Friday, December 26, 2008

God Rest Ye Merry

Beautiful post that our family needed today... Thanks, Sheila. God Rest Ye Merry.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Bittersweet Christmas

Honestly, I'd rather be writing about whether we should or should not do Santa. This morning (okay, I admit... it was really this afternoon) when I woke up, I had a lot in my head, and thought it might be a good time to blog. But a lot of what is there is not stuff I want to write about, because giving voice to something makes it more real than I want it to be. Like if I don't say it, it isn't happening (although I know that isn't true, it's happening). I had the same feeling this time last year, when we lost our dear Great Aunt, Pig. I wasn't able to write about it until January. That post is here: The Last Bath

And now we're back to a similar place, but this time with my Pap-Paw, one of my life-long best friends. He had a terrible fall on Friday night, and when I arrived to see him in the ER my first thought was what fragile packaging we are wrapped in. I thought of a car in a horrible accident that is so badly damaged that we don't fix it, we trade it in for a car in better condition that can take us another 100,000 miles. And I wanted to tell God that this body He gave Pap-Paw is all worn out and very banged up now, so we'd like to just order a new one, please. And thank you. But before I could get that silliness into a prayer, I knew we can't trade our bodies in for new ones. Well, we can. And Pap-Paw will. And I'm afraid it will be sooner than I'll ever be ready for.

The body repair guy, well, the surgeon, did the best he could. And today Pap-Paw is recovering, whatever that means when you're 98. Yesterday when he began reaching out into the air, my heart sank. I've seen that before, and it was in Mam-Maw's final days and again in Pig's final days... I've asked each of them what they are seeing, but they can't say. I guess I'll have to wait and find out for myself.

I know he won't read this. But I have to say it while I can. I love you, Pap-Paw.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Offerings at Christmas

This is a very quick post, and I apologize to all my readers (all 3 of you?) that I haven't written in so long. We just kinda go through busy spells where I can live or I can write, but I can't do both - do you? And I can't bring myself to post just for the sake of posting - I feel like I have to have something to say, something to offer...

Here are my offerings for Christmas - if you live in my area (you know who you are) and would like to be involved in a ministry to assist families in need on a personal level, please please let me know. Check out Scotty's Gifts and get in touch with me via email or leave a comment here & let me know how to contact you.

My other offering is a short post by my friend Laura at The World is Our Classroom. You'll never look at the Red Kettles the same way again...

Merry Christmas.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Old Things New

A few years ago, we had one of Sr. Smith's (aka Batman's) co-workers & his family over for dinner. Pablo (the friend) gave me a compliment that I just loved the wording of, "You have lots of cool old stuff in your house!" And I appreciated it because I do truly love old stuff - especially if it once belonged to someone I love, or if it connects us to a family member that we never knew but know we would have loved had we had the chance. Like my engagement ring, for instance. It belonged to Sr. Smith's maternal grandmother. I never knew her, but wearing her ring makes me feel like I belong in her family. And this wash stand in the picture above was Pig's. She gave it to me in high school, and it was painted green then. Sr. Smith refinished it for me during our engagement (it gave him something to do - haha!), and now it is in the entry of our home topped with a doilie passed down from my great aunt Nora, an assortment of nature items, a couple of vases, and a new guest book that we recently started keeping (thanks for that idea, Javamom!). But old things also remind me not to be too connected to my "stuff". They remind me how quickly life on earth passes, and how this world will eventually pass away...

Now on to some of my old things...

I have to comment on these nature items... the pressed flowers sitting on this plate are 14 years old. Last week I dug out my old leaf/flower press that I made in graduate school the summer I got married. I was taking a Science in the Elementary School class, and our class made presses & then went out on a nature walk to collect items to press. Jirafa is taking Botany this year, so I pulled out the press for him. When we opened it, I couldn't believe my eyes - it was full of flowers! I picked a few for our nature display, and let him have the rest for his Botany book cover. Very cool.

The final picture here is a little basket of wildlife nests we've found along the way. A wasp nest from Brambleside last summer, a dirt dobber nest from our neighbor, and the last 2 sparrow nests from my hanging plants on the back porch. The other day Paco & I did our outdoor "Autumn cleaning" which included retrieving the last nest. The birds had found some great soft lining this year! I carefully removed it from the plant, and Paco (ever the observant) said, "Look! There's something down there" pointing down in the leaves. Well, sure enough, 3 little eggs had been kicked out of the nest and were sitting whole down below where the nest had been. So we have included them in our display as well.

"You turn winter into spring

You take every living thing

And You breathe Your breath of life into it over and over again

You made the sunrise, day after day after day

But there's a morning coming, when old things will all pass away

And everyone will see You make all things new"

- from "All Things New" by Stephen Curtis Chapman

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pizzas & Pijamas - Our Back to School Party!

