Monday, February 28, 2011

Beach Clean

I wonder if Grace was inspired by this:
Check out the amazing journey this family is embarking on!

I added it to her blog roll......

When I read my daughter's blog, I discovered she wanted to plan this:



How cool.



It is not the best time of year for a beach clean up.



It was cold.


But we dressed warm.


Our friends came.


They brought their parents too!


We walked the beach with our plastic bags and non-latex gloves searching for the oddest bit of trash.


I did not think we would have so many items to choose from.


Shoes.

Flower pots.

Shotgun shells.

Tires.

Laundry detergent bottles.


You did well Grace.  You made our part of the world a little cleaner, a little healthier.  You planned, organized and implemented.  You saw a wish turn into a reality.  Your Dad and I  are proud of you.  In fact, we are proud of all of you!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekly Accomplishments

This week saw us get back on track in many ways.
Our kitchen is coming together.  Three weeks without a stove is a loooong time.  A hot plate is okay, but I missed my oven.  Tuesday night our electrician hooked it up for us.  The major demolition/rebuilding is done.  The crown molding is up, the paint is fresh and the appliances are where they should be.  We are waiting on counter tops, some cabinet doors and lighting.  We need to decide if we are doing a tile backspash or not.  We still have some electrical work to do, a window to replace and siding that needs to be matched and patched.  All in due time.  For now we can get back on track with healthy eating and lots of learning.
Grace published her essay on internet safety.  Now it is up to her father and I to decide if we will allow her to have an email account or what age we feel is acceptable.  Many of her friends have email.  I have spoke to the moms, my friends, about how they use it.  For the most part it is to communicate with family and is rarely used.  I know that Grace enjoys IMing with her cousins.  She occasionally uses my email to write to her Grandmother at work or to send out a notice about her planned beach clean up.  I worry about stupid chain emails.  I know that she will receive them.  Some are harmless but some can be scary.  Should we allow her to have an email I will screen them randomly and teach her to delete any that are not for a specific purpose.  Part of learning how to navigate the internet is knowing why chain mail should not be opened. Is it better to walk through this process with her, while she will still let me guide her, than to have her open an email secretly, that I will not have access to.  While I do not think she would do this, she knows a few people her age who have.  She is not-so-patiently awaiting a decision.  It will come in due time.

Grace and Lilah are working on Aleks.  This week Grace was introduced to decimals.  We used a great youtube video that helped with the basics and then she successfully completed the work on Aleks.  Lilah opened her pie piece for geometry.  We started with lines; parallel, intersecting, perpendicular and right angles.  Lilah also did some fact practice in her “fun” math workbook.  
In history we learned about Alexander the Great.  It was a very cool lesson.  We read about his history, becoming a child King and his legacy of Alexandria, Egypt.  I did not know that when he died, three of his generals battled over land control.  The descendants of one of those generals, Seleucus, became known as the Seleucids, or Syrians.  Tuesday we were running around from the orthodontist, to pottery to piano and we stopped in for a quick lunch on Main Street.  On the television was an update on Libya.  The map they showed was identical to the one we reviewed in Story of the World that very morning!  We talked about what was happening in the middle east and how the events in Egypt and Libya are similar but also very different.  This led to a talk about the protests in Wisconsin and my girls thought this was the same type of protest.  I explained that no, our political process is very different.  We have the ability to vote out our leaders peacefully.  I did share my concern that what is happening in WI and now in other states is that lawmakers are impeding the political process and win or lose the issue at hand, they should show up and do their jobs.  I hope this happens soon.
We read two more chapters of Percy Jackson.  I am desperate to finish this book.  I am tired of reading it. What I thought would take a mere month has turned into more than two.....  I have decided that I do not love doing read aloud with my girls.  I enjoy reading to them, but one on one.  Grace loves reading to me at night and I love listening to her.  Lilah reads all the time so plopping down next to her for some quality reading time is easy.  But for some reason making the time for the three of us to sit is hard.  I am giving myself permission to let my car do the reading.  We usually listen to many audiobooks.  I need to find a new one asap.  This is our read aloud.  It sure is quicker than my read aloud!
Botany is just awesome.  This week we read about monocots and dicots.  We made collages from a flower catalog.  We looked at pictures by Georgia O’Keefe.  At our group “class” we dissected flowers and labeled the pieces. I watched my girls taste the nectar off the petals and filaments.  During our reading about the anatomy of a flower we had an awesome conversation about how our anatomy differs from a flower.  Without going into details....we will be watching the National Geographic video Womb, which will visually show them the fertilization process and the growth of a child in-utero.  I love it when learning comes full circle.  We will end our week with a field trip to the Connecticut Flower Show.  It is a perfect tie-in to our flower studies.  The second part of chapter 3 pertains to carnivorous plants.  My friend MamaK over at Frog Creek loves carnivorous plants.  In fact, she keeps them in a tank while they hibernate in the winter and cares for them while they come to life in the summer.  She has taken treks through bogs to find them in their natural habitats.  We hope to join her on one of her hikes.   I am hoping that she will talk to us about her plants, how they grow, their unique needs, and diet!  Cool, cool, cool!
We were missing one family this week....

