Sunday, December 13, 2009

The holidays are here!

Wow! I can't believe that the holidays are here. Our tree has been decorated, the gifts have been purchased, and boxes have been shipped near and far. Now I just have a few gifts left to wrap.

As I am scurrying around trying to wrap up school before a two-week break, please enjoy some of my favorite holiday tunes. I love, love, love John Denver and the Muppets' version of "Silent Night" because it always reminds me of childhood and dear friends. Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home" reinforces the importance of spending time with your loved ones during the holidays, and I just have a soft spot for Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne."

I hope to get back to blogging more regularly. I do want to learn to digitally scrapbook, though, which may impact how and what I blog about.

Have a beautiful, blessed holiday season!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muppet Love

I love, love, love the Muppets! I very clearly remember singing "Rainbow Connection" as a child, and the Muppets also remind me of some dear friends who I can still picture reenacting Fozzy Bear and Rolf playing the piano.

Here is some updated Muppets. Enjoy "Bohemian Rhapsody" Muppets- style:

Oh yea, my two fifteen-year-old bichon frises, Fozzy and Gonzo, are named after the Muppets, too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn Abundance

Without reservation, I can declare that autumn is my absolutely favorite time of year. From the first crisp mornings to grabbing a jacket as I head out the door for the evening, the brisk air reinvigorates a world which grew stale under summer's blanket. I always look forward to the leaves bursting with brilliant colors and cannot imagine living in a region which does not participate in mother nature's autumnal show.

Throughout the afternoon, I snapped a few pictures of the North Carolina fall leaves

By my parents' house,

Near the post office,

And on the way home from the soccer field.

In my backyard, I noticed a bright yellow leaf and

A plant with brilliant red stems.

Humorously, I also spied the cactus which I have repeatedly tried to eradicate from my yard. After experiencing many painful run-ins while extracting the cactus from of the backyard, it has now taken root in the leaf pile behind our fence. Will this plant never die???

I also surprisingly ran across the last of the chili peppers in the garden I abandoned many summer weeks ago.

I must admit to feeling a sense of melancholy as the reds and golds depart leaving only spindly brown branches in the air. But, as Robert Frost reminds us,

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm So Excited

Now I know that this little development will probably not excite most of you like it does me, but my new blog discovery absolutely made my night.

My absolutely favorite homeschool author, Susan Wise Bauer, has a new blog ( When first investigating homeschooling years ago, I admittedly wasn't crazy about The Well-Trained Mind, Bauer's guide to classical homeschooling. After our first year of homeschooling, I revisited the guide and fell in love with it, though.

Even if you never have any plans of homeschooling, read the book. It offers an amazingly thorough educational plan. So much so that I have responded to family inquiries of "what are you going to do about so-and-so?, what are the kids going to learn this year" by just loaning them my heavily notated and highlighted copy of The Well-Trained Mind which quickly quelled all their well-meaning questions and comments.

Anyway, check it out. I bet you'll like it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day at the Renaissance Festival

Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I attended our first Renaissance Festival today. Since we are focusing on Middle Ages history and literature this year, the festival offered a fantastic opportunity to immerse ourselves in the time period. Throughout the day, . . .

the kids slayed a dragon,

chatted with Sir Autumn,

visited with the greyhounds, the dog of royalty,

watched a glassblowing demonstration,

witnessed Sir Maxmilian "perish" in the joust, (Car Guy's favorite part of the day),

met a fairy,

hoped that a dragon didn't eat Curly Girl,

marveled at the falconry demonstration (twice),

tried some archery,

checked out reproductions of swords from The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter,

selected a broom for a quidditch match,

and thoroughly enjoyed the sword fighting, even though I am not looking forward to Car Guy trying his hand at the stage fighting tricks.

All the while wondering, how do seemingly sane grown adults get into this hobby? Curly Girl and I decided that we would be rather frightened if after meeting someone, we realized they owned their own mace and very large swords.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Too Funny Not to Pass Along

Many of you have children approaching or in the tween years. If you aren't there yet, just hold on to your hat because just when you think that you have a handle on parenting, the tween years will make you question everything you think you know and more. Some days (like when she makes a presentation to a room full of adults) I marvel at the young lady that 12-year-old Curly Girl is becoming, and other times (the huffy-puffy, drama queen days) I realize why boarding schools were invented.

Recently, I have been amused, terrified, curious, and traumatized by Curly Girl's interest in clothes, makeup, design, etc. About a year ago, she suddenly morphed in a young woman who wants to shop (which I detest) and wear makeup (which I am attempting to slowly dole out, while teaching her that less is more). Even worse, I apparently know nothing, absolutely nothing about dressing fashionably, despite the five years I spent as a clothing buyer for a department store.

Just when I need a little parenting pick-me-up and reminder that natural consequences are a great teacher, along comes a blog which is too funny not to read:

Thanks to Topsy-Techie for posting this on her blog. It's always good to laugh first thing in the morning. A reminder to please check out the Blog List along the right side for some amusing, thought-provoking, and enlightening entries from some of my favorite bloggers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Picking Apples

Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I visited Millstone Creek Orchards ( this morning. While there,

we sampled Granny Smith, Fuji, and Pink Lady apples

and watched apples go through the apple-cleaning machine.

We were amused by the apple-polishing apparatus and learned that large producers of grocery-store apples apply wax to the fruit instead of actually polishing it.

We even watched apples go up the conveyor belt and into the room where they are squeezed to make apple cider.

Even though the weather was a bit drizzly, we enjoyed our hay ride through the orchards

where we picked some apples.

It was so heartening to learn about a local farm family and taste their delicious wares.

