Saturday, May 30, 2009

At Today's Second Graduation Party

It was a lovely evening. The location was amazing. Everything had that perfect shade of green light.

But I really, really disliked the dance music. I'd have preferred Canon in D Major floating across the grass.

Saturday Miscellany

In the hustle of this week, I've lost track of time.

We've been in an absolute flurry of camp planning this week, including two days' worth of camp run-through. We have always had our American Heritage Girls day camps be girl-led. This year we have 13 Pioneers and Patriots (7th - 12th graders) as camp leaders. The vast majority of them, actually, are rising 7th graders, and that realization made me break out in a sweat last weekend. After watching these girls in action during camp run-through, however, I am absolutely amazed and tremendously proud of them. They have showed tremendous leadership, cooperation, and diligence, and I am feeling almost totally devoid of stress. Our camp begins Monday morning, with 72 girls registered. It's a 3-day, three-hour camp, and on Wednesday I will probably be a big blob of mental jello. But in a good way.

Last night was our support group's high school graduation. It was a fantastic event. There were over 400 people there for 14 graduates, including Jesse's best friend, Bryant. Today we head over to their house for a graduation party, and then there is a whole support group graduation party this evening. And, of course, I can't help but think that this time next year, Jesse will graduate. And go off to college. And there will be a slide show at graduation that will make me cry.

Phew. I think I'll stop thinking about that now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

From the Archives: Memorial Day

May 28, 2007

Creighton Clarence and Helen May (Johnsen) Firebaugh

Nelson Andrews and Gladys May (Riley) Cummins

Where I come from in upstate New York, the village next to ours, Waterloo, claims that it is the "Birthplace of Memorial Day." My own hometown takes part in the famous Trout Derby on Memorial Day weekend, when Seneca Lake is buzzing with motorboats and regattas. Here in East Tennessee this day is referred to as Decoration Day as much as it is Memorial Day, where folks visit the gravesites of their families and leave flowers. But for me, Memorial Day was a day off from school, a parade in our hot band uniforms, and a late afternoon sail.

I grew up over 800 miles away from my extended family. The roots are long and strong in Southern Illinois: Cummins, Rileys, Firebaughs, Johnsens. Most of them immigrated to American from Ireland or Germany in the mid- to late-1800s and planted themselves on farms. No one moved around too much. Dix, Illinois is pretty much made up of Rileys. That's where my Cummins and Riley--the Irish-- kin are buried. The Firebaughs and Johnsens--my German kin-- were in the big city of Mt. Vernon next door, and dozens of stones in the city cemetery bear the Firebaugh name, kept abundant through my grandfather Creighton and his 11 siblings.

But when I was a little over a year old, my family moved to upstate New York. The cemeteries there bear names like Fabrizio, D'Amico, Cecere, D'Allesandro, Principio, Scuzzi, Scaramazzinno, Fospero, Ianapollo. (Imagine my midwestern parents learning to pronounce the names of my classmates!)

I have been to my grandparents' graves once or twice. I have traced their names in stone with my fingers and conjured up images of them and the sounds of their voices. I have stood and looked at a stone and thought, "This is my family. I am one of them." It is not enough, though. I have missed some vital connection because of distance. I have missed placing wildflowers on graves and kissing the cheek of a wrinkled third cousin. I have never heard a story told of my father as a little boy--other than by my father.

My friends think I'm funny because I call a certain local family "my cousins." But he is my kin---although we are fourth cousins or first cousins, four times removed, or something like that---and when you don't have the luxury of being in the midst of your kin, you make the most of what you have.

Friday, May 22, 2009


There are days like today that I am completely overwhelmed. I felt like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, with my head spinning around. (Yes, I did see that movie when I was 16. It was terrifying. And remember The Omen, with the evil kid Damien? I'm continue to be amazed the people actually name their sons "Damien." I don't get that.)

Anyway, back to my spinning head. I am overloaded. We have American Heritage Girls camp coming up in less than 10 days, and somehow we didn't quite realize the effect that Memorial Day weekend would have on camp planning. We had to cancel an AHG event due to lack of participation, and I really dislike doing that. Again, Memorial Day weekend. And then there is this little thing called "homeschooling" that we are trying to finish up by mid-week. I have a feeling we'll get woefully little done next week with all the camp planning.

It's all just little stuff, but I was feeling so overwhelmed earlier today. Preparing supper seemed like the final straw. What a simple cure: we went out to dinner. Being Dave Ramsey fans, we rarely go out to dinner; but tonight I just had to. And it was exactly the right thing to do. Sometimes, you just have to blow money for sanity's sake.

After dinner we chatted for awhile in our rock garden and then played a game of croquet with the kids, picking a few strawberries from our patch to munch on while we played. I can hardly even remember now why I was so overwhelmed.