Did you notice the bilingual journal?  

The sweet taste of nectar....

On a personal note, Grace has organized a beach clean up for this weekend.  She sent the email to all her friends and asked anyone who is willing to meet her at our beach in town for a quick-clean.  I told her in February, an hour is about right for a beach clean.  Some of the beach will be under snow, but most will not. We will supply the bags and hopefully there will not be enough trash there to fill them.  I am proud of her.
Lilah is making an Earth Day polymer clay necklace using the techniques she learned in her class this month.  It is beautiful and creative.  I need to dig out the old toaster oven and bake them for her.
Ah....love this life.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Portfolios

When Lilah came home last year I began to keep a portfolio of what we were working on.  Originally I thought if this did not work out and she went back to school I would have something concrete to show to her teachers.  It became abundantly clear that Lilah would not be returning to school anytime soon but I kept up her portfolio and have since begun one for Grace. 
Keeping a portfolio is not hard, just time consuming.  I use my mac program Pages and the Visual Report template.  When I finish a term (fall/winter/spring/summer) I add work samples. I copy a piece of work from the beginning and end of the term.  For example, I will copy a page from her journal in September and in December. I will print out two math reports, two of her SOTW quizzes, examples of her artwork, cursive writing and science journal pages, etc.  I also print out my weekly accomplishments and add them as an Appendix.  This provides a chronological look at our term.  It is our “report card”. 
I work on their portfolios when I have time.  If the girls are at a lesson I will bring my laptop.  Sometimes when they are skating, I will take those two hours to catch up.  I bring a big blanket to wrap myself up in and make sure I have my texting gloves so my hands stay warm while I type.  A few minutes here and there per week is all it takes to maintain the portfolio.  Each girl has a three inch binder that stores the portfolio for the term.
Here is Grace’s fall portfolio... 

































Thursday, February 24, 2011

Humbled and Honored

Sometimes I struggle with what to write about.  I don’t want to become redundant with posts carrying the same topic throughout.  Thoughts have come slowly this week.  Probably because we have been getting back on track since the past three weeks have thrown us for a loop.  We have been enjoying a quiet week at home, with our usual outside activities.  The great thing about homeschooling is just because schools are off, my girls still get their pottery class, piano class and botany lesson with their friends!
Grace made us breakfast - all by herself!

What a great way to start the day!

My favorite bird - a cardinal!


