Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The MotherShip Home Schools

There is a new post on The MotherShip Home Schools. Don't forget to bookmark the new link, or click on the Home School tab at the top of my blog to check for updates.

Love you all,

The MotherShip

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Junk Mail

I'm not great at decorating my house for holidays other than Christmas. I have some stuff, not a lot, but enough to show that I realize it is February 14th or July 4th. When we were newlyweds, I decorated for every holiday. Now that the children are old enough to be excited by shamrock shaped window clings and miniature graveyard scenes, my home is void of the holiday tokens.

The Pottery Barn catalog came today. Oh, it is an evil temptress. I cannot afford anything it's beautiful pages offer, but several of the designer's ideas can be mimicked. In other words, I devour it's glossy pictures for inspiration. This new catalog offered some great inspiration for Thanksgiving.
I may have to learn how to quilt . . .

and work bark chips . . .
and work the clay . . .

and move to a part of the country that has acorns. . .

Oh, I need more life!

Maybe I'll just get out my chipped resin turkey and have the kids make a project out of beans and popcorn kernels like I usually do.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Things I Do Not Want in the Someday House

  • A master bedroom with a seating area. It would just gather clothes to be folded.
  • Stainless steel in the kitchen. Two words: blow fish.
  • Laminate flooring = built between 1998 and 2011. I'd rather go with a high quality vinyl.
  • A kitchen table and a dining room. Redundant.
  • Jetted tub. I'd rather have a deep soaker, plus, it's hard to get into the jets and they get moldy fast. I only like mold on my shower doors.
  • Shower doors.
  • Pedestal sinks. They have no storage and no place to set the soap.
  • Garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. It seems like they are either broken or they stink.
  • Large bedrooms. Let's put space in the living areas of the house, rather than the sleeping areas.
  • Faux stone--let me qualify that--cheap faux stone. It's like a bad toupee: we can all tell.
  • Granite countertops. Holy smoke, have you priced that stuff? Whew! I'll get another trivet.
  • Windows that reach the floor. I had those once. Five children produce a lot of mucus.
  • Humongous closets. If I have enough stuff to fill this baby, I need to get rid of some stuff.
  • Cupboards with glass panes. Do I really need the constant reminder that I am a disaster?
  • Open floor plan. I simply must be able to close off the kitchen when someone arrives unexpectedly.
  • Any shelving without doors below four feet. Imagine: cook books all over the floor, pots and pans concerts during the busy dinner prep, lovely and delicately bottled vinegars, oils and dressings scooped out of their homes and replaced with Polly Pockets, Winnie the Pooh, and muddy trucks.
  • White grout. Actually, I'm thinking about eliminating floors altogether. I haven't quite worked out how that could happen, but cleaning floors is certainly a job I could live without.

Now, don't you worry. The money I've saved on the above items has a happy home in built-in book shelves, custom hinges and extra burners. Sometimes, though, it helps to organize my needs and wants lists when I also have a no thank you list.

What's on your no thank you list?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teaching Resource, An Announcement

A little something has been brewing in my gray matter for the past several days. Any teacher knows that there is a lot of study that goes on behind the scenes. The teacher must have a firm grasp on any subject she is hoping to teach or she will simply confound the students and halt any promise of progression. In my role as home schooling mother, I have to study a broad range of topics, fact check and then organize the material in order to hand my children the information with first at the beginning and last at the end. I've decided to lend you my notes.

Introducing, The MotherShip Home Schools. Remember, Whether you are supplementing your child's classroom education, or are primarily schooling your children at home, we are all home schoolers. This blog offers simple ideas to help teach complex intellection.

It will take some time to fill up my archives there, but if you are patient, you are sure to get something helpful!

You will notice that, though Mother Ship is usually two words, I've made it one. For blogging purposes, the word is MotherShip. It's kind of like McKee or LeRoy. So that's that. However, the homeschool/home school question has been plaguing me for some time and I recently found this article that helped. While the English language seems to be morphing on the subject, I will stick to keeping the approach in question two words: home school, home schooled, home schooler, etc. Maybe it will become HomeSchool in a couple of years until the transformation becomes complete. I predict that in 2013 I will begin writing homeschool. . .

unless the Mayans are right and we're all outta here.

Anyway, please visit my newest endeavor. It is, after all, academia from the kitchen table.

Wise Counsel

This is beautiful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grandma's Care Package

Dear Grandma,

I love you and have sooo much fun with the little gifts you send. Mom says to ask you to please never send markers again. I have no idea why.

