Saturday, January 26, 2013

Comfort is the enemy to Christians

Today is just one of the feast days of John Chrysostom.

In the Orthodox Church he is a saint. He is called "Golden Mouth". He's my husband's patron saint.

Orthodox do not worship saints. We know they (saints) are close to God, that is why we pray to them, for them to ask God for help on our behalf. We still pray to God. We worship only God the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.

"Comfort is the enemy to Christians."
-St. John Chrysostom

We had a winter retreat today at church and we had a guest speaker come. He said many good things, but that last statement stood out in my mind. I often feel "too comfortable" in my life. I know that if I had more struggle and strife and pain and un-comfort I would have to turn to God more. Satan likes to keep us fat and happy, it reminds me of the opium smokers in the book, "The Good Earth". They simply forget about the things that are important in their life and who they are supposed to care for. That's what comfort does to our souls. It makes us forget that we are supposed to be struggling for something more. No matter how comfortable we can be in this life, the next will be far superior and have outstanding comfort for us to dwell in. The enemy teaches us to strive for comfort here on Earth...forget about the next life. It's a very real battle. The battle of the couch potato, but real, none-the-less.

Grace like a flame shining forth from thy mouth has illumined the universe, and disclosed to the world treasures of poverty and shown us the height of humility. And as by thine own words thou teachest us, Father John Chrysostom, so intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Different kinds of stupid

Talking tonight to a friend of mine, I decided to write about the subject upon which we stumbled.

There are different kinds of smart.

This is a light in my head on a dimmer switch, slowly growing brighter over the years.

My personal experience goes something like this:

When I was young I did very poorly on spelling tests and expectations on reading ability and strength. I was tested for dyslexia and didn't have it. I would study for those spelling tests very hard but without fail I would get one or many words wrong. Math I found enjoyable and it made sense to my seemingly feeble brain. Socal Studies, another "important" subject I found dull. Science was fun, but isn't it to all children who have turtles in their classroom and are allowed to play with mercury? What an amazing element. But when you can barely read out loud, are as slow as molasses in January with all school and chores, you may as well just sleep. (one of my fondest past times)

Junior high school began and my days of private school were over. This was the wonderful place where I learned my sex education, I learned that my black English teacher was racist, I learned what racist meant, I had many crushes on many boys, I turned down boys who wanted to "go out", I learned what "go out" meant, I played soccer, I played basket ball, I learned that people could be very cruel, I cheated my way through Algebra 1 (thus no Algebra learned but the life lesson that when you cheat you don't learn and have to repeat the subject was learned, never did that again), I scribed my first graffiti into a library book, but for the life of me I have no recollection of being in any classroom during those 2 miserable years sans the horrid English and the cheating Algebra. Now that I really think about it, the other classrooms that I can remember at all was in Home Economics where I got to sew and Shop class where I made a cutting board.

High School was not as terrible of an experience but I do believe graduating from High School was the best day of my life. Wait, I'm married, I meant to say the second best day of my life.

I learned soon enough not to go for those AP classes, those students had to work WAY too hard and learn WAY too much. I would go along and play "dumb" and take the required classes and the lower level options and the easiest most fun classes I could find. I did fine in Math but chose not to take Trigonometry in High School (wish I would have), I had "honors English" for my 9th grade year but that was entirely too much reading of entirely too many boring books. One of which being "My Antionia" by Willa Cather in which case after I read the lovely book my teacher had to point out that the author was a lesbian and how did we feel about that? (personally? I didn't like knowing the authors sexual preference, thank-you-very-much) I discovered later that my simple poetry class was really quite fun and I enjoyed writing poetry. When I was in 9th grade our History class was hijacked by the Berlin Wall falling, it was on my birthday in fact, and thus our world history was dominated by learning current events. In general I did not engage myself in High School. I realized that I just didn't have to. I didn't want to. I wanted to learn fun things like photography and cross country running and Algebra (the teacher was ever so handsome) so I chose those classes, stayed awake for those classes and slept through the rest. I must have, as I only have recollection of the classes that made an impact on me. The rest have faded away. My GPA was nothing to speak of. I managed the honor roll sometimes but only because the average was so low. I was not cut out for Ds, I got one in typing class and that grade deeply bothered me. I don't know if it was the D pulling down my GPA or the fact that I couldn't type fast enough. I took the class again and got an A. I could handle Bs, I was a B kinda girl. I knew I could do better but didn't really want to.

What I was never taught in all my years of private and public education was how to think critically. This is a big one for me. Because once I was made aware that I did not have to follow the sheep of this world and think everything the way they do, the door to my new life was opened and I stepped through, into the light.