Jen at Forever, For Always, No Matter What, notified me today that my blog made the current Top 50 Homeschooling Blogs list, with my dear friend at Frog Creek.  I am honored and humbled.  I did not start this blog to sell ads or become a featured writer on another bigger blog.  I began it to show my friends and family that the choice Greg and I were making to educate our children in a non-mainstream way was viable.  I wanted to prove that they will still be “social”, if fact, more social than they had been in school.  I needed to validate my decision in some small way, if only to myself.  
I have been asked why I share my experience.  At first I just wanted to give other parents who were struggling with the decision to withdraw their children from the public school system a frame of reference on what to expect.  Most of my friend’s children never went to school and many blogs do not have the experience of withdrawing a 5th grader, a child deeply entrenched in the policies and procedures of a system.  I knew it would have helped me if I could have found a blog like this.  So I shared it.  
At times I struggle with the sharing part.  In a previous post Grace called me on sharing too much.  I have stepped back from the personal stories and refocused my blog on our homeschooling experience, the original intention of the blog.  My personal reflections on family issues are tucked away in my personal journal to share with my girls at a later date.
This month I have been slow to blog.  The kitchen renovation took up so much time and energy.  Now I am focused on catching up on work we did not get to.  I NEED to finish Percy Jackson before I chuck the book out the window.  I need to put my house back together and have one room left that is still cluttered with displaced kitchen stuff.  I need to go back to using my alarm clock!  I need to exercise my dogs.  I need to exercise myself!
During this mini-break from blogging I have been thinking about possible upcoming posts.  I had an interesting conversation with my friends about homeschooling vs. Tiger Parenting.  My girls and I have talked about what is happening in Wisconsin and their little brains thought it was the same as what is happening in Libya.  I realized I need to find a fair and balanced current events newsletter for them. Not Time for Kids, I think that is biased.  But something that will help keep them up to date with happenings in the world and introduce them to news reporting.  We also have some cool events coming up like the Flower Show for Botany, a Beach Clean Up organized by Grace, a Girl Scout trip to the Capital, and a food drive.  
My goal for 2011 is to keep blogging about our experience.  I am starting to feel like an seasoned homeschooler but in reality it has been just over one year since we started this journey and we have a long way to go.......
Thank you for reading.  Thank you for commenting.  Your words of support, guidance, and wisdom help guide my journey.  I have learned so much from your experiences.  Thank you for the technical help, the creative input and the critiques you have given me.  Thank you for extending your friendship on a level beyond just a blog.  There are some of you that I feel like we have just had a virtual cup of coffee together when we comment back and forth.  How I wish we could make that a real cup of coffee someday....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monocots/Dicots and O'Keefe

Today was not science day but it turned out to be!  It felt so good to do our lessons once again at our dining room table which was moved out of the living room on Sunday.  For the most part our kitchen is done and life is slowly returning to what we consider normal.
Today is language arts day.  Grace wrote another essay comparing Strega Nona to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Essay writing suits her.  I gave her my piece of writing as a model and even though she used it for reference, her piece of writing in no way resembled mine.  Lilah also compared the two but not in essay format.  We copied poetry and illustrated the poems for our journals.  We even planned the beach clean up that Grace suggested in her last blog entry.   Next came math.  There was a bit of grumbling but they logged on and Grace had an introduction to decimals and Lilah was introduced to parallel and perpendicular lines.  It was a productive morning for sure.
During lunch I told the girls I wanted to read them two pages of botany.  This week we are beginning chapter 3; Flowers.  On Friday we are going to the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford where thousands of flowers will be on display.  I want to finish the reading and dissect a flower before the trip.  Their eyes glazed over when I taught them about monocots and dicots.  I found it very interesting.  I thought they would too.  I went downstairs and magically was able to put my hands on a flower catalog that has been in my basement for eons.  Then their eyes lit up.  They pointed out monocots, they searched for dicots.  Next came the scissors, then the journals, followed by glue.  Collages were made.  The knowledge was cemented in their brains.
Grace's journal

Following their momentum, I pulled out my coffee table book on Georgia O’Keeffe.  I showed them some of my favorite paintings of flowers in bright reds and oranges.  I love her style of examining the subject close.  Lilah was inspired to draw and began to copy the style of drawing.  She has never used oil paints before and I think this will be the perfect piece to introduce them!
Georgia's 

Lilah's
What was supposed to be a two page quick read “bloomed” into a two hour exploration of flowers and artists.  
The coolness of this learning never gets old!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Super Size Me

