May 30, 2012

Bridgetender school update

I forgot to do a 3rd quarter review of Bridgetender school.   Please forgive me.  Bridgetender school has finished for the year and is taking a well deserved break.  For two weeks-ish, we will do no school, nothing.  We will go down to Tuscon at some point and I would like to take a day trip to someplace we haven't been, maybe Jerome, a ghost-town-turned-potential-tourist-trap.

As a reminder, we toured through the 20th century, going from the turn of the century to WWI in the first two units and going from The Cold War to present day during the second half of the year.  As a school, we seemed to spend a lot of time on The Civil Rights movement, mainly because the work to end segregation in all its forms and truly free the Southern blacks took over a decade.  We also read about the space race and all about the Middle east and The Cold War.  For me, it was a time of seeing our country start to slide from a Republic toward a democractic socialism in tiny steps and relieve some sad times in our history.  I utilitzed Youtube a lot so that the kids could watch Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream speech", Elvis' and The Beatles' performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and parts of The Kennedy/Nixon debates.   We watched "The Right Stuff" when studying the Mercury mission.  The read-aloud suggestions that we enjoyed most were Mission Control, This is Apollo, The Red Scarf Girl, and Tales of Persia:  Missionary Stories from Islamic Iran.  The Red Scarf Girl is about a family who gets persecuted during Chinas culteral revolution, when Mao Zedong tried to eliminate enemies of his program and led the country into mob rule.

We are still using Math U See for math.  Elizabeth is halfway through Pre-Algrebra, Jessi is halway through fractions, Kyle went through multiplication and John breezed through addition and subtraction.  Elizabeth opted out of the honor math problems because math is not her favorite subject.

For science, we went through Apologia's "Swimming Creatures book learning all about fish and other aquatic creatures.  I learned a lot, too.  For instance, those beautiful sea stars are pretty disgusting, literally heaving their stomachs out of their mouths to grab the food and partially digest it outside of their body before reeling the stomach back inside the body.  Gross!  I also saw a picture of a lamprey and now know where George Lucas received his inspiration for the creature that Jabba was going to feed with Luke and Han at the beginning of "Return of the Jedi."

Our friend, Jenny, continued to give our kids age-appropriate writing assignments, which I will be sharing in future posts.  For writing assignments, the kids wrote movie reviews, news stories about the Civil Rights movement and comic strips as part of an assignment to make a newspaper.  We also wrote up and performed part of  a radio theatre drama that had been inspired by the book _Escape from Warsaw_.

We continued to work on Spanish by having another friend and native speaker, Javi, come read books to them and help them translate.  Jessi and Elizabeth are doing great.  Kyle is not so interested and John could care less, which is pretty typical of I figured that this is how we learned English, so it would be a good way to learn Spanish.  I am also trying to talk more in Spanish around the house and the kids know what to do when they hear some of the phrases.  It definitely helps attending a bi-lingual church.  Elizabeth is with the adults these days and hears the sermon in both English and Spanish.  She is starting to pick out one or two words in Spanish, which is really big.  I am translating the handouts given to parents into Spanish with help from some of the native Mexicans and it has been helping develop my Spanish skills.

Elizabeth is getting to be a beautiful artist and a good writer.  She has improved in math and seems to like pre-algebra so far.  She has enjoyed General Science and tried to double up on science this year when we moved into sea creatures, but dropped out because of all the work.  She joined Speech and Debate and seems to be enjoying improvisation and debate.  It has added a lot of work and will be counting for her writing and language arts skills.  She has been working harder at improving her penmanship this year because it has been affecting her grades on assignments.  The biggest improvement I have seen this year in how she has been able to independently manage her workload.  There were a couple of times when she took on inordinately heavy loads and then realized that her goals were unattainable without spending every waking minute on school.  She is also improving in organizational skills.  She continues to be a voracious reader.

Jessica is getting better in math and seems to enjoy fractions a whole lot more than Elizabeth did.  She is also really good at picking up languages.  She is always requesting to learn more languages, so at the end of the year book sale that my homeschool group has, I found a copy of Powerglide French for $5.  Score!  She has started listening to it and I might use it to re-inforce Spanish phrases, too.  She is getting better at writing, thanks to Miss Jenny and has also joined Speech and Debate as a junior.  She has made huge improvements in making sure she does a job completely, and thoroughly and making her best effort.  It is shown most of all in her chores, where she has gone from being worse than John to being another "go-to girl."  She plays piano beautifully.  She is my voracious reader #2, enjoying a lot of different non fiction books as well as mysteries and historical fiction.

