Friday, August 10, 2012

School Room Switch-a-Roo

I have been one spoiled homeschool mom.  I had the best homeschool room a mom could wish for. It was spacious with lots of natural light and an incredible view of the woods.  We even had a special tree outside the window that provided some of our best bird watching moments.  There was plenty of storage space, and it had it's own bathroom.  It was a multi-purpose room that housed our guests, held all my craft supplies, and it contained the only television in the house -- so I guess that made it our family room too.  

We actually called it the office, because before it was a school room or a guest room it was our office/junk room.  So for our five-plus years of homeschooling, my morning call has been, "It's time to go to the office!"  No, I didn't make them wear ties or carry brief cases. ; )

You may have picked up on the fact that I'm referring to the school room in past tense. {Sigh}  

I had to give up my beloved school room.

When we bought the Blue House 11 years ago, we didn't know we needed a school room.  We didn't even know we needed an extra kid bedroom, because Grace wasn't born yet.  The house was way bigger than anything we had had before, so it was easy to look over it's limitations.  But the bedroom situation has been a problem for years.  I'm embarrassed to say our 14-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son are still sharing a bedroom.  

It's too complicated to go into as to why we've let this drag on for this long, but we've been trying for years to come up with an alternative.  We thought we'd try finishing the basement ourselves and put a bedroom down there.  We even got it partially framed (the "we" being Marc and my brother-in-law), but then Marc got a promotion that required more travel and the basement project was put on indefinite hold.  

So the girls are now moving into the old school room/office, Ryne is moving into Grace's old bedroom, and the school room is moving into Ryne's old bedroom (that Anna was also sharing).  


It certainly has been a confusing transition.  Originally we figured we'd just move the school room to Grace's room.  But the room has two walls of windows, leaving very little wall space.  There was no way to fit our school room essentials in there.  Plus, it has an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny closet, so it made more sense to put Ryne in there.  

Here is Ryne's old room, which will now be our school room.


It made me very sad to have to take down the goodnight sign I hand-painted when Ryne was a baby.  He's 13 now, so I had to pack away several items that are too babyish. {sniff}

Let me tell you, it's been fun trying to figure out how to fit everything into a room a third the size of our previous school room!  It's been good for me though.  Even with all that space, stuff got buried and I forgot all about it.  I've been forced to part with many things and decide what's really worth keeping.

Ryne's new room is almost complete -- just waiting to get Anna out of the top bunk, so we can remove the bottom bunk and put his desk underneath. 

The school room is almost done.  I have a long weekend of work to do, but I'm hopeful I'll be able to show pictures for the Blog Hop on Monday.

The girls' room is a disaster.  There is still stuff in there that either needs to get tossed or find a new home.  The walls need to be painted.  I wish we could get rid of the carpet, but it's looking like that's not in the plan right now.  So next week I'll be focusing on getting that room at least done enough that the girls' can start sleeping in there.  Right now Grace sleeps in a big chair in our master bedroom and Anna's "closet" is on the living room floor.  

This chaos must stop.

Pray for me. : )

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jr. Olympics, birthday celebration, and a convention all in one week {whew!}

Back in March I wrote about how Anna decided to focus on running over swimming, and we were all looking forward to how she'd do in track now that she could concentrate on one sport.  She got off to a good start, breaking a team record in the 300 hurdles the very first time she competed in the event. But by the second meet, things weren't looking good. Her times were slow and her right foot was hurting. We debated whether we should take her to the doctor but decided to wait another week.

The following Monday when I picked her up from school, she was in tears. A boy had jumped off a staircase, accidentally landing on her sore foot. It now hurt enough that Marc took her to an urgent care clinic and we found out she had a chip fracture. The doctor said it probably started as a stress fracture, but the staircase incident caused part of the bone to chip off. So she wasn't able to run for almost a month and missed most of her spring season. She was able to come back for the last two meets, but had to drop hurdles and run shorter distances.

The summer club season started off rough -- slow times in her favorite event, the 800 meter run, and she still wasn't able to run anything longer. But eventually she started to heal and ended up winning first place in her national qualifier in the 800 by a pretty big margin.


So we began planning a trip to Houston for the AAU Jr. Olympics. Marc's mom and two sisters surprised us by saying they'd be flying out to Houston to watch Anna. They get the best fan awards for making the trip and because they came armed with "Team Anna" t-shirts, hats, and even a large banner!

I got the bad mom award because we almost missed seeing her run the 800, so I have no pictures. She did very well, placing 23rd out of 73 runners, but her goal was to make the top 12 and advance to finals, so she was kind of disappointed. If she had matched her personal best time (from a small meet a few weeks prior), she would have made it.  

She also got to compete in the high jump, but I'm not allowed to talk about that. Let's just say it wasn't her best day of jumping, although she doesn't look bad in this picture.  I don't care how high {or low} she jumps -- I'm a proud momma no matter what.


