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Archive for August, 2011

283

I think the hardest part of moving might be the moment when the last box is packed.  It brings finality to the life that we’ve lived.  The home that we’ve made isn’t there, it’s all in boxes.  It doesn’t matter that what apprehensions and fears there might be, it’s final, all the stuff is boxed awaiting the truck.

Every moment after that last box is adventure.

and work, lots and lots of work.  283 boxes of things to unpack.

The best part of a move is when the last box is unpacked.  The champagne and sparkling cider bottles are opened.  It’s such a feeling of relief and elation.  Then the movers come to take the boxes away.  Officially, we can stop unpacking and start creating our new home.

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This summer we’ve moved from a very poor performing school district into an excellent one, thank you Bill Gates.  All summer I’ve been struggling with the decision, will I send the kids to school?   or will I continue to teach them at home?  It’s a hard decision.   I think I’ve known my decision for a long time but for the most part, I’ve ignored it.  I’ve procrastinated.  But now that this is the last week to sign them up before they might miss the first day of school, I have to make a decision.  There have been many tears.  And over the last several days, I’ve prayed and waited for a sign, I even fasted in the hopes to hear The quiet voice, encouraging my decision.

I think everyone home schools for different reasons.  We home school to provide a better education.  We home school because we can’t imagine entrusting our children in someone else’s hands.  We home school so that we can entwine our faith into our curriculum.  We home school because we know our children better than any well-meaning relative, teacher, administrator,  counselor or curriculum publisher.  We home school in order to follow our own agenda, not a politically driven one.  We home school because the system is broken.  We home school because we’re a little bit anti establishment.  We home school because sometimes society’s norms are a little bit too stifling and constrictive or maybe because they are too liberal.  We home school because we were Called.  We home school because we love our kids.

When I think of why I began homeschooling, it was because I didn’t want my daughter defined by social peers.  I didn’t want her to feel she had to conform herself into the mold that the Lord of the Flies hierarchy of the playground dictates.  I didn’t want her to ever feel that she had to put herself into a box.  I loved her so much I couldn’t imagine allowing strangers to become her core sphere of influence.

This week I signed McKayla up for public school.  It’s been a long time coming and with the struggles of the last year, I’m not very sad about it.  I’m fairly confident that she will do well and I think that much of the tension in our home will subside as she is given the freedom she so greatly desires.  And, as she navigates her teen years among the public school system, I will have hopefully succeeded with my original goals for homeschooling.  Or maybe I will have failed miserably and she’ll come home in tears daily.  I don’t actually anticipate that happening, but I guess it’s a possibility.

But that still leaves the boys.

All of my friends’ kids have recently started school.  As I am inundated with Facebook posts about shopping for school supplies, new lunch boxes and back packs, I don’t find myself even the tiniest bit jealous or excited.  As I see posts about classroom assignments, and nervous anticipation, or even pictures with smiling happy kids all ready for the first day, I’m not the least bit enticed.  As I see the collective sigh of relief that summer is over, I feel a little bit of despair.  And I wonder why.

Do I think they will do well in  a traditional school setting?  Absolutely.  Do I think they are well prepared academically?  Absolutely.  Will they be okay socially?  Yes.

So maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m not ready to let them go.  Maybe I enjoy them too much to let them spend so much of their day away from me.  Maybe it’s selfish to want to keep them all to myself.   I think about all of the things that I could do without them, while they are at school.  I could take a class.  I could become a master gardener.  I could make a quilt.  I might have more time to write.  I could watch a movie, uninterrupted.  I could join a ladies bible study.  I could shop at stores that don’t have a toy section.  All of those things are things I can do later.  Nothing is imperative that I do right now.  These things can all wait until the kids are gone or in bed for the night.  None of these things will make me any happier than my children make me.

Maybe it’s a little bit selfish to want all of the time for myself.  Maybe I don’t want to give up my time with them just to have my own time.   And just maybe, that’s okay.

