Fall is in the air (I mean in my head)

28 08 2007

Even though it’s still ridiculously hot here, I woke up feeling Fall.  Rather than the temperature being the gauge for the season’s early arrival for me, it is my state of mind.  Fall is unequivically the best season to me.  The air is earthy and the trees are ablaze with color, but mostly the feeling of fullness and reflection settles in my heart.  It’s just early this year 🙂  My sister-in-law and I hatched a plan on my last visit home to have all the kids’ picture taken together when we are all together for the annual festival next month.  It will be a treasure to all of us to have one photo of our children and all our nieces and nephews – and a wonderful gift for my mom, as well.  Between the four of us, we have 5 boys and 3 girls, ranging in age from 13 to 2 – what a beautiful snapshot this shall be! 

For those of you who were left wondering, I finally made time to research sexing Dwarf Puffers, and it turns out that Beans and Bubba are in fact Beana and Bubba!  I was pretty sure that one of them was a female after having witnesses a sort of dancing/chasing ritual between them on a daily basis that never resulted in anyone getting injured.  Of course, if a puffer intends harm, those teeth ensure that it occurs!  I also discovered that the lack of Java Moss in which to lay eggs may be why Bubba is consistently held off….so I’ll have to do something about that before he gets overly frustrated and gets aggressive.

School is in full swing around here, and I realized this morning that the end of this week will put an entire month of the school year behind us.  It really doesn’t seem like it’s been that long – even to the kids.  I’ll take that as a really good indication that the year is going well 🙂

I finally got The Complete Writing Program, and I love it!  I was disappointed in the overall quality of printing, since it looks like something published at home on Microsoft Word and wire-bound at an office supply store, which I could do myself, and it certainly should have been packaged more carefully (one corner got bent up)!  My disappointment was fleeting, however, because what it lacks in appearance is certainly compensated for in content.  Being a lover of writing myself, I thought it would be easy to teach, until I tried it.  How do you teach something that comes natural to you?  After having tried many different programs and approaches, I think I’ve found the one that will do the job.

Good Beginnings

21 08 2007

I have learned about myself that I am really good at starting things.  I don’t have much bragging to do about my record for finishing things, though.  I’m one of those people who likes to get something up and running, and then I like to leave it and start something else.  I suppose that’s good for something, but knowing that about myself makes me anxious about starting things, because even though I hate to see “unfinished” things, I don’t always want to be the finisher.  This fact bothered me for years, and lowered my confidence in myself, until I finally accepted that God made me this way.   It’s certainly not that I can’t or won’t finish things, just that I enjoy the start-up phase much, much more.  I have learned to be careful what I start, though, which has improved my record for finishing things.  I only start things that I am sure I’ll want to see through, which means that it takes me a while to make a decision, giving those who know me well something to tease me about.  “Have you analyzed every aspect of this – are you sure?” my honey will say with a smile.  Even though I may be sure, and tell him so with a great show of confidence, it still makes me nervous.  The beginning of the school year makes me nervous, the beginning of the Girl Scout year, now that I’ve taken that up, and sometimes even the beginning of the day or week – Can you pull this off?  I question myself.  My honey pointed out last night that though he has seen me quit many things that I start for myself, he has never seen me quit something I start for someone else.  An interesting observation.  Comforting, too.  And after having given it some thought, it turns out that he is right.  I suppose that’s a good thing.  For all my rambling, I don’t think I have a point.  Just reflecting.

Since my brain sometimes switches gears quickly, you’ll have to learn to keep up with it. 

