Saturday, December 29, 2007

Today is a quiet day at the Vynes. After a few overnights with fun friends, we're tying up loose holiday ends. Buck dug a hole, lined it with natural fertilzers from our goats and chickens, and planted our Christmas tree. On the spur of the moment at the garden nursery, he decided we'd start a new tradition this year- planting Christmas trees along our driveway. One pine down, fifty more Christmases to go.

I haunted a few stores today to catch a few beautiful ornaments on clearance to give as teacher gifts next year. I stumbled upon a pattern for my handmade gifts to make with the children for next year which makes me very happy. I also spent one of my gift certificates at Borders on a delicious new book. I'll let you know about it when I find time to steal away, snuggle up and read.

Pooh Bear lost a tooth while I shopped.

Buck recruited the boys to work on smoothing the terribly bumpy gravel driveway. He says it's been much like Tom Sawyer, because all of them wanted a turn to shovel and drag the 350 pound roller up the hill.

Those of you who know me might be very surprised that Buck and I gave our children a Wii (and tv) for Christmas. We didn't have any type of game system until now, because I felt it distracted from the great outdoors and fresh air. However, I understand the Wii will be something a bit physical to engage in with company on cold and rainy days and for parties. All the children's bikes have been assessed and properly repaired to balance the appeal for outside. It's as hard to keep up with the right sizes of bikes for four children as it is keeping them clothed properly in coats, jeans, and shoes.

Off to put the ornaments away and prepare for the rootin' tootin' Deerlodge New Year's Eve Extravaganza.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The World is Watching

May God's justice come in the sacrifice of your life, Bhutto.
Here's what I'm seeing outside my window. Pooh Bear's wearing a pink sparkly cape of fabric, white apron, purple shirt, lime green pants and socks, and clashing ruby red slippers (of course). Her outfit reminds me of the Asian students in my college exercise class. Pooh's hair is tossled in it's usual mess, pulled back into a long ponytail, and covered with a brand spanking new hot pink bicycle helmet. The helmet still contains the instructions packaged on the bill. She's just fallen off her newly gifted requisite purple and pink bike and is collecting the contents of the gold basket which she has hanging from the handle bars. The basket contains a stuffed black dog, a Hawaiin lei, and a can of hair mousse. I'm not exactly sure what her plans are. I may never know.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sundry Thoughts On Christmas Day

Family visited. Christmas story read. Presents opened. Husband and children playing merrily. Turkey stuffed in the oven. Listening to The Bravery while I clean up the spoils of plastic, twist ties, wrapping paper and scrape up breakfast cinnamon roll mess. The drummer in that band reminds me of Mike Budd. The sound makes me think of The Cure. I wonder if they grow old gracefully.

Today I have all the time in the world. I'm thoughtful about how I'll do things differently next year, so it doesn't seem such a whirlwind. I am a little disappointed in myself that we didn't do handmade gifts in Santa's Workshop this year. Instead we finished the school semester well and traveled to visit family. In the past I let the academic schedule go to fit it all in, but my brood can't afford the distraction if we are to stay on track.

Last night, I stayed up late watching Charlie Rose. He interviewed Rev. Peter Gomes.
I confess I don't know much about him, but to me, his words were profound. He encouraged us to remember the opposite of fear is compassion. He spoke of how so many people are ruled by fear. They order their day by fear. It crossed my mind that over these holidays I dreaded something in particular and how thoughts of it overshadowed and invaded a good many of wonderful experiences. I let my fear get in the way. Gomes suggested something revolutionary- that facing our fears, even gaining understanding of the people or circumstances would build compassion.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a fearful person. I often do and say things which take guts. However, anger is much more my weakness. I've come to know that if I dig deep enough, generally fear is behind the anger. If I'm outwardly mad because something of mine is wrecked, then deeper still is that feeling of "Doesn't anyone respect or care for me the way I need them to?" If I don't get my way, I may pitch an ugly fit, but inside silently cry, "Love me enough to give me what I want!" In the calm of most days of this abundant life, I see clearly that both these demands for respect and love exceed human capacity. Only the One who made me can wholly offer me these gifts of love and respect perfectly, and I've only to receive with open hands and heart. This concept requires resolve to comprehend in the heat of a difficult moment. If I can stop demanding perfection unable to be given, then I can move into compassion for the other person involved at the end of my disappointment.
I can let go of my fear, my need and contemplate the true need of the other person. Gomes nailed it for me.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Note to Self

I just finished reading a story to my children, The Bat Poet. It was a lovely read with parallel stories about the intruiging habits of wildlife and the creative writing process. I decided to make a note to myself here. I feel inspired to write when I read excellent work. When I look over my own writing pieces, it's those I've written while when under the influence of beloved authors to which I return. Not rocket science, but I want to remember.

This simple observation may cause me to scour the shelves for rich literature to devour, so that I might plunge myself into another writing project. It's been awhile since I've been lost in a world of books. However, it would be difficult to justify the self absorbtion. I may have no choice but return to my busy and attentive life otherwise. Balance of both may be the key, but I haven't mastered the equipoise yet.

Yesterday, Peace and I had a showdown of sorts concerning a writing assignment. His text outlined the assignment expectations quite clearly, yet he allowed his will to get in the way of understanding. His "I don't want to do this" stood wide-legged and shoulders squared in the doorway of his made-up mind. So, for a long while he feigned incompetance and sent jabs and barbs my way. When he asked for help, he became sarcastic. Peace dug in his heels deeper and deeper until it was time to take his sister to her Keepers of the Home (something like Girlscouts) closing ceremony. Peace wanted to stay in the car and pout, but I asked him to come in and watch as his sister got pins on her sash for accomplishment. He sulked but acquiesed. Buck came in and took the ruffled Peace under his daddy wing. By the time of our Christmas party following, Peace humbling came to me and asked to begin again. Apparantly, Buck had pierced the hard shell of his heart. One thing I like about my family, is that we can always ask for a fresh start, day or night. It's a monastic principle we learned years ago and put into practice in our home.

This morning I pleasantly started from the top with Peace on the unfinished work from yesterday. The Bat Poet reading mentioned above stemmed from his halted writing assignment. He chose the topic about creativity's role in the story, but got nowhere during our showdown. Offering to read the story aloud to everyone became a gift from me to Peace, letting him know I was on his side again. I stopped once early in the reading and announced, "This quote might be useful in a paper on creativity." and he ran over to me with a pencil to mark it. He picked up on my hint quickly and trumpeted me to stop to mark a passage he noticed next. Time and kindness always win which is another note to self.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The last several days I've heard and carefully have been mulling over these Advent words from Isaiah 9:6. You'll recognize the first from Handel's Messiah.

For a child will be born to us,
a son will be given to us;
and the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace

Some versions add a comma between the two words Wonderful and Counselor. Some versions do not. Is it wonderful counselor? Or Wonderful. Counselor?

In the original Hebrew language Wonderful is a noun which suggests a comma should be present. Full of wonder. The meaning is closer to "a thing of wonder". A God of wonder. Even these explanations fall short in a way, because we are talking about the person of God incarnated into Christ sent to dwell among us who is full of wonder. I get goose bumps thinking this over.

I think about the fullness of time as well from Galatians 4:4
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

Time, not in moment of God's whimsy, "It's seems like a good day to do the Jesus thing."


Time briming over like when a small child is learning to fill a glass of water for herself. Full like a mother's heart watching her first grade son perform the lead role in the school play. Stuffed like someone who has eaten the most delicious meal. Overflowing like gulps of water pouring out the sides of a mouth after a long run outside on a hot summer summer day. Crowded like a public swimming pool in 101 degree heat. Loaded like a convertable T-bird in the Christmas parade of beauty queens from the county fair. Energy bursting like the starting line up of nervous horses at the gates for the Kentucky Derby.

I feel something of that fullness of wonder and time just now, and it is a thing of beauty.

A few days ago Peace yelled crossly from the kitchen, "Mom! Come in here now! And I mean it!" I flew like the blustery wind into the kitchen to find Peace grabbing towels from the bathroom and shoving them around the flooding dishwasher. Of course, Buck had left for work 15 minutes before, so it was completely up to me to figure out what to do next. And I am not a handygirl.

I opened the diswasher door and water still kept pouring in buckets onto the floor. My husband installed new flooring in the summer, and I grimaced at the prospect of it being forever ruined. I reached under my sink to turn off the water. By this time, all four children stood watching stunned that I had managed to stop the problem. Tater proclaimed, "Mom, you fixed it. I didn't know you could do that."

"It not fixed, bud. we won't be able to use the water in the sink," I snipped back at him. I have been far too impatient for some days now.

I called Buck on the cell, and the children followed me to the garage. "True, just find the dishwasher breaker and turn it off. Then you can use the sink."
"I would if I could open the breaker box!" I grumped at Buck while I stood on the goat stand fiddling with the impossible latch. Tater shoved his way up to help me undo the black button to the grey cabinet. He found the word "dishwasher" typed next to number 14 and flipped the switch. We plodded back into the kitchen and I turned the water back on safely. Fortunately, I couldn't bite off anyone else's head, because the breaker trick worked. Next, I threw the sink rug outside on the sidewalk and a boatload of sopping wet towels into the washer.

