Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lost and Found

Last Tuesday was parent observation day at L's dance studio, so I followed her into her acro class, where she proved that she is indeed a rubber band who has no bones. The contortions that kid can do are just very, very wrong. We then went over to ballet where she informed me that her ballet shoes were missing.

Those are her one pair of dance shoes that actually *fit*.

Her class did a little dance to part of The Nutcracker Suite and L performed beautifully. In her jazz shoes. L has a knack for the graceful movements of ballet, but a hard time paying attention in the quiet, slow-moving class.

We checked at home for the lost ballet shoes and panicked because the studio was closing for the Christmas break and had notified all the parents that the contents of the Lost & Found box would be donated to Goodwill at the break. So today we finally got a chance to go over to the studio to look for her shoes before they closed everything. The shoes had her name in them, so chances were good they'd been turned in.

The lady at the desk hadn't seen the shoes.

The shoes weren't in the classroom.

We dug through the huge pile in the Lost & Found and we made a few interesting finds. One pair of L's tennis shoes I hadn't realized she lost. One pair of black velour pants that I had bought to go with her dance team uniform that I also hadn't realized she lost. Darn kid. There were all kinds of really neat and expensive things in that box, but no ballet shoes.

As we were preparing to leave in defeat, L checked her folder where they put ads and notices and someone had filed her ballet shoes there for her.

Thank goodness.

For Christmas, that child is getting new jazz and tap shoes, a bigger dance bag, and individual bags for each pair of shoes with her name clearly marked, so that maybe she can do a better job of keeping up with her things. And from now on, I'll be checking that Lost & Found box periodically. Just in case.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Anything but peaceful

Silent night.


Do less.

We need to make Christmas simple, quiet, less hectic.

That's what everyone keeps saying. Get back to what Christmas was really like. But this morning, as we talked about the Christmas story in Sunday School and church, I came to a realization.

That whole birth of Jesus thing? The total exact opposite of quiet and peaceful. They were running around like chickens with their heads cut off the whole time. Think about it.

Angels visiting, crisis pregnancy, scandal, talk of divorce. Adultery was punished by *stoning* and everything pointed to Mary committing adultery. Mary traveled over 100 miles and spent 3 months with her cousin in Jerusalem, then back again. Then a long journey back through Jerusalem to Bethlehem when she was 9 months pregnant (at 9 months pregnant, just turning over in bed is a miraculous feat; I can't even imagine that journey). A frantic search for a place to have a baby. The screams and crying and hustle and bustle of labor, delivery, and a new baby. A choir of angels creating a racket. A bunch of smelly shepherds and bleating sheep tromping through town looking for a child lying in a manger of all places. Then they had to find long-term housing and a caravan of kings parading through town, no doubt causing quite a stir in the streets of little Bethlehem. Another angel and a wild escape to Egypt.

I'm thinking Joseph and Mary would have been glad for just a little taste of the peace and simplicity people are talking about these days.

Bartering is alive and well

She had a pair of black fuzzy boots that didn't fit anyone in her family and a desire for some delicious baked goodie.

I had a desire for black fuzzy boots, the right-sized feet, and an ability to bake.

So we worked out a deal. One pair of black fuzzy croc boots in exchange for one dark chocolate coffee layer cake.

Oh yeah.

So I spent yesterday chopping *5* boxes (that's 2 and half *pounds*) of baking chocolate into teensy-tiny shavings and baking 2 of those dark chocolate coffee layer cakes. One for my friend and one for my husband who loves that cake, but never gets it. It's not a hard recipe, it's just time-consuming with ALL. THE. CHOPPING. I tried to use my food processor, but it just heated up, melted the chocolate, and jammed. Fun times.

I made the layers in the morning, then L had a Christmas party for her dance team, then our church had a candlelight service, so it was late before I made the frosting, which had to cool for 2 hours before it was thick enough to use. But at midnight last night I had 2 beautiful cakes sitting on my counter. And after church, we drove north to my friend's house where we completed our deal. Her family has an amazing cake and I have the perfect black fuzzy boots.

I think I got the best end of that deal. Happy birthday/Merry Christmas to me! Thanks, Barbara!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Officially done with the Christmas rush

Everyone knows that December is crazy. Holiday parties with work, friends, school, random acquaintances, etc. Shopping for gifts for co-workers, friends, teachers, random acquaintances. Shopping for just the right outfits for all those parties. A hair appointment to look your best. Concerts and family outings to look at lights and make memories. Travel for family gatherings. And on and on.

So you know what everyone does? They schedule everything *early*. So now the beginning part of December is packed with an impossible number of events and about the 15th or so, it all dies down.

This past weekend was the worst culprit of this new "let's do everything *early*!" trend. I had something that had to be done every minute from Thursday morning on.

Thursday -
Get the girls school organized and started, then pile everyone in the car for a holiday brunch, where the girls did schoolwork and I chatted with the ladies from my Bible study.

Come home and spend the rest of the day organizing and cleaning for Friday.

Baby sit a friend's daughter, who then spent the night.

Friday -
Finish cleaning.

Host a Bible study for 6 ladies, including snack, drinks, and a craft.

Pack for a lock-in.

Go to see the new Narnia movie with friends, then back to the church for the lock-in.

Help chaperone the lock-in, where my 6-year-old stayed up until after 2am, and the older kids didn't climb in their sleeping bags until 5:30am.

Saturday -
Rout sleepy kids out to help get ready for our church's Happy Birthday, Jesus party.

Run the party.

Clean up after the party, then go home and collapse into bed for a few hours.

Sunday -
Report early for work at the Panthers game (I help in a concession stand as a fundraiser for L's dance team)

Spend the day standing at a cash register asking people what they want on their nachos.

Leave and buy a pair of pants so I don't have to keep smelling like beer. (My register was next to a beer tap that kept overflowing.)

Go to a friend's choir concert. She did an awesome job.

Last week, I waffled between a) feeling super stressed about my weekend schedule and b) knowing that it would all work out just fine. My new motto is "I can't do everything and I refuse to try". And you know what? I kept everything simple, my planning to a minimum, and the kids all had a blast anyway. I and my family survived the craziness and we are officially on the other side. The side where I can relax and take my leisurely time wrapping up my Christmas shopping. The side where my schedule is mostly blank. The side where I can hide under the blankets in this record-setting cold. The side where if you call me and want to hang out, I can!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If you're hosting a Bible Study...

If you're hosting a Bible study, you have to spend the day before going.

1. Going to your own Bible study.

2. Going to lunch with great friends for one last time before the Christmas crazies start.

3. Going to the craft store with your friends.

4. Going back to the craft store because you need a couple more pieces of 1/2 off greenery to finish your Christmas decorating.

5. Going home and putting up the outside lights, letting the girls get all creative, because you really need to get the boxes out of the middle of your floor.

