Archive for November 2013

A Truly Good Day   Leave a comment

This morning I got up when I was ready and made chocolate peanut butter muffins for the crew.

These were met with acclaim even by my oldest who prefers foods with actual sugar in them, accept no substitutes, so he will be going back to college with some muffins.

Greg and I cuddled on the couch looking out the living room window to our pond.  It was good to just take the time to be together; we weren’t really talking about anything.

Some friends came over around lunch time and hung out for about an hour.

The kids and I affixed return address labels to our Christmas card envelopes.  I started working on them, and then Helena said, “Oh can I help?” and Beren was like “Me too!” so we all had a stack of envelopes and a sheet of stickers.

I took Zach to get a haircut and there was maybe a gallon Ziploc bag worth of hair on the floor.  We joked that it looked big enough to gain sentience and begin moving around the floor as a small mammal.

Helena, Zach and I walked down to the creek behind our house to admire the icicles that have formed on the cliffs and are dripping downward.  The ice on the surface and near the creek is always fascinating to look at.

Back at the house, I  made lentil stew and scones for dinner.  Now people are sitting around reading, drawing, studying for finals, and watching M.A.S.H as their preferences dictate.

And I’m getting ready to do some drafts of the Christmas letter.

I was lying on the floor resting my back, thinking “I am so blessed.  What a great day.”

So I thought I’d write that thought down….

Posted November 30, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Christmas for Slobs (or How to Enjoy Yourself with Less than Half the Effort)   Leave a comment

by the author of the forthcoming manual Homeschooling for Slobs (when we get around to publishing it)

OK, this is a re-post from last year, but I can’t improve on my thoughts and I know people need to hear it, so…..Plus, I have added one more thought.  See Item number 6 below.

Does Christmas stress you out?  You don’t have to feel that way.  Just follow these five easy tips and join the Slob Revolution!

Item number 1: Decorations

My rule here is, never buy Christmas decorations.  People will give them to you anyway, and then you will have enough to make your house cheerful and festive, without having to worry much about where to store it all.  A few tasteful decorations go much farther than five boxes full of battery powered wreaths and all the rest.  It’ll take less time to take down as well.

Also I definitely don’t recommend putting up Christmas lights.  That can be a health risk and takes quite a few hours.  Here’s what you can do instead:  Gather the kids and your husband.  Get into your car.  Drive down your street.  (Or better yet, get some exercise while enjoying the lights, by walking!)  Maybe even make it into the next neighborhood.  You will see gorgeous light displays everywhere!  I like the blue lights on the Christmas trees in other people’s front yards.  I am especially fond of the white lighted reindeer.  Seriously, these light displays are awesome!  You will get so much enjoyment from them.  And the best part?  You don’t pay for anything but the gas money.  No cost for lights, no cost for electricity, no doctor bills from falling off the roof.  You really can’t lose!

Item number 2: Festive baked goods

I remember reading one of those “simplify your holidays” articles years ago, and here’s the part where I started choking.  This article recommended that, to decrease your stress level, you could make only 6 kinds of cookies, instead of your usual 15.  OK, maybe I’m exaggerating the former amount, but I am not exaggerating their recommendation of doing “only” six kinds of cookies.

What do these people do for a living?  SIX kinds of cookies?  I have always made two things: frosted sugar cookies and fudge. That’s it.  They are annual favorites, they are delicious, they are not hard to make.  And trust me, your kids will be getting enough sugar and food coloring from other sources anyway!  Boy, if I had ever known I was supposed to be making SIX kinds of cookies to be doing the holidays properly….I think I’d have just forgotten that fact.

And now I give you permission to forget it as well!  Make whatever you want, and hey, you could even buy it!

Item number 3: Decorating your Christmas tree

The way I handle this is, I have kids who are old enough to do the decorating themselves.  My husband brings the box in, and they all get the pieces out, set up the stand, and attach the branches.  My husband helps the kids with the lights, and then presto! They do the rest of the decorating!  The effect is wonderful, and I didn’t have to do it.

Item number 4: Christmas gift wrapping

This one kind of reads like number three.  I have a child who likes to wrap Christmas presents, so I definitely recommend letting a responsible child do the job for you.