The Sneaky Three Year Old

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogging Etiquette

Just a word to those who tend to be rude when they think the insulted don't know (known in speaking circles as talking behind someone's back):

When a person leaves a comment on another's blog post, that same person will often check back later to see if the blogger responded to their comment (which they often do). And when that person checks the comments, they will see your rude comment, as well as all of the others.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Thank you.
PS Also, an internet reminder: you are not always anonymous.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Homestead Act of 2009

I have the answer for which you were searching!

There are serious housing problems in cities like Detroit and Cleveland. There are whole neighborhoods and large swaths of a zip code that are abandoned. The previous homeowners foreclosed or kicked the bucket or something tragic and the houses are not selling. Many of the neighborhoods have now been empty for years, since the market hit these areas harder than in other parts of the United States. Anyone who has owned a home knows how much upkeep a house needs. Constant repairing of the drippy faucet, nailing down the wind-blown roof shingle, removal of a downed tree, and fresh paint to protect the siding are necessary to keep the house's value. These empty houses are falling into accelerating disrepair.

Crime is on the rise, abandoned pets are becoming vicious packs of dogs, and the cities are finding themselves desperate to find a solution. I have it!


We will give you a home if you clean it, plant flowers, repair the broken parts, and live in it for a minimum of three years. We may even provide some of the means whereby you can do all that is necessary, but you must get permits and you must meet reasonable deadlines. After three years, sell it and keep the equity (which will likely be re-invested in another home).

I predict several things will happen: Home Depot will sell paint and screws, General Electric will produce more US made refrigerators, local contractors will install siding and new windows, cement workers will lay new sidewalks, and nurseries will sell bushes. Eventually, schools will re-open, children will need dentists and socks, local property tax revenue will increase, parks will get their new slide and there will be peace throughout the land.

Or maybe I'll just go do the dishes.

Call For Help

Here is an area where I need help. I know most of you have strategies for keeping your house clean. Fly Lady does her 15 minute thing and the empty-kitchen-sink-before-you-go-to-bed thing. One friend, also with five children, never goes to bed without putting in a load of laundry.
My strategies are precise, though admittedly less effective: When we are out of underwear, I wash them. When we are out of glasses, I start a load in the dishwasher. When I can't find something, I clean the room. I like to go barefoot so when stuff starts sticking to my feet, I sweep. Yes, I'm a very careful housekeeper. I'm sorry if I make you uncomfortable with my perfection. We've talked about this before and I hate to keep bringing it up, but sometimes we must do things we don't enjoy (like mopping).

The most recent cleaning pitfall I've come across is dirty dishes--more specifically not having dirty dishes. Every time I go in the kitchen to make a meal, I have to wash the dishes first. Thus, quick meal prep turns into long meal prep. The children are laying about on the floor in various stages of starvation and their moans and whines of "Mommy, I'm soooo hungry" needle into my tendency for compassion.

How do you do the dishes at your house? Do the children take turns? Do you all clean up at once? Do you . . . what?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sugar Booths

This morning our church had a carnival for the children. I think I'm screwing up pretty big. The first booth we visited was the cotton candy. The second was the candy treasure hunt. The third was the cupcake decorating and the fourth was the snow cone booth. After my children all of us were sticky, we visited the fishing, the bean bag toss, the hula hoop and the other booths.

One little girl was handing her mother her cotton candy with a, "I don't really like it." WHAT?? How can you not like cotton candy? Her mom looked up at me and said, "This is her first time trying it. We never get the kids cotton candy." I'm not sure how one lives a fulfilling life without cotton candy.

A few minutes later, another little girl was putting tootsie rolls into her mouth as fast as she could unwrap them. Her mother, wiping the sugar juice from her daughter's chin, explained, "You can tell I never let my children eat candy." Um, tootsie rolls is not candy, it is a food group. Ask Buddy the Elf.

At least mine ate their oatmeal for breakfast. Who's with me?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Kitchen Table

Our kitchen table is an old door, so it is very long. When I built it, we had two children. I could have ongoing sewing or scrapbooking projects at one end and meals at the other. Now, we have seven at the table which is almost full (unlike our van that we purchased at about the same time--it is full). I don't have a school room and don't ever plan on building one. I think (though I haven't fully evaluated it) that I don't believe in a separate room for school. Even an isolated desk in a child's room feels wrong to me--at least until that child is twelve or thirteen. Learning should be a family experience. How many times has a child been struggling with a word or a problem only to find a sibling at her side to give aid? When one person has a wonderment, the whole family can get in on the action. We consider opposing sides and offer arguments; founded opinions are formed the while. Mom is always near when you are at the kitchen table.

