Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Again!

9 months and 7 days after the fire and we have finally returned home. It's an odd feeling. Yesterday Contractor Dick and his band of Merry Men came and removed their equipment and tools, cleaned up the yard and drove away. I felt much like I did when KB was released from ICU, following the car accident, many bruises, X-rays and neurosurgery later. It was only 2 days after surgery, thought they had assured us she'd be there 6-8 days minimum, her head still looked wounded and hard core antibiotics were still coursing through her veins combating any nasty bugs that might have invaded during the time that her brain was exposed. Upon being released we loaded her up in a wheelchair and carefully maneuvered our way across the street to the hospital hotel. Every bump caused worry and usually a gasp from her. She was fragile, frail, peaked and bruised and I sure enough felt like she'd been released too soon from the care of medical professionals.

Same feeling yesterday as our house professionals took off. I wanted to shout after them, "Too, soon, the house is still too frail! And while the essentials are all in place everything but remains mostly un-done sans the first floor, which is beautiful! We are still waiting on our flooring sub-contractor to sand the 2nd floor and put 2 coats of finish on 2 levels. We hesitate to really move in until that is done. We have some dry-walling to do, a tub surround to tile, more mudding and sanding and texturing to do, closets to finish and on and on. The basement is finished enough but as the house was gutted we need just about everything still including but not limited to doors, towel bars, curtain rods, etc. etc. The yard is a whole nuther (nightmare) story. We have more than enough to keep us busy for months ahead. KB is planning to escape again, I mean leave, for GA tomorrow and resume her role on the Echols campaign as "Campaign Barbie." Since being home shes either been packing and moving, cleaning here or there, and working long shifts. I think she's looking forward to the flight to Atlanta just so she can nap!

Off to bleach the garage at the leased house and we are done there, thanks in part to Lori, Ann, Linda and Pam, cleaning wonder women, order blinds and a dishwasher. The rest of the appliances are home and in place and make the already gorgeous kitchen shine!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes

We're home. 9 months & 7 days after the fire. Kinda felt like a pregnancy, just this time we birthed a house.

Kittens! 3 born the day we arrived back at the acreage. Flower is ecstatic!

We are sleeping dorm-style in the living room instead of the pop-up, thank the Lord, as we've had 4 & 5 inches of rain both nights. Viking Man or Feche Boy are now on Horse and His Boy for bed-time stories. You are never too old. Trust me.

KB leaves again for GA tomorrow. She is back on the campaign trail. If you're in GA, check out Tim Echols for Public Utilities Commissioner.

My random-global self is about shorting out given the vast array and amount of work still waiting for us on the house. My husband says, "just trust me and do everything I say!" - snort!

I have not read a book in 2 weeks. I'm going through with drawl. I haven't watched Stargate Atlantis either and Feche-Boy and I are on the last episode of season II. I still can't stand Wier. Rodney rocks. I have a thang for geeky men. Hence my marriage.

4 birthdays coming up. Feche boy, KB, Moi and Viking Man. We'll be in the Hills for a week to celebrate. Booyah!!

Jen hosts Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finish what You've started!

My crazy, funny friend Mae, who just adopted her 6th child (a special needs beautiful baby girl from Haiti), forwarded this to me, knowing that finishing what "we've" started is putting us about a quarter inch from the edge right now. Hey, I'm in good company, what with Mae being there and all = )!!

Calmness in Our Lives
I am passing this on to you because it definitely works and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives. By following simple advice heard on the Oprah show, you too can find inner peace. Dr. Oz proclaimed, 'The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.' So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished, and before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, a bottle of Tequila, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates. You have no idea how flipping good I feel right now.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