It's back to school on Labor Day! Whoo-hoo! We decided to have our first day today as Sr. Smith would be able to join us. Typically when Daddy has a day off of work we are not doing school, so this just felt like the right way to get started this year.
To kick off our new year, we had a pizza & pijama party in our school room last night. After we ate, I gave each of the kids their new assignment notebooks and we went through them and our new schedule together. They were so excited to read through it all. "Look, Jirafa, a 15 minute break at 10:15!" Okay, so they weren't nearly as excited about the hours of work that preceded and followed the break, but they had fun thinking about what the first day would be like.
I plan to write about the changes I've made to how we work through our day, and new things we're doing this year. But for now I'm just posting about the party and pictures of our school room (aka "the loft"), which has been re-vamped to be more user-friendly. We hope to use it more for our actual work, whereas in the past we've sort of spread out all over the house. Of course, in the winter we'll be snuggled up by the fire :o)
Okay, here are the pictures from our party...
Braces and black olives...! Jirafa is starting year 5

Extra cheese, no sauce, with garlic shake! Paco is starting Year 3.5!

Each boy has his own bin filled with current books; the rest are on the shelf above his bin. Jirafa takes his bin to the large table, while Paco prefers the small table. Grab & go on Wednesdays!

Here's a view of most of the room - Sr. Smith built all those shelves & the window seat (which has four compartments that open for storage).

He's too good to me :o)

If you look to the bottom right hand corner of this picture, you can see the corner of a chair; Jirafa's table is up against that wall w/two chairs. A map of the world hangs above it. To the left you can see some smaller black shelves, those are just from Wal-Mart until Sr. Smith has time to build more shelves; to the left of those shelves is a map of the USA, followed by Doorposts charts on down the hallway (which is where I'm standing with the camera). Hermosa's picture books are on the shelf that faces the rocker where Sr. Smith is sitting, and behind him on the wall is the dry-erase board.

Well, that's a peek into our little world over here. Blessings to everyone starting school, whether at home or another school of your choice. Have a great year!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Consignment Sale on Cash

I've decided to start blogging about some of my money-saving finds both to share them with others as well as to keep myself going on our adventure of "living like no one else so that later we can live like no one else" (a la Dave Ramsey).

For a long time now, Sr. Smith has the habit of taking out cash every payday, giving it me to sort into my envelope system, and keeping some pad in the checking account "in case I end up short and need to put something on the debit card". Well, no more. I am determined not to need that padding!

This morning my friend & her daughter & my 3 headed to a consignment sale where I thought I was going to find "smashing deals". Well, not quite as smashing as I'd hoped, I still found great deals after some hunting around. I started looking through clothes for Hermosa, then made it over to jeans for the "King of Holes in the Knees" (jirafa) & found him a few tops also. We sat down near the Thomas train bed (the girls thought they were riding a choo-choo) & started going through our piles looking for holes & tears, and I pulled out a pen & an old receipt to write on. I started with the jeans for Jirafa, because that's where I was getting the biggest savings ($7 vs. $20 or more per pair), and wrote down each price. Then I sorted through Hermosa's & picked my favorite things. I kinda had $50 on each of them in my mind depending on what I found (my budget was $100). (btw, Paco hasn't outgrown what he has, so that's why I didn't shop for him - he isn't going around without clothes! He also gets whatever is passed from his brother) Well, when I wrote it all down it came to $99.50. I was so proud to stay in my budget!

Then when I got up to the register I told the guy working it that if I'd added right I had just what I wanted & .50 to spare - "Did you figure in tax?" He said. Oops. I didn't know they were charging tax. I quickly did the math in my head, and pulled out a pair of khaki's for Jirafa that were $8.50 to remove from my pile. "We take credit cards, you don't have to stick to cash," said the man very nicely. "Nope, cash only," I replied. He grinned when my total was $99.05.

But I grinned bigger :o)

Here's what I came home with:

4 pair size 14 jeans (3 Levi, 1 Wrangler)
1 pair size 14 camo pants
1 sweater (Gap)
2 long-sleeved cotton tops (Old Navy & Cherokee)

6 complete fall/winter outfits (pants and tops) for Hermosa. Some of these had an extra top for versatility, and one of the pants is cream colored corduroy which can go with other tops as well.
The brands of these are also good, high quality (Gap, Gymboree, Old Navy, Carter, and some boutique things I didn't recognize). And they are all super cute, modest, and comfie.

The kids will wear these hardly-worn items just as long as they would have worn them had I bought them brand new, and I paid less than half of what I would have paid in the store, even if they were on sale. The girls working the sale were wearing shirts that said, "Retail is for suckers," to which I'd add, "So are credit cards!"

Some may think I didn't get as great a deal as I could have gotten at a garage sale, for instance, which may be true. But I got a deal I'm happy with, and I stayed within budget, which right now is the goal.

Now if I could just get Jirafa to take better care of his jeans...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jirafa is a Pretty Cool Kid

I just have to post this conversation Jirafa and I had whilst working on Paco's Term 1 assignment list. I had asked Jirafa if he had finished the last few chapters of Our Island Story, or if he had stopped at the chapter about how Canada was won. (mind you, he read this book year before last)

Jirafa: Can I look at it? Oh, no, I don't remember reading this. This chapter is about America. Was it not on my schedule?

