Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sonflower Sisters

I'm a little late on this, but I wanted to let those of you with daughters know about Deb at As We Walk's fabulous new mother-daughter discipleship group, Sonflower Sisters.

She's been doing this locally for awhile, but has just begun offering the curriculum online for those who wish to join her. I'm waiting for your mother-son group, Deb!

Where to begin?

Whew! It's been another full week, but I really didn't mean to desert the blog. January has been blowing by like the winter winds, bringing changes and lots of learning.

We've made our exodus out of Egypt and across the Mediterranean for a study of Ancient Greece this week. Scott and the big boys have been enjoying "The Lightning Thief," the first book in the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series. It's already whet their appetites for Greek myths and history. The books I requested finally came in from the library, and we're all excited!


This morning we listened to the story of Perseus and the Minotaur and I took the boys to see our own local Labyrinth.


It's always nice to hear, "That was awesome, Mom."

Earlier in the week, we spent two days visiting friends in the mountains -- alas, we missed most of the snow. But the kids had a blast anyway, and the mommies got lots of chatting in. Scott and I have been contemplating a change in the underground structure of our homeschooling, after much cajoling encouragement by our enthusiastic friends. ;) More on that in another post, as nothing's confirmed yet anyway.


Back at home, the boys kept themselves pretty busy...


After two weeks of rain, the garden was begging for attention, so we headed out to clean up and weed. I also need to get some more seeds in the ground before it's too late for cool-season veggies. Winter arrives, and just as we start to enjoy the break from outdoor chores, spring is here demanding we get back to work!


In other big news, Middlest has begun violin lessons. He's spent the last two years with unwavering interest in learning the guitar, but never directly asking for lessons. And then, to my surprise, he asked for violin lessons a few weeks ago!

So, I've found a teacher who can do both, but he'll start with the violin. He was nearly glowing with excitement and anticipation this week, and has already practiced his homework three times since his first lesson ended 24 hours ago.


And today, both Eldest and Middlest have a belt ceremony for Kung fu, and are expecting to move up to green and second-degree orange, respectively.

Well, now I feel caught up. If you're still reading this, I know you must love us. ;)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's hip to be Perseus.


In case you hadn't noticed, Ancient Greece is cool again.

The 2010 Winter Olympics open on Friday night, of course. Those started in Greece, you know. (Homeschoolers, get your Olympics' unit study resources here, here and here.)

I picked up "Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome" from the library, and we'll probably do a project or two this week, and make a Greek feast for the Opening Ceremonies. The book includes sections on history, food, clothing, art, science and more. (If the library wants it back, they're going to have to race me for it!)

And, as if the Olympics, Valentine's Day, Chinese New Year, and Presidents Day weren't enough excitement for one weekend, "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," based on the first novel of the Greek-mythology-filled series, also opens on Friday!

Scott, Eldest and Middlest finished the book tonight and are SO excited to see the film. In the meantime, we're reading "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths." They love finding the connections between the original stories and the modern Percy Jackson version.

Memoria Press has an interesting article regarding whether Christians should study pagan myths, in case the idea bothers you. My boys are very clear about the "gods" being false gods, and simply characters in the Greek's stories.

The D'Aulaires book is a classic, filled with vivid storytelling and beautifully detailed illustrations. You can probably find it at your library, if it's not already checked out. You can even find literature guides to go with it, if you like, here and here.

I'm also planning to read the boys "The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy". If I tell them it's about a war, I have no doubt they'll sit and listen.

Scott's also anticipating the remake of the 1981 film "Clash of the Titans," which opens in March and also features the Greek demigod Perseus as its hero. It looks very intense, heavy on the digital monsters and lots of action.

I'll probably skip that one. Netflix has the original "Clash" on instant download, which will likely seem mild (dare I say, vintage?) in comparison.

So, yeah, two movies about Greek myths in the same season -- maybe filmmakers are taking their trend cues from classical homeschoolers. ;)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Makeover: The master bedroom

Our previous master bedroom was designed in the style of Dysfunctional Utilitarian.

