The Truth is Out There

Picture 13 I have X-Files on the brain today.There’s a good reason for it. This is “Spirit Week” at Craig’s school. This means everyone is supposed to dress according to a specified code each day and by dress code, I’m not talking plaid skirts. The first day’s assignment was to dress like a recognizable fictional character. In keeping with what we normally do with stuff like this, we started trying to figure it out at 9:15pm last night. We went through some standard ideas like Yoda (no green make-up), Jack Sparrow (no pirate boots), and Willy Wonka (no top hat or snazzy purple coat). I then got a great idea: Fox Mulder from the X-Files. All we needed was an FBI Badge. Oh, and Craig needed to shave his beard. Check and Check.

Picture 12He makes a pretty decent Fox Mulder if I do say so myself. And even if none of his students got it. We know the truth is out there. Even if we have no idea what David Duchovny is doing with that truth anymore.

Man, I miss the The X-Files.

I didn’t really care that much for the really scary episodes, but the government conspiracy stuff? Love. The Cigarette Smoking Man? One of the best bad guys ever. The Lone Gunmen? Best nerds on the planet.

I miss the X-Files.

I really do like conspiracy theory stuff. I enjoyed the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and Craig used to be on a big Art Bell kick. There are some real wackos out there, no?

Anyway, today I saw Hyndai’s new Super Bowl ad campaign on the Compact Conspiracy. I like the “do-it-yourself” feel of the video for the ads as it makes them feel like someone really did see this happen. Pretty funny. Makes me almost look forward to watching the action this Sunday night.

Check out this video on backwards masking:

http://www.youtube.com/e/VKWEFy5NkiQ

They have a few others including the one about a driving sheep and they hypnotic spiral legs. But my fav is definitely the one implying that the makers of compact cars are trying to convince us that we really want less room in a compact car. This one is funny too:

http://www.youtube.com/e/LVz-nDKkpSY

What’s your thought? Conspiracy Theories: Love ’em? Leave ’em? Have you heard of any other Super Bowl ad sneak peeks you like? Do tell. I’d love to watch them early!

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Life Bumper

Picture 4The girls’ school had a family fellowship last night at a local bowling alley. It was fun for us in a “we really don’t know many of these families but the six of us take up a whole lane anyway so we’re just having fun as our own family tonight” kind of way.

One thing you may not know about me is that I grew up going to the bowling alley with my parents on Friday nights. My mom and dad were in a league and they would get my sister and me a lane to bowl in while they were doing their thing. These were the days before bumpers and I became a pretty decent bowler for an elementary kid. And I can keep score on paper.

Anyway, my point: About half-way through our first game I looked at all the other lanes (the alley had 24 total). Every single lane had bumpers up. Every single lane, that is, except ours. It wasn’t necessarily intentional at first – we just always encourage the girls to not use them when we do go bowling (and we don’t go that much) because you don’t  learn to bowl when you have bumpers, you know what I’m saying? Sure, with the bumpers nobody gets a gutter ball, but when the ball bounces off a bumper and then knocks all the pins down, I have news for you: you still don’t know how to bowl a strike.

It was also about half-way through that first game that a couple of our girls also noticed we were the only ones not utilizing the bumpers and they requested that we do so. We told them we would ask for them to be put up for the second game. Right before the second game we put in our request and heard it go out over the speaker, but the bumpers were never raised, so we kept bowling without them. There was a bit of dismay at first on the part of the girls who had requested them, but then something happened – they began rolling their balls a little straighter and knocking some pins down on their own. And we were able to say, “See? You didn’t need the bumpers! Doesn’t it feel better to knock the pins down without the bumper?”

And it did…because you have to know what it feels like to get a gutter ball to really understand how awesome it is to knock down a strike all on your own.

Our girls are going to hit some gutters in their lives and when it happens, we will be there to comfort and encourage and give pointers on how not to do that again. But you know what else? They are going to learn to navigate life a little straighter because of it. And when the strikes come, we are going to celebrate with them knowing they arrived there because of perseverance, skill, and the hand of God, not because of a bumper.

