Saturday, July 31, 2010

Garlic Goodwill

I never knew how much I loved garlic...until I stopped buying it out of a jar. My first attempts at fresh garlic were not without mishap, especially when I thought the whole head of garlic was a clove of garlic.

Well, I've come a long ways. Call me Miss Domestic.

I still won't peel the stuff, it takes too long.

But there is this great product at Costco called Fresh Garlic...Peeled.

Beautiful stuff there.

So, because I don't really need two pounds of fresh garlic, I have stolen my mother-in-law's recipe for roasted garlic and I now roast those handy-dandy, pre-peeled garlic cloves. Then, I share the garlic goodwill with others. Like this Friday, when we went to visit some dear friends after a week of camping...

Inevitably, we were dirty.


So, I planned ahead and came bearing gifts...hoping they would let us in the door.

They did.

I'm pretty sure it's because I brought the garlic. Or because we're so utterly charming that the grime was hardly noticeable...um...it was the garlic.

Here's the easy steps:

Open up that bulk-sized bag of garlic and spread it out on a cookie sheet or low roasting pan.

Pour some olive oil over the top (about 1/2 a cup, or more) and toss to coat.



Roast the garlic at 325 for about 30 - 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so.



Let the garlic cool a bit. It should look like this when you are done.



Then throw it in your food processor and let your two-year old push ON.

Package the garlic in cuter packaging than mine and throw it in your refrigerator until you feel that garlic-goodwill-feeling. It will keep for approximately four months.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tenement on Wheels

This morning, we are on the road. Not to be confused with the side of the road.

We are headed to the ocean to show the kids real waves, real fish, and real camping. Okay, that last part is a joke. Who are we kidding? We'll be driving our e-bay motorhome (we own half of it, my parents own the cleaner half), and we're parking it in an RV park, hooking up our electricity and water, and conveniently calling it camping. It's rough - I have to actually light the stove before I cook, thank you very much. And the shower water pressure is a tad too strong, leaves me almost sore. Roughing it.

Anyways, all of this means that I've spent the last two days trying to prepare. And there are a few essentials for every family vacation that I dragged out to the motorhome (which, by the way, is currently parked in our driveway and racking up CC&R code violations). I thought you should know what essentials - other than electricity and running water - we can't live without while "camping":

Games - we're all about these, especially with our six-year old. I like to think of myself as the coach she never had - my job is to make sure she learns how to lose with grace. Which means I show no mercy. I do my best to whoop her at every game we play, particularly Phase 10 and SET. For the younger kids, we are into the Letter Factory Bingo game that I picked up at a thrift store for $3. Their victory dances are so cute to us and are going to make for very awkward moments in a few years at the soccer games. Real Gil and I used to play boardgames together before we had kids, now we're too tired to have many remaining brain cells. But if we do blow the dust off an old, well-loved game, it'll definitely be Bohnanza, the best game ever.

Books - we have quite a variety this week...Philip Yancey for me (The Jesus I Never Knew)... Bringing Up Boys for Real Gil... Ramona the Pest for Punkin'... and some Curious George for the younger two. I can't wait to snuggle up oceanside and read the same story over and over, just to keep my kids in my arms.

Garlic. Yes, never leave home without it. I'll tell you more about this soon...(recipe included)

Good music and running shoes. Doesn't necessarily mean anything, I could just look at them. But a little fast-paced Tommy Walker or Matt Maher just might get me in the mood for a run.

Tickets to an aquarium and a surprise trip on a sailboat for the kids...have I mentioned what a terrible swimmer I am? How I don't really like boats unless I'm seeing them from my picnic blanket on the beach? I have actually told my children that if we are ever drowning, follow Daddy because Mama is going to see Jesus. Now, I know you all didn't like those Morbid Monday posts but just in case our boat gets hijacked by a confused whale, and my orange life-jacket doesn't keep me afloat, will you please forward those posts to Real Gil, so he remembers all the important details of life without me? Especially the puke bowl. Someone remind him not to toss salad in it, please.

Hope you are doing something fun, even daring, today.