My honey and I have 2 beautiful, wonderful children, but it didn’t take much discussion to come to the unanimous decision that we wouldn’t plan any more (we’ve always been a bit apprehensive about what God may have planned – and yes, I know that reveals a lack of faith in that area, but we all have our shortcomings).  Pregnancy, although emotionally and spiritually a wonderful experience for me, was never ideal.  Problems began very early with pregnancy #1 and resulted in bed rest from the middle of the second trimester to the end, with 2 short “trial” reliefs from that which never lasted more than a week, and a lot of weight gain and general stress.  Pregnancy #2 ended at 16 weeks, taking part of my heart with it.  Pregnancy #3, although healthy, was an exercise in utter fear of additional loss for us, and we agreed that adding children to this family would be done through adoption from then on, if at all.  We’ve considered it a couple of different times over the years, but would end up dropping the subject when we couldn’t come into a place of complete committment to it.  Our kids are 9 and 13, and the subject is on the table again.  We do want more children, and we want to bless our children with more siblings; we just want to be sure.  I do think the whole thing may be more serious this time, though, because we have discussed it with the kids this time.  We’re not sure, yet, of course, but it has been an experience just talking about it together, and thinking together on what all this would entail as far as changing our lives.  A lot. 

Some friends who are more mature than us, not only in age, but in the ways that are important, once told us that 3rd children were “very good for couples”.  Since we only have two, we still aren’t sure what they meant.  Our pastor also talked once about some families he knew who had adopted, and referred to their experience as something that “messed up their little worlds in a really, really good way”.  I do think I know what he meant. 

I guess I’m not only feeling reflecive, but philosophical, as well 🙂  It’s good to stop and see where you are sometimes.  Stop and look at yourself.  It’s good for you.

Teacher-Mom Bliss

17 08 2007

Our “school” has been in session for 2 full weeks now, and everything is just rolling along smoothly.  I love the beginning of a new year, when the kids’ attitudes are upbeat and they are motivated to learn and do…and I always blissfully enjoy it without giving much thought to how long it will stay this way 🙂  This year, I’m even telling myself that it may just be fairytale-like all year – don’t laugh! – I can justify this dream!!!!  My kids are older now.  Maybe they finally get it.  Maybe they have internalized my incessant reminders that attitude makes all the difference – not just in school, but in life!  Maybe they finally understand that how they apply themselves now will benefit them later 🙂  Everyone realizes this at some point, don’t they?  And it is possible that my kids could learn this really early in life, right? 

All joking aside, they do seem to enjoy what they are learning this year, and in two weeks time, I have heard their opinions about several things change for the better.  Between them, there were 3 books/subjects that they were not enjoying and were reluctant to comment positively about.  Now I am hearing how as they get deeper in, it is getting better, maybe even good, and I have heard these comments come voluntarily, without solicitation…..a very good sign, indeed!  I hate it when I seem to be the only one who’s excited about the prospects for the year.  It’s nice when the kids share in that. 

Someone who was referred to me through my husband’s work connections called from California today to talk to me about home schooling.  I hope I helped her.  The laws out there may be different, so I mainly talked about learning styles, recommended a good book on that subject (“How Your Child Learns and Succeeds” by Cynthia Tobias), and pointed her toward unit study teaching and suggested some curriculum to look at, as well as reminding her not to discount local resources, like the library, teacher supply stores and the like.  We talked for over an hour – I hope I didn’t overwhelm her – I have a hard time shutting up once you get me started on something I’m passionate about 🙂

My husband and I were supposed to go to one of those social functions tonight.  You know the ones – where all the people are business acquaintances.  I sort of talked him out of it, and although I am incredibly relieved to avoid it, I’m feeling a bit guilty.  Self-induced guilt is one of my greatest adversaries.  Why should I feel guilty?  It’s not that he really even wanted to go that much, and I do struggle with feeling anti-social sometimes.  It’s just one of those times, and I really didn’t want to do this thing.  Sometimes I can “pull up my boot-straps” and go…..and sometimes I can’t.

A New Year of Home School

14 08 2007

I’ve been a bit scarce lately, as far as the computer is concerned – only checking and returning emails, and leaving any pure internet pleasure behind, because we started school last Monday.  When I logged on today, I read some others’ home school thoughts, and it inspired me to share our story. 

