Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Letter


As we look forward to the celebration of our Savior’s birth, we want to share with you a few of our favorite things!  (Forgive us, we recently watched The Sound of Music.  It will help if you sing these verses to the tune of “My Favorite Things”.)

Tackling, reading to, bathing our children
Serving my wife when I can in the kitchen
Helping with surgeries, stitches and slings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Eric just completed the third of ten clinical rotations required in pursuit of his degree in Physician Assistant Studies.  He is enjoying the “hands on” aspect of his training and is on track to graduate next December!  His favorite time of day, though, is coming home to our family.  (Not coincidentally, that is my favorite time of day, too!)

Drawing and painting and everything crafty
Playing outside except when it is drafty
Being at home with my mom and siblings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Sandra is our true homebody.  She is doing well in her school work, but really excelling at art.  We are thankful for a friend from church who is teaching art to a small group of homeschoolers; we love watching her talent develop!  She continues growing in her faith, getting lots of practical experience with love, forgiveness, humility, sharing and serving – both inside and outside our home.

Running and jumping and yelling and hitting
Playing with guns and with swords and some spitting
Living each day with whatever it brings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Two words epitomize our son: all boy!  He turns just about anything he can get his hands on into a gun or sword.  He has one speed (fast) and one volume (loud), so we spend quite a bit of time outdoors, letting him run off some of that energy and talk in his “normal voice” without piercing anyone’s ear drums.  He has a very tender heart and loves encouraging others through his loving words and huge hugs.

Loving and chasing my sister and brother
Learning new words one right after another
Dogs that are friendly and airplanes with wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Lucy’s personality has really begun to blossom this year!  Out of the three, she wins the award for being “most attached to Mommy” (literally).  At around 18 months, she finally started branching out away from my appendages and showing some independence.  She loves singing and dancing (like her brother), coloring (like her sister) and doing whatever she can to keep up with everyone else all the time.

Black cups of coffee and dates with my hubby
Homeschooling Sandra, women’s bible study
When Lucy dances and when Reuben sings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Dates with my hubby don’t come as often as they used to; but when they do, we cherish them more, I think.  September brought the celebration of ten years of marital bliss.  We love each other and love living this adventure of life together, now more than ever!  One of the most significant changes this year was our decision to give homeschooling a shot.  If you ask Sandra, she’ll tell you she loves it.  The fact that I’m actually enjoying it, too, has taken me a bit by surprise.  If you’d like to know more about this aspect of our lives, feel free to browse my blog at

When the kids fight
Or cars need cleaned
When we’re sad or mad
We simply remember our favorite things
And then we don’t feel so bad!

We are so thankful for all these blessings in life…and remembering them does help us not “feel so bad” sometimes.  But the only thing that brings lasting joy, peace and love is Christ in our hearts and lives.  Every day, we seek to elevate Him to the highest place, replacing other good, though lesser, things with Him as our “favorite thing.”  May you do the same this Christmas season!

Love in Christ,
The Zufalls

Monday, December 5, 2011

Are You My Mother?

Disclaimer:  This might feel like a rambling stream of consciousness, so I won't be offended if you don't make it through.  :)

I feel like the Lord has been doing a lot in my own "kardia" lately.  Things I have been mulling over for a week or so...though this isn't the first time.  I'm just revisiting.  I do this from time to time.

Here's the thing.  Never do I tire of being a mother.  I love it!  I feel so blessed to be the mother of my three wonderfully imperfect children.  Never does my heart stray from this deep love...and never very far from an overwhelming gratitude.  Since sometime in my late teens or early twenties, the longing of my heart was to be a wife and mom. 

It's the mothering that sometimes wears me out.  Maybe "wears me down" would be more accurate.  "Mommy burnout" is what a friend aptly called it once.  The endless dishes and mountains of laundry.  The incessant spills.  The bonks and bruises of clumsy kids.  The tattling and bullying and pestering of siblings.  The can't-keep-it-clean-for-more-than-a-minute reality.  The monotony of instructions, corrections and conversations repeated over and over and over.  (Will they ever get it??)

I have a pretty laid back personality, but once my feathers are ruffled, self-control can sometimes just fly away from me.  Have you ever read that Dr. Seuss book "Are You My Mother?"  Lately, I've found myself being impatient with the kids and raising my voice.  More than normal.  (Not that it should ever be normal.)  More than I should.  (Not that I ever should.)  I keep thinking that they should look at me and ask, "Are you my mother?"  But they know.  They know I'm sinful.  They know I struggle with the very things they struggle with.  The very things I'm trying to steer them away from in their own hearts, thoughts, words and actions.  They know I'm not perfect.  I'm not fooling them, that's for sure.