I think that I owe my husband the most gratitude for teaching me how to think. He may not like a thinking wife these days, after all, my opinions don't always match his, but nevertheless, he can't stuff me back into that box.

First Lesson he taught me the first year of our marriage: "You are not stupid. Your education was flawed, but you are not stupid." This has taken me years to really grasp onto. I think I finally believe him. My husband is a "very smart fellow" he's good at memorizing facts, he can navigate books like no other, he has read the bible many times and can quote from it, he knows more about more things than anyone I know. He actually REMEMBERS things he learned in school. Who does that? I felt like a dullard compared to him. He once mentioned something about that Nero and his wickedness. I asked innocently, "who's Nero?" He about flipped his lid horrified that I'd never even heard of this monster. I was indigent that he would be so horrified at my stupidity, but he had to explain how it wasn't me that was stupid. I was never taught it, that wasn't my fault. Thus it began, I learned many things I either hadn't been taught or things I hadn't deemed important enough to stick into long term memory. He gently coaxed me to speak with better grammar, teaching me small things one at a time. I would sometimes get angry at being corrected until he explained that I would be teaching our children to speak and homeschooling them. I'd best know how to speak properly. The first year of marriage he broke me of some bad TV habits like soap operas and the Today Show. He explained simply that he didn't want the mother of his children watching such things and I may as well stop now. I was taken aback that he would actually forbid me from watching them, but after just a short time they were not missed. Little did I know that this slow breaking me of TV would gradually lead to my new world of thinking for myself.

I don't know how many times he has corrected me, I have overreacted, we have gotten into an argument and he finally convinced me that he's not telling me that I'm stupid, he only wants me to learn the truth of the matter or for me to research it on my own before spouting that nonsense to someone else. I have learned (with all my new mad thinking skilz) that correcting people is very tricky. He doesn't always have to correct me, but if he does I always learn something new. I have also taught him that correcting me is a real blow to my psyche and I don't like it. So he'd better save it for the really important things.

He is better at certain things and I'm better at others. We have come to appreciate each other for our strengths and try to make up for the other's weakness. That includes each others brain skills and work skills. We encourage the other at what we're good at, we even sometimes try to do the same things on different levels. I encouraged him on a day that he has a list (in his head) that is a mile long he should not feel obligated to the phone ringing or to the three things on his list that I can do for him. When I feel overwhelmed with my life he encourages me to eliminate large things that take more time away than I even realize and how important priorities are. He convinces me that I take on too much and can't do it all.  He's better with the bigger picture.

I'm not stupid. Sometimes I don't know my limitations, that makes my life harder and me a less dependable person for others. I am learning my limitations. This makes my life simpler and more enjoyable I'm finding.

I never knew how to spell. I think that I never wanted to learn how to spell. Have you ever looked at the English language rules? Have you seen the lists of words that broke those rules? Apparently that can madden a young child like me enough to make them say in the deepest depths of their brain, "Screw the English language, it can't even follow it's own rules, why should I learn how to spell those words when even English can't spell them right." Grammar rules I do like, however. I know where punctuation goes (don't tar and feather me when you find punctuation mistakes). I know how to form a complete sentence, though sometimes very run-on. I know when and where to use Capital letters (just kidding, capital). I know when to indent. And I love new vocabulary words!

I was forced to write a few book reports in gradeschool, but remember, I was a terrible reader. Still a very very slow reader to this day. Didn't like the books I had to read (except for Heidi, see a theme here?) so had a very strong disregard for book reports. But after having children, writing yearly Christmas letters and of all things Facebook, I discovered a new "like" for me. Writing. Crazy, I know, I really still can't figure out how it works in my brain. But I think the non-wit from my younger years has finally been overcome by the new "smart" me who's not afraid to speak up for myself, stick a foot into my mouth now and again, and put fingers to key board and type my little heart out. Good thing for that extra typing class.

All this wordy nonsense to say: if you think you're "stupid" you probably are not. You have been sold a bill of goods that is not true. What are you good at? What are your strengths? Look to those, that is what makes you important, useful and smart. If you feel the itch to dive into more detail in those things that you love, do it!

You have to unplug from the Matrix of life; the television, NPR, talk radio, you will discover that your brain can actually function much better with out the excess noise and clutter. You may even like to listen to the sounds of your own head. It will not make you smarter but more aware of your real surroundings. Even if you unplug from one TV show at a time like I did, and don't let the times of those shows control you (we still like a good thriller or sitcom on Netflix). There really is more to the world. It's yours for the taking. You're not stupid. Stop acting like it.

