Monday, December 27, 2010

2 Credits in Homemaking

This winter DD got a lesson in sewing.  She actually made a SMART goal (a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goal for a Girl Scout Interest Patch) to design and sew an outfit of her own, but as we got closer to Christmas and saw that we were going to have to do some major pageant costume renovations, I suggested tying in the two goals together.  So she adjusted her SMART goal to relate to the costumes.

I think this was a good decision for her as she began to realize how difficult sewing can be.  It is one of those things that looks so easy when you look from afar and so hard when you do it yourself.  We had to work on one of the three kings costumes.  We used the old costume as a rough pattern for the cutting of the new costume.  And we had to basically use all found material as the Sunday School had little money for materials (If you look really closely at the right arm sleeve, you will see where we salvaged the material we were cutting.  We used an old sheet. ).

We used old sheet binding and made some of our own to dress up the costume and give it some richness.  As DD finished all the cutting and pinning, she got to move to the cherished position of sewer. As she wasn't completely confident about this new skill and needed a little bolstering, she decided a superhero might be in order . . . so let me introduce you to Super HomeMaker.

I'm not sure that the cape made her any better at sewing, but it sure did give her some flair.  Now I dare you to find that in a Home Economics class in school. That is if you can even find a Home Ec class since most have been cut due to the municipal and educational budgets.
Sewing, I think, is one of those skills that you will never have to wonder how that will help you in the future because you will find out over and over.  DD has no intentions of becoming a seemstress, but she is starting to learn some skills that will help her you for many years to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to Catch Your Kids if they are sneaking candy

This candy dish has been through our family for at least three generations. 

I first remember it at my grandparents house.  The trick with this dish I think is the v-cut around the edges.  It is impossible to get the candy without making noise.  No matter how carefully you try to remove or replace the top it clinks, alerting everyone to your candy thieving.  So if you are an adult, I recommend purchasing one.  If you are a child, perhaps this is the dish that you want to carry with greasy fingers.

It was amazing to see this Christmas Eve to see yet another generation trying to sneak their way into it.

Gifts that Go Beyond Christmas

This year one of the most incredible gifts that I received came from my Aunt Judy.  My aunt and uncle began working on our genealogy several years ago and gifted us with a terrific volume of information which they continue to keep up.  This year though they added a whole new element.  In their travels, they discovered that one of our relatives William H. Shaw kept a war diary between the years of 1861 - 1865.  She got permission to borrow the hand written document and transcribed the entire document into a typewritten document which she had copied and spiral bound for all of the branches of the family.

I actually spent my Christmas Day reading this diary.  Some days are boring and quick, but many pass on information that made me cry and cringe.  Stories of men dying, their blood splattering across him.  Stories of stealing split rail fences to make fires.  Stories of penning notes for fallen comrades. This is a Christmas present that will be cherished not just by me but for generations to come.

I'm thinking if I could find one of the many letters William H. Shaw talks of writing,  I could possible say thank you well enough.

Here are the notes from his diary on December 31st, 1864 that should make you realize how truly blessed we are:

"31st, Saturday. Stormy, some snow, this is the last day of the year.  How many commenced the year with high hopes and expectations? but how soon blasted.  How many who commenced the coming year will live to see its close.  Shall I?  God grant that I may live to see my friends once more."

FYI - he does live to see his family again, except a daughter who dies while he is in service.  The second to last entry on Sunday, July 2nd, 1965 says, Pleasant, we were paid off and got our discharge papers today, and it has been one of the happiest days of my life.  A free man and a citizen once more.

May you all be blessed in this coming year and may none of you endure what our relatives did during that bloody time in our history.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cards are Posted

This year seems to be flying by.  I barely have time to breathe. So I am more thankful than ever for DD.  She actually wrote our Christmas newsletter and created our Picniked picture.  My only job was to get them printed off and stamp them.  She even addressed the envelopes.  And even with all that help, I didn't get them out until today.  So for those of you in Cyber Space, here  is your Christmas Card:

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright's Affair Makes for a Great Read

Do you keep a list of books that you hope to read in the future?  I do.  This book has been on the list for a while.  I suggested it a few book club meetings but no one seemed to gravitate toward it.  Finally, I just picked it up on my own.

I absolutely loved this book.  I wasn't sure what to expect at first.  I actually thought it was going to be a farce, but it is actually historical fiction.  The affair really happened as did many of the "facts" of the book.  It is the in between stuff that has been made up.

Mamah (May - ma) is married when Frank meets her.  She and her husband are actually his client.  But I guess, alas, love is love and they begin an affair which causes Mamah to leave her family, her children, and even her country for a while.  The book gives insight to Frank, to women of the era, and to the complications of an affair.

I won't give anything else away, but the ending is shocking.

I hope you will pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How Do You Know When You Are Old?

A definite sign that you are getting older is when you plan a date with your husband around going to the doctor.  DH and I don't get out too much alone, but we saw that we both needed to do blood work for the doctor. So, we planned a blood work date.  What does that mean?  That means that we are going to get up earlier than usual, go do our blood work, and then plan to have breakfast together before we both head in opposite directions for work.  DH joked that we are practicing for retirement.  I figure that you have to take it where you can get it.  If I have to squeeze in some time together at 7am and get a needle stuck in my arm for it, it is all worth it just to have a few minutes with my husband.  Plus, I have to admit I still appreciate someone holding my hand when I get a needle.  Ok, DH isn't the hold the hand kind of guy, but he make a few smart remarks and at least I'll laugh while they're taking my blood.

This week blood dates, next week AARP.  Where did the time go?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Presents

I've been busily trying to get ready for Christmas.  This Christmas the budget is a little lean, so I've been trying to think a little outside the box. This gift actually cost me $0, as I already had all the supplies.

