Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Well, folks, it's Leap Day once again. Every four years it comes around. That one extra day tacked on to February. You know, February has a lot of weird things going on in it regarding dates. There's Leap Day, for one. Another thing is that even though George Washington was born in February, there are two dates (the 11th and the 22nd) and two years (1731 and 1732) for his birthday. Of course, that all has to do because they changed the calendar, but still... it's a February thing. I never did really like this month a whole lot. Lots of fishy things.  Anyhow, so it's Leap Day.It's sprinkling a little. There's a slow moving storm coming through.  The boys are at their friends' house playing for a couple hours this afternoon. That's a good thing. Bubba's just plumb wearing me out. So, I've got my cup of coffee. Yes, it's in a mug advertising pharmaceuticals. See, years ago, we had these friends (I suppose they are still friends, we've just not done a very good job keeping in touch) and the husband was a pharmacist. He'd get all these things from drug companies and when they had company over, they'd give away door prizes. In the form of pens, mugs and whatever else they had on hand - all advertising some sort of drug. This one happens to be a pain reliever. It's a nice big mug, though.
I have no idea where this mug came from, but I'm thinking maybe Hubby had a hand in its acquisition.  Since it seems to be related to the industry for which he works.
You know, it would really be nice to have some pretty mugs. Maybe something with flowers on it, or a funny saying. I'll have to work on that.  So, anyhow, aside from putting my coffee in an ugly mug, I must say it is an afternoon treat. I add a dollop of this delightful stuff. I know, I know, I need to go skim, but half-and-half makes it soooooo good.

And then..... this is what make the whole thing perfect. It separates a mediocre cup of coffee from a superb cup! I just put a splash of each of these in and.... there are no words.

And so, I'm just sittin' here on Leap Day. Enjoying a quiet afternoon. Sippin' my coffee. Watching the sprinkles fall from the sky. Thinkin' "maybe I should change the Baby" (Especially when she comes up to me, flashes her sweet smile, pats her bottom and says, "I poop". Yes, my friends 16 months old and she's talking in sentences.) It's a good afternoon!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Bit of Sunshine on my Kitchen Table!

This is my second vase of daffodils in two weeks. Aren't they pretty? I just love yellow daffodils in a blue and white vase.  There's a man at our church who's been keeping the ladies supplied in posies these last couple of Sundays.  See, our church has this little "Farmer's Market". There's a little brick wall thing that supports the stair railing as you come  up the few stairs into our sanctuary. (I'm sorry, it's hard to explain) and that's where the Farmer's Market always is. It's only about 4 feet long, but if you have something to give away, you put it there. In the summer there's always boxes of squash and tomatoes and peppers and grapes (once there was even a bag of bulbs and tubers and no one really knew what they would grow, so I grabbed a few and planted them), in the fall there's persimmons and apples, in the winter there's nothing and the last couple of Sundays there's been a 5-gallon bucket stuffed full of bright yellow daffodils.  All the ladies are able to take a dozen or so for their kitchen tables. It's been wonderful.  This same man brings buckets of peonies in the summer, too. And that's a real treat because peonies don't grow really well in California.  I'm not sure how long we're going to be getting these daffodils, but I'm sure enjoying them while I've got them!

It's a Giveaway!

Hold on to your hats, folks. It's the first giveaway at my sweet little blog. I'm so excited.  I'm excited because I've got my own copy of this book, have started reading it and it's a wonderful thing. It really is.  See, I don't know if you have this problem, but I have an energy shortage. I feel like I can barely keep up and live on caffeinated beverages. Well, this blogger friend of mine, Arabah,  wrote a book called "Energy Explosion" and it is tremendous. She is an amazing writer. You will love her. You can visit the website here for more information on the book.  I think you will find, as I have, much of value in this little tome.  So, to win a copy, just leave me a comment and I will enter you in the drawing.  I think maybe we will leave the drawing open for a week. So, next Tuesday one of my handy little helpers will draw a name to win a copy of the book. I know you will enjoy it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Monday! Make it a Double! or Have You Studied Your Political Philosophy Today?

I just added a little more umph (that would be caffeinated umph) to my afternoon brew. It's been a Monday and I need it. The house is a wreck, there is too much laundry to fold (even though my wonderful mother-in-law was here and folded a bunch of it) and Baby is eating yogurt with a spoon from the container. She really loves using a spoon, but she's getting it all over herself. Oh well.  So, what are ya'll up to today? Well, we had school. You know, I'm really loving history. Have I mentioned  that before? How important it is for kids to learn history! Not out of one of those boring, dry, dull textbooks. I mean, really learning history. Studying people....
(Did you know that it was William Penn's idea to have a three pronged government?)

