July 25, 2011

Forgive me for bragging...

As a homeschooling mom, I get the wonderful gift of seeing my kids grow and develop 24/7. I want to share some of the things I see in my kids.

My oldest daughter wants to be a vetrinarian. While she does LOVE animals, her gifts lay entirely in the arts. She sewed by hand a skirt, using the waistband of some old underwear as the elastic waistband. There is only one place where there is a pucker. She is awesome at drawing and painting and we may have her help in my co-op (with one other family) once a month. She has picked up crocheting pretty quickly and this weeked, finished a cap in turquoise and purple striping. All of this is usually initiated by her. She also likes music, though it is not an area of focus. She is VERY determined and VERY task focused.

My second daughter also wants to be a vetrinarian. However, her talent is being able to remember the names of every single person she meets. For a long time. She has asked me if I remember a child she played with at the park once when she was five years old. She charms almost anyone she meets and is really good with kids She also has a love of music and is very focused and diligent in this one area. "You need to stop playing the piano because (various reasons)." Secretly, I love saying that, even though I act really annoyed because she is either NOT getting ready to leave for somewhere or she is not helping out as she should. Her diligence and focus in other areas is definitely lacking. If she does pursue a career in music, she will need someone who will not only arrange her schedule but also be willing to pick up and clean after her and find the stuff that is missing. Unless God intervenes and gives her a desire for organization and cleanliness or she works hard to overcome her natural inclination as I am trying to do.

My oldest son (third in line) wants to be an architect. It comes from all the times he has been upset when I have announced that we need to destroy all LEGO creations in order to replenish our, collection of roughly ten thousand pieces. He hates having is creations destroyed and my response to his whining has always been, "LEGOs are temporary creations. If you want to build something permanent, become an architect." He has a photographic memory for facts and can make wonderful LEGO creations. He LOVES to read and is probably at the same level at his older sister. A currently annoying gift he has is at pointing out errors. However, it can be very useful as a potential career. He is pretty young, so the focus and diligence are somewhat lacking right now as is typical of the age level. He is incredibly vibrant and knows how to flash an all-over-body smile that will melt your heart and make you forget that two seconds ago he was annoying his brother or sisters to tears. Unfortunately, that seems to be his main talent right now.

My youngest is my class clown. For reading, he prefers funny stories. He also has a great imagination and is showing a talent for drawing. What I love most about him though, is his soft heart. He has already chosen a wife, our neighbor's daughter who also takes Tae Kwon Do. He makes very romantic statements about her, which makes me wonder what shows he secretly watches. His focus is definitely dicey. One week, he is focusing with laser-like precision in Tae Kwon Do; the next week, he is making faces in the mirror while the instructor is speaking. I think that is also a sign of being a young kid. I am looking forward to seeing what talents emerge from what I see now.

My kids are probably pretty ordinary and, with any luck, probably won't be rich or famous. However, they bless my life every day.

July 21, 2011

Advantages of dry heat

A little over a year ago, my husband installed a multiple-line, retracting clothesline. We had been discussing it for a while because standard dryers typically take an hour or more to dry clothes. I had noticed that it takes very little time to dry wet towels and bathing suits and I figured that we would save both time and energy, which turns into money, by hanging clothes out to dry.

In the summer, it takes almost no time for clothes to dry. Yesterday, with temperatures at 107 degrees, I washed the sheets. It took two loads because we added some new sheets I purchased at IKEA and a new duvet cover. I decided to use the same bin for both loads, which meant that I had to start hanging the second load on the remaining line before taking down the first load. When I ran out of room, I took down just enough to hang the rest of the load, then took down the remainder of the dry bedclothes. By the time I was done taking down the dry stuff, the first sheets I had hung were dry--about 15 minutes.

In winter time (I use the term loosely in deference to my Northern friends and family), the clothes take longer to dry, closer to the time it takes the dryer to dry them, unless I hang them out in prime time--10 to 1 p.m. So I use the dryer a little more.

