Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yet Another Homeschooled Bee Winner!

For the second week in a row, a homeschooler has won a major U.S Bee. Tonight, 13-year-old Evan O'Dorney of Danville, California won the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word "serrefine." Evan won $35,000 in cash and a $5,000 scholarship in addition to a $2,500 savings bond and a set of reference works.

Although this Yahoo article says Evan is homeschooled, the caption on the photo that accompanies the article says he is from Venture School in San Ramon, California. A quick check of the Scripps site reveals that Evan is a homeschooler and that Venture School is the name of his study program.

An interesting side note: according to the Yahoo article, Evan is "the kid who juggles at home while his mother calls out words." Many kids think better and learn more easily when they are allowed to move; obviously, Evan is one of them. But how many schools would allow juggling in spelling class? Probably not many.

Summer Means Carnivals

Took a little spin around the homeschool blogosphere tonight and noticed that many people are calling this the last week of school before summer. That means you homeschooling parents will have more time to get yourself primed for next year. Here's one way: visit the Carnival of Homeschooling. Of course, that's just this week's edition. There's a new one every week. Here's a schedule of the upcoming editions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Financial Freedom Vs. Skip-A-Payment

We taught our kids to avoid debt whenever possible, and that if they have to borrow money, to pay it back as soon as possible.

Dd23 has done very well with this. She uses a credit card but pays it off every month; she paid cash for her first car. A few years ago, her car reached the point of near-death, so she replaced it with a newer model, but she had to take out a car loan to do so.

At her age, this is a smart thing to do. She needs to establish credit so she can get a mortgage (one of her primary goals is to buy a house in the next few years), and her prompt payments on her car loan will help her do so. In addition, she has been paying extra each month so she can pay off the car early. Very smart.

However, the bank that loaned her the money is doing its best to distract her. Every so often they send her a letter like this one:

As our valued customer, you can make your summer sizzle with a little extra cash! Because of your timely loan payments to XXX Bank, we're giving you the opportunity to skip your next loan payment!

Here's all you do. To skip your next loan payment, simply sign the attached Skip-A-Payment certificate and return it, along with a $27.75 processing fee, in the enclosed envelope before your regular payment due date. Please place your payment coupon for the month you are skipping in the back of your loan payment book and make that payment at the end of your loan term.

It's that easy! The hardest part may be deciding how to spend your "extra" cash! But whether it's for vacation traveling or something special for you, your good payment habits have earned it. We appreciate your business and the banking relationship we have with you....this offer expires July 30, 2007!

Now, let's think about this for a moment. If you take them up on their little "reward," you are actually extending the time you are in debt. Since that is not dd23's goal, she ignores these offers. But how many people do fall for this offer and thus extend their loan time*? Probably lots of people.

The longer it takes to pay off debt, the longer it will be before a person can reach financial freedom. The bank is not doing its customers any favors with an offer like this. In the expanded second edition of my book Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, there is a new feature called "The Financial Freedom Project." The concept of financial freedom is something you must help your teens understand if you want them to grow up to be debt-free adults.

(For a free downloadable project from the book, click here.)

*In the fine print, the offer notes that the loan time will be extended, and that "interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding principal, including the principal being deferred." How nice for the bank.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Attention, Harry Potter Fans!

If you love reading the Harry Potter series, you'll love this contest: write a poem in honor of Harry and you could win a bookshelf made out of Harry Potter books! Learn more here.

Note: The contest is sponsored by a company in the UK, but anyone from any country can enter this contest.

Burning Books

The owner of a bookstore in Kansas City (Missouri) is burning books in protest of his fellow Americans' increasing lack of interest in reading. Apparently he thinned out his collection and found that he could not even give the books away, so he's now using them to make a point.

A co-owner of the bookstore lamented, "There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five TVs and three books."

They need to meet some homeschooling families. At our house, you'll find two TV's and hundreds of books....which makes us an average homeschooling family, I'll bet.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Remembering Gram on Her Birthday

Today would have been my grandmother’s 93rd birthday. She passed away 18 years ago, of cancer and a broken heart.

Although I was closer to my other grandmother, both relationally and in geographic distance, I loved Gram a lot, and I learned a lot from her, too.

