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Clambering Cape Point

Today dawned, bright, clear and wind free - a perfect winter's day. And so we took the clan to Cape Point - something we've been wanting to do since we bought a family Wild Card, but something we just haven't had the opportunity to do for months. And O it was good for my soul! Such beauty, such space, such room for my soul to find peace!

Yes, we succumbed to our children's charms and bought one way tickets on the funicular....something we won't repeat in a hurry. The joy of the ride was priceless! It's been years since we last visited Cape Point.

I loved the boys making connections about the sea birds nesting on these mainland cliffs having spent the last few weeks learning about sea birds ( at least I must be inspiring some learning!!!!)...but this cliff walk gave me the heebie-jeebies (which made King Arthur laugh!). Braveheart had to do the holding whilst looking for nests...I was having none of that!

Lighthouses and I...sigh...so lovely...

We found a bunker...

 And were rather out of breath at the end of our round trip...

But decided after our picnic to brave another walk to this beautiful beach...

Such a lovely way to end the weekend, with a soul restored....

Aragorn was determined to feed a copper winged starling!

May it go well with you too this week...

Breaking through the Burnout

This week has started and I feel, at long last, as though I have found myself again.

attempting to make leaf angels!

I've found a little more balance and have come to a place where I feel much more centered...actually, anchored would be a more fitting word. I find myself constantly pressing into God, where I find the comfort he so readily gives.

I've made some changes - some small, some big; some for a season, some for now, some for forever perhaps! 

Trying to tick all of Sonlight's boxes has been a challenge for me for a long time, and although I have steadily unwound and relaxed, this year I have taken it even a little further. Part of my breakdown was just trying to fit everything in, and getting so frazzled when we weren't covering all that we needed too across the board each day. It was exasperating me! The changes that I've made have brought me a greater freedom, although I don't think that I have finished tweaking it at all!

I so identified with Nadene on fitting in the best parts and also found this post so helpful - and so I now structure my days into disciplined studies and inspirational studies:
  • The boys now know that there is an allocated time for disciplined studies, which I've broken up into maths, writing and spelling/creative expression (and for Jonathan, reading). I also realized that trying to do Explode the Code, Wordly Wise, Language Arts etc was just too much for us each and every day, so now I've chosen one book each for the boys, and that's what we're going to work through from start to finish, and then we'll choose another book. I've also put time limits on our disciplined studies. Aragorn has such a beautiful creative spirit in him, if left to his own devices for even a moment he can draw aliens crawling out of numbers, and turn his letters into monsters etc...you get the picture. So I've limited them to 20-30 minutes for each disciplined study, and if they don't finish within that time, then they need to do it on their own for 'homework'- when it hurts them most - like when dad gets home, or when there's a turn on iPad or something like that. Aragorn has suffered this consequence once and I haven't had to do it again!
  •  When it comes to our Inspirational studies, we no longer try to do Geography, History and Science each day either. King Arthur can handle a program like that with ease, but Aragorn is not wired that way at all. Part of my finding balance is continuing to stretch King Arthur's very capable brain, whilst helping Aragorn along in these early years. Our days were just too crowded with fitting in these subjects, and so I made the change to Unit Studies in April, which I created  from my existing Sonlight Core C curriculum for this year. We spent a whole month on Vikings, and now we're doing Science for a month or so (we're using Apologia's Flying Creatures, and are simply doing Birds this month). Then I plan to do the Medieval studies from Core C, and then, well, we'll see, I haven't planned further than that yet!

I feel myself being drawn along a path that leads me to ask - am I really inspiring learning, and that love of learning each day? And than can be a heavy burden to bear if one lets it, but I'm finding it easier as I relax into our journey a wee bit more, and keep asking God to lead, to show me, to point out the way forward.
After all, it's He who knows what their life will hold, and what they really need to be prepared for.

And as for me? I'm learning to find what really feeds my heart, and am learning to spend my time more wisely, and not spread myself so thing. Not always an easy task, but one I'm embracing!

The Only Constant

I've been quite amazed at the overwhelming response I've had by people in response to my previous post - you know the one, where I laid it all out there. Yip, I'm brave. Perhaps a little bit crazy. But I'm glad I followed my heart and put it out there, because I have been so encouraged, knowing that I am not alone. And knowing that now you know that YOU are not alone. Yip, fellow moms, we're in this together. That is what community looks like.

