Archive for May, 2009

What a mom she’ll be

O Jessica, my Jessica, an awesome mom you’ll be.

You’ll play with kids and make them grin a lot more times than me.

You’ll cook and clean and organize and all your days will flee

Away with joy for girls and boys; now just you wait and see.

You’re always an encourager and helper so unique.

You offer, then you LOOK for chores.  You serve and you are meek.

The kids all love to be with you.  They know you’re lots of fun.

You laugh and giggle, but “in charge” they all know you’re the one.

You’re born to lead and love and play and teach and mentor, too.

O, what a mom you’ll be some day;  your kids the bless-ed few.


I am not ashamed to admit that I have gone backwards.

Last fall, my brother gave me a cell phone of his that he was no longer using.  My trusty seven-year-old Nokia had finally gone to its final reward, and I was glad to receive his hand-me-down.  It was a Motorola phone and over the past few months I have systematically proven that I am just not nearly as tech-savvy as it is.

I can answer it, and I can call out on it, but that’s about it.  I know it has a lot of wonderful features, but I’ve never learned how to use them.  It can store multiple numbers for one name, which is useful, but it doesn’t tell me I have a message until 48 hours later.  That can be a little frustrating, especially for  message-leavers who never gets a call back from me.  Then the battery started falling off several times a day, and at that point, I began to think that maybe somewhere out there a better phone for me could be found.

Scott and I were window shopping for a phone for Katie’s birthday – HER trusty Nokia (same vintage) also being on its last legs and having gone AWOL in Virginia – and he wanted to get me a better phone, too.  I think he wanted me to have something like a Blackberry Pearl or an iPhone, but really, for me, those would all be overkill.

I need a phone with that doesn’t flip open and can perform these (and only these) functions:

1.  Have real buttons with numbers big enough for me to see and press

2.  Store up to 150 names and numbers

3.  Make outgoing calls

4.  Receive incoming calls

5.  Receive voice mail AND alert me to the existence of messages

6.  Show me the time of day

7.  Be loud enough for me to hear

That’s it.  Really and truly.  No joke.

I don’t need it to access the internet, take pictures, or play music.  (I have a computer, a camera, and a radio that do those things very well, thank you very much.)  I don’t need it to shoot video, play games, or display information in languages besides English.  I don’t need it to be my alarm clock or my calculator. I don’t need it to send or receive text messages or provide mobile email.  I just need a phone that will be a phone, that will give me my messages within a few minutes, and whose battery I don’t have to retrieve off the floor all day.

As we browsed options at the Mart of Walls, I was shocked to learn that it is possible for one to spend as much as $300 (or more) on a cell phone!!!  Even for Katie’s gift, we weren’t about to invest anything like that, and for a simple phone for me. . . well, since I didn’t want it to whistle Dixie in four-part harmony, surely we could find something more economical.

Then the friendly Wal-Mart associate pointed us – perhaps with some mild disdain – toward the display of $20 Go Phones.  For me, it was love at first sight, but Scott was skeptical.  To him, the phone looked cheap.  It didn’t have a zillion features (that I didn’t want or need).  But it was a Nokia, the Toyota of cell phones, if you ask me, and the blurb on the package indicated that it would do everything I could ever want a cell phone to do.

We bought that puppy, and I am so incredibly happy.  I finally have a phone that works the way a phone ought to work.  Its functions are intuitive for me, and on MY phone, that’s what matters.

I am presently working on entering my names and numbers. I have learned that in a cell phone, you can store names and numbers on the phone (which I inadvertently did with my brother’s Motorola) and/or on the SIM card (which I am doing with my Go Phone).  Then, when this phone dies in seven years, I will have all my necessary information on that teeny tiny chip, ready to load into my next Nokia.

At the time David gave me his former phone, he had told me that there was an interesting trend developing among some purchasers of new computers.  People were buying new machines that came pre-loaded with the “new and improved” Windows Vista operating system, but then they were paying extra fees to have Vista uninstalled and replaced with the older XP system.  In essence, they were paying more to downgrade.

We paid only $20 to downgrade to my nifty Go Phone, and despite the innate shame that such a move engenders in a techhy 21st century family, I’m fully convinced I got the best end of the deal.

Quick trip, no tip

Today being Andrew’s 10th birthday, Scott decided to quit work early and take him canoeing.

There are two creeks that come together just across the street from our house:  Bull Creek (the larger, the one our family often canoes, the one with the swimming hole to which we fought so hard last summer to maintain access) and Bear Creek (much smaller, rockier, and entirely unfloatable except for perhaps one day every three years).  It has rained a lot lately, but neither creek is up right now.