Gram did not have an easy life. She was the only child of a couple that did not get along very well. They divorced when she was nine years old. Her father wanted custody of her, but her mother fought him and won, as was usual in those days. Gram said her fondest memory of her father was of him hugging her through the schoolyard fence at recess.

Once Gram’s mother got custody of Gram, she put her into foster care and moved eight hours north (not far from where I now live), where she worked as a nurse in a mental hospital.

Gram was very unhappy in the foster home. She ran off, and took the long train journey north to her mother, whose response was to send her back south again.

Gram had some bad experiences in foster homes; in one, she was abused by an older boy whose parents did not believe Gram when she told them what he had done. They sent her away, and she was put in another home, where she was not treated much better.

At 14 Gram met a man eleven years older than her. Trying to make the home she wanted so badly, she married him, and soon found herself pregnant. Within two years she had two children, my uncle and my father. Two more soon followed, and by the time she was 20, she had four children and a husband who used his paycheck to buy rounds at the local bar.

This was during the depths of the Great Depression. Gram had a hard time feeding her children on what little money her husband brought home, when he was actually able to keep a job. She took any odd job she could find, but it wasn’t enough.

In frustration, she told her husband to leave because he was no help, and was more like a fifth child. She had a hard enough time caring for four children. He left, and she became a single mom at the age of 20. Single motherhood was not chic in those days; she lived in fear that someone would find out about her situation and take away her children.

But she was determined to keep her three boys and one little girl together at all costs. They moved from town to town, wherever she could find work. At one point things got so hard she was forced to ask her mother if they could live with her for a while. Her mother said she could bring the little girl, but would have to put the boys in an orphanage. Gram refused to do that, so she was left with no help.

The family ended up in Chicago, where Gram found work as a welder during World War II. Her boys began working when they were very small; my father recalls selling gum on the city trains when he was five. They had a hard life, but Gram was resourceful.

She made the kids’ toys by recycling what she had around the house. For example, one of their favorite toys was the set of stacking cans she made by collecting food tins of various sizes that she covered with paper. She took her old suits and coats, cut them up and used them to make clothes for her children. My dad recalls eating canned peaches over a torn-up slice of old bread for dinner. They stretched what they had as far as they could. She reminded them that they could get through anything as long as they remained a family. Inside of her lived the little girl that wanted a family so badly, and she made sure the family she finally got stayed together.

The kids saved up their earnings, Gram tried to put away a little something from her pay each week, and eventually their pooled funds bought them a house. How proud they were to have a home of their own!

By then the kids were teenagers, and Gram soon found that she could no longer keep her family together. My dad went into the Air Force; later his younger brother would join the service, too. My aunt, the youngest, married a young man who had been living with them because he needed a home and Gram took him in. Soon her other children got married, too, and Gram was left alone.

Her first three grandchildren, including a set of twins, died soon after birth. But before long more grandchildren started coming, 13 in ten years, and she loved seeing her family grow. She greeted each of us with a bear hug the minute she’d see us.

She retired and moved back south to care for her mother, even though her mother had never cared for her properly. I always admired that about Gram, especially because her mother was not very grateful for the care.

In her late fifties, Gram built herself a new house, and even helped dig the foundation herself. She designed it so that there was room for each of her children and their spouses. Then she turned the finished attic into the grandchildren’s room. She put mattresses on the floor for us to sleep on, and encouraged us to draw on the walls to make the room our own. She even put in a dumbwaiter so we could have snacks sent up from the kitchen. Once my cousin tried to use it as an elevator and got stuck; that was interesting!

It was around this time that tragedy struck Gram’s life: her oldest son was killed by a drunk driver. Gram was devastated. The little family she had worked so hard to keep together was now missing one of its own, and she never really got over it. She lived for 15 more years, but once she found out about the cancer, she never really fought it as most people would.

The saddest thing about Gram is that she was not a Christian, and so she had no hope when faced with the loss of her son. In her final days, I would talk to her about God and it would make her mad. She had no use for Him or Christians, because she had been very hurt by Christians during her lifetime. The foster family who believed their son instead of her was a Christian family. During the Depression, Christian families turned down her requests for help. She was very bitter about Christians all her life. Ironically, many of her grandchildren are now believers.