We definitely plan to return to Millstone Creek Orchards when they harvest peaches, grapes, and blueberries in the summer.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

History Helpers

Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World series has quickly become one of my favorite history resources. Aside from the fact that seven-year-old Car Guy begs to do history first every day, I love how Story of the World makes history interesting, accessible, and enjoyable for elementary students.

In addition to the history reader, the accompanying Activity Books feature additional reading lists, map activities, and hands-on projects which students can complete to extend their understanding of historical figures, events, and trends.

Even though I am far from crafty, my children adores hands-on activities. While learning about medieval history this year, Curly Girl and Car Guy have

created an edible oasis when learning about Bedouins and Middle Eastern cultures,

constructed a catapult,

and baked a Roman pillar.

We're looking forward to a great year learning about medieval history!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Read Any Good Books Lately?

The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
Beloved- Toni Morrison
1984- George Orwell
Their Eyes Were Watching God- Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man- Ralph Ellison
Gone with the Wind- Margaret Mitchell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
A Separate Peace- John Knowles
The Chocolate War- Robert Cormier
The Giver- Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle in Time- Madeline L'Engle

Do you know what the above books have in common? Aside from all being classics, they all have been frequently challenged and targeted for removal from libraries.

Just look at the list. Can you imagine American culture, literature classes, and libraries without these texts? I certainly don't want to even think about teaching American literature without discussing Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby or Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, two of my all-time favorite novels.

Thankfully, American society does not leave it up to individuals or to the government to determine what should or should not be published. I will freely admit that my husband and I closely monitor the television that our children watch, the music they listen to, the movies they see, and the books they read. As parents, we strongly feel that we, not some amorphous government body, are responsible for teaching them about the world in bits that are not too advanced or mature for their ages. While I am not going to hand Lois Lowry's The Giver to a third grader, I will readily discuss it, with its setting of a dystopian society which manipulates every aspect of its citizens' lives including their sexual desires with my seventh grade daughter, and in high school she and I will also read and discuss Orwell's 1984, which extends the themes of The Giver. Even though I don't support tweens reading books with sexual themes, I certainly believe that we should value all literature and don't support banning books based on my or anyone else's personal opinion.

As a society, we must be willing to openly discuss issues, not cut each other off without calmly sharing our views. I'll never forget witnessing an audience member's reactions to a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird many years ago. You may remember that Harper Lee's classic novel is set in a racist southern society. When I saw the play, an older gentleman became so unsettled by the racist setting in the beginning of the play that he stormed out of the play loudly saying how inappropriate it was. If the gentleman had only stayed, he would have witnessed the play openly address racism. In other words, we can't jump so quickly to personal conclusions about literature that we fail to see the larger themes embraced by the works. While I do not like Twain's use of the n-word in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I believe that its use in the novel offers an opportunity for readers to ponder the importance of avoiding racially-charged speech.

As Americans, we frequently take our rights for granted. When I taught U.S. History to fifth graders, students were always amazed to learn that many countries do not enjoy the freedoms which are enumerated in our Bill of Rights. Banning books based on a particular person or group's opinion places society on a slippery slope of government intervention and control. While I may not like or agree with some books, music, television shows, or movies, I'd much rather live with them than live in a country which censors its citizens and their freedoms. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in 1906's The Friends of Voltaire, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

September 26th- October 3rd marks Banned Books Week. Celebrate your freedom and our rights as Americans by reading a banned book. For more information about frequently challenged and banned books, check out

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beautiful You

Please turn up your speakers so you can hear the fabulous song, Jonny Diaz's "More Beautiful You," which inspired this blog.

This song stops me in my tracks every time I hear it because it hits uncomfortably close to home. As a woman and the parent of a tween girl, I constantly think about body image issues- my own and my daughter's.

I admit that I love to eat, and I love to cook. Factor in my lack of enthusiasm for exercise, and you have a weight problem in the making. Regardless of what I constantly tell myself, I'm not overweight (I'm just the size of the average American woman). I do admittedly have many more curves than I once had, but then again weighing 95 pounds at the age of 18 probably wasn't that great either.

Why as women do we constantly obsess about our appearance? I love ice cream and sweets and enjoy indulging in them. Why can I not just enjoy the treats without feeling guilty immediately after. Why do I feel like I should constantly diet because I certainly never stick to it for long? I'll get fed up with staring at the size 6 jeans in my closet (I finally cleaned out the size 4s a year ago) or worry about what so-and-so would think of me if I ran into him/her and go on a health kick for a few weeks, but then my enthusiasm again wanes.

The worst part is the double-edged sword of telling ourselves that as women we wouldn't want to be with people anyway who only cared about the size clothes we wear, but then we continue to obsess about our appearance. I'll go ahead and admit that if I could afford it I would get a mommy makeover complete with boob lift and tummy tuck. As much as I rationally understand that my weight is truly not important, that doesn't even come close to making sense to me emotionally

But as I worry about my own body image, I also think about how my hang-ups influence my twelve-year old daughter. The older she has gotten, the more frequently I hear, "I hate my curly hair. My thighs look like hams. I never tan." Unfortunately, all of a parent's reassurances cannot counteract the cultural message of the thinner the better, the straighter your hair the better, the tanner the better.

But, you know what, every time Johnny Diaz's "More Beautiful You" comes on the radio, I turn it up loudly as a reminder to Curly Girl and myself.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When Smoky Met Snowball

Since Smoky the feral cat has been home from her forced sterilization last week, our family has been watching her closely. We were curious how she would react to her 24-hour field trip to the Humane Society. Surprisingly, she has still been spending a lot of time hanging out on our porch. I guess it has something to do with the food and water we keep out for her.