Gutter balls are no fun. But sometimes that’s what it takes to learn what is needed. As much as I’d love to pave all of our lives with rubber bumpers, I’m finding I’m okay with the gutters so we can eventually get what they produce.

Chess Club

Chloe is in the Chess Club at her school. She’s dabbled in chess periodically here at home and loves to play, but Craig is really the only one who can play with her and that limits her ability to play real games with real people at our real house most of the time. Hence her interest in Chess Club.

She’s been going to the club since last September, but just started attending tournaments this semester. Keep in mind, this is her first year with real training and first year to compete. Most of the kids playing have been playing for years and competing for just as many. She is playing as a member of the club team which means even if she doesn’t win her individual games, if the team wins, she also wins. If you are familiar with the way chess tournaments work you know what this means. If you are just a mom of an enthusiastic player (like me) this doesn’t mean much to you other than you are glad she has the opportunity to play and being on the team sounds super.

Anyway. Today she was at a tournament all day long. And I mean ALL DAY LONG. She left our house at 8am and didn’t come back until 8pm. Whew! And when we asked her how she did, she said she got one draw and lost the other three, but that she’d been playing high school seniors, so she felt pretty good about how she played. And she was smiling, so that’s the important part. And she had a first place trophy to show off as well because her team won.

Win-win.

I just got this email from her coach. He included this photo:

Picture 21
And here’s what he said,

Congrats to your daughter for playing very hard against some fairly decent high school players and being rewarded. She had a difficult time but never lost composure … never backed down … never quit fighting. Her efforts and attitude was even recognized by one of her high school opponents. The opponent was surprised to find out this was C10’s first official chess tournament.

Do you see her confident smile in this photo? Can you see mine as I’m typing this out? That’s my girl. My girl who needs this in her life. My girl who is going to to continue to persevere until she gets it down. My girl who is going to have a whole shelf of these trophies one day. My girl whom I am proud of even if she never actually wins a single game.

That’s my girl.

The Unplayed Snow

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Millie coined a new term for us yesterday that I’ve been thinking about ever since: unplayed snow. I’m talking about that over at WORLDMag.com today.

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We were on our way home from homeschool P.E. today when, while stopped at a red light, my 7-year-old noticed the building to our left. This building, a bank, had a beautiful yard full of crisp, untrampled snow. As it has been several days since the snow actually fell here in St. Louis, you can imagine what the snow in our yard looks like with four winter-loving kids bursting at the seams to get out in it every day. My youngest saw this accumulation of seemingly still fresh flakes and proclaimed with dismay, “Look at all that unplayed snow!”

The conversation that followed between her and her 8-year-old sister centered on how tragic it was that such a large patch of their favorite thing was right there and nobody had either been allowed to play in it or had bothered to. I’m not sure which was the worse sin in their estimation, but the sentiment struck me as being semi-insightful.

The late Mike Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties, wrote a book before he died titled Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith. In the first chapter, Yaconelli told a similar snow story involving his 2-year-old nephew’s first real experience with the white stuff:

“His eyes stretched wide with astonishment, as though the only way to apprehend what he was seeing was for his eyes to become big enough to contain it all. He stood motionless, paralyzed. It was too much for a two-year-old, too much for an any-year-old (too often, when a person gets older, the person’s ‘too-much detector’ malfunctions, corroded by busyness and technology).”

Yaconelli continued:

“Just behind his large eyes you could see sparks flying from the crosscurrents of millions of electric stimuli overwhelming the circuit breakers of his previously small world. His mind was a confusion of strange, conflicting realities: white, cold, floating, flying, tingling, electric, landing, touching, sparkling, melting-causing an overload so great, so overwhelming, he fell backward-a slow-motion landing in the billowy whiteness, the snow tenderly embracing him. He had given up trying to understand snow and had given in to experiencing snow.”

I think my “too-much detector” has indeed malfunctioned. When was the last time I was dismayed by a lack of unutilized resources, be they natural or creative or otherwise? I stay so focused on doing, doing, doing and on the monotony of the mundane that I forget the process of being, being, being and the pleasure of play. My kids know the value of unplayed snow; I seem to just know the nuisance of it.

