Thursday, March 31, 2005

Book Non-Recommendation

In my quest to read more fiction, I just finished The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler, but I don't really recommend it. It is about 5 women and 1 man who meet together monthly in a book club to discuss Jane Austen's books. There is not really a plot; it is mainly about people's lives. I wasn't bothered by the fact that there was no plot. What bothered me was that none of the characters were very likeable, so I felt no sympathy for any of their problems. Each meeting is hosted by a different person, so that chapter would not only talk about that meeting, but also attempt to delve into the character of the hostess (or host). There are lots of flashbacks and self-centered belly-button gazing as the selfish people meander through life with no moral compass to guide them. There were some clever allusions to Austen's books, but they weren't worth reading this book. And some of the high school experiences of the characters strengthened my resolve to never let my children go to a public high school. Bleh. Amy started reading it while she was here visiting, and she said she had a hard time getting into it. I had a hard time too, since the characters are introduced in depth so slowly, but they are all there in the beginning of the book too, and they all sort of blend together. Really though, I never got into the book, and I just read quickly through it to finish it. So don't bother checking it out of your library at home, Amy! : ) I hear "they" are making a movie out of this book. I have to wonder how that will work, since there is no plot to speak of, and hardly any action at all? I guess they'll do what they always do when they make books into movies--completely change it. Maybe I'll like the movie instead of the book! Doubtful.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Eggs and Things that Grow

Last night, Luke begged that we get some more of the plastic Easter eggs so they could hide them, then find them with each other. We got them a new dozen and you would think Heaven opened! Since the ones we found had candy (and others had baubles) in them, the boys only opened 4 of the new 12--the excitement should build for the rest of the week. Setting the tone, the boys couldn't find the lst 2 eggs. Asking me to help, I told them they couldn't have any new eggs in the coming days until all of these were found. After groans, they "appreciated" my help and got back to successfully completing the task at hand quickly.
Claire mentioned the mini-garden. So far, the plants have taken off. In a 6 x 6 grid, there is a row of watermelon, peppers, tomatoes, 2 rows of beans, and a miss-matched row consisting of 1 sq of apple seeds (from one Nathan ate), 2 of cantalopes, and 3 of cucumbers. I think we will not be able to wait the recommended 4-5 weeks before transplanting most of them in planters on the deck. Thinking of the beans, I'm reminded of our last garden--in Ohio. After taxes are done, I will be adding some 1 x 2's to a planter to convert it for the string beans. Hopefully, all will go okay--in fact, however, I am kind of already planning on getting a couple cherry/grape tomato plants in a few weeks since all of the ones we started are for full size tomatoes (Hmm...I can almost smell the hamburgers that will need a thick slice of our "best tomato of the day"), and the smaller ones are for different purposes--I like these in salads. Slighting No One Else's Beliefs, I'm "In Christ, Bob"

Family Update

I thought you might like a little update on how the boys are doing, what we're studying lately, etc. First, a little story. Yesterday someone at co-op had taught Nathan how to fold a paper boat. So last night he put it on his head and said, "Luke, look! I'm a conquistador!"

Luke: "No, actually that looks more like a Saxon hat."

Nathan: "Hmm, maybe you're right. I still think it looks a little like a conquistador one though."

Obviously our history studies are going well. We're finally moving on from the Crusades, which, I must say, has been very interesting. Nathan and I really enjoyed the Henty book on them, Winning His Spurs. In my last Rainbow Resource order, I got some new phonics books for the boys called "Explode the Code". They are really enjoying them, Luke especially. He is flying through his. I think I'm going to have to order him another one! He actually cheered one day when I said it was time for school because he was looking forward to ETC. Nathan is faithfully preparing for his Stanford Achievement test in May. He's working though a test prep book and oding just fine. Spelling is the only area I'm really concerned about at all. He is just not a natural speller, and since Luke is, this makes him a little lazy in that department anyhow ("Hey Luke! How do you spell 'one hundred'?"). We're working on it, but he just doesn't seem to "see" the word in his mind as he says it, and it seems to be hard for him to break it down into the sounds that he's hearing. It's always interesting to me, in a pruely clinical way, to see the differences in the boys and how they learn. As another example, Nathan is much better at Latin than Luke, especially in remembering the vocab. I think a lot of that is because we do Latin orally, and Nathan is more of an oral learner, so when he hears the words, he remembers them. Luke is much more of a visual one. I'm not too worried about that though--Nathan needs something to be better in besides reading! Speaking of reading, Luke has become interested in "Encyclopedia Brown" books, so I can finally say he is reading chapter books about things other than football heroes of the 1970's!

Bob decided he wants to grow some things on our deck this year, in our planter boxes. He got a cute little "Peat Pellet Greenhouse" at Home Depot, where you put 36 seeds in these little dehydrated soil things. Then, as you mist them, they expand up around the seed, and you put the cover on it and it's like a little greenhouse. Bob planted some tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cantaloupe, beans, and I think even a watermelon or two. All the boys are having a great time watching them sprout. So far I must say everything is doing quite well, and since it's all self-contained, there's no mess or extra soil, which I like! Maybe this will be the summer the boys start liking tomatoes!