The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to. -Trinity, The Matrix

Friday, January 11, 2013

Christmas break and the dreaded week after

I can not express how much I love Christmas break. This year was better than ever because I decided to take a full two weeks off and to not even THINK about school 'till it was over. A couple times when the kids seemed stir crazy I considered giving them school to keep busy, but quickly forced those demonic thoughts out of my head and told them to play more video games or watch another movie. We enjoyed our break, IMMENSELY. 

Starting school again after Christmas break is always rough.

This week...has been hellish.

This is the week all those homeschooling moms say, "why do I do this again?" and by the weekend are ready to lay in bed for two days straight after drinking themselves into a stopper because on Friday they started drinking at noon to just make the pain go away.

I have come up with some neat tips and tricks that you can tuck into your ammo vest, this list was compiled mostly with what not to do methods I discovered by doing them. That's how I roll.

Firstly (for the kids) DON'T constantly loose your temper at them right away in the week (like I did: do as I say, not as I do) . If you've come down with a nasty fever/cold like I got, perhaps TAKE A SICK DAY as much as humanly possible or you will be an even more wicked witch than you normally are and nobody benefits from it. In fact, I have a feeling that anything you wanted them to learn that day will be eternally blocked from their memory because it was taught on such a traumatic day, so it won't matter anyway.

TRY even harder this week to be EXTRA CALM. This will benefit you, I promise. A calm mother helps to calm her children. Even if that means calmly duct taping your 4-year-old mouth shut and sticking her in a closet, that's fine. After all, she has soooo many new songs she wants to sing after watching an exorbitant amount of NetFlix cartoons during your 2 week vacation.

Use bribery. Again, something I totally forgot about 'till today, Friday (the booze helped me to remember). Bribe with all that 50% off candy you bought the day after Christmas, that's right, chuck your no sugar rules OUT THE WINDOW this week! Bribe with their new video games that you just screamed at told them they couldn't play for a year because they weren't getting their school done. Coax them by cutting out problems in their math, after all, they are all just. so. repetitive. 

Stay in your pajamas. One less thing to do. It's a good thing. (this is one of the things I DID do this week)

Extra coffee. Well, duh.

Make good food as much as you can. I know, I know, this is hard. But, it reminds your kids that you can actually be kind and they may even thank you for your delicious food when you sit down to eat as a family. Also, feed yourself!!! This is one of my biggest mistakes, but forgetting to eat makes for an extra chafed mama.

Try to get at least one date night in during this week. You need a break from your kids but an even bigger reason is that they need a break from YOU! Go out with your husband, your girlfriends, or yourself. Doesn't matter.

Apologize to your family (individually). If you had the week from hell like I did, take a few minutes to tell them how hard it was for all of you and how very sorry you are for loosing your temper so often. Also praise them for the great job they did in spite of having such a rough week. This goes a long way. Include a hug for good measure. Remember that you're not only their teacher but also their mom, your job is to nurture as well as teach. Something I often forget.

Buy extra pencils just for this week. Sharpen them, leave them in jars on your table. (thank you Amber for this tip) They will inevitably: drop, loose, snort, eat, destroy, disappear and break THOUSANDS of pencils during this week in order to avoid doing their work. Don't let those pencils win.

Air horn. Brilliant. Thanks, Aimee.

Don't shower. Again, less to do for you. (did do, don't tell)

And that just about sums up the practical tips that I have after my week is now over (mostly) and my brain suddenly makes it's grand appearance after being in hiding all week long. I shall try to read my tips BEFORE school begins after next years Christmas break. But I probably won't. I think I'm doomed to repeat this cycle for the next 12 years that I will be homeschooling my children. 10 years down, just 12 to go!!! If you have tips to add PLEASE indulge us! Add them to the comments below.

And don't forget, sweet mothers-at-your-wits-end, homeschooling is a sacrifice and a choice you made to benefit your children. Wear your yoga pants-greasy hair-no makeup badge proudly. And remember my wise husband's motto that helps me be a better, and less worried homeschooling mother:

"It's our job to screw up our kids education, not the government's. Have faith that even if we have some failings, we WILL do a better job than someone else can with our God given children."

He also asks regularly:

"Honey, would you like a beer or some chocolate?"

What a wise man.

This is a fairly good image except for the mom's cute top, clean apron and dressed children...what homeschooed kid 4 and under wears all clothes at all times?? And look at the little girls' hair, it's BRUSHED. Psh. Unrealistic.

Disclaimer: Please realize that this post is VERY tounge-in-cheek. I want to stress how much I adore my children and love them dearly. I'm the best mom they could have and I would never actually do anything to harm them. Please don't take this post too seriously. I personally think it's silly to have to say this, but wise husband has encouraged me to regardless.