Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Homeschool Buying Dilemma

A good teacher is a master of simplification and an enemy of simplism.
~Louis A. Berman

I just realized today that the reason I ordered Latin's Not So Tough Level 3 "Answers Only" Answer Key booklet last year when I already had it is probably because I meant to order Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek Level 3 "Answers Only" Answer Key booklet from the same company, which I cannot find and now need. This is just a $3 to $4 booklet, which is going to cost twice that with shipping, which is just ridiculous so I thought I would add something else I need from the same store...but it is never just that simple with homeschool materials.

Since we are well into the third level of the Latin series, I may buy Level 4, because I cannot find it used right now and I like having things ahead of needing them, and usually it works for me...usually. In a few more weeks, I probably will find them, but I would probably have to buy other books I don't need so I am not sure I would get much of a savings there.

I made the mistake of looking around for more as I have been toying with the idea of getting First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 4. I have been trying to stay away from a workbook with grammar, but this one has nearly everything I have been doing from a number of sources all-in-one and I did like First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1-2. Too bad there are not many of the Level 4 used, since it is fairly new, and the place with the best price a new one does not carry the Greek answer booklet!

Now I have to ask myself if it is worth spending time to determine the best prices and what to get from where and when, because not everything can be purchased from the same place at the best prices even with shipping. It is always something with homeschooling!

~ My Lord, please guide me yet again to only get what is necessary for me to teach my daughter what is within Your will for her to be learning. ~

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Little Lady Plays a Minuet

A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. We provide the music, and you provide the silence. ~Leopold Stokowski

Friday afternoon was the rehearsal and Saturday afternoon was the Spring Recital. Because we live such a distance away and rehearsals were on Friday evenings, when I usually am making a run to the airport, the Princess was not able to participate in the opening musical portion of the program called the Bach Family Boogie.

We are truly blessed because Dr. Decker is not only a physician but a maker of harpsichords. Here he is tuning an Italian virginal he made that would be the instrument used in the musical. It was played both by Miss Trudy, the piano teacher playing Mrs. Bach, and his own son, who also was one of youngest students she had taken some years ago.

Although not in the musical, the Princess was selected to be the first pianist with two songs: Remember When and a minuet by Bach, one of many written for his wife. Miss Trudy said that she had chosen the Princess to the first one because she has always been a strong performer and remembers the proper way to do everything on the stage. It seems that if one child forgets something, like exiting to their left, then the next one will follow making the same mistake, so she wanted someone to start who rarely makes mistakes.

Adorable, isn't she? Still...little does Miss Trudy remember!

At this same small community theater, the Princess performed her first formal recital at four years ago. She was just turning five years old with almost a full year of piano lessons. She was quite adorable then also in the sweetest pink with white polka dots sailor dress. Her performance was quite... memorable. Not so much because she was so very young and played so well and had such poise, there was all that, but because of something else she did that was not part of the plan. You see, that time the children were to stay backstage before and after their performances, except for the youngest children; they were to join their parents in the audience after their performances. We parents were to stand up so these young ones could find us and then they were to come down the steps and join us. Well, the Princess started to walk toward the steps, but then saw me stand and got a bit confused so she walked to the edge of the front of the stage...and then, before I could say anything, she jumped off. The audience was on the floor! After it was over and I was helping to clean up, Trudy finally asked, "Did she jump off the stage?" My reply, "You know it!" Trudy then explained that she could not see it, being backstage, but that is what she thought probably happened when she heard the laughter. After that, for some time, it seemed that the Princess did some little thing at every performance that made people laugh and she was remembered.

I was concerned this time—to be honest, I am concerned every single time—because she talked about being nervous and she seemed to be genuinely nervous...until the actual performance. I keep thinking that one of these times she will be really nervous during the performance, but so far it has not happened.

There was nothing out of the ordinary that made her stand out at this performance, outside of her natural poise. Her performance was not absolutely flawless and yet it was really lovely. Just a bare hiccup in her first song and a bit of a timing thing in the second were the only flaws, not that anyone else would notice who had not been working with her for the last several weeks. This was the first time she performed without music, solely from memorization. I think she could have done it in a few prior performances, but she did not feel confident in trying it. This time I insisted.

Last month she was supposed to have been judged performing these same two songs and that required her to play from memory, but the judging was canceled because the mother of her piano teacher died. I felt that since she had another month with the songs, it would be good practice for her to do the same for the recital. The piano teacher said she used to have all the performers play without music at the recitals, but one year her high school students rebelled complaining of trying to prepare for tests at school and such. I would like to see the Princess perform without music from this point on.

This recital was to feature only the younger students and Trudy had quite a few of them, thirty-four to be exact, but she wanted to have Brandon perform in this one since it would be his last one and she was losing him as a student. Brandon is a very talented musician, but the instrument in which he excels is the trombone. He has been accepted as a joint enrolled student, where a high school student goes to college and still gets credits for high school classes, at Reinhardt College and so he will not be continuing piano this year. He, of course, did a duet with Miss Trudy which was beautiful.

