Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday -- My Handyman

I said, "Honey, you're so good at this stuff!" and then I took the picture.
Then he said, "I don't have a clue what I'm doing here."
Well, maybe he didn't when he started, but when he finished,
my washer worked again -- better than it ever has!
I love my Mr. Fix-it!!! :^)

Keew Ykcaw -- Wacky Week!

This is WACKY WEEK here at Blogger Friend School! Everything is wacky fun! This week YOU, the student, get to share something of your choice that is little “Wacky”!!!
Have you done something crazy in your homeschool? Do you fingerpaint with your toes? Do you let your children do your hair? Do you wear your pajamas during homeschool? Oh, the list is endless, but it’s up to you and how much fun you want to have.

To make it even “wackier” (not sure if it’s really a word, but hey, we don’t check spelling this week at BFS either!!!…..try and type some or all of your post sdrawkcab. (backwards!)
!keew gnixaler dna nuf a siht ekaM
(…and forwards…Make this a fun and relaxing week!)

Who, me? Wacky?!!! :^) How did they know I needed a week to goof off?

Have I done anything wacky recently? How much of what we do in a regular day would look a little "wacky" to most sane folks I know? Do I want to answer that?

OK, yesterday...we've been reading a book about the Pharoahs of Egypt -- really good book actually, once you edit out the "hundreds of thousands of years" garbage -- to go along with The Mystery of History and yesterday when it came time to sit down and read, it was too hot. I'd just finished preparing lunch and I had sweat running down my back and streaming down my face. The last thing I wanted to do was to sit in the hot living room and read...fan or no fan. SO I went and put on my swimsuit and told the kids that as soon as everyone was in the pool, I'd read. Was that wacky? I dunno. It felt more like survival!

Sunday morning, Caleb was slow-moving (that happens sometimes...he's 14) and hadn't rolled out yet, so I threatened to sing the song. The other kids started urging, "Do it, Mom!!!" So, I sang...(all caps words are shouted)

WAAAAY up in the trees, the little birds sleep.
Way down in the nest THE LITTLE BIRDS REST
WIIIITH a wing on the left and a wing on the right
The little birdies settle in FOR A LONG NIGHT.
With the new dawn of day the little birds wake.
"GOOD MORNING! GOOD MORNING!" the little birds say!

Yeah, I'm a nutcase. That song always worked when I was a summercamp counselor to get the junior and senior high kids out of bed. It works here, too. Is it wacky? Well, maybe, but at least it puts people in a better mood than, "Caleb! You get your little hiney out of that bed right now before I come up there and yank those covers off of you! Get a move on! Come on! Move it, move it, MOVE IT !!!" People tend to be a little "grumpy" when you roll them out that way! As we say around here, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!"

I had a teacher in high school (!deppiks reven I ssalc esohw enO) who had, years before I came through, gotten rid of all the desks in the classroom. There were cushions in the corners, a couple of long tables for projects, a couple of computers on roll-carts (???skrowelppA rebmemer) and shelves of books and supplies. The windows were always open and she gave hall passes freely for kids who wanted to go do their work out on the school lawn. The class was "Critical Thinking", but those of us in the class called it "Geek Study Hall". Mrs. Sharp hardly ever actively "instructed" anything, but she taught me more than all my other teachers combined about how to help kids want to learn. She was wacky! I hope that I take after her in my teaching style. Yeah, I can definitely picture Mrs. Sharp dismissing the class to reconvene in the pool. I've arrived! :^)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It Keeps Going and Going and Going...

Memory Verse: 1 Timothy 4:15 (NIV)
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Intro: It keeps going, and going, and going…
(Marketing credit: Energizer)

Housekeeping: That household mess, it keeps going and going and going. It’s a perpetual chore that we diligently need to keep going on to stay on top it. We all have different ways of keeping ourselves energized.

Assignment: How do you keep energized so you can get it all done? bouncy music? treat it like a workout? Do you use a schedule?, a housekeeping binder system? luck of the draw system?.. or is this an area where you need encouragement? Do you need God’s help to keep order and beauty in your dwelling place? Take this week to tell us how You diligently keep going with your housekeeping chores.

Picture ideas: Show us some before and after pictures of a space you’ve been working on /show us your favourite tools / share a youtube of your favourite housekeeping music that keeps you energized.

Well, it looks like I'm writing that "Chore-Chart Post" sooner rather than later!!!

