Sunday, May 28, 2006

I observed the thin and awkward 12 year old boy dressed in all black a while. His T-shirt had something full of bad attitude written on it. His hair obscured his eyes in hip wisps. He sauntered to the baseball field flipping the back of other's heads with his glove. He taunted players who weren’t performing with major league talent. He ignored his mother when she asked a question and then wouldn’t look her in the eye when she demanded a response. In fact, I don’t think I saw him look in anyone’s eyes. His overall demeanor of hunched shoulders and angry face screamed “Unpleasant!” to me. The arrogant and judging part of me thought, “I sure hope my boys avoid him like the plague.” And I confess I didn’t make any charitable assumptions about his mom either.

Fast forward another year. I ran into this family again, and I wondered if anything had changed for this young man. I thought about his mother and how difficult seeking relationships with other moms in the sometimes stuffy and perfectionist home school world would be with a difficult son.

The first I saw of him on this new day, he was gently redirecting his toddler sister away from her mother who was busy in another room. He talked softly and kindly guided the little one by the hand.

My hard heart toward this boy completely and profoundly turned on a dime with this simple action.

I watched a little longer and saw him smiling and genuinely playing, not taunting, with my children and other boys. I looked back over my first impression of him, and I felt grief. I decided then and there to find an opportunity to speak with his mother, “I noticed a change in your son. He was so tender with his little sister a while ago. He saw that you were occupied and took time to take care of her needs. He seems more connected these days.”

The mother’s face lit up like a firefly on a warm summer night, “Thank you for saying that!” In the same moment, she visibly opened herself to me. She sat more erect and spoke with confidence I hadn’t noticed before.

I’m sorry I do not look for the good in all people, people who might get under my skin for one unimportant reason or another, when I realize the good’s amazing power. It’s downright transforming what acknowledging the best in people can do.

What if I lived a more inspired life where every person is just as valuable as another? What if I stopped looking at faults and intentionally sought after positive qualities in others? What if I was forgiving like that? I‘d be the person I want to become.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

My to-do list has me in a bad mood. I thought I could get one thing done a day, but it hasn't turned out that way.

So far today:

1. Buck and I emptied all three freezers, scraped out ice from the chest freezer walls and floor, inventoried all food items. I think we have at least one if not five of everything from the frozen section at Wal-mart, but it's all been so mysteriously buried under pizza rolls and multiple bags of ice. Buck thinks one should fill an unstuffed freezer with bags of ice to keep it efficient. All it's done for me is make me buy things from the store we already had.

2. I mowed the front acre. Buck mowed 2 more.

3. I went through the zillions of papers on my desk to separate four really important projects I need to keep on top of.

4. One of those projects has been pulling together the games for Reading Reflex to begin reading therapy with one boy and start Pooh Bear on something new. She so wants to read, but doesn't have the auditory memory or sequencing in place. The games involve copying a hundred, okay maybe forty pages from the book, cutting the pages into nauseating itty bitty pieces and labeling envelopes for each game. Tedious. I think I'll scream if I have to cut out the words Fat Cat Sat one more time. If there is a treacherous fire in my house tonight, I'm rescuing those envelopes before my beloved children, because I never want to cut anything out again. Ever.

5. Watered my lovely garden and flower beds. Finally dug out the organic bug killer from under the sink, so maybe I'll enjoy one bite of the cabbage and broccoli I'm growing. Slugs and catepillars have been well fed, gluttonous in fact, in my garden. We'll have sugar snap peas with dinner tonight, because slugs and catepillars are too gorged to bother my vines.

6. Called a bunch of Hauna's friends to invite them to a fortieth birthday party in a few weeks. Gave directions to my house a thousand and one times.

7. I'm sick of working on the ceiling repairs. I have a feeling all the sheet rock mud I put on is NOT going to look well done. I rounded up hammers, buckets, plastic floor cover, nails, putty knives, cordless screw driver drill and Buck put them up for a time I won't mind fiddling with fussy things.

