Archive of ‘The Good Family’ category

The disappearance of summer……Costa Rica teaser

I’m not sure if there is a rule or not about when you have a gap of over a month you need to have a blog-relaunch so people remember you. (no lie I just typed rool…clearly need to keep on the coffee today…zoiks!) I’m going to go with no and pretend I’m picking up where I left off.

But seriously….where did the summer go? We are a mere four days from school starting and I wrestle with the conflicting thoughts of being extremely happy to have less noise, chaos, fighting and mess to being sad that our lazy days, infinitely more snuggles and fun are drawing to a close. Going from three kids to one is a cake walk.

But summer….don’t want to shower for 5 days…no prob bob…pool took care of that hassle! Can I get an “up top” from moms that count pools as baths? You can elevate your hygiene game when you know you are going to drain the water by using actual shampoo in your pool. SUMMERS. ARE. AWESOME. FOR. THAT.

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Much deep thought abounds in the pool.

Much deep thought abounds in the pool.

Bennet versus pinecone...pinecone ALWAYS wins.

Bennet versus pine cone…pine cone ALWAYS wins.

The truth is I’m a petulant child about summer. The type-A me craves the routine and cadence that the school year brings BUT….don’t cage me in. In no time flat by the end of September I am whining and kicking that I am TOO scheduled….I don’t like feeling obligated….why do we have all these commitments…somebody get me a coffee stat!

This summer was different for many reasons…some of which I can’t unpack right now. We actually had very little going on which made for some long and lonely days but that’s not always a bad thing. Some weeks were fuller with camp, family visiting, lots of not fun medical exams, some library and park visits. But mostly we just piddled around. Have you piddled in awhile? Have you written that word ever…it’s fun…try it.

Miss Clara Jean owning our yard

Miss Clara Jean owning our yard

Love this miracle niece so stinking much

Love this miracle niece so stinking much

We are in a strange season the last 6-8 months. We have experienced a massive relational loss in our inner circle with some of the closest people in our lives moving overseas or just moving. The void is undeniable and I would be flat lying if I didn’t say I feel like I am still in mourning. Relationships that have been forged by years and decades of friendship and history. People you talk to every stinking day….now many many time zones away. I certainly rejoice in the kingdom work they have been called to and obeyed by we are counting the cost in a different way and I am left wanting. So I have dealt with intense days of sorrow and ache learning to live a life without these families and children.

There are huge things on the horizon BUT we are trying to walk in rhythm with Jesus and not assume we know the path to these big things. Things that involve our house, our finances, our business, our church, our children…..The Lord is revealing in spades a calling on our family and we stand slack jawed on the sideline watching him unveil it piece by piece. “Abide in me….”

I’m an “all in” sorta girl so this discipline of walking in pace with God as each step is shown and not rush ahead with my agenda “Yeah, yeah, yeah…I got this God” is a bit new.

We have been praying for the first step to happen. Really I feel it is the linchpin in God’s plan for us and once God pulls it…this train is moving. I dont’ mean to write cryptically but I want to respect that we have got to have a trained ear to God’s voice and His only because the things we are looking at having to do will require staunch obedience and abandoment. When things are outside the box or not in logical order…especially in this culture you get A LOT of opinions and push back. So this season of “aloneness” has allowed us to draw nearer to one another as husband and wife. This is such a good place to be.

Aww….look at us….celebrated NINE years last week. We’d like to personally thank the large window at Starbucks for giving us that youthful glow erasing acne and wrinkles from our faces. Thank you Starbucks of Midlothian, Virginia…thank you.

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We also just got back from a KILLER trip to Costa Rica to visit my brothers family on the mission field there. They are planting a church in the town of Liberia.

WE. HAD. THE. BEST. TIME. It’s not right how rich and fun and relaxing and crazy our time was. I can not wait to write a proper post about it all. I stand in awe of my brother and sister in law and the struggle of daily life there but for the joy set before them…ever claiming… “Jesus is worth it.” He so is!!

You hear Costa Rica and you see the eye rolls “Really suffering for Jesus ehhh?” Ummm…actually yes…. Costa Rica isn’t one giant coast full of surf towns. My brother isn’t sharing the gospel from his surf board “Hey brah…you know the Living God?”

