Sunday, May 31, 2009

Finding A New Church

We may have found it – a church. Due to his back, dear husband did not go, but the kids and I went down to Brimfield to check out the church. We are Congregationalist, but I have come to find that the term Congregationalist means a wide variety of things. Certainly there are core beliefs that we all hold, but how that translates into action is varied based on the local minister. The first church we tried was pleasant, but just did not seem to fit our needs. This one though had strong scriptural basis. It had a bit of a contemporary lean, but not quite as strong as the one we had been to previously. I have to admit that I tend to have a conservative bent and really enjoy the old hymns.

Today was surely a full day at church as they had a baptism, joining of new members, and installation of church board and committee members. We did get a little time to speak to the minister afterward. We asked questions about confirmation, Sunday School, missions, and Bible Study. Not everything matched what we were looking for, but I was impressed with a minister that said that when he was looking for a church, when he was interviewed, he was asked what the most important part of the church was. He relayed that he responded, “The church doors as they were the way out into the community.” I was hooked. I think we’ll be going back next Sunday. And as an extra bonus, it meets my daughter's criteria of having a steeple that you can see reaching above the trees as you drive into town. Actually, it eerily looks like our old church.

Here is a sample of why we loved our church:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trimming the Fat From Life

Moving has been an interesting way to clear my plate and start again. It has been a good time to think about what I enjoy and how I would like to spend my time. No one here really knows us or has any expectations. So I can pick and choose as I like. So far, I have added two things:

1. Singing with the Old Sturbridge Village Singers
2. Joining the local book club

I may not be an excellent vocalist, but I really enjoy it. If you will recall, DD got me involved in our church choir about a year ago. With my passion revived, I did not want to give it up when we moved. A little web search me led me to the OSV singers. I’m really excited to get costumed this month. (Yes, this means that I am a wicked geek).

I also joined the local book club which has its first meeting that I will attend on Monday. I’m looking forward to the discussion. I am only about 1/3 of the way through the book, but I am enjoying the Alchemist. Who knows, I may even figure out my life’s plan by then too.

As for the rest, I’m going to try to take it on slowly. Trying to keep that delicate balance between finding interesting things to keep me busy and keeping myself busy so that I cannot do things of interest.

What activities can't you do without?
If you could start again, what would you continue / start? What activities would you drop?

Simple question - If you would drop or add them if you moved, what is preventing you from doing it now? Now only comes once in your life.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What Not to do in a Job Interview

Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be. I went to a job interview and sent out yet another resume today. While I was sitting in the interview, I noticed that my resume seemed very full, much more than the two pages it consisted of. I knew immediately what I had done. When I was running for tax collector about 1 ½ years ago, I had made notes after the resume to forward to my campaign manager. Apparently, I had never deleted them. So you know all those questions that employers can’t ask like how old you are, if you are married, or if you had children, all of those questions were right in front of them. Needless to say, I had to send a retraction email to both.

Then to top it off in the retraction email that I send to the employer I emailed today, I hit the wrong button on the computer and “corrected” my middle initial from “M.” to “ME.” I really, really am not this inept, but I’m thinking that I can count both of those jobs goodbye. Oppps.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cut Adrift - Finding Excuses to go to Church

Before we moved, we were regular church goers. Now it seems we’ve gone once since we’ve moved. Twice, if you count the day my husband and kids went to our old church. They were back down there picking up my son from a Scouting Camp. We are going to try another church this week, but it just doesn’t feel the same and not having that strong connection makes it too easy to skip. In fact, in our old church that was one of the reasons I started volunteering: too often life would get in the way. Once I started teaching in the Sunday School, I had to go. This was before my husband used to come to church, so he would often cajole me with “why don’t you just stay in bed”, “it is such a beautiful day why don’t we get something done in the yard”, “why don’t we go . . . instead”. It was very hard for me to refuse such offers. When I began teaching though, there was no choice, I had to be there.

