Homeschool Nature Days {And the story of the Ark}

“Now I don’t have to die to go to heaven,” my son grinned. “It’s right here.”

We were walking along the trails zig-zagging through the wild countryside of the property we would soon call home. Towering trees, low-hanging limbs laden with moss, a pond and trickling creek, old-growth stumps — it was all so lush and green and vast — as far as the eye could see.

But even as spectacular as the scenery was, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Seeing his wonder–rapture really–as he explored and discovered, head tilted back, gazing straight up, pointing here and there, “Mom, red-tailed hawks!”

I couldn’t believe this was where, Lord willing, our kids would grow up. … {Read the rest over at here Simple Homeschool! And if you’d like to read the story of this piece of property … it’s here:

The Ark pt. 1

The Ark pt. 2

The Ark pt. 3

The Ark pt. 4

Thanks for reading!


My day-in-the-life …

Sometime around 7 they shuffle out, sleepy-eyed, their pajama-pants falling mid-shin, reminding me how fast they’re growing up. But we still snuggle.

They find me in my favorite chair, the big one with room for a little beside me and another on my lap. I slide my Bible to the side, set my coffee down, and gather them up, pushing back the blanket so they can crawl beneath. I kiss their cheeks, right next to their mouths so I can breathe in their morning breath. I’m weird like that, I love their smells.

Thus begins our day. …. Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool! Thanks!


Low enough to see inside …

This lesson from last year came back to me in a fresh, profound, unexpected way. Maybe I’ll get to share more details later, but for now, this: …

I stood tall at the door, arms folded, that familiar wave of overwhelm sweeping my mind into hopeless thoughts. Sure, it was just a bedroom. Kids have messy rooms, I get it. But this. This particular kid’s quirkiness translates into chaos on another level altogether.

The intense emotional attachment to objects translates into keeping everything–wrappers, scraps of paper, tags off clothes. The passion for creating inventions out of boxes translates into cardboard contraptions cluttering every corner, wires attached, duct-tape holding them together. A fascination with science translates to a half-dozen bottles, various experiments, growing salt crystals and green things and jars teetering on the edge of the table. The voracious appetite for reading translates to towers of encyclopedias, right at arm’s reach beside the bed, covers torn with frequent use, dog-eared pages. The love of Legos translates to countless “creations” that cannot be stowed in bins, must be left out on every available surface. The typewriter, his new love where clicks out stories, means strewn papers with half-written plots. The fascination with flags and signs (?!) translates to another dozen or so papers taped to sticks, papers taped on the wall, door, papers taped everywhere.

Every time I address it, I can feel my blood pressure rising, anticipating the battle: he gets defensive, upset, I get harder, firmer, harsher.

Hence, the overwhelm. Maybe, you’d say, it doesn’t matter. Who cares if he has a messy room? But our responsibility as parents is to prepare our children for life. This doesn’t just fix itself. With all my heart I want to give him the tools to thrive, and that includes an orderly space. The ability to tidy. Not perfect. Not spotless. I don’t mind boxes or Legos or weird taped papers on the wall. But this was out of control.

So I stand at the door. Point. Bark. I bend to move a box, but fail to recognize its function, breaking off some antennae-ish thing and bringing him to tears.


Those weird irrational thoughts begin formulating in my mind, those ones we moms have in desperate moments. I could take everything away and make him earn it all back one item at a time. I could make him sleep in the hallway, on the floor. He could lose access to his room. Would that be severe enough?

It’s dinnertime and we all need a break, so we head downstairs. Earlier, he had said this was the best day ever. We’d been outside all day in the cold sunshine, we’d adventured and explored and played baseball with our housemates. It was one of those glorious childhood days.

But now he hung his head, discouraged, eyes red with tears. I picked him up into my arms,

“Ok, babe, we had the best day until 4:30. Then we had a struggle. Let’s return to joy, ok? We’ll figure out your room. Don’t worry. I love you.”

He managed a smile and nestled his face into my neck.

We ate dinner and cleaned up.

“What should we do for family night?” I asked.