Resting in Christ Alone,
Karen

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday

Well, I've been staying up wa-hay too late this week with Real Gil away in the evenins. And because I am so sacrificial, I am not caught up on Top Chef as my evenings have been spent reading and linking great posts for my ever-so-kind readers. So, I hope you find a few minute to check them out.
  • On a more practical note, here's a link to the workbox system that we use for organizing all of the homeschool stuff in our home. Jolanthe does it a bit differently than we do, but she's got loads of information, links to many other families' systems, and best of all, free printables.
  • Although I do not struggle with the ongoing debate over Christians and birth control, I have in the past, and still find the discussion interesting. Since I'm mentioning Amy, I must recommend one of my favorite posts of all time, her post on birth control. It was gentle, humble, and doggone smart (that's her). This recent article from Christianity Today poses another view. I found the comments after both articles to be particularly interesting too. On a related topic, if you found last week's link to the new book, Quivering Daughters, to be insightful, you might want to try your hand at winning a copy free, here.
  • Lighter stuff, you say? Oh, do I have it for you!!! If you need to laugh, check out this blog - a virtual family that lives in Pottery Barn catalogs - or this blog which makes me laugh at myself.
  • An interesting article on what is really making Americans fat...Real Gil is a skeptic when it comes to organics and he's not going to like this article! But if you're personally sold on organics, this article contains a list of the "Dirty Dozen" items that are high in pesticides and a corresponding list of the "Clean Fifteen" items that aren't high in pesticides.
  • Check out Cathe's workroom...makes me want to be crafty just so I can sit in here and "work." I just want to know if anyone has talked to you, Cathe, about your cigar addiction...
  • Jesus is enough, more than enough, whether we know it or not. When I'm being perfectly honest, I know there are days when I know it and there are days when I go hunting for "better stuff." Here's Kristen's take on it.
Have a delightful weekend!

Resting in Him,
Karen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Newlyweds and Retirement

The only time that seems safe to me is the very present. Now.

I know we can learn from the past. That's one of the highest commodities of history - learning and growing from the past. In looking back, we see God's faithfulness to us personally over the years. God even commands us to reflect, to recall our past and how He has been faithful. He tells the Israelites over and over again to remember... Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. (Deuteronomy 15:15) It seems they were always building monuments in order to remember God's faithfulness.

But remembering the past can be a dangerous place to sit for too long. I start to recollect otherwise forgotten and forgiven sins done against me (or sins I committed against another). Or I remember how sweet life used to be..usually these recollections take me to the newlywed years b.c. (before children) Like most nostalgic moments, I forget the cockroaches, tight budgets, and that miserable semester of Non-Euclidean Geometry. I just remember the simplicity, the SLEEP...and a spirit of discontent rises in me.

I'm not the first one to do this. The Israelites were rescued by God from tortuous conditions in Egypt and afterwards, their memories warped as their hunger grew: We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (Numbers 11:5)

Their moaning and complaining went on so much that God finally gave them what they wanted - meat. So much so that it was coming out their noses. Similarly, if I look back so fondly at my early years of marriage, before children, and resort to complaining about today, might God someday give me what I want? Peace and quiet...until I hate the very thought of it.

Just the other day, we were at a Fourth of July picnic. There was an older couple, probably retired, sitting behind us at their perfect picnic meal. While we ate chips straight from the bag, they had a tablecloth, a table, the perfect picnic basket, cloth napkins, real silverware, and glass bowls of fried chicken and corn. Between the chaos of chasing little ones, I observed them... observing others. When they ate, it was quiet between the two of them. And it appeared to be lonely. They couldn't have missed us, we were loud and our two-year old threw his beloved stuffed animal into the air and it landed next to their apple pie. I wondered if they disapproved of us or if they were thinking of days gone by, when the kids were young and they held sweaty, sticky arms close. Perhaps that's why older folks often tell us younger folks to savor the moments, reminding us that it'll all be over before we know it. And us younger folks tend to think in our minds, "Yeah, right." I know of one young mother who actually said it out loud, turning to an older man and replying, "It isn't going by quickly at all. It's terribly slow! And it's usually covered in peach yogurt or fingerpaints!" But I wonder if he wanted to reply that he'd trade it in a second, to be away from old age and loss.

Funny how recalling the past or dreaming about the future can be the perfect breeding ground for discontent.

Looking forward to the future can also be a dangerous mind game for me. Dreams, goals, plans, aspirations are all admirable. But the future is also full of unknowns, which isn't very comforting to a control freak like myself. I start to get a bit put out. When I see a crack dealin' teenager on TV, I immediately start to imagine my own children selling crack. And I panic...start manipulating and controlling others around me out of fear, laying down ridiculous rules for my kids and myself.

So, whether you are looking backwards at what you used to be or have, or whether you are looking forward to what you want to be or have, if discontentment settles in and wraps its weedy arms around your spirit, you will always be left wanting.

The secret balm for this malady is not a secret at all. We all know that usually, the grass is no greener on the other side. But if we are tempted to peek a bit too far over the fence, just to make sure it's no greener, the Apostle Paul reminds us of the secret to being content:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11b-13, my emphasis)

The secret is Jesus.

His very life in us, whispering "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." We have only to listen and abide here, where every need is met. (See Hebrews 13:5) Thankfulness abounds instead of complaints, and rest is...well...restful.

Remembering is precious. And dangerous. That's why I watch home videos with caution.

Anticipating the future is precious too. And dangerous. That's why I don't like to window shop.

But both are important parts of a healthy, rich life - remembering and dreaming.