They actually live an hour from the coast in hot, flat, dry, cowboy country where the average yearly temperature is 95. With no air conditioning. Just sayin…. They don’t live in the “post card” part of Costa Rica but they were gracious to take us on lots of day trips and excursions through our time there to see those areas. It is God’s gift to refresh the weary missionary by His beauty.

God is a giant show off in pockets of Costa Rica….and He should be. The heavens declare His majesty..yes they do!!!

Ocotal Beach

Ocotal Beach

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There were so many moments walking around or swimming I would just look up and say “Let me remember this moment Lord. It’s so pure, so beautiful, so satisfying, so simple.” Give me this any day over expensive, manufactured fun.

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The love these cousins had for one another made us all burst with joy and even tears. It was beautiful.

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and clearly no matter where we are in the world…our children can not keep their clothes on. Sigh…..Oh Bennett…..

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and the only picture you will see of Ryan and I on this trip. It’s sad…we never think to take photos together. Don’t even have one shot of the four of us (yes..you may have deducted that Rhett did not make the cut. Better luck next year Rhett. He happily spent the week at my parents being spoiled rotten.)

Entrance to a coffee field.

Entrance to a coffee field.

I hope I’ve teased you enough to come back and hear the whole story and some of the real reason we went to Costa Rica.

I’ve missed you all. I am committed to writing more frequently on the blog. Not for you…but for me. It helps me process and clear my head in a good way…plus I kinda like you guys.

XOXOXO

Be ye perfect as I am clearly perfect

I struggle with perfectionism. I admit it. It’s so doggone engrained in me partially because of my personality and partially because I grew up in a home that was OCD…literally.

We were prepared, AT ALL TIMES, for the Pope to arrive unannounced or perhaps the Queen of England was swinging through Baldwinsville, NY…you just never knew! Either way….you could eat off the toilet seat if you so desired. Where does that object belong? Well let me tell you because EVERYTHING has it’s place. Don’t walk in that room!! That’s the room we look at, we don’t use it, you might mess up the vacuum lines. TRUTH! Cleanliness and organization is next to godliness for sure.

Now my mom has come a long way since my childhood and is an amazingly relaxed grandmother. In complete rebellion of her former self she doesn’t even do the dishes every night or make her bed in the morning…GASP…my lips to God’s ear it’s true.

So here I am a few generations in dealing with this perfectionism curse. I think I’m more like a glass of soda where the ice has melted…a watered down version of a perfectionist but I still taste like soda.

I MUST fix our eleventy billion pillows, eleventy billion times on every surface the kids chuck them off of, squish them down or carry off into other rooms. All day, errrrrry day. My bum cheeks tighten together so air tight you would swear I was a frog when I see the fringe on the carpet in disarray, or clothes left on the floor or the kids making out with the windows. On the other hand I let a lot slide too. I’m a confused perfectionist or maybe my laziness just crashes into my perfectionism creating “me”.

MUY MAL.

MUY MAL.

MUY BUENO!!!

MUY BUENO!!!

I have learned over the last few years I can be miserable and make my family miserable keeping a perfect home or I can just pick my battles. So what if my carpet under the table could feed a third world company. My drawers are sorta organized and folded properly, my pantry is pretty logical, you will find what you need eventually. I don’t measure when I cook, I don’t use drop cloths when I paint, I’m a “wing it” sorta girl a lot of the day.

Heart palpatations

Heart palpatations

SO MUCH BETTER!!!

SO MUCH BETTER!!!

I had a massive epiphany when I took the Myers Brigg test a few months back. If you haven’t taken it before then PLEASE do it…free version here. I really love figuring out why I do what I do or why I process like I process; unlike the introspective, emo, 20 something me that was blatantly in sin and selfish and shallow….maybe that’s why I was miserable???? Not too much to figure out there as much as I tried. Now, in my current quest to “know thy self”, it’s so I can better relate to my husband and my children…BECAUSE GOOD GOLLY WE ARE ALL SO DIFFERENT.

