Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Partay- Got Goals?

New Year's Eve Partay 'round here.
No chips. Gave up chips (probably for life) in September. I am no longer mourning the loss.
No soda. I gave up my weekly Diet Coke in September as well. I am still mourning the loss and have fallen off the wagon a couple of times, but the siren song weakens.
No cake, cupcakes, brownies or bars.  I was already carb-light but now it's official.
No ice-cream. I've always been lactose intolerant, but this past week I gave up any kind of milk based product (most commonly found in my morning coffee). Instead I've been spiking my daily brew with honey and Cinnamon and loving it.
No chocolate. Chocolate has never really been my thang. Unless it's chock full of nuts and Carmel (think Snickers). I've been white- sugar free (mainly) since September. No biggie (except for the traditional Apple Pie).

Maybe a large cabbage salad, a game of Catan, capped off with a chick flick with my only remaining, living at home, chick. Woohoo. Living large, baby.

Actually, all of the above have to do with actual goals I've already made, and action plans to accomplish them. Today, we'll be setting 2013 Goals, and actionable steps to get 'em done. (I've already been talking up The Art of Non-Conformity - which you're sure to hear more about- and I really like the spreadsheet Chris G. made for his Annual Review) .

A couple of quotes are guiding me this year
Self-Management is about Perspective - focus on the right thing -and
Control -the ability to effectively manage all the things coming at you.
 (David Allen, GTD)
You manage what you measure. (Peter Drucker).

With those things in mind, we've already changed some things up with Feeche's course work for his last semester of his Senior Year and our weekly schedule. Which is a relief. He's already happier, and when my kids are happier, I'm happier (you know, as in Momma's only as happy as the least happy child). We changed things because they weren't fitting with our goals- Feeche's personal goals or our goals for him. What areas do you set goals in?

Some of Mine
Faith Walking
$- earning, giving, saving.
Home Management
House Re-build

For each of these areas, I'll be making 2-5 "action steps." If I run out of action steps, I'll make "next action" steps. I am also going to write down how I know I'll have accomplished my goals. The vague, "write" will give place to "write 1000 words daily."

Some goals are super easy for me; for instance, "Learning." I am a natural and cultivated auto-didact and bibliophile. I do the 52 books in a Year challenge. This year, because of some other challenges we are taking on, along with the fact that I have some more difficult books in my stack, I'm cutting myself some slack about actual numbers. I'll still be reading very intentionally. Now that I have 3 successful years under my belt of completing the challenge, the focus has shifted.

Others are not so easy for me like health. I have some health challenges that continually discourage me. Discouragement, I have found, is one of the bans of my existence. So, I'm going to be clear about my goals, remind myself of what the next thing is and simply do the action step. I don't have to worry about the outcome. I'm going to focus on the simple and profound, "One day at a time."

Other areas are easy for me, but I don't clearly communicate to others, or don't make it "accessible" to them. For instance, the youngers are memorizing Horatius at the Bridge. I know they can do it, all beautiful, lyrical 70 stanzas. They are not so sure. I'm making a chart for them, with little squares representing each stanza that they can mark off, along with the grand poombah "YOU DID IT" award reminder at the end. I think this will help them see that they ARE getting it done, it is manageable and they are going to FINISH!

In addition to goals, I'll be making a visual reminder of what my Word of the Year is going to be along with doing some of the other exercises found over at Susannah's site.

So, how are you celebrating New Year's Eve? Got Goals, Word for the Year or Next Action steps?

For my 2012 Wrap-Up, Go Here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Share It Saturday- Linky Love!

 My Blogger Buddy Karyn, is hosting Share It Saturday and I am co-hosting!  Grab a button and join the FUN! Share it Saturday is a weekly link-up to share any educational ideas, crafts, projects, recipes, etc! Check the other links and add to your idea bank. And be sure and check out Karyn's blog, Teach Beside Me- she has a terrific new blog design that is beautiful, along with great links and ideas!
Our Featured Blogger from last week was from Gingerly Made- the Snow Man blocks.  

Rules for Party Attendees:
  • You may share any educational ideas, crafts, projects, recipes, etc. (please no giveaways)
  • Link up a few things if you would like (but please stick to new posts & no more than 3)
  • Link back to Teach Beside Me if you are participating (on your blog or in your post)
  • If you link up, click on at least one other link for each one that you share. You don't have to comment or follow, but I really do love both of those things! (A Lot!)
  • Visit the co-hosts and say hello (follow along, too!)

Share It Saturday- D'Aulaire LOVE!

My Terrifically Great Thing to share this week is D'Aulaires's Greek Myths on CD and D'Aulaire's Norse Myths.
Product DetailsProduct Details
We've had D'Aulaire's Greek Myths in book form for years and read it this fall (again) for Memoria Press's Famous Men of Greece studies. Regardless of knowing the stories, the kids are still mesmerized by the re-telling. Various actors read different chapters, which makes it that much more enjoyable! It is very well done- the kids and I are loving it. Good thing, too, because CD listening is going to be ramped up again this spring!

We also added D'Aulaire's Norse Myths to the bookshelf this Christmas- actually it hasn't hit the shelves yet because the kids are too busy reading it! Great stuff as they see influencers from Norse Mythology in some of their favorite YA books (think Tolkien).

