Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Memories

Christmas decorating this year was a little different than usual. I was feeling a bit down because I had been out of commission for six weeks from my MS flare and was missing out on some activities that I have looked forward to all year. Las Posadas on the riverfront, singing in our church Christmas program, the homeschooling group field trips, my MOPS outings and even Black Friday shopping had all been canceled due to my limitations.

Watching my kids excitement at putting up the decorations really got me in the mood though. They gleefully and painstakingly rolled out all the strings of lights, plugged them in and exchanged burned out bulbs. They attached all 50+ branches on the tree and stayed up very late watching Hubby hang the lights up. Hanging the ornaments was icing on the cake for them.

They giggled with glee when they found the Veggie Tales ornament, argued over which colored ball to hang and awwww'd when they found their baby ornaments. Near the end, I heard 6yrRose say, “Do I really have to hang this hideous one?” 4yrJade agreed, “Yeah, it's hideous.” 9yrMatthew said, “Just hang it in the back.” Rose, pondering this for a moment said, “I don't want to hang this hideous one. Mom, do I have to hang this hideous bear?”

As I turned toward her, I noticed that hanging from her hand was an ornament given to me, I think, by Darlene and Grandpa. It is a cute bear making an ice sculpture of a snowman. But one of the bear's arms is missing and I assume that is the reason why it has been named “hideous bear”. I looked at the date on it: 1981. This ornament is almost 30 years old! My thoughts wandered to Christmas at Grandpas house. The crackling fireplace, the laughter of our family, the excitement of the season, the long drive there and the short drive home, listening to card games, begging Mom to stay “just a little bit longer”, the fluffy green sleeping bags of Grandpas, the play room upstairs that wasn't heated, Barbies, playing hide and seek and, of course, all the delicious food.

My eyes wandered down our tree to another ornament. A Klingon Bird of Prey. It was the first ornament I gave Hubby after we married in 1994 and again my thoughts drifted to the past. Our first arguments, the little apartment we started out in, my first office job, playing card games with friends, sharing our one older-than-dirt car for several years, our first house, the dreams we had about what life would be like down the road, staying up all night to play Myst through the New Year, going on a Canadian fishing trip with Hubby's family.

As I looked around, my eye caught Matthew's baby ornament, 2000. Motherhood was nothing like I had anticipated and those memories flooded back as well. Hyperemesis while I was pregnant, his exciting birth, moments of worry while they took him down the hall for oxygen. All the time I spent holding him for hours and hours, the frustration of trying to determine why he was crying “this” time, the joy of finding that he liked the exersaucer and I could actually put him down for a while. The seclusion I felt that first year after quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home-mom. Joining La Leche League and gaining mommy friends. I grew a lot as a person that first year of motherhood.

As I looked at each of the kids baby ornaments, I was flooded with all their memories as well. Rose's long labor, my amazement at how easy an “easy baby” could be. I grimaced as I remembered when Rose dropped newborn Jade on the floor and it sounded like an egg cracking. The jaundice we fought with all of them, my MS diagnosis when Jade was 6 months old, dealing with gestational diabetes and gallbladder disease, worrying through 2yrLinnae's pregnancy that I wasn't on medication for MS and what if I had problems after she was born, and all of Linnae's ER trips (splitting her toe open, fever seizures and most recently, the allergic reaction to nuts).

My eyes had made their way down the tree and now focused on the empty tree skirt. It looks so bare without presents. I can still vividly remember Matthew's reaction the year he got his Veggie Tales Larry-Mobile. He screamed in delight, cried and ran out of the room in a dramatic flare. The same reaction was true for the Buzz Lightyear “armie-grabber” and the Bionicle Takanuva. My girls, on the other hand, haven't ever had that one item that they just HAD to have. They make a list and seem happy with whatever they get. I think they take after me.

Though Mom may recall differently, I can't remember ever focusing on one particular gift that I was hoping for under the tree. Sure there was always a new Amy Grant tape that I wanted but I never remember feeling disappointed that I didn't get that “one thing”. I do, however, remember many gifts that hold a special place in my heart. My stereo, guitar (though I think that was a birthday gift?), boombox, a little Styrofoam airplane that had “Phoenix” written on it, my K-9 figure, a beautiful sandcastle, necklaces with my name or initial on them, and a big brown stuffed bear.

