May 28, 2008

Of Mice and Men

Last night, as our 6 year old son was snuggling and getting sleepy, he asked his final question of the day:
"What color are fishes' veins?"

That question made me think. Do you know what color fishes' veins are?
This morning, before I'd even finished my second cup of coffee, these were the questions that same little person asked: (Please read this post all the way through to the end. You won't be sorry!)
Anyway-back to Barrett's first 15 minutes of the day:
-Why did Benjamin go back to bed?
-Where are my binoculars?
-Why do you always put them on the bookshelf by the back door?
-Wouldn't it be cool if flashlight light was really silver instead of yellow?
-Wouldn't it be neat if there really were light sabers?!
-Do computers sleep?
-Do TVs sleep?
-Did you see a Nuthatch last night?
-Did you see a raccoon last night?
-Do fish sleep?
-Do they yawn?
-Are Tufted Tit Mouses your favorite kind of bird or are Brown Thrashers?
-Did you just hear my foot snap?
-Aren't you going to sit with me and watch the birds?
-I wonder if the seeds in our garden are growing?
-Are there roots from the seeds we planted in the ground?

At this point I was ready to duct tape his lips together, so I ran to the bathroom instead. The minute my face reappeared, the questions began again:

-Why do the birds flip seeds onto the ground when they eat?
-Does it feel nice when you can hold a bird in your hands?
-Why do robins always try and find worms to eat?
-Where's my bird notebook?
-Don't you wish you could film dreams?
-What color are Cardinals' feet?

Shower! I can get a break if I take a shower! So I did. A nice long one. Then we ate and did some chores. I'm sorry, but I neglected to write down the questions asked during this part of my day.
Later we took Barrett's big brother out to see some friends. Left alone with my little guy, I resumed writing his questions. Please keep in mind, these are by no means all of them. They are in fact just a fraction of the things going through his mind. I can't write fast enough to keep up with him. I have NO idea how I'm going to keep up with him as his teacher. Anyway:

-Can babies eat olives?
-Can they eat fruit?
-Vegetables?
-Do cars breath?
-Wouldn't it be weird if fingers couldn't bend and were just stiff?
-Wouldn't it be weird if everything couldn't make noise except people?
-What color are Armadillos?
-I wonder if Alec is having fun bowling?
-I wonder if he lost?
-How come I never get invited places?
-What color are roadrunners?
-What's Grandma's favorite color?
-Have you got defeated by the card you were trying to make?
-Is there a color in the world I haven't seen before?
-Wouldn't it be weird if peoples' hands were colored all different colors in pretty patterns and each person in the whole wide world had a different pattern?
-Why does daddy always bring home the newspaper?
-What is a purple panteater?
-How come sugar tastes better than other stuff?
-Do you ever not like chocolate?
-How come ducks always look like their smiling?
-Doesn't ice-cream sound good?
-Are you sad Momma?
-Why?
-Did Benjamin and James already move out?
-How come the feta cheese is in a square instead of little lumps?
-Are these seeds good for you?
-Is eggplant good for you?
-Are these breadcrumbs?
-Are there foxes where Grandma lives?
-If there weren't any seeds or insects wouldn't birds be dead?
-Wouldn't it be weird if seeds fell from the sky instead of rain?
-Wouldn't it be funny to watch the birds look up and catch the seeds in their beaks, swallow, and do it again? (This said while pretending he was a bird eating just that way.)
-How many times have we heard those fireworks today?
-Why do the dogs always bark?
-Why are the birds singing like that?

OK-here comes the grand finale.
This evening, our oldest son came home from work and started packing. He's going to be moving out very soon. When I saw my firstborn son sorting, purging, and packing, I couldn't help it. I had a meltdown. I blubbered all over my husband. I blubbered alone. I blubbered in our 16 year old's arms. I blubbered in our second son's arms when he walked in the door from work.(He brought on a fresh wave of tears because he is moving out in the next few weeks too.) As I was blubbering, Daddy was getting Barrett ready for bed. Story. Teeth brushed. Jammies on. Climb into bed. Prayers said.
I went in to kiss him goodnight, all teary, my red, shiny nose leading the way. Barrett took one look at me and said compassionately,
"Oh Mommy!"
I leaned over, put my arms around him and he tenderly kissed me and gave me a long, sweet hug. I had another meltdown, remembering certain other little arms around my neck, loving me. As I stood there soaking up his concern, I hear:
"Mommy, do baby mice ever get sick?"

