Monday, June 28, 2010

Ode to Gizem

As we began this adventure
Not knowing
Who or what to expect
We met and realized we were beyond clueless
Yet we pressed forward, unsure.

With classes each day
In English
Rules learned, expectations refined.
We fell into a comfortable rhythm of life
The old fell away.

From an only child
To one of five
Sharing new parents
A bathroom, television, yourself
Each lesson filed.

With acceptance we found
An appreciation
Of differences and similarities
Conversation, teasing, cooking
Common ground.

After this precious year
We realize
How little we expected and
How much we received, a gift
Someone dear.

Until we reunite, when isn't clear
Our foreign daughter
Member of this family
Part of our history and our heart
We hold you near.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Weekly Recap 6/21-6/25

I think the good, the bad and the ugly pretty much sums up our week this week.

The good:  H11 at camp for the week, Bible study, going away dinner for G18, music lessons, an afternoon at the pool, art at the library, lots of time with friends for the kids and for me, Shakespeare in the Park - The Tempest

The bad:  going away dinner for G18, H11 at camp for the week, single parenting for a few more weeks

The ugly:  K13 disregarding our rules and the consequences that have followed

K13 says her favorite activity was seeing The Tempest.  She really enjoyed the performance, especially the spirits and Ariel.

S5 enjoyed playing Star Wars with his friend most of all. He had two play dates with his good friend this week. While it doesn't quite make up for not having a brother, it will have to do.

M5 says her favorite activity of the week was the time we spent at the pool on Tuesday.  She liked it because she got to go down the water slide.

My favorite part of the week was the performance of The Tempest we saw last night. It was an outdoor, free production and very well done. I'd read the script of the play in preparation and had given the kids an overview from my reading along with reading the corresponding selection from The Best of Shakespeare by E. Nesbit.  Some of the language was difficult to follow but the acting and humor more than made up for the vocabulary we didn't quite understand.  It was a wonderful experience for us.  We are looking forward to the next performance.

Overall, we've been so busy that I can't figure out how we managed to fit school work into our lives for the past nine months or how we'll incorporate it again when the time comes.

A Lesson in Trust

My 13 year old daughter was brought home in the middle of the night on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning  in a state police car.  I never thought about how it might feel to have that happen.  If I had given it any thought, I'm pretty sure I thought of my own embarrassment, how I'd explain that or how I'd feel to have a kid who was that bad.  I'm working hard to raise good kids.  I worry about not teaching her enough about taking care of a house or car, balancing her checking account, healthy meals, basic cleaning, laundry.  I spend time planning lessons for her that involve Latin, algebra, ancient history, biology not Beginning Delinquent 101.

The crazy thing is when I saw that police car pull into my driveway, I didn't feel anything but relief.  I'm not sure I've ever been more thankful for anyone than that state police officer.  He rescued my baby from a potentially dangerous situation and carried her safely home.  She may never leave my sight again.  I'm so weak with relief I've found it impossible to be angry.  She and a friend snuck out of the friend's house in the middle of the night and went walking around town.  Too many horrible things could have happened to a 13 year old out unsupervised in the middle of the night.  My imagination is way too active and inventive for my comfort. I say a prayer of thanksgiving and wonder how to keep this from ever happening again.

Coming home in the police car made an impression.  I'm praying that a variety of other consequences have made impressions on her as well.  Apologies made, having to explain what happened to friends and family, rising early and working hard, research about teenage tragedy.  I think my 13 year old is more than happy to let me take care of correcting her.  She's acknowledged her sin and she's ready to face whatever consequence I see necessary.  She knows that what she did was thoughtless and that the results could have been so much worse.  She stumbled across that line between childhood and adulthood, making choices that she wasn't ready to handle.  I think she's relieved that there were adults, ready and willing, to usher her, quickly and firmly, back to the side of childhood.  If all goes well she'll be hanging out in childhood for several years before she ventures out again. 

My 13 year old has learned what it's like to break the trust of people that love her. She's learned that making choices can affect more than just the moment and more than just her. She's learned that trust is fragile and the effort for repair is great. I've learned that trust must be earned, by her and trust has already been earned, by God. I've learned that my trust must rest in God because there is no one else that is worthy of that kind of blind devotion. Being a parent is an impossible chore without certainty that there is a higher power looking out for my children and loving them more perfectly than I ever could. I trust in that and am thankful for it.

