31 May 2008

Once a Mommy.... Always a Mommy

I have a little confession to make - I have rarely seen my 17 year old daughter sleep. Kendra was a high-strung baby. I say this with much kindness as she likely inherited the trait from me. She hardly ever slept. My parents have few memories of my childhood, but they both agreed that I would lay in bed even as a very small child and recite every nursery rhyme, sing every song I knew, etc. to keep from going to sleep. I hated the thought of missing anything.
Kendra has not ever had the "in bed by 8" routine. Perhaps it was Kendra who trained us to let her sleep when she was tired instead of an arbitrary bedtime. When she was a baby, her daddy worked nights, so she and I would wait until he got home from work around midnight before we went to bed.
Last night we were all up very late, but she had to go to work this morning. She came home a little while ago and was laying on the floor in her bedroom listening to Frank Sinatra on her MP3 player because she was too tired to remove the clothes and paper and books off of the bed. I cleared it off and suggested she lay down. To my surprise she did just that, and she has been sound asleep for almost an hour now. I keep finding myself tip-toeing down the hallway to peek in on her, just like she was a baby. I am so not used to her being asleep when I'm awake. We never do things quite the orthodox way - Kendra and I - but we seem to figure it out along the way together. Sweet dreams baby girl.

The Master Plan CONTEST

I decided that I am going to give away a free copy of the Master Plan to a fellow blogger. All you have to do to enter the contest is will blog about my new planner and link back to this post. The contest will end next Friday, June 6th, and the winner will be announced here on my blog on Saturday, June 7th. Simply post about it on your blog - and leave me a comment to let me know that you did. Blog away!

30 May 2008

Drumroll Please - The Master Plan is Ready

Now On Sale for $37.95
Use the PayPal "Buy Now" button on the right sidebar.
I have worked on this until my eyes are crossed, but the Master Plan, an updated, consolidated, inter-activated version of "the Plan" is now available. I am so excited about how much I learned about PDF publishing. This planner is fully interactive, allowing you to type your own information in all of the forms, click on links and customize this planner and make it your own. I am really very excited about the possibilities. This planner is integrated so that homeschoolers, unschoolers, and even families with children in public and private school might find its content beneficial and useful. My friend Leslie, at Simple Journey Ministries wrote some frugal and simple living articles that are included as well as some features on crock pot cooking, read-alouds, etc. by yours truly. There is a small sneak preview available in the slideshow below, and a PayPal button in my sidebar by the front cover icon where you can get your own. I promise that this is the cheapest price it will be sold for anywhere at a about a $10 discount.This is a pre-sale price and will only be at this rate for a limited time until I have it up in other stores. If you price interactive planners you won't find one so thorough or as inexpensive. I am going to be offering yearly updates for this planner as well - so you will never have to buy a full planner again.
I really hate doing a "commercial" on my blog - but I just wanted to share this exciting news with you - and give you a chance to get the new planner. If you place an order and pay via PayPal, your planner will be sent to you within 24 hours. Thanks!

Table of Contents
Master Plan By Season
Seasonal Overview Pages
Calendar Pages for 2008-2011
Dates to Remember
Large Grid Monthly Pages
Weekly Pages - 2 page spread
Daily Pages
Week-at-a-Glance Pages
Yearly Bible Reading Checklist
Daily Bible Study Notes
Sermon Notes for Adult, Teens and Children
Household Budget Pages
Creditor Contact info Pages
Monthly Budget Pages
Menu Plan and Grocery List Pags
Master Grocery List
Article: 8 Great Ways to Save by Leslie Valeska
Article: It's a Crock! by yours truly
Article: Can You Afford Healthy: by Leslie Valeska
Homeschool Planning Pages
Yearly Record of School Days
Article: Read-alouds by yours truly
Read-aloud Record Page
Student Reading Record
Student Transcripts (thank you Elissa Wahl's friend for this resource)
Article: Frugal Homeschooling tips by Leslie Valeska
Master Resource List
Monthly Journal
Weekly Lesson Plans
Independent Study Plans - or personal record
Co-op Teacher's Planning
Future Plans
Unschooler's Memory Pages
Field Trip Planning Pages
Family Medical Records
Weight Tracking Charts
Pet Health Records
General Household Organizational Forms
Article: Keeping Your Home by yours truly
(before you become alarmed - you might as well know that this is not an article full of cleaning tips!)
Home Sweet Home
Housekeeping Checklists
Appliance Log
Vehicle Maintenance Record
Books to Read
Movies and videos to See
Items Borrowed
Items Loaned
Vacation and Travel Planning
Wish-list of Places to Go
Trip Planning Pages
Road Trip Planner
Holidays & Entertaining Pages
Party Planning
Special Occasion Pages
Easter & Thanksgiving Planning Pages
Christmas Planning Pages
Advent Reading
Cookie Baking Day
Gingerbread House Making
Address Book
My Computer
List of Programs
Email Addresses
Favorite Websites
Best Places on the Web for Kids
Project Planning Pages
School Planning Pages
Article: Back to School the Frugal Way by Leslie Valeska
School Information
School Calendar
What's for Lunch
Basic List of School Supplies

On to the next projects: a half size planner and student planner!

