Sunday, December 28, 2008

Surviving the Holidays

We survived the holidays. For a few moments I wondered if we would all make it through with no tears and our senses of humor intact. As of today I think it's safe to declare a tear free/ injury free holiday! Hooray! We made it!

Santa was very nice to our boys (and their parents) and each kid received one cool toy (and no more). Chris got a little stable with two Breyer Stablemates horses. Sam received a Batman motorcycle and Batman action figure. Jake received a Spiderman car and Spiderman action figure.

Grandma bought each boy a digital camera (quite a hit) and we gave them all pajamas (two pairs), Christmas sweaters (red), shirts (2 each), and towers of treats ($3.75 at Marshalls for the lovely decorated towers of goodies that usually sell for $25). Sam got a Sansa MP3 player. Jake got a cute puppy that has clothes and accessories. Chris got an electric kettle and a set of 6 espresso cups and saucers (perfect size for tea when you're 7).

Our family and friends all gave us goodies and now I can't cook in the kitchen because there's no counter space. I think most of the stuff is headed for the freezer today. All in all it was a very pleasant holiday. We forgot to bake the cake for Christmas Eve dinner. I did make 4 pies, but somehow at the end of the baking I forgot all about making birthday cake. Chris told me all about it that evening and then decided that we could eat ice cream after Christmas dinner (store bought tamales) and that would make a fine birthday celebration. I do think he's got a firm grasp on the idea that Christmas is really a time when we celebrate Jesus's birthday.

This isn't a terribly exciting post but I felt like I should write something since my blog hasn't been updated in ages. We're all tired and basking in the glow of the Scentsy while recovering from the consumption of way too much sugar. I hope everyone else had a wonderful and uneventful holiday as well!

Monday, December 15, 2008

To Satisfy Amy's Curiousity

Here are the completed projects I've been working on lately. Yes, it seems there are very few of them. Just a reminder to anyone who may have forgotten- I have a 7 year old, 4 year old, and a barely 3 year old. They are sooooo helpful when it comes to my crafting projects too. You would not believe the assistance they offer in organizing my fabrics, keeping track of my applique templates, and re-arranging my quilt block layouts.

The first quilt is one that Amy pieced and didn't ever finish. She kindly shipped it to me (I still owe her $4.80 for shipping) and I backed it with green micro-cordouroy and then stippled it. She even included the fabric to bind the quilt! It makes a beautiful baby gift for a friend of mine (if I ever get over to see her). Thanks for sharing your unused quilt top Amy!

The second quilt is Sophie's Christmas present (I'm working on James' quilt today). It a very simple strippy quilt that I backed with some fairy covered flanned I bought when we found out Katie was pregnant with a girl (yes, it's actually taken me that long to make a project for Sophie). It is randomly stippled with variegated pink thread. I hope she doesn't mind the very linear look of the strippy quilt. They're not my favorite but time is of the essence so I opted for simple piecing and actual quilting (instead of tying).

The cute little tote bag is a present for someone (somewhere). I found the applique pattern at Anna Maria Horner's website and it looks like a Lab to me, so everyone is getting a puppy for Christmas this year (especially those who really don't want a live dog)! It's done in Christmas fabrics and I think it looks very festive. These little lined bags are so easy and so fun I could make new ones every day.

Now I just need to finish James's quilt, a few more tote bags, some Christmas ornaments, two table runners, and a wall hanging. There are 10 days left- I'm sure some of the projects will get done!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Motivation by Fear

We've recently come to unschooling as a learning method. It's a very counter-intuitive way of teaching. Learning is "delight driven" and children are surrounded with a rich environment and opportunities for exploring. Direct teaching and lessons are avoided although curriculum is still present and accessible.

My first thought when I heard about this method of education was to question if children would spend the whole day watching cartoons and learning how to play video games. Years ago I read the Tao and occasionally a lesson from the Tao pops up in the course of my day. Leading from behind is a central concept of the Tao. It's a hard discipline to master, but the value of encouraging your "troops" to move out ahead of you is immeasurable. In the course of a day I couldn't even begin to plot out the lessons we've been learning since we threw out the lesson plans and started unschooling. I have learned that my son can be organized, disciplined, motivated, and goal oriented. He just wants to set and achieve his goals, not mine. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact there's a lot right with him directing his education.

He retains more information, studies for longer periods of time, has better comprehension, and more original thought about a subject when he chooses what to study. Education's purpose is to prepare us to learn what we need to survive and find employment when we're adults. In the course of a year without lessons my son will still learn math, science, reading, social studies, and spelling. He may not learn them the same way a child in a brick and mortar school learns them- but he will learn them.

