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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

2011 August 13
by Pamela

I’ve done a horrible job of chronicling our lives so far this summer.  The truth is that it’s been a tough time for us.  We left our church home.  I had been there for 16 years and 8 years with Bob.  There is a lot I’d like to write about this experience frankly, but a blog isn’t an appropriate spot.  And since I couldn’t write through the pain, I haven’t written at all.

But!  But great things have been happening this summer too.  I’ll just do a quick How I Spent My Summer Vacation So Far and we can always go into more depth later. 

For starters, I learned to make the perfect iced coffee.  I know!!  My life is off the charts with excitement!  But if you love an iced coffee as I do but could never quite get it right, you are going to try this super simple recipe and then send me roses (I like yellow ones a lot).  And as an added bonus I will save you a half mile of walking around Meijer by telling you now that cheesecloth is in the paint aisle. 

Here’s the delicious iced coffee recipe from the Grand Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond.  Of course, I’m pretending to do weight watchers so I use skim milk and no sugar, but if you aren’t still 16 lbs. overweight you should TOTALLY try the sweetened condensed milk because it will make you weep for joy.

I also spent lots of time smooching the cheeks of the Happiest Baby on the Block, Miss Lydia.

We went to the Henry Ford and waited for more hours than it took me to deliver my kids to see the Emanicipation Proclamation:

(We are still smiling because we hadn’t been inside to see the line yet).

We also went camping.  And slept in a tent.  Yes, I did. 

 

And we got to watch fireworks several times over the 4th of July holiday.

Why yes, I did make us all dress in coordinating outfits.  Lydia wasn’t too thrilled with hers I guess.

But here she is again, true to form:

And finally, I fell in love with fiber-rich treats.  Namely the WhoNu?  wannabe oreos.

There’s still the rest of August and more fun to be had!  I’ll try to do a better job writing about it.

 

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Timeline

2011 June 18
by Pamela

MC:  What came first, Moses or the Emancipation Proclamation (pronounced more like “manpipchumpoplimnation”)?

Me:  Moses

MC:  What about dinosaurs?  Did they come before the Emancipation Proclamation?

Me:  Yes

MC:  What about Daddy? 

Me:  What about Daddy?

MC:  I know he came before the Emancipation Proclamation but was he born before the dinosaurs?  Wait, he couldn’t have been born before the dinosaurs because he would have told me all about them.  But I think he might have known Moses.

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To Mary Claire, Our First Grader

2011 June 10
by Pamela

Dear Mary Claire –

Today you finished taking the SAT, a 90 page (!!)  test you worked on over the course of three days.  You are too young to get nervous about tests and even though you didn’t complain or whine about it once, we could see how exhausted you were at the end of each day.   But you were so motivated to get the test done because it would make you an “official 1st grader”.   It helped that you would become “official” as soon as you finished the test and your chief friend/rival Megan wouldn’t finish kindergarten for another week.   I wonder if that rivalry isn’t what propelled you to try so hard.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud Daddy and I are of you.  You have worked so hard this year.  Some of your subjects, like Math, came naturally to you.  But others, like Phonics, you really had to diligently practice.  Hearing you read still makes me teary-eyed.  And to know you are reading at a beginning 1st grade level when you weren’t even scheduled to start kindergarten this year is such an accomplishment for you.  I have really seen a depth of spirit and determination in you to persevere when the learning was difficult and I am so pleased to see a vision of the person you are becoming.  At the beginning of the school year you were so easily defeated and ready to quit.  But now I can see you digging within yourself to muster whatever it takes to complete your work. 

So much of kindergarten was about introducing topics and experiences to you.  We know that some of it won’t stick with you for long, but we loved opening the world up to you in ways and getting to see through your brand new eyes.  I have two regrets about this year and one is that I wish that I could have given you a broader range of opportunities.  Being pregnant hindered my energy and made things like, oh leaving the house, seem insurmountable.  I also know that I wasn’t always as patient and understanding as I want to be with you.  Thankfully I will have next school year to work on both, God willing.