("I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered one for three days!" Daniel Boone.)
and ideas. It's like.... I'm just reading this stuff (and it's all on an elementary school level,) yet it's impacting me so much. I get excited about it because I can share this with my kids and have them learn it, and I get scared because I know that it's not being taught in schools.  So, today we studied the beginning of the Enlightenment and some of John Locke's philosophies. I was getting excited as I was explaining to my kids that our country was founded upon these principles and ideas of John Locke - that "Every human being had, by 'natural law', the right to seek, 'life, health, liberty and possession.' " and that "rulers can't take away the 'life, health, liberty, and possessions' of their subjects. If they 'destroy, enslave, or impoverish' their subjects, the people can join together, announce that the contract isn't valid any more, throw the rulers out of office and appoint new rulers." (I've quoted from our history book "Story of the World, volume 3: Early Modern Times" by Susan Wise Bauer, and she's quoting John Locke) and I'm trying to put in their head the importance of these ideas. If we don't understand these ideas and believe them and defend them, we are subject to tyranny.  So, I'm getting a little passionate here and Bubba says, "I eat grease! I am a robot!" Kind of took the wind out of my sails, but he's only 8. However, I am laying a foundation for my children. We will continue to talk about these ideas - self-government, freedom, we will continue to talk about the important documents that came before our own U.S. Constitution - the Magna Charta, the Mayflower compact and we will continue to study these people who had these ideas and what came of them.  And study the people who had other ideas, bad ideas and what came of them. And hopefully, somehow it will sink in!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Giving Thanks!

"We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks.  Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving?  Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives.  Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our "yes!" to His grace."
Ann Voskamp, "One Thousand Gifts".

Philippians 4:6 "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
94. A rosebush waiting for planting.
92.  Pink orchards.
91.  One daffodil blooming in the yard.
My cat talking to me out in the yard.
95.  My lettuce and onion box.

Psalm 100:4-5  "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hoeing Your Own Row, Spiritually speaking!

I've mentioned before that I'm reading "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  In that post, I mentioned that I was reluctant to read it, based on my experiences with other popular Christian books, but I picked it up anyway. Well, I'm about 3/4 or so of the way through it and I'm finding much of value in the book. The main premise of the book is thankfulness and the importance thankfulness has in maintaining your spiritual perspective. In her book, she talks about a challenge she received to write down 1000 things she was thankful for. Hence the name, "1000 Gifts"  Well, like most books of this type, it's inferred that if you want to experience the same insights she did, you should probably do the same things she did.  So, I did. I got a journal and started writing things down.  And as I did that I started remembering that Bible study I was in years ago where we were studying "The Prayer of Jabez" and how we were sitting in that girls' living room praying that "God would expand our borders" (If you've read the book, you know what I mean. If you haven't read the book, I apologize for the reference.) as if it were some kind of incantation or something. And then we all went away excited for what ever it was that God was going to do in our lives and expecting something very great and exciting.  And, it really never happened.  And then there was the time I kept "looking for where God was working and seeing where I could join Him," a' la Henry Blackaby and "Experiencing God".  And that didn't work either.  And then there were all those times I "put out a fleece (figuratively speaking of course)" like Gideon did in Judges 6-8 and still wasn't exactly sure of what I should do. God never gave me definitive answers like He did Gideon.  And so, I decided to think about this a tad bit and I realized that what I was doing all those times was trying to live someone else's spiritual life. I wasn't really trying to know God, I was just trying to "get spiritual" by "taking a pill." I was trying a formula that seemed to work for someone else and hoping that it would work for me. And that was my problem. God doesn't want us to be spiritual - He wants us to have a relationship with Him. And that is personal.  It is individual. My relationship with God is not a result of what has worked for others, but how God is working in me.  So, I need to hoe my own row and not keep on looking over at what's working for others. (Now, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop my thankfulness journal. It's actually been very valuable and I've been doing a lot more writing in it about what I see God doing in my life. I'm not saying you shouldn't take ideas from others and make them your own.)              

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Man of Excellence!

I think I might have mentioned before that I've found this fantastic series of biographies for kids. My kids are 2nd and 3rd grade and it's perfect for their age level, though a 4th or 5th grader could enjoy them, too. Anyhow, we've been reading the biography of Jonathan Edwards. He was born in the early 1700's and helped lead the Great Awakening in America.  I hadn't known much about him prior to reading this bio, basically that he had his theology straight and that his most famous sermon was "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".  But, life wasn't all wine and roses for him. He did gain a measure of success and fame because of his role in the Great Awakening, but his convictions cost him his job at one point (we haven't finished the book) and caused him great humiliation and, as the world would see it, a career set-back.  He was pastor of  the Northampton Congregational Church in Massachusetts for many years. He took this pastorate after his maternal grandfather retired from it.  One of the problems with this church, though, was that it did not require a profession of faith in Christ to become a member. You just had to be a good person. So, finally, when Edwards did make a stand on this, the church fired him. After 23 years of service.  He ended up becoming pastor at an Indian Mission in Western Massachusetts.  It was a job that suited him, as it gave him plenty of time to write and study, which is something that he didn't have much time for when he was pastor at Northampton.   One thing, though, that really impressed me about him (impressed, but not surprised me) is his conduct and attitude at this time. "Nowhere do we find evidence that Edwards suffered from wounded pride, or from bitterness about his change in circumstances.  He settled in and devoted himself to the tasks at hand."  I love this. It is so easy to be self-righteous, or indignant about unfair treatment, and yet he shows none of that. What an example he set of godliness. On a lighter note, I learned a bit of trivia about him that I had no idea about. Jonathan Edwards was the grandfather of Aaron Burr. You know, the V-President under Thomas Jefferson who challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel and killed him. I had no idea!
Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness. Personal holiness focuses the eye on our own whiteness; we are greatly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, fearful lest we offend Him.  Perfect love casts out all that when once we are abandoned to God.  We have to get rid of this notion - "Am I of any use?" and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth.  It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself.  When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.
Oswald Chambers, February 21

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When the Day is Fresh!

