Saturday, December 22, 2012

It Just So Happened

It just so happened that the people who lived in our house before we did had terrible allergies. They just so happened to install a central vacuum system to keep allergens to a minimum. That system just so happened to need service when they owned the house.  That family just so happened to leave us meticulous service records when we moved in five years ago. The vacuum broke the week before Christmas and I just so happened to take it to the same service store the original people used.

At the shop, I just so happened to mention to the lady working that she was my second stop after seeing a friend's brand-new baby. The lady and I got to talking about the hope that new life brings, particularly a precious life that entered the world after Newtown. 

As we talked, the lady began to cry. Her own adult son died in a car accident three years ago. For a grieving mother, three years is a minute and a minute can be three years. I didn't know her son, but felt privileged to know of him, that he existed, that he mattered, and that he was loved.

The Holy Spirit just so happened to prompt me that this woman needed hope and comfort. And right there in that little vacuum shop, we just so happened to bow our heads and pray.

It just so happened.

"And he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us" Acts 17:26b-27.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where I Am

You've seen it on social media. Perhaps even posted some commentary yourself. The politicization of Newtown happened quickly, a backflip from event to response with nary a moment for doubt or reflection. People leapt to their favored societal solution. Pronouncements came swiftly, loudly.

Normally, I'm a fan of the feisty exchange of ideas and the more political, the better. I understand the comfort that comes from certitude, from having the answer. But since Newtown, I'm not in that place.

Let me stipulate yes. Yes, we need better gun laws in our country. Yes, politicians are quite unlikely to devise any--especially in this moment--that are effective rather than merely reactive. Yes, we need a better mental health network for our most troubled. Yes, no system will be capable of anticipating the next yet-to-break sociopath. Yes, our media culture plays a role in making the next off-kilter personality want to be bigger, badder, more notorious than the last. Yes, we need more armed security guards in soft target places like schools. Yes, violent video games distort the thinking of our youth. Yes, it's unreasonable to assume we can kill a million babies a year in the womb and not expect that to have an impact on how we regard life outside the womb. Yes, divorce can tip a typical kid to troubled and a troubled one to dangerous. Yes, yes, yes. Whatever your favored cause, I stipulate that it is both wholly correct and also a true lie in the way that any judgment about such a situation would be.

Frankly, I can't stand to read any of it. To me, it reduces the people of Newtown and their loss to a utilitarian purpose, the advancing of an agenda. I understand those posting their issue statements view their opinions differently, as a path to prevention. I understand people process trauma in a variety of ways. I understand that what people post is their way of getting through the day. But since Newtown, I'm not in that place.

Since Newtown, I'm on social media because my cousin Sue is. My cousin Sue works as a Children's Director for a Newtown church. Prior to that, she taught at Sandy Hook School. Sue was born, raised and married in Newtown. She raises her own two children there. Social media is where she is posting her thoughts and reactions, so I'm wading through the rest of what's on the news feed to be close to Sue and her brothers and sisters living in that area.

I'm with Sue when she reaches into her closet for a church outfit, looking for something appropriately somber while saving her black clothes for the funerals later in the week. I'm with her as she agonizes over whether to leave the church's kid check-in sheet with Ben's name on it, which seems awful, or to run a new one without it, which seems worse. I'm with her as she teaches the lesson on Sunday morning and a child looks up and simply says, "My friends are dead."

We're all with Sue, aren't we? Our entire country is from Newtown this week. Still, the memes on Facebook turn from impassioned to harsh as we seek to assign blame to gun-owners or to the godless or to whomever. We haven't even buried the babies yet.

I wish I could actually be with Sue. I can't, but I pray for her constantly and for everyone in her town. Her updates are how I know what to pray. I don't have answers, but I have access to the one who is the Answer. But since Newtown, even imagining I'm where Sue is proves too loud a place.

Mostly my mind goes to a closet with seven children in it. Kids whose teacher told them to stay put and stay quiet. Kids who heard their teacher try to divert the bad guy to another part of the school. Kids who watched six of their friends make a break for it and not make it. Kids who even after their classmates and their teacher and the gunman were no more, stayed hidden and silent, just like their teacher told them. Kids who stayed so quiet for so long that police were surprised to find them when they opened the closet during their sweep of the school.

It's a dreadfully quiet place. But since Newtown, that's where I am.

Monday, December 3, 2012

You Might Be a Peri-Menopausal Woman If...

You might be a peri-menopausal woman if:

1. You cry reading the greeting cards at Hobby Lobby.

2. You are moved to deep-seated and freely-voiced irritation when the kids keep Perler beads in three disparate rather than one neatly organized spot. 

3. You are wide awake from 2-5 a.m. at least two weeks of every month.

4. You watch your two older boys walk away from the car, chatting with each other as they enter youth group and you burst into tears watching them because almost two years from now one will probably be away at college and then people might think you have only four kids and not five and besides, how will your second teen 
get along without his best buddy around?

5. You threaten to throw out A. coats B. library books C. laundry D. all of the above because the clutter moves you to deep-seated and freely-voiced irritation.