The key to remaining content with the Now is in letting Him who strengthens do what He does best - strengthen. As we fix our eyes on Him, the present moments find their place in time. He sees the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning, and this moment is His too. He wants to be the animator of our timeline, and when He is allowed to be our focus, our strength, we rest in the present. Thankfulness is suddenly contagious and glory is His.

Today, I'm doing my best not to peek at greener pastures, but to allow myself the opportunity to recall the past, dream about the future, and savor the present.

Resting Here,
Karen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Really?? To Complete Strangers??!

Can we really open our hearts and homes to complete strangers? Does the writer of Hebrews not understand John Walsh and America's Most Wanted?


I'm sure there is a place for practical wisdom and all of those parental warnings not to pick up hitchhikers. Perhaps this is the place to insert that.

But a few snapshots flitter through my mind when I think of hospitality to strangers...
  • A middle-aged man rides by on a scooter with a four or five-year old little girl holding on to his waist. They stop at a trash can and he lowers the dirty bag from his shoulder. I look twice to make sure I'm really seeing this happening in our little town. Our little cold town, the heater in my car reminds me. Behind me, a six-year old passenger sees it too. We watch as he puts plastic gloves on the little girl's hands (none for him) and they work the lid off the trash can. My mind races, and so does the mouth of my observant daughter. We drive with purpose to the next trash can in line and I slip out of the car, shiver over to the container, and carefully lay my largest bill (not big enough) inside the can. We drive away, praying together for the pair, and praising God that He inspired and animated our hearts in that moment to be available.
  • The woman's hair belies the many wrinkles on her face and I'm not sure she even notices how her left hand keeps flitting up to cover her not-so-perfect teeth. Many times she comments on my sweet family and then, asks me, "What is it about you that makes you such a breath of fresh air?" And I wimp out...blush...shrug my shoulders and list off things: "Oh, maybe it's just the sunshine. Or good makeup...[Then, like an afterthought...] And God." She changes the subject quickly and I wish for a second chance. I wouldn't make jokes, I would say the only thing that makes any of us captivating - Jesus. A shameful moment lacking in hospitality and courage that only He can supply as I trust Him with the results.
  • And have I ever loved a complete stranger like I love this one?

Her eyes, her face, even her goat have been memorized in my mind. She is ours. And we don't even know her, have never laid eyes on her. Sergine. Child #________. She holds framed positions on our walls.Might hospitality - His kind - have a role in our supernatural love for her?
Resting in His Perfect Welcome of Me, and You,
Karen

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hospitality Continued

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels."
-Hebrews 13:2


With three little ones underfoot, I don't always have the time, energy, or resources to practice hospitality. Especially of the sort my parents practiced with Greg.

But as the verse in Hebrews reveals, God's hospitality is geared not just towards friends or family, but also towards strangers or acquaintances. This is a challenge for me, and I'm an extrovert! What about all the introverts out there? As I have pondered this, though, I realize that a genuine openness is where true hospitality can start. It doesn't require fancy meals or well-organized games for the kids (although those are great). It doesn't even require formal invitations. Instead, I believe hospitality is an invitation to enter. To welcome others into our lives. Can't that happen anywhere? Even - dare I say it - on a blog or Facebook?

Just the other day, I was visiting a very old, frail family member. Unlike my normally distracted manner, I stopped, looked her in the eye, and asked how she was doing. She started to describe some of her struggles and I found myself wrapping an arm around her, rubbing her back gently. These are not normal responses for me - even unnatural - but I realized that it was exactly what she needed, especially when this older woman leaned into my arm as if she was thirsty for an embrace. I took the invitation and she took mine. Maybe for the first time in my adult life, I held her in a true hug. Generations switching places and I held her carefully after all the years she held me.

Could this be the hospitality that God inspires? An openness of the heart? I am ashamed to admit how few times I have allowed His Spirit to take me to such a vulnerable place. After all, this dear woman in my life could have "pshaw!-ed" my arm off or stepped away to readjust a knick knack on the wall. That would have been okay too, because the result is not up to me. But it was exhilarating to watch His Spirit use me to meet a need I didn't even know was there.

Please note that I am not boasting here, no pats on the back. Because true hospitality says that we open ourselves to His Spirit which does the naturally impossible and supernaturally possible in and through us.

More to come...

Resting in Him,
Karen

Saturday, July 17, 2010

True Story




Real Gil's side of our family tree looks orderly and trimmed, while my side looks like it got sprayed with powerful fertilizer. With five living generations, it has lots of great stories and makes the tree nice and lopsided. Stories about folks rebelling and leaving the Amish, missing brothers who were quite possibly spotted with Native American tribes years later, a grandma who smoked a corncob pipe and became a Civil War widow...Somehow, the stories intertwined in California where my parents' lives mingled and merged.



One "branch" of our family at a recent reunion


Generations before me all lived in Southern California. Some even have streets named after them. It was my parents who decided to leave these deep roots. They dreamed of fresher air, narrower roads, and more opportunities.