What's new in your educational life?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Very Good Year- 2012 Review

It's Review and Resolution Time! 
2012 was a challenging year and in some ways I am beyond ready for a new one. Before I get to what I'm planning and hoping for in 2013, I'm reflecting back on 2012. What worked, what didn't; what got done, what was un-done.
Sukkot Celebration
Good Reads: 63 to date. You can read my 52 Books in a Year Wrap-Up Here.
House Re-build Projects: We made great strides in the re-build program. You can read about it here: Project Report
Writing/ Blogging: I had a short story published, Grandpa's Cottage in an anthology of short stories about growing up in the Midwest (Shapato Publishing). Golden Grasses added followers (THANK-YOU for following and reading this blog!) and I joined the TOS Review Crew (woot!)! I also did several reviews and the most give-aways I've ever done. A total blast!
Family: 2 Graduations: R with a B.A. and KB with a Cosmetology degree/license and an engagement.
School: Last spring was one of the best homeschooling semesters we've ever had. We utilized a plethora of resources, in-sourcing, out-sourcing, probably side-sourcing as we went. The list included
Tutoring Center Academic Class Day (choose the classes, paid teachers, homework, presentations, tests); classes taken: Latin, Science, Writing.
Co-op Fine Arts/ Enrichment: art, music, unit study.
Virtual Classes with Landry Academy pre-law, copywriting, Intro to Biblical Greek
Classes at Home including GC, DVD's, CD's, games, on-line info (NOAA and NASA web-sites etc), Rosetta Stone, travel, field trips, great books.

 Nothing exotic, but lots of family trips
April: Chicago -to see Gram
May- Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana- R's Graduation
May and Oct- Georgia - Feeche's Challenge staff training and then camp
July- Wisconsin-Aunt Rosie and Uncle Kirk's 50th and N. Reunion
Several trips to Nebraska and Iowa to go to the airport,
 (Hi Lynn and Paul!!- thanks for taking in our wayward son on zero notice!),
visit the Adat and rendezvous with Grandparents to transport KB)


Camps/ Classes
Fav Classes of the Year
Flower: Art (Clay class, TC and co-op); American History unit (co-op); Horse study (B.F. Summer Camp -I taught)
Cub: Mary Daly's Science (co-op); Drawing (co-op- I taught)
Feeche: Mary Daly's History and Science (co-op); Creative Writing (TC- I taught)
Me: Great Courses Shakespeare and Science;  math tutoring; Science at TC (Cub); Shakespeare Camp; FLL; Creative Writing, Writing With Skill, Horaitus at the Bridge
Fav Curriculum of the Year:
Memoria Press FMOG, Horatius at the Bridge, Copywork Cursive, Xian Studies
Rosetta Stone
D'Aulaires Norse Myths and Greek Myths on CD
What went right?
Programs that are academically rigorous and challenging, coupled with a lot of good books, fun, experiences and hands on learning. The kids didn't listen to as many CD's as they have in the past and I could tell a difference.
Working through the list of house projects - we still have a ways to go but we made great progress!
Books- the kids didn't read as much as they have in the past. That's about to change!
Books- feeds my inner lit nerd. Found some great new authors. As always, reading expands my world.
Work-out- Feeche was the most diligent. Dr. Dh ran in to some health challenges that slowed him down and I never found a good schedule to get it done. LOVE working out and getting intentional about it for 2013 is on the list.
Feeche found a great Karate studio and l.o.v.e.s it, along with writing for several hours each week.
I have continued to get organized, thanks to GTD and AONC!
How 'bout you? Did you do a 2012 Review?
For more inspiration, check out the TOS Crew Blog Cruise 2012: A Look Back
(FYI: it will post Jan.1, until then it's a blank page)

For my New Year's Eve Partay; Got Goals? check HERE

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best Christmas Present

Did you have a good Christmas? We did, though it was quite different. We  only had 3 kids here and it quiet and mellow. We had good food, good music, laughter and the fellowship of those we love.

 It wasn't a big present year, but the Playmobile I got last summer at 70% off was a huge hit, the kids each re-gifted things for each other and good books made their way into every one's stash. We played an expansion game of Catan and,wow, it was long game with every point hard won.

The highlight of our day was when our friend, Don, pulled up. His wife is with the grands and he is here for work and we were thrilled to see him. He came and told stories, asked the kids about their presents and talked and prayed with us and offered Godly counsel. Which was a huge gift. Sometimes things and people and situations just don't make sense. No matter how much you try to understand, there is no reason. I can make a craft out of tormenting myself with what went wrong and what I did or didn't do; the could've, should've, would'ves. But sometimes sticky, tangled messes aren't about what did happen, or didn't. They are just about someone making a choice; their choice; their decision. And Don helped me get back on track with working MY program, which is to accept the things I can not change. Today I can do that. And, you know, the tangled, sticky knotted mess in my own mind is gone. And for the first time in long, difficult weeks, I have peace.

Best present of the day? Peace. Friendship. A re-newed mind.


Monday, December 24, 2012

God Bless Us One and All

He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder, “Pardon me,” he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption.
~ Max Lucado
I don't know about you but I could use some heavenly interruption in my life.
Come Lord Jesus.

2012 52 Books in 52 Weeks Reading Challenge Wrap-Up


1) How many books did you read this year? 61 so far, but I'm not done yet. I have a couple more to get done before Dec.31 so check back. I'll have any updates highlighted.

2) Did you meet or beat your own personal goal? Yes. I'll feel really great if I can just finish two unnamed books that I have been putting off due to style....I'll let ya know in a week if I rose to the task.