In general, I really like hanging the clothes to dry. I am sure the clothes are getting some dust in them, just because of where we live. It is another reminder than nothing in this life will ever be perfectly clean until Jesus comes back. I have had birds leave droppings on the hanging clothes, too, which is pretty gross. The other advantage, though, is that clothes don't get wrinkled as long as I fold them as I take them down. This means that, in order for kids to fold their own clothes, they have to come out with me as clothes are taken down. We have all become really good at folding clothes without laying them down. For sheets and towels, I especially like having the kids help me because then, we can do "the folding dance:" Fold two corners together, then come together to meet up with the other two corners. Share a kiss as I grab the entire partly folded sheet/towel. Repeat as necessary, especially with the kisses. Sadly, my oldest refuses to include kisses in the folding dance, but I love seeing the ear-to-ear grins from the other three as I bend down to kiss them.

In general, I am very glad to have the clothes line. It is also very convenient to put wet swimsuit on after a swim, quick or otherwise. I am also one step closer to being prepared if we ever suffer total economic collapse, including a total loss of power ;-).

July 18, 2011

Goodbye, Harley! And other thoughts

Saturday morning, Eric and the kids said "good-bye" to Harley for the last time as two different people were interested in adopting him. I was asked to stay around and interview the families to make sure that he would be put in the best family. It was a bit unexpected requirement and one of the families made it downright inconvenient by being 30 minutes late for the appointment. It meant spending an extra hour at Petsmart. It could have been worse. I could have spent an hour at Petsmart with two kids. However, a friend came with us and when I found out I would have to spend an extra half hour there, I asked if he could watch the kids at the nearby Barnes and Noble. I don't know which situation is more dangerous, an Overtoom kid in a bookstore or an Overtoom kid in a pet store with lots of cute dogs and puppies who want to be adopted. At least books are less expensive. We do have a new dog coming soon to keep Jacques companyand you can get his profile here.

We had a beautiful respite from the heat last week. One day, I looked at the thermometer at 9 a.m. and it read 87 deg F, as compared with it being 104 deg F at 10 a.m. today. We went outside and played for about an hour at a nearby park. We could have stayed out longer, but our water was running out and I was getting tired. Just about every afternoon, we see mountainous thunderclouds forming in the south or east. Most of the rain manages to avoid us, emptying itself onto Tuscon or Casa Grande in the south or in the Mogollon rim to the north and north east of us. It still provides spectacular views.

This Friday and Saturday, my husband and I will be sans kids at the Arizona Families for Home Education Homeschool Convention. I usually look forward to conventions because they help give me a bigger picture focus and I LOVE the curriculum sales. My focus, however, has changed over the years. Now I am looking at the "preparing for high school" speakers since my oldest will be in Junior High this year. It is held in July because that is low season for a tourist-focused town. I like having time to talk with Eric. We don't always attend the same classes, but we get to shop together for books (oh joy!) and have lunch together. Some VERY good friends are watching our kids while we are being inspired.

July 14, 2011

Dust storms and other summer fun

My daughter is asserting her independence through her hair. She has been wanting to get it cut really short and, since a child's hairstyle is not a hill on which I am willing to die, she and I worked together to find a hairstyle that was acceptable, in that it was not actually modeled by a boy in the hair book and it WAS modeled by a girl, not a woman. My husband teased her when we got home by saying that she now looks like Justin Bieber.

Before the dust storm, we had a pillowcase/wii party with a neighboring family. The moms worked together to make pillowcases for an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which you can learn more about by clicking on my link, We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing. The kids played wii while we sewed, which made everyone happy, or relatively happy. I was happy to have someone to share the sewing load and to help me persevere after messing up on a really easy pattern. Altogether, we made 10 pillows that day and my friend sewed 12 pillows on another day. It did confirm that I really dislike sewing in general but enjoy sewing something simple with friends.

For three solid weeks, at least one kid was involved in some kind of camp. Jessi was in the Phoenix Zoo's "FutureVet" program the second week in June. The next week, Elz was in their "Junior Zookeeper" camp and Kyle was taking their "Into the Wild" program. The Zoo's all-day camp lasted from 8 to 3 with a couple of dousings at their Yakula Caverns water play area to stay cool in the heat. All the kids had a chance to meet zookeepers, vets, prepare food and learn more about taking care of animals. I give the zoo high marks for organization and for excellence in content as they stuck to facts of animal care and zoo maintenance without bringing up either theories of origination.

I had a blast with John and whichever child was not attending camp. Kyle also attended Boy scout camp with Eric at R Bar C near Payson, AZ. He played games, learned how to whittle, made a leather pouch, rode a horse (which was NOT the most pleasant experience for him) and other fun and exciting things.