I was looking for Christmas ideas on the blogoshpere when I came by this.  I spent some time perusing her website and was amazed by the talent Cathe had.  In the case of these napkins, it was more like being reinspired because my birth-mother has given me some homemade napkins in the past, which I love, but I had never thought to make my own.  This project was so easy that I think that I will be on the lookout for some more napkin like material.  I also made the napkin rings which are just a combination of silver wire and glass and pearl beads.  There is no patterns in the beads.  I made three loops and then just twisted a long end several times around the three loops to tie it off.  Simple but I think pretty.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hints to Keep Your Sanity When You Start a New Job

I have started a new job.  I took a part-time 20 hour a week or so job, but right now they need a little more of my time so I have been working about 30 hours which certainly makes life a little tight with all of my other volunteering, homeschooling, and trying to continue to visit our former foster child and help my father (who lives about 1.5 hours away).  So far I have found a few things has really helped keep me on track:

1. Lay out your clothes the night before.
2. Update the kids' chore chart and make sure that they keep up their end of the bargain.
3. Don't add any more responsibilities until you acclimate to the new schedule.
4. Be regimented when you are getting  ready then you won't forget anything and the family will know what to expect.
5. Write out homeschool plans and set a scheduled time aside to review their work or go over new ideas.
6. Take advantage of mail order medications, direct deposit, etc.  The more you can limit running around the more time you will have at home and prevent yourself from feeling like a spinning top.
7. Plan to share your child driving / responsibilities with your spouse.
8. Plan dinner before you leave in the morning.  Take out any foods that need to defrost etc.  Use the crock pot wisely.
9. Write your calendar out for the rest of the family so they know what to work around.
10. Use your time wisely.  Plan out your trips to include several stops. Pre-post your blog. Multi-task i.e. review homework and wash dishes at the same time.

As I continue with this job, I'm sure that I will come by even more hint that I will pass along and if you have any, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choosing the Perfect Christmas Tree

In our family, choosing a Christmas Tree is a true art.  It can take hours.  People who have tree hunted with us have sworn that they will never go with us again because it can be such a painstaking process.  This year's hunt was an exception.  We did a lot of up front looking i.e. driving around, but once we got out and really looked for a specific tree, we accomplished our search in record time.  If you want to see our antics and the final perfect tree.  Check out A Cup of Tea with Mom and Me, the blog mostly maintained by DD but which I post on occasionally.  She actually filmed, cut, and posted a little video of our tree hunting day.  Fortunately, you do not have to drive around with us for the hours of searching out the perfect tree farm. You just get to see our success.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to Plan an Alternative Market

So many churches at this time of year hold craft fairs, but the church we have joined up here does something a little differently. Gina, the minister's wife, started a tradition of an Alternative Market. Vendors are invited to sell their wares as long as they are selling products that give 100% of their profit to support a non-profit. This year there were people selling jewelery for NEMI, items for the Senior Center, and candles for some organization I did not catch. There were booths with information on gifts that could be purchased from SHIN, Amnesty International, BAMS, our church's Carilon Fund, Church World Services, Heifer International, and probably a few that I didn't notice. Hopefully, next year we'll be able to recruit even more. I ran a booth that introduced people to KIVA loans which make a great Christmas gift especially for teenagers.

We set up in our Fellowship Hall area. Each vendor had a table which they could decorate as they pleased. Advertising was done in advance and signs were put out on the actual day. Gina put out some coffee, tea, and hot cocoa and put together a table where people could make ornaments if they liked. It was all fairly low key. This was the first year that I participated. DD did our booth last year as I was working. This year, she was busy and so I did it. Next year hopefully we can booth do it as it is a very worthwhile idea. The gifts you buy at an Alternative Marketplace give not just to the recipient of the gift but also to someone else in need. What a great way to remember the reason for the season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gingerbread Houses: A Tradition Not to Let Slip

This week we continued a family tradition that we started when the kids were very young. Actually, I am unfairly taking credit for this. This is a tradition my husband brought to our family. We buy a basic gingerbread house kit (I suppose we could take this to the next level and make our own gingerbread, but the point of this is a holiday memory not holiday stress) and some extra decorations (i.e. shredded wheat, Necco candy, gum drops). Depending on the kit, we may make additional “frosting” with confectioner’s sugar and water. We also find it helpful to have a few canned goods to hold the house in place while the frosting dries. And then one night, we pull everything out and go at it. In our family, usually that means the kids and Dad do it. But this year, we brought the kit to visit our foster son. Z has been moved to residential living due to his needs, but we continue to see him and love him. This was an excellent project for all of us. Although clearly our children are getting a little older because this year’s house was resplendent with the traditional gingerbread men, gumdrops, and icing icicles but it also had a peppermint stick cannon, a gumdrop dragon, and a gumdrop alligator.

This tradition has offered me one of my all time “perfect” memories. Several years ago, the kids and my husband were making a house at the table and I was making Chex Mix in the kitchen. Christmas carols were playing in the background and the lights from the tree were twinkling. I remember pulling the Chex Mix from the stove and turning to put it on the counter. As I turned, I was filled with the feeling that this was it. This is what life is all about: perfect, simple, joyful.

I remember making gingerbread men myself as a child. I remember those little silver ball cake decorations that now sport a warning, “Do NOT consume. For decorative purposes only”. And I still like to decorate gingerbread men if I have a large group of children, but gingerbread houses are the perfect holiday family activity.

Holiday memories are not made by the gifts we receive but by the time we spend together.

TEST: I challenge you to remember 10 gifts you received over the course of your life. Now try to think of 10 Christmas memories. Which list was easier to make?
One of my kids' memories might be: the year their mother cut a snowflake out of a papertowel.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas is a Season not a Day

Boy, have we been busy with Christmas this weekend.  Friday, we made gingerbread houses which you will see a post about tomorrow. Saturday, I worked at a Alternative Market (like a Christmas Bazaar) which I will post about later in the week, I picked up DD from a Girl Scout event, and then began the search for our Christmas Tree. And finally, today, we celebrated the second Sunday of Advent at church, had our second Christmas Pageant rehearsal (which I'm thrilled to say seems to be in good shape), found our Christmas tree, and have it fully decorated.  Some people might think it a bit crazy, but I really like dragging out Christmas.  I enjoy Advent.  It is like when you savor a tasty candy in your mouth.  If you chew it, the taste is gone in just one or two bites; but if you suck on it, the flavor lasts so much longer.

If you are looking for some ideas to spread Christmas out, check out my article posted over at Associated Content: Countdown to Christmas: 25 Family Friendly Ideas to Celebrate the Season.  Keep your eye out to see all the other interesting things our family will do this holiday season and please let me know what you are doing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flannel Sheets are Best for a Cold Night

You guys must have thought that I was crazy when I listed flannel sheets on my Thankful List last month. Well, that is everyone that doesn't have them. Oh, my goodness! I have never had flannel sheets before and last month I broke down at Wal-mart of all places and bought a pair. Let's be honest, money is tight. I needed sheets and flannel was the a really good price for a king sized bed. I think they were like $24.99 or so - no more than $30. They came in a little flannel box and are kind of red and green striped (which I thought would be cute for the holidays too).

When I put them on the bed, I was thrilled to have a new set of sheets, but I was not prepared for how wonderful it really was. Those sheets are so soft and so warm. In the winter, we keep the heat down, sometimes at night it will go down into the 50's in the house so warmth is a must. I used to sometimes find myself so cold that I would get up and add layers of clothes. In these sheets, I sometimes find myself sticking my foot out of the edge to cool down.