I’m an introvert. Nobody believes me! It’s sad really, I think I breath down the neck of an extroverted personality but it’s a mask. I didn’t raise my hand in class my whole life. I would rather die than be put on the spot to debate in front of people, I am a wall flower at social mixers unless I have a friend there. I NEED alone time and if it is stolen from me I get really angry or emotional. ( I sound so fun don’t I?)

When I read my test results (best descriptors found here) I cried. I felt understood…by a TEST!!!! Being understood is so huge for me. I am an INFJ across the board.

Lets take a little look at my tendencies.

“INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.

INFJs place great importance on having things orderly and systematic in their outer world. They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done, and constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives. On the other hand, INFJs operate within themselves on an intuitive basis which is entirely spontaneous. They know things intuitively, without being able to pinpoint why, and without detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. They are usually right, and they usually know it. Consequently, INFJs put a tremendous amount of faith into their instincts and intuitions. This is something of a conflict between the inner and outer worlds, and may result in the INFJ not being as organized as other Judging types tend to be. Or we may see some signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk. (OH…there’s that inconsistent me)

INFJs have uncanny insight into people and situations. They get “feelings” about things and intuitively understand them. INFJ themself does not really understand their intuition at a level which can be verbalized. Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive. (Oh my goodness this paragraph was a lightbulb to me!)

But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people’s feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress. (GUILTY!)

Because the INFJ has such strong intuitive capabilities, they trust their own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubborness and tendency to ignore other people’s opinions. They believe that they’re right.(Poor Ryan) On the other hand, INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves – there’s always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don’t often take time to revel in their accomplishments. (This made me cry…it’s so true and sad…but true.) They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right. In deference to the Feeling aspect of their personalities, INFJs are in some ways gentle and easy going. Conversely, they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families. They don’t believe in compromising their ideals.”

OK…now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of me you are probably either identifying with empathy or sympathy or you’re deciding if you still want to be friends with me. You gotta admit it….you are dying to figure out what you are and possibly your spouse or family? It was HUGE for me to see Ryan’s results. We are quite opposite in almost every letter which is why we have to work hard at communicating and giving grace in our different processes. Obviously, you can see I am half donkey which I have to be so aware of and consider….CONSIDER that Ryan could have a good or even better way of doing things. CONSIDER :-)

He and I are so close to finalizing the details of what we believe to be our ultimate adventure in the second half of our lives. A vision the Lord has given us both for ministry and we are so excited and scared and overwhelmed by it. We believe we were created for this ministry and the journey of our lives, thus far, has been our classroom of refinement and growth so we could be prepared for this. But oh my INFJ and Ryan’s INTP go toe to toe so often in creating and moving forward in this ministry. What is the next steps needed, how are we going to do this, what do you see about that, who is going to handle this, stop…breath…pray…let’s compromise somehow. WE are getting there and when I stop and ponder this vision I burst into tears. Just the very thought of it makes me feel alive. So we are working through the strengths of our personalities and trying to give grace in our weaknesses.

I may still fix the pillows 15-20 times a day…but I do it myself, I don’t make my kids do it….that’s pretty “gracious” of me don’t you think? I’m slaying the perfectionist beast as much as I can identify it and just skimming the cream. I am learning to appreciate my unique personality and perspective instead of feeling alienated by it. I’m thankful for my close group of girlfriends that love me, quirks and all. I’m thankful that God has an individual purpose for me that engages my uniqueness in the kingdom. HE has also called you into a specific vision for the kingdom work that will compliment your giftings. It’s a beautiful picture of the body at work.

Tipping Dominos

This is the extent of my homeschool mom career. Right here on these two slips of papers.
(Actually we started August 21, 2013 but I couldn’t find his his practice sheet)

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Five months.

Five long, hard, refining months.

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On February 3, 2014 I walked an excited and shy Bennett into his kindergarten class. I helped him hang up his coat, kissed him on the lips, went back to my car and burst into tears.

Only a very small handful of people even knew Bennett was starting “big school” for the rest of the year.