A library, that is, a genuine, no-talking, big dictionary, all-reading and writing room, is altogether different to me. The library provides a place for quiet study and pondering. I'm not sure that it is conducive to the learning style of young children.

Here at the kitchen table, we have had three weeks of school: school that is recognizable to the general public.

On one science day, we talked about the great painting masters. I showed them some paintings and described the beauty that I saw, then explained that the paint was made from crushed sea shells. The masters had to not only paint well, they had to make the paint (and the brushes).

So, we made paint. Carrots, food coloring, grass, berries, and dirt provided the pigment. Oil, glue and egg became the binder. We made a royal mess and had a great time. We've studied inertia, gravity, and force. We've learned the meaning of words like predicate and clause. We have integrated Yoga into our routine which seems to be helping the headache that I have been nursing for three weeks. I love having school at the kitchen table. The pods are learning that education is an all the time pursuit, not an in the right place, at the right time kind of thing.
But that's just me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Melting Ice Cream

One thing that needs work in our family is immediate obedience. My mom has a little saying she likes:


right away,

without delay.

It seems a little redundant to me; right away and without delay are the same, but it relays an important message.

Obedience is one of the key principles to a happy life. If one is obedient to rules [that make sense], fines are not imposed, addictions are not nursed, relationships are not injured, and honor is established. As the mothership, I make rules for a reason, which is sometimes far beyond my children's comprehension. I make a concerted effort to explain the reasons behind my rules (if you put your dirty clothes down the laundry chute as soon as you take them off, you will have laundered clothes and your room will remain tidy) and am okay with my people questioning rules . . . sometimes. Mostly, I just want them to DO IT and we'll discuss it later. I'm not raising drones, but do we really need to talk about why I've asked you to put yesterday's paper in the recycling? Some rules we've already discussed, but apparently need to talk about every time the situations arises (you must be twelve years old to ride in the front seat with an air bag--it's not just Mom's rule, it is the state's rule and I could get in a lot of trouble if you sit there when you are ten and a half--also you could die).

I would say we have general obedience in our home but it us rarely right away, without delay.

We had an object lesson tonight. You may use the idea if you wish. I had Dad leave the room and asked the children to gather around the table. I scooped up a beautiful, round ice cream cone and called Dad to the table. "Just a minute," filtered through the house. I turned the blow dryer on the ice cream cone. It began to drip.

"Honey, are you coming?" was followed by, "Yeah, let me just finish this one thing."

Again, I turned on the blow dryer. The ice cream began to melt in earnest. The children were up in arms. "What are you doing?!" and "Mom, it's MELTING!" came from exasperated faces.

"Daddy, will you come to the table, please?"

"Geez. I'm coming. Just a minute."

Blow dryer. After a bit of time, the ice cream was a nub of it's former glory. The cone sat in a puddle and the children were aghast.

Finally, "Will someone please go get your father?"

"What? I told you I was coming!" said my husband as he reluctantly entered, pulled along by our daughter.

"Dad, I had a beautiful ice cream cone for you. You may still have it because you did obey, but this is all that's left of it because you were so late."

Silence. Crickets. Mouths and eyes wide open. Was Mom serious?

Before the tears burst forth, I served up fresh cones for everyone and explained the need for quick obedience. I told them that last night, while I was sitting in my bed reading, I received a prompting to go check on the baby. I did. She had gotten out of bed, crawled up the stairs, opened the door and was standing on the front porch. It was after 10 o'clock. I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't obeyed right away, without delay.

What has (or hasn't) happened because you obeyed?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

To the Busy Bodies

There is a cartoon in today's Parade magazine that has two women sitting on park benches. The young woman holds a baby and has the overflowing diaper bag and bottle next to her on the bench. The older woman points at the young mother and declares, "Excuse me, miss. Do you realize that everything you're doing with that baby is totally wrong?"

I live next to that older woman.

The other day, my ten year old neighbor girl informed me that, "Mrs. Hansen said, 'Those Sanders' children are not very good children. They are too loud, screaming all the time, and Mrs. Sanders doesn't watch them enough.' "

I have several problems with that encounter. First, that Mrs. Hansen grumbled about me to a ten year old. This particular ten year old thinks she is twenty-two. She gets highlights in her hair, has her nails done regularly, has read Twilight and knows, well, everything. I am constantly reminding her that I am an adult, that she is not, and that I do not want her telling my children everything she "knows."