If you are looking for an excuse to go to church, here are some jobs that many churches look to get done on Sundays:

-offertory volunteers
-helpers with communion either behind or in front of the scenes
-bakers of the communion bread (depending on the church)
-Sunday School or Nursery Volunteer
- Choir member
-Coffee Hour Host or Hostess

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Every moment can be a teachable moment

DS has a propensity to notice things: sometimes the smaller, the more likely he is to see it. When we left Big Y the other day, he tugs on my sleeve like an excited toddler although he is almost a teenager, “Mom, Mom – look”. There a moth of no more than an inch long was posed on the rock pillar holding up the overhang. DD had passed it without a second look and was almost at the car. Frankly, I would have blown right by it. But DS was attracted by its bright colors. The interesting part of this encounter was that it was concluded by him suggesting homework. “Mom, we have to go home and find out what kind of moth this is.”

Unfortunately, our internet connection was not working that day and so we had to put our search off. Later that afternoon he came by a snake in the backyard and was reminded of his interest in classifying, but the internet still was not corrected. Fortunately, DH called Comcast and they sent a repairman out over the weekend, but I wasn’t home to help with the search as I was camping with the Girl Scouts. When I came home on Sunday, my DS greeted me with a hug and helped unload the car. I thought it was all very sweet. It wasn’t for a few moments that I realized his ulterior motive. “Mom, can we look up that moth and snake now.” So to the computer we went. This is what we found out:
Rosy Maple Moth

Eastern Ribbon Snake

Now why can’t he remember his homework like that????

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Companies with Vision

Seeing Right
Glancing About

Finding your way along the path

Clarifying Optics
Restoring Sight
Correcting Vision

Seeing Objects
Holding Truth
Knowing your plan

My dear husband had to go to the ophthalmologist this morning. Unfortunately, as a diabetic, there can be many visual problems that arise. DH has been battling diabetes for over 10 years and has come to a point where oral medication is no longer working well. Optical visits are a mandatory precaution for diabetics and are supposed to be done annually. DH however has put this trip off for five years. So now that we are moved and have health care, here we are.

While we were waiting for our appointment, I overheard an interesting conversation between another patient and the optometrist. The patient had wanted to schedule an appointment for next week, but the optometrist said that it would have to be another time because next week they were closed for volunteer week. He went on to explain that the entire office goes to Haiti on a medical mission. I was very impressed. Apparently, we have found an eye center with vision.

What missions do places that you spend your money at support?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can a Protestant Attend a Catholic School?

I think I failed to mention in yesterday’s post about DD’s visiting a Catholic school that we are NOT Catholic. We are actually Congregationalist (a form of Protestantism). As part of the consideration of this school, we have to consider the impact on DD’s religious development. Part of school means attending a Catholic mass daily and participating in Catholic religious classes.

We did have an opportunity to sit through mass during our visit yesterday. I’m not sure how the kids felt, but it was awkward. Not only were there parts of the service obviously different than ours i.e. genuflecting at you enter you pew, actually turning wine and bread into blood and body, reading from books that are not included in our Bible, but also in subtle ways: being refused communion since we are not Catholic, watching only men allowed to participate in the service, and hearing that God sanctified the first Pope, Saint Peter. Its greatest difference was that it wasn’t even introduced in our language, but in Latin. Now I must admit, this was kind of cool and I actually came home and wrote it on the kid’s Educational Accomplishments. This service not only let them peek into another world religion, but allowed my daughter to see that Latin was not dead. But it means that you are not 100% sure about what you are hearing or in essence agreeing to as you pray to God.

My brother went to a Catholic high school back in the late ‘80’s early 90’s, escaping with his protestant faith basically intact, so I know that it is possible. But intact and unaltered are two different things. While I do appreciate their basic morals and more modest approach to living, I greatly disagree with many of tenants. However, there is great benefit when a school’s largest class/teacher ratio is a 9 to 1. There is something to be said when moral rights and wrongs are clearly laid out. So the questions become – Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Should I be supporting a denomination that I disagree with? Should our commonalities be seen as greater than our differences? Should I consider these same questions when judging the public alternative?

