Monday, November 30, 2009

Bright Futures Goes Historical

Before I invite you to read more of my Bright Futures students' writing, I want to introduce you to my "kids":

My two girls, from left to right, are Helen and Andrea (pronounced An-DREE-uh). Helen just joined us. She is only in 8th grade but is a really strong writer, so I brought her up with me for Writer's Workshop. Andrea is in 10th grade.

From left to right, my boys are Travis, Lelon, and Christopher. Travis and Christopher are in 12th grade and take the SAT next week. (Pray for them!) Lelon is in 9th grade.

I have uploaded new writings to Writer's Block. These are historical fiction pieces. I had a difficult time getting Lelon to understand the fictional aspect of this. As a result, his piece more closely resembles a report on an historical event, but we're making progress. If you have a moment, please read these pieces and leave a comment. As I've said before, these comments mean so very much to them!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back to Square One

I'm afraid we are back to Square One on two significant and ongoing events in our lives. First, the sale of our home. Would you believe that, amidst the chaos of Thanksgiving and our middle-of-the-night date, we had a house showing? Yes, Mark and I returned from Black Friday around 7:30 am, cleaned like crazy people, and had a house showing at 10:00. Another no-sale. Back to the drawing board on that front.

Then there was church today. Accompanied by our precious friends from our old church, we visited a new one that was quite a distance from us. Considering our church history, distance is not really a factor; however, even in the days when we commuted 35 miles to church every Wednesday and Sunday, it was a straight shot down the interstate. The route to this church took us down many two-lane roads laden with traffic lights. I can only imagine the time it would take to get there on a Wednesday night at rush hour.

Despite the fact that, by the time we made it there, we had already made up our mind about the church, I elicited some feedback from the children:

Me: Did you boys have fun today in your class?

Them: Yes.

Me: What was fun about it?

Them: We got Rice Krispy treats.

Me: But what else was fun?

Them: Jack wanted a second Rice Krispy treat.

Me: But what besides the Rice Krispy treat was fun?

Them: I don’t know; we didn’t do that much.

Me: Was there a story?

Them: Ummm…Yeah, I think so.

Me: What was the story?

Them: I don’t remember.

Then Alex chimes in: I liked it better than the [church we went to last week].

Me: Why?

Alex: Well, Grace and I got to share a bag of potato chips.

Me: But what else did you like about it?

Alex: Oh, and we had some candy corn.

(Are you sensing a theme here?)

Me: (rolls her eyes)

Alex: (quickly) OH! And I liked the message better.

Me: What was it about?

Alex: About being thankful.

A Retention Lesson to all of you church pastors/planters/directors/associates/ministers out there:

Feed the little children, and they will stay!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

See? I can act my age.

I'm in my mid, almost upper-30s. I look young. And I'm not bragging. That's not a compliment to me when someone tells me I look like a teenager because usually what a person means by that is, I don't take you seriously because you look like a teenager.

I act old, though. I don't play, really play, with my kids as much as I should. I don't do a lot of fun, spontaneous things anymore. And I always require my 6-7 hours of sleep.

But this weekend was Thanksgiving. Which means there was a Black Friday following the feasting. Which means that tradition dictates I throw the Old Lady Act out for a day or, rather, a night. It is on this, the nation's biggest shopping day, that I venture out with my husband in the middle of the night. We check things off our list, and we enjoy each other's company minus the little people.

This year was a bit different because some stores threw off our normal early-morning schedule by opening at midnight rather than at 4am. Toys R Us was that store. And I don't know why we always try to do Toys R Us. We are not serious enough shoppers to stand for hours in a line out in the freezing cold, so we never get there early enough to get the doorbuster deals. Then, after we have chosen the items we do want, when we see the check-out line that circles the gigantic store at least once, we always put the items back and leave empty-handed. But every year, there we are at Toys R Us. And this year, there we were. Only earlier.

Even though they opened at midnight, the other stores we wanted to visit didn't open until early morning, and, try as we might to be completely young, we did decide we wanted at least a couple of hours of sleep. So we went to bed at 9:30. And I lay there wide-eyed for at least two hours like I usually do, solving the world's problems. (Oftentimes I write blog posts in my head while I'm lying there, but obviously there was no head-blogging going on, or this post would have been written a bit earlier). Just as I had fallen into deep sleep, the alarm went off.

We were out the door by 1:30 and off to Toys R Us. The parking lot should have been our first clue that we were once again going to leave empty-handed, but there we were with 3 and 1/2 hours before another store would open, so in we went. And sure enough, the really good deals I wanted were gone, and the line was already winding around the store, in and out of the aisles. We left. But not before running into some good friends whom we would encounter several times during the night/morning.

With a couple of hours to kill, we decided to head to the mall. We had no idea there would be anything open in the mall, but there were cars in the parking lot, so we decided to follow the crowd. (As a side note, following the crowd can backfire on you. One Christmas, we were on the road and saw a McDonald's that looked open. We pulled up behind several cars in the drive-thru, finally got up to the speaker-order-thingy, and tried to place our order. No one there. It was closed. I wonder if we were on candid camera that day.) Anyway.

Our early morning escapade ended up being worth it because we cleaned up at the Disney Store in the mall. All items that weren't on our list, but the deals were too good to pass up. After the Disney Store, we got to go on our date. To the Waffle House. Because we're a class act.