I have many documentaries on Netflix that I would love to find the time to watch.  We were all in a lazy watch tv kind of mood and rather than watch what I call “mindless tv”, I thought we could watch something interesting......I picked Super Size Me.  
Normally I always use commonsensemedia.org before I veer off the rated G or PG movies.  In fact, I think Harry Potter is the only PG-13 movie my girls have seen.  But I figured PG-13, okay, we will talk about whatever comes up........
Immediately Grace was engrossed in the concept of Morgan Sperlock’s idea to document his one-month long journey of eating only McDonald’s food.  We have talked about the dangers of fast food but here was the proof.  Now she would now if Mom was right...or if Mom was wrong.  We watched the pre-experiment preparation, the doctor’s appointments, blood work analysis, nutritional advice and discussed how this will all be a baseline against which the results would be compared.  We talked about how his girlfriend is a vegan chef and how hard it would be for her to accept this choice he made.  
We watched Morgan vomit his food out a car window.  Grace had a similar experience the first and only time she ate McDonalds years ago.  We watched him become sluggish and tired.  We watched through one “bad” word, not bad enough to turn it off, but my censorship radar was up.  Then the F-bomb was dropped and the off button was quickly hit.  My girls did not catch the word and were mad at me for turning it off.  I explained to them that all we really needed to see were the results, so we fast forwarded to the end.
Twenty pounds later... the doctor’s visits and final blood work revealed some scary results.  Liver pickling.  Heart disease.  Weight gain.  Granted he ate what the “typical” person would eat in 8 months in just one, but all my girls heard were “life-threatening” “not the expected results” “stop this immediately”.  This translated into “we are NEVER eating fast food again”.  
That is a good thing....or is it?  
My goal is not to scare them off food.  Goodness knows I enjoy a Duchess crispy chicken sandwich.  But I do not enjoy them often.  In the movie the doctor talks about the connection between how much fast food is being consumed and the correlation to heath issues and obesity.  He says that we have been preparing food at home for ages, so that is not the issue.  I slightly object since prior to the industrial revolution we were preparing FOOD, not processed materials which can be found in almost any cabinet in just about any home in America.  He also said Mom and Pop restaurants have been around long before the obesity epidemic so they cannot be directly blamed.  He pointed the finger at McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell and the others of their kind.  
This helped me to explain to the girls that the restaurants we usually frequent are not fast food drive throughs.  The eggs are cracked in front of us, scrambled with a whisk and poured onto a griddle, just like at home.  Your food choices (bacon, sausage, etc) are what can make this kind of meal unhealthy.  If you stick to your normal choices, like eggs, oatmeal, plain pancakes, then it is fine.  The girls balance the extra caloric intake for that day with the amount of exercise they get.    The key is balance.  Balance your choices.  Balance the amount of times you go out.  Be mindful where you go out to eat.  Most of our meals, in fact I would say 95% of our meals are at home, eaten at the dining room table, together.
Our kitchen renovation has screwed up our eating habits a bit.  I have tried my best to keep us on the healthy track but we have had a few more pizzas for dinner and scrambled eggs not made by me but by our friends at the Mom and Pop place down the street. 


I am fine with my girls never eating at McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell. But please...let Mommy have her #6 combo from Duchess, every now and then.  I promise I will not super size it and the two or three I eat per YEAR will not super size me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monkey Mind

