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It's a like a homeschool convention from the comfort of your home! Many homeschoolers struggle with teaching reading. I know that was my least favorite thing to teach, as my kids struggled to learn the phonic sounds. Here is a great opportunity to learn strategies that will help your kids become strong readers. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is having a free reading clinic and expo, and they are giving away a Kindle Fire! Go sign up today, and don't miss your chance to win! Click HERE or on the photo for more details!

 
 
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All moms are heroes, but homeschool moms are superheroes. Click HERE or on the photo to read how I know.

 
 
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There are many good reasons to homeschool. However, this list of reasons should not be your only motivation to keep your kids home. It's best to weigh the pros and cons before deciding to homeschool. To read more, click the photo or click HERE.

 
 
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Our Easter this year was definitely low key. Gone are the days of egg hunts with cousins and waking up at 6:00 AM to see if the bunny came. Instead, the Beetle slept all day, and the Goose went to a friend’s house. I must say, I was strangely at peace with the fact that I did not have to hide eggs. That was never my favorite part anyway. However, it would have been nice for the Beetle to actually look at the contents of his Easter basket and show excitement over chocolate. (On a side note, I found it interesting that the Easter Bunny brought both my kids laundry baskets this year. Did he have a message for them? Yes. He was saying, “Do your own laundry. The maid has retired.”)

I spent some time yesterday remembering Easters past, and I realized, though while I was growing up, my family was not really religious, Easter was a pretty good holiday for us.

We always went to church on Easter. For a few years, we were regularly attending the First Baptist Church in town, so we went there. However, most of the time, we went to my grandmother’s church. She wouldn’t darken the door of the First Baptist Church because the preacher had once dropped the door on her instead of holding it open when she was walking behind him into a store. I’m pretty sure the whole congregation was condemned to purgatory for the preacher’s actions.

I was happier going to my grandmother’s church than to the First Baptist Church. At least grandmother gave us gum, even if it was just half a stick. (She was too cheap to let my sister and me each have our own stick of gum, so she would break it in half for us. She said it still tasted the same, and I guess she was right.) At least at my grandmother’s church, no one glared at me.

At the First Baptist Church, my whole Sunday school class hated me for some reason. I’m pretty sure it was because I was not as holy and righteous as they were, but I can’t be too sure. All I know is, Mia Talcom used to glare at me during the prayers.  I would feel eyes on me, and I would look up to find her ugly face glaring at me. For the entire time we attended that church, that girl hated me, and her posse did too, and I never even knew what I had done wrong. (*Note: changed after original posting...I first did not change this person's name because I figured no one would ever know who it was anyway. I didn't think I could even spell her name right. However, my sister immediately sent me a link to this person's Facebook page. Apparently, I remembered how to spell her name correctly, so she was really easy to find! So, as much as I hated to, I changed the name to protect the not-so-innocent. By the way, she still isn't too pretty and still has an unpleasant look on her face. And she wears too much makeup. That is all.)

Then, there was the kid who stabbed me with the pencil. I don’t remember him name. I’m not even sure I knew his name back then, but he attacked me with a pencil. I was there, in all my Easter fanciness, with my pink dress, white floppy hat and white gloves. In the middle of children’s church, the kid reached over and stabbed my hand and my pretty white glove with a pencil. I carried that lead mark under my skin until I was 40 years old….a reminder of how much the First Baptist Church children disliked me. It finally disappeared sometime a few years ago. I guess my wounds have been healed.

Let me be honest here. It definitely wasn’t the church services I looked forward to on Easter. It was the candy. (It’s still the candy. I love, love, love Easter candy….much more than I should! I try not to buy it as much anymore, but I still love it. I love the bright colors and pretty packages and happy bunnies and chicks. What’s not to love?) In Easters of my childhood, it was the candy that made me look forward to Easter. Well, it was the candy and the swimming.

Every year, regardless of the temperature outside, my daddy would open the pool during the week before Easter. By Easter Sunday, it would be ready to swim in. It could be 70 degrees outside and colder in pool, but it did not matter. On Easter, my sister and I were going swimming. It might only be for five minutes, and we might be blue and shivering by the time we were finished, but we WERE going swimming. It was one tradition we lived for.

Since having my own kids, I have tried to carry on at least some of the traditions I had as a child on Easter. The Beetle used to always get new Easter outfits. Sometimes, to Mr. Everything’s dismay, those outfits involved white knee-high socks. That slowly turned into the Beetle getting a new dress shirt on Easter and finally ended this year with him wearing whatever was clean.

