Inside the Mommyvan

Homeschooling & Life Inside the Mommyvan - an old dog learning new tricks


Amidst all of the adorable back to school pictures our friends posted on various social media, these were ours:

11953314_10153545551544727_8293208923135990811_oYep, THIRD graders! (Who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom since preschool)
These are the days I need to remember when the going gets tough!

My husband, ladies and gentlemen:

Living the meme

To the women in my life, past and present, who do not have children this Mother’s Day: I honor you today, and thank you for mothering me in your own ways and helping me become the Mama I am today.

You were role models and cheerleaders through my career in a field dominated by men. You showed me what fulfilling independent lives looked like when my own future was unclear. You gave me hope and comfort during my journey to motherhood. You allow me to enjoy your lives vicariously, with tales of travel, adventures, career paths, and other things that I traded in for my life as a full-time mother. You give me perspective and clarity from a point of view that isn’t so intertwined with little developing personalities. You care for, and about, my children with love and kindness.

Whether this is a day of happiness, sadness, or indifference for you, know that this grateful Mom appreciates you today.


I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering what, if anything, I wanted to write about this issue. The thought that keeps coming to the front of my mind is this: They will know we are Christians by our LOVE.

For those who haven’t heard this news, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), of which I am a member, last week altered its constitution to define marriage as involving “a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” I wrote much of what’s below as a comment on a friend’s post, but I would like to give it a wider audience.

Our interpretation of God’s word can’t help but be influenced by our culture. As that culture changes so do our interpretations (just in recent years: slavery, women in church leadership; before that the Reformation that brought about the Presbyterian church).

Even more important is that as Presbyterians we realize that where we disagree on some particular interpretation, love and grace mean allowing that we might be mistaken, that no one in this world has all the answers. That the greatest commandment means accepting our brothers and sisters in Christ fully, as they are, and leaving the judgment to God.

We accept people who lie, people who harbor jealousy, even people who have been divorced and remarried (adultery, according to scripture). We accept many who flub one or more of the Ten Commandments, not to mention other less definitive instructions in the Bible. Every person sitting in the pews, every couple married in our church, all of us are sinners.

Now, finally, we as a church are accepting fully those whose most cherished, committed earthly relationship happens to be with someone of the same gender. If it turns out that one belief or another is wrong about if and to what magnitude this is sinful, aren’t we better off erring on the side of love and compassion?

She who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

Sometimes life homeschooling kids is a fight. It’s a dirty, messy slog through hostile terrain, day after interminable day. There are days when I’m convinced that they really are out to kill me, or at least to shatter my sanity beyond repair. The same can be said, I’m sure, of life with kids in traditional school, or of life with a spouse, roommate, or anyone else with whom one shares intimate space on a daily basis.

When it’s been like this for a while–and getting us back into our schooling routine after an extended winter break most definitely qualifies, as does the month of February in general–it’s time to step back. Waaaaay back. To retreat strategically, regroup, and come back stronger.

I’m fortunate that a group of women in my church family plan a wonderful retreat each year right around the time I most need it.

Earlier this month about 15 of us met up at a camp out in the woods for the weekend. We shed our outside roles: wife, mother, employee, boss, retiree, whatever. We became a group finding our shared experiences and interests, taking a brief spiritual journey together, finding peace and serenity in the gorgeous natural setting, and enjoying the fellowship and connections made along the way.

The weekend was not without its challenges, but we also saw unexpected gifts arise from the difficulty. There was hope and strength; and there was vulnerability and tears. The care these women took with each other’s sometimes fragile souls was beautiful, and there was honesty even when our opinions differed. It was a safe place, a place of deepening friendships, a place of food and fun and laughter, especially when the games came out in the evenings.

I came home renewed in spirit, refreshed in body, but best of all with my mental reserves and my social connections strengthened for the battles to be fought in the days and weeks ahead.

Pick a day before Feb. 14th? OK, the day before, of course. Not exactly a usual day… all of these are more or less normal parts of my life, but there usually aren’t as many of them in a single day. Here’s a Day In The Life of the Mommyvan crew. Check out Parentwin for more DITLs from this week!