“Many people are choosing to have children as few people before ever did.  They don’t have children just because that is what married people are supposed to do, or because they don’t know how not to have them.  On the contrary, knowing well what it may mean in time, energy, money, thought, and worry, they undertake the heavy responsibility of having and bringing up children because they deeply want to spend a part of their life living with them.  Having chosen to have children, they feel very strongly that it is their  responsibility to help these children grow into good, smart, capable, loving, trustworthy, and responsible human beings.  They do not think it right to turn that responsibility over to institutions, state or private, schools or otherwise, and would not do so even if they like and trusted these institutions, which on the whole they do not”  John Holt

I’m not convinced that public school is the best option, even in a well performing school.  I don’t want them gone for 7 hours to accomplish 4 hours of learning.  I am not willing to trust that they might luck out with a good teacher who will cultivate their talents and foster creativity.  I’m not willing to take the chance that we will get a teacher who won’t.  I’m not convinced that my kids have to be indoctrinated with 30 kids who happen to share the same birth year in order to function well as an adult.  Call me Nina Nonconformist, but I don’t want my kids to feel like they have to conform.

I want my kids to pursue the dreams that entice them, not the ones that are cool among the ten-year-old elite.  I don’t want them to lose themselves among a sea of bells and homework.  I want them to know that they have a say, that they matter, that they have power over their education, whether they choose to succeed or fail.

I don’t want them to feel like they have to open a text-book to learn.  I don’t want them to think that learning is formal or stuffy.   I don’t want them to find their self-worth in a grade or a test.  I don’t want them to think that they are confined to the standard curriculum.  I want them to question.  I want them to think. I want them to have the ability to pursue their desire to learn.

I want them to be different.  Markedly different.  Am I saying I want them to be freaks? No. I’m saying that when I want them to think  for themselves and not be hesitant to make changes in the world.  I want them to be innovators in their fields of choice.

I want them to choose to take the path which God leads them, even if it’s the road less traveled.  I want them to shine like a beacon in a very broken world.

Do I think that these things are possible within a traditional public school?  Probably.

In the not too distant future, every one of them will be grown up.  They will go off to college.  They will lead their own lives.  They will be marry and have families of their own.   I am blessed to be have this small sliver of their lives.

And I don’t want to share it.  I don’t want to give it up.

And that’s it.  They are mine.  I am blessed to have the ability and the opportunity to home school.  I get to choose, and I choose to keep them home.

I guess if I raise a pack of Charles Mansons then you may give me your opinions on homeschooling, but until then, I’d prefer that if you don’t have anything nice to say, please keep it to yourself.

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If you didn’t read the first part, you should read it here.

this is not our mouse, but rather a random one from the internet.

I slept beautifully after all of the wine and chocolate.  When I woke up the next morning, I was refreshed and well rested.  Dave, on the other hand, was not.  He spent the night listening to the mouse gnaw on the cupboard and Frank practicing catch and release practices.

Me: Are you going to shower in there?

Dave:  Of course.  I’m pretty sure the mouse has been fatally wounded and is stuck under the cupboard.  After breakfast I will take off the kick board and extract him.  And then we will be done with this and tonight I will be able to sleep.

After Dave’s shower I found him in the other bathroom brushing his teeth.

Me:  How was your shower?

Dave:  Fine.

Me:  Did you see the mouse?

Dave: No

Me:  Could you hear him scratching and squeaking?  Did you hear him calling for his friends to perform a rescue mission?

Dave:  While the water was on I couldn’t hear him.  But when the water was off I could hear him gnawing, that’s why I’m in here brushing my teeth.  Seriously, it’s fine. Go take a shower.  I’m pretty sure he’s stuck back there.

Tentatively I walked into the bathroom and of course my eyes were instantly drawn to the cupboard.  Dave had left the door open.  I’m not sure why, maybe to encourage him to break free and infest the rest of the house.   I was thinking about all of the horrible things that could happen, like being stuck in a shower with a little mouse, or having to get a bar of soap and being bitten by a mouse, or the mouse coming out of his hidey hole bloody and mangled to expire at my feet, or standing there while a SWAT team of mice came in to rescue the poor hurt mouse behind the cupboard.  Just then, in the middle of all of this contemplation, the mouse jumped out of the hole! This involved lots of screaming, which instantly caused the mouse to jump back down the hole.

Jake comes running in.

