Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Rock

It's the perfect place to be, this rock. Surrounded by the woods, by thickets of rhododendron, all sounds muted by the rush of the waterfall. My husband stretches out on the rock and instantly relaxes—I can see it happening. Everything stressful drains out, and with enough time, you can stand up and somehow find you've gained new perspective and strength. We have other places likes this: a bench in our yard, a log along a trail, a boulder by the river. Where's your spot?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On the Menu

I absolutely must get back on a regular menu plan. We've been lax the past several weeks, and sometimes my family actually has to eat leftovers because I don't have anything to fix. I forced myself to make a quick menu plan today because the good Dr. H. has to go to the store to buy more bottles of Drano for the stopped up dishwasher and kitchen and bathroom sinks. Trust me, you don't want to see my kitchen. We also need paper plates, since the dishwasher is filled up with dirty dishes and water that hasn't drained. Yep.

But I'm sure the Drano will eventually do its toxic job, so I'm forging ahead with a menu. And here it is:

Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves
Rainy Monday Beef Stew (this truly means that fall is here!)
Chicken and Rice Soup (Pioneer Woman and so easy)
General Tso's Chicken
Baked Salmon

Like everyone else, I'm so happy to be able to rotate back in cool weather foods, even if we haven't had any cool weather yet. I'm ready to start adding in some new recipes, especially soups, so I'll be checking out Menu Plan Monday each week and perusing Pioneer Woman, Tasty Tuesday and the Food Network for some new ones. What are your favorite recipe sites?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

Actually, this is more like monthly wrap-up. I just can't seem to get on the ball about wrapping up our weeks.

I love our schedule this year—just having two full days at home is blissful. We are now 5 weeks into this year, and I am thrilled with the smooth flow of our days. My kids are, for the most part, wonderfully cooperative. Every now and then I have to threaten additional schoolwork for whining, and that always works like a charm.

We finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Of course, it was as wonderful as it has always been in the 35 years I've been reading it. We watched a documentary (Chronicling Narnia) about C.S. Lewis which the kids deemed very boring. I thought it was interesting. We did of course watch the movie after reading the book, and I loved it all over again. We all did notice more "wrongs" this time since the book is fresh on our minds, but I still think it's a great movie.

I have two main books that I'm using as we go through the Narnia series. Further Up and Further In seems to be the one everyone has heard of, but I'm finding Heather and David Kopp's Roar: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia to be much, much better. The discussion questions and Biblical parallels are fantastic in this book, and the authors sprinkle in facts in small, colorful tidbits. I totally recommend this for anyone reading through Narnia.

So I decided to be completely rebellious in our reading order. We started with LWW because I think one must enter Narnia for the first time through the wardrobe. (Granted, this isn't my kids' first introduction to Narnia anyway, but whatever.) But I've decided to read The Magician's Nephew second rather than waiting for its traditional spot much later on. I like them to be able to make those immediate connections between these two books. We're only three chapters into The Magician's Nephew, but I can tell already that it was the right thing to do.

In other areas, I'm really happy with Teaching Textbooks. Laurel is doing pre-algebra, and while I won't claim that she loves it, I will say that math is a much happier place for both of us this year. I decided to skip a whole year of math for Duncan because Saxon 54 and 65 looked pretty much exactly the same. That was a good decision. He's flying through 65. I'm always amazed at how much the kids grow over the summer. That's what always boggles me about the current trend toward year-round schools with the premise that "kids lose so much over the summer." I don't get that. My kids have always made a huge jump from the end of one school year to the beginning of the next. I think the time off is essential.

Cub Scouts and American Heritage Girls started back in full swing, as did our co-op classes.

I'm teaching/co-teaching three classes at co-op this year: Readers' Theatre for 3rd-5th grade, and then Creative Writing and Literature Circle for 6th-8th graders. It's all so much fun. I do look forward to teaching high-school level literature again next year when Laurel enters 9th grade.

We've also had lots of time for fun. One day we drove a couple of hours away to deliver 40 pairs of shoes for the 10,000 Pairs of Shoes Project. Another day my parents took us to Dollywood, which was blissfully uncrowded.