We have also been curious how Smoky and Snowball, her son that we rescued, would react if they saw each other. To that end, we have encouraged Snowball to hang out near the front door or his window seat by the front porch. The mother and son first spied each other on Thursday and stared intently at each other for several minutes.

Today, we again opened the wooden front door while Smoky was relaxing on our porch. Remembering that she had previously seen Snowball in the house, Smoky sat patiently and stared through the glass door to the inside of the house.

When we beckoned Snowball to the door, he curiously checked out Smoky while she meowed to him. (Oh how, I would love to know what each cat was thinking.)

Smoky didn't seem upset or agitated by Snowball's status as a house cat. The mother cat even watched patiently as Snowball enjoyed a tummy rub from one of his humans. Smoky definitely seemed more enthralled with Snowball than he was with her. I think that Smoky absolutely recognized Snowball as one of her kittens, but I'm not so certain that Snowball realized that Smoky was anything more than another cat.

Since both Smoky and Snowball seemed to enjoy their interaction, we'll definitely leave the front door open more often so mother and son can communicate some more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Feline Adventure

Our months-long feline adventure seems to have finally come to a close. You may remember that our family began monitoring a family of feral cats in June (

After inadvertently trapping a opossum, (,

a neighbor's cat who didn't seem to care less that he was in a trap on our front porch,

and a stinky, not-so-nice raccoon

we finally caught the feral mother cat which we had been after since June.

Since we have been feeding the female stray for months, we feel obligated to continue caring for her as much as she will let us. Thanks to our local Humane Society's feral spay/ neuter program, we had Smoky spayed and vaccinated for rabies for $35. She has now been released into our yard where we hope she will continue to reside. You may notice that Smoky's right ear has been tipped which allows animal control officers to know that she has been spayed and is being cared for as a feral cat.

Smoky's son, Snowball, which we adopted as a house cat is also doing fabulously well. He weighed a mere 2.5 pounds when we took him in at the end of July.

After much pampering, Snowball now weighs 5 pounds and has evolved into such a loving cat. He constantly follows us around the house and loves being held and cuddled. He was also neutered at the Humane Society this week and, better yet, tested negative for feline leukemia and HIV. A negative test result is such a relief since Snowball's previously risky life in a feral colony concerned us.

We are so thrilled that we didn't listen to the naysayers who told us not to even bother with feral cats. Snowball has turned out to be a great first cat for our family, which previously pledged all of our allegiance to dogs.

I also cannot heap enough praise on the Humane Society. From providing humane traps for us to use, initially handling and reassuring us about Snowball's ability to become a house pet, and for offering affordable ways to spay/ neuter and vaccinate feral animals and pets. Please support your local Humane Society (, as well as other organizations which work to protect animals and prevent abuse.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I will be attending my 20th high school reunion next month. Reunions, the stress-inducing occasions that they are, can evoke all of a person's high school insecurities, along with feelings of not having enough to show for your twenty years since high school.

In hopes of avoiding those feelings, I'm going to confess that now:

1. I do not look like I did in high school.

I realize that some of you, the women of our class, look fabulous and better than you did in high school, and I am insanely jealous of you. I, however, no longer wear a size 2. I am now the size of the average American woman along with the curves to prove it. As much I would like to drop ten pounds in the next month, I truly doubt that it will happen. I love to eat, but am not particularly passionate about exercise. My curly, blond hair does look similar to how it did in high school. Except now, I have my gray strands masked with a blond rinse which is applied regularly by my hairdresser.

2. I still live in the same area.

Yes, I know, throughout high school I vehemently complained about this area and swore I'd never return. Life and maturity have a way of making us eat our words, though. After college, I accepted a job nearby, and since my husband and I are both from the area we ended up settling here. I even taught at our old middle school and my former elementary school for several years. I do have to admit, though, that the area is a great place to raise kids, and I wouldn't trade my children's relationship with my parents, who live nearby, for anything. Family trumps adventure every time.

3. I am a domestic goddess.

I constantly surprise myself with my level of domesticity, especially since my high school plans involved a jet-setting career devoid of a husband and children. In one of those if-you-want-to-make-God-laugh-tell-him-your-plans moments, I voluntarily and very happily gave up a career to home school my children. I enjoy cooking and love baking bread and sweets. My schedule revolves around my children's activities and appointments. While I am not crafty, I would like to learn how to sew and knit.

4. I have not made any great discoveries or achieved any amazing accomplishments.

I hate to disappoint you, but I will probably not be able to regale you with exciting stories of jet-setting around the globe or struggling up the career ladder. I can fill you in on my first post-college job as a retail buyer when I traveled to Las Vegas several times a year or tell you about my life as an elementary school teacher. I can also discuss home school curriculum with you and tell you about our family's journey to homeschooling. Unless you would like to hear about the raccoon, opossum, and neighbor's cat which he have inadvertantly trapped in recent weeks, I will most likely not be the most scintillating conversationalist. In all honesty, my high school reunion will be a more relaxing affair than my college reunion. If you want to feel like an under-achiever, attend a Duke reunion without having a Masters, M.D., Ph.D. M.B.A., or law degree.

5. I am still a nerd.

Some things never change. Yes, I am still a nerd. I frequently prefer books to people. I work part-time from home as a freelance writer of literature guides, curriculum, and test preparation materials. I am better at discussing ideas than telling a joke and prefer sending an e-mail to talking on the phone. I will most likely not work the room and chat with everyone at the reunion- not because I am stuck-up or don't care to talk to you, but because I am painfully shy and never quite know what to say when engaging in small talk.