The Goose has managed to always get a new dress for Easter. That’s probably because she was willing to go shopping with me. She also reminds me relentlessly that we need to go shopping until I take her shopping. I have gotten a new Easter dress for most years. There were a few where I just wore something from my closet. In my mind, I was clothed in that pretty pink dress with my white floppy hat and white gloves (minus the pencil mark).

My kids have gone swimming at my parents’ pool for most Easters of their lives. This year, though, the pool sat quiet and empty as all the grandchildren had “better” things to do with their time.

One of my favorite Easter memories was about nine years ago. The Beetle was about nine, and the Goose was about five. It did not actually happen on Easter Sunday, but it involves the resurrection of Christ, so I’m counting it as an Easter memory. (I just wanted to tell you this story. It’s really funny.)

We went with a group from our church to a theme park in Orlando called, “The Holy Land Experience.” This was sort of a strange place is it was sort of an amusement park, but it was built on the idea of Biblical times. The whole place was made to look like various places read about in the Bible. The schedule of show times was built around the life of Jesus, and the final performance was a processional through the park with Jesus carrying the cross. Then, they showed Jesus nailed to the cross and crucified. I was concerned about this whole idea as I was not sure my kids were ready to see this. The entire day, I had an uneasy feeling about letting them watch the “show.” Most of the people in our group acted like I was silly, but I just really was not sure whether my kids were old enough and mature enough to handle watching Jesus die on the cross. I could only hope the acting would be bad as that would lessen the intensity of it.

When the time came for the final “show,” I told Mr. E to help me keep an eye on the kids. I had an escape route planned to get my kids out of there if I decided it was too much for them to watch. The processional began, and my kids were glued to every movement. As the actors led Jesus through the street, and he struggled to carry his cross, they were enthralled. As they led him up the hill, the Goose and the Beetle did not blink. As they pretended to nail Jesus to the cross, my kids were wide-eyed. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and beginning to wonder if I should take my babies and run. Then, the Beetle leaned over to ask me a question I will never forget.

As I leaned down to hear him, and I braced myself to give him an honest answer, he said, “Mama. I have a question.” “What, baby?” I asked. With the most serious face, he said, “How much does that actor get paid to let them nail him to the cross?”

I’m pretty sure it’s inappropriate to laugh during the crucifixion, but I just couldn’t stop. I told Mr. E what the Beetle had just asked, and he started laughing too. We had to walk away from the “show,” but it was not for the reason I had anticipated.

Though the Beetle has grown and matured since them, I can never be fully prepared for what will come out of that kid’s mouth. I have crazy kids, and we’ve spent some crazy Easters together. While it seems our “little kid” Easters are over, I have memories I will never forget.  -Al


 

Talking.

04/04/2015

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When telling me how to raise a baby, the volunteer at the hospital said,
“You’re supposed to talk. A lot.” How right she was.


When Mr. Everything and I decided we wanted to have a baby, it took me a year to get pregnant. That gave me plenty of time to read books on how to be pregnant. I read books and magazines and articles and more, and I felt completely prepared. During my pregnancy, I just kept reading. At one point, my doctor actually told me there was such a thing as being “too educated” when it came to pregnancy. He told me to trust him, and I tried really hard to.

It really wasn’t that I didn’t trust my doctor. It was that I wanted to know exactly what was going on. I was so excited to be pregnant, and I did not want to miss a single moment of it. Mr. E and I attended child birthing classes. (Of course, that’s a subject for another day. I will just say we were the class clowns.) When it was time to have the baby, I was ready. Even the birth was planned as my labor was induced due to some issues I was having. I did not even have the surprise of having my water break. Everything was planned. I was Ready, with a capital R.

The Beetle was born on a Wednesday. I remember looking at him in the delivery room and thinking, “I know I should be feeling something here, but I’m really not sure what it is.” Of course, later, I realized that was the beginning of a little bit of post-partum depression. I was just numb, and it took a while for my feelings to awaken.

When it was time to be discharged from the hospital, I remember looking at the Beetle and feeling a little bit of terror. All at once, I realized I had not studying for this. I had been so busy preparing for the pregnancy and experiencing the pregnancy that I forgot to prepare for my next big exam: Keeping the baby alive.

I remember being in the elevator with my mother, Mr. Everything and a volunteer from the hospital. My mother asked if I was excited to go home, and I told her not particularly. She asked why not, and I said I did not know what I was supposed to do. My mother asked what I meant, and I told her I had forgotten to study up on what to do with a baby. I did not know how to be a mother, and I did not know what I was supposed to.

At that point, the nice volunteer said something I will never forget. She chuckled, and she said, “Oh, honey. You’ll be okay. You’ll make it. We all did.” Looking unsure, I said, “But I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” She said, “You’re supposed to talk. A lot.”