28 May 2008

I Love My Ecclectic Family

I have been hard at work learning how to make PDF forms interactive. My brain is smoking. But from my seat at my desk I can hear all sorts of interesting things going on in my house. A couple of hours ago, Kullen was loading the Mavis Beacon typing program onto the computer so he could learn how to type efficiently and was giving household reports at each new level he accomplished. My oldest daughter has been in and out of here asking for the address book, stamps, telling me about how she wrote letters to her friends and filled them with glitter (shhh!). It seems she has gone on now to getting her transcript ready for her the community college application, where she hopes to take sociology and maybe some other classes in the fall. The sounds of Michael Buble are blaring down the hallway - and I am rather enjoying it. "The best is yet to come...." pretty uplifting. I heard some beating and banging and called out to ask Kullen what was going on. He came in my room and said, "Just making holes in my wall cause it's fun" and put on the best schmoozy grin he could when my head spun in his direction in a manner that would make Linda Blair proud! There have been deliveries of toast with jam and chai tea to help me keep up my stamina for all the heavy duty work. The cat ate the rest of my dinner because we left her unattended in the kitchen, and Kaitlyn offered hers to me (I declined!). Kaitlyn is cleaning out her trunk and closet, and has donned her brother's arms with her rainbow leg-warmers. He is hanging out with her while she works for now - evidently needing a break from all the banging. Travis has retired to his back room for some gaming. I know that sometimes I am so overwhelmed - but I love these people. They make my life so full, so happy, so real.

The Hours of a Half-Life

Years ago a friend told me she loved the movie The Hours, but I wouldn't. I always find that amusing. I think we can never fully know what might resonate with another person. I have seen it before but last night I watched it again. It is strange because it is hard for me to watch it without her presupposition in my head.
Watching the movie last night made me think about a lot of things. For one, how much influence a parent's emotional state can affect a child even when there are no words. Children do have an emotional radar. Sometimes the choices we make are profoundly influential, and yet no one else quite knows the darker choices we could have made.
Each day is a choice to live. In the Deuteronomy we are told that "life and death" are set before us. It made me think about all the people I know who have chosen death in the sense that they've given up on really living. I also realize how easily I could do the same. Suicide is a taboo subject - and I have even heard it called a sin. I won't weigh in on that one, no longer feeling the need to have an opinion on anyone else's standing before the Lord but my own. But, I have learned that a half-life is not really a life at all.
I have personally been quite busy, but emotionally and mentally in a funk. My blog has been lacking because I can't get a stream of coherent thoughts to go in one direction together. But I will choose life, and hours and days and weeks and months and years of joy with those I love. No more half-life for me.

26 May 2008


Two years ago today we sold our little house in the Blue Ridge Mountains and headed for the Lone Star State. It is a bittersweet anniversary. It was such a hard thing to say goodbye to my own "little house in the big woods". Having moved so much as a child, I had lived in the same town for over a decade, and in the same house for almost seven years. This was a huge thing to step away from, and continues to be to this day.
This past weekend two young people that I love dearly had their graduations and we weren't there to celebrate with them. Heart wrenching really, but unproductive to dwell on. Life has always had markers - times of happiness and times of pain. In each season, God's faithfulness to us has been the prevailing theme. Even during this time of feeling very isolated from those that I hold so dear - wondering if they remember that their places in our hearts are secure even if our seats at the dinner table, the party, the restaurant, the road trips are otherwise occupied for this season.

Interesting that this is Memorial Day as well. We arrived in Texas in the wee hours of the morning on Memorial Day. While it is a military holiday, it is also a marked memorial in our personal lives. I'm reposting this video of some fun times during our first visit home with our friends - just cause I'm missing them today. We really don't know how to say goodbye - so we just won't - ever!

23 May 2008

Well I'll Be Hog-Tied

It seems we have a neighbor who "has hogs". A great deal of excitement broke out about an hour ago as men we didn't know were running through our yard, and my husband came in and said they were chasing hogs that had gotten loose. This is something you just don't see in West Virginia. A new bit of Texas culture ever waiting my exploration. I went outside for a bit - it is pretty dark and after the first horribly loud squeal - I decided I would watch through the windows. There is still a hog hunt going on. I'll take my hog on a plate in the form of bacon, thankyouverymuch!
My neighbor Debra said they came into her husband's woodshop in the back of her house and made themselves a bed and laid down. Supposedly she has pictures - and if I get my hands on them I'll post them just so you will know I didn't make it up!

22 May 2008

Thinking of the Chapmans

Today, all day long, the Chapman family's loss of their 5 year old daughter Maria has been on my mind. I have been wondering how a family continues the next day after such a tragedy. I remember waking up the morning after my grandmother died - which was the first significant loss in my life - and having just a brief second of normal before the waves of grief crashed in. Watching the videos of how much those little girls were loved, I couldn't help but think how blessed little Maria was to have been able to be a part of such a loving family for such a brief time on this earth - and yet it makes her death no less sad.
I was also wondering how a family copes with the situation - a teenage son has literally wielded the weapon that caused a fatal injury to his baby sister, and even though it was accidental, it must be such a bitter pill to swallow. The pain the whole family is feeling must surely weigh on the young man's shoulders, and for his sake I hope they never reveal which brother it was driving the SUV. It isn't important for us to know. I also know as a parent how I react, regardless of intent, when one of my kids hurts one of their siblings. How can something like this be made better?
I have just had a heavy heart for this family today. I was hoping my friend Kirsten, a big Steven Curtis Chapman fan who is headed back for the mission field in Africa yesterday may have escaped hearing such sad news. This afternoon I had just gotten home from an afternoon out when my husband called and said he was 30 miles away with a flat tire,and he needed me to bring him some tools. The traffic that time of day is terrible and I was out of gas. When I stopped at the pump to find that gas was $3.79 a gallon, I was tempted to grumble and complain - and then I remembered a family mourning the loss of a little girl - and how something like that makes the importance of everything else come into crystal clear focus.