As an opener let me just say that while homeschooling 6 kids there is NO POSSIBLE WAY I could EVER keep up with housework if I wanted to do ANYthing besides clean, cook and put away stuff. I tried for several years, and I beat myself up thinking that the silly Proverbs 31 woman was in heaven shaking her head at me, wondering when I'd finally get it all together.

I had a sort of epiphany about 10 years ago. Two things I realized. One -- the Proverbs 31 woman is not one woman. Proverbs 31 is about a type of woman. (Insert sigh of relief here.) Two -- I wanted to be a homemaker, not a houseslave. OK, I realized 3 things. The third thing? With six kids, I had more work that needed to be done, but I also had 12 more hands to help do it!!!

Thus began the creation and evolution of...(drumroll, please)...The Chore Chart.

I posted this photo for BFS already, but it's relevant, so...
How did I come up with this? Trial and error. We've revamped the chore chart probably a dozen times in the past 10 years. As the littler kids got bigger, they were able to do more involved jobs. When we moved to Mexico, we no longer had a dishwasher, dryer or carpets to vacuum.

So let's go step by step through the birth process...
  • Write down the different areas in your home that need daily attention. For instance, in our house we have the Kitchen, Living Room, Bathroom and Outside, plus the kids' bedrooms.

  • Make a list of the chores in each room that need to be done. Don't worry about who will do what yet. Just make a list. In the Kitchen, we need to clean and wipe the counter, wipe down the outside of the fridge, pick up the floor, clear the table, wash the dishes, take out the trash and cook the meals.
  • Now, let's divide the chores we have so they're a little more evenly distributed and so we have the same number of groups of chores as we have kids. Do you notice something? It's actually easier if you have more kids. All those times those well-meaning folks have said, "Oh, MY! All those kids!!! How do you get it all done???" Answer: I don't. We do.

  • What if you only have 2 children? Well, the same chores still need to be done, right? Just divide it all up! Everyone will do a little more than if you had 6 kids, but still not as much as if you were trying to do it all yourself!

Let's look at my example for a sec...

  • I have 4 areas in the house (not including bedrooms -- those are separate and everyone is responsible for their own space) and 6 kids, so I take some of those extra kitchen jobs and make a new "area": Dishes. Face it: dishes is a big job. If you're washing dishes for 8 people 3 meals a day, you don't want to do another job, too. Then I take another Kitchen job and put it with the outside jobs to balance out the load a bit. One of our "Outside" jobs is laundry. How would you like to be stuck doing laundry for 8 people all day, every day, all week, every week, forever and ever...? "Not I!" said the mom! So we recently created the "Laundry Floater", and it moves from person to person every day. Laundry is a pain here, anyway, because we have such water issues and electricity issues. If you have a washer that works and a dryer, too, then having one person to do laundry for the week isn't such a big deal. Remember that everyone should be able to fold and put away their own clothes, right???
  • I originally had one chore for each child in each room so that we could work together and help each other (read that: so the little boys would work instead of play). I put each chore on a small circle of colored paper with velcro on the back and it velcroed underneath their names. Once the kids learned what to do and how to do it -- and were old enough to follow through without constant supervision (OK, I still have to supervise, but not moment-by-moment!) -- I could turn them loose on an area and then check it over when they were done.

You could imagine that if you've never done anything like this before, you'll still spend the better part of the day on housework...and you will have some pretty stressful times. There have been days when I've had to call the same child back to the same chore 3 or 4 times because it wasn't done to my satisfaction. Wouldn't it be easier to just do it myself??? Oh, yeah...for the short-term. But the long-term rewards are worth the perserverance.

Here I am, 10 years down the road, and I can now leave in the morning to go to a women's prayer time and come home at 9 a.m. to a house that's spiffy, breakfast finished and kids working on lessons (usually -- sometimes the house is a disaster, half the kids are still in bed and the other half are at each other's throats. Life is still life.).

Now, don't think that we have it all together! My house is not a showcase!!! Martha Stewart not only doesn't live here, she would probably run screaming if she came to visit! My goal is not a "Better Homes and Gardens" interview...I want peace in my house, time to work on projects and do fun things with my husband, my kids and other people, and (maybe most importantly) I want my kids to achieve the same in their homes when they are adults.

My verses for the week:

Psalm 128:1-2 Blessed is every one that fears the Lord, that walks in his ways. For you shall eat the labor of your hands; happy shall you be, and it will be well with you.