A boy in our co-op has a leading role in one of the shows, and we were excited to finally get to see him in that.

Our college boy came home for about 24 hours, and of course I soaked in every moment of him. He absolutely loves his classes and pretty much everything about being in college. He was meant for a life of learning.

Laurel went to her first dance last weekend.

Yes, we have an awesome support group with things like dances, bonfires, and even a prom. She had a fantastic time, and I look forward to many more teen events this year.

Linked up at the Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Breathing Deeply

It is not so much for its beauty
that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts,
as for that subtle something,
that quality of air that emanation from old trees,
that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson ~

The mountains never fail to restore peace. A good hike, a little sweat, the company of good friends, children squealing in the cold river, the smell of fall imagined in the last days of summer, a pile of bear scat smack dab in the middle of the trail reminding us that we are only visitors. And grateful ones at that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Such a Time As This

I'm here. I really am. Our school year has kicked in full blast since last week, and somehow I find that I have no time for thoughtful blogging. After the day's (and evening's) activities have ended, I wind up on Facebook, where I don't have to think. Much. I realized, too, that all of my prime blogging times have now become running times. So that's my story.

And also, there are times when, no matter how much I crave the therapy that comes with writing for me, I simply cannot say what is on my heart. Yesterday I had to do one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was a day that the fullness of adult responsibility weighed me down until I could hardly breathe. It was a day caught in vise grips of decision, fervently praying for wisdom, clarity, and certainty. It was a horrible day.

It was also a day that I saw God showing me what to do—that perfect clarity. I tried to run, I really did. But he used someone that he knew would get a reaction from me to force me into doing what I had to do—that perfect certainty. And he gave me words to say, the way to say them, and how many times to say them—that dose of wisdom.

I'm tired. There are days when I yearn for an easier life, for the days when I was a young mom with little ones, when the hardest thing about my day was struggling with naps or potty training. When we sat with our toes in the sandbox or spread a blanket on the lawn, nibbling on Goldfish and reading aloud.

Still. Where we are is where we are, and I'm thankful for being put in this place, no matter how painful the past few days have been. The words of Mordecai to Esther have been floating through my head the past few days: "Who knows that you have been put in this position for such a time as this?" Indeed.

Linked up on Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lego Battle

I love looking through what's on the camera and finding pictures that my kids have taken. There is something so intriguing and invariably touching about my kids' photographs, because this is their world.

At some point in the past week, my 9-year-old did a photo documentary on Reptiles vs. Lego Guys. It appears to have started out rather reasonably. The guy on the horse is clearly the emissary, perhaps sent to forge some kind of compromise or agree on the terms of the battle.

After this picture, there are a whole bunch of pictures of the battle. Trust me, things did not go well for the Lego Guys. I found a disturbing number of photos of the largest dinosaur eating Lego Guys. There was also a series of photos that involved the (real) tarantula. Some Other Guys appeared to be guarding its cage.

The Lego Guys eventually surrendered. I thought this was actually a really good photo. Loved the perspective and thinking about Duncan actually getting down on the ground, eye-level, to shoot this one. And this next one, he evidently stood on a chair to look down on the whole scene.

I'm not sure what happened after the Reptiles surrounded the Lego Guys. There are no pictures after this one. Was it lunch time for Duncan? Did I walk in and trip over a three-headed dragon and then say "Clean your room!" without noticing the intricacies of the battle? I hope not.

I loved being part of Duncan's imaginary world via his photographs. I can tell that he was very serious when he documented all of this—that in his mind this battle was really happening. To me each Lego Guy looks like the next one, but to Duncan, they each have their own personalities and special abilities. I am cherishing these days when I still have one left who can spend hours lost in an imaginary world that involves dragons and Lego Guys who are half-Ninja, half-Harry Potter. It's a sweet gift, this world of imagination.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Ramblings

* I have a renewed love of Fridays. Most years we have some kind of activity on Fridays. This year: nothing. Fridays are completely void of regular activities, except for a monthly hiking club. But hiking is pure pleasure anyway.

* We also have nothing on Wednesdays, so between Wednesday and Fridays, we get a heck of a lot of school done.

