Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bloggy overhaul for the new year--construction warning!

If you are one of the few folks who visit my blog occasionally, I must warn you--I have a renovating bug and a small (okay, nonexistent) budget, so my blog is going to be undergoing an overhaul.  I shall have some free time on my hands when hubby leaves for three weeks in Germany just after the new year, so.....blog I will!

Just a warning!  Proceed at your own risk!  LOL

Friday, December 17, 2010

A twist on an annoying "tag"!

You know those horrid games that once a year some random person will play on you either via your email or Facebook, where you are "tagged" along with 25-or-so other people to list 25ish random things about yourself or answer a bunch of off-the-wall questions, then (of course) pass it on so you can torture tag 25 MORE people with the same "game"?

Yeah, well apparently it's that time of year again.  Normally if I'm tagged by someone who knows me pretty well, I'll either totally ignore the request or I'll (in a feeble attempt at consideration for THEIR time spent on such a monumental time-waster) list things that I know will make the other person laugh.  This time, though, well, the person who tagged me really doesn't know me all *that* well, and shoot ... I'm bored.  But this time, I'm switching things up a bit!  I'm taking the random out of it, and in a real, true effort to make the "real" me a little bit more obvious, I'm gonna do this MY way.  Hmm ... I guess that's Fact #1--I'm apparently a bit of a control freak?

Here's my take on it--I'm going to list not 25, not 30, but 37 things that make me happy.  Why 37?  Because that's how old I am this year.  Why things that make me happy?  Because THAT is how you understand what makes someone tick.  I'm not going to "tag" anyone else; I'm going to leave any participation in this little game completely voluntary--but you know what?  I'm actually, really, and truly interested in how people would answer this very same question!  If you want to, I'd love to have you play too!  So, if you make it through my list, feel free to comment with a link to your OWN list!  Okay?  Alrighty then--now here goes.

37 Things That Make Kris Happy ...
1. Devil's food cookies.  They're those little chocolate-covered circles of devil's food cake that have a thin layer of marshmallow under the chocolate coating.  I inherited my love for these little yummies from my Papaw (who I don't think ever told another soul that he had such an affinity for them) and I'm just so sad that I can't seem to find them anywhere anymore except in the low fat version (which we all know is NOT the real thing).
2. Big, fat, red roses.  Those big, deep-crimson blooms that fill up your entire hand.  Awesome.
3. Gardenia bushes.  My nose is tuned in to that scent every time I'm anywhere near them, and my memory immediately goes straight back to my Mamaw.
4. Waking up late on a Saturday morning with two or three little ones asleep between me and hubby--instant silent smiles shared across little blonde heads ... ahhh.
5. Having a cat curl up on my lap.
6. Freshly finished scrapbook pages.
7. Thin crust NY-style cheese pizza.  I have still yet to have a slice as yummy as the one we last had the night before our wedding, at New York Style Pizza in the shopping center at the corner of Jog and Lake Worth Roads.  One day ...
8. My hubby's homemade buttered popcorn.  He makes the BEST buttered popcorn.  Better than any movie theater!  I've watched him; I've done exactly the same things he does when I attempt to make it, but I can't recreate it.  I guess the secret ingredient really is love--and he's never hesitant or even huffy when I ask him to make up a batch.  Seriously--it can even make an Adam Sandler movie worth watching!
9. The beach.  Not sunbathing; not the skin-fest, but the actual sand-meets-ocean *beach*.  The sounds of the surf, the smells, the beauty in the horizon, the solitude even among the crowd, the sheer magnificence of God's creation.  Wow.
10. Snow-capped mountains.  More specifically, the Bavarian Alps.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to camp at their feet three times in my life.  Yet another grandiose display of the power found in the Master Artist's brush.
11. A baby's laughter.  Communication that needs no translation!
12. The smell of fresh-cut-grass.
13. Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bars dipped in Jif creamy peanut butter.
14. Seeing my grandmother's, my great-grandmother's, and my great-grandfather's Bibles on my shelf.  It is a heritage of faith that I hope and pray continues through my children.
15. Cinnamon Spice tea from Barnes & Noble's Starbucks.
16. The sight and sounds of my children playing together peacefully.
17. Philly cheesesteaks.
18. A phone call from an old friend that lasts altogether too long but is altogether too short.
19. Newly-opened Crayola crayons.
20. Being at home with my children--few sacrifices in this life are as rewarding!
21. Mamaw's carrot cake.
22. Freshly washed cloth diapers drying on the clothesline. 
23. York Peppermint Patties!!!
24. Seeing soldiers in formation. 
25. The scent of Jergen's lotion--the "original" sweet cherry almond fragrance.
26. Carvel ice cream cake. Maybe one of these years, my family will take the hints I've been dropping?
27. Homeschooling.  Everything about it makes me happy.  This could be a list completely by itself--the box of books arriving at the door, the stacks of papers, supplies, and folders........the whole experience of being the one teaching my children how to learn and love learning; it's such an amazing blessing that I thank God for every day!
28. Having a crying toddler bring me a boo-boo to kiss.
29. Five-year-old enthusiasm because she's just figured out how to curl her tongue!
30. Bubble baths in those long, deep German bathtubs!  OH how I miss those tubs!!!
31. Seeing God "show off" by providing for our needs--usually with a major flourish!
32. Gibson's BBQ
33. Time spent in fellowship with other Christians.  There truly is no finer company!
34. Comfy jeans.
35. Clean, crisp sheets.
36. Homecomings.
37. This--having our whole family, including its new "extension", all together.  We're not a perfect family, we can't get everyone smiling at the camera at the same time, the camera makes at least one (in this case, two) of us look thirty pounds heavier, and one of us is inevitably wearing something as offbeat as Shelby's Elmo slippers, but I wouldn't trade this family for anything this side of heaven!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My mission

... and I did choose to accept it, is to somehow re-create the (okay, I'm going to steal one of my teenage daughter's descriptions here) awesomeness of the little crusty, chewy bits of doughy goodness that we had in Germany.  There truly is NOTHING that compares to a warm brotchen with soft, salty, creamy butter slathered all over it.  Nothing.  And I'm determined to learn how to do it.

I have one German cookbook with a brotchen recipe in it, and I gave it my first try yesterday, with the hopes of accompanying a hearty German meal of bratwurst, sauerkraut (doctored, of course, as Pete's Oma showed me with bacon, onions, and apples), potato balls and a brown mushroom gravy.  Here's what I ended up with:
It was yummy enough, but the brotchen was all wrong.  I'm off to find another recipe that will work.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lessons from Facebook

Unlikely source of an education of sorts in spiritual matters, no?  Funny how God works sometimes to teach us things!

Recently, I had a security breach on my computer, all due to a lot of the junk I probably should never have been bothering to expose myself to in the first place.  Facebook is terrible about having applications that require you to "allow" access to your profile, and unfortunately, a lot more than that.  You may "only" be playing Farmville or placing a badge on your profile, but at what cost?  I am STILL having issues with my computer.  I can't use any "remember me" applications on anything, regardless of its connection to Facebook.  I even managed to trace my Blogger issues back to that Facebook hacker incident.  I had a period of about a week that I was completely unable to access my Facebook at ALL--I coudln't sign in, I couldn't change my password, nothing.  It was insane.  And it probably wouldn't have been a big deal at all if I had another way to keep in daily contact with my deployed son, but sometimes you just have to deal with the demons, right? 

Do we?

