Never Would I Ever

I remember playing the game, “Never have I ever…” back in high school and college. “Never have I ever been to Australia, run a full marathon, eaten…” You fill in the blank.

In my adult life, I’ve often said, “Never would I ever homeschool.” And here I am, into my second year of homeschooling my kiddos. 😉

A little background information on me: my degree is in Elementary Education and I taught at two different Title I public schools for a cumulative of 5 years after graduating college. When I had my first child, we as a family decided I would stay home instead of trading my paycheck in for daycare and doctors visits. I have been teaching for VIPKID for the past 4.5 years since being home.

My son was enrolled in kindergarten at a private school for the 2019-2020 school year. He had a scholarship called Step-Up which covered about 70% of his tuition. My plan was when my youngest, Lillian turned four, I would get a job at a local private school to cover the cost of tuition for both my children.

When the pandemic hit, life changed dramatically for us all.

My son’s school year ended online, and public and private schools were scrambling with how to begin the 2020-2021 school year. Virtual? Mask mandates? Social distancing at lunchtime and recess? Honestly, I was sending my son to school mostly for social purposes. Now that those were being taken away, and that the cost of tuition would still remain the same, we had to reevaluate. (Even 30% was a big committment for us.) We began to make a long list of pros and cons and to pray. Lots and lots of prayers.

Continue with private education or pursue the land of “Never Will I Ever?”

I had this plan that I had been holding tightly to for a long time now. I told this plan to many people over the years. I kept my teacher certificate renewed with the possibility of going back into the classroom one day. The plan as I mentioned earlier was to get a job at a local private school and my kids would attend where I taught.

Here’s the thing with my plans. I like planning. I like filling my family’s social calendar with events. I like setting goals for myself. And there’s nothing wrong with those things.

But, God’s Word says, “The mind of a person plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

I began to have conversations with other local Mamas that homeschooled, I met with them and picked their brains. I am so thankful for these conversations and the time they took to share their wisdom with me.

One Mama encouraged me to I ask myself “Why am I doing this? What is my purpose in homeschooling?” She also said, “As you are doing your research I would encourage you to pray about what the Lord would have you do. At least that’s what I’ve done and it’s never steered me wrong.”

Godly wisdom.

Another Mama shared that she asks the Lord for a theme or verse to be her family’s focus for the year. An area that the Lord wants to grow them in as a family.

In the midst of all of this, I as an educator kept seeking all kinds of curriculum, homeschool groups, etc. But most of all I desired clarity.

Is this what the Lord had next for our family? Was I willing to step out in to faith and obedience?

As I prayed, I confessed to the Lord that I didn’t want to be a homeschool martyr mom. I didn’t want to talk about homeschooling as a burden, or something the Lord made me do and choose a bad attitude. If the Lord was calling our family to this, I desired to do it joyfully and for it to be a blessing to our family.

I struggled. I wrestled. I prayed. I surrendered. And boy did I cry. Lots of tears.

I asked the Lord for a sign, for confirmation in His Word. In many different seasons of my life the Lord has always been faithful to speak to me through the Scriptures. I wanted something to look back on and cling tightly to, a landmark of sorts at the beginning of this journey.

I woke up on June 17, 2020 to do my quiet time. (I only know this date because I journaled it!) I asked the Lord to speak to me through His Word. A lot of times I do this, but then I rush forward to reading my Bible and don’t take time to pause and listen. This particular morning, I felt strongly to pause. So I did.

When I closed my eyes, I saw a picture of two oxen and a yoke. I heard the Lord say, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I needed to be reminded that homeschooling was not something I would do on my own strength, but in His strength!

When I opened my Bible study, the scripture was Proverbs 14:4, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but increase comes by the strength of an ox.” You can get more insight on this scripture here.

I was stunned, shocked really when I saw that scripture with oxen after I just was told about oxen. Then as I continued on with my study (which I was about 2/3 of the way through) for the day, the woman who wrote the Bible study mentioned for the first time that she homeschooled.

I had the clarity I’d been seeking.

Now, the point of this story isn’t to say that homeschooling has been all rainbows and unicorns (although Lillian does enjoy both of these). We have had some very hard, intense moments, and even days. We’ve also had dance parties in tutus and knight outfits, and lots of intentional time together as a family.

