Monday, March 29, 2010

She Wants a Birthday Party But....

Remember the tea kettle - it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings! ~Author Unknown

The Princess will be turning nine years old in a month (and a week later is her daddy's birthday). With Resurrection Day, piano recital, consignment sale, planning for standardized testing as required of homeschoolers in my state, perhaps a 4-H Horse Day Camp and/or starting riding lessons, and preparing for a yard sale, April for us is nearly as busy as December...AND then the child wants a birthday party—actually she has always wanted one.

I am really torn on this issue. I like doing special things for her birthday, but more as a family celebration. The unfortunate part of this is that we have no family around and the ones who would like to be here cannot travel easily. I usually make and decorate a shaped cake of her choosing. We give her a few gifts and we spend the day together. I would not mind inviting a friend or two for cake and ice cream, but I am not sure I am ready to do a party or even if we should. It seems to me that once a child has one big birthday party, she believes she should have one every year thereafter.

My husband and I really did not have birthday parties like this where a number of children were invited, games were played, and loads of presents were given. I cringe when the same people, who are being given support from others or are barely getting by, think it is a necessity that each one of their children have big birthday parties. Some people think nothing of dropping down $200-$300 and even more for the party alone with inflatables or skating or video and arcade games, not to mention the presents they purchase as well. Even those simple home gatherings necessitate a decorated cake, usually store-bought, decorations, and games with prizes, at least. It has become such an expectation in our culture that some tend to look down on the parents who don't do it, as if their children are deprived.

Do I want my daughter to have friends and fun? Of course, I do. However, it has never set well with me that children are invited to a party where it is expected that the guest of honor receive a present just because she is one year older and they were invited. As I see it, for weddings and baby showers, gift giving has a far more practical purpose, but every year a birthday party with presents from everyone...?

I admit that I might feel this way, because our daughter has more than enough already and people tend give presents that I would never give her myself. For instance, I have been trying to steer her away from desiring Barbie dolls; she has two Barbie-type dolls, one is a Snow White doll and the other a NASA astronaut, and that seems to be a compromise that works for us, as neither is promotes the latest in scanty fashions.


Now I do have one idea that I dearly like. It came to me when we watched the movie A Little Princess. Sara Crewe treated her guests as if she was having the party for them, rather than for herself. She also gave presents to all of her guests at her birthday party—not prizes but presents. I still think that is the sweetest idea. I am sure that my Princess would be thrilled to do it that way as she loves giving gifts! In fact, I would even go so far as to not tell her guests that it is her birthday party, but just a dress up tea party so they do not feel obligated to bring a present at all (and I would rather they not). Now that would be the type of party I would be willing to do with some fancy trimmings.

Some things to think over....

~ My Lord, I pray that if we do have a party, it will be that my daughter is a gracious hostess rather than the guest of honor and that she will find more enjoyment in giving that getting. ~

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pinching Pennies

Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the parent of Liberty. ~Samuel Johnson

We have been to three seasonal consignment sales. Two were on the 11th and one was on the 18th of this month. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the modest, tea length dresses and other clothing that both the Princess and I prefer. What is in style for her size is short skirts, short shorts, and rather sparse tops, like tank tops and spaghetti strings over the shoulder.

Then there is the commercialism to filter out also. It seems that my daughter sizes have been promoted to add pop stars along with Hello Kitty, which is one I don't mind so much, and Disney Princesses, which I tolerate in limited number. A neighboring shopper giggled as I sighed, "If I see one more piece of clothing with Hannah Montana on it, I think I will scream!" Why do so many people pay extra money to advertise someone else on brand new clothes is really beyond me, but then I am not impressed with such things even at bargain prices just for playwear either.

It has come down to when I see a dress that is the kind we like in larger sizes, although it will not fit her now, I still grab it up. I also look in boys for Bermuda length shorts, which are so few and far between in both boys and girls; boys, because they wear them out with rough play and look too boyish, and girls, because they are not the "in" style.

The Princess needs to try on all the clothes we have gotten so far and go through her clothes to identify the ones she has out grown. Anything too small, even the ones just purchased—at least one pair of jeans were too short that we just got—will be prepared and listed to sell in another upcoming sale in April. This one is rather picky, which is hard for the seller as they have special lights in their gymnasium that pick up spots one cannot even see in bright sunlight. It is, however, great for the buyers and I will be shopping there also.

We also had extra time on Thursday so we stopped in at a Goodwill Store on our way to piano lessons. With the most expensive books being hardback adult books at $2.50 we walked out with some good finds under $2O in total, including one on horseback riding and The Way Things Work by David Macaulay.