May 27, 2008

The Emptying Nest

By "sheer coincidence", (which I don't believe in) our 2 oldest sons have decided to move out. They are not going to be sharing an apartment together. They both "just" found separate places to live at the same time. Places that will save drive time, gas, and wear and tear on their cars.

I know they are still alive.
I know I'll see them again.
I know there are worse things going on in the world.
I know they still love us.
I know they are men now and the last thing on earth a healthy man wants to do is live with his mother forever.
I know I still have 2 boys left at home. (That is like flippantly telling a paraplegic, "Oh well. You don't have the use of your legs anymore but you still have your arms.")

I've made lists in my head about "all the positives". Less noise. Less mess. Less cooking. Less laundry.

Those lists don't help much. Where did my little guys go? Yesterday we had these:





Today, these:




"You and I are like a pair of Ashton's twins, bound together in some unworldly way...sharing a spirit, we're so alike.
When we are parted, when you leave me, I believe that bond will snap and I will bleed inwardly and you'll forget me after a while..."

(Rochester talking to Jane Eyre)

That's almost how I feel right now; it's a little extreme, but I do feel like I've taken to bleeding inwardly. This is the end of our family as it's always been. Not the end of it always and forever. Just as it's always been.

Soak up your babies. Enjoy your kids. Even their noises, their messes, the cooking, and all the laundry you don't feel like doing.

May 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Blog!

My sister-in-law just reminded me that today is my blog's 1st birthday! In honor of that, I thought I'd re-post my first-favorite post:

Pets?!

You can imagine with 4 boys in the house pets would therefore follow. We've had a number of interesting, and not-so-interesting pets over the years.
There was one year in particular we had an absurd number of them.
Mortimer the goat
Lucy the pygmy goat
3 baby catfish
2 neuts
2 fire bellied toads
baby painted turtles
2 dogs-Apache and Sophie
2 cats-Tigger and Butterball
3 finches
goldfish
tropical fish
blue gill
toads
frogs
crawdads
salamanders
27 bantam chickens
and Rocky the snapping turtle
It was so rediculous that many of our friends would ask to come over just so they could visit our zoo. (Hey, it was free.)
There was one pet, however, we didn't buy, catch, or want. He just came to us of his own free will.
One evening we were sitting in our livingroom watching Antique Roadshow on PBS. Our then youngest son, Alec, (about 6 years old) suddenly chirps, "I wish I could see a bat. I've never seen a real bat...."
I promise you, not even 5 minutes later a bat swooped down out of the fireplace and started flying around the room!
Can you imagine the instant chaos? I shrieked. The 3 boys were thrilled! The room burst into action.
Suddenly there were 4 people in the house armed with butterfly nets running, clambering over furniture, jumping toward the ceiling swinging their arms, and all yelling "I got it!"
"I GOT it."
"Oh, it got away."
"Grab him! He's over there!"
"Where'd he go?"
I just stood frozen in one spot ducking my head and screaming every time the bat or a net flew past my head.
Finally my husband caught the terrified creature. The boys studied it for a few minutes and then he was released into the night. We thought that was the end of it. However, a few nights later I was peacefully sleeping when I felt a hand gently shaking my shoulder. It was my husband.
"Sweetie, don't move, and don't panic, but there's a bat in our room."
"What?!" I tried to sit up in order to shriek a little louder, but he held me down.
"Get him! I want him out of our room!" I hissed.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see the shadow of the bat as it flew overhead. It would circle our room, gently hit the screen on the window, fly out of our room and then return a few minutes later. My husband got up and dressed, turned on the lights and went in search of the bat. Every time he'd turn a light on, the bat would disappear. Lights off: bat. Lights on: no bat. Finally he gave up and came back to bed. Needless to say it took me a long time to go back to sleep.
This scenario repeated itself every night for about a week. After a few days we were almost used to having a bat in the house. Even the kids got used to it. If anyone had to go to the bathroom during the night we would just duck waddle across the hall so we didn't disturb the bat's flight pattern. :-)
It was during this time my brother and his family were preparing to move across the country to Idaho. We spent alot of time that week helping them pack and clean their house and prepare for the move. When they left my husband was going to go with them to help drive and unload the moving truck once they reached Idaho. My only hope was that the bat would be gone before they left. I couldn't stand the thought of being alone in the house with 3 little boys and that nocturnal creature still on the loose.
Of course it didn't happen that way. My brother, his family, their belongings, and my comforting, safe husband all left and the bat stayed. I was not a happy camper.
Back to the old routine. Content during the day because I knew the bat was sleeping somewhere, and insomnia at night. Where was that blasted creature anyway?!
A few days after my husband left the boys and I got up to a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and a warm breeze blew in the windows. We ate breakfast and I gave them some chores to do while I cleaned the kitchen. All of a sudden James starts screaming, "MOM! MOM! Come quick!!! MOOOOOMMMMMMMM!"
I went tearing down the hall to see what on earth was causing all the commotion. As I flew into James' room I spotted him standing next to one of his aquariums grinning and pointing. There sat Rocky innocently chewing on the bat's head. Apparently the bat had become thirsty and decided a snapping turtle's water would quench his parched throat.

