Thursday, March 27, 2014

Addie Belle's Choral Milestones

Addie is in her second year now with the Texas Children's Choir. This has been the first thing to open up an incredible and dutiful passion for our oldest child. I have mentioned it before, but I just love how she has grown personally and socially I think because of her involvement with this just amazing group of kiddos. 
The choir practices twice a week for an hour and a half each day and one Saturday each month is dedicated to additional study.

  Along with these group rehearsals, Dr, Hardaway has also given the children self directed opportunities for further study. One of those is music theory by completing exercises in the book series Young Series Journey. There are five books total min the set. Once a singer completes the first two books and they are reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Hardaway then he has a special recognition and award. Particularly they receive special prism shaped color pencils to be used going forward for making special marks on their music. Addie hit the two book milestone in January and is shown here with her certificate and her director.
Today she was also recognized for finishing the third and fourth books. It is at this point that a Texas Children's Choir singer earns the designation as Choral Scholar. As a choral Scholar, her name is added to the choir's plaqu, she gets her own personal plaque and she will be denoted in performance programs to reflect this designation as well.
She has poured herself into the choir and this designation is a permanent representation of her work. We are proud of the intensity with which she has committed to the choir. Somehow this band geek and the guy who only learned to play guitar after college have produced quite the singer and actually quite the well rounded musician. 
Addie with Dr. Hardaway and her Choral Scholar Plaque.

Addie enjoying breaktime with her buddy Hannah.  They think TCC is all that and a bag of chips!

May the 4th, Happy Birthday Grandpa!

Once upon a time there lived an old man.  This old man would easily be described as a patriarch really and at the time this particular story begins he had many sons, a daughter and very many grandchildren too.  His sons and daughter were all living out of the home they grew up in, the home where the old man still lived. 

During holiday get togethers, where all the sons and the daughter gathered in the home of their childhood, the old man was happy to have all of his children and his children’s children under the same roof.  Nothing warms a patriarch’s heart more than to have all of his descendants gathered together to share meals, tell stories and embrace each other as the times where this occurred were far too rare indeed and not taken for granted.  This story is about my Grandpa Prewitt.  His name was Euel Lavelle Prewitt.  Or maybe it’s about me.  I don’t know…I feel compelled to share it because I feel it is about more than the Prewitt family

Well our family is not perfect.  To a one each of us have faults and imperfections. We are unique individuals bound together by blood. Our uniqueness lends to different perspectives in same scenarios and sometimes family arguments. Sometimes heated.  Is your family like this?  I expect so. A family that loves deep does so with passion and sometimes passion has a flipped side of the coin. Thank God though that we don't have to be perfect. What pressure that would be to wake up everyday and hope not to screw up that precedented perfection. So sometimes these family get-togethers ended up being pressure cookers for conflict.  And beautiful gatherings sometimes ended with anger.   But in a loving family anger toward a family member is very heavy so there was always yearning for it all to be OK too and a desire to forgive. God created us this way.

But for the Patriarch there was only ever one feeling not mixed feelings.  He had never held anger toward his descendants.  He did not hold a grudge. He only ever wanted them all to come back again and do it all over again the next available holiday.  He encouraged his children and his children's children in the same direction.  He did not want judgment or repercussions or consequences.  He only wanted them to love each other as they loved him. I am not making this up. 

My Grandpa Prewitt passed away 7 years ago this June.  It was June 16, 2007.  And even though time passes, when I think of him I still wish I had more time with him.  He was a gentle loving grandfather.  He had so many stories.  I never cared as much about the stories as the songs he made up and sang to us all the time.  He was silly and had a great deep laugh that was contagious.  A great smile too.  I wish now I had listened to the stories and asked for more of those.

At the time of his death I had not been a church goer.  I had a church splitting experience when I was still a teenager and religious doubt took a deep seat in my heart for an extended period of time.  Amazingly enough, it was his death, his funeral and his life that brought me to an about face.  It was another time that all of his descendants were gathered under one roof.  And while his death was not a joyous cause for celebration, a look over his life gave a lot to smile about.

The way my Grandfather was celebrated, the stories of how he lived and how much he loved God and the way my aunt’s church supported the family it quickly became apparent that there was something I had been missing out on. Specifically at the viewing in the funeral home, before they generally opened the doors and it was just family in the room, I felt really overcome as if love just washed over me. I felt filled with love; I felt it pelting my all over my back and over my head as I stood by my grandfather in his casket with all of my family behind me. I felt it radiate up my arm as I reached for my grandmother.  The words, “God is Love” from  scripture 1 John 4:16 (and others) filled my head.  I realized that I had doubt about trusting something I could not prove, but that even though  I couldn’t see love I had no doubt that it was real.  None at all. I got to be a small part of a big family where love was real, big and so great it was almost tangible. I realized how blessed I was.

