Thursday, August 30, 2007

Slow down, you move too fast...

Tonight I was going to go out to a homeschool mom's night out/meeting. I had seen it announced on a local homeschool board I keep up with, and a new acquaintance suggested it too. I emailed the leader and received back a welcome and the directions to the place. It would have been the first time I've been out of the house alone for fun since we moved. I was pretty excited.

I was particularly excited because before we moved, going out in the evening was usually a hassle. My husband would get home from work just when I had to leave, so it was always a rush to get dinner ready for the family, get myself cleaned up and out the door on time. With him home (school hasn't started, but even when it does, he'll be home well before dinnertime) it would be so much easier!

Except time slipped away from me, and I found myself starting the pasta water 30 minutes before I had to leave. I was still dressed in sweats and a spaghetti-sauce-stained t-shirt. My husband had run out to the store and picked up a bottle of wine - a luxury we haven't enjoyed in a while. But I knew I wouldn't have a glass if I was going out...

So I didn't go. I shot a quick email off to the host of the group excusing myself. I had a "scheduling problem" I said. Quite true!

For a minute I was annoyed with myself for not being on top of things so I could go out. But that feeling quickly dissipated as I enjoyed a leisurely dinner with my family. It's true that we have dinner together every night, but it was especially nice tonight, probably because I had been rushing and then - just stopped.

I so desperately miss my friends "back home." Rarely did a week go by when I didn't have at least one set of mom-and-kids over, or went to someone else's house. I do need to meet some more people here, get myself and my kids connected (they are lonely too). But I don't have to do it tonight. There's time, I have to remember that. I didn't have friends immediately when I moved to Oregon 10 years ago, either. Sarah from Smallworld reminds me that it takes a while - maybe 3 years - to feel at home in a new place. We hope to be moving back home in 4 years, so... maybe we'll only feel at home here for a year? In any case, there will be another mom's meeting, and more opportunities. I'll keep praying for those, and in the meantime enjoy my evenings on the back deck with my little family.

Do you live in a too-small house?

I'm looking for websites/blogs/books etc on creative ways to make space in a small house. Preferably using no money! I am feeling very challenged with fitting into our new house. It is about 1/2 the size of our old one! We've managed to get the kids and the furniture in (though one rocking chair should have been left behind, I think) but I need storage solutions. Or even just empathy!

C'mon, leave me a comment. I know people like me are out there!
The other day I wrote about my kids being outsiders at a social event where no care was taken to help the kids in attendance get acquainted. Last night we went to another event that was much different.

This was the meeting of a Bible study group from a church we visited. We were invited by a homeschool mom I met while chatting after church. The hosts were seminary students and coincidentally, I happened to meet them at the first event (where my kids had such a bad time). It was interesting to walk up to these people and inform them that my family was the new one coming to their home the next night!

It was quite a different night. Everyone engaged the kids in some way. Though there were no boys anywhere near the age of mine, and he was slightly bored (aren't we all sometimes) he did a lot better. There were several girls so E had a good time right from the start. They were the very girly sort of girls so the 10 year old boy was not particularly welcome in their bonding sessions. Nor was he interested in being with them.

What a difference to a kid a little attention and empathy make. At one point the woman who invited us asked my boy if he was having a good time. He just said "no." Before I could say anything she said "That's OK to say that. I know it's hard for you now. It's tough not having any other kids around." Later we talked about more tactful ways to answer such questions while still telling the truth...

So, one bad evening, one better evening. Maybe next time there'll be a boatload of boys and no girls. That's the way it goes. At least this time the adults were a little more... oh, I hate to use this word, but... sensitive to the kids in their midst!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Digital Mom" - this is just a scream

I am not sure how this came to be up on my computer screen. But as a stay-home mom I found this just hysterical. But also a pretty sad commentary on American life....

Tell me what you think! Are email chats and those cute :-) really a good substitute for hanging out with your husband?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Outsider kids

Tonight we went to a social event. It was primarily for adults but families were included, so that meant there were some kids there. Not many. Well, lots of babies - most of the adults in the crowd were pretty young. The few older kids that were there belonged to the co-hosts. The event was held at the home of one "set" of kids, and the other set obviously knew them well and were comfortable at the house.

This did not bode well for the single set of outsider kids who came to this event. They were briefly scrutinized and then ignored.

