Saturday, December 29, 2007

Random Acts of Cuteness

We spent a good chunk of today painting the room that's going to be the girls' bedroom. Two reasons: It really is time for Caroline to move out of the playpen in our bedroom and into a queen-size bed she can share with her sister. And, we're going to be hosting a child from Korea for two months, starting this Thursday, and he'll be sharing the room with Ian that Ian currently shares with Eliza.

I have my doubts about this sleeping arrangement, though, because last night Eliza wanted to sleep in her "new room" although it was far from finished, and guess who ended up crawling in with her and cuddling up on the (twin-size) mattress for the night? None other than her big brother, who, being human, clearly prefers not to sleep alone!

But anyway, maybe all the paint fumes are going to Caroline's head, because she was especially loopy today. Here are a couple of the more charming manifestations:

First, she discovered the Johnny Jump-Up I had out to give to a friend with an infant. Being the petite thang that she is, she falls under the 25 lb weight limit, even at age 2, so before long we had it hooked up and she was jumping like a maniac. Suddenly, I get the summons: "Mommy! I show you something really, really cool!" (Her really, really cool something was a round of vigorous bouncing accompanied by lusty singing. Now that's what I call truth in advertising!)

Then, while nursing before bed, she randomly pops off to inquire, "Mommy, do you like parking meters?"
Answer: snicker, snicker, not really, honey.

After stories and night-nights, she's down on her blanket on the floor, ready for sleep -- almost. First, she has to find a pencil and a scrap of paper and do some very earnest scribbling "my writing" for a few minutes. When she's done, what does she do? She tucks the pencil behind her ear, brings my attention to that fact, and lays her head down for sleep. She is, as I write, passed on on her blanket, paper inches from nose, pencil firmly behind ear.

Just in case, you know, inspiration should strike during the night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


We just got home from spending last night and today with my in-laws, who just finished building a new and rawther large house about 40 minutes from us. We're all exhausted, and two girls are already asleep -- and not a minute too soon! About two hours too late, as a matter of fact -- I think all the excitement, and sugar, got to both of them.

OK, can I just rant for a minute here? If you're at all inclined to be shocked or aggrieved by mommy complaints, just skip to the bottom, okay? Or maybe just don't read today's entry.

We begin with the words found on a sign in my midwife's office: "All women. All hormonal. All the time."

I was naive. How else do I say this? Did I really used to think, in the years leading up to and including my pregnancy with my second child, that I wanted a daughter, because, and I think my brain may have used these exact words, a daughter would be "easier to raise?" I'm thinking I must have been entertaining a grand delusion of one endless tea party in fetching Laura Ashley mother-and-daughter ensembles, one lifelong fabric softener commercial my angelic, white-clad offspring and I skipping in blissful slow motion through our days. I guess I actually believed, cue the bitter laugh, that because I was a female MYSELF, I would know, instinctively, how to raise a miniature version of myself.

Somehow these visions did not quite include the reality that most of my days are spent dealing with often-ferocious outpourings of emotion and high degrees of sensitivity. This is somewhat true with Caroline, more so with Eliza. (Okay okay, and very true with me.) On a typical day, especially one on which any of our variables is off (we're short 30 minutes of sleep; we ate refined sugar; the moon is aligned with the planets just so, etc.), we may suffer from not being able to eat the mango we requested Mommy buy because it is suddenly "too hard to chew." Mango, folks! Not steak! We may not be able to wear the (cotton knit) dress Mommy suggests because "it itches me." We may not be able to walk from the table to the bathroom for a Kleenex because "the floor is TOO COLD." We may bump our head and sound the siren for at least five minutes, we may experience gross injustice at the hand of our big brother and fall to the floor weeping, we may be given the WRONG FLAVOR of toothpaste and therefore feel completely unable to brush, etc. etc.

Sigh. It's a good thing I married someone with a large capacity for handling other people's emotions (I guess I gave him lots of practice). Too bad he can't be here 24 hours a day, for those times when it's a coin toss whether I'm going to either completely shut down or run screaming from the house. Surviving those moments involves supernatural power, I tell you. They also make me feel increasingly compassionate toward my own mother. Maybe that's the whole point.

Monday, December 24, 2007

For auld lang syne, my friends ...

It gets me EVERY time.

I wasn't going to do my annual viewing of It's a Wonderful Life since I stayed up way too late last night, BUT, it ran earlier than expected tonight and I had a few things to do anyway, so ... there I was, sniveling my way once again through the final rousing chorus of Hark the Herald Angels and Auld Lang Syne. Do any towns get together and sing anymore? It beats the trained sopranos I've been hearing on the classical station wobble their way through the sacred carols ... after a while they all start to sound the same, and where's the gusto, you know?

I know this movie has its detractors, and there's a side of it that's pretty depressing, but being a sentimentalist through and through, I'll always love that happy ending.

There are pets, and then there are PETS

OK, how funny is this?

Just got the mail and, nestled among the delightful holiday cards and not-so-delightful junk mail, was a reminder card from the vet -- "time for Sara's annual avian checkup!" Why is this funny? Because Sara is one of our backyard chickens! We had this episode last winter during which one of our hens died of illness, and another (Sara) was discovered to also be ill, so we had to medicate her for a few weeks. I say "we" in the broadest sense of the word, because it was really Tim out there with the syringe twice a day (thus making our eggs NOT antibiotic-free for a period of time). But the funniest thing about the whole things was that as a result of the rushing of the first sick hen to the Animal ER, where she died on the examining table, we received, a week later, a -- wait for it -- SYMPATHY CARD from the vet! Offering us condolences on the loss of Chirp, our beloved companion, who will be missed. They did stop short of sending us flowers.

Let's just say that after that whole $300 episode, we learned our lesson, and poor Sara is just going to have to tough it out without her annual avian checkup this year.

OK, time to get these antsy kids out into the fresh air!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Trail of Lights, Trail of Puns

We took the kids, plus Oscar from next door, to see the 37th Street Trail of Lights tonight -- a Central Austin tradition. Honestly, it's really tacky, and not even that impressive (to me), but the kids were totally fired up about it -- and that was before we even left our street! They were shrieking all the way there every time we even passed a house with what one might call minor illuminations. I guess we don't get out that much at night, LOL!

In retrospect, I was kind of wishing we had made it a family-only event, because we ended up having that lovely dynamic where Ian and Oscar are wound up and as a result, not very kind to Eliza -- whereas had it been just us, I think Ian and Eliza would have just enjoyed being silly together, and as usual, thought whatever Caroline did or said was hilarious, so no one would have been left out in the proverbial (and literal) cold. We had to do a bit of follow-up after dropping Oscar off at home, and I even had to call him to task a couple times, which I hate to do with anyone else's kids, and that did put a bit of a damper on the high spirits we all felt when starting out on our adventure. But anyway. Another learning experience for all, and on balance a fun memory made, I think.

On a totally different note, what's up wi Putin being ? OK OK, I understand why Time chose him, I really do, and I understand it's not an endorsement, but still ... I was expecting Al Gore, who got the #2 spot. I read the whole article, which arrived today, and having lived in Russia for a month during a time of mass instability, I get why most Russians feel like he's been a very positive influence on their country, like maybe democracy and freedom weren't all they were cracked up to be and at least now they aren't standing in bread lines and what not. But I still find his leadership style, his personality, and even his vision to be, well, quite unsettling. Chilling, even.

And not the kind of chilling that Gore thinks we need. :-) Sorry, bad pun, although my brother says there's no such thing as bad puns. But still, looking at Putin and Gore, talk about polar opposites! OK, yeah, I know, I'll just stop right there.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Audiobook Rave

The kids and I just finished listening to Megan Follows, she of Anne of Green Gables movie fame, read aloud the unabridged version of The Incredible Journey. What a treat! We were all spellbound, often sitting in our driveway for a few minutes to finish a chapter. Even Caroline would clamor for "the young dog," as she called it, when we got in the car. Of course, I was a puddle at the end (I have become my mother), but the tears were worth it.

We're big fans of audiobooks in the car, and I highly recommend this one!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back from Boston Again

Caroline and I are just back from a quick trip to Boston, where we were treated to a very New England winter tradition: the nor'easter. Think freezing rain falling on ten inches of snow. Since someone else was there to run the snowblower (yes, after all these years my parents have purchased a snowblower!), we mostly stayed inside the house and puttered around, visiting with my parents and the couple who is living there to help care for them, and then hanging out with my siblings and their various significant others when they arrived. The major event was my dad's appointments with his neurologist and occupational therapist, both at the same hospital on the same day -- you can imagine the doctor's surprise when Dad wheels in with 9 people in tow! Fortunately, someone stayed home to watch Caroline, so I was able to participate in all this. The moment of truth, as always, was when they tested his breathing capacity (called Forced Vital Capacity) and found that his numbers had held steady since the last visit, three months previously. Hurray! We also got to discuss with the doctor, and later that night with each other, some end-of-life issues related to ALS. Difficult, but important to do so that we all understand ahead of time what he wants.

On a selfish note, the trip came at a good time for me, since I had been feeling the need (one might even call it desperation) for some sort of break, and having only Caroline with me and others to help out meant that I wasn't being constantly pulled in all different directions, which is what basically overloads my circuit breakers. :-) In fact, I would venture to say that I got to be a bit lazy. My in-laws stepped up to the plate to help Tim, most gallant husband that he is, take care of the older two (while at the same time moving into the house they finally finished having built!), and it's amazing sometimes what a few days apart will do -- I could almost swear that Ian's maturity level jumped a notch or two while I was gone! Of course, life is back in full swing today, you just can't skip a beat, but I have to say that it was most gratifying to hear from my husband last night: "Boy, just keeping the house clean and picked up really takes half the day!" Now that's what I call a sense of perspective!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Santa Agnostic

Oh for a tape recorder I could plant in the next room ...