If you're interested in flags of the world and pursue that course of study you will learn geography. While learning geography you will learn a bit about foriegn cultures. The study of foriegn culture will lead to trying out international cuisine and cooking. Cooking will lead to the study of math and chemistry. Math and chemistry in the kitchen will lead to science experiments and nature observation. Nature observation will lead to climate studies. Climate studies will lead to statistics. Before you know it your school year is over and no lessons were planned, no lessons were taught, a few worksheets were filled out while the child was bored in the waiting room waiting for the doctor, no busy work was completed, and your child now speaks rudimentary German and plans to enter a Lego engineering contest.

We tend to believe traditional school is the way to go- because most students graduate able to survive and find employment. It's easy to follow the traditional path because it works for most and until you've tried something else there is always a fear of failure. What if I do something different and find out that the only way to learn to read is through phonics and worksheets? What if I try something different and find out that the only way my son can manage to complete his work once he's an adult is if I make him sit up straight in his chair and do two hours of homework every night when he's seven? What if I allow my child to be a child... and he's still a child when he's 47?

Fear is great motivation for keeping the status quo. What if we allow two men to say they're married and then my children think it's ok to marry men (keep in mind my kids are all boys)? What if the state recognizes same sex couples as having equal legal rights as hetero couples? What if my sons see gay people who are recognized as a couple without condemnation and then they don't grow up to marry nice women and give me grandchildren (I am counting down the years... it's the only way I'll ever have female descendants)? What if?

What if we each live our own beliefs (non violent beliefs) and teach our children the values important to us? What if we trust our sons to grow up strong, moral men even if they see others who are different than they are? What if we allow true delight driven motivation to guide us?

I know some who read this will argue that man is programmed for pleasure and will seek the evils of the world if left unguided. What if we trust in the Spirit to guide our path? What if we relax a little and take the time to reflect about what truly brings us pleasure? Is it the sinful, evil things of the world that pleasure you? If you're like me (and I bet you're more like me than you'd like to admit) the images that come to mind when you think of pleasure may be:

the feel of a baby snuggled into your neck,

smelling fresh grass and sunshine warmed earth,

laughter shared with loved ones,

loose, tired muscles achieved through hard physical work,

hearing your children learning to reason and use logic,

the first butterfly flutter you feel the first time you're pregnant,

the smell of fresh baked treats and the excitement on the faces of your family when the treats are served.

Most of us left to a "delight driven" existence would not choose the evil and unwholesome. We would still make good choices. I don't choose to love my family and care for their needs because it is commanded or legislated. I care for my family because it brings me pleasure to serve them and through serving them serve God.

My good choices don't come about because of fear, but some of my bad choices do. I sent my son to school for three years and ran him around to therapy and worked hard to ensure he was "normal." In my heart I knew he would be better off growing up more slowly and maturing slowly into the man he'll become. Fear made me push him with an exhausting schedule. I made him spend 6-8 hours a day either in school or working on homework when he was a kindergardener. The busy work (neatly completed) was not worth the toll that particular action took on the heart of my little boy. He had the best homework completion rate in his class... because we spent several hours a day on homework and school concepts... and I sent him to school. He achieved in school... but he's achieved out of school too and with less damage to his heart and mind.

When we stop and think about what really, truly pleases us it is the good and wholesome that wins out 99% of the time. If we lead "delight driven" lives... truly delight driven, not rebellious or counter culture just to be different, we'll probably make better lives for ourselves and our children.

Nature vs. Nurture

A few years back we had a buck (male rabbit type buck) that just wasn't interested in breeding... the does. One of our friends had a ram ... not interested in ewes. One of my best friends from college... tried dating women. He tried being attracted to women. He went through Hell on Earth because his faith told him that it was morally wrong to be attracted to men... even though God himself designed the whole being that was my friend... even the part of him that could not find women attractive.

Think about this for a minute- if you're a woman imagine being attracted to another woman (if you're a man imagine being attracted to a man). I don't know about you but once I think about dating women I suddenly feel much closer to gay men. Really, would you want to date a woman? Ooh Ick!!! The hormones, the hair, the icky drippy female stuff... none of that is something I want to see going on with someone I date (and eventually marry).

What if society told me I had to date women? What if it was actually considered sinful for me to lust after (and act upon) an attraction to men? What if I found my soul mate (my husband) and couldn't marry him? What if all the wonder of having and cherishing a spouse was forbidden to me unless I married a woman? What if the only value society placed on me was whether or not I conformed to what was normal?

Heterosexuality is natural. It's also normal. Humans would eventually cease to exist (or become exceedingly rare) if heterosexuality was not the norm. Homosexuality is also natural. It occurs in many species in nature (hence the designation natural). It is not normal (or there would be a lot fewer of us).