Now, it is sometimes easy for kids to strike up a friendship with a stranger, but usually when it happens spontaneously it is on fairly neutral territory, like a playground. It is a little more difficult in someone's house, where the new kids are at a disadvantage.

It would seem reasonable that the parents of the kids of the hosting house would make introductions between the sets of kids. And, perhaps, at this mostly-adult event where some kids are expected, to have some form of ice-breaker to make the new kids feel a little more comfortable.

At least, that is what I have always done, and most people I know have done.

I hope you do it too.

Back to school clothes

Having nothing to say myself, I offer this article on the grim state of girls' clothing:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Gomez Addams, Homeschool Advocate

In the library the other day, I was looking for something in the dvd section to give me some intellectual stimulation while folding laundry. I was delighted to see that one of my favorite '60's series, "The Addams Family," was out on dvd. I loved this show and watched the reruns over and over when I was a kid!

The first episode on the disc was titled "The Addams Family Goes to School." The truant officer visits the Addamses because Wednesday (6) and Pugsley (8) need to be in school. Of course he is amazed by what he sees in the Addams household, including one of Wednesday's dolls - she's been decapitated. "Grandmama told us about the French Revolution and she's Marie Antoinette!" Hm. Obviously these kids are a little different...

Finally he presents his case to Gomez, who wants nothing to do with school. "But everybody sends their kids to school!" the truant officer cries. "Ridiculous!" says Gomez. "Why have kids if you're just going to get rid of them?" He points out that the children have a fine tutor in their grandmama. He shows the truant officer Wednesday's animal husbandry project: breeding spiders. Undaunted, Mr Hilliard explains that he's talking about academics: reading... "What is there for a 6 year old to read?" "But Mr. Addams, someday she'll be 26!" "See ya then!"

Some more gags, then during a nice family scene where everyone, including Uncle Fester and Grandmama, pursues their interests in the parlor - while Lurch plays Chopin on the harpsichord - we find that Morticia wants the kids to go to school. So off they go.

The nice lady in the office assures Gomez and Morticia that the children will be very happy at school; Gomez replies: "If we wanted them to be happy, we'd have kept them at home!"

There is a conflict with the school curriculum, it gets resolved (sitcom conflicts always get resolved, remember) and it ends with everyone happy about the school arrangement; the children will continue to attend. A '60's tv show couldn't go too counterculture, could it?

I guess the idea of keeping the kids out of school was supposed to be just another weird thing about the weird Addams Family. Who knew Gomez was ahead of his time?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Depressing Statistic

One in four read no books last year.

Imagine a year of reading... nothing. Not one book! I have my reading slumps - I'm in a bad one now - but imagine reading no books for a year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Applause in church - yes or no?

Yesterday we checked out another church. It was very nice. I had a minor quibble - when the little kids went up to sing some songs from VBS, there was applause afterwards. I am quite sure I am in the minority who thinks applause is out of place in church. The singers are there to sing to the glory of God, not for the entertainment of the congregation. Of course only a grinchy person would say not to applause preschoolers singing their little hearts out! But I just don't think applause fits in at church.

I have been in churches where the choir was applauded. Now that seemed really inappropriate to me. Is it a worship service or a concert?

So, am I off the wall to be annoyed by this? (I am easily annoyed, I know. And it won't weigh in any decisions about which church to settle down at.) C'mon, leave a comment, be harsh if you want to. Opinions don't hurt my feelings.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Why not New Jersey?

In an earlier post about PA's homeschooling laws, I recommended that anyone planning to moveto eastern PA, and homeschool, should consider New Jersey instead. NJ's homeschool laws are very easy, I'm told. I think they have to... do nothing. Or something similar. Anyway, that was a facetious comment, but even before we moved people were telling us to live in NJ. On the map NJ looks close to us, but... practically speaking, it would be really inconvenient.

We are now about 2 miles from the seminary, so it's been pretty easy to live with only one car. And while not much goes on at the seminary in summer, during the school year there will be opportunities for fellowship and learning that would be difficult to access if we lived far away. I can take classes, and am already enrolled in a Bible study workshop in October! We'd also like to be able to have casual get-togethers with other students. So... we live in PA.

My homeschool group is full of informed and fearless women who are helping me find my way through the laws! Some of them dream of moving to New Jersey... but for now they are here and I'm grateful for them!