Once I got my mess straightened out, I came across a rather heated disagreement between one of my friends and another random poster on a random blog, about the toll "allowed" access to sin in our lives takes on us spiritually ... and since the whole Facebook application debacle was fresh in my mind, it occurred to me that there is a huge lesson to be learned about what we "allow" in our lives. 

I receive constant (every day....multiple times a day, in fact) invitations to one application or another on Facebook.  It all seemed so harmless when I first signed up for the social network.  I had NO IDEA the damage that those completely benign forms of virtual entertainment could bring upon me.  See, plenty of people use Facebook and its applications with absolutely no problem.  They never have any security issues, never have problems with applications or what is "allowed" on their profile.  But then there are those of us who DO get 'hacked', whether inconvenienced with minor disturbances like I was, or completely barraged with viruses and identity theft.

We need to value and protect our identity and our computers, yes.  No doubt about that.  We need to pay special attention to filters on our computer and whether we're properly protected against outside malice.  But do you realize that, by and large, most people who would be ridiculously careful with their virtual life are not nearly as diligent to protect their hearts and minds?

Think about the last time you plopped yourself down and mindlessly watched TV because there was nothing better to do.  What did you see?  What commercials flashed before your eyes while your brain was checked out, yet still looking at the screen?  How about what movies you've watched lately, whether via DVD or in the theaters?  What books and other printed media have you filled your mind with?  In short, what have you occupied your time with in the name of entertainment?

And what of "entertainment" itself?  What purpose should it serve to us?  If we should rightly discern what entertainment to take part in, why should we not define its entire purpose and what worth it should hold in our lives?  Permit me to quote Webster's 1828 Dictionary, if you would (I prefer older, more Biblically grounded definitions of our words to the current watery versions) ...

ENTERTA'INMENT, n. The receiving and accommodating of guests, either with or without reward. The hospitable man delights in the entertainment of his friends.
     1. Provisions of the table; hence also, a feast; a superb dinner or supper.
     2. The amusement, pleasure or instruction, derived from conversation, discourse, argument, oratory, music, dramatic performances, &c.; the pleasure which the mind receives from any thing interesting, and which holds or arrests the attention. We often have rich entertainment, in the conversation of a learned friend.
     3. Reception; admission.
     4. The state of being in pay or service. [Not used.]
     5. Payment of those retained in service.
     6. That which entertains; that which serves for amusement; the lower comedy; farce.

It is the second definition I would like to center on for just a minute--"the amusement, pleasure or instruction, derived from conversation, discourse, argument, oratory, music, dramatic performances, &c."--this pretty much sums up what our current definition of entertainment is, does it not?  Interestingly enough, when I looked up 'amusement', one of the definitions was "a distraction".  Yup, right on the money.  Distraction from reality is what we seek in our entertainment, isn't it?  To be entertained is to be swept away, in a manner of speaking, to another world, free from the cares and worries of the current one.  We want something to occupy our mind--something we don't have to *do* for ourself; something that requires nothing of us except our attention.  Am I wrong in that assumption?

Here's where it gets tricky for the Christian.  What we choose to (and it is a choice!) allow to entertain us WILL be what our mind dwells on.  Have you ever watched a cooking show and realized that suddenly you are incredibly hungry?  How about getting thirsty watching a Pepsi or Coke commercial?  Ever had the sudden urge to complain about your relationship with your spouse after watching one of those cheesy chick-flicks or reading a romance novel? 

**For the record, I will admit my fervent distaste in both chick-flicks and romance novels.  I think they're a recipe for disaster.  I could go on for HOURS, but not now.**

The entertainment industry depends on awakening our desire for whatever "product" they're selling--whether it's an actual product or an idea or ratings or box-office numbers or a spot on the bestseller list.  They don't get paid unless you partake.  And, dear Christian brethren, just what are you **getting** when you partake?  Is it an unhealthy dose of profanity, sexual innuendo (or worse, perverse reinactments of the "real deal"), immodest dress and behavior, violence, witchcraft, drunkenness, and debauchery?

"But it's just entertainment.  It's just 'pretend'; it's not real; there's no harm in it."

Is there not? 

How's your conscience doing?  Is it seared?  What is your mind dwelling on?  What should the mind of a Christian be dwelling on??  As in all things pertaining to life and godliness, let the Word of God be the one to speak:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  (Philippians 4:8  ESV)

What do we think about?  What "rules" us and our choices about how we spend our downtime and our moments of diversion from work and responsibility?  Christian parents, are you raising up a generation of spiritual weaklings who look, sound, and think like their worldly counterparts?  Are you training them up in godliness?  Are you teaching your children to abhor the things which God abhors, or are you celebrating it with their "entertaining" choices for movies and reading material?  Are you training them to see things that God detests as "okay" as long as it's "pretend"?

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."  (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

We guard our computers with virus protection.  We guard our identity.  We guard our houses.  We guard our purses, our wallets, our cell phones, our vehicles, and we even microchip our pets.  But do we truly, diligently, and vehemently guard our hearts????  Are our choices for entertainment any better, any more wholesome, any more worthy of our time (and God's) than those of people who do not claim the name of Christ?  Are we offended by the things that offend God, or have we been thoroughly brainwashed by the world into believing things are "okay" if we are only watching/reading them and not actively taking part in them?  Need I quote it?  Sure, I will.  "For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)  Do we even CARE to see things as God sees them, or are we more content and comfortable fitting in with the world?

Like it or not, when you view a TV show or movie, you are in effect clicking on the "allow" button to your heart.  You allow Satan access to your mind and your heart, and that is no light matter.  Just as with our Facebook accounts, we have no control once we do the "allowing" what will be affected.  It could be nothing.  Or it could completely infect your life.  Why take that chance??? 

"Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind." (Romans 12:2 GNB)

Does your mind need some anti-malware protection and a good re-format?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Having Blogger issues

Please excuse my blog absence as I'm trying to figure out why on earth I can't view my own blog. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reflections on being a "veteran's" wife

Had you asked me 22 years ago, the day after Pete and I had our first date, what Veteran's Day meant to me, I would have told you that it was pretty neat to have a day off of school.  Today, all that has changed.  I "get it" now.

I have seen, though skewed by interpretation, through the eyes of my husband into foreign lands where freedoom is something that most people feel they'll never have.  I have listened to countless stories of captured soldiers who fully throw themselves into captivity because the treatment they will receive from our military is far better than the "care" they receive from their own government and their military superiors.  I have wept with my husband as he recounts how truly awful the political conditions of other countries are for their citizens.  I have seen both the relief and confused anxiety on his face as he returns to this free land to enjoy liberties that he has seen so brutally taken away from those he fought to liberate.  I have also wept with him silently as he listens to people who have degraded and devalued the mission he supported and watched several of his peers give their lives in support of.  I have shared the pain and unadulterated rage as he watched people turn military funerals into political venues and dishonor warriors whose families only want to say goodbye in peace.  SHAME ON YOU, America, for making ANY of our nation's brave warriors feel as though their missions are not important.  You haven't seen what they see.

If you don't appreciate your freedoms as an American citizen, try living in one of the coutnries that our servicemembers are fighting in right now.  Try giving up all of your luxuries in exchange for a cramped, uncomfortable living space shared with sixty other people in a foreign land in which those "archaic" living conditions (complete with running water, internet access and cable TV) are still worlds richer than those of the locals you live near.  Would you begin to feel that stirring of pride upon seeing the stars and stripes waving in the tranquil breeze when you returned? 

My husband came home from "his" war.  I hope and pray that my son does as well.  I hope and pray that my son-in-law never has to face the atrocities of war, but I know that at some point in his military career, he likely will.  It is never an easy or pleasant task to face the separation of war, but it's far more unpleasant to consider where our nation would be if we never had anyone who believed in the value of our freedom and the virtue of liberty enough to pledge their lives to defending it.

