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? 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. 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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