And then it was birthday time! I am now the mother of two teenagers {help me!}. Ryno didn't seem to mind spending his second birthday in a row in Texas. We celebrated first at Pappasito's and then had a little party in the hotel lobby.


Next, we had a day to sleep in, shop at Ikea {so wish we lived near one}, eat ice cream, and watch more Olympics {the real kind this time}. A day later, I headed to the THSC Homeschool Conference while Marc took the kids to my hometown to hang out with my dad's former neighbors. This family practically adopted Grace last summer when I helped my dad move, so it was a sweet reunion. Grace adores their daughter and says it's like getting to be a big sister. : )


They hung out at the beach and had another birthday celebration for Ryne while I sat in awe, listening to SWB for two days.  Before Anna even qualified for Jr. Olympics, I noticed this convention was the same week, so I was really hoping it would all work out and I could attend the conference too. SWB is taking a break from convention speaking, so this might have been the only chance I'll get to hear her speak.  

My local homeschool convention is very nice, but I think the whole "everything is bigger and better in Texas" saying is true in this case. I was pretty impressed with the speakers and the vendor hall. At first, I worried it would be awkward not knowing anyone there, but it was actually kind of nice just having some me time. In the evening I shopped at another store I don't have access to, The Container Store, and chilled at the hotel, watching the Olympics and chatting with my sister on the phone. I had to laugh though when I was checking into my hotel, because it turns out all the hotels in the area were full with two very different groups of people; check out SWB's blog for details and a funny picture.

Now we're back home and enjoying the last couple weeks of summer, even though I have a million things to do before school starts. I'll try to give you a sneak peek at one of those things before the week is over.

Hope you're enjoying your summer too!

Monday, August 6, 2012

2012 - 2013 Curricular Plans

It's the beginning of a new homeschool year, and I just returned from a homeschool convention in Houston where I was able to attend sessions by Susan Wise Bauer {love} and see all kinds of new products in the vendor hall.  For those of you wondering what this Midwestern mom was doing at a convention in Houston, you'll have to tune in later this week for that story.  The point of me mentioning the conference in this post is to let you know I'm on a homeschool high right now.  Anything is possible.  This will be the best year yet.  

Follow?  What that really means is this: Read through my plans, knowing that reality will soon set in and one or more things on this list will get neglected or even dumped.  

Actually, I have been trying to be more realistic in my planning this year.  Besides attending almost every SWB session, I heard Diana Johnson speak and she voiced so succinctly what I have already learned the hard way.

This thinking greatly influenced some of my choices this year, especially science.  As much as I love the beautiful Apologia elementary science books and the accompanying notebook journals, we never get them done and I feel like a failure.  So we're going back to a curriculum we enjoyed and were more successful with, even though it means going back to a black and white textbook that is not as detailed as the Apologia books.  That's what supplemental books are for, right?  In fact, we may use one of the Apologia books to fill in some gaps.

My choices were also influenced by a book I read earlier this year, Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy.  A recurring theme of the book is that individuals on the autism spectrum need to find a skill they enjoy and become experts at it.  You'll probably be able to tell how this influenced my homeschool planning as you get to the bottom my list.  Our extras will focus less on the things I thought made our homeschooling wonderful (nature and composer studies) and more on practical skills that might help my son find a job someday.  I'm sure the new additions will be wonderful too, but they are a tad out of my comfort zone.

One thing we will not be giving up, however, is our read-aloud time.  After her session on literary analysis, I spoke to SWB, about how much reading we do for history and other subjects, expecting her to say maybe we should cut back a little.  Or maybe deep down I asked her because I knew she wouldn't be phased in the least and just encourage me to keep on reading and reading and reading, which is exactly what she did. ; )  

Enough with the reasons for my choices and on with the nitty-gritty; this is what we have planned for our school year:

Grace (4th Grade) and Ryne (7th Grade, autism)

(Forgive me, but to save time I'm only linking the lesser-known materials.  Please let me know if you need additional information about anything I've listed.)


Devotions using some of the suggested reading schedules in the NKJV Early Reader's Bible (despite the title, we've found this Bible version to be very helpful for the elementary and middle school years)

Bible Sound-Off (a memorization program of verses and Bible facts, compiled by Anna's 6th grade teacher)

Catechism memorization and instruction through church

Sunday School memory verses and take-home lessons

Church history (incorporated with history)


Story of the World 2: The Middle Ages (with Activity Guide and separate test booklet)

Favorites from our previous SOTW 2 reading list, plus some new finds

Timeline book

Veritas Press history cards

Classical Conversations style of geography instruction (the helpful article I used to link for this has been taken down; I'll try to find a new one)

Map Skills for Today 4 (Grace)

Intermediate Geography & Map Skills (Ryne)