This wife of a retired soldier, mom of a deployed soldier, daughter and daughter-in-law of Vietnam veterans, granddaughter of WWII veterans, and proud American citizen salutes those who have served.  With great honor and respect, when that flag passes in review, I will stand with my right hand firmly placed across my heart.  I know it is only because of the bravery and patriotism of those who have worn the uniforms of our country's military that I have the right to STAND.

Happy Veteran's Day!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guess what?

I'm a mother-in-law!!!!  My oldest daughter, Kelsey is now a married woman!  She and Derrick decided not to wait on a go-all-out ceremony, and they were joined in matrimony this morning at the courthouse!  I'm still in a bit of shock, but I just have to post some pictures...
 The judge did the 'ceremony' in the hallway because we couldn't all fit in his chambers!  LOL

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This is one of "those" weeks.

This is shaping up to be a "totally useless" week by all external standards, but if there is one thing I've learned over our years of home education, it is the value in looking beyond the academic learning to the "real life" learning--there is a huge relief in knowing that my children ARE learning very valuable lessons even if their math books remain untouched. 

Sunday evening, our little three-month-old puppy Sasha started showing signs of illness; by mid-day Monday, she had lost two pounds and was starting to look severely dehydrated from incessant vomiting.  Monday afternoon, she was diagnosed with parvo.  It wasn't what the vet considered an "extreme" case, so she sent her home after giving her fluids and medicine.  I spent most of the morning yesterday (Tuesday) trying to keep fluids in her and when she took a turn for the worse, there was only one other course of action--Sasha is now in the animal hospital, being given intravenous fluids and medication in hopes of keeping her alive and strong enough to fight off the virus. 

As if yesterday wasn't stressful enough, early in the morning we learned that one of our dear friends had been taken by ambulance to the hospital...and Pete called from the hospital last night to tell me that Josh had no brain function at all.  Our hearts are hurting, but this was a victory for a young man whose life was frought with suffering.  Josh was born with birth defects and developmental handicaps and wasn't expected to live very long; he outlived both his mother and his grandmother!  Taken in and cared for by his aunt and uncle, he has been struggling the last few years (since his grandmother's death) with what to expect in the afterlife.  It frightened him, and the idea of a new and perfect spiritual body, he said, scared him to death.  He feared being able to know people he didn't know here on earth, he feared seeing dead people alive again, and he feared seeing the face of God. 

Thankfully, death came quickly for Josh--one minute he was complaining that he couldn't feel or move his arms or legs, the next, he was blue and lifeless.  God truly knows what we can handle, and in His infinite wisdom and provision, He chose to let Josh pass from this life to the next quickly and without being challenged with the fears he didn't understand.  Josh has nothing left to fear; he is in the presence of his mother and grandmother, in paradise with our forefathers, waiting on the Lord to take us all to Heaven.  In a fitting end to his earthly life, his organs are being donated so that Josh's life may be a blessing to people he didn't even know, extending the reach of people this young man touched with his relatively short life.  What a blessing Joshua Lyle was...and will continue to be.

As I said before, this week has been just "too much" already, for us to continue unimpeded with daily schedules and lesson plans.  Sometimes academics have to take a back seat to life, and that's what has happened this week.  My girls are still learning, however.  We've had discussions of viruses, hygiene, caring for the sick, even death and Heaven.  We have wept with joy and with sorrow, all at the same time.  And in celebrating death, we are also celebrating life.

Today is another milestone for our family--the middle child of the younger 'set' is four years old today.  Morgan, Jamie, and I have had several discussions this week about making Danica's birthday special for her, since she is often the one who gets the short end of the stick in many things.  Dani is sandwiched between two sets of Irish twins, so she is "all alone" in the middle--neither one of the babies or one of the big girls.  It's difficult sometimes to find something that identifies her because she wants so much to fit in that she really doesn't express her favorites or what she "loves" like Morgan and Jamie do.  It's going to be challenging to make today extra-special for her, considering that a lot of the focus this evening at Bible study will be on Josh's family....but we're taking cupcakes for Dani to share with everyone, and she gets to choose what we have for dinner tonight.  This weekend, we're going to visit the zoo as a special treat for her birthday. 

Happy Birthday, Danica Jill!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Conquering clutter

I've had an ongoing battle with clutter almost all of my married life.  I'm presently sitting in a room that is actually bigger than our first apartment was (no kidding!), and the thought of all we had shoved into that tiny little space--three people, a bed, dressers, couches, tables, chairs, kitchen stuff, baby stuff, a crib, stroller, plus all those CLOTHES....it makes my head spin.  And it just got worse from there.  Twenty years, we dragged our boxes and bags full of stuff around the world.  Thirteen addresses, two overseas moves, living in five different states (six if you count Pete's six months of training in VA the first year we were married), the junk adds up--and takes over, if you're not careful.

We weren't careful.

And boy, HOWDY have we paid the price.

Yes, folks, there is a price to be paid for letting 'stuff' hang out in your house rent-free for years and years.  It doesn't benefit your life at all, but you still keep it.  Why?  Sentimental reasons, practical reasons, the excuse I heard for way too many years of "It might be worth something someday."  Well guess what?  If it's not worth something to me TODAY, I don't want it around.  The greatest cost I've had to pay toward the rent of keeping clutter around me is in mental energy.  You heard me right.  I've had to invest mental energy into keeping this STUFF.  Why did I do that?  I honestly don't have a clue.  Maybe it's a leftover that was passed down from our Depression-Era forefathers who wasted nothing and kept everything...but even as bad as our economy is, we're not in the dire straits they were in by any means.  We have no valid reason for all this STUFF other than to make us feel like we own something.  Validation that we're "somebody" because we own things.

I don't want that kind of validation.  I'd rather be validated and found worthy because of Whose I am, not what I manage to step over on my way to the door. 

I suppose there is a positive effect from at least some reality shows on TV as of late.  The show "Hoarders" has made me want to hire a cleaning crew and rent a dumpster on several occasions, I must say.  I knew that the clutter was having a profound impact on my standard of living, because I would spend a good 2/3 of my day rearranging and moving stuff and junk just to get to what needed to be done.  Not healthy.  Too much energy spent on worthless things that do not add value to my life. 

Over the five weeks that Pete was gone, I decluttered a LOT of our house.  He truly was shocked at the difference.  We can now walk in our bedroom; while it's still a work in progress (there are still some baby items we have to give away and winter clothes of ours to weed through), the progress is stunning.  Even more shocking to him was the bonus room that we use as our playroom, office, and "guest" room (there's a bed, so it's for guests....LOL) that were, up until just a few short weeks ago, BURIED under all the stuff we had no other place to store.  We have a storage closet in this room, but it was chock FULL of the girls' clothes. 

NOT ANYMORE!!!  In fact, to a large extent, I've even tamed the clothes monster!  I used to have all of the girls' colder weather clothing separated into five Rubbermaid tubs, and even those were overflowing...
Well, it took me about a week, but I emptied those tubs onto the living room floor, took out only what I knew I'd allow them to wear (we've been given a LOT of clothing that is totally inappropriate or even just too old and icky to wear) and literally tossed the rest.  Out of the dressers came the summer clothes, and MOST of that got tossed too.  This is what our living room looked like for almost a week...
It was ugly.  But now, I have a clean closet in their room, all (and I do mean ALL) of their out-of-season clothing fits into ONE of those five tubs, and we filled two huge boxes and four garbage bags with clothing to give away or donate.  Sigh.....

