Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Our Trip to Yellowstone   1 comment

We just went to Utah last September and we went to Florida in April, but we wanted to cram in one more big camping trip before Zach leaves for college and his schedule becomes out of our hands.  I’m so glad we were able to go.  Couldn’t do it without Greg leading set up and sharing his precious vacation days with his family in this way!

We left June 22nd and spent the night at an RV park near St. Joseph MO.  It was a windy hot but we managed thanks to showers and a fan for the kids.

Night two we made it to the Badlands.  Last time I drove through South Dakota was in ’99 and Zach pointed out there was a drought that year, so this year, South Dakota looked positively verdant to me.  Green waves of grass going on and on.  We even saw the Wessington Hills of to our north as we went west on the interstate, that Laura Ingalls mentions in her books.

The Badlands campground was almost full but we did get a spot.  The kids of course wanted to go off exploring into the hills immediately.  We did do some of that but not too far as it was dusk and this seemed like a bad idea to me.  Coming back to our campsite we got a view of the full moon rising over the Badlands.  Pretty nice.

Next day we did some more hiking and exploring, with Zach descending into a crack in the earth, and Helena following.  That day was one of the longest, in a good way, that I have ever experienced.  I think being in that time zone and that far north and being on vacation had this effect that it seemed as if “the morning lasted all day.”  It was wild.  We had time to go to the Visitor Center, gift shop, and the lodge gift shop, and we still had time to relax.  There were some lovely wildflowers in the camping area, which I didn’t remember seeing when I’d last been in that area.  I did enjoy hearing the Western meadowlarks singing away; they were all over the place.

That evening we took a scenic drive, which took us through some wind and rain as a storm moved through the area very slowly and majestically.  We had seen coming back at the ranch, and closed up the camper, but I don’t think it ever actually rained there.  You can see such distances you can watch the whole thing traveling for miles.  The drive was lovely.  We enjoyed seeing a whole flock of Bighorn sheep mamas with their babies, babies who wanted to nurse right in the middle of the road!

Leaving there on the 25th of June, we took in Mount Rushmore in about 45 minutes.  OK, three of us had been there before, so maybe that’s why it didn’t take all that long.

Then it was onward through Wyoming (where my cell phone decided my phone messages were password protected, for the first time in seven years, for no reason I could discern) and heading north and west to Lodge Grass to take the back roads to Fort Smith Montana where I had lived in 5th and 6th grade.  It’s a long drive, there’s a lot of beautiful ground to cover.   I didn’t remember seeing the northern end of the Bighorn mountains with snow still on it….but maybe at Fort Smith, since you’re so tucked up under the foothills, you don’t see the mountains.

We were greeted on our arrival by the box elder bugs in the hundreds, crawling all over the admission kiosk for Bighorn Canyon NRA.  Zach was delighted to see them, and it was fun for me as well because I used to have such fun “bugging” those bugs when they were thriving on the south wall of our house all summer.

We camped that night in the Afterbay campground and I took Greg and Helena and Beren for a scenic tour of the playground and my old street.  The street and my house looked a bit smaller than I remembered, but the hill behind the house, not.  That really was a big hill and it was exciting and fun to climb when we used to go to the top for something fun to do.  The playground equipment was almost all the same and Beren enjoyed an actual merry-go-round.  It was fun playing on the playground I enjoyed as a 10-year-old.  Visitor Center at Yellowtail Dam had not changed an iota since 1979, that I could tell.  It was like time traveling.

Next day we went through Hardin, me thinking of old friends, some already dead and gone, while Beren was trying to interest me in a game of charades. That’s an interesting gig to try to pull off; relate fully to your child when you are about 35 years in the past…  We met my friend Rosanne in Billings and had lunch with her and her charming daughter.  What a treat.  She claims I haven’t changed since 1979, and she really hadn’t either, what are the odds of that?  She actually remembered what we did at my 12th birthday party better than I did!  It was a sleepover and we told creepy stories!  OK.  Good memory.

We then got to spend a long weekend with Greg’s brother and his wife. They showed us a really good time. We got to pan for Montana sapphires, the kids and Greg went fishing in a beautiful valley, we took a tour of Helena on the trolley, enjoyed ice cream, a carousel and Monsters University.  We of course had to take a picture of Helena with a sign that featured her name.

