Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dealing With Homeschool BURNOUT!


(This is post #2 of 2 on the subject of burnout!)

As this past year came to a close, I realized with dismay that I was feeling something both unexpected and unpleasant - homeschool burnout. That feeling of dragging oneself across the finish line with very little energy to spare, very much ready to quit - certainly not to gear up for planning another year with any level of enthusiasm.

How did this happen? Burnout - after one year? True, it was our third year of homeschooling, but it was really our first year of doing "serious" school. I had only one student. And we had hardly any extracurriculars apart from field trips and park days. If I'm getting burned out on that light of a load, then Heaven help us all from here on out.

I've tried to spend a bit of time analyzing why I came to feel so spent and exhausted, and I've come up with a couple of reasons:

Trying to keep up

I don't know how it's done, but some homeschool moms out there truly seem to do everything. And I do mean everything. All food made from scratch, fun crafts every day, non-stop field trips, running a small farm on the side, crafting projects for fun, keeping a pristine house, teaching every subject under the sun, etc. I really don't know how it's done, but I think I've letting the pressure to keep up overwhelm me. Must keep going. Must do another craft. Must do another project. Must live up to the level of insane awesomeness that other mamas are creating for their families!

But there are some small problems with that. Primarily, regardless of how hard I try, I cannot keep up. I'm just not made like that, and I can't do it all. I don't do well with an on-the-go schedule, I'm not naturally into crafts, and I also need the time to keep the house clean (for my own sanity).

My main problem is finding how to turn down the guilt-trip voices in my head that are preaching the "You're just not good enough unless you keep up" gospel. And I need to spend more time praying that the Lord would lead us in His will for our home education program, rather than letting myself burn out trying to keep up with super-moms.

Over-blogging

As Agatha Christie once said of one's stomach, so say I of one's blog: "It's a good servant but a bad master." This past year, I really over-blogged. I simply felt a strong compulsion that every single recipe, craft, field trip, or activity had to be photographed and blogged. In going back through this blog for the past year, I don't think I missed blogging about any of our activities.

It's got to stop.

Home education is enough of a job without adding the extra burden of blogging through each activity. But again, the main problem is not acknowledging that, but turning down the nagging voices in my head: "You're not done unless you've blogged about it!"

I love blogging. I hope to blog for a very long time. And I love blogging about home education. But it's going to be my undoing if I continue to force myself to chronicle each and every step of the journey on this site.

The Food Wars

Food is a huge subject for all of us, isn't it? It's a place of major investment in which finances, time, and health all meet together - and finding the right balance of those three factors for one's family can be a huge headache.

Again, I've succumbed to keeping up with the Joneses - "If other homeschoolers make everything from scratch, I must as well!" And I truly enjoy cooking - it's a real pleasure. But adding in family, cleaning, laundry, lessons, etc. - something has to give. And when I have a ten-page-long "make it from scratch" to-do list, it's enough to make one start banging one's head against the wall. Repeatedly. I need to pick my battles and let the others go.

(Ditto for buying in bulk, lacto-fermentation projects, searching for bargains, canning my own food, growing my own food, cooking complicated dinners, etc.)




Overdoing Curriculum

I think most beginning home educators do this - that is, trying to cram in every subject under the sun (plus a couple). Nature study! Latin! Hymn study! Composer study!

Most of it comes from... (wait for it)... trying to keep up with other homeschooling families. (Are we sensing a theme yet?)

This year I have drastically cut back the extras, and school is a lot more fun. I probably have still more trimming yet to do. But those extras really pack on the guilt (especially when they're "supposed" to happen and don't), and it's been very freeing to let them go.

Keeping it basic this year and loving it. 

Unit Studies Overdone

This year we did two unit studies, and they were simply too long (which you may have sensed from the fact that we worked in only two over the course of an entire year!). We studied England and China, with an average of four months for each - and by the time we finished with each, I was exhausted.