Since this journey will mostly be long-gone in your memory by the time you can read and understand this, I wanted to remind you of some of the things we did together.

You completed 165 lessons in Math and scored 93% in your Math assessment.  You learned to write your letters and to count to 100.  Here is your handwriting at the beginning of the year:

You memorized seven Bible verses and the sign language to one of them.  We also read through the Jesus Storybook Bible once and are half way through with a more in-depth children’s Bible now.

You took some great classes at co-op, including Math and Literature Connection, Hands-On Science, Art, and Physical Education. 

You performed in front of an audience as the planet Uranus, signed John 3:16, and sang in the children’s choir for Christmas. 

We spent lots of time at park days with our homeschool support group and had tons of playdates and outings with friends.

You had a field trip at Mancino’s Pizza Parlor where you got to tour an industrial kitchen and make your own pizza.  We also went to Greenfield Village with the co-op and had special holiday parties.

You saw a real reindeer at the Plymouth Ice Festival, picked pumpkins at the apple orchard, toured the Wyandotte Historical Museum, and rode a horse and fed goats at a farm. 

We also went to the park to do nature studies, grew butterflies, sprouted beans and planted them, and you grew your very first garden with the help of your Bachi:

I read 17 fantastic chapter books with you, with topics covering Johnny Appleseed, to the Egyptian pyramids, to the hiding and protection of Jewish children during World War II.  You read five books to us, three of them chapter books:  The Red Hat, The Tug, Up the Hill, Sing Song Sid, and your very first book “A Pig in a Rig”.

You saw three plays this year, two of them with your Grandma.  You also saw your first ice show.

But as much as this post is about what you learned and experienced this year, I think I learned as much as you did.  Although your education was academic, mine was mostly spiritual.  So much of what I learned was about God’s grace, how He can carry us and equip us to do what we never knew possible.  Thank you for letting me learn beside you.  Thank you for believing in me when I wasn’t entirely able to believe in myself.  I so appreciate the way you just assumed I knew what I was doing.  Your trust in me really pushed me to rise up to your belief in me. 

Daddy and I love you so much and are so proud of our 1st grader.  You did it!

Photo by Michele Maloney Photography

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This Is Only A Test

2011 June 8
by Pamela

Today Mary Claire started taking the SATs, a standardized test administered by a proctor to determine where she is academically. 

Today I was finally able to start breathing normally, without the weight that had been residing in my chest about the test for weeks.

There is a lot of debate about testing in general, both with homeschoolers and school children.  But for us, we believe testing is important for several reasons.  One, we want our girls to learn to take tests.  The one criticism I have about the homeschool students I was in college with is that they all seemed unnaturally anxious to take tests, which I gather is because they never had to take them.  We like the idea of our girls taking standardized tests once a year so they won’t be freaked out when they have to take the ACT to get into college.  And there is no better way to learn test-taking skills than by taking a test.

Another reason we wanted to start testing now is because we know there are no guarantees in life.  Although we like homeschooling and plan to do it again next year provided she scores well, we know how fragile our lives are.  On any given day our path could change and the girls might need to go into a school environment.  We want to be sure that they are on par with their peers academically. 

Finally, this is my job.  Just like I had yearly performance reviews, it’s important for me to know how I am doing with Mary Claire.  Are my curriculum choices working?  Do I need to make tweaks to strengthen her in certain areas?  I am still learning what her strengths and weaknesses are and an objective test will give me another view into what may become a future path in her life. 

Since our primary goal is for her to know, love, and follow God, we see testing as an opportunity to learn more about her and help her to learn more about what He has planned for her life.  In kindergarten?!  you might be asking?  Well I don’t think He’s going to reveal His exact path for her now, but I do see how my strengths were revealed pretty early.  It’s just that no one was really there to nurture them specifically.  So I floundered around for years, wasting loads of time and money only to graduate with a business degree.  Then I ended up writing for a non-profit, both of which were my true passions.  I’d like to help our girls circumvent some of that wandering in the wilderness if possible.

