Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Long Drive

*Abject Apologies!* I cannot seem to get my links to work properly, so you may have to "cut and paste" if you want to see them. Again, apologies!

I love blogging! I love finding great ideas from friends around the world and sharing them. That said, I am participating in "Words and Pictures", proposed by Pip at

My Long Drive is actually memories of 2 long drives. The first was when I was seven. My dear aunt had taken a job as a school teacher clear across the country, far from our little spot in the West (where our family homesteaded 100+ years before). So, my adventurous mom took her two oldest children (7 and 6) and her new baby, and drove out with her, so she wouldn't be alone. Traveling with two neat women is still a vivid memory. My dear aunt worried about us being stuck in the car for hours at a time, so every time we stopped at a rest area, she had us take off our shoes and run in the grass. It did feel great!

We stopped at lots of neat places. Many of them are well known--Mt. Rushmore, the Mississippi River, but some of them are not--Historic Nauvoo, Illinois was in the process of becoming a "living history" site, and we found the incredibly charming town of Pella, Iowa


While we were there, we feasted our weary, tired souls on the sights of windmills and the bell tower in the town square, and our weary, tired stomachs on the wonderful baked goods from the Jaarsma Bakery.


I have some very clear memories--seeing fireflies for the first time (they still enchant me!) and crossing the Mississippi during the Mayfly mating season, where the poor corpses were piled in drifts on the bridges--literally higher than the car bumpers.

We returned to the west by train, stopping in Chicago, where mom took us to see the Sears Tower (which was the tallest building in the world at the time--not so good for someone as severely afraid of heights as I am!), and to the Shedd Aquarium--Sooooo cool!

I did not like traveling by train--the constant noise and movement was very hard on me--but I loved the "dome car" with its clear roof on an upper deck--watch the world go by!

This is a "Dome Car" on an Amtrak train

Mostly I loved being with my mom, who always had a gift for making everything fun, and finding hidden treasures along the way.

My second Long Drive, was this past summer--when I was the mom. We loaded up our trusty minivan (the boring-mobile--ours is possibly the dullest manifestation of the least exciting car ever made--but very functional--and paid for!) with LOTS of STUFF, 3 children, 2 adults (myself and my very fun & funny brother), and a fabulous Service Dog, and did basically the same drive in reverse.

Because, life being what it is--I have moved my little Western self, and we live firmly in the East now. But lots of my beloved family is still in the West, so driving 2000+ miles to see them happens occasionally.

I am very fortunate that my children are such good travelers. Part of that is just good luck--No problems with motion sickness, or anything horrible like that. The other part is that they have been "road-trippers" since before they were born. The no whining/ no arguing policy that we have always had is also a big plus (I will discourse on that at some future time).

We traveled a twisty, not particularly direct route, visiting family members and interesting sites along the way.

This is LargeBoy's favorite part of Old Nauvoo--the Gunsmith Shop. I have to agree that it is REALLY cool!

Historic Nauvoo has become SO interesting that we ended up staying for 2 extra days there!


However, our visit happened to be at the exact same time as the historic flooding on the Mississippi, and so several things were closed due to high water, as well as lots of bridges being washed out. We ended up driving a long way north to a reliable bridge, so we totally missed visiting Pella, Iowa again (much to my disapointment!)

This is one of the big kids, on an island in the Mississippi that is normally the side of the road! MASSIVE FLOODING was going on!

Yellowstone Park was probably the single most common vacation of my childhood. We only lived a few hours away, and my dad LOVED it, and if any guests came they HAD to see it, so we would usually go a few times every summer. It is interesting to me to see how it is changing. Some of the things that were SPECTACULAR in my youth--aren't anymore. My particular favorite "Black Dragon Cauldron" used to be a huge, billowing, frothing mass of dark greyish brown viscous muddy water, surrounded by huge billows of hot steam. Now it is an occasional bubbling upthrust in the pool.

However, just as some things have diminished, other things have increased in activity. Biscuit Basin, which used to be (in my young opinion) pretty darn dull, is now a hotbed (pardon the pun!) of activity.