Scott looked out the window today and said, “the water’s perfect to float Bear Creek.”  I wisely said nothing.  So about 4:45 PM, we all piled into the van to take Scott and Andrew up to the low water bridge put-in on Bear Creek at Reno Springs Road.  Last year, in the midst of serious flooding, Scott and Jessica put in there with the water running a foot over the bridge.  Some weeks later, after a second torrential flood, Scott and Josiah put in there with the water right at bridge level.

Today the water was three feet below the bridge, so we drove a couple miles further downstream dropped the canoe down a steep bank at BonnieBrook, and put them in there.  In the next hour and a half, they managed to float all the way down to the pasture across the street without tipping, but they did drag quite a bit.  Andrew attributed that to the fact that Scott “was eating too many chocolate chips” along the way.  However, they did see a lot of wildlife (besides Andrew), including seven deer in the water, one rabbit, three turtles, and a great blue heron.

New geographic delineation

There’s the Corn Belt and the Bible Belt, but here in Walnut Shade, we now live in the Rain Belt.  Aside from a one-hour window of dryness around 1:00 PM, it has rained lightly but continually for the past 16 hours.  Not to mention much of the past five weeks.

Katie, Jessica and two friends had plans to go to Silver Dollar City today as part of Katie’s birthday celebration.  I must say they are die-hards.  They played in the rain at the City from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and when I picked them up, they asked me to bring, “as many beach towels as you can find, because we’re soaked!”  And they were.  Miriam had to wander about the house wearing some of Katie’s clothes and wrapped in an afghan while we ran her drenched duds through the dryer.

Our weeds are nice and green, my flowers are happy, and (shhh!  don’t let them hear you), my tomato plants seem to have potential.

Funny old stories

Tonight we had a couple of families over for a Memorial Day cookout.  In the spirit of our camping trip earlier this month, it rained, so the cooking was done on the porch, the playing was done throughout the house and yard, and the eating was done in the dining room.

I think a good time was had by all.  The D family with their four children (11, 13, 15, and 19) and the W family with their two children (5 months and 3) plus us and our children (9, 15, 17, and 19) all seemed to hit it off well.  The three moms sat around talking about various parenting experiences because the mom of the youngest two was asking us “old ladies” some questions.

We shared such memories as:

> Jessica being the Director in Perpetuity of all the big kids’ plays and plans when they were young

> One child disrobing its mom while being fed at the net of a volleyball tournament

> The way baby gear has progressed in the past 15-20 years

> The agonizing process of Josiah learning to read

> Katie teaching herself to read and then reading the entire NIV Bible within the next14 months

> Projectile vomiting, nursing Andrew, and goat’s milk

> Scott making Katie do neck-ups on his lunch breaks

There were many laughs.  Good memories.

Some questions for. . . God?

1.  It’s clear that bats were made to eat mosquitoes, but wouldn’t it have been simpler to just not make any mosquitoes in the first place?

2.  If there weren’t any boys to fixate on automobile transmitters and cell phones, would such electronic gadgets cease to exist?

3.  Why does lovely spring have to be so short when hot and humid summer is so long?  Honestly, it just seems unfair for poor spring get the short end of the seasonal stick, year after year after year.

4.  And concerning all those female hormones. . . is it really necessary for half the adult population to cry uncontrollably and/or fume viciously for days on end every single month?

Inquiring minds want to know.

It’s a very small world

I’ve been running a shipping and receiving department here, getting lots of Katie’s used college books sent to folks who can’t wait to read those hefty tomes.  One one the books was Virgil’s Aeneid.  Normally, when someone requests a book, I just send it out.  However, books are not supposed to have any marking in the text, and these (including The Aeneid) do.  Therefore, I am required to send to the requestor a message describing the marking(s) and asking whether s/he wants the book.

Below is a recent dialogue I had with a lady I’ll call Sue (not her name, and since I don’t actually know her, I’m changing all her other identifying information, as well).  Bear in mind that people from all 50 states swap books on this site, and the United States Geological Survey says there are 3141 counties or county equivalents in the US and District of Columbia.


Me: “Our copy of The Aeneid was my daughter’s college textbook. It has some pencil underlining and marginal notes. I am willing to go through and erase these, if you’d like me to.  I believe pbs’s policy is no markings in books, but textbooks are exempted from that rule. I want you to be satisfied with the transaction, so please confirm that you still want me to mail this book.  Thank you!”