"I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' -- the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl." 
Last year I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Despite criticisms I heard that it was self-indulgent and not realistic, I savored this book.  I would not let myself read it quickly.  I would read a bit, and stop to reflect on how this could be translated into my own life.  If I was  newly single with no children and a career that could not only support me well, but allow me to work where ever I chose, I wonder if I would feel free enough to take a year for personal growth?  Where would I choose to go?  What would I choose to learn?  I love pondering these questions.....
One thing that I took away from the book was the purpose of yoga.  I am not a follower of this practice.  I took one class while I was pregnant with Grace 11 years ago.  I enjoyed it but after she was born my personal time became non-existent and I did non continue with yoga, preferring ballet classes to get my pre-baby body back (well...almost back). I equate yoga with tai chi, which I studied a bit back when I studied karate seriously, again, pre-babies.  Like yoga, tai chi has a way of relaxing your body and moving energy from other places in your body and environment to you core.  When I was in China, I actually experienced this feeling.  Technically we were not supposed to be studying with this Tai Chi Master.  It would be like a freshman in college dropping in on a Doctoral class.  But since we were there on an exchange program, we took the class.  When I lost myself in the moment, mystified by my location, surrounded by beauty and opened my mind to learning, something amazing happened.  I began to feel tingling in my fingertips that spread to my lower arms.  As I repeated this swaying motion moving my hands in a circular motion about a foot away from my chest, my upper stomach began to tingle and get warm.  It was a lovely feeling, not unlike the rush of love you sometimes feel but without the butterflies and nerves.  It did not last long, but that was my chi.
Reading Eat, Pray, Love I learned that yoga prepares the body to pray and meditate.  It opens up the energy pathways and prepares the body and mind to be still for long periods of time.  Last night I went to bed overwhelmed with the events of my life.  The kitchen is being painted so the dining room had to be emptied.  Dishes had to be washed in the bathroom sink because I have no kitchen sink right now.  Lessons are falling behind, I did not buy all the necessary paint needed, I am not prepared for Brownies, or botany and I have to figure out how to get Lilah to her Brownie class tonight while getting Grace to her basketball practice.  My head hurt and it was late.  My mind was swimming and when that happens I like to use prayer as a mantra to help me settle down and sleep.  I tried saying Our Father.  Couldn’t do it.  I could not stay in the moment for 30 seconds.  My brain was bouncing from one thought to the next.  When this happens I think of Elizabeth in the ashram trying to say her mantra with a brain that would never settle.  She hated meditations because she could never stay in the moment, focused on prayer, while blocking out the rest of her life that constantly intruded on her quiet time.  
I feel like that sometimes.  I want to turn it off for just 30 seconds.  How hard is that?  It should be easy right?  Say a prayer, stay with the prayer, do not think of anything else, period.  Not easy.
A few years ago I had a yoga dvd.  This tape promised rock hard abs through yoga.  It did not deliver - or I did not stick with it long enough!  I did it after the girls went to bed.  But back then they were in bed at 7pm and I had time and energy to devote to myself.  I would like to find a new dvd, for beginner yoga or tai chi that I can do during the day, ideally at night before bed, when I want my mind and body still.  
This is a goal for me now.  To be able to say one prayer completely with silence in my head.  I wonder how long it will take me to achieve this goal?  If I can meet this goal, think of the possibilities!  Perhaps I can sit by the pool watching my girls swim and relax.  Just relax.  Not have my calendar on my lap or my cell phone in my bag or my mental to-do list growing and growing.  Perhaps I can sip my morning coffee clearly present in the glory of the sunrise peeking over the treetops without focusing on the rush of the day that is about to begin.  Perhaps I can take my own advise that I give my daughter constantly, the same advise my Grandfather gave me over and over again, to stop wishing your life away.  Live now.  Enjoy now.  Love now.    Pretty much sums it up!
I would love recommendations for beginner yoga or tai chi!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Heart Filled with Love

I have become more faithful as I have gotten older.  As a child I was reluctantly dragged to church every single Sunday where I would sit, pick out the cute boys and daydream.  I attended a Catholic college but not for religious reasons.  At the time very few colleges offered the major I was looking for, International Business.  Occasionally I would attend mass, but it was a rare occurance.  
I have to thank my parents for making us go every single week.  It gave me the foundation of a faith formation so that when I checked out as a young adult, questioned my beliefs and doubted certain doctrines, I knew what it was I was questioning.  I knew enough about my faith to be able to choose to stay with it and commit to it, or to leave it and follow another path of spirituality.
Back in my twenties and early thirties, if someone told me I would be teaching religious education I would have laughed, one of those laughs that sprays soda over a table or makes the horrible snorting noises that are both embarrassing and funny.  I often say I am the worst religious ed teacher ever.  I do not know as much as others about the bible.  I do not know the answers to many of the questions I am asked.  I am not a great planner and sometimes walk into class totally unprepared.  Amazingly, those are the days that are the best!  Twice now it has happened that what we were talking about in class has been the topic of Father’s homily.  The first time Grace (who is in my class) did not realize it,  but last week she did!  She was proud of the fact that unlike her mother, who at her age was usually daydreaming the homily away, she was actually listening and making connections.
This year I became connected with the youth group that is forming at our church.  While I was attending a conference this fall, I heard of the gift of a huge room to the teens and I blurted (without any thought) that I would help paint the room and draw murals for the teens to paint.  Little did I know that this room has 20’ ceilings, that I would become the Brownie leader for Lilah's Troop, and we would be doing major home construction....