I know myself now. I needed to be sharply in tune with God’s voice over decisions this big and if I was polling every family member and friend on their opinion about my child then I would drown out the Lord’s voice. This was a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE decision for our family and only Ryan and myself were going to answer for it some day.

There were no Instagram or Facebook photos to commemorate the day. Ryan snapped one picture on his phone so we had one memory. It isn’t to say we didn’t make a big deal of it, we did. We all mustered up the joy and excitement that he deserved for this monumental occasion.

Now if you didn’t read my last post then you might not know where this story is coming from.

Picture a movie that starts out with a scene that is basically the punchline and you are scratching your head going what? who? why? when? Then the screen goes black and they flash a date or time on the screen. This is my black screen with white text. I just gave you the punchline now here is the back story.

AUGUST 2013

When we decided the first week of August to make the plunge in to homeschooling I felt like the 11th hour worker. As much as I have been around homeschool moms I knew NOTHING about curriculum or structuring my day or should there be no structure? Do I do classical eduction or create my own hybrid? Do I set up a classroom in part of the house or do it at the table? Should we do it all in one lump or break it up over the day? Do I wear sweat pants all day or just part of the day? That one I was clear on….ALL DAY BABY!!!!

So I nervously attended one curriculum book fair and felt dumb, overwhelmed, and ignorant of this whole world. I had three major pluses going in though. Bennett was a full grade ahead academically thanks to his STELLAR pre-K. He was reading and writing by the end of the 4’s class….BOOYAH (people still say that right? oh they don’t…my bad, my bad) So I decided to jump to 1st grade and that we would only do school 3-4 days a week so I had lots of time margin. My second plus was I had a friend who has the same age son and they attended the same pre-K so they were academically on the same level. Naturally, I did what any smart mom would do and shamelessly mooched her entire curriculum choices for the year. Oh you bought that? Yeah me too! Thanks Candace….I owe you big time for helping me unclench my butt cheeks after looking through curriculum catalogs! Last plus was Benentt’s age. In Virginia you don’t have to do the paperwork for the government declaring anything about your child until they are six. Avoided that whole deal. Whewwwww……

So there we were on that fateful Wednesday. We took pictures of the kids outside and Bennett wore a brave face. This was the first day of school in August for both kids.
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We dropped Chloe off at school. Bennett stood at her classroom doorway and cried. I could hardly make eye contact. I was so torn because my heart was breaking that she was going to FULL day, public school. Two firsts for her/us. So I was crying because I was sad to be apart from her. Then I had to look in the eyes of the kid that is broken hearted walking out of the school he wanted to go to and head home with me. I know homeschool is NOT a punishment but in Bennett’s mind it felt that way and to be honest…I felt that way too. We were both sentenced to one year mandatory home prison, I mean homeschool.

The first day I tried big time. I set up everything all cute for him, Name tag, juice and candy treat. I introduced myself as Mrs. Portnoy and welcomed him to my class. We said the pledge (I know…it’s not easy being this cool) and prayed. Deep breath. I actually had sweaty pits as if someone was watching and judging me. I can’t help my type A-ness. (sorry for the midget pictures, had to pull from my instagram feed)
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First day wasn’t too bad overall. A little resistance from him on writing but after about two hours we made it through all four subjects. We survived. Neither of us cried. The day was neutral.

Neutral.

That is the word I would use for all five months of homeschool. I felt neutral about it. There were days I didn’t mind it and days I HATED it but the majority just felt neutral. We tried different things. Doing everything in the morning, doing all of it in the afternoon, breaking up throughout the day. We did school at the table, outside and at this great vintage desk I scored.

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I would say at least once a day Bennett pushed back. Usually not too hard but some days we would have a 30 minute stand off. I made a pact to myself not to fight him so I would simply walk away and tell him “Let me know when you are ready”. We managed to get through it 3-4 days a week.

Here was my prayer “Make me fall in love with it Jesus!” I desperately wanted some switch to flip in me that made me fall in love with homeschooling. I wanted to pull Chloe out and make this our new normal. I truly believe in it and love the freedom it affords.

It wasn’t for me. I only loved when it was over. I did not drink the Koolaid.

