Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sometimes Life Just Takes Over---Part Three

Here's where we left off last time...

If you missed Sometimes Life Just Takes Over--Part One, read it first here.
If you missed Sometimes Life Just Takes Over---Part Two, read it here.

I am sure you are saying, “But I was expecting more.” After all, I did say it would get really good...Just you wait…there is more.

Go on and see!!

Well, during our stay at the hospital, my sister-in-law called me and told me that she had entered our family in a contest a local radio station was having for military families for a complete home makeover. Apparently, one day the she was cruising the stations on her radio at a stoplight when she heard an advertisement which suggested that anyone knowing a family in the military who had need of help with repairs to their home should write a short essay telling about them and email it in. She texted herself a reminder to do it when she got home, answered God’s call for her to write the essay, and a few weeks later they called and told her we were in the final group of contestants. That’s when she called me.

My hospitalized fifteen-year-old just about flipped. He’s daydreamed for a few years now that one day Extreme Home Makeover would knock on our door and tear our rattletrap house down and build a big new one. Sometimes we’d dream of what each new room would look like, and he’d imagine that they’d gift him a car for being so awesome (he is a huge help to me). Well, we all started praying and he and I started believing that maybe something just like it could really happen. Why not? God can do anything He wants to do, right? Then came the day they finally took out the naso-gastric tube and we were just grateful they let him have a popsicle, and the next day he was thrilled over orange jello and sweet tea, and after that we forgot all about it. Other things took precedence, like getting him well and home.

Not too long after arriving home, something or other had gone wrong and I was feeling a bit desperate while getting ready in the morning. I cried out to God, “Please Lord. I know that you have promised to care for me and be there for me when I don’t have a husband (mine is often gone), but sometimes I just need someone to fix my plumbing and electrical problems. I thank you sincerely for all you do, but please, would you use this contest to show me that you will fix my plumbing, as well as being the strong tower I can lean on?” Less than five minutes after that my sister-in-love called and screamed, “YOU WON!! What? Are you kidding me?? Thank you, Lord! Praise you! You are amazing, Lord Jesus!! Aaaahhhhhhhhhh! Yahoo! I cried and jumped around doing the happy dance, looking ridiculous and not caring. What an incredible, once in a lifetime blessing. Both then and today I pray that we will live up to the promise of that blessing…to be a blessing to others.

The kids supervise while the grown ups move out many, many boxes of books...

And so it was that we moved our homeschooling from the dining room table and living room floor to my crowded bedroom while different sponsor companies came one after another to make improvements to our home. My first task was to box up our collection of about ten thousand books. I managed to do it just in time (a local moving company offered to store some of our things while the repairs were being done, then later we ordered a POD). Unfortunately, the morning after doing all of the packing, I woke up in excruciating pain, unable to move my left arm without turns out I tore my rhomboid muscle and spent the next week in a frantic haze trying to keep up one armed. Ah well...all's well that ends well.

Read on and find out the rest of the story...

Our old 1930s farmhouse was still sporting the original rusty metal roof and windows with pulleys and lead weights inside. We were so utterly blessed when we discovered we were to receive a new roof, new siding, new windows, a tune up for our HVAC, and repairs to some interior walls. 

New windows...

Electrical updates...the box was upgraded and moved from the boys' room to the outside wall. Whew!

They went a little overboard taking off the original siding on one wall, which had to go back up...
but it all turns out well in the end!

Doesn't the wrap look great? Wait till you see the new siding...

The new roof...I don't know how they manage to stay up there so easily.

The new siding is going up, along with new trim.

Our slightly enclosed porch was solidly enclosed and made into a “sun room/classroom,” and had its own heating/cooling unit installed

They got rid of the old-fashioned, drafty, half-broken glass windows and framed in for new modern windows.

Leveling the floor and fixing some rotten spots...

Real walls!!

Check out the drywall...we're almost there!

The new floor is down and you can see how wonderful the room will be.

It's amazing what a coat of paint can do...I LOVE it!

Last, but not least, a lovely glass door to match the new front door.

Our drafty (used to be an enclosed back porch with a stained ceiling and worn out indoor/outdoor carpet) was revamped, had a heating/cooling unit installed, was given a new ceiling, and the water heater that was in the center of the main wall was moved into our utility room out of the way. The walls and ceiling were painted, too.