It's not your mother's pop culture

So what's wrong with being immersed in popular culture anyway? I was a child of tv and Disney movies and pop/rock music and I turned out OK, right? So why shouldn't my children partake of that culture too? Here are a few things:

1. Opie doesn't live in Mayberry anymore. TV is just not so innocent.

2. Licensed merchandise. I think at one point in my life I had a Barbie lunchbox. (But I never had a Barbie, go figure that one. I had a Tammy, a cheaper and less voluptuous doll.) There wasn't the vast variety of tv-related stuff that there is today.

3. The worst rock-n-roll lyrics of my day were the scandalous "Let's spend the night together" which, really, meant nothing to me at the time. Maybe there were others that went over my head, but I don't think so. Music is much more blatant now - forget about innuendo, it's all right out there. And how about Elvis's moves? Nothing compared to the crotch-thrusting we see today.

4. Mush brain. Really, it is so hard for me to discipline my mind - to study, to analyze, to read something... hard. I can't think of a better word. See? But I could sing you the themes to The Beverly Hillbillies or Gilligan's Island right now.

I blame my parents. No, not really. That's another part of pop culture I hate too. Blame. It's anyone's fault but mine.

Culture shock or, I'm raising a freak

Yesterday my little E and I went to a "High School Musical 2" party. The movie premiered on the Disney channel last night, apparently much anticipated. Our realtor has a daughter about the same age as E, and she graciously invited her to come meet some other girls. It was a fun and interesting evening.

First off, we have never seen "High School Musical" (1), which didn't matter for watching the movie, but put us at a disadvantage for conversation with the other girls. They were singing the songs, talking about the characters and the plot, talking about the clothes. They were nice, and pleasant, and friendly - not cliquish or rude at all - but still it was obvious E did not fit in. She was ignorant of the culture she was in, and couldn't participate in the conversation.

Before the movie the Disney channel had a tv show on that was related to the movie, and we were semi-watching that before the real attraction started. It was so dumb. E just kept looking at me with this quizzical look in her eyes. I just smiled and shrugged, trying to convey "go along with it."

Oh, there was a time countdown too, and when it got to the last 60 seconds before the movie, the girls started counting down the time with it. They were really whipped into a frenzy when it came to zero. They got up, screaming and dancing. Like that Ed Sullivan show with the Beatles, only these were 8 year olds!

Then the thunder and lightning started and something happened to the satellite. The picture got all scribbly and then when out. It came back quickly, though... this time.

The movie itself was OK. Cute, pretty innocent. The girls' clothes were the worst thing about it, for me. The dancing was fun except for those exaggerated thrusting movements. (I don't think Elvis was ever that obvious.) The story was silly and predictable (indeed, my hostess told me that the story was pretty much the same as the first movie), but OK. OKish, let's say. One thing that struck me - a good thing - other than the main (bad) character, the girls were mostly not model-thin. In fact there was at least one girl who was downright fat (obese) but not played for laughs - she was just another of the friends, not the fat girl. (Though one of the girls at the party - the only one who might have been called fat - commented very negatively on the fat girl's weight. Interesting.)

About halfway through the movie the satellite went out again. The girls decided to find a game and started up Twister. This was the most fun part for E. Then, the birthday gifts were opened. Yes, this was a birthday party, though we had been assured that no gift was expected. We stopped off anyway and picked up a cute pink flamingo beanie baby. I figured I wasn't going to send a kid of mine into a party without a gift, even if she didn't know the birthday girl. As I saw the other gifts - nearly all "HSM2" themed (except for some Hannah Montana items, which I believe is a tv show) I had a moment of panic. We'd brought something too babyish! I was going to bring shame on my child for bringing a dumb gift. But the flamingo was well-received. Whew. E had a hard time oohing and aahing over the movie and tv-related gifts, but she did her best. She was clearly out of her element - she has no clue who Hannah Montana is - but managed well.

She could not help herself from a slight eye-roll when one girl sighed and said with great emotion "I love Sharpay's (the main character, and yes it is pronounced like the dog) clothes!" Ugh.

The movie came back on and everyone settled in. By the end most of the girls were pretty tired, except maybe the ones who'd consumed 3 juice boxes and were a little cranked up. E was ready to go home as soon as it was over. She thanked the birthday girl for inviting, accepted her treat bag (all HSM 2 items, natch), thanked the mom, and sighed with relief when we got into the car.