Me: I don't guess so. (I'm not looking at the book at this point, he is) Maybe since that's where American history picks up, we just switched books for American history. Not much point in doubling up.

Jirafa: Will you put it on my free reading list for this year? I want to read it. It will be interesting because I bet it will have a different perspective. Cause, you know, how This Country of Ours was written by an American, and Our Island Story was written by someone from Britain? I've noticed that sometimes, that people from different countries think differently about the world. They have their way of thinking, and we have ours.

Last year I started this blog soon after the start of the school year. God had given me some much needed encouragement that day, and it was just what I needed as we started our new year. I don't think I realized I needed a little shot in the arm just yet (we start our official school year next Monday), I'm still finishing up my planning. But to hear Jirafa make a statement like this, completely unsolicited, just gives me more gas for my tank.

I can't help but wonder what people are thinking when they ask about how our children will know about the "real world" if we don't put them in public school? I guess part of what really jazzes me about what he said is not just that he realizes that there are lots of possibilities for how to view the world, but also that he actually intimated that he has his own way of looking at the world. So he sees himself as having a perspective, yet he wants to hear what others have to say.

And what's my perspective? I think Jirafa is a pretty cool kid.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can I Be a Student Again?

I mean, with that being my only responsibility. Like, at the doctor's office where it asks for occupation, can I put "student"? I mean, I want to still be my husband's wife and my kids' mom, but can someone else do all my other stuff for one semester - oh, like a sabbatical that professors get! That would be so groooooovy. Because here's what I would do/learn:

1. How to do square foot gardening (I am reeeeally embarrassed about what my garden looks like - no pictures coming out anymore. You have to go to my backyard if you want to see it.)

2. Sign Language - I would take this class at the community college and then practice practice practice with friends at church.

3. Really invest in my Spanish. I started a Bible Study with friends who speak Spanish, but I might also read a couple of the books on my shelf. Like spend an hour or two each day reading or speaking in Spanish.

4. Photography - I would take a class, and learn how to use all the features on my camera (maybe even invest in a really nice one). I'd also learn how to transfer my old vhs tapes to dvd and how to edit them. Then I'd have a nice little collection of home movies that we could watch on our laptops.

5. Piano Lessons. Self explanatory - I am one of the many who took several years as a child only to let them drop and regret it later. And I have such a beautiful piano in my living room!

Okay, so that looks like a pretty good semester of classes, right? hehe... if only.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cultural Comforts Article

I have removed a post I put up last week entitled, "Homeschoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comforts" because I decided that while it is an interesting perspective, it does not represent every homeschooling nor every non-homeschooling situation. And I have thoughts swirling in my head out about what I would like to say in response to this article, but don't have time to compose them right now. In the meantime, if you want to read the article you can find it by googling the title. I may write something about it in the future. I just decided it doesn't belong on my blog unless I have a good response post to go with it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Introducing Mac

About two weeks ago our family answered an advertisement for a guinea pig that needed a new family. Paco Zapato had been wanting a guinea pig for several months, and this one was the perfect fit for him. The guinea pig's name is Mac, short for "Double Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut" - he's all black save one patch of white under his chin. And add to the physical description how super sweet he is, the name fits him to a tee. Sorry about the blur on these photos; I am frustrated with my camera at the moment (if my camera could talk would it be frustrated with me? I am sure it is user error...)

But here you see Mac & Paco getting acquainted in the living room. Paco built him a little shelter with a porch, and he was very happy to just stay there for awhile. The next photo was snapped quickly after I heard Hermosa saying, "Hi! I name Mac! Hi! I name Emily!" She was introducing her baby to Mac.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A New Meme

Now that I've been twice tagged (by Katie & Javamom) I can hide no longer! This is a really neat one.

If you came to my house, you would see:

Lots of my husband's projects - the tile, fireplace, window seat, shelves & cabinets, and the boys' new loft beds being built in the garage. Watercolor paintings by Grandpa Musick, Quilts on the wall (some hanging on an old ladder) by Pig and Grandma Smith, several stained-glass windows by my very talented SIL & BIL, the 1920's piano where once lived a television, other antique and hand-me-down furniture, Hermosa's vintage nursery with walls that I painted. Books, books, and more books, old photographs, lots of scrapbooks/photo albums, a juicer, dehydrator, Bosch, and toaster oven that take up most of my kitchen counter space, our first garden, and windows that I wish I knew what to do with. Depending on whether you were expected, you might also see a pile (or more) of laundry, school things sitting out, toys strewn about, and a fort or other playtime creation or mess.

We'd probably feed you:

Burritos made with homemade tortillas - you'd build your own and have the choice of black beans, potatoes, possibly pastured ground beef or chicken since we've added some meat back into our diet, shredded cheese, avocados, lettuce, red onion, tomato, cilantro, and Sr. Smith's salsa. If we had dessert, it would be no-bake chocolate oat bars.