Our new read-aloud is Cheaper By the Dozen. I wanted something that Luke would be more interested in, since he's not as big a fan of the Henty books as Nathan is. There's been a lot of laughter, although I've had to explain a lot of words and phrases. We've found quite a few derivatives of our Latin vocab words, which is always fun. The boys like the movie (the old one, of course!), so they're already a little familiar with what happens, who is involved, etc. That helps, I think. What a great book, though!

You may have noticed that today I was able to make paragraphs! I have no idea why my "enter' key worked today, but I'm just going to accept it as a gift from God and move on.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Good Weekend

We made it back from our weekend with Bob's family. We left later than we planned to go on Saturday, and there was a big accident on the Turnpike (which we never take, but I pushed for this time, since we were so late, and it is a shorter route--hah!). So we got there a little after 3:00. The dinner was at this St. Joseph's Center, which is a big Catholic retreat center, it appeared. The grounds were really pretty, and we had a nice room with round tables for our party. Bob's sister-in-law Sherry did an excellent job setting it all up. There was a buffet line, and the food was pretty good. Bob's sister Ann did a nice job making little party favors and decorating, and she also started putting together a scrapbook for Bob's dad. It had pictures of him from different decades of his life that she got from one of his brothers (actually brother-in-law, I think). We're supposed to send him pictures that we have to complete the album. There were several pictures I had never seen before. After dinner, Rose decided we needed some toasts. So she gave one, then Bob said something, then Ann, then Jane, then Paul (Dennis was the only sibling not there). After Paul, Sherry got up to say something on behalf of the in-laws, but then Wally got up as well, and then even Terry said some words. Well, that left only . . . me . . . as the person who had not said anything. ACCCK! People were chanting my name! I was embarrassed, but more so by the fact that I could not think of anything at all to say. Bob's dad has never tilled a garden for me, as he did for Wally at their first house. We certainly don't golf and pal around together, like he and Terry. And Sherry took the whole "Thanks for welcoming me into the family" speech (which was very gracious of her, considering they did NOT welcome her into the family back in the beginning!). So I got up and moved over to him, sort of babbling as I went ("I don't usually talk in front of people, I'm so embarrassed, I should have worn my red sweater to match my face, blah, blah . . .). I said something about being the last in-law to enter the family, and I thanked him as well for welcoming me, but then inspiration struck (thank you, Lord!), and I said that we were doing our best to carry on his proud family name with all our boys! Everyone laughed, so that was okay. WHEW! Everyone had a good time visiting though, and it was nice to be in a big room not in a restaurant, so the kids could kind of be freer, and you knew they weren't bortheing all the other diners! I think Bob's dad really had a good time. We went back to the hotel and got the boys down, and then Bob went back over to his parents' house. In a surprise twist, instead of playing cards, they all looked at family albums! Bob came back saying, "Whose family is this?!" We went back over there after church Easter morning, and I got to look at the albums too. I had seem most of them before--there are basically 2 groups of pictures. There are quite a few black and white ones of Frank and Marsha (the oldest 2 kids, who died in a mysterious car accident when they were 3 and 2). They were so cute. Again I was overwhelmed with the enormity of that tragedy. I simply can not imagine losing my two oldest kids while pregnant with my third. The whole time I was pregnant with Caleb I thought about that. Anyway, then there a whole lot of pictures starting when Bob was maybe 10 years old. They are in color, but there are still hardly any of Bob. I only saw 2, I think. Mainly they are of the older kids at the sports events and such. When Bob was in high school, there start to be more of him, and there were a ton of him at the Academy--they went out 2 times to visit him, and they took lots of pictures then. I love to look at pictures, though, so that was a good time for me! [I would insert a new paragraph here, but for some reason, I can't make "enter" work. Oh well, imagine a new paragraph with me, if you will . . . ] For church, we went to a different one this time, Church of the Open Door. When were stationed in Ohio, there was a man in Bob's office who was in the Reserves, so he would just come every so often to do his duty. Well, it turned out that amazingly enough, he lived in Bob's hometown, AND he was a Christian! So Bob asked where he went to church, and he said this church. Bob went a few times when just he or he and the boys were back, but this was the first time for our whole family. It was really nice. We all really enjoyed the service, and it was wonderful to feel like we really did celebrate Easter with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will definitely go there again when we're back in town, and it works out. [Another new paragraph] We had quite a trip back home though. We left later than we wanted, around 4:00, and it started raining. It rained steadily the whole way home, and there was tremendous fog in the mountains, which always makes for a hair-raising trip. As we merged onto I-70 from I-68 in Maryland and saw the long continuous line of tail lights, we realized that we were going to be a part of all the D.C traffic coming back from Spring Break. Such constant traffic also makes for more stressful driving. We also made the crucial error of deciding that, due to weather, we would take I-270 down into D.C. instead of going down Rt. 15, which is just a little 2 lane road. We crept along at 30 miles an hour for awhile, until it went to 2 lanes. By this time it was almost 8:00, and we had never stopped for dinner or anything. The boys needed to go potty, so we pulled off where we saw a sign for McDonalds. Well, it certainly wasn't right off the highway, so we wandered around, trying to find any signs of anything like a McDonalds, since it appeared we were more in a residential area. Finally we came upon a shopping area with a Taco Bell, where we all rushed in to use their facilities! And then we scarfed down some food and leapt back into the car, since I knew we probably had another hour of driving left. We didn't get home until after 9:30, and we were so glad to be back. Such stressful driving makes what is normally a 4 hour drive seem like a 20 hour one!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Our Easter Plans

