Monday, June 25, 2007

You've got charm (personality)

Here's a question I've been pondering as of late: what is the opposite of a Type A personality? I'd like to know, because it has come to my attention that whatever it is, I'm it.

We all know what a Type A personality is. A person who likes lists, plans, structure, schedules and a general adherence to order.

This is, largely speaking, not me. I can go with the flow almost indefinitely if left to my own devices. In His wisdom, the Lord provided me with a built-in balance in the form of my son Atticus, who thrives on a bit more predictability than I normally lean towards. This is a pleasant foil for my laid-back ways, and brings me to a nice, happy medium. In my own opinion, of course.

As of late I have been put in a position of trying to wrestle a shared idea into reality. In addition to a variance in vision, I'm seeing that the biggest hurdle is ...personality.

In other words, she is a Type A. And me? Well .... I'm whatever that opposite is.

I'm wondering if the idea will ever get off the ground. We have already rubbed each other the wrong way once. She's pushing for a formal meeting now, and I'm still feeling relational and well, laid-back. She's wanting an outline, and I'm wondering who'll be interested. She's talking dates and I'm talking flexibility. I'm chafing and she's frustrated.

If we can find some way to work together, we might just cook up something great. But I'm wondering if it would be worth the constant struggle. I don't see either of us changing. We just have too much personality.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ain't I a woman?

I wrote out a card for my mil this a.m. After years of struggles with fibroids and other horrors, the news has come down from on high (medically speaking, of course) that a hysterectomy is in order. She isn't taking it so well.

Not that I blame her. Even at age 60, my mil defines herself first and foremost as a mother. I don't wish to debate the Biblical accuracy of this kind of thing, and I'm not interested in a spirited conversation about how my mil's years in service to the greater educational good of countless kindergartners really entitles her to more in the self-esteem department. I'm just stating a fact. My mil sees herself as a woman and a mother, interchangeably and inseparably. A hysterectomy--the surgical removal of that which biologically made it possible for her to be be both things--is, for her, the ultimate blow.

I can relate to my mil's pain, if only on a very limited basis. In the past 17 months, my body's feminine functions have betrayed me time and time again. My hormones have dipped, rose and plummeted. My cycles have ebbed and flowed irregularly. Things that should work, don't. And things that shouldn't, do. There is a continuing sense of frustration on my behalf in all these things. Frustration that I can not, at 32, count on my body to perform the functions I could just 10 years ago. Frustration that I am far too young to be facing this kind of aging nonsense. And frustration that what I want just won't, won't, won't happen.


Like my mil, I have sought solace in a medical establishment that I admit to trusting less than 50% of the time. The fact of the matter is that I have no answers. The Lord does, clearly ... but He's not telling. I feel a responsibility to my overall health to do a little digging and very, very little tinkering. Tinkering, clearly, is God's department. This frustrates the doctor (I won't say "my doctor" because I chose her simply because she is the only female ob/gyn within comfortable driving distance, not because of any real connection), because she has at her control high powered drugs that could arm-wrestle my body into compliance with just a few rounds of injections and pill-popping.

And why not? Why not open the Pandora's Box? Why take the least-invasive route, why take the path that will only nudge my body's hormones and rhythms in the right direction when there is a simple method to shoving things back into order? Because I don't feel like it's what God would have me do, that's why. This makes me as desirable a patient as a leper, I can tell.

I'm going to call my mil later and see how she's doing. She told me years ago, when I first began dating her son, that she wasn't sure she was done having kids yet. She was 43--her oldest was 21, her youngest 12. I must have looked at her with some surprise--and probably more than a little condescension in my know-it-all 18 year-old eyes. She told me then that it wasn't so much having more children that meant so much; it was the fact that the possibility existed at all.

I know in her heart, despite the fact that she is 60 and biology has removed that possibility from her, she still feels this way. I know that she does because I finally understand what she was talking about. While I am not defined by my biology, while God created in me so much more than a set of processes to result in life and the propagation of the species ... I am still a woman. And knowing that that womanliness is betraying you, well, it's a bitter thing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Unexpected plans

Some days are not what you expect. Then again, some weeks are not what you expect, either.

I spent the weekend battling a particularly nasty bug that left me unable to journey more than the distance between my bed and the bathroom. This wouldn't have been fun under the best of circumstances, but factor in the homeschooling conference I was assisting at, my wedding anniversary and Father's Day and well, you see the difficulty.