Oscar, my kids' friend from next door: Do you guys think Santa Claus is real?
Kids: (Some unintelligible answer I couldn't make out from around the corner)
Oscar: But think about it! How could an ADULT fly across the sky like that? And how could ONE GUY deliver all that stuff in one night?
Pause, while everyone absorbs this information.
Oscar: So we don't have proof that he does exist, but we don't have proof that he DOESN'T exist. But I have an idea to prove whether he exists!
Kids: What?
Oscar: He likes cookies and milk, right?
Kids: Yeah?
Oscar: So, we put out a plate with three cookies on it, and a full glass of milk. In the morning, we check and see -- if there are less than three cookies, and if any sips are gone from the glass, that will PROVE that he exists!
Kids, clearly wowed by this irrefutable logic: Yeah!

(P.S. As I was posting this, Caroline wandered up, streaming nose and all, pointed at the picture of me, and chirped, "There's Hannah!" I didn't even know she knew my first name!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ship of Doom

There are days, and then there are days.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I can't even describe how things went wrong, except to say that I felt stuck in an accumulating cycle of negativity. OK, when I was in junior high, one day my entire seventh grade class went to an amusement park to celebrate the end of the year. My friends and I decided to ride on of those pirate ships -- you know those giant boats that rock back and forth on a pendulum-type thing, getting higher every time? So the first time, we were sitting in the middle of the boat, and it was fun, like a nice swinging back and forth, wind in our hair, isn't this fun, wheeee! That was when I made my big mistake. I agreed to ride again, and this time sit at one of the ends. OH MY GOSH. The trauma still remains. We were swinging SO high, and everyone around me was gasping and squealing in terror, but a DELIGHTED sort of terror, actually ENJOYING the sensation, when I was gaping down, convinced that at any moment I would plunge over the flimsy restraining bar and catapult to my dismemberment on the machinery below. I was screaming, "I WANT TO GET OFF!" every time we passed the ride operator, but he just watched with an idiotic grin, thinking, if indeed he was doing any thinking at all, that I was just one of the happy shriekers aboard the Pirate Ship of Doom.

So, that sort of describes my day yesterday. In fact, at times I feel that the Pirate Ship is an apt metaphor for my whole emotional life, but anyway. I felt so angry and resentful at one of my children's "bad attitude" (in contrast with my sweet and pleasant one, of course), not to mention chronic lack of enthusiasm for whatever I present by way of academic stimulation. There were conversations that should have gone better had I the fortitude to use some of my listening skills, but instead turned into zero-gravity nosedives. Example:
Me: We're going to do a craft on Thursday before Spanish with Rhynn [Eliza's friend] and her mom, and hopefully Kevin and Christopher too.
Ian: Rhynn is my enemy. Not only so, but she is my NEMESIS. [OK, the reason for this is that Rhynn is too much like him! She is very precocious, tends to dominate and spew facts regardless of audience interest level, and is eager to impress upon Ian her superior intellect and body of knowledge. Nevertheless, she is four and he is seven, so ...}
Me, somewhat patronizingly: Well, Ian, why do you say that?
Ian: Because she talks about how she's so big and smart.
Me: [feeling the weight of my duty as a parent to grind good social skills into my child and also to convict him of the malevolence in his heart, and also perhaps somewhat being influenced by the discussion with my neighbor you all read about that has somewhat exaggerated my paranoia about whether my child might grow up as a disgruntled sociopath, you know, sort of a Bill-Murray-in-Groundhog-Day sort of character]: Well, honey, YOU do that too! ... (blah blah blah blah blah). [And I KNOW how I'm sounding, but I can't stop myself!]

Then I catch him making a face, so I send him instantly to his room.
And we've only been interacting for, oh, ten minutes!

In hindsight, I was able to see that I could have defused the whole situation with humor: "You know, I think you secretly LIKE Rhynn. I think you'd send her a big bouquet of roses if you could." (In fact, I did do this later that afternoon, and I don't know if it was the "right" thing to do, but it sure changed the temperature of our interchange!) But, it was just a day pockmarked with a multitude of those incidents when I was in the grip of my negative emotions and we were just OFF, just not connecting, just frustrating each other. Eliza and Caroline were, fortunately, a bit more manageable, but still, I wondered whether JetBlue might have a direct-to-Tahiti flight that might be leaving that afternoon. Blue potato chips, all to myself. :-)

So one thing that came of it was a tearful discussion with Tim last night when we decided to take a little break from any kind of formal "schooling" for right now. I'm going to focus more on doing things with Eliza, who is always receptive and eager for a little sitdown with the letters or numbers, and on doing some hands-on stuff like arts and crafts (the holidays are a good excuse), and not even try to do a math lesson, as fun as I try to make them. I will read aloud, but attendance will not be compulsory. Hopefully with a little time and space to experiment, to truly let go of my expectations that are, at bottom, mostly to meet my own needs for a sense of achievement, to pray more, our direction will become more clear. The last thing I want is for our homeschooling style to be toxic to our parent/child relationship, and so here we go, feeling our way long, taking a break, keeping an open mind, trying to remember, and give thanks for, all the delightful qualities of my spirited children that I tend to lose sight when I'm looking down, down, down.

I have to laugh at myself a bit, because you know how they give out those Web Awards for Homeschooler Blogger of the Year or whatnot? Clearly, we're not in the running! Are those people EVER grumpy or unsure of themselves? Maybe those posts go in a password-only file and we, the public, don't get to see them. Instead, we think they just float companionably from one joyful learning experience to another. How about a Brutally Honest Homeschool Blogger Award? Now accepting nominations! Get in line behind me!

The prize: seats on that flight with an extra bag of blue potato chips.

Friday, December 7, 2007

OT Begins

So this week we finally started our twice-weekly, in-home occupational therapy sessions for Ian. I think I may have forgotten to blog about the eval we had before Thanksgiving. In short, the results were that he does not have a clearcut Sensory Integration disorder, but more that he has difficulty with motor planning, including something called crossing the midline. He was hypersensitive to smell (this jives with his refusal to eat fruit "because of the smell" -- but why o why does this sensitivity not extend to the majorly stinky feet that result from the sock-wearing aversion?!?) and to sound (she congratulated me for homeschooling as she felt that this would be disastrous for him in a classroom -- yea, a supportive medical professional!), but hypOsensitive to vestibular stimulation, which means he doesn't get dizzy easily, he craves exaggerated amounts of stimulation because he doesn't pick up on more subtle degrees, and that explains why he may, say, bump into someone or squeeze them, or the like, without it really registering in his brain what he is doing and how it's affecting the other person.

Interesting stuff, that. My friend and college roommate, Cara, is a pediatric O.T., and now I have a whole new level of respect for what she does. It's funny b/c she always used to say she wasn't creative, and I think she meant artistic, but it's clear to me that what she does for a living (and I am SURE she is very good at it) requires incredible creativity, patience, resourcefulness, etc. Especially because sometimes you're working with kids who aren't exactly full-on cooperative/

So now the therapist comes to our house twice a week and does stuff like having Ian spin himself around a bunch of times on this thingamabob she has, and then going and lying face down on an exercise ball while working on a puzzle on the floor (working on trunk strength and visual tracking at the same time). So far, he loves it. The girls are jealous. Maybe I am too! :-)

Oh, and totally off-topic, I discovered this, which could seriously become addictive if I had more time ...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Mom is Born

On Friday, two of my dear friends, both coincidentally named Jessica but unknown to each other, gave birth to their babies. One had a daughter -- her firstborn. One had a son -- her fourth baby, and fourth son. Congratulations to both of them!

Then yesterday, a friend brought her six-week-old firstborn over to get a little help learning to use her sling. Her baby was, as mine were at that age, a bit on the fussy side, and it brought back so many memories. Whenever a friend of mine gives birth to their first baby, and especially when the transition is a bit rocky (is it ever otherwise?), it's like instant transport for me -- back to those early days of Ian's life as a human and my life as a mother. I can still remember where I was sitting on that first night home from the hospital when it hit me like a strollerload of bricks: my life had changed forever, this was now a 24-hour commitment, I couldn't just go to bed, kiss this baby goodnight, and say "see you in the morning, when I'm well-rested, honey!" And I couldn't send him back! Panic would be an appropriate descriptor for that moment.

But we got through it, I learned quickly to live, albeit more moodily, on two hour chunks of sleep, and as I fell in love with my baby it made those moments of complete helplessness, when nothing I could do seemed to make him that happy, easygoing baby other people seemed to tote around, less overwhelming and more just part of the package. And now here he is, seven years old, and I've done it twice more!

But every time I talk to a new mom and she says, semi-quaveringly, something along the lines of, "What am I supposed to DO with him?" or "I just didn't realize how much my life would change," I'm there again. Everything one could say, from "welcome to the club!" to "but it's so worth it" to "don't worry, it gets better" seems so cliché that the best I can do is trust her to learn those truths for herself and just say, "I know exactly what you mean."

Friday, November 30, 2007

On a Lighter Note

Under the category of "Not for the Squeamish ..."

One of the, ahem, joys of parenting a four year old is that you get to be privy (pardon the pun) to little jewels like this:
"Mom! Come look at my poop!" (And you come, pulled like a lump of seaweed at low tide, yielding without resistance to the fate for which college simply did not prepare you ...)
"Wow, [beloved child], that is QUITE a bit of poop!"
"Yeah." Pause. "It's a CITY of poop." Pause. "A whole WO-WULD of poop."
Indeed, dear one. Indeed.

