Advent 2014

I have obviously not kept up very well with blogging this fall. While we as a family seem to be getting acclimated to our new home and life, I have found myself still feeling very much in transition. That’s why I am so happy that it is now Advent. I have known that Advent starts the new church year for quite awhile, but this year, I am especially eager to start a new year. I need the chance to refocus my thoughts away from the transition of the last year and on to what good things are yet to come.

One of the challenges I keep facing over and over is “not getting enough done” as a stay at home mom. The days fly by, and it seems like my to-do list at best stays the same length and at worst gets longer. I also find myself focusing too much on the to-do list and not enough on time with the kids, or even concentrating on whatever task I am currently working at. So to get ready for this Advent, I went ahead and made a huge, multi-page to-do list for the next year or so. I divided up the things I wanted to get done into categories (for example, crafts I wanted to make, household chores that needed to get done) and then I tried to choose just a few of the major things to focus on right now: celebrating Advent/getting ready for Christmas, and trying to complete “moving into” our new house. These are two fairly large items, and there are of course other small things that have cropped up and will continue to do so, but I’m hopeful that by focusing on a few things, I can feel less adrift and frenzied. I’m also hoping that this approach will help me to look at the different seasons in the year and in life, and recognize what tasks are appropriate to focus on in this season–and which ones to drop for now.

I do hope to get back into blogging, but right now, that’s not one of my top priorities, so I’m going to limit it to book posts for now. In the meantime, I will be trying to enjoy and do the work of this Advent season.

Book of Numbers

Yikes, it’s almost halfway through May, and I’ve packed about 6 boxes. We did adopt the dog who came to visit us in April, though…priorities, right?

Angel

Angel

The main topic of this post is one I’ve been meaning to write since last fall…but backing up even further, in January 2013, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was the read the Bible straight through–start at Genesis, read a chapter every day until I finished.

Now in May 2014, I’m on the book of 1 Samuel. Not very far in. The Bible is, of course, a very long book, but the main problem would be me not reading every day. Anyway, I have at least kept with it enough that I’m still going, instead of having given up back in Exodus. One of my main reasons for doing this is that I’ve read the whole New Testament (taking a NT survey class in college where it was required reading sure helped!), but there are lots of books in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible that I hadn’t really read before, and I would like that to change.

The book of Numbers is one of those books that I had never read before, and it definitely took me awhile to find it interesting. After all, it’s called “Numbers” in part because the first section of the book is a series of censuses of the Israelites. But it does pick up from there. For one thing, the story of Balaam and the donkey? I had heard that it was in the Bible, but had never encountered it until I finally read Numbers (Ch. 23). It’s a great story, too…not only is the donkey smart enough not to go where there’s an angel standing with a drawn sword, but God lets the donkey talk long enough to question Balaam about beating him until Balaam himself can see the angel.

There’re two other stories that I wanted to mention. One is a rebellion by some of the Israelites in which the ground swallows up the rebels (Ch. 16). Not perhaps the most pleasant story, but certainly as exciting as anything in most novels. The second seems to me like it might be one of the earliest feminist stories. In Chapter 27, daughters of a man who died without having any sons ask that their father’s inheritance be given to them instead of passed over to one of their uncles, and it is! There is still certainly lots of signs of the patriarchal system in Numbers, including that the women have to marry within their own tribe to keep the inheritance from passing to another tribe, but I still found it exciting and fascinating.

So if you are looking to explore a lesser-known book of the Bible, I would recommend giving Numbers a try…just skim all those censuses!

Advent 2013

Whew, it’s hard to believe it’s already Advent, and even harder to believe that Christmas is in just 3 weeks. It feels like Advent is short this year, but I looked up the earliest and latest start dates (November 27 and December 3, if you’re interested), so it’s really just average. It must be the whole “life going faster as you get older” effect.

I love Advent. I’ve always loved the feeling of anticipation that just fills the month of December, but I used to kind of lump Advent together with Christmas in my mind. Obviously, the two are linked, but it’s become more important to me to observe Advent separately before pulling out all the Christmas stops. Along with that, it’s become more important to celebrate the whole season of Christmas, right up through Epiphany. I know lots of people are ready to take their trees down on the 26th or, at the latest, on the 1st or 2nd, but I think continuing the Christmas celebration for all 12 days is one way to separate the Christian celebration of Christmas from the commercial one.

Along those lines, I’m also trying (once again) to recommit to prayer time and quiet time, and I’m using this resource: http://www.piercedhands.com/advent-boot-camp/. I’m not a huge fan of the name, nor am I Catholic (full disclosure), but I enjoy this blog and Advent seems a short enough chunk of time to reasonably manage setting aside extra time for prayer. And you never know, if a habit develops, all the better.

We will still be doing lots of fun Christmas preparations (we’ve already partially decorated and written letters to Santa, and we still have cookie baking, tree trimming and present shopping ahead of us), but now I’m going to sign off and try to get my quiet time in before school pick-up.

