Friday, December 31, 2010

2010...I Did What??

Today's post is going up a little late...but for a very good reason. We were out running errands and trying to get the last of the 2010 to-do list done before it becomes the 2011 still-not-done list. Had some success, had some disappointment (why was everyone in town at Kohl's today???) Had to brave Walmart (eeek!) and barely made it out with my new contacts and all of my fingers and toes intact. There's nothing like a Walmart parking lot to make you appreciate your guardian angel.

Anyway, in the midst of the NASCAR-esque dodging and weaving, I was thinking back over the year and I was a little shocked by everything that 2010 brought our family. It started out with Major Dad deployed to Afghanistan and our first days as homeschoolers. So it basically started out for me with a potent combination of abject terror and blissful ignorance. And amazingly it is ending with real joy and peace.

Major Dad returned home safely and while our current long distance family life isn't ideal, we have found a way to make it work. And our homeschooling has become not only a great fit for our family, it has become a true blessing to me and I think to the kids as well. Ella is learning so much and Jack is so smart it kinda freaks me out. We have found an incredible support system in other homeschooling families and I even caught myself looking through 4th grade curriculum the other day and really getting excited about next year...and we're only half way through this school year!

I am truly humbled and in awe of the way God has led our family and blessed us in ways I could never have imagined. It hasn't been easy, but God has been faithful through it all. Isaiah 26:12 says, "Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us."

Lord, thank you for all that You have done for my family. I can't wait for 2011 because I know You're already there and that You have even better things in store for us.

Happy New Year, dear friends.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scary Banshee Mom

My darling Ella is a figure skater and she loves it. In my long ago youthful days, I was also a figure skater and I still love it. Now figure skating, like most sports, has its fair share of stage mom syndrome. You know what I mean...the well meaning mom that yells a little too much "encouragement" and takes everything way too seriously. The one that turns every practice session into one long awkward moment. When this mom sits down all the other moms quietly slide a little further down the bleachers to avoid being sucked into her banshee mom vortex of terror. Yeah, that one. Well, I've seen it from both sides of the ice...and it isn't pretty.

So I work really hard to avoid being "that mom." And while I personally have a *slightly* overly developed competitive nature, I always tell Ella that the only thing that counts is doing her best, having fun and all that other stuff they write about in the "How To Not Emotionally Damage Your Children" articles.

And I think I'm doing a pretty good job. But I feel my inner banshee mom trying to break out of the tiny box I keep her locked in. Ella just finished a session of group lessons and she didn't pass the test to move on to the next level. She was so disappointed. She handled it with great maturity and I was really proud of her, but it just stinks. She only missed one skill. Actually only half of a skill because it's a turn she has to do on both feet. She can do one but not the other. And now she has to repeat the entire level...for one skill. One skill! Wait, deep breath, count to 5, go to a happy place where little elves make cookies. Ok, better now.

Even though I know Ella didn't do the turn well enough to pass, my protective mommy instinct is revving into the red zone. Especially when she turns her big blue eyes up at me and says, "Mommy, everyone passed but me. Am I not good at skating?" Yep, that cracking sound you hear is my heart breaking.

I know that failure is a part of life and that sometimes it's the best teacher. But it hurts so much to see my children sad. And as much as I want to jump in and try to fix it, I know that I can't. Ella didn't pass. It wasn't unfair, it wasn't a conspiracy, it's just a disappointment. And I know that she'll pass next time and that in 10 years it won't matter at all.

But it matters now.

And it still stinks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolute-ness

It's that time again. A time for looking back over the past year with hopefully more smiles than tears. And it's a time to make those big, lifestyle change decision we affectionately (or resentfully) call New Year's resolutions.


Confession time...I'm not good at New Year's resolutions. Not good at making them, even worse at keeping them. So this year I've decided that instead of making a resolution, I'm going to be resolute. Resolute in my faith, resolute in following the Lord, resolute in my peace (oh, there's a big one) no matter what. I looked up the word and here are some of the definitions I found.

Resolute: firm or determined; unwavering; firm in purpose or belief; steadfast.

So as I was searching and pondering the meaning of "resolute" I started to think of Isaiah 52:12 which says, "for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard."

That's a great passage for the New Year because it reminds us that God never leads us to a place that He has not already been. Wherever we go according to His will, He has already prepared the way for us. He goes before us and His glory remains with us to be our shield as we follow. No matter how difficult things may be, God has already been through it first and He has made a way. We just need to trust Him and be resolute in following him.

So friends, whatever the New Year will bring, whatever happiness or sadness will come, we can step into it with confidence and joyful expectation because God has gone before us. There is no uncharted territory, no unknown land, because God is already there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tweeting for the Technologically Impaired

Ok, I admit it, I'm not a technologically talented person. I'm not a fan of gadgets, widgets, code or pretty much anything that requires me to speak computer. It's not my thing. I like old fashioned books and handwritten letters that come in the mail. I make my daughter use pencils and write in notebooks. I use pencils and write in notebooks. I do love email and I even learned to use Facebook last year (yes, last year). But that's where my technology evolution stopped. It's who I am...a throwback to the the pre-tweet age.

But, yesterday, I took a brave, bold belly flop into the techno pool. Yes it hurt, yes I'm paying for the long night and lack of sleep today, but I think I have earned my social media merit badge.

Perhaps you have noticed the changes (again) to the look of the blog. Like it? You may also have noticed that you can now follow me on Twitter or Facebook...or both if you're a little obsessed (which I appreciate). Because the blog now has both a Twitter page and a Facebook page. And I did it all by myself. No help from the computer genius I married. I edited code (ok, I did a cut and paste job, but it still counts), moved gadgets, created pages, uploaded pictures...all by my technology-phobic self. Gotta say, I'm pretty feeling pretty darn proud.

Unless I manage to burn down the internet with a misplaced forward slash. In which was totally my husband's fault.

Christmas Aftershock

Is anyone else completely exhausted? Or is it just me? Because I need a 3 hour massage and about 18 hours of sleep. Seriously. I totally get why bears hibernate through the winter. One, to avoid going out in the bone numbing cold and two, to recover from the holidays.

We had a wonderfully awesome Christmas here. The kids had a blast and we were so lucky to have my mom stay with us. Somehow, even though I had all the gifts wrapped and ready to go before lunch on Christmas Eve (that's a big deal for me by the way) I was still up until after midnight. There wasn't even anything to assemble. I'm not sure how it happened, but there you go.

Then wham...Christmas morning. In our house Christmas morning sounded something like this.

Door creaks open.

Child gasps.

Footsteps race across the house.

Our bedroom door flies open.

Biggest child launches herself with a flying squirrel leap onto our bed and screams,


To which I said, "is your brother awake?"

Biggest child does some sort of Russian gymnastic dismount from the bed and races to her brother's room.

Muffled and intense sibling discussion.

Smaller footsteps race across the house.

Smallest child tries to jump on the bed. Falls. Tries again. Falls. Grabs onto Major Dad's leg and pulls himself up (possibly pulling out leg hair as well).


To which Major Dad says, "well we're not opening presents until Grandma is up."

Both children disappear in a puff of pajama colored smoke.

Footsteps race down the stairs to jump on poor unsuspecting Grandma's bed.

And it was a fun day. A wrapped present that barked (a toy dog, not a wrapped puppy I promise), a remote control helicopter that I'm pretty sure is stalking me and Turducken for dinner (thank you Grandma Lisa for sending it!).

What? You've never heard of a Turducken? Neither had I until I married a man from New Orleans. It's a duck stuffed inside a chicken then stuffed inside a turkey. So when you slice it, you get a Neapolitan of meat. Yes, Turducken, when one plucked and stuffed bird on a platter just isn't enough. In fact, isn't there some song about the three dead birds of Christmas? No? Hmmm....I really must be tired.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Great Gift Bag Rebellion

Today as I was wrapping gifts (not at the last minute...its still daylight) I was suddenly confronted by the single most controversial element of the Christmas season. Not the whole "It's not politically correct to say Merry Christmas while you're Christmas shopping in a major retail store decorated in red and green and advertising huge price cuts just in time for the holiday still officially known as Christmas" debate.

And not even the whole "how dare you put up a Nativity scene on your private property to celebrate a fundamental truth of your faith in this land of religious freedom and democracy because someone might see the display and be offended by such an obvious act of religious intolerance that they'll sue you, the city and the people who made the plastic baby Jesus sculpture."

No, my friends, I'm taking about an even more controversial issue. One that threatens the very heart of our Christmas traditions and festivities...the skyrocketing use of gift bags. That's right, the gift bag. It's the gift bag that is singularly at fault for the commercialization of Christmas...and the Zhu Zhu Pets riots...and basically the entire downfall of Western Civilization. Yes, every possible down side to Christmas is due to the insipid and sneaky rise of the gift bag to the pinnacle of present presentation.

See, I remember spending hours before Christmas trying to perfect the slide the scissors down the paper technique that my mom could do, defying the basics of geometry to smoothe snowflake bedecked paper around round corners, desperately trying to figure out the secret to wrapping ribbon around the package evenly and then debating the best location to place a big bow on top the whole thing. Only to see the carefully and lovingly created masterpieces of Christmas joy be shredded to microscopic pieces the next morning. And then gathering the wreckage into giant trash bags (saving the bows of course) and using the empty cardboard tubes as swords or telescopes.

But no more. Now the gift bag rules the wrapping roost. With its simple and time saving character rolls of colored paper don't stand a chance. The ease of dropping in a gift, stuffing with tissue paper and slapping on a gift tag has defeated the skill and precision of sliding scissors and precisely folded edges. No forced creativity to deal with an odd shaped box, no contortions to hold the paper in place while using your teeth to peal off a piece of tape, no frustration when an unruly gift pokes a hole through the wrapping. And no tornado of destruction on Christmas morning.