May 15, 2008

Mother's Day 2008

This is what our Used-To-Be strong-willed son gave me for Mother's Day:





For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!
Amen.
Romans 11:36

May 13, 2008

Some of Our Favorite School Books

Waaaaaay back in February my niece asked me about the books we use for school. I know that every family has their own "flavor". Each child is a unique gift. It's up to you, the parent/s, to decide what curriculum you'll use to best get into your child's thick skull (joke, people) what he needs to learn in order to be a productive member of society and be able to fend for himself.
However, If I were stranded on a desert island, or even a dessert island, there are several books I would not want to live without.
Alpha-Phonics by Samuel L. Blumenfeld
This book is inexpensive and was a very easy, practical way to teach our sons to read. There are 128 lessons-it takes less than 15 minutes a day to complete most of the lessons. Once the boys had completed that book I just checked out mountains of library books and had them read out loud every day as practice. I did try to check out books based on things they were interested in learning about.
Exploring Creation Series by Dr. Jay L. Wile
(Science curriculum)

A Child's History of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer
(A fun, easy to read book for elementary age students)

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick (for grades 4-8)


Science Experiments and Amusements for Children by Charles Vivian
(Elementary grades)

An Easy Start in Arithmetic by Ruth Beechick (grades K-3)

A Strong Start in Language by Ruth Beechick (grades K-3)


*
The Basic Home Schooling Workshop by Gregg Harris
(This is a wonderful tape series that will help you either get started or give you a much needed boost in your home school career)

*
A Mom Just Like You: (The Home Schooling Mother) by Vicki Farris

I've started, but haven't finished A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola and The Well Trained Mind by? So far those two books seem wonderful, encouraging, and helpful.

*
The Right Choice by Christopher Klicka


A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick (grades K-3)


Geography Matters-Galloping the Globe by Loree' Pettit-this is a geography unit study for grades K-4


English From the Roots Up-greek and latin root words


The Mystery of History series by Linda Lacour Hobar


We also used KONOS as a guide because the boys love/loved hands-on projects. Boys were most definetly not made to just sit, sit, sit all day!

We start every morning by reading the bible together, outloud. The best way we've found to do this is to read a chapter a day-each one of us reading 3 verses at a time. By reading the bible this way the boys don't day dream-they know their turn is coming and they better be ready!
After we read the bible, I read a chapter out loud from another book. Sometimes we'll read a fictional story, at other times we'll read a biography, autobiography, or a book that may help them grow spiritually. I've listed some of our favorites:

Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse

Hinds' Feet on High Places
by Hannah Hurnard

The Screwtape Letters
by C.S. Lewis

Foxe's Book of Martyrs
(I didn't read this one out loud, but a couple of the boys read it when they were old enough to deal with the content)

The Hobbit etc.
by J.R.R. Tolkien (I was mean and rotten and would not let the boys see the Lord of the Rings movies until they had read all the books.)