8. I read over some documents I'm working on. I toyed with giving them my undivided attention and thought better of it considering my mood.

9. Made an animal chore list for Buck as he begins to train the children to take over the chores. Peace will be able to take over for Buck a few days of the week soon.

10. I rounded up materials to make a meal menu on my bed. Soon I'll snuggle up and take on that chore.

I smell something wonderful happening in the kitchen, because Buck is making Swiss Steak as we found oodles of cubed steak in the freezer.

They're Back

Wise One and Tator have safely returned from a week at Grandpa's.

Now that they are home there is/are more:

1. noise
2. laundry
3. sibling rivalry
4. frustrated parenting
5. messes
6. meal preparation
7. towels left on the floor
8. confusion
9. schedule shuffling
10. work
11. activity
12. questions
13. bad breath
14. stubborness
15. play
16. laughter
17. hugs
18. jokes
19. joy
20. helpers
21. stories
22. and most of all LOVE

Friday, May 26, 2006


As Buck and I were drifting off to sleep after a rousing Sudoku race (he won as usual), when a loud scuffle outside our door ripped us out of rest back to conciousness. Buck rose to his feet as I murmured, "Could be the cats after Zippo the gerbil."

Yep. Our two cats often aid in Zippo's capture in this noisy way. Honestly, the cats know this guy is our pet; though they give great chase and carry him in their mouths, fortunately they never eat him. Buck joined Patches and Janet on the hunt and caught the little furry creature in the laundry room. Touching a rodent is never an option for me, so I am grateful Buck was home to do the job.

Buck woke up Peace up to share the good news. So neighbors, rejoice with us, we have found our gerbil which was lost.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The State of True Vyne Farm's Union

Hauna did a fantastic job of tending the little farm in our absence. She left a bouquet of bright fresh flowers from my beds on the kitchen counter to greet us. Thoughtful.

Zippo, the gerbil, went missing the day we left and Peace asks prayers we'll find his buddy soon.

While one hen died, brand new chicks were born to a mother hen in the goat barn and followed her peeping until Peace discovered a dead chick, probably stomped by a clumsy goat. Peace placed the chicks in the cozy brooder to ensure their safety. All I can say is, better not get attached to these fluff balls if they happen to grow into onery roosters. The other chicks born around Easter look like awkward and gawky teenagers now.

My garden continues to grow well. However, some melons still haven't sprouted. I need to sow again. The corn, cabbage, and broccoli tender shoots are all nibbled to nubs by something. Could be chickens but I put out slug away, because I see signs of a slug invasion.

Sugar snap peas are in and some cherries burst with red. Peace has been picking and eating right from the tree these last two days. He's also completed a leaf identification project from scouts using a guide all on his own.

I've spent some time weeding and transplanting zinnia sprouts from the walking paths in the garden.

Did I mention we left two boys behind with Grandpa M in South Carolina? Tator, the-boy-who-must-make-loud-noises-at-all-times, is creating mayhem a six hour drive away, so it's very quiet around here with the exception of creature twitters and the occasional little girl sharing treasures she's busily making.

Since energy boy is away, Buck and I have taken on mammoth projects. We're replacing the living room sheet rock on the ceiling damaged by a roof leak thus far unsuccessfully repaired. We're also repairing a ceiling hole made by Buck's knee in our bedroom. Nothing like a project to create a wreck in the house; a fine layer of dry wall dust coats everything below, including me, and there are large rectangles cut from the ceilings above.

Back to work. My to-do list calls.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I fight the same old knot in my stomach each time, though I promised myself many times I will not fret the results. But I always do. Upon resturning from vacation, I spied the envelope among the huge stack of mail. I forced myself to sift through the pile sorting junk, bills, graduation announcements, magazines into piles before I'd allow myself to scrutinize the contents of the dreaded envelope.