Jake:  Mommy, what’s wrong?

Me:  Hurry go get your Dad!

When I said hurry, it translated to “frolic into the general direction of your dad and then play a game before rescuing me.”

As Dave dismantled the cupboard, I showered downstairs.

Dave:  I have some good news and some bad news.

Me:  Give me the good news.

Dave:  I have found how the mouse was getting in the house.

Me:  And the bad?

Dave:  I didn’t find the mouse.  BUT I laid some poison out for him.  Maybe you should call an exterminator.  Maybe we’ll find out that they catch mice for a very reasonable amount of money, and then we won’t have to worry about it anymore.

Me:  What is a reasonable amount?

Dave:  $50?

I called around looking for a Christopher Walkenesque exterminator.  Alas, I could not find an independent exterminator available at 4pm on a Saturday.  I called Terminex.  It turns out that Terminex uses fear tactics.

Me:  Hi, I have a mouse problem.

Him:  I’m sorry ma’am.  There is no such thing as a mouse problem, MICE travel in packs, never alone. (At this point I’m imagining Cluney the Scourge and his gang trying to take over our home.)

Me:  Well for my own peace of mind, we will from now on refer to mice as a MOUSE.

I then go on to tell him our situation with our mouse who loves exlax and cough drops.  (Which he found very amusing)

Him:  Some little facts about MICE.  A female mouse can have up to 300 off spring a year.

Me:  Gosh, they’re busier than rabbits!

Him:  Mice like to hide in wood piles, tall grass, bushes, compost piles, etc.

Me:  I live in the middle of the forest, so basically I’m screwed.

Him:  Sounds like instead of  common house mice, you probably have deer mice. Which are smaller and craftier.

Me:  Awesome!

Him:  Mice also only travel about 65 feet in their life, so if you do have MICE, it’s home is probably pretty close to your home.

Me:  Sixty-five feet is a considerable distance.  If I draw a 65-foot circle around my house I think I’d be at the neighbors.

He then goes into the details of cost and what they will do.

Him:  We believe in humane extermination.  Instead of laying poisons, we will place traps around your home and in any problem spots.

Me:  And what about when these traps catch the mouse?

Him:  You can dispose of him or we will come at our convenience.  (ewe!  I’m sure that we’d catch one while Dave was in China! Blech!)

Me:  I think we’ll try our luck with the poison and the cat.  If that fails, I can always lace my traps with ex lax…

I relayed the conversation to Dave.

We decided to cut all the bushes/trees back which come in contact with our house, lay poison and encourage Frank to become a mouser.  Frank has found three of them, I’m thankful to say that they were all outside.  We are rather proud of him!  It’s like he was born with hunting instincts!

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I’ve been watching a lot of Hoarders.  I have learned a few things:

1)  We’re all just one tragedy from becoming a Hoarder.

2)  Hoarders mostly live in Washington state.

3)  Hoarders usually have a rodent problem.

With this new-found knowledge I’m very careful about becoming a Hoarder.  I already live in Washington, so one more tragedy and I’ll be weaving a pathway between my trash and inundated with mouse poo.

Last week I opened the cupboard under my bathroom sink and I saw mouse poo.  I screamed and promptly shut the cupboard.  I then shut the bathroom door and shut my bedroom door.  I called Dave and told him we had a rodent problem.

Dave:  You know we bought three hamsters at Petsmart a few weeks ago.  They told us they were all girls.  Did you just discover that one was not?

Me:  No!  An unwanted rodent problem.

Dave:  I didn’t want those hamsters!

Me:  There is mouse poo under my bathroom sink!!!

Dave:  Oh.

When he came home from work Dave asked me if I had caught the mouse yet.

Me:  Um no.  I shut the door and I am pretending it does not exist. 

Dave:  Did you at least clean up the poo?

Me:  No!  I told you I am pretending it does not exist.  Plus I think if anything defines itself in the realm of boy jobs it would be rodent control and clean up.  I have never seen a female exterminator.

After dinner Dave tackled the mouse while I gave Nate and Jake a bath in the hall bathroom.  The bathrooms share a common wall so I could hear him.

