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You may be homeschooled if…..there are so many “ifs”……if you are asked, “What about socialization?” every time someone new learns of your schooled status; if The Passion of Christ is the only R rated movie you are allowed to watch; if your mom wears a jumpsuit, milks her own goats and grinds her own wheat (not a completely accurate description of this homeschooling mom, but maybe some); if you spend more school days wearing pajamas than day clothes; if you have never had a summer break.  There are so many “ifs”….I could go on and on and on.  The “if” of today is:  You may be homeschooled if you have never had a haircut.

My daughter is 8 years, 2 months, and 18 days old.  Today was her very first haircut ever!  Excited does not begin to describe how she felt about getting her hair cut today.  On the way to the salon, she said, “It’s scary and sad and happy and exciting all at the same time!”  She was beyond excited; and more importantly, both she and I were ready.

When last night during dinner my youngest son learned that she was going to get a “real” haircut, he began protesting immediately, “Why does she get to get a real haircut?”  It’s tough to lose your status as baby of the family.  It’s twice as tough to lose it to the only sister.  He will always fight for fairness…..no girl is going to get away with any privileges he didn’t get.  I assured him he and all his brothers had “real” haircuts once, but they were between 7 and 14 months old at the time.  I even have photographic evidence (somewhere) to show him some day.  With each one of them, I carried a sweet, chubby little baby boy into a random mall and held them on my lap as they sucked on a lollipop to keep them still for their first haircuts.  Each time, I left the mall without a little baby, but a little man instead.  A piece of their baby days gone forever, and the first glimpse of them growing up before my very eyes.   A sad, but necessary day because their dad didn’t want them looking like little girls with long locks of curls.  Since those first haircuts for the boys, they have endured “dad haircuts” (aka: buzz cuts in the basement).

But baby number six was surprisingly born female with a full head of black hair.  We did not see that coming!  I didn’t have to have her hair cut at one year of age, but I did have to put barrettes in to keep it out of her eyes as early as two months of age.  She never lost her hair in weird spots so that it needed to be evened out.  Her hair kept growing and lightening and growing.  I put it up in a little ponytail like the top of a pineapple until it began to get too heavy.  I learned to put it in a bun when she was in ballet.  I never complained about brushing all that hair because I had waited so long to get the chance to comb and fix and play with little girl hair.

When she was turning five, my hairstylist in Colorado told me I really should have her hair trimmed because…blah, blah, blah.  I’m not really sure what she said.  I wasn’t really listening because I wasn’t ready to cut those wispy baby ends.  If the boys morphed from baby to little man with only one haircut, what would happen to my five-year old little girl after one hair cut?  I did not want to find out.  I wasn’t ready; she wasn’t ready….we went on our merry way combing, brushing, braiding, ponytailing, and headbanding.  Curling never happened….it has never curled for me; but, trust me, I have tried.

Fast forward a few years, a few houses, a few hundred miles away from the only hairstylist I trust to the realization that she looks a little like a ragamuffin.  All of a sudden, she looked like a giant split end with legs.  All I could see was her scraggly-ish hair with split ends galore.  All I could see were her little friends with adorably cut and styled hair.  All I knew was that I was not taking her to any random mall or, heaven forbid, to the lady who caused the beginning of my hair debacle.  So, I put the word out.  I waited.  And waited.  And finally a recommendation came in.  I decided to take a chance and trust the recommendation.  I took my little girl for her very first hair cut ever.

She felt so special, so happy, so scared, so grown up, so excited, so everything.  Unlike her brothers, she will remember this experience….not only because it is fully documented with video and still photographs which I haven’t accidentally deleted yet, but because it meant so much to her.  She didn’t become a woman with a hair cut…phew!  She’s still my little girl with an extra twinkle in her eyes and a new skip in her step.

Mirror 04:24:14Ready for first haircut 04:24:14Sweet feet 04:24:14BabyByeBye 04:24:14Standing 04:24:14Hair 04:24:14Happy 04:24:14All done 04:24:14Look at me 4:24:14First Haircut 04:24:14Happy Dance 04:24:14

CHAOS has been the general theme since moving a few years ago.  At some point, I can’t blame it on “we just moved” anymore.  And, while moving does always take time to adjust and wiggle into a new rhythm, there are a few things I can pinpoint that have added to the extended chaotic state of my mind; and hence, our lives.  I’ll eventually write about all of them, I’m sure.  But today the calendar is the issue….THE calendar.  Each member of the family above a certain age has their own calendar or their own way of keeping track of their commitments.  Some are more efficient than others just as some individuals are more aware than others.  But, there has always been one calendar kept by me.  This calendar is the heartbeat of the movement of everyone in the house encompassing all events, appointments, and schedules….all in one neat little place….it is THE calendar.