But my most prized gift from childhood is definitely my
Sesame Street blanket.

Though it's threadbare in the most literal sense, it is still the perfect weight and feel that a blanket should be. I've tried many times to mimic similar blankets for my kids (and myself) and just can't make them feel as good as that one. Warm but not hot, smooth but not silky, functional but fun. I bring it out from time to time to show my kids but Sesame Street has changed so much since the 70's that it doesn't hold my kids attention in the slightest and they spend the time asking me the characters names instead of admiring this amazing thing my mom made for me. When I look at it, I think about how many long hours Mom must have spent during nap time at the day school working on each delicate stitch. How she must have worried like crazy that she wouldn't get all our blankets finished on time that year! I imagine her back hurting from being hunched over in those metal chairs, trying to see the lines under the soft nap time lights. It stirs something in me to put myself in her shoes. As a mom, it's easy now to imagine the effort she put into the blanket. But I wonder if she can put herself in my shoes. She can't possibly imagine how comforting that blanket was to me. It was always there. Always a reminder of how much she loved me. It was there when I was burning up with fever, there when I had my first heartbreak. It was there to make a tent over the heat register after playing in the snow and there to make forts and tunnels with our chairs. I wasn't “sick” until Mom brought my blanket to the couch and made me lie down. Even as a teenager, I still sought out that blanket when I was sick.

I'm surprised to find myself grateful that I've been forced to slow down this year and reflect on Christmas Past as my thoughts keep wandering down our tree...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Yes, I said the P word.

When I think of politics, I remember nasty fights my father's family would get into every Thanksgiving and Christmas over the political weather. They were each very vocal in their beliefs and they had opposite beliefs. Not a good mix for this timid young girl. I hated listening to them argue and yell and vowed to stay away from politics.

In fact, I remember that my first big fight with my husband (while we were still dating) was over politics. Not who I voted for but the fact that I wouldn't discuss it with him. I didn't even want to tell him *why* I voted for who I voted for because I knew he voted for the other guy and I was expecting a big fight like I'd seen as a young girl.

So I've stayed out of it. I'll be views have drastically changed since we got married (all of my own accord, I assure you) and since we now agreed, it seemed a little safer to discuss. But still, I didn't want to get him going. What could my one little vote do? Vote and live with whatever the majority wanted.

Until now. This last year has opened the eyes of many Moms all across America, including me. I think we've decided that the spending of the last 5 years is totally out of control and this is going to have a major effect on our kids lives. And as a mom, you don't mess with our kids!! I feel the urge, as many moms have recently, to actually get involved and do something about it.

I now find myself watching political talk shows and listening to political talk radio. I find myself wanting to head to DC in an effort to make my points heard. And I find myself wanting to really show my kids what this country was founded on and the original beliefs of our government. I believe it's important to teach them so they can know the truth.

So I've decided to get a little Charlotte Mason-y on you. We're going to read through history. Good living books like The Sign of the Beaver and Little House and The Call of the Wild and Little Women. Books that enable us to dip right into that time in history and learn about life.

We're starting with The Birchbark House, a story about a Native American Ojibwa girl in 1847. We've read two chapters and have already discussed smallpox, Native American religious beliefs, building materials for homes, language differences, and the uses and preparation of animals (food, clothing, tools, etc). They often interrupt the story to discuss a new idea to think about, which is a little distracting to me but I've learned this is how they like to read and I can go with the flow. :) We're thinking of building a tepee (because we can't rip birch bark off a tree anywhere near here).

I'll keep you updated on our reading list and might add the list in the sidebar too.

Monday, October 05, 2009


The kids have enjoyed studying animals all summer around here. They've focused on insects but we've also studied squirrels, dogs, rabbits and turkeys. Yes, turkeys. Though we live in a suburb of a very large city, we have a gang of wild turkeys who have chosen a home nearby. We pass by them nearly every day at some point. I'll try to snap some pictures for you but I'm usually driving so we'll see what I can get safely. ;) Maybe we need to take a walk up there and hunt for them.