Sprouting (LONG)

OK, where to start. Those of you who blog/journal and maybe have a tendency to procrastinate like yours truly, do you ever find that you put off writing about the things you most need or want to write about, simply because of the time and effort, real or perceived, that are involved? It's easier to just throw out a tidbit here or there but not get down to what's really going on.

So. This is one of those times. I am making myself sit down and get this on paper (let's not be technical), because I think that once I do, it may stop rubbing at me like the little canker sore on the end of my tongue is doing right now.

There are a few major things going on under the surface of my mostly ordinary-looking life right now. A lot went on during our Thanksgiving travel, mostly in the context of family interactions, caring for my parents, learning to communicate well among the siblings, etc., and there's no way I can catch up on all that here. At the same time, it was a season of spiritual refreshment for me, partly from the conference we attended over the weekend, partly from seeing and fellowshipping with some friends, mostly older, I hadn't seen in a while, and partly from some unexpected divine intervention and care we received during the travel home (I may post more on that later). I guess I tend to be sort of down on myself about my "spiritual condition," comparing myself unfavorably to others although I know in my head that that is not God's heart. I even accept, at times, the subconscious lie that somehow the Lord does not love me quite as much as others, who are more faithful, more victorious, more blah blah blah. I actually had a very honest discussion with Him about this a couple weeks ago. :-) But because of the care we received through a few people and thus indirectly from Him, I realized as I crawled into bed last night that I really had gotten the reminder I needed of His full and free and unstinted love for me, for us.

So anyway. Before we left for the trip I had an experience with a friend (?) of mine that was just, well, difficult. It was good, I think, but also painful, but also releasing from a stress I have been under for months regarding our relationship. I'm going to try to be as concise as possible here. We became friends a year ago, after discovering that we were neighbors, both Christians, and both homeschooling moms of children who were of similar ages and got along quite well (although she has four and they're all girls, but hey, close enough). For the first 3-4 months I really sensed that she was pursuing a friendship with me -- not aggressively in any way, but taking some initiative. We had some very good fellowship together and our kids had a great time playing. Besides, you can't beat proximity, and I had been praying for a friend who was close by and was sort of "in my life situation." Then I started sensing a change, as if she were sort of backing off -- I won't go into details or supporting evidence here, and part of it was just my intuition. I sometimes thought I was crazy, since when I did see her she was always very sweet. Because I have no interest in chasing someone down or making repeated invitations or offers of help if they don't seem that interested, I backed off as well. We remained friendly, but inwardly I struggled with feelings of not knowing where I stood with her, not knowing why I felt such mixed signals, etc. I probably would have just dropped any effort to get together or have some kind of friendship if my kids, especially Eliza who really needed friends (she is sometimes a third wheel with Ian and Oscar), had not asked frequently about playing with them. How to you explain to your kids that you're getting a vibe from someone, despite her amiability, that there's some sort of line in the sand?

So we finally talked. And it was hard. It had been a friendly phone chat about this and that, including their taking Eliza with them to their AWANA club, and then at the end I just asked her something that led to a protracted discussion that went from the very general "I backed off because I felt God was calling me to do certain things with my time and that meant less time for other things [e.g. hanging out together]" to the somewhat more personal "I felt like I didn't want to take the place of God in your life [i.e. by trying to meet your needs]" to the very personal, which I can't even recap here but the gist of which is that she basically believes that I am too lax as parent, as evidenced by the fact that I give my children choices (guilty as charged!) and by a couple incidents when I did not publicly reprove my 7-year-old son for teasing his younger sister or for voicing selfish feelings (example: "Eliza got new shoes and I'm jealous"), and that therefore my children, or more specifically my son, is not a good influence on her children.

Handful of fellow mothers who read this, have you ever been here? Are any of you, too, imperfect parents of imperfect children? Do your kids take you down a peg or two in public? Do they sometimes miss the memo about Not Reflecting Badly on Mom Lest Her Stocks Plummet? Or are yours already released from self and on their way to glory?

Needless to say, my feelings then and since have ranged considerably, from humility to hurt to anger to understanding to whatever you call the feeling you have when you're thinking, "this is totally ridiculous." As I said to her then, she may be right, and I may be off in my parenting, and I will pray about it (I did.) And of course, it absolutely makes sense to have some degree of discernment about our kids' companionships, sure. I wouldn't, for instance, feel good about my kids spending time with kids who swore or sassed their parents. On the other hand, when I'm having those, shall we say, other moments, my thoughts run along these lines: 1) I choose not to raise my children in a box, and I decided long ago that if I only allowed them to play with perfectly mannered, pious children who never needled their siblings, never hit, whined, etc., eventually we'd be a very lonely family indeed (oh, and my kids couldn't play with each other, either, by those standards). I believe that I'm responsible for some discernment (see above) but also that God is a God of grace, and His grace is bigger than my ability to control everything that my children see and hear. Ultimately, even if I do everything "right" and they never watch TV or play with guns or have secular friends or see billboards on the highway or whatever, there's a huge X factor here, two actually, and they are God's mercy and my children's free will. 2) Yes, I do give my children choices -- in the small things, that is, because I believe in giving them lots of practice in making choices and experiencing either the satisfaction of making a rewarding or neutral choice, or the pain/disappointment of making a poor choice -- while they are under my roof and it is safe. I do not see that as compromising our parental authority. They may not choose to hit each other, draw on the walls, talk disrespectfully to us, play with matches, run naked through the streets, play computer games all day, etc. They may, however, choose whether to ride their bike or scooter to the park, whether to do math or history first, whether to go outside without a jacket in borderline weather, etc. 3) Children with ADHD have, as a hallmark of their characteristics, tremendous difficulty with impulse control. Expecting a child with ADHD to think about what they're about to say or do and how it's going to be received is like expecting a nearsighted child to read a chalkboard or a dyslexic child to pick up a book and read. Can it be done? Yes, I think so, but it's a very SLOWLY learned skill and requires tons of patience and coaching (which I tend to do more privately than publicly). I understand that it would be very difficult to perceive that if one had no personal experience -- i have often said that I needed a boy, and a boy like Ian, to "break me in" and save me from being the kind of judgmental parent I would have been had I produced only [mild-mannered] girls (not saying that SHE is, just saying that I know I would be, and that there's no substitute for experience). Fortunately, I am blessed to be around other moms who enjoy my kids, take them with a grain of salt, and are honest about their own struggles with their imperfect children, and I hope I can be that way to others as well.

Now that some time has gone by, I would say that the sting has gone out of our conversation (which we did end on a positive or at least cordial note, I would say). I actually feel some relief, as if I can move on now. I no longer feel any need or desire to seek out spending time together, because I realize what a stress that would evoke for everyone involved. She doesn't want to worry about what her girls will be exposed to, and I don't want to be on eggshells about my child supplying consistent evidence that he is not yet transformed to a selfless being. We will probably never see eye to eye on certain parenting issues, but we did agree to pray for one another, and maybe that's all God had in mind in bringing us together in the first place. Perhaps the most positive thing that's come out of the whole experience for me is just seeing that I will never be as sweet, pious, and exemplary a Christian and a mother as she is, and I may never have nursing home ministry with my children or do most of the things that she does, and I respect her portion, admire her deeply as a person, and by His grace, love her as a sister in Christ. At the same time, this experience has reminded me, poignantly, that God's goal is not for me to be a perfect Christian, and that for me to have that goal would actually have the potential to cause grief and strife with others who do not meet my standards. He wants a group of people, vitally related and connected to each other without judgment or regard for each other's shortcomings, who express HIM together. We don't replace Him in each other's lives -- we ARE Him in each other's lives! I have been the "victim" of so much love and kindness throughout my life that is so undeserved that it points me back to Him. When someone gives my kids a ride somewhere when I can't return the favor, and does it with grace, that's Jesus, "God manifested in the flesh" to me. When someone gives my kids and me a ride home from the airport, jumpstarts my van, and cleans out my nastified turtle tank before leaving with a promise to pray for my exam-taking husband, as one of our church elders just did three days ago, that is Jesus to me. I could go on and on, but that's the gist of it. My personal relationship with God is very real and dear to me, but I am SO glad that it's not JUST "me and Him." I'm glad He flows through us to each other. And I'm glad we don't have to meet a standard to deserve it.

So Caroline is crying, quiet time is over, and I have to go. If you're still with me and haven't been blown away by the extreme length or "Jesus references";-) of this post, then bear with me for one last thing. I can't quote it exactly, but I was reading Jan Karon's newest delight, Home to Holly Springs, and in it she quotes someone, maybe G.K. Chesterton who said something like, "From every cut branch, new life sprouts (springs?)". (Wish I had the book with me to quote it right.) I think my experience with my neighbor was like a cut branch to me. It hurt. It forced me to reexamine myself and to let go of something I was holding onto that was weighing me down. But I feel like there is the beginnings, maybe even just the hope, of a sprout there -- something unexpected, something I can't even grasp yet.

In the meantime this branch is holding tight to the Trunk.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Knights and Damsels

The kids are on a Battleship kick today, after bringing the game home with us from my parents' house (we just spent a week there for Thanksgiving). After reading about the Hundred Years' War and then some about Joan of Arc, and letting Ian carry out his idea of drawing a scene from the aforesaid battle while I played Phonics Roadblock with Eliza, I decided to let them count Battleship as math for today. Actually, I kind of negotiated that one with Ian -- he suggested it could be the math lesson ("there are numbers in it, Mom!") so we did five minutes of flashcards, with him taking giant steps around the room every time he got one right, and then got right down to sinking each other's submarines and destroyers.

