Thursday, August 26, 2010

I have so much to do, I think I'll just sit here a little longer!

It seems nothing motivates me to blog more than having a veritable ton of things to do and a rapidly diminishing amount of time in which to do them.

I have to make sure the entire downstairs is company-ready (and not just any company but Boss company), plan my errands for tomorrow, grocery shop, make myself look charming and lovely and prepare a meal for nine all by 6:00 tomorrow! I think I'll blog!

Oh, yes, and I must finalize all of my curricula choices and get it all ordered!

For, lo, we are indeed home schooling. Now, is it two words: home schooling? Or is it one word: homeschooling? Very few of my spell-checkers recognize it as a single word. I was just wonderin'.

School is supposed to start in little less than two weeks (yes, we can start a day or two later because I am now in charge, but don't let me hear that) and I have yet to order anything. I've been researching!

I have been able to decide that I want to lean more toward a Classical Christian approach so we are doing Latin, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Penmanship, History, Math, Science, Geography, Art and Music, all with a strong emphasis on Literature. That sounds like a lot but the Grammar, Spelling, Writing and Penmanship will really be kind of rolled together.

We're doing Prima Latina, Shurley English, Veritas Press History, Apologia Science, Handwriting Without Tears for Penmanship and various books for Writing, Geography and Art. I'm handling Music myself (the one area in which I feel rather confident). I'm pretty sure we'll be doing Math-U-See for Math, but I have a few people I need to consult before I decide. And I could really use something a little more structured for Spelling and Writing that isn't so darned expensive and doesn't require 10+ hours of preparation on my part (I'm looking at you, Institute for Excellence in Writing and Spell to Read and Write)! Maybe I'll check ebay...

Anyway, just when I feel I've got things pretty well under control, I think of a whole new slew of things I need to buy or prepare and I think this will never work. And just when I'm ready to throw in the towel, I see a glimmer of hope, or remember some wonderful book or method I can use that the public school would never!

Case in point, I was all set with a certain method for teaching Geography using songs. This method is wildly popular and is very highly recommended. And as the only Geography I can recall is from silly songs I learned as a child and teenager and as Man-Cub has such a great ear and knack for rhythms and memorization, I was all gung-ho on the idea of teaching him through songs.

And then I listened to some of the "songs" in the method.

And my musical background and training suddenly became a hindrance.

There is no question that these songs are a powerful memorization tool. I believe everyone who has said it worked wonders for them. But as a musician, a classically trained musician, I just could not bring myself to buy the CDs or inflict them on myself or my son.

It's true, I'm a snob.

So, bewildered and frustrated, I began to look around online for alternatives.

You'll never guess what I found and I'm SO EXCITED!!!

Don't you see? It's BRILLIANT! I know the quality of the video isn't all that great but the only good one I could find had a rude gesture as a logo in the bottom corner so I couldn't share it.

But wait, there's more:

HA! I'm going to use Animaniacs, of all things, to teach Man-Cub geography! Now, keep your hair on, I'm going to get him a few good maps and geography books, too! But I think Yakko and Wakko will be very effective tools for my nine-year-old boy.

I think I'm more excited about this than anything else...

Okay, this and The Time Chart History of The World I'm ordering. I can't WAIT to look at that thing, it's supposed to be stupendous!

Right, well, I must go mop and sweep and dust and write lists.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cooking as Therapy

When I was just a lass I encountered a book with just such a title. It fascinated me, probably because I was getting married in a few months and was painfully aware of my complete and utter lack of cooking skills (case in point: at my bridal shower, my uncle gave The Viking a gift of a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter so he wouldn't starve), so I picked it up and read through it. I got a few good recipes out of it which I have since forgotten, but the title stayed with me.

I seem to be indulging in some therapeutic cooking lately. Actually, I've been turning to food to alleviate stress, but the term, "therapeutic cooking," sounds so much more legitimate and respectable, no?

The question of what to do for Man-Cub's schooling in just a few short weeks is tearing ceaselessly around my mind like a rabid squirrel on meth. I cannot. stop. gnawing. It's the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep. It's there in the shower, elsewhere in the bathroom, in the car, while I'm folding laundry, when I'm cooking dinner (which is NOT therapeutic cooking but obligatory cooking and there is a big difference).

I don't think I'm violating Philippians 4:6. I'm not anxious, really. I do trust that God has a perfect plan for Man-Cub. I am perfectly fine with him going to the public school if that is where God wants him, honestly.