**This passage is sweet to me for this reason: the years we spent laboring to teach the kids discipline, perserverance and responsibility in daily chores are now beginning to bear fruit. The fruit is sweet indeed!!!**

My Work Crew

Oh, BTW, this is my Tackle it Tuesday post, too, since it's housework-related, it's a project I've been working on and it just so happens to be Tuesday!

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fantastic Fourteen!!!

Caleb has lived to experience another birthday!!! Hurrah!!!

Feliz cumpleaños, mijo!!! Te ámo mucho!!!

His actual birthday was September 2, and Sarah baked this virtual cake for him over at her blog. If anyone would like to, I know he'd enjoy getting birthday wishes over at his blog, Boom Box. He's just getting started and really loves to get comments!!!

I'm a really BAD mom! I can't believe I didn't post this on his actual birthday! I was all concerned about getting some great photos together for a fancy birthday post, when what I should have been doing was sending all my faithful blogger friends over to wish him "Felicidades!" I know I'll get it together one of these days!!! The fancy photo post is coming! ;^)

Meanwhile, Caleb, thanks for having patience with your ol' mum!

Fall into Reading 2008

Katrina over at Callapidder Days (Don't 'cha just love the name?) is hosting a reading challenge. You can click on over to read all about it.

For my part, I'm putting together my list of books I want to read myself, read to the kids, read with Doug and "encourage" the kids to read (assign as homework). I think this will be a great motivator for me. I'm quite the list maker (I inherited it from my mom...thanks, Mom!!!) -- sometimes I even write things down on my "to do" list after I've done them, just so I can cross them off. Yes, I know that they have medication for that.

Anyway, I've been collecting a serious stack of books which have been collecting dust in my library and I've been meaning to read. Hopefully, with this challenge as my motivation, I'll get a round to it!!!

Here's my list (I'll probably add to it as the fall progresses. OCD, y'know)...and I'll post reviews when we finish so we can give the ol' thumbs up or thumbs down.

  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. (Read Aloud) Jessee started reading this to Andrew and Evie while we were camping and I've promised to finish it (that was 2 months ago...).
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmusk Orcky -- (Read Aloud) Set in France in 1792 in the middle of the French revolution. It's one of those books I've always wanted to read...but never found the time. I think we'll start it right after Harriet. Correction: Caleb just saw this book sitting on my desk and said, "Madam Guillotine? Cool. This is my book!" and walked off. I think it'll be a couple of weeks before we start that one.
  • A Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel and Jane Vogel -- (Seth and Jessee) I read this one last spring -- great creation vs evolution overview written in basic language. It's suitable for most kids in 6th grade or above -- read aloud to younger kids (which I might do, or I might not!)
  • Milton -- A collection of his works. This is another one of those books I've always wanted to read. Sarah's in the middle of Paradise Lost and will post a review when she finishes.
  • The Story of Liberty by James Baldwin -- Copyright 1910 by The American Book Company -- From the preface: "This book has been prepared with a view to making the study of [Americanization] interesting and profitable to American schoolboys and schoolgirls." How could I possibly pass that up? With only 240 pages, this looks to be a very interesting diversion somewhere near the end of October.
  • Passing by Samaria by Sharon Ewell Foster -- I read this book a few years ago and remember it as being most excellent. I recommended it to Sarah last fall and she, also, rated it as "excellent". That's a rating we don't give lightly. I remember the premise, but not the details, so I want to read it again before I recommend it to Caleb or the twins.
  • Bruchko by Bruce Olson -- Recommended (and given) to us by a visiting missionary almost 2 years ago, we will finally be reading it this fall!!! From the back cover: "The astonishing story of a 19-year-old youth's capture by stone-age Indians -- and his adventures in Christianizing the Motilone tribe." We loved "Beyond the Gates of Splendor" and "The End of the Spear". I think this will be great as a family read-aloud...if I hide it from the kids between chapters.

Well, that's the "starting point". I'm sure I'll add more as we go along!

Happy Monday, everyone!!!

And Happy first day of fall...even though it's still up near 100 and the humidity is still above 80%. My humidity ticker brings hope: 24 more days of stickiness!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I don't enjoy...