I love perspective. And croquet is really fun, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Psalm 65 in the Mountains

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
even those who sail on distant seas.

You formed the mountains by your power
and armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans
with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations.

Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
you inspire shouts of joy.

You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.

You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!

(Word-Filled Wednesday here at the 160 Acre Woods)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Memory: Roan Mountain

We spent this past weekend with some of our oldest and dearest friends at Roan Mountain, in upper East Tennessee. Roan Mountain holds many memories for us. We've hiked and camped there numerous times, spent our honeymoon there, and enjoyed several weekends with friends in the cabins at the state park. But this memory is from a hike about 13 years ago.

At the time, Randy, Jesse and I lived in Ames, Iowa. Once or twice a year, we drove the 17 hours down to Tennessee to spend a week with friends and family in Johnson City, where we'd gone to college. Usually these trips involved an excursion to Roan Mountain.

This was actually in December, so we were happy to have our Iowa parkas to wear. Jesse was just three and a half, and I didn't know it quite yet, but I was a few weeks pregnant with Laurel in this photo. That's our friend Suzie in the photo with us on top.

So much has changed since then in nearly every aspect of our lives. We were happy then, but now our cup truly does overflow. We have been abundantly blessed with children, friendships, health, family, a dream job, and a beautiful place to live. And so much more.

Same rock, 13 years later. Who knew how good life could be?

Your turn. Do you have a Monday Memory to share? Post it on your blog and sign Mr. Linky below with a direct link to that post. It's okay if you don't post on Monday! So dig down deep into your memories and get started!

It's Monday Memory Day!

Tody is Monday Memory day! Last week I was hoping for 2 participants, and I got three! One of my faithful participants is in the hospital this week with a kidney infection and pneumonia and in her last trimester with #4, so she is excused—and covered in our prayers.

I'll be writing my own memory later today. And I'll be waiting for yours… Thanks to my 3 participants last week!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shelf Life

The good thing about a shelf breaking in a large cabinet that has a solitary purpose of holding (too many) homeschooling materials ...

… is that you find all kinds of things you forgot you had.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rosetta Stone Contest!

From JenIg's blog:

Rosetta Stone is the fastest way to learn a language and has been the #1 foreign language curriculum among homeschoolers for a while — and you can WIN the *all new* version 3 Rosetta Stone Homeschool LATIN program… FOR FREE! This is the first year you can get Latin in the brand new Version III update.

This is a $259 program (and believe me it’s worth every penny!)
This is a computer based curriculum and Rosetta Stone will also include a headset with microphone, and a supplementary “Audio Companion” CD so you can practice lessons in the car, on the go, or where-ever! Students participate in life-like conversations and actually produce language to advance through the program. Rosetta Stone incorporates listening, reading, grammar, vocabulary and writing along with speaking and pronunciation lessons. For parents, the new Parent Administrative Tools are integrated into the program to allow parents to easily enroll up to ten students in any of 12 predetermined lesson plans, monitor student progress, grade completed work (the program grades the work automatically as the students progress- I love that!), and you can view and print reports for transcripts. Homeschooling a lot of kids at your house? This program is designed to enroll and track up to ten students (five users on two computers) and will work for nearly all ages — from beginning readers up to college students.

To win this most excellent Latin program copy these paragraphs and post them in (or as) your next blog post, and/OR link to the contest from your facebook page and/OR email the information to your homeschool support group – Then go to the original page and leave a comment saying that you’ve posted about, or have linked to, the contest. Please make sure the link works to get back to the original contest page when you post. And good luck!


My personal note: Jesse is currently doing Rosetta Stone Russian for his high school language credit, and he loves it! I personally would love to have the Latin program for my other kids, as I think Latin is incredibly useful in so many ways, whether your child is inclined toward the arts or the sciences.

Three Beautiful Things

1. A yard full of beautiful flowers.

2. Sunshine

3. Strawberry shortcake for lunch.

What beautiful things are in your world today?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Memory: Three Times

Three times I've been blessed with giving birth. One baby we lost in early pregnancy. I'm not really a mom to tell birth stories. They were all extremely painful, but the results were phenomenal. But for just today, I'll relive those long, hard hours…

Cincinnati: Jesse was born in 11 hours from water-breaking to birth, after 2.5 painful hours of pushing. I had an epidural, which I despised. I was starving through the whole thing. He was 8 lbs. 11 oz., and I was dumbfounded. How could I have such a big baby?

Ames, Iowa: Laurel's birth was the most pleasant, although it was a long day. I had a midwife for her, and she let me eat graham crackers and other yummy things. Back in Iowa we had this drug called an ITN (intrathecal narcotic), which was awesome. So much better than an epidural. I knew Laurel was a girl, even before I had the ultrasound that confirmed my intuition, but I was flabbergasted when she came out 9 lbs. 9 oz. What is up with these big babies? (No, I didn't have gestational diabetes.)