My honey and I are from the place that time forgot (not that it’s that way now, but still slow-moving, which is a good thing when you’ve lived in fast-moving places, and a part of us would love to seek shelter from the wind by moving back, but that’s another story).  No one home schooled.  We had never heard of such a thing.  We moved to the big city of Toledo, OH for a couple of years, and in the time we were there, I learned that some people take their child’s education into their own hands.  Huh.  That’s different.  Out of pure curiosity, spurred on by a bit of fear, since my firstborn was 4 and I had no desire to send my baby into the wilds of big-city schools, I checked out a book from the library titled “The Christian Homeschool” by Gregg Harris.  I hadn’t planned to read the whole thing, just sort of see what this idea was all about, but I did read the whole thing, and the seed was planted deep.  I began talking about it as something I would like to know more about, and maybe even do.  My husband was not at all interested.  He was of the “throw them out and let them learn to swim” philosophy (not with swimming, LOL, but with school).  But my son was only 4, so there was time for me to learn more, and time for God to work on my honey, so I sought out more information, mostly from the library, and asking questions, as we did not have internet at the time.

We ended up moving from the cold, northern big city, back to the bluegrass, but still far from “home” and still in what we called a big city, although it didn’t seem quite so big after where we’d been.  Although I had enough information and confidence to run with the home school thing when my son became the age at which the government feels they should be corralled into the classroom, my husband was still vehemently opposed, believing that we would be “sheltering” him from reality, and that there was no way I could do it, because I was not a teacher!  I prayed for God to change his heart and open doors for me, and I enrolled him in Kindergarten with a heavy heart and didn’t do very well hiding my broken heart as he left me each day to spend most of his day with strangers.  Little sister was confused and clung to him from the moment he got home until bedtime.  We all survived, visiting the classroom often and going to all the class parties and field trips.  He quickly became the star pupil to the good teacher, and had her half the day the next year, when first grade and second grade spent half the day together.  God did open doors – of revelation to my husband – that maybe this could work, and my prayers were answered when he agreed just before Christmas break to let me “try it for a year”.  He was quite surprised and a bit irritated/amused, when I pulled our son out of school at the break and began immediately after the holidays.  (He says he meant the “next” year.)  So was the teacher, who said, “Oh, not in the middle of the year….he’s my example for the rest of the students!”  Although disappointed, she understood what I was trying to do, and offered herself as a source of whatever help she could be, as did the principal of the school.  We visited the class often and still went to all the parties, in order to ease my son into a different type of schooling.  God was definately in control of this!  I was scared and excited and full of ideas and expectations, and it went very well.  I went through several curriculums before I found a perfect fit, and I still make adjustments to it as I find components that I like to add or replace parts of our core.  We have tried Christian Liberty Press, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, all which just seemed to feel like moving a classroom style learning into your home, which is not at all what I was looking for.  We finally discovered Sonlight, and a love affair was sparked.  We love the philosophy, approach to teaching/learning, the style of organizing (like a more structured unit-study) and the piles and piles of books.  I quickly realized that I was born a home schooler!  I had taught my son, by way of simply spending time playing and showing him things as we did life, more before he entered Kindergarten than he learned while there! 

Needless to say, my husband came around full circle.  He was duly impresssed by the progress we made in every area, and supports the whole idea completely, now!

My daughter had never seen the inside of a classroom until recently, when a friend who is a public middle school teacher, asked if she’d like to go help her get her classroom ready (cleaning desks, emptying files, bulletin board, etc.).  She was interested, and enjoyed the experience.

We use a more structured approach than some, but it is what works for us.  This year, we get up at 7:30 (I do make exceptions when we need more rest) eat breakfast, feed the pets, get dressed, and get started.  On days that I run, I leave them to the morning routine, and they responsibly carry on.  I insist that they do their least favorite (anything that includes sitting at a table and writing) first, and save their favorite subjects/activities for last, when concentration, motivation and energy are waning.  This (delight-directed study) I learned from Gregg Harris, in that first book I read so long ago.

This year, my 8th grader is using Sonlight for Bible Study, History, Reading, and Literature.  He is also using Keys to Geometry and Keys to Algebra, Sequential Spelling, Apologia Physical Science, and a pick-and-choose (I choose) approach with writing from leftover projects in Wordsmith Apprentice and Writing Strands until I get The Complete Writing Program, which I’m ordering this week.