Sue: “Hi!  Thanks for your honesty about the condition of the book. I am a homeschooler, so sometimes I don’t want marked up books, but in this case it is fine.  Thanks, Sue”

Me: “Great! We are homeschoolers, too. Four kids now 18, 17, 15, and 9 – always homeschooled, but the oldest just finished her freshman year of college. I’ll finish erasing the pencil from The Aeneid and get it in the mail to you ASAP.”

Sue: “My three boys are 15, 13 and 10 (I can’t believe they are that old!) Really, you don’t need to bother erasing the pencil marks or even rushing out the copy. My older two are taking a course next fall based in the Veritas Press Omnibus and I am gathering 4 copies of all the books (gotta love PBS!) so that I can read them too and my 10 yo can at least follow along, so the copy doesn’t need to be perfect. Take care.  Sue”

Me: “I was wrapping your book, didn’t know where XYZ City, VA was, and googled it. I was surprised to see that it’s in Loudon County! Our daughter is a student at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, which looks to be only about 20 miles from your location. She also helps lead a homeschooling discipleship/mime ministry for young people there.”

Sue: “Hi, Patricia. How’s this for a small world: The class my children are going to be taking next fall (that I am buying the Aeneid for) is going to be taught by a professor from Patrick Henry, Professor H in the English Department. When I read your email, I was online researching a house that is 5 minutes from the college which we might buy.  Where is your family located?  Sue”

Me: “My daughter just read this thread over my shoulder and we are both amazed! She says Dr. H is just wonderful and very sweet. He walks around the college lake every day praying for his students. He carries index cards with the name of each student.  Our daughter just completed his course, Western Lit I, and The Aeneid I’m sending you was one of her readings for that class! She TRULY liked having him as a prof. Maybe those markings I didn’t erase really will be helpful to your son. = )  We live in southwest Missouri, in an unincorporated spot in the road called Walnut Shade. It’s a long drive from Purcellville to Walnut Shade. Our daughter did it in two days and just arrived home Saturday evening – with all these books to re-post.”

Sue: “Hi Patricia, Definitely don’t touch those margin notes on the Aeneid! That is so funny. I know Dr. H’s wife, F, pretty well. Two of her children are in my oldest son’s Latin class. They are the most amazing family. They were missionaries in Thailand for 20 years. They have three girls they adopted from there, all of whom were considered unadoptable (plus six biological children). People gravitate to F because you can just feel the holy spirit in her.  Your daughter is far from home! If you want, save my PBS email name and if you ever need any information for her (a doctor’s name or where to buy something, or I don’t know what) feel free to ask.  Take care, Sue”

Me: “Thanks for your kindness. I will archive this thread and let her know she has another “friend” in the PHC area. It’s always helpful to build a support network, and yes, she is VERY far from home. It’s been a big adjustment for our family, and we are (jokingly) telling our other children they will be required to attend a college within a six hours’ drive. = )  The Hs sound like a wonderful family. Nine children and 20 years in Thailand. WOW. What a dad. He surely has made an impression on our daughter. We also adopted one child (American) and have a bit of a connection to Asia, as our family is involved in a ministry to the underground church in a closed country there.”

Sue (after she received the book):  “Thanks so much! I told F. H. about the “small world” of this book and she thought it was a riot.  Blessings, Sue”


That whole interchange just AMAZED me!

Pink Pearl Queen

Until I began writing lesson plans a couple weeks ago, pens were my chosen weapon of  writing.  I typically use pencils only to mark music (which I do do with some frequency) or to work math problems (which I prefer to leave to my sons).  Therefore I also wasn’t what you would call intimately acquainted with erasers, but all that changed when Katie came driving home last week (hurrah, hurrah).

Accompanying her were a number of her used college books that weren’t worth trying to sell for cash, but which could be swapped on pbs – BUT a number of them contained marking, and I have been dutifully erasing the marks that were made in pencil.

I can now tell you EVERYTHING about my trusty Pink Pearl eraser – its shape (constantly becoming more rounded, much like me, come to think of it); its color; the exact GPS coordinates of its large and small black smudges; the feel of its “heft” between my right thumb, forefinger, and middle finger; its aroma (uniquely third grade); and the number of teeny tiny Pink Pearl molecules it sheds all over my desk with each underlined sentence or marginal note.

This may even be the same Pink Pearl I used in third grade.

Dead tired

After a fun lunch date with a friend, I returned home at 1:40 PM to find the house smelling of fresh-baked cookies.  Andrew had obviously been making treats to share with the other kids at church tonight.

However, we had to leave for our Springfield run in 45 minutes, and there were a few things I wanted to discuss with Andrew before we left, so I called (and called and called) through the house for him.  No answer.