There is no way to be prepared for all the challenges of parenting.  No matter how many hours we spend rehearsing scenarios of potential issues we won't think about the issues that will actually face us.  There are too many possible pit falls, too many options for disaster.  When I became a parent, I went in blind.  Most days, I still feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark.  I pray for wisdom and hope that it comes to me, like a bolt from the blue, when I need it.  I struggle with feeling adequate to the task.  I worry about taking too much responsibility, about giving too much responsibility, about not expecting enough, about expecting too much.  I strive to find a solid place to sand in a landscape that's always changing, child to child, minute to minute.  And I pray.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living the Dream: Pool Mom

It's funny, there are so many milestones in parenting that sometimes I don't even realized when I've reached one until it's right there, in my face, and I'm caught by surprise.  Shopping for bras with my daughters was like that.  Today I had another, decidedly more pleasant, milestone moment.  I've become a pool mom.

For years, thirteen to be exact, I've envied those moms at the pool that sat quietly and undisturbed in their chairs, flipping through magazines and chatting.  Glistening and unhurried, they'd rise occasionally to take a dip in the pool or locate their children's heads bobbing happily above water surrounded by friends, laughing and playing.  Their children would come to them only for money or a dry towel and then they'd disappear for an undetermined period of time allowing their mother to return to her own relaxation.  To me, it was a blissful picture.

For the last thirteen years a trip to the pool has required the advanced planning and stamina mountain climbing expedition.  Getting floaties, towels, swimsuits, life jackets, sunscreen, sunglasses and snacks for everyone required what seemed like hours of preparation.  Even moving from the house to the car and from the car to the pool was a maneuver demanding persistence and constant vigilance.  Once at the pool, there was no resting for me because everyone needed me to "watch this" over and over and over again.  Even when I wasn't "watching this" I was still watching at least two out of four children to make sure they didn't drown.  Relaxation was not an option while at the pool.  I will admit that the benefit of a day at the pool was a quiet evening at home afterward when everyone was exhausted and I got my relaxation with a quiet dinner and early bedtime.

Today, all that changed.  I said, "Sure, we can go to the pool." and the only bathing suit I had to put on was my own.  All the towels I needed to take fit in one beach bag and no other items were required.  I carried the bag happily to the car.  The children were already in their seats, buckled and waiting.  Upon arrival, I happily sprayed everyone with sunscreen and settled on my chair with an audio book.  The children found their friends and scattered like waterbugs.  I kept a close eye on everyone but didn't feel that I needed to be within arms reach anymore.  I even enjoyed playing "watch this" for part of the afternoon.  I knew I'd truly arrived when the only time my children sought me out was to get permission to use the restroom and to see if I might be willing to pay for a slushee. 

I know there will be a lot of milestones with my children that I'll hold more dear; first smiles, first words, first steps, recitals, graduations, weddings.  Those, however, are all about them.  Being a pool mom is all about me and I'll savor it while I live the dream.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beyond Diva

I've shared that I've been thinking a lot about beauty and reading a book called Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who Are Changing the World.  I also mentioned that I hated the title of the book but felt that the content was worth consideration and discussion. 

First of all, I hate the word diva and the limiting and negative tone it carries.  The word originates with the divine, think goddesses, and is most often used in reference to a vanity, lack of discipline, lack of cooperation, glamour and success at any cost.  Now, if you've read much mythology, the gods and goddesses tend to be pretty questionable characters.  Especially, the goddesses.  They are most often depicted as shallow, self absorbed, careless and cruel.  Very rarely are the goddesses portrayed as women of character in a way that would make anyone admire them for anything beyond beauty and immortality.  Sure, in literature they have some pretty serious impact on the way the world works but the impact usually stems from selfish pursuits and is rarely positive in result. 

With my strong feelings about the word diva, it's pretty amazing that I was willing to venture into this book at all.  I decided to give it a shot by believing that the author/creator of Adventure Divas was looking for a good marketing title and this is what sounded snappy.  I was also interested in how the author was going to find divas that were interested in changing the world.  Again, my bias against divas had them changing clothes, hair and their own minds, not changing in the world.

As I read the book, I came to believe even more strongly that the word diva was misplaced.  So many of the women represented in the page are strong, focused, fearless and compassionate.  To belittle their contributions and spirits by referring to them as divas makes no sense to me at all.  Since I've been thinking so much about beauty and virtue lately it wasn't a far reach for me to connect my feelings about beauty and virtue with my concern about the term diva.