Today, while shopping for some clothing necessities for work since they changed dress codes, my husband spotted some white shoes at 50% off for the Princess, plus we have a 15% off coupon, so tomorrow after church we will be going to Kohl's and then she should be set for her upcoming piano recital in a few weeks.

~ My Lord, thank you for the blessing of being frugal because it is a verification of Your promise that You will provide all we need regardless of what we have. ~

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vertical Socialization

Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
~Proverbs 22:6

I would like to confess one of my concerns about homeschooling an only child and it has something to do with that dreaded "s" word that so many use to criticize homeschooling(whispering) yes, it is socialization. It has, at times, concerned me. Some people, people I actually respect who have employees or acquaintances formally homeschooled, have expressed they have seen often that homeschooling does not provide diverse enough socialization and that some socialization skills have been...underdeveloped, perhaps. Granted, there are some experiences that my daughter may not have until she is older, but I am not so sure that she needs to have them until she is more mature.

My Princess is a highly social creature. She loves people of all ages. She is respectful, accommodating, and quite lady-like with ill and elderly people, willing to sit and just hold their hand while they talk about things. She is a giggly, enthusiastic, bundle of energy with children and teens, who often must be reminded to settled down when inside. She is a sweet, watchful, big sister to babies and toddlers. On stage, she is like a peacock as she poises herself demurely, but at ease, before she surprises her audience with dazzling talents. She just naturally becomes what is appropriate in each situation, not that she is perfect and does not need a reminder or two now and then, but in her I am well pleased.

So, just why do I find myself worrying about her being an only child as she is homeschooled? I suppose we all have those moments of doubt as a parent. I read that people think they make something like 14.4 food-related decisions per day when in reality it is more like an average of more than 221. Of those over 200 food-related decisions, many are in regards to my daughter and then there are all those other decisions that I make daily in regards to her compounded by homeschooling itself: if she will play inside or outside; if she can play with the neighbors; which lessons are we going to cover today; what books we will read; what words I will pick for her daily spelling quiz; will we read on the porch, on the picnic blanket outside, or snuggled together on the couch. On and on it goes! I am keenly aware that each decision I make will affect this being my Lord placed in my care. I still feel I am called by my Lord to homeschool this only child, so the only decision there was to do as my Lord wills or to go against Him. Since I have decided to do as the Lord wills on this, I believe firmly that my Lord will provide what she needs, and He has in so many ways and so very timely also.

Still, there is know, that (whispering) "s" word...that some seem so concerned about and once in awhile it gets to me as well, but I recently read this:

Thomas Smedley prepared a master's thesis for Radford University of Virginia on "The Socialization of Homeschool Children." Smedley used the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales to evaluate the social maturity of twenty home-schooled children and thirteen demographically matched public school children. The communication skills, socialization, and daily living skills were evaluated. These scores were combined into the "Adoptive Behavior Composite" which reflects the general maturity of each subject.

Smedley had this information processed using the statistical program for the social sciences and the results demonstrated that the home-schooled children were better socialized and more mature than the children in the public school. The home-schooled children scored in the 84th percentile while the matched sample of public school children only scored in the 27th percentile.

Smedley further found that:

In the public school system, children are socialized horizontally, and temporarily, into conformity with their immediate peers. Home educators seek to socialize their children vertically, toward responsibility, service, and adulthood, with an eye on eternity.

Now if that does not put it all into perspective! This is what I see in my daughter. She is being socialized vertically and, quite frankly, is that not how my Lord wants us all to be socialized? Are we not to seek a relationship with Him, to please Him, to be like my Lord Jesus? Is that not also vertical socialization, something we should be doing all our lives? Should we out grow this need to be socialized vertically, cut the apron strings to God, so to speak, as some people think our children need to have their apron stings cut from their parents?

Interesting perspective. I definitely like the idea of vertical socialization!

~ My Lord, thank you for the opportunity to seek You, to learn from You. I pray that my family is vertically socialized for all eternity. ~

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Can Only Imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

This song always takes my breath away and leaves me in tears.

~ What will I do, my Lord, when I am surrounded by your glory? I can only imagine. ~

Saturday, March 20, 2010

4-H Spring Fling

The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Our 4-H meeting was originally scheduled on the first Tuesday evening of March, but it was postponed one week due to the possibility of icy roads. I knew from experience this particular meeting would be long. First there was to be campaigning for the upcoming vote for next year's officers. Then there was the Tackiest Queen and King Contest. I did not plan on participating and the Princess choose to play with her afternoon company, two girls from the neighborhood, rather than preparing for the contest. They did different age groups, including the adults. I took pictures of some of the winners.

This lady is the head adult leader. I promise you there was no favoritism though: she was by far the tackiest!