But they want more info now. Like, what actually makes birds fly? And are squirrels and woodchucks related?

So I found a series of books that we are really enjoying. It's a series by Jeannie Fulbright and called Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. It is written for grades K-6 (but I'm learning things and not feeling 'talked down' to!). We go over the subject matter, I find out what they absorbed and we move on. I can see these books as great reference materials and books that we do several times in the years to come, learning more each time around as our interests grow. Jeannie has two more books in the zoology series on land animals and swimming creatures. She also has books on biology, chemistry, botany, astronomy, etc. It's a great series and we're having fun with it.

So what does enable birds to fly? Is it the amount of force they exert on the air? No, it's lift. The neat experiment we did was this:
1. fill a cup with water and put a straw in it
2. take another straw and blow across the top of the first straw (in the fashion of blowing across the top of a glass soda bottle to make a sound)
What happens? Try it and see. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

During our station break...

I know, I promised to try harder. But honestly, blogging just hasn't been in me this summer. **However**, I DO love fall...and the crisp cool weather makes me want to start all kinds of projects and get frisky! So I'm sure the blogging is coming soon!

Meanwhile, I give these few humorous links for your entertainment since I, in all my glorious unschooling, just don't want to right now. :-P And because I'm an unschooler, that means that I don't have to. :) Be back soon!


The Bitter Homeschoolers Wishlist

Confessions of a home-schooler

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A New School Year

Well, at least for my friends.

Many people ask me this time of year if we've started our school year yet. The truth is, we don't really have an ending so we don't really have a beginning either. Our learning never stops. And honestly, schooled kids are no different - I just think we look at learning from different points of view.

However, we have been doing a little more ebbing than flowing lately so last night, I asked the kids if there was anything they'd like to learn more about. They were quick with answers.

6yrDD: Animals!
me: What about animals?

6yrDD: Everything!! And weather!
me: Ok, we can work on that.
8yrDS: Mom, I want to learn about atoms.
me: (eyebrow lifting) should talk to your father because you already know more about atoms than I do. We'll work on it.
I turned to the 4yr old: And what would you like to learn?
4yrDD: I want to know how to draw my letters. Like S and W.
me thinking: Hmm, it's nice when they ask you.

So I suppose a trip to the library is due.

6yrDD has found a game on Webkinz that allows you to create dialog for animated creatures in order to write your own story. She loves it! The interesting part is that it has a built-in spell checker and she has spent the morning asking me how to spell words. It led to a great discussion on contractions. And she told me that she needs to practice spelling words.

To a parent of a 6yr old schooled kid, you might think, "Ok, so my kid has spelling words every week too." The difference with unschooling is this: *she* told *me*. I didn't tell her. Therefore, the drive is within her. She wants to learn this and because she has the desire, she will be more motivated and will probably learn it in a shorter amount of time than most of her schooled peers.

"What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child." - George Bernard Shaw

Monday, July 13, 2009

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated

(That's a Twain quote)

Yes, we're still alive. My last post was in February! Dare I blame it on the nice weather? We've been so busy that I've not had time to post...well...that AND the fact that I found Facebook...and Farm Town. uugh. I'm ready for a new obsession...or maybe an old blogging one. ;)

The kids have VBS this week so I might not have a lot to write about but I will see you soon for sure!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Titanic Evening

I have a feast for your eyes. Our new church family offered something unique this year for Valentine's Day - a Titanic themed evening complete with a ten course dinner. As our anniversary is on the 12th of February, we usually double both events into one night out. But this year was our 15 year anniversary and we wanted to do something a little more unique. So when the Titanic evening was advertised, I jumped (so to speak).

Period dress was encouraged and I love a good reason to try out clothing from other time periods/stories/plays so I started on Tuesday for a costume that would be ready by Saturday.

On Tuesday, I purchased:
An ugly straw hat


And a shirt and dress from a thrift store. Coincidentally, if you ever need a quick costume, thrift stores are DEFINITELY the way to go!! It's dirt cheap and you don't mind hacking them to shreds.

This $4 dress was a burgundy velvet on top and a burgundy satin on the skirt

I quickly set my plans in motion. I separated the dress bottom from the top, intending only to use the skirt. I wanted to use the velvet to cover the hat but realized there wasn't enough material. I found some upholstery fabric I had, left-over from some burgundy couch pillows I'd made a few years ago and used that instead. Only one glue-gun burn away, and I was done with the hat.