Somehow in today' s culture we've been lulled into believing everyone else is doing just fine, and that it's just us who are failing and not keeping up and wanting to scream, or cry, or laugh hysterically. Just yesterday I ended up singing opera at my children in sheer frustration - please note I cannot sing. Not even a note. And it was wonderful, because out of that sheer frustration came pure and sweet laughter. I might just sing opera quite a lot more!

There's one thing I keep coming back to time and time again. It's that the only constant in life is change...and so the fact that we are changing things often or seeking to do things differently is okay...in fact, it's actually preparing our kids for this dynamic world. This journey of mine is going to need lot of tweaking...constantly.

Actually, on pondering this before I hit publish, I don't think that's entirely true. Love...and Change. Both constant. 

So simple...

Do you ever find that when you withdraw, and start re-aligning your eyes and focusing on the Light, you can begin to see so clearly again?

As I've begun to withdraw, I've been amazed, quietly thankful at how often God has ushered things into my path that speak directly into this situation that I face...that raw brokenness, and the feeling of being utterly undone.

"my yoke is easy, my burden light"

I know how cliched those words are. How misinterpreted words like that can be...and yet. They penetrate, causing me to question - is this the Truth? If so, what does that Truth look like right here, right now?

I'm reminded over and over about how gently he leads with his never stopping, always and forever love...

So...He speaks. And Braveheart reminds. The goal of this journey is not to teach all there is to know (slaying that feeling of sheer panic and terror when I think of all the information there is), no, the goal is simply to 

inspire a love of learning, 

and teach them how to learn.

The rest of it? It'll come. There is no way humanely possible to learn all there is, or to teach all that there is in this Age of Information overload. But if we keep that at the forefront of each day, we'll get there. I don't know yet what that actually looks like on the ground, on a day to day basis, but ... we'll get there.

"Success is the sum of small efforts - 
repeated day in and day out"
Robert Collier

Back from Burnout

That's a pretty ominous way to title a post after not having written for over three months don't you think?!

I've just gone through an intense little season, and have been writing this very post in my head over the last week. I wanted to write and to share because, well, there are too few posts out there on the real challenges homeschooling mothers face. There are endless blogs depicting amazing school days and incredible learning opportunities - well, here's one showing you the nitty gritty,  the raw nuts and bolts.

About two weeks ago, I began to crack. And then spent an entire weekend in floods of tears, unable really to make any coherent kind of sense to anyone around me. Drained. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Depleted Filled with a desire to destroy my computer. uh huh. It's all true. That's how I felt. And so I took a week off - yip, I closed down school, told my kids we were on holiday, and I began to withdraw...to think, to ponder, to pray, to question, to ask, to reconsider.... (my ideal would be to do this sans kids...if we're being completely honest - see, the real nitty gritty!).

Where the Burnout Began:
  1. I am a very self sufficient person - I am my own motivator, and am very driven and every now and again I can end up driving myself too hard for too long. I realized that for months I have been relying on my own strength...digging my own cisterns instead of drinking deep of that Life giving water....
  2. I haven't been guarding my time wisely -  personal exercise time, which is essential to my sanity and self esteem had been taken over my all kinds of other errands and things. (I'm struggling to get back into the routine of early morning gym trips this winter, in spite of supposed strong self discipline!) In fact, personal any kind of time...what is that? Such a strange concept the more I thought about it!
  3. I have been trying to compensate for the comparisons I was making. The best part of junior school for both my husband and I was the interaction we had with our friends, and break time. As my children are not in that system (two of the three), I have found myself compensating by creating playdates, at my house, almost every day of the week. The result? Exhaustion!
  4. At the end of last year, I realized with horror that I'd dropped a few balls with my children - namely spelling, and handwriting. Desiring to make that up this year meant that I was focusing on the "skills' - the dsicplined studies exclusively instead of balancing it with the inspirational stuff - not only was I  bored, but it was such drudgery! The pendulum had now swung, but in the opposite direction!