I wish Gram’s life could have been different. Faith would have helped her get through the death of her son, and over her bitterness against those who wouldn’t help her and her little family when they needed it.

But despite all this, Gram had a huge heart. She adored her family. Even in her seventies, as her health gave out, she would get down on the floor and play with her great-grandchildren. It was clear that she had as much fun as they did.

One of the most poignant memories I have of Gram is when she stayed with us for a day or two when my daughter was a toddler and my son only a few months old. I asked her to give the baby his bottle while I made dinner. I peeked out of the kitchen to see how things were going, and there was Gram on the sofa, rocking my son and singing to him as she fed him. As she sang, she called him by the names of her sons, one at a time. She didn’t even notice me, so busy was she reliving the times she loved with her kids.

Gram often wrote poetry as a way of reliving different times in her life. My uncle put her poems together in a volume after she died. Here’s one of my favorites:

My Family

What should I have ever done
Without my family?
Of my three boys and my little girl,
If they had never come to me?
I can hardly remember when
I did not have the first two.
I thought we were lucky when
With two boys with eyes of blue,
We thought it a big surprise
When not long before,
We had another boy,
A redhead, playing on the floor.
Soon we were expecting number four,
And I could not believe it true
When the doctor said, “Look,
I’ve got a little girl for you.”
I did not know so very much,
For I was pretty young, you see.
But we clung together, all for one,
And my kids surely had a tough time
raising me.

Copyright 2007 NJM

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Maybe Grandma Was Right

We call it "pop" here in the Midwest; others call it soda. But researchers at a British university are calling it a possible cause of cell damage resulting in diseases like Parkinson's.

That's right, a new study suggests that excessive consumption of some soft drinks may cause parts of our DNA to be switched off. The blame is being placed specifically on a preservative used in many soft drinks.

I don't know if it's true or not, and we probably won't know for a long time because it takes so long to verify these types of studies. But when I was a child, pop was a treat, not a daily drink. My grandma used to split one can between my three sisters and me because she didn't want us to have too much. She didn't think it was good for us. Maybe we need to go back to thinking that way.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Take Some Time For Yourself at the Carnival of Homeschooling

This weekend is a great time to take some time for yourself. After the parade and the get-together, tiptoe off to your computer and spend some quality time recharging your homeschool batteries at this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. It'll give you a jump-start!

For a Soldier

My sister writes,

Please pray for Anthony, an infantry man in the army serving in Iraq. He is a friend of (our niece) and graduated with her from high school. In an email to his girlfriend he expressed that he did not feel he was going to make it back to the states. He is in dangerous territory looking for fellow members of his platoon (the two that are reported on the news as being MIA in Iraq). He is only 21.

I know that whatever people feel about the war in Iraq, most are very concerned about our soldiers over there. Keep them all in prayer, but for now, please say an extra prayer for Anthony and the rest of his platoon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Homeschooled Bee Winner!

Caitlin Snaring, a 14-year-old homeschooler from Washington state, has won the 2007 National Geographic Bee with a perfect score.

Caitlin is only the second girl to win the National Geographic Bee since its inception nearly 20 years ago (she was the only girl among ten finalists this year). Her prize is a $25,000 college scholarship. Caitlin's interests include studying and replicating Greek and Minoan pottery and playing the piano. Congratulations, Caitlin!

An interesting side note: In this news story about Caitlin, Yahoo News neglected to mention that Caitlin is homeschooled. Maybe they just figured it was implied, considering how many homeschoolers are winning bees these days. ;)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Easy Gardening Part 2

When I posted Easy Gardening, I only wrote about plants that come back each year without my help, like these oriental lilies on the left. I forgot to mention that I do have some annuals in my garden.

If you don't know the difference between annuals and perennials, annuals bloom pretty much throughout the growing season, while perennials bloom for a short period once (and very rarely twice) during the season. So it pays to have both if you like ease and color all summer long. The trick is not to overdo it with the annuals if you don't have a lot of time.

You can have annuals either by planting the seeds or buying the actual plants at the store. If you plant the seeds, you'll save money, but you have to do the work of digging and turning the soil, scattering the seeds, watering regularly and pulling weeds. If you don't know how to identify your annual seedlings, you may accidentally pull them up with the weeds. (If your kids do your weeding for you, figure you'll lose at least half!)