She has no expectation of seeing these girls again. I think she had a nice time, and it was an interesting experience for her.

I thought about the fact that I'm raising a family of freaks. My kids have no exposure to all this stuff. We don't buy school supplies related to movie and tv themes. I teach my kids NOT to buy any items with movie and tv themes. And they don't seem to want them, even when they are related to movies they know - Narnia, for example. I am really, really happy about that. I'm happy that she didn't drool over Sharpay's clothing, which was... you know. I'm happy that watching that didn't want to make her take a hip-hop dance class!

But there is a bit of a downside too, isn't there? When we lived in Oregon we were in a little Christian homeschooler cocoon. I didn't do that on purpose - I would have loved more contact, more friends who were different from us. But that's the way it worked out. When we moved, I was happily anticipating developing friendships outside that box. But I am not sure those friendships will develop since we live in such a different world. Can a child who doesn't live a life saturated with media and entertainment really relate to a child who does?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Stories like this make me wonder...

how the government can justify regulating homeschoolers. They can't even manage their own schools:

Good students at a very bad Los Angeles high school are complaining that dozens of classes were changed to entirely different subjects four weeks into the eight-week term. Santee’s Computer Science class became Cooking. Twelve Advanced Placement classes were turned into non-AP electives: AP History was switched to Cinema, AP English to Writing Seminar.

The new classes didn’t fit college-prep requirements. Some students were left short of credits for graduation.

Read the whole post by Joanne Jacobs.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bumping up against the law, already

Before we moved to Pennsylvania, I looked at some information on the homeschool laws. I didn't like what I saw, but I figured it was doable - people do homeschool here - and that I'd look at it in detail when the time came. Well, the time has come and gone, and I'm wishing I'd done more research before we moved. Not that it would have changed our plans, but I'd have been more prepared.

First off, I'll say that I used to be annoyed by Oregon's homeschool law. That consisted of notifying the school district - one time - and having the kids undergo standardized tests in grades 3, 5, and 2 others I can never remember.

That's it. Now I guess I knew that there were people in other states who drooled over Oregon's easy law. But I found even that annoying and burdensome.

Oh, how good I had it!

To homeschool in PA I need to - wait, I mean before I can officially start my school year in PA, I need to:

- Submit a signed notarized affidavit stating that I will teach my children in accordance with state requirements, that I have given them proper medical and dental services "required for a child of their age or grade," that they have had all their immunizations, that I have a high school diploma, and that I am not a convicted criminal. I have to do this every year!

- Submit a list of educational objectives for the year. (Appropriately vague suggestions can be found online.)

- Submit a report from my children's doctor and dentist verifying that they did receive the medical services required for a child of their age and grade. This means height and weight checks, vaccines, vision and hearing test, and a tb test. If I have a religious, moral, or ethical objection to doctor and dentist services, and/or immunizations, I can claim an exemption from these services. However! If I simply object to giving the school district this information, I may or may not be able to claim an exemption. Some have tried and failed; some have succeeded. It depends on the school district. (So much for state law.) Oh and someone told me that no one really does the tb check anymore... so why is it on the form?? I should note that the information from the doctor does not contain the results of any tests, just that the tests were performed.

OK, there's more.

- At the end of the school year, I have to submit a portfolio of work to be reviewed by a homeschool evaluator, who will determine if I am providing an appropriate education for my children. I have to document 180 days or 900 hours of "schooltime." (However I don't have to document what that consisted of so presumably my reading good books aloud to the kids, or them painting out on the back deck would "count.") The women in my homeschool group assure me that this is not as horrid as it sounds.

- I have to have the kids undergo standardized tests in grades 3, 5, and two others I can't remember.

So there you go. If you are contemplating a move to eastern Pennsylvania, and are a homeschooler... consider New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Discipline in homeschooling

Yesterday I posted about our new routine that I hope to start soonish. We had started a little; we'd slacked off on our daily Bible reading but got that going again, then added the catechism back in, and today added in math. Practice worksheets from previous lessons; one reason I love MathUSee - the online worksheet generator! Anyway, tomorrow we'll add in something else; Latin, I think. And so we'll go.