THE calendar has been on hiatus since November 2011.  That was the month we packed up our contented Colorado life and moved east nearly the length of two full states.  I don’t know if it was because we lived in a rental house for a short time or because I didn’t want to commit my heart and mind to believing I no longer lived in Colorado and let myself settle into a new life here.  I think it may have been a little bit of both….more of the not really wanting to move thing.  In any event, I have not kept a calendar since then.  Bad idea.  Well….actually, that’s not entirely true.  I tried to keep one this year, but I chose to change my system.  Another bad idea.

After a year and a half of trying to simply remember everything in my head, resulting in many restless, sleepless nights and more than one missed event; I decided it was maybe time to try to write some things down.  I wanted peace of mind.  I wanted to stop the insanity of looking up dates and events only to relook them up again and again and again.  I wanted the reoccurring urgent deadlines happening every night in my dreams to end.  I can’t even remember what I ate for lunch at the end of a day, so I’m not sure why I thought I had the capability to remember every little thing that should be written on a calendar.  It was time to bring back a calendar.

But, while I could still envision the calendar placements in our previous three houses, which were all ideal, I wasn’t sure where the “perfect” place for a calendar might be in THIS house.  Here, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stick a thumbtack or nail in any of my newly painted walls to hang a calendar…..especially if it would end up being the “wrong” place.  Turns out, there was nothing more I could do to deface the walls than was done with the “fixing of the drywall“.  Anyhoo…I decided a little spiral desk calendar would be perfect for this house.

Wrong.

Initially, I wrote in the book.  But, I kept forgetting to look at the book every day or even every week.  The book would end up buried under the piles of mail that sit there and mock me as the mail continues to arrive every day.  If the mail would quit coming so often, I might be able to get something done.  I might remember to check the little calendar book if I could see it on my desk.  So, for a while, I put the calendar in the little desk drawer, but then I completely forgot about it.  Out of site, out of mind.  As a result, the little calendar book dated from June 2013 to May 2014 has little-to-nothing written in it.  The sleepless nights continue, appointments and events are still missed, and the CHAOS ensues.

It is time to go back to the old calendar system.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Okay.  I get it.  I need to go back to a wall calendar.  I might need to try placing it in several different spots until I find the one right spot that works for me.  But, just because I’m hanging a calendar doesn’t mean I’m settling in completely.  I think I may always pine for my Colorado.

I love the famous line from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”  It is so true.  Equally true, I believe, is that life is like a garden….you never know what you are going to get.  Sometimes you get what you plant; other times you don’t.  You might reap what you sow.  But sometimes, even when you try to sow in all the right ways, what you reap can be less than satisfactory.  And then other times, you may be blessed reaping abundance when you didn’t sow anything or sowed it incorrectly.  You might even reap one thing while you sowed another.  Life is a mystery.  Gardening is a mystery….to me.  While I was outside this morning hoeing away the weeds surrounding my mostly dead shrubs, which I’m pretty sure I lovingly drowned with too much water, I was thinking about how life is like a garden.  They both require planning and maintenance; and the goal for both is success.

Planning.  Yes, planning takes time and effort.  Not everyone is a natural-born planner.  Some people loathe planning and run circles around it hoping to disguise their lack of planning with busyness.  Even the planners can’t know how to plan everything or for everything.  However, planning is essential, and it’s not meant to be laborious.  Without planning and preparation, both life and gardening end up being a crapshoot.  I’m sure there are incidences where one lucks out without any planning, but my best guess is those results do not come without sacrifices.

Preparation is part of the planning.   Just as we prepare the soil for a garden, plant the seeds and nurture them hopefully to maturity; we do the same with life.  In life, one might be cultivating a new job, a new house, a new relationship, a new adventure….whatever it is, we don’t engage in preparations expecting failure.  We begin with hope, anticipate joy, and seek successs.  But the weeds in life — worry, self-doubt, fear, discontentment, control, greed, perfectionism, pride, selfishness, distractions, stubbornness, envy, unforgiveness, addictions, laziness –all of these, while not invited to the garden party sometimes just show up.  Sometimes we end up nurturing them, intentionally or not.  Other times, we totally neglect them.  Either way, unless dealt with; they grow, they spread, they wreak havoc on the intentional plants — the peace, joy, faith, hope, love, contentment and happiness we are trying to achieve.