I spent a couple days looking online to really get a feel of Edwardian dress style. And apparently, just about anything went. The day-time tea gowns had high empire waistlines, full length skirts and lace covered their skin to their necks. In the evenings, however, society ladies liked to show off their jewelry so they were allowed in the evening to wear low neck lines and pretty jewels. To borrow a phrase from Gone With The Wind, they weren't allowed to "show your bosom before three o'clock!"

There was also a high oriental influence going on in fashion at the time. Many dresses had a komono style flair to them. Many dresses used the bright yellows and reds and ornate decor to them. Some Edwardian dresses were very puffed out in front, reminding me of a proud hen (something I nixed right away). Women also wore suits of many different kinds (if you recall the boarding suit Rose wore in the movie).

In the end, I went with the oriental style influence. I had a black velvet komono style top and placed it on top of the shirt and skirt, complete with a black tie. If I'd had time, I would have searched for some dangling earrings but that was secondary.

I also happened to find a derby for Hubby and together, we made the costumes work pretty well:

On Saturday, we arrived at 6pm to the banquet hall. They had a photographer set up when we entered. I'll post that picture later! We were handed a 'boarding pass' and told not to open it until we were told. We made our way to the tables, which were decorated beautifully.

A string trio played old beautiful songs for us throughout dinner.

When we opened our boarding passes, we had been assigned to an actual passenger on the Titanic. We had their name and class. I was M. Dorothy Tupin, 2nd class. Hubby was Johan Asplund, 3rd class. I teased him that he was overdressed for 'steerage' and that I hope he enjoyed his last meal, because I wasn't going to mourn a lowly third class passenger when I was safely aboard the Carpathia.

You can see here what was served for the first class passengers at dinner. Note that it was common for them to have more like 20 courses at dinner!

Ours wasn't quite so grand but was indeed a great dinner:

We spent the evening wondering how we'd ever eat ten courses but it was all eaten, every last bite, and very tasty indeed.
Here were our ten courses:
1. appetizer course - deviled eggs, rye bread toast points with dill, rye bread toast points with dill, fresh red pepper and cucumber slices
2. soup course - vegetable marrow soup (we were so intrigued as to what vegetable marrow was that someone broke out their ipod and looked it up on wiki for us) This was wonderful soup!
3. fish course - slice of fish with sauce and pickle
Cabin biscuits (crackers) were passed around at this time
4. chicken course - chicken with carmelized onions on top and vegetable marrow slices, hollowed out and filled with a yummy rice/veggie mix.
5. main course - roast beef slices, garlic baby potatoes and peas
6. dessert course - sorbet
We were told that 2nd class and steerage would usually end their meal here and retire to a loud party below deck.
7. chicken course - chicken nugget with honey mustard sauce poured over the top, and two sweet pickles. This course seemed very cheaply done to me but the flavors worked really well together and you should try it sometime!
8. salad course (yes, they had their salads at the end of their meals)
9. dessert course - this was an apple, raisin, walnut spice cake of some type
10. coffee course

Around course 6, a lady and man, dressed in period costumes, got up to speak about their lives as passengers aboard the Titanic. The woman was a 1st class lady who survived and was so worried about society's view of her that she spent the rest of her life trying to be perfect and never really mourning her husband. The man who spoke was Richard Norris Williams, a rising tennis star, who was traveling to the US to play matches because he'd beat everyone in England already. When the ship sank, he clung to a half deflated life raft and only 11 of the 30 on the raft survived. Aboard the Carpathia, the doctor wanted to amputate both of his legs because of the damage to them.
He refused and returned to Europe, aboard the France, in the May to exercise daily and convalesce. However, he soon returned to the US, took up his place at Harvard and, incredibly, managed to win the US Open mixed doubles that year with Mary Browne.

In 1913 he was the beaten finalist in the singles, by which time he was a naturalised American playing in the Davis Cup team, which he captained to seven wins in a 13-year career. He went one better in 1914 and 1916 when he won the US Open singles, the latter on the grass at Forest Hills. After the first world war he won the men's doubles in 1920 at Wimbledon, where he was also a finalist in 1924, the same year he took Olympic gold.