All About Spelling 4 & 5

IEW - All Things Fun & Fascinating

Copywork, Dictation & Narration using the WWE model 

Michael Clay Thompson (almost finished with the whole Island level, but after that we will just do Grammar Town, Practice Town, and Sentence Town)

First Language Lessons 4 (Grace)

Analytical Grammar (Ryne)

Oral reading (CLP Nature Reader 4 - Grace; CLP The Story of Inventions - Ryne)

Editor in Chief A1 & A2

Outlining (Ryne)


Math U See Gamma & Delta (Grace)

Math U See Epsilon & Zeta (Ryne)

Challenging Word Problems (Grace)

Daily drill (flashcards, Quartermile, timed tests)

Mind Benders A4 & B1

Following Directions (Ryne)


Christian Kids Explore Biology


Latin for Children A (finish) & B

Rosetta Stone French (Grace - her request, but it will just be for fun)


Beginning Drawing with Thomas Kincade (a program we've had around for awhile, so I may change my mind on this)

Piano lessons (this is dependent upon my finding a new teacher; our previous teacher had to quit because of a family illness)

At least two musical events, such as the symphony -- a BHA tradition!


Typing Instructor Platinum

Kids Coder Series (Ryne)

Scotto's Place Essential Office Applications

Whew!  That should just about cover it.   Feel free to ask me any questions, share your experiences with anything on my list, or leave a link to your homeschool plans.

Happy Homeschooling!

P.S. I'm linking this post to the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop.  Come, join the fun!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Monday, July 30, 2012







Don't be fooled by these pictures.  Our summer has not been filled with lazy days, picking and eating peaches.  But it has been a fun, full summer with many memories to treasure.  

One of those memories is our first ever peach crop.  The girls have been eating two or three (or even four) a day and I froze some so we can make Pioneer Woman's heavenly peach crisp with maple cream sauce.  We would have made it already, but Anna is refraining from sugar until the summer track season is done, so it would have been cruel to make peach crisp while she can't eat it.

I'm planning on participating in the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop, so hopefully I'll be back to blogging on a more regular basis next week.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Silly Bird

Miss me?  I'm not sure how I managed to let two months slip by without posting.  Such is life in the springtime, I guess.  Busy, busy, busy.  Unlike previous years, however, I managed to stay sane most days.  I said no to quite a few things, and that made a huge difference.  Homeschooling was pretty much my main focus February through May, so just about everything else fell by the wayside. We are now on our summer break, although the plan is to still work on a few things over the summer.  

There is so much to tell, but I'll have to tackle that in pieces over the next few weeks, assuming I get back to blogging regularly.  I just got back from a trip to Denver a few days ago, and now I'm leaving to go back again for a few more days to tend to a family situation (Marc and the kids will stay here).  So blogging might not be a reality this week.

But in the meantime, I thought I'd share my latest bird watching adventure.  For the record, I really stink at bird watching, but I'm still fascinated.  Because we live on the edge of the woods, we have a steady stream of feathered friends visiting the Blue House.  The cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers are year-round pals and are always beautiful to look at, but we love it when we see someone new.

Like this fellow.


I'm assuming he's a fellow, because it seems like with birds the males are usually the prettiest and this one seems to know he/she is pretty.


I've looked through our birding books and online, yet I cannot figure out what kind of bird it is.  I've even emailed Dawn who is a bird watching superstar.  Or at least I think I've emailed her -- my computer is acting a little wonky this week so maybe my email is floating in cyberspace.  This post is getting a little wonky too, soooo let's get back to my bird friend.


He's/She's on a mission.  It's a doomed mission, but he/she doesn't seem to care.  He/she is determined to get in my house.  For two days he's/she's been flying into the windows on the back of our house.  Again and again and again and again.  And I'm getting tired of saying he/she again and again and again, so let's just say it's a he.

I keep telling him it's not going to work, but then he chatters back to me, saying he's not giving up.


Fine, I say.  But I'm just telling ya, I know how this goes.  I've had many a day like this.  You think you're being persistent, but you're really just being stubborn.  You keep trying to do things your way, because (of course) it's the right way.  Turns out, it's rare anything good comes out of it, and you just end up with a headache.  I don't think he believed me, because at this moment he is still bashing himself into the window.


Whatever.  Hopefully he will have learned his lesson by the time I return from Denver.

Anything interesting happening with your summer so far?

Update: Thanks to some teamwork between my pastor and my husband, it has been determined that our mystery bird is probably a first-year male summer tanager.  I told you I stink at bird watching!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beauty in my own backyard (1000 Gifts)

This time of year it is impossible to go outside without noticing the beauty surrounding us.  I don't even have to travel further than my front yard. We have a clematis vine blooming next to the side door -- its fragrance perking up a sleepy 8th grader as she waits for the morning carpool.


Right next to the clematis is our huge lilac bush, full of pale pink blooms.