I've been trying to get out and exercise again. It's been hard. Really hard. I used to be able to get up at 5:30am, go walking and then be back by 6:00am, get my devotions done, breakfast eaten, take a shower and all that before letting the kids come out of their rooms by about 7:30 or so. But, the 5:30 thing just hasn't been happening for a long time.  So, finally, I decided that I would do my devotions in the evening before bed (although that can be kind of dicey, depending on how tired I am) and then get up at 6:00am and go walking. That's been working better. I love being out at that time of the day. It's just before sunrise. The sky gets that blue color. You know, just one shade of blue lighter than nighttime.  Sometimes there's a big, full moon in the west. Then the sky in the east starts to lighten up with the sunrise. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the east, so they get all silhouetted as the sun starts to come up. It's really neat when you see the morning star, Venus (which is actually a planet, but let's not get too technical), in the east as well.  It only lasts a moment and then the sun is up, but those few minutes are just magical.  Yesterday, I saw two owls.  We live by the river, so there's always critters coming up into our subdivision in the wee morning hours. I've seen raccoons and coyotes wandering around.  I've smelled skunks.  But the owls are my favorites. I'll hear their call and then look for the tallest tree, which is usually a redwood. They like to perch up there and hunt.  It's always a treat to see one, because it doesn't happen too often, but two.... now that's tremendous. I had to be careful not to trip as I wanted to keep watching those birds talk to each other. Or maybe they were telling each other to stay away from their territory. I don't know how owls relate to each other. Anyhow, all the sudden the one owl just swooped down from his perch and flew away. It was awesome. They have such a large wingspan and they are silent fliers, you know!  Eventually, the sun got a little higher and the second owl flew away, too and I finished my walk. It was a lovely way to begin the day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

I know the calendar says it's only February, but it's definitely spring-like around here. Yesterday I went out and worked in the yard. I love yardwork. For some reason it is so satisfying. Much more so than housework. I love pruning. See what I did to this shrub?

It had gotten completely out of control. It was huge, but the whole inner part was all dead wood. So, I pruned it back (and some of its neighbors). That was a big job. And the green waste container was already full, so I had to make a new pile.  But, Cee-cee helped me drag all the branches over here.  She was a good helper to me yesterday. She was the only one outside, actually. Baby was sleeping and the three older ones were at Little League tryouts. (Yes, my friends, it's that time of year again! And this year we're gonna have 2 boys in Little League. But that's ok. I love baseball.)
So, I pruned and Cee-cee chattered away. She's actually quite talkative, which is wonderful, since she didn't talk much when we got her. My Lenten Roses are also blooming. They're the first ones to bloom in the late winter. They bloom, like their name indicates, around Lent.  They're beautiful plants, even when they aren't blooming, but the flowers are just lovely.

And you can't forget the tea roses. Look they're starting to leaf out, already. It's definitely early for them to do that. But that's ok. I love my roses. One thing I think is neat is that all the leaves are a little different color plant to plant. Some leaves are more burgundy colored, some are very red and some are green.
I had one spot left in my rose garden and so I filled it yesterday. This one is called Double Delight. It's a red and yellow rose with the most delicious fragrance. There are a couple ladies in my church who love roses and grow beautiful ones. One morning in church H had brought a bouquet and she had this marvelous rose in it. I asked her what it was and she said it was Double Delight. I knew then I had to get that one, so I did. It doesn't look like much now, but in a year or two it'll grow and be just beautiful!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Revolving Door of Adoption!

One of the things you can expect when you adopt kids from the foster care system is visits from social workers. Lots of visits. From lots of different social workers. Actually, though, since we've been with the private agency we've had consistency in the social workers we see, which has been nice. In the old days it seemed like we had a new one every month.   Now, they've all been pretty nice, for the most part. One of them left her Elvis Presley umbrella and since we never saw her again we were unable to give it back. It's a nice umbrella, but I've never used it. I think I'd feel funny using an Elvis Presley umbrella. Never really been a fan.  Once we even had an unexpected visit from the DA's office. That scared me to death. The boys were little, Missie Lou was a baby and we had just gotten home from a birthday party.  And there was a knock at the door. I was a little flustered, the boys were sticky and tired and I opened the door and there was this guy flashing his badge at me. I felt like I was on "Law and Order". I let him in. The boys were fussing. The baby was still in her car seat. The man didn't say much, but took a bunch of pictures of the house. The baby's bed. Her clothes.  And then he left. It was all very surreal.  So, you just never know.  Yesterday, I had two visits. One was scheduled. The other wasn't. The first social worker came just as we were finishing up history. I told the boys to finish up their coloring page and I chatted with D the social worker for a while. I assured him that everything was fine and dandy, and so he left, we had lunch and then my mom came to pick up the boys and I took the girls shopping at the Salvation Army. I had just gotten home from the Salvation Army store when the phone rang. It was the County worker. She usually calls shortly before she comes, just because of her schedule. It's hard to explain.  Anyhow. She said she'd just knocked on the door and no one answered and she thought she was calling my cell, but it was the land line and, lo and behold, I answered. She said she was in the area and would like to stop by if she could. I said, "Sure. Where in the area are you?" and she said, "I'm parked in front of your house." I went out the front door waving a pull-up and said, "Wow, I didn't even see you when I pulled in," and she said, "That's ok, I didn't see you when you pulled in. I was doing paperwork." So, I let her in and we chatted for a while. I don't know why it is, but she always intimidates me. She was looking at books with Cee-cee and asking her if she knew her colors (which she doesn't, but she is learning to count) and I kept thinking, "I'm a terrible mom. My 2 year old doesn't know her colors!"  But then I told myself, "I'm not a terrible mom. A lot of 2 year olds don't know their colors. But, she does know how to count!"  So, that visit went fine. But when she left, I was tired. It's just kind of tiring having people come into your house and evaluate your home life. I know it's just to make sure the kids are ok and they aren't really judging me, but it's just tough.  But, it's part of what you gotta do. So, we do it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Woman's Right to Choose..... What to wear!

