Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Early Christmas Gift

The bane of my husband's existence is getting down the Christmas boxes from the attic. It might be due to the fact that I have more Christmas decoration than should be legally allowed. I have a fear of heights, so I am of no help. I can just catch boxes as he slides them down the attic stairs. My boys are bigger, so now they help catch boxes. Still, he dreads this yearly ritual.

This year after all the boxes were down, I asked him to grab one of the other "non-Christmas" boxes for me to go through and clean out (boy was I pushing it). We have lived in our home for 10 years and stuff has accumulated up there. I don't even remember what really is up there.
He grabbed the nearest box and I dragged it to the kitchen. I opened it up and inside was a treasure trove of pictures and other mementos from my childhood. I couldn't even believe it. I didn't think I had any childhood pictures of myself. I don't remember ever owning these pictures or why in the world I put them in the attic. I am estranged from my parents, so I have no way of getting any childhood pictures of myself. This was truly an early Christmas gift from God to me. Let me share just a few of the pictures I found.
This B&W of me running is when I three years old.
This picture is of me standing in my front yard modeling a newly made apron for my 4-H project. I loved sewing even way back then. Notice the "Earth Shoes".
This cute girl is my oldest friend, "Skydiving Mom". My best guess is that we were both 14 or 15 because it was taken before I moved to the country when I was 16. She is holding my favorite cat of all time "Toogie". She was the sweetest little tortoise shell cat and had many batches of gorgeous kittens before we finally had her fixed. "Skydiving Mom" and I are still close friends. She is even godmother to my two boys. I love you girl even though you haven't hardly changed since those days! A few grey hairs would help me feel better. Help me out here!
These 80's beauties are the 1983-1984 Northside High School Cheerleaders from Crowley, Louisiana. I'm the one with glasses. "Skydiving Mom" is there too! I don't recall all the names right now but suffice it to say we had a lot of fun. I was the head cheerleader and all the other cheerleaders had to my endure my endless string of new cheers and dance routines. They were a patient group! God love you girls wherever you are!
Here are some pictures taken by my mom (a budding photographer). We had no money at the time and this was her attempt at my senior pictures. I had finally gotten contacts during this, my senior year. Still no boys looked my way. I was shocked when I got to my vocational school later that year and was immediately greeted by guys checking me out. It was strange but wonderful. I met my husband Greg the very first day of school.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Show and Tell Friday - Renaissance Festival!

I just wanted to show my little sweeties dressed up for the Renaissance Festival. I made both of their costumes in one evening. They decided at the last minute that they REALLY wanted to dress up, so we ran to Wal-Mart and shopped on the bargain table and found some material that worked perfectly. I sewed all evening to a constant barrage of "is it done yet?". It was worth it!
The Texas Renaissance Festival is one of the largest of its kind. We go every year and we also attend the "school days" with our homeschooling group.

Here is a picture of the joust in the arena. It is exciting. Although it is staged, it is still fun to watch!

Here are the kids attacking the enemy. There are tons of shops and they all have such amazing stuff in them! Replicas of costumes, shoes, jewelry, head gear, swords... you name it, they have a shop for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Negative Comments about Homeschooling? Turn it around!

The comments I've received from people in our community about homeschooling have always been positive. For the most part, our community has been accepting of homeschoolers. I've heard about people receiving negative comments, but never experienced any until recently.

I went to our Sam's Club to fill up my car. I'd never used the pumps there before and I was reading the payment instructions on the pump when an older man who works there approached me. I explained I was reading the payment instructions. I asked him if the pump took the Wal-Mart Gift Cards? He said condescendingly "Well, you can try honey." I then tried to back up my car to line it up with the pump and he said "No, no..." and put his hand through my open window and turned my wheel and ordered me forward like I was a 15 year old child learning to drive for the first time. He then glanced in the back of my car and said "What are you doing running around town with kids in the back of your car?" I was taken aback by his tone and question. I jokingly said "Oh my goodness... my kids told me they didn't have school today." He didn't get the joke. I then told him "Thank you for your concern, we homeschool." (Which is my pat answer to every nosey person who questions why children dare show their faces in a store in the middle of the day.)

He then got inches from my face and said "What in the world would want to make YOU homeschool." (Like I was an idiot who had no business schooling my children.) As sweetly as I could muster I said "We enjoy spending time with our children and they enjoy having time pursing those areas of school they are interested in." I then turned my attention to the pumps weary of my conversation with this man. He continued "When I was a kid I used to pretend I was sick so I could stay home and then I was so bored all day at home." I looked at him and said "My children are very busy. We don't have time to be bored." He then said something that peeked my interest he said "When I was a school principal at ______, we didn't have any gang or drug problems. Now those problems are creeping in. We also didn't have any homeschoolers in our community." I thought it was funny that he thought that his presence somehow kept away the drugs and gangs. I also assured him that there were probably a lot of homeschoolers in his community, but he didn't know about them. But I began to wonder why this man who used to be a school principal was now working at the Sam's gas pump?

