Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heads or tails

Both kids wanted to be the home team for living room baseball tonight, so Mike decided to flip a coin.  He said to call it in the air, but Sarah watched it land on heads before calling heads.  He said, "You're supposed to call it in the air," and she exclaimed, "I couldn't see what it was in the air!"  He explained to her that you're not supposed to see and that that's the point of the whole thing.  Then he said, "OK, I'm going to toss it again, and when it's still in the air, you say heads or tails."  He tossed it, and Sarah yelled, "Heads or tails!"

Lazy day

Last night, my man and I played softball on the church's co-ed team.  It was lots of fun, and we won (in spite of me!).  The kids were there cheering us on, so they went to bed too late, and today we're already suffering the consequences.  They just don't do well if they don't get enough sleep. 

Considering the kids' moods and the nasty heat and humidity, we're going to scrap the to-do list for the day.  Instead, we're going to the library to check out the Little Women DVD.  We just finished the book, so this would be a good time to hang out in the cool basement with a big bowl of popcorn and watch it. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010


A friend recently sent me a link to a homeschooler's blog.  This woman posted pictures of her school areas, showing a ridiculously unattainable amount of organization, and my friend and I agreed that it was a little depressing to look at the pictures.  My mom claims that a person has to be very organized in order to homeschool.  I am living proof that any cluttery person can do it. 

So, in contrast to Mrs. Incredibly Organized's blog, here are pictures of just a few of our "school areas":
This is probably the most organized area.  It's the living room couch where we have devotions every morning.  The books just stay lumped on there all the time, and sometimes the cushions are askew or missing. 

Sometimes we play dictionary detective in this lovely section of the living room.  The vacuum is sitting there to remind me that we really need to vacuum.  It's been sitting there all week.

This is our most used school area.  We call it the art center.  The drawers are full of arts/crafts/school supplies, and whatever we're working on is usually piled on top.  It's right next to the kitchen table, so when we're eating, we're usually involved in some of that pile of stuff.  I've organized it before, but it doesn't stay that way.

This is next to the bed where bedtime books are read.  It's usually a mess.  This concludes the tour of the disorganized homeschool. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Future serial killer, part 2

Sarah took the cat out to the back yard this afternoon while I was helping Noah organize his Legos.  After awhile, I looked out the window to check on them and saw that Jason was completely drenched.  I yelled out the window to ask Sarah why the cat was all wet, and she replied, "Because I threw him in the pool!"  I stared at her in shock as the anger welled up, and I forced my voice to be quiet as I ordered her into the house.  Fortunately, she was way out in the yard, and it took a good ten seconds for her to get in, so I was able to get a grip on myself before I talked to her. 

In that ten seconds, I was also planning all kinds of punishments for her, but when she stood in front of me looking truly repentant, I asked her WHY she threw the cat into the pool.  She said quite sincerely, "I was just curious to see if he could swim."  She said she was sorry and she'd never do it again.  She looked all sad and scared and sorry, and it suddenly stuck me funny that she was curious if Jason could swim so she threw him in the pool to find out.  I laughed to myself, but I kept my serious mommy face on while I explained that it's good to be curious and conduct experiments, but not if it involves being cruel to pets or people. 

P.S.--Sarah says that Jason is a very good swimmer.


My kids are learning to spell!  After my midlife crisis last week, I've changed how we're doing school, and it's so exciting to see them learning.  Here's Noah working on spelling words on the garage door.

Future serial killer

Sarah has a long history of abusing dolls.  When she was little, she used to drag them around by the hair.  Now she cuts their hair and pulls their heads off.

When I was a kid, I used to play with a set of dolls called The Sunshine Family.  I was always gentle with them, and it never even occurred to me to dismember them.  My mom preserved them for 30 years and gave them to Sarah in mint condition.  During quiet time yesterday, I discovered this gruesome scene in the bathroom:
Of course I knew who was responsible for murdering Mr. Sunshine. When I tracked her down, I asked, "Sarah, where is Mr. Sunshine?"  She said, "Oh, he's right here" and whipped out his one-armed headless body.
Me: What happened to him?
S: He went swimming, and his head and arm fell off.
Me: The waters must have been pretty rough.  Where was he swimming?
S: In the sink.  After his arm came off, I was pouring water out of his arm hole.
Me: I found two arms in the bathroom. Who else is missing an arm?
S: Oh, that's Mrs. Sunshine.  She was trying to rescue her husband, but her arm fell off too.

If Sarah ever has a daughter, she will not be inheriting any old dolls. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Do NOT try this recipe!

