Thursday, December 30, 2010

blog therapy/introducing princess leia

I should say right off that I am writing this blog post as therapy.  I am watching the Kansas State/Syracuse football game, and I'm stressed out.  I find it best to engage in other activities while being stressed out during football games, so today it's blogging. 

Just don't be surprised if I interject loud wails of frustration (or excitement, although at this point it's all frustration). 

BOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Syracuse just scored a touchdown.
Boo.  Boo.  Boo. 
Grrrrr...........................

So, let's talk about something happy.
Here's happy: puppy breath.
Ah, is there anything sweeter than puppy breath (besides baby breath, perhaps). 
Yes, indeed, we have puppy.
Introducing to the world...
Princess Leia


Is she cute or is she cute?????????
Molly isn't quite so sure. 

Guess how I am feeling today?
Sleep-deprived.  A new puppy is like a new baby.  The last time we had a new puppy I was in grad school.  That wasn't so easy, either, but I have a feeling this will be more overwhelming and exhausting. 
The puppy belongs to the kids, but I can't make them play night-duty, can I? 
No.  Probably not. 
She actually did really well last night until 3:00, and then I was up with her like...every 20 minutes.  Argh. 

Here's Leia's story...
On Christmas morning, the kids had a letter on the cookie plate from Santa.  The letter stated that they were going to receive one more present that wasn't ready quite yet, and we were instructed to drive to a house in Pleasant Hill, ask for Grannie Karen, and pick up their present on Wednesday evening.  We knew better than to disobey Santa's orders, so we dutifully loaded ourselves up last night and drove down to Pleasant Hill.  We walked in the door, and there was a puppy!  The kids were overwhelmed with happiness and excitement and disbelief. 
A PUPPY!!! 
They think Santa is a pretty nice guy.

And now...we have Princess Leia, our cute little Jack Russell. 
Thankfully we still have her.  My dear friend Tara came by to see us earlier today, and I thought she might sneak her out in her sweatshirt.  I had to watch her carefully as she headed out the door.  At the moment she is tucked into Matt's vest and is sleeping through her first K State football game. 

I should interject here that Amélie keeps giving me rather reproachful looks, because apparently I am too loud during football games, which could adversely affect Leia's puppy sleep. 
I say that as soon as she is sleeping through the night she can complain all she wants about my loud football vocalization.
Hmph. 

I suppose I should go back to the football game.  I think in the time I have written here K State has scored a touchdown.  But so has Syracuse. 
At least we have the ball now.
And we have another first down!

OH!  OH!  OH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We have a first down at the 16-yard line. 
I bleed purple through and through, but seriously.........I get myself way, way too emotionally involved.  I can't just step back...relax...and watch the game. 
I am way too intense.
way too passionate.
way too emotionally invested.
which sums up my life, pretty much.  :)
that's ok.
life is intense.
and passionate.
and chock full of emotional investment.
I'm all in.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas rush is over.  The season has been celebrated.  Time has been spent with family.  Memories have been made.  Excessive chocolate has been eaten.  Presents have been opened. 

And now we look ahead to the new year. 

I'm a sucker. 
I like the promise of a new year.
I like the idea of starting over.
I like the idea of waking up on January 1st a new person.
I know life doesn't work that way.

I know I won't wake up on January 1st totally fit, negative 25 pounds, and craving cauliflower.
But still...I fall for it every time: the promise, the hope, the anticipation.

Do you make New Year's resolutions?
What might they be?

I have already started thinking about this process, this journey of promise and hope and anticipation.
And failure, you might say.
Well, yes, failure.
But let's not talk about failure right now.
Let's talk about the promise and hope and anticipation.  Let's talk about what I'm going to change in my life this next year.
Please try not to be cynical.  I do such a good job being cynical.  Really, I can muster up enough cynicism for the both of us.  So for now, let's just focus on the positive.
And don't laugh at me for stubbornly believing that change is possible.

I have a lot more thinking to do, but here are the ways, so far, that my life is going to change this next year.
  • Writing.  I'm going to write.  Matt bought me a new desk for Christmas.  It is small.  It looks a bit old-fashioned, in a lovely sort of way.  It sits against a window in my living room.  It's perfect.  He says he will take it back if I don't sit at it and write.  He wouldn't do that, of course.  But still.  Right now I am sitting on the couch.  And I keep stealing glances at the promise that exists at that desk.  I can't write so much right now about writing.  It's something I am pondering and dreaming about and am talking little about.  I just can't.  I might talk more about writing here.  I might not.  Hmmmm....  Let's just say that this year I am going to write.
  • Reading.  I love to read.  Matt accused me last night of having a secret love affair with literature.  I informed him it wasn't really a secret.  I love to read.  I love literature.  But here's the thing: I realized that I feel guilty when I read for pleasure.  Therefore, when I read, I often read to learn. Now don't get me wrong.  I love to read to learn.  I love reading about parenting and birth and eating healthy foods and politics and religion.  I really do.  But those books feed my mind.  I need books to feed my soul.  At night before bed I have been leisurely reading through Mary Oliver's new book of poetry.  The first night I read through the book there were tears trickling down my face.  It wasn't so much that the poems themselves were emotionally moving, although some were.  It was just that...her words were beautiful and moving and lyrical.  And my soul responded.  And I cried.  I am going to spend this year feeding my literature-starved soul.
  • Music.  I love music.  This holiday season I have absolutely loved listening to The Messiah.  Again.  And again.  And again.  It's beautiful.  That music, like the literature I love, feeds my soul.  I also love folk music.  I am, as of last week, obsessed with Ingrid Michaelson.  Really obsessed with her.  I have to listen to her album at least once a day, and when I think no one is looking I hit repeat.  One aspect of folk music that I love is close harmony.  Yesterday I took a bath (merry christmas to me!!) and listened to Girlyman.  I was reading Anne Lamott, whom I love, and then I would stop reading to listen (and, OK, to sing along) during some amazing harmony, and my soul was singing at least as loudly as my voice.  I am going to spend this year savoring the music that I love. 
And there is more.  But that's it for now. 
I can only allow myself promise and hope and anticipation in small doses. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas

If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves as so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life (Author Unknown)


Friday, December 17, 2010

My Tiny Planets--TOS Review

 
My Tiny Planets is a big website with equally large credentials and endorsements.  It was co-created by Sesame Workshop and has been endorsed by Montessori International.  It has also won two BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards – Interactive Best Entertainment Website and Best Children's Interactive.  Quite admirable, I'd say!

