Monday, March 31, 2008

It's time for a Grand tour...

Today I thought we might take a tour of my room. It's my favorite room in the house - my haven. I can go in and close the door. Maybe even lock it to keep out the restless natives. I have even been known to post a sign on the door that says "do not even knock unless you are on fire."

We moved into our house in May of last year -- and really the only changes we made to the house was to paint. We painted our room a rich, brownish color. I LOVE the names that paint companies make up to describe the colors of their paints. Our room is painted "llama." Our bathroom is "China Rain." We got some new furniture...a new quilt...some "old" furniture - meaning that it was in our house, just not in our electronics, and a whole new look.

This is the view of the master bedroom from the door.

The above photo must have been taken on a Thursday. The day the housekeeper comes. Because this is what my bed usually looks like (mom...just look away now!)

Above my bed are these really cool prints that my grandmother brought back from a trip to Thailand:

I sleep on the right side - the side closest to the window. We bought these night stands when we moved into the house. We needed them because our bed is so high...that our old night stands were 1/2 a foot below the bed. Makes it challenging to see the time. Or to hit the snooze bar. I have a huge pile of books on my nightstand and a very cute picture of the girls.Next to the night stand is my glider that I got when I was pregnant with Katie. It is a really comfortable chair - and it's nice to sit there and read. Above the glider is a framed ivory fan that my grandmother brought home from Japan. My grandfather was in the airforce and was stationed there - so my mom was there for about 4 years in the 50's. We have a lot of things in our house that are either from there or are Asian inspired. My mom said that my grandmother had the fan framed when they got back to the states (their next assignment was Oxford, Mississippi)...but that she was not happy with the job. She didn't like the way they arranged the tassel. She wanted it to hang down, not be tacked to the side.

Here is the view of the other side of the room from in front of the window:

To the right of the window are my Ikea bookshelves. I love the way we managed to have them come around the corner of the room. I am not one to hold onto books. If I like it, I usually pass it on. Most of my shelves are filled with photo albums, pictures, Longaberger baskets, and really smutty books that no one is willing to admit that they would like to read. Oh, and there are CDs.

Because we ran out of room on the other CD shelf: See all those boxes? We have lived here for almost a year. Do you think they'll ever get unpacked or moved out of the room??! Definitely taken on a Thursday -- look at the vacuum cleaner marks.

At the foot of the bed is my dresser. I would really have liked a nice mirror above my dresser. But, no, I have a ginormous flat screen tv.

My husband has this uncanny ability to enter online contests. And win. But usually it's second prize. Or something. He has won two grand prizes (I think): this TV and the stainless steel grill that's on our deck along with a year of free steaks from Omaha steaks. Yum! He has also won: a smaller flat screen tv (that one is in our basement), luggage, a hammock, gift cards, at least 3 cars (uhhh...that would be toy cars...matchbox types), a plethora of t-shirts, hats, backpacks and chip clips. Lots of things that get donated to Goodwill.

Another view of the dresser with the ginormous tv:
And a close up of the picture of the kiss (aren't we adorable?!):

And last on our tour: the master bath. This is a very narrow area. If I was making this house, I would have done pocket doors -- would have made things a lot more accessible. But no one asked me.

Below is my side of the bathroom. See all those spots on the wall? Just to the right and under the window?
Here is a closer view.

Know what it is? Hair dye. I am not sure how it got there. I don't shake my head or anything. I just have this natural ability to get the dye EVERYWHERE. Just needs a little touch up paint. Sometime. Maybe.

And here is one of my favorite parts of my bathroom - the view outside of my window.
I usually keep the blinds up. One morning I even saw a mother deer with her fawn...fawns...three of them! I would have missed it if I cared about privacy. You can see the creek and paths that I blogged about the other day.

And that brings us to the end of our tour. Maybe we'll do my other favorite room next time: the kitchen! (I can see you will be waiting with bated breath for that one.)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

MY week in review

Every Friday, I blog about our week. It's usually about what we accomplished homeschooling. Sometimes it takes the form of a mini (okay...sometimes not so mini...picky, picky!) rant. Sometimes I tell you about what all of us accomplished (attempted...thought about...procrastinated...failed to do...). This are just going to hear about me. It's my blog, and I'll pontificate if I want to.