6. You do not really need a reason to feel deep-seated and freely-voiced irritation.

7. You cry at Schoolhouse Rock's "Preamble to the Constitution" song.

Feel free to suggest your additions to the list in the comment section.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mary, An Extraordinary Ordinary Woman

      "We don't do any school," Mary's 7-year-old son Micah exclaimed to the cashier who asked the boy if he had the day off.  Fifteen years later, Mary remembers the encounter as scary, yet affirming.  Mary quickly told the clerk of their family's extensive use of the library, their long nature walks, their impromptu science experiments.  That her son learned without recognizing it as school thrilled Mary and gave her courage to continue along their non-traditional path.  However, being the only home educating family in their small New York town triggered suspicions from their school district.  The family called Home School Legal Defense Association several times for help with the questioning they endured from local officials.

Mary’s Kids
      Micah now majors in Criminal Justice and minors in Spanish at college.  Mary and her husband Jon extend their kids' high school through age 19 to give them time to plumb individual interests.  Micah explored storm spotting, volunteered at an animal shelter, interviewed a police chief at a local station and read all he could about law enforcement before deciding to pursue it as a career.  Caleb, 19, delved into his love of economics and pursued the sport of fencing.  After examining a variety of hands-on vocations, he decided to become an electrician.  He intends to own his own business after completing his apprenticeship.  
     Mary's two daughters are still high school age, and their interests are beginning to diverge.  Sarita, 14, pours herself into astronomy and is learning to master a telescope.  She dreams of walking on the moon and plans to try skydiving.  Seventeen-year-old Hannah wants to write novels.  She expresses her creativity through sewing as well.  Of course “kids can be pushed and stretched in areas,” Mary asserts, “yet follow their interests and God-given talents.”

Mary’s Philosophy
     Mary advises homeschooling moms with young children to relax and enjoy their time with their kids.  She used no textbooks with her kids, except for phonics, in their elementary years.  The questions her children posed formed the basis of their activities and explorations.  Their curiosity stemmed from the two hours a day Mary spent reading aloud to them.  “I try so hard to get moms to stop with the piles of textbooks and workbooks during those years and take the kids outside to let them explore things, to go on nature walks and on field trips, and to read real books,” Mary states.  “Textbooks can wait.  My kids are proof of that.”   Not an unschooler, Mary consulted curriculum guides to help her surreptitiously introduce new topics to her children.  Middle school years provided a transition toward more traditional forms of learning with a greater reliance on texts and seatwork.

Mary’s Work
     Mary’s work followed an equally serendipitous path.  Early in their marriage, Mary and Jon earned a reduction on their rent by performing simple maintenance on the landlady’s four-flat.  Mary also sold bread at rummage sales.  The landlady became a weekly customer for Mary’s homemade bread business.  Mary took in ironing and mending.  She babysat.  Acquaintances hired her to cut and style their hair.
     EBay gave Mary opportunity to increase her income.  She watched to see what sorts of items sold easily. Many men don’t like to shop, Mary reasoned.  Brand loyalty makes their shopping choices simple.  She began buying gently used pairs of name brand men’s dress shoes at thrift stores for $3 and reselling them on eBay for $25.  Plus size clothing and cute baby items proved plentiful at Goodwill and provided another source of reliable resells.  Mary snatched up professional-grade skillets for $1 each at a yard sale and resold them for $23 each.  Tracking selling trends on eBay, Mary switched to selling custom-sewn clothing and costumes.  She searched eBay’s Want It Now board for leads.  Costumes continue to sell well for Mary, particularly at this time of year.
     Self-taught in sewing and art, Mary teaches both to home-schoolers.  Word-of-mouth provides Mary’s best advertisement, and she also relies on Twitter, Facebook and home schooling newsletters to promote her ventures.  Her primary income now comes from sewing 18th century reproduction clothing for a company.  The creativity Mary prizes in her kids’ education also shows itself in her work. Years ago, she designed a mask that could accommodate removable charcoal packets to act as a filter for nurses allergic to gases used in operating rooms.  The company she works for asks her advice on some patterns and projects.  “I am always looking ahead to the next thing,” Mary comments, “and building my skills so I can teach more things.” 
     Sewing can consume up to 30 hours each week.  The early training her children received makes a full home educating and work life possible.  “Kids need to be taught God’s Word and to love the Lord early on,” Mary explains.  As her children got older, they took on more household responsibilities.  Mary credits discipleship for an organized home where “there is more work and less complaining going on.”  Nonetheless, getting it all done can be a challenge.  These days, Mary relies on a computer-based math program, Teaching Textbooks, to decrease the school prep time required of her.  Her girls tackle their science and literature classes as part of a weekly home school co-op.
     Leigh Ann Ford, founder and moderator of homeschool forum, calls Mary “one of the best examples of a woman who uses her talents and gifts to bless her husband and her family.”  In turn, Mary says her husband's encouragement, his household help and his hands-on parenting make their home educating, dual-income life possible.  Mary’s reliance on God in her marriage, her work and with her children mark her as one extraordinary, ordinary woman.

Please leave a comment below to be entered into a drawing to win either one of Mary's hand-sewn Red Riding Hood capes or a Peter Pan hat.  The drawing will be held on September 30 and the winner announced here on the blog.

If you enjoyed reading Mary's story, sign up using one of the subscription tools to the right and you'll be notified of new posts featuring other extraordinary, ordinary women.