As for the bonus room closet, it's CLEAN, organized, and clutter-free!!!!  I've still got to tackle Pete's filing system (har, har, har...), but it is just wonderful to walk in this room and be able to FIND what I'm looking for--including the computer!  Check it out...this is the before...

And the after.....

There really is something calming in waking up to an uncluttered house.  It's much easier to clean, too!

So who else is doing a Fall-Cleaning?  Care to let down your guard, open your curtains, and share?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bookstore befuddlement

This past Saturday, I managed a few minutes to slip away as Pete and the girls watched the Alabama football game (quite a tragedy, I might add) to enjoy some much-needed and long overdue peace and quiet all by myself.  My activity of choice?  To go peruse a bookstore, alone, without having to chase after five little people who all want to look at and read five different books in five different places, and without the constant request to go to the bathroom.  Ahh.....just me and books.  Now THAT is tranquility.

Or so I thought.

As I headed toward the education section of the store, I found myself backed against the 'young reader' shelves, and what I saw there made my blood run cold.  See, my older two younger daughters (did you follow that one?) are six and five, and because they are emergent readers, they will soon be poring over all of the luscious book titles offered for their reading pleasure in the bookstores when I take them on our little selfish-indulgence outings.  So what will they find?

Have you looked lately????

I'd say about 90% of the books in the young reader section had something to do with either vampires, witches, or the occult.  The other 5% was a mixed bag of teeny-bopper romance novellas and a sparse collection of the Hardy Boys books that looked like they'd been there since the Nixon administration.  What on EARTH?????  I knew it was bad, but you've gotta be KIDDING me!!!  These are books marketed toward young adolescents????  What do we expect these kids to glean from such a waste of paper and print?

Disgusted, I left that portion of the store bound for the Christian literature section where I figured I could at least come up with some C.S.Lewis to challenge my brain as I sat to sip my cafe mocha.  What I was confronted with as I looked for the brain-benders and soul-challengers was no less than just crazy.  I found myself being pointed at by authors on the covers of books that admonished that I should just claim my best life NOW; I looked upon retouched pictures of veneered, bleached smiles adorning those perfect faces perched atop a well-placed curled hand telling me that God's best is awaiting me, all I have to do is let go, trust God, and it would all be handed to me.  Titles that told of peaceable, unhurried, unstressful lives that every Christian should have....good grief, and here I was just thrilled beyond belief to get two hours without anyone asking anything of me, now I've got a whole twenty-foot-by-six-foot shelf just FULL of books pointing out how my life doesn't fit in with the model of christian perfection.

GIVE ME A BREAK, PEOPLE!!!!  Just WHERE in the Bible do these authors find that God intends for our 'best life' to be HERE?  Where do they find such ridiculous models of peaceful perfection in Scripture?  Where do they get the idea that living a Godly life is going to make things rosy and wonderful?  Note to christian authors--you're setting people up for disappointment and utter FAILURE if you are getting them to strive for the best THIS life has to offer!!!!

It's not about THIS LIFE!!!!  This mortal life, humble and temporal, is messy.  It comes with one stress after another, one disappointment after another, one failure after another.  Why is it that so many young people are gravitating toward 'immortals' and the occult?  Maybe it's because they can see so clearly that modern-day christianity (lowercase christianity, mind you....) is failing MISERABLY in the hope department.  We (lowercase christian adults) are striving for the best HERE, and our kids are picking up on the fact that it just can't be found HERE.  Yet we have somehow failed so horribly at doing for our world and our children what the Apostles did for disciples in the first century--we have failed to give people a vision of a future far greater than ANYTHING this world can offer. 

What a disappointment.

Friday, October 1, 2010

One week left!

I can't believe how pathetic I feel about this whole separation thing.  I mean, come ON--Pete has been deployed to war zones and we've gone MONTHS without hearing from him, why is it that five weeks is this much of a problem for me?

Because it just is.  And I'm okay with that.  I'm okay with the fact that I really, truly do MISS my husband.  I feel disconnected from him and therefore from myself.  I feel out of place everywhere I go.  I'm lonely.  But for the first time in my married life, I am giving myself permission to FEEL it.  During the war, I had to be the strong, rock-solid one that two dozen blubbering and sometimes clueless military wives (and one mom that I will never, EVER forget) called on at all hours of the day  for six solid months.  I had to be the one that everyone else drew strength from; I had to be the one who told everyone else that it would be alright, that they really could survive; I was the one who lived the independent, stony exterior while on the inside I was just falling apart, day after day.  I HURT from the loneliness, and it was anything but healthy to allow myself to do that.  I'm not going to do that anymore.

No, Pete isn't going to war zones--yet--the United Arab Emirates next year is still one that I'm undecided on as far as his safety goes.  But he's still not here with me, and I can't deny the fact that it really does cause me emotional pain for him to be gone.  I truly cannot WAIT till he gets off that plane next Friday!  No, not because I want to run away from the kids and get some peace.  Well...okay, I *do* need at least a slight break where I can go somewhere by myself and just enjoy a little bit of solitude, but that's not why I'm looking forward to having him home again!  Why is it that people seem to think that when you have a large family, all your husband is good for to you is 'babysitting' and household chore-sharing?  Why is it that I'm not allowed to be lonely and just need to have my beloved here with me where I can see him and talk to him face-to-face?  I am no different from any other woman who misses her man--I'm glad we're on our last six days!

That said, I'm expecting quite a week ahead of us!  I just received a free Christopher Columbus unit study from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Teacher's Toolbox so I think we're going to slightly 'interrupt' our regular history study for a week to study Columbus--leading up to a pretty amazing 'field trip' to Guntersville next Saturday *with Daddy* to see replicas of the Nina and Pinta!  I'm hoping to be able to swing a few minutes' time tomorrow evening to get my dining room curtains sewn and hung.  It shouldn't take long; a couple of straight stitches and a few screws should do the trick!  I really wanted to get the opportunity to get my paint touch-ups done, but considering I'm never really without ten extra hands--some of which REALLY love to get "involved" in whatever Mom is doing, that just never happened.  Other than the paint and the curtains, the dining room for now is DONE and I'm quite pleased with how it looks!  When Pete is home and I don't feel so odd about having a repairman in the house while I'm alone with five little girls, we'll have the fireplace opened up (for the first time in over nine years, from what I'm told!) and serviced so we can enjoy a nice warm fire. 

Next week's other main project?  The master bedroom.  It's horrific, there's no better way to put it.  I sleep in it and dress in it; that's pretty much the extent of what's been done behind those walls this last month.  Eek!

Today was pretty rough, but tomorrow, I'm expecting to have that last-week 'high' hit me as I kick into gear to get ready for Pete to come home!  Yay!

Monday, September 20, 2010

You got a WHAT?

So...my life wasn't crazy enough.  The six kids at home don't make enough of a mess.  I needed more chaos, more mess.

Here she is!  Miss Messy Chaos!  We call her Sasha, and she's a we-have-no-idea-what-is-in-her-mix mutt.  Maybe black lab, maybe staffordshire bull terrier, maybe chihuahua, maybe even potbellied pig mixed with piranha!?!

Pete has wanted a smallish dog for a while, but he didn't want to burden me with the added hassle of another dog.  IF we were going to get another dog, I did not want to get one that had pre-existing issues.  It had to be a puppy, one that we could mold into our family and not have to mold our family to the dog.

I have no idea what overcame me.  I'm not normally one to fall for puppy lust.  Sigh...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Complicated Woman's Daybook

It's not Monday and there is NOTHING simple about my life right now. 

