Archive | Gap Year RSS for this section

Broken Bowls and a Baby: Homeschool Report

Last week we went to meet a baby and broke two bowls.

Friday morning was an Osborne Elementary field trip to meet my friends Amy and DJ’s new baby. They are brand new parents and wonderful people. The trip was 50 minutes each way so I planned and packed some “school” for all three to complete in the car. Working dutifully, they completed dictation, math, and cursive. In the last 10 minutes, they were set loose and chose to write a “songs in real life” script. Eli and Andi made up a play where the characters speak mostly in song lyrics from today’s hit songs. If you know Young Life camp, think a small-scale opera. What I noticed is their creativity and partnership in giving ideas, giggling and being goofy, and being so excited to write and perform something.

We arrived at their house and I panicked. What are my three big kids going to do in a house with no toys and one baby? I offered books and more school but they ran off into the house, “No thanks Mom!”

Meeting EveLynn was joyful. A very perfect, snugly, and sweet baby in the home of parents so vulnerably in love and well prepared, was a warm setting. Eli loves babies, Andi loves holding babies confidently, and Oaks thinks babies are soft and smooth.  They pet their dog, complimented her style and decor, admired her button bouquets and amazing craftiness (crocheted flower baby blanket! amazing dream catcher mobile!) and didn’t even ask to see the basement until I offered to show them the all-brick walls and floor down the steep steps. Everyone took turns holding Ev and no one wanted to leave. Walking back to the car, Eli said, “That was great. I had a good time Mom and at no point did I ever wish I had a book.”


Driving home, I realized gratefully, my kids have grown to be very appreciative and inventive. Homeschool allows these gifts to be practiced and promoted. Eli appreciates babies and can invent Hot Wheels tracks the whole driveway long. Andi appreciates art, projects, and expression and can invent melodramas. Oakley appreciates a dog’s soft underbelly and invents worlds with cars, Lego people, or pillows. None of them was extraordinary that day with Amy’s baby but they appreciated the magnitude of the moment and were present fully in it.

Sunday, we were home alone for dinner with Drew at a YL meeting so I “planned” a throwback dinner menu- Sustad family Sunday night dinner plan: popcorn, Mark’s shaved ice lemonades not included.

Oaks helped me with the air popper and we filled up a big blue melamine bowl.  I moved away to cut up an obligatory vegetable plate (no memory of broccoli on Sustad Sunday nights) and heard a crash behind me. Oaks had jumped off his stool and his hand struck the side of the full popcorn bowl. The bowl crashed and cracked into pieces and the popcorn flew. Eli walked in from a friend’s house and I let him know his dinner was on the floor- welcome home.

I wasn’t upset and understood the purely accidental nature of Oak’s action. I went looking for pieces of plastic and pulled out some bags of microwave kettle corn- thank you Boy Scout Eli. As I paid attention to the popping noises in the microwave, I didn’t look behind me for a bit to the mess on the floor. I served dinner- rescued floor popcorn, broccoli, and warm chemical-laden kettle corn. We had fun and added Parmesan cheese sprinkles to our bowls of buttered corn. We talked about cars (Eli’s obsession right now) and how they might go to Young Life camp themselves one day. Camper helped lick up Parmesan cheese but didn’t go crazy for the popcorn.

After I loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, during which I broke a glass bowl when my Swell bottle toppled over and pushed the bowl off the counter, I had a kairos moment.

I became fully aware of what I had missed before. I felt grace and peace in the middle of chaos. I felt calm and grateful even though I stood in the middle of a mess. 

My epiphany: I did NOTHING to clean up the popcorn. Eli, Andi, and Oakley picked up the big groups of popcorn, found a new bowl, swept up the small smashed pieces, and apologized for the broken bowl loss.

They took care of a problem without being asked! Industriously, they dove in to a situation to remedy it together! Together they cleaned up a mess, with a broom even! With care, they offered me concern.