My kitchen isn't set up to hold six people's dirty dishes except for inside the dishwasher, so I've been breaking glasses right and left as they plummet from the tiny drying rack. I feel irked waking up to countertops covered with dishes drying from the night before. Eating out or eating junky doesn't work for me either. The situation demonstrates to me my poor character, because something so mundane as not having a dishwasher puts me even more on edge. Friday, when the servicemen come to install my new appliance, this particular test will end with poor marks for me.

It's Advent for goodness sake, and I'm moody. Certainly not penitent and mostly not preparing my heart to recieve the Newborn King of Kings. How short I fall. I look for the day when I am not bent out of shape by ordinary disappointments of leaks.

It's long past time to begin homeschooling this morning, but I had sense enough to grant my children the freedeom to fly kites instead in the unusual and gray sky. I seek to center myself a little for this new fragile day of washing dishes by hand with thoughts of Advent calling me to something higher and more difficult- becoming the person I want to be. The unseasonably warm temperatures war with the North Wind to blow back in frost and wintery weather to our home on a country hill. The battle reflects my insides. Perfect for flying kites.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mabye You're Planning for Christmas but not me...

Rainbow Pinata
Ruby Slipper Paper Napkins
Dorothy Paper Cups
Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow Paper Plates
Green Emerald City Castle Cake
Yellow (Brick Road) Tablecloth
Rainbow Punch
Full on Dorothy Costume
Red Jello Tin Man Heart-shaped Tins
Felt Squares for the Yellow Brick Road

See a trend yet?

Sculpy Lollipop (Guild)to be made into ornaments
Slipper to be painted with sparkly red paint
Horse to paint in many colors
Tin Man Heart Sugar cookies to decorate
Glinda Magic Wands
Paper plates to make into lion faces
Coloring Sheets of Flying Monkeys

Catching on?

Toto Baskets lined with light blue gingham to catch crafts
Glinda Bubbles
Themed Stickers

Coming to you yet?

A certain movie and music

Yes, Saturday is Pooh Bear's Wizard of Oz birthday. She turns 7, and Pooh Bear is about to bust with sundry party favors strewn all over my house.
Nothing like a ginourmous angry red pimple on the chin to utterly rob a woman of her self confidence.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Yesterday my family attended the funeral visitation of a dear friend's mother. Since we attend a rather informal church, finding suitable dress clothes in the closets of my children proved to be harder than a snapping turtle shell. "Why can't I wear my long sleeved superhero shirt? It's clean." "But I don't have any black dresses which match my ruby red slippers." "How about this orange t-shirt, Mom?" Seriously.

On the trip, Buck and I inquired of the children if they ever remembered seeing a dead person. "I know I have, but I don't really remember.", Peace answered. I asked if anyone was afraid to which Pooh Bear replied, "In an Odyssey story on tape, one of the character's grandma dies and says she just looks like she's sleeping. So, I'm not scared at all."

When we arrived at the funeral home, Buck gave the solemn behavior speech. And it worked. My children behaved like gems. They sat and charmingly chatted with all kinds of people inside and ran around like crazy men outside entertaining my friend's active seven year old son, Joseph.

Joseph asked anyone who would give him the time of day to explain just exactly what his grandma was doing in heaven at that very moment. When it was my turn, I mentioned I knew about lions and lambs lying down there together and the horses in Revelation. I told Joseph, "Do you suppose she's riding a white horse or petting the furry mane of real lion?" Pooh Bear told him she thought his grandma was having a fun time walking on streets of gold. His mother suggested Grandma might be swimming with all kinds of shining fishes which excited Joseph to exclaim, "And I bet she doesn't even have to come up for air."

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Pooh Bear approach the coffin alone, and she softly spoke. She stroked the grandmother's fingers. Pooh Bear explained later, "I was wishing her to have a good time in heaven and smelling the wonderful flowers."

Birth and death feel so very sacred. This particular sacred life ended with a daughter holding her mother's hand in her palm and the other gripping an oxygen mask hovering over her mother's face as the elastic had become unbearable. The mother gently whispered, "Let me go." to which the daughter nodded simple consent.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Away in an awesome manger

The Nativity story is a cornerstone of the Christian faith but can be a big hurdle for a bunch of skeptical New York teenagers.

By Garrison Keillor

Dec. 05, 2007 | I got to teach Episcopal Sunday school last week, a rare privilege, and it was in a New York church so the kids had plenty to say. Teenagers, and if you expect them to sit in rapt silence as you tick off points of theology, you're in the wrong place. They made plenty of noise, and not much of it about religion. Some of them seemed to be on a faith journey that was heading away from the Nicene Creed toward something cooler and jokier, some form of animism perhaps, the worship of cougars and badgers.

I like teenage noise. (It's the quiet brooders like me you have to worry about, right?) They let me say my piece -- God prefers honest doubt to false piety -- and then they said their pieces, and what shone through was a sensible anxiety about the future and the fact that they care a lot about each other. You could imagine a confirmed agnostic hanging out here just for the warmth and conversation.

We sat in a sort of triangle, two couches at a right angle, a line of chairs, a window looking out at the snow on Amsterdam Avenue, and talked about the rather improbable notion that God sent Himself to Earth in human form, impregnating a virgin who, along with her confused fiancé, journeyed to Bethlehem where no rooms were available at the inn (it was the holidays, after all), and so God was born in a stable, wrapped in cloths and laid in a feed trough and worshipped by shepherds summoned by angels and by Eastern dignitaries who had followed a star.

This magical story is a cornerstone of the Christian faith and I am sorry if it's a big hurdle for the skeptical young. It is to the Church what his Kryptonian heritage was to Clark Kent -- it enables us to stop speeding locomotives and leap tall buildings at a single bound, and also to love our neighbors as ourselves. Without the Nativity, we become a sort of lecture series and coffee club, with not very good coffee and sort of aimless lectures.

On Christmas Eve, the snow on the ground, the stars in the sky, the spruce tree glittering with beloved ornaments, we stand in the dimness and sing about the silent holy night and tears come to our eyes and the vast invisible forces of Christmas stir in the world. Skeptics, stand back. Hush. Hark. There is much in this world that doubt cannot explain.

(I might have told the kids that when you use the word "awesome" to describe everything above mediocre, you're missing a word for Christmas Eve, but I'm not their editor either.)

New York is very gaudy at Christmas, and the Santa Clauses on Fifth Avenue swing their bells with style, and the store windows glimmer and the city at dusk is ever magical, but all New Yorkers know that loneliness is a part of life and can't be extinguished, not by entertainment or pharmaceuticals.

I walked around the city that Sunday night -- two homeless people were camped on the steps of a Lutheran church on 65th, in the midst of grand old apartment buildings, and the opera crowd was wending toward Picholine and the Café des Artistes for the lobster bisque, and on the uptown subway we all sat and did not stare at the crazy old man boogeying in his sleeveless T-shirt and singing incoherently and watching his own reflection in the glass -- and how 17-year-old kids should mesh New York with the Nativity, I was not able to tell them. God prefers admitted incompetence to fake authority.

But explaining the universe to them was not my job, only to love them, which I do, utterly. They are brave and loyal and funny, heading out into a world that is not forgiving of mistakes, that will try to pummel them into submission, that is capable of awesome cruelty and deceit, but here they are. Emily Dickinson said, "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else," and if she, who spent most of her adult life in her bedroom, could feel that way, then think how it must be for the rest of us.

A day in New York can show you such startling sights, including a band of doubting teenagers clustered in church on a snowy morning, that the birth of the child in the hay seems not so impossible after all, even appropriate, even necessary.

(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)
© 2007 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

-- By Garrison Keillor

Hat tip to Almost

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

more parenting thoughts

A year ago, I became more aware of troubling issues in my home. It seemed there was never a moment of peace with my children, and I could not get anything done. I began to evaluate the situation, and it broke my heart enough to finally make a change. As much as I'd like to consider it something else, I was living selfishly. As awful as it sounds, I believed my children were in my way instead of part of my way. I examined my agenda, my goals,and yes, my dreams. One by one, I found a way to streamline what is most important to me, and though it was incredibly painful, I let go of the rest for the sake of my family. I was simply doing to much. For example, I cut down on exercise time. I stopped calling and hanging out with dear friends. I seriously limited attendance to interesting support groups, conferences and workshops. My standard answer to "Will you lead or be part of this project?" even though I'm the perfect one for the job is "No, ask me next year." It is next year, and the answer is still mostly "No", because my children would suffer. They need focused attention and time being enjoyed by their mother, not the lie of quality time. I've noticed my husband also cutting back and being with the children in a child centered way as well though his work keeps him more than busy.

I wonder how much people think, "What a shame, True. You'll lose yourself if you don't take care of you first. What will be left of you when your children leave?" But the truth is, I haven't lost any of myself. The more I press into intentionality with my children and husband, the more I become the person I've always wanted to be. Less grumpy and irritable, though there are certainly days I'm horrid. Less stressed. Less judgemental. Less of a task master. If I'm not always in a rush to get somewhere for myself, there's no cause for being short tempered with my family. I hear folks proclaim, "I don't have time to relax." Honestly, too much "me time" did not create relaxation. It created more stress on everyone.As for the question, "What will be left of me when my children leave our home?" I believe I'll be a person I can love without so very many relational regrets.

The bottom line is that I still do the things I love but with greater purpose- I write, train, garden,read, create, hike, dance, and teach- though with less frequency.