So, they started by putting a For Sale sign in the front yard of the only home I could remember - a ranch-style four-bedroom house with metallic butterfly wallpaper in the front bathroom and gold specks in the kitchen linoleum. I used to try to peel up the linoleum to get at that stubborn gold, but it teased me with its inlaid permanency.

One day, not long after that scary sign was posted in our yard, my father went out to cut wood. (Doesn't that sound like Laura Ingalls? "Pa cut wood while we played ball with the dried pig's bladder..." I always had nightmares about that part.) While away, he tramped through one of the few remaining orange groves in the area and stumbled upon a man sitting under a tree. Other than the obvious meal of fresh oranges, he was hungry, homeless, and eager to work. My father brought him home for dinner.



Do not forget to entertain strangers...

His name was Greg and he ate with us that night, three girls all lined up at the table with my parents. He told us about his family in Montana, how he hoped to send them money soon. I remember getting soap in my eyes that night in the bath and when I came out to say good night to my dad, Greg patted me awkwardly on my wet head and asked if I was okay. I remember thinking he was nice.

Perhaps we should have been scared of a strange man, and I probably would have been, except that my father was big and strong and smart, and Greg seemed gentle and quiet. He lived in the camper parked behind my grandparents' home and worked during the day getting our house ready to sell. I can still see his silhouetted frame next to my father's, hammers in hand as they repaired roof shingles while we jumped rope in the driveway.


I recall drippy popsicles while paint slapped onto the siding...His seat at our kitchen table during meals, talking to our dad, nodding shyly to our mom.

...for by so doing...

I'm not sure how long it was before the work was finished, probably a month or so. Maybe longer.

But I distinctly remember the day Greg finished his work. My mother - always cooking or cleaning or encouraging or softening (don't those all go together in a mother's day?) - made a special meal to celebrate the mens' completion of the house. Now all that was needed was a buyer. The excitement - and perhaps, the anxiety - were palpable in the air. Could a buyer be found? Could these two twenty-eight year old high school sweethearts really uproot their children and move to an entirely different state? So that the bread winner of the family could start his own company? Uncertain times for sure!

My father came into the house, dirty and sweaty from their last day of work on the house. Walking down the hall towards a hot shower, he announced that Greg was going back to the trailer to take a shower of his own and then, he would return for dinner. Mom stirred, Dad prepared a paycheck made out to Greg. Maybe time slipped by quickly...and then, it slowed to a standstill. Because Greg was late to dinner. Then, after finally feeding us children, Greg's paycheck still sat unclaimed on the kitchen counter. Phone calls were made - first calmly to grandparents who looked in the trailer...then urgently to hospitals and jails throughout the area. For two days, my parents hunted for Greg. And never found him. Eventually, they ripped up the check. And called him an angel.

...some have unwittingly entertained angels. (Hebrews 13:2)

Skeptics might argue and label Greg a drifter, a man who wishes to remain hidden. I agree to all of these, but perhaps he was of the angelic type.

I had forgotten this story until today, when this verse was read aloud at church. At first, I scoffed mentally, wondering if angels really come to us like strangers. Then, I remembered Greg. And perhaps more important than an angelic drifter named Greg was the message my parents sent to us children - angels exist, God cares, and we can talk to Him who hears, really hears.

True hospitality is done in a Spirit that is not our own, One that empowers our hearts to be as open as our doors. From that will always flow glory to God, and blessings to children who watch it all.

Remembering His goodness today, His messengers who go unnoticed, unpaid, or doubted. And recalling His Spirit that can empower me today to be truly open with my home and my heart.

Resting in This,
Karen

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot Sun, Good AC, Fun Links

It's been a few weeks since I have spent any notable amount of time reading online. So, I'm trying to make it up to you this Friday with lots of great links. Happy weekend to you and yours!

Resting in His Strength,
Karen

  • The "simple" life can mean a lot of different things...a humorous article on rural life in America.
  • Contrast that with this fascinating blog which documents a teenager's conversion and transition into the Amish community.
  • This one is a doozy. I debated whether or not to put it up, but it definitely has me thinking, thanking God for my own upbringing, and resting in His faithfulness to my children in spite of all their parents' mistakes...Please try to look past some of her sweeping generalizations and I think you'll find many truths in this article, if you decide to read it.
  • Some free stuff for all you elementary homeschool folks.
  • Something I am definitely planning on reading...we need all the help we can get around here with girls.
  • A follow-up visit from Diane Sawyer with a happy ending.
  • An inspiring story that reminds me why child sponsorship is a blessing to the giver and the gifted. Each night, my kids pray for "little Jeannie in A-fica, and her goat too." What a gift she has become to our family, thanks to Compassion's work.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Cardboard Story

What would your cardboard story say?

Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Thanks to Kristen who shared this, and her own cardboard story.