We're going to go to Greensburg tomorrow to visit Bob's family. Bob's dad turns 80 tomorrow, so we're having a special party for him. I think all the brothers and sisters will be able to be there. If so, then it will be the first time the whole family has been together since his sister Rose's wedding 10 years ago. Since Bob's dad's birthday is the end of March, and his parents' anniversary is the middle of April, we are frequently in Greensburg for the Easter weekend. This is difficult since no one in his family really goes to church much. They tend to celebrate more with the whole "let's hunt Easter eggs" crowd. I don't like visiting new churches ever, really (it's such a hassle finding nurseries and so on for the boys), but I really don't like visiting new churches at Easter! I feel like everyone thinks we're the people who only show up for Christmas and Easter, and never darken the doors of the church the rest of the year! People are usually exceptionally friendly, and I just feel awkward, as I make a big deal of the fact that we're "from out of town, just here visiting family". There's no big Easter dinner in Greensburg either, with ham, scalloped potatoes, etc. That was a part of my growing up, and I miss that. I guess we'll have to do one maybe next weekend back here at home. I found the recipe for "Resurrection Biscuits" yesterday from someone on the Well-Trained Mind board, and I think we'll make them too. I have the cookie recipe too, but it uses pecans, which Caleb can't have. So maybe that's a good idea--we'll just celebrate Easter next weekend here at our house! Really, we should be celebrating Christ's resurrection every day, but I know I don't spend time every day reflecting on that. Maybe prolonging our celebration of Easter will help me do that. Wow, I encouraged myself! Now I'm not dreading going away!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Science Fair Update

I'm sure everyone is dying to know what is going on with the homeschool science fair that I am helping ot start. We had our second meeting tonight, and I was quite encouraged. There were 6 people there, and 2 more could not be there, so our total number has doubled. Two of the new people are married to each other, and they will both be very helpful, I htink. The man, Anthony, is some kind of financial adviser, and he has set up and run several 501c3 corporations. He is going to be our treasurer, and he is going to recruit people to do fundraising and look for prized, and he was quite confident that he could do all that in a month! His wife seem to know people everywhere, and she was constantly suggesting names of people to do certian things ("You need a lawyer? I know one. A school administrator? We have a good friend who is ". . .) That was all quite encouraging. Anthony has several clients who work at Patrick Henry College (the homeschool one), and so now we are looking at having our fair there. Bouyed by this wave of enthusiasm, we are pressing forward with becoming an ISEF-affiliated regional fair. Everyone seemed to think we would have no problems finding 50 high-schoolers to participate so that we would be eligible to affiliiate! I am less positive, but I am going to step out in faith . . . I am going to be cold-calling the private high schools in our county next week to see if they would be intertested in hosting their own science fairs next year and sending their winners on to ours. Loudoun County doesn't allow private school to participate in their regional fair either. Cold-calling is definitely not my strong suit, so hopefully I will be able to make the right contacts quickly! It's kind of exciting and fun to be doing something outside of the house though, to feel needed and useful to adults. So I'm still enjoying this stretching opportunity--ask me again next Fall, when I am up to my ears in paperwork!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Travel Thoughts

Someone on the Well-Trained mind board yesterday asked people to answer 3 travel questions. I know I haven't blogged much lately, but this is an easy one, so I thought I'd answer it here.

1. What is one place you are dying to visit? Why? I would love to visit Ireland, England, and Scotland. Studying the Middle Ages in history this year has made me want to even more. The one place I really wouldn't want to miss though, has nothing to do with the Middle Ages! I really want to go to Yorkshire and see the country talked about in all of James Herriot's books. I love those books, but I never know if the picture in my mind is quite accurate of the countryside. I'm sure it's not! I did this with another book. While we were in Colorado, I read a book called Tomboy Bride: A Woman's Personal Account of Life in Mining Camps in the West. It was such an interesting book, but I could never imagine life in particular at the Tomboy mine, which is above Telluride. So a few months before we PCSed, we made a trip to Telluride so I could see. Let me tell you, my imagination could have never made up the real-life experience of being up where that mining camp was! The ride up was quite hair-raising (Bob pretty much literally had to pry his fingers away from the steering wheel when we stopped!), and the view at almost 13,000 feet was incredible. But I love that now I could really see in my mind everything she talked about!