And we'd offer you this to drink:

Filtered water, a variety of teas, fresh vegetable or fruit juice

We'd undoubtedly ask if you'd read:

The news, Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter, Robinson Crusoe, Dave Ramsey, David Allen (Getting Things Done), Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne

We'd want to play this music for you:

A cd we picked up from Pine Cove called, "The Second Life of Mattresses" - it is an ecclectic mix of worship music played by college students who have worked at Pine Cove. We all love it! We'd spare you our piano playing, although Hermosa might treat you to some groovy harmonica.

We'd want to tell you the latest about:

Our adventures with our cousin Ari staying with us - Scarborough Faire, movies, playtime, stories written and acted out, and other outings. The search for a decent commuter vehicle to replace Old Red (the 1995 F-150 truck that was our first major purchase after marriage), and of course our new church!

We'd probably suggest a game of:

Boggle, Nertz, or Scrabble - we're into games over here! We'd play anything you brought as well.
If you brought your tennis shoes you'd be hit up for basketball in the driveway.

We might show off:

The garden, the sparrow nest that is now empty, some of the boys' work, Hermosa's ability to recite a number of nursery rhymes or Psalm 100, the loft beds

If it was a long enough visit, we might watch:

The kids ride bikes, scooters, peddle-cart, trike out front. We wouldn't watch a movie or tv because we don't have a tv, and the screen on the laptop computer is really only adequate for 2 or 3 people to watch it.

What would a visit to your house be like?

Ginger, Laura, Lindy, and Brittany, I'm tagging you! If you don't have a blog, I tag you, too. Use this meme as your first post!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm Not Good at Wordless Wednesday!

- Robinson Crusoe's Habitation (by Jirafa) -

- Lego Stairs (by Paco) -

- Hermosa's First Pigtails -

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Something to Nourish a Child's Brain

A great quote (from Charlotte Mason, of course) that describes our approach to homeschooling is printed on the back of a t-shirt my children have. "Nourish a child daily with loving, right, and noble ideas... which may bear fruit in his life." Actually, just about all the offspring from my fantastic CM Book Club have this shirt! But I digress... yesterday I had one of those moments with one of my kids that made me "know that I know" that we're doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.

I won't go into all the "offenses" committed, but we can just say that the eldest Smith son had not exactly represented Christ well in word, deed, or attitude. It was along the lines of responsibility, work ethic, and authority. He had taken advantage of a situation and yielded to his flesh, spiraling downward and fast. After restitution had been made, notes of apology written, and consequences meted out, this young man sat alone, obviously deep in thought and not very proud of his behavior. In short, he was disappointed in himself. I felt he had suffered enough and that he could benefit from some encouragement, so I invited him to come sit with me on the couch. It was one of those mother/son moments where you see the spirit vs. flesh struggle weighing heavily on the heart. Where you want to be able to step in and fight the devil yourself on his behalf, but you know that it is better to teach him to handle that battle dressed in the armour of God. As we sat & talked, Jirafa made an observation that astounded me - and it was right on the nose. "It's like I'm like Rip Van Winkle - I do everyone else's work but my own." Wow. All the nagging and prodding (see Volume 3) I could muster could not have brought him to that conclusion. In the reading of a meaty book, months of digestion, and a few reflective moments on a bad day, Jirafa learned something about himself that is going to actually lead to change... er uh... bear fruit... in his life.

I love it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Meme

Katie tagged me for a meme, and since I have a moment to breath right now I'll play along.

This meme asks me to tell three random things about myself.

1. This year my husband and I have been together half of our lives. I know you are wondering how many years that is, so here's the math: 18 growing up + 18 together = 36!

2. I count syllables on my fingers when I'm listening to people talk (like a sermon, lecture, presentation, etc.). I add an extra word or expression if it doesn't end evenly :O)

3. My most recent sense of accomplishment came from potty training my 2 yo daughter.

Now I'm tagging you - Laura, Jubilee, Queen Shenaynay, and anyone else reading this!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Nana & Pap-Paw survey the onions & potatoes...
Good day, cucumber plant!
Mesculum, aka Spring Mix!
Peruvian corn stalk - I really hope these make!
A potato plant - I really want to see the action underground these babies!

It is amazing to me how we can put little seeds in the ground & water them, and then God does his thing and all of a sudden we see green things growing. This is our first attempt at a garden, and it's very exciting... enjoy the pictures! We'll post more as things progress. Maybe we'll even have some bounty to share - I can't wait to have a salad out of my own garden! For you garden pros out there, forgive the grass you see on the sides and whatever other mistakes we are unaware of - we are learning together... and welcome any suggestions!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

La Hermosa Princesa Esperanza's First (published) Narration

She's only two, but lately is narrating lots of things. So I will publish this evening's narration of her birthday party, which was this afternoon. Her words are preceded by an * so that I don't have to keep typing our names. I will add that this conversation took place in her rocking chair right before bed.

Hermosa, did you have fun at your birthday party?

*MMM... Park!

We went to the park, didn't we? What did you do at the park?


Yes, you flew a kite. What kind of kite do you have?

*Hermosa Kite!

Yes, it's your kite, but who's picture is on your kite?

