Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two Left Feet

I seem to have an uncanny knack for injuring the extremities on my left side. A definite lack of grace and excess of klutziness have combined to create some rather embarrassing mishaps over the years.

It all began when I broke my left foot playing kickball on the blacktop in elementary school. Yes, I said blacktop. What school lets kids play kickball on a blacktop?? Of course, this was the same institution where we played many games of Red Rover, executed numerous wheelbarrow relay races, and threw the ball as hard as we could during not-so-nice dodgeball matchess. (I loved all those games, by the way, but the banning of traditional playground games could be an entirely other blog post.) After sliding on a blacktop (owwww!!!!) and injuring my foot, my parents didn't realize that my fifth metatarsal was broken until a week later. I'm not much of a sweller, so it was rather difficult to tell that anything was wrong. But, off I went to the doctor and came home with a brown, plether, orthopedic shoe (not exactly the height of fashion in the late '70s).

My next left-sided incident occurred when I was about fourteen and somehow (I don't quite remember what happened) twisted the ligaments in my left foot. I only recall having some funky leg wrap and being on crutches for a few weeks in the summer. Actually, I really remember crawling up and down the stairs at my house while dragging my crutches behind me- definitely not any fun.

I managed to stay left-side-injury free until last year, but, boy, was last summer a doozy. During a family Memorial Day cookout at our house, I fell down one step off our deck (Yes, the one lousy step in the picture!) and sprained my left foot. I was sooo embarrassed to trip off one step, especially when my 86-year-old grandmother had to help me get up off the ground. After my grandmother and mother helped me hobble into the house and ice my foot, I knew that something was wrong. I did agree to visit the doctor the following day and came home with a not-at-all-attractive orthopedic shoe. Let me tell you that sporting an orthopedic shoe for six weeks wreaked havoc with my summer flip-flop wardrobe. After finally trashing the shoe in Sarasota, Florida, beach sand over the Fourth of July, I trudged around in tennis shoes for the next few weeks before finally breaking out the flip-flops in August.

Now to my most recent, and possibly most ridiculous, injury: A week ago, I ran on a paved, wooded greenway while my children took classes at our local environmental center. I was having a great run until I stepped on a stick. Yes, I said a stick, not a limb, but a basic stick. As I stepped on one end of the stick, the other end popped up and scratched my shin. It was just a scratch that barely even bled. When I arrived at my cute and stylish convertible (okay, it's a minivan, but I pretend it's a convertible by rolling down the windows and cranking up the music), I cleaned out my superficial wound and even cleaned it again when I got home. All was well until Friday when my scratch started looking rather nasty. Not to gross you out, but it was puffy, red, and oozy. I debated about going to the doctor and felt rather ridiculous spending money on a doctor's visit for a stick's scratch. Of course, my dear, loving husband was of no assistance with his advice to open the wound and pour some hydrogen peroxide in it myself. I finally booked a doctor's appointment when Patrick threatened to give me some whiskey and something to bite down on before fixing it himself if I didn't stop obsessing about my leg (See what happens when you've been married fourteen years!).

So I sucked it up and visited the doc yesterday. Yes, it's infected. Yes, I have oral and topical meds. Yes, the wound had to be cultured to make sure I have not contracted MRSA or some other dread disease (Thankfully, I was assured that this was highly unlikely.) The worst part of the treatment, however, was the tetanus shot I had to get- you know, the tetanus shot that I have avoided for the past twenty years (See my April 9th Kentucky Bound post for more on my freakish fear of needles.). I really, really hate needles, and I only have to look at the dent in my right thigh which resulted from moving with a shot in my leg when I was one to remind me of my phobia. I did manage to get the shot without throwing a mommy meltdown, but darn my arm hurts today.

And am I getting any sympathy at home for this? Heck no, everyone just laughs at me probably like you are doing right now.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Look What We Found!

As we poked around our yard tonight, we discovered a bird's nest containing five baby birds.

The birds' parents constructed the nest under the cover of our propane gas tank. What a fabulous location! It stays dry unless a deluge occurs and is rather safe. Since the top of the tank is several feet off the ground, other animals cannot get into it, but there are several holes for the birds to fly in and out.

When I snapped these pictures, three birds were in the nest and two were hanging out just outside of it. I'm sure the mama bird was nearby thinking not-very-nice things about the humans checking out her babies in their nest.

I'm always struck by the beauty and intricacy of birds' nests. At least these birds used traditional building materials, unlike the nest we found a year or two which was created mainly from our dogs' hair. I had groomed our two white, curly-haired bichon frises on the back deck, and apparently the birds thought the hair would make excellent building material. I so wish I had taken a photo of that nest!

Tomorrow we're going to drag out our bird identification guide to try to figure out what type of birds are in our current nest. A bluebird family lives in the birdhouse by our front porch, but I'm not sure what these brown and white birds are. If anyone knows, feel free to let me in on the secret.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day on the Town

My children and I spent Friday in downtown Raleigh.

Curly Girl attended the Tarheel Jr. Historian Convention at the NC Museum of History. Our local history museum started a homeschool chapter of the club which met throughout the year and attended the convention together. Any school, public or private, can start a chapter of the club and attend the state convention which focuses on aspects of North Carolina history. Curly Girl attended three or four different sessions during the day, but her favorite was the duel that costumed interpreters re-enacted on the grounds of the Old Capitol. Car Guy and I even wandered up to the festivities to take in the duel, too.

