Monday, August 17, 2015

Flexible Flyer

Flexible Flyer was the name of a sled I once had.  It came to mind as I gave a new-to-homeschooling mom my standard advice: "Be flexible."  Flexibility is the beauty of homeschooling.  Someone else asked me about homeschooling yesterday--when we start and finish--and I said, "Everyone is different."  How nice is that?  Whatever works, and that can change as needed.

Rigidity is probably the worst thing for our homeschool.  I've even seen "unschoolers" who can become rigid in their unschooling.  In my mind, it is more "free" to be able to impose structure, when necessary, than to be so dedicated to being "radical" that you can't do something different.  Any ideology can become paralyzing, if you let it.

I don't homeschool to fit within a group or philosophy.  I do it for many reasons, but mainly because I love being with my kids, meeting them where they're at, and going from there.  I'll admit there are times when it's hard--when we disagree.  Then I have to decide if we are going in the wrong direction or not.  I have tossed out many lesson plans and curricula over the years.  We have also had our "buckle down" times, feeling greatly accomplished when we get through it.  It is truly a "one day at a time" thing.

And while we're on 12-step slogans, let's not forget this one: ego = "edging God out."  If I am not careful it is extremely easy to do this.  Homeschooling, like anything else in life, is a situation where God is present.  There are wonderful moments when a new bird comes into the yard, or we discover something unexpectedly.  Sometimes things just fall into place and we get sidetracked, learning all the lyrics to the "Erie Canal" song.  That is the "flying" part in my Flexible Flyer analogy. That is homeschooling at its best.  But it won't happen if I don't let it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What I've been up to lately

We were at my mother-in-law's briefly this weekend.  She had a lot of old photos out, as she often does.  As I skimmed through a pile of familiar faces, I ran across a couple not-so-familiar.  It was Ron and me when we were very young, in our early twenties.  At first I almost didn't recognize us. 

I had never before seen this photo of the two of us.  We had bright eyes, whitish teeth, red lips, dark hair.  We looked happy.  Seeing those young, fresh, colorful versions of us really took me aback.  It has been a long thirty years since then.

It pricked my conscience, seeing Ron so full of life, and looking quite handsome.  Lately he has been pretty sapped.  We both have.  Like the couple in that picture, we still have the deep-down desire sometimes to do something crazy.  But our latest attempt hasn't panned out. And unlike the young us, we feel that we are running out of time.

Marriage is ironic because you join your life with someone you want to spend most of your time with.  Then you both go off in your separate directions and spend most of your time apart, because of work.  I wrote about this a long time ago, saying how I wished that Ron and I could work together.

Well, recently we decided to try something different.  We thought maybe we could be houseparents for needy children.  We even thought maybe God wanted us to do that.  We could do it as a family.  We could serve God and serve others and work together.  It seemed like a wonderful idea.

So we visited some children's homes.  We filled out applications, went on interviews, traveled to four states, met a lot of good people, and saw a whole new world.  We really wanted to do it.  But it turned out the only place we wanted to go, we could not.  And that was extremely hard. 

So now I'm thinking about Ron and me, and how I can be a better wife and mother, serve God and serve others, and do the best I can here.  But we still have to slog through this disappointment.  And I don't like feeling this way.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fish Boil

In our last house, we lived next door to a big funny man in his sixties, Hal Gunderson, and his sweet wife, Jane.  They were of Swedish descent, like many people who lived in the town of Geneva.  I might have guessed by their appearance, but the real reason I knew was that they had a "Parking for Swedes Only" sign next to their driveway.

Hal had a scruffy looking patchy old dog named Lady who would straggle along after him most of the time.  Whenever you'd run into the two of them outside Hal would shout, "Say hello, Lady!"  And I would think he was telling me to say hi to his dog.  I finally figured out he was trying to get his dog to let out a tired bark.  Once in a while she did.

Mr. Gunderson and his wife had a few traditions they liked to keep.  They would have all their grown children and grandchildren over each Saturday morning and Hal would make pancakes.  That was nice.  Also, he and Jane and sometimes another couple would every so often drive up to somewhere in Wisconsin for a fish boil.  Hal described the event to us at least a couple of times--with images of a giant outdoor cauldron boiling over and how delicious it was. 

To me, a "fish boil" just didn't sound that appealing.  Especially since in my stepmom's family there were Floridians, fishermen, who lived in the Keys.  We had been down there a few times when I was a teen and had pigged out many times on fresh deep-fried grouper, along with corn fritters and syrup.  Now that was living!

Several years ago we moved away from our house in Geneva and the Gundersons, though they came out here once to see us.  They were good neighbors.  I have never forgotten them, and I guess I never forgot about that fish boil either.   Hal had described the process in detail, and one day I decided to try it.  I went online and found the basic instructions.  Though we did it on a small scale indoors, it worked well.  It really was, as Hal had said, delicious.

I will say, if you are going to cook fish in your house, it is going to smell bad.  I don't care how you do it.  It is extremely weird to me that it can smell bad cooking but then taste really good.  But, it does.  (Unless it is just bad fish and I do not know about that as we only get good fish.)

So when Hal had described the fish boil, it didn't sound good, and when I cooked it, it didn't smell good, and really, boiled fish--all white, with white-ish potatoes and onions doesn't even look good.  But then you eat it, and it tastes good. So, things aren't always what they seem; but sometimes they are (like if you have bad fish).