But for all the benefits we saw in testing, I was still a mess about it.  A Mess!  Mary Claire wasn’t due to start kindergarten this year, but three of her four friends were starting and she wanted to as well.  We were interested in homeschooling but weren’t sure if it was feasible for us.  So in a lot of ways this whole year was an experiment.  But we have loved it.  I have loved it, which is such a crazy idea to me even now.  If she doesn’t score well, we are going to put her into school next year.  And although I can hardly believe it, the idea makes me weepy.  Not because school is some awful and horrible place.  It makes me sad because we have had such a wonderful journey together and I don’t want it to end.

So that was a big part of the weight on my chest.  The other part is that we have worked hard.  Very hard.  In all respects I started a new career this year.  She did as well.  We learned and grew so much, academically and as people.  I have grown spiritually by relying on God to do something that I knew I couldn’t do.  I got strength, patience, and perseverence that I KNOW didn’t come from me. 

We worked hard, put in a lot of effort, time, money, and heart into this school year.  And more than anything I wanted the SAT to show that.  I wanted the SAT to say, “Wow, you three had no idea what you were doing, but WOW, you DID IT!  Great Job Wright Family!” 

I think that’s an exact score you can earn on the SAT, right?

So I called friends, prayed, fretted, gave it to God, took it back to worry some more, called more friends, asked for prayer, prayed some more, and then I had a revelation.

We have worked HARD.  We put a lot of effort, time, money, and heart into this school year.  It doesn’t matter what the SAT score says.  The test can’t take our hard work away.  It can’t take away the memories we will always have of this year.  Regardless of the score, it won’t change that we taught our daughter to read.  It can’t take away the patience and perseverence I’ve developed as a person and it can’t take away the academic, emotional, and spiritual growth from Mary Claire either.

In the end, it is only a test.  But this life?  Not a test.

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The Benefits of a Homeschool Co-Op

2011 June 7
by Pamela

Be forewarned, my mind is bending from all the pressure of finishing our first year of homeschooling.  There will likely be lots of posts about the subject to follow.

We decided it would be a good idea to join a homeschool co-op as we entered into this little adventure.  Why now, I don’t really remember.  Maybe we thought it would broaden Mary Claire’s horizons or something. 

As you can tell, it was a carefully thought-out decision.

But we just finished our first year with the group, Downriver Christian Co-Op, and there were some real benefits to our membership.  A homeschool co-op is a group of families who gather together to teach classes and have special outings or events for their kids.  The classes are taught by parents and volunteers.  Our group was very organized and well-run, thanks to Susie, Dawn, and Mickey along with their husbands who serve on the leadership team.  I thought I’d share some of the things we liked about our group.

1.  Being the reluctant homeschooler I was, my main concern about home education was that Mary Claire was going to miss out on all the fun things about school.  I wasn’t as worried about the academics as I was the memories.  I wanted her to be able to have a lunch box.  I know, stupid.  But remember how exciting it was to get your school supplies and lunch box every year?  I also wanted her to be able to have class parties, field trips, and special events so she’d have those memories.  With a co-op, she got the experience of eating lunch with friends, carrying a backpack to various classes, and going on different outings.

2.  Mary Claire got a sense of what a traditional school looks like.  There are no certainties in this life and at any moment we might need to put her into a regular school setting.  For one day a week she had to sit still for an entire hour, move to her next class when the bell rang, raise her hand and wait to be called on by her teachers, be responsible with her books and homework, and interact with different teachers. 

3.  She was exposed to some great women this year.  Her teachers were all excellent and worked hard to prepare fantastic, interesting, educational, and fun lessons for her classes.

4.  My circle has become pretty small.  The people in my life now are mostly here by my choosing.  It was a great growing experience to work alongside women and men who started out as strangers.  It’s something you do and take for granted when you work for pay, but it really felt like starting a new job in some ways.