I was sad I didn’t even like it. I basically floated in this neutral place that was mostly void of feeling. I KNEW it was the right thing for Bennett. HE WAS NOT READY FOR SCHOOL. I do not believe my problem needs to be your problem and therefore I didn’t need to send him to school because “I couldn’t deal with him.” God gave me a brain and intuition and I knew we were setting him up to fail if we sent him away with the emotional maturity level he was at. I was a former teacher….I am sensitive that one kid can drain a whole classroom and I didn’t want that for Bennett’s sake or the teachers sake. I wanted to be the one shaping his heart and emotions. A teacher balancing 20 other eternal beings can’t work with him the way I can. I knew this was the greater lesson in him being home, not his academic success.

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I could tell about a month in that Bennett was starting to show some true signs of emotional self control. There was definitely progress being made, this was not for not. I too was having my own heart renovation of sorts. I was learning about obedience and submission. Not in a martyr way, more in surrendering what I thought this year was going to be for myself and allowed the Lord to renovate my expectations. This was a maturing process for me too. I may be 37 but there are days I was in my bedroom room pouting, crying or kicking a rock. Did I believe God is good and good would come from this? I did! That’s why I stuck with it. I saw both of us were learning really important lessons. I wanted what James 1 talks about…”Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I have no desire to stay the same Kelly I am today. Help me grow Jesus, help me grow.

The problem really came in a different form about November…..

Whose got two thumbs and could rival Bennett in emotional out burts?

This guy…
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Not one but both of my boys are emotional freak balls. It seems so ironic that my girl is so calm and level headed and my boys can’t keep it together if their life depended on it.

So having a 2.5 year old milling around while you homeschool is not easy. I seriously do not understand how parents with multiple kids (toddlers and babies) homeschool.

I sent him to “Leap Frog school” (video) for the first 30 mins a day, gave him busy bags, tried to distract him in another room but it was basically futile. If he came anywhere near the table while Bennett was schooling Bennett was completely derailed and a fight would break out. Not one but two tea kettles at full boil.

I am not a loud person, I don’t like attention, I don’t do well when there is chaos around me, I JUST WANT IT TO STOP!!! So I found out I have an alter ego and that she likes to yell to get control. Yes…lest you imagine me sitting in my room at night polishing a halo that image is smashed. I turned in to a full fledged screamer. (Hangs head in shame).

I remember when Chloe and Bennett were little they hit a rut where they couldn’t be in the same room together. It was a long year that broke my heart but they/we got through it. Those two are AWESOME together now. Hours and hours of play with nary a fight. I have the foresight to know that this “rough patch” the boys entered in November would not last forever but for now it was absolutely paralyzing in our home.

I would not be exaggerating to say that from sun up to sun down the boys fought. Rhett is VERY much like Bennett in his emotional craziness. The only difference is…he is two and he snaps out of it quickly. The two of them were a match and gasoline and I spent the majority of my day and energy breaking up fights, separating them on different floors, punishing, redirecting, etc… I was EXHAUSTED and beyond frustrated by 10:00am each day. I felt myself slipping away slowly and this uptight, short tempered, impatient, sad mom started to take over our home. Everybody was losing. I was crying all the time and felt overwhelmed by the boys. Again…homeschool wasn’t a big deal…it floated out there neutrally….it was the emotional temperature of our home that was taking the ship down.

There were a few observations Ryan and I started to make. We let Bennett start sports this year. We noticed when he was around boys his own age he stopped talking in his mousy voice and talked in his “big boy voice”. He took correction from the coaches very well overall without crying ( I mean he cried sometimes but not in a way he stood out). Basically, we were very impressed that he seemed “normal” on the teams. At church he always did great! No problems, no emotional spells, good listening and submitting to authority.

By Christmas time Ryan and I were in big discussions on what to do about the boys, homeschool, my emotional well being. It felt super lame to consider sending Bennett to school because I was having a hard time emotionally at home. But it isn’t lame. It was my heart and mind and all of us were suffering in different ways with the chaos the boys were causing. It’s hard when you are home 50+ hours a week taking care of your kids, making decisions on their behalf emotionally, spiritually, and behaviorally. Ryan is a SUPER dad but isn’t the primary care taker because of his job. I was feeling so pressured and overwhelmed on what was the “right” decision for all of us. I’m thankful he helped me pray through this decision and finally made the call for all of us.