This style became popular after the Romantic Period ended, during the era of The Family Bed, when rule of the Kingdom was stolen captured from the King and Queen by three Rowdy Boys who lacked alternative indoor space for dinosaur hunting, rodeo wrangling, alien tracking, and Naptime.

Prominent features of the style included dirty footprints on the walls, board books next to the bed, a mound of Clothing That No Longer Fits the Queen on the dresser, and cobwebs in the corners.

That was Before.

Then we switched bedrooms, ordered a real bed complete with headboard to hold our mattress, and a new bedspread -- with no marker stains!

We still share it with the Little Princes sometimes.


And sometimes the Rowdy Boys return to wreak their havoc...


and build their fortresses upon our land...


But generally, it's a refuge for the King and Queen again (mostly the Queen)...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fogerrific!


It may not snow here, but we've had our share of weather changes the last few weeks.

January began with chilly weather, but within a week the kids were out raking the leaves in shorts and t-shirts! A week of heavy fog followed, with the sun peeking out for just an hour or two in the afternoon.

This week it's windy and rainy -- very rainy for these parts, where the littlest sprinkling of water is considered news.

So, what better time to do a little weather experimenting?!


We followed these instructions (mostly) to create our own Fog in a Jar. I haven't found gallon canning jars, so I used quart-sized jars, which I have in plenty, and sandwich bags instead of gallon bags for the ice. That way each boy could do his own experiment.

It worked! Fogerrifically!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thinking of those in Haiti

Dear friends, in case you'd like to give to those helping in Haiti after the earthquake, I'm sharing two letters I've received with links to where you can send money.

The first is from my good friend Dominique, whose family, as a ministry, works directly with Heartline Ministries through Haitian Creations, distributing products made by the Haitian women in their women's program.

Dear Friends and Family -

Many of you know about our involvement with the people of Haiti, and
have been calling and emailing us to see if we know of the best
channel for those who want to send aid to this country to help provide
some relief from the recent earthquake. Funny you should ask...

The organization that we work with in Haiti, Heartline Ministries, is
run by some of the best people we have ever worked with in ministry or
out -- Their work represents decades of work in Haiti by people who
feel called to really help the people there - Heartline is more than
just an evangelical ministry. They are actively involved in helping
the Haitian people with their real, everyday needs, from medical care
to health and parenting classes, to orphan care.

The devastation has caused significant damage to the houses of both
the missionaries and the Haitian children and their caretakers who
live and work at Heartline. In addition, many of the facilities that
Heartline uses to provide essential aid and medical care to the
Haitian people have been damaged. We are working here in the US to
solicit donations directly to this ministry, so that they can begin to
rebuild and continue their service to the people of Port Au Prince.

The money sent to this ministry will go directly to the rebuilding
efforts. There is something exciting about sending money today,
knowing that literally tomorrow it will be used to buy a brick to
rebuild a house, or to buy medical supplies that could save someone’s
life. We appreciate your concern for the Haitian people, and hope
that you will join us in being part of this effort to rebuild.

Here is a link to the donations page:
http://heartlinemin istries.org/ micellaneousproj ects.aspx

You can follow the latest news on their blog at:
http://heartlinemin istries.org/ Blog20.aspx


We have given to World Vision for years, and also trust their work...
Dear Sponsor,

World Vision is rushing emergency supplies to thousands of people left homeless by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday. It is reported that up to 3 million people have been affected and current estimates indicate as many as 100,000 are feared to be dead or injured. Your help is needed now!

"We would be very concerned about a quake of this magnitude anywhere in the world, but it is especially devastating in Haiti, where people are acutely vulnerable because of poor infrastructure and extreme poverty," said Edward Brown, World Vision’s relief director.

World Vision has worked in Haiti for 30 years and has some 370 staff members on the ground. World Vision is distributing emergency survival kits — including food, water, blankets and tents — to provide immediate aid to affected children and families. We are also providing emergency health services to the injured.
Here is the link to donate to the World Vision Haitian Earthquake Fund.

The devastation is so severe, I can hardly bear to imagine what it must be like for those suffering right at this moment. Instead, I simply pray, and give from my abundance. I am so abundantly blessed it almost doesn't seem right in times like these.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Avoid burnout -- spend more time with your kids!