So to cut down the length of my tale, I'll summarize by saying that we also got some great deals at Kohl's, Target, and Wal-Mart. If you've never been to Wal-Mart on Black Friday, it really is a must-experience. At least once. If you have a shopping cart, it's like Rush Hour traffic. Seriously. You can't move. It's a little easier without a cart. Sort of like being a motorcycle in Rush Hour traffic; you can weave in and out a bit. So I stood on the edge of the traffic jam with the shopping cart, and, using the cell phone, guided Mark to a couple of end caps I could see from my vantage point, which contained various items I can't name here because occasionally my daughter reads this.

And that was it. The end of another Black Friday. See? Sometimes I can be young. Ish. And, no, I'm not going to 'fess up to an afternoon nap because that would just make me sound old.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Because Everything is Better in Chocolate (a.k.a. You Capture - Food)

Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice (if you have it in your pantry; otherwise, tastes fine without)
1/2 c. walnuts lots and lots of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts chocolate.

Pour into a well-buttered loaf pan or muffin tin. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Good. Batter. Without chocolate.

Better. Batter. With chocolate. Yum!

Good. Plain pumpkin bread made especially for the Mister with love because he prefers his quick breads sans chocolate. Which means he doesn't really know how to Live.

Better. Pumpkin bread muffins laced with chocolate.

Happy Thanksgiving! And for more pictures of Food, visit I Should Be Folding Laundry.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Which She First Develops a Bad Taste in Her Mouth for the Tooth Doctor

Brought to you by the question the dental hygienist posed yesterday during my torture cleaning:

"So, did something traumatic happen to you that caused you to feel this way about dentists?"

I told her this story, though you may understand it better since I do not have fingers and various devices protruding from my mouth:

Growing up as a missionary kid, I never had the opportunity to get to know my relatives very well because I only saw them every four years when we would come back to the States for a year's furlough. Because we furloughed in California where my maternal relatives lived, I spent more time with them. During weekly visits to my grandmother's and holidays spent sitting at the kids' table with my cousins, I established at least a surface relationship with most of my mom's family.

The rare visits with my dad's family in Georgia were the special ones, though. There was something so comfortable and friendly about my grandparents' house in the small, southern town, a striking contrast to the noise, smog, and busyness of Los Angeles. Rincon was a town where everyone knew your name. I would go down to the post office with my grandfather, and the postmaster would greet him, "Good morning, Mr. Mac! Oh, and this must be your granddaughter." Obviously, he had been sharing his excitement about our visit.

I loved their house too. Outside was the ever-present smell of pine trees with a passing whiff of the paper mill in nearby Savannah. Not that paper mills give off a pleasant smell, but the odor always reminded me of Rincon, and that was a pleasant feeling. Inside there was the delicious aroma of fresh cornbread mixed with whatever meat dish would grace the table for dinner.

As weird as it sounds, one of my favorite things at my grandparents' house was in their bathroom. It was on their bathroom counter where I would always find the two plastic figurines. Or at least I thought they were figurines. They delighted me because they were a plump grandma with rosy cheeks and wire-frame spectacles, and an equally plump and jolly grandpa. And they stood there, cheerily, on the counter. I was even more delighted when I discovered the truth about these figurines. They were actually containers that held Grandma and Grandpa's teeth at night. And you can believe I crept into their bathroom many a night to sneak a peek at their teeth lying in the recesses of their respective Grandma and Grandpa Figurines.

I had many a discussion with my parents about these fun containers that held Grandma and Grandpa's teeth. I told my parents I wanted to one day have false teeth and a similar container in which to store them. At three-years-old, I had no idea of the prophetic nature of my grand desires. In fact, even as I spoke of my lofty teeth ambitions, my teeth were rotting in my mouth.

As a baby and young toddler, my parents had allowed me to fall asleep with my bottle, and the bottle contained a formula which contained sugar. Apparently, sucking on a bottle of sugar all night is bad for your teeth. So by the time I was four years old, all of my front teeth were rotten.

It was time for the dentist. And I honestly have mostly fond memories of this dentist's office. It took up the 3rd floor of an office building overlooking one of Los Angeles's freeways. I enjoyed sitting in the chair watching the cars go by. Seeing cars as numerous as one finds in L.A. was always culture shock for me. They always gave me a new weiner dog toothbrush. This was a toothbrush in a clear tube, and on either end was one end of the dog. A real dental treasure for a 4-year-old. Finally, they had a treasure chest to beat the band. It was in the shape of an actual treasure chest and was full of such a variety of treasures from which to choose, it was overwhelming.

Despite my adoration for this dentist, I inevitably had to undergo The Extraction. All of my front teeth came out. And I can only assume my x-rays showed no signs of any permanent teeth making their appearance any time soon, so rather than put me on a liquid diet for two years, I got temporary false teeth.

You would think, given my grand aspirations of one day sporting a good set of false teeth, I would have been elated. However, after the False Teeth Installation, I was presented with the harsh reality that I had just been given a set of false teeth that were attached to my mouth. No removing my teeth at bedtime. No putting them in a cute little jar beside the sink. These were no fun at all. With this realization, I was happy to find out that I would only have these false teeth until my permanent teeth emerged.