Of course as part of my being a baby Christian recalling this story brings me back to the foundations of my faith. A Patriarch who loves to have his family gathered to share. Share life, love and joy but also to comfort each other in pain and greif.  A Patriarch who does not count transgressions, but instead is set, even at personal risk, in favor of forgiveness and unification of his family. His love for us was never in question.

I had a dream after Grandpa died that me and my sisters were in a huge house trying to decide how to choose which bedroom would be best for which sister.  We were really excited and talking about the best features of each room and assessing assignments.  We realized that Grandpa was in one of the rooms with us. He was smiling and when we saw him there he reached his arms out to us and we ran into his embrace. He said, "Why are you spending so much time and energy on THIS?  Don't you know your kingdom is in heaven?"

Like Whoa!! I know not everyone believes that there is any significance in dreams, but all who know me know that mine stay with me.  When I get caught up in pettiness or things of this world with all of its stuff, it is that truth that grounds me. I am not in pursuit of earthly treasures that only serve myself. Or I don't want to be anyway.

It is because of my Grandfather that I totally get it God.  I know how you love me and that love is what you want from me, for you and for my brothers and sisters. A love like that is to be treasured and sought after and modeled.  It is the best thing to strive for.  We lifers here on earth all get caught up in seeking things that are fleeting. Not fleeting is the great feeling you get from serving others and loving others and forgiving others or smiling at everyone! I can't go back now and hear and pay attention to more of my Grandfathers stories but I can get into your word and know this loving father better.  

This photo taken nearly three years after Grandfather passed away.  All of us together again. Memorial Day 2010
Me and Grandpa taken at his and Grandma's 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration.

Grandpa and Grandma with their sons and daughter.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fabulous Fun in Mima's Backyard

Me and the Force littles are spending this week in New Orleans with Mima and Papa.  Mima is feeling much much better one month after her triple bypass heart surgery, but she still needs company around to do little things so she doesn't over exert herself.  I have enjoyed returning the, "I can take care of you" duty and will never turn down a chance to do so.  She always took such great care of me.  She was an awesome mommy to her little girls and never failed to get to us for or very near to the birth of all of our kids to hep with newborn stuff. We are pretty much sticking close to home and enjoying homeschooling from a different location.  
The kids aren't short on imagination.  I have found them staging battles with swords and bowstaffs and whatever they can pretend the sticks and brooms they find in the backyard are in their pretend world.  They are like ninja time travelers usually.  They also colored the garden stones with secret code symbols.  Where they go in space is related to the secret code.  They are fun to watch.

Now we also had some grand ideas to make garden stones, personalized by the kids for more decor for the background at Mima and PaPa's. This was not a failed effort entirely but we really learned how to do it well next time which will probably be soon.  FYI Quikrete is not called that way for slow drying. The concrete set a whole lot faster than we could get our little gems and bottlecaps into it.  And we were fast.  Next time we will put our design into the bottom of the mold and pour the mix over the top.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Reasons Why We Homeschool

When I wrote my "Unintentional Benefits of Homeschooling" post, I was excited to share the things that are happening at home outside of what our expectation was for our kids education at home. They were all related to building better relationships.   I guess I realized I got a little out of order. I alluded to emotional protection being a reason why we chose to homeschool our kids in an older post, but I haven't ever totally shared why we homeschool and then even our intentional benefits of that choice. For other families that homeschool nothing here will be a surprise.  We have been at this now for nearly two years and I am sure there are things that I take for granted that may be left out of this post.  I mean all those things too.  We pretty much get daily affirmation that this choice was  the right one for our family and for our kids.
I decided not to go into detail with support behind these reasons.  I started the blog that way and I didn't know how to cut me off.  So just a numbered list instead.  I will try to keep it relatively short.
1. We wanted more academically. Control over the curriculum.
2. We were already monitoring bully type situations for both Addie and Lucas (kinder and 2nd grade at the time)
3. We wanted flexibility. We can visit with family on our schedule or when they need us to help out without truancy issues.
4. I wanted more time with my kids. And more time for them together.
5. We get to do many more field trips.
6. We get to pray at school.
7. We have total control over who is in our school and our kids safety.
8. We get to meet and play with kids all over San Antonio of all ages and backgrounds.  Fun diverse play.
9. We get to make our own lunches.
And just some fun extras
10. No school fundraisers. (Ofcourse that didn't really mean we got a fundraising pass though, did it?)
11. School in pajamas; No school uniforms
12. Self guided projects
13. We get to read what we want and therefore really develop a love for reading.  I do require 1 hour of reading everyday,b ut we usually all snuggle for the first hour of school and ease into our school day with a book.
14. No snow days
15. Teaching baking is teaching math sometimes, yummy banana bread.
16. Decorating for holidays is arts and crafts and creative development.
A Million more.  Do you have any to add? To be continued...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

That's not Love, I am Out!!