The redeeming thing in all of this is that I have had lots of opportunities to practice humility lately.  I've had lots of opportunities to apologize and to ask for forgiveness - from my kids, from my Father.  I've been asking my self, "Will I ever get it??" 

And I will.  One day, when the world is made new, I will no longer struggle through these things.  Until then, I can be confident of this:  That He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Phil. 1:6)  I can pray.  I can ask the Holy Spirit to fill me.  Again.  I can surrender to Him rather than just trying harder in my own strength.  Again.  So simple...yet so difficult.  And I can look forward to the day when these words from Revelation 22:20 are fulfilled: "'Yes, I am coming soon.'  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reality Check

I'm just throwing this picture in for good measure because it's so cute.  Has nothing to do with this post.  :)

What I've been thinking about is (what I'm calling) The Stages of a New Homeschooler's Emotions.  In my mind, there are two versions: the parent's and the child's.  I have a feeling that someone out there on a homeschooling blog or forum has already developed this concept...but I don't typically enjoy browsing random blogs or forums looking for random information.  (So if you know of a good article, pass it along!)

Lately, I've been pondering the child's stages of emotion.  We are in our 11th week...but I'd say that by week 10, the rose colored glasses were officially folded up and packed away.  Stage One, for Sandra, was Elation.  She was beside herself the entire summer at the prospect of homeschooling.  And that momentum probably carried her for a good eight weeks.  But after about eight weeks, things started getting more difficult.  The material became more challenging.  The routine started getting old. 

So I'm calling Stage Two the Reality Check.  I get a lot more push-back from her these days.  A lot more whining and complaining.  The disillusionment is gone.  Reality has set in.  I think I have the home court advantage here in some ways, though...because as much as she can fight me about doing her work, she'd still rather be here than back at her school.

So...these last few weeks have been a bit more challenging for me.  Navigating new waters, I suppose.  Thankfully, I knew this phase was coming because of my homeschooling friends who have gone before me.  Still, I'm open for any tips and tricks you may have up your sleeve for parents or children regarding perseverance, choosing joy, working hard, etc.  (Scripture memory seems to be key here, so feel free to share more scripture suggestions; but I'm open to other advice, too!)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rise to the Occasion...

I don't know about you, but the week before I head out of town always seems like a tornado.  The week before our fall break trip was no exception.  I was trying to do too much in too little time...and my bread making experience was clear evidence.

A sweet friend from church gave me her bread machine a few years ago.  It sat on my counter, largely unused (like most bread machines, I fear)...until I found a good honey whole wheat bread recipe.  So now I make bread once or twice a week.  Because I make it so often, I have memorized the recipe.  (Besides that, it's an easy recipe.)

So in my flurry of pre-travel activity, I threw the ingredients together and hit the start button.  Usually, I only let the bread machine make the dough, then I take it out, break it into two smaller loaves for the second rise and finish it off in the oven.  (Thanks for this tip, Amy...makes all the difference in the world!)  Well, I was not surprised to come in from my errands to the smell of freshly baked bread.  I had forgotten to take it out after the dough cycle, so it just baked in the bread machine.  No big deal.  This has happened before.  I don't like the taste or consistency as well, but it's still edible.

But not this bread.  When I opened up the machine, this is what I saw.
This picture does not do it justice...because that really doesn't look too bad.  But just for comparison, this is what it's supposed to look like.
Need you ask what I had forgotten?  The yeast.  Blah!  It was a great object lesson for Sandra, though.  We tasted it and her response was "It tastes like plain pizza dough...gross!"

And it was a great heart lesson for me.  At the time.  Now, as I write this, I can't remember what it is I was supposed to learn.  Seriously.  I could make something up, but it's probably better to just be honest.  :)

(As a side, maybe this is why I feel like I have to keep learning the same things over and over...)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Break

Several people have asked me lately how our little experiment is going.  If you ask Sandra, she'll tell you that she loves it!  And if you ask me, I have to say: I've been a bit surprised at the fact that overall, I love it, too!  Don't get me wrong.  We have our struggles.  We have our battles, even.  But when taken as a whole, things are going very well.  I'll have to write more about what God's doing in the "kardia" department another time.