And with this experience, I learned several things. One, the Tooth Fairy knows that a whole mouthful of extracted teeth is worth way more than a quarter; I can still picture the lovely beaded flower necklace that came with the quarter. Secondly, not all false teeth are as cool as Grandma and Grandpa's. And third, the dentist is not a fun place to be.

For more "Things I Learned", visit Musings of a Housewife.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In Which the Offspring Are Braver Than the Parental Unit

I never made that appointment my husband said I needed to make since we've already met our dental deductible for the year. So my husband made it for me. He's helpful like that.

With T minus 2 hours until I would be putting my life and teeth in the hands of Dr. Curington, DMD, I whined stated the fact that I had to leave soon to be tortured by metal picks and scraping tools for my cleaning.

My daughter matter-of-factly responded, "Well, at least you don't have to have a big metal thing put in your mouth."

She's right, of course. This afternoon was Alex and Michael's appointment to have their jaw extenders inserted.

Now I don't know this for a fact because Mark took them to their appointment, but I'm pretty sure they did not have to have 18 x-rays done using a huge, ginormous THING that made me gag each time it was inserted in my mouth. And I'm sure they did not endure the terrible sound of plaque being meticulously scraped off of each and every tooth. Nope. All they had were metal contraptions put in their mouths

I was not shy about sharing with all of the dental staff my feelings as a dental patient (not to be confused with mental patient). They were still nice to me. In fact, my dentist told me that my teeth are so yummy and delicious despite the fact that I haven't had a cleaning in 4 years that it would be OK if I only had them cleaned once per year instead of the standard every-six-months. I think I almost like her.

The hygienist asked me if I still wanted the scheduled 6-month reminder sent to me in light of what my new dentist friend had told me. "Yes," I said, "because it will take me the other 6 months to work up the courage to come in again."

Meanwhile, my children were indeed having metal torture contraptions installed in their little mouths. And they really are so brave indeed. These things do not sit against the roof of their mouths, but rather create sort of a bridge halfway between their tongue and the roof of their mouths.

If I had one of those things in my mouth, I would be whining so much the thing would jump out of my mouth out of pure fatigue from my mouth flapping. But they haven't complained much. Alex only says she can't swallow, but then, I haven't seen much drool, so she must be swallowing when she's not thinking about it. She didn't eat much for dinner. I'm a little upset about their eating restrictions. For example, the list says they cannot have apples or carrots...really the only two fruits/veggies Michael will even eat. And everything they have eaten gets stuck between the contraption and the roof of their mouths.

It will be an interesting next several months with me trying to convince myself I need to be tortured another cleaning in a year, and my dear children trying to eat and talk normally with this Thing in their mouths. Then, of course, it's on to braces. My sweet little babies. They sure are brave!

Sorry...I could not get the apparatus without capturing up his nose as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Worst Shopping Trip

I know I have mentioned before that I do not care for shopping. But this shopping experience has been particularly excruciating. Sure, there are the usual assessments: this one is too big, that one is too small; this one just doesn't feel right. This shopping experience is different, though. It involves people. Us. Our future. Our children.

In September, our church was affected by the floods that inundated much of the state. But the physical flood of nature was just one flood the church was battling. We were battling a huge financial flood, and the waters of that flood continued to rise even as the weather-induced flood waters began to recede. The financial story is too long for this forum, and in fact, I do not even know all of the details of the story. What it finally meant for our church, however, was The End.

Although the final service at our church is not until next week, we bowed out a little early for a number of reasons. One is that I have such a strong desire to find a new church home by Christmas. For some reason, that is very important to me. Secondly, we already grieved for the church on that day back in September when the flooding rains just added to the financial catastrophe we were already in. Since that time we have been serving with the children's ministry and felt so detached anyway.

So we began our big, excruciating church shopping trip. It's been awhile since we've done this. When we got married, Mark and I continued to attend the church we attended when we were dating. There was never a question about whether or not we would stay there. But after a few years, we no longer felt it was right for us. That began our first Church Shop. It was a difficult too. We were trying unsuccessfully to start a family, and it seems everywhere we went, we found ourselves in the midst of groups of young marrieds who could talk about nothing but their children.

We finally gave up looking for that church that listed in their church bulletin: Young Infertile Group, Meets at 11:00, Rm. 201 and returned to our church where we were...comfortable. God answered our prayers and gave us 3 children in as many years. By that time, we knew we could not stay at that church any longer. We could see it was a church in trouble, and no one was taking any steps to fix it, nor was anyone listening to our suggestions. We were one of the first to leave. The church closed within a year or two of our leaving.

After we left that church, we found the church where we have been for the last 6 years, the church that has been our Home. It's gone through lots of changes too. The last two years have been tough because of all of those changes. Still, it's been Home. We have created precious friendships there. It is the only church our children remember, the only church our 4th child has known. But those changes have been disheartening, and we kind of just knew the end was near.

So now we are here. Shopping. Some in our church family have merged with another church, but we have chosen not to. The other church is an even greater distance from us, plus we are afraid it will just be "more of the same". The other day I was asked if I felt God "calling us away" from the church that agreed to merge. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I really stink at discerning God's calling. I've been asking God to just tell me what church to go to, but I have yet to hear an audible voice, and I have a difficult time knowing if the prodding I hear is from God or my selfish desires.

