What I did this summer

Given that we’re starting school on next week, I suppose this is an appropriate title.   During the week that I wrote my last post, there was also Vacation Bible School (VBS).   

 

This picture doesn’t fully capture the work that was put into transforming our church gymnasium into a high seas adventure—ocean-like wallpaper and all.   The backdrop to the kids’ final performance is a pirate’s ship.    This was a tremendous effort on all parts; this year, we had 60+ volunteers and approximately 200 kids!

The day after VBS ended was our littlest one’s 7th birthday.   It was a quiet, intimate celebration with our immediate family as I had work-related meetings that day, and I think the kids were happy to relax for a change.  We’ve had so many events this summer until I’ve intentionally tried to pare down the daily running around.   With that in mind, going somewhere, even to church, every day, can be draining for the kids, and especially for me.   

 

We’ve also cooked up a storm, or at least, I’ve taken more photos of my cooking.    Here’s my seafood kabobs (shrimp, scallops, peppers, red onion, and mushrooms),

 

 

my four-bean enchiladas,

 

 

and my vegetarian chili with tofu and beans.

 

 

 

I am trying to consider our growing son’s dietary needs as a forethought and not an afterthought, so I’m deliberately incorporating more vegetarian dishes into our regular diet.    He shot up 6 inches and counting in the last 10 months.   Yesterday, I cooked a 13-bean soup, and I’ll experiment for the first time with grilled tofu later this week.   Uh, oh!

What I’ve done this week is finalize the plans for the school year beginning next week, and come to the revelation that there will never be enough hours to fit in every book and make use of all the neat tools that are now available to us.    In fact, Internet Café Devotions contained a wonderful devotion entitled “MommIdentity” on yesterday, and I could readily identify with who I am.   I also recognized the tendency to always look at who others are and what they do well rather than realizing that each of us has places of brilliance amidst an otherwise perhaps hum-drum home education model.    This was the crux of my conversation with Karen on last night—the darker side of homeschooling, where comparisons between children can leave us feeling defeated, inadequate, and insecure.    I appreciated the chance to pray with her as she makes decisions about home education in the midst of a fight with breast cancer; it is amazing how the Lord can speak into you when you think you are speaking into others.

In all this activity, I have yet to do something that is totally self-indulgent, and for right or wrong, I want that time.   My plan is to blow the dust off my scrapbooking tools, and to finally put together the kids’ dance photos of more than 1 year ago.   I might have a window this weekend while our youngest spends the night with her grandparents and 5-yr old cousin.    The house should be quieter 🙂 and I’ll have a day to get pages completed.   That is, unless we have to drive to pick up a new hound dog.    I’ll pick up on that story the next time.   God bless.

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Musings

So much has happened in the last 1-1/2 weeks and I’m having trouble sorting it into a coherent blog post, but I’ll give it a shot.   Maybe chronological order will help.

We ordered our steps to have a very uneventful Independence Day, turning down a couple of invitations to get together for grilling, formal fireworks displays, etc.   I use the word ‘formal’ because our neighbors put on an informal display that would rival most public facilities.   Seriously.   Though this picture is borrowed from Photobucket, our neighborhood sky looked just like this on both Saturday and Sunday night—for hours. 

The one item we did have on the agenda was to visit my in-laws.   Though my husband is often within minutes of their home while at work, we’d somehow missed several opportunities to exchange Father’s Day greetings, summer birthday presents, recital  well wishes, and just a simple hug and “hello.”   Additionally, our niece had been sick with asthma-related complications during the week, forcing them to share hospital duty with my SIL.   So our planned visit kept getting postponed until we found ourselves at their home for July 4th.     

As a necessary bit of stage setting, getting our families together can be, well, interesting, for lack of a better word.  For the last 10 or more years, the generational torch has been passed from my MIL to my SIL and to us, having purchased larger homes and wanting her to be able to rest and enjoy.   (My MIL, however, still provides the meal at my SIL’s home as the latter does not cook  🙂 ).     My MIL and SIL “roll” very differently than my husband and I, so coordinating can be a bit taxing.  As you know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m a planner; my in-laws are very last minute.   I should also mention that my MIL always has even more irons in the fire than I do.   The result of this is that, whatever time we set, her dishes (as well as her presence) are always later than what we’ve planned.    By the time we sit down to eat, we are probably both rattled over the food temp and taste, and the fellowship (the next source of stress is the time as she and my FIL don’t drive as well at night, so she’s rushing to enjoy all the festivities before the sun sets).    This day was different.    Ours was a very impromptu “we’re coming over for a little bit, don’t cook anything special” type of visit at their home—no need to worry about trying to return home safely after hours.   She did cook something special—a delicious fish soup inspired by the Islands.   I enjoyed it enough to later try my own modified recipe.    We had a great time, and it was lovely to enjoy each other’s company without a lot of fuss and finery.