Not.  A.  Thing.

I have felt for the last few days as if my brain is playing a solo game of Rock, Paper, Scissors just to figure out what to do next.  Yes, having a set of grand plans does help time pass faster--especially when you have a deadline set for yourself to get all of it done in.  There is no way on this earth that I am going to be able to accomplish everything I have set before myself.  In fact, I don't think I could even do it with God's help.  Well, okay, maybe if the Lord Himself came down and moved a few boxes, sure.  But ME?  There just isn't enough of me.

That's a lesson I've not learned adequately, I fear.  Perhaps that is why I find myself gasping for breath under the weight of a to-do list that I've burdened my own self with?  I can't even organize a blog post, for crying out loud!  How about if I borrow the format from one of my standard Simple Woman's Daybooks?

What have I been wearing?  Anything that I can dig out of the pile that is clean.
What's it like outside?  The grass is taking over; it's beginning to resemble the African savannahs out there; in fact, I think I heard Simba roar at sunset!
From the kitchen?  Oh my...do NOT go in there.  You may fall into the dishes that don't fit into the dishwasher.
From the learning rooms?  Well, they're learning.  Working daily on math, working daily on reading; Morgan can even sound out a few street signs and Jamie was sorting 87 silly bands that she picked up from the schoolroom floor into groups of ten.  We're reading (thank you, Sonlight, for your "here, read THIS" schedule), but the structured, "this looks like school" lessons just aren't happening.  Thankfully, my kids thrive in the midst of chaos and I think they're learning *more*.  How is that possible?
On my mind?  Way too much.  My hubby's on my mind; my son in Afghanistan is on my mind (did I mention that he told me in a chat the other day that he wasn't sure he wanted to come home on R&R????); my oldest daughter's future is on my mind; STRESS is on my mind.
What am I reading?  I don't even remember.  That's probably not a good thing.

Life has gotten far too complicated lately.  Funny how getting TO the simple requires going through some seriously complex purging processes.  They are not particularly enjoyable processes, I'll say that.  And they are not processes that one should undertake lightly.  These purging processes require ALL of you.

All of me is very tired.  And lonely.  And mentally beaten-down.
I know where I need to go.

"Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast; there by His love o'ertaken, sweetly my soul shall rest."
Picture thought?  How about this one?  No explanation neccessary--it is what it is.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm doing!

"So, how are you doing?"
"I'm doing!"

The fact of the matter is that I'm too busy to have a "good day, bad day" mentality!  I'm just "doing", not doing well or doing badly.  Isn't that where life is lived?  In the middle of the good and the bad?

If I chose to focus on the negative in my life, I could easily find plenty that would make me feel horrible about even the good things.  Conversely, if I chose to reside in the cloud-9 philosophy of life where everything is hunky-dory and nobody has any cares or worries, I'd be kidding myself.  I've got plenty! 

HOWEVER....I don't want to overlook the good OR the bad.  It's in the trials that we grow; it's in the warmth of the sun (or should that be the Son?) that we find rest and refreshment.  We really do need both!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Three days down, 32 to go.

I'm officially pathetic--in my mind, at least.  I have made it through five deployments, an 11-month separation, numerous field exercises, and several month-to-two-month-long schools.  I sailed through all of those with flying colors.  My sanity remained intact; I did not turn into one of those mushy wives who gush over every little thing they miss about their hubby.  Basically, I kept my dignity! 

This time, not so much.  I'm finding myself in a strange situation--I'm lonely.  I don't quite know what to do with that, to tell you the truth.  Believe it or not, it's new.

I'm certainly not lacking in the stuff-to-keep-me-busy department by any stretch of the imagination.  Between the girls' schooling, household tasks, church activities, and now bouncing back and forth between the real and the virtual in my communication both to my husband and my son...I'm definitely not bored. 

In case that wasn't enough, I've added two more projects to my plate--while Pete is gone, I'm going to get the office/guest room/playroom DONE.  Yes, DONE.  I am bound and determined to rid us of the cardboard boxes that have followed us around for, uh...way too long, and they're going to be out of here when he gets back.  Pete has a bit of a pet peeve about organization and everything being "in its place", but it's a love-hate relationship.  He loves to be organized, but hates to be the one to DO the organizing.  So...in the last eight months, as a direct result of his rather haphazard "filing" system, we've had to have not one but TWO copies of his birth certificate made and sent to us from Florida.  That expense has made me all too aware that the poor man really needs a secretary.  I guess that's me, huh? 

Thanks to a clearance sale at Wal-Mart (I have no idea why this stuff is going on clearance, other than maybe it's not selling?), I now have a bunch of nice matching boxes, magazine holders, and filing trays to put in the new metal shelf that I got for his office stuff.  I've got a LOOOOOONG way to go, and a huge part of getting this office space done is getting the 37-gallon fish tank moved from what is now Kelsey's room (where the office used to be) into the bonus room where the office is now.  That is no small task.  I don't look forward to it.  But alas, it still needs to be done.  The fish will be happier, the tank needs a little TLC and some fresh filters, and I might even pick up a few new fish once the job's done!

Ah yes, the *other* task.  The girls' room.  Right now, Morgan and Jamie's bunk beds are separated because I don't have the foggiest idea where the hardware is to stack them (thanks again to Pete's "filing" system), so even though she's sleeping through the night and on the same bedtime schedule as the rest of the girls, Kasey is still sleeping in our bedroom.  She will be evicted as soon as I can find that hardware!  The girls all have Tinkerbell bedding now--even the crib and the two toddler beds (it is SOOO cute, but I'm going to make you wait for pictures!), but they want to paint!  Guess what--we're going to PAINT before that crib goes in there.  Since they all wanted "their" color (Morgan--pink, Jamie--purple, Dani--blue, Shelby--green), I told them that I've decided that the walls need to be a soothing shade of aquamarine that is one of the pretty accent colors in all of their bedding.  They seem to think that's a pretty good idea now!  Yay for Mom and diplomacy!

At any rate, my clock (and the calendar too!) is ticking.  I'm going to do my level best to focus on the positive and remember that while yes, I am lonely and I do miss my hubby, life is just way too short to brood and wallow.  I've got teenagers all around me who are doing far too much of that already!

Oh yes, I just thought I'd include a couple of pictures I snapped (with my new camera) at the airport on Friday.  The one of Kelsey with Dad's carry-on has got to be one of my favorite pictures--I'm not even sure why, but the story it tells, the detail...it's just a great picture!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's September, really?

It can't be.  Sure doesn't FEEL like September!  Still feels positively sauna-ish here in Northern Alabama. 

However, the calendar doesn't lie.  We are officially on the year's downward slope, and all will pick up speed from here, racing toward the holidays and year's end.  We shouldn't be but a couple of weeks away from hearing Christmas music playing in the stores!

I need to put my calendar and planbook away.  It's scaring me.  I think the stress is really starting to creep up on me; between having a son in Afghanistan, having a daughter plan (and reschedule, and reschedule again) a wedding, a husband going to Europe for five weeks....my plate overfloweth.

I'd planned on taking an internet (and blog) hiatus this week to refocus, but refocusing proved detrimental at this present juncture.  Reality is overwhelming!

Monday, August 30, 2010

I suppose I am a "hater".

I have often been on the receiving end of fiery criticism for my opinions about popular fiction, among other things.  Quite frequently, the argument the person I'm talking to will use is that it's "just" a story, and therefore harmless...or that since the reader isn't "participating" in it, somehow it's okay.