*Dora panties!

Yes, Dora is on your panties, too. What else did you do at your party?

*Jump! Darbie!

Yes, Darbie came and jumped with you. Who else came?

*Aunt Mille sick.

No Aunt Mille isn't sick. She is at her house far away. Grandma is sick and couldn't come.

*Grandma sick. Aunt Mille okay?

Yes, Aunt Mille is okay.

What else did you like at your party?

*Party cookies!

Yum! Did you have presents, too?


What kind of presents did you get?



*Night night, mommy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not-so-Wordless Wednesday

Q: Did you know that Daniel Boone had 3 ears?

A: Yes. A right ear, a left ear, and a wild frontier!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grace Week

We have just finished our first official "Grace Week", and we all agreed that it accomplished what we were hoping for. A change of pace, a moment to rest, an opportunity to process what exactly it is that we are doing. We plan to include a monthly Grace Week for the remainder of this school year and then re-evaluate.

For those unfamiliar with Grace Week, it was started by Queen Shenaynay over at The Beehive. She did this with her daughters in their early years of homeschooling, and recently when I felt I needed a break it whispered itself in my ear, Grace. If anyone needs grace, it's me! So I did a little homework and came up with a plan. We already school year-round, so the schedule part fit perfectly. Up until now, we take breaks as we need them, a little longer break at Christmas and between academic years, and we just keep going. However, our breaks usually are just like summer break was for me growing up - do nothing. Well, what has ended up happening is I have a list of projects, way too much free time, and the kids have way too much free time, and when school gets going again we all struggle to get back into the swing of things only to find that I didn't accomplish all of my projects and they are still looming over my head! It kind of defeated the purpose of the break when it was so hard to get going again. But Grace Week is different. It's a break from the rigor of the schedule, but it is a very purposeful break. Here is what we did:

We had a little family meeting at the beginning of the week, and I laid out my expectations of the children. There would be daily Bible time, daily personal reading time, and daily exercise time. The reading could be any book of their choice, and so could the exercise. The daily Bible time was intended to be personal as we are beginning to encourage the boys to have their own daily time alone with the Lord. That part did not happen this week, so it will be a focus next month. The exercise ended up being basketball out front, bike riding, long walks, and jumping on the trampoline. Also dancing :O)

We also laid out some projects we would do together. This time it was bake bread, prepare the ground for a garden, and memorize Psalm 100. The first two did get accomplished, the memorization is still a work in progress.

Finally, we each had individual projects. I had the boys choose something they had learned that they were very excited about and create a project to present to Daddy & I after a special dinner on Saturday evening (prepared by Jirafa and myself). I really did not know how these projects would turn out, but after hours of work they each came up with something that blew us out of the water! Jirafa made himself a costume and presented a first person dramatization of George Washington's retreat from the Battle of Long Island. He used pillows "dressed" in clothes (armed with guns & swords) as additional characters and reinacted parts of the battle for us! To distinguish himself as George Washington, he even made a wig out of white paper and put a hat on top! Paco made two large drawings - one was King Philip and the Spanish Armada. The other was Queen Elizabeth and the English Navy. He described to us how the little English Navy defeated the Spanish Armada, sending them fleeing quickly away. They both were so proud of their presentations and are already talking about doing another one! Yay! It was a very entertaining evening for Daddy & I.

As for my own projects, I got two closets cleaned out, kept up my excercise routine, and worked a day on potty training our little princess. It turned out she wasn't quite ready, but rather than feel bad that we didn't accomplish it I am going to feel good that she & I got so much one on one time together.

So, for the rest of the semester we will work 3 weeks on our regular curriculum/schedule, and then we will take one Grace Week. We don't need 4-6 weeks off in the summer, and little 3 & 4 day weekends don't quite give us enough time to both accomplish a project and rest. Thank you, Queen Shenaynay for sharing this magnificent idea with the rest of us! Our family is rested, refreshed, and energized to start back on our "school schedule" tomorrow.

Later I will have to collect the thoughts swimming in my head about the correlation between this idea and the grace offered to us from the Lord. For now, I just wanted to get the facts out there and share our experience with Grace Week.

Monday, February 4, 2008

123 Meme

Something New! A Game!

My friend Laura posted this on her blog, and it just is too fun to pass up. I had never heard of "meme" before, but I'm intrigued.

For those of you who are new 'meme-ers', a 'meme' as defined by 'The Daily Meme' is:

In the context of web logs / 'blogs / blogging and other kinds of personal web sites it's some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions. Then someone else sees them and does them and so on and so on. I generally consider these to be actual questions and not some multiple choice quizzes that determine some result at the end (what color you are most like, what cartoon character are you, what 80s movie are you).

Here are the rules for this one:
  • Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more (no cheating!)