He is Good

I hit a wall yesterday. It was coming. Friday I was so exhausted, dizzy, unable to concentrate and just bone tired, but I had a friend here helping me pack up so I muddled through. Saturday was worse, but we were moving so I muddled through another day. Thankfully we had some dedicated old and new friends here and God Bless Betsy and Don and Neil and Mike and Charles and Peter they just kept hauling and serving and laughing.
This morning came around and we still had a boat-load of work to do that had to get done To.Day. The basement needed finished cause after manana we are out of here (the leased house) and need a place to call home and they are finishing the plumbing in the bathrooms on Monday so that we have a shower, which means the mudding needed finished and 2 coats of primer applied before the end of the day both upstairs and down.
But Viking Man had notes that had to get finished (for his day job) before we went out to the property so we ordered out breakfast as a treat for everyone while we waited. I was having a hard time thinking through the order and the manager was helping me with servings sizes and and we started talking. I mentioned we were moving and that was why I was so tired and couldn't think straight and she asked where we were moving from and that led to a discussion about the fire. Miss Pancake Manager Lady said, so compassionately, how sorry she was to hear about our house fire. And we talked for a bit longer and I finally ordered everything and she reiterated how she hoped everything worked out o.k. I said, "it's been hard, but God is good."
She paused, looked me in the eye and smiled, declaring, "Yes, He is." I almost burst into tears, because in that moment, when she looked at me, it was like when Gayla serves communion. She looks you in the eye and says, "Christ died for you." And it's as if it's no longer Gayla, but the Spirit of the One True Living God peering into your soul, seeing you, loving you, claiming you, declaring, "I died for you." And my heart almost bursts with gratitude. Thank-you, Jesus!
This morning as the gal declared God's goodness, it was more than just her speaking. It was Christ shining through her, telling me, reminding me, declaring to me that He is good. That bone tired or no, He is good. That this season will pass and He is good. That in the fire, He is good. That in the heartache He is good. That in the day, no matter what it brings or requires, He is good.

I ordered pancakes and was given a feast for my soul.
And God bless Miss. Pancake Manager Lady! (and thank-you for the extra strawberry crepes to "help make the move easier!!")

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grace Like Rain

Drove from the acreage to the leased house tonight in a rockin' and rolling thunderstorm. I mean Great Plains thunderstorm. Rain slashing, thunder rolling, lightening flashing, water rushing storm. Listening to Todd Agnew's deep and resonate voice singing Amazing Grace.
We hardly needed our headlights on there was so much lightening. And the rain was incredible. Pouring down, sloshing on the window, creating sheets of water on the road...
"Grace Like Rain Falling Down On Me."

Oh, brother. Preach that.
The house. The house was cool before the fire. A 1920's 4 x 4 craftsman style farmhouse, on 10 acres, bordered by a river. Like I was cool before Salvation. Myself, but a shadow really. And the house now is...restored. Getting there fast. We stand in the great room and it's almost like what it was...but beautiful now and rich, vibrant and nurturing instead of tired and worn and almost dreary. Like how so many of us are when we allow the One True Living God to rule and reign in our lives. The cool that we were before looks pale and insecure and almost pasty grey compared to the colored and rich person we become through God's redemption.

And I stand in the house and turn circles, soaking it in, this miraculous transformation. This redemption of a house. And this year has been like the storm we drove through tonight. God's Grace falling down on me. Not a soft gentle warm spring rain. More like a crashing, thundering, soaking rain that has me awed and trembling at God's mighty works, His provision and deliverance and redemption. Once again. Redemption. Something from nothing. Something better. Something beyond what I could have asked or imagined.

He rules. He reigns. He roars. A lion.
The heavens declare Him. And His Grace pours down on us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's All About the House

Rule #1- Don't maim your co-worker.
Yesterday, Feche boy and I were 10 minutes into staining when I accidentally whapped him in the side of the neck with a 14 foot kick board. Ouch! Poor guy. It jerked his head pretty well and he spent the rest of the day feeling nauseous. I called KB who was at home with the notsolittles resting and they came to the rescue. All the kids joined in and we got done by 4. Another 500 feet of wood stained.

At the house they put the kitchen counters in and they are - wow! They also got in most of wood on the first floor, windows, trim, the built-in bookshelves, the 12' floorboard. The floors are sanded and have the first coat of stain (first floor anyway) and it is --well, unbelievable. Contractor Dick had pictures from just after the fire there and it's hard to believe it's the same place.

The ceramic tile is in both bathrooms. My poor, hard working husband was wondering if he'd be able to move today as he spent the majority of yesterday bent over a floor, which look awesome!! Today he is going to cut the cinder block in the basement to create a door from the bedroom to the bathroom/laundry room area.

More sanding on the agenda. Ceiling. Ugh and argh. My hands are swollen, my shoulders ache and I'd like some cheese with that whine. And more tubbing of items at the leased house. Sorting what we need immediately and what we need long term and what we don't need at all. We can start moving the kitchen over so once KB gets home from work we are going to take dishes, put butcher paper down and start moving in. AND, the stove, fridge and microwave are getting delivered in the morning. Yippee.