Here's the rundown:

Tiny Planets TV:  Here you can watch the Tiny Planets television episodes.  Their website notes that Tiny Planets TV "emphasizes science education and early learning goals, such as social and emotional development, language and literacy, problem-solving and reasoning, knowledge and understanding of our world, and creative development." 
Both Amélie and Jack enjoyed the TV episodes.  Bing and Bong are a nicely-wrapped cartoon package of lovable, entertaining, and educational!  The first episode is free, but additional episodes cost a certain number of keys.  Keys can be purchased in the parent account for the following amounts:
10 keys: $1.95
25 keys: $3.95
85 keys: $9.95
250 keys: $25.95
600 keys: $49.95


My Tiny Planets is an online community and virtual world where kids can create an avatar (their "space cadet") and "solve galactic missions with Bing and Bong, sharpen their wits with fast-paced mini-games, navigate their spaceships and avoid wormholes, adopt and care for their own planet, and nurture exotic plants in a biodome, all the while racking up achievements and special badges for their accomplishments." 
Amélie especially liked adopting and caring for her own planet (I mean, who wouldn't like to create their own planet???).  She got a little tired of the games that required spaceship navigation (I think she wished for a little more variety, perhaps?), and sometimes she got a little confused as to what she was supposed to do.  I should confess right now that I am not a fan of computer games, so I honestly don't like to figure out how to do things Amélie can't decipher.  I probably could have figured things out faster if I had a teeny, tiny bit more patience (maybe). :)

Tiny Planets Fun is a spot where kids can "enjoy brainy puzzle games (like fractions, sound and seek, and symmetry), as well as coloring books and comics."  The TV episodes are also on this site.

Amélie likes games, so she had fun deciphering the puzzles.  I liked it that the games were educational and were helping her learn concepts and symmetry in a fun way. 
"On Tiny Planets Books you'll find interactive story books for younger children featuring Bing and Bong, their friends the locals and the flockers, and all the endearing planets in the Universe of Tiny Planets. Read these books with your child, or teach your child to read on their own!" 
My kids really, really enjoy digital books (which kind of makes me a bit crazy, if you want to know the truth).  I have an app that downloads a free kids' book every day, and they are always clambering to be the first one to get to read it.  As such, they enjoyed these books, and it was fun that they had the connection of Bing and Bong from the TV Series and the games.  You can read two books for free and then purchase additional books with keys.

Tiny Planets Labs is the spot where kids can try out the games that are in the testing phase.  Amélie had fun trying out the games, although she seemed to have more fun checking out the other parts of this site.




"Tiny Planets Learning is the site for parents, homeschoolers, and educators. Here you'll find lesson plans that include educational activities and science experiments to do at home. Also, you'll see how every episode in the Tiny Planets television series maps to early learning goals."
OK, I have a confession to make.  I didn't spend very much time on this portion of the site.  The thing is...I already have my hands full doing our rather time-intensive curriculum, and I chose to use this site as a fun site for my kids...with the added perk that it was also educational.  However, it looked like there was some great information here for parents who might want to take what is offered on this website one step further.

Whew!  That was A LOT of information!  It is a huge site, though, and it takes awhile to navigate, figure out, and unlock its fun potential.  We have enjoyed having this site to play with.  One of my favorite parts is that much of it is free.  There are definitely more things to do if you purchase the keys, but it's not like some sites that I know Amélie has gotten really frustrated with because it seems like all of the fun stuff requires money.  It was fun having some keys to use up (we received 25 keys to use), and I would say it would be worth it to purchase extra keys, but I honestly am not sure that I would do so.  However, I have never bought any extra stuff on a game site, so that could just be me and how I operate.  :)

If you would like to see what my other crewmates are writing about this site, you can check out their reviews here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. Aside from the 25 keys deposited into my account, I was given no other compensation for this review.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

my Christmas poem...

I don't pretend to be a poet.  I'm more of a poetic prose kind of girl.  However, this poem won me 100 bucks two years ago, so I'm reposting it. 
(Just don't sing it to the tune of "Oh, Christmas Tree," because it doesn't work.)

Oh, Christmas Tree. Oh, Christmas Tree.
How lovely are your branches.
My little son pulls you down
In ornamental avalanches.

The fat little Santa from my first year
The bulb from my great-grandma
Are crushed and how I long to cry
With loud holiday drama.

The next morning, though, I awake
With sweet anticipation.
The art of cookies must be passed
Down to the next generation.

Hours later I emerge
Sticky and flour-y and sick,
And decide that perhaps next year
A bakery might just do the trick.

I decide to go and Christmas shop.
My babysitter bails.
We scuttle from the mall
Amid toddler tantrums, screams, and wails.

We escape the mall as fast as I,
My bags, and child are able.
I decide we need to spend some time
With the baby in the stable.

In awe I lead him by the hand
To gaze with reverence at the manger.
I do not know that holy child
Is cloaked in mortal danger.

The baby curled up in the hay
Looks like a soft, fun ball.
In horror I watch as with delight
Jack hurls him down the hall.

sigh.

I could give you cookie crumbles
Or a half-wrapped Christmas gift,
But instead let’s think about
How my priorities need to shift.

So I will wrap up for you
Some faith, family, hope, and joy.
These gifts will last much longer
Than a transient Christmas toy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

blog reconciliation

I haven't posted anything besides a review on here in so long that I don't even know what to say anymore. There is sort of this awkwardness that exists now between myself and my blog.  We don't quite know what to say to each other.  My blog is sick of hearing my excuses for not posting.  I feel a lot of guilt, so I just tend to avoid our relationship.  Maybe we need therapy. 

A blog is so tricky, really.  I came home from a meeting with someone a few weeks ago, and I had so much to process.  Normally, I would hash it out with Matt after the kids were in bed, but he had the audacity to go meet some guy from Canada for sushi that night after the kids were in tucked in, so I didn't have my usual sounding board.  I tried to journal, but my thoughts were flying so fast that my pen couldn't keep up.  I opened up a "New Post" window here, but it was really too personal (and fresh and unprocessed) to post publicly.  I didn't know what to do with myself!
I think I actually ended up just talking to myself.  That worked pretty well, but if just wasn't the same.

