Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who knew??

So I made a list today of all that I have to do to get ready for school. It's already up to 20 items, and about half of those things need to be subdivided into steps, so it's probably easily 3 times that many things. This year is the year I decided to go truly out on my own, I have no pre-packaged lesson plans. I never used them directly (we used a combo of CHC and Sonlight), but it was nice to crib from them to make my own schedule. Being on my own is partly exciting, and partly terrifying. I feel like I did when I went from elementary school, with the nice, safe, one or two classrooms and teachers to deal with, to middle school, where we changed classes every hour and had lockers and stuff. It was exciting, and it felt "grown-up", but also absolutely terrifying and overwhelming. For some reason, that's how I feel this year.

And I'm just not ready, as I mentioned before! I have lots of great ideas, lots of notes scribbled here and there, tentative lesson plans for at least the first 6 weeks in most subjects. But, how to organize it all? I know I'll make more binders for the kids, but I'm currently without a planning system of my own. I've used a Franklin Covey Monarch planner for years, but lately I've decided it's just too big, bulky, and heavy. I have a PDA, which I love for basic calender functions (and ebook reading!), but it doesn't help me with lesson plans, household management stuff, etc. Also, as I've experimented with electronic stuff, I've come to realize that I'm a very visual, tactile sort of person, and I need stuff Written Down. Preferably someplace pretty and clean and organized.

So, in a great confluence of events, I came across Lissa's Planning Post. It led me on great rabbit-trails! I have not researched planners in quite some time, and boy oh boy is there lots of cool stuff out there. There's all the ones in Lissa's post, plus this looks like a place where I could really drop a lot of cash (if I had it, of course), as does this. This is a great article, and so is this. And wow! Who knew? An entire e-store devoted to all things planners?

The mind boggles with all this great stuff and ideas. It's probably a good thing our finances are in such a bind, otherwise I'd be spending it all on planners! Instead, I will use the wonderful ideas I'm coming across and utilize what I have.

I'm considering just making a whole bunch of binders. I can decorate them prettily, like Kim did with her household management notebook last year. I used to think that I wanted one binder with everything in it, which is what I tried to do with my big Franklin Monarch planner, but it just isn't usable. I'm thinking about creating several - an education binder, a household management binder, a personal binder (with my journal and prayer journal, stuff like that pertaining just to me), in addition to revising my kitchen binder a bit.

Hmmm...lots to think about and ponder. I really wish I could have all my Systems down before school starts, that was the original plan. However, life intervened, and I'm afraid I'll be thinking about this for months. And that's ok, cuz for a planning kind of person like me, it's kind of fun! :-)

I'm just not ready!!

A week from today is when we'll officially "start school" for the year. I am in a mild panic, because I am so far from being ready it's not even amusing. There's lots of reasons, of course...

Having our AC out for almost 6 days in the last 3 weeks has thrown me for a loop, cuz when it's one of the hottest months in years here in north Georgia and your AC is out, about all you can do is lie around, panting, begging for the repairman to come. No cooking, no cleaning, no planning, no organizing is possible. Not for me, at least, spoiled that I am by modern technology.

The last 10 days I've had a monster of a cold - I'm only now, as I start to recover, realizing how very awful I've felt the last week or two - no wonder I have felt like doing nothing remotely productive! (the 4 day fever should have clued me in, I suppose...)

Having dh home the last couple of weeks has been stressful - not because of having him here, which we actually enjoy, but the specter of unemployment and financial ruin has caused me a Great Deal of Stress. Plus, there's all this uncertainty - what will he be doing next week? Still looking for work? Going across town during normal business hours for a 9-5 job? Starting a work from home job? Working nights at the grocery store down the street to keep some cash coming in while he continues to look? We just don't know!! And how will dh's schedule impact our schedule? If he commutes to a 9-5 job in the metro area, he might not be home until 7pm each night. If he works from home, will he take over my school room, or will he move into the basement spare room? When and how will we set up the basement area, and what will that do to my schoolroom supplies? If he's still looking, and/or working nights, that will impact what we do, how loud we can be, where we do things, etc. It's just maddening to me! I am a creature of routine and habit. I truly don't deal well with uncertainty and change. Sigh...

And these people! All these people in the blogosphere, oh my goodness! Homeschooling moms are some of the most amazing, creative, dedicated people in the world, they really are. Check out this Carnival, the Loveliness of Back to School. Check out Lapaz Home Learning and By Sun and Candlelight, just to name a couple of examples of "Wow! These moms have it TOGETHER!" kind of blogs.

And that's just not me! One of my email lists had a post today from someone talking about how everyone seemed so "perfect" and she felt rather intimidated, and oh, how I can agree with her sometimes! So, I am here to announce to all my readers (all 4 of you! :-) that I am NOT perfect. My schoolroom's a mess, my desk is a disaster, my life is in turmoil, and I'm just not ready!

