Saturday, January 4, 2014

Give Me a Break

It started out so well. Two weeks ago our family was anticipating a longed for break from the routine. The kids and I were ready to take not one, but two whole weeks off from the grind of studying, while BadDad arranged to take vacation time for Christmas week. It was going to be bliss!

Then life happened. The first part of our break went OK, it's just that we were so busy with last minute holiday preparations that we didn't have time to relax. We just figured the fun stuff would come later. BadDad took one day to go visit his brother in the hospital, and that was fine, and then he decided to run in to the office on another day (or was it two?). That was still manageable. We enjoyed Christmas together, and that was what was really important.

Halfway through our break (where did the time go already?) K-boy started feeling off. Soon he was out of commission with a fever. I was still hanging in there. Then D-boy came down with it, and there was no denying we'd been struck by the flu. During vacation. From schoolwork. It's every kid's nightmare.

Needless to say, the rest of our 'break' has been a cycle of sickness and recovery. Thankfully BadDad and I haven't succumbed. The kids are on the mend, but things like getting together with extended family, and hanging out with friends have had to be postponed. Now it's time to take down the tree and decorations, and get back to normal.

In K-boy's words, "This was the worst break ever!" Them's the breaks, kid. Them's the breaks.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Hello out there. I haven't posted in quite some time. I took a spring break from blogging which turned into a summer vacation, which led into the start of the school year, and then of course came the holidays. I did miss it, but just couldn't seem to find the time to start up again. I don't know why, all I do is homeschool three children, drive them all over the place, and cook, and clean, and then there's laundry...

Anyway, what has really surprised me is that my family has been hinting and nagging for me to get back to blogging. They've been making suggestions for articles and even taking pictures for me to post. Turns out, they enjoy the spin that I put on our daily lives. Go figure!

Sooo...I've got a new laptop (and soon I'll figure out how to post pictures on it) and lots of ideas for posts. Tonight I'm going to settle in with some New Year's munchies and plan some articles out, while I try to stay up till midnight. I should probably ask the kids to wake me up at 11:50 or so, just in case.

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year's Eve. See you next year!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Spark

Thirty odd years ago, in a fourth grade classroom, in a suburban town in New Jersey, I was a little girl who was learning to hate school. My teacher, Miss H., didn't do much to disguise her dislike of me, and that soon affected my attitude toward formal education. Up till then, my teachers had been kindhearted women that appreciated smart, but soft spoken students like myself. Miss H., my mother theorized, disliked me for not being my older brother, a former favorite pupil of hers. He was everything that I wasn't - confident, eager to share in class, and good at math and science.

Miss H., unlike the teachers I had been used to, was big and stout, with a short, no nonsense haircut. She had a booming voice and wasn't afraid to use it to keep order, or to humiliate some poor, hapless daydreamer. Gulp. We were not a match made in Heaven.

I think I racked up more sick days during that school year than any other, due to mysterious aches and pains that came on suddenly every school morning. With her drill sergeant voice and her total lack of sympathy or imagination, Miss H. came very close to destroying my natural curiosity at the tender age of nine. It was only the fact that I was lucky enough to come from a home where learning was not only valued, it was expected, coupled with ending up with a really good teacher for fifth grade that saved me. Well that and strangely, something that Miss H. herself said, something that has stuck with me all of these years.

I had picked up a bad habit during my sojourn in Miss H's class. I would arrive home on the bus everyday, throw my book bag into my room, and spend hours forgetting that there was any such miserable place as school. It was only when my parents made me go do my homework, that I would force myself to do it, and even then I would race through it as quickly as possible.

One night, after I had been tucked into bed, I remembered with horror that in addition to my regular homework, I was supposed to write a first person essay about someone else's imaginary life. I crept out of bed, and quietly turned on my desk lamp, praying that I wouldn't draw the attention of my parents. I'd already been in plenty of hot water about my grades that school year.

I whipped off a couple of paragraphs about being a professional ballerina, something I knew about only from what I'd read in books. I wrote about sore feet, and stage fright, and the feeling of euphoria that came from dancing for an audience. After a quick rereading, I turned out my light and went back to bed.

The next day at school, I handed in my paper, and prepared for another day of torment. It was during reading group time, one of the few pleasures in my day, that Miss H's sharp voice called across the classroom.

Patty, she asked, Did your mother or father help you with your essay?

Feeling indignant at the implication, I replied, No, I wrote it by myself. I waited for the hammer that was surely going to fall.

How do you know what it feels like to be a ballerina? she asked.

I looked at my feet and whispered, I just imagined how it feels.

To my never ending shock, Miss H. stood up, and announced that she had something to say to the whole class. When she had everyone's attention she proclaimed dramatically in words that I remember by heart, Patty has a God-given gift for writing. She then asked me to read my essay aloud to the class. When I finished she ordered told me that I needed to use my talent and share it with the world.

I wish I could say that my relationship with Miss H. improved and my school year turned around. Neither happened. In the years since however, whenever I think about my dreams, I think about her comment, probably one of the most sincere compliments I've ever been given in my life. She gave me a spark that day, an idea that my natural talent could be valued by others, not just by those that loved me.

Have I used my gift? Well, I'm still trying Miss H., I'm still trying.

What about you? Did you ever recieve encouragement from an unexpected source?

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest Post: The Dastardly Dog

I've been sadly behind in posting lately. Homeschooling has been keeping me extra's quarterly reporting time, and the end of the school year is fast approaching. I hope to be back on track with posting soon. In the meantime, my dog has graciously offered to sit at my laptop today and write a guest post for me. Some of you have already been introduced to her as The Dastardly Dog. Without further ado, I give you Trinket.....