Accepting homosexuality without placing a value judgement (either positive or negative) on it does not threaten hetero relationships and values. I grew up with more than a few gay role models in my life. Somehow, despite the horrid influence of these (wonderful) people I grew up to desire men (Shameful, I know). I also grew up surrounded by examples of many different types of relationships and values. It wasn't the gay couples that I knew who cheated on their spouses, broke apart their families, got divorced, or generally exhibited poor behaviour towards their partner.

God made me as I am. Thank God I like men. Life is so much easier for me because I found my wonderful husband, had three terrific (sometimes terrible) children, and am free to build my family based on the morals and values I believe in. It's a lot easier for me to do that since my morals and values tend to be (usually) what "normal" society approves of.

Only one biologic function of mine ever brings about debate regarding morals and values... my ability to procreate. Some are for it, some against it ("Oh my goodness, haven't you heard about population control? Three kids is one more than it takes to replace yourself and your husband. The Earth is going to blow up if people have more than 1.3 children per couple. Do you know what it costs to raise a child today? How will you ever pay for college for 3 children?" and the other side, "You thwart God's will by using contraception. Each child is a gift from God. It's a sin to interfere in God's plan by purposefully limiting the number of children you carry...").

Is marriage really about creating and raising children? My marriage certainly is. That doesn't mean that God's plan for marriage only includes people capable of having children together. If there are seven sacred covenants and marriage is one of them... did God purposely withhold that covenant from a large segment of the population by creating them either sterile or homosexual?

Most "Christians" who decry homosexuality use biblical references from the Old Testement to back up their beliefs. The Old Testement also tells us it is forbidden for women to go outside without hats and for men to pray while wearing hats. It tells us that eating the meat of cloven hoofed animals is verboten (mmm....bacon). One of the Ten Commandments (yep, the big 10) tells us it is forbidden to "covet your neighbor's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Ex 20:17). No where in "The Giving of the Law" section do I see anything about falling in love with someone of the same sex. In Leviticus there is reference to (Lev. 18:22) to God's decree not to have sex with a man as you would a woman. The same chapter also tells you not to have sex with relatives, animals,... or during a woman's unclean time of the month (Drat! I'm going to hell!).

Leviticus 19:18 tells us, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seeds. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." I am so going to hell. My favorite sweater- wool, silk blend. My favorite sheets- polyester, cotton blend. I am damned.


The New Testement, Mark 16:15

"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved."

We can't earn our way into heaven or else Jesus wouldn't have come to die for our sins. The coming of Christ reset the parameters. If that's not true for all the laws of the Old Testement then we all are lost. Who among us can truthfully say they've followed all the mandates and strictures of Old Testement law? Please, if you're using the church and Bible as an arguement against same sex marriage read Exodus and Leviticus. Even if you've already read those chapters- return and read them again. Do you measure up? Can you condemn another person for falling away from Lev. 18:22 when you probably aren't in compliance with Lev. 19:18?

(Horrible heretic thought) Is it possible that portions of the Bible reflect the atmosphere of that historic time period at least as much as they convey God's wishes and demands? Could the document have survived this long without some "corrections" and "revisions" affecting (and effecting) the minutia of the message while preserving the overall truth of the message? Why would God create someoneone way and then damn them for that anomaly of being?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Party Season

Our 4-H Christmas party was last night. For some reason it was decided we would meet to sing carols at the Nampa Care Center at 5:30. Meeting this early meant I had to take the little kids with us (darn it!). Most families with little kids skipped the caroling and just went to the party. We weren't that cowardly. We went caroling.

I got lost trying to find the Care Center. In fact we drove most of the way to the lake before I turned around (purely because I realized the NAMPA Care Center would not be found in Caldwell- which is where we were heading). Arriving 15 minutes late was awkward enough. When we entered the room where the rest of the kids were singing an elderly lady saw my small children and shouted, "I want some of that!" There's nothing like making an entrance.

Our club is very large (around 70 members) so it was suprising that there were only about 15 people singing last night. Of those 15 about 5 were grown-ups. My children were by far the youngest there. Of course this did make it much easier to keep track of them- since the teen girls really like to pair up with small boys. One of the mom's brought great big jingle bells and offered the boys each a bell. They walked up and down the halls with the carolers singing (caterwauling) and shaking those bells. If you have any friends or relatives at the Nampa Care Center I offer my sincere apologies.

For the first time ever we were the first people to arrive at the school for our 4-H meeting. It should be recorded somewhere in the history books because it will not likely occur again. I'm not sure how we made it there so quickly- except that we did live by the Care Center once upon a time and perhaps we were aware of a more direct route to the school (although that kinda makes getting lost earlier in the evening even more embarrasing).