And you know what? That's ok. The Lord has given me this precious family and this crazy life, and I am certain He knows what He's doing. This is where I'm at right now. Others are in different places. We all do the best that we can, and for some people, some years, that best looks AMAZING. Some of us, in some years, their best is more subtle, more cluttered. I am confident that my children are learning ALL THE TIME, not just when they're sitting down with me Doing Something. I will do my best with what I've got, I will get as much ready as I can, and next week, we'll start slowly with just some basics (reading and math, some art and religion projects, some read a louds). I think perhaps what I'm meant to learn from this is that it's not about the Lesson Plans. I just dearly love to plan, and think about organizing (the actually doing of it, not so much ! ;-) and I can totally get carried away with it all. I don't need to have each and every minute of every day planned out, cuz with my kids, that will Just Never Work.

When I think about my "style" of homeschooling, I think the word that fits the best is not unschooling, not eclectic, not classical or Charlotte Mason or anything like that. I think I've decided that I"m a "stretchy" homeschooler. My life twists and bends, we pull things tight and work really hard for awhile, but we can't do that too long or we'll become brittle and break. We'll relax back down and be flexible and comfortable before we stretch a bit again. This year, I need to start out slowly and carefully, without pulling too tightly too quickly, because we're a little bit bent right now.

Stretchy. I like that! Maybe I'm ready after all! :-)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chemicals! I want lots and lots of lethal chemicals!

THIS is what I saw today in my house!

Massively huge spider - IN MY HOUSE!! Call the exterminator, I want a quadruple batch of really lethal chemicals sprayed all over my house! Need exterminator!!

Yes, that is my oldest son's size 9 shoe in the left of that shot. The spider was bigger than his SHOE!!

Still mildly hysterical...

(But hey - what a brave kitty!)

And I am actually REALLY THANKFUL that my husband is unemployed right now - thank goodness he was here, right down the hall, and came running the instant I let out a horrified bellow...I locked myself and the kids in our bedroom while he disposed of the vile creature. Thank you, honey, for being even braver than the kitty!

No, we did not do the appropriate homeschool nature study thing and capture the thing to examine and study. Nope, sorry, too bad! It is dead, and I am glad!!

I'm sorry...I know spiders are part of God's Creation, and they are an important part of the ecosystem of this world, yada, yada, yada...but they do not belong in my house!!!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Speaking of growing up...

How did this happen, anyway? As of yesterday, I'm officially married to a 40 year old man!

Happy Birthday, honey - I'm so glad I get to grow older with you!

And remember this cute little thing?

It's tough to get a picture of her these days, she's either running around with her playful puppy energy, or she's right in your face, begging for love. But this should give you an idea of how much she's grown...

She still has that pink puppy belly, though quite a bit larger these days...

And while she loves all of us, boy does she have a special bond with dh and A2...

Hard to believe we've only had her a little over 3 months and she's grown so very much!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Whenever did they get so reasonable???

Much to our shock, amazement, and pride, the following scene played out at the dinner table last night...

A2 (age 8): "Yay, I get the last piece of bread and butter!"

J1 (age 10): "Wait a minute, A2, how many pieces have you had? Cuz I've had two..."

A2: "I've had 2."

J1: "How about we split it?"

A2: "OK" and tears the slice in two and hands one to J1.

It was just so - understated. There were no tears, no screams, no fights, no parental suggestion or involvement. They just calmly worked it out amongst themselves. Dh mentioned how well they handled the situation and how we were proud of them, and they just took it all with a grain of salt, like it was No Big Deal. Amazing! The years of patient (and not so patient) teaching of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers really does pay off!

It's so bittersweet, to watch these people grow up. We left J1 alone for the first time yesterday. We had to take our van in for repairs, and our sedan will only fit 5 of us. We talked with J1 to see if he would be OK with it, and he said sure. We left phone numbers and careful instructions. We were gone less than an hour. The brothers were quite traumatized at leaving their brother, "But won't J1 be alonely?" (no, that's not a type - in our house being by yourself is called being "alonely" - very, very cute!) When we got home J1 said he was fine, just pretty bored, he missed having his brothers around. Gotta love those homeschooling sibling relationships!

Leaving J1 alone, though, shortly after reading this post of Elizabeth's, and this post over at the Onion Dome...well, it all kept me awake for quite some time last night. My little boys are growing up, and before I know it they'll have separate lives of their own. I hope and pray that we are able to have more children eventually, because I'm just SO not ready to be done with child-rearing. I have so much to learn! So much I'd like to do better next time!