 

SAH Sanity Tip #5: Leave the House Without the Kids

I already mentioned how important that leaving the house is to maintaining my sanity as a stay at home parent. Most of the time, this involves some kind of outing with the kids. Sometimes, though, I just need to get away from the kids. There are, of course, dates, which my husband and I occasionally try to take (we took a three-day one to New Orleans this summer, so we haven’t had a regular one-afternoon one in awhile). These are very important and great, but they require finding a babysitter and all that goes along with that.

Sometimes, too, I just need time to myself. I don’t remember exactly what brought this to a head last December (right after my husband finished his semester), but my husband realized it before I did, so one evening he sent me out by myself with orders to do something I wanted and not to come back before 8:30 (when the kids should be in bed). It was fantastic. I went to the Hillsborough Yarn Shop, ate dinner at Cracker Barrel while reading my book (the restaurant choice made my husband laugh, but hey, it tasted good and wasn’t too expensive!), then sat and knit and listened to an audiobook at Starbucks until about 9.

It went so well that we did it again last spring (that time I had dinner with some library school friends), and I’m doing it again for several days this month. Our church has a women’s retreat every fall, and I’ve never gone for one reason or another. This year, though, I am going. I’m looking forward to it, and also looking forward to feeling refreshed and ready to tackle daily life anew when I get back.

SAH Sanity Tip #3: Remember It’s a Gift

This was actually going to be my first tip, as it’s the one that first occurred to me, and is one that I have to keep reminding myself when I’m losing my temper or the kids are running around screaming.

The chance to stay home with my kids is a gift.

Not everyone has the opportunity to do this. I wasn’t able to for about two and a half years. Now I am, and I need to enjoy it while I can. I know this doesn’t mean I will enjoy every minute, but it does help me to remember that this is a (finite!) special time, and that I get to enjoy my kids’ company more now than I probably ever will again.

It may be a mind game to repeat this to myself, but it’s a truth that I am repeating, so it makes life a little more sane (at least for a few minutes at a time!).

School choice

“School choice” has been on my radar a lot recently. Our oldest starts kindergarten in the fall, and in Durham, NC, there is a lot of school choice available. First, there are the choices offered just by our local school system: magnet schools, or schools with varying calendars, to which families can enter a lottery to be assigned. Then, there are area private and Catholic schools. There are also a proliferation of charter schools, which are technically public schools (they are basically free, as I understand, and they are publicly funded), but they run under their own “charters” and aren’t part of the regular school system. There’s always homeschooling, too.

We’ve decided to go with our neighborhood school. Here are a few reasons:

  • The lottery for the school system’s varying options happened in January. We watched some of our friends go through the school decision process last year and it seemed fairly stressful. Since I’m a high-stress person anyway, I need to save my school-choice stress for college, not kindergarten.
  • I am a result of public schools, and my husband mostly is, too. I went to a high school that was (and as far as I know, still is) considered fairly low performing and rough. I got an excellent education there. There are certainly conditions under which we’d think seriously about pulling out of public schools, but I am overall a believer in the value of public education.
  • Because I’m a believer in public education, I don’t really like charter schools. I think that the money and parental buy-in invested in them would probably be better spent on improving the local public schools.
  • We believe that teaching our children to follow Jesus is more important than teaching them how to make lots of money as adults (not that we’d succeed at the latter, since we haven’t figured it out ourselves). This means being part of the community we are in and loving the people around us, even when they are different. I think public school is a great place to learn this, both for kids and for parents.
  • I know several people who homeschool successfully. I’m pretty confident that I could not be one of those people unless I felt a very compelling need to. (Passage of this bill would be compelling enough for me.)
  • Oh, and the local school is 5 minutes from our house. This logistical factor is worth noting, too!

I am a worrier, and I completely understand the tendency to worry about one’s kids, whether they are getting a good education, and whether they will be ready for the future. This is one decision that lets me combine my effort to not worry with my natural inclination, based largely on my own school memories, to make use of our local school.

I’m not the only one who has neighborhood schools on my radar. I enjoy reading the NY Times’ Motherlode blog, and a recent post had related thoughts:

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/why-i-want-to-choose-the-disadvantaged-local-school-and-why-i-might-not/ 

Mourn together

Certainly, we are all mourning for those affected by the bombings in Boston this evening. My brother-in-law reminded many today of others who are mourning:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-125820/US-bomb-kills-30-Afghan-wedding.html

As Christians, we are called to mourn with all who are mourning; as citizens of the US, we bear some responsibility for this bombing.

Let us all mourn together.

**Update 4/19/13**

I learned later the next evening that this is an 11 year old story. So much for my source-checking librarian skills. However, the thought still stands. While I, with many others, wait impatiently to hear the resolution of today’s stand-off in Boston, I also want to be aware of many brothers and sisters around the world who have cause to mourn as well.