The purpose is not also to say that I think everyone should homeschool, or that this is what we will do forever and ever. We desire to continue to seek the Lord and ask Him for guidance as we enter each school year, saying “What next?”

The purpose of me sharing the beginning of this journey with you is to ask you, “What do you sense the Lord is calling you to do next? Have you asked Him for confirmation and clarity?”

Mama, The Creator of the Universe desires to speak to you and your heart. He has good plans for you and your family, way better than anything you can plan yourself.

Seek Him, get into His Word, and He will lead and guide your steps.

What about you, Mama? What are you doing now, that you once said, ”Never will I ever…?”

Book Review: Love and A Little White Lie

Hey Mamas! This summer had so many good reads by a lot of my favorite authors! If you haven’t read any of Tammy L. Gray’s books yet, check her out here! Here newest book is about to release in just three days!

I love Tammy’s honesty in the dedication. She thought her time as an author had come to an end, but the Lord gave her a story to write! I can relate as there are many times I’ve felt like giving up, and the Lord gives me the endurance to press on.

Love And A Little White Lie was a beautifully written story with characters that were authentic and relatable.

January journeys through her family dynamics and her past with a rawness that draws the reader in. She struggles with being attracted to two different men and wrestles with being agnostic while working at a church.

I loved seeing the transformation in her heart occur in this story! January’s feistiness and the swoony moments make Tammy L. Gray’s newest release a must read!

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Because sometimes it’s more about loving a person through a hard time than it is about forcing a conversion. God was going to do what He wanted to do. Meanwhile, I was convicted to use every part of this amazing ministry to show you His love.”

Not only does the main character fall in love with a man, but she falls in love with THE MAN, Jesus! That Tammy can preach, along with write a good story!

Thank you to the publishing team for this opportunity to read and review this book honestly!

Have you read any of Tammy L. Gray’s books? Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Quinoa Bowls

If you live in Palm Beach County and haven’t tried out the fast casual restaurant Anzo, make it a point to do so soon! Their ingredients are fresh and tasty and their falafel is the BEST I’ve tasted! This recipe is inspired by Anzo, which reopens today, May 25! My kids and I have been counting down the days and encourage you to check them out and support this local business!

Ingredients

For the Quinoa base

1 cup of quinoa uncooked

1-1 1/2 cups of lentils uncooked

For the roasted veggies

1 head is broccoli

1 head of cauliflower

2 sweet potatoes

1 package of Brussels sprouts

Olive oil for pan

Garlic salt for seasoning

For the Tomato Salsa

1 package of grape tomatoes

Cilantro

Purple onion

Lemon

Salt

Toppings (optional)

Store-bought hummus (we use the organic Costco brand)

Sliced avocado

Sunflower seeds

Directions:

1. Put one cup of quinoa and two cups of water into a pot and cover on medium high. Bring to a boil and lower immediately after so it doesn’t boil over. Reducing heat to low, allow to cook until all liquid has been absorbed.

2. In a separate pot, put in lentils and fill pot halfway with water. Cook on medium high for about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.

3. Drain lentils and combine with quinoa, mixing and adding a little garlic salt.

4. While the lentils and quinoa are cooking, prep your veggies. Preheat oven to 375. Spray two cookie sheets with olive oil.

5. Chop sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts after rinsing thoroughly. For Brussels sprouts, cut off tips and half or quarter them. Toss all Brussels sprout leaves onto pan also as these are crunch yummy. Sprinkle with garlic salt.

6. Roast the veggies for about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and moving veggies around with a spatula. I like my veggies a little charred, so sometimes leave them in a few minutes longer.

7. While the veggies are roasting, prepare the tomato salsa. Rinse and slice grape tomatoes in half. Dice onion and finely chop cilantro. Mix all together into a bowl with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil. And dash of salt. Taste and season according to your preference.

To assemble the bowls, put the quinoa lentil base at the bottom. Pile on the veggies and tomato salsa. Add avocado, hummus, and sunflower seeds if desired. Enjoy!

This is a great meal to prepare in advance and make in bulk to have for lunches for a few days.

What local businesses are you most looking forward to reopening, Mama?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Stay With Me

Happy Monday, Mamas! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, reading is one of my favorite forms of self-care.