The True Cost of Not Hiring Movers

Money was very tight during this move and so we did not hire movers but instead moved ourselves. We wrapped the dishes, packed the boxes, and loaded the furniture. The decision was purely a financial one. We were originally going to hire a mover for the furniture, but the quote came in at over $1,000. As closing costs and other moving expenses escalated, $1,000 seemed equivalent to $1,000,000. I just could not agree to spend the money, so my husband, my brother-in-law, nephew, the kids, and I completed the grunt work and we hired a U-Haul. All seemed to go well, we actually only took one minor casualty to the furniture which was repairable, but then dear husband started hobbeling. Then, he was hunched over. As men do, he pushed through and finished the move, but then he started complain. Soon he was at the doctors ($20 co-pay) with two prescriptions ($50 in co-pays). Today, he underwent an MRI ($250 co-pay)

and soon he will start therapy ($20 per visit co-pay). We can only hope that will work. I don’t even want to think of the other options. Did I really save any money??? Hindsight is 20/20 and the top of my entertainment center is still in my eat-in part of the kitchen with no time-line for completing its move. Not to mention, my poor hubby is in serious pain. Maybe the $1,000 wasn’t that much after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Children Grow Up and Grow Apart

Today was a tough day for a homeschooling mom – actually the idea is common to all moms. Today I had to let go just a little more. We went to visit a private Catholic school where dear daughter may attend in the fall. Dear Son responded exactly as expected and wants nothing to do with the whole idea. Dear Daughter however was completely enthralled. I think the uniform code, skirts and flats, only added to the romanticism of the whole idea.

DD has been talking about returning to school for a while and trying to disguise her interest by costuming it all in “our” best interests; as a real school will one, provide her with a diploma and two, keep more thorough records. In her opinion, I shouldn’t have to worry about such things. I will note that I am happy that she is worrying about these things as obviously she is mentally aimed toward college, but I’m not sure how much of a “help” this is to me.

When I look at the situation, I see her giving up her freedom and again shackling us to someone’s schedule. I see her limiting her educational experience to someone else’s planned curriculum. And I see her seriously bored after the first few weeks, potentially relearning many of the subjects that we already covered. But I know that she sees freedom, friends, and frankly anything that is not me.

But as I said, this struggle is not specific to homeschoolers but a typical part of the parent child separation known as adolescence. Sometimes it appears in their style of dress, their choice of music, and can manifest itself in other more dangerous signs of rebellion. So I guess that I should be relieved that DD’s separation is coming in the form of wanting to learn more and not some other crazy way, but I guess there is a part of me that maybe thinks this is just the first step. I kind of miss my Little Miss. I should have known this was coming from that very first, “No, me do”.

Two more visits before the end of the week. I’ll let you know what she decides, but I’ll give you strong odds that our time homeschooling with her is waning. Of course, me super secret plan to lure her with volunteering at the horse barn hasn’t come to fruition yet either. I’m rooting for those horses.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Simple Ways to Welcome the New Neighbors

We have been in our new home for almost a month and we have met exactly one family. Didn’t it used to be protocol to come over and greet new neighbors. I think I even remember a Rugrats episode when Susie’s family moved into town, all the neighbors brought Jello molds to their house the mother couldn’t even find room in her fridge for another leaning tower of Jello. Thus far, we haven’t even gotten as much as a wave except for one family.

In my old neighborhood, I defined neighborhood very loosely. Neighborhood didn’t just mean the six houses on my cul-de-sac, but basically any house that I passed getting to the main road. Whenever we noticed a new family move in, a batch of brownies or muffins went in the oven. Within the first two weeks of their arrival, we would pop by and say hello. I personally think greeting new people in the neighborhood is not from etiquette books of past but an important role that we can all fulfill.

Some great ways to introduce yourself:

The old fashioned dessert hello – Like we did, bake a batch or cookies or brownies and bring them by.

When the moving truck pulls in, offer to give a hand. Maybe you’re not strong enough to carry their piano or they have professional movers, but perhaps you can offer to take their kids over to your swing set or watch them outside at their house to free up the new neighbors to move in.

Jot down information about the closest grocery store, vet, and movie theater. Give them information that they should know about their new neighborhood.

Have a reverse tea party. Boil some water at your house and bring it by in a carafe for a get to know you tea that the new neighbors don’t have to do any work for.

Invite them to something you have going on. If you already have a picnic or party planned, be sure to drop off an invitation. Maybe the guys have a regular card night or game day planned, why not invite the new man in town.