If you don’t have a child who is old enough and capable enough, maybe you could borrow mine.

Item number 5: Christmas shopping made easy

My secret is that I buy things throughout the year when I see them, if I think someone will like them.  At yard sales, on sale, when traveling, whenever.  Then I already have a stash to draw from for my favorite people, and there is less pressure at the last minute to come up with something.

Of course this doesn’t always work.

Then I have to confess I turn to Amazon.  Or some other wonderful site on the internet.  I really like not having to leave home to go shopping, unless I am totally in the mood and ready for it!  If you order enough from a lot of these retailers, you can get free shipping, which makes it a winner all around, if you ask me.

Item Number 6: My new thought.  What is your favorite thing about Christmas?  Whatever it is, be sure to do that.  Don’t worry about the rest.  My favorite thing is probably writing the Christmas letter and sending it out.  I’d rather do that than wrap, bake or decorate.  If you get to do something you personally think is fun, I can guarantee you’ve increased your chances of enjoying yourself with less effort!

So…see, you really can have a fun Christmas season, with less stress, if you just take my advice.  Christmas is a lot more fun if you are a slob.  Then you can focus on whatever aspect of the season you enjoy the most.  Make time for those who are dear to you and those who are alone.  Do something fun and relaxing.  You can use some of the time you saved following these five helpful tips – and thanks for joining the Slob Revolution.

Posted November 29, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Writing   Leave a comment

I have a friend whose blog salutes me every morning, or whenever I download my messages, with an email alerting me to a new blog entry.  House of Bourbon is ready to tell me something and it’s kind of fun to find out what’s on her mind, on so regular a basis.

As for me, I’ve written maybe 12 blog entries over the past two years.  But I think now that there are some creative juices not tied up with the college admissions process, not to mention hours of time tied up with that, I might actually have something to say.  I can feel the urge to write coming on.  Only problem is so many of the things I do are already computer based….so I will have to keep finding a place that’s balanced.

I think my realization has been that I don’t have to write about something big, stunningly intellectual or unique.  I don’t have to wait for a truly outstanding blog idea to hit me.

It’s OK to just write about something that happened that day.

It will all come together when I just start tippity-tapping.

So hopefully you’ll hear from me more often.

Posted November 29, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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An Early Start   Leave a comment

Beren was awake at about 5 a.m. yesterday.

That beats his Christmas records cold.  He was so excited about road tripping to pick his older brother Zach up at his dorm and bring him home from college for Thanksgiving, that he was awake as early as he’s ever been awake.

I saw the light coming in my door from downstairs when I rolled over but I was like I am not going down there, I’m going back to sleep.  So I did, and thankfully Beren and all my kids have been well-trained to not wake up mama before 7 a.m.  I was able to get more sleep and so, he said, was he, as he dozed a while on our soporific brown couch under our softest throw.

It was a long day, but a happy one for us, as we all undertook the trip to retrieve Zach, a lot of his stuff that can’t stay in the dorm over Christmas vacation, and his debilitated bike, which looked so much so, that when the guys got it loaded onto the bike rack of the van, it was decorated with a cheerful pink tag letting Zach know it was about to be impounded.  But! it was spared that last indignity by being rescued by Dad (who is now going to show Zach how to be Bicycle Repairman so he won’t have to be Bicycle Repairman).

It was a great reunion.

Zach looked at me and said, “Have you shrunk? Because you’re shorter than I remember.” and I replied, “You look taller than I remember!” and then we both laughed.

We didn’t hit a ridiculous amount of traffic on the way home, it looked just like regular rush hour.  Thankfully we were back home around 8:45, heating up leftover soup, hauling in tubs of Zach’s stuff, and with the cats giving Zach their seal of approval again.  It looks like they both remember him.

And later when I was getting ready for bed, I  heard something I hadn’t heard for so long and didn’t expect–the sound of the piano being played downstairs.

Refreshing, as after a drought of several months.

The only other thing I seem to be obsessed about at the moment is this–I keep thinking, “He has got to get a haircut!”

Posted November 28, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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The World Is Changed   1 comment

The world is changed.
I feel it in the earth.
I feel it in the water.
I smell it in the air.

