July 31, 2008

It is getting batty here

This is not a metaphor. Last week, as Eric and I were going to bed, we heard a bat chattering just outside our window. Then, last night, while we were enjoying the music of Beethoven at Ravinia, I spotted at least two bats flying around our area. I guess with all the water we had in the spring and early summer, hunting is good for the bats. I personally love the idea of bats being around here because that means less mosquitos. It is also fun to watch bats flying around because they fly like birds that have had one too many beers.

On the home front, it is hot and Elizabeth has a middle ear infection, which means we can't go swimming. I guess it means we will go out and play in the early morning and late afternoon.

July 22, 2008

Why I chose "Tandeming Trolls"

Some of you who are not family may have wondered why I chose a "Tandeming Trolls" moniker. After all, who would really want to be associated with a troll.

My husband and I met through a bike club. I was just getting into it and he was a hard core recreational bicyclist. He would go on 30 mile trips without any difficulty. I worked my way up to 30 mile bike rides when we were courting and twice paid an organization to ride 100 miles in a day. When my husband and I got married, instead of choosing a china pattern, we chose a tandem bicycle and asked people to help us buy it. It is the beautiful royal purple one in the picture. Now it has been converted to an adult/child tandem. My mom told me that I would regret not getting china. Well, mom, so far, I have had no need for it. Sorry!

Our last name is Dutch. The Dutch translation for Overtoom is either "Troll" or "Bridgetender". I liked the alliteration and rhythm of "Tandeming Trolls" much better than "Tandeming Bridgetender."

However, when deciding on a name for our homeschool, since homeschools are considered private schools in Illinois, my husband and I decided to call it "Bridgetender School" because bridgetender has a better connotation than troll.

July 19, 2008

Top 10 reasons why I homeschool

So many people ask me why I homeschool, when they learn what I do. I acknowledge that homeschooling is a personal choice and not everyone is called to homeschool. Public schools do a decent job of educating kids and I know there are great teachers out there. I also acknowledge that there is no perfect educational system, even homeschooling, because the teachers are limited. However, homeschooling appealed to me from the time I was pregnant with my first born for a number of reasons. Here are the top ten reasons that I homeschool. I have listed them so from least important to most important.

10. Bullies--I want teach my kids not to become one and limit their experiences with them to outside social activities.
9. The bus ride
8. I get to see my kids more than just the early morning sleepy grump and early afternoon/late evening cranky times.
7. My homeschool has a much better student-to-teacher ratio of any school around.
6. Lesson times are shorter because there is less inertia from large groups in the transition time, leaving more time for kids to pursue their own interests.
5. Kids can progress at their own rate in all the basic subjects without being labeled.
4. They learn to socialize with everyone, not just kids of their own age.
3. They can learn life skills, like peacemaking, forgiveness, learning to keep a house clean, budgeting, and cooking, so that when they get out in the "real world", they will have a lot less stress in the transition because the life skills will be second nature.
2. Homeschooling builds a special child-parent bond and bond between siblings that cannot be created by the public school.
1. God gave me the job. There are times I want to quit and there are times I feel God would be justified to fire me, but He keeps telling me this is my job. Until He releases me, I will continue to seek His wisdom on how to raise and teach my kids.

July 17, 2008

A close call

I am starting to realize that I am in a fairly "golden" age for my kids. Sure, they get into mischief and my oldest has a bit of attitude at times. However, they haven't gotten old enough to get into real trouble, they are starting to be a really big help in keeping the house clean and they play together fairly well which gives me some extra free time during the day so that I can write blogs and work on projects. I know that in the next five years, as my two oldest enter puberty, I will be experiencing tougher times.

God has been putting on my heart, though, to play more with my kids. I have put so much time in them, that part of me would like to take a break. This job of motherhood is the longest job I have ever held. Yet, I am not even halfway done with the job. I am feeling so tired most of the days, just trying to get the chores done that I have been content to let them play on their own. Yet, I know that Elizabeth and Jessi enjoyed a lot more attention when they were the boys age than Kyle and John have experienced.

This has been a general feeling lately, but this weekend, God gave me a kick in the pants. Most of the kids were downstairs playing in the basement of someone else's home which has a lot of children's books and toys (they also have a lot of books in general). The adults were upstairs talking amongst themselves when Eric was called downstairs by our youngest and found Jessi , lying on the ground and holding up a bookshelf with books surrounding her. Apparently, she wanted a book from the top shelf. Instead of calling one of us to get it, she tried climbing the bookshelf, which was not anchored into the wall. The books fell on her and the bookcase almost fell on her if she had not been somehow holding it up. She escaped with bruises and scrapes, which, to me, is a miracle. I only saw the aftermath, fortunately. I think we all said prayers of thanks to God for sparing her. I need to go to bed now, so I can play with my kids tomorrow with childlike abandon.