  • Find page 123

  • Find the first five sentences

  • Post the next three sentences

  • Tag five people

I had to pass over a devotional book of less than 123 pages and some math books before reaching a "real book" - hah! The closest book to my desk, which is where I am, is Getting Things Done by David Allen... Page 123... Five sentences down, and here are the next three:

- That item may be more attractive to your psyche because you know right away what to do with it- and you don't feel like thinking about what's in your hand. This is dangerous territory. What's in your hand is likely to land on a "hmppphhh" stack on the side of your desk because you become distracted by something easier, more important, or more interesting below it. -

Okay, the Bible IS the only living, breathing, inspired Word from God, right? I am SO busted!! We are having Grace Week right now (which I will blog about this weekend), and one of my personal goals for the week is to get my inbox to "zero". Another is to clean out my closet. Today, I cleaned out my closet - it is done. To my dismay, I found my "old" inbox... the one that is essentially a "hmppphhh" stack all by itself. Can't I just throw it all away and pretend it never existed???? Uhhhh....

Okay, your turn!!! Put your meme on your blog & comment to me so that I know you did it & can come read it! Or if you don't have a blog, email it to me or post it as a comment. I want to know what everyone's closest book is! How do I pick 5 people? Do you have to do that? I want everyone reading this to do it - so if you've read this count yourself tagged.

Let The Game Come to You

This is one of Sr. Smith's "staff development" quotes. Carletta over at Successful Homeschooling likened her husband's encouragement in their homeschooling to staff development that a school principal provides for his teachers, and I love the analogy! So I'm going to use it ;o)

"Let the game come to you." Charlotte Mason has taught me so much, and our homeschooling is what it is because of her writings. It will be better as I learn more and follow her methods more closely. One thing I struggle with from time to time, though, is that every so often you'll find that she comments that these methods will work well with children of normal development. She uses older, less PC ways to say this, but you get the idea; she's referring to the fact that there are children who don't learn as quickly as the majority of the others. And she is acknowledging that there may be some modifications necessary for these kiddos. We find that her methods work fantastically with both of our school age children, but what needs to be tweeked for one is the amount of work required, and the timeline in which to expect it.

I'll give an example. Last week my Paco made a huge turn in his reading. Paco is 9 years old, and was diagnosed with a syndrome at birth. I won't go into all of that; it isn't common & hardly anyone has heard of it anyway. But the ramifications are that he struggles with almost everything that we take for granted. And he pretty much operates about 12-18 months behind most of his chronological age peers. So when I start getting worried that something isn't happening, or a goal isn't being met, that's when Sr. Smith gently reminds me to, you got it, let the game come to me.

So last Tuesday I sat down with Paco and asked him to get a book of his choosing. We took turns reading Nate the Great. I read a sentence, then he read the same sentence. This went on a few pages until he told me to stop reading. He only wanted me to help him with the hard words. So I skimmed ahead & alerted him to any I thought he might struggle with. We did this for about 30 minutes, and then we went on to other things. That night, he asked his Daddy to read a Flat Stanley book with him, and he explained about our method during the day. He taught his Daddy how to help him!

Fast forward another two days. Paco came and got me, and wanted me to listen to him read from the House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. The original one with line drawings that is so precious. Now, this had been something I read to him in Year 1 - but now he wanted to read it to me! He opened it, not to page 1, but to page 17. He had started reading it on his own during his free time! CM'ers know where I'm going with this, I think, but I'm going to spell it out for non-CM'ers. His little heart and soul were not satisfied with the twaddle he had picked up earlier in the week - yes, he read and was entertained by those books. And really Nate the Great is pretty good. However, he went for something meatier of his own accord. The light dancing around in his eyes as he read to me was amazing. He was enthralled and could hardly contain his excitement! He looked at the line drawings of Pooh and Tigger at their first meeting, and made a face to mimic what he saw in Tigger. Then he said what he thought Tigger must have been thinking based on the expression on his face! This is huge for a child who has difficulty reading body language, nuances, and social cues. HUGE!

And more!! Sr. Smith told me later that, yes, Paco had pulled out the book the day before and read to him when I wasn't home. He read the hard words all by himself! And he had laughed and made the comment after reading that Pooh had "whispered loudly" - "Hah! That's so funny. How can you whisper loudly?"

So I offer two gleanings from this experience:

One, Charlotte is right that just as we do not waste our time with that which does not nourish the soul, neither does the child when given the choice. Second, Miss Mason cautions us not to speak too much. To let the children's minds digest what they take in without our manipulation of how they are to interpret this and that. It's her way of telling us to let the game come to us.

And truly, if we give it time, it will.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Last Bath

My dear Great Aunt, whom our family affectionately called Pig, passed away in early December, just a few days shy of our family Christmas gathering also known as "the tree". Pig's husband, Uncle Russell, went to be with the Lord years ago, but he coined the phrase, "See ya at the tree!" We definitely felt the empty places around the tree this year... of those that once gathered with us but who now gather in heaven.

I had never been with someone when they passed from this life to the next, but that time was so sacred. I will never forget it.