Later, I wondered why I felt the need to convince this man why homeschooling was so good. I should have just ignored him or drove to another pump. His opinion has no influence on if I homeschool or not. My Southern training won't let me be rude to anyone. I may need some "retraining" in this area. As a school principal, perhaps he was used to manipulating others to get his way and using tactics to show his authority so that the kids didn't run all over him. These don't translate well to polite society. Something to think about.

I realized that Satan likes to get us off track. He likes to plant seeds of doubt in our minds. Are my kids really bored? Why do I think I can possibly do this? Blah, blah, blah... Lots of noise. I pray for this man. I don't know what circumstances brought him to pumping gas at Sam's. It can't have been anything good. He was used by the enemy that day. But God can turn what the enemy meant for evil to His good. While the enemy meant to throw me off track that day, I chose to pray for this man. Take that Satan!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dealing with Users and Abusers

Unfortunately in the Christian world there are those who would take advantage of those who have a servant's heart. I know, it has happened to me several times. I'm one of those people who doesn't hold back anything. If there is a need, I'll try to fill it. Over and over I kept getting hurt by people who took advantage of my giving spirit. Here's how my eyes were opened and a lesson was learned.

There is someone in my homeschooling community whom I will call "Candy". Candy has more than 5 children. She is dealing with a mental illness and is on medication. Her home is in disarray. She jumps from church to church and has few friends. She was at my house often for coffee. She called me several times a day. Our kids were friends and played together. We spent a lot of time together. I thought we were friends but I knew she depended heavily on me. My husband told me she was using me.

There is a lot to Candy's story, but suffice to say we had a disagreement about a spiritual matter. I knew her thinking on the matter and never discussed it with her because I knew it would cause conflict. One day she asked me about it on the phone. I told her I didn't want to discuss it because it would cause conflict. She pressed me on it. I told her what the Bible says and she started arguing the point. I felt pushed into a corner and got defensive and then realized I better get off the phone. I told her I had to feed my kids lunch, we ended the call and I didn't hear from her. I e-mailed her a few times apologizing for my shortness with her but made clear I wasn't apologizing for my beliefs. There was no response. I sent her an e-card for her birthday with no response. I decided I better back off and give her room. The summer passed and she never contacted me. In fact, she was out of town for most of the summer.

She finally contacted me through e-mail when she was back at the end of the summer with one sentence asking if we could talk. Of course I said we could. She apologized and I forgave her. However, she began giving excuses for not calling me for the whole summer. She was busy sewing an outfit for her brother's wedding and her son graduated from high school. I was flabbergasted.

Soon she started calling me crying and saying she couldn't go on and she felt she was going to die and could she come over and talk. I knew this was serious, but I was in no position to counsel a suicidal woman. I was also working on forgiving her. I immediately called her husband and told him what she said. He then said "Well, we didn't know if it was too soon for Candy to call you with this." So obviously she had called her husband and told him what she was feeling and he pawned her off on me. I was again flabbergasted. She didn't call me all summer and now because she was back home and didn't have anyone else to deal with her, she called me. I felt so used. I told her husband that he needed to deal with this. I haven't heard from them since.

Was I right to handle this situation this way? I believe I was. Recently many "users" in my life have been culled out. I believe God is growing me up. He is giving me wisdom and discernment about these people. They are users. They are spiritually retarded and have no desire to grow. They latch like a leech onto a host and suck away. They suck away all your energy and steal time away from your family. God also revealed to me that I was trying to meet people's needs myself instead of listening to when God wanted me to do so. We want people to know God is their source, not us.

The Bible says in Luke 6:28 "...pray for them which despitefully use you." It doesn't say "put yourself in a position to let them continue to despitefully use you." It says PRAY! Thank God we don't have to fight these battles by ourselves. We have a loving God who understands our feelings and will fight for us. Lord Jesus, grab hold of Candy and reveal your love to her. Heal her and open her eyes to the truth of your Word.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum

I have a "Wiggly Willy". That phrase was coined by Cathy Duffy in 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing The Right Curriculum And Approach For Your Child's Learning Style This is one of the greatest books out there for help in choosing curriculum. "Wiggly Willy" refers to one of several learning styles that a child can have.

After the "socialization" question, the next question I get from new homeschoolers is "How do I pick a curriculum?". I don't hesitate to point them to this book. You must match your child's learning style to a curriculum that will work for them. It will save you a lot of time, money and frustration. You can borrow this book from the library if you don’t want to purchase it. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the book. You only actually read a small portion of the book and the rest is like an encyclopedia where you only look up a description of the curriculum best suited to your child’s learning style.

Teaching phonics and reading to a "Wiggly Willy" can be a challenge. Especially when that child is a boy. I did it in small bites. Only 10 minutes a day and then take a break and go play. I wanted to instill a love for reading and not that it was drudgery. Another tip... when my "Wiggly Willy" starts making mistakes and wiggling before the lesson is over I have him run around the room once or twice. They have to RUN and not jog. Then he plops down beside me and is able to focus and reads again with ease. Sounds silly, but it works! Lately my "Wiggly Willy" has been reading his library books on his own before our designated reading time. That makes me smile.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Let go of your Perfectionism

I'm a huge subscriber to the "Flylady" method. I've finally let go of my perfectionism and am satisfied with "clean enough". It took a while, but I made it. Whew! I think that letting go of your perfectionism also allows time for ministering to others. Continuing to hold onto perfectionism doesn't allow us to be used of God at His will to minister to a hurting world.