Squeezed in after the meeting and contest was a speaker about the local horse rescue. I would have loved that we had more time for this one. It was quite interesting. In one of those glowing moments when my Princess shows her caring heart and maturity, she asked the speaker how many horses they had saved this year. I think the woman was surprised because she was the only child who asked a truly pertinent question in regards to what she talking about. The answer was 29 since just this year since January. That number was over half of what they did last year and it is not yet mid March!

Lastly, the community service project was to prepare Easter baskets for the children's home and stacking all the chairs for clean up. I can only describe this as organized chaos, but it all gets done. By the time we took the picture with the baskets, half of the people had already left; the meeting went very late and it was a school night.

The next weekend (last weekend, actually) was the Spring Fling. It was rather chilly. The leader asked me if I would be face painting. This is kind of ironic in a way, because I became interested in face painting during the last Spring Fling, but the woman who did it then had two parties that day, so I ordered some more paints: neon colors that actually glow under black lights plus white and pink, since they are the most used colors. My husband and daughter were there, but I was busy from the time I set up until we left, with only a few breaks to warm up, that I had no idea where they were most of the time. My fingers were so cold that I felt rather clumsy with the brushes the entire day. I did not get pictures of my work; I was just too busy really. However, I had some nice complements. One family even said that they had face painting done at Disney World and that my work was far better...and cheaper at $2 to $3. Of course, all the money went to the 4-H Club and I really don't know how much I contributed. While it was all fun, the cold did get to me and it took me two days to recuperate from being unusually tired with back muscles aching.

~ My Lord, please continue to bless us through the 4-H Club and thank you for giving me a talent that can use to help raise support money for the club. ~

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A man who keeps a diary pays,
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful—then,
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less
Of fullness than of emptiness.
~William Allingham

I have been considering emptiness lately. I think this poem is true. There really is nothing so solitary as writing, except perhaps for reading. I really cannot interact with another person when doing either. Perhaps this is why I blog? So much time spent in front of a computer screen trying to connect with someone in a virtual world and for what? Because it fills an emptiness within me? Does it really, or is it artificial? How many posts have I written? How many have I read? Far too many...far too much time spent...some on people who will never be my friends...some on friends I will never see in person even though they have been truly a blessing to me. Still, so much of it is emptiness that should have been my Lord. How many times did a seek a friend when I should have been seeking to be filled by Him. I have to ask myself in all honesty now: did I do any of it for my Lord? If not, what good has it been?

Empty Me by Chris Sligh

Empty me
Of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition
And the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me
So I can be
Filled with you

~ This day, my Lord, I wish to be emptied of me and filled with You. ~

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Craving Distractions

The more you let yourself be distracted from where you are going, the more you are the person that you are. It's not so much like getting lost as it is like getting found. ~William Stafford

Yesterday the sun flooded in and the temperature kissed the 70° mark for the first time in quite awhile. The warmth and clear wild blue yonder were far too welcoming. On the hour drive home from dropping off my love at the airport, the silent petition brightly shined in my face: This would not be the typical light-homeschooling-after-the-morning-drop-off-at-the-airport day. No, this would be an all-out battle for the mind of a child between unappreciated math facts and "When can I play outside?"

Who could blame the child?

My own mind-battle, starved of a full two hours of sleep, argued between taking a nap and getting a long list of things done, but all day I craved distractions. Let's face it: anything to do with homeschooling and housework would be superbly and unmistakably sabotaged.

The Princess began with piano followed with math. Then we had lunch on the front porch. Afterward, while sitting on the love seat on the porch, quite comfortably cushioned with pillows, she read a chapter of a book to me, which put me to sleep a few times. Somehow that one word that just did not sound right would arouse me from the light slumber, but I would have to ask her where it was on the page as I vaguely remembered something two paragraphs back and then it all faded away as my eyes closed. The chapter read and my own body in betrayal, we decided that we should indulge ourselves in the hot tub after I did a few things while she played a bit and put her things away.

The hot tub was soothing, but oddly, I did not fall sleep as I have been known to do. Instead, I was enamored with my daughter. I remembered our first summer with the hot tub that she could not stand in the middle at all and how she would, being quite independent, walk all around the edge holding on. I remember the first time she could finally stand on her tiptoes in the middle and still hold head above the water. Here she is standing with the water line at her waist!

I thought to myself, she is such a pretty girl, with her fine facial features and a lithe frame. She has always been a delight to me, but more so that day because she was so pleasant to be with. We had done things that she enjoys so much. Such little things, really, that bring her so much pleasure. Why don't I do them more often?

When she wants to have tea, why does it seem such a bother? While I look at all the preparation, as Martha had done, I forget that she is my Mary, from whom I am to learn to enjoy the things that really matter.

