Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up {How Good it is to Thank the Lord}

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A photo I didn't have a chance to share a few weeks ago -- how did these kids get so grown up?!

My timing has been off this week -- on Tuesday I was convinced it was the end of the week and I needed to start writing my weekly wrap-up, but then I couldn't remember what had happened during the week. By the time Friday did roll around, I got my post mostly written and then forgot about it until Sunday afternoon. Oh, well. : )

I have a newish routine for my Mondays. Ryne's Classical Conversations class is 30 minutes away from our house, so in the past I've either stuck around at CC -- sometimes attending Ryne's classes, sometimes running errands, and sometimes just hanging out in the car reading or even taking a nap! The one thing that didn't make sense was wasting all that time and gas money to drive back home.

Last week, I joked about how my kids were excited to get to ride the yellow school bus, and I must admit I've had my share of yellow school bus fantasies. How wonderful it would be to have the house to myself. Peace and quiet, productivity, a chance to do the things I can never get done when everyone else is home. Writing it out sounds so selfish and trivial, but I know I can't be the only one who feels this way from time to time. Okay, daily. ; )

Last month, I dropped Ryne off at CC and then headed home because I desperately needed to get something done at home. I don't even remember what the emergency was, but I remember having my yellow school bus moment and thinking, this is the life! Now, don't get me wrong. This past summer God gave me the confirmation and conviction that homeschooling Ryne through high school is what I'm called to do and I'm honored to be able to do it. But that one Monday at home convinced me that it is worth the cost of time and money to have 4-5 hours at home alone. I get a LOT done and it starts out my week on a relaxing tone. Now that I've decided that this is generally what my Monday routine is going to be, I'm starting to tweak how I want to structure the day.

This past Monday was spent mostly in the kitchen, making food for that night's cross country team awards banquet. As I made a quadruple batch of bacon breadsticks and baked a pumpkin dump cake, I watched The Lost Tools of Writing DVDs that I've been meaning to get to for the past year and half. See why I'm liking this new routine? : )

If an emotional breakdown was prevented during Anna's last cross country meet, there was no getting off the hook at the banquet that night. The banquet lasts almost 4 hours, but that's because our amazing coach talks about each athlete and how they contributed to the team -- not just athletically, but through their spiritual character traits. I was so blessed by the things said about both our kids. It was a special night!

Tuesday and Wednesday were just normal routine days, and I just want to say I LOVE normal routine days! It's been such a whirlwind this fall, that we really take notice when we have the opportunity to just buckle down and get things done. Ryne only has a couple weeks left in the CC semester, so the easier schedule is timely.

One thing I'm so glad I decided to do this year is take algebra along with Ryne. Until this week, that just meant watching the Math U See lesson with him and then I'd take the test myself to make sure I was following the material. If I made any mistakes, I reviewed the lesson and usually figured it out pretty quickly. This week's lesson was about graphing inequalities, and I finally decided I was going to have to do some of the daily assignment work before doing the test. I worked through several problems, then took the test on Wednesday and scored 100%. Woo hoo! How funny for me to be that excited about doing well on a math test. Going through the course with Ryne is actually quite helpful -- not because of the ego boost -- but because I am able to help him so much better when he gets stuck on something. A few weeks ago, I got a week behind and when he needed help, I made things much worse before I took the time to go through the lesson myself. I'm so glad I listened to this advice from homeschool veterans -- take math with your child (ideally, you'd even work ahead of their pace).

Thursday was a fun day. I got to keep a secret from Ryne all day, and it drove him crazy. : ) I count that as a blessing too, because many kids on the autism spectrum would not be able to handle such uncertainty. While it was annoying to him, he was able to deal with the teasing. So, what was the surprise? Tickets to a Star Trek symphony performance -- they played one of the movies on a giant screen while the symphony accompanied. Ryne loves both Star Wars and Star Trek, and he's obsessed with the soundtracks to both series. He got a couple different soundtracks for his birthday in August and has listened to them nonstop, so he was in his element at this event.