2. What is one place you have no intention of visiting? Why? One place you will never see me is climbing the slopes of Mt. Everest. I am sure that is quite an accomplishment, but I have no desire to risk life and limb to be as high as I can be comfortably in an airplane. Mountain climbing just doesn't inspire me.

3. What is one place you have visited, but was completely different from what you expected? I would say Paris. I expected a city of beauty and romance, but I guess I found it pretty dismal, and crowded with tourists (such as myself!). I was especially surprised at the number of incredibly rude oriental tour groups. We would be stopped, looking at a painting or something, and they would literally just shove us aside with their elbows. Very rude. But I really have no desire to go back to Paris now, and I guess as an American, I probably wouldn't be that welcome anyway!

Anyone else care to answer?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Special Guests

This week we are running quite the hotel! Some friends of ours from a few assignments are staying with us as they househunt, a frustrating D.C. rite of passage for us military folk. We've been praying for their househunting trip since they let us know when it was going to be, however, and it looks like they have seen something that would work for them today! They're going to write up an offer tomorrow, so we'll se how it goes. It's a little far away, but not as far away as some of the other houses they looked at! It's been a lot of fun visiting with them again.

Our other special guest are . . . none other than Amy and her 2 boys! A little over a week ago she told me that one of our Bible study leaders back in Ohio was thinking about coming out here for a few days over spring break because her brother and family were going camping, so she had asked Amy if she wanted to come along too? I said I would be THRILLED if they could come, even if it was just for a few days, but we weren't sure until about Friday that it was actually going to happen! So they got here before dinner tonight, and they'll leave Thursday morning. It's only a few days, but it's better than nothing! So I'm sure you'll understand if I don't get a whole lot of blogging in over the next few days . . . I'll be busy talking and laughing with Amy! : )

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my parents' anniversary. Hmmm, let's see . . . they got married in 1967, I believe, so that would be . . . yes! Their 38th anniversary! I think they have the neatest story of how they met. As they always say, President Kennedy brought them together! My dad was going into his junior year at the Air Force Academy, and my mom had just graduated from high school over in Kaiserslatern (sp? I know that's wrong), Germany. Her dad was also Air Force, and they had been reassigned right before her senior year of high school. She had really wanted to stay back in Virginia to finish high school, but her dad insisted that the family stay together. SO she moved and graduated from high school over there. Back then, the Air Force Academy sent students on summer tours of Europe, and that was what my dad was doing. His group was staying at a hotel in Weisbaden when President Kennedy came through on his big Germany tour. His entourage needed the hotel, so my dad and the other cadets were kicked out and sent down to Ramstein AB, where my mom was. There was not much for entertainment, so the wives club pulled together a dance, scouring the countryside for all eligible females. My mom was one, so she went. When she walked into the Officers' Club, one hostess led her towards my dad, saying, "Here is a cadet I think you would really enjoy talking to." And the rest is history! No, my parents did hit it off that night, but it took a long time for anything to really come of it. My dad continued on his tour, but after it was done, he took some leave and came back to visit my mom (my grandma says he had lost so much weight that his pants were about to fall off him!). My mom went off to Vassar at the end of that summer, and he continued on at USAFA. They wrote many letters. My dad eventually graduated and went to pilot training. They talked of marriage, but my mom, being a "liberated" female, wasn't sure how a family and all would fit into her plans. My dad was to go to Vietnam in 1967, and they had decided to wait until he got back to get married. But then my mom realized that she wanted to be married before he left, so on her spring break, she just up and left for Sumter, SC, where he was in training in his aircraft. They pulled a really quick wedding together and were married in the chapel there at Shaw AFB. They had just a few days together before mom had to go back to school, and then my dad left for a year in Vietnam, so they were separated basically their entire first year of marriage. So when they talk about "the first year they lived together", you can be assured that they are talking about after they got married! Later on they were assigned to Shaw AFB, and that is where they came to know the Lord together at their pastor's house. And the Lord then worked on my mom's heart, giving her a desire for children, and so that resulted in my brother and me! Their marriage is a real testimony of the Lord's leading and guiding, even though they were not Christians at the time they met. We praise the Lord for their faithfulness to each other and to Him through these years!

Housing Price Decline?

I just read this article on AOL about the top 10 housing markets that are likely to have price declines. The good news--Washingotn D.C. didn't make the top 10! The Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville (CA) area was number 6 though. You got out just in time, witw! That thought can cheer you as you unload your boxes! : )

Friday, March 18, 2005

Mentoring

I know, I know! I haven't been blogging much lately! Life just gets busy at times, and it's just hard to get on the computer and have cogent thoughts appear on the screen when I'm feeling tired. We're getting ready for company this weekend, so once again, we are in the throes of cleaning.

