Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday Travels: Summer Camp

There comes a time in a child's life when he needs to sprout his own feathers a bit, and see if these things called wings might be starting to work.

And there comes a time  in a parent's life when she needs to let her child make his own way a bit -- finding his footing, making mistakes or not. She has to trust that he'll be all right, and that sometimes it's best not to know about every social slip-up or unchanged pair of undertrousers. 

Enter the great American tradition known as Summer Camp. 

Some of my fondest childhood memories were nurtured along the shores of Lake Ossipee, N.H., at Camp Nellie Huckins for Girls. Camp songs are etched into my memory as indelibly as my name is on the rafters of certain wood-framed cabins, with their slamming screen doors and their lack of air conditioning. Want to hear a great little musical ode to black socks? 

I think that what camp meant most to me was the opportunity to be someone different. My middle school persona was introverted and almost unbearably self-conscious. The first day of my second year of camp, I discovered that there was an extrovert living inside who was perfectly capable of smiling confidently at the new girl in the cabin, welcoming her to camp, and becoming her best friend. 

This felt like the right summer to launch my own boy's ship of self-discovery. And after much thought, prayer, and discussion we fixed him up with two buddies and dropped him off two days ago at Frontier Camp. 
He seems okay, don't you think? (Overbearing Mom sneakily snaps son's photo before leaving her baby's physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing in the stewardship of virtual strangers for a week.)

You know, back in the day, parents dropped their kids off for two, four, or even eight weeks in the woods and hoped for an occasional letter. My child is at camp for six days, and we get nightly updates and photos from the Director. And, if that's not enough, we can follow the Camp on Twitter. And believe me, I do. 

But so does his friends' mom, so I'm not completely alone in the world. 

There's just one problem. This was posted on Twitter before dinner tonight: The lake grill is fired up and the burgers are being flipped. It's time for supper at the lake followed by the famous SHAVING CREAM SLIDE!

I think we may have a problem getting our son to come home. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up

So I'm in a fearful rush today and probably shouldn't even be posting, but there's no way I'll have time to record our home education adventures over the weekend. Instead, here's a truncated list: our favorites resources of the week, if you will. As always, partly for my own recordkeeping, partly to share findings for those interested.

This week we enjoyed ...

Popular Mechanics for Kids - Slither & Slime and Other Yucky Things
Are You an Ant? (Backyard Books) and Are You a Bee? (Backyard Books) (Love this series for younger kiddos!)
Building a worm farm in a jar, inspired by REAL Science Odyssey from Pandia Press.
Flight/Bernoulli lesson from Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day (Apologia Science Young Explorers)
National Geographic Kids magazine

Monday with a Mad Genius (Magic Tree House, No. 38) (Read to the girls)
Welcome to the Globe: The Story of Shakespeare's Theatre (All three kids)
From This Day in History: Jim Thorpe, Julia Ward Howe, Amelia Earhart

Drawing lesson in Perspective inspired by Leonardo da Vinci
Raphael (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) (Another great series for kids)

MacBeth from Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare (Ian)
Nighttime reading with Daddy
More stories from Acts from Egermeier's Bible Story Book

Language Arts:
The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease: (Ian and Eliza)

Singapore Math (Ian)
Videos from Khan Academy

Oh, and building houses for fairies and snails outside, of course. Always an integral part of the curriculum.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Pendant Winner

We are a colorful bunch, people. Lots of variety in the votes. Love that!

Julronimo, you won the pendant! Shoot me an email, and congratulations!

Thanks for playing, everyone.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lest You Think We Are Normal

Photos by Michelle Syma, at a friend's 30th birthday party

And, to carry the point further, an irrelevant story: 

Remember my yard sale

At the sale, I met Katie in person for the first time. She had her four-year-old daughter with her. Daughter had kind of had it with doing errands with mom and waiting around while mom chatted with other moms. Then, Daughter spies, among my yard sale wares, a book I had come across in my decluttering process, dismissed as twaddle (yup, I'm judgmental), and tossed into the sale pile. 

It was called The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree. I don't think it was even written by the original Berenstains. 

So anyway. Daughter, in her heart of hearts, yearns for the book. Mother happily coughs up fifty cents, and Daughter is finally at peace. I feel good about that. 

Two weeks later, I get an email. 

From the public library. 

