I Know What I’m Getting For Mother’s Day

The girls and I went to the mall today to take advantage of Ben and Jerry’s free cone day. It was a nice break after a long morning of punching through their school work. While we were walking around the mall with our dripping cones, I introduced the concept of “window shopping” to them. Maddie laughed like I made that up, but I said, “No – this is a real term; when you just look from outside the stores and don’t really spend any money.” Oh, okay.

Well, while window shopping, I occasionally overheard whispers and points to various items. My two older girls fell victim to a “Buy this for Mother’s Day!” ad and suddenly the wheels in their brains began turning and I could read their thoughts. And their thoughts made me a bit nervous because all the things they were pointing to were neither things I needed, nor things I wanted them to spend their precious cash on, thinking it would be the perfect thing. I didn’t say anything, though. And they didn’t ask for any of their cash (they know better by now – I keep it in the bank and usually make them wait a good week or more before giving any to them to make sure it is something they truly want).

Anyway, tonight Craig sent me to Borders to choose an album for him to write about for our Music and Theology class. I could do this because he needed an album of music he would not normally ever in a million zillion years choose for himself. He sent me alone and with a loaded Borders card. What was he thinking?

I found a book I really really really wanted (oh yes, I found the album for Craig, too). And I remembered our time in the mall earlier today. Putting two and two together, I bought the book. When I came home, I showed the book to Maddie and said, “Hey – I found this tonight and I really like it. If you want to give it to me for Mother’s Day, I won’t look at it again and you can wrap it up and stuff.”

She snatched the book and carried it around the house for several minutes. I casually said, “You know, you don’t have to give it to me for Mother’s Day. I don’t care.” She just as casually replied, “I’m thinking about it.”

She has since gone to bed and the book has disappeared. Score one for both of us here.
Now before anyone tells me I’m terrible for not allowing my kids to choose their own gifts, I just have to say this – I usually do. And I have a pretty hefty collection of random things from their sweet little hearts, well-saved allowances, and secret crafting sprees. I love every single one of them. And I have no doubt that there will be more to come in the future. But for this once, they are going to give me something I actually need. They are going to love giving it to me and I’m going to love getting it. I think we both win. *grin*

Craft of the Week

It’s been a while, as my real crafty days began winding down a month ago as predicted. I’ve been working on verse packs pretty exclusively since then, as I’m in the middle of a large bulk order for Eagle Lake Camp.

But, as Katie was invited to a birthday party on Friday, (for another Katie!), it was time to pull out some of my Michael Miller scraps and make another zippy purse. For fun, I appliqued her initial to the front. My Katie said to me, “If Katie doesn’t like it, do you think I could ask for it back?”

Sounds like I need to make her her own initial zippy purse really soon.

K Zippy Purse

Three Day Weekend. Yippee!!

The girls and I had plans for tomorrow that got postponed until next week. I didn’t find this out until yesterday by which time we’d already completed the week’s worth of the home portion of their school work. What this means for us is a three day weekend! We kicked it off by a full family house cleaning, which they were thrilled to participate in. I rewarded them, though, by putting in a movie at 8:30. 8:30 on a Thursday night during a school week! We’re so sneaky.

The weather is gorgeous, we’re caught up on school, and the house is clean. Either tomorrow is going to be perfect or I’ve just really set us up here in a big way. Let’s hope it’s the former of the two.

Our Happy Family

Our church directories were handed out this past Sunday. I knew this day was coming because we had our picture taken sometime in the fall. In fact, I expected this day to come a couple of months ago, so the wait was just a delayed sort of gratification.

You see, I remember that day very well. Millie was still firmly in the midst of her “I hate group photos” stage and she wasn’t willing to play along that day. Before I go on, take a look at how we will be seen by anyone from our church trying to find our phone number for the next 18 months (thankfully, the number in this one is correct):

Our Happy Family

I have a pretty good feeling parents on the ultra-strict side will look at this and tsk tsk us for allowing our daughter to behave this way. I’m okay with that – tsk away. I’m particularly thankful for this photo, and for its place in the Memorial church directory. Why? I think it gives a much better representation of who we are than the standard quick smiles most folks are capable of mustering for the few seconds of waiting for their photo to be taken. I’ve seen photos of some particularly rascally kids before – they look like angels for those 3.4 seconds in time. But just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a family by their church directory photo, either.

