Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sick Days

One of the huge benefits of homeschooling is that, when one is sick, one can actually have the luxury of being sick. I wholeheartedly believe in the medicinal power of rest. Although I am a pretty solid Type B, I have to talk myself into resting, really.

This week I have read three novels already. I'm a fairly fast reader, but my reading time is usually restricted to 20-30 minutes (or until I fall asleep) in bed each night. All three books were astonishingly excellent. I have a review of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb up on my SmallWorld Reads blog already, and if my head continues to clear, I'll have the other two—The Story of Beautiful Girl and Expecting Adam— up soon.

I figured I would get sick this week, since both Randy and Laurel had this nasty cold last week. Unfortunately for them, last week was one of those insanely busy weeks. Poor Randy took the kids to Winter Jam Friday night, at the height of his cold. If you aren't familiar with Winter Jam, picture this: 20,000 teenagers in an arena, listening to a dozen bands for 5 hours, plus finding parking and then getting out of a jam-packed parking garage after the concert. All with your head about to explode. It's nightmarish. And if that wasn't horrid enough, he had to be out of the house at 6:30 a.m. the next day to spend his entire Saturday at Boy Scout Merit Badge College. I'm pretty sure he deserves some kind of major award. I did make him apple pie.

I have a new box of herbal tea, thanks to my sweet husband, and two more novels to read at my leisure. We'll do a light day of school—a math lesson, some grammar, a little bit of Ken Burns' The War, and just reading. I have nowhere I must go today, nothing I absolutely must do. For the rest of this week, I have a small stack of essays to read and a bit of lesson planning to do, 423 shirts to iron, and a couple of articles to write. Again, it's times like this that I am struck with the simplicity of my life, the gift of choice, the shared vision that Randy and I have for this life of ours—a life that—most of the time—is simple enough for sick days.

Linked up on Finer Things Friday

Monday, February 18, 2013

How To Have a Perfect Birthday in 20 Easy Steps

1. Wake up next to the love of your life. Kiss him gently and leave him snoring.
2. Watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee, a fire in the fireplace, and a happy dog at your feet.
3. Pray with abundant gratitude, thinking about what an amazing year this past one has been—a year relatively free from stress and pressure, a year filled with good things and fabulous people.
4. Be called the most beautiful, sweetest woman in the world by your husband when he wakes up and wishes you a happy birthday. Look in his face and knows he means it completely.
5. Eat eggs and bacon, which your husband cooks for you, while drinking another cup of coffee.
6. Receive sweet hugs and birthday greetings from two out of your three beautiful children.
7. Go to your church, your still new church, the one that you are excited and joyful to go to, the one that doesn't sing "happy birthday, dear Christian" to you in the middle of service, for which you are immensely, almost tearfully grateful. Get hugs from friends. And a pretty scarf that your friend crocheted just for you.
8. Come back home and eat leftover chili, because that's what you want to do.
9. Read dozens and dozens of birthday greetings from friends on Facebook and feel tremendously grateful—and loved.
10. Eat leftover Valentines Day chocolate, guilt-free because it's your birthday.
11. Read a book until you're so sleepy that you just have to take a nap. Take that nap.
12. Take apple pie to your parents, who have colds and can't come to your birthday dinner. Hug your mother, while she says, "What a wonderful day that was. I still can't believe I finally got my little girl, my little paper doll. My Dad loved you so much."
13. Receive birthday wishes from that third child, the one away at college, whose father texted him and said, "Call your mother!" He would have remembered eventually.
14. Eat a spectacular dinner made by your husband of all your favorite things: sushi, steak, roasted Brussels sprouts, baked potatoes.
15. Open presents from your sweet family that knows you sooooo well.
16. Play a board game and laugh.
17. Eat birthday cheesecake.
18. Watch the season finale of Downton Abby. Whatever.
19. Read more birthday greetings on Facebook, text messages, and emails. Be happy, again, for the people in your life who took a minute or two to wish you well.
20. Go to bed, back where you began the day, next to the love of your life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up

What's been happening around here these past few weeks:

• Duncan did a report on Hitler for his Dialogue with Veterans class. He had actually written a biography of Hitler several months ago as part of our WWII study, so we just cut this report down to one page. That was tough! I was so relieved that he gave his speech. He's developed some anxiety about public speaking this year, so we are working on conquering that.