Anyway, back to the point. I was lamenting the stricter laws in PA, which are new to me, coming from easy Oregon. I said (among other things), that I am "looking forward to developing the discipline of doing more tangible work."

It didn't occur to me then that that was a rather silly statement. Who is responsible for my homeschooling discipline? The state of Oregon's laws didn't prevent me from being more disciplined. I could have done that all by myself. I even know some Oregon homeschoolers who could prepare wonderful and complete portfolios for their children, even though the law does not require them to.

So, I will be forced to be more disciplined and produce some work that someone - a school district evaluator, or a friend or relative, or a grown-up homeschool graduate who can look back on the work he did as a kid . And if we go back to Oregon, as we hope, plan and pray to do, I hope I will find my new discipline to be easy to carry on, whether the law requires me to or not.

What are you not doing in your homeschool that you would like to do, or think you should be doing?

Monday, August 13, 2007

New routine... starting real soon now

So we've been in our new home for about 3 weeks and it's time to get into our new routine. It's hard when some rooms are still cluttered with boxes that have no place to go! But the kids are getting restless and we have to do more than read fun books soon.

I know where all our materials are and we have a place to work. Not the place I want to work! But a place nonetheless.

I've typed up a new routine and it looks like this:

September 2007




Christian Almanac

After-breakfast Cleanup



English Grammar

Health/Safety (a PA requirement so I thought I should put it in)


History (not daily)

Science (not daily)

Prairie Primer (not daily)

History, science, and Prairie Primer will include some writing.

Writing workshop - this is something we plan to do with our homeschool group.

Arts/crafts - on the day not working on the writing workshop stuff

This year we actually have to produce some work that someone can look at and touch - PA law requires a portfolio of work to be reviewed by the school district. This is going to be new to us and will be challenging, especially to J, who does not like to write. I don't love the PA laws (draconian compared to Oregon; I didn't realize I had it so good!) but am looking forward to developing the discipline of doing more tangible work.

Oh, another requirement is PE. Well, we walk and/or bike almost every day; the kids play on the play structure or play tetherball in the back yard. Tonight we met the dog next door, who we learned likes to run along the fence on his side while children run along the fence on our side. So lots of running happened tonight, and will again. The homeschool group also has a PE/swim class; if that doesn't work out we'll take the parks and rec swim classes. PE, yeah, got it covered.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Posts like these get me all fired up...

to simplify, to make my home look nicer, to be more frugal, more creative in my homeschooling. To be more deliberate, instead of always haphazard. To be more joyful. I don't actually do any of those things, but they make me want to.

Making home the best place to be from Life Along the Homeschooling Journey.

Living Well on Less... with Kids from Like Merchant Ships.

Simple Daily Journaling from Eyes of Wonder.

Be it Ever so Humble, There's no Place Like Home from Dishpan Dribble.

Abundant Provision from Falling Like Rain.

Right now we're still tripping over boxes and trying to find homes for things. Downsizing to about half the space is, um, challenging. We left a lot of furniture behind; in our old house there is a separate little bedroom away from all the others; it's now called Miss Havisham's room and it contains the antiques and other funky furniture that we knew wouldn't fit here. I'm thankful to have the place for it, even though I miss some of my - my mother's! - things. Well, maybe we will have them again, if we go back to that house, or a bigger house in the future. Now, it's time to get this house in order and make it a place we enjoy...

Today I told a friend of mine that I hadn't had much time to read blogs. Well, I wasn't lying... I just made some time today!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fidelia is here!

The new doll arrived yesterday. She arrived in the middle of a rush, so we had to bring her box into the house and then leave for a few hours. E was so excited but didn't complain about having to leave - she had been waiting what seemed like a long time for her doll. When we got home, of course she opened the box up right away. She was very excited but also I think a little sad that she has no girlfriends here yet, to show her doll off to...

This is one beautiful doll. Very well made, and just lovely to look at. Her clothes are so nice, too. I know any I make will just look shoddy in comparison. (But she will like them anyway!)

I am not sure if Fidelia will always be her name. She was chosen because she looks most like E's Bitty Baby, Sarah, so she is the big sister. So far Sarah is still sleeping with her little mama, while the big sister sleeps nearby.

Now I need to find my sewing machine and fabric and get to work on some other clothes!