Do you talk to yourself?  I don't mean muttering things like, "Now where the heck did I put those keys?" but like a real conversation, like talking to yourself as if that self were sitting beside you in the passenger seat while you were driving.  I am a big fan of talking to myself.  If you ever drive up beside me, please don't tell me at a later date what I look like, because then I will have to hold my phone up to my ear or something to make it look like I am actually talking to someone.  Maybe it is a wee bit crazy, but if I am by myself, a rare enough occasion in itself, chances are I have a lot of unfinished thoughts in my brain that need to be thought through.  And the easiest way to do that is to talk out loud.  If I think inside my head, then my brain will wander 20,000 different directions, and I won't ever complete a thought. 

I really didn't mean to write a post on talking to myself.  I didn't really mean to write a post on anything.  I'm just breaking the silence and trying to reestablish a relationship with my blog.  I hope this is a first step towards getting back together again.  I'm uncomfortable with our awkward silence and am hoping for a reconciliation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TOS Review--Good Morning, God

I am always happy when we receive a book in the mail to review (I think I've mentioned that on here before once...or twice...or more).  :)  One afternoon I went out to my mailbox and found a copy of the book Good Morning, God by Davis Carman and published by Apologia Press.  Even before I read the book my kids liked to sit down and look at the pictures.  The illustrations, by Alice Ratterree, are absolutely beautiful.  In fact, the illustrations were my favorite part of the book.

The idea of the book is good.  It is based Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which says "These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  The story then repetitively threads the ideas from these verses throughout the book in a story of one family's dweekly activities.  At the end of the book, a little study guide is included with some ideas of activities to do with kids each day of the week.  I like children's stories with repetition, and Jack especially loves stories with repetition, but I did not think that the story flowed very well.  I tend to like repetition in books when it is more lyrical (or maybe rhythmical is a better word to use), but the repetition in the book seemed a bit clunky to me. 

One great aspect of the book, as a homeschooling family, is that the family in the book is a homeschooling family as well!  That doesn't happen very often!  Amélie noticed that right away, and she liked the connection.  Honestly, my kids really did like this book.  It is probably a bit young for Amélie to want to listen to more than once, but Jack has brought it to me several times to read to him, so he seems to give it a thumbs up.  Maybe I should have let him write the review.  :) 

If you would like to purchase this book, you can do so here for $14.00.  You can also purchase an accompanying coloring book for $4.00, which I think would be a nice supplement.

If you would like to see what my other TOS Crewmates had to say about these books check out their reviews here.



Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Monday, November 29, 2010

TOS Homeschool Review--Nanuk: A Baby Polar Bear's Story

As a bibliophile, I adore books.  I sometimes keep myself away from bookstores so that I don't spend food money on my preferred form of nourishment.  I always think of the Erasmus quote: "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes."  That sentence quite aptly describes me.  It is a special treat to me, then, when I receive a book in the mail that is free. 

(When I was teaching writing and literature at K State, I took such unfair advantage of the free textbooks I could request from publishers.  Do you have any idea how many free copies of short story and introduction to literature anthologies are on my bookshelves upstairs?  I can't part with any of them.  It's a problem.) 

The book we received in the mail to review was called Nanuk: A Baby Polar Bear's Story, which is part of a series called My Animal Family from Smart Kids Publishing, Inc.  We loved this book!  My kids both loved the story of a young polar bear who loves to romp and play with his brother but who is also learning how to survive in his cold, icy habitat.  The artwork is just as compelling as the story, and each page is covered with realistic and beautiful watercolors of this polar bear family and the landscape that surrounds them.  I know that this will be a book that we will look at together many times. 

Although the hardback book is, in itself, worth its $10.39 pricetag, the book also comes with a companion DVD with BBC footage that shows a mother polar bear and her two cubs in their natural habitat.  My kids both loved the video.  Not only is the footage incredible, but the commentary is wonderful, too.  The narration is done by a child from the point of view of one of the young polar bears, and this pov made the DVD quite interesting for my kids, who sat in front of the TV quite enthralled.  I was trying to fix lunch in the kitchen, and I must confess I kept sneaking back into the living room to watch the footage and learn about polar bears.  The DVD also includes a song to learn, which I was a little disappointed in.  The song was well-done, but I don't think that it is catchy enough for my kids to want to repeatedly listen to and actually learn. 

One fun perk to this book is that when you buy the book you are given 30 days of access to the My Animal Family website where kids can play educational games.  My daughter liked the games, but it took quite awhile to earn enough points to "buy" necessary items to get further in the game, and that was a little frustrating for her.  It seems if at least some of the items were worth fewer points the game might hold kids' interest for a longer period of time.  

Overall, the print and media combination of this book series is quite well done.  There are several other books in this series as well, and I think it would be well worth the money to invest in at least one of these wonderful books. 



If you would like to see what my other TOS Crewmates had to say about these books check out their reviews here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

missing ed....

Two years ago today we lost our Ed.  I know he was "just" a dog.  I know it's probably silly that I am sitting here with tears.  But to us, he was family.  He was our Ed--our melancholy, deep, beautiful old soul.  In honor of him, I am copying and pasting my post about him from two years ago. 
I still love you, Ed....  <3


Sometime in the blackness of last night I had a dream. In that dream, I looked up and saw Ed, my old soul, my Eeyore, my weimaraner of almost 12 years. He ambled over to his dog bed to lie down, and I threw myself on his back, buried my face in his soft fur, and sobbed. I was crying deep, grieving sobs, but I was also so joyful. “I didn’t know…” I told him between sobs. “I didn’t know that you could come back. I’m so glad you’re here. So, so glad you’re here. I’ve missed you so.” After awhile he sort of dissolved into space, and I was sad, but I was also relieved. He would come back. I didn’t know that could happen after death.


Then I woke up, and of course it was just a dream. Ed was gone, and I knew that he wouldn’t come back ever again. I will no longer be able to stare into his soft, knowing eyes. I will never again wrap my arms around his solid, lumpy softness. I will never again rest my head on his back and breathe in his musky scent.