Friday, August 24, 2012


If Mapping the World by Heart proved my sole home educating responsibility, I think we'd stand an excellent chance of completing the curriculum this year.  Many other areas require some tweaking.

DS17 got the mother of all viruses coinciding with the beginning of our new homeschool year.  Two weeks and one ER trip later, I think he may be on the mend.  I've been letting him sleep until 10 a.m. because he needs it.  Teenager morning mode puts him ready for school at close to lunch time.  Not ideal.  Fortunately, his math and science classes at the local college don't start for another few weeks.  Here at home, he's been doing our geography course while grousing that it is not challenging enough.  Granted, the introductory lessons are easy, but I think once I hit him with the research essay on disputed water rights next week, the grousing will cease.  Rather, that particular strain of grousing will cease.  New grousing may commence.  He's gotten a jump on his AWANA curriculum and finished the prologue and first chapter of Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.  He read Fahrenheit 451 in anticipation of his high school lit group beginning in  a couple of weeks.  He is plowing through the second training module--12 videos and a 50 page manual--for his Mathnasium job, hoping to get that out of the way prior to his college classes starting.  He continues to meet with his college professor to discuss their summer research topic.  All the boys wrote a creative essay which required incorporating Harry Potter, a mop and contour maps into their storyline.  I needed them to write something, anything and we don't do enough creative writing.  Interestingly, I could detect elements from last year's lit group in this son's story, as well as influences from his own reading of choice.

DS15 lost his Trig book.  We searched for a couple of weeks, and yesterday conceded defeat and ordered a new one.  This son started Apologia Biology with a live, online class via Virtual Homeschool Co-op.  He promptly complained it was far too easy.  I knew I should have trusted my anti-Apologia instinct.  This kid is Goldilocks; last year all I heard was how AP Chem was way too hard.  Now he recalls it fondly as a challenge.  This week, he switched to Saylor's Microbiology course.  It's college intro level, so that should fix the lack of challenge problem.  Not sure yet what new problems may arise from it.  He did all the same geography, AWANA, reading and writing as his brother.  This kid claims that he keeps reading the same book for lit club, "dark, depressing and weird" over and over again.  I point out to that they are really quite different dark, depressing and weird tales.  While he read me the required length essay from the creative writing assignment, he has gone on with his story and is now at 5000 words and not nearly done.  This provides good reminder to me about what feeds this one's soul.  He is artistic and creative.  I need to build in the freedom for him to explore that.  He got his permit yesterday (two teen boys with permits!  Lord have mercy) and sits for two hours every Sunday in a stupefyingly boring Driver's Ed class for which we paid an ungodly amount of money.

DS11 approaches his schooling in a surprisingly workmanlike manner.  Geography takes him a while, but he breaks down the task into manageable chunks.  He read Project Mulberry for his middle school boys' lit group that begins in September.  Life of Fred's Pre-algebra with Biology is too easy for him, but he likes the story line.  Teen hormones haven't kicked into gear for him yet, so he's usually up early, cheerfully and in full control of his faculties.  He started jogging because his older brothers do it.  He also attacks pogo-sticking with similar tenacity, setting a record of over 2000 jumps.  He's been on break from piano lessons for a couple of weeks, but demanded I print out Fur Elise for him after he couldn't find it by googling "Four Leaves."  He's mastered it and waits impatiently for lessons to start again so he can show-off to his teacher.  His soccer started yesterday and he loves it.  I am particularly glad I had this one read his creative essay to me, rather than handing it in for me to read.  He crafted a  story full of creative descriptors.  Had I merely read it, I might have missed his voice for the distraction of spelling and mechanics issues.  Throughout the year, I think I will continue to have him read his work aloud to me first and then we can follow up by correcting the grammar.

DD6 needs more academic attention.  She loves to read and is hooked on a variety of junk books that my inner Charlotte Mason conscience scolds me for.  Anything fairy-related is a huge hit with her.  There is no end to poorly-written fairy books at the public library, matched only by their seemingly endless supply of Mickey Mouse graphic comic books that the princess also loves.  Twaddle, all of it.  I need to, but haven't yet, gotten her Five in a Row curriculum rolling.  She has been reading aloud to me daily from her Christian Liberty Press Nature Reader, book 2.  Seems like we've been learning about crabs forever now.  I'm about ready to move on (or scream), but that may have something to do with the fact that it's my fourth time hearing an emerging reader tackle crabs.  She shows good oral narration skills, usually able to retell the highlights of what she just read.  We're just beginning to add in our Singapore math, completing the 1B book leftover from last year.  I purchased a sticker atlas book for her to do when the boys are working on geography, but haven't started it with her yet.  Writing will remain mostly copywork.  Typically, we use her AWANA verses for this.  Until AWANA starts, she has a few thank you notes to relatives that she can be writing.

DS 2 and 3/4...well, doesn't "2 and 3/4" about sum it up?  Mercurial, charming, demanding, curious, exhausting, adorable, maddening, inquisitive, whirling, running, exploring.  There is no underestimating the impact this one has on my ability to focus on the other four.