"This drink has to be tasted to be believed."  Ain't that the truth!  You'd have to taste it to believe how revolting it is.  It looked so delicious that I went out and bought an avocado, and the kids and I made it this morning.  It looked lovely, just like this picture in Family Fun magazine.  It was creamy and rich and....disgusting.  We poured it back into the blender and added a banana, honey, more sugar, vanilla syrup, and strawberries.  It came out brown but tasted way better.  The kids still wouldn't drink it (probably too shell-shocked from the original taste), so I drank some and froze the rest into popsicles for the neighborhood kids.  They happily ate my spinach popsicles a couple months ago on a hot day, so I'm sure they'll enjoy these.  I just won't mention the avocado. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Way too creative with the food...

Here's Noah, turning his dinner into Pinocchio.  He made meatball eyes, a green bean mouth, and of course, Pinocchio's long breadstick nose.

Reading with cats

I had forgotten how much I love living with cats.  After being cat-free for eight years, we now have two cats that make me really happy.  Today I was reading the Bible on my bed, and big Marty jumped up and started rubbing on me, because cats can sense from anywhere in the house if you've just cracked open something to read. 

Inevitably, she settled down right on the book, and I couldn't see a word.  So I opened my book from my training workshop yesterday and started reviewing it.  Jason came along and sprawled across it.  I got out my Family Fun magazine and started reading that, while Marty read the Bible, and Jason studied my workshop notes. After a few minutes, Jason moved over onto Family Fun, and Marty stretched out so she could cover both the Bible AND my other book.

I gave up reading and went to get my camera.  Jason followed me, so he's not in the picture, and Marty curled up and freed up my original reading material. No matter how much I try to accommodate them, I think they will always manage to force themselves into the center of attention.


I'm so proud of Sarah today, because she was short-order breakfast cook for all of us, all by her little six-year-old self!  She wrote out a menu (we definitely need to work on spelling and writing!), took orders, cooked the food, and served it. 

I'm not sure Noah knew which box he was checking on the menu, but he ordered buttered toast ("BUDRD TOST"), and he also asked for crackers on the side.  Sarah delivered him a plate with four crackers on it, and a piece of toast with a tiny dot of butter in the middle.  When the customer complained, she said, "Well, you had too much butter yesterday on your movie popcorn, so you have to cut back today." Gotta love a server who is that concerned about your health!

I ordered the "SPESHL", which was jam on "TOST".  It was very good, although there was not a lot of jam, nor was it evenly spread.  It was delivered on a big pizza pan, so the presentation was pretty spectacular.

Mike ordered egg on "TOST" with "CHEZ".  His was the most impressive.  She cooked the egg in the microwave, centered it beautifully on the toast, and sprinkled it all with a liberal dose of shredded cheddar.  

Of course, the kitchen was a total mess, but she did a really good job making breakfast. 


I've been feeling the need to make some changes in my life.  The most major one is rethinking how we do school around here.  Just when I get these kids figured out, they change on me, requiring me to adapt.  Our schedule has been loose, free, and easy, and that has worked, but now I feel like they need more structure and formalized work.  I started working with them in that direction last week, and it was one of the lousiest weeks I can remember.  Everyone (yes, including me) experienced frustration, whining, complaining, breakdowns, and bad attitudes.  I'm still in discussions with the principal (Mike) and superintendent (God) about how school is going to work, and I will consult the students as well, but there are changes ahead.

I've thought about my goals and steps to achieve them.  My main goal is and always has been for the kids (and myself!) to deepen their relationship with God and develop good character traits.  To that end, we'll continue with daily devotions and Community Bible Study, and I want to try to cut down on screen time for all of us.  My next goal is for them to be excellent communicators (spoken and written), so we're going to work on writing and spelling every day, and I'm even ordering a spelling curriculum.  I also want them to continue learning to read music and play the piano, so we'll keep going with daily piano lessons.  And of course, we'll keep reading every day.

Yesterday I attended teacher training at church, and it was so encouraging, challenging, and motivating!  I've always been in a helper role in my kids' classes, because I don't feel like I have much ability to teach (dirty little secret--I'm a homeschooler without a natural gift for teaching).  But something the trainer said yesterday was aimed right at me:  You can't hide behind the excuse that you don't have a teaching gift, because God can develop that gift in you.  So I volunteered to teach in my kids' classes, and I'm trusting God to equip me.

The last one is more of a minor change.  I'm playing on the church co-ed softball team with Mike.  I'm a little anxious about that, because I'm old, overweight, out of shape, and have never been very athletic.  But I do like playing softball, especially with my husband, so I'm going to try it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wisconsin--last day

Saturday, August 14, 2010

6:00 a.m. I’m the first one up, so I’m going out to watch the sun rise over the lake before I make breakfast and start tackling all the chores we have to do before we leave.

