Tuesday, May 29, 2012

About those late night discussions...

I have had a lot of late-night discussions lately, especially with one of my three girls.  I guess summer is the time to have them.  :)  I really love sleep (isn't there a proverb about that?) and have trouble being gracious late at night.  To help myself, I modified a prayer about being patient with little ones and applied it to teens and pre-teens:

Oh, give me patience when searching young souls
Wake me at night with their questioning goals
Give me wise and loving eyes
Keep my lips from sarcastic replies
And let not clumsiness, haste or fear
Deny me this chance to listen and hear
To speak one more time, to console and advise
Before they are gone to live their lives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Praise God!

We paid off the last of our credit card debt yesterday!

(cue Hallelujah Chorus music)

We still have some medical bills and the IRS bill, but the credit card amount was the biggest bear.  It feels so good to know that one isn't chasing us anymore. ;o)  The others are smaller and will disappear pretty quickly now that the credit card debt, with its greedy interest rate, isn't eating all our discretionary income.

With the last year's setbacks, we hadn't thought we would finish paying off debt until a year from now.  But God, who is rich in mercy, reminded my husband of some stock he had purchased a long time ago through his old company's employee stock purchase program.  Since it wasn't attached to a retirement account, the Warrior Poet sold it.  It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to kill the biggest bear.

I think there is light at the end of this tunnel!

The Warrior Poet is such a romantic.  He informed me of his actions by texting me:

I have a surprise for you when you get home.  It will probably make your jaw hit the floor.  This is not an understatement.

When I got home, I saw that he had made a path through our room with post-it notes.  The post-its said:

#1. I love you.

#2. Thank you for loving me.

#3.  Even though I am often a big dumb rock.

#4.  But sometimes even a blind squirrel... well, you know.

#5.  I have a surprise.  Very big.  When I say big, I mean big.

#6.  When you find out about this surprise, you'll agree I was not kidding about the MAGNITUDE!!

#7.  Have I ever mentioned what an awesome God we serve?

#8.  Because I feel he most certainly deserves huge credit for this.

#9.  There are some days when a moment or two of total clarity hits me.  Today was definitely one of those.

#10.  It felt like scales falling from my eyes.

#11.  Well, I have now drawn this out long enough and I see you are giddy with anticipation.

#12.  Open the medicine cabinet...

When I opened it, I saw a statement from the investment company and another note from the WP stating that this stock was not connected to our retirement accounts.  He then told me he had instructed them to sell, sell, sell, and the amount would be so much.

I could not believe it.  It really was a surprise of first magnitude!

(Yes, the post-its were numbered.  He is methodical as well as romantic. ;o)

So... I have an awesome God AND an fabulous honey.  And I will keep these post-its forever and ever.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Simple, yes, but not easy...

My Mother's Day gift to myself was a new book:  It's (not that) Complicated:  How to Relate to Boys in a Healthy, Sane and Biblical Way by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin.  This is a book about boy-girl relationships.  A purity book, if you will.  This may not seem like much of a gift for Mom, but it is.  I have a great desire to understand this issue.  I didn't get it when I was a young adult.  Nowadays, my kids come to ME for counsel.  I have more experience, and yet I flounder.

The girls and I have become connoisseurs of purity books.  I used to think if we were raising our kids right we would not need all the "purity paraphernalia".  I still don't think we need 'all' of it, but we get confused and allow appetites to lead.  Keeping to a biblical path is tough!  

I won't list all the books we have read but this book seems to be one of the best.  (This is a book for girls.  I do not have a recommendation for a boy book.)  I am only halfway through it.  This is because in the last twenty-four hours or so, in between church and Mother's Day activities, both of my older daughters read it cover-to-cover!  I was surprised at how quickly they inhaled it.  It is a long book! 

I appreciate the clear intelligence voice of the authors, two single girls, sisters in their early twenties.  This is a thoughtful, meaty read.

A quote:

We both walked into this boy-conscious season of life with our fair share of questions, anxieties, and confusions about relationships with boys.  How-- or rather who-- to be around boys was a big issue for us.  After hearing stories and questions from hundreds of young women around the world since then, we've come to realize that this is possibly THE big issue for young women.  In fact, we've come to believe that, most often, this is the issue that reveals who a girl truly is.  Who or what is she living for?  What is important to her?  What is her compelling desire?

(emphasis original)

The gist of their message is to focus on Christ and how He sees people.  These authors walk the fine line of encouraging girls without dismissing boys.  One chapter is entitled, "Boys are people, too!" with the subtitle, "Learning to See Boys the way God Sees Them".

Other chapter titles include:

*Why We're Interested in Boys
(and Why that is a Good Thing)
*Wounding Friend or Kissing Enemy?
(Reforming our Philosophy of Relationships)
*Slaying the Inner Vamp
(When the Female of the Species is Deadlier than the Male)
*That's Why You Have Parents
(How to Draw Strength, Wisdom and Protection from Your Father and Mother)
*Rules of Engagement
(Practical Tips on Interaction and Conversation)

(The entire table of contents as well as chapter excerpts available at this link.)