Okay, I wasn't actually that sick of England, because I could never get sick of England (or too sick, anyway!). But I definitely experienced academic exhaustion with China. I realized that we simply need to move a bit more quickly through our unit studies. This year I have cut the length of our unit studies down to six weeks, and we may be cutting some of those down to three weeks. Hopefully that will help.

Another area of "really overdoing it" in the area of unit studies was the number of projects and crafts I was trying to shove into each study. We were averaging ten or more recipes per country, ditto with crafts, etc. Not being a person who deals well with that much crafting, it was just too much. This year I've cut it down to one or two per country - much better.

Crafts are great - as long as there aren't too many of them! 

What's Next?

One thing is for sure - I can't afford burnout. We have a minimum of twenty, maximum of thirty-five, years of home educating before us, and I have to be able to keep my sanity and my enthusiasm. Staying on the brink of exhaustion for a couple of decades is just not a great option.

Thoughts that come to mind:

I need to accept who I am. I cannot handle a frantic schedule. Period. I need to accept that, and create a life and a schedule that will keep our home a peaceful and happy place. That means utter ruthlessness in weeding out extracurriculars, subjects, and activities which are taken on out of guilt rather than for actual value.

I need a clean house. I cannot function when my house is dirty and cluttered. It's just a basic fundamental of my nature. Thus, whatever needs to go to make that happen needs to happen. Simplifying food choices, buying bread rather than making it, cutting out internet time to make time for housework - whatever it takes.

I need to spend more time in prayer, seeing God's wisdom for our home education program. I have really fallen into the trap of looking to my fellow homeschoolers to see what I should be doing, rather than seeking God's wisdom and input. In doing so, I've burned out while trying to keep up with the (for me) impossible heights that others have reached. In the coming year, I purpose to seek the Lord's daily guidance and wisdom for a plan for our family that will not include exhaustion and stress from trying to follow other families.

Fellow home educators, have you ever experienced burnout? Tell me about it!

Insisting on doing "school" with his big brother. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Holiday Overload (And What Came of It)

(This is post #1 of 2 on the subject of burnout!)

This year I have - even apart from morning sickness - dealt with a surprising amount of holiday overload. Festival fatigue. Complete and total burnout. It's been an interesting experience, and I've had to start thinking about how to deal with it.

My normal pre-homeschool-mommy method of dealing with holidays was simply to forget them. It's a very convenient and stress-free way to deal with holidays, let me assure you! And it was completely natural - I'm just not a holiday-ish sort of person.

For minor holidays, I would wake up a few days after a holiday and think, "Oh, yes - St. Patrick's Day was last week. I really should have done something about that. Maybe next year."

For Christmas, I would improve a bit - I would actually remember the holiday before the day itself, usually on Christmas Eve. Then I'd throw the tree up on the way out the door to Christmas Eve service and call it a day. Pure sophistication.

For the past several years, I've felt a greater burden to do something for holidays. After all, I do want my children to have fun memories of the holidays-  and that requires remembering their existence. And I want to be a "good homeschool mommy." And to my credit, last year I actually did a very credible job of making each holiday special - searching the web for craft ideas, making special recipes, and planning activities for each and every holiday.

Valentine's Day 2013
But.... I think I overdid it. This year, all I have felt for the holidays is an intense disinterest in doing anything except pointedly ignoring them. While watching the approach of various minor holidays, my main thought has been, "Another holiday? Seriously? You're kidding me, right?"

And the holidays that weren't already neglected due to morning sickness really did get short shrift this year. I recovered enough from holiday burnout to have a wonderful time celebrating Independence Day this past week with our family, but most of the holidays of the preceding year - nope, not so much.

Thus, I've had to examine the issue of holidays. How do I deal with them so that (1) our family and our children have a fun time and fun memories, but that (2) I, as a non-decorating, non-crafting, non-artistic person do not run myself into the ground? Because the simple truth is that I do not really enjoy crafty artistic things. I greatly admire those mamas who excel in that area, but for me, it is an artificially propped-up skill that requires great effort. I highly suspect that the last time I decorate for a holiday (barring Christmas) will be just before our last child leaves home. After that, I shall relapse once more into a joyful bliss of ignoring all minor holidays!