Last week we traveled to Kentucky.  My parents have property out there and my dad has built a hunting camp that is actually very accommodating and quite nice.  He's practically begged me to come for at least four years, so I decided that our fall break could align with my nephews' fall break and we could meet them and my parents out there for a little relaxation and fun.  My mom felt guilty that I would be making the 400 mile trek (which translates to 9-10 hours with small children) by myself, so she drove up to Charlotte to ride with us.  Thanks, Mom!
To say we had a wonderful time would be a vast understatement.  The kids played outside most of the day and there was a campfire burning most of the time.  I even had some time to work on scrapbooking.  The highlight, however, was a horse-and-buggy ride from the Amish neighbor.  (In case you're wondering, I did ask first before taking pictures.)
Here's Reuben (middle) with cousin Denver.
And Sandra (right) with cousin Gabe.
And here's Lucy pointing at the horse.  When we got close to the buggy and asked if she wanted to ride, she started screaming, climbing up my shoulder, and shaking her head.  We took that as a "no."  Her favorite part was seeing the cows in the pasture and going up and down the porch steps.

We're back in the saddle this week (no pun intended) and I'll try to write again soon.  You probably need to know about my failed bread making attempt.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What did you learn today?

One of the questions you'll often hear around our dinner table is "How was your day?"  Pretty basic, I know.  It's probably the most common among dinner table questions.  Often, Eric follows that up by asking, "What did you learn today?"  That question has never felt quite so threatening to me as it has lately, since we started homeschooling.

Sandra's usual response has been something to the effect of, "'s still review."  While this is true to some extent, I am confident she's learning something new here and there.  It just doesn't feel like learning b/c it's not super challenging.  So here we are in week six of this little experiment and I'm second guessing myself...again.  I looked back over the math she'll be learning this year to discover it doesn't include multiplication.  What?!  She was doing beginning multiplication at the end of first grade last year.  Shouldn't she be learning that now?  Do I trust the curriculum I'm using...or do I switch to something else?  Granted, there are definitely new things she'll be learning in math and it's a different approach than they were taking at her school last year...but am I teaching the right things?  Are we on track?

So on Monday, a new math concept was introduced.  This has been the first time the rubber has really met the road for Sandra.  And for me.  She's never learned how to carry numbers...and she didn't get it right away.  We labored through it anyway; and though she began to understand the technique, she really didn't get the concept.  Until the next day.  Then by yesterday, she really began to understand.  You know how I know?  Because she was able to explain it to Eric during dinner when he asked if she learned anything new.  So rewarding for her.  So affirming for me.
Surrender.  Trust.  Obey.  Persevere.  These are only some of the things I'm continuing to learn.  Same song, different verse, I guess.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Well, last week held adventure for us, as our van battery died.  Twice.  I won't bore you with the saga that ensued on Thursday.  Let's just say my morning didn't go as planned.  After being assured that our battery and alternator were fine (by "the professionals"), it died again on Saturday morning.  That resulted in 48+ hours in the shop (since 24 of those hours fell over a Sunday) and more altered plans.  In case you ever wondered, this is why people with four-door sedans upgrade their vehicles when they have more than one or two kids.
I'm not sure what those faces are about...but the kids did learn what sardines are.  So maybe they're fish faces?  And I learned how to get three kids still long enough to take a picture!
There.  That one is a bit better.  :)  Needless to say, we were all happy to have our (not always so) trusty ol' van back on Monday evening...with a new battery, nonetheless.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Four Weeks Down... we are at the end of four weeks of homeschooling.  Four weeks!  Time is not going any slower with Sandra at home, I'll tell you that much.  I can't believe it's been four weeks!  One thing I have noticed, though, is that I feel like I'm in some sort of time continuum.  I never quite realized how much Sandra's school schedule defined my sense of time.  I think the remedy to this, though, will be our fall schedule...which more or less started this week.  Reuben is in preschool Tuesday and Thursday mornings and my Women's Bible Study meets Wed. that should give us some week-day orientation.  Sandra's art class starts in a couple weeks.

School continues to go well.  I'm beginning to feel more at ease with our system.  My mom asked me if I had the "perfect public school option" available right now, would I send Sandra there.  I had to tell her no.  It wouldn't solve the driving force of why we decided to embark on this adventure in the first place - which is the school schedule.  This has been a much better fit for our pace of life right now - and for that, I'm thankful.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not to be Forgotten...