6. I am content.

If someone had told me in high school that I would be a full-time mom and live in the same area, I would have thought that my life had careened horribly off the tracks somewhere along the way. But that didn't happen, I never would have thought that I could be so content doing the work of raising children, that some people find to be so inconsequential. Apparently, God knew what I needed and brought together all the pieces of my life- husband, career choices, children- to place me where I am today.

Believe it or not, I am actually looking forward to the reunion. I frequently see and keep in touch with several members of our high school class, and Facebook has certainly helped forge reconnections with many others of you. I am thankful that the barriers which divided us in high school are melting away and will, hopefully, be replaced by more adult-like acceptance and compassion. I do think that will occur. Adult responsiblities and maturity having a way of putting our lives into perspective.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Know I'm Getting Old When . . .

I'm 38, which I know isn't exactly over the hill, but lately I have felt my age

because . . .

The music that I grew up with is now considered classic or retro. I hope you're enjoying listening to some of the hits from 1971, the year I was born.

I have some gray hair which, of course, I have colored.

I go to sleep at the time that I went out for the night during college.

I require several cups of caffeine to get going in the morning.

I voluntarily take vitamins, granted they are still Flintstones vitamins, though.

I have aged out of the Young Adult Sunday School class.

I almost always choose price over style, and now shop at stores where I wouldn't have been caught dead ten years ago.

I can easily remember the days before cell phones, internet access, and cable tv.

I did high school debate research using microfiche, a card catalog, and some odd film-like contraption.

I remember the early days of MTV when they actually played music videos.

I think about what body parts will ache the day after I exercise or try some new physical activity.

I usually take at least one Tylenol or Aleve before lunch.

I wear reading glasses.

I am happy to be past the spit-up and diaper-changing phases, and no longer gaze longingly at babies.

I have body parts that will most likely never return to the shape or size which they previously were.

I now understand why women get body parts nipped, tucked, and lifted.

My oldest child, Curly Girl, is almost a teenager.

When I took Curly Girl shopping this past weekend, I actually thought, "I can't believe what kids wear these days." This coming from the person who wore pink Converse high-tops and ripped jeans with the names of bands written all over them in high school.

Clothes that were in-style in high school during the late '80s have come back around. Vans, OP, and neon weren't that great originally. Did they really need to come back in style?

I am going to attend my 20th high school reunion next month. It can't possibly have been 20 years. It certainly doesn't seem like that long ago.

. . . but perhaps my memory and sense of time are going with age, too.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bargain Shopper

I'm not a shopper. It never occurs to me to go to the mall for entertainment which is very amusing considering I worked for a large retail clothing chain for the first five years after I graduated from college. I worked in store management for a year and a half and in the buying office the remainder of the time. Going to fashion shows and shopping for a living was enjoyable at the time, and you certainly haven't lived until you trek to Las Vegas with a group of male co-workers who have a variety of sexual preferences- too fun and too many stories to tell.

I believe my retail buyer experiences contributed to my current predilection as a bargain shopper, though. After seeing how much mark-up occurs in clothing and knowing that items are marked up just so they can still be profitably marked down, I just can't justify spending too much money on retail items, especially for children who are still growing.

Lest you think I'm Saint Frugal, I certainly am not. I much prefer to spend money on experiences rather than things. I love going out to eat and feel deprived if I don't go out for dinner at least once a week. I also love to travel and think nothing of plunking down money on a nice hotel or activities such as museum admissions or Broadway show tickets.

For the bargain shoppers among you, some of my favorite money-saving stores and websites:

Groceries: Aldi
If you haven't tried Aldi ( yet, you absolutely have to do so. After being introduced to Aldi by a friend last year, I have purchased the majority of my groceries there every week since. This past week, I bought all of our family's groceries, except for about 8 items, for the week for $40.80. That $40 consisted of about 20 items, including 4 pounds of fresh hamburger, 2 boxes of cereal, and 3 gallons of milk. Just a few quirks, aside from the low prices, which differentiate Aldi from your standard grocery store: #1- Most of the items are store brands, but don't worry they taste just as good, if not better, than some name brands. My family especially loves the salsa, whipped yogurt, laundry detergent, and cheeses. My parents adore the $7/ bottle Reisling wine, and some friends have pledged their devotion to the tilapia. #2- You must bring your own bags and bag your own groceries after they have been rung up. Whatever you do, stay out of the cashier's way while he/she is scanning your groceries. At first I was a bit alarmed at the speed at which my fruit and veggies were tossed into the cart alongside the dogfood, so now I place the heavier items on the conveyer belt first and the daintier items on last so they go into the cart in that order. After you pay for your groceries, you take them to the counters along the wall where you bag your groceries yourself. #3- You will need a quarter (not any other combination of coins) to get a cart. Upon arriving at the store, slip your quarter into the slot in the cart. When you return your cart and reconnect it to the cart line, you get your quarter back. If you have kids, they'll love taking care of the quarter for the cart. #4- You can only pay in cash or a debit card. Aldi does not accept credit cards or personal checks.

Teen and Adult Clothes: Plato's Closet
Curly Girl and I visited Plato's Closet today where we purchased four pair of jeans and six tops for $116 which was pretty good considering they were all name-brand items. Plato's Closet ( sells gently-used teen- and non-stodgy-adult-friendly clothing. My mom also picked up a Ralph Lauren cable sweater for $20 and an Old Navy skirt with the tags still on it for $8. The chain is very picky about the items they will sell and will only accept clothing which has been in retail stores within the last year. I also loved that the store was clean, the items were sized and hung by color, too. The store we visited sold goods at second-hand prices, but in a mall-like environment.