So part of the maintenance program is dealing with the weeds.  It’s a big part….especially for me.  Why I am able to grow so many nice, green weeds is also a mystery.  The weeds must be controlled.  Also with maintenance, our plants and lives must be fed, watered, nurtured, cared for, attended to, and pruned.  Sometimes we care too much and smother the plants, plans and other humans.  Other times we neglect them, intentionally or unintentionally.  However, even when we don’t smother or neglect them, forces beyond our control can also play a role and will sometimes alter the course taken.  The garden can appear plentiful and still be unproductive and fruitless….even when doing all the right things.  Life, too, can be filled with seemingly abundant joy and happiness while we may be left wanting, questioning, and empty.

Life and gardening….gardening and life….both mysteries with unknown outcomes.  I suppose it’s what we do with the outcomes….this may be what determines and defines our success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the Monday after Easter.  The house isn’t clean, nobody is wanting to do school, activities resume without missing a beat, the mail continues to pile up.  In the stores, Fourth of July paraphernalia is in abundant supply, while the leftover Easter fodder is marked down to 50% off.  It all seems to go by so quickly….too quickly.  The world has put Easter to bed for yet another year, but I’m not quite ready for that.  I want to bask in the warmth and love that comes with the Easter season a little longer.  I want to learn to live like it is Easter every day.

For me, I feel so much of the days leading up to and including Easter are filled with so many preparations.  With little ones, one part of me is busy during these days preparing to have all I need for all the Easter baskets, dying and hiding eggs, and engaging in talk of the Easter bunny.  There’s also planning and preparing food, making sure everyone has appropriate attire for one of the two most largely attended church days, and spending time with extended family.

There is nothing wrong with all these preparations.  And, all of them have value to someone at some point…..all are important and meaningful to different people at different ages and different times.  I often feel it’s like having one foot in the world and one foot reaching for holy ground as I try to balance my time and attention between the fun and games of the season and the true meaning of Easter.  But what I wonder after it is all said and done is, “Did we focus enough on the sacrifice He made for us?  Shouldn’t there be more time to be still before the King of Kings…..to show more honor, praise and respect?”   I have a difficult time shifting back to the details and busyness of life.  Transitions have never been easy for me.

I remember as a little kid the feeling of excitement and anticipation waiting for the Easter Bunny to come.  I can remember one Easter plotting to stay up all night so I could see him.  I probably made it to about 8:30p.m.  As an adult, I want to have that kind of excitement and anticipation waiting for Jesus to return.  I don’t want to fall asleep while waiting.  I don’t want to forget to keep my focus on Him.

I remember the first time I realized Easter was something about Jesus, and thinking that Jesus must surely be coming back on Easter when he does come back.  I was in grade school at the time; and although I had gone to church weekly, sometimes daily, this revelation came swiftly one Easter season.  I suppose I had heard the stories of Easter while growing up; but it wasn’t until this one Easter, that it finally dawned on me that Easter had this significance.  As an adult, I don’t want to forget the significance of Jesus paying the ultimate price so that I may some day go to heaven.  Please, Lord, help me to remember this daily….not just during Easter season.

I remember the first time I heard and understood the temple curtain was split in two upon Jesus’s last breath.  I was well into my adult years when I finally learned this or at least understood it for the first time.  Years later, I pray I never forget the significance and weight of Easter.

While the Easter season is over for another year as far as the world is concerned; I hope and pray I will be able to take more time in my day to be still, walk in His presence, grow my personal relationship with Him, and focus more on remembering to live like it is Easter every day of the year.

 

Today is Good Friday.  Our Good Friday tradition has been to watch The Passion of Christ ever since it came out on DVD.  Before that, I can’t even remember if we had a tradition.  I’ve heard it said before that, “You may be homeschooled if the only R rated movie you have seen is The Passion.”  Yep.  That has been us.  My littles don’t watch it with us…..it’s just too much for them.  Seeing the suffering and pain Jesus went through is hard enough, but the devil baby really freaks them out.  So my little ones used to watch this Easter Story movie I had on VHS; but since the VHSs are all gone now, they chose to watch Letters To God in a different room.  Close enough.

I used to stay with the littles while they watched their Easter Story….all the while wishing I could be watching with the bigger boys.  Now, I get to watch with the bigger boys, and every year it humbles me to my core.  I watch and vow to be a better person.  Jesus suffered, was crucified, and died for MY sins, not His.  Surely I can try to be a better, more loving, forgiving, caring, humble person.  Yes.  I decide in my mind that it will be so.