...being pulled over. Sarah asked me today which I preferred: being pulled over (by the police, I mean) in the States or here in Mexico. My answer: neither. I feel like a schoolgirl caught in the act of talking in class or something. My heart pounds, my ears get red, my hands shake. It's not a pretty sight.

I got pulled over today. I didn't enjoy it. Sarah enjoyed it. Everyone else in the car thought it was pretty hilarious. I was not amused.

First of all, I should say that being stopped by the police is different here than it is in the States. Basically in the States if you get pulled over, you get a ticket -- unless the officer has mercy or something. A Mexican driving in America has about the same probability of receiving a ticket as an American who is pulled over. An American in Mexico will more than likely not receive a ticket. Traffic fines are bad for tourism. If you do something really boneheaded like blasting through a red light right in front of a transito (traffic cop) or tearing through a zona escolar (school zone) you can expect to be pulled over. You may or may not be ticketed. If you get a ticket, you'll need to go to the office to pay it. You DON'T pay the policeman who stopped you. That's called a bribe.

So today I, gringa extraordinaria, while being very careful (because the transitos downtown like to pull over gringos to earn pocket money -- more on that later -- and as I said, I don't enjoy being pulled over) got flagged down to stop for a ticket. The transitos in most central areas (downtown areas) work on foot or on bicycles. If they want to pull you over, they tweet their whistles and motion with their hands for you to stop. You stop in the middle of traffic and they give you a ticket. I didn't see him flagging me down, so I kept driving. Several blocks later I pulled into the hardware store with a city police truck, lights flashing, right behind me. Apparently the transito had radioed for backup to help him catch the Americana malcreada.

I had already gotten out of the van (I needed to pick up some hinges for Doug -- great fun) and was starting to walk towards the store entrance when a short, skinny traffic cop stormed around the corner with his feathers ruffled like a banty rooster. Without preamble, he stated rather abruptly, "You ran a red light." I stuck out my hand and said, "Good afternoon." He stopped and slowly stuck out his hand.

Cultural background: Fifty years ago in the US, people greeted each other formally when meeting. Any person who began a conversation without a salutation was considered rude and vulgar (or at least impatient!). That's the way it is here. The first thing you say in any conversation is, "Buenas tardes" (or buenas noches or dia or at least "hello"...something). Anyway, a public servant starting a conversation with, "You ran a red light" was a serious faux pax (that's French, not Spanish)...and he knew it.

SO -- back to the story...

He shook my hand and said, "Good afternoon." Then he proceeded to tell me how I had run a red light and had ignored him. I told him that, indeed, I had NOT run a red light, and I did not realize that he was trying to stop me, but I was sorry that I had not noticed him. He was very rude. I was very irritated, but (as I mentioned in my BFS post) speaking in a foreign language causes one to slow down and carefully consider one's words. That is SUCH a good thing. It was well over 100 degrees, and we'd been running all over town all day. I was finished and wanted to go home, not stand in the sun debating a ticket I didn't merit. HOWEVER there have been times when I know that I've breezed through a yellow light (which is illegal here) or driven over the speed limit and didn't get stopped. If he was prepared to write me a ticket, I'd take it with grace. I apologized again and asked what I needed to do.

He demanded my license (which, BTW, you should not give and they should not take) and then snatched it from my hand when I showed that I did have one. He told me that I would need to follow him to the office where he would write me a ticket. I was polite. I spoke slowly and respectfully. I told him that I wouldn't be able to go for a few minutes, because I had some things I needed to buy for my husband. If he didn't want to wait for me, he would need to tell me where the office was located so that I could go pay the ticket. His response, "Oh, it's very complicated to explain." Riiiight. What does that mean in English? That means, "I know you didn't run the light and you know you didn't run the light. It's hot and you're a rich American, so just give me some money, and we'll make this whole thing go away."

I don't play like that. The Bible teaches that we should neither demand nor pay bribes.

My response to him was, "Well, I can't follow you right now, and you're not taking my license without telling me where to go to pick it up. You could draw me a map."

"No, it's very difficult," he said. We went back and forth like that for several minutes and finally the officer's buddy said, "Do you need to have a receipt?" In English, that means, "Don't you just want to give us $20?" Um...let me think...

Finally the transito thrust my license back at me and said, "Just forget it" as he turned and walked away. Once again, he made a big courtesy mistake, because just like you always salud a person when you meet, you also say, "Adios" when you part company. I said, "You gentlemen, have a nice day!" Then I turned and walked into the store. I couldn't help grinning. I hope the cop didn't see, but I think he was too busy eating crow.