See that huge heater in the middle of the's got to go.

Moving the elephantine water heater out of the back room was high on my list.

A new, unstained ceiling goes up and new insulation is added where needed near the new heating/cooling unit.

Painting the walls makes such a difference in how the room looks. It's incredible.

Hubby and Poppy install a matching floor we bought in the library before we move furniture in.

Our utility room and one bathroom had professional closets installed, which made the laundry area a family closet for the little kids.

Our new laundry room/family closet doors...the new washer/dryer combo we got on sale is inside. They are my first new set, does it hold a lot of laundry at a time. It cuts my laundry time in half. A true blessing. Not to mention that the clothes can be folded and put away right there!

Tex helps with some of the repairs.

We received an adorable new shed that perfectly matches the house which is going to hold the overflow from the library for now...eventually, I will organize it to be the repository for all of the games, manipulatives, FIAR bins, and other oversized items for the library. Right now it's just being used for storage. Lastly, we were blessed with some landscaping that pulled our existing raised beds together in a professional and tidy way. I will post pictures of those later, after the flowers start to bloom.

I love, love, love this shed!

What have these changes meant to us as a home educating military family? Well, I can honestly say that for the first time in our marriage I won’t mind if Hubby decides to stay in until he retires at 30 years. If you’d asked me any other time, I’d vehemently have said that he needed to get out because there is so much to do that can’t get done with him in the military. Now, well, it’s done!

Also, last summer I attended a Living Books Libraries librarians’ conference with Jan and Gary Bloom of Books Bloom and Liz and Emily Cottrell of the Living Books Library based on the model of Michelle Miller of TruthQuest History’s Children's Preservation Library. What can I say but that it inspired me...

Me with Liz and Emily...

The concept of rescuing living books for future generations and putting them into a library to be used by other homeschoolers suddenly gives my years of collecting books addiction for books now has legitimacy. Yay! I now plan to use the best of our books in a library we will open in the back room of our house. That formerly useless and ugly room is now our “Lifetime of Learning Library” which we hope to open to local families in the fall. We will try to "Change the World one Book at a Time..." (read about the conference if you'd like to learn more).

The new shelves are in and ready to be loaded up with good books!
It's going to be a fun summer.

Our library will contain books from early world history to modern American history. Fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and videos will all be shelved chronologically to aid families in finding the resources they need for any time period. We have other topics arranged by day of creation into units, so that you can easily find books for a unit about insects or one on astronomy. Of course, there will be quality children’s picture books and favorite series’ books, as well as book collections to support FIAR and BFIAR. 

There will even be field trip backpack kits to local sites. We will also offer games and manipulatives, books on tape and cd collections, and plenty of parent home education resource books. It is a joy and a blessing to me to see my children’s interest in books blossom and their abilities to help care for and choose quality books grow as they learn the lesson of serving others in our library.

Ladybug loves her job as a librarian.

One more blessing that came to us as a part of our Operation Homefront Home Makeover prize was an opportunity to visit a local campground that has adorable and comfortable cabins available for families to rent. We stayed for a long weekend and enjoyed fishing, swimming, playing on the playground, and some nice walks while some of the more intense electrical work was being finished. It was such a kind consideration and everyone involved was very gracious to us.

As a result of winning the prize and having the much needed repairs completed on our home, we’ve finally been able to wholeheartedly pursue my dream of getting certified so we can foster/adopt one or more older children from our own country’s foster care system. There are so many kids out there in foster care who are without families through no fault of their own. While most people want to adopt babies, or younger children, we feel led to open our home to a young lady who is older, so she will have a place where she can feel safe, people she can rely upon, and a family to come home to before she ages out of the system. 

We are praying that we may be a blessing to a young lady, and we are certain that she will give the greater blessing to all of us, whoever she is…and if she has a sibling or two, well, the more the merrier! My youngest four love to talk about her and imagine what she will be like and it blesses me to see their hearts open wide with love for someone they don’t even know yet. What better lesson could be learned in school than that of loving others?