3) Favorite book of 2012?

The 9 Tailors and Guady Night- both by Dorothy Sayers- The world of Lord Peter Wimsey is delightful, thought provoking and loverly. Lord and Lady Peter Wimsey are the epitome of a time gone by. Sayers captures it beautifully, addressing the human condition and social issues as she goes.
The Green Mile by King- wow. Tragic, mystical and bizarrely beautiful.
Fieldwork by Berlinski- an intriguing mystery about religion, faith and relationships.
Davita's Harp by Potok- I love Potok and this is one of his best. Faith, politics and how one moment in time can change the rest of your life.

Non Fiction
Where Has Oprah Taken Us- a great apologetics analysis of the faith and religion of Oprah. A must read for Christians serious about the faith.
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Smith. I've been hearing lots of Laura (as in she's not the author of the Little House series) Pa and Almanzo bashing in the world of kid lit in the past couple of years. It disturbs me because it is often based on judging the past with today's values. Not very sportsmanlike (or academically honest) imho. Smith addresses some of the controversy and looks at the complex relationship between Rose and Laura. I thought it would be a dry read, but nothing of the sort.

The Art of Non-Conformity by Guillabeau- an off the beaten path, intentional living book by a travel hacking entrepreneur. Good stuff.

4) Least favorite book of 2012 and why?
The Upper Zoo, which I wanted to like because Dr.Dh knows the author but it was just sad and pitiful, and honestly, a unsatisfying ending.
Robocopolypse,   a get under your skin creepy cyborgish apocalyptic thang that Spielberg bought the movie rights to before it was even published.

5) One book you thought you'd never read and was pleasantly surprised you like it?
Field Work - loved this book. I talked Dr.Dh's ear off for 2 days because of this book -religion, academia, cross cultural issues, ultimately, what are you going to dedicated your life to: academia, discovery, an ideal or Truth?

6) One book you thought you'd love but didn't? Sins of the Fathers by Howatch- Reading this I felt so bogged down in the bizarre personality disorders of the filthy rich and degenerate. I really liked The Rich are Different, but I'm totally familiar with Caesar (a re-telling in TRAD). The Plantagenet Kings (a re-telling in SOTF) aren't really my thang. But I was too stubborn to quit and I wanted what I'd already read to count for my list. Shallow, but there it is. Howevah, Dawn and Jane are still on my list of BEST on-line reading buddies. THANK-YOU both for feeding my addiction (both with the books and with the weekly banter!)

7) One book that touched you - made you laugh, cry, sing or dance. The Nine Tailors. When Will died I put down the book and bawled. Also, Gaudy Night. When Harriet answers Peter, it is perfect; not antagonistic, submissive or dismissive.


8) Any new to you authors discovered and you can't wait to read more of their stories? I know this will shock you but

9) Name the longest book you read? Shortest? Howatch 672 pages. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever 40 pages.

10) Name the most unputdownable book you read? Field Work; a compelling read, it reminds me a lot of Dekker's early work. The kids and I are currently reading Mara, Daughter of the Nile and I am finding myself asking them when they want to read another chapter! And Nine Tailors- a denser read.

11) Book that had the greatest impact on you this year? The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Sayers. Like Potok, Sayers sings of an educational system and a life of learning whose siren song compels me. Both of them are master craftsman and compelling people in their own right.

12) What book would you recommend everybody read? For anyone who is raising, teaching, has contact with an Austic person: House Rules by Piccolt.

Bird by Bird by Lamott is great for anyone who wants to write. Lamott's admonition to expect a carpy first draft was incredibly freeing.

13) Share your most favorite cover(s) Addison Allen does the BEST covers- my new fav author from last year still holds......

The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Sarah Addison Allen) Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen)

14) Do you have a character you fell in love with? I know this will be a shocker but Lord Peter Wimsey, and yes, Harriet Vane. But really, Dorothy Sayers. Of course, I had to read up on the creator of the world of Lord Peter
(the Centenary Collection) She was a member of the Inklings (friends of
Lewis and Tolkien) a formidable intellect in her own right (her father began teaching her Latin at age 5) and a non-traditional woman on many levels. Her personal story has some tragic elements, making get that much more compelling.
15) What was your most favorite part of the challenge? Talking books with other lit nerds; finding new titles, genres, authors I would have never considered; and always, being intentional enough about reading to get it done.
Did you do any of the mini challenges? None stated, but, as always, I read by author: Sayers, Howatch, Piccolt, with more L'Engle, Lewis, Potok, Lamott and King thrown in. And I always try to hit something in the following genre: intentional living, theology, biography.

16) What are your goals for the new year? To read more non fiction? To dip your toes into a mystery or a urban fantasy or horror or romance? What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

I have long and growing list already going. On a shallow level, I'm looking forward to reading anything in a decent font size.

And one of my fav quotes from the year: (Lord Peter to Hilary, on writing and life): "Because you have the creative imagination, which works outwards, till finally you will be able to stand outside your own experience and see it as something you have made, existing independently of yourself. You're lucky."
"Do you really thing so?" Hillary looked excited.
"Yes-but your luck will come more at the end of life than at the beginning, because the other sort of people won't understand the way your mind works. They will start by thinking you dreamy and romantic, and they they'll b e surprised to discover that you are really hard and heartless. They'll be quite wrong both times- but they won't ever know it and you won't know it at first, and it'll worry you."