I went to the Salvation Army Store today. I don't get there much, mostly because.... well, I have five kids and I homeschool and I just don't have the time, and sometimes just not the inclination to take all five children with me to a store where I need time to browse. Generally, my shopping trips with all the kids are to Walmart or to Target with a list in hand. And then I try to make it through without forgetting anything or anyone or causing too much chaos.  But, today, I had to go to the Salvation Army store to get some Hawaiian shirts for a 60's party we're going to tomorrow night.  I would have loved to get some psychedelic halter maxi-dress and platform shoes, but... that just wasn't happening. The Beach Boys is about as close as I'm able to get.  Anyhow, so today was the day, since the boys were at Kingdom Kids (a 6-week after-school type program at my parents' church) and I could just take the girls with me.  Oh, I had fun. I found my Hawaiian shirts right away, so then I shopped a little. I found the cutest little brown jacket and several shirts to wear around the house, a couple shirts for Missie Lou, a pair of jeans for Bubba and a jacket for Missie Lou for next winter. All for $20. I was ecstatic. On Thursdays their kids' clothes are 75% off, too.  You know, I really don't mind buying used clothes. I like to have a choice in what to wear. Some people have the philosophy that they want quality clothes, but they're on a budget, so they buy a few good pieces of clothing and wear them all the time.  I'm the type of person who wants a lot of clothes. I like to have a broad variety to choose from. But, I am on a strict budget.  So, what is one to do? A lot of my clothes I do buy from Target, but you can get some good stuff at thrift stores if you're willing to look. Most of it is in decent shape. So, I was pretty excited about my finds today.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another Funny Teaching Story

OK, that last post made me think of probably the funniest thing I ever witnessed as a teacher. I was out on yard duty one day and it had been raining, so everything was pretty wet, including the rain gutters, which were full of rain and leaves and mud and whatever else collects in there. So, I was standing there, watching the kids and this one kid has a basketball that he's playing with not too far away. Now, I'm not sure if he did this on purpose, or if he was just practicing bouncing it really high, but the ball ended up on the roof of the covered walk-way. Now, this kid wasn't too bright because he stood right underneath the rain gutter with his hands up and out, waiting to catch the ball as it rolled down off the roof. In the split second that that was happening, I remember thinking to myself, "All that kid's gonna get is a mouthful of rain and leaves when that ball comes down" and all the sudden, the ball hit the rain gutter and that child with the upturned face and lifted hands got a shower of muddy water and sodden leaves. It was pretty funny!

Let's see where this post ends up....

I've tried three different times to write today and each time I just delete what I've written because it is totally lame. Dead end. Going nowhere fast.  So, I thought I'd sit down and just do a stream of consciousness post and see where that takes me. It may be lame, too. Oh well. Nothing much is going on today. The boys are really trying my patience. Duh-duh would not do his math and then he fell off his chair and bumped his head and started crying. I held him for a while. He got his math done.  That reminds me of when I was teaching junior high. Boys would just fall out of their chairs. For no reason. It was the strangest thing. All the sudden they'd be sitting on the floor with a kind of shocked look on their face (not that exaggerated shocked look that they get when they do it on purpose, but want you to think they didn't, but a real honest shocked look). I'd roll my eyes and tell them to get back in their seats. They wouldn't cry, though. And I didn't hold them in my lap. I had one boy who was falling out of his seat all the time. He had a really tough adolescence. His mind and body just wouldn't do what he wanted them to do. I still remember this little interchange one Friday morning while getting ready for a spelling test.
Me: Ok, class,  first word, "spelling"
J: Uh, Miss H., I need a piece of paper.
Me: Does anyone have a piece of paper that J could borrow?
Nice girl who is always prepared, takes a piece of paper out of her binder: Here J.
Me: Ok, class, once again. First word, "spelling".
J (waving his hand wildly): Uh, Miss H. I don't have a pencil.
Me: Does anyone have a pencil that J could borrow?
Another nice girl who is always prepared, pulls a pencil out of her backpack and loans it to J.
Me: First word, class. "spelling".
J: Uh, Miss H. could I sharpen this pencil?
Now, you might be thinking, "He needed to be prepared.  Why didn't you just start the spelling test and have him catch up?"  I don't know. I guess he was a kid who needed grace. The thing was, he was a nice boy. He had a part in our school play that he did brilliantly. We put on the play Tom Sawyer and J played the town drunk to perfection. Sometimes we wondered about that. But, he actually grew up to be a nice young man. At least he was last time I saw him.  But, I'll never forget that kid. Some of them, you just don't!
Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Who gives the answer.  Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off track.  The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer.  We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us.  If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him.
Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Obligatory Valentine's Day Post!