Those smug little gift bags are neat and easy, no stress, no challenge...and they're reusable. It's anarchy, I tell you!

So this Christmas, just say no to easy. Say no to the quick clean-up. Curl the curly ribbon...wrap a basket ball in an entire roll of wrapping paper and hold it all together with enough tape to put the space shuttle back in orbit! Wear your paper cuts with pride, my friends...and don't pay any attention to those gift bags under my tree.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Won't Be Home For Christmas

If you are married to a Marine, love a soldier, cuddle a sailor, hold hands with an airman, even if you just know someone who serves our country in the military then you might want to grab a tissue...just giving you fair warning. See how I look out for you guys.

So, here's a video I found on YouTube. It's a tribute to our military men and women who selflessly serve this nation, who give up spending Christmas with their families in order to keep other families safe. And, it's a tribute to the families who wait and hope and pray. Merry Christmas...and thank you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Isn't About Giving

Whoa there, what did that title say? Yep, you read it right...and nope, I'm not in a Grinch-y mood. But I have been entertaining deep and profound thoughts on the meaning of Christmas.

Let's start with the (hopefully) obvious, Christmas is about Jesus Christ. It's not about gifts or family or peace on earth...even though those are all good things. Christmas is about the birth of Savior of the world. Does Jesus bring joy and peace and incalculable gifts? Absolutely. But I still say Christmas isn't about giving. Or how about this...Christmas isn't only about giving.

Christmas should also be about receiving. God gave the gift of His only Son on Christmas. He gave us a Savior. He gave us His life. So, in this Christmas season, are we truly receiving those gifts? Or are we simply acknowledging their existence without any true, heart deep recognition of the beauty of the gifts we have been given? It's like someone handing us a beautifully wrapped gift that we never open. Did we receive the gift? Sort of. We looked at it, acknowledged it, probably even thanked the person who gave it to us. But if we don't open it we miss the whole point.

Have we become so wrapped up in our giving, that we have neglected the Father's giving? I love the generosity and thoughtfulness that fill Christmas. It's wonderful that people want to give gifts and bless others during this season. I have gifts that are wrapped and waiting for my family and I can't wait to see them open each one. But I don't want to be so concerned with what I'm giving or what I'm doing that I forget, or worse, take for granted what God has given me.

Lord, help me to truly receive the gift of Jesus Christ into my heart and to be grateful everyday that You loved me so much that You gave Your own Son for me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm Melting.....

No this isn't another chocolate post. It's too cold out here for the chocolate to melt. Have I mentioned lately that I hate the cold? No? Well, I guess that post will be coming soon. Anyhooo...

It is my Merciless Mommy heart that's melting. This same Mommy who refuses to allow snow days (see above...I hate the cold) has granted my children a two week Christmas Break. What??? I know, shocked the stuffin' out of me too. Even Ella looked at me like I had lost my mind.

We had planned for them to have next week off because Major Dad has the whole week off from work and my Mom will be visiting. But I intended to make them work this week. Including Christmas Eve...I know what a Grinch, right? And my sweet children were blissfully unaware that pretty much every other kid in the US has this week off too.

Well, I finally decided that working on Christmas Eve was too mean, even for me. So I gave them the week off. Yeah, yeah I'm going all soft and squishy. But it was worth it to see Ella do her little happy dance in the kitchen. And then Jack, who didn't know why he was happy, joined in too.

And the Merciless Mommy's heart grew three sizes that day and all the Who's down in Homeschool Who-ville rejoiced in their goofy Who ways.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Never Thought I'd Say This...

but I may be sick of chocolate. *Gasp* Temporarily, of course.

You see, it's Christmas and as is my usual tradition I have been up to my elbows in making a ridiculous amount of chocolate filled, chocolate coated, chocolate covered, chocolate dipped and, well, just chocolate goodies. Yep, I have gone wildly Willy Wonka. And my helpful Oompa-Loompas, also known as Ella and Jack are desperate to sample everything. Which is really a terrifying thought...small children hyped up on dark chocolate. I'm not actually sure how loud they can scream, but I'm pretty sure a few of my homemade dark chocolate truffles would solve that mystery.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was filling chocolate shells with the most amazing dark chocolate raspberry ganache filling. And I mean it's crazy good. Believe it or not it started out as a goof-up. I intended to make a firm ganache and dip the centers in chocolate, but I had a double boiler catastrophe. I don't have a real double boiler so I was improvising with a large pot and a glass mixing bowl. Well, apparently I miscalculated the sizes and the bowl slipped inside the pan and stuck. Really stuck. Drat.

So quick thinking candy maker that I am, I scooped out as much of the chocolate as I could, added it to the raspberry mixture and thought I managed to save the batch. Alas, I did not. I didn't rescue enough chocolate to make the ganache firm enough to dip. But, it tasted sooooooo good there was no way I could toss it out. So, again with my candy making brilliance...or desperation, whatever, I decided to make chocolate shells and use the too soft ganache as a filling. And it is AWESOME! I'm already trying to figure out how much of the chocolate I lost so I can recreate the goof-up. Which makes my goof-up not a goof-up, but in fact a flash of genius. Ha ha!

But in the process of sampling the utter chocolate bliss (for quality control purposes of course), making and filling the bite-size yummies and basically smelling, handling and occasionally wearing chocolate for most of the day...yep, I may have reached my chocolate limit. Which is eye opening, because truthfully I didn't think that was possible.

So you know...too much of a good thing is...uh...bad. And when life hands you lemons ganache. Well, you get the whole moral of the story thing, right?

Oh, and if I show up at your house Christmas Eve with a present...try to act surprised. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The State of the Union

Not the whole union of course...just my tiny corner of it. I'm thinking that before I can jump in with new information I need to fill all of you, my faithful readers, in on what you may have missed during the past 9 months. (9 months? Seriously? Dude, time flies when you get old.)

So, the best news, hubby came home safely from Afghanistan. Woohoo! And the Marine Corps in their infinite wisdom also promoted him. Double woohoo! The downside, he is still stationed at Camp Lejeune (pronounced Lejerrrrrrne for you civilians...not kidding, that's the way they say it, there was a memo and everything...also not kidding). And since the kids and I are still in the house-we-can't-sell-because-the-market-tanked, we only get to see Captain Daddy, now Major Dad, on the weekends. It's a bummer, but at least no one is shooting at him. Of course with Major Dad, you can never be sure. :) (Love you honey...big kiss!)

Running a close second in the awesome news category, when Ella was visiting her grandparents in the Promise Land (aka California) over the summer, my Dad gave her a standardized academic test and (drum roll please) she totally kicked fill in the bubble butt! She averaged a grade and a half improvement over the previous year. (picture me doing a happy homeschool groove) Oh yeah, un-huh, that's right, I'm the teacher. I have to say that was a huge relief. There was still a part of me that was secretly worried that I was a rotten teacher and that I was actually making my children dumber.

(In case you're visiting with us I should warn you, I tend to over share.)

So, great test scores = personal victory for mommy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dog Ate My Blog

"Knock, knock..."

(peering timidly around the corner)

"Anybody here?"

(crickets chirping in the distance)

Ahem. Soooooo...been a while, huh? You're looking good. Have you been working out? How 'bout them...uh...sports team that you root for?

Ok, I know, I know. A blogger should blog. Hence the er part of blogger. (hanging my head in shame...really, I's kinda pitiful) I'm sorry. I have a whole list of excuses, some of which I will share, but I hope you, my faithful readers will forgive me.

Unless it's been so long that you're looking at this blog title with a polite, but slightly confused smile, trying to figure out who I am and if you should know me. Kind of like a high school reunion. It's ok, just smile and nod and sip your punch, eventually the dj will play something we all know and it will be just like old times.

So 9 months of blogging silence summed up in one grammatically incorrect sentence...husband came home from combat (all fingers, toes and other body parts accounted for, Praise the Lord!), finished homeschooling 2nd grade, frantic summer family fun, adopted a dog and started homeschooling 3rd grade and preschool. Toss in a few meltdowns, a lot of chocolate and you get the picture.

And now, back by popular demand...the blog resumes! Well, maybe not popular demand. Pretty much just a few really sweet, and persistent friends (I'm looking at you, Shelly & Nora!) But how about that last post, huh? "Waiting like David." Get it? Waiting...cause you know, I made you wait for so long. It was accidental irony...the best kind. Ha ha! Oh, right, only funny to me. Sorry.

So leave a comment (how do you like the new look?), say a prayer, tune in tomorrow and pass it on to your friends.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Waiting Like David

I recently studied the story of David and I was deeply touched by the way he waited for the promise of God to be fulfilled in his life. When he was still a young man, David was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the future king of Israel. How incredible! King Saul had been rejected by God and David had been chosen in his place. As impossible and far fetched as it seemed David, a humble shepherd and youngest son, was to be the next king of Israel. And it happened. But it didn't happen until 15 years or more later.

David didn't become king over Israel until he was 30 years old. But he started acting like a king from that first anointing by Samuel. He wasn't yet sitting on the throne but he began to walk in his anointing as a king even before he saw the promise fulfilled. In the very next chapter of Scripture, David faces Goliath. Here is a true king, even without the crown and royal robes. He stands against the enemy of his people and defeats him. He is acting like a king without being a king.

God equips us for our destiny before we get there. It isn't the earthly achievement that brings God's anointing and strengthening for the task. It is God's anointing that brings the earthly achievement. God equipped David to be a king years before he he was actually crowned. And David walked in that destiny before it ever came to pass in human terms.

