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I have a large intimidating binder and a husband who is a lawyer to bring with me to IEP meetings.  I send emails to teachers, I have conferences with the principal, I advocate relentlessly even when it makes me uncomfortable.  I have become THAT MOM, and I don’t care if people at school don’t like me as long as they accommodate the needs of my brilliant and quirky son.

He was out of the ordinary from the moment of his birth.  He didn’t walk until 17 months, and didn’t get into trouble the way his big brothers did.  He had a vivid imagination, spending months at a time insisting that he was a pirate named Captain Cutler (one of many identities he assumed), and once scandalized a patron at the local Shoney’s who asked about the stuffed ostrich he was carrying by announcing: “It is the Ostrich from Hell.  Its name is Blood.”

Read the rest at Not So Formulaic.

 

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Y’all, it is HOT.  And our access to a swimming pool is gone.  It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.

I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway.  Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.

I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all!  This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.

Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us.  We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.

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Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).

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Friday was really exciting.  Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge.  There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before.  Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park.  On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.

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We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!

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Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it.  The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres.  We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!

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After looking at the cabins, we went back into the woods and explored the Arnold-Hall Cemetery, where David Hall (a Revolutionary War veteran) is buried along with other members of the families.  Y’all may know I love cemeteries, so that was a treat for me and the kids indulged me!

That’s it for this week.  I’ll be honest–I can no longer promise to do something every single day.  But I DO have some plans for next week!

For more summer fun, read on:

Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead

The Summer Fun Continues . . .

More Summer Fun

Summer Fun Update

Summer Fun:  Vacation

That 70s Summer

In Which I Grow Lazy

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Remember back at the beginning of the year when I was participating in the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and making all kinds of progress, and posting impressive updates?

Well, along about week three, we got the flu.  For the second time.  As you might expect, that derailed basically everything except survival.

But a new challenge started last week, and I jumped at the chance to pick up where I left off.

Week One is supposed to be the Master Bedroom, which I did thoroughly in January.  In addition, I have kept up with it in the months since, and have even gotten rid of more things.  So I only needed to devote one day.  I went through the closet and drawers, and got rid of two small bags of clothes and a stack of books.  I did not go through all the jewelry and the sentimental things–I think once a year is enough for that.

I don’t have any pictures from the first day as there just isn’t that much change to show.  For the rest of the week, I worked on the hallway outside my office  I was SO EXCITED to tackle this area!  Here’s before:

 

What a mess, right?  Things were constantly getting knocked off  the top and on to the floor, and every time I walked by all that mess it made me sad.

This was the perfect time to tackle this area, because most of this is homeschooling material, and my homeschooling days have ended.  Lorelei will enter 8th grade at the local public school in August.

So I went through all of the homeschooling books, and got rid of some of them.  I probably should get rid of a lot more, and I admit that putting them in boxes and moving them into the garage, which will be the VERY LAST THING that ever gets minimalized, is just punting the problem down the road.  But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right?

Lorelei is spending some time dog-sitting for my sister with Emily, so I did not have her much-needed assistance with this project.  Therefore there is another box filled with things that she will need to go through.  Not my box, not my problem!

I’ll show you what it looks like now, and then I will explain what I’ve put there.

 

This shelf and this area now mostly belong to me.  I am feeling happy that as my children grow and sort of leave, I am able to claim more space in this house for myself.

I love that the top is currently bare.  I hope it can stay that way.  I might consider putting some pictures or decorative items there, but the space is crowded and things might get knocked off.

The top shelf is primarily books I have received in exchange for my honest review thereof, or have won via social media giveaways.  I probably don’t need to keep them all; that’s something I will revisit next time I go through the challenge.  At least I want to keep a list of them.  I am also keeping whatever books I am currently reading on that shelf, and my extra journals.  Most of these books were previously stacked in a dusty heap on the bottom shelf, and some were sitting in a cardboard box in my office, a space that has now been freed up!