This breaks my heart.

21 May 2008

A Born Person

When my first child was born, there was no denying her full personhood. We often joke that she spoke in full sentences in the delivery room, and introduced herself to the doctors and nurses. Almost maybe. Those who knew her from the time she was small know that this isn't far from the truth. Now that she is 17 she insists that everyone recognize her as an equal. At work today that didn't go quite as planned. There was another lady waiting tables beside her who is 24 and she asked Kendra to take a shift for her later in the day. When Kendra hesitated, she lurched into a spiel about how her husband was going out of town, blahblahblah and how she being older than Kendra "had a life".
We have talked a lot about this tonight - what it means to have a life. Technically it means that your heart is beating inside your chest, electrical currents are firing in your brain, and you are breathing inhale, exhale. Interesting that living has come to mean so much more. What I saw clearly in this statement was how overwhelmingly we belittle the importance of children, instead of recognizing as Charlotte Mason would say that they are each born persons. We don't make them that way, nor does whatever way we demean them diminish this truth.
In applying this truth, that young woman had no more right to have the evening off than Kendra did, regardless of what was going on in her life. Kendra can't wait to be 18 so she can be validated as an adult. It isn't because she has grown up in a home where she was made to feel small and insignficant - it is how God made her. She is fully valued, appreciated and respected for the amazing person she is in the here and now. She doesn't have to accomplish, do or be any particular thing. Nor do her siblings.

No Deep Thoughts

Inside my head over the last few days is only this sound -
While I have been busy, I have not had much to contribute to the blogosphere. I am working, eating, sleeping, watching movies, and trying to stay home so that I don't spend our entire income in gas. It is amazing.
I am also working on the new planner for this coming year, and hope to have it released in time for the summer so those of you who homeschool can have it ready for the "school year". If you have any ideas for pages that you wish we had last time, throw them at me! This year's planner is going to be fully interactive so you can use it on your computer alone - OR you can print it to use.
In other exciting news, my brother Rob has finally be introduced to our two step-sisters, Alisha and Renae. I take full credit for pulling Alisha into the blogosphere and hope you'll hop over to her blog and say "howdy". Rob always lived with my dad, and since our mother married the girls' father, they haven't met in the 24 years since they were related. So, that's some pretty groovy stuff. Wouldn't it be a real treat if we all got to meet one day? (Well I sort of already know all of them - but it'd be neat if they got to meet! I hope they don't leave me out!)
That's all for now folks.

20 May 2008

A Working Mom

This has come up a couple of times recently and I thought I would take a minute to address it here - there is no such thing as a mom that doesn't work. Period. Even if you don't get a paycheck. If you homeschool or not, taking care of a home and a family is a job within itself.
Moms that work out of the home - getting their kids up in the morning and off to school before heading out to work for the day and dealing with the public or co-workers, office politics and all that entails all day long, only to come home and make dinner, help with homework, not to mention any extra-curriculuar activities, and get everybody ready to start the day over again tomorrow - are my heroes! (Alisha!) I don't know how they do it. I can remember when I started homeschooling one of the common responses from women I knew was "I don't know how you do that?" and I said that I didn't know how they did what they did. Obviously my Wonder Woman cape came with holes.
However, there is a bit of a sting such as yesterday when my insurance agent said to me about why she couldn't reach me, "Oh I thought maybe you got a job." and a family member suggested not long ago knowing our financial struggles that I might need to consider getting a job. First of all - I have a job that I work from home usually between 25-30 hours a week. Secondly, although it is part time, I come out better income wise in the long run that I would make working outside my home, putting gas in a vehicle and having a wardrobe that consists of more than my t-shirt and jeans fare, etc. Not to mention - I can work for a few hours and then take on a project at home or do something with my kids, arranging my work hours around life with my family. And third, my husband and I decide those things for us because only we can evaluate our priorities.
I think it is a matter of respect. This is where I am, nurturing what is important to my family - and I will extend this respect and expect the same from others.

18 May 2008

Our Unschooling Family

I do not post much about "unschooling" per se, and yet all of my posts are about unschooling, because unschooling is life. Living life every day and learning all along the way. But once in a while, to keep account of all the fascinating things the kids are learning and doing, as well as to show you what this looks like as we live it out, I feel the urge to share.
This morning the entire family worked together to remove every single thing we own from our kitchen. We have a slight, shall we say, infestation. After months of trying every natural remedy we could find, we decided to tent the sucker off and go for the big guns. This meant that I cooked dinner on the floor in the corner of the living room and avoided my toxin-saturated kitchen. My kids said I looked like a little Indian woman, whatever that means. It appears that the enemy is waving the white flag of surrender, and we hope to move back into the kitchen shortly.
Kendra spent a good part of the day torturing herself over an algebra problem. She is also studying for a Biology final that she has to take on Monday, her last official day of co-op. She has been looking into taking the SAT. The other day she said she wanted to be ready "if" she decided to go to college. (Thanks Stephanie - you were a big part of that IF.)
Kaitlyn has been painting like a crazy woman. No longer having art classes, she seems liberated to paint what she wants. She has been painting a whimsical castle scene that has some reflective water in the foreground. I've been admiring it all day. She has also immersed herself in the study of the zodiac - which has led her unwittingly to learning some math involving degrees of the planets, etc. (Please save the witchcraft comments - we believe the zodiac was set in the stars by our awesome, imaginative, Creator God.)
Kullen has been drawing a lot lately. He took out a couple of art books and did some apple and shadow drawings, worked some on faces, etc. He has also rediscovered the joy of his PSP. Tonight he sat beside me on the porch swing with his hand on my knee and said, "Cool!" and followed it with instructions on straightening and bending my knee this way and that while he felt the joint. He was pretty amazed by that. As Charlotte Mason says, a mother is a child's best plaything.
We are deprogramming Travis who asked me last Saturday on the way to his mother's house if there would be a "slew of people at this shindig". While he swears he was only teasing, we have heard his vernacular deteriorate the longer we are here. Earlier today he informed us that we were watching a television station from "Loo-see-anna". We have all joined the intervention - this is serious business.
Anyway, that is what is going on in our home today. I hope that you are all enjoying living and learning in your neck of the woods.

