Friday, April 18, 2014

Homeschooling is better than a poke in the eye.

When we first began to homeschool I was so motivated, so excited--so young.  I guess I had to be pretty driven to even get started with homeschooling.  To find out about it I had to go to the library and seek out an old article I had once seen in the Tribune on microfiche.  We had no internet then.  And homeschoolers were not so common. 

We were broke in those days. I used to make my own worksheets.  I mean I wrote them out by hand --no copy machine, no computer even.  I can recall hand-drawing enlarged pictures of ants, copied from a library book, with lines pointing to their various body parts, connected to blanks for the kids to fill in. 

We went on nature walks, collected leaves, pressed them in waxed paper--all that good stuff.  We did "hands-on" learning, made sugar-cube castles, mobiles, staged plays, took lots of field trips.  We went to hippie-homeschool conventions and camp-outs...  Those were our pre-Christian homeschooler days.  Our comrades were unschoolers and all sorts of creative types with widely varied approaches.  By and large that group was pretty laid-back, and a lot of fun. 

How did we even get into homeschooling?  Well, we had managed to buy our first house in a pretty bad neighborhood, and the school was kind of rough, I mean, it was an elementary school. My oldest son went through kindergarten there and had a pretty good teacher (although I got called many days to come get him because he had "headaches," which I think were from boredom).

But the next year that teacher left, and my second son got the new young teacher, who had no patience for little kids.  And all the cool stuff--the artwork, rice table, books, puzzles, colorful learning stations that my oldest son had enjoyed--had all gone with the old teacher.  The room seriously looked like the Whos' house after the Grinch had stolen Christmas.  Like with a wire hanging from a nail on the bare wall.  And it was gray.

There was also the first day of school that year, when I looked at my little first-grade son, and he was SO small...and it just freaked me out that he was going to have to sit at a desk all a little man going off to work...and he was just SO young.  And then my second son going too, my baby, to that dismal place, leaving me...alone.  I felt like the government was stealing my children.  And after I dropped them off I went home, sat on my couch, and cried.

I had other reasons for pulling them out.  For one thing, there wasn't even any playground equipment at the school.  At least we had a swingset.  Also, my oldest son's headaches and boredom continued.  I was sure my younger son had very high intelligence but his teacher just noticed that he was "not very good with scissors," which turned out rather ironically if you know my Tim.

Anyway, there was no use trying to get them into a private school--they were all booked up.  So, off to the library I went, and the journey began--which was supposed to be a temporary solution, by the way.  We put our house on the market 11 months after moving in, not appreciating the bullets and stray dogs bouncing around the neighborhood.  Not to mention the robberies, prostitution, murders... Let's just say we bought an education.  But the plan was to homeschool until we got out of there and moved to a "decent" neighborhood.

Well, you know how that goes... It took us 2 1/2 years to sell and by that time we were so into homeschooling that we could never go back.  Both of my oldest sons homeschooled through highschool, have graduated college, and are off living their lives.  I wouldn't trade one second I had with them. 

My husband and I became Christians in 1995, and decided that we had made a mistake not having more kids.  So, it took a while, but here we are twenty-three years later (after starting homeschooling) and I have a fifth-grader and another first-grader.  The only school they've ever known is at home.  I started out this post feeling really burnt-out and old and tired.  But remembering all that has made me glad.  It's all worth it in the end.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Carpetman

 The Carpetman

T'was a friend of a friend
that once we had hired,
to replace some old carpet
which was greatly expired.

He did a good job
and he did it real fast
so we never forgot him,
though many years passed.

When we found once again
the need to replace
some tattered old carpet
which had no more face,

We called for this man,
so skilled at his craft,
and hired him again
to tackle the task.

But soon we would learn
how times had changed,
as our good carpet man
had grown very strange.

He took our down payment,
Well, I payed him in full,
remembering him worthy
and so on-the-ball.

So he took all that money
to buy carpet we'd dug, 
but when he came back
he brought the wrong rug!

"So sorry," he said,
"But it can't be returned--
you'll just have to take it."
Then we knew we'd been burned.

The stuff was inferior,
not at all what we'd picked,
but now what to do with it
since we were sticked.

We came up with a plan
that was better than none,
and gave that new carpet
away to someone

Whose basement had flooded
and cost them a lot
so at least we could help a wee bit
in their spot.

Then off to Menard's
we went to procure
some carpet we liked
and of which we'd be sure.

The Carpetman came
and installed the new stuff
although we'd paid double
we were happy enough.

The stuff looked so good
we decided to do
the hall and the stairs
with the same carpet too.

Being not-too-bright,
we asked for a quote
on installing the rest.
"Hey," said the bloke,

"I owe you guys one
so I'll do it for free,
you buy the carpet
and then just call me."

So back to Menard's
and another truck rental--
by now you can see
how we're just kind of mental.

Of course Carpetman
would never show up,
for months now
the carpet rolls gathering dust

Wait in vain here and there
for the guy to arrive
something always comes up
as we enter month five.