Leaving Monday, July 1st, we drove south along the Madison river into the Yellowstone area.  Went to the Hebgen lake quake and slide area, but unfortunately the VC was closed for renovations.  I was deeply impressed as a kid by that area and the lake that was created by the slide.  Then we headed on through West Yellowstone into the park as Greg wanted to be sure to get a good campsite.  However, they assign sites, and thankfully it was a nice campsite surrounded by trees.  That night after setting up we went to the Mammoth Hot Springs area and saw those with the sun setting, also quite a few elk and buffalo.  One buffalo was resting placidly by a bubbling water pool just right at the edge of the road.

The next day we went all around.  We hiked to Lower and Upper Yellowstone Falls.  Worth the climb back up, definitely.  Unbelievably beautiful with all that cold, green water shooting over the edge like living marble.  The foam rebounds about a third of the way up on the Lower Falls, and that would be 100 feet or so.  There was even a big blob of snow/ice stuck to the south side of the canyon below the top of the falls.  While Zach and Greg did Uncle Tom’s trail to the bottom of the lower falls, Beren, Helena and I walked out to Artist’s point, the place from which Moran painted his iconic image.  That too was worth the trip.

In the afternoon and evening we saw more sights probably setting a record for the most places seen by our family on vacation in 24 hours.  We went to the Norris Geyser Basin and saw various springs and fumaroles, and fortuitously were just walking toward Constant Geyser when it went off!  Very fun.  Then it was on to Old Faithful and we were not disappointed. This was the highlight of the trip for Beren, and we all enjoyed getting baptised by that most reliable geyser.  On the way back we stopped at the Artist’s Paint Pots and were not disappointed with that hike — there were several lovely thick blorping mud pots at the top of the trail and many other lovely bubbling pits elsewhere.  The Canyon area VC was outstanding I might add, a great 3D model of the area which explains the supervolcano and caldera. Too bad Yellowtail Dam VC can’t get some of the Yellowstone funds diverted for an update…

That night we had the honor and privilege of having some dear friends from home whose visit overlapped ours drive around and around the Canyon campground looking for us, because we had planned to meet, but my messages, all THREE of them, that had our campsite number, went astray!  What are the odds? Anyway, their devotion earned us a very pleasant late evening visit with them complete with refreshments that were their dinner.

Next morning we headed out to Grand Teton NP which I am told I’ve visited before, but not in living memory…which I have very little of anyway!  I loved it here.  Beren says if you’re looking for scenery definitely Grand Teton is the best, although personally Yellowstone was his favorite.  And I have to agree with him, what we saw just got even more gorgeous every place we went.  You’ve seen those photos of pink, giant mountains with fields of wildflowers in the foreground?  Yes, that is a real place, and you can drive to it.  They are block fault mountains which means they have no foothills, which is why they are so impressive.  I could stay a few years in Jackson Hole and not be sorry, I think.

And one fun highlight was the neighbor’s duck waddling down to introduce herself.  We had noticed they were camping with a duck and imagine my delight when the duck got bored when only the dad was in the campsite, and waddled briskly over, quacking quietly all the while, to settle herself in the pine litter between my chair and Beren’s.  We loved her!  Her name was Dusty and her embarrassed “father” came to get her and took her back when she began nibbling the tags on the camp chairs.

We took a drive up Wilson Moose Road the first night looking for moose; saw none but two lovely beavers who were beaving, and tons of wildflowers, roses, roaring streams, and it smelled like Alaska.  Next day it was the ferry across Jenny Lake and a hike to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and into Cascade Canyon. Beren and I turned back before the rest did, but he and I hiked at least two miles.  It was great.  Very tired that night, had a lovely shower and then strolled by the lake and took more pictures.  Tried to get photos of pink mountains in the a.m. but no luck clouds in the east blocked the sunrise.  Don’t regret getting up at 545 though.  It’s easy to do when I’m in the mountains, on vacation, further north where there is more light….There are waterfalls tumbling down every valley as you see across the lake and it just goes up and up something like what Aslan’s county is.