Kids' Clothes: Consignment sales
As much as I enjoyed dressing my children in cute outfits when they were younger, I couldn't justify spending $40 outfit which they were going to outgrown in six months. Thank goodness we have some great private and church-sponsored consignment sales in our area where I have purchased almost all of Curly Girl's clothing through elementary school and still buy Car Guy's wardrobe. (For the record, boys' clothes are such a let-down after after all the adorable choices for girls' clothing.)

Books: Edward McKay
Admittedly, I am more likely to purchase a book, instead of clothing, at retail price. If I want to read a particular book, I tend to purchase it with the intent of making it part of our family library which will be read again and again. I do enjoy browsing through Edward McKay Used Book Store (, though, especially when I need to purchase books for the reading lists for the school year. I love that Edward McKay's carries a great selection of classics, as opposed to the Harlequin romance fare of many used book stores, and has a free section where I invariably pick up an item or two.

Also, don't forget about that I talked about in Old Friends, New Loves (

Homeschool curriculum: Rainbow Resource
While Rainbow Resource doesn't fall into the super-bargain category, it does have the best prices and the best selection that I have found for homeschool curriculum. After trading in used curriculum at a local homeschool store and trolling websites for deals (I purchased a pre-algebra textbook for $0.18 on Amazon this year that would have been $60 at the homeschool book fair), I always place an order at Rainbow Resource ( for the other items we will need for the upcoming school year. I love that Rainbow Resource does not charge shipping for orders over $150. They also have an absolutely, fabulous three-inch thick catalog of homeschool curriculum complete with reviews and descriptions of the items. In my opinion, the catalog itself is a must-have reference resource for any homeschooler and is also a great way to learn about the immense amounts of curriculum available to homeschoolers.

So there are my ideas for bargain shopping. Feel free to share any great bargain shopping resources that you adore.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pilot Mountain

Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I ventured out on our first field trip of the school year yesterday. Going on lots of field trips is on of our favorite aspects of homeschooling. Since I firmly believe that you learn just as much from experiences as you do from books, we try to take about three to four field trips a month.

Yesterday, we trekked around Pilot Mountain (Mt. Pilot for you Andy Griffith Show fans).

After pulling our minivan off Highway 52 and up the mountain, we first took in the view from the overlook. It was a beautiful day, and Curly Girl loved how we could see the earth's curvature from our vantage point.

Next, we struck out on the Little Pinnacle trail, an easy walk which provides a great view of Big Pinnacle.

While on Little Pinnacle Trail, Curly Girl and Car Guy took the time to act like superheroes and mountain lions (At least, Car Guy did. Curly Girl decided that she was too old to transform into a mountain lion.)

Mountain lions always remind me of our family trip to South Dakota two years ago. While exploring Custer State Park, we pointed out a sign to Car Guy, our rambunctious five-year-old at the time, which reminded parents to keep their children nearby since mountain lions may attack unattended small children or pets. From that point on, Car Guy did not leave our sides the remainder of the trip.

Yesterday after checking out Little Pinnacle, Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I hiked around Big Pinnacle, the knob atop Pilot Mountain.

We enjoyed the beautiful early fall weather- warm, but with a hint of coolness in the air. The park was not very crowded, and we loved checking out our surroundings along with all the raptors which were drifting on the air currents around the mountain.

I also adore how homeschooling strengthens our family relationships. Admittedly, we drive each other crazy some days, but I firmly believe that our time spent learning and exploring together will pay off handsomely in the long run.

Lest you worry that Curly Girl and Car Guy didn't engage in any book learning yesterday, don't fret. My children and I read some of Beowulf aloud while we enjoyed our picnic lunch.

We are certainly looking forward to our school year along with everything we will learn and the locales we will explore.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Old Friends and New Loves

Aaaahhh . . . I just adore rediscovering things which I had forgotten or let fall by the wayside. Recently I have rediscovered:

Mmmm . . . The chocolate-hazelnut concoction tastes so scrumptious, it is sinful. I first discovered Nutella ( when I babysat for the son of one of my art history professors in college. She always kept Nutella in her house, and a swipe of Nutella on a graham cracker was frequently my professor's son's after-dinner treat. Curly Girl and I have rediscovered Nutella recently and keep a secret stash "just for the girls" in the house. We even frequently indulge in a spoonful of it for an afternoon sugar fix.

I love to read and always have, but reading for my own personal pleasure has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Between reading to my children at bedtime and working through and discussing the novels which Curly Girl reads for school, I have mainly been just thumbing through magazines during lunch or before I crash into bed for the night. After becoming obsessed with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series ( in the spring and thoroughly enjoying Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl ( this summer, I realized how much I have missed the feeling of becoming entranced by and losing myself in a book. Here's to hopefully much more reading for pleasure in the months to come!

Long-time friends
I am so blessed to have had some of the same friends since elementary, middle, and high school. While I adore all of my friends, new and not-so-new, there is something incredibly comforting about speaking with friends who have been there forever. Honestly, after making it through puberty and the not-always-so-pleasant high school years together, I'm not a bit worried about running them off now. Some life situations have been a bit challenging recently, causing me to question something that I once held dear, and my fabulous friends have been so amazing, encouraging, and supportive with their kind words and supportive notes.

Alternative music
I admit to having eclectic musical taste. My Ipod contains an odd mix of show tunes, classic rock, newer adult alternative, Christian contemporary, and alternative music from my high school days. I have especially enjoyed hearing some long-forgotten alternative tunes on the First Wave Sirius station ( It's amazing how many of the words you can remember to songs you haven't heard in 15 years. I was a bit taken aback, though, when hearing an ad tonight for the Dark Wave show featuring The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Gene Loves Jezebel. I never before realized that my favorite bands fell into the "dark" category.

Which leads to my New Loves . . .