Throughout the course of the last 18 months, my kids have increased in responsibility and effort. As part of the blessing I say to them, I say, “You’re capable and curious” and they have never ever lived these two truths out more poignantly. IMG_9441

We have hard days, I flop as frustrated teacher/mom, they don’t focus, we put other things first and chase the school train, or do so much school my job suffers. Last week, a new baby and a broken bowl reminded me we are living a gift- time with each other and the space to be inventive, appreciative, responsible and so so aware of God’s great grace.

Photos: Appreciating the “tree of wonder” on a walk, bikes in our van for a bike ride with Will last week, and the Hot Wheels line up. 

IMG_9425 IMG_9423


Recently Overheard Around Here

Beep. Beep. Beep. 

It was 6:35 and I was up on a Friday morning. I was sorting laundry in our bedroom before I started the two-story journey I would walk over eight times that day from bedrooms to basement laundry.

I moved two pieces of clothing and was stopped by a sudden need/desire: COFFEE.

I contemplated stopping mid-task to go downstairs and make the coffee, then coming back up to finish. As soon as I had courageously resolved to continue folding, forgoing coffee for another 10 minutes (15 if you count the extra five minutes I’d spend waiting while it brewed), I heard that sweet beep.

Three beeps. Three generous beeps. The coffee was made, ready, and waiting for me.

Downstairs, Drew had made the coffee for me, not even aware I was now awake. He loves me. He really loves me. Without enjoying a drop of coffee himself, ever, Drew has taken to making it for me. Not every day but increasingly more often. And often, just in the nick of time.

Thank you Drew.

Am I wrong Mom? 

Oaks came streaming through the garage, trailed by two little friends- aged five and four. They were all yelling.

Oaks: “I’m not wrong!”

Alex: “You are wrong. He is dead.”

Ben: “No he’s not. He’s a baby. You’re wrong, he’s a baby.”

Oaks: “He’s alive. Jesus is alive right Mom? Am I wrong?”

I look at the three boys. Where did this conversation start? What was the first comment? How were they all invested but all in disagreement?

I tried to enter in immediately, but thoughtfully.

” Guys, let’s not point out when our friends are wrong. Lets celebrate each other’s ideas. Oaks you’re not wrong. Jesus is alive. He’s not dead. Alex, Jesus did die, you’re not wrong, he was dead. Ben, you’re not wrong. Jesus was  a baby.”

Ben: “And now he’s a ghost. A whispy big one.”

Oaks: “God is the biggest. He is in-con-struct-ible.”

There were more. Lots more comments in a short amount of sweet time. Little boys and big questions, thoughts, and ideas. As they grow up, I can only hope they keep wondering, keep discussing, and do less finger pointing and more other-appreciating, despite differences.

Let’s do this again next year. 


A roller blade and scooter ride down the Line Creek Trail with friend Michelle today


Skiing Copper Mountain with Grandpa


Traditions! Valentine’s Day dinner and cake with Mom.

Currently, the Gap Year is a sweet, shiny, success. We are loving being home, being together, leaving town, skiing on weekdays, laying low on sick days, creating something from scratch, and learning together. What we battled in the beginning is refined and days are smoother, trust deeper, and enjoyment higher. Eli was most adamant a few weeks ago that we should do it again next year. Just one more year? The last year before Oaks goes to school.

We are thinking, weighing, and praying. April is decision time.