That's where annual plants come in. Pop them in the ground, keep them watered (and mulched if you hate weeding) and you're pretty much good to go. Around here, you can get annuals at a reasonable price, but you will pay that price every year, so perennials are actually a better deal.

I have not bought many annuals yet this year. I did pick up a basket of pink petunias, and planted seeds for cleome, balsam and morning glory.

Cleome is an old-fashioned flower that is also known as spider flower. They grow tall pretty quickly, and produce lovely white, lavender or pink blossoms with thin wisps that look like spiders' legs. Don't plant them near the windows of your house; they smell like skunk. Put them farther from the house where you can enjoy them as part of the view. You can save the seeds in the fall once the seed spikes on each plant dry out. Then just use that seed the following spring. They will reseed themselves if you let them.

Balsam are pretty and fun, because in the fall, seed pods form between the blossoms and kids like to pop them to get the seeds out (at least my kids enjoyed it!) These also reseed themselves if you haven't already picked off the seeds in the fall.

Morning glory is a vine, and if you plant the seeds near a fence or trellis, the plants that sprout will climb like mad and reward you with pretty blooms that are wide open every morning. If you soak the seeds in warm water the night before you plant them, they will sprout faster. My friend Ann gave me some morning glory plants last year that went crazy all over our garden gate, and covered it in beautiful blue flowers.

Other annuals I have had success with:
Seed: marigold, zinnia, cosmos
Plant: pansies (spring or fall only--they hate heat), impatiens (shade), bleeding heart (shade)

What you plant is not as important as that you take the time to do some kind of planting now. You will reap the rewards for months to come.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Finding the Used Book You Need

A reader emailed me with a question, and the answer might be something you want to know, too, so I'm posting it here for those who might find it helpful.

Q.: I have a question...Do you know of any good websites or places to buy used or new homeschool books. I'm looking for some 1st grade and 3rd grade books. I have gone and searched on-line. I found some sites but found nothing on them and ebay has a new rule to not sell teachers books on their sites anymore. I think that's why I have not found much of anything anymore.

A. I heard about those eBay rules. There are sites that will let you buy and sell whatever you want homeschool-wise. Have you tried: (see swap boards on right) (must be a member to buy)

Have you looked into used curriculum sales in your area? There are lots of them this time of year. You could also post a "books wanted" request on a homeschool e-loop. There are several of them you can join at (use homeschool as a search term).


Whose Education is Biased?

Educrats love to accuse homeschooling parents of providing their children only one viewpoint (their own) instead of exposing them to all sides of a controversial issue. While it's true that we parents are going to bring up our kids with a belief system that's our own, it's also true that schools are almost incapable of providing kids with a variety of viewpoints. In most cases, someone's agenda is usually in force.

Case in point: in Canada, students are being forced to watch Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (about global warming) in school, sometimes repeatedly. One young man reports that so far this year, he has seen it in his World History, Economics, World Issues and Environment classes. The view opposing the global warming theory is usually not presented as a counterpoint. That explains this (from the article):

Meanwhile, Vancouver-based businessman Michael Chernoff, says his charitable foundation will provide to high schools DVD copies of the new British documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, featuring interviews with scientists who dissent from Mr. Gore's claims, as soon as the producer is ready to ship the discs.

"And if they start sending [An Inconvenient Truth] to all Canadian schools, then I'll buy a copy of Swindle for all the schools, too," Mr. Chernoff says. "I think showing it is fine, but they should present the other side as well."

(Good luck with that, Mr. Chernoff. Just because you send it doesn't mean they will show your film.)

Meanwhile, we homeschooling parents will decide how we feel about this issue and use the materials we choose to teach our children about it. If our children are going to be exposed repeatedly to someone's theories, why shouldn't they be exposed to those that we agree with? It's our job and our right as parents to guide our children as we see fit.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Field Trip Day

Dd16 is too old for most field trips (she's been going on them since she was a newborn, so they're no big deal to her any more), so I usually take dsds14 out with his friend, who also has Ds, and his mom, my good friend.

Today we went to Cantigny Park, a beautiful landmark here in the Chicago suburbs. Originally the estate of Col. Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Cantigny has several old military tanks, which the boys loved climbing on. We moms preferred the gardens, which are so pretty this time of year.