Fidelia came from Everything we have ever purchased from them has been very high quality, so I shouldn't be surprised that Fidelia is too.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The dog went home (or left us, anyway).

She hung out most of the day on the deck, moving with the shade. Then she woke up and saw some of the local bunnies (there are bunnies all over this neighborhood) and got interested in them, then meandered over to the gate and went home. Well, we hope she went home. We’ll be more careful about keeping the gate shut from now on…

It was a good day to hang out in the shade. Today will be too - at 7:30 am, it’s 76 degrees and raining. I haven’t felt warm rain like this in a long time.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

There is a pit bull sleeping on my back deck.

This morning we saw her wandering around the yard. No collar. Sad eyes. Expressive ears. We took some water out; she sniffed it and walked away. It is horrid water; we drink filtered water but sorry, dog, you want a drink, you get tap water. E wanted to put out some food, but the only dog-appropriate food I have is some leftover steak, and that's for our dinner tonight. Sorry, dog, no steak for you either.

E was excited and couldn't wait to tell J. He has been wanting a dog for a long time and is anxious to get one. We will, but we don't do things quickly around here, especially when they involve long-term commitments. So we have all been praying about the dog situation: that we'd find a dog, the right dog for our family, and that we'd (J) be patient while we wait. And that we'd show our interest by researching dog training, etc.

When J came in, E pointed the dog out right away. I predicted his response: "Oh, a dog! Our dog?" he asked, brightly and expectantly. As if we'd engaged some overnight dog delivery service to drop off a dog but no food or other dog accessories. I have to admit I had a moment of wondering if this was God's response to our prayers, but that instead of the perky Lab puppy we all want, we'd get a grown (maybe? how do I know?) dog of a breed I know only bad things about.

She's snoozing quite contentedly in the shade.

Great faith, or a lack of attention?

We have been listening to an audio version of The Fellowship of the Ring for a while now - we started in the car during our trip (I think about Wyoming) and are about 3/4 of the way through now.

Last night we were listening to the chapter where the company is in the mines of Moriah, trying to get out. Gandalf and the Balrog, etc. All through that scene J was sitting wide-eyed, tense. But E had a strange little smile playing across her lips. As soon as the chapter ended and we clicked off the player, J asked, "Gandalf comes back, right? RIGHT???" Of course we refused to answer.

But E was calm and unconcerned, even happy. Now I know she loves Gandalf - what kid doesn't? I remember being devastated when he disappeared. So I wondered... was she even paying attention? Or does she have so much experience with kids' book and happy endings that she is confident that it'll all come right in the end?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bulk foods wasteland

Since we have arrived here in PA, I have been checking out all the grocery stores. They are mostly pretty much like grocery stores in Oregon, except most are smaller and older and a little dingier. I've found the Winco equivalent (cheap grocery store in Oregon, but here I don't have to bag my own!) and the Safeway which has another name so people can feel they're shopping at a venerable family-run store (even though it was bought by Safeway a few years ago).

One thing I am really missing is the bulk food section. Maybe I've already ranted about this here. I took bulk foods for granted back home. Maybe someone reading this doesn't even know what I'm talking about. That is a section of the store where one can purchase their desired quantity of any number of goods: flour, rice, cereal, dark-chocolate covered raisins, tea bags, spices, dark-chocolate covered espresso beans, pasta, dried fruit... oh, just typing it up makes me homesick! There are bags and labels and you just get what you want and the clerk weighs it and off you go.

Well, I can't find that here. I asked some of the homeschool moms I met about bulk foods, and they all gave me that "you have two heads" look that I usually get only when I answer the dreaded curriculum question. (I don't use one particular curriculum.) Someone suggested Costco. Another woman did mention a food coop she belongs to, and I suppose I will check that out. But no grocery stores with bulk food.

Doing some noodling around the internet, I came across the name of a store with, a review said "an incredible bulk foods section." Oh! I found it on the map - only 8 miles away, a little far but really, if I could find my bulk foods I could finally relax. I couldn't settle down till I checked out the store, so I bribed my kids with promises of drinks and treats if they wouldn't complain about another grocery store visit.