My poor husband celebrated our anniversary by watching a DVD of Three Stooges shorts he'd gotten from the library. He wasn't exactly miserable (he's a fan of silly slapstick), but it wasn't how either of us had planned to commemorate eleven years together.

On Father's Day, he got the opportunity to show us all what kind of dad he really is. He came through with flying colors, of course: full breakfast served, kids bathed, groomed, dressed and trotted off to church, lunch prepared, dishes washed, sick momma checked on, Father's Day phone calls made, laundry washed and folded, dinner made, more dishes done ...

Sounds like a fun Father's Day, huh? By yesterday, I was recovered enough to start feeling really bad about how hard he'd worked on his "special day." I'll make it up to him, I thought.

Unfortunately, the plague that knocked me out for three days is now doing a number on Atticus. My other plans for this week, which included buying paint for the boys' room (finally!) and gathering up items for our garage renovation, have been completely shelved for the higher calling of reading many, many books on the couch and maintaining the lines of quarantine amongst the children. Never mind trying to whip up a special meal for my hubby or carving out romantic time for the two of us.

I don't know why I have to keep revisiting this particular lesson. I think I've got it down already. Plans were made to be broken. Expectations were made to be shattered. Let it go, Mary Grace.

And get on with it, already.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Have you ever received an unexpected gift that you didn't deserve?

Yesterday, an acquaintance at church who has stopped homeschooling passed on an entire box full of books and curriculum to me. There really aren't words to explain how this came just as I needed it, or how it humbled me, or how grateful I am.

In this box were at least six items that I will admit to having coveted over the years--little "extras" that I have never been able to justify in our very tight homeschooling budget. I had not even considered trying to fit them in to this fall's budget as we will be attempting to school three children on less money than we have previously used on two.

But here they were ... a geoboard, a state history workbook, a complete set of American Girl Lesson Plans, a very pricey logic program, a thinking skills primer, a set of posters for state studies. And more ... much more.

I won't be able to use everything in the box, so I'll be sharing it with the members of the small group we've formed here to provide support and encouragment. Many of these moms are on budgets every bit as tight as mine. This single box of cast-offs from one family will bless so many. What a wonderful gift.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Space Race

Sometimes I think that the main difference between homeschooling parents and those who choose to send their children to traditional schools is the overwhelming desire to facilitate the interests that our children have. I'm not saying that if you put your children on the big yellow bus every morning, you don't try to feed their passions. But the inclination to do so seems much less passionate, to me at least, in parents whose children call someone else their main educator in life.

Case in point: Yesterday afternoon was the culmination of weeks worth of intense anticipation on behalf of all of three of my kids. What was the big deal? The space shuttle Atlantis launched!

My kiddos and I have spent countless afternoons trolling over the NASA website, learning about the astronauts, the mission, the flight plan, etc. We have studied the emergency landing sites, the physics of breaking the atmospheric barrier and the roles of various land-bound support personnel who make space exploration possible. We have watched tons of video, read books and staged recreations. All of this was just preparation, it seemed, for watching the actual lift off.

We were blessed to make a dash for dh's office yesterday afternoon, where we were able to pick up (via cable) NASA TV. While we missed the excitement of the astronauts suiting up and being strapped in, we did make it in time to watch about 40 minutes of footage of the shuttle and its attendant boosters from various angles. While this would have bored me beyond tears as a child, Jo, Atticus and Logan watched rapt with joy, pointing out the things they saw and listening intently to a litany of facts. (The main fuel tank weigh ... the booster rockets hold ... on return, the shuttle will carry ...) There was a bit of stalling on NASA's behalf, as they nearly had to shelf the lift off due to weather conditions in France. You should have seen Atticus' face as he heard a barrage of system checks, all ending "Go." When the weather report was announced "We are no go," I thought the boy might cry.

Just when I thought they would bust if they didn't get to see some actual space action, the forecast in France was changed and it, too, became a "go." Atticus breathed a huge sigh of relief and settled on to the edge of his seat for the remainder of the countdown.

(Here's where I admit my crassness: as the minutes ticked down, I was begging God that this launch did not end the way that the last one that I watched on t.v. did. Yes--I have awful memories of seeing the Challenger disaster live in my sixth grade social studies classroom. I was praying intensely for those seven fellow's lives, and for the safety of their flight. )

The lift off was perfect. It was choreographed so beautifully that it was like watching a ballet. Jo was sitting on my lap as the shuttle rose up on its cloud of fire and steam, and I felt her arms prickle with goosebumps at the sight. I have never really thought of such as thing as being particularly beautiful to see, but this one was.