I'm sorry, but I just couldn't disagree more with this assumption.  Christians are called OUT of the world, to keep our garments "spotless".  If we are to be meditating on things that are holy, good, righteous, pure....I just can't see how one can justify filling the mind with such an obvious glorification of that which is evil.  And before anyone goes comparing Twilight or Harry Potter to the Narnia or Lord of the Rings series, PLEASE do your homework and read up on the allegorical intent in the fictional writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien! 

For the record, I used to be an avid Stephen King fan.  That was, until I realized exactly how seared my conscience was becoming with regard to evil.  It didn't bother me anymore; I started "accepting" foul language, and I found my mind searching for a more shocking, more frightening, more evil story.  I became numb to unrighteousness.  I tossed out my last King novel about 20 years ago and haven't missed any of the "excitement".  I look now for literature that challenges my mind to expand, and I find myself without a tatse for the filth I once filled myself with.  I have also become acutely aware of and disgusted with the books that are nothing short of toxic lining the shelves of the adolescent reading section of bookstores; wholesome literature has been replaced with horrendous pop fiction that fills the young mind with things that are abhorrent to God.  Just as I wouldn't allow my children to play with toxic chemicals (who cares if they get it on their hands, as long as they don't eat it?), I wouldn't want them "playing" with evil so intimately.  To be quite honest with you, I would rather have my children illiterate than to allow their minds to be filled with that junk with the justification that "Hey, at least they're reading"!  I believe the Bible has something to say (as always) about it....

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."         Matthew 5:29

I came across this video on a friend's Facebook page, and while it's LONG, it's worth the time. 

Is this a case of "be careful what you ask for"?

On Friday, we'll be taking Pete to the airport for the first of what looks to be MANY overseas (and some domestic) trips for this new job of his.  I have already had several people tell me that they just don't know how I'll manage; and I'll admit, when I look at it on a calendar or I really *think* about the fact that my husband will be away from home for 36 days, it's a tad overwhelming to consider.  However, this really isn't all that bad, considering the separations we have been through in the past.  Six-plus months of nearly no contact except an occasional (maybe every other week at most) ten-minute phone call with my husband while maintaining a household and shuffling two [very] active preteens from one ball game to another (sometimes two at the same time a mile apart!) was more than enough to prepare me for the relatively short time frames he'll be gone now that he's transitioned to this job of his dreams!  Besides, he's going to Germany, not a war zone!

I definitely can't begrudge him this door that God just flung open wide for Pete to do what he's been wanting to do since he saw the Lockheed guys with the squishy job all those years ago in Saudi Arabia.  He *is* that guy now.  And as I'd hoped and prayed for, the children and I are settled in the place we love to be, in a home that is far more than we ever hoped for, and we have a wonderful church family for support.  God has definitely given us both the desires of our hearts, and then some!  So why on earth would I be anything but thrilled about what we HAVE?  Yes, my husband and I will be separated; yes, the girls are going to have a bit of a shock being away from their dad for the first time (for more than a week), but it's really not all that bad.

I do, however, reserve the right to give my hubby just a *wee* bit of a hard time about how WELL he's going to be living while he's away....first class flight?  Come on, don't you think that's a BIT over the top?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I used to think that an internet addiction could easily be a side effect of someone who just had way too much time and little to do IN that time...and then came blogging.  And Facebook.  Suddenly, this mom, whose time was already in short supply and high demand, was drawn by some irresistible pull toward a screen and a keyboard.

I'll be the first to admit that there are FAR better things for me to be doing.  But here I sit.  Why?  Is it a need to connect to other people?  Sure...but I already do that in real life.  Maybe not enough?

Do you feel alone and dejected if no one comments on your blog posts or your Facebook status updates or notes?  Why do we feel that way?  And WHY can't we pull ourselves away from this addictive little box?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stepping it up!

About three years ago, as I was broadening my scrapbooking horizons, I challenged myself to use just whatever pictures I ended up with when my film was developed.  Yes, I said film.  You know, that stuff that came in a little can that we poked into the backs of "old school" cameras and paid through the nose to wait a week to see what our pictures looked like?  Film.  I had some atrocious pictures, I'll tell you.  With a bunch of wiggly little girls, I had a lot of blurry shots.  So I decided to do a "What Irks Me" layout, inspired by an "about me" scrapbook that I saw in a Creating Keepsakes book.  The result was amusing, but as I was placing the completed page in my scrapbook, it really irked me (hence, the title) that I had SO many bad printed pictures.

I made the switch then to digital photography, beginning my journey with a little Sony CyberShot that I found on the clearance shelf of our PX in Germany for about thirty dollars less than its retail price.  Not bad, and the pictures I got from that little camera have kept me pretty well satisfied over the last few years.

Until now, that is.  I've been fighting the urge for quite some time, actually.  About the time Kelsey started talking about pursuing photography as a career and using her college money for photography classes, I've had to squelch the tiny little shred of growing desire to study photography myself.  After all, it's not like I have time for actual classroom study! 

However, Kelsey never did go that route.  And my interest has been building...and building....and building.  My satisfaction with the 'average' pictures I can take, given my camera's limitations, has been dropping significantly.  I picked up my "old" 35mm a few weeks ago and popped in a roll of film, hoping to get better shots with it than I could with my digital.  The pictures I had developed yesterday were depressing.  Soooo.......I did what Pete has been subtly suggesting I do for quite some time.  I came home with a not-so-basic DSLR Nikon D3000 yesterday.  It's not the top of the line, it doesn't have all the BIG bells and whistles; it doesn't even have the telefoto lens.  But it's already got enough of a challenge for me that I really have no CHOICE but to learn the technicalities that might as well be Egyptian heiroglyphics at the moment. 

One step at a time.  I need to get the battery charged first!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One day...

One day I will be able to eat a bagel without sharing more than half of it with a little one who never wants to eat her OWN...just wants bite after bite of mine.

One day I will be able to take more than a minute and a half for a bathroom break without wondering what chaos is ensuing on the other side of the door.

One day I will be able to go to the grocery store and actually get everything on my entire list before having to leave because someone has had a meltdown.

One day I will be able to sit at a restaurant on Sunday afternoon without having ten people stop to ask me "all yours?" or comment on what they think my patience level is.

One day I will take a vacation with just my husband and not have to include something to occupy impatient and bored little people.

One day I will have "my life" back.  One day I will have an empty nest.  One day I will have the opportunity to live for *ME*.

I'm not in any hurry.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook, 8/16/2010

FOR TODAY, Monday, August 16th, 2010...

Outside my window... It is still hot and sunny, but we are clinging to the promise of a cool-down later on this week. The rain we got yesterday, be it ever so brief, was much-needed and the little drop in temperature that it brought after dusk was absolutely wonderful.

I am thinking... that no matter how tired and sore I was last night, it still meant the world to my hubby that I just hopped on the back of the motorcycle for a ride after the girls were in bed.  It is nice to have that opportunity with Kelsey still at home, and with Pete leaving for five weeks overseas soon, I'm thrilled to take advantage of every possible moment of "fun" with him.  Nothing wrong with sharing an appetizer as a "date"!

I am thankful for... mended wounds and repaired bridges.

From the learning rooms... we begin our second week of school today; I'm starting to see a wee bit of progress with Morgan in the reading department, but I can tell very obviously that she's most assuredly NOT the "workbook" type.  Fine motor skills are not her strong suit, and it only frustrates her that she has trouble with handwriting...which translates to difficulty with reading.  When I did purely oral reading phonics instruction last Friday, it clicked for her like nothing else we'd done all week.  Thankfully, Jamie is going to be an "easy" reader, so she's picking up on everything so fast that it doesn't much matter what method of instruction I use.  Building those handwriting skills is going to be interesting...