Well, it is a beautiful store. Just lovely. And huge. Incredible produce and even good prices on some things. It took us a while till we saw the sign for bulk foods. Quivering with anticipation, we went down the aisle. And there it was. All the bulk candy and nuts you could want. But where is the flour? The rolled oats? THE SPICES???? We walked around and around. Bought a small bag of pine nuts and some almonds. Went to the baking aisle, thinking the flours and spices might be there. Did I mention I was looking for spices? No. We did find an employee who looked at me rather oddly as I asked in a desperate voice: "Is this all your bulk foods? Is there more somewhere else in the store?" No, she assured me, this is it.

Feeling defeated, we headed for the checkout counter. Then the kids reminded me I'd promised drinks. In searching for something cold, we came upon the natural foods section. I perked up - I saw more bulk bins! OK, here they are! (But what about that gal who'd said there weren't any?) We found granola, and organic nuts, and more candy (including dark-chocolate covered raisins, but no espresso beans) and a bin or two of wild rice. That's it. No flour, no oats, and, of course, no spices. I did find some little packets of spices that are cheaper than the silly glass bottles, but still.

I knew the east coast was different. I knew the weather and the culture would take some getting used to. I knew I'd have to pump my own gas. (That's illegal in OR.) I knew about the sales tax (nonexistent in OR). But I never, ever dreamed I'd be without bulk foods.

I also never dreamed the local Costco wouldn't carry the 8-pack of Rosarita refried beans... but that's a whole 'nother rant.

Movable kitchen island

Jo Ann had a great idea for my new, storage-challenged kitchen - a movable island. This just might work and I am practicing for it now. In the middle of my little kitchen there are 2 packing boxes and a stack of cardboard waiting for Wednesday recycling day. As I move around my "island" I am seeing how it would work to have something real there. It just might work!

New rule

A new rule I'm instituting in our house: for every book that comes into the house, 2 have to go. This includes textbooks, which will not thrill the seminarian. But we are drowning in books, and we don't have the bookcases or storage space we used to.

We cataloged most of our books so we know what we have. But there're about 8 boxes that never got cataloged because we dithered about them, or were too lazy to deal with them, till it was too late to do anything but box 'em up and toss 'em on the truck. I should have taken them to Goodwill on the last day. I bet we'd never have noticed they were gone.

The kids have as hard a time getting rid of books as the parents do. We are keeping many of our special picture books and of course all the classic children's tales. But every book is not a keeper. Really, I don't think anyone here truly understands that.

Unfortunately I can't think of any incentive to give up books except... the promise of new books! What to do, what to do....

Friday, August 03, 2007


Though I don't think of myself as a super emotional person, I cry very easily. Books and movies, even tv commercials can make me cry. My kids are getting used to me getting very choked up while reading a book to them. I also tear up sometimes when I'm having a difficult conversation and am tense. I hate it, but I can't help it. Once I cried while quitting a job I hated. My boss was trying to convince me not to quit and said I must not want to because I was crying. He didn't understand that I was happy to be quitting but was tense and emotional and couldn't help crying.

Lately my kids have seen me crying more than they should. The tears really flow when I am frustrated, and of course moving into a new place can be a very frustrating time. Yesterday I had a few episodes of crying, over various frustrating moments. It bothers the kids even when I reassure them that nothing is really wrong, I'm just tired and frustrated. I woke up this morning early and feeling ready for my new routine of my morning walk. I started down the street and then heard my name. The lady next door was out getting her newspaper. She is a nice lady but I have to admit I was not eager for a chat with her right then. So we chatted and 20 minutes of my morning slipped away. I was not about to try to cut her off. My walk got cut short and I cried a little in frustration when I got home.

Later on I cried because I can't get the laptop to work, and some things I need to do are on it. I also started crying when I realized that I can't fix a drawer on a dresser that I need to start filling. It's a weird dresser - the drawers have to be screwed into the sides (runners?) to work right. I can't seem to get it to fit. I hate leaving things like that for my husband to deal with, but I just can't figure it out. My frustration and feelings of incompetence got the better of me and I started to cry.

But then I got a call from him, late coming home from school. We had both noticed lately the starter on our (only) car had seemed "funny." Today he discovered the reason: the battery had been dying. So he was stuck on the road with a dead battery, and of course I had no way to help him. Fortunately, he said, he was right near a car dealership of the right flavor, so he could easily obtain a battery, though at a higher price than he'd like to pay. Of course he was frustrated (hungry, too, I bet, since he was coming home for lunch!).