In recent years I’ve discovered that authors have “launch teams” where they select applicants to read their new releases in advance. The responsibilities of the launch team members include writing reviews, and promoting the books on social media prior to release day.

I have the privilege of being on Becky Wade’s launch team for her newest release, Stay With Me. This beauty releases tomorrow, May 5, 2020. You can check out my brief review below.

Gen awakens in a cottage on Sam’s property, with no recollection of how she arrived there. Sam discovers Gen’s secret and from the get-go convinces himself to remain as he has, isolated and alone.

The two characters must work through their past, and attraction to each other causes sparks to fly. Their experiences have shaped them, but can they trust the Lord to guide their future?

This is a must read! Every year, I mark my calendar for Becky Wade’s newest release. And every year, I am so sad when I’ve finished reading her newest book, because they are SO GOOD! Stay With Me is a beautiful story that has the reader searching their heart and staying up past their bedtime!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

You can purchase Stay With Me on amazon, bookbub, Barnes & Noble, christianbooks.com, Books-A-Million, and a few other places I might have forgotten! 😉

This particular book is one of my favorites by Becky. If you haven’t checked out this author, I highly encourage you to!

What books are you reading, Mama?

Bonus: Check out some of my favorite quotes from Stay With Me!

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My Thankful Song: Stirring up Gratitude

In May 2013, my Babes and I returned to the U.S. after an eleven month journey called the World Race.

August 2013, we packed our bags once again and moved from Florida to Georgia where I landed a second grade teaching position and my Babes an internship with Adventures in Missions.

Shortly after moving, we discovered I was pregnant. After having no income for one year. After moving away from our family once again. After moving to a city where traffic was horrendous on my daily drive to and from work.

I struggled daily to find contentment, to find something to be thankful for. The Georgia gray skies were depressing. As my belly grew daily, I found it hard to fit behind the wheel of Whitey Tighty, my afternoon 1997 Corolla on the cool winter mornings. My classroom was the trailer that was farthest away from the school, and more importantly the bathroom. And the day we went to move into our apartment, we discovered they gave it away to someone else.

I felt strongly that I needed to do something to help stir up gratefulness in my own heart. One morning on my drive to work, I created a thankful song. It’s so simple, but any time I would feel the gray skies pressing in, I would sing this silly song. It helped change my focus to the blessings in my life.

After all, the Lord provided a beautiful home for us to live in. After being sad about the distance between my family and I, God provided family and community in a unique way. After all, the Lord had provided the job and a new scenic route to school that didn’t include as much traffic. After all, the Lord provided the blessing of a firstborn son.

A friend of mine who lives in Georgia texted me a few days ago and reminded me of my thankful song. I have sung it through many seasons over the years, and the tune is a little quirky and silly.

I was reminded of the importance of stirring up gratitude in this very unusual season of quarantine. I am sure that this is not what many of us hoped for or anticipated for 2020. Mamas, it’s ok to be honest with God about our disappointments. Surrender them to him and then take a moment to be thankful for your blessings.

Thank you God for a place to live.

Thank you God for the food that you provide.

Thank you God for my job at VIPKID.

Thank you God for my healthy familyyyyyyyyy.

(The last line I usually stretch out quite a bit.)

How are you stirring up gratitude in this season, Mamas?

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4

 

Chlene’s Italian Salad

Happy Thursday, Mamas! This is day ? of quarantine due to COVID-19. Anybody counting the days? I’ve lost track. I am, however, trying hard to stay on track with keeping myself and my family healthy!

One of my favorite ways to do that is through plant based foods. Today I want to share with you my most favorite salad. It’s my mom’s Italian salad that she’s made for numerous gatherings over my childhood and growing up. You can make it vegan, or can add meat and some feta on top. Your choice!

I’ve been making this once a week for dinner lately, and since I’m in chopping mode, I always prep a salad for the Babes and me the next day for lunch. I hope you enjoy it!