Meanwhile in the van, everyone (our pastor, his wife and another ministry student were in the van with Sarah) was chuckling and guessing what was going to happen. They were all right.

"Rebecca, you should drive really slowly all the way home!" said Ricardo when I got back into the car. I did.

I really don't enjoy getting pulled over -- once in a day is sufficient! ;^)

Así es la vida! Such is life!

Try it! You'll like it!!!

Intro: Try it, you’ll like it! (Life Cereal)When everyone else was afraid to try Life Cereal, they called on Mikey. Sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone is just too scary. Have you felt God gently (or maybe not so gently) nudging you to do something for someone else? You know that it needs to be done, but you keep putting it off because it is outside of your comfort zone? Well ladies, this week we are taking a step outside of our comfort zones.

Assignment: This week I want you to do something for someone else. Do you have a neighbor that needs you? Do you know an elderly person or single mom that could use you? What about the homeless? Pack even one single sack lunch and give it to someone in need. Do you know someone in blogland that is struggling right now and could use a note from you about how much you care? Pray about this. Let God put on your heart the perfect thing for you to do for another. Now, here is the kicker…I DO NOT want you to post about what you do. Whatever you choose to do is between you and God. Our rewards are in heaven, not here on earth, Mathew 6:1. I want you to post about how doing this “act” made you feel. Was stepping out of your comfort zone in this area as hard as you thought it might be? Could you see the gratefulness in their eyes? Hear it in their voice? Tell it from their typing? Do you think you might make doing things like this a more regular part of your time? If this is an area that you are already active in, tell us how you feel this has impacted your life.

Picture ideas: Post a picture of your “Helping Hands”. Let us see a picture of your hands, the hands that have honored God by being Christ like and serving others.

I struggled with what to write for this assignment. That’s probably why I’m late in posting it! ;^)

I am not shy. Those of you who know me in real life know that. I’ve never had a problem speaking my mind, stepping into an unfamiliar situation, confronting a tough issue (although the latter is NOT my favorite thing to do, I still will do it if needed.) I have a pretty good-sized comfort zone. I think the hardest part of this assignment was trying to define what really is outside of that zone. I figured it out. Communicating in Spanish is outside of my comfort zone. That is a real problem since we live in Mexico.

I’m a social person. I love to talk – about “real” things, not just pleasantries. I love to hear other people’s opinions, give my own, listen to other people’s concerns and share mine as well. When we moved here, almost 3 years ago, we spoke NO Spanish. None. Nada. Zilch. OK, I knew the word “nada”, the colors, a few basic nouns, some verbs in the infinitive form. But you just can’t have a meaningful conversation with that limited a vocabulary.

Over the course of the next year, our family studied and practiced and practiced and studied until our heads hurt, and I didn’t want to speak English – let alone Spanish – at the end of the day. I got into the habit of staying home, keeping to myself and not talking much in public. I still smiled and nodded and was polite, but I just wasn’t comfortable trying to carry on a conversation in Spanish. I don’t know if I was more scared of misspeaking or misunderstanding! Probably both!

Fast forward to now – I can speak Spanish. I've led women's Bible studies, youth studies and last week even taught on a Wednesday afternoon service (even though I REALLY didn't want to...but that's a different story!) I understand about 90% of what is said around me and more if I’m actively listening. I’ve been told that my accent is good (although I laugh at that), so I have no reason to be afraid to communicate.

What's my problem, then??? I think that my biggest problem has been that I developed the really bad habit of NOT communicating and now it is easier to just be still.

I believe that God is really working on me in this area. For one thing, since I have never been shy, I’ve always (my WHOLE life) had a problem with blurting before thinking. That has been a problem-causer in many instances. Sarah and I were just talking the other day about how God has slowed us down in our speaking! By the time you think about what you’d like to say and then figure out how you would say it and then decide if it would translate culturally the way you intend it and then make sure you’ve conjugated all the verbs correctly, usually the moment is gone and what you were going to say is no longer relevant. What a great way for God to teach me to be slow to speak! I noticed on our last furlough that I wasn't nearly as quick to speak up as I used to be. Maybe I'm maturing??? It could happen!

