Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hairs Cut

With nary a word about how neglectful I've been of sharing all those little things that have been happening 'round these parts, I'd like to present a newly shorn 8th grader.

This is the mom-hurry-up-I'm-trying-to-eat-a-candy look.
If you've seen Andrew in the last...while, you'll know what a change this haircut is for him.  No longer is he able to hide behind his silken locks.  Handsome boy, right?

Friday, July 13, 2012

School Year in Review

This post has been a long time coming.  Really, it would have been best written back in May before summer came along.  Having all my kiddos back home with me, if only for a time, makes everything seem okay and the troubles of the past school year long gone.  Spring is the time when I'm fretting and deciding.  Now, in July, I'm left with trying to remember the passion of the problems.  Ah well, better late than never, right?

Timothy - age 16
Tim attended Valley Christian for his 3rd year, this year, completing 10th grade. (Which brings us to: 1.5 years at a church-based Christian school, 1.5 years at a public elementary school, 3 years at a small Montessori school, 2 years at home school, and 3 years at a larger Christian school.)  Each year that he's attended VCS, I've felt like the next year has got to be better: he'll be older, more mature, and be used to the routine.  And so three years pass, and he is still having a hard time connecting with teachers, maintaining enough motivation to complete a semester, and preventing himself from procrastinating to the point where his work doesn't get turned in.  He has two years of high school left, is not planning on jumping into a 4-year college, is yearning to start working, and is dreading two years wasted by sitting around in classes that don't teach him anything.*  He's now accumulated a full credit of English that needs to be made up, and has discovered that the expensive, online summer course that the school offered was no better at getting him through the material.

And so, Chris and I decided to approach him with the possibility of completing his schooling at home, while working part time for Chris at Traffic Management.  You should have seen the relief on his face. He knew it was an option, and had been thinking about it for the last year, but something about having his parents' blessing made it all really fall into place.  (Funny how that works.)  He hasn't even taken a summer break.  He got out of school and began working.  He did a wonderful job working last summer, and was eager to join the accounting team once again.  In the fall he'll be using Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2, Notgrass Exploring Government, Graphic Arts, Japanese (not sure which program yet) and English (put together by your truly**).  He's excited; let's hope it lasts. :)  Am I nervous about home-schooling a high schooler?  Yes and no.  It's a great responsibility, but I'm excited to have him home, am looking forward to exploring literature with him, and have the great benefit of tons of curriculum choices to help me out.  Love that.

Andrew - age 13
Andrew ventured into the lands of the larger school classroom this year, completing 7th grade at Valley Christian Middle School.  He attended Tahoe Montessori from Pre-K to 3rd, and home-schooled from 3rd-6th.  He loved home school.  He liked that he could get his work done quickly, and liked how much he could learn - this is a guy who loves information.  However, we thought that it was important that he experience school for a couple of reasons: 1) the opportunity to learn from different teachers, and 2) the opportunity to be involved in many more activities that are difficult to offer at home.

Andrew is notorious for disliking change.  He had quite a while to get used to the idea of attending school, but we were still nervous that he'd have a hard time adapting.  He, however, did a fabulous job. He made friends easily, always had his homework done and got good grades, enjoyed having something to occupy a good part of his day, and loved his teachers and his classes.***  He became the champion of more than one kid being picked on when he discovered that he had no problem standing up for what he believes is right.  He did have one major complaint, though, and that was the lack of material they went through in class.  He did not like having to wait for everyone else to understand things before moving on.  In his opinion, home school is if you want to learn, public/private school is if you want to enjoy friends.

He put serious consideration into whether he wanted to remain at VCS next year, because he really does miss learning at the level he can at home, but he has decided to stay.  I think he'll do well - he's already anticipating being able to do Honors classes in high school.

Melinda - age 11
After attending Pre-K to 2nd grade at Tahoe Montessori, and then home schooling 3rd-5th grade, Melinda was begging to be allowed to attend school so that she could spend her days socializing instead of learning.****  Fulling believing that it would be difficult for her, we nevertheless decided to let her try her experiment.