Gap Year Journal Entry #1

​​We are almost a month into our intrepid “Gap Year”, our intriguing home school experiment. We have been through a massive transition and feel unequal parts melancholy, bewildered, blessed, grateful, frustrated, and overjoyed.   (underlined words are vocab words for weeks 1-3)
In summary, we went this way because I felt it would be better for them and for me to have a year where they were home more than away and did school differently for a short season. Working from home with only Oaks left me feeling unfulfilled and almost sad as an extrovert and highly motivated worker. I thought, “This isn’t what I want vocationally or as a mom.” I made a change for me. 
I also looked at Oaks and thought, “He deserves the sibling connection E and A have.” I looked at Eli and Andi and thought, “If I have more working energy to give, I’d love to give it to you.” I wanted them to have more freedom to play, learn, explore and adventure and had the luxury to make a change so they could. I made a change for them.
To report in brief, we are achieving the dream. We have plenty of moments where it feels good, right, amazing and fun. And plenty of moments when the dream costs us all greatly. It’s really, really hard and really, really good, and even when it’s hard, its good.
Here’s how it’s been going in detail.
These are real life notes on my phone, written in the middle of a mess, or a bit of magic, and scribbled down at the end of my rope, I mean- night. 


Home school is hard today because

  • Andi gets frustrated and flops, and because Eli is so easily distracted by ANYthing.
  • Oakley won’t play alone today and keeps bugging the kids intentionally or asking me to play with him in the middle of the my lesson to Eli. I want to say yes to Oaks but cannot.
  • Eli cried when he got the consequence of me taking his water bottle away- which he took apart three times, refilled and tossed in the air as a massive distraction throughout the day.
  • I am doing more work than they are. They barely put any effort with a good attitude. Instead they whine or distract themselves and don’t get it done. I return repeatedly to help or sit all the way through it. I thought they’d work more independently.
  • Really hard because I can’t believe Andi throws attitude at me every day

  • Really hard because Eli can’t sit still and focus, speaks rudely to me and gives up easily on surprising stuff.

  • Hard because as siblings, they are fighting and using harsh tones. They are playing practical jokes and being dishonest when saying, “Mom is calling you Oaks” just to get him out of their way.

But wait, home school is great today because…

  • Eli asked Oakley to build a cool magnet car with him “Just like we did yesterday… That was fun. “
  • We got to go to a sunflower field with 4 young life girls.
  • They read alone in the ENOs and then lay in them and listen to me read Little House on the Prairie. They beg for more.
  • Christine came for lunch and we ate together on the deck outside.
  • Daddy got to come home for lunch with us.
  • I love hearing them pray for meals with gratitude and enthusiasm.
  • We talked about John the Baptist and what it would mean to carry a message people didn’t want to hear…We want to stand and say, “Black Lives Matter” today.
  • Andi is asking for breaks to play with her toys alone in her room. Her imagination and creativity gets air time today.
  • We are not in a hurry to go anywhere and take our time getting into the school day because they all three found their own imagination outlet around the house from 8:30-9:45am
  • Andi asks Oakley to play the cat game again
  • Oakley gets to watch and play with them all day and they with him- they are getting to know each other as good, good friends
  • I don’t feel lonely during the day
  • A weekend has never felt so delicious- I couldn’t wait for weekend number one and it was a wonderful one- Labor Day weekend with projects, people, Worlds of Fun and actually staying in town.
  • They cooked tacos on their own and were proud to tell  neighbor friend Will and our dinner guest.
  • Great because they played outside throwing mud balls after listening to me read aloud for 30 mins and still wanting more. They were active, together, outside and creative. I felt like i was living little house on the prairie- reclaiming simplicity
  • We went to Colorado on a Tuesday afternoon and saw Aunt Nat and Uncle John, Grandpa, Maama, Grammy and Granddad and Great Grandma! Plus we got to see the new Buchan house and visit with Bill, Tamara and Molly up on their mountain.
  • I love them being here all day and feel a peace about it even in the Terrible Times 

Our community and classes, tutors and friends at Shawnee Classical Conversations is encouraging and helpful. GG is offering support and help, tennis lessons and GG mornings so I can keep up with my Young Life job and even go to the staff retreat next week. Drew is cheering me on and working hard at home after long work days at work.  IMG_7396

What we have to do is intimidating at times. What we get to do is tremendous. We are blessed and bound together.

 FullSizeRender (6)