Maryville, TN: Duncan was due on Christmas Day, but of course no one ever has a baby on her due date. Except of course I did. The nurses were traumatized that I didn't want an epidural (at that time, only one anesthesiologist at the hospital could do my beloved ITN, and it wasn't likely that I could get him on call), but Duncan's birth was fairly quick and not really terrible hideous. And just when I thought they couldn't get any bigger: 10 lbs. I have no idea. Duncan aspirated meconium in utero and he had to be whisked off to the NICU at a different hospital right away. His story is here. I am so thankful for his life.

Those are my babies. I miss their sweet-smelling skin and their tiny hands. But I love who they are now, and I am so very blessed to be their mama.

Your turn. Do you have a Monday Memory to share? Post it on your blog and sign Mr. Linky below with a direct link to that post. It's okay if you don't post on Monday and if you don't have photos; I like to read stories any day of the week! So dig down deep into your memories and get started!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Remember Your Memory

This is an official reminder that tomorrow is Monday Memory day. I expect at least double the number of participants from last week, so that would be 2!

Need some ideas? What about your first Mothers' Day? Or a memory of your own mother? What about the day you found out you were expecting? Another possibility is always to look at your blog entry on tomorrow's date from last year or two years ago, or scout through some old photos.

I'll be waiting…

I'm Their Mom

“Motherhood is the keystone of the arch of matrimonial happiness.”
~Thomas Jefferson

Happy Mothers' Day!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Mother

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
~Abraham Lincoln

With her brothers Max and Henry, about 1930

With Max, WWII

Senior picture, 1944

With James, on the way to California before my Dad went to Korea, 1951

With James and baby John, 1953

With James, John, and baby Peter, 1957

Nine years later, with the addition of Stephen and me, 1966

31 years later at Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniverary, with the addition of 8 grandchildren (1 yet to come), 1998

My mother and me, last summer

Friday, May 8, 2009

Crossing Over

Last night, my little girl crossed over from Explorer (4th-6th grades) to Pioneer (7th and 8th grades) at our American Heritage Girls ceremony. I don't have any pictures because that's one of the downfalls of being an emcee: you can't exactly whip out the camera in the middle of a solemn ceremony. Also, our sashes didn't come with the rest of our badge order, so our 9 new Pioneers didn't get to have their sashes presented to them. But still, it was a milestone for these girls, and I'm so proud of my daughter.

I do have photos from our very first awards ceremony in 2003, when all of our girls were given their Joining Awards and membership pins.

She's the third one from the left in this group of first-grade girls. Four of this first group of girls crossed over last night.

And here she is last year on the night of our ceremony. She's grown several inches since then. In the rush of things yesterday, I didn't even have the foresight to take a few photos of her before she traded in her blue vest.

Between Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and American Heritage Girls, our weeks can be crazy twice each month. And with Randy's being Cubmaster and my being co-coordinator of our AHG troop, some weeks our heads our positively spinning. We wonder what possessed us to schedule both the Cub Scout end-of-the-year picnic and crossing over during the same week as the AHG spring awards ceremony, and both topped off with the Boy Scout camporee over the weekend. What were we thinking?

But Scouting is one of the finer things in life for our family. We have put so much energy and time into the programs because we clearly see the fantastic benefits and blessings that have come about as a result of our participation.

But I'm happy for just a little break.

(Check out more finer things in life at Amy's Finer Things Friday.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday Miscellany

* I've lost track of how many days of rain we've had lately. Do people who live in monsoon regions have a lot of nervous breakdowns? I'm starting to feel moldy.

* We're finally out of the Civil War and have backtracked to cover the westward expansion. We've been reading A Pioneer Sampler this week. We absolutely love this book! The kids made these "tin art" pictures yesterday while I was reading to them. The book is a perfect blend of stories, facts, and projects. (Don't be deceived by what appears to be a sunny day. That was but a 5-minute break in the clouds.)

* Speaking of 5-minute breaks, we were tremendously blessed last night to have a respite from the rain for the annual Cub Scout end-of-the-year picnic.

There were three-legged races, sack races (that's Duncan on the far right), and a tug-of-war, plus awards and a crossing-over ceremony. Dr. H. is feeling much relieved today. Tomorrow evening is our American Heritage Girls end-of-the-year awards ceremony, so we are both going to be happy campers on Friday!
Aren't these parents good sports? They did the sack race, too. Hey, those are three AHG leaders on the left! I'm glad they didn't hurt themselves! (I'm allergic to burlap, in case you were wondering.)

* This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up at the Atlanta Homeschooling Examiner. I actually remembered to submit something this time. I'm looking forward to having some time to peruse the rest of the entries.