Buck casually inquired, "Anything interesting in the mail?"

I gulped and mustered a casual tone, "Homeschool test scores are in."

He nodded, "Well?"

"I haven't the guts to open it yet. You want to?" as I fished the envelope from the bottom of mess of papers spread over my bed.

I steadied my nerves which crashed as his first reaction came forth, "Wow!"

"Wow, good, or Wow, bad?" I clenched my jaw to absorb my tension.

Hesitant pause.

"Buck, good or bad?" I impatiently asked again drumming my fingers on the new Family Fun magazine on my lap.

"A little of both. I don't know what happened with X* science scores, but they are awful. However his reading scores are terrific."

What?! Science of all things? These boys live and breathe science. How the heck could he mess up science?

Buck continued, "We probably need to hold X* back next year and let him catch up overall."

No surprise there, but still a disappointment. Every year I think he's going to make a leap to grade level and beyond, but not this year. Steady gains, but no jump.

X* has made significant progress in some rocky areas like SPELLING. He's at least somewhere near grade level now.

Just so you know, I am the only homeschooler on earth with average (and-gasp-some below average on some subjects) children. Everyone else on the planet earth who homeschools has children who test at college levels in kindergarten.

I think of test scores are my report card for the year. Did we choose the right curriculum? Did our approaches pay off or blow? What about next year? Do I need to work with anyone in particular over the summer?

Do your children's test scores undo you for a bit like they do me? I know many who do not test, but I like to know gains/losses for sure and tests show me whether I like results or not.

*names withheld to protect the innocent

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Greemaw and Pooh

Guess where we visited yesterday?

I'm conflicted about the whole Disney thing. On one hand, it's amazing fairy tales and images children love the world over. On the other, well, gag me with a princess crown.

A long time ago, I snuck all the Disney and other twaddle books off the shelves at home to the used bookseller, because I hated to read about a cartoon rather than an excellent story. There's no longer a contest between Blueberries for Sal and Ariel's Vacation with Snow White.

Since Greemaw doesn't live too far, we visited the Magic Kingdom yesterday though every part of me knew the children would love Sea World a million times more. However, I felt it best to let give them the contrast, and also eliminate the therapy session when they become adults, "My parents never did take me to Disney".

By the Teacups

Pooh Bear and Buck waited in the very long line only to have Pooh Bear exclaim her horrendous fear of the ride when they were about to enter a teacup.

Pooh Bear's "Thotful" Spot

Tator Conquers Sword in the Stone

Cinderella Moment

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Forgot to mention that I've been begging my mom since visiting the springs to send me to Mermaid Camp held at Weeki Wachee in the spring and summer, since I totally missed the opportunity while growing up.

I'm guessing they might not make tails in my size though.

Perhaps you thought I was making up the camp...

Tator Stares down a mermaid

Wise One

Greemaw and Pooh

Wise One at Sunset

Peace and Pooh Bear at Greemaw's back door

Pooh Bear and Tator

Weeki Wachee

Greemaw actually lives near real mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs, so we just had to go see them for Pooh Bear's sake. Like all five-year-old girls, Pooh Bear is fascinated with all that swirling hair, glamour (one must be a natural beauty to apply for mermaid training), and flashy scales. In fact, at age two one night while swimming in the bath tub, she begged me to turn her feet into fins.

Weeki Wachee Springs opened in 1947 with an underwater theater to the springs, the only one of its kind, and has had it's share of fame and celebrity visitors like who else? Esther Williams. Don Knotts. Elvis. I was amazed that the theater is a window to the natural wonder of the springs instead of some kind of tank. Fish and turtles swam all around the performers.

The mermaids train for up to a year and their star can hold her breath for over four minutes. Good grief! When this young lady dove to the depths of the spring, the audience was invited to try and hold our breath too. I made it less than a minute.