Dutch, as if suddenly remembering something, lit up:

“Oh mommy! I haven’t gotten to show you Hobbes’s room! Can you come see?!”

Hobbes (and Max) are his best friends, two well-worn stuffed animals who never leave his side.  I can’t turn down that light in his eyes, so I let him take my hand and lead me up the creaky stairs.

We come to his room and before the birds-eye view can overwhelm me, I lower down, with him onto the floor. I look past the scraps of paper, to where he’s curled up next to an upside down detergent box. It’s white with A-L-L spelled out bright, a low, wide opening in the front.

“Oh, neat, hon!” I smile.

“No mommy, look inside.”

I have to lie down all the way to be low enough to see.

But I do.

I peer inside. Oh!

Oh, he’s right! There is unbelievable detail, a place for Hobbes and Max to hang their stockings (!), a large piece of artwork on the wall, (“It’s a real Van Gogh, Mommy!”), a picturesque window, even a cut-out piece of flannel on the floor (“It’s carpet!”). It was a stuffed animals’ dream-home, to be sure.

He had poured his heart, his time, into creating a special room for his favorite friends.

We were both lying there on the ground, his face was right next to mind, peering inside. I turned and kissed his cool cheek, looking into his lit-up eyes.

Of course. Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I have to get low enough to see inside.

From the top, it’s trash. All I can see is cardboard-box chaos. I see garbage, mess.

I look down and see a lack of care.

Could it be that when he looks up at me he sees the same?

Not saying that solves everything, but getting on the floor is empathy-in-action and at least it’s good place to begin.

When we look inside cardboard boxes we see inside hearts.

{Praying we get low enough to see inside. Thank you for reading. }


A Decade of Dutch

Today, I’m curled up under this blanket, and I keep glancing across the room, watching you, completely absorbed in a new book you unwrapped just moments ago. From the outside, it might just seem like an ordinary day. The day another kid turned ten. But my heart is soaring and I’m silently singing hallelujah because God has been so faithful. And our victories may not seem significant compared to others’, but they are ours and I will exult in God’s goodness to us.

Ten years ago today, Dutch’s birth forever changed my world. As every mother knows, your world is completely transformed in an instant. A wild, raging love pulses through your veins, a fierce, protective love, an intoxicating and all-consuming love. It’s usually mixed with exhaustion and tears, but it’s love.

Dutch, you captured my heart the moment you were born. But in those early days, I didn’t know how hard the road would be. How your uniqueness would challenge me deep down at my core, how I would reach the end of myself.

You would be the undoing of me. 

And I’m so glad.

I’ve said it before, in fact, I say it every year on your birthday: I’m so glad for how your uniqueness has challenged and changed me. And I’m still glad. But, this year feel different. This year feels like the quiet dawning of a slightly different era. Not that the future roads won’t be rough, but I’ve seen you grow so much this year my sweet boy. And again, our victories may not be much in the world’s eyes, but they are glorious in mine, so I will celebrate.


This. This picture tells me that you played on your first ever sports team! You were brave, and joined a baseball team, even though you’d never played and this was all brand new and the first practice it poured freezing rain sideways, and you stood out in that outfield shaking and shivering and about froze to death.

But you stuck with it. And what impresses me isn’t your batting average–it’s that you cheer for your teammates, that you love it when other people succeed, and that you show courage every time you step up to bat, even though you struck out almost every single time–you never gave up! That you never had a bad attitude about playing, that even as the smallest kid on the team, you did your best and cheered everyone on. You may not be on the elite traveling team, but you are my MVP! I am SO PROUD of you, Son. 2016-05-18-11-54-17-hdr

And this picture shows me that you got your first pet this year. And that you have such a tender heart for animals. That you care for them well. 2016-05-31-13-24-30

And this photo reminds me of that day you caught the hummingbird in your hand. How we were having such a hard day preparing for State Testing, and that that hummingbird reminded me what really matters and I was so proud of you for bravely catching that scared bird in your hands, and how you let it go free! And then, on top of it all, you went and practically aced that State Test — silly me for being so stressed about it! 2016-10-04-11-53-11-1