'Tis very sad
how he's strung us along
but my consolation
is writing this song.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thanksgiving in June

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.--Psalm 37:4

Once in a while I have a secret deep-down desire for something good.  However, what is "good" in my mind isn't always what is best.  Sometimes I ask God for whatever it is, not always.  But He knows.

Three things I wanted to do for a very long time were:

1. Play the piano.  This has not happened much for many reasons, but I do play a little.

2. Visit old people, which is problematic because of extreme shyness. 

3. Sing with people,  especially hymns. For a while I was in a church choir, which I LOVED. But we moved. 

However, the church we now call home has a monthly hymn sing at a nearby retirement community. What a fun and non-threatening way for me to get to do #2 and #3!  

Then, a while ago the piano player was not able to make it anymore, so I decided to try filling in (they let me.)  Enter #1.  Though a bit shaky at first (being my first real gig) I'm pretty comfortable now.  Anyway, you could hardly have a more forgiving group than Grandmas & Grandpas!  

The hymn sings are awesome, because of the old people.  I really love seeing them, worshiping and praying with them. As the accompanist I get to pick the hymns each month, so I ask the residents for requests.  They have taught me wonderful new songs that also show me more about their faith.  

But that's not all.

It has been my desire to spend more time with these folks than just an hour every month...but, how to do it...

Then one evening I was out for coffee with my friend, Joanne.  She said that she and a few others from her church meet on Sunday mornings for early worship at the same senior center!  We compared notes and found that we knew some of the same residents.  She said my family was welcome to come too.

The service is early enough for us to go to and still make it to our regular church. We love it, and have met more precious people. 

I am so thankful for all these things, but even more, that God has revealed his kindness to me through the secret desires of my heart.  It is unimaginable to be loved as much as we are by God.  

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together--Isa.40:5a

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just Stating the Obvious


...your Father knows what you need before you ask him.--Matt.6:8b

Recently I didn't get something I wanted.  At the time I was sure I wanted God's will more than my own--I wanted Him to guide the decision.  It seemed He did, and basically the answer was, "no."  I was okay with it, at first. 

However, as weeks have passed by, and I have been living with the results of this decision, doubts have crept in.  And the thing I wanted has been popping into my head increasingly, nagging at me that I made the wrong decision.  There is no chance of changing the circumstances now.  The thing is gone.  I definitely can't have it.  So why do I even think about it anymore?

It seems the more we have, the more we have to fret about.  I never used to worry about losing everything, because we had nothing.  And we had about the same amount of "happiness" that we have now.  I used to want things that I now have, and now that I have them I worry about them and maintaining them. 

I don't want to be foolhardy.  We have children who are depending upon us to care for them.  But honestly, sometimes I don't even know what that means anymore.  Would what I wanted have been good or bad for them?  Surely God knows better than I do.

This morning, thankfully, I finally realized that there was no way it was God harassing me about that thing I had wanted. Hmm, then, I wonder who it was?  With that recognition, the thoughts seemed to vanish like a mist.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.--1 Pet. 5:7 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gardening tips

                                                      the ugly tree

                                        we have a tree we bought a time
                                        when on the lot the trees were few
                                        'twas sparse and craggy for its size
                                        and age as though 'twere old, not new

                                        not cute nor sweet in any way
                                        nor promised future grander bough

                                        from hook-like stubby clawing stalks
                                        that grasped a flapping leaf or two

                                        why e'er we bought it i'll not say
                                        so often we bemoan the lapse

                                        and how the beastie will not die
                                        but only leans in feigned collapse

                                        altho' an ice storm hit the thing
                                        'twas only strengthened in its will

                                        much more unsightly to become
                                        and grow more asymmetrical

                                        with ropes to close the gaping holes
                                         i pulled the splaying branches in

                                         essaying to affect a shape
                                         less spider-like and more sanguine

                                         alas the day we planted it
                                         grim future we could not foresee

                                         and now years hence i sound the cry:
                                         ye best not pick a forlorn tree.



Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I really enjoy cutting the grass.  A large part of this is having a great lawnmower.  Maybe not everyone would consider mine a good one, but it is just right for me.  I love my little red mower.  It is not fancy at all.  It was cheap when we bought it, about $100 almost 20 years ago. I believe we got it at K-Mart.  It has a 3.5 HP Tecumseh engine, whatever that means.

Little Red almost always starts on the first pull.  She's lightweight enough to maneuver easily around all the twists and turns of flower beds and other plantings in our yard.  I don't use a weed whacker so I have to get up and around things, like the swingset and gutter extensions, pretty close.  Her wheels have become somewhat floppy over the years, which actually helps to navigate these challenges.  Her handle has broken through a couple times and is held together by metal slats bolted on each side.  The loop which once held the pull cord up to the side bar is gone so I have to stretch a bit to grab it, which I don't mind, kind of like reaching down to give an old beloved dog a pat.