I'm glad for these warm up weeks to see how our actual schooling works.  We have no end of activities yet to start; I'm concerned how the days will flow once we are fully up to speed by mid-September.  Still to add in:  two different lit groups, one speech club, an art class, gym classes, piano lessons, another soccer schedule, youth group, AWANA nights, two Science Olympiad clubs, college classes with a lab, wood carving, karate and a request for fencing club.  Stay tuned, I expect more tweaking over the next month!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Comments, Suggestions, Recommendations, Critiques?

We are going to dip a toe into academics tomorrow, doing an introductory Mapping the World by Heart lesson.  We'll do a subject or so a day this week, a little more next week and probably nearly full speed by the week of August 20.  I'd be interested in what you all are planning and how you all are feeling as the school year gears up, though I realize for many it never really ends.  I have some questions at the end of this note and I'd appreciate any insight and advice.

Our plans for the year ahead:

Math--taken at his college.  Real Analysis I and II, Topology (knot theory) in the spring.  Continue summer research on Weakly Viewing Lattice Points (whatever that means).
Physics--taken at his college.  Physics I, II and III.
Geography--Mapping the World By Heart, done here at home with DS15 and DS11.
English--Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and research paper offshoot from that.  Grammarlogues.  Writing the Easy Way.  Monthly lit group. I'm sure we'll read other stuff, see question below.  Ditto for DS15.
Bible--AWANA and a start on Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.  Ditto for DS15.
Gym--weekly group gym time at local homeschool co-op.  Jogs on his own.  Ditto for DS17.
Extras:  part time job (Mathnasium), AWANA volunteer, church tech crew volunteer, youth group, Science Olympiad, Lit Group, Gavel Club (Toastmasters for the under 18 crowd).

Areas of concern...really needs to pick up another year or two of language.  He doesn't want to continue with Rosetta Stone Latin--he finished the first one, which Rosetta Stone says is equal to Latin 1 and 2.  Maybe LiveMocha Spanish?  Also, he needs a fine art of some sort...maybe digital photography?  Or perhaps computer programming?  

Math--Life of Fred Trigonometry.  Competitive math club--Geometry.
Biology--Virtual Homeschool Co-op free live Biology class online using Apologia.
Geography, English, Bible and Gym same as older brother.
Art--Advanced Art at local co-op, Woodcarving.
Driver's Ed
Extras:  very part-time art class teacher, fall and spring rec soccer, AWANA volunteer, youth group, Science Olympiad, Lit Group, Gavel Club.

Areas of concern...same language concern as older brother.  

Math--Life of Fred Pre-Algebra I with Biology and Life of Fred Pre-Algebra II with Economics.
Geography, Bible, Gym--same as brothers, minus the Systematic Theology.  
English--not sure here.  Probably written narration of some of what he reads for Bio and Econ, Grammarlogues, free online spelling at  Once monthly boys' lit group.
Extras:  fall and spring soccer, gymnastics, AWANA, youth group, Science Olympiad, Gavel Club, Lit Group, piano lessons and possibly adding in drums.

Areas of concern...he's not finished with Rosetta Stone Latin.  Do I make him continue?  

Math--Singapore 2A and B.
English--outloud reading from Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers, McGuffeys and Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans.  AWANA verse copywork.
Geography sticker book to work on while her brothers do Mapping the World by Heart.
Literature Unit Studies--Five in a Row (Three on Occasion for us)
Art--informal.  She's little.  Do you all think access to lots of craft supplies about covers it at this age?
Extras:  karate, gymnastics, AWANA, church group.  Maybe Daisy Scouts if I can get into the neighborhood troop I want.

Holistic, kinesthetic approach to his world.  Puzzles, reading to him, toy trains, etc.  Trying to keep him alive and safe while attempting to tend to the others.

Question:  What are your very best recommendations for high school and middle school for literature that ties in to a continent?  Can be any time period.  I prefer historical fiction, but am open to other suggestions.  I just want to give them the flavor of the continent we might be concentrating on during the geography units.  (Edited to add--thanks to the several who suggested All Through the Ages by Christine Miller as a must have historical/geographical book list).

Comments, suggestions, recommendations, critiques?

What does your year look like?  I'm curious (and nosey).

Sunday, July 29, 2012


What I wrote to the Chicago Tribune Letters-to-the-Editor section:
Call the Bible full of "bulls!@#" and those who do not listen to the rest of your remarks "pansy a@#ed" and your project, It Gets Better, will remain featured on the White House's official website.
Mention that you support the biblical definition of marriage and offer God thanks that you're still married to your first wife and a Chicago alderman will block your privately owned business from expanding within the city.
It's a strange world and strange times we live in.
What the Chicago Tribune printed:
Mention that you support the biblical definition of marriage and offer God thanks that you're still married to your first wife and a Chicago alderman will block your privately owned business from expanding within the city.
It's a strange world and strange times we live in.
Had I meant to be milktoast and boring, I would have been. Leave my irony alone, Trib!

