Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer is for Planning

For a homeschool mom and support group leader, summer is all about PLANNING! There are hours of planning that go into preparing for a new school year - choosing curriculum, finding enrichment classes, figuring out a weekly schedule, deciding on extra-curricular activities.  I have ordered my TOG Year4 and most of my books. I still have to decide on a few things, like what Jason is doing for science, and then get things organized and sketch out lesson plans. 

This week the moms in our TOG Co-op are having a "down & dirty" meeting. I'm pretty sure that name came from Marcia Somerville, the creator of the TOG curriculum, but it is a full day of planning out the details and expectations of Co-op for the year - setting the calendar, planning out Unit Celebrations, writing out our "handbook" for the year, deciding what the minimum expectations are for each class in the Co-op.   We have learned over the last 4 years that it is important for us Co-op moms to communicate and get on the same page right at the beginning.  
This past weekend was our Lighthouse Leaders Retreat, a 9 hour planning session over 2 days.  Part of the purpose was to bring the Board and other leaders together to go over foundational things like the vision, purpose, expectations, and By laws of the support group. In addition, we discussed some ideas for changes to existing ways of doing things, we planned out the monthly meeting topics for the entire year, we started putting together a calendar of activities & field trips for the year, we discussed facility needs, we talked about qualities of leadership.  There were 16 people in attendance, including a number of husbands, and we had some really good discussion, I think.  There is still a good amount of nuts & bolts planning that has to be completed over the summer, but at least we got a good start. 

Now for our family, vacation planning is still underway as well, because we don't get much nailed down far in advance.  We have been trying to figure out when to take our annual trip to Massachusetts to see family. Part of the problem has been trying to work around Alex's visit home, and the military doesn't make things easy when leave isn't really decided until a few days before!  Alex just arrived home Saturday for 2 weeks, so now we are planning for at least some of us to go to Massachusetts between his visit and Amanda's week at Worldview Academy Leadership Camp in VA. We are also hoping to squeeze a week of camping in sometime this summer. 

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Real Meaning of Peace

There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of Peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest in perfect peace.
The king chose the second picture.

Do you know why?

"Because," explained the king, "Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."

Author Unknown

Isaiah 55:8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ABC 11 News Report on Solomon's Arrival

Welcome, Solomon!

As Christians, we can go along our day-to-day life believing that God is present and working in the world around us, but never really SEEING him.  It could be because we are too busy to notice, or too skeptical to accept.  Have you ever said, "I wish God would put up a big, flashing billboard!" ?  Not a real billboard  - but something we just couldn't miss!  Well, Solomon's story is one of those big, flashing billboards!  God is here, God is at work! He has orchestrated details and situations too amazing to be coincidental.   The whole Mestas story for the past 7 years, since their first adoption, has been that way. And Eileen & Jerry  have been shouting, "Do you SEE GOD?"  Read Eileen's blog  and see for yourself.

Solomon arrived in Raleigh yesterday afternoon to a sea of balloons, signs, and new friends!

James 1:27   Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

Ephesians 1:4-6  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Little League Season finale

Baseball season is over.  Last night was the first game of the Little League tournament, and J's team lost 4-3.  It was a fun season, and J played great at 1st base and pitcher. Good job, Mets!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Like These Lunch Boxes

Choosing a lunch box was a big part of the back-to-school ritual when I was a little girl. I don't remember my lunch boxes very well... I think I had a red plaid metal lunch box in first grade.  But I do remember when the metal boxes with the glass-lined thermoses were replaced by the jazzier, chunkier plastic lunch boxes with the non-breakable thermoses.  And then later, insulated lunch bags became the rage.  My sandwiches were wrapped in squares of wax paper, then baggies or plastic wrap, then reusable Tupperware squares.
Even though we are homeschoolers, we still have a need for lunch boxes once in a while. We bring lunch to Co-op every Friday, and occasionally on a field trip or other outing. Right now we have a couple of unexciting zippered lunch boxes from Target.  But I just found this website for Easy Lunch Boxes, and I am intrigued! These roomy, insulated cooler bags pair with single-lid 3-compartment reusable food containers. Economical and environmentally-friendly.  The website offers some very appetizing lunch box suggestions, and links to many more.  These might actually inspire me to up my game in the lunch department this year. I've gotten into a rut and not been very healthy or creative in my approach to the mid-day meal.  


Monday, June 21, 2010

Do You See God?