I have to admit that though I am unhappy he's stuck like that, I'm thankful it was him and not me. Imagine the tears flowing in that circumstance!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New doll joining the family

My little E has been saving up for a new doll for a while. She still loves her "Bitty Baby," Sarah, but she is ready for a big-girl doll now. She had been looking at the American Girl dolls but when I showed her the dolls at Vision Forum she fell in love. She had enough money right before we moved, but it was a bit impractical to place the order then. So she's been waiting... very patiently.

Yesterday we got our internet service; this morning she asked if she could order her doll. We went to the VF site and looked over all the dolls again. She chose Fidelia because she looks most like she could be Sarah's big sister.

And imagine my surprise when I discovered that the dolls are on sale! She was very excited to learn she would not have to part with as much of her money! What a wonderful gift.

It'll be interesting to see how this doll fits into the family. E has gotten angry with us when we haven't shown Sarah the proper deference as a member of the family. Last year I received a Mother's Day card from Sarah, addressed to Grandma. Since I am old enough to be my kids' grandma, that did not please me so very much! But then Daddy got a Grandpa card so I felt better. Anyway, I wonder if Sarah will get moved down the pecking order or will maintain alpha doll status...

Pluses and minuses

Most things in life have pluses and minuses. Most every choice we make has a cost of some kind. Inspired by my recent move and this post of Kerri's, I've been trying to look more closely at the pluses than the minuses in my life.

For example, my new kitchen. I didn't realize that I had a palace kitchen in my old house. I knew it was big, and nice, but I didn't realize how much so till I moved in here. This is the smallest and cruddiest kitchen I have ever tried to cook in. Except, maybe, in a vacation cabin, though I haven't spent much time in vacation cabins. There are two sets of cabinets, both cheap and flimsy, and they don't match. Some of the cupboard doors look as though they had been chewed on by an animal. If I have my drain board up on the counter (which is my habit because I hate drying dishes), I have no space to cook. Truly, no space.

Somehow, I missed these flaws when I looked at this house in February. Oh, I knew about the ugly lime green countertops and backsplashes, but such things are relatively easy and cheap to change. But how did I not notice the chew marks? Or the fact that the corner sink setup is designed to get water all over the floor? I figure I am either really unobservant and looked too quickly, or God blinded me to because this was the house I am supposed to live in.

But... just to the right of the refrigerator there is a nice french door that goes out to my lovely, shady backyard. It's a really nice yard. My yard in Oregon was bigger, and more fun for the kids, but this yard... there are no mole holes in it! None! The grass is smooth and soft; we can walk around in bare feet. My old yard was bumpy from the mole holes and full of crabgrass, with no shade. Now I have shade trees and a nice spot for the hammock, and some pretty hostas in the corners. There is space for more plantings. We can easily eat outside now. In our other house, the backyard was not easily accessible. How can that be, you ask? You go out a door, and you're outside, right? If you had ever been in my house, you'd know what I mean. In order to eat outside, we had to sit on a hot, exposed-to-the-road deck or on the back porch. The back porch was shady in the evenings, but to get there from the kitchen we had to walk downstairs and through another room. That doesn't sound so bad but when you're trying to get food, utensils, etc. to the picnic table... it's not worth the hassle. Here, we are steps away from dinner outside. Or breakfast, as we are doing this morning before it gets too hot.

Of course with less space in the kitchen, there is less to clean!

For the past 3 mornings I have gone, alone, for walks. This has been a dream of mine for a long time. My new neighborhood is made up of quiet streets with pretty houses that are interesting to look at. I wander and ponder, thinking of inexpensive ways to personalize the front of our house. Wondering if flower beds in front would be worth the work, or if there's another way I can inject color. My old house was on a busy, windy, narrow-in-places road that was not so pleasant for walking. Walking is my favorite form of exercise, and I need more of it. During the move, I lost 10 pounds. All that packing, loading, unloading, stress... now I need to keep the weight off (and lose some more). Starting the new habit of walking will help.

When I looked out most windows in my old house, I couldn't see any other houses, just trees.... it was beautiful. But here I see pretty houses with flowers and green lawns. I see the homes of sweet older ladies who have already befriended us. We lost some privacy, but are gaining some friends.

I know more pluses and minuses will come up. But now I have to make cinnamon toast and get back out onto the shady back porch and read some more of Mathilda to my children.