Every day starts this way for me, but this was an early one thanks to a girl child with bad dreams. She got back to sleep, i gave up. Also: Me, 5:30 AM.

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Drugs for the day. Only have to get a third of them down first thing. 20140214-082717.jpg

On Thursdays we don’t do much schoolwork at home, but there is still planning and filing to be done. I do enjoy a nice view while I work.

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Child #1 appears, followed by #s 2 and 3 hunting up some breakfast.

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Time for a little play while I get snacks ready to take with us to our co-op class day.

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Throw on some clothes, and off we go! 9 AM.
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While the kids are in their classes, I get a chance to chat and eat in peace. Today’s hot topic: a Groupon for… vajazzling (don’t Google that, seriously. NSFW. Not safe for kids or your own sanity, either.). Co-op parents take turns making soup each week. Today was Moroccan garbanzo bean. Yum!

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The kids take two classes here, Science & Nature and Games Around the World. Today they exchanged Valentines with their friends.

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What treasures are we bringing home today? A superworm grub to add to our beetle collection (we’ve already watched three of these guys pupate and emerge as beetles, it’s pretty cool!) and some Olympic torches.

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Pizza lunch and playground time with friends, one of the highlights of our week.

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The scenery on our drive is not bad at all. Once home, it’s rest time. A little quiet reading for all, me included.

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20140214-092219.jpg Tag-team parenting today, Daddy home early to supervise math drills and piano practice while I head out for an afternoon of medical adventures. An hour and a half at the rheumatologist’s office and another half-hour at the pharmacy. I used the time to pick up some Valentine goodies for the kids.

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Hubby gets dinner ready for the kids while I do a quick change into fancy pants. Date night!
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20140214-092303.jpg As soon as our sitter arrives, we head out and discover that a vulture has dropped some of its dinner on our front walk. Possum? Armadillo? The world may never know.

I’ll spare you photos of the food, here’s our favorite sushi chef instead. And my dinnertime pills.
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On to the main event. These guys know how to throw a party.
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…the 458 Speciale. Stunning!
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Looks good on me, don’t you think? It’s probably a good thing we’re not into tracking, this car is certainly built for it.

Home again, and it’s not even 10 PM. I got our little friend settled into his new home. His cousins, the mature beetles, are in the box behind him.

Some bedtime web surfing, and it’s off to dreamland for me (after quick sneaking back out to the kitchen to leave a little surprise by my sweetie’s coffee maker for the morning).


It’s been a while since my last post. Life has happened. Travel, the death of my father, illness, holidays, houseguests, and then the days and weeks of clawing our way back into a routine after an interruption of our usual schedule… only to have it disrupted again and find ourselves back at square one.

As much as I enjoy it, blogging took a back seat to the most basic daily necessities. Trying to force it, or any of the other resolutions that passed through my head at the turn of the year, into a life in turmoil wasn’t going to do anything but bring me added stress and disappointment. So I passed on that. My goals, my hopes, even my dreams haven’t undergone any radical changes from December through January. I just want to get back to business as usual.

We’re finding our groove again now, enough that I’m even taking on a new extra-curricular activity or two myself. The apple cart may get upset again tomorrow, but for the moment things are good.


This is a flower I spotted on the ground as I was walking through the woods over the weekend. I saw one, then a couple more, then dozens along the trail. It gave me hope, these bright blooms scattered about atop the dead, brown winter leaves carpeting the path. It was a powerful reminder and a great help to me at that moment, but that’s a post for another day, I hope one day very soon.

My guest post at Parentwin yesterday:

I posted on Facebook the other day, “Learned something this afternoon. No matter how rotten your mood is going in, a room full of 3 & 4 year-olds singing “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” will cure it.” A friend commented that this should be the first paragraph when I write my book. I don’t know that I have a book inside of me waiting to get out, but it’s a good lead-in to what I’m writing today so thanks, Jane, for the suggestion!

