Friday, January 27, 2012

Big Boys Club

Tristan will be nine months old tomorrow.  Time really flies!  He has many new milestones.

First, he's been teething (a lot a lot), but still no teeth.

Second, he's been rocking, but no crawling.  Patrick things he's an underachiever, but I am SO glad that he's delaying this particular milestone for as long as possible.  

 Third, he upgrades his activities with his brothers.  He gets to share bathtime now.


He just takes my breath away with his cuteness.


And books at night! (Before, daddy used to do one Tristan book, 
now he gets to sit in with brothers if he's not too cranky.)

He's got other mad skills.  For example, my smart guy can already handle a smart phone.
Seriously, he knows how to move from one screen to another by sliding it. 

He loves having quiet time.  You know to think about tough questions in life:  How long will I sleep next?  Will she feed me applesauce?  Will she cuddle me for too long again?

He'd rather have cuddle time with Micah any day.  He really likes his big brother.

He is standing really really well on his own.  Very notable achievement!

He's such such a big boy now.  If we can only get him to consistently sleep through the night.  Maybe we can't remember with the other two, but Tristan has been the hardest to sleep train!  He doesn't respond well to crying it out, as he usually throws up on us after we try.  We're going to keep at it, but even though I am getting up at night, the Lord is really showing me as I'm holding him how precious and fleeting this time is and how he won't be this small again.  I need to remember to treasure every moment - even the sleepless ones!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homeschool, Private or Public?

One of the toughest decisions we've had to face as parents is where we are going to decide to send our kids to school. For some, this choice is easy because the options are limited by either funding or time and availability of parents.  We feel blessed to have options--but wow, I am really starting to hate choices!

The deadline is February 1 for two of our top contender private schools.  Agghhh!  What then shall we do?

Patrick and I have been sort of putting it on a shelf.  Not because we don't want to think about it, but because we have all the information we need, and yet, up until the last minute -- we still haven't absolutely, resolutely, rest-assuredly, decided on any one answer.  It's a tough call because there are pro's and con's to each option.

Time is running out. 

In our quest for answers, we came up with more questions.  However, there were some absolute truths, to us, that became pretty evident.  We realized that no matter what option you choose:

Truth #1.  You will still need to be invested and highly involved in your children's education.  You are STILL discipling.  It will still be time-intensive. That means that in public school, you still are teaching life lessons the moment they get home up until you walk them to the bus stop the next morning.  And Christian parents who think that they can outsource their kid's christian education to an expensive private school, think again.  The buck does not stop within those walls.

Truth #2.  None of the options are bad.  Praise God that we have many choices.  The perspective is a little different when you're focusing on making the wrong choice (what if I ruin their lives??)---but instead think about how many great choices you DO have.  Yes, if money were not an issue, private school is a no-brainer, but since it is--- is sending Micah to public kindergarten in one of the best counties in the entire United States going to be that bad?  And if I had to be with my children, teaching them at home---again perspective--it's nice that I get to, versus I have to.

Truth #3. You can change at any time.  One of the pressures I face because I'm so black-and-white and I often want to begin things with the end in mind---is that things may change. It's OKAY (say it again, Soryda, it's OKAY) if we put our child in private school and it's not working, he can come home or he can go from public to private.  It's easy to think that if Micah isn't thriving, hates it and wants to do something different, we have no problem changing our course.  But, one of my fears is that Micah will be thriving in public school and then he'll meet all these friends and then there will be a reason for us to pull him out because the government is mandating X, that is against our beliefs.  When Patrick and I really sat down to talk about what those things were, we realized that 1) if the issues were that intolerable, than we would manage a way for Micah to still keep in touch with his friends and that having him exposed to X is a lot worse than not seeing his friends everyday and 2) if they weren't that intolerable, the course of action is to teach our children God's ways as a good filter, that they can respect differences without judging, but with grace, be in the world and not of it.

We can also say we ruled out that any one option is going to give you a far stellar better education than the other.  If you're invested as a parent, they'll get a great education.  We also ruled out that with peer pressure and bullying, and a lot of the controversial family life issues ---none of the options protect them.  Even the homeschooling networks aren't a guarantee.  And teachers--- you may think you are the best one who could teach them, but from my homeschooling experience, I can clearly say I am not.  And it's a toss up at a private or public school, whether you will get a great teacher that you like.  Then what?

