Monthly Archives: February 2010

Someday…

Wistfulness.  How easily it turns into discontentment!!

This morning, Fiala was sick (the first time in eight weeks, which is the longest I can ever remember her going without getting sick, bless God!!!), so I stayed home from church with both the little girls.  We spent most of the morning in the girls’ room, reading books.  One of them was my all-time favorite picture book, Blueberries for Sal.

Inspired by the book, I looked up its author, Robert McCloskey on Wikipedia.  It mentioned that Blueberries was set on Scott Island, Maine, where McCloskey had a summer home.  So, I looked up Scott Island.

Turns out it’s only 15 or so miles off the southwest coast of Mount Desert Island, which was the setting of one of my very most favorite young adult books, Calico Bush.  (On top of it being an extremely compelling story, Rachel Field, perhaps even better known as a poet, writes incomparably achingly beautiful prose.)

I find that very interesting:  Unbeknownst to me, two of my dearest favorite books are set within a few miles of each other!

I quickly found out that part of Mount Desert Island is a national park:  Acadia National Park.  So, of course, I clicked on some links to explore Acadia NP.  Now, I want to go there.  But, I guess you can add it to the list of hundreds and hundreds of places that I’d really like to go, and the overwhelmingness of that threatens to make me sad.

~sigh~

Doesn’t it just beckon, though??

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Homeschool progress and commentary (My, what a catchy title!)

  • If we continue at our current pace, we’ll be finished with school on May 21.  That will be the first time, I believe, that we’ll be done in May.  Arizona used to require homeschooling parents to commit to 35 weeks per year.  Though they no longer require that, saying that instead, we can just stop when we feel like we’re done (!), I think 35 weeks is a reasonable requirement.  Last year, though, I stopped after 34 weeks.  Or was it 33?  I can’t remember now.  It was the third week of June, and I was DONE, even though we weren’t really done, which felt like cheating, even though I was within my authority to stop.
  • As read-alouds take up a vast amount of time,  I have decided that my older boys, who are working their way through Sonlight’s Core 4, will likely read the rest of the year’s read alouds on their own.  ~sigh~  This is a bit of a defeat for me, because I so enjoy reading good literature with them, and the discussions that inevitably arise.  However, for them, we’re on week 24 of school, and have only made our way through about 12 weeks of material.  Ack.  I’m not a total box-checker, but that is just way too slow.  I am still reading history stuff aloud, and science.  And, I’m still doing the read-alouds with Wesley, who is in Core 2.
  • Though we have progressed frustratingly slowly in Core 4, I personally have learned WAY more about the Civil War than I ever previously knew, and I am very thankful for that.
  • Teaching Textbooks Math 7 has turned out to be a great choice for Ethan (in 7th grade) and Grant (in 5th), but for different reasons.  For Ethan, it has shored up some skills that he was not solid in, and increased his confidence, which was necessary, as math had become a struggle.  He has gotten 100% on most assignments and quizzes.  Grant hasn’t done nearly so well;  he averages around 85%.  His not doing as well as Ethan has been a blow to his completely overwrought ego, and I am fine with that.
  • A local 5th grade boy was recently suspended for eleven days (nine at home, and two in-school) for bringing a 2″ penknife to school.  ELEVEN DAYS!!! The “big” news last night was that the school authorities decided not to expel him.  I don’t know what made me more troubled:  the complete lack of common-sense judgment by school officials, or the fact that his mother was so relieved that her son would no longer be serving his suspension in her home office.  Ugh.  This and the recent Lego gun suspension incident serve as reminders of why we homeschool.  In related news:  My 12yo son wears his knife (I think it’s a 3″ blade) at all times, clipped onto/in the change pocket of his jeans, completely visible.  He brings it to all of our homeschool outings, and he has yet to be reported or suspended.  😉  (He has also carved for me a very nice walking stick.)
  • We attend a “park day” most Tuesdays.  It’s a laid-back collection of about 6-12 homeschooling parents and their accompanying broods.  So, each Tuesday, there is a group of 10-20 boys and girls, ages 6-13 who happily play together.  The moms typically sit and talk about school and parenting, and watch the younger kids on the playground structures while the kids are (usually) off in the surrounding desert scrub and little ravines.  The kids organize themselves.  Usually, they play a surprisingly-highly-structured wargames scenario.  They have teams, ranks, rules, and even hold court martials.  Yesterday, though, a truce was called for a special Homeschool Olympics organized and run, yet again, completely by the kids.  They only finished the footraces and Nerf gun shooting events, and all agreed to continue next time, as they ran out of time for the basketball shooting and football throwing contests.
  • My 8yo son Wesley is finally showing progress in spelling and writing.  Even though we’ve twice had him professionally evaluated, and everyone has said that he’s within “normal” range for his age, I have been incredibly concerned.  No matter what the norms say, it’s NOT normal for an 8yo to spell so poorly that he literally cannot remember how to spell his own name, nor regularly misspell three- and four-letter words:  gat for get, rin for run, sed for see, fads for fast, henf for help, wotk for work, etc.  And, no, I am not exaggerating his struggles.  We have been working on the SAME LIST of 100 simple high-frequency words all year.  This year, and in years past, I have tried just about every approach I can think of:  phonics, memorization, writing, oral drill, putting sound families in “word houses” on his wall, multi-sensory memory exercises (like writing in shaving cream or cornmeal)…  The good news is that, because he’s such a good reader, 95% of the time, when he spells a word wrong, he recognizes that it is wrong.  But even for extremely easy words, like 3-4 letter words which break no simple phonics rules, he has been unable to figure out which sounds match with which letters in order to write the word correctly.  Indeed, even identifying individual sounds within words has been nigh impossible;  he hears words as WHOLES, rather than as combinations of sounds.  However, just in the past few weeks, he’s really had some breakthrough in that area, and has demonstrated “sounding out” on his own.  Just today, as he was trying to figure out how to spell soon, he muttered, “sssssss… oooooooo… nnnnnnnnuh.”  Now, it took me a LONG TIME to get him to understand/believe me that there is no “nuh” sound on the end of soon:  it is “sss-oooo-nnnn.”  Still.  Just the fact that, on his own, he tried to decode the word encouraged me greatly.  I am more convinced than ever that he has some sort of auditory processing disorder, and will try to get him evaluated (again) this summer.  Another homeschooling mom told me about a semi-nearby professional group that has expertise in both developmental disorders and speech.  (At six years, Wesley was evaluated by a “normal” developmental pediatrician and by a speech pathologist at seven.  Both found problems, but placed him within a normal range.)
  • I think that’s it for now!!