A few nights ago I had a big conversation with a friend with whom we used to be stationed. They just had their first child, a boy, and so she was calling me to talk about questions she had. I find it so odd to be in a position to give advice. I mean, I certainly don't have it all together, and I don't want people to try my ideas, have them not work, and blame me! And yet, I do have 4 kids, so I must know something, right? I remember someone saying a while back that everyone is an older woman to someone else, but it still feels weird to be in that "older woman" position. Looking back to when I had my first child, though, my advice certainly has changed since then! I think my biggest advice now is "Relax! That sounds normal! You're doing just fine!" LOL! I'm definitely more relaxed about the baby stages now! And people ask me advice about homeschooling too. I'm no expert there either, and I haven't even been doing it for very long! Again I remember when Nathan was a little toddler. I was in a walking group with a lot of other great ladies, and they were always talking about their searches for the best preschool and so on. I was already thinking that we would at least try homeschooling, so I didn't have much to contribute to the conversations, although I was glad that I wasn't having to deal with all that stress! But I hastily polled all my homeschooling friends to find out what preschool stuff I should be doing with Nathan so he wouldn't fall behind. They all said, "Relax! Don't worry about it! He'll be just fine! Just read and talk to him!" Now I find that is my answer when people ask me about toddlers, and that certainly has been my philosophy so far with Caleb! So I can see the importance of having older women giving this sage advice, but I still find it hard to believe that I'M one of the older women! That people look to me as some kind of authority and actually try my suggestions! LOL! Where does the time go? And do I need some kind of certificate? : )

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Other Bolyn Girl

Well, I just finished a fiction book, in my attempt to read more of the genre. It was The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. Here is a brief synopsis from Publishers Weekly:

Sisterly rivalry is the basis of this fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn. Anne, her sister Mary and their brother George are all brought to the king's court at a young age, as players in their uncle's plans to advance the family's fortunes. Mary, the sweet, blond sister, wins King Henry VIII's favor when she is barely 14 and already married to one of his courtiers. Their affair lasts several years, and she gives Henry a daughter and a son. But her dark, clever, scheming sister, Anne, insinuates herself into Henry's graces, styling herself as his adviser and confidant. Soon she displaces Mary as his lover and begins her machinations to rid him of his wife, Katherine of Aragon. This is only the beginning of the intrigue that Gregory so handily chronicles, capturing beautifully the mingled hate and nearly incestuous love Anne, Mary and George ("kin and enemies all at once") feel for each other and the toll their family's ambition takes on them. Mary, the story's narrator, is the most sympathetic of the siblings, but even she is twisted by the demands of power and status; charming George, an able plotter, finally brings disaster on his own head by falling in love with a male courtier. Anne, most tormented of all, is ruthless in her drive to become queen, and then to give Henry a male heir. Rather than settling for a picturesque rendering of court life, Gregory conveys its claustrophobic, all-consuming nature with consummate skill. In the end, Anne's famous, tragic end is offset by Mary's happier fate, but the self-defeating folly of the quest for power lingers longest in the reader's mind.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

It was definitely a gripping book, one that I had a hard time putting down. The characters were well-written, even though they often were not sympathetic. I was left with several thoughts after finishing the book. One, I am so glad to live in a time period where I can choose my own husband, do what I choose in life, and, most importantly, keep my children with me. No one expects me to send them off to tutors (well, maybe to school)or to a debauched court at a tender age! Second, you can never know all the consequences of your actions, and it might be that things turn out very differently than you had imagined. Anne's machinations to get Henry to divorce Katherine and marry her seemed to work out just fine, until Anne didn't produce a son, and Henry became attracted to another. Then because all the restraining power of the Pope and the Church had been rejected by the king so he could divorce Katherine, he became a tyrant with absolute power, so he easily sentenced Anne to die so he could be free again. Quite a slide. Third, although all these people were religious on the outside (attending Mass, confessing, saying prayers), it was obvious in most cases that neither the Bible nor the Holy Spirit had any influence on their behavior. There were so many completely selfish people in this story, but I think they were just displaying in an atmosphere where all restraint has been cast off what all of us are capable of without Christ. That is a scary picture indeed.

Although the book is fiction, the basic framework and characters are real. I feel like I have walked away with a much better understanding of this time period in British history, even though the author chose to include some theories in the book that I just am not sure about (for example, she has the brother George be a member of a homosexual ring in the court, but she freely admits that this is just a theory of someone's that she thought explained some things, so she included it. I think she did it just to be "modern", but with all the depravity in that age, it certianly could have been possible--"nothing new under the sun" and all that). It gave me a lot to think about, so I am glad that I read it.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Fine Cuisine

Bob and Nathan are at Bible Study Fellowship tonight, so I decided that the rest of us would just have chicken fingers, a can of baked beans, and a can of peas for dinner. This announcement was greeted by cheers of surprise and delight by the boys currently here. More excitement was generated as I brought this fabulous repast over to the table. Everyone had thirds, and some even fourths, of everything, leading Luke to comment that this was my best meal. Which makes me wonder why exactly I go to so much trouble to cook! : ) I get this same response when we have macaroni and cheese with tuna, and also fish sticks. Now I guess you could argue that if we had these kinds of food all the time, they wouldn't be special, and no one would make such a big deal out of them, but it is rather unmotivating to contemplate some time-consuming from-scratch meal when one gets rave reviews just by heating frozen chicken and cans of beans and peas up! LOL!