While Curly Girl was occupied at the convention, Car Guy and I explored downtown Raleigh. We started at the Blackbeard exhibit in the history museum. Car Guy loves pirates and frequently dresses up as one around the house. His favorite part of the museum's exhibit was firing a cannon at a ship as part of a video game.

After leaving the history museum, my son and I wandered over to the NC Museum of Natural Science. I especially enjoyed the butterfly house,

but Car Guy took a fancy to the dinosaur exhibit and activities.

We highly enjoyed our day trip and are contemplating other North Carolina forays to take this summer. Any suggestions?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What About Socialization?

Any homeschooler would probably tell you that the question they are most frequently asked is, "What About Socialization?"

When learning that our family homeschools, people almost always ask if our children do things with other kids their age. My initial inclination is to blurt out a smart-aleck comeback like, "What? Do you think I keep my children in the house the entire time without any contact with the outside world? Honestly, do you really think I am that poor of a parent?"

For those of you who think that homeschoolers never leave their homes, here is a sampling of my children's activities from last week:

Monday: Curly Girl's soccer practice (She plays in a homeschool athletic league which competes against private schools in our area. Our team's record is currently 4-3.); Car Guy's soccer practice (He plays in a local rec league.)

Tuesday: Curly Girl to orthodontist; Kids and I took our rabbit to the vet; Car Guy's Cub Scout field trip to a local radio station; Curly Girl to Middle High Youth at church

Wednesday: Both kids had piano lessons at our local university; visited the library; Curly Girl had handbells rehearsal

Thursday: Apple Store field trip with our local homeschool group (This is a great free field trip, by the way. The kids were able to compose an original piece of music, the store staff burned it on a CD for them to keep, and the kids got certificates and free t-shirts.); History Club at our local museum where Curly Girl acted as docent for a tour of the historical park; Curly Girl's soccer game

Friday: Art classes for both kids; visited an observatory for nighttime sky-watching

Saturday: Car Guy's soccer game; Curly Girl hung out at the Y while her dad refereed several soccer games

Sunday: Entire family to church where we ushered at the contemporary service; Curly Girl's handbells concert

Note: The sports change according to the season. Summer will be all about summer swim league; Curly Girl swims competitively in the fall and winter; and Car Guy plays basketball in the winter.

My point is not look how much we do, even though homeschooling does provide us with the time to be able to undertake more activities than the kids could if they spent their entire day inside a building before completing several hours of homework each night. My point is: Look How Normal We Are!!! Regardless of homeschooling being the fastest-growing educational movement in the country, some people are still truly clueless about it. Homeschoolers are just like you; they just happened to make a different, but very viable and legitimate, educational choice than you may have made for your family. Honestly, you probably wouldn't like it if people drew broad, highly inaccurate generalizations about you and your family just because your children attend public or private school.

I am still fuming about a conversation I overheard (The people were sitting behind me at one of Curly Girl's soccer games. It was impossible not to hear them talking.) a few weeks ago between several private school parents. Since their daughters were playing against a homeschool team, I guess the parents felt empowered to nastily spout out every inaccurate fallacy that exists about homeschool children and families. It took every bit of self-control I had not to turn around and go off on these parents about the stereotypes they were spewing while informing them about the $20K I dropped at their school when my children previously attended their daycare when I worked fulltime.

So, back to socialization. Yes, homeschoolers leave their homes. Yes, we engage with the outside world. I personally believe that homeschooling allows my children to more authentically engage in the real world by being out and about in it, instead of cooped up in an artificial classroom environment. So there, that's it. I'll try to not stereotype you for your educational choices, if you'll please not stereotype me for mine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do you remember Dillon Fence?

Think of the quintessential college band. Chances are if you went to college in North Carolina in the early 1990s, you may have conjured up thoughts of Dillon Fence. Yea, do you remember them?

I honestly don't remember how many times I have seen Dillon Fence perform. Between seeing them on the quad at Duke, at Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, and at assorted places in the Piedmont, Dillon Fence definitely reminds me of the college years. Heck, I even saw the band before-they-were-stars when they played at a Wake Forest debate camp that I attended one summer in high school. Even better, if you require a Dillon Fence fix you can see them again this weekend at Cat's Cradle.

When my husband, Patrick, mentioned that Dillon Fence will be performing in Chapel Hill this Saturday night, we automatically started laughing about the last time we saw the band. Several years ago, Patrick and I excitedly hit Dillon Fence's reunion tour at Ziggy's (If you have never been to Ziggy's, it consists of the shell of an old house with a giant tent behind it.). We happily sent the kids to my parents and bought our tickets.

The summery Saturday night of the concert, hubby and I went out to dinner before hitting the coliseum area about 8:30pm, the concert time printed on the tickets. First off, neither Patrick or I had been to Ziggy's in at least ten years, so we were a bit fuzzy on its exact location. As we walked up to the first club on the street, we noticed a very looooong line stretching down the sidewalk. Upon closer observation, we realized that unless Dillon Fence was now attracting a hip-hop crowd, we were probably in the wrong location. Needless to say, we got back in our vehicle and moseyed down the street.