5.  Being part of a co-op gives you ample opportunity to meet others in a similar situation as you, but who also do things differently.  It would have never occured to me to grow earth worms as part of a science curriculum, but I got the idea from another mom there (thanks Megan!).  Nearly all of the curriculum I chose for 1st grade came as suggestions from other moms (especially Danese, thanks girl!).  Bottom line, it broadens your own horizons. 

6.  Mary Claire got to do some fun and educational things that I probably wouldn’t have thought of or had the uumph to do on my own.  She did hands on science projects with magnets, grew butterflies, practiced measuring by baking cookies, learned a proper push up, made great art projects, learned the life cycle of plants while planting flowers, and learned the different coins and their values while playing store. 

7.  If you work in your children’s classrooms, it is a good way to assess how they are doing academically and socially compared to their peers.  It gives you something like a window, enabling you to see them with a wider viewpoint than the myopic one we (I) often have at home.

Next up I’m going to write about the single biggest hot button regarding homeschooling:  socialization!  I know, this blog is getting so scandalous.

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The Tipping Point

2011 June 6
by Pamela

This week marks Elizabeth’s 2 years and 9 months on the Earth.  I will resist the urge to make jokes about how both of us have lived that long to tell about it. 

2 years and 9 months have been a mark I’ve been waiting for because it’s what I consider my tipping point.  I worked outside the home until Mary Claire was, you guessed it, 2 years and 9 months old.  I’ve now been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM, my official title) for as long as I was a work-outside-the-home-mom (WOHM, a title that paid far better).

So I’m about to dive into territory that is ridden with landmines.  Please hear me out and know I am writing, as always, from my own personal experience.

The debate between SAHM and WOHM’s has been heated in the past, present, and future.  Both sides are adamant about the choices they’ve made, defend them vehemently, and can be pretty harsh towards the other camp.  The bottom line, as I’ve always perceived it at least, is that good moms work extremely hard and want to be validated for it.  And no matter what camp you’re in, there is sometimes guilt and regret that reside there as well. 

But since I’ve been a part of each group, I can say definitely that being a WOHM is harder than a SAHM for me.

Back then I had a really good job in a very family-friendly environment.  I got nearly 6 weeks off a year and no one thought less of a colleague for calling off sick for a kid’s doctor’s appointment or field trip.  When I worked, Mary Claire was at home with my husband or my mom.  She never went to daycare because of my Mom’s enormous sacrifice.  We also rarely paid for childcare.

But I still think it was harder when I had to work.

The reason for me is that I was always a divided person and that conflict left me never feeling completely fulfilled anywhere.  I felt a lot of guilt and loss leaving for work everyday and whenever I called home and heard Mary Claire’s voice in the background, there was a part of me that felt I had forfeited my parenting role for a paycheck.  My time at home was often spent getting ready for work the next day or week even though I was pretty organized at the time. 

Plus there was no time to do anything fulfilling on a personal level.  I already felt guilty for being gone 50 hours a week, so I certainly wasn’t going to take a cooking class or start a blog in my free time.  I remember one Sunday, sitting in church and looking over at two women who had been coming to our services for some time.  I thought they seemed like such great women, people I’d love to be friends with if I only had time to nurture friendships.  Which, of course, I didn’t.

Fast forward five years and I’m now the SAHM to three children.  I spend my days changing diaper upon diaper, nursing, doing dishes, breaking up fights, and picking umpteen pairs of shoes up all over the house.  Not to mention the toys strewn everywhere.  Oh and I homeschool Mary Claire, arrange for their playdates, host half the neighborhood on a daily basis, run them to their various classes and activities, give them baths, make three meals a day and a few snacks, grocery shop, mop floors, empty the dishwasher, oversee chores, and try to maintain some semblance of order. 

Did I mention that I don’t get a paycheck anymore? 

But for me, being a SAHM to our three girls is still easier than being a WOHM to one.   My family loves me and wants me here, which is more than I can say for any former boss I had, as wonderful as they were.    There is no performance evaluation, no quotas I have to make each quarter.  There is very little that HAS to get done today.  I’ll admit that on most days my tasks are not nearly as intellectually fulfilling as my previous work.  But I am able to carve out some time for myself everyday to read, write, and have conversations with people I love and that fills the intellectual and emotional gap.  Plus I truly like my family and enjoy spending time with them.  Our girls fascinate me and although I’m often depleted, I think I’m able to give more to Bob than I was able to previously.  I serve our community more than I did before and have deeper relationships with friends and neighbors. 