I thought about withdrawing from the group, but that did not feel right.  Instead I was honest about my time constraints.  Despite being committed to this project, I was overextended and I would find ways to beautify the room but would not be able to do the murals until summer.
We had so much fun painting this HUGE wall!
Last weekend we painted the back wall.  The church is just a few hundred feet away from Long Island Sound.  It is quaint and picturesque.  The teens wanted blue, to symbolize the sea.  Greg kindly offered to help me with this project.  So we packed the truck with a ladder, paint rollers, drop clothes, and a can of blue paint.  While Grace was at alter server training we began.  What was once an overwhelming project for me became a memorable family experience.  Lilah helped me paint the bottom of the wall.  Greg took over the top.  When Grace came back she finished the last empty space on the wall.  With one coat and one can of paint the room took on a whole new look.


Furniture was donated.  Snacks were purchased.  The youth of our church were going to have a comfortable, welcoming place to meet twice a month.  So often you hear of kids not having anywhere to go.  What can you do when you are 14, need a ride to get anywhere and your two main choices are the mall and the movies?  I love walking into this room and seeing 5-6 kids talking, playing games and planning events.  Honestly teenagers scare me.  I am not comfortable around them.  But I do love to listen to them.  I love their sincere embarrassment when a song pops up on their ipod that is not quite appropriate for church and they rush to skip over it.  I love to hear them talk about their friends, their teachers and their worries.  I know I am connected to this room, this group and this church in a very strong way.

Welcome to the Youth Group room!
Last night we again returned to the teen room.  Three very old, very ugly card tables are going to be transformed into chalkboard tables.  All this work is being done in preparation for a grand reveal, a reception for all the teens of the church later this month.  While the room will not be finished, it will be greatly improved from the huge, empty, sterile, boring classroom it once was.  I loved that my girls feel comfortable here.  They helped paint the tables and they talked to the older kids.  The youth leader, who is just a kid herself, always makes them feel welcome, includes them in games, offers them snacks and a place to sit.  

These will be chalkboard tables....
This is what we want for our girls.  I want to give them a firm foundation in their faith so if one day they choose to walk away, they know what they are walking away from.  Hopefully, like me they will come back.  If they do not, I hope they find a path that leads them to God.  I believe there are many and one is not better than the other so long as your intentions are pure and your heart is filled with love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekly Accomplishments

Last week was a hard week.  It was hard to live in my house and hard to get things done in it.  I was not going to share an accomplishments post because I felt in my heart that  failed my kids in terms of their education for a week.  But then I was talking to a new friend.  Someone I just met and I was telling her that even on the hard weeks, I write my accomplishments and there is always more to list than I imagine there would be.
Last week we:
  • Painted the youth room at church.  This project has been weighing heavily on me.  I struggled with possibly removing myself from the project because it was the only thing in my life right now that I could cut out.  But Greg disagreed.  He said it is part of me, who I am, what I do.  He was so right.  I love my church.  Being in what is now our Parish Center, what was once a catholic school, brings me peace and joy like few other places do.  The project that I created became more than I could handle.  I cannot possibly paint murals right now.  But together the four of us could paint a wall.  The room has 20’ ceilings so Greg took the top, Lilah and I took the bottom and when Grace returned from alter server practice, she filled in the gaps.  We bonded over a simple thing like painting a wall.  That is when I know for some reason, God wants me to help in that room.
Outside classes:  
  • Lilah took a polymer bead class at a local bead shop.  I stayed and listened to my daughter talk to a teacher and other children she just met.  My heart soared to her her open up, share stories, and feel confident doing something she loves.  Her necklace is gorgeous and she wants to take the next class offered.  
  • Grace had two piano lessons because of a makeup class for a snow day.  She was proud to show her teacher a song she taught herself and mastered perfectly.  We are thinking about rolling the piano into our back room, which has a door, so she can practice to her hearts content in her own “music room”.  I also want to get to the piano store....to look for a new piano bench.....but to also show her the baby grands and maybe, just maybe be allowed to play a song on one!
  • Lilah began a pottery class this week after three weeks of waiting.  Every Tuesday for three weeks it stormed.  Finally she was able to go.  The class is being taught by a homeschooling mother who has a studio (with kiln) in her home.  Unlike her art school in New Haven, the children are allowed to use the wheel.  It is totally free form.  The children can create whatever inspires them.  This week she made a bowl embossed with the pattern from a doily.  It reminds me of a bowl I made when I was about her age and gave to my Grandmother.  The bowl sits still in my Aunt’s house.  I can’t wait to see her finished product.
  • Grace had basketball practice Thursday night, a game on Friday and a game on Saturday. She was exhausted Saturday night!
Lilah's necklace