My 4th grader is using Sonlight for Bible Study, History, Reading, Read-Alouds, Grammar Ace (which uses the Schoolhouse Rock videos!) and some Science.  We are also using The Weather Book by Michael Oard, Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 2:  Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, Sequential Spelling, Hooked On Math, Serl’s Primary Laguage Lessons and will also use The Complete Writing Program when it arrives.

Like most home school families, we are never really “done” with school, or are “off”, even though we do use the terms in reference to the book work.  We teach our kids constantly, never ceasing, simply by being parents, and lovers of learning ourselves.

Both kids are extremely social, playing rec department sports, and taking private lessons in something when an interest arises, and confidently taking part in any social gathering they encounter, whether they know someone involved-or not!  Both of them have always been comfortable walking up to new kids and jumping in with a “Wanna play?” and introducing themselves.  Now, they certainly did not get this from me, and since I am very quiet in unfamiliar circles, and rarely introduce myself, their social skills are proof that home school does not hinder a child’s social abilities!  I believe that is simply an individual trait that is God-given.  I’m not sure if it came from the Gregg Harris book or not, but I remember a quote that I read once, that said something like “Socialization is not sticking a child in a group of peers at their same ignorance level.”  How true!  We become socialized by interacting and learning from all age groups!

I am truly blessed to live in a country where freedom is a common expectation, and individuality is embraced.

Meandering thoughts

9 08 2007

Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t keep your train of thought on the track?  I don’t know if it’s the heat, the fact that we have started school and I’m adjusting to having a daily schedule again, or if I’m just losing it – but my brain is not cooperating!  I came home from a couple of hours of hanging out at a friend’s pool yesterday and just checked out – for I don’t even know how long.  It is a true blessing that my children are not little, because they would certainly have been “unsupervised” LOL  Believe it or not, they finished all of their schoolwork, even with a pool break – without my prompting.  (Good kids – they are a blessing!) 

I had a very difficult time waking up yesterday morning, and had managed to get my run in before going to the pool, but I felt distracted and disoriented, and frankly still feel a bit of that.  I am pretty good about staying hydrated….

Anyhoo, I came home and hit the couch (very unusual for me) and dozed for an amount of time which I was unable to mentally calculate when I awoke.  I served serve-yourself sandwiches for dinner, and hit the couch again until a bit after nine, when I just gave up trying to focus my vision and went to bed.  I slept almost 12 hours.  I felt physically better today, but I still just feel distant from the world, if that makes sense.  I can’t seem to think.  I don’t know. I don’t like it.  I need to run again in the morning, so I hope this weariness passes with the night.

School has gone well its first 3 days.  I am usually able to manage to get the kids to focus for the first few months of each new year, which saves incredible amounts of time each day.  Sometime during mid-year they end up wasting tons of time looking for that favorite mechanical pencil that they didn’t put where it should go, that book that they carted off the day before in search of a new or more comfortable place to read, or giving the dog attention because her hound-dog face arouses their sympathies.  Those days make me want to scream, and of course, always seem to be the days that a public-schooled friend knocks on the door to play after school only to be told “I can’t play right now: I’m still doing school.”  Urgh!

But for now, they move along cheerfully, accomplishing much before lunchtime. 

I haven’t had much brain to post or surf others’ blogs for the past few days, but I’m hoping this muddled brain will get it all together after the first week 🙂

Green Beans and Pride

4 08 2007

Well I headed off to the farmer’s market this morning for some more of that nostalgia, and to try something new.  With only one large mess of beans in the freezer, I cannot face winter.  I have never bought any green beans that were not White Half Runners, because that’s what my honey’s Maw always bought 🙂  They are wonderful cooked country style with new potatoes, a bit of ham and some chicken boillon, but my aunt inspired me to try something new.  This aunt is one of those people who can whip up a masterpiece with about any handful of ingredients, probably blindfolded, and has been dubbed by my sia (sister) and I as “The cook of cooks in the family” (we all do pretty well- but she stands a notch above for her creativy and ability without a recipe).  She admits to having stolen this particular idea from a restaurant, but it is very consistent with her style and flair.  So you get some Tenderettes (certain type of green bean) and just pinch off the points, wash and gather in a bunch of 6-8 in your hand.  Take a strip of bacon and wrap the bunch, spiral, from one end of the bunch to the other, stretching the bacon snuggly.  Then you place them in a shallow dish and microwave until the bacon is done, and slightly crispy- the beans will be perfect by then.  She says you may have to pour off some drippings half-way through – or if you have a micro-dish that allows for drainage, you’re good to go.  And you thought green bean casserole was the latest thing to do with green beans (which I don’t like, by the way).  I haven’t tried it yet, but I put some pre-wrapped bunches in the freezer for faster use later!  Mmmm! 