I opened the back door and hollered, then did the same out the front.  No answer and no answer.

I thought maybe he had ridden his bike down the road, so I waited a few minutes and tried again, this time in my loud, piercing, falsetto semi-scream; the one that – when the wind is calm, as it was today – can be heard up to half a mile away.  No answer.

I did the same thing in the house, causing mild-to-moderate hearing loss in two other family members.  No answer.

I talked with Jessica and Josiah;  neither of them knew where Andrew was.

We were down to less the thirty minutes before lift-off, and I really needed to find him.  Jessica offered to ring the bell (our dinner bell), which, she reminded me, is loud – and it is, but for sheer carrying power, I don’t think it comes close to my loud, piercing, falsetto semi-scream.  She rang it for about 15 seconds.  No answer.

And then, being the loving and responsible mom that I am, I gave up and assumed that since Andrew knew we were leaving at 2:30, he’d show up by 2:30.  I just had way too much to do in those remaining few moments to worry any further about his whereabouts.

About 2:20 PM, Andrew walked into my office.  From his bedroom.  Looking very frowsy.  He had been ASLEEP IN HIS ROOM the whole time!  When questioned, he said, “No, I didn’t hear you call me.  I didn’t hear anything.”  This despite the fact that during my 15 or so minutes of repeatedly screaming his name, anyone within 200 feet would have needed ear protection!  I guess he was dead tired.

Educational gap

It is a well-known fact that homeschooling moms tend to worry about gaps in their children’s education.  I actually haven’t been too concerned about those, figuring that 1) in general, our children will be able to learn what they need to know when they need to know it, and 2) I’m pretty good at finding resources to teach them those things they’re NEVER likely to investigate on their own.

Imagine my horror then, when I found a huge and glaring gap in all three of our older children’s education.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking.  “You know homeschoolers, they never learn the essentials of group behavior like raising their hands before speaking, requesting permission to go to the bathroom, or walking in single file lines. ”  Sorry; it’s even worse than that.

Josiah needed to apply for a passport, and Jessica filled out the form for him.  Trust me, the US Department of State appreciated that.  The form was neat and legible.  We took the necessary paperwork, birth certificate, parental ID,  and two forms of payment to the C of O post office and delivered it to postmaster “Kim,” for her review.  She scanned the form that I was preparing to sign in her presence on behalf of my minor son (sounds like maybe I have a major son hiding somewhere), handed it to me, and said, “When you sign this, you are stating that everything on this form is true and correct.”

My dad always taught me to read EVERYTHING before I sign, so I did.  I skimmed through all Josiah’s identifying blurb and said, “Well, it’s not.  This form says his place of birth was North Little Rock, Arkansas, but he was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I know.  I was there that day.”

(I guess Josiah had not read over the form, because he didn’t say anything about where he was born.  Of course, he doesn’t remember that event as clearly as I do.)

Kim:  That’s okay.  It won’t matter.  It says Little Rock, so you can sign it.

Me:  Well, I don’t think so.  I mean, they are two different cities.

Kim:  It’s fine.  It’ll go through just fine.

“Yeah, right,” I thought.  We’re on a bit of time deadline here, as Josiah has to submit his application for a passport, wait “four to six weeks” for the passport to arrive at our house, and then mail it off to a different place to apply for a visa. That involves another two-week (or so) wait.  The plan is for him to leave the country in about eight weeks, and he won’t want to buy a ticket till he has the visa’d passport in hand, so we really didn’t need ANYTHING to slow down the process – including some clerk at the State Department comparing his passport application (birthplace:  NLR, AR) to his birth certificate (birthplace:  LR, AR) and kicking it out.

We ended up re-doing the paperwork, going back the next day, paying an extra $100 to expedite the process, and Kim now assures us Josiah should have his passport in hand the first week of June.

BUT I did come home and ask Jessica jokingly where she’d been born.  (All three big kids were born in the same hospital; I think even in the same delivery room.)  Without even a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Baptist Hospital in North Little Rock.”  Geez.  TWO of my kids didn’t know where they came from.  I asked Katie that evening.  “North Little Rock, Arkansas.”

So, as a homeschooling mom, I am zero for three in autobiographical information category.

I’ve given considerable thought to teaching them the US capitals, and the times tables, and how to write a check, and of means times, and not to launder red shirts with white underwear, and never end a sentence with a preposition, and don’t spend what you don’t have, and even distance equals rate times time; but I guess it never occurred to me to tell them where they were born.

I wonder what other critical gaps exist in their education. . .?

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