• Duncan has been working hard on finishing up a few merit badges for Boy Scouts. He finished Robotics just last week and also had his Board of Review and moved up to First Class. This weekend he goes to an all-day merit badge "college," where he'll do the Reptiles and Amphibians badge. He's been reading the book like crazy in preparation.
Finishing up the robotics merit badge. Not exactly sure what's going on here, but they know!

• Laurel and her fellow AHG Pioneers and Patriots (7th-12th graders) worked hard planning and setting up for the annual Father/Daughter dance and then got to enjoy it.

Randy and Laurel at the Father/Daughter dance--probably her last!

• Our teen group had their annual Black and White dance, so she's had her fill of dances for a while.

• My Dad spoke to Duncan's Dialogue with Veterans class. You can read all about that here.
Dad (on the left) and Mr. Larson, another WWII vet, with the Dialogues with Veterans class

• Duncan and I have been thoroughly enjoying studying WWII. Last week we read Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters from Children During the Great Depression and Winston Churchill: Soldier, Statesman, Artist. We've started When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which is fantastic so far. I can hardly wait for Duncan to finish all his Boy Scout stuff this weekend so we can get back to it!

• Laurel got her driver's permit a couple of weeks ago, so we have started driving lessons! We have a perfect spot across the street—the undeveloped part of a subdivision. There are only three houses but lots of cul de sacs and stop signs. She's doing great so far! She'll be 16 in six months, and I imagine she'll be totally ready for her license by then.

• Randy and Duncan went for a backpacking trip last weekend. Randy's working Duncan up to long hikes with a heavy pack. I think they went 3 miles one day and almost 4 the other, and Duncan's pack was around 25 lbs.

• Laurel's classes are all going well. We finished reading The Crucible in American Lit and are now beginning A Raisin in the Sun. I haven't taught this one before, but the Clarence Brown Theatre at UT is performing it in a few weeks. I love to be able to tailor my literature choices based as much as possible on local theatres' seasons.

• And finally, I am happy to report that Duncan has finished pre-algebra and moved onto algebra 1! We skipped the first 25 lessons and are still doing review, but hopefully soon he'll start getting into new material.

And that's what has been going on in our own small world!

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dialogue with Veterans

Duncan is in a class at co-op this semester called Dialogue with Veterans. It's a fantastic concept. The kids learn about various wars/conflicts in which the U.S. was involved, and then in the next week's session, a veteran from that particular war comes to class and talks with them.

This week's session was World War II, and my Dad was one of the two veterans invited to share their stories. Isn't he handsome? Looking at that photo, one would never guess that he is 88. He likes to joke that his army jacket has shrunk since he last wore it in 1964, but I think the fit is pretty impressive.

Dad, who was a forward observer with the 291st Field Artillery, was shipped to France in the fall of 1944. His first action was the Battle of the Bulge. The war in Europe ended, and he went back to the States with a 30-day leave, after which they were to join the upcoming assault on Japan. When he landed in the Boston harbor, newsboys met them on the docks shouting "Second Atomic Bomb Dropped on Japan!" Dad returned then to the University of Illinois.

Dad told several stories to the classes (one class was 3rd-5th graders, the other 6th-8th graders), including a couple that I had never heard before. The kids were riveted. The other veteran actually never saw combat; he was about to go to the Pacific when the bombs were dropped on Japan, so he spent the duration of his enlistment in Pearl Harbor after the war.