For more great wrap-ups head on over to Robin's 52 Books in 52 Weeks blog.


52 Books in a Year 2012

And Here's the Grand Poombah list from 2012

  • Alcott, The Treasury of Christmas Stories
  • Allen, Getting Things Done
  • Bauer, SW, The History of the Medieval World
  • Berlinski, Fieldwork
  • Blackwood, Shakespeare Stealer (YA read-aloud)
  • Blackwood, Shakespeare's Scribe (YA read-aloud)
  • Burpo, Heaven is for Real
  • Cahn, The Harbinger
  • Craighead George, Far Side of the Mountain (YA read-aloud)
  • Craighead George, My Side of the Mountain (YA read-aloud)
  • Cummings, The Year of Learning Dangerously
  • Dale, Dorothy L.Sayers: The Centenary Collection
  • Frauenfelder, Made by Hand
  • Gillabeau, the $100 Start Up
  • Gillabeau, The Art of Non-conformity
  • Grange, Capt. Wentworth's Diary
  • Hall, Moore; Same Kind of Different as Me
  • Henry, Justin Morgan Had a Horse (YA read-aloud)
  • Henry, King of the Wind (YA- read-aloud)
  • Hill. Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life
  • Howatch, High Flyer
  • Howatch, Sins of the Father
  • Howatch, The Rich are Different
  • King, On Writing
  • King, The Green Mile
  • Lamott, Grace (Eventually)
  • Lamott, Imperfect Birds
  • Lewis, C.S. Out of the Silent Planet
  • Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters
  • Mansfield, Where Has Oprah Taken Us?
  • Maybury, WWI
  • McCuthcheon, D*amn, Why Didn't I Write That?
  • McEwan, On Chesil Beach
  • McGraw, Mara, Daughter of the Nile (YA Read-aloud)
  • Park, A Single Shard (YA read-aloud)
  • Patillo, The Dashwood Sisters Tell All
  • Peretti, Illusions
  • Piccolt, House Rules
  • Piccolt, Lone Wolf
  • Piccolt, Plain Truth
  • Piccolt, Vanishing Acts
  • Piccoult, My Sister's Keeper
  • Potok, Davita's Harp
  • Rubin, The Happiness Project
  • Sawyers, Triggers
  • Sax, Girls on the Edge
  • Sayers, 5 Red Herrings
  • Sayers, Gaudy Night
  • Sayers, Have His Carcase
  • Sayers, Lord Peter
  • Sayers, Murder Must Advertise
  • Sayers, Strong Poison
  • Sayers, The 9 Tailors
  • Sayers, The Busman's Honeymoon
  • Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
  • Sayers, Unnatural Death
  • Sayers, Whose Body
  • Shatner, Up Till Now
  • Upton, Sister
  • Van Dyke, My Lucky Life
  • Wilson, Robocopolypse
  • Wisemen, et al, An Amish Wedding
  • Wolf, The Upper Zoo

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter Toast

Feeche made pie-crust
Cub boiled eggs
Flower made a cheese ball
and I composed an Apple Pie
which we will consume with gusto on Christmas Day.

We played Risk, which is what Life is really all about.
Venerable husband took over 1/2 the world and then upstart son conquered the universe
while we ate olives and pickles and clementines-
an odd but lovely snack to go with world domination.
We read out loud Mara, Daughter of the Nile and talked about slavery and freedom and ancient, dusty times and places where false gods rule and destinies were determined at birth.
Cub read me his book on Military k-9ers and we listened to the dogs bark on the back porch and laughed in delight at doogles.
The sun shone on the glittering snow, in the cold
and we toasted winter weather snug inside.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just Say "YES!"

Just finished my second book by Chris Guillabeau (The $100 Start-up) which I liked very much. Good info, great ideas. One of Chris's core values is to "Say, Yes!" He admits that this flies in the face of traditional biz practice which says, "Guard your time," "Guard yourself," "Say NO!" and, in general practice the art of narcissistic stinginess.

My vacation-time read (loved family camp!) was William (Bill) Shatner's, "Up Till Now." (did you know I was going to marry Bill when I was 8? That was the plan, but different story..). One of Shatner's core values is to "Say Yes!" to whatever opportunities come his way. Because of this he's had an incredibly long, successful and diverse career and personal life.

I think it's easy in life to be stingy, get stingy, live in stingy-ville. I'm gonna get mine is the philosophy de jour. Introspective naval gazing, iow, it's all about me and my naval, has hit all time highs with "social media" (reality check- you don't have "friends" on social media- you have a computer) but there I go be stingy in my assessment of social media (reality check: I love social media- it rocks on so many levels. I just want to be sure I understand what it is, rather than believe what I'm told it is).

In one of my paper's for seminary I wrote, "People want, hope, to be invited in, to be invited to serve, to minister, to have their gifts and passions and skills utilized and valued, to be part of the fellowship." The prof wrote exclamations after these statements, and made statements to the effect of, Wow! They'd never thought of that before.

I'm often shocked at people's stinginess. Often. We invite folks coming and going. We invite even when it's inconvenient. But the reality is that it's not always reciprocated. Which stings. "Cause stingy and stinging are kinda part of the same thang. But then I have to get over myself and leave bitterville behind, and be, as Hivers say, and my friend Caitilin reminds me to be, the bigger person.