Off to make lunches, drink coffee and confront a ceiling. I'll try to post more pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Joy of Friendship

We are off to another day of laying ceramic tile staining wood trim and sanding drywall. It promises to be another long and taxing day but we can see the progress being made and that is so encouraging. The kitchen and bath counter top is in and we have been assured that we'll have running water and flush toilets by Friday. This makes me happy. Happy,. happy, happy.Cause we found a pop-up camper to put at the property so we'll be sleeping there for a couple more weeks but at least we'll have the kitchen and baths up and running in the house. Happy. Did I mention happy? I have been really grateful for the porta potty, but indoor flush facilities rock.

Saw friends of ours from Fuller last night. Paul is a language geek (Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek) and has been a pastor for the past 20 years, Lynn is a nurse and their 3 sons are almost grown (how did THAT happen?). They are minutes away from the airport we were at to fetch KB from. It was SO good to be with them, laugh out loud, catch up and look at their lovely faces.

A lovely day. Old friends and KB home.

2 weeks ago my Uncle Dean and his lovely wife Brenda stopped by on their way from IN to the Hills. We see them once a decade and I wish it was more. They are delightful people. Really, truly delightful. It's like God is interspersing the grueling work with the gift of friends. SO great to see Brenda and Dean. They came, oohed and ahead over the house, hugged everyone, encouraged some more....just what we all needed.

KB's home, after a 3 week Campaign U.- blitzing GA- their candidate WON (GO Team TIM (as in Echols)!!!) and having an absolute blast with other political nerds. She described the 3 weeks gone as "a taste of heaven." I feel bad that she is back here for our own personal, "taste of purgatory" but that's where we're at.

Talked with Gram and Miss R this week. Selfishly wishing they were both much, much closer geographically. Why can't everyone I love just be in the same spot?

I better get going- gotta get staining... Hope your summer has been full of good times with family & friends!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Valedictorian's Perspective

Well, now, isn't this something! (Or, One Valedictorian Survives the Soul-Destroying Classroom)
(The following was read as the valedictorian's speech at Coxsackie-Athens High School in recent weeks, creating quite a stir among administrators, to great applause from students and many of their parents)
(From blogger buddy Angelina:

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master: "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen?" The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." (The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast - How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" (Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.

"This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking." Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control.

We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, "You have to learn this for the test" is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a "see you later" when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

Erica Goldson Athens, NY

Summer Fly By

Just caught a "Summer in Review" and about choked. It can NOT be time to review summer. I know this because we have to finish re-building our house, move, clean the leased house, get appliances, plan the school year, purchase curriculum, and about a zillion other things before we even consider that it's time for summer to be over.
We are moving this week-end. That will check one thing off the list. Did I mention that the house wasn't finished? There is lots of dust and building materials every where there. It will be a nightmare to live in. We got creative and thought about renting an RV to move out to the property and live there for a few weeks while we got another floor completed. But wait. The Sturgis Rally is in a couple of weeks. Largest Bike Rally in the country and every RV is rented in a 4 state area for the next month. Shipping one in from farther away sky-rockets the cost to a mortgage payment a week. Kinda spendy.
Another thought was air-mattresses on the floor. My dh is still going to work in professional attire 4 days a week, in between working like a mad-man on the week-ends. Sleep is important to him. The air-mattress thing will never work. One of us will be ready for divorce or 4th floor after just a few night of that I'm sure.
O.k. so still figuring that one out.
Packing up the leased house. We aren't really ready to move in due to house not being finished. We've been putting sealed tubs in the barn. Pretty much everything else we have out at the leased house we are using so it's hard to pack it up ahead of time. Tubs are cleaned and waiting to be filled in the living room. My end of summer decorative look, hahaha. Creative thought is just to store the stuff on the trailer until we have another floor ready and hope like heck that we don't tub anything we really, really need.
2 much 1/2 done and that time crunch thang. I did get appliances ordered. My fav summer reading of 2010: Consumer Report: Appliances. Just called the store, checked on model numbers, walked in, paid and delivery day set. It is so incredibly easy to spend thousands of dollars. So, so easy.

My mantra for the day: Must.Not.Panic.
And with that, I am off to pack tubs...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Sanity Savers

The following items are my friends. They are all inanimate, which gives you a good idea of my relational abilities/time/priorities this summer. Without them, I would have been bickered to death by my 2 youngest children, deaf or more sore and tired than I already am. Art supplies are de rigeur 'round here. Narnia, too. This is the complete set under one cover and Cub has been reading ahead while Big Bro and Dad read them in order out-loud. This is his go-everywhere pile.
Found a bucket o'gum on clearance. For less than a penny a pop this has gained us a lot of mileage in attitude from Cub and Flower.