Ed died last Monday of gastric dilatation. I didn’t even get to tell him a proper goodbye, because I didn’t know that Matt would feel his last heartbeats beneath his fingers as he carried our good old dog into the vet that morning. I had been talking to my mother-in-law on the phone, expressing my concern about Ed’s obvious discomfort, when Matt’s call beeped in. I had made Matt promise me he would call me if the vet decided to put him to sleep so that I could go there and say goodbye and hold him as he died. But it was too late. When I called my mother-in-law back moments later, she didn’t even speak when she answered the phone. She couldn’t talk, because she was crying too. Matt came and picked me up and we returned to the vet together with Jack and Molly. He just looked like he was sleeping there on the table, and I don’t think it really sunk in as I held him and hugged him and told him goodbye that I was, in fact, telling him goodbye forever. An hour later we picked Amélie up in the parking lot of her school, and she held on to her daddy and cried as we told her the news.

I know that a lot of people love their dogs, but Ed was special. He truly was an old soul. When we got Ed, he was a reject puppy who was skinny and neurotic and all feet and ears. We instantly fell in love. At the time, I was struggling deeply with an eating disorder, and as strange as it sounds, Ed’s arrival was a crucial impetus in my healing. Ed unconditionally loved me. I unconditionally loved Ed. I honestly don’t think I had ever allowed myself to be unconditionally loved before.

He always seemed so sad, though. When he was three years old we ascertained that his melancholy temperament was due to loneliness, so we brought home a very young soul, Molly. We quickly realized that loneliness was not his problem, and I don’t know that he ever forgave us for ousting him from his only-child position in our family and introducing to him not only a dog sister, but also two human siblings. Still, he loved us, followed us everywhere, and always, always provided a solid yet soft self to wrap hurting arms around.

He was part-human, I think…or perhaps he was more than human. I remember one time, especially, when a dear friend flew in to visit me because she was in the middle of a heart-breaking crisis. We spent hours on my couch talking and crying, and every time my friend would be about to cry, Ed would lay his head on her lap and look up at her with limpid eyes full of sympathy and understanding. It was uncanny. It was amazing. It was Ed.

He should have been a bird dog. He should have spent his life galloping through fields and bringing his master his prey. Instead, he was stuck with us. He patiently stalked squirrels in our back yard, “pointed” at anything even remotely interesting, and climbed, with both increasing difficulty and frequency, on our couch or bed. He watched us through his old-soul eyes, and I think that if I would have stopped, flung my arms around him, and listened more often, I might be a wiser woman today.

My heart hurts as I write this. I can’t even see my comptuer screen.

I miss you, Ed. I love you. Please come back to me in my dreams again so I can busy my nose in your fur, and please, please, God…let there be at least one dog in heaven, and let that dog be Ed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Corps of Re-Discovery Review--Cornhusk Doll Kit

When we received the Cornhusk Doll Kit in the mail from Corps of Re-Discovery, Amélie's eyes lit up.  She loves it when we get any package in the mail to review, but the opportunity to do a craft together made her especially excited.  She loves "projects"! 

(and let me just insert here right up front that I might have pictures to include except for the fact that my camera has hidden itself in a remote location of my home.  Argh!)

Corps of Re-Discovery is a company that was founded after a homeschooling family took the task of studying American history quite literally and traversed across 47 of the 50 states!  They came back, combined their creativity and ingenuity, and created a company that offers craft projects of several eras and people of American history, including Native AmericanPioneer and Colonial, and Frontiersman.  They also offer leatherworking materials.             

We received the girl cornhusk doll to assemble, and honestly, the timing could not have been more perfect for us.  We are studying world history this year, but we just started reading Little House in the Big Woods, and Laura has a cornhusk doll!  Amélie now has more of an idea about what life was like when children were playing with cornhusk dolls rather than American Girl dolls, and she can also use her imagination and play "Little House on the Prairie." 

We enjoyed assembling the doll together, although there were a couple of spots where I got a bit confused (however, it is hard to say whether this is a flaw in the product directions or my own user error!).  At the moment she is naked, because I could not maneuver a needle and thread if my very life depended on it.  We are going to bring the doll to my mother-in-law's house, and I am sure she will be more than happy to help us sew the apron. 

I was very impressed with this educational AND fun product, and at the very reasonable price of $4.50, I just might order more of these doll kids or some of the other reasonably priced items from their website for Christmas presents! 

If you would like to see what my other TOS Crewmates had to say about both the Cornhusk Doll and other Corps of Rediscovery Products, check them out here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.


 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

chiaroscuro, this time with a bit more light and a little less shadow

I feel like I have been rather negative on this blog recently.  It is true that I have been incredibly overwhelmed lately with how things are going in my life and rather underwhelmed at my ability to deal with life's daily stresses.  Some things are, for sure, tough right now. 
Jack is exerting every ounce of power his little three-year-old self can muster.  I am exhausted with the effort of out-maneuvering and overpowering that little boy's strong, strong will.  Today, I have battle scars in the form of teeth marks.  And he probably still tastes the lingering, acidic effect of the vinegar I stuck on his tongue.  There are long, tough days ahead with that little guy.  But that same tough, strong, passionate spirit that exhausts me also delights me.  While he expresses his anger with abandon, so does he also express his love, adoration, and delight. 
Amélie has been tough in a different way.  She doesn't bite or hit or roar, but she does fling herself on the floor in moments of dramatic flair (and flair, mind you, is a nice way to put it).
"Do you really think I can figure out how to put QUOTATION MARKS OUTSIDE OF OTHER PUNCTUATION MARKS?!?!" 
Oh, the horror.  The injustice.
"YOU WANT ME TO MEMORIZE THIS POEM IN 8 WEEKS?????  I CAN'T DO IT!  I CAN'T!  THERE'S NO WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!"
(She has already memorized the poem, by the way, which I knew she would and could.  She learned "Bed in Summer" by Robert Louis Stevenson this week, and next week, we will start a new poem, probably...hopefully...with less panic and drama.)

I see myself in my kids.  I see my own anger, bitten back, swallowed, and then expressed in peeled hangnails, anxiety, depression, and, in my past, through an eating disorder and other various self-destructive behaviors. 

I also see in Jack different flavors of the OCD that haunts me today.  It worries me.  Scares me.  Keeps me up at night with fear and grief.