Here are some of the thoughts I've had:

First of all, that I can reduce the guilt-load I've felt - for the simple reason that American holidays tend to be (on a cultural level) unnecessarily inflated and overdone for the sake of corporate profit. 

All together now, "Hallmark!"

The truth is that large corporations have vested interest in getting Americans to overspend and overbuy for holidays - and in inflating hitherto unheard-of holidays to national importance for the sole purpose of getting people to lay out money for cards, candy, decorations, and gifts. It's a sad fact, but it's true.

I received a confirmation of this during a recent re-read of my adored "Little House in the Big Woods" series. In reading through those books, I took special notice of how the Ingalls family celebrated holidays. Do you know which holidays I saw? Christmas and Independence Day. That was it. And they were celebrated very simply and inexpensively:
  • Christmas - A special dinner and perhaps one to three small gifts for each child (a penny, a piece of candy, a doll).
  • Independence Day - A special dinner and perhaps a trip to town to watch the festivities.
I could handle that!

But compare that to modern America! As mothers/citizens, we are now expected to go wild for both major and minor holidays:
  • President's Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Valentine's Day
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Lent and Easter
  • April Fool's Day
  • Mother's Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Father's Day
  • Flag Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Halloween/Reformation Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Advent and Christmas
  • New Year's Eve
  • New Year's Day
  • GOODNESS-KNOWS-WHAT-ELSE-DAY(S)
Each of which (or most of which), of course, requires cards, gifts, decorations, candy, special foods, parties, trips, activities, etc. And if you want to throw in things like Grandparent's Day and Secretary's Day, the insanity never stops!

All that to say - I can let go of some of the guilt. I don't have to let corporate American coerce me into holiday-caused stress, frustration, and eventual entrance into an insane asylum. It really is okay to let myself calm down, minimize holidays (or at least bring them down to a reasonable level), and not feel the massive load of Pinterest-style guilt over not taking each holiday to the max.

New Year's Eve 2013 - Some serious Pinterest-style guilt going on here. 

Additionally, when I look back to my own childhood, I realize that my family kept holidays (especially minor ones) very simple. St. Patrick's Day meant eating corned beef and wearing a green item of clothing. Simple, yes. But I loved and treasured the holidays - even without my mother thinking of a non-stop string of perfectly coordinated crafts to make things magical. Kids don't need that much to make holidays memorable. 

I know that there are a lot of you mamas out there who simply delight in doing lavish holidays, and I really admire that. Keep it up. I'm not trying to criticize those who revel in celebrating holidays. This piece is for those of us who find complicated holiday celebrations stressful and need a way out. 

My second thought is this - I need to standardize our holidays. I need to find out what works for each holiday that we choose to celebrate, write it down, and keep it the same (for the most part) from year to year. 

I didn't actually come up with this idea on my own - I read it recently in an article which outlined why children actually have more meaningful holidays when there are fixed, reliable holiday traditions. It adds to their sense of security and joy in the season when they know. for example, that Christmas will always bring mom's Christmas cookies and the special handmade angel on top of the Christmas tree. When they look forward to the same beloved items on a holiday menu. When they know that there will always be board games and tamales each New Year's Eve. 

Again, looking back to my own childhood, I realize that a huge part of the magic of various holidays was knowing all of the various loved traditions to look forward to. Christmas cookies for Santa, quiche for Easter, church on Christmas Eve, tacos on New Year's Day, etc. Half of the fun was looking forward to each tradition! Indeed, in my later teen years when my mother started wildly experimenting with our Christmas menus (coming up with something different each year), a lot of the fun went out of Christmas dinner. "Hey! Where's the green bean casserole?"

Christmas sugar cookies - our favorite Christmas tradition.