With that, the elevator doors opened, and we headed to the car. We put the tiny little Beetle in the backseat in his car seat. Mr. E made sure he was strapped in tight. I was glad I wasn’t responsible for that part of the job. All the way home, I pondered what the volunteer lady had meant. “You’re supposed to talk. A lot.”

Over the next days, months, years and even decades, I learned exactly what the volunteer lady meant.

I talked about the color of the sky. I talked about how many fingers and toes the Beetle had. I talked about how much I loved him and how much his daddy loved him and how much God loved him. I talked about how I did not know why he was still crying and that I felt he was being unreasonable. I talked about how it was 3 in the morning and I really, really wanted to go to sleep. I talked about how his bottle was heating, and he was going to have to be patient. I talked about how, if he did not stop crying soon, I might lose my ever loving mind.

I talked about how close he was to walking and what a big boy he was. I talked about how it wasn’t nice to pull the dog’s tail. I talked about how peas were yummy and dirt was not.

I talked about how it was not a good idea to put a popcorn kernel up his nose or in his ear. I talked about how pinching was not nice. I talked about how, if he wanted to share a toy, he needed to use his words.

I talked about how I knew sounding out the letters was hard, but if he tried, he could do it. I talked about how it was okay that the lines he cut were not perfectly straight. I talked about how he should not cut his shirt and how scissors were for paper.

I talked about how everyone felt like they did not have friends sometimes. I talked about how if he just tried again, I knew he could catch the ball. I talked about how God loved him even when it felt like no one else did.

I talked about how deodorant was his friend. I talked about how everyone felt embarrassed at some point in life. I talked about how washing his face nightly was so important. I talked about how brushing his teeth was just as important.

I talked about how strange girls were and how just when he thought he had them figured out, things would change. I talked about Jesus and baptism. I talked about honesty and integrity.

I talked about sex. (Those were his favorite talks.) I talked about the future and how God had a plan for him. I talked about how my life really had not begun until I met him. I talked about how important he was and what a blessing he was. I talked about how he might not like me that day but I still adored his pea-picking little heart.

I talked and talked and talked. Just when I thought there was nothing more to say, I found something else to talk about. I talked about fears and failures and achievements and pride. I talked and talked and talked some more. I began to wonder if I would ever be finished talking.

Then, as the Beetle seemed to stop listening, I wondered if my talking days were over. I decided to keep talking anyway. I talked through closed doors sometimes. I talked when he was trapped in the car with me. I talked every time I got a chance.

I have spent the last almost-eighteen years of my life talking. Non-stop. Talking. And, yet, as I contemplate my Beetle becoming an adult, I find myself wondering: Did I talk enough? Did he hear me say I loved him? Did he hear me say God loved him? Did he hear me tell him to be nice and to be good and to brush his hair? Was he listening when I spoke? Did I say it clearly? The volunteer lady did not tell me to expect that. She said I would talk a lot, but she did not tell me that, no matter how much I talked, it would never be enough.  She was definitely right about the talking though.  -Al


 
 
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This is a funny look at life with a work from home job. Click HERE or on the photo to read more.

 
 
Encouragement for homeschooling moms who may be struggling. My true confessions about schooling my kids and how I made it better for us. Click the photo or click HERE to read my confessions.
 
 
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“Okay, guys. We’re going to start with an easy warm-up. I want you to run up the five flights of stairs in the parking garage. I’ll be nice and let you take the elevator back down if you want.”

These were the words I heard right before I began planning my escape route. What had I gotten myself into? Once again, I had taken a mystery shopping assignment to evaluate a gym. This one was in downtown Tampa. I figured, why not? I like getting paid, and while I don’t actually like to exercise, I enjoy it a whole lot more when I’m getting paid to do it. Plus, I needed exercise, so it was a win-win. I thought.

Just getting to the gym was a mental exercise in itself. My GPS kept sending me down a one way road, going the wrong way. Then, it tried to send me down the trolley track. Okay. I’m pretty sure that was actually my own mistake, but whose story is this? Luckily, I saw the trolley before I actually turned onto the tracks. By the time I got to the gym and found a park spot (after praying, “Oh, please, God. Don’t make me parallel park in this behemoth vehicle…”), I was already stressed to the max. Exercise would do me good. I thought.

I had chosen the class I did because it was in the middle of the day. Typically, the mid-day classes are for old people. (Note to self…that is not true in downtown Tampa where people leave work to go exercise.) I generally avoid classes that have, “Combat,” “Boot Camp” or “Extreme” in the title. This one seemed to qualify. The name of the class had the word, “Function,” in it. I was functioning just fine, so I should fit right in. I thought.

