Friday, December 31, 2010

Bearing Witness to Blessing Part 4

Predictably, things haven't gone quite as we'd planned.  It's probably a very good thing that we aren't in charge of the Master plan and that we don't have all the details presented to us in advance.  We'd be too tempted to tinker with the parts we don't like and mess up any hope for a worthwhile resolution. 

The first part of our move went beautifully.  We managed the movers and got out of the house with only a few minor glitches. Namely, a lot of dog poop, a lost great dane and tons of cleaning. Those glitches did cause some tears and set backs but we pulled it together and were even on the road by 4pm on Wednesday, as scheduled.

The most heart breaking moment, other than locking the door for the last time, was watching K14 and her two best friends, standing in the mud and rain, holding each other and sobbing.  The pain of my children can break my most resolute heart.  We set out for our new home with a van full of odds and ends and five bruised hearts.  As I told H11, "Sad is okay.  We can all be sad together.  Turning sad into mad isn't okay.  Even if it makes you feel stronger." I think we'll all need to be reminded of sad versus mad over the next weeks.

On our way out of town, we stopped to pick up cash and the family dog.  The ATM receipt showed that we had a higher balance in our checking account than we ever, ever had before.  A sign that the old house had closed and that we were officially homeless.  The rest of the trip to our new home was long and, at times, tearful, but uneventful.  I said a prayer of thanksgiving that is was over and went straight to bed.

Thursday morning brought fresh disappointment.  The new house didn't close.  The mortgage company was unable to give us a new closing date.  They have processes, you know.  The day stretched before us with nothing to do.  No home to move into.  No plan. 

We went shopping.  Kohl's was having a sale.  I had pre-Christmas Kohl's dollars. Everyone got to buy something they wanted but didn't need.  Three pairs of jeans, four shirts, three pairs of leggings and two Star Wars action figures cost us $28.  We love Kohl's. 

We only wish the grocery shopping had been as cheap!  We are staying with friends until Saturday so we felt the need to provide the New Year's Eve party food.  We let M6 and S8 push the tiny kids carts.  We filled them to the top with party food, shrimp, sodas, champagne and strawberry cream cheese.  Not our normal shopping routine by any means.  Three pizzas from Little Caesar's gave us another positive moment in our unexpected day. 

After getting the kids to bed last night, R and I sat down and discussed our options.  What looked bleak at the beginning of the conversation turned into blessing after blessing and prayers of thanksgiving by the end.  God is so good and taking a moment to recognize the goodness, especially when the circumstances are unexpected, is an exercise worth doing. 

We have exactly what we need, it may not be what we wanted or what we thought we needed, but we have EXACTLY what we NEED, and then some.  And then quite a bit more.  Our things are taken care of.  We have food, shelter and clothing.  We will be spending next week in a hotel, with a pool.  We were even able to find a store that had bathing suits for sale!  The hotel allows animals.  It serves breakfast.  It has connecting rooms.  It has weekly rates.  Our plan B is God's plan A and we are blessed.

We'll be spending tonight celebrating the New Year with friends who feel like family.  We'll be missing the friends that we've celebrated with over the past years and pray that we are able to celebrate together in the future.  We will be praying for all our friends and family tonight.  Our prayer will be that God will reign down blessing on all and give eyes to truly see those blessings as they appear.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pulling the Plug

Yesterday, in the middle of a conversation with my mother, I ran out of words. The bone weariness of change and coping met the limits of my mind and body and I sagged in my chair unable to think or speak.  Thankfully, inhaling deeply and sitting up straight solved the problem. This is day three of our move, the official day three.  I feel as if we've been moving for months and months now but others recognize the arrival of the moving truck as the official starting place.

Whenever this move began, today we take it to a new level.  Today is the day that we pull the plug.  The computer is being boxed today.  Everything will be moved out of the house and loaded on the truck and the truck will drive away.  There's no going back now. 

We will still be here tomorrow, cleaning, running final errands and saying goodbye.  We'll probably head out around 4pm for our new home.  Closing there is Thursday morning.  Furniture and things to be delivered on January 3.  Out with the old, in with the new.  In a bigger way than ever before.

this is the promise that I carry: 
For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
(Nehemiah 8:10)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Moving Day #1

The day after Christmas is not the day I would have picked to begin our move but, like it or not, this is the day.  I am so thankful that I have this assurance from Psalms 118:24: 
This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The blessings continue to unfold.  Our neighbors across the street needed a dog sitter from today until Thursday and we needed a place to stay while the move is happening.  Two needs taken care.  Our dog sitter is more than happy to keep our dog while the movers are here.  One less worry.  We'll see him on Thursday morning.  We've seen a steady stream of friends picking up things we don't need to move for the benefit of those that they know in need. 