6. Going back inside and putting out the rest of the Christmas decorations.

7. Going to put the back seat back in the van to clear a space in your garage.

8. Going to put all the empty Christmas boxes in the garage.

9. Going back and cleaning the living room.

10. Going to dinner because the house is still in chaos.

11. Going to the scrapbook store and Target for stuff for the craft you're planning for the Bible study.

12. Going back home and cleaning the dining room.

13. Going to clean the kitchen.

14. Going to clean the craft room so you can find the supplies you already had for the craft.

15. Going to write a blog post, because you really need a break from all the going.

16. Going to make an example of your craft. You know, just to make sure it works like you think it will.

Good thing I'm not actually teaching this study.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A History Lesson

Chalk it up to homeschool lessons learned the hard way.

Back at the beginning of the year, I had a hard time finding a history curriculum for K that covered American History on a 5th grade level. I would have settled for anything in the middle school range, but we kept running into too hard or way too easy. I finally found one - a textbook that separated everything into short lessons that were easy to assign and easy enough to understand while still being somewhat challenging. It was working well for us.

Until last week.

When we got to the American Revolution and the book devoted all of *3* pages to that very significant part of our history.

3 short pages.

The next 3 pages were about the people who refused to fight in that war. There's something not right about that quantity and ratio, so I did a little research and discovered the book was published by the Mennonites. Who are pacifists. Well, alrighty then. That explains it.

It doesn't excuse it; it just explains it.

I'm not planning to chuck the book out the window just yet, but we will be setting it aside for a bit while we supplement with other resources that actually teach the American Revolution. What a revolutionary concept!

Get it? Revolutionary? I crack me up.

We'll be reading Johnny Tremain, a historical fiction novel that explains much of the build-up to the revolution and how it started. Then we'll do a lapbook, which is this big posterboard-like "book" with lots of things pasted on that give information about your topic. I've never done one, but it looks interesting.

And keeping things interesting is Homeschool Lesson #1.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An orange wall

For years, I've wanted to paint my living room orange. A dark orange. A spicy orange that makes you smell pumpkin pie whenever you look at it. I love fall colors. My favorite color is even orange. I've been using a fall-like color scheme in the living room for awhile, but I could never commit to orange walls. Orange is bold. Orange stands out.

Orange is scary.

I finally decided to paint the short wall around the fireplace. I thought about orange and dreamed about orange, but whenever I looked at paint samples, I shied away from it. On Saturday, I took the girls to a birthday party and had 30 minutes to kill before it started, so we went into a nearby Lowe's to look at paint colors. I picked up the orange shades, then put them back. "Maybe I should just do a brown. It would go with more. Or a red-tone."

"If you don't paint it orange, you'll never be happy," my wise 10-year-old told me.

So yesterday I went in and picked out a dark orange paint color. A furious debate raged inside even as I presented it to the clerk to mix up. There were other colors. Safer colors. After all, what about Christmas? Orange would look terrible with red and green. But I put in my order, wondering if the clerk thought I was weird for picking a color called "Bountiful Harvest". Getting the gallon in my cart was a small triumph.

(If you're a guy, you're probably thinking, "This girl is a freak. It's paint, not something important. You know, like electronics or a gun.")

I bought the paint and I picked up a few little accessories because I had figured out how to make an orange wall work for Christmas decorations.

So I painted the short wall around my fireplace and the short half-wall attached to it and I. LOVE. IT.

I love the fluffy wreath I made and the glittery snowflakes I hung above it.

I love my feather tree and the dark glittery branch dressing up my birdhouse.

I love this little orange bird.

I love the huge candlestick my parents bought me for my birthday.

My orange wall is exactly everything I dreamed it would be and it makes me so happy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Southeastern Guide Dogs

It's been almost 2 weeks since Cindy Jae went off to college. Today Mr. at Home folded up the crate and we stored it and the baby (puppy) gates on a shelf in the garage. I found a few abandoned bones lying under the couch and tossed them in the trash. A few days ago, we painted the loft where tiny puppy claws had scratched the wall and a rough puppy tongue had licked the paint off. Slowly but surely the house is recovering from a year of having a labrador retriever puppy.

I find myself enjoying the mornings where an insistent whining isn't forcing me out of bed for an early walk in the rain. I also miss the excited greetings when I walk into a room, the cock of her head as she watches me in the kitchen, or the instant sit whenever she sees me with a treat. The cat is happy now that the big black bane of her existence is gone. She's wandering the whole house and even playing with her toys that had been all but banned while there was a dog who would eat them.

While I'm painting and sleeping in here, Cindy Jae is living in style at school. It's a long 10 hour drive down to Palmetto, FL, through small towns and past large horse ranches. Cindy Jae rode in the back of the van on a tie-down and spent the entire trip sleeping or gnawing through a large knuckle bone filled with peanut butter. She handled the trip amazingly well. We arrived at the hotel just before sunset and then made a mad dash for the beach. Dogs weren't allowed on the main beach, so she had to wait in the car for the few minutes we got to stay there. We did find a little stretch on the way back where she could get out and down to the water. In Cindy Jae's mind, beaches are for *running*! She raced back and forth, pulling us with her, and trying her best to get out into the water. We let her get out some energy then headed back to grab some dinner and get to sleep. We didn't have a crate, so she spent the night attached to the desk leg by a short leash and she settled right down and slept all night. She had never been so perfectly behaved.

The next morning, we packed everything back in the van and drove over to the guide dog school. It's a beautiful campus tucked into a quiet spot with only a few houses nearby. Lots of nice buildings housing offices and kennels, lots of walking paths with a tropical feel, statues, memorials, and people scattered about walking dogs.

It was match day for a new class (where the blind people are matched to a guide dog to begin their new partnership), so things were busy. We met some of the employees and volunteers and one of them arrived with a collar and leash and led Cindy Jae away to her new life.

Trust me that was one excited dog. There were people! Who were paying attention to her! There were smells! More dogs!! By now all of her brothers and sisters are there, most of whom were in our puppy group here so she knows them well. It'll probably be another 2 weeks before we here anything about her progress, but I don't doubt that she's loving her new home.

After we turned over Cindy Jae to the kennel person, we got a tour of the rest of the facility. We saw puppies that had been born just the night before and puppies that were 3 weeks old. Those puppies grow *a lot* in 3 weeks! In the main kennel, we saw a couple of dogs that had been in our puppy raiser group. They reported back to school in the spring and are almost done with their training at the school.

This is Duchess (black) and Rocky (yellow).

And this is their kennel. As you can see, it has indoor and outdoor areas, other dogs to socialize with, and lots of room to play.

Rebecca, who had raised Rocky, asked us to take Rocky for a walk for her, but he had just come in from a walk and was headed to get a bath. So all I got was a couple of pictures for her. We headed out to stand in line to walk another dog (they have volunteers come in throughout the day to walk the dogs around campus). The girl brought us a big yellow lab and announced, "This is Toby."