However, there was a change of clothes for the the finishing touch on the Spring Recital, a performance to leave us all in stitches that was not on the program. They did a performance emphasizing just about everything Miss Trudy tells her students not to do during a performance, including chewin' tabaccy and a relaxation technique that involved such violent shaking that I was relieved to see they took the precaution of standing so far apart from each other. It reminded us of Carol Burnett's cleaning woman skits. I could not get a good photo of all this because of the lighting and all the exaggerated movements, but it was hilarious! 

The Princess also played for our church on Sunday morning. She chose Remember When and played it even better than she had at the recital...of course!

~ My Lord, I cannot express how amazed I am by this child's talent and I pray that she always uses it to glorify You. ~

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Princess Assists the Pastor

Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso.
(Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick.)
~Spanish Proverb

I could write a series of books about the Princess, I think, and this would be one chapter, but I will make it brief for the sake of it being in a blog:

With children's church being canceled, because the people in charge of it had other obligations with the teens at a regional weekend get-a-way, our pastor had planned a timely sermon to involve the children who would be remaining in the church service. It was a good plan, but unfortunately with a very small church, just a one or two families missing can have a very big effect on the numbers, resulting with the Princess being the only child in the church for service.

The pastor had two bowls and two boxes, one was a brownie mix and the other mac-n-cheese. Now, the funny part was watching the pastor trying to get answers—that is, the answers he wanted—out of the Princess, who has never yet seen anyone make brownies from a box, so this really was a totally foreign concept to the child. If you can imagine the man asking her what else was needed to make brownies and she listing some ingredients that would not be needed because they would already be included in the box, you still would only get just part of the picture. She was fine on the wooden spoon for stirring and measuring spoons and cups part, thankfully. At one point, she said rather loudly and with a serious conviction that he "had better get a cookbook." I was practically on the floor at that point. I did not know whether I should be embarrassed because she lacked the knowledge of boxed mixes having instructions on them or proud because I knew she was not that familiar with box mixes, because we eat more fresh foods and bake from scratch. Such strange contradictory feelings!

At least the lady sitting behind me understood my daughter's dilemma knowing a bit about our lifestyle. We do get organic mac-n-cheese in a box to have on hand because the Princess loves it and can make it herself at this point, but I rarely ever look at the instructions and we add ingredients not listed on it, like yogurt instead of milk, and broccoli, peas, or edamame. Still, if he had referred to the mac-n-cheese more than the brownies, my daughter probably could have been more cooperative to his purpose.

I was not much help either. When he was trying to make a point about needing to cut the brownies and use a spatula to remove them from the baking pan, he said that we would not just put our fingers into the pan to grab chunks of brownies out to eat them that way.... "Oh, but we could!" I heard blurted out and then realized I was the one who had said it...yes, I am nearly shameless when it comes to brownies!

In my defense, the pastor should have known bringing up brownies in the sermon was risky at best with me in the congregation. We had just had a conversation about my terrible brownie addiction when I was asked to cut the brownies at his home on Resurrection Day. There I was with six other adults and one child (my own), who were busy doing other stuff, and one entire pan of brownies right there in my hands! My eyes glazed over, my palms sweated, and all I could think of was how to secret away the delightful, rich, cocoa treats for myself....later it was mentioned how surprised they were at the discipline I displayed in only allowing myself to eat one after being so candid in my confession.

It was rather difficult to focus on the point of the sermon, with the thought of brownies in the back of my mind (not back far enough), but it was about just as we need to be thoroughly equipped to prepare food in the kitchen we also need to be well equipped in our Christian walk. He even, quite nicely, worked in my daughter's unexpectedly strong advice by relating a cookbook to the Bible. Still, the Princess came away disappointed because the pastor did not intend to actually make any brownies (even though the kitchen is right there) and, sharing the feeling, I have to no response to that.

~ My Lord, thank you for chocolate and a pastor who can make a sermon using it. ~

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Something for Nothing

Why not learn to enjoy the little things—there are so many of them. ~Unknown

So many times I have read a blog about how other thrifty women paid $1.00 for food enough to feed their families for a week or they actually were paid $1.00 for buying something that would typically cost $50.00. Things like that I always learn about after the fact and wish it was me just once.

Well, today was that day! Kohl's had a door-buster sale all day, which included an Oster® Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker, typically a retailing at $39.99, but today it was $19.99. I was not really looking for a new waffle maker, but the one we used to have fell apart a few years ago and we did not replace it because of financial concerns. This was such a deal because I also had a 15 percent off card bringing the price down to $16.99 AND then a $10 off coupon brought it down to $6.99 AND then there was a $10 rebate, so Kohl's will be paying me just over $2 (when I add in the cost of the envelope, stamp, and sales tax) just to take that waffle maker out of their store.

Of course, in order to use the $10 coupon I had to have today's purchases total over $20. Fortunately, I did need to get a necessary and special item for the Princess, which also was on sale for originally cost $10 but my final cost with the sale price and the 15 percent off made it $5.95, so I purchased two.