Maybe the best thing of all?  I can take a nap during the day.

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Our Life in a Nutshell

2011 June 2
by Pamela

Mary Claire is trying to figure out Bob’s work schedule, since he works a rotating schedule of 24 hour shifts with some days off:

MC:  Daddy’s pattern is that he works, works, works, works, off, off, works, off, off, off, works, works, works, works, works.

Me:  What’s my pattern?

MC:  You work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, and work!

Me, laughing and feeling very validated:  What’s Lizzie’s pattern?

MC:  Lizzie makes a mess, gets in trouble, makes a mess, gets in trouble, makes a mess, then gets in trouble some more!

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Stranger Danger

2011 May 23
by Pamela

Yet ANOTHER new girl moved onto our block.  We live in an exclusive gated community that only allows families with girls to move in, apparently.

Tonight half the block was in our backyard when the new girl announced a game for the evening:  Stranger Danger.  I don’t know if this is something they teach in schools now or if she just made it up herself, but I thought it was brilliant.

One person is the “stranger” and they have to entice another kid to try and get in their make-believe car.  They were using the typical stuff, like “I just lost my puppy, can you help me find him?” or “Do you want to go and get some candy with me?” kind of thing.  At some point (this part gets murky which makes me think she made the game up herself) they all start running around like crazy and screaming until someone else somehow becomes the “stranger”.

After awhile I went out and threw in some new ideas that a stranger might use to get them into their car or to get them close enough to physically pull them into a vehicle.  They played Stranger Danger for almost a half hour straight. 

I think this is a great way for the idea of safety to stay present in their minds and I wanted to pass it along to anyone else who wants to reinforce the idea in a fun and engaging way.

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Mary Had A Little Lamb

2011 May 19
by Pamela

I know, my cheesiest title yet.  But I couldn’t resist.

My friend Colleen works at Real Life Day Camp and Farm.  Every year they host a fundraising event to raise money for children to attend summer camp there.  This is the second year we’ve been able to attend and it’s a wonderful event.  This year we joined up with lots of friends, like the Chaseys, Heims, and Julie.  Mary Claire got to ride a horse, hold a lamb and bunny, and feed piglets:

Elizabeth?  We kept her locked up in a miniature castle:

Just kidding.  But playing in that thing was virtually all she was interested in the whole day.  At one point we were all ready to eat lunch.  The Chaseys had been patiently waiting for our kids to finish up and we were all hungry.  But of course Elizabeth refused to come out of this thing so Bob had to go in and remove her by force.  Minutes passed and I was getting more and more embarrassed about everyone waiting around for us.  So I went into it and asked Bob to hurry up already.  What I didn’t know is that Elizabeth had gotten stuck at the top and he had to climb the littlest and most unsteady ladder ever to get her down.

That’s what daddy’s are for, all that rescuing business.

She was mildly interested in some of the animals when she wasn’t running around acting like one herself:

And look!  They all stood still for 20 split seconds!

This is my favorite photo of the day.  “MILK!  It just squirted out Mom!!  Did you SEE that?!”

Thankfully, unlike the chicken breast issue, she hasn’t equated that the milk she just squirted into that metal bucket is what she pours over her mini wheats.

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Success!

2011 May 15
by Pamela

Yesterday was our scheduled day for the garage sale we were doing to benefit the Prescott adoption fund.  The weather was supposed to be bad.  Rain all day.  But we were so grateful for what turned out to be great weather.  We had tons of traffic, tons of help, and tons of stuff!

All in all we made $835!  Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on this sale!  It took a village, but we did it!

If you still have things that you would be willing to donate, another life group at our church has offered to host a sale coming up in June.  When I have the details, I will post them.

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