And this reminds me of picnicking in the Redwoods, how you love nature, and how of all the attractions in California, you chose the Redwood Forest as the one place you wanted to go. I love that about you, Dutch. You appreciate God’s glorious creation, and I love that you choose trees and rocks over all other options. It also reminds me of the special relationship you have with Daddy. You two are two peas in a pod, that’s for sure!2016-11-07-13-03-53

And this. This reminds me of US. Because what I am most thankful for, of these 10 years, is that we love each other. That even when things are hard, your heart is soft toward me, and I love that our relationship is strong, that God has knit our hearts together. I’m thankful that you still hold my hand, let me cuddle you under the quilt at night, that we still snuggle up in the morning reading our Bibles.

And finally, today we had a significant victory. You know the details, and I won’t share it here with the world, but you know the victory, and my heart is soaring. I’m so grateful to God for the ways you have grown this year, Dutch.

Happy 10th birthday, Son. I’m so grateful for a decade of Dutch and how it’s changed my life forever, for good.

{Thanks for reading.}

Previous years’ reflections:


Entering Eight

Thursday’s Child,

My Own Christmas Boy

You Are Four

You are Three 

Happy Birthday Dear Son

My Son Turns One

Praying woman hands

For hearts that ache for kids

{I had a moment recently where I felt this familiar ache, and then I found this. From last year. And I laughed because–glory!–he can tie his own shoes now! It’s so good to remember, as we commit ALL of our questions and futures to the only One who knows. He is trustworthy. Thanks for reading.}

“Mommy?” You whisper into the darkness. “Can I have a rock?”

It’s the middle of the night and it takes me a moment to realize what you mean.

I smile. “Of course.”

I pull back the covers, slide out of bed, creep across the room in the dark. Out in the hallway, I don’t see you, but I peek into Heidi’s room and there you are, arms full of snuggly animals, standing beside the rocking chair, waiting for me. 


I slide back into the cool, hard, chair. It creaks loudly as I pull you onto my lap and ease back. You barely fit now, tall and lanky and almost 9-years-old. Your long legs hang off the side, your head rests up on my shoulder. I try to wrap an arm under you but can’t reach, so I just bear-hug you around the middle and lean down so my cheek rests against yours, so I can breathe your breath.

I close my eyes and can’t believe I’m rocking you. You! Almost exactly 8 years earlier, you weren’t even one, and oh! you wouldn’t sleep. I tried every trick. You wouldn’t sleep. And so I tried to rock you. Desperately I tried to rock you. I held you tight, leaning back and forth in that chair, praying you’d sleep. And you fought it. Screamed. Cried and cried and cried and cried for nearly an hour until we were both drenched with sweat and tears and … I gave up. And you just stared at me, and I felt so lost and whispered to God, “Help us.”

So many times, that prayer, through these years.

And tonight I’d whispered that same prayer to the Father. Just seconds before you slipped into my room, I’d been lying awake, unable to sleep, praying, thinking of you.  Tears, too, had slipped down my cheeks as I consider 9-years-old and all that’s changing and unknown and silly things like Will you ever be able to tie your shoes or light a match?

Will you make friends? Get married? Be a good father? Thrive?

What will you say, someday, when you look back on your childhood?

Will you love the Lord when you are 20, 50, 80?

We keep rocking. The chair is loud and creaky and you’re whispering to me how you like the sound, “It’s like a radio.” And we keep rocking, and I think how I would never have dreamed back then, when you were screaming at 11-months-old, that you’d be this walking documentary boy, an absolute wonderment. And I silently thank God again and again for this moment, that you want me to rock you, and how precious this is and into the darkness you whisper:


“Yes, love?”

“Your titanium scissors surely aren’t make of titanium. They are just steel. Titanium is used more in name than actual substance. People just like to think things are made of titanium.”

I smile. I love you, son. 

Eventually we tiptoe past sleeping sister and back to your room.

“Will you snuggle me?” 

“Of course.” I slide in next to you and pull the down comforter up, around us, under our chins.

“I can’t believe they use tiger and lion bones in Chinese medicine.”