17 May 2008

Happy Birthday Rob

My brother Rob is 15 months my junior. I knew him back when everybody called him Robbie! He is one terrific guy. He has the best sense of humor, always ready with a joke. If you could imagine Will Ferrell mixed with Adam Sandler - you'd have my baby brother. Rob is my only sibling who has both of the same biological parents. We went through "childhood" together although for both of us it was cut sadly short. Our parents divorce threatened to pull us apart more than once, and although I know that it effected our relationship irreparably, we will always love each other dearly. He has served our country in the Middle East twice - both times profoundly impacted. He is a husband and father to three terrific kids. He is highly motivated, and has his sights set on a congressional seat for the state in which he lives. He has earned so many degrees, awards, titles, etc. that I couldn't even begin to list them all. The one that means the most to me is "little brother".
I love you Rob! Happy Birthday!


I am sure there are hours of therapy that might lead somewhere on this topic. I know that Christianity is all about giving up your rights, as Christ did in laying down His life. We are to be ever emulating Him in this example. Sometimes it is just so hard to do.
I am sorting through an issue, and trying to decide if I really need to have someone else acknowledge that I am right about something. All evidence to the contrary - photographic evidence I might add - they still won't budge from their need to be right. Is it stubborn pride that won't allow me to concede the issue? As if my last post doesn't articulate it clearly - it isn't the being wrong that I am afraid of, it is the never being heard or allowed to think differently. My memories replaced by someone else's imagination, my thoughts trumped by a work of fiction.
The first time I ever had my heart broken, I was told to "suck it up". If I said I missed my dad, I was told what a loser her was and how pathetic it was that I cared for him at all - and vice versa. Everything I thought and felt and needed and valued was diminished at every level.
As an adult I am still in this cycle. I am constantly told that I need to worry about what "really matters", and that I worry about things that are insignificant. I am told that feelings are trivial, and that my dreams only matter when there is a monetary value from which someone else might benefit.
Insignificance - this would be the story of my life. It's like this silent guttural scream that can't be heard of the din of the crowd.
I have to write this or I won't be able to bear it at all. I wouldn't be able to talk through the emotion. If you are looking for light blogging - you may want to peruse elsewhere for the next couple of posts. I so resonated with Bonnie Hunt's line in Jerry Maguire - "I'm incapable of small talk." I really am right now.

Dominant Personalities

How do you live with someone who insists that every molecule of air in the room is theirs? Who diminishes you as a person, instead of building you up? Who takes credit for everything good and places blame for everything bad? How do you live with someone who never processed as a child what it means to live in community with others - sharing, nurturing, growing, and making allowances for others to be the person that they are and how that changes all along the way? How is it that a person who was so unconscious for so much of your lives together suddenly moves in, taking over all of your memories, insisting that their perspective is the only one that is correct? If you give way and make room for them it is only insisted that you give even more space, and suddenly one day you wake up and realize that you - your thoughts, your hopes, your passions, your desires, your memories, your likes and dislikes, your political views, your spiritual life, everything - is all being dissolved into this other person. I grew up like this - being constantly absorbed into who my mother was, and her hopes and plans for my life, her needs, her wants, and her take on everything in the world. I have been suffocating. It is why I hold my breath so much, because I wasn't allowed to breathe.
I need an escape, or I may not survive. There is only a little of me left.

16 May 2008

I Want Me One of These

I don't covet often, although I wouldn't necessarily say that I have mastered the art of contentedness. Most of my discontent centers around people and places rather than material things. (This has a lot to do with my homesickness for WV!) I am blessed to have all that I need, truly - but sometimes once in a great while I find something I really want. I have recently become obsessed with the desire to be the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle. I am not an electronic gadget person. In fact I prefer to use my paper planner than all the gadgets and programs that are on my laptop - but there seem many advantages to this thing. Books are heavy making it difficult to lay in bed and read - and I love reading in bed. I also love to take books along with me wherever I go. I have to admit that I also hate reading ebooks or internet pages off of my screen. Blogs are about the most reading I can do - but I think you can even read those on Kindle. At $399, I won't be getting one anytime soon. But a girl can dream.
Check this baby out:

Oh my gosh!

It's All a Crock

I am absolutely loving this blog. I can't believe someone would be brave enough to try and cook int their crockpot every day for a year. It is amazing. As I've said here before, the crockpot is favorite way of cooking. I used to only think of it for those hot meals ready when you get home from a long day out. I realized last year that it was a great way to cook a meal without heating up the kitchen. What I really like about her recipes is that they are healthy, and she has a lot of healthy suggestions to go along with all the food she prepares. Many recipes that I find for the crock pot are made with canned soup, etc. which are alright once in a while, but too high in sodium and other things to use regularly. She is also hysterically funny. I was enjoying reading her "verdict" to each recipe that she tried. Another thing I love about crock pot cooking is that I can put dinner together in the morning when my energy level is highest instead of at 4 pm when I am zapped. I planned my whole menu for the week around my crock pot. I can't wait to see what the family thinks about all the new things we're going to try! I am even going to try a dessert for the first time.