I recently have received the message, in some loving and some not so loving ways, that I am too sensitive.  Go figure! I am a first born and a Pisces and if these two things don't have "may be tad sensitive" written all over them...Well OK message heard loud and clear.  But let me also be clear, my sensitivity works for me as well as against me. Because I can step back from a hurtful situation and see "not what you intended" it works for me. I am steering myself out of situations that have been hurtful to me in the past by getting out of the race.

So I need to declare for myself in all arenas if you are getting a message from me that is not loving, it was not intentional.  You heard a message I unintentionally delivered and I want it back and I want to make it better. I want to apologize without a lengthy explanation about why I was actually right. Without the BUT.I just want to take it back because being right, mighty and just in a relationship that matters is worth nothing if it demises the relationship forever.

Competition has crept into all facets of everyday life.  And I want to be out. In these arenas I am not entering into the competition. I am not the best wife,  I am not the best mother, I was not the best engineer, not the best student, I am not the best Christian, I am not the best friend, I am not the best daughter, I am not the fastest or best runner or walker, I am not the greatest cook, I am not a great writer at all and not the fastest reader or even selector of books to read for that matter.  The list goes on and on.  While I may be these things, I do not proclaim to be the ultimate at any of them and why would I want to be. Extreme in any of these categories would not make me a better person and it might make someone feel led to be better than me.  Take it!

 Relationships matter to me the most.  THE MOST.  I think we, me and you too, sometimes let boastfulness creep into our relationship and can tear it down. So I give.

My friend Tandi recently relayed this story to me about horses.  One horse in a field will graze and run and sun and just casually enjoy their day.  Add a second horse.  If the second horse joins horse one in a field and then starts running off at a race pace in a random direction, then the first horse will also start running in an attempt to overtake the second horse without even knowing where they are racing to. Horse don't know where it is going but it is going to GET THERE FIRST! I speak analogy so I get this.

While setting personal achievable goals for ourselves in areas of our own interest is a great way to measure or track personal growth, randomly one-upping each other is an exercise in futility.  Who is growing from that?  I think no one. We do that to each other. People do that. We enter into these subtle underlying competitions and work ourselves up over who was right, best, first, favorite, most, highest and so on all the while tearing away at something that was beautiful. US!  We were great, but now I am convinced that being the best between us just took precedence.  That makes me pretty sad.

There is peace in stepping out!  And I love you!

Part B: What does the Bible say about this?
Back to that I am not the best Christian part of my spiel...I like to call myself a baby Christian.  The word of God is great and large and full of real life wisdom.  I am helped daily by scripture, but as a baby Christian I hold onto the greatest commandments as the basis living life. See below.  In short, if it is not loving, it is not right.

Matthew 22:36-40
New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

And I can't help but hear the wisdom in this scripture here too. Another favorite of mine.

1 Corinthians 13

New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Force Cousins in Town!! Dinner with Family.

Janma, grandpa and Lucas exercise patience in the waiting area before our table was ready. Waiting for a table for 11peeps at Crystal Springs Restaurant in New Braunfels Texas.
Kayla soon to be 14. Where does the time go? I swear she was 5 yesterday and 3 the day before that. My beautiful teenage niece.

Pops and daddy..

Uncle Shane is opening the humor portion of our evening.

Too cool little chicks hang at the end of the table that was just for cool kids like them.

Addie takes a minute to update daddy on the ten most important things that happened in life overnight since she saw him last

A Lucas and mommy selfie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Legacy Journey with Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruz

I had the opportunity once again to hear from Dave Ramsey during a live event here in San Antonio. You probably already know that Kevin and I attended a Financial Peace University class (by Dave Ramsey) while I was working for Pape-Dawson in 2007.  And I have probably already also let you know that attending that class and using principals taught and encouraged by that class changed our lives. Really changed our financial focus and our attitude about money and spending.  

And then if you already know all of that, then you know that one thing led to another...we met with our Dave Ramsey endorsed local provider at PAX financial group, Joseph Schuetze, to begin college investments for the kids-->Joseph encouraged Kevin to learn about investing-->Kevin started working at PAX in 2008-->WE LOVE PAX -->Kevin was recently promoted to VP and is a PAX partner.