Here's a quote I read this morning which sums up my thoughts.

We need to be humble enough to admit that we tend to be "problem allergic" because we tend to live selfishly rather than redemptively. We want regularity, peace, comfort, and ease. We want to be predictable and unencumbered. the problems that our teenagers (I'd say any children) bring home are an intrusion on our desires and plans for our lives. We tend to get angry, not because they are messing up their own lives, but because they are messing up ours. We get captivated by our own plan, and we tend to lose sight of God's. We begin to think of our children as agents for our happiness, rather than remembering that we are called to be God's agents of growth in godliness for them. So in times of trouble, we angrily fight for our dream instead of happily doing God's work. If we are ever consistently going to see problems as opportunities, we need to begin with humble confession of our selfishness to the Lord.
Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I didn't want to believe it when I first heard that he was sick. I thought to myself, "He'll rally. He's a strong man. You should see the way he wrastles them goats."

Dr. Butler, an extraordinary vet and human being, passed away yesterday. I've blogged about him before. He treated anyone's animal who needed help regardless of the owner's ability to pay. It's been said that Dr. Butler's books showed half a million dollars in the red, but that never deterred his fair practice. His waiting room displayed social services for every walk of person and animal. His office has long been a clasdestine drop off and subsequent residence for strays of all sorts.

Upon my first visit, I mused over the ducks, dogs, and cats snoozing on the ratty chairs in the lobby as we waited our turn. I think back to the time he made every effort to save my son's dying gerbil. I consider the visit I forgot money and his nurses tried to give me the medicine for my goats for free. I think of how he straddled my skiddish Great Pyraneese to draw blood for testing. I grin at his laughter produced by him in response to my questions regarding castration for my goat.

Dr. Butler,
I'll miss your looming stature, your gentle way with the very small to gigantic creatures, and your compassion to all. Knoxville has been a better place for having you in it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Last night, after home school and Buck was away at work, I snuck away to my room to study for my course this coming weekend. I believed the children were enthralled in a rip roarin' game of Monopoly, so I dove head long into my books knowing they were occupied. I slipped into deep thought about the topic "Liturgy as Memorial". My mind flipped to a meaningful memorial service for a dear friend years ago. His short life had impacted our entire city. I considered the work of God's people as memorial of Christ. What,who,why are we remembering? What is the impact today of Christ's short life?

I researched Jewish traditions observed at the Last Supper meal, and I'm still in awe of the connections I miss by not understanding Judaism. Did you know the tradition of a man offering a woman a cup of wine as a proposal of marriage? If she drank from the cup, she committed herself to the man for life. Consider Christ offering the disciples the wine at the Last Supper and the significance of His followers, who fully comprehended this Jewish tradition, accepting the drink. It's amazing imagery.

I contemplated Christ's command at the Last Supper to "Do this in remembrance of me." We have many Christian symbols to remind us of our faith. I was struck that the cross, while powerful, was not the way in which Christ commanded us to think of His death and resurrection. Instead he offered us a simple meal with Himself, of Himself. No gore, no pain, just beautiful bread and wine. How gentle.

These thoughts and others of people I love lead me to prayer. I sang softly and welled up in tears. Monopoly must have come to a screeching halt, because my children burst into my room at the precise moment I cried. Tater, of course, noticed my red eyes and spoke, "Mom, what's wrong?" I explained that it was all too much to talk about. He announced, "I came in here to ask for dinner, but now I'm cooking. Do not come out of your room." He rounded up Pooh Bear to set the table and got busy. He grilled chicken, cooked corn, and baked crescent rolls for an all yellow dinner. Tater even mixed milkshakes for everyone for dessert. I'm so blessed. As much as I worry about him, his compassion is unmistakably in place.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I wished I'd have blogged my feelings about American health care before I watched Michael Moore's Sicko. That way I would remembered all the reasons I've believed America's health care system, though flawed, worked best. Afterall, I have good medical coverage. As much as I hate to admit it, this movie changed my views somewhat.

Some of Michael Moore's belittling style bugs me, and I certainly do not buy into his political agenda. I found the 20 minutes I watched of his Fahrenheit 911 to be much too long. However, Sicko brought home to me price we pay against humanity in our own country.

Why would Canadians need to purchase medical insurance before entering the U.S.?
Why would Americans need to fake Canadian residence to get medical care?

How could insurance company employees who deny life saving procedures sleep at night?

How is it that we provide better health care for terrorist inmates imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay than 911 heroes?
Why would Cuba medically treat those same 911 heroes for free?
How can a $120 medicine be dispensed for 5 cents in Cuba?

What happens to an American homeless person when she has nowhere to go to recover from wounds or illness?

How can American mothers with full health coverage lose children due to refusal to treat because the family rushed to the "wrong" hospital in their city?

A few thoughts I had during the movie
A hospital is not a family and cannot pretend to be one for homeless people. What should happen when someone has been treated and needs to be released into some one's care? Hospitals dumping them out on the street is not right, but what is?

Michael did not bring up the care for the elderly or homeless in Europe. Does one need an address to be treated? He didn't show examples of working class Europeans struggling. Why are the English so infamous for bad teeth if dental is free?

Michael failed to mention Cuba's human rights violations- which may be an unwelcome trade off for free medical.

Some things the movie did not explore enough which I'd like to know more about
Doesn't most cutting edge medical technology come from the U.S.? And don't countries with socialized medicine benefit greatly from our costly technology? Wouldn't socialized medicine in the U.S. gut new advances gained by a capitalistic approach to medicine? Seriously.

Any responses to these question from you? Comments welcome.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why blog when I'm madly pulling together an impromtu trip to Florida to visit with my mother, her husband and his brother for Thanksgiving? I suppose I want to get some thoughts down.

This week I connected with two other adoptive parents. I'm convinced we could all use a "shot in the arm" to encourage us. I'm earnestly seeking a particular author/speaker, but I cannot find any way to get in touch. I think I'll try his publisher. I have some very specific topics I'd like to explore in a workshop.

Don't get me wrong. Things have been steady and relatively good with my Tater for some time now, but I want more. I want more connection. More bonding. Greater understanding between the both of us. I can tell in his words and actions that he also wants more and doesn't know how to get it. Since he's twelve, I don't have much longer to go deeper. These last few years need to really count.

Can you tell I've been reading teen age parenting books? I gulp thinking about the other side of the window of opportunity closing in fast. The power is shifting as teenagers only give parents the amount of control they choose. In the blink of an eye, a teen can decide they've had enough of my mess. What they don't get at home, they find elsewhere. So, Buck and I are working hard to establish friendship with our older children and offer a redemptive home. Hard every day work for sure.

Buck, Peace, and I have nearly decided to send Peace to a private high school next year. Another huge gulp! Can you believe I have a son going into high school? Where did that time go? It's costly and will kick his academic tail, but we're sure it's a good fit. In many ways, I'll miss him in our homeschool mix. Afterall, he's my science and history teacher this year.

Off to pack and plan. Catch ya later.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I don't know how it happened. I have some good guesses below which will not change the tragic results. We Protestant Evangelicals have created a chasm between ourselves and our children in worship. Someone, I don't know who, invented children's church, and that's the last we've seen of our children during Sunday morning services- Poof!, and the wonder in the eyes of a child was stripped from the worship experience altogether.

Is it because children are no longer capable of comprehending the Gospel? Do children of this new generation require things particularly tailored to them?

Or is it because parents no longer know how to parent in the church setting?

Have churches become distracted and annoyed by young ones during the "real" action of the service?

All I know for sure is that I miss little voices singing in sincerity and the conviction of youth when I attend church.

And I want them back.

I've had folks who believe the same way ask, "There are plenty of churches who do welcome children into liturgy. Why not find one and stop whining?" The answer is simple- I am called at this time to the Protestant Evangelical Church, with all its beauty and weakness. If it's not heresy to quote Ghandi for Christian purposes, I intend "to be the change I wish to see."

Last night, our church hosted an uncommon event. We worshipped intentionally as a families. One gifted family made up the music team- two beautiful daughters and a mom on vocals, dad leading, son on guitar. That entire family whole-heartedly sang, but the confident and cute-as-a-button six year old at the microphone melted me.'

My entire family danced something I choreographed to a Mercy Me song. I simply asked my household to consider the dance as an offering to an audience of One though we were to dance in front of quite a crowd. Tater, a self conscious tween, refused at first. I wasn't about to require a gift of worship from any family member. However, he came to me after careful consideration and prayer and said, "Though I might feel embarrassed, it's something I feel I am supposed to do." That was a moment with Tater I wouldn't trade for the world, my friends.''

The service provided built in silent contemplative listening time complete with journals, crayons and pencils. We considered scripture together in small groups, and ended with active, flag waving worship at the end. You might find this irreverent, but I didn't- Wise One and a buddy threw down some guitar hero moves as they enjoyed God and the music.

Afterwards, I thought aloud, "That is church!" My congregation plans to do this another time in the next year. Perhaps it's the start to the change I hope to be.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The English philosopher John Stuart Mill expressed the same sentiment in the nineteenth century:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded
state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is
much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing
which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and
has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better
men than himself.8
Dave Kopel

Active pacifism always resounds in my heart, but the practice seems to hinge on others protection in order for a person to hold the view. What of this paradox?

