Saturday, May 31, 2008

No Kangaroos in Austria

Sarah brought this t-shirt home for Jason. It is quite funny that she found it, because this conversation had actually come up around the house as Sarah was preparing for this trip.

Austria .... Australia....

On a Mission

It must get worse before it gets better.

I have been on a mission to clean and declutter the main rooms and closets before next Saturday, when we'll be having a big Open House for Eric's high school graduation! There are 5 closets in the dining room ( pantry/craft closet), den (school & craft supplies, videos), front hall ( coats, hats & mittens, games, toys, misc), and bedroom hallway ( linens, first aid, toiletries, misc ). I have pulled EVERYTHING out and forced myself not to just "organize the clutter", as I am prone to do, but really scrutinize and get rid of things that we don't need, don't use, have outgrown.... and then try to find a neat and orderly way to store the remaining things in containers, bins, & baskets. I know that this seems 'oh so simple' to most of you reading this, but this really does NOT come naturally to me! I am a pack rat by nature - I hate to get rid of things that are perfectly good and that I MIGHT use someday! And it takes me a while to figure out ways to be "organized". I love looking at pictures of organized closets, shelves, and rooms, with rows of labeled bins and baskets and no piles of disorganized clutter... and think, "oh, if only someone could do that for me!" To top it off, I am very easily distracted and will get caught up in rabbit trails for hours - like sitting down to flip through a catalog I found in one of the stacks or sitting down at the computer to write on my blog - instead of staying focused on the task at hand.
I am making progress! I have thrown out about 4 Hefty tall kitchen trash bags of junk, and filled another 5-6 bags with stuff for Goodwill! I brought some outgrown toys over to my friend Eileen's house, for her little boys. I have breathed in a LOT of dust. Things still look a wreck, partly because I am doing 4 closets and a book shelf simultaneously! ( for some reason, doing one at a time just didn't seem to make sense at the time) My husband has commented that it looks like instead of "one step forward, two steps back", I've taken "five steps back". Hmmmm - he's very helpful.
I am trying to keep up my momentum, and not resort to just throwing everything that's left into a few boxes and stuffing them back into the closets until "later". I am longing to walk through my home and see that there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place!

I can dream....

Answered Prayer!

"M" is safe and is back at the orphanage in Ethiopia! Thank you for your prayers! Check Eileen's blog for more information.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Today is Memorial Day

History of Taps

Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to render emotion than Taps. Up to the Civil War, the traditional call at day's end was a tune, borrowed from the French, called Lights Out. In July of 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days battles, hard on the loss of 600 men and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought "Lights Out" was too formal and he wished to honor his men. Oliver Wilcox Norton, the bugler, tells the story,

"...showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, (he) asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring Brigades, asking for copies of the music which I gladly furnished. The call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac."

This more emotive and powerful Taps was soon adopted throughout the military. In 1874 It was officially recognized by the U.S. Army. It became standard at military funeral ceremonies in 1891. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.
- from an article by Master Sergeant Jari A Villanueva, USAF.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
'Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NCHE Homeschool Conference

We just returned from the annual state homeschool conference and book fair in Winston-Salem. This year I didn't get to attend from the moment the doors opened on Thurs. until they closed on Sat., ( as I have some years ), but Mark, Amanda, Jason and I were there for most of Friday and Saturday. I split my time between attending workshops and browsing the book fair. I didn't need to purchase much this year, but I did pick up a couple of good books ( including Passion and Purity and The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot) , a version of Pilgrim's Progress, a chess playing manual, some new Adventures in Odyssey story tapes ( yes we bought tapes because they were much cheaper than the CDs and J has a cassette player!), a new Mavis Beacon typing CD-ROM for the computer, and the "Drive Through History: America" DVD set.

I attended workshops by Paul Tripp, Dr. Jeff Myers, Debra Bell, Mark Hamby and Shelley Noonan. This annual conference is not only "teacher training", but also spiritually uplifting and often challenging. Most of the speakers at this conference are Christians who boldly speak of God's providence, and of our utter inability to succeed in homeschooling, in parenting, in life..without God's grace and mercy.

Some quotes/notes from the conference:

"There is no knowing that doesn't begin with knowing God."

"Your home should be a place where children are taught to see God everywhere and in everything."