Hey! We know Toby, too! He's the brother of Rocky and Duchess, but he suffers from allergies and is currently being evaluated for a different career. We got one good picture while he pulled me all over the campus. He pulls like Cindy Jae does sometimes, but his extra 30 or so pounds makes a huge difference.

It was a wonderful experience seeing the guide dog school. It's huge and very professional. They do a great job of involving the community in helping to care for the large numbers of dogs there and I know they'll take excellent care of Cindy Jae.

When I returned home, I found a certificate, a pin, and a letter from President Obama himself awarding me The President's Call To Service Award. I feel so special.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting back to the nitty-gritty

We've been going in, out, up, down, round and round, for almost a month now. I'm getting ready to settle into a real routine again, but guess what?! It's the holidays!! Keeping a routine during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year is a pie-in-the-sky dream.

We really, really need to focus on school. We've been doing lots of valuable life lessons in serving, volunteering, planning, relationships, and personal growth, and we worked on creating and giving presentations, but not much nitty-gritty curriculum. Thankfully, we don't have any big plans that will disrupt that over the holidays. It's just juggling all the little things that pop up. But we're going to buckle down and get some curriculum done and I have a fun little something to help us out.

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning is anonline educational program that can be used in many ways including as a homeschooling curriculumor afterschool tutorial. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

That is the official legal notice that I'm signing on to try out the Time4Learning curriculum. I have a friend who uses it and she and her kids like it. So we're going to see what it's like. Hopefully, it'll give the girls a little extra fun stuff to help keep them (and me) focused and motivated during the holiday craziness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeing the Ocean

We drove all day. At the hotel, we quickly changed and the girls and I got back into the car, racing the sun to the nearest beach. Like time and tide, sunset waits for no man and especially not "Battery Exhausted" messages on your camera. A quick dash back to the car for my extra batteries and back to join the girls at the water's edge for the last few rays of sun.

In typical fashion, the reactions of my girls were very different.

K stood quietly as the water rolled over her feet, staring out to the horizon. She was mesmerized by the vast stretch of ocean before her - the power and majesty, the steadfast pull of the waves. She was still for a long time simply absorbing this mighty, ancient, and living proof of God's sovereignty.

My fairy child, L, flew into the water with abandon, joining the waves in their wild and glorious dance on the sand. She twirled and laughed, jumped and splashed, racing through the foam in joy. Her heart sang and everything in her had to move and sing with it.

Both my daughters saw the same ocean. Their feet moved through the same waters. Yet when they looked out across the dark rolling waves, each saw a different picture.

Contemplative by nature and exhausted from a grueling weekend of softball, K saw strength and peace.

The sunshiny L, who had been cooped up in a car all day, saw joy and hope.

So many things in life work the same way. The way we view a situation is colored by our attitude, our nature, and our circumstances. What I see is what I need in that moment and it will not be exactly the same as what you see. It's also how we see God. He reveals to us different aspects of Himself exactly when we need it. Sometimes I need his unlimited reserves of strength and sometimes I need to experience a pure and simple joy in Him.

When you look at the ocean, what do you see?

This post is part of Tuesday's Unwrapped. Click the link for other inspiring posts.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Because my bed is comfy

I really should be getting a shower right now, but it's just too cozy sitting underneath my special gray blanket to get up and get things done. So I decided to write another blog post instead.

So far my to do list is getting done. Yesterday, we got everything ready and L and I dropped it all off for the bake sale and got the oil changed in preparation for our vacation. We made it across town, arriving just in time for K's game and we watched as the girls pulled out an awesome win just before the rain arrived.

This morning I dragged L out of bed and we all dressed in our warm clothes again and trekked back across town for more tournament games. When we arrived at the field at 9am, it was 39 degrees.

39. degrees.

My TX/NC blood is just not thick enough for 39 degrees. We were bundled up in plenty of layers and hats, but it was still cold. Even the dog required a blanket on the ground before she would lay down.

K's team dropped behind early in the game, but they managed to heat up the bats and came out swinging during the last inning. We won 7-6. Our awesome coach and his wife provided sandwiches for the team and families so we got to stay at the fields together and keep everyone's excitement going, because we had to play a fresh team at 1pm.

I think our girls were excited because it was slightly warmer for the second game while the other team just thought it was miserably cold. Out of our 11 players, 9 hit the ball their first time out and our pitchers were locked in. It was an exciting win.

We had just enough time to drop Daddy, K, and the dog off at home before L and I headed back out to a bake sale for her dance team. Another 2 hours in the cold, but we did get to know some of the other dancers and moms. And when we got home, dinner was waiting for us.

So far tonight, I've got the kitchen cleaned (it is officially closed until after vacation) and most of the laundry done. Tomorrow is church, then at least 1, possibly 2 softball games, then back home to frantically pack and clean. I don't really mind having to get everything done tomorrow night. I'm just so happy that our softball team is playing so well. The championship game(or games since it's double-elimination and we have to beat the winner's bracket team twice to get 1st place) tomorrow is against another team from our own association. Most of the girls are friends and have played with each other or for one of the other coaches before. They've all been dreading the possibility of having to face and beat their friends for the championship. But whoever wins tomorrow, all the girls have just been fantastic and our association will have the 1st and 2nd place teams in the league.

And then we'll be headed to sunny Florida so I can finally thaw out!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A quick catch-up because life is CRAMMED FULL

Today I've made 2 batches of fudge, 23 bags of orange/lemon slices in little round bags tied with curly pipe cleaners to look like pumpkins, and a large pot of beef and barley soup. I've also cleaned the kitchen, started some laundry, reminded my children of various tasks that needed to be done, and gotten them involved in all the cooking, baking, organizing, and cleaning.

And it's only lunchtime.

This afternoon will be filled with slicing and bagging fudge, supervising K as she makes cookies, getting the girls dressed and ready, dropping everything off for tomorrow's bake sale to raise money for L's dance team, grabbing dinner on the road, then traveling across town for K's softball tournament game.

So if you wonder why I haven't posted on the ol' blog lately, most of my days have been like today. Tomorrow is (potentially) 2 games and a bake sale and Sunday is (potentially) 2 more games. It's the league championship tournament and K's team will play until they lose. It occurred to me about 1 hour ago that I am out of time to finish my cleaning/laundry/packing for our vacation.

Because after a fall of craziness, we are leaving Monday for vacation, but even that has been in flux.

The plan *was* that my parents would drive out here and spend a week or so watching THE RANGERS play the World Series, watching K play softball, and enjoying the beautiful fall leaves. Then my dad's brother contracted a serious case of pneumonia+strep+a lifetime of poor health. He was in a nursing home and my dad is the one who takes care of him, so he stayed home to deal with that and my mom flew out here alone. The plan then became whenever my uncle was doing well enough, my dad would join us.