In order to tell you about a week of homeschooling...Katie has to finish her week. We have had so much drama today (ummm...and yesterday...and the day before...ummm...all week) that she didn't finish much. My math genius stood here in the kitchen and said to me (about a simple multiplication problem) "I don't get it." Huh? I gave her a perplexed look, and the tears streamed and streamed. Again, huh?! I believe there has been an attack of hormones. Maybe we'll attempt that week in review over the weekend.

So, instead of Katie's can hear about mine. Because it's endlessly fascinating. Compelling. Enthralling. Tedious?

Monday started with me going to water aerobics. I am not much of an exerciser. I don't even like to walk up the hill to get the mail. I figured that I love the water...I hate to would be a good match. I am by far the youngest one in the class. It's interesting doing our "cycling" across the pool and being lapped by a 67 year old. Twice. After the class, I felt fine...but later that day, I could really really tell that I had worked muscles that forgot that they were muscles. They didn't much appreciate the reminder as they were quite looking forward to retirement as fat cells.

Tuesday brought a frenzy of a day. Tuesday is the day the girls have choir with Gwinnett Young Singers. And at the same time, I had to be at a homeschool class fair to "sell my wares" so to speak (get people to sign up for Latin classes for next school year). I had to make a display board and some handouts for people. Yes, I have known about it for a month...and the day of is the best time to do this you know.

I have been teaching Latin to high school homeschoolers for three years. I don't have a degree in it. And actually, I have not studied it at all since high school. It just stuck with me. I can decline and conjugate on command. I should be in a talent show. I took five years of Latin in high school. No, I was not held back. My high school started in 8th grade. Most 8th graders took art...but no, not me. avoidance of crafts has been a life long thing.

So...anyway...on Tuesday...I needed to make a display board. Of course this requires a trip to my happy place. On Tuesday. Did you know that tri-fold boards cost $75? It was a pretty good deal if you ask me. A much better deal than those $400 jar openers. For someone who hates crafts (and creating a tri-fold board is a craft)...I didn't do so bad:

I had 9 students sign up for my class on Tuesday evening -- and I am sure that I will have more when we get closer to the start of the school year. Pretty good. I even stole a student from the Spanish teacher (shhh...don't tell!).

Wednesday brought another morning of water aerobics. There was progress. I was only lapped once. Okay, fine, one and a half times. Picky, picky. In the afternoon, I took Katie to the doctor for a mysterious fever. She registered at normal in the doctor's office. And then 3, count them 3, minutes later, registered at 101.8. Mysterious indeed.

The highlight of my Wednesday was going to see the musical "Avenue Q" at the Fox theatre. What? You haven't heard of this hilarious play? Click on the link to check it out. Basically, it's Sesame street for adults. The main character (err...puppet) just graduated from college...has no money or job...I mean, what can you do with a BA in English? So...he ends up in a run down apartment on "Avenue Q" with Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) as the super...Which leads to the first song: "It sucks to be me." The music is hilarious - great songs like "everyone is a little bit racist" or "The internet is for porn." If you feel compelled (and you should!)...go to you tube and look up "Avenue Q" and you can see it in action and hear the songs.

Thursday...pretty uneventful. Because of Katie's mysterious fever we stayed home from homeschool classes so as not to inflict others with mysterious fever disease. Rhea, have you looked that one up on WebMD?

Thursday evening was my book club - and we discussed "Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson. I am so glad that I read his "Devil in the White City" first. I would never have picked it up if I read "Isaac" first. It's about the Galveston hurrican of 1900 which is the largest natural disaster in the US. It's a compelling story about the hubris of the weather bureau (how they refused to use the word hurricane so that they would not panic people; how they did not allow the Cubans to telegraph weather information because they were easily excitable - and so that they would not "steal" weather forecasts; how they were SURE that no hurricanes could go as far west as Texas - and that hurricanes only move on ONE set path). Compelling, no? But...Erik Larson needed a theasaurus and an editor. I have never read a book that needed charts, pictures, and diagrams as much as this one. I was ready to throw it against the wall...and then I reached page 150...and the human element emerged. It was harrowing to read what happened on that hot and humid day in September of 1900.