I’ve had one specific child begging me to take her sledding for the past four days. I really don’t like the cold and do my best to stay out of it as much as I can, so I’ve avoided her request with one legitimate excuse after another. But I’ve also avoided looking her in the eyes as I’ve made my excuses, and that call to enjoy the unplayed snow is echoing in my ears. I’m setting out the snow pants tonight; tomorrow, I’m going to answer it.

Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music

Okay, anyone remember when I went to Nashville last November and came home with an iPad? Remember that I couldn't tell you who gave it to me? Remember that even though I couldn't tell you who gave it to me, I was really excited about the project being developed?

Remember? Remember?

Picture 40

I now have permission to spill the beans. So today I present you with what I like to refer to as Bill Nye the Science Guy for music: Quaver's Marvelous World of Music:

I'm telling you, seeing this thing in all its glory is completely amazing. It's more than these episodes. There is a whole teaching resource guide and accompanying website that is FANTABULOUS. The website isn't quite ready yet, but it will be launching soon and when it does, watch out! The website resource alone is going to knock your socks off.

There are three main components to the Quaver Music program:

  • Quaver's Elementary School Program– This is a great supplemental resource for any school. The educational music episodes with accompanying teacher guides, as well as stacks of online resources including: interactive whiteboard activities to accompany each episode, hundreds of audio tracks, scores of all of Quavers' original songs, interactive quizzes, and access to Quaver's website where our "creatives" allow kids to create and save music online. This program will be available in early spring.
  • Quaver's Homeschool Program– Whether for a co-op or for teaching kids one to one, the Homeschool Program is an amazing on-line and off-line resource that is guaranteed to each kids the foundations of music and support a broad understanding of music's place in history. Includes specific resources for homeschool families. This program will be available for pre-order on February 1.
  • Quaver's Marvelous World of Music Virtual World for Kids launches May 1!

The very premise of Quaver's Marvelous World of Music is to help excite students about music fundamentals so they can learn to love music. It's a student-centered resource that uses culturally relevant production examples and integrates arts education into other curriculums. The comprehensive classroom program features:

  • 30 high-energy and entertaining episodes on 15 DVD, each covering an essential music element: theory, instruments and ensembles, composers and music history, and music styles.
  • A full-color Teacher Guide including teaching tips, hands-on student projects, and other tools accompanies each episode.
  • Full access to Teacher-Only resources on QuaverMusic.com, which will provide several music creation tools when it launches to the public later the spring.

The school program follows the standards of MENC (Music Educators National Conference) and the National Standards of Art Education and incorporates input from some of the nation's best music teachers.

All the programs are flexible, allowing teachers to use different elements to teach younger students the fundamentals of music and an entertaining way to summarize subjects for older students.
   
Whew! That some kind of music education on steroids, huh?

Be sure to check out the Quaver Music YouTube channel and the Quaver Music Facebook page to keep up with the latest of the Quaver clips being released. And stay tuned right here because pretty soon I'm going to be giving away one of these awesome music packages – it would be perfect for your homeschool or a super awesome gift to give the music teacher at your kids' school. Trust me when I say this: your kids' music teacher will rise up and call you blessed if you win this on his/her behalf. I can't wait to utilize this with my own kids!

And there you have it. The secret is out. Quaver's Marvelous World of Music is in. And I like it. A lot.

Tuesday Night

It's time for another installment of, "Who let her in here and gave her access to the internet anyway?"

So. What's the best way to clean a grimy keyboard? My Mac keys are in need of some TLC. Or a maid. Or maybe I need to start washing my hands before I use it? Ahem.

I've had this nasty cold since Saturday. The cold is now progressing into the cough stage which is the worst. I hate the cough stage.

Craig checked out some movies from the library tonight and is watching one as though maybe he's thinking tomorrow is going to be a snow day or something.

It's definitely not going to be a snow day tomorrow.

We might have another snow day on Thursday, though, so maybe he's just getting a head start?

I taught 11 girls 12 and under how to tie dye yesterday. It wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be.