This is a big one for me, because I've felt stressed out these past few years about trying to come up with new, fun, creative ideas for foods and activities each year for each holiday. It's exhausting - and thus, burnout. I am planning on taking notes on what works for each holiday, and working into some routine-based traditions. It will be a blessing for our family, and it will save my sanity. (I hope. It may be too late.)

I am also planning on completely ignoring all minor-minor holidays, which will be an additional blessing. Holidays - they're nice, but we have way too many. As far as I'm concerned, it's open season.

What do you all think? Any non-crafting types out there who share the same problem with holiday overload? Leave me your tips and tricks for coping!

Love to all!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Before-Baby To-Do List!

I can always tell when I'm starting to feel better! Firstly because I immediately start compulsively organizing and cleaning things, and secondly because I make lists!

Yes, lists. Lots of lists. I may have a problem, but I enjoy it - so bring on the lists!

One list that I make every pregnancy is a "before-baby to-do list." Last time I surprised myself by getting through almost all of my listed items, and I'm hoping for the same thing this time. One of my ever-present to-do list items that I never get around to is having the carpets cleaned, so I'm really hoping I can break through that barrier and finally get it done.

Right now I'm spending 30 minutes per day on these projects. Progress is substantial when I see how much I've gotten done, but frustratingly slow when I see how much there is yet to do! So far, after working for almost a month, I have finished almost one item. (Cleaning out the kitchen.) I think I need to work faster!

Here it is! Deadline: Mid-November unless otherwise notified! Feel free to ask questions!


To-Do Before Baby #5 Arrives!

Clean out 2013 financial papers
Cut my hair!
Finish bartering arrangement with our doula, if applicable
Pay doula by 34 weeks
Fill out paperwork for doula, turn in
Pay midwife by 34 weeks
Get the 2yo sleeping in his own bed
Move the 2yo to boys’ room
Rearrange bureau with baby things
Gather birth supplies
Make birth signs, put with birth things
Order birth kit by 32 weeks
Go to Goodwill for two plastic bowls
Order/receive 2 bottles of afterpains tincture
Buy postpartum snacks
Bake baby’s birthday cake, freeze
Pack hospital bag
Take hospital tour
Have home visit
Stock diaper bag
Set up cradle (?)
Plan six weeks of meals
Freeze six weeks of meals
Get couches cleaned
Get carpet cleaned
Wash bedspread
Clean out garage
Vacuum/wash under appliances
Clean freezer I
Defrost freezer II
Vacuum fans and high places in house
Switch children to winter clothes in early November
Clean and store summer fans
Finish kitchen table
Bleach kitchen floor!
Clean tops of kitchen cabinets
Clean/organize
            o Kitchen
            o Laundry room
            o Living Room
            o Master Bedroom
            o Master bath
            o 3rd bedroom
            o Third bath


To-Do – Holiday Preparations

Make Christmas control journal
Write Christmas letter
Prep Christmas cards
Plan Lepkuchen Day
Have Lepkuchen Day!
Reformation Day Faire
Put up Christmas decorations
Do any Christmas shopping
Make any Christmas gifts
Wrap any Christmas gifts
Make boys’ Christmas lists
Prepare/freeze Thanksgiving dinner


To-Do, Weeks 36-39

Buy large bag of frozen berries
Buy bottled OJ
Buy large amount of yogurt
Buy snacks for birth team (granola bars, juice, etc.)
Buy fruit juice for labor (apple, etc.)
Stock up on paper plates, bowls, etc.


To-Do When Labor Starts

Set up signs
Get out blender
Double-make bed
Clean tub
Get out snacks for birth team
Buy any last-minute snack or food items

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Overloading on Awesomeness (2014 Homeschool Convention!)

There's Christmas Eve, and Independence Day, and all those other fun days of the year... and then there's the one that blows them all out of the water - the Arizona Families for Home Education annual homeschool convention!

We had a wonderful time. We always do, as a matter of fact. Each convention has been both life-changing and a needed time of encouragement among fellow home educators. Local homeschoolers, if you haven't been to one of these yet - you need to go. The sooner, the better!


Ready to start but feeling decidedly GREEN. 