I struggled with my own...especially after deciding to take pictures of myself pre-shower and post-attic-clean-out. But all is well, and I rest in Him who could care less. So, I'm trying not to.

What would your cardboard handwriting say about you, and better yet, what would it say about God?


Resting in Him Alone,
Karen

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gun of Choice

Look out 'cuz Karen put away the glue gun today and pulled out heavy artillery - the staple gun.

My children duck for cover when they see me blowing the layer of garage shelf dust off of my slightly-rusted, yet unassumingly-powerful staple gun. They know it's a serious home improvement week. Real Gil can hardly keep himself from putting a For Sale sign in the yard.

But unlike that last one, this post is of the true, legitimate I-Did-It-Myself department. Not one bit of encouragement was needed to get me through it. Call me domestic. I just might go put an apron on.

Anyways, here's what happened.

I found this frame at a garage sale. The price was right. (Because anything with the words Antique and $5 is just right. Even if it's an antique bottle of laxatives or something equally gross.)

There was a cartoonish portrait of a constipated child, perhaps being potty-trained, inside of it which I promptly ripped out. (Perhaps he needed the laxatives...) It was someone's great-great-great-grandfather and was probably worth a million dollars, but it now sits in our local landfill. Trust me though, even if it was your great-great-great-grandfather, I'm pretty sure you don't want his contorted cartoon image staring at you. Then, I painted the existing wood frame blue.


Now, up until a week ago, a white baby dress hung in the center of this salvaged beauty. You can see it in this picture of the girls' bedroom, pre-Karen's-DIY.

After I redid our master bedroom last week, the girls were feeling a bit left out and asked if we could move their furniture around. I agreed. While we were at it, Punkin asked-with a bit of a whine-if we could please get rid of the baby dress in the frame. Sugs chimed in and asked if I could take down the "baby socks" hanging in another scrounged-up and painted frame.


Yes, I know it's all a bit immature for my seven- and four-year olds. Wait until they are sixteen and I'm still trying to convince them that pigtails and hairy legs are acceptable. My babies are growing up!!! Before I know it, they're going to be asking if a tube top is appropriate apparel for a visit to Grandma's house. Perhaps that's why I only did a bit of my own whining and easily let them persuade me.

So, this is their room, pre-re-arrangement (funny word):


Considering how terrible I am with a camera, here are some too-dark after photos:




Now, personally, I don't think it looks all that different, but apparently, it does to the girls. I've never seen them skip to their bedroom at bedtime quite like they are these days. I'll take it. (And call it obedience.)

Somehow, somewhere deep inside of me, I found a teeny, tiny sliver of creativity after rearranging furniture. So, that frame got a $7 rearrangement too. It started with some old twine and a staple gun.


After tightly stretching the twine across the back of the frame and stapling it into place, I just clothespinned a few vintage handkerchiefs onto the twine.


For a total of $12, I'll stick with it. I know someday this frame is going to have Justin Bieber's face staring out of it, so I'm savoring the few more years I have to do the decorating.

That works for me!

Resting in Him,
Karen


inspired room

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Proud Mama Moment #4,391

Lest my head inflate a bit over my amazing craft skills (ah-hem.), someone small who cannot pronounce his R's decided to potty train himself this week. As much as I would like to insert my fantastic mothering skills into this process, I had nothing to do with the entire deal. Except buying a one-pound bag of Skittles to encourage the Little Man.

Want to know what turned him away from those Huggies?

A lot of summertime fun outside...and a lot of dirt just asking to be peed on...

Before we knew it, we were recording this momentous event:



(By the way, someone asked me how I was able to blot out the Little Man's private-unless-he-has-to-go areas. I had to admit to them, I don't have the least idea how to blot out areas in a video. That was just the biggest smudge I could find on the window I filmed through.)

Real Gil took him to the store and even took a picture of him after he picked his Batman & McQueen underwear.


Convincing him to do it in the toilet took a little effort (and a lot of Skittles). Again, I would like to take full credit for this part but all the credit goes to my twin sister who encouraged the little boys with the important responsibility of "making bubbles in the toilet."

Between the opportunity to stand off our back porch and spray the dirt with urine, or the enticement of making bubbles in the toilet, it was a win-win situation.

And I humbly take no credit for the entire thing. But if you happen to be at a neighborhood playground with me, be forewarned. Better yet, warn your children. Because the Little Man loves Skittles, has bad aim, and no modesty. That's why I take no credit.

Resting in Him,
Karen

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Crafting for Dummies

I don't know what kind of bug I've caught, but it might be contagious and it requires lots of energy and money. It's called the Do-It-Yourself bug and it's why I can't stop painting, adjusting, and fluffing things. It may or may not have something to do with Real Gil's dreamy moods these days about moving somewhere else. (I must wonder if he likes my results when he keeps talking about putting a For Sale sign in the yard...) But he puts up with this little epidemic with very little complaining. In fact, I can't think of one complaint...even when I hung a chandelier on a bird cage hook next to his side of the bed. Look here, I'll even get my lazy rear end up out of this chair and take a picture...