What God has called you to, He has already blessed you to accomplish. The blessing doesn't come once you've made something happen. Something happens because God has already blessed you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm a Boring Mom

I know, you were thinking that my un-updated blog meant that I had packed up and left for Tahiti. Alas, not this time. Just a few computer glitches and frustrations (nothing a sledgehammer couldn't fix). But, here I am. No swimsuit, no tropical beach, just my picky laptop and a Double Chocolate Chip Cookie. Add a crushing realization about myself to the mix and it's been an interesting day.

Here's what I figured out on this grey and drizzly day...I'm no fun. Yep, that's me, a non-fun Mom. And I feel bad for my kids. Especially when they're homeschooled and it's cold and rainy outside and they're trapped indoors with a mother who's idea of big fun is listening to classical music and reading a book. Which apparently is not fun when you're 7 and even less fun when you're 3.

Here's the thing, I don't come up with creative uses for macaroni, pipe cleaners and glitter. I don't invent games involving pillows and Matchbox cars and I don't know how to make cool shadow puppets. I'm not completely hopeless. I can build an awesome campsite out of Lincoln Logs and Legos and I can make a mean bead bracelet. But today, I was feeling pretty boring.

None of my curriculum books have a chapter devoted to rainy day fun. I need a homeschool guide that tells you what to do when your kids finish all of their school work by lunch time and my creativity tank is empty.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guinea Pig Cage Match

Now before you go calling PETA and the SPCA to report me for guinea pig cruelty based on the title of this post, read the whole thing through. Deal?

Here's how it started, hubby and I decided to get our adorable children a pet. We currently have a fish but he's rather un-cuddly and non-petable. So after some research we decided on a guinea pig. Cute, cuddly and poops in a cage and not on my floor. All good things. Then, upon further research we decided to get two guinea pigs since we discovered that guinea pigs are social critters who need the company of their piggie pals.

So off we go to the pet store. I spoke with the saleslady who actually told me not to get two piggies. Well, when confronted with the expertise of someone wearing a name tag, I caved in and left with just one guinea pig. We got home, got him all set up in his new guinea pig palace and called it a day. Well, when hubby asked me, via text message, how it was going and I explained that our guinea pig was flying solo, he disagreed with the pet store helper...and of course the kids sided with daddy.

So the next day we headed back to the store to pick up a piggie friend. Unfortunately, the first guinea pig was apparently unaware of his social nature because he did not welcome his new roommate. After about 3 minutes he tried to climb on top of the new guy and bite his head. Yep, guinea pig cage match and the new guy got his furry bottom kicked.

It was a tough call (not really, I'm not a fan of macho guinea pig battles) but we took the aggressive guinea pig back to the store and grabbed one of the new guy's litter mates instead. Now the guinea pig brothers have been re-united and all is well. But I'm pretty sure the guy who got thumped told his brother all about how he kicked the bully guinea pig's tail-less rear end all the way back to Petco. I mean, that's what I would do.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons from the Laundry Room

When a household chore teaches me something deeply profound about life, I'm usually torn between happiness at the "wow" moment and mild annoyance that it came in the midst of scrubbing, cleaning or ironing something.

Yesterday I went into the laundry room and suddenly realized that I forgot to put a load of towels into the dryer. Uh-oh. Clean towels were not so clean anymore. So I had to wash them again. And as I was starting the washing machine, a Scripture come to my mind.

"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." Matthew 12:43-45

My forgotten towels were reinforcing this Scripture. We can wash something, fix something or change something, but if we are not diligent in completing the process, the end result will be worse than the mess we started with. I took some dirty towels, washed them and then failed to finish the chore (getting them in the dryer). The end result could have been mildew and ruined towels all for lack of follow through.

And if this is bad with towels, just imagine how tragic it is when people are involved. Do we say we'll do something and then not do it? Have we left something undone...or unsaid. Even with all of our good intentions and noble motives, have we made a situation worse simply because we failed to see it through to the end? Truthfully, that thought makes me squirm a little bit.

Do you know what God calls this necessary follow through? Faithfulness. Faithfulness means being committed to our task and sticking with it. It means not giving up halfway or when it gets too tough or when we find some new thing that sounds better.

And here's the best part...God is faithful. That's one of His primary attributes. God is always faithful. That means He is committed to seeing us through to the very end. He will never give up on us, or cast us aside when someone else comes along. God is the "author and the finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) What He has started in us, He will bring to its perfect and glorious completion.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It Must Be Going Well

So this whole homeschooling adventure must be going pretty well since I'm already thinking about curriculum for next year. When we started homeschooling in January, the hubby and I said that we were making the commitment for one semester and then we'd re-evaluate. Of course we really said that so I wouldn't completely freak out about the idea of homeschooling for the next 15 years. It's much easier for my brain to comprehend 6 months with an escape hatch rather than 15 years.

But this past weekend I caught myself looking at 3rd grade curriculum for Ella and pre-K work for Jack. Suddenly it dawned on me that homeschooling next year was just a given in my mind. And I didn't freak out, I was really happy about it. Somehow in the midst of flashcards and timelines and making candles, I sold myself on homeschooling. I stopped telling myself "we're trying it" or "we'll see how it goes" or "they can always go back to school" and started thinking about what to do next year.

I, right? Don't get me wrong, it's still hard work and there are times when I'm convinced that if I have to listen to Ella and Jack fight with each other for another minute I may completely lose my mind. But when I'm on the brink of mommy insanity I've stopped hearing my inner critic say "this homeschooling is too hard" and instead I hear a much calmer voice saying, "time for the kids to go outside."

I'm still open to the kids going back to school someday. And, here's my honest side again, there are days when I would really like to drop them off at school and do the grocery shopping all by myself. But for right now, I think we're good right here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I Hate Flashcards

A while back I shared how I lost 2 hours of my life making flashcards by hand for my darling Ella. Well, Ella has now moved on to multiplication. And what does that mean? That's right, more flashcards. Can you feel my joy?

So this time around I decided to just buy the stupid flashcards. It's not giving up. I prefer to think of it as delegation. I delegated the work to a large corporation...and then I compensated them for their work. See how that rationalization works. Ok honestly, I just didn't want to do it.

So after Ella's ice skating lesson today, we stopped by a teaching supply store and I found the exact kind of flashcards I wanted. Double-sided with answers on one side and no answers on the flip side. Mission accomplished. Then we get home and Ella was so excited about the new cards that she asked if she could open them and do a few. My daughter begging to do math? Have at it!

Then I had to go make a phone call. And it all went downhill from there. When I finished the call Ella said, "Mommy, I'm in the 4's!" I went into the living room and nearly fell over. There's my Ella, with a big smile on her face and Sharpie in her hand. She was writing the answers on all the cards. On the no answer side! I'm pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head because Ella took one look at me and burst into tears.

I made brownies.

Now I have to glue little pieces of paper over the all Sharpie scrawled answers so we can actually use the blasted cards. I'm so very, very happy I decided not to spend all that time making flashcards.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jack and the Purple Poop

Ok, if you have issues with bathroom vocabulary or if you just really, really don't care for stories about my adorable 3 year old, then this post won't be for you. Feel free to click away and come back tomorrow for something profoundly deep and inspirational. But today I have a story that is just too funny not to share.

My sweet little boy Jack, also known as the mini-monkey boy of destruction, is in the process of potty training. Sigh. I am not a fan of this stage of development. I have yet to figure out the most effective way to explain in 3 year old speak the complex process of knowing when to go and, more importantly, where to go. So it's still a work in progress.

For the past few weeks Jack has been wandering around the house wearing only a t-shirt and Toy Story pull-ups. He's hit and miss on actually using the potty at the right time...oh, that wasn't meant as a commentary on his aim, but it works that way too. Well, the other day I looked at my half-naked Toy Story warrior and noticed that he looked like he was smuggling a present in his pull-up. You know what I mean. His caboose was dragging a bit. The trunk was full.

So, being the pro-active, always teaching mom that I am, I asked him, "Jack, did you go poop?" And, being the busy 3 year old that can't be bothered with minor details like diaper changes that he is, Jack replied, "nope."

Of course I didn't believe him so I scooped him up and took him upstairs to change his droopy drawers. And I laughed so hard I almost cried. Because what did I find waiting for me behind Buzz and Woody's smiling faces? A piece of purple chalk. Yep, chalk. And not a small piece either. And guess what else? When you keep chalk next to your skin, the color rubs off on you. That's right, purple monkey bottom. Apparently Jack decided that pull-ups make a good place to store things. Kind of like pockets. Pockets that you poop in.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beyond the Blessing

I've had a very specific prayer request lately and today is the deadline so to speak. It is a measurable, quantifiable request that is going to be measured and quantified today. I have asked the Lord to step in and take charge of this situation and today I'll see what God has done. And no matter what, I will still love Him.

As I have been praying about this situation I started to see that when God blesses us, the blessing isn't meant to stay with us. When God touches our lives, His work isn't just for us. It's meant to be shared. If the Lord has blessed you, in any way, you have the opportunity to bless someone else. Your testimony of God's faithfulness or patience or healing is a tool God wants to use to reach others.

Did God answer YOUR prayer? Yes. Did He do it because He loves YOU? Yes. Did He want to bless YOU? Yes. But if you keep that blessing to yourself and lock it away in the vault of your heart and only pull it out when you need encouragement, then you're only getting part of the gift God gave you. We are called to tell about the great things God has done and invite others to know the power and majesty of our Lord.

And the amazing thing is the more we tell the story, the more powerful the blessing becomes. It may have been a one-time miracle in our practical life, but it becomes a never ending river of blessing in our spiritual life if we simply open our hearts and our mouths and tell others about it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just Enough Strength

I have been thinking a lot about part of my Pastor's message from Sunday. One of the things he spoke about was the way God is constantly giving us more of what we need. His presence, His gifts, His blessings are not a one time fill up, but rather a constant flow. The Scripture for this came from Ezekiel 47:12 where it describes the river of God flowing from His sanctuary that feeds the trees planted beside its waters. The trees are always bearing fruit and their leaves never wither.