I smile and touch your cheek.

And in a few seconds, you’re asleep. I watch you for a bit, and commit all my questions to the Only One who holds us in the palm of His hand.

Your Father and mine. 

I love you, son. 

{For hearts that ache for kids, for prayers and sleepless nights. We serve a God who knows and hears and answers. Thanks for reading.}

2015-10-29 16.56.58-1

My Charlie Brown boy: Look for the heart

We weren’t going to get the tree tonight, but at 4:15pm, just 15 minutes before the sun would set, Dutch saw our housemates pull into the driveway with their freshly cut tree in the back of the truck.

“Can WE get our tree?!”

And so the boys climbed into the truck and took off in search of a tree. They came home, all smiles and flushed cheeks, having conquered. While Jeff outside was getting the tree ready for the stand, Dutch came in and quietly and asked if he could have a strand of lights. I said sure, gave him a strand, and he disappeared.

Ten minutes later, Jeff came in, grinning. He slipped off his boots, and said, “Hey, Heidi. I think you better look in your room.”

We looked down the hall and saw that the door was closed. So we crept quietly to the door, and cracked it open. There was her own tiny tree, with a little wooden stand, and all lit up with lights.

Her face lit, her eyes wide. “My own tree!” 

“Merry Christmas!” Dutch jumped up from behind her bed, his face beaming. “I picked it out for you and set it up so you’d be surprised!”

“Oh, I love it! Let’s go get our ornaments!”

And as they turned toward the door, Dutch stopped. His face fell.

“Oh no. I wore my muddy boots in here.”

Well, yes. Brown muddy footprints tracked in on Heidi’s white carpet. *sigh*

Of course he knows better. Of course he knows not to wear his boots in the house. But as I saw him standing there, face fallen, looking at the muddy smears, I saw my own Charlie Brown boy.

I saw how so often, even when he tries to do it right he does it wrong. I saw that how he’d conceived this Christmas-tree idea, a special way to bless his sister. And I saw his face fall at realizing he’d managed to mess it up.

I thought of my own experience polishing the silver. With shoe polish.

I leaned in close, took his hand, kissed his cheek.

“It’s ok, babe. It’s just carpet. We can clean it. I love your heart to bless Heidi. That’s what matters most.”

He smiled.  Soon they were lost in their little world of pretend, decorating, setting up stuffed animals around the tree in their own little Christmas scene.


My heart was so happy, they could’ve lit the carpet on fire for all I cared.

And I thought back to how many times I wish I would’ve been able to see the heart behind so many actions, that–as my mother-in-law told me this weekend–when people are being difficult, it’s because they’re having difficulty. Sure, we don’t excuse mis-behavior, but if only we could look for the heart.

Sure, the muddy footprint situation was minor, and easy to see the innocence behind it. But can I do this on a larger scale?

Can I do this this Christmas? Can I honor Christ by giving His people the benefit of the doubt? Can I believe the best? Can I pray earnestly to see them as He sees?

When someone tramps into my life with muddy feet, and maybe messes things up a bit, Can I see past this to what good there might be

Can I squint the eyes of my heart to see Jesus in disguise? In them?

That’s my prayer, anyway.

We’re all Charlie Browns, right? We’re all trying to love and serve and lead and give and we wind up making a royal mess out of things more often than not. Yes? I know I do. And so I need to receive grace and give grace to all my fellow Charlie Browns out there.

They say that the Apostle Paul always writes, “Grace and Peace” in that order because you need grace before you can have peace.

So true.

Grace-extenders are peace-receivers. 

…Surely He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace…

Thanks for reading.


4 ways to curb complaining {Simple Homeschool}

can tell we’ve gotten off course when, as I tell my kids to do something, I am already inwardly preparing for their protest. I so wish it didn’t happen, but I have a hunch we all face this at times, that inner irritation that comes from just a few too many complaints.

It usually starts with a subtle, not-quite-right attitude, a less-than-cheerful obedience, a tone of voice that leaves much to be desired. It’s usually not outright defiance, but we know too well that a little bit of complaining, compounded day after day after day, can wear the best of us down to a weary nub. Or, conversely, rile us up and make us sharp, sarcastic, harsh.