Second, that she grumbled about me to someone that wasn't me. Since when is talking behind my back improving my parenting?

Third, that she was so critical. She has told me numerous times that she also had five children. She, of all people, should know how difficult it is to "watch" this brood! I, unfortunately, do not have five sets of eyes and eight sets of hands. Someone must cook and launder and sweep and I know if Mrs. Hansen came over she would be appalled at my messy house.

Now, as for the screaming and noise, yes, we do a lot of that. Children are loud and mine are louder. I do not know why, exactly, that mine are louder than everyone else's, except to say that neither my husband nor myself are quiet people. There are a lot of us crammed into a small space. Remember, dear neighbor, that we are not on public assistance. If we were, we would be in a bigger home on a bigger lot and you would be complaining about how your taxes are paying for the care of my children.

Please be patient with me and my children. We are literally doing the best we can. The children are learning how to get along with the people of the world in the safe setting of their home. I am busy being refined (not the demure kind of refined, but the through-the-forge kind of refined) and could use a kind word now and then, rather than criticism.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Likening Literature

In Les Miserables, Cosette is found living with the despicable Thenardiers. There, where the Thenardier children get anything they want because of Fantine's sacrifice, Cosette has nothing. When Jean Valjean first sees her, she is playing with a small sword. Yes, a sword. She is wrapping it with rags and talking to it as though it were a doll. It is pitiful and heartbreaking.
My daughter's bicycle tire had a hole and needed to be replaced. I removed the tube (which retained a small amount of air, enough to keep it basically round) and left it on the grass while I finished the job. After a few moments, I cued in to the pretend play of my three year old. She was petting and talking to the bike tube.

"Oh, Mr. Bike, you should not do that!"
What? I listened in more closely to make sure I hadn't misheard her.

"Mr. Bike, that tickles!!"

Mr. Bike??

Of course, her hair was appropriately scraggly and her clothes were a mess. She wore no shoes and all of a sudden I knew; there was my poor Cosette, playing with a worn out bicycle tube.

There is a castle on a cloud, I like to go there in my sleep,

Wah, wah, wah! Get back to work!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

David Did Win

My people have a hard time sitting still and being quiet during church. We meet at 12:30 pm. This is a problem for many reasons: it is nap time, all subdued behavior of the morning hours has become the restless behavior of afternoon, and the building is hot. Not only are these factors adding up to a miserable bit of time, but then we ask the children to sit reverently and listen to the meeting.

Today, as I sat with my older children whispering and fidgeting, and my younger children crying and whining, a flood of thoughts entered my mind, I am completely failing. I must be a terrible mother to have raised such noisy, irreverent children. What am I doing wrong? I suck at this. I hate church, this sucks.

By the time we went our separate ways for classes, I was not in Church Mood. I was in Foul Mood. I was in slink-away-and-lick-my-wounds mood.

But, I went to class because that's what I do. Thank goodness for habit. It is the only thing that saves a swamped mother sometimes.

Our instructor asked us to imagine that we were going to be in a battle. With advance notice of a major battle, what would we do to prepare? She gave us several quiet moments to really think so I played along. What would I want? First, I would want a spy, intelligence. What is the enemy's strategy? How much and what kind of weaponry does he have? What are his weak places? How can I defend against or completely thwart his plan? Second, I'd need to protect my vital parts (head, torso) with strong armor. There are other things, but those are the first two that came to my mind.

The lesson continued to address the topic of preparing for, and fighting in, a great battle for our souls. The wily enemy is Satan. As I recognized the self-deprecating thoughts of earlier were deceitful messages from the enemy, I came to realize that I do have a spy. I have a perfect spy and if I will listen to the quiet promptings of the Spirit, I will not be led astray. Rather the opposite is true; I will be able to defend against or completely thwart the plan of the adversary. If I'd just looked outside of my own misery and woe, I would have noticed every other mother wrestling with her children in their impatient afternoon bodies. I was deceived.

This mom gig is tough. I must ask for, receive, and respond to the intelligence given.
And I must have on my armor at all times, lest I am caught unawares.

"At times it may seem like David trying to fight Goliath. But remember, David did win."
(David B. Haight, “Young Women—Real Guardians,” Ensign, Nov 1977, 56)

Friday, September 4, 2009

We Made It!