The more I think about this passage, the more I find in it. God doesn't have a limit on how much He can, will and longs to give us. If we walk in humility and obedience He always gives us more. He gives us what we need, when we need it. And on the flip side, He never gives us too much.

Which might sound like a contradiction since I just said that God always wants to give us more. And He does, but He gives it in the right time. Think back to the Israelites in the desert. God gave them manna for the day. No extra (except for the Sabbath), nothing that could be hoarded or stored away "just in case." His blessing fell and it was exactly what they needed for that day. The Israelites needed to learn to rely on God daily for the blessing and strength to get through that day.

Perhaps we're not waiting for literal manna each day, but there is something we need every day. We need God's strength and guidance and mercy. There's a reason the Bible says His mercies are new every day. (Lamentations 3:23) We can't try to store up a bunch of yesterdays blessings and hope that will carry us through. If that were possible the temptation would be for us to lose our daily, intimate walk with God and only come back when our tanks were empty.

We need to wake up each day, commit ourselves to God's care and rely on Him to provide exactly what we need for the day. Then when we go to sleep we need to trust that God already knows what we will need for tomorrow and that it will be waiting for us in the morning.

Monday, March 1, 2010

When Perfectionists Decorate

I know, I know. I missed like four days of posting. I'm in danger of losing my Most Awesome Blogger of the Year Award. What you didn't know about that? Oh yeah, it's a big deal. Fancy dresses, red carpet, wait, that's the Oscars.

Anyway, I've been up to my elbows in buttercream icing for the past few days making a cake for a friend's baby shower, and I didn't think my keyboard would appreciate getting all clogged up with high fat, high sugar icing globules. The good news is that the cake turned out utterly fabulous...and my computer is icing free.

But the whole cake adventure got me thinking, and you know what happens when I get to thinking. Here's a lesson: perfectionism and cake decorating are a rotten combination. I mean an up until midnight, redesigning part of the cake at 10:00pm the night before the event because the cutesy buttons bugged me kind of rotten combination. The cake was adorable and fine with the cutesy buttons. But the buttons were mocking me with their "it's nice, but it could be better" button face smirks. So I had to pull them off and make bows instead. And it was totally worth it. But my point is...perhaps perfectionist people should stay away from labor intensive, detail oriented hobbies.

Of course having said that, any true perfectionist reading this is going to immediately insist that labor intensive, detail oriented hobbies are exactly what perfectionists do best and to prove it they're already making plans to assemble a scale model of the Titanic (pre-iceberg) inside a vintage glass Coke bottle. Yep, those are my people.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dream Big

Yesterday Ella told me she wants an internship. Preferably at the National Zoo in Washington DC, but she'll consider anything that involves animals. She was understandably very disappointed when I told her most internships are for people who are a little older. Then she said she'd be willing to sweep out stalls somewhere until she was old enough to be an intern. Because Ella wants to be a veterinarian...and a champion figure skater...and a mommy.

And I love that about her. She doesn't see any limits on her life. It made me remember that there was a time when I was convinced I could be anything and do anything too. At one time I wanted to be a dolphin trainer...and I wanted to be on Broadway...and later I wanted to be in the FBI. But as I got older, I stopped seeing my dreams and started seeing all the obstacles instead. I don't like to swim so the dolphins were forgotten. Broadway seemed to far away and the FBI said I was too short.

I'm not sure when it happened, but my dreams got smaller and smaller. And now that I see my daughter dream so big and believe so wonderfully in the absolute possibility of everything, I see how much I have given up in the name of growing up. Who says we have to stop having big, impossible dreams just because we reached a certain age? It's never too late to dream big. God is a God of miracles so really, there isn't anything too big for us because we have a God who is bigger than every obstacle. But instead of believing, we doubt and then we give up. And that's our own fault. It's time to start dreaming again.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt

So, what do you want to be when you grow up now?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Bossy Oven

I almost kicked my oven today. Which is really saying something because I love my oven. But today it's little pre-heat beep was the last straw on my very frayed nerves.

Anywaaaaay, so how was your day? I know I just jumped right in with a "you won't believe the day I had" kind of rant and it's not that I'm not interested in how things are going in your life, it's just that this blog only goes one way and I can't hear your response.

So why did my oven almost get a dent in it's pretty door? Well, today I felt like a worn out Stretch Armstrong doll. Do you remember those? The rubbery muscle man that you could pull and pull and it would oh so easily shrink back to normal? At least until you tied the arms around a door knob and then ran around the corner and down the stairs and then couldn't figure out why the arms refused to shrink anymore. Yep, that was me today.

My mom (also known as the Mom Rescue Squad) was arriving today for a visit and I really wanted to make sure the house didn't look like a rookie homeschooler lived here. I wanted to look all pulled together and calm and collected. So in order to achieve that level of tranquility I had to run around like a mad woman to get the grocery shopping done, vacuum the crushed Goldfish crackers off the floor, corral the run away toys and generally turn into a cleaning tornado.

And the whole time Ella and Jack were asking for one thing after another and by the time I started to pre-heat the oven, I was a ticking time bomb of stretched out mommy-ness. So when the oven innocently beeped to let me know it had reached the desired temperature, I decided it sounded like it was just one more thing wanting my attention and bossing me around. So I seriously considered kicking it. But I refrained. Barely. Does that still get me maturity points?

And now the Mom Rescue Squad has arrived so for the next few days I can have adult conversation with an actual person and not just a Facebook page...and the oven will be safe.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Look

Ok fellow homeschoolers, I'm officially in the club. That's right I have just been formally inducted into the elite group of homeschoolers being judged by complete strangers. And the crowd goes wild!

Today I took Ella up to a new ice rink for her skating lesson. The roof of her old rink collapsed (stupid snow) so until they rebuild we are driving even further north to skate at another rink. And right now I'm pretty sure my parents are laughing hysterically as they remember all the driving they had to do when I was skating...usually before the sun was up. Yep, payback is...well payback.

Anywhooo, this rink is in the middle of a county recreation center so there were a ton of people there doing all sorts of recreational type things. In the course of watching Ella and chasing Jack, I ended up mentioning to someone that we homeschool. It was such a passing conversation that I can't even remember how or why the topic came up. But I do remember...The Look.

Yep, you know the one I'm talking about. The Look that manages to convey in a split second a mad mix of judgment ranging from "wow, I could never do that" through "is she a religious wacko" all the way down to "you're crazy." That's right. The Look.

And you know what? I felt oddly self-satisfied to be on the receiving end of The Look. It was kind of like making a public declaration of our homeschooling decision. Like jumping on the table Norma Rae style with a big sign that says "Yes, I Homeschool." In that brief moment of the raised eyebrows, wrinkled forehead and stunned pause I was labeled, categorized and grouped. I got the homeschool scarlet letter. The Look.

And you know what? I kinda like it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When Independence Backfires

I posted a while back about creating a weekly work card for Ella so she could have some control over her schoolwork. We've been using the work card system for about a month now and it has been great for Ella. Until today.

We had a couple of extra curricular activities come up this week and Ella's 7 year old time management skills were not prepared for the change in schedule. First, we put her skating lesson back on the schedule. New rink, same coach. So that knocked out a couple of hours on Thursday. Then we had a belated Valentine's Day party for homeschoolers on Friday. And that knocked out a few more hours. The result...two math lessons and a reading assignment on a sunshine-y Saturday. And one very annoyed 7 year old.

In all fairness I did remind her repeatedly throughout the week about the out of the house fun days. And she kept saying, "I know, Mommy. It's ok." And I did tell her that if she didn't get all of her work done by Friday she would have to do it on Saturday. There's no schoolwork allowed on Sunday. And once again she said, "I know, Mommy. It's ok." But she just kept doing the bare minimum of work each day.

So now it's Saturday, and Ella is sitting at her desk working on her math problems and looking just a little pitiful as she glances longingly out the french doors at the sun shining on the snow in the backyard.

Maybe I should feel bad...let me think about it. Searching my merciless mommy soul...nope, don't feel bad at all. I think she'll be working really hard next week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Unexpected Answers to Prayer

God hears every prayer. And God answers every prayer. But sometimes we miss His answer because when it comes it isn't what we expected, or what we wanted. If we sincerely place our petition before God's throne of grace, then we have to be willing to let God be God. Our prayers are not offered in faith if we're telling God what His answer should be. It doesn't matter how many pretty religious words we use to dress it up, if we're not giving God the right to answer according to His will, then we're not asking for anything...we're trying to tell the God of the universe what to do.

I had to re-learn that lesson this week. And it's amazing that no matter how many times the Lord has to humble me in order to teach me, He always raises me right back up. So here's my lesson: My husband got to come home for two weeks leave over Christmas and then at the beginning of January he had to return to his unit in Afghanistan. It was a very difficult goodbye for Jack who is old enough to know that Daddy is gone, but not old enough to understand why. Ever since my husband left, Jack has been having nightmares and trouble sleeping. And I think I have already admitted that I don't handle sleep deprivation well, so the middle of the night wake-ups were really wearing me down.

But I kept praying in faith that God would help Jack sleep. Then this week Jack decided to stop napping. And this did not make me happy. I like nap time. I need nap time. So I was praying really, really hard for Jack to keep taking naps. And I was really, really annoyed every day he didn't. Then I finally noticed something. When Jack didn't take a nap, he slept soundly through the whole night.