Kyle has picked up guitar and is getting in the habit of practicing daily.  He excels in math having mastered multiple digit multiplication much faster than either of the girls.  He also loves fact-based books and loved reading about wars and space.  His writing is still in development stage.  His current style of writing could be described as "terse."  He wrote a three paragraph paper on John F. Kennedy that took up less than 15 lines.  Most sentences were less than ten words each.  If I could just combine his efficiency with words, with Elizabeth's loquaciousness, they would both be awesome writers.  He is my third voracious reader, preferring books on baseball teams, architecture, biographies, war-themed books and Rick Riordan books.

John is my late bloomer, as all last borns seem to be.  He took the longest to pick up reading, probably because he has five other people to read to him, so why make the effort.  However, at the very end of the year, I am happy to say that he finally picked up the reading bug. At the end of the year, he read a Geronimo Stilton fiction book that was 300 pages long, taking two weeks to read it from cover to cover.  He prefers to read comic books.  He has focus issues.  He knows his math facts, but his mind wanders a lot.  That is probably due to his age and being a boy.  I found that when I timed him in math, he did better at focusing...most of the time.  He does a great job at his chores and is always trying to prove that he can do whatever the older kids can.  He has recently been promoted to floor sweeper and cleaner skills.  He is a great artist, storyteller and Lego builder.

I am enjoying a couple weeks of rest before spending the summer covering some "extras" and some topics that got pushed aside during the school year.  The three youngest will be going through Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Company and Elizabeth will be going through The Fallacy Detective.  The three oldest are also going to approach grammar from an editor's point of view with a series called Editor-In-Chief.  The three youngest will also be going through spelling words, especially John.  In Arizona, summer is the time when everyone goes inside from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to avoid being baked to a crisp and so part of that time is going to be spent on these subjects when we are not getting out of town to escape the heat.

May 18, 2012

Who won that baseball game?

My son, Kyle loves to play baseball.  He is currently playing in Little League on the Colorado Rockies team.  This team has had so many come-from-behind victories, we have somewhat of a reputation.  We are currently in the tournament, which means that the season continues until we lose two games or win the tournament.  Winning the tournament is probably not going to happen because there is a truly phenomenal team that plays with precision and has soundly beaten us every time we have played them.  Tonight, we played another really great team.  Three weeks ago, they were unbeaten and had beaten us soundly in our first face-off.  The second time, however, we tied them when our catcher tagged the winning runner stealing home for the final out.  We celebrated.  And then we won on our third face off.  So we came into this game with essentially a stalemate.

Now one of the reasons I believe in God is because He sometimes talks to me, though not in a physical voice.  Usually it is in little nudges of thoughts that I could never in a million years think of myself.  Tonight, as I was driving Kyle to practice before the game, a thought entered my head to pray with Kyle over the game (I know, if I was a REALLY good Christian, I would have been praying before every game.  I still need God's grace).  We talked about who REALLY decides the outcomes of games--us or God?  I told Kyle that I believed that it is God who ultimately determines the outcomes of games.

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD."  
Proverbs 16:33

So we prayed.  We prayed that the boys would play their best, that they would be safe and that, whatever the outcome, they would be satisfied with how they played.  Now I don't think God really cares about the outcome of any games, because they are so transitory and, in the grand scheme of things, inconsequential.  However, I do believe that He loves to remind us that He is there for us in little things as well as the big things and to provide concrete memorials of times when He showed us His love or His power or His grace so that later, when we are in a time of doubt, we can remember His faithfulness at that one time and remember that...

"I the LORD do not change...."  --Malachi 3:6a.

And now back to the game....
It is the top of the fifth inning.  The Rockies start the fifth inning in the hole 5-10.  They are up to bat first as the home team.  Under normal circumstances, the most a team can score in the inning is six runs.  The umpire has called "final inning," which sets the following rule into play:  Teams play and score until three outs are made.  We get four runs before a player gets a second out.  The kids in our bullpen start chanting:  "Two-out rally, here we go."  Seriously, so many times, whether it is our team or the opposing team, all the runs seems to happen after  that second out is made.  And it happens now.  A new pitcher walks four kids in a row, driving us one point ahead.  Then the next batter hits one that bounces over the pitcher's head AND over the second baseman's head and rolls way out into center field.  All four runners score.  Yay!  We have it!  It is in the bag!  Or so we think.  One of the parents remembers a rule that the inning has to finish before time is called at two hours from start time. If the game is called in the middle of an inning, the score from the previous inning is what is used for the final game results.  So even if we score more runs, if we can't get the other team out in time, they win 10-5.  Isn't THAT a crummy rule?  Yes, I knew you would agree with me.  I was very vocal in decrying that rule.  At this point, someone has told the coaches, so that the next batter is instructed to swing at all pitches to strike out as quickly as possible.  The top of the inning is over with only three to five minutes before the game will be called and all of the hard work of our boys will come to nothing.