It's Advent and the real reason for the season is the recognition that we are waiting.And it doesn't make sense on so many levels. Christianity, and a life of faith, is paradox upon paradox. We say "Yes!" to a baby, born in poverty, on the run, unwelcome in his own community because of his mother's scandalous pregnancy. And when we do, we are changed, transformed, challenged and pruned. And in the end, the baby becomes the King. We say Yes to one thing and amazing opportunities present themselves.

I'm saying "Yes!" to some areas in my life that are challenging, difficult and make me nervous. Seriously, I hate doing stuff I don't know how to do. But saying Yes often entails doing lots of stuff we don't know how to do. So, I'm going to bite the bullet, face the fear and say Yes. I'm not sure of the outcomes, or the success or any of the unknowns. I just don't know. And that can be stifling and stagnating, too. But as I evaluate the last year, and make plans for the coming year, it's time to say "Yes" to some things. Maybe it will be t he year of the Yes....

What are you going to say "YES!" to in this coming year?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lots of Thoughts

It's Christmas break-ish around here. I am still sorting stuff, books, miscellany, reading tons, taking notes working on a couple of ideas with Dr. Dh, who is slowly, finally getting better, wrapping up the semester, and getting things together for 2nd semester.

This includes what I'm doing with my Jr. High Writing class (WWS I is ovah! A great ride but I don't want to start WWS II mid-year again- ideas? Suggestions? Thoughts?)  and the Film making class I thought was a such a great idea this summer. ACK! Why do I succumb to my great ideas? Anyway, major shout out to anyone who has any ideas about teaching film making to Jr. and Sr. High schoolers. And, of course, my camera/ video cam died just a short while ago. Of course. Crummy timing, horrible timing, no good very bad timing.

For those interested in the GTD discussion, making it work with home-making and home-schooling, Nadene at Practical Pages has a  great post about using Google Calendar as part of your organizational life and The Secret Weapon has tons of short videos on using Evernote with GTD.

This  link below is a couple of years old, but fascinating, nonetheless.
The world's 15 most Extraordinary Homeschoolers. The compelling thing to me is not that they are all homeschoolers, but of necessity, sought out alternative educational opportunities.

Making a list and checking it twice adding to it compulsively. Yep, that's my list for the 52 books in a year challenge for 2013. This is the 3rd year in a row I've participated and it's been a blast. What are the benefits of intentional reading?
1. Hours of entertainment
2. Find great new authors.
3. Improve your own writing- writers are readers. Truth.
4. Learn cool stuff.
5. Explore the world.
6. Meet new friends- the librarians, other bibliophiles, etc.
7. Always have something interesting to talk about.
  Adding to my list from my on-line 52booksinayear group (Robin rocks!) along with some from Bill's list (of Bill Gates fame). I'll be doing my yearly wrap-up soon, but I'm trying to sneak in a few more before the end of the 2012 season! Did you have reading goals this past year? Did you accomplish them?

Have I mentioned I'm part of the TOS Review Crew for the year? I'm jazzed. We are going to have some amazing products to review this year and I can't wait to get my hands on them, test drive them and let you know about them! Check out the TOS Review Crew blog for give-aways, book reviews, educational opportunities and more! I'll be guest blogging there in Jan!

Are you ready for Christmas? (have we not all been asked this a million times in the last 2 weeks?) That question always brings me up a bit short. Really the question is, have you purchased (fill in the blank). We read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever last week and then watched the movie. I love the part where the Angel of the Lord shouts,

He's coming again, white horse, sword swinging, angels singing. 
THAT's being ready for Christmas. 

(Disclaimer alert: though I have been tempted to enact the part of the Angel of the Lord on occasion, out loud, in public, I have not yet in fact done so. This is the same impulse that causes me to sing, with as much gaudy style as I can muster, "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" (sung by Betty on White Christmas). You will be relived to know that I don't actually deliver this sermon when I am asked if I am ready for Christmas. I chose the time honored answer of, "No, not really.")

Will you spend the holidays with extended family or at your own home?

Linking up with other great blogs:
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Conversion Diaries, Momma to 4 Blessings , Homeschooling Heart and Mind

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Grinch- the Choral Reading Edition

The Choral Reading of the Grinch is becoming a Tutoring Center Tradition.
The Oral Interp. class always does a rock out job under the excellent tutelage of Mrs. H! (far left).
It's is SOOO cute, funny, charming, witty and Seussical. (whom we love).
Some of the cutie patootie Whoverites, with little Cindy Lou on the left.
For those of you who loved the book letters from Tuesday's post- check it out!
For tons more GREAT craft ideas, check out Jannell's blog !
Thanks to Ana for the pics ; ) 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bibiliophiles Unite!

We are bibliophiles. We love books, know most of the librarians at several libraries in town, buy books, borrow books, lend books, read books, quote books, re-read books and generally surround ourselves with pages and thoughts and ideas.
Our friend L (dd of Jannell, Crafter Hall of Famer and fellow bibliophile) showed up at Tutoring Center with some amazing Book Letters as Christmas Presents! I am smitten!

Having just cleaned out of library, I have books galore laying around, ready for a re-purposed life. And, thanks to Pinterest and search engines, there are lots of ideas for inspiration.
Letters, jewelry, furniture and decorations! I'm adding to my list of cool projects to do!
Book Letters Tutorial
L added a book page rosette and ribbon. Too adorable!
9 Cool Things to Do With Old Books
The Book Chair
Table Runner from book pages
old book pages turned into a table runner.
Book Page Medallion Craft
 If you get inspired, lmk and send me a pic! I'd love to feature it on GG!