I've been a bit lax in my child development reading lately, but I could swear that there's some sort of testosterone burst that occurs in seven-year-old boys. Ian is suddenly very interested in knights, Vikings, and battles, and not just because we're studying medieval history, although for once I feel like my "plan" has dovetailed nicely with a passion of his. He loves the armor, the weapons, the idea of tactical battle strategies, etc. In fact, while we were in Boston he was obsessed with playing this game called Legion Arena on the computer. Something about Roman armies and elephant cavalries and Praetorian guards and whatnot. This is all pretty new to us, and rather bemusing, but my sense is that it's all quite normal. It's just odd, really, to have so many days go by with hardly a word breathed about dinosaurs ...

(Oh, and by the way, the reason we were able to have such a studious morning is that Caroline was on her weekly trip to story hour at the library with another friend and the toddler for whom she nannies. Eliza is pretty good about going along with what Ian's doing (then again, she does have those behavioral things, like resistance to getting dressed in the morning, or what I call "trauma-dramas" over -- to my dull senses -- minor things, that make me wonder whether I'm lumping her together with her brother too much) . So, not every day is like this; rarely can I sit down and play 30 minute of Battleship, but it sure is nice when it happens!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where We Stand

I've been feeling for a while, since I posted about the test results I guess, that I should write something of substance about our decision about how to handle Ian's schooling in the light of the diagnoses and recommendations. If you've been reading this blog, you know that one of the things we were urged to consider was putting him in school. Now, it didn't take long before we both reaffirmed our belief that we have no interest in putting him in public school, nor does it make sense that their "special accommodations" could possibly be more "special" than the one-on-one attention he gets her at home (or make that, one-on-three!). We did consider a couple of the several part-time private schools found in Austin that offer a middle ground between homeschooling and private school. There's even one tiny one that caters specifically to children with learning differences, from giftedness to autism spectrum to ADHD to sensory issues and all kinds of other neurodevelopmental differences which I had no idea existed until about a year ago! There's another one whose director faithfully attends our homeschool support group meetings and is obviously a homeschooler in her sensibilities, if you know what I mean. Small, homey, mixed-age, not far away, a slot open in his class, etc.

BUT, each of these options entails more cash than we can conscionably lay out at this stage in our lives (i.e. while Tim is involved in slave labor as a grad student), and as tempting as it was to throw financial wisdom to the winds, neither of us felt right about doing it. I guess we just felt like it didn't sit right inwardly to accelerate our slide toward debt, to make even more financial sacrifices than we already are, in order to accommodate ONE member of the family in way that really has no guarantees. It seemed like if that was the path we were meant to follow, there would be a clear way to do so. (And that is more information than I generally share about finances, but there you go.)

So I guess we decided to take that as a leading that we should concentrate our efforts on managing here at home.

Here are our baby steps so far:
1- Reaching out to the very vocal and active hs'ing community here in Austin, which, as I predicted, responded with all sorts of advice, experience, empathy, etc.
2- As a result of #1, joining a local support group for moms who homeschool kids with various learning differences.
3- Reading up on ADHD, learning differences, and homeschooling with ADHD -- found a great book with a funny title that has lots of practical suggestions like ideas for learning games: "How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and onto Learning." (Example: we throw a beanbag back and forth while doing math facts.)
4- Looking for ways to gently incorporate more structure, such as using a whiteboard every morning (different from the morning-routine whiteboard) to write down the 4-5 academic things he's expected to do that day before poring over the Lego catalog, playing computer games, drawing medieval jousts or invented Legos, playing with Oscar, reading Calvin & Hobbes, etc. When we do them, he gets to erase them. When the board is clean, he's free to direct his own learning. Also, I'm trying to remember to give a preview of the day at breakfast time. Next goal is to give him a weekly calendar on Monday -- another mom sent me a template she uses with her son, but our printer is out of ink! :-(
5- Continuing with taekwondo.
6- Getting an evaluation from an occupational therapist for the sensory issues and motor skills -- she's coming tomorrow morning to the house.
7- Looking into family therapy and social skills groups.
8- Making sure he gets outside a lot, easy to do these days with our balmy weather.
9- Trying out a liquid supplement that's supposed to help with attention. Just started it so jury's still out.

OK, having written all that makes it sound like a lot, I suppose, but I don't feel like anything's been done very dramatically. And believe me, there are still many moments and many days when we want to pull our hair out! But it feels like just putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next thing, knowing there's so much more to learn but grateful to have a nudge in what's hopefully the right direction.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Today's Breakfast

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword [or cranky toddlers, or throbbing headaches, or difficulties with children, or stressed-out spouses]? ... In all these things we more than conquer through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers no height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord."
- Rom. 8:35-39

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Can I Ride Pwince?"

So we sort of thought, rather naively of course, that bringing Caroline out to Elgin, where my in-laws live and keep a herd of horses, last Saturday for a pony ride would give her the desired fix, and possibly quell the insistent fires of her longing for horsie rides. Silly us. She is now asking us several times a day, "Can I ride Pwince?" "Where's Pwince?" "Is he in the bawn?" "Where's his bwush?" (She got to watch her cousin groom the pony before the ride.) Unfortunately, the concept of "Saturday" is hard for an almost two-year-old to grasp. So, we'll just lather, rinse, and repeat for the next five days!

Also on that note, we were discussing in the van on Sunday morning the idea Ian and Oscar had about getting her some small Breyer horses for her upcoming birthday. All I said was "we could get her a couple Breyers," not even mentioning what they were, and for the rest of the ride it was "I want a couple BWEYERS!"

She sort of reminds me of Ian at that age, when he was all about Thomas the Tank Engine. Eliza has a different temperament, and I don't think she's ever had a real obsession. Caroline's intensity, however, is mercifully somewhat modulated. That is, except when it's 8:30 p.m. and after an hour of our best efforts, she is hysterically overtired and is indicating, with not the slightest hint of modulation, that she does NOT want to go to sleep (have I ever told you how much I despise Daylight Savings Time?)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Social Thinking

A friend of mine just sent me a link to this website, called Social Thinking. Funny thing, that's exactly the same curriculum used by the woman who teaches one of the two social skills classes we're considering for Ian. (As in, we're debating between two very good options.) Looks very intriguing!

My brother politely wondered aloud about this social skills thing last weekend, upon observing the obvious fact that Ian has no trouble making friends. He can make a new friend just about any time, anywhere. It's the other stuff -- the reading of cues, the awareness of boundaries, the control of impulses -- that has always required TONS of coaching from us, and I am so ready to have some positive outside input!

Am I the only one who wishes these classes were around about twenty-five years ago? :-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Resolution of the Week

There is some serious what I would call "guy noise" going on behind me -- Tim and Ian are playing an online video game from the Lego website that consists of knights assaulting a medieval castle (can I count that as history for the day?) and there are all manner of groovy music, clunks, thumps, splats, etc., punctuated by the sound effects coming from the guys themselves -- "aw, sweet!" "ooh!" "arghh!" -- and then something probably only Ian would say, "I know, let's fetch that other guy." Fetch? Sometimes I think my child belongs in another century!

OK, so on to the topic at hand. My parenting goal for the week was inspired by this post, (it's long, and the part I'm referring to is quite a ways down) and I can sum it up in just two words: Just Say Yes. Wait, that's three words. Anyway, of course I don't mean I'm remaking myself as a permissive, anything-goes kind of parent. I'm not saying YES to hitting, refusing to cooperate, name-calling, using "good" instead of "well" (as in, "I did good") and other moral issues. :-) I'm talking about the times when I find myself blurting out "No" like some kind of automaton that's had the Parent Program installed and needs to find the override button. I'm talking about the "no"s that arise from my own laziness (let's call this Situation A), or even the projection of my own personal preferences onto the requested outcome (Situation B). Example A: It's 8:50 p.m. and Ian comes to me with a cardboard box, imploring me to help him carve it into a castle (he's found directions on that Lego website). Truly truly, I just don't feel like it. Then I realize that I hardly ever put much effort anymore into participating in his inconvenient ideas and schemes, and why not set aside the glass of ice water I was about to fling on it, and just get out the scissors and do it? Example B: Eliza asks if they can sleep in their new hideout, i.e. an empty cabinet they discovered, and I think it's a bad idea because they'd be way too cramped, but hey, why not let them figure that out for themselves? (They forgot by bedtime anyway.) Or this morning, Eliza asked if she could have butter on top of the cream cheese that I had spread on her pumpkin bread. I open my mouth for the automated "no" (after all, that just sounds gross to me, butter WITH cream cheese), but just in time, realize that in fact I *can* let her make her own judgment as to the pleasantness of various bread-spreading permutations.
So, stuff like that. I guess I just get tired of being a wet blanket sometimes, especially when there's no good reason for it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


It's so quiet here tonight, that I did something I haven't done in a long time. Caroline was having a hard time settling down (could've been the whole M&M cookie she consumed at our Music Together Family Fun Night) so I went to the piano and played some of my favorite lullabies from our Music Together songbooks - gorgeous classics like "Shenandoah" and "All the Pretty Horses," which she loves because it mentions horses. I love playing just for the fun of it, but if I try during the day I get "help" from my backup musicians within two minutes, and I appreciate the communal spirit of things, but it does, to quote Bertie Wooster, play merry hell with the rhythm (not to mention the melody). And I don't usually think of playing at night, but Tim and Ian are out at a lock-in at the Tae Kwon Do place.