A block or two later, we immediately recognized the ramshackle house of Ziggy's with the fenced-in yard and assorted attached tents. Noticing a lack of cars, though, did concern us a bit. Rechecking the time and date on our tickets, we ventured into the venue. Patrick and I strolled around, bought a beer or two, and sat down to relax and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Now, I know I've gotten old. I go to bed at the time when I used to go out for the night, but I really didn't think I had gotten that old. Apparently, I have aged much more than the members of Dillon Fence.

I was fighting back yawns as the band finally took the stage about 11pm. The concert was great; I remembered the words to the songs; I jumped up and down; I sang. Even better, there were plenty of thirty-somethings attending, too. Pregnant women, mommies, daddies, gray-headed men- Patrick and I were relieved to not be the only "old" people at Ziggy's that night. We were partying on the floor near the stage about 12:30am when we turned around and noticed a considerably sparser crowd than was in the club 45 minutes previously. After a minute, we figured it out. Everyone behind us had to go home to relieve their babysitters. We were so thrilled that our kids were spending the night with their grandparents, so we could stay for the entire show.

I'll tell you what, though. I was wiped out the next day, okay, for the next few days. Staying up until 2am definitely took more of a toll on me than it had ten years previously.

Let my memory be a lesson to you: If you see Dillon Fence at Cat's Cradle this Saturday night, don't go too early, book your babysitter for the entire night, and allow lots of recovery time for yourself. Will I be attending? Unfortunately, no. My husband will be polishing his halo by chaperoning a youth retreat all weekend, which leaves me on solo parenting duty. I don't think I can exactly take Curly Girl and Car Guy to Cat's Cradle now, can I?

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm Working On It, Really, I Am

I'm working on some new blog posts, really, I am. I have almost finished composing several entries; the problem is that they are not yet tangibly written down. Yes, I pre-write an entry almost completely in my head (usually while running) before I ever put in on paper.

The last few days have been such a flurry of activity that I have barely had time to do anything besides the bare basics of bunny care, chauffeuring children, and running errands. Today, for example, involved:
5am- feed Nibbles and write
7:30am- wake children, shower, eat breakfast
schoolwork- Thank goodness for the flexibility of homeschooling.
10:30am- 12:15pm- Curly Girl's orthodontist appointment
12:30pm- 1:30pm- home for lunch and pet care
2pm- piano lessons for both children
4pm- Curly Girl's soccer game (They won!)
dinner with the soccer team
7pm ish- home where I gave Nibbles a bath
8pm- Dancing With the Stars (Yes, I know it's cheesy, but I love it!)
9:45pm-writing very short blog post
10pm- curling up in bed to watch "Castle" and read about ancient Rome so I
can discuss it with Curly Girl tomorrow

I have every intention of getting up super-early in the morning to make a large dent in the writing I actually get paid for (Don't even ask me how far behind I am at the moment), then putting a new blog post on paper tomorrow tonight. Hopefully, all will go as planned. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Night at the Observatory

Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I enjoyed such an engaging evening. We visited a local college that opens their observatory to the public on clear Friday nights.

Since we had never been before to this-particular observatory before, we decided to check it out. The kids and I are covering astronomy this semester and have had so-so success skywatching on our own. I have never taken an astronomy class before, so helping the kids has been a blind-leading-the-blind experience. We have previously located several stars by using our star chart, and I am not ashamed to say that we are learning astronomy together.

Due to my lack of astronomical experience, checking out a real-life observatory for free was just too much of a chance to pass up. I didn't know what to expect, but it was great! The guides utilized the large telescope in the observatory, as well as a telescope that was set up outside. Even better, they explained what the images were for the clueless among us.

We viewed:



Betelgeuse (A star that is actually larger than our sun.)

A double star (Two stars that rotate around each other. The ones we saw are farther away from us than the Sun is from Pluto.)

Orion nebula

Our evening proves that you don't have to spend money to have fun. We will definitely be checking out the observatory again!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hanging in There

Nibbles is still hanging in there. After a less than stellar vet trip yesterday, the bunny has rebounded some today.

Yesterday was tough. The vet was very kind, but honest when she informed me that Nibbles prognosis is "guarded." He has a deep inner ear infection which is tough to completely cure. To make things worse, he has bruised his eyes from flailing about so much. My main job now is to pump Nibbles full of bunny gruel (yogurt with his food pellets mixed into it) every four hours, lots of water, and plenty of hay. I managed to hold it together at the vet since Car Guy and Curly Girl were with me, but as soon as I was by myself at home I pretty much lost it. I am such a sap for animals. I am rather low on mercy when people are sick, but fall apart if an animal is lost or hurt. I can't even watch "The Lion King" or "Bambi" because of my affinity for injured animals, and don't even ask me how much I cried at "Benji" movies when I was little.

I can kind of empathize with Nibbles. I had an inner ear infection when I was seventeen, and it was definitely no fun. My ear infection appeared without any warning and, unfortunately, reared its head when I was driving. Thankfully, a friend was with me who could take over when I blacked out at the wheel. I completely understand that Nibbles' world is spinning because mine did for quite some time, along with repeatedly passing out, until my antibiotics kicked in.

This entire rabbit rehabilitation episode seems to have brought out two of my less desirable (or they could be positive, depending on how you look at it) personality traits: stubbornness and a refusal to give up on people.