We spent a week enjoying Grandma, but my uncle's situation quickly went downhill and my mom flew home. My uncle passed away Thursday afternoon. Because of our commitments here and the fact that the whole main reason for the trip to Florida is to return our guide dog puppy to school, we can't make the trip to Texas for the funeral. I hate that, especially for my dad's sake.

I'm still hoping things will settle down there at home and my parents can still meet us in Florida for part of the trip. I know they were really looking forward to doing Universal and Disney with the girls and the girls were excited about them being there. Hopefully, that will still work out. I think they need a some relaxation and laughter just as much as we do.

I think the washer is finished and I've got more clothes to wash. And fudge to slice. And an oil change to get. And...and...and...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How Bible study applies to your hair

The girls and I spend every Thursday morning at Community Bible Study (CBS). It's our 4th year and the girls are a major reason we sign up again each year. They LOVE going. Our study this year is on the servants of God and today we finished up the book of Joshua. He gave a speech for all of Israel just before he died in which he says, "But just as every good promise of the LORD your God has come true, so the LORD will bring on you all the evil he has threatened..." (Joshua 23:15). Something to remember.

This morning, L came in and asked if I would fix her hair for CBS. I started brushing it and noticed something. The front section on her right was significantly shorter than it had been the last time I looked at it.

L has an obsession with cutting her own hair. The year she turned 3, she cut her hair 3 times until I finally shaved it into a pixie. She grew it out long and then cut some of her bangs almost to the hairline. At that time, I warned her that if she ever cut her own hair again, I would give her a haircut. Her long hair was her pride and joy, probably because she had to wear that pixie cut. She loved how it hung way down her back. Her love for it, however, was just not enough to convince her to keep her scissors away from it.

When I reminded her of my promise to cut her hair off the next time she tried cutting her own hair and she burst into tears. "I forgot!" she wailed. Yeah, that's probably what the Israelites said, too. But God and Mom keep their promises to do good and to bring punishment.

After we got home from CBS, L sat on our high dining room chair and I cut all her hair as short as the shortest cut she had made. As I was cutting, I warned her that she had to keep her head still or I might mess up. She ducked her head one too many times just as I snipped and she ended up losing another inch of length to fix that.

Thankfully, her hair is still long enough for a bun for dance...if I use enough hair gel and bobby pins. Between the threat of losing her spot on the dance team and the knowledge that I will followthrough with my threat to punish her, hopefully she will remember to not cut her hair.

Surely this time, right?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mom's Taxi Service

We are fighting an invasion. Actually, two of them, but they're related.

First, we have tiny flying bugs that have decided that our kitchen is a fabulous place to hang out. The sink and the pantry are obviously prime party spots for the little devils, so we spent today doing a deep cleaning and getting rid of everything that could possibly attract them.

Second, we have an invasion of entitlement. As in our children have decided they are entitled to the things they want and "need". As in K told me I had to buy her more corduroys because all of hers are too small. As in it's my fault that L's dance clothes were still wet when it was time to get dressed for class because I only reminded her a few times to bring them down to get washed. As in L came down and asked when I was going to be done with the vacuum because she was trying to watch TV. As in one major cause for the bug invasion is the dishes that sit in the sink for days because K doesn't think to do the dishes (which is her main chore) without being told.

After repeated warnings that have proved to be ineffectual, we're going to try implementing a new incentive plan around here. Today I created and printed off a bunch of tickets for Mom's Taxi Service.

From now on, whenever a child needs a ride to an activity, they have to have one of these tickets. Got a dance practice? That'll be one ticket, please. Softball game? I need a ticket. Today is band practice? Gotta have a ticket. If I'm not already going there myself, I will charge for the ride.

And these tickets have to be earned. Not by some piddly little chore they have to do anyway. After all, their activities take anywhere from 90 minutes to several hours. Earning a ticket requires asking me for a job and completing that job to my satisfaction. Since it will take time to complete each job, they have to think ahead and stockpile a few tickets because if it's time to leave and they don't have a ticket, they don't go.

The girls are kinda excited about Mom's Taxi Service. I figure that will last until the first time they have to miss an activity because they don't have a ticket. Today K got her first taste of the new system when I made her clean and vacuum the loft in exchange for a ride to her softball practice tonight. They both are going to need more tickets before this week is out and K is already lined up to make lunch tomorrow so she can earn a ticket to get to her game tomorrow night. We discussed a few other possible jobs tailored to the abilities of the child, like cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, sorting the big box of socks, cleaning the litter box, etc.

I think this will be a good lesson for the girls. If you want something, you have to earn it, and that's a lesson better learned young.

Of course, there is the added bonus that it does get a few things off my list.

Monday, October 4, 2010

IFT and what that means

"The time has come," the Blogger said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
And the letters I, F, and T."

We got an email on Wednesday. One that I had been expecting any time, then heard it was going to be January, then surprise! It came anyway.

It's time for Cindy Jae to go In For Training (IFT).

IFT means that the guide dog school has evaluated the space in their kennels and they've decided they have room for Cindy Jae and her 5 brothers and sisters. The dogs usually go back with their whole litter, which means that Cindy Jae will have a few friends down there with her.

On November 8, we will load up the car and drive down to Palmetto, FL, where we'll walk on the beach a little, check into a hotel, and get a good night's sleep. We'll get up Tuesday morning, then make our way over to Southeastern Guide Dogs. Around 9:30, we'll meet one of the trainers and hand over the leash. Cindy Jae will trot happily down a walkway to her new life. The dogs go first to a special kennel building just for new IFT dogs. There's a big play yard and lots of other dogs to sniff out and get to know. She'll spend some time there to be evaluated by the trainers and the vets and they will decide where to place her.

Cindy Jae could become a breeder for the school. She's small and I know that's one trait they like since smaller guide dogs fit into smaller spaces. Breeders are placed with host families near the school and they produce a few litters of future guide dogs before they are released from duty. It's a pretty cushy life.

She could be "career changed" to work as a police dog or a therapy dog or put into the Paws for Patriots program where she would be paired with a soldier suffering from a disability received in combat. Cindy Jae does have some allergy issues so this is a possibility.

Then, of course, there's the career she's been training for since birth - guide dog for someone who is legally blind. In this case, she would stay at the school and learn the skills she needs to know to live and work with a blind individual. After 6+ months, whenever she's deemed ready, the school will present her to incoming classes and see if they can find the perfect match for her. The pair will train at the school for several weeks, then Cindy Jae will go home with her new partner. Cindy Jae is fearless, loving, and incredibly smart and I think would make a fabulous guide dog.

Cindy Jae will love "going off to college". Lots of old and new friends in the dorm, lots of fun new teachers, new classes that will challenge her, new places to go and new things to do. Though there may be some tears watching her walk away to her new life, we'll be happy for her and maybe we'll go play with some of the new puppies for a little bit. Then we'll load ourselves back into the van and point our noses north and east.

And then we'll drown our sorrow with butterbeer while wearing mouse ears.