The smallest pool with a filter available at Stuff Mart. Worth every.single. penny. We have put in long, hot, hard days at the property, basically ignoring Cub and Flower. They have been bored, lonely, agitated and irritated. This little pool has saved the day (and maybe the summer).

Ear plugs to protect our precious hearing against the shrill and annoying shop vac which we use daily, the drill, the sander, the tile cutter, the mower the saw, etc.etc.

The outside hoses. Thank the Lord we have some running water! 2 spigots. Good for washing hands, tools and creating mud works (the above is a multi-tiered, multi-draining creation, providing hours of play for certain children.

Kittens, Kids and Fans. The first 2 good for smiles and hugs. The last good for drying floors and drywall and paint and cooling off attics and basements and people.

Our new A.C. Ta-dah!! For days when we're not drywall cutting or sanding. I am really, really happy this is now a permanent part of my life. Seriously.

Turtles. Aren't they cute?

Also known as tile space-ers. Very cool.

T0ols. Ours, theirs and leased. (Hubby digs the tile cutter). High Tech....

and kid-powered.

(And I forgot a picture of the portable DVD player. It's packed up daily.)
What have been your must-haves for summer?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Work, Work, Work

I, we, are overwhelmed by work. We are not strangers to work, like to work and are thankful for work. Our kids know how to work, they are joining in, they have done more than expected. But the tasks at hand right now are overwhelming. Dh is having a hard time sleeping and I am having a hard time facing the day. There is sooo much to do, not enough hands, and certainly not enough time.
Seems like the thing to do these days is to run marathons. I am in awe of the multitudes of women in my age category running marathons and competing in triathlons. They look lean and mean. I am sporting the tribal look, thanks to hours mudding and sanding drywall compound and am in a marathon of a whole different sort.
We are in a time, space and work crunch, feeling like we're in a trash compactor with no R2D2 standing by to save the day.

God is bigger than what we are facing. He has a good and perfect plan for us. This I know. I pray that He gives us the strength and time and energy to complete that which He has called us to do in this season.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What Happens When

This is what happens when the 10 year old is in charge of lunch. SLABS of cheese, rather than slices.
Aforementioned 10 year old chef, showing off our new back door.
This is what happens when you leave master craftsmen in charge of your kitchen. Did you think the cupboards could get any better? And yet, they did! Please note the crown molding and new Espresso stained poplar window trim.
Aforementioned master craftsmen, Keith and Brad. They made the cupboards by hand. They are sturdy and solid and b.a.utiful. These guys Rock!

This is what happens when you leave a teenager alone with not enough to do. They get the water cap stuck on their finger. He really is a bright boy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Your Kids Are Your Own Fault

Larry Winget is slap therapy for parents. Despite some strong differences in opinion about what I consider Godly and appropriate life-style and behavior, I still give this book a thumbs-up. It's not a difficult book and covers lots of basics. Unfortunately, it seems that "basics" aren't so much anymore, hence the real need for this book.

It's organized into 6 sections:
1- How did we get into this mess- and if you don't think we're in one, go to any public place and observe most children, most parents and most parent-child interactions.
2- The Five Basics
a. Communication
c. Education
d. Discipline
e. Punishment
3-What to Teach Your Kids - 2 Biggies- Money & Sex
4- Your Teenager
5-The Short Lists - basics like: "a cell phone is a privilege" and "put the seat down"
6- The Ultimate Goal of Parenting & Other Final Thoughts.

If you aren't familiar with Larry Winget ready yourself. He is opinionated, mouthy and isn't opposed to strong language. Or sex before marriage, or a host of other, imho, questionable behaviors. He is also strongly opposed to homeschooling. That's o.k., his reasons are lame and thoroughly disproved. There's enough good stuff in this book to get over the points one won't agree with.

A couple of quotes I thought were especially notew0rthy:
"I found a survey of corporations that regularly interview globally looking for talent to hire, and one of the respondents said, "If I wanted to recruit people who are both technically skilled and culturally aware, I wouldn't even waster time looking for them on U.S. college campuses."

This is a problem. Our kids are going to be competing on a global level. And while America is still the biggest and baddest dog on the block we better wake up and realize we're not the only dog out there.

And this,
"I have another concern that isn't addressed by any of the studies I have found regarding television viewing. I believe that watching too much television has made us a nation of spectators instead of a nation of doers."

Flower asked on her way to a friends house 2 days ago why we don't have a gaming system, cause "all of her friends do" (she's 7 btw). And when I went to pick her up the other Mom mentioned that it was so nice for her kids to have a friend to play with who was still into Legos, cause most of their friends were into electronics. Geez.