As I sit in the midst of boxes, I'm trying to keep the rejoice part of my assurance in mind.  I have loved my life here in this house.  I'm taking the essential things with me.  I'm also leaving some important things and people that I love behind.  I have confidence that this move will provide a wealth of new experiences and new people.  Taking time to rejoice about what we've known and what we can only imagine is a happy-sad exercise.  Above all, I know that this is the day that the Lord has made for me and this is the path that we follow in our effort to glorify God.  I stand confident that the joy will be given in abundance.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tradition: Winter Solstice and Christmas Adam

We are right in the middle of  Christmas week and I am so enjoying my favorite traditional celebrations.  In the last few months our lives have been changing and somewhat uncertain.  In the midst of job changes, listing our home, house hunting and preparing to move, it's lovely to have tradition to mark the time as special.  Just a month or so ago we thought we'd be celebrating this holiday season in a different place.  Being here for Christmas feels we've been given an extra special gift.

We held our Winter Solstice party, December 21, as normal this year, inviting friends, family and, basically, everyone we meet or have ever known.  This is our eleventh year celebrating with those we love in this way.  The menu is always different, the guest list grows and the guests change but our desire to share our home and make people feel special remains the same.  This year over 40 friends, neighbors and relatives came to celebrate with us.  It was the first year that we've had relatives join us!  My sister and her children came.  Our families are so far flung having my sister here was an extra special treat. 

It was a bittersweet night.  There's a for-sale sign in our yard.  The moving van will be here December 26-29.  For so many of these friends, it was our time to say goodbye.  Inviting them in, giving them food and drink, telling them how much they mean to us seemed like a perfect offering of my time and talents.  We laughed.  We cried. It was a great night.

Today, December 23, we celebrated Christmas Adam.  Christmas Adam is our time for family celebration.  We celebrate Christmas Adam by being together, eating together and doing our Christmas shopping together.  We began Christmas Adam many years ago to save my sanity and our pocketbook while still enabling the children to buy gifts for each other and for us. 

We go out to lunch together and then head to the dollar store for our shopping extravaganza.  Each child buys for all their siblings and each parent.  Part of the fun is the spy like behavior trying to get through the store and to check out without revealing the presents.  The other joy if finding just the right, unexpected thing for each and every person in the family. 

As we were leaving for lunch today, we got a call from our realtor letting us know that the closing on our new home had been scheduled for December 30 at 4pm.  That call gave us an extra something to celebrate!  We laughed our way through lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant ordering the things we always order when we go there.  Shirley Temples for the children, cheese quesadilla for M6, tacos de carne asada for S8 and M11, shrimp quesadilla for K14 and fajitas and margaritas for R and me. 

Full of food and cheer, we were ready to face the crowds at The Dollar Tree.  This year everyone was old enough that R and I were able to stand by the registers while the children shopped.  M6 only needed help one time retrieving something on a shelf that was out of her reach.  Each child found just the right gift for everyone on their list and we all left the store with our loot and lots of "You are going to LOVE what I got you!" comments.

Tomorrow will be a special day, full of anticipation and joy but those are traditions we share with so many others.  Common ground is lovely but those special days that we've claimed for our family are what make memories that are just for us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Turn Off the Faucet

Twice in almost as many days I've become a fountain.  The first occasion occurred when my friend J dropped off her son for the boys' last sleepover before our move.  I was managing my emotions (stuffing them as deep down as possible) until P disappeared as quickly as he got into the house and Jill tried to get him to come back saying, "But I wanted to be sure I got a picture of you guys."  Cue water works.

Today, it was our last Sunday at church.  I pray that those there understood that I was overwhelmed not rude.  Okay, maybe overwhelmed but rude.  I had to leave for a bit or sob uncontrollably. 

I can hardly wait to see what the rest of this week brings.  As we move closer to our farm and tears seem to spring forth unbidden and unwelcome, I hope this verse becomes true in my life:

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. 
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.  
-Psalm 126:5-6

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Recap 12/13-12/17/10

In light of my until-the-new-year resolutions, I will count this week as a good one.  To illustrate my new  outlook on homeschool (at least until the second week of January), I offer exhibit A.

Exhibit A - my children and their friends in the house today
Today was supposed to be our last day of school before the Christmas break.  Clearly, my house is too full to have a school day and I am so blessed by each and every extra body.  This is the third snow day this week.  We've managed to fit school in around a very busy week of house inspections, paperwork, phone calls and extra time with friends.  Today, I'm happy to make cookies and soak in the time with my children and their friends.  I may slide in a review of our geometry terms while we decorate cookies but I'll try to keep it to that.  And I'll be laughing and smiling as often as possible.

I do want to put a plug in for the advent study we are using.  We got a late start but the children have all been ASKING for me to keep reading.  I've never had that happen before with any type of devotional book.  We haven't finished it and I'm not ruining the story by reading ahead but, at this time, I think everyone of us would give two thumbs way up to Bartholomew's Passage.  This book has helped me keep the resolution about reading aloud as much as possible. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Saying Goodbye

We've begun the process of lasts and of saying goodbye.  Last week was our last session at Community Bible Study.  Tonight was the last time I'll play bunco with my long running bunco group.  Tomorrow will be the last sleepover for my son with his two best friends.  A list of lasts and goodbyes stretches out before us.  The last trip to the orthodontist, the last trip to Graeter's for ice cream, the last time we go to our church.  Some lasts have already passed us by and we didn't even realize it.  We didn't know we needed to say goodbye to the dentist or the doctor during our last visit.  We didn't celebrate our last trip to the lake or to the ski slopes. 