" It is of utmost importance that we learn, and that we teach our children, that in order to love another human being we must give up things!"

" Before children participate in co-operative learning opportunities, there needs to be a firm foundation of parental leadership in the family."

"What the watching world needs from us is the Gospel made visible!"

"We are not protecting our children; we are preparing them."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

With Hope

these are beautiful words, written by Steve Curtis Chapman long before the loss of his own child;


1 Thess. 4:13-14 / Heb. 6:9, 10:23

This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and ...

We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so ...

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Words and Music by Steven Curtis Chapman
(for friends whose young daughter died in a traffic accident)


Sad News & Prayer Request

There is sad news tonight that the 5-yr-old daughter of contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman was killed in the family's driveway this afternoon by a car driven by her teenage brother . Maria was the youngest of 3 daughters that the Chapmans adopted from China. The Chapmans are passionate about adoption, and they started a ministry called "Shaohannah's Hope" to reach the church with God's call to care for the orphan, and to provide financial assistance to families stepping out to adopt internationally. This news has hit especially hard my friends who have been touched by the Chapmans through Shaohannah's Hope.

Please pray for the Chapman family, and all those who who are grieving the loss of this little girl tonight.

He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds.
Psalms 147:3

Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted
Matthew 5:4

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've added my weekly menu to the sidebar, instead of as a post. I'm struggling a bit to come up with a menu each week that is healthy and cheap. We are trying to keep grocery costs down to under $200 a week, and to do that I have to really weigh each purchase. Things will be easier in a couple of weeks when Eric is gone at camp all week, eating THEIR food. There will be a couple of weeks when most or all of the kids will be gone, at least during the day! I should be able to stock up on paper goods , toiletries, and staples on those weeks, because I won't have to spend as much on meals!

Global Warming, Evolution, and Intellectual Debate

Have you noticed how many items in the stores are now labeled as "Green" or "Environmentally Friendly"? I was looking on the local craigslist yesterday for an easy chair to replace the decrepit one in our living room, and I came across these furniture ads:

"Really cute blue velvet club chair with mustache back and contrast welt. Down seat, very comfortable. Well made and environmentally friendly"


"White, red, sage & butter yellow Floral chair; Reversible seat cushions Made with bioflex hybrid foam for a smaller environmental footprint More Earth-friendly than conventional foams, using more renewable resources "

Wow. So as a conscientious consumer who doesn't want to DESTROY the Earth, I had better make careful choices and only buy those products - everything from laundry detergent to cars to easy chairs - that tell me they are FRIENDLY, and not spend my money on those other MEAN, BAD, UNFRIENDLY products.
It all just seems a bit opportunistic to me - jumping on the bandwagon, to benefit from the fear and hysteria being promoted by politicians and media.
According to TIME Magazine , USA Today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. John McCain , and of course Sen. Al Gore , there is no scientific debate on the issue of global warming, and everyone with an ounce of sense and credibility agrees that a disaster is imminent unless WE STOP IT! ( by buying earth-friendly products?)

But there is scientific debate on the issue.

Climatologists Reject Media Claims of Global Warming Consensus

31,000 scientists reject 'global warming' agenda

Global Cooling Is Coming!

The Tempest

I'm not a terrible person nor am I a stupid person. I read a lot. I try to listen to both sides of a debate and make informed decisions. I do care about having clean air and clean water, and I teach my children to be good stewards of our resources. But I'm not convinced that human beings are killing the earth. And the lock-step, group-think mentality that surrounds polarizing issues such as this is very troubling to me. I resent being characterized as a terrible, stupid person because I don't necessarily agree with the proclaimed "consensus".

It reminds me of the debate over Darwinian evolution versus Intelligent Design. If you only listened to mainstream media ( admittedly left-leaning) and spokesmen for the "academic community" (unquestionably left-leaning), there IS no debate and critics of Darwinian evolution are quacks, religious fanatics, wierdos, and of marginal intellect. Just read the criticism aimed at the recent movie "Expelled; No Intelligence Allowed". Likewise, in reading some of the comments and remarks aimed toward the critics of Global Warming, I found no lack of vehement name-calling - "Republicans", "Christians", and the worst thing possible, "fat & happy white American males".

Sunday, May 18, 2008

TOG Year-End Celebration

I've been lax about posting this past week... some times I just need to stay away from the computer. But we've been busy, as usual.