The tag-line on the book is "A Guide for Raising Responsible, Productive Adults." Larry has lots of good things to say about creating an environment that will allow that to happen.

Happy 94th Birthday GRAM!!

Today my beautiful, wise, talented Grandmother is 94 years old. She still lives in her own home, is the official caretaker for her 92 year old live-in boyfriend, Walter, 2 dogs, assorted cats and numerous plants.

She came to be my Grandmother through a rather unconventional method. My Grandpa adopted 2 kids, my mom and her adopted brother, with his first wife who very quickly abandoned them all. Gram entered the picture 7 years later as part of a business arrangement. Grandpa would financially support Gram and her invalid mother and she, in turn, would raise his two motherless and somewhat wild children. Into a home that was lonely and bleak Gram brought flowers and pets and music and literacy, Shakespeare and faith and most importantly, love. Even though her own mother passed away within the first year of the arrangement Gram stayed on and she and Grandpa lived and loved together until Grandpa died in 1980. Theirs was a "love comes softly" affair and a sweet one. He called her "Momma" and adored her despite being 20 years her senior.

My mom always said that Gram saved her life and she most likely did, though sometimes events are too painful to re-tell and are best left unspoken. Suffice it to say that Gram provided a safe haven for Mom to grow and thrive in and Mom was able to thrive and grow and live a beautifully productive life because of it.

When mom graduated from high school and wanted to go to college but Grandpa said that college was for boys, Gram went to work and paid mom's tuition at a private college. She worked full time for decades after that and despite a formal education that ended at 8th grade made excellent money and earned many promotions at an international phone company, purchased by Verizon years later, making her stock investments an even bigger deal. She's a sharp cookie. And opinionated.

She is talented and strong. In my mind always, though lately she''s a bit more frail. Gram's greatest delight has always been her family, piece mealed and cobbled together though it may have been. She has outlived her devoted husband, her two children that were her joy, her oldest grand-daughter whom she cherished and countless pairs of dogs. I know if I call her, her strong and gentle voice will answer. She'll say, "I love you, Baby," even though I'm kissing 50 and I will imagine the smell of her kitchen- skeins of yarn and knitting and kittens and coffee. Warmth and opinionated conversation and books and pets and plants and most of all, love.

My Gram has loved me my whole life. No matter what I've done or not done or left undone or overdone. Just doesn't matter. She's just flat out loved me. She knows my name. And I love her.

Happy Birthday, Dear Gram!!
and many, many more!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Looking Back

The Homeschool Village has a great query posted this week:

1. If you were to "grade" yourself on homeschooling this past year ... what "grade" would you have earned? What if your children were grading you?

Self Eval
I'm going with a "B." It was a hard year. We started a UMS in the fall with 14 students, going 3 days a week. Until the end of October at which time we were burned out of our house. 4 days later my 48 yo sister died, requiring that we spend a week in Ohio. Upon return home we had to empty our house before our typically very, very cold winter set in. We made it, with the help of friends. We spent a month in a hotel, my dh fighting pneumonia and then made it to a leased house early December. The UMS went to a 1-day a week academic class day and we spent the spring sorting through smoked and damaged items, inventorying possessions and working with contractors to rebuild our home.
Yea, it was a hard year.
Thanks to our class day we stayed very consistent with several courses, we went on-line with Latin (CLAA) for my 15 yo and we relied heavily on CD's for a couple of subjects. The fire caused us to have to wait as we re-ordered some basics- math for everyone for instance and Biology. Geez. I'm getting emotionally exhausted just thinking about it.
We stayed the course as much as we could, but my soon to be Sophomore isn't done with Algebra I, Bio or Latin I even yet. We have another move coming up in a week and have been working on the house like crazy. He is earning at least an Industrial Arts course this summer!

My greatest areas of weakness were getting too tired, physically and emotionally. Actually the thought of gearing up for fall is really cooking my grits right now. Summer is going way to fast. I really, really want to go somewhere and play "Summer Vacation."
But I digress; Cub and Flower got a lot done in math, english, history, art, drama and some music. I could have ramped up the Latin and Science.
Feche-boy did great at what he's finished with the exception of handing work due in on time for the co-op. Organizational Skills need worked on.