Now I just have to fill out the rebate form, place it, the receipt, and the UPC code into a stamped addressed envelope to send out in the mail and wait four to six weeks for my $10 check while we make homemade waffles!

Those waffles are going to taste really yummy!

~ My Lord, thank you again for again reminding me of how You can provide something from nothing...such an amazingly power! ~

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Changes Are Happening

Change is the only constant. ~Proverb

I have always said the one thing I can count on in this existence is that everything will change. My husband was hoping to be home this week, but he left this the morning to pick up a rental car and will be gone for the rest of the week. I am disappointed, but not surprised. This is the way of things often here.

This weekend on both Saturday and Sunday, the weather was cool and beautiful, so after not doing any real gardening for a very long time, I began cleaning up my herb garden. You know, you really cannot turn your back on mountain mint. All mints are invasive and tenacious, but mountain mint goes far beyond all expectations and strangled out nearly everything else, including six or seven other mints. I am thankful that it runs along the surface with shallow roots, so I actually could pull up and roll back a three inch thick root matting. It seems the only herb survivors where garlic chives, lemon balm, sweet woodruff, strawberries (okay, not an herb, but I like variety in my garden), fennel, rue, echinacea, and tarragon, which cuts my herb garden down to a small fraction of what it used to be. It was hard work and I had some sore muscles, but...well, I have a little secret that always works for sore muscles and this morning I had no soreness left at all. Today it rained so gardening was not going to be done. I have about half of the herb garden cleared away, but the hardest part is still before me.

The next three weekends are all planned out. This weekend is the spring piano recital which will take up our day from lunch time to dinner time on Saturday and Sunday is a church family cookout in the evening. The next weekend is a 4-H field trip in the morning and the Princess's birthday tea in the afternoon on Saturday. On the next Tuesday, the 4-H Club has its awards dinner and I have promised to bring food for that. That Friday, my husband is having a minor surgery to remove three cysts in his hand and wrist areas and the next day is the Spring Fling with the face painting for the 4-H Club until mid afternoon and then a mother and daughter tea at our church in the evening. Whew!

Yesterday, I did my twenty minutes working on a clutter spot. I started with the guest room and today I competed it. I probably could have done it all in just twenty minutes total, but I was organizing the clothing for a yard sale and/or the fall consignment sale. I have done well for two days in a row with my "twenty minutes a day, clutter away" commitment and am looking forward decluttering other areas!

Of course, we did lessons most of the day yesterday and today with added piano time in preparation for the recital. As for homemaking, I vacuumed all the floors in the main levels and the stairs yesterday, but my husband was on the phone off and on in the office area, so I vacuumed the office area today. Yesterday afternoon, I did a load of whites and folded it and other load of jeans left in the dryer, while the Princess finished her math—as I have found that if I split her math into two and have her do the second half after lunch, she gets it all done in record time...for her.

Tomorrow, I may take advantage of a 15 percent discount plus a $10 off coupon at Kohl's when I am out to do a few local errands.

~ My Lord, please bless my efforts to stay focus on the upcoming tasks even while many things are uncertain and changing from week to week. I ask that You bless my daughter's upcoming performance and that she will always use her talents to Your Glory. ~

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back to Baby Stepping Out of the Clutter...Seriously!

Three Rules of Work:
Out of clutter find simplicity;
From discord find harmony;
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
~Albert Einstein

It is rather interesting having this online journal we call a blog. I have at times gone back and reread some of my own posts—finding typos and grammar errors that I cannot believe I missed!—but now that I have been blogging for a year, I can go back to the same month a year ago and see what I was thinking, what I was hoping to do, what I had done, and so on. For instance, spring again has been a flurry of pollen; the spring recital program covers I designed last year are again being used for this recital in which my daughter is playing next weekend; I am still baking sourdough bread which I began just over two years ago when my husband was out of work; I began face painting a year ago and am now being asked to do it for fund raisers and special events for church and the 4-H Club regularly; allowance is still the same amount and given each Saturday, which is doing what we intended, and the list goes on.

Then there are posts like this one Baby Stepping Out of the Clutter and I did have my guest room completely cleaned up, but I used it recently to organize everything for the spring consignment sale this last week and now I need to clean it back up again. It should not take that long this time because I really cleaned it up last autumn, since we had my aunt and uncle visiting, and I had a place for everything, so it just comes down to taking things off on the surfaces and putting where they belong as I prepare winter clothes for the fall consignment sale.

Shall I go on to the point I am brutal...?

The craft room...I had put things in nice neat stacks of boxes: things to keep and things to sell and projects to do. The middle of the room was free of boxes and things, it was wonderful! Still, at no time in the last year—I still cannot believe it has been an entire year!—did I clear off the surfaces, though. Why did I not get those surfaces cleared off so I could use my sewing machine or draw at my art table? Why did things get moved around and more things were carelessly dropped on surfaces to be done or put away another day, another day that never seems to come? At Christmas nearly all the things in the under-the-stairs closet came out into the then-cleared-away area in the middle of the craft room, as is always the way it works. Now the Christmas things did get put back away, but afterward things just again began to pile up in the middle of the room. Then we brought some things back with us from his great aunt's place when we went there...MONTHS ago? Yes, it all has been sitting in there since January. The craft room again—that is, still—needs to be completely cleaned up and I need to have a yard sale, maybe even one a month for a few months!

