A Squad of Geeks and a Winner

Today was kind of a waiting for Mary day. It was also my first experience with the Geek Squad. I went online and made an appointment to take my laptop in for some tuning up. Despite having an appointment, I still had to wait a long time before I could talk to a Geek. When I told him that one of the main issues was not being able to use my printer, he said I had to bring in the printer too.
So after lunch I had to drive up there again with our very bulky printer, and wait in line for half an hour just so I could say, “Here’s my printer.” It might be FOUR DAYS before I get my computer and printer back, which will make it pretty hard to prepare for class. I am typing this on the kids’ virus-riddled desktop.
Mary arrived right at 4:00 and we scurried to make pizza so she and the others could eat before going to a concert on campus. I tried making a gluten-free pizza with a cauliflower crust. It tasted better than most GF pizza crust, but the big thing was that it didn’t spike my blood sugar! I might actually be willing to make that stuff a couple of times a year!
I actually was going to skip posting tonight, until I remembered about the drawing for my book. There were a total of six comments, counting Google+ and Facebook. I wrote the names on little pieces of paper, then put them in a bowl and shuffled them around with my eyes closed for quite a while before picking one. And the winner is . . . Anna! Which means I don’t have to mail it because she lives in my neighborhood!

Giving Them the World

That’s what I want for my geography students. I spent all morning preparing for our first geography class and still didn’t get as much done as I hoped for. I was slowed down somewhat by my finger. Periodically, my middle finger (can be either hand) is swollen and painful when I wake up. It can’t be moved at all because the pain is too excruciating. My top two ways to treat this problem are to run hot water on the hand for several minutes, and to put pain relieving ointment on them at night and sleep with socks on my hands.

So, yesterday I woke up with excruciating pain in my left middle finger. The hot water did not help much. I was in a great deal of pain all day. I put ointment and socks on my hand before going to bed last night, and this morning when I woke up my hand felt pretty good. Until, that is, I actually tried to do anything. Then the pain came back with a vengeance.

I’m just telling you to explain why it was hard to get ready for class, because typing was involved. It’s a very small class–just three girls for sure, and a fourth one who was trying it out today to see if she wants to do it. We talked about directions and meridians and parallels and then they all got to use a compass to follow directions to a neighbor’s house.

I have no idea what they thought of it. I love geography so much but it’s really hard for me to tell if any of it is rubbing off on my students.

I had a bit of a breather after class ended, and then Jasper and I went to the local beekeepers meeting. We’ve been pretty sad about our bees. They’re gone. The hive was overrun by small hive beetles, and slimed. Tomorrow Jasper and his friend Sam are going to clean out the hive so it will be ready for new bees next spring. Why does beekeeping have to be so complicated? You would think that insects would be a lot easier to deal with than, say, a dog. But no. You have to absorb a HUGE amount of information and remember it all if you want to have any hope of succeeding with bees.

Tomorrow, Mary’s coming!

Quote of the Day:

Jasper: “Both of my big toes are injured. (pause) At least I had fun doing it.”

My Blogiversary & A Giveaway

Can you guess what I did 10 years ago today? I wrote my very first blog entry on my old Xanga blog. Ten years of blogging almost every single day! What were my first blogs like? Well, obviously I had no idea what I was doing. At the time I was in charge of the mentoring program for our homeschool group, which is why I called myself Mama Mentor. I had this idea that all the moms being mentored could go to my blog for encouragement, tips, and recipes.

It never happened. Blogging was still too new for a lot of moms in those days. Most of my early readers were college students who were friends of my kids. I made a circle of cyber-friends, all of whom eventually abandoned the blogosphere. I started my Sunday hymn tradition very early and have kept it up. Several people have told me they look forward to the hymns.

I threatened to quit on several occasions and came very close to doing it. The almost complete lack of feedback was and is very discouraging, but I’ve now accepted that I write this blog primarily for myself. I love having a detailed record of the last ten years. The blog is our ultimate authority when disputes arise as to when something happened. If it was memorable at all, I probably blogged about it!

This blog is also where I post opinion and nostalgic essays, because sometimes I just can’t keep my thoughts in my own brain.

Wanna know what my very first post said? Here goes:

Well, this is pretty scary. A middle-aged mother of seven following her children into cyberspace and starting a blog. However, this blog is not for the purpose of displaying my private life to all and sundry.

HaHaHaHaHa! I started displaying my private life to all and sundry pretty early in the game!

Today, in addition to our regular school, we listened to the first hour of As You Like It, the Shakespeare play my English class is reading right now. I made a point of getting the audio version that has David Tennant playing Benedick, Scottish accent and all. Very enjoyable.