Linking Up with Amy at"> border="0" src=""/>

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Getting Things Done

It all started over at the Hive with a thread about Discouragement and Getting Things Done. I often think discouragement about getting things done can be solved by answering 2 questions:

What do you want/ need to get done and
How will you know when you've gotten it done.

That being said, I have a whole list of stuff I'm not getting done because I'm busy getting other things done and frankly, I'm just not organized enough around details. Secondly, I've been in this on-going slump that I just haven't been able to shake off since the fire and have felt generally very, very discouraged, tired, and weary. Was it the fire, the funerals, hitting 50, the older girls moving waaay, waaaay too far away? Hmmm......whatevah, I really wasn't looking for any kind of management system that would just heap ashes on my global thinking, randomly organized head. I mean, we already get a LOT done. But the discouragement portion of the conversation hit a nerve.

So, I listened and ended up jumping in; both feet (it's my way). It ended up focusing on a system called, likely enough, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Apparently, I'm late to the party because there are all sorts of GTD groupies, systems, apps, etc. Who knew (well, apparently everyone but me), that you needed your own personal label-er if you really want to get things done?

The conversation evolved and a whole lot of books got mentioned, including but not limited to Getting Things Done,  10 Habits of Happy Moms, Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Zen to Done, The Art of Non-Conformity. I haven't checked them all out yet, but I've delved in to a few and it's basically a list about focused intentionality in various areas of your life. Which is the whole point of GTD.

So far, I've read most of GTD and the big "Aha!" moments came for me when realizing that my daily schedule is different than "errands" and "projects." Projects are also not something you get done in one fell swoop but consist of tasks that get done one at a time. Filing is straightforward, alpha-ordered. The big shazam for me was this, "one of the biggest problems with most people's personal management systems is that they blend a few actionable things with a large amount of data and material that has value but no action attached!" Wow, I feel like things just got so clear. Seriously. Read the book yourself, and discover your own Shazam, 'cause there's so much more to it all.

I also read The Happiness Project this week; Gretchen Rubin's foray into intentionally deciding to be happy and steps to get there. I didn't like this book at first, it seemed shallow and cheesy. In the end I liked Gretchen, her family and her little project. Food for thought, but not life- changing. She is a self described "reverent agnostic, " and, having read her book, I see her Happiness Project as a  moral compass for someone who simply doesn't have an external one. Good enough and some nuggets throughout, but rather random, imho.

Lastly, I read The Art of Non-Conformity. My fav so far, in this genre of intentional living. I like the author, what he's saying, how he's living. Big take-away from his stuff is "Be awesome" but there is soo much more. Check out Chris's web-site and see if you fit with the rest of his "small army." I took several pages of notes from the book and his web-site- ideas, thoughts, etc. Stuff I haven't put into words for a long time. It felt good to write it all down and see in black and white this is what I want, and this is how I'm going to go about getting it.

I also had a big Shazam while reading this book. We are fairly non-conformist. We have a slew of grad degrees, a slew of kids, have gone off the beaten path as we've birthed, parented and educated them, live off the beaten path (literally) on our homestead, have basically re-built a house from the studs up, etc. I get this non-conformist living thang. And in many ways, it's what Dreher is talking about in his book Crunchy Cons. So, I get that. But lately we've taken some extra hits for living a bit off-grid and I feel weary from that, too. It was nice to read the book and relate to people who are saying, outloud,  "We're not doing the average thang. And btw, we're not apologizing for it either." K, just need that external validation once every decade or so. I'm shallow like that.

Mystie, over at Convivial Living has designed a 31 Days of GTD for Homesmakers.. It's a great overview of the GTD program and she is also currently developing an Ebook on how to digitize GTD for homemakers. I read through of her GTD posts and was so intrigued that I went and bought the book (which is very unusual for me these days. I usually just wait for it to make it to my pre-order shelf at the library). It's a keeper, and I'm glad I bought it. Really, check out Mystie's web-site- she's a rock out home manager!

So, what's all this meant for me/us personally?
How I am thinking of things is different- I'm re-categorizing some things. Projects are separate from errands, are separate from our calendar, etc.
I'm going to re-do all of the files in the study, and yes, I bought a labeler.
To date, we've cleaned up the study, which included sorting through hundreds of books. I'm being pretty ruthless, and am still deciding how I'm going to pass along the purged items. I'm also going through all of the books in the attic as well. When I'm done, we'll have gone through the entire library. More importantly, we have room in the study to work. We have access to the books we use, rather than a huge library that gets in the way of what we need. Not that a library is a bad thing. But we are past the point of needing all of the Berenstain Bears on the shelves.
I'm thinking more clearly about how to manage writing, reading, etc. Things that are not clearly home-making/home schooling, but still very important to me.
We are honing our management systems so that we can get more done. Both Dr.Dh and I.

How do you  manage the tasks you have at hand? Are you a GTD expert, 7 Habits follower or something else all together? Thoughts?

Friday, December 14, 2012

School & "Stuff"

School- that's what we're home for, right? We seem to have end-of-semester inflicted can't-get-it-going-on. We did manage to get through math, German and science every day, some history and Cub actually got his paper for The Charge of the Light Brigade finished (WWS week 34). One research paper to go and our little class is done with the book. Booyah, baby.

I got involved in discussions about Getting Things Done and ended up reading The Art of Non-Conformity, The Happiness Project and part of GTD this week (GTD was the last one I got ahold of). Lots of food for thought- I'll be posting separately about it later.