In talking with the Hospice Aide, holding Pig's hand or stroking her hair, talking to her or just quietly being there, I had a lot to think about. I knew she was leaving us, we all did – there wasn't a hope that she would wake up and ask for a cup of coffee or ask me why I was there so late like she had done the week prior. Then she had told me to go home to my family. Not now. No, she was tired and ready to go home. I was almost asking God to come and get her quickly, so that she would be free of the body that was betraying her. Free of the pain of letting go. Because she was really doing that – she was letting go of us with each meal she refused, each sip of water that she could no longer accept. Even as she kept back her words, using her strength only to communicate the most important things, she was leaving us. The last word I heard her say was “wonderful”. And forever I think when I say that word or hear someone else say it, I will hear Pig's voice quietly in my ear, “wonderful”.

Nanette, the Hospice Aide, came about six hours before Pig left us. She was such a joy; truly an angel on earth. One of the keenly sensitive and discerning among us. A washer of feet. Early in the evening she shared with me that there seems to be something about the last bath; that each time she has given someone their last bath a change seems to occur. And she didn't pretend that there was something magic about the bath, or that she had any special power or anything. She gave every bit of glory to the Lord, and said she is humbled to be about His work with those close to death and their loved ones. I know it is a calling on her life, and I am ever thankful that she answered.

Back to the bath... I really thought Pig had already had her last bath when Nanette and I were talking. She seemed so close to the end. But at about 10pm, Pig began to moan. They had lots of medication in her to ease the pain, to clear up the fluid building in her lungs, and to ease her coughing. She had been quiet and still for hours. We had been timing her breaths since early in the afternoon. I walked over to the bed and took Pig's hand, and began to sing It is Well and Amazing Grace. Nanette picked up the harmony after a little bit and we sang together. Pig opened her eyes and looked at me during Amazing Grace, and then she relaxed and closed them never to open them again. She was saying goodbye.

I commented that since she had quit talking she had moaned when she had needed a change of clothing, and sure enough that was the case. Pig had not had her last bath afterall. Mom had left a clean gown, and Nanette and I gently and lovingly bathed her and got her changed. Of all things, I was thinking about my great grandmother, whom I never knew, and who was probably the person who had given Pig her first bath soon after she named her Mildred Maxine. Perhaps even before. And I pondered what her thoughts must have been at that time; I am sure they were much like mine the first time I bathed my own daughter, my first newborn. Such love and care; worried about her umbilical chord, careful that the water wasn't too cold or too hot. Thankful when it was over that she hadn't slipped out of clumsy hands! And then peace afterwards as she slept all warm and pink and beautiful. I felt the same looking at Pig. This dear great aunt who had co-grandmothered me and all of us with my Ma-Maw. Who had co-mothered my aunt and my own mother. I felt sure in that moment that just as I had not considered my daughter's last bath the first time I bathed her that my great-grandmother had not considered Pig's last bath or who would be there to bathe her and watch her sleep afterwards. My hope was that she would be proud – that she would know the love that poured out of her daughter to all of her descendants, that we would surround her in response to that love until the very end.

It was some time later; I was alone in the room with Pig crocheting a scarf for a friend. I felt it an appropriate way to quietly pass the time, as Pig had sat patiently with me as a child and taught me the art of yarn, later the art of quilting. And I just thought I'd check the time. It was midnight, the first moment of December 5th, 2008. What would have been Pig and Russell's 67th wedding anniversary had come and gone. Some of us had sweetly commented that perhaps she was waiting to celebrate the momentous occasion in person with him in heaven... but that had not been the case. I walked to her bedside, stroked her hair, and told her what day it was. Then it occurred to me to time her breathing - almost immediately when I told her the day I had seen a change. From 12:02 – 12:03, three breaths. My heart sped up as hers slowed down. Nanette returned to the room, and I said I thought she was on her way. I began quoting from Luke chapter 2, the Christmas story. Nanette began to pray. At 12:04 Pig drew her last breath, and then I watched as the pulse in her neck quietly faded to a stop.

What I wanted then was to see what she was seeing! Hear the angels singing, see Jesus in the middle of the light of His Glory, maybe our other family members lined up to welcome her to heaven - who knows what it's really like. On my end, I just watched her breathing slow. And then she just didn't breath anymore. And even though with all of my heart I wanted her to breath again, I knew that it was her time. I told her I loved her and to go. Go and spend the merriest Christmas of her life – in the arms of her savior.

Pig and Russell, Mam-Maw, Rebecca Lynn. We'll see ya at the tree.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Jirafa Narrates from Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober, Chapter 12

John and Abigail Adams were grieving at the loss of their daughter who was stillborn. And the war was getting worse and worse. The congress was thinking that the British were going to attack Philadelphia, but no one could be sure. Finally they fled to Yorktown, Pennsylvania. And then finally congress voted that John Adams and Samuel Adams could take a break and go see their families. They left on the 11th of November, and arrived in Braintree on the 27th. It was 1777.

So John Adams had been away for several years, I don't know how many, maybe a year, but it had been halved into two parts. And he had said that the next time he came back that he would stay for awhile. But he came back and had to go away again for a short period of time to try a law case, but while he was gone Abigail received some letters from Congress that said he was voted to go to France and meet Benjamin Franklin for some reason I can't remember. And then John Quincy, which was their son, asked to go with his father. So Abigail had to get a whole bunch of stuff ready in a short period of time.