It ended up being the hardest thing she's ever done.  Not because of the academics, she was just fine as far as that was concerned, but a gaggle of 6th grade girls is tough crowd - especially considering that many of them had known each other for a long time and considered Melinda an outsider.  I saw my spunky daughter's confidence start to shake as she constantly dealt with playground shenanigans.  It's amazing how mean kids can be; even "Christian" kids.  I came [thisclose] to pulling her out of the school about 2/3 through the year when she was in the office sobbing (for the 3rd time that year) because of mean students or lack of information and communication from the staff.  Sure, at some point we all have to realize that there are terrible people in the world, but it doesn't have to be at such a tender, uncertain age.

Nevertheless, Melinda wants to try again.  She made a couple of good friends, and is willing to see if everyone else has grown up a bit by the time summer is over.  I admit that she has more hope in that area than I do.  She's an incredible girl with strong gifts of authority and leadership, things I find incredible and worth protecting.  We will stay in prayer, and take it as it comes.

Audrey - age 8
I'm incredibly blessed to still have Audrey at home with me.  What a treat she is!  She adores math and science, and is therefore a bit advanced in those areas.  She made a huge jump in reading this year, and is now easily reading chapter books to herself.  She's definitely active, and gets bored if each day feels like the same old material, but I'm getting pretty good at mixing it up, skipping ahead, or setting things aside if she's getting antsy.  She absolutely goes through a ton more material that way than if we were just plodding on.

She completed Math Mammoth 2 this year - a program that has proven (in my experience with other programs and schools) to be advanced.  She's jumping into multiplication with gusto.  As a science lover, she's worked on multiple programs this year, beginning with what was included in Moving Beyond the Page (what we used for social studies and science at the beginning of the year, but finished early.  We flew through it since we found the content repetitive and rather light. Moving on to Something Else next year!)  We also began (and will be continuing with) a Sonlight Science program (I can't keep track of which level since they switched from numbers to letters) and completed an experiment kit from the Academy of Science for Kids.  We also started an Equine program from WinterPromise that we'll be doing [slowly] on riding lesson days.

So for 3rd grade: we'll be using Story of the World Volume 1 (excited about this! I love how it teaches history, combining activities and projects).  For math we'll be using Teaching Textbooks 3 (since we already have it, and she's already started it, and she's up for a change etc etc) in conjunction with Math-U-See Gamma.  Science will be a continuation of SL, WP, and a bunch of experiment oriented things we have.  English will be a mix also: continuing with All About Spelling (LOVE this program) and Queen's Language Lessons, and adding in a writing workbook as well.  Should be fun! This girl still loves to learn, has been asking to do word problems and wants me to read her something like science or history even though it's summer.  She's ready to hit 3rd grade for sure.

* Note that this is his perspective, and could easily be rephrased thus: "is dreading two years wasted by sitting around in classes that he refuses to learn from." It's a matter of perspective, sure, but the ending result is the same.  He isn't learning, and therefore vital years of youthful energy are being wasted.

** Despite what you might think, this is a fun, exciting prospect.

*** Except for Photography, where absences from illness and a lack of understanding about what was going on made for a frustrating experience.

**** This is my idea of a joke, people.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer Fun: Horse Camp

This summer has been crazier than the school year, which I didn't really think was possible, but I've been proven wrong.  (It's okay, I'm used to being proven wrong.  I'm pretty good at it, at this point in the game.)

The last day of school was Thursday, June 14th.  We had precisely 3 mornings of rest before the 6:30am alarm bell started ringing again.  Timothy was off to Driver's Ed (yes, that is scary, thankyouverymuch,) and the girls were off to Horse Camp.

Audrey has been taking riding lessons for the last couple of months, (the stuff of dreams for this girl,) and her trainer decided to put together a day camp this year.  Melinda joined in, and boy did they have fun!  They not only had daily riding lessons, but they learned about different breeds and gaits, about hoof-science from the ferrier, about horse care and costs, in addition to fun games and crafts.  I won't say that it was lovely getting up at the crack, but I do miss mornings at the stables.  It is a spot of peace amidst the chaos of the city.