So, we enjoyed the day, each other, the lunch on the porch, the hot tub, and nature. While in the hot tub, we both were called into fascination with a red shouldered hawk in the nearest tall tree, so easily seen since the trees are still bare. The Princess tried to imitate the call, which gave the hawk cause to turn and look at us as if to say, "Now, just who are you?"

Yes, for the most part we wandered through the day, enjoying many distractions, and found each other.

~ My Lord, thank you so much for my daughter. I remember praying to You so many times while she was in my womb that we would be the kind of parents she needed and she would be the kind of child we needed. She is. Thank you for this gift. ~

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Renewal and Hope

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

On Saturday morning, the Princess and I made breakfast together: scrambled eggs and waffles. Our waffle maker fell apart some time ago and has not been replaced so I resorted to recently buying some of the pre-made frozen kind that I could toss into the toaster. The Princess is quite proud of herself in being able to cook the scrambled eggs herself and she does a very good job, even seasons them perfectly.

It was our plan to have a good breakfast for energy to burn when we began to thoroughly clean the house before we had to leave to pick up my husband at the airport...and clean we did! We stripped the beds and made them up. We both dusted different rooms and clean our own bathrooms. I vacuumed. She mopped, took out the trash, and shook out the rugs. A light lunch was squeezed in at the proper time and she had a bit of time to play a computer game.

We picked up my husband around 4:00 PM and he was kind enough to take us out to eat, since we had worked so hard and were rather tired. After dinner, we came home to hungry pets. It was bath time for the Princess. I tried to relax and stay out of the way because I knew my husband would be going through things trying to find something he needed for work but could not find and thought he left at home. He had me looking for the last two days but I did not find it—and for good reason as he did find it last night right in the backpack he had with him on the trip. This is so unlike him that I figured the time zone thing messed with his brain.

Then it was work time for my husband as he had to make his flight plans for New York on Monday, tomorrow, but he did not make reservations for the return flight, as he hopes to take the day off on Friday because the next week he will be in Mexico, training for his new job. We shall see how that goes....

This morning, Sunday, was church services. Going to and from, we played the daffodil game as we always have this time of year since the Princess could say the word. Daffodils are the first flowers to bloom after the winter, so whenever we spot the yellow blooms we call out "daffodils." It is a first call, first tally kind of thing and the Princess likes to remind us how many she has when she is in the lead.

We had a our pastor installation service to formally establish our new pastor today. My husband, the Princess, and I had separate parts we were to read; The Princess was the only child to do this and she read beautifully: clear and loud with feeling. There were also some congregational readings as part of the service and a brief sermon. It was a very good day.

Since we only really have one day together and my husband was still a bit tired with adjusting between the time zones, we decided to not attend evening service. I had to wake him to ask if he would like to go or not. This decision, though, ended up being a mistake of sorts, because later on my husband remembered he planned to pick up his reading glasses left at the church since he would need to take them with him on the morrow. As I write this, my husband and the Princess are taking a trip to the church, since he has the keys and security code, to get the glasses.

When they return, the Princess will have a scoop of ice cream and then prepare for bed. We must leave by 7:30 AM for the airport. No doubt we will be again playing our daffodil game. I wonder who will win tomorrow....

~ My Lord, thank you for providing our new pastor and the first signs of spring. There is a spirit of renewal and hope in both and I look forward to the changes they both will bring. ~

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Year to Reflect Upon

The holiest of all holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; the secret anniversaries of the heart. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As of today, I have been blogging for a year, so I have been reflecting on the past year quite a bit lately. I have decided to celebrate my first anniversary by listing a few of my favorites:

From Men to Monkeys was inspired from the picture posted, which I found quite amusing.

I am very thankful I wrote Mary and Martha so that this sweet memory, a little reminder from my Lord, will not be forgotten.

An Abstract Sequential Teaching an Abstract Random is something that maybe only a homeschooling parent can appreciate.

The Princess and Me is special to me because I see myself in my child.

Full of Laughters is—well, you just have to read for yourself.

I had mixed feelings about listing Practicing Face Art, because some of the work now seems so amateurish to me (even then it did, to be honest), but it distinguishes how much I have improved. This post was of work I had done in the month after receiving my first palette of face paints. I have enjoyed experimenting and perfecting the art ever since.

Camping in the Woods was a bit of a trip on the wild side.

Sunday Morning in the Dark
a morning devotion to my Lord.

I felt compelled to write Changing My Expectations with someone in mind who at the time visited my blog, but it is a philosophy that has had a profound influence in my life and has allowed me love people more.

My Lord Keeps His Promises and so He has.

Why I Blog...? so I will not forget why I do this.

~ Thank you, my Lord for this last year. You have given me so much. I pray that this blog is not just for me, but that others have been blessed, if even in the smallest way, and that it has allowed You to touch their hearts. ~