How often has an inning lasted only three minutes?  Hardly ever.  And the other team worked very hard to be as slow as possible  until the umpire started calling them out.  Totally forgetting the prayer I prayed in the van, I stomped over to my friend, whose son had won his game 30 minutes ago, fuming at such a stupid rule.  I am in the middle of explaining it when our team makes its first out on a weak grounder to first base.  The player hit the ball on the first pitch.  Less than a minute later, our team caught a fly ball hit by the second batter for the second out.  Everyone holds their breath.  The third batter connected on his first swing and hit it to the second baseman, who made a gentle throw to the first basemen for the third out.  Everyone on the Rockies jump to their feet in astonishment and joy.  The "impossible" had happened!  I started shaking and crying and  felt pretty ashamed of myself for the little temper tantrum I demonstrated in front of everyone and my pitiful memory.

Once again, I don't think God really cared who won the game.  I don't think our team is any more deserving of winning the game than the other team.  However, am pretty sure that God did it because He loves to see the impossible happen because it builds up our faith.  Why do I think that?  He gave a woman her first child when she was 90+ years old (Genesis 18, 21); He defeated a city with high, strong walls by having His people walk around singing worship songs (Joshua 6); He had 300 soldiers whose qualifications were that they scooped water to drink it from a pond beat a much bigger, stronger army by breaking pots, lighting torches, blowing horns and shouting (Judges 7);  Heck, one time, He didn't even let His people do anything--He just had the invading army somehow go off the deep end and kill one another (2 Chronicles 14);  The Bible is full of stories of God making the impossible happen.  And He is still at work, whether it is dropping money in people's lap or making a determined atheist like C.S. Lewis into one of His children and one of the greatest apologists of the 20th century or having a little league team in a desert city come from behind and win against huge odds.  We see difficult situations and,  in our lack of faith, keep saying "Impossible!" and God turns to us and says, "You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."

"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”--Matthew 19:26

To God alone be the glory!

May 6, 2012

OH Happy Day!

Several years ago, when we were still living in Illinois, my kids over a period of time confessed their sins and asked Jesus to be their Savior and their Lord.  I led at least two of them in that prayer--whatever you want to call it.  Right before we moved to Arizona, my oldest was baptized in the same church in which she was (figuratively) born and (literally) dedicated to God and she is now starting to make this faith her own as a soon-to-be teenager.  Today, Kyle and Jessi took their next step of making their faith their own in getting baptized in our new church, Redemption West Mesa.  My husband had the honor of asking them to confirm their faith and of dunking them.  My feelings on the matter can be summed up by the Steve Fee song, "Oh Happy Day (You Washed My Sins Away)

Oh happy day, happy day!
You washed my sins away.
Oh happy day, happy day!
I'll never be the same.
Forever I am changed!

My apologies for the poor quality of the pictures.  I forgot my regular camera and had only my iPhone.  As I get better pictures, I might update this site.  
Kyle before baptism, answering questions about his faith.  Note the death grip on the sides of the tub.

Preparing to be dunked!  Note the death grip on his dad's hands.

Reborn!  A new Kyle!

Jessi before baptism

Preparing to be dunked!

Reborn!  A new Jessi!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
2 Corinthians 5:17

(Jesus said) "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand."  John 10:27-29

May 4, 2012

April Game On! Results

I may not have mentioned it, but my beautiful, awesome SIL organized another Game On!  competition for the month of April.  This time, we tried having teams of people.  With the team concept, you average the scores of each team member, which means that you can have a team of two competing against a team of three.  It meant more work for her because she had to compute the averages.  I was on her team, along with another lady, who persevered through a lot of family crises which would be encouraging me to reach for the big tub of ice cream.  Just for that, she is a winner in my book.  Of course, there are more important things that losing weight.  Our team came in second, but we all lost weight, which makes the loss "hurt so good."  I am down 15 pounds overall.

This month was a little tougher.  All the foods that were so new last month were getting old this month.  I had to tell myself what I tell my kids when they get tired of something:  "If you were living in Africa, your meal would most likely be the same thing."  I don't know if this is exactly true, though we did read a book about the Sudenese lost boys and how they were given the same thing from the U.N. on their last journey to Kenya, but even after having the same thing, whenever they wanted to grumble, they remembered when they had to go hungry and became thankful for the "same old thing."

My body is now getting used to 20 minutes of exercise six days a week and seemed to be unimpressed with my efforts.  So I am trying to work out a little longer and go for a run/walk for at least 30 minutes one day a week.  I am now running for two minutes and walk for one.  I progressed in the Hi-intensity workout, too.  I was able to do 4 reps of 30 jumping jacks, 30 lunges, 12 army-style push-ups and 25 crunches without stopping.  On one of the last day of exercising for the game, I was able to  touch my nose to my knees during my yoga sequence.  I never thought I would be able to do it.  However, I also think I pulled a stomach muscle doing it because I was sucking in my stomach with all my strength and when I went down into a plank pose, I felt a sharp pain in my lower stomach.  That ended my yoga session (I refuse to call it a practice) within minutes of starting it.  I also know why they call it a "core muscle group" as walking and standing and getting up out of bed were a little more uncomfortable for a few days.