We have visited two churches thus far. Of course there are always positives and negatives to each. What's difficult is carting the children around from church to church. Thankfully, the older two are not shy and are therefore game to walking into a room full of strangers; later I have them report to me 3 positives and 3 negatives. Today even Audrey went into her class. They definitely appreciated today's service more than last week's. We felt sort of comfortable today, although the worship time was a little showy. We loved the singing at our old church--we felt we were a part of a contemporary band, yet we didn't feel the worship team was putting on a show. Today you throw in a smoke machine and flashing lights, and it turns kinda showy. Not to mention the pastor didn't go real deep.

I have found that to be true almost across the board. I have listened to more sermons online over the last three weeks than I typically listen to in a whole year. I don't know if it has to do with the "dumbing down of America" or what, but very few pastors go deep. In fact, many pastors barely crack open the Word of God in their sermons. That is very disturbing to me. The problem I'm finding is that we want contemporary worship combined with sermons that go deep, and that combination seems hard to come by.

So that is our journey right now. Thankfully, one difference in a Church Shop in this day and age as compared to our very first Church Shop is that we have the internet where we can "screen" churches before we spend a Sunday visiting. Meanwhile, I continue to hope God will just give me a church name as I read my Bible in devotions tomorrow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hot Chocolate...O, Christmas Tree!

Traditionally, we deck the halls on the day after Thanksgiving; however, this year we will have guests staying with us for Thanksgiving through the weekend. Even though they are family, I still want to extend the type of hospitality to them that does not include pulling a million boxes out of storage. So we decorated last night and this morning.

I still have ornaments from my childhood, and I want my children to have ornaments they can take with them when they have their own tree to decorate. This year I tried to make it a little more special. I selected ornaments that are significant to each child because of an event that happened in 2009. Then I wrapped them and placed them under one of the at-the-time still undecorated trees.

Alex's ornmament is a good resemblance of our cat, Cara. Alex calls Cara "her" cat (although she completely disowns her when it comes time to clean out the litterbox). And Cara very truly and clearly favors Alex over any of us. She follows her around and comes when she calls (so unlike a cat), and steals into her room to sleep in her bed whenever she gets the chance.

A plaid letter "A" was fitting for Audrey since she learned her letters this year.

Ever since we got the Wii last year, Michael has been our Super Gamer, so he got the game controller ornament.

Jacob was the most difficult. I wanted to find him a bike ornament because he was so proud when he learned (in 20 minutes, no less) to ride his bike. However, I could not find one, so he received a robot. He loves gadgets, and I thought this fit him well.

Before the children were permitted to open their first Christmas gifts of the season, we read A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree, a favorite in our house. I have mentioned before that my earliest memory of this book is when I was reading it to a two-year-old Alex. As we read about how lonely the Christmas tree was, I looked down at Alex, and her pretty blue eyes were brimming with tears.

We enjoyed Hot Chocolate with our storytime. And when I say Hot Chocolate, I mean lots of marshmallows, chocolate chips, and whipped cream with a little homemade hot chocolate thrown in for good measure.

Later in the evening, Mark asked Audrey what she wanted for Christmas. This prompted her to make a list. The other 3 followed suit.

Audrey's List
Polly Pockets
American Girl Doll

Jacob's List
Webkinz shark
Webkinz reindeer
(he says he hasn't finished his yet)

Michael's List
Power Miners Lego set
Webkinz cardinal
big blue bean bag chair
Webkinz reindeer

Alex's List
American Girl Doll
Biggest Littlest Pet Shop
Webkinz shark
iPod gift card
clay sculpting kit
Barbie Digital Nail Salon
DS game, World of Zoo
Webkinz reindeer

Alex's list is a little longer since she has a birthday thrown in there as well. I'm a little torn about a gift for her. I was cleaning this morning and came across a page she had torn out of her journal. I don't know how long ago it was written, but in it she mentions how much she would like an American Girl Doll. Audrey is always asking for one as well.

The problem is that I just don't know if I can bring myself to pay such an exhorbitant price for a doll. Not to mention the fact that this doll's clothes and accessories cost more than what I will pay for my own clothes. And I'm a real live person in case no one else understands my reluctance. The reason I'm torn is because she has never, ever asked me for an American Girl Doll or bugged me about the fact that many of her friends have one. She hasn't because she's heard me get on my soap box about the cost of these things.

So do I go against my principles and buy her one because she has been so positively sweet about not whining about this thing? I'm sure I'll end up not going for the extreme doll; however, it is a proud mama moment when you discover, by accident, just how sweet and thoughtful your "baby" girl is.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Coming Clean About Chocolate

As mature, wise, grown-up moms, we spend a lot of time teaching our children how to be polite, pleasant, kind little people. One of the lessons we spend the most time on is Sharing. You know what? Sometimes I don't like to share! For example, when it comes to chocolate I DON'T WANT TO SHARE.

I found the answer to my practice-what-you-preach-dilemma. And, while I probably would not choose this over a Snickers bar, it is one of my favorite kinds.

Because when I want a piece, I don't have to

sneak into the pantry under the guise of planning tonight's dinner,

slyly shove a piece in my pocket,

tiptoe to my room,

lock the door,

and wolf it down

all the while ignoring the incessant banging on my door.

NOT that I've ever done that.