This year, we almost didn't make it to the convention. As I've been dealing with morning sickness, we spent considerable time debating whether or not I'd be able to go even if we did purchase our (non-refundable, non-transferable) tickets. And even after we decided to go, we had a very difficult time finding grandparents to babysit.

And after all of that, we had a rough start to the convention. The preparations to get there were exhausting, I felt yucky, and the first speaker we got to hear was simply not our style. (This has never happened before and will probably never happen again.) Thus, my main thought during the first hour or two of the first day was, "And why did I insist on doing this to myself right now?"

Thankfully, things improved from there!

  • We had a wonderful time listening to the various speakers. We had originally planned to hear many of the first speaker's sessions, but after hearing the first, we cancelled all of the rest off of our itinerary- and thus got into the sessions that we really needed to hear instead! The Lord works in mysterious ways!
  • We got to visit lots of vendors in the exhibit hall - excellent, as always! And one of the benefits of starting school in May was that all of our curriculum decisions have been long made, meaning that I didn't have to make any nerve-wracking curriculum-purchase decisions.
  • We saw many friends and caught up with people whom we see only at the convention. A lovely time!


Two of my favorite speakers:

Carol Barnier - One of the keynote speakers. She is intensely passionate, interesting, and wildly funny. Getting to hear her speak was a treat!

Linda Crosby - An AFHE board member and also an intensely funny lady. She gave several talks on the subject of field trips, hands-on learning, and teaching history - and each was just what I needed.


I prefer the descriptor "pleasantly plump," thank-you-very-much. 

Each year when we attend the convention, I pray that the Lord would accomplish in our family exactly what needs to be done. Improvements to be made, issues to be addressed, weaknesses to correct - whatever it is, I want to see it accomplished in our family!

The Lord more than answered this prayer this year - primarily in rekindling my passion for teaching history and for field trips. Both of those are areas in which I have recently experienced a decent level of burnout. While I'm still trying to figure out why I got so burned out in only one year of (serious) homeschooling, I really got the boost I needed from the convention. While I want to be careful not to overdo things, I now feel ready to tackle those areas again this year. 

The day after the convention, I was exhausted, super-nauseated, irritable, depressed, and cranky - my (mostly) usual post-convention let-down. "What do you mean, I have to wait a whole year before I can go again?" Thankfully, on Monday I woke up back to usual and ready to tackle the world. 

Life is good. 

Questions? Bring 'em on!

We'll see you at next year's homeschool convention! 

DH, on our way out the door when we realized "Oh, no! We forgot to take all the pictures we meant to get!"


Monday, July 7, 2014

Our First Post-Morning-Sickness Holiday!


This year we had a lovely Independence Day - extra-special in that it was the first holiday I've been able to celebrate properly in quite some time!

And after having to throw Easter, St. Patrick's Day, etc., to the winds this year, it was awesome to be feeling well enough to do something for a holiday!

Independence Day has turned into a nice low-key, at-home family celebration for us. We don't do a ton, but we have fun!

Highlights of the day:

- A special dinner, eaten on our special blue-and-red plates!
  • Hamburgers, served bun-style for the family and with horseradish sauce for Yours Truly
  • Low-carb ranch-style coleslaw - Did I mention that it's even better with horseradish sauce?
  • Layered salad (sliced red onion, cucumber, and tomato, covered with Italian dressing)
  • Watermelon
Our plans for dessert were derailed, but I was still pretty impressed! I'm cooking!



This child could win prizes for "messiest eater." This was only the beginning!

- Fireworks, both the small type at home and a fireworks display at a local park (which we watch from our backyard)

- Water balloons!



- Reading the Declaration of Independence aloud. Okay, we actually forgot this part, but we'll get to it today.

- Watching "A Capitol Fourth" on TV. Actually, we didn't get around to this one either, being that we no longer have television and couldn't figure out how to watch it online. But we didn't have time for it anyway!