It's Valentine's Day folks. In case somehow you missed all the pink and hearts all over the place, I'm lettin' you know now. It's Valentine's Day.  Valentine's Day is a pretty old holiday and it wasn't, contrary to popular belief, started by Hallmark to boost sagging post-Christmas sales. It was actually enacted in 496 AD  by Pope Gelasius I to honor a Christian martyr, Valentinus.  It became associated with romantic love in Geoffery Chaucer's time during the middle ages and by the 15th century, people were giving each other romantic tokens in honor of the occasion.  So, it's been around a while. But, Valentine's Day is just kind of one of those holidays...
** For the kids it's fun. We had a Valentine's Party with our homeschool group.  We went bowling and handed
Valentines and had lots of cookies.
** I was talking to a mom at the party and asked if they had plans. She kind of sighed and said she was going to make a nice dinner for the family, but that was about it.
** Driving home I saw numerous roadside stands that offered white teddy bears holding little heart shaped mylar balloons and silk rosebuds.
** Tomorrow night Hubby and I are celebrating while the 3 olders at at Awana. We're going out to dinner with the little ones.

I've never been a huge fan of Valentine's Day. When Hubby and I were dating it was nice. He took me out to a nice dinner.  One year, it was funny. He took me to this steak house and as we were being seated the waitress gave me a rose bud and said to me, "He requested this," and winked at Hubby. Hubby was just kind of rolling his eyes.  So, that's what I think about Valentine's Day. Not much. Not up there on my list of favorite holidays.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hey, Mom! I'm learning Algebra!

How many of you were good at math in school? I was. I was great at math in elementary school. We had this individualized math program when I was at this one school and you'd just go to the "Lab" and get a packet of worksheets and do them and then when you passed you'd get some more.  Then, when I went to another school after we moved, I finished the 6th grade math book about half way through the year and the teacher didn't really know what to do with me so, being the good student that I was, I'd just sit and write stories during math time.  Anyhow, I did well in math until I hit high school and was confronted with Algebra and then.... it was just bad. I didn't get it. And then I didn't get geometry. And then I got to Algebra II and it was a horror story. Oh, I got good grades (except Algebra II and I barely passed with a "C"). Probably A's and B's, but that's only because I memorized everything pretty well, but I didn't understand a thing.  Part of the problem is the methodology of teaching math. The teacher just gets up there and starts writing algorithms on the chalk board and expects the class to follow along. The problem with this is.... the teacher was no doubt good at math in school, which is why he majored in math in college and decided to teach math to high schoolers. The problem is.... he "got" math.  And it was inconceivable that others shouldn't "get it", too. Now, I'm not denigrating math teachers. It is hard for anyone who naturally understands something to not understand why others don't understand it just as easily.  Anyhow, so, I just figured I was bad at math, struggled through it and never took a math class again after Algebra II in high school. I don't understand how I got through college without taking math, especially my chemistry classes, but whatever.  So, that's me and math. However, I am finding out that maybe I'm not as bad at math as I thought. I just wasn't taught it correctly.  I found, through my sister-in-law, this supplementary math curriculum for Bubba.

He does a page (front and back) every week. And it's just puzzles. But, it's not. It's algebra. It's algebra with shapes and not numbers. And when I correct his work, I don't look at the answers in the back. I try to figure out the problems myself. And it makes sense to me. There are no algorithms, no rules, they don't tell you anything. They just show you two pictures that are true, and then you have to choose three more pictures that are true, based on the first two you looked at.
And from the far reaches of my brain, some of the things I learned in algebra are coming back. But now it makes sense to me. Why are shapes so much less intimidating than numbers? I love what Malcolm Gladwell says in his most excellent book, "Outliers". He says, "We sometimes think of being good at mathematics as an innate ability.  You either have 'it' or you don't. But to Schoenfeld (this guy who did some research on learning math), it's not so much ability as attitude.  You master mathematics if you are willing to try.  .....  Success is a function of persistence and doggedness ...."  And so, I would recommend this series of books to everyone with children, whether you homeschool or public school or private school. The puzzles are fun, but they build an excellent foundation for learning algebra. And I would encourage you, too. Do these puzzles yourself. Especially if you were like I was and just felt that higher level math was beyond you. You may be pleasantly surprised. I was.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Old Book!

A good friend of mine always brought such.... interesting food to our church potlucks. And I don't mean interesting in a bad way. Like when someone asks you how you like their new haircut and you say, "Well, it's interesting." I mean interesting in the way that it was good food that I've never had before. It was different, but good.  Like this green bean salad with walnuts and blue cheese. And she also had this corn bread salad that was really good. I asked her once where she got her recipes and she said she got a lot of them from this cookbook.
You can tell it's an old cookbook. It's put out by the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi. The copyright is 1978. Anyhow, so I immediately ordered it and I had to get it used. It came in a timely fashion, but as soon as I opened the box the binding disintegrated and  now it looks like this.