Chlene’s Balsamic dressing

Ingredients 

6 Garlic cloves

1 part balsamic, 2 parts olive oil

Spicy Golden mustard

Fresh lemon

Parm Cheese (optional)

Garlic Salt

Italian Seasoning

Pepper

Large Mason Jar

Directions

Finely chop the garlic cloves and add to the bottom of the jar. Fill the jar about 1/4 of the way with balsamic. Then pour to almost 3/4 of the way with olive oil. Add a few long squeezes of mustard. Squeeze in juice from a 1/4 of a lemon. Add 4-5 big shakes of Parm cheese, 4 big shakes of garlic salt, 3 shakes of Italian seasoning and 3 shakes of pepper. Stir, shake, whatev’s. Pour on salad and enjoy! We use a large mason jar that contains …ounces.

Chlene’s Salad

A large bag or container of spinach (we use the one from Costco).

1 can of white navy beans

1 can of pitted black olives

Purple onion

1 large Tomato 🍅

1 cucumber 🥒

1 container of  mushrooms 🍄

2 Hard boiled eggs 🥚

Avocado 🥑

Feta Cheese 🧀

In a large bowl, full with spinach.

Drain and rinse the beans and olives. Pour on top of spinach.

Chop the remainder of the toppings, and add into salad.

Add some feta cheese (optional), salad dressing, toss, and serve!

Enjoy!

Whats your favorite salad, Mama?

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday, SATURDAY, Easter Sunday

My sister sent me a photo via text message last night. Jesus was having a Zoom meeting at the Last Supper with His disciples and was looking for Judas. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

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Why do people call Good Friday “good?” I’m sure the disciples didn’t think it was a good day. Their best friend, their mentor, their roommate, their fish and bread winner was dead. Even though Jesus warned them multiple times, they didn’t quite get it until the cross was right in front of their faces.

That Friday wasn’t good for them, but it is good news for you and me. Typically a day where services are more somber and a time for reflection. I would venture to say that before we can celebrate Easter, we have to understand what it is and Who it is we are celebrating.

I read an excerpt from “Who Is This Man?” by John Ortberg this morning. He proposes that “Silent Saturday is the time in between despair and joy, this strange in between day.”

As I read on, I couldn’t help but think that this is what we are facing right now in this in between space moment of history. With COVID-19 effecting peoples’ health, economy, and changing our daily lives dramatically, many of us are in this “strange in between” space. In between jobs, in between what used to be and what we hope for, in between a paycheck and wondering how we will provide for our families…

Mamas, Papas, families, you are not alone. The disciples also experienced this Saturday 2,000 years ago. Ortberg questions, “What do you do with Saturday? You can wait. Work with God even when He feels far away. Rest. Ask. Whine. Complain. Trust.” 

It’s ok to be real with God. Abraham was. He questioned how could he possibly become the Father of Nations when he had no children and was old enough to be a great grandfather. Moses was. He questioned God’s choice of a spokesperson for His people, after all, he had a stutter. Mary was. She questioned Gabriel, “How can this be?” when she was told she would give birth to the Messiah when she had never been with a man.

On this Saturday, God is waiting for you to be real with the in between spaces of your heart. Don’t rush from Friday, skip Saturday, and get to Sunday. Press into this moment, this day, and this in between space.

What are you and your family “in between” right now, Mama? I’d love to hear from you! Share in the comments below.

 

*Quotes referenced from “Who Is This Man?” by John Ortberg

Wanting and Choosing Peace

Yesterday morning, around 3:30 am, my husband slid into bed. He’s a night owl, and I usually stir awake when he comes to join me in the wee hours of the morning. He proceeded to tell me how there was a rumor that our nation would be on complete lockdown due to the Coronavirus outbreak. We discussed running to the grocery store first thing when the sun rose to grab some items and stock up.

Yesterday morning was filled with me texting multiple Mama friends to warn them of the possibility. I wanted to share the news with them because would want to know! I have little mouths to feed, and so do they!

Last night as I reflected on my day, I realized that the rumor was just a rumor. But also, I was reminded how some cities have shut down completely. I don’t regret going to the grocery store, but I was saddened by the order in which I chose to set about my day.

Last night as I reflected on my day, I realized…

I want to run to the Lord first thing in the morning, not the grocery store. He is my Source and my Provider. I chose today, to spend time in His Word, reflecting on His promises, and journaling.

I want to bring peace to my Mama friends, not chaos. I chose to apologize to those Mama friends and shared an encouraging devotional I read instead today.