Because Cindy Jae shouldn't be the only one having fun.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Mantel Link-up

The Nesting Place is hosting a Fall Mantel Party link-up that people will be joining all day showing off their mantels all decked out for fall.

If you follow The Nester, you'll recognize several of the ideas I...ahem!...borrowed for my own mantel.

I spray painted a few extra frames I had lying around and used them to replace the big picture that normally hangs up there.

I used this link to create my own Martha Stewart corn husk wreath. It does a pretty good job of hiding the TV inputs the oh so helpful builders put over my fireplace. It does not hide the hook that normally holds one side of the heavy picture over the mantel, but considering how much effort it took to get that measured just right, I decided I could just ignore it for now.

These little birds are so lovely and I had to have a picture of my girls on the mantel. Because it's my house and that's just how I roll.

The pictures the Nester put up of painted pumpkins were so awesome I had to try it.

I loved these plaster leaves and I picked up a box of plaster at the craft store with every intention of trying it myself, but I just didn't feel like messing with it and the box went back on the shelf. I did have some leaves and some appropriately fall colored spray paint at home, so I spray-painted a few leaves and tied them together with thread for a cheap easy version that doesn't get lost against my white mantel. My intention is to actually paint that wall before next fall, but I'm not doing anything in the living room until the dog goes back to school. Our lab puppy is still a bit destructive if she gets bored.

The end result is a simple, pretty, fall-inspired mantel that I love.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

DIfference of dress

Today was one of those days where we had to dress respectably and get out the door early. It was Community Bible Study morning and while you don't have to dress up, most everyone is dressed nicely, so we do as well. The girls were both turned out so well, and so characteristically, that I had them pose for pictures this afternoon to show you.

First on the porch is K.

A stop at the consignment store to look for dance shoes (didn't have what we needed) netted her this Justice shirt and jeans. Normally the shirt would have been waaaay overpriced (easily $40) at the Justice store, but we got it for $4. If the designers at Justice had set out to custom make a shirt to fit K's personality, this is what they would have created just for her - preppy, clean lines, colorful without being flashy. I really did custom make the hat for her and it's been constantly on her head since it was finished. (For $15, I can make you one, too, with your own style of patch.)

Next, I captured L and herded her to the porch for a few photos.

Her skirt was also a $4 consignment store find, but when we bought it, it was just a plain brown corduroy skirt. I have a friend who decorates skirts and jeans like this and sells them in boutiques. I think they're awfully cute and it looked easy enough, so I pulled some coordinating fabrics from my stash and within an hour had produced this. She loves that a)it's a skirt, b)it's pink, c)it has a ruffle, and d)it's a skirt. And I made the hairband, too, one morning in the car on the way to China Camp.

They are so different in their styles, but they're both pretty cute.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Watch the Pitcher! Watch, Watch the Pitcher!

That's the chant you hear from the girls in the dugout whenever there's a pitching change. They use it to alert everyone that there's someone new on the mound and they need to check her out.

Ok, maybe they just do it because they like to chant/sing/dance/jump up on the fence. These girls may be hardcore tough softball girls, but they're still just 9- and 10-year-old little girls.

Last night was the very first game of the fall softball season. We're back with the great coach we had last fall and a lot of the same girls. We've got some new girls on the team and they're fitting in nicely. I was worried about last night's game. Most of our team just moved up into the 10U age bracket (including the coach). We were down to 8 players due to dropouts and a broken wrist. Thankfully, last Friday, we had 2 new girls join the team, so we came back up to 10. One has never played before, but she's really good and one came in to help from the travel team, so she's good and experienced. We're up to 4 good pitchers and a couple of back-ups, so things are shaping up to be a good season.

Yesterday was one of those days where the schedule is absolutely nutso. Dentist appointment, lunch plans, band practice, dance, and a softball game. L's dance runs until 5:30 on Tuesday and the game started at 6 waaaaaaay across town. Daddy took K over there, but it was just killing me to miss her first game. So after dance got out, L and I decided to risk it. As long as traffic wasn't too bad, we could still make most of the game.

Naturally, we hit every red light and the back-up on the interstate was at it's longest point, but we somehow managed to get through it all and we were only about 15 minutes late. Whew!!

It was a great game. Some good hits, some good defense, some of the mistakes you expect from young players at the beginning of the season. K was playing well with a couple of RBIs, a single, and 2 walks. She made some good stops and some good throws.

At the bottom of the 4th, we were ahead 11-3 and there was no way the other team was going to be able to catch-up with the 4-run limit rule. So the coach looks at K as the girls were headed out to the field and says, "You wanna pitch?"

K has been playing ball since she was 5. It's her 7th season. Last year, she mentioned that she'd like to pitch, but I couldn't teach her and the team didn't need another pitcher, so she gave it up. She figured she didn't really want that kind of pressure anyway.

Then came the All-Stars this summer where freak circumstances doomed the team to having *no* reliable pitchers. We had a few who could stumble through an inning, but it always seemed like they were away on vacation. So out of desperation, Daddy watched a few youtube videos and K started learning to pitch. She worked a few days, but she hated the heat and her desire fizzled. Until the tryouts for fall ball came and she decided that she might really actually like to try pitching again.

So we started working on pitching again. And discovered that K has a very good natural ability for fastpitch. She will send the ball straight down the middle almost every time and as long as she remembers to simply throw it hard, she will get a pretty good pitch. Last Friday, she asked the coach if she could pitch in a game and he told her sure as long as she showed him she could throw strikes. So they stayed late and worked on it. I guess she showed him, because he indeed let her pitch in a game.

In that one last inning, K got her first strike-out, a couple of walks, and allowed a few hits. It was awesome. Yes, they got the maximum 4 runs, but K was throwing the ball well. Well enough that the batters could hit it. She didn't panic, didn't get flustered or frustrated. She just pitched.

With 4 other good, experienced pitchers, I don't know how much more K will pitch this season. Last night was a perfect situation and I'm so glad the coach gave her the opportunity to get some game experience.

And I'm even more glad that I took a chance on traffic and got to see it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My beautiful daughters

K's friend had a birthday party. N and K have been friends for a very, very long time (since they were not quite 2). They have much in common, but they are also very different in many ways. N had planned a fabulous birthday. Prom dresses from Goodwill, makeovers, tea party complete with chocolate fountain and virgin frozen drinks. Just a total complete awesome package, but not exactly K's style. Still it sounded fun and K was very excited about going.

I offered to help, so L got to go, too. One of the many cool things about the party was a professional photographer doing a mini session with each girl after she had a mani/pedi, had her hair styled by a professional stylist, and had been pinned into the prom dress of her choice.

First I'll show you L. Many of the girls chose elaborate updos, but L went for long glittery curls. There were only 2 dresses short enough for her and she chose floofy over sparkles. I pinned and tucked the bodice as far as it would go to fit her tiny waist and she looked beautiful.