Hat tip to John for the article.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

To borrow a phrase from Scott, The Vyne family has a used-but-new-to-us "phat minivan". Oh yeah, it is a sweet ride. Of course, that is compared to our dented, paint peeling, ripping upholstered, goat and dog hairy, bare steering columned, sour milk smelling 1991 Previa van.

I don't bring up our new purchase, because I want to provoke jealousy. It is just a 2002, but it might be the first vehicle we've ever owned within the same decade it was made.

And I also wanted to give you the contrast of the old van to enable you to appreciate our middle son's new obsession- keeping the "new" car's bling. Tater chides his siblings when they leave so much as a straw wrapper on the seat or floor. He meticulously vacuums the van several times a week. In fact, he's already swept out the carpet more times in the last month than our Previa received in it's entire six years of service to us.

Tater had something of a hissy fit on Halloween when we decided to decorate the Previa, not the new Odyssey, in a farm motif for "Trunk or Treat" at our church. Sissy- our goat, bales of hay, a rooster, and Buck in overalls added the finishing touch to the theme. Tater protested out of style embarrassment saying, "Please let's take the new van. I promise I'll clean it out! You know I will." I simply couldn't trust that he'd find the right disinfecting solutions for goat and chicken poo.

So what gives with this child? Are tweens supposed to pay this much attention to car detailing? Is he relieved he doesn't have to be caught dead in a junker any longer?

By the way, that junker still runs like a dream. We just aren't sure what might fall off next.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Though we live at the foot of the Smoky Mountains, we don't get there as often as one might think. So Friday, I made a last minute proposal to Buck that our family head to Pigeon Forge for an overnight, and hike in the morning.
We hit our favorite restaurant first, The Apple Barn, where the apple is king. The wait was an hour and a half as usual, so Buck took the children to the enormous barn gift shop while I listened to my book on CD. Forty minutes into the wait, Peace bounced up to the van and anounnced, "Come and eat." Apparently, the cute factor in Pooh Bear landed us an early table abandoned by a party of five. Confectioner's sugar coated apple fritters, apple butter, apple julips, country cooking, and desserts galore awaited.
We found a cheap hotel with an indoor pool in which to swim. In the morning, there was a free carbohydrate festival in the hotel breakfast room. I kid you not, there was nothing but cereals and breads. Buck commented that the bagels must have been valu-time (our grocery's poor quality generic food label) rejects. I wouldn't have believed I could meet a bagel with cream cheese I didn't like, but I spit my first bite out into my napkin and went with off-brand fruit loops instead. After, my boys carb-loaded on cereal, toast, nasty sweet rolls, and oatmeal, we got on the road to find our hiking trail.
We chose an easy path for Pooh Bear called Laurel Falls. The drought left the fall foliage lacking a touch the usual richness and variety of color. However, the majesty of the mountains didn't disappoint. With the crisp autumn air surrounding, the hovering rocks, fallen tree giants, laurels lining our walk, we took in the fresh orange and yellow morning.
Along the trail, were several signs stating the danger of falling deaths which made my boys a little too curious about the edges of the cliffs for my comfort. They'd drag me to the side of the footway to stare down at a 100 foot sheer cliff and ask, "Mom, do you think someone died here?" My answer, "Yes, and I'd like it very much if we weren't the next fatality."
It was quite a strange experience once we arrived at Laurel Falls. Yes, there was a water fall, but not with the normal rushing water one must shout above to speak. The drought had crippled her too, limiting her flow to more less a pouring stream rather than the forceful pounding beauty I'd remembered from the past. A wonder crossed my mind, "Is this how a desert begins when the world changes climate?"
After the hike, we ate lunch with Buck and packed him off to work overtime. Three children begged for haircuts, and afterwards we headed home. All four helped with two chores and played the rest of the afternoon while I cleaned some more. I love a clean house for our Sabbath. Tater kept slipping in his socks on the tidy floors. Twice he fell within a few minutes, so I joked, "Tater, honey, I suppose your feet usually stick to the nasty floors around here. Perhaps it would be best if we never cleaned again, because washed floors do you in."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Notes from the Homeschool Front

Tater, the boy who spent the summer in France meeting children from twelve nations, wrote the following in an English assignment. Apparently, his multi-cultural experience didn't neccessarily translate.

Turn these Proper nouns into adjectives.
1. The (Cuba) Cubic people are famous for making cigars.
2. The (Italy) Italish sausage tasted flavorful.

Don't worry, grandparents. We are raising true scholars.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm listening to a fiction book on CD which I am enjoying- Between, Georgia. There are a number of things I like about it, but I'm taken with the complex relationships and the delicate navigation of the characters through those ties. Also, I like southern settings, because it reminds me of my own Georgia roots.
And the author reads her own work.
I'd rate it R for language, and A for a good book journey.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My life as a mother just returned to something more breathable as the soccer season ended yesterday. Three teams. Four players. Six practices per week. And Saturday games here, there, and yonder. All finished. Sports screeched to a grinding halt with one simple exception- once a week swim practice for all at the same time beginning Thursday. Maybe, just maybe, we'll take time to serve at the animal shelter again and cook meals which take longer than 15 minutes for a change. What else did I hope to put more time into when soccer was finished? I can't remember just now. I'm too exhausted to think.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back from Ashville. It was just as we expected- great food, laughter, art, shopping, and birthday cake for breakfast to celebrate Helen's fortieth.
When I arrived home, my home was clean, children happy, and Buck left quiche for dinner for us before he went off to work. It was a blessing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Packing my bag for Helen's splendid birthday trip this morning. We'll hit Ashville, N.C. with another friend, Candy. I expect a weekend of laughter, art, great food, and girly mayhem. If you see me, I'll have a wild grin on my face that says, "I'm a forty-one year old homeschooling, pretend farming mother of four who doesn't get this opportunity very often."
If you see Buck, it'll be on the fly. He's selling Boyscout popcorn with the boys and soccer game chauffeuring.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Crass Conversation

Me: So, what do you think of our Nobel Peace Prize Winner this year, Al Gore?
Buck: Interesting choice.
Scott: Wonder who will be nominated next year?
Buck: Maybe George Clooney.
Me: Leonardo DiCaprio.
Buck: Sheryl Crow.
Scott: Brittany Spears.
Buck: Oh no, Scott, not Brittany Spears. It's the Nobel Peace prize, and Peace is spelled P-E-A-C-E, silly.

Monday, October 15, 2007

If you do not believe in spiritual battles this video isn't for you. If you do, be warned, it's intense and not for children.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Outside my bedroom window this morning stands a lovely sight. Past the faltering zinna garden, over the freshly graveled driveway, and into the dewed neighbor's field, three black calves are silhouetted by the bright morning sun streaming through the trees. Vapor clouds blow from their little noses as they glance dociley my way. I take in the sublime nature of the cows and look forward to a quiet day.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adoption Thoughts Again

I've figured something new this week regarding my adopted son, Tater. Again, it's not rocket science, but it's something as plain as the nose on my face, except that I couldn't see it. Until now.

I blogged a few times recently about the struggles over homeschooling I've had with my oldest son, Peace. My relationship with Peace was strained, ubearable even, from the end of July, when we began school, until three weeks or so ago. Finally, I can breathe again with Peace in a place of peace which remains. I am so grateful. Background noise to all that struggle with Peace came in the form escalated relational problems with Tater. Tater's heart seemed to be shutting down.

This week I thought to myself, "Now that things are great with Peace, I can make a concerted effort to truly focus on what is up with Tater."

Here's the magic. I didn't have to. The tension between Peace and I correlated directly with Tater's dissent into anger. With the resolution between Peace and I, I realized Tater had already opened his heart back up to us naturally.

Not rocket science like I said, but Tater responds negatively to difficult situations which don't directly apply to him. I don't think he has fully developed his own person or identity yet, so he's vulnerable to take on others' problems as his own.

Next time something erupts in my family, I can be sure:
1. Tater will probably escalate in anger.
2. When the eruption is resolved, it won't be nearly as difficult to resolve his anger.

A little hope goes a long way for me. Realizations like these carve a hole just large enough to let a little light inside for me to carry to overcome the next obstacle.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What should I give my dear friend Helen for her forteith birthday?

If I were Melinda Gates, I'd open a philanthropic resource center for the arts named after and run by Helen. Or perhaps I'd buy her a Renoir to hang over the buffet in the dining room.

Since I'm not Melinda, I'll have to be more essential.

When I was young, another dear friend's dad got an interesting present. The congregants where he was pastor came and fertilized his front yard with a gigantic 40 which grew green and lush all summer compared to the rest of his pale lawn. This wouldn't exactly work for Helen as she lives in the middle of nowhere and the effect would be completely lost. The only comparable joke I could play would be to scratch the number 40 on the hood of her Lexus, but she might not want to be my friend anymore if I do that.

If you are thinking, "Just buy her a really great book."; that wouldn't work either. Her husband already keeps an amazing library like nobodies business. Clay hands Helen and I fantastic books right and left.

If I buy her any type of gift card, she'll find someone else to spend it on. That's out of the question.

As you might have guessed, she's an artsy girl with great taste. I'm not asking to be silly. I'm perplexed. Any fabulous gift ideas out there in blogland?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Columbus Day Greeting

Happy European Imperialistic Invaders Day!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Adoption Issues Continued

More Remedy
What has truly worked to answer these two questions of adopted children?
1. Do you still love me if...?
2. Who's got the power?