This week we took a trip to visit with my Aunt.  One of my goals had been to visit often.  However, January’s weather put a halt on out of state travel!  It was such a great day.  My Aunt’s house is filled with educational wonder.  She gave the girls monoculars to add to our knapsack that now contains our magiscope, binoculars and journals.  They spent an hour or more playing with a magnetic marble “game” where one must construct a path for the marble to travel using wheels, levers, and tracks.  They discussed the merits of the Kindle vs. the Nook.  I have missed getting out with the girls.  We did not listen to an audiobook like we normally do.  For two solid hours, I listened to my ipod. I did not realize how I have missed my favorite songs.  My music sooths and inspires me.  With the house a wreck, I have not hooked up my ipod.  I need to do this.  
We spent a great day at the library.  I was hoping to actually finish our CT study but we only did one day.  I thought we would be at the library every day last week.  But it was a case of hurry up and wait.  We hurried to get the kitchen emptied to have the wall torn down, but then we waited.  Our electrician has a day-job that keeps him hopping from state to state, project to project.  There is no one else we wanted for this job.  He spent two months in this house rewiring it from top to bottom.  So we waited.  Over the weekend his part of the job was done.  Hopefully today I will see from visible progress in the kitchen and hopefully (fingers and toes crossed) I will get my stove back this week!
We did a lot of reading.  Lilah recommended a book to Grace (My Last Best Friend).  Grace is loving it.  I finished three books: the new Portia de Rossi biography, a book about making skin care products and McBroom's Wonderful One Acre Farm.  We continued with another chapter and a half of Percy.  We watched the youtube video for Strega Nona and immediately Lilah knew it why they were watching it - to compare it to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.   The girls got caught up on their friend’s blogs and discovered the new one I left for them.
There was planning.  Lots and lots of planning.  Today we are having our second Valentine’s Day Party.  Last year I wanted to give Lilah a chance to exchange cards since she was not in school.  It was a great time with our new friends.  This year the party will be a bit different.  Since our house is not safe for many people,  we are having it at the library.  Lilah is a planner - a fantastic party planner.  

She made invitations, 
made homemade valentine’s cards,
 developed a menu, 
researched crafts,
 picked flowers,
 counted candy hearts for the guessing game,
 made beautiful gift bags, 
picked the book to be read
 and the game to be played.  
She worked hard to make this party happen.
Valentine's morning.  

Lastly, we met a new friend this week.  We have a new girl joining our Brownie Troop and immediately I felt connected to her family because like us, her daughter was withdrawn from school in second grade.  Like us, she found her way to our Troop and to our group of amazing friends.  The girls met on Friday when we had a craft day to make Valentines.  They got along fantastically and there were slight tears when it was time to leave.  I so clearly recognized those tears.  They were not of sadness but of joy or finding other girls to play with and whose life is just like your new life.  Our new friends are coming to the party today.  I hope they have fun!
So last week was not focused on academics.  I can’t write about what projects they finished, poems they copied, essays they wrote or experiments they performed.  But we did have some important life lessons.  We appreciated family and friends, we learned about patience and understanding, we pitched in and helped with the house chores, we began new adventures, we appreciated what we have, we gave our time to others. 

All in all, it was a good week.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What are my dreams?