K wanted the least fussy, most understated look possible. She insisted on a simple sleek flip for her hair and she found the plainest, and thus most sophisticated, dress in the pile. It fit her beautifully and she looked way too grown-up for her 9-year-old self.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How I answer "But what about socialization?" question

Homeschoolers are always grousing about a lack of support for what they do. Family, friends, neighbors, spouses, strangers in the grocery store, etc., always seem to be making nasty comments about how their kids aren't going to be normal because of homeschooling.

I've never had any of that and we're on year #6.

(Sheesh, have I really homeschooled that long?)

Anyway, I've been blessed by lots of supportive people in my life. Sure, I've spent lots of time answering questions about why we homeschool and how it works. People are naturally curious and I don't mind talking about it. Lately I've been noticing how *many* of my friends and acquaintances are homeschooling. People I wouldn't have thought would be interested and they're doing it for all kinds of reasons. It's neat to see how mainstream homeschool is getting and how many more options there are now than in years past. The curriculum choices are mind-boggling, support groups are popping up all over the place, and programs and classes are everywhere. It's much easier to homeschool when there are so many resources available and people to work with.

Our schedule for this year is mostly set. Mornings are spent working on our curriculum assignments and afternoons and evenings are for extras (except Thursday, which is reversed).

Monday - L has dance. K has softball.
Tuesday - K (I hope, still working on it) has band. L has dance.
Wednesday - Church night
Thursday - Community Bible Study. K has softball.
Friday - K has Science Olympiad (in the spring)

In between all those classes, we fit in field trips and group activities. Like today, we had two other families over and we dissected cow eyeballs. There were 9 children of all ages gathered around my table as we took turns with the scalpel and passed around the different parts of the eyes. We laughed and poked and prodded and asked questions. The kids were participating and engaged and afterwards they ran off and played together.

Next week there's a homeschool day at a state park in the mountains a couple of hours away and we've invited some friends to come camp overnight with us there. At the end of the month, we're planning another camping trip with different friends at the beach.

That's what I love about homeschooling. We go, we do, we learn, and we get lots of "socialization" in the process!

Monday, August 30, 2010

How God weaves the fabric

Today was a dance day, which means that L had to be at the studio for a 3:30 class with all the appropriate clothing and two pairs of shoes in hand. It's a challenge to get her there in time. Today we pulled into the parking lot with 8 minutes to spare, but I noticed that there was a small crowd of people gathered around a dark haired lady lying on the ground. Not good.

But let me back up a few months. This story does not begin on the parking lot of the dance studio. It began with a jeep, a few paper vines, and popsicles.

At the beginning of summer, our church was trying to get the word out about our upcoming VBS. Several people were going to walk around the neighborhood, handing out free popsicles and flyers. The event was planned for a Saturday, but the popsicles, for some strange reason, didn't freeze and it had to be postponed until Sunday. I couldn't go on Saturday, but Sunday was free.

Some of us met at the church and we decorated a jeep with all kinds of palm branches and paper vines and stuffed monkeys to go with our rainforest-themed VBS. We blasted ice cream truck music and we chose just a few streets to walk since the weather was sweltering. At one point I was bringing up the rear of the group and a dark-haired woman came out of a house behind me, calling to get my attention. She had heard about our VBS and wanted to sign up her young daughter. We chatted for several minutes while I filled out a registration card and the rest of the group disappeared around a corner. I had to race to catch up.

Soon afterwards, VBS started and the little girl came every day. She had a wonderful time, even winning a prize for memorizing Bible verses. Every day she stood with her group right in front of me as I helped to lead the singing.

Over the summer, we saw each other fairly often at the neighborhood pool. I'd wave or talk for a couple of minutes with her parents. It wasn't much, but it was nice to know a couple more people at our pool.

Our dance classes started up a few weeks ago and I was surprised and pleased to see the little girl and her parents there. It was strange that we had both chosen the same studio. I mean, it's a fabulous studio, but it is about 20 minutes away from our neighborhood. In a different city. In a different state.

Today, when we pulled in I recognized the little girl standing in the parking lot and saw that it was her mother lying on the ground. As they were walking into the studio, a driver had failed to look and backed right into them. The little girl wasn't hurt, but her mother was having painful spasms in her legs. I found a small bag to put under her head and some screens to block the sun from her face until the ambulance arrived. But the most important thing I could do for her was to assure her that I would take care of her daughter.

Because of VBS and the pool, both mother and daughter knew me and trusted me.

Because our girls' dance classes are at the same studio near the same time, I was there and I could get her daughter to class like the mother wanted.

Because we handed out popsicles and I had talked to her at her house, I knew where she lived and could take her daughter home to her husband (he recently had a stroke and can't drive).

Because I was walking at the back that day, she managed to catch me before we moved on.

Because K's softball coach had a meeting tonight, she didn't have practice and I had time to wait on the little girl and take her home.

A string of mere coincidences? No.

A series of carefully orchestrated events so that one little girl would be cared for and one big God would be glorified.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I stink/stank/have stunk at grammar

Today I schooled my kids, graded every paper, recorded all the grades, filed all the papers in carefully organized notebooks, and filled out the attendance records the state requires. I went over several grammar concepts with K as she has a test tomorrow and she's having trouble with a few things. Like...

1. sneaked vs. snuck. Did you know that sneaked is the proper word? snuck has slowly worked its way from the kind of slang only backwoods idiots use to accepted English. At least according to the dictionary. So you can use snuck now, but not if you want to traditional about it. It's like "catsup" is now "ketchup" and "doughnut" is now "donut".

2. layed vs. laid and payed vs paid. Those darn irregular verbs and their irregular spellings. Rebels. Juvenile delinquents. They're too cool to follow the rules.

3. has drunk and would have sung. Just the phrase "past participle" makes my eyes glaze over. And I majored in English.

4. Pr, P, PrP, PP. Those are the answers the worksheet wanted her to write indicating if the verb or verb phrase was Present, Past, Present Participle, or Past Participle. Could you remember which one to write for which? Heck, could you even identify a past participle if it hit you over the head?

Thankfully, I had the foresight to purchase the teacher guide with the answers, because I have to check it myself all the time to make sure I'm teaching it correctly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Some of the cool stuff about homeschool

We're (kinda) officially 2 weeks into our new school year. That's the weird thing about homeschooling. There's all kinds of learning going on all the time so it's hard to pinpoint which days are "school" and which aren't. If we only count days we use actual worksheets, we're on day 7. So maybe we'll just say we're officially in our second week of school.

This week and next are shaping up to be really cool weeks. I'm digging the KONOS curriculum, but I'm just really using it as science and reading right now as the topics were hearing last week and sight this week. Last week we drew and learned that parts of the ear, did a couple of experiments, watched a couple of movies, played a few games, and read a few books on topics like the myth of Echo and Narcissus, Helen Keller, and remembering things that we see and hear.