Creativity...although I had wonderful ideas, I have not done any art, crafts, or creative things other than face painting this year. The things that I know in my heart would help me not mind being alone so much and I would even crave solitude, as I do when working on an art project. I have yet to make my first batch of homemade soap, after spending about three or maybe even four years reading on how to do it and getting over my fear of working with the lye.

Living room...we painted it over two years ago, but I have yet to finish the trim around the stairs and stair railing, which I had on my to-do list before my aunt and uncle's visit...just this last autumn. This is pathetic! For two years, I told myself I would do it during the winter when I could not do the outside gardening, which ironically I did not do either.

My gardens...not touched at all in the last year, except one day around the mailbox from which I got sun sick and then I let the grass encroached that area again. I just got out of the gardening mode. For four years we were in a drought with the last two years of it being the worse. I lost many plants, including most of my herb garden. I let the plants that could survive run-a-muck and did not bother with watering and babying the ones that needed it. Why not, you may ask? In our area, we were dangerously low on available water for just daily human use, so I was trying to be responsible by not using water anymore than necessary then and we had no water in our rain barrels for the garden. However, last year it began raining again, even flooding, so why did I not tackle the gardens last year...? I do have a sort-of excuse for this one because of the time my husband is far away. Gardening can take its toll on a back, particularly when my gardens need a serious overhaul, and most of the time I am careful and do well, but I also can get in a locked-up condition so that I cannot even drive myself to the chiropractor's office.

Health...I did not exercise regularly last year, excluding the customary race to the van with my daughter after piano lessons once a week. Actually, I did not put much effort into anything that I know keeps me healthier. I did not juice. I did not do a liver cleanse. I will stop here because the list of "what I did not do" in the health arena is staggering.

At this point, I am feeling a strange intertwining of shame for having accomplished so little, for letting yet another year slide by without doing the things I really wanted and hoped to do, yet there is a renewed determination that this year will be different...and then there is a peculiar assurance that in those same yet-to-be-fulfilled hopes and goals, although pushed back it is not like they can never be achieved.

What did I do in the last year? What were my real goals? I am thinking that my real goals were the ones I did accomplish for the most part, because the other ones were not given the attention they needed to be real goals—sad, but true—as much as I dislike admitting that. Those other things were more like if I have the time I will work on them, not I will make the time to finish them. One real goal was to keep a blog and post to it regularly, as regularly as anything ever is in my life, and so far so good. Another was to stay away from message boards and except for an occasional backsliding, I have limited myself on wasting time with such pursuits; this is excluding a time or two when it was obvious to me that God had a purpose for me to be responding on a forum. I have had quite a few others that I have probably forgotten, I suppose, perhaps because I did not see them as goals, just things I have to do to get by.

I have read a couple of other blogs of late where people have set real goals quite publicly; I admire their bravery. One that particularly has caught my eye is Persuaded's commitment to buy nothing for a year. This is her latest post in the series at her blog Tomato Soup Cake. I don't know if I would/could/should even attempt at being so transparent on my blog. She admitted to slipping by buying three pairs of flip-flops for a dollar each and I realized that I would readily forgive another person of such things, but when I give my word I cannot stand the shame I place on myself when I slip up. I am not one who so easily laughs at myself. I am not comfortable with making it so easy for people to identify my weaknesses (perhaps residual from an abused childhood), which is really illogical thinking because when you try hiding your weaknesses you are actually revealing them...I know this! I know it well! I even know how much I admire when people do the exact opposite and reveal their own weaknesses so I can identify with them...but, I have not been that brave. So why the confession now, you may be wondering? There is a point where I get truly disgusted and rant on my myself...well, I think I am there.

What to do now...I have noticed that when I place things to do on a list or on the calendar, they tend to get done. I have only remembered to do allowance every week because it is marked on my calendar on each Saturday and I mark other things off that I have done there. I have considered a chart or planner, seeing some ideas that the well-organized Persuaded had, a planner and a daily schedule, however I also know from past experience that planners need to be personalized to work well, so I again have been considering my own planning system. My schedule needs a great deal of flexibility, so I have been tossing an idea using index cards on a rotation system of sorts. This would also give the Princess more structure as we begin stretching those developing self-reliant and independence muscles in a positive way. The problem is I have habit of try making everything so...so...uh, overwhelmingly comprehensive, I suppose would be the the nicest way to say it. I am thinking the best way to begin would be to list everything I do each day so that I can devise my planner from that.

I am also going to work on clutter for at least twenty minutes each day (using a timer) to start for a week or so until I am really comfortable with that routine and then adding something else or beginning a project.

The question is if I will be brave enough to chronicle my progress.

Not so sure about that....