Dance season is now over.    Our son competed, as a soloist and with his team, and I don’t think we could have asked for better results given the circumstances.     Our son placed 3rd out of 12 soloists, which is amazing for a number of reasons.   First, I think this particular sponsor caters more to girls (and specifically, young girls who can move like adult women).    Secondly, our son has danced as a junior (ages 9-11) for the last school year as he just turned 12 a few weeks ago.    Because of a rule change, he was placed in the teens category (ages 12-14), which meant he was dancing against dancers with far more experience and talent.    I kept waiting to hear his name as they announced 12th place, 11th place, and so on—not to say that we were shooting for last place, but for the reasons I listed above, we all knew what he was up against.   Also, in the defense of the sponsors, at Nationals, each competitor is the one of the best dancers at his or her respective school.    The team also put in an amazing performance, and landed 5th out of 9th with a platinum level (excellence) recognition.    For a team that has secured last place for the last two years, this was tremendous.   Now we await the tryout results for next dance season, but between you and me, I found out that we have two kids competing next year—our son and the oldest.   (Shhh!  She doesn’t yet know!)     I’m just working on my beans and rice recipes—we’ll need that grocery money for more ’pique, pas de bourrée!’

A few shots of our oldest while away at fashion camp:

 

 

 

 

 

So where are we now?    Books are coming in, which is always exciting.    I read the Sonlight catalogs where parents talk about “box day”—the day that those books, etc. arrive, and I think there’s something to what they say; there is a sense of exhilaration as that plan begins to take shape and unfold.    I’ve already begun reading through these two before I get into them with our son.   I’m excited, probably more excited than he is, to learn more about the movement of the Gospel.

There are many books on my list, but I am also learning to buy in stages.   I have a couple of purchases to make this week in order to get started, and then we’ll add as money becomes available and need arises.   As one example, I would normally buy Sonlight’s instructor guides and then buy the books used as we go.   However, the truth is that I’ve never used the instructor’s guides as they are meant to be used.   So, cutting where I can, I’ve just bought books and I’ll wing it from there.  That’s right, kids—be afraid.  Be very afraid.

There is much more on my mind, but this week of VBS means that the hubby and I get to spend time alone while the kids enjoy the evenings at church.   One of those nights, though, will be spent at mid-week Bible study, and another will be a hand-in-hand trip to Toys R’ Us to shop for our youngest daughter’s 7th birthday on Saturday.    Being a wife, mother, and wearer of numerous hats in balancing all the many wants and needs of a household requires a special grace from the Lord.   BUT, that sounds like another post.   God bless you.

The busiest summer–(until next year)

Unless the Lord says differently, this has been/ will be our summer:

Weeks 1 and 2: preparation for this year’s dance recital

Week 3:  oldest in class for PSAT review

Week 4 (this week): oldest away at camp

Week 5:  oldest in class for PSAT review, part II

 Week 6: son at National Dance competition

Week 7: VBS

Week 8:         (can you believe it?—nothing to do!!)

Week 9:  begin school(?)

There are at least two aspects of this schedule that have become my latest musings.   The first is pondering how, every summer, I make a declaration that we are just going to rest, and every summer, we are busier than the summer before.   I wonder if I stated, “This summer, we’re going to be busier than ever!” would we actually have nothing to do?    I might try that next spring.   Right now, however, what this schedule means is that we will potentially have only one “do nothing” week, which also happens to contain my husband’s birthday, before school would start.   I intentionally wanted to start earlier this year because my goal is to finish school early enough to get outside in late April/ early May before it gets too hot.   The older two weren’t totally in agreement with this, but then again, they’re not the ones that do the lion’s share of weeding, mulching, and watering during the blazing heat.   Now I’m not sure if my plan will work.    Rest is important to academics, too, and we’ve not had much of it as far as I can tell.    

The other realization I’ve had, as we left the oldest waaaaaayyy out west yesterday, is that this is the first time we’ve been apart from any of the children for an extended period of time.    On the bittersweet ride back home yesterday, past endless windmills and mesquite trees, I thought about a family favorite of ours, Disney’s “College Road Trip” (Martin Lawrence, Raven Symone.)   