I enjoy having my children with me so very much, I really do. I'm so thankful and blessed to be able to homeschool these children, I just love watching them together and having them with me, helping them learn and grow. I just don't understand people who talk about how they can't wait for their kids to get out of the house (whether it be to away school, or college, or whatever), because we are having so much fun in our family I am just so sad at the thought of these times ending.

But I'm also preoccupied, wondering - will I teach them well? Sometimes it can be really overwhelming to be a homeschool mom, to realize how much responsibility rests on your shoulders. As we start our new school year, and I ponder how fast they're growing, I hope I can balance the urgency I feel to teach them well and prepare them for the world with my greatest desire to enjoy this precious time while I can.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Any Braves' Fans Out there???

OK - now that the AC is back on at our house (yes, indeed, we went about36 hours without air conditioning here in the Georgia heat wave - however did those Southern Belles do it a hundred years ago???? Thank goodness for modern technology and good repairman, that's all I have to say about the matter!!) I can start to come back to humanity again. I came across this earlier tonight - anyone who is a Braves fan will DEFINITELY want to check it out - SOOO funny!!! This is one of those great things about the Internet, IMO - perfectly normal people with moderate talent and creativity can be discovered in a fairly big way - these guys are going to perform this song in the plaza at the Ted (the Brave's stadium, for those Not From Here), and then play it in HD in the dugout so the Braves can play it on the Big Screen for everyone to watch - way, way too fun!!


Friday, August 10, 2007

17 Years Ago Today...

I met my husband! My friend's fiance was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, and she was frantic about the Kuwait crisis, and the possibility of him deploying. She decided, on the spur of the moment, to drive from our hometown in Michigan down to North Carolina. I had just quit my summer job, had some time on my hands before starting back at college, and thought that in her panicked state she shouldn't drive all that way by herself. So, I went with her. We left at 4am, and drove for about 13 hours. Fun, fun. All I wanted to do when we got there was collapse in a sodden heap and sleep for the weekend, read my book - I figured I'd be holed up in the hotel room while my friends spent some quality time together. We were there with said friend's fiance not 5 minutes when he said, "So, we're going out to dinner in about 10 minutes - hope you don't mind, Jen, but I set you up with a friend of mine..." I was SO not thrilled. I was definitely NOT feeling up to a blind date - any date at all, in fact. I'd sworn off men earlier that summer. In fact, the weekend prior to this I sat on our deck with my mom and gave her this big song and dance about how she better get used to the fact that she would never be a grandma, cuz there was no way I was ever getting married. If she had wanted grandchildren, she should have had more kids, cuz they just weren't going to come from me...You can imagine how dramatic I was at 19 years old! ;-) Anyway, I tried to get out of this blind date, but escape was not to be had and I soon found myself in a dark, dank corrider of a Fort Bragg barracks. It smelled of stale beer, pizza, and sweaty socks. I felt SO out of my element. I went to Smith, genteel women's college, after all - this bastion of maleness was NOT my thing. Friend's fiance knocked on a door, and a voice called out, "Just a minute!" Dh now tells me that HE didn't want any blind dates, either, and when he got the call from friend's fiance, he made arrangements to go out with another friend of his that night and was trying to get ready and get out the door before we showed up. So there I stood in this dark, smelly hallway, and then a man answered the door. He wore nothing but jeans and had the most gorgeous, muscular chest I'd ever seen. And, right at that very moment - I KNEW. I don't know how I knew, but I KNEW. It was, literally, love at first sight. Dh says it was love at first clear sight - he had to go back in and put his glasses on, and when he turned around and saw me, HE knew, too. We went out to dinner at a tacky Mexican place, had a great time. He had to get up halfway through dinner and use the restaurant phone (this was before cell phones, remember!) to call back to base. He was on a 2 hour "leash", and had to call in every 2 hours to make sure he didn't have orders to deploy. It was all very surreal, being there as the whole base prepared for war in the Middle East (the First Gulf War). But, when we were together, we had a *great* time. I was just immediately comfortable with him in a way I'm usually not with people at first. Not only was he gorgeous, but he was super-smart, kind, respectful, funny - just unlike any guy I had ever met. We saw each other one other time that weekend, and when I got home, I wrote in my journal that I had met the man I was going to marry.

He got deployed a few days after we left NC. I heard rumors that he had asked for my address, but I didn't get a letter from him for weeks. I finally decided to ask for HIS address and wrote him. We wrote letters all through the 8 1/2 months he was over in the war. We still have most of them! I was able to meet his plane when he came home - we actually have a picture of our first kiss! A year later, we eloped (and seven years later had our marriage blessed when we found our faith).

In our 15 1/2 years of marriage, we've had 4 kids, we've been richer and poorer (mostly poorer), we've had health and sickness (serious sickness), we've had better times and worse times. It has been an amazing, wonderful life together. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Love you, honey! So glad you answered the door that day, 17 years ago!