This man gave his life to God and in the tournament that he was favored in more than any other, declined to play because the match was on a Sunday. It was an inspiring tale of a life-time commitment to God.

A local history teacher, whose deepest love is the Titanic, gave a great talk about the building of the ship, important people who were on the voyage, how many little things could have made a huge difference in the outcome. Most of us know there weren't enough life boats and they didn't act quickly enough, thinking her unsinkable. But smaller things, like the captain ignoring the ice warnings, the lookouts not being able to find their binoculars, a ship that was nearby enough to save them all but who's communications officer had retired to bed so he never received the SOS. So many little things that went wrong that day.

In the end, I was wrong, as usual. My 2nd class lady, M. Dorothy Tupin, died that night (I was unable to find any information on her) and Hubby's person, Johan Asplund, lived.

It was a fun yet sobering evening. It definitely sparked my interest in Titanic and I'm sure the unschooler in me will have more to share about the subject soon.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Soooooooooooo much

There is so much going on in our lives right now that it's difficult to find the time to blog about it! I guess that's a good thing...that we're so busy living life that I can't find time to write about it. ;)

God has been leading us to a particular church in our area. First it was a mention of a homeschool group there. A couple weeks later I found they had a MOPS group (after I resigned from my current one). When we attended, I found two long lost friends from childhood are attending there and one of them is in charge of the MOPS group. The church family was warm and friendly and though it's a bit farther than I wanted to drive, I really feel that we are where God wants us. There are several ministries I'm interested in, including a (get this) *newsletter* ministry. That was the biggest thing I was going to miss from my old MOPS duties...and God provided it in a different way. It's been amazing to see all of this occur so fast because so many times, answers/direction from God seems to take forty years of wandering in the wilderness sometimes. I haven't attended any of the new events because I contacted the church just after they'd had their monthly meetings/events so they're upcoming and I'm sure I'll keep you updated.

We had a very busy weekend! Hubby had Friday off and we decided to go to the Science Center, where are hosting Sue on limited display. Sue is the biggest, most complete T-rex skeleton they've ever found. (Did you know we've only found 22 near complete T-rex skeletons? I just assumed is was MANY more than that from the focus on them.) She was really neat to see and the kids had a great time learning about dinosaurs. Last week, Matthew told me that he wanted to be an archaeologist some day. So when he saw that they had a station set up for 'excavations' at the exhibit, he was gung-ho to try it out. They had taken pieces of small bones and covered them in plaster, just like they do before they move recovered bones from the ground so they can transport them. The station had tooth brushes and hard plastic knife-type instruments. After digging on his clump for about 30 minutes, Matthew declared, "I don't want to be an archaeologist anymore. I just don't have the patience." It gave me a chuckle, of course, but this is key for unschoolers. Unschoolers explore the world, try things on and decided if they like them. In school, you sit and hear about things and you can guess if you'd like it but you don't really know if you like being an archaeologist until you get your hands dirty. For this reason, many unschoolers try to get involved in apprenticeships as they reach that age. I know Matthew's patience will grow as he matures but it's nice for him to actually discover that it's not Indiana Jones using his whip to escape with the beautifully clean and shiny's painstakingly slow digging and precision. Not that it can't be rewarding but that he finds out for himself what it really is.

"Blegck! My lips touched dinosaur lips!"

"They've got the whole world in their hands!"

To further illustrate my point...did you watch Blast From The Past? Brendan Frasier is raised in a bomb shelter until he's 30. His father tries, numerous times, to explain the game of baseball (and the ocean) but until Brendan actually sees a it, he doesn't ever really understand it. Likewise, how many of your friends pursued a course of study in college and ended up on something totally different as a career? Or aren't happy with their career choices? I wonder how different their lives would be if they'd had a chance to really try it on, as in an apprenticeship.

Rose says she'd love to be a zookeeper. There is a program for junior zookeepers at our zoo that I'm looking forward to sending her to when she's older, just to see exactly what their jobs entail (no pun intended).