We had a picnic lunch on the grounds of the estate; today's beautiful weather made it especially enjoyable.

Going on a field trip with these guys is a lot of fun, although we sometimes get some strange looks when one of our group has to go to the rest room. We take the guys into the ladies' room with us because we can't leave them alone outside, and we don't want to send them into the men's room alone. (Dd23 works retail and has made me promise never to send dsds14 alone into a men's room; she knows about too many things going on in there, some that she won't even tell me.)

We were in the ladies' room when a group of girls on a school field trip came in. Dsds14 was waiting outside of the stall for me, and I heard the cry rise up, "There's a boy in the bathroom!" There was a lot of chatter before a teacher stuck her head in and told them it was ok to go in. Crisis averted.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You'll Find the Babies to the Left of the Water Heater

Being a stay-at-home mom often means going years without new clothes, never trying new restaurants, and owning the oldest car on your block. But it also means never arriving at the daycare to find your baby crying in a utility closet or in a playpen with a blanket ceiling pinned on.

Thank you, God, for letting me be home with my kids!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Aloha, It's the Carnival!

You'll find one of the prettiest-ever Carnival of Homeschooling posts over at PalmTree Pundit's---don't miss it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Imperfect Homeschooler, May 2007

The May issue of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" just went out. If you're a subscriber, better check your email. And if you're not a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Subscribe here.(If you want to check out the new issue first, you'll find it here. Past 2007 issues can be accessed here.)

Watch Out for Candy

This summer our homeschooled kids will be hanging out in the neighborhood, playing at the parks and pools, and meeting kids they don't know much about. All the more reason we parents should be aware of the dangers warned about in this email I received from a friend.

Note that it includes a link to the Snopes page about this email. I always use to verify the information I received online via forwards. Unlike most email forwards, this one appears to be accurate.

Drug pushers have gone to an all new low... disguising meth as candy

A message to parents, grandparents and guardians from Principal Gilkison: I have been alerted by one of our EMT's for our volunteer fire department that they have received emails from emergency responder organizations to be on the lookout for a new form of crystalized methamphetamine that is targeted at children, and to be aware of this new form if called to an emergency involving a child that may have symptoms of drug induction or overdose.

They are calling this new form of meth "Strawberry Quick" and it looks likethe "Pop Rocks" candy that sizzle in your mouth. In its current form, it is dark pink in color and has a strawberry scent to it. Please advise your children and their friends and other students not to accept candy from strangers as this is obviously an attempt to seduce children into drug use. They also need to be cautious in accepting candy from even friends that may have received it from someone else, thinking it is just candy.

I don't want this email to scare anyone, but as a parent, administrator and friend, I thought it would be best to share this with you, so you can once again talk to your children about the effects of drugs and how easy it could be to take drugs without knowing it, until it is too late. I worry, just a seach of you do, about kids and drugs and all the problems our kids today are faced with. So please talk with your children about this newest threat to get children addicted to drugs.
Click above for a news article about this from just across the state line in Missouri.

This is not a Urban Legend! http://www.snopes. com/horrors/ drugs/candymeth. asp

Monday, May 14, 2007

And the Winners Are.....

I am behind on so many things these days---between my son's graduation and his upcoming wedding (and did I mention our house is on the market?), there's been an awful lot going on around here lately! So while I did draw names for my blog email subscriber contest on May 1, I just now got around to sending out the prizes---I'm sorry for the delay! The winners of a free copy of "The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling" are:






If your email address is listed above and you did NOT receive your eBook in your emailbox today, please contact me at

Congratulations to the winners!

College Graduation: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We were out of town this past weekend attending our son’s graduation from college.