The mermaids take occasional breaths from air hoses, breathein to go up, blow out to go down, and keep their lungs filled somewhere in the middle to suspend themselves just so for viewing of the water ballet. They performed to prerecorded music and audio tracks, miming the words. Tator declared the whole idea "CHEEZY" after the first show, and spent the rest of the day swimming and tubing in the spring, and rushing down water slides with his brothers.

Little Mermaid twice and Fish Tales were the mermaid show offerings of the day. Pooh Bear didn't want to miss anything except the seawitch the second time around in Little Mermaid. The seawitch actually snuck up to the surface and suddenly poked her manical head out of a little window very near us, and nearly scared Pooh Bear out of her skin. Buck had to sleep next to our little girl for a while when we put her to bed. "Since the seawitch lives so near Greemaw, does she know the way to Greemaw's house?" she inquired.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thinking over my latest blog entries, I'm thinking I should subtitle my blog something like

The Chicken Diaries, Gardening, and Sundry Book Recommendations

Today's entry will be no different. We borrowed Messenger by Lois Lowry on tape for the family's ride to and from Nashville, and the boys and I loved it. However, a very worn out five year old Pooh Bear couldn't get into the beautiful metaphorical tale, so she fell asleep.

It's a story about a healing place called Village next to Forest. The main character, Maddie, fled there as a neglected and surly street child and was taken in by Seer, a blind man. Seer and Village loved the boy into his true being as a boy, not perfect, but with a special beautiful gift.

Two conflicts add intrigue to the story- trading and whether or not to close Village. Trading is a meeting Seer refuses to attend where villagers ask for something and secretly trade for it. Maddie's friend, Ramone and his family traded for a gaming machine which Maddie envies. Mentor, the town's teacher keeps trading for something and is mysteriously changing. The villagers involved in trading are seeking Leader to close Village's border from welcoming new folks fleeing from death.

My mind went a thousand different directions while listening. What do I secretly trade for? Do I trade computer time for a reading a story book with my daughter? Do I trade community for privacy? Do people of America somehow trade something of beauty on the inside for cosmetic surgery? Do I walk away from rough people, because they are too damaged? What about immigration to the U.S.? What are illegals fleeing?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The last two days I've spent with a dear friend near Nashville hammering out a project of intertwined calling and purpose while our seven children played games, legos, pinball, dolls, swam in the swampy pond, and romped with the goats and dogs. It's an incredible gift to have found such a kindred family and friend. We did not finish, but I have a feeling we'll have to proceed and call the thing a process rather than done anyhow.

My family and I are headed out of town for more than a week to visit grandparents, and I'll be showing Hauna the ropes of the farm chores. Thank God for Hauna! I'm nervous to share with her that the second rooster in command after the Frankenbelle's departure named Mohawk (for obvious reasons) has taken to stalking and attacking those involved in farm chores or backyard frolics. I've begun stomping in Buck's huge black farm boots, flapping my arms wildly, and running right at Mohawk to show him exactly who's rooster boss around here, but it's tiresome. Bet Hauna, didn't factor in having to strut when she agreed to take care of our pretend farm.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Done for the WHOLE day

I heard the sound of rain falling on my tin roof this morning when the alarm rang. Rain always makes me want to fall back asleep and not wake up again until it's yellow blazing sunny enough to pry open my heavy eyelids for me. At least I found something to be thankful about, "I won't need to water the garden; God's taking care of that for me today."

I showered, dressed, checked the muffins Buck had stuck in the oven, and washed a pot that's been "soaking" since Friday. After tackling the pot, I immediately felt done for the day. However, the clock glared 7:03 am back at me for having this thought. After three tries, I roused my worn out children up and ready for church; we got home rather late our derby festivites last night. The whole way through morning routines, Pooh Bear kept grumping over things like, "I don't want to see Daddy. I don't like him. I don't like church. I don't want to go. I won't do what my teachers say. (I'm her teacher). I don't want to wear that. I don't like any clothes. I don't like my hair like that. I want a pony tail." After dealing with my crabby girly, I rolled my eyes that the sassy clock shot me a "It's only 7:49" look.