8:30 a.m. Leaving the cabin.

10:30 a.m. Stopping somewhere in Wisconsin near Route 41 at a cheese shop.

11:30 a.m. I’m heading to the cooler to get lunches for everyone.

1:20 p.m. Checking out Magic Water in Rockford, IL. It’s hot, and we have our swimsuits and towels with us, so we’re thinking about doing it.

1:30 p.m. Sarah is crying big, sad tears, because she’s so disappointed that we’re leaving the water park. It was too expensive and crowded, and we decided we really wouldn’t have enough time to do it justice. We promised her we’d come back another time.

3:50 p.m. We are all very glad to be home, and we were welcomed by a fallen branch of our sweet gum tree, several branches in the back yard, and the pool cover half-torn off.

When we got inside, there were two extremely affectionate cats waiting to greet us. Marty helped unpack the suitcases.

Wisc.--Day 6

Friday, August 13, 2010 
6:30 a.m. We’re all awake and having devotions.   It’s going to rain today, which might prevent our planned raft trip.  I’m making ham & eggs for breakfast.
8:00 a.m.  Mike is cleaning the kayaks and putting them away, and I am doing dishes and laundry.  We’re all going around cleaning up miscellaneous things. 
10:00 a.m.  Playing Cadoo.  It’s raining.  Best weather day so far, because there’s a nice cool breeze blowing in the windows. 
12:00 p.m.  Finishing up leftovers for lunch and heading to our favorite place (yep, the candy store). 
2:30 p.m.  Power has been out all afternoon.  The water is controlled by an electric pump, so we have no water either, which means I can’t wash dishes, do laundry, or vacuum.  All of those things were on my list of things to do today.  Can’t flush the toilet or turn on any fans.  Glad it’s not as hot as it has been.  We’ve packed everything we can pack and cleaned everything we can clean. I can use this computer until the battery dies, which won’t be long.  We’re going to play a game.
4:20 p.m.  Power is finally back on.  Hot dogs, baked beans, and broccoli.  Then dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and various other fun stuff.
6:00 p.m.  Fishing off the dock.  I caught a two-inch bass.  Mike said it looked like it had just hatched from its egg.  He was stoked to catch this massive bluegill with the pink princess pole:

Noah caught a little bluegill too,

and then somehow managed to fall into the lake, fishing pole and all.

Since he was already wet, he jumped off the dock many times just for fun.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wis.--Day 5

Thursday, August 12, 2010

8:00 a.m. Going to hike to waterfalls at McClintock and Goodman Parks.

11:00 a.m. Home for lunch. The hike was beautiful, but still SO hot and muggy. The kids get bitten by mosquitoes even when they’re coated with bug spray. They just can’t resist them. We picked blackberries and raspberries. Sarah could hardly wait to get home to go to the bathroom:

Mike is making freezer-burned frozen pizza for lunch. He dropped it on the oven door, scooped it up, and dropped it on the stove top.

1:30 p.m. Making our daily trip to Sweet Memories. Too hot for anything but ice cream. Cooled off at the library, checked out some books and DVDs.

3:30 p.m. Watched Ratatouille DVD with kids.

5:00 p.m. Sarah and I are making tuna casserole. Boys are having kayak races. Cooking and washing dishes in this kitchen is very hot.

6:30 p.m. Roasting marshmallows for s’mores. Noah and I are going swimming in the lake.

8:00 p.m. Showers and bed for kids.

11:00 p.m. Mike and I went out to the dock to look at the stars. The sky was so dark over the lake.  We saw satellites, the Milky Way, a planet, and lots of shooting stars.  It was amazing!

P.S. We’ve seen a bald eagle, wild turkeys, a couple deer, some chipmunks, and loons, but no bears.

WI--Day 5

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
7:00 a.m. Woke up to clouds and rain. Watching DVD, doing another load of laundry, lazing around, wondering what we’re going to do today.
10:00 a.m.  Went shopping in Lakewood, including our daily trip to Sweet Memories Candy Shoppe. 
12:00 p.m.  Lunch at the cabin.  Kids and I swam to the first island (Deer Island), and Mike kayaked along next to us. 
5:00 p.m.  I made chicken with mushrooms, onions, wine, sour cream, rice (which Mike has dubbed “Winey Chicken”) and we played a rousing game of Uno, which Noah won. 
7:00 p.m. Mike is reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins to the kids, and then we’re putting them to bed.  It’s been a rather uneventful and unphotogenic day.  Things I miss about home:
·         Dishwasher
·         My showerhead
·         My cats
·         TV
·         Internet
·         Papa Murphy’s
·         Wal-Mart

Wis.--Day 4

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Far too early a.m.—Everyone is awake and piling into one bed for a fun, lazy morning. We had devotions, and the kids pretended to be cats. Now we’re going to watch a “17 Kids and Counting” DVD, have some cereal, and wait for the jetski to be delivered.