I am still astounded by the way the bison sit in the hot water. There are cracks in the earth with steam coming up through them, and a buffalo is calmly laying there, chewing its cud.

The waterfalls are as amazing as ever.

One of the big kids took this picture of Yellowstone Falls--I was content to stay FAR back from the rim with SmallDaughter! (see notes on fear of heights)

I love to travel, and I really love to travel with my family.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ooh, how I love new babies!

My dear friend K, who is my same age became a grandma yesterday. Now, we all know that I am FAR too young for Grandmotherhood. Quite true. She managed this feat by the clever usage of a stepson, who is old enough that if either K or I had actually given birth to him, we would have been in medical journals. This excellent stepson is married to a charming wife, who has given birth to the most beautiful baby in the world. (Grandpa told me so, so it must be true--he couldn't possibly be biased. At all. Anyway, after having seen photographic evidence, she is VERY beautiful.

Isn't technology amazing?

I really love this whole blog thing (which last year was an utter mystery to me!). I can follow the lives of new friends all over the world, connecting in a way we never could without this tool. Also, I can spout my many and varied opinions! WOO-HOO!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sam is Engaged!

The handsome son of my dear friend L, just announced his engagement. We became friends long ago, when I was still at home, and my mom had her fullest house ever. In those days, Sam was a bright and sparkly 4 year old, with big blue eyes and strawberry blond hair.

My mom had OOODLES of smart, funny, opinionated, literate unschooled children. The oldest of us were big enough to start showing the results of years of home school. This was back in the days of "you do what? Is that legal?" whereas now, when you tell someone you are homeschooling the most common response is "I know somebody who does that..."

Anyway, we became friends with L, who was between my mom's age and my age, and who also believed big families are great. My mom inspired L to homeschool her children. L had a big family, with mostly boys. Those children are now big, and going into the world to change and shape the future.

I am happy that these good men were allowed to be little boys first--they wiggled, they made noise, they got dirty, they took up lots and lots of room, and made lots and lots of messes. I am proud of them. I am proud of the way they grew up as individuals. They have gentle hearts and are kind, loving and strong. Our future is in good hands with men like these.

I am proud of their mom. I hope I can grow up to be like her.

Escaping Tyranny

I think all homeschool moms experience feelings of doubt, guilt, and occasional panic, wondering if we are REALLY doing the best thing for our precious children.

Every morning, I watch the school bus go past my house without stopping for my children, and every morning, I feel like we have escaped from prison. We aren't scrambling around making sure everybody has a lunch, a backpack (which, incidentally, for a middle schooler weighs about as much as your average senator) and any stray notes or homework. Whether we were in an organized phase (thanks, FlyLady) or a disorganized phase, there was always a scramble.

Now, we get SmallDaughter onto the van for her school, and then the rest of us go tackle our day. This morning was fairly typical. I got up with My Favorite Gentleman at 4:45, packed his lunch for work (it makes him feel loved), he wheeled the trash dumpster out to the curb (it makes me feel loved!) and I had my early morning seminary class at 5:15. (I am teaching New Testament this year, to some EXTREMELY awesome high school students--who attend this extremely early class every day, and then go to school and do great things!

After class, I invited BigGirl and LargeBoy in for "Snuggle Time" in my room. Snuggle Time is a long-standing tradition, born back in the day when they HATED to get rushed out of bed straight into the school chaos. I realized that their schedule was: get up-get ready-go to school-come home-do homework-eat dinner-go to bed-do it again. These are FIRST GRADERS! When did we have time for fun? For Love? For knowing that they are the most important things in my life? So they started coming into my room before they had to get up, for snuggles, reading aloud, back and foot massages, movie watching and, occasionally, sleep. When I am old, what I will look back on with love and nostalgia, is snuggling with my beautiful children every morning.

So, this morning, LargeBoy (who slept very well), was not sleepy, and wanted to be productive, but both of his sisters were still asleep. What to do? He went and got his scout notebook, wrote several thank you notes, and worked on memorizing the Boy Scout Oath and such. While he was snuggled up to me. When he finished, he went back to sleep. When he gets up, (I know from past experience)he will have a great day. He is very sleep dependent, and lack of sleep makes him a very grouchy guy.