I have an overdue book. 

It's called The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree

I receive my certification as a Really Awesome Person. 

Actually, torn between humiliation and gratitude that the book was sold to a person I actually sort of knew, I write a cringing, sycophantic email to Katie. 

She very graciously returns the book, which must have been sneaked into my library pile. 

I send the Professor to the library with an explanation for why it no longer has its barcode stickers.

Daughter has possibly gotten over it by now, but maybe hates me forever. 

The End. 

P.S. You still have until 11:59 p.m. tonight to enter the necklace giveaway!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

WIWW ... More Giveaway Goodness

Yup, you heard me right. Endure to the end and she who aspires to accessorize will be rewarded. For thoughts on why I, who normally speak of such things as faith, home education, and highly glamorous vacations, participated in the What I Wore Wednesday series, see previous posts here.

I was on a dress/skirt kick this week, for some reason. Also, I had a major breakthrough in the matter of belts. Are you salivating yet?

I'd been wanting to try out more of the belted look, but alas, the belt population in my little hamlet known as a wardrobe is sadly sparse. Then -- LIGHT BULB! -- I decided to go shopping. Not at Target, but in my very own bathroom, which is where I keep all my necklaces. Hello, long beaded necklace from Sam Moon! Meet your new existence as a belt!


Yeah, it would probably work better if I had more of an hourglass figure. Oh well.
Cardigan, T-shirt, and Skirt: Old Navy
Belt: Long necklace from Sam Moon
Flower pin: Birthday present from Vanessa
Gold Flip-flops: Reef Krystal

The belt made an encore appearance yesterday. Gosh, I was really in purple mode this week!
Weird lighting, I know. Off I go in my swagger wagon to book club!

Stretch Polo: Gap (super cheap around last 4th of July; that's the time to go)
Skirt: J.Jill, from local consignment shop
Belt: same long necklace from Sam Moon
Bracelet watch: Handmade from MotsDots
Shoes: Same Reef Krystal flip flops. (Highly recommended. Comfy, with a bit of a heel, and the glitter sort of dresses up any outfit.) 

And, for a girly tea party date:
Sunglasses in hair: Target, of course
Pearl necklace: Wedding gift from my grandmother
Dress: Ann Taylor Loft, from local consignment shop
Shoes: Born Concepts, from DSW. 
Bracelet: Oh. Wait. That's a ponytail holder. Moving right along!

And now ... you know that beaded bracelet watch? Here it is again ...

Sorry, you don't want a close-up of my midsectional area. 

Anyway, it, along with a few other jeweled items I own, were made by Austin craftswoman Martha Cole, who owns two Etsy shops: the colorful, whimsical MotsDots and the more vintage-inspired Not So Dotty. Not only do I love her work, but I also love the fact that one hundred percent of her profits support her husband's missionary work with homeless street youth. 

And because I also love YOU, and Martha is so kind, one of you will get to pick out a pendant -- any pendant! -- from either of her shops. Like my butterfly pendant (similar to this), which I wear with almost anything. Or something more funky like this Mexican loteria stamp

You have until Thursday, May 26, at 11:59 p.m. to enter. I'll pick a random winner. Just answer this in the comments: What's your favorite color? (Mine's purple. Such a shocker.) If you don't have one, fabricate one. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Multitude Monday XXI

If you're just visiting here, you might wonder, why the list?

The list, known as Multitude Monday, or One Thousand Gifts, is a way of keeping track, celebrating, all the manifestations I notice of God's goodness. It saves me from chronic curmudgeon-hood. Laundry again! That floor -- I JUST VACUUMED IT. Wait -- another bill that has to be paid this week? Seriously? Etc.

This list is a record of a conscious exercise to take joy in every good and perfect gift ... even the ones that seem like Aunt Mabel's lumpy hand-knit sweaters. You know what I mean.

So, here we go ...

#211. My husband, the Professor, has accepted a job offer. STOP THE PRESS! Now, to review: He graduated with his Ph.D. 18 months ago, intent on becoming a real, live Professor. Just like Dad. And Uncle Tom. We assumed we'd be moving. We waited. And waited. And waited. And then, God opened a window. Or perhaps, a different door.

We're not moving. We were willing to move if God wanted to plant us elsewhere, but apparently that was not His will. Are we spoiled or what? We're staying right here in this city, with our beloved family members and friends. No arguments here.