I am just absolutely, downright stubborn. If someone tells me I can't or shouldn't do something, then I'll just try even harder to prove them wrong, even if it flies in the face of common sense or public opinion. So, gosh darn, I'm going to rehabilitate this rabbit if it's the last thing I do. When I was feeding Nibbles a few minutes ago, Curly Girl commented that we are probably the only family whose schedule is dictated by a rabbit (and to think that I laughed at a friend when she syringe-fed a squirrel for two months; Okay, Kelsey, now I get it). I have even arranged for a substitute bunny feeder to care for Nibbles when I am not home (Thank you, Mom, for taking on this duty.). My refusal to listen to other people does sometimes pay off, though. I wouldn't have the fantastic time I have with my kids if I had actually listened to my husband when he told me that no way, no how would we ever home school. Ssshhh, don't tell him, but I have already spent more than the amount I was "told" to spend on bunny care. You see, I just don't listen to people other than myself.

My new career as a rabbit rehabilitator has also reminded me that I refuse to give up on people or animals, for that matter. I tend to give people multiple chances to get it right, regardless of how many times they may screw up their lives or relationships. I hate to say goodbye to people or to animals. I just don't want to do it. I can't stand losing touch with people. Over the last two years, I have lost touch with one of my closest friends from the high school and college years (the same person who was with me when I passed out while driving), and it absolutely drives me crazy. Our lives have just moved in opposite directions, but I, of course, blame myself for this turn of events. Just like the Nibbles situation: I refuse to give up on the rabbit, and I blame myself for his issues, even if it is not completely reasonable.

There it is in a nutshell: how caring for a bunny has brought my own foibles into the open. I'm sure that we all have emotional hang-ups, for some reason I am just feeling rather transparent about mine today. Think of me if you happen to be awake at 5am. I'll be feeding the bunny then.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Signs of Spring

I love Spring!

To me, Spring means:

Blooming Flowers

Robins in my Yard

Pink Dogwoods, my favorite tree


Planting the Garden (We planted potatoes, tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuce, watermelons, cucumbers, green beans, and lima beans this year.)

Easter Dresses and Bunnies

Soccer, Soccer, Soccer

Sleeping with the Windows Open (One of my absolutely favorite things!)

Being Outside

I hope you have a sensational, super-iffic Spring!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bunny Nurse

Have you ever tried something new only to realize that you aren't half bad at it? That's how it has been with me for the past two days, only it's a skill that I certainly did not want to develop. Car Guy's pet bunny, Nibbles, has fallen ill, and since Car Guy is a seven-year-old boy, I seem to be the rabbit's main nursemaid. Apparently, I'm not too bad at caring for a rabbit. People, however, are a completely different story. My husband, Patrick, repeatedly points out that I was not the sweetest human caretaker when he had shoulder surgery in November. He seems to forget that animals are kind, not grumpy, when they do not feel well.

Nibbles' health issues began on Thursday night when Patrick woke me up about 12:30am saying something was wrong with Nibbles. The bunny kept rolling around like he couldn't control his head or body. After doing some hasty research in our bunny book and online, we determined that he had head tilt, and it was serious. Luckily, I was able to speak with someone at the 24-hour emergency vet to make an appointment for 9am Friday morning.

By the time the kids and I got Nibbles to the vet, he was extremely lethargic, in addition to the frightening head tilt. An expensive vet trip later, Nibbles was diagnosed with a pasteurella infection which has infected his eyes (looks like he has pinkeye), an ear (bunny ear infection), and caused the head tilt (from vertigo-like symptoms due to the inner ear infection). To fight the infection and symptoms, Nibbles now receives eyedrops, prednisone, and an antibiotic two times a day. The kicker, however, is feeding and giving him water with a syringe every four hours. I even had to make a schedule to keep track of when to give Nibbles all his medicine and food on schedule.

So why go to this much trouble for a $29 pet store bunny? Car Guy adores his pet bunny and, to tell you the truth, I am rather in love with the small mammal, too. When well, Nibbles loves to snuggle, play, and perform his bunny dance. He usually has so much personality, so it is very hard to see him so sick and pitiful. Honestly, can you imagine anything worse than having a pet rabbit bite the dust at Easter? If you read my February Valentines Schmalentines post, you learned that I detest Valentine's Day due to a series of bad experiences on the holiday. So I certainly don't want my children to always remember that their pet rabbit died at Easter. To head that off, I have spent much of the last two days hand-feeding and holding a two-pound Netherland Dwarf rabbit.

Water seems to be Nibbles' favorite thing at the moment, and he easily takes it from the syringe. He will also happily eat timothy hay from our hands. The bunny gruel has been a bit of a challenge, however. We can't quite get the correct consistency of mushed food pellets, water, and yogurt which is compounded when we try to squeeze it through a syringe. After Nibbles' last so-so feeding, Patrick and I tried giving Nibbles plain old vanilla yogurt. He loved it, so I think we'll stick with that just to keep him eating so he can get his strength back.

Because of the vertigo, Nibbles is very unstable. He can't sit up straight and his head tilts precariously to the side. To help him feel more stable, we have taken to swaddling him in a towel like a baby. He is so lethargic that he has spent most of the past two days being held and carried by assorted family members. Nibs even got a visitor today when my mom came to check on the patient in his sick bed.