Second shelf are Catholic project items.  For example, I have a binder for the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and it lives there.  My prayer journal is there.  My binder with various Advent and Lent and other liturgical year tools is there.

The bottom shelf is a work in progress.  It currently contains homeschool materials that I borrowed from others and need to return, and extra folders, notebooks, and such that may be needed when school begins.  I’m thinking that we will need space for extra paper and school supplies for use in doing homework and I am willing to use the bottom shelf for that if need be.  I will have a better idea how I will use that space by the next Challenge.

Finally, in the corner you will see a couple of totes.  Yes, I found a use for some of the many totes that were taking up space in my bedroom!  One of them is holding a lot of prayer journaling supplies–scissors, glue stick, colored pens and pencils and markers, Catholic coloring book, prayers, prayer cards.  The tote keeps them contained, and if I want to go elsewhere to journal everything is ready!  The other tote is holding a special Christmas gift from my husband–a monthly subscription to a mystery to solve.  It’s really fun but also takes time we don’t seem to have, so I am keeping it all organized here so that when we devote an evening to working on it, everything is ready to go.

So there you have it! Next week is bathrooms.  Again I expect to spend one day on them, and then I am planning on working on the laundry room and the upstairs hallway for the rest of the week.

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Our Notre Dame adventure is about to come to a close.  The day this is published, we will be in South Bend for Teddy’s graduation, and I’m sure there will be stories and adventures to share!

But before that, let’s go back to last February, to Junior Parents’ Weekend, which for some reason I did not write up at the time.

Many colleges have special weekends each year for families.  Spring Hill did, and I attended four Family Weekends, bringing along various family members each time.   Because Emily did not have a car and we had to pick her up for every vacation, our visits to Mobile were quite frequent, and we grew very familiar with and fond of the city.

Our Notre Dame experience has been different.  In contrast to the over 20 times one or the other of both of us drove back and forth to Mobile, we’ve been to Notre Dame maybe six times.

So JPW was a big deal.  It started off rockily, as we were a little late to the big dinner gathering Teddy’s friends and their families–three tables full of them, with Italian food served family style.

JPW 27JPW 28JPW 29 Afterwards, we headed to the Joyce Center for the Opening Gala, but we only milled around there for a bit because we were tired.

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The next morning we attended the Open House at the Business School (Teddy has double-majored in Political Science and Finance).

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We spent the rest of the day walking around campus and seeing sights.

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We’ve visited Notre Dame in summer, fall, and spring, and for this winter visit I was hoping to see some snow, but I suppose I should be grateful that it was unseasonably mild as you can see.

Notre Dame boasts its own art museum, the Snite Museum of Art.   We thought we were going in for a quick look but remained for some time, impressed by the size and quality of the collection.

Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk around one of the lakes with Teddy.

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There’s no such thing as a special weekend at a Catholic college without a special Mass, so next we headed back to the Joyce Center for Saturday evening services.

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Then it was just a short trip to another area of the building for the President’s Dinner.  Check out the Irish detailing on the dessert below!

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The REAL fun happened after the dinner and the speeches, when Teddy and a group of his friends hosted a party for us at one of their off-campus residences.  Some of dads in particular had a lot of fun reliving their misspent youths.  There was certainly much alcohol, and beer pong was played, but what I enjoyed much was talking to Teddy’s friends and renewing friendship with some of the moms I had met on my last visit.

It was a LATE night, and then there was brunch in the morning followed by the long drive home.  I can’t believe that it was more than a year ago already, but what is even more unbelievable is that Teddy’s four years at Notre Dame have gone by so quickly.

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The Presidential Debates- An Educational

In this house, we LOVE election season (except sometimes on Facebook!).  We had a great time watching the first GOP debate last month (definitely the most entertaining debate I’ve ever seen) and then talking about it afterwards.