Feel so blessed that we were able to go out there.  Drove back through Wyoming’s incredible variable scenery and spent the night along the Front Range with Greg’s cousin and his family. What a treat.  We got a wonderful mix of family and friends and scenery the whole trip.  We hauled Mom and Dad’s canoe home from Denver although the wind in Kansas tried to get us to leave it there.  A flat tire near Evansville Indiana was our only mishap.

I haven’t even looked through all our pictures since Greg uploaded them, haven’t had time due to taking Zach to college orientation.  But I will and savor them until I can get back to Wyoming….

Posted July 20, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Zach’s Graduation   1 comment

June 15th, 2013.

You don’t know how these big days are going to go for sure, until they go.  I’m happy to say that all the pieces of the plan came together yesterday and God provided a time to celebrate Zach that was fun and meaningful for Greg and me, for Zach, and it appears for our friends who attended.

You know how some days become associated with songs in your mind.  I had several today that were playing in my mind and on the radio on the trip in to the grocery store….”You are I am” by Mercy Me and the new one by Sidewalk Prophets called “Help Me Find It.”  Maybe because they are related to the journey forward into whatever is next.

The morning for me was a grocery trip with a full cart and pushing the cart (one of two that went out) back in to get the full size sheet cake for Zach.  I’ve never bought a store-bought sheet cake before (with maybe one exception) but this seemed like a logical occasion to do so.  I told the friends I saw and everyone to whom I could mention it, that my son was graduating today.

Greg’s brother Glenn and his wife Linda and her sister Sheryl came over early to help us set up.  This was very helpful with food, cutting up cheese and preparing pineapple, and the guys set up camp chairs outside and some tables we had borrowed.

We had a table on the front porch that I covered with a bug themed sheet Zach used on his bed as a small boy, and that was where we put the tray for his gifts, his senior picture, a picture of him as a 2 year old, and a large signable mat we used as his guest book.

I kept rechecking my list as the day went along to be sure I didn’t miss something important like getting the punch blocks out of the freezer in time to thaw properly when the 7-Up was added!

I am so grateful for the friends who took on various jobs to help me, Tim for filming the graduation ceremony, Margie for taking photographs, our friends who brought more chairs, Miss Janet  for sharing her thoughts, Glenn, Linda and Sheryl for all their prep help, and my parents for bringing tables, chairs, food, and themselves.  They had a wonderful final part in the ceremony as well, that I wasn’t expecting and hadn’t planned.

And…friends, dear friends. Thank you for the gift of your presence.  Thank you for the love that was coming from some special people who could not make it here, thinking especially of Grandma Dottie  and Judy and Jerry, who were very disappointed to not be able to be present.

Once all had arrived and we had approximately 50 people in and around the house, Zach went up to get dressed in his cap and gown.  We had a “barefoot graduation” here as he decided he didn’t need shoes.  Greg had written some encouragement up for Zach, about his name and its significance and the meaning of a name.  Then Janet told us a few stories about Zach as she remembered him from his time with her at Kids Co-op.  Beren surprised us with the loving insight that he still loves Zach even though they bicker.  Then I shared my thoughts for Zach and encouragement.

At that point we picked up two gifts we had for Zach and his diploma, and presented each with a word of explanation.  I gave him a CD of Sidewalk Prophets which includes “The Words I Would Say.”  This song has made me think of Zach ever since I first heard it a couple years ago when it came out.  We also had a book of family history and memories, which I have been working on for almost 18 years now…since my mother gave it to me for a birthday present the year Zach was born.  Then we gave Zach his diploma.  It really is a gorgeous official diploma, signed by both the school administrator and the lead teacher.  Gotta love that official touch.

Then my parents had their part, and Dad shared memories of Zach and encouragement, and then Greg, Zach and I came down from the porch and everyone gathered around and my mother prayed for Zach as he goes forth, with everyone gathered around laying hands on Zach, or on someone else nearby if they couldn’t reach.  Talk about powerful.  I had thought briefly of this myself, but when I delegated the conclusion of the evening of prayer to them, I did not have any idea how they would handle it.  I can’t imagine a better way to send out a graduate.  It reallyblessed me to be a part of that physical representation of our spiritual connection.