14 May 2008

Lest I Get Accused of Whining

My post yesterday about getting the conversation going about Bugles was meant to be humorous. I am not irritated - just found it funny. I have never been able to figure out what exactly it is that gets the blogosphere abuzz. It seems to change from day to day.

Right now - I got nothin'. Just a whole lotta work!

Just Crazy and Bummed

The world is turned upside down! I blog deep thoughts, revelations, what if questions that go unanswered and then others who shall go unnamed blog about BUGLES and get a conversation going. How is this?
I am a little bummed today. I was supposed to be leaving this morning to head home to WV. I have hope that I can still go in June due to that little thing called the economic stimulus check - Lord willing, but it does not diminish the disappointment of not being on my way right now.
Continue to talk amongst yourselves about your plastic snack food, I'll be alright. Don't worry about me.

13 May 2008

Food for Thought - Salvation part 2

A lot of good comments on this post. I will say that it surprises me that anyone would say that they would be disappointed if everyone were able to be sure of heaven. The very heartbeat of God is that none should perish, and I think it ought to be ours as well. It seems arrogant to say that my sin is different from the sins of anyone else, and that my submission and obedience to Christ being where the circle of inclusion and exclusion is drawn. The free gift doesn't seem so free anymore on that line of thinking. The paid price doesn't seem so fully paid. The completed work, incomplete.
If the Bible says all our righteousness is like filthy rags, what do we have to offer that would say we get to go and others don't? Obedience is the fruit of a heart of love, not the obligation that it is painted in so many religious circles. It cannot be contrived - but is the overflow of the gratitude for the too good to be true grace once we comprehend it fully, versus the system of performance and obligation that so many of us were taught.
I am definitely still pondering, seeking, reading, searching. One book that was pretty profound in helping me see the Bible as relational instead of merely instructional was Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. He calls it a "whole message to a whole human being". We tend to look at it as a self-help book instead of this story of the redeeming love, and real human beings with all of their talents and flaws, all along the way. One comment on the first post talked about God's word as an instruction manual - in order to help us get the best of a product we purchased. I appreciated the sentiment as I would have once shared it vehemently. Now I hear it almost opposite - we are the ones who were purchased, and God and His word not something that we use, but something that changes and completes us as we live according to it.
Now lest you think I have gone morally relative, I will say that it is not all good. He is all good. That I believe is the jist of the story.
More thoughts later, as I hope this conversation continues.

12 May 2008

Unschooling Myself

Since I have embraced the unschooling lifestyle, I have seen how truly we are learning all the time. Life presents a multitude of opportunities to embrace new experiences, participate in new activities and learn new things. I have tried to embrace this for my children who are always moving from one thing to another, investing themselves headlong in a subject and really getting into it in a way they would not be able to if they were in school for 8 hours in a day. But this has not only been beneficial for them, it has been a paradigm shift in lifestyle for me as well. I have always loved to write. Always. From the second I could form letters on a page, I had stories to tell. In fact, I just published my very first, paid magazine article. It was an assighment that wasn't something I would necessarily choose to write about, but it was good writing. More recently I've been studying the art of screenwriting. I've learned to crochet, tried my hand at HTML and CSS, worked with imaging programs and learned to design and tweak digital scrapbook pages, taught myself to design newsletters, learned to create a PDF file and am learning now how to make a PDF form interactive. There is so much more and there is no end in sight. Some of these things I do just because I enjoy them, and others even generate a little extra income that always seems to come at just the right time. Last week I designed a blog header and yesterday used the format of my template to put together a blog make over for my good friend Dwayne who spent his first Mother's Day without his mama. There is just so much to do, and learn and try. My husband is the same way. Just recently he designed a wire puller that would be helpful to electricians on the job, and has always come up with gadgets and gizmos to make any work he is doing easier. (Too bad we have no idea how to patent some of it!) The best part is when the kids see us diving headlong into our own interests and pursuits, they are inspired to do the same. Yesterday I got a homemade Mother's Day card from my beauties that said this:
Thank you for being the person you are, and for giving us space to do the same.

That is just about the best thing a mother could hear. Isn't it what we all truly need most, the opportunity to become who we were created to be?

11 May 2008

I've Been Robbed

I heard this little statistic on the radio this morning. The report was that a stay-at-home mom, if she were compensated for her duties with home and family would bring in an annual salary of $117,000. They said if you work from home, you can add $65,000. I actually cannot find any information on how this was actually computed but it did say that the biggest payoff is overtime. No doubt. But even on my worst days, this is the best job in the world with immense fringe benefits.

The Good Earth

A couple of weeks ago, I told my husband that I really wanted to put a garden in this year. I put one in last year, and then shortly after I started getting plants, I promptly took off for three weeks to (almost heaven) West Virginia. When I got home, the weeds were bigger than the plants. We had quite a few fried green tomato feasts, zucchini and squash, and evidently our neighbor had his fair share of watermelon that I never even knew produced (ugh!) - but it was too much for me alone. Travis consented, so this is what we did together on Mother's Day -
We planted 3 rows of corn, 2 types of lettuce, broccoli, peas, beans, tomatoes here and squash and zucchini and cucumbers on mounds that are not in this picture. I also plan on planting some melons on some other mounds in the back yard. While I don't particularly like the weeds, or bugs, or the back-breaking labor of having a garden, or enduring the heat and sun, I would enjoy defraying some of my projected grocery bill for the summer. I also think there is a lot of value for Travis and I to work together, our hands in the dirt and participate in the process of nurturing life from the ground. There is an organic, back to the basics, Adam and Eve-ness to it all, 'cept we was wearing clothes - mainly for the sake of the neighbors.
This is a late start around here. There are people in our area that already have mature gardens that are producing, and we just put seeds in the ground. No matter - with the long growing season we should have plenty of yield. I am not sure that is the point of this garden anyway.