As a result of the GTD think-fest, I spent an hour in the study sorting,clearing and throwing. I now have a HUGE pile of books, curriculum, clothes, and stuff to get rid of- literally boxes full - some new. If you are interested in coming over, going through it all and making a donation, I accept!

We also hung the mirror (finally!) and an awesome tile picture in the downstairs basement, along with organizing the paints/stains and poly in the workroom.
DIY Paper Floor
Photo from An Oregon Cottage

I found this great tutorial on paper bag flooring over at an Oregon Cottage, (isn't it fab?!) and I'm trying to talk Feeche into this little project for the basement floor over Christmas break. He is actively looking for employment instead (for some reason I'm getting the ideas that he doesn't want to do this project with me. So, he'll be displaced, worked like a minion and have to do all of the on-your-knee-work. What's the prob, son?). I know, trade labor for books/curriculum. Anyone? C'mon, you know you want to!

Christmas book selections this week included The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Louisa May Alcott's Christmas Treasury. Cub bailed after the second Alcott short story, declaring that it was way too cheesy. He sequestered himself in the basement to read The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black. Both he and Feeche flew their way through a couple of the books this week and had a great time doing so!

The kids are putting together the Gingerbread house and happily slurping icing off their fingers. Pre-dinner (Yes, I proudly accept the Bad Mom award for letting my kids indulge in a sugar fest right.before.dinner. In my own defense, Dr. Dh is sick with the flu again -or maybe he just never got rid of it?- so our schedule is a bit off) after spending hours outside, reveling in the left-over blizzard snow. We don't call this The Territories for 'nuthin.

How was your week? Are you on Christmas break yet?

Praying for Restoration

School: writing a weekly report on a day when 20 little children were shot to death seems a bit trivial. Here I was feeling a bit guilty about how short we were on academics this week. We spent a lot of time reading out loud and individually, coloring Advent pages, and playing outside. My kids are safe, happy, growing, secure, innocent;
and heartbroken over the evil that broke loose today.
Come Lord Jesus.
Heal the hearts that will never be the same.
Help them turn towards You, instead of away.
Beauty for ashes, Lord.
Your JOY, in the midst of heart wrenching pain.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Yoda Qualifies!

Finally, after one snafoo after another, I am finally posting pics from FLL State Qualifier that took place on Saturday!
Team "Pit"
Technical Briefing.
What was the strategy for the robot game, what problems did we encounter, how did we adjust?
The Robot Game. Our top score, out of 3 runs, was 185!
The presentation portion: Present the Identified Problem and Solution.

Team Yoda
We won "Best Presentation" at our qualifying tournament, and are going on to compete at State!
Way to go, Team!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Law, Grace and Classical Ed

I really like the idea of Classical Education- really like it. I get the stages, understand the Great Conversation and wanna rock the world with little SWB wannabe's. The reality is that, at heart I'm a classical unschooler. I use the term "classical" unschooler because I want you to realize that the John Holt and Colfax unschoolers of the world are radically different than the ones you see today on T.V. (you know, the ones that spend their days playing video games and having Nerf gun wars in their front yard). I might be an educational anarchist, but I'm not an educational nihilist. Not one little bit.

I've been thinking about outcome based education because Classical Ed is supposed to deliver, right? We have uber educated kids on our hands (in theory anyway), so they should be going to good schools with great scholarships and rocking the academy. The problem is that some of our kids don't want, or even believe, in higher ed the way it's currently defined: years of conformity, lots of debt and hoop jumping. Furthermore, they are unclear about the kind of training they'll be getting. Training and degrees are 2 very different things. My kids look at higher ed very practically. And given the debt, the time, and the demands of it, I can't say that I blame them.

But what to do? What's the point then?

I had an epiphany this week-end, brought about by an unexpected and unpleasant event, in conjunction with a good book, The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. I realized that I am just not cut out for middle class house-wifedom, conformity or fitting in. It's stresses me out. I've given it a go and I think I'm quitting.

We've deliberately done too many things out of the ordinary. We wanted to. We were willing to pay for it. But somewhere along the way we got bogged down in status-quo and trying to prove ourselves and respond to the many voices that griped at us about not following the prescribed course of success, or at least acceptance.

Phooey on that. I like the way things are for other people, but it just isn't gonna work out for me.
We've moved all over the country. We've loved living everywhere; which is not to say we've loved everywhere we've lived. We've earned beaucoups degrees; we love learning. We've had a bunch of kids; which has been a blast, for the most part. We wanted to re-claim an old farmhouse/ homestead;  we've been doing that and it's been challenging, rewarding and satisfying (please note the deliberate avoidance of the word "fun" here). Dr. Dh wanted to be a social scientist. I wanted to homeschool. We both want to write and teach and think and be agents of change. So we do those things. But somehow paying the mortgage and getting the middle class, middle age responsibilities of life done has taken precedence over what we want to do next. Partly because our kids are getting older and society and our parents, and our kid's friends parents all ask where they are going to school, and what SAT scores they got and what kind of scholarships they have and WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO NEXT. And if it's not "normal" or doesn't make sense, not only do we have to deal with our struggle with those questions and our answers,  but we have to deal with our kids struggle with those questions and answers .