Two hours later I find myself getting annoyed while I’m listening to the neighbors enjoying their backyards while looking around to see ours in need of so much attention.  I start to lose that loving, humbling feeling.  I can’t think of many more things that can clear a room like a mom on a mission to make sure everyone knows she is suddenly not happy about…..pretty much everything.

Oh how quickly I forget!  How quickly I let my self take over my thoughts!  How quickly I let satan distract me from my focus on Him!

It’s Good Friday!  It’s a day that saddens me when I think about the ultimate sacrifice that was made for us sinners…..to think about how we dismiss that ultimate act of love over and over again.  Sometimes we dismiss it on purpose, often dismissed due to ignorance or simple human behavior.

Although I’ve never listened to it, I’ve heard about a famous sermon that was given a few years ago.   The title sums up how I feel on this Good Friday.  “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming!”

AMEN

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary.  How does your garden grow?”  What does that mean?  I’d like to know.  Because.  My name is Mary.  I’m probably quite contrary.  But does that mean that I will never learn to garden?  Or does that mean that I could grow silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids in a row?  I don’t even know what those are.  So, I looked it up.  YIKES!  This children’s rhyme is referring to Bloody Mary as in Henry VIII’s daughter.  The garden is referring to a graveyard for Protestants.  The silver bells and cockle shells refer to instruments of torture, and the “maids” refer to the original guillotine.  Ummmmm…..I just wanted to talk about my gardening skills, or lack thereof.

The only part of that whole thing I can relate to is the garden being a graveyard…..not for Protestant martyrs, but for all the sad remains of my once living plants.  I think I need gardening boot camp….you know like that show Worst Cooks in America on Food Network where they bring in the worst cooks they can find based on auditions and interviews.  Then they put them through a 5-6 week boot camp; and by the end, the two remaining contestants vying for the title of Worst Cook in America and $25,000 are cooking gourmet meals you would find in fancy restaurants at high prices for food critics to judge.  That’s what I need.  I need HGTV to do a Worst Gardner in America Show….and the $25,000 at the end could pay for all my previous gardening mishaps.

Here’s the thing.  When I find a yummy recipe to make for my family, I make a list of ingredients and head to the local grocery store.  I do know how to cook; but when I get to the store, I’m faced with the conundrum of buying harvested fresh herbs or buying a plant of the same variety for the same price which could yield said herbs for many more meals.  Of course, with my frugal thinking, I buy the plant.  Nevermind that I have only, to-date, kept this one basil plant alive….in my bathroom.  My bathroom is the only room in my house with enough sunlight to keep a plant alive.  It’s not pretty, and it’s not hardy; but it’s alive, and often when I’m cooking and a child is telling me a very long story because that’s what they do, I say, “Follow me….I need to get some bathroom basil.”  I feel so gardeny and earthy when I sit on the side of my bathtub to harvest fresh herbs for our nutrituions, delicious meal.

photo 13

So, what happens is I buy the plants, bring them home, forget about them, wake up one morning to the poor thing limply hanging on by sheer will.  Then, I rush to rescue the poor thing by pouring way too much water on it, and end up killing it by accidental drowning.  How this basil plant has survived this long is beyond me because I still follow this same watering pattern with it.

Yesterday I asked my husband to rescue my latest victim, a mint plant.  Then I forgot, and it looked much worse this morning.  So I asked him to do it before work because surely it would not survive the day.  Why didn’t I do it?  Well, I’m not entirely sure how, and the poor plant has already suffered enough.  It doesn’t need me to add insult to injury as I try to transplant it.  It just wouldn’t be a fair to the plant.  But that’s not all.  To be totally honest….I really don’t like getting dirty.  I do have some pretty gardening gloves, and I like the way they look.  I like the way they look clean.  I don’t want to get them dirty either.  As I was realizing this new insight, I said, “You know, I think I’m the kind of gardener who likes to tell you what to do, and then have you do the work.”  Yeah.  That’s my kind of gardening.