Can you believe it? He's at a lock-in and he's only seven! Up until 2 days ago, I really didn't seriously consider letting him do it (it's not just me being protective; we were in Houston all day at a wedding, which was partially an excuse to meet up with my dear brothers; besides, I honestly don't know how he'll do on very little sleep; besides, in MY day (cue the crotchety old voice) lock-ins were for teenagers, and they were not attended by me!). But when he heard in class that it involved pizza, popcorn, and a movie, he was SO on board. Not sure how he feels about the origami lessons. :-) And Tim is with him, in case he decides he's not up for the whole shebang and wants to come home before his coach turns into a pumpkin as the clock strikes midnight. But when I talked to Tim on the cellphone a couple hours ago, there were raucous relay races in full swing -- something about a wheelbarrow, I believe -- and it sounded like Ian was helping himself to the community-building, which is good for him. And the teacher promised me that the movie will be G-rated, the video games, brought in by some of the kids, nonviolent, and the sugar minimal. She also treated my questions about said topics with the utmost respect. I like her.

Oh, and I have my dear friend Jessica to thank for helping me think this might be a good idea. A year or so ago she told me she was letting Jacob spend the night at Greenville Gymnastics, and I thought she was pretty cool, and daring, for doing so. Even though I haven't seen her in person in almost two years, I still have my "What Would Jessica Do?" moments!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Check it out -- we were crafty this week!
One of my shortcomings as a homeschooling mom is that I'm just not that good at the arts-and-crafts thing. Partly, it involves gathering supplies, and towing three kids through Hobby Lobby in search of, say, Mod Podge, is just, well, not so recreational. But anyway, in an effort to infuse our learning with a bit of variety and really go hands-on, I decided to take advantage of Ian's newfound interest in knights and all things medieval (which means we've had some success in the history arena - yea!) and make a coat-of-arms with the kids yesterday. Here are the results:

Not bad, eh? I have to say, there were about ten minutes when I thought I was going to implode and chuck the whole thing since I get so frantic when I'm trying to set up the project and Caroline has dived right in and is, while I'm attempting to discuss heraldry with Ian and Eliza, insisting, "I need yellow. I need yellow. I need YELLOW. I NEED YELLOW!!!" (Picture yellow paint smeared everywhere; her "project," involving a hands-on exploration of color-mixing, is in full swing while the older two are just getting started.) In the midst of I misplaced three paintbrushes, all three kids were talking at once, as is their custom, Tim called to report his latest test grade, Ian decided in a characteristic fit of divergent thinking that he didn't particularly CARE for the rules of heraldry I was imposing on him (after all, I bought the book!), etc. etc. etc. BUT! This too did pass. Deep breath. Eliza's coat-of-arms actually has some significance in the medieval world (the crescent shows she's a second-born, the yellow color shows her generosity, red her courage, blue her loyalty, etc.). Ian's is meant to symbolize his CLUB, a elite organization comprising two members, him and Oscar, and representated by an object that, sorry honey, looks rather like a turtle but is actually a boy holding a giant water balloon with an arrow through it. Top THAT, Sir Lancelot.
[Oh. I'm supposed to interject here that my father-in-law is sitting behind me on the couch and wants to be sure that I record for posterity the fact that he thinks I'm great. :-)]

P.S. Guess who achieved some minor fame in the world of Bicycling Commuters this week! Woo hoo! He says to feel free to leave adulatory posts. :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A fine, fine day

The weather today could not possibly be more perfect (70s, sunny, leaves falling), and for once in several weekends, we are just home today until we go over to friends' house for dinner tonight. We biked over to a nearby farmer's market this morning to pick out pumpkins, and now all the kids, including Oscar, whom we refer to as our fourth child, are in the backyard launching water balloons from the treefort. Caroline didn't exactly understand that throwing her balloon would cause it to explode, but now we've learned that lesson and Big Brother in Shining Armor (make that Big Bro in Too Short Pants, yikes he grew since last March!) is off to make her a new one.
Vive l'autumne!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pictures from the TX coast

Here are a couple photos from our trip to Port Aransas last weekend. We were there with our friends and fellow homeschoolers and church members, the Dixon family, which includes three boys. I went with low expectations, since I had been spoiled by the Carolina coast and had been told such varying reports of the Texas beaches, but was pleasantly surprised. No, it wasn't Hilton Head, but the beach was wide and uncrowded in the off-season, the surf just right for our crew, the water not too cold, the trash under control, and the only problem was the ubiquitous man o'wars speckling the beach. (Funny story: the day after we got home, Caroline was with Tim and me in the kitchen and she started squealing, "A jellyfish! A jellyfish!" We looked closer and there on the floor was a smudge of butter, not one inch long, which indeed resembled the general outline of a jellyfish. LOL!) I always find that being at the ocean relaxes me(my MIL says it's something about the negative ions in the air) and quiets my soul. I can walk by the surf's edge and just converse with the Lord, or sit and make sandcastles with the kids with only the rhythm of the tide to keep time. There is, too the connection to some of my more pleasant childhood memories, like the summer I spent two weeks at my grandmothers' beach house on Fire Island and would sometimes get up before anyone else, walk down to the beach, and do a cartwheel or two and then just enjoy being alone with my deep, eleven-year-old thoughts. :-) The solitude was never frightening the way it would seem, say, in the woods. Just comforting. And, now that life is much more complicated, quite timely.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

O what a night

What a red-letter night: first a scurry down the street with kids and neighbor in tow to watch the space shuttle fly over and blink out, then the Red Sox in the World Series in my home ballpark, giving thus far what might safely be called a drubbing to the Rockies -- woo hoo!

On a totally unrelated note, the other day Eliza learned a new word at co-op which she shared with us at dinner -- "temporary," or as she would say, "tempowawy." It was so cute to hear her try, in her careful and slow way, to explain the concept to Ian -- "It's like, you're not going to be that forever." We had an interesting discussion complete with examples -- Uncle Allen and Aunt Kristen are having a TEMPORARY move to Boston to take care of Grandmommy and Papa; Uncle Peter was going to TEMPORARILY evacuate from his apartment because his entire city was basically going up in smoke (which led to a discussion of wildfires which led to a discussion of something Ian read in Magic Treehouse about the San Francisco fire of 1905. Interesting.). I think Eliza got it down pat because the next morning she came and opened the shower door to ask me, "Mom, is Caroline a TEMPORARY baby??"

Yes, honey, she sure is.
(And does Mommy have very mixed feelings about that? She sure does.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why I married him

OK it wasn't EXACTLY this self-centered (but partly!) ...
Tonight I discovered that the reason I couldn't find my phone earlier this afternoon was that it wasn't anywhere in the house, or car, or stroller. All evidence pointed to the fact that I had somehow lost it at the park this morning (yes, another school-at-the-park day). I shared this info with Tim (why can't I react as calmly and amiably to Ian's absent-mindedness as Tim does to mine?) and then returned to my computer, where I sat feeling rather anxious over my, oh, fourth lost item of the month, and wondering how early I would need to get up tomorrow morning to go find it before leaving fr our morning fieldtrip. Well, guess who emerges a few minutes later with reflective vest and headlamp, ready to sally forth into the dark deeps? Sure enough, not 15 minutes later he returns, phone in hand. He had called it from his phone while walking to and through the park, listening and watching for the blinking screen to shine as a beacon in the dark, and and rescued it from peril on the steep hillside where I had been manhandling the stroller about 10 hours ago. What a guy! :-)
(Incidentally, I am reading a most enlightening book now called A Mind at a Time, and according to Dr. Mel Levine I'm not absent-minded; my brain has trouble with spatial ordering. Which is basically the exact opposite of Tim's brain. So there we go.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Reading Aloud

On a totally different note from yesterday's post, I wanted to share this neat thing that happened very spontaneously at the park yesterday morning. I was reading aloud to the kids from D'Aulaire's Leif the Lucky while pushing the two girls on the swings (Ian can finally pump on his own now). I realized that the grown woman sitting on the fourth swing, smiling to herself and swinging very softly back and forth, was blind. And since I had to read loudly enough for the two older kids, who were both swinging, to hear, the woman could doubtless hear too. I found myself hoping she was enjoying the story too. :-)

Off to pack up the car for a weekend at the Texas coast! Looking forward to relaxing a bit, I hope ...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The test results

Well, I don't have so much time right now so will have to continue this later, but I know some of you have been wondering about the testing results, so I'll give a brief summary here and then try to elaborate later.
We met with the psychologist this morning, finally -- the appt. had been rescheduled a couple times. She had obviously put a lot of time into compiling and interpreting the results for us. After her initial description of how Ian handled the testing, she made the observation that she does believe he "qualifies" (for lack of a better word) as gifted. In fact, she noted when presenting the various components of his IQ test that she has never had a child score as high as he did on the Verbal Comprehension scale. Not surprising, if you know Ian. He also was sort of "off the charts" on the Rorschach test in terms of creativity and imaginativeness. And he scored very well on the Visual Perception of the IQ test.
So, that was the good news.
The more difficult news was that both the subjective observations and her objective ratings pointed to a clearcut clinical diagnosis of ADHD, with possible Sensory Integration Dysfunction to boot (I know Jenny may be the only person reading this who understands what all this stuff is, but anyway). He also just scored average on the Working Memory and Processing Speed portion of the IQ test (both of which have to do with attention and focus), which incidentally affected his composite IQ score -- not that that matters much, but still interesting. I guess none of it was really a surprise at all, but still, I'm kind of reeling.
It does sort of explain why people who meet Ian usually think two things: 1) Wow, he's very bright (because of the high Verbal ability) and 2) Boy, kind of a handful! (Although most people are too polite to say that out loud. :-))
She had some recommendations, from a social skills training group to parent training group to discussion of meds with his dr. (low on our list) to .... here's the biggie ... school. Believe or no, kids with ADHD tend to do best in highly structured environments (kind of counterintuitive, no?), and she recognized that not only can that be hard to provide at home but also it can stress the parent/child relationship to have to provide that level of structure while homeschooling (yup). So, she recommended that we at least consider private or public school.
I went to the interview feeling that I should go with an open mind, not closed to anything and yet not taking anything as gospel either. I still feel that way. I am not ready to make any changes without a LOT of prayer and discussion with Tim, but I also realize that I shouldn't reject the idea of change out of hand.
A verse from Proverbs keeps coming back to me in these days, about trusting in the Lord with all my might, and not leaning on my own understanding, but acknowledging Him in all our ways so He can direct our paths.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Nothing wrong upstairs