Nope. With this chocolate, I can

take the whole bag out of the pantry and set it on the counter,

make all the noise I want opening the bag,

take out a piece,

make all the noise I want unwrapping it,

savor every little morsel,

and help myself to seconds

all the while standing in my kitchen ignoring the Chaos around me.

Why? Because none of the kids likes Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Squares with Raspberry Filling.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Tale of Two (or Three or Four) Sunsets (a.k.a You Capture - Sunrise/Sunset)

There were many reasons I was not excited about this week's Sunrise/Sunset assignment:

1) I don't wake up early enough to capture a sunrise, especially now that Daylight Savings is over.

2) There are so many trees surrounding my house, it's difficult to see the sunrise or sunset from my house, which means

3) that I have to travel somewhere with all four children in order to view such a thing, and

4) they tire of me taking pictures.

5) It's been raining so much here I have had my doubts that there is still a sun in the sky that needs setting or rising.

So I was going to just skip the assignment, but then I decided to go look for a chair to replace the recliner I moved from my room to the family room. And, yes, this story is connected to the sunset. Here's what happened:

Sunset #1
I found this great chair for $399.00. I really didn't want to pay that much, but it was a really cool chair. I made sure I asked Tim the friendly sales guy if the pillows come with the chair. Duh! Why wouldn't they? he said in his head as he nodded in a friendly sort of way.

But I didn't want to shell out $399.00 without talking about it with my husband first. So I went home, packed up the whole family, and took everyone to the furniture store. On the way, I noticed that, while I could not see the actual setting sun, the sky because of the setting sun was gorgeous. So what was a 20 minute trip to the furniture store turned into about 45 because every couple of minutes, I said, "Ooo, ooo, pull over."

What made it especially difficult was that we were driving east, so I had to crane my neck the whole time to see the gorgeous sky. So we pulled over every few miles until my husband finally said I had enough pictures.

So then I just took them out the window as we drove and when we stopped in traffic.

And then I remembered the sunroof and took some pictures from there.

Anyway, to make a really short story really long, my husband thought the chair was really cool too. And then he asked me if the ottoman came with the chair. "Well, duh," I said. "I asked Tim the friendly sales guy if the pillows came with it. I'm sure I remembered to ask Tim if the ottoman comes with it. Right?" So I called Tim back over. "The ottoman comes with the chair, right?" Nope. The ottoman is an additional $199.00. $199.00 so my dirty feet have a place to rest. Yeah. Not going to pay $600.00 for a chair. So all of that and no chair. In my defense, you'll notice the price tag on the ottoman was backwards the whole time I was there. Both times. Out of sight, out of mind. Plus, sometimes, I'm just plain out of my mind.

Sunset #2
Sunday was a gorgeous day. Temps in the 70s, sunshine. I knew that there would be a fabulous sunset, but I had also been invited to play volleyball, and volleyball waaay trumps sunsets. But on the way home from volleyball, I spied yet another gorgeous sunset sky, so I quickly had hubby pulled over and took this:

As you may have guessed by now, I am no professional photographer. And I therefore have no idea what that white circle is in the picture. It is not the moon. It does not show up on the photo before this one or on the photo after, so I don't think my lens is dirty. I have not photoshopped that in. My theory? I captured an alien spaceship! Of course you more pro-fessional photographers out there might have a different theory, one that does not involve extra terrestrials. If you do, though, don't tell me; I'd prefer believing I captured something that belongs in Area 51.

Sunset #3
We are studying Ancient Greece, so when I first started thinking of alternatives to this assignment besides, you know, actually capturing a real sunset, I assigned my daughter the task of writing a myth that would explain why the sun sets. Here is her myth:

The Sun Bearer and Her Daughter

There was a village on the top of the world. The people there would keep the sun in the air all the time. There was a beautiful woman who was in charge of it all. She had a daughter named Lunar who was more beautiful than a patch of daisies.

One day bandits came and took Lunar away. The chief sun bearer sent all the sun bearers after her. Since they were gone, the world was dark.

Meanwhile, Lunar came across a gem and cracked half of it off. She threw the half up in the sky, and it started to glow. The half of the gem shows how far away she is. That is how the sun sets and the moon rises. Lunar is stolen away every night.

Of course the myth had to be illustrated, so I presented all the kids with an art project called a Rainy Day Picture, an idea I stole from Samvach at To Be Busy at Home. Here is Alex's:

Sunset #4
Finally, another alternative I had to actually doing this assignment was to pull from the archives. These sunset pictures are from our trip to Panama City Beach in May 2009. I think my husband took the best one. (Maybe he should be doing these You Captures instead of me!)

For more sunsets (and hopefully some sunrises from Morning People), visit Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dear New Orthodontist,

Although I may now have to cut the college careers of my two eldest children by 1 or 2 years, I am grateful to you for beginning this Braces Journey. You put the band spacers in to prepare their little mouths for the expanders which will go in next week. And now I hear the incessant whining about how weird it feels, which is what any parent of children on this Journey should hear. Of course, today Michael asked me if one of the spacers fell out because he couldn't feel it. Mission accomplished--he's used to them now.

Speaking of falling out spacers, though. I noticed in the paperwork you sent home that there is an entire page devoted to the instructions on what I should do in the event that a spacer does fall out. I want you to know that should that occur, I do not intend to follow any of the directions except the last one which says, "If you have any problems, please contact our office." To me, if one of the spacers falls out, that is a problem. I will not attempt to re-insert the spacer myself. You are the tooth professional, not I.