So here’s my verse for the week:

James 1:19 "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath"

One thing that I have been able to do – even when I was tongue-tied – is to bless my neighbors with my hands. I’m one of about 5 ladies within 5 miles who has an oven, so I’ve made more bread to give away in the past 3 years than I have in my entire life before. My friend Cristina has told me that even when she couldn’t understand what I wanted to say and even when I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, she could tell by my smile and my eyes that eventually we would be friends. I’m so glad that God communicates to us in ways beyond words!!! Lord, help us to do the same!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What a relief it is!

Visit Blogger Friend School

Plop, plop, Fizz, fizz; Oh, What a Relief It Is! (Marketing Credit: Alka Seltzer)
Hello Ladies! Last week's assignment was so great, wasn’t it! This week I thought since we all shared about our educational background and our feelings about homeschooling, the trials and tribulations, and how we got our start, I thought we’d share about some of the burdens we’ve felt.

Assignment: This would be a good week to tell about your worst struggles with a lifestyle of homeschooling. Tell about something you’ve struggled with and how God’s mercies gave us the strength to get past it. Also, share any curriculum/homeschool methods that have been a relief to you, i.e., a particular Teacher’s Manual or Homeschooling method that’s been easier for your family. Talk about how you felt when the burden was lifted and Oh, What a Relief it is!

I don't know who first coined this phrase, but we use it a lot around our house:

Those things which don't kill us make us stronger.

Biblical parallel: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials for we know that the testing of our faith works patience. James 1:2-3

This assignment was interestingly worded -- "struggles with a lifestyle of homeschooling". Yes, homeschooling is, for us, more than an educational choice. Before I knew what I was getting into, I saw it as nothing more than teaching my kids at home. Now I know better!

Uncertainty -- Am I choosing the right curriculum? Do I really need curriculum? Is my flakiness going to permanently impair the kids? Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much?

Finances -- Because our lifestyle choice means that I have been home (meaning: working for free) for the past 17 years, there have been some things we just couldn't do: sports, gymnastics, drama, choir, band. Moving to Mexico did not alleviate that problem!!! I hate telling the kids, "We just can't afford to do that." Over the years, God has allowed seasons for all of those "extras", but right now we're in a season of just the basics.

Isolation -- We've lived "away from civilization" since our second year of marriage. We found that being in the country suited our family and personality, but it did tend to leave me feeling a bit "cut off" from the real world while the kids were little. Now we've moved to a culture where everyone lives in a fish bowl! It's an adjustment, having folks stop by to chit-chat just about every day. I like it now. I didn't like it so much 2 years ago. I think it's healthier, but it's an adjustment.

Being spread thin -- "Like chocolate pudding over too much ham." (Bill Boy Baggypants in Lord of the Beans) -- wife, mom, teacher, sister, daughter, AWANA leader, dance instructor, 4H leader, soccer mom, homeschool co-op leader, Bible study leader, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, mechanic's assistant, house veterinarian, goat tender...the many hats we wear. How do you fit it all in? Having 6 preschoolers in the house at once was definitely a struggle...even though now I look back on those crazy years as some of my favorites!

Learning challenges -- I have issues with the term "ADD/ADHD", but I have a son who (if he were in the public school system) would have been labeled and drugged by the time he was 6. He's a lot like me and a lot like his dad, so having all three of us in the house at once is sometimes...challenging. I love the boy he was at age 3, "What's that noise, Mommy?" and I love the young man he's becoming at 14. I tell him daily that I'm glad we let him live this long, cause he's turning out OK. ;^) We have another son who struggles with dyslexia and a speech impediment. At age 10 (almost 11) he still doesn't enjoy reading -- it just doesn't come easily to him. This is especially hard since the rest of the kids and I are bookworms!

***We've seen great victories in both of these young men in the past couple of years. Andrew's speech problem only effects his English -- his Spanish accent is perfect! Caleb's ability to focus on 25 things at once makes him an incredible drummer! God made them special...and He loves them very much! (We've been watching old Veggie Tales this week.) ***

In Christ, we are more than conquerors!

Somewhere along the way, I stopped struggling so much. Now instead of having "seasons" of struggles, I have a couple of hard days once in a while. Part of the relief came simply with time -- the kids got older, I mellowed. God brought the "important things" into focus for me. Now I don't sweat the "small stuff" as much. Not to say that I'm never grumpy. I caught myself grumping at the kids when I got back from town yesterday, but I apologize and move on. The family is always forgiving!