This evening, my handy and heroic husband moved the massive oak card catalog from the boys’ room into Jasper’s new room.  (The card catalog has been repurposed for Lego.)With Mercy moved out, the three remaining kids each have their own room. For Jasper, it’s come full circle. When we first moved into this house almost fourteen years ago, he was an eight-month old baby. We put him in the bedroom next to ours so I would hear him if he fussed at night. We also had a sleeper sofa in there so we could use it as a guest room too.

At that time, all four girls shared the upstairs bedroom. When Lina started college, she was having to do her homework sitting at her computer in the dark bedroom while her sisters tried to sleep. That was clearly not going to work long-term, so we moved Jasper into the boys’ room and Lina became the first college student to have the front bedroom. When she left for Zambia, Flynn moved in. When Flynn moved into his own apartment, Mary got that room. When Mary left for Colorado after graduating from college, it became Mercy’s. Now it’s Jasper’s room once again!

Since Walter built a desk in that room for Lina, Jasper now has a nice desk to work at, and in fact he has done his math quite willingly this week! The next step is to move Spencer’s desk from the schoolroom (where he has never used it) and into his bedroom, now that there is space for it there. We also have a neighbor who wants Jasper’s old desk, which means the schoolroom is going to be less cluttered now. I’m all for that.

Finally, in honor of my 10-year blog anniversary, I am giving away a signed copy of my memoir, This Rich & Wondrous Earth to someone who comments on this post. If you are the only one to comment, you will get it. If, perchance, there are multiple comments, I will choose one at random (eg. draw lots) and that person will get the book. The “drawing,” if there is one, will take place Friday night.





Off to a Good Start

Someone on Facebook just reminded me it’s four months until Christmas. Yikes! Hobby Lobby has been full of Christmas stuff since June! I am so not ready for that.

As it was, I was hard pressed to be ready for my first English class today. I feel like I’ve been going full steam ahead all summer, but I still struggled to finish preparing for class. I haven’t finished planning all the details of the rest of the semester, but I have a pretty good framework in place.

Now I’ve got one day to do the same for Geography! (Don’t worry; I’ve taught it three times before and just have to decide how I want to schedule things this time.)

This semester I’ve got four English students, none of whom are my offspring. One of them has never taken one of my classes before. I hope she doesn’t feel overwhelmed!

After class ended, I had fifteen minutes to bolt down some supper before heading off to my critique group. These ladies are wonderful and are helping me so much to improve my writing. I am so grateful for them.

Critique group is followed by our monthly writers meeting. Today we heard a variety of works in progress–two very different novels, some poems, and even a play. I am always so amazed by human creativity and by the different ideas people come up with.

Tomorrow, I switch gears from writing/literature to this incredible planet we call home. It might be a dangerous thing that I now have a valid passport again . . .

P.S. Jasper voluntarily did four lessons of math today. Here’s hoping he keeps it up!


A New Beginning

Today was a big day for Spencer: his first day as a full-time college student. He did manage to get up on time and make it to his first class! I had a ton of class prep to do, but I was tickled to get a text from Lina saying that her debit card arrived! I made sure to get it activated right away.

Later in the day she texted me again to say she had run into problems with the card. This happens every. Single. Time. Every time she travels! So I had to call and talk to the credit union, and they had to research the problem, and I think they finally figured it out.

Jasper got his math done and we discussed how his new bedroom is going to be arranged after Mercy moves the rest of her stuff out.

I got a phone call that resulted in another English student being signed up for tomorrow’s class, and a message that resulted in a new Geography student as well. Yay! I am looking forward to both classes. I just wish I had a couple more weeks to take a deep breath and gather strength for the months ahead . . . .

Oh, and guess what? This is my 800th post on this blog! And I’ve got another milestone coming up in a couple of days.

A Noble Gift

When I was a young girl, my parents had a close friend known to me as “Aunt Lila.” Aunt Lila was an older lady whom I thought very refined and elegant. When I was still quite young, Aunt Lila gave me a gift for my birthday or Christmas–I can’t remember which.

That was surprising in itself, because in my world it was almost unheard-of to receive a gift from someone who was not a family member. The gift was two books, both of them large and imposing hardbacks. One of them was Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, and the other one was The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends adapted by Anne Terry White.

Of course, at first I did not comprehend the wealth of intellectual riches contained in those two volumes. The books looked long and boring, despite the fact that both had illustrations. However, the genius of both volumes was that they consisted of many short stories which could be read in one sitting, so opening either book did not mean one was committing to some kind of grim marathon. And of course, on some level even as a child, I felt obligated to read the books because they had been given to me.

The books came to Africa with us, and when I was home on holiday from school I often pulled them out and read a story or two. There was no television or telephone or computer to distract me in those days–just me and my two big books. There were other books that I read often throughout my growing-up years, but these two were special to me because they had been a gift from Aunt Lila. By the time I finished high school I must have read both books through several times, enjoying them more upon each re-reading.