We're all hoping that Nibbles feels better for his big Easter holiday. So we can keep an eye on him, he is even going with us to Easter lunch at my parents' house. The entire family, even our 14-year-old dogs, are concerned about year and a half old Nibbles. Please send lots of positive thoughts Nibbles' way. It will certainly be very difficult over here if Nibbles doesn't spunk up soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kentucky Bound

Well, I've done it. I've committed. I've jumped in. I'm going, to Kentucky, that is.

Curly Girl and I have decided to go on a mission trip this summer, and we are super-excited about it. I have been tossing around the idea of going on a mission trip for a while, but I've always made excuses about why I couldn't go- cost, scheduling conflicts, children to take care of, etc. Well, this time there are no more excuses- we'll figure out the money, I've cleared my calendar for the week, my mom will take care of Car Guy while I am gone, and, even better, Curly Girl is going on the trip, too. That was really the deciding factor for me- giving eleven-year-old Curly Girl a chance to visually understand how blessed she truly is. She and I have previously tutored at a local Boys and Girls Club, but I think that a week-long trip where we see how people really live will impact both of us in a greater way.

I am thankful that my husband, Patrick, cajoled me into going on this trip. He has sensed that I have been rather restless lately (call it a mid-life crisis) and needed to step out of my comfort zone to get myself out of a rut. What better way to do that than by serving others in Appalachia for a week in mid-July.

Before you get all misty-eyed and sappy, you will probably find some humor in our group's assignment for the week- building. Yes, I said building which is almost absurd since laughing at the tilted storage shed (It looks straight if you lean your head to the left) that Patrick built in our backyard is the closest I have ever come to building anything. Aside from hanging pictures in our house, I've never even used a hammer, so I'm assuming that I'll learn some new skills in Kentucky, too. If you need a really good laugh in mid-July, picture me insulating and installing vinyl siding and roughing in a room addition on a single-wide trailer. See, you're probably already snickering at the thought of it.

While I am stepping out of my comfort zone, I thought that I should really go for it. I have three phobias- heights, needles, and snakes, all of which I may have to address on this trip.

Heights: I really don't like heights. The escalators at the mall, especially when you can see several stories down, even make me nervous. I'm assuming that installing insulation and vinyl siding will involve climbing a ladder and possibly being on the trailer's roof. If I didn't hyperventilate during a hot air balloon ride on my honeymoon, I think I can certainly manage being eight to ten feet off the ground on a ladder to improve someone's home.

Needles: I am really afraid of needles. So much so, that I refused to have a needle for an epidural anywhere near my spine during labor. I even tried to get out of having the IV, but the hospital wouldn't go for that. I'm hoping that needles will only come into play in Kentucky if I have a building accident requiring a tetanus shot. You see, every time the nurse asks about a tetanus shot at my annual check-up, I tell her that I am absolutely sure that I have had one (had one over twenty years ago, I mean.) Let's hope that I responsibly wield my hammer and nails without incident for the entire week of our trip.

Snakes: I am freakishly terrified of snakes, even harmless, non-poisonous ones. I was the teacher who jumped on top of table leaving several middle school boys to remedy the wild animal invasion when a snake crawled into my classroom several years ago. Now I really wish that I had not listened to the snake stories told by previous Kentucky trip members. One of the ministers at our church laughingly retells the story about ripping old siding off a trailer in Kentucky only to be bombarded by slithering snakes coming out of the area where insulation should have been. It certainly has not eluded me that this apparently non-snake-traumatized person was doing the exact same job that I will probably be performing- eeekkk!

Honestly, though, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to step out of my box with my daughter by my side. In addition to helping others and learning some life skills, I'm looking at this as a great reason to work-out a lot for the next three months. I'm determined to pull my weight and contribute on the trip, even if I will be hammering alongside a retired Green Beret. Here's to hoping this trip is a fabulous experience and one of the first of many service opportunities I will be blessed to participate in around the world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

History Nerd

I admit it; I'm a nerd. I'm so okay with being a nerd, geek, whatever you want to call me that I gave up trying to be anything else long ago. My favorites nerdy topics are history and art history (I was an art history major college and seriously contemplated going to art history grad school.).

I love to incorporate history into our daily lives. My poor, deprived children don't realize that some people actually go on vacations which do not incorporate trips to museums and historical locales. History is so much more interesting if you can visualize where it occurred. Car Guy absolutely loved visiting the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and tracing the battle's progression, and Curly Girl volunteers as a Junior History Interpreter at our local museum.

One of our favorite ways to learn about history, however, is by reading historical fiction which makes a time period come to life. When students only read dry history textbooks, it is no wonder that they find the subject incredibly boring. For our home school, our family covers history chronologically in four-year cycles, and I always try to find historical fiction books which correspond to the time period we are studying. For those of you who enjoy reading, especially with your children, I have listed some of my favorite historical fiction titles. Most of them are geared toward 4th-8th graders, but would work fine as read alouds with younger children. They are also appealing on their own as quick adult reads.

Angela's Top 10 Historical Fiction Books

10. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Before reading it, I didn't think I would really enjoy this book. But, in the end, I found that Forbes's tome does a great job of bringing 1770s Boston and the early events of the Revolutionary War to life. Just a warning: Don't watch the Disney movie version of the book. It's awful and changes way too much of the book for my taste.

9. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Girl power at its finest! In 1832, Charlotte Doyle stows away on a ship going from England to America. Along the way, the heroine deals with a mutinous crew and learns about life at sea.