If you had asked me earlier this year, though, I would not have expected William (a 14-year-old 8th grader) to be glued to the screen along with John, Emily, and me.  It’s true that our big kids were interested in watching debates at his age, but I wouldn’t have thought William would sacrifice two or three hours of precious time that could have been spent researching one of his many obsessions about which he wishes to acquire ALL THE KNOWLEDGE to watch a debate.

As it turns out, though, he did watch the entire first debate, and had plenty of intelligent insights and opinions about the participants.  We all enjoyed talking it over and mostly agreed on who we thought did well.  Agreement on matters political is not taken for granted in this house, where the parents have opposing views on some issues and the kids have been raised to think critically and to form their own opinions, so it was interesting that we reached such similar conclusions.

So William was bitten by the bug, and he has added Donald Trump and his antics to his list of topics he researches.  For the past month he has watched videos about the Donald and has kept all of us updated on what he has learned (most recently being my source of intel about Mr. Trump’s Twitter exchanges with the Mexican drug lord who is on the lam).  William was so excited about watching last night’s debate that he did his homework WHILE IT WAS STILL DAYLIGHT, without complaining, so that he would not miss any of it.

That debate was really, really long, y’all.  Too long.  But we stuck it out, although we were too tired to hash it all over for too long afterwards.  Once again, William had opinions.  But there were a lot of people up there, and he wasn’t clear on all their names.  When he started reeling off his thoughts accompanied by his own unique descriptors, I knew I had to run for my notebook so I could record them for you all to hear.

2016 GOP Candidates, as named by William

1. Trump

2.  Jeb

3.  Young guy

4.  Jersey man

5.  Little curly ugly-haired man

6.  Sad man

7.  Woman

8.  Brain surgeon

9.  Random person

10. Old man that was not afraid to say things (clue: based on observations from the first debate)

11. He couldn’t even remember this one by the end–I wonder what that says about his chances?

Leave me a comment if you think you can guess who is who. 😉 And tell me, do your kids watch the debates? Do you talk to them about politics? Do you get upset if they don’t agree with your political views?

[2017 Update:  William was definitely bitten by the political bug thanks to the 2016 elections.  He now follows politics regularly and wants to hear the latest news when I pick him up from school each day.]

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I haven’t written a post on homeschooling in a while, probably because I’m too busy doing it to write about it–or about anything.  Last time I homeschooled, John worked in an office and had a full-time staff.  This time, the office is the house and the staff is me.  Mostly this works out fine, with me getting Lorelei started on a task, which she can work on here in the office with me while I attend to my own work.  But sometimes, involved in whatever I am doing, I lose track of her and how long (very very long) it is taking to do her math or whatever.  She has been known to even wander away while I am otherwise occupied.  So I need to work on that. [This was an ongoing problem that I am happy to say has improved a lot in this, our last homeschooling year.]

Another challenge is that I have had to leave the house during the school day more frequently lately.  Jake’s injury [A tendon in his pinky severed by a box cutter while cutting drywall to patch a hole in our basement] means twice weekly therapy appointments as well as doctor visits.  If Emily isn’t home, Lorelei has to come along.  We don’t do well with disruptions to the routine.

Still, at the moment I would call homeschooling a qualified success.  Lorelei is certainly happy!  She has no desire to go back to school (judging from how she acts when I threaten her with it when she is bad!).  I’ve already written about some of the fringe benefits of homeschooling.

Here’s what’s going well:

We are going to Mass once a week, on Wednesday mornings.  There’s a 9:00 a.m. Mass at All Saints, just five minutes away from us.  Lorelei looks forward to going, and that makes me happy.  She actually suggested we should go on First Fridays too, so we are going to start doing that this month.   After Mass we walk on the walking trail and Lorelei plays on the playground.

We are on track with our spelling program, and Lorelei never misses more than one word.  She’s never going to be a spelling bee champ and thank God for that.

We’ve finished two reading books already!

We’ve memorized the Beatitudes and the Corporal Works of Mercy and are almost finished with the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

We are exactly where we should be in the English book.