I walked in, and the front desk lady asked me if I needed a locker. I had to ask her to repeat herself three times. I couldn’t understand what she was asking me. I’m not sure if I was just fuzzy brained from parallel parking or if she was mumbling, but truly, it was like a foreign language. Finally, on the fourth attempt, she pointed to my purse and yelled slowly, “DO. YOU. NEED. A. LOCKER. FOR. YOUR. PURSE?” I yelled back, “YES. PLEASE.” I felt like an idiot, but I just went with it.

I walked into the locker room and was met first thing by three women standing there topless. They were chatting. Topless. Seriously. Do women actually do this in public? Apparently, in downtown Tampa, they do. By the way, I try not to change in the locker room, but if I ever have to, you’ll be able to easily spot me. I’ll be the one in the bathroom stall struggling to get her pants leg on without touching the toilet or putting her foot down on the dirty floor. I certainly will not be the one standing topless and talking with my friends.

I decided quickly that, though the assignment asked for photos of anything amiss, I would not be taking photos of the locker room. Luckily, it was neat and clean, so there was nothing to take a picture of. (“Woman gets arrested for taking pornographic photos in downtown Tampa. More at eleven.”)

After locking my purse in the, "LOCKER," I went to find the class. As I neared the classroom area, I quickly realized I was not looking at a gathering of grannies. Oh no. This was the twenty-something class. Tampa’s Up and Coming had gathered together to demonstrate their awesomeness through physical fitness. I considered hurrying back to the locker room but realized, for my assignment, I had to attend a fitness class. I prayed a silent prayer. At least, I hope it was silent. Sometimes when I panic, I think aloud. I really hoped this was not one of those times. However, being the giant old lady who talked to myself would not have made me feel any more out of place than I already did.

I went into the classroom where the cute little instructor was setting up circuits. I was not sure what “circuits” were, but I was about to find out. I stood there, awkwardly, as all the little people were chatting in their groups. There was an older lady who was one of the tallest in the class. She was probably 55 years old and was about 4’11”. Okay, she wasn’t really the tallest, but she actually looked very proportionate compared to everyone else who was there. There was one tall guy, but he frowned at me when I tried to stand near him. So, I stood awkwardly – the giant in the corner. The 4’11” lady came over and introduced herself to me. We’ll call her Ginger. Ginger said, “Are you new to class?” I chuckled and said, “What gave it away?” She said it was just a hunch. Then, Ginger said something that made me feel much better about class. She said, “Listen. These people are maniacs. You can’t live up to their level of exercise. I can’t either. It’s okay. We’ll stick together, and it will be okay. Just because they do something does not mean we have to. As long as we are moving, we are improving, right?” Bless her. Bless Ginger’s tiny little heart. I wanted to hug her for helping me know I was going to survive the hour. Then, Ginger said, “But I have to tell you, in case you are thinking of making a break for it - I will tackle you if I see you moving toward the door.” Crud. Maybe I didn’t like Ginger quite so much.

So, the class started, and the teacher said to start with a light warm-up of running up the stairs. Ginger looked at me and said, “I’m not running up any stairs.” I said, “Me neither,” so we took a walk around the city block instead. I had to chuckle at our reflection in the mirror glass as we passed buildings - the giant and the tiny woman. By the time we got back from our second lap, Little Miss Petite was explaining the various stations, or circuits, in the class. My favorite was the one with the aerobic step. This step was on 3 risers, so it was a good foot and a half off the floor. The object at this station was to jump with both feet at once and land on the step. When we landed, we were supposed to be in a squat. Then, we were to jump back down into a squat on the floor. Um, yeah. As Little Miss Petite demonstrated this, I stifled laughter. Ginger just looked at me and shook her head. We opted out of that circuit.

For the next 3 hours, we moved from station to station. Okay, Little Miss Petite said it was actually 21 minutes, but I think her watch was broken. Time seemed to be moving backwards. When we finished with the last rotation, I was so happy it was over! Then, the teacher said to grab a mat. I didn't think that was a good sign.

Little Miss Petite said we were going to cool down. We proceeded to do ten minutes of abdominal crunches. Ten minutes. That’s, like, a minute per fat roll on my stomach.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get up from the floor. My entire body was trembling. Everything burned. Somehow, some way, I survived the hour. Okay. It was actually a 45 minute class, but I want credit for an hour.

Before we left, Ginger told me two things. First, she said ibuprofen would work wonders. She highly recommended a good, strong dose. Second, she said there was another class tomorrow at noon. I told her to save me a spot. Let’s hope she knew I was kidding. -Al


 
 
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Click the photo to read my response to my words being taken out of context.
 
 
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Click the photo to read 10 Reasons Parents Choose to Homeschool.