Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time to Be Merry

I'm wondering why I do not feel the normal amount of stress that accompanies the arrival of the Christmas season. In fact, I am relieved to announce that I am not overwhelmed with obligations this year. But why not? There is still much to do. I haven't wrapped a single gift. There are a few more gifts yet to be purchased. And I still don't know what I am expected to bring to Christmas dinner.
When I look at the life of the Bray family this season, compared to last Christmas... Perhaps the answers are there. Our days are so different than they once were.
The boys are not in public school. So we're not rushing out the door every morning to get there. And my outings no longer revolve around what time I have to pick them up. There's no homework, no lunchboxes to pack, no parental volunteer hours expected.
I do not have any leadership responsibilities outside of our home. Last year, I was the coordinator of our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in Lexington. This year, I have no preschoolers. So I have no meetings to plan, no phone calls to make, no events to coordinate.
This change in lifestyle has affected my attitude about when and where and what I am willing to give my time to. The answer has come to this... my family. And while it may sound selfish, I believe it has made all the difference for the four of us.
I spent the first five years of my youngest child's life looking for respite outside of our home, pouring myself into social obligations with the belief that it was what was best for us all, not realizing that those hours spent away from home were making the hours at home so much more stressful. When God laid it upon my heart to homeschool, I was so frightened of the responsibility, wondering how on earth I could entertain my children from sun-up to sun-down. Yet it has proven to be the best decision we have ever made.
Our days are much simpler now. We get up. We have breakfast together. We do school together. We have lunch together. We do chores together. We play together. We have supper together. We read together. We watch TV together. I'll be the first to say I am shocked that we don't get tired of it. It is truly wonderful. And it has inspired me to adopt the "simple life" this Christmas season.
This Christmas, I have let go of any responsibility that is not in the best interest of my family. It has not been easy. I've declined party invitations. I've cancelled our annual Christmas party. I've refused to get caught up in the hussle and bussle. I know I may sound like a humbug. But this year, it's what we need... to focus on the blessing of family.
And as I sit here, not stressed, not overwhelmed, not panicked, I am so happy to have found the courage to say "no" to so many potential obligations. This year, the Bray family has felt more like a family than any year before. While I doubt our Christmases to come will be this stress-free, I am thankful that this year, we have the time to "be merry".

Merry Christmas to you all! God bless!

Monday, April 5, 2010

To homeschool

If you keep up with the Bray family via facebook, then you know that we have recently made a huge announcement. Starting in September, I have decided to homeschool my handsome little boys... at least for a little while. And if you are reading this right now, I can only assume that you might be a little curious as to why we have decided this is best for our family. Let me explain...

When you look at a child's elementary school experience in 2010, compared to what it was during our elementary days, you can't deny that things have changed dramatically. When I was in those early grades, I remember standing in line to go to lunch, but praying first before we left the classroom. I remember going on field trips, and my mom was there enjoying it with me. I remember having birthday parties during class, with cupcakes and whatever else the child's mother blessed our palettes with. I remember my mom volunteering in my class and learning who my friends were and knowing how I behaved at school. I had lots of fun, lots of friends, and I loved school.

In 2010, the children are not allowed to pray together. The teachers are not even allowed to talk about God in school. They are only allowed two field trips a year, and the parents are not allowed to accompany them. Absolutely no birthday parties! Last year, it was like a federal case, just to enable Bryson's class to have some sort of Christmas party. It couldn't be before lunch because the school system wouldn't allow us to compete with lunchroom sales. If we did it after lunch, the total calories couldn't be more than 100. It was crazy. I was able to volunteer in Bryson's class last year. I knew every single child in his class. This year, I've not been allowed to volunteer in his class. It's very frustrating. And within the first two weeks of school, I had to speak with his teacher about a bully in his class.

In December of last year, I sat at a friend's house complaining about all these things and more. I was very frustrated. I looked at her and shrugged, "But there's nothing I can do." She said, "Oh yes there is. You can homeschool". This comment stuck in the back of my mind for the next few months.

As I pondered the possibility of pulling Bryson out of the school system and never enrolling Camden in Kindergarten, it seemed crazy, but it felt right. The more I've thought about it, the more sure I am that it's the right thing for us right now. All the negative influences of this world are coming at our children at a much younger age than they came at us. Are they really ready to withstand that kind of pressure? Is five years at home enough to make them ready before trusting the school system to do what's best for them? Are they even going to be able to enjoy their elementary years? Personally, I don't think so. So I am going to take the next three years to instill in them the values, morals, ethics that I want them to have (that I believe God wants them to have) before I put their well-being in the hands of the school system.

I know this is a huge decision. I know it's controversial. I know many people will make negative comments. One person even said to me, "So you want your children to be socially awkward?"

But I truly believe I am doing the right thing. I believe I am doing what is best for my children. I believe I am doing what God wants me to do. And that's all that matters to me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

No Place Like Waffle House

I am one of those weird people who has an undying affinity to enjoying a meal at Waffle House. Unless you share this affinity, I'm sure you might have just lost a little respect for me. I understand, and I am not offended. I know it's not normal. The food is greasy. The atmosphere is smoky. And the floors look like they've never been mopped. But I LOVE it! Let me tell you why....