We had a lovely, relaxing time (for the most part - life just doesn't get that relaxing with littles around!), and it was a ton of fun.

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

In Which I Have a Birthday!


I can tell that I'm starting to feel better, folks! The urge to declutter is taking a stronger hold, and I've actually set a fifteen minute timer for myself to blog. Things are looking up!

So. Let's talk about birthdays!

I used to have one, you know. A birthday. Every year. And then something happened.

Our first child was born - right after my birthday. Then the family decided to make our annual family reunion coincide with that child's birthday. Suddenly, within the space of one month, we had four family birthdays, Father's Day, our anniversary, a family reunion (that we host), and a couple other things that I'm forgetting. Not being especially good at dealing with a busy schedule, June quickly turned into the month that was going to make me lose my mind.

And in the process, my birthday was completely lost. Every time it came around, I would wave it off with an exhausted hand. "We'll deal with it later. Right now I'm too tired!"

And predictably, it was always postponed indefinitely.

Not that birthdays are the be-all-end-all of existence. But it was always disappointing.

This year, I rebelled. Despite all of the usual June insanity, I stopped and said, "Wait! I want to DO SOMETHING for my birthday!"

Being a reasonable man, my husband said, "Okay, so what do you want to do?"

That was an easy answer. Steak, of course! 

We haven't seen any beef outside of hamburger for nearly two years, and my find-an-animal-and-eat-it instinct always goes through the roof during pregnancy.

And so steak it was! With potatoes, strawberries, and corn for the carb-eaters (I may or may not have had some, *ahem*), and sauteed mushrooms for me - YUM.





We added our favorite horseradish sauce, and it was superb. I could eat that stuff straight. Yum, yum, yum.



And more importantly, I felt... better. It's the first birthday I've celebrated in eight years, and it just felt much, much, better. A (very minor) glitch in the universe was righted.

Unfortunately, I also awakened a ravenous appetite for steak. Pretty soon you'll see me on the side of the freeway off-ramp with a sign: "Will work for steak, preferably porterhouse."

I ended the day with low-carb ice cream, of my own concocting. It was terrible. But any ice cream is better than none!




Having (almost) reached my mid-thirties, I must say that I have found my thirties much preferable to my twenties. Not that my twenties weren't fun. They really were, and I enjoyed them tremendously. But they were... tempestuous, to say the least. Graduating from college, first job, first moving away from home, first married life, first apartment, first house, first pregnancy, first miscarriage, hyperemesis, first childbirth, first parenting of todders - it was all very life-shattering stuff.

Of course, every life-decade has the possibility of being tempestuous and life-shattering. I know that there are many challenging life experiences ahead of me. But it does seem that the twenties might be unique in their level of craziness. We shall see! (Thoughts, anyone?)

Another thing that I am enjoying about my thirties is my growing ability to cast aside cultural and peer-pressure-caused expectations. It's taken many years even to recognize those expectations for what they were, let alone grasp the courage to jettison them. Have any of you experienced that? It's just lovely. My thirties have been a wonderful time of coming into myself - shedding unnecessary self-imposed expectations and the things I have tried to do and be that have been simply the result of cultural pressure. It's such a beautifully freeing feeling!

I am not, of course, speaking of discarding morals. Far from it. But cultural expectations, on the other hand, are a real pain, and it's lovely to shed them one by one.

Life is an interesting journey - and there's so far to go. My character has so many flaws, and I'm thankful that God is working on me - day by day, year by year. I don't see the changes from day to day, but when I look back a decade, I realize how far we've come. God is good.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off! It's time to go celebrate our eleventh anniversary.

With steak. And horseradish sauce. Preferably lots of it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Week 20 Pregnancy Update


Hello, dear friends!

I'm writing this during week 19, but I know that I will be well into week 20 before I get around to publishing - if not later - so this is my "official" week 20 update!

I probably will not publish my journal entry for weeks 18-19. Firstly, I forgot to journal most of week 19. Secondly, I was very down and dismal during week 18, and my journal was extremely depressing. Just imagine a lot of complaining, and you'll be pretty close.