Last January, February, and March, I cancelled every single activity for myself and for my children and focused on healing. I gave up three of my favorite things, including a get-away with four of the most fabulous women on the planet. With God's help, together my family and I created a complex system to guide us. It helped tremendously, and I discovered the most valuable tool of all in answering the adoption questions- understanding.

When I took the time to figure out the source of every irk or anger episode in my adopted son, he flourished. Together we kept answering the question, "What am I so mad about?". It was not easy, and still is not easy, to get to the bottom of his pain.

The intense focus had to end sometime, and I think he's suffering a bit from my lack of focus. For me, those months amounted to submersion under water and away from many things I love, and I needed air and refreshing at some point. As a result, I am very conscious about the fact that everything I do outside the home- dance group, homeschool support groups, book studies, evenings out with friends, projects, writing, teaching, come with a steep price tag for my son more than anyone else. I do not stop and help him examine his feelings like we did in those months, because I have other things on the forefront of my mind. I seem to always have an agenda which too often gets in the way of guiding him through relationship.

Blogging about it makes me want to become more aware of seeking understanding with Tater again. I have learned to spot the two questions by a quick observation- Tater looks angry or frustrated by a common circumstance. When I'm busy in any other way, I become impatient with his impatience. When I'm focused, I think, "Hey! Another learning moment for the boy!"

Just today, Buck helped Tater through a selfish moment by working for a solution in which everyone would be content. It took some time. Buck was careful and kind with his words even though Tater was not. Buck and I allowed silence to let the boy feel the weight of his self-centered choice, but eventually Tater came up with something satisfying for all concerned.

I think I'll stop here for today, and write continue another time.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Adoption Issues

Is your home a place of redemption? Does it need to be? Has anyone suffered great loss in daily relationships?

I'd say my home requires me to create a space to heal the broken hearted. Have I? Not well enough. Here's my gauge- the level of peace and unity in my family.

I believe every household has a thermometer- the one who may not look like it on the outside, but is the most sensitive and vulnerable inside. The exterior may read "I don't care", but the actions scream "Someone do something!" My adopted son, Tater, lets us all know when family matters become askew. The second he senses a chasm between my husband and I, he runs to the crack and jumps until Buck and I get on the same page again. Sometimes it takes Buck and I months to work together, and the result of not working together is chaos.

I've come to realize adopted children have two questions they ask over and over again.
1. Will you still love me if...?
2. Whose got the power?

Apparently, I haven't answered those questions correctly yet for my adopted son, because he still continues to ask in so many manipulative ways.

While my birth children exhibit considerable character flaws, they do not have these same questions. They know in their heart of hearts they can trust me to have their best interest in mind.

I notice a lesser emotional connection with Tater. He doesn't take me at my word like the other children. His wounded heart cannot trust me, so most everyday, I'm tested and judged as wanting by him.

So how to build trust? That's where a home of redemption kicks in. Redemption is gentle. Redemption is kind. Redemption doesn't seek revenge, only healing. Redemption is confident. Redemption believes, even if a strategy is not working, one will be revealed which will meet the need. Redemption does not lose hope. Redemption is never angry and does not seek it's own way. Redemption does not struggle for power; it is power.

A Remedy
The area I have completely conquered this year is not ever getting physical. I believe aggression only breeds more aggression. If my son defiantly picks up the very object I've asked him not to touch, I don't make any movement to retrieve the object. In the heat of a difficult moment, if I ask him not to go outside, and he heads straight for the doorknob, I do not block his way. If he refuses to stop banging a ruler on the table, I do not make any effort to physically remove the ruler. Spanking is absolutely out of the question.

Abandoning any type of physical control has made a boatload of difference in Tater. A year ago, someone in our family would be "accidentally" hurt by him nearly every day. He'd run into a room like a whirling dervish, knock over his little sister, and wonder what just happened. Over the course of this year, that carelessness has been nearly extinguished. Just considering it now, it's miraculous, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how the change occured.

Deeper Remedy

Here's the part of redemption I have not yet completely conquered- remaining peaceful in difficult situations. I haven't mastered a neutral or kind tone in conflict. I've made progress, but when push comes to shove, sometimes I don't keep it together. My goal is to lay down my natural responses of anger and even irritation, and respond in an even keeled way. Sound impossible? It is eye opening to think of the times I'm in a snit with my husband or children, and how quickly I am able to answer the phone pleasantly. Why not keep it together with my family, those I love the most, in the best way possible?

Mostly because I'm human. Imperfect. Redemption has a plan for that as well, though it is tricky- forgiveness. When I'm short with someone, I need to ask forgiveness. If the person is not ready to give it, then I wait. Patiently. Redemption always hopes and believes it will work in the end. I'm not always on the side of redemption, because forgiveness requires something I'm not always willing to give- self examination and humility. Buzzing around town taking care of others or making sure I have plenty of "me" time only complicates things. It leaves no room for necessary deep listening for ways to grow in kindness and forgiveness in my home.

Instead of wrapping things up neatly here, I'll stop and post more another time. School is underway and this teacher needs to get back to work.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Buck laid down his life for me this weekend again. While I was out of town teaching again for the last two days, he took the children to soccer practice, three games, and a scout service project, and mowed the lawn to boot. What a man!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

As a mother, I am not fond of this time of year. While I loved Halloween, witches, and ghosts as a child, my children do not.

Since Wise One was very small, he's been particularly sensitive to the store decorations for Halloween. At about five years old, I dragged the boy into a black and orange decked out Party City to buy some paper plates for a party, and five years later, he still remembers the experience with terror.

Pooh Bear, who was riding with Buck in another car, watched me dash into Walgreens two nights ago. Last night, she woke up crying hysterically saying, "I saw those ugly terrible faces in the drug store swallow you up."

Tater got creeped out around midnight, because he couldn't get the bloody costumes out of his mind that he saw in the newspaper sales flyer earlier in the day. He slept on the floor on my room.

I'm mad, because it isn't even October yet. We have more than an entire month left to go of avoiding stores and living through nightmares with my six year old. Even the creepy blow up smiling skeletons at Wal-mart do her in.

Honestly, I wish Halloween would be replaced with fall festivals of pumpkins, hayrides, and scarecrows. Anyone else feel the same?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Place of Peace with Peace

I've mentioned my homeschooling struggle this year with my eigth grade son, Peace. After an entire month of desperation on both our parts, we've finally come to some workable solutions. I realized I'd been hanging so tightly onto my mother hat that my teacher hat got misplaced. The bottom line is that I was in survival mode with him, grasping at straws to keep him from failing. After seeking counsel from an amazing group of friends, I came to the conclusion that failing might be the only real option for my son. Once I let the idea of making him pass the eighth grade go and clearly outlined the requirements for him to pass, Peace and I stopped having any reasons to lock horns.

Why did it take so long for me to catch on to such a simple solution? Who wants to stand by and watch their child to fail a grade? I became like a nutball track coach pushing my slumbering athlete around the track, instead of allowing my athlete to run for himself. I held all the anxiety and worry for him, so Peace didn't want or need to pass. He saw me carrying his load, so he simply let go of any responsibility.

In the end, we wrote a contract in which I don't nag, and he is responsible for passing his school work by a certain time in the day. If he requires grace to meet his time deadline, he repays me for my extra teaching time with equal minutes of work around the house I couldn't manage while teaching.

The first day of our contract, Peace lost an essential assignment for the science course he takes at a private school. Normally, I would have given him the huffy "Why can't you keep your assignments in your notebook?" and "Where exactly is your brain?" lecture, and then I'd have steamed again when he missed his time deadline by carelessness of misplacing work. Instead, I required grace time of him when I joined his search. No lecture. No nagging. After school, Peace helped me with chores.

Though Peace still balks at anything resembling study, I ask simple questions such as, "Are you satisfied with D for a grade?" So far, he has not answered, "Yes." If he does, I'll record it and move on. Another eighth grade year before high school won't do anything but give him additional time to mature.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm having considerable trouble sleeping. Not because I'm troubled within, but for two precise furry reasons- Patches and Janet. Patches belongs to my son, Peace. Janet belongs to my son, Wise One. Neither feline sleeps with his rightful owner. Patches has become too old to jump in and out of Peace's loft, much to Peace's chagrin. Janet has never slept with Wise One, and I'm altogether not sure Janet is particularly fond of Wise One.

So, where have Patches and Janet chosen as their preferred sleeping quarters? My room, of course. Patches is quite fond of the computer paper box just under my side window. Janet snoozes on the home school math paper resting atop my printer. My favorite time of night is when Janet decides to walk across the desk and send objects, like the keyboard, crashing to the floor at 3:02 a.m. The two outlaws scrath and meow to enter and exit and ungodly hours of the night- the wind often closes my doors randomly.

The logical solution would be to put the fuzzy pair outside for the night and forget about it. However, this simply adds to their bag of wiley cat tricks. For several weeks now, our windows have been open, since I nearly dropped dead after opening our last electric bill. With the ceiling fans circling, windows open, and cool fall breezes coming through, it's downright pleasant inside my home. Take that, Loudon County Utilities Board! Anyhow, the obnoxious kitties now have full access to madly claw the screens and protest loudly their utter disatisfaction with the outdoor option.

Next time you see me in the grocery store, you'll be able to answer the question, "Why does True look so very tired, lately?" You'll know it's the nocturnal habits of neurotic cats forced upon me.