Food for Thought - Salvation

This question was posed in another online conversation and I thought I would ask to my dear readers here.
If you knew, without exception that God would save every man - that no one for any reason would miss heaven, would you feel delighted or disappointed? and why?
Please don't forget the why part - one way or another how would you feel. I look forward to your comments, and please check back here for reply comments from others, as well as myself. It will keep the "conversation" here going in a fluid fashion.

10 May 2008

Soaking up Some Sun-ity

One of the best parts about living in southeast Texas is that the ocean is just a hop, skip and a ferry ride away. There is nothing like the roar of ocean waves, the wind whipping through your hair, the sea spray exfoliating your skin and the soft sand between your toes to set your world right again.
I am a spontaneous - go to bed one night and think I will do one thing and wake up on the "scrap it all and go to the ocean" side of the bed kind of girl. My husband needs contractual agreements, and plans set in stone weeks before - meaning that if we have to stop at Walmart for a new tube of sunblock along the way, his apple cart is overturned. So, it was no small miracle that he agreed to go on the spur of the moment with me. (You can only imagine what great pains we went through to get the self-portrait of the two of us at the top left here - and to get him to consent to allowing me to post one of them!)
The day was perfect - not too hot, adequately sunny. The 20 minute ferry ride gave us some sort of a ship-show as the bay was full of oil tankers and fishing boats - and even some excitement when at one point it appeared we might collide with one. Galveston has white, fine sand and the ocean floor is nice and solid - not slimy or rocky. We all had a really good time. Travis didn't get in the water - but he enjoyed the feeding the seagulls and pigeons. He met a guy that looked and reminded us all of his best buddy, Tav, and chatted it up with him a while. I soaked up some sun, splashed in some waves with my kids, and found a chance to scribble out some story notes for my writing. It was nice to be away from the computer, cell phone and demands of daily life. It was a great, relaxing day. We're doing it again asap!
In this picture Travis is feeding goldfish crackers to the birds. When he saw this picture he asked me, "What, am I flying a bird kite?" to which I asked, "Did you fly a bird kite?" He answered, "No." This cracked me up. We are one dysFUNctional family. I guess for better or worse.

09 May 2008

To Heck With it All

I managed to convince my hubby to be spontaneous with me and say to heck with it all and head out to the ocean. The things of life always seem a lot less significant when you consider the vastness of the deep and the grains of sand of which He knows every number. Check ya later - we're beach bound!

I Blog, Therefore I Am

Just some thoughts off the cuff this morning. Sometimes we get perceptions that aren't even close to true and what other people say about us starts to shape what we even think of ourselves. I was told in a comment during a very dark time about a week ago that my blog was the "whiniest" they had ever read. It made me feel a bit better to realize they had only had their blogger profile for 2 days - but nonetheless it was a mar to my image of self.
I pride myself on being a typically optimistic person while none of my life has been particularly rosy. I try to keep myself focused on the glass that is half full, and even harder not to lament that it is full of water when I really want coke and rum. Life is just what it is, and for better or worse we take it one day at a time.
Have I ever mentioned that I can't use that phrase without thinking of Valerie Bertinelli, and was greatly distressed the other day to hear that my husband had never seen this show that was an icon of my childhood. But I digress.....
I am an extrovert for the most part who is finding myself living more and more inside my head. I can't seem to connect with anyone lately including my family and find almost every human interaction exhausting. This is a scary place for me. I used to always be energized by the crowd, animated with stories, full of laughter. I think a large part of it is that I had a community of people who brought that out in me. Now I just want to figure out a way to work my way back to them, but I'm stuck.
I was watching a clip on Good Morning America this morning with Barbara Walters - evidently there is an interview where the tables are turned and she is the one being asked all the questions. Robin Roberts was asking her if there was any one question that she should have asked, but didn't, and Barbara said it was "what is the greatest misconception about you"? Her answer was that she was controlled - and she didn't bleed. I get that - sometimes I think that we hold things together so much that others think we haven't a care in the world. Often in my life I have been the one in the room laughing the loudest, but that doesn't mean I wasn't likely hurting the deepest.
I am a person, just like you, making it one day at a time. Some days I laugh, and some days I cry. There are times when I am doing more of one than the other. Some times I whine and other times I can pull myself up by my big girl panties and deal with it. Don't think for a minute that by reading this blog that you may really and truly know me. You may know me better than I know myself - but there is still much left to be searched out that only true relationship can find.

08 May 2008

Ebook Sales

I am not a salesperson, but I do want to point this out for those who may be interested. I just figured out how to use Lulu and sell my ebooks outside of listing them in another store. I have my three ebooks listed in my left sidebar. The planners are currently at half-price since we are almost halfway through the year! If you would like to take a better look, you can click on the cover of the book you want, and preview the first 10 pages or so.
Thanks for allowing me one brief commercial - we now return to our regularly schedule program.

07 May 2008

Who Do I Need to Beat Up?