A little way down the front walk is smaller lilac bush, still recovering from trials in previous years, with its much fewer yet stunning blooms.


Still, my favorite blooms right now are a bit more humble.  A simple Easter centerpiece of wildflowers found in the woods, handpicked by the 3rd grader, makes my heart sing.  Oh, how God uses that child to remind me to be content and appreciate the beauty right in my own backyard, both literally and figuratively.    


A dear friend gave me for Christmas the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, and lately I've been so convicted by how quickly I can move from gratitude to worry and grumpiness.  It doesn't have to be that way. 

April 1 
I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me.  Basic training includes learning to live above your circumstances, even while interacting on that cluttered plane of life.  You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with Me can be uninterrupted.  But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.  Accept each day just as it comes, and find Me in the midst of it all. 
Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me.  A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.  Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life.  Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment. He will keep you close to Me. 
1 Thessalonians 5:17; Proverbs 3:6
April 6 
Bring me the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Take nothing for granted, not even the rising of the sun.  Before Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, thankfulness was as natural as breathing.  Satan's temptation involved pointing Eve to the one thing that was forbidden to her.  The garden was filled with luscious, desirable fruits, but Eve focused on the one fruit she couldn't have rather than being thankful for the many good things freely available.  This negative focus darkened her mind, and she succumbed to temptation.  
When you focus on what you don't have or on situations that displease you, your mind also becomes darkened.  You take for granted life, salvation, sunshine, flowers, and countless other gifts from Me. You look for what is wrong and refuse to enjoy life until that is "fixed." 
When you approach Me with thanksgiving, the Light of My Presence pours into you, transforming you through and through.  Walk in the Light with Me by practicing the discipline of thanksgiving. 

I think those entries pretty much hit the nail on the head, at least for me! So the list continues in hope that I will increasingly walk in the light and practice an attitude of gratitude.

206. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

207.  Sharing Easter-eve dinner with Marc's brother, and then Easter brunch potluck at our church Sunday.

208.  Brother-in-law who can't stop talking about his lovely bride-to-be.

209.  My mom's pea soup recipe that I've lost, but have made so many times I've memorized it.

210. Reading the Sunday paper . . . on a Wednesday or Thursday.

211.  First track meet of the season.

212. The ants are gone (and not because of anything I've done).

213.  Father lending his suit jacket to a chilly daughter in church.

214.  Construction progress on the main road through town.

215.  Daughters who are able to take over more and more kitchen tasks.

216.  The fall of Rome. Kidding! What I mean, is that we are finished with our history studies for the year. ; )

217.  Son's progress in speech therapy.

218.  Drives with my teenager (when she seems to open up most to me).

219.  A backpack that has lasted 3 years.  Even better, lunch bags that have lasted 5 years!

220.  A field trip with all three kids and lunch out together.

And even though this is supposed to be a Multitude on Monday post, I'm thankful it's okay to acknowledge God's goodness any day of the week. : )

Monday, April 2, 2012

God's Providential Care (1000 Gifts)

I originally wrote most of this post last Monday, but didn't get it finished until tonight.  So just pretend you're reading this a week ago. ; )


The act of thanksgiving makes us more aware of the providence of God. Every moment is full of His care, love, and guidance. Even so, there are moments when I'm just awed by His goodness and attention to the smallest of details. Yesterday was one of those days.

For many years now we've given a dear elderly lady a ride to church. The blessings this arrangement has provided our family are uncountable. My kids have grown up hearing the stories of her rich life, ninety-four years long, and witnessing her beautiful devotion to the Lord, even though she has experienced much suffering.

Yesterday Marc and I took separate cars to church -- Marc left early with Ryne and Grace, and Anna took the van. When I pulled up to this dear lady's house I was shocked to see her sitting in the front door. The storm door was closed, but the front door was open with her leaning against it. She actually looked quite peaceful, but I knew at once she must have fallen and wasn't able to get up. Anna and I ran to her and were able to help her to her feet. She wasn't seriously hurt other than some soreness, so we led her to a chair and made her comfortable. Her daughter lives with her, but had already left for her own church, so Anna and I stayed with her for the next few hours. We took turns reading from the psalms and 1 Peter 1 to her. We shared more stories. I was sad she had to miss church, but it was wonderful to spend that time with her too. When Anna and I left we gave her hugs, but she pulled us in closer and gave us sweet kisses.

Later in the day her daughter ended up taking her to the hospital because she was having swelling in her right leg. She didn't have to spend the night, and is doing well now, although the doctor did say she won't be able to leave the house anymore, even for church. Hopefully it's temporary until she gets some strength back.

In the meantime, I'm thanking God for every detail He so perfectly orchestrated, even the fact that I was running a couple minutes late.