Reading Fiction

Since I wasn't able to come up with a fiction book that was life-changing for me, I've been thinking a lot about my reading habits. The last few months, I've read several non-fiction books, many children's books . . . and not much fiction. In fact, I've mainly read murder mysteries! Lately, I've been enjoying those of Dorothy Sayers, that great advocate of classical education. They are just light enough to relax me, but not too deep as to require much critical thinking. I am realizing that one thing I am really missing from Ohio is the book club I was involved in there. We were a pretty small, informal group, but it forced me to go outside my comfort zone in terms of reading materials, and it also gave me a wonderful outlet for adult conversations. I love to discuss books! Even books that I really didn't like, I enjoyed hearing others' perspectives on them. We read a very eclectic mix of books. We read some classics, such as Sense and Sensibility (our first book), Wuthering Heights, Uncle Tom's cabin, and To Kill A Mockingbird. We read some historical fiction, such as Cold Mountain, Girl With a Pearl Earring, and The Red Tent. We read some more "modern" books, such as The Poisonwood Bible, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and Bel Canto. We read some books I absolutely hated --Best Friends, and The Lovely Bones come immediately to mind. Also, Little Altars Everywhere, which is the predecessor to Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (we read both books together). Many people think the second book is wonderful, and also the movie, but I think if they had read the first book, they would have a very different opinion. The mother, Vivian, is an evil person who substantially abuses, even sexually, her children. The second book doesn't really get into all that, and we were all completely surprised and horrified by it all. Well, that was all a big digression to say that I guess I need the discipline of meeting with a group to force myself to dig into fiction. Another reason I liked the group was that we didn't read all modern fiction. You know, that really depressing genre of literature where everyone is so world-weary, and bad things happen in very sad yet fatalistic ways. I think that is one reason why I am leary of grabbing random fiction books off the library shelves, or from the New York Times best-sellers list! Every so often, someone on the Well-Trained mind board will ask what people have been reading, and people will give a big laundry list of titles. Today I wrote down several, looked them up on Amazon to try to determine if I would really like them, and made up a library list. So maybe the next time I go, I will not bring back only light murder mysteries! But still--who will I discuss them with? I am not starting a book club on top of all this crazy science fair stuff! Oh well. I guess I'll have to post reviews.

Friday, March 11, 2005

How many boys?

We went to Sams after lunch today. There was this sweet elderly couple back in the bakery section, and they were smiling at the boys. The wife said to me, "We have 4 boys too", and then her husband said something, but he kind of mumbled it, looking at her in a confused way. Then she smiled, and said, "Then we had 2 girls", and so I said "Oh, how wonderful!" So then she said, " . . . And then we had 2 more boys . . . and then 2 more girls". I said, "Umm, wow, how many kids did you have altogether?" She said "10". I realized that's why her husband had looked so surprised when she said they had 4 boys--he had mumbled to her that they actually had 6 boys! LOL! That's how a lot of the families are in our homeschool co-op here. You ask a little boy how many brothers he has, and he'll reply "5 . . . and 3 sisters". We're definitely a small family here in D.C.!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Chocolate cures everything

Last night Jonathan threw up after dinner (which he ate none of, by the way, so that could have been alot worse). Then he threw up this morning right before lunch. And after lunch (which he also didn't eat). And he's also having diarrhea. WHY? Why can't we all be healthy at the same time?!! But don't worry about me! I am staying quite sane due to the fact that today I received from Amy the "Chocolate Indulgence Basket" from FTD. This collection of goodies includes English toffee, non-pareils, a dark chocolate bar, and squares of both light and dark chocolate, all from Ghiradelli, chocolate-dipped graham crackers, chocolate-dipped oreos, and chocolate-chip-pecan cookies. I know what you're all thinking, but you can't have her! She's my best friend! So while sickness rages around me, I will be locked in my room indulging (Boys--please try to keep Jonathan on the kitchen floor and off the carpets!). Amy's note said that she hopes this helps my taste buds to recover, since she doesn't want me to waste away. Yes, I think this will be just the ticket! : ) And I hope all of you out there also have something wonderfully exciting and unexpected surprise you and brighten your day today!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Science Fair Conundrum