It's dark, of course, because that's when I get a chance to type. But you can see, there is no mistaking the chandelier hanging off a birdcage hook. Poor man. He did offer to switch sides of the bed which might have been indicative of his distaste, especially considering he's a creature of habit and has slept on the left side of the bed for twelve years.

Anyways, all this to say, things are changing around my house.

Have you heard of Cathe Holden's blog, Just Something I Made. I often wonder if they have some kind of hormone replacement therapy that can infuse some of her artistic eye directly into my blood. Probably not. And that's all right. I'll just copy her. But even then, I'm still intimidated by her stuff. Not too long ago, I went to my dear friend's house where Queen K is never afraid of Mod Podge, and regularly produces amazing crafts. She coached me and prodded me and gently urged me through this project so much so that I want her to become my running coach and prod me gently through every miserable mile. If she had a blog of her own, she'd be complaining right now about what a craft-wimp I am. But she doesn't, so I'm off the hook.

Here's what we - no, here's what she made - wait, no. Here's what she copied...


A Life-Size Measuring Tape!
(As with all amateur photography found on this blog,
please disregard the toys strewn across the background. These are not real, they are just props. My
yard is never littered with toys, children, or other miscellaneous objects.)

The picture is terrible, but at the top, you can see that I hung the entire 7-foot
growth chart from a wooden, spray-painted clothing hanger.


The great part is that after I translate and transfer Real Gil's handwritten measurements of our children from the wall onto this measuring tape, it can grow with them and move with us if needed.

Queen K, and perhaps many of you, can make classy crafts that look like you spent a lot of money. I am not part of your club so I just might be overly proud of this growth chart.

And it's got me to thinking...did you know there is a whole world of glue guns and cotton balls to be explored? Who knew?! Get your craft on, even you non-crafters, says I. Like these...
All homemade, no less! Do you know how expensive it is to buy kitty-cat Santa Claus cotton ball beards? Or gold-glittered antlers that sit between the feline ears? They never stay up like the package says they're going to...unless you make them yourself, says I.

Or this...a ski mask made from a simple McCall's 1960 pattern. You know, they just don't make ski masks like they used to...



I'd write more, but I have to go find my glue gun and paint brush.

Resting in Him,
Karen

Friday, July 9, 2010

Facebook for Busy Moms

Did you know "Facebook" is now a verb?

The problem is that verbs require I do something. In this case, it requires spontaneous computer access, a somewhat-peaceful environment conducive to virtual conversation, and something to write about. All of these are valid reasons for my fairly inactive Facebook account.

So, I decided that I would try the old-fashioned Post-It style of Facebook. With a bright yellow piece of paper conveniently located on my kitchen counter, I quickly scribbled down what I considered "Facebook-worthy" over the last forty-eight hours.

Here are the results:
  • July 5th, 4 p.m.: Karen Marie Berger was too slow to stop her four-year old from drinking paint brush rinse water. Then, said four-year old exclaimed, "Kool-Aid!" and Karen let herself laugh instead of freaking out.
  • July 5th, 11 p.m.: Karen Marie Berger swore to never again read suspense-filled fiction late into the night while her husband is working a graveyard. The only sheep she counted were the ones with machine guns and night-vision goggles.
  • July 6th, 8:30 a.m.: Karen Marie Berger just did a shoddy job. Considering it was not facial plastic surgery, it might be okay. But if you want to come visit and inconspicuously slide your finger across her mantle, you'll see her mediocre dusting job.
  • July 6th, 11 a.m.: Karen Marie Berger loves MagnaTiles. Especially when they become car garages or horse barns and little ones use their imaginations. "Don't kill me, I'm an orphan," says one horse to another. "I just ran over a 'cut' and I need a new tire," announces Lightning McQueen to his pit crew...
  • July 7th, 6 p.m.: Karen Marie Berger just won the Bad Stewardship Award for Mothers when she threw away a perfectly good pair of Batman underwear, rather than try to wash the disgusting, foul surprise she found inside of them. At her grandparents house. Here's to hoping the trash man comes to their house before they discover where I hid it, in a plastic bag underneath the empty strawberry container.
  • July 7th, 9 p.m.: Karen Marie Berger just killed a s-s-s-scorpion. In her house. With not one peep of noise, just a strangled gasp (mine, not the scorpion's). Proud of myself for being self-preserving while having the wherewithal to not scream and wake up the children.
Aren't you glad I don't Facebook more often? Now that you know the things I consider notable, it's better I just plant them in one blog post and make you suffer it all in one sitting.

What would a Post-It note have on it if you took notes from the last forty-eight hours?