 Battling the Burnout:
So...I began to do battle. Thankfully I have a supportive husband who patiently stood by waiting for my emotional outbursts to subside, and my kids were very gracious even though their world did seem a bit strained with mom going through all this. This is where I'm taking action:

  1.  I have to find shelter in my God, I have to seek him as a refuge, and I have to keep drawing back to him more regularly, more purposefully than I have been
  2. I can't do any of this without managing my time even more carefully. I need to whittle away the things that ransom my time in the Age of Distraction - for me it's FB, endless emails, and rabbit trails I follow whilst researching. And so once again, I've eliminated the few feeds I've been subscribed too (and this after my previous decluttering!). I've started checking FB fewer times in the week - and I'm aiming to get to every two or three days! I have to be strict with time for myself - exercise cannot be negotiated, even if it means the exclusion of my children's playdates. If I can drop them off whilst I gym, great, but if they want to have playdates here during that time, it cannot happen. And this needs to be balanced too. Some mornings, I'm going to have to get up early. That's it. Bottom line.
  3. Comparison, the thief of all joy! I have chosen a different path, a different system, and it is going to look completely different to what my school life looked like. Their social lives are important, my children's  happiness is important...but it's all about balance.
  4. I need to be strict with time for school - there's a start time, a time for disciplined studies, and a time for inspirational studies. And if my kids cannot reach reasonable goals in certain time slots, then they need to finish it for 'homework' on their own time. I want to spend time on the "fun" stuff! I've also whittled down our school - I hated all the boxes we were trying to tick, and so write now, we're focusing on Handwriting and Spelling and Reading in our disciplined studies. For inspirational studies, I've taken themes out of Sonlight's Core C, and we're treating them like Unit studies. More on that another day. Chete. (That's Shona for that's all, that's enough!).

And so here's where I'm at: making changes, carving out different ways of doing things, saying no in order to say yes! But, there are some things I still need answers for:
  • I need to make time to be "re-created". I'm not getting all funny on you, but recreation means that - to be re-created, to be made whole, new. So what is it that leaves me feeling fuller, and more me and more inspired? That's what I need to discover.
  • I'm hesitant to write this as there can be so many ways this is  interpreted - and so many women do seem to be able to do this - but you know me, I'm intense, all or nothing...I've found myself mournful in a way. I can see the big picture, truly I can, and I know I'm building cathedrals and all that. But If I'm honest, I'm going to admit that I'd love a week, a month, hang even a day just all to myself. I'd love to learn how to do things now. I catch myself thinking, oh, that would be lovely to do, it'll have to wait till the kids leave home. I don't want to put my life on hold for the next 15 years, and then start doing all the things I want to do. And to be perfectly honest, I'm not even sure what all those things are...I just know I want some *permission* perhaps to live a little more. I do love my kids, truly I do. But right now, this is how I am feeling!
And so, there you have it - a real inside story for y'all.

When it Rains...

You know that saying? "It never rains, it pours"? Well folks that's how I feel this weekend! I cannot belive the pace of the last two weeks - a friend referred to life during the term as 'warp speed' once,  and I so feel like I'm living in that!

After our interesting start last week and our shocking first day of school, I had so hoped that this week would begin, and remain, better. And we did start better, and then things got a little complicated when on Tuesday an enormous fire threatened to devour the houses along the perimeter of the Estate we live in.

I was at the beach at the time (with two young Zimbabwean girls thrilled to be at the sea!), really enjoying a wind free beach at St James. I had deliberately left my phone in the car, in a rebellious state of just not wanting to be able to be reached all the time at every moment. So imagine my surprise when upon my return to the car I find 11 missed calls! From people I know well who do not panic!!!

I quickly realized how serious the situation was, and managed to raise my parents-in-law to try and get to the house to help. I am so thankful for my neighbors and friends within the Estate who lent a helping hand, as well as our twice a month gardener -without them, my house would not be standing today! So very thankful...but the ash? Well that's another story...it covered the garden like black snow...

Cleaning up a house covered in ash is no small task...especially when one is trying to use one's mornings to homeschool! So again, another huge learning curve: what is homeschool really about? I know in my head that the fire was a real life learning experience, but the Perfectionist in me, the Box Ticker, cannot abide how many things we are 'not' getting done! So...a deep breath, and a letting go that this week is yet another one that has not gone according to 'plan'!

 For those of you interested, here's a video my father in law took to illustrate my point!


Overall, now at the end of week two, I can say it's gone better than than week one, although I have had to realize again just how different my children are. I am so thankful I have the privilege of homeschooling them and tailor making their education, although it is challenging and daunting at the same time. After having a tearful meltdown in Brent's arms the one night, I've had to tweak and adjust things, as Aragorn's learning styles are completely different to King Arthur's: it's the subtle challenge of carrying on stretching King Arthur, while at the same time supporting and encouraging Aragorn at the start of his journey. Bended knees people, and a good dose of tears!