I think I'm just making my requests known to God by prayer and supplication. With thanksgiving! I realize I am blessed to have any options open to me. I realize I am blessed merely to have any child, especially this child, this child for whom I fought so hard and suffered so much, to educate. I'm blessed to have a school provided by my government in the first place. I'm blessed to live in a town, district, state and country where my child does not have to pass through a war zone, drug-infested neighborhood or gang territory to get to that school. I'm blessed that I have the freedom to choose to home school if I want to, that I have the intelligence, education and ability to do so.

I am thankful for all those things and so I am thankful for this dilemma.

But I know there is something required of me. I can't just stand here, wringing my hands and praying for God do something. I have time constraints and budget limits and have to make some kind of decision. And soon.

It has always been a desire of mine and The Viking's to be good stewards of what God has given us. And in spite of all we've learned and all God has given us, it has been a challenge. We live frugally and do everything we can think of to use our money wisely, but we still seem to run up a smallish amount of credit card debt every few years or so. And, the older the children get and the tighter the economy gets, things get more and more out of whack.

We are running a credit card balance right now. And we hate it. We don't think it's an example of good stewardship. I can't help but wonder if that isn't the reason God answered, "No," to the question of private school this year. What business do we have asking God for more money for private school when we have unpaid debts? I feel strongly now that we should concentrate on getting the debt paid off before we take on any other financial commitments.

Once private school fell through, I felt peace about it all. I decided I would continue to look for a job so we could pay off our debt and then see about putting my income toward school once the debt was gone. It seemed to be a wise and practical thing to do.

Then the idea of homeschooling popped up. Now, I know there are costs involved (I've been pricing curricula lately), but it's a lot more affordable than private school. It costs a fraction of what private school does. BUT...if I'm home schooling, I can't be working outside of the house and we won't be able to knock our debt out as quickly as we'd like.

So, do I put Man-Cub back in public school and continue to look for a job with the purpose of putting all of my income into paying off our debt and then saving up for school once the debt is paid? Or do I commit to spending my days educating Man-Cub at home, knowing the debt will be paid off, though it will take a lot longer to do so?

Of course, I could put Man-Cub back in school and not find a job and be frustrated all year thinking I could have just been home schooling him anyway. Or, I could, perhaps, find a job the schedule of which I can work around to home school...

And I have to have this decision made sometime in the next three weeks.

This is why I think I've been turning to therapeutic cooking.

Last night, I saw the remains of a quart of blueberries sitting on the counter. The thought occurred to me that if I didn't use them soon, they would go bad. Apparently, sprinkling handfuls of them on my yogurt in the morning hasn't been using them up enough.

The first thing that popped into my head was lemon-blueberry scones. I made them once before and they were wonderful! Dinner was already in the oven so I said to the kids, thinking I'd be hailed the best mom ever, "How do lemon-blueberry scones sound?" They both jumped up for a split-second and then pouted, "Yay--wait! Can't you just make lemon scones and leave the blueberry out?"

"But...I have to use up the blueberries, that's the whole point!"

"No! We want lemon! With lemon GLAZE!"

So I did it. I had one lemon left to juice and zest so I mixed 'em up, glazed 'em good and boy! were they yummy!

I felt like Amelia Bedelia, especially since I just adapted my own (which is actually my sister, Lobelia's) recipe and I can almost never do that.

Then, today, I still had those pesky blueberries sitting on the counter so I decided to make blueberry pancakes for lunch. If I had been able to find my camera, I would have taken pictures to share.

Light, fluffy, golden, with plump bursts of sweet, soft blueberry goodness scattered throughout...they were the best I've ever had! They would be perfect with ice cream! Or maybe left to get stale, then broken up with custard poured over top and baked like a blueberry bread/pancake pudding, or even broken up with cream poured over top!

When I cook like that I feel like I'm accomplishing something, like I'm doing something good for my family, even if it's only fleeting. I feel like I'm taking a problem, a mess, a bunch of ingredients that are worthless on their own, and turning them into something wonderful, like solving a puzzle.

And when a few areas of my life seem to be unsolvable puzzles or untidyable (is that a word?) messes, whipping up something good to eat does me and my sould a world of good. Kind of like making the bed or folding the laundry.

I know that my dilemma will be answered, one way or another, in just a few short weeks. At least this uncertainty can't go on forever. And I am confident that God is in control. I just don't want to screw up my end of it, you know?

And all this therapeutic cooking cannot be good for my waistline!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Praying and Pondering

I can't promise this will be a very well-thought-out post.  I'm very much in the processing phase here so things may be a bit...disjointed.

We've been trying, since before the previous school year ended, to find an alternative to sending Man-Cub to our local public school.  It's a long story, but I don't want him there.  He isn't safe and the administration is completely untrustworthy.  I Do Not Want Him There.