As women, why aren't we powerful enough to stand up and say, "I am a woman." and let that be enough.  Why do we create labels for ourselves or allow others to label us in ways that negate part of who we are or misrepresent our nature?  There aren't enough labels in the world to cover all that a woman is.  Daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, mother, friend, lover, wife, teacher, boss, student....I could be that this all day.  We certainly don't need to take time to tack on negative labels or labels that are less than accurate.

So I reject the term diva and the idea that in order to change the world you have to be a special (not very nice) kind of woman.  I think this book, despite it's name and it's constant reference to that word (divalicious, really?!!!), supports my hypothesis.  The only thing that women need to be remarkable is an outward focus and a sense of passion.  I believe that women have an ability to see a need and fill it.  They have the empathy and perseverance to see a situation, feel what it must be like, determine to make it different and work relentlessly until it changes.  I also believe that millions of women are doing this each and every day on a scale that will never be in a book or part of a t.v. series. 

I also think that this book supported my belief that women very rarely are willing to admit their true majesty.  It may be that most women don't recognize it within themselves.  It may go back to the idea of modesty as a virtue.  It may be that women don't understand what is truly powerful.  Many women, perhaps even most women, believe that they just do what must be done.  What else is there?  Most of the very impressive women in this book hadn't chosen to seek recognition or prestige.  They'd simply done what needed to be done within their sphere of influence for the good of the people that mattered the most to them.  That is indeed following your passion.

I think the best thing about Adventure Divas is that it has sensitized me to the impact that doing what needs to be done each and every day can have on the world.  Even if my efforts aren't recognized in a book, getting up every day to educate my family, thinking, learning, praying and sharing, speaking about what's important to me, growing and stretching myself in new ways, paying attention to others, responding to the world with openness, fearlessness, compassion and intention, keeping an eye out for the passion in life,  these are the things that I do that change the world. 

How are you changing the world?

Where is the Value?

I've been thinking a lot about the implications of beauty in our society. My new Bible study was not the first tapping on my brain concerning this subject.  I'm also reading a book called Adventure Divas.  While I despise the name, it's made me think a lot about what I find to be of value in others.  I'll probably want to talk about it a bit more when I complete the book.  For now I just wanted to take a bit of space to explore my feelings and thoughts about beauty and virtue and how the two might meet.

The first section of my Bible study suggested redefining beauty and gave Proverbs 31 as a good definition of beauty for Christian women.  As I wrote yesterday, I'm not sure that really lowers the bar as much as it relocates it and perhaps even raises it.  I find it confusing and frustrating that beauty and virtue are in opposition with each other.  So often, beauty seems to be something you can have physically or spiritually but never both.  It's either presented as inner or outer but not a mixture of the two.  A woman who is truly virtuous can never be physically beautiful because that would mean that she wasn't concentrating enough effort on the spiritual but had fallen over into the sin and degradation of the physical.  It sounds so Victorian/Puritan/stuffy/antiquated yet doesn't it hold true today?

What is it about being physically pleasing that requires a judgement?  And how does the way a woman fixes her hair or what dress she puts on take away from her strength, courage, valor, merit, potency or chastity.  Now there are two contradictory ideas, potency and chastity.  How did those traits even end up in the same definition?  Perhaps virtue is not the same for men and women.  That seems to be the case in this definition.   However, I would argue that the right dress and a great haircut adds to a woman's strength, courage and potency in a physical and spiritual way. 

Looking at the other words in the definition of virtue, it's hard to understand why chastity made the list.  It seems like an afterthought, a word tacked on because the previous part of the definition was too frightening to transfer freely between men and women.  Men can be virtuous in this way: manly strength, courage, valor, merit, potency.  Those traits can't be counted as good in a woman yet she must be allowed to be virtuous somehow so a woman can be virtuous if she is chaste.  That really sets men and women at odds, don't you think?  A man is virtuous if he's potent and a woman is virtuous if she's chaste.  That poses a real problem.