Resting in Him,
Karen

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Curriculum

***Warning: very dry, boring post with few jokes, even about myself. Skip if you don't care about what I teach my kids.

Now that there are exactly three of you still reading...

There is a very odd phenomenon, mostly spiritual I believe, that occurs when you say "Yes!" to something out of your comfort zone. I find that even if my "yes" is a miserable, pouty one, God seems to take it and mold it until, before I know it, the thing I've agreed to has become my desire, maybe even a passion.

This has happened with school in our home. Like I said in the last post, homeschooling was not something I had ever planned on. Once it became clear that was where we were being lead, I was not at all enthusiastic, but I was willing to mutter "yes."

You know what always gets a woman enthusiastic?

Shopping.

So, I got online and started hunting for the perfect curriculum. Before I knew it, I had mapped out an education for my first-grader that only required $5,000 and about 14 hours a day to complete it in a year's time. I made myself say "No!" to that insanity and went for the prepackaged "school in a box" that told me what to do and how to do it. This was great for that first year, for this rookie teacher. If you want to know more about the curriculum I chose (Sonlight) and exactly what we read (or didn't read) for first grade, check out the list I included at the bottom of this blog post.

Now, with one year of experience behind me, I am looking forward to kicking off the next school year. I'm still a bit clueless and unsure of myself, but sure that we are again called to homeschool for the year. All this talk about it on the blog has actually got me excited all over again to color by number and write big letters on handwriting paper.

We use a workbox system to organize all of our school stuff. You can see more on this from Jolanthe, the world's most organized teacher in the world.

In a very big nutshell, here's what we are doing for second grade and preschool.

Second Grade:
  • Language Arts, Independent Reading, and Read-Alouds are all from Sonlight, core 2. This includes GREAT books which I read aloud to Punkin and age-appropriate chapter books that she reads independently. Even if you are not homeschooling, there are some great books to be found from this book list if you are looking for great books.
  • History is still a bit up in the air. I absolutely loved Sonlight's World Civilizations curriculum, but with the littler ones requiring a bit more time, I might switch to Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World, which has definitely peaked my interest. Any advice is welcome.
  • Handwriting is a well-loved little curriculum called Handwriting Without Tears. Punkin can't wait to get her pencil sharpened and her tongue swung to the side of her cheek for this year's workbook.
  • Science will be with Queen K, the most amazing homeschooling mother of fourteen. I don't have a science-minded bone in my body and readily admit it. Thankfully, someone else does so we'll be going to her house on Fridays (if she invites us again...did I mention how amazing she is? How utterly charming her home and her family is?).
  • Math is my wild card, the hippie coming out in me. No textbooks, just a lot of fun games, flash cards, a few computer games. We love the old-school Math-It games (except for the hold-your-breath-and-try-to-do-all-your-math-facts-before-you-pass-out part).
  • Fine arts...hmmm, this subject is about as fun for me as science. I can't even do pipe cleaner art successfully. Thankfully, my grandmother holds a degree in music (somewhat unheard of in her generation) and wants to teach Punkin' piano. Just last night, Punkin came home from Great-Grandma's house with a canvas bag full of piano books. The little second-grader has been driving me crazy about all the symbols, as if I have any idea why there's a 3 and a 4 stacked up at the front of the music.
  • We do "traditional" workbooks in the car when we are driving somewhere. These are usually just phonics or math books, mostly from Scholastic.
  • E.D. Hirsch has a great series called "What Your Grader Needs to Know" for each grade level. We have used this book many times over the year to assess whether we were on track or not. This summer, we have used this book to fill in any gaps in Punkin's education (because her mom lost steam right around April).
Preschool:
  • Lots of great books, mostly from the library. I use Sonlight's book list for ideas.
  • It might sound kind of funny, but someone gave us a hand-me-down box of Hooked on Phonics and my kids love it! Sugs carries around her books that she reads all by herself. It's been fun to guide her through this.
  • Letter Factory DVDs and computer games are great for the little ones. They really know all of their letters and sounds and it has very little to do with me. They even press play on the VCR, that's how lazy their mother is. Other shows we label "educational" are Curious George and Between the Lions, both on PBS.
  • Again, the kids actually like to work independently so they "do workbooks" (which might just be scribbling for the Little Man) in the van. Most of these come from Costco or WalMart, and are not great for much except confidence and review.
  • Over the years, I have collected lots of puzzles, glue sticks, glitter pens, Usborne sticker books, Discovery Toys, wooden blocks, MagnaTiles (our favorite!), Pegboards, and even a great Usborne "Educational Disc" that gets rotated through their workboxes on school days. Also, we do a "letter of the week" using Jolanthe's printable Cut and Paste Alphabet.
  • Some of our favorite books are the following: Akebu to Zapotec, any BOB books, the ABC Bible Verses,



  • ...Any Berenstein Bear books, Sophie and Sam, and the Magic Tree House series. And George. Because I love Curious George, the only book character who never sasses his parents.