Friday, July 27, 2012


“Hilarious!”  It’s a word heard often from Terri Boumans.  Always emphasized and usually accompanied by gestures, “hilarious” is Terri’s signature phrase.  She’s likely to pantomime the latest stunt by one of her kids.  She may twirl her arms as she describes what she considers her less than graceful moves at the local Y’s Bodyjam fitness class.   Her humor reflects her humility.  Terri readily recounts smacking into a glass panel the day she met her husband, but downplays the fact that the panel was in the Olympic Training Center and she was there as an elite athlete.  When opening her own volleyball gym for training high-level players, Terri set humor aside and turned to a different word to capture her intent:  mettle.   Mettle Volleyball opened June 2012 and is located behind the Naperville YMCA Fieldhouse.  Terri’s new venture requires both the courage and fortitude suggested by her gym's name.  She’s pregnant, due in December with her fifth baby, and will continue to home educate as she builds her business.

Home educating and opening the gym both grew out of Terri’s devotion to her kids.  After a few years as an at-home mom, Terri felt God leading her to contribute to the financial well-being of her family.  She prayed for the right opportunities.  They included running two part-time volleyball programs at other facilities and coaching summer volleyball camps.  An offhand comment by her husband as he signed the lease for his own wrestling gym led the landlord to show Terri a vacant building around the corner, perfect for her own volleyball gym.  Terri’s coaching incorporates the full range of her experience: the only collegiate player in Big Ten history to achieve more than 1,500 kills, 1,000 digs and 600 blocks, four year team member of the U.S.A. National Volleyball Team, and team captain of the Chicago Thunder in the U.S.A. Professional Volleyball League during the 2001-02 season.

While her middle and highschool-aged players flourished under her coaching, it added stress for her own kids.  Terri would wait in the driveway with the car running for her boys to be dropped off from school.  She would dash off to coach for a few hours then single-handedly get her kids fed, bathed and to bed while her husband Kerry, a former U.S.A. National Team wrestler, continued evening work at his own gym.   Having more family time together is the main reason Terri and Kerry chose to home educate.  Kerry can linger in the morning before heading to his wrestling facility.  Sometimes he takes the kids in with him.  Terri plans their home schooling day according to when she has to leave for her volleyball classes.  She spends the bulk of her day with her children and appreciates the more relaxed pace.  Settling into her third year of home educating, Terri agonizes less now about “doing it wrong” and enjoys the simple pleasure of a rest hour with the kids before she heads out to coach.

The Boumans want a solid Catholic education for their kids.  Her two older boys, now 9 and 11-years-old, attended Catholic school prior to home schooling.  Terri chose Mother of Divine Grace curriculum on recommendation from another mom who also had a large family and ran her own business.  “I love that the entire syllabus for each student is right there,” Terri comments, “and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”  The one-on-one time benefitted her children.  One son rose from a C average to an A average in math.  She noticed an increase in her kids’ sharing their spiritual thoughts too.  “Since we are all reading the same thing, usually out loud,” Terri explains, “our conversations can be surprisingly deep considering how young my kids are.”  Like many home educating moms, Terri worries about gaps in her kids' education.  She plans to farm out art and music, areas with which she has little experience.  Terri admits that she finds working easier than staying at home, but asserts that easy is not the goal.  Still, she views her coaching as a “joyful break” from the monotony that can come with being at home with little ones—her daughters are just 4 and 6-years-old--especially during the long Chicago winters.

Home educating can provide other “joyful breaks.”  After particularly busy volleyball and schooling times, Terri enjoys the flexibility to take short vacations during weekdays when other kids would normally be in school.  This past winter, her kids learned to ski on nearly empty slopes during just such a get-away.  Humor once again creeps in as Terri describes her boys’ first terrified ride together on the chair lift.   She recreates the scene, somehow using her 6’2” frame to convincingly play-act a little boy peering over an edge from seemingly great height, gaze sweeping side-to-side, eyes growing wider and mumbling the Catholic act of contrition.

Terri and Kerry rise before 6 a.m., praying together to start their day.  When asked what advice she’d give to another mom seeking to both home educate and bring in an income, Terri counsels prayer.  “Make sure it is God’s will,” she cautions, “or it may not work.  Relax and know that God is in control.   He will let you know what you need to do.”  With Mettle Volleyball being new, it’s difficult for Terri to forecast her income for the next year.  She knows she will need evening care for her newborn after January.  She asked God to figure out what seemed impossible to her--to have her baby in wonderful family care during those hours and to arrange that for free.  Bartering volleyball lessons for childcare with a family she knows and trusts provided the solution. 

 Terri understands that the perfect solution may not always appear quickly in answer to her prayers.  As she and her kids clean the gym, she talks to them about living in faith, taking the next step and trusting God with the outcome.  As her business and her family continue to grow, one suspects that stories from Terri, accompanied by her signature motion as communication, will grow too.  No doubt they will be hilarious. 

For more information on Mettle Volleyball's Little Diggers program (grades 3-7) and Volleyball classes (grades 6-12), or for private lessons with Terri, please visit Mettle Volleyball's website.  

World English Dictionary

mettle(ˈmɛt ə l) 

- n
1. courage; spirit
2. inherent character
3. on one's mettle roused to putting forth one's best efforts

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Savage Chicken

Call the Bible full of "bulls!@#" and those who do not stay to hear the rest of your remarks at a high school journalism convention "pansy a@#ed" and your organization will remain featured on the White House official website.  Mention that you support the biblical definition of marriage and offer God thanks that you're still married to your first wife and Boston and Chicago will try to block your privately owned business from operating in their cities.  It's a strange world and strange times we live in.