Sirius radio
Love it, love it, love it. Love not having to listen to commercials; love picking what genre of music to listen to; love being able to listen to something different than the same songs which are repeatedly played on traditional radio. The best moment, though, has been when Curly Girl went into shock as I sang along to The Vapors "Turning Japanese." Since her dad had played the song in his car (In Curly Girl's eyes, Dad is much cooler than Mom.), my daughter had wrongly assumed that "Turning Japanese" was a new song. Thus, she was shocked to learn that a song she liked was (horrors, of all horrors) an old song. My most frequented Sirius stations are First Wave, The Pulse (Curly's Girl usual choice), Broadway, and Coffee House for acoustic rock.

Paperback Swap
We have tons of books around our house, and a large list of books we would like to read. To even out this situation, I opened an account on ( For no fee, you can list books you would like to trade for other books. When one of the site's members requests a book from you, you mail it to him/her. In return you can, request books you would like from other members and receive them at no cost. In the past 2-3 months, I have received five books and mailed three. Now I am just trying to decide which book I would like to request next.

I have always had dogs and never, ever considered myself a cat person. That has been changing, however, as Snowball has come into our family's life. Since rescuing the feral kitten a month ago, Snowball has become a model family member. He snuggles; he plays with toys; and he tries to play with our dogs, who aren't so crazy about playing with him. Best of all, though, is the litter box. After housebreaking dogs, teaching a cat to use a litter box is a breeze.

I love Netflix (! Our family originally began our subscription to obtain documentaries which would enhance our home school experience. We frequently order History Channel documentaries which correlate with topics we are studying. This summer we enjoyed the History Channel series "Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire" and have many medieval history DVDs in our queue for the upcoming school year. I really love being able to watch entire TV series, though. After reading Catherine Marshall's Christy with Curly Girl, we obtained all two seasons of the 1994 "Christy" television series through Netflix. Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the episodes and look forward to watching the subsequent made-for-tv "Christy" movies. On a less child-friendly note, I am looking forward to working my way through "The Tudors" series via Netflix DVDs.

That's it for me! What almost-forgotten things have you rediscovered or learned about recently for the first time?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Change. . . Our lives are defined by experiences and change. Some of which are exciting and desired, others which are challenging and heartbreaking. Our family is currently undergoing a season of change, one which we do not want to experience, but a change that my husband and I believe is necessary.

For the past fourteen years, my husband and I have attended the same church- the church in which my husband grew up, the church where we both became Christians, the church where our children were baptized and raised, the only church our family has ever known. But unfortunately, for a variety of reasons which continue to exhaust and anger me to even think about, we feel that "our" church may no longer be the best fit for our family.

Believe me, we have not and are not taking our decision to visit other churches lightly. It hurts; it breaks our hearts to even contemplate leaving our church family and close friends who have shepherded us and our children so closely. I am crying now at the thought of my son not receiving his 3rd grade Bible next year or not being confirmed at the same church as his sister, not attending Love Feast on Christmas Eve, Car Guy not graduating to a shepherd from a sheep in the Children's Nativity, not going on another mission trip to Kentucky as Curly Girl and I did this past summer, no longer watching Car Guy scurry around during the Easter Egg Hunt. Knowing that Promotion Sunday and the Youth Year Kick-Off are swiftly approaching and consciously choosing not to attend these events hurts deeply.

Yes, we are visiting other churches. For how long or if we will permanently leave our church, we do not know. My husband and I do realize that we can no longer exist with the constant church-related frustration with which we have been dealing for over a year now. We know that can't be afraid of leaping into change, and we don't want to miss out on blessings which God may have in store for us because we are afraid of leaving a comfortable situation to strike out for frighteningly unfamiliar territory.

Many tears have been shed and many questions have been asked and debated in our family regarding our current in-between church situation. All four of us have experienced internal tug-of-wars as we have wrestled with the why and why nots of our decision. While attending a church mission activity on Saturday, my children and I all greatly enjoyed being surrounded by familiar faces. All three of us had missed the warmth of seeing dear friends, and Curly Girl voiced all of our family members' feelings when she asked in the car on the way home, "Do we have to leave our church? Why can't we stay?"

My 12-year-old is certainly having the hardest time with our transition, but she is also the one having to repeatedly be the visitor in a new Sunday school class, when she had previously been the kid who comfortably stepped in her home church door several times a week. Over the past few weeks, Curly Girl has jubilantly skipped out of a new church so thrilled at the warm reception she received that she went back to their Sunday night activity, but she has also sadly walked to the car and commented that the middle school girls were cliquey and no one really talked to her. It's hard, and my heart breaks at the thought of even possibly uprooting my daughter at such a crucial time in her life.

But my husband and I also don't want to settle for less. Staying in a program with which we are thoroughly dissatisfied just because we are afraid of change is not in anyway acceptable. We also want to have a church HOME, though, not a building to just obligatorily attend once a week, but a place where we can peacefully grow and learn to love our new church family. We want to feel satisfied with our decision to go or stay at our long-time church. If we choose to consistently attend another church, we want to be there because we truly feel that we should be there, not because we need a fill-in church to attend while we hope the situation at our "real" home church resolves itself.

What we do know with all certainty is that we must have a church where our entire family can grow in our relationships with Christ. Unfortunately, I have allowed my frustration and anger at the human issues in our long-time church to impact my relationship with Christ. For the last nine months, I have used about every excuse I could think of to avoid walking in the church doors. It's not fair; it's not right, but it happened and still will until my family either finds a new church or makes a very deliberate decision to return to our previous one. One Sunday in June, my husband and I knew that we had to take a break to visit other churches when we all came home from church in horrible moods. The stress of dealing with some of the issues and people at our long-time church had gotten to both of us and, unfortunately, superseded worshiping that day.