* But Thursdays are another story. Yesterday was our first day back at American Heritage Girls and Cub Scouts, which means that we headed out the door at 1:15 and returned around 6. The first day is always chaotic; we expect that. What I didn't anticipate was the suffocating heat in the sanctuary, where the majority of our meeting was held! The thermostat was locked in its energy-saving setting; for some bizarre reason I was wearing jeans, even though I knew it was nearly 90 degrees outside; and it was also nearly 90 degrees inside. Then again, if that's the biggest of my complaints, I really should shut my mouth.

* Moving on: my college boy is coming home for a brief visit this weekend! His "friend" is having her 16th birthday party, so he's coming home for that. After the party his two best friends will meet him at our house, because it has been 3 whole weeks since they've seen each other. He has to be back on campus tomorrow evening for a concert, but at least we'll get to see him for a few hours.

* A friend who is a speech therapist is coming to evaluate Duncan today. We thought he would outgrow his articulation delay with the "L" and "R" sounds, as his older brother did. But as he is getting close to 10 and not making much improvement, we thought it was time to call in a specialist. He'd do great in Boston, but in the South? Not so much.

* Besides that, today's main task involves stocking up on snack food for Jesse and his friends. They eat a lot.

Hope you all have a great Friday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Pledge of Allegiance

Last night was the first pack meeting of the first year. Duncan's a Webelo now, which means he's in the final level of Cub Scouts. I love the serious looks on their faces, and that the middle guy didn't quite get that right hand/left hand thing. But his intent is pure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Teaching Creative Writing

I missed it, and maybe you did, too! I was featured over at Heart of the Matter on Aug. 31 with Teaching Creative Writing. Perfect timing, as I was just planning to add another WordSmithery assignment today!

I wondered why I was getting so many hits this week on WordSmithery. I thought people were suddenly just tremendously enthused about creative writing.

Stop by Heart of the Matter for other great ideas on generating creativity!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

What an incredibly fun week this was! We started with a vacation day, so that's always good. We have a tradition of taking birthdays off. Since Laurel's feel on a weekend, we took Monday off. (Come to think about it, we took the previous Friday off, too!) Some friends had invited us to go to the indoor waterpark resort Wilderness in the Smokies, so we spent the entire day relaxing with friends.

As for our academic world, everything went so smoothly this week. We are nearly done with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and enjoyed lots of good discussion. Here's a picture of my jelly roll from last week, which didn't taste terribly exciting but it was fun anyway.

My new commitment this year is to do math the very first thing each morning. (Please understand: first thing means 10 a.m. for us.) This has been working out beautifully for us. Duncan is moving quickly through his math book. I skipped a whole year in Saxon because it seemed terribly repetitive, and so far it's a breeze for him. Laurel was thrilled to get her math program started this week. Actually, she has been enjoying it thus far. My friend Amy offered to let us borrow her Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra, and we finally managed to connect this week. Laurel heard a rumor that the first three chapters are tedious review work, so I've promised that I'll look at it and let her skip if appropriate.

In science we read about the astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, and fortunately this coincided with our first monthly trip to the Heritage Planetarium. Duncan especially loved this show on stars. Laurel enjoyed hanging out with her friends but wasn't crazy about the show itself. I actually found it interesting, although I must admit that Earth and Space Science was pretty much my least favorite college course ever. I don't let my kids know that, though, so shhhhh.

Friday afternoon brought our first meeting of the hiking club. A couple other moms and I thought we needed to start an official one. We live in one of the most amazing spots in the U.S., and so many people have expressed that they would love to hike more regularly. With only a few days' notice, we had a nice group of 30 adults/kids on the hike. Some people got lost and ended up on a different hike, but that's OK; there will be more to come! After the hike, there was lots of time to play in the river.

Saturday I had a most unusual and wonderful day: I had the house to myself! Randy and Duncan went hiking, Laurel was babysitting, and I was outrageously productive. I got all the lesson plans done for the Readers' Theatre and Creative Writing classes I'm co-teaching/teaching at our co-op, as well as getting various things ready for American Heritage Girls, which kicks off this week. In fact, yesterday was so productive that I took a nap today. One more week until our co-op classes begin, and then our weeks take on a whole new dimension!