Dan Savage leads the It Gets Better project.  The project's worthy purpose is to provide hope for LGBT teens.   Part of the organization's pledge?  That everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.  I am not certain Bible believing teens felt respected by Mr. Savage's comments at the journalism conference. Dan Cathy serves as President of Chick-Fil-A and admitted to being "guilty as charged" in believing the biblical definition of marriage.  He then released a hate-filled, profanity-laced statement of his own:  "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."  Whew, strong words.

Interestingly, Mr. Cathy did not single out gay marriage as the end-all, be-all affront to holy matrimony.  Critics rightly point out that church-goers, while often condemning homosexual unions, engage in divorce in numbers equal to the rest of society.  Hypocrisy never plays well.  The churched would do well to work on their own marriages and remember atheists are not idiots.  But Mr. Cathy didn't single out gay marriage.   He upheld it all, offending the divorced as well as the gay in his comments.  "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives," Cathy commented.  Continuing, though some news organizations chose not to report the full thought, Cathy explained, "We give God thanks for that."  Sounds like a man who recognizes that we all stumble and fall in many ways and that it is only by the grace of God that two sinful people can have a long and happy union. 

What is tolerance?  Tolerance does not seek to silence those who hold contrary viewpoints.  True tolerance requires respecting those with whom one disagrees.  Christian tolerance requires respecting and loving those with whom one disagrees.  As President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Wade Burleson had a meeting with a homosexual rights group, SoulForce.  The group sought to change his mind and stance on homosexuality and told him they would picket his church until he did.  Burleson responded "that they were welcome to picket our church, and that if their members were driving a long distance to come, we would provide a meal for them after church. In addition, if SoulForce intended to picket after the evening service and wished to remain overnight, I was positive we could provide for them some accommodations."  

Christ-following teens exhibit such tolerance as well as or better than adults such as Cathy and Burleson.  After the Day of Silence each year, when high schoolers use silence as a protest against bullying of LGBT and other teens, many Christian teens then engage in a Day of Dialogue.  "Christian students in particular should be the first to stand up for those around them being hurt or harmed," states one of Day of Dialogue's guiding principles.  Rather than remaining silent, Day of Dialogue participants believe those of differing viewpoints can and should have civil discourse about healthy relationships, sexuality and faith.  Sounds a lot like true tolerance to me.

I like Chick-Fil-A.  I've met the owner of our local restaurant a few times.  He donated chicken sandwiches for a community winter festival our church sponsored.  His restaurant put on a fantastic field trip for my local homeschool group.  Each kid got to make his own free milkshake and ring up her own order.  The place is always clean, the play area well-maintained, the staff always ready to take my cup and refill it for me.  I can order grilled chicken nuggets, mixed fruit and milk for a quick, guilt-free, healthy lunch for my kids.  It arrives in a bag with educational games on the side and a quality book or toy that reinforces positive character traits.  I'm never told "You're welcome," but always "my pleasure" when I thank an employee.  And they say it in a way I believe.  As Chicago tries to block CFA from expanding within the city, it's worth noting that Chicago also has a long standing grudge against Walmart operating within the city limits.  They don't like Walmart's labor practices.  Chick-Fil-A, on the other hand, is closed every Sunday so its employees may worship or rest.  While many franchise opportunities require hundreds of thousands of dollars, Chick-Fil-A intentionally lowers the barrier to success by requiring just $5,000. 

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, suggested by Mike Huckabee, is August 1.  Count me in.


Friday, July 20, 2012

On Hair, Herons, Hot Air, Homes and Hope

If you haven't yet read Dana's story, please do!  Stay tuned for Terri's story, coming shortly.

Mr. Wonderful and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on Friday, June 29.  Panicked preparations began for me on Thursday when I realized my hair was not up to celebratory standards.  I originally planned to go gracefully gray in my middle age and mentioned this fact to my best buddy from my college years.   This friend is as accepting and tolerant as they come.  As an attorney, she's trained to see and anticipate all sides of an argument.  "Gracefully gray?  What does that mean?  That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," she non-judgmentally barked when I announced my intentions.  "Gracefully gray is an oxymoron."  I blame her for my every six week regimen of trying to fool the world into thinking I am not a woman in my mid-40s.

By Thursday, it became apparent the ruse would not hold.  My husband might figure out that his bride is no longer 23.  The lady who does my hair comes to my home (I know, how lucky am I?) and she squeezes me in during times when she's not helping her husband run a non-profit charity, when she's not directing the elementary program at a church, when she's not planning a summer camp for a few hundred or a carnival for 800 and when she's not home educating her own three children.  I explained the dire nature of my follicular folly.  She immediately agreed her other obligations paled in comparison.  That same evening, she restored my youth in mocha hues, preventing a Portrait of Dorian Gray anniversary reveal.  