You may recall that, back in January, I went to a planning meeting for a homeschool science fair. I was under the impression that they just needed a few more volunteers for this year, when in fact, the lady, Katrina, who is in charge, is trying to get one going for February, 2006. There has never been a big homeschool science fair in this area, at least not one that is affiliated with the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). So I am definitely in on the ground floor of the planning committee, that's for sure, and now I even have an official position--ISEF Liaison. Here's the deal: we want our top students to be able to advance to other science fairs, such as a regional one, and then the state one. We on the planning committee are pretty much all located in Loudoun County, so I tried there first. They absolutely do not alllow homeschoolers or even private school students to participate in their regional science fair, so we were out of luck. Next I tried Fairfax County. They are open to homeschoolers, but they aren't sure if students living outside Fairfax would be able to participate. We're still looking into that scenario, which would be the best if they would allow all of our winners to go there. But if they can not allow students outside of Fairfax to participate, then it looks like we are going to have to go through ISEF and become our own regional science fair. (I say "we", but that is actually my sole domain, so far.) This involves a whole boatload of paperwork, as well as making sure that all the projects, including how the research is conducted, are completely in line with ISEF guidelines. There's a $500 affiliation fee, and we would be responsible for paying the expenses for our top 2 students and one teacher/chaperone to go to the international fair. We also have to have at least 50 students participate. The other committee members are all excited about this option, but I feel very overwhelmed with it all. I don't think they realize exactly how much paperwork this will involve, and we are going to have to start out with a real bang as far as advertising, fundraising, etc. goes. Since the affiliation process starts in September or so, that is when we need to know that we will have at least 50 people. How many eager science fair students do you know who are anxiously getting in their registrations for a February fair in August?! So far I am the only person on the committee who has actually had any kind of personal experience with science fairs, so it seems to me like everyone is a little unrealistic about our expectations. Also, it would be so much better if our fair could be a local "practice" fair, and then we could send the best ones on to the regional fairs, which here in VA are all county fairs. It's really not going to be fair to the students to send students who might just be mediocre but are the best of a very small pool directly on to the state level (and the top 2 on to the international fair!). So this is what has been occupying my thoughts lately. I just wish that Fairfax County would email back and say, "Yes! Let all your winners come here, no matter where they live!" LOL! Fat chance! But I can dream . . .

Monday, March 07, 2005

Looking back

Today I am finally feeling as though I might actually be getting better. Praise the Lord! I am still coughing, and my side still hurts, but I am coughing less, so I think my side will start feeling better too. Two weeks of sickness--wow, I can't even really remember the last time I've been sick for so long. Hmmm, I think it was the summer before my sophomore year of college when I had mono. Bob and I were dating seriously then, and he would stop by my house to bring me Frosties from Wendy's, which were about the only thing I could have, since my throat was so incredibly sore. I thought I had it so terribly then, poor, poor little sick girl! In fact, I had it so wonderfully easy--my mom was there to take of me, I had a devoted boyfriend to bring me special treats, and (this is the key) NO ONE ELSE DEPENDED ON ME FOR ANYTHING! I could just lie around and get better! What a novel concept. And I'm sure as I moped around back then, feeling sorry for myself, I did not appreciate that idea as I should have. I know had I been able to look forward 13 years and see myself married and homeschooling 4 boys under 8, I would have never imagined I could even cope when I was healthy, much less sick! I was definitely your average immature, self-centered 19 year-old. Have you ever wondered if God really is working in your life because it seems like you always just struggle with the same things? I do, but as I look back to the college-and-just-married me, I can see differences and growth, especially relating to taking care of others. And the Lord has definitely used my family to work a lot of things out in me. The sole reason I am functioning in this season of life right now is because of the grace and power of the Lord, not any natural gifts and talents for nuturing needy little beings. Being sick certainly has a way of bringing all that into clear focus! Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking any good thing. I Peter 1:2-4

Friday, March 04, 2005

Yesterday

Yesterday was a day when a lot of things kind of all converged. I woke up and my right side was really hurting, so I know I pulled a muscle from coughing during the night. We started out doing schoolwork, and then after lunch we made our monthly trip to the commissary. We go pretty much downtown, by Arlington National Cemetary, at Ft. Meyers, so it takes a good chunk of time to do this. We left about 1:15 and got back about 4:40 with amazingly not too heavy of traffic, considering how late we got back! But my crucial flaw was that I didn't take my standard 800 mg dose of Motrin before we left, and by the time we got everything unloaded, I could tell I was starting to run a temperature again. I took some, but I got to thinking how ridiculous it is to have to live my life taking Motrin all the time just to function, so maybe it really is time I see a doctor. After dinner, I was laying on the couch resting, when Caleb popped out of our room upstairs, fell, and banged into a big square newel post that is upstairs railing our catwalk/hallway thing. Of course he hit the edge, so he opened a huge gash in his forehead, kind of by his right hairline, that started bleeding profusely. We weren't sure he'd be able to make it to the Bethesda ER (4o min. away), but we finally got it to stop bleeding enough that Bob thought he could make it. By this time, thankfully I was feeling better, so I put everyone else to bed, and then I started frosting Luke's cake, since we're taking it to Bible study tonight to celebrate belatedly his birthday. Bob and Caleb got back around 11:00, and the ER docs put Derma-Bond on, which is like skin glue, instead of stitches or like Nathan had to have, staples. It's very nice that we won't have to go back to get anything taken out! Staples, glue--I guess next time anyone gets hurt, we'll head straight for Office Depot. Anyways, this morning I woke up early to call for an appointment, and I was able to get one at 11:15. My good friend Elizabeth even watched the boys so I didn't have to take them into the waiting room, full I'm sure of who-knows-what kinds of bad germs! As it turned out, I have a sinus infection, and probably pneumonia. The doctor said she wasn't going to bother taking an X-ray, since the antibiotic will knock it out too, if that's what it is. She also gave me some cough suppressant pills for the day, and a cough syrup with codeine for the night, so maybe I'll even be able to get a good night's sleep now. I'm just so tired of being sick and of having no energy. This has definitely been a low point for me, but I know the Lord is trying to show me that I can't do anything on my own. Several things I've read the past few days have focused on things like "My grace is sufficient for you", and so it's helped to meditate on that. Maybe after this weekend is over, I'll finally feel like myself again!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Answering Questions