I thought perhaps my difficulty with the idea of chastity might stem from a lack of understanding so I took a moment to find the definition of chastity and it was much as I thought until the second definition.  1 : the quality or state of being chaste: as a : abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse b : abstention from all sexual intercourse c : purity in conduct and intention d : restraint and simplicity in design or expression

2 : personal integrity
Personal integrity.   Now that's strong, courageous, brimming with valor, merit and potency.  Personal integrity is something worth getting excited about.  It's a place to camp and explore and live.  I'm not sure the people that tacked chastity onto the definition of virtue to give women something to which they can aspire would appreciate my excitement over personal integrity.  Really, personal integrity is much more inspiring than sexual abstinence.

I believe that personal integrity helps us choose what is beautiful.  Without personal integrity all beauty must be selected and approved by another.  With personal integrity we choose our own beauty.  Beauty gives pleasure to the senses or mind or spirit.  Don't courage, valor, merit and potency do the same?  Aren't those beautiful?  Again, chastity just doesn't fit the list.  It comes in and squelches all that is beautiful as effectively as a bucket of water.  It says no where all the others say yes and rush to action.  Personal integrity, on the other hand, becomes a complement to beauty requiring that one become sound, complete and honest in order to be virtuous and not just sexless. 

As a woman, the idea of virtue in the form of personal integrity brings beauty and virtue into perspective.  The dichotomy is erased and I am able to find beauty in virtue and virtue in beauty.  The two are reconciled and each is allowed to have value. Beauty and virtue as a dynamic duo embody all aspects of an individual by setting an internal standard rather than an external measure.  Individuals are free to decide what gives pleasure to the senses, mind and spirit and also is honest, complete and incorruptible.  Virtue and beauty together become something to live in rather than something to which one must aspire.  Value is not determined by another.  Value comes from what is sound, complete and honest and from what gives pleasure to the senses, mind and spirit. The bar is set.  It's a rigorous standard but clear and most certainly valuable.

All definitions were sited from:
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

     Retrieved June 20, 2010, from

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Defining Beauty

I mentioned earlier that I've started a new Bible study (5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney) and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  I'm not one that quickly settles into new things.  I sit down and then push and prod, twist and turn, fidget and wriggle until I decide it's time to get up and leave or get busy.  Usually, I choose to get busy but it takes me awhile to settle.  I'm still in the fidgeting and wriggling stage with this study.

Right now, fidgeting and wriggling involves critiquing the aurthor's style, writing questions and comments in the margins of the book and thinking a lot about the things other than what the study is actually trying to discuss.  Fidgeting is usually a sign that there is learning to be had.  It often indicates that I'm feeling a stretch in my spirit or mind.  Usually the best response to a stretch like that is to settle in and get to work so I expect that's what I'll do.

I have finished the first week of the study and while I like Vicki's intention of replacing our worldly standards of beauty with Biblical standards, I'm not sure that really lowers the bar as much as it relocates it and perhaps even raises it.  Perfect physical beauty, I agree, is not the source of all peace and happiness.  First of all, it's too fleeting. Secondly, it's truly in the eye of the beholder.  Not good characteristics for lasting joy.  But Biblical beauty is so much more than just what you see and can, ideally, lead to lasting joy.

Vicki uses Proverbs 31:10-31 as her model for God's standard of beauty.  Then she presents the task; as you think about God's standard, list five women you know who are truly beautiful.  Now, I know some pretty incredible women.  Many who have a heart for God and for others.  Many who are amazing mothers,sisters, daughters, wives, women but I'm not sure I know anyone that embodies the definition of beauty set out in Proberbs 31.  That woman had huge shoes and filling them seems more than daunting.  I'm not sure that comparing myself daily to Lady Proverbs is going to make me feel any more confident and capable than comparing myself to Jennifer Garner.  Either way I come up short.

Of course, it doesn't help that my inclination is to throw up my hands in helplessness and say, "If I'm being judged by standards beyond my control, how can I ever expect to make any progress toward beauty."  And that really is the sticking point for me.  There are so many things in this world that I consider to be beautiful.  Sunrises, sunsets, chocolate cheesecake, a perfect omelet, a wide variety of flowers, trees and animals, many views I've seen in many places around the world, my children, paintings and other art..W.  None of these beautiful things have to work to be beautiful, they just are.  So why is it that beauty, whether it be by the worldly or the Biblical standards,  requres so much effort?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekly Recap 6/14-6/18

We spent last week on vacation so this week has been a week of transition.  We arrived home on Sunday night/Monday morning, slept and woke with a to-do list as long as the day.  Monday we helped my dh pack for business travel, entertained friends from out of town and picked our foreign exchange student up at the airport.