As far as one particular curricula or book that has been a stress-reliever...there have been a few. Each time I was in a hard, stressful or searching time, I would spend time in prayer (and brain-picking of homeschooling friends) and the "right" thing came into my hands.

OK, I'll wrap this up (sorry I rambled a lot this assignment!)...

A photo of my biggest stress-reliever: The Chore Chart
The name cards are on magnets and rotate to the right every Monday. The "Laundry" magnet moves every day (Monday thru Friday) so that a different person does laundry each day.

This is the 2008 edition. The 1997 edition had no words on it -- fully pictoral. The 2001 edition used velcro and a huge piece of poster board. I revamp just about every year. Do the kids "like" the chore chart? No. Not really. But without it, mom goes crazy trying to keep the house in order -- nevermind trying to keep up with school and "extras"! Do the kids like having a non-crazy mom? Very much!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday -- Weird Science

The Mexican clicker beetle...

See more Wordless Wednesday at 5minutesformom.com!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday -- Mosquito Barricade

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

The Enemy:

The problem: Our window screens don't seal properly. Most of the time it's no big deal, but during this season a 3/8 inch gap between the screen and the window frame means lots of pesky mini-vampires sucking at your ankles. No fun.

The solution: Evie and I cut some felt strips, doubled them over and stitched them to make a weatherstripping-sort-of-thing. Then we hot-glued them to the existing weatherstripping (which is worthless). Viola! Screens that seal! No more mosquito entrance!

Now, if I can just get the boys to keep the front screen door latched!!!

Fall is still canning season!

When we lived in Oregon, fall meant grapes and pears, apples and peaches...and of course blackberries and tomatoes!

Here, tomatoes come ripe in April (you can read about how nice that is here!). August and September bring mangos and limes. It was a different experience, canning tropical fruit, but I can't think of an easier fruit to process than limes!!!

A word to the wise: process the limes before the mangos. Two reasons: one -- you can use the lime juice to add acid to the mangos; two -- the lime juice is HORRID in the little cuts you get from prepping the mangos.

We only put up 4 quarts of lime juice. Actually, we ended up with 3 quarts when the 4th cracked during processing. I was sad. That was 120 limes sacrificed pointlessly. Sniff.

Everybody pitched in to cut and prep the fruit -- even Karen, who was spending the week with us.
Final count: mango jam -- 14 quarts; mango pieces -- 14 quarts.

Saturday, we had waffles with mango syrup! Yummy!!!

Monday, September 08, 2008

First Day of School -- Pre-empted

When I went to bed last night, I was mentally prepared to begin school right after my morning exercise.

I was not mentally prepared for a torrential downpour which caused a waterfall to come through the boys' roof, down the stairs and onto my bookshelves.

After we did a "bucket-brigade" of sorts to empty the shelves into the living room and kitchen and then grabbed every loose towel we could find to dam up the small rivers trekking across our bedroom floor, we collapsed into bed.

I can say, "Thank you, God!" that we haven't lost power yet. I knew I wanted to sort through my books and get rid of some that are just "taking up space". Eventually. Some day. Looks like "someday" has arrived.

So we're changing the game-plan today. Ah, the flexible life of a homeschooler!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oh What a Feeling!

Click here to visit Blogger School Friend Assignment: Take time this week to write about YOU and your feelings of trials and triumphs with homeschooling. Touch on when you first heard about the concept of home schooling and whether you tip-toed into the idea or just jumped in and never looked back. Share your schooling as a child and how you compare it to what your goals are for your children.

This September marks the beginning of our 13th official year of homeschooling. One would think that 12 years of experience would have eliminated the "first-day-of-school-jitters", but I haven't found that to be true! One thing that those 12 years have done, though, is replaced the horrible, nauseous feeling I used to associate with the first day of school with a sense of happy anticipation. I may still be a little anxious as a new school year approaches, but no longer am I debilitated by fear. Educating my kids at home has repaired a lot of the damage from my childhood public school experience. At least it's been a healing thing in my life -- and I don't have to worry about one of my kids being in the same horrific situation.

During the summer months of June and July, I usually take inventory of the previous year's studies, successes, failures and make plans for the next year. One June, a couple of years back, I took Sarah out to lunch and we laid out her "Four-Year-Plan" for highschool. I really like to take that time to put my ideas on paper, simply because once school gets going in the fall, I don't have much time for reflection! My hope is that the time I spend planning in June will reduce the false-starts and stumbling blocks in September.