It really doesn’t matter how you do it, but take the time to do it. Moving is stressful and difficult especially if they have come a long way. Take a little of the stress out by welcoming them like long time friends.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sites to See in Central Massachesetts

Yesterday, we explored a little scenic culture in this new town of ours. We rambled up to West Brookfield to enjoy the Asparagus Festival and then ambled down to the Brimfield Flea & Antique Market. What a crazy day. I truly enjoyed the Asparagus Festival. I imagine it is somewhat like what our old hometown fair was like 100 years ago. There were just a few vendors spread across the town green. There were plenty of people but not so many that you couldn’t get into the booths to see people’s wares. We even got to enjoy a cup of Asparagus chowder. My girlfriend, Shirley, had heard that there was to be asparagus ice cream, but we didn’t find it. I’m not sure that that was a great loss. The festival was small enough that we had time to head down to the Flea Market too, so we rallied up and headed down.

The Flea Market was absolutely overwhelming. I don’t think we saw even a 10th of it. It did make me happy that we avoided Brimfield in our search for a home. Coming from a town that is completely overwhelmed during our annual fair, I did not want to move to a town that had this three weeks a year. I may as well have moved to Disney World or into the city if I wanted that. We wandered in and out of some of the tents looking at all of the interesting items for sale. I think because I just moved my view point was a little bit skewed. All I kept thinking as we walked around was how difficult it would be for these vendors to pack their items up – especially the China dealers. I didn’t buy anything except for a cup of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but I’m going to make sure I’m ready for the July & September markets. I think that this might be a great place to go Christmas shopping.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Town, New Rules - Writing a Homeschool Education Plan

As many of you know, we have moved from Connecticut to Massachusetts (which I am proud to say that I think I can finally spell – who needs graduation test with words like Massachusetts – if you can spell it, you pass). This move has brought not only the many common moving problems like boxes and space, not being able to find things that you packed, learning new roads and how to get the grocery store, but as homeschoolers it has brought new regulations.

We are very lucky in Connecticut to have the right to educate our children as we see fit. There is recommended additional bureaucratic paperwork set out by the Department of Education if you see fit to complete it, but there is no legal obligation other than withdrawing officially, being enumerated by your school district (i.e. being counted as a homeschooler), and properly educating your child so that they are employable in the future. In Massachusetts however, paperwork is mandatory and so is the annual review. So I am busy now trying to fill out the children’s educational plan.

I didn’t think that it would be difficult to fill out a plan, but I must admit, I feel a little tied down. We are eclectic homeschoolers. We have a core curriculum that I follow for each child, primarily from Alpha Omega’s LifePac series, but then we also supplement with a variety of other materials. We often go on tangents, down side roads, and basically explore the world. For example, during the move, I’m not sure how many “official” homeschool books we opened, but this does not mean we did not learn things. How many kids can explain about down payments, participated in home inspections, and had closing documents explained to them by a lawyer? Certainly this experience has been an educational one, but how would I have put that in their educational plan a year ago?

In our first year of homeschooling in Connecticut, I had filled out the letter of intent and expected a portfolio review at the end. In fact, I kind of looked forward to showing them that I accomplished what they could not (we pulled our kids from public school in 2nd and 3rd grade). But then when I wasn’t called in for the review and opted to just withdraw the kids the following year, I never expected to have to face Big Brother again. Here we are though, in Massachusetts, with a whole new set of rules and an annual review again looming. I’m not so cocky now. I don’t need to prove anything anymore. In fact, I am a little concerned that our definition of education has pulled so far from society at large that it may be hard to explain our accomplishments. I no longer look at their quiz grades to tell me that we are successful. I wait for the times when they come up with an insight or an idea that may never have occurred to them before. I wait for the times that my daughter shows me a political cartoon that makes her laugh because she understands all the concepts behind it. I wait for the times that my son comes up with a better way to do something than either my husband or I. How am I supposed to record and show these moments? And frankly, given the public school’s track record are they the ones that should be judging?

Do you think that I could get away with “Educational Plan – to live in the world, to search for new experiences, and to participate in society so that it is a little better because we are here.”?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Power of Prayer - Praying for Those in Need

The power of prayer is very controversial. Some people believe without a doubt and others think it is coincidence at best. I think that prayer is very powerful and that we should do it more often. In our family, we have begun a practice of praying for others during our family prayers. Just like the pastoral prayer at church, we name each person that we have heard is in need; lifting their needs to God’s ear.