We were proud parents this weekend as we watched ds22 graduate from college. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Theological Languages and Pre-Seminary Studies. The night before graduation, we attended a gathering where he received a leadership award for his work as president of Campus Ministry. Take that, all you homeschool skeptics who think homeschooled kids grow up to become adults who can’t work with others! ;)

Our son’s graduation ceremony was held in the afternoon, and was preceded by a beautiful morning worship service in the university’s chapel. There, the graduating education majors received their commissions. Our future daughter-in-law was one of them. She also graduated Magna Cum Laude; she is a lifelong product of Lutheran schools. Take that, all you public school cheerleaders out there! ;)

Just before we left to go out of state for the graduation, we received a graduation announcement in the mail from a homeschooled friend in Kentucky. She was to graduate the same day as our son, and she was being awarded a degree in Biology, with Minors in Chemistry and Agriculture, and achieved the distinction of graduating Summa Cum Laude. She is the second child in her family to graduate from college; all were homeschooled from birth, as our kids were. Take that, all you homeschool skeptics who think homeschooled kids don’t learn as much as kids in public schools! ;)


As beautiful as the worship service was, the graduation ceremony was disappointing. We learned very little about the Class of 2007, but we did sit through the presentation of several honorary degrees. One person even received an honorary Doctor of Law degree, which is especially interesting considering the university does not have a school of law. But I suppose that’s just semantics. The gist of the introductions that accompanied the presentation of the honorary degrees was that these people are important because they have made lots of money and are well-known in their communities. In several cases, they had also given money to the university. There you go.

The keynote speech was given by Doris Christopher, founder of The Pampered Chef. Mrs. Christopher and her husband have given lots of money to universities, including the funding of a massive new library at Valparaiso University in Indiana. But her speech was pretty thin stuff, beginning and ending with the message “Figure out what you like to do, and use your God-given talents.” The middle of the speech was basically an infomercial for The Pampered Chef, and it repeated the sales pitch for that company (sometimes verbatim) that we heard when Mrs. Christopher was introduced.

How much more interesting her speech would have been had she chosen to elaborate on the fact that she was a stay-at-home mom looking for a flexible job opportunity when she began The Pampered Chef in her basement in 1980. At that time, the phrase “flexible work schedule” was an oxymoron, and the idea of a woman starting what would become a multi-million dollar company was pretty hard to imagine. If she had elaborated on going against the tide and becoming an entrepreneur, she would have given a much more valuable message to a group of young people headed into a turbulent global economy.


This was the first graduation ceremony I’ve attended since the early 1980s, which might explain my shock at the behavior of so-called adults in the audience. Throughout the entire program (which was over two hours long), people milled up and down the aisles, handing their kids flowers and calling out to them to smile as they took photos---while the graduates were seated and the speakers were at the podium!

Once the graduates began lining up to ascend the stage and accept their diplomas, things got worse. Crowds of eager parents with cameras blocked the aisles and got in the way of the grads as they filed up row by row. Parents screamed their kids’ names as they were announced. One idiot set off an air horn; had I been next to him, he’d be wearing it right now.

By the way, university officials announced prohibitions against all these behaviors in a letter to the parents ahead of time, and again at the beginning of the ceremony. I’m guessing some of these parents can’t read, and the rest are just morons. Whatever happened to decorum?

Good Book for Homeschooled Teens?

I awoke this morning to hear Don Wade and Roma interviewing former Speaker of the House (and rumored 2008 presidential candidate) Newt Gingrich about his new book (written with his writing partner William R. Forstchen) called Pearl Harbor. Judging from what I heard, this might be a good book for homeschooled teens to read as part of their history studies.

Gingrich made the point that, because of our Western sensibilities, Americans of that time did not understand that the Japanese attack on us had more to do with how they saw themselves and their duty than how they felt about us specifically. Gingrich believes we are in a similar situation with radical Islamists today.

Many in my generation did not learn much about World War II in school; we rarely made it that far in the history textbooks before the end of the school year. The only reason I know much about it at all is that my father was a collector/restorer of World War II aircraft and vehicles, most of which are now in an air museum. I think it's important that we homeschooling parents make sure our kids know about that war.

I haven't read this book yet, but I want to learn more about it. If you do too, here's an excerpt to get you started.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Easy Gardening

I was just out in the yard picking lily-of-the-valley blooms. They smell so good! I put a vase of them in the kitchen, and you can smell them across the room.

You might wonder how someone who has homeschooled for years has time to garden. The trick is to only buy plants that are not high-maintenance. I planted a few lily-of-the-valley plants nearly 20 years ago, and I have done nothing to them since. They grow on their own, spreading a bit each year, so that now I have a large patch of them.