Taking that class led to a major change in our life and not the least of which was Kevin's career opportunity and my opportunity to leave Pape-Dawson to stay home with the kids and be a Laura homemaker/homeschool teacher/ career wife and mom.  I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey for how his practical and logical principals really blessed (and I try not to use that word loosely) our life and our home.  So he was in town last Thursday (March 6) and I was very excited to go see him talk and present the Legacy Journey with his daughter Rachel.  

I am NOT Dave Ramsey and I doubt my blog will be nearly as much of an encouragement to any reader as he is.  It is really crazy simple that he teaches people to be intentional with their spending, to be opposed to personal debt with intensity, to live within your means and to invest and win with money so you can give like crazy and change your family tree and eventually change the world.  I know I really kinda simplified it, but that is the gist. It really is simple,but sadly so many people are slaves to their finances because they are not in control.  People who budget know where their money is going when the income comes in because they have a plan.  People who don't budget wonder where it went when it is all gone and the lights are off.

 "When you spend your money on paper and on purpose each month with a written budget, you'll actually experience more freedom than before!" Dave Ramsey

So I am really going to try to avoid a teaching here.  If you aren't already free from financial worry and are curious about Financial Peace University you can check out his website for a class near you.  

The Legacy Journey was more of the same in a way.  His teaching is what it is, so he told his personal story about how young marriage with a toddler a baby on the way and bankruptcy.  He shared how his view of money was when it was wrong and how it is now. 

"When you hit the bottom so hard financially there is no bounce back, only a splat. You have an "I surrender" moment and begin to rebuild with respect for money." Dave Ramsey

Here is a healthy perspective Dave learned and shared that is a great one to adopt:
PRIDE says Wealth is from ME
POVERTY says Wealth is Evil
GRATITUDE says Wealth is from God.
A prideful spirit says I did it, it's mine and I am not sharing.  I am skipping commentary on poverty. Gratitude, a grateful heart, knows that financial wealth can be fleeting and that sharing everything you have and developing community is life giving.

I did want to share these stats that I have learned from Dave.
Did you know that 88% of American Millionaires are first generation rich? and that 70% of American billionaires (that's 1,000 million) started from nothing?  And with few exceptions they are great gargantuan givers. They worked hard to get to where they are and they are giving graciously because they want to change their world.  Me too! How about you?
So this starts at home and that is where the Legacy starts. The Legacy idea is now that we are free from financial stress, lets pass this down.  Let's teach our children to what's going on here.  Let them learn with their own earned commissions for work around the house when they are small and then maybe tasks in the neighborhood as they grow.  Teach them that the three things we do with money are spend, save and give away.  And then model responsible behavior.  Let them know that there are some things we do or don't do so that we are living within the means of our own income.  And encourage them to love something and be the best at it.  Again, I am not the teacher here so please don't take my oversimplified paragraph to mean that I have recapped and entire 3 hour presentation.  
If we can get our finances in control so that we aren't paralyzed by checking the mail, we can work our way into being a better financial role model for our family, we can change their life and our community.  AND if we can set our kids and our family to succeed too and this just snowballs!!!! then we can change the world.  THAT's the legacy.  

Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruz have co-authored a book "Smart Money Smart Kids".  Learn how to raise money-smart kids in a debt free world.  The book will go on sale next month and when it hits the stands, the price will be $25.  It is available now at the website for the pre-order price of only $20 and get a bundle of SmartmoneySmartKids and Legacy items worth over $50 for free.  Includes audio book and e-book.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Favorite Unintentional Benefits of Homeschooling

Today is not the day to write this post.  Homeschool is nothing if not dynamic. Many days I am proud to hear incessant laughter.  I stop to appreciate hearing my kids use their imagination and enjoying playing together.  I realize that if they were still in their public school, there would be very little time for them to spend together as not only would they have separate classrooms, but we would pretty much be tied to the table with homework until we headed out for evening activities.  None of those things promote them developing a relationship with each other.

So one of my favorite unintentional benefits of homeschooling is the improved relationship my kids have with each other.  They are siblings as well as friends.

BUT TODAY they are enemies.  Lucas knows how to push Addie's buttons and seems to get satisfaction from it.  And even though he knows that he is the only one and that it is a negative behavior that not only upsets oldest sister,but angers me... he does it anyway.  But let's be honest here, Addie is VERY sensitive.  I don't know where she gets it, but I think it is a normal character trait of the first born.  She on the other hand is ahead in schoolwork and is trying to do a few creative projects as gifts for friends while the other two work and the products aren't coming out perfectly the first time and so we have more tears. She is very sensitive and also a perfectionist.  