Until next week,

P.S. - Since you have asked me to accomplish a task for which I am not trained, I wish to inform you that a brand new Schoolbox store just moved into my area. Now we are even: you tried to lure me into your world of teeth; I, well, I'm just explaining why I'm doing the happy dance over here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gratitude of a Hypochondriac

I'm a hypochondriac. It doesn't help that I know so many people my age who are receiving all kinds of sinister diagnoses. And it doesn't help that the last time I went to the doctor, she told me that since I'm adopted, I "should just assume I have everything because it's better to be safe than sorry." Clearly, she does not know me. Although you'd think she'd have an inkling since I'm in there all the time with a new bump for her to check.

Setting aside all the worries that come with being a hypochondriac, I thought I would get into the thankful spirit of this season: Today I am thankful that mammograms are not half as bad as I have heard.

That's it. No more details.

You are welcome.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pallets, Leaves, and Garbage

Although our recent weather might fool someone into thinking it is spring, it clearly is not. I wish it was spring because then it would be time to start my first Square Foot Garden. I've gotten a little mini-start, however. Even now in November.

I didn't know I should start my compost now, but my friend Sharon said I should, and she knows stuff. So I decided it was in my best interest and that of my future SFG if I got the compost composting.

A few weeks ago, I was driving Alex back from a birthday party (her third in so many weeks--she's so unsocialized!), and I happened past a home with a backyard stacked high with pallets. (Note: the backyard was open to the busy street, so I was being completely safe.) So I pulled over and had a brief conversation with the owner of the backyard and of the stacks of pallets wherein I found out that he just lost his job and was making ends meet by collecting pallets, disassembling them, and selling the "parts". I asked for three. He offered them to me for free. I paid him a few bucks anyway because how is a guy supposed to make a living giving away stuff for free?

Anyway, those pallets have been sitting in our backyard since then. This weekend my dear husband attached the three pallets, attached wire mesh to the sides, and Voila! I have my compost "bin".

In addition to making my compost bin, he also did the final grass mowing of the season. Those clippings went into my compost pile. And so did the veggie scraps from dinner last night. Which he also cooked. (I do really do stuff around here!) Don't worry I won't be reporting each and every scrap or grass clipping that goes into my compost, but since this was the beginning, I thought it blog worthy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homeschool Ramblings

For more Homeschool Weekly Wrap-Ups, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Ever since I began homeschooling, I have sustained a love/hate relationship with the month of December. I love Christmas, but because it's my favorite holiday, there are so many things I aspire to get done for the holiday: baking, shopping, decorating, crafting, relaxing, fellowshipping. But with all the curriculum and the attendance sheet squares staring me in the face, I typically allow homeschooling to turn this cherished season into frenzied chaos.

I'm not going to go through that stress this year. This year, I have given my calendar a major facelift. We are going full-fledged into this year-round schooling thing. Next week will be our last week of school until 2010 because we are taking from Thanksgiving week all the way through the New Year OFF! I'm so excited. Of course, this will mean we school in June and July, but the kids are often so bored during the summer anyway, it's not a big deal. In fact, Alex just shrugged when I told her it would mean school during the summer.

With only two weeks left before a long break, I have to make them count. This week has been a fruitful one. Here's a wrap-up:

Some time ago, I halted all book work and spent a week emerging the boys in Math Fact Boot Camp. Well, turns out Michael only committed the facts he learned that week to his short term memory. We have hit the proverbial brick wall with long division, and much of his problem is due to the fact that he cannot recall the facts we "learned" that week. (Incidentally, he can tell you all the names of and prices for every Lego set on the market.)

I have been frustrated to say the least. And I've been eyeing that big, yellow school bus with more and more wistfulness because how great would it be to ship him off for someone else to teach him his math facts? 'Course he'd probably just come home with a note from his teacher asking me to help him learn them.

Anyway, I was a little stumped about what to do. Knowing my little boy likes computer games, I had perused the internet for math games, but most of them were rather boring. Then, by chance, I happened to be discussing math and other homeschooling issues with my friend Mitzi at co-op while we were supposed to be watching the 3-year-olds. She mentioned a computer game she had used with her kids called Timez Attack. I downloaded the free version of it, and Michael is hooked. Not only that, but Alex loves it too and is therefore getting lots of great review. Not only that, but Jacob wanted to play too, so he is learning his multiplication facts before his curriculum demands it.

Not to be left out, the Princess has now decided she is interested in the computer as well. So I dug out the kids' old Jumpstart Kindergarten CD. Showing it's age, it makes the computer sound like it may blow up while it is running, but she is having a great time. She has never before shown interest in the computer, so Alex sat down with her to show her how to work the touch mouse. And within a few minutes, she was comparing shapes, discovering numbers, and digitally coloring pictures.

About the same time we had Math Fact Boot Camp, we had a sick week and thus a day when we did not make it to co-op. The boys are in a Backyard Science class there, and their teachers were kind enough to send home the materials they needed to do the project they missed. I may be a little lazy I procrastinate a lot, so we did not get to the soda bottle greenhouse project right away. OK, so weeks went by. And every week, the boys' teachers would ask them if their plants had sprouted yet. So finally this week I decided to be a responsible adult and teacher and help them get the project done. Every day the boys excitedly check their bottles, anticipating those first little sprouts to spring up.