I have been trying to come up with a list of things about my life now that are the same as they were ten, twenty, thirty years ago.  Even with the shortest number of years, it’s getting hard to do.

Ten years ago I was a young mother.

I was a mother of young children.

I was being a mom, still finding my way to “how to” mother, having babies.

I was just starting to maybe begin to get the rhythm of homeschooling, but had meltdowns every time school started in the early fall.  And I only had one student!

We lived in a rural area near a college town and had been there for eight years with every anticipation of remaining forever.

We traveled a time or two a year, if we were lucky, to see my parents and my husband’s parents; they all lived too far away to do more, but we enjoyed our vacations with them very much.

We enjoyed a small, warm, vibrant church fellowship where everyone knew everyone.  I played piano and helped lead the singing.

Currently, I have had to take note that I am no longer realistically allowed to call myself young.

And, my children really aren’t young either.   Ten years ago, I had an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old, and was about four months pregnant with my youngest.  Now the same children are 18, 13 and 9 and a half….a very different set of ages, abilities and ideas.  They certainly aren’t babies any more, as my youngest has to keep reminding me.

Now I have approximately thirteen and a half years of homeschooling experience and one graduate, by any standard a respectable credential.

We live in on six acres near a major metropolitan area and know better than to think we will be staying here forever.

We have my parents living nearby so we can enjoy them and be of more help as they get older.  We’ve lost my husband’s father and his mother is in her 80s.

We enjoy a large, warm, vibrant church community where I cannot possibly (much to my frustration) know everybody, although I greet on Sundays as part of my effort to meet every person.  I listen to the music the band provides, playing by chords, instead of running through a “A Mighty Fortress” and a prelude myself.

I know, I know, life is change.

But I think this before and after snapshot is a bigger shift, in many ways, than others I have taken in my lifetime.

I know I’ve left some of my changes out.  The main one is probably who I am and who others think I am.  We moved seven years ago; it’s taken me that long to finally realize that people seem to think I know what I’m doing, that I’m an expert at what I do, that I don’t need any help and that I have help to offer (last one definitely true!).  The biggest change for me from ten years ago is realizing that I’m an older woman, someone people look to for advice, help or support.  I am older.  Not a bad thing.  Just still hard to fathom.

Ten years ago I was still having kids.  I think having babies makes you feel like your life is just starting.  At least, your intention is to be around as long as the child needs you, which you know will be a long time.  Hence the feeling that it’s all in front of you.  It is a great adventure.

And when you see one of those children fly the nest, then you realize, finally, that all of your life is most definitely not in front of you.

And I think that realization is the biggest shift I have ever made.  So no wonder it feels so new.

Posted November 25, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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8 more days   Leave a comment

In 8 more days, I get to see my boy again.

And no, I’m not counting down.  At least I haven’t been the entire time he’s been gone.  Nope — when I saw that it was three plus months between now and then, I definitely chose not to mess with  my head by counting down.

But now that it’s less than two weeks away I confess that is how my brain works each day when I look at the calendar for the days’ events, usually just to check and see that I’m not missing anything important.

My brain then goes, “10 more days til we see Zach,” or however many more days it is, of its own volition.

This fall has gone well with school, bypassing my traditional “Start of Term Meltdown,” for which all involved are grateful.  At this point I don’t worry that I can’t possibly help the kids learn this year.  So much the better.  We’ve enjoyed fall, the kids are both moving forward with their work, and re-grouping is starting to make sense to Beren.  Helena has archery practice every Monday night, and scouts every other week, and Beren has participated in two STEM classes at the local science center downtown.

So we’ve been busy enough that we haven’t been completely lost without Zach, but almost every day, what Zach does, did, thinks, said or would say, comes up in conversation amongst the four of us.

Just tonight, Beren was putting plates out on the table, and started off, “Mom there aren’t enough–Oh.”  So, we still haven’t fully adjusted to not being five people.

And the closer we get to the first reunion after Zach left for college, the more I think about him.  Even though he is now officially a Pimento Loafed Iguana Man, and not just a Youth-Man-Thingie.  Maybe he’s both.

Anyway, we’ll sure be glad to see him.

Posted November 19, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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