By the way, Buck slumbers right through it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

This evening my children and I were treated to glance inside a glossy window pane into the life of Rachel Carson's astounding life via PBS's Bill Moyer. I'd only read and thoroughly enjoyed a few of Rachel's quotes and have never read A Silent Spring . Perhaps I will get to know her better through her writing now that we've been introduced. I was not aware that she was a poetic writer, an invested scientist, and a radical preservationist in her time. She was the first to publicly question the satiating use of new pesticides in homes, farms, and wars during the 1950's, thus the title of her book. Carson achieved the attention of the nation including President Kennedy on the topics and was mercilessly criticized by a small but rich minority- the prosperous chemical companies who wanted her observations silenced at any cost.

Rachel Carson existed in wonder and respect of God's handiwork the way I'd like to live. Here's a marvelous quote into which I was drawn deeply:

"I believe natural beauty has a necessary place in the spiritual development of any individual or any society. I believe that whenever we destroy beauty, or whenever we substitute something man made and artificial for a natural feature on the earth, we have retarded some part of man's spiritual growth."
Last night, I got a glimpse of the quote "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" through an unlikely source- a parking attendant. Claire and I loaded up her mini van with daughters to head to High School Musical on Ice. Feel free to roll your eyes at our shallow choice of cultural activity. The teens involved in our trip did not heed our pleas of hurry, so we were running late when we arrived at the coliseum. Claire dropped us off and offered to park while the rest of us found WILL CALL to round up our tickets.

Claire was met at the parking gate by the attendant who kindly spoke, "I have a special place I was saving just for you. I always save two spots for latecomers and you'll be excited to see which is your space. It's the empty spot right in front of you. After the event is over, you'll have an easy exit as well. I hope you enjoy the show." I am stunned at the grace and care of a woman simply looking to bless, making room for those in a time crunch instead of harboring the typical "serves you right" judgment of poor planning. How refreshing. Grace. Mercy. Given to our carload of Soarin' and Flyin' girls.

Monday, September 17, 2007

If you've read my blog lately, you know that homeschooling my eighth grade son has put me through my paces, both as a mother and a teacher. I stepped into my room during school this morning and overheard Peace talking with Wise One discussing something on the Internet, "See this Transformer? It's power begins here and..." I interrupted shortly, squaring my shoulders and steadying myself firmly for yet another home school showdown, "Which website are you exactly on?" Flashes of the fifty-two stay-on-task-and-get-ready-for-high-school-so-you'll-have-the-chance-to-go-to-college-not-to-mention-being-a-good-example-for-your-siblings conversations with Peace sprang to my irked mind. Were those two children actually looking at Transformer robots crushing cars and ten story buildings instead of finishing their assignments?

I scurried around to catch a view of the computer screen. Nope. Peace was teaching Wise One about the transfer of power from the Tesla coil. For literature, he's been reading biographies of famous scientists. I giggled. Peace quickly figured out why and giggled as well, "You thought this was the Transformer movie website didn't you? Mooooommmm."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Just so you know, it's not always the peaceable kingdom around here. I am in the dicey position of being the mother of two first born boys. One I labored to birth in a little more than 24 hours. The other I labored through 2 years of foster care to adopt, and his birth certificate now displays Buck's and my signature. Both boys vie for top dog position- sometimes to an infuriating breaking point. In an unusual circumstance, the three of us are at home together without the rest of the family with all media hushed (except me blogging), all school work and other labors tucked safely away. I've had the opportunity to observe their specific interactions as I've worked on various projects throughout the day.

Peace and Tater first chose to play Monopoly. They lasted over an hour, until the bank ran out of money. Neither knows it, but I'm most likely responsible for the shortage of cash- I throw monopoly money and other sundries away when I find misplaced things lying about unattended. Next the two guys jumped on the trampoline together. Soon after, I heard them playing some kind of war game fearlessly protecting our beloved chickens from the menacing chicken hawks. With no animosity, they split up for some time- one reading a novel, the other listening to a book on tape and building legos.

I asked them at dinner to choose which brother would milk the goat knowing I could be stirring the firstborn pot. The third son, who was absent, happened to be scheduled to milk. To my surprise, no sparks flew between Tater and Peace over the decision, just Tater agreeing to do so. Once milking commenced, Tater popped inside to gently grab Peace for assistance. Tater's breathing became slightly short. The Tennessee weather conjured up some nip in the air suddenly, and Tater's throat sometimes closes up a wee bit. Peace took over without a hint of imposition.

If you didn't understand the discord of their relationship at times, bulls locking horns, you'd think these two were best of friends, close, thick as thieves upon observing their collective peaceful demeanors on this rare occasion. Frankly, I'm encouraged they've chosen the company of one another at various times throughout the day. Other days, I've wondered if they'll seek each other at all as adults. Time will tell.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What about my last post?

Try these on for size, and let me know what you think.

I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.
Mark Twain

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.
W.B. Yeats
The 20 Qualities of an Educated Person
by John Taylor Gatto
(former New York City and New York State Teacher of the Year)

1. A broadly knowledgeable mind
2. Self confidence
3. A life purpose
4. A touch of class
5. Good leadership skills
6. The ability to work with a team
7. Patience
8. Good public speaking skills
9. Good writing skills
10. Resourcefulness
11. A desire for responsibility
12. Honesty
13. A public spirit
14. The ability to work well alone
15. An eye for details
16. The ability to focus at will
17. Perseverance
18. The ability to handle pressure
19. Curiosity
20. An attractive personal style

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's been a week since I've gone running, so today was exceptionally difficult. On the inclines I ran slower than fast walking people. It's quite a set back as I was training for an October race which benefits the school my son attends for science. For several weeks, I've been cutting my time, and I added several minutes back on today.

Life seems to be like that. Hitting a great pace, the best, and being disappointed with setbacks like.

I was thinking as I ran today about the tyranny of the unexamined life. How if emotions of the moment make my decisions, I'd give up even simple things like running. It's hard. I don't like how it feels. I'm slower than I've ever been. Why even try when one week of illness makes such a huge dent in progress?

I could go to that same worn out place with the difficulties with my children and husband as result of not being able to be "on game" for three days. Recovering my house, homeschool, and hearts still continues.

I used to be ruled by the tyranny of it all. For example, I'd give up exercising for half a year when something like this discouraged me. I'd seethe at the messes of my house and hold the disorder of my home against my husband and children. What I lacked was grace- grace for my family to come slightly undone when I couldn't do my part. I demanded my husband become God, read my mind and keep things up and running just the way I like them. No grace for the pieces of which were accomplished, just disdain for the overlooked.

Now, with self examination, I don't see things quite the same way. When I'm centered, I've learned to let go, and allow my family to be less than superhuman. I recognize my part in the house and family is vital and will suffer when I can't do it. An opportunity will come to set things right in due time, and it doesn't all have to happen now or today. The tyranny of the immediate is lifted. I like my family and myself much better under grace.

We went to the fair, soccer, and scouts today. I'll have the chance to prove myself tomorrow as we've dumped and run from sun up till past sundown. We'll wake up to the daily grind and the leftover chaos of this long day. Fortunately, every day begins with the new mercy of morning.

Friday, September 07, 2007

When Summer Comes

I have been given permission by Tater to publish this poem on my blog with a disclaimer that the readers be made aware this is not his best work. It's just something he threw together. Mothers, however, may or may not agree with the disclaimer.

When Summer Comes
by Tater
When summer comes, its' warmth creeps across the world
consuming every-thing and peeps into holes.
When summer comes, you can taste it in the air,
and when it gets here, the wind flies through your hair.

Betta, almost

I'm feeling much betta today, but not completely. Definately not perky, but that's not a normal state of my being ever. I wish I had the luxury of staying close to home instead of running children to soccer practice. Sigh. Crossing my fingers that the acidophiles I'm popping will kick in right on time.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What's a person to do with such a plate full of things to prepare?
Get sick, of course.
I've had a sore throat, fever, nausea, and other unmentionables for three days now. I've decided to pop tylenol and buck up today after two days alternating between sweating like my bedroom is the Sahara and freezing like it's the Artic. Gonna see how things shake out today before I commit to a doctor's visit on the off chance any of my problems have to do with a certain nawstee protozoa entering the digestive tracts of many East Tennesseans.

In the meantime, I think Pooh Bear broke her tail bone at a friend's house yesterday and Tater figured out how to make his new haircut into a mowhawk. Marvelous.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I'm covered up! If anyone is bored and looking for something useful to do, you can find some work here at the Vyne house. I'm typing science questions, preparing school work for next week, and considering a syllabus for my September training course, while my dear husband empties the attic of boxes for me to go through. In those boxes are a million projects waiting to be assembled for The Good Shepherd class I begin teaching with children in two weeks. My living room is stacked and messy which always unsettles me. Do you feel undone when your home is out of order too? The opportunity to teach again makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't ask me about homeschooling today. My eighth grader is trying to slowly kill me with his careless work and constant off task behavior.
Seems like the horrid cycle of me nagging and him resisting has kicked in for the sixth consecutive home school year. I know the way out, but it takes time, resolve and patience. I've explained that I have no interest in dragging him through the eighth grade, because I've already done that for myself. It's up to him to pass or fail, and I've set clear boundaries of when I'll be available to teach (till 3:00 pm) and when I'm not (after). Otherwise, he'll dawdle through the day into the evening demanding I explain concepts or check work past 9 pm at night. No thank you- I'd rather keep my sanity.
Don't get me wrong. Peace possesses some excellent qualities. For example, he is easy to wake up. He jumps out of his bed to his farm chores without me ever asking. He's handy in mechanical ways, like fixing the eye of the garage door opener and making new things work. He's got a fairly decent sense of humor. However, if you find me admitted to an insane asylum, you'll have a good idea of how I got there. My eyes will be glazed over as I incessantly repeat, "Are you done with the work on your assignment sheet?" to all the nice people in white coats.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Friday and Saturday I was given the chance to work on a dream a long time in the making. My dear friend Elizabeth invited me to team teach my very first official Catechesis of the Good Shepherd course with herself and another dear friend, Laura. I still can't believe it, but I spent the weekend actually doing the very thing I've wished and prayed for ten years.