195. She was feeling wonderful, so her fall took her completely by surprise. She fell just minutes before I arrived. If I had been on time we might have been outside when her legs collapsed and she could have been seriously injured. I always guide her with my arm and she uses a cane, but I'm still glad she fell in a contained area, on carpet, and was able to lean against the door. But, yes, I still wish I had been there.

196. She fell after she had unlocked the door. Things would have been much more complicated if she had fallen behind a locked door.

197. When my mom was sick with brain cancer, hospice nurses taught me how to properly lift an immobile person. I was soooo thankful for that knowledge yesterday!

198. And how glad I am that Marc was already at the church with the other two kids. Even though Anna was a little scared, she was mature enough to be of great help and comfort. I imagine it would have been stressful had the younger kids been with me.

199. Such a sweet time of fellowship.

200. The example of faith, perseverance, contentment and joy this lady has been for our whole church.

Times like that remind me to appreciate even more the everyday beauty, to search it out in the most unlikely places.  

201.  Such as the tulips that should never have bloomed, but popped up again (see above picture).

202.  The loveliest detail in a common weed -- one of many in our yard.


203.  The young artist who realizes even a broken picnic table makes a perfect canvas.


204.  Wild strawberry plants that are taking over a bare hill.  Marc tasted the berries last year and said they are awful, but they are pretty and I'm sure they are special treats for the many creatures that visit our yard.

205.  Mud -- the result of much needed rain.

I shake my head wondering how can I be only a couple hundred into my gratitude list when God has done so much.  Some can be blamed on blogging limitations, but I pray that I will increasingly look for ways to thank Him.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Friday and my brain is mush


This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post.  But curls and freckles make me happy and I could use a little happy right now.  No, there's nothing wrong.  Life is busy and full and wonderful, but I'm so ready for the weekend.  I have quite a few almost-finished blog posts in the works, but instead you're going to get my end-of-the-week ramblings.

1. Spring officially started this week, and I already have ants in my kitchen.  I've tried a handful of natural ant killers/deterrents that didn't work, and now I'm watching the ants do a victory parade around the little store-bought ant bait stations I set up.  Because we had such a mild winter, the big fear for this spring and summer is that it will be really hot, allergies will be awful, and we'll have lots of bugs.  Maybe we can spend the summer in Alaska.

2. I'm feeling a little sorry for the public school kids this week.  It's their spring break and it has rained  all. week. long.  Last week (our spring break) was sunny and mid-70s and next week will be too.  It's been nice to have the rain make everything so green, but I'm guessing there are some frazzled moms in my neighborhood right now.

3. I've always known I'm not a great blogger, but I really provided myself with a laugh yesterday.  I got a copyright notice this week from You Tube concerning a video I made -- something about the music.  It was a video I made of our vacation to Michigan in 2009, which I posted to the blog.  Or at least I thought I did.  I loved that video, and they had a link to the video in the email, so I clicked it.  It was then I discovered I had the video set to private use and didn't even know it!  So no one on my blog could see it.  I then realized that it wasn't the only video I posted to the blog that I had set to private -- one was even a give-away announcement.  So I'm guessing those blog posts didn't make much sense and that's why no one ever said, "Cute video!"  Yes, I homeschool my kids -- why do you ask?

4.  Speaking of homeschooling . . . we've been on a roll lately, getting lots done.  I think it's that summer-is-almost-here-so-let's-get-as-much-done-now-as-possible syndrome.  Anyway, today I had a noon meeting at Anna's school I had to attend.  It's about a 25 minute drive to her school and I drive the afternoon carpool, so it didn't make sense to drive home after the meeting and then turn around to drive back to school.  Instead, I decided we'd do car school.  After the meeting we put the seats down in the back of the van, set out a blanket and some pillows, and got to work.  We finished almost everything on the planner for the day.  The only problem is that I accidentally left the headlights on while we did car school, so the battery died.  And I didn't discover the battery was dead until the kids were being let out of school.  And it had started pouring rain.  Again.  The power doors to the side and back of the van wouldn't work, so the kids were having to crawl over each other with heavy backpacks to get in and escape the rain.  The principal had to flag down some teenage boys to jump-start my car.  

5.  Then I thought I should call my hubby to let him know everything was okay (because the first thing I did when I realized what a mess I was in was to call him and whine).  But I couldn't find my cell phone anywhere.  When I got home I used the home phone to call the cell phone so I could try to figure out where it was hiding.  It had fallen inside the tissue box I keep on the floor of the car.  So glad I had the sense to call while that battery was still charged, otherwise I probably would never have found it.

6.  We have pretty much nothing on the schedule for the second weekend in a row!!!  I'm hoping to do a little photo organizing tomorrow.  You probably thought I forgot about that little challenge of mine.  I didn't forget, but I've been slacking a little.  In January I moved the furniture in our school/craft/guest room, which meant moving all the boxes of photos.  It took me a couple of hours, so I counted that as my January organization session. ; )  In February I spent a couple of hours cleaning up photos and videos on my computer, so I counted that, but never blogged about it.  I really need to get back on track for March, but I better hurry, because the month is almost over!