I had been praying for nearly two months for Jack to sleep peacefully at night. Now he does. But he doesn't nap anymore, which is a difficult change for me. But God didn't say that every answer to a prayer would be easy or painless. Sometimes God leads us into a temporary difficulty to bring us to a permanent blessing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Puzzling Personalities

Today I was watching Jack work on a puzzle and I had a sudden flash of insight. Not exactly the apple smacks Newton on the head and we have gravity kind of brilliance, but it was a big deal to me. Anyway, Jack was very happily assembling a puzzle and he wouldn't let me help at all. His exact words, "no, Mommy, shoo!"

And I noticed that he puts the pieces together in sections. Me, I very methodically find the corner pieces, then assemble all the edge pieces then fill in the middle. Not Jack. He worked on sections without putting the border together first. Which was kind of like fingernails on a chalkboard to my brain. I tried to encourage him to put all the border pieces together first, but he wasn't interested in Mommy's Philosophy of Puzzle Assembly. And I couldn't really say much because he was doing a great job. He got the whole puzzle done and did it pretty fast. Then he smiled and said, "look Mommy! All by myself!"

So here's my moment of insight...our kids won't always do things the way we want them to. Or the way we think is best. Or the way we would do it. Just because I put all the edge pieces together first, doesn't mean that Jack is going to do it that way. And even though I'm the mommy and my mommy-ness should make me the expert in everything, his way might just be better. Or at least better for him.

And oh, is that terrifying. Someday it won't be a puzzle, it will be a school choice or a career choice and in spite of all my motherly wisdom and nagging encouragement for him to do what I would do or to choose what I think is best for him, Jack will make his own decision. And I won't get to judge if it's right or wrong based on what I want for him or the hopes I have for his life. It's his life and his puzzle to put together. But I can pray for him and I can love him no matter what.

And yes, that is waaaaaay easier to say now when he's only three and his big decision is what book to read on the potty. I reserve the right to totally change this post in 15 years. Or sooner if Jack ever reads that potty comment and knows enough to be embarrassed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Library Stalker

Overall I've been very happy with the curriculum choices we made for this rookie year of homeschooling. We had a minor bump with our first Language Arts program and had to switch, but other than that Ella and I have both been pretty content. I have just one itty-bitty complaint...someone keeps stealing my library books.

Ok, so the library stalker isn't technically stealing the books since they "allegedly" check them out through proper channels, blah, blah, blah. But for the past three weeks, every book I have needed for Ella's history lessons has been checked out. All of them! Every week! You can tell me it's just a coincidence, but I know's a conspiracy.

Today I got my final proof of this massive, underground operation aimed at de-stabilizing our homeschool tranquility. I looked on the library catalog online and found out that our local library had two copies of the book I need for next week's study of the Ancient Native Americans. One copy was checked out and the other was on the shelf. I repeat "on the shelf." So I tossed the kids in the car and zoom-zoomed over to the library. I dragged them past all the cute displays and raced into the children's section only to find...wait for it...the book is gone!

And just to prove to you that I'm not paranoid, I went to find the alternative book I had selected (because I'm on to you stalker) and that one was...wait for it...also checked out. Come on!

The trip wasn't a total loss because Ella picked out a book to read for fun and Jack...well, Jack didn't destroy anything. Plus, I got irrefutable, undeniable, incontrovertible proof that this library conspiracy exists. I think next week I'll check out Roofing for Dummies, Infectious Skin Diseases and Wild Yaks of Tibet just to mess with the stalker. That's right, I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yo-Yo Mama*

Here's how I spent my morning:

"First you have to add the ones column, Ella." (cross to the other side of the room to check on Jack)

"Jack, see if you can put all the red beads together." (go back to Ella's desk)

"Good job, Ella. Now don't forget to add the ten you carried." (walk back to Jack)

"Good Jack, now put all the yellow beads together." (trip over a block and hop back to Ella's desk)

"Ok, Ella don't forget to label your answer." (race over to the laundry room to put the wet clothes in the dryer)

"Jack, don't throw the beads." (stoop down to collect the beads. Jack takes the opportunity to run over to Ella's desk)

"Ella, sit down and concentrate." (still collecting beads)

"Jack, don't climb in Ella's chair." (get Jack out of the chair and realize he needs a diaper change)

Then Ella says, "Mommy, is it snack time?"

And the whole time I had this mental image of me as a Mommy yo-yo bouncing between the kids. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit draining. On the one hand I feel great that I am spending so much time with them and that I can be there to give them so much personal attention. Then on the other hand I feel like I spent the whole morning short changing them because I had to keep saying, "just a minute, let me go help your brother/sister."

How is it that I can be a stay-at-home mom and a homeschooler and still feel at times like there isn't enough of me to go around? And who's this crazy perfectionist living in my head that keeps telling me I'm not doing it right? And how do I kick her out?

*Note: yes, that title is a classical music reference and a desperate attempt to prove to myself that my brain hasn't been completely melted by the musical stylings of The Wiggles and Sesame Street.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's The Little Things

In general, I feel pretty well prepared for the big events that life throws at me. I've seen my husband go to combat 3 times, I've moved 5 times in 10 years and I've been through natural childbirth. Oh, and natural disasters...pshaw! I was in both the San Fransisco and Northridge earthquakes and, more recently, I survived 2 blizzards. Now all that should prove two things. First, I'm pretty good in a crisis. Second, I might be bad luck and you may want to keep your distance.

But here's the glitch in the system, its the little things that wear me down. I can keep my cool and not freak out when the ground starts shaking, but when the kids start whining or the washing machine breaks, my temper starts going Irish quicker than you can say "Faith and Begorrah."

I'm sure it just goes to prove the old adage about the straw that broke the camel's back as it crossed a bridge too far over the dam that, is it still a mixed metaphor if the sentence technically makes sense? Anyway, my point is that its the little things that drain us of energy and threaten our peace of mind. It's the subtlety, and frequency, of these minor annoyances that sneaks up on us and has us over reacting and losing our cool.

Fortunately, I've also found that its the good little things that are the most encouraging. While I wouldn't turn down a Noble Peace Prize and I'm sure I'd be highly encouraged if I ever won a Pulitzer, I'm pretty darn encouraged at the moment by my 3 year old son who told me today, "I love you so much, Mommy!" And if that wasn't enough he added, "You're the best Mommy I've ever seen!"

The good little things in life can be powerful blessings, but they're harder to spot than the little annoyances. So we have to learn to let the rotten little things go, hopefully without causing major property damage, and at the same time watch for the little blessings and hold on to them with all we've got.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Link Love

So I thought I was being all smart and computer savvy when I upgraded my browser all by myself yesterday. And the new version is just awful. It is slow and annoying and just plain terrible. That's why you didn't get a post yesterday. I was fighting a losing battle with my computer. And I'm still losing, but I didn't want to leave my loyal readers hanging. (insert the sound of crickets chirping here).

Today I decided to share some of my favorite blogs with you. That's right, I'm not just a blog writer, I'm a blog reader. So if find yourself sitting at work trying to look busy while not actually being busy, or if you're just looking for something good to read (and you've already read my contribution to the betterment of mankind for the day) might I suggest you visit these blogs.

Cake Wrecks This is my current favorite blog. It is hilarious. And just because I make cakes as hobby doesn't make me biased. I have actually laughed so hard I cried a few times.

David Wilkerson Today David Wilkerson is a spiritual great-grandfather to my family. His ministry reached a young gang member who turned his life around and became a pastor. And that pastor reached another troubled young man who is now my pastor. His devotions are Spirit-filled and truly inspiring.

Ice Mom's Adventures Love this site too. Here I must admit my bias. I am a former figure skater and my little Ella is a current skater. So Ice Mom's commentary on the wacky world of figure skating appeals to me. But it's also plenty of fun to read.

So there it is. I must be a real blogger now because I'm shamelessly plugging other blogs in the faint hope that someday someone might like my blog enough to plug it on their site.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homeschool Legality Reality

Granted I am in no position to start offering advice on homeschooling or to provide much meaningful guidance for anyone out in cyberspace who may be considering homeschooling and has stumbled across this blog. And if that's you...welcome! Bookmark me, follow me, Google all makes me feel loved.

Anyway, inexperience and rookie status aside, I though I'd post some helpful information I have learned about the legalities of homeschooling. See, the government has an interest in making sure we have well educated and intelligent children who will one day grow up and lead our nation in a well educated and intelligent way. (Resisting sarcastic one liners...biting my tongue...ok, all better) So in most states, in order to homeschool your children you have to meet a few legal requirements.

The law varies from state to state. The best resource I found for researching the current state of the law is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. They break down the current laws by state and do a great job of translating legal speak into regular English. You can find their site at

What's interesting is how the laws vary from state to state. Some states don't require anything at all. Not even a "see ya" letter from the parents. Other states are so strict that you have to submit test scores, a portfolio of your student's work and you may have to have your curriculum approved by the school board.

Now being a nomadic military family, the differences in state laws is of keen interest to me. The bottom line is know the law for your state and remember that if you move the law might be different in your new state.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Great Book Debate

I feel the need to write about something other than the endless snow that is threatening to totally bury our house and turn us into mole people who have to tunnel our way back to the surface. Seriously, I'm really thinking that I should have brought the snow shovel into the living room, just in case.

So, in an effort to ignore the fact that I currently reside in an igloo, I decided to involve all of you in an ongoing debate my hubby and I are having. Real books vs. digital books. Granted this isn't quite to the level of a Pepsi vs. Coke or a toilet paper over vs. under debate (and there is only one right answer to both of the above examples) but it's being hotly contested in our home.