A couple weeks ago Kate over at Under the Sky posted some interview questions, and my Aunt Claire answered them on her blog. I was going to answer them too, but then we all got sick, and you know how that goes--pretty much nothing got done. But I was reading her (Kate's) blog again tonight and was reminded, so I figured "Hey, better late than never!"

1. What two fiction books have affected your life in such a way as to make a difference? This was really hard. I actually still can only come up with one that I would say has changed my life. That is This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti. It totally changed how I pray, and in the last year, as I've prayed for Iraq and our soldiers, I see images from that book as I think about the spiritual battles going on it that part of the world. As for another one, I just can't think of one. It makes me wish I journaled, but surely if there was another, I'd remember it, right? The last involving fiction book I read was The Time-Traveler's Wife. It was very interesting and well-written, I thought, with a unique and well-executed plot device. But the characters are definitely not Christians, so don't read it, expecting them to act as thought they were! And I don't think it changed my life in any way either. : )

2. If you could transport yourself into any particular time period, but had to stay there forever with your family, where would you go, and what kind of person would you be? Hmm, one person on Kate's blog said "To Pride and Prejudice land", and that is certainly a favorite time period of mine! But I think I'd like to go back to an earlier part in American history. I don't want to be a pioneer girl, dealing with Indians and such, but I always wonder what our country looked like before it got so "crowded", and I'd like to be a little more self-sufficient. So maybe living in a small town in the 1870's, a little back from the frontier.

3. What is one thing that most people do not know about you? I wish I'd gotten my master's degree when we moved to Colorado instead of not working and basically just waiting to get pregnant (of course, who knew that would take over a year?) Also, I hate taking baths. We have a really nice soaking tub in this house, and whenever people see it, they always comment on how I must enjoy it, and since I'm a non-confrontational person, I always just smile and nod. But in fact I have never used and don't really plan to. Being wet doesn't relax me! Now Bob on the other hand . . . he's used it several times already. There, something you might not have known about Bob too! : )

4. If you could make a public announcement for everyone to hear, what would you say? Children are a blessing from God! If you're going to complain about them all the time and talk about how you can't stand to be with them, then why did you go to the trouble of having them?! Enjoy your children!

5. Why do you blog? Mainly to keep my family caught up. My aunt and brother also blog, and since we are all quite spread out, this really has helped keep us all updated on each other's lives and thoughts. And it's a fun way to collect my thoughts at the end of the day.

Big Order at Rainbow Resource!

Today I registered Nathan for the Stanford Achievement Test, which we'll do through the co-op in May. This reminded me that I needed to order the test practice book from Rainbow, so I put in a big order there so we could take advantage of the free shipping (on orders over $150. Ours wasn't really even close, either.) Do you want to take a peek at some of what I ordered for next year? I started off with 2 more Henty books for Nathan, which thrilled him when I told him. He is a little ticked at me because I've told him I can't start reading Winning His Spurs (about the Crusades) until I stop coughing so much. Maybe next week. I ordered Latin Christiana 1, along with the flashcards, as well as Lingua Angelica. I haven't heard as much about this program, which has Latin hymns and songs, so hopefully it will be a good supplement. I also ordered Spelling Power. We've never used a formal spelling program, and that is a weak area of Nathan's, so hopefully this will work. He is just not a visual learner, though, so even though he is a good reader, that doesn't seem to cement word spellings in his mind, like it does for me (and Luke). I ordered 3 Explore the Code books, figuring those might help Nathan too. Maybe if the phonics rules are more second-nature, than the spelling will come a bit easier too. And to round things out, we got the Farmer Boy comprehension guide and the Spectrum test practice book I talked about earlier. I didn't order any math stuff because I'm undecided on what Nathan will do next year. He would be moving on to Saxon 54, but that requires writing out the problems, and I just don't see that happening at a very quick rate, and I'd rather fight other battles. So I guess I'll need to do some research and maybe hit a convention or two in the summer. Luke will be starting Saxon 2 pretty soon, and I've already gotten it, so he's all set. It's always so fun when the boxes start coming--like Christmas!