Either way, it can leave us wondering, “What happened to our joy?!”

I’d like to share a few thoughts in this place as a way to simply begin the conversation on this topic. Truthfully, I’m tackling it because I’d love to hear your wisdom on how you maintain a complaint-free home. Let’s begin here:

4 ways to encourage less complaining & more thanksgiving


Her heart, our fears, His peace

Last night, a little parenting moment that seems so pertinent, in so many ways…

Heidi creeps quietly into the room where I’m putting clothes away.

“Mommy, can I talk to you?”

And she has that quivery voice that tells me something’s up so I turn to gather her up.

“Of course, Sweetie, what’s up?”

And then the dam breaks and a torrent of tears come, seemingly out of nowhere.

“I had my lollipop in my mouth when I was outside and it made me think that I looked like I had a cigarette in my mouth and I don’t like that. I don’t like that…” she sobs.

I smile. I don’t know what it is with my sweet girl and cigarettes but they bother her something fierce. We have a lot of loved ones who smoke, and no matter how many times I’ve told her it’s not a big deal, it still seems to bother her.

I hold her while she cries. I wait. No use correcting or chiding. She’s not misbehaving, she’s grieving. She’s not throwing a tantrum, blaming, or acting inappropriately. 

She’s just sad. 

Besides, we’ve done this enough times, I know there’s usually something more. Something lurking there beneath the surface.

“And then…”she takes a breath, “I had a dream. I had a dream that I had another mom and she wasn’t you and she was smoking a cigarette.”

Of course I smile at the cigarette bit, but I can understand more why the triggered sadness. There’s always something deeper, right? 

I continue to hold her while she cries. I wait.

A few minutes later, she pulls away slightly to say something else. I can tell she wants to say something.

“Mommy I just … I’m … “

Her face crumples into tears again but she gets it out:

“I’m afraid of when you aren’t here on earth anymore!  How can I go through life without someone on my side???”

Oh. Oh my girl. My sweet girl. 

And now my eyes fill just a bit, because although I can’t empathize with cigarette-trauma, I do know this feeling.

Oh we know this feeling so very much.

How can we go through life without someone on our side?

There’s always a fear behind the fear. Yes? It might seem ridiculous, the stuff of cigarettes and lollipops, but beneath that fear there is a bad-dream, a fear that’s real. Legit even.

Sure, in some ways all our fears are unreasonable, but our unreasonable fears are usually just symptoms of a much greater fear. And the truth is:

Fear is legit. We battle fear because, quite frankly, there’s stuff to be afraid of

This world is’t friendly. Tragedy happens. There are evil forces at work against us that could scare us out of our wits.

So it doesn’t help to launch logic-bombs at the tearful and tell them to get a grip. 

So I pull my girl even closer into my arms, and we lie there on the bed, arms and legs wrapped around each other, her cheek resting on mine so that her tears dampened my dry cheek.

I get close enough that her sorrow spills over onto me. 

And I offer the only real antidote to the paralyzing power of fear: PEACE.

We pray for peace. We ask God for the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that doesn’t make a lick of sense. The peace that defies logic and leaves us baffled at how it guards our hearts and minds … in Christ Jesus.

He is the only one who can offer this unshakable peace because He is the Prince of Peace. The world cannot offer this peace. 

It’s supernatural.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

After praying, we stay there, arms around each other, silent. I wait.

Soon, she lifts her head,

“Can we play Uno?!”

I laugh, “Of course!” and out we go to play the game together. By the time we deal she’s back to her giddy, silly, giggly, ridiculous self, and I’m so glad I got a glimpse of her heart, our fear, His peace. 

Thanks for reading.


5 things that are finally working

How’s school going?”

This seems to be a common question among homeschool circles this time of year. We’re about a month or so in, time enough to have a rough idea what’s working and what’s not. Our plans look so perfect on paper, but it takes a few weeks to get a feel for how it really works.

Only now do I feel like we’ve finally found our homeschool groove. Yes, it’s taken us five years!  I’m fairly certain most of you work out the kinks a lot quicker than that!