From the kitchen... I'm doing "easy" tonight, taking full advantage of Stouffer's frozen chicken alfredo family dinner, considering I didn't get the opportunity to go grocery shopping yesterday. 

I am wearing... denim capris and a Lads to Leaders 2010 tee

I am creating... order among the chaos. Still (or is that again?) trying to get the playroom/office and master bedroom organized and cleaned up.  Those two rooms are the hardest to keep clean!

I am going... to stay home today if at all possible!  I'll do my grocery shopping tomorrow, today is going to be a slow and easy day.  After being in Chattanooga on Saturday and gone all day yesterday, I just don't want to go anywhere!

I am reading... too much to list. I think I have literary ADHD.

I am hoping... that we can make the most of the next couple of weeks before Pete leaves for Germany.  Five weeks without him is a long time!

I am hearing... the sounds of the girls playing peaceably (YAY!) behind me, and the garbage truck outside.

Around the house... are muddy dog-prints.  Jake was outside during the hard rain we had yesterday, and there is evidence that he laid in the mud under the deck apparently just to spite us for leaving him out while we were gone!  Brat dog....I guess it's a good thing that I picked up some carpet stain remover yesterday.

One of my favorite things... a clean, clear conscience.  It is so nice!

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Getting Jon's box mailed to Afghanistan, getting a box ready to mail to my cousin for the baby they're expecting, picking up some fabric for the baby's lovey blanket and getting that started (maybe even hopefully finished!); a Ladies' group meeting at church on Thursday....and of course all the busy work that goes along with managing a household of eight active people!

Here is picture for thought I am sharing... a reminder of the simplicity found in order and tidiness.  There's just something about a clean desk, a neat stack of books, and a box full of crayons...
Do go visit The Simple Woman's Daybook, and add your link!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Remember THIS from just a few weeks ago?  Well, guess what?  It's not an ugly dining room anymore!!!  I still have to figure out what to do about the painted-brick fireplace/hearth and mantle, plus tackle the awful bookshelf that still sports the ugly dark-brown paneling and that ridiculous avocado-colored laminate counter...but I'm still SOOOO pleased with how it looks now!  Check it out...
I was originally concerned that the white trim would be ugly, but now that it's up, I love it.  The white makes that yellow just "pop".  It's certainly a TON better than the ugly hunter green trim that it covers!
I did learn one very valuable piece of information:  all blue painter's tape is NOT created equal.  If you're painting over cheapo faux paneling, do NOT use anything but 3M's blue tape for delicate surfaces.  If you do, your tape will pull the paint right off of the paneling....see the brown streak to the immediate right of the window?  That was from the cheap tape.  I now have to go back and do some MAJOR retouching.  UGH!

DO something extravagant.

Right now I'm reading Chuck Swindoll's book "Living Above the Level of Mediocrity"; if you've never read it, put it on your list!  It's a wonderful read, especially the chapter that details "breaking the vase" and doing something extravagant.  Referencing the story of that alabaster vase filled with pure spikenard that was broken as Mary annointed Jesus' head and body (and feet!) in the presence of His critics who chastised her for wasting something that could have been sold and "given to the poor".....he challenges us to do something that will cost us dearly, yet is nothing more than an act of pure LOVE.

Have you ever done something that could be classified as nothing short of extravagant?  Something that others around you thought was a frivolous waste of time or your effort, or even money, yet you *knew* that it was the right thing to do--some unselfish show of love that you didn't "have to" do, but it just felt right to do?

That kind of love, even though some see it as foolish, is worth every bit of what it costs.  Even Jesus said so.  Neglect other duties?  No....as Christ said, we should still take care of the poor....but sometimes love compels us to break those vases and spill the costly perfume of love.  The fragrance will fill the room...and permeate every pore of the person that 'annointing' is on.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Great Curriculum Adventure continues...

or the last (wait, how long have we been homeschooling?).....uh, twelve years, I have spent countless hours every year driving myself insane with curriculum catalogs and trying to fit what works and doesn't work with the children into what I'm comfortable teaching (not to mention what two rather opinionated teenagers were or were not willing to do).  My brain tends toward structured curriculum, with daily lesson plans telling me every step to take so I don't leave anything [important] out.  My heart, however, (as well as that of at least half of my children) is a wanderer--plagued with ADD and wanting to flit hummingbird-style from one activity to the next with no mapped-out course and who feels as if schedules and lesson plans are the choke chain of creative juice and intellectual hunger.  Does that make me a schizophrenic homeschooler?  Or does it define me as "eclectic"?

This past school year I spoke at one of our homeschool umbrella group's meetings on curriculum recommendations...and to the shock and humor of everyone there, my opening statement was along the lines of "I've learned over the last ten-plus years that curriculum is a tool...a tool that can change year-to-year to serve whatever concrete goals you have for your children both globally and temporarily, and that what works for one child one year may not work for another the same or any other year.  So....you take recommendations with a grain of salt, but the best planning in the curriculum adventure is knowing what your students need and how you, as their teacher, can provide the best tools to accomplish that goal."  Vague?  Well of COURSE it is!

Navigating the deep and ever-growing sea of educational materials can not only be intimidating, it can be completely overwhelming.  Even for a twelve-year veteran mom who has graduated two high school students!  Unfortunately, homeschool moms have a habit of being dreamers who want to do everything, and all those shiny books can be really tempting!  I, personally, loved Sonlight.  Everything about it....the books, the books, the BOOKS!  However, the prospect of doing two or three Cores (and that still meant combining at least two "sets" of girls) every year was more than my brain could comprehend.  That's a LOT of read-alouds every day.

As I've mentioned before, my educational philosophies have changed over the years.  I used to try to recreate the classroom experience, but that really doesn't much work for two students.  Twenty-five, yes.  But not two.  Or three.  Or even five.  Soooo....I had to re-evaluate what I was trying to DO; was it to merely pass on knowledge (no...the fact that my two oldest children are "smarter" than me math-wise makes it obvious that I want them to have knowledge beyond my own), or to train in the art of self-education?  Yep, that's it.  I want to teach them how to learn.  The more I read, the more I realized that I really do love the model of classical education as outlined both by Dorothy Sayers in her essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" and by Susan Wise Bauer in her book The Well-Trained Mind

HOWEVER....for the beginning of this school year, I'm dealing with two girls who are in dire need of focused, concentrated phonics instruction and handwriting practice.  I want them reading and writing well, and I want them to have a firm grounding in basic mathematics computation skills.  So yes, most of my focus at least for the first part of the year is going to be dedicated to the three R's, with not TOO much of an emphasis on science and history...although the books I've got for history and science are pretty intnse in and of themselves, so I'm sure just by reading and discussing what's in those books, they'll be absorbing a great deal of information!  I'm just not going to put a lot of emphasis on notebooking and recording much of their learned information yet until they're comfortable reading and writing.