Here's how it started, I would like to get a student encyclopedia for the kids. And Britannica recently released their new 2010 edition. I think we should get the old fashioned print edition. But hubby thinks we should get the computer version. His point, and its a valid one, is that this is a computer age and the kids need to learn to be computer literate early on. Plus the cd version is cheaper, takes up less space and won't make the movers sigh and roll their eyes if we ever move again.

My point is that I want the kids to also know how to look things up in actual books. Not just typing in a few letters and having the computer do all the work. I want them to figure out how to spell fungus or emu or Kilimanjaro and how to find it in a reference book. Plus, I confess, I like books. Ok, I love books. I like to be able to hold a book in my hand and mark it all up. I like to see it on my bookshelf and know that it's there.

So the debate rages on. Of course with hubby in a different country at the moment, it's kind of long distance debate...which I'm pretty sure gives me the advantage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fun With Beeswax

Last week we finished up our study of the Exodus and God's covenant with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. We studied the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle and Jewish Holidays. And for our creative hands-on project, Ella and I made hand rolled beeswax Shabbat and Havdallah candles. And it was really fun.

Now before you go thinking that I also made the beeswax in some hyper-handy Martha Stewart moment, let me confess that I bought the beeswax. May I direct you back to my previous declaration that I LOVE I found a kit that came with a variety of colored beeswax sheets and cotton wicks (and free shipping!). Then I found a site that explained in a thorough and easy way...with to roll Havdallah candles. You can check it out at

Now the Shabbat candles are lit at the beginning of the Sabbath and Havadallah candles are lit at the end of the Sabbath. So we made a few of each. We started out very simply rolling one sheet of beeswax into a candle and then we got daring and started cutting the beeswax at an angle to make a different shape candle. Then we started rolling two colors together. I know, living on the beeswax edge. We even wrapped two candles together to make the two wick Havdallah candles.

Ella loved this project. I showed her one time how to roll the candles and she was off and rolling like a pro. And bonus, the candles actually work! We have been eating dinner by candlelight every night.

This is a great, fun craft for the whole family. It would also be perfect for a rainy day activity. The supplies are reasonably priced, especially if you compare prices online. And the process is very simple. You have to keep an eye on the edges of the beeswax to make sure you're rolling evenly and the beeswax will crack if it's too cold or stiff. But it's pretty cool to light a candle that you made yourself.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What If I Don't Have All The Answers?

So far in our homeschooling adventure I'm feeling pretty smart. I've been able to explain addition, subtraction, grammar and phonics without having to resort to Google...yet. I haven't had to stop and look up an answer...yet. I don't need the answer keys in the back of the books...yet. But I know the day is coming, and approaching fast, when Ella is going to ask me a question and my brain is going to go completely blank. I'm pretty sure it will involve the semi-colon, but it may come sooner than that.

I choose to believe that when that moment comes I will have the humility and the good humor to be able to say, "that's a great question. I don't know the answer, let's go look it up."

This weekend in the middle of a blizzard I was confronted by the sudden realization, and accompanying panic, of not knowing the answer. There weren't any complex weather related questions asked, but as I watched the snow fall and fall, I was gripped by massive anxiety. I had no idea what to do in two feet of snow. My husband is a little busy in a war zone at the moment so it was just me and the kids and "Snowmaggedon" as the storm has been named and I was in charge. Me, a Southern California girl who doesn't like to be cold.

I looked at my sweet children, the weight of knowing that I was responsible for their safety settling heavily on my shoulders...and driving me straight to the good chocolate on the top shelf. I knew that I didn't know what to do. But Ella and Jack didn't know it. They were completely unfazed by the storm, totally at peace and anxious to get outside and play. They looked at me and figured that if Mommy wasn't scared then they didn't need to be either.

So here's what I learned...I won't always know the answer. But it's my reaction to not knowing that my kids will remember. Besides, there's always Google.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don't Call Me Mommy

So if you've been following the news you may have heard about this small snow storm hitting the East Coast. You know, the one dumping an ice age worth of snow? Yeah, we're right in the middle of that. It's just swell. And the kids and I have been stuck in the house since yesterday morning. So we're going on 36 hours of blizzard enforced quality time. And if I hear "Mommmmmyyyyyyyy" one more time, I may lose my mommy mind.

I know it doesn't make much sense since we're homeschooling now and they're with me all the time anyway. But I think there is some powerful psychological shift that takes place in the tender minds of my munchkins when an outside force, like the blizzard that won't end, makes our together time less of a choice and more of a sentence.

Hopefully the snow will stop tonight and tomorrow I can dig out our front door and toss the cabin fever siblings out into the freshly fallen snow. Then I hope the only "Mommmmmyyyyyyy" I hear will be from one of my children stuck in a snow drift.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Too Much Information

So here we are getting all cozy and snuggled in, preparing to wait out the storm and building up our arm muscles to dig ourselves out in a few days. In preparation for the ridiculous amount of snow we're supposed to get, I have stocked up on food, water, batteries for the flashlights, glow sticks for the kids, and I pulled extra blankets out of the closet and finished the laundry so we can at least freeze in clean clothes.

I also made sure we have plenty of no cooking required meal fixin's. One of the things I made was hard boiled eggs. Ella and I both love eggs. Jack, well, he's still on the fence. But even if he won't eat 'em, he has plenty to say about 'em. Here's Jack's response to hard boiled eggs. "Awwwww, little baby chicks. So cute. Such cute little babies."

Yeah, that kinda makes it difficult for me to enjoy eating eggs. Ella on the other hand replies, "yes, Jack, little baby chicks. Yummy." Then she chomps down right in front of him. Yep, that's my little carnivore. Fortunately Jack doesn't seem terrorized by his big sister's unrepentant egg munching.

But it does make me wonder...have I taken Jack's education a bit too fast? He loves animals. So we read books about animals, we watch the kids animal shows on tv and we play animal games. But when Jack starts calling hard boiled eggs "baby chicks" maybe its time to steer away from animals for a least the animals that we eat.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pre-Snow Snow Day

By now you've all figured out that we don't close our homeschool for snow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow as long as I've got my fuzzy socks and comfy sweater, we're cracking the books. Today however we had a pre-snow snow day. The weather smarties have warned us of a big ol' storm heading this way that may dump close to 30 inches of snow on our humble Southern hamlet. So today, school was closed so we could prepare for the storm.

We had to return books to the library, stop by the grocery store (along with everyone else who lives in this town apparently), get gas and go sledding. Wait, what was that? Did the merciless mommy just say sledding? Yes, in fact I did. Since we will probably be trapped in the house for the next two days, the kids and I bundled up and hit the slopes. Well, we hit the slope on the side of our house. It's actually perfect for sledding. Sometimes it's good to have a house up on a hill. Not when the driveway is iced up and the mini-van can't get traction, but when you've got two kids with sleds...totally worth it.

I did try to squeeze some educational time into the sledding. Ella keep heading to the left and sliding up the embankment before skidding to stop in a small ditch. No matter where she started she always ended in the ditch. So I told her a little bit about gravity and the shape of our yard, but she was usually swooshing down the hill with an "ok Mommy!" before I finished the sentence. And Jack, my fearless 3 year old, was right behind her.

So today our school was a crowded grocery store (emergency preparedness) and a snow covered hill (physical education and the physics of sledding...tell me you wouldn't have signed up for that class in college). Now tomorrow, when the snow is actually falling it's back to books and hand rolling beeswax candles. More on that project later.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hello, my name is Michelle...

...and I'm an educational toys addict. Well, addict may be too strong of a word. I mean I can stop buying dvd's that feature singing puppets teaching the history of ancient Egypt anytime I want. And those blocks that randomly shout out the names of dead composers while playing their most famous musical works...those aren't educational...I just like the colors. And the hand held game that teaches advanced calculus, well...uh...that one is harder to explain. Ah, is that the sweet sound of denial I hear?

Yes, I have a problem. I bought into the mass marketing hysteria that tells parents that if we don't buy our kids the most advanced, newest technology toys then we are dooming our children to a life of intellectual inferiority and that their inability to read at 18 months or solve for x in kindergarten or recite the great works of Shakespeare while simultaneously analyzing the orbit of Neptune in middle school will be all our fault because we didn't spend $50 on a talking platypus that teaches the Dewey decimal Spanish.

Well, no more. I'm taking a stand here and now. Educational toys are great and I'm not tossing out the ones we have, but I'm not going to feel guilty for not doing flashcards at dinner time or for refusing to pipe Mozart into their bedrooms while they sleep.

Sometimes playtime should just be fun. Toys don't need batteries and graphics and loud buzzers to be educational. Tinker Toys, crayons, dolls, plastic dinosaurs...all fun and both battery and pressure free. And anytime kids use their imaginations should count as educational time. Our world would benefit more from a generation that can imagine new solutions to old problems than from a generation of children who have forgotten how to play.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Children are Spies

Well, maybe not official CIA endorsed spies, but they're definitely on the way. Today they each got binoculars in the mail. As I have mentioned, we're studying birds and flying things for science so to make it really interesting (and because I'm just a super cool mom) I ordered a kids field guide and binoculars for each of them. I love And I didn't even get paid for that plug...that's how much I love Amazon. Where else could you get a duvet cover for a dog bed, marshmallows, a Shamwow and a sump pump all in one place and with free shipping?

*Note...that wasn't the actual contents of my shopping cart. Just so we're clear. Ahem....anyway...

So today the box with the smiley face logo arrived and we were all excited. Jack got a pair of kids binoculars. The ones that the manufacturer swears will survive the catastrophic drops, crashes and bangs that a 3 year old can inflict. Ella got a grown-up pair of "binocs." That's right, I said it...binocs. That's the way we roll out here. She loves them. They make me laugh (not to her face of course) because they are so huge on her little face.