We hung out until well after the main fuel tank was let go, watching the huge blue rim that is the earth growing smaller and smaller on the attached camera. As we sat, I thought, as I do from time to time in such moments, how if my kids were in school all day, I would have missed this. Sure, I could have taken them somewhere to watch the launch. I could have even checked a few books out from the library for them, or shown them a website or two. But there would be no way that I would have the grasp of the depth of their interest, nor could I know how much each moment of it meant to them. I would have seen Logan's wide eyes and realized that he was enjoying it without really knowing how what, exactly, he found so amazing. I would have watched Atticus' lips moved as he counted down and never known that he was timing, in his own mind, the last of the check list before ignition. And those goosebumps on Jo's arm? Let's be honest ... what nine and a half year old girl sits on her momma's lap after a full course of public school "socialization"?

I really enjoyed our afternoon. I'm looking forward to pulling the telescope out on a clear night and seeing if we might be able to find the International Space Station. And I'm already on the lookout for footage online that the astronauts will be sending back down too give us a glimpse of what it's like up there. In other words, I'm still facilitating. What a gift I'm able to enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thoughts on adoption

I have no idea why my brain keeps going the places that it has the past few days. I have a feeling that it relates in some way or another to the adoption. (What doesn't relate to the adoption right now?) No matter what I do, I can't get away from it, though:

My family.

By nature I am one of those people who has a desire to know about the folks that have come before me. I have dug deeply enough into my own genealogy to trace my mother's line back to England and my father's line to Ireland. And while these things are good to know--and explain in small ways my tendency to burn rather than tan and why I flush beet red when I drink alcohol--they don't fascinate me nearly as much as the more recent history of my bloodline. This is where I find myself right now: pondering all the little stories that came together to make me who I am.

Without really realizing it, I googled "Southerners and Detroit" this afternoon. I don't consider myself a Michigander, but I was in fact born there. My grandparents were part of the Southern flight up the so-called "Hillbilly Highway" that led them from hard scrabble conditions in hollers to work in the auto industry in the 1950s. To hear my family members tell it, life in the supposedly modern and cosmopolitan metropolis of Detroit was hell. One story my mother tells involves being mocked by a shopkeeper when she asked if she could have a poke to carry her purchases home in. The cashier, who had a large enough Southern clientele to know what a "poke" was, leaned over the counter and shoved his finger into her arm. "There, you've had your poke. Do you want a bag now, hillbilly?" she says he asked her.

The teasing was bad, but the living conditions were not much better. The apartment my grandfather had rented for his family of five to live in while he worked at the Chrysler plant had two bedrooms, a bathroom to share with the rest of the building and a coal stove to heat and cook with. My grandmother says that she kept the place clean, but the filth of the factories found its way in no matter what she did. It's these associations, I think, that have woven in to me the fact that while I was born "up north," I am not a Northerner. Northerners are people who belong there. We--I--do not.

I found a handful of websites with my google search that related to other families who changed the entire course of their future by driving north on I-75. Nothing really spoke to me, though. Disappointed, I remembered a book that I read years and years ago called "The Dollmaker." I found it and pulled it out to read, thinking that maybe whatever it is that I am feeling (it's not homesickness exactly, I can't name it) will be assuaged somehow in the reading of it. I take comfort in the dialect that I grew up hearing; I can still slip easily into asking if someone kins someone else, I can still reckon and I can still say "yu'uns" without thinking it strange. My ear longs to taste that accent and drink it in. At least I can read it and hear it in my mind's eye.

I'm sure that this sudden hunger is related to my feelings of sadness for the child or children we will adopt. The truth about adoption is this: unless the bio parents choose to disclose their background, we--and our children--will be in the dark about the lives that came before them. We will never know about crazy aunts or uncles, about family tragedies or triumphs, the story behind their coming to America. It will all be a void that can't be filled with a few quick surname searches on rootsweb. Even if we do receive some information from the birth parents, chances are good that it will be primarily a medical history. Dates and diseases on a form are not the same as oral histories passed down through generations. They do not set scenes and they do know endear earlier generations to newer ones. An entire rich line ... reduced to cold facts on a document.

How must that feel?

I can't imagine. For a person who carries with her every day the fact that my nose is my grandmother's, and my eyes are my mother's, and my temper is my father's ... I can't picture looking in the mirror and seeing nothing but me.