Buck helped me teach my class of 3, 4, and 5 year olds. One child impressed me with her 5 year old wisdom after making her dough by saying, "Teachor, I think the kingdom of heaven is wike the yeast because the kingdom keeps growing biggor- like the dough gets biggor with the yeast in it."This kind of deep thinking is precisely what makes love hanging out with preschoolers. I have to admit that after the class, I once again felt done for the day, but it was only 10:30.

After my class, I enjoyed church service with the fam. Then I rushed off to the gym hoping to work off some derby pie and mint julips off my hips. Without breaking any records, I ran my miles and did a few weight machines. Can you guess how I felt on the drive home? Yes, wiped- done for the day.

I'm supposed to go through the children's clothes this afternoon to access our beach wardrobe for our vacation next week, and I have a writing project on queue I keep postponing. However, I think I'll kick back, do some Sudukos and watch some Netflix while my children listen to the books on tape Greemaw sent them for Easter.

Anyone want to send a motivational speaker over to help me out of my rut?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Derby Day

Ladies, have you made your final elegant hat selections?

Gentlemen, are your neckties laid our and ready for this evening?

Bourbon and mint set aside for mint juleps?

Post time for the Kentucky Derby is 6:04 pm.

Svetlana, Helen, and I grew up in Kentucky and in the tradition of the Derby Day. Svet has planned a gala for us all to enjoy. Last year, the children's horses won, thus dominating all the fabulous prizes. Wise One's horse took first place for which he acquired a vibrating neck massager. Can't wait to see what gems from the thrift store or Svet's garage appear as prizes this year.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Farm Trick

Yesterday a lovely person I'd just met a few hours earlier announced she was able to hypnotize chickens. Intriguing.

My automatic reply to her claim? Of course, "Will you teach my sons? They'd love to learn."

Little did I know that I couldn't get those boys to bed last night or focused on their homeschool today since she taught them her trick. ALL my sons want to do is lead a hen into a dazed state of being.

Wanna know the secret so all you chicken bloggers out there can try it for yourself?

Find a white piece of printer paper and a pen. Place the squawking bird on it's side, holding it's head down with your left hand on the sideways paper so it looks like you are going to trace it's profile on the left edge. Use your right hand to peck the paper with the pen (maybe twenty times) by the chicken's head to get it's attention. Once its eyes focus on the pen pecking, draw a horizontal line across the paper. The chickens eyes may cross a little. Voila!

The chicken is tranced. It may lay completely still or stand looking stoned for the next little while.

Apparently you can do this using chalk or just your finger as well.

How's that for terribly goofy and not very useful, but amuzing none-the-less?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Wisdom from The Secret Life of Bees

How come if your favorite color is blue, you painted your house so pink?”

She laughed. “That was May’s (the speaker’s sister) doing. She was with me the day I went to the paint store to pick out the color. I had a nice tan color in mind, but May latched on to this sample called Caribbean Pink. She said it made her feel like dancing a Spanish flamenco. I thought, ‘Well, this is the tackiest color I’ve ever seen, and we’ll have half the town talking about us, but if it can lift May’s heart like that, I guess she ought to live inside it.’”

“All this time I just figured you liked pink,” I said.

She laughed again. “You know, some things don’t matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person’s heart- now that matters. The whole problem with people is-”

“They don’t know what matters and what doesn’t,” I said, filling in her sentence and feeling proud of myself for doing so.

“I was gonna say, The problem is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it. You know how hard that is, Lily? I love May, but it was still so hard to choose Caribbean pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.”

Have you ever given into another person on a big issue? Was it the right thing to do, or did it harm you in some way?

What do you know that is true in the deepest part of your soul?

What really matters?

Is it really the hardest thing on earth to choose what matters?

Does your own will get in the way of relationships?