And in Amélie, I see a mirror-image of the anxiety that plagues me day by day and moment by moment.  How I often greet a new scenario with the desire to fling myself onto the floor, with her exact dramatic flair, and exclaim, "I can't!  I can't!  I just know I CAN'T!!!"

And that's the bad stuff.

But here's the good stuff, and I'm writing it here more for me to remember than for you.  ;)

This week's homeschooling has been great.  Truly great.  Sure, there were the fits about quotation marks and poem memorization.  But honestly, that's been the extent of drama in our homeschooling week, which is pretty much borderline miraculous.  Her attitude has been amazing this week.  She has delighted in learning about how birds incubate eggs.  She has soaked up information on the upcoming Hindu festival of Diwali, and has helped me concoct ways that we can celebrate our own festival of lights.  She has surprised me with the creative, bright color combinations of her rangolis.  She brought me to tears as I saw the empathy and wonder and faith in her eyes as we finished the amazing, adventurous story of the missionary Gladys Aylward .  She has absolutely floored me with her ability to memorize verses and poetry so quickly.  It's been good. 

And I want to remember this good next week, when she doesn't want to do a single blasted thing that is on our school to-do list. 

Several years ago I discovered Leonard Cohen, and some of my favorite lines ever are from his song, "Anthem":
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.

This week, I am thankful for the cracks that have let in some light.  I needed light.  Oh, how I needed light.   Life is such a woven tapestry of chiaroscuro, and I am thankful that this week, I was blessed to spend some time in the light as well as the shadow.  I am thankful that I can celebrate my own Diwali, my own festival of lights, within my soul.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TOS Review--PGKey's SafeKey

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received a PGKey SafeKey in the mail to test and review.  As their website states, "PG Key was created and endorsed by a team that includes internet security specialists, law enforcement, educators, parenting experts and family psychologists to give you the first complete internet safety solution. PG Key gives you everything you need to keep your children and teens safe online and be alerted and informed when dangers do come up – all with one simple, plug in device." 

Their website also clearly explains the tools you will receive when you purchase the PG Key for $49.95, which you can purchase directly from their website, from http://www.amazon.com/, or from select retailers.  You can even request a free trial
Access Control
Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key.

Time Allowance
Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering
Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking
Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking
Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications
Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging
See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration
Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging
Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence
Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity.

I think that if I suspected that my kids were looking up inappropriate sites on the computer, this device could be very helpful.  It is nice that there are no monthly or annual fees and that all you have to do is plug it in to start protecting your computer (and your kids).  I most appreciated the feature of blocking unwanted results from innocent searches.  I have certainly sat down with my kids to look up a subject we are interested in and been shocked to see what has shown up on the screen!  My fingers' reflexes have certainly been tested to see how quickly they could click away from a picture!  We have not had that problem since inserting the PG Key.

I am not entirely sure how I feel about the chat and email logging and the video recording, however.  Honestly, I don't have kids old enough where I have to worry about what they are typing or chatting.  I would like to think that I won't invade their privacy and check what they are saying online.  It feels like peeking into someone's journal, which feels very wrong to me.  However, some of you with older kids may call me naive, and I may say the same about myself and change my mind when my children are older.  :) 

Because my kids are so young, we did not find this device as useful, I am sure, as families with older kids.  Some of those families with older children did review this product, and you can read what they have to say here

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.


Monday, October 25, 2010

on falling apart and piecing myself back together again

I can probably count on one hand the number of times Matt has come home from work to find me collapsed someplace crying.  Truthfully, I don't cry that much.  Honestly, I wish I cried more than I did.  I often feel like crying much more frequently than I can actually execute the crying.  Thursday afternoon, however, was an exception.  When Matt walked in the back door, I was crying.  And I couldn't stop. 
I had to stop, though, because I am driven by duty, and I was hosting the mom's group from church for dinner.  So after a few minutes of sympathetic hugging (thankfully, he wasn't intent on fixing the situation at that moment), I turned off the tears and got to work.
I still felt sick to my stomach, though.

Thursday was not a good day. 
Turns out, Friday wasn't really either. 
The thing is, I think I am a bit of a mess at the moment. 

I actually started this post on Friday, and I spelled out the nightmare of the day before.  It wasn't that bad.  It was kid stuff.  Temper tantrums.  Whining.  A feeling of complete and utter helplessness and incompetence in my role as a parent.  The kind of junk we moms and dads deal with all of the time.
But I had absolutely no emotional reserve to handle it.
And that's why I fell apart. 

I have observed, though, in these past few days when I have felt on the brink of losing my mind, the moments when I feel a bit more pieced together again.
The people I have spent time with in the past few days have no idea how just the acts of engaging in adult conversation, receiving a friendly hug, or offering a sympathetic nod have strengthened me, fortified me, and helped me weave the shreds of my soul back together again.

And here's the other thing I realized: I need to read.
Last night the kids played outside a bit and I sat inside on the couch.  One hand was in a popcorn bowl filled with coconut-oil and salt drenched popcorn.  The other hand was turning pages of a book I have connected to in ways I can't quite explain.
The book is called Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris.  I would love to recommend this book to you, but I'm not sure how.  About a week ago I sent an effusively enthusiastic email to someone about this book.  I copied a poignant and inspiring paragraph.  I offered my own insight.  I think the email fell on deaf ears (or blind eyes, or whatever emails fall on). 
And that's OK, because the thing about this book is that I want to burrow down into it.  When I read this book I curl up, hunker down, and let is swallow, nourish, and envelop me. 

You know how sometimes, when you carry a delicious secret around with you for a long time, and you tell someone about it, it somehow loses its deliciousness?
That's how this book is, perhaps.
Except............I'm telling you about it. 
I'm not telling you anything specific, though.  I'm not necessarily recommending it to you.
I'm just saying that this book has been necessary for me.
And that after I finish it, I will probably feel a little lost...but also, I hope, more whole and complete.

Maybe you should read this book.
And if you do, maybe you shouldn't tell me about it.
Maybe you should just let yourself be swallowed, nourished, and enveloped. 

And maybe, just maybe, next time you see me you will find me a little less emotionally shredded and a little more at peace. 