Linked up with the Weekly-Wrap Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Morning

I am enjoying the rarest of mornings: I am all by myself in the house! Laurel is babysitting, and the boys left for a hike at 7 a.m. I intended to sleep late and luxuriously, but of course I was out of bed by 7. I went for a morning run, lovely except for the two white pitbulls that came charging at me. Their owner called them off (somehow the names Lily and Lucy softened the fact that pitbulls were nipping at my heels) and I headed over to my parents' house for an early morning visit.

I've already done two loads of laundry and worked out the schedule for the Readers' Theatre class I'm co-teaching at our enrichment classes. Next up: lesson plans for my creative writing class and literature circle class. But first I needed a little blogging/Facebook break.

This is going to be a crazy week coming up as we plunge back into Cub Scouts and American Heritage Girls, so I'm enjoying a peaceful, productive day. And I must add that I have the windows open and the a/c off for the first time in months!

Linked up on Saturday Morning Journal at Two Kid Schoolhouse

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Friends and Followers

I was thinking today about friending and following—and unfriending and unfollowing. Do you ever wonder how Facebook and blogging can affect our self-esteems, both positively and negatively? Sometimes it seems utterly insane to me that I feel actually let down when I see that I've lost a follower, and so happy when I see that I've gained one. You bloggers know what I'm talking about, right?

Recently I read a post from a blogger who lost a follower. She was basically writing to this follower, lamenting that s/he left, wondering why. Was she offensive? Boring? Too snarky? Who knows? The point was, this blogger was really distressed about losing a follower.

So I got to thinking about my own reasons. Why do I stop following people?
1. The number one spot definitely goes to: you sell too much stuff. Contests, advertising, give-aways, product reviews. Not interested.

2. You weren't what I expected when I started following, AKA, we don't have that much in common. Maybe I followed you because of a certain post, but when I started reading your blog, I realized that we travel in different circles.

3. You whine too much. Seriously, yes. I have stopped following people because their blogs seem to be a big whining session. It is so perfectly OK to pour your heart out, to gripe, to whisper a grievance now and then. But every single post? You stubbed your toe? Your house is too cluttered? Your husband didn't take out the trash? Call the WAHm-bulance, people! I'm moving on.

4. Your blog is too messy. Too hard to load, too many gadgets and widgets, too many ads, too big of a font. I know. I'm so shallow, but I'm just being honest here.

5. You haven't blogged in a long, long time. I've given up on you.

And then there is Facebook. I purged a couple of months ago, getting rid of all kinds of "friends." Mostly these were high school or college acquaintances that I barely knew. It's the whole "we weren't friends then, why are we friends now" thing. I instantly got several "friend" requests from those same people I unfriended. I probably friended them again so as not to hurt their feelings. I've only ever blocked one person, and that's because even seeing his name makes my blood pressure rise. (In fact, my stress level just rose dramatically even thinking about him for a fleeting second.) But anyway, I didn't purge all the people I barely knew back then, because some of those people have become, strangely, real friends now. Makes me wonder why we weren't friends all those years ago.

And I have this list of friend requests on Facebook that I keep ignoring. Not actually ignoring enough to hit the "ignore" button usually (and if you have Facebook, you know what I mean)—because then they know they've been ignored—but just not responding to. I feel badly about it because I don't want to cause these nice folks to wonder why I won't friend them, but frankly, well, I don't even know who you are. Or you're under 13. Or you irritate me in real life.

So my daughter just got a Facebook account a few days ago, on the occasion of her 13th birthday. Already she's been speculating: "Why hasn't so-and-so responded to my friend request?" Or "Yay! I have 75 friends already!"

It's crazy. But in spite of the lunacy of social networking, I love it. I love this ability to "meet" new people via blogging, to share ideas, be encouraged, read some beautiful prose, learn new stuff, find friends. Real friends. People who have become an actual part of my real life. And the same goes for Facebook. The connections, reconnections, the past meeting the present—it's all amazing.

And so that's what I have to say about all that. But please, be kind and don't stop following me. My fragile ego can't take any knocks this week.