The last week of camping fun involved Summer Bible Camp at Redemption Church in Gilbert, AZ. This year, the theme involved private detectives Justin Case and Natasha Mygarbagetruckfellonitside. They were solving mysteries from Matthew 5:3-12. The large group presentation was AWESOME as were the games and crafts. Jessi, Kyle and John were attending while Elz and I worked on the snack crew. Elz is officially too old for Summer Bible Camp/VBS (sniff, sniff).

The boys took swimming lessons with a neighbor again for two weeks. The Tuesday after our July 4th celebration, she had a little swimming party for all of her students. That ended when Eric pointed out the big black cloud as the reason we needed to go. He (or was I the one?) thought it was a big thunderstorm cloud. The rest of the people weren't fooled. Cries of "dust storm" broke out and within 30 seconds the pool was empty and within another minute, everyone had vacated the property. We had walked to the party and hadn't quite made it home when the storm reached us. It wasn't too horrible to experience, with the exception of getting dust in the eyes and teeth, though pool towels helped limit that. Visibility was reduced to 1/2 a block within seconds of the storm hitting. I think if we had to drive, it would have been worse, though because of the visibility problems. Most dust storms get broken up by Gilbert, way to the south of us, so we knew it had to be pretty big. We didn't realize exactly how BIG it was until the next day, when we watched the news programs and saw videos on youtube. It was big enough to be on Russian news! It did mean cleaning up the house because, in the short time it took to get six humans inside one door and two dogs inside the other, a heck of a lot of dust blew in the house. Also, I had to clean the back porch the next day so that when we came in from swimming, we would track muddy footprints on the newly cleaned floor. I also cleaned the front porch and had Elz clean the pool deck. The blacktop was brown. Everything, in fact was brown.

July is half over at this point. The Overtooms have a camping trip in the near future and attendence of the Arizona Christian Home Educators conference in the nearer future. The kids and I might also spend a week with my Grandma C in a cabin up in Pinetop, AZ, high enough to escape the heat, which waned a little this week with more storms passing through the area. And, of course, swimming is almost a daily activity, even though the water is not much cooler than bathwater.

July 10, 2011

Introducing the Newest Member of our Family

The fish died. One of my children won the fish at a Trinity Community Church (when it was known as Vineyard Community Church) Harvest Party coin toss game. Those fish usually last a few days before dying because they are the cheap goldfish used as food for bigger fish. I probably bagged that fish, too, because that year I helped put fish in bags as part of the set up. It outlived many of the $5 golfish that we bought to keep it company. It survived roughly seven years and a cross country move in a big ice cream bucket. But its time was up.

For a while, I have been thinking that our dog, Jacques, needed a doggy friend. He can spot a dog from a far off distance and wants to smell each and every dog. I have to keep him on a tight leash when I see a dog to make sure that he doesn't lunge at them. And there are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, sadly to say, that don't welcome him. However, true to form, our kids have failed to keep the agreements they made to feed and care for Jacques, mainly in the area of poop pick up. Eric and I have gone back and forth on whether to get another
dog. One morning as I was walking Jacques, I ran into a lady in the neighborhood that I hadn't seen in a while. We started talking about Jacques and the question of whether to get another dog and she mentioned the AZ Poodle rescue group that only takes in Poodles, poodle mixes, bichons and other non-shedding dogs. We would have to feed the dog and love it and take it to any vet appointments necessary, as well as take it to a PetSmart every Saturday. They would pay vet bills. We filled out an application, showed up a Petsmart and received Harley.

Harley is a fairly active dog. He is either a coton de tulear or a maltipoo.
Two ladies in the organization have a difference of opinion on the exact breed. He and Jacques like to play together, mostly in the morning. He LOVES his walks in the early morning
and evening (I wait until the temperature drops below 100 to take him for a walk, which usually
happens about 30 minutes or so after the sun has set). He is a bit mischevious and doesn't know how to beg at the door. This means that we need to let him out every couple of hours. He is quick an
d likes to dart, which means I trip over him many times a day. When we first brought him to our home his hair was badly matted, which is why he is wearin
g a shirt in this picture. The hair on his legs had overgrown his paw, which made him look a little like a Who from the The Grinch Who Stole Christmas fame. He loves to scavenge for food and will pull things out of my purse, jump on the kitchen table if a chair is left away from the table. Or jump up on our leg while we are eating. He loves playing with toys and anything can be a toy--a t-shirt left on the floor or any stuffed animal. He will drop for belly rub with the slightest interest shown to him. This makes putting a leash on him a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately, he has picked up Jacques' bad habit of barking when guys enter a room that I am in. As a result, we are trying to extinguish that behavior in both of them with the help of a squirt gun.