When I was in middle school, I went with my parents to visit my oldest sister who lived a few hours away. On this rare occasion, I had my parents to myself. I can't remember where my other sister and brothers were. I just remember that Daddy was driving down the interstate, and he asked where we wanted to eat. My mother and I are very indecisive about where we want to eat, so my dad suggested Waffle House. He did this with a huge smile on his face, as he looked at my mom knowing how she would react. I had never been to Waffle House before, and wondered why my mom carried this horrified expression of obvious distaste. I curiously asked what is wrong with Waffle House? My mom just continued the look. Daddy, realizing that I'd never enjoyed the luxury of a meal at one of his favorite restaurants, swerved to exit immediately and pulled into the Waffle House located just off the ramp.

I remember it so clearly - his excitement as we sat down. He began telling me how the waitress would yell our order out to the cook in an incredibly loud voice to insure that he heard what we wanted. Then the cook would memorize what she said and begin fixing the meal. BUT not only would he be listening to our waitress and then fix our order, but he would also listen to the three other waitresses and fix each of the orders they yelled out. His excitement was contagious and I reveled in being the sole member of his audience. I watched in amazement as the ordering process carried out just as he had described. I was awed by the cook's ability to hear and remember the orders.

Then I experienced the ultimate yumminess of our meal. My dad especially loves their hashbrowns. You can get them anyway you want them. I followed his lead, and ordered mine scattered and covered... mmm.. delicious!

Needless to say, my mom was not completely miserable, but she was not, is not, and never will be a fan of Waffle House.

Now I, on the other hand, I LOVE WAFFLE HOUSE!!!!! I love the memory of that day with my parents. Every time I pull into that yellow-roofed restaurant, I smile. I get giddy with excitement as I relive that first visit.

AND... I love how, when I asked my son where he wanted to eat for lunch today, he smiled and said, "WAFFLE HOUSE!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say...

There's a saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." I disagree. Words are more hurtful to me than any bodily injury. Wounds inflicted to my body will heal, but the pain caused by another's hurtful words will never be forgotten, especially when those words come from someone you love - someone you trust - someone who should be supporting you, not tearing you down.
In the case that spawned this blog, it was a group of people. People that I trust, and whose opinion matter to me. I know it wasn't their intention to cause me pain, but that's what happens isn't it. We speak openly without considering the impact of our words.
Especially when it comes to parenting. What a sensitive subject, for mothers imparticular. If you want to hit a mom where it hurts, question her role as a mother - the decisions she makes regarding her children.
Speaking from experience, as a stay-at-home mom, I truly believe this one of the hardest responsibilities one can have. It is hard on your heart, hard on your body, hard on your patience, hard on your mind and hard on your soul. The moment they place that precious child in your arms, you start to feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Oh my goodness. I am responsible for this child. Wow. He is completely dependent on me. He will spend the majority of his days as a preschooler with me. Not only am I responsible for feeding, dressing, and bathing him. I am also responsible for his education. I am responsible for his spiritual growth. I am responsible for building his character. Wow. And there is no manual, no job description. It's hard.
I've never struggled with self-esteem issues... until I became a parent. Because I know that each move I make as a mother pertaining to my children is ultimately going to effect the person they become. Now, I am always second guessing every decision, lying in bed each night critiquing myself, wondering if I am doing a good job.
But what makes motherhood the hardest, in my opinion, is that there are so many people out there who are eager to tell you what you are not doing right. Other parents who think their way is the right way, and willlingly pass judgement on you for your way of doing things. I'm amazed at how, not only strangers, but friends and family, let you know when they think your children are less than perfect.
I am not foolish enough to think that my children are perfect in the eyes of this world. But they are perfect to me, in spite of their imperfections. They are boys, and believe me, I'm the first to say, they are ALL BOY. And I know I am not the perfect parent. I don't expect to be, nor do I expect anyone to tell me that I am.
I guess my point is, words are never more painful than when they attack what is nearest and dearest to your heart. My children are nearest and dearest to my heart. And nothing is more important to me than my responsibility for them and to them.
While I know my children are not perfect in your eyes; they are not wildly, uncontrollable five and seven year olds who think the world revolves around their happiness.
While I know I am not the perfect parent, I know I am doing the best I can. No one is more critical of my decisions regarding my children than I am.

So if you don't have anything nice to say... about my children, or my parenting style... PLEASE, don't say anything at all.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ready, Set, Don't Go

So I know. I stole this title from Billy Ray Cyrus's hit song about his daughter growing up and leaving home. My children are only 7 and 5, so I have a few years before they will be packing up their stuff and waving good-bye. THANK GOD! However, I can totally relate to Billy Ray. You see, my youngest little one will be starting Kindergarten in August. And now that the new year has arrived, I HAVE to start preparing myself for what is to come. Registration is just around the corner, then I'll be taking him to the school for his assessment, then he'll be meeting his teacher and before I know it, I'll be packing two lunches! I'll drop them off, and then what? What will I do for those five days a week that I have my house all to myself for SIX HOURS! I'm terrified!