And then there was today. The day of fluctuating hormones. I remained calm. I didn't need a mommy time out. I was on the verge. But I had a moment of Zen and moved on. Tonight the girls had their Spring concert with their choir. There are 4 different levels of it made for a long evening -- but what a place to hear the beautiful voices of children.

(Madalyn got a little sleepy by 10pm when she was waiting to sing with all the choirs!)

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

I found yet another great meme. It’s called the Thursday Thirteen…and you just make a list of 13 things. Any thirteen things. I like this better than the 10 on Tuesday because sometimes I will have nothing to add to that. Like this week’s theme was 10 things to do before you get married. I suppose I could have offered 10 pieces of advice – or 10 things I wish I knew before I married…but that is not exactly what they asked. That wedding day was so long ago, and so many softball games ago…and there were waaaayyy more than 10 things to do! Thursday thirteen it is. So, for my inaugural list I thought I would stick to what I know well – books. This is a list of thirteen books that impacted me in some way. They are not necessarily favorites…but just ones that have stuck with me for one reason or another.

1. "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer
I never wanted to homeschool. I liked taking my kids to pre-school and letting them do crafts there rather than at home. I enjoyed having time to myself. But…the public school where we used to live was NOT an option. I spent a lot of time trying to find a plan…any plan that was not homeschooling. And then someone told me to read this book. And wow…reading this book convinced me that not only could I homeschool…but that I could homeschool well…and it made me embrace the idea. We are now in our fourth year and plan to continue all the way through.

2. "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire
I first read this book when it was published in 1996. I didn’t know what to think of it. I loved it. I thought it was horrible. I would change my opinion on a daily basis. And then a few years ago, right after “Son of a Witch” was published, one of my book clubs picked it as our monthly selection. It had been 10 years…so I decided to re-read it. Ten years really made a difference as I think this is my favorite novel. It is exquisitely written. Maguire uses one of my favorite techniques – which is to take a well known story and turn it on its head. The book is just rich – there are so many layers, so much symbolism, a LITERAL scapegoat…and an amazing story.

3. "Kindred" by Octavia Butler
In this novel, Butler provides a unique conflict: if you could go back and save one of your ancestors from the brutality of slavery, would you do it, even if it meant you would never be born? Octavia Butler is a unique voice in science fiction – in a field dominated by white men…her voice of a black woman gives a whole new vision to this genre. I have read all her books (even though I would not categorize my self as a fan of science fiction) and each one of them is unforgettable.

4. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
I think that this was the first non-fiction book that I read. I had no idea that non-fiction could be anything other than dry and text-booky. It was written like a story – with laugh out loud parts – I just had no idea! This book opened up a whole new genre for me to try.

5. "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory This is historical fiction at its best. It’s a great story…and a smutty read…my favorites! But…this book makes you think as well. After reading it, I had to get online to get the genealogy correct – to see that Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn. I was so surprised to learn that affairs were such open matters. That Anne and Mary Boleyn were encouraged by their families to have affairs with Henry so that the family’s position at court would be elevated.

6. "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
Besides being absolutely captivating and mesmerizing, this book has some of the most thought provoking questions provided in the back of the book (a favorite being: “what color is your religion?”). In light of “A Million Little Pieces” or even Hillary Clinton’s “attack” by snipers…this book asks which is better – the plain story or the embellished one? And who is to say which one is the truth?

7. "Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Jesus’ childhood pal" by Christopher Moore
Lamb was my first Christopher Moore novel. I had no idea that a book could make me laugh so hard I could pee in my pants. I actually got my book club at church to read this. I gave them the warning that it was quite irreverent. My pastor said, “no, it’s sacrilege.” He told me that he was reading…would laugh out loud…and say to himself that he was going to hell. Read some more…laugh out loud…and know for sure that he was going to hell. Christopher Moore has some of the best titles out there: “Island of the Sequined Love Nun;” “The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove;” or “Practical Demonkeeping.”

8. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving
I read this book when I was a freshman in college. It was a time when I was rather anti-religious and spiritually apathetic. This book gave me a whole new perspective on faith. It also made me really think about purpose – that life is what you CHOOSE – rather than being driven by fate or destiny, which just seem to happen.