I wrote this post two months ago, and for some reason didn't publish it. But I think the theme is just as appropriate for January, when many of us are holed up snuggling in at home, trying to stay warm and appreciate each other's company after the busy-ness of the holidays.

Last week we had a minor cold that kept us from making big plans or socializing much. Instead, we found we had plenty to keep us busy. Sometimes it's nice -- as much as we love our friends -- to plan a little nothing. Or, rather, a little something with just each other.
"As contrary as it seems at first, the trick to avoiding burnout-- for me-- is more time with my children. It's important that the time isn't all frantic, rushed time. It needs to be focused time, time spent without the distractions of adult conversations and responsibilities. Children are rarely the cause of my burnout; working them in around the adults in my life is the cause of my burnout."
--Elizabeth Foss, Serendipity
Oh, her post is so lovely and true.

You may have noticed that every once in a while I neglect to blog for a week or more. Some weeks are just like that. I can't be everything to everyone, and I'm afraid the blog is often in last place. Except when I need it desperately for my own creative sanity!

I also have to be careful not to overdo our social commitments. As much as we love seeing our friends and doing all the fun things we do together, we have to have enough time to ourselves at home.

Even homeschool park days are too much sometimes. We make this big effort to drag our snacks, our water bottles, the sunscreen, the blanket, the sand toys... for an afternoon at the park, thinking the children will be entertained by the climbing toys, and we'll get to have some adult conversation.

But it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes the kids want us right by their side, or there's some playground trauma to be attended to. Conversation is interrupted just as it gets going. That was us at our last park day. Forty-five minutes into park day, and Eldest was ready to go home.

So, conversation continues with real life friends near and far... via e-mail and blogging. What would we do without the internet?!

Like I recently wrote to a dear friend of mine... this homeschooling business is a wild, exciting, nerve-wracking journey, and we need each other! Some days I feel like I'm going completely against my introverted nature to be homeschooling. I have to force myself to get out of my head and be present with my kids.

But I'm taking it one day at time, praying more, trying to be prepared for each day, whatever it might bring. I feel, ironically, like the more prepared I am for the road ahead, the more present I can be with the boys in each moment. I want to have a big picture in mind, to make conscious decisions about how we spend our time -- without getting locked into something when I really don't know what the future holds.

Right now I am trying to have a Bible verse on my recently-acquired whiteboard (yes, a whiteboard!) for the boys to find each morning, sometimes related to our plans for the day, sometimes just what I think we need to hear. It helps to keep my mind filled with God's Word, rather than my own.

If you're looking for things to do while stuck inside, check out this great list by Sarah of Small World about Combating January Blahs.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Warm food: Chicken with 40 garlic cloves


Garlic is one of my favorite nourishing foods -- and you can't get more garlicky than
Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves!

This dish turned my husband into slightly less civilized man -- he grunted and practically snarled as he devoured it. When his belly was full, and he felt human again, he told me smelling the garlic and chicken roast while having to wait for 45 minutes was agonizing.

Yum!

On a quest for nourishing winter food


During the warmer months, I load my kids up with vitamins via frozen fruit smoothies -- they're our favorite healthy, sweet snack.

But when the fog rolls in and the temperature drops, I just want to turn on the oven and bake something! So, we indulge in too many Christmas cookies -- accompanied by hot chocolate to warm up the boys' hands after playing outside.

This has not been so good for our health.

I finally took the kids to the doctor last week, since the cold they caught in early December still hadn't fully let go. Eldest's ears were plugged from sniffing up snot. And Middlest had near constant drainage out the front. Gross, yes.

I know it was our month-long indulgence in Christmas cookies that kept them from fighting off the winter cold. (Thankfully, we haven't been fluey this season.)

I need to find something besides cookies and hot chocolate to warm us up on chilly afternoons. I have several ideas, but I need to try them out first, so I can share recipes and responses with you.

In the meantime, we're laying low this week. Getting cozy on the couch with our books, finding our winter rhythm, and making time for rest.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What's Under That Log? Episode 1

This is so typical.