It's actually a really big cookbook. It 400 pages and no pictures. Some of the recipes are really interesting. You can cook "Excellent Rabbit" and "Squirrel Mulligan". There's also a recipe for "Congealed Broccoli" and you can make your fig preserves peeled or unpeeled. There's a recipe for both. There are some that look good like "Mississippi Spice Muffins" and "Bacon Spoon Bread". Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to really go through the book like I'd like to. It's actually pretty overwhelming.  And, I'm kind of nervous. I know the things D made were good, but.... this book is written by a bunch of Southern women and well... I'm not sure if I'd like Southern food. Shoot, they have like a dozen recipes for gumbo. And a big ol' section on wild game.  Betty Crocker has about 2 pages of recipes for game.  But, there are some things I find fascinating about the book itself.  One is that all the ladies who contributed signed it using "Mrs." and then their husband's name.  So, we have recipes from Mrs. Donald Lutken and Mrs. Julian Henderson.  Another thing about buying a cookbook used as opposed to new is that someone has already gone through it and a lot of women mark up their cookbooks. They make substitutions and evaluations.
The lady who had this before me did a little of that. She also put check-marks by recipes she liked. Although this one....
You can tell this was a good recipe in her mind. It got a star and an "excellent". I may just have to make that one!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

London Calling (the fire department)

 I think I've mentioned before that we emphasize history a lot in our homeschool. I think that's one of the most important subjects because it completely shapes your worldview. So, we study a lot of history. Right now we're in the middle of the 17th Century. As we've been making our way through the history of the world over the past couple of years I keep saying to myself, "Now this is my favorite part of history", but then we progress and I enjoy reading about another part of history. It's all pretty fascinating as far as I'm concerned.  But, this week we've been back in England (after a sojourn in the Far East), learning about King Charles I who was so bad they chopped off his head. The ringleader of that coup was Oliver Cromwell who then came to power and said he wasn't king, only Lord Protector, but he was pretty bad too, and when Charles II (son of Charles I) came out of exile, the Brits were quite happy to have a true monarchy again.  But then, tragedy struck first in the form of the Plague, which at its height was killing up to 7,000 people weekly. Then, on the heels of that came the Great Fire where 80% of London was burned.  That was started by a small coal that leaped unnoticed from the stove of a baker on Pudding Lane.  Because the houses were so tightly packed together, the fire spread like... like... wildfire. (forgive me for that) Anyhow, we did a little burning of London activity to see just how the fire spread.
First we colored a bunch of row houses and glued them together and then made a street down the middle. It's kind of hard to see here.

And then we lit it on fire. Bubba, of course, was absolutely beside himself. He loves fire and loves to play in fire. And got very mad at me when I wouldn't let him. (I know, I know, I am a horrible mother. I also refuse to let my children play with poisonous spiders and snakes. "Completely over-protective" they call me.)
So, we watched London burn and talked about how it's nice that the houses in our neighborhood are not touching so if there was a fire.... "yeah, but Mom, the fence is so close that that could catch on fire and then the next house could burn.... and then what if there was wind and that would carry burning pieces.... so our neighborhood really could burn down". (You can guess who that was. My budding lawyer. You know what he does? We'll be doing grammar and he'll come across something that doesn't make sense to him in one of the exercises and he'll argue with me about it. It's like, "But Mom, why is  Ken doing that? He shouldn't be doing that. I don't understand." and I'm telling him, "It doesn't matter what Ken's doing! They just want you to find the noun in the sentence. Find the noun!")  So, anyhow, that's what history was about today.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Walkin' on the Wild Side!

You know what I did today? It's crazy. It's spontaneous. Here it is, hold on to your hats! I changed the dinner menu. I know. You're thinking, "Wow, she really needs to get out more!" I probably do. Well, I know I do. But that's a whole different blog post.  Anyhow, I make the menu for the week on Sundays, when I do my grocery shopping so I have everything I need for whatever I'm going to make.  Tonight's menu was "Tuscan Pork Medallions" and yes, it's as good as it sounds. So, why on earth did I change? And why does it matter? Is it worth a whole blog post on this? Did I tell you I  need to get out more? Well, it's cold (not really, but it seems cold for some reason) and cloudy out and I just got a wild hair and wanted to make beerocks.  We'll save the pork medallions for tomorrow. So, I decide to make beerocks. They're kind of labor intensive. But, I had my go-to bread recipe - zwiebach dough. That stuff will do anything.
And then I brown the ground beef and put in the shredded cabbage and onions. Now, you really need to make sure you season it well. Hamburger meat and cabbage aren't the most flavorful, so plenty of salt and pepper are in order.
And then.... the secret ingredient. My recipe is the only one I know of that includes this.
Yes, Cream of Mushroom Soup. It keeps the filling from getting dry and adds flavor. Then you roll out the dough, add the filling and seal it up.
They look like this. I let them rise and bit and then bake them.They're really yummy. I love beerocks. My kids aren't overly thrilled with cabbage, but they'll get over it.
And there they are, fresh out of the oven. I rub the tops with a little butter while they're still hot. Don't they look delicious? Wanna come on over to my house for dinner?

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Word About Adoption....