Well, the real factor---- I'm not going to fool you---is money.  Can we afford private education? We decided we can send Micah, no problem.  Possibly squeeze in Caelan with less vacations a year.  But with Tristan---we will be in the poor house.  Impossible.  It's about $30,000 a year by the time all three are in, and that's just tuition.  We weren't so compelled in our calling for private school, that I would work again, just the time and energy levels it will take away from my family, to gain income for just this.

So, drum roll please...................our front runner right now is public school.  It's Loudoun County.  It's half-day kindergarten, and it's FREE!

And one might say that if the Lord wants your child in private school, He will provide for you. I think that's true, but I also believe He's not that concerned about which choice, but He's concerned in the journey of utter reliance and dependence on Him.  Which brings me to my last and final point.  At the turning point of our decision, I had a great conversation with a Pastor's wife (who also homeschools with me our preschoolers) and she sends her older kids to public school.  She said that this quite possibly would be her only opportunity to be a light to others.  She never would have had these opportunities if she weren't there twice a day at the bus stop.  Her kids know all the kids in the neighborhood because of the bus stop, and they are building friendships.  She's built a network of local moms she's ministering to, as well as her kids!  She said she was pretty much in a Christian bubble and when was that ever a good thing?  That resonated with me.  Unfortunately, I relate. The timing of this conversation couldn't have been more perfect.

Am I fully convinced that this is the right choice? No.  But when I weigh all the factors, this is still a good choice.  Am I afraid anymore of sending my kids to public school?  Nope.  None of my decisions are fear-based anymore.  We have peace.  Finally! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Like A Child

I've been a parent five years now.  You would think that I would have this lesson down.

When I stopped to listen to Micah, I am astounded at his 5-year old responses:

Mommy:  Gosh, I am so tired today.
Micah:  (immediately and with compassion) Dear Lord, let mommy have more sleep.

"Did you have a good night's sleep, Micah?"
"No, I had a dream about a monster, but then I said to myself when I am afraid, I will trust in You."
(Um, wow.)
"And then the monster went away?"
"Yeah, after I pulled out my fire torch to blow it's head off."
"Hmm, that's my boy. "

Caelan:  My tummy hurts.
Micah:  Mommy, can we pray for Caelan? Dear Lord, help Caelan's tummy feel better. Amen.
Caelan:  Thanks Micah for praying for me.

Micah doesn't miss a beat.  He knows who will help, and he immediately trusts and goes straight to the source.  Do I?

When the the little children came to Jesus and the disciples shoo'd them away, Jesus said, "Bring the little ones to me."  And the children didn't hesitate, they jumped right into Jesus' arms.  They loved him and they came near to Him.  He said, "No matter how big you grow, never grow up so much that you lose your child's heart: full of trust in God.  Be like these children.  They are the most important in my kingdom."

Micah looks at me with those big brown eyes and trusts me completely to take care of him, to provide for all his needs.   When he reaches for me, I never deny him.   I grab him, spin him in the air, and tell him over and over how much I love him.  We always laugh. What a reminder to me of God's love for me.  I am humbled this morning by my little son's faith--do I have that same child-like faith as he?

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Plan to Not Plan

I consider myself a goal-oriented person.  So, the only way to make this work is to trick myself: I plan to not plan.  My quick fix for instilling a Sabbath for my family.   Every week I’m faced with the opportunity to rest. Actually it’s more than an opportunity, it’s a commandment from the Lord. But instead of planning for it to happen, I usually slip into a day of work.  I decided enough is enough, and I will not create any more seven-day work weeks.

Wanna know how this first Sunday of the year went?  Miserably!

I suppose I can use the excuse of I'm a busy mom of three children.  Or that dad is home to watch the kids while I can run out for a few minutes to the store, or you know...I just need to send out a few emails.  What's the big deal?  

The truth is I have a big problem with not knowing how to be still and to stop doing.  I've been running hard my whole life.  I learned this from my mother who can't sit still, either.  She's not fully to blame as there's every technological device out there to encourage me to do something other than rest or spend quality time with my family.  

There is my given tendency to work, which is an issue---but there's also the inability to just enjoy the rest.  I found myself after not cooking all day, spending time with the hubby and kids, taking a much-needed nap, and just sitting around watching TV---that around 5 p.m., I was bored out of my mind.  Secretly---as I was twiddling my thumb, I was asking myself, "What can I do that's productive?"