Have a great weekend!  


Monday, March 19, 2012

March Madness (1000 Gifts)

It's March Madness, haven't you heard?  I'm having trouble figuring out if it's a reference to college basketball or the unreal weather we've been having.  Early last week I saw a friend post pictures on her blog of redbud trees in bloom and I figured it did seem early, but she lives in a state to the south of us.  But then a couple of days later all the pear trees in our area burst into bloom.  Our weeping cherry tree, magnolia tree, and peach tree came next.  Our area is full of wild red buds (just not in our yard) and those just bloomed today.  It is glorious out there!  Sadly, the pear trees are already starting to turn green -- the blooms will be gone before we know it.  So we're trying savor every moment.






As far as basketball goes, it's been an exciting week too.  Our Baylor Bears have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen!!!  But it definitely wasn't a walk in the park.  If you could have seen us as we watched Saturday night's game, you'd get such a chuckle.

We have very basic cable, which means any time there's a sporting event we want to see, it's not on a channel we get.  I was all excited though to find out that for four dollars we can watch all the games online.  So we signed up and brought the game up on my laptop, setting it on the kitchen table.  

Marc's and my television habits have changed a lot over the years.  Before we became parents we watched TV quite a bit.  Once the kids were born we just didn't have as much time, but we'd still find a little screen time.  Then the series LOST ended and that was the end of us watching TV as a couple.  So sitting in front of my laptop like it was a TV was something neither of us were accustomed to anymore.  

From the beginning the game was tense, and we were fidgety.  My initial instinct was to spend some time online, but it was my computer we were using to watch the game.  So I grabbed the bag of green beans I planned to use for our Sunday dinner.  I started snapping off the ends.  Grace quickly asked if she could help, because she loves doing that sort of thing.  Marc must have noticed the therapeutic effect bean snapping was having on me, because he quickly said, "Let me have some beans."  With three people snapping two and a half pounds of beans, the work did not last long.  But Baylor was giving us all heart attacks, so we then occupied ourselves by shooting three-pointers with the green bean ends into the compost bucket at the other end of the table.  I'd like to think that somehow we were telepathically helping Brady Heslip score his 27 points, but the truth is that Heslip is a tad more talented than us. ; )

When that was done, I made a bowl of popcorn to keep my hands busy.  I started thinking this must be why Charlotte Mason encouraged training her students in handicrafts.  Knitting sounded really appealing at that moment.  Too bad I don't know the first thing about knitting.  But as the second half progressed, Baylor went on a run and I didn't need popcorn or knitting, because Marc and I were too busy giving each other high-fives and pounding the table in glee.

March Madness indeed.  We have high hopes for our Bears who will next play Xavier, but we also know the reality of college basketball.  Most of our church family is in mourning for a team that didn't fare so well.  Baylor's success could last as long as the blooms on the pear trees.

So we will continue to savor the moment and count God's gifts, which unlike March Madness, never end.

175.  Snapping beans with two of my favorite people.

176.  High-fives with my husband.

177.  Watching television with my family.  No, I'm not advocating wasting hours on end watching junk, but something must be said for sitting together sharing in something fun.

178.  An amazing year for Baylor athletics (sorry if that seems like boasting, but over the years we've had so many lows that most of us alums are pinching ourselves in disbelief).

179.  Spring trees in bloom.

180.  My favorite snack -- popcorn.

181.   Still going strong --my hot air popper that was a high school graduation gift.

182.  Which reminds me of my faithful alarm clock that's even older than the popper.

183.  Spring Break!  Anna had last week off from school, so we took a break from homeschooling too.

184.  A short get-a-way to Great Wolf Lodge -- a Christmas gift to our family from my dad.

185.  Having kids that are old enough to navigate GWL on their own. Marc and I actually made a couple of visits to the adult only hot tub.  I was able to relax at our table with a book a few times. 

186.  Water slides and lazy rivers.  Adult time was very nice, but we still had lots of fun playing with the kids.

187.  Spring break weather that seems like early summer.

188.  Getting my toes painted by my oldest daughter.  Bright turquoise. : )

189.  Watching Anna swim in her last meet, and being so proud of her.

190.  Being able to work on a project for Anna's school with a dear friend I haven't spent much time with lately.

191.  Having an impromptu lunch with that friend plus another friend I've spent even less time with lately.  We used to all be Bible study leaders together, so I've missed praying and bonding with these two ladies. 

192.  Finishing a really good book and having my husband snap it up almost immediately.  It's rare that we have the same reading tastes, so it's fun to talk about a book together.

193.   Play dates.  Ryne and Grace had friends over on Saturday.  So nice to have a weekend where the schedule makes that possible.