We finished off with cake and punch and other munchables.

I don’t know when is the last time I have enjoyed something so much, that was that much work to organize and put together.  Every guest brought a joy to my heart and God graciously orchestrated everything so that Zach had a good graduation day, and I did too.  I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, and that was an added bonus.

Thank you everyone for your love and support in Zach’s life and your prayers and encouragement as he moves onward.

Posted June 17, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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The World’s Greatest Cookie   1 comment

I recently made one of the world’s most delicious cookie recipes, after quite a long hiatus.  I have to say of everything I cook, most of it, with a couple of exceptions, is recipes from friends and family.  I do use two or three excellent cookbooks on a regular basis, but overall, the best recipes are those in my ratty old accordion file that’s falling apart.  They’re written on recipe cards, index cards, bits of notebook paper, the back of a page of Juan Goytisolo’s Marks of Identify that I read as  college freshman, a few cut out of magazines and the newspaper.

The other great thing about a recipe from a friend, is that when you make it, you think of that person and fun times you had together.

When you make a recipe given to you by someone who has died, I think it’s a way to make them live again, just a bit.

When I make this cookie recipe, I remember how they were always in a glass cookie jar, waiting for me when I went to visit my grandmother in Oklahoma City.  I remember summer dinners in the dim dining room, the window A/C humming away bringing gloriously cold air to us.  I remember my grandmother’s smile and her big brown eyes.  So many memories there.  When I make the cookies I think with so much love of Gramma.

When I eat them I think of her too. Somehow food has that power for good.  Maybe it’s not the most nutritious recipe you’ve ever seen, but hey, it’s  a cookie.  It’s not supposed to be nutritious.

To good food and good memories and the love of a good grandmother.

World’s Greatest Cookie

1 cup butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 6 oz. package chocolate chips

Cream butter and peanut butter together.  Gradually add sugars and cream until blended.  Add eggs and beat until smooth.  Add flour and soda.  (Gramma says to sift flour twice, but I have managed to get along without that step for 25 years now.)  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by teaspoon onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake in 325 oven for 15 minutes.  Makes 6 dozen.

Posted June 6, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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The Speed of Life   Leave a comment

keeps on rolling past me.  Dad and Mom are packed up and loading the truck tomorrow.  My dad and uncle will be arriving after a trip that takes them through five states brings their stuff to their new home, a retirement community on the south side of our metro area.  They may need our help unloading on Friday, since Mom is taking the scenic route and bringing her college roommate with her a few days later.  But they are going to be settled in nearby, soon, so we can give them a hand whenever it’s needed from here on out, after  living quite independently hundreds of miles away for the past 28 years.

Can this really be happening to me already?

My youngest has orthodontia in his mouth, due to needing more space to eliminate the cross bite the dentist pointed out last fall.  He just turned 9, for Pete’s sake!

Already?  The baby has an orthodontia bill?  and not to mention the one belonging to the middle child.

I’ve got a box in my closet with 1) graduation invitations 2) graduation announcements 3) a diploma and 4) a cap and gown that all refer to my oldest as someone who is graduating or has graduated, please join us for a celebration the evening of blah blah following will be cake and punch.

I swear, the last time I turned around he did NOT have abundant impressive sideburns!

When did this happen?

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

The one thing I don’t want to start doing is to tell sleep deprived new moms to “enjoy these days, they go by so fast.”

Even if it is true.

Posted April 14, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Feast or Famine?   1 comment

I came to the conclusion quite a few years ago that with children, it’s one or the other.  I don’t know why I didn’t pick up on this years before that watching my own parents.  It seems like they were always available, always loving, never tired, and rarely crabby.  But when I talk to them about life when my brother and I were little, I know that can’t be the case.  Mom has talked about longingly looking forward to the time when I would be in school and she could get a break.  I just don’t remember anything about that from the perspective of a child.