Only one thing: He's not going to be a Professor. Which brings up a serious issue. Can I still refer to him as The Professor?

#212. When he shared his news with our family Google/Yahoo groups (his and mine), my siblings and their spouses (spice?) immediately began their customary banter. The one-liners were flying. This gave him an acute case of the warm fuzzies. It reminded me of why I love those weirdos.

#213.  My mother-in-law took me and the girl-cousins out to tea this weekend. I sat with my 10-year-old niece. We chatted. She told me that she loves when I serve in her Sunday School class, because I "help her understand stuff." Translation: I have the girls act out the stories we learn, and I let her play the leading role, which she does with great gusto. What a girl! Definitely a gift.

#214. Endless laundry reminds me of the privilege of having clothing to wear. Plenty of it. And speaking of that ...

#215. Scrubbing the tub, I'm thankful that we have TWO tubs. Two! Well, a tub and a shower. And when we turn on the faucets, water comes out. Reading about the conditions where our Compassion kids live reminds me that running water and a clean tub are no small matter.

#216. Casting off my science-related inertia, I gathered the kids to make a worm farm in a jar today. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and make yourself do these things. My reward? Enthusiasm from two of the children. And dirty fingers to boot.

#217. Our dog has a way of wedging himself between the toilet and the wall in our bathroom, or -- his latest -- under our bed. Or, onto my feet while I'm 'cooking. Makes me giggle. Laughter, midway through a mundane day, is a gift.

#218. A date with my husband -- dinner (at a French restaurant in a funky part of town) and plans to see Shakespeare in the Park ... if the skies hadn't opened up just as we pulled into the parking lot.

#219. Rain! It's appeared three times in the last two weeks, which proves that when Texans pray, God listens.

#220. A slightly belated birthday gift and sweet card from a friend who has a way with words. Each re-read is another gift.

#221. Speaking of words: A reminder to use them to build up in love. Reminders like these -- printed and posted in my kitchen -- are a gift in disguise, coming back to haunt when I most want to forget them.

#222. You. For real, y'all. Every one of you who takes a few minutes of your day to read the words I peck out, whether they're serious or maybe a bit funny. Thanks especially to those who take a minute more to drop me a line and share your thoughts. Who understand when I don't respond to every comment, even though I want to (and try to). Every one of you is a treasure!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up

Here's a question. Do you think that the enjoyment of great picture books is a valid reason to keep having children?

(This is not an announcement.)

The Plot ChickensI merely ask, because as Caroline gets older, often listening in on her siblings' longer reads, sometimes days go by where we forget to cozy up with a picture book. And that's a crying shame, as I remembered today while re-reading The Plot Chickens together on the couch. It's great stuff, especially for any child with a spark of the aspiring writer in her.

So, this week was truncated due to our mini-vacation, so rather than break everything down by subject (which feels artificial anyways) I'll just note that we ...

And tonight, in honor of fourteen years of wedded cohabitation, the Professor and I will sallying forth upon the town. Want to know a secret? I'm ready for a little adult time. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Every Child Needs a ... What?

So, every child in America needs an iPad, eh?

That may or may not be the case, but if every child had an iPad, who would be motivated to make his own out of aluminum foil?

With all the essential apps? (Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, DoodleBuddy ...)

And even the requisite trademarks?

Case closed.

Har, har, har. Sorry 'bout that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WIWW: What's the Point?

I've been wondering a bit about this What I Wore Wednesday series.

On the one hand: Motivation to make a little extra effort. Plus, some of you sweet people actually like these posts!

On the other hand: Extra effort takes extra time and energy. Also, what about the whole, "Man sees outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart?" The Bible -- the book I hold most dear -- has plenty to say about not giving undue focus to outward adornment, especially at the expense of the "hidden man of the heart."

What's a beauty-loving girl to do?

I don't know the answer. What I do know is that the spirit behind these posts, and behind getting out of one's pajamas into something mildly flattering in the morning is NOT ...

a. To impress my blog readers and in-person friends.
b. To judge my fellow mamas for the way they present themselves.
c. To spend more time getting dressed in the morning than I spend reading His Word.
d. To blow my budget accruing a huge, fashion-forward wardrobe. (To review: I rarely spend more than $20 on a piece of clothing, I often shop consignment/thrift stores, I pare down my closet so that it only contains pieces I feel good in and will happily wear.)