One valuable point they make is that flirting with boys and shunning boys are two sides of the same self-centered coin.  We had never thought of it that way before.

Did I mention it is a meaty read?  They reference Shakespeare several times in the first chapter.  This alone sold my kids.  They get tired of books that assume their main activities are texting and chatting on FB.  However, the title of the book is from a relationship status available on Facebook!  And there is another balancing act:  being in the world but not of the world.

I haven't finished reading yet, but I had to throw it out as a possibility for any other families treading the minefield of young adult friendships.

*Note:  As I've read further, I've noticed some references to absolute predestination.  Our family does not believe the Bible teaches that God predestinated events and actions of people, although He does providentially intervene in our lives.  We don't believe God ordained the specific men that our girls will marry (if they marry).  We do believe human choice (sinful or righteous), and even chance*, definitely influence events.  Without going too far into it, we believe the Bible (Romans 8 especially) teaches that God predestinated a people.  Not everything.  Oh, He knew what was going to happen.  But foreknowledge is different from omnipresence.  Foreknowledge implies an intimate knowledge, as in loving family relationship.  I may be explaining this badly.  But we do not believe in absolute predestination of all things, although we do believe God predestinated His people, whom He foreknew.

This takes away from the helpfulness of the book somewhat, but not too much.

*It seems to me that what we call "chance" is actually the consequences of past sin coming to bear upon us.  God does not always intervene.  Sometimes He uses a situation (caused by sinning sinners, which could be any one of us) to teach us that His grace is sufficient for us.  It may not be our sin, or even the sin of anyone we actually know, and it may be sin that took place hundreds or even thousands of years ago and is still reverberating... so it feels like chance.  Sort of like Chaos Theory.  I'm getting metaphysical here.  I could be wrong, but that's the way it seems to me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet
Though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin--
O, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross
And I bear it no more
Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord,
Haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound
And the Lord shall descend!
"Even so," it is well with my soul.

--Horatio G. Spafford

End-of-Year Performing Arts

Aravis and Mariel 
as Rosalind and Touchstone 
"As You Like It" by Mr. William Shakespeare
(Yes, that is the back of my head.  
I am doing my best to direct them.)

Mariel as a ditzy princess in our drama club play

LittleLa (left) with a friend at our drama club play.  LittleLa is an indispensible member of the backstage crew this year.

We are currently in the midst of theatricals.  Music performances happening soon.  May is a busy performing month for us.  The kids are having a blast.  I am having a blast and simultaneously trying to keep my head on straight.  After the drama club production is over, I have my studio's piano recital, the co-op Shakespeare scenes and sol-fa hymn demonstrations, piano accompaniments for the kids' orchestra and their violin teacher's studio recital accompaniments.  And then I am finished.  I'm just taking it one step at a time.

So is Aravis.  Monday she worked all day at the Walgreens, then worked all evening at the theater stage managing the drama club play.  She got up Tuesday morning and took her Trig final at the college, then went back to the theater for opening night of the play.  Crazy life.  But it's just for a few days.  We slept in this morning.  It's all about pacing yourself.  ;o)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Where Do You Find all the Books?

Yesterday, a friend asked me this question in relation to the AO/HEO books we use to educate our kids at home.  This post is a list of recommended strategies for gathering living books.

Many Charlotte Mason educators consider their libraries part of the legacy they will leave their children and purchase the highest quality books they can afford.  Our family homeschools on a shoestring.  I have often bought the least expensive 'average' condition book, but it is worthwhile to get a high-quality hardcover  if you find one at a good price.  

Before shopping for used books, it is helpful to know the jargon.  Thankfully, Abebooks has a glossary of used book terminology and abbreviations.  Keep this page open and use the "find" function on your computer to locate any terms in a listing that you don't understand.

My first stop when looking for books is AddAll.  This website searches the Internet for the lowest price.  AddAll doesn't actually sell you books, but directs you to book sellers online.  Here is a brief list of book selling websites I use:

Amazon Marketplace 

Paperback Swap is an interesting concept.  Users post books they are willing to trade and receive a credit for each book they mail to another user.  The credits are used to choose books from other users.  You can keep a wish list on the site, and they will notify you when books come available.  Twice I have gotten rare, out-of-print AO books for the price of shipping.  I have also exchanged much twaddle for living books. I currently have almost nothing I'm willing to swap, so I just buy credits when my wish list books come up.  Credits are $3.79 apiece.  Receiving credits for books mailed is generally less expensive, as the U.S. media mail rate for books under 1 lb is $2.47.  Usually, one credit gets you one book.  See the website for more information.

(I cannot recommend eBay because I do not like shopping that website.  I get too wrapped up in the competitive aspect, which causes me to overbid.  It is just better for me not to go there.  :)  Your experience may be different.)