Reuben started his second year of preschool today!  One of his teachers is our two-doors-down neighbor and at least half the class is comprised of friends from last year.  So he had no problem feeling right at home.  Here are a few pictures for your viewing enjoyment.

In typical Reuben form, he wanted to make a funny face.  And refused a "normal" picture until I took this one.

I thought he had it out of his system...

...but no - he didn't.  :)

What a ham!  It was simply amazing how much more productive I was today.  Simply.  Amazing.  I thought home schooling would wear me out.  Don't get me's definitely stretching me and I often find myself exhausted.  But to tell you the truth...I think it's the toddlers who wear me out!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

First Day of School Photos

Here you go!  The long anticipated first day of school photos.

Sandra commemorates most everything with art in some form or fashion.  Good to know where we are with spelling...  ;)

 Second grade Sandra!  (Picture in front of the door is a tradition.)

Here's another "First Day of School" tradition - going out for ice cream!  Since this was also Eric's first day back, we celebrated both at Rita's.  And let me tell you that their blizzard-like Blendini gives Dairy Queen a run for their money!

We're starting week three and I'd say "so far, so good!"

Friday, August 19, 2011

One Week Down...

We made it through our first week!  Granted, we still have a few things to add to the schedule, but overall I'd say it was a shining success.  Praise the Lord, right?!

One thing that has become evident been reconfirmed is that I really like order in my life/household.  I also like to feel productive...realizing that feeling productive and being productive are sometimes two very different things.  Dare I say that these "good" things are idols in my life?  I might as well...because the truth is that they are.  I like to make lists and I like to check things off because then I feel productive, purposeful.  With homeschooling, I'd say this has gone fairly well.  I've been able to check off the things on our lesson plans and move right along.  However, it's really hard to feel productive when you spend the majority of your day doing the menial things you do every other day...including "just playing" or "just being" with your kids, as the case may be.  (I probably do not have to tell you this, as you may experience this very thing yourself.)  I told Eric that I should probably add things like "play with the kids" or "read to the kids" to my to-do list so that I'll feel like I get more done in a day.  Disclaimer: I believe that whether or not they're on a list, these are the important things that really count.  But maybe I would do those things with a better attitude if they were part of my task list.  And I'd really feel like I was knocking it out if I added things like change the diapers, do the laundry, make the meals, clean up the kitchen, clean up the messes, smile like you mean it.

Not sure I'd be able to check off that last one, though.  Why do these things so often feel taxing, burdensome or frustrating?  Why can't they feel like the joy and the privilege that they truly are?  I'm working on that.  Or maybe I should say the Holy Spirit is.  Praying often for Spirit-filled parenting and homemaking.

And that was a tangent, I guess.  This blog might be full of them.  Obviously it won't be limited to homeschooling.  :)  Going to try to get some pictures up soon, as I usually find myself drawn to blogs with more pictures and less text.  Oops.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kardia - A Definition

So here is how the KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon defines the word kardia:

the heart
  1. that organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life
  2. denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life
  3. the vigour and sense of physical life
  4. the centre and seat of spiritual life
    1. the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours
    2. of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence
    3. of the will and character
    4. of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions
  5. of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate
Sorry.  That was kind of long.  But from that definition, maybe you can gather why we have chosen to name our homeschool Kardia Academy.  (In NC, naming your school is a requirement.)  I call this blog The Kardia Experiment for several reasons.  I'll just leave you to speculate those...though if I have the tenacity to keep this up, I'm sure they'll unfold over time.

Today was our first day of school!  Sandra was beside herself with excitement.  Honestly, she has been thrilled about the prospect of homeschooling since we told her back in June that we'd decided to give it a shot.  And over the past couple months, the Lord has been faithful to build the excitement in my heart, as well.  To say that I've come to homeschooling reluctantly might not do it justice.  But I have to say that today was great.  A wonderful beginning.  An answer to many prayers.  Here are a couple of my favorite quotes.

Sandra: If I have a question, do I have to raise my hand?
Me: No...and you don't have to call me Mrs. Zufall, either.  ;)

We didn't do a full-blown schedule, as we're kind of easing in this week and next.  So we did school from about 1:00-2:30.
Me: Okay, we're done for today!
Sandra: What?!  That's all I have to do for homeschool?