TODAY I interceded in an argument between Emaleigh and Lucas about whose box was whose.  It seems I was premature in moving the box for Lucas's new soccer ball out to the recycle bin and so he and Emaleigh were fighting over the one that was still in the house.  The argument was over if the remaining box was a ballroom for barbie or a bunker for GI Joe.  Enough already!!! There is one in recycle! Just got get it out and they can both have a place to do whatever it is you will have them do. 

And so another favorite unintentional benefit of homeschooling is the endless imagination the kids have in play.  Nothing is ever only a whatever its intended and boxes are just as much fun as the barbies or army men that inhabit them.  They are also boats, or cars, or some future craft that will end up as a gift for a friend. 

It has just been one of those days.  Everything has been a reason to argue.  Although for the most part, except for the button pushing, I hear a bit of logic in their arguments.  They can argue a point or position without just saying, "I'm Telling" or "Not Fair" or "Mine".  Today the three of them were singing a song that had four lines.  They came up with three scenarios to describe who sings which line, then discussed the options and then decided on a version that divided the lines in half between the girls because Lucas doesn't really like to sing after all.  This kind of problem solving does happen regularly.  IT doesn't happen in every argument.  There is still a bit of frustrated yelling on the way stomping out of the door from time to time, but they are working on it.

I love that they can solve problems between them diplomatically with a decent attempt to find a fair solution that makes everyone happy. Also a benefit I think of their extra time together at home and the individualized attention from their teacher.

I think there are many more.  Not the least of which is my relationship with each of them.  I do love that I get to be with my kids all the time.  There are times when I want to hide in a closet with a bottle of wine, but not most days.  For only a few years I get to have the kids here in my domain and I am so glad that we are homeschooling.  This choice has made parenting and teaching them such a blessed adventure.  We are all growing and learning, but also playing and laughing and loving (that's my favorite).  We are making memories to last a lifetime on a daily basis. And that is pretty stinkin cool.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pow! I'm Back! A Post About a Video.

Maybe I am back.  I don't know. I have been writing in this blog many times over the last year or so since my last post.  Those post have just been all in my head and didn't quite make it to the internet. If  I had written them they would have been:
1. My favorite unintentional benefits of homeschooling
2. Updates on Addie's fundraising for the Texas Children's Choir trip to Normandy for D-Day
3. Less is More, the Blessings in Getting Rid of Material Clutter
4. Ways my friendship with Dawn grew over a 9 days sleepover with their family.
5. 20-Yr HS Reunion Update, I still Love those Peeps!
6. My Nephew is HERE!!! And he's a red head!!!
7. And another few awesome babies joined us this fall.
8. My Quick Trip back to Vegas; Love on Baby Jack, Cordie and the Pellegrinos
9. How God used Health Hurdles to heal a family, mine (maybe still a post coming)
10. 39 for the first time and ready to party like it's 1999 in a year.
11. The Joy of Serving in Women's Ministry; the Incredible Way God gave me 6 more Sisters.
12. I Am Going to Read 40 books This Year: Give Me your Suggestions.

There is a cliff notes version of a few things in my head that almost made it to a blog post but then there was a squirrel!!!!

Well this video was posted this week.

 It includes the two songs performed by the Texas Children's Choir at the Miss San Antonio Pageant in their entirety.  Addie Belle Force is front center for both.  You might not recognize her because this baby of mine has grown up so much.  This choir commitment is a passion for her.  I can't remember being as passionate about anything when I was 9 as she is about TCC.  Look at her focus, her emotion and even her stillness as she performs. 

I am so proud to be her moma.  She has this wisdom of a much more mature girl, but the gentleness of a little girl and the sensitivity.  She sets tremendous goals for herself and over achieves. From time to time this practice does lead to frustration, but it is how she is wired.  She thrives to exceed.  So it has been awesome really to watch her develop with her participation in this choir.  She has busted out of the shell of a timid little girl and blossomed.  

She has found her natural fit in choir and in music. She loves to sing and does so incessantly.  She is also learning guitar and has been playing for nearly two years now and has recently started playing piano as well.  The second two instruments are entirely self taught so far, but she set's high goals for herself in these as well.  On the guitar she plays music with her daddy.  They play Led Zepplin, Jack Johnson and ofcourse there is some Taylor Swift in there too.  She is a nine year old girl afterall.  On the piano she has written her own pieces with help from her favorite co-conspirator, Haidyn, and has also learned to play some current Disney favorites and duets with her Janma.  I am showing you this video now.  Just wait!  I know there are some fabulous things to come from our quiet musician.