While I've been reading posts about making a bigger effort to get out in nature, and brainstorming prettier parks to visit, my kids have been exploring whatever bits of nature they can find in our urban neighborhood.

This afternoon, as the boys popped in the door after a brief excursion outside, I overheard something about "...another episode of 'What's Under That log?'" It seems they've been engaging in some regular independent nature study in the neighbor's yard, and giving it an imaginary game show title!

I asked if they wanted to film it for real, and, of course, they did.

video

Monday, January 04, 2010

Organize me: Going digital in 2010


Have you found a 2010 calendar you love yet?

Despite last week's cranky rant about the impossibility of simplicity at Christmastime, I really do appreciate being organized. I'm just a little slow about making it happen -- I suffer from Decision-making Peralysis Disorder.

I've admired, even downloaded, Donna Young's homeschooling forms and The Homeschool Mom's planner. And left them unused.

(The same went for my creative, but sadly ignored, magnetic calendar.)

I looked at this clever combo wall calendar/planner my cousin showed me, and the handy weekly planner/mousepad my sister uses.

I considered using an online curriculum planner like Homeschool SkedTrack or Edu-Track, and signed up for the free trial of the Simply Charlotte Mason online scheduler.

Since September, I've been using The Tanglewood Corebook to keep a record of what we're doing. It's pretty, and simple, and I could make up my own subjects, but it's not everything I need -- and it doesn't fit in my purse.

I really wanted something centralized where I could keep track of EVERYTHING -- homeschooling plans and records, appointments and events, chores and craft ideas, etc. And I want to be able to take it with me wherever I go without needing a backpack to carry it!

My friend Lauri and I have been coveting replacements for our overcrowded binder organizers and overloaded mama minds ever since another homeschooling mom friend pulled out her "external brain" (a Palm Pilot) and showed us how easy it was to use.


I'd been wary of something so small -- how could I see everything I need to on such a small screen? But, it really is possible to see the whole picture online. I started playing with Google's free online calendar, which can be synced with the iPhone or iPod Touch -- and loved it!

It was time to go digital. Both of our hubbies agreed to give us a shot at simplifying our lives (and theirs) by digitizing our calendars and to-do lists. Lauri got the iTouch, and I got the iPhone.

How blessed we are that this was even a possibility! And how goofy are we that we chose the same wallpaper without knowing it?!


So, I'm curious -- what kind of calendar/planner/organizer do you use? Low tech or high tech? Enormous, categorized binder, or the basic calendar on your phone? Stickies and notebooks scattered around the house, or a digitized system synched between your laptop and phone?

And... more importantly, does it work? Has it changed your life? Does it keep you from locking your keys in your car?

Ahem. Yes, the iPhone is cute, and very useful. But it is not so brainy that it calls out, "Stop! Don't close that door!" when you're about to lock it, along with your purse and keys, in the car.

Not that I would know that from personal experience or anything...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

New year, new groove

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven."
I don't know about you, but I was ready for 2009 to be over. I don't feel that way at the end of most years. But this was a challenging one for most people I know. And it wasn't just the economy, though that was certainly an issue.

My sister would say it's because the year of the Ox meant a lot of hard work and waiting for most people. Not that those things are necessarily bad. Just challenging.

Around here, 2010 looks to be a year for tying up loose ends, and putting plans into action. We began projects this year that need to be completed -- and we're getting so close!

Plus, we're hoping to finally get on the road with these rowdy boys this summer to go visit friends and family we haven't seen much lately. Let's just say we're feeling a little adventurous. Or, insanely braver than usual.

In the meantime, I'm trying to integrate lessons learned over the last few years. Lessons about the needs of my kids and myself, about how easily ideology and idolatry can cross paths, about letting go of labels and using the tools that work for us.

I'm finding comfort in the simple assignment of obeying the Holy Spirit. Simple does not mean easy, of course. My spirit is willing, but... well, you know.

So, no resolutions. Just one step forward at a time. I'd like to avoid doing what I did last January. Praise the Lord, I think I'm learning!

I think I'll start by going to bed on time. After all, tomorrow's the first day back to... um, paying attention to my kids instead of going out to coffee and playing with my new iPhone. Doh!
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