The fact is, though, that until this corruptible shall put on incorruptible, most of us act the way we feel, and the way we feel both drives and reflects how we dress. The Professor, for example, stopped wearing T-shirts to campus once he earned his Ph.D., even though he's working with the same people. He figured the doctorate merited at least a collar. :-) And would I arrive at a paid job in sweats and a stained T-shirt and expect anyone, myself included, to take me seriously, even if I were well-qualified for the position?

I would not. Neither would you. Right?

Moms (and I include those who spend some hours at paid employment), don't we have a high calling? Doesn't it ruffle our feathers when someone denigrates the job of raising human beings? Don't we appreciate a little respect?

So how about -- without undue vanity or obsession -- if we sort of ... dress the part?

I just have a couple pics from this week. Remember Renée's advice to enliven a snoozeworthy outfit by accessorizing? Well, there was a bare-bones ensemble or two this week that could use the help. I'm not sure I achieved "WOW," but maybe it was a step up from "Meh?"

BONUSES: My "vintage" kitchen! My loving dog! 

Cardigan: Target (currently on sale)
White T: Gap Outlet
Capris: Gap, from Thrift Store (Savers?)
Gold Flip Flops: Reef Krystal
Green beaded necklace: Holly Lane Designs
Necklace #2: The Vintage Pearl

T-shirt: Target
Jeans: Gap
Scarf: Old Navy
Belt: ?
Bracelet: Handmade by Martha of MotsDots

And there you go! Anyone have a success story to share? I've loved getting a few emails about thrift store finds! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Travels: Traveling with People Who Aren't You

As you probably know, our family likes to travel. And, like herds of migrating wildebeests, we almost always travel in groups. Either we go to visit family, or we go somewhere with family, or we go somewhere with friends. Like the beach.

In fact, we just got back, today even, from the perfect trip with friends. More on that later.

Now, raise your hand if, when you're among friends or family, but more likely family, everything comes together like a finely tuned orchestra. In perfect harmony, you plan and execute the trip to the destination of every single person's dreams, filled with well-chosen activities to which everyone equally subscribes. You enjoy every second of one another's company, talking openly about your feelings and actively listening to and reflecting everyone else's. Of course, there are no negative feelings to reflect, because everyone is SUPREMELY HAPPY ALL THE TIME.

Yeah. I thought so.

May I share with you something I have learned about traveling with people who are not ... well, ME? This isn't at all about where to go. It's about how to go. Mentally, that is.

A year ago I was in a parent group where we learned about the four basic human needs: Power, Love/Belonging, Freedom and Fun.

Around that time, we took a vacation with some relatives who are related by blood to either the Professor or me. Not saying which. Neener neener neener. And the lightbulb finally clicked on for me. Here's what I realized.

When we go on a vacation with relatives, both the Professor and I place a high priority on Love and Belonging. We want to spend lots of time, you know, bonding. We suggest activities, like social board games, that bring people together. If we're going from our hotel room to, say, the swimming pool, we're likely to call up and say, "Hey, we're going down! Want to come?" At holiday's end, we're likely reinforce the warm fuzzies with hugs and assurances of a time well spent.

That is our way. But it is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the RIGHT way.

Other people may look at a pending family vacation and think, "Aha! This is my time to RELAX. To just chill. To have no responsibilities. To let my kids get a juice box or a hug from a *different* caring adult. To get away from the annoying people I work with and all the daily household chores. All I want to do is VEG." They'll go the pool (or golf course, or beach, or whatever applies) when they're good and ready. In other words, they have a high Freedom need. And that's fine. 

Can you see how these two needs might bump up against each other? Love and Belonging person might perceive Freedom person as less caring or affectionate, less invested in the relationship. Freedom person might perceive Love/Belonging person as too clingy, or even controlling. Or, you could have a Fun-hungry traveler rarin' to go, go, go -- whitewater rafting! horseback riding! shopping! -- who wonders why his exhausted cohorts are such sticks-in-the-mud.

Stranger things have happened.

This is probably more of a concern when traveling with family than with friends, since we often gravitate toward friends who "speak our love language," but it still applies in any group setting.