When BigGirl was having a hard time with math, we started doing it snuggled in my bed, where it was warm and we could reduce her stress. Ironically, she is very good at math, she just gets frustrated and panicky (just like her mother!). Since I am doing math with them (I am learning and RETAINING more than I ever have, thank you for asking--I really love the Saxon Math program), we just got comfy and worked through the hard places together.

We are no longer under the tyranny of other peoples schedules, other peoples expectations, and other peoples ridicule. Why can't math be learned in bed?

So, my observations about "am I doing the right thing" and other guilt and panic?

I love to spend time with my kids. I would rather be with them than most other people--they are funny, kind and intelligent. I don't need to send them off to school to have other people babysit them because they drive me crazy.

In a typical classroom of 25, a teacher can only give each child 5-7 minutes of individual attention per day. Now, even on a crazy busy day, when I am rushing between projects, I can give them at least 15 individual minutes.

15 minutes doesn't sound like very much, does it? But consider this--it is three times more than they would be getting! And that is on my worst day!

In my school, we have no bullying, no harrassment (well, except from me about room cleaning!), no peer pressure to try drugs, sex or tobacco (let alone steroids given by overachieving coaches, etc.) AND if anybody in my school has a gun--it is because we are doing target shooting!

How can I possibly do WORSE for my children than the public Junior High Schools?

I am going back to bed, to snuggle my beautiful children and to lovingly face the future!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Other People's Houses

I am sometimes a bit envious of other peoples houses. They seem to be something that mine isn't-- oh, I don't know--tidy might be the word. Not that I am a big advocate of filth. But what my house has ISN'T filth--it is the detritus of learning.

For example--my lovely house has a nice(ish) porch all the way across the front of it. There are two ways of looking at it--you could use your realtor hat, and see that the big limestone slabs that make up the steps are cracking and need remortared, the paint is peeling and the whole thing seems to be covered in sticks, like some ospreys went crazy during nest building.

Or you can see that the sticks are actually an armory, constructed with creative patience by 3 imaginative boys (10, 11 & 12) and that they are really a wide selection of the best implements from every time and country--medieval pikes & longbows(more on bows in a minute), chinese swords and Turkish knives. The cracks in the steps allow a really funny chipmunk to live under them (in a state of near constant panic and hysteria brought on by the upstairs neighbors, I would guess!)

The other end of the porch (which looks REALLY untidy!) has a selection of pots & pans (from the great cupboard clean out) making "potions" or something--I am not sure what, today.

The games change and morph every time the boys are together. This intrest in weaponry caused some really exciting research into the Knights Templar and their role in history (wow--I never knew that stuff!--I am learning SO much by permitting my children to follow their hearts!)

The bow and arrows--LargeBoy came in last week, and asked if he could look up how to make archery equipment on the internet. It turns out that a great source for wood for arrows is goldenrod--the weed that I can never quite get all out of my outer flowerbeds! I generously let him have it all--and promised him the entire summer crop, too!

They very proudly showed me the bows they made--they can actually shoot an arrow from the porch to the sidewalk (about 12 feet). Since the bow is made from some of the deadwood that fell out of our trees in the last windstorm, and the bowstring is a piece of small nylon rope, I am pretty stunned at that distance and accuracy!

I did interrupt a particularly noisy game when I told them they were not permitted to shoot AT one another, when I was informed they were "practicing catching arrows out of mid-air, and if they can't shoot at each other, that would be impossible!" Nevertheless, the ban remains in place.

If I insisted that they stay sitting down, learning history--they would learn nothing. If I permit them to cover my porch, my yard and my world with the debris of their experimentation--the world comes alive!

So, I remember that the important thing I am creating is not a magazine layout of "better living through conspicuous consumption", or even an immaculate house, but an environment where creativity can bloom. And then, I can stand back in wonder at the amazing results of mental freedom in the lives of my children!

One of my favorite quotes comes from the mother of 12 children: "I do not want my home to be a museum or a showplace, but rather a laboratory for learning". Indeed.