My children aren't as aware of the goodbyes as I am.  They enjoy each moment and don't spend a lot of time thinking about lasts.  That's a gift and I'm hesitant to mark the lasts for them. I want them to savor each moment without the sadness.  Enjoying the present without feeling the loss is a great thing. 

I spent a few hours in my neighbor's home earlier today wrapping the Christmas gifts that she let me stash in her spare room.  I was there alone and the house was quiet.  It was such a blessing to have that time, to wrap and think about my children and the blessings we've had in this place.  After my neighbor arrived home, we enjoyed a glass of wine and some quiet conversation.  Even as I soaked up her home and her company, I felt the sense of loss.  She felt it too. 

This is my least favorite part of moving.  Each goodbye reminds me of slowly peeling away a band-aid.  It would be so much easier to just give it a good yank and be done with it.  I know the next two weeks are going to be even harder.  Some goodbyes are going to hurt way more than ripping a band-aid.  There are neighbors and best friends that will remain in our hearts if not in our lives.  Those goodbyes are going to leave a mark.  And they should.  The people that matter to us should leave their mark in our lives.  We hope we will leave a mark in theirs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Resolutions Until the New Year

Today, I spent a large part of my day proving that the cold water in the left sink of the master bath worked.  I also dealt with an appraiser, three realtors, two insurance people, our moving coordinator, our loan coordinator and the director of the soon-to-be-local farm extension.  I sent e-mails, talked on the phone and answered questions from all of the above and my husband.

What I really should have done today is teach.  I should have done math and science with H11, S8 and M6.  I should have read a few more chapters in our advent book.  I should have helped them complete another history lesson. 

For the past two months (who am I kidding?!) FOUR months, our schooling has not been what I'd hoped.  We are getting the majors and sometimes doing the fun things but so much is just sliding.  The littles are not suffering.  M6 is learning to read and her math skills improve daily.  S8 is amazing.  He's conquered multiplication and division.  He loves to read and history is his favorite subject.  They learn new things every minute and if I don't teach them, they teach each other.  The biggers are probably feeling like they've won the jackpot.  My expectations are high but my enforcement is low.  As long as they keep their heads down and I stay distracted, as I have been since August, they have little to do.  H11 is a writer so she writes and reads, willingly.  She'd be happy with books and paper to the exclusion of all else.  On many days lately, she's been living her dream.  K14 is on again and off again.  She's listened to all of Augustine's Confessions.  We've worked through the first 30+ chapters of The History of the Medieval World.  She's completed the first section of Analytical Grammar.  My daughter, who couldn't tell me what a noun or verb was at the beginning of the year last year, is now a master at sentence structure. Physical Science and Latin are limping along from lack of a motherly push.  Again, my distraction working to her advantage. 

I know that being hard on myself is not to my advantage.  Taking myself to task and finding fault in the handling of my children's educations makes me want to go crawl back in bed.  So much of what is occupying my time and attention these days is not rewarding in the slightest.  I haven't gotten a single word of affirmation from any of the realtors, inspectors or coordinators that make demands upon me.   Refusing to give myself a break is not loving or helpful.

To combat this negative attitude, I'm making some resolutions.  These resolutions begin now and last until the new year:  I will acknowledge and be thankful for each bit of learning that is done, even if I haven't done the teaching and the teaching is not intentional.  I will recognize the value of flexibility and use it to my advantage rather than bemoan the fact that things refuse to be routine and scheduled.  I will read to my children as often as possible and will say that it is enough, for now.  I will help my children celebrate the birth of our Lord in a way that focuses on the gift and the sacrifice and the people we love.  I will refrain from beating myself up for not doing more and being more.  I will laugh at every opportunity and smile even more often than I laugh. 

My hope is that with the new year we will find a more peaceful and productive place.  I also pray that with the new year, I retain the lessons that I am struggling to learn at this time and in this place.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Snow Day Dilemma

One of the most joyous things that I remember growing up was the anticipation of a snow day.  Rising to see if the forecast was correct and snow had saved us from school.  Snow, playing it's perfect role, as hero of the day.  I struggle with how to recreate that feeling of freedom now that I'm homeschooling my own children. 

I woke this morning to a snow day.  The local schools had cancelled classes.  No buses were running.  Snow was the hero.  Unfortunately, there was not enough snow to really go out and play in it.  There was no real reason for us to cancel our classes.  We scrapped our plan to go to a local museum.  If it wasn't safe for buses it seemed foolish  to climb in the car and try the roads.  Yet, having school as usual seemed like a cruel trick on a snow day.  Especially a snow day that had cancelled a field trip.