~ My Lord, if it is your will, please give me the desire to accomplish these goals. I am ever so aware how my lifestyle is teaching my daughter and I need to be an example for her to want to follow. Help me to be more of what she needs me to be so she will be more of what You want her to be. ~

Friday, April 16, 2010

Switching Gears with Comings and Goings

A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.
~Andre Maurois

By now those of you, who read my blog regularly, know that my husband travels quite a bit. This is a job he has had for only two years. (I have to say here that have always appreciated the sacrifices military families make, but I now have a greater understanding of what they must go through being apart as they must be.) The job he had before for many years was one were he was on-call after regular business hours as a field service engineer, who worked on high speed printers, which run 24/7 so they can breakdown at any time in the night.

My husband's work schedule then has always been one to keep me on my toes. Whenever he was on-call, he might be home or I might not see much him at all for the entire week. I became so used to this lifestyle that it got to the point that I no longer even heard his beeper go off (when beepers were used) or his cell phone while I slept, and he was so adept in dressing quietly in the dark that I did not even notice he had left my side or heard the car start up. Even our dogs learned to follow him around quietly and then come back to lie down when he left. I cannot give a count of the times he was just going to bed when I was getting up, or how I was just going to bed when he got a call to go out, or that he just drove in the the driveway to drive right back out, or just got into bed to have to leave again, or that he worked during the day and did not come home at all until the next day to eat a meal and sleep.

Often, when he was home, he was tired and understandably so for he always worked some unscheduled overtime. It was rather customary that several times each week that he would call saying go ahead with supper as he would be late. It was not that uncommon for him to work up to 50 extra hours in one week. Now, my husband is a patient (more so that I am), practical (for the most part), and highly principled (quoting my mother here) man, but when a person is sleep deprived and eats irregularly timed meals, he is just not at his best. I, thankfully, learned to lower my expectations of him when he worked so many hours, even though my husband still considers me a high-maintenance kind of woman.

After around 25 years with one company bought out by another three times and keeping his benefits of seniority, my husband was let go of that job at the beginning of December in 2007, about 2½ years ago. (What happened then is story worth writing at another time.) After being out of work for almost five months, he was hired for his current job.

This job was nearly at his same base pay, but it was salaried—no possible overtime. There also would be no company car, as he had always had in the past, so it was going to be difficult with just one car. Then there was the traveling: he would be traveling so that he would be away from home from Monday morning to Friday evening most of the time and then he could be away for weeks, including weekends for special shows or training.

Now from one point of view, my husband is not home as much, but when he is home, he is generally in a better mood and better rested. He is careful to go to hotels with better beds for his back and he is not on-call to leave at a moment's notice in the middle of the night; in other words, for the first time in decades, he can sleep nights. I don't know that I see him any less than I did before and we actually have weekends together most of the time, so we can make real plans, which was not the case before.

It is a bit more difficult for the Princess in some ways. There is not the day-to-day last minute disappointment for our daughter that her father will not be home that evening or not able to go to church with us, however we go through this emotional roller-coaster that begins with saying good-bye to her daddy at the airport or car rental place until we again see him.

After two years of this, you would think it I would be used to all the nuances associated with it. We laughingly tell people we met on the phone and so we have always done well with being apart like this as long as we can talk on the phone, which is true for the most part. What I was not really prepared to handle was having full responsibility of everything when he is away. It is not like he is at a customer account just an hour or two away as before when the Princess and I were in a car accident (again, another story for another time)....Oh, no! Instead, he is hours away in Canada, New York, California, Israel, Mexico, etc. When he is in another country we cannot really talk to each other much either.

And, just when I am feeling somewhat comfortable (as if that is even possible for me) with the lone-parent-in-charge-of-everything thing, the man is back home. I cannot tell you how many times he looks at me directly and says "I'm home now and I can handle this," when I take charge of something he is right there to do himself.

We all have to switch gears nearly every week. Thankfully, he has been home since Tuesday night and is scheduled (although such things can change) to be home next week as well. I am happily switching gears again, but his last trip was particularly hard because he was gone on an important holiday. The Princess has not wanted to do lessons since his return and, frankly, I do not blame her as I feel the same, so we have been struggling with each other through the subject she likes the least: math.

Today I finally admitted to my husband how lonely I have been feeling lately and he admitted to me how tired he has been because his job has been very demanding lately, so he has not been his best when we have talked on the phone. One thing we know about ourselves, everything around us can fall apart (and a great deal has at times), but we are fine as long as we are communicating well with each other and neither one of us lets problems in that area go on for too long...perhaps that is why my loves-to-fix-things man and his high-maintenance wife do so well together.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for my husband, for my marriage. ~

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Disciplining of the Princess

It is usually a surprise to discover that most ugliness we see in others is but a reflection of our own nature. ~Unknown

The week after my husband left to work in Florida was Spring Break for the public schools in my county, so the 4-H Horse and Pony Club had a day camp from 10 to 4 on Tuesday and I thought it might serve to sweeten both my daughter's, as well as my own, disposition as the feelings of missing him on Resurrection Day still lingered.