An Interesting Insight

*Warning--Religious Content--if it offends you--don't read it!*

Last month, I went with a friend to a special Relief Society Women's Conference, put on by our stake. The speaker was awesome, and one of the main points I took away from it, was that to God, NOTHING is purely physical or temporal--EVERYTHING is spiritual. While I have always known this from a logical standpoint, that night it really struck me emotionally, and I realized that I need to focus on making the physical jobs that I do routinely (specifically laundry and dishes) into something spiritual. I have been pondering and praying about this since.

Tuesday night was our Ward Relief Society birthday social. It was charming, feminine and enjoyable. We talked about the many different stages we go through as women, and the lessons we learn in each stage. I shared my laundry quest, and that Heavenly Father has helped me with my gratitude by seeing how blessed I am to have an automatic washer AND dryer (and when it stops raining, I can hang things outside). Miss P pointed out to me what a beautiful analogy doing laundry is--we hand over clothes (or a life) that are filthy, nasty and stinky, and it is given back to us, clean, refreshed, renewed, and made useful again.

I will be much more mindful as I do laundry, now. It blesses my family, and teaches me, too! I wonder what other lessons I will find from this quest.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On Beauty

This morning, I stepped outside. Yesterday was cold and windy, the day before was warm and rainy-so rainy we still have flood warnings posted. Today, because of the time change, the sun isn't up yet, but it has brightened to a blue twilight, the ground is covered with a sprinkling of snow, and there is a huge, orange-sickle colored moon hanging just over the knife-edged silhouette of the trees. The air is crisp and cold, but full of smells and sounds--the pleasing smell of hardwood smoke from the neighbors chimney, a train whistle on the other side of town, the mourning dove in the little tree in the front yard. It is good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Good Life

Yesterday was great. Church was uplifting and fulfilling. I love to be needed--and to be loved just for who I am. I also have a great time in my current calling--where I get to work with the primary kids every week.

After we came home (which is a 45 minute drive), we hurried and finished up the cooking and house tidying--so we could have a big surprise party for my good friend E, who turned 18--which is pretty shocking to me. If I thought about it, I would probably say she was "around 14". I think I am getting that old person worldview--everybody is turning into a "young 'un"!

It was so nice to eat good food, be surrounded by a lot of fun people of all ages. I have so much to be grateful for in my life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A deeply clean bathroom

Three weeks ago, the light burned out in my downstairs bathroom. By this I mean both the switch and the light socket. Totally dead. Nada. Nothing. Not particularly surprising--this house is over 100 years old, and things go out all the time. HOWEVER--the downstairs bath (which, in realtor terms is a "quarter bath" ie., a tiny closet containing a sink and a toilet. Thats it.) doesn't have any windows, and when it's light went it was DARK.

My creative children solved this by placing a row of all of my scented, decorative candles in a row across the top of the sink. Lovely. Problem delayed.

Yesterday (Yippee!!) the light fixture was repaired, and light was restored again!

Revealing--wow, you don't see a whole lot by candlelight! The sink was filled with a multicolored hodgepodge of wax drips that reminded me of an italian restaraunt candle my mom had when I was small (stuff a colored candle in a short, round wine bottle, let it drip down the sides, then burn lots of different colors so you have lots of picturesque drippage--what can I say, it was the 70's!)

Anyway, I had to remove the trap from the sink to clean all the stuff out (lots of burned match stubs, also) and scrub the sink with much elbow grease, and many tools, but now--VOILA! A sparkling clean, brightly lit bathroom!

I don't like cleaning much, but I do love nice, clean stuff!

There is HOPE

Having spent an utterly crazy night--BigGirl had 3 pre-teen friends spend the night (roughly the noise equivalent of an early 80's stadium rock concert), and, at the last minute LargeBoy had to have a friend stay over, too (due to a family medical emergency)--so life was LOUD and LATE.

Plus, my house looks like a very untidy tornado came through it. Also, My Favorite Gentleman and LargeBoy left at 4:00 this am, to go on a 20 mile hike.

So, entropy (what a great word--I just love it! "a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder, the gradual descent into chaos. see Chaos, Randomness, Disorder.") is prevailing, once again.