I love them so much, I may even run out and buy another set. Sometimes happiness comes in the little things.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving Thanks Challenge - Final Report
1. Family
2. Freedom of political voice and vote
3. My family's health
4. Thanksgiving Day Wraps and Apples!
5. My faith and my church.
6. Breakfast with the family
7. Wood Stove & Flannel Sheets
8. creative juices
9. Listening to my daughter read for Story Time
10. Being born in the US
11. All those who have sacrificed and died for our freedom
12. Laughter - especially of small children
13. Singing at OSV by candlelight
14. Many hands to lighten the work load.
15. A pen and paper
16. new recipes to try
17. books
18. Cinnamon
19. My car (but I would be more thankful for a transporter ; ) )
20. My dad (and my mom who I miss dearly)
21. Enough
22. The internet
23. A new job
24. Christmas Carols
25. a wonderful holiday meal
26. fried clams at Lenny & Joe's
27. suprise announcements
28. hymnals
29. loving dog & cat
30. Scouts

Celebrating an Old Fashioned Christmas

What are your traditions for the holidays? A new one the DD and I have added is singing at Old Sturbridge Village. As you know, we sing regularly with OSV, but Christmas at the Village is something extra special. If you happen to have an open December weekend, you may want to plan to attend OSV's Christmas by Candlelight.

Unfortunately, we are not pictured in this feature, but you can see what a wonderful experience you'll be in for. So I hope you'll put the shopping and holiday craziness aside to enjoy a few hours of nostalgia and beauty.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Feast or Famine Job Hunting

Why can I look, look, look for a job, not get anything, and then suddenly get called in for two interiews in the same week.  I was mortified to tell the second caller that I had already accepted a position at the first and I'm still not sure that I made the right decision.  It is so hard to marry family needs with work needs. And the question is am I looking for a job or a career.  Of course, how do you hold of one offer to find out about the other and if you do are you putting at risk the first.  Unfortunately or fortunately, I am a very conservative person and believe in that old saying that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

So think of me tomorrow morning as I start a new job and pray that I made the right choice.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Third Hand Smoke

My son enlightened me on third hand smoke the other day.  "Mom, do you know what third hand smoke is?"

"I'm not sure what you are talking about."

"First hand smoke is when you smoke yourself.  Second hand is when you are breathing someone else's smoke.  Third hand smoke is the smoke that emanates off of couches and other fabrics for days or months after someone has smoked."

I'm never sure where he comes up with this information.  Lately, he's had all sorts of little nuggets from the John Tesh radio show which apparently he falls asleep to.  Suddenly, he'll tell me about how drinking water helps you lose weight or that apples really keep the dentist away not the doctor.  Dear Son has become just a wealth of knowledge. 

Of course sadly, we unwillingly did an experiment on third hand smoke the other day after visiting my father.  My dad had thoughtfully pulled all the yellow jelly beans out of his jelly beans since he knows they are DS's favorite (my father figures that since he doesn't eat vegetables, he can get his beans in other ways and dear dad stocks up on jelly beans at all times of the year.).  So my son brought the jelly beans home in the container.  When he opened the container in our smoke free house, we all almost gagged.  The smell was absolutely overwhelming.  My husband joked that now if we were missing Poppie we could just breathe in the canister.  Of course, that is after he marched us all off to the shower to get the smoke out of our hair and clothes.  So be warned, there is a new public health menace: third hand smoke.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Complicated - A Movie Review

I was pleasantly surprised when my husband came home early last night.  I didn't expect him until 10:00, but he arrived a little after 7:00pm.  I had just turned a movie on, so I started it again so that we could both enjoy it.

I think we laughed almost all the way through it.  Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin were a perfect cast. And they got the rating right on this one.  It is an "R" rating, but a real "R"  and not a quasi "X".  There was one butt shot and conversation I certainly would not want a young child to listen to, but all perfectly appropriate for an older teenager and adult.  This is my kind of movie laughter, slice of life, and relationships.  The only thing that would have made it a better movie night would have been a great glass of wine for me.  Instead, hubby and I popped Jiffy popcorn on the wood stove and had a cup of coffee.  (Did I mention we've been married for almost 20 years?)
So I highly recommend "It's Complicated" for you and your spouse, a group of women together, or a night when you are looking for something to do yourself.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Leaf

I watched you play
    all summer long.
I dangled up above.
    When the breeze blew,
             I quietly called your name.
But I, I was too high to play with you.
And so I watched, tethered above, dangling in the tree.

My colors changed as the cool winds blew.
And finally,
     I fluttered down.
I sit waiting now,  
           waiting for you to play.
Please! Oh, please! Won't you come out and play?

My time here is short.
My colors are gone.
Soon I'll be swept away
    to deteriorate and decay.
Please! Oh, please! Come out to play!

Jump and pile.
Pile and jump.
Let me feel free for just one more day
                                       before I'm taken away.

Confession of Infidelity

I must come clean.  I have been unfaithful to my blog.  Of course most bloggers  are unfaithful to their blog.  They and I enjoy writing so they post in many different places.  If you would like to see some of my other work, you can check me out on Associated Content.  A particular article that I thought you might enjoy is one I published yesterday called Favorite Children's Books to Read Out Loud.  I hope that you will take a minute and check it out. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it enough to forgive my infidelity.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recipe for Salisbury Steak

What do you do when you don't have the right ingredients for a recipe? You improvise.  Sometimes your efforts aren't so good, and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised.  Here is the surprise that I got the other day.  It was yummy.  It is great with mashed potatoes and some fresh green beans.

Salisbury Steak

1 onion diced
8 oz mushrooms sliced
1 can condensed mushroom soup
2 lbs ground beef
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
1 T flour
1/4 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 dash Gravy Master

Saute mushrooms and onions until softened.    While sauteing, combine 1/3 cup soup with beef, crumbs, eggs.  Shape into six to eight oval patties.  Remove mushrooms and onions when done and put aside.  In same pan, brown beef patties.  While browning, mix remaining ingredients.  Make sure gravy is smooth.  After patties are browned on both sides, add gravy mix to pan.  Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until cooked as desired.  Stir occasionally during cooking process.

Sometimes not having what you need causes you to be a little more ingenious.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Be Sure to Empty Your Pockets

Oopsie. I left a pen in the dirty clothes. Wait, let me clarify. The pen wasn’t mine and it wasn’t in my clothes. I just failed to extract it before I put my husband’s clothes in the wash. I think it actually faired the washer fairly well. The drier on the other hand is not so attractively white anymore and we won’t even discuss what the clothes look like.