Instead, I let the children sleep late.  We started our Advent study.  We cleaned the house for the home inspection at 1pm.  We listened to the end of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma that we've been enjoying so much.  We played Yahtzee.  We practiced music.  We popped popcorn and watched movies.  It wasn't a full day of rigorous school work.  It wasn't a total waste either.  It was a snow day and I hope that my children remember snow days as being something out of the ordinary even when school takes place at home.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Message of Christmas?

Today we attended a nearby church, not our regular church but one closer to home. This happened to be the week the congregation performed their annual Christmas play which included a Santa theme, along with the message of Christ's birth.

Coming from a more traditional background, I prefer musical cantatas to holiday plays.  Truthfully, I really prefer that Santa stay out of church.  I think the meaning of Christmas faces enough challenges  in today's mass media society.  It's not the responsibility of our churches to preach the gospel according to Santa.  I prefer my Christmas story, especially in church, to focus exclusively on Christ.

The story being told by the program was entertaining and it did relay the message that Christ is an important part of Christmas.  After all, they had the main authority of Christmas giving Christ an endorsement.  In the congregation, the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, got plenty of opportunity to enjoy the performances of their elves, shepherds, angels and lambs.  The production was a diverting showcase of talent and participation.

After the play, the church continued with the normal business of Sunday as represented by the serving of communion and the collecting of offering.  I have to admit that I laughed out loud, a laugh of disbelief and astonishment, when I saw Santa and Mrs. Claus carry the communion plates to the front of the church.  Santa and the Mrs., along with others still in costume, proceeded to serve communion.

I'm still in confused shock over the bread and body of Christ being distributed by Santa.  If I'm finding it hard to get my head around the picture, I wonder how the children present are coping.  I think more than anything I'm sad.  I'm sad that Santa is so much a part of Christmas that seeing him serve communion didn't cause distress.  I'm sad that Santa who is not real, is more believable than God/Christ, who is.  I'm sad that the Christian world can't figure out a way to celebrate Christmas without calling on Santa to provide the fun.  I'm sad that there is a world full of people who have such little awareness of the sacrifice that Christ made and so, passing the plates that represent that sacrifice is just a job for Santa or his elves.

Above all, today has made me aware of the necessity of teaching my children carefully.  There is no room to think that someone else will be proclaiming the message of Christ to them.  It is my job and I am to take it seriously.  The message of Christmas is mine to proclaim.  I pray that my message, to my children and to all, will be clear. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.     -John 3:16-17

Weekly Recap 12/6-12/10

I've got nothing.

That's not quite true but that's how it feels.  We've slogged through the normal stuff but most of my mind and half my time has been taken up with house paperwork.  Selling, maybe buying.  The head space required is enormous and not leaving much for schooling.

We did bake four kinds of cookies and made seven large tins and five small tins to give to various neighbors, teachers and friends.

H11 says it was a normal week.  Nothing great happened and nothing bad happened.  I guess we'll continue to count down for Christmas.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

Jeanne Birdsall won a National Book Award for her first book, The Penderwicks.  When I read that book I was drawn into a family and was taken back to the books I'd loved in my childhood, Betsy and Tacy, Laura Ingalls, Rebecca of Sunnybrook, Ann of Green Gables.  The stories I loved as a child described the simple acts of a day in a way that created a connection and a feeling of belonging.  Ms. Birdsall masterfully recreates that connection and sense of belonging and introduces us to a new family to love.  While her stories are set in more modern times, the activities, feelings and emotions are timeless.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street reintroduces us to the Penderwick family in their home without burying us in unnecessary back story.  Ms. Birdsall does an excellent job of reconnecting us with her characters and reminding us of why we enjoyed them so much the first time around.  She sets the pace, slow but steady, and gives us conflict that is just enough to keep the story moving but not enough to make us feel uncomfortable.  Ms. Birdsall captures a simple rhythm that throws off the media frenzy of gloom and doom and reminds us that the most important things are the ones that happen with and to the people we love.

One of the most pleasant aspects of these books is the portrayal of adults.  Too often adults in children's literature are inept, stupid or evil.  Very seldom do the adults provide anything but a comic relief or villainy. The majority of adults in the Penderwick books provide a picture of reasonable adult behavior in which adults engage with children in a loving and respectful way. It's lovely to read a story where the family is a place of love and safety.  It's also worthwhile to hear of the struggles between real values and difficulties with upholding those values.   While the Penderwicks live in an idyllic world, they are not perfect, and because of their struggles, failures and triumphs we can enjoy them all the more.

I highly recommend both of The Penderwick novels.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Buying the Farm

We've done it.  After talking and dreaming and discussing, we've bought the farm.  Literally.  I'm hoping we are much more successful in this venture than the figurative meaning of our action might present. 

Very soon, we will be owners of acres and outbuildings and a barn.  I'm excited and terrified.  In my mind, I see beautiful pastures and dark brown soil.  I see children running in fields and playing in a creek and falling laughing in the grass.  My fears taunt me with mud and cold and responsibility and complaints and never, ever being able to do anything fun again because the tractor or the horse or the land requires all that we have to give.