How do you know if a plant is going to be high-maintenance or not? Easy----plant it and see. It may die on you right away. Or it may live, but it doesn't look so good, and a little research reveals you're supposed to fertilize it all the time, prune it, water it at prescribed intervals, etc. That's not going to work. Don't do the things you're supposed to do, and if it dies, good riddance.

The plants that survive are my favorites, and I have lots of them. Every summer I have hollyhocks (top left). They are awesome: they grow tall, with lots of blooms. They drop seeds for the following year so you don't have to do it.

In the second photo you'll see daylilies on the left and oriental lilies on the right. Both came from plants given to me by friends years ago. The orange daylilies originated with a few small plants from my former boss. Now they are not only in the plot you see in the photo, but also across my entire back yard fence, about 75' feet worth. The oriental lilies came from my neighbor. She has since moved across town, where she started a garden in her new yard. I don't have to do anything to these lilies except thin them out every so often (like every five years or so).

We have two huge lilac bushes whose blooms can be seen and smelled from the upstairs windows. I planted them when they were maybe two feet tall. We have gotten so much pleasure from them over the years.
On the side of the house I have a big patch of four o'clocks. Like the hollyhocks, they reseed themselves each year. They are work-free! But how pretty they are.

Finally, what would I do without my clematis vines? They are so beautiful, they climb by themselves, and their flowers are gorgeous. The one by my front porch climbs up to the garage roof with no help from me. Then it bursts into blossoms. See the purple flowers in the top left photo, just to the left of the porch? That's clematis.
We have our house on the market, and once we move, I will have to start over again planting my favorite plants. At least now I know which ones are low maintenance!

The "Search and Destroy" Mission of 21st Century Medicine

Several years ago, my ob/gyn told me that 90% of all babies with Down syndrome are aborted. Evidently the media didn't get the memo, as it's been just in the past few months that they've taken this statistic and run with it.

It's hard for me to write about this. My dsds14 is a such a great guy; he was wanted long before we learned he had Ds, and every bit as much wanted once we got the news. When I read articles like this, I understand why parents have a hard time getting others to see what they see in their children with Down syndrome. I'm not sure you can understand it if you haven't lived it.

The only thing I am sure of is that God doesn't make mistakes, and if someone chooses to terminate a pregnancy based on test results that show the presence of Down syndrome, they are saying God made a mistake.

By the way, calling this new effort to identify Down syndrome a "search and destroy mission" was not my idea, but George Will's. He has an adult son with Down syndrome, so he has a right to call this effort what it really is. People who don't believe that those with Down syndrome can have a "good life" should read this. Many so-called "normal" people don't have the kind of fulfilling life this man had.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Clothes Made for People with Down Syndrome

Sherry Roberson is developing a line of clothes for people with Down syndrome. She has started a blog where she has a list of questions for parents or caregivers of people with Ds, having to do with finding clothes for them.

If you're not close to someone with Ds, you may not know that they often have short arms and legs but are rather wide in the middle. Our dsds14* was built that way for a time in his prepubescent years. When he wore swim trunks, he kind of looked like Danny DeVito. These days he has shot up in height (5" in one year!), but he still has low muscle tone in his belly and has to wear husky-size pants. They are not always easy to find.

He has wanted a suit for some time; recently, we were fortunate enough to find one for him to wear to my parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration. We bought the suit as separates in JCPenney's boys' department; the jacket is size 20, and the pants size 18 Husky. We had to go to two different Penneys' stores but it was worth it. He danced up a storm at the party and looked very handsome!

Vaccination Pressure

We are advocates for our children, and we must always be on guard.

Case in point: Today was dd15's annual physical. En route to the doctor's office, we discussed the likelihood that the doctor would be pushing the new HPV vaccine, which has been heavily promoted (and even mandated in places like Texas, although there is a parental opt-out provision). It's supposed to prevent cervical cancer caused by sexual contact, and it's recommended for girls and women ages 13-26 who didn't get it as children (i.e. they'll be giving it to newborn girls before we know it).

I am not completely opposed to this particular vaccine. I hope my daughters will behave themselves and remain chaste until marriage, but I also know that they could end up married to someone who can't behave himself (although I pray that won't happen.) If there's a way to protect them from cervical cancer, I'm in. HOWEVER, this vaccine is very new, it has had limited testing, and much of the medical community has embraced it despite those two very pertinent facts. That explains the alarm bells going off in my head.