We made it to the end of the week. Each day the children had to finish their chores and their school work to get a sticker. If they got two stickers each day for the whole week (without missing one) they got to choose a prize. Oh, boy, did that ever work! I don't know if it always will, but for children who are not used to their mom saying things like, "You will have to finish that math page on your own time," and "School is starting in ten minutes and you won't get a sticker if your room isn't tidy," it worked like a charm. There was no passion behind my words, but there were always reminders that "you must vacuum" and "don't scribble it out, use your eraser." There was virtually no fighting and we got a lot accomplished. This afternoon we had play-doh and velvet pictures and happy, happy children. They did it; it was a big change and they did it. Now, Mom? Mom loved the new structured school time. There was peace in the house during that time; I did not answer the phone, I changed appointments so they wouldn't interfere, and I was prepared enough that school time was not stressful.

The rest of the day is another story. It will take some getting used to. School uses up a lot of time and mornings are usually my most productive time. The afternoons felt like a scramble to get all of my work done, phone calls returned, and books read. I will not get my book club book finished this month, for instance. Also, I am tired. The first time I had to work an eight hour shift, I thought I would die. It didn't take long before I could even work tens or twelves without too much trouble. I'm sure getting used to our new schedule will be sort of like that. By 8 pm, I have been a grumpy mess. I even used a swear the other day--something I NEVER do. Really, never. I'm very careful about my mouth, which shows how thin I was stretched.

Final assessment? School was great, but The Mothership did not do so hot at balancing the rest of her life. I will make a few minor changes (kids to bed earlier, require less of myself) in the coming weeks.

And, by the way, Project Runway is back. Yippee!!

How is school going for your family?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why Are They Always Nazis?

Today I read in the paper that the Tea Party goers were Nazis because they __________. A couple of days ago, I read that Obama was a Nazi because he ____________. Dick Cheney is a Nazi, Nancy Pelosi is a Nazi, Bush is Hitler, Clinton is Hitler, the old people and the young people and the gays and the Mormons are all Nazis--because they don't agree with those on the other side.

Really? Really, really, really? Aren't there any other bad guys they could make synonymous with the Democrats or the Republicans?

How about Stalin? He was arguably an even badder dude than Hitler. He killed way more Jews, homosexuals and guys that disagreed with him. Don't forget about the millions of Russians.

Then there's Alexander the Great. Great? Was he great? 'Cause it seems like he just destroyed his way through Europe and Asia and didn't care much how many people were in the towns he torched.

Next time you need to critique Hillary, how about comparing her to the Countess of Blood--you know the chic that liked to bathe in the blood of young virgins?

There is no shortage of pysychopathic bad guys. Jack the Ripper and Jeffrey Dahmer don't even hold a candle to Robespierre, Caligula, and Attila the Hun. They were so freaking wicked that you could use their names to describe Glenn Beck.

My point is that if you don't like a person or a belief they hold, let's see if we can't be more creative in our name calling. I'm just bored with the whole "Nazi" comparison. It was only an effective critique when Elaine used it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alternate Ending

When our three year old calls her grandma, they visit for a few minutes and then Gram usually sings her a few songs and tells her one or two stories. Please understand that my mother likes to use soft words and gentle lessons. Her fairy tales NEVER end with the step-sisters being boiled in oil, Goldilocks is not eaten by the bears, and true love's kiss always works.

Tonight my sweet daughter was telling me the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Actually, she was "reading" the story off the side of a raisin box to her doll and I was eavesdropping. She had every detail down pat from "Come, pick these lovely flowers to bring to your grandma" to "My, what big teeth you have!" My mother's style was sprinkled throughout the story. Grandma was not eaten by the wolf, she was put in the closet and the wolf "slammed the door shut!" Then the story began to take a twist. Papa, who usually takes the place of the woodsman who saves the day, comes to the door. "Then the wolf eated up Little Red Riding Hood."

"What?" I declare. "What did Papa do?"

She: "He said, 'Wolf? Did you eat Little Red Riding Hood?'"

Me: "What did the wolf say?"

She: "He said, "'Yes.'"

Me: "Then what did Papa do?"

She: "He said, 'Little Red Riding Hood, are you in there?'"

Me: "What? This is not the way the story goes."

She: Giggling. "Well, there was water in there so Little Red Riding Hood said, 'Yes I am.' Then Little Red Riding Hood changed into a little baby wolf."

I called Gram to make sure this wasn't her ending. Sure enough, in her version, Papa Woodsman saved them all and they sat down to a nice spread of tea and muffins.

My children all lack personality, creativity and imagination.