I have done some thinking about fall and we've signed-up for a weekly co-op but I still need to order some books (more math, of course). Feche-boy wants to go out of cycle with History and delve into Explorers to Moderns. He did Omni II 2 years ago (Medieval and Reformation) and MP's Ancients last year. He has an incredible grasp of history so I'm actually fine with that. I mentioned Omni III to him and he groaned so I'm looking for a different spine. I LOVED MP's study guides for high school but they aren't published yet (I had an "in" last year- lucky us, they were GREAT). I'm pretty sure I'll dray the notsolittles along for the ride. Makes things easier all 'round.

Kids Eval
Flower (age 7, rising 2nd): "A"- because you did all the school automatically and wanted to get it done really early (LOL!!!). Also, staying sharp with friends (meaning she had lots of friend time).
Cub: "A+" (Age -10, rising 5th) - for being a good homeschooler and trying your best to have patience (LOL!!! as I type- if you only knew what this boy and I have gone through this year!).
Feche-Boy (age 15, rising Soph.) -"B+" - this one is claiming ignorance stating he was keeping track of his own grades- LOL!
Great idea to do a self- eval. I did a LOT of soul-searching, evaluating this year as I inventoried not only all of our earthly possessions but how we've invested our time over the past couple of decades. I prefer this method = )!

Please feel free to link up or read more self evaluations at Homeschool Village.

What Happened to Studying?

I've mentioned the 2 million minutes web-site before ( ) and I think it's worth mentioning again. It's an interesting grid to look at educational trends in America through. For instance: What happened to studying?

From the article, "In a 2008 survey of more than 160,000 undergraduates enrolled in the University of California system, students were asked to list what interferes most with their academic success. Some blamed family responsibilities, some blamed jobs. The second most common obstacle to success, according to the students, was that they were depressed, stressed, or upset. And then came the number one reason, agreed upon by 33 percent of students, who said they struggled with one particular problem “frequently” or “all the time”: They simply did not know how to sit down and study." Continued...

This is one of the reasons we focus on memory work and thinking skills, time lines, history and more specifically, classical education at our little school on the Prairie. It's not that my kids will know everything they need to know-far from it. It's that the goal is that our kids will understand and value the importance of study, and more to the point, know what's entailed in doing so.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blog with Substance

Tina at Life of the Gilbert Gang ( has graciously bestowed a Blog with a Substance Award upon Golden Grasses. It so made my day! If you haven't stopped by her blog, then click the link above and say "Hi!" I love her profile, "to hope to change the world by loving as many people as possible." Lots of great resources and ideas will be found there as well!
The rules for the Blog with a Substance Award are easy...

1. Sum up my blogging philosophy in 5 words: promote, inspire, encourage, impassion, challenge.

2. Pass this award to five others. This was harder than it first sounds as there are so many wonderful blogs out there! I did manage to narrow it down to a few terrific blogs that contain lots of substance. Check em'out! Ana is a writer, artist teacher and bibliophile. Her bog is full of wonderful resources, including regular books reviews and gorgeous homesteading pictures. Carrie's blog just might convince me to go out and buy the SOTW activity guides. Her blog is full of amazing projects that she does with her kids and the pictures to prove it. Heather and her family are living in Singapore while she works an elementary school principal. She is thoughtful and challenging. HenJen hosts a weekly photo meme. Her blog is not only lovely but full of inspiring ideas. Jennifer has a beautifully organized blog- lots of resources to look through and apply along with a sweet and gentle spirit.

And thankfully, Mary at Eulogia did not go away forever: (which is why I'm at 6 instead of 5- she had shut down for several days, but then I noticed that she was back on-line. I just couldn't bear to take anyone else off the list). Inspiring words and devotions for living sacramentally.

Have fun- and if there are "blogs of substance" that you particularly love, please lmk know about them!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mud Rules

I spent the week doing things that I'm not good at and don't like. I've been a (drywall) mud slinging fool and have re-dubbed finish mudding "refinish mudding" cause it's taking me way more than one go-around to get it right.Thankfully my strong and talented husband stepped to the fore (again) this week-end to tackle the basement bedroom and ceilings. I'm not sure if that made me feel better or worse. I am glad that he is doing finish mudding. Yessireebob, I sure am. But his finish mudding is actually finish mudding.
I finally figured out how to do the stinking rough mudding correctly (after pulling off as much tape as I'd already adhered- laugh all you want, I'd like to see you try!) and before my last successful finish mudding moment is even dry we're on to another challenging life skill that I really stink at. And, admittedly, I am very grateful that we are (mostly) done with rough mudding but, honestly, I think it's a piece of cake compared to finish mudding. Especially 80+ year old windows and doors. They are a evil I tell you, evil.