I and my children, along with everyone else, are processing a new normal. I want to adapt well and help my kids adapt well. In order for this to happen, I chose to acknowledge the emotions of disappointment and surrender any anxious thoughts to the Lord.

This is a time unlike any other that I’ve experienced in my lifetime. When the doubts and worries of finances, jobs, food, toilet paper, and the economy creep in, how do you want to respond, Mamas? What do you chose to do?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

 

What I’m Listening To

Hey Mamas! Have you read any good books lately? I love, love, LOVE reading! Reading fiction at the end of my day (or during nap time) is my favorite way to unwind and give me some self care.

My preference to read is fiction, but this year I really wanted to challenge myself to grow more as a mom, wife, and in my walk with Jesus. I’ve rediscovered the beauty of audiobooks. I love that I can be washing dishes, doing laundry, or driving around and be soaking in some goodness.

Do you have the Hoopla app, Mama? I just have to share the good news, it’s free and with your library card you have access to so many good reads, or listens. 🙂

I just finished listening to “Becoming Mom Strong,” by Heidi St. John. Wow! First of all, Heidi is a mom of 7, so pretty much a rockstar. I love how she weaves in humorous stories of her children and herself to keep it real. Heidi has scripture to sharpen and challenge the Mamas to be strong and courageous as we are in the battle of our lives, fighting for our kids spiritually. Each chapter ends with “prayer points,” recapping what was talked about and guiding Mamas how to pray for themselves and their kiddos. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

I am currently listening to, “Parenting Scripts,” co-authored by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. These ladies also wrote, “Triggers,” which I have not yet read or listened to. I’d recommend going with “Triggers,” first, as it seems like this book lays the foundation, but they can both be read separately. “Parenting Scripts,” is rocking my world a bit. Each chapter contains different potential scenarios that occur in most homes. The authors encourage parents to take time away from these repetitive situations and ask the Holy Spirit to guide them in rewriting a new, positive, scripture based script for the future. What I love about this book is the women recognize and say repeatedly that each individual family is unique and will have different scripts for the same scenarios. And that’s how it’s supposed to be! God is a Creative God and made each family special with their own personalities. I am not done with this book yet, but give it 5 out of 5 stars already!

What have you been reading or listening to lately, Mama? Do you prefer to read a physical book or listen? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Free VPK in Palm Beach County

Hey Mamas! Did you know that in Palm Beach County they offer FREE VPK for children the year before they enter kindergarten? Actually, if you live anywhere in the state of Florida, and your child turns 4 years old prior to September 1, they are eligible to participate in this program!

What does VPK stand for? Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten.

How many hours a day is my child in school? Each school is slightly different, but they will be in school for 540 hours total. Usually, it’s three hours a day, but some places offer extended days or an extra half hour. Anything over the 540 hours (3 hours per day) is paid for by the parent.

What are the steps? I’m so glad you asked!

  1. Register at this website here. First you need to form an account, then log in and fill out forms. You can do this as early as January 1.
  2. Wait and look daily for the voucher! It should take no more than 10 days for it to arrive in your email inbox.
  3. While you wait, tour the schools in your area! Google which schools accept the VPK voucher and go see which one is the best fit for your family/time schedule.
  4. Once you have chosen your school, ask them when their enrollment opens to the public. Some schools fill up QUICK. Like, within the first half hour of the first day that they open enrollment. I would get a gauge on how quickly spots of filled up in the past for your school of choice, and plan on being there accordingly. The school my son went to had open enrollment as early as mid-February last year!
  5. Have your voucher and paperwork ready to go!

Here’s some questions to ask when touring schools:

  1. What sets your school apart from others in the area?
  2. How do you prepare children for kindergarten?
  3. What is an example of the students’ daily schedule?
  4. What are the start and finish times each day?
  5. How long is recess?
  6. What is the snack policy?
  7. What is the discipline policy?

Some questions to ask once you have chosen the school:

  1. What is the date and time of open enrollment?
  2. How many spots/classes do you have available and how quickly have they filled in the past?
  3. What documents do I need to bring (in addition to the voucher) the day I sign my child up?

Do you have a child that participated in VPK, Mama? My son went to an awesome school last year called Church In The Gardens! I was so pleased with our experience there. Do you have any tips for other Mamas? Share below, I’d love to hear from you!