This week (and some of next) we're learning the parts of the eye. Kate read some things and did a drawing of the structure of the eye. On Friday, our wonderful optometrist is going to be a guest teacher. He is doing L's eye exam and has promised to explain everything and show the girls what he's doing and what he looks for. He'll even show them see the inside of L's eyeball on a computer screen.

And then sometime between now and next Tuesday, a mysterious package will arrive in the mail.

And then some homeschooling friends will come over and we'll gather around the table and open the mysterious box.

And out will pop TWO EYE BALLS!!!!

We'll spend our afternoon slicing open cow eyeballs to see with our own two eyes what all the stuff inside looks like. Yep, it promises to be a rip-roaring, laughing good time.

Now, don't you wish you homeschooled?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Picky eater

My dog, Cindy Jae, has never been a good eater. When she first came, she would gobble her food as fast as possible without choking.

Who am I kidding? I think she did choke herself once or twice.

A large piece of concrete fixed that problem. And no, I didn't throw it at her. I put it in her bowl so she had to eat around it which slowed her down.

We switched from the expensive food that the kennel sent home with her to an expensive food that I could buy in bulk at the local warehouse store. At first she was fine with it, but she gradually became less interested in eating anything but socks and game controllers. There were a few times she would eat the whole bowl full of Smart Puppy Large Breed, but they were rare.

Recently it had gotten worse. She wasn't eating much and when she doesn't eat, she doesn't drink much either. No wonder she's smaller than her siblings. I even started trying psychoanalysis. Maybe she's anorexic. Maybe food is the one area she has control. Maybe she's eating socks because she wants to feel full.

"Psycho" is right.

Yesterday was the worst she's been. She didn't "busy" most of the day and she hadn't eaten much in a few days. She's been very confined lately (trying desperately to break the whole sock-eating thing), so I couldn't think of anything she might have eaten that she shouldn't. I remembered that when we kept another little puppy for a week, they kept trying to eat each other's food (they're on different types) *and* Cindy Jae is also almost a year old and that's when we switch them to an adult food anyway.

So last night I picked up a small bag of Beneful. It's brightly colored and smelly and I was hoping it would tempt that stubborn dog to EAT. I mixed some of that in with her regular food and stood back. That dog LOVED it. She polished off almost the whole bowl, but she did a pretty good job of eating just the new food and leaving some of the old type. This morning, she followed closely behind as I filled her bowl and even patiently let me put her eye drops in (she's got some kind of conjunctivitis) knowing that her bowl was coming. She normally hates the eye drops! When I let her out after a short stay in her crate this afternoon, she raced to the spot where her bowls are kept and turned away dejected that it wasn't dinnertime yet.

So maybe her problem all along was just that she hated the puppy food.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wrestling Match in My Living Room

I got an email today from another raiser needing some puppy-sitting services. "Heck, what's one more," I thought. So I volunteered and tonight this was the scene in my living room.

Isn't he the cutest little thing? This is Charlie S. He's 12 weeks (I think) and is an absolute sweetheart. We met him Saturday at the pool party and L just cooed and loved on him. When I heard it was one of the newest additions to our group that needed sitting, I just had to bring him home, if only for a few days.

Cindy Jae was very excited to see a new puppy come waltzing through her door. I was a bit worried that she would be too aggressive, but she's been awesome. She is rather possessive of her toys, but she has shared some and she loved playing tug of war with her "squeaky". She'd grab it and pull Charlie around with it, but he was holding his own fairly well. When he'd get tired and wander off to find another toy, she'd follow him around and pester him until he'd play again.

I think it'll be a good experience for them both as they're getting along well so far. The girls have promised to be Charlie's caretakers and they are so excited to have him. The cat was not quite as excited to see yet another one of those smelly, slobbery things in the house, but she'll survive. It was so funny to watch the puppies play together tonight. It was interesting that neither dog barked or made any real noises except a few quiet growly noises from Charlie when he got really excited. You really can teach a dog not to bark. There were even a few moments when Cindy Jae let Charlie think he won.

But just for a moment.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Split class

During my own elementary years...

(you know, back in the Dark Ages)

...I attended a very small school. My 1st grade year was spent in Ms. Johnson's class. She has one small group of tiny desks facing one chalkboard and another group of larger desks facing a different chalkboard. The tiny desks were for us first graders and the larger desks were for a group of 3rd graders. She split her time and attention teaching both grades.

The very next year, I moved to the bigger desks because that year she taught 1st and 2nd.

I wonder what she felt going into each year. What grade levels would she have? How was she going to get each group to focus on their own work while she taught the other side of the room?Should she should get a bigger paddle?

(Remember this was the Dark Ages.)

We're starting school this week. After last week's cleaning frenzy, my house is mostly clean and I've been working on getting all of my school stuff organized. At the end of the school year, I tend to just shove everything out of sight because we are so ready to be done with it. The beginning is when I'm motivated to clear out and organize. So I've been tossing old folders and pulling out the boxes of curriculum I kept from K's first grade days.

My books are neatly shelved in my new yellow cabinet and the forms I need to keep for the state are mostly done. I need to get in touch with their office during business hours to reopen our school and add L to the roster. Since kids don't have to be registered until the school year they turn 7, she's never officially been to school. Actually, I never officially closed our school when K went to public school last year, so I need to find out how that's going to work. And I need to unenroll K from her elementary so they'll stop calling me and sending me forms for free or reduced lunch.

There's still much to do for lesson planning. One friend commented that she had her lesson plans completed through Thanksgiving. Sigh. I've got most of the first 5 days. For K. Ah well, we don't start until Wednesday and I've decided this week will just be getting started with the KONOS curriculum. That's been the most difficult to pin down and I'd like a few trial days to see how it works for us.

The idea of teaching 5th grade and 1st grade is a bit daunting. At least I've gone through 1st grade before with K and all of L's phonics, reading, and writing will be taught by a teacher on video. A teacher who has the patience to repeat and repeat and repeat. That will keep L occupied while K and I work on her math and language. This is the year of diagramming sentences, the thing I hate the worst about grammar. And yes, I did buy the teacher key for her language book; I stink at grammar.

Another year of split class. Maybe we should celebrate our first day of school with banana splits all around. Yep, I'm definitely putting that in my lesson plans.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Working hard

I'm working right now. Working I tell you.

I know. You're asking yourself how I'm working and blogging at the same time. It's not like blogging is working.

Nope, I'm sitting in my brown chair that I just glued the leg back on. The wood itself broke on the little short stubby legs. And when you are gluing wood back together, you have to clamp it. Well, I can't exactly clamp the whole chair, so I had to come up with something different.

Like sitting in it.

So I have 30 minutes of enforced inactivity. I can't complain. The laundry is done. The black cabinet is now a lovely yellow. The kitchen is kinda clean. I'm getting there. I'm watching a movie with L.