Friday was our last day of TOG Co-op! We cut things short, finishing at 11:30 instead of 1:30, and then all went to see the movie "Prince Caspian". I thought it was quite good! They took quite a few liberties with the book ( hello? kissing?) , and didn't develop the characters nearly as well as "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", but it was definitely entertaining and fun.

After the movie, we went to the Shaws' house for a cook-out and swim party to celebrate the "end of school"! It rained right before we got there but cleared up in time for the kids to spend hours in the heated pool, even though the air was a bit on the chill side.

Afterwards, Amanda had 6 friends over for a sleepover! They camped out on the living room floor, watched a movie, played "Pretty Pretty Princess" and "Twister", took pictures of each other, and talked and laughed and talked and laughed and talked and laughed.... until about 4:00 in the morning!!! After a scant few hours of sleep, they woke to a big breakfast of banana-chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, fried potatoes, and juice. Four of the girls went home by noon, but 2 others hung around for a while longer, and decided to go bowling! Not sure how they managed with only about 4 hours of sleep..... but they had fun. I sat at a table and read through my new TOG Yr. 2 materials for next year!

Saturday, May 17, 2008



Our dear friends, the Mestases, are in the process of adopting "M", a 12-yr-old little girl from Ethiopia. Older children waiting for adoption in Ethiopia and elsewhere around the world battle discouragement and hopelessness, as they know that they will be "kicked out" of the system at some point and that most adoptive parents come for babies and toddlers. "M" has lost her entire family and is all alone in the world. Jerry, Eileen, and Ellie met "M" last fall when they went to Addis Ababa to bring home their 3 newest children. Almost immediately upon returning home, they felt the Lord impress this little girl upon their hearts, and they began inquiring about adopting her as well. They have started the process, but "M" won't be told that a family is interested in adopting her until their paperwork is finished and accepted by the Ethiopian courts.

"M" is missing from the orphanage as of 5 days ago. The streets of Addis Ababa are teeming with orphans and homeless adults, and are a very dangerous place. PLEASE PRAY for "M"'s safety and for her speedy return. Pray that she would KNOW that God loves her and is even now paving the way for her "forever family" to come get her!
Eileen will provide updates on her blog:


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Support Group Meeting - Learning Styles

Our monthly homeschool support group meeting was Tuesday night. The topic was "Learning Styles", and I was asked to be one of the presenters - not because I have any special knowledge in this area but because I have 5 kids and have been homeschooling a long time. Presumably I have gleaned some information about the subject over the years!

I love Diana Waring's description of learning styles in her book, Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling.

Instead of just describing the characteristics of various learning styles, she creates word pictures using colors, music, and objects, so I attempted to recreate this at the meeting. People responded well, so I think I was somewhat successful.

She uses the designations created by Myers-Briggs - Thinker, Feeler, Sensor, and Intuitor.

The Thinker is your organized, methodical, "give me the facts" kind of kid, who doesn't like surprises, wants to know exactly what he has to do each day, likes checklists, order and rules. The background music here is Haydn's "Surprise Symphony". The table is covered with black and white fabric, neatly arranged. Placed on top of the fabric are a computer programming manual, history textbook, vocabulary workbook, and research paper writing guide. A ruler, mechanical pencil, calculator, and alarm clock are neatly arranged next to the books, as is a daily planner and pack of multiplication flash cards. 

The Feeler is a "people person", who tends to be emotional and sensitive. This kid responds to pictures and stories, and wants to know the personal, human side of everything. The love theme from Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" is playing in the background, and the table is draped with a lush maroon velvety fabric. Arranged artistically on the table are framed pictures of friends and family, a scented candle, a cuddly stuffed animal, and a vase of flowers. A pile of biographies, historical fiction, short stories, and poetry stand next to a sing-along tape of math facts and videos dramatizing events in history. 

Next is the Sensor, who is the kid who never stops moving and flies from one activity to the next in a blur of noise and activity. Short lessons are key here, with lots of hands-on projects. A piece of brightly patterned fabric is splayed across the table, and on it are a hammer and nails, paintbrush, gardening tools, a jump rope, model to build, hands-on science and history kits, sidewalk chalk, and books on tape. Adventure stories, nature field guides, and "Games for Math" lie in a jumble among the various tools. Hear the Hoe-down music from Aaron Copland's "Rodeo". 