Prayers our difficult because we have a tendency to not leave the need in God’s hands, but to request or expect specific resolution. If Susie is sick, we expect a cure. If Johnny lost his job, we expect a new one. Certainly though we should have learned through our reading of the Bible that God does not do our will, but we should do his. As Jesus prays in Gethsemane, knowing that his death is near, “may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) As Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

As you begin a personal prayer list, be careful to name the person in need and perhaps even mention the specific need, but leave the “cure” to God. His solution may surprise you. And even if his solution does not appear to meet your earthly needs, remember His view is broader and His understanding of what is right is greater.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

10 Things to Remember When You Move

1. The adage ,"you can never have enough", is WRONG! Keep in mind with every purchase that you make and every gift that you get, some day you may need to move it. If that doesn’t curb your enthusiasm on the new whatchmacallit, then you haven’t moved enough to truly understand the implications.

2. Furniture is way overrated. The 1st apartment décor of a couple of milk crates takes on a new allure. At least I could have flipped them over and used them to pack things in. (No more solid wood furniture)

3. Hire a mover. They are worth every penny. Instead we are paying with my husband’s back. Two prescriptions and back exercises later, he still isn’t walking quite right.

4. Put the cat in the carrier first thing in the morning. Moving is as tumultuous for animals as it is for humans. The difference is that we can’t hide in small unreachable places. It is very awkward to have to go back to the house after you sold it to try to coax your cat out.

5. Start saving boxesnow even if you don’t have a move planned. It seems to me to be the epitome of waste to buy boxes, plus it is an added expense when every penny counts.

6. Leave one box unopened from every move and then when you move next time it will be like Christmas. We found one such box. My son said, “Mom, why didn’t you tell me we had this?” As if I remembered that I had it from 12 years ago.

7. Don’t pack too early or risk your husband stripping open all of your nicely packed boxes looking for something or the other option is don’t make ham so that he doesn’t need the KitchenAid meat grinder. And in this market, if your house is on the market longer than you expected, you might need your winter jacket again.

8. Label everything. Dear Husband was pleasantly surprised to find the meat grinder neatly labeled in one of the “kitchen” boxes. He apologized for opening the other 15 boxes without reading what was written.

9. Call the people that offered you help. People will offer help and you will nod acceptingly knowing that you would never impose on someone. Note, they are offering because they have moved and done the same thing and have paid the price.

10. Think small. Instead of trying to conserve boxes and fit more in less, fit less in more. Your back will thank you.

11. Reconcider the move.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reading Challenge 2009 - The Total Money Makeover

I finished #11 of the Reading Challenge 2009 – A book that claims it will make your life better because you read it. I checked out our new library (which by the way is very, very small- we’ll need to work on that) and took out Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. In these difficult financial times, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on your finances. I’m sure just like a food diet certain plans work for some and other plans work better for others, but Dave Ramsey has certainly put together a plan that can help anyone on the road to financial success. The most important message in his book is that it is ok to be debt free.

Can you imagine what a different society we would have if the idea spread across our nation? Instead of a nation of spenders, we would have a nation of savers. The sad truth is that even our nation’s capitol now thinks that spending is the answer. Perhaps I should send a copy of this book to our congressmen!

Let me hear from you guys. What part of the challenge have you undertaken?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Want to Turn Your Husband On - Get rid of Romantic Flavors and add some food

Men are very funny. As a woman, I spend money and time picking out all sorts of wonderful sents from Bath & Body: Cucumber Mellon, Black Amethyst, Cherry Blossom. My daughter and I spend endless time smelling all of the different products. Well, I have learned that all that time is worthless.

As many of you know, when you are moving things have a tendency to get misplaced. Needless to say for the first few weeks in our move, I could not find my body washes so I was forced to use my daughters “gingerbread”, I have never had so many complements on how I smell. My son noticed it first. “Mom, you smell good.” I didn’t think anything of it. Until later, my husband said the same thing. There are a lot of complements that my husband gives me, but “oh, you smell yummy” is not usually one of them. I dismissed it at first. The next day came the same compliment from my husband, “You smell really good.” I couldn’t disregard it this time. Clearly “gingerbread” was a good choice. So out goes Wisteria and in comes Chocolate Chip Cookie, Brownies, and maybe Fudge.

What sents of body gel do you like?