In all honesty, I haven't been much of a practicing Christian since the holidays and have frequently contemplated my long ago thoughts of "Why bother? I'd much rather sleep in on Sunday mornings. Who needs religion anyway?" I will even admit that if it wasn't for knowing that my children need to be active in a church, I would have probably just shoved my Bible to the back of the bookshelf and tried to walk away. But I can't do that- I won't do that. It took too much hard work to get to the place where I was willing to tell people that I was a Christian. I don't want to go back to the frantic life of feeling like everything is up to me to get right or screw up all on my own. I'm a better person when I have an active relationship with Christ, and I desperately need to get back there.

Our entire family needs to attend a church where we can plug into God's love and light- where we can see these qualities lived out through the church's members, young and old, and exemplified by the church's ministers, leadership, and staff. Please pray for our family as we continue along our journey. We truly don't know where it will take us, and it is not a decision that we take lightly. Please also pray for our long-time church, as well as the churches we have and will continue to visit. Lastly, please pray for all people who do not have a church home. As our family has recently learned, life is much more peaceful and enjoyable when you are plugged into God's love.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aaaahhh. . . . . Corolla

Our family absolutely adores visiting Corolla on the northern Outer Banks.

On our most recent trip to the Outer Banks, we. . . .

Climbed Jockey's Ridge

Participated in two programs at the Wright Brothers Memorial

Climbed the 214 steps of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Caught crabs during a program at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

Raced go-karts

Lounged on the Lazy River

Frolicked in the ocean

and learned about the first English settlements in the New World at Manteo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Turn Right, Now Left Here

Today's Dennis the Menace comic is so my life . . .

My son, seven-year-old Car Guy, comes by his nickname honestly. He is all-about-cars, all the time. If he isn't arranging his cars, he is polishing them. If he isn't playing with cars, he may be reading a BMW Roundel magazine. When he was five years old, my little guy's favorite video featured an hour-long tour of a BMW factory. He also once amazed a babysitter by regaling her with the names of the German cities which contained BMW factories.

Car Guy comes by his car obsession honestly, though. My father is a car nut, too, and ignited his grandson's interest in vehicles. When Car Guy was two, he and my dad picked up a pack of Matchbox cars on the way to the Outer Banks. By the conclusion of our vacation, my two-year-old could properly pronounce and tell you the name of each sports car.

With his interest in cars, it should not surprise me that Car Guy is also a whiz with directions. For several years, he has been able to tell me how to get around town. At first it was cute and endearing, but sometimes this habit is just downright annoying. I would frequently prefer to chill out and listen to the radio, not have to actively tune out the directions of my seven-year-old backseat driver. He also does not confine himself to directions, frequently including instructions of when and how I should pull out in the road or turn. These directions also accompany his tendency to loudly identify most of the cars we see on the road.

Aaaahhh. . . . Car Guy's vehicular habits are endearing, but what should I expect from a child who loves to take field trips to car dealerships????

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

One Time When I Caught a Raccoon on my Porch

About 7:30 this morning while I was still snuggled in bed with my head under the pillows and covers, my husband awakened me with, "You've got to come downstairs to see what is in the trap!"

As I blearily opened one eye, Patrick continued to slightly yell, "It's a raccoon. There's a raccoon on the porch." Upon hearing his revelation, I immediately flashed back to inadvertently catching a opossum about six weeks ago when my stray-cat-catching-odyssey began. As previously chronicled, I have been trying off-and-on for about two months to round up the stray cat family that resides in the woods around our house (For more info, check out and I tried for about a week in June to round up the mother cat and kittens, but only managed to catch a opossum on my porch at that time.

At least with my opossum catch, Animal Control came and released the little critter. Yes, he was released right back into my yard. Apparently, the state of NC protects opossums and prohibits Animal Control from doing away with them. At least the opossum fiasco only left me with a stinky animal trap and some flashbacks of watching Beverly Hillbillies as a kid.

My morning raccoon incident was much less pleasant, however. After Patrick ventured onto the porch to take a picture of our "friendly," neighborhood raccoon, my husband settled in to read the newspaper and left me to deal with our nuisance since, as Patrick remarked trying to butter me up, "You've been doing such a great job handling the cat situation." (Yea, right- he just didn't want to have to call someone about having a very unhappy raccoon on his porch.) At this point, my husband and I quickly determined that neither one of us was brave or stupid enough to deal with the animal ourselves, and we would definitely require reinforcements.

As I trotted off to call Animal Control, I mumbled to myself, "Oh great, first a opossum, now a raccoon. The Animal Control guy is going to love me." Animal Control runs through our local police department, so I actually had to speak with the police receptionist first about my little issue. So I told her, "I need Animal Control to come out . . . I have a raccoon trapped on my front porch." The conversation veered crazily downhill at this point as the woman laughed at me and said, "I've never heard of anyone trapping a raccoon before." I beg to differ. We're in NC; I'm sure that someone else before me has accidentally trapped a raccoon before. As I have learned the hard way, I can put out the trap, but I can't control what goes in it.

So my dear pal from Animal Control, the one who previously released my opossum, called to tell me that he could not release or deal with my opossum since he is only licensed to deal with dogs and cats, and since my trap is from the Humane Society, not Animal Control, the officer whom I support with my taxes can't help me anyway. At this point in the phone conversation, I'm quickly losing my confidence in "Animal" (IMHO, it should be "Dog and Cat") Control and becoming very irritated that my desire to trap, spay, and return the feral female cat to my yard as a mouser is hitting so many roadblocks. Of course, Animal Control would be happy to put down any dogs or cats that I manage to catch, but they must release any wild creatures that are caught in a trap.