I think moving to the farm in the winter is a good thing.  I'm praying that learning to walk to the car in the garage away from the house will help toughen us.  Baby steps.  We'll have time to plan for the future with the raw materials in front of  us.  We'll be able to spend the next few months meeting neighbors, asking questions and preparing for the spring.  We'll be getting to know our extension agent on a first name basis.  We'll learn about our soil properties and our options for planting.  We'll discuss the grapes and the bees and the goats and make informed choices.  One at a time.

The best part is that we'll be doing it as a family. We all have dreams and visions for the white house farm.  It will be an adventure to be sure.  We are all ready and eager for an adventure that we can undertake as a family.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bearing Witness to Blessing Part 3

We are here again.  Waiting still.  An offer has been made on our house and we've accepted it verbally.  The relocation company has received their paper work.  We've called the movers.  It's all feeling VERY familiar.

If things move forward as scheduled, such an infinitely big IF, then we'll be leaving our home between Christmas and New Year's.  As of this moment, we don't have any certain knowledge of exactly where we'll be going.

This is what I do know....all my needs are, and will continued to be, supplied.  My part in all this is just to bear witness to the blessings that are ever present and wait to see what will happen next.  No matter what happens, it's going to be good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Offer

Waiting with breath held
Will it or won't it happen
The white house waiting

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekly Recap 11/29-12/3/10

This week was a really good one.  We got almost everything done that we were suppose to do and most of it was done without much pain and anguish.  Everyone is on track, for the most part, and enjoying learning, even me.  I'm still struggling with keeping H11 and K14 up to pace but after reviewing our schedule, we aren't as far behind as I was afraid we were.  Science is the most challenging right now but I've got a plan for catching up and I think we'll be able to pull it off without much strain.

I'm just going to hit the highlight of today because today was a reminder of the reason that we are homeschooling. 

We've been learning about castles, knights and samurai this week.  Today we watched the PBS documentary Castle by David Macaulay.  After watching and talking about the program, we sat down to write and illustrate haiku.  Even after the initial groan from S8, who hates to write but loves to draw, we ended up with some excellent illustrations and poetry.

I think what was most precious was that everyone was learning together, we had fun and we were all able to share our excitement and joy.  These moments are priceless.

Walls high overhead
Neighbors living side by side
Lords and ladies in charge

Murder holes above
Knights and soldiers clashing sounds
In the castle yard

Kind and generous
Beautiful inside and out
Kingdom's true beauty

Killing, farming, fun
Working hard for everyone
Labor for the king

Deck the Halls... fa la la la la.....


Our youngest niece sporting her colors.  We aren't sure how her Michigan relatives feel about this.

Chips and Kick-butt Dip certainly can't hurt our team.

Quality family time watching the game.  Even Buckeye (yes, our dog!) is eager to join in the fun.

A win for Ohio State on Saturday made our Thanksgiving holiday even more festive.

Thanksgiving 2010

Making the final preparations on a wonderful meal.

Nineteen members (10 adults and 9 children) of K & S's family gathered to give thanks. 

My carnivore and his favorite Thanksgiving tradition.

Enjoying the after dinner lull with family.

Giving Thanks for Change

In 2005, my long-standing Thanksgiving tradition was turned upside down with the death of my Grammy.  For the previous, well, ever Thanksgiving had been held at Grammy and Grampy's house.  Even after going away to college then getting married, no matter where I'd been living at the time returning to Grammy and Grampy's for Thanksgiving had been a requirement.

In 1996, we'd flown from Houston, TX to introduce our oldest daughter to my grandparents for the first time at Thanksgiving.  It was our last visit with my Grampy.  We returned a few weeks later for his funeral.  My sisters and mother stayed with Grammy through the holidays to comfort and lend a presence. 

After Grammy's death in October of 2005, it really didn't occur to me that Thanksgiving would be that different.  We'd always gathered together, the house was still there.  Of course, we'd be at Grammy's for Thanksgiving.  

My mother cancelled Thanksgiving that year.  After hours and days and weeks of tears, I struggled to figure out how to give thanks in a different place without the people for whom I am most thankful.  I started, as I so often do, by praying and buying lots of wine.  I invited people that I could stand to fail in front of to join us for dinner and began fashioning a new Thanksgiving tradition.  All the while I was prying my tightly gripping fingers from the old traditions that I had never intended to foresake. 

I'll admit, that first year was the hardest.  There was enough laughter, fellowship, food and wine to ease the transition.  I still longed for a family Thanksgiving but from that year I understood that family didn't necessarily mean blood and tradition didn't necessarily mean duplicate.

This year, we spent our Thanksgiving in a hotel, with a really cool water park and had a ton of fun visiting with my sister, brother in law, nephew, neices and my brother in law's family. 
Five years ago, I would never have been able to enjoy such a treat.  I would have only been able to see what was missing and try to cope with the loss.  This year, I was able to enjoy each and every minute of being thankful for all that I've been given.

