once we got our it home, we bolted it to our wall with regular screws and it works beautifully.

While shower board is an awesome dry-erase surface, it’s not magnetic. I had to use painter’s tape or sticky clips to attach items to our board. I also added some pocket charts from my teacher days for our sight word cards, etc.

I bought my calendar pieces, alphabet display cards, sight word cards, number line, touch point number cards, and our vocabulary cards for Charlotte’s Web from Teachers Pay Teachers for just a few dollars. Whenever possible, I prefer to purchase school items from teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers. It makes me happy that I am buying a product from a real person…especially an under-paid teacher. I’m kind of obsessed with that site.

desk picture

We bought our desks this summer at Ikea. Since I needed two desks, I needed something inexpensive and the Micke desks seemed like a good option. The only problem is that the desks and chairs are grown-up sized, so Charlie and Avery’s feet don’t rest on the floor when they sit in them. As a result, we end up doing most of our work on the floor of the playroom. I plan on making some giant floor pillows soon.

I wanted to keep the other side of our playroom a “play” space. Play is a really important part of early childhood development and should not be separated from the learning process.  For that reason, I intentionally kept our play space in the same room as our learning space. I use the backs of the kids toy storage bins as a space for my pocket charts and our map.

playspace1

playspace2

I have two of these giant organizational tower thingys for our school supplies. They are amazing. And yes…I’m just a little type A. Just a little.

storage bin

What is fun about homeschooling a preschooler and a first grader is that while Avery is learning, Charlie is too. This year, Charlie will be learning one letter and one number a week, but there are so many things that he is learning that I’m not “intentionally” teaching him. He may be coloring a picture while we read chapter books, he may be playing with his cars while we count aloud…but he is learning.  He is learning about Nocturnal animals, he is learning to count to 100, he is hearing how letters merge together to make words, and how words work together to create books…

playing with magnets

David has his day off on Friday since he works on Sunday. This Friday, he spent the school day with us. Avery was so excited to show off everything she had been learning that week. David read the Social Studies lesson to the kids that day. As luck would have it, the lesson was about different tribal cultures and the materials that they used to build their homes. When the subject of “poop bricks” came up, there were plenty of immature jokes and giggles. Mostly by David. The kids loved it.

daddyschool

The first week of school has come and gone. We are still alive. Stuff happened. Kids got educated. I didn’t go insane. It was a good week. It turns out that this Homeschool thing may not be so scary after all.

averyschool