At the end of the movie, as Raven’s character waves goodbye from behind the opened door of her dormitory, her parents fight back tears, and memories of childhood past flash through their minds as they return a final wave—for a while.   Were we experiencing a glimpse of what we’ll go through in a couple more years?    I think so.     And though she politely ushered us out of the door so that she could begin her week as a semi-grown up, she missed us, too.    During our 10-hour drive back, she texted twice, then called twice, saying the latter time, “Would you like me to talk you until you get home?”   (We were 5 hours away from our driveway at the time).     I couldn’t help but laugh at how irritated she gets when little brother and sister make an unannounced visit into her room, and yet, what does she do with her first opportunity to be alone?   She calls home, and talks with little sister.   Priceless.

When I’m not playing taxi cab/ head cheerleader for all these efforts, I have had a little time to think about next school year, and to even make a decision or two (smile).    The oldest had asked about learning home management skills—how to cook, complete the laundry cycle, etc.     I began to try and formalize this into a Home Economics course on last year, but it never materialized.    It probably won’t happen this year, either, at least not in a formal sense.   We will pull in some Dave Ramsey and/or Larry Burkett materials on personal finances, but I think that, for the most part, we’ll learn to manage a home by managing our home.   The biggest dilemma I’m having in this area is how to teach cooking to someone who doesn’t eat.      So much of good cooking is about intuition and instinct regarding taste, flavor, and pleasurable textures on the tongue.  Based on my own childhood experiences, I’ve had to fight the demons that cause food to be so much more than food—it was comfort, it was companionship, and it was love.  For our oldest, food is what food should be—sustenance to allow her to get on with the priorities of her day.    For that and a couple of other reasons, her diet is fairly restrictive; how do I turn her into a cook?    What I’ve thought about doing so far is to work with the things she likes and make sure she can prepare those;  artistry will come with time.

Otherwise, I’ve been gathering books and book ideas, and pulling projects into the kids’ studies for next school year.   It’s shaping into another fun learning time (at least, I think so.)    I’m also in thought/ prayer about joining a homeschool group again—not for the sake of the group, but for the sake of our youngest daughter, who needs to get out, and to do something different than what she currently does.    Of course, this could happen in a myriad of ways, and that’s the part that I’m prayerful about;  a homeschool group is not a homeschool group is not a homeschool group, and I am definitely not decided that we need some of the more negative aspects of a group in the effort to have more play days and field trips.   Somewhere in the midst of all this busy-ness I will have to carve out some thinking/ praying/ meditating time.   So much needs to be more carefully thought through than I have time to do right now, but I plow along.

I suppose frustration would be an easy space to crawl into right now, but I make the conscious effort to be thankful.    So, in the midst of all of this, I’m thankful that…

1)      We had resources to do all the items listed above

2)      Where resources looked limited, God provided abundantly (I’m still speaking that)

3)      Dad has been able to travel with us, and has worked from home on several days this summer

4)      We spent a safe and fun Father’s Day on the road, and returned safely on yesterday (also speaking that trip #2 will be the same or better)

5)      Today I will sleep as much as I want to (Hallelujah!)

6)      I saw the one corner of Texas that I’d not seen before

7)      I was asked to take on some additional work that won’t require too much time

8)      Our okra is growing like crazy

9)      With dance season over (for the most part), we can attend mid-week service

10)   Next dance season, class times were adjusted such that we can continue to attend mid-week services

11)   Whatever happens over this summer, busy or not, we serve a great God.

That’s a very small, non-exhaustive list.   Hope you feel the same way when you jot yours down.

Dance Recital 2010

Plan A was to compile a Photobucket slide show that would show off the many photos that I wanted to share.   I then found out that the HSB upgrade doesn’t support Photobucket slide shows, and there’s a new program/ plug-in that I’d need to master in order to post my slide show.    Later for that–literally.    So, here goes, and I’ll try to not post too many photos (though I make no promises).

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much better could life get for this guy?   He had the lead part in this year’s production of Pinnochio, and he turned twelve on the day of the recital.   All day, he heard that familiar chorus, and other well wishes, as he danced mightily in number after number.    I don’t even think he remembered the cake awaiting until much later when we arrived home.

 

 

 

 

So, what does a young man do after twirling ladies around, being serenaded and then lauded by hundreds of young fans (smile)?   He comes home to celebrate with Spiderman.   After all, he is only 12 years old.