Oops, my 30 minutes is almost over and I've got to brace the leg with brackets and then go help K clean her room. Fun times.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Still busy and some awesome recipes you have to try

It's just been one of those weeks where there's lots to do. Fun stuff. Good stuff. Just lots of it!

Today we ran errands. I had a long grocery list with a couple other stops to make. The many delays we ran into that turned a quick trip into a 3 and a half hour adventure were almost funny. The store didn't have what we needed, the registers broke, the aisle with the one item we wanted was blocked and no one was around to help, every customer in Target decided to check out at once, I forgot a pen to mark items off my list and kept having to backtrack, etc., etc. Thank goodness we weren't on a tight schedule.

We finally got home with almost everything we set out for, and I spent the rest of the afternoon cooking. I put the brisket in to marinate for Friday and I made chicken spaghetti for the church dinner tonight. I highly recommend you click both those links and go make some for yourself. They are 57 kinds of amazing. But don't believe her when she tells you how many servings it makes. Remember she is feeding hard-working cowboys and what they call a "serving" is probably more than you eat in a day.

Today I also did lots of laundry, washed sheets and remade my bed, made the children smoothies and taught the oldest how to make them, and started painting the cabinet thing I bought at a yard sale. That's in addition to taking care of the dog, the cat, and making the kids feel that they're important to me.

Yep, it's been a crazy busy day. And there's a whole list of the same and more to do tomorrow. Like make 3 of these for Friday night. Haven't tried them, but they look amazing and I haven't been disappointed with any of her recipes yet. I love having people over, but it's a whole lot of work.

Ok, it wouldn't BE so much work if I would keep my house clean and stay caught up on the laundry on a regular basis. Maybe I should just invite people over more often so I would be motivated.

So when are YOU coming over?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sick, busy, the best mom in the whole world, and a funny story

Over the weekend, I had what can only be described as the summer plague. It's like the summer cold, but it comes with fever and the desire to bury oneself under the covers for days on end. Once the fever finally breaks, the lingering cough sends everyone around running for cover.

It's a pleasant way to spend summer break.

I was finally clear of the gunk late yesterday, just in time to make a lunch date with a friend who has adopted 4 children from China. I managed to convince her 10-year-old, who has only been home from China for a month, that I speak Chinese. Well, at least we think I did. She started spouting a whole conversation until I had to tell her I couldn't understand her. That is indeed one of the few useful phrases I know in Mandarin. I could ask her if her food was good, tell her that my daughter had the same name as her sister, that she and my daughter were almost the same age, that she had cold water in her glass, and that I could not understand the words that she was saying. All very useful vocabulary.

After lunch, I went over to another friend's house to pick up a book of math tests she is letting me borrow for this year. We were already on that side of town, so I just combined my errands. When we got there, the little girls disappeared to go play their games of princess and Barbies, but there wasn't much for K to do. So she sat with her head 6 inches from mine while I tried to have a grown-up conversation with my friend.

Do you know how hard it is to concentrate when there's a 9-year-old listening to every word that is said? It really puts a cramp in the conversation.

I told her to play with the dog. I told her to play checkers with the little boy. My friend's older son came home and half the kids went out to swim, so I sent K out to put her feet in the pool. She was soon splashed by the boys, so I told her she could just go ahead and swim in her clothes. It wasn't going to hurt her and we weren't going anywhere afterwards AND I immediately became the coolest mom in the whole world.

I love it when I can say "yes" when they fully expect the answer to be "no".

We ended up staying 2 hours. Eventually the little girls came downstairs and L stood looking out the back window. I cringed knowing what was coming next. "Why is K swimming?"

"Because there wasn't anything else for her to do," I answered.

"Does she have a swimsuit?" L demanded.

"No, she's just wearing her clothes."

L looked down at her favorite China Doll outfit she was wearing. I guess she figured it wasn't worth messing up her nice clothes, because she just responded with "Ok" and went to watch TV.

My friend and I fell out laughing at my youngest who is such a princess that she chose NOT to swim rather than get her pretty clothes wet.

And that's my funny story for the day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From Pit to Princess

There's lots to do to get ready for a new school year to start. New school supplies, like everyone else, but there's lots more for a homeschooling family. A curriculum must be decided upon and ordered, last year's books to pack away, this year's books pulled out and organized, the school area decided upon and cleaned up.

And in our family, the bedrooms must be cleaned and organized.

It's hard enough to concentrate on schoolwork when your stuff is around to tempt you, but when you can't even *find* the top of your desk to do your work? That's when you know something has to be done.

Last night I started on L's room. L is a packrat. She will save every piece of paper she draws on or writes on or gets from Sunday school. She saves every cheap plastic toy or broken necklace and it all gets crammed into whatever nook and cranny is available. We make the girls clean their rooms often, but their idea of "clean" is not exactly the same as my idea of "clean".

I went in armed with trash bags and wipes and we went to work. Don't think I do it all myself, the occupant of the room is required to act as messenger and "go-fer". She tries on clothes and sorts through toys. She cleans surfaces and runs the vacuum until Mommy is satisfied that the floor is clean enough. She gets to help decide the placement of furniture and wall-hangings as needed.

We took out 5 trash bags worth of papers, clothes, and toys. In spite of her hoarder tendencies, she had no problem with me tossing things. There were, I admit, a few things I tossed quickly into the trash bag when her back was turned, but she was very cooperative about everything.
L's room is now back to it's normal pink and purple princess fairyland with a few changes from before.

A reorganized closet came first. The short shower curtain rods have been awesome since they allow L to reach her own clothes and the hanging shoe organizer is new. Of course, now the door won't shut with the hooks, so I've got to find another solution to hang it.

L had asked if she could have a bed that looks like a couch during the day. After informing her that I was not buying her a daybed, I told her I could probably make her existing bed work. She was very happy with the result.

See all these empty toy bins? I'm still trying to figure out how to use them. Mr. at Home wanted to make sure L realized that just because she tossed some old toys it didn't mean that we'd buy her new ones.

One thing I kept finding all over the floor was feathers from L's boa, so I put it up over the window to keep it away from small destructive hands (and cats. and puppies.) I had to rehang that bottom shelf due to those same destructive hands.

But the thing that sent her into wild ecstasy. The thing that she loves. The thing that made her day was this

I took the ratty make-up table I bought at the garage sale and painted it purple, put a clear coat on the top, added some pink drawer pulls, and put it under the pink net that was already hanging from her ceiling. L LOVES it. She carefully arranged her jewelry and hair stuff on top and sat eagerly in front of it. She isn't thrilled about the orange stool, but it was all I had to offer.

Tonight we started on K's room. After a few minutes, I realized that her room is even worse than L's had been. I've already taken out 3 bags of trash and we've barely started. Maybe in a day or two I'll be back with pictures of her newly cleaned room. If not, you might want to come make sure I'm not buried under a mound of stuffed animals.

But at least it would mean I wouldn't have to worry about getting ready for school.