The last HUGE effect the makeover has had on our family is the blessing of FINALLY having a room that is dedicated to our pursuit of home education. Previously, the kids studied alone or in groups in various places around our house, which made it more difficult for me to keep track of what was going on with whom, and to keep up with my own work as I spent a lot of time walking between kids and looking for this or that. Now our sunroom acts as our schoolroom. 

We traded a piece of furniture we did not want for an enormous marker board to put on one wall, and bought a long computer-friendly counter top for thirty dollars from a local resale store and supported it on two short filing cabinets we already had. The same store offered  upholstered chairs on wheels for ten dollars, we moved in two chairs and a round table for my older son, and bought an old child’s desk for thirty bucks off of a local online yard sale, so for about a hundred dollars, we made over the whole room. 

Now each day we have breakfast together at the dining room table while listening to the kids’ Apologia Bible lesson on mp3. Some days I choose a character trait from Character First or the IBLP list of character traits and we discuss it and make a plan to work on practicing it throughout the week. Then the kids head out to their seats in the school room and look on the marker board to see what assignments I have written out for them for that day, usually a combination of a few workbooks (like math) and reading response journals. Our older son sits with us, though he keeps track of his own online and book work.
After lunch is when we do our Charlotte Mason sort of activities, such as our artist study, nature study, or some drawing and narration about one of the kids’ books they read or a read aloud. It is also when we do our America the Beautiful history a few days a week. I like to have classical music on in the evenings and we try to choose one composer every few months to learn about. The kids dabble with the piano, trying to learn a few songs informally, and my teenager practices his writing and art in private online groups he created with close friends.
Each child has chores and areas of the house and library for which they are responsible. We stop what we are doing a few times a day to have short clean up periods so the messes they (and the three year old) inevitably make don’t overtake us. I like to read to them before they go to bed, though some nights my head hurts and I can’t manage. Then Daddy tucks them in instead and tells them a story and prays with them, or their older brother will do it in a pinch.

Here they are having a camp out on the new Sun Porch.

We do movie/pizza/game night every Friday night and that is something we look forward to all week. AWANA and youth group gives them social interaction, along with a homeschool 4-H group, and church. There may be a season for us to get out more, but right now we are content with enjoying the blessing of our newly made-over home. It is still not perfectly organized yet, but I can see the possibilities again, instead of the problems, and we are enthusiastically committed to conquering the remaining projects together while finding new ways to reach out and be a blessing to others.

Of course, sometimes you realize just how good God really is because He knows exactly what is going to happen, and provides for you ahead of time. At the end of November, I had a freak accident and managed to break my tibial plateau, injure my MCL, and completely tear my ACL. I was very limited with what I could do for several months while the fracture healed, and now face reconstructive surgery that will have me completely off my feet for months. 

But you know what? It really doesn’t bother me all that much. I am glad it was me and not one of my kids or my folks or Hubby. Seriously, six months ago, I’d have been going crazy, wondering how was I going to manage to keep homeschooling and take care of the house and watch after the kids and... Now I am reassured that God not only has my back, but He even covers for me ahead of time!
We have new spaces and new routines and new hope for being blessed and being a blessing to others, so instead of choosing to focus on what is left undone, or all that has yet to be done, we are instead focused on getting on with the next fascinating thing and seeing what other challenges and ways to be a blessing that God has in mind for us. We are reassured that through it all we will pull together and that with Him all things are possible. 

So what’s our current homeschooling style in the midst of all this chaos and uncertainty? Real life home education: new experiences, facing challenges, pulling together, seeing God’s sovereignty, rising to meet God’s calling, working together to be a blessing to others. Now that’s a quality education…and a blessing.

Thanks for reading our story and keeping up with us. Thank you to all who have prayed for us over these last crazy, challenging, and very blessed last six months, and most of all, thank you to all the people, from my dear sister-in-law, to K95 Radio, to all of the wonderful and generous sponsors who made this miracle possible. May the Lord bless you richly and abundantly. 

Blessings to you and your families,


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Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that beautiful testimony of the Lord's provision! I feel SO encouraged. As I read, I thanked the Lord with you for how He cares and provides. The verse we have been working on this week is Isaiah 64:4: "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, Who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him."--Many blessings to you! Liz in PA

Anonymous said...

I just posted a comment to you and wanted to tell you that I found your blog from TOS. I write for them sometimes, too! Blessings! Liz Lane

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