Given my long association with these two books, it’s not terribly surprising that I grew up to love Shakespeare and also stories with a strong mythic theme like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Sometimes, as I prepare to teach a Shakespeare play, I find myself marveling at how much of who I am today can be credited to these two books and one other (The Golden Treasury of Poetry).

The books came back from Africa with me when I finished high school, then made a return trip when my husband and I served in Zambia in the early 90s. And yes, I still have them. My older children enjoyed them as much as I did. That was before the days when the internet took up so much of everyone’s life!

I could not find a trace of my edition of Tales from Shakespeare online–it was published in the U.K. and I’m sure has long been out of print. However, The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends is still going strong, with the exact same cover:

Myths and Legends

When I looked it up and read some of the reviews, I found one I could have written myself. It said, “This is a book that marks your life forever.”

How Firm a Foundation

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.


Romancing My Brain

Today has been a day of intense preparation for the coming school year. More specifically, for the classes I’ll be teaching starting next week. Vocabulary is part of every English class I teach, and many a student has thanked me for it after going to college. I wrote my own vocabulary curriculum, and it’s been quite effective.

So anyway, today I was figuring out which year of vocabulary words we’ll be doing, because one student will be with me for the fourth year in a row and I wanted to make sure I didn’t pick a list of words she had already learned. I have changed some of my formatting in the last couple of years, so I had to go in and pull up all the files for the first four weeks and start reformatting them.

This is my third or fourth time to go through this particular group of words, and as I started reformatting the documents, I found myself falling in love with the words all over again. English is such a rich, expressive language. Here’s a taste of some of the words we’ll be learning this year: bucolic, ersatz, frangible, frisson, gelid, impugn, inscrutable, lachrymose, poltroon, rubicund, sobriquet . . . . I could go on.

Aren’t they wonderful? I know some people have complained that my words are too “hard” for the students, but I think this is a specious argument. If you’re learning a new word, no word is any “harder” than another, because you don’t know either one, right? So you might as well learn some really robust and vivid words. I love words. So. Much.


Spencer’s Day

This morning got off to a rather surprising start for me. I got up a 6:15 and went into the living room to finish working on my shopping list on my computer, only to be stopped dead in my tracks when I saw there was someone sleeping on the couch. He had his back turned to me, so I had no idea who it was.

I quietly moved my laptop to the dining room and finished making my list there. This is not the first time something like this has happened. I knew it had to be a friend of Spencer’s, since he was the only one not home when I went to bed last night! When I returned from Walmart, I found that Britton was the unidentified body I had seen. He came into town to help Spencer celebrate his birthday.

Spencer had orientation and tennis stuff to do today, so Jasper was the only one to go work with Walter. Lucy helped me make Spencer’s cake before leaving on an overnight trip with some of her art camp friends. Most of the day I spent chained to the computer planning out my upcoming classes. Spencer came home with a radioactive sunburn acquired while playing tennis shirtless in the sun.

This evening was Spencer’s “friend” party. He really wanted to have some friends over for a cookout. This was not an event which family members were expected to attend. Spencer grilled a bunch of hamburgers and hotdogs and he and his friends all hung out in the backyard. I think they had a good time.

8-22-15 Spencer's party 1

8-22-15 Spencer's party 2


And finally, Mercy moved out tonight. She will be living with a friend in an apartment a couple of blocks from here. I just wasn’t quite ready for her to just leave tonight!

A Better Day

Finally, a day without any major stress or trauma! My first event of the day was the parents’ breakfast at the university. I knew from experience that there might not be anything I could eat, so I had my real breakfast and tea at home before driving to the campus. There were no parking spots anywhere near the dining room, so I finally had to settle on parking a couple of blocks away, but just as I did, who should drive up in a golf cart but my knight in shining fedora! He’s allowed to park right in front of the dining room door.

So anyway, we went in, and like I thought the breakfast consisted of pastries and fruit, so I got some berries and pineapple and that was fine. We listened to some speeches and then were free until lunchtime, when Spencer had signed us up for a pizza lunch. This time I knew for sure I couldn’t eat any of it, so I just waited and had lunch after I got home!

I had a chat on the phone with Mary this afternoon. I think I mentioned before that somewhere along the line during her travels this summer, she apparently picked up some bed bugs and their bedroom became infested. They have had to sterilize and bag up all their possessions and yesterday they had exterminators come in to treat the apartment. To their dismay, they discovered that this was only the first of three weekly treatments, so they will have to continue to keep everything in bags until after the third treatment. It has truly been a nightmare for them and I feel so bad that they are having to go through this.

I had to cut short my visit with Mary to go do something I have never done before. I went to a reception for parents of student athletes. Boy did I feel out of place with all those sporty families, but Spencer is on the tennis team and he really wanted me to come. I was glad to hear what the athletic director had to say and to meet Spencer’s coach.

Tomorrow’s going to be a very busy day. Maybe I should rest up.