I was talking to a new mom the other day and happened to mention one of the stupid things I do as a wife, parent, pseudo-homemaker. She sighed in relief – I became real to her at that particular moment in time. Before, she said she’d seen us around, but just assumed we were one of those families (that is, the kind that has it all together). Somehow on Sunday mornings, I must have just managed to give off the impression that we’d arrived.

Obviously this gal has never joined us for the wiggle fest in our pew that is Sunday morning worship; if so, we would have blown our cover long before. But having spent an afternoon with us in our home, she needed no more reassurance. We’re human. We struggle, we fail, we cry. We pray. We forgive. We try. This happens again and again.

So for this reason, I’m happy to be represented in the church directory in this way. I love my Millie. And I thank her for giving everyone a true picture of the realness of our lives. Maybe for the next directory, we should invite the photographer to join us at our home two hours before going to church – *that* would make for an interesting photo.

Decision 2008

Here’s a newsflash: Homeschooling is not a perfect system. Duh, right? We’re all broken people, affected by the fall and consequences of sin and all that. Yes, most of us believe that somewhere inside us, but as a homeschooler, I think I have to be on the defensive all the time. It could very well just be my own insecurity, but I’m always afraid that if I come here and say what a stink job I did today with my kids, chances are good someone is going to suggest I give it up. And if they don’t suggest it outright, they will think it. And so I believe I have to clean up my homeschooling persona before I can invite guests over to see it – put on my best face, my best attitude, give my best stories, so that home education looks like a perfect system. And doing that does a disservice to everyone, for it makes me dishonest with myself and with you.

Homeschooling is hard. And there are days I am ready to give it up altogether. And that’s what I don’t feel the freedom to share here very often.

Here’s the other thing, though. Most of the things we’ve been called to in life, most of the things we believe with all our hearts God has led us in, most of these things are hard. That doesn’t make them bad. It doesn’t make them non-important. It doesn’t give us an excuse to give up and choose another way simply because it is easier. Living on support for 12 years? Hard. Moving across the country to begin seminary? Hard. Sticking it out in a church situation you gave up on in your heart four months prior? Hard. Home educating four girls who are separated in age by less than 5 years between the oldest and youngest? Hard!

Certainly we have the freedom to choose another way. We’ve always said we would take this thing one year at a time; reevaluate our school decision each year, and according to each kid. From Craig’s point of view, this freedom was really the freedom to continue on with homeschooling until we felt led to change. From my point of view, I felt like I was on trial every year, having to prove to myself, to my kids, to Craig that this was a good thing for us. The allowance of knowing we could or would change course from year to year was a burning match for me this year waiting to light any spark that would ignite from personal conflict in our family and because of our schooling situation. The wiggle room this freedom allowed had me on constant edge, never really knowing what we’d do for the long haul, never resting in our calling.

A couple of weeks ago, Craig and I outlined what we saw to be the pros and cons of all the scenarios. When it was all said and done (and it took a lot of time and a lot of tears), we concluded that for our family the best decision was to continue homeschooling full time through sixth grade and then enroll the girls in Craig’s school as seventh graders. Now, this decision could change by the time Maddie becomes a seventh grader, depending upon where we are, if Craig is still at the school he is at now, if we think Maddie and the school will be a good match, etc. But for now, I know I have three more years with her at home. And four more with Chloe. And six more with Katie. And eight more with Millie. We have a plan. A plan that goes beyond just making it through until May and then deciding again for the next year. And the very nature of having this plan has helped me to relax in my calling to homeschool the girls as well as to more fully embrace it. And this is a good thing, because where previously a major conflict with one of the girls would have sent me straight to the school district’s website scouring for information on all the 3rd and 4th grade teachers, now I realize our decision isn’t going to waver just because we had a particularly poor relating experience one afternoon. I know we will push through it and persevere with one another and for one another. And I’m glad for that.