And so... here are some random notes about this pregnancy's progression - and life in general!

- On the NVP front, I am feeling anywhere between "eh" and "crummy." Nausea is still constant, around the clock, but most of the time it's manageable. I am managing to stay up-and-going most (or at least some) of the time. I continue to maintain a mostly very-low-carb (VLC) diet - as long as no one mentions the nachos I cadged from the boys' plate tonight. Yum.

- I'm still extremely tired, and my brain is GONE - Second-trimester energy spurt, where are you? And even when I do have the energy to do something, most of the time I spend it wandering around the house wondering what on earth it is that I should be doing! Oh, pregnancy brain! Gotta love it!

- My main food right now is a snack plate of cheese, lunchmeat, tomato, pickle, and cucumber "crackers." I'm eating that three to four times a day, and not much else! There are many other things I'd like to eat, but they all require cooking. Too tired, too nauseated. Cold non-prep foods reign supreme.

- As far as the family, they're subsisting on the super-easy things I can manage to make - spaghetti with jarred sauce, etc. They're looking forward to having my nausea subside too!

- I am thoroughly enjoying my favorite thing in the world - baby kicks! I've felt movement for two months, but now we're getting into the super-fun time of well-defined kicks and getting to watch my stomach bounce. We have one very active baby! This is pretty much my favorite part of pregnancy - or life in general!

- We're going to the homeschool conference! I'm so excited! Behind my excitement, though, is the question of how on earth I am going to manage to make it through two entire days of a high-energy convention - not to mention all of the prep work beforehand to get ready! I'm praying that I will feel much better over these next two weeks!

Last year's homeschool convention! 

- Week 20 is the deadline I have set for myself to get moving now on all of those pre-baby projects. Do I feel up to them? Not at all. But I am trying to get started! Here are my first couple of projects:
  • Refinishing our newly inherited kitchen table! I cannot tell you how tired I am of the {table pad - table cloth - plastic cover} routine, especially with two babies who routinely pull it off countless times per day! I am DONE! But our new table needs something more than the finish it has in order to stand up to six-times-per-day meal/snack use, homeschooling, and children who are as careful as a troop of rampaging soldiers when it comes to avoiding scratches. Have I ever done any woodworking before? Not at all. But I'm already tired of my endless refrain - "Don't set anything on the table! Careful! Don't scratch it!" I'll let you know how that all goes.
  • Surface Decluttering - Part of my pre-baby nesting routine is going through all of our drawers and cabinets. However, this time I need to start with surfaces - tables, freezer tops, etc. Too much stuff! I already feel better with the progress I've made. Though I have regretfully concluded that I cannot gain the skills denied by nature - that is, an ability to decorate - I can feel peaceful and comfortable if my space is decluttered. Really, I can handle just about any stress as long as my living space is clean, tidy, and clutter-free. On the other hand, I cannot handle even tiny bits of stress if my space is dirty and cluttered. Thus, onward and upward!
  • Gathering birth supplies - Yes, it's that time! I love this job! 
Birth supplies at our last birth! 

I have a full (i.e. huge) and growing list of before-baby things to do, and I'll post that soon. In the meantime, those are my beginning projects!

- We've finished our first term of school! - Yes, our first school term (of six) of the year is now behind us. If all goes as planned, we'll have four of six completed before baby arrives, and then we'll be able to take off about six weeks before finishing the school year. I managed to work up to *almost* full speed, leaving out only our daily family time. Hopefully I'll be ready to start that next term (which starts in.... two days - I'd better hurry!).

- Baby's Gender - I am absolutely certain that baby is a GIRL... which means that we're having another BOY! Hurray!!

Boys are wonderful! 

- Baby Names - Yes, we really should think about this sometime! We do tentatively have a boy name, but it's very close to one of our existing names, so I'm not sure if it'll work out. But we need to get a move on, especially with as long as we take to pick names!

And there you have it, folks! Life at twenty weeks. I'll check in again soon!