That Caroline. She's a toddler with Big Plans, as was obvious today. Here's her latest: I was getting ready to go tutor for an hour, and Tim and I had a brief conversation about my sister, Kristen, picking up Ian from his taekwondo class to bring him home (we only have one car). Next thing we know, Caroline has Tim by the hand: "Daddy, I want you take out my carseat." Not quite following her but feeling obliging, Tim removed her carseat from my van before I pulled out of the driveway. Now, background: yesterday Kristen came to watch the kids while I was working in the afternoon (my regular tutoring time). Caroline, as usual, clamored to go for a ride in Aunt Kristen's car, but alas, her carseat was with me in the van and therefore she was denied the coveted ride. So today, when Kristen showed up with Ian, guess who was waiting for her, fully equipped with carseat in hand? You got it! They decided to reward her resourcefulness and Caroline got to have her very own playdate at Aunt Kristen's house for nearly two hours! Another friend who was coming for dinner picked her up and brought her home. Quite the independent little socialite, at 22 mos. already! We may need to get her a Daytimer to keep all these plans organized soon. :-)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Freeze the Moment

I just passed the sliding glass door that opens onto our back patio and then the yard, and witnessed what appeared to be an idyllic moment ... all three kids, digging away in the sandbox under our huge oak tree. Now, granted, had I been up close and able to hear the conversation, there's a possibility the moment wouldn't seem so idyllic, but I choose optimism in this case -- and distance. Ignorance is bliss, right? It was one of those moments I wished I could have stuffed in a bottle and preserved, just so, for playback when they're teenagers, or off to college, or just, you know, being not-so-idyllic. :-)

Yesterday was a red-letter day for Ian -- he earned his first stripe on his tae kwon do belt, for doing some particularly challenging activity in class. For the belts, and the stripes, the teacher (a woman, interestingly enough) emphasizes character development just as much as athletic skills, which I'm all for. He was *very* excited, which should provide some momentum for moving forward. Yea! Incidentally, while watching him outside the door of the class, I had the interesting experience of meeting the mayor. Yup, the mayor of Austin -- a very nice man named Will Wynn whose daughter, unbeknownst to me, is one of Ian's classmates (and this is a pretty low-profile place, mind you, so I didn't exactly expect to find that the dad I was chatting with was the mayor!). He told me that she wants to be a Jedi knight and if she gets all her homework done at night, they battle with light sabers. OK, I'll vote you for next time around! :-) I happened to know that he was one of the people whom Al Gore trained to give his very cool, pardon the pun, Inconvenient Truth slideshow, so I asked him about it and we had a chat about how fascinating that whole subject is. He goes around to various companies and organizations in Austin giving the show during lunch hour. He also informed me, with good humor, that the newspaper is coming out with a story about how he's doing this lecture instead of doing his job as mayor (which I doubt) ... I guess being in politics gives you pretty thick skin.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


The thing about blogging is, there's a certain inertia to overcome once you've been away from it for a few days. In other words, the longer you procrastinate writing things down, the less appealing it seems to do at night when you (yawn) just want to veg.
So there's my excuse.
But, there's also the fact that it's so much easier to write about smooth, pleasant days than it is to describe those when you spend much of the time fighting tears, sometimes unsuccessfully, because there are things than just can't be described in a paragraph or two. And today was the first smooth, pleasant day I could write about, the first day of the past several that I haven't found it necessary to attempt escaping from my kids so I could just sob alone in the bathroom -- just for two minutes, people, two minutes! OK, one minute! :-)
Don't get me wrong, it's not all doom and gloom here in the nest, but I seem to be experiencing a confluence of stressful life situations -- they never quite come one at a time, do they? And when the prizes are given out for grace under fire, I won't be in the running, that's for sure.
Rather than go into the nitty-gritty about every one of those life situations, I'll just recap a bit of yesterday morning. At 10:15 a.m., we're out in the backyard, chores and "morning lists" successfully accomplished with a minimum of nagging on my part. We spread out the blanket for chapter of Family Under the Bridge, which is Caroline's signal to nurse (I've concluded that she simply won't ever wean as long as I read aloud to the other kids). But I can deal with that, because it keeps her quiet and happy, and it's pleasant in the shade, and Ian and Eliza are listening with a decent degree of attention. After that, we do some spelling and letterhunting for Ian and Eliza, respectively, on the patio with sidewalk chalk. I feel generally good about how things are going.
Except for the fact that Ian is obsessing about the Calvin and Hobbes book that he left at Oscar's house next door, and feels compelled to run over there every five minutes to see whether anyone's come home or left it out on the doorstep for him (I forgot to use Anne's technique of having him visualize locking those thoughts in a room for a few hours). I let him do his independent reading in the treefort Tim is building, but still, he only makes it through half a chapter before disappearing next door for a good 5-10 minutes (not sure why it takes that long to check a doorstep). The relative calm in my soul begins to ooze away and Mean Mom arrives to take me hostage, puppeting herself through my mouth with gems like, "It's taken NINETY MINUTES for you to get thirty minutes of work done this morning. I was HOPING to get a couple errands done before lunch, but how am I going to get that done?" Introducing the crotchety second grade teacher, here to sap any ounce of joy out of the learning experience! On top of that, I spend maybe ten maybe more, hauling out paints, water, brushes, and butcher paper for the girls to work on the patio, and they spend maybe ten minutes actually using the paints before losing interest and finding a way to smear some of it on my clothes. Then, my sister calls to discuss, nicely, a little "oops" I had made during a family discussion online and to apologize for not communicating better, but the conversation sort of escalates and next thing I know I'm melting into a puddle of tears behind my bedroom door while Caroline bangs on the other side. For the rest of the day, I feel like I'm constantly on edge, either trying not to cry or feeling helpless as Mean Mom hijacks my voice, if you know what I mean. If Mom sets the tone for the home, then life at our house yesterday was definitely being played in a minor key.
The reality is, stress compounds everything, and kids just don't put their needs on hold when you're preoccupied with trying to care for other people, so things like the paint and the Calvin and Hobbes book and everything else, even the phone call, should not have been that big a deal, but all rolled into one, they were. I told the Lord that I seem to have a long way to go before I really know what it means to roll ALL my burdens on Him.
So today seemed like a gift of grace from Him. My father-in-law had breakfast with us and read to Eliza for a while before leaving for work. Then a good friend came and picked up Caroline for the morning as she was hosting a playgroup at her house. That gave us two hours for the three of us to sit in the treefort and read (St. George and the Dragon, which they LOVED, and more F.U.T.B.) and play a good long round of a math game (Ian announced yesterday that he didn't really like math, so I'm trying to mix it up a bit and back off on the "boring workbook"). As much as I adore Caroline, the experience of being able to truly focus, to sit in one place for an hour or more and exchange full attention with the older two, felt priceless. Tomorrow may be rough again, and today wasn't perfect, of course. But it felt like a gift, and I'm going to savor it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

To Boston and Back

So last week I let it slip about my frustrating childhood habit of losing track of things, and how I see it popping right back up in the gene pool. Well, guess what? I'm not over it yet! On the flight to Boston last week, I apparently lost my iPod, which is very sad since it's not like I'm going to rush out and buy a new one (it came free with Tim's laptop last year). I had loaded the first ten chapters of Our Island Story onto it for Ian to listen to on the flight, and sure enough, just as I suspected it would one day, the compactness of the thing did me in -- it must have slid to the floor as we prepared to land. No luck in the JetBlue lost and found either, and no emails from any Good Samaritans who have discovered it and noted the contact info engraved on the back (my husband knows me well). On top of that, yesterday I lost my debit card at Central Market, and I left my camera in my mom's car when she dropped us off at the airport! YIKES!

But on a happier note, the trip went very well and we enjoyed the time spent with my parents. For anyone who doesn't know, my dad was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in April 2002, and has thus already outlived over 75% of patients thus afflicted. He gets around in a power wheelchair fulltime now, and breathes with a BiPAP during daily naps and nighttime. Despite the grim inevitability of the future, we just feel so grateful to have had the extra time, and to be able to snatch a long weekend every couple of months to get together with him and my mom. This trip brought up some important discussions about caring for them as the burdens grow greater in the next few months. It wasn't all serious talk, though. We also took walks to the nearby Animal Rescue League (where the kids ended up in a photo shoot with a Great Pyrenees for an upcoming charity gala, LOL), stopped for ice cream at the same place we always went when my siblings and I were wee ones, and explored the incredibly bucolic Walden Pond (The highlight of this famous landmark for my kids? Not the groovy Thoreau vibes, not the chance to splash around in their clothes, but watching a horse urinate in its paddock. Yup. Caroline says to me approximately twenty times a day, "Know what, Mom? "What, Caroline?" "I saw horsie go pee on ground!" Sigh ... even at 22 months, it starts so young.)