Here is one story Dad told that the kids loved. He's a great storyteller, so hearing it is better than reading it, but he's a good writer, too:


Oh, that was wonderful!!—that cascade of hot water on my dirty, achy body, just coming in from the farm this hot day.  Tired muscles relaxing, hurts washing away.  Wonderful shower—but not the best shower ever.  I remember the shower in that 4-star hotel in Italy?  Gold fixtures, super-soft water, and all those controls—great shower—but not the best  shower ever.  Or my very first shower.  In the basement of our house at Dix, off in the corner of the laundry room  Dad hooked up a couple of pipes and a little spray head, hooked it up to the wood stove water heater, and we had a shower, a truly awesome shower, so much better than standing in a zinc wash tub—but not my very best shower ever.  Showers in hotels, showers in motel rooms, showers in barracks, showers at school—all great, but not my best shower ever.
                  Best of all?  Nearly 70 years ago, February 1945, my outfit had been up on the line for four weeks, mostly supporting a battalion of Scots infantry, up on the line in Belgium and The Netherlands.  Snow and mud and brutal chilling cold.  A decent wash-up just not possible, to which our ripe aromas gave pungent witness.  Over-ripe bodies, tired-out, chilled bodies  tired all over.  We were called back from Vlodrop one morning, called back with all our fire control gear, radios, spotting binocs.  Called back to Sittard, down in the very south of Dutch Limberg.  Called back—and sent to the showers.
                  Showers?? Best in the world. Best ever. Very, very best showers ever. Huge GI tent. Wheel-in water boilers outside, steam rising. Steam rising from the tent too.  We filed in—clothes off, strip down, sort clothes—pants here, shirts there, sox here.  Naked bodies, all shivering in the cold Dutch air. Queue up, line of naked troopers, file forward, snail’s pace. Then at last we’re to the shower door -- inside were 12 shower heads, steaming water.  “You have 3 minutes, guys.”  Three minutes to chisel off, soap off, scrape off four weeks of grime.  Oh, glorious water!! How wonderful, this outpouring of water so hot it almost hurts! And then again the water sergeant—OK, that’s it — out you go.  Now it’s over, that tiny three minutes of bliss.  Clean clothes, new winter boots.  DDT dust squirted into our armpits, groin, up the pant legs.
                  Clean. So clean.
                  Best Shower Ever.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Miscellany

1. Weather
February, February. The month takes on such a different meaning in the South. Growing up in upstate New York, February was the month of gloominess. The snow was no longer magical. The cold was really cold. Winter sports were our saving grace, although there is nothing quite like a ride on ski lift on a cold February night to make one ponder the insanity of winter sports. I can still feel that cold wind, toes frozen, mouths almost too cold to talk.

But here in Tennessee, February is the first month of spring. Really! The daffodils are already out in some places. We have at least two little droopy guys out there, wondering what hit them. In Tennessee we have 65 degree days interspersed with 30 degree days. One never knows if we'll have snow or flowers. I'm OK with that. Last week we had an ice storm, which was exciting.

Yesterday we had snow. That was fun, too.

2. New Endeavors
I am so totally honored and grateful to be helping with a new initiative at my church. It's called LOVE>FEAR, and it's all about inspiring people to overcome fear with love. We have one feature story each week that highlights ordinary people showing how love overpowers fear. I had the honor of interviewing one amazing woman about her escape from domestic violence. Her story is called A Life Worth Fighting For. I love being part of something like this, something that recognizes how God works in the lives of people that are so often overlooked or taken for granted—and hopefully inspires others to change their lives, share their stories, take a big step, or just join in with making the world a better place.

In other new endeavors, Randy and I joined a running small group at our church recently. We met for the first time this past Saturday when the temp was 24 degrees. Pretty sure my toes were frozen. I think I might be a small group junkie.

3. Sunrises
I love to wake up around 6:30 a.m. so I can watch the sun rise over the mountains. It's hard for me not to take a picture nearly every day. I remember this feeling about Seneca Lake, the lake our house was on in New York. The lake was moody. You never knew what lake you would see upon waking in the morning, and I loved this. I've missed the lake and its many personalities. Here in Tennessee, we used to have a pear tree in our front yard that mostly obscured the view of the mountains, but thankfully that fell down last summer in a storm. I just can't stop looking out our front window and taking pictures of the sun and the mountains.

I guess I'm also a sunrise junkie.