So I start sanding. Cause strong and talented husband is tackling the really hard stuff and 15 yo boy is finally getting the hang of rough mudding, besides which we are almost done with that part (disclaimer: I did find an area that he actually finger mudded, but I'm willing to let it go given how much work he's been doing lately). Sanding is not too bad. All I have to do for that is get the wall smooth without sanding a hole in the wall, or roughing up the drywall tape, or making sparks fly by hitting a screw that didn't dimple or holding the sander so tight that I give myself premature arthritis or any other number of things. But all in all, it's no problemo. But is it just me or does anyone else think it's a bit stoopid to spend part of your life sanding off all the mud you've spent hours and hours getting up there, air hole free and baby butt smooth? Seriously?

Next up, after another week of mudding and sanding is painting. Painting I can do. Painting makes sense. I'm all about painting. But wait, I forgot. We are going to try to figure out the Praying Mantis thang. This little device textures your drywall. Again, we'll have spent weeks creating a beautifully smooth surface only to texture it. How does this make sense?

Tomorrow I am taking off and doing no tasks that I am not good at. I'll still be doing stuff I don't like to do but at least I know how to achieve a modicum of success doing them. I am going to do simple, mundane tasks that make sense and are logical. Like laundry. Put dirty stuff into the machine, add soap and water, clean clothes come out. I am also going to wash dishes. Again, put dirty stuff into sink, add soap and water, scrub a bit and viola. Clean dishes.

None of this, "we'll do the drywall ourselves to save money" 32 inane tasks to a decent looking wall later. Nope. Not till Tuesday.

Thank-you DC

An official Thank-you to KB, Feche-Boy, Cub and Flower for washing dishes and making lunches and putting food away and thowing away most of our eathly possessions even though it was so hard to do and writing inventory sheet upon inventory sheet and finding another pen and sorting the Pod and the garage and the tubs and being o.k. with all that was thrown out and sweeping floors and cleaning the bathrooms and feeding the dogs and cats and getting tools out and putting tools away and running up and down 3 flights of stairs for another extension cord and getting us drinks of water and fans and cleaning the CD cause our hands were too dirty and sorting laundry and switching around laundry and putting away laundry and weeding and hauling dirt and picking up rocks and digging dirt and finding nails and hauling stuff to the barn and the dumpster and the car and the attic and the basment and mudding and taping and cutting corner rounder and sanding and painting and and staining and cleaning up the stain that spilled on the floor and having a good attitude despite heat and distress and upheaval and odd food and odd schedules and singing and especially for having good attitudes even though we are on day 270 of cleaning up the big picking mess from the house fire and for all the rest that I don't remember.
Thank-you. From the very, very bottom of my heart.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Than Enough

I am praying and believing "more than enough" today and this week and this month and this year. We are getting down to the wire on time, money, resources and energy with many demands still remaining.
18 days and counting down until our lease is up and we need to have this place cleaned and vacated, our stuff moved. Which creates an interesting dilemma as our house isn't ready to move in to yet.
We are spending every spare minute working at the house, trying to do as much ourselves as we can. This has taxed us all as it is hard physical labor (as in we're not in our 20's, or 30's anymore for that matter), and, for most of us, work we haven't done before. Multiple learning curves along with the time pressure.
Of course the money for the house is being quickly depleted and we are concerned about finishing some key areas.
Thankfully life is seasonal. This has been a long and trying one and it's not over yet. I'm curious what God is working in to our lives as it has been arduous and taxing on so many levels. But, regardless of finding out, I am believing for more than enough to get us through to end of it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Floors & Flowers

The New red-oak flooring patched in to the old fir wood. In the living room...
and in the kitchen. Next week sanding will take place, then staining, then finishing.

New lockers on the still beat front porch.

Another evil basement window. Have I mentioned yet that I hate finish mudding?

At the end of another long day of hard work of sanding, mudding, corner rounding.

Despite the havoc inside and despite the fact that the main garden is in disrepair, a few things are still thriving. Grapes for one. The promise of another bumper crop.

Lilies, in lots of colors.
Kids, of course, and cats.

Hollyhocks, which are summer di riger around here.

Coneflowers (echinacea), in pink and white.