Unfortunately this is not my first time washing something I shouldn’t, but somehow I am not encouraged to be any more careful. You would think that I would diligently check the pockets, but it is my firm belief that the person putting the clothes in the basket should do that. Doing laundry is mundane enough without having to add another step; and so I’m sure there will be more washed pens, rocks, receipts and wallets in my future. I can only hope that it will also mean a few spare dollars and quarters so I can repair the damage I’m doing.

If you’re wondering why the people putting the laundry don’t check their pockets, don’t waste your time. I think they believe in the laundry fairy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When Do You Put Up Your Christmas Lights

Is it November or December?  I am shocked at how many people have Christmas lights out already.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Christmas and Christmas lights, but November 14th.  What is it about our culture that we are always looking forward to something bigger and better as opposed to enjoying where we are currently?  Are they going to celebrate Thanksgiving? or just zoom right by to Christmas?  I'd like to think that extending the holiday allows them to enjoy it more, but I have the feeling that it probably just brings more stress (and I'm sure an even larger electric bill).

When do you put up your Christmas lights?

No more toilet paper tubes

Have you heard?  Kimberly-Clark has announced that they will be removing toilet paper tubes from their toilet paper.  Technically, apparently they are called cores, but you know what I am talking about: the cardboard center of the toilet paper roll.

Apparently, toilet paper tubes, according to Kimberly-Clark's October 28th press release, toilet paper cores account for 160 million pounds of waste.  Of course my question is not why we are taking it out, but why didn't someone think of this earlier? And does this mean we are going to have less expensive toilet paper since this part is being removed?  And of course most importantly, how are we going to do all those Kindergarten crafts?

My next question is, when will someone be innovative enough to do the same thing with paper towel rolls?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to study spelling with the kids

I found an online free spelling program that you all may enjoy.  Spelling City allows you to enter your own spelling words or to use preset lists that they have and then you have three choices: learn, play, test. The games are mostly for younger / middle age children, but frankly could be a fun way to practice spelling words at any age.  If your child, like my son, hates spelling practice, this may be the answer:

Makes practicing for spelling tests fun

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sarah Palin the next Ronald Reagan?

So after my post about Sarah Palin's TLC show yesterday, I sat down with my son to watch a movie.   My father had given me a history movie to watch with the kids.  I thought for some reason that it was about WWII, but it turned out to be about Ronald Reagan.  The topic still fit my need for a little Social Studies so we watched anyway. 

The film was actually Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich.  I cannot even tell you what a great retrospective it was on his life, his character, and all he accomplished.  There were a few points I actually found myself crying.  But as I was watching it, I found myself thinking of my post about Palin.  Her renegade and rough and tumble attitude seemed mightily reflected in Reagan.  I even learned that between Reagan's first run for presidency (He lost the primary to Barry Goldwater) and his second, Reagan hosted a radio show, which the commentators noted may have led to his win in the second election because the electorate was so familiar with Reagan and his ideals.  See I wasn't wrong in my comment yesterday "genius or insane",  maybe I should have just left it at genius.

Certainly there are a fair share of differences too, but Reagan and Palin come from a similar ideology and both have a bit of a take it or leave it attitude.  Wouldn't it be great to have another great president?  One that we could really be proud of and admire?

One of the most interesting comments about Reagan was that many people thought of him being from the far right, but that he actually governed from center right.  And he was not afraid to cross the isle to get things accomplished, but knew when to stand his ground.  I think in Sarah's background we can surely see that this is her way.

Could Sarah be our Reagan again?  I figure it won't be too long before the race begins again and we'll see.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sarah Palin - Future President or TV Celebrity

I have to admit that when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate I did not know much about her but I quickly became an admirer.  I liked the renegade attitude.  I appreciated her willingness to take on the status quo.  And frankly, I was very exited about setting up a possible female presidency, especially with someone who seemed so down to earth.  I was very saddened to see how the Republican handlers handled Sarah and her family, and I felt very angry at the way the media treated them.  I really hoped the McCain / Palin ticket was going to pull it out but to no avail.  But I continued to follow Palin hoping that we would see her reemerge for the next Presidential election.  Then she resigned as governor of Alaska.  I was dumbfounded and figured that she had basically committed political suicide.  It was difficult enough that she was only a one term governor and people were already questioning her leadership ability, but to quit.  I pretty much wrote her off the political scene at that time.  I was interested in her involvement in the Tea Party but saw her more as a celebrity spokesman than a "candidate".

But then I read, ok, actually heard, Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, which as I had hoped, explained why she stepped down as governor.  She explained further how she had become paralyzed as  a government official.  How law suits were pouring into the state and attacks on her government were jamming the cogs.  This certainly did not excuse her in my eyes but helped with the understanding. My hope for her and 2012 wast starting to reignite.

Then yesterday I sat down to see if OnDemand had my 19 kids and Counting episode.  As I plugged through "Life and Home", then to "TLC", I saw it - Sarah Palin's Alaska. 

WHAT?  The Palin Family was becoming TLC's newest reality TV family.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  It is an eight week series in which the Palin family is supposed to introduce us to Alaska.  Now I can't figure out if this is genius or insanity.  It is supposed to get us to know the family better and show us that Sarah is not a diva, but I think this may just be too much knowing.  if she does run after this and wins, what does this say about the US electorate?  Is the presidency becoming a popularity contest?  A beauty pageant?  Do we choose our president based on issues or a great smile?

Of course, having said all that I do have to tell you that I will be tuning into TLC for Sarah Palin's Alaska and there is still a part of me that looks forward to seeing:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Making Homemade Pizza

It is the day before grocery shopping and the cupboards are bare. Ok, not that bare, but some combinations would make interesting meals. So I have decided to make some homemade pizza. For years that meant that I would revert to Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette version, but DH has found that he prefers King Arthur Flour's version just a bit more. (Frankly, I still like Amy's more due to the time constraints, but today I had the extra time.) Hopefully, it will be even tastier when I add the tomato sauce that I made the other day.

Lately, it seems I am cooking something up in the kitchen everyday. We made Aunt Florence's Irish soda bread to bring to book club on Monday and Charlotte's molasses cookies for church on Sunday.  In fact, I was thinking that it is time to start making up recipe books for the kids.  DD will be 16 and DS will be 14.  Part of me would like to think that they won't move out for years, but the other part knows that it will be in the blink of an eye.  I think that one of the gifts that I would like to send them off with is a compilation of our favorite recipes.  Certainly, this will not be a one day project so perhaps I should start now.