Cape Explorers kicked off again this week, and when the outings are ones that I am personally responsible for it seems to knock me for a 6 (I guess especially after the week!). The outing went swimmingly, and I love those kids to bits...but, imagine my surprise then, thinking I was coming home to put my feet up and relax for a bit when I discovered our landlady had employed some folk to strip and replace a roof that has been leaking for years! In the pulling up of the old roof sheeting, ash had re-covered everything! Sob! And they weren't able to finish yesterday...and left a large hole...and so when it poured with rain today...well, need I say more? Sob sob!

So surely, surely, next week cannot top this?

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!!

the First day...

Today, Belle began her first day in the Tiger's Class....

...complete with a hand me down Tiger back pack which she was thrilled with! Belle's report on her first day? "Mom, I had an awesome day!"
(Oooh, she also had her first ballet lesson which she just loved!)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, ...

(I actually took this :))

I will never forget King Arthur's face when he returned from his morning ride, came around the door and saw this sign - his face lit up and he beamed...from ear to ear. I'm so pleased I followed through with the inkling I had, because it seemed almost a silly thing to do...but it's those small things, the things we can so easily brush aside that speak loudest to  our kids, and even those around us. Somehow, this little sign and taking the photo affirmed them and boosted their whole day (they were so eager to show Dad when he came home too). Aragorn? That boy has been excited for weeks, and his enthusiasm was at an all time high the whole day!

Our day went well. Strike that. The first hour and a half of our day went swimmingly. Braveheart has kindly agreed to take Belle to school on the way to work, which has transformed my mornings. Now without me leaving the house in the mornings we gain so much time. Morning chores were done by 0730, and school started at 8. We got so much done....

Then I decided we would take a break and go off and get our puncture fixed. Well, the day went downhill from there. Let's just say, a Toyota Verso's wheels confound my local fitment centre; it took longer than expected; Braveheart still had my debit card; my new credit card didn't work and then after yet ANOTHER walk to the mall, it failed to work altogether. My day was HIJACKED. By admin. Grr. I had a good cry and a blow out, and said goodbye to the two and half hours of stress, spent the rest of the afternoon doing co-curricular lifting, and then finally got home to make our traditional "Back to School" cake (ahem, this was disastrous, just to top off the day)!

The kids love sticking their toys on a Back to School cake!
 Anyhow. So here I am. Holiday? What holiday?! I know that today will pass, that tomorrow is another day, but seriously, what a way to start the term!

The only thing that keeps reverberating in my mind is (for all your Friday Night Lights fans)

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose!

And I may just have to print that out very big and stick it in front of my desk!

Hope your start of school has gone well!





That's how I feel, (at long last) after a full two month holiday. I no longer feel exhausted and near the end of myself.

2013, bring it on!

Humble Housework

 It's a new season this one....

a busy one, where both Braveheart and I are stretched to the brim...

or perhaps even flowing over a bit?

It's interesting to me, that when you think you can't handle anything else on your plate, God can stretch you even a little bit more...but never to breaking point.

And there's always HOPE.

My season right now is one of humble housework...the basics of family life. Our wonderful helper and part of our family returned to Zimbabwe a while ago, and we have felt it's a season for us to be without help in the house...and so it's a season of juggling more, and fitting in chores into already packed days. As a family, we're learning all about responsibility, and servanthood... something I seem to not know enough about.

I'm loving our journey through this time: its highs and its lows - watching my kids learn to take on chores that are age appropriate, blessing one another when they do each other's chores, watching them learn about sharing the load of a family's work. Braveheart has been a star too, stepping in when he can, as this is his leading for our family in this season. I thought I was a highly disciplined person, but when it comes to housework at the end of one of those days, I realize how weak my will is!

I'm learning about grace...about rhythms ..some days lend themselves to a neat orderly house, and on other days I have to take a few steps back and ask myself what is really most important - relationships or a clean house, and then close a door, or leave a room...a challenge for me.

And so as I juggle my time, this blog is last on the list. I'm hoping I find a rhythm here, truly I do.

Until then...

Bountiful Birthdays

October is packed full -
and my birthday falls last. 
Each year I feel to celebrate it differently..
sometimes in a big way...
sometimes small and intimate...