7 Quick-Takes

Stargate Atlantis has been my summer-time guilty pleasure. Feche-boy and I are quickly viewing seasons I & II. It's cheesy, very cheesy, but it has some great lines and some fun characters. Very funny lines, especially after several hours of painting or mudding,quoted by Feche-boy. We even named one of the door frames in honor of a StarGate character; "Bloody Bob." See Quick Take #2 for more info.
I have removed at least as much dry wall tape as I've put up. This is because I really had no idea what I was doing when I started. Air pockets die by the blade. (KB I am LOVING your Xacto knife). My day time conclusion is that finish mudding doorways and windows is a life-sucking force. We felt it a fitting tribute to name one of the doorframes after "Bob" Wraith.
Settlers of Catan voted #1 game of the year by the fam. Played on the porch after supper and accompanied by fresh and perfectly ripe nectarines. I love, love, love summer. Truly.
Narnia is just as engaging and brilliant the 1rst, 27th or billionth time through, no matter how many audio CD's you've listened to or movie versions you've watched. Feche-boy and Viking Man are taking turns reading it outloud. FB reads with a British accent, quite entertaining.
Our parsley seeded due to neglect. It looks exactly like dill. And, oddly enough we had no dill come up this year, though lambs ear made a showing, despite not seeing it at all in the garden for the past 2 years. The strawberries and grapes are loving the rain and growing like mad.
Cyndi & Stan continue to be the best neighbors in the world.
Wednesday morning Bible Study was a life-saver this week. I am grateful for the prayers and words of encouragement of friends. It's been a better week because of them.

As always, 7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diaries.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fire Works & House Work

Monday evening we stepped into a Norman Rockwell scene at a small towns fire-works display. Bands played, there was soda and popcorn for sale, parents played Frisbee with their kids waiting for the show and lots of lawn chair sitting and visiting with others. It's really a small world here in the Territories and you're more likely to meet someone you know when you are out and about than not. The fire-works display was terrific. The finale spectacular. Cub and I sang The Star Spangled Banner together as we sat watching the rockets red glare. A good night of remembrance that we live in the land of the Free.

Other days were spent mudding, taping, finish taping, priming around windows and door-ways in anticipation of trim and crown molding, putting corner rounder on doorways, and inch by inch working on our poor neglected yard. The first floor floor is getting renovated this week, with red oak being put in to match the existing fir. We went with wood for the kitchen floor and 1/2 bath. It is so, so beautiful.

We also made the big decision to pull all of the remaining wood from the second floor, including kick boards, window trim and doors. There was still too much smoke smell left that won't go away despite copious amounts of od0-bane generously applied.

KB is still on campaigning in the deep south and called today to arrange to stay another week. Losing her help is a hardship but she is having a blast.
Miss. R is camp counseling this week -this time near Cumberland Gap. Beautiful piece of the country that. My parents honeymooned there and we camped there as a family growing up. Great memories.
Hope to get more pictures of the house up tomorrow. I keep leaving my camera in the wrong car or at the wrong house.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week-end Wrap Up

Another 3 1/2 days of relentless work on the property. I say relentless because it continues to be demanding, exhausting and unfinished. We did make progress:

  • The basement is completely done as far as dry-walling goes. This includes ceilings (thank-you Dad & Neil), bedroom (thank-you Travis!), bathroom, laundry room and family room, 3 doorways, 4 windows - in all about 800 square feet. We still have to tape the door jambs (ran out of corner rounder).
  • Rough mudding and taping in the basement is done (other than 2 doors).
  • Rough mudding in attic and 2nd floor bathroom is done.
  • Egress window well filled with rock and dirt (10 wheelbarrow loads full and several raspberry plants killed (sniffle) by wheelbarrow tipping later).
  • 2 acres mowed.
  • Trees and shrubs pruned (finally)
  • One flower bed re-claimed and several plants moved.
  • 2nd floor cleaned- old storm windows disposed of, built in cabinet removed, old insulation removed, swept, vacuumed.

We came home last night at 10:15 p.m. (partly cause we had our annual fireworks display out at the property despite killer mosquito's) to be met by a flooded basement. To compound matters we still only own 8 towels and the 5 of us arriving were filthy and ready for showers and a bed. And both fans were at the property.
It's always something. Really, it's always 10 or 20 somethings.
We also realized that we have no broom closet in the kitchen. Viking Man measured and there's space for a 6"x12" closet behind the kitchen door on the way to the basement next to the vents. That and we need an opening cut and a door made for the laundry chute in the kitchen.
Sanding and finish mudding on the schedule for this week. I finally feel like I know what all of the mudding is about so it's going much better. Now to cut out all of the mudding I've scr*wed up so far and re-do it. Later.
Today we are resting (except Viking Man who is long gone to work), laundry, dishes and a city fire-works disply tonight.