9. "My Name is Asher Lev" by Chiam Potok
My first exposure to Chiam Potok was through the movie “The Chosen” with Robby Benson. After seeing the movie…I had to read the book…and then the natural follow-up is to read all the rest of his novels. I did not read “Asher Lev” until a few years ago…and it just resonates strongly with me. The central theme to the book is conflicting traditions. How does a Hasidic Brooklyn boy deal with the conflict of his religion with his gift for art; with the conflict between father and son; with religion and the secular world; with being Jewish and painting about Jesus. Okay…so none of those themes have anything to do with me…but the resonance comes from daily conflicts and issues. How do I deal with being a Christian and a homeschooler – but that I don’t want to be called a Christian homeschooler? Or how do I balance my secular needs with my faith?

10. "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell
This is an incredibly thought provoking and intellectually challenging novel. How can one believe in a God that allows horrible things to happen? How can you not believe in a deity when examining the complexities of the universe? Can you use your own morality to judge a culture radically different from your own?

11. "Pet Semetary" by Stephen King
So are you asking yourself, “what is this book doing in this list?” It is not the best book I have read…not even in a top 100…it’s not one of King’s best…but it was my first! I read it in the 9th grade – and I remember sitting in my Latin class, ignoring the lesson and reading this book…and then practically shouting “OMG…the cat came back!” This book sent me down the Stephen King path. (My favorite’s: “The Shining” – the scene where the little boy is being hunted by the topiary is frightening! And “The Stand” which gave me a passion for doomsday/futuristic novels – “The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood being another favorite of this type.)

12. "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe In this deceptively simple story, Achebe shows the culture clash…and then the destruction of that culture – between a traditional Nigerian village and the influx of colonialism via missionaries. But the book is more than that. Achebe does not romanticize the savage, cruel or sexist practices of the Ibo before the missionaries. This book does raise questions in a larger world view. Do we not intervene in regional/tribal politics to bring an end to mass genocide, starvation or enslavement – or do we respect a country’s autonomy? Why does the west have a moral imperative to free the people of Iraq or Kosovo but not the people of Rwanda or Darfur?

13. "Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides I have never read a book before or since that uses this technique – to tell a story in first person plural. The boys who narrate were onlookers to the events of the story – not actually part of the events. Eugenides is a masterful storyteller.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Semi-Wordless Wednesday because I am not capable

We have an amazing back yard. It is one of the things that really sold this house (besides the granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances). There is an actual yard...but then there is the woods. And it's not exactly wild woods as there are gravel paths and even torches to mark the way to the creek. I can see the creek from my kitchen (I can now...but when the leaves come back to the trees, I won't be able to see a thing!) and it is just a peaceful sight. Last week we had a huge storm - which was desperately needed - but thought you might like to see the raging creek...and the sea of tranquility:

Theme song: Good Charlotte - "The River"

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Biggest Easter Egg hunt in the known world (or maybe just the biggest in my backyard)

Easter Sunday...should bring thoughts of Alleluia, the washing away of our sins, the sacrifice of Jesus. Or...perhaps Easter brings thoughts of new life with visions of chicks, bunnies, eggs, and new blooms on plants. At our house...Easter brought angst, tears, and attitude. I had no idea, but I was informed that Katie had absolutely nothing to wear. See...look at her closet:

And look at these cute skirts:

But, no...not a thing to wear. Evidently all hope was destroyed by a Target white cardigan. I had no idea, but it doesn't go with anything! Eventually, Katie decided on something and we were off to church. To be reminded of the real reason for Easter.

After church...we headed back to our pagan roots by having a big family and friends get together. We had an Easter buffet and then the biggest Easter Egg hunt in the world. Our friends bought 20 pounds of candy and stuffed 400 eggs (10 of which had gold dollars!) - which took almost an hour to hide. We lined up the hunters according to size (ranging in age from 3 to 24!) and set them loose. This was some serious competition!

After all the eggs were found (although I am sure that we might continue to find them!)...all the "kids" were given ziplocks to dump out their candy...and then return the plastic eggs to be recycled for next year's hunt. And that is when the negotiations began. Who likes M&Ms? Who wants to trade for some nerds? I'll give you all my candy for your gold dollar...

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