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
This book, and From Sea to Sea, should NOT be read by your children alone. They are wonderful books, and well written, but Thom goes into details about "certain things" that are not appropriate for little ears. It was easy to just "edit" those things out as I read. These 2 books are good for older kids-maybe junior high and high school. The book From Sea to Sea has been my all time favorite read aloud book. I learned soooooo much about our country's history by reading it with the boys. Patrick Henry's famous speech "Give me liberty or give me death!" moved me to tears because for the first time in my life I could see and hear and feel and practically taste what our founding fathers were feeling as they dealt with cutting ties with England. I just can't say enough about that book so I won't say any more at all. Please, please, please just read it! :-)

The Hiding Place
by Corrie Ten Boom

From Sea to Sea
by James Alexander Thom

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
by Phillip Keller

God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew

The Chronicles of Narnia (I've been mean and rotten with this series too. Can't watch the movies til you've read the books!)

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

**The tape series and the 2 books with the "*" are resources that have helped shape our personal home school philosophy and even our family goals.
That's it for now. I'm sorry if my grammar, spelling or punctuation are atrocious. For some reason I'm feeling really "foggy headed" today. If you have questions about any of these books please feel free to leave a comment and I'll be happy to give you more info.

May 10, 2008

The Good of A Mother

My mother was an interesting person, and that's putting it mildly. Complex, funny, simple, wise, foolish, intense, giving, needful, controlling, and whatever the opposite of "controlling" would be....those are all words that come to mind when I think about her. Having a child-mother raise me has complicated my own mothering; everything I say and do and think as a mother has to be sifted and sorted to weed out anything unhealthy that might stem from hurts or bad example or.....
However, I don't want to focus on those things tonight, on Mother's Day Eve. (Hey! Did I just create a new holiday for mothers around the world? If we were smart we could really stretch this holiday out! Ladies, we'll have to work on that one. We have Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and now, Ta Da! Mother's Day Eve. Hmmmm...)
Anyway, I digress. There were many things my mom did right. One year for Mother's Day I made a list of everything I could possibly think of that I loved or appreciated about her. I cut the list up into tiny strips and rolled each thing up into a tiny "scroll". I then stuffed a quart size canning jar with those little scrolls and told my mom they were her "One-A-Days". She could only read one a day for however long they lasted.
Just in case you're wondering, I thought I'd share some of those things with you.

-She always told me, "Say yes to your kids whenever you can. Life is long and hard and will be full of "no's". Give them yeses every chance you get."
-She was a great cook! I've posted her spaghetti sauce recipe, but she also made the best chocolate chip cookies and bread I've ever had.
-She was adventurous. Always willing to try something new, or go somewhere new or even discuss something she knew nothing about just so she could learn something new.
-She set me free to try my wings. She encouraged me to "go for it" and not be afraid of trying new things. She encouraged me to make life rich with experiences and memories.
-She didn't try to pit me against my dad or be bitter toward him after my parents divorced.
-She never let go of her dreams. I think it took her 3 tries before she was able to pass the test that would give her a Real Estate License. She just kept plugging away at it until she did it.
-She taught me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the mountains, a sunset, a bug on a leaf, or the way trees grew twisted and curled by the constant mountain winds.
-She was spontaneous and always up for a walk, a ride, or a Hot-Fudge Sundae at McDonald's.
-She was willing to love and accept everyone she met, no matter what they believed or what their lifestyle was.
-She taught me to appreciate and love music.
-She could make anyplace feel like home.
-She was an optimist.
-She was willing to laugh at herself and not take life so seriously.
-She had a never ending sense of humor and laughed often.
-She continually tried to learn new things.
-On my 16th birthday she took me to get my driver's license, then handed me her check book and a credit card. She showed me what they were for and how to use them and never looked back. In other words, she treated me like a responsible young adult and expected me to live up to her expectations. She trusted me.