If you looked at our family, the first thing you'd probably notice is that none of our kids look like us. It's pretty obvious they are all adopted.  But, as most parents would attest to, I no longer notice the color of my kids' skin or eyes, because all I see of them is who they are.  But, most people do notice the color of their skin and eyes and comment about the fact that they are adopted. Which is fine. Sometimes people ask pretty inappropriate questions, which I try to answer the best I can (although I'm not great at thinking on my feet, and am often shocked and thinking, "You are a complete stranger and you are asking me that?").  But, a lot of times people will shake their head pityingly when they hear we've adopted and say things along the line of, "Those children are so blessed to have you!"  And I have flash-backs to some Victorian novel I might have read where the Mother is taking tea with her friends and saying how they took poor, orphaned Cousin Agatha in to the bosom of their family and all the ladies begin clucking and saying how grateful Agatha must be, even though she has to sleep behind the stairs, wear hand-me-downs and is basically nothing more than a servant. You've read those stories before. When I hear comments like that from people it makes me uncomfortable. Like my kids need to really appreciate what we did for them or something. Maybe if they're too ungrateful we'll kick them out! That doesn't happen with the "real" children, the biological children, but those adopted kids.... they need to know their place. They need to know how fortunate they are. I guess, truth be told, our kids were adopted out of less-than-desirable circumstances, but that doesn't mean that Hubby and I saved them. And I certainly don't expect gratitude from them. I prefer to look at adoption this way.  God saved my kids. He had a plan for their lives and He took them out of their circumstances and placed them in our home for us to raise. I don't know why God chose them and I don't know what His plan is for them, but I am honored to have been chosen to do this job for Him.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A New Book!

I'm reading a new book.  The ladies in our church are reading it and I was doubtful because this book was on the New York Times Bestseller List. I'd heard of this book. I'd even heard good things about this book.  But when things get too popular, I get skeptical. I was practically the last person to see the movie "Forrest Gump" and.... while it was a fine movie, I didn't see what all the hype was.  Same with "Titanic". Actually, "Titanic" wasn't a fine movie. But I digress.  So, anyhow, I'd heard of this book and kind of mentally placed it in the same category as all the other Christian fads - you know, "The Purpose Driven Life" and all its spinoffs; "The Prayer of Jabez" and all its spinoffs; and everything else that has come, made a big splash, spawned all sorts of kitsch that can be bought in the local Christian bookstore and then fizzled out without leaving behind any sort of true revival. But, last week, as I passed the pile of books sitting  in the foyer in church I thought, "I'll just do it. Maybe I'm being a snob. If the ladies in the church are reading this, I should be a good sport and do it, too!"  And so I did. I started the book.
I opened the book on Wednesday night. The evening I found out that one of my dear friend's husband had left her. I was already hurting and then I begin this book. This is not a book to begin when you're feeling emotional. But, I've continued reading it and it's good. I was waiting for pat answers and mushy feel-good stuff. You know, some formula to have a good life.  But, she writes from a heart of someone who has suffered intensely. Someone who has the same questions that I have.
"Can there be a good God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins? Where is God, really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away. Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt?"  As I've started to make my way through this book I find it to be authentic and real. Her writing style is a little....decorative, but the substance of what she writes touches me.  So, I'm hoping to not find mouse pads with nests of blue eggs drawn on them in the local Christian bookstore, but even if I do, it won't diminish the value of this book. I would recommend it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Funny!

I was paying bills this afternoon and was going through my Bill Basket (which also has all sorts of other things besides bills) and found this old comic I'd cut out years ago. I thought it was funny then, and even funnier now, since my poor little Baby has endure all sorts of harassment from her older siblings.  So, here's to all  of you "Youngest in the Family".  May you live long and proper.

The Wonder Drug..... And hunting for Worms!

What do you think of when you smell this stuff?

I think of my Grandma's house when I was a little girl. Vicks kind of has that connotation of being for old people. Well, I'm telling you, this is a wonder drug. Who would've thought? I discovered this in the fall when Cee-cee would cough all night long with allergies. It was horrible. I gave her Benadryl and the humidifier, but to no avail. Until, I added Vicks. That did the trick. And now, we're all sick with colds but Baby has it the worst. She is pretty phlegmy. The other night we were getting ready for bed and I just heard her cough and cough and she had so much gunk. I felt so bad, but what do you do? She's already on allergy medicine and I am paranoid of over-medicating my kids. And I don't want to take them to the doctor because I hate going to the doctor because going to their doctor is an all day affair most of the time. It takes so long to see someone, I feel like just taking a picnic and making an outing of it. So, we rarely see the doctor unless it's serious. So, anyhow. I'm trying to figure out what to do to relieve this poor child and then I had a revelation. I heard the harp music and everything. "Vicks. Use the Vicks" And so.... I smeared some Vicks on her chest, and on the soles of her feet (I heard about this from two different sources) and the child sleeps now without coughing. It's been wonderful.
 And now for something completely different.

We did science yesterday. Gee, Kristen, you say that like you never do science. Gulp.... well, we haven't been doing a lot of science lately. At least it seems that way, but when I look at our science book, we've gotten quite a ways through it, so maybe we are doing science. And I just didn't realize it. Anyhoo! We did science yesterday.  We're studying invertebrates (that would be animals without backbones). For the past couple weeks we've done it the easy way....library books. We've studied jellyfish (cnidarians) and sea stars (echinoderms). You know, you can't find those in your backyard, unless you lived at the ocean, which would really be nice, but is not an option at this point in our lives. So, we had to resort to library books. But that was nice and clean and easy. Sit on the couch, look at the book, talk about it, label the parts of a starfish and you're done. But, now, as much as I was trying to avoid it, we are studying worms. And you can find those in our backyard.
So, here we are, hunting for worms. It was quite beneficial that I hadn't raked leaves yet, because after we brushed aside the top, dry layer of leaves and came to the bottom layer of slimy wet leaves and then delved under that.... we found worms.
We made a nice home for them to live in while we studied them.