I prefer to shop for books online because I can do specific searches and keep myself from getting sidetracked by other goodies that look wonderful but are not on my list.  Shopping for books in real life is often hit-or-miss, which is dangerous for a bibliophile.  When I leave the house to shop for books, I want to come home with books.  If I enter a brick-and-mortar store with a specific book in mind, I will very likely emerge, not with the book I need, but with four or five others that look scrumptious.  This is fine for a family with discretionary income, but for a family on a tight budget, it can seriously mess with next year's educational prospects.  

Having said that, here are some real-life places I like to shop for books:

Half-Price Books
Homeschool book fairs (usually have a couple booths of used and out of print books)
Homeschool support group/co-op used book sales
Barnes and Noble (We view this store more as a museum we visit to remember what new books look like, but they have a nice collection of reasonably priced classics in hardcover.  Some are abridged, so do your homework.)

As a homeschool buyer of many years, I can honestly say it is less expensive in the long run to purchase books on the purchasing list online, even at slightly higher prices (shipping, you know) than to purchase ten amazing books just discovered at a brick-and-mortar store or homeschool used book sale.  The exception, of course, is if you find a thrift store or flea market practically giving books away for under a dollar.  These places exist.  One of the thrift stores near us sold books for 25 and 50 cents for years.  If you find a store like this, shop every week until they come to their senses.  ;o)  Libraries sometimes literally give books away, too.  Here are a few places to check for these free or almost-freebies:

Thrift stores
Flea markets
Garage sales

Half-Price Books warehouse is another place to get free or almost-free books.  These are clearing-houses for books that do not sell in the stores.  Homeschool moms qualify as teachers at the warehouse in our area.  If you are a teacher, you may attend their clearance events in which they give away books for free or almost-free.  You have to sign an affadavit stating you will not attempt to resell the books.  I got some of my best books at one of these events.  But it can be a mad rush of people jostling for books, so beware.  This is the reason I only went once!  Also, bring boxes and a hand truck and prepare to stay to the bitter end.  People take entire shelves of books, sort through them, and put back what they do not want.  Sometimes what they do not want are classic works of natural history and science.  You can find great things if you are patient.

Borrowing books can also be an option if you know other CM homeschoolers in your area.   Many CMers are protective of their books, and with good reason.  (See "building a legacy for their children", above.)  Borrowers do not always return books, and lenders do not always remember who has their loaned books.  I have been on both ends of this trouble.  I lost several lent books over the years, some of which I just realized were missing this year when I needed them for my youngest daughter's schooling.   I had to repurchase them.  But I am not innocent, oh no.  Only last week I almost gave away a book I borrowed over three years ago! 

With all its pitfalls, borrowing and lending can be a great way to share books if a few rules are followed:

1)  If someone lends you a book, respect the honor conferred upon you and return it as soon as possible,  

2) Only lend books you don't mind losing, and

3) Keep records of borrowing and lending so you do not forget.

The library can be a great borrowing resource, too.  Our library expanded into a new building (and a new purchasing budget!) a few years ago and actually requested that patrons make book purchase suggestions.  Homeschoolers took them up on this opportunity!  Even if your library is not asking, you can request that they look for certain books when they have a purchasing budget.  The worst they can do is say no.  We live in a large metro area and have cards to three different library systems.  If one library doesn't have what we need, another may.  Also, many people use inter-library loan, and, while I haven't ever used it, I have heard that it is a good way to borrow rare books.  The drawback to using the library is that the books must be read more quickly than is usual in a CM education. 

Purchasing books for Kindle and other eReaders is a new trend in CM homeschooling.  It is affordable and convenient.  You do not have to own a Kindle to use a Kindle book.  You can download them onto your PC.  Also, quite a few classic books are available to download for free on the Internet.  Some of these books are indicated with hyperlinks on the Ambleside Online website.  At our house, we use a lot of free-on-the-Internet books for the cost-savings, but we prefer paper pages and hard covers and purchase as many hard copies as we can afford.  We have a running joke that when the electrical grid goes down, we want to be like the monks of the Dark Ages, preserving beauty and knowledge with our paper books... not that we think the grid will go down any time soon.  ;o)  Doom and gloom aside, here is a sampling of links for downloadable ebooks:

Ambleside Online (online books indicate with hyperlinks which lead to other websites)
Amazon (do a search for "free kindle books")

These are a few strategies I use to find books for my kids' education.  What book-finding tips would you offer a lately-come-to-CM mom?

Friday, May 04, 2012

from Romeo and Juliet

I got chocolate today, and the wrapper had a poem on it:

O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear;
Beauty too rich for use for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! 
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

--William Shakespeare

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Faithfulness (Numbers 9:15-23)

15And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.
 16So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.
 17And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.
 18At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.
 19And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not.
 20And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed.
 21And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.
 22Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.
 23At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.