We didn't "do" June this year. School ended on a Friday near the end of June and our first mission team arrived on Tuesday. They left the next Wednesday and we headed north for a furlough on Monday. A month later we returned home. We unpacked and did some deep-cleaning around the house and suddenly...it's September. Not only did we not do June, but July and August whooshed right on past, too!
Time to brush off the dust and cobwebs!
It appears that we'll be starting school next Monday with little preparation. How do I feel about that? Well, Freud would say that since I just typo-ed the word "feel" by typing "reel" I'm pretty nervous. Maybe a bit. One really nice thing is that 3 of the classes we're doing are just "pick up where you left off" classes. History, math and English from the Roots Up...check, check and check. Science still has me puzzled, but looking at where we live, I think we'll come up with something. Why do we really need to "do" a science class when we have 8 foot long pythons catching rabbits in our front yard? (I didn't post about that? No. My camera batteries were dead.) Or kamakazi barn swallows swimming in our pool? ( I did post about that!) And then of course there are the rattlesnakes, pelicans, frogs, lizards...you get the picture. I think we'll be ok with science.

I think I'm a lot more relaxed about my kids' education now than I was a few years ago. With Sarah being a junior this year (and doing really well, too) I feel like we've proven that homeschooling works for us. Any family members who wondered or questioned our decision can rest assured (as can we) that we chose correctly.

Most of my "major" decisions as far as curriculum have already been made. Reading, math, history, language, music -- all of those are automatic now. I am relieved to not feel like I need to keep researching to find "just the right curriculum"! That is stressful!!! I still remember frantically trying to pick the brains of every "experienced" homeschool mom I met -- asking opinions and recomendations -- constantly worried that I would make a bad choice. Guess what! I made a few bad choices! Guess what else! The kids have all forgiven me!!! ;^) (I don't think most of them even noticed!)

A few "schooly" things still worry me a little: finding time to spend with the "little ones" so that they get the solid foundation that the older ones got; making time to focus on the kids' music lessons; keeping Sarah challenged but not frustrated. These are things I'm constantly covering in prayer.

There are some things I don't worry about though. The main thing I'm not worrying about right now is Sarah's future education. Strange? From what I've learned by talking to a few homeschool moms (via internet) I think that it is a little strange for me to not be worried about college/careers for my children; but I'm not. Why? Because Sarah has chosen to follow God's plan for her life completely.

Why should I worry, when God knows way better than I do what she really needs? As long as Sarah's heart is where it should be, I won't worry about her future. I'll most certainly be praying for her future, and I'm very excited to see where God will lead her, but I won't worry. The same goes for Caleb, the twins and the little ones. As long as they are putting God's will first in their lives, I won't worry about their futures; but I will be praying!!!

Edited to add my Bible verse. Can you believe that I forgot to include it? Ack. Talk about the absentminded professora! ;^)

To gain the context, you really should begin reading at verse 25, but I'll focus on Matthew 6:33-34 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is its own evil!"

Less-Words Wednesday ;^) -- Grand Canyon

Why they call it grand

the traditional family-minus-one photo



Shuttle Bus

Caleb contemplating...something!

Andrew and Evie


The Jack Family-minus-one

Doug and Sarah

Grandpa Jack


Jessee drinking the Colorado River

Kids at Science Talk

Jessee demonstrates the wingspan of a California Condor Receiving their certificates

Did you know that the California condor has a wingspan of 8 feet? Wow! The kids had a great time at the wildlife class. They asked so many questions (and the teacher was obviously enjoying it!) that the session went almost a half-hour long! We didn't mind!


The Dreaded Rock Squirrel

We were warned about this little critter. They've become so tame at the canyon that they've become quite the pests. I dunno; I still think they're cute!

Big Family

The Coult family plus Grandma and Grandpa Jack and Aunt Cindy

We stopped down the road a bit for a picnic lunch. Our picnic table was near the chopper tour landing pad. We were joking about taking a chopper tour someday with our whole family. For one, I doubt they could take us all at once and for another, we could buy a new car or purchase materials for the upstairs of our house for what that tour would cost! Maybe someday one of the boys will become a chopper pilot and give us all a ride. It could happen. Picnic

Chopper Tours

Thus ends the photo record of our Grand Canyon expedition. We are thinking about a back-packing trip next time. There was too much to see in one afternoon!