So, there you have it.

Let me go on record as now, I have officially written the most boring post of the year. Please forgive me the dry, informative post. I'll make it up to you somehow...when some little one decides to embarrass me in public and give me a good naptime to tell you all about it.

Until then, I hope you are...

Resting in Him,
Karen

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

School


A few of you have asked what we do for school...do our kids go to public school? Private school? Homeschooled?

If you had to take a guess, by looking at us, which would you choose?


Yes, we homeschool.

When I was school-age myself, there were a few homeschooled kids whom we knew. Some of them were just downright weird. Some of them were downright great. Particularly one who went back to public school just in time to meet me. (Wuv. Twue Wuv.)


When I was a young, rookie, high school math teacher, I watched some of the weird homeschool kids go wild upon their eye-opening initiation into the public school arena. Others just seemed to flourish, excelling in the newness of public high school.

Being that I'm not a very nurturing person and a terrible elementary school substitute teacher, I was pretty convinced that if I homeschooled, I'd land my children in the "wacky, socially inept" category of homeschool prodigies.

I resolved that I would never, ever homeschool my children. This, of course, was the cool answer anyway, which gave me bonus points for impressing people. (Lame, Karen. Lame.) Ask any of my close friends and they will tell you that my intentions were clear - our wild maniacs turn five-years old and I send them away on a bus from 8:30 until 3:30 five days a week.

Like all non-parent advisors, I knew best. I was so sure that I knew what was best for us and our future family that I even made sure to let other people know that our plan was best for them.

Then, we had kids. And Real Gil found a great job with wacky hours.

After sending Punkin off to school for kindergarten, the wacky hours seemed to get even wackier for Real Gil. We made it work for her half-day of school.



Then, like many things in my life, it all came down to a great sale.

On e-bay.


We call her "The Tenement on Wheels." She even has carpet on the ceiling. That's what you get when you buy a good, 10-year old deal on e-bay.

So, many people have asked me why I homeschool...My answers are many...
  • I'm home with two preschoolers so why not just throw a first-grader in the mix too?!

  • We love having our family together.
  • It means Punkin gets to see her dad. (Did I mention his schedule is a bit wonky?)
  • Homeschooling isn't as "uncool" as it used to be thirty years ago. I think it might even be the wild, on-the-fringe sorta cool thing to do. I'm lacking in coolness and not above using my children to get some.
  • I love teaching, I love my kids, and we are blessed with the chance for me to be at home with the Littles. Of course, I have no pipe-cleaner-and-glue-stick abilities, but throw me a list of vocabulary words and I can't help putting them to music. Okay, I'm totally lying about that last part. I've never, ever sang a list of vocabulary words, but I really want to. If I ever do, you can bet your grandma's best coupon clippings, you'll be hearing about it on this blog. In the meantime, even without a song and dance, it all seems to be a good fit for our family. And so far, no one has failed first grade.
  • Perhaps the most important reason we homeschool is because it's what God has specifically called us to do. We will only do it until we feel He is leading us in another direction, and in no way think it's for everyone. It has to be a calling for me to eat as much humble pie as I have in the last year or so. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "What?! You are homeschooling?" Usually, I resort to some goofy joke about making my own kefir and sewing prairie bonnets for my daughters, just to cover my own squirming discomfort. Or I just sigh and roll my eyes like an adolescent: yes, I know. I always said I'd never...
  • But mostly...I homeschool because Disneyland has absolutely no lines in mid-October (We slap our knees in triumphant laughter at those empty mazes weaving through the ride entrances). And RV parks are crazy cheap in February. We get a few looks, but I'm pretty sure we'd get those even if we sent our children to organized school (not to be confused with unorganized school which is definitely the teaching method around here).


So there you go. A few of you asked why we homeschool. I'm sure you're a bit disappointed with how little depth there is to my answer, but that's the honest truth (except the part about me being cool - I really don't care about it anymore....very much...most of the time...). I'll pass on a really annoying post on what exactly we are using for homeschooling curriculum tomorrow. If you aren't interested in homeschooling, be sure to not bore yourself with the most tedious post ever as I don't know how to make curriculum exciting. Only practical. That's the new side of me you're going to see this week as I map out our own curriculum for the year.
On a more serious note, I hope my words have only encouraged those of you who are homeschooling, and have not, in any way, by any means, discouraged or alienated those of you who are not homeschooling. I hesitate to write about such a personal topic usually full of defensive triggers. Perhaps that's why I add dumb jokes throughout...I'm just so thankful that we have a God who prepares the good works for us to do beforehand and we just get to walk in them (Eph. 2:10). Whatever yours are today, I hope you are joyfully walking in them. And knowing that they don't make you or define you, but they are yours for the taking and ultimately for His glory.

Resting in Him,
Karen