I hope we were able to be helpful, or at least minimally burdensome, and at the same time, it seemed like an abrupt change of scenery for a few days helped get me out of the rut of anxiety I seemed to be spinning my wheels in beforehand about our homeschooling (can't elaborate now). In the meantime, I've been inspired from recent reading to spend more time, as much as possible, outdoors with the children, and to present to them a feast of ideas rather than a litany of facts. I often wonder how we're doing with respect to that W.B. Yeats quote about education being not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.

And so I'll end with a brief note of what seems to be stoking the fires this week. We've all been hooked on Jim Weiss' Arabian Nights -- sometimes we sit in the driveway with the car on to hear the end of a story, and I actually listened ahead last night on my way to my support group meeting (don't tell the kids!). Books we're reading and enjoying: Shadow Spinner (Ian and I), The Family Under the Bridge (all of us), and Shadrach (Ian alone).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The testing

So every day I set forth the best of intentions to update my blog in the evening, and every evening I seem to be so bushed that I can’t put two coherent thoughts together, but instead stare glassy-eyed at the screen and procrastinate until tomorrow.
BUT, today was noteworthy because Ian had his first three hours of testing with the psychologist this morning. After remarking that “it was REALLY long,” He reported that the promised building-with-blocks activity was not as fun as he had expected, because he had been hoping to make an Eiffel Tower out of the blocks, and instead he had to make shapes with red and white blocks. Yup, that’s my divergent thinker for you. It makes me wonder a bit how accurate the results will be, since if Ian is not interested in something he really doesn’t give it his best effort. Unfortunately, the activities are not set up to revolve around prehistoric life or Magic Treehouse books. (And yes, she confirmed that she could tell pretty easily when he was ready to be done with a given activity. Even that is useful information, of course, since the testing measures not only IQ but also social/emotional maturity and attention/focus.) I guess that’s why it’s best not to get too tied to a number as a determinant of a child’s intelligence.
I have such mixed feelings about this testing -- including a feeling of impatience at having to wait another nine days for him to finish the last hour, and then another two weeks for the evaluation and interpretation of results. I admit I’ve been kind of pinning my hopes on it, probably too much, so on days when I feel ready to just crumple in defeat because I can’t get him to focus on anything on my agenda I’ll say to myself, “Ah, but pretty soon he’s getting the testing done, and then the doctor will have all these brilliant insights into what’s going on inside that noggin, which will deliver me from that feeling of groping around in the dark and from that negative energy that seems to build between us when I spend so much of my time reminding, correcting, trying not to communicate my discouragement so I’m not beating the poor kid down all the time.” This is actually somewhat embarrassing to write, since it exposes my doubts and weaknesses as a parent, but if I don’t get it down in words, it’s just this static in my brain and knots in my shoulders – and plus, I’m among friends here (including friends who deal with their own quirky kids on a daily basis).
(Note: I myself was a pretty absent-minded child, smart on paper but not so quick to adopt the life skills, and I sometimes wonder if Ian is the male, i.e. testosterone-ized, version of me! I’m sure my mother felt like banging her head against the wall too, say, when I lost not one, nor two, but THREE watches – remember Swatches? Even now, I have to catch myself from distractedly walking the other direction when Eliza wants to chatter with me about plans for building a fort out of silkies, or throwing a birthday party for her dolls.)
It’s late, and we’re leaving for Boston to visit my parents tomorrow, so I’d better go, although with a shot of caffeine I could easily ramble on for pages more. Mercifully for my handful of readers, I’m not a coffee-drinker …

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An outside day

We couldn't believe it when we awoke this morning and felt an actual, perceptible, cool breeze floating through our window! An authentic breath of September! You have to understand that it's probably been about five months since our air has felt this way, and, partially since I know it won't last long, I was sufficiently inspired to take the kids to a nearby park for the morning. We brought our books, and did lessons at the picnic table/in the gravel/by the swingset, etc. Eliza was happy to listen to a chapter of the Boxcar children and then run off to play; Caroline, who is usually rather challenging to distract at home, spent quite a while filling a cup with gravel among a bevy of other toddlers and then roaming the playscape; Ian got to swing to his heart's content in between sessions of math workbook and listening to a chapter on Alaric the Visigoth from Famous Men of the Middle Ages (and in between math pages, he could run around a tree and back). I'd say it was one of our more successful days -- was it extra Vitamin D we were all benefiting from, or the built-in breaks available to those of minute attention spans for things that don't immediately interest them? I think we may need to make this something of a tradition.

On another note, does anyone know of a cheap and easy device that allows one to record sounds? I'm thinking of a modern descendant of a tape recorder. Caroline, who for most of the summer was an absolutely bear (not in the teddy sense) to put to bed, has lately become rather endearing at bedtime. We've gotten into a good groove as regards the bedtime routine: nurse, read a couple stories, turn off light and say goodnight to whomever or whatever we saw that day. Then the parent on duty sits by the closet or bathroom light and reads until she falls asleep. It was my turn tnoight, so as I lay there entranced by my book (an amazing, thought-provoking book called Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker that, in this day of Madeleine McCanns and other terror-inducing headlines, should probably be required reading for every parent, IMHO), Caroline was in full swing. Even with a slight fever, probably teething-induced, she was singing and chattering away, "reading" her Maisy book in the dark, singing "ring arounda rosies, pockabo posies, ashes ashes we all fall DOWN!" then bidding goodnight, with kisses, to each of her body parts, and then, quite suddenly, falling silent, as if someone had flipped her switch.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Great(?) Expectations

So the thing is, I really have no idea who all reads this blog except for the few of you who comment or have emailed me to respond to it. So I'm kinda going out on a limb here because I MAY risk offending certain people on the off chance they're actually reading this. It's not my intention to do so, but I've been mulling something over that needs to be put in writing, and I have no time to both blog and keep a journal, so please, if any family members are reading this, don't be offended, because really, it's about me, not about you.
There. The Magical Disclaimer. Clearly, this is not going to be about curriculum choices!
Now, on to business. I have come to the conclusion that life would be much more joyous, pleasant, and easy if I simply had NO expectations of other people. Why do I get frustrated and irritated with the people closest to me? Because I have expectations of them -- some reasonable, and some, once I have a chance to reflect on them a bit, not entirely so (e.g. that they should read my mind, know exactly what I want or would do in a given situation, and want to do so). For example. My extended family is extremely important to me (meaning not only dh&dc but also parents, siblings, and in-laws) and I cherish this ideal that they, like me, would make time together a top priority in their schedules. When this doesn't happen, sometimes my inner three-year-old falls on the floor crying and then sulks for days. "How could they not want to be with us? How could they not invite us to do such-and-such? How could they not find it of utmost joy and importance to initiate quality time with our kids?" etc. etc. Mature, I know. I'm working on it.
Another example, along the same lines. When we moved here from SC, partly to be closer to family, I had this lovely ideal, based on the experience of friends I observed, that our extended family members would be so excited to have us here, and so observant of the fact that I am (by choice, I acknowledge) with my darlings 24/7 without the resources at the moment to hire outside help, that they would leap to the rescue, happily offering to facilitate the occasional date night or Mom break. Or at least, when we gathered up our courage to ask, would be willing to drop whatever plans they had and lend a hand. And furthermore, they would ask at regular intervals, in all earnest sincerity and with genuine interest, how we were doing, how the homeschooling was going, how we were adjusting to life in Austin, etc. But you know what? God is making it abundantly clear to me, not in a finger-pointing way but in a gentle, are-you-listening way, that the problem is ME (and the solution is HIM). Those things that I envisioned, perhaps even took for granted, are simply not going to happen, and it's because I need to learn this. Just because I would express my love for people in a certain way, doesn't mean I can expect the same of them (repeat the mantra!). Nor does the apparent lack of those expected/hoped-for behaviors indicate a lack of love on their part. Nor can I form expectations based on how my loved ones treat other people, even if that seems fair and reasonable. I think that honestly, in most relationships, the words "fair and reasonable" just don't apply. They are, in fact, toxic and burdensome, because ultimately, NONE of us can live up to each other's expectations (especially if they're unexpressed and simply stewed over). I need to let them all go ... and in their place, make room for grace and for gratitude. For which there are, in all truthfulness, reasons in abundance.
Ah, but it's one thing to see it. Letting it happen, genuinely, from the inside out -- that, I think, will take a lifetime.

Friday, September 7, 2007

He Passed!