Field trip! (Ostensibly, desert survival)

Good thing I looked a little more closely at the e-mail with all the info for today’s field trip, in order to tell a new friend the details this morning;  I thought it was to be at Spur Cross Regional Park.  It wasn’t;  it was at Cave Creek Regional Park.  That would’ve stunk to have gone to the wrong place!

The event didn’t start until 1:00 p.m., and I decided we’d get there early and do a little hike, and eat lunch beforehand.  At least one other family was going to arrive early, as well, but we ended up being the only one, which, actually, was just fine with me.

Before we set out from the truck, I asked the kids if they wanted the longer one-mile hike, or the shorter.  I shouldn’t have asked;  as expected, only Grant wanted the longer one.  If we didn’t have an agenda that day, Grant’s vote, along with mine, would have overruled the other three.  We’ll have to come back for certain and do the one mile loop, and soon.  Still, it was worth it.  However, it’s actually a bit of an overstatement to call it a hike.  It was more like a mildly hilly ¼ mile stroll on a dirt path.

It has been literally SIX YEARS since I’ve seen the spring foothills so green (the pics below do not do them justice;  it is SO GREEN).  In the Sonoran Desert, January showers bring March flowers, and there will be a LOAD of them in a few weeks, as both January and February have been awash with wonderful rain.

Today, there were just a few flowers in bloom:  some desert bells, Mexican gold poppies, a few desert marigold, and an even fewer brittlebush.  The hillsides of the park are covered in brittlebush, so when they bloom, it will be absolutely garishly bright yellow.  I can’t wait.

Also, this was the first hike in which Fiala was walking.  I brought along a sling, to put her on my back, but she would have none of it.  She didn’t want to hold anyone’s hand or anything.  Even Audrey remarked on her baby sister’s eagerness and toughness.  That, too, makes me look forward all the more to really start hiking in earnest again.

Along the way, we saw a lovely female cardinal, who serenaded us as we walked along.

Here’s some park scenery:

Although I’m philosophically opposed to there being playgrounds in parks primarily used for hiking, my kids sure aren’t:

Fiala, who fears no slide

Wes, my beautiful son with such unfortunate teeth (my fault!)

My kids hate staged pictures. So do I. But, I needed a good one for extended family. This was take #5, so I'm going to overlook Grant's sour face and the giant tendon in my neck.

There was a good turnout for this ranger talk, which was supposed to be on desert survival, but my boys (and myself) were hoping for something a little more gritty than, “If you get bit by a rattlesnake, get to a hospital ASAP.”  Still.  Ranger Jim was very nice, and it was interesting, if not particularly informative (other than the nice section/diagram of a desert solar still).

About a third of the way into the talk, I had to slip up and whisper to Grant that he had answered more than his share of questions, and to give everyone else a chance.  (I was very proud of him for being mindful of that the rest of the time.)