Tuesday I started a new Bible Study (5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter).  We all went out for lunch.  DH left for a month in Australia.  The kids and I went to the science museum for a couple of hours. 

Wednesday was Water Logged, a day full of water fun and games for M5, S8 and H11.  K13 and G18 went to a movie and I treated myself to breakfast and lunch out.  Lovely!

Thursday I hosted a "Not So Bunco" gathering at my house for my normal bunco group and all my non-bunco friends and neighbors.  It was fun to get together and chat for a couple of hours.

Friday we went to see Toy Story 3 in 3D.  Everyone loved it.  We skipped popcorn and cokes at the theater so that we could enjoy our favorite ice cream.   We got home from the movie in time to grab a quick dinner and head off to a presentation at the planetarium about Galileo.  Almost all of us enjoyed the refreshments and the presentation.  S8 says he hated every minute of it.  I'm not sure if that's true or if he is just mad that he didn't get to watch any t.v. today.

Tomorrow we'll be going to see the newest IMAX movie at the science center and then heading to part two of the Galileo weekend.  We are supposed to be making telescopes.  That  should be fun!

It's been a great week but I can't for the life of me figure out where the free time is.  It seems as if I'm just as busy now as I was when we were doing school work daily.  How does that happen?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Virtual Beings or Relational Beings

We are relational beings.  There's really no way around it.  God created humans to be with each other.  Seeking each other out is what we do.  Even if you are an introvert, some part of you craves at least occasional connection with others.

I spent today watching my children make connections.  They played, talked, shared activities and food.  It was the most natural thing in the world for my children and their friends to be together face to face.  This evening I was able to spend face to face time with friends of my own.  What a blessing to gather together and share ourselves.  And even as I know that face time is best I often settle for virtual reality.  It's quick and non-demanding.  I don't have to go anywhere or do much more than sit down and log on.  Virtual reality allows me to pretend that I'm having interactions with others even though the others aren't really there.

For ten years, the people who knew the day to day me were my invisible friends.  My invisible friends were an e-mail loop of ten women that started when my oldest child was just a year old.  We spent time daily sharing our victories and our struggles.  We were safe ground for each other in a way that made sharing easy and judgement unnecessary.  The thing I noticed about my invisible friends is that they didn't replace real friends.  I still needed face time with people in my everyday world.

The virtual world provides so many opportunities for interaction.  It provides endless ways to use time.  It provides an illusion of connection.  It does not provide anything but the virtual.  To get the true connection, the true interaction and the true use of time requires real people, in a real place, sharing real time.  Anything else is virtually worthless. 

I found this article Meet the New American Family, Digitally Deluged by Albert Mohler while reading another blog and think that the information is worth considering.  Do we use media to connect with others or do we use media because the media makes a connection with us?  Do we let our interest in the virtual overshadow our interest in what is real around us?  Do the digital things in this world enhance or distract our lives?  And if we have a difficult time managing the virtual and the real how much harder is it for our children?

This kind of information and thoughtful consideration aren't popular at my house because it usually means that the children or husband or I am going to be deprived of something that we've held near and dear.  I won't say that all media in our house will go.  I will say that I am thinking about what changes we can make to be good stewards of our time and resources in the area of virtual reality. 

Where do you draw the line on the digital deluge?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Which I Choose a Topic and Get on with It: More Than A Sum of Our Parts

I began a new Bible study this morning.  It's a group study that meets for the next five weeks to watch a video series and take part in a small group discussion.  The topic is conversing with our daughters in ways that are meaningful about topics that matter.  What drew me to the study is that it deals with five intentional conversations that mothers should have with their daughters over and over and over again.  I like the idea that I can learn about these conversations and then reuse them for years and years.  I'm all about getting my value from my time and I figure ten hours to learn about something that I can reuse x3.  That's my kind of value.

I've attended other Bible studies at this particular church so I knew, generally, what to expect.  Coffee cups and carry in breakfasts are allowed.  No red drinks.  Bring your Bible.  Workbooks and pens will be provided.  Casual dress is fine.  Some is more casual than others.  Since the study is about talking with your daughters, I expected a room full of mothers and I wasn't disappointed.  The ages of mothers ranged from early twenties to early sixties. 

I'm guessing the early sixties mom was there to lend support and encouragement.  I suppose she could be there to evaluate her own performance in retrospect or to learn tips and hints she can pass on to her own daughter as her daughter begins raising the sixties mom's granddaughters.  Or maybe she was lonely and she figured that as a mother and a daughter she might enjoy sharing the time with others.