It takes only about twenty minutes to reach the farm and parents are supposed to drop the children off and not stay. Before I was done signing the release of liability papers, my daughter excitedly had been paired with a teenager and had trotted off to the stables, forgetting our customary good-bye kiss, which caused a twinge in my heart, but I recovered quickly being that she was so enthusiastic get to the horses—an overwhelming feeling I well understood. She was in the barn, papers were signed, and my part was done. Before I knew what I was doing, my arms were thrown up over my head and I heard "Freedom!" come out of my mouth as the adults now behind me giggled and I practically danced back to the van for the twenty minute drive home.

Here I was with a full five hours and twenty minutes to do whatever I wanted...alone...without having to think of an answer to even one child's question...oh, yes, I was counting every precious minute. So what did I decide to do? I called a friend while I tackled the child's room. I cleaned up some things and removed some things, things she would never let go of but were no longer necessary to her and just adding clutter, and began preparing some of her outgrown summer clothes which would be going into a consignment sale for this week.

Now I have to say that my daughter has always kept her room pretty nicely, so other parents tell me. I have been a stickler for having things put away, but I can see that I am not as diligent in following up as I once was and she has gotten a bit careless in one respect and better at purposely hiding things in another. The things you find in a child's room! There were at least four pairs of knotted socks tucked away all in a corner of her closet under the hanging organizer where they had been easily missed with just a glance in...and I will be doing more than glancing at that special little hiding spot from now on.

The next night I found three pairs of shoes—technically, two pairs of shoes and one pair of boots—under the large ottoman in the living room with three pairs of knotted socks. I asked her put them away and her solution was to unknot the socks (for which she would be very thankful later that she did remember to do without me reminding her) before placing them in the laundry hamper and then dump the three pairs of footwear in her room....I thought she had done the job a little too quickly so I asked, "Did you put the shoes away in the closet?" When you get that look, (if you are a parent, I am sure you know what look I am talking about) and then "I'll go look," as my friend Birbitt said, that translates into something like "No, I didn't, but I don't want to tell you because I will get into trouble and I am going to do it right now." We then had a conversation about piles being moved from one room to another and yet still being piles and there was the closet just two or three more steps away with vacancies for all her footwear, so instead of another pile that drives Mama crazy—admittedly Mama does not do well with clutter and piles certainly qualify—she really should put them away where they belong the first time. "While we are at it, did you unknot those socks before you placed them in the hamper?"

This is not the same little girl I have known for the last eight years, who when asked to put things away she actually put them their place. I find myself telling myself that she is turning nine as if that is explanation enough. At least, it seems to be when I tell other parents, who then give that look of understanding, but somehow that is just not good enough a reason for me.

Although the time was too short—odd how that works because the first time she went to this day camp in the summer of last year it seemed too long—I did look forward to picking up my Princess and hearing all about her day...and heard I did. Instead of hearing about horses, however I heard all about a little girl I will call Alice, who was mean to her. We were sitting in the van, while the Princess, now starving, was scarfing down the remaining half of her sandwich and apple slices (I told you she eats slowly, but when with other children, she just forgets to eat at all...she gets that from me as well, I think) and she began to unravel the tale of events. Now, being that I am no longer as young or as impulsive so perhaps a bit wiser in how I approach such things, I listened and tried to imagine the parts my daughter was not telling me. You know, your own child is always the innocent victim and although she has been one to tell on herself in the past...she also has grown to be a bit wiser now, I think.

It seems that most of this started with the chickens. The farm has a few chickens who like setting up their own daily egg hunts and one was making a fuss in one of the empty horse stalls, so my Princess thought it might be trying to lay in there because we had just been there Friday evening to help with cleaning stalls, grooming, and feeding, and she found one egg in that very stall then. Well, there was a discussion and one of the children said that chickens lay five eggs a day. Knowing my daughter, she probably was quick to correct that and say they only lay one a day and not every day. I am fuzzy on who said what, up until Alice told my daughter that she did not know anything about chickens with a great deal of attitude (even though she was right about the once a day laying, the Princess was quick to add).

The funniest part of all the things she told me was when Alice said that the money spent on the camp was wasted because my daughter (and possibly others, at that point) were being mean to her. Her mother had paid money for her to be there and they were ruining it for her so that money was just wasted. At that point, one of the other children stood up and said that her parents had paid money for her to be there also, so had all the parents. (Good for her!)

I still am getting bits and pieces of that day now and then, but this was the general gist of it...Alice was mean and so were the other children at first, my Princess ended up in tears three times that day and even considered quitting the club, Alice was not obeying the teen leaders at times, and later the other children were nicer to my daughter and not as nice to the other girl.

Getting the only most dramatic parts at that time, I asked the Princess to stay in the van and went over to ask the farm owner her opinion of what had occurred. She was not really aware, but one of the teens in charge was present. I asked if my daughter had started all this. The teen told me that none of the teens knew what happened the first time, but the second and third incidents, my Princess had not done anything to start the trouble.