I also made a large pot of noodles with chicken for dinner last night. Hardly anyone was hungry so we had a lot left. I forgot about it all and went to bed without putting it away. Boo on me.

We've had a working washing machine for two weeks now. This is exactly how long we haven't had a working vacuum cleaner.

Sams Club has vintage Pepsi and Mountain Dew cans made with real sugar. I'm usually a Coke Zero kind of gal and even then, a pretty loyal Coke drinker. But this Pepsi made with real sugar? I likie. A lottie.

I have a major deadline on the 20th. Guess what I'm doing tomorrow?

You guessed it. I'm hoping for a snow day.

Talking to Children About Suffering

Picture 10

I’m burdened this week by many things. Many of these burdens are on behalf of others. I’m talking about learning the language of lament and teaching it to our children today at WORLDMag.com.

How do you talk about tough things with your own children?

PS: Joanne, I’m praying for you. Rob, I’m praying for you too.

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It is so easy to be affected by the suffering all around us. And to some extent we should be, shouldn’t we? We are to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn, which can seem a hard pill to swallow when it comes to involving our kids in the suffering of others. Yet, somehow we are supposed to do that, too, to an extent.

It isn’t hard to expose our children to suffering-all we need do is watch the news together at night, when ready-made case studies present themselves for discussion. Yesterday, for example, was the one year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. Five days ago, it was the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.

Do we hide this from our children? Or do we use it to talk about sin and sorrow? How do we talk about major national and international events in a way that presents truth but doesn’t scare our children to death? Most importantly, how do we teach our children to weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn?

We recently heard from a friend that he will begin cancer treatments soon. He’s my husband’s age. Weep with those who weep. The wife of one of my husband’s past work acquaintances had a stroke this week while on her treadmill. She is my age. Mourn with those who mourn. I pulled the car over on our way home today and told my two oldest daughters about these two situations. I felt like they were old enough to handle the heaviness, to bear some of the burden. It is time they learn to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.

In his book A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, Michael Card wrote:

“We are all born into a world we were not really made to inhabit. We were created for God, made to flourish in the comfort of the Presence of our Father within the warm context of His undeniable ‘hesed’ (loving-kindness). Now, in this fallen world, we are cut off from them both. Only the loving sovereignty of all-wise God could redeem such a hopeless situation. His solution? To use suffering to save us. To redeem our own suffering and most significantly to redeem all mankind, through His own suffering on the cross to pay the price for our sin. In order to turn around and move once more in the direction of God, we must find this path He has carved out. We must call out to Him in the language He has provided. We must regain the tearful trail. We must relearn lament.”

The language of lament. I may not have all the answers to give my kids when they begin asking their own “why” questions, but I can give them the gift of learning how to bring their sadness and suffering to God. I want them to know, even from a very early age, that He can handle it.

Miss Assumption

The phone rang and it was the library. I remembered the 3 late notices we've received in the mail and the stack of overdue/lost books I've had in the front seat of the van for 2 weeks now and did not answer because…I'm guilty.

The librarian left a message. Turns out she didn't call to give me what-for on not returning the books. No, instead she wants to pick my brain on some things for homeschoolers they want to do. And I assumed the worst. Or maybe this is her way of reeling me in so I finally return the blasted books?

Ah, the library. I love you. And I hate you. But I don't really hate you, I hate myself for having no system at home for keeping the books together so we return them before it becomes cheaper just to buy the book from Amazon.

But I love you. And I will return your call…just as soon as I return those books.

January 3

Well…here we are, day 3, and I didn't manage to get my time with Psalms and the Fun Felt app yet. I know I still could, but I'm also only still up right now because I have a tutor meeting for Classical Conversations tomorrow and I'm not nearly as prepared for it as I thought I was.

Big. Fat. Sigh.

So I'm making copies and supply lists and figuring out what tomorrow is going to look like and I'm already apologizing to God as though his day is totally dependent upon whether or not I open my Bible. When it totally isn't.

But really, mine should be, shouldn't it?

Grace is for the weary, right? I could use a heaping helping of some right now…