In terms of clothes, I don't have too many things hanging off of me, but they are getting loose when I put them on, fresh out of the laundry.  Some people might wonder why they aren't loose, but I have to confess that the clothes were getting quite tight before I began this, which was the primary impetus for joining the competition in the first place.  I was tired of always having to buy a size up because they felt a little loose and then, eventually, fitting into them, which led to them becoming tight.

The biggest victory is emotional.  I had been feeling vanquished by my stomach.  I had tried to eat less on my own, but only was able to focus for a few weeks at a time.  Then, my old habits would start luring me back and I would be worse off than before I started.  I also feel that sugar's power over me is less than it was.  Though I have had a couple of bad sugar days on my days off, they aren't as bad as my "regular" sugar days before this.  My emotional state, when PMS is not taking control of me, is much calmer in general and I am less flustered by the little things, probably because one of the requirements is sleep and my body is not stressed out by sugar.

The only negative I have about the game is the fact that they have you try and take on a new, good habit and lose an old, bad habit.  Isn't it enough that I am trying to change habits involving eating, exercise, sleep and water?

I will be visiting Minnesota, where my all my in-laws live this summer and hope to see all the ladies I competed with and against while I am there.

Praise be to God for giving me the strength to continue.

May 1, 2012

Seeing God in Dirty Water

I hate mops.  All they do is push dirt to the outside edges.  They leave too much water on the floor and they don't save THAT much time. They are breeding grounds for all sorts of critters.  I am not a clean freak by any stretch of the imagination, but if something doesn't work, I don't want to use it.  So, in Illinois, I got down on my hands and knees and washed the non-carpeted floors almost every week.  It was no big deal because the only non-carpeted floor was the small kitchen and our tiny bathrooms.

In our house in Arizona, the situation is entirely different.  Tile is king in Arizona because it stays cool during those summer months when you ecstatically praise God for days when the low dips below 100.  Even when the pool water soars to bathwater temperatures, our tile will still be cool.  When we bought our house, which I LOVE btw, I was not clearly thinking about the cleaning situation.  Nearly the whole house has tiled floors, beautifully designed.  Washing all the floors on my hands and knees was out of the question, so I searched for an alternative to mops.  Swifter looked promising, but I didn't like the landfill issues it would create.  I have to atone for all the disposable diapers I contributed to "Grayslake Mountain" (a.k.a. the landfill) during the baby years. I found a Swifter-like tool that had a washable cover which seemed to fit the bill.  Yes, it is better than a mop and even does a good job of cleaning a floor quickly.  But it isn't "perfect".  It can't get the dirt that runs in terror into the tiny ridges of our textured tile for protection.  Now some people might have looked at the brown "marbling" and thought it was part of the tile pattern, but I knew the truth and the truth was starting to bother me.  So last Friday, I decided to pull out the big guns and wash at least the hallways (see pictures) with a small bucket of cleaning solution, a scrub brush and a rag to pick up the excess water on my hands and knees.  There was one problem:  I only reached a third of the way down the long hallway before the water became very dirty. As I worked for a few minutes longer, wondering if some of the dirt particles were bribing the scrub brush to let them return to their former home, a Bible verse fragment popped into my head ( at a later time allowed me to look up the exact phrase)

"All of us have become like one who is unclean, 
   and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags
we all shrivel up like a leaf, 
   and like the wind our sins sweep us away."
Isaiah 64:6

You can't clean a dirty floor with dirty water.  It needs to be changed, in my case, about four times before the job was done.  And I can't clean myself up by doing good things.  The good things I do don't remove the bad things I have done.  If anything, my bad deeds soil my good deeds.  I need someone else to clean me up and that person is Jesus.  It takes his blood covering me to wash away my evil, just like I needed clean water and solution to get the floors truly clean.  

You would think a "mature" Christian like myself wouldn't need these reminders, but "man is a giddy thing" and I can forget to put a new roll of TP in the bathroom in the course of washing my hands, especially if one of the kids is trying to talk to me through the door because I can always hear them because they can't wait another second for something that is "vitally important."  This is probably the 10,000th time He has given me this lesson and I am finally starting to catch on quicker and put it into practice.  

The importance of this lesson is that without understanding His grace, I can not pass it onto the people He puts in my life, who are just as unclean as I am.   And I do believe that God wants us to pass His grace onto the people He has put into our lives (Matthew 18:21-35,  James 2:12-13) so that they experience and know His grace.  I used to be pretty bad at this, but I am getting better, thanks to His lessons. 

"There is hope for me yet because God won't forget all the plans He's made for me.  I have to wait and see...He's not finished with me yet." (Brandon Heath, "Wait and See" from his album "What if We")