I recently revisited this Power of the Beginner article and it took me back to those early days, trying so many options, reading every homeschool book I could find, researching different philosophies and always feeling completely in over my head.

Sure, there are days I still feel like that, but at five years in I can confidently say I know what’s finally working for us. Of course, these won’t work for everyone, but just in case you’re also in the “trying-on” stage or exploring different ideas and options, perhaps one of these will be just the ticket for you. {Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool–thanks!}

photo (94)

With. {A simple parenting approach}

We started back to school last week so my days are full of homeschooling and lots of time WITH my kids. I’ll keep blogging as I’m able, but if you ever wonder where I am, now you know. 🙂 I was reminded of this so I thought I’d share again. Enjoy…


…and lo, I am with you always…

Matthew 28:18

“Mommy, will you be with me?”

Next to, “Can I have something to eat?” this is the most common request I hear, on a daily basis. Besides food, really all my children want is me.

They don’t care what we do, they just want me.

There are so many parenting philosophies and educational models, and my heart and hope is always to share simple guiding principles without offering a certain prescribed method to follow. In fact, what most powerfully influences my schooling and parenting decisions is one simple word:


Looking back at my own childhood, I see this powerful force at work as well. Sure, my parents weren’t perfect, but what marks my childhood and makes me recall it with pure joy and fondness, what makes it continue to be a source of strength and confidence for my adult-self, is that my parents had an unwavering dedication to be with us.

We did everything together. Yes, my mom homeschooled us, we spent every day together, we cooked together and cleaned together, we played and read and learned and ran errands — with her. But we weren’t isolated from the world. We took trips and did science fairs and field trips, we served people and explored.

With photo

My dad was an NCAA referee for 20 years. We all loaded in the car and traveled to countless college basketball games, sometimes up late and sometimes eating *ahem* fast food for dinner. My mom didn’t stress about bedtimes or burgers — we were together.

Wherever he went, we went with

As we grew older Dad stepped away from college games so he could ref and coach us instead. My brother and I played 7 sports between us through our high school years and my parents never missed a game.

They were with us.

My aim here is not to guilt y’all who can’t be with your kids every second. I get it. The last thing we need, as mamas, is a guilt trip about not being everywhere at all times.

But sometimes what we need isn’t to do more, it’s to do less, but with them. This can apply to every educational method and model, to every country and culture2015-06-21 08.54.57

I see it this way: I get these kids for about 5 minutes, in the grand scheme of things. I’m going to blink and be 50 and they’ll be gone, flying on their own around this world. My time with them is so short. There are a thousand other things I could be doing, but this is one thing no one else can do.

No one else can Mama my kids.

No one else has the fierce love for them like me. No one else can know their hearts like me, can see that look in their eyes and know exactly what it means. No one else can show them the heart of God, can identify their love language, their motives and fears.

A couple years ago, I asked God to give me wisdom to help guide my Sacred Mundane with my kids. The word with came to my heart. Because I’m nerdy and like mnemonic devices, I turned it into an acrostic, to remind me every single day of how to be WITH my kids in intentional ways:

W: Work. How can I work with my kids, giving them skills and training them as we go?

I: Inspire. How can I inspire faith in my children today, teaching them to trust God more?

T: Teach. How can I teach my children the knowledge and wisdom they need to thrive in life?

H: Help. Where are my kids struggling? How can I help them to overcome an area of weakness today?

Isn’t this what Jesus does for us? His name is ImmanuelGod with us. Jesus comes and lives among us, rubs shoulders with us, then promises that even after He leaves, He will be with us as we carry out His great commission (Matt. 28:18). He’ll never leave us or forsake us, He’ll be with us forever, even to the end of the age.

WITH is at the heart of the gospel, and I believe it’s at the heart of parenting too. This can look so different for every family–that’s the beauty of it! No one-size-fits-all. No template! No cookie-cutters!

You with your children and God with you.

{Bless you, faithful mamas and daddies, as you do life with your kids today. Thanks for reading.}

 *Originally from last fall.