Dave:  WOW!  THIS IS A LOT OF POO! 

Dave came into the hall bathroom.

Dave:  There is no way that a mouse did all of this in one day!  Maybe this is old poo and it got knocked loose?

Me: Are you a mouse poo expert?  Do you know if it’s old poo or new poo?  Did you clean it up?

Dave:  No, No, and No.  I was giving you my opinion before I tackled it. 

Me:  Maybe it’s not just one mouse, maybe there was a large mouse party under our sink.  Oh gosh.  We could have mice everywhere.  Maybe we’re infested!  Maybe the mice are making a little community within our walls.  Pretty soon all of the kids toys are going to go missing because they will be used in mice homes.  

Dave:  I think you’ve seen one too many Disney movies.  I’m sure it’s just one.

As Dave cleaned up the mess he began to get to know our little visitor a little bit better.

Dave:  It seems as if our uninvited guest has a sweet tooth.  Or maybe he was constipated and had a cough.

Me:  How do you know?  Are you now a mouse poo whisperer.

Dave:  He has been living off of cough drops and ex-lax.

Me:  I guess that would explain all of the poo.  What are we going to do about it.

Dave:  I don’t know.  We should play Lego Harry Potter.

Me:  Okay, But first I’m going to lock Frank in there.

Dave:  Why?

Me:  So he can earn his keep.  I don’t even know why we have a mouse, we have a cat.  I’m disappointed in Frank.

Dave:  He’s never going to catch him. 

Me:  He better catch him.  I’m going to stop feeding him if he doesn’t!  If we’re going to have mice, he can eat them. 

After playing Harry Potter, while drinking wine and eating chocolate to lower my anxiety we decided to call it a night.

Me:  Hold on, I have to put my chocolate in the fridge.

Dave:  Just put it in the pantry.

Me:  No!  Our mouse has a sweet tooth.  I don’t want him to discover this chocolate!

Dave:  If the mouse discovers the pantry, I think we’ll have a bigger problem than missing chocolate!

Me:  This is good Finish chocolate.  If our mouse eats this chocolate than I have to wait until I know someone going to Finland.  It could be years before that happens.  I am preventing this mouse from causing me years of sadness.

Dave:  Whatever.  While you secure the chocolate I’m going to check on Frank.

Dave:  GOOD JOB FRANK!  You can drop him now.  NOOOOOO!!!

Me:  What happened.

Dave:  Frank caught the mouse.  I told him to drop it so I could throw it out.  Turns out Franks not a killer. 

Me:  He must believe in the judicial system.  Maybe he’s against capital punishment.  You don’t think he’s a democat do you?  Get it?  Democrat.  DemoCAT!!!  Hahaha!

Dave:  I think you had too much wine. 

Me:  Perhaps.  This mouse is very stressful for me.  I hope this isn’t the tragedy that turns me into a hoarder.  The trifecta may have just come together. 

Dave:  Anyways, He dropped the mouse and the mouse ran behind the cupboard.  Hopefully he mortally wounded him. 

Me:  Oh gosh!  Lock Frank in there and I think we might need to start drinking Vodka.


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Ode to my Kitchen Aid

ODE TO MY KITCHEN AID

IN THE STYLE OF: STEPHEN DOWLING BOTS
BY Mark Twain

did you go up in firey sparks?
did you expire with a puff of smoke?
did this baker mourn with sad remarks
at the discovery that you were broke?

No; such was not the fate of
my old and trusty Kitchen Aid
‘Twas not from some catastrophe
from this kitchen you did bade

No hand was caught among the blade
Nor electrical fire caused your break
No nut and bolt soup was being made
No concrete was anyone trying to make.

But still you left me with woe
when no longer you would turn,
when you were stuck only spinning air on low,
‘Twould be better if you’d burn

A bowl full of bready dough,
With flour, sugar, water and some yeast
And yet you would not go
Not in the very least.

I tried unplugging the cord,
I even tried giving you a bath.
I prayed to the gracious Lord
I even called upon his wrath.

But still you would not mix or beat,
You just stand still and hum
I think soon the trash you shall greet
For you and I, we’re done.