Monday, October 4, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

this 'n that

I started a post last week, and part of it was a whole paragraph devoted to a glowing review of homeschooling, so I can't post that tonight, because my daughter informed me this afternoon that she doesn't learn anything in school.  Now, I will say, she said the same thing last year when she was in regular school (and, I think, the year before), so of course she is not a credible source, but still,
I'll admit,
I flipped out a bit.
SERIOUSLY???????  Not learning?
What, exactly, does she think we do from 9:00 - 3:30 or so every flippin' day???? 
When she asks to read yet another chapter of a book to me, is that not learning?
When she explains to Matt at the dinner table how our food is digested or how our nerves deliver messages to our brain or how our nose blocks germs or about her vibrating voice box has she really learned nothing? 
When she recognizes the Greek gods and goddesses when they come up in a TV show, has she not been learning?
When she has memorized twelve Bible verses in the past 8 weeks, is that not learning?
When she can whip the fact families out of her brain, is that not learning?
When she can name the 7 continents and 4 oceans without even blinking, is that not learning?
AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I'll admit it.  I kinda...sorta...lost it a bit.  I didn't yell or scream or throw things (although inside that is precisely what I was doing), but I did suggest that, if she didn't think she was learning, she could most certainly attend the lovely school down the street, and then I would spend my day doing other things.
"Like what?" she asked, incredulously.
Like what?
Well, I could catch up on laundry.  I could reinvent the friendships that somehow dissipated in the past few months.  I could take on more doula clients.  I could write.  I could read.  I could clean my house.  I could sit down with a quiet and solitary cup of coffee in the afternoon.  I could go back to baking bread. 

I'm not trying to be a martyr here.  I love homeschooling her.  I do.  I love the bond we now have.  I love the lovely people who have floated into my life since we started homeschooling.  I love the depth and breadth and realness of the new friends I have made.  I love learning with her. 
But today, I was ready to chuck it all. 

Tonight, I'm still frustrated, but I'm clinging to the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
Like...maybe...my client will go into labor and we will have the day off.  :)
No, seriously...
(well, seriously, that's precisely what I am thinking)
But seriously...
it's temporary.  This semester has been, overall, great.  I can't BELIEVE how much she is learning, despite the fact that she thinks otherwise.

In fact, maybe I should be happy she said that.  Honestly, it's doesn't "feel" like she is learning when she is reading to me a book about a family headed out to California during the Gold Rush.  It doesn't "feel" like she is learning when we are reading about the people of Guinea Bissau.  It doesn't "feel" like we are learning when we play math games with M&M's and Fruit Loops. 
But she is learning.
I am learning.
And it's all going to be OK.
Tomorrow is a new day, with a fresh slate...the promise of sunshine...and a mama who is at 4cm and is going to go into labor any second (please, please, please, please, please).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Schleich--TOS Homeschool Review


While I love any day that a package of homeschooling materials to review comes in the mail, I must admit that it was a particularly joyous day in our household when I opened up a box of items to review that contained TOYS!!!  It was like Christmas had arrived at our household...only the mail carrier was the deliverer of the coveted goods rather than Santa and the temperature topped 90 degrees rather than bottoming out below freezing. 

The reason for our glee was a box of animal figures from the German manufacturer Schleich.  Schleich is a company that produces over 500 quality, realistic figurines that spark a child's imagination and provide hours of creative play.  According to the introductory letter I received from the company in the mail, "The 'Schleich way to play' offers an ideal bridge from early learning books to creative play without the need for explanation or instructions.  All our toys are natural and accurate copies of the animals, people, historical periods, and fantasy worlds they represent.  Each toy mould is precision engineered by a German master craftsman who works on the finest details for up to six weeks.  After finishing, the figurines are all painted by hand--meaning each toy is absolutely unique.  Most importantly, they are durable and safe while exceeding global safety standards." 

As you can infer from the above paragraph, the quality of Schleich toys is outstanding.  We have many animal toys in our household, but none of these even begins to compare with the realistic, quality figures that we received from this company.  My two children noticed the difference, too.  Instead of clopping their plastic figurines through a plastic barnyard, my kids were suddenly transported to the jungle with these toys, and they were growling and pounding their way through the brush and trees that had apparently suddenly sprung up on my living room floor.  My three-year-old son especially enjoys integrating these animals into his imaginative play. 

My only potential concern with this product is the price.  These toys, while not outrageously expensive, are more pricey than most toy animals.  As you can see here, they range in price from about $7.00 to almost $100.00.  However, I must say that after having these toys in my home, I would most certainly recommend paying the extra few dollars for toys that are this well-crafted. 

If you would like to try these toys out for yourself (or your kids!), you can find them in the Kansas City area at speciality toy shops like Zoom and Arsa Toys, and they are also available at Target and Toys "R" Us.  You should certainly check them out! 

Some of my fellow Crew members have also been playing with Schleich toys! If you want to see their reviews, you can do so here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salem Ridge Press--TOS Review


A few weeks ago we received the book Soldier Fritz and the Enemies He Fought in the mail  from Salem Ridge Press.  We also received two e-books, Mary Jane--Her Visit  and The American Twins of the Revolution just to give us a better taste of the types of books that this company has to offer.    

Salem Ridge Press was founded in 2005 to offer reprints of quality, previously published children's books from the 1800's and early 1900's.  Following the Charlotte Mason principle of learning through "living books" rather than textbooks, this company offers books that make history come alive for the young readers who quickly become engrossed in the stories these authors weave. 

The stories that I read to my daughter from this company actually reminded me of the books I read when I was a child.  I honestly can't say that I remember one detail from a history class, but I could retell countless tales of the history I learned as I read and re-read stories of people who lived in a different time and place.  Similarly, I quickly became engrossed in the stories we received.  I must confess that I cheated and read ahead a bit because our daily reading time wasn't going quite fast enough, and I wanted to know what was going to happen in the lives of the children in whom I had become so quickly invested. 

One thing that I really appreciated about these books is that they tell a compelling, well-written story in a way that appeals to young (and old) listeners and readers.  My daughter was especially engrossed in the story of Sally and Roger, the twins whose story of living through The Revolution is captivatingly and descriptively told.  I watched Amélie include bits of their story in her pretend play, and I was reminded of my own youth and the hours I spent pretending I was helping slaves escape on the Underground Railroad or attending Queen Elizabeth as a lady-in-waiting.  I love it that I see that same creativity and love for history in my own daughter.  