Sometimes thanksgiving really has nothing to do with turkey.  Sometimes it takes years to understand that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Review: The New Good Life

John Robbins set out, according to his subtitle, to tell us how to live better than ever in an age of less.  His life story plays heavily into his definition of better living and adds interest and understanding of Robbins' perspective and ideals.  By helping us understand our money type and explaining the steps of financial freedom Robbins sets us on the road to a new life.  He then helps us understand how our current life is less than best and what we can do to improve our lives according to his standards. 

Robbins calls for a return to a simpler time.  He is an advocate of all things green.  His book is a trumpet call for reducing our carbon footprint as a way to redefine what is  good.  According to Robbins, good is no longer defined by material possessions or means.  Good is defined by taking care of the environment and, as an extension, ourselves.  It's what we do not what we have that counts in this new good life.

Much of what Robbins says is common sense.  We do need to learn the difference between wants and needs.  Eating low on the food chain is a healthy choice.  Children are expensive.  However, his rationale for making change is not always so clear.  His choice of good assumes that everyone will be happier if they adopt his definition.  It also assumes that his personal choices are the good choices. 

I found the chapters on eating and cleaning to be the most helpful.  I've made some steps in those areas so affirmation and ideas for further progress were appreciated.  The chapter about children was the least helpful and was borderline offensive.  As with all self-help books, I'll take the good and move on.  I do agree with Robbins that, as a nation, our method of determining success by Gross National Product (GNP) is a misleading and dangerous standard of measurement.  Also, thanks to Mr. Robbins I'll be taking some time to learn more about Bhutan. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bearing Witness to Blessing Part 2

During part 1 of this post, we were waiting with expectation for an acceptance of the offer on our dream farm.  In a morning, Wednesday morning to be exact, everything changed. 

The offer on our home was withdrawn and R and I spent much of Wednesday praying and talking about what our next step needed to be.  We both believe that this farm is the right place for us.  We also both believe that making a financial commitment on two houses is not in our best interest.  We've done that before, it was really, really hard.  We are in a better financial place, we could do it.  Unfortunately, with maturity comes the realization that just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.  R and I have come a long way.  Even now, sometimes the mature choice is really not the choice we want to make.

We spent this weekend under self-induced stress.  Time spent apart and disappointment over the loss of our sale took their toll.  We didn't manage to talk out our frustrations and find a place of mutual support until the weekend was almost over.  Even this is a blessing.  Many couples are never able to talk out their frustrations and find support. 

In all the confusion and sadness, I keep coming back to this God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.  - Phillipians 4:19

Perhaps that beautiful piece of property with the lovely white house will be the way God chooses to supply all my needs.  It's possible that my needs will be supplied in a totally different manner.  I do know that God is aware of my needs and that they are being supplied.  I just have to wait and see what happens next.  I also know that I don't need to wait idly. 

I am waiting with anticipation and trying to live out this verse... Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  - Phillipians 4:6

Weekly Recap 11/15-11/19/10

This week has been full of emotion and, as a result, the review was especially hard to accomplish.  Thankfully, there were no house showings and we had an opportunity to remember our blessings by participating in Operation Christmas Child.  If you are interested you can see that activity here

On the academic front we progressed on course in all subjects.  We even found time for extra Viking reading,
a special Viking project with Dad

and the opportunity to build our own barometer.


Operation Christmas Child 2010

We were blessed to host an Operation Christmas Child shoe box party again this year.  With having our house listed for sale, I found myself, perhaps counterproductively, praying that there would be no showings on Wednesday or Thursday.   The children and I set up tables and sorted through items on Wednesday then hosted our friends for a box stuffing extravaganza on Thursday evening.  Here are some of the highlights from the preparation, event and drop off. 

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We packed 66 shoe boxes this year.  God has blessed us in so many ways.  Hosting this event and giving a small portion of what we've been given is the beginning of our holiday season.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks Grandmomma & Grandpap

Yesterday, I posted this picture for Wordless Wednesday.  It's my children wearing their newest set of holiday clothes.  My parents are a blessing to me in so many ways.  This week they've blessed me, as they do every Thanksgiving and Easter, by providing beautiful new clothes for each of my children.  Each holiday, a box arrives with a new dress outfit for each of my darlings and I don't have to do anything but enjoy.  I can think of no better gift my parents could give me.

You see, I'm not a shopper.  I don't love stores.  I've learned to cope with them but would rather take four children to the grocery store than one child to the clothing store.  In fact, I'd rather take four children to the grocery store than go clothing shopping alone.  It's that miserable for me.  I don't like looking for something, trying on, purchasing.  The entire process is painful to me.

My parents, knowing this, use the talents they have and take joy in picking an outfit for each of their grandchildren.  They shop at places that are easy for us to make exchanges is sizes or colors happen to be wrong.  They rarely are.  My parents love a sale.  They love the thrill of the hunt.  They love me.  They love their grandchildren.  Each dress and tie through the years reminds us all of their love.  We are, literally, clothed in it.