Well, the fateful moment has come and gone and I am beyond pleased to announce that this afternoon Tim passed his Ph.D. qualifying exams!!!!!! In case you're just joining us, this is Attempt #2 on some very rigorous written and oral exams, successful passing of which determines one's eligibility to receive departmental funding -- i.e. either pass or pay your tuition and living expenses completely out of pocket -- also known as, quit the program and look for a job. :-( After the huge disappointment of last January, it makes it that much sweeter to have him breeze through the oral today (in fact, he had done so well on the written part that they didn't ask him any questions when he showed up for his "grilling"!). If nothing else, the letdown of the first round makes the success all the more poignant this time. Now here goes two more years!
We're so thankful to the Lord for sustaining us and answering the prayers of all the family and friends who petitioned on our behalf for extra grace for a difficult crossing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The blessing of humor

OK this is just a teensy bit off-color but I just have to share it because it so perfectly illustrates the value of a humorous moment deflating your Balloon of Doom and Gloom. We had a, um, not so joyful day of learning together today (I won't bore you with the details of my homeschooling angst), capped off by a starting-off-wonderful-turning-into-big-flop-at-the-end tae kwon do trial class for Ian. By the time we picked up Tim from school (too rainy for the bike), I was just barely holding back tears. We stopped at Central Market on the way home (kids eat free on Tuesdays!), and as we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed something through my blurry vision. Rather unfortunately, my eagle-eyed son did too, and next thing I know he's pointing to the car parked across from us and asking, "Why does that car say, 'WARNING: HOTTIE INSIDE' on the windshield?"
I tried, really I did, to maintain my sniveling composure and answer him with a smooth, nonchalant, "Well, perhaps that car is owned by someone named Hottie. As in, short for Horothea, or Hothilde." BUT, akin to my inability to read Dave Barry aloud to my husband, I could not make it though my sentence for giggling.
Mature and composed? Not so much. Feeling better almost immediately? You bet.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Un-Labor Day

I have two raves and a rant for today. Hm ... let's book-end them. We'll start with Rave #1: Our outing today with our friends (and now fellow homeschoolers) the Dixons, to Mountainview Park, where we had a lovely hike, with just the right degree of ruggedness, some winged wildlife spotting, and a beautiful, shaded creek for the kids (and us) to play in. See below:
OK, never mind, Blogger seems to not be accepting images right now. (That doesn't count as a rant.) I must add, too, having done this same hike a couple weeks ago with our homeschool support group, that it is a whole lot easie to do this wiwhen 1) dads are along, and 2) the skies are ovecast and threfore not broadcasting 95 degree hat upon us!
Rant: The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. We rented it this afternoon to watch with the older two during #3's nap, since the forecast called for tons of rain. Ian has read the book (he's a big Roald Dahl fan), and we just listened to the whole thing on CD, narrated most delightfully by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame at least twice while riding around in the car. Well, concerning the movie, I am most definitely not a fan. I guess I kind of carry a torch for the old version, Willy Wonka and the C.F., but Johnny Depp as Wonka in this recent one is just plain weird, failing to engage both the children he has invited on the tour and the audience. Even the factory just seemed to me too much like it was all done on a green screen. The last 5 minutes, with the heartwarming message about family, managed to redeem the experience a tiny bit for me, but still. Two thumbs down (but the kids liked it, and at least we got to discuss the comparisons to the book and audiobook, so maybe one thumb down and one waving horizontally). I see that most Amazon reviewers disagree with me, but that's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. :-)
Final Rave: The super-cool, oh-I'm-salivating, coveting, feeling sore-tempted, history timeline figures on CD from Homeschool in the Woods. All I can say is WOW.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Reflections on the week

This morning as we rolled out of bed (we all tend to lounge on the big bed on Saturday mornings until our appetites get the better of us) I got an IM from my friend Vanessa, inviting us to join her family at the new park down by Town Lake (or I guess I should say, Lady Bird Lake). We had a great time! There was an area for the kids to play in the sprinkler jets, and once Caroline got over her far of the rather unpredictable jets, Vanessa and I got to sit and visit together, which was really nice. O the joys of uninterrupted conversation! Above is a shot of Vanessa and Sam; their little guy Benjamin is just about 3 months younger than Caroline and is super cute.
Anyway, I wanted to note a few of the weeks' highlights, because this was a big week for us, not just with the quals but also with officially starting our homeschooling year. Since my box from Rainbow Resource hasn't arrived yet (and unfortunately the UPS man does not labor on Labor Day) we're sort of ramping up, which I found to be a blessing. I decided to try out Sonlight this year, and do their kindergarten program (Core C) with both kids, since they'd both be interested in the read-alouds and Bible readings/memorization, and then I got the Grade 3-5 Readers and Language Arts for Ian. This just seemed to be the most sane way to accommodate both kids. and then I''ll do specific things with each of them, like medieval history with Ian (my modified version of Biblioplan) and phonics the fun and laid-back way with Eliza. Already I'm reminding myself that flexibility is key. For example, on Tuesday we ended up doing spelling in the driveway. I had a list of compound words to teach Ian, but whaddya know, we ended up doing HIS list of compound words (example: "crackerjack"), and then hiding words around the driveway (with sidewalk chalk) for each other to find. Pretty big hit. There was a moment there where I could feel myself resisting this, wanting to DO THE LIST, but then I realized that I was just setting us both of for a pile of frustration. Ian is NOT a by-the-book learner and (repeat the mantra!) it's up to me to roll with it. In other words, I have to remind myself not to miss the forest (encouraging a love and joy of learning, and preserving a harmonious relationship between us) for the trees (getting certain things done a certain way).
Wednesday was a good break already, because it helped ease the transition into more structured time at home. That was the day we met up with friends for homeschool day at the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History. They have a great film there about the Spirit of Texas, and I have to say, I am such a sucker for these things because the whole time the music boomed around me and the narrator intoned spine-tingling sayings about the heroes of Texas, I was fighting back tears. It's the same way I get when I hear "God Bless America" or even -- dare I admit it? -- "Proud to be an American." The kids really seemed to enjoy the museum, but of course the film was their favorite part. Cannon fire! Rattlesnakes! Hurricanes! We laughed, we cried, it was better than Cats ...
Speaking of Cats, one of our poems this week (we are working our way through Caroline Kennedy's Best-Loved Poems; love the poems, adore the illustrations) was "Mr. Mistoffelees." I remembered hearing it as a song in the Broadway Musical, and sure enough, iTunes to the rescue, I was able to find it and play it for the kids.
Thursday we had "school" in the backyard. I read aloud while pushing Caroline around the patio on her tricycle, and then we brainstormed personality traits of our characters, then did a spelling quiz while Ian quizzed ME on Magic Treehouse details (he did remarkably better on the spelling than I did on MT). For creative writing, he dictated to me a story about his Uncle Allen and a paintball game. Ian has been bugging me about getting the latest Magic Treehouse book, so we made an agreement that when he finishes 20 pages of his math book (we use Math-U-See), we can get the book. Well, he's motivated! Lots of math being done at our house this week! (Of course, I also count things like playing Sequence as math ...)
Friday went fairly well too, including the nature walk at Mount Bonnell. Overall, I would say we're off to a good start, although we have our challenges cut out for us. Specifically, I need to find good ways to occupy Caroline while I'm working with the older ones -- a nearly universal homeschooling dilemma, I know. Also, I need to make sure Eliza doesn't get short shrift, being the middle child and generally content to sit and listen in (until she's had enough of being overlooked and starts to let us know in unmistakable ways!). Finally, my biggest challenge so far, besides the balance between flexibility and structure ... helping Ian handle the transition between having Oscar, his friend from next door, here all day every day, to having to live for 3:00 (and then, horrors, sometimes seeing Oscar go off to another friend's house). If you know Ian, you know he's Intense. He will ask me over and over and over when Oscar is coming home, and it's not just that it gets irritating, but also that it evokes this insecurity in me, as if I can't possibly create a stimulating, enriching enough environment for him to keep hims mind happily distracted from the absence of Oscar. Soon enough, our schedule will get busier and we will see more friends during the day, but in the meantime, there are times when I just have to take a deep breath and walk away for a moment. Pray for me.
(And apparently, I am now competing for Long-Winded Blogger of the Year, so I'd better sign off now and go to bed!)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Yawn ...

So here it is Friday night again, and again I am a zombie! The good news is, Tim finished the written portion of his qualifying exams today. Each part last 3.5 hours, no books no notes. He felt very good about how he did on Wednesday, but today was more murky -- he said no one finished, including him. (Hopefully they will grade on a curve.) At least he knows what to concentrate in studying for the oral part next Friday. Until recently, I really couldn't think about the possibility of him not passing this time, because this is really our last shot. As much as it would be nice for him to have a "real" job, I felt like it would be so unthinkable to have to quit now with nothing to show for ourselves. In the past couple days though, I feel like the Lord is working in my heart to just be open to whatever happens, to trust Him more completely for either outcome. We may feel like the Lord would not want him to fail, because this degree has been dedicated to Him, as well as the career possibilities it would open. It would seem like we had wasted the last year and a half. But I'm realizing that nothing is a waste, that He is never surprised or discouraged, and that He makes no mistakes. If this experience is only meant to last a year and a half, then there must be a reason for that, one that we may not understand until years in the future. Maybe it's about what we gain in the process, instead of the outcome of the degree and the career path. For sure, we have learned to live on less! But then again, He still has work to do to get me to live on less AND be content with that ... so maybe (surely?) Tim will pass and I will have more time for that kind of learning! :-)

The best-laid plans ....

My morning is NOT going quite as planned (I say that as if it's an unusual occurrence). I had the brilliant idea to throw dinner in the crockpot and then take the kids for a nature outing. Well, lo and behold, not only do I need to cut up the chicken (a job I HATE and usually give to dh), but then I have to cook the chicken BEFORE it goes in the crockpot. What kind of timesaver is that? (Answer: none.) Meanwhile the whole time I'm trying to do this thing, Caroline, naked because I haven't had time to get her dressed yet, is pulling at my leg either demanding to eat raw chicken or insisting that I go play trains with her. playing with older siblings would not work. I regret to say that she finally settled down to sit on the kitchen floor with a bottle of hand soap she found in the bathroom, and slather it all over her body. But she was quiet and happy for 10 whole minutes, and I got to finish the crockpot thing! (sadly, this is the plight of the third child. She gets into all kinds of mischief and we don't bother until it's too late, because she's quiet and happy while she'd doing it!)
Hm, she's in the bathroom rinsing her hands now I'd better run. It's too quiet. :-)