Truly, it's difficult to say why anyone else was in the class.  Our opening activity was to introduce ourselves, share the ages of our daughters and tell about our proudest parenting moment.  A question about proud parenting moments immediately creates a competition and sets up a serious challenge, especially in a group of churchy women.  If you really say something that made you proud, that's bad because pride is not a virtue.  You also have to limit the things that are pride worthy.  Is a sports achievement something that the group would consider worthy of pride?  Should it be the number of memory verses the child learned?  Or would personality traits be better suited for the right answer?  Do I share that I'm proud that my children play well together?  Or that they are kind?  It's always good to go for the laugh.  Telling a funny story about your child is an easy and effective way to avoid sharing a truly prideful moment.  Or you can fall back on "when I gave birth"  because really, who can argue with that?  Giving birth trumps just about anything.  It also ensures that no one else can trump you because everyone that's been in one of these Bible study groups knows that you can't pick the same proud moment (or whatever) that anyone else has shared. 

I would have rather heard why others were taking the class.  That would have at least given a feeling of solidarity with some of the other women.  Answers could have been focused on the topic at hand and served to create a feeling of comradery:  I want a better relationship with my daughters.  I don't want to screw my daughters up too badly.  I'm trying to do my best and figure I need all the help I can get.  I'm a daughter and I know I want to do a better job than my mother did.  There is much common ground to be found in that answer.  It's been my experience that creating common ground is important in this kind of Bible study.

After sharing who we are and what makes us proud, we chatted without purpose for about 20 minutes.  My husband left for Australia today.  I didn't have 20 minutes to chat with strangers, even if those strangers were friends I hadn't met yet.  I had prescriptions to pick up.  I had things to do.  On a good day, 20 minutes of undirected chatting with strangers would have been less than comfortable.  Today it was like fingers on a chalkboard.  I smiled.  I chatted.  I counted down the time and made lists in my head.  I checked out the other women.  I noticed hair, teeth, skin and clothing.  I watched mannerisms and listened to conversational styles.  I evaluated each on the friend to not friend scale.  I waited for the video presentation and my opportunity to move onto my list of things that needed to be done.

The video presentation was interesting.  It helped me look forward to completing the lesson and digging into these conversations that I'm to have with my daughters.  I will get my value from this lesson and I can see where there is value to be had.  I filled in all the blanks in my workbooks and made notes in my margins.  I felt great about getting on with it.  Then I read the first conversation starter for each small group after the video presentation:  Have you ever judged someone or shown favor based on appearance?  If so, what were the circumstances?

How unfair is a question like that?!  Especially when you've been given 20 pointless minutes in a room full of strangers.  Twenty minutes to create stories about each and every person at my table, weighing them on the scale of potential and judge them completely based on just a tiny bit more than a first impression.  I hate it when I'm trying to do something virtuous, like attending a Bible study even though my husband is leaving for Australia and I could have used the time in a thousand more productive ways, and it comes back to bite me in the butt by reminding me how desperately I deserve judgement.

I confessed my judgement to everyone at my table in an I'm-going-to-just-flat-out-admit-my-sin-and-dare-you-to-throw-a-stone way and found that I wasn't alone in my judging others.  I hadn't really thought that I was but it was nice that my table mates were willing to admit it.  We'd all been summing each other up, tallying the friend potential and making judgements.  Our lecture topic was "You are more than the sum or your parts".  Definitely a topic that I need to remind myself of when it comes to judging others.  Each and every person I meet is more than just what I see on the outside.  And really, even if they are only what I can see and judge, isn't that enough?  Doesn't the fact that each and every being on this planet is created by God demand my attention and respect and give me an excellent reason to postpone judgement?

I left the Bible study thinking about the last minute preparations for Rob's trip to Australia.  I also had a new awareness of the women around me.  I looked at them, not with judgment but with gratitude that there were so many that desired to glorify God in the relationship that they were building with their daughters.  We'd gathered on common ground. We were all mothers.  We were all daughters.  We were all women.  And over the next five weeks I think I'll find that judgement to be the most true and the one that matters most.