I wonder how I will show my love to my grandchildren.  Unless something changes drastically, it probably won't be in the form of new clothes.  Perhaps, my love will be displayed as my Grammy displayed hers, in baked beans, potato salad, pepperoni rolls and apple dumplings.  Or maybe I'll be more like my Grandmother and show my love with cereal boxes of their choice opened from the bottom because figuring out which way is up is a silly waste of time when either end works just as well.  However my love is displayed, I know my grandchildren and my children will be loved and will be aware of my love.  I've had some great role models.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Working Together for Good

I spoke to a dear friend last night.  In the past six months she has gone through a divorce, a move and a job change.  Now, she is  losing her father to stage four cancer.  It is devestating.  The blessing?  Earlier this year, before his diagnosis, my friend moved back to the area where her father lives.  Instead of living half way across the country from her father, my friend is now able to visit with him daily.  She's there for the good days and the bad.  She is able to be there for her mother and for her father.  These are moments she may not want to live but I am certain she will never regret the fact that she was able to be there instead of hearing about the struggles over the phone.

I have another friend who was in a car accident earlier this year.  She was on her motorcycle and hit by a drunk driver.  At first, it was doubtful she'd live, then function normally, then walk.  Today she is back at her dog sitting business though she only takes five dogs (!!!) at a time.  The tragedy and following blessings are easier to see.

I read reports about famine, devestation in Haiti and all kinds of difficulties and I'm left wondering where the blessing is.  In my own situation right now, I find the blessings raining down.  Once we began to pray for a stable family life, R was able to find a new job quickly.  Our move is going so much better than I ever expected.  For me, God is good.  What about for others?

Then is occurs to me that the questions I've been getting from friends indicate that my situation may not look like a blessing on the outside.  I am moving for the tenth time in twenty-one years.  My husband left a perfectly good job and is making us all uproot ourselves.  We are going to a rural area, even more rural than the one we are in.  I have four children.  I homeschool.  Many people looking at my life from the outside would judge me to be bereft of blessing.  They probably even judge me to have lost my mind. 

The difference seems to be in perspective, not outside looking in but blessed and seeking blessings.  I know that God has a purpose and a plan for me and that God's plan, no matter what it is, is for good.  God has enabled me to see through the eyes of one that is blessed and when I use the blessing vision I've been given, I am able to glimpse a bit of the vast goodness God desires for each of us.  The blessings aren't always found at first glance but they are worth searching for.  The effort of recognition makes the blessings all the more valuable.  God's plans may not be mine and I may not understand God's plans but I am a part of those plans.  I have chosen and been chosen and that is for good.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.   - Romans 8:28

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bearing Witness to Blessing

Things have picked up speed in the last few weeks and I don't want to miss the opportunity to breathe in deeply and thank God for the blessings we have been witness to during this time of change.

After a crazy year of R's almost non-stop traveling, we are moving toward living together as a family.  We aren't there yet but we are moving in the right direction.  The process began in August with several job possibilities and culminated in a job change.

On October 15, R returned from Australia after a month in Brisbane.  He had one final week at work. We began laboring in earnest to get the house ready to sell.  On October 25, R was unemployed until he began his new job on November 1.  We listed our house for sale on October 29.  The listing went public on the MLS on November 2.

R left for his new job on October 31 and started his new job on November 1.  We had house showings on November 4, November 6, November 10, November 11 and November 14.  We had three offers for the house, two of them full price, by November 14. 

On November 2, the children and I traveled to our new area to look at houses with R.  We'd looked at more than 15 houses during previous trips.  None of them were our house.  R and I looked at five houses on Sunday with no winners.  The children and I looked at five houses on Monday and fell in love.  R looked at the same house on Tuesday and came back with a list of concerns about the home the children and I had started calling "The White House".  We were crushed.  Thursday, he went to look at the house again and returned dreaming dreams.  By Friday, we were in agreement on the house.

After accepting an offer for our house on Monday, November 15, we put in an offer on the dream that God is growing in us.  The White House Farm. If all goes well, we will be moving in time to put a Christmas tree up in our new living room. 

These past few weeks have taught me a lot about what is mine and what is not.  They have also taught me about being specific and asking.  The last time we moved, I was angry about the house.  I was angry that something so precious to me wasn't precious to all.  I felt that I wasn't being compensated for the love and devotion I'd given the house and I felt cheated by potential buyers.  I totally lost perspective in the process of giving up something that I felt belonged to me.

With this move, I've been able to recognize that the house I live in is not mine.  It is God's house and it is God's gift to me.  I love this house because it shows the generous nature of my Heavenly Father.  I know that there is nothing here to cling to or feel resentful about because it's all a good gift.  When we move this home will be God's blessing to another family.

This time I've been praying very specifically about this move.  R and I began to pray about the amount we wanted for the house.  The first offer we received was for that exact amount.  The second and third offers were for more.  God has a way of giving us what we never dare ask for.  I've also been praying for a specific time frame, feeling bold and brassy all the while.  God must have chuckled as my prayers for within three months turned into within three weeks.