8. The Watsons Go To Birmingham- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Hilarious and poignant all at the same time. As the African-American Watson family journeys from Michigan to Alabama, they head into one of the most disturbing domestic events of the 1960s. This book does a fabulous job of showing the difficulties African-Americans faced living in the segregated South. Additionally, "Ruby Bridges" is a great movie to complement a study of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

7. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
This book is really a biography, but it is so interesting that it reads like a narrative. For some reason, I had never learned about Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), a brilliant scholar and sailor in early America. What an amazing man!

6. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
I just finished reading this book last night. Incredibly interesting concept of setting a historical fiction novel around Capernaum during the time of Christ's ministry. It includes Christ as one of many characters in the story, and does a great job of portraying what it must have been like for the Jews to live under Roman rule. Don't be turned off by this book if you're not Christian. It takes a literary approach to Jesus and doesn't preach or proselytize.

5. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
I admit to having a soft spot for this book since it was the first literature guide I wrote when I began writing classroom curriculum three years ago. After working in Afghan regugee camps, Ellis wrote this book to convey the women's stories she heard there. In the book, Parvana becomes her family's breadwinner after her father is arrested in the 1990s. What a fabulous way to help young adults understand the horrors of living under the Taliban and provide a springboard to discuss Afghanistan's still deplorable record of women's rights.

4. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
This was one of my favorite books as an early teen, and I fell in love with it again when I reread it last year. In the book, a spirited young lady is accused of witchcraft when she refuses to bow to society's narrow-minded norms. It also provides a great historical window into the Puritan and Quaker faiths in the late 1600s. For boys, however, I would check out Speare's The Sign of the Beaver. In it, a teen boy learns the Native American ways when he must survive on his own in the Maine wilderness in the early 1700s. About a year ago, Car Guy listened to this book on tape at bedtime every night for several months. Yes, I said months, several months.

3. Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott
Curly Girl and I absolutely loved all the nuances of this book. This classic leads into great discussions on all sorts of topics that are still pertinent today-responsibility, family, modesty, utilizing your personal gifts, personal deportment, etc. For a fabulous study of Alcott and her life in the mid-1800s, read her biography, Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs and The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick which follows a year in the life of a contemporary mother-daughter book club that reads Little Women. I can't tell you how much I recommend these books for tween and early teen girls.

2. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
This is probably Curly Girl's favorite book that we have read because it combines history, adventure, and romance. Okay, I really liked it, too, and had trouble putting it down. It takes place in ancient Egypt when slave-girl, Mara, becomes involved in the court affairs of Thutmose and Hatshepsut during the 1460s-1470s BCE. Absolutely fabulous!

1. A History of US series by Joy Hakim
I'm cheating here because Hakim's series of ten books are not fictional at all. They encompass the entire scope of United States history from pre-history through the 1990s. I learned more American history reading this series than I ever learned in high school. If students read these in school, instead of the boring textbooks they usually have, many more young adults would probably fall in love with American history.

I know that this list lacks historical fiction novels targeted toward adults, and I hope to remedy that soon. One of my plans for the summer is to read, read, read while lounging by the pool. I would love to hear about your favorite historical fiction books, so I can add them to my summer reading list.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Busy, Busy Weekend

Our family experienced a super-busy, but enjoyable weekend. With the warm, sunny weather everyone could finally get outside and gain a touch of color in their cheeks.

The weekend began with Curly Girl's soccer game on Friday night.

Saturday morning started early with our local community theatre's Break a Leg 5K. Our family has been involved with community theatre for years. I performed in several shows during my middle high and high school years. In the past four years, Curly Girl and her father have appeared together in "Annie" and "Fiddler on the Roof," and my husband performed sans family in "Once Upon a Mattress." To show our support of the Break a Leg 5K, Patrick and Curly Girl volunteered behind the scenes, Car Guy participated in the Kids Fun Run, and I ran (Ok, more like jogged and walked) the 5K.

From the 5K, we traversed across town to Car Guy's soccer game.

After crashing at home, we put steaks on the grill and also enjoyed corn on the cob (yum!) and baked potatoes for dinner. The highlight for me came from the Ace Perry Cider (my favorite adult beverage of the moment) that washed down my meal.

Sunday brought another soccer game for Car Guy

and the Easter Egg Hunt at church where he looked high

and low for eggs.

The only hiccup in the weekend arose from Car Guy's asthma. Unfortunately, we had to break out the nebulizer and albuterol several times. I say, unfortunately, because it is certainly no fun for your child to be wheezing, but also because albuterol sends Car Guy through the roof. So much so that he is still awake and calling to me from his room at this very moment (It's now 10pm). Oh well, I'd better go peel him off the ceiling. I hope you have a fantastic week ahead.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bad Mom

First and foremost, I must credit my dear friend, Kelsey, for the inspiration for this post. Please read her Confessions of a Real Mom post (http://runningtheraceforjesus.blogspot.com/2009/03/confessions-of.html). It's fabulous.

The past few days have been a bit rough around our house, and I have felt like quite a bad mom. It's hard being a mom. Sometimes it seems so easy and carefree, and other times it feels like trudging through waist-deep mud in clunky combat boots. For whatever reason, I have felt completely overwhelmed with my daily to-do list recently. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day, and that is with only sleeping from 11:30pm to 5:30am every day.