I also got some Blue Lake green beans, which she finds more tender and flavorful than the WHR – and just packed them up traditionally.

Just in case you were waiting for some sort of lesson on pride through green beans, I’ll pop that bubble right now 🙂  The pride comes in about what I did before the farmer’s market, which has me feeling very good today.  I woke to the sound of the treadmill about 6:40am, because my honey was working out in the garage, which is below our bedroom.  I had asked him to wake me early, since he is always up and I don’t usually wake early without prompting (he says a cannon, but this is my blog).  Anyway, at first I was a little irritated that he didn’t wake me like I asked.  He does this a lot.  I’m not sure if he is trying to pamper me, or if it is really just that much of a pain to wake me, but I got over it quickly when I credited him for probably realizing that the noise of the treadmill would do the job effectively.  I’m nice like that.  I got dressed in my best clearance-rack-mismatched, sweat-wicking, built-in bra running top and shorts, cushy, arch-supportive socks and running shoes, and pulled back my hair.  At first glance in the mirror I noted that I looked serious about this, and told myself, “You are a runner.  You can do this.  It matters not that you didn’t get all your workouts in last week.” (no – not out loud!), trying desperately not to make eye contact for fear that the doubt in my soul would be evident in my eyes.

I waved to my honey on the treadmill and began the 5 minute warm-up walk.  I had to run 1.5 miles today, and I used all the mental tricks I knew to wash the doubt away in the half mile walk.  I started to run.  The first half mile was good, and pretty easy.  The second half mile was just underway when my honey ran up to join me (his cool down – don’t laugh!).  I was  pleased because I was afraid I may need the encouragement, and knew that I wanted to impress him, which would help me push myself, and because I hadn’t asked him to do this.  As the third half mile began, he smiled at me and said, “Wow, honey.  You getting up and running at 7am – I never, and I mean never dreamed that you would do that.  You are doing great honey – I’m impressed.”  I smiled and ran on.  Not long after this, my stomach began to tighten uncomfortably, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten a thing.  Not a huge deal, really, for a 1.5 mile run, but it was more evidence that I was nervous about this.  I could almost see the marker when I was overwhelmed with something and stopped.  I stood for about 10 seconds in disbelief, not knowing why I stopped, and started again.  I finished, without dropping dead and I’m still on high about it at 3 in the afternoon.  I won’t discount myself for stopping, but I still don’t understand why I did.  I wasn’t feeling pain, and I was regulating my breathing, so I wasn’t out of breath.  I just stopped.  A close friend once told me that I sabatoge my own success because I fear it.  Well, I don’t know, but it comes to mind.  I did finish, though.  And I am very proud of myself for it.  I guess I learned something about myself, too.  And next time, I’ll be more aware of that mental aspect of the sport, and I’ll win that, too.

Friday’s Feast

3 08 2007

 Feast One Hundred and Fifty Four

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how polite are you?


What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

A blonde joke (sorry blondes – they are funny!)

Who is your favorite cartoon character?

Oh my gosh-this is too stressful -umm-umm Rerun (Peanuts), Sally (Peanuts), umm Crush (Finding Nemo), umm – ok, I’ve gotta stop!

Main Course
Tell about the funniest teacher you ever had.

Funniest?  Did I miss out on something?  Ok, in college I had this psychology professor who had a theory called “Cheerioflux”  more weird than funny, but close.  He called “Cheerioflux” the thing that causes things (like cars on the highway) to come in clusters, like Cheerios stick together when you have eaten enough that there is room for free-floating.  Those who were loners (cheerios or other things, like cars) don’t have enough Cheerioflux.  Yeah.  Ummhmm.