In science, we are also finishing up our brief look at anatomy. Some time ago, I got a wonderful idea and link from Casey at Bumpin' Along. We printed out near life-sized skeletons which the kids labeled. Today we added some guts and labeled those as well. Next week we'll finish them up by adding the digestive system. It's been fun having our own skeletons.

Other Stuff
In one of my efforts to cement those math facts into Michael's head, I bought a Multiplication Lapbook from Hands of a Child. I knew I might be met with some indignation from the other 3 when I pulled out lapbook materials for Michael alone to work on, but I had no idea the indignation would be a firestorm. They ALL had to do a lapbook NOW. While I'm not the parent who gives in to each child's whims whenever they surface, I also hate to turn my back on potential learning experiences, especially those met with such enthusiasm, so I visited Homeschool Share which offers many, many FREE lapbooks (but none on multiplication). I allowed the other two older ones to look through the exhaustive topic list and pick a lapbook. Both of them chose one on cats.

I printed out the materials, and they did the rest. Even Audrey got into independent lapbooking. I printed some things out for her for a Dr. Seuss Are You My Mother? lapbook. She cut everything herself. The affixing to the folder part of her project is still underway, but she pulls it out everyday to work on it.

Too Many Pictures?

Maybe you don't experience this, but when I get to the end of the register line at any store, I find I have some organizing to do: bank card back in place, receipt in my wallet slot for later recording, all items stowed securely in the cart, all items children have grabbed back on the shelves, wallet put away, sunglasses out, keys dug out from the recesses of my purse, quick head count...

They really need a little room or area or something for that at the end of each line.

Today we were at Hobby Lobby. In order to show the 201 customers behind me what a gem I am, I decided to pull my cart up before I began my Reorganization. And as an added gesture, I decided to get my children out of those 201 customers' way/earshot. I spied a cute little bench over by the cart corral.

"Please go sit over there," I ordered.

"Awww, Mom, are you going to take another picture of us?" Alex asked, exasperated, wondering what in the world was so special about a trip to Hobby Lobby that it must be forever memorialized.

"Well, no, I wasn't planning on it, but since you offered..."

Did I expect them to cooperate for a picture after that conversation, under those circumstances?

Well, no, but since they were good sports, there was nothing I could do but take them to DQ to share a Blizzard.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You Capture - Real Life

Sometimes they fail to clean their rooms. Even if they say they have.

Sometimes I let the Lego Man build instead of doing other things he should be doing because I know how very much he enjoys building.

Sometimes I let the kids watch as much TV as they want to so I can enjoy a little peace and quiet.

Sometimes Many times the petty bickering of sibling rivalry can make a mama want to scream, but then something happens that makes that same mama's heart melt.

Sometimes I get upset over stupid, little things like spilled milk. They are always quick and gracious to forgive me for losing my cool.

Sometimes All the time I love them with all the love my little mommy heart can give.

For more photos of Real Life, visit I Should Be Folding Laundry. And for more "Sometimes in Real Life", head over to Bumpin' Along the Road Less Traveled.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bright Futures and Other Housekeeping Issues

Thought I would give you an update on Bright Futures. It's going great. It is getting a little old driving downtown with kids in tow every week (especially since Tuesday seems to be THE Day for an Atlanta downpour), but we pass the time listening to books on CD. We just finished Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest series and enjoyed it immensely.

I have so enjoyed getting to know my BFA kids. They're good kids, all four of them, and we have a great time together. Please note that I have added 4 new essays to Homeschool Writer's Block. I have not been good about keeping up with that. And the kids miss it! Every week they have asked me, "Do you have our comments?" Trust me when I tell you how very much those comments mean to them. So, while I know it takes a good bit of time out of your day to do so, I would very much appreciate if you would visit and comment on their writings.

The essays I have posted are just one of a few assignments they have completed in the last few weeks. They had a rough time with their Lord of the Flies analytical essays, so I did not post those. For a couple of them, we had to re-work those papers and then re-work them some more, and we still have much room for improvement in that area.

Note: If you are new here and are wondering, What on earth is Bright Futures? visit here (the last post under that label explains the most).

As for that other housekeeping issue, I have recently made a new friend over at Running with Letters. Cynthia really does run with letters. And then she takes those letters and spins them into a lovely choice of words. And then she takes those words and morphs them into wonderfully composed sentences. She's a fun, busy, sweet person and someone I'd love to meet in person. Oh, and she's written two books for young adults. The Chrysalis is found here, and Drink the Rain may be found here.

Anyway, she has in the last few weeks awarded me two blog awards. The first was forever ago. So thank you, Cynthia, for the i give good blog Award

and for the Superior Scribbler Award.