I remembered our counselor once saying something so simple it was profound “If what you are doing isn’t working then tip a domino in another direction and try something different.” So we talked about it, prayed about it, gave it a few more weeks of reflection, spoke to a few people about this decision and waited for the Lord to speak.

In February it marked nine months since Bennett was in a classroom setting. Perhaps, just perhaps based on what we observed in sports and church that when Bennett is around kids his age he is now RISING to the emotional maturity level instead of being glaringly behind. Perhaps, just perhaps being around an emotional toddler all day was actually bringing him down. Maybe it was time to tip a domino in a different direction and see.

We were blessed to get a teacher that not only has 20 + years experience teaching kindergartners but she was also a believer at public school. When I met with her the week before we sent Bennett I was able to share openly about our decision to homeschool Bennett and our prayer and deep conviction to shape Bennett’s emotional and spiritual well being. She was so sensitive and caring I felt like we were passing a torch to someone who saw Bennett not just as another student but a little eternal being in her class.

Now eight weeks later we have seen Bennett THRIVING at school. He is so happy, we are seeing INCREDIBLE changes around our home with his emotional maturity, we could not be more peaceful about this decision as difficult as it was. It was the right time for him and it was the right time for me to have margin and time one on one with Rhett. When I get a note home from Bennett’s teacher saying “I love having Bennett in my class” my heart swells to the point of bursting.

The boys are still in a terrible funk but Bennett is handling it much better and I am not drained of all will to live by 10:00am so I am able to handle the fights and screaming with maturity and patience. Our home is peaceful again and I am getting some structure in my weeks that I have needed. I mean I launched this website the week after we sent Bennett to school so I have had my outlet back that I have missed so much albeit very sporadic when I write.

The God’s honest truth is I cried heaving cries when I packed up all the homeschool materials. I don’t even truly know why. I was sad it was over. Not because I wanted to keep doing it but because I liked having Bennett home with me. I grieved that I didn’t love it and I grieved that this year was so personally stretching. The rest of my tears I still don’t understand and maybe I never will. I am still open to homeschool in the future. I’ve learned to never say never to Jesus. So who knows….this summer a major life change is going to be happening which I will share in the near future. I have no idea of the next chapter God is writing for our family but I am excited to read it!

The Refinement of Passion

You could have heard a pin drop when the sonogram lady (I am sure there is a fancy title for her Sonographer? Sonoriffic? I don’t know) typed three little letters across the screen. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this baby didn’t have three legs, we were having a B-O-Y.

Blink….Blink….a boy?

Yeah Lord….I was already freaking out about having babies back to back but a BOY???? What do I do with a boy? I fancied myself a mom of multiple girls. I’m so sad to say I cried after we found out. Not tears of joy but sad, bitter tears. Oh how I let satan steal my joy that day.

Fast forward to May 3rd, 2008. The doctor said “Reach down and pull out your son” and I did. One MASSIVE, adorable bouncing baby boy was pulled up on my chest all slimy and gooey and I didn’t care. I WAS IN LOVE. One look at those big brown peepers sealed the deal. Any fear I had about having a son was gone in an instant. That is not an exaggeration. I loved this beautiful boy from moment one. Bennett Wade Portnoy burst into the scene and into my heart.
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For the first 8 months I was convinced I had birthed a sugar cube. He was an angel baby, all smiles and sweetness. My one complaint was he was a barracuda nurser and until the day we stopped nursing I had scabs where you don’t want to have scabs. That memory hasn’t faded. I’m sure my “nibbles” (as Chloe calls them) wept in my sad, gray lifeless nursing bra at night while I slept. It was the worst of times…It was the worst of times. At least for nursing. Other than that…this kid was top shelf, GOLD!