Melinda and Audrey in the middle there, showing off Scooter's new paint job.  Luckily, those are washable paints. (and, before you call me with worries about Audrey's bowed legs, they are just crossed.  all is well.)
Cowboy got a bath after a hard day's work.  Both girls are so comfy
around those horses.  Of course they were begging for their own
by the end of the week.
Melinda helps Buttercup get some of her exercise in.  There are a remarkable amount of jobs that have to do with horses.  Both girls dream of living on a farm, and they approach these chores (including the mucking,) with gusto.
Awww...Buttercup got a bath.  Did you know that wet horse smells remarkably like wet dog?  Methinks all wet animal smells like wet dog in the way that all meat tastes like chicken.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where There's a Will...

Finding ourselves greatly in need of some family getaway time (...that all elusive quality bonding I'm always in search of...) we decided to haul the kiddos up to Tahoe for some R&R over Memorial Day weekend.  We had a lot of fun and laughs together, and it felt so good to be away from all the pressing deadlines and to-do lists that normal life consists of.

One of the projects I wanted to complete while there was sorting and organizing my quilting fabric stash.  My quilting studio is a favorite room of mine: gorgeous views and pure creativity.  The girls helped me to sort all of my scraps by color (and wow! were there a lot of scraps to sort!) and then I also sorted my larger pieces.  A book I recently bought (Sunday Morning Quilts - great book!) helped me envision how useful it would be to have it all sorted by color.  The idea is that someday I'll be able to take advantage of this...maybe this summer?

Lots of pink left over from having little girls
once upon a time...otherwise a nice
assortment, don't you think?
Anyhow, as I was sorting through and organizing all my fabric, I came across a collection of fabrics that centered around a Fishing theme.  Odd.  None of us fish.  I must have bought the collection when I made my dad a quilt years back?  My first thought was When on Earth am I going to use this?? and my second thought recalled how much Melinda always remarks on how much her 6th grade teachers Loves Fishing (with a capital F. Or, um, a capital L?  Let's do both.)  I decided to show Melinda the fabrics just for kicks.

It took her about 2 seconds to come to the conclusion that a fishy quilt would be the absolute perfect gift for her teacher, to thank him for being such a wonderful part of her first year at a large school.  That was about 10pm (a.k.a. past her bedtime) on Saturday night.  She wanted to give it to him as soon as she went back to school on Tuesday.

Nevermind the fact that she had never made a quilt before.  Nevermind the fact that quiltmaking can be a tedious, patience-building process, even for the patient type of person.  Nevermind the fact that we had exactly a day and a half to complete it.  This girl has GOALS.  Big Dreams.

She set to work [as soon as I woke up] the next morning.  We'd come up with a simple layout that would [hopefully] make the quilt process go quickly, and I'd done the math the night before to know how everything needed to be cut.  I did some of the instructing and grunt-work for her to speed it up, but she made the decisions, did all the sewing as well as most of the pressing and trimming.  She worked for about 9 hours straight!  She even jumped back into it after we got back from dinner, and ended the night with only a couple of seams left to sew on the quilt top.

So went our Sunday.  Sure, there were a ton of other ways I would have loved to spend my lovely Tahoe time, but how could I not support such generosity and tenacity?  She even did some of my chores for me on Monday morning so that I could quilt her finished top on my longarm machine.  She prepared the binding and sewed it on as soon as she was able when we got back to Long Beach last night.

She was so close to her goal when she collapsed into bed last night that I decided to sacrifice some of my coveted sleeping hours to finish the quilt by hand-sewing the binding to the back of the quilt.  It was a crazy-quick quilting adventure, that's for certain sure, but what a treat to be a part of such a huge accomplishment in my 11-year-old's life!

Didn't she do an incredible job?  I'm so extremely proud of her.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Little Things Audrey Says

"I want to BATHE in Science!"

(kitty cat Calla just wants to drink Science)

"Rango?! I didn't know that was a kid's movie!"

Upon exiting the freeway at the usual place: "Why does there have to be a new homeless guy? I miss the old one."

Also, Audrey would like to know if it looks like she's drinking in this photo.  What say you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My "Slice of Pi" Quilt

I've discovered more time. Did I tell you that?  Well, maybe that's not entirely true, but I've found a fabulous way to multi-task, which is almost as good.  I've always said that I don't have time to listen to audio books, since I'm never alone--no commute, no quiet time--but I'm discovering that's not completely accurate.  A few days to myself at the beginning of the year spurred me to try, and since then I've found that I actually have more time than I thought.

One of the things I love (apart from reading) is quilting.  I love the feel of the fabric, the creativity in the design, and the colors (oh how I love colors).

When my kiddos were little toddlettes, I quilted much more than I read.  It was easy enough to sew & watch kids play, not so easy for me to read and watch kids play.  I taught myself to quilt (& ended up with some bragging rights even--what a shock!) but as my kiddos grew up a bit and I started home-schooling, I began to do much more reading and much less quilting.  Life is like that.

I'm doing less schooling at home now.  My 7 year-old is at home with me, but she loves having her creative time just as much as I do.  Thus I find myself with bits of time to start using those fabrics and finishing up those projects and not feel guilty because I'm MULTI-TASKING (said in a big, booming "God" voice of course--it's that huge) by listening to a book while I sew.  Why didn't I think of that before?  Brilliant!

My latest project is what I'm calling my Slice of Pi quilt.  I had a lovely stack of gorgeous modern-ish fabrics that I was dying to use but dreading cutting apart.  I wanted to come up with a quilt design that showcased and complemented the fabrics, but nothing seemed good enough.  Finally I decided that 2" strips would still show off the fabrics enough, and I went about drafting a pattern on graph paper (love graph paper.)

My original design (below) was a random placement of strips that would run horizontally, creating a column down the center of the bed.  But then my husband (the math/science brain) asked if the placement was based on any sort of mathematical algorithm (um, no) like Pi (hm, good idea).  I'm impressionable, and so decided to see what it would look like (see photo above).  I ended up finding the first 50 digits of pi quite interesting.  (I'm also somewhat of a people-pleaser, so orientation of the strips changed so that it would make more sense to Chris.)

I decided on a base line, and used 2" intervals to determine placement.  Therefore, the first strip is 6" above the base line, the second is 2", the third is 8" and so on.  Each strip is 40" long.  The fabrics are arranged in a nicely organized, pretend-random manner.

Sewing the binding...kitties and quilts go together well.

Overall, I'm quite happy with how it turned out.  Quilt design can do a number on my creative senses--I want it to be perfect, but because quilt construction is a pretty long process, (with no easy way to change your mind midway,) I go through waves of alternating excitement and fear about how it will end up.  Will it be wonderful? Horrible?  Listening to a book while quilting, I've found, does help even out some of these emotions (wonder of wonders!)  I'm still debating about the pillows, but meanwhile my husband is sure that he's going to get smarter by osmosis each night that he sleeps under it, and I'm thrilled to have found a way to combine two of my hobbies.

(this post was also posted on my book blog)

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Quick Trip Up the Coast

I love that my kiddos are finally getting to ages that don't require constant supervision.  I didn't think they'd ever get to the point where they could stay home alone for a few hours.  I really, truly didn't.  But hey, it happened (thank the good Lord!) and that means that I can be a person again (occasionally) instead of only always being mom.  I like being mom.  But sometimes it's nice to just be Melody.

This came in handy recently, when we were able to go on a brief outing up the coast without forcing everyone to come along with us.  You wouldn't think that you'd have to force kids to go on a plane ride, but there it is.  They don't like french fries either, for whatever that's worth.

We flew from Long Beach to Santa Barbara, had brunch, and flew back.  That's it, basically.  But it was so much fun.  I love seeing everything from the height of a small plane, and Chris is such a good pilot.  The weather was perfect, the company was perfect, the food was perfect.  Happy sigh.

Chris (pilot) and Mr. Cessna
Lovely friend Andrea and lovely daughter Audrey (co-passengers)
Is it just me, or does Los Angeles not look so intimidating from the
air?  A miniature Lego village only a hop away from Long Beach...
Santa Barbara.  Even from the air it's prettier than L.A.  Oh well, I
don't think L.A. ever tried to claim "Prettiest City" anyhow.
Peaceful.  Happy.  Pretty.
Ready for some good eats!
The food didn't disappoint--was incredible actually--but
Audrey couldn't bring herself to enjoy it.  She had a
sleepy-head-ache. :(
Mustache.  Tee-hee. (snort) (melody--->easily entertained)
AND...that's me looking all official and plane-y.  Andrea and Audrey chilling
on the flight back.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Home Acquires an Adjective

You know how it is when you sell a house?  All those things you've been meaning to do for years are completed in the blink of an eye, (comparatively,) and you wake up  one morning and see the house that you wish you'd lived in all those years.  You chide yourself for not doing all those things earlier so that you could enjoy them; you vow that next time it will be different.

In a way, that's what this week has been like for me.  Now, I'm not selling a house...I'm extremely grateful that I'll get to enjoy the fruit of my efforts actually...but even so, my home (in Tahoe [as opposed to my house (in Long Beach) which I still really like but it isn't quite as homey]) has gone through some great changes in the last month and it feels so nice.  (Actually, it feels Nice --with a capital N-- iykwim*)

The whole thing began when I was lucky enough to get a new bed & mattress for my bedroom in Long Beach.  That huge treat resulted in transporting the old bedroom set back up to Tahoe where it is SO much more comfortable living life as a Guest Room**.  Here's proof: (isn't it lovely?)

For a variety of reasons, when we came up to Tahoe for Thanksgiving week, it really struck me that I no longer live at home.  I haven't for 3 years, actually, but it turns out that denial is a tricky, sneaky friend who'll weigh you down without you even realizing it.

My home is no longer simply my home, it is my Vacation Home.  Now, I'm sure that sounds all glamorous and omigoodness-I-Want-A-Vacation-Home-TOO! ...and a good 10 years ago that's about exactly how I felt. But now?  Now, "Vacation Home" has a different connotation.  Where it used to mean 'a lovely spot in the mountains where I can unwind and appreciate nature' now it means 'my home that I only get to live on when I'm on vacation'.  It's different.

Regardless of the nit-picky particulars, a Vacation Home needs to function differently than the place you live all the time.  Namely, it can't be cluttered with STUFF because that Certainly Isn't Relaxing.  So Christmas break (a.k.a "Vacation") saw us back in Tahoe, with a bit of time to get things in order.  I've been blissfully enjoying a few days here myself whilst my valiant husband attempts to be mom AND dad in Long Beach for a week (mostly--our littlest (Audrey) is spending the week with my parents) God bless his generous soul.  I wish I could say that the bliss is due to an inordinate amount of reading and quilting and watching chick flicks, but it is actually due to all the stuff I'm getting done.

That makes me sound old.  Oh well.  Carrying on...

We've replaced carpeting and a microwave, we've pulled out a ridiculous amount of junk to donate to the yearly yard-sale fundraiser for Spread the Light Puppet Ministry (hi mom and dad!).  I've cleaned and cleared and now I'm finally on the brink of having a proper, well-appointed Vacation Home.  It's still home, but all those things that fell by the wayside before it acquired its adjective are being completed--how fabulous is that?

It's actually a bigger deal for me than it might seem.  For the first time in the last three years I'm able to fully enjoy my time at home, and more importantly I'm able to think about it with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for such a blessing rather than only feeling sorry for myself that I can't be here more often. You see, I wanted my kiddos to grow up with an appreciation for the mountains and God's creation, and in my mind that meant having them spend their childhood in Tahoe....not living here for a few years and then growing up in the city.  I'm coming to see, however, that perhaps my concept of perfection isn't as perfect and fully-rounded as God's (shocker, huh?).  We were able to live here full-time for 6 years, and by moving back to Long Beach, I think that my children have been able to grow an appreciation that they may not have been able to otherwise.

In the end, I suppose I mustn't be bitter towards a simple little adjective.  That just sounds silly.  Besides, it's much happier to be happy.

*iykwim = if you know what I mean
** Guest Room = a.k.a. Timothy's room that he never sleeps in because he's a nomad at heart and much prefers a couch.  Seriously.  I finally caved and accepted the fact.