This was a huge revelation for me. Revelation Number Two: Both -- in fact, all four -- needs are OK. Just because someone doesn't say "I love you" the same way you do, doesn't mean they don't care. You can make room for both needs to be met ("We're going to Activity X at two o'clock, and you're welcome to join us!" Mental follow-up: "But if you want to chill in front of the TV, I won't take it personally.").

I'm pretty sure everyone has more fun that way ... but let me get back to you when I'm really an expert.

Friday, May 13, 2011

(Bi)Weekly Report (LONG)

In the annals of flaky homeschool record-keepers, I believe I deserve some sort of award. A prize given to the ultra-flaky, the rarefied few who never, never record anything consistently.

I guess we all have to aim for distinction in our own ways.

So since I didn't post anything last Friday about our learning adventures, I'm just going to jump in and post whatever I can remember from the past two weeks. Let me be clear: This is not meant to impress anyone. It's to remind myself of what worked for us ... and to offer up resource ideas to anyone who's looking.

(As always, Amazon links are provided, mostly because Blogger makes it soooo easy. Of course -- full disclosure -- on the rare occasion that anyone makes a purchase from those links, I get the financial equivalent of a square of dark chocolate -- or a few pages of a book. Every bit helps, right?)

Weeks of May 2 and May 9

Egermeier's Bible Story Book  (Acts of the Apostles) - reading and discussion
Hosted home meeting; attended church meeting
Through Gates of Splendor (Netflix DVD, based on the book)
AWANA graduation ceremony. (Fun fact: by finishing his third year of AWANA, Ian has memorized 300 verses, not counting those learned for Sunday church attendance.)

Michelangelo (by Diane Stanley, author of several picture book bios. Amazing artwork that combines her illustrations with Photoshopped-in images of his work. Text is dense and just barely held the girls' attention.)
Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer (Ian)
Columbus (Ian)
The World of Columbus and Sons (Ian)
Projects from Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself (Build It Yourself series)
Discussion of Transcontinental Railroad
Research on Antarctic explorers (Ian)
Masters of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and More (Jim Weiss)

Popular Mechanics for Kids: Super Sea Creatures and Awesome Ocean Adventures
March of the Penguins 
Ms. Frizzle's Arctic Adventure

Read-Alouds/Audiobooks: [edited to add: some of these are still in process!]
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Ian LOVES this "as much as Hatchet", proof that a story with a girl heroine need not be a "girl book.")
The Plot Chickens (to the girls; so fun!)
Emily's Runaway Imagination (Daddy to the girls)
Treasure Island (Daddy to Ian)
Henry Huggins CD
Henry and the Paper Route CD
Three Cups of Tea: Young Reader's Edition (not sure how to feel about the controversy, but said nothing to the kids about it)

Writing/Lang. Arts:
How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear?: What Are Homonyms and Homophones? (Words Are Categorical)
The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease (Ian, Eliza)
"Sentence Evolution" game: I come up with a boring sentence and we take turns adding or tweaking words to make it fun! fascinating! and fabulous!

Singapore Math (Ian)
Quick Pix Money Game  (Girls)
Math games on iPad
Logic Puzzles from Braingle.com
Cool Math Games for Kids
"Schoolhouse Rock!" number videos on YouTube

"The Owl and the Pussycat"
Limerick writing, in honor of Edward Lear's birthday

Fine Arts: 
Looking at Michelangelo's artwork (the iPad app "Jigsaw Puzzles" lets us download images and make them into puzzles)
Ian's work on his comic book (to be printed in book form upon completion)
Making paint from eggs and dirt or sidewalk chalk
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Personal/Independent Reading:
The Great Brain (Ian)
The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) (Ian)
Swiss Family Robinson (A Stepping Stone Book) (Eliza)
The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings (me)
Jane Eyre (me)

Family movie: Fiddler on the Roof (Eliza subsequently spent hours re-watching the whole thing in segments on YouTube)
Family movie: The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest (Caroline, much to Ian's horror, was fascinated by the footage of George Mallory's partially decomposed body, and now thinks she will become a doctor. To her future lab partner in Human Gross Anatomy: Blessed are you.)
Ravensburger Coco Crazy - Children's Game
Mothers' Day Luncheon with relatives
Play with friends
Swim Lessons (Ian and Eliza)
TaeKwonDo (Caroline
Homeschool Tennis (Ian)