However, when I went to call 4 totally wet, happy girls into the house (it rained all night, a warm, spring rain, and they couldn't wait to get out into it. It is unseasonably warm here--about 15-20 degrees above normal!) The rain has stopped, a bit of sunshine is peeking out, and I see that my front flower bed has BLOOMING SNOWDROPS!

It is fabulously springlike out there. It smells heavenly. I know that it is only a cruel illusion--Winter is not really gone--last year, the kids had their easter egg hunts in the snow--in April. We probably have 2 more good snowstorms left (maybe 3). But it fools me every year!

I must get out my garden catalogs! I must start thinking about compost-y things!
Hope springs eternal in the heart of the disoganized gardener--"this year will be better!" On, On to greatness!

Friday, March 6, 2009


I love Rick Steves the travel guy. I love his philosophy of traveling, I love his travel guides and the cool "extras" he provides. HOWEVER--my PBS station puts his shows on at VERY random times--late at night, etc.

Plus--I hardly ever have control of the remote (that's a joke--remote, control--yeah,sigh, lame, I know!)

ANYWAY, a few weeks ago, somehow, I stumbled across the broadcast of his new show on Iran. OOOH!

Now you must realize that there are VERY few places in the world I would not travel to, if given the opportunity. (Maybe Florida in the middle of summer [palmetto bugs--cringe!] or Antartica in the winter, but even then, I'd think about it!)

The Middle East has always fascinated me. I always wondered about the Cedars of Lebanon that King Solomon used to build the temple. Did he use them all, so they became extinct? (I found out the answer when I lived in California as a missionary for my church--I had awesome Lebanese neighbors, who showed me pictures of the cedars--they are NOT extinct, they are beautiful, thank you very much!) I also had Iranian/Persian neighbors, so I lost the American idea that we are "different" or "enemies"--all of them were great people, who I respected very much.

I love the idea of living in a place with over three thousand years of written, recorded history. (Plus anyplace that has a Bazaar that old HAS to be cool! OOOOH! Bazaars! Full of FABRIC! And FIBER! And GOLD & SILVER! And RUGS (and the more I learn about weaving, the cooler THEY get!)OOOH! OOOOH! OOOH!

So--watching a show on Iran (the Persia of the Bible) one of the largest empires of history was fascinating! Rick walked in King Xerxes temple ruins, where Esther, one of my personal heroes, actually lived! WHOA!! I loved this episode, so imagine my delight when I found out that:

Rick is offering this FABBITY-FAB-FAB-FAB offer! The DVD's are usually $19.95+shipping (and worth it), but he is offering this one to groups for $5--with NO SHIPPING! 5 BUCKS! That's it! Here is the link for the order form. The offer is only valid until March 31, 2009, so HURRY!


OOOHH! New Wool!

I have, in the last year and a half, become something I had never dreamed of becoming: A Fiber Fanatic.

I have always been fascinated by spinning and weaving. I remember watching a demonstration at the library by the local Spinners & Weavers Guild when I was very young. The thing I remember the most vividly is that one of the women had a spinning wheel that looked nothing like those I had seen in pictures--it was small and I think it was homemade, and the wheel was solid (it did not have spokes like a wagon wheel or the spinning wheel in Sleeping Beauty)and she had tole-painted ivy around it. It captured my imagination. I also remember a display the guild had of wool felt that they had helped elementary children dye with Kool-Aid and make into felt.

I always planned on learning to spin and weave as my "empty nest" pursuits. However, over the course of the last several years, I have realized that SmallDaughter will probably never leave the nest, so I needed to adjust my plan!

After a display by our local Spinners and Weavers Guild at an (awesome!) Heritage Days event, where not only I, but all of my children were fascinated by the looms and wheels, I thought about learning again. I was talking to someone at church, who casually mentioned, "Well, have you talked to W about it? She's into all that stuff." I went and talked to the aforementioned W, and she was thrilled to have someone who was interested. She very graciously (and excitedly!) helped me get set up with a wheel of my own, wool, instructions, and a guild membership!


Working with fibers is HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!