Like I said, my mother was complex, hard to understand, and sometimes hard to live with. I do wish I could sit with her tonight and hug her. I would like to thank her once again for doing her best. In many ways she was more a friend than a parent, but I did learn a lot from that "friendship" and I'm thankful for it.

May 7, 2008

What Would You Ask For?

I am really ready for school to be over. We have a few weeks left and our 17th year of homeschooling will be complete! Even though this year has been the easiest one I think I've ever had, I'm still ready for it to be over. I just don't have the energy right now to be funny, spiritual, or even slightly interesting.
So, I thought it might be fun to give my bloggy friends a chance to "speak out".
I was puttering around the other day, reading blogs, and came across a great post at Living with Purpose. ( http://colettefabry.blogspot.com/It was posted April 20th) Colette asked her readers:
If God asked you..."What can I do for you?" like He asked Solomon, what would you ask of Him?
I'd love to hear your answers to that question! I asked my husband and a couple of our sons how they would answer that question- we've had some interesting discussions as a result.
(See, there are benefits to old age. Your kids get older too and you can actually have deep, meaningful discussions with them. They may sigh and squirm a little, but too bad. If you wait until they're starving and have just heaped their plates with food, they are stuck with you and your questions. At least until they're full.)

OK-I'm done babbling. What would you ask God for?
I'll even follow Colette's example and get the ball rolling. I'll go first. Here's the reply I left over at her blog:
I would ask for 3 years alone with Jesus. I think if I had that kind of time with Him, face to face, I'd "get it". Paul was given that gift and there have been many times where I've been jealous of him. His faith, his time alone with Jesus, his boldness, his fearlessness, his ability to live the big picture, his love for the lost, his compasion, his wisdom....I think he paid a very high price for those 3 years alone with Jesus, but I still think that's what I'd ask for.
How about you?

May 3, 2008

A Mother's Day Card....or not.

I've spent a lot of time over the past few days trying to make a Mother's Day card for my mother-in-law. I've "googled" and goggled until my brain cells were boggled.
I thought I'd finally found the perfect card for the woman who gave me her one and only son. It's beautiful. The card I was going to use as a template is actually a birthday card and it has the dictionary definition of "birthday" or some such across the front of it. No problem, thought I. I'll just change the word and put the definition of "mother" across the front instead. Well, when I picked up our Websters's 1828 dictionary and looked for "mother" this is what I found:

mother and mud
the womb
hysterics
stark naked
the thick slimy concretion in vinegar
a hysteric fit
a ewe or female sheep
a mole
the female of the horse kind
mud, mold
a mother, and matter, pus
matrix
matter, stuff, materials of which any thing is made
the bed of a river, a sink or sewer
the channel of a river

Further down the page there are several more definitions:
1. A female parent
2. That which has produced anything (Believe me, there are times when I've wondered what on earth I have produced)
3. That which has preceded in time; the oldest or chief of anything (Yes, I feel like this at times-the oldest of anything and everything...)
4. Hysterical passion
5. A familiar term of address of an old woman or matron
6. An appellation given to a woman who exercises care and tenderness towards another, or gives parental advice (nag, nag, nag...)
7. A thick slimy substance concreted in liquors, particularly in vinegar, very different from scum. (Oh! What a relief that is.)

Moving on from there I picked up Webster's Elementary Dictionary-A Dictionary for Boys and Girls:
mother-A slimy substance that forms on fermenting alchoholic liquors (Hmph.)

I then thought, just for the fun of it, I'd look and see what good old Noah had to say about Fathers. From the 1828 dictionary:
to beget, to feed
1. He who begets a child
2. The first ancestor
3. The appellation of an old man, and a term of respect
Elderly men are called fathers; men venerable for age, learning and piety are called fathers.
4. The grandfather
5. One who feeds and supports, or exercises paternal care over another. God is called the father of the fatherless.
6.He who creates, invents, makes or composes any thing; the author, a founder, director or instructor.

Maybe I'll send her a Father's Day card instead...