We love our kids and love that we have a large family.  On our anniversary, we couldn't wait to get as far away from them as possible.  Our oldest is nearly 17 and we felt that we could safely leave them for one overnight.  Mr. Wonderful searched far and wide within a 45 minute radius of home.  He picked The Herrington Inn in Geneva (IL...maybe another season of life might bring that other Geneva into the realm of the possible).  Good choice from a good man.  We arrived to a beautiful room--four poster king size bed, corner fireplace operated by flip switch, waiting chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate mousse with a personalized congratulatory note from the innkeeper--and a balcony overlooking the Fox River.  I settled in on the balcony, watching the island directly across from us.  Mr. Wonderful doesn't do nothing well, but he alighted fidgetedly beside me.  For the next hour, we chatted and watched the great blue heron on the island.  This heron must be used to visitors; he paid us no mind as he preened and flapped and spread his wings to warm?  dry?  in the sun.  The heron briefly shared the island with an egret and many cute ducks dabbled in the waters.  There was not a goose in sight, making the scene perfect to my way of thinking (I hate geese).  Even watching what my Southern born and raised hubby termed a "varmint," and what I hope was a genteel muskrat and not just a big, fat rat swim across the river instilled a bucolic charm, in so far as varmints can be charming.  On your anniversary, on a balcony two stories above, when the varmint is swimming away from you, all things are possible.

Over a delicious dinner of skate wing (me) and prime rib (him), I listened to my guy talk about hope.  The specific topic was something entirely different, but hope formed the core.  There is determined positive outlook, a gritted choice we make on how to view things and then there is hope, which bubbles up from another place entirely.  Long seasons in life can be filled with that determined will in choosing one's viewpoint and there is a certain maturity that comes with that disciplined practice.  But nothing refreshes a soul like hope.

We concluded our anniversary getaway with an hour long morning walk along the Fox River and a stop in the All Chocolate Kitchen.  The shop is part chocolate and spun sugar art gallery, part bakery, all stupendous.  We arrived home anxious to see the kids again and with, I thought, the best part of the weekend behind us.

Not so.

The Midwest, at least this part of it, possesses a startlingly nasty summer habit of getting light in the middle of the night.  I never encountered anything like this anywhere on the East Coast, but if you wake up anytime after 4:30 am in Chicagoland in June, it will be getting light.  Sunday morning, I woke up early to hear my oldest easing out the door.  He wasn't on tech at church that weekend, but some tech folks were going early to make sure all was set for our church's first weekend in our new permanent home.  He planned on riding his bike rather than wake us (how did I get such a great kid?), but since I was up, I offered him a ride.  We walked out of the house to see three huge hot air balloons almost directly over our home and another two in the distance.  I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Mr. Wonderful took off with the two youngest kids in the van, forming his own unofficial chase crew.  Not only did they chase down three landings, but were rewarded with balloon trading cards and candy from the pilots.  I opted for a jog, following the balloons along the river trail near our home.  Crickets, birds and the whoosh of the propane burner from the balloon above formed the only early morning sounds.  The river next to me suddenly exploded and a startled heron--significantly less adapted to people than his Herrington Inn cousin--took off before me.  
That was possibly a more spectacular flight than even the enormous colorful blobs above.  I returned home, convinced that my day had seen its most satisfying moments.

Not so.

My family gathered, all of us nearly filling an entire row at church, to celebrate our first service in our building.  I hadn't expected it to feel as monumental as it did.  God's church is not a building, of course, but it does feel deeply satisfying to have a home base.  The worship that day felt sincere, filled with joy and thanksgiving.  My hubby and teens no longer have to get up at 5:30 am every Sunday to set up in the middle school our church called home for more than a year and a half.  With our new building, we can host more outreach and ministry events during the week.  Our building sits next to the YMCA, where scores of moms of preschoolers flock to work out during the week, and just shy of the local high school.  The school likes to tout its Grammy award winning music program, but beneath the glitter we live in a district with seven heroin overdoses in the past year amongst the student body.  My community looks like one that has its act together, but it is often just that, an act, a Stepford play where people hide their real selves, their problems and dare I say it?  their sin.  It's a place that needs hope rather than gritted self-determination.  And in that rather nondescript brick office building cum church, we sang and celebrated the Author of Hope.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Some women launch a business using sharp tech skills and venture capital.  For Dana, starting a business meant taking anti-anxiety medication and selling an aging pick up truck for seed money. Creating an educational testing business had crossed her mind before, but more as fuzzy, distant venture she might try once her son hit his teens.  Home educating her two girls, then ages ten and eight, and chasing her toddler boy consumed her time as an at-home mom.  Suddenly, devastatingly, her husband walked out on their 13 year marriage.  Dana needed a way to earn a living and she wanted one that would allow her to continue to home educate.

The proceeds from the old Ford truck just covered the cost of materials for her to become a Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement administrator.  Statistics and testing courses taken during college provided the necessary skills.  Dana believed there was a need in her community for such a service; she couldn't find anyone to administer that particular test to her kids the previous year.  However, overwhelmed by the separation and impending divorce, she put off ordering the materials.

A friend recommended Dana to some home schoolers looking for year end evaluation.  "So I had to get the materials and start training like mad, " Dana recalls.  Necessity trumped terror; her business was born.  The local paper caught wind of her mompreneur venture and called for an interview.  Dana  mentioned her math education background to the reporter.  A reader soon contacted Dana for math enrichment for her son.  Before long, Dana settled into a groove of tutoring while her kids were spending time with their dad.  She jimmied in testing appointments when she could, but found that growing a business while raising kids required a creative, multi-prong approach.  She swapped child care with another mom, joined a formal babysitting co-op and readily took up playdate offers from church friends.  With her divorce final, she had a base of spousal and child support.  She moved her mom in to help and renegotiated her rent with her landlord.  "I made Abe scream," she laughs when discussing her frugal, money-stretching habits.