Anyway, as soon as the cool new gadgets were out of their boxes, the kids had them glued to their eyes. So here they are, my adorable children standing in front of our kitchen window, both with binoculars up, staring out at our neighbor's house. Technically I think they were looking at a tree and searching for birds, but to drivers passing by I'm pretty sure it looked like they had our across the street neighbors under heavy surveillance.

So here's hoping that our bird watching doesn't turn into a Homeland Security investigation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Scientific Proof That I'm Right

Once again the schools are closed today due to snow. And once again the merciless mommy is making her kids do schoolwork. And I think I'll be able to get away with it until Ella is old enough to talk on the phone with her friends and figure out that when it snows this much they don't have to do anything school related. Then I might be in trouble. But until then...bwaahahahaha!!

Many thanks to those of you who asked if Ella finished her work card or if she had to pull a math marathon. She did a great job and finished everything by Friday afternoon. And I mean early afternoon, not "4:59 and 59 seconds still counts as afternoon" afternoon.

One of our last adventures of the week was our first science experiment. We're using Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day for her science text so we're learning all about birds and critters with wings which, unfortunately for me, also includes insects and other creepy crawly things that have mastered flight. Ick. Anyway, our first experiment was to make two different gliders out of cardboard and straws and see which wing design was more aerodynamic.

Ella loved this and couldn't wait to test fly her gliders. First she had to fill out an experiment worksheet where she had to write her hypothesis. She guessed that the narrow glider would fly further because most planes have long narrow wings. I peeked ahead in the text so I knew that the long narrow wing is more aerodynamic, but I was more than a little worried about whether our backyard experiment would work out that way. Ella would have to toss both gliders the exact same way to accurately measure which one went further. I'll admit it, I was pondering ways to rig the experiment if necessary. Now I'm not proud of skewing scientific research for the greater good (*cough* United Nations), but I was willing to to toss the gliders myself with a little extra oomph on the narrow one if it came to that.

But dear friends, never fear, my integrity is still intact. It turns out that the laws of science can't be thwarted, not even by an enthusiastic 7 year old. The narrow wing glider won hands down. And when we sat down to complete Ella's worksheet and I asked her what her conclusion was she said, "That I was right!"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Denial

More snow. Sigh. There is a snow shovel and a pair of gloves in my very near future. But for the moment I am in snow denial. Maybe if I just don't look at that thick blanket of freshly fallen, unflavored Slurpee stuff laying all over my car and driveway it will disappear all by itself. Ya think? Is there some loop hole in the laws of physics that I can exploit to avoid the snow shovel? No? Drat.

And to make matters worse, wouldn't you just know that there's a life lesson buried in the midst of all this cold white stuff falling from the sky. Here's a tip for any of my fellow Californians who may one day find themselves on the opposite coast...if you don't shovel the snow the same day it falls it will freeze overnight and turn to ice. And guess what, shoveling ice is way harder than shoveling freshly fallen snow. How do I know this interesting bit of weather related knowledge? Because I have in fact shoveled ice. And it was a back breaking, frustration inducing bummer.

So what is our life lesson for the day? If we don't deal with a problem when it first presents itself, not only will it not go away, it will freeze and turn into a bigger problem. It can be a problem that comes upon us, perhaps a health issue, or a broken relationship, or it can be a problem that comes from within, perhaps a secret sin or bitterness or anger that we are holding in our hearts. The longer we let it go, the harder it will be to clean up.

So for all of my current snow denial, I will indeed be outside in my jacket, cap, scarf and gloves making a path for the mini-van to escape our driveway. That's right, I'm bundling up like the Michelin Man...I have every intention of sacrificing my pride to keep warm.

Here's hoping you have a snow free weekend...or if that fails, then here's hoping that you find an enterprising teenager to do the shoveling for you.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Light Bulb Moments

There are many things I've decided that I like about homeschooling. I like that our mornings are less rushed. No more breakfast in the car as we drive frantically to school. No more late night runs to Michael's to grab pipe cleaners or clay for a project due the next day. No more cleaning mashed up peanut butter sandwich leftovers in the lunchbox. All good things. But I've decided that my very favorite part of homeschooling are the light bulb moments. Those moments when suddenly everything clicks in Ella's mind and she understands something new. That's the best.

Earlier this week we were studying the Exodus and while I was reading the Bible passage describing the Passover, Ella suddenly stopped and said, "Oh Mommy! It's Pass Over. You know, the angel passed over the houses of the Israelites." For a 7 year old, that was a big moment of religious was a high wattage light bulb moment. Kind of like when she got the concept of carrying numbers in addition. Another big, bright light.

Those moments are invigorating and encouraging and joyful. And that's just me. I'm sure Ella's a fan too.

I've struggled this past month with not having a benchmark to measure Ella's progress do I know she's learning enough? Is she keeping up with her grade level? Is she falling behind? Am I teaching the right things? But then suddenly that light bulb will flip on and for one brief moment I can see clearly that we're both doing just fine.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's a New Day

Yesterday was not a good day. There was just nothing to say in the midst of the colossal pile of ickiness that was yesterday. If I had written a post yesterday it would have probably looked like this:


So in the interest of sparing you, my faithful readers, from such a travesty of the written word, I hid from my computer instead.

Nothing horrible happened, there wasn't a major tragedy or natural disaster and I didn't run out of my secret chocolate stash. It was just a build up of one thing after another until I thought my head was going to explode.

But, today is a better day. And looking back on yesterday, I have been thinking about how the enemy of our faith sometimes slithers in like a snake. There are times in the Bible when Satan is described as a roaring lion, when he gets right in the face of our faith and tries to terrify us into doubt and disbelief. But he is also described as a sneaky snake. He slithers in with whispers of half-truths and plants seeds that we may not even notice until they've sprouted into thorny vines choking our hearts.

Yesterday was a snake day. It was a little thing here, a little thing there, one stress adding to another until I was bogged down in a mess of confusion, fear, doubt and anger.

Praise God for new days. Today I get to start over. No matter how bad our yesterdays were, they are already past. And if we made it through the night, then we made it through the trial and we can stand in the light of a new day.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There's a Storm Coming

Ayah, there's a storm a brewin'. Could be a big one, best board up the windows. That's my grizzled Maine sailor accent, complete with slicker and pipe. Did you catch it? Yep, I can blog with an accent. Impressive, huh?

Aside from the fact that there really are storm clouds on the horizon outside my windows, I am speaking more of a metaphorical storm that is brewing on our homeschool horizon. I started something new this week with Ella and I'm not sure how it is going to turn out. Could be a really good thing. Could be a perfect storm of tears and whining that sinks our little fishing boat of home based education.

In an attempt to teach Ella to take more responsibility for her schoolwork and to end the "how much more do I have to do" line of questioning, this week I made a work card for Ella. It lists every subject she studies and every lesson she has to complete this week. I showed it to her and told her that she has to finish everything on the card but she can decide which lessons to do each day. She liked the idea and jumped right on board.

Now, after two days of work, she is right on track with her Bible lessons, completely done with her Explode the Code and writing assignments and halfway done with grammar and history. But, she's only done 1 math lesson (out of 6) and no science. Uh-oh. Friday could be an ugly, ugly day. I'm picturing 3 hours of math accompanied by a full orchestra of sighing, whining and begging.

But, that forecast is three days away. So check back often for updates, you never know when the weather will turn. Did I totally beat that metaphor into the ground? Ok, just checking. In the meantime, we'll stock up on supplies (chocolate and earplugs) and pray for sunshine. I mean actual sunshine this time. I'm so over rain.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Things Are Worth Paying For

As I believe in honesty and truthfulness and all that stuff, I have already shared with you, my faithful readers, that I have a thrifty side. I tend toward the frugal and budget conscious side of things. I have been known to splurge when the occasion calls for it, but most of the time you won't catch me paying retail price for anything. And apparently I am so cheap...uh, I mean financially sensitive...that I'd rather lose 2 hours of my life making something by hand than spend $10 to buy it.

How do I know this very interesting and very specific fact about myself? I just spent 2 hours making math flashcards for my darling Ella. Addition and subtraction. Double sided. Answers on one side, no answers on the reverse. Yep, that's 2 hours I will never get back.

I already had the blank index cards and a black Sharpie on hand so when I saw flash cards at a store known for its low prices priced at $3.00 a set I quickly decided that I'd rather save the cash and make them myself.

And guess what, somethings are worth buying. The cards are fine, they work, the answers are correct (I hope). But what a massive pain in the sitting part of my anatomy. After an hour or so, all the number started to fuzz together so I actually had to double check my answers a few times. And I still have to do the multiplication cards. And no I can't just go buy those cards because I already started the process so now I have to finish it or my mental health will be in jeopardy. Plus, this way all the cards will match. :)

Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Mother's Prayer

Dear Lord,

Father God, I love you and I thank you for my children. Thank you for giving them to me and for trusting me to raise them. Thank you Lord for their smiles and laughter, for the hugs and kisses and for every "I love you, Mommy." Thank you for the joy and innocence they have in their hearts, the wonder in their eyes and the dreams You have placed in their spirits.

Lord, help me to be the mother they deserve. Help me Lord to love them like You do. Bless me, I pray, with more patience and more understanding. Holy Spirit cover my mouth before I speak harshly to them. Savior God remind me to be forgiving just as You have forgiven me. Father, help me to always remember that they were Your children before they were mine and help me to treat them as sons and daughters of God.

Lord, let my words and my actions teach them about the love of Christ. Show me Lord how to give them a faith that is strong and stands firm in a world of compromise and temptation. Give me words Lord that will take root in their hearts and give them courage to do the right thing even when I am not around. Above all, Lord, help me to teach them to know You, rely on You and trust in You.