Ironically, DD was touting her cooking skills just the other day to a friend who wasn't even sure how to boil water for pasta.  I thought "woo-hoo," as she was walking her friend through the steps of making dinner,"at least DD won't starve to death when she is on her own."  I thought of some of my first meals that even the dog wouldn't touch.

I know for sure that I will put the homemade pizza dough recipe in their cookbooks. What family recipes do you wan to pass down to your children?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jim Henson's Prodigy

Sometimes I worry so much about my son.  Reading and writing are still such a challenge for him.  He has improved exponentially, but it is still an up hill battle.   But then he does something like this:

Just some Sculpey and an imagination.  He started with a need to create a hamburger and all its fixin's and then he got into these little characters.

Looking at them all I could think of was the Muppets.  What do you do with a creative mind like this?  How do you grow it from play to art / stage?  I know the first step is to let it flourish and grow without being stomped on which we have allowed, but now how do we give it the light and nourishment to offer him stability and earnings in the future?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Discussing Death with Children

I'm not 100% sure how I ended up with the responsibility of discussing death with our Sunday School students, but today that was my charge.  As this is the first Sunday following All Saints Day, the topic was discussing family and friends that had passed.  Fortunately, our new curriculum, the Whole People of God, had a terrific plan to cover the issue. 

Since many of our children are very young, I was very nervous about how they were going to react to the subject.  Unfortunately, our poor little kids have lost far too much in their lives and each of them had lost someone close to them.  One family had even lost a sister.  This sad truth didn't bring a depressing bend to the conversation, but instead uplifted us all. These little ones had a better understand / acceptance of death than most of us adults. Part of the object lesson that the curricula suggested included the use of a rock and a feather.  The rock represented sadness.  The feather represents a light heart knowing that your loved one was with God.  The kids understood the sadness, tears, and heaviness; but I was concerned that they would not understand the happiness that can also be associated with death.  I cautiously asked why we might feel happy for someone that died.  I waited for some Smart Alec to say that they were happy because they didn't like the person anyway, but none said that.  The kids understood right away.  They knew that we could be happy because our loved one was now with God.

Even more special is that they knew how to keep a loved one alive.  They understood that we could share our loved ones with others through stories, that we can remember them through activities that we once shared together, and that we can keep our loved one alive through memories. 

While I went into this class nervous about broaching such a difficult subject, I left class blessed to have seen God shine through little angels.  Clearly, they were more in touch with the flow of life than most adults.

"The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  23 Psalm: 1-4 (KJV)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Some people say that homeschoolers can be a bit odd and in most cases I would argue that this is a stereotype, but today I will have to admit that we are a bit wierd.  My son, who is two weeks shy of 14, has been playing a faux didgeridoo.  He found that blowing in the wrapping paper core makes and interesting noise and that depending on the length and diameter of the core, he can get different sounds.  Most kids would be fascinated by this for about 10 minutes.  We are now pushing days!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Abundance of Apples

Ok, what do you do with a bushell and a half of apples when you bought them for Halloween and have most of them left over?

  An apple pie is obvious, and I did make one for the family.  However, that only accounted for 5 cups out of a lot, lot more.

So, I just kept going.  I didn't make whole pies, but just the insides.  I read up on freezing pies and people were very positive about multiple ways to do it.  I opted for space reasons to just  do the insides of the pies.  They are mixed according to the recipe and then frozen. 

When I am ready to make the pies, I will take them out, thaw them, put them in the pie shell, and cook normally.  Given all the extra apples we have, our family should be having pie about twice a month through spring.  Would you like to come for dessert?

Note:  If you are wondering why I bought so many, I must confess that I have a condition that requires me to over cook for company, over plan our trips, and over purchase for any activity that I am not 100% sure of the number of people attending.  And frankly I think this is a fairly common female affliction.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time is Relative - Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Einstein theorized that time is not a constant like we think of it.  There are ways to "adjust" the speed of time.  Most people believe that this theory is important to physicists, astronauts, etc., but that it doesn't really apply to themselves.  When are we going to loop around the sun or surpass the speed of light?  But I think this theory has a lot more relevance than we give it credit for.  For average people, we don't have to worry about "actual" changes in time, but perceived changes in time.  For example,  why when we are in times of extreme stress does time slow down and seconds seem eternal?  Why when we are doing something we enjoy does time speed by? Why is realizing that our perception of time is important?  Because we have one life.  Do we want our life to speed by or would you like to savor it?

How does time speed away? I find that we schedule it away.  Today for example, I am working on Advent and the Christmas Pageant.  How can I enjoy November if I'm already thinking of December?  I have harnessed this over scheduled beast a bit in my life, but somehow he still gets away from me once in a while.  But harnessing him, was a challenge, and it continues to be a challenge to keep him under control.  I find minimizing my schedule to be helpful.  Also, truly being in the moment to be the other secret.  If I am cooking, then I should be fully cooking and not thinking of the ten other things on my mind.  This is certainly a challenge especially for a mother, homeschooler, and community activist, but it is possible.

Today, challenge yourself to slow down.  I don't mean to take smaller steps, but let time slow. 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  NIV Matthew 6:34

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't Forget to Vote

Did you hear me!  Stop watching!!!

Go Vote!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Giving Thanks Challenge

How funny it is when things happen near each other.  I believe synchronicity would be the term.  Well, just after I posted earlier today, DD introduced me to the Giving Thanks Challenge. I think giving thanks is another great way to lift your spirits; so I have decided to join this challenge and I hope you will consider joining too.  My list will be located in my right sidebar.  Each day, you will see a little more of my thankfulness.  I look forward to seeing all that you are grateful for.  We are all well blessed.  Sometimes, we just need to remember to look around to find the blessings.  My first blessing is my family.

Doing Good = Feeling Good

Do you have those friends that seem like depression is their friend?  They just don't seem happy unless they are complaining?  I swear Facebook has made this even worse.  Some people have turned complaining into an art form.  I think that they are bolstered by the people that post supportive comments, but the positive comments don't actually seem to encourage the people to change:  it just encourages them to complain even more. 

My husband is fascinated by one of our friends who begs for Friday every Monday.  Not once in a while, but every single week.  We've decided that if life is really that bad then maybe it is time to move on and change your life so that Monday is a good day.  Hating 1/7th of your life is not the way to live.

Then there is a certain family member that tells us how awful life is: how tired, uncomfortable, and out of shape he is.  At least once a day, among the many, many posts we are reminded how bad his life is.  We started by trying to be supportive, but clearly he doesn't want or just can't accept help.