While Marc and Ryne were at the symphony, I got to go out to a restaurant with some ladies from our church, which was also a lot of fun. Grace was at ballet class and Anna was preparing for a big debate for her rhetoric class.

Friday afternoon, Anna's senior class conducted their debate in front of the entire the secondary school body and I was able to go watch. This wasn't one of those emotional senior year "last" moments, but it was still a pretty significant event -- for her because it was a big project her team had worked hard on, for me because it was an opportunity to see her classical education come full circle. Nine years ago I casually browsed the library shelves for anything on homeschooling and brought home The Well-Trained Mind. The book sold me on the idea of homeschooling, but the classical method intimidated me. Yet, by the grace of God, we survived and I can see how it really does equip the student in so many ways. I'll have to expand on that in a future post, maybe next semester as we get closer to graduation.

As soon as the debate ended, I started getting notifications on my phone about the tragedy in Paris. And then 30 minutes later, Marc called to say he had been in an accident on the interstate. There were no serious injuries -- he's sore, but thankful his car held up well to the impact. It needs significant repairs, yet it could have been much worse. We're praising God for His protection.

And we are praying for the people in Paris. This morning a verse of a hymn we sang in church served as a beautiful reminder that God is in control and offers a glorious future, free from sin and evil.

When as the grass the wicked grow,
When sinners flourish here below,
Then is there endless ruin nigh,
But You, O Lord, are throned on high:
Your foes shall fall before your might,
The wicked shall be put to flight.
How Good it is to Thank the Lord, (Verse 3)

Finally, since I'm still finishing this post up Sunday night, my heart is also heavy about news I just received that a dear friend is having to say good-bye to her father, just like I did a few months ago. I'm praying God will fill her with the same peace and comfort He did for me.

I'll probably have the above hymn in my head all week, which is a good thing. It is good to thank the Lord, not just for happy moments of which we had many at the Blue House this week, but also for the hard moments because they teach us to cling to God.

How good it is to thank the Lord,
And praise to You, Most High, accord.
To show Your love with morning light,
And tell your faithfulness each night:
Yea, good it is your praise to sing,
And all our sweetest music bring.
(Verse 1)

May you have a blessed week! Happy homeschooling!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up {Celebration!}

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Whew! What a couple of weeks it's been -- the Royals won the World Series!!! More on that in a bit.

Sorry, I missed last week's wrap-up. I was out of town for the kids' last cross country meet of the season and just couldn't find the time or energy for blogging, so I'll try to recap two weeks at once.

Classical Conversations: Two weeks ago, Ryne had his first debate. They had been studying the debate process all semester, but this was their first actual debate with teams and everything. I'll admit, it was pretty awful, but I'm so proud of him.

First of all, the kids picked their own topic and didn't realize when they chose it how impossible this particular topic would be to research and argue, for either side of the resolution. That made preparation a giant headache for everyone, but it was a good lesson to learn and a mistake they won't repeat if they get to choose their topic again. : )

Second, my son is just amazing. Debate is hard in general, but a thousand times harder for a kid with autism who has trouble verbally expressing himself. Several of his statements were hard to understand and his points didn't flow well. Yet, he did it, and I think he even enjoyed it. He has no fear of speaking in front of people (which can also be a problem sometimes!), because he doesn't get all caught up in what other people think about him. He does, however, thrive on the interaction with people. When he was growing up, I would never have thought he'd be an extrovert, but I think he is! That leaves me as the only true introvert in our family, and we wonder why I'm always so stressed out. {Kidding, dear family!}

Moving on. Two Thursdays ago, Grace had her choreography night at ballet, a tradition the middle grade ballet students do each year around Halloween. Instead of just dressing in costumes, like the youngest kids, they get to choreograph their own dance to perform in front of the class. Grace stayed up late Wednesday night trying to get all her homework done and then spent most of Thursday working on her dance, which was a cute (poking-fun-of) day in the life of a One Direction fan, using music from The Piano Guys. I had my phone all ready to record her performance at class that night, so, of course, I totally forgot to record it and I'm going to hate myself forever.

Soon, you will notice a recurring theme.