Theresa over at Our Life in Words, left me a comment yesterday that got me thinking.....
What are my dreams? What are my dreams? I know I used to have them...
I think I have gotten so busy in living my day to day life, educating my kids, worrying that I am doing the right thing, worrying about the economy, wondering what it will be like when my girls go to college... thinking about what I want to do when my girls go to college...and I have lost my ability to dream...
Thanks for the reminder...Dreaming is big and important...
This kitchen project has been a dream I have had for a long time.  It is not about the new appliances, although they are great.  It is not about the nice counter tops I will have.  Heck, it is not even about the fact that I will actually HAVE counter space.  It is about how it will improve the quality of our family life.  If I lived here alone I would not do this project.  I want my girls to be able to sit and see me while I prepare dinner.  Or better yet, I would like to have the ability to prepare a meal together.  I want to give Lilah a space where she can make her dreams come true.  While it may seem on the outside that this is a dream realized for me, it is actually for my family.
What are my dreams?  Have I too, been so caught up in the mundane day to day minutia of life, that I have lost sight of what makes me me?  What kind of role model would I be if I did not allow myself to dream and work on achieving the dreams I hold on to?
I have a dream........
...that when I am able to retire, I am strong and healthy.  So is my husband.  We are able to walk hand in hand down the street, near a beach, close enough to hear the waves.  Originally I thought this place would be Cape Cod, but as I get older, I am thinking maybe the Carolina's.  I want to smell the salty air, walk barefoot by the breaking waves, and sit for hours with a good book and a good dog.  I dream of being close enough so my children and grand-children can be a part of my life.
....that there will be a big vacation in my life soon.  A special time set aside for the four of  us to get away, far away.  On a plane away.  We need time as a family to reconnect.  Puerto Rico was three years ago and technically not a vacation.  My girls are growing up into young ladies.  I want to matter to them.  I want to know even more about their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams.  I know a lot already.  Having this time with them has given me the chance to get to know them better.  But to have this life, this amazing gift, Greg works very very hard.  He commutes 4 hours a day to Manhattan.  He travels.  He works from home.  We miss him and he misses us.  I want to get away from it all.  Away from our cell phones, the blogs, Facebook, texts, and even television.  I want to have time with those I love.
...that one day you will be able to walk into Barnes & Nobel and see me at a desk signing books.  Not just any book -- my book!  I am not a fiction writer.  I wish I had a story to tell.  I have started something.  Something not big enough to share yet.  It has slowed down to the point of stopping.  I need to pick it up, dust it off, and get it going again!
....finding a job, or creating a job that I love.  Not right now of course....but when the girls are older and are heading to college.  I want to have a job I love and look forward to doing every day.  I have been blessed that I loved my job at the international moving company I held for a few years.  I also loved my job in education.  I wonder what I will be when I am really grown up?  
....of other things big and small too.  Like having straight teeth when I decide to spend money on myself for invisalign.  Like having my nails done every week and my wardrobe being just the way I like it.  Of having a clean car, clean house and oh my.....maybe just maybe some help with keeping my house and car clean!  I dream of cooking gourmet meals my children will appreciate and thank me for.  I dream of eating chips and guacamole and not gaining one pound.  I dream of waking up with long hair, that is mostly blond, not mostly gray.  I dream of having perfect eyesight with out glasses or contacts.  I dream of having more dogs, rescued dogs that need love.  I dream of possibly adding a child to my family that needs to be loved.  I dream of sleeping soundly at night.  I dream of banishing Graves disease from my body and feeling energetic and healthy all the time.  I dream of educating my children at home for the long haul.  I dream of helping education other people’s children in non-traditional ways....hmmm....could this by my dream job someday?  I dream of having chickens and alpaca.  I dream of perfectly tweezed eyebrows.  I dream of coffee...rich, dark coffee and being able to drink as much of it as I want, when I want and enjoying every drop. I would enjoy this for breakfast with the eggs I just collected from my chicken coop!  I dream of going back to my love of karate, but in a different form.  Tai Chi perhaps.  I dream of having the ability and time to do that for myself.  
So many dreams.  So little time.  Baby steps.  I will get there one baby step at a time.

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...