Sure enough, the doctor pushed dd15 to get the vaccine, and after the physical, I was brought into the room and urged to permit the vaccination. I calmly explained my reasons listed in the previous paragraph to the doctor, repeated my objections as needed, and do you know she not only gave up, but actually admitted she has not had her own dd16 vaccinated yet? And she didn't even blush when she admitted it. She should have.

In addition, when we first arrived, the nurse said dd15 would need a DPT booster today. I said I believed she's already had one. The dr. said the same thing as the nurse, and I responded the same way. The dr. looked in the chart and said it showed dd was due for the shot. I suggested the dr. check the outside of the file folder, where they keep the vaccination chart for all four kids. Lo and behold....I was right. She had the booster two years ago. Saved myself big bucks and my daughter an extra shot she certainly did not need.

This is why we must be advocates for our kids. Don't assume medical personnel know everything. You know your children better than anyone else, and it's up to you to look out for them. Be polite but firm. It's your job.

End of sermonette. I feel better now. Thanks :)

New Carnival is Up!

Tia Linscheid over at The Old Schoolhouse's On The Company Porch blog has put together this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. She's got a wonderful group of posts, all related to homeschooling (more or less), that you won't want to miss.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Hey Martha, Can I Borrow That Cough Medicine Recipe?

If I had a nickel for every bottle of liquid cough syrup I've bought over the course of raising four kids, I could probably buy a gallon of gas for our car, or something equally expensive. That's why I was pretty alarmed when I read this article, which explains how mystery chemicals coming out of China are being sold to medicine manufacturers who don't bother to check what they're buying. The result has been mass poisonings in other countries.

Now I'm sorry I laughed at Martha Stewart when she published a recipe for making your own cough drops in her magazine. We may want to go back to the old homemade remedies now that China is undercutting everyone's price on medicinal ingredients by substituting an antifreeze ingredient for glycerine. So far our FDA is staying on top of the situation, but how long can that last?

After all, we Americans will go for anything made in China if we can get a good price on it, right? That's why so many of today's cheap (in price and quality) clothes are from China. American pets have been sickened and even killed by pet food that contained a poisonous ingredient from China. Sooner or later, counterfeit drugs from China will find their way into our medicine cabinets.

The global economy has developed to the point that we are importing food and medicine from all over the world, including places that don't have the same rules for safe consumption that we do. Maybe it's time to consider where the things we consume come from, and whether we wouldn't be better off consuming locally grown foods, and medicines whose sources we can identify as trustworthy. An interesting book that introduced me to the wisdom of eating locally is Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Contest Winners

It's been a crazy week (impending Sweet 16th birthday of one child and college graduation of another) and so I haven't had a chance to get my newsletter out. But once I do, we'll be announcing the five winners of April's blog subscription contest. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Check Probably Isn't In the Mail....

Yesterday I emailed myself this link so I’d remember to blog about it. Then my husband emailed it to me, thinking I’d want to blog about it. Then Rona emailed me about it. So I guess I'll blog about it.

It, if you haven't already heard, is the estimate that a stay-at-home mom is worth about $138,000 a year. Rona notes in her blog that there’s a calculator at where you can figure out what you personally are worth as a homemaker and mom.

All these calculations are fine, but they invariably do not include the time I spend teaching my children, and I’ve done a lot of that over twenty years of homeschooling. So I think my “pay” should include my primary occupation.

Here in Illinois, the median pay for a high school teacher is $42,742, although they make a lot more than that in the Chicago suburbs (around $80,000), and some make 6 or 8 times that much.

But let’s go with that $80,000 figure, since it comes from my area. That means that the work I do is worth about $218,000 a year. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that check, but I’m grateful that I get to live the rewards of this lifestyle every day, even though I don’t get paid. Motherhood and homeschooling each qualify as a labor of love.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

This Week's Carnival is Up!

Lots of great blog posts about homeschooling are linked at this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Mama Squirrel at Dewey's Treehouse. I'm especially happy to see some posts by bloggers I've never heard of before.

A few months back I presented a workshop at a homeschool convention about blogging, and I told the parents there that I hoped to see some of them represented in the blogosphere soon. I hope some of them have found their way into the carnival!