So.  With all this said, I’m a little concerned about the outside garden.  It doesn’t just have dirt.  It has bugs and humidity and I saw a squirrel in it the other day.  UGH!  I’m not sure I can handle it.  I also tend to be a fair weather gardner.  For instance, the wind was blowing A LOT yesterday.  So, I skipped watering.  But, it turns out it doesn’t matter because when I went out to water today, it was clear I had already smothered most of the hedge shrubs with too much love (water).  Of the 20 shrubs we planted, I think there are about nine that still resemble living plants (and that’s being generous).  Most of them are hanging on by only a few green specs.  I’m not sure about the trees.  The Aspens look good, which surprises me. They are a Colorado tree.  The humidity here is going to kill them if I don’t do it first.  The evergreens are showing some yellow, but still have more green than yellow.  And I really can’t tell anything with the lilac or blueberry bush yet.  I may just be watering dead sticks every day.  Then there’s the onions and potatoes.  I’d say they’ve got a 50/50 chance still.

I’m beginning to think this Mary is quite contrary to gardening.  Maybe I should move to condo somewhere with no yard responsibilities, no garden, and a plethora of farmer’s markets to shop.

Does anyone teach cursive handwriting anymore?  Or is it considered a thing of the past?   Until recently, I was unaware of the great penmanship debate, so I didn’t think twice about teaching my children cursive handwriting.  My first clue that cursive was not widely taught anymore came a few years ago when my second oldest filled out a form for his basketball coach.  When he turned it in, his coach said, “Hmmm.  I didn’t know anyone still wrote in cursive.”  Needless to say, none of my son’s teammates could even read what he had written.  They had never been taught cursive……to read it or write it.

Had I known that cursive was on it’s way out when I first began homeschooling, I may have chosen to not teach it to them.  But, I’m really glad I did.  With all my children, I initially taught manuscript writing.  When I was buying second grade handwriting books, I had the choice to buy manuscript or cursive.  I decided to buy both because I felt they needed the extra reinforcement and practice with manuscript practice.  I should say that most of them needed the practice.  One did not….my fifth son.  He has the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen.  Often, when I would look at his practice sheets, I couldn’t tell the difference between his writing and the book’s examples.  He learned and perfected cursive in the same way.  He was one child who didn’t need to bother with practicing handwriting beyond initially learning the letters.  But, of course, I bought the books, so I made him do them…..much to his disappointment.  He would try to argue his case that he didn’t need to learn or practice more handwriting.  And while he was absolutely correct that he didn’t need further practice, I would simply say what I always say to them when I’m done discussing their laments….I tell them, “Say, thank you, Mommy, may I have another?”  Every time I say this, they obediently repeat, “Thank you, Mommy, may I have another?” They somehow know at this point, the discussion is over, and they go on…..in this case, he would hang his head, turn around and go do another page of handwriting.  I know….I’m cruel.

But, finally getting to the cursive handwriting book for all my children seemed to be like finally reaching some elusive dream.  When they entered second grade, they knew cursive was just a matter of time, and they worked extra hard to get through the manuscript book so they could finally learn cursive.  It was as though they were learning a new language or a secret language.  They were finally learning how to write like a grown up.  Even my children with the most sloppy handwriting would try to write a little more neatly just to prove they were ready for cursive.   My daughter is one such child.  It almost drives me crazy how she won’t hold the pencil correctly, and she rushes through the manuscript writing so quickly that I almost cannot decipher her words.  I have learned to try to not nitpick about it because I’ve learned to pick my battles carefully.  Handwriting is not something I feel I need to get too hung up on.  There’s way too much to accomplish and only so much time in a day.  I have other fish to fry….more subjects to get to….more gifts to discover.  I used to make the more sloppy handwriters practice and practice and practice.  Sometimes I would see glimmers of neatness, but those sightings are far and few between.  Now I try to praise them when I see the neatness, but not to dwell on the sloppiness.

But, the neatness has always surfaced as they neared the beginning of learning cursive.  My daughter recently worked through extra sheets of manuscript so she could begin her cursive writing career.  She was beside herself with excitement to finally be learning this fancy way of writing.  Here she is on her first page of cursive a few weeks ago:

3:17:14

She has learned about seven or eight lower case letters, and has been trying very hard to be neat so she can move on and write in cursive all the time.  After teaching them cursive, I usually require them to write everything in cursive for a year, and then let them decide if they would like to use manuscript or cursive when they write.  So far two have chosen cursive, and three have chosen manuscript writing.  My daughter cannot wait to write everything in cursive.  Earlier today when I asked her to write her first and middle name on the top of a worksheet while I was helping a brother with something, she came to me beaming with pride to show me her name in “cursive”.   Her name is Jeanae Pauline.  This is what she wrote:

04:16:14

Her smile, her pride, her handwriting…..all priceless….I love my job!

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