Case in point, KB going to Cosmetology School instead of college. KB is smart, beautiful, witty and good,and did I mention smart? Further more her parents are smart and have degrees. Why on earth would she go to Beauty School? She reads The Universe Next Door in her free time, and paints, and writes. She's talented. Isn't all of that talent wasted? Aren't the years of classical ed; the Latin attempts, the Logic and History and Lit wasted?

Well, no. Because classical ed isn't about a specific outcome. It's about education, and freedom, and choices; choosing on your own instead of working off of a script.

Oh Lord, it's hard to be an anarchist. But really, when I really, really think about it, that's what a life of faith is;  that's the Way of the Cross, and the way of true education.. It's about charting a new course.

KB has a skill, little to no debt, money in the bank and the freedom to move anywhere in the world. In fact, she just moved across the county. She took her paints, and her books, and her hair cutting scissors with her, along with her love of philosophy, theology, art and beauty. She hasn't bailed on education or how she was raised. She's just decided that the way things are don't have to define her, or enslave her, or force her into debt or a job, or a way of life that doesn't suit her.

She chose. Because she knows she has a choice. Status Quo isn't the only option.


Linking up with Teach Beside Me and the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Seasonal Good Things

We always read certain books, watch certain movies and listen to certain sounds during Christmas -we're simple like that. I'm sure you have your own favorites but maybe you'll find a new one or two in our list of tried and true (with a few newbies thrown in).

A Christmas Carol - there are several renditions available
The Muppet's Christmas - classic Henson Dickens
A fun bunny trail... BBC intro to Charles Dickens
Silent Night- the story of German and American Soldiers during WWII, caught in a cabin together on Christmas Eve. The reforming power of one.
The Nativity Story- I love how this film shows the humanity, and faithfulness, of the Holy Family; beautifully done.
The Star of Bethlehem- there is scholarly debate on whether Herod dies in 1B.C. as the author of this states, or 3-4 B.C., which is the more widely held belief, which would skew the conclusions of the author. With that in mind, this is a fascinating look at The Star of Bethlehem and the "terrible, beautiful poetry" of the Bible.
A White Chritmas- Singing and dancing by some of the greats (Crosby, Kaye and Cloony). What's not to love?
It's  a Wonderful Life- a great reminder that the things we do faithfully count far more than we can ever know.
Miracle on 34th Street - Cynicism gives way to Hope; and the guy gets the girl in the end.
The Santa Claus Trilogy. Quotable, cheesy and full of lots of laughs; good, clean fun.
A Charlie Brown Christmas - Cub and Flower are still in their Peanuts phase and Sam's had CB specials for just dollars a piece. Happy smiles for pennies. Sold.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever- I haven't seen it yet- (it's on hold at the library) but I love the story.
The Nutcracker. We've gone to several live performances of The Nutcracker around the country. A lot of fun to see live, but catch it on DVD if you can't fit in a live performance.

Books and Short Stories & Biblical Accounts
The Biblical Account of Jesus' Birth: Luke 2:1- 20 (NKJV). Make it a seasonal tradition to read it out loud together.
Isaiah 9:1-6, The Promised Son
Mary's Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55
The 24 Days Before Christmas by Madeline L'Engle; an Austen family advent story. On hold at the library. I haven't read this yet, but as you know, I adore L'Engle.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by  by Barbara Robinson. Young and old gathered in the living room today for laugh out loud fun and a reminder of what Christmas is all about.
The Gift of the Magi, by O.Henry- a sweet short story about sacrificial love. The like will take you to the short story.
Christmas Short Stories by Louisa May Alcott from the author of Little Women.
Home for Christmas, The Wild Christmas Reindeer, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve by Jan Brett. I've been a long time fan of Brett's artwork. Simply lovely, with sweet stories to go with. You are never too old for a good kid's book, eh?
Take Joy: the Tasha Tudor Christmas Book by Tasha Tudor. More lovely art-work and all things Christmas
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Read the classic.

The Messiah by Handel. I was in an award winning choir in high school and we performed The Messiah. It's one of my favorite pieces of music and a must have for Christmas.
A Charlie Brown Christmas- another classic must-have (thanks to our friends Laura and Bruce- we are still listening after all these years!), makes me happy every time I turn it on.
It's Called Christmas by Go Fish. Lot's of FUN!
And of course, all of the best, old hymns....
Lastly, a very simple craft we are going to do: Snowman magnets.
 A lovely paper nativity to print and color at Paper City.
but if you can't get enough, check out the Nester's Christmas Craft Party.
Along with the snowmen, I want to get Isaiah 61:1-7 made into a Subway art sign for our bedroom and a dollhouse bookshelf for Flower from Ana White's site.
Pinned Image
Meantime I think I'll hand Flower some scissors so she can make some paper snowflakes (cause the blizzard yesterday blew the 2" that fell away!)

In the past we've celebrated Advent by having an advent basket filled with small gifts, cocoa, candy canes, small crafts, a CD or a small book  and each evening we'd have a devotion, open a gift and have family time.
We've also created a Gingerbread House (from a kit- I am cookie baking challenged) for years. I wonder what it will look like done by 2 non-crafter (they are both keenly artistic, just not crafters- kwim?) teenish boys and a little girl? My guess is the boys will eat the candy, abandon the task and tell Flower how great it looks when she's done.

Seasonal Good Things is part of a Sharing Christmas Blog Hop. You can find tons more articles, ideas and inspiration over at the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog HERE. Just in time, right?!

How do you celebrate? Talk to me, 'cause I want to add to my seasonal list of Good Things