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Bedtime

Bedtime at our house, though mostly enjoyable, is really an endurance race, the last man child standing wins.

We have routines.  Things involving hygiene, like brushing teeth and semi-annual baths.  Little girls might play quiet games with mermaid barbies swimming peacefully in the tub but my baths are full of boys who don’t play with barbies.  There are full small-scale battles being waged.  There are boats and army men, pirates are added and usually  bath time involves a water-soaked kid traipsing through the house looking for the perfect water safe (and sometimes not-so safe) toy to add to the battle.  By the end of the bath the whole bathroom is wet, I’m usually wet, and someone is crying.  You would think that by year four the kids would be used to having their hair washed with water, but every night it seems to be a surprise.  Every night there are intense negotiations.

Jake (screaming):  No water!!!!  Don’t get my hair wet!!!!

Me:  Do you think you’re the wicked witch of the west?  Don’t worry, it will be fine.

Jake:  How about if we don’t wash our hair?

Nate:  How about if we only wash our private parts?

Jake:  How about we just get out?

Me:  No, No, No.

And after the hygiene we read stories and sing songs.

I am the reader and Dave is the singer.  If for some reason one of us is missing for the routine the kids get extra stories or songs in lieu of the other.  Currently Nate likes any song which has to do with Jesus or God.  I think I could listen to them sing  “Jesus loves me” over and over and never grow tired of their tiny voices loving Jesus.  Currently a favorite  is “This little light of mine”.  They learned it at Vacation Bible School and sing it over and over.  It’s been a long time since I sang “This little light of mine”,  all I could remember was that I needed to let it shine and not to hide it under a bush.  No, No, No.

I told you singing was not my forte.  Last night I was missing during bedtime.  I was probably doing something terribly fun like washing dishes or going to the bathroom.  The excitement never stops around here.  While I was living it up, Dave was taking requests for songs.

Jake:  I want to sing “This little light of mine”  but like Grandma does it.  Not like Mom.  (thaaaanks)

And they started singing.

This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

and then they got to this verse:

Jake:  Don’t let Nathan blow it out,

Dave:  Wait!  Nate won’t blow your light out.

Jake:  No Daddy, that’s how it goes.  Grandma said.  Nathan, it’s another word for the Devil.  I’m not gonna let Nathan blow out my light!

I’m not sure why Jake would think we’d name his brother after Satan…

Once the singing and reading is done the light negotiations begin.  Nathaniel is terrified of the dark.  I’m pretty sure that he’s afraid because of this.  He would be happy if we left all of the lights on and gave him a flash light along with a glow worm.   Unfortunately lights are rather conducive to play time which then results in never falling asleep and that just leads to cranky kids and mom the next day.  We compromise on the light being left on in the hallway.

Every night we find Nathaniel in the doorway.

Dave:  you can go sleep in your bed.  It’s very comfy and warm.

Nate:  No, I am a little bit older and a little bit stronger.  Jake is asleep and I need to stay awake for him.

And every night, he falls asleep, last, in the doorway.  He’s the protector.  No amount of convincing will persuade him to sleep in his own bed.  No bribe, no loss of nap, nothing.

While on vacation this last week I was privy to a bedtime routine which I’m usually not part of.

A little bit of the back story:

Dave always tells me goodnight as we fall asleep. More often than not, the moment my head hits the pillow I am asleep, or very near sleep that it’s hard to squeeze out that last bit of energy for a response.  One night he told me that his whole life him and his brother told each other goodnight.  He then told me that the first night in his own apartment how awkward it was that there was no one to say goodnight to and how glad he was to never have to feel that way again.

My sister is ten years younger than me.  We’ve never shared a room either, so we’ve never had that routine, but I found it to be a very sweet story.  I’ve often wondered if they are unique or other siblings who share a bedroom say goodnight to each other.

On our way home from California last week we spent the night at a hotel.  It was very late and we were all very tired.  We made a pallet on the floor for Nate and Jake to sleep.   Jake was fussy and Nate cuddled up close to him.  I turned out the lights and I heard quietly from the floor:

“Goodnight Jakey, I love you”

“Goodnight Natey”

Maybe the best and most important bedtime routine of all.

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