I have to give this Sabbath thing some more thought.  I must not be doing something right.  If I am getting bored entering into His rest, how am I going to do this for an eternity?   The Sabbath is supposed to be pleasurable and for my own good, but how come it feels like I'm being isolated and useless?

There it is-- you have my spiritual maturity in a nutshell!   Don't worry, I don't feel judged, just challenged.  I hope to be renewed in my mind about His rest, and give you a better report a few Sundays from now.  After all, I am still goal-oriented.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Year-In-Review

Year-in-reviews are important because I personally like to reflect on the past year, and give thanks for all God has done in our lives. We had a radical calling that filled up most of our year.  The Rings go big or they go home.  New home that is and new baby, and new church.  Crazy!  I had to "let go" this year of more things than just a dream home, but every minute was worth it.  Highlights:

in January...
 Downsize city.  Left a 4,600 square ft home with all the bells and whistles.  We felt led to give our money more in other areas, so the goal was half the mortgage and half the size, which would overall reduce our taxes and utilities.

in February...
We listed our home and sold it in record time.  A huge confirmation to us. Also, my mom retires after 30 years of working for Arlington County.  She's busier now than ever--although she does make time to be with my kids every Wednesday and my brother's kids every Thursday. Having full day childcare restores my soul.

in March... 
We officially move out of Lansdowne and move into the home of friends and experience communal living.  What a fun time!

in April...
Had the best baby shower of all time and oh yeah, gave birth to my 3rd child! 


Micah and Caelan meet him for the first time.

in May.... 
Experience the first month of newborn days and in survival mode.  Nursing around-the-clock is not so delightful.

Becoming a mom of three.  Three.  Realizing life with little men and each unique personality.  This is insane.

Of course, they do take after their father.  What a nut.

in June...
Finally!  We closed on our new house and finally have a home of our own again!  
Tristan (5 weeks old) is screaming his head off by the excitement of it all.

in July... 
Painting, decorating, trim, trim, trim... oh yeah...trying to get some sleep with a newborn.  Checking out our community, pools, fitness clubs, golf clubs and meeting new neighbors.


Sadly, my grandmother dies while my mom is visiting in Cambodia.  She came to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior before she passed.  God's timing is perfect, as the only two people who were with her when she died was a young woman hired to take care of her and my mom, who flew half way across the world.  Both were believers.

in August...
We left our house projects behind and drove for two days, and vacationed in Branson with Patrick's family.  The cousins had a great time together.


Shortly after we got back, we transitioned to a new home church in Sterling.  Here is Bridget and her seventh child.  Yes, I said seven.  Amazing.  Patrick and I have a lot to learn from her and husband, our new leaders!

in September...
Still doing house projects every weekend and adjusting to our new home.  Caelan was right at home pretty quickly.

in October... 
We started hosting events pretty regularly at the house.  We came to the realization that you didn't need a bigger place to host--everyone still enjoyed themselves and nothing beats the freedom to give freely.  We also took another week in Kure Beach, NC, to spend at the beach with small group family.

in November... 
Enjoying the harvest season and even dressed up for Halloween.  Best event was hosting our big Thanksgiving dinner.  We have SO much to give thanks.

in December... 
Many family celebrations, but the biggest celebration was when Micah accepted Jesus into his heart.  Micah had asked us if he could have eternity now instead of waiting until he got to heaven.  Wow.

We're looking forward to what 2012 brings.  Already, Patrick is excited about some things God is showing his heart.  It's really brave work, and I could not be more proud of this man.  Our marriage is better than it ever has been.  Micah and Caelan are thriving as two inseparable brothers.  Not sure what it'll look like come September when son #1 has to go to Kindergarten.  We still have a lot of house projects to do.  We're trying to instill a weekly Sabbath (a dedicated day to rest) for our family, and for me...well, I'm in a lot of ministries this year and I'm trying to balance giving everything I've got and making sure I'm doing it out of my abundance and not my lack.

I can tell, even from day 2, that an incredible year will be in store for us.  How humbling it is to know that we're offered an abundant life (John 10:10), full of promises every day that belong to us, and to have a sense of fulfillment that is beyond satisfying.   A toast to 2011 and all it's blessings.  Salud!

p.s.  Lots of big news this year- the earthquake in Japan, Osama Bin Ladin is dead, there was a signicant earthquake in DC for 20 seconds, and there's a Royal wedding.