Increase my faith Lord, forgive me for my failings and strengthen me each day. "Teach me Your ways O Lord and I will walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your name." (Ps. 86:11) Give me a right heart Lord, one devoted solely to You so I can be an example, a teacher, an encouragement and a godly mother to the children You have given me. I can't do it without You.

In the name of Jesus,

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Hover or Not To Hover

Ah, that is the question. To hover over Ella's shoulder and watch her work or to step away and let her do the work in her own way. Can you feel the pensive tide pulling us out to the deep end of the philosophical ocean? Don't worry I'm typing during Jack's nap time so it will be a short ride in the profound thoughts boat and then right back to shore.

During Ella's math lesson today she was completing her workbook pages and I caught myself standing over her shoulder stopping her every time she made a mistake. When she'd make a miscalculation, I'd immediately stop her and point out that contrary to what I think as a parent 1 (child) + 1 (child) does not equal 11 (even though it feels that way some days). Ok, her problems were more advanced than that, but you get my drift.

But after a few minutes of hover-mom, she started checking with me before she wrote down her answers. And that's not the way I want this to work. So I stepped away and let her finish the whole lesson before I checked her answers. And it got me thinking....where else have I been hovering in my kids' lives? Where else have I been so focused on them getting things right that I haven't left any room for them to make a mistake?

I know part of my job as their mom is to protect them and guide them and help them make the right choices, but eventually I have to let them actually make the choice. And...gulp...they may make the wrong one sometimes. I suddenly had a flash of insight that maybe, just maybe I have been trying too hard to make sure they always and only make the right choice or get the right answer. Because maybe, oh here it comes, maybe I am too worried about what their answers say about me.

Bam! That's a bright flash of light shining on an ugly truth. Here's the math on it: Ella's right answer = good mom = I'm a success. And conversely Ella's wrong answer = bad mom = I'm a failure. Is this making sense or is it just me?

So today I decided not to hover. I let Ella do the work. She got some of the answers right, she got some of them wrong. And the ones she got wrong, we sat down and fixed together.

You may now disembark the deep thoughts row boat and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Best Thing Ever #1

Ok, yes I knew something hideous was going to hit today after the surprising success of yesterday's school-the-go adventure. But knowing it was coming didn't make it any easier to deal with the train wreck of whining and complaining that hit me right in the face this morning.

Soooo, instead of dwelling on my pulsing whine-grane headache and continuing to ponder the possibility that my children really have hatched a devious plot to drive me crazy with their ultra-sonic whine weapons, I am going to grab a handful of dark chocolate M&Ms and launch a new tradition here at my humble homeschool blog. My Best Thing Ever feature. Catchy huh? I figure since I'm learning as I go, I'd share the purchases, freebies or handmade goodies that are really helping me. See, I'm all about the greater good...even when I'm just typing so I can stay in total denial of the kid chaos threatening to erupt at any moment. Hmmmm...too much information?

Anyway, moving right along, here's the first installment. My first Best Thing Ever is...drum roll please...a white board. Ok, that's kind of a let down I'm sure. You were probably expecting something a little flashier, a little cooler, but let me tell you our white board has been a life saver. Best Thing Ever! For some reason understood only by children and grown men with short attention spans, lessons are much more interesting when done on a white board. Sure you can do the same thing with pencil and paper, and use the exact same words, but it's just better when written on a white board with colored pens.

So there you go, it's not pretty and it's not expensive (Praise the Lord!), but it's my first whole hearted homeschool recommendation. Other than chocolate...that's just a given.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

School On The Go

I have a funny feeling that today is just the first of many mobile schoolhouse days. I had to take my mini-van...yes, I have a mini-van. I used to drive a Camaro and now I have a mom-mobile. But it's totally tricked out (she says in a vainly trying to sound young & hip voice). I'm so old.

Anyway, this morning I had to take my sweet ride (complete with empty My Little Pony fruit chews wrappers and crushed Goldfish crackers permanently ground into the carpet fibers) to the mechanic to get the front brakes worked on. I was anticipating a few hours in the waiting room (and I was not disappointed) so I waltzed into the office looking like I was ready to set up camp. Purse, diaper bag, Ella's backpack, Jack's backpack, snack bag, bottled water, jackets...we were ready to make ourselves right at home.

And of course 30 seconds after I handed my keys to the mechanic who could have crushed my immediate financial future to bits, I was handing Ella her math book. And she was great about it. She curled up on the sofa and did her lesson. Jack was even really good coloring and playing with dinosaurs. Ella got through an entire math lesson and half of her reading book before she starting grumbling. By that time we only had 15 minutes or so before the van...I mean the sweet ride....was ready.

So our first school-on-the-go adventure was a success. I only forgot one thing, the number chart, and Ella managed without it. Gotta say, I'm feeling pretty good. Of course that probably means tomorrow is going to be a whole other kind of adventure. What can I say...I'm Irish. Our luck works that way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Just Never Know

Today I took the kids to the ice rink for Ella's skating lesson. Aha! Another benefit to homeschooling...the rink is empty! No demolition derby of young ones wobbling around on skates. Anyway, I bumped into a mom that I met once before a few weeks ago. She's another military wife who homeschools her two kids. We met the first time when the hubby and I were still debating whether or not to start homeschooling.

The first time we met she mentioned that she homeschooled and assumed that I did too. We were actually in the rink during normal school hours so it was a fair guess. When I told her we were thinking about it but that I was still on the fence, she asked me what was holding me back. As we talked about it, she brought up a few points about homeschooling that I hadn't considered. And coming from another military wife, her words stuck with me and were even a part of the discussions that hubby and I had.

Anyway, when I saw her today I said hello and called her by name. She was floored that I actually remembered her name. I can't help it, I'm good with names. Not good with cars, computers or chaos but names I remember. I didn't put her on the spot and tell her what an impact her words had on me and our decision to homeschool. How's that for pressure from a relative stranger? "Hey, remember a few weeks ago when you said that thing? Well, we totally changed our lives and possibly our children's future and it's all because of you. So if it all goes south and ends in disaster we're going to blame you." Yeah, I decided against that conversation.

But it did get me thinking. We really have no way of knowing the impact our words and our attitudes can have on someone else. If she had been all negative or bummed out about homeschooling, I might have carried that memory into our decision making process and gone another way. I'm not saying we can't be honest when we're having bad days, but you just never know what's going on in another person's head. Maybe someone you meet is on the verge of making a big decision. Maybe that passing conversation is more than just small talk. And maybe, just maybe God has put you in that place at that time for a specific reason.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Holiday? What Holiday?

Don't yell at me, I'm only kidding. I know it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A day set aside to honor the life and work of a great man who truly understood justice, courage and walking out his Christian faith. His legacy is one that should never be ignored or taken for granted. But I'm still making the kids do schoolwork. If I had thought ahead I would have planned a history lesson on Dr. King for today. But I didn't. Sorry Dr. King.

See, I know it's a holiday. I'm not ignorant...I'm just mean. And I'm oddly ok with that.

Here's how I justify my mean Mommy-ness. I'm trying to get Ella caught up in her math. When we started homeschooling she was already behind in math so I started her at the beginning of a second grade curriculum. And being the slightly goal-oriented woman that I am (cough) I want her to be ready to start third grade math in the fall. So I'm taking every opportunity we have to work on math.

The good news is that she's really doing well. Things that she told me she was having trouble with in school, she's starting to understand. Today we were working on addition with carrying and when I asked her if she had done it before she said "Yes, I'm just not good at it." But by the end of the lesson she was carrying like pack mule...or a bellhop...or a celebrity's underpaid assistant. Pick a metaphor, she was carrying like a champ.

And on this day when we remember one man who was willing to stand up and speak out, I thought of this Scripture:

"In that day the Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people. He will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate" Isaiah 28:5-6

Friday, January 15, 2010

Teaching the Teacher

Two weeks of homeschooling down...both kids still alive, house still standing. We're calling it a success. Granted, making sure we have the same number of kids that we started with and keeping the house intact are pretty low minimum standards, but you have to start somewhere.

So here's what I've have learned in my vast homeschooling experience. All two weeks of it.

1) Pray. God wants to shower us with His grace and His blessings. The Holy Spirit is always ready to fill us, guide us and lead us, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves before Him and say, "I can't do this on my own." When we give up our pride and our vain grasping at control then we make the room for God's grace to come in and give us everything we need for every challenge we face.

2) Be willing to learn. Yep, I'm the parent and now the teacher too. But I am also a student in so many ways. I'm learning more about my they learn, how they think, what they respond to, what drives them absolutely monkey nuts. I'm learning what I am good at teaching, what I stink at teaching and I'm learning that there is A LOT of stuff I don't know.

3) Ask for help. I have two good Christian homeschooling friends on speed dial...and I'm not afraid to use it.

4) Not all teaching moments are written in the books. So have a plan, but be prepared to toss it out the window when the snow starts falling. Which leads nicely to the next note...

5) Keep it in perspective. I'm learning to stop judging the kids' work by whether or not Harvard has called for their early applications. If the schedule gets wonky or things go haywire, it's probably not the end of the world. And if it is the end of the world, well...then we have other things to worry about anyway.

6) Teach love first. Yes, I want them to be ridiculously smart and successful. I want Ella to be the figure skating, veterinarian she dreams of becoming and I want Jack to be...well whatever block building, daredevil career he chooses (sounds like another Marine to me). But before all that, I want them to be good people.

7) Pray more. Bottom line, God gave me these two amazing little people to mold and shape and train up in they way they should go. God has already numbered their days and He has a place for them in His plan for this world. So, I need His guidance much more than I need my own resources, brains or plans.

Anyway, that was a little deeper than I originally planned. Go figure. Happy weekend!