So, I'm not sure if my post the other day was in response to this negativity, but my post was "Doing good = Feeling Good". This is a sentiment that I not only espouse but live.  This weekend for example, DD and I worked a blood drive on Friday.  Saturday, we visited our former foster child. Sunday, we wrapped Operation Christmas Child boxes in the morning and then returned to church to hand out Halloween Fair Trade Candy.  All and all it was an amazing weekend.

I think that doing good and helping others is better than any anti-depressant out there.  The power of one making a difference is almost intoxicating.  And I'm always reminded that one + one = even more good work getting done. The only thing better than doing good work yourself is doing good work with others.

I hope that you will find a way to help others and then you can post about it so that we can all be uplifted to do more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Anti-Bullying Campaign

Yesterday, I sat through a seminar on bullying.  Most of the information was common sense stuff, but the general consensus was that the difference between bullying today and years ago is that today there is no end to it.  If you are bullied at school, you are not safe once you get home.  The bullying continues through IM's, texts, and FaceBook posts.  Kids don't feel that they can block friends or just not respond to such attacks and therefore the bullying continues relentlessly.

One of the best things that I got out of the seminar was this terrific book:

The book was adorable and not only encouraged kids to stand up for one another, but ended by letting the bully back down and become one of them too. 

Of course as I was listening to the whole bully spiel, I had this anonymous quote running through my head:

"Hillary Clinton once said that it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, I've seen the village and I don't want them raising my child."

Homeschooling certainly doesn't mean that our children won't be bullied. In fact, in some ways it may increase the odds of them being targets.  However, being homeschooled can reduce the relentlessness of it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Decorating Dilema

I keep looking in my kitchen nook thinking that I should put a small table there:

and then I swing my head 180 degrees and look at the kitchen counter.


Oh, no! The family does not need another place to dump things. I really must ask, "Why does a jacket belong on the kitchen counter?" Mind you I have a mud room with hooks for coats, there is another one not 10 feet farther, another set of hooks at the top of the cellar, and goodness forbid, they walk the 25 feet to the actual closet. What is it about empty flat spaces in a house that calls for people to fill it?  I think I'll leave the other corner to the animals.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Picking Out Christmas Cards Already

I know it is a little early, but not too early.  There is now less that two months to the big day - - - dare I say it - - - -Christmas.  I happen to be writing an article about Christmas cards and I came by a website that I thought you all might find interesting:

This website lists the many charities that have holiday cards for sale.  In addition, the site advises you if they use recycled stock, how much the charity receives from the sale, and if you can claim any portion deductible.  Cards That Give was founded on a simple principle:  imagine all the good we could do if just a portion of our $2 million dollar Christmas card frenzy was aimed to non-profits.

So if you are not planning to make your own cards this year, consider surfing over to their site and finding a card that will give twice as much holiday cheer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Woman's Weekend Alone

Ok,  all you people looking for a description of a wild, sexy weekend of partying based on this title, I suggest that you surf on,  you will find no such article here.  All of you mom's who think that you will never have one minute to yourself ever again, read on.  This weekend was a first in our house.  DH took both of the kids camping and I was left home alone with the the animals (thus the Movies that Make You Cry entry). I had an entire weekend to myself.  Granted Sunday, I walked with 20,000 other people in the Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Walk, but the rest of the weekend was mine.  You are probably thinking that this sounds heavenly.  What you wouldn't do just to be able to go to the bathroom without someone knocking on the door.  Let me tell you, it was ........................................................HORRIBLE! 

Yes, there were enjoyable points.  I watched a couple of chick flicks.  I got a lot of writing done.  I didn't have to fight for the remote or my blankets.  I didn't have to cook and there were practically no dishes.  But there was no laughter, no snuggling, no reason to make dinner, and no kisses goodnight.  I found myself aching for them to come home.  I missed my daughter prattling on and my son's bear hugs.  I wandered around the house wondering what I am ever going to do when they grow a little older and move out.  I felt serious empathy for my father who lives alone now and could not imagine enduring this boredom day in and day out for weeks, months, years.

So, I advise all you mothers who think you will never have another solitary uninterupted thought to appreciate it.  It will not be long until your little ones are out of the house, until their social calendars are busier than yours, until not only do you have a moment to breathe but seriously unending silence.  On those days, you'll miss the knocks, the laughter, and even the dishes.

I'm so glad that today they are home!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Movies that make you cry

It seems impossible when your kids are little that you will ever sit home without a single child calling your name, but it indeed will happen one day.  For me, that day is today.  The house is quiet and I'm curled up with just the animals, my computer, and a stack of movies.

I just finished Love Comes Softly and an entire box of tissues.  What a beautiful, simple love story.  Filmed by Michael Landon, Jr., I could almost imagine his father, Michael Landon, sitting in the wagon instead of Dale Midkiff.

I so enjoy movies like this: no blood and guts, no bare butts or breasts, no foul language.  I'm not a prude, but I'm sick of movies these days that I have to cover my 15 year old daughter's eyes or movies that bring even more evil into a world that has enough horrors of its own.  I appreciate movies that show love, compassion, and positive morals.  Even more, as a Christian, I appreciate the characters quietly espousing Christain values and tenants.  I look forward to even more movies like this one.  I think there is actually a large number of people looking for entertainment just like this.

Friday, October 22, 2010

October is Fire Protection Month

If you didn't know, October is also Fire Protection month.  There are just a few things that you can do around your house that can save your or your family member's life:

  • Test your fire alarms
  • Change batteries if needed
  • Review your escape plan with your family
  • Have a fire alarm drill
  • Make sure that extinguishers are still where they are supposed to be and that they are charged

Ironically, my smoke alarms were apparently aware of this impending "celebration" and decided to call out in joy all on their own.  The tricky part is that our fire alarms are interconnected so sometimes it becomes a challenge to know exactly which alarm is setting off the others.  Plus, to add to the excitement the sound terrifies our Bernese Mountain Dog who begins running around the house whining.  And as usual when they act up, they either decide to do like today as we are trying to run out the door or at 2 am.

I can only hope that I found the culprit and changed the batteries in the right alarm.  I also took the preventive measure which many people overlook and vacuumed out the alarm too. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeschooling Home Economics

As the kids are getting older homeschooling is morphing. While we still have our core curriculum, their interests and desires mold our learning schedule to a much greater degree. This week we were very lucky that DD's desires including cooking. I almost think that I have taught her too well and so when she hears the wants and desires of someone, she tries to fulfill them. This week that meant cupcakes and a pumpkin pie and next month, Irish soda bread. One friend of hers from the library complained that her birthday had been kind of pushed aside and forgotten; thus, the cupcakes. Then at our libraries auction, the director lost the raffle for the pumpkin pie that was offered, so DD had to offer to make her one (homemade crust and everything). Of course if you make a pie for someone else, there is an unwritten rule that you must make one for the family. The kids instituted this rule when I made pies for the church dinners. This was the first time I got to be the recipient of the rule.