194.  Nursery duty at church.  We had a baby drought at our small church for a few years, but God has answered my prayers, and last night Anna and I played with two darling baby boys.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hanging up my badge

Based on the title your initial thought probably was that this would be my farewell to blogging post.

Trust me, I've considered writing such a post many times, but something keeps drawing me back to blogging despite my frequent and lengthy breaks.

Your second thought might have been that this is the post where I announce I'm quitting homeschooling.

Trust me, I consider that possibility on an almost hourly basis, but God keeps giving me the strength to last another day and another year.

No, this post is where I declare I am no longer a swim team mom.

Anna's last swim

I've mentioned before about our struggles juggling two full time sports. Last September Anna made the decision to focus on track over swimming. She loves swimming, however, and wanted to pursue a couple more swim goals, so she decided she would finish out the short course swim season and then quit swim team for good. It made for a very busy fall and winter.  So much so that there were probably more sighs of relief than tears when she had her final meet last weekend.  But there were definitely a few tears along the way, both of sadness and frustration.

She almost met her goals for the season: She got the time standard she wanted in her 200 breast stroke and got to attend the Division 1 meet she was aiming for and dropped more time there. She missed the time standard in her 100 breast by less than a third of a second {heartbreaking!}, so she wasn't able to swim that event last weekend. Her relay team at the Division 1 meet also missed a team record by 7 hundredths of a second (she dropped time on her split though - yeah!). 

Anna went to a final practice on Monday, bringing over a hundred homemade chocolate chip cookies for her friends.

Some of you might be rolling your eyes, thinking I'm being a bit dramatic. I'm not trying to be over-emotional about this -- it's just that I really love watching her swim. It's a wonderful sport that was good for our family in so many ways. It's a particularly good sport for homeschoolers and offers some flexibility that you don't find in team sports.  We've also learned some valuable lessons through swimming that I wouldn't trade for anything. 

It takes a disciplined and motivated person to be a competitive swimmer. At this age a swimmer really needs to be in the pool at least five to six times a week, so they must learn to make good use of the little free time they have. A swimmer becomes good at setting goals and determining what needs to be done to achieve them. Anna has been able to apply this discipline to her academics and in running track.  Not so much with doing her own laundry, but we're working on that. ; )

Some might say that I'll still be a swim team mom since all three kids still plan to swim for their summer swim team this year. I would argue that while summer swim team offers a glimpse of the competitiveness and discipline of year-round swim team, it's not the same. A swim team mom does not get her badge until he or she has paid more in one month for swim team expenses than the monthly mortgage payment (for us, usually every August) or driven her child to a 5:00 a.m. practice in a blinding snow storm. If you live in a warmer climate a tornado or hurricane is sufficient. A true swim team mom has a highlighter and sharpie in possession at all times (for marking up heat sheets and for the swimmer to write their events on their leg or arm). A true swim team mom doesn't mind driving 7 hours to attend a meet in which your child swims less than 7 minutes.  

Oh, yes, as a tired mom, I was ready for it to end.  But it still makes me sad.  Good thing spring track started this week, so we never had a chance to find out what having loads of free time is like. {sigh}

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Time to be thinking about college?

As if I don't have enough to worry about with homeschooling, housekeeping, and life in general, late last fall I woke up one morning practically hyperventilating because I realized Anna is just four and a half years away from college.  How did this happen?!  

Anna has been talking about college since 6th grade, but to me it just seemed like a far off milestone that was fun to think about.  Now I realize it's going to be here before we know it, and I have no idea how to help her prepare.  Well, obviously starting and finishing high school would be a good start, but you know what I mean.  When do we need to start preparing for standardized tests?  When do we start visiting schools?  What should she be thinking about as she selects courses for high school?  I don't want to get to her junior year in high school and realize we should have already done a hundred things. 

At the same time, I don't want to panic about it either.  I recently read The Overachievers and am just amazed at the stress some teenagers are under these days.  The book focuses on a group of kids from a super competitive public high school in Maryland where it seems everyone is expected to go to Ivy League schools.  Many of the kids are under so much pressure (from parents, peers, themselves) that they sacrifice sleep, health, relationships, and morals to keep up with their busy schedule. 

We won't be going the Ivy League route and I think the Midwest is more laid-back than the East Coast, but I still found value in much of what the book had to say.  Being prepared is one thing; being obsessed is quite another.  As a parent, I need to make sure I don't put too much pressure on her over the next four years.

With that in mind, I want to cautiously start thinking about and planning for college.  I discussed the above thoughts with my friend, who also happens to be the mom of Anna's long-time best friend (the girls also go to school together), and we decided the best thing to do was to seek advice from someone who has been through the whole college prep process -- and survived.  Next week we'll be having breakfast with the girls' 6th grade teacher from a couple of years ago.  She has two children who were very successful at Anna's school and are attending great colleges, plus she's very intelligent and a strong Christian.