On Saturday, we did something else unique. There was an ice sculpting contest not too far away. Living in Missouri all my life, I've never seen this before except on the movie, Groundhog Day (Happy, Happy, btw!). It was so interesting to watch! I wish I could have caught the more intricate portions, like the rounded columns and such, but it was a sight to behold nonetheless.

"Don't worry, no one got hurt"

"Raise the Draw Bridge"

"Lighthouse and rocky outing with sailboat at the end" (hard to see the details in this picture I had to downsize for blogger but this was my favorite)




Centaur...well, maybe *this* was my favorite. All the curves *and* the need to carve muscles and such - perhaps this was the hardest to do??


The Dark Knight

Dragon #1

Big Dragon

And on Sunday, we went to see sled dogs. Our library system is sponsoring a program called The Big Read this month and the book is The Call of the Wild. There will be children's story times about sled dogs and arts and crafts and they're bringing in speakers for the adults. It's a whole hoopla that we've gotten caught up in. Yesterday they brought out the St. Louis Dog Sled group to kick off The Big Read. Rose was in her element, being such an animal lover, but they were quite big dogs and she was more cautious than usual. Matthew (my germ-a-phobe), however, amazed me by petting and standing next to the bear-sized dogs.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

While I was trying to get some help cleaning up today, Matthew piped up, "Just be glad that God blessed you with a family and never mind about the messes we've made."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


[Fall is incredibly busy for me and I apologize for my lack of posting the last few months. Hopefully I'll be back to my normal routine and blogging more regularly again.]

I am a pretty good self-doubter. I admit it. I second guess nearly every single decision I ever make. And even when things go as well as I predicted they could, I still second-guess that something else could have made it better. Is that my inner perfectionist or just being human? I'm not sure. However, I can honestly say that I've never really doubted our decision to homeschool our kids. Oh sure, there are days when ever fiber of my being screams, "That's IT - I'm signing them up for school tomorrow!" but those moments/days of frazzled frustrations pass and I realize I wouldn't change this lifestyle for anything, even on those really bad days.

But I also must confess that I doubt our method of homeschooling from time to time. Is unschooling the best way for us right now? This usually only comes up when a friend mentions what their children are doing in school and I realize my kids haven't even touched that subject matter yet. Sometimes, the realization comes through other channels.

Matthew had some Christmas money that has been burning a hole in his pocket. We looked through the Bionicles (the Christmas toy of choice this year) at Wally World and Target but they didn't have anything he wanted. So he got online, looking through Amazon's selections and suddenly that hole in his pocket was a flaming fire. He was looking at things that, I thought, were pretty well out of his price range.

So on Monday night, I caught a glimpse of a Time and Money workbook that had been passed to us at some time. [Why is it that they usually teach those two concepts together anyway?? I remember having trouble remembering which one was based on 60's and which was based on 100's. Math. ick.] I made a mental note to get the workbook out the next day to teach Matthew how to count his money, and promptly fell asleep.

But Tuesday morning was off to a jump start as I realized it was the day of my annual MRI and I was quite nervous and totally forgot about the workbook. I had my scan in the early afternoon and by that evening, I was still wiped out and not feeling well. I laid down on my bed while the girls played in my room. I dozed off and on and at some point, Matthew came in to ask me how much a dime is worth. I answered and when I was feeling better, the girls and I headed downstairs.

I found Matthew on his computer. He was searching Amazon's toys again, having stumbled across the marketplace where people sell them second-hand (and at reduced prices). As I looked behind him at the kitchen table, I saw his bank dumped out on the table. He had different piles and a tally sheet in the middle of it. He had actually counted every quarter, nickel, dime and penny. And he'd found out that he had $3.42.

What if instead, I'd woken up that morning and shoved the workbook at him? He might have enjoyed it but I'd be willing to bet that his own method of discovery about money is something he enjoyed more and will be something he'll remember for a long time. It was important to him at that moment in time and I bet he won't forget it. Whereas a forced lesson might not have been interesting in the least, this was all his idea and something he enjoyed discovering on his own. I did show him the workbook for follow-up material and he said, "Wow, Mom, thanks! This will be great for me to refer to next time I need to count my money."

Silly me, for doubting our real-time learning lifestyle.