There was a brief business meeting before we get to the true business of the evening (namely opening presents and ingesting large quantities of cookies and milk). During the meeting I had to take the balls Sam and Jake were playing with because they kept running around throwing them. It wouldn't have been so bad except the gym floor has a nice hollow sound and the room echoes. It really helped the noise level when I regained custody of the balls and Jake started shouting, "My ball! My Ball!" I gently (and quietly) told him it was too noisy and he'd have to wait until after the meeting to get it back. He understood and quit trying to take the ball back or explain why it was his. Instead he sat between the other Cloverbud leader and me repeating (for at least 3 minutes), "I can't win. I just can't win. I can't win. I can't win. I just can't win..." He kept going until K'Anne finally looked at him and said, "I know just how you feel, some days I can't win either."

After our last cake decorating meeting I sent cake home with one family on some of our kitchen plates. That mom very nicely brought the clean plates to the meeting for me to bring home. While Jake and I were dealing with the ball situation Sam decided he should put his cookie on a plate. Of course the lovely Correlle plate shattered when it hit the gym floor. And of course it shattered while Tass was right in the middle of her gift exchange story (whenever the story says "left" pass left, "right" pass right).

People wonder why we're always squeaking in the door just as the meeting begins. This morning they've probably figured out it's because I don't mind being late if just Chris and I can go to the meeting. Alone.

On a bright note- there were extra gifts available for the gift exchange- so Claudia made sure my little ones got to participate. All (yes, every one) of my children managed somehow to end up with big (stockings full) bags of candy. We are blessed. Next year I'm going to finagle it so that someone else's small child goes home with a bag full of chocolate. Oh yes I am. Because it's the season for giving.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Life Is Good

I just haven't really had anything to blog about lately. It feels as if I should write something... just to keep in practice... but I usually like to write about whatever is bugging me or whatever very, very deep, random thought crossed my mind while baking bread or doing laundry... the well is dry. I have no random deep thoughts or rants today. Sorry to disappoint. Life Is Good.

This Thursday is our 4-H club Christmas party. We're meeting early at a care center here in Nampa to sing carols and then we'll all proceed to the school for our annual Christmas party and gift exchange. We're still debating what to take for Chris's $5 value gift. He's leaning towards beef jerky. I'm leaning towards making another little softie toy. The only thing really holding me back from the softie is that I keep imagining one of the teen boys getting it. It could be funny. Probably wouldn't be that fun for the boy though.

Perhaps if I could find an old tampon box or something to wrap it in the present could be even more fun. If only I knew someone who needed such things.... I think my last box was purchased sometime in 2000.... maybe earlier.... it came from Costco... the box is not in any shape to act as a present keeper. Life seems so normal now that I forget how many (many, many, many) months of my married life I spent pregnant or nursing. I haven't done the math lately but I bet the pregnant and nursing months still outnumber the non-pregnant, non-nursing months. What in the world will happen to my marriage when all the kids leave home? We've never had a time period in our life together that wasn't about raising our family (well, there were those three months when we were recovering from the wedding and moving...).

Sam's been taking puppies to visit his class each week. The kids like to see the puppies and it's fun to ask them how big they think the dogs will get. Last week I took Jazzmine into the school. She loved the attention but the kids flat out did not believe the puppies would be as big (or bigger) than Jazz. One of the teachers keeps looking longingly at the puppies. She almost took one of our last litter so I'm not sure whether to be hopeful she'll fall for one this time. At this point I'm not holding back a puppy for ANYONE unless money has already changed hands. There are still 9 puppies out there and it is time for them to move in with their new families. The first left yesterday, the second will leave tomorrow. Tomorrow I will place the ad to sell our babies. Jake was almost inconsolable last night when the puppy left. "No, no sell Zowie's puppies!!! Get Zowie's puppy back!!! No sell Zowie's puppies......" I'm not sure how sympathetic I can be. We can not (will not) keep 13 Labrador Retrievers. Do you know how much poop is produced by 13 Labrador Retrievers? (If you want the answer, email me... I can provide solid proof)

My goal for the new year is to learn how to do the link thing. I'd like to tell you to visit "Corporate Free Christmas" and you'd be able to click on the name and it would take you there. Instead I'll tell you to check out my blog list and find it on the left hand side of the page. Go visit. I think it's a lovely idea to make the holiday exclusively about the handmade, recycled, repurposed, and well thought out gifts. There will be no Wii's, no gadgets, no "most popular" toys in our home this season. The truth is... we're poor. The economy is not kind to construction businesses at this point in time. The truth also is that in tightening our belts we'll have to revisit the true meaning of the season and find ways to serve others rather than just spending some cash on them. Perhaps God's gift to us this season is an opportunity to grow in his love and reflect on the true gifts of the season without being blinded by the flash and glitter of fancy doo-dads we didn't even know we wanted until the ads came out.

So to sum up our week thus far: Life is Good.

I hope your life is Good as well! Happy Holidays!

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room