Then I listened to disconnected details all the way home and I listened well for there was a lesson in each snippet. One was the general attitude of the girl towards my Princess was so very similar to the attitude the Princess had been having towards me of late. The other was when the girl was told to apologize to my Princess, she said "Sorry," without real remorse and turned away quickly with a great deal of attitude that more than suggested otherwise. At that point, I had to really reign in what I wanted to say and listen to the Lord speak to my heart. (I should say that I was just like this myself so I knew what approaches did not work well and knew I needed my Lord's guidance to handle it the best way.) I asked my Princess how that made her feel and I sincerely sympathized with her for several minutes, but then, teary-eyed, I reminded her of how her attitude has been and how she has been apologizing to me lately....the silence was golden.

I have always believed that the Lord brings to my daughter just what she needs. As odd as it sounds, I cannot tell you how reassuring this day was to me. I wish it had been avoided and she only had a good time, but I was reminded that my Lord will provide the discipline she needs in other ways when her father is unavailable and I am inadequate to the task at a given time. It reminded me that I am not alone when my husband is so far, but that my Lord is not only with me, He is taking care of all things quite well for my family.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for providing what my daughter needs in every way. ~

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Generosity of Friends

We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.
~Mother Teresa

My husband is returning home today after being gone twelve days straight, including the last two weekends...yes, that means we were not together to celebrate Resurrection Day. It was quite a downer for all of us. He was stuck at a hotel all day, while I tried to do the usual things with the Princess. We went to our sunrise service and then afterward I was just planning on going home and...well, I was not sure what we were going to do from there.

Bare with me as I do a flash backwards...that is, more backwards than Resurrection Day. The weekend before, our church did an egg hunt on Saturday. We planned to be there and I had plenty of time to prepare lunch...until someone pulled up into the driveway: the mother of one of the Princess' new friends in our neighborhood. This friend wanted to play with the Princess, of course, and I asked if she could join us for the church egg hunt. Unfortunately, the mother and I talked a bit too long, as I am well too known to do, and then I hurriedly had to make a lunch for the two girls. Now if you really knew my daughter, you would know that eating fast is not her thing with the exception of mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and hotdogs, which can disappear in lightning speed by comparison (although it is probably just normal speed in reality). So, we left the half-eaten sandwiches took a cut-up apple with us to eat on the way.

I silently groaned when we arrived because, instead of doing a craft as was done in the past, the church had cupcakes, cake, chips, and sodas for the children before the egg hunt. Then these sugar-charged children were expected to quiet down for a short Bible story about the resurrection...while on this carbohydrate high...I will just let you imagine how that went for yourself. Finally released, the children wildly scattered. Eggs awaited the little ones in the front and others in the back for older ones. The flurry ended in just five minutes. The captured eggs were feverishly opened to find the treasures of candy, but no chocolate or nuts, and little gifts. Then they did a tossing game with raw eggs which was rather messy.

My husband left a few days later in the week to work in Orlando. While he was there, his father went into the hospital. His blood pressure was doing some odd things since his pacemaker was changed out. Being that my husband was only a little over an hour away, he spent an extra day in Florida to visit his parents but is traveling home today and expected to arrive tonight about the time of our 4-H meeting, so we might not see him until later.

If you had not noticed I flashed forward to today, so now, if I have not lost you yet, I am going to flash back to the day before Resurrection Day. That day, the Princess and I colored eggs. This was particularly difficult for us as this was one of the things of which my husband usually takes charge, but we had a very good time and made some beautiful eggs. My daughter has become quite adept at doing creative things and I enjoyed it more than I expected.

While at services on Resurrection Sunday, the pastor's wife, taking pity on us and I probably looked pitiful, asked if we would join them and their family for dinner after church. With both the Princess and I feeling pretty lonely and, after having a tough week with her because of it, I was very thankful for the invitation to be with other adults, but there could have been a bit of a snag. My next door neighbor, since her grandchild was walking, has always invited the Princess to an egg hunt at her place, but I had not heard from her. I felt it was breaking with etiquette to call her asking if the Princess was invited to her egg hunt this year, and if it had not been a tradition for the last five years I would not have been so bold. However, as gracious as she is generous, my neighbor assured me that she had meant to call me earlier, but got busy with making dinner and, of course, the Princess was invited to the egg hunt, which would be after dinner in the early afternoon.

Perfect! I turned to the Princess and said, "You are truly blessed!" The Lord had worked it all out so that we could go to the Pastor's dinner and our neighbor's egg hunt. And both we did!

Our neighbor does not put candy in her eggs; she puts money in them. The Princess came away with just under $20, which we split up as we usually do money gifts and allowance: twenty percent goes towards tithing and the remaining eighty percent is split into savings and spending money.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the generosity of our friends and for providing all that we need. ~

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who Will be Saved?

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me ~John 14:6

We have been doing quite a few things that I want to post here, but I have also been in a quiet spiritually pensive mood, perhaps due to the deeply religious and inspiring traditions surrounding the Passover and Resurrection Day. This desire for solitude was stirred by a kindred soul, Ganeida, a friend half way around the world who posted this blog: The more one looks, the more one sees.