I’m probably biased towards homeschooled kids, but I think all the kids did a very admirable job of eagerly both asking and answering questions.  However, a slightly awkward hush fell over the group when Ranger Jim asked if anyone knew how long scorpions had been around.  Later, my daring friend Allison said that she very nearly hollered out, “Um, you’re talking to a group of young earth creationists!”  But, she was saved by a little girl who wisely answered, “As long as the animals have been!”  And, yes, that is true, no matter which way you look at it!

Good times.  🙂

Bits from the week

So.  Well.  Part of me thinks, “I shouldn’t FEEL this busy.”  And the other part of me thinks, “Whaddya kidding???”  Stuff I’m doing and/or involved in right now:

  • Homeschooling, including a stepped-up participation in a group, which we really haven’t done in several years.  The boys are all doing an art class, plus weekly park day, plus field trips — really cool ones (the upcoming one is a desert survival outing led by a park ranger at the Spur Cross Regional Park in Cave Creek…  one next week is a homeschooling day put on by Arizona Game & Fish… and there’s homeschooling day at the State Capitol building, including a Q&A with the governor).
  • I’m still leading worship in a weekly kinship (small group/home group/Bible study).  Martin leads one on a different night.
  • I’ve been researching my family’s genealogy, both my side, and Martin’s.  That will end soon, though, because my free two weeks on http://www.ancestry.com ends on Wednesday, and I’m not paying the $159 it takes to continue.  Still.  It’s been a very cool investigation.  I’ve been collecting books and papers for a number of years, and those, added to the reams of info available online, has led to some confirmations, and some surprises.  Several family lines I’ve traced back to the 1600s.  I’m also really regretting not naming my children with family names, because I’ve come upon some really cool ones.  One surprise is that I’ve always heard that, through my mother’s mother, I was related to Samuel Chase, who signed the Declaration of Independence.  If my research is right, I’m not, at least not a direct descendant.  He might be a GGGG Uncle or something like that, but I, sadly, am not his granddaughter.
  • Little League is starting on Wednesday, and we’re gearing up for that.
  • Plus, I’m at work 5-10 hours a week (closer to five, so far) re-writing a friend’s book, which has been great fun, and very satisfying work.
  • Fiala is continuing to do very well.  I had hoped that the antibiotics that she was on for five weeks would totally cure her, but it does look like she has some serious underlying food allergies.  I don’t remember if I blogged about prunes (gave her hives), and the most recent really bad reaction (head-to-toe rash) was from corn.  Bummer.  Still.  Things are good.
  • I lost my phone almost a week ago.  I thought I left it at Denny’s, but a friend got a gobbeldy-gook text message two days after I lost it, which makes me think that tiny fingers found the phone, and it’s somewhere in the house, which is all the more frustrating, because it’s like, “WHERE IS IT????”  We’ve checked usage online, though, and it doesn’t appear that it has fallen into enemy hands, which is a huge relief.
  • OK!  I need to go whip up dinner, and comfort a crying 3yo.  🙂

Remind me of this post when it’s 115 degrees in August

This is now the desktop image on my computer

Yesterday was the sort of beautifully glorious day that makes me realize why millions of people live in the Phoenix area:  Giant cumulonimbus clouds breezing across the most impossibly clear, deep azure sky.  Bright, warm sun which made the world simply sparkle.  Clean, invigorating breeze, temperature in the low 60s.  Recent rains have given a green tint to the rocky, desert hills which surround my neighborhood, and the play of cloud shadows on their slopes and valleys added to their drama and beauty.

I kept praising God for His amazing creation, and thanking Him for where I live, exclaiming countless times, “It is SO BEAUTIFUL out here.”

Today is similar, but much of it has been spent looking out the window, as we’re back to school today.  Yesterday, I spent as much time as possible outside.

Late in the afternoon, the boys wanted to watch the Super Bowl (I did, too, and a good game it was!), but I wanted to a) take advantage of the day, and b) give the girls a chance to run around, as all too soon, the rest of the family would be plunked in front of the TV, in which they had no interest.  So, I took ’em to the park, which we often do on Sundays.

We had a little dietary setback this past week, causing a facial rash again; the likely culprit is corn, which has been removed from Fiala's diet again.

I met another mother, there for similar reasons with her very small nephews and 8yo son;  her husband, 12yo twin sons, and other family members at home watching the game.

Audrey (um, not pictured) successfully pumped her legs on the swing for the first time!

Fiala thought she wanted to go down the very long, steep slide, so I took her with me, restraining her from going down by herself, precariously perched on the landing, as I wrestled to get her onto my lap.  Then, I comforted her as she squealed with tearful cries after we reached the bottom.  It was the slide equivalent of one’s eyes being too big for one’s stomach.