Recently a neighbor friend of ours was selling his mower, as he had bought a newer fancier one. Happy as I am with Little Red, I know she won't last forever.  Sometimes her wheels get so wobbly my husband can hardly do anything about it.  And she is getting old.  Knowing that our friend buys quality stuff and takes care of everything he owns, I decided to buy his machine to have as a back-up.

His mower, although replaced by a "better" one, is still pretty deluxe.  Large and yellow, with huge tires that do not falter at all, it is quite heavy and goes forward only in straight lines.  It is a behemoth of immense power and multiple features, such as a mulching option, choke knob, and probably a bunch of other things I don't know about. I tried out Big Yellow a time or to, and it was not my favorite.  He was to reside in the shed, on furlough, until further notice. 

Meanwhile, I continued chugging along happily with Little Red.  I felt kind of guilty as our neighbor would probably see me still using what he most likely considered my old junky mower.  He might be wondering why I was rejecting his super monster...  And then we started getting rid of stuff. We go on these purges once in a while, and I thought, "It's kind of dumb having two lawnmowers.  Maybe it's time to  give Big Yellow another try."  So I did, and I did not like it.  I even said to Ron, "If I had to use this thing I would hate mowing the lawn."  So back it went into hibernation.

I resolved to use Little Red til whenever she finally died.  One day I needed her wheels adjusted to a better height.  But when Ron was done with that she wouldn't start.  I let her rest a long time, several times--still no luck.  I decided to pull out Big Yellow as I needed to get the job done.  It was a lot of work.  I started to think about how, if it had to be, if the time had finally come, at least I would be building a lot of muscle using that beast.  It was a hot day and the extra exertion caused me to stop for a drink.  When I came back Big Yellow wouldn't start.

Pretty soon I was out there cursing under my breath as neither one of them would start and I needed to finish up.  Finally I called Ron for help.  He came out and discovered that Little Red's spark plug wire had come loose.  He popped it back on and BAM--she started right up on the first pull.  Boy, she felt light as a feather!  Big Y went back up the makeshift plywood ramp we had built for His Bulkiness.  I was back in the saddle, well, not really as they are both push mowers. But seriously, there is nothing wrong with Big Yellow, per se. It is a man's mower.  I am not a man.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter

Ron & I have pretty much had children between us the entirety of our marriage.  Finding someone to watch the kids can be a problem, and we have gone for long stretches without having any time out as a couple.  This is not good for anyone. Recently we found a sitter, so we have had a few dates.  Being a bit rusty, I prayed about the first one.  It turned out to be surprising and sweet. 

It was winter, and there was a good amount of fresh snowfall.  I had seen a on a friend's facebook some lovely woodland scenes she had posted from her morning trek that day.  I thought we should follow her lead and take a walk along the same path near our home.  The white blanketed trees sparkled in the stinging air.  The crunching of our feet was fresh to hear against the quiet, not having kids along to yammer and make noise the whole time.  It was enjoyable, but COLD.  My friend's photos had failed to capture the wind chill, and though we were glad we had tried it, we made it brief.

Deliberating on our next destination, as we were driving, we saw signs for an art show.  I love to look at artwork, especially without the kids.  It turned out the exhibit was at the local high school.  We decided to check it out. Upon entering the building we found it was a district-wide affair.  They had everything from kindergarten classes and up, in all areas of fine arts.  It was really pretty cool.  As we wandered through the halls admiring the students' projects we came to a large, round, window-lit stairwell.  A group of about fifteen highschoolers, dressed in medieval costumes, stood along the wall and across against the railing, curving up the staircase. The young men and women, completely at ease with each other and their audience, began to sing.

The hallway filled with rich tones in Renaissant harmonies. They were really good. As they sang they smiled, and I knew they were enjoying the wit of the lyrics and the fun of singing together.  I was surprised by joy.  After hearing all the time about troubles with teenagers, here they were--a whole bunch of 'em--sweetly singing.  Their performance was flawless, provoking my emotions as music often does.  I tried to hold the tears back. I felt so blessed to be at this lovely concert, unexpected. I was overwhelmed.

It reminds me of a time, many years ago, when I visited a church.  I hadn't been to churches much in my life.  The building was pretty, not huge, but stone, with large stained glass windows.  It was a perfect spring morning, everything pale green, moist, first flowers in bloom. The air was sweet. Sunlight was streaming into the sanctuary. A flock of children came flowing in from the back, singing, as they came down the center aisle.  Their voices were so beautiful, like angels, I thought. I had spent so much time in the dirt, their song was like a healing balm that flooded my tired, broken soul with hope.

It was there that the pastor spoke about this parable that Jesus told:

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off."--Matt. 18:12-13         

It was like he was speaking directly to me, and at that time I desperately needed to hear it.     

Fast-forward back to my date with Ron:  After the art show we headed over to our favorite authentic Mexican restaurant.  I discovered that Mexicans make the most wonderful cinnamony coffee.  We had delicious avocado tostadas so gorgeously stacked they looked (and tasted) like birthday cakes.  I was completely refreshed.  The Lord always knows exactly what I need, when I need it.  He is the Good Shepherd.

Happy Easter.