Yet Another List - Potential Blog Topics

It's another one of those times when I've got so much on my mind that I don't know where to begin.  The danger, of course, is in not beginning at all.  I don't want to fall into that trap so I will make a list of the things that I could potentially write about then choose one and get on with it.

the boy and dad I saw at the science museum today - boy looking very average, dad with a mohawk, leather studded vest and ear full of metal
a room full of strangers
a new Bible study
meeting new people
virtue verses vanity
first impressions
conversations I want to have with my daughters
conversations I want to have or wish I'd had with my mother
temporary single parenting
summer schedules
societal standards of beauty
setting standards for our family
enforcing the standards we set
pieces of our vacation I want to capture
why we make choices we didn't intend to make
making the best use of time
living intentionally
moving more toward green
how being green meshes with my faith
starting a blog about incremental greening
why I'm torturing my children and myself with music lessons this summer
why I find my husband's new tattoo irritating
getting to know others
never really knowing anyone
the comfort of having a car mechanic that I trust not to rip me off
the even greater comfort of having a car that's paid for and how that's so much more important to me now than I ever imagined it could be
life with a tattoo
a year in review concerning our foreign exchange student
parenting techniques - particularly how to deal with lying and when a child won't eat a taco
baking bread
making pasta
summer learning
friendships - the effort and the pay off
Uncle Bob
the scale of friendship
Christianity and the Bible
millions of years verses creation
the way the brain works - how Galileo and others help us see more clearly
my amazing children
Father's Day minus the father
the business of birth
Netflix instant
definitions of beauty - world and God

plus there's another really great topic that I thought of earlier but now that I'm making this list I'm totally unable to bring it to mind.

Shoopa 2010

If a picture is worth a thousand words I should be able to get by without any commentary concerning this vacation.  However, it was such a treasured week, I think you'll probably get to hear a bit about our Shoopa adventures.  For now, enjoy the pictures and know that it was even more fun than it looks.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunrise at the Beach

Our first day of vacation, I woke at a ridiculous hour.  5:28a.m.  I haven't willingly gotten up at that time EVER.  I treasure the opportunity to sleep late, especially on vacation.  I spent many years getting up early by necessity.  I feel as if I deserve my rest.  I've earned it. 

I eyed the clock at 5:34a.m. and rolled over, readjusted and intended to go back to sleep.  No luck.  The sky was dark, my body was still but my mind was moving.  It occurred to me that I'd never seen a sunrise on the island.  It occurred to me that I was probably awake early enough to make it to the beach before the sunrise.  It occurred to me that I didn't want to miss this opportunity.

I got out of bed, made coffee, filled my travel cup and walked to the beach.  At first, I thought I'd missed the sunrise.  The sky had lightened.  Pinks and peaches painted the lower part of the sky.  There was a band of clouds above the horizon.  Even without  a spectacular sunrise, I settled in to enjoy the quiet of the beach at dawn.  There was something special about being alone, awake so early, by choice. 

As the sky continued to lighten, I watched pelicans fly in formation.  They skimmed the water then broke and dove.  Missiles shooting into the water.  It was impressive that such awkward birds on the ground had such grace and purpose in the air and water. 

After watching the pelicans, I walked down the beach.  The sky became brighter pink and lightened.  The peaches darkened to neon orange.  The band of clouds lightened.  I began to hope that there might still be a sunrise to be seen. 

The smell of salt and sea air moved around me as I walked.  The call of birds.  The roll of the waves.  The sparkle of sun on water.  The lightening of the sky.  The coolness of the firm sand under my feet.  All worked to sooth my senses and bring a deep sense of well being.  It felt great to move down the beach in silence, in wonder, in joy. 

The sun, hidden, then visible.  A dark orange ball.  The sky streaked with brilliant pink and light blue.  A brilliant piece of art in a strip below the clouds, above the ocean.  The water reflected an ever moving interpretation of the original suspended over head.  The sunrise surprised and blessed me. 

I couldn't have planned a better beginning to my vacation.  Sometimes planning isn't necessary.  Sometimes it's enough to get out of bed and show up.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Plans for 2010-2011

This is what we'll be doing for next school year.  I'm listing by child though we'll continue to do as much together as we possibly can.  Sharing our learning was a large part of what we enjoyed this past year.

K13 - Ninth Grade

We are beginning work on our equivalent to a high school diploma with honors for our state.  As a compromise for K, she'll be attending the local high school for Algebra, French and Band.  We participate in Community Bible Study as a family.  This year we'll be learning about The Acts.  We also participate in a local choir and drama group that is planning to stage a performance of The Sound of Music in the spring.  The remainder of her studies will be at home.