So that’s that. To borrow a phrase from a friend, I think I’ve been afraid of being pigeon-holed as a “typical” homeschooler. I’ve never really felt like I fit in anywhere with our year-to-year reevaluation of our situation. But now I think it’s time to fully identify myself with what I’ve been called to do. I’m a homeschooling mom. I’m happy to identify myself as such.

Because I Needed a New Hobby

I decided to test my two black thumbs this year by attempting to grow some tomatoes. This seems silly, maybe, because of the six of us, only one even likes tomatoes in their normal form, and he doesn’t cook at all, so why would I grow tomatoes?

Well, I’ve heard they’re hard to mess up and I also want to try my hand at making some sauces and such, so thought I’d give it a go. I have no idea what I’m doing. None. So that’s why my friend Joanna laughed when I told her exactly how many tomato plants I started. I’ll just tell you that I started a lot of them – so many that Joanna said I might consider giving my starter sprouts away once they start, because just maybe I won’t be able to keep up with that many.

Here’s a fraction of what I started, carefully guarded by what our friend Kent once termed “Ninja Fish,” and I’ve never been able to look at my poor attempt at art the same way since:

In the beginning...

What Joanna doesn’t know is that I don’t really expect most of these guys to make it. I can kill silk flowers – I’m that good. I’ve already got a white fuzzy film growing on the outside of several of these things, which I could justify as a science experiment, considering we just read the chapter on fungi and mold in our Book of the Microscope this week, but truthfully, I don’t want them to grow moldy and die.

Oh, I decided to toss in a few carrot seeds as well, though at this point in time I can’t remember which ones are tomatoes and which are carrots (I did write it on most of them, but a couple of them got missed). I’m counting on something to become obvious over time to let me know what’s what.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I glanced down at them today and saw sprouts! Real, new, green sprouts! There are only a few of them, but I’ll take it. And maybe it means more will appear soon. It could also mean it might be time for me to figure out where I’m going to put these babies since I’m planning to do a container garden and not an in-ground one. And I have no container yet. But that’s just a small detail, right? Here are my sprouts:


The girls were excited about it, too, until they saw the white fuzz growing on the outside and got all discouraged. Remember, I told them, this is an attempt. We’re trying something new and it might work and it might not. Let’s not be discouraged too much by the white fuzz and concentrate instead on the green sprouts.

I’ll let you know how things turn out.

Update From When I Temporarily Went Insane Last Week

So, remember when I turned into someone else? Someone who turns her brain off and holds out her checkbook and nods yes to any random person who comes to the door?

I know things are going to turn out okay here, so I feel free to post all this now. The guy who came to my door said he lived in my neighborhood. He said I’ve probably seen his mom out walking their little white poodle. He said my neighbor two doors down sent him over to see me.
He also said he was a student at St. Louis University and gave details such as his department and degree and future goals. I know. All stuff that doesn’t really lend that much credibility, but nevertheless, I lost my brain during that 7 minute slot of my life (maybe it was an alien abduction and I’m vindicated all along…).

After he left, the spacecraft returned me to Earth and I woke up from that weird state I was in, and immediately shot off an email to the Communications department of SLU who assured me they had no students selling magazines to earn money for a trip to London. I also took another look at my receipt in which the sales guy just wrote “Mike Y.” and didn’t bother to give even his full name for me to check up on. I did some quick research on World Wide Circulation and found nothing positive on them. Not one single thing. So that’s when I placed the stop payment order on my check.

I also sent in the cancellation request because the receipt said I had three days to back out.
Today I got a letter from World Wide Circulation, saying they had cancelled my order and they enclosed my check, so whew! I guess I didn’t really need to order the stop payment after all. And probably, regardless of what the scammer was up to in selling the magazines, I would have received a subscription anyway, even though he we deceitful in how he got it out of me.