The only memory I have of mom losing it was the first winter we lived in Juneau Alaska.  Dad was out of town and some combination of weather conditions, and bad windows meant our picture windows had water running down the insides of them.  I remember Mom crying on the phone to somebody from church, who did help her take care of the flood on the inside, so she could stop her own personal flood.  Who could blame her?  Dark Alaskan winter coming down in a new town thousands of miles from the home, husband away, and water on the wrong side of the plate glass.  Oi.

But in general, kids can’t relate to adult challenges.  It’s not our problem.  I couldn’t relate then, and I just didn’t know what it was like for an adult caring for someone else, day in day out.

So…I didn’t know, even though all the evidence was there, what it would truly be like to carry those responsibilities of parenthood.  Of course, nobody can in advance, even if you babysat for months, or carried an egg around in your purse, or wore a fake baby thing in a sling for a month.

I remember the day we drove my mother in law to the airport for her return trip home.  I’d had help until then.  She told me “Keep looking up,” boarded her plane, and then I had to trot to the women’s bathroom to change my firstborn’s diaper.  I had never done this without some other helpful person around.  I got him on the changing table and had the diaper off before I realized the disaster it was.  I desperately needed more wipes, as in paper towels would be good. But, you know the rule, never leave baby unattended on the changing table.  I actually called out in the echoing room for help, thinking maybe some passing woman would come in and rescue me.  Nothing doing.  At that moment, I knew, he really was my responsibility for the next 18 years, amen.

I love the gifts of parenthood.  But I can honestly say, I don’t like how I can’t sign off for a few days or weeks when it feels like the need strikes.

Obviously it isn’t a need, or the human race wouldn’t have survived this long.

Those times you do manage to arrange a getaway, after dreaming of it for weeks…my main memories of those trips away with my husband seem to revolve around the way we’d literally collapse on the bed in the B and B first thing, and fall asleep.  Never mind the trendy shops, dinner out, or lovemaking.  It was being able to just take a nap if we wanted to, and that was usually the first thing we wanted to do!

But the thing is…once you have been given  a child, nursed himthrough some high fevers, read him Goodnight Moon a hundred times, felt her warm heavy weight on your lap and smelled its sweetness, once you’ve given him a birthday present that lit him up like a torch, once you’ve learned to truly love someone other than yourself…there’s no going back.

If that child is out of your home, it’s too quiet.  If that child is gone to Grandma’s for 10 days when he’s 12, you have a lonely place in your heart that is way too big to believe.  If there is an empty seat at the table, it feels like something is missing.  If your daughter’s bedroom door is shut, you leave it that way because you can then pretend that she’s actually in there drawing or reading or cuddling with her cat.

Loving your children and meeting their needs is exhausting.  But not having them around just plain feels wrong.

For now, I can’t get my head and heart any further around this, than just moving forward one day, one hour, one task at a time, rejoicing that I do have a family which needs me.  There will come a time when it will be quiet here.  Thank God for this day with my children.

Posted April 14, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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The Future Came In   Leave a comment

Yesterday was a big day in my life.

Nothing major actually happened, but two things transpired that are landmarks for me.

First, I found out that my oldest son, Zach, has been accepted to study entomology at Ohio State University.

Second, I talked with my mom and she told me that she and Dad have spent enough time here in Louisville that they have decided to move here, and they will be looking for a house soon.  They aim to find a place and make a down payment before they even leave to go back to Denver and sell their house there.

So…I am now officially promoted to a new phase of life.  I can no longer continue living in the delusion that I am a young mother.  I keep feeling like I’m a young mother…I still don’t always know what to do in parenting situations.  I don’t feel like it’s been all that long since my second child was born.  But….all these facts tell me I actually must be middle-aged.  (Well, honestly, there are quite a few other factors that have tipped me off that I’m middle-aged, but we’re just talking surface facts here.)

Mom and Dad will be moving to Kentucky from Denver because they want to be near us as they get older.  So that means they really are getting older, and they are serious about taking proactive steps to make things easier later.  I’ve already told them they have a lot of courage to make a move like this at the ages of 77 and 73.  I know they will find all kinds of good things to get involved with here, and it will be wonderful to see so much more of them, and for them as well, to get to see their grandchildren on a regular basis, instead of once or twice a year.  Still, it’s a huge shift to my thinking to have us all be at this point.