Watching her cook and successfully complete these yummy items really made me feel confident about her future. I know it sounds silly in this day and age, but being able to cook and have some wifely skills is a good thing (even if she chooses never to be a wife, she will appreciate these skills herself). There are a lot of useless things I learned in school: facts, figures, and formulas that I will never ever use again in my life, but homemaking skills I use everyday and am thankful to those that taught me. Sometimes we can get so politically correct in this country we loose some important information along the way.

I have heard from the director who says I should give her an "A" for the pie. And please don't tell DD about the facts and figures part. She tries to get out of math work as it is.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Breast Cancer Action Month

This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone is turning everything pink and posting cancer support statements on their Facebook pages, but who is taking real action.

Instead of taking the 10 minutes to change your blog background, do a self breast exam.  Directions are here, but how you do it isn't as important as doing it regularly and notifying your doctor of any changes.

Instead of wearing a cute pink lapel pin, how about tying up your sneakers and participating in one of the many Breast Cancer Walks planned.  I myself am planning to participate in one this weekend with my church.  If you can't walk yourself but would like to sponsor my walk, you can visit here.

Instead of putting it off again, set a date to get your mammogram done.

Instead of positing a frivolous Breast Cancer post on Facebook, learn a new fact to help reduce your odds of getting breast cancer and share that with your friends.

How about just get off the computer entirely and get some exercise  ; The fact I learned today is that with as little as four hours of exercise a week, you can reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.

Let's change this month from just awareness to action.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Something to Consider as You Buy Your Halloween Candy

Sometimes a little information can be dangerous.  Why? Because once you know about something, you can't forget it and you can't go on as if you didn't know it.  Thus, the saying "ignorance is bliss".  If you want to remain in bliss and buy inexpensive Halloween candy, don't watch this.  If you want to be educated and understand the true cost of your candy, click play.

What did you think? Did this surprise you? What are you going to do now?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeschooling through high school

You would think by 10th grade all the homeschooling decisions had been made.  Obviously, we are homeschooling and we did decide to continue throughout high school, so what else is there to do. . .Ah, college testing.  This very morning DD is taking her PSAT's.

I don't know about you but choosing homeschooling over public schooling for day to day education became a clear cut decision, but I have always been nervous about how this choice would affect the ability of my children to get into college.  Certainly colleges are much more open to homeschoolers than previously, but as a parent we don't want to do anything that will inhibit our children from reaching their dreams.  It seems as we reach the high school age, I am faced with these decisions quite frequently:

Does she take the standardized testing?
Do we enroll in college early?
Should she get her GED?
How carefully do I keep her transcript?
Do we adhere to the traditional standards of four years of English, two years of a foreign language, etc?

Eeeek!  Each of these answers may make or break choices that she wants to make in the future.  I have scoured many homeschooling books, talked to homeschoolers, read blogs, and even talked to college admissions officers, but it seems everyone has a slightly different opinion of how you "have to do it".  So we are left back where we were just trying to make the best decisions that we can.  And so as I said, today she is taking her PSAT's.

I must tell you that as we were studying for this test, I remembered all the reasons that I object to traditional schooling.  This test isn't testing your knowledge; it is testing your test taking ability.  There are 500 page books to teach you all the hints and tricks they use on these tests.  And we won't even get into the idea of timing a test.  But we decided to go this route, because one, it gives her an opportunity for the National Merit Scholarship and two, I think for some schools the SAT's are still very important, especially for a homeschooler who cannot show traditional grades. Now we may get farther along this path and start taking college classes at the community college which will allow her to transfer to a state school and therefore invalidate the whole SAT process, but then I figure, what is the harm. 

Homeschooling through high school should probably be renamed to homeschooling into college.  On the positive side, DD's own accomplishments during high school will hopefully speak louder than any official transcript.  The trick will be to find an admissions officer who is willing to listen (and a pocketbook to pay the bill ; ) ).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How do our children grow from little girls to young women?

How do you know when you children are growing up?  You know when you go to a wedding and they are no longer dancing with Dad, uncles, and grandfathers.  You know when you can see boys checking her out and one obviously crushed when she danced with another.  When did this happen?  When did she go from a cute little girl dancing on her daddy's feet to a young woman.  I swear I only blinked and she is all grown up.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weight Loss Secret

We have a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog, Max.  He is a runt for a Berner, but is beautifully colored  and according to the vet weighs just the right amount.  According to her, you should be able to feel the animals ribs but not see them.  The interesting thing is that Max has a ton of extra skin.  You can pull up gobs of it.  He seems to need a tummy tuck very badly.  Of course with all of his hair, you would never notice.  So the question is how can a dog that eats constantly and sleeps in any of his spare time have such a svelt figure.

Yesterday, I realized the answer: his tail is in constant motion. We actually sometimes call him Flip because that is all his tail does: flip, flip, flip.  So I'm thinking that this is the dog equivalent to the person who can stop shaking his leg or tapping his hands.  Maybe if I start to become figitty, I too can become fit and sexy.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review - A Million Little Pieces

Ok, in this book I got as close as I want to get to understanding the mind set of a drug addict.  Unfortunately in my life I have been around an alcoholic and a drug addict. Far too many times, I wondered what was going on in their mind as they created chaos around them.  I could see the effect of their behaviors, but I could never understand their perspective. This book, A Million Little Pieces, gave me some insights into what may have been going on in their mind.  Written by James Frey, A Million Little Pieces, is his own experience in survival.  The book encompasses his life during drug rehab at age 23.  It retells his break from addiction and intertwines a forbidden love affair.  Can you recover while you break all the rules?

The jagged writing and repeated, contorted phrases help to bring you into his shattered world. The knotted scribbles between book sections mirror the confused life his addiction has created. The story will repulse you, sicken you, and scare you. However, the fact that the author is writing this book after recovering is an inspiration to anyone dealing with addiction.  I'm not sure that an addict could have come from a deeper, darker place and have survived.

If you do read this book, be sure to read the very end where James reports on updates of the other characters.  It tells you more about the reality of recovery than one may wish to know. In my cases, one ultimately died after developing a terminal illness that has heavy drinking as a contributory factor, and the other seems to be in a balanced place today, but goes through cycle after cycle of continued abuse.  We can only hope and pray that he will continue to fight the monster like James Frey has.