While Geneida's post was wonderful, it was a comment—a question, actually—posted there that caught my attention even more. It was one that many ask of Christians as well as one that Christians ponder and argue. "Do you believe Jews can ascend to heaven?"

My answer was this:

This is addressed in the Book of Hebrews, after it establishes the priesthood of Jesus in the order of Melchizedek (He was not of the tribe of Levi), but particularly in Hebrews 11.

It begins with:
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
2 For by it the men of old gained approval.

I share this in mindset with Dallas Willard, a Christian author and Professor of Philosophy. Referencing Romans 2:6-10 Dallas wrote:

"What Paul is clearly saying is that if anyone is worthy of being saved, they will be saved. At that point many Christians get very anxious, saying that absolutely no one is worthy of being saved. The implication of that is that a person can be almost totally good, but miss the message about Jesus, and be sent to hell. What kind of a God would do that? I am not going to stand in the way of anyone whom God wants to save. I am not going to say "he can't save them." I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can. It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved. **But anyone who is going to be saved is going to be saved by Jesus: "There is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved."**

(Dallas Willard has been criticized heavily for this statement which is on his website, but often the last line [between the asterisks] is purposely left off when they quote him.)

One of the most obvious incidences that a person pleased the Lord so much that he did not even experience death was Elijah, who was taken up to the Lord by a chariot of fire in 2 Kings 2, as witnessed by Elisha.

Due to this and many other references, it is unlikely that not one was saved before the sacrifice Jesus made and, likewise, I question that none are saved who have never heard of Jesus. I get a bit fuzzy on the matter of salvation once a person has been offered the gift of His sacrifice *with full understanding* and yet rejects it, but that is God's domain and I too am happy for God to save anyone He wants in any way he can.

On the other side of that, too many times I have seen Christians think they have an "in" with God because they believe in Jesus, but then they do not cultivate their relationship with God much beyond that. I believe that God prefers a person to seek to please Him always than a person to think they have pleased Him enough to be saved.

I have given this some more thought and prayer so I would like to further add some thoughts. One is that God is not limited by time. In fact, I wonder if eternity, as we call it, is really time without end or a realm outside of time. If it is the latter, then Jesus' sacrifice is not an event limited to our historical time line, but it just is, has always been, and will always be to save those who came before and after. Could it be that men could be saved by the Savior before the sacrifice was made in our time line? (Of course, I deeply enjoy such thoughts that mess with the mind and bring different perspectives to consider.) Perhaps this concept of time being irrelevant to the Lord was, in part, what Jesus was trying to get people to understand when he told the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16.

I believe that God can and will favor those of His choosing regardless of how worthy anyone might think them to be. I also do believe, as it is written, that no one comes to the Father except through the Jesus, but I question the mainstream Christian credence that one must accept Jesus in just a certain way for this to be possible—I mean, who knows the mind of God and what He sees as acceptance in the heart of another? Like Dallas Willard, I am not going to be like the prodigal son's bother—I should hope I will not, at least—and say I did it all the right way, I prayed asking Jesus into my heart, I have the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, indwelling in me, I have worked hard trying to please You, and You are going to let this person be "saved" who did not know Your Son in the here and now or in the past before He was even born? Both times are the same when time is not a factor, right? (I did warn you that I have a thing for messing with the mind.) But, then what is it to be in God's favor other than to be one who has surrendered himself to God, even if he does not have the advantage of a Bible to explain Who God or Jesus is?

However, there is another side of this, one for which I have no answer, only questions. Is it possible to truly commune with God without the indwelling of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit? I think in this respect, if one has not this wonderful gift of the Living Law, this connection with God always guiding us according to His will, that the person would likely rely heavily on the written law as the only reference in how to find favor with God. While the person may seek God in prayer and God may make His will known to whomever He chooses, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there is a soul sickening incompleteness, a lonesome remoteness, an abysmal inapproachability to the Divine that was meant only for the Holy Spirit to consummate in us. If I had never had this, I would not know what I would be missing, but having had it, I would feel abandoned without it. I don't know that I could ever explain that in a way that another person, never having the experience, could understand.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for providing us all a way to be close to You and for our salvation. ~

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hope by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul...
~Emily Dickinson

My Princess has been given several books of poems by her grandparents and we are putting them to good use. We picked one poem on hope from the book of Emily Dickinson works and the child memorized it in less than a week. She has always been very good with memorization and I think using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise for the first two years of homeschooling helped us both with the technique of memorization and training her how to master reciting from memory. We discussed the metaphor of hope being personified as a bird in detail. She has been working on fine tuning the inflections the last couple of days, so that as she recites, she also enriches the imagery.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Isn't this a sweet poem worth calling to up from memory?

~ Thank you, My Lord, for the ability to create and enjoy the creations of others, for being able to envision how another sees and thinks. With all interesting the minds and hearts of your followers, I can only imagine how You might be entertained by our imaginations...at least, I hope You are. ~