I'm preparing a list of questions to ask her and thought I'd seek your input.  Although Anna goes to an "away" school, in many ways she's in the same boat as homeschool students -- limited course offerings, no AP classes, no class rank, no weighted grades, no guidance counselor (Oh, I guess that's me!).  What questions should I ask?  Is there anything you'd like to know about preparing for college?  You can either leave your questions in the comments or email me (link is in the sidebar).  Regardless of what schooling path your children are taking, we can all learn from each other.  I'm happy to share what I learn from our meeting, so maybe this can benefit you if those college years are creeping up on you too.

In the meantime, pray for me that I will remember this verse often as we look toward the college years:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Matthew 6:34

May I be a mother who encourages, not pushes; one who remembers there is still time to train her in godliness and not waste the opportunity by focusing too much on things that have little eternal value.

P.S.  The above picture is of Marc's and my alma mater, which is NOT the school she's dreaming of -- Boo!  She does say it's a possibility though. : )

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sick Days and Snow Days (1000 Gifts)


Saturday afternoon we walked out of the aquatic center from an all-day swim meet, and I was spent.  My head was pounding and my legs were stiff because it was so warm in the bleachers and I'd pretty much sat on my bum all day.  But as we made the forty minute drive home, I realized my headache wasn't just from the swim meet -- I'd finally caught the cold that's been passed through our family one by one for the past couple of weeks.  It started with Marc, and he had the worst of it.  The kids mostly just got sick for a day or two and that was it.

After we got home and I had a short nap, I ran out for pizza carry-out.  I didn't even make the kids eat at the table.  They carried the food up to the school room (the only room where we have a television) and had a little party.  I took my pizza to bed and watched a movie and played some online sudoko.  The kids got themselves to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday morning I still felt yucky.  I forgot to mention that during all of this, Marc was in Florida.  He was able to combine a business training trip with a visit to his mom, who spends the winter months down there.  My dilemma then was that I didn't feel up to going to church and didn't want to share my germs with anyone else, but there was no one else to take the kids to church.  So I printed off the bulletin from the church website and gave the instructions: No electronics until after 12:30 and spend time in the Word and in prayer.  Oh, and feed yourself.  And then I went back to bed.  For the entire day.

My kids were golden.  Grace took the church bulletin to her room and had a full service with her dolls and animals, complete with an offering and a sermon on Ephesians 4:11-16.  She even dressed in church clothes.  Anna and Ryne did an hour-plus devotion on Psalms, using some material from Anna's Old Testament class she took at school last year.  She said they did break the no electronics rule for a minute to look up the tune for a hymn they wanted to sing.

They fed themselves all three meals for the day and stayed out of trouble.  I'm giving them some grace by ignoring the state of the kitchen.  Actually some of that mess is still from Saturday morning when I was packing lunches for the swim meet.  They all went to bed at a reasonable time, even though excitement was brewing due to the weather forecast for Monday morning.

We've had very little winter-like weather at the Blue House.  The most snow we've had is a few dustings.  The sleds haven't left the garage.  So the prospect of a snow day was very exciting indeed.  

While I want the kids to have fun in the snow, I'm looking forward to a day with no activity.  No school for Anna (and probably very little homeschooling for the other two).  No carpools.  Our field trip was rescheduled.  We're not even supposed to get that much snow, 3 inches at the most, but I think the entire metro area was ready for an excuse to shut down for a day.


So today we'll put away the normal routine.  The kids will play.  I'll get rid of the last of this cold.  We'll sip hot cocoa and count our blessings.


160.  My heart melting as the kids recounted their morning of worship.

161.  Leftovers in the fridge so they could easily feed themselves.

162.  Sleeping off my cold.

163.  That our family hasn't had to suffer the flu going around -- we'll gladly take stuffy noses and sore throats any day.

164.  Being forced to slow down and rest.


165.  The first snow day of the year.  Perhaps it will be the only one we get this year, so we will enjoy every minute.

166.  The many large windows in our house, so I can see the beauty surrounding us and so I can take  these pictures from the warmth of my house still wearing pajamas. ; )

167.  Quiet.  No busses rolling down the street.  Even the birds are still snug in their nests.


168.  That Marc was able to do his training in Florida and sneak in some time with his Mom.  Yes, I'm thankful -- jealous, but still thankful. : )

169.  Finishing this wonderful book for our history studies.

170.  Starting this wonderful book for my personal reading time.

171.  Endless supply of drawing paper from the recycling bin at DH's office (because my three artists use a lot of paper).

172.  Grace finishing her math book and asking to start the next book that very day.

173.  Taking the dog for a car ride.  It takes so little to please him!

174.  Crossing off a big to-do-list-item last week:  tax returns.