Now I'm not saying you should ignore your cluttered and dusty house. Absolutely not. This does not bless your family and friends. But swinging so far to the side of perfectionism is a problem. You'll never get anything done because you can never do it perfectly. Flylady's method in a nutshell is dividing your house into zones. You tackle one zone a week. That doesn't mean tearing the room apart. It is tiny, little 15 minute jobs. Before you know it, your house is in order.

How do you know if perfectionism has a hold on your life? If you have empty drawers because you don't know what to put in them, that's a sign. If your house is a cluttered mess... you guessed it... you are a perfectionist. If you have one day a year you totally gut the house to clean and never get it totally done, that's a sign.

Ask God to help you let go of your perfectionism. Recognize when your mindset is one of perfectionism and take steps to correct it. It won't happen overnight, but with God's help it will happen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Show and Tell Friday

Can I show you my fall garden? Come out back... My cabbage got huge and then I cut off some of the bottom leaves for cabbage rolls. It came back nicely. Everything else is doing well. I even cut some of my apple mint and dried it to make tea. I figure that might make a nice gift in my Christmas baskets to friends. I adore these green miniature roses. The funny thing is that as a teenager I swore I would never have a garden. Being the chief weed puller puts a damper on future visions of gardens. This one is manageable.

The Lesson of the Orange Drink

The other day I was coming back from a homeschool field trip. A friend was following me for the return trip. I called her and told her we were going to pull into the McDonald's drive-thru for a drink. She pulled in behind me and ordered a drink for her son. After I paid for my drink, I asked the girl at the checkout window how much was my friend's order? After all, she probably wouldn't have pulled through and ordered anything if we hadn't stopped. She told me and I gave her the money for her order and told her not to take my friend's money that this was my treat. I pulled up and looked back in the rear-view mirror. To my shock I saw my friend pay. I immediately told the lady giving us our drinks that I wanted to see the manager. The manager came to the window and I told her what just happened. They refunded my friend her money, but the surprise was totally ruined. I very much wanted to get out of my car and go to the window and ask the girl what in the world was she thinking! We were in a hurry to get home, so I didn't. I was just so very disappointed.

Is this what our world is coming to? Surely the girl knew I would see my friend pay. Did she think she could pocket the money and I wouldn't do anything? As a young girl growing up, I would have never ever thought to have done something like this. I would have been thrilled to be able to tell someone that their bill had been taken care of. This girl ruined her reputation and possibly lost her job over the cost of a orange drink. Apparently she was never held accountable for her actions by those who raised her. It was sobering that this girl was a lesson that my boys learned that day. I pray my boys learn all I know to teach them so they don't become an example of what not to do.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Universal Food - Fried Dough

Fried dough translates into any language. Many cultures have some form of fried dough. Mexico has their sopapillas. The Dutch their olykoeks. Some Indian cultures fry bread. In Asia, there is Puri. In Canada you will enjoy Beaver Tails. Don't forget doughnuts, funnel cake, fritters and elephant ears here in the U.S. But I grew up with Beignets (Ban Yeahs) made popular by Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. There is one particular recipe that our family uses. It is from my all time favorite cookbook "Talk About Good" It is called "Third Generation Doughnuts"

After reading "Farmer Boy" this week for school, we read various descriptions of doughnuts and how they are made. From the description of the breakfasts and the foods in the pantry, Almonzo's mother must have been slaving away in the kitchen all day. Mrs. Wilder talked about making doughnuts in a twisted shape so they would turn themselves over. This saves the step of having to flip the doughnuts over. I tried it and some of them did flip over, but my "Fry Daddy" must be too small for it to work properly because some of them needed to be flipped manually. Well all the reading about doughnuts, got my boys to thinking about the Beignets I make and the begging started. So I got up early this morning and made everyone a treat. We even shared with our homeschooling friends down the street. It makes an obscene amount of Beignets, so you have to share.

Third Generation Doughnuts
(adapted from Talk About Good)

3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbl. butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. milk
5 1/2 c. flour (4 c. plus 1 and 1/2 c. for kneading)
6 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
peanut oil

Cream sugar, butter and eggs. Add vanilla and milk. Add baking powder and nutmeg. Add flour, one cup at a time, until 4 cups are used (I changed to my bread hook on my mixer midway through adding the flour)- then knead and roll in remaining flour (you should have about 1/4 to 1/8 cup flour left on the board). Roll 1/4 inch thick, cut out with a pizza cutter, deep fry. Drain on a paper towel on top of a cookie tray. After each batch comes out (after they are drained and while they are still warm) toss in a paper bag with about 1 cup of confectionary sugar. Roll the top of the bag and shake. Makes about 4 dozen so share with your neighbors! (the picture above is only 1/2 of the dough cut out) It's a mess but oh so worth it!


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