And it was all well and good until Duh-duh had a complete melt-down and got sent to his room. You know, it's always something. But, we did find about 2 worms each and Bubba and I came in the house and looked at his worm under the magnifying glass. Today we are going to do another little set of experiments on our worms and then we will let them go back into the soil to enrich it and carry on their own little jobs in our ecology.
 Oh, and here is a gratuitous picture of our squatter kitty, aka Tabby. Isn't she elegant looking? I really like her. She's a nice kitty!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm Feeling a Little Raw!

You know, I'm usually not a very emotional person. I'm from stoic German stock. We don't cry. We just suck it up and move on.  But today... today I've been raw.  It started yesterday. When I innocently went on Facebook and saw that someone had left me a message. And that someone was a dear friend, a former college roommate.  She's one of those soul-mate type people.  The kind when you just look at each other and laugh because you know what the other person is thinking. She's one of those few people who, even though you don't do a very good job keeping in touch, when you do talk it's not awkward. It's like we've just talked the day before. In her message she told me her husband had just left her. And he wasn't coming back. They'd been married over twenty years. I was in their wedding. It was a beautiful wedding on the beach.  I still remember dancing to "That's What I Like About You" by the Romantics and "Love Shack" by the B-52's at the reception. It was a fun wedding.  And last night as I lay in bed and allowed myself to hurt for her, I just cried and cried. I don't know why this affected me so much. Other friends of mine have gone through divorces. Their husbands have cheated on them, trampled on their wedding vows and left. Yet, for some reason my friend's few lines in her message cut me to the quick.  And so today I've been raw. But I don't think it's all because of her. I think it also has to do with life's pain in general- mothers with young children dying of cancer, parents losing their children.  And my own struggle with where is God in the midst of these circumstances. And my own fear of that kind of pain entering my life. It's easy to not think about it. Cover it all up with dirty diapers and laundry and floors that need to be mopped. And then something triggers it and it comes up and doesn't go away. And I look at my husband and my children and hold them tight.

You know, used to be when I was thinking about things, really thinking about things, I wouldn't blog. I'd have trouble blogging because I couldn't focus my mind on important matters like stray dogs showing up in my backyard and baseball games and Greek yogurt and finding chicken thighs in the freezer. So, I just wouldn't blog. But now I feel like I need to blog through some of this stuff. So, I beg your pardon if I throw some other things in here. You know, sometimes I really hesitate because... well, I don't want to seem maudlin. Or sometimes there might be something I think is deep or important and you, the reader might think, "Good grief, she is such an idiot." I always go back to this Singles Group I was in eons ago and this chick got up in front of the whole group and started going on and on about this spiritual insight she got when she fell off a raft into the river (I am seriously not making this up) and I still remember thinking, "Good grief, this girl is an idiot". Now, granted this girl kind of flitted from mountain top experience to mountain top experience spiritually speaking and  I really had no respect for her. But, anyhow, I'm more comfortable putting myself out there with new recipes for Tweaked Garlic Broiled Chicken Thighs than I am writing about what I'm really thinking about, but right now I'm really thinking about stuff and I love my little blog and I'd rather not abandon it while I think about stuff, so now and then.... I will try to put myself out there and write about stuff and hope that you aren't thinking, "Good grief. She is an idiot!" and if you do, please don't tell me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

There's Something to be Said for Good Oral Hygiene

So, anyhow, it's Wednesday here folks. Boy, how time flies. Went to the dentist today. I'm the only one in our family that goes to this dentist. Everyone else sees one in town. I travel to see mine. I love my dentist. He's a very shy, soft-spoken, kind of nerdy guy. I've been seeing him for about twelve years now. But, as much as I like my dentist, I hate getting my teeth cleaned. My teeth are actually in very good shape. I do floss and use my Sonicare religiously.  But, I still about hit the ceiling at times when the hygienist hits that nerve. And the poor lady keeps having to scoot closer and bring my head closer because I keep scooting away.  I have very sensitive teeth. I could go for that sedation dentistry they advertise on the radio. So, anyhow, she's cleaning my teeth and talking away about her problems with the post office losing a package and I'd love to be able to respond, but I can't because she has her hands in my mouth. And then I start wondering, how do those hygienists stand it. They kind of have to keep up this running monologue all day  long because no one can answer them. Or if they do, the answers are few and far between. Do they repeat the same story all day long? Do they think of new stuff? Hmm. So, she gets done and does that pokey thing to see how deep the pockets are in my gums (and I really hate that. More poking in my mouth.) and there are some 4's. Oh the horror. So, then I get a lesson on flossing.  When that's all done, I get up and am starting to grab my purse when she looks at my chart and says, "Oh, you are supposed to have some fillings re-done today." and I'm thinking, "Oh great. I have to spend more time here."  So, fine. I go into the next room and sit down and the doctor comes in and says, "Well, this is just a little work, we don't have to numb you," and I tell him, "Oh please, numb away. I really need the numbing. Numbing is no problem!" I didn't think he'd really like to be pulling me off the ceiling with a drill in his hand.  But he just smiled that shy smile and said, "We'll try it without. They are very tiny little fillings. If you need it, let me know." I was a little trepidatious, but he was right. I didn't need the numbing, although at that point, I was so tense my brain needed some numbing. I've really gotten addicted to numbing when I have dental work done. We were finally finished and I was starving. I hadn't had lunch. I went through the McDonald's drive-through, ate my cheeseburger on the free-way and got home in no time at all. The kids were with Grandma and didn't really want to come home, but I dragged them to the car and here we are. What a Wednesday.