As their website notes, the founders of Salem Ridge Press believe, as I do, that introducing quality literature to our children helps them excel in writing, vocabulary, history, geography, and science.  This belief is one of the main reasons I made the radical leap of pulling Amélie out of public school and teaching her at home.  History is a living, breathing guest in our home, and I wouldn't trade the creativity or the love for learning she has gifted our family with for anything...even that well-coveted solitary cup of coffee in the afternoon.  :)   

Another perk of Salem Ridge Press is the clarity and organization of their website.  I found it very easy to maneuver through the site and find books not only alphabetically, but also by time period and location, author, and age range.  This organization is especially helpful for parents trying to find books that might pique interest in a fledgling reader or that might supplement the study of a particular historical time period.  You can also find listings by New Releases, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Allegory, and Younger Readers.

While I appreciate the fact that I can buy these books for my kids and not have to worry about my kids reading anything questionable, I take issue with their editing of passages that include any sort of physical affection.  I think it is important for my children to understand the importance of expressing love in a physical way, and while I wouldn't want them to be reading what goes on behind a bedroom door, I want them to read about couples who have healthy, physical relationships.  I believe this exposure will help my kids as they try to maneuver the tricky waters of relationships with the opposite sex.  Besides, if they never read about any other adults in books kissing or hugging one another, they will come to the totally errant conclusion that their parents are just plain weird.  :) 

I do, however, think that these books could be a valuable supplement to any parents' library, and since they are priced fairly reasonably from $10.95 - $24.95, many families could probably afford to choose some favorites to purchase and to enjoy again and again. 

Some of my fellow Crew members also received books from this company. If you want to see their reviews, you can do so here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Monday, September 20, 2010

faking it

That got your attention, didn't it? 
What might I be faking?
It is nothing scandalous. 
No, nothing of the sort. 
Want to know what I am faking? 
I am faking being busy so that no one will talk to me.  I am trying to buy 5 minutes of quiet. 
So far, these past 30 seconds have been a complete failure.
Do your kids talk to you non-stop?  Mine do.  And I love their chatter.  But at this time of day, which is now 4:39 p.m., I have used up all of my listening skills, my patience, and my words.  I actually enjoy sitting here (I am getting a brief reprieve) and not feeling my tongue moving in my mouth.  That is weird, isn't it?  But true, oh so true. 
I just don't have any more creative ideas, empathic responses, or attentive listening left in me.  I am done.  Finished.

I just had to referee an argument.  Jack wants to play with Amélie's Barbies.  Amélie doesn't want him to.  He technically isn't playing with her Barbies.  He is actually playing with his Spiderman in her Barbie house.  Same difference.  "He's going to make a MESS of my room!!!!!  He RUINS things!  He LOSES things!  This is HORRIBLE!!!"  Insert appropriately dramatic hand gestures and vocal inflections.

I am done with drama for the day.

Actually, I have more to say than to whine and complain.  :)  I really do. 
It is now September 20th, and I never announced what my September project would be in my Year of Mindfulness.  I didn't announce it because it quickly became an epic FAIL and I decided to hold off a month.  This month's mindfulness project was supposed to be mindful eating. 
I am HORRIBLE at eating mindfully.
I eat too fast, b/c I never know when I am going to be interrupted or called up on to intervene in a catastrophe of epic proportions.
I often have no clue what I am eating, because sometimes I commit the cardinal rule of eating at the table and reading and only pretending to listen to the conversation floating around me or the food I am inserting into my mouth.
I often eat when I am stressed, because eating spoonfuls of peanut butter, tablespoonfuls of Nutella, or chunks of sharp cheddar cheese is a quicker fix than closing my eyes and taking deep breaths.
I often eat when I am tired, because I think it is going to give me energy, and while eating for energy is true on a certain level, eating more will not compensate for the lack of energy I feel from lack of sleep.
And sometimes, I don't pay attention to what I am eating because I am living in my own little world in my own little head, and what is going on in the "real" world, including the motion of fork to mouth, is automatic rather than intentional.
So, October will be my month of Mindful Eating.  If you would like to join me on my quest, both for encouragement and to stay accountable, please let me know!  The more the merrier. 
I'm just thinking that it's a good thing Halloween is at the END of the month and not the beginning.  :)

I think I got about two minutes of quiet in there.  That's a start.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

PyraMath Review

Until this year, my daughter has not been a huge fan of math. When she was in public school she was bombarded with worksheet...after worksheet...after worksheet, and she hated it. When I flipped through her papers at night and saw worksheet...after worksheet...after worksheet, I wasn’t too thrilled either. Last year we tried a math program that we liked just fine, but then this year we had the opportunity of exploring math with a very talented, very creative teacher who meets with Amélie once a week to teach her new concepts, and then I spend the rest of the week reinforcing that concept. She hasn’t done a worksheet since (although she has extensively danced, played games, drawn, worked with 10-frames and manipulatives, etc.).

When I received my PyraMath cards in the mail, I was excited. Amélie loves card games, and I do, too, even though I have a competitive daughter who somehow squirms her way into winning most games. According to the booklet that is included with the card game, “over 60% of all schoolchildren have ‘turned off’ to mathematics by the 4th grade.” 60%. That’s a lot of kids. Based on Amélie’s classroom experience, I firmly believe that she was quickly falling into that 60% category.



The principle behind PyraMath is that it helps kids learn their math facts...but it does so in a fun way. When we are playing with the PyraMath cards, Amélie truly forgets that we are doing “school,” and she just enjoys the time spent playing the game (and learning without realizing she is learning). :)

The PyraMath cards are very reasonably priced at $6.95 per deck, and you can purchase the cards here.  The cards come with a booklet explaining how to play the game. According to the PyraMath website, http://www.iseecards.com/, “PyraMath is a one or two player game that uses math and language skills. The objective of the game is to complete a pyramid with your cards by using fundamental mathematics.” Right now, Amélie and I use addition and subtraction to complete our pyramids, but as she learns multiplication and division, we will be able to incorporate those skills into the game as well.

We love our PyraMath cards.  If you have a struggling math learner...or just a kid who likes to play card games...I would most certainly recommend these cards.  If you try them out, let me know what you think!

Some of my fellow Crew members have also used this program. If you want to see their reviews and see how the cards worked for them, you can do so here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product for my honest evaluation. I was given no other compensation for this review.