Jaques, I think, likes him and is jealous of him. They like to play together, whether it is chase or tug-of-war with a play toy. He also has been appreciating the extra food available, though he gets yelled at if we catch him eating Harley's food. The biggest problem comes when we give the dogs treats after walks. Jacques tries to steal Harley's treat after he has already been given his treat and he is not being as careful in getting his own treat lately. My solution to that will be to make him lay and put the treat on the ground so my fingers don't get nipped. I will probably have someone hold Harley to pull that off.

We have had Harley for two weeks now and a couple of people have shown interest, but no adoption looms. I am hoping that in the next week, someone who wants a medium-to-high energy dog to adopt him because our kids are becoming very attached to Harley. Parting with him will be difficult, even for me. But I keep telling our kids that most of the dogs that we bring in will be here with us temporarily and that we need to show them love and affection while they are with us and be able to let them go, knowing that they are going to a good family.

July 7, 2011

Relative Month--Part II

Part II has been delayed numerous times over the past month as I have been losing a wrestling match with Google's Blogger to publish other movies that I made from pictures using Google's Picassa program. Theoretically, it shouldn't be a problem since the same company had developed the both software packages that I am using, but it is reality that is currently winning the battle. Each time Blogger shut down after I spent a considerable time writing and trying to add movies, I have walked away in disgust for several days, maybe even a week. So I am giving up on the movie idea and sticking to prose for a while.
Five days after Nana and Poppa left with the cousins, Eric's sister, Michelle and her husband, David arrived. We had a great time hanging out, mostly at ball games. We did hike up the Treasure Loop trail at Lost Dutchman State Park the day after their arrival. Because a "cool front" came in, bringing temperatures down in the 80's, we didn't have to make sure to leave too early. During the drive, Elizabeth, Kyle and John, took turns developing a creature that became bigger and more deadly with each mile. I think they would have continued throughout the trail if I hadn't asked them to pick a different topic. The trail isn't as interesting as the Wind Cave Trail at Usury Mountain, but the Superstition Mountains, edging the trail are beautiful rock formations which you can see here. We hung out in the pool for a bit in the afternoon before getting ready for the highlight of their visit, watching the the Twins play the Diamondbacks. We took the light rail to the stadium. For the first time, I realized how unscenic the ride was as we passed about six strip clubs scattered throughout an industrial complex. It was a great game if you were a Diamondbacks fan. Unfortunately, the Twins fans accompanying us (Michelle and David) and surrounding us were not happy with the outcome. I did see someone with an "Alex, Minnesota" sign. During the game, I received a message that Kyle's baseball team, playing in a championship tournament game that evening won their game. Yay! The next game in the tournament was at 8 a.m the next morning. Boo! We stayed for the end of the game and watched the fireworks in the street while waiting for the light rail to arrive. The kids, especially John, who hasn't seen as many fireworks, were transfixed. We arrived home at 11 p.m.
The next morning started waaaaay too early. Eric and Kyle left earlier because the team had practice. Michelle and David were able to see Kyle play and see his team come from behind to win the game. We celebrated by eating at In-and-Out, where Michelle and David had the grilled onions (sorry KT!) and then headed back to home to nap, talk, and swim. I also had some great bonding time with Michelle at my favorite yarn shop, The Fiber Factory. I made Mojitos for pool time, Eric grilled and we all waited to see if Jesus would show up, since that was the day that someone predicted that he would return. As we expected*, Jesus was a "no show."
Sunday morning, bright and early, Michelle and David returned to Minnesota. It was really great to spend an extended time with them. We hadn't had much opportunity to really get to know David before he married Michelle last July. Happy 1st Anniversary to you both!
On a completely different note, I have returned to Facebook, but will be limiting my Facebook friends to family only, just to keep down my viewing time.