I volunteer at our church’s weekly children’s program. I’m the music assistant, and part of my job is to give the littlest participants, the 3 and 4 year-old preschoolers, a taste of choral singing and some fun rhythm and movement activities. I’m planting seeds of musicianship in their hearts and in their souls. I give them a safe, happy place where we sing and make friends and there is no judgement. They are special — we sing hello to each child by name, and remind them that “God loves you!” — and they even get to call the shots sometimes: what hand motions will we do with this verse; shall we shake the jingles, or roll them on the floor? They don’t care about tempo or dynamics, or even pitch in most cases. They care about joy and exuberance, and it is contagious.

My Facebook-worthy revelation came as we rehearsed that old standard for the last time before they sing it in worship on Sunday. They sang that song, and every word of it came straight from their hearts. If you don’t believe that “He’s got you & me, brother, in His hands,” you would after hearing this bunch sing it to you. I love these kids, I really do. I handle behavior problems, the wiggles, the giggles, even the defiant non-participation, with kindness and grace. They, in turn, show me love and gratitude like whoa. When my little cherubs are up there on the chancel steps on Sunday morning and get a little nervous, and their eyes find mine and they smile and sing on, I know what a superhero feels like right after he flings the doomsday machine into the sun and saves all humanity.

The rotten mood I had going in, now that was another story. My own children had been misbehaving in every way imagineable for the 45 minutes directly before we needed to leave the house, and not all that great in the hours preceeding those 45 minutes, either. That key time, though, when I need to get everyone including myself into decent clothes, get snacks into everyone’s bellies, and prepare everything we need for the marathon of actvity that is our Wednesday afternoon and evening, is one of those times when just one thing going wrong means we’re late; more than that means something or someone is going to be unfinished, forgotten, dirty, hungry… and we’re going to be late.

A little while after I tossed that quip up on Facebook, I went back and thought about it more. How do those children melt my heart so easily? Why do my own offspring — not even much older — seem, at times, to exist only to torment me? Part of it, I know, is the time factor. Half an hour of adorable preschooler antics is a piece of cake compared to the non-stop proximity that homeschooling brings. We do get breaks from each other here and there, but I’m still the primary taskmaster, disciplinarian, and all-around mean Mommy & teacher all in one. I can’t commiserate with my kids over homework overload or even the lousy lunch offerings because I am the source of all evil in their academic world.

Don’t get me wrong, I homeschool in large part because I love my children and I don’t want to miss a moment of their growing up, exploring, and learning. When they read with increasing ease, make a science discovery, or catch on to a new math concept… do you remember the thrill of those first toddler steps? Their excitement, my pride… it’s that superhero feeling all over again.

But I forget. I forget to stop and notice their beautiful children’s hearts. I forget to appreciate. I lose my kindness and my grace. I focus so hard on what they need to learn, how they must behave, where we’re going next and what time we have to be there that I forget to revel in those moments of glee, of love, of gratitude the way I do during those half-hours on Wednesday afternoons. I try to schedule and control all of our minutes and hours so that we waste no time that could be put to productive use. We have our play time, of course, but even that becomes a source of annoyance rather than freedom and delight. They might be having a grand old time, but as soon as Mom appears and reminds them they weren’t supposed to be in the dirt because now we’ll have to clean up and change clothes and that wasn’t on the agenda, it’s all out the window.

As of the other night, that has changed. I’m taking to heart the lessons my cherubs have taught me. Ultimately, I’m not in charge, and when I try to be I foul it all up. The happiness comes first, and I work my schedule around it. I am still committed to academic rigor, but the tempo isn’t as important as I’ve made it. The dynamic doesn’t have to be non-stop tedium or dire threats as motivation. It can focus on the discovery and the excitement, and slip the necessary-but-monotonous in while they’re still on a high from the last “get up and dance” bit. Just as we add some life to our singing by using sticks or shakers or scarves, I can apice up our work as simply as substituting paints for pencils.

He’s got the whole world in His hands… the kids get it, and my timetables and priorities got nothin’ on that!

I guest-posted about the socialization compliments(?!??) I’ve been getting recently over at Parentwin.