My friendly Animal Control officer then provided the helpful suggestion that I find a friend who is a hunter to deal with my little raccoon friend. This, of course, does not help in the least since I am not close enough friends with any hunters to call them up and say, "Hey, would you please come over to my house to kill the raccoon on my porch?" and something tells me that sicing a hunter on the raccoon would also violate the humane animal treatment agreement I had to sign when borrowing the trap from the Humane Society.

Since hunter Plan A was a no-go, Animal Control gave me number of a guy who could probably help me out. As my family laughed at me, I then called someone else about "my" little raccoon issue. On the phone, my new buddy at All About Wildlife very clearly informed me that it is against NC law to trap and keep raccoons- like I meant to trap the raccoon. To remedy my breach of NC law, he could sell me a raccoon permit or, for a fee, he could come release the animal for me. After realizing that I am now going to have to pay someone to release the rodent right back into my own yard, I grumblingly tell my new wildlife guy, Jonathan, to come over in about an hour. It would have cost more if I wanted the raccoon removed from my property, so I settled for merely releasing him.

Here is the scene that greeted Jonathan when he arrived at my house about 9:20am:

One angry raccoon in a trap. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl that was in the trap. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl and pulled the towel that was previously on the trap into it. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl, pulled the towel into the trap, and pooped all over my porch. One angry raccoon who has shredded the plastic food bowl, pulled the towel into the trap, pooped all over my porch, and cut his leg and bled all over my porch, too. (I was channeling the Berenstains' Bears on Wheels there with the repetitive verse.)

Dear Jonathan (nice guy and now I know who to call if I ever have nuisance animals in or around my house) then set Mr. Raccoon free about 30 feet from my house, rid the trap of the bowl and towel pieces, collected his $40 check, and went on his way.

Fast forward about 10 minutes: I'm trying to enjoy my morning cup of hot tea and read the newspaper (I'm much happier when I start my day that way) when the doorbell rings. It was Edgar from Terminex, and I wished you could have seen his face. As I walked down the hall toward the glass front door, I saw Edgar glance at the porch floor where the trap had been, and as he did Edgar's eyes grew bigger and bigger. Between the raccoon blood and feces, it must have appeared as if I had recently performed a ritual sacrifice in my yard. To alleviate my termite guy's fear, I quickly informed Edgar about my morning adventure and, of course, he laughed at me, too. Then as my termite guy checked the crawl space, I proceeded to scrub the porch and trap with hot, soapy water- not fun, not fun at all.

After my misfires with the opossum and raccoon, I considered giving up my "hobby" as a feral cat trapper, but I decided to soldier on for fear of being over-run with stray felines if I don't succeed in my mission of having the mother cat spayed.

But, hey, if you ever need a guy to wrangle a raccoon, call me. I know someone who will handle it for a small fee.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Animal Farm

Recently, we have added a new pet to our family. We're now up to four animals:

Fozzy, one of our 14-year-old bichon frises,

Gonzo, our other 14-year-old bichon frise, whose health is rapidly declining unfortunately,

Nibbles, Car Guy's rabbit, who is now hopping around and playing again after battling a near-fatal bout with pasteurella and head tilt (more details at and,

and Snowball, a 12-week-old kitten who is our newest addition.

Let me preface Snowball's story by stating that I have never previously owned a cat and have never considered myself to be a "cat person." My family and I started watching Snowball about six weeks ago, though, when we discovered that she belonged to a stray mother cat we had been feeding. For the back story on Snowball's family, check out and

Since I had not been successful in previously catching and aiding the stray cat family, I had just continued to feed them and let them be until I learned this week how quickly cats can reproduce. My guess was that we would be covered up in stray cats unless I quickly took some action. Meanwhile, Curly Girl and Car Guy enjoyed watching the five kittens hang out on our porch and especially took a shine to the white kitten which they dubbed "Snowball."

This past Wednesday night, our family inadvertently left our garage door open during a thunderstorm. By the time we discovered our error, the mother cat and her kittens had taken up residence in our garage. When Patrick and I went in the garage about 10pm that night, we saw five cats run out, but did not spy Snowball running away. After searching for him for a bit, Patrick and I closed the garage door and went to bed.

The next morning, however, I heard a kitten loudly meowing in our garage and found Snowball tiptoeing across the top of our garage door. Realizing that this was our chance to intercept one of the kittens, Patrick gently picked up the feline and placed it in a pet carrier.

I still wasn't sure about the cat thing, but told my children that we would check into what we needed to do to acclimate a feral cat into being a pet. First, we took Snowball to our local Humane Society so someone else could handle him before I stuck my hand in the carrier. After getting the all-clear and making a future appointment to have the cat neutered and receive his vaccinations, the children and I brought Snowball home. The kitten did have a bit of a respiratory illness and needed some antibiotics for ten days which meant that we had to keep Snowball inside for the duration of his meds.

For now, Snowball is ensconced in one of our bathrooms where he will stay for the next two weeks. Since I have no previous cat experience, I wasn't sure what to expect from a kitten, and a stray one at that. Snowball has been fabulous, though. He has used his litter box consistently and has not displayed any aggressive behavior. After voluntarily hanging out in his pet carrier or in a corner for about the first 24 hours, he now plays with toys, purrs when held, rubs your hand asking for more petting, and rolls over for tummy rubs. The kitten has even been cooperative when taking his twice-daily oral antibiotics.

When allowing Snowball in the house, I told Curly Girl and Car Guy that we would re-evaluate Snowball's status in 10 days. For some reason, I think the kitten will be staying, though.