9:00 a.m. Jet ski is delivered, and I’m heading to the grocery store, gas station, and library.

11:00 a.m. Mike and kids are jetskiing, and I am happy to be alone in the kitchen at last. I love this kitchen. It’s big, well-stocked, and I can see my family on the lake out the window. I’m steaming broccoli and making hamburger patties to grill later.

12:00 p.m. Kids and I are having lunch. Mike is still jetskiing. He saw a bald eagle.

5:00 p.m. Filling up the jetski gas tank (again) and getting ready to return it. Grilling burgers, eating super delicious corn on the cob that I bought at a local produce stand, and roasting marshmallows for s’mores.

8:00 p.m. Kids in bed, parents relaxing.

Wisc.--Day 3

Monday, August 9, 2010

Early a.m.—Everyone is awake. I’m the only one who stayed in the same bed all night.

Wheeler Lake has wake hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., so the lake is calm and peaceful in the morning before the boaters and skiers start.  We’re getting ready to go out and fish.  Sarah said, “Why are we fishing before the wake hours?  The fish aren’t even awake yet!”
9:20 a.m. Drove to a place that was supposed to rent jetskis.  They don’t anymore.  Drove to the zoo, which also houses the Chamber of Commerce.  Both were pretty lame.  It is VERY hot and even more humid.  
12:00 p.m.  Lunch and hanging out at the cabin.
3:00 p.m.  Going to the library and candy store.
4:00 p.m.  I’m making soup for dinner.  That was my plan, because it was supposed to get down into the 50’s at night up here, and I thought soup by the fire would be great.  Instead, it’s soup in the heat.

5: 30 p.m.  Noah and I were finishing our dessert while Sarah and Mike were down at the lake.  Sarah came bursting through the door yelling, “Noah, come quick!  Kayak emergency! It paddled itself away!”  Sure enough, the kayak hadn’t been secured and had floated far, far away.  The boys rounded it up and brought it back.  This is what Mike’s rear end looked like after they got back:
6:15 p.m.  My goal has been to swim across the lake to the first island before the week is over.  Full of hot soup, I decided tonight was the night.  Noah paddled the kayak along next to me in case I couldn’t make it, but I made it to the island and back.  

8:00 p.m.  Kids are in bed.  Last night they said they had a sleepover at Sarah’s house (her bunk bed), and tonight they’re sleeping over at Noah’s.  We have five beds in this place, so we can spread out, but they choose to sleep together. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wisconsin--Day 2

Sunday, August 8, 2010

6:40 a.m. We’re up, after a night of thunderstorms. We had a family devotion and prayer and made breakfast. (I have a cute picture of Sarah helping cook breakfast, but she's wearing only underwear, so I guess that's not bloggable). The kids played in the sand and tried to catch minnows in the lake, while Mike and I kayaked all the way across the lake to the second island. We explored the island and listened to the loons. When we got back, Noah pretended he was Christopher Columbus and kayaked all the way to the first island by himself.

11:00 a.m. I packed a picnic, and we headed out for a hike in Nicolet National Forest.
We went on the Quartz Hill Trail, which leads to an old fire tower (only the concrete stump remains).  It was uphill, hot, humid, and swarming with mosquitoes.  We decided not to picnic after all and came home for lunch. 

2:30 p.m.  I fished off the dock (no action) while the kids played in the water and Mike called the cabin owner to ask about where to rent a jet ski.  I took a major nap while Mike and the kids were kayaking.

5:00 p.m.  Drove to an incredible candy store in Lakewood.  It’s a house that has been entirely filled with every kind of candy you could ever want. Noah selected an Anakin Skywalker pez dispenser and some rock candy, and all Sarah wanted was Fun Dip.

6:00 p.m.  Roasted hot dogs on the fire and went fishing off the dock.  Sarah pulled out a nightcrawler and announced, “I’m not hooking this one, because she’s pregnant.”  As she was putting a different worm on her hook, she said, “Ew, mustard squirted out of this one.”  We saw several little bluegill (the water is very clear), but nobody caught anything.