The Superior Scribbler Award comes with some fine print. Here it is:

1. Each Superior Scribbler I name today must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving bloggy friends.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog.
4. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

So here's what I'm going to do. I happen to have 3 blog friends who were or are English teachers, which, implicitly, means they spend quite some time "scribbling". And they are:

Annie at Having a Ball
TeacherMommy at Diapers and Dragons
Arby at Boarding in Bedlam

I also have a wonderfully fun blog friend who acts like she was at some point an English teacher. I mean, she writes well and corrects people's grammar (and that's endearing, not annoying for the record). (Note to self: ask her what she did in Life-Before-Mommyhood-and-Homeschooling). And that person is:

Crossview at Down a Red Dirt Lane

Finally, one of my Write4Homeschool students is a witty, charming blogger herself, and she becomes my last but not least award recipient:

Aja at The Penguinator's Lair

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fun with Gladiators

Before we had kids, Mark and I attended various sporting events on a regular basis. Both of our companies possessed coveted season tickets to the Hawk's games, and whenever the bigwigs of either company could not make use of these tickets, they were up for grabs. We always grabbed them. I loved going to NBA games. I enjoyed the energy of the crowd, and I love the game. My most memorable basketball date was definitely when we witnessed the Hawks take on the Bulls. And this was back when Phil Jackson was the coach, and the team consisted of Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, some other guys, and, of course, #23. The best part about it? We were in Row B. That's the second row! From the court. We were showered with Michael Jordan's sweat whenever he ran by.

Although we enjoyed basketball, our favorite events came in 1996 when the Olympics came to Hotlanta. Mark's company offered us tickets to witness the women's semi-final games in soccer. And we also splurged and bought ourselves men's volleyball tickets. I don't recall who played. I only remember that our games took place the morning after the bombing at Centennial Park. Since the Omni where the games took place was close to the park, we experienced the scrutinized check-ins that are now so commonplace at any public venue. And, as almost-newly weds trying to find our way in the world, our "splurge" got us nose-bleed seats, but we still had a fantastic time.

Since those days of long ago, children have entered our lives, making sporting events more difficult. Not that children don't have a place in the stadium, but lugging diaper bags and babies through crowds only to have the kids squirm and complain in their seats is not the best use of finances or time. We have taken in a few baseball games with the kids, but only when we were able to get free or almost-free tickets. Baseball is by far NOT my favorite sport. I chalk it up to the fact that I grew up a world away from the game. And I always laugh when the "World Series" for baseball rolls around each year. I mean, I know there are some Americans who think that life revolves around them; perhaps they are the ones who define the "world" as the United States and that one team from Canada.

So, for the few times we have caught the Braves in action, the kids , like me, have found sitting in the scorching sun to watch some middle-aged men maybe hit the ball and then maybe make it all the way around the diamond as exciting as watching your hair grow. (And my apologies to the many baseball enthusiasts I just offended with that statement.)

Moreover, having grown up where football is a sport where the foot actually makes contact with the ball, I have historically had the same relationship with football in this country as with baseball. However, when the Falcons went to the Superbowl back in the '90s, I had my husband explain the complicated-looking game to me. Once I understood it, I actually found American football is fascinating enough that I enjoy watching a game now and then, both on TV and in the Georgia Dome. Although, as I recall, during the last Falcons game we went to, I was more entertained by the drunk guy in front of us than the game, but maybe that is because he wouldn't sit down and thus blocked my line of vision.

Crowds can get rowdy at hockey games too, and we've been to our share of those. Before the Thrashers were born, Atlanta had a minor league team called the Knights. Because of the team's amateur status, tickets were cheap. For $10, you could score seats fairly close to the fight game.

While the Knights have been replaced by our NHL team, out in the 'burbs we have another minor league team called the Gwinnett Gladiators. We as a family got our first taste of the Gladiators last night...and all for free! An old dentist friend of ours happens to be the Gladiator's dentist (imagine the miracles he has to do when stray pucks meet those mouths!), and his dental office annually sponsors a special reading program. We took part this year, and scored free tickets for the whole family! Pretty good seats too.

We had such a great time last night and even discovered some teaching moments at a hockey game. For example, either we were sitting in the season ticket holder section where the fans meet together on a regular basis to cheer on the team, or I completely missed the memo. Because every now and then, our entire section would break out in a chant, the words of which I could not discern. However, it very clearly ended in a big "You suck!" at the opposing team, an ending that was not lost on the children. We discourage that phrase in our house. (Modeling not using that word is hard for me because I have to bite my tongue when I want to say things like, "It really sucks that we can't sell this house" or "It really sucks that our church is closing".) The lesson lay in explaining to the children why a couple hundred adults might be acting like children by demeaning the other team in that way. At another point, the whole stadium began loudly booing the team from Kalamazoo. Alex, my compassionate one, turned to me and stated, "Well, that sure is mean!"

Another lesson was found in that old phrase, "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out." I shared that phrase with the kids before the game, and they rolled their eyes at me and gave me their usual, Mom, you're kind of crazy, do you know that? look. Turns out we all enjoyed the many body slams which shook the glass and caused sparks of ice to fly from the players' skates. But then in the third period, two players threw their helmets (or hats as my littlest called them) to the ice, knocked each other to the cold floor, and began whaling on each other. The lesson lay in explaining to the kids why the audience was cheering them on. The resulting Time Out in the Penalty Box at least proved to show the children the good use of a Time-Out.

Lessons aside, the kids were very into the game the whole time. (Well, except for maybe the Princess who stated emphatically a couple of times, "I'm bored.") The energy in the stadium was electric as it usually is at such events, and my children caught that vibe. They cheered, danced, vied to catch the various prizes that flew from the prize shooter, performed a pretty good YMCA, and--thankfully--did not join in on the You Suck Chant.

(No, we didn't have the stadium to ourselves. These pictures were taken prior to the game--while the teams were practicing.)