* Mothers' Day is coming up very soon. Fortunately, I remembered just in time to go to Winkflash to send Winky Personal to my mom and Dr. H's mom. These are the most awesome cards. All you have to do is upload a photo (or more for a collage), fill in the text (I found a couple of good "mother" quotes), and pay. They actually send the card directly in the mail to the recipient! All that (including postage) for $2.39; it's way cheaper than buying a card at Target.

* My Mothers' Day requests are simple: I want the carpet cleaned and the cabinet under the kitchen sink cleaned out.

What's on your Mothers' Day lists?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Asheville, North Carolina is a fun city nestled in the mountains. It reminds me a lot of Ithaca, New York, where two of my brothers live. It's probably the crunchiest town in the Southeast, but for New Englanders and West Coasters, it may seem quite normal.

It is a great place to go for a girls' weekend getaway. In fact, Self magazine named it the "happiest city for women." So here we are, being happy.

From Asheville 5/4/09 5:56 PM
Happy feet

From Asheville 5/4/09 5:56 PM
Happy fire hydrant

From Asheville 5/4/09 5:56 PM
Happy sculpture

From Asheville 5/4/09 5:56 PM
Happy wigs

From Asheville 5/4/09 5:56 PM
More happy wigs

From Asheville 5/4/09 5:56 PM
Happy friends after a good meal

Next year, we're thinking Chicago.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Memory: Asheville

When I was in college in Upper East Tennessee, we used to take a day trip every now and then to Asheville, North Carolina. The drive there was beautiful back then; I don't think I'd have the heart for it now that the mountains have been scarred and left bleeding red soil. But back then a drive with friends in a big gas guzzler through the Appalachians was a treat. The photo above was taken soon after I graduate from college. Dr. H. (in the bandana) and I had not yet ended our long and final break-up, but we still hung out. [That's Tracy on the far right in the photo above; her sister Lauren and her baby Chelsea (who's now in her early 20s) are in the middle.] Back then we were all always broke, but we had enough to buy gas, eat cheaply at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and maybe even find a few treasures at the thrift shops. It was all about being together and having an adventure. Plus, Asheville is just so interesting. Like the bumper sticker says, "Asheville— where normal is weird."

This past weekend my college girlfriends and I met in Asheville for Tracy's 40th birthday celebration. The birthday girl is on the left, Angie's in the middle, and Suzie's on the right.

It's interesting to walk on streets that hold such strong memories. I found myself searching for familiar landmarks. Where was fountain where we took our picture? Where are all the thrift stores? Asheville 20 years later caters to wealthy tourists, and the thrift stores have been replaced by "vintage" clothing for the wealthy tourists, craft stores, galleries, and all kinds of restaurants. Perhaps it was like that before, but we poor college students sought out only those places that had $2 suit jackets and old pins. Our old favorite bookstore, Malaprops, is still there, and the musicians are still busking on every block.

I should probably make some kind of Thomas Wolfe reference here, as he is Asheville's native son. Something about "you can't go home again," perhaps. But I'm okay with those long-ago days being memories, and I'm not terribly wistful for the Asheville I remember. Creating new memories is awesome, too.

Do you have a Monday Memory you'd like to share? Post it on your blog and sign Mr. Linky below with a direct link to that post. It's okay if you don't post on Monday and if you don't have photos; I like to read stories any day of the week! So dig down deep into your memories and get started!

Friday, May 1, 2009

High School Resources

Last night our support group had what is probably our most requested roundtable: homeschooling through high school. People come in petrified, and most leave feeling better. The impact of being able to voice concerns and receive encouragement and feedback is amazing.

I put together a resource list as a hand-out and thought I'd share it here. I'd love to have more links if anyone has favorite high-school sites.

High School Information

Websites with Links to Articles
The HomeScholar: Dozens of articles to help parents homeschool through high school:
HSLDA: Lots of great information (for college bound, military, and vocational tracks) on homeschooling through high school, including sample 4-year plans.
Tips for getting into college
• Tons of information at College Board (home of the SAT):

Dual Enrollment at Pellissippi State: (This is specifically for those in our local area, but most community colleges have similar programs.) Here is recent article about Knoxville homeschooler who received her high school diploma and associate’s degree in the same year.

Homeschooling High Schoolers
HSing High School:
On2College (Knoxville area):

• Homeschooling High School by Jeanne Gowen Dennis (ISBN 1932096116) Rev. 2004
• Homeschoolers’ College Admissions Handbook by Cafi Cohen (ISBN 0761527540) 2000
• Homeschooling the Teen Years by Cafi Cohen (ISBN 0761520937) 2000
• College-Prep Homeschooling: Your Complete Guide to Homeschooling Through High School by David P Byers (ISBN 1600651003) 2008
• High School @ Home: You Can Do It! by Diana Johnson (ISBN 0805445455) 2007

Homeschooling the High Schooler

Have some more resources? Leave me a comment and I'll add them!