Two years later, Dana added homeschool portfolio assessments to her business offerings.  Such a move seemed guaranteed to grow her business.  Au contraire.  In order to offer the assessments, Dana needed to reinstate her teaching certificate.  That required four back-to-back sessions of cramming 3 credit hours into three week periods.  Doing so while continuing to home educate and single parent was not as easy as it sounds. (Oh wait, that doesn't sound easy at all, does it?)  Business stalled.  Dana pondered whether to seek the security of a traditional teaching job.  Wanting God's will, she prayed to be open to whatever might be best for her family.  Within a day or two of her prayer, home schoolers on a local list spontaneously began to write favorably about Dana, her approach to tutoring and testing, her encouragement and practical advice to them as home educators.  She got several calls from new folks wanting tutoring.  Dana had her confirmation.

Dana's business continues to diversify.  The Old Schoolhouse asked her to kick off a live webinar to a national audience and she's listed as a part of their Speaker's Bureau.  She teaches Hands On math at a local co-op.  She will soon serve as an "umbrella" supervisor for other parents wanting to teach math as part of the credit flexibility plan offered by an online virtual academy in her state.  She wrote a business plan, but notes that the unexpected and seemingly serendipitous plays a major role in growth.  Dana eschews the possibility of chance and instead credits God.

What advice does Dana give to others trying to start a business and home school?  "Train the kids to be as self-reliant as possible," she quickly asserts.  "Even teaching them to make a PBJ frees up a little time for you when you need it."  While Dana typically works 10-25 hours weekly,  her kids' education comes first and the business second.  Weekdays reflect that, with schooling taking up her mornings and testing and tutoring appointments the afternoon and evening hours.

Dana's business growth mirrors her personal journey.  At the time of her divorce, her self esteem fell so low that she believed she couldn't do anything, that she couldn't be a professional.  This past month, a nervous first year home educating parent called her.  The parent questioned whether Dana knew much about home schooling or about the tests that fulfill state requirements for home educators.  "It felt really good to tell her that I am a homeschooler, that I've always been one, that my oldest is now 16 and that I've administered this test hundreds of times."  Not bad for a mom who admits, "I knew nothing about business and yet it grew."  While she understands that self-reliant kids help a busy mom, Dana knows knows self-reliance only goes so far.  "I didn't know how much God loves me.  He grew my business.   If He hadn't wanted for me to serve home schoolers, I would not be succeeding."

Dana is offering one lucky winner their choice of either a 30 minute free math curriculum consult by phone or a $10 per child Woodcock-Johnson III testing discount for new clients (testing done in her Plain City, OH home only).  To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment at the end of this post.  The contest will close at noon Central time on Friday, July 6, 2012.  Visit for more information on Dana's tutoring and testing business.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read about other extraordinary ordinary women, please subscribe to my blog (see right side bar).  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Extraordinary Ordinary Women

In upcoming weeks, I'll be featuring many different home educating moms here on my blog.  These ladies all bring in an income while keeping home schooling a priority.  Many thanks to all the moms who took the time to fill out my background research survey.  If you make money, home educate and haven't yet filled out a survey for me, please email me at ohiohol at hotmail dot com.

Bashing at home moms remains popular sport.  Part of what excites me about my latest writing venture is that it moves beyond that well-trod path.  Professional moms are often also professionals in a career field.  This comes as no surprise to those of us in the home school world.  These women have much to teach the rest of us.

So grab a cup of coffee and join me for the journey.  First up, we'll meet Dana.  Not every women eyes an aging pick up truck and sees it as the seed money for a business.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Tea Time

Tuesday tea time is a bit of a religion in our home.  While we flagrantly break Julie Bogart's rules concerning fine china, a beautiful table and tea, we always devour goodies.  Today the kids slurped down the best ice cream on the planet.  Everyone except the toddler is required to come to the table with a poem to share aloud.  This can be their own creation--we recently indulged an extended original haiku phase--or a poem found in one of several poetry books scattered across our living room.

Today's choices illustrate our eclectic bent.  You can see why we didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

From the six year old: Hush Little Baby and Star Light, Star Bright

From the ten year old:  (BRACKETS) – John Coldwell

It was Wednesday. Maths. Page 28. And I was already thinking about tomorrow. Thursday. Maths. Page 29.
We were doing problems. The ones where you have to remove the brackets first.
I was on question 13 and right inside a bracket, When this strange phrase came into my head. And before I could trap it in a bracket It shot out of my mouth
Into the classroom. “Bring on the dancing prunes!”
The room went silent And thirty pairs of bracket-solving eyes Swivelled in my direction. The teacher stopped putting crosses In somebody’s maths book And looked crossly at me. “What did you say?”
I could have told him But instead, I put a bracket round my reply And said “Nothing.”
The teacher sighed. “How would it be if everybody Called out the first thing that came into their heads?” (Very interesting.)

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower--but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

From the sixteen year old: The Hokey Pokey, Shakesperean Style

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

From me (age? none-ya): In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky, 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe! 
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high! 
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.