Yesterday was one of those days. I hadn't fallen asleep the night before until 2 am, and my oldest, strong-willed child woke me up at 6:30 to ask and then harass me about something. It went over like a lead-balloon, but nonetheless, once I was awake, I was awake. The weather was dreary, rainy, icky. It was hardly daylight out, and it was one of those rains where you know it is going to rain all.day.long. After getting ready and hustling everyone out of the house, we headed down the road for the 35 minute ride in the direction of co-op, but we were going late because two of my kids had dentist appointments. We were almost there, in a torrential downpour, and my car started to feel like the highway was one giant slip and slide, and I was transported back to my chubby childhood, flat on my back and flying this way and that (typically with the wind knocked out of me first)! Scary. I had one tire that I knew was losing air slowly, so I crawled with my hazard lights on to the nearest gas station. I had to get out in the driving rain to put air in the tire which registered very low on the air gauge. The dentist appointments didn't even start until the time at which I was expecting them to be over, leaving me scrambling to cover some co-op commitments. When I did finally get there, I was informed that I hadn't had my picture taken for the yearbook yet, and was ushered to stand on an X in front of a blue sheet of paper without even the chance to brush my hair which now looked like someone who had been using crack for an extended period of time. Lovely.
There were however, two bright spots in this dreary day. One of the ladies from co-op saw me struggling along the side of the road, and called to see if I was alright. How sweet! Then later in the morning, I came around the corner and sighed, a way my body often has to force my stupid self to breathe when I am anxious and forget. One of the teenage boys at co-op, noticing I looked a bit overwhelmed said, "Alright, who do I need to beat up?" It was such a silly, simple, testosterone filled thing to ask, and yet it really lifted my spirits. Everybody appreciates an advocate, someone on their side, watching their back. These two simple things turned my day around.
Who do I need to beat up?!
Nobody - but thanks for asking!

05 May 2008

The Duck Chlorinator

When I was in elementary school, my parents moved my brother and I who were both asthmatic and severely allergic to everything to southern Florida. They bought a house with a pool. I can remember my very first experience with that pool and swimming was my dad throwing me out into the middle of the deep end. I guess he thought I would instinctively start to swim like a dog. I didn't. I sunk like.a.rock. This has painted an interesting picture of my life. I am always hitting deep water with no real idea what to do once I get in there, and have to figure out the hard way how to keep from sinking.
This wasn't exactly where this post started.
What I was really thinking about was the duck. After my brother and I learned to swim, there was always a third party in the pool with us - this little plastic duck that floated around with chlorine tablets in the bottom of it. I remember Rob and I would play with it, tipping its beak down and watch it pop back up again, righting itself every single time. Usually about the time we were really having fun, my mom would stick her head out the screen door and yell, "Leave the g*dd*mn duck alone!" which was about all the religion I had growing up.
The thing is that recently I have been thinking about some things, discussing things, reading books about things that are outside of casual Christian thinking - things like the feminine attributes of God, is there a literal hell, does God really approve of war, or would God really send someone to hell that had never heard the gospel??? I have found that I make a lot of people uncomfortable, even when I am opening the topics up for discussion, having formed no real conclusion one way or the other, but wanting to just toss it about a bit with other thoughtful human beings. My husband was one of the fallout victims today. I could see that the topic at hand freaked.him.out completely.
The thing is that inside of that little duck that floated around our pool when I was a kid, there was something inside that always set things upright. No matter how that duck got tipped, pounded in a heavy rain, buffeted by winds, it always floated right side up.
I used to be scared of some of the things I have been thinking about lately as well, but now I'm more scared of pat answers, 12 step plans, and the formulaic approach to spiritual matters. I don't have to be afraid of probing the hard questions. I pray for discernment, and I know that just like our chlorine duck, there is something inside of me that always sets me right side up again - His name is Jesus.

04 May 2008

Two Minute Movie Reviews

Taking a little tip from Josh Brown, I thought I would share some brief reviews of some recent views.

Iron Man - (Robert Downy Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow) Travis and I took Kullen to see the much anticipated Iron Man at the theater yesterday. Just to prove that we only paid $4.50 to get in on opening weekend, I am sharing a picture of our tickets! The movie was awesome. I was worried that he was so excited that it would be a letdown, as is typically the case. All three of us really loved it, so much that we're planning on seeing it again while it is playing at the dollar theater. The movie is about a genius weapons engineer and heir who is taken hostage and sees the destruction he has helped to create and has a change of heart. At the beginning of the movie he says, "peace means having a bigger stick than the next guy" but by the end he is a much changed man. We will definitely see this one again, and definitely want to own this one. At 2:46 minutes long, we didn't even notice the passage of time.

The King of California - (Michael Douglas) I watched this on video this afternoon with the girls. It is the story of a girl who lives with a mentally ill father, and all the ups and downs that entails. Her life is spent surviving his, and his current delusion which happens to be that he believes there is a ancient Spanish treasure buried beneath his neighborhood. This is from the Sundance film festival. It was quirky, but a good story.

The Ruins - I saw this in the theater with my kids. Hated it. Just a gore fest from beginning to end. There was a shred of a story behind a lot of blood and gore as five college students on spring break set out to explore an ancient Mayan burial ground. The best line of the whole movie was when one of the guys said, "We're Americans. This can't happen to us!" Really?

27 Dresses - Typical chick flick. The reluctant bridesmaid finally becomes a bride. Didn't feel like it was a waste of time to watch, but it wasn't memorable either. It just blends in with the streaming consciousness of chick-flicks in my mind.

Dan in Real Life - I loved this movie. It was a story of a widowed father who puts up with a family who is always trying to fix his life, when they are the most dysfunctional of all. He meets his brother's new girlfriend in a bookstore and without knowing who the other is they find themselves in a comedy of realistic family interactions and conflicts that result from the awkward situation.