The final prayer that we've added during this move has been a prayer for the family that is going to move into our house.  That family has been prayed over daily for more than a month now.  I only hope I get to hear, someday, how the move and the house has been a blessing from God to them.  It's been our prayer and I have every confidence that God has heard it.

During our last move, I had a very difficult time seeing potential in new houses because I looked at them through the filter of what I was giving up.  Again, I spent a lot of time feeling the loss of my possession rather than the joy of what was to come.  Even in my stubbornness, God provided a beautiful home here. 

My prayer for house hunting this time has been that God would allow me to see our new home without the filter of the old.  That I would be given clear vision and a sure knowledge of the blessings to come.  God was gracious and I didn't spend a single moment feeling regretful or short changed as we looked at new houses.  Our new life is going to be much different from the life we are leaving here.  I can't wait to see how all of it works out.  

I feel that a large part of my responsibility during this time is to bear witness.  It's mine to pay attention to the blessings, the miraculous and the improbable along with the mundane, and to record them in my mind and share them with others.  I join a long heritage of people that bear witness and say,

"Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You are Amazing (and Beautiful and Accomplished) by Smrt Mama

A fellow homeschooling mother from the Well Trained Minds boards shared this on her blog and I decided that the exercise was definitely worth the challenge.  It's great to have such smrt womn around to keep things in focus.  Thanks Smrt Mama!

Make a list of five amazing, beautiful physical qualities about yourself.
1.  my legs
2.  my hair
3.  my dimples
4.  my arms
5.  my hands

Make a list of five amazing things about your mind.
1.  I love learning
2.  I share what I know with others
3.  I love to read
4.  I love trying new things
5.  I am constantly thinking/planning/preparing/plotting/scheming/making lists

Make a list of five amazing things you have accomplished.
1.  I have a successful business and a team that produces over $250,000 in retail sales yearly.
2.  I gave birth to four amazing children.  (This could actually take up numbers 1-4 but that seemed a bit cheatish.)
3.  I can make my own pasta, whipped cream, cheesecake, pizza and a large variety of other tasty dishes.  I love being a great cook.
4.  I have a M.A. in counseling which has been a definite benefit in my life.
5.  I have been married for 21 years. 

That all being said, I want so spend a moment acknowledging how thankful I am to God for the gifts I've been given and for the opportunity to use my talents in ways that benefit those around me.

I'd love to read your lists!  Please add them here or share a link so I can read them on your blog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Recap 11/9-11/12/10

We spent the beginning of the week looking at new houses.  That has to count for homeschooling under some kind of creative curriculum.  We've also had four showing for our house over the past week.  That may not count as homeschooling but it sure has encouraged us to maintain discipline and practice neatness.  I have been truly blessed and impressed by how helpful and cooperative the children have been.  This is a stressful time for all of us.  There's a lot of uncertainty and waiting.  It would be easy to dig in and be difficult.  Heaven knows there are times when I'd like to do just that.  The children seem to be taking it all with good attitudes and, for the most part, thankful hearts.  They are inspirations to me. 
During the trip to and from house hunting we listened to The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.  Even M6, who normally fusses about our listening books, was hooked and is excited about the next book.  The other book we listened to and enjoyed was Call it Courage.  We'd listened to Hatchet earlier this year and the children found a lot of similar themes in the two books.  It was an interesting discussion.  I especially enjoyed it because I wasn't the one that initiated it. 

 Our other highlight for the week would be our math lessons.  Last week, S8 picked up on division quickly.  We started with bugs and have progressed to single digit denominators with any place value numerator.  He's very impressed with himself.

This week we spent some time reviewing money.  M6 and S8 both enjoyed playing with the coins. 
M6 especially enjoyed identifying and sorting. 
S8 enjoyed making different combinations to fulfill my requirements.  For example, give me $0.78 using only two quarters or give me $0.17 using only 4 coins.

After playing with money for a bit we moved on to telling time.  M6 is great at the o'clocks and the thirties.  S8 has any hour or minute down with no problem.  I can't wait to see what we learn next week!

H11 is working on NaNoWriMo.  She met her word goal last week and is only about half way through her novel.  She's loving this exercise.  In another triumph, she's on lesson 9 in Analytical Grammar and I've only heard minimal complaining.  She feels confident and grammar has become a tool rather than a curse.  WAHOO!

She decided to go back to Life of Fred Fractions and give it another try now that she has a better grasp of her multiplication tables.  So far, she's doing beautifully.  She's passed the first two bridges on the first try.  We are both pleased.

H11's other big accomplishment is that she cooked dinner tonight with minimal assistance.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  She even baked her own bread. The meal was delicious and I think she especially enjoyed all the compliments she received.

K14 is still working on her campaign to go back to public school.  We may give it a try with our move.  She's done really well in her current classes (French, algebra and band).  Also, if we buy the house we are discussing there would be fewer than two hundred students in her high school.  That seems like  pretty safe situation with a pretty good student to teacher ratio.  It's certainly worth considering though I still can't figure out why she'd want to get up that early!