***See dh's blog for HIS version of what happened 17 years ago....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Being the Mother of Boys...

A friend of mine, who, like me, has 4 boys, made a comment on her blog the other day about living in a "male dominated" household. Boy is that the truth! The older my kids get, the more BOY they become. I adore it, quite honestly, but it can get overwhelming at times! It's always so loud here! And their humor is such GUY humor - they can laugh uproarously with their dad about something that I find...boring, at best! Recently I've had to institute a new policy in our house. Never in the past have I ever had any trouble with my children and physical violence. That all changed recently, and I have gotten increasing tears over such comments as, "He hit me, mom!" "He hit me first!", etc. Finally, after 3 incidents in one hour I got my most stern mom voice and stated, "That's it! There will be NO hitting in my house! Anyone who hits a brother will be fined $1! And if you don't have a dollar, you will WORK for it!!" They stared at me with wide eyes and simply said, "OK!" So far, no more hitting, though they have taken to tickling each other, instead.

And the comments I make to them! There is a book out called "Please Don't Drink the Holy Water!", written by a women with 5 daughters, I believe. In MY house, almost every night, I have to say, "Please don't fight over the holy water!!"

I don't think the mother of daughters need to say these sorts of things! :-)

Change in plans...

Well, once again, the best laid plans and all that. Dh has been notified that his contract will end in 2-3 weeks or so, and we are now frantically cutting back expenses, and looking for a new job. We don't have many resources to keep us going without dh's income, and he's been looking for another job for 7 months now without much success (albeit half-heartedly), so I'm trying hard not to worry.

I cut back the school books we will use to a minimum, and thanks to grandma and grandpa (thanks again!!) we will actually *have* these school books to start our year. It's hard for me to re-organize and plan for school when I have no idea what dh's schedule will be like in the coming months. Will he be home, looking for work? Will he get a job in another city out of desperation? Will he have to take a job with lots of travel? I don't deal well with uncertainty, so this is tough for me.

I think the message for me to take away from this is to, once again, not get too caught up in the "planning". Stick to the basics of what's important, work hard, and pray hard. Everything will work out in the end!

At any rate, my ambitious meal planning is on hold for awhile as we don't have the means to purchase a month's worth of groceries all at once at this time. I will be working on some frugal week at a time menus, hopefully streamline the process a bit still to free up some of my time. I think I will change my focus to our chore system. Definitely need to work on us all working together to keep this house running smoothly!

Bird Stories

Last year, when we were looking at our house, the previous owners showed us how some birds had made a nest in the hanging basket on the front porch. By the time we moved in, it was only an empty nest.

About a month ago, we noticed some birds hanging out on our front porch a lot, singing sweet songs that we heard clearly through our front window. I believe they are Carolina Wrens. These sweet little birds apparently mate for life and stay in the same territories together year-round. Sure enough, we quickly noticed these birds making a nest in the same hanging basket that they did last year.

We have porch swing, and dh and I like to sit outside there for a little mom&dad time in the evenings. We would often see the poor mama bird flitting around nervously before finally, bravely, flying in to sit on her nest while we sat there, 3 feet away. We would occasionally try to look in the nest to see if there were eggs, but it was so cleverly constructed it was hard to see into it.

This weekend, dh and I were sitting there, and the poor little bird flew in, carrying something in her mouth - an insect, it looked like. She perched on the chains of the other hanging basket right in front of us, looking at us, measuring us, and came back a couple of times before finally flying in to her nest. The minute she reached the basket, we heard tiny little "cheep, cheep, meep, meep, meep" sounds - there were babies in the nest!!

We tried to get a picture of them yesterday - it didn't turn out so well as the babies are hard to see. They are so little, so new! It looks like there are 2 of them. We will try to post pictures as they grow as it's always so neat to watch babies grow up! :-)

Also this weekend, we had an amazing hummingbird experience. We have 3-5 hummingbirds buzzing around all the time, fighting over the 3 feeders I have out in our yard. We love it when they buzz us as we're taking the feeders for cleaning and refilling! They are so animated, we just love to watch them. When dh and I were out on the porch swing, we watched a hummingbird fighting a wasp over a small window feeder. At one point dh got up and flicked the wasp off the feeder so the poor hummingbird could get there. A little while later, the hummingbird came, took a drink, then buzzed over to us. She hovered for a few seconds, then settled down on the leaf of one of the trailing plants in the hanging basket. She sat there, watching us, for a good minute, while dh and I held our breaths and marveled at her smallness (she didn't even make the leaf sink down at all!) and her braveness (this tiny creature was just an arms-length away from me!) She watched us, and it was if she was saying "thanks" for the nectar we put out for them. Then she flew off. We just love our hummingbirds!