The kicker of "bad momdom" came yesterday when Curly Girl and I had a bit of a snit. I was frustrated that her school work was progressing at the speed of a sloth which was holding up some other things I needed or wanted to do. Curly Girl was irritated that I was nagging at her to get a move on and not-so-politely informed me that I was being way too impatient for my own good. Furthermore, she also spit out that I was a bad mom because I had been working too much and worrying about money too frequently lately. Well, that did it. You can't just throw out an accusation about being a bad mom and pretend it's not there. You know what, I admit it. I am a bad mom sometimes.

I . . . .

. . . have let my children watch "Goonies" and "Big" without pre-screening them and didn't realize we had a problem until words that are not allowed in our house started coming from the tv.

. . . have thrown a full-blown mommy temper tantrum, then locked myself in my room to recover from it.

. . . won't let my children borrow my IPOD because it has inappropriate music (for them) on it like Prince and Violent Femmes.

. . . let Curly Girl read the first three Twilight books without pre-reading them first. I have since confiscated the third one and bought the fourth book for my own personal enjoyment.

. . . have hustled my children off to bed so I could watch Grey's Anatomy without being interrupted.

. . . let Car Guy take a Harry Potter coloring book to a home school function, then hastily hid it when a little girl told him that Harry was evil. We love Harry Potter at our house, but he is considered next-to-sacrilege in some home school circles. Part of me wanted to send a page of Harry with a wand on it home with the other little darling, but I then thought better of it.

. . . am horrible about deciding when to take my children to the doctor. I have rushed them to the pediatrician for just a virus, but procrastinated and didn't take it seriously when Curly Girl complained about her eyes (she needed glasses), complained about her shoulder (she had irritated her rotator cuff muscles and needed physical therapy), and complained about acid reflux symptoms (which require a trip to the gastroenterologist next week). I also downplayed an asthma attack that eventually sent Car Guy to the emergency room on his 4th birthday.

. . . have no desire or plan to help with Vacation Bible School, but will be happy to drop off my children so they can spend a week this summer with the other adults who got roped into it.

. . . thought Car Guy was just sweaty as an infant when, in fact, his clothes were damp with pee that had leaked from his diaper. I then realized that boys are much harder to diaper than girls.

You know, it's kind of liberating to be so honest. Liberating and terrifying all at the same time. Terrifying because what if no one, especially those people I care about, don't care for the real me. We all try to maintain a perfectly manicured facade of perfection, but truthfully none of us are as perfect as we want everyone to think we are.

I am the queen of "fine." I will very convincingly tell you that "Everything is fine" even when it may not be. Honestly, do any of us really want to invest the time and energy into finding out if another person is "fine" or not? As children, we wore our emotions on our sleeves, but we certainly learn to mask them more successfully as we get older.

The other day, a person I knew way-back in high school commented on a friend's Facebook wall that he thought I had gotten "soft" and "too nice" in my middle age. You know what, I bit and rather jokingly responded to him that I really hadn't gotten any nicer. I'm just better at covering up the dark and twisty side of me.

Did any of my mom confessions or comments about "being fine" ring a bell with you? If so, please fill out my friend Kelsey's survey below. Due to the tremendous response to her "Confessions of a Mom" post she is expanding the idea into a larger project and needs feedback to the questions below.

Kelsey's Post and Questions:

As most of you who have kept up with me know, I am working on a writing project regarding transparency and authenticity. Here is my desperate plea for help! I have created a questionnaire that I need to be completed by as many women as possible. Responses will be held in the strictest of confidence! I don't expect anyone to actually complete the questionnaire on my blog. Therefore, copy and past the questions in to an email message. Or, if you want complete anonymity, send me a message and I will reply with my address. My email is: kelsey@dumoulin.us . Please type "research" in the subject field.

It isn't a long list of questions, but it does require some thought. I ask that you answer with honesty, what you really feel, NOT what you think is the correct answer or what you think society says it should be. If you can only answer a few of the questions, that is fine. I'll take what I can get! Additionally, feel free to print out the questions and pass to anyone you think would take the time to complete this. Forward on to email groups, send by carrier pigeon, convey through smoke signals...just please help me market this. Statistically, the more women I have see this, the better chance I have of actually having some returned.

1. What do you fear people, particularly other women will know about you?
2. What do you avoid at all costs in your interaction with other women ?
3. When did you start hiding parts of yourself from the world? Can you remember an age or circumstance that led to this?
4. What 3 goals/desires do you have for your children?
5. How did your childhood impact these goals?
6. In what ways do you feel you fail as a mother? Or, as a wife?
7. Who, in this world, do you model?
8. What do they have that you don't?
9. Do you think (scale of 1-10) you are successful at modeling them?
10. Name 3 things you routinely do out of "peer pressure", because all the other wives and mothers are doing it.
11. Describe what "having it all" really means to you.

Again, THANK YOU, to whomever gets this completed and returned. I am indebted to you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To Have and to Hold . . .

Sometimes I think we give our children the wrong idea about relationships. Now I love fairy tales and star-crossed lovers, like Edward and Bella or Romeo and Juliet, as much as the next person, but real-life doesn't work that way. Recently, Curly Girl has worn out her Taylor Swift Fearless CD, especially "Love Story." I love the song, I really do, but I'm torn between letting Curly Girl maintain her "someone will sweep me off my feet" attitude about love, as opposed to telling her the cold, hard truth. I know, she's only eleven. I should let her dream a little bit longer.