Before John left, he gave Abigail a locket of a lonely woman watching a ship go by, leaning on a stone that said, "I yield whatever is is right." Abigail's Uncle Norton lived near where they were going to leave from, so they went there. John and John Quincy then left in a boat called the Boston, to go to France. And his father gave him a notepad to take, a diary type thing. A journal. Four and a half months passed and Abigail thought they were dead because there were rumors that the boat had been seized by the British and every man killed. And also that Benjamin Franklin had been assassinated. But it wasn't so. They couldn't write to her from the boat, because there was no other boat to take the letters back to her. Secondly, many boats were seized by the British, and plus it was winter, so it was harsh weather. So that meant that few letters were able to get through, even though they were writing every time they could get a ship that would take it on. So she was very happy, overjoyed it said, I think, when she got a letter from them. And then Abigail's other son had to go to school about that time, and then Nabby their daughter who was then 14 was begging to go see her father and brother. But Abigail did not let her go.

I can't wait to hear more later, Jirafa!

A Narration from Paco

Paco and I read the first part of Master of the Harvest from Margaret Gatty's Parables From Nature, and this is his retelling of the story thus far:

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman. The man was a farmer. And the man did not like the ground because it was dry. He did not like the sky because it wasn't raining. He didn't like the corn because it didn't poke up yet. And his wife was calm, and she told him to be calm and have faith and hope. The corn seed heard the boss farmer whining and said, "Why is he so whiny? We've done the best we can!" Then it rained, and the corn raised up and grew. And the farmer felt good, but he didn't say thanks to anybody. And his wife didn't feel too good because she was sick, and her husband did not have faith.

Buen Trabajo, Paco!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Some Highlights from the Fall

Okay, partly to wrap up last semester and feel fresh for starting back to school tomorrow, and partly because I am sick and don't feel like doing much - I'm playing with the bells & whistles of the blog world. I created a slideshow - whoohoo! It isn't that exciting, but alas I hope you enjoy it. If you want to read the captions, after clicking the "play" arrow you will see a little conversation bubble at the bottom left of the window - click that & you'll see the captions. I wrote too much on some of them to be able to read the whole thing before it changes - so sorry!

Tomorrow we start with a "special" day because Jirafa has a 10:30 appointment with the orthopedist for his elbow (I can't bring myself to call him the 'orthopedic surgeon' because that implies Jirafa will be having surgery, which we really don't think he will). So after breakfast & chores we'll have our Bible time, which is a hymn, scripture (we're making our way through Proverbs), prayer, and then the Pledge of Allegiance. Our next door neighbor has a 20 ft. flag pole in his front yard, so we go out there to say the pledge, cool eh? The boys have almost learned the pledge in Spanish, so we take turns now doing English sometimes & Spanish sometimes. They haven't done either in almost a month, so it may be slow moving tomorrow. After the appt., we should be able to get a bite to eat with Sr. Smith, put Hermosa down for her nap, and then get our full day of lessons in while she sleeps. We're missing our friends Alice (in Wonderland), George Washington, Robinson Crusoe, Queen Elizabeth, and more! It will be fun to get back into our work.

Glimpses of 2007

Friday, January 4, 2008

Let it Be Resolved...

Queen Shenaynay over at The Beehive has issued a challenge, and I am taking her up on it. You can find her blog in my links, which I have updated to include some fabulous women that I am blessed to count as friends and fellow sojourners in this journey that is homeschooling and life. I encourage anyone reading this to take the time to read "My Resolutions for 1997" at your earliest opportunity. You don't even have to read the rest of my post - hers just sparked mine and it will spark one in you, too, even if you don't have a blog ;o)

I'll preface by saying that her post struck a chord in my soul, because I find myself often explaining to others that while I've made lots of great changes in my eating habits, there are still some I need to make, and that I just haven't had that "the buck stops here" event in my life (like cancer) that makes me do the right thing every time. But I tell ya what, after reading this post, I think I've had it. I think I will let her experience and her willingness to be so transparant with her past 5 months not be in vain - I will vicariously have "that moment" through Queen Bee and resolve to do not just what is better, but what is right.

With that, let it be resolved...

That I will rise each morning before my children, and take a walk at least 4 times per week. It is simply grit that keeps me from doing this consistently - and I have grit so I need to use it!

That I will seek to use my Spanish more - an idea is to join a Bible Study with Spanish speakers. I will also make more of an on-going effort to impart this knowledge to my children - the poor things have something in common with the cobbler's children...

That I will go before the Lord before disciplining my children - not punish them in haste or just seek peace & quiet.

That coffee and sugar have to go. When I have a treat it has to be a treat, not an everyday indulgence. And to do this I am going to remember what Queen Shenayay said, "Every day that you treat your body right counts". It doesn't hurt that Sr. Smith has given up Cokes and started running - he's my hero!

That's it for now. But only because little Hermosa is willing to let me hold her right now, and I don't want to pass that up.