Trinket: Thank you so much for that flattering introduction. I take great pride in my role in the family. You know, a lot of people think dogs have easy lives. Let me assure you that just isn't true. Walk with me, if you will, for a day in my life...the life of a dog.

6:00 am- The alarm clock blares and BadDad gets up to work out. It's hard work to ignore the noise, but I burrow deeper into my blankets and manage to get back to sleep.

7:00 am- WorstMom starts her day. I trot out when I hear her start the coffeemaker. I have to make a quick decision...face going outside now, or bolt for my family room basket? If the weather is bad, I usually try to avoid going out as long as possible.

7:30 am- The kids are stirring now. BadDad heads out for the day. I may see him to the door with a few friendly barks. If I feel like it.

9:00 am- WorstMom is trying to herd everyone up to the schoolroom. Right about now is when I really, really need to go out (perfect timing I know). After I come inside again, I'll pester everyone until they feed me.

9:15 - 11:30 am- Everyone is busy with lessons. I'm busy sleeping in my indoor doghouse in the schoolroom. I like to think my snoring is the perfect white noise to study to.

11:30 am - 12:30 pm- WorstMom throws in laundry, cleans, and starts dinner during her lunch break. I worry that she doesn't have enough to do, so I get her to let me out. After a minute or so I want to come in again. Unless I see a squirrel or rabbit out there. Then I'll bark for awhile to alert the neighborhood. Or, I might take a moment to roll around in something deliciously smelly. The family just loves when I do that!

1:00 - 4:00pm - I have to determine where the family is gathering for the afternoon. If they're reading on the couch, I'll squeeze on there too. If they're back in the schoolroom, that's where I'll be. I'm not one to abandon my post. I'll catch a few more zzzz's while they work.

4:00 - 6:00 pm - This is the danger time. Sometimes they leave the house and accidentally forget to take me. I have to stay focused and watch for any sign of people putting on shoes or coats. The sound of the keys is, of course, a dead giveaway. At the first clue that they might leave I have to follow them around, barking loudly (so they don't forget me). Unfortunately, sometimes this backfires and I end up in my crate. Oh well, it's time for another nap anyway!

6:00 - 10:00 pm - I like to have an early dinner. Sometimes, if I beg enough, more than one person feeds me and I eat twice! By this time, at least some people are usually home and I start my evening routine. I make a choice between the couch or my basket and doze while I wait for the house to quiet down. Eventually I'll trot down the hall to my bedroom basket and call it a night.

Wow! Are you exhausted just looking at my schedule? I know I am! It's been a pleasure to meet you all. Now I'm off for a nap.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I only recently discovered how delicious Brussels Sprouts can be. We never ate them growing up. When I was in college, I thought they were adorable and worth a try. I bought a package and boiled them in my dorm room kitchenette. Disgusting!

My experience with them might have begun and ended there, if my hubby hadn't suggested that we try them a few months ago. Always game to experiment with recipes, I agreed to give them another try. Am I glad I did! Roasting transforms Brussels Sprouts into an amazing treat, crispy on the outside with a creamy, savory center.

They are surprisingly easy to make, given how decadently delicious they turn out. The easiest way, of course, is to buy a bag of frozen, already cleaned Brussels Sprouts. While I enjoy the taste of these just fine, my kids prefer the fresh variety. Of course they somehow manage to absent themselves from the work of preparing them...go figure.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

1 -2 lbs fresh Brussels Sprouts

2 -3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp chopped garlic

2 tsp sea salt

ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the outer leaves and stem end from Brussels Sprouts. Place in a large roasting pan in a single layer.

Drizzle with olive oil. Add garlic and toss well, until all of the sprouts are evenly coated with oil.

Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and stir again.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until sprouts begin to brown, stirring once. They should be fork tender.

Yields 6-8 servings.

linking to:  Super Link Party

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Transaction

The other day I got the sense that something was going on with my kids that needed my attention. Being the experienced mom that I am, I deduced this merely from hearing the words, Don't tell Mom! hissed by my oldest to his younger siblings. That's what 13 years of parenting will get you!

Just then M-girl came running into the kitchen and informed me that 13 year old K-boy had sold his 6 year old brother an old, handheld video game for the bargain price of $20...a game that might have been worth five dollars brand new.

Over the protests of both boys, I negated the transaction, although I did allow D-boy to keep the game for free. When I appealed to K-boy's sense of fair play about the whole thing, he admitted that it was a dirty deal. Then, looking sheepish, he asked me, How else am I supposed to make money?

Ah, the problems of the young teen! So much to buy, yet too young for working papers!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Black Beauty Book Club

This month for book club, the girls read Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. Though it was first published in 1877, it still speaks to young girls of today. At least half of the book club girls are crazy for horses right now, so this was a natural choice to have them read.

I began our discussion by explaining to the girls that Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty with the intention of changing some of the ways that horses were treated in Victorian England. She purposely highlighted some of the sadder details of a horse's life. At the same time she managed to weave a story about friendship and loyalty. To her credit, attitudes about the humane handling of horses did begin to change shortly after her novel was published.

It was interesting to see how well the girls were able to draw comparisons between foolish, harmful fashions for horses and ridiculous fashions for people. They once again upheld my theory that exposure to great literature is a desirable tool in shaping great minds.

For our project we made these adorable horse heads (black of course) using the outline of each girls' shoe to form the face. Three more triangles of paper form the neck and ears. The faces were drawn on and the mane was made from snips of black yarn.

The girls all enjoyed reading and discussing Black Beauty. Next month we'll be discussing, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, by R. L. LaFevers.