But upon a closer examination of my check, I noticed he wrote down the name of a magazine. It was not the one I agreed to. I agreed to two years worth of the Smithsonian, and wrote him a check for an embarrassing amount of money, but now that I look at what two years worth of the Smithsonian would have cost, I realize what I paid would have been comparable to what I would have paid for it anywhere else. If. If he had submitted my order for that magazine. In fact, he submitted my order for two years worth of Family Fun, which is a fine magazine, but certainly not worth what I paid.

So he was a scammer. He took my money for a higher value magazine under false pretenses, and then submitted my order for a low cost magazine. On my returned check, he had written his name so he could get credit for it. His name is Mike Yother and I’m posting it here in case anyone else in St. Louis gets temporarily abducted by the World Wide Circulations aliens and upon being returned to Earth want to do some research to see if that experience was real or not. I tell you, send in your cancellation request immediately. And avoid the World Wide Circulations people like the plague.

Having experienced the alien abduction once, I will be hip to it next time. I will leave my checkbook at home.

so very tired

The girls and I are conferencing this weekend. I’m attending a homeschool conference, the three oldest are attending the children’s conference, and Millie went to the farm. It was her first time away by herself and she was so excited. It’s weird without her – I keep looking for four kids, thinking I need to collect four from the kids’ program, feed four lunch, etc. It will be good to have her back again tomorrow night.

The program goes from 8-5 with a two hour lunch break and I picked up the girls for the break in the middle of the day so they wouldn’t be there for nine whole hours. Still, it made for a very long day and I think we’re all about ready to crash. They want to go back again tomorrow (as we planned), and I think we might be completely toast by tomorrow night. We shall see.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but we’ve definitely decided to homeschool again next year and not participate in the two-day school option. I’m really excited and peaceful about our decision. There’s a good chance that Classical Conversations will begin a program here in our town. I spent a lot of time at their booth asking the rep question after question after question. If it happens, I’m seriously going to look into it.

I’ve got a lot more thoughts about what went into our decision (it was one that took a lot of thought, lots of talking, processing, and praying), but I will have to save those for another day.

A Jonah Day

The reference above pays homage to Anne. It also describes our day, at least in part. We began okay, but things took their downward turn when Millie decided to play on the fallen playhouse when I wasn’t looking (and despite our strict instructions not to do so). A rusty nail went right through her shoe and into her foot, necessitating a trip to the doctor for an early booster of her DtP.

Later on, we decided we would meet Craig after school with a picnic dinner to watch some sports events with him. In light of the afternoon doctor visit, we stopped by the grocery store to make the picnic dinner a bit easier to manage. We bought almost everything except the fried chicken. I thought the deli fried chicken didn’t look very good, so I decided against my better judgment (and past experiences) to buy raw chicken and fry it up myself. Everything else was done for us: drinks, rolls, bakery cookies, chips. While attempting to fry this chicken, the hot oil splattered all up my right arm giving me some pretty significant burnage. And, I didn’t realize how yucky the chicken was, but I wrapped it up for dinner anyway.

At the school, Chloe managed to trip on an asphalt path, skinning both knees, part of her tummy, and both sides of both hands (don’t ask me how she did this – she’s one talented little booger). We were three down, three to go.

After the baseball game (which the WCA boys won 11-0 with the game called in the middle of the 5th), Craig stood up with us to walk back to the soccer field. At least he tried to stand up: his right foot was actually asleep and he didn’t know it, so he did a hilariously comical up-down fall, almost taking out Katie. Our gracious response to this was to laugh hysterically. Really, it was that funny.

Back at the soccer field (we started out there before baseball), I pulled out the picnic basket. This was when we discovered the chicken was nasty and the store-bought bakery cookies were on the crunchy side. I looked at Craig and stated the obvious: “I should have purchased the fried chicken and made the cookies.” I know my strengths: frying chicken isn’t among them; making chocolate chip cookies is. I switched those things today and it was a huge mistake.

But then, I’m all about mistakes this week.

I am usually itching for the evening hours to do all the things I couldn’t do during the day. Tonight, all I’m itching for is a shade to close on this long, dumb day. I’m in some serious need of steadfast love that renews every morning due to some great faithfulness. I think the whole Dunham family is.