My husband and I certainly didn't undergo any pre-marital counseling before our wedding fourteen years ago; we just sort of lucked into this marriage thing. Assorted people tossed us tiny trinkets of advice along the way, but no one sat Patrick and myself down to tell us what to really expect. I do think all of us married folk should be more forthcoming about marriage with our engaged or soon-to-be-engaged friends and family members. Tell them the truth . . . It's not always easy. Now, before anyone panics and goes into a tailspin as they read this, all is well in our house. I am very content and happily married.

Here are the eight things I think we should tell a couple before they get married:

1. Marriage is hard work.

Married life isn't always fun. It's a lot of compromise, and sometimes just flat not getting what you want. After being married for a number of years, you can't just bat your eyes at your husband and get your way anymore. At a bridal shower, one newly-married friend did allude to this when she told me, "Marriage is great when you work together and accomplish something, but sometimes you get so mad at him that you never want to see him again." Thank you, Ansley, for giving me that great window into married life. By the way, I caught the bouquet at Ansley's wedding in December 1992. When I was home for Christmas break a week later, Patrick stopped by my house to say ,"Hi," and we started going out about two weeks after that.

2. Love is a choice, not a feeling.

I didn't actually come up with this one. Jane Schrum did, and it's the main thing I remember from a MOMS Group I attended. What Jane meant was that sometimes you have to choose to be the spouse you should be, rather than the spouse you want to be. Admittedly, some days I do not feel very loving or act very lovable, for that matter. If I always acted just as my emotions dictated, my marriage and myself would be in an awful lot of trouble. Sometimes we have to choose to act lovingly, even though we may not want or feel like doing so.

3. It's not all about you.

I know that popular culture tells us and encourages us to believe, "It's all about me," but once you're married, especially once you have children, it is certainly no longer about you. Believe me, I can act self-centered with the best of them, and some days it is all I can do not to act on that escape plan in my head (Thank you, Kelsey, for admitting that you, too, have hatched an escape plan from the domestic life.). Part of being in a relationship is balancing your personal desires with those of your spouse. It's all about give and take. My husband certainly doesn't like helping around the house (He would much rather zone out in front of ESPN or take a nap), but he cleans the bathrooms and irons because it deletes those items from my to-do list and, thus, makes me much happier.

4. Physical attraction is not enough.

I know; before being married you think you'll spend much of your married life in bed together (not snoring and reading, but doing fun, adult things). I hate to burst your bubble, but it's just not so. Real life intrudes; you get busy; you're tired; you're no longer the size 4, 100 pound gal you were you got married (Things expand when you have babies, and body parts just don't shift back to the way they were.) For all these reasons, you and your spouse had better have more in common than sex. All the sex in the world won't make up for a lack of similar goals and outlook on life.

5. Marry your best friend.

I'm not saying ruin your friendships by trying to turn them into something more. I'm saying that you had better be friends with your spouse and enjoy spending an awful lot of time with him or her. I am lucky enough to be married to my best friend. Patrick is the person I first want to speak to if something good, bad, or just interesting happens during the day. He and I have always had an easy manner between us; it's never been strained or weird. Patrick and I went out a time or two in high school. It was nothing exciting, though, aside from getting lost on MLK Drive one night coming home from the Dixie Classic Fair. Over the next few years, he and I would run into each other occasionally, and that was just it, running into each other. When we reconnected my senior year in college, it was so easy. Our first date wasn't really like a first date; it was just hanging out and catching up with an old friend, and it's been that way ever since. I am so thankful that we have that friendship to fall back on. Now that our lives consist mainly of child-centered logistics and activities, we (and many other marriages) would be in real trouble if we didn't have a genuine friendship undergirding our marriage.

6. Sometimes you must choose the right thing over the momentarily pleasurable thing.

We certainly all have things we think about, but must choose not to do for the health of our relationships. Whether it's holding our tongue to not say the hurtful comment on the tip of it or refraining from placing ourselves in tempting situations, we must always maintain a long-term view of our marriages. Just because you have a fleeting idea or feeling, doesn't mean you have to act on it. Think of how many people have been led down the road to ruin by acting spontaneously rather than thinking through a choice which could irreparably damage your relationship with your spouse.

7. Intertwine your lives so much that it would be exceedingly difficult to separate them.

His and hers no longer exists in our marriage (even though Patrick did make a snarky remark to a friend the other day that I have slowly gotten rid of all his things since we got married). At this point in our lives, everything is ours from bank accounts and friends to the activities we are involved in. Now I'm not saying lose yourself and your identity once you get married- no way! I'm even still a bit ambivalent about the whole name-change thing. What I mean is to intermingle every aspect of your lives so much that it is easier to stay together than it would be to try to separate it out to his and hers again.

8. Expect change.

When you get married, you have this grand idea of how your life will be. I have news for you; it will probably not turn out that way. If someone had told me I would be married to Patrick, live in my hometown, and be home with two children that I home school, I would have asked them what horrific thing had happened along the way to make these completely unforeseen events occur in my life. This was certainly not the plan I had for myself. But life is change; jobs change, goals change, relationships change. The trick is for you and your spouse to be willing and able to change with the circumstances and with each other.

What do you think of my "Things We Should Tell People Before They Get Married"? Anything you would like to change or add? I have to confess that parts of this post may give my husband and close family members a coronary. We'll see how it goes.