I hope I can do a good job at filling in what blanks I can for my adopted children. I have stated over and over again to our workers that we want an communication agreement, that we want extended family information, that we want to have anything that might be of use to our children down the road. Because while I want to fully encompass these new little people into our family unit, I just don't see how someday they might not long to hear the stories that brought them, finally, to the place they find themselves. I want them to know our stories and to feel that they are theirs to claim as well, but I don't ever want to deny them the bigger story that will enrich them all their lives.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

One more time ...

Tomorrow we have our last pre-placement visit. The next time I host a social worker, it'll be with a new little one or two in my arms. I no longer blanch at the thought of these home visits (I guess you really do get used to them), so tonight is not a frenzy of rearranging closets and dusting spice racks. Just a laid back evening of realizing that soon enough, the extra bed in Jo's room will be "X's bed" and not so extra after all! :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The end of an era

This morning, I pulled out all of my Cubbies gear: three binders, a huge set of Betty Lukens felts and two year's worth of lesson plans. I sorted through it, organizing verses and matching crafts to Hugs. I made sure that each little fabric figure was nestled in it's outline--it just won't do to have Adam and Eve cavorting over by the Pharisees, you know.

After I put everything in its proper place, I set it aside, where it will wait until Sunday to be delivered to the church. Once there, the items will wait again ... this time for a new Cubbies Director to step forward and shepherd the AWANA preschoolers.

I won't be the Cubbies Director in the fall. I won't read stories to three year olds, and I won't be the one who figures out how to turn craft sticks and tacky glue into creches. Someone else will come along and fill that role. And you know, as hard as it was to leave my post a month ago, I feel o.k. about it. I'm looking forward to all of the things that God is bringing into my life to replace AWANA. All I have to do is wait.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Combining SL Core 4 and WP ASII

The school year we just finished was probably the best we've ever had, thanks to a little legwork on my behalf and the great resources I was able to pull from WP to add to SL Core 3. Now it's time to move on to assembling the program we'll use this fall. We are moving on to SL Core 4 and WP ASII. I am getting ready to order my IGs soon so that I'll have time to begin the process of lining the programs up and selecting which resources I will be adding in to the SL Core. If anyone has an interest in hearing about the process as I walk through each step, I'll be happy to post.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Summer School

Originally, I thought that I would only school during the traditional calendar, but I quickly figured out that as much as I had been trained to think that learning stopped during the warm months, my children had not. They fully expect a full battery of read-alouds and whatnot to sink their teeth into ... whatever the weather.

A few years back, I stumbled upon a great way to keep school going all year long without burnout on any one's behalf. I had always been fascinated by the idea of unit studies, but had never felt really compelled to piece one together. We adore the literature approach to homeschooling (go, SL!) and I have no desire to mix things up in that department. But still, the idea of one central theme being carried through a whole unit of study fascinated me: following something to its logical conclusion, or tracing the ways that things develop and overlap just makes sense to me. Why not try a unit study in an off-time? I thought. How about during the summer?

And with that, our summer schooling plan was born. We have done some wonderful units over the years. Our favorite was two summers ago, when we delved head-first into tall ships. Jo, Atticus and Logan were ga-ga over pirates and sailing at the time, so it was a nice, natural choice for a topic. Turned out to be probably one of the most educational periods of our family's life. In addition to a wonderful weekend spent at a nearby Tall Ships Festival , we read Swallows and Amazons, (highly recommended) as well as Stowaway. We also carved wood to make our own little boats, charted ocean currents, investigated nautical terminology and learned to tie some really nifty knots. Not bad for a summer off, eh?

This year, I've kept my finger on the pulse of interests and finally narrowed it down to two possibilities for our full summer study: astronomy (Atticus' current passion) or art (Logan's constant near-obsession). After deciding to give Apologia's Exploring Creation With Astronomy a try for next fall's science curriculum, I figured art was the best route.

Plans so far are still in the development stages, but I've been incorporating a few activities as we've been winding down our SL schedule. Today we started the morning with The Renaissance Art Game and a half an hour looking up images of The Last Supper (in its current state of decomposition) online. The kids picked up on the theme with a vengeance and have been playing "Renaissance Artist School" all afternoon.

I'm wondering where this next summer schooling adventure will take us. There are countless field trips we can take in this area, and more books and activities than I can probably even begin to list. It's like the summer of my own childhood, actually: it's all spread out before us, and the possibilities seem endless.