I have been in awe of the expertise surrounding me. Elizabeth is an amazing listener and can see straight to the heart of the matter instantly. There is nothing like being under the leadership of a person who is so in tune with preserving relationship and striving for excellence all at once. Laura is a fantastic teacher. Her preparation is impeccable, and she possesses an incredible peace. I surprised myself with my own confidence and mastery of material. I also felt some of my experimentation in presentation was a bit of a flop. It's something I intend to learn from and not pine over. Working with Elizabeth makes this possible as she offers overflowing grace and insight.

The participants in the course were a treasure. There were sixteen, I believe, and each one brought the great gifts of curiousity, questions, and even wisdom. I know each one by name, but I did not count. I think of myself in their position ten years ago- willing to invest deeply in eight weekends of something I wasn't altogether sure about. I look forward to working with each one.

on the home front
Buck, again, laid down his life to create space for me to study and be gone for two entire days. He handed Pooh Bear over to Helen for a night and conducted a sleep over of eleven rambunctious adolescents whom I love dearly. Though we went to Tic Toc for very expensive icecream on his real birthday, Tater asked to have an all boy party while I was gone. I heard tales of creating frothy bubbles on the trampoline to jump in(how incredibly dangerous does that sound?!), smores and sausage cabbage soup cooked over a fire (an hilarious choice of a birthday dinner if you ask me), water hose wars, goat tag games in which Gingerly, the new dairy goat, kept escaping the field, and general chaos. Yes, the house is still standing. After church, we will have a quiet day at home for recovery- except for Buck- who has to work.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to School Inspiration

At the beginning of every academic year I like to remind myself and my students that true education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that we've not read all that we need to read, we don't know all that we need to know, and we've not yet become all that we are called to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies. It is that remarkable rebuke of autonomy and independence so powerful and so evident that we actually shut up and pay heed for a change.

George Grant
The Seed

A bird brought me a seed.
I plant the seed.
It grows into a Sugar Plum Tree.
In the winter, it turns brown.
The next summer it comes back green and pink.
A bird brought me a seed.

By Pooh Bear

Monday, August 20, 2007

Theme in Pink
by Pooh Bear

Spiders eat butterflies on me.
The butterflies drink by necter.
I grow outside and sing, "All the World".
I am a pink flower.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

on a lighter birthday note

My Beloved Buck,
I've been waiting for inspiration regarding your birthday here all day long. At this late hour, nothing has really come to me except the very simple. I love you. I will always love you. I am so grateful to the fine parents and the Great God who worked together to bring you life and love 43 years ago. I've known you more than half my life now and every year only gets better.
So, let me tell you about Gingerly, our newest Nubian. She's so beautiful. Light brown body, black stripe down her back, white frosted ears, a swipe of black down her face. Her dark chocolate eyes make one melt. She is a tad nervous, being the new kid on the goat farm block. She's getting sniffed, licked, rubbed, bothered, and sometimes butted by our little herd. She's deathly afraid of our ginormous Great Pry dog, Ripley. She cries a little like the whine of broken fan. I get the idea she'd prefer to be inside snuggling on my lap than in the field. Of course, she wouldn't fit on my lap, but that is beside the point- she is incredibly loving. She follows right behind to and from the field like a first grade line leader behind her beloved teacher.

Here's the nitty gritty...she has little short pencil teets, which makes her a tad bit hard to milk. It may have something to do with being out practice that she takes so long to milk, but I know her teet size is not helpful. However, the milk is downright tasty.

Gingerly came from the Hilton of goat farms, so she is not used to our Motel Six milk stand. Her former accomodations included a swanky ramp to a bin of food. Here she must jump straight up on the stand and put her head through treacherous looking hole. Tonight I have to coax (or forcibly push) her up there without Buck's help and I'm not looking forward to that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Some people buy new furniture, nice clothes, grand cars.

The Vyne's are purchasing a snazzy new dairy goat.

She milks an entire gallon a day. In under 40 milkings, she's paid for herself with cow milk at a whooping $5.29 a gallon. Buck and Peace pick her up from Jubilee Farms right after his one class at classical private school. I asked my son to take other clothes and shoes than his spanking brand new uniform. Gosh, Peace looks handsome and scholatic in those khaki's and logoed polo.

I'm over a year out of practice with milking, because the whole family needed a break. We are going to sell half of our milk for pet consumption. Why just for pet consumption? Tennessee has made it illegal to sell (it's not illegal for us to drink it) unpastuerized milk for humans, so we hand it over to our friends stating the facts, and they do what they do with the healthiest whole milk in the world.

Peace has always taken the responsibility of milking a few days of the week. He manages to get the goat from the herd without letting the others out, bring her inside to the milk stand, milk, filter, refrigerate, wash buckets, clean up, and take the nanny back to the field all on his own. Tater and Wise One get stuck at the beginning part by letting all the other goats out. Buck and I have decided to make it worth their while to learn how to do it right with cash. Peace will get half the money if he has to help them in any way on their days.

More goat tales to follow in the future, I'm sure.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Working vs. Stay At Home Moms

Contrary to all things hip, I still catch an occasional Oprah. I don't bother with the majority shows, but when I hear an interesting topic, and I happen to have an hour, I watch or at least listening while I'm folding laundry. A few days ago she had women on her show representing both sides of the working verses stay-at-home moms. I think it was a repeat. Both sides of the issue made me think.

One woman took her child out of daycare and quit her job at the suggestion of a care provider to place a disposable camera in the diaper bag to catch the milestones which might arise while the mom was working. During the woman's story, I remembered the time my husband took our middle son across the street to a birthday party and announced that Tater took his first steps. I wasn't mad or hurt that I missed those first steps, because the milestone is to be celebrated no matter if I was watching or not. I'm not saying the woman on Oprah felt this way, but I would have been a complete train wreck if I hadn't let someone else give me a break from the daily grind sometimes. All this is to say, even as a stay at home mom, I missed milestones.

On the other hand, I have been sheltered from what another working mom called "Sophie's Choice". Everyday at the daycare door, her son would cling to her leg and cry out, "I'll be a good boy, Mommy. Please don't leave me here. I'll do whatever you say." How difficult! Hopefully, that mom took time listen to the voice inside in order evaluate her circumstances apart from that difficult moment to be sure she was making the right choice for her family. If so, her decision's noone's business including mine.

Another stay-at-home mom regretted not making more of herself. She felt like it was a poor example for her daughters to simply make dinner, clean house, and shuttle her girls back and forth to events. I say it's never too late, and that the mom can find her dream again and begin to live it if it was lost in the mothering shuffle. I think of how the author of one of my favorite all time books, Cold Sassy Tree, was in her 80's when she published.

I'd say the debate came down to something simple on Oprah's show. Working mothers feel judged by stay-at-home moms as not loving their children enough. I was unclear about any stay-at-home mom conclusions. Either way, the stakes of women being at odds with others due to different choices indicates insecurity at best, competition at worst. Noone wins at those types of games.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What exactly is in that basket anyway?

A snippet of Pooh Bear's homeschool day...
We read The Brother's Grimm Little Red Riding Hood together. Afterward, she skipped off to make popsicle stick puppets to reinact the story. Pooh prompted me to meet her in the bathroom (?!) for the fabulous show. She thought the tub provided a secret place for her to hide while the six year old narrator and her characters spoke the well rehearsed lines, "And Red Riding Hood took some beer and bread to her sick grandma."

"Beer? Did you say beer, girly?" I questioned.

"Oh, I think I meant wine. Does beer or wine make you feel better, Mom?"

I pose this serious question to readers of my blog. What say you?

I don't have a leg to stand on as I am the most lame drinker of all- half a glass of any alcoholic beverage makes the universe wildly spin for me.

Buck woke the children in the middle of the night, one by one, to watch the meteor showers last night. Each had a chance to share a falling star with their daddy. I have poor night vision, and though I laid alone for quite some time on the sidewalk, still warm from the sweltering noon temperatures yesterday, I couldn't see more than the beauty of a star speckled night sky.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Claire, a friend who shares a beautiful vision for parenting at which I'd like to become better, asked my son Tater to list the lessons he learned at Children's International Summer Village. He told her he would, but I was skeptical that he'd ever follow through on writing it down. I was wrong and pleasantly surprised. Tater gave me permission to copy the things he shared with Claire with you, my blogfriends.