July 9, 2008

Conquering fears

My son, Kyle is afraid to do a lot of things. I am not exactly sure why he is afraid of so much other than that is the way God made him to teach us all as a family how to overcome our fears. I think this is Kyle's year to conquer many of his fears and gain confidence. One of his fears has to do with lakes/pools/oceans. When we went with Hawaii earlier this year, Kyle was content to stay on the beach building lakes, rivers, and Iceland filled with volcanoes using mainly his hands. He would wade a couple of feet into the water, or sit at the edge so that a wave would gently wash over him. But try and get him to go more than a couple of feet in the water and he would scream as if we were cutting off his arm. Today, I took the kids to Independence Grove, a forest preserve that has a man-made beach and lake. We hadn't been to a beach at all this summer--too cool. I spent time with each of the other kids in the water and then went over and played with Kyle. After a little while, I asked Kyle gently to come into the water. I explained that we would stop when the water was up to the top of his swim trunks. He was VERY uncertain about it. I took hold of his hand and led him out, letting him stop a couple times to get adjusted to feeling the water around his legs. He was crying and I asked him if I was hurting him or if the water was hurting him. He just said it felt funny. Then I had him turn around to see how close he was to the shore. I asked him to try kneeling on the ground to see how low the water still was. A huge grin broke out on his face as he realized that this wasn't so bad after all. I almost visibly saw all the fear go out of him to be replaced by pure joy. By the end of our time, he was walking out until the water until it reached his chest and walked on his hands in the shallow water, letting his legs float behind him. He couldn't stop smiling. Neither could I. We both felt joy and triumph.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37

House projects and thoughts of spring cleaning

I know that it is a little late for spring cleaning. Actually, I haven't ever really done spring cleaning in this house, not like what I read about in Farmer Boy or heard about from my grandmothers. Orthodox Jews have spring cleaning just before Passover to get out any possible trace of yeast from their house. The "Chicago Tribune" wrote about it a year or so ago and made me glad I wasn't an orthodox Jew in the spring.

Eric and I have been working on our house a bit this year since gas prices and airfare have gone up so much recently, making travel pretty expensive. I just finished painting our bedroom except for the ceiling, which really needs it. Now I am starting to work on the kitchen. Eric already did his part. He took down the drop ceiling, uncovering a mysterious electrical box that looks like it broke through the wall near the ceiling and a bunch of flour moth larva. He also installed track lighting for work areas, a round light for general light, and painted the ceiling. I started preparing some of the cabinets over the stove to be painted, since we can neither afford new ones or the facades you can put over perfectly good but ugly cabinets. This is where the link to spring cleaning comes in play. It took me a good hour or so to clean off six cabinet doors this morning, mainly because I neglected to annually degrease them. Some of the grease had bonded to the varnish and I had to basically strip it using a scrub brush, tri-sodium phosphate and, at times, a putty knife. I also took time to clean the insides of the cabinets because I hadn't done that in quite a while. While I was doing all of this cleaning, I wondered how many people do spring cleaning these days. Is it a vanished practice of a bygone era? I certainly don't remember my mom doing spring cleaning, though she probably worked on it while I was at school. I actually think February would be a good month for doing spring cleaning, since in the Midwest at least, the weather is still pretty bad and we are starting to get cabin fever from all the cold weather since sometime between October and December. Technically it is still wintertime, but when spring actually hits, who wants to be inside cleaning cabinets, refrigerators, dusting and cleaning all those fiddly bits you don't usually get to regularly, like lamp shades? Not me. My favorite part of Wind in the Willows is when Mole gets fed up with spring cleaning and says "hang it all" and runs outside for some fresh clean air.

One thing I noticed is that the wood cabinets weren't nearly so dark and ugly once I finished getting the years of dirt off of them. I will still paint them because the kitchen isn't big enough to support the dark walnut stain and nothing improves a place more than a fresh coat of paint. When I am done, I might use my newfound skills of prepping and painting wood to try and paint over the dark walnut finish of the kitchen window. Dark walnut woodwork pervades our house, giving it a wonderful 70's feel, even though the house was built in the 1980's. Over time, that too will change.