Complete this sentence: I strongly believe that __God is in control__.


3 08 2007

Much more than what is seen in my post, I have felt down lately.  Sometimes I feel like life is just too hard.  The world seems like it is so far gone on the side of evil that it isn’t worth the effort.  I am certain that we have succeeded in making life so complicated that it is no fun at all.  I am overwhelmed with all that I have to do, and not sure that there is much point in doing any of it. 

As most of you have probably experienced, thankfulness always seems to follow a bout of complaining and whining.  God always shows us that we truly have no reason to have bratty attitudes when we have so much to be thankful for. 

I am quite sure He is smiling (like I smile at my kids when they are so frustrated with something or with themselves and I am a bit amused with their response to it) when He opens a window of revelation to me showcasing a few (notice I didn’t say all- that would take a while) of the many things I have to be thankful for. 

I drove our elderly neighbor to a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and after he struggled with his aged body to get it out of the back seat, he opened the door for his wife, who was in the front seat, and asked if she needed a hand getting out of the car.  She was smiling as she slowly shuffled out and turned to him and said “No, I can get out, I just can’t hop out like Tracey can.  I used to be able to hop out, but not any more!”  He smiled back at her, and I felt like I was intruding on their privacy when I witnessed the look of pure love and complete understanding pass between their smiling faces.  They’ve been married for 55 years.  And they are the sweetest little couple I have ever seen.

I am so thankful for my wonderful husband.  I would not want to bear life without his loving support.  I say would not want to here rather than could not, which would certainly be more romantic, because I once said that I could not bear something that I then had to endure, and though I thought I would die, and certainly wanted to, I did not.  I am thankful that I didn’t.

I am thankful that I am physically healthy, and thankful that I have had the desire and motivation to enhance that health by becoming physically fit, rather than living with a level of health that is something much less than I am capable of.  I have never liked waste of any kind, but in retrospect, that has to be one of the worst kinds of wastefulness that I have participated in, and I hope I don’t ever do it again. 

I am thankful for the children that God has given me.  They are such a blessing.  God is always using them to grow me in so many ways, and he shows Himself to me through them in a million ways.  He shows me my flaws through them as well, so that I am humbled, either by letting me see how they are like me, or how they are not. 

I am thankful that my extended family is all still here with me, and pretty healthy.  I lost one grandparent when I was in the second grade, and although I still miss him and would love for my children to have known him – all the rest are still here- what a blessing! 

I am thankful for all the things that I have which make my life easier and more enjoyable (ironic, huh?) that I do not need and that many do without.  I often tell myself that I didn’t have all this stuff in the past, and I could live without it – but I ignore the fact that I am very sure I would complain.  Now that’s not saying that I can’t live with less, but as much as I don’t like to admit it, I have become accustomed to certain things that although unnecessary, have blessed my daily life, and I would be a liar if I said it would be easy to learn to live without some of these comforts.  It angers me to think I am spoiled in any way, but….

So I am thankful.

I have no reason to ever complain, but I am human, and I justify it easily when I feel like doing so.  But my God is merciful.  He smiles at me and opens the window, so that I can look out and see how good I have it. 

1 08 2007

Your Travel Personality Is: Easygoing

When you travel, you’re looking for a lot of downtime. Vacations are your chance to recoup.

All you need is a scenic spot and plenty of time on your hands. You’ll figure out the rest.

You’re not one to make lots of plans when you travel. You just follow whatever path seems right.

What’s Your Travel Personality?

Went to this from Meg’s Garden.  Fun.  Only it makes me admit how badly I need a long vacation – haven’t had one in two years 😦  Yeah, we’ve had a few weekend getaways, but I honestly believe that everyone needs atleast a week a year away from everything that they do on a daily basis.  You know what?  My husband works with Europeans, and they told him that in Europe, most good jobs have a standard of 4 weeks paid vacation a year, compared to the 2 weeks given in the US.  Hmmm.