Charlie Wilson's War - Sorry to say I hated it. I have never hated a Tom Hanks movie. The only thing I really remember about it is the name Lufkin - my husband's hometown. There may have been a great story there, and in all fairness I think I was too tired when I watched it. My husband on the other hand thought it was a great movie after you get past the first five to ten minutes of bare bodies.

Down With Love - You can barely go wrong with a movie that has both Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger. This movie was evidently out in 2003, but I had never heard of it until a friend sent it home from work with Kendra and said we had to watch it. Set in the 60s, Zellweger's character, female author Barbara Novak writes a book for women to teach them how to view sex and relationships like men, titled Down With Love. The book becomes a sensation, and has some unexpected consequences for both Ms. Novak and McGregor's male lead, skirt-chasing journalist, Catcher Block.

So, how does she find the time to watch all these movies?? I love stories. I love movies. Watching 20 bad ones is worth it to find that one that stays with you, and helps you learn more about live, be a better person, and gives you laughs and tears along the way. I am an aspiring screenwriter. I also do this for research. You will often see me reading the screenplay while I am watching a movie which helps me learn the craft. I watch movies because not watching movies is not an option.

BTW - for anyone wanting to know - April turned into a horrible month for me - but I am persevering with the script I started for Script Frenzy. It will be finished soon!

03 May 2008

Streams of Consciousness

This morning I woke up around 6:30 and was suddenly aware of all the things that run through my mind that worry me. My dog needs a rabies shot and heartworm medicine. We need to get new state stickers for my car before it expires at the end of the month, and get one for Travis as well as pay the ticket he got for his expired sticker. I have to talk to the mortgage company about an escrow account they want to set up for our homeowner's insurance that we already have. The kids have dental appointments and two will need braces, Kullen worse than Kaitlyn. Travis heard of a job that would be better pay working as a welder and we need to check on that. My trip to West Virginia is looming and seems to be getting further away instead of closer. Some of our outdoor cats are losing their fur in patches. The list goes on and on and it swirls around in my head evidently even as I'm sleeping, which further handicaps my ability to handle the burdens the next day.
I know that the Bible says to "cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you". I know that these things are temporary worries, but that as each of them is crossed off the list, new things will take their place. I am weary of the world and the worries and the burdens. I am discouraged. I know that just about everyone has their own list of things like this, but this does not alleviate the load, it only lets me know that I am not on this road alone.
Lord, this is such a weary road. I need a little supernatural infusion of mental clarity, physical energy and maybe a little spiritual pack mule to carry the weight of this load.

02 May 2008

Enmity to the Max

Sorry to mix Biblical phraseology with a "valley girl-ism" from the 80s but it seemed a fitting title. On a hike today with some friends, we had gotten off the boardwalk that is built up about 1 foot off of the ground into a field of these awesome pitcher plants when Kullen yelled "Snake!" Indeed it was a snake - and not just any snake, but a poisonous coral snake. It only took a second to assess that it wasn't "red touching black, a friend of Jack"! We watched it for a long time. It was quite beautiful the way it slinked along the ground, but the moms were pretty worried that the kids in their excited viewing would fall and get to see the snake up close and personal. I took this picture form my cell phone! Ew - it makes my skin crawl. I wasn't spared any of that "enmity between your offspring and her offspring" thing that God said to the snake in the Garden of Eden. Enmity to the max!

01 May 2008

Prince Caspian Book and Movie

We can't wait for this movie:

CS Lewis means so much to me. I fell in love with his lionheart and endearing theology when I was introduced to him by some friends in a book discussion group years ago. I feel that I would be doing my children a terrible disservice if we see the Prince Caspian movie before we read the book.

We have not read all of the Chronicles of Narnia series. I enjoyed the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with the kids about six years ago when Kendra was in a summer production of it at the Old Opera House. A few years later I read the Magician's Nephew with Kullen and liked it. When I started the second book, neither of us could immerse ourselves fully in the story and we gave up less than halfway through. We started the Prince Caspian book tonight and none of us wanted to stop. Sadly my voice, husky with asthma and allergies gave out long before our interest in the story did. I am admittedly not a fantasy reader either, and I was hooked.

I challenge you to read it by yourself or with your kids, and celebrate by going to see it on opening day, May 16th!

Six Word Memoir - Part Deux

I saw this on another friend's blog a few months ago and found it fascinating. I had a couple then - but it is interesting how this can grow and change. (Check out that link - there's even a video!) Today, Gayle tagged me on her blog so I figured I could do another one for this season of my life:
Orbiting somewhere just outside my sanity.

Here are the rules:

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words.
2. Post it on your blog.
3. Link to the person that tagged you.
4. Tag five more blogs.

My tags:

Stephanie because I can't wait to hear what she has to say!

Donna cause she's a new blogger and will probably enjoy this!

Tina H. my loving every minute of it, in the trenches, unschooling mom of teens!

Cynthia cause we're kindred spirits, and when I grow up I want dreadlocks just like hers!

And you! Come out, come out wherever you are, and write your life story in six words or less!

Be sure to link here so I can check it out.

Laundry Detergent

The detergent I made last week has been working well. Our clothes - even the dirtier ones have been coming out clean. I still miss the smell of detergent and fabric softener but I am working on that. I wanted to show you what it looks like, s sort of gel-ish substance that does look a lot like egg-drop soup. No complaints thus far. Let me know if you try it - and how you might tweak it.