8:00 p.m.  Kids are going to bed, and I am doing laundry.  The kids are completely out of clothes already on our first full day here, because they walk right into the lake wearing their clothes, and then put on dry clothes and do it all over again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wisconsin trip--Day 1

Saturday, August 7, 2010
8:03 a.m. leaving home. Sarah said a good prayer. Van is loaded to the gills.  Kids are eating hot pockets and listening to Mr. Stinky Feet’s Road Trip.  It wouldn’t be a Janes road trip if we didn’t start with a loud playing of our favorite road trip CD.
8:33 a.m.  Now we’re listening to VBS songs.  The kids are dancing in their seats, singing loudly, and doing all the motions to the songs.  Noah just said, “I wish Isaac was still alive, because I wanted to be President and him to be my Vice President, and then it would be a great country.”
8:54 a.m. I made my first trip to the back to set people up with trail mix and drinks.  Noah is reading a Boxcar Children book. 
10:00 a.m.  Stopped at a VERY busy rest stop somewhere on I-39.  It has a nice playground with a stand-up seesaw.  Kids are now drawing and listening to a book on CD.
10:15 a.m. I spouted out a random trivia fact (“Astronauts get two to three inches taller while living at the International Space Station.”), and Mike asked, “Do they shrink back down when they get back to Earth?”  Occasionally I do Wisconsin quizzes (the state insect is the honeybee) or knock-knock jokes from a library book.  Noah is playing the license plate game.  He has six states so far.
11:00 a.m. Took a picture at the Janesville sign.  We passed it and had to walk back to it.   

1:20 p.m. Stop for gas and pee.  I’m having a discussion with Noah about evolution.
2:01 p.m. Road closed, taking a long detour.  Noah just noticed that our ETA on the GPS has gotten later, and he said, “What?!  It’s still an hour and a half?  You said an hour and a half about half an hour ago!”
3:20 p.m.  Arriving at the cottage.  It’s in a very nice setting and has everything we need.  Hauling in stuff, unpacking, getting organized.  It’s pretty hot.  No air conditioning.  Getting the fans going and windows open. 

4:30 p.m.  Going on a search for food.  Got burgers, fries, and ice cream at a DQ-type place.  Stopped at the town’s only grocery store and bought stuff to make breakfast in the morning. 
5:30 p.m.  Getting in the lake and trying out the kayaks.  Noah paddled one by himself and did great!  We paddled across the lake to a wooded island and explored it.  It was raining a little, and we saw a rainbow.  

6:30 p.m.  Started a fire in the fire pit on the patio.  Blew some bubbles and played with punch balloons.
8:00 p.m.  Put kids to bed after showers. They’re both sleeping on their top bunks.  

Friday, August 6, 2010


A few years ago, a friend asked me, "What is your definition of a good education?"
I don't think I gave a very coherent answer at the time, but I've been thinking about it ever since.  Here are some quotes that have shaped my opinion:

"True education is learning how to learn; learning about yourself, your family, the world around you; and, most importantly, getting to know God and His awesome plans for you in His world."
--Janice Southerland
"Nine tenths of education is encouragement."
--Anatole France
"To keep alive the spark of curiosity and the natural love of learning with which all children are born."
--Bill Greer

"There's been no delineation in our family between 'learning' and 'living.'  As we live, we learn.  It's as simple as that."
--Mark & Helen Hegener

"An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know.  It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't.  It's knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it's knowing how to use the information once you get it."
--William Feather

“He is educated who knows how to find out what he doesn’t know.”
--Georg Simmel
“Learning how to learn by learning how to think makes a well-educated person. Learning how to learn not only expands the mind; it also gives you a lifelong asset. Once you have it, it stays with you for the rest of your life.”
--T. Kaori Kitao
“Let children get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with diluted talk from the lips of their teacher. The less that parents ‘talk-in’ and expound their rations of knowledge and thought to the children they are educating, the better for the children. . . Children must be allowed to ruminate, must be left alone with their own thoughts.”
--Charlotte Mason
"In the singular act of living life to its fullest, in appreciating every moment as it unfolds, true education occurs."
--Linda Dobson

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
--William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kitchen slip & slide

Yesterday was Monday, which means bathroom cleaning day in the Janes house.  I did the toilet; Noah did the tub/shower; and Sarah did the sink/counter.  They finished theirs before I did, so they went to wash walls in the kitchen and hall.  That led to washing the fronts of the cabinets and appliances.  Then they started on the floor.  They were slopping wet, soapy water all over the floor, and they kept slipping on it and splatting out.  After their clothes were completely soaked, they decided to put on their swimsuits and turn the whole thing into a slip and slide .