Friday, we left for the out of town cross country meet. That evening the team had a meeting and the seniors each got to share a few words about their cross country experience. I sat hidden in a corner so no one would be able to see my tears flow when it was Anna's turn to talk. I was doing pretty well holding myself together until the very end when she got teary, but then as she started to get emotional Ryne walked right up to the front of the room and wrapped his arms around her. Waterworks, ya'll. That was too much for this momma to handle.

After that, I figured Saturday I'd be an emotional mess since it was Anna's last cross country meet ever. Instead of puddles of tears, however, we had rain puddles. It rained and rained and rained all morning. There was no thunder or lightning, so the races went on as planned. But it was my daughter's last race and I was not going to let the rain prevent me from getting the perfect photo of it. I take thousands of pictures each cross country season, of every kid on the team. If I do say so myself, sometimes I get pretty amazing pictures -- of other people's kids. My own kids' photos usually turn out so-so. I think it's because I have a harder time focusing on taking the photo since I also want to cheer them on. Yet, this was my last chance for Anna, so I just wrapped a plastic bag around my camera and kept snapping away.

She had a pretty good race with a strong finish. I stood near the finish line taking continuous photos as she approached, but it was exciting because she hadn't had that kind of kick at the end of her race for more than a year. And then as soon as she passed me, I burst into tears. That was it, her last race.

The rain continued through the award ceremony and the team prayer afterwards. Everyone was soaked to the bone, so it was a little hard to be emotional when you just wanted to find dry clothes and food. Momma meltdown prevented, but it was also a bit of a letdown.

At least I'd have great pictures of her last race. How could I not when I took hundreds just of her?

Nope. The best ones were so-so, and I'm going to hate myself forever.

Sunday was Grace's 13th birthday!!! And guess what her big present was? The Royals winning the World Series!!! Yes, we had previously arranged it with the team, so while the rest of the city was sweating it out when the game extended into 12 innings we were as calm as could be. ; )

Tuesday was the big celebration for the champions. Parade at noon and rally at 2:00. City officials were planning for 200,000 people to crowd downtown Kansas City. Area schools cancelled classes. To accommodate the crowds, buses would be available at various locations around the metro area to shuttle people in. In my great wisdom, I decided taking the shuttle would be much easier than trying to find parking downtown.

Well, I wasn't the only one who had that bright idea.

This was taken when we first got in line -- these are the people who showed up in the 15 minutes after us.

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And this is about two hours later. That's the line of people still in front of us.

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The crazy thing is that NO ONE complained. When city officials traveled down the line to tell us we probably wouldn't get there in time for the parade, no one left. We just kept steadily moving up the mile-long line, cheering and waving each time another busload of people pulled out of the lot. Thankfully, we brought sandwiches with us, so we just stuck it out for three hours. You can tell we're homeschoolers in that my kids were excited that the bus we got to ride on was a yellow school bus -- ha! Or at least they were excited until we got on the bus and it was 100 degrees and our bus driver got lost. Still, no one got mad -- everyone just kind of laughed it off and helped the bus driver find her way back to the highway. I was beginning to wonder what planet I woke up on that morning!

A few more than 200,000 people showed up for the Royals celebration. The mayor's office said that it may have been 800,000, and I don't doubt it a bit. For a metro area  with a population around 2 million, that's a pretty big crowd!

Our view was a bit more limited.

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It was almost impossible to be in a bad mood that day, but yes, I'll hate myself forever that we didn't get to see the parade. Everyone I know that drove in themselves somehow found a parking spot and got amazing pictures of the parade. The rally, which is what is shown above, was cool in that we got to be part of it, but the parade would have been much better.

Photos of the daytime fireworks will have to substitute for photos of players and the trophy (or even a decent photo of my kids, because even those didn't turn out well).

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My favorite photo of the day was actually from the car on the way home (we had Marc pick us up rather than wait three more hours for a shuttle; even with Marc getting us it took awhile to get out of downtown).

My parade shot. Ha!