English :  Analytical Grammar, Writing Strands 5-6, Spelling Power, Elements of Style, A Rule Book for Arguments and  selected reading

Physical Science:  High School Physical Science in Your Home, selected reading

History:  The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, The Medieval World, selected reading

Latin: First Form Latin

H11 - Sixth Grade

Bible:  Community Bible Study - The Acts

Drama/Chorus:   community group

English:  Analytical Grammar, Writing Strands 4-5, Spelling Power, Fallacy Detective and Thinking Tool Box, selected reading

Math:  Math on the Level, Life of Fred Fractions and Decimals

Physical Science:  grade level version of High School Physical Science in Your Home, selected reading

Latin:  First Form Latin

History:  Story of the World: Volume 2 The Middle Ages, The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, selected reading
Music - Flute

S8 - Third Grade

Bible: Community Bible Study - The Acts

Drama/Chorus: community group

English: Rod & Staff Grammar 3 - Beginning Wisely, Writing Strands 2, Spelling Power, Draw and Write Through History, Building Thinking Skills Book 1 & 2, selected reading

Math: Math on the Level

Physical Science: grade level version of High School Physical Science in Your Home, selected reading

Latin: Song School Latin

History: Story of the World: Volume 2 The Middle Ages, selected reading

Music - Violin

M5 First Grade

Bible: Community Bible Study - The Acts

Drama/Chorus: community group

English: Phonics Pathways, First Language Lessons, selected reading

Math: Math on the Level

Physical Science: grade level version of High School Physical Science in Your Home, selected reading

Latin: Song School Latin

History: Story of the World: Volume 2 The Middle Ages, selected reading

Year in Retrospect

I promised myself that I'd allow some time to unwind before I began to critique the school year we just completed and set to work on the school year ahead.  I've had two weeks to unwind and I feel ready to face homeschool again for a few moments.  It's easier for me to truly evaluate myself and our school now.  I'm not feeling so connected or so fragile about our progress this year.  We did well and I'm pleased with all we accomplished.

Highlights:  We made it through!  Four children completed a more than adequate amount of learning at four different grade levels and no one ran screaming from the house never to return.  That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment worth noting.

Our curriculum choices last year were sound.  There wasn't anything that didn't do the job it was designed to do.  Rod and Staff English was not a hit but all my children will admit that they learned from it. 

All four of the children have a better grasp of spelling, grammar, history, math and science than they did when we began.

We've enjoyed being and learning together.

I'm benefitting from homeschool in ways that I never thought about.  I'm more organized, focused and forward thinking.  I'm working to educate myself in areas that I've neglected or forgotten over the years.

Lowlights:  We were never able to incorporate logic and Latin as part of our routine school day.  Now that we've got the basics going smoothly, I will start the year with both these subjects rather than trying to add them later.

We read so much this year but didn't write much of it down.  Next year, I want each child to keep a reading list so they can see what they've read and so I can too.  I will also keep track of what we read, listen to and watch together.

As I think about our school year I believe that we met our goals and accomplished what we set out to do.  Our children are less stressed and more confident.  Our family relationships are stronger.  We know more about God, ourselves and the world around us.  It's been a good year.

The List

Thoughts flutter about my head
Darting, buzzing, distracting.
I pluck them one by one
From the air.
With my shiny black pen
I fasten them securely,
Making a tidy collection.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Head Clutter

I've spent the last two evening trying to write something, anything.  I go through my days thinking of topics I'd like to write about later.  Later arrives and nothing comes easily.  I guess this is writer's block.  It feels more like being buried. 

My head is cluttered.  I try to get a hold of one corner of something to write about.  I give it a little tug and either it sticks fast or causes a landslide.  A piece breaks off leaving me with a useless idea and no words.

I'd like to write about my recent struggles with feeling like myself.  I'd love to spend a few days exploring my frustrations and contemplations concerning relationships and connecting with others.  I long to share my thoughts about religion, politics, priorities, homebirth, safe cleaning products, sunscreen or dog food.  Unfortunately, I'm clogged.

As a result,  you have an entire post on how I can't think through anything to write.  It reminds me of eighth grade English.  I survived that so I'm fairly certain I'll survive this too.  I hope you are still around when I figure out how to sort the clutter.