And for my kid.  I’ve homeschooled for the past almost 13 years, wiped his butt, held his hand, made his dinner, all the while never realizing there was an end point in view.  I just couldn’t see it.

But that acceptance letter has made the exit perfectly clear.  And it’s just unbelievable.

Yesterday, the door opened, and let the future in.

 

Posted January 30, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Ten Ways to Counter the “Overconnection Disconnect”   Leave a comment

Talking with some friends on Facebook (yes where else would I be talking with them?) I asked why people don’t have time to get together with other people these days.  Why do studies show that people have less close friends than they used to?

Several people mentioned that back in 85 when the original study was done, there was no internet.  If people wanted to connect to people, they sure weren’t using Facebook.  You could call, write, or…..call, write, or just walk over there and see the person.

While I love how Facebook has brought me together with friends, and helped me reconnect with people whom I had completely and totally lost touch with…I don’t like the way we are feeling disconnected more and more, when you would think with the world getting smaller, we’d feel more connected.

So in the spirit of encouraging true connection I offer these suggestions for us all — including myself.

1.  Buy a small package of note cards.

2. Buy the stamps the go with them.

3. Write a card to a friend you haven’t seen in a while, a relation, heck someone you have just seen!

4. Enjoy the opportunity to talk to the clerk at the store or post office.

5. Take a walk.  Hope you see actual neighbors and can say hello to them.

6. Use the telephone.  Pick it up and call someone.  Keep calling until you find someone who answers their phone, and then, have a conversation with them that has no emoticons in it.

7. Go outside on your lunch break instead of using the internet.

8. Call a friend and invite her to join you for lunch.

9. Spend time with other people working on a common cause.

10. Call someone and invite them to come over for dinner or games.

Maybe it just takes the effort to step away from the screen…which I promise I will do in just a moment…and focus on the person right in front of you.

That’s where I’m going now.

 

Posted December 11, 2012 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Christmas for Slobs (or How to Enjoy Yourself with Less than Half the Effort)   5 comments

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

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.

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 December 11, 2012 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Sort of a Thanksgiving Reflection   Leave a comment

Not that I was setting out to write something about Thanksgiving.  This is actually  something that’s been on my mind for several weeks now, as I’ve been calling SAT to try to get steps taken for Zach to get a re-test, since he didn’t get to use the accommodations he was approved for when he tested November 3.  Due to misunderstandings and snafus, and despite Zach telling his proctor that he did have extended time, they didn’t allow him to have it.  Mistakes happen and when they found out their mistake the staff was most apologetic and kind.

I personally found the situation fairly frustrating.  Part of it was that I’d already spent about 8 hours on the phone, not counting thinking and planing time, calling around the area trying to find a school that would accommodate Zach.  Since we homeschool, we had to do that legwork ourselves, something I definitely wasn’t aware of when he was initially granted the extended time plus use of a keyboard.  So, after that 8 hours phone time (not counting the number of hours I put in earlier filling out the paperwork and providing documentation to qualify in the first place) I’d say at this point, I’m pretty invested in getting him the time.

It’s been hard for me not to keep thinking about the situation, wishing those “if only’s” that come after things don’t work out they way you planned.  If only they had listened to Zach.  If only the paperwork they received had been more clear.  If only they had let parents into the building so I could have straightened this thing out initially….

But here’s what has really emerged for me as I think about how easily I have gotten hung up over this situation.  Intellectually I can step back and say this is really not that big a deal, and realize there are more important things to put my energy into.  But my bottom line that I keep reverting back to has been how annoying this is and how it shouldn’t have happened.  On the other hand, my son has been fine with it.  He said he felt like he did pretty well without the time.  And even if he didn’t he wasn’t upset.  He wasn’t worried.  When we discussed whether we should try to get a re-test, he said we should, only if it wouldn’t be a big hassle for me! 

So as I’ve seen this it seems to me that he’s internalized a lot better than I have what I’ve been hoping to share with the kids — that God is in control, that he knows what he’s doing, and that he knows what Zach’s future is.  Zach doesn’t have his heart set on getting into a particular school.