We now have our own little "Fiber Arts Nuts" group. We get together every other week to work on spinning, knitting, crochet, felting or whatever other creative thing we are working on, then we eat yummy food. It is nourishment for the soul--body and mind! I have learned so much, and the kids LOVE it, too!

Dear W loves to get things to share, and when she saw a needle-felting hat making set on sale for half price she got it for me. Wow! Needle Felting is AWESOME!
Super easy, good for working out your stress and aggravation!


I have 2 adorable hats completed, and 2 that I am in progress on.

Yesterday, when the F.A.N.s got together, W had a bag of the most luscious, bright candy apple red, super soft merino wool roving--just for me!!! It was so soft and silky I had to start spinning some RIGHT THEN, but most of it will be turned into hats.

I will report on our gorgeous easter egg dye experiment later (yes, it dyes wool, yes, it is super easy, yes, it is addictive!)

Quiet Rebellion

Honestly, I did not set out to become the Leader of the Rebel Alliance!

However, over the course of the last year, at least 3 families that I love (and talked to A LOT!) have decided to home school their children. Now, while I do accept partial responsibility, I can't take it all, because a WHOLE LOT comes from the schools.

Now, I have to tell you that my fabulous children attended our local (small) public school from K until either 5 or 6 grade (ie, this last year). That is because I am not their only parent, and we needed to follow the desires of our good daddy (My Favorite Gentleman). They received an adequate education there. However, this year, they (the school)--without really informing the parents-- decided to move the 5th and 6th grade into the junior high. I am sure it was for reasons like space or budget issues. However 10 year olds do not need to be in the same culture as 8th graders.

Here we find ourselves, and our cute, perfect little babies are now tall, willowy (in some cases) wiry (in other cases) people whom we have carefully raised to have LOTS of personality, curiosity and life all stored up in them, and then they are forced to go into schools that systematically try to crush all of those traits OUT.

In my opinion, Junior High school is the cesspool of our civilization. At this age, personalities are delicate and are forming the traits that will shape the rest of their lives. So, we send them to school for "socialization"--do you remember jr. high? The only people meaner that jr. high boys are jr. high girls!

Also, if you think about it, the only other place that has a comparable social setting is prison. That isn't what I want my children to think is normal.

Today was the first warm spring-like day. It seemed like a criminal act to force them to stay in (and there was no good reason why they should!) so they went out to run in the fresh wind. They came running joyfully back to report that one of our trees is not only hollow!, but also contains a squirrel nest, and is completely full of stored nuts.

LargeBoy of mine reporting to his dad:

Daddy:"what have you learned in school?"
LargeBoy: "nothing."

Dad indignantly told this to me, which made me laugh, because that was the same day LargeBoy had reeled off the names of all the kings of Mesopotamia--which he learned about a little bit from our history lesson, but mostly from a "They Might Be Giants" song!

I reassured his daddy that LargeBoy was just used to thinking that learning has to be drudgery, and that if it is fun, it can't possibly count!

So, here we are with a brand new paradigm--where we learn for the joy of it! Whoa--what a radical idea!


The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you.This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
2- What I create will be just for you.
3- It'll be done this year.
4- You have no clue what it's going to be.

The catch is that you must repost this on your blog and offer the same to the first 5 people who do the same on your blog. The first 5 people to do so and leave a comment telling me they did win a FAB-U-LOUS homemade gift by me! Oh, and be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it!!!

I don't actually care if you post this on your blog or not. I just thought it was a fun and cute idea.

Why " A Prismatic Life' Anyway? What is that about?

My life--and my entire personality--is made up of many contrasting (and even contradictory) elements. This can get a little confusing for the people around me--how is it possible for me to be BOTH shy and outgoing, clever and obtuse, etc, etc, ect.

Once, when I was in college, I was lamenting this to my dear roommate (I believe that the conversation included something along the lines of "how can I be so many things at the same time--maybe I'm schizophrenic!" --and yes, I believe it was around the time I was taking psychology classes.)

My dear, wise, poetess roomie lovingly said "You are a prism, with many, many facets--you change as the light moves. No one color is more important than another, and you would not be you without them all."

I am so grateful for her insight.

I have pondered it often in the years since then, and I have realized that a prismatic life is a beautiful thing to have.