I distinctly saw a shift in my journal entries at 8 months when Bennett got mobile. A little thing called “will” began to emerge and his halo quickly turned into two little horns. Not all the time at first, no no no….he didn’t change the game quite yet it was more of a little toot on the horn of Bennett making way for the STEAM ROLLER that was going to release at about 18 months old.

We had done bore ourself a quarter mule, a quarter tea pot at full boil, a quarter cry baby, and a quarter sweet boy all rolled in to one.

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Now let me stop and say THIS IS NOT A PARENTING BLOG. I am not giving you advice, I have not figured anything out, your child may be similar to Bennett but let me assure you…God made them unique so please read our journey and skim the cream and hopefully a few good laughs, encouragement and anecdotes while you are at it. This has been a LONG, hard almost 6 years but it is SO worth it for I am not the same mom I was six years ago. Like a knife on a sandstone rock, Bennett has both worn me down and sharpened me. I’m so glad God gave him to our family.

So Bennett had a few distinct “calling cards” in his toddler years. Hitting….Screaming….did I mention Hitting? He had an iron clad will, was easily offended (like don’t look at him wrong) and was a massive over-reactor. Everywhere I went I brought an emotional time bomb that WOULD and DID go off from sun up to sun down. These emotions were not fleeting either, he liked to marinate in his sadness or anger or offense. One never knew when one would be free from his emotional prison. We are so blessed to have so many “safe” friends that loved Bennett despite him being King Turd and whacking their kids all the time for no reason. You have to have safe friends.

Now I don’t want to be unfair to Bennett. His bad is certainly bad but oh man…his good IS SOOOOOOOO GOOD!!! He is by nature a “pendulum”. When he swings low he takes us all with him but when he swings high….well you can’t imagine a more sweet child. He is SO tender, compassionate, thoughtful, empathetic, spiritually sensitive, a BUNDLE OF FUN, massively athletic and coordinated, has a great work ethic and super affectionate. This has saved me from murdering him or giving him away on many occasions. Out of all my kids I actually get Bennett the most. I get passion and even though I was a very self controlled and calm child I get the ups and downs he “feels”. It resonates with my adult self. We say all the time if Bennett pushes all his chips in for Jesus then watch out…HE WILL CHANGE THE WORLD FOR CHRIST!! His name translates to “Blessing to go forth” You have no idea how much I’ve wept over the power of his name and begged God to make this his destiny. I believe He will.

I mean look at this kid!! What a doll!!!

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It’s not easy to parent. Even compliant children come with a different set of rules you must learn. When you have a child that is in a constant emotional frenzy you are forced to rise up and tame the colt. EVERY.SINGLE.EXHAUSTING.TIME. You simply can not give an inch. What Bennett didn’t bargain for is that he would get a very stubborn mom and I don’t back down (ask poor Ryan) but also a very empathetic mom.

Those moments when I’m literally pleading with him, “Bennett make the right choice” and I see him go face first into the wrong choice and I want to scream or face palm myself because my child’s heart sadly hit the buzzer before his head could think. I found myself pitying him many times over pitying myself. The compulsion of emotions seemed to win over reason 9 out of 10 times. Like a giant bully stealing his money EVERY day Bennett seemed trapped in a cycle of emotional fail. This bounced the ball back in my court to be consistent with discipline which is mind numbingly difficult. You have to have a strong resolve and many times my stubbornness was the only gas in my tank of parenting.

It isn’t until we look back that we see that indeed we are not on “a treadmill in the fog”. Lots of effort, seemingly going nowhere. When I look back to Bennett at age 2, then 3, then 4, I can tell we are actually moving this freighter forward and by golly…even dropping off some emotional baggage into the sea. The progress is slow and he likes to go back to Egypt on occasion (don’t we all!) but chugga chugga chugga chugga…we are moving forward as a family. God is doing something deep in him, hallelujah!

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There isn’t enough space to write the laundry list of things we’ve tried so no need to comment with suggestions. We’ve ignored bad behavior, spanked, separated from peers, taken away privileges and toys, left him home from outtings, used timers, incentive charts, and allowance. Recently we have found a TRUE punishment and that’s writing lines. HE HATES IT!!!!! WE LOVE that we finally have some leverage. Some things worked for a little bit but nothing changed his heart.