Eleven Year Old Wisdom

1. To lead, you must first follow.
2. It is far better to give than to receive.
3. Peace is better than an argument.
4. When someone holds false testimony against you, listen with a peaceful heart. Then when he is finished, in a peaceful way, show him his fault, that you didn't do what he says you did.
5. Take responsibility no matter what!
6. Listen to Authority. Parents, leaders, God! Listen even if it means giving up all you have.
7. Go out of your way to help people.

This is all I can think of right now, Miss Claire. I have to go to dinner. I will tell you if I remember more.

Claire called to thank him, "There are many adults out there who haven't learned these lessons yet, so you are really ahead of the game, young man. I'm so proud of you."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

An Eye Opener

Maybe it's time I stopped dying my hair red and go for the natural greys and white. After all, the three giggling young girls following Tater around at the pool asked him about me, "Is she your grandma?" Grandma? What? You must be kidding me!

The truth is that I am the same age as Tater's birth grandmother. I suppose these 13-year-old whipper snappers, shamelessly begging me for my boy's real name and phone number, have mothers who may have been teens when they were born.

I learned quickly how to deal with pesky hormonal young men as a teenager. However, I haven't been on the side of the coin where boy crazy teens are pursuing my son.

Buck and I hung out with all our children in the diving pool, so I overheard much of the conversation. The girls had no idea we were his parents at first, so they flirted quite openly until he let the cat out of the bag that we were, in fact, his folks. "No way! You don't look anything like those people. Either you are joking, or you are adopted!" one girl exclaimed.
Tater shot me a hilarious smile and said, "Yep, I'm adopted."
"Awww. How sad!" the girl immediately retorted.
Tater rolled his glimmering eyes at me and laughed again, "What exactly is sad about it? These are my parents." They shot him some direct, "Where is your real mother" questions.
"She took off when I was really little, but I'm not sad" he replied.

Years ago, he spent lots of time being sad for her, but no longer. Tater and I made a plan for the distant future when he's old enough to handle whatever we find when we find her.

What of this inexplicable phenomenon of Tater with an uninvited entourage of silly girls trailing behind? I whispered a 50 meter fly swim challenge in his ear, and they tagged along unsolicited. My serious defeat only reinforced my elderly status. All I can say is I'm glad the boy can't lap me, yet.

Any sage wisdom for a crotchety old mother entering uncharted waters of matters of the opposite sex?

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I’ve just been “tagged” by Almost.

The rules of tagging:

1. Post these rules before you give your facts.
2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names (linking to them). Consider yourself tagged if you are interested.
4. Leave them a comment on their blog letting them know they’ve been tagged!

8 Random Facts About Me:

1. I do not like donuts. Never will. I am completely fine with all other things sweet and deep fried.
2. I'm an excellent student, but I perform dreadfully on standardized tests. I've come to the conclusion I'm weak in this area due to a serious lack of critical thinking skills.
3. I only cuss when I'm doing my own challenging home improvement projects like painting or hanging wallpaper. I know it's a poor character issue. I don't have too many opportunities to work on it as our house is in fairly good order just now.
4. It's been 13 years, since I've earned an income.
5. People don't believe me when I explain I'm painfully introverted, but I am.
6. I don't have an answering machine and don't do well with figuring out voicemail on my cellphone.
7. I secretly wish the author Barbara Kingsolver reads my blog, because she digs my writing.
8. I had plenty of cellulite long before I gave birth to my children.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Vyne Family Update

My 11-year-old Tater returned home from his Children's International Summer Village Thursday night. When asked about his favorite part of the trip, he answered in a dream-like trance, "Josefin." Yep, he has a crush on an 11-year-old girl from Sweden. Who wouldn't? In addition to several photos of Josefin, he has pictures of friends he made from India, Thailand, Canada, France, Romania, and more I can't think of just now. Tater also has photos from a sight-seeing around France. He continues to share story after story about his experience.

I began homeschool with my other three children on Tuesday, but I gave Tater permission to crash yesterday if he was too exhausted to study. Instead, he jumped right into his assignments and sorting through all the trinkets he brought home.

BTW, he loves his room makeover, but I can't post pictures with blogger again.

This week I took 6-year-old Pooh Bear to my humming dentist, who only serves polite non-squirming children, for a pulpectomy. Yikes! She'd had an abscessed tooth. Stuff like this makes me feel like a bad mommy.

Pooh Bear likes the part of school which involves cutting out orange construction paper pumpkins and having Cinderella read to her. The work of homeschooling, she could do without. She is the only first grade homeschooler on earth who has a terrible time with reading, so we are hitting auditory processing hard again this year. She did not have the benefit of Montessori preschool which her three brothers did, and it really shows. This also make me feel like a terrible mom.

Peace, my new teenager, has begun school with a positive attitude for the first time in a long time. He's not a delighted about academics. To make my life easier, I've given him assignments to read A Child's History of the World aloud to everyone and make up Friday test questions from the reading. Science is his strength, so Peace also must come up with science experiments for the gang once a week. Of course, he started by making a volcano with vinegar and baking soda.

Wise One, the 10-year-old motivated student, whole-heartedly embraces school. He sets his alarm, goes right to his farm chores, eats breakfasts, walks into the homeschool room, picks up his books, and begins working. Every mother of four needs one child like this to asuage the guilt of cavities and educational oversights.

Buck continues to work a mandatory 6 day work week. He and others are training new air traffic controllers at his facility, so in about three years- no joke, the new guys will be certified. Insert eye roll here in honor of our government's lack of preparation.

As for me, luscious red tomatoes flood my kitchen counter and dangle ripening on the vine. Besides eating as many as humanly possible, I've begun making and freezing red sauce with my super duper simple recipe. Yesterday while collecting oregano from my spice garden for the sauce, my legs became covered with an entire ant colony I'd interrupted. Fortunately, they didn't bite, and I was able to simply brush them off. I'm also pulling myself together for a course I begin teaching near the end of the month.

So, what are you up to?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


What happens when the person you've committed to love for your lifetime simply walks away? Buck and I are blessed to have one another still, but we ache for our friends and family experiencing the devastation of divorce. Here is a poem which perfectly captures my hope for those precious people.


You fell majestically
(the sound lost
in the violence of
hail and wind )
and laid your head
in the yard’s
most convenient place.

For days you were Exhibit A
Goliath lying prone,
your root ball
a Guinness contender
according to those who would know.
The birds and squirrels,
always at home in you,
rejoiced in a new-formed

I lost a friend
whose presence had anchored my seasons
with shade and blossom,
leaf-mold wealth,
and branches etched
against a winter sky.

Too often now
I’ve had to deal with space
left by the loss of friend,
and I have learned
sunshine can reach
into unused corners
where plantings
never tried before
will flourish.

©Bettie Corey
May 28, 2003
Today is the last day of the 40 Day Fast which Kat pulled together.

Applause to Kat for a job well done.

I've learned about the passions of bloggers through their experiences and picks of non-profits to benefit the poor. In some ways, the fast has made me more certain that we are all broken and needy. In other ways, I looked outside the abundance of this country into the poverty and injustice across the world. Both experiences teach me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Can you help?

Shaun Groves, a well known Christian singer and songwriter from Nashville asks. If you are called to do something in this situation, let him know in his blog comments.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Let the rejoicing begin. I've returned home. My home is in wonderful order thanks to my husband and children. I can mostly walk through my garage- it's been a long time since I haven't hopped over chairs, bikes, Goodwill piles, boxes to get to the van or car. I'm ever so grateful. And as an extra bonus, Buck decluttered the walk-in closet we share. I don't know how, but he cleared a perfect path to the back wall.

The conference I attended, Montessori Essentials, offered me hope for my homeschooling, family life, and personal call.

I'll throw out a few quotes and thoughts here from the panelists.

On bringing a child to a peaceful, settled place- "Joy makes noise."

On considering things from a child's view- not a perfect quote but the heart of a story, "I was assigned to observe children at the zoo early in my Montessori training. The very first day I observed, I learned an incredible lesson. I watched as both sets of grandparents and a child's two parents brought an eighteen month old child to the prairie dog exhibit. The adults were pointing out all the fun activities of the animals, all the while, the toddler was strapped in the stroller. All the tiny girl could see from where she sat was the brick wall directly in front of her. The adults never once noticed the line of sight for the child and traveled on to the next exhibit with her still strapped in her stroller. It's essential to consider things from the child's perspective."

Commentary on making mistakes, also not a perfect quote- "Have you ever seen the poster of a child poised at an easel with paint on his smock, hair, arms, shoes, walls, floor, and no paint whatsoever on the paper before him? The caption underneath reads 'A mess is a sign that someone has tried to do something.' I say
'If there is no error, there is no learning taking place.'"

On building independence in children- "Whatever we do for the child becomes an obstacle for him. Whatever he does for himself becomes a triumph."

All these are credited in my notes to a miraculous Montessori teacher named Edna Smith.

The following, I believe, is from the lovely and gifted Montessori teacher named Anna Hurdle.

"The goal of education is independence and concentration. The goal of the atrium (Christian spiritual formation) is relationship with the Good Shepherd."

These goals fly in the face of the trends I see in most education and religion. Education and religion push fast and furious cram downs of the 3 R's and naming values. What if we actually guided children in such a way as to become independent and increase in concentration skills? What if we moved away from religion, identifying values, into relationship with God? Would the world be a different place? A better place?