For phonics, I'm combining several "good stuff" resources.  I used Adventures in Phonics (we are starting out with book A, which is technically for kindergarten, but they'll zoom through that and we'll get the more advanced book as soon as they're finished with the first one), from Christian Liberty Press years ago with Kelsey and was quite pleased with the results, but I didn't do it "heavily" enough.  I let her slip by with half-hearted efforts, thinking wrongly that she'd grow out of the laxidaisical nature and buckle down as soon as she could read well and enjoyed the material she was reading.  WRONG.  This is a child who, like Morgan now, was completely content to do the absolute minimum and in my lack of self-confidence as a teacher, I thought that it was okay.  It's NOT okay, and I know that now.  There is NO WAY I'm going to allow Morgan to skip through her education as she would a game of hopscotch.  Mean Mom is taking over, and this child is going to learn to read well, she's going to learn phonics well, and she's going to learn to comprehend the written word.  THIS YEAR.  I'm also adding The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading to my arsenal against illiteracy, and I've got a few things lined up in reserve if those two resources don't do the job.  We have sight word magnets, alphabet magnets for word-building, flash cards, you name it.  We're also backing up the phonics instruction with Christian Liberty's Building Spelling Skills, which I've used in the past and didn't really have a problem with, but I'm not really all that thrilled about it, so if in my perusing I find something I like better, we may switch next year if this doesn't work (or it bores them like it did with Jon and Kelsey). 

For math, we got nowhere last year with Horizons.  Neither Morgan or Jamie could focus with all the color that was on those pages.  I had to find something that wasn't as "pretty" while still being repetitious enough to cement them well in basic math facts.  I have long been a fan of Saxon for math, but their primary math programs are SOOOO expensive...and yes, cost is a factor for a family with six children at home.  So this year and probably until they can test into Saxon 5/4, it's Rod & Staff Math 1.  Uncluttered, unfluffy, but still meaty enough to give the girls the practice they need.  Funny thing is that they'll be flying through the first several weeks, because both of them know basically how to add single-digit numbers from last year--and I never even used a structured math program for them in kindergarten!  We just used everyday life to learn the fundamentals!

The other two subjects we'll be covering, only with a lighter focus, science and history, will be using some rather intense programs.  I'm doing this in the hopes that using interesting, user-friendly, and meaty materials will "stick" a good amount of the subject matter without us having to delve deeply while we spend most of our time and effort on the basics.  Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World series will be the backbone of our elementary history study, until the girls can "grow into" the Mystery of History series...and then I'd LOOOOOOOVE to jump headlong into Tapestry of Grace when Morgan and Jamie are ready for rhetoric-level studies.  For science, the plan is to use Apologia's Exploring Creation elementary science series twice--first as read-alouds and to just basically discuss and cover the meat on a basic level and then a second time more intensely as the girls are old enough to really learn from the Notebooks that go along with the text.    This year, we're studying the Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day!  The girls are just so excited to learn about birds and all those flying critters we see so much of outside!  By the end of the week, we'll be covering Bernoulli's Principle and the basics of flight!  I have to say I never expected to be teaching anything this intense to a 1st grader, but if yesterday's discussion of archaeology and historians was any indicator, the gals can handle it!

You should see how little Danica (who won't be 4 for another two months) is tagging along with everything.  I got her some of Rod & Staff's preschool workbooks to "do school" while the big girls are working, and WOW does she get bent out of shape if anyone messes up HER BOOKS!!!!  Shelby had the NERVE to "help" Dani color a turtle today and you would have thought she'd stuck the book in a shredder!

Well...that's the scoop on the books that are on our shelf and table this year.  I hope you had as much fun as I did picking out your curriculum!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's in the drivers' seat?

Say, for a moment, that you were being investigated by someone who had never met you.  Your bank account activity was analyzed to see where your money was being spent; your Facebook profile was scrutinized; your status updates and Tweets were recorded.  Your movements were followed, and your conversations recorded.

What would the "fruit" of your life say about you?

What would someone who did not know you say was the driving force of your life?  What would they surmise as being the backbone of your existence?  What determines your path, directs your steps, fills your mind and your desires?

There are many people who sit in church pews on Sunday mornings--some even on Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights--who are driven not by anything found in the Bible they so carefully tote along with them.  There are people who profess to be followers of Christ, but their life shows allegiance to something far more worldly.  For some, it's career.  For some, it's popularity.  For others, affluence.

None of those is sinful in and of themselves, but if those things are what drives your life, there is no room for God.

Maybe your Tweets and status updates and conversations tell a tale that you really don't want them to....whining, complaining, covetousness....but as the Bible says, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).

What does the overflow of your heart speak?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook, 8/2/2010

FOR TODAY, AUGUST 2, 2010...
Outside my window... it is a gorgeous day, but still REALLY hot, and only pleasant from the comfort of my air-conditioned sanctuary.  Yes, the heat I dread so much only lasts a couple of months, but WOW. 
I am thinking... that maybe I'll re-evaluate our school calendar to have our big "break" in the Autumn and/or early Spring when we can stand to be outside instead of the one time of the year nobody wants to go out even to check the mail!
I am thankful for... air conditioning.  Seriously.  But not just that....I'm also thankful that my son is safe and that his heart seems to be on the mend.  Now if those prayers are being answered and God is melting his heart....
I am wearing... my gotta-get-the-house-clean duds--black stretch capris and a bleach-able white tee
I am remembering... my to-do list for Kasey and Shelby's birthday party this Saturday.  It's getting shorter, thank goodness!  However, that turtle dress isn't going to sew itself...
I am going... to trailer the nearly-new riding lawnmower to Pete's shop, then to Decatur where the factory repair shop is.  Hopefully whatever is causing it to fail is under warranty.  Our yard is beginning to resemble the hay fields that were baled last month!
I am currently reading... teacher's manuals and curriculum guides for the books we're using this year.  Not exactly "light" reading, but a whole lot less meaty than some of the material I've challenged myself with over the last few weeks.  Still going through The Well-Educated Mind too, finding gaps in my education that rival the Grand Canyon.
I am hoping... To have this record heat break SOON and be replaced with some good, soaking rain and cooler temperatures.  I know, it's just August....but one can hope, right?
On my mind... the mental and emotional drain of having our son come home for his mid-tour R&R around Thanksgiving, then having Pete leave the day after Thanksgiving for a full MONTH overseas.  I'd best not think too much about that; it's a tad overwhelming at the moment.
Noticing that... we all did just FINE this morning without the TV on. It was nice.
Pondering these words... "He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep in order to keep that which he cannot lose."
From the kitchen... The lovely aroma of bubbling chili is filling the house!  It may be a hundred degrees outside, but chili and fresh corn on the cob is always yummy; especially when the bowl is topped with Fritos, cheese, sour cream, and chopped scallions!  Would you believe that I have actually got my entire week's menu planned, and did ALL of my shopping yesterday!?  I shocked myself.
Around the house... things are coming together nicely.  I'm a few trim-coats away from finished (for now) in the dining room; the master bedroom is mostly done (except for the stacks of clothes that Pete is just not wanting to put away), and the schoolroom will be finished today!  The girls' bedroom is looking pretty good; I found the cutest little Tinkerbell toddler bedding sets on clearance at Walmart the other day, so Dani's, Shelby's, and Kasey's beds all match, and the purple and pink even go pretty well with Morgan's and Jamie's beds!  Now if I could only find the bunkbed hardware that Pete put away so well that he forgot where he put it...we might actually have all five girls in one room!  Maybe by the end of the month?
One of my favorite things... "kisses" from a one-year-old.  Incredibly sloppy, but don'tcha just love how much they love to hand out smooches when they finally get the idea??
From my picture journal... a picture taken several weeks ago when we visited with Pete's family in Tennessee; the girls really enjoyed the trip to the park--especially the swings!  I think we're going to have no choice but to ensure that we have at least five swings in our backyard; the two they have to share is not adequate!  Dani really loved being able to swing higher than Morgan!
Do drop by and visit Peggy's Daybook page, and leave a link for yours as well!
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