We went on a great field trip to the symphony last week.

Here’s where we could use improvement:

Lorelei does not like math, and since we were doing it toward the end of our day, it sometimes got skipped.  In the second quarter, we’ve moved it earlier in our school day to combat that tendency. [Math remains a struggle.]

We need to move faster in Social Studies.  We’ve only done half the states, and I want to have the whole state part of Social Studies finished by Christmas so that we can do Presidents the second half of the year.

Another thing Lorelei hates is Penmanship.  I’m trying not to stress out about this too much–I still want her to learn cursive, but my goal of doing all work in cursive isn’t going to happen this year. [Never happened, never will.]

I want to incorporate more field trips.  Originally I had hoped to take one every week, or at least every other week, but all the interruptions for doctor appointments have made that difficult.

So that’s where we are, almost three months in.  And having written it out, as so often happens, I feel even better about it. 🙂

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When I told everyone I wanted to homeschool Lorelei this year, they said, “How will you possibly find the time to do that?”

See, even though I am at home, I am not strictly what the internets call a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), terminology which implies that I don’t work.  (LOL.  No one works harder than a stay-at-home-mom.)  I am a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) only since what I do is act as my husband’s legal assistant/secretary/office manager, I don’t even get paid!

Over the past four years, what started out as me answering the phone while I went about my usual business has morphed into a job that keeps me at my desk from 8:30 to 1:30 or so most days, and let’s not even discuss nights and weekends.  I’m not complaining about this sweet deal which allows me to pretty much structure my own time and take care of my family the way I want to, but I guess it was reasonable for people to wonder how I was going to fit teaching school into that.

But it hasn’t been difficult at all, really.  We start by reading about the saint of the day and saying a prayer around 8:30, and then I get her started on her first assignment and I start on my work.  When she finishes we take a minute to talk about the next thing she’s doing, and then we both return to our solitary labors.  She sits right in the office with me at John’s desk, since he’s usually at court.  By 1:30 p.m., she’s done.

Instead of making my life harder, homeschooling has made it easier.  Last year, I had to get up around 6:00 a.m., wake up two kids, fix two breakfasts and two lunches, and make sure two kids were dressed and ready to leave the house on time.  This year, I get to sleep until 7:00 a.m., probably what John and I would both agree is the number one best change homeschooling has occasioned.  It is daylight when we wake up and getting out of bed is easy.  No more that awful first-day-of-school feeling where you think, “Oh my God, do I really have to do this every day for the next nine months?”  And the effects last all day–I rarely feel like I need to nap in the afternoon, and I always felt that way last year whether there was time to do so or not.

Last year, I had to get dressed every morning and drive William to school while John took Lorelei.  This year, I can stay in my pajamas all day if I want, because John takes William and Lorelei stays right here.

Last year, I had to stop working no later than 2:00 p.m. to shower and dress for the school pick up odyssey, which started with the 20-minute drive to Sacred Heart, followed by the drive back to Cedar Bluff to get William.  With one thing or another, I was in the car for about 1.5 hours, and I was usually struggling to stay awake.  It was miserable, and I dreaded it.  This year, we pop out at 3:30 p.m. to get William from school five minutes down the road.  Lorelei doesn’t even have to come along if she doesn’t want to.  And there have been many days when pickup time coincides with John’s return from court, so I don’t have to leave the house all day!

Last year, while fighting over homework with William, I also had to deal with Lorelei’s chronic homework stress.  I had to discipline her when she didn’t start her work until close to bedtime.  I had to help with awful torturous activities like constructing dioramas and making saints out of Pepsi bottles and styrofoam balls.  No more.  This year, I choose the school work around here, and there is no homework at all.

Last year, there were school meetings to attend, and folders to sign, and papers to review and return.  This year, we still have these things, but only for one child and one school.  We have more free time and more family time in the evenings.

Last year we were stressed out.  This year we are still stressed out, but not about school.  Lorelei is happy, and so am I.

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