Lastly is the Intuitor, the daydreamer, the idea person! This kid doesn't like to play by the rules, but comes up with his own way to do things ( much to the chagrin of his "thinker" brother!) Creative and unconventional, he isn't really a detail person and needs encouragement to complete the projects he starts. Deep blue fabric sprinkled with sparkly glitter lies underneath an old, comfy flannel shirt, sketchbook, paintbrush and palette, and a variety of music CDs. Resource books on various subjects are stacked next to a pile of notebooks and journals, along with a pair of binoculars The music is "Jupiter" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets Suite" 

Now, most people are a combination, but generally strongest in one area. Do you recognize any of your children in these descriptions? How about yourself?
I am definitely an Intuitor, with a healthy dose of Feeler - creative, the queen of unfinished projects, daydreamer, and idea person. I have never followed a lesson plan "as written", and I have a hard time following a rigid schedule. Of my kids, two are Thinker/ Intuitors, two are Feeler/Intuitors, and another is a Sensor/Feeler!

As a teachers, we can't just do what is comfortable for us and expect everyone else to follow along. It is incumbent upon us to understand the needs of our children and do our best to teach them so they can learn in the way that is best for them! That might mean that when you read aloud, your Feeler is snuggled up against your side while your Sensor is playing with Legos, Intuitor is doodling in a notebook, and Thinker is checking off "listen to read aloud" on his To Do List. 

Here is Diana Waring's suggestion for teaching a subject in a way that reaches ALL your kids' learning styles: "Grab, Teach, Apply, Release".
To "grab 'em", introduce the subject with a story, a biography, or explanation of why this subject is important to know. Then , move on to "teaching" by studying textbooks, resource books, charts, diagrams, etc. Now it's time to "apply" the learning to some hands-on projects - build, measure, create, cook, gather - employ as many of the senses as possible! And finally, "release" that newfound knowledge by presenting it in a new way ~ a play, a display, a song.... Each child will have a chance to shine and learn in their own special way, and also to experience things that are a bit out of their comfort zone. That's okay. The problem is when material is only presented ONE way, and that isn't the way a child learns best. Then they struggle, become frustrated, and learn to "hate school". 

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Day at the Museum of Life and Science

We spent an enjoyable afternoon with our friends, the Mestases, at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. After eating our lunch outside in the picnic area by the parking lot, we went for a ride on the mini train, then spent a while in the insectarium and butterfly house. There is a great playground area, with steel drums, wind chimes, a concrete tunnel, a real caboose, and a huge wooden playhouse and bridge. The kids enjoyed running and climbing in there for a while. Amanda, Ellie, and Jason were a big help in keeping track of the 5 little ones! Eileen has 5 adopted children - 5 yr old twin boys, a 3 yr old boy, and 1 yr old twin girls!!
Inside the museum, we investigated weather, aerospace, germs, and ants. Then it was time to load up "Larry Boy", the Mestases green 12-passenger van, for the 40 minute trip back home.

Jason and Jimmy on the train

Keziah looking at the pretty frogs

Butterfly Girls!

This Week's Menu

I'm still tweaking my menu plan for this week, but here is what I think I'll be making!

*Leftovers in this house have to be "planned overs" - meaning I have to make extra and then physically separate it from what I am serving - put it in a separate container and stick a label on it with big letters saying "DO NOT EAT"!

Anybody else have teen-age boys in the house?

B: Oatmeal / cereal; juice
L: pb & j sandwiches, apples, yogurt (picnic at science museum )
D: Crock pot Chicken cacciatore, brown rice, tossed salad

B: Blueberry-Oat muffins, smoothies
L: spaghetti, garlic bread sticks
D: Turkey Sloppy Joes, roasted potato wedges, carrot sticks

B: oatmeal, banana
L: hot dogs cut up in baked beans, cornbread
D: Baked Rigatoni, veggie salad, homemade bread

B: Homemade whole wheat Waffles, strawberries
L: macaroni & cheese, *veggie salad
D: Taco Salad, *cornbread

B: *muffins, smoothies
L: *taco wraps ( planned-overs from last night), fruit

L: Grilled cheese sandwiches, pickles, tomato salad
D: Jambalaya, homemade wheat bread

Find lots more menus at Organizing Junkie.