Other than lovely little girls and the weather, yesterday, I was thankful for:

  • Finding oranges for 33¢ a pound.
  • The fact that, when adults, my children will not put errant apostrophes in signs:
  • A new family at church who homeschools, bringing the total up to three.  The mother is so dear.  I’ve spent the last week contrasting, in my mind, the character of her, and of another mother, with whom I had a conversation recently, who is such a knot of fear — no freedom, no peace.  Yesterday, I wrote the hs’ing mom a note of encouragement, telling her that the Holy Spirit is bearing fruit in her life.  (I’m NOT implying that homeschooling equals peace;  many homeschooling mothers are not particularly peaceful;  it’s just nice to anticipate hanging around with a family whose matriarch is a beautiful, peaceful woman of God, who is submitted to His plans and whose life reflects it, and I’m thankful for God putting her in my path.)
  • And I’m thankful that I did not grow up listening to The Who.

Some deep stuff (and some not-so-deep)

  • This past weekend was the International Leadership Summit that my church heads up.  It is a meeting of both the leadership from Vineyard Phoenix, and the leaders from the churches and ministries around the nations with whom we minister.  There were people from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Zambia, Korea, Japan, Mexico, and Israel.  I cannot express the magnitude of what God does each year in the Summit.  Words truly fall short, and pictures can’t capture it.  I mentally stammer just trying to think of how to start to describe it.  Just.  No.  Words.  Suffice it to say, you wish you could have been there, even if you don’t know it!  Hahaha!
  • Fiala continues to improve;  upon my return from being gone three days at the Summit, she was noticeably better.  She did great for Grandma Detta (Martin’s mom), in our absence.  What a dear little girl she is.  She’s so happy.  Pretty much the only time she’s unhappy is if she is hungry or tired… and now that she’s sleeping better at night and napping solidly, and now that we have such an array of foods to give her, she’s rarely ever cranky.
  • I’ve developed a recipe for hemp milk that Fiala is now drinking.  Recipe to be posted soon!
  • I’m employed!  I’m working part time as a ghost writer.  At least, that’s what the author is calling it, and I’m fine with that.  If being a ghost writer means that you clean up a manuscript, but get no credit as a co-author, I guess I’m a ghost writer!  I’m very happy to be involved in the project.
  • Truly, this is simply a happy season in my life.  Not that there is widespread perfection in the many areas of my life, but in every spot, I can observe the hand of God… areas of improvement…  a light at the end of some dark tunnels… exciting times ahead…  It was spoken over me several times in the last week or so that I’m about to enter a season of both stretching beyond my normal territory and into blessing, and I feel like I’m already starting to live that.
  • That said (the above bullet), God is also taking me through a time where my knowledge and sense of His love and His goodness is not regulated so much by my feelings.  God created feelings, and I think that stoicism and Christianity are opposed to one another.  Yet, on the other hand, I can get way too reliant on my circumstances and what I feel, as “evidence” (or not) of God’s love and goodness, and that’s not wise.  He’s good and loving no matter if I feel it or not, even if He doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want Him to, even if He doesn’t show up in a way I expect Him to… He’s still God.  He is also challenging me to pursue Him in the midst of not feeling Him.  I got a picture of the woman with the bleeding problem reaching out to touch Jesus, but in that time, in the crowd, BEFORE she touched Him… just reaching out to Him, reaching out, reaching out…  He’s bringing me to a new place of not getting discouraged when He doesn’t answer in the way or the time I’d prefer;  I’ve spent too much of my Christian life discouraged and lacking in perseverance, and it’s time for that to end.
  • Sort of piggy-backing on the first bullet point, and the above point:  On Thursday night, at the Leadership Summit, I was singing on the worship team, and I got a sense of something I felt God wanted to say.  It was appropriate for me to sing it, so I did.  When I got done, I started thinking, as I do too often, “Oh, that didn’t come out quite right.  What I sang just wasn’t the fullness of what God was telling me.  Bummer.  I should have said…  And, oh, I forgot that part…”  And various sorts of mental butt-kicking ensued.  Then, very quickly, I felt God speak to me, “That’s OK.  Words fall short.”  Oh, my goodness!  Those three words — “words fall short” — brought such freedom to me!  It’s TRUE:  what God says, and what He does, and how He works, there just isn’t adequate language for it!  Plus, it’s not just my words, it’s the power of God behind the words!!!  Last night, at kinship (a “bonus” kinship, as I was filling in for an out-of-town worship leader), one of the ladies there talked about being ministered to on Sunday by a lady from Japan.  She said, “It’s weird.  It was so general, yet so specific.  She just said, ‘God is taking the bad memories and creating new, good memories,’ and it was so simple… yet the power behind her words was so profound, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced healing as deep or as powerful ever before, than from those simple, short words.”  I SO KNEW WHAT SHE MEANT.  Yes, I am to be obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit; if He’s telling me to say something, I need to say it (or sing it).  But it’s OK if my words seem to fall short, because a) His power is behind them, and b) language is simply inadequate.  ~sigh~  Freedom.  No condemnation.  God is good.
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