Truly, the most effective thing we’ve done is pray with him and give him a vocabulary for communicating with us. We talk about the fruits of the spirit and help him identify what fruit he was lacking and how to go before the Father who gives all spiritual gifts and ask him for more self control or more kindness or patience, etc… WE’ve memorized scripture on obedience and self control. We teach him about God’s character and how he is the GREAT RESCUER. Don’t we all need to remember we can be rescued from any and all situations of sin? We’ve held him when we wanted to ring his neck and we’ve cried in front of him so that he understood grief and sorrow over his choices. I’ve also had to humbly apologize to him many times for losing my temper and he has apologized countless times to me…unprompted. The bottom line is…we can’t control him. The quicker I came to that realization the better I was as a mom. Only God can change the heart, we are merely the rudder pointing him to Jesus. It is much bigger than nit-picking each individual situation of disobedience and punishing each offense. I’ve had to learn a lot about mercy and grace.

We sent Bennett to half day private pre-school last year. He did exceptionally well academically but it was apparent over the school year that he still was VERY emotionally behind his peers. He was a distraction often in the classroom and would get obstinent with his teacher. It’s heart breaking to get a call that your four year old is in the principals office. Something had to change. I didn’t want him thinking he was a bad kid or for him to resent school. Over the summer Ryan and I had to have lots of hard talks about if Bennett was truly ready to go to full time kindergarten. We also knew we were making the jump to public school now that we lived so far out. Two great unknowns.

A great majority of my friends homeschool and we live in a part of the country where it is VERY acceptable and not seen as something weirdos do, unlike where I great up in NY. Some of the best kids we know are homeschooled so I have a very positive taste in my mouth about it. The thing about homeschooling is it takes the mom to be the teacher. Ironically, I was a special ed teacher before having children but this was very different from what I knew homeschool to be.

It was an AGONIZING summer over what to do with Bennett. We told him early on in the summer that we were not sure he would be going to “big school” next year because of his behavior. I’m going to be honest, I felt sick inside at the thought of teaching Bennett and having a toddler around at the same time. I know who I am and I know who I am not. I have friends who are incredible with this age and stage of life and are thriving homeschool moms. I also have other women in my life that their homes are chaos, they are stressed, overwhelmed, resentful but are so committed to the principle of homeschooling that they are willing to sacrifice themselves, not in a righteous way but in a martyr way, on the altar of homeschool. I ain’t a martyr.

I am not here to debate homeschool verses public school verses private school. I am a huge believer in all three avenues because I believe every child is different. There are pros and cons to each. We have always been “wait and see” kind of parents as far as what works for one kid, might not for another and we need to be discerning year to year what is best for EACH child.

I can say I identify so much with the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel of the Lord when it came to the decision of what to do with Bennett. God speaks through my gut. For those of you like me, you understand that statement. I knew back in June that Bennett needed to stay home and be homeschooled but I was terrified of what that required of me and I resented having to make the decision. I tried to deny my gut.

We’ve had babies since the first year we were married. This 2013/2014 school year was the first time I saw a little breathing space ahead. Just Rhett all day. One child home after three is a cake walk. I had dreams and desires of things I hadn’t done in years like sewing and painting and decorating. Finally working out and creating a new rhythm. These were not selfish thoughts. I love my children and know what a priviledge it’s been to be a stay at home mom. Those baby/toddler years require you to be full on, 24 hours a day. One can’t survive at that pace forever. There was a part of me that needed to submit to the Lord on behalf of Bennett’s emotional well being or I, like Jacob, might have my hip wrenched out of place and walk with a reminder for the rest of my life of what I should have done. Disobedience comes with a great cost.

The first week of August we told Bennett he would not be going to kindergarten but would be homeschooled instead. You ever broken your child’s heart but knew you were doing the right thing before the Lord? It’s a hard one to swallow. He cried bitter tears and I cried too. I didn’t want to homeschool and he didn’t want to be homeschooled. What a pair we were heading into the school year. What a journey we were reluctantly saying “Yes” to.

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This post is long enough. I will talk about homeschool experience in the next post.

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