My friend, Eileen, is one of my heroes. She is a mom of 9 children - 3 biological, 5 legally adopted, and 1 heart-adopted.  Her heart-adopted son, Solomon, is an Ethiopian teen who was orphaned and sent to live in the Kolfe Orphanage in Addis Ababa at age 7.  In November 2007, Eileen, her husband, and daughter were in Addis to bring home their 3 adopted babies. They visited Kolfe Orphanage one day, and were delighted by the polite, attentive boys who gave them a tour of their home. One 16-year-old boy in particular stuck out to Eileen, and she gave him her email address when she left, encouraging him to write. He did, and that started an email relationship that blossomed  into Solomon becoming a heart-adopted member of the family!  For the last 2 1/2 years, Eileen has been in pursuit  of either a way for Solomon to make a living in Ethiopia or a way to bring Solomon here.  Several months ago, Eileen made an appointment to talk with the president of the Christian college here in town.  She explained how she met this young man, how he had come to know the Lord and His love through their correspondence and had applied himself to his studies, graduating top in his class last fall. The college president decided to give Solomon a full scholarship to come study  for the ministry, and issued him a student visa.  The last hurdle was for the American Embassy in Ethiopia to approve the visa. This was a BIG hurdle. Orphans are not considered good candidates for such things, and are routinely denied. All the paperwork was assembled.  Solomon had his interview at the Embassy and they said.... we'll call you in a few weeks to let you know.  WHAT?
That doesn't happen.  Pray pray pray pray pray.

Today the call came that Solomon's visa was approved, and he arrives in Raleigh on Wednesday!!!

There is going to be a PARTY at the airport.  Pictures will be coming.

Do you see God?  How else does this happen?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Projects Around the House

For good or for bad, home improvement projects have taken a back seat to ... well, everything else... for most of our marriage.  Mark doesn't really enjoy spending time working on the house or yard, but will do so when absolutely necessary.  I have grand ideas and dreams and visions of loveliness that usually involve major remodeling of some kind, but lack of funds pretty much keeps those dreams in my head.  A new  coat of paint, a ceiling fan, a throw rug... that's about the extent of our normal projects. But once in a while we decide to tackle something bigger, like last summer's decision to paint my kitchen cabinets, walls, and woodwork totally new colors! ( okay, that was definitely MY decision )   This summer we are considering pulling out the yucky, dirty, ripped beige carpet in the living room and den, and putting down hardwood floors!  Yesterday we got an estimate - ouch!  A little more than we anticipated, but still a possibility.  I'm starting to get excited!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dog Poop Brownies

While cleaning out my filing cabinet today, I came upon a copy of this story that is one of my children's FAVORITES! So I decided to share it with you, and maybe it will become a family favorite of yours too. :-)

One day a particular father was listening to his children make their case for permission to watch a PG-13 that all their friends were going to see. It featured their favorite actor. Some of their friends from church were going to see it. It was rated PG-13 just because of the suggestion of sex, but they never really showed anything. The language was pretty good, and the Lord's name was only spoken in vain 3 times in the whole movie! The special effects were fantastic, and the plot was action-packed. There was some violence, but just the normal stuff, and it wasn't that bad. The father listened to all this but still his answer was "No". The children were not very happy.

Later in the evening, this same father came into the room where his children were watching TV with a plate of homemade brownies. The children perked up and eyed the dark, chocolatey squares with smiles. That is until their father explained that he had taken their favorite brownie recipe and added a new ingredient - dog poop. He had only added a tiny bit, and the rest of the ingredients were top quality. He had taken great care to measure carefully and bake at just the right temperature to ensure they would be moist and chewy, just the way they liked them. As the children recoiled in disgust, the father acted surprised. He assured them that they probably wouldn't notice the dog poop at all. There was only one little bit in that big bowl of ingredients. He was sure they would taste just fine and not really harm them. Still, the children turned up their noses and refused to even touch the dog poop brownies!

The father then explained that the movie they wanted to see was just like the dog poop brownies. Satan tries to enter our minds and our homes by deceiving us into thinking that just a little bit of evil doesn't matter. Just as with the brownies, only a little dog poop made the difference between something great and something totally unacceptable.

From that point on, whenever those children asked to do or see something that was unacceptable, the father merely asked if they they would like some special brownies, and they didn't ask anymore.