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The rest of the week was a little anticlimactic. : )

You know me, I'm a visual person. It kills me when I'm not able to capture the moment with my camera and I beat myself up for not doing a better job. It's in those times I'm reminded that words can also preserve those memories. So, I apologize for the length of this post, but these were all memories I wanted to hold onto a little longer. There was a lot of celebrating happening the last couple of weeks: a son who didn't back down from a hard task, a daughter who finished strong, another daughter just starting out her teenage years, and a team that made a whole city proud.

Have a great weekend, and happy homeschooling!

Okay, just one more thing... in case you're wondering what the big deal is about the Royals, here's a link to my favorite article of the week. It's a good read even if you don't know a thing about baseball and couldn't point Kansas City out on a map (most people I meet have no idea what state the city is in). : )

Royals Crowned Kings of Improbability and MLB
If there ever was a team that could find itself two runs down to the Dark Knight in the ninth inning of a World Series game and think, "Cool, we've got these guys right where we want them," this was that team -- the kings of improbability. They'd spent an entire postseason acting as if down were up. So why stop now?
Bye, for real this time!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up {From the Front Porch}

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Ah, the difference a week can make.

Last week, we were worrying about how my husband would survive if the Cubs ended up meeting the Royals in the World Series. I did mention the discussion was premature because there was still a lot of baseball to play. Premature, indeed. It just took four games and the Cubs were done for the season (ouch!). Oh, well. Cub fans agree: there's always next year.  : )


Meanwhile, we continue to cheer on the Royals!

Other than baseball, this week has been mostly about me getting caught up on everything. I've hardly made a dent, but it does feel good to be making progress.

I'm looking forward to a Monday morning when I'm not feeling completely guilty about Ryne not having done something for Classical Conversations. Last year, his community day was on Tuesday, giving us Monday to put the finishing touches on everything and get ready for class day. I didn't like having CC on Tuesdays because it's one of the days the girls are home from their 3-day-a-week school, but I didn't get to spend much time with them. So when our CC community switched to Mondays this year, I thought I would love it. Instead, I just never feel prepared and our weeks start out stressful. Part of it has been life circumstances, and part has been the increase in difficulty and workload. Apparently, you can't please me either way, so we'll just have to make the best of it. ; )

Monday afternoon, I met with Ryne's tutor for a sort of parent-tutor conference, and he had some very encouraging things to say about Ryne. He also confirmed some of our struggles, but overall I did feel better about things.  The most important thing is Ryne really likes CC, and that makes it worth it. We will hit our groove for the year -- it's just taking a little longer than last year.

Monday night I fell asleep as the Royals were losing. The score was high on both sides, and when my alarm went off in the morning, I was sure the game was still being played and the score was more like a basketball score than a baseball score. Thankfully, I always set the coffee maker to start 15 minutes before my alarm, so pretty soon all was well with my brain. The Royals' loss was confirmed, but the score was 8-11, not 88-111.

Wednesday afternoon, Anna and Ryne had a cross country meet. It was Anna's second-to-last cross country meet. I'm so not ready for all the last things we'll encounter this year.

Thursday was the day Anna completed two more college applications. Unlike the last things I was referring to in the previous paragraph, I think we'll all be very glad when she clicks 'submit' for the last application. We just want to move ahead to the part where they all accept her with tons of scholarship money and she gets to decide where she wants to go for the next phase of her life. Or at least that's how it should work. ; )

Friday morning brought a light rain. I think one of my favorite moments of the whole week was sitting on the front porch, drinking a hot cup of tea and listening to the rain and watching the deer eat grass across the street. I was only out there about 10 minutes, but it was heavenly. The afternoon was spent helping Ryne prepare for his debate on Monday, and trying to get caught up on all my school reading. We're reading Through the Gates of Splendor this week, which is one of my favorite books of all time.

While working on this weekly wrap-up, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be delightful to return to the front porch with my afternoon coffee and my favorite book, so that's where you'll find me for the next hour or so.

I also have a couple thousand cross country photos to sort through this weekend -- that should definitely help me cope with all those senior mom emotions. : (

Have a blessed weekend, and happy homeschooling!