This year I spent the morning
with my delightful Cape Explorers...

Then searched Cape Town for some delicious 
cheesecake and ended up here...
(oh yes, cheese and chocolate are my weaknesses...
and cheesecake - oh, it's a slice of heaven!)

and yes, this is what we wearing
at the end of October!
Summer will hit us
at the beginning of December...

Precious family time...
delicious cheesecake...
then dinner with dear friends...

and then a tea on Sunday
with Braveheart's family...
complete with THE cake
friends around me have been making...
I was inspired...
and delighted everyone with it!

Happy birthday me!
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Hero Party 2: King Arthur's!

(There seem to have been very few Hero Factory parties out there - so forgive me if there is TMI in this post, but my hope is it will help other moms who may be needing to create a HF party for their sons :) Be sure to check out Aragorn's Hero Factory Party too!)

Saturday dawned, and I was relieved to see the sun... then it disappeared for a bit and I'll be honest, I fretted, but by the time the afternoon rolled around, it was a stellar day! This is the first year Braveheart and I have had our kids' birthdays in the afternoon, and it's so much more relaxed! No more creating cakes near midnight on a Friday night! 

On Saturday morning we decorated....(low key this day, too much wind!)

The happy birthday boy who had been anticipating this day for weeks...
I can't believe my firstborn is 8...

 Once everyone had blown off some steam, we explained how this Hero Factory Party would work: it was a Rookie Training Camp (seeing as I knew most of the boys had watched Hero Factory Rise of the Rookies). First they would need to complete their training and then they would be "tested" in a battle at the end of the day. I told them I would be the Alpha Leader, Stormer XL, and take them through their paces. Now you do understand, that I actually don't know very much about Hero Factory - and as I kept telling them what they were supposed to be doing, I kept being corrected by some passionate HF fans! So you may need to check out the correct terminology with your sons before you re-create any of this :)

got to love his glee!
The first task was to charge their cores - which they had to do by creating a fruit kebab of many different fruits (so that no two colors touched each other, and having at least one piece of each fruit on the kebab). I had marked two lines on the kebabs so they knew how full to make it. Some kids made three kebabs!

The next part of their training was to see if they could form "power cells" (the force field that keeps the Heroes safe from the Villains) by playing "mingle mingle". "Mingle Mingle" is a wonderful game whereby the kids just run around and you yell out a number - say 2. Then they have to form groups of 2, or shout out 5, and they form groups of 5 etc. Whoever is not in a group is out, and can either choose the next number and go back in, or you can whittle away the group until there is a winner. I shouted out 1 just for fun a couple of times, and 19 - the total number of kids we had on Saturday!

Then we had some target practice, whereby we split them into groups and they had to try and hit down all the cans within a short space of time - running and throwing, what more do boys need?

The final part of their training was to see if they could create backup should they need it in the field. Again, I split them into three groups, Red (Ferno), Green (Breeze) and Blue (Stringer). I gave each child in each group a number from 1-6. They then had to go and find a previously hidden packet with a corresponding red, green or blue number on it. These packets had a Hero broken up into 6 groups of pieces - namely two legs, two arms, weapon and head/helmet. So number one from Red team had to go and find a packet with a red number one on it - make sense? And the next person could only go and find the next part once the other team member had returned.

Sadly some of the packets were hidden only too well
and there was a little bit of frustration!

Then it was time for the Rookies to be rewarded for their hard work - with my first ever ice cream cake!
I love their faces when their cakes are brought out - we try to
make them a surprise :)

Boys will be boys!
Then the battle commenced! The Rookies graduated and now had to face Von Nebular (Braveheart) in war!
Again, we divided them into three groups (just so kids turns could come around sooner, otherwise waiting for 18 other kids takes too long!). The front three kids could run and hit Braveheart with water balloons, or try to, for 15 seconds. The others were encouraged to try and hold them down. When time was up, he would yell a number, and they would have to form "mingle mingle" groups, and whoever was left out got sprayed with a water gun! The boys were delighted!

And finally present time...

  King Arthur was so blessed by every one's generosity...

 And the take home bags were Hero Defence Packs (with smoke bombs, water balloons and poppers)

Belle sums up the day for me entirely...

A great party and well worth the effort to hear King Arthur say it was the best party ever!
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