So, we looked around, prayed a lot and chose a school that seemed to be presented to us by God Himself on a silver platter.

We were nervous, but trusting God to work out all the details.

And it all fell through.  I don't know why the process unfolded the way it did over the past few months, with all signs pointing toward yes and then getting a resounding NO at the very last minute, but I do know God is in control and He has reasons I do not need to understand, but just trust.

So now we are faced with sending Man-Cub back to that school we don't want him to go to.  And I am trying hard to trust that this is what God intends.  I am okay with it if that's the case, I just wish I could be sure.

For example, now the idea of home schooling has arisen in my mind.  And I can't help but think perhaps this is the direction God intends for us to move and He had to eliminate the option of private school because He knew I would not seriously consider home schooling any other way.


Perhaps He really does intend for Man-Cub to go back to the public school and to teach me that my trust in Him must outweigh my motherly fears and concerns.

Those gut feelings: are they friend or foe?  Are they nudgings of the Holy Spirit or my own feeble humanity getting in the way of God's plan?

I just wish I knew.

And now I am wondering about home schooling.  Can I do it?  Can I do it?  Without turning Man-Cub into a weirdo?  He's the kind of kid who needs to get used to being around other kids.  He tends to hole up and isolate himself, like me.  I know socialization is such a buzz-word, usually thrown around by people like me who are ignorant of the true ways of home schooling and afraid of what they don't know, but he truly does need it.  How do I provide that for him?

Do I have enough time, with only three weeks left, to get everything together and organized?  Am I biting off more than I can chew?  And should I take seriously the fact that a few people who know and love me have guffawed before they could stop themselves when I mentioned I was considering it?

I always said I would never home school my kids because they would be idiots if I did.  I even said that on this blog!  But, my mother has always said to be careful about what you tell God you won't do because God has a sense of humor and doesn't take kindly to being told what His limits are.

So, home schooling.  Where do I start?  What do I do first?  Is this crazy?  What supplies do I need?  Do I need a specially designated area in my house?  Do I have enough time to prepare?  The questions are endless!

I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I've had a request!  Will you look at that, someone does read this blog besides my sisters!  I'm all flustered now...

Anyway, there's been a request for the recipe for the successful sticky toffee pudding I once made long ago.

Have you had STP yet?  It's divine, truly.  It's my favorite dessert ever; if I go any place that happens to have it (and those places are, sadly, few and far between and often specializing in British or English cuisine) I simply have no choice but to get it.  And it was featured on a recent episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Anyway, here it is, the STP recipe that did NOT end in disaster!

Sticky Toffee Pudding
-1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-3/4 cup pitted dates
-1 1/4 cups boiling water
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup heavy cream

Toffee Sauce:
-1/2 cup unsalted butter
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 cup packed light brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put water on to boil.
3. Butter a 10-inch round or square baking dish.
4. Sift the flour and baking powder onto a sheet of waxed paper.
5. Chop the dates fine, then place in a small bowl and add the boiling water and baking soda.  Set aside.
6. In bowl of electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat until blended.
7. Gradually beat in the flour mixture then add the date mixture and fold until blended with a rubber spatula.  Pour into prepared baking dish.
8. Bake until pudding is set and firm on top, about 35 minutes.  Remove from oven to a wire rack.
(For Toffee Sauce:)
9. Combine the butter, heavy cream and brown sugar in a small heavy saucepan; heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil gently over medium-low heat until mixture is thickened, about 8 minutes.
10. Preheat broiler.  Spoon about 1/3 cup of the sauce over the pudding.  Spread evenly on top.  Place pudding under the broiler until the topping is bubbly, about 1 minute.
11. Serve immediately spooned into dessert bowls.  Drizzle with additional toffee sauce and heavy cream.

Oh me oh my.  I may just have to make some of this tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


There are many women out there who can walk into a room in their house, spot something a bit skew-whiff, and pull a perfectly clever, resourceful and inexpensive solution to the problem right out of their pretty, little, professionally coiffed heads.

These same women then simply cull through their vast and plentiful stores of craft and decorating supplies, gather the necessary items (often serendipitously finding an item or two they didn't even remember they had) and then get to work happily sprucing things up.

A few hours later, voila! the room is completely reborn! They feel accomplished, energized, proud of what they've created! And everyone who sees it raves at their skill, they can't believe they did it themselves! And so cheaply, too!

Apparently, I am not one of those women.

Today is one of those days I wish I had a lot of disposable income.

That's all I'm saying.