Art Class : Watercolor

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coming to Terms with Reality

Cleaning out my pantry / craft closet is causing me to come to terms with the reality that... I don't have little children anymore.  We have graduated from Crayola watercolors and ALEX chunky paintbrushes to Windsor-Newton watercolor tubes and expensive brushes. My kids rarely use crayons anymore ( although my 22 yr old has her own Disney Princess coloring book and box of crayons ) The playdough tools, colored pipecleaners, popsicle sticks, toilet paper tubes, and tempera paint aren't getting much use anymore, so I guess it is time to clear those things out and replace them with the charcoal pencils, pastels, and grown up art supplies that we are using these days.  The matchbox cars and action figures can go up in the attic, to join the wooden train set, Bitty Baby doll, and dress up clothes.   My baby is almost 12 years old. I don't have little children anymore.   

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Lull

After such a crazy spring, I am enjoying a time of respite - just chilling out here at home! No classes to teach, meetings to run to, big events to coordinate....
I've been trying to organize, but that is such a slow process for me. I apparently have a big mental block when it comes to that and I have to organize in short spurts or I get very frustrated.  I'm trying not to just shuffle my clutter around into neater piles - LOL!   Today I'm working on my pantry and fridge.

I spent the last couple of days getting ready to order books & curriculum for the fall.  I have 3 "shopping carts" online ready to place orders -  Amazon, CBD, and Bookshelf Central - as soon as Mark's bonus hits the bank account.  :-)
I learned a lesson last year, that spacing out my book purchases throughout the year didn't work  because we ran out of paycheck before we ran out of month over and over again.  I struggled in the spring to get through our TOG year by piecing things together rather haphazardly.  I still plan to use the library a lot and substitute some books I already own for ones on the TOG book list, but there are  a number of core history and literature books that I need to have for both Amanda and Jason in order to be prepared for Co-op. I have found quite a few  from the Amazon used booksellers at reduced prices. Still, it adds up to a big chunk of change. 

Last night I went out with some of the ladies from our little church for a Moms' Night Out. We met at the Food Court at the mall at 7pm, and spent a couple of hours chit chatting and getting to know one another better, and finally left when we noticed we were the only ones in the place and the workers were patiently waiting for us to depart so they could shut off the lights and lock the doors!   Our church has a fellowship lunch every week after the worship service, but lots of the moms with little children are so busy supervising their brood that they don't have much time to talk.   

I am not a gardener, but I wish I was. :-/   I love the idea of gardening.  We live on a wooded lot without a lot of open, sunny space, so I didn't think vegetables would do very well. But we were given two little tomato plants about 6 weeks ago, so Mark found a somewhat sunny spot in the back yard, dug two holes and filled them with a bagged garden soil mixture, and stuck the plants in.   And now those 2 tomato plants are almost as tall as me!  There are several little green tomatoes on them, and I'm looking forward to eating a fresh, homegrown tomato salad later this summer!  Deer don't like tomatoes, do they?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer School

We do not do school on a year-round schedule, however we still do school in the summer. "Summer school" -  a more relaxed schedule of learning than during the "school year", but learning nevertheless.  At one time, we took the summers OFF.  I needed the break more than the kids did!  But now that I only have 2 children still at home  - and they are pretty self-sufficient -  I can give them a list of things to work on and still have time to do my school planning and closet cleaning and house organizing.  Otherwise there is a lot of laziness leading to boredom on their part, which isn't healthy for mind or spirit.  So we will be continuing the math that we haven't finished from this year, as well as working on writing and reading.  Jason will work on increasing his "tolerance" of reading, since he'll be moving up a level in TOG in the fall  and will have to read a lot more.   So I'm going to put together a basket of books for him  to choose from and have him read a minimum of 30 minutes, twice a day. I'll set up some kind of incentive for every X number of books he reads out of that basket - maybe an ice cream or time playing his Wii, since I am banishing all electronic entertainment during the week - TV, video games, computer games, iPod, even Odyssey CDs. Amanda will be reading some economics and worldview books as well as "fun reading".  She could read all day, but she prefers Francine Rivers and Nicholas Sparks to Francis Schaeffer and Richard Maybury. So maybe I'll need to come up with an incentive program for her too.  Although they are self-sufficient, if I want them to fill their time productively I'll have to be involved and attentive... even though it is summer.  No rest for the weary... I think the Bible says something about not growing weary in doing good...
Don't feel too bad for them.  I'm sure we'll still be able to fit in some time at the swimming pool.