He seems to be completely comfortable with what is, and does not have an urge to wrestle with what isn’t.  I’ve seen this in my other children as well, and it’s very humbling.  It is the way I want to be.  I don’t understand it because my nature argues with everything that happens to me that I don’t like.  But that’s the thing, the problem is my problem, and my clinging to my little wish list for life, as if my plan and my expectations are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  As if my worrying, fretting, scheming and planning for what I want, could possibly be better than what God is already arranging.  Or has arranged depending on what mind bending way you want to talk about space, time, eternity and how God is outside of it all. 

I know this already, but it’s always beneficial to have an opportunity to make it more real.  To keep going to God, to get into alignment with whatever he’s doing, instead of trying to forge my own path, as if that were even possible.  I’m glad he’s moving me out of my fantasy castle in which I believe that every dream I have should come true and I get everything I want, into reality with the rest of the human race. 

And I remain amazed? humbled? by observing my children who are content with things as they are.  I’m glad to be reminded that I can work hard, pray hard, and that is all as it should be, but I don’t have to own the outcomes.  Those are in much finer hands than mine.

Posted November 22, 2012 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

One of those days…not the bad kind   1 comment

Yesterday was one of those days….the good kind.  The kind that you start to think will just never happen again when you’re into the thick  of parenting, homeschooling, special needing, and life in general, and you’re so busy you feel like you’re being buried with a pile of paperwork and stuff.

We had company in for the weekend as it was Helena’s Scouting Court of Awards; Greg’s mom and brother came down from Michigan to participate in that with us, and Zach had his piano recital on Sunday afternoon at 4:30. We are finished with our school year and that brought a sense of relief, even though there are still a few hours at least of teacher inservice for me, so to speak, as I get paperwork, portfolios and records together.  Then we had such a good time being with family and felt so happily blessed to have Mom and Gary here — that they wanted to be here with us, just felt good.  Church was good — was glad to see some of our friends from group and talk with them briefly before getting back home.  Then the afternoon was a really pretty day, taking it easy at home, watching Mom enjoy the birds, the sun and the outdoors.

To wrap it up, I drove Zach to his recital with Mom and Gary (Helena wasn’t with us, she was enjoying a trip to a water/amusement park with her scout squad, and that was a huge success! she told us all about it on her return).  Zach played all three movements of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and he was happy with the results.  I was so glad for him he was able to handle the slips and mistakes, of which there were a few more than usual, but then that last movement is really really difficult to play!  He was pleased with his performance and was happy and joking at the end.  There was a time when that would not have been the case as he is a perfectionist, and every other recital except one, he has basically played his pieces perfectly.  His entire performance ran almost 19 minutes worth of the recital!  A great treat as well was that our good friends Kerridwen, her daughters Priya and Meenakshi, and friend Toby and her son Ethan, came to hear Zach play!  We just felt surrounded by love and support.  At least I did — I don’t know how Zach felt, but that would be my guess.

It was such a good day for us.  I had a hard time winding down in the evening…. after saying goodnight to Mom and Gary, Zach went outside and I ended up going also, to be treated to the most lovely firefly display I’ve ever seen.  There may have been different species than usual in our area, because they blinked differently.  Usually they light up when rising upwards, but this time we had some in the trees blinking three times in a row, others like a strobe near the ground and still others just flashing, in rippling concert with the others.  Zach and I wandered out to the large field behind our barn and there were dozens to a couple hundred out there.  The trees were dark, the light glow from Louisville above them a bit brighter, and the stars quite bright above that.  Along the trees, over the field, all around us, were fireflies.  It looked like a film of star birth life and death greatly speeded up, flashes coming and going in ripples all over the trees by the creek. Quiet and dark, a few American toads calling, some crickets, and the lovely lights of the fireflies.  I was just celebrating in my heart the moment, and being there with Zach, and knowing he was rejoicing in being with me and the fireflies as well.

Today — back to daylight and reality.   But — I had that day, I had that evening, it really happened.  There really are days like that, scattered in amongst all the dust and dirt.   Gems of the night, just like those incredible fireflies.

Posted May 22, 2012 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized