This summer, due to all sorts of graduations and other activities that were planned for us, we didn’t get to go on our usual trip until the beginning of August. Now let me just say that when you live in Western PA you forget just how HOT other parts of PA and below get. And since we were planning on stopping by some other friends’ places and are back on the Candida diet (which by the way is making a huge difference in all of us–not a single RA flare-up for me this whole trip despite the temps and humidity and no one got sick! YAH us!) we brought our own food. Note to self: Make sure you keep lots of ice in that thing– 70-80 degrees temps is very different from 90-100. And since the one friend, whom we often visit, is very near multiple Whole Foods and Trader Joes we stocked up as well–so most of our money spent was on FOOD.
Some highlights of our trip, educational and otherwise:Read More
So yesterday the kids heard firecrackers in the neighborhood and went outside to see if they could find them. A few minutes later I joined them.
After a few minutes of attempting to watch them through the trees we decided to take a walk and see what we could see.
And a few minutes after that, we were on the way to the car to see if we could find even better fireworks.
*This is rural Western PA here. Lots of hills, mountains, trees, and LOTS of fireworks, even though they are illegal.
Within 5 minutes we had tracked down a huge party with professional fireworks and a farmtrack where we could park to watch them.
The kids had a great time and I decided that it isn’t that I don’t like fireworks, its that I hate sitting in a hot parking lot waiting for an hour (so you get a decent spot to watch) to watch an hours worth of fireworks and afterwards sit for an hour and a half in a hot car, in a huge line of cars, with hungry, needing to use the restroom kids in the back trying to LEAVE said parking lot.
And so today, on the fourth of July, we went fireworks chasing again.
This time a friend gave us a heads up and we headed towards the area she suggested. We found several great spots, especially a huge display of professionally done fireworks that was closer than we have ever seen them (safely so– when you are in a crowd it is hard to get close to the show.)
I suspect, judging from how much fun the kids had, that THIS will be our new July 4th tradition.
Look at me, sitting here, writing a blog post! YAH ME!
No, I have not been in the mood to actually share anything for some time. Instead we have been busy doing and being, and living. So what have we been doing?
*Working. A lot. Shamus is working 60 to 80 hr weeks trying to keep afloat. I am taking on (and getting) more painting commissions. The kids have been helping by attempting to keep the house in some semblance of order. We are trying to catch up on all the bills that didn’t get paid when we waited an extra 2 quarters for a rather large quarterly check that didn’t come. We may still lose our house as fall out from that time but we are working hard trying to deal with the situation.
Part of this means that I have a rather large project coming up very quickly that I am VERY excited about but am not sure if I can really talk about yet. I am very excited about it and if it all works out then in the end I will have my art work on a published card game. In fact, if it does work out then I am going to be sending you all that direction to try to get you to buy said card game because I will be getting a cut of the proceeds and it will REALLY help both our family, and the family I am working with, out. And the game really looks fun and I get to do all the artwork for it, which is big, but very exciting. (We just finally worked out the details, I think, and I should be able to start the work on it soon.) And in this I ask for prayer since it means I will be working off and on on it through the summer (hoping to publish in the fall) and I am really praying that my RA keeps out of the way so I can focus on painting. I also have lots of little projects trickling in here and there that are helping us out and which are rather fun to do. In other words, God is providing. It is a lot of work (the lottery would be SO MUCH EASIER) but we are getting to do what we love.
*Healing. A lot. Between heartache and physical ache it has been a rough year so far. We have slowly been healing. God has been working on our hearts. For me personally there have been many things that he has had to do heart surgery on.
One of the things He used was John and Stasi Eldredge’s new book Love and War, which I REALLY need to do a review on (got a preview copy). First let me say it is awesome!!!!! There is something for you regardless of where you are in your marriage and just because one part doesn’t apply other parts will. Also it helped me deal with some other, non-marriage related stuff that I needed to deal with (as have 3 absolutely wonderful friends who have been praying through with me.)
Also, the girls have been dealing with some heart issues, and today they joined me in beginning Stasi Eldredge’s study guide of Captivating. I need to get back a hold of the original book but for now the study guide is working out just right to discuss with a 10 and a 12 year old girl. We are dealing with all the stuff that comes with being that age and all the changes and it was really good for Rach to realize she is NOT alone in this.
And on to the physical healing. My RA has been bad this year, as has Rachel’s, plus she has had several SJS episodes (one of which triggered the death of a brand new molar– tomorrow we get to go get a root canal at a specialist. — Please be praying that Rach will do well, that they will not need antibiotics, that it will go smoothly, and that our insurance will cover it.)
Finally Rach and I sat down and talked about what was triggering us having such a bad year and realized that we had totally fallen off the wagon regarding our eating, especially Rachel. In the past we have found that going on the candida diet significantly reduces flare ups and Rach’s reactions. And so she and I decided we needed to go back on the diet, and then the other two decided to join us, to varying degrees. The down side of that is that it is tricky and expensive but if it helps our health then it is well worth it. Already I have noticed a huge difference in Rachel’s attitude, mood swings, etc.
* Learning. A lot. There has been so much learning going on that I am finding it hard to keep track of it all. Because the kids are autodidactic I often don’t even realize what all they have absorbed. And lately it has been a nearly constant surprise. We will be discussing something, anything, and they will say something about the topic that totally knocks me off my feet. This happens regardless of topic. One minute it is mathematical (out of the blue Issac informs me that 3 threes make 9 therefore 4 threes make 12 and so on), historical (Esther randomly asks me what Thomas Jefferson did AFTER he wrote the Declaration of Independence then decides to go ask her sister because she probably knows), spelling (all three are suddenly writing, a lot, and spelling a lot of words corerctly that I didn’t realize they knew), reading (all three signed up for the library reading program and are reading the maximum # of books –not just for the prize but because they want to), etc.
This morning Issac was watching me cook egg and was giggling and singing about how he loved science and how awesome it was that God gave us science to explore (this was brought on by seeing the hot air rise and make the egg bubble up). All three LOVE Mythbusters but after watching so many time have started to point out all the things that they didn’t do and other ways they could have tested each myth. We also continue to read the Bible daily (are finishing Job tonight and all three are actively discussing what is going on and are really interested in listening.)
*Going. A lot. This is the first summer in a long time that we a had a reliable vehicle. This means we have been spending a lot of it leaving the house– to go swimming at the pond, to the park to wade in the creek, VBS, to visit Grandma, and hopefully soon to several other locations I have been wanting to them to get to see. Hopefully we will take a day trip to the American side of Niagara Falls. We also hope to go to several local national parks, orienteering, and finally to visit friends that the kids talk to online but seldom see in real life. Add in my baby brother’s high school graduation, graduation party, other family parties, and boy are we busy for us.
*Growing. A lot. No kidding. Rachel at 12 is now bigger than I am. Esther at 10 is bigger than I was at 13. Issac is nearly as big as Esther. Gah.
*Playing. A lot. Board games, puzzles, books, games, swimming, wading, video games, pretend, you name it. Currently the big project is the kids are planning a play with friends we hope to visit in August. Oh, and now the kids suddenly discovered the fun of a “photo shoot”. When they got bored at the park I asked them to pose however they liked for a few photos (hoping to get a good one to use for a Christmas card this year). It went on for over an hour as they ran from cool old structure to interesting rock, posing in all sorts of silly ways. It was awesome. Now they want to go places just to take funny photos.
The following is Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest for February 14.
Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him.
Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into “the shadow of His hand” until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2 ). “Whatever I tell you in the dark. . .”— pay attention when God puts you into darkness, and keep your mouth closed while you are there. Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet.
If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood— darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light.
After every time of darkness, we should experience a mixture of delight and humiliation. If there is only delight, I question whether we have really heard God at all. We should experience delight for having heard God speak, but mostly humiliation for having taken so long to hear Him! Then we will exclaim, “How slow I have been to listen and understand what God has been telling me!” And yet God has been saying it for days and even weeks. But once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart— a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.
Yes, we still unschool. Yes, it is still working. Yes, we still both work from home though it has shifted even more from me working to Shamus working while I hang with the kids and keep the household running smooth so he can focus and be productive. Yes, I still love our life and wouldn’t change it for the world.
Shamus is working, a lot. Things are financially stressful but that is another post (and one I have been pondering for a while but which may or may not actually get shared. All I can say right now is that God is amazing and much more reliable than any paycheck.) On that point I want to mention mint.com– if you are having a hard time seeing the big picture of your finances, suck at budgeting, or just like seeing everything in one place then it is well worth a look. It is working great for this financially challenged family and being free helps. We had recently discussed the possibility of me taking on a part time job to fill in the current gaps, but various factors nipped that in the bud. Mostly the fact that me being here facilitating the children’s learning is key (they would learn anyway but Shamus cannot field their constant questions AND write 3 comics a week, 3 articles a week, and do 30 hrs a week programming not to mention keep up on his blog and several side projects.)
The kids are happily occupied talking to fellow unschooling friends on Skype and text chat, interacting on FamilyRUN, playing Build-a-Bear (their favorite game to play? School–“except we know most of the answers already, but we get to learn new things too”.) They are also occupied playing Plants vs. Zombies, a lot. Talk about an educational game that you don’t realize is educational. Essentially you could think of it as a fun way to learn financial planning and organizing your resources— of course you could say the same thing about Star Craft and other strategy games.Due to the snow, snow, and more snow they have been avoiding going outside (especially now that there is no ice to skate on). The kids are also very involved in a new Lego Quest weekly challenge run by a friend on Twitter. Rachel is thrilled to have made friends who can talk when she can, Essie is reading her way through multiple series of books (having read all the Gregor the Underlander books in a week and moving on to several other series I can’t remember) , Issac is building all sorts of things and intent on beating Mario Galaxy on his own. We are spending a lot of time listening to audio books together, playing games together, talking together.
Me? Aside from all the cleaning and rearranging going on (lots of re-purposing and getting rid of which I find a quick way to beat the urge to go buy something new. ) Now that the website issues have been dealt with I have been free to work on painting (trying acrylics still. It is interesting but maybe I am getting somewhere?) I am doing less reading and spending time on the computer (due to eyesight issues) and more listening to audio books which means I am being more productive– I feel like I need to be doing something if I am listening to audio books. And since the cd player is in the kitchen and we are being VERY frugal in our meals I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning, rearranging, and baking. Yesterday it was no-bake cookies (naturally sweetened, carob, peanut butter, coconut, and oatmeal), homemade granola bars (naturally sweetened with oatmeal, cranberries, peanut butter, cocoa nibs, coconut, flax seed), and lots and lots of bread dough. The day before I chopped all the raw veggies in the house, making a nice salad mix and freezing the rest. Oh, and I finished a painting–a commission by my sister-in-law for her employers.
Being that I adore dragons (always have, well since I gave up on unicorns in the 4th grade) and thoroughly enjoyed Donita K. Paul’s Dragons series I thought I would share some of my favorite dragons for Appreciate a Dragon Day. (My two very favorites are in the bedroom where my hubby is asleep so…. they are sleeping dragons and we let sleeping dragons lie.)
First is the one I did when Cat mentioned feeling like a dragon the other day (and which you have already seen):
Then there is the wonderful antique dragon coffee set my in-laws bought us last January for our anniversary (which is next weekend).
Also in our home is the Guardian of the Futon: the dragon I bought for Issac for his birthday last year at IKEA and which migrated downstairs so often that he eventually became our futon guardian.
Another favorite who often gets overlooked (because he sits like a gargoyle atop the shelf in the office is the Guardian of the Video Games.
Below you will find my Bibliophile Dragon Horde painting (still unframed) above the awesome paper Chinese dragon Rachel made me.
And finally, because my favorite dragon shirt is in the summer clothes and because all my favorite dragon books (including The Enchanted Forest series, Here There Be Dragons, and “Max’s Dragon Shirt”, as well as the books mentioned above) are elsewhere, are two small dragons that keep me company at my desk:
And our favorite household dragon quote? “Dragon shirt” said Max.
The theme of January this year is snow.
Lots of lovely, fluffy, soft snow.
Snow globe sort of snow.
And lots of sled riding in snow (ice skating soon I think.)
And video games.
When the kids are not outside playing in the snow or shoveling the driveway (a new favorite service for Rachel) they are spending lots of time play strategic or exercise related video games. Lots of Star Craft, Garry’s Mod, and Tales Runner going on here (for after spending time outside) and lots of Wii Resort and Wii Fit Plus combined with all sorts of pretend play and contests for when it is just too cold to play outside. For example, yesterday the kids set up a plane in the living room to make the flying game in Wii Resort more fun and so everyone could join in.
The kids did spend some time watching movies but other than Issac’s current repeat obsession with The Goonies and the kids’ repeat watching of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising there is not so much of that right now. In the meantime we are focused on spending 5 min a day upstairs and 5 downstairs cleaning 1 room as quickly as possible. A good habit to develop and each kid has a chance at a reward for doing their very best. We are trying to develop an attitude of service in a household where chaos is more comfortable than order and schedules and lists DO NOT WORK. This suits us well and keeps the house in relative order. We have also had much less complaining than with our previous attempts at this. (If they complain then they get 1/2 hour instead. And I have also found that they are willing to go the extra mile and really work hard in this time, stretching it well beyond the necessary 5 minutes to get the job done.
In the meantime, the painting is actually coming along now that I have the proper colors. It is coming out different than expected, more solid and less surreal but I am happy with my first attempt at acrylics since high school so far.
Because things have been crazy busy and I have yet to find a simple way to import my flickr images into WordPress. 🙂 Also my camera has dust on the lens and so has been tricky to use…which is why I am not taking so many photos. Sad.
The end of November was both my brother’s 18th birthday and Esther’s 10th birthday and since I didn’t get the photos up earlier they are in my December folder. (Aren’t I so organized?)
We made a whole bunch of chocolates and cookies (in between kid colds) and sent some geeky candy and chocolates off to The Escapist (who actually pay my hubby to write about what he loves– aren’t they awesome?) I made a whole lot more candy sushi, some more and some less realistic but due to camera issues this is the only that I got a photo of (the less realistic sushi was for people like my dad who couldn’t get past the whole “this looks like it should be raw fish and seaweed so I can’t enjoy it” thing.)
Also made Super Mario Brother’s stars
And Pac Man cookies
Had a whole slew of work to do– both painting and computer and then got to take photos of my mother-in-laws new furniture for her (and her angel on her tree so she could share it with her facebook friends).
And then we got lots of snow (well, for December)…
which made my skiing brother VERY happy.
Not to mention the kids
The rest of the time has been spent doing things I didn’t get photos of like:
Logging many hours on the Wii Fit Plus. It was an early Christmas present because before the snow we got lots and lots of rain, cold, wet, muddy rain and there is nothing like Christmas excited stir crazy kids who can’t get outside to drive a mother mad. Issac alone logged 3 hours a day skateboarding and juggling while Rach enjoyed the Super Mario Brother’s like obstacle course, and Esther enjoyed trying out all the new stuff.
Alf, Scooby Doo, and Fraggle Rock. The kids were looking for a new old tv show to watch and discovered these , which have triggered many pop culture and real versus fiction discussions.
Baking, crafting, and candy making, not to mention much present planning, purchasing, wrapping and kidding (mostly the kids using money they have been saving– we didn’t buy that much this year.)
Rach made and sent out Christmas cards (myself not so much– this year I am just trying to stay on target).
We have been spending a lot of evenings playing board games, especially Trivial Pursuit Young Players edition (from the 80’s).
The kids have been spending a lot of days “playing school”. Apparently this entails less work books and work sheets and more copying straight from the dictionary.
Esther and Rachel have been using the dictionary to look up ancient writing and copy it, writing out various things in early alphabets.
Due to a hiccup in our finances (hubby is on part time at one of his jobs so we are relying more on his kind of quarterly paycheck from his other job)we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make our money go further. The kids have been very active in this helping plan shopping trips and figuring out ways to save.
Issac is reading anything and everything though not really picking up books yet, instead preferring to spend much of his spare time in his room doing what looks like tossing all his small toys around the room but which apparently is him playing out huge battle scenes and building giant Construx robots which he occasionally runs down and tells us all about.
The kids have also been spending a lot of time using Garry’s Mod (the program Shamus uses in his comic making at times) to create various scenes and mini games for each other.
We are continuing our chronological trek through the Bible. Due to taking a month off when my bmother passed away we are in the end of the Gospels now. It is very interesting to read about the resurection at Christmas and I think has done more for our attitude thios Christmas than anything ever before– especially as we were reading the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount when Christmas lists were being made and now as Christmas day approaches we are reading of Christ’s death and suffering. VERY interesting and has led to many discussions and thinking processes which do not naturally occur when just reading about the newborn baby. (For instance the 8 year old finally realizes that Jesus didn’t stay a baby like people always seem to imply at Christmas).
Climategate (another good article here), the Copenhaegen conference, and the giant East coast snowstorm and several other things have led to more than a few discussions of truth and why Chistians shouldn’t get too caught up in the world and what the world media says is going on and how to have discernment and peace when everyone is panicking.
Finally and most recently the girls have discovered the Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 handbook and decided they wanted to play. They have thus been studying it, designing and rolling up characters, and learning how to figure out armor class, hit points, bonuses, etc. For those who have no clue about these things– think probability, formulas, and real life mathematical application combined with play acting, logic, and character development based along set lines of behavior (the girls chose character alignments based on their natural character–Rach by nature is Lawful Neutral and Esther is Neutral Good) but when they play they will have to make sure their characters adhere to those characteristics and make decisions based on that. There also will be quite a lot of math and pencil paper work to do but they are both excited and willing to take it on. 🙂
My dear sweet friend Michal asked today for our most unusual thankful things which is awesome because I have been feeling rebellious and totally avoiding the traditional “I am thankful for friends and family and blah blah blah….” This is totally typical of me. I hate going along with the crowd and when people start repeating the same thing then I want to run the opposite direction. I hate boring and everyone saying the same thing IS boring and yet I AM grateful for many things. And so, without further ado, my most unusual thankful list which really isn’t that unusual after all:Read More
Last Sunday the kids and I decided to drive an hour and a half so we could do the last orienteering meet of the season. It was a gorgeous, sunny and rather warm day (75 degrees–well above the norm for November). This was our second attempt at orienteering (you can read our first here –it also contains an explanation of what orienteering is) and as with the first time we made no attempt at actually racing–we just wanted to make it through to the end (and almost didn’t).