Monday, September 13, 2010

a litany (as in, "a tedious repetitive series," not as in "a series of petitions for use in church services or processions")

I can't believe it has been over a week since I posted last.  What, exactly, is happening to my weeks, my time, my life?  Wow. 
Last week wasn't easy.  I have this crazy drive to do everything WELL (as my mother-in-law ever-so-gently reminded me today), but while that trait seems noble and good, it definitely has its downside...like, for example, the fact that I live in a state of feeling constantly overwhelmed, out of control, and incompetent.  I could go on.  It's rather annoying. 

Anyway, we are in our 6th week into homeschooling, and it's really going well.  It really is.  Amélie is learning like a little sponge, and it's such a joy to teach her (usually).  She loves history and science and reading, and she is even enjoying math this year, thanks to the absence of worksheets and the introduction of math as facilitated by a wonderful and brilliant friend (who also happened to teach 2nd grade before adopting two Down Syndrome babies).  However, our curriculum is very labor-intensive, and I feel like I have to do it all and do it right.  I (like many homeschooling parents, I think) am so worried that Amélie is going to get behind or something.  The last thing I want to do is make her stupid, you know?  :)  I'm pretty sure that's not happening, but just in case, I make sure we do everything.  And some days.........that's just hard. 

Plus, I have a little boy who feels a little left out sometimes, I think, and I don't have the time or energy for him that I think I should have.

Plus, I have a little girl who also wants me to play with her, not just teach her.

Plus, I have a husband with whom I like to spend time that involves both quality and quantity.

Plus, I'm a doula, and I love my clients and look forward to meeting with them and then assisting them in birth.

Plus, I have a house to keep halfway clean and organized.

Plus, I am reviewing homeschooling materials.

Plus, I have laundry.

Plus, I cook.

Plus, I need to exercise.

Plus, I like to write.

Plus, I like to see my friends.

Plus, if I don't get enough sleep I get cranky (this blog entry is a case in point).

Plus, I need to spend some time ALONE.

You know what I need?
I need a doula.
a life doula.

and a hug.  I could use one of those today, too.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

perspective

Last week, I had a sinus infection.  That virus invaded my body and wiped me out.  I didn't feel good.  I had no energy.  I felt like I was moving and thinking in a mire of sludge.  It wasn't fun.

I have this other virus, though, that just doesn't go away.  I can't take a pill for it.  I can't keep it at bay by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water.  It's an ugly virus.  It's a chronic one.  It sucks the life right out of me.

It goes by several different names: discontent, jealously, envy, and a myriad of other synonyms and symptoms. 

Some days, I wish I had a different house, a bigger one with a large backyard, a jacuzzi tub big enough to fit the whole family, and enough space that all of us could have a room of our own.

Some days, I wish I had a nicer car, one that wasn't beige and normally driven by people twice my age.

Some days, I wish I could go to the grocery store without calculating the items I am putting in my cart against the reality of our budget.  And I wish I could buy every book I wanted.  And I wish I could update my wardrobe and my house and.........................

Some days, I wish I had a sexier job.  I love my jobs as mom, homeschool teacher, and doula, but there's nothing particularly sexy about changing a diaper, giving a spelling test, or being regularly splashed with amniotic fluid (although, oddly, I don't really mind any of those things too much, now that I really think about it). 

Some days (actually, every day), I wish I were sexier.  Thankfully, I have a husband who has the polar opposite version of the body dysmorphic disorder that I have, and he actually likes how I look.  I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time cringing at my body and wishing it were a whole lot different. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But then there are days like today, when all of those discontents seem so minor. 

This afternoon, I was sitting on the floor reading the newspaper when someone rang our doorbell.  I tend to panic when the doorbell rings (partly due to the fact that my house never lives up to the immaculate standards I set in my mind, and partly due to the fact that I am an introvert who loves people coming over but who still, for whatever reason, abhors the doorbell).  Thankfully, Matt has no such odd aversion and quickly answered the door.  A man was at the door with his daughter.  The kids and Matt had met this family a couple of weeks ago when they were out bike-riding.  They are new to the neighborhood.  They are living with the girl's grandma right now.  Apparently they came home one day, and their landlord had changed the locks and thrown every last one of their belongings out onto their lawn.  S asked Amélie if she could play.  Immediately, I  panicked a little.  I don't really know this family.  Was I going to let my daughter walk down the street and into the house of a family whom I had never met?  What was I going to do?  I didn't have to worry or think about this situation long, however, because by the time I got to the door the dad was gone.  S was to play at our house with Amélie. 

Oh!  What a relief, really.

She's a sweet little girl.  She is eight.  While making her and Amélie a snack I checked on her food allergy situation (you never know these days--I didn't want to kill the poor child), and she informed me that the only thing she is allergic to is pie.  It makes her throw up, apparently.  Good to know.  She also has four brothers and three sisters.  I am not sure how many of them are living in that little house on the corner with her grandma.  I do know that one of those brothers is allergic to shellfish.  His tongue swells up, and the allergy could kill him.  Another of her older brothers punched her in the mouth one time and knocked out eight of her teeth.  Those teeth are coming back in now, so it must have been awhile ago.  That older brother is ten now.  As soon as they get money from their landlord for treating them so badly they are going to be "crazy rich."  Her eyes lit up when she told me that. 

The things you find out just by asking.  And listening.

Here's the point of this story, the point that still, as I sit here and type this, makes me cry.

Amelie sneaked out of her bedroom later and whispered to Matt and me,

"I would like to have S over for a sleepover sometime.  She has to sleep on her bathroom floor."

Her bathroom floor

Really?

How heart-breaking. I just want to go hug her. I just want to ask her to move in.


Later, Amélie followed me into the bathroom and told me that she thinks we should buy her some clothes and toys, because she doesn't have very many.

Suddenly, I saw things differently.  Suddenly, I saw all that I have.  I have enough.  I have too much.  I have enough to give.  And keep giving. 

Some things are more important than granite countertops and trendy cars and sexy jobs and tight bodies. 

My soul needs some work, apparently.
My soul needs people like S to remind me to love. 
   and to give.
          and to be content.
                 and to love and to give some more. 

Jesus appeared to me today.  She had on pink shorts, a pink t-shirt, and had the cutest lisp.

Thanks, S. 
Thanks for reminding me what's important, what's essential, what's eternal.