 Note: In my experience, unlike James', AA is a very important part of recovery and even if the addict doesn't want to participate, loved ones can and should. Al-Anon and Alateen can help you set boundaries and  save you from a parallel destruction.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Did you send in your homeschool request?

Ahhh, it is that time of year again.  In Massachusetts, we are required to send in our yearly plan for authorization to homeschool our children.  I can't even tell you how much this concept irks me.  I figure when the public schools drop out rate is 0 and each child is working at grade level then they can come critic how I school my children.  But unfortunately, the law is the law and while I believe that there are times that one might want to ignore laws that are immoral or unethical, I'm thinking that this is not one of those times (actually most of my thought on ignoring laws is theoretical since I'm a pretty law abiding citizen).

I find writing the plan very difficult as we are very eclectic in our philosophy and while we use the Alpha Omega series as our base, we use a ton of other resources and change our plans based on current events, interests, or just on a whim.  This makes mapping out our course rather difficult. As I am a truth teller by nature, I am so worried that what I write is carved in stone and feel guilty that perhaps I will not do exactly what I set out.  I try to keep everything very brief, but still give them enough to review.

When I finally finalized it and stuck it in the mail, all I could think is that I miss the homeschooling freedoms in Connecticut where I just withdrew the children from school and took the responsibility on myself with no oversight from the system that had caused me to pull them out in the first place.  I also wonder exactly what the schools up here do with these forms when they arrive in the Superintendent's office.  Do they just join multiple others in a pile to be filed and matched with our end of the year report? Do they even review them? What would make our request a concern?  What have I put that makes it go through?

I will give you one hint, if you are in the same boat with us and have to do a request and an end of the year report:

Start your end of the year report immediately.  Open up a Word document. Save the document with the name "End of Year Report - 2010/11 (or whatever year it is)." Label each page with your child's name.  Write down what you are doing and what you've done.  Do this frequently throughout the year. Where have you gone on trips? What service have they given the community? What books have they read? What workbooks have they finished?  Include anything that you think is interesting.  If you do this multiple times throughout the year, the final report with practically write itself.  I even find this part personally gratifying because I get to see a big picture view of what we have accomplished.

If anyone else has suggestions on these reports, I am all ears.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


clicked away in even moments
on the mantle clock

speeding through the calendar
April, June, December 25th

slowed to sluggish seconds
savored on the pond

The hour glass
half full . . .half gone

an uneven measure
of a day, of a moment, of a life

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tricking the kids into learning

Ok, I know, it's not nice to trick people; but I hope in this case perhaps you will excuse me and that the ends justify the means.  Our newest addition comes to our family with many issues: one of which I call lack of cultural knowledge.  By cultural knowledge, I don't mean and understanding of different cultures, but just a general understanding of knowledge that would be expected of another person of the same age. So I have set about a plan to slowly break some of this down.  Unfortunately, DS2 is a typical child who thinks all learning is dumb and boring (Boy, did he get thrown into the wrong family - we are not likely to perpetuate this belief long). So despite not quite knowing what is going on or understanding quite what we are talking about half the time, he still insists on watching mindless cartoons and trying to avoid anything that seems to have any possibility of learning involved.  While somewhat jealous that the other two kids don't go to school, he is happy not to have "lessons" of his own or so he thinks. . .

During his school vacation this week, I started by playing Borderline card game with him.

  I just played it up as a new game that I wanted to try out.  We could try a few hands before we went on to Skip-bo.  Did you know by the way that Columbia is that capital of South Carolina AND also the name of another country?  Did you also know that West Virginia was an actual state and not just a directional portion of Virginia itself?  Do you know how small Rhode Island really is?

Then another day, I connivingly took out the Odyssey III talking globe

and played a round. Quickly, it wasn't my turn any more and he took right over.  You can only imagine the shocking information that this globe possessed: Equatorial New Guinea was near the Equator, Argentina was in South America, and Ireland was near England.

Finally, I tucked in some Brain Quest cards in the backseat of the car.

He is quizzing me non-stop.

Hmmmm! Do you think I should tell him that he's learning?

PS If you have any more games to recommend, I'd love to hear about them.  I figure this kind of learning is equivalent to when my mother used to put my medicine in jam:  it was too sweat to be something good for you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cons of Community Service

How you are raised can change your perception on life. I'm sure this statement doesn't surprise you, but I was surprised to see how pervasive it was the other day when the boys were discussing working with their Boy Scout troop to clean up garbage along the road. My biological son, who has been raised with a strong sense of community involvement, was excited to work on this project. He finds most things with the Boy Scouts fun and is fairly environmentally aware. My foster son, who has been bounced from house to house primarily in the city, thought the idea of getting together to pick up garbage to be the stupidest idea he had ever heard. He immediately associated it with being in trouble. You are only forced to clean up an area when a court mandates it. Fortunately, he relented, went, and had a grand time; but, his comments stuck. If he relates helping with court and consequences, who else does.

My family and I have always enjoyed helping others. We find that we receive far more than we give and I must admit, that we feel powerful when we do help. It is amazing how much one person can accomplish. So to think of community service as a negative was shocking to me, but certainly an interesting commentary on our society. I would be interested to see if others from his background feel the same. Certainly, the courts purpose is assigning community service is to repay what the guilty party took from society and also for them to see that their actions can have a positive impact. Perhaps though, what we are teaching is that community service is boring, troublesome, and something that it is to be left to people who misbehave. Hmmm! I don't think this is setting up a very positive association and may set the stage for complacency and future community inaction. I'm not sure what we should use as punishment for those who break the law and are being charged with community service, but maybe we better take a minute to discuss the message that we are sending when we do so.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review - The Lost Symbol

I must ask what everyone thinks is the proper distance between book club meetings. I have this strange problem that no matter when they seem to be placed apart that I either read it too early or start cramming it in at the end. This month though I pulled a doosey: I read the first part of the book club book, but then had the opportunity to read The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.

I could not refuse the opportunity. I had meant to bring my book club book when we traveled down to my father's but forgot it (this may have been a subconscious avoidance system at work); so I had to borrow a book and guess what he got for Christmas.

I have got to tell you how much I love Dan Brown's books. They are not great literature, but boy are they fun to read. I love solving the mystery along with Robert Langdon (who by the way after watching Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code has turned into Tom Hanks in my mind). I love getting lost between fiction and truth and digging through encyclopedias to try to find the line between the two. I love to read a book and not want to put it down. This time I particularly loved his nod to one of his earlier books, Digital Fortress.

I strongly suggest you pick up this book. It may be his best yet. You just may not want to put off reading your book club book. I guess though that now I'll have to pick mine back up . . .unless, someone has a better book selection?

Without Wax,